FOR THE REFOUNDATION OF THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL
Sao Paulo, Brazil
7 November 1997
World capitalism finds itself today at an extraordinary impasse. During the last weeks the generalization of the international financial crisis has destroyed the idea that so-called "neoliberalism" would be capable of solving the contradictions of capitalism for a long historical period. The collapse of the (degenerated) workers' states of the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe had injected into the capitalists a great dose of confidence, which was the political basis for the uncontrolled financial speculation of the last years. The worse and worse crashes of the stock markets, the flight of capital, and the political crises that derive from this clearly show the illusory basis of the whole process. In only one decade, "victorious neoliberalism" has exhausted its possibilities and is incapable of realizing its promises of peaceful and progressive capitalist development.
This crisis is rooted in the nature of capitalism and its period of irreversible historical decline. The misnamed "thirty glorious years" actually expanded the parasitic basis of finance capital and exacerbated the uneven development of its international system, which had already led it to two world wars. In the midst of the crisis, capital tried to escape its mortal contradiction by means of "globalization." This led to the virtual elimination of a series of national economies, from then on linked to the dollar, the international reserve currency.
The typical characteristics of imperialism -- exacerbated uneven development and the oppression of backward countries -- have led to paroxysm. Speculation and monstrous debt reveal the contradiction between the dominant position of the US in the world and the world economy itself. The crisis of overproduction worsens international competition, leading to devaluations, one after another, which explode the "magic of dollarization." In the framework of "globalization" one can see the clear tendency toward the fragmentation of the world market, exacerbated by interimperialist rivalry.
The generalization of the financial crisis reveals the purely speculative basis of the current process. The devaluations of currencies and capital challenge the privatization programs in the capitalist states, the backward countries, and the former "socialist countries." The crisis of the stock markets and the flight of capital cause the loss in only a few hours of all that was accumulated in years of privatization and spoliation. The perspective is of economic deflation and depression in the long run. The collapse of the Albanian "pyramid" was only the first signal of the collapse of the Wall Street pyramid.
World capitalism lacks a progressive, stable way out, even in the short run. Under pressure, it can only shift the burden of its contradictions to the backs of the workers -- through unemployment, labor "flexibility," wage cuts, and cuts in public services and social expenditures -- without managing thereby to find a way out of its crisis.
The capitalist decomposition reveals the actuality of world proletarian revolution. For workers' resistance, the period of partial or short-term solutions is past. Only international action of the workers' organizations against unemployment and superexploitation opens a realistic perspective. The reorganization of world economy on a new social basis is posed not only as an historical necessity but also as an immediate one.
The destruction of the bureaucratically deformed workers' states hypothetically might allow the imperialists to go far toward stabilizing their system by completing the restoration of capitalism in these countries and converting them into superexploited semicolonies. But there are insuperable obstacles to this, as there are to the other hypothetical elements of imperialist restabilization: "restructuring" in the advanced capitalist countries, neoliberal penetration of the semicolonies, attenuation of interimperialist rivalries through global agreements on the free flow of goods and capital, and exploitation of the technological advances of the last 25 years.
The imperialists would like to complete the process of capitalist restoration by converting the former workers' states into semicolonies. But they do not have the economic or political-military means to do so, apart from the more advanced Eastern European countries.
The old and new elites of the former workers' states would like to complete the process of capitalist restoration by converting themselves into a financial oligarchy atop new imperialist states.
The perspective for the former Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, China, and the rest of the former workers' states is one of deepening crisis and increasing worker resistance, as the process of capitalist restoration continues.
While assessments may differ as to how far the process of capitalist restoration has gone in these countries, it is clear that in most of them -- certainly in the former Soviet Union and China -- the process cannot be completed peacefully. Realizing the ambitions of either the imperialists or the rising capitalist classes in these countries would require violence on a terrible scale -- military dictatorship, fascism, national conflicts, and war.
The imperialists had hoped that capitalist restoration in the former workers' states could help restabilize their system. But the Stalinist regimes of these states were an important element in the equilibrium established after the second world war. Their destruction has had and will have a profoundly destabilizing effect on world capitalism.
The whole period of neoliberal attacks in the 1980s and 1990s is closed with the total economic and political failure of neoliberalism. As a result, a series of right-wing neoliberal governments have fallen, including Thatcherism in Britain, which initiated the neoliberal offensive internationally.
All forms of political domination by capital face deep crisis. The old bureaucratic ways of mediating the contradictions between capital and labor through reformist and/or Stalinist intermediaries have collapsed. The bankruptcy of Stalinism after 1989 is irreversible. Social democracy, as well, is disintegrating politically, as the material basis for Keynesian policies and reformist concessions has been destroyed by the crisis.
Out of this historical impasse of capitalism and the inability of the bureaucracies to fulfill their role in the old ways, capitalism turns to new forms of political control of the masses. Class collaboration again is vital for its ends. It is mobilized in new combinations of the "popular front" type under the misleading name of a "center-left" coalition.
This center-left is very different from the political blocs operating with the same name in the postwar period. Then their maneuvers were based on Keynesian measures and concessions. Now there is no Keynesianism or reformism, but the most brutal measures of neoliberalism, which must be imposed on the masses by governments of their own political representatives.
These new poplar fronts of class collaboration have also another qualitative difference with the popular fronts of the past. Then they were connected in one way or another with the Stalinist bureaucracy of the USSR, and they usurped the prestige of the October Revolution to tie the working class to the bourgeois order and crush its revolutionary aspirations.
After the fall of the Berlin wall, the implosion of the Soviet Union, and the open turn of the Stalinist bureaucracies to capitalist restoration, the new "center-left" popular fronts not only have no connection or reference to the October Revolution, but, on the contrary, they organize their betrayals in the name of the "failure of the October Revolution and communism," of "the closing of the historical cycle opened in 1917," etc.
In this ideological effort, they have the direct help not only of imperialism and of the restorationist-bureaucratic forces, but also of demoralized elements of the former "far left" in the capitalist world, moving rapidly to the right.
"Pure democracy," as a fraudulent alternative to the so-called "failure of communism," becomes a rallying cry of counterrevolution. The goal of the bourgeois proponents of democracy is not a supra-class democratic ideal, but to paralyze the working class, to undermine popular resistance, to impose the neoliberal counterrevolution against the living standards and social rights of the working masses.
The popular front of today, in contradistinction to the past, is an openly anticommunist "social-neoliberal" agency of imperialism.
As neoliberalism itself has failed to confront the economic crisis, so the center-left popular front is condemned to failure as well. The crucial question is if it will be defeated by the socialist revolution, or extreme right-wing and fascist-like forces will take advantage of its bankruptcy.
It is urgent for the international working class in this new world situation to arm itself with a revolutionary organization, strategy, program, and theory on a world scale. The challenge on the eve of the millennium in the new world historical conditions can be met only by a workers' revolutionary International.
Such an International can be built only on the continuity of the October Revolution and revolutionary Marxism. That is, it can be only the Fourth International, incorporating all the experiences of this century.
Fighting to supersede the past in a dramatically new world situation, we call for an international campaign throughout the world working-class movement for an international conference to discuss the immediate refounding of the Fourth International.