1. The perspective of a party is determined, to a considerable degree, by its attitude to historical questions. Nowhere is this more clear than in Germany. Here the workers’ movement achieved triumphant successes and suffered world-historical defeats, which shaped the character of the entire 20th century. In Germany, Marxism was founded; it was here that the Social Democratic Party (SPD) developed as the first Marxist mass party; and it was here that opportunism (the capitulation of the SPD on the eve of the First World War) and Stalinism (the failure of the German Communist Party to prevent Hitler’s seizure of power) were to blame for terrible catastrophes. After the Second World War, the division of the country and the abuse of Marxism by the regime in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) left a heritage of great political confusion.
2. “The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living”, wrote Marx in 1852. Nightmares are unleashed by undigested traumatic experiences. In order to overcome them, these experiences must be consciously worked through. In a general sense, this is also true for politics. Without consciously working through the lessons of the 20th century, one cannot find one’s way in the 21st. The Partei für Soziale Gleichheit (PSG, Socialist Equality Party) bases its programme and its perspective on an understanding of the historical experiences of the international socialist movement. It relies thereby on the heritage of the Fourth International and its struggles against Stalinism, reformism and Pabloite revisionism. The purpose of this document is to elaborate these experiences.
3. The deepest financial and economic crisis since the 1930s is today throwing up all the unresolved questions of the past. The capitalist world system is suffering from the same irresolvable contradictions that have brought forth two world wars, numerous regional military conflicts, fascism and other brutal dictatorships—the incompatibility of the world economy and the nation state, and the contradiction between private property and social production. There is no way out of this crisis on a capitalist basis. As in the last century, it poses before mankind the alternative: socialism or barbarism.
4. At the heart of the crisis is the decline of the US, whose economic power in 1945—after two world wars and a hundred million killed—provided the foundation for a new capitalist upturn. For a considerable time, the US has been compensating for the loss of its economic hegemony by means of its military supremacy and by expanding the financial sector at the expense of industrial production. This is the background to the current crisis, which cannot be resolved peacefully. The American ruling class is just as little ready to voluntarily give up its power and wealth as every other ruling class in history. Its efforts to shift the costs of the crisis onto the working class and onto its international rivals, and the reaction of its rivals in Europe and Asia, are giving rise to violent class battles and international conflicts.
5. The global development of the productive forces has not only deepened the crisis of capitalism, it has also strengthened the social power of the working class and created the objective conditions for the overthrow of capitalism and the building of a socialist society. Innovative developments in information and communications technology have led to the integration of the world economy on a scale that has never been seen before, linking together the working class across continents and strengthening its numbers. Never before has such a high percentage of mankind lived in cities and been so directly integrated into the global production process. Countries such as China, which were still predominantly rural just one hundred years ago, today rank among the most important industrial regions of the world. The PSG poses to itself the task of preparing the working class politically and theoretically for the coming class battles and of arming it with a socialist programme, which is built on the lessons of previous struggles. The PSG is the German section of the International Committee of the Fourth International, which was founded by Trotsky in 1938 as the World Party of Socialist Revolution.