Our Internationalism, and Theirs

by Barry Weisleder
In this crazy, massively unequal and increasingly toxic world, that there are two kinds of collaboration — that of the capitalist class, and that of the working class.

The bosses have their North Atlantic Treaty Organization, NATO.  They have their European Union.  They have their World Bank and International Monetary Fund, and many so-called “free” trade agreements.  For the capitalist rulers, those are tools to maximize profits, to suppress workers’ resistance, and to rob nature.

As part of the international working class, we have unions, social justice movements, and most importantly, revolutionary socialist parties.  The highest expression of working class solidarity is the revolutionary workers’ International.  More about that in a moment.

One of the biggest obstacles to a better world is the illusion that there is no alternative to the present global system of exploitation and oppression.  But the truth is, the world capitalist system is increasingly unstable.  It is wracked by economic crisis and environmental catastrophe.  Millions of refugees are fleeing famine and wars caused by the profit system.  And yet the corporate media fosters the illusion that a few young capitalist politicians can fix everything.  They try to distract us with stories about Emanuel Macron’s love life, or Justin Trudeau’s hair, or not-so-young Angela Merkel’s liberal values.  They contrast those personalities to Donald Trump, although they all serve the same God of money.

In Canada, and beyond, politicians and the business media are promoting a big fallacy.  Trudeau claims that Washington is retreating from its role as world cop.  He says it’s up to France, Germany and Canada to fill the security vacuum.

Need I remind you that the US has 800 military bases in 70 countries around the world?  How many bases has Trump closed?  None.  Not even the one on land stolen from Cuba, the prison torture camp at Guantanamo.

Oh yes, France has ten military bases.  Britain has seven. Canada has troops based in Iraq, in Latvia, in Ukraine, in Africa, and is again sending them to Afghanistan; it has police in Haiti, and war ships in the Persian Gulf and the Mediterranean Sea.  But those forces, even put together, cannot match, let alone substitute for the power of the American Empire.  The fact is that the Empire is retreating from nowhere.

The Pentagon and Wall Street continue to work with the right wing in Venezuela to try to overthrow the Maduro government.  They continue to embargo revolutionary Cuba, and aim to tighten travel rules that were loosened a little by Obama.  They cheer as Trump hit Syria with 59 cruise missiles, and when he exploded the “mother of all bombs” in Afghanistan.  They applaud as he surrounds China with warships, and threatens North Korea with nuclear weapons.  Trump cemented his ties with the misogynist regime in Saudi Arabia, and he embraced the Zionist apartheid state, in person.  Both of these clients of US hegemony give direct and indirect support to Daesh/Isis/Isil.

The only change is in diplomacy.  I know that diplomacy seems like an odd term to apply to the chief resident of the White House.  President Trump demands that his imperialist allies pay more of the freight.  But Justin Trudeau professes to be a feminist. He promises an “independent” Canadian foreign policy.  Yet he just capitulated to Trump.  He did so by increasing the budget for the Canadian military by 70%, the largest increase in its history.

Trudeau, Macron and Merkel can have breakfast with Barrack Obama, they can wear nice suits (well, Merkel not so much), they may profess liberal democratic values.  But in the same breath they help corporations defy environmental regulations, they put the squeeze on Greece and other countries coerced into debt by powerful exporting economies, and they drop bombs on Libya, Mali, Kurdistan — on any people who stand in the way of “progress”. I mean “profits”.  They have nothing good to say about British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn.  Corbyn just showed that socialist ideas are again on the global political agenda.  He showed that socialism is the alternative to capitalist austerity and barbarism.  Corbyn is no revolutionary, but capitalism will not accept his reforms without a fight.

Our internationalism is much more than opposition to personal greed.  Our internationalism is an affirmation of humanity.  It is a testament to the beauty of the human imagination when liberated from the shackles of commodity fetishism.  It is about the triumph of majority over minority rule.  It is about smashing bourgeois state power and replacing it with a planned economy under workers’ self-management.  Our internationalism grows out of the aspirations of the working class.  It merges with the actions of millions who take matters into their own hands.  Like the Communards of Paris did in 1871.  Like the workers and peasants of Russia did 100 years ago when they smashed Czarism, seized the factories and distributed the farm land.  Like the workers and farmers of Cuba did 58 years ago when they destroyed the Batista dictatorship and expropriated foreign and domestic capital.

Today, dissatisfaction with growing inequality and with the political establishment is sweeping the world.  The existing mass discontent has left wing and right wing variants, called populism.  That reflects the crisis of proletarian leadership.  It also reflects the crisis of bourgeois ideology.  Big holes appear in the fabric of liberalism and social democracy.  That situation creates an opening for the radical left.  In Canada small, fragile gains are being made.

Campaigns to raise the minimum wage to $15/hour and to obtain certain labour law reforms are succeeding.  Struggles to stop oil and gas pipeline construction enjoy majority support.  The indigenous people’s movement Idle No More forced a public enquiry into missing and murdered native women and girls.  Black Lives Matter has put killer cops on trial.  And who can forget the massive Quebec students’ strike of 2012 that stopped a big increase in university fees?  Today, talk of free education, a transition to green energy, and moves to tax the rich and to increase income for the poor, are dominant topics in the current race for leader of the labour-based New Democratic Party of Canada.  Socialist Action leads the NDP Socialist Caucus, and SA is building class struggle groups in the unions.

This is the 50th year since the death of Che Guevara, one of the greatest revolutionaries of all time.  He was murdered by the CIA.  He was abandoned to his fate by the Communist Party of Bolivia.  Che taught us that “the revolution will be socialist, or it will be a caricature of revolution.”  Those who say such ‘old slogans’ have no relevance need only look at the escalating crisis in Venezuela.  Only a socialist revolution can resolve it in a way that is favourable to the majority.

The Fourth International was founded in 1938. Victor Serge called that time Midnight of the Century, amidst the horrors of Nazi fascism and Stalinist barbarism.  The stated purpose of the Fourth International was to unite the global working class vanguard, to ensure the creative continuity of revolutionary Marxism, to provide a clear and sharp alternative to reformism at all levels.

For about fifty years, as a small but principled world party, the F.I. campaigned to defend the Algerian revolution, to defend the Cuban revolution.  Together, we built a global movement to stop the U.S. war in South-east Asian, to advance the idea (as Che said) “Create two, three, many Vietnams”, to defend the Prague Spring, to champion the French uprising May-June 68, to demand freedom for Hugo Blanco, to fight for free abortion on demand, for gay liberation, and against nuclear power. What happened to “Ce n’est q’un debut, continuez le combat”?

Sadly, the main leaders of the Fourth International have abandoned revolutionary Marxism for so-called broad parties, for a few parliamentary seats, even when it means voting for austerity and war.  Instead of building Leninist parties, they exclude Trotskyists in Canada and the Spanish state, and try to undermine the official F.I. section in Greece.

We cannot accept the F.I. as it is.  The question is:  can we change it?  Well, we will not know unless we try.  But, frankly, it would be unwise to put all our eggs in one basket.  A binary approach is necessary.  Our primary focus is on winning influence inside sections of the F.I. and to recruit active members to a revolutionary platform that SA has crafted with co-thinkers in several countries.  We hope that the statement of our political current, now available in six languages, will enjoy substantial support at the F.I. World Congress next February in Belgium.  What are the chances we will win a majority?  And how long can we confine our efforts to an organization that barely intervenes in the class struggle, and when it does, often intervenes on the wrong side?

For that reason, we are reaching out to revolutionary socialists worldwide.  We are appealing to healthy individuals and political tendencies that share our principles of working class political independence, workers’ democracy, and opposition to imperialist war, especially against the war-makers in our own backyard.  We look forward to the official launch of our platform at an international conference to be held in Paris in November 2017.

There, revolutionary socialists from around the world will plant a seed that may grow into a new International, by winning the F.I. to a new course, or by other means.  Of one thing, we can be certain.  A revolutionary workers’ International is indispensable to the survival of civilization.  Human survival is threatened by climate change causing famines and the mass dislocation of peoples.  Genocidal wars.  The scourge of authoritarianism and fascism.  Prospects are grim without a new, class struggle working class leadership in the decisive countries.  Such a leadership will not fall from the sky.  It will not arise spontaneously.  It will be born in struggle.  It will arise from the clash of contending political tendencies.  It will be tested, again and again, for its clarity, determination and heroism.  That is the challenge we face, to build such a party on a world scale.  We must win to its banner the best militants — from the general strike in Brazil, from the new class struggle Confederation of South African Unions, from the vanguard workers of Greece, Kurdistan, Palestine, India, Philippines, and many other lands.  It is an enormous challenge, but one that we accept with a humble confidence that our ideas will triumph.  It is wonderful to embark on this journey with comrades around the world, including in France the militants of Anti-capitaliste et Revolution. Ensemble nous vaincrons!


The text above is an edited version of remarks made by the author to an educational conference of Anti-capitaliste et Revolution, a political tendency within the Nouveau Parti Anti-capitaliste, which encompasses supporters of the Fourth International in France.  The AetR gathering of over 80 militants took place in Paris, June 24-25, 2017.