How the bourgeoisie organises itself

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I.  Prologue


Usually, ICC congresses and the meetings of its International Bureau examine three main themes concerning the international situation and which have the greatest impact on our intervention: the economic contradictions of capitalism, imperialist conflicts and the evolution of the class struggle. That said, an examination of the political life of the class enemy, the bourgeoisie, should never be neglected, not least because it completes our knowledge of the society we are fighting and can also provide keys to understanding those three major topics mentioned above. In a totally reductionist, and therefore false, vision of marxism, the starting point is the economic situation of capitalism, which determines imperialist conflicts and the level of class struggle. We have often shown that reality is not so simple, notably by taking up Engels' quotations on the place of the economy, in the last instance, in the life of society.

This need to examine the political life of the bourgeoisie is present in many of the writings of Marx and Engels. One of the best known and most remarkable texts on this subject is The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte. In this document, although he refers briefly to the economic situation in France and Europe, Marx sets out to elucidate a sort of enigma: how and through what process could the revolution of 1848 have led to the coup d'état of 2 December 1851, giving full powers to an adventurer, Louis-Napoléon Bonaparte. In so doing, Marx paints a vivid and profound picture of the political workings of French society at the time. Of course, it would be absurd to transpose Marx's analysis to today's society. In particular, the role played by Parliament today is nothing like that of the mid-19th century. That said, it is fundamentally in the method used by Marx, historical and dialectical materialism, that we can find a source of inspiration for analysing today's society.

The importance of a systematic examination of the political life of the bourgeoisie for an understanding of today's world has been verified on several occasions by the ICC, but it is worth highlighting a particularly significant episode: that of the collapse of the Eastern bloc and the Soviet Union in 1989-90. The fall of the Berlin Wall on 9 November 1989 came as a huge surprise to most proletarian political groups and bourgeois ‘specialists’ who, until the eve of that date, were far from thinking that the difficulties encountered by the countries of the bloc would lead to its sudden and spectacular collapse. However, the ICC had foreseen this major event two months earlier, at the beginning of September 1989, when it drafted the “Theses on the Economic and Political Crisis in the USSR and Eastern Europe(International Review n°60). These are very clear:

  • "... since virtually the only cohesive factor in the Russian bloc is that of armed force, any policy which tends to push this into the background threatens to break up the bloc. Already, the Eastern bloc is in a state of growing dislocation. (...).
    We find a similar phenomenon in the peripheral republics of the USSR (...) The nationalist movements which today are profiting from a loosening of central control by the Russian party (...) [have] a dynamic towards separation from Russia. In the end, if the central power in Moscow does not react, we will see an explosion, not just of the Russian bloc, but also of its dominant power. The Russian bourgeoisie, which today rules the world's second power, would find itself at the head of a second-rate power, a good deal weaker than Germany for example." (Point 18)
  • "But however the situation in the Eastern bloc evolves, the events that are shaking it today mean the historic crisis, the definitive collapse of Stalinism, this monstrous symbol of the most terrible counter-revolution the proletariat has ever known. The greatest lie in history is being stripped bare today. In these countries, an unprecedented period of instability, convulsions, and chaos has begun, whose implications go far beyond their frontiers. In particular, the weakening, which will continue, of the Russian bloc, opens the gates to a destabilisation of the whole system of international relations and imperialist constellations which emerged from World War II with the Yalta Agreements.”. (Point 20)
  • “The events presently shaking the so-called socialist countries', the de facto disappearance of the Russian bloc, the patent and definitive bankruptcy of Stalinism on the economic, political and ideological level, constitute along with the international resurgence of the proletariat at the end of the sixties, the most important historic facts since the Second World War.” (Point 22)

This ability to predict what was going to happen in the Eastern bloc was not the result of any particular talent for reading crystal balls, but of regular monitoring and in-depth analysis of the situation and nature of the countries in this bloc. [1] It is for this reason that the first part of the theses recalled what we had already written on this question, in order to place the events of 1989 in the context of what we had previously identified, particularly during the workers' struggles in Poland in 1980. The theses cited in particular three articles published in the International Review in 1980-81:

This is not the place to review these writings, which are easily accessible on our website. We can just recall two important ideas which, among others, guided our analysis of the collapse of the Eastern bloc a decade later:

  • "By forcing it into a division of labour to which the Eastern European bourgeoisie is structurally resistant, the proletarian struggles in Poland have created a living contradiction. It is still too early to predict how it will turn out. Faced with a historically unprecedented situation… the task of revolutionaries is to approach the unfolding events in a modest manner. (International Review n°27).
  • "... while the American bloc is perfectly capable of ‘managing’ the ‘democratisation’ of a fascist or military regime when this becomes useful (Japan, Germany, Italy, in the aftermath of the war; Portugal, Greece, Spain, in the 1970s), the USSR cannot accommodate any ‘democratisation’ within its bloc. (...) A change of political regime in a ‘satellite’ country carries with it the direct threat of that country becoming part of the opposing bloc. (International Review n°34)

Today, the examination of the political life of the bourgeoisie retains all its importance. The methodological tool we use for this examination is, of course, our analysis of decomposition, more particularly the question of the loss of control by the ruling class of its political game, of which the rise of populism is a major manifestation. This report will focus on the question of populism for two main reasons:

  • On the one hand, this rise of populism has only intensified in recent years;
  • On the other, the analyses we have adopted to date on this issue are not without weaknesses; weaknesses that we need to identify and rectify.

II. The rise of populism: the most spectacular expression of the bourgeoisie's loss of control over its political apparatus


a) Populism, a pure product of the decomposition of capitalism

It was only belatedly, at the 22nd Congress of Révolution Internationale (section in France of the ICC) in May 2016, that the ICC began to take the measure of the importance of the populist phenomenon on an international scale. At that same congress, the discussion on the resolution on the situation in France had expressed a lack of mastery and clarity with regard to this question. A motion was adopted insisting on the need to launch a debate throughout the ICC. A year later, the “Resolution on international class struggle” (International Review n°159) adopted by the 22nd Congress of the ICC said of the populist phenomenon: “The current populist upsurge has thus been fed by all these factors – the 2008 economic crash, the impact of war, terrorism and the refugee crisis – and appears as a concentrated expression of the decomposition of the system, of the inability of either of the two major classes in society to offer humanity a perspective for the future. While this statement contained a valid analysis, other points in the resolution placed greater emphasis, as a determining factor in the development of populism, on its capacity to influence the working class. Moreover, the populist phenomenon was not really assessed in the light of the bourgeoisie's own difficulties since entering the phase of decomposition. These ambiguities reflected the lack of homogeneity that went hand in hand with a tendency within the ICC to ignore the framework defended in the “Theses on Decomposition” (International Review n°107)in order to understand the political life of the bourgeoisie in the  current historical period. This drift was particularly evident in the text “On the question of populism” (International Review n°157) and also in the article “Brexit, Trump, Setbacks for the bourgeoisie which do not augur well for the proletariat” again published in International Review n°157. Formally, these two texts do indeed present populism as an expression of ‘the decomposition of bourgeois political life’: “as such, it is the product of the bourgeois world and its vision of the world - but above all of its decomposition.”[2] For all that, it is striking to note the extent to which the “Theses” do not constitute the starting point of the analysis but only one element of reflection among others [3]. In fact, these two texts place another factor at the heart of the analysis: “The rise of populism is dangerous for the ruling class because it threatens its ability to control its own political apparatus and at the same time maintain the democratic mystification which is one of the pillars of its social domination. But it offers nothing to the proletariat. On the contrary, it is precisely the proletariat’s own weakness, its inability to offer any alternative perspective for the chaos threatening capitalism, that has made the rise of populism possible. Only the proletariat can offer a way out of the dead-end that society finds itself in today, and it will never be able to do so if workers let themselves be taken in by the siren songs of populist demagogues promising an impossible return to a past which, in any case, never existed." [4] Drawing a parallel between the rise of populism and the rise of Nazism in the 1930s, the article “On the question of Populism” concludes: "If the proletariat is unable to put forward its revolutionary alternative to capitalism, the loss of confidence in the ability of the ruling class to ‘do its job’ ultimately leads to a revolt, a protest, an explosion of an entirely different kind, a protest that is not conscious but blind, oriented not towards the future but towards the past, that is based not on confidence but on fear, not on creativity but on destruction and hatred." In other words, the main factor in the development and rise of populism in bourgeois politics is what amounts to the political defeat of the working class. [5].

In fact, all the aspects that feed the populist ‘catechism’ (rejection of foreigners, rejection of the ‘elites’, conspiracy theory, belief in the strong and providential man, the search for scapegoats, withdrawal into the 'native' community... ) are first and foremost the product of the miasma and ideological putrefaction conveyed by the lack of perspective in capitalist society (explained in point 8 of the “Theses on Decomposition”), which primarily affects the capitalist class. But the breakthrough and development of populism in the political life of the bourgeoisie was determined above all by one of the major manifestations of the decomposition of capitalist society: “the growing difficulty of the bourgeoisie to control the evolution of the situation on the political level. At the root of this phenomenon is, of course, the ever-increasing loss of control by the ruling class over its economic apparatus, which constitutes the infrastructure of society. (...) The absence of any perspective (other than day-to-day stop-gap measures to prop up the economy) around which it could mobilise as a class, and at the same time the fact that the proletariat does not yet threaten its own survival, creates within the ruling class, and especially within its political apparatus, a growing tendency towards indiscipline and an attitude of ‘every man for himself’". [Thesis 9]. It is therefore on the basis of the continuing worsening of the economic crisis and the inability of the bourgeoisie to mobilise society for world war that the disintegration of the political apparatus finds its main driving force. This historical groundswell has manifested itself in a growing tendency towards indiscipline, division, every man for himself and, ultimately, the exacerbation of struggles between cliques within the political apparatus. This ferment has provided fertile ground for the emergence of bourgeois fractions with an increasingly irrational discourse, capable of surfing on the most nauseating ideas and sentiments, whose leaders behave like veritable gang leaders vandalising political relations, with the aim of asserting their own interests at all costs, to the detriment of the interests of national capital.

In this way, while the inability of the proletariat to open the way to a perspective other than that of chaos and capitalist barbarism can only reinforce manifestations of decomposition such as populism, it is not the active factor. Moreover, the last two years have given a stinging rebuttal to such an analysis. On the one hand, we have witnessed a very significant revival of workers' struggles, containing a development of reflection and the maturing of consciousness. On the other hand, under the effect of the unprecedented worsening of decomposition, the rise of populism has nevertheless been fully confirmed. In the final analysis, the thesis put forward in the “On the question of Populism” is totally at odds with the ICC's analysis, which identifies two poles in the current historical situation. What's more, it also amounts to denying the analysis of the historical break in the class struggle, and/or to thinking that the development of the workers' struggle can make populist tendencies recede. Finally, it also leads us to underestimate the fact that the bourgeoisie will exploit populism against the working class.

b) The amplification of the populist phenomenon

The victory of ‘Brexit’ in the United Kingdom in June 2016, followed by Trump's rise to power in the United States a few months later, signalled a spectacular breakthrough for populism in the political life of the bourgeoisie. This trend has continued ever since, making populism a decisive and irreversible factor in the evolution of capitalist society.

Several European countries are now governed in whole or in part by populist factions (the Netherlands, Slovakia, Hungary, Italy, Finland and Austria), while in the rest of Europe populist and far-right parties have continued to climb in the polls and in votes, particularly in Western Europe. According to some studies, populist parties could come out on top in 9 EU countries at the European elections in June 2024. But the scope of the phenomenon clearly extends beyond Europe. In South America, after Brazil, it is now Argentina's turn to experience it with the arrival in power of Javier Milei. But if populism is a general phenomenon, it is important for our analysis to appreciate above all its breakthrough within the core countries, since such a dynamic not only has a destabilising impact on the situation in the countries concerned, but also on capitalist society as a whole. At present, two countries in particular should be the focus of attention: France and the United States.

In France, the RN (National Rally) achieved a historic score in the June 2022 legislative elections, with 89 deputies on the benches of the National Assembly. According to a ‘secret poll’ commissioned by the right-wing party Les Républicains at the end of 2023, the RN could win between 240 and 305 seats in the event of early elections following a possible dissolution of the National Assembly. Similarly, its victory in the presidential elections of 2027 is an increasingly credible scenario. Such a situation would certainly aggravate the political crisis facing the French bourgeoisie. But above all, given the RN's proximity to the Putin faction, it would aggravate divisions within the European Union and weaken its ability to implement its pro-Ukrainian policy. Thus, unlike the German bourgeoisie, which for the moment seems to have found the means to contain the risk of the Afd (Alternative for Germany) coming to power (despite the rise of this formation's influence within the German political game), the French bourgeoisie seems to see its room for manoeuvre increasingly limited due to the strong discredit of the Macron faction, in power for 7 years, but principally due to the exacerbation of divisions within the political apparatus [6].

But it is above all the possible return of Trump to the White House in the presidential elections of November 2024 that would mark a profound worsening of the situation, not only in the USA but in the international situation as a whole. The accentuation of centrifugal forces and the trend towards the loss of global leadership have for many years weighed on the ability of the US state to equip itself with the most appropriate faction to defend its interests, as was the case when the neoconservatives came to power in the early 2000s. The Obama era did not put an end to this trend since Trump's arrival in power in 2017 only exacerbated it. The day after his defeat in January 2021, Adam Nossiter, the Paris bureau chief of the New York Times, said: “In six months, we won't hear any more about him, he'll be nothing away from power”. Over the last four years, the most responsible fractions of the American bourgeoisie have not succeeded in ‘putting him out of business’. Despite numerous legal challenges, smear campaigns and attempts to destabilise those closest to him, Trump's return to the White House in the November 2024 presidential elections is an increasingly likely scenario. His victory in the last Republican primaries even demonstrated the strengthening of Trumpism within the conservative party to the detriment of more responsible fringes.

In any case, a Trump victory would send shockwaves through the international situation, particularly on the imperialist front. By casting doubt on continued support for Ukraine or by threatening to make US protection of NATO countries conditional on their creditworthiness, the US political line would weaken the EU and run the risk of aggravating the Russo-Ukrainian conflict. As regards the war in Gaza, Trump's latest ‘critical’ statements about Netanyahu do not seem to call into question the unconditional support of the Republican religious right for the scorched-earth policy pursued by the Israeli government. What would be the consequences of Trump's victory in this respect?

More generally, the return of the populist banner to Washington would have a major impact on the ability of the bourgeoisie to deal with the manifestations of the decomposition of its own system. Trump's victory could thus mean:

  • Another exit from the Paris climate agreement by the second-largest CO2-emitting power.
  • An increasingly isolationist and economically aggressive policy.
  • A worsening of social violence and the disintegration of the social fabric through the crusade against ‘minorities’.
  • Worsening political chaos fuelled by a spirit of revenge and a desire to settle scores both within the Republican party and more broadly within the political apparatus. As Trump said last December on Fox News, “I will not be a dictator, except on the first day”!

However, we must be wary of thinking that all bets are off. On the contrary, the outcome of the presidential election is more unpredictable than ever given the degree of destabilisation of the US political system and the deep and lasting divisions in American society, accentuated both by populist rhetoric and by the Biden administration's anti-Trump campaign.

III.  The various bourgeois strategies for containing populism


Unlike the rise of fascism in the 1930s, populism is not the result of a deliberate will on the part of the dominant sectors of the bourgeoisie. The most responsible sections of the bourgeoisie are still trying to implement strategies to contain it. The “Report on the impact of decomposition on the political life of the bourgeoisie” for the 23rd Congress of the ICC in 2019 (International Review No 164), assessed these different strategies:

  • anti-populist politics
  • the adaptation of populist ideas
  • the formation of populist governments
  • rebuilding the left/right divide.

What has been the evolution over the last five years? As the “Resolution on the international situation” at the 25th ICC Congress states, “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-movements by other, more ‘responsible’ factions of the bourgeoisie (e.g. the replacement of Trump, and the rapid dumping of Truss in the UK),” (International Review n°170). Consequently, while the more responsible fractions have not remained inactive, these various strategies have proved less and less effective and cannot constitute a viable and sustainable response.

a) Anti-populist policies (France/Germany/USA)

As mentioned above, the campaign to discredit and eliminate Trump from the presidential race has not yet borne fruit. On the contrary, the various lawsuits that have been brought against him have boosted his overall popularity among a significant section of the American electorate. At the same time, the new candidacy of Biden, aged 81, who has publicly shown clear signs of senility, is clearly not an asset for the American bourgeoisie. All the more so as the government's economic attacks have greatly accentuated its discredit. However, this choice by default (despite disagreements within the Democratic party) expresses a crisis in the renewal of the party's leadership and above all deep divisions within the party's political apparatus, which are having repercussions on the electorate. For example, the dissatisfaction of the Arab community with the US position on the war in Gaza means that there is a risk of defeat in the swing state of Michigan. Similarly, the growing influence of the wokist and identity-based ideology advocated by the party's left wing could lead to a shift away from some minorities and young people, who are more concerned about the deterioration in working and living conditions. In particular, surveys seem to show that part of the African-American electorate could be seduced by Trump.

In France, while the bourgeoisie once again managed to repel the RN in the 2022 presidential elections by re-electing Macron, this tour de force was not without collateral effects. The multiple attacks on the working class since 2017, as well as the lack of experience and amateurism that regularly manifests itself, has only served to increase the executive's already well-developed discredit. The real danger of a large RN victory in the European elections forced Macron to change government by appointing a young and loyal prime minister (G. Attal) who was supposed to lead the anti-RN crusade between now and June. However, this government is experiencing the same difficulties as the previous one, despite the intensification of rhetoric against the RN and even the majority's attempt to recuperate far-right ideas.

But the greatest weakness lies fundamentally in the divisions and the ‘every man for himself’ attitude that is increasingly corrupting the political game, including within the various parties, first and foremost within the presidential camp. The relative majority obtained by the government party in the legislative elections has accentuated the tendency towards centrifugal forces. Faced with the difficulties of forging stable alliances on key reforms, the government is obliged to make regular use of Article 49.3, which allows it to dispense with the vote of the deputies in the Assembly. Similarly, the traditional parties, which were largely scuttled by the bourgeoisie in the 2017 election, remain more fragmented than ever, as in the case of the right-wing party Les Républicains. This heir to the Gaullist party, which has been in power most of the time since the founding of the Fifth Republic in 1958, now has just 62 MPs and is made up of at least three increasingly fractured tendencies. This political crisis could severely handicap the bourgeoisie's ability to put forward a credible candidate capable of fending off Marine Le Pen, whose chances of victory in the 2027 elections have never been stronger. In the meantime, the French bourgeoisie could be faced with other obstacles. What would happen in the event of a stinging defeat for the Macronist list in the European elections? Similarly, the right is now threatening to table a motion of censure if the government decides to raise taxes. The other opposition parties, in particular the RN, would jump on board. Such an outcome would lead to early general elections with an unpredictable scenario, except for the fact that it would accentuate the political chaos in which the French bourgeoisie is immersed.

With regard to Germany, the 2019 report concluded: “the situation is complex and Merkel's relinquishment of the CDU presidency (and therefore in the future of the post of chancellor) heralds a phase of uncertainty and instability for the dominant bourgeoisie in Europe.” The outbreak of war in Ukraine has particularly affected the traditional political line of the German ruling class. Internally, the weakening of the traditional parties (SPD, CDU) has continued, necessitating the formation of coalitions linking the three main parties together at a time when relations are increasingly conflictual. At the same time, Germany is not exempt from the rise of populism and the far right. In fact, the populist AfD party has become Germany's second most popular party. Unlike the RN in France, some of whose positions are showing signs of responsibility, the AfD's political positions (rejection of the EU, xenophobia, openness towards Russia, etc.) are, for the moment, too strongly at odds with the interests of national capital to allow it to be involved at the highest level of government. However, its stance of opposing the government elite and its condemnation as a total opponent of the integrity of the federal state will make it a rallying point for protest voters for a long time to come.

b) The takeover of populist ideas by traditional parties: political developments in the UK.

"Brexit was accompanied by the transformation of the centuries-old Tory party into a populist hodgepodge that relegated experienced politicians to the sidelines and gave government posts to ambitious, doctrinaire mediocrities, who then disrupted the competence of the departments they headed. The rapid succession of Conservative prime ministers since 2016 is testament to the uncertainty at the political helm."[7] The 44 days of political mayhem under Liz Truss's government in September-October 2022 was a vivid illustration of this. While this choice might have represented a break with populist one-upmanship, it was above all marked by the defence of a radically ultra-liberal policy and the fantasy of a ‘global Britain’ that was totally at odds with the global interests of British capital.

Sunak's coming to power, however, signified the attempt to preserve the democratic credibility of state and governmental institutions: His government, despite the influence of populism, modified certain aspects of the Northern Ireland Protocol in order to circumvent some of the contradictions of Brexit, and joined the European Horizon project, without being able to overcome the flight of the economy. King Charles was sent to France and Germany as ambassador to show Britain's remnants of dignity. Finally, the sacking of Suella Braverman and the appointment of Lord Cameron as Foreign Secretary is a further expression of this attempt to limit the growing populist virus within the party, but its future direction and stability remain deeply uncertain, not least because the same virus is an international reality, most notably within the American ruling class."

c) A new left/right divide?

The “Report on the impact of decomposition on the life of the bourgeoisie” stated: “The third strategy envisaged, the refoundation of the left/right opposition to take the wind out of populism's sails, does not seem to have been really implemented by the bourgeoisie. On the contrary, the past few years have been characterised by an irreversible trend towards the decline of the socialist parties.” This trend has been confirmed in recent years. While this evolution is being resisted in some countries (Spain and the UK in particular), the irreversible decline of social democracy and, more generally, of traditional government parties, as well as the difficulty in many European countries of structuring new left-wing formations (La France Insoumise in France, Podemos in Spain, Die Linke in Germany) because of the struggles between cliques that these formations are also experiencing, tends to see the development of increasingly fragile coalitions. This is the case in Spain, for example, where the PSOE is relying on opposing forces to stay in power. On one side the chauvinist Catalan right and on the other the far-left SUMAR party, of which Yolanda Diaz is Deputy Prime Minister. This ‘Frankenstein’ government reflects the fragility of the PSOE, which remains the only force capable of managing separatist tendencies within the central state.

d) The formation of populist governments

The arrival in power of populist and far-right parties is a scenario which could become a major element in the political situation of the bourgeoisie in the years to come without, however, engendering the same consequences everywhere. While the years of power of Trump, Bolsonaro and Salvini have seen a sharpening of political instability, there has also been an ability on the part of other parts of the state apparatus to channel or restrain their most irrational and far-fetched aspirations. This was the case, under Trump for example, with the incessant struggle waged by part of the US administration to control the unpredictability of presidential decisions. Large sections of the bourgeoisie, particularly within the very structures of the State, managed to oppose the temptation of a rapprochement or even an alliance with Russia, thus ensuring that the option of the dominant fractions of the bourgeoisie triumphed. As we saw in the case of Italy, with Salvini's government, it is also possible that the populists could agree to ‘water down their wine’ by abandoning certain measures or scaling down their promises, particularly in the social sphere. This was also demonstrated recently by PVV leader Geert Wilder's decision in Holland to renounce taking power when he was unable to form a coalition.

e) The distinction between populism and the extreme right

The possibility of populist parties coming to power, and the reality of such an event as in Italy, highlights the fact that populism and the extreme right cannot be identified. This country is governed by an alliance between the traditional right (Forza Italia founded by Berlusconi), Salvini's populist Lega and Meloni's neo-fascist-inspired party, Fratelli d'Italia (Brothers of Italy), whose symbol remains the tricolour flame of the former, openly-Mussolinian MSI (Italian Social Movement). There are, of course, important similarities between the Lega and Meloni's party, in particular the xenophobic rhetoric against immigrants, particularly Muslims, which makes them competitors on the electoral stage. At the same time, the motto of Fratelli d'Italia (FI), ‘God, Fatherland and Family’, reveals the traditionalist inspiration of this party, which distinguishes it from the Lega. Indeed, the latter, although it may invoke traditional values, is rather anti-clerical and more ‘anti-system’ than the FI. In France we find this difference between the populist far right, represented by Marine Le Pen's National Rally, and the traditional far right represented by the ‘Reconquête!’ party. [8] It's no coincidence, moreover, that in the first round of the 2022 presidential elections, Reconquête!’s Éric Zemmour came second (behind Macron, who has become the politician most favoured by the bourgeoisie) in the ‘posh quarters’ of Paris, garnering three times as many votes as Marine Le Pen, whereas the latter completely crushed Zemmour in the ‘popular’ localities. And it's true that Le Pen's speeches against Macron's economic policies, such as the abolition of the Wealth Tax and pension reform, go down very badly with the classic bourgeoisie. In fact, with varying degrees of success in different countries, we are witnessing an attempt by certain sectors of the bourgeoisie to capitalise on fears around the issues of immigration, insecurity and Islamic terrorism, which until now have been the mainstay of populism, to give new life to a far right that is ‘presentable’ from the point of view of the ruling class, with a programme more compatible with its interests. Zemmour has always maintained that his economic programme was the same as that of the classical right, represented until now in France by the ‘Les Républicains’ party, heir to the Gaullist party. What he proposed at the time of the 2022 presidential elections was an alliance with this party, with the argument that Marine Le Pen could never win the elections on her own. Zemmour's policy has so far failed, as the RN has moved to the top of the polls and could win the 2027 presidential elections, which is a major concern for the bourgeoisie. On the other hand, it is a policy that has succeeded in Italy, since Meloni has demonstrated a remarkable ability to pursue a policy in line with bourgeois interests and has come well ahead of Salvini.

Populism is not a political trend promoted by the most far-sighted and responsible sectors of the bourgeoisie and it has already caused damage to the interests of this class (particularly in the UK) but, among the cards available to the ruling class to try to limit this damage, there is precisely this emphasis on a ‘traditional’ far right to compete with or weaken populism.

IV.  The impact of the ‘gangsterisation’ of society and its penetration of the State.


Since the end of the 1980s, gangsterism and crime, largely fuelled by drug trafficking, have exploded worldwide. This phenomenon, already highlighted in the “Theses on Decomposition”, is accompanied by incredible corruption within the political apparatus: “violence and urban crime have exploded in many Latin American countries and also in the suburbs of certain European cities, partly linked to drug trafficking, but not exclusively. As far as drug trafficking is concerned, and the enormous weight it has taken on in society, including in economic terms, it can be said that it corresponds to the existence of a ‘market’ that is constantly expanding as a result of the growing malaise and despair affecting all sections of the population. As far as corruption and all the manipulations that make up ‘white-collar crime’ are concerned, the last few years have been full of discoveries (such as the ‘Panama papers’, which are just a tiny tip of the iceberg of the gangsterism in which finance is increasingly mired)". (Report on decomposition today, International Review n°164, 2017)

It is important to be able to identify the main effects of this phenomenon on the political life of the bourgeoisie. The increasingly obvious collusion between crime and the political fractions of the state apparatus tends to transform the political game into real gang warfare, sometimes against a backdrop of a trend towards the collapse of political institutions. This is certainly the most acute and unbridled form of the tendency to accentuate the divisions and fragmentation of the bourgeois political apparatus. The political situation in Haiti is certainly the most caricatural example. But many other countries in Central and South America have been particularly affected by this phenomenon for decades. Like the internal war that broke out in broad daylight at the beginning of January between the Ecuadorian state and criminal gangs: “The current bourgeois faction that controls the state apparatus is directly linked to Ecuador's most powerful agro-industrial import-export group. Its triumphal entry into the Carondelet Palace began with financial laws that directly benefited this group, with the approval of the PSC and the RC5 (correistas). The result was a country plunged into abject poverty and endemic corruption at all levels of government, penetrated on all sides by the Mexican drug cartels (Jalisco Nueva Generación and Sinaloa) associated with Peruvian and Colombian drug traffickers. The Albanian, Chinese, Russian and Italian mafia are also very present. And a society overwhelmed by national organised crime, the ODGs, linked to the Mexican cartels or the aforementioned mafias." 

It should also be noted that the headlong rush into settling scores between factions has consequences in terms of heightening tensions between nation states. For example, the storming by the Ecuadorian police of the Mexican embassy in Quito on 5 April to dislodge the former vice-president accused of corruption by the Noboa government was a veritable act of vandalism against the rules of bourgeois propriety, which only contributed to diplomatic instability in this part of the world.

The political system in Russia is also particularly marked by the gangsterisation of political relations. Clientelism, corruption and nepotism are the main cogs in the ‘Putin system’. This is a factor that must be taken into account when analysing the risks hanging over the future of the Russian Federation: “from Putin's political survival to that of the Russian Federation and the latter's imperialist status, the stakes arising from the defeat in Ukraine are fraught with consequences: as Russia sinks deeper into problems, there is a risk of settling scores, and even of bloody clashes between rival factions”. (“Report on imperialist tensions”, 25th ICC Congress, International Review n°170). The rebellion of the Wagner group in June 2023, followed by the liquidation of its leader Prigozhin two months later, and the severe repression suffered by the pro-democracy faction (the assassination of Navalny) have fully confirmed the scale of the internal tensions and the fragility of Putin and his inner circle, who do not hesitate to defend their interests by any means necessary, in the manner of a real mafia boss. The central role played by gangsterism in the Russian political system therefore plays an active part in the risk of the Russian Federation breaking up. In the same way, the armed settling of scores within the former Soviet nomenklatura contributed to the profound destabilisation resulting from the implosion of the Eastern bloc. But after more than three decades of decomposition, the consequences of such a dynamic could lead to a much more chaotic situation. The break-up of the federation into several mini Russias and the spread of nuclear weapons in the hands of uncontrollable warlords would represent a veritable headlong rush into chaos on an international scale.

However, while these manifestations of the ideological and political decomposition of society are particularly advanced in the peripheral zones of capitalism, this trend is also increasingly apparent in the central countries:

In democracies, while clashes (sometimes violent) between rival factions are nothing new and are generally expressed within the framework of institutions and ‘respect for order’, they are beginning to take on particularly chaotic and violent forms: “The assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters on 6 January highlighted the fact that divisions within the ruling class, even in the most powerful country on the planet, are growing deeper and risk degenerating into violent clashes, even civil wars.” (“Resolution on the international situation”, International Review n°170).

Corruption and embezzlement are now ravaging the entire body politic, right up to the highest levels of government, as highlighted by the “Panama Papers” and Qatargate scandals (involving MEPs, parliamentary assistants, NGO representatives and trade unionists). This only serves to further discredit the various political fractions, particularly those who present themselves as the most upright, thus giving credence to the populist anti-elite discourse of 'They are all rotten’.

In the 19th century, Marx pointed out that the most advanced country of the time, England, indicated the direction in which the other European countries would develop. Today, it is in the least developed countries that we find the most caricatural manifestations of the chaos that is sweeping across the planet and increasingly affecting the most developed countries. The observation made by Marx in his day was an illustration of the fact that the capitalist mode of production was still in its ascendant phase. Today's observation that chaos is advancing in society is yet another illustration of the historical impasse in which capitalism finds itself, its decadence and its decomposition.

ICC, December 2023


[1] Obviously, the essence of this framework of analysis had been transmitted to the ICC by comrade MC (“Marc, Part 1: From the Revolution of October 1917 to World War II”; “Marc, Part 2: From World War II to the present day”, (International Reviews 65 & 66) on the basis of reflections that had already taken place in the GCF but also on the basis of reflections that the comrade had carried out as events unfolded.

[2] “On the question of populism”, International Review n°157

[3] The paragraph "Populism and decomposition" only comes in the last third of the contribution.

[4] “Brexit, Trump: Setbacks for the bourgeoisie that do not bode well for the proletariat", International Review n°157.

[5] It should be noted that this analysis was also reflected in certain documents produced and adopted by the ICC. For example, the “Report on the Impact of Decomposition on the Political Life of the Bourgeoisie” (International Review n°164) states, in speaking of populism, that its determining cause is “the incapacity of the proletariat to put forward its own response, its own alternative to the crisis of capitalism”.

[6] See Chapter III of the report.

[7] Resolution on the situation in Great Britain, published internally.

[8] Somewhat paradoxically, this party is led by Éric Zemmour, whose name indicates his Sephardic Jewish origins. To overcome this ‘handicap’ in relation to his traditionalist clientele, who still have sympathies for Marshal Pétain, the leader of the collaboration with Nazi Germany, Zemmour did not hesitate to declare that Pétain had saved Jewish lives (which is contradicted by all serious historians).



Report on the political life of the bourgeoise