Statement of the International Committee of the Fourth International
Globalization and the International Working Class

Globalized production and proletarian internationalism

The eagerness with which the Spartacists advance both their political and economic arguments for a wages floor, expresses their ingrained hostility to a revolutionary perspective. In sum, the arguments of the Spartacists amount to nothing less than a call for the maintenance of the social and economic conditions that have formed such a crucial prop for the bourgeoisie.

In the past, under the previous regime of national, as opposed to globalized production, the wages and living standards of workers were determined, not merely by the type of labor they performed, but also by the country in which they lived. That is, living standards and social conditions were determined not only by class, but by nationality, and it was this material factor which played such a crucial role in enabling the bourgeoisie, in collaboration with the reformist and Stalinist parties, to block the development of a genuine socialist and internationalist outlook in the working class.

There was some basis, from the standpoint of the short-term, immediate interests of workers, for the claim that what was good for General Motors was good for the American worker, or the Holden worker in Australia, or the Opel worker in Germany, and consequently a material foundation for an appeal to nationalism.

This situation has changed irrevocably. The conditions of the working class in one country are now more and more directly connected to the social position of the working class throughout the world. The globalization of production has created unprecedented material conditions for the development of genuine internationalism, not as some kind of external solidarity between nationally-based working classes, but as the mode of struggle of one global working class. This is the objective basis for the perspective of the International Committee—the construction of the world party of socialist revolution as the organizing center of the world proletariat.

If the Spartacists and other petty-bourgeois radicals are so desperate to maintain the fiction that globalization has changed nothing, it is because they instinctively recognize that it has shattered the foundations of their own nationalist and opportunist politics.

The Spartacist League’s chauvinist arguments on wages are crowned by an attempt to provide a theoretical rationale for the whole exercise, by referring to Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution.

“The Northite notion of ‘globalization’,” they write, “is in its theoretical essence a repudiation of the Trotskyist understanding of permanent revolution because it posits a tendency to equalize economic conditions throughout the world by leveling up productivity in the backward countries and leveling down productivity in the advanced ones.” [1]

In the first place there is a complete jumbling of the processes involved in the global movement of productive capital. According to the Spartacists, to point to the tendency for the equalization of wages is to make an assertion that productivity is falling in the advanced capitalist countries and rising in the backward countries. The reality is that wage rates are not directly and mechanically related to productivity, as anyone who has the slightest familiarity with Marxist political economy can demonstrate. The wage rates paid to workers in any section of industry, whether skilled or unskilled, are not determined by their output, but by the value of their labor power. If skilled workers are more highly paid than unskilled workers, it is not because they are more productive, but because it takes longer to produce them—considerable time is spent in training and education—and the value of the labor power, around which their wage levels fluctuate in the market, is higher.

The tendency for the equalization of wages does not arise because of movements in productivity—in both the advanced capitalist countries and the backward countries alike the productivity of labor is rising—but from the increased supply of labor. Productive capital now has at its disposal vast quantities of labor which previously, for all practical purposes, were beyond its reach.

The claim that globalization implies a tendency to equalize economic conditions and thereby contradicts the theory of permanent revolution is answered quite clearly by Trotsky himself.

“In contrast to the economic systems which preceded it, capitalism inherently and constantly aims at economic expansion, at the penetration of new territories, the surmounting of economic differences, the conversion of self-sufficient and provincial national economies into a system of financial interrelationships. Thereby it brings about their rapprochement and equalizes the economic and cultural levels of the most progressive and the most backward countries. Without this main process, it would be impossible to conceive of the relative leveling out, first, of Europe with Great Britain, and then, of America with Europe; the industrialization of the colonies, the diminishing gap between India and Great Britain, and all the consequences arising from the enumerated processes upon which is based not only the program of the Communist International but also its very existence.” [2]

These lines were written against the Stalinists who invoked “uneven development” to bolster their nationalist perspective of “socialism in one country.” They apply no less forcefully to the Spartacists, who invoke “uneven development” in order to justify their assertion that the working class can still advance its interests within the framework of capitalism, provided its leadership is sufficiently militant. In other words, uneven development is now invoked as the basis for a theory of social reformism in one country, or group of countries, or, more accurately, for a particular and increasingly narrow and privileged section of the working class in one country or group of countries.


Workers Vanguard, February 7, 1997


Trotsky, The Third International After Lenin, London, New Park, p. 15, emphasis added