The Challenges of 2024

Editorial for Revolutionary Perspectives 23 (Series 4).

As 2024 begins, the world seems a terrible place. Centre stage of course is the carnage in Gaza, where the brutal assault by Hamas on Israel on 7 October 2023, and Israel’s massive and pitiless retaliation, have left tens of thousands dead at time of writing, possibly at a ratio of 20:1 in terms of Palestinian to Israeli dead. More than 7,000 people are also reported ‘missing’, and 1.9 million ‘displaced’ in Gaza, with another 500,000 displaced in Israel. The toll rises every day as new horrors are reported.

It seems that Israel is intent on clearing the Gaza strip, and there have been discussions about permanently shifting the population of Gaza elsewhere in the world –in history, forced movements of populations have rarely ended well. The populations of Palestine and Israel are caught in a vicious trap, between the racist, reactionary ideology of the Hamas militia and the racist, reactionary ideology of the Israeli state with its vastly superior war machine. Every atrocity feeds nationalism, by creating more enemies horrified and appalled at the savagery of the opposition, and using that horror to justify fresh horrors to be perpetrated on the wider population.

The first article in this issue of Revolutionary Perspectives establishes the historical context for the latest round of atrocities, the foundation of the Israeli state and the history of relations between the different communities in the region and how local and global powers have used different groups and states in their own imperialist interests.

The wider context of the war risks bringing Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Yemen into the conflict. Bomb and rocket attacks, shelling and air strikes look likely to increase across the region. At the time of writing, in early January, news reports state that Hezbollah has fired ‘hundreds’ of rockets from Southern Lebanon. Until now, Hezbollah has been content to merely offer words of support but little actual military assistance to Hamas. The two militia groups come from different branches of Islam, one allied and supported by Sunni groups in Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, the other a Shi’ite militia supported by Iran. But both are opposed to Israel and Israel’s main backer, the US. Meanwhile, the US and UK may become involved in the wider conflict, especially in Yemen where Houthi militias allied to Iran have taken control of the country, and used it as a base to attack Israel as well as international shipping in the Red Sea.

We have not been able to include everything relating to the spiralling chaos of imperialist tensions in this issue. We will be publishing further articles on this on our website, and we urge our readers to engage with our articles there.

War of course is not the only horror capitalism unleashes on the world. Environmental destruction does not let up in the face of war, it is likely to increase, and is itself one of the drivers of war, from the strategic drive to protect or secure oil reserves, to disputes over water supplies that look likely to only get worse, to the search for raw materials such as lithium. Meanwhile the world’s ‘leaders’ are unable to agree even the mildest effective action to halt greenhouse gas emissions, as the farcical COP28 negotiations show. This annual jamboree is now openly a propaganda tool for the worldwide fossil fuel industry, with thousands of lobbyists from fossil fuel companies and national delegates selected from state oil companies.

The COP spectacle is not a means to agree effective action to tackle climate change, it is precisely the opposite. Far from its stated aim of trying to limit the use of fossil fuels, states and companies use it as a trade fair to make deals to continue the ruinous exploitation of the planet’s natural resources while allowing capitalism to claim to be trying to solve the problems it has created in its rapacious drive for endless profit. There is no solution to this as long as capitalism exists; ‘green capitalism’ is an illusion, because capitalism cannot do other than plunder natural resources and reduce populations to misery in its search for profit. Our second article looks at the COP28 conference and its immediate results, as well as looking into the science behind the headlines and the perspectives for the world if we cannot change the course on which we are embarked.

Capitalism is a system that produces crises – economic crises that become political crises that become environmental or military or humanitarian crises, that provide further fuel for the economic crises. For more than 50 years, since the downturn after the post-war boom – itself built on the vast destruction and suffering of the Second World War and its aftermath in the increasing hostility of the Cold War – and the decision of the US to end the post-war economic consensus with the ending of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971, world capitalism has been unable to offer a long-term solution to the problem of its own profitability. The inability to restore profit has led to half a century of economic crises, quick fixes, new starts and increasing economic devastation, in the midst of society which is technologically capable of providing a decent standard of living for everyone on the planet. In the fourth part of our series ‘The Economic Foundations of Capitalist Decadence’ we look at developments in capitalism between the end of the Bretton Woods Agreement in 1971 and the end of the Soviet Bloc in 1991, which saw the end of the Keynesian consensus and the beginnings of ‘globalisation’ and “financialisation” as responses to the crisis.

The last article in this issue is historical, looking at the work and legacy of Lenin, on the centenary of his death. Though as Marxists we reject the notion that history is made by ‘great men’, that of course does not mean that there were not important figures living and working during important historical periods. A century ago the world was in ferment, with the newly-created Soviet Republic as a symbol of proletarian revolution. By 1924, when Lenin died, we can see that the world revolutionary wave had ebbed and the long night of the counter-revolution was beginning, including in the Soviet Union where it assumed the mantle of ‘Marxism-Leninism’. We see the counter-revolution as having continued to this day. This was perhaps not so clear at the time, but with a century of hindsight we can place Lenin in his historical context and see more clearly his great contributions and his errors, as well as the distortions of his legacy by the inheritors of the counter-revolution.

For internationalists today, Lenin’s greatest contribution was to see that the First World War was imperialist and could only be ended by “civil” i.e. class, war, and that the working class needed an international political organisation as a weapon in that class war. As we approach the abyss of yet another global conflict this remains the starting point for revolutionaries. No War But Class War to end all wars.

Communist Workers’ Organisation
January 2024

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Image: Ianqui Doodle (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0), flickr.com

Tuesday, January 9, 2024

Revolutionary Perspectives

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