AS THE year ends, we should reflect on major global political and economic trends and prepare ourselves for the struggles ahead. The covid pandemic is entering its third year and the evidence of climate change continues to grow. Huge wildfires, floods and droughts were frequent events in 2021.
These twin crises are challenges that capitalism, in its imperialist epoch, cannot meet. It remains a system of competing nation states, among which a tiny robber handful exploit the resources of the great majority of humanity on six continents. Intense rivalry between the great powers hinders cooperation, even when it is in their own interests, while the global south is left to suffer.
None of the big economies wants to be the last to open up after Covid. All of them want to profit from ‘their’ corporations’ vaccines and antiviral drugs, rather than pool their resources to rid the planet of the virus. As a result, covid has been left to ravage Africa, Latin America and large swathes of Asia, mutating and producing more deadly strains, which come back to reinfect the imperialist centres.
Likewise the regions of the world which are suffering most from climate catastrophe were denied substantial rescue packages by COP26 in Glasgow. It ended in bickering over the transition away from fossil fuels. None of the great powers was willing to ‘sacrifice’ economic recovery, while their rivals gained temporary advantages by continuing to burn coal, gas and oil.
The coming year will add a third horsemen of the apocalypse: economic stagnation and rising inflation. The economic recovery, induced by the ending of lockdowns during 2021, is already faltering, due to dislocation of global supply lines, dampening of demand among consumers and rising prices for commodities, especially energy.
‘Stagflation’ – the lethal combination of rocketing prices and anaemic growth, last seen in the 1970s, will be used by the bosses to erode wages and pensions, while passing the rising costs of production onto consumers. It also piles pressure on international trade, which tends to break down in a welter of tariffs, sanctions and protectionist measures.
Politics is concentrated economics and the continuation of politics is war – the fourth horseman of our apocalypse. Civil wars in Ethiopia, Yemen, jihadist insurrections, the US exit from Afghanistan and other conflicts add to terrible famine and create waves of refugees, who are then heartlessly denied asylum on the borders of Poland and in the Channel.
Two rival imperialist camps are lining up – one led by China and Russia, the other by America and Europe, both with proxies and allies in the global south. Here too revolutionaries will have to be internationalists, refusing to back either ‘camp’, while outlining an independent strategy for the international working class and the oppressed.
World working class
In Britain these rising tensions are all being felt. As we predicted, Boris Johnson’s Brexit government is stirring up nationalist fears over immigration and promoting irrational movements against further lockdowns. He is now seeking to hitch the UK to the chariot of a diminished USA trying to reassert its global domination. The AUKUS pact to build nuclear submarines will embroil Britain ever further in a future Asia-Pacific battleground.
The Corbyn movement failed, over five years, to lead Labour members to oust the PLP right and was instead ousted itself when it lost the 2019 election. Left reformism failed to provide a guide to action for the working class outside of the illusory hope of a left Labour government. It was replaced in the final month of 2021 by the most Blairite shadow cabinet in a decade, fully committed to defending Britain’s place in the imperialist world order at the expense of the working class.
But the working class is finding a way to fight back, be it in the independent unions battling against precariousness forced upon it by the gig economy, in the mainstream unions by cutting funding to the Labour Party and focusing on sustained industrial action in defence of wages or in new movements among women, black and minority ethnic people and students.
These movements will need to wage battle also against the limitations laid down by their reformist leaders in the shape of anti-union laws, sectoral divisions and more generally by keeping their demands to what capitalism can afford. They will need to throw up new leaders and new organisations – strike committees, councils of action, new women’s, youth, and black liberation networks.
But most of all, workers will need to reach out to their sisters and brothers across the world in cross-border strikes, solidarity with migrants, and support for revolutionary movements in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. There is no purely national path out of these crises, and certainly no British road to socialism.
In 2022, above all else, revolutionaries must redouble our efforts to build a new world party of socialist revolution, a Fifth International. If we can do this, the opportunities thrown up by a world in turmoil can be grasped and used to strengthen capitalism’s greatest enemy, its gravedigger, the global working class, whose historic mission is to lead behind it all the world’s downtrodden to smash the capitalist system and open the way to a communist future.