Leon Trotsky, the great Russian Revolutionary, wrote these words during the capitalist crisis of the Great Depression and on the eve of World War Two. Eighty years later the bourgeoisie, again in a state of crisis, is plunging the world towards disaster.
The threat of a nuclear World War is growing as the United States and its allies move against Russia and China. Governments continue to make the working class pay for the Global Financial Crisis with relentless policies of austerity. The profit system is undermining the natural systems that support life on earth. Capitalist governments seek solutions behind economic protectionism and bayonets on their borders.
To stave off growing working class resistance to these conditions, capitalist governments are building up surveillance and police state measures as fascists are marching in the streets and inhabiting the halls of power.
There is a progressive path forward for humanity. The international working-class now numbers in the billions and is linked by modern communications technology, most notably the internet. It has the collective power to avoid disaster through consciously intervening to overthrow capitalism and replace it with a global socialist system.
We have revolutionary confidence that the growing signs of class struggle seen around the world are the start of this process. The working class, however, must assimilate the experiences of the 20th century, and be armed with a revolutionary perspective based on the scientific socialism developed by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in order to be victorious. Class Conscious wishes to play our small part in the development of this process.
Socialism or barbarism!
Workers of the World Unite!
Statement of Principles of Class-Conscious
1. The common interests of the international working class:
Class-Conscious exists to promote the unity of the international working class in the struggle for socialist revolution.
The international working class shares the common social interests of healthcare, education, infrastructure, housing, democratic rights, freedom of movement, and a healthy environment. All forms of the poison of nationalism which divides the international working class must be absolutely rejected. There are no longer national programs or solutions that can progressively resolve any of the problems facing humanity.
2. The need to overturn the profit system
Although the wealth of the world is produced by the working class, under the profit system the benefits flow to a tiny minority, the capitalist class. In 2018, Oxfam found that just 26 individuals possess as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity.
This contradiction can only be overcome by the putting the world economy under the democratic control of the working class, so the wealth it produces can be used to meet the needs of all.
3. The need to abolish nation states
Production under capitalism is organised on a global scale, but a contradiction exists, as politically the world is divided into nation states. This leads to unending competition and warfare between the imperialist capitalist powers for resources and spheres of control. The first two world wars were efforts by the imperialist powers to carve up the globe and to achieve dominance. A third world war if it is allowed to happen will inevitably be nuclear, and threatens the very survival of humanity.
The only way to overcome this contradiction is to abolish the capitalist nation state system and establish a global socialist system based on cooperative and rational economic planning. Trotsky explained in his Theory of Permanent Revolution:
The completion of the socialist revolution within national limits is unthinkable. One of the basic reasons for the crisis in bourgeois society is the fact that the productive forces created by it can no longer be reconciled with the framework of the national state. From this follows, on the one hand, imperialist wars, on the other, the utopia of a bourgeois United States of Europe. The socialist revolution begins on the national arena, it unfolds on the international arena, and is completed on the world arena. Thus, the socialist revolution becomes a permanent revolution in a newer and broader sense of the word: it attains completion only in the final victory of the new society on our entire planet.”
4. The necessity of socialist international anti-war movement
It follows therefore that a real anti-war movement must seek to overturn the cause of war and militarism, the capitalist system itself. It must be independent, and hostile to all political parties and organisations of the capitalist class, and it must seek to unite workers internationally.
5. No Borders – workers have the right to move and live where they choose.
Under capitalism the rich and their capitalist property can move around the world where they choose. The working class deserves the same rights. We reject the entire framework of “border control” that is leading to deaths of thousands in the seas and deserts around the world amidst the greatest refugee crisis since World War 2. The attempt to blame migrants and asylum seekers for the lack of jobs, services and infrastructure is a crude attempt by the ruling class to divert attention from the fact that wealth is being hoarded by corporations and the rich. There are more than enough resources for all and people have the right to live and work where they choice free from government interference. During recent protests at the U.S. / Mexico border, migrants chanted “We are international workers!” as they came under tear gas fire. We call on all workers to understand that migrants are their allies in the class struggle.
6. Why are we Trotskyist – the rejection of Stalinism
We are proud to call ourselves Trotskyist because of the crucial role that Leon Trotsky played not just in the Russian Revolution but in fighting in opposition to the development of Stalinism within the former Soviet Union. This was a battle that cost Trotsky and hundreds of thousands of others their lives. Trotsky’s insights into why the Soviet Union degenerated and his role in founding the Fourth International in 1938 protected the intellectual capital of socialism and allowed it to continue despite the efforts of both the Stalinists and the capitalists to destroy the movement.
7. Current and former Stalinist regimes
In Trotskyist theory countries that claim or claimed to be socialist including USSR, China, North Korea, Cuba, Vietnam were in fact degenerated or deformed workers states. Even though capitalist property relations had been overturned and the means of production socialised, the working class did not hold political power. Instead parasitic Stalinist state bureaucracies repressed their own working classes in the futile endeavor to establish “socialism in one country”. Socialism as Trotsky asserted can only ever be achieved on an international scale. These states have already restored or are in the process of restoring capitalist property relations.
Whilst capitalist property relations were fully restored to the former USSR states including Russia in 1991, China is a mixture of socialised property relations and a burgeoning capitalist sector.
China is being targeted by the U.S. as its development in the last 30 years now threatens the declining economic power of U.S. Imperialism. The U.S. wants to subjugate China so its corporations are the ones that benefit from the extraction of surplus value from the Chinese working class. North Korea is being targeted by the U.S. as part of its efforts to subjugate and encircle China.
Russia is being targeted by the U.S. as it is intolerable to the U.S., that remnants of the former Stalinist bureaucracy which form the new capitalist oligarchy such as Putin stand in the way of full U.S. domination of the resources of Eurasia.
Socialism as Trotsky asserted can only ever be achieved on an international scale. These states have already restored, or are in the process of restoring capitalist property relations.
8. The incompatibility of capitalism and the environment.
In addition to the threat of war, humanity also faces a dire threat from rapid Climate Change and other disruptions to the world’s ecosystems that will undermine food supplies and diminish people’s quality of life. The world is facing mass extinctions and ecological collapse. Reforms of capitalism cannot avert this future. Only through the overturning of the profit system itself can the technologies and production processes be achieved that can improve the quality of human life and protect the earth’s resources.
9. An independent movement of the working class – and all capitalist parties.
The working class must break free from all the bankrupt social democratic parties such as the Democratic Party in the U.S., the Labor Party in Australia, the SPD in Germany and equivalent parties internationally. These parties which have claimed to represent the working class are now hollow parties of war and big business. Supporting one or another of these parties under the banner of the “lesser of two evils” is a disastrous dead end for the working class.
10. Trade Unions
Trotsky stated in the Transitional Program:
“The Bolshevik-Leninist stands in the front-line trenches of all kinds of struggles, even when they involve only the most modest material interests or democratic rights of the working class”. He stressed that revolutionaries must not adopt a sectarian position of refusing to fight within Trade Unions because of their reactionary leadership.
However he also stressed that:
“If it be criminal to turn one’s back on mass organizations for the sake of fostering sectarian factions, it is no less so passively to tolerate subordination of the revolutionary mass movement to the control of openly reactionary or disguised conservative (”progressive”) bureaucratic cliques.”
This meant breaking with the trade unions and forming new, more militant organisations such as worker or factory committees when conditions required.
On the question, “Should Revolutionaries Work in Reactionary Trade Unions?” Lenin referred to the bitter struggle between communist unionists and the trade union bureaucrats:
“These men, the “leaders” of opportunism, will no doubt resort to every device of bourgeois diplomacy and to the aid of bourgeois governments, the clergy, the police and the courts, to keep Communists out of the trade unions, oust them by every means, make their work in the trade unions as unpleasant as possible, and insult, bait and persecute them. We must be able to stand up to all this, agree to make any sacrifice, and even—if need be—to resort to various stratagems, artifices and illegal methods, to evasions and subterfuges, as long as we get into the trade unions, remain in them, and carry on communist work within them at all costs. “
Since the 1970s production has become globalised, weakening the bargaining power of nationally based unions as capital moves factories to countries with lower labor costs. In the name of “international competitiveness” the union bureaucracies have functioned increasingly as industrial police, collaborating with management in attacking workers’ wages and conditions. The union bureaucrats have been richly compensated for their collaboration. Top bureaucrats now earn half-million dollar salaries, putting them in the 1% at the top of the wealth pyramid.
This fact, combined with increasingly casualised work patterns, has led to a dramatic decline in union membership and influence in many parts of the world. However, tens of millions of workers in key industries remain in unions globally. Revolutionaries must assimilate this change in material conditions. Wherever possible workers struggles must be just as international as the globalized supply chains. In highly integrated industries such as the automotive, workers must organise together across borders. Efforts must also be made to reach out and organise the non-unionised layers of the workforce. Social media is a powerful new tool for such organising efforts.
Although industrial struggle was successfully suppressed by the union bureaucracies for the last forty years, workers are beginning to break free from this straight jacket with wildcat strikes and organising developing in the U.S. and Mexico, facilitated by social media. This trend must be built upon.
11. The rejection of reformism
Many organisations that call themselves “socialist” are in fact reformist parties that exist only to disorientate and derail an independent movement of the working class. This includes the various tendencies that exist globally such as the Democratic Socialist of America in the US, Socialist Alliance in Australia, Syrizia in Greece, Podemos in Spain and the Socialist Party in the UK.
These forces which base themselves on the material interests of the petty bourgeois upper middle classes disorient the working class through the use of left wing phraseology and work unceasingly to keep workers contained within bourgeois parliamentary democracy. They do so by insisting that workers can exert leftward pressure on the anti-worker trade union bureaucracy and by extension leftward pressure on the capitalist parties such as Labor in the UK and the Democrats in the US.
Internationally these organisations have betrayed the working class. Some examples include, the backing of U.S. Imperialist intervention in Syria, the backing of Syrizia who went on to ruthlessly implement austerity in Greece and their promotion of illusions in Jeremy Corbyn in Britain and Obama in the U.S.
12. The threat of the far right and fascism
Fascism arises during periods of capitalist crisis. The economic chaos following World War 1 that led to the Great Depression, birthed European fascism. It took power first in Italy before spreading to other countries – including most disastrously for the world, Germany.
Now, after the Global Financial Crisis (GFC) of 2008 and the worsening capitalist crisis of this century, fascism is again rearing its ugly head. Fascistic parties are in power in Ukraine, the Philippines, Hungary, Poland, Austria and Italy. They are on the rise in France, Brazil, Germany, Sweden, Denmark, Holland, the Baltic nations, Croatia, Slovakia, Czech Republic and last-but-not-least, in the dominant imperialist power, the United States, led by the fascist Donald Trump.
Under conditions of ever-increasing inequality, and the threat of world war, the ‘normal’ mechanisms can no longer be relied upon to keep the working-class from entering revolutionary struggle. Once again, the ruling-class (in crisis) needs a movement to prevent socialist revolution. Fascism is an ideology with the specific class purpose of developing a mass movement that can install a dictatorial government to smash the working-class and pave the way for total war.
This movement does not arise spontaneously. It must be cultivated through spreading the filth of racism, extreme nationalism, xenophobia and militarism to the petty bourgeois (middle-classes) and elements of the disoriented working-class. Trotsky states: “In this way, big capital ruins the middle-classes and then, with the help of hired fascist demagogues, incites the despairing petty bourgeoisie against the worker.”
Fascism can only find an audience due to the crisis of leadership on the Left. The working-class has been betrayed by the Social Democratic parties around the world such as the Democrats in the U.S. along with their partners in the Trade Unions since the 1970’s. There is a paucity of revolutionary left-wing leadership around the world. This is why the fascist demagogues are finding such a receptive audience.
13. For freedom of the press and the internet.
Freedom of press and speech are fundamental to the development of the consciousness of working class as access to truthful information is a a pre-condition for the working class acting its own interests. Workers can now share and communicate with each other on a truly international scale. The use of social media has been crucial everywhere from the Arab Spring, the Yellow Vests, teacher strikes in North America and the recent strikes in Matamoros in Mexico.
This is seen as a deeply troubling by all sections of the ruling class. We learnt from the leaks of Edward Snowden that the NSA is working with its imperialist partners in the “Five Eyes” network to try and surveil the entire world. As the class struggle escalates the ruling class is moving from surveillance to outright censorship. Whilst US Imperialism, working hand in glove with the Silicon Valley tech giants, is leading this censorship, many other governments are desperately attempting to control dissent through internet censorship.
14. In defence of Julian Assange and Chelsea Manning
The imprisonment of Julian’s asylum and Chelsea Manning are a watershed in the descent of the international order into criminality and impunity. His courageous journalism with Wikileaks has exposed U.S. war crimes, surveillance, corporate malfeasance, electoral corruption and diplomatic machinations. Likewise, Chelsea Manning is being persecuted for her principled whistleblowing of these matters and her refusal to participate in the legal frame up of Assange.
In retaliation the U.S. organised a conspiracy to illegally revoke Assange’s asylum resulting in Julian’s snatching by British police on April 11th 2019. Assange now faces an effective “extraordinary rendition” to the U.S. which is being given a legal figleaf in the servile British courts. Assange is now being held on in isolation in London in conditions amounting to torture. The U.S. Trump Administration has charged Assange under the Espionage Act and he faces up to 175 years in prison.
An international movement must be built to demand freedom for Assange as part of a broader campaign against war, censorship and to defend democratic rights!
Classconscious.org has also argued that this movement must be orientated to the working class and attempts to subordinate it to any faction of the ruling class must be resisted. This includes the Labor Party in the UK as well as far right infiltration by pro-Trump forces in the US in the form of the alt-right
15. The role of classconscious.org in creating healthy debate within the Marxist movement
We see classconscious.org as a publication that is orientated to the international working class, and as such attempting to forge links with the best layers of workers and youth by fostering debate and discussion over key questions of theory and history. We hope to play our part in helping to build a revolutionary culture in the spirit of socialist internationalism.
The current period of capitalist crisis requires workers to form new organisations and to develop a new leadership. This process must be based on a careful analysis of past workers struggles; in the early part of 20th century as part of the revolutionary upheavals that culminated in 1917 Russian Revolution, Marxist argued through the daily questions constantly through many different publications and even within the pages of Pravda itself debates occurred.
To take this quote from the respected historian of the Bolshevik revolution, Alexander Rabinowitch in The Bolsheviks come to power:
As we have seen, within the Bolshevik Petrograd organisation at all levels in 1917 there was a continuing, free and lively discussion and debate over the most basic theoretical and tactical issues. Leaders who differed with the majority were at liberty to fight for their views and not infrequently Lenin was the loser in these struggles. To gauge the importance of this tolerance of differences of opinion and ongoing give-and-take, it is enough to recall that throughout 1917 many of the Bolshevik’s most important resolutions and public statements were influenced as much by the outlook of the right Bolsheviks as by that of Lenin. In addition, moderate Bolsheviks like Kamenev, Zinoviev, Lunacharsky, and Riazanov were among the party’s most articulate and respected spokesmen in key public institutions such as the soviets and trade unions.” (pp 311-312).
Or to quote Lenin: “without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement”
It is only through and open and robust discussion that scientific socialism, ie Marxism has developed in the past. Classconscious.org would like to play its role in developing such a culture again.
16. Submissions welcome to classconscious.org
In this spirit classconscious.org wishes to reach out to the best layers of revolutionaries who are orientated to the working class and invite them to submit articles to us on important questions for the working class. Whilst we will not promote articles that seek to obscure the truth from the working class through falsification and appeals to reformism we would be happy to foster debate by publishing articles that may not fully align with the position of our editorial collective. Submissions as we said are welcome from those who are orientated to the working class which may include people who call themselves socialist or anarchist.