Last July, an international meeting of internationalist left-wing currents was organised in Milan, which was important and interesting in many respects. Italian anti-capitalist organisations such as Contro Corrente (Against the Current), Contro Vento (Against the Wind) and Lotta Communista (Communist Struggle) played a key role in the initiative.
The central political issue that prompted the call for this meeting was the war in Ukraine. There was a discussion among the organisers as to whether only those forces of the anti-capitalist left who took an independent, class, internationalist position (i.e. against both NATO and the Russian and Ukrainian ruling classes) should be invited to the meeting, or whether all views should be invited. In the end, the second view prevailed, which in the course of events proved to be correct.
The meeting was attended by a significant number of Italian organisations, as well as a significant number of international currents. In total there were about 30 organisations.
The guests were not all from the Trotskyist space. In addition to pro-Trotskyist organisations and tendencies, there were anarcho-syndicalist collectives as well as collectives that do not take sides in the various debates that have emerged since Lenin’s death and the degeneration of the Russian revolution.
A number of international organizations were represented at the meeting: the International Socialist League, the Committee for a Workers International, the UIT (Unidad Internacional de Trabajadoras y Trabajadores), the PO (Partido Obrero) and, of course, Internationalist Standpoint, which supported the initiative from the very beginning. The USFI (known widely as “Fourth International”) was not present, although it had initially responded positively to the invitation. The ISA (International Socialist Alternative) was also absent. See the total number of organisations that attendedthe meeting at the footnote at the end .
Ukraine and the crisis of capitalism
The main topic of discussion was Ukraine. The vast majority of the organisations present argued that the war in Ukraine is primarily an inter-imperialist conflict between the major powers of the day and that, as a result, we should not support either of the two warring sides – in other words, “neither NATO nor Putin.”
There were, of course, different nuances or emphases, but this basic position was characteristic of the majority of those present.
The written contributions and the debate itself were certainly not limited to the issue of Ukraine.
There was a general recognition by all those present of the impasses facing the capitalist system and the great upsurge in class struggle that we have seen over the past decade and in recent years – not only in the poor, neo-colonial countries, but also in the rich, industrially developed countries.
At the same time, there was an understanding that the subjective factor, i.e. the organisations of the working class, is also in crisis.
The traditional left parties are fully integrated into the system, abandoning all left politics of the last decades, and the “new left” (formations of the SYRIZA type) sold out very quickly. At the same time, the anti-capitalist/revolutionary left is facing a serious crisis, a process of splitting and fragmentation.
A key question
As Internationalist Standpoint we approached this issue not only from the point of view of recognising the problem, but also by raising the question why, at a time of such a great crisis of the capitalist system, we have one of the worst crises of the anti-capitalist left.
Our answer is that there are, of course, objective factors, such as the collapse of the Soviet bloc after 1990 and the massive retreat of class/socialist consciousness internationally, but there are also very serious subjective factors. The anti-capitalist/revolutionary left is suffering from an inability to take a balanced approach to developments, has strong elements of sectarianism (at least in parts of it), as well as arrogance and messianism (with a negative impact on internal democracy), with many organisations seeing themselves as the only pure revolutionaries. Unfortunately, this is to a considerable extent the result of the impact of Stalinism on the international socialist movement after the degeneration of the Bolshevik revolution.
The usefulness of the meeting
The meeting was not called to take decisions. This was the natural consequence of the fact that the call was open to all organisations of the internationalist left who wanted to attend.
The only decision taken (apart from some resolutions in support of persecuted activists) was to repeat a similar meeting in the first half of next year.
So why was the meeting useful and important if it could not and did not even aim to reach any decisions?
The answer to this question is that it is useful to have a space where the organisations and tendencies of the internationalist/anti-capitalist left can meet to discuss, to exchange views, to exchange information, etc., with the recognition of existing differences, without there being “wars” to get agreement one or the other point of view.
To be able to get information about what is happening in every corner of the world and what different left organisationsare saying is by no means trivial, it is of particular importance. It makes it possible to get to know each organisation better, not only during the meeting but also afterwards, to strengthen relations and to develop joint campaigns, either by all or between those who wish to do so, on issues on which they agree.
The importance of the Milan meeting lies in the fact that, in a certain sense, it is above each individual international current or organisation and allows an exchange of information and views between those who wish to participate. This is something that does not exist at the moment.
The different international currents and organisations have their own function and internal processes that do not allow the presence of other organisations.
The only international tendency in which there are discussions and debates that are often even public is the USFI (United Secretariat of the Fourth International). But the thing about the USFI is that, because it declares itself an international organisation, decisions are taken by majorities that bind the whole. For the vast majority of international organisations and tendencies, however, the USFI has long abandoned true revolutionary, Marxist traditions, and for this reason it would be impossible for them to participate in its ranks .
Given the usefulness of contacts and exchanges between the different organisations of the internationalist anti-capitalist left, without polemics between them over the different positions they naturally have, it was positive that the meeting decided to repeat itself next year.
Some of the speakers suggested that the meetings should become annual. That would be positive. But some of the organisations are not ready to commit to annual meetings. It is likely that the picture will be clearer after the next meeting of the Milan Initiative next year.
You can read the written statement of Internationalist Standpoint here.
You can read the written statements of all the organisations that responded positively to the Italian comrades’ initiative here (all texts were limited to 10,000 characters.)