Below we are publishing substantial extracts from a letter from one of our readers, followed by our response. This letter criticises our "Report on the question of the historic course", adopted at the 23rd ICC Congress and published in International Review 164. The comrade also addresses another issue: that of the prospect, still possible, of a generalised nuclear war.
My multiple readings of the report on the historic course published in the International Review number 164 have left me very perplexed and doubtful. I find it very difficult to form a precise and definitive opinion on this text. Rather than taking a position, I prefer to share with you some somewhat disjointed and disparate remarks. I hope that these remarks will help to move the debate forward, possibly in letters from the paper's readers.
The first remark is a certain astonishment at the appearance now of this questioning. Indeed, the ICC, even if it makes no claim to any 'Bordigist' invariance, has never performed a 180° about face in this way. I have no other example of such a calling into question of a 'cornerstone' position of this importance in the 45 years since the creation of the ICC. Do tell me if there have been any precedents? […]
The second concerns the moment when this historic 'revolution' has happened, that is to say 30 years after the collapse of the USSR and its imperialist bloc. What event in recent months, internal or external to the ICC, has provoked this calling into question of one of its programmatic cornerstones, 30 years after 1989? The only 'internal' event was the need to take stock of the 40 years of the ICC and to revise an analysis which was no longer appropriate. I remember many discussions in public meetings over the last 30 years where this affirmation of the historic course, against the questioning by sympathisers about the state of the working class, where this was a decisive argument in the argumentation.
Third remark: the distinction between the historic course and the balance of forces between the classes is difficult to grasp and does not convince me. A first understanding on my part of this text is the evolutionary character in one direction contained in the expression "historic course" as opposed to a perception of the balance of forces between the classes as a blocked, indecisive and ultimately random situation as to its evolution. To illustrate my position, I will use the expression of Albert Einstein in his criticism of the postulates of quantum mechanics: "God does not play dice". Finally, the notion of the historic course is more relevant to me because in the balance of force between the classes 'measured' at a given moment, there is a basic tendency, a movement (which can be reversed) which is continually at work and which will go to its conclusion. To conclude this remark, I have the impression that there has been a 'pessimistic' evolution in the ICC's appreciation of the historic course over the last 50 years. We went from a course toward 'revolution' in the 70s and 80s, then to a course toward 'class confrontations' of the 90s and 2000s to finish with the current perception of a course announcing the defeat of the proletariat.
One last remark that I will develop further, because my ideas are clearer on this, and it concerns an argument put forward by the ICC to justify its abandonment of a historic course in practice. This argument is the current non-existence of military blocs and the lack a tendency toward different countries coming together to form such blocs. Unlike the alliances preceding the First World War between France, the United Kingdom and Russia on the one hand, Germany, Austria-Hungary and Turkey on the other, or the alliances preceding the Second between France, the United Kingdom and Poland this time and Germany, Italy and the USSR (Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact!) on the other; there have been no such alliances since the collapse of the USSR. Apart from the question of long-range nuclear weapons, there is at the moment one country that does not need to have formed a united and perfectly controlled and sustained bloc in order to embark on a war which, if not global, will not be confined to a theatre of operations limited in time and space (as in the two wars against Saddam Hussein, for example). It is of course the United States that has the economic power, the military supremacy and the bases nonetheless for intervention anywhere in the world. For a war with battles in different parts of the planet, which take place simultaneously and over a fairly long period of time (several years) to occur, all that is needed is for another power, which has several vassal states through foreign trade and economic investment, to set up military bases abroad in these vassal states, start building aircraft carriers and generally an efficient and numerous navy, so that at some point the risk of widespread conflict becomes a significant probability. This country already exists, it is China which, thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic, may soon overtake the United States economically. The possibility of a 'blunder' in the coming years over the Taiwan question, degenerating into a generalised confrontation between these two countries in different places, forcing other states to position themselves and to take sides with one or the other (e.g. France, the United Kingdom and Germany for the United States within the framework of NATO, and Russia for China) is a possibility that is not at all far-fetched. Battles in countries in the East and bombings in Western Europe could result from this situation. I think that the question of war is not at all overcome by the theory of decomposition replacing the theory of the historic course.
To conclude on this last remark, by chance I recently read two articles in the press that add grist to the mill. In Obs magazine, in a brief article on the evolution of the world economy, it says that the power that was at the origin of this pandemic is the only one that will, paradoxically, see positive growth in 2020. The article ends as follows: "When the crisis is over, we will have to make a new assessment of the forces at play. But already, we can announce that China is getting dangerously close to the United States". Canard Enchaîné reports the words of US nuclear weapons chief Charles Richard: "It's time for the US to revise and update its nuclear doctrine, because the nation has not taken seriously enough, until now, the possibility of direct armed competition with nuclear-armed adversaries. For 30 years the Pentagon has considered that there were no threats. This post-Cold War rhetoric is over. We have to accept the prospect that a nuclear war could one day take place. Our adversaries have taken advantage of this period to conceal their aggressive behaviour, increase their military potential and reconsider their tactics and strategies. We cannot expect our adversaries to respect the constraints that everyone has imposed on each other until now, depending on whether the war is conventional or nuclear, who now have a different conception of deterrence from ours".
I hope that these few remarks may be useful in developing the discussion on the key issue of the ICC's abandonment of the idea of the historic course.
First of all, we would like to warmly commend the effort of comrade D and the reflection he has undertaken on the idea of the "historic course", which will feed and enrich the debate.
The comrade asks, first of all: how is it that the concept of the "historic course", which has always been one of the "cornerstones" of the ICC's analysis since its foundation, is today called into question and abandoned in the "Report on the question of the historic course" from our 23rd Congress? The comrade also asks us: has the ICC abandoned or rectified other positions?
To the first question, we must refer the comrade to what is stated very explicitly in the introduction to the Report in the International Review: "By making the necessary change in our analysis, we were adopting the method of Marx and the marxist movement since its inception, which consists of changing positions, analyses and even the programme as a whole as soon as it no longer corresponds to the march of history; this is fully in line with the goals of marxism as a revolutionary theory. The most celebrated example of this is the important modifications which Marx and Engels made to the Communist Manifesto itself, summarised in the later prefaces they added to this fundamental text, in the light of the historic changes that had taken place. 'Marxism is a revolutionary world outlook which must always strive for new discoveries, which completely despises rigidity in once-valid theses, and whose living force is best preserved in the intellectual clash of self-criticism and the rough and tumble of history' (Rosa Luxemburg, An Anti-critique)
Rosa’s insistence, in this period, on the necessity to reconsider prior analyses in order to remain faithful to the nature and method of marxism as a revolutionary theory was directly linked to the profound significance of the First World War. The 1914-18 war marked a turning point in capitalism as a mode of production, its passage from a period of ascent and progress to a new period of decadence and collapse which fundamentally changed the conditions and the programme of the workers’ movement. But only the left wing of the Second International began to recognise that the previous period had definitely ended and that the proletariat was now entering into the “epoch of wars and revolution”.
It is therefore by adopting the same approach as that of the workers' movement of the past that we have been led to question the concept of the "historic course". A concept which we consider outdated since the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989, opening up a new phase within the historic period of the decadence of capitalism, its ultimate phase: that of decomposition, the ultimate phase of the decadence of capitalism. Just as the entry of capitalism into its period of decadence had rendered obsolete the national liberation struggles defended by marxists in the 19th century, the analysis of the "historic course", which allowed us to understand the direction in which society was evolving, became obsolete. The historic alternative today is no longer "World war or proletarian revolution" (as it was in the past) but "Destruction of humanity in generalised chaos or proletarian revolution".
The "historic course" and the balance of forces between the classes in the 20th century
Our article in International Review 164 explains in great detail the difference between the concept of the "historic course" and that of the "balance of forces between classes". We had made the mistake of identifying these two notions in the past when they are two distinct concepts. In the 19th century, in the ascendant period of capitalism, the concept of "historic course" had not been used by revolutionaries because we had not yet entered the "era of wars and revolutions" (as the Communist International said in 1919). Neither the failure of the revolution of 1848 nor the crushing of the Paris Commune in 1871 had led to an imperialist war, although the balance of forces between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat had been reversed in favour of the ruling class.
With the entry of capitalism into its period of decadence, the idea of the "historic course" was adopted by revolutionaries in order to understand in which general direction society was going. In 1914, the ideological defeat of the proletariat (with the voting of war credits by social democracy and the betrayal of the workers' parties) had allowed the recruitment of tens of millions of proletarians in the First World War. The balance of forces between the two fundamental classes of society had swung to the bourgeoisie, which had succeeded in sending the proletariat enthusiastically to the battlefields. For the first time in history, the alternative was posed: "socialism or barbarism", "proletarian revolution or the destruction of humanity in World War I". Then in 1917, with the triumph of the Russian Revolution and its impact in other countries (notably Germany), the balance of forces between classes was reversed in favour of the proletariat, ending the World War. The "historic course" was, for the first time, a course towards the world proletarian revolution, posing the question of the overthrow of capitalism, which manifested itself in a real revolutionary wave that developed throughout the world between 1917 and 1923, and again in 1927 in China. But, with the bloody crushing of the revolution in Germany and the Stalinist counterrevolution under the guise of "socialism in one country", the bourgeoisie was able to regain the upper hand. This physical defeat of the proletariat was followed by a profound ideological defeat that led to its recruitment under the flags of antifascism and the defence of the "socialist homeland". The balance of forces between the classes having been reversed in favour of the bourgeoisie, a new historic course was affirmed in the 1930s: society was inexorably heading toward a Second World War. The ruling class had been able to subject the working class to the dead weight of a long period of counter-revolution by giving itself all the means to prevent the proletariat from repeating the revolutionary undertaking of 1917-18. This period of victorious counter-revolution had therefore not allowed the proletariat to reverse the historic course by affirming once again its revolutionary perspective. Such a situation could therefore only leave the bourgeoisie free to impose its own response to the historic crisis of its system: world war.
It was only after half a century of counter-revolution that the proletariat, by gradually rebuilding its forces, was able to raise its head again: at the end of the 1960s, with the resurgence of the economic crisis and the exhaustion of the post-war economic "boom", the proletariat reappeared on the scene of history. The wave of workers' struggles that shook the world, notably in May 1968 in France and during the "hot autumn" in Italy in 1969, showed that the proletariat was not willing to accept the deterioration of its living conditions. As we have always affirmed, a proletariat that does not accept the sacrifices imposed by the economic crisis is not ready to accept the ultimate sacrifice of its life on the battlefields. With the erosion of the bourgeois mystifications that had allowed its recruitment in World War II (that of anti-fascism and Stalinism), the working class regained the upper hand at the end of the 1960s. By obstructing the outbreak of a new world war, the international resumption of class struggle had put an end to the period of counterrevolution and opened up a new historic course: a course toward widespread class confrontations that put the perspective of proletarian revolution back on the agenda.
The history of the twentieth century has thus shown the dynamics of capitalism and the evolution of society according to the balance of forces between classes. It is this balance of force that determines the "historic course", that is to say in which direction society is heading in the face of the permanent crisis of capitalism: either towards world war or towards proletarian revolution.
Although the "historic course" ultimately depends on the balance of forces between the classes, the two concepts are not identical. For marxists, the "historic course" is not fixed. It is fundamentally determined by the response that the bourgeoisie and the proletariat give, at a given moment, to the crisis of the capitalist economy. "We have tended, on the basis of what the working class experienced during the 20th century, to identify the notion of the evolution of the balance of power between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat with the notion of a “historical course”, whereas the latter indicates a fundamental alternative outcome, the world war or revolution, a sanction of this balance of power. In a way, the current historical situation is similar to that of the 19th century: the balance of power between classes can evolve in one direction or another without decisively affecting the life of society" 
The incomprehension of this notion of "historic course" had, moreover, led some revolutionaries of the past to make dangerous mistakes. This was notably the case of Trotsky who, in the 1930s, when the proletariat of the central countries was being recruited under the bourgeois flags of antifascism and the defence of the "workers' gains" in the USSR, did not understand that society was heading irreversibly towards world war. Trotsky did not understand that the War in Spain was the laboratory for World War II. Seeing the uprising of the Spanish proletariat against Franco as a "revolution" following on from the October 1917 revolution in Russia, Trotsky had ended up pushing prematurely for the foundation of a Fourth International, at a time when historic conditions were marked by defeat and when the "task of the hour" was for revolutionaries to draw the balance sheet and lessons from the failure of the Russian revolution and the first revolutionary wave.
Why question the concept of the "historic course" today?
Our reader makes the following criticism: he expresses "a certain astonishment at the appearance now of this questioning […] What event in recent months, internal or external to the ICC, has provoked this calling into question of one of its programmatic cornerstones, 30 years after 1989. The only 'internal' event was the need to take stock of the 40 years of the ICC and to revise an analysis which was no longer appropriate. I remember many discussions in public meetings over the last 30 years where this affirmation of the historic course, against the questioning by sympathisers about the state of the working class, where this was a decisive argument in the argumentation."
The first question we want to answer is: was the collapse of the Eastern bloc in 1989 an event of such historic significance that it justifies our examining the direction in which society is heading? As we have highlighted in our press, the collapse of the Stalinist countries put a definitive end to the myth of the "socialist fatherland". An entire sector of the capitalist world fell apart, not thanks to the revolutionary action of the proletariat, but from the battering of the world economic crisis. The disappearance of the Eastern bloc put an end to the Cold War and to the bourgeois alternative of a Third World War as the only response that the ruling class could give to the crisis of its system. As a result, the Western bloc finally broke up, since the threat of the "Evil Empire" had disappeared. The prospect of a Third World War between the USSR and the US had itself disappeared, without giving way to the alternative of proletarian revolution. How did we explain this "void" left in the course of history? Our analysis was the following: neither the proletariat nor the bourgeoisie having been able to affirm their own response to the economic crisis at the end of the 1980s, the historic alternative "War or world proletarian revolution" was "blocked". If capitalism has entered its phase of decomposition, it is because the working class has not been able to go on the offensive, to politicise its struggles to raise them to the gravity of the stakes of the historic situation. The dynamics of the class struggle can no longer be analysed within the framework of the "historic course". The analysis of the "historic course" therefore had to be re-examined since the prospect of a new world war had receded, as had that of proletarian revolution.
The changing historic situation required us to critically examine the 40 years of ICC in order to determine the validity of our analyses. This is what we began to do at our 21st Congress, which was devoted exclusively to this critical examination. It was therefore on the basis of this Congress that we reflected on the historic course and updated our analysis in the light of the new world situation opened up by the collapse of the Eastern bloc. This major event, the most important since the Second World War, had provoked a decline in the consciousness and combativeness of the proletariat because of the impact of the gigantic campaign of the bourgeoisie claiming that the collapse of the Stalinist regimes meant the "collapse of communism". The bourgeoisie had been able to turn this major manifestation of the decomposition of its system against the consciousness of the working class, thus obstructing its revolutionary perspective and making its forward march towards generalised class confrontations more difficult, slower and more uneven.
Moreover, during this Congress we had affirmed that the reconstitution of new imperialist blocs (which is an indispensable objective condition for a third world war) was not on the agenda. With the end of bloc discipline, the dynamics of imperialism were now characterised by the growing tendency of "every man for himself", a tendency which did not exclude the possibility of alliances between states. But these alliances are marked by a certain instability. This "every man for himself" in the life of the bourgeoisie can only aggravate global chaos, especially in increasingly deadly localised wars. "Every man for himself" is also a manifestation of the decomposition of capitalism. It can be seen today in the calamitous management of the Covid-19 pandemic by each national bourgeoisie, as witnessed by the "war of masks" and the competitive race for vaccines.
It was therefore on the basis of the marxist method of analysing historic evolution that the ICC considered that the concept of "historic course" had become obsolete. The dynamics of class struggle and the balance of forces between the classes can no longer be posed today in the same terms as in the past. Faced with a new historic situation (and one which has not been seen since the beginning of the decadence of capitalism), it was up to us to review an analysis which had been for 40 years, as comrade D says, one of our "programmatic cornerstones". This is not quite right, by the way: the analysis of the "historic course" is not a position that is an integral part of our programmatic platform (as is the analysis of the decadence of capitalism and its implications for national liberation struggles, participation in elections, or the nature of trade unions and the former USSR).
The "theory of decomposition" does not replace "the theory of the historic course", as Comrade D asserts. A new world war is not today a necessary condition for the destruction of mankind. As we highlighted in our "Theses on Decomposition", the decomposition of capitalism can have the same effects as war: it can lead, in the long run, to the destruction of humanity and the planet if the proletariat does not succeed in overthrowing capitalism.
Self-criticism: a vital necessity for revolutionary organisations
To conclude, we must briefly answer the other question raised by Comrade D's letter, still concerning our questioning of the concept of "historic course”: "I have no other example of such a calling into question of a 'cornerstone' position of this importance in the 45 years since the creation of the ICC. Do tell me if there have been any precedents?"
There have indeed been some "precedents". The first is pointed out by the comrade himself: we had questioned the notion of a "course to revolution" to replace it with that of "course to class confrontations" in the 1980s. Indeed, the notion of a "course to revolution" was strongly marked by a certain immediacy on our part. The historic resumption of class struggle at the end of the 1960s did not mean that a new revolutionary wave was going to emerge quickly. It was the analysis of the slow rhythm of the economic crisis in the 1970s that allowed us to understand that this resumption of the class struggle could not yet immediately lead to a revolutionary uprising of the proletariat as was the case with the barbarity of the First World War.
Another example of the necessary rectification of our analyses is the question of the emergence of China as the second world power. In the past, we had indeed defended the idea that, in the period of decadence of capitalism, there was no possibility for the countries of the "Third World" (including China) to emerge from underdevelopment. It was in the light of the consequences of the collapse of the Eastern bloc with the opening up of the countries of the Soviet zone and their integration into the 'market economy' that we were led to revise this analysis, which had become obsolete. Nevertheless, this new analysis in no way called into question the historic framework of the decadence of capitalism.
Like revolutionaries in the past, the ICC has never been afraid to recognise and rectify its mistakes, nor to adapt its analyses to new realities in the world situation. If we were not able to criticise our own mistakes, we would not be an organisation faithful to the method of marxism. As Rosa Luxemburg said in September 1899, "There is probably no other party for which free and untiring criticism of its own shortcomings is as much a condition of existence as for social democracy. As we have to progress in line with social evolution, the continual modification of our methods of struggle and, consequently, the incessant criticism of our theoretical heritage, are the conditions for our growth. It goes without saying, however, that self-criticism in our Party only achieves its goal of serving progress, and we cannot be too pleased about this unless it moves in the direction of our struggle. Any criticism that contributes to making our class struggle more vigorous and conscious in achieving our final goal deserves our gratitude" ("Freedom of Criticism and Science").
It is in this sense that we must also welcome Comrade D's letter and his critical remarks. His questioning contributes to the public debate which we can only encourage. By opening the columns of our press, as we have always done, to any reader who wishes to criticise our analyses and positions, our aim is to develop the culture of debate within the working class and the proletarian political milieu.
Is the prospect of generalised nuclear war on the agenda?
The conditions for the outbreak of a generalised war
Comrade D states in his letter that "the question of war is not at all overcome by the theory of decomposition replacing the theory of the historic course."
Apart from the fact that the ruling class has not been able since 1989 to reconstitute new imperialist blocs, the comrade forgets that the second condition for the outbreak of a new world war is the ability of the bourgeoisie to recruit the proletariat behind national flags, especially in the central countries of capitalism. This is by no means the case today. As we have always affirmed, a proletariat that is not willing to accept the sacrifices imposed by the worsening economic crisis is not prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice of its life on the battlefield. After the long counter-revolutionary period where states were able to send millions of proletarians to their deaths behind the flags of fascism and anti-fascism during the Second World War, the working class returned to the stage of history at the end of the 1960s (May 68 in France, the "hot autumn" in Italy, etc.). The bourgeoisie had been prevented from unleashing a third planetary butchery during the Cold War because it was unable to recruit a proletariat which, although it was unable to develop its struggles on a revolutionary terrain, was both very combative and absolutely unwilling to be killed or to massacre its class brothers. Despite all the difficulties that the working class has faced in massively developing its struggles since 1989, the historical situation is still open. Since the proletariat has not suffered a decisive and definitive defeat, the worsening of the economic crisis can only push it to fight tooth and nail to defend its living conditions, as we have seen again recently with the movement against pension reform in France during the winter of 2019-2020. And in its capacity to resist the attacks of capital, we have also seen a tendency to seek solidarity in the struggle between all sectors and all generations. Of course, this in no way means that the bourgeoisie can never again inflict a historic and decisive defeat on the working class. But, as we affirmed in our "Theses on Decomposition" (International Review 107), social decomposition can destroy any capacity of the working class to overthrow capitalism and lead to the destruction of humanity and the planet.
Towards a reconstitution of imperialist blocs?
In support of his analysis of the current potential for a large-scale military conflict, Comrade D states: "Apart from the question of long-range nuclear weapons, there is at the moment one country that does not need to have formed a united and perfectly controlled and sustained bloc in order to embark on a war which, if not global, will not be confined to a theatre of operations limited in time and space (as in the two wars against Saddam Hussein, for example). It is of course the United States that has the economic power, the military supremacy and the bases nonetheless for intervention anywhere in the world. For a war with battles in different parts of the planet, which take place simultaneously and over a fairly long period of time (several years) to occur, all that is needed is for another power, which has several vassal states through foreign trade and economic investment, to set up military bases abroad in these vassal states, start building aircraft carriers and generally an efficient and numerous navy, so that at some point the risk of widespread conflict becomes a significant probability. This country already exists, it is China which, thanks to the Covid-19 epidemic, may soon overtake the United States economically".
It is true that it is around the conflict between these two superpowers that the strategic battle for a "new world order" is focused. China, with its vast "Silk Road" programme, aims to establish itself as a leading economic power by 2030-50 and to build up by 2050 a "world-class army capable of winning victory in any modern war". Such ambitions are causing a general destabilisation of relations between imperialist states and are pushing the United States to try since 2013 to contain and break the rise of the Chinese power that threatens it. The American response, which began with Obama (taken up and amplified by Trump), represents a turning point in American policy. The defence of its interests as a national state now embraces the "every man for himself" which dominates imperialist relations: the US is moving from the role of policeman of world order to that of principal propagator of "every man for himself" and the chaos and calling into question of the world order established in 1945 under its aegis. On the other hand, the idea inferred by what the comrade says is that there is a tendency towards bipolarisation, since on the one hand the European countries, within the framework of NATO, would take the side of the United States, while China would not only be able to rely on its vassal states but would have a major ally, Russia.
Yet the emergence of China itself is a product of the phase of decomposition, in which the tendency towards bipolarisation is being broken by "every man for himself" reigning between each imperialist power. Similarly, there is a big difference between the development of this tendency and a concrete process leading to the formation of new blocs. The increasingly aggressive attitudes of the two major powers tend to undermine rather than reinforce this process. China is deeply distrusted by all its neighbours, especially Russia, which often aligns itself with China only to defend its immediate interests (as it does in Syria), but is terrified of being subordinated to China because of the latter's economic power, and remains one of the fiercest opponents of Beijing's "Silk Road" project. America, meanwhile, has been actively engaged in dismantling virtually all the structures of the old bloc that it had previously used to preserve its "new world order" and which resisted the shift in international relations towards "every man for himself". It increasingly treats its NATO allies as enemies, and in general has become one of the main actors in aggravating the chaotic nature of current imperialist relations.
Is a nuclear war possible in the current period?
In short, by putting to one side one of the essential conditions for the outbreak of a new world war (the need for the ideological enlistment of the proletariat), comrade D puts forward another hypothesis. He refers to articles in the bourgeois press (L'Obs and Le Canard Enchaîné) to affirm that a nuclear war is quite possible, notably between the US and China (which has become an industrial and imperialist power facing the first world power).
As we have always affirmed, imperialism has its own dynamics and is an integral part of the way of life of capitalism in its period of decadence. And as Jean Jaurès said, "capitalism brings war as the cloud brings the storm". No economic power can compete with others, and assert itself as such on the world stage, without developing ever more sophisticated weapons. The trade war between states is therefore always accompanied by an exacerbation of imperialist tensions. While it is true that nuclear armament is no longer just a means of "deterrence" as it was during the "Cold War", today the arms race is a means of blackmail and bargaining between nuclear-armed states. The exacerbation of imperialist tensions does not always lead to a direct conflagration, as we saw, for example, in 2017 with the military tensions between the US and North Korea (which had moreover given rise to alarmist talk in the bourgeois press). After several months of negotiations, this conflict ended (at least momentarily) with warm embraces between Trump (president of the United States) and Kim Jong-un (president of North Korea).
The more the bourgeoisie is forced to face the bankruptcy of its system and the acceleration of the trade war, the more each power seeks to advance its pawns in the imperialist world arena for the control of strategic positions against its rivals. As capitalism sinks into social decomposition, the bourgeoisie appears more and more as a suicidal class. Uncontrolled slip-ups on the imperialist level cannot be ruled out in the future if the proletariat does not take up the challenge posed by the gravity of the historical situation. But for the moment, the perspective of a nuclear conflagration between China and the US is not on the agenda. Moreover, what interest would these two powers have to gain by massively dropping nuclear bombs on their rival? The destruction would be such that no occupying troops from the victorious country could be sent to the piles of ruins. We have always rejected the vision of the "push-button" war, where the bourgeoisie could unleash a global nuclear cataclysm at the touch of a button, without any need for the proletariat to be recruited. The ruling class is not completely stupid, even if irresponsible and completely insane heads of state can come to power at particular moments. It is not a question of underestimating the danger of imperialist tensions between the great nuclear powers like China and the US, nor of totally ruling out the prospect of a conflagration between these two powers in the future, but of measuring the catastrophic repercussions at the world level: none of the warring powers would be able to take advantage of it. Contrary to the alarmist rhetoric of certain media and the predictions of geopoliticians, we must guard against playing Nostradamus. If the dynamic of imperialism (the outcome of which we cannot predict today) leads to such a situation, its origin will be in the total loss of control by the ruling class over its decomposing system. We're not there yet and we must be careful not to "cry wolf" prematurely.
Revolutionaries must not give in to the pervasive idea of "no future". On the contrary, they must keep faith in the future, in the capacity of the proletariat and its younger generations to overthrow capitalism before it destroys the planet and humanity. By abandoning today our past analysis of the "historical course", we do not now have, as comrade D thinks, a "pessimistic" vision of the future. We still bet on the possibility of generalised class confrontations allowing the proletariat to recover and affirm its revolutionary perspective. We have never, in any of our articles, announced a "defeat" for the proletariat, as our reader's letter maintains.
 "Report on the question of the historic course", International Review 164 (first half of 2020).