Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Globalization and the International Working Class

Spartacism and Kautskyism

The social forces motivating the politics of the Spartacists are the same. Just as Kautsky sought to deny that the outbreak of the war represented a fundamental turning point in the development of capitalism, so the Spartacists maintain that the globalization of production does not represent a qualitative change in the structure of world capitalism. Consequently, the political arrangements of the post-World War II period can continue. Those politics were based on three foundations: the central role of the national state, the domination of the labor and trade union bureaucracies over the working class, and the possibility of achieving reforms within the framework of capitalism.

All of Kautsky’s theoretical positions were motivated by one over-riding concern: to deny that the struggle for socialism was now placed before the working class as a life-and-death necessity, for which it had to organize and prepare, and the assertion that pre-war forms of struggles—the fight for reforms separated from the final goal of the conquest of power—could continue.

The Spartacists share this platform. Kautsky asserted, against Lenin and the Left in the German Social Democracy that the alternative of imperialism or socialism would drive those who did not believe in the necessity of socialism into the camp of imperialism. In the same way, when the International Committee explained that, in the defense of even its most basic interests, the working class is confronted with the necessity of overthrowing the social relations of capitalism, the Spartacists attacked this as “a defeatist and abstentionist position toward the actual struggles of the working class.”

The Spartacists employ the same subjectivist method with regard to globalization as did Kautsky in regard to the war. According to Kautsky, even before the opening of the war, the arms race and the costs of colonial expansion had reached such a level that they were threatening the very bases of capital accumulation. Consequently “economic bankruptcy would occur prematurely as a result of continuing the present policy of imperialism. This policy of imperialism therefore cannot be continued much longer.”

That is, the arms race and the eruption of the war were not the outcome of objective tendencies within capitalism, but merely a question of particular policy options chosen by the bourgeoisie. Consequently, when the dangers of those policies became clear, the bourgeoisie would move to implement new ones.

In exactly the same way, the Spartacists insist that globalization is not the outcome of inherent contradictions within the capitalist mode of production, but is simply a policy pursued by the bourgeoisie. At a certain stage, the bourgeoisie will recognize the dangers of this policy to the stability of the nation-state and implement other policies. Just as Kautsky suggested that the imperialists would assess the damage to their interests by the war and come to an agreement for the joint domination of the globe, so, according to the Spartacists, the imperialist powers will recognize the dangers posed by globalization and take action to reverse it.

As for the Spartacists’ accusation that the International Committee has advanced the possibility of some peaceful “ultra-imperialist” development of capitalism arising from the globalization of production, this is easily refuted by an examination of the record. In addition to the programmatic statements previously cited, one need only turn to the ICFI manifesto Oppose Imperialist War and Colonialism, published for the World Conference of Workers Against Imperialist War and Colonialism, held in Berlin on November 16 and 17, 1991.

The resolution explained that the Gulf War and the virtual destruction of the industrial infrastructure of Iraq marked the beginning of a new eruption of imperialist barbarism. It warned that capitalism, after twice this century plunging mankind into world wars, was preparing an even greater world conflagration.

In the words of the resolution: “These contradictions—between social production and private ownership, between the world character of production and the national-state system—are the basic source of the economic breakdowns and violent political eruptions that have repeatedly shaken the planet in the course of the 20th century. Despite all the efforts to suppress them, they are once again building toward an explosion. There is no way to prevent a Third World War except through a victorious international proletarian revolution and the overthrow of capitalism. All other proposals for preventing war—from calls for nuclear ‘nonproliferation’ treaties and proposals for disarmament, to pacifist appeals to the bourgeoisie, conscientious objection and prayer vigils—are little more than exercises in cynicism or self-deception.” [1]

The resolution explained that, far from lessening inter-imperialist conflicts and tensions, the globalization of economic processes led to their intensification:

“The modern transnational corporation has, from an economic standpoint, completely outgrown the old puny parameters of the national state. Its directors are compelled to think and act in terms of world production, world markets, world finance and world resources. The old distinctions between the home market and world market are in the process of being entirely effaced. The modern transnational corporation, regardless of the geographical location of its home base, is involved in a life-and-death struggle for dominance in the world market. But even as the national state loses its objective economic significance, its role as the political-military instrument of the competing national cliques of capitalists, in the struggle for world domination, grows enormously. This fact finds its most powerful expression in the accelerating preparations for a new world conflagration.” [2]


Oppose Imperialist War and Colonialism, Detroit, Labor Publications, p. 4


Ibid, p. 11