Resolution on the International Situation, 25th ICC Congress

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The ICC’s text on the perspectives opening up in the 2020s[1] argues that the multiple contradictions and crises of the world capitalist system – economic, health, military, ecological, social - are more and more coming together, interacting, to create a kind of “whirlwind effect” which is making the destruction of humanity an ever-more likely outcome. This conclusion has now become so obvious that important parts of the ruling class are painting a similar picture. Alarm bells were already being rung by the 2021-22 UN report on Human Development [2] but the World Economic Forum “Global Risk” report published in January 2023 is even more explicit, talking about the “polycrisis” facing human civilisation: “As 2023 begins, the world is facing a set of risks that feel both wholly new and eerily familiar. We have seen a return of “older” risks – inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, geopolitical confrontation and the spectre of nuclear warfare – which few of this generation’s business leaders and public policy-makers have experienced. These are being amplified by comparatively new developments in the global risks landscape, including unsustainable levels of debt, a new era of low growth, low global investment and de-globalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unconstrained development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and the growing pressure of climate change impacts and ambitions in an ever-shrinking window for transition to a 1.5°C world. Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade to come”.

This is the bourgeoisie talking honestly to itself about the current global situation, even if can only remain deluded about the possibility of finding solutions inside the existing system. And it will continue to sell these delusions to the world population, aided and abetted by any number of political parties and protest campaigns which offer radical-sounding programmes which never question the capitalist social relations which have given rise to the impending catastrophe.

For us as communists there can of course be no solution which does not abolish capitalist relations and lay the basis for a planet-wide communist society. And what the WEF point to as another “risk” in the period ahead - “widespread social unrest" – contains, if we disentangle the term from all the various bourgeois or cross-class movements which it files under this category, the opposite pole of the alternative confronting humanity: the international class struggle, which alone can lead towards the overthrow of capital and the creation of communism.


1. The historical framework

The bourgeoisie is not capable of locating the “polycrisis” in the insoluble economic contradictions arising from the existing antagonistic social relations, instead seeing its cause in the abstraction of “human activity”; nor can it place them in a coherent historical framework. For communists, by contrast, the catastrophic trajectory of world capitalism is the result of over a century of decadence of this mode of production.

The war of 1914-18, and the revolutionary wave it provoked, led the First Congress of the Communist International to proclaim that capitalism had reached its epoch of “inner disintegration”, of “wars and revolutions”, offering the choice between socialism and a descent into barbarism and chaos. The defeat of the proletariat’s first revolutionary attempts meant that the events at the end of the 1920s, then during the 30s and 40s (the greatest economic depression in capitalism’s history, an even more devastating world war, systematic genocide, etc), tipped the scales towards barbarism, and after World War Two the ensuing conflict between the US and Russian blocs confirmed that decadent capitalism now had the ability to destroy humanity. But the decadence of capitalism continued to move through a series of phases: the post-war economic boom, the return of the open crisis at the end of the 1960s, the resurgence of the international working class after 1968. The latter put an end to the domination of the counter-revolution, obstructing the drive towards a new world war and opening a new historic course towards class confrontations, which contained the potential for the revival of the communist perspective. But the inability of the working class as a whole to develop this perspective resulted in a stalemate between the classes which became increasingly evident in the 1980s. In this period, capitalism entered a qualitatively new and terminal phase in the epoch of decadence (which we call the phase of decomposition). Its most spectacular manifestation was the collapse of the old imperialist order in 1989-91. The fact that this phase was characterised by a growing tendency towards chaos in international relations added a further obstacle to a trajectory towards world war, but this in no way made the future of human society more secure. In our Theses on Decomposition, published in 1990, we predicted that the decomposition of bourgeois society could lead to the destruction of humanity without a world war between organised imperialist blocs, through a combination of regional wars, ecological destruction, pandemics and social collapse. We also predicted that the cycle of workers’ struggles from 1968-89 was at an end and that the conditions of the new phase would bring with it major difficulties for the working class.

2. The acceleration of decomposition

The present situation of world capitalism provides a striking confirmation of this prognosis. The 2020s opened with the Covid pandemic and this was followed in 2022 by the war in Ukraine. At the same time, we have witnessed numerous confirmations of the planet-wide ecological crisis (heat waves, floods, melting of the polar icecaps, massive pollution of the air and oceans, etc). Since 2019 we have also been experiencing a new dive into economic crisis as the “remedies” for the so-called financial crisis of 2008 reveal all their limitations. But whereas in the previous decades the ruling class of the major countries had managed to some extent to preserve the economy from the impact of decomposition, we are now seeing this “whirlwind effect” in which all the different expressions of a decomposing society are inter-acting with each other and accelerating the descent towards barbarism. Thus, the economic crisis has been palpably deepened by the pandemic and the lock-downs, the Ukraine war, and the mounting cost of ecological disasters; meanwhile the war in Ukraine will have serious implications at the ecological level and around the globe; competition for dwindling natural resources will further exacerbate military rivalries and social revolts. In this concatenation of effects, imperialist war, the result of deliberate choices by the ruling class, has played a central role, but even the impact of a “natural” disaster like the terrible earthquake in Turkey and Syria has been substantially worsened by the fact that it has taken place in a region already crippled by war. And we can also point the finger at the endemic corruption of politicians and entrepreneurs which is yet another feature of social decay: in Turkey, the heedless pursuit of profit in the local construction industry resulted in the ignoring of safety standards which could have greatly diminished the earthquake’s death toll. This acceleration and interaction of the phenomena of decomposition marks another transformation of quantity into quality within this terminal phase of decadence, making it clearer than ever that the continuation of capitalism has become a tangible threat to human survival.


3. Impact of the war in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine also has a long “prehistory”. It is the culmination of the most important developments in imperialist tensions over the last three decades, in particular:

  • The collapse of the post-1945 bloc system at the end of the 1980s and the unleashing of “every man for himself” in inter-imperialist relations, provoking a significant decline of US global leadership
  • The emergence, within this new global free-for-all, of China as the major imperialist challenger to the US, with its long- term strategy to build the world-wide economic foundations for its future imperialist domination. The USA’s reaction to its own decline and the rise of China has not been to withdraw from global affairs, on the contrary. The US has launched its own offensive aimed at restricting China’s advance, from Obama’s “pivot to the East” through Trump’s focus on trade war, to the more directly military approach of Biden (provocations around Taiwan, downing of Chinese spy-balloons, the formation of AUKUS, the new US base in the Philippines, etc). The aim of this offensive is to build a fire-wall around China, blocking its capacity to develop as a world power.
  • At the same time, the USA has continued to press forward with the gradual encirclement of Russia through the expansion of NATO, with the objective not only of containing and weakening Russia itself but above all at sabotaging its alliance with China. The trap laid for Russia in Ukraine was the final move in this chess game, leaving Moscow with little choice but to strike back militarily, pushing it into a war which has the potential to bleed it white and undermine its ambitions as a regional and global force.

In the shadow of these global imperialist rivalries, there is an extension and intensification of other areas of conflict which are also connected to the struggle between the main powers, but in an even more chaotic manner. Numerous regional powers are increasingly playing their own game, both with regard to the Ukraine war and the conflicts in their own region. Thus Turkey, a member of NATO, acts as an “intermediary” on behalf of Putin’s Russia on the question of grain supplies while supplying Ukraine with military drones and opposing Russia in the Libyan “civil war; Saudi Arabia has defied the USA by refusing to increase oil supplies and thus lower world oil prices; India has refused to comply with US-led economic sanctions against Russia. Meanwhile, the war in Syria, almost unreported in the mainstream media since the invasion of Ukraine, has continued its ravages, with Turkey, Iran and Israel more or less directly implicated in the slaughter. Yemen has been a bloody battleground between Iran and Saudi Arabia; the accession of a far-right government in Israel is throwing oil on the fire of the conflict with the PLO, Hamas, and Iran. Following a new US-Africa summit, Washington has announced a series of economic measures explicitly aimed at countering the growing involvement of Russia and China in the continent, which continues to suffer from the impact of the Ukraine war on food supplies and from a whole mosaic of regional wars and tensions (Ethiopia-Tigray, Sudan, Libya, Rwanda-Congo, etc) which provide openings to all the regional and global imperialist vultures. In the Far East, North Korea, which is one of the few countries directly supplying Russia with weapons, is rattling its sabre in the face of South Korea (particularly through new missile launches, which are also a provocation against Japan). And behind North Korea stands China, responding to growing US encirclement.

A further war aim of the US in Ukraine, a clear break with Trump’s efforts to undermine the NATO alliance, has been to rein in the independent ambitions of its European “allies”, forcing them to comply with US sanctions against Russia and to continue arming Ukraine. This policy of drawing the NATO alliance together has had some success, with Britain being the most enthusiastic supporter of Ukraine’s war effort. However, the reconstitution of a real US-controlled bloc is still very far off. France and Germany – with the latter having the most to lose from giving up its traditional “Ostpolitik”, given its dependence of Russian energy supplies – remain inconsistent about sending the weapons demanded by Kyiv – and have persisted with their own diplomatic “initiatives” towards Russia and China. Meanwhile China has taken a very cautious line towards the war in Ukraine, recently unveiling its own “Peace Plan” and stopping short of supplying Moscow with the “lethal aid” it so desperately needs.

The overall evidence – even leaving aside the question of the mobilisation of the proletariat in the central countries that this would demand - thus confirms the view that we are not moving towards the formation of stable imperialist blocs. But this does not at all lessen the danger of uncontrolled military escalations, including the resort to nuclear weapons. Ever since George Bush Senior announced the advent of a “New World Order” after the demise of the USSR, the very attempts by the US to impose this “order” have made it the most potent force for increasing disorder and instability around the world. This dynamic was lucidly illustrated by the nightmarish chaos which continues to prevail in Afghanistan and Iraq in the wake of the US invasions of those countries, but the same process is also at work in the Ukraine conflict. Pushing Russia against the wall thus contains the danger of a desperate reaction by the Moscow regime, including the resort to nuclear weapons; alternatively, if the regime collapses it could trigger the disintegration of Russia itself, creating a new area of chaos with the most unpredictable consequences. The irrationality of war in the decadence of capitalism can be measured not only in its gigantic economic costs, which far outweigh any possibilities for short-term profits or reconstructions, but also in the rapid collapse of the military-strategic goals which, in the period of capitalist decadence, have more and more displaced the economic rationality of war. In the wake of the first Gulf War, in our orientation text “Militarism and Decomposition” (IR 64, first quarter of 1991), we predicted the following scenario for imperialist relations in the phase of decomposition:

"In the new historical period we have entered, and which the Gulf events have confirmed, the world appears as a vast free-for-all, where the tendency of ‘every man for himself’ will operate to the full, and where the alliances between states will be far from having the stability that characterized the imperialist blocs, but will be dominated by the immediate needs of the moment. A world of bloody chaos, where the American policeman will try to maintain a minimum of order by the increasingly massive and brutal use of military force".

As shown in the aftermath of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq in the early 2000s, the USA’s increasing reliance on its military power had shown clearly that, far from achieving this minimum of order, “the imperialist policy of the USA has become one of the main factors in global instability” (Resolution on the International Situation, 17th ICC Congress, (IR 130, third quarter 2007), and the results of the USA’s offensive against Russia have made it even more evident that the “world cop” has become the main factor in the intensification of chaos on a planetary scale.


4. The economic crisis

The war in Ukraine is a further blow to a capitalist economy already weakened and undermined by its internal contradictions and by convulsions resulting from its decomposition. The capitalist economy had already been in the midst of a slowdown, marked by the development of inflation, mounting pressures on the currencies of the major powers and growing financial instability (reflected in the bursting of the real estate bubbles in China as well as the crypto-currencies and tech). The war is now powerfully aggravating the economic crisis at all levels.

The war means the economic annihilation of Ukraine, the severe weakening of the Russian economy by the immense cost of the war and the effects of the sanctions imposed by the western powers. Its shock waves can be felt across the world, fuelling the food crisis and famines through the soaring price of basic necessities and through grain shortages.

The most tangible consequence of the war across the world is the explosion of military expenditure, which has soared above 2000 billion dollars. All the world’s states are caught up in the spiral of rearmament. More than ever, economies are being subjected to the needs of war, increasing the part of national wealth devoted to the production of instruments of destruction. The cancer of militarism means the sterilisation of capital and constitutes a crushing burden on commercial exchanges and the national economy, leading to the demand for greater and greater sacrifices on the part of the exploited.

At the same time, the most serious financial convulsions since the 2008 crisis, born of a series of bank failures in the USA (including the 16th largest bank in the US) and then of Credit Suisse (the country's 2nd largest bank), has been spreading on an international scale, while the massive intervention of the US and Swiss central banks has not succeeded in averting the risk of contagion to other countries in Europe and other risky sectors, or to prevent these failures from turning into a 'systemic' credit crisis.

Unlike in 2008, when the failure of major banks was caused by their exposure to sub-prime mortgages, this time the banks are weakened mainly by their long-term investments in government bonds, which, with the sudden rise in interest rates to combat inflation, are losing their value. The current financial instability, although not (yet) as dramatic as in 2008, is approaching the heart of the financial system, as the resort to government debt - and in particular by the US Treasury at the centre of this system - has always been seen as the safest haven.

In any case, financial crises, whatever their internal dynamics and immediate causes, are always, in the final analysis, a manifestation of the crisis of overproduction which resurfaced in 1967 and has been further aggravated by factors linked to the decomposition of capitalism.

Above all, the war reveals the triumph of every man for himself and the failure, even the end, of any “global governance” at the level of coordinating economies, responding to the climate problems, etc. This tendency of every man for himself in relations between states has grown progressively since the 2008 crisis, and the war in Ukraine has brought to an end many of the economic tendencies, described under the heading of “globalisation”, which have been going on since the 1990s.

Not only has the capacity of the main capitalist powers to cooperate in order to hold back the impact of the economic crisis more or less disappeared, but, faced with the deterioration of its economy and the deepening of the global crisis, and in order to preserve its position as the world’s leading power, the USA has increasingly been deliberately aiming to weaken its competitors. This is an open break with a large part of the rules adopted by states since the crisis of 1929. It opens the way to a terra incognita more and more dominated by chaos and unpredictable consequences.

The USA, convinced that preserving its leadership against the rise of China depends to a large extent on the power of its economy, which the war has placed in a position of strength at the political and military level, is also on the offensive against its rivals at the economic level. This offensive operates in a number of directions. The US is the big winner of the “gas war” launched against Russia to the detriment of the European states who have been forced to end Russian gas imports. Having achieved self-sufficiency in oil and gas thanks to a long-term energy policy begun under Obama, the war has confirmed America’s supremacy in the strategic sphere of energy. It has put its rivals on the defensive at this level: Europe has had to accept its dependence on America’s liquefied natural gas; China, which is greatly dependent on imported hydrocarbons, has been made more fragile given that the US is now in a position to control China’s supply routes. The US now has an unprecedented capacity to put pressure on the rest of the world at this level.

Profiting from the central role of the dollar in the world economy, from being the world’s leading economic power, the various monetary, financial and industrial initiatives (from Trump’s economic recovery plans to Biden’s massive subsidies to products “made in the USA”, the Inflation Reduction Act, etc) have increased the “resilience” of the US economy, and this is attracting the investment of capital and industrial relocations towards American territory. The US is limiting the impact of the current world slow-down on its economy and is pushing the worst effects of inflation and recession onto the rest of the world.

In addition, in order to guarantee its decisive technological advantage, the US is also aiming to ensure the relocalisation to the US, or international control of, strategic technologies (semiconductors) from which it aims to exclude China, while threatening sanctions against any rival to its monopoly.

The USA’s drive to preserve its economic power has the consequence of weakening the capitalist system as a whole. The exclusion of Russia from international trade, the offensive against China and the uncoupling of their two economies, in short the declared will of the USA to reconfigure world economic relations to its advantage, marks a turning point: the US is proving to be a factor in the destabilisation of world capitalism and the extension of chaos at the economic level.

Europe has been hit especially hard by the war which has deprived it of its main strength: its stability. European capitals are suffering from the unprecedented destabilisation of their “economic model” and run a real risk of deindustrialisation and delocalisation towards the American or Asian zones under the blows of the “gas war” and American protectionism.

Germany in particular is an explosive concentration of all the contradictions of this unprecedented situation. The end of Russian gas supplies places Germany in a situation of economic and strategic fragility, threatening its competitive edge and the whole of its industry. The end of multilateralism, from which German capital benefited more than any other nation (also sparing it from the burden of military expenses), is more directly affecting its economic power, which is dependent on exports. It also runs the risk of becoming dependent on the US for its energy supplies, while the latter pushes its “allies” to join in the economic /strategic war against China and to renounce their Chinese markets. Because this is such a vital outlet for German capital, this is facing Germany with a huge dilemma, one which is shared by other European powers at a time when the EU is itself under threat from the tendency of its member states to put their national interests above those of the Union.

As for China, although two years ago it was presented as the big winner of the Covid crisis, it is one of the most characteristic expressions of the “whirlwind” effect. Already suffering from economic slowdown, it is now facing major turbulence.

Since the end of 2019, the pandemic, the repeated lockdowns and the tsunami of infections that followed the abandonment of the “Zero Covid” policy continue to paralyse the Chinese economy.

China is caught up in the global dynamic of the crisis, with its financial system threatened by the bursting of the property bubble. The decline of its Russian partner and the disruption of the “Silk Roads” towards Europe by armed conflict or the prevailing chaos are causing considerable damage. The powerful pressure of the US further increases its economic difficulties. And faced with its economic, health, ecological and social problems, the congenital weakness of its Stalinist state structure is a major handicap.

Far from being able to play the role of locomotive for the world economy, China is a ticking time bomb whose destabilisation holds unpredictable consequences for world capitalism.

The main zones of the world economy are already in recession or about to sink into it. However, the gravity of “the crisis which has been unfolding for decades and which is set to become the most serious in the whole period of decadence, whose historic significance will even go beyond the biggest crisis of this epoch, the one which began in 1929[2] is not restricted to the breadth of this recession. The historical gravity of the present crisis marks an advanced point in the process of the “internal disintegration” of world capitalism, announced by the Communist International in 1919, and which flows from the general context of the terminal phase of decadence, whose main tendencies are:

  • The acceleration of decomposition and the multiple impact of its effects on a capitalist economy which had already been deteriorating;
  • The acceleration of militarism on a world scale
  • The acute development of every man for himself between nations against a background of increasingly sharp competition between China and the US for world supremacy
  • The abandonment of the rules of cooperation between nations to face up to the contradictions and convulsions of the system
  • The lack of a locomotive able to relaunch the capitalist economy
  • The perspective of absolute impoverishment of the proletariat in the central countries, which is already underway


We are witnessing the coincidence of different expressions of the economic crisis, and above all their interaction in the dynamics of its development: thus, high inflation requires the raising of interest rates; this, in turn provokes recession, itself a source of the financial crisis, leading to new injections of liquidity, thus even more debt, which is already astronomical, and is a further factor of inflation.... All this demonstrates the bankruptcy of this system and its inability to offer a perspective to humanity.

The world economy is heading towards stagflation, a situation marked by the impact of overproduction and the unleashing of inflation as a result of the growth of unproductive expenses (primarily arms spending but also the exorbitant cost of the ravages of decomposition) and from the resort to printing money which further fuels debt. In a context of mounting chaos and unforeseen accelerations, the bourgeoisie not only reveals its impotence: everything it does tends to make the situation even worse.

For the proletariat, the surge of inflation and the bourgeoisie’s refusal to add to the “wage-price spiral” is drastically reducing spending power. Added to which massive lay-offs, vicious cuts in social budgets, attacks on pensions, augur a future of poverty, as is already a reality in the peripheral countries. For wider and wider sections of the proletariat in the central countries it will become harder and harder to obtain housing, heating, food or social care.

The bourgeoisie is confronted with a massive shortage of labour in a number of sectors. This phenomenon, whose scale and impact on production is something new, seems to be the crystallisation of a number of factors which bring together capitalism’s internal contradictions and the effects of decomposition. It is at once the product of the anarchy of capitalism, which generates both overcapacity – unemployment – at the same time as labour shortages. Other factors in this phenomenon are globalisation and the growing fragmentation of the world market which obstructs the international availability of labour power; demographic factors such as falling birth rates and aging populations which limit the number of workers available for exploitation, the relative lack of a sufficiently qualified workforce, despite the selective immigration policies implemented by numerous states. To which can be added the flight of wage-earners away from sectors where working conditions have become unbearable.


5. The destruction of nature

The war in Ukraine is also a stark demonstration of how war can further accelerate the ecological crisis which has been building up throughout the period of decadence but had already reached new levels in the first decades of capitalism’s terminal phase. The devastation of buildings, infrastructure, technology and other resources constitutes an enormous waste of energy and their reconstruction will generate even more carbon emissions. The profligate use of highly destructive weapons leads to the pollution of soil, water and air, with the ever-present threat that the whole region could again become a source of atomic radiation, either as the result of the bombardment of nuclear power stations or the deliberate use of nuclear weapons. But the war also has an ecological impact at the global level, since it has made the achievement of global targets for limiting emissions even more remote, with each country being more concerned with its “energy security”, which generally means further reliance on fossil fuels.

Just as the ecological crisis is a factor in the “whirlwind effect”, it also generates its own “feed-back loops” which are already speeding up the process of global warming. Thus, the melting of the polar icecaps not only contains the dangers inherent in rising sea levels, but itself becomes a factor in global temperature rises since the loss of ice implies a reduced capacity to reflect solar energy back into the atmosphere. Similarly, the melting of the permafrost in Siberia will release a huge store of the potent greenhouse gas methane. The worsening and combining effects of global warming (floods, wildfires, drought, soil erosion etc) are already making more and more parts of the planet uninhabitable, further exacerbating a global refugee problem already fuelled by the persistence and extension of imperialist conflicts.

As Marx and Luxemburg both explained, the relentless quest for markets and raw materials has driven capitalism to invade and occupy the entire planet, destroying the remaining “wild” areas or subjecting them to the law of profit. This process is inseparable from the generation of zoonotic diseases such as Covid and thus lays the basis for future pandemics.

The ruling class is increasingly aware of the dangers posed by the ecological crisis, especially because all this comes at an enormous economic cost, but the recent environmental conferences have confirmed the fundamental incapacity of the ruling class to deal with the situation, given that capitalism cannot exist without competition between nation states and the demands of “growth”. Part of the bourgeoisie, such as a sizeable wing of the Republican Party in the US, whose ideology is sustained by the profound irrationality typical of capitalism’s final phase, persist in their denial of climate science, but as the WEF and UN reports show, the more intelligent factions are well aware of the gravity of the situation. But the solutions they offer can never go to the root of the question and indeed rely on technical fixes which are just as toxic as the existing technology (as in the case of “clean” electrical vehicles whose lithium batteries are based on vast and highly polluting mining projects) or imply further attacks on the living conditions of the working class. Thus, the idea of a “post-growth” economy in which a “benevolent” and “truly democratic” state presides over all the fundamental relations of capitalism (wage labour, generalised commodity production) is not only a logical absurdity – since it is these very relations which underlie the necessity for endless accumulation – but would also involve fierce austerity measures, justified by the slogan “consume less”. And while the more radical wing of the “green” movements (Fridays for Future, Extinction Rebellion, etc) increasingly criticise the “blah blah” of government environmental conferences, their calls for direct action by concerned “citizens” can only obscure the need for workers to fight this system on their own class terrain and to recognise that real “system change” can only come about through the proletarian revolution. As environmental disasters follow each other with increasing rapidity, the bourgeoisie will certainly make use of these forms of protest as false alternatives to the class struggle, which alone can develop the perspective of a radically new relationship between humanity and its natural environment.


6. Political instability of the ruling class

In 1990 the Theses on Decomposition pointed to the growing tendency for the ruling class to lose control of its political game. The rise of populism, oiled by the total lack of perspective offered by capitalism and the development of every man for himself at the international level, is probably the clearest expression of this loss of control, and this trend has continued despite counter-moves by other more “responsible” factions of the bourgeoisie (for example the displacement of Trump, and the rapid dumping of Truss in the UK). In the US, Trump is still preparing a new presidential bid, which, if successful, would seriously undermine the US government’s current foreign policy orientations; in Britain, the classic country of stable parliamentary government, we have seen a train of four successive Tory prime ministers, expressing deep divisions in the Tory party as a whole, and again mainly driven by the populist forces which pushed the country into the fiasco of Brexit; away from the historic centres of the system nationalist demagogues like Erdogan and Modi continue to act as mavericks preventing the formation of a solid alliance behind the US in its conflict with Russia. In Israel, Netanyahu has also risen from what seemed like his political grave, supported by ultra-religious, openly annexationist forces, and his efforts to subordinate the Supreme Court to his government has provoked a huge protest movement, entirely dominated by calls to defend “democracy”.

The January 6 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters highlighted the fact that the divisions within the ruling class, even in the most powerful country on the planet, are becoming more and more entrenched and contain the potential for degenerating into violent clashes and even civil wars. The election of Lula in Brazil saw Bolsonarist forces attempting their own version of January 6, and in Russia there is growing evidence of opposition to Putin within the ruling class, perhaps most significantly from ultra-nationalist groups who are not satisfied with the running of the current “special military operation” in Ukraine. Rumours of military coups abound; and while Putin himself is currently adapting to the pressure from the right through constant threats of escalating the “war with the West”, a replacement of Putin by a rival gang would be anything but a peaceful process. Finally, in China, the divisions in the bourgeoisie are also becoming more overt, in particular between the faction around Xi Jinping, advocates of reinforcing central state control over the whole economy, and rivals more committed to the possibilities of developing private capital and foreign investment. Although as recently as the October 2022 Party Congress the reign of Xi faction seemed to be unassailable, its disastrous handling of the Covid crisis, the deepening economic crisis, and the severe dilemmas created by the Ukraine war, have revealed the real weaknesses of the Chinese ruling class, weighed down by a rigid Stalinist apparatus which lacks the means to adapt to major social and economic problems.

However, these divisions do not put an end to the capacity of the ruling class to turn the effects of decomposition against the working class, or, faced with a rising class struggle, to temporarily put aside its divisions to confront its mortal enemy. And even when the bourgeoisie is unable to control its internal divisions, the working class is permanently threatened by the danger of being mobilised behind rival factions of its class enemy.


7. The rupture with 30 years of retreat and disorientation

The recovery of worker’s’ combativity in a number of countries is a major, historic event which does not only result from local circumstances and can’t be explained by purely national conditions.

At the origin of this resurgence, the struggles which have been going on in Britain since the summer of 2022 have a significance which goes beyond the British context alone; the reaction of the workers in Britain sheds a light on those going on elsewhere and confers on them a new and particular meaning in the situation. The fact that the present struggles were initiated by a fraction of the proletariat which has suffered the most from the general retreat in the class struggle since the end of the 1980s is profoundly significant: just as the defeat in Britain in 1985 announced the general retreat at the end of the 1980s, the return of strikes and working class combativity in Britain reveals the existence of a deep current within the proletariat of the whole world. Faced with the aggravation of the world economic crisis, the working class is beginning to develop its response to the inexorable deterioration of living and working conditions in the same international movement. .And this analysis is also valid as regards the massive mobilisations of the working class in France that have been taking place for three months in response to the government’s attack on pensions. For several decades, the workers of this country have been among the most combative in the world, but the mobilisations that began in early 2023 are not a simple continuation of the important struggles of the previous period: the breadth of these mobilisations must also, and most fundamentally, be explained by the fact that they are an integral part of the combativity being displayed by the proletariat of numerous countries.

The present workers’ struggles in Europe confirm that the class has not been defeated and conserves its potential. The fact that the unions control these movements without being challenged should not minimise or relativise their importance. On the contrary, the attitude of the ruling class, which for a long time has been prepared for the prospect of a revival of workers’ struggles, is testimony to their potential: the unions have been ready in advance to take a “militant” stance and put themselves at the head of the movement in order to fully play their role as guardians of the capitalist order.

Carried forward by a new generation of workers, the breadth and simultaneity of these movements testify to a real change of spirit in the class and represents a break with the passivity and disorientation which has prevailed from the end of the 1980s up till now.

Confronted with the test of war it was not possible to expect a direct response from the working class. History shows that the working class does not mobilise directly against war but against its effects on life at the rear. The scarcity of pacifist mobilisations organised by the bourgeoisie does not mean that the proletariat adheres to the war, but it does show the effectiveness of the campaign for “the defence of Ukraine against the Russian aggressor”. However, it’s not just a passive non-adherence. The working class in the central countries is still not ready to accept the supreme sacrifice of death, but also rejects the sacrifice of living and working conditions demanded by the war. The current struggles are precisely the response of the workers at this level; they are the only possible response and contain the premises of the future, but at the same time they show that the working class is not yet able to make the link between war and the degradation of its conditions.

The ICC has always insisted that despite the blows against class consciousness, despite its reflux in the last few decades:

  • the proletariat of the central countries has retained enormous reserves of combativity which have up to now not been put a decisive test;
  • the development of open resistance to the attacks of capital more than ever constitutes, in today’s situation, the most crucial condition for the proletariat to recover its class identity as the starting point for a more general evolution of class consciousness.

Up to now, the expressions of combativity which have come to the surface seem to have had “very little echo within the rest of the class: the phenomenon of struggles in one country 'responding' to movements elsewhere appears to be almost non-existent. For the class in general, the fragmented and unconnected nature of the struggles does little, on the surface at least, to reinforce or rather restore the self-confidence of the proletariat, its awareness of itself as a distinct force in society, as an international class with the potential to challenge the existing order”[3].

Today, the combination of a return of workers’ combativity and the worsening of the world economic crisis (in comparison to 1968 or 2008), which will spare no parts of the proletariat and will hit all of them simultaneously, objectively changes the bases for the class struggle

The deepening of the crisis and the intensification of the war economy can only continue on a world scale and everywhere this can only generate a rising combativity. Inflation will play a particular role in this development of combativity and consciousness. By hitting all countries, the whole working class, inflation pushes the proletariat to struggle. Not being an attack that the bourgeoisie can prepare and eventually withdraw, but a product of capitalism, it implies a deeper struggle and reflection.

The revival of struggles confirms the ICC’s position that the crisis indeed remains the best ally of the proletariat:

the inexorable aggravation of the capitalist crisis constitutes the essential stimulant for the class struggle and development of consciousness, the precondition for its ability to resist the poison distilled by the social rot. For while there is no basis for the unification of the class in the partial struggles against the effects of decomposition, nonetheless its struggle against the direct effects of the crisis constitutes the basis for the development of its class strength and unity”. (Theses on Decomposition, International Review 107, ibid). This development of struggles is not a flash in the pan but possesses a future. It indicates a process of class revival after years of reflux and contains the potential for the recovery of class identity, of the class once again becoming aware of what it is, of the power it has when it enters into struggle.

Everything indicates that this class movement, born in Europe, can last a long time and will be repeated in other parts of the world. A new situation is opening up for the class struggle.

Faced with the danger of destruction contained in the decomposition of capitalism, these struggles show that the historic perspective remains totally open: “These first steps will often be hesitant and full of weaknesses, but they are essential if the working class is to be able to reaffirm its historical capacity to impose its communist perspective. Thus, the two alternative poles of the perspective will confront each other globally: the destruction of humanity or the communist revolution, even if this latter alternative is still very far off and faces enormous obstacles”[4].

Although the very context of decomposition represents an obstacle to the development of struggles and the recovery of proletariat’s self-confidence, despite the fact that decomposition has made frightful advances, despite the fact that time is no longer on its side, the class has managed to return to the struggle. The recent period has strikingly confirmed our prediction in the Resolution on the International Situation from the 24th International Congress (see footnote 2):

“As we have already recalled, the phase of decomposition indeed contains the danger of the proletariat simply failing to respond and being ground down over a long period – a death by a thousand cuts” rather than a head-on class confrontation. Nevertheless, we affirm that there is still sufficient evidence to show that, despite the undoubted progress” of decomposition, despite the fact that time is no longer on the side of the working class, the potential for a profound proletarian revival– leading to a reunification between the economic and the political dimensions of the class struggle – has not vanished."

The struggle itself is the first victory for the proletariat, revealing in particular:

  • The road to the recovery of class identity. Whereas the fragile reappearance of the class struggle (USA 2018, France 2019) was to a large extent blocked by the pandemic and the lock-downs, these events did reveal the condition of the working class as the main victim of the health crisis but also as the source of all labour and all material production of essential goods. Workers are now engaging in a collective experience of the struggle where there is a search for unity and a beginning of solidarity between the different sectors of the class, between “blue collar” and “white collar” workers, between the generations. The feeling of all being in the same boat will enable the working class to recognise itself as a social force united by the same conditions of exploitation. The recovery of the class identity of the proletariat includes a dimension inseparable from these first steps in the recognition of itself and its strength; it also includes the identification of its class antagonist, beyond this or that employer or government. This restarting of the confrontation between classes sets the conditions for a perspective of a more conscious politicisation of the struggle, a long and tortuous process which is only just beginning.
  • A progression in the subterranean maturation of consciousness, which has been developing over a fairly long period and at various levels: in the wider layers of the class, subterranean maturation first takes the form of a loss of illusion in the capacity of capitalism to offer a future, an awareness that the situation can only get worse, that the whole dynamic of capitalism is pushing society up against the wall, above all a deeply-seated revolt against the conditions of exploitation, summed up in the slogan “enough is enough”. In a more limited sector of the class, we see a reflection on past struggles and the search for lessons about the means to strengthen the struggle, how to create an effective balance of force against the state. And finally, “in a fraction of the class that is even more limited in size, but destined to grow as the struggle advances, it takes the form of an explicit defence of the communist program, and thus of regroupment into the organized marxist vanguard”. “On the subterranean maturation of consciousness”, IR 43). This is concretised by the appearance of minorities interested in the political positions of the communist left.

It was the gradual loss of class identity which made it possible for the bourgeoisie to sterilise or recuperate the two biggest moments of proletarian struggle since the 1980s (the movement against the Contrat Première Embauche in France in 2006, and the Indignados in Spain in 2011), because the protagonists were deprived of this crucial base for the more general development of consciousness. Today the tendency towards the recovery of class identity and the evolution of subterranean maturation express the most important change at the subjective level, revealing the potential for the future development of the proletarian struggle. Because it means the consciousness of forming a class united by common interests, opposed to those of the bourgeoisie, because it means the “constitution of the proletariat as a class” (Manifesto), class identity is an inseparable part of class consciousness, for the affirmation of the conscious revolutionary being of the proletariat. Without it, there is no possibility of the class linking back to its history in order to draw the lessons of past combats and thus engage in its present and future struggles. Class identity and consciousness can only be strengthened by the development the autonomous struggle of the class on its own terrain.

The revival of class combativity and the subterranean maturation of consciousness require the trade unions, these state organs who specialise in corralling workers’ struggles, and the leftist political organisations, bourgeois false friends of the working class, to put themselves in the front line against the class struggle.

The current effectiveness of union control relies on the weaknesses that derive from decomposition, weaknesses which are exploited politically by the bourgeoisie, and from the retreat in consciousness which has gone on for some decades and which have been expressed by the “return in force of the unions” and the strengthening of “reformist ideology on the struggles in coming period, greatly facilitating the work of the unions “(International Review 60, p10).

In particular, the weight of atomisation, the lack of perspective, the weakness of class identity, the loss of acquisitions and of the lessons from confrontations with the unions in the past are behind the extremely important influence of corporatism. This weakness enables the unions to maintain a powerful influence over the class.

Although they are not yet threatened by a challenge to this control of the struggle, the unions have been obliged to adapt to the current struggles, the better to carry out their usual work of division, by using a more “combative”, “working class” language, presenting themselves as the artisans of class unity, all the better to sabotage it.

Parallel to this, the different leftist organisations (and the left in general) are working inside and outside the unions and provide a powerful support for them. Defenders of the most sophisticated anti-working class mystifications in a radical covering, they also have the function of capturing minorities looking for class positions.

The constant barrage in defence of “democracy” and the interests of the “people” are aimed at hiding the existence of class antagonisms, feeding the lie of the state as protector and attacking proletarian class identity, reducing the working class to a mass of citizens or “sectors” of activity separated by particular interests.

Confronted with movements of non-exploiting classes or of the petty bourgeoisie pulverised by the economic crisis, the proletariat must beware of “popular” revolts or interclassist struggles which drown its own interests in an undifferentiated sum of the “people”. It must stand firmly on the terrain of the defence of its own demands and of its class autonomy, as a precondition for the development of its strength and its combat.

It must also reject the traps set by the bourgeoisie around single-issue struggles (to save the environment, against racial oppression, feminism, etc) which divert it from its own class terrain. One of the most effective weapons of the ruling class is its ability to turn the effects of decomposition against the class and encourage the decomposing ideologies of the petty bourgeoisie. On the soil of decomposition, of irrationality, of nihilism and “no-future” all kinds of ideological currents are proliferating. Their central role is to make each repulsive aspect of this decadent capitalist system a motive for a specific struggle, taken in charge by different categories of the population or sometimes by the “people”, but always separated from any real questioning of the system as a whole.

All these ideologies (ecologist, “woke”, racial, etc) which deny the class struggle, or like those who preach “intersectionality”, put the class struggle on the same level as the struggle against racism or male chauvinism, represent a danger for the class, in particular for the young generation of workers lacking experience but deeply revolted by the state of society. At this level these ideologies are supplemented by the panoply of leftists and modernists (“communisers”) whose role is to sterilise the proletariat’s efforts to develop class consciousness and to draw workers away from the class struggle.

If the class struggle is by nature international, the working class is at the same time a heterogeneous class which has to forge its unity through its struggle. In this process, it’s the proletariat of the central countries which has the responsibility of opening the door of revolution to the world proletariat.

In countries such as China, India, etc even if the working class has shown itself to be very combative and despite their importance on the quantitative level, these fractions of the proletariat, owing to their lack of historical experience are particularly vulnerable to the ideological traps and mystifications of the ruling class. Their struggles are easily reduced to impotence or diverted into bourgeois dead-ends (calls for more democracy, freedom, equality, etc) or completely diluted in interclassist movements dominated by other social strata. As shown by the Arab spring of 2011: the very real workers’ struggle in Egypt was rapidly diluted into the “people” then drawn behind factions of ruling class on the bourgeois terrain of “more democracy”. Or again, the immense movement of protest in Iran, where, in the absence of a clear revolutionary perspective defended by the more experienced fractions of the world proletariat, in western Europe, the many workers’ struggles in the country can only end up being drowned in the popular movement and diverted from their class terrain behind the slogan of women’s’ rights.

In the US, although marked by weaknesses linked to the fact that the class in that country has not been directly confronted by the counter-revolution and does not possess a deep revolutionary tradition, the proletariat of the world’s first power, in spite of numerous obstacles generated by decomposition, of which the US has become the epicentre (the weight of racial divisions and populism, the whole atmosphere of quasi-civil war between populists and Democrats, the impasse of movements working on a bourgeois terrain such as Black Lives Matter) shows the capacity to develop its struggles (during the pandemic, the during “Striketober in 2021) on its class terrain. The proletariat of the US is showing, in a very difficult political situation, that it is beginning to respond to the effects of the economic crisis.

The key to the revolutionary future of the proletariat remains in the hands of its fraction in the central countries of capitalism. Only the proletariat of the old industrial centres of Western Europe constitutes the point of departure for the future world revolution:

  • Because it is the seat of the most important revolutionary experience of the working class from the first battles of 1848 to the revolution in Germany 1918-19 passing through the Paris Commune of 1871
  • Because the European proletariat has been the most hardened by the confrontation with the most sophisticated bourgeois mystifications of democracy, elections, trade unions
  • Because it also has been confronted with the counter-revolution in the different forms taken by the dictatorship of the ruling class: bourgeois democracy, Stalinism and fascism
  • Because the question of the internationalisation of the class struggle is posed right away by the proximity of the most powerful nations in Europe
  • Because the political groups of the communist left, although still a very small, weak minority, are present there.


8. The responsibility of revolutionaries

Faced with the increasingly clash of the two poles of the alternative -destruction of humanity or communist revolution – the revolutionary organisations of the communist left, and the ICC in particular, have an irreplaceable role to play in the development of class consciousness, and must devote their energies to the permanent task of theoretical deepening, to putting forward a clear analysis of the world situation, and to intervening in the struggles of our class to defend the necessity for class autonomy, self-organisation and unification, and for the development of the revolutionary perspective. This work can only be carried out on the basis of a patient work of construction of the organisation, laying the basis for the world party of the future. All these tasks demand a militant struggle against all the influences of bourgeois and petty bourgeois ideology in the milieu of the communist left and the ICC itself. At the present juncture, the groups of the communist left are faced with the danger of a real crisis: with some exceptions they have been unable to unite in defence of internationalism in the face of the imperialist war in Ukraine, and are increasingly open to the penetration of opportunism and parasitism. A rigorous adherence to the marxist method and proletarian principles provides the only response these dangers.


25th International Congress of the ICC