International revolution or the destruction of humanity: the crucial responsibility of revolutionary organisations

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Last spring, the ICC held its 25th International Congress. A true general assembly, the Congress is a privileged moment in the life of our organisation; it is the highest expression of the centralised and international nature of the ICC. The Congress enables our entire organisation, as a whole, to debate, clarify and develop orientations. It is our sovereign organ. As such, its tasks are to

  1. to draw up analyses and general guidelines for the organisation, particularly with regard to the international situation;
  2. to examine and take stock of the organisation's activities since the previous Congress;
  3. to define its perspectives for its future work.

Revolutionary organisations do not exist for themselves. They are both the expression of the historic struggle of the proletariat and the most determined part of that same struggle. It is the working class which entrusts its organisations to revolutionaries, so that they can play their role: to be an active factor in the development of proletarian consciousness and the struggle towards revolution.

It is therefore up to the revolutionaries to give an account of their work to the class as a whole. By publishing a large part of the documents adopted at our last congress, this is the mission which this issue of our International Review has set itself.

The first task of this Congress was to take the measure of the gravity of the historical situation.

As the report on the Class Struggle indicates, with Covid 19, the conflict in Ukraine and the growth of the war economy everywhere, with the economic crisis and its raging inflation, with global warming and the devastation of nature, with the rise of every man for himself, of irrationality and obscurantism, and the decomposition of the entire social fabric, the 2020s is not only witnessing an addition of murderous scourges. All these scourges are converging, combining and feeding on each other in a kind of "whirlwind effect". The catastrophic dynamics of global capitalism mean much more than a worsening of the international situation. The very survival of humanity is at stake.

The “whirlwind” effect of decomposition

The 25th International Congress adopted as its first report an "Update of the Theses on Decomposition".

In May 1990, the ICC had adopted theses entitled "Decomposition, the ultimate phase of capitalist decadence", which presented our overall analysis of the world situation at the time of and following the collapse of the Eastern imperialist bloc at the end of 1989. The central idea of these theses was that the decadence of the capitalist mode of production, which had begun during the First World War, had entered a new phase in its evolution, one dominated by the general decomposition of society. 27 years later, at its 22nd Congress in 2017, our organisation considered it necessary to update these theses for the first time by adopting a text entitled "Report on decomposition today (May 2017)". This text highlighted the fact that not only had the analysis adopted in 1990 been amply verified by the evolution of the situation, but also that certain aspects had taken on a new importance: the explosion in the flow of refugees fleeing wars, famine and persecution, the rise of xenophobic populism having an increasing impact on the political life of the ruling class...

Now, only 6 years later, the ICC has decided that it is necessary to update the 1990 and 2017 texts. Why so quickly? Because we are witnessing a spectacular increase in the manifestations of the general decomposition of capitalist society.

Faced with the evidence of the facts, the bourgeoisie itself is obliged to recognise this vertiginous plunge of capitalism into chaos and decay. Our report quotes extensively from texts intended for the world's political and economic leaders, such as the Global Risks Report (GRR), which is based on the analyses of a multitude of "experts" and is presented every year at the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos. The ICC is adopting a method used by the workers' movement, which consists of relying on the work of bourgeois experts to highlight the statistics and facts that reveal the reality of the capitalist world. The same method can be found in marxist classics such as Engels’ The Condition of the Working Class in England and Marx's Capital. In the GRR, we read: “The first years of this decade have heralded a particularly disruptive period in human history.. ... COVID-19...war in Ukraine... food and energy crises... inflation... geopolitical confrontation and the spectre of nuclear warfare... unsustainable levels of debt... declining human development... Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade to come.”

Here the bourgeoisie’s experts are putting their finger on a dynamic they fundamentally cannot understand. Yes, indeed, all these elements “are converging to shape a unique, uncertain and turbulent decade." But they can only stop there. In fact, they describe this dynamic as a "polycrisis", as if it were a question of different crises adding up. In reality - and only our theory of decomposition allows us to understand this -  behind this explosion of the worst scourges of capitalism lies one and the same dynamic: the rotting on its feet of this decadent system. The capitalist mode of production no longer has any perspective to offer, and given the inability of the proletariat so far to develop its revolutionary project, it is the whole of humanity that is plunging into the “no future” and its consequences: irrationality, withdrawal, atomisation... It is in this absence of perspective that we can find the deepest roots of the putrefaction of society, at every level.

Even in the proletarian camp, there is a tendency to put forward a specific and isolated cause for each of the catastrophic manifestations of present history; to fail to see the coherence of the whole process underway. There is then a great danger of :

  • finding ourselves disorientated, lost, tossed about by one event after another ;
  • focusing on a single aspect, however spectacular and devastating it may be (like the war in Ukraine, for example), and then falling into a kind of immediate catastrophism ("Quick, we absolutely must act because the third world war is about to break out");
  • underestimating the danger, by failing to understand that the global dynamic is in fact a spiral where all the crises are interwoven, interlinked and multiplying.

We need to dwell a little on this risk of underestimating the danger of the historical situation of decomposition. At first sight, when someone shouts loudly about the imminent outbreak of the Third World War, they may say to themselves that they are planning for the worst. In reality, and the war in Ukraine confirms this once again, the real process that could lead to widespread barbarism, or even the destruction of humanity, is a combination of factors: war spreading through a multiplication of conflicts (in the Middle East, the Balkans, Eastern Europe, etc.), conflicts that are increasingly unpredictable amd irrational; a warming climate with its share of disaster; the gangsterism and the sense of no-future that are sweeping through ever-larger sections of the world's population... this process of decomposition is all the more dangerous because it is so elusive and insidious, gradually seeping into every pore of society.

And among the various factors which feed the plunge into decomposition, war (and the generalised development of militarism) constitutes the central factor, as a deliberate act of the ruling class.
This is why the imperialist situation was the second report debated at our congress: "In particular, the phase of decomposition accentuates one of the most pernicious aspects of war in decadence: its irrationality. From the opening of this phase, the effects of militarism become ever more unpredictable and disastrous. Our vulgar materialists do not understand this aspect and object that wars always have an economic motivation, and therefore a rationality. They fail to see that today's wars are fundamentally not economically but geostrategically motivated, and even then they no longer achieve their original objectives, but lead to the opposite result. (...) The war in Ukraine is an exemplary confirmation of this: whatever the geostrategic objectives of Russian or American imperialism, the result will be a country in ruins (Ukraine), a country ruined economically and militarily (Russia), an even more tense and chaotic imperialist situation from Europe to Central Asia and millions of refugees in Europe."

Within the organisation, some comrades disagree strongly with this analysis of the current imperialist dynamic. For them, the war in Ukraine is not just the result of a trend towards the bipolarisation of the world. Around China on the one hand and the United States on the other, two increasingly clearly defined camps are taking shape, two camps which, in time, could form blocs and confront each other in a third world war.

The Congress was another opportunity to respond: " The consequences of the conflict in Ukraine do not lead to a 'rationalisation' of tensions through a 'bipolar' alignment of imperialisms behind two dominant 'godfathers', but on the contrary to the explosion of a multiplicity of imperialist ambitions, which are not limited to those of the major imperialisms (to be examined in the next section), or to Eastern Europe and Central Asia, thus accentuating the chaotic and irrational character of the confrontations".
To live up to their responsibilities and identify all the dangers hanging over humanity, and especially over the working class, revolutionaries must understand the coherence of the whole situation and its real gravity. Our report shows that only the marxist method and its materialism allow such an understanding, but a materialism which is not vulgar, a dialectical and historical materialism capable of embracing all the factors in their relationship and their movement, a materialism which integrates the force of thought in its relationship and its influence on the whole of the material world because thought is one of the driving forces of history. Our report highlights four central points that belong to this method:

1. The transformation of quantity into quality
Applied to the historical situation opened up in 1989/90, it translates as follows: manifestations of decomposition may have existed in the decadence of capitalism, but today the accumulation of these manifestations is proof of a transformation, a break in the life of society, signalling the entry into a new epoch of capitalist decadence in which decomposition becomes the decisive element.

2. The whole is not the sum of its parts
This is one of the major phenomena of the present situation. The various manifestations of decomposition, which at first might have seemed independent but whose accumulation already indicated that we had entered a new epoch of capitalist decadence, are now increasingly reverberating one on top of the other in a kind of "chain reaction” that is growing ever stronger, a "whirlwind" that is driving the historical acceleration we are now witnessing. These cumulative effects now far outweigh their mere addition.

3. The historical approach to current events
In this historical approach, the aim is to take account of the fact that the realities we are examining are not static, intangible things that have existed from time immemorial, but correspond to constantly evolving processes with elements of continuity but also, and above all, of transformation and even rupture.

4. The importance of the future in the life of human societies
Marxist dialectics attributes to the future a fundamental place in the evolution and movement of society. Of the three moments of a historical process - past, present and future - it is the future that constitutes the fundamental factor in its dynamics. And it is precisely because today's society is deprived of this fundamental element, the future, the perspective (which is felt by more and more people, particularly the young), a perspective that only the proletariat can offer, that it is sinking into despair and rotting on its feet.

It is this method which enables our resolution on the international situation to elevate our analysis from the abstract to the concrete: "... 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."

The return of the working class struggle
On the other side of this pole of destruction is the pole of the proletariat's revolutionary perspective.
The last few months have shown that the proletariat is not only not defeated, but is even beginning to raise its head, to find its way back to the path of struggle. As early as the summer of 2022, the ICC recognised in the strikes in the United Kingdom a change in the situation of the working class. In our international leaflet published on 31 August, "The bourgeoisie imposes new sacrifices, the working class responds with struggle", we wrote: "Enough is enough". This cry has reverberated from one strike to the next over the last few weeks in the UK. This massive movement, dubbed ‘The Summer of Discontent’ (...), has involved workers in more and more sectors each day (...) only the huge strikes of 1979 produced a bigger and more widespread movement. Action on this scale in a country as large as Britain is not only significant locally, it is an event of international significance, a message to the exploited of every country (...) the return of widespread strikes in the UK marks the return of the combativity of the world proletariat".

Theoretically armed to understand the strikes and demonstrations that emerged in many countries, the ICC was able to intervene, to the best of its ability, by distributing eight different leaflets, in order to follow the evolution of the movement and the reflection going on in the working class. What all these leaflets have in common is that they highlight :

  • the return of working class combativity
  • the historical and international dimension of the movement
  • the growing feeling in the ranks of the workers that they are all "in the same boat", a breeding ground for the reconquest of class identity,
  • the need to take the struggle into our own hands and, to do so, to reappropriate the lessons of past struggles.

Here too, as with the war in Ukraine, there is disagreement and debate within the organisation. The same comrades who believe they see in the war in Ukraine a step towards the constitution of blocs and the third world war, put forward the idea that the current workers' struggles and combativity do not constitute a break in a negative dynamic since the 1980s, with a long series of defeats which are not definitive but which have led to a particularly serious weakness, especially at the level of consciousness. In this vision, "in a capitalist world which, more than ever since 1989, is moving chaotically and 'naturally' towards war, the response of the proletariat at the political level remains far below what the situation demands of it" (one of the comrades' amendments, rejected by the Congress, to the resolution on the international situation). For them, the current situation, while not identical, is a course of history reminiscent of the 1930s, with a proletariat that was combative in many central countries but still unable to avoid war. "For the moment, the necessary development of mass assemblies and a genuine culture of debate has not yet taken place. Nor has the emergence of a new generation of politicised proletarian militants". (ibid.) Another argument was put forward to explain the scale of the social movements and the proliferation of strikes in many countries: the shortage of labour in many sectors and the need to keep the war economy running at full capacity made the situation favourable for the working class to demand higher wages. For the Congress, the reality unfolding before our eyes, namely the wave of impoverishment underway, with prices soaring while wages stagnate and government attacks rain down, belies this theory.

For the comrades, the leaflets distributed by the ICC, some 150,000 of them, during the various social movements in recent months, do not correspond to the needs of the situation. In line with their analysis of an almost defeated proletariat and a dynamic towards the constitution of two blocs and world war, the first task of revolutionaries is not intervention but involvement in theoretical deepening.

On the contrary, the Congress drew a very positive balance sheet of the organisation's international intervention in struggles. The ICC knew that it would not be able to influence the class and the movement as a whole: revolutionary organisations cannot have such an impact in the current historical period This role of guiding the masses is only possible when the class has developed its consciousness and its historical struggle to a much higher level. This intervention was addressed to a section of the working class, the minority that is today seeking class positions. The significant number of discussions that the distribution of these leaflets in the processions provoked, the letters received, the newcomers to our various public meetings show that our intervention played its role: stimulating reflection in part of the minority, provoking debate and encouraging the regroupment of revolutionary forces.

Behind the immediate recognition of the historical significance of the return of class struggle in the United Kingdom and its implications for our intervention in the struggle, there is the same method which enabled us to apprehend the novelty in the current acceleration of decomposition, with its "whirlwind effect": the transformation of quantity into quality, the historical approach... But one facet of this method is of particular importance here: the approach to the events through their international dimension.
It was already this recognition of the necessarily international dimension of the class struggle which, in 1968, enabled those who were to found the ICC to grasp immediately the real and profound meaning of the events of May. While the entire proletarian political milieu of the time saw it as nothing more than a student revolt, and claimed that there was "nothing new under the sun", our comrade Marc Chirik and the militants who were beginning to join together saw that this movement heralded the end of the counter-revolution and the opening of a new period of class struggle on an international scale.

This is why point 7 of the international resolution we adopted, explicitly entitled "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. (...) 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."

In fact, we had been preparing for this eventuality since the beginning of 2022! In January, we published an international leaflet announcing "Towards a brutal deterioration in living and working conditions". Based on the signs that the struggle was beginning to develop, we announced the possibility of a response from our class. The return of inflation was fertile ground for workers' combativeness.

A month later, the outbreak of war in Ukraine considerably aggravated the effects of the economic crisis, causing energy and food prices to soar.

Aware of the profound difficulties of our class, but also knowing the history of its struggles, the ICC knew that there would be no direct, large-scale reaction of our class to the barbarity of war, but that there was, on the other hand, the possibility of a reaction to the effects of the war "in the rear", in Europe and the United States[1]: strikes in the face of the sacrifices demanded in the name of the war economy. And that's exactly what happened.

On these theoretical and historical foundations, the ICC did not delude itself about the possibility of a class reaction to the war, it did not believe that internationalist committees would spring up everywhere, still less did it seek to create them artificially. Our response was, above all, to try to defend as firmly as possible the internationalist tradition of the Communist Left by calling on all the forces of the proletarian political milieu to rally around a common declaration. While a large part of the milieu ignored or even rejected[2] our appeal, three groups (Internationalist Voice, Istituo Onorato Damen and Internationalist Communist Perspective) responded to keep alive the method of struggle and regroupment of international forces initiated by the Zimmerwald and Kienthal conferences in September 1915 and April 1916 in the face of the First World War[3].

The villages of Zimmerwald and Kienthal, in Switzerland, became famous as the places where socialists from both sides met during the First World War to launch an international struggle to end the slaughter and denounce the patriotic leaders of the social democratic parties. It was at these meetings that the Bolsheviks, supported by the Bremen Left and the Dutch Left, put forward the essential principles of internationalism against imperialist war which are still valid today: no support for either imperialist camp, the rejection of all pacifist illusions, and the recognition that only the working class and its revolutionary struggle can put an end to the system which is based on the exploitation of labour power and which constantly produces imperialist war. Today, faced with the acceleration of the imperialist conflict in Europe, it is the duty of the political organisations based on the heritage of the Communist Left to continue to raise the banner of consistent proletarian internationalism and to provide a point of reference for those who defend the principles of the working class. This, at least, is the choice of the organisations and groups of the Communist Left who have decided to publish this joint declaration in order to disseminate as widely as possible the internationalist principles that were forged against the barbarity of the world war.

This way of uniting revolutionary forces around the fundamental principles of the Communist Left is a historic lesson for the future. Zimmerwald yesterday and the joint declaration today are small markers that will point the way to tomorrow.


The responsibility of revolutionaries
The preparatory debates and the Congress itself were concerned with the essential question of building the organisation. While this is clearly the central dimension of the ICC's activities, this concern for the future goes far beyond our organisation alone.

"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.” (point 8 of the resolution on the international situation).

For revolution to be possible in the long run, the proletariat must have in its hands the weapon of the Party. It is this future construction of the Party that must be prepared today. In other words, a minority of organised revolutionaries carry on their shoulders the responsibility of keeping the present organisations alive, of keeping alive the historical principles of the workers' movement and particularly of the Communist Left, and of transmitting these principles and positions to the new generation which will gradually join the revolutionary camp.

Any spirit of competition, any opportunism, any concession to bourgeois ideology and parasitism within the proletarian political milieu are all stabs in the back of the revolution. In the very difficult context of the acceleration of decomposition, which disorientates people, which pushes them to go it alone, which undermines confidence in the ability of the class and its minorities to organise and unite, it is the responsibility of revolutionaries not to give in and to continue to hold high the banner of the principles of the Communist Left.

Revolutionary organisations face a huge challenge: to be able to pass on the experience accumulated by the generation that emerged from the May 68 wave.

Since the late 1960s, for almost sixty years, decadent global capitalism has been slowly sinking into endless economic crisis and increasing barbarism. From 1968 to the mid-1980s, the proletariat waged a whole series of struggles and accumulated a great deal of experience, particularly in its confrontation with the trade unions, but the class struggle declined sharply from 1985/1986 and has almost died out to the present day. In this very difficult context, very few militant forces joined the revolutionary organisations. A whole generation was lost to the false propaganda of the "death of communism" in 1989/1990. Since then, with the development of decomposition, which slyly attacks militant conviction by favouring no future, individualism, the loss of confidence in collective organisation and in the historic struggle of the working class, many militant forces have gradually abandoned the struggle and disappeared.

So yes, today the future of humanity rests on a very small number of shoulders, scattered across the world. Yes, the disastrous state of the proletarian political milieu, gangrened by the spirit of competition and opportunism, makes the chances of success for the revolution even slimmer. And yes, the role of revolutionary organisations in general, and of the ICC in particular, is even more vital. Passing on to the new generations of revolutionary militants who are just beginning to arrive the lessons of our history, the history of organisations motivated by the revolutionary spirit of the militant generations of the past, is the key to the future.


ICC, 11 June 2023


[1] Our report on the class struggle and the debate at the Congress once again reminded us of the crucial role of the proletariat of the Western countries which, through its history and experience, will have the responsibility of showing the world proletariat the road to revolution. Our report also amply recalls our position on "the critique of the weak link". It is also this approach which has enabled us to be aware of the heterogeneity of the proletariat in different parts of the planet, of the immense weakness of the proletariat in the countries of Eastern Europe, and to anticipate the possibility of conflict in the Balkans. Thus, as early as this spring, our report drew lessons from the war in Ukraine and predicted that: "The inability of the working class in this country to oppose the war and its mobilisation, an inability which opened the possibility of this imperialist butchery, indicates the extent to which capitalist barbarism and decomposition are gaining ground in ever wider parts of the globe. After Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, it is now part of Central Europe that is threatened by the risk of plunging into imperialist chaos; Ukraine has shown that there is, in some satellite countries of the ex-USSR, in Belarus, in Moldavia, in ex-Yugoslavia, a proletariat very weakened by decades of forced exploitation by Stalinism in the name of Communism, decades where it bore the weight of democratic illusions and was gangrened by nationalism. In Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro, tensions are indeed rising.

[2] The Internationalist Communist Tendency has thus preferred to commit itself to the No War But the Class War adventure. Read our article "A committee that leads its participants into a dead end", World Revolution 395
[3] See " Joint statement of groups of the international communist left about the war in Ukraine" in World Revolution 392


25th International Congress of the ICC