Revolution or War n°25

(September 2023)

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Hollywood Screenwriters on Strike vs Oppenheimer and Barbie : Proletarian Struggle or March to Generalized War

Two American films are on the screens, Oppenheimer and Barbie. For several months now, there has been a strike for higher wages: that of Hollywood screenwriters. The very people who write for the movies. Two films and a strike “in the zeitgeist”. A summary of the current situation. Despite his pacifist conscience, in the film Oppenheimer justifies the race for the atomic bomb on the grounds that it must be made before the Nazis. Barbie, originally a stereotype of the “sexy” woman to attract men, has become the muse of the feminist struggle, identity politics and LGBTQ rights. The very ones that the Pentagon and NATO are promoting to recruit soldiers, men and women, for the imperialist war they prepare. [1]

Once again, Hollywood is putting itself at the service of American “democratic” ideological propaganda to prepare public opinion for imperialist war: Putin and the other leaders called “illiberal” yesterday, “dictatorial” today, are openly homophobic and macho. And they have no Oppenheimer pacifist conscience. Is not it clear which side the proletariat of Western countries must choose? With the revolutionary Barbie and the humanist Oppenheimer, of course. And against the villain Ken – Barbie’s companion imposing patriarchy on Barbie Land – whose counterparts are Putin and the leaders of the so-called “illiberal” countries, starting with China. In passing, let us forget that the current Polish leaders, to name but among the most “war-mongering” within NATO, are just as homophobic and sexist as the former. As a counterpoint, in contrast, to “Western decadence”, the ideological campaigns in Russia, China, etc., preparing for war are carried out in the name of “traditionalist” values, Christian or otherwise, “conservative”, anti-gay and LGBTQ, openly nationalistic – the country is encircled and threatened by NATO or even in the China Sea. The macho and “virile” videos recruiting soldiers for the Russian army are equally caricatural.

At the very moment when Oppenheimer and Barbie are hitting the screens, here are the proletarians of this industry presenting, most certainly without being individually aware of it, the only answer that can rise up, slow down and then – we hope – oppose this race to war. Proletarians, the Hollywood screenwriters? It is true that they do not have calloused hands nor wear blue collars. No doubt they only suffer from mouse-related tendinitis, backache and stress. More seriously, like all proletarians, they work and produce surplus value for the benefit of the capitalists who have invested in the entertainment industry, thereby increasing the original capital. [2] This may not make them the core of tomorrow’s revolutionary proletariat, but the fact remains that they too are exploited as proletarians by capital. And yes, they are aware of this by striking for higher wages and opposing their capitalist. In short, albeit timidly, they are taking the only path that can respond to capital’s impasse and the catastrophic outcome that generalized imperialist war promises: that of class struggle, of defending the class interests of proletarians.

Imperialist War and Capitalist Crisis Can only Get Worse

As the statement by our CWO-ICT comrades develops in the following article, The Drive to World War, imperialist war is not slowing down in its dynamic towards all-out war. Quite the contrary, in fact. The war on Ukrainian soil goes on and on. Imperialist tensions are “rising”, so to speak, from the economic-commercial and diplomatic dimensions to the military dimension, that of direct nuclear threats and gesticulations and other military maneuvers, often close to opposing borders. At the risk of going off the rails at any moment. All countries, starting with the major powers, are rearming and relaunching their “war economies”. Last but not least, the general tendency towards imperialist polarization around two axes, China and the United States, which were already in evidence before the war in Ukraine, is undergoing an acceleration and clarification hitherto unthinkable, as illustrated by the strengthening and renewed vitality of NATO and the affirmation of the BRICS alliance around China – both of which are expanding to include new countries. What some call the “chaos” provoked by the war in Ukraine, as seen in Africa with the recent coups d’état, is just one moment in the tendency – a contradictory and therefore non-linear process – towards imperialist bipolarization.

At the same time, the crisis is returning to hit the world economy with all the more violence, due to the imperialist war itself. All countries and continents are affected to varying degrees. Inflation has tripled (Syria, Egypt...), sometimes reaching three figures (Argentina, Lebanon...), widespread indebtedness, “slowdown” in production – a term which most often means a “recession” (Germany) or “deflation”, sometimes massive increases in unemployment, as in China [3], threats of financial crises and bankruptcies, rising interest rates at US and European central banks, the fall and devaluation of the Russian ruble, the Argentine peso, the Lebanese pound... plunging billions of people into absolute poverty and misery.

Crisis and war feed off each other, as we have already stated in these pages. More importantly, crisis and war are occurring at the same time. This feature of the historical situation is an element that “historically weakens” the capitalist class in view of the inevitable class confrontations that crisis and war impose. It is more difficult for it to drag the populations, and above all the international proletariat, into sacrificing for war in the name of a supposed future prosperity. As was partly the case in the 1930s, for example: preparations for war enabled mass unemployment to be reduced, at least temporarily, and gave the impression that military victory would herald an improvement in living conditions. Likewise, it is more difficult for the bourgeoisie to play on aspirations for peace to gain acceptance of economic sacrifices, as in the two post-war periods of 1918-19 and 1945. The fact that the bourgeoisie cannot, or only with great difficulty, make promises of future prosperity or peace, diminishes its ability to manage the scale of massive confrontations to come between the classes.

For those who do not quite understand what we are talking about and the perspectives we are putting forward, let us make it clear: affirming that capital is ideologically “historically weakened” does not mean that the proletarian struggle is and will be a “long quiet river” or a “royal road”. The imperialist war in Ukraine shows both the immediate powerlessness of the Ukrainian and Russian proletariats, and of the international proletariat as a whole, to oppose it. Nor does the weakness of proletarian reactions at international level allow it to impose a minimal balance of power that would force capital to back down, even if only momentarily and to a limited extent, from its economic attacks. But the fact remains that the international proletariat is tending, and only tending, to rise up in defense of its living and working conditions, against inflation and for wage increases in particular.

Illegality and Repression of Strikes and Workers’ Struggles...

The international press does not dwell too much on the demonstrations, riots and “hunger” revolts that are multiplying, mainly in the face of soaring inflation, in Argentina, Lebanon, Tunisia, Iran, Syria, etc., to name but a few. And let us not forget the sudden and frequent clashes that regularly erupt in China, when they are not simply workers’ strikes. Even if some of these “revolts” do not always have a directly proletarian dimension, and therefore offer few prospects in themselves, others directly or indirectly call on the proletariat as such, as a class, to give them direction and perspective. This is the case, for example, in Argentina, Iran and even more so in China; or even in… France [4].

We would like to draw the attention of those who are skeptical about the perspectives we are putting forward to the reality, once again in motion, of workers’ struggles and mobilizations. Sometimes on a massive scale, they have taken place on every continent, and particularly in the heart of capitalism’s historic powers. Even if defeated, the mobilizations against inflation and for wage increases in Great Britain, initiated by a wave of wildcat strikes in the spring and summer of 2022, or the mobilization of millions of proletarians in France against the umpteenth pension “reform” in the first six months of 2023, are particular expressions of this international tendency not to accept any more economic sacrifices on the altar of the defense of national capital and, now, the development of national “war economy”. The same, albeit timid, dynamic has emerged in Germany, Italy and other Western European countries.

It has also emerged and is seeking to assert itself in the USA and Canada. Discontent and combativeness on the part of workers are forcing unions to organize legally binding votes to decide on strikes in major sectors such as railways, ports and the automobile industry. And very often, the votes cast are overwhelmingly in favor of strike action. [5] Then the legal negotiation process begins, imposing a time limit, often several weeks, before the strike is allowed to begin. This gives unions and companies ample time, under the watchful eye of the government and the state, to “negotiate” and break the momentum of combativity and sabotage the struggle. And in cases where the fighting spirit remains strong and the strike finally gets under way, the government will declare the strike illegal, as it jeopardizes the national interest, as was the case with the mobilization of American railway workers in September 2022, or Canadian dockworkers this summer. [6]

In most Western democratic countries, the “right to strike” boils down to the right to strike, provided that the strike is impotent and ineffective. The extension and development of mass strike is de facto illegal and a subject to repression. The “union right”, in particular the obligation to give advance notice of strike action, is used to sabotage and, thanks to the union tactics of days of action in particular, stifle the development of mass strikes; which seek to be effective by imposing a balance of power on the bourgeoisie. And if the situation gets out of hand, managerial repression in the workplace and, above all, police repression in the streets and at factory gates, enforce the de facto ban on any attempt at a massive strike.

… Impose the Mass Strike as a Necessity

Every proletarian needs to be aware of this: any consistent, effective struggle is bound to come up against the entire state apparatus, including unions, legislation and repression. This speaks volumes about the reality of bourgeois democracy. Formally, every sociologically proletarian citizen has the same democratic rights as Elon Musk and others. We all know it is theoretical only. But the proletariat as a class, and the proletarian as proletarian, have no “rights”. As soon as they struggle, they find themselves in basically the same situation as their class siblings in Russia, China and other so-called “non-democratic” countries: mass strikes are forbidden and repressed. The degree of repression varies on the country and the situations, but is always violent. This is undoubtedly not the only reason for the difficulties of proletarian struggles today, for their hesitancy and “timidity” in the face of the level and gravity of the attacks. But we have no doubt that it at least partly explains it. For each proletarian or group of proletarians, going on open strike, that is “illegal”, is also an individual risk.

Faced with this situation, the top priority is not to remain isolated, but to spread any strike or struggle as quickly as possible. The mass strike, as Rosa Luxemburg recognized and described it, and as Lenin and the Bolshevik Party brilliantly led from February to October 1917, is more necessary than ever, both to impose demands and develop the struggle, and to paralyze all forms of repression.

Encouraging proletarians to “outpace” the bourgeoisie and its state apparatus, first and foremost its trade unions, and to impose other terrains for demands and confrontations in particular, than those chosen by the capitalist state, must be a permanent concern and goal of communist groups, and tomorrow the party; and this in all countries, whatever their political regime. This is how revolutionary communists rise to the forefront of the class struggle, and can succeed in “politically leading” the proletariat as a whole. Of course, this cannot be decreed. It has to be won and proven in battle. In the reality of proletarian struggles themselves. Despite innumerable difficulties and limitations, communist groups have a compass pointing them north: the contradictions of capitalism, of which crisis and war are the main expressions, products and factors, can only lead to massive confrontations between classes, to an intensified class struggle. And the mass strike that will be theirs to lead to insurrection and the destruction of every capitalist state on the planet is the weapon best suited to the conditions imposed by state totalitarianism, by state capitalism, whether in its “democratic” or “non-democratic” form.

In this sense, too, “the working men have no country” and must refuse to let themselves be enlisted in the defense of one side against another in the imperialist war, whether “democratic” or not. And that is regardless of what Barbie and Oppenheimer on the one hand, or the Russian or Chinese Rambos on the other, aim at instilling in our heads.

The Editorial Team, September 9th 2023



[1. See our article in this issue: How Capital Uses Leftist Identity Politics and LGBTQ Rights for its Imperialist Warfare.

[2. “The only worker who is productive is one who produces surplus value for the capitalist, or in other words contributes towards the self-valorization of capital. If we may take an example from outside the sphere of material production, a schoolmaster is a productive worker when, in addition to belabouring the heads of his pupils, he works himself into the ground to enrich the owner of the school. That the latter has laid out his capital in a teaching factory, instead of a sausage factory, makes no difference to the relation.” (K. Marx, Capital, Volume 1, chap. XVI, Penguin Classics, 1976)

[3. China « slipped into deflation. Key indicators, including industrial production, investment and retail sales, came in well below expectations. » (The Guardian, Editorial, 21 août 2023,

[4. See the statement of the ICP-Le Prolétaire on the riots in the French cities of late June, that we reproduce in this issue.

[5. In a vote organized by the UAW auto union in the USA, 97% of workers voted in favor of strike action, and in Canada, 98.6%, organized by the Unifor union [the Canadian UAW]. The strike for General Motor, Ford and Stellantis (ex-Chrysler, Peugeot, etc.) is expected to start after September 14... if no agreement is reached between the auto bosses and the unions. At the time of writing, on September 9, we don’t know whether the unions will succeed in imposing an agreement on the workers beforehand, thus avoiding a strike... as was the case at UPS, where the teamsters’ union imposed an agreement at the last minute, thus avoiding a strike that had been widely voted for.

[6. See the following article on this issue : On the recent strike of British Columbia dock workers.