National Sections of the L5I:

For a Revolutionary Year of Struggle in 2023

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The year 2022 saw a series of inter-related crises wracking the world. There were the wars in Ukraine, Tigray, Yemen, and Myanmar, and a “cold war” launched by Nato. To these must be added economic dislocation and rampant inflation, the escalating scale of climate catastrophes and a still ongoing pandemic. The year also saw huge numbers of refugees from these disasters and the actions of the wealthiest states to block their borders and coasts.

Underlying all these events is the crisis of capitalist globalisation and the sharpening rivalry between the imperialist camps; the USA-EU and China-Russia. The outcome will depend not only on objective economic developments but, crucially, on the political conflicts they generate, that is, battles over the control and use of society's productive capacity. The most fundamental of these is the class struggle between capital and labour but they also include battles between, and within, the big capitalist powers.

Of these, the most intense and threatening is the war unleashed by Russia’s invasion and attempted occupation of Ukraine, which began on February 24 and still has no immediate end in sight. The massive arms supplies to Ukraine and the unprecedented economic sanctions launched by the G7 have added to a war of national survival Nato's conflict to thwart Putin’s great power ambitions, within which the US and the UK also hope to thwart the EU’s independent ambitions.

Putin’s blockade of the Black Sea ports and the Western sanctions have generated powerful pressure on oil and gas prices and on grain and fertiliser supplies. The result is growing hunger and falling real wages. A response from workers and the urban and rural poor is only just beginning but is inevitable: the issue is can the fightback be victorious?

Such new inter-imperialist conflicts are in addition to those caused by their past policies. The UN General Assembly vote to refer Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory to the International Court of Justice in The Hague, coming on the very day that Netanyahu's most right wing and racist government took office, is perhaps the best example of this.

We are at the beginning of another global recession at least as serious as that caused by the great financial crisis of 2008 but this time with China as a major sufferer, rather than a locomotive of recovery. Unlike then, a coordinated strategy by the leading imperialist powers in response to the global economic crisis is effectively excluded.

This not only aggravates the cyclical economic crisis in individual states, but also the inter-imperialist antagonisms, the tendencies towards "deglobalisation", the fragmentation of the world market, the formation of blocs and the passing on of the costs of the crisis to the semi-colonial world. The war over Ukraine and the mutual sanctions that massively hit both sides have the effect of aggravating the crisis, just as the crisis increases mutual competition and the danger of war.

All this is fuelling the escalation of other fundamental problems of humanity, including climate change, species extinction, devastation of the oceans and pandemics that can become endemic without an effective global health system. The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, long predicted by climate scientists, has been seen around the world over this past year, including droughts, wildfires and crop failures in the Sahel and the Horn of Africa, floods in Pakistan, hurricanes and unprecedented winter storms in the USA, drought in Europe.

The pandemic that has claimed millions of lives, the threat of famine and the displacement of a billion climate refugees over the next 30 years are expressions of this development. The combination of economic crisis and the inter-imperialist struggle for the re-division of the world, will greatly intensify the crisis of the relationship between humanity and the environment.

The crisis is necessarily accompanied by attacks on the working class, the peasantry, and the lower sections of the petty bourgeoisie. Today, inflation is at the centre of the attacks on the incomes and living conditions of the masses. However, with the development of the crisis could come a shift to deflation, with mass layoffs, closures, unemployment, and underemployment, as is already the case for significant sections of the semi-colonies.

The imperialist bourgeoisies were able to ‘recover’ from the Great Recession and global crisis of 2008-10 through a policy of cheap money (Quantitative Easing). This limited the destruction of surplus capital in the imperialist centres and, above all, saved finance capital. However, the underlying causes of the crisis, falling profit rates and over-accumulation of capital, actually required such destruction and without it they were reproduced on a higher level in an upswing strongly supported by the expansion of fictitious capital.

Even before 2020, a new crisis was on the horizon. In the event, its development was overtaken by the Corona pandemic, which served to synchronise a huge downturn in global production - albeit in different circumstances from 2008. The structure of the world economy had shifted further, intensifying global competition between the imperialist powers. The scale of the pandemic, hitting all countries with full force in 2020, led to a collapse in production far greater than in 2008-10, from which the world economy has still not recovered.

Finally, the ability to counteract the crisis with the same means as after 2010 is very much reduced (for the semi-colonies long before 2020). The inner contradictions of the capitalist world order, economic, political and environmental, have intensified to such an extent that they now reinforce each other, creating the instability and conflicts with which humanity is now faced.

The developing world crisis marks the beginning of a new chapter in the class struggle, it is one in which the working class and the oppressed worldwide are in a more difficult position than after the 2008-10 crisis. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, the bourgeoisie found itself on the defensive ideologically. The Arab revolutions and the pre-revolutionary escalation in Greece highlighted the potential for a major upturn in the class struggle and provided inspiration to the working class and masses worldwide for several years. Their advances illustrated the spontaneous revolutionary potential of the working class - but also its limits.

The eventual defeats of those movements due to the depth of the crisis of leadership of the proletariat, also had a lasting global impact on the morale, combativity and consciousness of the working class. The shift in the balance of forces had reactionary consequences: the decomposition of traditional workers' organisations and the rise of right-wing populism, including fascist and semi-fascist forces, which presented itself as a reactionary but anti-"elite" pseudo-radical solution.

Even progressive mass movements like the Women's Strike, Ni Una Menos or Black Lives Matter, and the militant wing of the working class itself, are very much influenced by petty-bourgeois and neo-reformist ideas (identity politics, individualism, left populism, transformation strategy). Populism is evidenced in France by Jean Luc Mélenchon and La France Insoumise, in Spain by Podemos and others. Its narrative of ‘the people versus the élite or the caste’ and limitation to democratic and reformist-utopian demands cannot but weaken class identity and independence and contribute to defeats, thus playing into the hands of the right.

This global shift in the political and ideological balance of power is also expressed in a weakness of the subjectively revolutionary (centrist) left on the globe and in its adaptation to such ideologies. The final fragmentation of the New Anticapitalist Party in France marks the end of a possibility, which opened in 2009, of building in the waves of struggle that regularly shook France, a cadre party which could develop a programme for workers' power.

Undoubtedly, the struggles of recent years have created, and continue to create, important opportunities for the rebirth of a militant movement of the working class and the socially oppressed. These included large insurrection-like revolts as in Sri Lanka, the courageous protests against the oppression of women by the Iranian clerical dictatorship, the mass protests in China against Xi Jinping’s harsh covid lockdown, which forced a rapid climbdown, and the developing strike wave in Britain.

In some countries, as with the Workers' Party, PT, in Brazil, it may also happen that reformist parties, despite their treacherous policies, will once again attract the hopes and illusions of the working class. Such hopes will soon be dashed but, if the masses resist “their” governments’ betrayals and build fighting organisations in the process, this can begin to offer a solution to the leadership crisis, begin but not complete it.

This requires a targeted revolutionary intervention based on a clear, global programme whose central theme is the need to build independent working class parties on a fighting anticapitalist programme. In the struggle against inflation and attacks on the social gains of the class, councils of action, organisations of workers' control, can not only deal with these immediate issues but become the means of overthrowing capitalism and forming the basis of workers' states.

Parties based on such a programme will need to concretise and constantly update it in the form of national or section-specific action programmes. They will also need an understanding of how to apply principled tactics in party building, for example, regroupment, entryism or formation of a workers' party, which can, nationally and internationally, advance the cause of a new, Fifth International.

We, in the League for the Fifth International, invite the forces which recognise these challenges and the necessity of developing a common programme for an organisation of revolutionaries to bring it into the thick of the class struggle, to join with us in calling national and international forums to debate this in 2023.