We say that for workers to live, capitalism must die!

To End Capital’s Terminal Crisis We Must Solve the Crisis of Revolutionary Leadership!

This international workers day, revolutionary workers have to confront the question: can we workers organise as a class conscious vanguard and make a revolution in time to end the terminal crisis of capital and prevent the destruction of humanity? We are talking about 10 years. If there is no global revolution in that time we are facing the extinction of humanity. That is what terminal crisis means. The self-destruction of capitalism would be a dystopia, but there is no coming back from extinction. Facing chronic falling profits,(1) climate collapse,(2) and out-of-control pandemics, (3) capitalism cannot save itself from its death drive and threatens to take down humanity with it. We have no choice but socialism or extinction. For workers, and humanity, to survive and live fully in harmony with nature, capitalism has to be overthrown by an international socialist revolution and replaced by a world socialist society.

For workers everywhere, facing intolerable economic suffering, a climate meltdown,  the pandemic raging from mutation to mutation, the disruption of the atmosphere which brings destruction of crops, loss of jobs and lives, we are already facing a mounting life or death crisis. In response many workers and farmers are resisting and fighting back for life and liberty. In every continent the masses are stirring and marching on the streets for democracy – in Syria after a genocidal war the masses still fill the streets marching against Assad. In Myanmar, youth and tribal militias unite to oppose the military regime. In China there are rebellions in Hong Kong and in Uyghur Xinjiang against the Maoist dictatorship. In India, three months of the farmers uprising against the Modi fascist regime now converges with the second wave of Covid mutations.  In Palestine, China, US, South Africa, India, Chile, to name just some, the state forces are stepping up their bloody repression.

These are class struggles for basic bourgeois democratic rights in response to the crackdown by the capitalist ruling classes against workers to squeeze the last ounce of surplus value out of them to restore stagnant profits. Workers who face poverty and death are risking their lives on the streets because they have nothing to lose. But these struggles are still isolated nationally and internationally. If we look at their demands, they are defensive in nature opposing capital stripping them of all their past gains. Their perspective is immediate survival, with no realisation that this is not possible short of revolution. They are held back by a reformist, treacherous left leadership that deflects their struggles away from uniting and mobilising the world working class to that of begging their bourgeois regimes to make reforms.

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Such defensive struggles are the necessary first spontaneous steps as the proletariat stands up to resist capital’s demands. Communists call for the building of united fronts of all oppressed people to strengthen and broaden the struggles nationally and internationally. Yet this international solidarity falls far short of real international class unity. It operates at the level of class-in-itself rather than class-for-itself. Class-in-itself means workers unite at the level of defending the share of wages against profits in the capitalist economy. Lenin called the conception of class struggle over the distribution of income “trade union” consciousness. It means that workers’ struggles are limited to defending their income share without the knowledge that they create all the value and therefore all income! Yet they cannot challenge the underlying cause of a widening gap between wages and profits unless they become a “class-for-itself,” conscious of its role as the producers of value. That is, conscious as a class of the underlying exploitation of workers in the sphere of production under fire from capital to pump out every last ounce of surplus value. Short of being a “class-for-itself” the weight of bourgeois ideology hanging around workers’ necks is reinforced by the reformist leaderships in the unions and parliaments who engineer opportunist political betrayals. (4)

So even while, objectively, inevitably, global capitalism is facing its terminal crisis, this recognition does not automatically awaken workers’ class consciousness to the need for socialist revolution. It follows that workers do not see the crisis of revolutionary leadership as a life and death question. But the facts dictate that we must throw out the rotten, reformist leaderships of our class and create a new leadership that unites the class conscious workers internationally as a class-for-itself.  Such is the precondition for socialist revolution. Therefore, revolutionaries must explain on every occasion why in this period of capital’s terminal crisis, the treacherous leaderships have retreated further from revolution to counter-revolution. Why have they redoubled their efforts to act as the allies and lackeys of the ruling class, trapping workers in a “class-in-itself” reformist consciousness?

Who are the treacherous reformist currents

The main reformist currents heading workers movements today owe their origin to the early 20th century Social Democratic and Menshevik parties that played a reactionary role against the Bolshevik leadership of the Russian revolution. They opposed socialist revolution arguing it was premature as capitalism hadn’t created the conditions for socialism in Russia. They acted as part of the counter-revolutionary wave that drove the revolution backwards into the Stalinist bureaucracy and into international defeat by fascism in the 1920s and 1930s. Today they are born-again Mensheviks with a program of immediate demands that does not mention the need to overthrow capitalism because they propose to take it over and manage capitalism themselves in the name of ‘socialism’.

The currents that originated in Menshevism-Stalinism and which continue to play a counter-revolutionary role today are the Castroists, (5) Maoists, (6) anarchists, (7) and Bolivarians. (8) Castroists and Maoists derive directly from Stalinism. Anarchists are hostile to the communist tradition and talk about smashing the state but then act up to join it.  The Bolivarians integrate the Castroists and Maoists, along with a new batch of Mensheviks – the ex-Trotskyists who have broken from Trotsky’s permanent revolution. (9)  So despite their differences in branding they are a tag team representing petty bourgeois and bureaucratic layers in the working class and peasantry who serve as the agents of capital. Their minimum program consists of bourgeois reforms that benefit their class interests, mobilising workers to march on the streets into the dead end of parliament, and treat the working class as no more than film extras in their social media scenarios.

Of all these currents, the Bolivarians are the major barrier to the development of working class consciousness today because they provide a home for all the class traitors. Chavez even gave it a name “The Fifth International”. They pay lip service to a Marxism that Marx would not recognise. Their ‘imperialism of fools’ keeps alive the cold-war cheerleading for Russia and ‘communist’ China against ‘imperialism’. China and Russia are painted as the leaders of the “anti-imperialist united front” because they are characterised as ‘market-socialist’, semi-colonial, sub-imperialist even, but never imperialist states. This allows them to apply the Menshevik-Stalinist method of the popular front that strangles the rise of independent workers struggles on a global scale, preparing the ground for capital’s final solution – fascism.

Facing the terminal crisis, the China-Russia led global popular front traps workers in the reformist, opportunist, politics of class-in-itself in the name of national roads to socialism. To imagine that China or Russia has any claim to be a ‘socialist’ or  ‘workers’ state’, or even a semi-colony, thereby qualifying as ‘anti-imperialist’ is deluded. Clearly none of these can account for, in China’s case, GDP growth at an average of 10% for twenty years. Lenin’s theory of imperialism allows us to show that both Russia and China  are today restored capitalist states, driven by the law of value, and producing over-accumulated capital that must be exported across the world to extract super-profits from their newly recruited semi-colonies – that is, as new imperialist states!

Such a transition to imperialism by former degenerated or deformed workers’ states in a time of capital’s decline and decay has to be explained by applying Leninist-Trotskyist theory.  We argue, following Trotsky, that the restoration of capitalism was managed by the former bureaucratic caste in control of the state which converted the centralised economy into state capitalism. This allowed the bureaucracy to act as a new capitalist ruling class managing the transition by retaining accumulated profits and using the Maoist brand to claim the export of capital was not plunder but aid. This ‘win-win’ scenario is used by the Bolivarians to subordinate the national struggles of the oppressed to the two rising imperialist powers that are now competing with the US and EU states to re-divide the world.  Inevitably as this renewed inter-imperialist rivalry between the two blocs leads to more proxy wars that can spill over into world war, the Bolivarians ‘will rally to the flag of the “5th International” alongside their ‘socialist-imperialist” exploiters to defeat their rivals. (10)

Marx, Lenin and Trotsky against the class traitors

We say this is why the terminal crisis of capitalism can only be overcome by resolving the crisis of revolutionary leadership. The treacherous leaderships must be denounced and replaced by a new revolutionary international leadership capable of overthrowing capitalism and building socialism. That leadership must be based on the method and theory of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky to guide the proletariat and its allies to the victory of socialism. The proletariat as a class-in-itself can become a class-for-itself, grasping the continuity of the theory and practice  of Marx, Lenin and Trotsky, to understand the objective reality of crisis-ridden capitalism, and the need to act subjectively to overthrow capitalism and build socialism.

For Marx, Lenin and Trotsky the proletarian party is the revolutionary ‘subject’ (active agent) – the class conscious revolutionary vanguard that tests the program in practice as the ‘proletarian scientist’ to see if it works to further the revolution. This requires ‘democracy’, for open and free debate of all party members to enable a majority vote to decide how to put the program to the test. But democracy would be just talk without the necessary ‘centralism’, the unity in action necessary to test the program so that the lessons learned can be clearly evaluated and the program advanced.  Compare the Leninist-Bolshevik  democratic-centralist party with the bureaucratic-centralist party of the Stalinist-Menshevik currents. The reformist program is handed down by petty bourgeois bureaucrats and intellectuals to workers as ‘objects’ (powerless dupes) of history. Of course, the arguments against the Leninist party come from those who fear the rise of the proletariat as the powerful, independent ‘class-for-itself’ class, realising its historic mission in putting an end to capitalism.

The standard Stalinist-Menshevik objection to the Leninist vanguard party dates back to the early 20th century. It is that the party substitutes itself for the proletariat. But compare the proletariat armed as a revolutionary vanguard that wins the support of the majority of workers, with the reformist party led by bureaucrats that substitutes itself for the proletariat in order to serve the enemy classes. In every historic test, victory to the proletariat is the result of whether or not a vanguard party exists. In the one single historic case – Russia – where the vanguard party existed and was battle hardened – it was able to make a victorious revolution and withstand the international invasion and internal counter-revolution for seven years before degenerating under the Stalinist bureaucracy. In that great revolution democratic centralism resolved the crisis of leadership. Everywhere else, workers deluded by Social Democracy, Kautskyism or anarchism,  did not see the need to build the party, or built it too late (as in Weimar Germany) and fell to the counter-revolution. Bureaucratic centralism prevailed. Is it any wonder that the vanguard party is feared and every effort has been made since to defame and sabotage it?

It is clear what we must do. The class conscious proletariat must take the stage to realise its historic mission to end the destruction of nature and allow the embryonic socialism to prevent the history of humanity ending in extinction. The objective reality of the collapse of the ecology we need to survive is imminent. We have little time to do it.  All our energy must be devoted to building a class conscious vanguard as the new world party of socialist revolution grounded in the method and program of Trotsky’s Fourth International, to overthrow the international bourgeoisie,  install Workers’ and Farmers’ Governments in every country and build the United Socialist Republics of the World.

International Leninist Trotskyist Tendency

(1)The most important law of motion of capitalism for Marx was the Law of the Tendency of the Rate of Profit to Fall. For capitalists to compete they had to develop technology to increase the productivity of their workers’ labour power, i.e. the rate of surplus value (s). This created a tendency for rising constant capital(c) – plant, machinery etc., that did not produce value, relative to falling variable capital (the value of labour power that did produce more value than its own value – (s) so that the rate of profit (p) was expressed as  s/c+v. It is the only scientific explanation for the long term “secular fall” in the rate of profit since the 1870s.

(2)Marx’s ‘metabolic rift’ explains that capitalism must destroy itself by destroying nature. Or, It’s the Capitocene not Anthropocene stupid.

Why only 10 years to reverse climate catastrophe?

(3)The Sars Covid-2 virus infecting humans is caused by capitalist- driven ecological collapse and will likely prove one of many future pandemics unless workers intervene to restore ecological systems and the unity of society and nature. We have to seize every opportunity to wrest power from the bourgeoisie to take control of pandemics through strikes, occupations and the political general strike for a Workers and Farmers Government.

(4)Marxism is a science that reveals the inner workings of capitalism. For Marx, class-in-itself is part of the objective reality of the contradictory social relations of production, wage-labour/capital. These exploitative social relations are misrepresented in bourgeois ideology as equal relations of exchange which then becomes the ideological  basis for opportunist reforms. Therefore understanding Marxism is necessary to enable workers to escape the reification of objectification of bourgeois ideology (class in itself) and become a consciously subjective class-for-itself organised in the democratic centralist vanguard party which tests and develops the revolutionary program in practice.

(5)The Castroites and their cheerleaders originated in the Cuban Revolution. The petty bourgeois national revolution led by Fidal Castro was not intended to be a socialist revolution as he tried to negotiate with US imperialism to form an independent republic. When the US rebuffed Castro, and attempted to overthrow his regime in 1961, he turned to the USSR and declared Cuba a socialist republic.  What emerged in Cuba was a deformed workers’ state, deformed at birth, subordinated to the USSR, which from that point acted to undermine the revolution in Latin America and Africa in line with the Stalinist national roads to socialism to win bourgeois allies for building socialism in the USSR. Castro backed populist regimes in Chile where he supported Allende to stop the workers arming. As if to prove that he was a Castroite, Che Guevara snubbed the striking miners in Bolivia to attempt to organise a peasants’ uprising under the noses of the Media Luna landowners in Bolivia where he was captured and executed by the US-backed Barrientos regime. Today Cuba under Raul Castro has overseen the restoration of capitalism in a ‘strategic’ relationship with the People’ s Republic of China, and acted as mentor to the Bolivarian ALBA states in their alliance backed by the PCC.

(6)The Maoists, unlike the Castroists who accidentally ended up in the Stalinist camp in 1961, were born Stalinists. Mao became a leader of the CCP after its anti-Stalinist leadership in Wuhan was eliminated in 1927 by Chiang Kai Shek on Stalin’s orders. Chiang’s national bourgeois party, the Kuomintang (KMT) was recognised by Stalin as a popular front partner of the CCP  according to his theory of the “Bloc of Four Classes” –  the peasants, workers, intellectuals and national bourgeoisie.  The military bloc formed between the KMT and CCP in 1937 to defeat the  Japanese occupiers succeeded in 1945 and the resulting ‘civil war’ between them was won by the Red Army in 1949.  When the KMT decamped to Taiwan the CCP declared the People’s Republic of China (PRC) in 1949. Since the liberation war was won by the CCP with the defeat of the national bourgeoisie, Trotskyists regard the PRC as a ‘deformed workers’ state’ (DWS) from its inception, virtually the same in its form as the then degenerated workers’s state in the USSR. Despite their differences, both followed the policy of ‘socialism in one country’ which called for popular fronts between workers, peasants and the ‘democratic’ bourgeoisie to form ‘peoples’ governments. The PRC produced a number of satellite regimes – DPRK, Vietnam, Kampuchia, Nepal, Balkans etc where bureaucratic/military regimes based on the petty bourgeois peasants took state power following armed struggles.

(7)Anarchists are the weakest most amorphous section of the petty bourgeois left because they avow to smash every state which includes a workers’ state. Their petty bourgeois individualism means that whenever a political crisis put their ideology to the test as in Russia in the 1920s and Spain in the 1930s, they sided with the bourgeoisie.

(8)The Bolivarian movement arose in Latin America in the period since 1992 when both the USSR and China restored capitalism. It draws not only on the Stalinist/Menshevik method of the Castroists and Maoists, but on a new batch of Mensheviks who have betrayed Leninism and Trotskyism – the renegade Trotskyists.  These counter-revolutionary tendencies adapt class struggle to bourgeois democracy to advance their petty bourgeois bureaucratic interests as servants of the bourgeoisie.  They revise Marxism to trap the class struggle at the level of distribution, that is, the economism of class-in-itself. Named after Simon Bolivar, who led the first wave of national independence from Spain, France and Portugal in the 18th century, the Bolivarians adopt the method of popular front Governments in which proletarian, petty bourgeois and bourgeois parties participate to break with imperialism and form bourgeois socialist republics. Hence,  Venezuela under Chavez, Ecuador under Correa, Bolivia under Morales, Brazil under Lula and Argentina under the Peronists, were part of the sphere of influence of imperialist Russia and China.

(9)We define Renegade Trotskyists as those who abandoned materialist dialectics and the 4th International; did not unconditionally defend the Soviet Union; adapted to Menshevism/Stalinism; sold out national revolutions in Bolivia, Vietnam, Chile, etc; sold out to social imperialism, and today sell out to Chinese ‘socialist-imperialism’ by calling for its defence against the imperialists of the US/EU bloc. In other words instead of calling for Chinese and Russian workers to turn their guns on their own ruling class, they call for workers to go to war in the name of defending a bogus  ‘anti-imperialist united front’.

(10) The geopolitics of the global popular front led by Russia and China are evident in Cuba’s restoration as a semi-colony of ‘market-socialist’ China. The BRICS, especially South Africa and Brazil are now semi-colonies of China,  though India is signaling its shift towards the US as a member of the QUAD. Bolivarian Venezuela is the model member of the 5th (Chinese) International. They are cheerleaders for Russia smashing the Syrian revolution and Russia’s annexation in Crimea and intervention in Ukraine. The inter-imperialist rivalry between the two main blocs led by the US and China has been building for a decade or more and today is reaching a flash point inevitably drawing the world’s workers into more wars that can easily spill over into world war. The Permanent Revolution remains the global call sign for revolutionary internationalists to solve the crisis of revolutionary leadership in a world socialist revolution!

Dave Brownz is TDBs guest Marxist blogger because every Left wing blog needs a Marxist.


  1. On this May 1, I’d like to applaud migrant farm laborers for their very hard work, yet for minimal pay. Here in the Greater Vancouver regional district, I’ve observed over the last few decades that the strong work ethic exceptionally practiced by them is demonstrably notable in the produce harvesting sector. It’s one of typically hump-busting work that almost all post second or third generation Canadians won’t tolerate for themselves. Watching them, I even feel a bit guilty, as strange as that may sound. Considering it from a purely human(e) perspective, I don’t see why they should have to toil so for minimal pay and not also I.

    Migrant farm laborers work very hard and should be treated humanely, including regular access to Covid-19 vaccination and proper workplace protection, but often are not. While I don’t favor Canada-based businesses exporting labor abroad at low wages while there are unemployed Canadians who want that work, I can imagine migrant farm workers being fifty to a hundred percent more productive than their born-and-reared-here Canadian counterparts.

    I anticipate that if they (as citizens) resided here for a number of decades, their strong work ethics and higher-than-average productivity, unfortunately, likely would gradually diminish as these motivated laborers’ descendant generations’ young people become accustomed to the relatively easier Western way of work. One can already witness this effect in such youth getting caught up in much of our overall liberal culture — attire, lingo, nightlife, as well as work. I’ve also found that ‘Canadian values’ assimilation often means the unfortunate acquisition of a distasteful yet strong sense of entitlement.

  2. Dave, we appreciate your knowledge of history, but no one is going to wade through that lot.

    And I am sad to say, most of it is irrelevant.

    You have correctly identified that capitalism is in its very last, and absolutely terminal, crisis. But you have failed to identify the causes of the terminal crisis we are living through.

    The 1930s crisis was one of mistrust and financial greed, with the upper echelon of western societies extracting every last ounce of work potential from the masses whilst living a life of extraordinary luxury and pleasure themselves. This was famously described by the widow who used her last few cents to write to the president to plea that he do something. Meanwhile banks were foreclosing and grabbing the assets of anyone unable to make the required weekly payments.

    The 1970s crisis was triggered by OPEC nations rejecting the ultra-low prices offered by western nations for oil (with support for the fascist state of Israel thrown in).

    The western capitalists got out of that predicament by developing oil extraction technology that could be used to suck the North Sea and Alaskan basins dry. By gaining temporary oil independence, the western capitalists were able to manipulate the oil price down to ridiculously low levels witnessed through the 1980s and 1990s, and embark on the orgy of resource squandering that characterised the 1990s and early 2000s -thereby condemning humanity to death by Planetary Overheating (which you have correctly identified as the existential crisis of the times we live in, and already killing millions).

    The next crisis, the crisis was a mere blip on the way to the major crisis of 2007-2008, triggered by corruption, lies and greed in the subprime sector of the US mortgage market, but also accompanied by the peaking of conventional oil extraction worldwide and speculation on oil, which sent the price of Brent crude to $147 a barrel, which was waaaaay more than the globalised economic system could handle (even though it was still exceedingly cheap when the energy value of oil is considered). Next thing we know the price of oil has been manipulated down to $33 a barrel and the oil-importing countries are happy, while the oil-exporting countries are not.

    Supposedly to create oil independence (one of many BIG LIES), the American drillers got to frack everything in sight on the back of ultra-low-interest loans -so called junk bonds because most of the fracking companies never actually made much (any) profit. This ‘strength-through-depletion’ philosophy, championed by Thatcher, Reagan, Bush 1, Clinton, Tony B Liar, Bush 2, Obama, Trump and now Biden) and all the other members of the gang, including NZ’s very own saboteurs, led to exactly what one would expect: depletion, followed by no strength. And a monstrous, unsolvable climate crisis.

    As for your main point about the need for worldwide unity and clear objectives, I’m afraid the ‘powers that be’ are simply not going to allow that. If it takes gunning down of protesters in teh streets, so be it, as far as they are concerned.

    You have correctly identified the viciousness with which sociopaths will attempt to hang on to power and privilege.

    As for the time frame, I disagree. There is no ’10 year’ window of opportunity. The whole caboodle is headed off the cliff very soon -arguably this year via the collapse of the US ability to produce food.

    • The cause of the terminal crisis today is the same as the structural crises post-1970s. It is the long-term tendency for the rate of profit to fall – the LTRPF.

      Each crisis expresses one or more aspects of this law in operation – the long term effect is that each boom gets weaker and each bust deeper until it becomes terminal.

      In other words, the forms, or superficial features, of each crisis may differ and trigger the events which give their names to crises, like dotcom or subprime assets, yet they are all the result of the LTRPF redirecting excess capital from production into speculative behavior.

      Footnote 1 above that refers to Michael Roberts work will clarify all this for you.

      But I differ from Roberts on his question. I think the crisis is terminal, since capital cannot recover when it destroys the material conditions for its existence – the ecological (or as Marx puts it “metabolic”) rift between society and nature.

      Actually, Marx’s metabolic rift theory was based on his analysis of soil science, it points to the fundamental fragility of human life which depends on organised food production that destroys soil fertility.

      So we have the explanation and the conclusion that capitalism has reached its end – both grounded in Marx.

      The main point I am making above is one also made by Marx. Without this knowledge as a guide to action, then there is no prospect of the revolution necessary to remove the root cause, capital, and to build a society that fixes the ecological rift before we face extinction.

      • It is interesting that many of us have been discussing these aspects for 20 years or more, and nothing changes in the financial-economic-political scene, other than further enrichment of the ‘elites’ and further impoverishment of the bulk of society.

        I guess we have to wait for geological-chemical-physical-ecological forces to bring the system down -for they surely will, and very soon- and then endure the mass starvation and chaos that ensue as the ‘elites’ (scumbags really) attempt to purloin whatever resources as still available for themselves.

        Nobody survives on an uninhabitable planet. And that’s exactly where we are headed.

      • Unlike a few social/labor revolutions of the past, notably the Bolshevik and French revolutions, it seems to me that contemporary Western world’s virtual corporate rule and superfluously wealthy essentially have the police and military ready to foremost protect big power and money interests, even over the food and shelter needs of the protesting masses. I can imagine that there are/were lessons learned from them (How to Hinder Progressive Revolutions 101?) with the clarity of hindsight by big power and money interests.

        They, the police/military/big-money, can claim they must bust heads to maintain law and order as a priority; thus the absurdly unjust inequities and inequalities can persist.

        • Frank , turn all that on its head. The revolutions that succeeded, even if they were short lived.
          They proved that the power of the ruling class (their cops, paramilitaries etc) are not all-powerful.
          Workers have proved they could unite and overthrow the ruling class regimes.
          The Bolshevik Revolution is the best example.
          he task is building a movement that grasps that it has the potential to take power.
          And once that power is won, stopping the capitalist class from taking it back.
          Terminal crisis creates the pre-conditions for that power.
          Workers and poor farmers have no choice but to fight back or die.
          We can see that in the struggles of workers and poor farmers across the world.
          The uprising of the Indian farmers shows what is possible possible even limited to a national struggle.
          Uniting those struggles needs an internationalist perspective.
          For me that is world socialism, capable of replacing global capitalism.
          We can see some of that unity beginning with the international movements. Extinction Rebellion (XR) and BLM which are basic struggles for survival.
          We have to build more movements in every part of the world, then merge them into one big movement.
          Only by uniting our forces in action can we defeat the organised resistance of the ruling classes.
          In building that unity we need a common program and that is the question I address in the article above.
          We need to give up any hope of reforming capitalism, it is destroying us.
          It has to be replaced by a new society without class, race and gender oppression.
          Where the needs of ordinary working people are met in harmony with nature and we free ourselves from alienation.


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