COVID-19 pandemic reveals new French anti-capitalist party
May 21, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic, by exposing the staggering incompetence and indifference to human life of capitalist governments around the world, has intensified class conflicts considerably. This spring, workers from Italy in the United States and Brazil launched a wave of wildcat strikes and walkouts to demand protective gear and the right to shelter at home. As governments, banks and unions organize a politically criminal international campaign to bring workers back to work without sufficient testing or protection, the pandemic unmasks the pro-imperialist middle class groups that the ruling class has long falsely marketed as ” left”.
Workers can only fight the pandemic through a political and organizational break with these parties and the affiliated unions, which are complicit in policies leading to mass deaths. This emerges from the reactionary statement, titled “Let’s now build the transition to ecosocialism”, published last month by a coalition of petty-bourgeois parties, notably the new French Pabloite anti-capitalist party (NPA), the Anticapitalistas in the Spanish government. Podemos, the Denmark Red-Green Alliance (RGA), the Socialist and Liberty Party (PSOL) in Brazil, the Nava Sama Samaja Party in Sri Lanka and Socialist Action in the United States.
If they call themselves the “Executive Office of the Fourth International” (EBFI), their hostility to the working class and Trotskyism – that is to say, Marxist internationalism – is almost obvious. Their statement maintains a deafening silence on the reactionary return-to-work policy; on war propaganda against China and the plans to rescue obscene banks agreed in the imperialist countries; or in terms of mass layoffs and austerity amid the economic collapse triggered by the pandemic. Instead, they launch a nationalist, retrospective attack on global supply chains that employ hundreds of millions of workers and transport food and medicine in billions around the world:
“COVID-19 is a pandemic of neoliberalism, a product of this globalized phase of capitalism. Capitalism, driven by neoliberal globalization, has spread its influence all over the planet. Global production chains, which allow companies to increase their profits, make each country vulnerable to the slightest crisis, and the hyper-mobility that supports them has eliminated all mechanisms of health and ecological security. A predatory relationship with nature, based on the use of fossil fuels and large capitalist agriculture, with its green deserts, destroys both the balance of the fundamental cycles of the earth system (carbon, water, nitrogen) and the relationship of human beings with the biosphere, with the fabric of life of which we are only a part. “
The claim that the COVID-19 pandemic is a punishment for globalization and for industry’s immoral relationship with nature is a lie. The SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus caused the pandemic, but the responsibility for its scope and impact lies with capitalist governments, especially in the imperialist centers of America and Europe. They did not quickly finance home housing policies, but gave thousands of billions of dollars and euros in bailouts to banks, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths and the further spread of the virus. The premature return to work will cause thousands of deaths.
International industry and science are not the cause of the pandemic, but the tools that the working class can use to fight it. International travel has increased considerably since the 1970s, and the emergence of transnational industrial production has been made possible by advances in computers, containers and transportation technologies. This accelerates the initial spread of disease. However, to conclude from this that globalization is causing pandemics is absurd. A highly contagious virus like SARS-CoV-2 would spread internationally, with or without modern travel and commerce. Coming back to the 1918 flu pandemic in the Middle Ages or even the Roman Empire, pandemics of smallpox, flu, cholera or plague spread internationally, killing millions of people.
Compared to these earlier eras, 21st century technology gives humanity amazing scientific and manufacturing capabilities to mobilize against a pandemic. Within weeks, international teams of scientists identified the SARS-CoV-2 virus, published its genome, and provided diagnostic tests for COVID-19. The modes of transmission have been identified. The globalization of the industry also means that dozens of countries can manufacture protective equipment, respirators and medicines that would previously have been difficult to mass produce outside the imperialist centers. Billions of workers legitimately expect and demand that these resources be mobilized to fight the pandemic.
By directly and urgently placing the task of using economic resources to meet social needs, the pandemic has tested the existing social order. Capitalism, which organizes the economy according to private profit instead of social needs, has failed miserably. It has been well known in governing circles for almost two decades since the 2002 SARS epidemic that such a pandemic was a danger. However, work on vaccines and treatments against coronaviruses was underfunded and largely abandoned. This year, even in wealthy countries, tests, respirators and protective gear were not ready for the people. Even masks were often unavailable, including for medical personnel on the front lines of combat.
Another major failure of capitalism is undoubtedly the fact that its development of the productive forces harms the environment. The agribusiness has been exposed to devastating exposures and the burning of fossil fuels to produce energy has triggered unprecedented global warming. However, these are global problems that require the international mobilization of scientific and industrial resources to produce healthy food, eliminate pollution and stop global warming. Such problems cannot be resolved by calls to go back to the pre-globalization era, to end large-scale agriculture or to limit economic trade at the borders of the nation state.
The force that can be mobilized to use world industry in a planned and scientifically guided manner is the international working class. By organizing themselves into action committees, independent of unions at their workplace and via social networks, they can not only ensure safety at work, but take control of the industry and use it to launch a struggle. global anti virus based not on profit, but on medical science. However, it does mean an international struggle to expropriate the financial aristocracy, take power from the state, and build socialism. It requires, in particular, a conscious political break with the reactionary strata of middle class academics, union officials and media professionals represented by EBFI.
EBFI’s ecosocialism is nothing but a green screen to hide its support for bank rescue and other right-wing ruling class policies. He says: “In this situation, the vast majority of governments have been forced to take extreme measures. We must defend measures that attack the form and substance of neoliberalism and the capitalist system. “Even as massive layoffs are being prepared, she denounces the industry:” The current crisis clearly shows that a large part of capitalist production is purely predatory, completely redundant and useless. He adds that “a massive industrial readjustment can be carried out in a relatively short time, depending on political will”.
These charlatans imply that the bailouts of capitalist states and the payment of unemployment insurance attack the substance of capitalism. They claim that the pandemic “shows that a significant reduction in working hours can produce essential goods and that guaranteed wages and incomes and universal access to health and education systems are fully viable in a system of transition, in which the energy and productive systems are completely replaced, and huge contingents of workers are moved to different economic sectors compatible with an ecosocialist transition… ”
What fraud. The pandemic has demonstrated not that the existing order is capable of progressive change, but its bankruptcy, its inhumanity and the need for its overthrow.
Far from ensuring universal access to health and well-being, capitalist governments have left millions of people at home without care, have refused life-saving treatment to the elderly based on barbaric age criteria and are now forcing workers return to work during the pandemic. In wealthy European countries, while billions of euros are spent on bank bailouts, workers survive on miserable benefits and millions go hungry or depend on charity in the inner cities. Internationally, a quarter of a billion people are at risk of starvation due to disruptions in world agriculture and trade, and hundreds of millions of workers are at risk of losing their jobs.
The pandemic revealed the ecosocialism of EBFI and a whole series of similar pseudo-left groups. He exploits ecological questions to repudiate class politics, socialism and Marxism. If it is still marketed fraudulently as an “anti-capitalist” strategy by petty-bourgeois anti-Marxist groups, it has nothing to do with left politics and even less socialist or workers politics.
EBFI’s political ancestors have broken with Trotskyism two thirds of a century ago and separated in 1953 with the International Committee of the Fourth International (CIQI). Led by Michel Pablo and Ernest Mandel, they demanded that the Fourth International be politically dissolved into Stalinist and bourgeois nationalist parties which had dominated the mass revolutionary movements of the 1940s against fascism or colonialism. Thanks to these parties – which had prevented the working class from taking power and thus preserved capitalist power in decisive parts of Europe, Africa and Asia after the Second World War – the Pabloites have adapted to the postwar capitalist configuration.
The rejection by the Pabloites of the power struggle of the working class earned them a membership among the petty-bourgeois strata of the youth movement of the 1960s that emerged in the anti-war movement of Vietnam and with the approach of the general French strike of 1968. The leading figures of the EBFI parties are largely members of this generation, recruited into the Pabloite movement on the basis of the policy of sexual, racial and ethnic identity. This perspective also led them to align themselves with petty-bourgeois anti-Marxist intellectuals developing various forms of green policy.
These conceptions were set out in a 1964 book, Workers’ strategy and neo-capitalism, by André Gorz. A Franco-Austrian postmodernist who, in 1980, published an attack on Marxism entitled Farewell to the proletariat, Gorz was a supporter of political ecology. He wrote that “from within the capitalist system” the left should make proposals “to radically transform society … with structural reforms”, as in environmental policy. While explicitly advocating reforms under capitalism, Gorz said that these were revolutionary, even socialist measures: “It is not necessarily reformist … to demand reforms not based on what is possible in a system social or management given, but on what must be made possible given human needs and requirements.
Gorz exposed a form of theoretically conscious political cynicism: while supporting capitalist domination, he put forward demands which he admitted were impracticable in this social order. He ambiguously called his theory “a progressive strategy for a seizure of power by the working class which does not exclude the possibility or perhaps the need for revolutionary seizure of power at a later stage”. This was Gorz’s way of signaling that he intended to relegate revolutionary takeover by the working class into the distant and undefined future. In practice, this meant a green light to various bourgeois or petty bourgeois parties to cover their reactionary policies by advancing radical demands without intending to fight for them.
After 1968, such corrupt writings provided theoretical justification for the alliances between Pabloite organizations and a group of newly founded bourgeois parties, such as the French Socialist Party, founded in 1971, the Panhellenic Socialist Movement of Greece (PASOK) founded in 1974, and the Workers’ Party of Brazil in 1974. 1980. These bourgeois parties promise radical, “socialist” or ecological policies to gain support and votes, then invariably betray these promises once in power. Supported by the Stalinist and Pabloite parties, they nevertheless played a prominent role in bourgeois politics for decades.
In the three decades since the Stalinist dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, however, the antagonism between the working class and this corrupt political order has become impossible to remove. The restoration of capitalism by Stalinism in the Soviet Union fully confirmed Leon Trotsky’s warnings about his counter-revolutionary role. Amid growing social anger and political disillusionment among workers internationally, the events also fully justified CIQI’s principled opposition to the pseudo-left policies of the Pabloite organizations.
At its founding congress in 2009, the NPA officially renounced even a symbolic link with Trotskyism and praised its already close and long-standing links with the PS. This removed the last ideological obstacle to the enthusiastic adoption of rightist policies by the NPA. François Sabado, a prominent member of the NPA, responded to the obscene bailouts of European banks in 2009 after the Wall Street crash, calling for increases: “According to Nobel Prize laureate Paul Krugman, Obama’s plan for a bailout of more than 5% of GDP does with half the likely impact of the recession. … To put it simply, European rescue plans are undersized: 1.3% of GDP in Great Britain, 1% in France, 0.8% in Germany, 0.1% in Italy. “
Sabado hailed the 2009 bailouts as “more state intervention in the economy, to save the banks, for concentration and industrial and financial restructuring.” This is a change from the free market policy on “less and less government” of Reagan and Thatcher. “
In fact, billions of dollars and euros given to the super-rich were a signal for an international assault on the working class of unprecedented ferocity. Internationally, the social democratic or nationalist parties with which the EBFI parties had allied collapsed amid growing workers’ outrage at their austerity policies. PASOK suffered an electoral disintegration into a small rump in 2015, followed by the French PS in 2017 and the Workers’ Party of Brazil was ousted from power in 2016 by a right-wing regime change operation, after its popularity collapsed.
Since then, the ruling class has increasingly integrated pseudo-left parties like those of Pabloite EBFI into the state machine to wage war and austerity against the workers. They supported the 2011 NATO war against Libya, the arming of “rebel” groups in Syria and the NATO-led regime change operation and the resulting civil war in Ukraine in 2014 In 2015, EBFI welcomed the election of its Greek ally, Syriza (the “Coalition of the Radical Left”), which imposed draconian social cuts and set up mass refugee detention camps. The EBFI parties are part of two austerity governments in Europe: Anticapitalistas joined the Podemos-Spanish Socialist Party government, while the RGA is part of the Danish government’s parliamentary coalition.
The role of EBFI in greeting and implementing right-wing policies is making it increasingly aware of its violent hostility to Marxism. One of the students won over to pablism in France after the general strike in 1968 was the Franco-Brazilian member of the NPA and co-author of a 2001 “ecosocialist manifesto”, Professor Michael Löwy. Asked about ecosocialism in a 2012 interview with the former Stalinist magazine Movements, Löwy replied: “Of course, ecosocialism is not in solidarity with the so-called socialisms of the twentieth century, social democracy and Stalinism. It also calls to question and criticize the limits of Marxism. “
Among what he saw as the “limits” of Marxism, Löwy stressed that it was his conception of a revolutionary crisis and the need for a socialist revolution arising from the growth of the productive forces of humanity: “The the most important limit is the concept of “development of the productive forces” and the idea that socialism must suppress capitalist relations of production because they have become “obstacles” or “chains” which block their development. Ecosocialism definitely breaks with this conception. “
Löwy added that his ecosocialism is closely linked to his support for “romantic anticapitalism”. He defined it as “a cultural protest against modern capitalist and industrial civilization in the name of certain values of the past.” Romanticism protests against mechanization, instrumental rationalization, reification, the dissolution of community ties and the quantification of social relations. “
The pandemic has revealed the historic bankruptcy of these retrograde and pessimistic policies of the pro-imperialist petty bourgeoisie. For decades, the risk of a pandemic, the threat of global warming and other pressing environmental issues had been well known, but little had been done; the cost in human lives of the COVID-19 pandemic alone could easily reach millions. In fact, environmental problems cannot be resolved without the international working class taking power for the first time in a struggle for socialism against the capitalist nation state system. To wage such a struggle, however, the developing movement in the international working class must be armed with a clear understanding of the class divide separating revolutionary Marxism from “ecosocialist” politics from the pseudo-left organizations of the middle class.
Already before the pandemic, an unprecedented worldwide wave of demonstrations and strikes against social inequality was unfolding. The year 2018 saw a massive teachers’ strike in a rebellion against the American union bureaucracy and France’s “yellow vest” demonstrations organized via social media. Last year saw the first national teachers’ strike in Poland since the Stalinist regime restored capitalism in 1989, strikes organized via social media by Portuguese nurses and mass demonstrations in Sudan, Algeria, Lebanon , Iraq, Ecuador, Bolivia, Chile and beyond. The era when the impact of the restoration of capitalism by the Stalinist regime in the Soviet Union was enough to suppress the international class struggle and the struggle for socialism is over.
Now, the return to work policy in the midst of the pandemic is creating the conditions for a new and powerful struggle mobilizing the working class internationally. In 2017, there were almost one billion workers in the industry alone. As masses of farmers across Asia and Africa traveled to cities to find work, the ranks of the working class increased by 1.2 billion between 1980 and 2010. The struggle to impose a plan rational and scientific against the pandemic unites the working class across race, national and gender lines in irreconcilable opposition to the financial aristocracy.
This puts the working class in increasingly direct conflict with the EBFI parties. They do not support but fear workers’ struggles – which is reflected in the fact that the French NPA initially denounced the “yellow vests” as “far-right crowds”. And so, when the EBFI declaration proposes a movement, it excludes the working class, any demand for action of any kind or any struggle to take political power. Instead, welcoming the initiatives of the “women, youth and environment movements”, he said:
“There are examples of these initiatives by the population or organized sectors, such as peasants, indigenous peoples, the unemployed and communities on the outskirts of big cities, feminist solidarity networks, among others. These initiatives forge very interesting alternatives, such as the collective manufacture of cloth masks to give to the population in order to ensure the prevention of contagion, the donation and alternative production of food, the defense of the public health system and demand universally accessible, the demand to guarantee labor rights and the payment of wages, the denunciation of the increase in the escalation of violence against women and the grueling work of care they perform during their home isolation, among others. “
Such policies – mobilizing farmer confederations, organizations based on racial or ethnic identity, and feminist groups, as working-class substitutes – are insufficient on their face to deal with the pandemic. Why should workers beg for charitable donations of “alternative” food when it is the working class that transports, works and markets food in the main industrial food chain? How can the bourgeoisie’s austerity campaign and its devastating impact on public health systems worldwide be ended only by local movements of peasant, indigenous and female groups? And why should people be satisfied with handmade cloth masks when safer and more effective masks and other protective equipment can be made more efficiently in factories?
If the political agents who run EBFI spoke honestly, they would respond: people should accept handmade masks so that factories can be left under the control of banks and the ruling class, and stock dividends can keep flowing into our own portfolios. If it costs millions of lives, they add, so be it.
The threat of a pandemic to billions of lives has revealed the irreconcilable conflict between the interests of workers and those represented by the petty-bourgeois petty-left. This conflict has been the basis of the CIQI’s defense in principle for decades of the traditions of the October Revolution and Trotskyism against organizations like the EBFI. The decisive question facing the international working class as it struggles is to secure its political independence from these middle class forces. Seeing workers build security committees, action committees and other wrestling organizations outside the grip of union bureaucracies, they will seek to intervene. However, it will be to divide the movement and link it to the capitalist nation state system. The revolutionary alternative for workers who seek to defend their lives, their living conditions and their organizations of struggle is the CIQI’s defense of Marxist internationalism against the pseudo-left.
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