Internationalist debate in the Dominican Republic
We recently held two conferences in two of the country’s universities, Santiago de los Caballeros (the second-largest city in the country) and Santo Domingo (the capital city), on the theme ‘Socialism and the Decadence of Capitalism’. These debates were made possible by the efforts of an internationalist discussion group. We are sincerely grateful for the work they performed. There was nothing academic about these meetings. Just as during a similar conference held in a Brazilian university , participants expressed concerns about the future that capitalism offers, about the way to struggle for a new society that can overcome the contradictions of the present system, about the social forces capable of bringing about this change...
These debates represent a moment in the efforts being made by proletarian minorities to develop class consciousness. The international dimension of these efforts is indisputable. The publishing of a summary of these discussions has two objectives: to participate in the development of an international debate, and to help to move these discussions which have developed in one country towards the only potentially fruitful framework: the international and internationalist framework.
Following our presentation, many questions were asked, some of which evoked lively discussions. In the following summary we have organised the discussions thematically and in a question-and-answer format.
There were several revolutions in the 20th century. You condemn all of them nonetheless, except the Russian Revolution, which you qualify as a failure. You are unfair towards the efforts of peoples struggling for their liberation.
The issue is not denigrating the struggles of the oppressed and exploited classes, but understanding what revolution is truly on the agenda since the beginning of the 20th century. According to this point of view, a fundamental change occurred with the explosion of the First World War. That war, unprecedented until then in its barbarity, showed the world that capitalism had become a decadent social system that could offer nothing to humanity but war, famine, destruction and misery. It brought to a close the period of bourgeois revolutions - of popular democratic, reformist and national revolutions. Those movements became simple resurfacings of the facade of the state. Since that war, the only revolution capable of bringing progress to humanity is the proletarian revolution whose aim is to establish a communist world. The Russian Revolution in 1917 and the whole revolutionary wave that followed it expressed this new state of affairs. The first congress of the Communist International in March of 1919 thus affirmed: “A new epoch has been born. Ours is the epoch of the breakdown of capital, its internal disintegration, the epoch of the communist revolution of the proletariat”.
Why do you insist on the dogma of a world revolution, and why do you reject gradual improvements thorough national revolutions?
The bourgeois revolutions had a national character and could survive for long periods of time within national borders. This is how the English Revolution triumphed in the 1640s and survived in a feudal world until the bourgeois revolutions of the late 18th century. The proletarian revolution will either be global or it won’t be. First of all because production today is global. But also because capitalism has created a global market, and the laws of this market, the problems engendered by capitalism, have a global character and can only be resolved through the unified struggle of the entire global proletariat.
What is your position on Trotsky and Trotskyism?
Trotsky was a life-long revolutionary militant. He played a very important role during the Russian Revolution of 1917. He also struggled against the degeneration of the Russian Revolution by defending internationalist positions. He was the principal animator of the Left Opposition, which led a heroic struggle against the Stalinist counter-revolution in Russia and within the Communist parties of the world. However, Trotsky and the Left Opposition never understood the nature of the USSR, considering it to be a bureaucratically deformed workers’ state that nonetheless needed to be defended. The consequences of that error were tragic. After his cowardly murder by Stalin’s assassin Ramon Mercader, those who claimed to be his heirs called for participating in the Second World War and became a political current that always defends, ‘critically’ of course, and using a radical lingo, the same postulates as the Stalinists and social-democrats.
You are unfair towards Chavez, but worse still: you ignore the revolutionary process inspired by Chavez, that is developing all over Latin America and putting the region into a revolutionary fervour.
The Chavism/anti-Chavism choice is a trap, as was demonstrated recently by the student mobilisations in Venezuela that are trying to free themselves from this sterile and destructive polarisation between Chavism and the Opposition.
Chavez supports the strengthening of state intervention in the economy as well as the concentration of powers into the hands of a single person (the constitutional reform to permit his perpetual re-election). He launches ‘social’ programmes that may momentarily address the situation of some marginalised layers, but in reality reinforce the exploitation of workers and the impoverishment of the vast majority of the population. The function of such programmes is to make the population accept the most degrading poverty. We are talking about formulae that have been repeated throughout the 20th century, and have all been resounding failures. They didn’t change capitalism; they simply helped to maintain capitalism and to maintain the sufferings of the masses.
Chavez claims he’s “anti-imperialist” due to his vigorous opposition to the devil Bush. Chavez’s so-called anti-imperialism is nothing but a smoke-screen to cover his own imperialist designs. Workers and oppressed peoples cannot base their struggles on feelings of hatred or vengeance against an all-powerful empire like the United States, because these feelings are manipulated by the Latin American bourgeois fractions, be they government or opposition fractions, to make the people sacrifice for the interests of the rulers.
There is no national solution to the global crisis of capitalism. The solution can only be international and based on the international solidarity of the proletariat, through the development of its autonomous struggles.
Why do you only talk about workers and not about peasants and other layers?
Regardless of its numerical importance in each country, the working class is the only class whose interests are global. Its struggles as a class represent the interests and the future of all the exploited and oppressed. The working class tries to win over the peasants and the marginalised layers of the cities to its struggle. This doesn’t entail the formation of a front of social movements because the real interests, the authentic liberation of workers, peasants, and the marginalised people of the cities isn’t a sum of corporatist grievances, but the destruction of the yoke of wage slavery and the profit system.
Aren’t you falling into outmoded recipes? The working class no longer exists, and here in America, there are no factories left.
The working class has never been limited to industrial workers. What characterizes the working class is the social relation based on the exploitation of wage labour. The working class is not a sociological category. Industrial workers, farm workers, public employees, and ‘intellectual’ workers are part of the proletariat. We must not forget all the workers that have been thrown into unemployment or who are forced to survive by peddling on the streets.
Isn’t a change in mentality necessary if workers are to make the revolution?
Of course! The proletarian revolution isn’t simply the result of unavoidable objective factors; it bases itself on the conscious and collective action of the great masses of workers. In The German Ideology, Marx and Engels say that the revolution is not only necessary for the destruction of the State that oppresses the majority, but also for that majority to emancipate itself from the ideological rags that stick to its body. The proletarian revolution prepares itself with a gigantic transformation in the mentality of the masses. It is the product of the independent effort of the masses through struggles and through passionate debates. ICC 31/10/07