At the end of January, around 100 comrades of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) from across the globe came together for a leadership meeting that represented a decisive landmark in our history. Below, we publish a full transcript of the opening talk by Alan Woods on the turbulent world situation, and the urgent tasks that this places before communists. On Monday, we look forward to publishing a full report of the meeting, which will include important announcements of interest to revolutionary communists everywhere.
Analysis of world perspectives would be a childishly simple thing if economic phenomena were the only factors we needed to analyse. Of course, they establish the broad tendencies, there is no question about that. And yes, they are ultimately the decisive question.
But, just as in the ocean, in the world situation there can be many crosscurrents, which at any given moment can exercise a powerful effect on the way things develop, and above all on the pace of development. At times, the pace can seem painfully slow. But at other times it can be enormously accelerated. That is the position we face at the present time – processes have enormously intensified and accelerated at all levels.
I will not deal at any length with the economic analysis, which we’ve done thoroughly elsewhere. Sometimes, we may be a little bit too simplistic in making general declarations, which in general may be true. Yes, but what is true in general may not be true in a particular circumstance.
For example, it is impossible that the bourgeoisie can make reforms – true or false? In general it is true. Not only can the bourgeoisie not offer any new, meaningful or lasting reforms to the working class; not only is the bourgeoisie unable to make reforms that are solid and sustainable; they cannot even guarantee the maintenance of all the reforms that the working class has painfully conquered over the last 50 years.
That is a decisive fact. That is the reason why the crisis of capitalism is also, as night follows day, a crisis of reformism.
But is it true, necessarily, that under no circumstances can the bourgeoisie make reforms? Oh no, my friends, that doesn’t follow at all. If the ruling class is faced with a fundamental crisis, in which their whole system can be overthrown, if faced with losing everything, they will carry out reforms – we had better believe it. They will make decisions which are ‘impossible’ to make, and they will spend money which they do not possess.
This is irresponsible from a strictly economic, logical point of view. But that is precisely what they did following the crisis of 2008-2009, when the system was threatened with overthrow.
And therefore they did the opposite of everything they had said in previous years. They spent vast, incredible sums of money – government money, non-existent money – in order to save the system. And they succeeded. Oh yes, they succeeded in temporarily stabilising the situation, which was out of control. And they did the same thing on an even greater scale during the COVID-19 crisis. They spent huge amounts of money, money which they did not possess. Did they succeed? Yes, they succeeded.
However, by doing so, all they succeeded in doing was to create even greater contradictions, huge contradictions, insoluble contradictions. And now, those contradictions have caught up with them.
They are laden with vast, unimaginable quantities of debt: government debt, company debt, private debt, consumer debt. And of course, we’ve seen an enormous jump in inflation. Therefore, they are now forced, like a man whose car is out of control, to slam on the brakes. And that, of course, causes tremendous contradictions.
I remember distinctly, that we predicted precisely this fact in 2008. At that time, I explained the following: every attempt of the bourgeoisie to restore the economic equilibrium, which is what they were desperately trying to do, will destroy the social and political equilibrium.
And that is precisely what we see. Incidentally, the period of historically low rates of inflation, which all the stupid economists said was permanent – why they thought that, I do not know – and correspondingly low rates of interest, is finished. It cannot be restored, at least for the foreseeable future, if ever.
The most turbulent period in history
This is the context in which everything else has developed. It is a finished recipe for precisely what we said: the most stormy and turbulent period in the whole of history.
You see this turbulence, this chronic instability, everywhere. Just turn on the television set, listen to the news, if you can stand it. Personally, I have stopped listening to the BBC – it is just a stream of stupid propaganda.
Everywhere you see the same instability: economic instability; financial instability; social instability; political instability; diplomatic instability, and yes, military instability. If you understand that, then you’ve understood the nature of the period through which we are passing.
Let us be clear on another thing: economic processes, at any given moment in time, can be seriously affected by political questions – and by military questions. There is no Chinese Wall to separate them. Such an idea would be a stupid one, like imagining that all processes in science are chemically pure. They are not.
In a given situation, political questions can have a drastic effect on the economy. And, of course, the economy always has a fundamental effect on political questions. There is an interrelationship, as we can see when we read the alarm expressed by the more serious strategists of capitalism – one or two of them are still alive.
Although most of them are complete idiots. As Lenin said: a man on the edge of a precipice does not reason.
I ask the comrades to remember that statement. I’ve seen this many times, where we make mistakes in perspectives – and we have made mistakes – it is quite often for the following reason: we assume, wrongly, that the bourgeoisie acts in a logical manner.
If that were true, to develop perspectives you would just have to work out what’s in the logical interest of US imperialism and, therefore, they will act accordingly.
Oh, no, no, no, no. The bourgeois does not necessarily act in a logical manner, as we will see. It very often happens in history that serious problems are caused by miscalculations on the part of the ruling class.
Adolf Hitler made the biggest miscalculation imaginable when he attacked the Soviet Union in 1941. By the way, Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt also made similarly stupid miscalculations throughout the course of the war and after.
Today, you see gloomy articles in the press; the former optimism has turned into dark pessimism, because there are very few strategists that are able to think. As Trotsky said in 1938: they are tobogganing towards disaster with their eyes closed, and they are making serious mistakes.
They are facing a perfect storm. All these factors – economic, political, military, and diplomatic – are combining, coming together, producing a catastrophic downward spiral. They don’t seem to be able to stop. They can’t stop it.
We see that in the events in the Middle East and in Ukraine. These two elements will have to occupy quite an important part in this discussion.
Let us start with Ukraine. First of all, you have to ask the question: what is the strategic importance of Ukraine for US imperialism? Why is it so vitally important that it has become an obsession for Biden and his ministers? Let us answer that question. Read my lips: Ukraine, from the general standpoint of the global interests of American imperialism, is of zero importance. China, if you like, even Taiwan: they are important.
When Biden was elected, believe it or not, part of his programme was supposed to be a peace program. He wasn’t going to get the US involved in any more of these so-called ‘Forever Wars’ in the Middle East.
Believe it or not, he said he was going to do a deal with Russia, that he would have established a stable relationship with Russia in order to concentrate on the central problem, which is of course China, as we will see shortly.
Mr. Joseph Biden, in the short space of time that he has occupied the White House, has achieved precisely the opposite of what he said he was going to do.
The Americans deliberately pushed Ukraine into a senseless conflict with Russia, which could easily have been avoided. Easily, by elementary diplomacy, such as, for example, agreeing that Ukraine would never join NATO. Simple. In fact, Zelensky was prepared to discuss this with the Russians. He was prepared to do most of these things initially, until he had his arms twisted by NATO and the Yanks: “Don’t trust Putin! No deals with Putin!” It is now abundantly clear that the Americans deliberately provoked that war.
Now, I have described it as an unnecessary war. I know for a fact that some comrades think of this as a very strange thing to say. After all, if the war took place, it must have taken place of necessity. That is true. When you reach a certain point anything becomes necessary.
But does that mean that the war could not have been avoided? That is a very wrong and a very foolish assumption to make. I am telling you now – and I am not the only one saying this, many people are saying this – they could and they should have avoided it, by making some concessions: secondary, unimportant concessions.
But no, no, no: they considered the question of the expansion of NATO to be a matter of principle, which they could not renounce. That was a very stupid assumption to make in the first instance. Why should it be so important? Really speaking, it is not important. They thought wrongly. They misjudged. They misinterpreted the entire situation.
“Here is an opportunity for a nice little war with Russia. We will not be involved. No American lives will be lost. Let the Ukrainians do all the fighting. We will give them arms and money. Wonderful modern arms. And we will give them a chance to win.”
Wonderful modern arms like the Leopard tank, and the Abrams tank, and these new jet fighters, which they will give them. And I say: so what? Let them hand over these weapons. It makes no difference.
“The Russians are weak. The Russian generals are useless. The Russians haven’t got modern weapons like us.” They actually believed their own lunacy – and it is lunacy.
But could the Ukrainians win? We said from the word go, that there is absolutely not a snowball’s chance in hell of Ukraine winning a war with Russia. It was and remains a stupid idea.
Looking at it now, they are beginning to understand. It is taking them a little bit of time. First of all, they pushed Zelensky into this conflict, which he didn’t want. Now he wants it because his career depends upon it.
On at least two occasions, they sabotaged a deal which was being made. If I’m not mistaken, the last one was in April of 2022.
The deal was signed by both Russia and Zelensky, I believe in Istanbul, brokered by the Turks. And it was deliberately sabotaged by that imbecile Boris Johnson, a perfect representative of our intelligent British ruling class. ‘Prime Minister of Britain’ – he’s not fit to run a circus! He’s barely suited to the role of a clown. But Johnson would have never made that statement, unless he was backed by Biden. Never. British imperialism is a negligible power.
‘Brexit’, ‘independence’ – what independence? When they’re constantly licking the boot of American imperialism? What are you talking about? Washington says jump and they say: how high? It’s embarrassing.
No, they deliberately sabotaged it, and they pushed the Ukrainians into this offensive last June. I won’t go into details, but that’s what they did.
I have very good reason to believe, I'm sure of it, that Zaluzhnyi did not want this offensive. The commander-in-chief didn't want it. Why? Because he knew that they would lose. He knew they'd be smashed.
I wrote an article when he launched the offensive, in which I explained that I do not understand why the Ukrainians say:
“Oh, look, the Russians have got minefields. The Russians have minefields. Since when?”
You didn't know about these minefields?
“Oh they've got strong defences; strong lines of defence.”
And you didn’t know they had strong lines of defence?
Zaluzhnyi knew, and that’s why he wasn’t pleased. Again, he was pushed into it by the Yanks.
They believed their own nonsense that these ‘wonder weapons’ were going to be game changers and it would be child’s play. They would easily defeat these hopeless Russians. Russia would be defeated. They’d get the Crimea and all the territories back. Putin would collapse, and probably commit suicide or something. And then they’d all live happily ever after. Well, it didn’t quite work out like that, did it?
And yet you read this nonsense. I don’t know whether some comrades would have been affected by it. It is propaganda: denigrating the Russians and praising the military capacity of the Ukrainians. That is rubbish, it is nonsense: it was always nonsense.
It is true that, at the beginning of the war, the Russians made some bad mistakes and they paid the price for it. That’s true. They made some mistakes; they made some miscalculations. But in war, you learn from your mistakes, and they have learned from their mistakes.
They reorganised the whole business along different lines, and now they’re in a very strong position. That’s the point.
Now there’s gloomy assessments being drawn. Even the thickest skulls in London and Washington are beginning to register that this offensive didn’t quite work out as planned.
“Oh look, there's a stalemate. There's a stalemate.” Comrades: there is no stalemate whatsoever in Ukraine. None. The Russians are advancing. This was a defeat.
But the word ‘defeat’ sticks in their throat. They can’t say it, so they talk about a ‘stalemate’ instead. It sounds better, doesn’t it? Except, it’s a lie.
This was not just a defeat. It was an absolutely crushing defeat. It destroyed any possibility of Ukraine now resisting the Russians. They have no possibility.
They suffered such colossal deaths, such staggering deaths, even the western press are forced to admit that the casualty rates are staggering, although they don’t give the figures.
And these would include all of the trained, experienced, battle-hardened soldiers. They’re all either dead or wounded, they cannot fight. And they cannot be replaced.
Now the Ukrainian press is full of reports of the army and the police arresting young men, dragging them out of nightclubs and sending them straight to the front. People don’t want to fight anymore. People in Ukraine no longer believe anything that the government tells them. They know it’s a pack of lies. They see the coffins coming back, they know all this.
Young men don’t want to join the army. I’m not surprised. You join the army, you don’t get any training, if you’re lucky you get a gun, and then you get sent straight to the front, where you stand a very good chance of being killed very quickly.
By the way, I remember the propaganda in the past. The Russians were supposed to be running out of missiles. Remember that? “Oh, Russia is running out of missiles. They have no missiles.”
Some stupid person, I think from MI5 in London, 12 months ago said that the Russian soldiers in Bakhmut were fighting with shovels. I say, some shovels!
What’s the reality? Russia is not out of missiles. They’re bombing all the time. They’ve got plenty of missiles, their industry is working well, they’re producing missiles, shells, tanks, planes – and very good tanks and planes, by the way. They are just as good, if not better, than what NATO has.
But the Ukrainians are running out of ammunition. They’re running out of shells. They were promised a million shells from the European Union, which they never received. The Americans had to borrow half a million shells, which were sent to the Ukrainians. But that's no good, it’s no good at all. The Ukrainians are firing shells and missiles and rockets as if there was no tomorrow and the West cannot keep up with their needs.
I think it was the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal that published a narrative, stating that for every five or six shells the Russians fire at the Ukrainian lines, the Ukrainians are lucky to fire one or two in return. The Russians are advancing slowly but remorselessly.
They’ve built up huge forces on the front and in Belarus. They are ready for a general offensive. It may come, or it may not.
If it comes in the next few months, perhaps in the next month or so, there is no way that the Ukrainians could resist it: none whatsoever. So what’s the position of the Americans? What’s the position of NATO? If they were acting logically, they’d say, “well look, Ukraine is defeated. There's no alternative. We must negotiate with the Russians and see if we can get something.”
Do they say that? No. What do they say? “Carry on. We must support Ukraine, we must send more weapons, we must send more to this shattered, bleeding country.”
That’s a crime. That is a war crime: to persist in this terrible slaughter, at the risk of the total annihilation of Ukraine as an independent country. They don’t care.
On Joe Biden, we must understand: he is undoubtedly the stupidest, most ham-fisted, ignorant president of the United States for some time. I would say for a hundred years, but then of course there’s George W. Bush… but after Bush, Biden comes close behind.
When we come on to the Middle East, we will see it’s more of the same.
Biden is like a car without a reverse gear: “Forward, forward, attack.”
He reminds me of the captain of the Titanic: “Full steam ahead.”
But there’s a difference with the captain of the Titanic. That poor chap didn’t see the iceberg until it was too late. Joe Biden and his advisers could see the great big iceberg coming towards them, and they still exclaimed: “full steam ahead!”
An excellent example is what he’s done with the Houthis, which we will come on to. A journalist asked Biden, “are the strikes in Yemen working?” To which the President of the United States replied (this quote must go down in history):
“Well, you say ‘working’. Are they stopping the Houthis? No. Are they going to continue? Yes.”
For goodness sake, this borders on insanity. If something is not working, the conclusion is… that you continue!
I heard Obama went to visit Biden a few weeks ago and tried to persuade him to change his policy. It was a complete waste of time. Biden doesn't listen to anybody.
But to sum up on the question of Ukraine: NATO has suffered a humiliating defeat.
On this damned nonsense about ‘wonder weapons’, like the Leopard tank: what happened to these unconquerable Leopard tanks? You can see them online, if you like, wrecked, in flames, in ruins, in the middle of Russian minefields.
It is a complete humiliation for the German army, and Ukraine now is having a big effect inside Germany. I don't know much about this new left party that’s emerging there, but one thing is true: they're against the war in Ukraine.
This business in Ukraine was supposed to show the weakness of Russia. It shows no such thing. As we predicted, all the sanctions have failed miserably. The Russian economy is still going forward.
I don’t know how long that will last, but it is going forward. And all these ‘wonder weapons’ have been exposed as a bluff. It is embarrassing, but it shows the weakness of NATO.
It’s not the Russians who are running out of missiles and artillery shells. Rather, it is debilitating the Americans, and exhausting their stocks.
Now there are articles coming out every day, in which generals in the West complain about the lamentable conditions of the armed forces, in Britain, in France, and in Germany, for example. And now the Americans and NATO are demanding – and this is going to be a key question that we must take up – that all these governments must spend more money on arms to meet the Russian threat, which is non-existent. There is no Russian threat to any country except for Ukraine.
Ukraine is defeated now. In the Ukrainian population now, there is a mood of pessimism and defeatism. People are angry against Putin, of course, absolutely. But they’re also angry now against Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi, who, by the way, are clashing.
The mood in Ukraine is actually pregnant with revolutionary implications. At bottom, it is a war between the rich and the poor: the poor men that have been slaughtered at the front are young kids from poor families. The rich can buy their way out of it or escape abroad. Meanwhile, the corruption of the ruling circle, including Zelensky, is notorious.
However, the mood at this stage is likely to be a very depressed one, certainly incomparable to the situation at the beginning of the conflict. Then, the Ukrainians were prepared to fight and were prepared to make sacrifices. Not anymore.
A country like that cannot resist a Russian attack. It may be that the offensive of the Russians will not take place. Why should it? The Russians are not in any hurry.
They can wait, while bombarding Ukraine with the missiles. Until what? Until quantity becomes transformed into quality, leading to a collapse, which is quite possible, and a surrender, which is also quite possible.
These social contradictions are reflected in an open split in the regime. Zelensky and Zaluzhnyi are no longer speaking to one another. I think it was in December that Zelensky sent a letter to Zaluzhnyi. Zaluzhnyi is supposed to be the commander in chief, but Zelensky lost all confidence in him and demanded his resignation.
Zaluzhnyi sent a letter back to his commander in chief, which can be roughly translated into South Wales English as: “go jump in the lake!”
What he actually said was, “look I am not resigning, and if you sack me, you must accept the consequences.”
That’s more than a mutiny. That’s the threat of a coup. That’s how bad things have become. Zelensky’s support is collapsing and the vultures are circling.
War in the Middle East
Suddenly, in the midst of this mess, came the crisis in Gaza. We have dealt with this thoroughly in our documents, and I won’t deal with the details, which are well known.
But once again: what is the position of the United States? I have noticed something strange in the news: they are blaming Iran. “It’s Iran, it’s Iran, it’s Iran,” they repeat. That’s not an accident.
There has been general agreement in the United States for a long time: both the Republicans and the Democrats regard Iran as their main problem in the Middle East, a problem that must be dealt with.
I have no doubt whatsoever where this is leading. Why did Biden immediately send two aircraft carriers to the area? One to the eastern Mediterranean and one to the Red Sea. I know the excuses: to stop the war from escalating? Well my friends, if that was the intention – it may well have been the intention – but they have achieved precisely the opposite.
But I have no doubts in my mind that at least one wing of the Administration saw this conflict in Gaza as a perfect excuse to attack Iran. I am certain of this. I have no doubt about it that this was always their intention.
The reason they haven’t done so quickly, is because others were saying, “hang on one second. This will have consequences.” And it will have consequences.
Is it a surprise that the USA supported Israel? It is no surprise at all, it was absolutely inevitable. But was it inevitable for Joe Biden, the President of the United States, immediately, without even thinking, to jump on a plane, to fly to Israel, and to publicly embrace Netanyahu, on television, in front of the whole world, making a declaration that “we support Israel unconditionally”, and in so doing giving this monster Netanyahu a blank cheque to do whatever he wants?
What necessity was there for the man to do such a thing? It’s unheard of, without any precedent. By his actions he completely tied the hands of American foreign policy. They cannot retreat from that.
Immediately, they alienated the likes of Saudi Arabia, a key ally of US imperialism since 1945. That alliance was already very shaky even before 7 October. The Saudis had defied the Americans over oil prices when the latter wanted to freeze or reduce them. The Saudis replied, in pure Arabic, which I believe can again be translated into the South Wales dialect as: “go jump in the lake.”
And they refused to support the Yanks in Ukraine. They drew closer to Russia and even to Iran, actually, and away from Israel. That means that the whole policy which the Americans were trying to put together in the Middle East has been shattered.
Big consequences will flow from this. There is no point in discussing further the terrible massacre that has taken place in Gaza. It is monstrous. Netanyahu is a monster. But he is pursuing his own agenda, by the way – his own personal agenda – and not necessarily the interests of the Israeli ruling class.
He has two objectives: to crush Hamas, and to cling to power and stop himself going to jail. These are two very clear objectives that he will continue to pursue. But months into this terrible conflict, they have not defeated Hamas. They will not defeat Hamas, at least not completely, in the manner that he promised. That’s impossible.
What they have achieved is to stir up the whole of the region, even without an attack on Iran, which I think will come, in time.
In the meantime, this massacre, this deliberate slaughter of civilians, will continue. There are no two ways about it: it is a war crime. I don’t usually use the term ‘genocide’, but if it’s not genocide, it’s something that comes very close to it.
We see the hypocrisy of the West once more on display. Quite soon after the beginning of the war in Ukraine, they immediately went to the International Court of Justice. There is, by the way, absolutely no truth whatsoever in any assertion that the Russians have deliberately killed Ukrainian civilians. That is untrue, and yet they immediately accused Putin of ‘war crimes’; and, they immediately ordered a ceasefire.
What about this business on the other hand, where the South African government has produced a detailed account of the slaughter that is taking place? There is no question of a ceasefire. Instead, the ICJ says, “you can carry on, but you must take measures to kill fewer civilians.” What a joke. And still there is no question of a ceasefire.
If you had any doubts about the influence of American imperialism over these bodies, well, there’s the proof.
So, this slaughter is going to continue. To make matters worse, in the last few days, Mossad, the Israeli secret police, produced a so-called report accusing a dozen or so UN relief workers of some kind of involvement in the events of 7 October. It’s clearly a stitch-up. It’s clearly a manoeuvre. In response, western governments immediately cut off aid to people who are starving to death. Immediately. No question of any investigation. Find out the facts? No, no, no.
If ever you required proof of the vicious, hard-hearted cruelty of the imperialist powers, of the so-called western democracies, this is it. All this has consequences.
Events, particularly in Ukraine and in Gaza, have now accelerated enormously what you could describe as a seismic shift in the tectonic plates of world relations.
For a long time, these relations were frozen. As long as the Soviet Union existed, it was a powerful counterbalance against American imperialism. But the collapse of the Soviet Union was a seismic change.
For a time, Russia was helpless and impotent. American imperialism was the only superpower in the world. But with colossal power comes colossal arrogance.
Joe Biden is a product of that period, and a product also of the Cold War. He is obsessed with a deep-seated hatred of Russia. And he is obsessed with the idea of American power. He hasn’t realised that that power has begun to shrink in the world.
Over Ukraine, they constantly repeat that Russia is isolated in the world. Is that true? It is not true. Russia is only isolated by a minuscule group of imperialist powers in Europe, plus Japan and Canada.
What disgusting jackals the Canadian ruling class are, by the way. Aren't they repulsive elements? ‘Liberals’. I think I hate the liberals even more than I hate the conservatives, although it’s just the same anyway. The only difference is one gang is openly reactionary, while the others are snivelling hypocritical bastards that hide their reaction behind a false mask of liberalism.
But this rich man’s club in NATO, that's not the world. In the rest of the world, Russia is not isolated. America is isolated, and increasingly so.
I mentioned Saudi Arabia, but there are other countries. Turkey, for example. Say what you like about Erdogan, but he's doing his own thing. He’s no longer interested in what the Americans say.
Returning briefly to the Middle East, the most important conclusion for the situation is this: the Middle East was always a powder keg, it just required a spark to set it off.
These Arab regimes are not very stable. A group of them have been very close to the United States, and that is their weak point.
The mood among the masses in the Middle East now is one of fury. Absolute fury. And this is directed against Israel, of course, and inevitably also against America. But increasingly it will be directed against their own governments, which are tainted and poisoned by this toxic relationship. They’re in deep trouble. That explains why the Qataris and others are desperately trying to get some kind of a deal to send aid to the Palestinians.
It doesn’t make any difference, of course. Netanyahu is just continuing. He pays no attention to the decisions of the International Court of Justice. For decades, Israel has paid no attention to anything that comes out of the United Nations. They use all these resolutions for Palestinian rights for wiping their backsides.
The war will continue, but this mood of the masses is reaching explosive proportions, by the insane policy that the Americans are pushing. Do the Americans want this? No, they don’t want it. Is it in their interest? No, it's not in their interest. But they’re pushing in that direction all the time by their actions, by the stupid bombing of the Houthis.
Again, they underestimated the Russians; they underestimated the Iranians; they underestimated the Houthis as well. Say what you like about the Houthis, but they’re a tough bunch. They’re a disciplined, battle-hardened force.
Yes, they are backed by Iran. Have you noticed on the news? Whenever they mention these groups, they say, “the Iranian-backed Hamas”, “the Iranian-backed Houthis”, “The Iranian-backed Hezbollah”. Do they ever say, “the American-backed Israel”? Have you ever heard that? Because I certainly haven’t.
But by the way, there is a certain parallel here. Israel is the proxies of American imperialism, yes. These groups – the Houthis, Hezbollah – yes, they are proxies of Iran. They get help from Iran, yes.
But, do the Americans control Israel? Do they control Netanyahu? He’s their proxy, but they don't control him. They can’t control him, and that’s a fact. Actually, the Americans, now, are a picture of impotence.
But here’s an interesting point. All the time, they’ve been clearly inching towards an attack on Iran. That’s why they always repeat it in the media, “Iran has backed this”, “Iran has backed that”, and “Iran has done something else”. That is preparation.
They will continue to attack the Houthis, but they’ve made a big mistake. Look, the Houthis have been fighting wars for decades. They are well disciplined and tough. For 10 years, they resisted the most savage bombardment by the Saudi Arabian Air Force, backed by Britain, France and America. Now look, for an organisation that’s able to do that, I ask you a question: do you believe for one minute they’re going to be impressed by a couple of bombs by British and American planes? It doesn’t impress them, of course. It is like a pinprick. They’re well dug in with tunnels and like that.
In fact, if somebody asked the Houthis, “what do you think about these bombs?”, they would reply, “We’re quite pleased, actually. We’re happy, because now at last we’re fighting the real enemy, which is the United States.”
So, the bombing will have no effect. Biden has admitted that there's no effect. So, ask yourself: what is the next logical step? Ah! If Joe Biden was present here, the next logical step would be to negotiate with somebody. Negotiate with someone, for Christ’s sake, to get us out of this mess. Put pressure on Netanyahu to stop them. But they can’t do that.
The next illogical step – but one they will take, in all likelihood, in my opinion – is to bomb Iran. Not a land operation: a ground invasion of either Yemen or Iran is out. This isn’t possible, they can’t do it.
But if they do bomb Iran, it will have the most serious consequences. If the Houthis are a formidable enemy, the Iranians are a thousand times more formidable. And they’ve got the means to make life very hard for the Americans, all over the Middle East.
About a month ago, I think, Nasrullah, the leader of Hezbollah, made a public speech warning the Americans after they murdered a leader of Hamas in Beirut.
I’m pretty sure Nasrullah is trying to hold Hezbollah back, but Hezbollah wants to fight. He doesn’t want a war with Israel, but he warned the Americans:
“You had better be careful what you do. If you make a wrong step in our direction, we will hit you hard. We can do this.”
He told them clearly: “you know what I mean”. I don't know what he meant, but the Americans, who have bases all over the Middle East, certainly did.
The interesting thing is this: the Iranians understand what’s happening and they’ve taken their own measures. They fired long range missiles against targets in Syria, Iraq, and Pakistan. What’s interesting about that? What they did is not as interesting as what they did not do. Not one American base was attacked. Not one American life was lost.
It was a warning to the Americans: “You see what we are capable of doing? We can hit any target.”
But now we have this other attack that hit a small American base. I don't know who is responsible. It wasn’t the Iranians directly but was one of these pro-Iranian groups. This is playing with fire. The Americans are preparing. I don’t think there’s any doubt about that.
A direct attack on Iran would set the whole region on fire. And by the way, despite the fact that the mass of the population hate the Mullahs, make no mistake about it, if Iran is attacked by Israel or America, the mass of people will rally to defend the country.
The conclusion we have to draw is this: at the present time, there is not one single solitary stable regime in the whole of the Middle East. Not one. And the course taken by events can easily result in revolutionary explosions in one country after another, in the overthrow of one rotten Arab regime after another. In other words, it’s possible we could have a replay of the Arab Revolution.
It’s possible. We must be prepared for the most dramatic events. The whole situation is pregnant with revolutionary implications.
To come back to world relations: India, Saudi Arabia, and Erdogan in Turkey, all have moved away from the American sphere of influence.
The first effect of American foreign policy is the opposite of what they wanted. Instead of separating Russia from China, which was Trump’s idea, they’ve succeeded in uniting them now, very firmly.
It has other effects. North Korea has moved towards Russia. They’re exchanging military material, hardware and information, which disturbs the position of South Korea.
It’s quite ironic, the Americans have just taken half a million shells off the South Koreans to give to the Ukrainians at the very same time when little rocket man, Kim Jong-Un, suddenly announces that he wants to change the constitution of North Korea declaring South Korea to be an enemy. You might find it amusing. I don't think the people in South Korea find it amusing.
Then of course there’s the little question of Taiwan. It has caused another upset with the recent elections just a couple of weeks ago, where a pro-independence outfit was elected.
Now that is a red flag to a bull for the Chinese, who consider Taiwan to be a break-away rebel province of China.
I don’t think actually there is a danger of a Chinese invasion or a war, but they’re certainly preparing. The government of Taiwan had better be very careful what they do.
With a situation as alarming as that – with Asia, the Pacific being the key question for American strategic interests, and which is supposed to be a central element of American policy – with all of this trouble brewing in the Pacific, the American army finds itself over-reached, with depleted stocks and bogged down in unwinnable conflicts in Ukraine and in the Middle East.
By the way, if you ask the question “would America now be in a position to effectively defend Taiwan against the Chinese?” Well I’m not a military expert, but I think they’d find it extremely difficult.
Then there’s India. A central policy of America was to get control of India and its wealth. India is now an economic power that’s rising in the world. It used to be a satellite of the USSR, whereas Pakistan was allied with China.
Gradually, the Americans have succeeded in pulling India towards them. Now that has reversed. India is moving more and more in the direction of Moscow.
India refused to condemn the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Americans must have been horrified that Modi recently visited Putin in Moscow. It’s a clear example, and I could give many others, but there’s no time. I would say, as dramatic a change is now underway in world relations as occurred with the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Class struggle on the agenda
Now we come to the central point of the discussion, the conclusion. What can we draw from this? This year there will be many elections taking place. And I’ll predict now that we will see violent swings in public opinion: from the right to the left, and from the left to the right. This, of course, puzzles people on the so-called ‘left’.
For example, in the elections in the USA – whilst you can never be sure about anything with elections – Joe Biden is the most unpopular president in the USA, in modern history. Actually, I think the Democrats would like to get rid of him, but they can’t.
And then there’s Mr Trump. The liberal press in the United States and internationally is horrified. Look, it's amazing: Trump has come back again!
There’s an old black-and-white horror film from the 1950s called, The Night of the Living Dead. You should watch it: these phantoms arise from the grave, these dead people stagger around. They can’t be killed by bullets or the army or the police. They are powerless against these monsters that have risen from the grave. That’s Donald J. Trump.
They've tried everything. They've tried to attack him in the press and destroy him, to drag out his ex-girlfriends.
They’ve fought 91 court cases against him. That’s why I say he's a zombie: he’s not a human being. Any normal guy would be completely wrecked, destroyed. Not Donald J. Trump, no matter what they try.
Every time they announce a new case against him, his support goes up in the polls. He has it easy: all Trump has to do, although it would be difficult for him, is to keep his mouth shut, sit back, and wait. That’s all he has to do. Joe Biden will do the rest.
Everything indicates after Iowa and New Hampshire that he’s obviously going to be the Republican candidate. They can’t put him in jail. That’s nonsense. If they put him in jail, then they would have a civil war on their hands, or something like it. They’d certainly have serious bother, so it’s no good, they can’t. Therefore, I think there’s no avoiding it: America will have to once more go through the School of Donald Trump.
Of course, the reaction of all the sects is predictable. They’ll all be beating the tom-toms again. “Fascism, fascism,” they will cry. Of course, it is not fascism at all. But I’ll say something here which might be a bit controversial.
Of course, that Trump is a reactionary goes without saying. But even the support for Trump in the United States, in a very peculiar way, has been based on how this horrible reactionary billionaire has been quite skillful in his rhetoric, in his demagogy, attacking the establishment, the fat cats in Washington. And there’s no question that he’s struck a note. Because in the United States – and it’s quite a deep phenomenon now – as in all countries, without exception, has an underlying mood, which you cannot underestimate: a mood of blazing anger, of rage against the ruling class, against the rich and powerful, against the establishment, against the lying media. They don’t believe a word any of them have to say.
And that means that sometimes they’re open to the arguments of demagogues if there’s no alternative. And Trump has been quite skillful in posing as this alternative, which is, of course, as we understand, no alternative at all.
He’s likely to be swept to power in the next election. And that will aggravate all the contradictions in American society from top to bottom. It will also probably be the last time that he’ll be elected, he’ll probably be dead anyway.
You see, the masses need to go through this experience in order to expose this demagogy for what it is: demagogy. And that will prepare the ground for a new radicalisation and a revival of the class struggle, which is beginning already in America. That’s the point.
In the last two years there have been many strikes in America. There was an article recently, in the Financial Times I believe, referring to the unexpected revival of American labour. Unexpected to you, perhaps, but not unexpected to us.
And yes, here we have a very interesting point. When asked how favourably Americans view various institutions, in an opinion poll, labour unions rated more favourably than the CIA, the Supreme Court, the FBI, the state government, and the media. I don’t know who that leaves out.
And the least favourably viewed institutions were the large corporations. By the way, the same Financial Times article notes that auto workers in the United States are engaged in a class war. This is the Financial Times. The revival of strikes also applies to Canada. There, the number of strikes in the last year was the highest in 18 years.
In Germany, we’ve seen a very important rail strike, which caused alarm among sections of the ruling class. I see that even museums and other places like that were affected. I quote the very interesting words of Carsten Nickel, the deputy director of a firm called Teneo: “it really looks increasingly like a general strike”. That’s in Germany.
He adds, “we haven’t had a general strike in Germany since 1906,” and he also points out, and I quote: “the economy minister narrowly escaped what we might call physical altercations with an angry mob of protesters last weekend”. And he adds, “those were scenes that we haven’t seen in Germany before”.
It's the same phenomenon. In Britain, there’s been a wave of strikes, of which we’ve given the details elsewhere.
The nurses, for example, don't even have a proper union. There is an organisation called the Royal College of Nurses, if you can believe that. And this organisation called a strike for the first time in over 100 years. But it is not a question of collecting strike statistics.
These figures don't really convey the depth of feeling that exists in society. Everything which I’ve stated is reflected in the beginnings, at least, of a profound change in consciousness.
Even some representatives of the ruling class are beginning to understand this. For example, in the Daily Telegraph, which is a very reactionary Tory newspaper in Britain, David Frost, who is a prominent leader of the Conservative Party, wrote a very interesting article. What conclusion does he draw? I’ll tell you, it’s contained in the title of the article. Pay attention to this: “The British public is in the mood for revolution”. That is what this Tory has to say.
He explains the collapse of confidence, the lack of interest, and in relation to the elections which are soon to take place and which will annihilate the Tories, he says – quite perceptively: “the truth is, that most voters pay almost no attention to politics. Apart from a few days around elections,” adding, “I don't blame them”.
It's absolutely rational and reasonable to do this. He draws a very profound conclusion: this so-called apathy isn't apathy at all.
It happens because people have switched off from the Westminster game. And here is the punchline, here is his decisive conclusion: this isn't apathy, it’s a total loss of confidence in the system.
That comes from the house of an enemy. Recently, in Davos in Switzerland, a group of billionaires sent a letter entitled “Proud to Pay”, in which they said they were prepared to pay more taxes.
This is not a reflection of any generosity on their part, but of a growing fear of the social and political consequences of extreme inequality in society.
In the United States, people were asked in a poll, “how would you rate the way that capitalism is working in the United States today?” 7 percent said ‘excellent’; 14 percent said ‘very good’, 29 percent said ‘somewhat good’, but then 10 percent said ‘somewhat poor’, 5 percent said ‘very poor’, and 10 percent said ‘terrible’.
That means that 25 percent said that it was either somewhat poor, very poor or terrible. That, in itself, indicates the beginning of change.
And in Britain, it’s even clearer. They were asked, “what are the words that you associate most closely with capitalism?” The word above everything else is ‘greed’, at 73 percent; then ‘Constant pressure to achieve’, 70 percent; ‘corruption’, 69 percent. 42 percent of respondents agreed with the expression that capitalism is dominated by the rich and that they set the political agenda. These are just a few isolated polls.
There are other indications. In America, for example, the Communist Party, the CPUSA claims to have recruited 8,000 young people in the last two years. What’s the reason for this? Well, you see, many people now, especially the youth, are alienated from the existing political establishment and they’re looking for an alternative, a revolutionary alternative.
If you look at the last period, since the crisis of 2008, things have not been static. The first expression was a swing in the direction of what you might call ‘left reformists’. They were not very much on the left, but let’s stick with that.
You had Syriza in Greece, Podemos in Spain, Bernie Sanders in the United States, and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. We’ve explained many times the limitations of left reformists. In every single case, they aroused enormous expectations, enormous hopes, only for them to be dashed in every single case. The left reformists have always capitulated in the moment of truth.
But now there’s a vacuum. The old left is, of course, completely demoralised. 99 percent of them are finished. We should not waste time with these people. Don’t have any hopes in them: they’re hopeless, they’ve got no hopes in themselves.
I’ve drawn the following comparison before. You all know that I'm not English. I am Welsh and proud of it. Welsh by birth, by sentiment, and a proletarian internationalist by conviction.
And I was born on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, as a matter of fact, in a town called Swansea, which used to be a nice town in those days. And from my bedroom window I could hear the foghorns from the ships overlooking a beautiful bay. There are many bays in that area, beautiful bays, with kilometres of sand.
And you walk along these vast expanses of sand, and when the tide would go out, you would see all kinds of creatures washed up on the beach.
Dead and dying fish. Empty shells, husks. But of course, the sea would go out, and the sea would come back in again.
And when the sea came in again, it would wash aside all this crap. All this rubbish would be swept to one side. And the ocean would again breathe with fresh oxygen, with new life.
I’m describing the class struggle. You see all the rubbish that’s left from defeated revolutions of the past: fit for nothing, dead and dying fish. You know, a fish starts to rot from the head downwards.
But the class struggle is not determined by dead fish. And we are now witnessing the turn of the tide, comrades. That’s what we’re witnessing.
I speak for myself, I speak for Rob and other comrades, when I say: we’ve experienced a lot, good, bad and indifferent.
And for a long time, this organisation was fighting against the stream. It is very difficult to fight against the stream. But now, the tide of history has definitely turned in our favour. And now, at last, we're swimming in the right direction with the tide, with the tide of history. As for the dead fish, let them sink. They will sink.
Every single one of them will sink without trace. Because they lack the necessary ideas, perspectives, tactics and strategy, which we alone possess.
And whilst I say this, I’m not one to boast or brag. That’s out of place. It should have no place in our organisation. We’re still a relatively small force. Although we’re advancing rapidly, we must have a sense of proportion. The tasks before us are immense. But events are moving quickly. You must grasp that fact. Conditions can change: I warn you now.
In every single country, conditions can change, and consciousness can change in 24 hours.
We must be prepared. And how do we prepare? Well, it’s very simple. In the past, you had to struggle to persuade people as to the correctness of communist ideas and Marxist ideas.
Not anymore. In all countries it’s a fact, an empirically verifiable fact. I’ve not invented it: thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, probably millions of young people are already drawing the correct conclusions.
They’ve already accepted the idea of communism. They desire communism. To these people, even ‘socialism’ doesn’t sound right. Somehow, it sounds weak. It sounds related to reformism. It doesn’t fit the bill. It doesn’t answer what they feel in their guts, in their hearts, in their souls.
You say to me, “well, these young kids are very green. They haven't studied. They don't know. They're not proper Marxists.” That’s not correct. They are very proper Marxists. They are real communists. You know, I've been a communist since I was a kid, and Rob also, we are from a communist, working-class family.
I was a communist before I read any books. The books are important. They’re fundamental. Without that knowledge we’re nothing. We’re unskilled labourers. That’s no good at all.
However, real communism doesn’t come from the books. It comes from the soul. It comes from your gut instinct and the need to fight, to change things. These young kids, they call themselves communists. They may have never read the Communist Manifesto. But they are communists. You don’t need to convince these kids. They are looking for us. We have to find them. We have to establish contacts wherever they are.
I myself am impressed – it’s not always easy to impress people – but I myself am impressed by the marvellous reports that I get. Not just from Britain, which is fantastic. The comrades in Britain have changed the name of the paper. It’s called The Communist and it hit the streets on Thursday. What has the response been like? Marvellous. Marvellous. I would say incredible, but I don't find it incredible. I find it perfectly credible.
People are coming to us because they are looking for us. They are looking for the banner of communism. They are not interested in the rest. This period, comrades, is made for us. It’s made for this International. It’s made for you.
There is no excuse now, no excuse at all, none at all for failing to build enormously. Not just marginal growth – no, no, no, no – a big increase. Double the membership. For God’s sake, it’s possible. Don’t start off by trying to identify difficulties. It is not hard. The difficulties are in your head and not in the objective situation. What we must do is to reach this enormous layer.
What did Heraclitus say? “A man who goes in search of gold must dig up a lot of dirt and find a little”. That has been the case for many years. But today, to correct Heraclitus, we don’t have to dig up a lot of dirt. Forget the dirt. There’s a rich seam of gold waiting to be discovered, and we have to discover it. It’s there, it won’t take much.
All you need to do is to stand on the street corner, proclaim communism, take a banner, take a newspaper if possible, and the gold will come to you. They will come to you.
The problems and the tasks begin there. But they’re new problems, new tasks, big tasks: the kind of tasks that we should welcome and seize with both hands.
This leadership meeting, comrades, must not be like any other we’ve ever had in our history. No. We must base ourselves on this.
This meeting must not be any ordinary routine meeting, because the period is not an ordinary routine period. What I’m putting before you is not fraught with huge difficulties – nothing I’ve said should frighten anybody.
But we must seize the opportunity. This campaign that we’ve launched – the “Are you a communist?” campaign – has received a huge response. And all of our enemies and rivals are standing around with their mouths open. They can’t understand it.
These sects, these miserable sects, never understood anything about communism, Marx, Engels, Trotsky, or anything else. Nothing. They’re useless. That’s why they’re all in crisis and splitting. And we wish them luck with their splits: get on with it!
We are not interested in any of that. By the way, they'll be sending us letters soon. “Please can we have a united front? Will you join this? Will you join the other?” They must think we’re terrible sectarians. As far as they’re concerned, we are sectarians, we always were sectarians, and we always will be sectarians.
In the 1960s, even then we’d get letters from them. Will you join this? Will you join that? I always remember what Ted used to say: “Don't answer it. Put it straight in the waste paper basket.”
We’re not interested in anything that these gentlemen and ladies think, say or do. They’re finished. On the contrary, we’re the only organisation that has a responsibility for re-establishing communism. We have to turn towards the communist parties.
We have begun to do that in Brazil and some other places. This is the space which we will now seek to occupy.
The tasks before us are huge. They present us with a challenge. But, you know, Rob and I just produced a book about Lenin. I’m not asking you to read it. I’m asking you to study it in detail. You will find the following lesson in this book: no task was ever too big for Lenin.
We will deal with these tasks. We will solve the problems. And we will build a powerful communist International, which will be a serious force, not just able to observe events and comment on them, but to begin to become a real force able and willing to participate in the developing class struggle in all countries.