December 28, 2021
This year began with a promise from the bourgeoisie that with the roll-out of vaccinations, the world was moving quickly to the end of the pandemic. This, they suggested, would help bring an end to the profound deterioration of the living conditions the working-class has come to endure. Despite this assurance, the pandemic continues in waves, and the capitalist-imperialist economy continues in crisis.
By the IWL-FI, originally published in Spanish here
Translated from Spanish by Dolores Underwood
We have continually rejected the oft-repeated suggestion that the pandemic is over , a lie made more blatant by the wave of cases hitting many countries throughout the world today . Since the beginning, we have maintained that capitalism is responsible for the continued surges and the rapid expansion and persistence of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The environmental, social, and political conditions of the current economic system have made it so that addressing the pandemic in an efficient and holistic manner is almost impossible. The destruction of ecosystems and the expansion of markets and circulations of people create the conditions for zoonosis (diseases that are transmitted between humans and animals) . Bourgeois governments’ continual attacks on our public health system to instead prioritize and fund the expansion of for-profit medical attention has created a healthcare crisis of epic proportions. And finally, even before the recession began in the first half of 2020, and without defeating the pandemic, governments in power throughout the world forced the “return to the new normal” that only multiplied the possibilities of contagion .
2021 was proclaimed the “year of the vaccine” and, with it, the triumph over the pandemic. The roll out of the vaccine, however, was controlled by the criteria of imperialist capitalism. The “race for the vaccine” was orchestrated without a centralized plan for international cooperation, and instead incentivized an intense competition between the large and private pharmaceutical conglomerates. The winner of the race would ensure their earnings through patent rights . Vaccines had a high price, and imperialist and wealthy countries purchased and hoarded enormous amounts of vaccines for their populations making it so that, on the other extreme, poorer countries had little possibility to purchase vaccines. Today, these countries still have the lowest vaccination rates.
This contradiction was clearly demonstrated in India, where, on the one hand, it is one of the largest producers of vaccines in the world (in laboratories owned by imperialist conglomerates) and, on the other hand, the country was unable to purchase sufficient vaccines for its population. India saw a virulent second wave and the development of the second dangerous variant, Delta . In South Africa, a non-imperialist country that has the capacity to produce vaccines, the variant Omicron was born . The unequal distribution of the vaccine combined with the politics of the “new normal” creates a situation where outbreaks of new variants in less vaccinated populations ultimately return to infect imperialist countries. This “boomerang effect” is what we see happening today in the U.S. and in Europe with Omicron.
Faced with this bleak panorama, we uphold the demands made by the IWL-FI months ago: vaccines for everyone, an end to vaccine patents, and the need for a massive and free international vaccination plan that strengthens public health systems. This is the only realistic path forward to combat the coronavirus pandemic . Even if the pandemic ends, imperialist capitalism presents us with a somber future: there will be more pandemics. This conclusion is drawn by scientists who specialize in these kinds of diseases: Sarah Gilbert, one of the creators of AstraZeneca, warned in a recent conference that the “next pandemic could be more lethal than Covid” .
Imperialist capitalism fails to give any answer to its increasingly destructive character of the natural world, as we see with both the pandemic and the efforts to turn to green energy to decrease fossil fuels. Look no further than the recent United Nations Climate Change Conference (called COP 26) for more proof that the ruling class is not willing to introduce systemic changes .
A very slow recovery
The new waves of the pandemic have affected the global economy. In response, financial institutions reduce their estimates for global GDP growth. The IMF report in October 2021 forecasted a downward revision for the year, “largely due to the worsening pandemic dynamics” .
This explanation is only partly correct. In 2020 a “global recession” was already in process. The pandemic and resulting restrictions made it so that an already ailing global economy turned into a dynamic recession. The politics of the “new normal” initiated a recovery for the capitalist economy that was maintained into 2021 . But that recovery was already mired with profound problems and contradictions.
Last September, we analyzed the principal obstacles to recovery . First, we showed how the recovery was itself “broken”: the profound inequality between countries makes it so that any recovery of the economy will be divergent and unequal. As one analyst put it, “after the crisis we see winners and losers” . The U.S. and Chinese economies were the most likely to recover in 2021, at least nominally. The winning companies are the ones that produce or are connected to the production of the technology sector. Other sectors, such as tourism and commerce, have been hit hard, while the traditional industrial sectors of the economy are looking at plans to reduce and restructure their workforce.
Is stagflation on the horizon?
The second obstacle we face in the recovery is the character of inflation which, in the U.S.  and Europe  are the highest indexes we’ve seen in decades. Other countries and regions are presenting similar or higher numbers. This makes us pause to consider the true dimension of the economy’s recovery because the growth of production is only at 2% . For that reason, for economists like Nouriel Roubini, “these demand and supply dynamics could lead to 1970s-style stagflation (rising inflation amid a recession) and eventually even to a severe debt crisis” .
This would mean that after a short and weak recovery, the world economy would slow and move towards a new recession. Some countries, like Brazil, have already entered a recession . Other countries, like Turkey  and Argentina , are seeing their currencies crash. Others are predicting an even more dire situation because of the various bubbles that are about to burst in the housing, debt, and cryptocurrency sectors, and that we should be expecting a worse crisis than the one that began in 2007/2008 .
China’s economy also has problems
China was the only large economy that ended with nominal GDP growth in 2020 and maintained one of the best economies in 2021: the country saw increased commercial export, a healthy level of foreign investment, and investment in other countries (called the “Silk Road”). Media outlets applauded this dynamic exclaiming that China would continue to be a global economic stabilizer . But now, forecasts for 2022 seem to be less optimistic .
Real estate and public construction are two sectors that have created growth and employment for China’s economy. Public and private credits and loans have artificially inflated both sectors, and we have seen signs of crisis since at least 2015 . This problem first manifested with the Evergrande Group financial crisis, a sprawling Chinese real estate developer that has not been able to pay back loans . The problem is even bigger, and we are already seeing a snowball effect on the real estate and construction sectors. Last October, the company Fantasia Holding did not pay a debt of more than 200 billion dollars and runs the risk of bankruptcy . Some suggest that the two sectors have already exploded in China .
What impact will this process have in China, and what impact will it have on the global economy? Some predict it will have the same impact that the bankruptcy of the Lehman Brothers had in 2008 . Last November, the IMF warned that China’s “growth momentum is slowing” .
Briefly, let’s also address the confrontation the U.S. maintains with China and that has been set as a strategic geopolitical strategy for Joe Biden’s government. First expressing itself as a “trade technology war” initiated by Donald Trump , the conflict is now beginning to take on different diplomatic expressions . Independently of the possible characterizations about the significance of this confrontation, it is evident that it threatens to destabilize the global economy and recovery.
The pandemic has hit workers hard across the world: the impact of contagion and deaths, and because the bourgeoisie placed on the global working-classes shoulders the weight of the economic crisis over the past year, exacerbating to the extreme the continual attack on working conditions and quality of life that has been going on for decades.
One of the most severe results has been the increase in “extreme poverty” and “food insecurity” . The world has seen an increase in poverty, unemployment, loss of power over salaries, deterioration of working conditions, and precarity. These losses are almost never recovered willingly: the bourgeoisie has no intention of returning what has been robbed; on the contrary, they are looking to consolidate this deterioration in conditions permanently. This reality makes for intolerable conditions for the working masses, across regions and countries, and has generated a strong response through class struggle.
In 2020, the pandemic and its impact provoked an impasse relative to mass movements, putting our class on the defense. We say “relative” because, at the onset of the pandemic, in the U.S. emerged anti-racist uprisings against police repression and shootings, which placed the government of Donald Trump against the wall and provoked a crisis in the political regime . Slightly less visible have been the ongoing strikes, particularly in the education, services, and commerce sectors .
This past year has seen, in large part, a recovery in the struggles of the working class in diverse regions and countries. We will concentrate here on just some, prioritizing those with the most political significance.
Last July, thousands mobilized across multiple cities in Cuba in protest of the health crisis generated by the pandemic, the rationing of medicines and treatment, and the lack in democratic freedoms imposed by the Castro regime. The mobilizations were brutally repressed, and hundreds of activists incarcerated . This crisis revived the intense controversy on the nature of the Cuban regime that has been ongoing amongst the international left for decades.
Protests in Havana on 11J
The Castro-Chavista current considers Cuba the “last bastion of socialism” and that the determining factor for the problems the country faces is the boycott which, for years, has been upheld by the imperialist U.S. For that reason, this current considers the mobilizations counterrevolutionary. According to them, they are driven by and will serve the interests of imperialism and the exiled Cuban bourgeoisie currently in Miami (called gusanos in Spanish). For these reasons, they support the Castro regime’s repression against the mobilizations .
Many organizations that consider themselves Trotskyists (TF, Trotskyist Fraction, headed by the PTS, or Socialist Workers’ Party in Argentina) consider Cuba to still be a “bureaucratized workers’ state” where Castroism is pushing towards restoration of capitalism and, posing a similar risk, the pressure coming from the imperialist U.S. and the Cuban bourgeoisie in Miami . They characterize the mobilizations as “contradictory.” On the one hand, they are a legitimate response to the deterioration of living conditions of the masses. On the other hand, they are reactionary, and a manipulation of social media financed by the U.S. In the face of this “contradiction,” the TF adopted an abstentionist position, not proposing a concrete orientation. This position ended up favoring the Castro regime. Even worse for a Trotskyist party, the TF not only didn’t support the mobilizations, but it did almost nothing to denounce the repressions that followed. They are not supporting or joining any of the international campaigns demanding freedom for those imprisoned during the uprisings. Considering that the PTS elected various legislators in Argentina, they could have a big impact if they change their current attitude.
The IWL-FI has for decades characterized the Castro regime as restoring capitalism in Cuba ; European and Canadian imperialism have taken advantage of this restoration (making large investments in the international tourism sector in an accelerated process of recolonization), and the upper echelons of the Castro regime have continued to transform into a subordinated bourgeoisie (through their control of the state conglomerate GAESA). If we add to that an absence of democratic liberties for the workers and the masses, we define the Castro regime as transformed into a capitalist dictatorship.
The U.S. blockade certainly exists and hopes to strangle the Cuban economy and generate economic and political malaise to place the population against the Castro regime. For that reason, we fight against the blockade and denounce it. However, we must insist that the blockade is only partial because many imperialist countries invest in and trade with Cuba. Other countries, such as Brazil, participated in the construction of the Special Zone in Mariel Port that was financed by the Brazilian state through the BNDES (Brazilian Development Bank) .
The Cuban regime continues to drive changes that eliminate the wins of the revolution. The most recent is the “Day Zero” plan, launched in 2021 . Even the initial success the country had in combatting the pandemic has since deteriorated . The pandemic has caused a decrease in international tourism (the country’s source of international investment) and as such has strangled the economy. The situation for the working class in the country became intolerable, while the upper echelons of the Castro regime and international tourists shop in special stores and with dollars.
This reality, and the absolute lack of democratic liberties, generated the conditions for the mobilizations in July.
For that reason, we see the mobilizations as a just and progressive expression of the struggle against the capitalist dictatorship, and it should be supported beyond the inevitable contradictions the situation presents. For that reason, one of our central activities is an international campaign to free the Cuban political prisoners.
Another significant event this year was the defeat of the imperialist forces, led by the U.S., in the War in Afghanistan. This war began twenty years ago with then-president George W. Bush and that, in 2003, continued with the invasion of Iraq . The withdrawal of the troops signified a definitive defeat with both wars clearly not going well for the imperialist countries for years now. Obama’s government had already begun the tactic of withdrawing troops, with the goal of building up the Afghan national army, which the U.S. government armed, trained, and financed in the hopes it would be able to contain the Taliban. This proved to be inefficient and corrupt and fell apart the second the imperialist forces announced their definitive withdrawal.
Trump’s government had already made this decision, announcing it was time to bring “our people back home.” But it was Joe Biden’s government that made the definitive withdrawal. This was a new defeat for U.S. imperialism and their European allies in attempts to invade countries to impose their will through force. We celebrate this defeat because it demonstrates that imperialism is not invincible; actually, it is profoundly fragile. This is a crucial lesson from the last twenty years and an important component of our current situation. For us, this result strengthens working-class struggles across the world against imperialism, and we call on the masses to double down in their fight.
Based on this criterion (we support the struggle of the masses against imperialism despite the leadership), throughout the war, we have placed ourselves clearly on the side of the Afghani national resistance. We supported a united front of military action alongside the Taliban against imperialism. This position has proven controversial, particularly at the beginning of the war .
This polemic has been reopened because the Taliban has taken power. The Taliban is an organization that has a profoundly reactionary ideology with a semi-fascist character. It has installed a theocratic dictatorship that applies oppressive legislation and is particularly repressive towards women and ethnic, religious, and linguistic minorities that live in Afghanistan. This makes it so that some sectors of the left state there is nothing to celebrate because the result of the war has been a net-zero in terms of benefitting the masses. Others go even further to say that the country was better before the Taliban took power. We believe that these criteria for analyzing the war and its conclusions are wrong .
While we celebrate the defeat of imperialism, we also recognize that with the Taliban in power the reality in the country has changed, and so should our politics. We believe that the principal job for the Afghani masses (particularly the women and oppressed minorities) is to now fight against the dictatorship. We, therefore, support the incipient mobilizations that have already begun .
Behind their reactionary and theocratic ideology, the Taliban is an organization that aspires to transform into a bourgeoisie, enriching itself through the extraction of the immense natural resources still unexploited in the country (such as lithium). This desire faces a particular problem: the level of industrialization in the country is almost nonexistent and a trained workforce doesn’t exist to manage and maintain the technology necessary to exploit the resources (let’s not even get into their production). For that reason, the Taliban will need to align itself with countries that have this technology and are able to make the necessary investment in exchange for a portion of the wealth.
China and Russia are the principal contenders. Other imperialist powers will also be able to offer their assistance, however. In an interview with an Italian newspaper, the spokesperson for the Taliban expressed that “foreign investors who want to participate in investing in a stable and safe Afghanistan are welcome” . This implies that the Taliban are not looking to use their triumph to continue the fight against imperialism, but, on the contrary, want to demonstrate the country is safe and stable to attract imperialist investors. This gives yet another reason to fight against the current regime.
The return of working-class struggle?
In 2019, a wave of rebellions and revolutions extended across various parts of the world. Latin America was the epicenter of the revolutionary process in Chile . These struggles responded to worsening living conditions, oppression, and dictatorial regimes. These were explosive processes with mobilizations that faced harsh repression. The youth, in a precarious position and without a future, placed themselves at the vanguard of these confrontations. In Chile, this sector acquired an organizing principle and a name: the Front Line . In general, the working class did not intervene in these processes through structures, organizations, and methods, but did so in a way that was dispersed within the masses.
The Chilean “Front Line”
In 2020, the pandemic and its impact provoked an impasse relative to the mass mobilizations, who came out on the defense. We even experienced defeats, like in Hong Kong. In the U.S., anti-racist mobilizations exploded and expanded. At the end of the year, a heroic fight by Argentinean women ended in a triumph with the parliamentary vote to legalize the right to an abortion.
In 2021, the workers and masses seemed to return to the dynamics of 2019. In March, in Paraguay, an outburst of anger manifested on the streets in response to the awful handling of the pandemic by the government, the Partido Colorado . In June, a wave of mobilizations began in Colombia against the government of Iván Duque, which the regime responded to with harsh repression . These processes maintained the characteristics that we analyzed in 2019. However, in 2021 an important change began: the presence of the working class participating from within their own structures and organizations and with their own methods.
Protests in Paraguay, March 2021. REUTERS/Cesar Olmedo
Throughout the year, an important wave of strikes developed in the U.S. While predominantly in the education and service sectors in 2020, in 2021 industrial workers joined in, a component missing from the scene for years . This strike wave emphasizes economic demands but has profound political potential because it aims at the heart of the central politics of the bourgeoisie: to place the burden of economic recovery on the backs of workers. We also consider this wave to have a significant positive impact on the spirit of the working class in the U.S.
Another important process this year was the general strike in India that began in December 2020. The mobilizations were in response to the various agricultural laws and in opposition to the new “workers’ law” that attacked organizing in the workplace spearheaded by the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) right-wing government. Over 250 million people participated in the strike, the largest in history. Last October, a united front of farmers and various syndicates returned to convoke a new strike. In the face of this threat, the Parliament repealed the controversial laws, which would turn into the first victory of the struggle .
In South Africa, metalworkers (grouped in the powerful NUMSA union) launched a strike for increased salaries . In Italy, workers in the metal company GKN and Alitalia overcame internal divisions to fight against the attacks waged by the bosses and by Draghi’s government . In October, the Confederation of Indigenous Nations (CONAIE in Spanish) and the Workers’ United Front (Frente Unitario de los Trabajadores) launched a general strike against the Ecuadorian government of Guillermo Lasso, particularly against the high oil prices . In Belgium, at the beginning of December, thousands marched on the streets in Brussel, convoked by the central gremial agencies, against inflation and attacks on workers’ rights .
If these elements consolidate, it will have significant repercussions for the continued workers’ struggle in 2022. It would also signal an important process for the IWL-FI because we are an organization of the working class and that is where we develop our principal interventions.
The bourgeoisie’s response
Imperialist and nationalist bourgeoisies have not remained passive in the face of these struggles. Towards massive street mobilizations, many times they respond with harsh repressions that reach criminal levels (like in Colombia) , or instead imprison hundreds (Cuba). In other cases, they have responded with coups, like what happened in Myanmar (formerly Burma) in February of 2021 , and in Sudan, in October .
The principal response to these mobilizations has been to seek to deflect popular outrage towards bourgeois elections. For example, this is clearly what has been done in Chile. The electoral victory of reformist Gabriel Boric is a distorted expression of the mass movement over the last decade. His electoral victory generates high expectations within and outside of the country. But Boric, as we have warned, does not represent the interests of those that revolted in the streets. Instead, he will continue to defend the interests of the large companies in the country. His government, always with “progressive” rhetoric, will be a government for capitalists. Boric’s strategy, and that of the United Front and Communist Party of Chile, is to negotiate with the powerful while tranquilizing the mass movement, pushing revolutionary action towards death at the hands of bourgeois-democratic institutionalism. For that reason, with MIT and constitutional constituent, María Rivera, who is using the parliamentary tribune to strengthen the revolutionary process and reveal all the bourgeois and reformist projects, we are proposing a different path: the path of mobilizing and organizing the working class and youth to continue the struggle against neoliberal Chilean capitalism and the powerful corporations. This alternative, worker-led and socialist, implies independence from Boric’s government, which will not solve our classes’ problems, nor will he respond to our revolutionary demands.
By diverting our attention towards electoral processes, the bourgeoisie reifies the idea that the only way to change things is through elections and, in these elections, you must choose between bourgeois variants – the right or the supposed “progressives” – through the political parties that represent them.
They seek to maintain control through a pendular electoral movement: if the right is in crisis, the “progressives” can win, like what happened in the U.S. with Biden; in Peru with Pedro Castillo, and in Honduras with Xiomara Castro; in Chile with Boric; and what might happen in Brazil with Lula. If it is the progressives that are struggling, let’s go with the right, like what happened with Lacalle Pou in Uruguay or what might happen in Argentina due to the decay of the Peronist governments and a new government with Juntos Por el Cambio (Together for Change) in 2023.
In Latin America, as we see this trend confirmed and, in the absence of a revolutionary leadership that drives the process of struggle past the electoral process, it is very likely that we will see the mobilization corralled towards the voting box and, as a result, a trend towards capitalizing on elections by bourgeois coalitions that are supposedly progressive.
Due to the continuing crisis and the erosion of possibilities presented by bourgeois democracy to resolve it, combined with an increasing skepticism of the masses, we will see a space open for figures who use the discourse of the extreme right disguised as being a “political outsider” as we saw with Bolsonaro in Brazil. This crisis, on the one hand, and the fact that the left has totally adapted to it without presenting a revolutionary alternative, allows this version of the right to continue presenting in elections, like what happened with Javier Milei in Argentina, or with Franco Parisi in Chile. Beyond their often-times confusing extreme right discourse, these are not figures that are creating fascist organizations with the objective of taking power by force. Their objective is to take advantage of the existing space to build themselves as electoral or parliamentary alternatives.
We will end with some brief conclusions. The first is the principal work proposed by the IWL-FI to support the struggles and push them to develop further, particularly those where the working class is involved. In these struggles, we will participate as a united front with diverse organizations. However, while participating in fronts, we must develop a fierce struggle against the politics of reformist and bureaucratic organizations, who inevitably will push our fights in the direction of electoral processes or parliamentary mechanisms. And, while doing so, they will ride the coattails of the bourgeoise “progressives” who take power. For example, we saw this clearly with PSOL in Brazil, who supported Lula’s alliance with sectors of the right-wing bourgeoisie. Or leftist organizations in Argentina that integrated into the list of electoral candidates under Kirchnerism.
For the IWL-FI, the struggles of the working class and masses should never be subordinated to electoral processes, although we participate and take advantage of those spaces when we can. At the same time, we believe that those fights should help us move forward the class struggle to win power for the working class, destroying the increasingly inhumane capitalist and imperialist system and replacing it with a much more rational and humane socialist revolution. We close 2021 reaffirming our class, in all countries, to build revolutionary, working-class, and socialist parties, to join our International organization through democratic centralism, and to rebuild the Fourth International. The IWL-FI renews its commitment to this strategy.
 On this topic, we recommend https://litci.org/es/armas-de-guerra/
 https://ciarglobal.com/gobierno-taliban-busca-confianza-internacional-para-atraer-inversion-extranjera/. See also: https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/international/world-news/taliban-ready-to-let-moscow-exploit-mineral-resources-in-afghanistan/articleshow/85668451.cms and https://www.thehindu.com/news/international/china-endorses-the-taliban-government-in-afghanistan/article36358824.ece