Workers Vanguard No. 1148
8 February 2019
Saturday, March 23, 2019
Nothing to Lose But Our Chains Join the Fight for a Socialist Future! We print below a speech, abridged and edited for publication, by Spartacist League speaker Kelly Glass at the Partisan Defense Committee’s 33rd annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners in New York City on January 26.
Nothing to Lose But Our Chains
Join the Fight for a Socialist Future!
We print below a speech, abridged and edited for publication, by Spartacist League speaker Kelly Glass at the Partisan Defense Committee’s 33rd annual Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners in New York City on January 26.
Over the last month of the government shutdown, the media would have you believe that there is a major divide between the two capitalist parties. Trump calls to “Make America Great Again,” a return to the days when black people and women supposedly knew their place, and reds were witchhunted. Meanwhile, the Democrats peddle the lie that America is already great…“Make America America again.” America’s true legacy is the genocide of the Native Americans and slavery, class exploitation and imperialism. Its legacy is stealing about half of Mexico’s territory, the Chinese Exclusion Act, the Haymarket Massacre, the Japanese American internment camps, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the anti-Soviet Cold War, years of slaughtering Vietnamese workers and peasants, wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen…I could go on.
The ruling class of this country is united when it comes to plundering the oppressed peoples of the world, even if they have different ideas about how to carry out their occupations, drone attacks and domination of the Near East and beyond. If anything, the Democrats are the party of war. They are often more hawkish and more dangerous because they fool the masses into thinking this is about defending democracy and so-called human rights. When Trump announced that he was pulling U.S. troops out of Syria, Democrats raised a stink. And the Democrats, from the Clintons to Bernie Sanders, are among the most vocal promoters of the anti-China trade war and military provocations. Trump’s counterrevolutionary drive against the Chinese deformed workers state is just a continuation of the Obama administration’s “pivot to Asia.” The imperialists hate that they don’t have free rein, and want to turn the world’s biggest workers state into a sweatshop they can profit from. We defend China unconditionally against imperialism and counterrevolution, while fighting for a workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy.
So now it looks like the government is temporarily reopened, while negotiations over “border security” continue. Despite this recent lovers’ quarrel, both parties agree that whether you call it a wall, a fence or a hedge, strong border protection is a priority. That includes militarization, deportations and detentions. Under Obama, billions went to border enforcement, including thousands more agents and over 700 miles of fencing. The working class has a direct interest in fighting against deportations and in organizing immigrant workers into the unions with full rights. Many of the people trying to cross the border now are fleeing destitution brought about by U.S. imperialism in their home countries. Every immigrant who has made it here should have full citizenship rights.
It was pretty cheap for the Democrats to cry crocodile tears over the suffering of federal workers during the shutdown, while those in Congress and the Supreme Court judges were still getting their fat paychecks. It’s easy for the Democrats to posture as the friends of the oppressed when standing next to Republicans who openly ponder why white supremacy is offensive. During the shutdown, the main tactic of the Democrats in Congress, including the so-called progressive Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), was to prove themselves better defenders of national security by, for example, complaining that airport security agents, border patrol and prison guards were not getting paid. One of the very first votes of newly elected Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a DSAer, was to keep the Department of Homeland Security up and running. Prison guards torture inmates; cops break strikes, kill blacks and terrorize immigrants. We do not consider any of these “law and order” forces to be part of the working class. They should not be in the unions and we wouldn’t support their strikes.
But this shutdown has and will continue to be widely felt by thousands of government workers, as well as Native Americans, people relying on food stamps and government assistance, and the homeless. Here we are in the richest country in the world, and nearly 80 percent of fulltime workers live paycheck to paycheck, with tens of thousands dying every year because they lack health insurance. Every day, the capitalist rulers starve and deprive their wage slaves of basic human needs.
Is it any wonder that overworked and underpaid teachers are going on strike across the country? From West Virginia to Arizona, and most recently Los Angeles, teachers have fought back against the gutting of public education and the ongoing war against the teachers unions. It’s clear that workers want to fight. The pro-capitalist leadership of the unions holds them back by selling the lie that some progressive politician will come to their rescue. We need a new class-struggle leadership of labor. One that understands that the battle is class against class, that workers organizations must be independent of the bosses’ parties, and that the only way anything has ever been won in this country is through hard-fought struggle, not by begging politicians.
What we really need is workers power—a workers government that will seize industry and finance from the capitalists and build a planned, socialist order. For this, the workers need their own party with an internationalist, revolutionary program. This party will be, in the spirit of Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin, a tribune of the people, able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, painting a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation.
My favorite slogan is actually on that sign over there—“Finish the Civil War!” Being from the South, I knew right away how powerful this slogan was. Some 150 years ago, a bloody Civil War—the Second American Revolution—successfully smashed black chattel slavery. In the words of Frederick Douglass, “It is not light that is needed, but fire; it is not the gentle shower, but thunder. We need the storm, the whirlwind, and the earthquake.” Indeed. But the promise of black freedom was never fulfilled, and so black oppression continues to be the bedrock of capitalist America. It will take another earthquake, another fire to win black freedom by overthrowing capitalist rule. The fight for black liberation and the fight for socialism will not be won separately. Black workers are slated to play a leading role in the revolutionary party that the Spartacist League is committed to building.
Those who are today behind bars for struggling against racism and capitalist injustice, like Mumia Abu-Jamal and Leonard Peltier, will be honored as fighters on the road to liberation. I’d like to end with the last lines of the Communist Manifesto, written by Marx and Engels in 1847, which I encourage everyone to read and reread. “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”