A Powerful Confirmation


A bourgeois study on the revolutionary character of the current historic period


by Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 12 March 2020, www.thecommunists.net




While the bourgeoisie as a class in historic decay is sometimes led by foolish clowns – one has just to think about the White House or the Downing Street No. 10 – it would be wrong to deny that it also has some more intelligent thinkers in its ranks. In fact, every imperialist ruling class employs a whole network of so-called Think Tanks, i.e. institutions which elaborate analysis of economic, social and political developments and offer advice for the necessary measures.


One of the tasks of these Think Tanks is to provide the bourgeoisie with an assessment of the political stability of their system and the degree of mass protests. As revolutionaries need to know the strategies and inner contradictions of the ruling class and its different fractions, so does the bourgeoisie need to have an understanding of the mood and activities of the working class and the popular masses.


It is in this context that the U.S.-based Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) has recently published a highly interesting study called “The Age of Mass Protests, Understanding an Escalating Global Trend”. [1] As the title already indicates, this study provides an analysis of the global wave of mass protests. It is even more interesting for revolutionaries as it does not limit its research to the latest developments. It rather provides an assessment of the mass movements in the past decade.




Counter-revolutionary point of view




We repeat pointing out that the authors don’t view such mass protests from a revolutionary point of view. Quite the contrary, they approach these events from a counter-revolutionary point of view and want to advice the ruling class how best to react. However, the study requires serious attention by Marxists exactly because the authors start from a capitalist stance. They have no natural desire to exaggerate the rise of global class struggles as this is something they observe with much worry. In fact, they believe that Washington does not understand the nature of the global wave of mass uprisings and warn that the “U.S. government has failed to develop a systematic response to the rising tide of the global protests.


We also note that it reflects the serious character of this study that it has also been reported with much interest by The Economist , a central mouthpiece of the Western monopoly bourgeoisie. [2]


The CSIS authors refer positively to the thesis of Zbigniew Brzezinski, the national security adviser of former U.S. President Carter, that we see a “global political awakening”: “For the first time in history almost all of humanity is politically activated, politically conscious and politically interactive.[3]


In this brief article we want to limit ourselves to outline the central conclusions of the study. The CSIS authors state that in 2019 alone 114 countries around the world experienced anti-government protests – “31 percent more than just a decade ago.




Global rise of mass protest




The CSIS authors emphasize that this is not a one-time event but rather the expression of a global “mega-trend”. The mass protests “are in fact part of a decade-long trend line affecting every major populated region of the world.” While they recognize that the Arab Revolution was the trigger of the global wave of mass protests in the past decade they emphasize that we are dealing not with a regional but with a global phenomenon: “Viewed in this broader context, the events of the Arab Spring were not an isolated phenomenon but rather an especially acute manifestation of a broadly increasing global trend.


Analyzing the developments since 2009, they conclude that there has been a nearly continuous increase of mass protests in this decade – of course with ups and downs in a cyclical movement. In average, they state, mass protests in the world have increased annually by 11.5%. They give the following figures for the regions: Middle East and North Africa: +16.5%; Sub-Sahara Africa: +23.8%, South America: +18.9%, Central America and the Caribbean: +15.7%, North America: +17.0%, Europe: +12.2%, Asia: +9.9% and Oceania: +4.9%. They conclude that the Middle East and North Africa has “the largest concentration of activity” and Sub-Sahara Africa the “fastest rate of growth”.


It is particularly interesting how the CSIS authors also locate the global wave of mass protests in a historical context. They compare the past decade with earlier developments in the past half century and arrive at the conclusion that we have experienced in recent history a much more significant wave of uprisings than before. They conclude: “The size and frequency of recent protests eclipse historical examples of eras of mass protest, such as the late-1960s, late-1980s, and early-1990s.


Even after adjusting for population growth, the authors reckon that the number of demonstrators who have taken to the streets in recent years exceeds that of either the anti-Vietnam War movement or the Civil Rights movement!


Since the study has been conducted by bourgeois analysts and not Marxists, they include in their statistics not only class struggles and progressive popular uprisings but also reactionary movements (e.g. Ukraine 2014). However, this does not invalidate the general conclusions of the CSIS study. This is because, first, such reactionary events have been the exception in the past decade. And, secondly, reactionary movements also took place in earlier decades (e.g. various communal pogroms in Asia and Africa).


The authors of the CSIS study expect that this global wave of mass protests will continue: “Analysis of the root causes of these global protests suggests they will continue and could increase in 2020 and beyond.” They take into account the most recent developments of the Corona Virus crisis. However they believe that in the longer term, this issue in itself could trigger new protests.


… protests have been muted in recent weeks likely due to the outbreak of the novel coronavirus … The coronavirus will likely suppress protests in the short term both due to government restrictions in urban areas and citizens’ own reluctance to expose themselves to large public gatherings. However, depending on the future course of this likely pandemic, government responses to the coronavirus may themselves become another trigger of mass political protest.


And The Economist arrives also to similar conclusions: “Mass protests have existed for centuries. But their increased frequency may be here to stay.




Confirming the analysis of Marxists




All in all, the CSIS study is a very powerful confirmation of the Marxist characterization of the historic period which began in 2008. As the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and its predecessor have explained repeatedly, Marxists characterize the current historic period as a “revolutionary” one. [4]


We do not intend to elaborate at this place our analysis of the current historic period in detail as we have done so extensively in various other documents. [5] In summary, we view this period as one characterized by the decay of capitalism. Such decay inevitable provokes economic crises, political instability and the incessant danger of war. Such conditions continually generate mass protests, popular uprisings and revolutionary situations as well as counterrevolutionary dangers. This basic lack of equilibrium on the world stage is the reason why the RCIT characterizes this historic period as "revolutionary."


It is noteworthy that numerous Stalinists and self-proclaimed “Marxists” refute such a characterization of the current period. They rather view it as “reactionary” and denounce the masses for their “backward consciousness”. (The discussions during the recent split in the CWI led by Peter Taaffe are an example of such ideas among “Trotskyists”.)


In fact, such ideas rather reflect the distance of these forces to the revolting workers and oppressed who might have a raw political consciousness but who are determined to fight against reactionary regimes and imperialist aggressors. In many cases, such pseudo-Marxist organizations are politically (and often also organizationally) linked to the bureaucracies of reformist and populist mass organizations. In various cases they are also linked, directly or indirectly, with imperialist Great Powers like China, Russia or the European Union. In general, they are – politically speaking – “old dinosaurs” who feel repulsed by the revolting masses.


The RCIT has repeatedly emphasized that a new World Party of Socialist Revolution must be primarily based on the new vanguard layers of the militant workers and youth. They will not be a product of unification of the old ossified “left”. A precondition for building such a new International is a correct assessment of the world situation and the necessary programmatic conclusions. The RCIT calls all revolutionary activists to join us in the struggle for a socialist future!




[1] Samuel Brannen, Christian Stirling Haig, Katherine Schmidt: The Age of Mass Protests, Understanding an Escalating Global Trend, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington D.C., March 2020

[2] The Economist: Political protests have become more widespread and more frequent. The rising trend in global unrest is likely to continue, 10 March 2020, https://www.economist.com/graphic-detail/2020/03/10/political-protests-have-become-more-widespread-and-more-frequent

[3] Zbigniew Brzezinski: The global political awakening, New York Times, 16 December 2008, https://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/16/opinion/16iht-YEbrzezinski.1.18730411.html

[4] See e.g. the RCIT’s programs: RCIT: The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (2012), pp. 12-13, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/; RCIT: Manifesto for Revolutionary Liberation, (2016), pp. 7-8, https://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-program-2016/

[5] See e.g. chapter 14 in Michael Pröbsting: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, RCIT Books, Vienna 2013, http://www.great-robbery-of-the-south.net/. See also the annual World Perspective documents which the RCIT has published in the past years: RCIT: World Perspectives 2020: A Pre-Revolutionary Global Situation. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, 8 February 2020, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2020/; RCIT: World Perspectives 2019: Heading Towards a Volcanic Political Eruption. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, 2 March 2019, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2019/; Michael Pröbsting: World Perspectives 2018: A World Pregnant with Wars and Popular Uprisings. Theses on the World Situation, the Perspectives for Class Struggle and the Tasks of Revolutionaries, RCIT Books, Vienna 2018, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2018/; RCIT: World Perspectives 2017: The Struggle against the Reactionary Offensive in the Era of Trumpism, 18 December 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2017/; RCIT: World Perspectives 2016: Advancing Counterrevolution and Acceleration of Class Contradictions Mark the Opening of a New Political Phase, 23 January 2016, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-perspectives-2016/; RCIT: Perspectives for the Class Struggle in Light of the Deepening Crisis in the Imperialist World Economy and Politics, 11 January 2015, https://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-january-2015/; RCIT: Escalation of Inner-Imperialist Rivalry Marks the Opening of a New Phase of World Politics. Theses on Recent Major Developments in the World Situation Adopted by the RCIT’s International Executive Committee, April 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism (English-language Journal of the RCIT) No. 22, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-april-2014/; RCIT: Aggravation of Contradictions, Deepening of Crisis of Leadership. Theses on Recent Major Developments in the World Situation Adopted by the RCIT’s International Executive Committee, 9.9.2013, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 15, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-september2013/; RCIT: The World Situation and the Tasks of the Bolshevik-Communists. Theses of the International Executive Committee of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency, March 2013, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 8, www.thecommunists.net/theory/world-situation-march-2013