For the most “responsible” factions of the world bourgeoisie, the international upsurge of populism has created a succession of problems and obstacles, not least Brexit and the unpredictable reign of Trump in the USA. In the last few months we have seen some vigorous attempts to stem the populist tide, the most evident expression of which was during the French presidential election last April/May, when weighty international figures like Merkel and Obama, plus the French Socialist Party and others gave their unqualified backing to the pro-EU candidate Emmanuel Macron, widely seen as the most effective barrier to the populist, anti-EU Front National. However, the underlying social forces generating the populist tide have by no means gone away and its political expressions continue to exert a real weight in bourgeois political life. The result of the general election in Austria – coming soon after the spectacular gains made by the right-wing Alternative für Deutschland in Germany - provides further confirmation that populism is much more than a political bubble and expresses a real dysfunction at the roots of capitalist society.
Prior to capitalism, many societies had developed mythologies of the end of the world. The apocalypse anticipated by Judaism, Christianity and Islam, seen as the final destiny of this world, was understood to be the precursor of a new heaven and a new earth that would last for all eternity; whereas in the Hindu vision, new worlds and even new universes are endlessly born, dissolved and reborn in a vast cosmic cycle.
But if the idea of the apocalypse is not new, what is new in the capitalist mode of production is first, that the world inhabited by humankind for hundreds of thousands of years can be destroyed by the technologies that human beings themselves have created, rather than by supernatural beings or an inexorable fate. And second, that such a destruction would not be the prelude to a new and better world, but destruction pure and simple.
Since the end of August the army of Burma (Myanmar) has been persecuting, torturing, raping and killing thousands of inhabitants of the state of Rakhine (traditionally also called Arakan), people from the Muslim Rohingya minority. This is a particularly impoverished area to the west of Burma, a country where the great majority of the population are Buddhist. Rejected and deprived of civil rights for decades, the Rohinigya have been victims of even more extreme violence since the attack on around 30 police stations by an armed group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
The 2016 UK Referendum on membership of the EU produced a result against what the central factions of the British bourgeoisie considered as their best interests. The international populist tide was amplified with the election of President Trump. And the specific political difficulties of the British government were exacerbated by the general election of June 2017. Called to increase the Conservative government’s majority and strengthen its position in negotiations over British withdrawal from the EU, the election resulted in a loss of seats and the need to form an alliance with the DUP from Northern Ireland.
The Labour Party, that last year was hopelessly divided and looking as if it might split, today presents itself as the new normal, a government in waiting. This is taking place in the context of Brexit on the one hand, and a situation where we see other left wing forces and personalities around the world, whether Sanders in the US Democratic Party, or Podemos in Spain and Melanchon in France, that have grown at the expense of the Socialist Parties. So what is the real state of the party led by Jeremy Corbyn? And who benefits from its actions, the working class or the capitalist state?
We are publishing here an article written by our comrades of Internacionalismo, the ICC's section in Venezuela, in which our organisation takes a position from the viewpoint of the international proletariat on the serious crisis which is hitting the country. Within this we denounce the hypocrisy of the world's bourgeoisie and its complicity with both the Chavist clique and the opposition which have plunged the proletariat and the population as a whole into the most barbaric conditions. Our comrades analyse how Chavism, a product and expression of the decomposition of the capitalist system, uses an ideological swindle of "the socialism of the twenty-first century" which is set up on the basis of an attack against the living conditions, consciousness and combativity of the proletariat. Similarly, they analyse how inter-imperialist tensions are a factor which contributes to aggravating the crisis. The article gives the perspective that the only possible outcome to the barbarity of the situation of Venezuela and the entire world continues to remain in the hands of the proletariat which, through its conscious struggle, can aim to overthrow the capitalist system which is plunging us into chaos and despair.
The escalation of the push towards Catalan independence and the difficulties of the Popular Party government, and more generally the whole of the state, in dealing with this problem through a framework of agreements and negotiations, represents an important political crisis for the Spanish bourgeoisie. It has thrown the “1978 consensus”up in the air (i.e. the rules of the game that the state has followed since the democratic transition in 1975). And this is a state which has already been greatly weakened by the crisis of two party rule – the tandem of the PP and the PSOE (Spanish Socialist Party) - and the difficulty to provide an alternative through the formation of new parties (Podemos and Ciudadanos).
On the first of October the masses who had been led by the Catalan separatists to the farce of the referendum were brutally beaten by the police dispatched by the Spanish government. Both Madrid and the Catalan authorities covered themselves in the mantel of democracy in order to justify both the vote and the repression. The Catalan separatists have presented themselves as the victims of repression in order to advance their call for independence. The Rajoy government has justified its repression in the name of defending the Constitution and the democratic rights of all Spaniards. The “neutrals” (Podemos, the Party of Ada Colau,etc.) have declared that democracy is the means for containing Rajoy and “finding a solution” to the Catalan conflict.
Saturday 11 November 2017, May Day Rooms, 88 Fleet Street, London EC4Y 1DH, 11am to 6pm
One hundred years after the October insurrection in Russia, we will be holding a day of discussion about the relevance of the Russian revolution for the class struggle today. We will look at its historic importance as a first step towards the world revolution against capitalism, at its huge political and organizational achievements, as well as the tragic process of its degeneration and defeat.
Presentations will be given both by the ICC and the comrades of the Communist Workers Organisation. We also hope that the debate will include other groups and individuals who are trying to understand history - and what the future holds in store for us - from the standpoint of the working class.
An overview of the international situation reveals the accentuation of barbarism and global chaos. The disturbing series of terrorist attacks during the summer, striking once again at the heart of the capitalist world, alongside the missile-rattling over North Korea and the endless wars in the Middle East, illustrate this tragically.
The events in Charlottesville Virginia in August highlighted the revival of “classical” fascism, which has developed in numerous countries as an extremist wing of populism. The white supremacist gangs which assembled in Charlottesville have flourished in the poisonous atmosphere released by the election victory of Donald Trump, whose comments after the murder of the anti-fascist protester Heather Heyer were widely condemned as a thinly-veiled apology for the far right. In Greece, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has evolved a long way beyond the small groups of plotters which have usually been associated with nostalgia for Hitlerism. In Hungary, the anti-semitic, anti-gypsy and anti-Muslim Jobbik party is very close to the populist government headed by Viktor Orban. These groups can no longer be understood as merely a kind of bugbear used by the left to bolster support for democratic values, a view which had a definite validity in previous decades. Unlike the 1930s, they are not serious candidates for direct government office in the centres of world capitalism, but their closeness to the populist parties and governments means that part of their agenda is being taken into account by a number of ruling parties. More important, they act as a factor of division, intimidation and outright pogromist attacks on the street.