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Socialism or Barbarism International Current

Amidst the most serious global economic crisis since the 30’s

For an International Conference of
the revolutionary currents

A historical event is undergoing worldwide. Since the 1930’s the capitalist economy have not had a crisis of this scale. Today, it is a fact that all the imperialist economies have entered simultaneously in a deep recessive cycle.

In spite of the tons of dollars and resources spent by the states to avoid the breakdown of the international financial system, big industries, and other areas of their economies (notably the US automobile industry), there is a growing fear concerning the prospects of recession, deflation, and the possibility that the global economy ends up sliding into a new great depression.

This true heart attack at the core of the international capitalist system is already spreading to other countries and regions of the globe. No corner of the planet or areas of human activity can escape the effects of this crisis, even though they manifest themselves in different ways.

In other words, the crisis has opened a new global situation, in which the international balance built in the last sixty years is being challenged as to both the relations between the classes and the ruling class itself in the main capitalist nations. This balance will be under huge pressure in the years to come.

As though this were not enough, analysts agree that in 2009 the crisis will reach new dramatic peaks. In this context, the crisis opens the possibility of important social and political struggles, but this time –unlike the previous decades– in the core countries of the capitalist system, now severely damaged by the crisis.

This possibility of major struggles is given, among other reasons, by the mechanisms and measures that are being applied to soothe the crisis. They are no other than the classical recipes of this system of oppression and exploitation: destroying capital and attacking labor force. That is why capitalist governments and big business have unleashed a global wave of lay-offs.

Across the planet, from USA to China, employment slaughter has begun. To restore the “normal” capital profit rate and revert the crisis, dozens of millions of workers are thrown into the hell of unemployment and poverty. Along with this, those who keep their jobs are imposed harsher exploitation conditions, making their work even more precarious and “flexible”. A case in point is GM, where the trade union has agreed to the idea of saving the company at the expense of its workers’ posts and salaries.

In many cases, the workers’ reaction has been a mixture of shock and amazement. But also, against those who rashly “theorize” that “there are no demonstrations”, in recent weeks some important facts are to be pointed out, notably two of them:

Firstly, particularly for its symbolic value, Windows and Doors Republic in Chicago has been the first factory occupation in US since the 30’s. Even though those workers were only struggling for lost wages and severance pay, not to stop the closure of the plant, the conflict has set a precedent and an example that may be followed by more important sections of the US working class, structurally one of the most powerful of the world. The American working class will soon face a standstill of almost 60 automobile plants simultaneously, which will inevitably bring about consequences for all the areas linked to this industry.

In addition, we must highlight the huge revolt of the youth and workers now taking place in Greece, a European country with a long tradition of struggle. This rebellion is already exerting influence on the rest of the continent. Besides, most analysts agree that these events are a refraction of the global crisis on the domestic situation, which is at the root of the outbreak. But it is not just the case of Greece. In other crucial European countries, such as France, Germany, Italy and Spain, students and workers’ struggles and demonstrations are on the move. If this trend goes on, it may end up setting a major rise.

All over the world objective conditions are being developed for social unrest. This is the case of China and Southeast Asia, and also of regions with a strong tradition of social struggle such as Latin America, where the cycle of popular revolts opened in the twenty-first century has not been closed yet.

All in all, we believe that the extent and depth of this crisis mean a turning point for capitalism. Or, as even bourgeois analysts have said, this is the “fall of the Berlin Wall for capitalism,” generating a legitimacy crisis that could open new possibilities for social revolution in the 21st century. That would mean for us a new epoch or historical period.

That is the reason why we believe that the deep unbalance brought about by the crisis places us in the perspective of a beginning or “re-beginning” of a long period of social and political crisis, struggles, wars and revolutions.

On the other hand, this political and economic earthquake also have a large impact on subjective aspects of social struggle. The legitimacy of capitalism is at stake in the consciousness of the masses. Although at this moment a socialist alternative is still far from clear, the crisis opens up a wide space for socialist ideas to regain lost ground after the disastrous bureaucratic experiences of the 20th century in the USSR and other countries.

Responsibilities for the socialist and revolutionary currents

In this situation, Marxist and/or Trotskyite currents have a crucial responsibility, namely, provide a political, programmatic, and practical response to the new historical circumstances created by the crisis.

Revolutionary Marxism, broadly considered, was placed in a “marginal” situation in the 20th century under the double pressure of Stalinism and the stabilization of capitalism in the aftermath of World War II. The relative stability of the core countries (also the most important centers of the working class) and the displacement of the main social and political crises to the periphery reinforced this phenomenon.

At this moment, such terms could be reversed. The collapse of Stalinism years ago and the current economic crisis taking place mainly in the centers of global capitalism could generate new social, political and ideological conditions, more favorable to relaunch the struggle for socialist revolution on an international level.

Although nowadays revolutionary Marxism has no influence on mass scale, it does not come to this crisis empty-handed. In many countries, mainly in Europe, Latin America and even the US, it has a significant presence in avant-garde sectors of workers and students.

Indeed, in several European, Latin American and USA cities and countries, Trotskyist tradition has strong roots and a well established place as both a current of political thought and a practical participation on the struggle of the workers, the youth and the oppressed. This tradition could now be enforced in the perspective of taking steps in the organization of broad avant-garde sections and even the mass of workers and youth in order to give a workers’ response to the crisis.

This experience of decades has led to the existence of many currents with international and regional participation, as well as a myriad of groups who claim themselves to be revolutionary socialist, now shocked by the course of the crisis. All of them together represent a political, organizational and human asset which can prove invaluable in this context.

Needless to say, we do not forget for a moment the political and programmatic discrepancies among the organizations. We see that there are from deeply opportunistic currents to extremely sectarian ones. Consequently, we do not think of an abstract “unity” that fails to face the real differences.

However, given the wide scope of the present crisis, it would be extremely useful to take an initiative of unique front. That is, we should try to find a way which, while not encouraging illusions around artificial organizational fusions, does allow us to take joint initiatives on a basic ground of working class and socialist independence.

As a first step in that direction, we suggest to organize an International Conference of socialist revolutionary currents in order to exchange ideas about the crisis, discuss a number of points of a working class, socialist program facing the crisis and begin to give a practical response to the challenges of the working class in a internationally coordinated way.

At this moment, all over the world many groups feel the positive pressure in the sense that “something must be done against the crisis,” and that we must find the ways to appeal to the methods of the unique front in order to give a joint response. That “something” they allude to should be to give a political response, along with discussing and resolving on conducting a series of practical initiatives.

This response may be divided into two parts. On one hand, a joint response against the destruction of employment and, above all, a response to the workers', youth and people struggles that are already taking place in many countries. On the other hand, we should take advantage of the huge delegitimization of capitalism caused by the crisis to reinforce massive anti-capitalist and socialist propaganda activities.

We make this call having in mind mainly those currents and international groups based in USA, Europe, Asia, and Latin America. We also contribute a text concerning this initiative, a declaration about the international crisis issued on last October.

With socialist and revolutionary greetings, and looking forward to a favorable response to launch this initiative,

Socialism or Barbarism International Current
December 2008