Saturday, May 29, 2010

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- On The Struggle For Our Communist Future In Greece

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers Vanguard" article on the recent situation in Greece and the program necessary to get to that communist future the Greeks (and we) so desperately need.

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard" -Remember The MOVE Massacre-Free The Move Prisoners

Click on the headline to link to well-known class war prisoner and death row inmate, Mumia Abu-Jamal, speaking on the anniversary of the MOVE massacre.

Workers Vanguard No. 959
21 May 2010

25 Years Ago: Racist Government Bombed Black Philadelphia

Remember the MOVE Massacre

May 13 marks the 25th anniversary of the 1985 MOVE massacre. Eleven people, including five children, were burned alive after police, acting on orders from black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode and in collusion with the Feds, dropped a powerful incendiary bomb on the Osage Avenue home of the largely black MOVE commune in West Philadelphia. The firebombing followed a 12-hour siege during which the cops unloaded over 10,000 rounds of ammunition into the house. Firefighters on site were held back, and cops shot at anyone who tried to escape the burning building. The inferno spread, destroying 61 houses and leaving hundreds homeless in the black neighborhood.

Then-president Ronald Reagan, the FBI, the Philly cops and Wilson Goode were all responsible for this hideous crime, a stark example of the racist terror that black people are subject to in capitalist America. None of the perpetrators ever faced charges, while Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor, served every day of her seven-year prison sentence. Immediately after the massacre, and ever since, the Spartacist League and Partisan Defense Committee, a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the SL, have sought to sear this racist atrocity into the memory of the working class.

In July 1985, the SL held a public forum in New York City to honor the MOVE martyrs, at which family members and supporters spoke. We wrote in protest that the mass murder carried the bloody signature of the Reagan years and was intended “to send a message to black America and ‘radicals’ of every stripe. ‘Anti-terrorism’ means massive government terror against anyone who is out of step in Reagan’s America” (WV No. 379, 17 May 1985). Under both Democratic and Republican administrations, the onslaught against black people, synonymous with Reagan reaction, has continued unabated to this day.

From the moment that MOVE surfaced in the early 1970s in the racist hellhole of Philadelphia, denouncing “the system” and defending the right to armed self-defense, this back-to-nature group was subjected to police harassment, beatings and hundreds of arrests. On 8 August 1978, 600 cops unleashed a barrage of gunfire as they stormed MOVE’s Powelton Village compound. When MOVE members emerged from their home, the police dragged, kicked and stomped Delbert Africa nearly to death. Nine MOVE members were framed up and sentenced in 1981 to 30-100 years on charges of killing a cop who died in the police crossfire at Powelton Village—even though the judge stated that he didn’t have the “faintest idea” who killed the cop. Merle Africa died in her prison cell in 1998. The rest of the MOVE 9 are still in Pennsylvania’s dungeons (see page 2).

In an expression of solidarity with those imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression, the PDC provided monthly stipends for Ramona Africa during her imprisonment as it has also done for the MOVE 9 and death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal, who became a MOVE supporter while reporting on the MOVE 9 trial.

Mumia, an innocent man framed up on false charges of killing police officer Daniel Faulkner, was sentenced to death in 1982 for his political views. His case is what the death penalty is all about—a legacy of chattel slavery, the lynch rope made legal. A former Black Panther leader as a teenager in the 1960s, Mumia became a prominent radical radio journalist known as “The Voice of the Voiceless” who reported on the racist Philly cops and courts. It was during the sham trial of the MOVE 9 that Mumia became sympathetic to the MOVE organization.

To avenge the MOVE martyrs, the working class must fight to smash this capitalist system, whose rulers inflict a special oppression on black people as a means to divide and attack the entire working class. We will not forget the MOVE massacre! Free the MOVE members, Mumia and all class-war prisoners! For black liberation through socialist revolution!


Workers Vanguard No. 959
21 May 2010

Free the MOVE Prisoners!

The following May 10 protest letter was sent by the Partisan Defense Committee to Pennsylvania Board of Probation and Parole chairman Catherine C. McVey.

The Partisan Defense Committee once again joins with those supporting the release of the eight surviving political prisoners who have been collectively known as the MOVE 9. These men and women were victims of racist police brutality. They are innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted and imprisoned for over three decades.

We are outraged by your continued refusal to allow these innocent prisoners to be paroled. As we said in our letter of 6 March 2008, “We are mindful that a common ruse for denying parole for those who have been falsely convicted is the claimed failure to show ‘remorse.’ Having committed no crime, the imprisoned MOVE members have no reason to demonstrate any so-called ‘remorse’.” And yet that is exactly the pretext you consistently have used to turn down the MOVE 9’s parole. In effect you are denying parole for anyone who maintains his or her innocence.

After a year-long siege, on August 8, 1978, an army of nearly 600 police surrounded the MOVE home to evict its defenseless residents. Three months before the attack, MOVE had allowed the police to search their home, resulting in the removal of what were inoperable weapons. The police turned on “deluge guns,” flooding the basement of the house, and then unleashed a furious fusillade so intense that one of their own officers, James Ramp, was killed in the police cross fire.

At least eight witnesses testified that no gunshots came from the MOVE house. Three firemen said they did not know where the gunshots came from and had seen no MOVE members with guns. When weapons supposedly found at the MOVE home were brought to court, none of them had any fingerprints of the defendants on them, and none of the MOVE prisoners were ever charged with illegal weapons possession. After the trial, when presiding judge Edwin Malmed was asked, “Who shot James Ramp?” he replied, “I haven’t the faintest idea.” The MOVE prisoners were convicted of among other charges, conspiracy, a catchall charge used especially to prosecute people for their shared political beliefs when prosecutors are unable to prove that a criminal act was committed.

The denial of parole for the MOVE 9 can only be seen as part and parcel of a decades-long vendetta against MOVE and its supporters. The most grotesque example of this took place 25 years ago in May 1985, when they watched in horror from their Pennsylvania prison cells as the Philadelphia police, in league with federal authorities, dropped a high-powered explosive bomb on MOVE’s Osage Avenue home. This caused the burning to death of eleven people, including five children, and left an entire black neighborhood in smoldering ruins.

It is an injustice that these men and women were ever incarcerated at all. They are innocent survivors of premeditated police assaults. We call once more for the immediate, unconditional release of Debbie Africa, Janine Africa, Janet Africa, Chuck Africa, Eddie Africa, Phil Africa, Delbert Africa and Mike Africa.

*The "Easy Rider" Is No More- Actor Dennis Hopper Passes On

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of scenes of Dennis Hopper in the road classic, "Easy Rider."

Dennis Hopper, creator of hit 'Easy Rider,' dies

LOS ANGELES — Dennis Hopper, the high-flying Hollywood wild man whose memorable and erratic career included an early turn in "Rebel Without a Cause," an improbable smash with "Easy Rider" and a classic character role in "Blue Velvet," has died. He was 74.

Hopper died Saturday at his home in the Los Angeles beach community of Venice, surrounded by family and friends, family friend Alex Hitz said. Hopper's manager announced in October 2009 that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.

The success of "Easy Rider," and the spectacular failure of his next film, "The Last Movie," fit the pattern for the talented but sometimes uncontrollable actor-director, who also had parts in such favorites as "Apocalypse Now" and "Hoosiers." He was a two-time Academy Award nominee, and in March 2010, was honored with a star on Hollywood's Walk of Fame.

After a promising start that included roles in two James Dean films, Hopper's acting career had languished as he developed a reputation for throwing tantrums and abusing alcohol and drugs. On the set of "True Grit," Hopper so angered John Wayne that the star reportedly chased Hopper with a loaded gun.

He married five times and led a dramatic life right to the end. In January 2010, Hopper filed to end his 14-year marriage to Victoria Hopper, who stated in court filings that the actor was seeking to cut her out of her inheritance, a claim Hopper denied.

"Much of Hollywood," wrote critic-historian David Thomson, "found Hopper a pain in the neck."

All was forgiven, at least for a moment, when he collaborated with another struggling actor, Peter Fonda, on a script about two pot-smoking, drug-dealing hippies on a motorcycle trip through the Southwest and South to take in the New Orleans Mardi Gras.

On the way, Hopper and Fonda befriend a drunken young lawyer (Jack Nicholson, whom Hopper had resisted casting, in a breakout role), but arouse the enmity of Southern rednecks and are murdered before they can return home.

"'Easy Rider' was never a motorcycle movie to me," Hopper said in 2009. "A lot of it was about politically what was going on in the country."

Fonda produced "Easy Rider" and Hopper directed it for a meager $380,000. It went on to gross $40 million worldwide, a substantial sum for its time. The film caught on despite tension between Hopper and Fonda and between Hopper and the original choice for Nicholson's part, Rip Torn, who quit after a bitter argument with the director.

The film was a hit at Cannes, netted a best-screenplay Oscar nomination for Hopper, Fonda and Terry Southern, and has since been listed on the American Film Institute's ranking of the top 100 American films. The establishment gave official blessing in 1998 when "Easy Rider" was included in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."

Its success prompted studio heads to schedule a new kind of movie: low cost, with inventive photography and themes about a young, restive baby boom generation. With Hopper hailed as a brilliant filmmaker, Universal Pictures lavished $850,000 on his next project, "The Last Movie."

The title was prescient. Hopper took a large cast and crew to a village in Peru to film the tale of a Peruvian tribe corrupted by a movie company. Trouble on the set developed almost immediately, as Peruvian authorities pestered the company, drug-induced orgies were reported and Hopper seemed out of control.

When he finally completed filming, he retired to his home in Taos, N.M., to piece together the film, a process that took almost a year, in part because he was using psychedelic drugs for editing inspiration.

When it was released, "The Last Movie" was such a crashing failure that it made Hopper unwanted in Hollywood for a decade. At the same time, his drug and alcohol use was increasing to the point where he was said to be consuming as much as a gallon of rum a day.

Shunned by the Hollywood studios, he found work in European films that were rarely seen in the United States. But, again, he made a remarkable comeback, starting with a memorable performance as a drugged-out journalist in Francis Ford Coppola's 1979 Vietnam War epic, "Apocalypse Now," a spectacularly long and troubled film to shoot. Hopper was drugged-out off camera, too, and his rambling chatter was worked into the final cut.

He went on to appear in several films in the early 1980s, including the well regarded "Rumblefish" and "The Osterman Weekend," as well as the campy "My Science Project" and "The Texas Chainsaw Massacre 2."

But alcohol and drugs continued to interfere with his work. Treatment at a detox clinic helped him stop drinking but he still used cocaine, and at one point he became so hallucinatory that he was committed to the psychiatric ward of a Los Angeles hospital.

Upon his release, Hopper joined Alcoholics Anonymous, quit drugs and launched yet another comeback. It began in 1986 when he played an alcoholic ex-basketball star in "Hoosiers," which brought him an Oscar nomination for best supporting actor.

His role as a wild druggie in "Blue Velvet," also in 1986, won him more acclaim, and years later the character wound up No. 36 on the AFI's list of top 50 movie villains.

He returned to directing, with "Colors," "The Hot Spot" and "Chasers."

From that point on, Hopper maintained a frantic work pace, appearing in many forgettable movies and a few memorable ones, including the 1994 hit "Speed," in which he played the maniacal plotter of a freeway disaster. In the 2000s, he was featured in the television series "Crash" and such films as "Elegy" and "Hell Ride."

"Work is fun to me," he told a reporter in 1991. "All those years of being an actor and a director and not being able to get a job — two weeks is too long to not know what my next job will be."

For years he lived in Los Angeles' bohemian beach community of Venice, in a house designed by acclaimed architect Frank Gehry.

In later years he picked up some income by becoming a pitchman for Ameriprise Financial, aiming ads at baby boomers looking ahead to retirement. His politics, like much of his life, were unpredictable. The old rebel contributed money to the Republican Party in recent years, but also voted for Democrat Barack Obama in 2008.

Dennis Lee Hopper was born in 1936, in Dodge City, Kan., and spent much of his youth on the nearby farm of his grandparents. He saw his first movie at 5 and became enthralled.

After moving to San Diego with his family, he played Shakespeare at the Old Globe Theater.

Scouted by the studios, Hopper was under contract to Columbia until he insulted the boss, Harry Cohn. From there he went to Warner Bros., where he made "Rebel Without a Cause" and "Giant" while in his late teens.

Later, he moved to New York to study at the Actors Studio, where Dean had learned his craft.

Hopper's first wife was Brooke Hayward, the daughter of actress Margaret Sullavan and agent Leland Hayward, and author of the best-selling memoir "Haywire." They had a daughter, Marin, before Hopper's drug-induced violence led to divorce after eight years.

His second marriage, to singer-actress Michelle Phillips of the Mamas and the Papas, lasted only eight days.

A union with actress Daria Halprin also ended in divorce after they had a daughter, Ruthana. Hopper and his fourth wife, dancer Katherine LaNasa, had a son, Henry, before divorcing.

He married his fifth wife, Victoria Duffy, who was 32 years his junior, in 1996, and they had a daughter, Galen Grier.


Associated Press Writer Bob Thomas contributed to this report.

Friday, May 28, 2010

*From The Front Lines Of The Class Struggle- Victory To The Shaw's UFCW Workers

Click on the headline to link to an "Open Media" Website report on the Shaw's Strikers- "From The Front Lines Of The Class Struggle- Victory To The Shaw's UFCW Workers"

*From “The Rag Blog”- “Bob Feldman 68” Blog- A People’s History Of Afghanistan, Part Seven

Click on the headline to link to a “The Rag Blog” entry from the “Bob Feldman 68” blog on the history of Afghanistan

Markin comment:

This is a great series for those who are not familiar with the critical role of Afghanistan in world politics, if not directly then as part of the history of world imperialism. Thanks, Bob Feldman.

And, speaking of world imperialism, let us keep our eyes on the prize- Obama- Immediate, Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./ Allied Troops And Mercenaries From Afghanistan!

Searching For The Old American West In Song - The Music Of Tom Russell

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Tom Russell performing "Tonight We Ride."

CD Review

Borderland, Tom Russell, Hightone Records, 2001

The last time that I reviewed a CD by the singer/songwriter Tom Russell was his album, about the Irish disapora- “The Man From God Knows Where”. Hey, wait a minute- how can you go from the Irish diaspora to searching for the Old American West like that? Well, that answer is easy- not all the Irish stayed in the Eastern cities after heading out of the old country over the past 150 years or so. Some, like members of other ethnic groups, headed west when things dried up or got too “hot” in the East.

That is the common design for Russell’s drive to find the key to the old West, and to sing of it, to sing of it like Walt Whitman did in his poetry that sang of America. Although the unabashed promise that Whitman sang of has turned somewhat rancid and wearisome in the last hundred years or so that is where the meat of Russell’s work lies.

Take the song “Touch Of Evil” (title and subject from the classic Orson Welles film), for example, Russell captures the mean streets of the borders, between countries, cultures, and personal circumstances and exposes their hard edges. In short, my kind of songwriter. “Hills Of Old Juarez” and “Where The Dream Begins” are other outstanding examples of that same idea. If you too are searching for the meaning of the Old West, the real Old West, in song and the New West, as well, listen up here.

Touch Of Evil
Tom Russell

The night my baby left me I crossed the bridge to Juarez avenue
Like that movie "Touch of evil" I got the Orson Wells, Marlene Dietrich
Where Orson walks in to the whore house and
Marlene says "Man, you look like hel l"
And Orson's chewing on a chocolate bar
as the l ights go on in the old Blue Star hotel
C Bm
"Read my future" says old Orson, "down inside the tea leaves of your cup"
And she says " You ain't got no future, Hank,
I believe your f uture's all used up"

Why don't you touch me anymore? Why don't you touch me anymore?
D G G7
Why do you run away and hide? You know it hurts me deep inside
Why do you close the bedroom door? This is a brutal little war
What good is all this fightin' for if you don't touch me any more?

(Chords like 1st verse, until notice)
They shot "A touch of evil" in a Venice, California colo ny
And I grew near those dead canals
where they filmed the longest pan shot ever made
Now I'm thinking a bout the movie, the bar I'm in, the bridge, the Rio Grande
Now I'm t hinking about my baby and the borderline 'tween a woman and a man
C Bm
I was d runk as Orson Wells the night I crawled backwards out the door

Am C D G
I was screaming "Baby, baby how come you touch me any more?"


G C/G x3

(Chords like 2nd verse)
Oh, some one rolled the credits on twenty years of love turned dark and raw
Not a technicolor l ove film, it's a brutal document, it's film noir
And it's all played out on a borderline and the actors are tragically miscast
Like a Mexican bur lesk show where the characters are wearing comic masks
C Bm
Oh, it's love and love alone I cry to the barmen in this Juarez water hole
Am C D G
As we raise a glass to Orson and "A touch of evil" livin' our souls


*Searching For The Old American West In Song- The Music Of Tom Russell

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Tom Russell performing "The Ballad Of Ira Hayes."

CD Review

Indians Cowboys Horses Dogs, Tom Russell, Hightone Records, 2004

The last time that I reviewed a CD by the singer/songwriter Tom Russell was his album, about the Irish disapora- “The Man From God Knows Where”. Hey, wait a minute- how can you go from the Irish diaspora to searching for the Old American West like that? Well, that answer is easy- not all the Irish stayed in the Eastern cities after heading out of the old country over the past 150 years or so. Some, like members of other ethnic groups, headed west when things dried up or got too “hot” in the East.

That is the common design for Russell’s drive to find the key to the old West, and to sing of it, to sing of it like Walt Whitman did in his poetry that sang of America. Although the unabashed promise that Whitman sang of has turned somewhat rancid and wearisome in the last hundred years or so that is where the meat of Russell’s work lies.

In this album the motif shifts a shade in that Russell takes a deep, deep look at the stormy (to be kind ) relationships between whites and Native Americans in the struggle over the land, and, in the final analysis over cultural respect (or rather lack of it). That is always brought home to me in “The Ballad of Ira Hayes”. Ira Hayes was one the planters of the American flag at Iwo Jima in the Pacific War in World War II. For a minute he was a hero then went just as quickly back to being….”just another drunken Indian”. In that same vein here, “Tonight We Ride” and “All This Way For A Short Ride” stick out.

"The Ballad Of Ira Hayes"-Bob Dylan's Lyrics

Gather round you people and a story I will tell
About a brave young Indian you should remember well
From the tribe of Pima Indians, a proud and a peaceful band
They farmed the Phoenix Valley in Arizona land
Down their ditches for a thousand years the sparkling water rushed
Till their white man stole their water rights and the running water hushed
Now Ira's folks were hungry and their farms wene crops of weeds
But when war came he volunteers and forgot, the white man's greed
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war
Yes, call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war.

They started up Iwo Jima Hill, 250 men
But only 27 lived to walk back down that hill again
And when the fight was over and the old glory raised
One of the men who held it high was the Indian Ira Hayes
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war.

Now Ira returned a hero, celebrated throughout the land
He was wined and speeched and honored, everybody shook his hand
But he was just a Pima Indian, no money crops, no chance
And at home nobody cared what Ira had done and the wind did the Indian's dance
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war.

And Ira started drinking hard, jail was often his home
They let him raise the flag there and lower it like you'd throw a dog a bone
He died drunk early one morning, alone in the land he had fought to save
Two inches of water in a lonely ditch was the grave for Ira Hayes
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war
Yes, call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war.

Yes, call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, but his land is still as dry
And his ghost is lying thirsty in the ditch where Ira died
Call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war
Yes, call him, Drunken Ira Hayes, he won't answer anymore
Not the whiskey-drinking Indian or the marine who went to war.

*From The "Black Man With A Library"- On The Intellectual Origins Of Hip-Hop

Clickon the headline to link to a "Black Man With A Library" entry- "On The Intellectual Origins Of Hip-Hop."

Thursday, May 27, 2010

*From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-On Language and Liberation

Click on the headline to link a website that features George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Markin comment:

On a day when I am featuring George Orwells's "Politics and the English Language" the following article dealing with the specifics of current politcal language usage (1995, but still appropriate today)seems timely.

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Spring 1995 issue of "Women and Revolution" that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


On Language and Liberation

We print below an excerpted exchange between a reader of Women and Revolution and a member of our editorial board.

Montreal, Quebec [undated, received July 1994]

To whom it may concern,

As a recently new reader of the Spartacist League's journal "Workers Vanguard" as well as the journal (of the Women's League of the SL), "Women and Revolution," I am very inspired, encouraged, and impressed with your organisation's anti-racist, anti-sexist, and anti-homophobic integration with very clear Marxist principles which seek to destroy a class-based, capitalist society and the inequities it creates. I, however, am puzzled by something I noticed in "Women and Revolution" which, though seemingly trivial, is I think very important to any Marxist publication and especially one which chooses to focus on the "woman question."

I noticed that throughout "Women and Revolution" you consistently use the term "mankind" as opposed to people or humankind. While I anticipate your defense of this practice to claim that language or terms are a mild bandaid (or not the true problem) rather than a solution to sexism, I have a few reasons why I think language is an important issue in battling sexism.

First, language is not solely a means of communication. It is also an expression of shared assumptions and transmits implicit values and behavioural models to those who use it. Therefore, to use "mankind" implies that people are men—this renders women invisible in a very literal and symbolic way and serves to perpetuate an androcentric society.
Secondly, since language both reflects and creates social norms and values; that is, "if it plays a crucial part in social organisation it is instrumental in maintaining male power..." (Deborah Cameron, Feminism and Linguistic Theory [1985]} and Marxists, in deconstructing sexism as an integral tool of capitalist oppression, must study its workings carefully. While, obviously, gender-neutral language will not eradicate sexism, it is a very important aspect in social transformation. To say something is not worth implementing because it does not provide complete success instantly, is like saying that since international expansion is integral to a successful Marxist revolution, it is not worth starting a movement or mobilization in one country.

Finally, if indeed "mankind" means everyone and language or terms are trivial, then why all the resistance to changing it? If you were to substitute "womankind" for "mankind" or "she" for "he," your readers would assume you meant only women and would (with reason) question your motives. If it is truly not a "big deal," then why the insistence on continuing a practice which perpetuates sexist and androcentric images and values?
While I understand your organisation's focus is class-based, I assume, by your journal "Women and Revolution" as well as your anti-sexist stance in all your activities, that eradicating sexism both as a special oppression and as a tool and product of capitalism is an important issue for you. As a result, considering my argument outlined above, I urge you to contemplate your use of the term "mankind" and the larger issue of language in general.

Sincerely, Jasmine C.
Vancouver, British Columbia 27 August 1994

Dear Jasmine,

Thank you for your interesting letter to Women and Revolution forwarded here by my colleagues in New York. I assure you, political debates about language are not trivial. We share an understanding that opposition to all forms of oppression is integral to the Marxist program which indeed seeks to destroy "class-based capitalist society and the inequities it creates." And that is the framework in which I will address your concerns about W&R's use of language, especially words like "mankind."

It's true that changing language is not a "solution to sexism." It's not even a "mild bandaid." But this is not why we oppose "political linguistics." Rather, the sustained effort by feminist linguists to change language with the aim of partially or wholly addressing social inequities, embodies a political program that is counterposed to the necessary social struggle against social, racial and sexual oppression. It is based on the false premise that by changing how people speak, we can change how they act. This is idealism: proceeding from what is in people's heads, their ideas and the language in which they express those ideas, rather than the social reality that creates and conditions the ideas. As Karl Marx said, "'Liberation' is an historical and not a mental act."
Language mirrors social reality and is a vehicle for communicating ideas, a powerful instrument of human culture. It can as easily convey a liberating revolutionary program as a reactionary one. But language doesn't create social reality, or as you say, "social norms and values."

We disagree with Deborah Cameron that language is instrumental in maintaining male power, and with Dale Spender, another feminist linguist, that language causes women's oppression. Women's oppression is deeply rooted in the institution of the family, economic unit and guardian of private property in capitalist society. It's really not a matter of words and ideas and language. It is capitalist exploitation and private property that are central to the maintenance of women's oppression. Our struggle as communists is to transform that social reality through proletarian socialist revolution.

That said, I agree that language can have a political program. Two examples will illustrate this. When anti-abortion terrorists hurl words like "baby killer" at women seeking abortions and the doctors performing them, this is an action program for murder which is being carried out. Racist epithets and code words for terror against blacks, Asians and Jews can incite pogroms and lynching. But stopping that race-terror is not a matter of linguistics but of mobilizing the integrated working class in action to stop the Klan and Nazi fascists.

Until 1977 we didn't use "gay" to refer to homosexuals, except in quotes, because we did not consider gay as a neutral or conventional synonym for homosexual. But we began using gay because, while homosexual was and still is an adequate term, it became impossible to refer to a whole range of cultural/political activities without use of the word gay. Yet it still does not refer to homosexuality in all contexts (ancient Rome, for example, or Iran where homosexuals are anything but gay). Nor does it describe a variety of sexual orientations and interests (e.g., lesbian women and bisexuals). American author Core Vidal's elegant solution was to speak of "same sex sex" which is both accurate and explicit. We explained our political rationale when we announced the style change in Workers Vanguard:

"The term was promoted by and gained public currency in the last decade due to the gay liberation movement. The general program of the gay liberation movement is not so much fighting for democratic rights for homosexuals as the affirmation of 'gay pride.' As a political rather than purely personal statement, 'gay pride' represents a sectoralist outlook fundamentally hostile to Marxism and detrimental to the struggle for a united mobilization of the working class and all defenders of democratic rights against discrimination and social oppression....

"Our resistance to using the term gay was also derived from opposition to New Left moralistic idealism in general, one aspect of which has been a tendency to reject the conventional terms relating to oppressed social groups in favor of new terms, often quite artificial in appearance (e.g., chairperson). As Marxists we oppose such termino-
conservative attitude toward conventional usage. Thus we used Negro rather than black until Negro generally acquired an obsolete or derogatory meaning and black became conventional usage. We still do not use the term 'Ms.,' a form of address closely associated with feminism and based on an amalgamation of traditional aristocratic-derived, sex-defined terminology (as opposed to the democratic 'citizen' or the communist 'comrade')."

—WV No. 168, 29 July 1977

We also don't use "choice" to refer to a woman's right to abortion. "Choice" is insisted upon by the petty-bourgeois feminists of CARAL in Canada, and NOW and NARAL in the U.S. They speak of "a woman's right to choose" and call out the well-worn slogan, "Control of our bodies, control of our lives." Posing the struggle for abortion rights as a matter of "choice" is the political program of the petty bourgeoisie. It intentionally masks reality. Abortion is a medical procedure. It is a democratic right, and should be available free and on demand. For teenagers and for poor, minority and working-class women the decision to have an abortion is an often painful economic or medical necessity. A "choice" perhaps, but not one freely made. The "pro-choice" feminists appeal to their well-heeled sisters in the bourgeoisie who in any case can always afford abortions. They call on Clinton's cops to defend the clinics in the U.S., while in Canada they also preach reliance on the state, especially if the attorney general is an NDP [New Democratic Party] social democrat. In the context of medicine-for-profit, these feminists will not fight for free abortion on demand. And nothing less than that will provide "choice" for the vast majority of working-class women.

Now to the thorny question of "mankind." In flipping through W&R I see a variety of words and expressions to denote the whole of homo sapiens, men and women: mankind, human beings, humanity, humankind, people, all people, women and men. "Mankind" is not inherently anti-woman. Its dictionary definition is "the human species...human beings in general." "Humankind" has a similar meaning: "the human race, mankind." By the way, in French "mankind" translates as "I'humanite," a feminine noun, while the German word is more akin to the English: "die Menschheit," also a feminine noun. As for "man," the Oxford English Dictionary's first definition is "a human being (irrespective of sex or age)" and their historical backup is this piquant quote from a 17th century writer: "The Lord had but one paire of men in Paradise"!

I'm sure you would be interested in the question of language in Japan. This is a very hierarchical country where women's oppression is profound and permeates every aspect of social life, including language. At an early age boys learn to add a particle at the end of a sentence to indicate their definite opinion, while girls are taught to add other particles which convey hesitation, deference and politeness, literally codifying and enforcing female inferiority and oppression. A Japanese grammar tells us that "Some of these particles are used exclusively by male or exclusively by female speakers, so they also function to mark the speaker's sex." This is an example of "conventional usage" that our comrades in Japan would avoid and in an egalitarian workers' Japan it would quickly disappear.

After the 1917 October Revolution the Russian language changed considerably, becoming both simpler (fewer letters in the alphabet, for example) and more egalitarian. In tsarist Russia, the familiar second person singular (you/ty) was used by the nobility towards servants, peasants and workers, but the latter were expected to respond in the more respectful mode of the second person plural (you/vy). This reactionary social convention was overthrown first in the army and in the factories. Leon Trotsky described the new, revolutionary order in the Red Army: "Of course, Red Army personnel may use the familiar form in speaking to one another as comrades, but precisely as comrades and only as comrades. In the Red Army a commanding officer may not use the familiar form to address a subordinate if the subordinate is expected to respond in the polite form. Otherwise an expression of inequality between persons would result, not an expression of subordination in the line of duty."

—Problems of Everyday Life

After the Stalinist political counterrevolution the bureaucracy fostered a recrudescence of the old tsarist forms of address. In his decisive analysis of Stalinism, The Revolution Betrayed, Trotsky voiced his outrage at the reemergence of this practice:
"How can they fail to remember that one of the most popular revolutionary slogans in tzarist Russia was the demand for the abolition of the use of the second person singular by bosses in addressing their subordinates!"
Contemporary feminism has had some impact on the language, but this has not translated into even token improvements for women in the realm of social equality, abortion rights, jobs, or an amelioration of the unremitting violence that so many women so routinely face. Even as the bourgeois media, employers and governments implement "gender-neutral" language, we are witnessing a real degradation of women's rights and lives. This is a product both of the capitalist economy utterly going down the tubes, and of the social counterrevolution in the ex-Soviet Union and Eastern Europe. And "gender-neutral" language can express reactionary, anti-woman bigotry. I heard a really horrifying example of this on the radio the other day. A professor at a provincial college is accused of sexual harassment. In the radio interview, he used quite "correct" language to say that women belong at home and blacks have low IQs!

I agree with your arguments against those who say that something is not worth implementing because it does not provide complete success instantly. Thus we struggle for abortion rights and mobilize ourselves and others at the besieged clinics. We fight for full democratic rights for gays and lesbians. We oppose the ruling class' anti-sex crusade, which hits women and gays most viciously. We seek to mobilize the multiracial working class to struggle against the racist immigration laws. We've organized numerous integrated working-class actions which have stopped the fascists from marching. In all the battles in defense of workers and the oppressed, we aim to lay bare the inner workings of capitalism and to link such struggles to the necessity for the working class to take power in its own name. That's when we can begin to lay the material basis for the true liberation of women and all humanity.

Communist greetings,
Miriam McDonald
for Women and Revolution

*From "The Rag Blog"-Vietnam and Afghanistan : Still Waist Deep in the Big Muddy

Click on the headline to link to a "The Rag Blog" entry-"Vietnam and Afghanistan : Still Waist Deep in the Big Muddy."

Markin comment:

Aside from the obvious slogan- "Troops Out Of Afghanistan!"- a reprieve of Pete Seeger's, "Waist Deep In The Big Muddy", seems in order today. The 'reasoning' from Vietnam still is in play in the American imperial state, and in its commanding heights.

Waist Deep In The Big Muddy

by Pete Seeger 1963, planned for the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in 1967 but CBS objected to the blacklisted Seeger making obvious references to the"big fool" in the White House, finally sung by Seeger on the Comedy Hour in 1968 as the finale in a medley of anti-war songs

It was back in nineteen forty-two,
I was a member of a good platoon.
We were on maneuvers in-a Loozianna,
One night by the light of the moon.
The captain told us to ford a river,
That's how it all begun.
We were -- knee deep in the Big Muddy,
But the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, are you sure,
This is the best way back to the base?"
"Sergeant, go on! I forded this river
'Bout a mile above this place.
It'll be a little soggy but just keep slogging.
We'll soon be on dry ground."
We were -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

The Sergeant said, "Sir, with all this equipment
No man will be able to swim."
"Sergeant, don't be a Nervous Nellie,"
The Captain said to him.
"All we need is a little determination;
Men, follow me, I'll lead on."
We were -- neck deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool said to push on.

All at once, the moon clouded over,
We heard a gurgling cry.
A few seconds later, the captain's helmet
Was all that floated by.
The Sergeant said, "Turn around men!
I'm in charge from now on."
And we just made it out of the Big Muddy
With the captain dead and gone.

We stripped and dived and found his body
Stuck in the old quicksand.
I guess he didn't know that the water was deeper
Than the place he'd once before been.
Another stream had joined the Big Muddy
'Bout a half mile from where we'd gone.
We were lucky to escape from the Big Muddy
When the big fool said to push on.

Well, I'm not going to point any moral;
I'll leave that for yourself
Maybe you're still walking, you're still talking
You'd like to keep your health.
But every time I read the papers
That old feeling comes on;
We're -- waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.

Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep in the Big Muddy
And the big fool says to push on.
Waist deep! Neck deep! Soon even a
Tall man'll be over his head, we're
Waist deep in the Big Muddy!
And the big fool says to push on!

Words and music by Pete Seeger (1967)
TRO (c) 1967 Melody Trails, Inc. New York, NY

*On Using The "C" Word- "C-------t" In Public- A Note

Click on the headline to link a website that features George Orwell's "Politics and the English Language."

Markin comment:

Politics, including revolutionary politics, has its up and down moments; this one is an up one and moreover is also a “teachable” moment to boot. Recently I received a message from a young leftist militant, or at least that is how I would categorize him politically, asking about the various terms used in our left-wing movement to define sundry political types and trends. He was, not surprisingly, when one thinks about it confused over the common use and interchangeability (whoa!), including by this writer, of terms like left-wing militant, leftist, socialist , revolutionary socialist, workers party, revolutionary labor party, workers government, dictatorship of the proletariat, Bolshevik, and, the holy of holies, Communist, the “C” word of the headline.

Well, frankly, part of the interchangeability is to vary up the usage in an article or series of articles, depending, sometimes, on the subject and to whom the entry is directed. I will, however, let the old socialist writer George Orwell take me to task on this one. For those not familiar with Orwell’s work, “Politics and the English Language”, I have linked that gem above. Now Orwell had many political faults, including that funny little quirk of a touching faith in British imperialism in the early Cold War period of the 1940s shortly before his death in 1949, but he had it exactly right about the virtues of political precision. I can only say, as I have on other occasions, that I have honored that wisdom in the breech more than in the observance on more occasions that I care to recount.

But to address the young militant leftist’s point more fully I will try to draw some differences in terminology starting with the categorization of "militant leftist". I would say today that political designation would include someone against the American imperial wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other imperial adventures and willing to go into the streets on the question. Someone also, perhaps, vaguely disenchanted with international capitalism but with no particular strategy to change it beyond some “tinkering” with the system. In short, the predicament of the vast majority of those, especially of the young, who are looking for a way out of the impasse posed by capitalism. Today, one may wear the badge “militant leftist” with some honor. Whether that will remain true in the future will depend on not yet known circumstances.

Beyond that general political characterization in order to see whether our fellows fall on “the side of the angels” or not, there is something of real and defining history in the usage of certain terms in the socialist movement. Before World War I, and the overwhelming betrayal by many of the European Social Democratic parties in supporting their own country’s capitalist government's war efforts, that term was in general usage and highly regarded. Even then, as factions developed within these “party of the whole class” organizations, reformist and revolutionary socialist wings were apparent. After the Russian Revolution of 1917 the clear defining line was between the now committed reformist Social Democrats and the equally committed revolutionary Communists. That distinction reflected the Bolshevik “hard” position that it was necessary to overthrow the capitalist governments of the world and create new working class institutions that would serve to put society on the road to socialism. I submit that that distinction is still a good approximation for the differences between ostensibly socialist organizations today.

I want to give special attention to the terms revolutionary labor party, workers party, dictatorship of the proletariat, and workers government, terms that are strewn all over many of the entries in this space. These expressions are terms of art in the revolutionary movement so some clarity is necessary. When I propagandize for a workers party my idea is not some generic version of the old Labor Party in Great Britain that serves at the sufferance of the Queen but of a revolutionary labor party based on a transitional program of demands that require a socialist overturn of society to be implemented. And that overturn is reflected in the idea of a workers government. That, my friends, is nothing less than the old Marxist idea of the “dictatorship of the proletariat.” –the first tentative step to the socialist stage of development and then to communism, the classless society. Now if this information does not help let me put it this way. If I have a preference as to what I want to be called, politically, and would be happy to have etched on my grave marker then inscribe the “C” word please. And you should be too. In the meantime I will,and hopefully you will also, continue to fight for our communist future-the classless society.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

*Playwright's Corner- Clifford Odets' "Waiting For Lefty"

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the American playwright Clifford Odets.

Book/Play Review

Waiting For Lefty, and other plays, Clifford Odets, Random House, New York, 1935

There has always been a place for didactic political plays, like the one under review here, “Waiting For Lefty”, within the left-wing movement. Such plays have value both as a means to express certain plebeian cultural values that are not expressed through mainstream bourgeois cultural institutions and for purely propaganda purposes to get the “message” out to the sometimes illiterate, sometimes just barely literate, or sometimes merely recalcitrant masses. These are both honorable and acceptable means in order to create an “alternative” cultural expression looking forward to the new culture of the new communist society.

Moreover, there has been no lack of those cultural workers, including playwrights and actors, who, while not plebes themselves, have readily come over to our side, at least for a while. This movement toward the plebes is episodic but takes a big leap forward especially in times of general social turmoil like the period of the Great Depression in the 1930’s and in the social movements of the 1960s. That is the case with the playwright under review, Clifford Odets, and the cultural organization that initially sponsored his works, The Theater Guild of New York, in the 1930s.

Put a collectivist spirit in the air as a result of serious class struggles for union recognition in some a massive strike wave in 1934, a turn by the Communist International toward the popular front and alliance with previously ignored or despised bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, some hunger actors and related cultural workers, AND the bright lights of New York and you have the Theater Guild. Its illustrious personal included many young performers who would go on to, if not honorable theater careers, then long ones like Lee J. Cobb and Elia Kazan who made appearances in Clifford Odets works.

As to “Waiting For Lefty” it certainly is a period piece of those times. The subject, a pending strike of taxi cab workers, and how various characters came to class consciousness, or at least of consciousness of the need to struggle against the bosses is pretty straight forward. Except, that the Lefty of the title, a known militant worker from whom his fellows had previously taken their political lead is no where to be found. Or rather is, in the end, found dead, in some back alley from a boss’s thug’s bullet. Lefty may have been the catalyst for action, for developing political awareness, but the plebes are on their own now. The class struggle continues. Definitely, as intended, an uplift kind of play that could use a revival today. If not of the play itself then of the need for class struggle theme behind it.

Note: I would be remiss if I did not mention that Clifford Odets, and a number of other members of the Theater Guild troupe, most infamously Elia Kazan and Lee J. Cobb, when the sunny days of the 1930s struggles passed and the hard Cold War days of the “red scare” came in the 1950s had no problem naming names of those whom they were asked to identify as communists or, more probably, fellow travelers by various Washington committees. Were they, like some of the characters in Odets’ “Till The Die I Die” (also in this book), tortured by some Gestapo-like fiends into submission for that information? Or were they threatened with some other more psychological abuse and being merely mortal could not stand the heat. No, they “sang” just to keep their jobs. Others like Dalton Trumbo, the Hollywood Ten and Howard Fast, brought their toothbrushes with them to the committees and took the jail time instead. While there was (and is) a huge gap between the politics of these Stalinists and ours we honor them despite their politics. For Odets, Kazan and Cobbs we have nothing but scorn.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

*The Latest From The "SteveLendmanBlog"-Obama's Gulf Commission: Distortion, Obstruction and Whitewash Assured - A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to the latest from the "SteveLendmanBlog"-"Obama's Gulf Commission: Distortion, Obstruction and Whitewash Assured."

Markin comment:

This blog is indispensable for those who need hard information about the subjects of pressing subjects of the day. Moreover, brother Lendman covers material that I either don't know much about or don't want to deal with, especially the perfidies of bourgeois politics here in America (and in Israel). Thanks.

*The Latest From The National Jericho Movement- Free All Class War Prisoners!

Click on the headline to link to the latest from the "National Jericho Movement" Website- Free All Class War Prisoners!

*The Latest From The "Citizen Soldier" Website-A Guest Commentary

Click on the headline to link to a "Citizen Soldier" entry concerning the relationship between the working class and support for the American imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan from those who are fighting those damn wars.

*From The "International Marxist Tendency" Website- On The 90th Anniversary Of The Kapp Putsch In Germany-Guest Commentaries

Click on the headline to link to a "International Marxist Tendency" Website entry for the Kapp Putsch in Germany on the 90th anniversary of this victory for the international working class.


4. The Kapp Putsch
Written by Rob Sewell
Saturday, 01 October 1988

ONCE THE THREAT of revolution bad subsided, and the workers' councils began to dissolve, the bourgeois looked for the removal of the Noske-Scheidemann-Ebert government. On 13 March 1920, 12,000 troops from the Ehrhardt Brigade and the Baltikum Brigade under General Luettwitz, entered Berlin in order to establish a military dictatorship, and declare Wolfgang Kapp, a founder of the old Fatherland Party, as the new Chancellor.

Noske, the Commander-in-Chief, called upon Reichswehr officers to put down the rebellion, which they refused point blank to do. The head of the army, General Hans von Seekt, simply announced he was going on 'indefinite leave'. To save its skin, the government fled from Berlin, firstly to Dresden, where a Freikorps general threated to put the entire cabinet under arrest, and then to Stuttgart.

As a matter of self-preservation the SPD, USPD and trade union leaders appealed to the workers to put down this military putsch and defend the republic. A general strike was called which so paralysed Berlin that Kapp could not find a single secretary to issue the decree that he had assumed power!

In a completely ultra-left fashion the young KPD issued a statement that the workers should remain neutral as it was a fight 'between two counter-revolutionary wings'. Within 24 hours the KPD were forced to reverse their position 180 degrees. The German workers were solid in their determination to defeat the military coup and the communists had no alternative but to participate in the struggle.

The coup electrified the whole country. From Berlin, the strike spread spontaneously through the Ruhr, Central Germany and Bavaria. Such was the counter movement that, in nearly every city and town, the military were driven out by mass demonstrations of workers and the middle class. The sheer scale of the resistance to General Luettwitz was gigantic.

In the Ruhr armed workers began to join forces in a 'Red Army' that put the Reichswehr to flight. They were estimated as 50,000 strong, fully equipped with modern weapons and artillery. They became, for a period, masters of the Ruhr.

Workers took action all over. Typically, in Chemnitz, the post office, railway station and town hall were occupied by armed workers. The Executive Council established on 15 March was made up of ten KPD members, nine SPD, one USPD and one Democrat, and extended its authority over a radius of 50 kilometres.

The spontaneous movement of the masses against the coup was similar to the later actions of the Spanish proletariat in July 1936 after Franco's revolt. As in Spain, with a revolutionary leadership, the German workers could have taken power easily.

Lenin had compared the Kapp putsch to the Kornilov uprising in August 1917 in Russia. In a similar way the forces of counter-revolution attempted to overthrow the Kerensky government and restore the old regime of the Tsar. Unlike the KPD, the Bolshevik Party immediately threw itself into the forefront of defending the revolution, organising a united front with the Mensheviks and Social Revolutionaries in order to defeat reaction. It was a huge blunder for the German KPD initially to advocate neutrality in such a struggle. Such ultra-leftism simply put up barriers between themselves, the social democratic workers and ordinary trade unionists.

A Swing to the Left
The consequences of the Kapp putsch brought about a great shift in the political landscape. After its failure, Noske resigned. In June 1920 the USPD became the second largest party in the Reichstag with 81 deputies; in the Landstags of Saxony, 'I'huringia and Brunswick it became the largest party. Its membership had grown spectacularly to 800,000. It published 55 daily newspapers. In the Reichstag elections, the USPD had got 4,895,000 votes, more than double its January 1919 figure, whilst the SPD, due to the masses' shift to the left, lost half the votes it won in January 1919, falling to 5,614,000. The SPD still, however, remained the biggest party in the Reichstag. On the other side of the spectrum, the vote for the extreme right also doubled at the expense of the liberals, indicating a growing polarisation of the situation in Germany.

In Bavaria, General von Nohl, ungrateful for past services, forced out the SPD Premier Johannes Hoffmann and established a more right wing government. In the Ruhr, however, the armed workers who had succeded in driving out the Freikorps and the Reichswehr forces now refused to lay down their arms as requested by the central government.

The new coalition government, under SPD member Hermann Mueller, decided to despatch government troops - who had previously refused to fight Kapp - to restore order in the Ruhr, which they did eagerly and with much brutality. Hundreds were killed and hundreds more executed to restore 'normality'.

Towards a mass Communist International
The year 1920 was a turning point not only for the KPD but also for the Communist International. The founding congress of the Third International, in March of the previous year had laid down the fundamental principles of the socialist revolution and the nature of soviet power. The success of the Bolshevik revolution was now having a big effect within the ranks of the mass parties of social democracy, with large layers pressing for affiliation to the new International. Negotiations concerning affiliations were opened by a whole series of mass workers' organisations: the Independent Labour Party in Britain, the French Socialist Party, the USPD of Germany, the Italian Socialist Party, the Norwegian Labour Party, and a number of others.

The possibility of creating a mass Communist International was in the offing. But the danger also existed of bringing into the new International reformist and centrist leaders who were attempting to keep a firm grip on their radicalised rank and file. In order to win over the genuine revolutionary membership, and to separate them from their opportunist leaders, the Comintern formulated 18 conditions for affiliation to the new International. When some of the opportunist leaders were prepared to swallow these conditions, three more were added to effectively exclude them.

The KPD had grown from 3-4000 members in January 1919 to 78,000 immediately after the Kapp putsch, despite an ultra-left split-off. It was nevertheless tiny in comparison to the two other mass parties, which had approaching one million members apiece. Under the impact of events, however, the ranks of the USPD was moving away from reformism and towards the ideas of Marxism. At its March 1919 conference, the USPD came out in favour of the dictatorship of the proletariat and a soviet government. In December it broke with the Second International and began negotiations with the Comintern. In October at its Halle Congress the USPD, after a four-hour appeal by the president of the Comintern, Zinoviev, voted to accept the 21 conditions and affiliate to the Communist International. Negotiations then opened up with the KPD with a view to the creation of a merged united Communist Party, which was founded in December with a membership approaching a half a million workers. The German Communist Party was now a truly mass party, which under the guidance of the Comintern, began to make preparations for the socialist revolution in Germany.

In December, the 140,000 strong French Socialist Party voted to affiliate to the new International. The whole of the old Socialist Party apparatus, its headquarters, its secretariat, and its daily paper L'Humanité with a circulation of 200,000 became the weapons of the new Communist Party. In Czechoslovakia also a mass Communist Party was formed out of the Socialist Party, numbering 350,000 members. With the split in the Italian Socialist Party, 50,000 members were drawn into the ranks of the newly founded Italian Communist Party.

These mass parties did not emerge from small sectarian groups on the fringes of the labour movement, but arose from the traditional mass organisations of the working class that were experiencing political turmoil due to the colossal events of the period. The mass of workers do not learn from theory, but from experience. They tend to take the line of least resistance and develop enormous loyalty to their traditional mass organisations that they have built up over generations. It was on the basis of titanic events that these parties were thrown into ferment, reformism became compromised and the rank and file moved towards the ideas of genuine Marxism.

The First Congress of the Communist International in March 1919 met amid great hopes of a rapid development of the European revolution. By the time of the Second Congress in 1920, it became obvious that more serious organisational and political preparation would be needed for the proletariat to gain victories in Western Europe. Along with the creation of mass communist parties went the urgent necessity of imbuing them with an understanding of revolutionary strategy and tactics. In the words of Trotsky: 'The art of tactics and strategy, the art of revolutionary struggle can be mastered only through experience, through criticism and self-criticism...the revolutionary struggle for power has its own laws, its own usages, its own tactics, its own strategy. Those who do not master this art will never taste victory.'

Lenin's Struggle Against Ultra-Leftism
In 1919 and 1920, a number of ultra-left tendencies appeared within the ranks of the newly formed Communist parties. This reflected a revolutionary impatience, which in turn was a reaction against the opportunist actions of the old reformist leaderships. This ultra-leftism was an attempt to find a short-cut to success. It failed to appreciate the strong grip of reformism on the minds of the mass of the workers, and the patient work that was needed to break these illusions.

One of Lenin's most important works, Left Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder, was devoted to this problem. Lenin saw ultra-leftism as a natural problem occuring in the newly formed communist parties, whose membership had been won to an irreconcilable struggle against capitalism and those who defended it. He compared it to a childhood illness which was a necessary part of growing up. Lenin's book, together with the discussions at the Second Congress, was aimed at educating the leaders of the various communist parties in the tactics and methods of bolshevism. For the child-like 'lefts' and sectarians of today, who repeat all the mistakes of the ultra-lefts of the past, these writings and ideas remain a closed book. As Lenin explained:

"It is beyond doubt...those who try to deduce the tactics of the revolutionary proletariat from principles such as: 'the Communist Party must keep its doctrine pure and its independence of reformism inviolate: its mission is to lead the way without stopping or turning, by the direct road to the communist revolution' will inevitably fall into error."

The task of the communist leaderships was to innoculate itself against infantile-leftism and absorb the method, tactics and strategy of Bolshevism in order to equip itself for the revolutionary battles that were unfolding in the main capitalist countries, particularly Germany.

After the unification of the new party, a central committee was elected under the joint chairmanship of Ernst Daeumig and Paul Levi, who had been a close friend of Rosa Luxemburg. At Levi's insistence, the ultra-left group was expelled from the Party, and established themselves as the short-lived German Communist Workers Party (KAPD). In February 1921, after violently disagreeing with the Comintern's decision to split the Italian Socialist Party, Paul Levi resigned from the party leadership. In his place came Brandler, Meyer, Froelich, and Thalheimer.

To assist the KPD, the Comintern had despatched the Hungarian Communist leader Bela Kun to Berlin, after the crushing in blood of the Hungarian Soviet Republic. (The Hungarian Revolution is dealt with in Militant International Review Number 18). But as leader of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, Bela Kun had made big mistakes, and was infected by ultra-left ideas. This tendency was fed by Zinoviev, the head of the Comintern, Bukharin and Radek, who poured scorn on the defensive struggles of the SPD organisations.

The 'March Offensive'

The new leadership of the KPD, egged on by the Comintern representatives, looked increasingly for a showdown with German capitalism. Their blind impatience became the framework of the new theory of the so-called 'offensive'. The whole essence of this theory was that the advance guard - the KPD - could by its own actions 'electrify' the passive proletariat into taking revolutionary action.

The situation in Germany was extremely tense after French troops had occupied Dusseldorf because of the government's failure to pay reparations in full. The party's central organ Rote Fahne stated: 'The workers of central Germany are not taken in by the 'anti-putschist' rumours alleging that a spirit of cowardice and apathy has arisen in the German working class.'

On 27 March a decision was taken by the German leaders to launch the revolutionary offensive in support of the miners of central Germany, whose Mansfeld coalfield had been occupied by the security police to prevent 'sabotage and attacks on managers'. This provocative occupation was conducted under the orders of the SPD President of Saxony, Otto Horsing, who attempted to pacify the area and purge it of Communist influence. The miners conducted armed resistance under the leadership of Max Hoelz, an heroic revolutionary figure, who had earlier been expelled from the KPD. The KPD called on the working class throughout Germany to arm itself in solidarity with the miners. They had completely misjudged the mood and the action remained mainly isolated to the central German area.

Out of desperation the Party attempted to provoke the workers into action. A KPD leader, Hugo Eberlein, was sent 'to provoke an uprising in mid-Germany', and, according to many sources, even went so far as to advocate the sham kidnapping of local KPD leaders, dynamiting a munitions depot, blowing up a workers' co-operative in Halle, and blaming it on the police in order to fuel the anger of the workers. Fortunately, little came of these crazy plans. Groups of communist workers occupied the Leuna Works and called for support, but were driven out after a bitter confrontation. The Communist Party organised the occupation of the docks in Hamburg in support of a partial strike, but again it was soon dispersed. The workers remained passive, leaving the KPD members to fight it out alone with the police.

This infamous 'March Action' resulted in hundreds of deaths and thousands being imprisoned for their involvement. The ultra-left actions of many good communists widened the split between them and the reformist rank and file. Within a short time over 200,000 members had deserted the KPD in disgust.

A few days after the debacle, Paul Levi issued a bitter attack on the Party's action, which was broadly correct. However, he wrongly published these criticisms outside the party's ranks, and as a result was disciplined and subsequently expelled from the KPD.

Lenin was alarmed at the putschist actions of the KPD and strongly condemned those responsible. 'The theses of Thaelheimer and Bela Kun are radically false...That a representative of the Executive proposed a lunatic ultra-left tactic of immediate action "to help the Russians" I can believe without difficulty: this representative (Bela Kun) is often too far to the left.'

The United Front Policy
At the Third Congress of the Comintern in June 1921, both Lenin and Trotsky conducted a rigorous struggle against the so-called 'Theory of the Offensive' and the fallacies of the 'March Action'. The Congress also recognised a new turn in the international situation that had arisen. The first great revolutionary wave had now ebbed and capitalism had succeeded temporarily in stabilising itself. 'In 1919', stated Trotsky, 'we said it (the revolution) was a question of months, and now we say it is a question perhaps of years.' As the immediate struggle for power had been temporarily postponed, the tactics of the Comintern had to be concentrated on the united front policy: fighting in day to day struggles on wages, conditions etc., bringing around it the ranks of the reformist organisations. The united front was used to unify the workers' organisations in action against a common enemy. It did not mean the abandoning of any programme or mutual criticism under the guise of a spurious unity. In essence, it meant: 'March separately under your own banners, but strike together'. It was precisely through this joint action of the mass parties that the KPD could demonstrate the superiority of militant struggles over the limitations of reformism. In this new period of temporary, relative stability, the communist parties had to step up their activities in partial struggles to win the majority of the working class to their programme. In a nutshell, it was not a question of the Conquest of Power, but the Conquest of the Masses. The new KPD slogan became: 'Towards the Masses!'.

The turn of the German Communists towards united front work saw a steady revival in the party's influence. The annual report presented to the Leipzig party conference in 1922 described the considerable progress: amongst women, youth and children's sections, the co-operatives and trade unions. Alongside its press agency, the party now had 38 daily newspapers and numerous periodicals. They possessed over 12,000 councillors, with an absolute majority in 80 town councils and were the biggest party in a further 170. In the trade unions they possessed nearly 1000 organised fractions with 400 members in leadership positions.

Even according to the ultra-left Ruth Fischer, 'In the second half of 1922 the party was gaining in numbers and influence. In the third quarter of 1922 it had 218,555 members. It showed a sharp rise from the 180,443 of the previous year, just after the March Action.' The KPD was by far the biggest communist party in Western Europe.

On 24 June 1922, the foreign minister Walter Rathenau was murdered by the extreme right wing 'Organisation Consul', a gang of ex-army officers. There was widespread revulsion - as with the Kapp putsch and moves towards united working class action, which the KPD used to the maximum effect. On 4 July a monster demonstration organised by all the workers' organisations proved an outstanding success. It provided the KPD with the opportunity to prove in action the superiority of militant leadership and policies. Yet, because of this, the SPD broke off relations with the Communists four days later.

Number of political murders committed 354 22
Number of persons sentenced for these murders 24 38
Death sentences - 10
Confessed assassins found 'Not Guilty' 23 -
Political assassins subsequently promoted in the Army 3 -
Average length of prison term per murder four months fifteen years
Average fine per murder two marks -

(Source: Vier Jahre Politischer Mord, EJ Gumbel)

At this time inflation began to take off. Years of successive governments reverting to the printing press to plug their budget deficits had completely undermined the currency. It took 300 marks to buy one dollar in June: by December it was 8000 marks, and by January 1923, 18,000 marks to the dollar. This had a shattering effect not only on the workers but the middle classes, particularly those on fixed incomes, who faced absolute ruin.

By this stage the German bourgeois became increasingly determined to regain all the concessions won by the proletariat in the November revolution. In 1918 under the threat of revolution, the capitalist class were prepared to grant huge concessions: trade union recognition, agreement to withdraw support from company unions, establishment of shop stewards' committees, universal suffrage, all de-mobbed soldiers to be able to return to their former employment and the shortening of the working day to 8 hours. In October 1922 as inflation reached new heights, the German bourgeoisie prepared their offensive. The powerful industrialist Fritz Thyssen addressed an open letter to the government which stated 'Germany's salvation can only come from a return to the 10-hour working day.' The former Minister Dernburg fumed: 'every 8-hour day is a nail in Germany's coffin'!

Two weeks later another leading industrialist, Hugo Stinnes, declared:

"I do not hesitate to say that I am convinced that the German people will have to work two extra hours per day for the next 10 or 15 years...the preliminary conditions for any successful stabilisation is, in my opinion, that wage struggles and strikes be excluded for a long period...we must have the courage to say to the people: 'for the present and for some time to come you will have to work overtime without overtime payment.'"

The battle lines were drawn. Living standards were to be driven down to starvation levels to put German capitalism back on its feet. With hyper-inflation and the state facing bankruptcy, the SPD-Liberal coalition of Wirth collapsed, giving way to the right wing bourgeois government led by Wilhelm Cuno, director of the Hamburg-Amerika Line.

*From The Marx-Engels Internet Archives- Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League (1850)

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states for background on the lessons that Marx is discussing in this article .

Markin comment:

It has always been, and is, a tradition in the Communist movement to try to "draw the lessons" of various experiences in the international labor movement. And that tradition started back with our early leaders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Feast on this one.

Karl Marx and Frederick Engels

Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
London, March 1850


Transcribed: by;
Proofed: and corrected by Alek Blain 2006;



In the two revolutionary years of 1848-49 the League proved itself in two ways. First, its members everywhere involved themselves energetically in the movement and stood in the front ranks of the only decisively revolutionary class, the proletariat, in the press, on the barricades and on the battlefields. The League further proved itself in that its understanding of the movement, as expressed in the circulars issued by the Congresses and the Central Committee of 1847 and in the Manifesto of the Communist Party, has been shown to be the only correct one, and the expectations expressed in these documents have been completely fulfilled. This previously only propagated by the League in secret, is now on everyone’s lips and is preached openly in the market place. At the same time, however, the formerly strong organization of the League has been considerably weakened. A large number of members who were directly involved in the movement thought that the time for secret societies was over and that public action alone was sufficient. The individual districts and communes allowed their connections with the Central Committee to weaken and gradually become dormant. So, while the democratic party, the party of the petty bourgeoisie, has become more and more organized in Germany, the workers’ party has lost its only firm foothold, remaining organized at best in individual localities for local purposes; within the general movement it has consequently come under the complete domination and leadership of the petty-bourgeois democrats. This situation cannot be allowed to continue; the independence of the workers must be restored. The Central Committee recognized this necessity and it therefore sent an emissary, Joseph Moll, to Germany in the winter of 1848-9 to reorganize the League. Moll’s mission, however, failed to produce any lasting effect, partly because the German workers at that time had not enough experience and partly because it was interrupted by the insurrection last May. Moll himself took up arms, joined the Baden-Palatinate army and fell on 29 June in the battle of the River Murg. The League lost in him one of the oldest, most active and most reliable members, who had been involved in all the Congresses and Central Committees and had earlier conducted a series of missions with great success. Since the defeat of the German and French revolutionary parties in July 1849, almost all the members of the Central Committee have reassembled in London: they have replenished their numbers with new revolutionary forces and set about reorganizing the League with renewed zeal.

This reorganization can only be achieved by an emissary, and the Central Committee considers it most important to dispatch the emissary at this very moment, when a new revolution is imminent, that is, when the workers’ party must go into battle with the maximum degree of organization, unity and independence, so that it is not exploited and taken in tow by the bourgeoisie as in 1848.

We told you already in 1848, brothers, that the German liberal bourgeoisie would soon come to power and would immediately turn its newly won power against the workers. You have seen how this forecast came true. It was indeed the bourgeoisie which took possession of the state authority in the wake of the March movement of 1848 and used this power to drive the workers, its allies in the struggle, back into their former oppressed position. Although the bourgeoisie could accomplish this only by entering into an alliance with the feudal party, which had been defeated in March, and eventually even had to surrender power once more to this feudal absolutist party, it has nevertheless secured favourable conditions for itself. In view of the government’s financial difficulties, these conditions would ensure that power would in the long run fall into its hands again and that all its interests would be secured, if it were possible for the revolutionary movement to assume from now on a so-called peaceful course of development. In order to guarantee its power the bourgeoisie would not even need to arouse hatred by taking violent measures against the people, as all of these violent measures have already been carried out by the feudal counter-revolution. But events will not take this peaceful course. On the contrary, the revolution which will accelerate the course of events, is imminent, whether it is initiated by an independent rising of the French proletariat or by an invasion of the revolutionary Babel by the Holy Alliance.

The treacherous role that the German liberal bourgeoisie played against the people in 1848 will be assumed in the coming revolution by the democratic petty bourgeoisie, which now occupies the same position in the opposition as the liberal bourgeoisie did before 1848. This democratic party, which is far more dangerous for the workers than were the liberals earlier, is composed of three elements: 1) The most progressive elements of the big bourgeoisie, who pursue the goal of the immediate and complete overthrow of feudalism and absolutism. This fraction is represented by the former Berlin Vereinbarer, the tax resisters; 2) The constitutional-democratic petty bourgeois, whose main aim during the previous movement was the formation of a more or less democratic federal state; this is what their representative, the Left in the Frankfurt Assembly and later the Stuttgart parliament, worked for, as they themselves did in the Reich Constitution Campaign; 3) The republican petty bourgeois, whose ideal is a German federal republic similar to that in Switzerland and who now call themselves ‘red’ and ’social-democratic’ because they cherish the pious wish to abolish the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital, by the big bourgeoisie on the petty bourgeoisie. The representatives of this fraction were the members of the democratic congresses and committees, the leaders of the democratic associations and the editors of the democratic newspapers.

After their defeat all these fractions claim to be ‘republicans’ or ’reds’, just as at the present time members of the republican petty bourgeoisie in France call themselves ‘socialists’. Where, as in Wurtemberg, Bavaria, etc., they still find a chance to pursue their ends by constitutional means, they seize the opportunity to retain their old phrases and prove by their actions that they have not changed in the least. Furthermore, it goes without saying that the changed name of this party does not alter in the least its relationship to the workers but merely proves that it is now obliged to form a front against the bourgeoisie, which has united with absolutism, and to seek the support of the proletariat.

The petty-bourgeois democratic party in Germany is very powerful. It not only embraces the great majority of the urban middle class, the small industrial merchants and master craftsmen; it also includes among its followers the peasants and rural proletariat in so far as the latter has not yet found support among the independent proletariat of the towns.

The relationship of the revolutionary workers’ party to the petty-bourgeois democrats is this: it cooperates with them against the party which they aim to overthrow; it opposes them wherever they wish to secure their own position.

The democratic petty bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to a change in social conditions which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible. They therefore demand above all else a reduction in government spending through a restriction of the bureaucracy and the transference of the major tax burden into the large landowners and bourgeoisie. They further demand the removal of the pressure exerted by big capital on small capital through the establishment of public credit institutions and the passing of laws against usury, whereby it would be possible for themselves and the peasants to receive advances on favourable terms from the state instead of from capitalists; also, the introduction of bourgeois property relationships on land through the complete abolition of feudalism. In order to achieve all this they require a democratic form of government, either constitutional or republican, which would give them and their peasant allies the majority; they also require a democratic system of local government to give them direct control over municipal property and over a series of political offices at present in the hands of the bureaucrats.

The rule of capital and its rapid accumulation is to be further counteracted, partly by a curtailment of the right of inheritance, and partly by the transference of as much employment as possible to the state. As far as the workers are concerned one thing, above all, is definite: they are to remain wage labourers as before. However, the democratic petty bourgeois want better wages and security for the workers, and hope to achieve this by an extension of state employment and by welfare measures; in short, they hope to bribe the workers with a more or less disguised form of alms and to break their revolutionary strength by temporarily rendering their situation tolerable. The demands of petty-bourgeois democracy summarized here are not expressed by all sections of it at once, and in their totality they are the explicit goal of only a very few of its followers. The further particular individuals or fractions of the petty bourgeoisie advance, the more of these demands they will explicitly adopt, and the few who recognize their own programme in what has been mentioned above might well believe they have put forward the maximum that can be demanded from the revolution. But these demands can in no way satisfy the party of the proletariat. While the democratic petty bourgeois want to bring the revolution to an end as quickly as possible, achieving at most the aims already mentioned, it is our interest and our task to make the revolution permanent until all the more or less propertied classes have been driven from their ruling positions, until the proletariat has conquered state power and until the association of the proletarians has progressed sufficiently far – not only in one country but in all the leading countries of the world – that competition between the proletarians of these countries ceases and at least the decisive forces of production are concentrated in the hands of the workers. Our concern cannot simply be to modify private property, but to abolish it, not to hush up class antagonisms but to abolish classes, not to improve the existing society but to found a new one. There is no doubt that during the further course of the revolution in Germany, the petty-bourgeois democrats will for the moment acquire a predominant influence. The question is, therefore, what is to be the attitude of the proletariat, and in particular of the League towards them:

1) While present conditions continue, in which the petty-bourgeois democrats are also oppressed;
2) In the coming revolutionary struggle, which will put them in a dominant position;
3) After this struggle, during the period of petty-bourgeois predominance over the classes which have been overthrown and over the proletariat.

1. At the moment, while the democratic petty bourgeois are everywhere oppressed, they preach to the proletariat general unity and reconciliation; they extend the hand of friendship, and seek to found a great opposition party which will embrace all shades of democratic opinion; that is, they seek to ensnare the workers in a party organization in which general social-democratic phrases prevail while their particular interests are kept hidden behind, and in which, for the sake of preserving the peace, the specific demands of the proletariat may not be presented. Such a unity would be to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat. The proletariat would lose all its hard-won independent position and be reduced once more to a mere appendage of official bourgeois democracy. This unity must therefore be resisted in the most decisive manner. Instead of lowering themselves to the level of an applauding chorus, the workers, and above all the League, must work for the creation of an independent organization of the workers’ party, both secret and open, and alongside the official democrats, and the League must aim to make every one of its communes a center and nucleus of workers’ associations in which the position and interests of the proletariat can be discussed free from bourgeois influence. How serious the bourgeois democrats are about an alliance in which the proletariat has equal power and equal rights is demonstrated by the Breslau democrats, who are conducting a furious campaign in their organ, the Neue Oder Zeitung, against independently organized workers, whom they call ‘socialists’. In the event of a struggle against a common enemy a special alliance is unnecessary. As soon as such an enemy has to be fought directly, the interests of both parties will coincide for the moment and an association of momentary expedience will arise spontaneously in the future, as it has in the past. It goes without saying that in the bloody conflicts to come, as in all others, it will be the workers, with their courage, resolution and self-sacrifice, who will be chiefly responsible for achieving victory. As in the past, so in the coming struggle also, the petty bourgeoisie, to a man, will hesitate as long as possible and remain fearful, irresolute and inactive; but when victory is certain it will claim it for itself and will call upon the workers to behave in an orderly fashion, to return to work and to prevent so-called excesses, and it will exclude the proletariat from the fruits of victory. It does not lie within the power of the workers to prevent the petty-bourgeois democrats from doing this; but it does lie within their power to make it as difficult as possible for the petty bourgeoisie to use its power against the armed proletariat, and to dictate such conditions to them that the rule of the bourgeois democrats, from the very first, will carry within it the seeds of its own destruction, and its subsequent displacement by the proletariat will be made considerably easier. Above all, during and immediately after the struggle the workers, as far as it is at all possible, must oppose bourgeois attempts at pacification and force the democrats to carry out their terroristic phrases. They must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against public buildings with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction. During and after the struggle the workers must at every opportunity put forward their own demands against those of the bourgeois democrats. They must demand guarantees for the workers as soon as the democratic bourgeoisie sets about taking over the government. They must achieve these guarantees by force if necessary, and generally make sure that the new rulers commit themselves to all possible concessions and promises – the surest means of compromising them. They must check in every way and as far as is possible the victory euphoria and enthusiasm for the new situation which follow every successful street battle, with a cool and cold-blooded analysis of the situation and with undisguised mistrust of the new government. Alongside the new official governments they must simultaneously establish their own revolutionary workers’ governments, either in the form of local executive committees and councils or through workers’ clubs or committees, so that the bourgeois-democratic governments not only immediately lost the support of the workers but find themselves from the very beginning supervised and threatened by authorities behind which stand the whole mass of the workers. In a word, from the very moment of victory the workers’ suspicion must be directed no longer against the defeated reactionary party but against their former ally, against the party which intends to exploit the common victory for itself.

2. To be able forcefully and threateningly to oppose this party, whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the very first hour of victory, the workers must be armed and organized. The whole proletariat must be armed at once with muskets, rifles, cannon and ammunition, and the revival of the old-style citizens’ militia, directed against the workers, must be opposed. Where the formation of this militia cannot be prevented, the workers must try to organize themselves independently as a proletarian guard, with elected leaders and with their own elected general staff; they must try to place themselves not under the orders of the state authority but of the revolutionary local councils set up by the workers. Where the workers are employed by the state, they must arm and organize themselves into special corps with elected leaders, or as a part of the proletarian guard. Under no pretext should arms and ammunition be surrendered; any attempt to disarm the workers must be frustrated, by force if necessary. The destruction of the bourgeois democrats’ influence over the workers, and the enforcement of conditions which will compromise the rule of bourgeois democracy, which is for the moment inevitable, and make it as difficult as possible – these are the main points which the proletariat and therefore the League must keep in mind during and after the approaching uprising.

3. As soon as the new governments have established themselves, their struggle against the workers will begin. If the workers are to be able to forcibly oppose the democratic petty bourgeois it is essential above all for them to be independently organized and centralized in clubs. At the soonest possible moment after the overthrow of the present governments, the Central Committee will come to Germany and will immediately convene a Congress, submitting to it the necessary proposals for the centralization of the workers’ clubs under a directorate established at the movement’s center of operations. The speedy organization of at least provincial connections between the workers’ clubs is one of the prime requirements for the strengthening and development of the workers’ party; the immediate result of the overthrow of the existing governments will be the election of a national representative body. Here the proletariat must take care: 1) that by sharp practices local authorities and government commissioners do not, under any pretext whatsoever, exclude any section of workers; 2) that workers’ candidates are nominated everywhere in opposition to bourgeois-democratic candidates. As far as possible they should be League members and their election should be pursued by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention. They must not be led astray by the empty phrases of the democrats, who will maintain that the workers’ candidates will split the democratic party and offer the forces of reaction the chance of victory. All such talk means, in the final analysis, that the proletariat is to be swindled. The progress which the proletarian party will make by operating independently in this way is infinitely more important than the disadvantages resulting from the presence of a few reactionaries in the representative body. If the forces of democracy take decisive, terroristic action against the reaction from the very beginning, the reactionary influence in the election will already have been destroyed.

The first point over which the bourgeois democrats will come into conflict with the workers will be the abolition of feudalism as in the first French revolution, the petty bourgeoisie will want to give the feudal lands to the peasants as free property; that is, they will try to perpetrate the existence of the rural proletariat, and to form a petty-bourgeois peasant class which will be subject to the same cycle of impoverishment and debt which still afflicts the French peasant. The workers must oppose this plan both in the interest of the rural proletariat and in their own interest. They must demand that the confiscated feudal property remain state property and be used for workers’ colonies, cultivated collectively by the rural proletariat with all the advantages of large-scale farming and where the principle of common property will immediately achieve a sound basis in the midst of the shaky system of bourgeois property relations. Just as the democrats ally themselves with the peasants, the workers must ally themselves with the rural proletariat.

The democrats will either work directly towards a federated republic, or at least, if they cannot avoid the one and indivisible republic they will attempt to paralyze the central government by granting the municipalities and provinces the greatest possible autonomy and independence. In opposition to this plan the workers must not only strive for one and indivisible German republic, but also, within this republic, for the most decisive centralization of power in the hands of the state authority. They should not let themselves be led astray by empty democratic talk about the freedom of the municipalities, self-government, etc. In a country like Germany, where so many remnants of the Middle Ages are still to be abolished, where so much local and provincial obstinacy has to be broken down, it cannot under any circumstances be tolerated that each village, each town and each province may put up new obstacles in the way of revolutionary activity, which can only be developed with full efficiency from a central point. A renewal of the present situation, in which the Germans have to wage a separate struggle in each town and province for the same degree of progress, can also not be tolerated. Least of all can a so-called free system of local government be allowed to perpetuate a form of property which is more backward than modern private property and which is everywhere and inevitably being transformed into private property; namely communal property, with its consequent disputes between poor and rich communities. Nor can this so-called free system of local government be allowed to perpetuate, side by side with the state civil law, the existence of communal civil law with its sharp practices directed against the workers. As in France in 1793, it is the task of the genuinely revolutionary party in Germany to carry through the strictest centralization. [It must be recalled today that this passage is based on a misunderstanding. At that time – thanks to the Bonapartist and liberal falsifiers of history – it was considered as established that the French centralised machine of administration had been introduced by the Great Revolution and in particular that it had been used by the Convention as an indispensable and decisive weapon for defeating the royalist and federalist reaction and the external enemy. It is now, however, a well-known fact that throughout the revolution up to the eighteenth Brumaire c the whole administration of the départements, arrondissements and communes consisted of authorities elected by, the respective constituents themselves, and that these authorities acted with complete freedom within the general state laws; that precisely this provincial and local self-government, similar to the American, became the most powerful lever of the revolution and indeed to such an extent that Napoleon, immediately after his coup d’état of the eighteenth Brumaire, hastened to replace it by the still existing administration by prefects, which, therefore, was a pure instrument of reaction from the beginning. But no more than local and provincial self-government is in contradiction to political, national centralisation, is it necessarily bound up with that narrow-minded cantonal or communal self-seeking which strikes us as so repulsive in Switzerland, and which all the South German federal republicans wanted to make the rule in Germany in 1849. – Note by Engels to the 1885 edition.]

We have seen how the next upsurge will bring the democrats to power and how they will be forced to propose more or less socialistic measures. it will be asked what measures the workers are to propose in reply. At the beginning, of course, the workers cannot propose any directly communist measures. But the following courses of action are possible:

1. They can force the democrats to make inroads into as many areas of the existing social order as possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the concentration of as many productive forces as possible – means of transport, factories, railways, etc. – in the hands of the state.

2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) and transform these proposals into direct attacks on private property. If, for instance, the petty bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways and factories, the workers must demand that these railways and factories simply be confiscated by the state without compensation as the property of reactionaries. If the democrats propose a proportional tax, then the workers must demand a progressive tax; if the democrats themselves propose a moderate progressive tax, then the workers must insist on a tax whose rates rise so steeply that big capital is ruined by it; if the democrats demand the regulation of the state debt, then the workers must demand national bankruptcy. The demands of the workers will thus have to be adjusted according to the measures and concessions of the democrats.

Although the German workers cannot come to power and achieve the realization of their class interests without passing through a protracted revolutionary development, this time they can at least be certain that the first act of the approaching revolutionary drama will coincide with the direct victory of their own class in France and will thereby be accelerated. But they themselves must contribute most to their final victory, by informing themselves of their own class interests, by taking up their independent political position as soon as possible, by not allowing themselves to be misled by the hypocritical phrases of the democratic petty bourgeoisie into doubting for one minute the necessity of an independently organized party of the proletariat. Their battle-cry must be: The Permanent Revolution.