The 2023 Congress of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) marked a major turning point in the history of our organisation, amidst a sea change in society. Having almost doubled our forces since the pandemic, the Congress was full of youthful fighting spirit and determination. Over 400 comrades assembled from more than 40 countries, raised €630,000 for the revolutionary cause, and declared triumphantly: the communists have arrived!
Thousands more watched the proceedings online, with 200 comrades following from Pakistan, a large watch party of Swiss comrades just over the Alps, and many more all over the world from Toronto to London.
The Congress took place from 7-12 August in Italy, against the backdrop of an historic capitalist crisis. More and more workers and youth are being drawn to the ideas of communism as the only way out, and the Congress was united in its iron will to reach these layers and build the revolutionary organisation that the working class needs to win the battle of the future, and finally overthrow this rotten system.
Many of the delegates and visitors showed immense resolve simply to make it to the event. Comrades from Pakistan to Peru faced long journeys and racist visa regulations in order to attend. A comrade from Mauritania travelled for three days via multiple countries in order to visit the Congress. One Pakistani comrade spent 56 hours travelling to Italy to take part (having had his visa continually delayed), and was greeted with an ovation by comrades when he arrived on the fifth day of the Congress. This is the kind of grit we need!
World in crisis
The Congress opened with a moving tribute to Esteban Volkov, grandson of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky, who sadly passed away earlier this year. Comrades stood for a minute’s silence to reflect on Esteban’s steadfast defence of the real traditions of Trotsky, of Bolshevism and of the Russian Revolution.
Esteban Volkov was one of the last connections between our generation and a generation forged in a period of fierce struggle between revolution and counter-revolution, in the epoch beginning with the Russian Revolution of 1917 and ending with the outbreak of the Second World War. Like them, we stand at the threshold of a new, worldwide period of revolutionary upheaval.
Opening the Congress with a discussion on perspectives for the world revolution, marxist.com editor-in-chief, Alan Woods explained the importance of understanding the concrete processes of the class struggle in the world around us, comparing the IMT’s perspectives to a mariner’s map and compass. Without an understanding of where the class struggle is headed, we would be lost in the tide of events.
Beginning his talk, Alan highlighted that “the deep crisis of capitalism is clear to a blind man”. Global debt has reached eye-watering proportions, at around $300 trillion – 350 percent of world GDP. This is unprecedented.
After a drawn-out period of globalisation, this process has turned into its opposite, with the world economy disintegrating into blocs. Protectionism and imperialist rivalry is on the rise, laying the ground for military conflicts and trade wars.
The Congress takes place a year and a half into the ongoing war in Ukraine. Amidst a stalled counter-offensive, the regime in Kyiv has become desperate. It is eating through the stocks of artillery shells, vehicles and munitions accumulated by its western imperialist backers.
In this proxy conflict of imperialist powers, the slogan of the communists everywhere is that of Karl Liebknecht: “the main enemy is at home!” The task of communists is first and foremost to fight our own capitalist class.
In few places is this more difficult than in Russia itself, where comrades must contend with repression, economic hardship, the propaganda of the regime and the confusion spread by the chauvinist Communist Party leadership. And yet, against all that, the comrades of the Russian section of the IMT have bravely stood firm in their principles. Without wavering, they have continued the task of building a genuinely revolutionary internationalist tendency. It was with a sense of immense pride and solidarity that all delegates, visitors and online attendees listened to the many excellent contributions of our Russian delegation.
The International Marxist Tendency has taken a principled, internationalist stance everywhere. Indeed, within hours of the outbreak of the conflict, we published a statement laying out our analysis and internationalist stance. The reformists and sectarians are forced to blush at the words they wrote just yesterday. But over a year on, we do not feel the need to change a word of our statement, which was approved by a unanimous vote by the Congress.
The war is accelerating the fracturing of the world into contending blocs. The decline of US imperialism sees Washington’s power challenged in parts of the world that it has dominated for decades: in the Middle East, in West Africa and elsewhere.
The war in turn is furthering the world economy’s slide towards a slump. Now, the Chinese economy, which propped up the world economy after the 2008 crisis, is slowing down and is riddled with debt. This will spell disastrous consequences for the whole world economy.
As Alan explained, there is not one government in the world that can claim the stability of the past. Even in traditionally stable countries, like the US and Britain, we are seeing social unrest, riots and waves of strikes breaking out. In Germany, all parties that have been in power in the past decade are declining, and this was before the government’s recently announced €30 billion austerity budget.
This is no longer a perspective for the future: class struggle is already a fact in one country after another. The consciousness of the masses is advancing rapidly, and can change completely within 24 hours under these conditions.
This discussion set the tone for the whole Congress. We are living in a period of revolutions and counter-revolutions, where the consciousness of the masses is in flux. Such conditions are ideal for a concerted struggle to build an international communist organisation, and only the IMT possesses the means to do it!
Building a Bolshevik organisation
Our ideas, perspectives and analysis are our main weapon, and the sole justification for our existence as a Marxist organisation. But ideas without organisation are like a knife without a blade. The methods needed to create such an organisation formed the content of the second session on “Building a Bolshevik Organisation”, led off on by Jorge Martín.
Jorge explained that, whilst in one sense the IMT is an old organisation, it carries with it all the traditions and experiences of genuine Marxism, going back to Marx, Engels and the First International.
But in another sense the IMT is very young: since 2020, it has almost doubled in size. Many of the groups that are laying the basis for powerful future sections did not exist in 2018. Overwhelmingly the IMT’s growth has been from among the youth.
This session was precisely about training and educating this layer of youth in the communist methods of democratic centralism, to create a disciplined, fighting, Bolshevik organisation.
In the struggle for such an organisation, we inevitably come into contact with a plethora of radical-sounding ideas that permeate the labour and student movements, above all the divisive and pernicious ideas of so-called ‘identity politics’.
From the slanders that Jeremy Corbyn was some sort of ‘antisemite’, to the ‘pro-LGBT’ statements by Dina Boluarte, who installed herself as president of Peru through a right-wing coup and is now attempting to give herself ‘progressive’ airs – identity politics is used by the enemies of the working class to sow confusion and division.
Some on the left, particularly in the petty-bourgeois student milieu, believe that it is the task of Marxists to create a ‘safe space’ for the oppressed and downtrodden, safe from the problems of capitalism.
But that is not the function of the IMT. We are not building a support group, nor a social club, nor an intellectual reading circle. We are united in the fight for communism internationally, and what we need are precisely fighters.
As Fiona Lali from Britain put it: "We are not a social club for the lonely, we are not the support group for the oppressed, we are the revolutionary organisation which fights for the oppressed."
Class Struggle in the Roman Republic
One particularly enjoyable session dealt with a subject that some might think to be out of place in a congress of revolutionaries: a book launch of Alan Woods’ Class Struggle in the Roman Republic, recently published by Wellred Books.
This exciting new volume represents the first complete history of the Roman Republic from a Marxist perspective. But why should Marxists analyse events that are over two millennia old?
From its foundation by a warlike band of Latin peasants, to the Punic Wars and the rise of slavery, through to the final fall of the Republic and the rise of the Empire, the history of Roman society was driven by often fierce class struggle that is filled with lessons that not only remain relevant, but remain a source of tremendous inspiration.
Among these great figures, Alan noted the historic importance of the Gracchi brothers, members of the ruling elite who nevertheless became champions of the downtrodden plebeian masses.
And, of course, Spartacus, whose name shines brightly down the ages as the greatest revolutionary representative of the ancient world, and one of its best generals, who organised the most desperately oppressed slaves and turned them into a fighting force that could deal blow after blow against the might of Rome.
The current period has many crucial parallels with ancient Rome, and by studying the lessons of the past, we can prepare ourselves for the struggles to come. Get your copy of Class Struggle in the Roman Republic from Wellred Books here!
Socialist Movement in Catalonia
On the penultimate evening of the Congress, hundreds of comrades, delegates and visitors from all over the world packed the main hall for a commission with two comrades from the Socialist Movement in Catalonia.
The comrade explained the origins of their organisation, their perspectives, and the struggle they are waging for communism. The development of the Socialist Movement is extremely interesting and is symptomatic of a layer of young people breaking with reformism and class collaborationism. Instead, the comrades have taken a clear stand on the basis of communist ideas.
The commission was extremely interesting for all comrades that attended, and it allowed for a fruitful and comradely exchange of ideas.
Are you a communist? Then get organised!
The final session of the Congress was dedicated to the building of the IMT around the world. The key focus of the session was the IMT’s bold new campaign, centred on the slogan: “Are you a communist? Then get organised!”
This slogan aims to capture the mood of the millions of workers and youth in many countries across the world, who now see communism as the only way out of the present crisis.
Our enemies are also taking notice of this. Comrades cited the recent report by the Fraser Institute, which puts support for communism among the youth in countries such as Britain, the US and Canada at between 20 and 30 percent. This means that there are literally millions of young workers who could join a communist organisation in these countries.
The success of the IMT’s bold appeal to the communist youth is shown in the rapid growth of the organisation in many countries. Socialist Appeal, the British section of the IMT, has advanced from 800 members earlier in the year to over 900 now, and are on track to reach the important milestone of 1,000 members later this year, which will firmly put communism on the map in Britain.
A number of other sections are aiming to reach a similar size in the next couple of years, and 8 sections have surpassed the 100 members’ mark since the last in-person Congress.
In Canada, just one week into the launch of the campaign, almost 150 people asked to join the IMT. Comrades conveyed similar inspiring experiences in countries such as Brazil, Switzerland and Sweden.
As marxist.com editor Hamid put it: “The field is wide open to grow, and we are opening a new stage in our history.”
The growth of the IMT has laid the foundation for important steps forward on all fronts internationally.
Major public events are organised by sections of the IMT around the world, such as the Revolution Festival in Britain, the Montreal Winter School in Canada, the Pfingstseminar in Austria, the Marxist Winter and Summer Schools in Pakistan, the Francophone school in Switzerland, and many more.
Wellred Books – the IMT’s publishing house – has made big strides forward in recent years. This year (so far), Wellred has sold 8,200 books, a significant step up from the 5,800 sold in the whole of 2019. In addition, In Defence of Marxism-América Socialista magazine – the quarterly theoretical magazine of the IMT – is now distributed to 30 countries internationally.
In 2024, the IMT will launch the Year of Lenin, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the death of the great Russian revolutionary. This campaign will be dedicated to defending the life and ideas of Lenin against both bourgeois and Stalinist slanders, which attempt to distort or mystify the actions of one of the greatest Marxists that the class struggle has ever produced.
The year will be kicked off with Rob Sewell’s forthcoming political biography of Lenin, which will be an invaluable tool for revolutionaries to learn about Lenin’s ideas and his lifelong battle for socialism.
Determination and sacrifice
One of the most inspirational aspects of the Congress was the financial sacrifice of all the comrades, to expand and develop the work of the International. In 2018, the IMT set itself the task of raising €500,000 over five years. This year, after five years of determined fund raising, it was announced that we have raised over €2.1 million, more than quadrupling the initial goal!
In an electrifying collection, €630,000 was raised, smashing this year’s ambitious €450,000 target. Considering the eye-watering inflation that currently plagues the world economy, and the rapidly rising cost of living in many countries, the scale of this year’s collection is even more impressive.
Large donations came in from comrades in the developed capitalist nations such as Switzerland, Canada and the US, but the contributions of comrades living in the countries that suffer the brunt of the capitalist crisis were all the more moving, and have a powerful political significance.
The IMT’s sections and groups in countries from Venezuela to Sri Lanka made incredible sacrifices that reflect the determination of all comrades to rise to the historic tasks that face us.
The best World Congress ever!
Concluding the Congress, Hamid gave a rousing assessment of the task that faces the IMT:
“In every country you see a decisive process towards revolution… We are here for one specific cause: to build a revolutionary organisation.”
It was evident to all the comrades that this period will be a turning point for the organisation, which will develop the work to greater heights. The IMT is stronger and growing faster than ever before.
Quoting Lenin, Hamid reminded the Congress that “Marxism is all-powerful, because it is true”. The IMT has been able to enter this new stage of confident growth as a direct result of our firm understanding of the ideas of genuine Marxism.
An organisation is the direct product of the ideas it is founded on. At the close of this year’s World Congress, comrades were more determined than ever to unleash the potential of the IMT around the world.
As Hamid said, all the comrades of the IMT will “use the energy of this Congress to propel us to the next stage…
“What has been shown at this Congress is the comrades’ spirit of solidarity, revolutionary determination and sacrifice, that’s what gives us our invincible strength and the ability to overcome all obstacles.”