In the last year, the economic, social and general political situation has been overdetermined by the Covid-19 pandemic. With a global reach, the disease has already infected 128 million people, with 1.8 million deaths in 2020, more than 2.7 million deaths between the beginning of the disease and end of March 2021 , resulting in an annual mortality rate higher than that caused in the last 15 years by previous infectious diseases such as HIV (1.7 million in 2004) or hepatitis B and C (1.3 million in 2015), or tuberculosis (1.4 million in 2019).
Covid-19 has had a meteoric effect on health worldwide, and a paralysing effect by hitting the engines of the world economy, blocking all the links in the production chains behind them. The pandemic exacerbates the multidimensional crisis of the capitalist system and has opened a moment of imbrication of long-term phenomena, which were developing relatively autonomously and which are converging in an explosive way: the ecological crisis, the crisis of the debt system, the crisis of legitimacy of a large part of the institutions of governance, whether in the North or the South of the planet, and at the international or national level, and the geopolitical struggle for hegemony between US imperialism and China. These are processes that appear and interact with each other, altering the world order inherited from the 1990s with the end of the East European bloc, the implosion of the USSR and capitalist restoration both in this part of the world and in China. This is undoubtedly a moment of bifurcation in the path of history and a major challenge for all political actors.
II. The great environmental challenge
Despite all the international conferences and agreements of the last decades, the processes of devastation of the conditions that make life possible on planet Earth, the accelerated reduction of biological diversity, the dynamics of deforestation, air, water and land pollution, overfishing and transgenic monocultures, continue to advance at an accelerated pace. There is very little time left to avoid not only catastrophic but irreversible transformations.
The drastic changes in production and consumption patterns are not being achieved, and the profound inequalities in access to the planet’s common goods have been sharpened. The capitalist race for maximum profits in the short term continues to prevail over the interests of life.
Although 2020 emissions were lower than in 2019, they are still much higher than the carbon sinks (land and sea) can absorb. It is estimated that around 45% of emissions end up in the atmosphere. The limits of the Paris agreement (1.5° C temperature increase) are still threatened and could be reached in the early 2030s without a profound change in the global economy and the metabolism of human society and the planet.
III. Capitalism in transition: platforms and surveillance
In addition to the above, there are the technological transformations of our time, which impose even more profound changes in the organization of production chains and in labour relations – which are increasingly digital and precarious. It is a picture we can call transition (accelerated by the pandemic) which has already been baptized platform and/or surveillance capitalism.
Fundamentally, these transformations are directed, oriented and controlled by the world’s major corporate and political powers, outside the democratic control of the population and fundamentally outside public debate.
There are three technological areas that represent today’s greatest threats to humanity: (1) military technology – these are issues such as a new generation of tactical nuclear weapons, which makes their use more likely, and drones equipped with autonomous capacity to decide when and whom to kill; (2) genetic engineering which, through the manipulation and appropriation of life, the privatization of seeds, is part of a global cultural war against peasant life and human food. This is a war aimed at controlling the production and commercialization of food across the planet. (3) the technologies of surveillance capitalism, alongside which Orwell’s 1984 dystopia seems a child’s game. The use of these surveillance systems has accelerated with the pandemic.
Digital surveillance, using mobile phone data, geolocation and movement tracking, facial identification linked to thermal scanners, surveillance of neighbourhoods using drones, the proliferation of private surveillance companies, are already omnipresent since 11 September 2001. The tracking of the virus is used as a pretext to generalize and trivialize surveillance systems that call democratic rights into question.
IV. Hegemonic transition and the USA-China conflict
We are in an increasingly militarized world. As the United States faces increasing competition for its full global hegemony, especially in the economic field, and recognizes China as a rising superpower that threatens its supremacy, it is taking increasingly aggressive stances towards China and Russia.
Steps are being taken in this direction with increasingly strained relations characterized by intense technological competition, an aggressive trade war and a very significant reorientation of both the Pentagon’s military doctrine, the war on terrorism of the Bush and Obama administrations, and the priorities of the military budgets. These geopolitical readjustments can hardly take place peacefully. The threat of a nuclear conflict is reappearing on the horizon.
At the same time, Xi Jinping in China and Putin in Russia are locking up their powers ever more tightly, both in an attempt to eradicate any internal opposition, to consolidate their domination over certain territories (Crimea, Hong Kong, Uighur Xinjiang), and to try to extend their sphere of military influence (Syria for Putin; China Sea, Horn of Africa, for Xi Jinping).
The strong position of China internationally has been reinforced by the pandemic since 2020. It is the country that has restarted most of its production system and has greatly improved its export performance. Thus, through the export of goods, as well as through material and medical aid, and recently the supply of vaccines, China is making a leap forward in its influence in Asia, Latin America and Africa in particular. In Asia, China is attempting to balance Trump’s “Indo-Pacific strategy” and its military manoeuvres by launching the RCEP (Comprehensive Regional Economic Partnership) between China and fourteen Asian countries and developing the Chinese navy.
The fragilities and contradictions of the EU were cruelly highlighted by the Covid, which affected it severely (the 500,000 dead mark was crossed at the beginning of February): the scale of the crisis, particularly in the southern peripheries, has broken many of the prohibitions in the Treaties (regarding the policy of the ECB or forms of solidarity) while bringing to the fore conflicts between member states on the question of competences (fiscal, health, etc.) that fall in the “community sphere” or that of the national governments and inter-governmental. The first year of the Covid thus revealed the EU’s inability to use its economic and financial resources to implement a common policy to protect its population from the pandemic. The ECB’s €1.85 billion debt buy-back under the Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme (PPEP) and the EU’s €750 billion under the temporary recovery instrument “Next Generation EU” (and a €14 billion increase in the EU budget per year) will be used exclusively to support banks and large companies in a context where export recovery will be weak and consumption largely constrained by the impoverishment of the working classes. In addition, EU aid and loans from Next Generation EU will be conditional on national plans in line with European neoliberal requirements A further phase is opening in the EU‘s crisis of legitimacy because the pandemic reposes the questions “who will pay for the crisis?”, and highlights the inefficiency and injustice of the current Treaties in the face of the urgent need for an egalitarian solidarity-based union of the peoples of Europe and of the rest of the world, struck by the same plagues.
V. The intercapitalist contradictions around a project for the world
The neoliberal project was a cosmopolitan utopia, a fantasy but with a promise for the future building on the myth of challenging of statism and bureaucratism to hide its social destruction. The capitalist sectors, such as the financial bourgeoisie and Silicon Valley, were and are heralds of the trilogy of liberal modernity: produce, consume and enrich.
This neo-liberal utopia obscured the anti-social and anti-democratic transformations of global commodification, radicalized and globalized after the 1990s, extending the logic of competition, privatization and entrepreneurship to all spheres of society. The neo-liberal utopia sought to hide the fact that the use of new technologies in the framework of globalized capitalism tends to destroy much of the pre-existing world of work, producing billions of victims. The fact that these negative dimensions were minimised in the social order for decades is precisely the expression of the hegemonic capacity of this globalizing project.
We have seen that the neoliberal offensive has inspired a variety of disparate political initiatives: Reagan and Thatcher, but also Clinton, Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Tony Blair, then Bush and Lula, and today Pedro Sánchez in Spain, Angela Merkel in Germany, Joe Biden in the USA and even Xi Jinping in China. Precisely because it has this worldwide horizon that neoliberalism was able – with even more force than the anti-democratic liberalism of the nineteenth century – to deconstruct the previous left. Social democracy, after its betrayal of internationalism at the beginning of the First World War, became an instrument of capitalist and imperialist domination; later, bureaucratic and Stalinist dictatorial regimes, with capitalist restoration, perpetuated brutal forms of coercion and exploitation; more recently, “progressive” Latin American regimes at the beginning of the 21st century remained within the capitalist framework by deepening a development model driven by exports, exploitation of natural resources and a low-wage policy to remain competitive even though they practised an “assistance” policy which in the first years reduced poverty.
Not being suicidal, several globalist sectors have flirted (also unevenly) for four decades with the discourses of sustainable development or green capitalism, without wanting, however, to bear the burden of an effective ecological transition – which, as we know, would require a gigantic use of capital and generate enormous conflicts. Given the weakness of left-wing alternatives, which today need to be feminist, anti-racist and eco-socialist to be effective and dynamic, the critique of globalism has been partly capitalized on by conservative nationalist (or traditionalist), usually xenophobic, racist and supremacist, neo-fascist or post-fascist political projects. They try to divert popular frustrations and revolts against social degradation to scapegoats, while the “globalists” claim to be “modernists” and seek support from feminist, LGBTQ and anti-racist currents.
Nevertheless, as soon as left-wing personalities or political forces put forward radical solutions to the multidimensional capitalist crisis and propose concrete solutions in terms of social justice and the promotion of the commons, it can be seen that these solutions meet with a very broad echo in the working classes and oppressed sectors, whether it be with Bernie Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez and “the squad” in the United States in 2019 and early 2020, or with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Manifesto in 2017-2018 in Britain, Syriza between 2010 and early 2015 in Greece, Podemos just after its creation in 2014 in Spain,… The problem then stems from their lack of consistency and/or their shift in adapting to the system.
“Globalist” alternatives increasingly reveal their anti-democratic character associated with their radical social attacks. At the same time, the only “universalist” dimension of the extreme right-wing alternatives is their xenophobic, especially islamophobic, planetary axis. Hate policies in the 21st century no longer simply take the form of defending some form of threatened community, but are also an expression of fear linked to manifestations of social Darwinism and a will for power that shapes a revolt against any universalist project. Today’s conservative nationalisms, in their great variety of forms, are revolts against globalization, revolts against modernity. The increasingly anti-environmental and misogynist character they acquire is exploited by globalist currents to present themselves as representatives of the struggle of civilization against barbarism, when they themselves are central actors in the destruction of social and environmental protections. It is therefore up to the (true) anti-systemic anti-capitalist alternatives, in their struggle against the pandemic and its interwoven crises, to offer an alternative of care, rights, life against these various forms of barbarism.
VI. Trump’s defeat: a major setback for the ultra-right
The result of the elections in the USA, still the hegemonic imperialism in the West, in which the distortions of the US electoral system and Trump’s 70 million votes weigh heavily, has meant a serious setback for the conservative, traditionalist and fascist project of the ultra-right all over the world. Nevertheless, this does not erase the general trend of the development of this ultra-right.
Despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, the November elections in the USA appear to have attracted the highest turnout since 2008. This high participation, resulting from the polarization expressed in the anti-racist uprising and the democratic militancy of hundreds of thousands, made it difficult for Trump to continue to challenge the result, and paved the way for Biden’s investiture. Trump’s defeat disturbs the momentum of the authoritarianism that is spreading throughout the world as in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, India, the Philippines, Nicaragua, Egypt, Brazil, Burma…
Trump and Trumpism (as well as Bolsonaro, Modi, Duterte et cetera) are part of a larger trend in which new forms of authoritarianism and anti-science, anti-Enlightenment and medieval millenarianist conspiracy theories are spreading in many countries. They express the mistrust of wide layers for the established institutions and are encouraged and manipulated by the forces of the extreme right. If there are no mass mobilizations and victories driven by the progressive forces, these ideas could continue to spread. Our task is to try to isolate these currents, to fight against them and to denounce them by all means, because they open the way to the most extreme authoritarianism.
It is clear that the Biden administration, like the Obama administration (2009-2017), will try to normalize international relations, especially with Europe, and counteract the progress of China with a policy to limit its decline. Moreover, the extreme right that mobilized strongly in the Republican Party in this election will remain very powerful while the social movements will have to strengthen their action.
VII. Economic, social and political impacts of the pandemic
VII.1. Brutal fall of activity.
The pandemic and the measures adopted to deal with it have triggered a deep depression in an economy that had not yet recovered from the crisis of 2008, although with the increasingly clear hegemony of the large information corporations – the Big Techs. In a seemingly contradictory way, the tremendous economic regression produces a financial bubble, particularly in the US, EU and Japan. Profits on stock exchanges and other financial markets do not, however, disguise the fact that we are living through the longest of the downward waves of global capitalism. So the pamdemic brings serious disruptions to value chains, which has led to lower profitability of capital – except in sectors that benefit directly from the pandemic, among which are the mega-communication, e-commerce and pharmaceutical companies.
The fall in economic activity has led to an overall decline in GDP of around 4,3% in 2020, the worst figure since the Great Depression and five times more intense than the 2008-2009 crisis. The present crisis also has the specificity of being synchronized throughout the world, accentuated by the international intertwining of value chains. It is no longer possible for one or another region or country to become complete detached from the trend of the central economies. And this element contributed in 2020 to a generalized fall in production and prices of raw materials, even if differences in quantity remain between continents and countries.
Only China has maintained growth, although in a much smaller proportion than in the last two decades (2.3%). In contrast, the US economy has shrunk by 3.5%, -4.8% in Japan, -6.8% in the euro zone, -7.8% in the UK, -8% in India, -8.5% in Mexico, -4.1% in Brazil, -3.1% in Russia and -1.2% in the “low-income countries”.
Although some recovery is expected in 2021, the United States and Europe will have a low increase in the coming years, leading to increased inequality and poverty. This is particularly true as the reduction of profit margins will lead the capitalists and governments to increase pressure on employment and wages and to implement austerity policies.
VII.2. Greater inequality and poverty.
The health and economic crises will lead to extreme poverty (that is less than $1.9/day of income) for another 150 million people in 2021, according to the World Bank (who will join the 2.8 billion who are already in poverty, or 36% of the world’s population). Of the 2 billion workers in the informal sector, 80% have been severely affected by the pandemic.
While the richest countries are hoarding vaccines for their populations – and refusing to relax the intellectual property protection rules of the pharmaceutical corporations for these vaccines, developed through massive public funding – many countries in the South will not have widespread access to vaccines until 2022, according to estimates by the People’s Vaccine Alliance.
Thus, the pandemic highlights with great violence the inequalities in access to health services, medicines, water, food and adequate housing. The populations most affected by the virus and partial or total lockdowns have been those living in the most precarious conditions (in areas where access to public health is scarce or non-existent) and those who are often the carriers of comorbid factors, poor health and malnutrition. They are often the same populations that have already suffered the loss of jobs and resources.
In most countries, the violence of the Covid pandemic is the result of years of reduced resources for health and social protection systems. The pandemic has generally exacerbated the violence of capitalist society, discrimination, violence against women, racist violence, precarious living conditions, the degradation and lack of transport and housing as well as food insecurity.
VII. 3. Growing public debt and central bank policies
The main central banks (Fed, ECB, Bank of England, Bank of Japan and Bank of China) have reacted in the same way. They have injected thousands of billions of dollars and euros into the economy to sustain the price of financial assets (public or private stocks and bonds) and to avoid bankruptcies and massive losses for the richest 1%, to an extent never seen before in the history of capitalism and far exceeding what they did after 2008.
All governments have temporarily abandoned the targets for reducing the budget deficit. However, so far no measures have been taken to tax the highest incomes and fortunes, no exceptional tax has been applied to companies that have benefited from the crisis (Big Pharma, Amazon, Google…).
The huge increase in public debt will be used in the coming years to justify the continuation of neo-liberal reforms of social protection systems, the labour code, privatizations and attacks on public services. It is essential to challenge the use of public debt for the benefit of big business and to demand the cancellation of illegitimate public debts, starting with the suspension of payments.
VII.4. Pretext for state authoritarianism:
Many countries have seen in 2020 the introduction of authoritarian measures, states of emergency, curfews, travel restrictions, not to mention the great “advances” in control of the population thanks to new technologies. Dozens of governments have made use of the maximum number of emergency measures, taken in the name of health risks. In particular, the pandemic provided an opportunity for the most reactionary of them to strengthen their grip on all institutional mechanisms by giving governments and presidents exceptional powers, allowing them to further ossify the prerogatives of the legislative and judicial powers and above all to further limit civil liberties.
These measures have coincided with the maintenance of many authoritarian governments, in Brazil, India, the Philippines, Poland, Turkey, Egypt and Israel, among others – with all the differences in the degree of progress of the far right over the regimes in the different states.
In the Philippines, the fight against Covid has increased pressure from the police and army, with Duterte’s order to “shoot to kill” those who do not respect lockdown, attacking the freedom of the press and threatening the reintroduction of martial law. Many countries have taken advantage of the context of the pandemic to strengthen a legislative arsenal that limits democratic rights and individual freedoms. Like Duterte, Viktor Orban used the pandemic to pass a law giving him full powers and there too attacked the right of the press. In Myanmar, the Burmese Army organized on 1 February 2021 a putsch to strengthen their power, a “preventive coup” in the face of a political situation that has grown out of control. In the face of extraordinary popular resistance, the army systematically used firearms and killed over 500 demonstrators in two months.
In Poland, the government took direct control of the first news channel. Putin amended the constitution so that he could remain president until 2036. Around the world, in dozens of countries, emergency press laws have served as a foothold to curb criticism of the management of the pandemic, with hundreds of journalists prosecuted or imprisoned. Many supposedly democratic governments have followed the same security path, adding new undemocratic provisions to those adopted in the name of the fight against terrorism or drug trafficking.
VIII. Pandemics and climate change: towards new social disasters
Covid-19 is a zoonosis, like other previous viruses. It is to be expected that the same causes that caused the passage of this virus to humans will have identical consequences in the years to come. In addition, the effects of climate change will multiply in the coming years, with catastrophic results for many populations.
Between 1980 and 2000, 100 million hectares of forest were destroyed in Latin America, Africa and Asia. Wetlands, already in sharp decline since the beginning of the 20th century, were reduced by 35% between 1970 and 2015, while more than a billion people depend on them for their livelihoods. These changes cause wild animal species carrying pathogens previously isolated from humans to migrate and come into contact with rural populations, leading to the development of zoonoses.
Beyond the damage of deforestation, climate change is changing our natural environment through lack of water and extreme weather events and disrupting ecosystems. It will thus promote the emergence of new epidemics, in connection with increased flows of human and commercial movements and changes in land use. Pathogen-carrying mosquitoes are moving to formerly temperate areas. So are ticks carrying Lyme disease. Permafrost could disappear by 70% by 2100. In addition to the massive release of methane, this meltdown allows viruses and bacteria to re-emerge from previously buried plant and animal material.
Globalization multiplies the risks of ecological catastrophes, zoonoses and their rapid spread on a world scale, and it is confirmed that the living and housing conditions of the working classes, the policies of heavy cuts in social budgets will worsen the epidemic risks for these classes and all the socially vulnerable sectors, such as peasants, immigrants, racialized populations, native peoples.
All this reinforces the need to strengthen, build social movements and mobilizations of resistance and defence of the living conditions of the working classes and the oppressed, and the struggles against social injustice and discrimination because, once again, the popular classes would be the first victims of these new pandemics.
IX. Resistances did not stop
The year 2019 saw massive uprisings in various parts of the world, particularly in Africa (Sudan, Algeria and Libya against dictatorial regimes), in the Middle East (such as Lebanon, Iraq and Iran), in Central and South America (Puerto Rico, Honduras, Costa Rica, Panama, Haiti, Ecuador, Chile, Colombia and Bolivia), but also in Asian countries such as Indonesia and Kazakhstan and even little Malta in Europe. According to the alternative website Mediapart, there were mobilizations in 32 countries that year. In general, they were explosions for economic and democratic reasons (“L’atlas planétaire des colères populares”, Mediapart.fr, 24/11/2019, Donatien Huet).
If we add to them the protests of women’s movements in Latin America and Europe and the globalized mobilization of youth around the climate changes, as well as the democratic resistance in Hong Kong and the social struggles in France, we probably have one of the periods of greatest and most popular mobilizations since 1968. The mobilizations already indicated the emergence of a progressive counterpoint to the post-2016 world scenario, when the right-wing projects began to multiply and expand due to the Brexit and Trump victories. In 2019 strong anti-neoliberal movements started to emerge and combine democratic and anti-authoritarian struggles, sometimes putting tyrannical regimes in check.
To this wave of resistance, the pandemic imposed a relative pause. But at the same time, the pandemic highlighted the disastrous consequences of capitalist globalization, deforestation, the disastrous record of social policies, the impasses of governments that favoured capitalist profit over the welfare of the people. The pandemic also highlighted the precariousness experienced by a large part of the world’s population who suffer from social inequalities and discrimination, mainly women and racialized workers.
So the struggles that emerged during the pandemic, beyond specific issues such as safe working conditions, police violence, increased resources for health services or the right to abortion, also had as a common denominator democratic, anti-racist demands, rejection of corrupt regimes and rejection of the limitation of social rights – in continuity with the wave that had begun previously. In this new stage we must highlight:
- Workplace struggles among essential workers, particularly in the health and education sectors, in protest against their unsafe working conditions, developed from the first wave in March/April 2020. The precariousness of certain sectors (in commerce and distribution) also led to strikes, such as in warehouses of Amazon.com and many food factories in the United States.
- Despite the growing pandemic, on 8 March 2020 there were massive mobilizations of women around issues that had already been raised in recent years, including male violence (feminicide, abuse and harassment of all kinds), which was highlighted by the experience of lockdowns. Feminist groups mobilised in support of the strongly feminized sectors of key workers in struggle and in solidarity with the anti-racist and anti-police violence movements, in which women also played a prominent role. The movement in Poland against restrictions on the right to abortion grew over into a challenge to the political system based on the compromise between the government parties and the Catholic Church, and for a democratic regime. At the end of the year, the movement in Argentina once again mobilized to support parliamentary measures to legalize abortion. In Namibia, protests against gender-based violence and femicide took to the streets in October.
- As the restrictions put in place during the “first wave” began to be lifted, the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement in the USA were echoed in protests against racism and police violence around the world. The movement for migrants’ rights against police violence and then against the new repressive laws took hold in France.
- In the third quarter, a broad democratic movement emerged in Thailand challenging the monarchy. In Belarus a mass movement developed that challenged the undemocratic re-election of authoritarian President Lukashenko.
- Different waves of mobilization have swept India: against the neoliberal and racist policies of the Modi government, especially around the citizenship amendment law, a general strike on November 26 and a huge mobilization of farmers shaking the north of India and Delhi, the national capital. The movement has continued for months and won a partial victory in February 2021.
- In Greece, the left managed to organize a huge anti-fascist demonstration on 7 October 2020, which resulted in the condemnation of the neo-Nazi party “Golden Dawn” as a criminal organization. Big united mobilizations against repression with strong participation from young people occurred in February-March 2021.
- In Mauritius there was a popular mobilization against pollution and to protect biodiversity following the sinking of an oil tanker off the coast.
- Despite specific repression, Hong Kong’s pro-democracy movement continued throughout 2020, as did the movement in Lebanon against government policies. In July, in Mali, mass mobilizations succeeded in provoking the fall of the neo-liberal president. In Tanzania, Guinea and the Ivory Coast, there was popular mobilization against electoral fraud.
- In Nigeria there was a broad popular mobilization against the police violence in October in the #Stop SARS movement, which is mainly led by young people, as well as the youth demonstrations in Angola against unemployment, corruption and social injustices, and the movement in Iraq, where, since the beginning of October 2019, a non-denominational, inter-urban youth movement, regardless of party and militia affiliations, has presented demands of a political nature (denouncing corruption in the ruling class) and social reforms (for social justice and against poverty) and against the presence of foreign forces (Iran and the United States). In Hungary there was a student mobilization against the privatization of higher education.
- In Latin America, the great struggles experienced in 1919 and 2020 led to important electoral victories. In Chile, the October-November 2019 anti-reform movement, led by organized women, achieved a historic victory in the plebiscite for a new constitution one year later. Bolivian peasants and workers resisted hard, with many deaths, to the repressive manoeuvres of the coup government of Añez and returned power to the MAS, in the October elections – after a deep popular uprising three months before to avoid further postponements of the electoral consultation. In Puerto Rico, a new political movement – the Movement for Citizen’s Victory (MVC), born out of the democratic demonstrations in 2019 – emerged strongly in the October elections. In Peru, in November, big mobilizations of young people against the current political system demanded the departure of a coup leader and demanded changes in the neoliberal based constitution. In Guatemala, a popular uprising rejected the proposed budget for 2021 and demanded the resignation of the president. Even in the least developed countries in the process, such as Colombia, there have been mobilizations (a general strike with peasant support) and victories (such as Uribe’s prison), with possibilities of recomposition of the left and the opposition to Uribism.
- In Myanmar, the people in resistance have been confronting the bloody repression organised by the army since the beginning of February 2021 with extraordinary courage. Sectors of the industrial working class are actively participating, especially in Chinese companies, while the Chinese government is supporting the military putschists.
X. The great challenges to the new workers’ and people’s movements
Many governments have had to abandon temporarily the dogmas of neoliberalism, and state interventions have partly eclipsed the “free hand of the market” in managing health emergencies. The indispensable role in society of workers has been highlighted, especially those in the “frontline”, in health and social services, transport, logistics, food, education. This account of economic and social issues, but also of the collective solidarity expressed in the working class neighbourhoods, reinforces the idea that the world after Covid 19 must not resemble the previous one. That life, health, housing, the basic needs of the population must guide life in society and organize the economy, in contrast to a system where capitalists’ interests are at the top of the agenda.
There have also been strong democratic demands, the desire for the working classes not to suffer from the pandemic and the mandates of the state, but to organize themselves to manage the situation in workplaces, neighbourhoods and localities. There has also been a frequent rejection of police violence, press censorship, racial and xenophobic discrimination, gender violence, multiplied by lockdowns.
Thus, objectively, the pandemic has created a common denominator for social mobilizations: capitalism and all the consequences of this system when the world is faced with a pandemic. However, the political changes in most countries do not reflect a greater readiness of governments to challenge neoliberal dogmas.
We revolutionaries must redouble our efforts to take initiatives aimed at the convergence of struggles (in all types of unity of action and even broad fronts for punctual purposes); to encourage self-organization from the bottom – worker, popular, feminist, anti-racist, environmentalist, community – and all possible transversal bodies; to convince movements of the importance of international solidarity and organization to be stronger; to encourage the widest programmatic unity of the anti-systemic forces; to elaborate together with the movements flags of democratic, ecological, social and sectorial struggle increasingly confronting capitalism and its governments, in order, in this work, to convince people of the need for a radical break with the racist, patriarchal and predatory capitalist system.
There are two major dangers for popular movements: (1) the advance of conspiracy theories, which favours either social passivity, diverts anti-capitalist demands and promotes change towards the extreme right; (2) the application by governments and capitalists of the “shock strategy” on the basis of Covid 19, not only with the lasting implementation of authoritarian solutions and the suppression of democratic freedoms, but also with ultraliberal reforms.
All this reinforces the need to take the offensive, building on the social movements of recent months, to coordinate the actors and leaders of these movements, in order to advance in emergency anti-capitalist responses that cover all urgent social, democratic, feminist, environmental, anti-racist and anti-discrimination fights. In the same movement, this context reinforces the need for social and political forces fighting for the revolutionary transformation of society to build common fronts, convergences that clearly promote a socialist and revolutionary alternative.
The extreme level of the multidimensional crisis of capitalism justifies more than ever the need for the expropriation of capitalists starting with the following sectors: health (including Big Pharma), energy, finance and agriculture. The crisis puts the need for citizen-controlled socialist planning back on the agenda. The crisis in the legitimacy of governance also makes it necessary to highlight the need to open up constituent processes to radically change the political and legal structure of society.
XI. Confronting the multidimensional crisis of the globalized capitalist system, rebuilding a revolutionary internationalist, feminist and ecosocialist left
The social protests of the last two years have shown, through their level of radicalization and politicization, a willingness to challenge the established order. The strong participation of young people, of racialized populations, the marked presence of young women who exercise a leadership role in the mobilizations prove that the new generations provide a considerable source of radicality, diversity, dynamism and renewal of the structures of the movements.
However, the larger and more extensive the struggles, the greater the gap between the dynamism of the mobilizations and the weakness of alternative political responses. The multiple mass struggles of the last few years have not seen the emergence or consolidation on a large scale of new organized anti-capitalist forces, nor have they yet led to the creation of new political tools capable of strengthening these movements.
The missing element today is the emergence of an alternative embodying an authentic radicality and playing a political role similar to that which emerged at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century – enriched by the accumulated experiences, and by the great struggles for emancipation and environmental justice at work today.
For this to happen, initiatives are needed to advance class consciousness and to build political fronts based on the whole range of social struggles against all forms of exploitation and oppression, capable of defeating neoliberal policies, fighting the extreme right and overcoming the institutional left.
As a positive element for progress in this direction, it is necessary to underline the high level of social conflictivity that is building up in the pressure cooker of the multiple restrictions of movement and freedoms enacted by governments in a large number of countries faced with the coronavirus pandemic. Political action must adapt to the new scenario.
The contribution of our International to the emergence of such a radical alternative will be made in a pluralist, democratic way and in insertion in the struggles articulated at the different territorial levels. It will be a matter of creating a “transitional dynamic” based on mobilizations on fundamental issues from the local to the planetary level, including the national level. It is a question of encouraging mass self-organization in order to defend what has been obtained in the past and to conquer new social and environmental rights against all relations of domination and the institutions that perpetuate them. Each partial struggle, if it is not diverted towards a “realistic” acceptance of injustices, will be able to give confidence, stimulate the imagination, and contribute to the transformation of power relations at all levels.
As the Fourth International, we are taking initiatives to debate and elaborate programmatic responses to the challenges of the current phase of the systemic crisis of the capitalist system with all the protagonists active in these struggles. This should allow us both to solidify our own proposals and to encourage the convergences necessary to advance in a revolutionary perspective.