Editorial - issue 18 of Fifth International
Events over the last year have confirmed our analysis of the enduring crisis afflicting capitalism since the financial crash of 2008, hitting political regimes of differing colours and types in countries around the world. Angry electorates, on the streets as well as at the ballot box, have turned on parties and leaders who seemed unchallengeable. New figures, on the right and the left, have emerged in their stead.
On the reactionary right we have billionaire populist Donald Trump, knocking Republican establishment contenders out of the ring, one by one, with his calls to bar Muslims from entering America and build a 2,000 mile long wall along the Mexican border. Barring any accidents that might befall the short-fused maverick, Trump will be up against Hillary Clinton in November.
At the other end of the political spectrum we have Bernie Sanders routinely packing stadiums with rallies reaching gigantic proportions: 200,000 in Oakland. Sanders’ message, despite his candidature for the Democratic Party nomination, is one of social democratic reforms – a European-style universal healthcare system, free college and university education, taxing the rich, breaking up the big financial institutions. But though Sanders talks about “socialism” and a “political revolution” he will back Hillary in November. The big question we address in this journal is, what will happen – what should happen – to his followers?
In South America it is left wing populist and socialist governments that flourished in the first decade of the 21st Century that are being battered by a political storm. A continent-wide recession is exposing the makeshift character of the reforms enacted by Hugo Chávez or Lula – the literacy and health care commissiones, the Bolas Familiar subsidies. In these circumstances the right wing media and the old élites have been able to raise mass demonstrations against “corruption”. In this issue we look at the constitutional coup that ousted Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff and the tactics needed to defend workers’ gains.
In Europe too the tectonic plates are shifting . On 22 May, Norbert Hofer, leader of Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, was only narrowly defeated by a Green standing as an independent, Alexander Van der Bellen. The conservative ÖVP and the social democratic SPÖ that governed Austria since the war failed to make it beyond the first round. Alternative for Germany (AfD) party leader Frauke Petry called it a “terrific outcome” and ” Marine Le Pen of France’s Front National called it a “magnificent result”.
Nigel Farage’s Ukip and the right wing of the Tory Party have succeeded in committing Cameron to a referendum on Britain’s EU membership. The Brexiteers only strong card is immigration, where they can rely on the fears generated by decades of ferociously anti-European and anti-immigrant propaganda in the gutter press. In this issue we look at the attempts by the Communist Party and its allies on the far left to create a Left Exit (Lexit), tailing the nationalism and phobias of the mainstream Leave campaigns.
Also on the left in Europe we have the rise of Podemos, now allied with Izquierda Unida and the Comisiones Obreras (CCOO). Podemos-Unidos (United We Can) has swept past the PSOE in the polls and could be in a position to take the initative in forming a left government after the re-run Spanish general election.
France too has seen the biggest movement of trade unionists, socialists and young people since 2010, protesting the El Khomri law, which abolishes labour rights won over many decades. Its imposition by the government underlines the crisis of the system – and the potential power of the working class to take direct action for political goals. We analyses here a movement still in full flow and point to the need for an all-out general strike.
Last but not least we examine Jeremy Corbyn’s victory, the struggle by the Labour right to frustrate him and what the left should be doing to defeat them.
Both in Latin America and in Europe there is an urgent need for continent-wide solidarity. A defeat for the workers and youth in any one country has immediate repercussion for their neighbours.
In the EU and in the USA migration provides racists with an issue they can hungrily exploit. To combat them in the global North we need to argue that it is not migrants seeking jobs or refugees seeking asylum that cause unemployment or overburden social services, but the bosses and their crisis-ridden system. We need to welcome those who seek safety or jobs here: here to stay, here to fight, as the saying goes.
Dave Stockton, June 2016