The International Manifesto Group
A report on the Sept. 5 zoom event
The International Manifesto Group, a world-wide group of concerned activists and scholars, launched its recently released manifesto, “Through Pluripolarity to Socialism,” in a zoom event on 5 September 2021. More than 120 persons from around the world participated in the three-hour event, which consisted of ten minutes presentations by invited guests.
The event was convened by Radhika Desai, a professor in Canada. She explained that the group was formed shortly after the pandemic started. It was clear to the participants that humanity is in a moment of crisis, which implies both dangers and opportunities. In focusing on what ought to be done, the group decided to propose a manifesto, which has gone through various drafts and is now finalized.
The Manifesto, Desai stated, tries to avoid Eurocentrism. It celebrates the importance of the founding of the Non-Aligned Movement in Belgrade in 1961 as well as the important achievements of China and Cuba. It addresses the economic and ecological crises; and it views neoliberalism as an attempt to solve the world crisis at the expense of the worker.
She maintained that the left must respond to the global crisis in a form that addresses the clamor of the peoples for peace. She maintained that the solution to the global crisis cannot be national, so internationalism is a necessity. Citing Marx, she further maintained that communists ought not to set up a separate party apart from a working-class party.
The first panelist was Isabel Monal of Cuba, who stressed the importance of the Manifesto as a firm anti-imperialist and socialist declaration. She observed that since World War II, the imperialist powers have maintained an oppressive alliance against Third World nations, and in many Third World nations, imperialism formed an alliance with the national bourgeoisie. These oppressive alliances continue in spite of the decline of U.S. imperialist power. In opposition to this imperialist force, leftists in Latin America call for the unity of the Patria Grande. At the world level, there is need for alliance between the Third World struggles for national liberation and workers’ struggles in the core.
New poles not imperialist have emerged in the world, Monal maintains, and this is a very important development, for it is creating positive conditions for socialism. The Manifesto, she stated, should more fully explain the emergence of a multipolar world, for it will be decisive to the emancipation of the world’s peoples.
Canadian lawyer Dimitri Lascaris focused on the case of Julian Assange, who is being persecuted because he exposed the crimes of capitalism. He expressed the hope that there will be the possibility for improving the Manifesto, so that it could include specific proposals for the creation of an independent press, indispensable for the emancipation of our peoples.
Atilio Boron, Professor of Political Science from Argentina, recalled the false view of the twenty-first century as an “American century.” As the fall of Kabul demonstrates, the USA is in decline. There no longer is any question of U.S. decline; the question is how fast the decline will occur. The world is now characterized by a Chinese-U.S.-Russian tripolarity. By 2025, the Chinese economy will be much larger that than the U.S. economy. Russia has resurrected, and it now plays a significant role in international affairs; the collapse of the Soviet Union does not erase 200 years of Russian global province. The emergence of tripolarity explains U.S. aggressiveness, especially in Latin America; having lost terrain in Europe and the East, it wants to preserve its regional domination.
In my view, Monal and Borón are right in stressing the importance of multipolarity in creating positive conditions for the emergence of socialism in various nations. They are right in saying that the Manifesto should give more emphasis to multipolarity, explaining its origins and its significance. The more that the people can understand that the possibilities for socialism are being increased by evolving objective conditions, the more that the proponents of socialism do not appear to be idealistic dreamers. At the same time, in explaining to the people of the United States the unavoidable U.S. economic decline, there must be the formulation of an alternative vision of the U.S. role in international affairs, emancipating the nation from a foreign policy obsession with dominating other lands and peoples of the earth.
Maria Victor, a sociologist and a Venezuelan living in Canada, discussed the Manifesto in relation to Venezuela. She observed that Venezuela has been central to imperialist intentions for several decades, because of its petroleum. The Bolivarian Revolution, she declared, has been a response to the alliance of the Venezuelan national bourgeoisie with imperialism. The Revolution is being attacked, because imperialism attacks any nation that dares to be sovereign.
Victor noted that Venezuela, along with Cuba, is developing a type of socialism that responds to its particular conditions. We should ask, what do its achievements mean for the world? She expressed disappointment with the left in North America and Europe for not defending Venezuela. She observes that the left is lukewarm because it has not learned an important teaching of Marx, namely, that the forms of socialism are driven by practical situations. Marxism cannot be defined in a book.
Venezuelan socialism is robust, Victor declared. It has displaced the capitalist class from power, and Venezuela never will return to a situation in which the capitalist class controls the state. The current negotiations with the opposition show the total triumph of Maduro. At the same time, Venezuela has a strong record in containing the pandemic, and it is proceeding with vaccination with vaccines supplied by China and Russia.
Victor concluded with the observation that South-South solidarity is the key to continued advances. Historically, international solidarity has been central to socialism.
Jenny Clegg, a China specialist, declared the Manifesto to be a timely document. It is correct in seeing that Chinese economic development creates conditions favorable to socialism in the world. Its title expresses well the notion that we will arrive to socialism through pluripolarity.
Clegg further maintained that the crisis of capitalism creates opportunities. However, the Western left, influenced by social democracy, is incapable of understanding global dynamics and seizing the opportunity.
Elena Veduta of Russia maintained that the Manifesto ought to explain socialism more fully. It should explain that socialism seeks not only economic development but also the full personal development of the individual.
Makato Itoh of Japan observed that the emphasis in the Manifesto on the importance of China may cause difficulties with Japanese leftists. He also noted that socialism in the twenty-first century envisions market socialism, and its characteristics ought to be explained in the document, along with how it differs from socialisms in the past. He observed that we have today not only a crisis of capitalism, but also a crisis of socialism, which together are dimensions of a deep crisis of humanity.
Tim Anderson of Australia maintained that the Manifesto, with its twenty pages, is too long from a marketing point of view. He considers that the policy proposals that appear on Page 17 should be placed at the beginning, and that the document should be compressed. Perhaps a second, briefer document could be emitted, he observed.
In my view, the Manifesto should be longer, not shorter. I am in agreement with the suggestions of Monal and Borón that the process and significance of multipolarity should be further explained in the Manifesto; with Vatuka that a more developed explanation of socialism as the creation of new persons ought to be included; and with Makato that market socialism ought to be explained. In my September 3 commentary, I also suggested that certain other dimensions ought to be more fully explained. It is true that twenty pages is too long for tweet, but it is eight pages shorter than my copy of the Communist Manifesto. I think that we should exhort socialists and potential socialists to greater intellectual work and to the formation of virtual and real communities for the discussion of important readings. The construction of socialism is not an easy task. A manifesto of thirty pages is not too long, and it should be supplemented by pamphlets dedicate to various issues, themes, and nations.
Margaret Kimberly of the United States observed that the Manifesto is timely, and it is correct in stressing the abdication of the left. She observed that leftwing abdication is the source of many problems.
Hira Singh, a sociologist in Canada, observed that any declaration of the death of imperialism is premature, which I think was a reference to the commentary of Atilio Boron. Certainly, it is the case that as imperialism confronts resistance, it demonstrates its capacity to invent new techniques of imperialist penetration, in accordance with new economic and technological possibilities. This can be seen in the unconventional war against Latin America. We cannot yet know the outcome of this historic and ongoing struggle between imperialism and the quest of the nations of the world for sovereignty.
In summary, important themes expressed by the panelists include: the importance of the socialist projects of China, Cuba, and Venezuela; the emergence of a multipolar world, led by China, with relations among nations characterized by mutual respect for sovereignty, thus creating global objective conditions much more favorable to socialism for those nations with the political will; the unpreparedness of the left in Europe and North America, which has been unable to block an aggressive imperialist turn by the declining hegemonic power; and the need for the forging of a left more prepared, capable of explaining to the peoples of the North the characteristics of socialism and the objective possibilities for its real fulfillment.
I observed during the zoom event that nearly all of the panelists were using the terminology of a revolution of workers and oppressed peoples rather than a revolution of the people. This formulation reinforces problematic cultural definitions in the political culture of the United States, where almost no one thinks of European immigrants of the second great migratory wave as pertaining to oppressed peoples, even though the peasants of Ireland and Eastern and Southern Europe nearly all originated from nations that had been conquered by one or more competing imperialist powers. Moreover, having arrived in the USA after the abolition of slavery, they did not experience direct benefits from slavery.
Engels notes, for example, that Ireland was conquered by England from the twelfth through the sixteenth centuries, justified with the notion that the Irish were an inferior race. Appropriation of Irish land and its distribution to Englishmen occurred in the seventeenth century. Economic laws favoring English over Irish interests were enacted during the nineteenth century. The impoverishment of the people, along with the “potato famine,” led to considerable emigration and a significant decrease in the population of Ireland during the nineteenth century, while national liberation rebellions were repressed. In the twentieth century, the partition of the island ensured that independent Ireland could not possibly possess true sovereignty. It is a story that in its fundamentals is not very different from that of the conquered and colonized kingdoms, societies, and peoples of Africa, a fact that was noted by Kwame Nkrumah. To be sure, the Irish arrived in the USA in a period of territorial and economic expansion, and they suffered from a soft discrimination in comparison to African Americans. But if we had the capacity to measure the economic conditions of their descendants today, we certainly would find that many suffer from insecurity and precarity.
Following the presentations by the panelists, the participants in the event were invited to make commentaries, and six did so. My intervention reiterated what I had written in my September 3 commentary, namely, that the manifesto should not call the workers to the socialist revolution, but the people. This was the approach taken by Fidel in 1953, and it was effective in incorporating the radical wing of the petit bourgeoise into the revolutionary process. In my intervention, I maintained that perhaps the historic limited reach of the left in the USA could be explained in part by the tradition of a working-class vanguard conceptualization. Perhaps socialists could expand our reach by inviting all pertaining to the 99% to the revolutionary project, including professionals of European descent.
Radhika Desai appeared to appreciate and enjoy my intervention, but she did observe that “worker” can be used in a broad sense. True enough. But most professionals do not consider themselves workers, due to limited political consciousness. So, if we were going to take this approach, the Manifesto ought to explain that it is using “worker” in the broadest sense, and it should explain the reasons why professionals ought to consider themselves workers (as they do in socialist Cuba). But the Manifesto does not do so. Even worse, it describes professionals as a stratum that is above the workers and contributes to their oppression and exploitation, and a stratum that has a tendency toward fascism. It reproduces a historic error of the Left: white professionals are not invited to the revolution, except for a few who enjoy a privileged status as leaders or consulted intellectuals. In my view, this is a historic error of the left that seriously limits its reach among the people, undermining its necessary task of persuading the people to join in the construction of a socialist movement, with the intention of taking political power from the hands of the 1%.
The United States, as a declining hegemonic power in the context of a global crisis of capitalism, can no longer provide economic security and opportunity to its middle class. And lacking a coherent and scientifically informed national project, the employment that it can offer is not necessarily meaningful, often requiring the suppression of moral sensibilities. These current conditions of global crisis and hegemonic decline favor the development of a socialist movement in the United States, if we were to call the people with political intelligence and accompany our call with coherent and scientifically informed explanations of the civilizational crisis of humanity.
In concluding the event, Radhika Desai stated that the International Manifesto Group welcomes the kinds of interventions that have been made by the participants in the event. Such interventions can be entered on the Website of the International Manifesto Group.
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