Ian Anderson The Spark February 2010
In a characteristically bold move, Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez called for the formation of a “Fifth International” in November last year. The Latin American leftist leader made the call at the World Meeting of Left Parties, a conference held in the Venezuelan capital, Caracas.
For those not immersed in socialist lingo, an International is a forum for working-class organisations; a solid base for coordination and debate. The tradition began in 1864 with the International Workingmen’s Association, of which Karl Marx was a founding member. Uniting workers across borders, the International Workingmen’s Association admitted a range of leftists from the anarchist, socialist and trade union movements. This organisation lasted over a decade and provided a strong, diverse base for working-class organisation. However, due to a conflict between Karl Marx and anarchist Mikhael Bakunin, the First International dissolved in 1876.
While not officially forming a Fifth International, guests at the World Meeting of Left Parties signed a document intended to kick the process off - the “Caracas Commitment.” This is available in English, on the PSUV website: www.psuv.org.ve/files/tcdocumentos/commitment.caracas.pdf
The Caracas Commitment has a decidedly anti-imperialist bent, with a 6-point course of action summarised below:
- Mobilisation and condemnation of US military bases.
- Installation and development of a platform of joint action by left wing parties of the world.
- Organisation of a world movement of militants for a culture of peace.
- Artillery of international communication to emancipate revolutionary consciousness. [This refers to left-wing media.]
- Mobilize all popular organisations in unrestricted support for the people of Honduras.
- Solidarity with the peoples of the world.
In large part, these 6 points form a response to the recent right-wing military coup in Honduras. Opposition to US military bases has particular pertinence for the Latin American left, where successive administrations have increased US military presence under the pretext of an ineffectual “War on Drugs”, and troops trained on US military bases have taken power from democratically elected left-wing governments. By November last year, democracy was officially restored in Honduras, but the coup had a chilling affect; former President Manuel Zelaya had been denied his presidency and his proposal to establish a constituent assembly to draw up a new constitution - a measure which could have brought profound democratic and revolutionary advances to Honduras - has been defeated.
The Caracas Commitment also declares solidarity with the peoples of Zimbabwe and Iran. While socialists may not endorse the repressive policies seen under Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe and the theocratic Iranian regime, it is necessary to oppose all attacks on national sovereignty by the US empire.
The insurgent Maoist movements of South Asia and the Philippines were notably absent from proceedings. This reflects the character of the conference, which largely involved ruling parties, such as the Chinese Communist Party and the Mexican PRI. After the speech by Chavez, interested parties formed a Working Group aiming to achieve the formation of a Fifth International.
The proposal that a Fifth International be formed is an interesting and potentially significant development. Any measure which genuinely brings the left together internationally, in a way that meaningfully benefits its members and the cause of human liberation, is to be welcomed.
Whether this proposal leads to such a development or not is not yet clear.
It would also be unlikely that such a development would benefit from the membership of every small Western Marxist party. To be of value, an International needs to be a genuine movement of serious, significant revolutionary forces. Whether or not this proposal will lead to such a body remains to be seen.