January 11, 2010 — At the meeting of left-wing political parties and socialists held in Caracas on the eve of the congress of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez called for the formation the Fifth Socialist International. In a strong speech in which he summarised the history of international socialist organisations, Chavez said, Confronting the capitalist crisis and the threat of war that threatens the future of humanity, it is time to convene the Fifth International, towards the unity of the left parties and revolutionaries willing to fight for socialism … of the parties and socialist currents and social movements in the world to create a common strategy for the fight against imperialism, the overthrow of capitalism by socialism.
At that meeting, which had a clearly anti-imperialist tone, there were many parties that were out of place; including, the Mexican Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI), the Chinese Communist Party and even the Brazilian Workers Party (PT). Others were missing, for example, the Brazilian Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL), the French New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA), the National Resistance Front of Honduras and the Revolutionary Tendency of El Salvador, among others.
The call for a new international was quickly accepted by a section of those attending – the Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) of Bolivia, the New Country Party of Ecuador President Rafael Correa, the militant Patricia Rhodas, representing the legitimate president of Honduras, Manuel Zelaya, and other left wing groups such as the Socialist Alliance of Australia. There was an explicit rejection from the communist parties (except Cuba’s) and the Brazilian PT, because for them the São Paulo Forum is still in effect.
Beyond all the contradictions of Bolivarianism and the critical situation of the Venezuelan process due to the weight of the bureaucracy, Chávez offered a proposal that we consider progressive towards filling the international vacuum that exists today; an advance that may become a leap to create an alternative to the deep capitalist crisis we live in and provide a response to imperialist policy.
The PSOL’s — and all of those who claim to be anti-imperialist and socialist, as the NPA of France and other socialist forces that have already replied — response to that call must be “We are present”. We are present and we will be there because we want to participate in the construction of this process that has just begun and whose next date is the late April meeting in Caracas.
This proposal, if it materialises, is inclined to address an acute contradiction that exists in today’s world situation. On one hand, the acute crisis of global capitalism has placed a concrete and urgent need for international coordination and international organisation. But at the same time, what we have so far is a political vacuum in the international arena. This vacuum exists today because there is no international organisation that is, or that may be, a real pole for the world vanguard and the most radicalised sectors of mass movement. The World Social Forum meetings, which were once a progressive place to coordinate the actions of the anti-globalisation and antiwar movements, have been losing strength as they have become increasingly controlled by parties like the PT and other international bureaucratic institutions and apparatus.
Likewise, for us, the São Paulo Forum, under the hegemony of the Brazilian PT, has followed the bourgeois direction of that party so it is not a viable reference. The fronts or coalitions of the communist parties that exist in Europe are primarily interested in recovering parliamentary or governmental positions, so they are not a viable reference either. Neither are the Trotskyist organisations, even though they do have an international practice. The self-called Fourth International, that [originated from] the division of the United Secretariat, has developed some work with the masses and encouraged the France’s Revolutionary Communist League (LCR) to participate in the creation of the NPA, is also not viable. And neither are the various international organisations to reclaim the Fourth International. Trotskyism is no more than small groups exclusively proud of their international positions.
Surely there will be those who, in name of “purity of program”, will reject the call from Caracas, or will require that this meeting provide a definite program for the international socialist revolution as it existed in the Third and Fourth internationals. For us, still valid is Marx’s sentence criticising the long but ambiguous Gotha Program which would unite the two German socialist currents: “Better a joint action than half dozen programs.”
The Caracas’ call is about to build a regroupment in which the new Bolivarian radical nationalism, the new anti-imperialist, Indigenous and anti-capitalist currents coexist with the revolutionary socialist left.
For the sake of the progress of this process a broad united front organisation is required, which possesses features similar to the First International of Marx, the International Worker’s Association, than to the later internationals. The great Russian revolutionary David Ryazanov, in his excellent book about Marx and Engels, gave a very good definition of the International Worker’s Association. Ryazanov said:
Marx, in the Address, gave a classical example of “united front” tactics. He formulated the demands and emphasised all the points upon which the working class could and should unite, and on the basis of which a further development of the labour movement could be expected. From the immediate proletarian demands formulated by Marx the greater demands of the Cornmunist Manifesto would logically follow. (David Ryazanov, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, http://www.marx.org/archive/riazanov/works/1927-ma/index.htm, chapter 7) .
Indeed, the First International was far from created on the basis of a finished program, as was the one contained in the Communist Manifesto written by Marx and Engels for the League of the Just. For Marx, it was more important to bring together “trade unionists”, former English Chartists, former followers of utopian socialist Robert Owen, Proudhonists, Bakuninists and the militants and supporters of the League of the Just.
In the case of the Hugo Chavez’s call, we believe that the most appropriate organisation that can arise at the meeting in April 2010 is a continental and/or global anti-imperialist front. This new international organisation could emerge around a program of anti-imperialist and anti-capitalist struggle, a united front that would include the supporters of the struggle against imperialism, from radical nationalism to revolutionary socialist currents.
Politicals proposals from the meeting in Caracas
We support 100% the political reading and final declaration of the Caracas meeting [see http://links.org.au/node/1375]; many of the proposals are similar to those made at the international seminar organised by the PSOL in Sao Paulo. Politically concrete actions are focused on the rejection of the foreign military bases in Colombia and against the coup in Honduras, including meeting/action proposals for the second week of December. Three central characterisations are present in the texts and declarations: a) the structural crisis of capitalism, b) the Yankee imperialist offensive on the continent and war globally, c) 21st century socialism and the struggle for socialism. These points can also be considered as broadly correct.
But these are issues, particularly the second, on which we have to get deeper. Even if we believe that the characterisation of the imperialist offensive is correct, transforming it into the centre of Latin American politics has elements that tend to be unilateral and it is used to lose sight of the limitations of the ongoing process in our continent.
In an excellent interview that appeared in Brasil de Fato, vice-president García Linera of Bolivia said they are processes that are still taking place under capitalism, and which are only sketches of either a different project or of 21st century socialism. And while, on the one hand, this has to do with the current worldwide and continental correlation of forces, one has to note the responsibilities of the leaders to deepen the process and, specifically, the strong bureaucratic elements entrenched in the Venezuelan process that limit and hinder it.
The capitalist crisis
We have to understand the Caracas’ progressive call under the new elements that characterise the global situation. It happens in the context of significant political and economic changes marked by the global economic crisis and chaotic growing political uncertainty that dominate the world.
Against the opinion of many establishment economists, including the Brazilian government’s economic managers who believes the crisis is over, Paul Krugman warned about the creation of a new economic bubble. Krugman pointed out the dangers that the massive inflow of speculative capital means for Brazil and forecast that the economy of the core countries could have a decade of stagnation and recession similar to the one experienced by Japan in the 1990s.
The Marxist economist Jorge Benstein provides a deeper analysis. Referring to the new bubble and comparing it with previous ones that created moderate increase in production and consumption, Beinsten says that “the speculative sequence of the late 1990s and 2007 is repeated but with a crucial difference: the context of the current bubble is not economic growth but recession… The stockmarket bubble of 2009 happens at the same time with low levels of consumption, decline in productive investment and constant increase in unemployment. Surplus capital blocked by a declining productive economy achieves benefits in financial speculation, producing a speculative-recessionary vicious cycle fueled by the fabulous governmental bailouts.”
Referring to the US economy, he said that “it is clear that it cannot get out of the trap of decline; the temporary relief, recovery attempts and drugged growth, strongly recompose parasitic mechanisms which have led to the current disaster. And the collapse of the empire (the main centre of the capitalist world) drags the whole world system.”
Benstein sees the decline of the economy also linked to other “visible crises” that at any time could strike a very fragile global system; these include the food and energy crisis (which were present during 2008). “In sum, we are facing the convergence of numerous crises which in reality is one global gigantic crisis with different faces, never seen before in history, and its main appearance is a great twilight that threatens to continue for a long time.”
Benstein’s analysis is correct in the sense of strategic trends. It cannot be used unilaterally for the concrete policy framework, since it does not take into account the short-term growth in Latin America and elsewhere achieved not only by the bubble and the increase in consumption, but by some relative increase in the rate of surplus value due to the weak resistance of workers’ movement. But it is correct in essence and agrees with Krugman, who talks about new, stronger episodes of crisis. This will make the world increasingly tend towards chaos, polarisation and extreme political changes, as we saw after the Great Depression.
What about the Obama administration?
In this context US President Barack Obama has shown weakness in the face of the daunting challenge to keep his promises in domestic and international policy. Rather, in world politics, he is following a course of reconciliation with the old Bush policy. Troop numbers have increased in Afghanistan, where there is major resistance and will cause a deadlock without solution. Moreover, it was clear the policy of capitulation to the right wing resulted in blatant support for the coup in Honduras.
These elements show the weakness of Obama and the impossibility of a big change in US foreign policy. They are the expression of the growing loss of US hegemony, to which he can only respond in the same way as Bush had done.
This present crisis of “hegemonic” imperialism tends to increase the “multipolarity”. One example of this is the growing independence of the Latin American members of ALBA, and of Iran . (To some extent also Brazil, as expressed on Honduras, although in the case of Brazil there is a line of constant negotiation with the US). At the other end of this polarisation is the openly fascist policy of Israel that Obama’s government ends up accepting.
The `continentalisation’ of Latin America
Garcia Linera, vice-president of Bolivia, in an interview that appeared in Brasil de Fato, says that “for the first time in the last hundred years of our continent there is a continental turn to the left”, referring to new processes that have not happened before. Comparing it with the process that started with the Cuban Revolution, he noted that even thogh it was more radical it was also was less continental, and at that time it was only episodic and very partial due to the defeat of the armed groups that emerged in other countries. We may add that this new process means not only the political emergence of [Latin America’s Indigenous peoples], but also has led to new Latin American governments politically independent of imperialism.
The new electoral triumph in Bolivia shows the strength of this process. A new episode in the same direction may be the success of Ollanta Humala in the 2011 presidential election in Peru. A country of great importance in the region, where peasants, workers and Indigenous people’s struggles have come together, and where Humala, following policies that have common features with the those of Bolivia’s President Evo Morale, has emerged as a true political alternative.
In the same interview Garcia Linera said that “today in 2009 we are not in front of a prospect of overcoming capitalism, to say otherwise is deceiving” but also said that there are embryonic elements of another system.
Nevertheless, we reaffirm our characterisation that they are progressive nationalist processes, revolutionary in comparison to the period of neoliberalism. The processes of these countries are irreversible, new schemes have emerged that are irreconcilable with imperialist policies and politics of the more organic Latin American bourgeoisie. (Even if there are big Latin American corporations that do good business in Chavez’s Venezuela, as is the case of Brazil’s Oderbretch.)
That is why there is and there will be a growing polarisation in Latin America. There are now three types of governments, the openly pro-US governments, which have the Colombian government as its spearhead, those led by Brazil (that has its own policy for its character as a regional power) including Argentina and Uruguay, and the politically independent governments of Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela. The dynamic is one of growing polarisation and continentalisation of the nationalist process. In Honduras, this polarisation was present. On one side, the radicalisation expressed by Zelaya and the other side an important sector and majority of the native bourgeoisie, which remains subservient to US policy. This is widespread throughout Latin America.
Imperialism is not a paper tiger
The weakening of US global hegemony and the critical situation in Afghanistan does not mean that it has become a paper tiger. On the contrary, it may become more aggressive. The current movements in Latin America are saying that in the face of Washington’s critical situation in the broader Middle East the US will be forced to retake control of its backyard, that is, to resume its threatened hegemony in Latin America. US imperialism needs to ensure that these processes are not extended, it needs to defeat them and the main target is Chavez.
It is necessary to confront the US policy clearly expressed in the coup of Honduras, the military bases in Colombia and the reactivation of the US Navy’s Fourth Fleet. We are and we will be together in a front with these countries, their governments and social movements in the case of new imperialist offensive.
As we said, even if the US suffers a defeat in Afghanistan it does not mean mechanically that they cannot act militarily in our continent. The US may even withdraw from Afghanistan if cornered, and make local low-intensity interventions with the pretext of fighting terrorism, or by provocations using its puppet governments. The danger of such attacks on Venezuela coming from Colombia, and in Bolivia from the anti-Morales “Bolivian crescent”, even if it is now in decline.
But Yankee policy towards Latin America is not only military. The other aspect is strengthening the Latin American bourgeoisie, the usual junior partner of the empire. So it will also use democratic reaction, negotiations and the polls to support its candidates, in other words the carrot and stick policy.
This one-sidedness that we mentioned in the analysis of the Caracas Declaration masks the fact that bureaucracy is a problem that favous the weakening of the process and therefore can promote the policy of imperialism. Even if these processes are now progressive and irreconcilable with the imperialism, particularly in Venezuela, they have created contradictions that damage the fight against imperialism and hinder the deepening of structural measures that could weaken the local bourgeoisie. Since these processes occur within the framework of the bourgeois state, new contradictions have appeared, mainly expressed in the emergence of the state bureaucracy which becomes privileged and tends to slow the process. And that becomes a problem when trying to confront imperialism and the domestic bourgeoisie that is hoping to act and regain power.
This is clearly visible in Venezuela, the most politically advanced and key country. There, Bolivarianism has been in power for 10 years. During this period, a political breakthrough has taken place in its system of government and the mass movement, and in its anti-imperialist consciousness thanks to the leadership of Chavez. But at the same time, a bureaucracy that threatens the process from within has emerged. Without defeating these sectors it will be very difficult to advance the process, it can stall and be defeated by imperialism.
Present at the founding meeting of April in Caracas
To report these contradictions does not mean in any way to minimise the importance of building the new international organisation. On the contrary, the aim of bringing these issues to light is to strengthen it. That is why we reaffirm our support for the construction of a new international organisation that, if it materialises, will join the real forces facing imperialism. This is, as we said, to build a united front organisation in which all the currents that face imperialism are involved, from radical nationalism, Indigenous peoples, revolutionary and socialist organisations.
Such an organisation must be a tool for promoting the revolutionary process in our continent and the world. In that sense, it must make a clear distinction between government policy and economic and diplomatic relations between governments, with the policy of promoting anti-imperialist struggle in each country, supporting social movements and political organisations that take the struggle forward.
No doubt that if it is constituted in this way not only will it serve to promote the fight, avoiding new defeats like in Honduras, but also to fight the bureaucratisation in any of the ongoing processes. These are insights and ideas for the coming historic meeting to be held in April 2010 in Caracas and in which we will apply our best internationalist commitment.
Pedro Fuentes is secretary for internationalist relations of the PSOL, Brazil