Socialist Equality Party (UK)
The Historical and International Foundations of the Socialist Equality Party (Britain)

Globalisation and the perspective of socialism

245. At its fourth plenum in July 1987, the International Committee produced the first serious Marxist appraisal of the phenomenon of globalisation, associated with the revolutionary developments in computer technology. It placed central emphasis on the “explosive growth in the activity of transnational corporations”, which reflected an “unprecedented integration of the world market and internationalisation of production” and had led to the “absolute and active predominance of the world economy over all national economies”. The International Committee insisted that this global integration of production, far from opening up new historical vistas for capitalism, had raised the basic contradictions between world economy and the capitalist nation state system, and between social production and private ownership, to an unprecedented level of intensity. The loss by the United States of its economic hegemony, expressed in its transformation from the world’s principal creditor into its largest debtor, reflected a breakdown of the entire post-World War II order, which was producing a sharp escalation of inter-imperialist antagonisms.

246. The International Committee also attributed revolutionary significance to the vast expansion of the proletariat in Asia, Africa and Latin America, as a result of the international export of capital in pursuit of higher rates of profit. Globalisation had made the perspective of reorganizing the working class on the basis of an internationalist and socialist programme the only possible means of combating capital organised across national borders. As such, it had rendered bankrupt all the old organisations of the official workers’ movement, based on national programmes for the regulation of the class struggle.

247. The ICFI’s 1988 perspectives document, The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International, explained that the changes in the form of capitalist production had brought with them a change in the form of the class struggle:

“It has long been an elementary proposition of Marxism that the class struggle is national only as to form, but that it is, in essence, an international struggle. However, given the new features of capitalist development, even the form of the class struggle must assume an international character. Even the most elemental struggles of the working class pose the necessity of coordinating its actions on an international scale. It is a basic fact of economic life that transnational corporations exploit the labour power of workers in several countries to produce a finished commodity, and that they distribute and shift production between their plants in different countries and on different continents in search of the highest rate of profit.... Thus, the unprecedented international mobility of capital has rendered all nationalist programmes for the labour movement of different countries obsolete and reactionary”.[1]

248. These developments constituted the objective impulse for the growth of the International Committee, which had to give them conscious, programmatic and organisational form:

“Precisely the international character of the proletariat, a class which owes no allegiance to any capitalist ‘fatherland’, makes it the sole social force that can liberate civilisation from the strangulating fetters of the nation state system. For these fundamental reasons, no struggle against the ruling class in any country can produce enduring advances for the working class, let alone prepare its final emancipation, unless it is based on an international strategy aimed at the worldwide mobilisation of the proletariat against the capitalist system”.[2]


The World Capitalist Crisis and the Tasks of the Fourth International (1988)Labor Publications, pp. 6-7.


David North, Report to the 13th National Congress of the Workers League, Fourth International, Labor Publications, July-December 1988, pp. 7-8.