Last year, the ruling “elites” of world capitalism were shocked by the outcome of the referendum in the United Kingdom about British membership in the European Union (“Brexit”), and by the result of the presidential elections in the United States (President Trump). In both cases, the results obtained did not correspond to the intentions or the interests of leading factions of the bourgeois class. We are therefore embarking on a series of interconnected pieces which will aim at making an initial balance sheet of the political situation in the United States and Britain in the aftermath of these events. To widen the scope of our examination, we will also develop an analysis of the politics of the ruling class in the two main countries of continental Europe, France and Germany. In France, presidential and parliamentary elections took place in the early summer of this year. In Germany, the general elections to the Bundestag took place in September. The bourgeoisie of both countries is obliged to react to what has taken place in Britain and the USA – and they have reacted.
In choosing to concentrate on these four countries, these pieces will not attempt an analysis of the political life of the bourgeoisie in two countries – Russia and China – which play a key role in the capitalist, imperialist power constellation today. A study of the situation there remains to be done. Having said this, we should point out that both Russia and China play an extremely prominent role in our analysis of the political situation of the four old central “western” capitalist countries to be examined in these pieces. We will also concentrate on the political life of the ruling class, without entering into that of the proletariat. Here again, it is clear that the present situation poses a series of questions and challenges to the working class which revolutionary organisations have to take up and help clarify, and which we will attempt to do in future articles. For the moment, we recommend readers to consult the resolution on the international class struggle from our last international congress, published in this issue of the International Review.
The historical background to these political developments is provided by a deeper process: the accelerating decomposition of the capitalist social order. We highly recommend that the reading of this and following articles be supplemented by a reading or re-reading of our “Theses on Decomposition”, available on our site. For us, the present situation is a strong confirmation of what we outlined in that text, written over a quarter of a century ago. In particular, the concrete examination of the present situation confirms that it is indeed the ruling class itself which is first and foremost affected by this decomposition of its system, and that (except in face of a proletarian menace) the bourgeoisie has increasing difficulties to maintain its political unity and coherence.
 These pieces, which are intended to be read as a unity, were first written in the summer of 2017 after the general elections in Britain and the presidential elections and those to the National Assembly in France, but before the Bundestag elections in Germany. For various reasons this work could not be published at the time. Some updating and editing has been done, but we have chosen not to alter the section in Germany where the situation even after the elections remains extremely uncertain. For an analysis of the elections in Germany, see our article on IKS website. It was also written before the latest crisis in the relations between the United States and North Korea and between the United States and Iran about the atomic and rocket programmes of what Washington calls “rogue states”. For the North Korea crisis, see our article "Threat of war between North Korea and the US: it is capitalism which is irrational".