Showing posts with label bolshevik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bolshevik. Show all posts

Wednesday, October 22, 2025

From The Pages Of Workers Vanguard-A Dissenting View- “Occupy Wall Street”: Rebels for Liberal Reform-For Workers Revolution to Expropriate the Capitalist Class!

Click on the headline to link to the International Communist League (ICL) website.

Workers Vanguard No. 988
14 October 2011

“Occupy Wall Street”: Rebels for Liberal Reform

For Workers Revolution to Expropriate the Capitalist Class!

Below we print excerpts from an October 8 forum by Spartacist League spokesman Irene Gardner in Oakland.

This past Wednesday my comrades and I were at the mass demonstration in downtown Manhattan with the Occupy Wall Street protesters, roughly 700 of whom were arrested by the NYPD at a march over the Brooklyn Bridge a few days earlier. I think the scale and popularity of these protests have surprised the New York City ruling class somewhat. It’s another indication of how much anger is out there.

Each day we open up the paper and discover another set of horrible statistics about the effects of the capitalist crisis on poor and working people. The reality is a lot worse than the numbers. Back in 2008, the con men on Wall Street, whose financial swindles were central to the economic collapse, were bailed out to the tune of trillions of dollars. But the working class, black people, Latinos and the growing mass of the poor have been made to foot the bill, losing jobs, homes, pensions and just about anything else that makes life livable.

Today, one in six people of working age in the U.S. are unemployed, with long-term unemployment the highest since the Great Depression. The Census Bureau now reports that 46.2 million in the U.S. live under the poverty line, and of those, 2.6 million fell into poverty just in the last year alone. Those who still have a job are being squeezed to work harder, faster and longer for lower pay. And there are plenty of people who have given up even looking for a job altogether. A new census report also shows that one in five New Yorkers now live in poverty, the highest level in a decade. Another astounding figure: in New York City the number of homeless students in public schools has quadrupled since 2008, to almost 43,000 as of last October.

Meanwhile, during the past two years, corporate profits have broken all historic records. The government’s “welfare for the rich” schemes have boosted financial speculation, artificially driving up the price of stocks, while the manufacturing and productive capacity of the U.S. has dropped significantly. And now we’re in a global financial crisis with Europe ready to implode.

Even billionaire New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg mentioned that riots could happen if job prospects don’t improve. It is the fear that the masses might revolt that concerns union-hating Bloomberg and other multibillionaires like Warren Buffett. President Obama has now been pushing a new tax rate for millionaires (the so-called “Buffett Rule”) in exchange for Democrats’ support to more cuts in Medicare and Medicaid. In reality, this token “tax the rich” scheme is meant to be sugarcoating on another round of anti-working-class austerity.

Obama and the Democrats want to appear as if they care about “the little guy,” but in reality Obama championed the same austerity agenda as the Republicans all summer long, pushing for massive budget cuts. The Democrats, like the Republicans, are a political party of the capitalist class. As one Verizon striker put it, “The Democrats are doing the job of the Republicans, only with a smile.”

Economic crises, booms and busts, are nothing new—they are endemic to the capitalist mode of production. A key contradiction that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels identified is that under capitalism production is socialized. But the means of production remain the private property of a few, who appropriate the wealth that is produced by workers’ collective labor. Those who own the means of production—the factories, mines, railroads, banks—constitute the capitalist class, also known as the bourgeoisie. Those who subsist only on their labor power—their mental and physical ability to work—constitute the working class, the proletarians. Between these two classes lies a variety of merchants, independent professionals and others known as the petty bourgeoisie. But the main, decisive classes are the capitalist class and the working class.

Consciously or not, labor seeks to resist exploitation. It comes into constant conflict with the uncontrollable drive of capitalist production, which is the drive for the accumulation of more and more capital, and the production of more and more profit. This is the basis for class struggle—the irreconcilable class conflict between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.

The Imperialist Epoch

V.I. Lenin, leader of the 1917 Russian Revolution, described how capitalism in the late 19th century reached its highest stage—imperialism. He described how the means of production came to be monopolized by fewer and bigger conglomerates with ever-growing needs for investment funds and other financing, leading to the dominance of finance capital, centrally the giant banks. As the capitalists in the advanced industrial countries strove for newer markets to exploit, they carried out wars to redivide the world and secure spheres of exploitation in less-developed countries. In their competition for world domination, the imperialist powers engulfed people around the world in the barbarism of World Wars I and II and waged countless bloody wars in colonial and semicolonial countries.

The way out of the endless cycle of capitalist economic crises and imperialist wars was shown by the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, when workers took power in their own hands, expropriating the bourgeoisie and establishing the Soviet workers state. It is high time that working people, who create the wealth in this society, run this society! We need an all new ruling class—the workers! Fight, don’t starve! Labor must rule!

In a climate conditioned by the imperialists’ proclamations that the destruction of the Soviet Union proved Marxism to be a “failed experiment,” the prospect of proletarian socialist revolution might appear implausible. But the collectivized economy in the Soviet Union worked! Despite its isolation in a world dominated by imperialism, the Soviet Union, arising from deep backwardness and the destruction of world war, civil war and imperialist intervention, became an industrial and military powerhouse, even under Stalinist bureaucratic misrule.

When the capitalist world was in the midst of the Great Depression, the Soviet Union actually increased its industrial output. As Leon Trotsky pointed out in The Revolution Betrayed in 1936:

“Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of its leadership, were to collapse—which we firmly hope will not happen—there would remain as an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than ten years successes unexampled in history.”

Now, two decades after counterrevolution destroyed the Soviet degenerated workers state, many in Russia long for the days when they were guaranteed a job, education, housing, health care and vacations, regretting that they were taken in by the myth of capitalist “democracy.” What undermined the collectivized economy, and ultimately laid the basis for the destruction of the Soviet Union itself, was the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, which robbed the workers of their political power and vainly sought to appease the imperialists by selling out workers struggles in other countries.

Today, the deep economic crisis in the capitalist countries contrasts sharply with the situation in China, where the industries central to production are collectivized. Beijing has massively channeled investment into developing infrastructure and productive capacity. However, China’s Stalinist regime also undermines the social gains of the 1949 Revolution by conciliating imperialism and promoting “market reforms” that strengthen internal counterrevolutionary forces. In its “partnership” with world capital, the Beijing bureaucracy is subsidizing American imperialism through its huge investment in U.S. treasury bonds, which, among other things, are used to finance the occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. At the same time, we call for proletarian political revolution to replace the Stalinist bureaucrats with a revolutionary internationalist leadership and a regime of workers democracy.

From Spain’s Indignados...

I want to talk a bit about Europe and in particular Spain, where I visited this past summer. Along with the wild roller-coaster ride of the stock market, Europe has been in the news just about every day with the imperialist rulers desperately trying to keep the economies afloat. In Europe, the financial crisis has sharply accentuated the contradictions inherent in the European Union (EU), an unstable consortium of rival capitalist states, some richer, some poorer. At the heart of the EU’s contradictions is the fact that the maintenance of a common currency requires a common state power. That is simply not possible under capitalism. As proletarian internationalists, we have always opposed the EU as an imperialist trade bloc. We say that only the conquest of state power by the working class can lay the basis for a socialist United States of Europe and a rationally planned economy.

In Spain, youth unemployment is around 45 percent. Factories are closing, hospitals are cutting back, and evictions during just three months of this year numbered over 15,000, more than 150 a day. When I was in Spain I got to discuss with some of the “Indignados” (“the indignant”) at their encampment in Puerta del Sol, the central square in Madrid. The Spanish Indignados are essentially a petty-bourgeois movement that arose in response to the austerity measures being enforced by the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE) before its huge defeat in the municipal and regional elections in May. The PSOE in power has carried out a relentless capitalist austerity drive.

Those who started the Indignados movement were inspired by the best-selling book Indignez-vous! (Be Indignant!) by Stéphane Hessel, a French anti-communist bourgeois ideologue. They were also inspired by the protests in Egypt and Iceland. They occupied squares in major cities throughout Spain, numbering in the tens of thousands, mostly youth, calling on people to “stand up against indifference in a peaceful uprising.”

Their main organizers, around a group called Real Democracy Now, put out a manifesto calling for an end to corruption and an end to the dictatorship of the markets, “real democracy.” But what is democracy in a class-divided society? Under capitalism, it is democracy for the ruling class, those wealthy few who own the means of production and carry out laws to defend their private property. There are no laws that will establish equality between the capitalists and the working class. The capitalists have a state apparatus, armed bodies of men (cops, courts, prisons) to keep the bourgeoisie in power and repress any challenge to their rule.

So how do the Indignados propose to change society? By endless protests and encampments? You can be indignant all you want, but to really make a change you have to ally with the social power of the working class, the only class that has the power to stop production and has the historic interest to overthrow capitalism. But the leadership of the Indignados movement is anti-union and therefore anti-working-class, because unions are the basic defense organizations of the working class. In Spain early on, the Indignados assemblies would not allow any union or political organization to join with them, “in order to guarantee the political neutrality of this citizens’ movement”! Their so-called “non-political” stance is actually very political—in the direction of anti-communism. This is shown by their exclusion of left groups from speaking at assemblies and attempts to censor left groups from distributing their literature.

Even their anti-leadership emphasis on “consensus” decision-making is undemocratic. Instead of using majority votes to make decisions, people are supposed to debate endlessly until they all agree. Then, of course, a non-elected clique usually makes the decisions in the background.

While the Indignados leadership pushes anti-union politics, it seems that many of the youth don’t necessarily buy into it. One example is that there have been large teachers strikes in Madrid recently, and some Indignados have put out a statement in support.

Many of these youth hate the effects of capitalism but do not see socialism as an alternative. The whole “death of communism” ideology pushed by the bourgeoisie following the fall of the Soviet Union is reflected in such low-level protest movements. This is also a reflection of the betrayals of the Social Democracy and the Communist parties, which have engaged in decades of class-collaboration—the Spanish labor union bureaucrats work hand in hand with the Socialist Party government! We fight to win youth over to the side of the working class, to the program of international socialist revolution, and to the understanding that you need a Bolshevik vanguard party to accomplish this.

...To “Occupy Wall Street”

The new Occupy Wall Street encampment, which has been gaining steam around the country, is in solidarity with the Spanish Indignados, raising similar demands against corporate greed and for a “leaderless resistance movement.” As one columnist put it, it’s like a “festival of frustrations” and people are plenty mad. They also look for inspiration from the “Egyptian Spring.” But look at what has happened in Egypt—the workers continue to get screwed under a renewed military dictatorship. What’s needed is not endless protests and occupations of squares but workers to power!

For many of the youth in the encampment, this is their first protest. Many are pro-union, but they view the working class as just another base of support for their all-inclusive “movement.” We’ve been intervening into the Occupy Wall Street protests, distributing lots of Workers Vanguard, looking to win over those who are open to a Marxist perspective of international socialist revolution.

Many of you have seen the video of the Wall Street protesters getting viciously attacked by the NYPD during a march to Union Square, where 80 people got arrested. The videos show several young women being corralled inside a movable police pen and pepper-sprayed by cops. Others were kicked, bruised and thrown over barricades by the police. And then last weekend 700 were arrested when the police trapped them on a march over the Brooklyn Bridge. According to a recent New York Times article, the NYPD is geared up to deal with “unrest.”

Many of the protesters are saying that the problem with the cops is that they were “unprofessional.” But these cops are as “professional” as they come! They are precisely carrying out their “profession” as the capitalist state’s armed bodies of men. There are massive illusions that “the cops are workers, too,” with slogans like “NYPD is a layoff away from joining us” and “The 99 percent includes cops.” No, the cops are not a part of the working class—they have a special role to play as part of the capitalist state apparatus. We say cops, prison guards and security guards out of the unions!

What we are seeing in the Occupy Wall Street protest is lowest-common-denominator politics, which does not at all challenge the rule of the bourgeoisie. An example of this was seen in the attempt to create a General Assembly declaration: Somebody objected to using the phrase “redistribution of wealth” because it sounded “dangerously similar to theft”! So it was decided, via consensus, to remove this phrase altogether. If you look at their final declaration posted on the Web, it does not even oppose capitalism, it just raises the same appeals for classless “democracy.” This is not new. A lot of these same themes were put forward during the anti-globalization protests of the late 1990s, here and in Europe, which did not go anywhere.

Many of the slogans raised, like “We are the 99 percent,” are totally compatible with the Democratic Party’s line. In fact, the Democrats are working to get on top of these protests as a way of invigorating Obama’s campaign for the next election and to counter the Tea Party. Not only has Obama empathized with the protests, but yesterday’s Wall Street Journal reported that even Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke have expressed sympathy! You also have celebrities like Michael Moore and Susan Sarandon there—one of the first things she asked was if people were registered to vote. And there are the left-talking Democrats like Charles Barron, all looking to corral youth toward the Democratic Party.

As I mentioned at the start, several unions have called for joining the Occupy Wall Street protests. A recent article noted, “The decision by organized labor to join the demonstrations has given them an extra jolt of numbers and credibility, since unions have historically played an important, but waning, role in mobilizing voters on the left” (New York Times, 6 October). The labor bureaucrats’ program is not about class struggle. It’s about pressuring the Democratic Party to go a little easier on their membership during a period of union-busting austerity.

One of the more vocal unions in support of the protests has been the New York City Transport Workers Union (TWU). Like other unions, the TWU is under heavy attack by the bosses. TWU members showed real social power when they went on strike in December 2005, defying the state Taylor Law banning public workers strikes. But the workers were stabbed in the back by the leaders of other NYC unions and the TWU International, and in the end were sold out by their own local union misleaders.

TWU bureaucrats and the rest of the AFL-CIO officialdom are pushing impotent “tax the rich” schemes along with reformist left groups like the International Socialist Organization, the Workers World Party and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. These “tax the rich” demands are tailor-made to fit in with the current Obama administration and Democratic Party platform. The corporations and banks are sitting on mountains of cash, but you aren’t going to get your hands on it by appealing to the tax authority of the capitalist state, whose purpose is to guarantee and defend the interests of the bourgeoisie.

This past spring, tens of thousands of unionists and their supporters (including students) came out to occupy the Wisconsin State Capitol to protest Republican governor Scott Walker’s union-busting law tearing up collective bargaining for public workers unions. But the bureaucratic misleaders of the AFL-CIO worked overtime to squelch any move toward actually using labor’s strike weapon. Instead they channeled the anger of the ranks into support for the Democratic Party with a petition to recall Walker and a number of Republican state legislators, which failed miserably. Wisconsin public employee unions have been dealt a real defeat.

Within the labor movement, the proletariat is saddled with a pro-capitalist union bureaucracy that promotes the lie that the interests of labor and capital are compatible. They tie working people and the oppressed to the capitalist system, especially through support to the Democratic Party. The trade-union misleaders poured a whopping $450 million into the 2008 elections, backing capitalist politicians like Obama as “friends of labor.”

It is absolutely necessary to forge a new leadership of the unions to mobilize labor in struggle for its class interests, to fight against all forms of discrimination and for full citizenship rights for immigrants. A strategic question for the American workers revolution is the fight against black oppression, which is rooted in the very foundation of capitalism in the U.S. If the unions are to fight for their very existence, they must take up the defense of the ghetto and barrio poor by fighting for jobs, quality housing, education, health care and more.

The decades of betrayals by the labor bureaucracy have encouraged the U.S. rulers in the arrogant belief that they can get away with doing anything to the working class, the poor and most everyone else without provoking any social struggle. But the rulers and their labor lieutenants cannot eliminate the class struggle. The same conditions that grind down the workers can and will propel them into battle against the capitalist class enemy. Right now International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 21 in Longview, Washington, is in a battle for its life, fighting against the union-busting of the EGT multinational conglomerate. They have been facing court injunctions, arrests and police assaults, including pepper spray and cops in full riot gear, in a fight to defend their union.

Renewed labor battles will lay the basis for reviving and extending the unions, with a new, class-struggle leadership coming to the fore. It is crucial that we build a revolutionary vanguard party that will bring the critical element of consciousness to the proletariat, to transform it from a class in itself to a class for itself, fighting to do away with this entire system of wage slavery. Join us in the fight for a socialist future for humanity!

The General Strike In Greece- Make The Bosses Pay-Victory To The Greek Workers!

Click on the headline to link to a BBC online report of the events surrounding the two-day General Strike in Greece.

Markin comment:

The international working class movement and its allies, including in the Occupy movement, needs to support the Greek workers in their General Strike. The line is drawn in the sand. Make the bosses (in Greece, and internationally) pay. The bosses created the mess, let them pay. If not, move aside and let the workers rule. As for the Greek workers, who today stand as the vanguard of the international working class offensive against the bosses austerity drive-Build workers councils in order to prepare to take power and create a workers government. The time is now. Labor must rule

Sunday, October 19, 2025

The General Strike In Greece- Make The Bosses Pay-Victory To The Greek Workers!

Click on the headline to link to a BBC online report of the events surrounding the two-day General Strike in Greece.

Markin comment:

The international working class movement and its allies, including in the Occupy movement, needs to support the Greek workers in their General Strike. The line is drawn in the sand. Make the bosses (in Greece, and internationally) pay. The bosses created the mess, let them pay. If not, move aside and let the workers rule. As for the Greek workers, who today stand as the vanguard of the international working class offensive against the bosses austerity drive-Build workers councils in order to prepare to take power and create a workers government. The time is now. Labor must rule

Friday, July 18, 2025

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"- Greece: Mass Anger Over Savage Austerity-Workers Must Rule!-For a Socialist United States of Europe!

Markin comment:

As always in such general strike and possiblly pre-revolutitonary situations a call by communist propagandists for independent working class organizations to take power is in order. For A Greek Communist Party-Greek Trade Union Federations (and whoever else of the up-against-the-wall middle class and student elements they can bring in) government!
Workers Vanguard No. 983
8 July 2011

European Crisis and the Bankruptcy of Capitalism

Greece: Mass Anger Over Savage Austerity-Workers Must Rule!-
For a Socialist United States of Europe!

On June 29, as a two-day general strike virtually shut down the country and tens of thousands protested outside, the Greek parliament approved a new round of brutal austerity measures demanded by the Greek bourgeoisie and its imperialist overlords. The demonstrators—who included, in addition to workers, a broad range of the population from students and other youth to professionals and retirees—were viciously attacked by club-wielding riot police. More than a year of unrelenting attacks on the living standards of the Greek population has resulted in seething unrest across broad layers of society. In the last year alone, there have been at least a dozen one-day general strikes and massive protests. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been lost, homelessness has skyrocketed and many people, especially pensioners, are reliant on soup kitchens for their survival.

Video footage of the wanton violence meted out by the cops has provoked widespread indignation, as has another video documenting collusion between the police and hooded provocateurs who infiltrated the protesters. Police fired endless volleys of tear gas and stun grenades and pummeled protesters with chunks of masonry. At least 38 were reportedly arrested in what was blatantly a cop riot. We demand that all charges be dropped against the anarchists and other anti-austerity protesters, including those arrested during the earlier general strikes!

It is clear for all to see that working people are being fleeced to pay for a crisis they are not responsible for. The economic crisis gripping Greece—a particularly severe expression of the world capitalist crisis—was triggered in the spring of last year as global financial capitalists, fearing that the heavily indebted Greek government would default on its loan obligations, began spurning Greek government bonds. The plummeting price of those bonds threatened European banks, especially in France and Germany—foreign financial institutions are exposed to some 340 billion euros in Greek public and private debt.

To try to head off the crisis, at least temporarily, the European Union (EU) and the IMF agreed last year to a 110 billion euro “rescue package” on condition that Athens impose draconian austerity measures on Greece’s working people. The October 2009 elections replaced the right-wing New Democracy (ND) regime with the bourgeois-populist Pan-Hellenic Socialist Movement (PASOK) of George Papandreou, with the bourgeoisie calculating that the masses would more readily accept “sacrifice” if demanded by PASOK. The PASOK government answered the EU and IMF’s ultimatum with a year-long campaign of slashing public sector workers’ wages, gutting pensions and ramping up taxes. These attacks hit hardest at the poorest in society, including immigrant workers. In addition, Greek officials, in response to EU/IMF demands that they raise cash by privatizing a host of state-owned enterprises, have launched what the bourgeois press describes as a “fire sale,” auctioning off airports, ports and prime land.

European capitalists fear that a default by Greece could immediately pose a similar collapse by other heavily indebted countries such as Ireland and Portugal, which have already received bailouts from the EU and IMF, and Spain, whose economy is larger than that of Greece, Ireland and Portugal combined. Fearing the potentially catastrophic effects of such contagion, the EU/IMF hastily agreed last month on a second “rescue package” for Greece, amounting to a further 120 billion euros. Yet hardly anyone believes that these bailouts will do more than delay the inevitable default.

Everyone can see that the fate of the Greek working class, and much of the petty bourgeoisie, will be ever more dire without a radical solution. The working masses have demonstrated their combativity time and again. But the workers’ leaders, whether the despised PASOK-loyal tops of the General Confederation of Workers of Greece (GSEE) and the Confederation of Public Servants (ADEDY) or the far more militant-sounding Greek Communist Party (KKE) and its PAME labor front, have thus far succeeded in channeling workers’ anger into what amounts to militant parliamentary lobbying. In effect, they appeal to the Greek capitalists to stand up to their senior partners in Germany and France. This nationalist class collaboration is a recipe for demoralization and defeat.

The allies of the Greek proletariat are to be found not among its “own” exploiters but among the workers elsewhere in Europe and beyond. A proletarian upheaval in Greece could trigger a wave of class struggle throughout Europe against the ever more brutal and incessant attacks of the capitalists against the jobs, benefits and living standards of all workers on the continent. A workers government in Greece would immediately repudiate the imperialist debt. Such an act would require a direct appeal to the proletariat, from Germany and France to Spain and Portugal, to come to the defense of their Greek class brothers and sisters against the combined forces of the European bourgeoisies.

As long as Greek workers are mobilized primarily against the foreign diktats of the IMF and EU, they will be unable to see that opposing the imperialists is intertwined with overthrowing the Greek bourgeoisie. The Greek government is not simply a tool of the European and other imperialist powers, as some signs in the Athens demonstrations suggest, but of the Greek bourgeoisie that has always exploited, suppressed and bled the working class in the pursuit of profit.

The question that is objectively posed is the need for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist order and the establishment of working-class rule. Yet there is a huge disparity between the objective needs of the Greek working class and oppressed on one side and the political program of their leadership on the other. The repeated strikes and protests are designed to dissipate the anger of workers, whose militancy is clearly not the issue. The problem is that the working class is hamstrung by a leadership that accepts the need for the working class to bear some degree of austerity to “bail out” capitalism, while objecting that the terms and conditions dictated by the IMF and the European Central Bank (ECB) are too severe.

The program of the labor bureaucracy—defined by what is “practical” under capitalism—has led to disaster for the working class. To overcome the gulf between the workers’ present consciousness and the necessity for a workers government based on organs of proletarian power, a Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard party would put forward a series of transitional demands, starting from the felt needs of the masses and pointing the way toward the seizure of state power by the working class and the expropriation of the rapacious capitalist class.

To combat mass unemployment, it is necessary to demand the sharing of available work, with no loss of pay, and a massive program of public works. To protect even their current living standards—already among the lowest in Europe—workers must demand that wages be indexed to inflation. To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the industrialists and bankers, workers should demand that the capitalists open their (real) books. With the imperialists demanding the dismantling of state enterprises, the proletariat must fight for the expropriation of the productive property of the capitalist class as a whole and the establishment of a planned economy under workers rule, where production would be based on social need, not profit.

Combat National Chauvinism!

Throughout Europe, the capitalist press and politicians have been whipping up a chauvinist frenzy against Greeks, who are portrayed as lazy, ungrateful scroungers. Last year the right-wing German Bild (27 October 2010) screamed: “Sell your islands, you bankrupt Greeks…and the Acropolis too!” A recent London Financial Times (9 May) editorial demanded: “Athens must be put under the gun.” For all the talk of bailing out Greece, the only “bailout” that is taking place is that of Europe’s banks. Columnist Martin Wolf noted in the Financial Times (21 June): “It is far less embarrassing to state that one is helping Greece when one is in fact helping one’s own banks.”

With chauvinist arrogance, the European imperialists, led by Germany, are seeking to impose on Greece, an EU member state, the kind of diktat they are accustomed to issuing to neocolonial countries in the Third World. The Financial Times (17 June) reports that officials of the “troika”—the IMF, European Central Bank and European Commission—are demanding that “outsiders” be brought in “to make Greece’s privatization program happen,” adding that “because Greece seemed incapable of collecting taxes, international experts would come in to do that, too.” The article further reports that Finnish officials were insisting that “Athens assets should be securitised so they could be used as collateral. If Greece defaulted, lenders would gain an airport or some other utility.”

The imperialists’ dismissive attitude to Greece’s sovereignty has in turn fueled national chauvinism in Greece. Right-wing opponents of the EU/IMF’s bailout include New Democracy, Greece’s main opposition party. ND represents Greek business interests that have no intention of paying the imperialists’ extortion themselves and fear, as BBC economics editor Paul Mason put it, “a tax bill the like of which they have never dreamed, nor indeed paid.” However, ND and PASOK are united in the determination that Greek working people pay for the country’s economic crisis.

Recent months have seen the explosive growth of a new movement, the so-called “indignant citizens” movement. The “Indignados” placed themselves at the head of the mass mobilizations outside parliament, where Greek flags proliferated, the Greek national anthem was sung and anti-American and anti-German sentiment was rife. Protesters have waved EU flags with a swastika at the center—equating “German” with “Nazi” and invoking the spectre of World War II, when Greece was occupied by German imperialism (followed by rampaging British troops).

In Spain, the Indignados movement arose in response to the austerity measures that were being enforced by the social-democratic Spanish Socialist Party government before its huge defeat in the last elections. In Greece, the petty-bourgeois Indignados emerged in the context of the abject failure of the trade-union bureaucracy to present any way forward for the struggles of the working masses. The two main trade-union federations, the GSEE and ADEDY, representing the private and public sectors respectively, are controlled by PASOK, which is imposing the austerity measures. Despite the “socialist” reference in its name, and the credentials given to it by opportunist left groups, PASOK is a capitalist party.

Broad layers of the middle class that could be rallied behind an insurgent proletariat struggling for power are instead being drawn into virulently chauvinist, anti-immigrant and anti-working-class movements. Displaying overt hostility to the organizations of the working class and the left, the Indignados present themselves as a “pro-democracy” movement of all classes. As in Spain, all leftist political parties and trade unions, as well as red flags and banners, were banned from the Greek protests at first. Not surprisingly, given the nationalist fervor whipped up by the Indignados, Golden Dawn and other fascist outfits have been seen at the protests.

There has been an ominous rise in racist attacks, as desperately impoverished immigrants are used as scapegoats for the economic devastation. Earlier this year, fascist thugs rampaged through a heavily immigrant area of Athens, killing one person and wounding many more. Golden Dawn got over 5 percent of the vote in municipal elections in Athens late last year. According to the London-based Institute of Race Relations, Golden Dawn’s Nikos Michaloliakos, accompanied by eight apparently armed bodyguards, gave a Nazi salute at a council meeting in Athens in January.

The fascists are emboldened by the racist policies of the government. Greece’s border with Turkey is one of the front lines of “Fortress Europe,” with EU border patrols employed to keep immigrants out. The Greek government has announced plans to build a razor-wire fence, equipped with sonar systems and thermal sensors, along the border. The workers movement must fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants and to unionize foreign workers. For union/minority mobilizations to stop fascist provocations! For integrated workers defense guards to protect immigrant neighborhoods!

Communist Party: Left Face of Greek Nationalism

The Stalinist KKE adopts a posture of militant opposition to the PASOK government and promotes PAME as a class-struggle alternative to what it calls the “government- and employer-led” trade unions. But the Greek Stalinists present no fundamental alternative to the betrayals of the GSEE/ADEDY union misleaders. Despite its occasional verbal radicalism, the KKE is hostile to the program of workers revolution to overthrow Greek capitalism.

The KKE’s political bankruptcy is evident in regard to the Indignados. In an article in Rizospastis (5 June), the KKE correctly noted that “the ‘anonymous’ leaders of the ‘movement of the squares,’ the ‘non-partisan,’ ‘spontaneous,’ ‘non-politicized’ citizens, appear to be politicized, declaring themselves ‘anti-left’.” The article adds that with their slogans “Out with the left,” “Parties out” and “Trade unions out,” the Indignados are “not that democratic, or, to be more accurate, they are undemocratic.” What the KKE cannot challenge, though, is the virulent nationalism of the Indignados, which the KKE itself shares.

Indeed, the KKE has made defense of “national sovereignty” its own calling card, and is particularly virulent in espousing Greek nationalism in relation to Turkey, the traditional enemy of its “own” bourgeoisie. For example, in a speech last year, KKE general secretary Aleka Papariga complained that the EU was not taking account of “our national sovereignty rights” when considering Turkey’s bid for membership. She went on to chastise Papandreou for “trying to cover up the issue by dividing the Aegean, something that will have an adverse effect on the islands’ defense.” Nationalism within the workers movement is the chief obstacle to constructing a genuine revolutionary workers party in Greece.

It is a travesty that the KKE retains a reputation as militant fighters against capitalism based on the Resistance against the Nazi occupation and the subsequent Greek Civil War of 1946-49. In pursuit of its program of class collaboration with the Greek bourgeoisie, the KKE handed power back to the bourgeoisie following World War II. The working class, backed by the peasantry, was the decisive force in the anti-Nazi Resistance, mounting massive strikes and demonstrations from late 1942 until the withdrawal of German troops in 1944. The working class, arms in hand, had state power in its grasp. But its leaders, the treacherous KKE, actually welcomed the arrival of British troops into Greece, enabling the imperialists to stabilize the situation, bring back the hated monarchy and massacre the workers.

The Greek Stalinists lived up to the terms of the secret Tehran agreement, whereby Stalin granted the imperialists the “right” to preserve capitalist rule in West Europe and Greece. Politically disarming the proletariat, the Stalinists went so far as to join a “national” government of the bourgeoisie. In February 1945, they signed the Varkiza agreement, which physically disarmed the KKE-led Resistance forces as British troops and the Greek National Guard were preparing to unleash a full-scale wave of terror against the masses. Only in February 1946 did the KKE finally abandon its suicidal policy and take up the “armed struggle” again. In October 1949, after ferocious repression, the Civil War was ended. The KKE ranks had fought heroically. But needless to say, the KKE learned nothing from the tragic consequences of its treachery and continues to pursue its bankrupt program of subordination to the Greek bourgeoisie.

What the Trotskyists wrote at the end of World War II holds true for the role of the Stalinists throughout the Civil War:

“The Greek masses were burning with revolutionary determination and wished to prepare the overthrow of all their oppressors—Nazi and Greek. Instead of providing the mass movement with a revolutionary program, similar to the Bolshevik program of 1917, and preparing the masses for the seizure of power, the Stalinists steered the movement into the blind alley of People’s Frontism. The Stalinists, who enjoyed virtual hegemony of the mass movement, joined with a lot of petty bourgeois politicians, lawyers, professors, who had neither mass following nor influence, and artificially worked to limit the struggle to the fight for capitalist democracy.”

—“Civil War in Greece,” Fourth International, February 1945

The social-democratic reformists in Greece—such as the Socialist Workers Party (SEK), which is affiliated to the British group of the same name, and Xekinima, the Greek affiliate of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI)—stand to the right of the KKE in their enthusiasm for the anti-Communist, anti-working-class Indignados. For example, Xekinima calls to “Extend the movement to all work places, workers’ neighbourhoods, and the youth” (, 27 June). The notion of classless “democracy” that these groups promote has long been an anti-Communist code word that actually means support to bourgeois class rule. Thus, both the SEK and Xekinima supported capitalist restoration in the former Soviet Union in 1991-92 and hailed counterrevolutionary forces such as Polish Solidarność and Boris Yeltsin’s Russian “democrats.”

For Workers Revolution!

The Trotskyist Group of Greece fights to forge a Leninist-Trotskyist party capable of leading the working class to power. Above all, this means breaking the workers from nationalism and winning them to a revolutionary internationalist perspective. During Round One of the present crisis, the TGG issued a 28 April 2010 leaflet that opposed the widespread Greek nationalism as “poisonous to class consciousness.” Any effective struggle against the bosses’ attacks must begin with the understanding that the workers have no country, until they seize the one they’re in. Our comrades insisted: “What is needed is international workers solidarity across the EU against capital” (see “Down With PASOK Government’s ‘Stability Program’!” WV No. 959, 21 May 2010).

The Greek financial crisis has increased the seething national antagonisms in Europe, as seen in the diplomatic spats between France and Germany. German chancellor Angela Merkel, unpopular at home and with a shrinking majority in the Bundestag (parliament), has clashed with French officials and with the ECB over whether the bankers have to accept some losses. Following pressure from the IMF, Merkel agreed to a new bailout package while the French banks have offered to roll over Greek debts for 30 years. Whatever divisions there may be within bourgeois circles over how to deal with the catastrophic financial situation, in Germany, France, Britain and Europe as a whole, each government is determined to make the working masses pay for a crisis that is caused by the capitalist system itself.

The EU is an imperialist trade bloc, centered on a pact between the French and German capitalist rulers to ratchet up the exploitation of the working classes at home while trying to gain advantage over their imperialist rivals as well as the smaller European states. At the same time, the EU is an unstable formation that intensifies national antagonisms and fuels chauvinism.

We Marxists oppose the EU from the perspective of proletarian internationalism. The comrades of our German section, the Spartakist Workers Party, last year published an article titled “Solidarity with the Greek Workers! For Class Struggle Against the German Capitalists!” (Spartakist No. 183, May 2010), which noted:

“The chauvinist campaign against Greece is being set in motion so as to prevent the German working class from hitting on the idea of placing blame for the crisis at the feet of the capitalist system and its own rulers. The workers movement in Germany must mobilize in solidarity with Greek workers and all the other victims of the EU imperialists—after all, they’ll be confronted with similar attacks in the immediate future. The witchhunt against Greece also serves to split and weaken the multiethnic working class in Germany.”

Today, despite the relentless bleeding of the Greek working people, the country remains mired in deep recession. The bankrupt capitalist class manifestly does not have any crumbs that it is willing to throw to dampen workers’ anger. Short of a struggle for working-class power, the workers’ struggles will continue to be frustrated. The perspective for Greek workers must be that of common class struggle with their class brothers and sisters—from Turkey to Germany and elsewhere around the world.

As the TGG wrote in its leaflet: “What’s needed is a socialist revolution to overthrow the capitalist state and replace it with a workers state that will lay the basis for building a socialist society. For that, you need to build a revolutionary workers party—a party like Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks—which will fight for a workers government. The TGG, Greek sympathizing section of the ICL, seeks to build such a party” (our emphasis).

Friday, November 08, 2024

From The Pages Of Workers Vanguard-Democrats, Republicans: Parties of Capital-“Occupy Wall Street”:Capitalist Crisis Sparks Populist Protests-For Workers Revolution to Expropriate the Bourgeoisie!- A Critique Of The "Occupy" Movement

Click on the headline to link to the International Communist League (ICL) website.

Markin comment November 3, 2011:

We have won a tremendous victory in Oakland. No, no the big dent in the capitalist system that we are all looking for but the first step. And that first step is to put the words “general strike” in the political vocabulary in our fight for social justice. This is Liberation Day One. From now on we move from isolated tent encampments to the struggle in the streets against the monster, the streets where some of the battles will be decisively decided. Yes, our first day was messy, we took some casualties, we took some arrest, we made some mistakes but we now have a road forward, so forward. No Mas- The Class-War Lines Are Being Drawn- There Is A Need To Unite And Fight-We Take The Offensive-Liberation Day One-Defend The Oakland Commune-Drop All Charges Against The Oakland Protesters!

P.S. (November 4, 2011) I noted above some of the actions were messy in Oakland. This was so partly because it was seen as a celebration as much as demand-ladened, hard-nosed general strike started as a prelude to anything immediately bigger (like the question of taking state power and running things ourselves) but also because people are after all new at this way of expressing their latent power. 1946 in Oakland, and anywhere else, is a long political time to go without having a general strike in this country. Even the anti-war mass actions of the 1960s, which included school-centered general strikes, never got close to the notion of shutting down the capitalists where they live-places like the Port Of Oakland. There are some other more systematic problems that I, and others, are starting to note and I will address them as we go along. Things like bourgeois electoral politics rearing its ugly head, keeping the thing together, and becoming more organizationally cohesive without becoming bureaucratic. Later.
Workers Vanguard No. 989
28 October 2011

Democrats, Republicans: Parties of Capital

“Occupy Wall Street”:Capitalist Crisis Sparks Populist Protests

For Workers Revolution to Expropriate the Bourgeoisie!

OCTOBER 25—An amorphous group of protesters, ranging from student youth and jobless workers to veteran liberal activists, has now been camping out in Lower Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park under the banner of “Occupy Wall Street” (OWS) for over a month. With its rallies and marches in New York City drawing from a few hundred to over 10,000 people, OWS has tapped into widespread anger over corporate profit-gouging, mass unemployment and stark economic inequalities.

Similar occupations have spread to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and many other cities and towns across the country, even as police have repeatedly attacked and arrested large numbers of protesters. On October 15, hundreds of thousands turned out across Europe and elsewhere for solidarity demonstrations with OWS, which itself has drawn inspiration from the “Indignados” (indignant ones) in Spain and Greece. Today, hundreds of riot-equipped cops wielding flash grenades, tear gas and billy clubs surrounded the “Occupy Oakland” tent city at Frank Ogawa Plaza in the early morning hours. With helicopters hovering overhead shining a spotlight on the scene, the cops moved in, ripping apart the encampment and arresting more than 75 people. Drop all charges against the protesters, from Oakland to NYC!

The OWS protests have touched a real nerve in large sections of the population three years into the deep, ongoing economic crisis. Homeless shelters are filled to capacity. College students and recent graduates are choking under a mountain of debt, facing an increasingly bleak future. Many workers who have managed to hold on to their jobs have been made to swallow lower wages, with their benefits shredded and their pensions looted by the bosses and bankers. With the trade unions taking it on the chin, many workers have greeted the OWS protests as an outlet for their own anger. Meanwhile, the bulk of the capitalist ruling class has made out like bandits, with the Obama White House, following George W. Bush, showering hundreds of billions in bailouts onto the banks and auto companies. Fed up with government lies, foreign wars, the ban on marijuana and worsening unemployment, one protester in Phoenix said, “All the world’s problems run downhill, and I’m at the bottom.”

Many young occupiers are participating in their first political protest, and most enthusiastically embrace its democratic pretensions and “grassroots” origins, seeing the potential to do something, anything about what’s happening to themselves and so many others. While the OWS organizers pride themselves on not having a clear political agenda, affiliation or even a fixed set of demands, they do have a program: liberal reform of capitalism’s financial sector. Issuing patriotic appeals to this country’s purported democratic values, they raise slogans like: “We are the 99 percent,” “Tax the rich,” and “Banks got bailed out, we got sold out.” Like the populists of more than a century ago, their program amounts to seeking to elect a government that would defend the interests of the little man against the “robber barons” of Wall Street.

It is false that “99 percent” of the population share common interests. There is a fundamental class divide in society between the capitalists—the tiny group of families that own industry and the banks—and the working class, whose labor is the source of the capitalists’ profits. The working class is not just one more victim of capitalist austerity within the “99 percent.” It is the only force with the potential power and historic interest to sweep away the capitalist system and rebuild society based on a centralized, planned economy.

In our interventions in NYC and around the country, the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs are fighting to win militants to the Marxist understanding that the capitalist state cannot be reformed to serve the interests of workers and the poor, but must be shattered through proletarian revolution. Ending poverty, oppression and imperialist war requires workers rule internationally, opening the road to a world socialist society. We Trotskyists are dedicated to the task of building a revolutionary workers party to organize and lead that fight. Our model is the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, which led the workers to power in the October 1917 Russian Revolution.

Our Marxist outlook is diametrically opposed to the OWS program of liberal, bourgeois populism, which comes wrapped up in red, white and blue, as seen in the number of U.S. flags flying in Zuccotti Park. At a recent OWS General Assembly meeting, a Spartacist League spokesman drew opposition when he denounced the presence of U.S. imperialism’s banner, saying: “This is the flag that bombed Hiroshima and Nagasaki! This is the flag that bombed and attacked Vietnam! This is the flag that represents oppression to the people of the world!”

Whatever the claims of the OWS organizers to the contrary, the dominant politics of the protests point straight to support to the Democratic Party, which no less than the Republicans is a party of the capitalist exploiters. One Democratic official recently observed of the protests, “Sure, there’s been some crazy anarchy stuff, but overall, the Democrats like their message about Wall Street and accountability,” adding that “it overlaps with our own message.” In fact, with Obama channeling OWS grievances in his stump speeches, Democratic Party stalwarts like are involved in organizing OWS actions for the purpose of bringing disenchanted voters back into the fold. Meanwhile, some Democratic Party strategists worry that signing on to the protests will alienate some of their financial backers. Key to mobilizing the workers in class struggle against the decaying capitalist order is the fight for their political independence from all bourgeois parties—Democrats, Republicans and Greens.

Protest organizers propound the “belief that the American dream will live again” (as one OWS Web site posting said) and argue that the government, which is the executive committee of the ruling class as a whole, should do something good like regulate banks. This is a dead end for youth looking for revolutionary answers. American democracy is the democracy of the capitalist class, whose rule is based on brutal exploitation of workers, murderous oppression of blacks and other minorities and imperialist marauding around the world. As the 1960s militant Malcolm X remarked, “I’m one of the 22 million black people who are the victims of Americanism. One of the 22 million black people who are the victims of democracy, nothing but disguised hypocrisy.... I don’t see any American dream; I see an American nightmare” (“The Ballot or the Bullet,” 3 April 1964).

American Populism and the Democrats

Appealing to the common man against the financiers has a long history in American bourgeois politics. The 1892 platform of the Populist Party strongly indicted the “Gilded Age”: “The fruits of the toil of millions are boldly stolen to build up colossal fortunes for a few unprecedented in the history of mankind.” The Populists did not desire to abolish but to moderate the despotism of the “few,” to curtail the powers and reduce the privileges of the magnates of industry and finance. The movement reached the peak of its influence in 1896, when the Democrats ostensibly adopted its aims and Populist leader William Jennings Bryan won the Democratic presidential nomination, losing in November to Republican William McKinley.

The Populists were initially a multiracial movement, encompassing poor white and black farmers as well as small businessmen. But the heroic efforts of its organizers in the South were defeated when the local ruling class launched a wave of racist demagogy and violence. Many Populist leaders, such as Tom Watson in Georgia, turned against impoverished blacks and openly embraced racism. Many did this to carve out a niche in the Southern Democratic Party, which ruled over the Jim Crow system of entrenched racial segregation through police-state terror supplemented by the KKK’s extralegal violence. On the other hand, the Populist movement also included people who would become key figures in the labor and socialist movements.

The Populist movement emerged in the period when the U.S. was preparing to enter the world stage as an imperialist power, one of a handful of advanced capitalist countries whose competition for spheres of exploitation around the world would lead to the devastation of two world wars and countless colonial wars. As Lenin described, imperialism is the highest stage of capitalism: the economy is dominated by monopolies, with the capital of the large banks combining with the capital of industrial corporations.

This crucial understanding is completely blurred by populist ideology. As we wrote in our 1997-98 series “Wall Street and the War Against Labor”:

“Central to the liberal populist outlook is a belief that the capitalist class is divided into two classes, so to speak: those directly involved in producing and marketing goods and services, and those whose incomes derive from financial dealings. The former are regarded as at least relatively progressive, while the latter are deemed outright reactionary....

“The common interests of all elements of the American capitalist class—whether Wall Street investment bankers, Midwestern manufacturers, Texas oilmen or California agribusinessmen—are qualitatively greater and more important than their differences. All want to maximize the exploitation of labor and to minimize the overhead costs of government social programs.”

— reprinted in the 2009 Spartacist pamphlet, Karl Marx Was Right: Capitalist Anarchy and the Immiseration of the Working Class

At the core of populist protest, yesterday and today, is the petty bourgeoisie, which is a heterogeneous and highly stratified social layer comprising, among others, students, professionals and small businessmen. Lacking social power and its own class perspective, the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of offering an alternative to capitalism. As the Trotskyist James Burnham wrote in the 1930s, during an earlier period of economic crisis and mass discontent, “The middle classes are seeking a way out of their impasse. But they have no possible way out of their own. And at last they must, in whole or in a division, face the ultimate choice: to line up behind one of the two basic classes and its program, to swing to the side of the bourgeoisie or the proletariat” (The People’s Front: The New Betrayal, 1937).

A case in point is Adbusters, the Canadian magazine that issued the original call for a Wall Street occupation. This “anti-corporate” outfit has received funds from the Tides Foundation—a clearinghouse for the Ford and Gates foundations. But Adbusters doesn’t just take money from fat cats; it also runs its own “grassroots capitalism”—the production of sneakers, which they hail as “ethical.” Ask the workers in Pakistan getting the pitiful local minimum wage as they produce these “no logo” kicks if it feels more humane to slave over hemp rather than nylon.

The capitalist rulers have unleashed their police thugs on the “occupy” protests, even though this movement does not hinder the functioning of the profit system. It is an altogether different matter when workers cut off the flow of profits through strikes and other labor actions. When auto workers occupied plants in Flint, Michigan, in 1936-37, winning recognition of the United Auto Workers, they were part of a militant wave of labor struggle that gave rise to the CIO industrial unions. Those struggles were pitched battles between the workers on one side and the cops, company thugs and capitalist courts and government on the other.

After decades of defeats for labor, most young activists view the working class as irrelevant to struggles for economic justice. Setting the stage for those defeats, the bureaucratic misleaders of the labor movement by and large abandoned the class-struggle methods that built the unions. In their role as the capitalists’ labor lieutenants, they tie workers to their class enemy by promoting the interests of U.S. imperialism and supporting the Democratic Party.

The occupation of the Wisconsin State Capitol earlier this year ended in defeat precisely because the union leadership refused to use labor’s strike weapon, instead diverting protest into a (failed) campaign to recall Republican politicians. The result is that the state’s public sector unions have been decimated. Facing a great deal of disillusion with President Obama, who is a Wall Street Democrat, a good section of the trade-union officialdom has endorsed the OWS protests, seeing in them a means of re-energizing liberal support for Obama in the 2012 elections. The same purpose drives pseudo-socialists like the International Socialist Organization and Workers World Party, whose hailing of the OWS protests is but the latest chapter in their history of reformist pressure politics.

The Fraud of Bourgeois Democracy

No protest movement will convince the capitalist ruling class and its government to change their stripes and begin acting in the interests of the “people.” This country’s “democracy” was founded on the enslavement of black Africans, and to this day black oppression remains a fundamental underpinning of the American capitalist system. The “American way” has meant the genocidal extermination of Native Americans, waves of deportations of immigrants, bloody battles with striking workers and a long list of savage wars the world over, most recently the invasions and occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan and this year’s bombing of Libya.

As opposed to the OWS organizers who endlessly speak about restoring democracy, Marxists understand that there is no “pure” democracy. As Lenin observed: “Even in the most democratic bourgeois state the oppressed people at every step encounter the crying contradiction between the formal equality proclaimed by the ‘democracy’ of the capitalists and the thousands of real limitations and subterfuges which turn the proletarians into wage-slaves” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918).

In a speech to the OWS crowd, liberal ideologue Naomi Klein hailed the 1999 anti-globalization protests for condemning corporations that were supposedly “becoming more powerful than governments,” saying that this was “damaging to our democracies.” The fact that capitalist governments the world over have been bailing out failing industries and banks during the current economic crisis exposes the fallacy that corporations have superceded the nation-state.

Klein sows illusions in a mythical golden age of “democratic” accountability. The reality is that for the capitalists, “democracy” serves as a veil to hide their class dictatorship, which they enforce through their state apparatus—armed forces, cops, courts and prisons. Cop brutality and the arrest of protesters are almost daily occurrences, giving a small taste of the terror daily meted out to ghetto and barrio residents. Yet the OWS organizers have continued to call on the “blue-collar police” to “join our conversation” and “speak of the crimes of your supervisors.”

Neither is the problem simply one of “police misconduct.” All cops, whatever their background and rank, are the attack dogs of the capitalist class. An SYC speaker stressed at a recent OWS General Assembly, “Cops are not workers. They beat strikers, kill black people and arrest protesters.”

Apostles of “Democratic” Counterrevolution

Liberal ideologue Naomi Klein and pseudo-Marxist academic Slavoj Zizek—leading lights at the OWS protests—like to rail against China as an affront to “democracy.” In this, they are providing ideological service to Wall Street.

The 1949 Chinese Revolution overthrew capitalist rule, liberating the country from imperialist subjugation and leading to massive advances for workers, peasants and deeply oppressed women. However, the peasant-based revolution was deformed from its inception, putting into power a bureaucratic nationalist regime akin to that of the Soviet Union after its degeneration under Stalin. Today, despite major inroads by both foreign and indigenous capitalists, the core elements of China’s economy remain collectivized. State ownership of the banking system has promoted massive economic growth in China, mainly through investment in infrastructure. This stands in stark contrast to the profit-driven world’s dominant capitalist economies, which have been mired in crisis. As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defense of China against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. At the same time, we fight for proletarian political revolution to replace the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy with a regime of workers and peasants soviets (councils) committed to the fight for world socialist revolution.

The current protests against Wall Street are deeply stamped with the “death of communism” ideology that has been propounded by the bourgeoisie and its ideologues since the restoration of capitalist rule in the former Soviet Union in 1991-92. Zizek, who sometimes spouts “revolutionary” verbiage when it serves his “bad boy” image in academia, lectured OWS protesters about how “Communism failed absolutely.” The core of his politics was seen when he hailed Obama’s 2008 election as “a sign of hope in our otherwise dark times.”

A measure of the bourgeois politics that define the OWS protests is the invitation offered by one organizer to former Polish president Lech Walesa to speak at Zuccotti Park. Walesa was the principal leader of Solidarność, which originated in 1980 out of workers strikes in the Polish deformed workers state but rapidly adopted an openly counterrevolutionary program for the restoration of capitalist rule. This was the only “union” beloved by the likes of right-wing U.S. president Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. With the backing of the U.S. and European imperialists, the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracies and the Catholic church, Solidarność became the principal force for capitalist counterrevolution in Poland. We denounced Solidarność at the time as a company union for the CIA, bankers and the Vatican.

The government led by Walesa that took power in 1989 dismantled Poland’s collectivized economy and implemented an economic “shock treatment” that destroyed the bulk of the social gains Poles had enjoyed under the deformed workers state—from virtually free health care to cheap, subsidized housing to pensions one could live on. In line with Catholic “family values,” the right to a safe and free abortion was abolished. Inviting Walesa to speak at Zuccotti Park was to invite a Wall Street stooge to…“Occupy Wall Street”!

Today the basic premises of authentic Marxism must be motivated against the false and prevalent misidentification of the collapse of Stalinism with the failure of communism. Against those who purvey “death of communism” and illusions in capitalist “reform,” we revolutionary Marxists tell the truth: the only road to eliminating economic scarcity is the fight for new October Revolutions. We have no illusions that this is an easy road. But the destructive anarchy of the capitalist mode of production will, if not overthrown, plunge all humanity into barbarism. The key task is the forging of a Leninist vanguard party, the necessary instrument for bringing revolutionary consciousness to the proletariat.

Wednesday, January 01, 2020


On The 100th Anniversary Of Newly-Fledged German Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg And Karl Liebknecht-Oh, What Might Have Been-

By Frank Jackman

History in the conditional, what might have happened if this or that thing, event, person had swerved this much or that, is always a tricky proposition. Tricky as reflected in this piece’s commemorative headline. Rosa Luxemburg the acknowledged theoretical wizard of the German Social-Democratic Party, the numero uno party of the Second, Socialist International, which was the logical organization to initiate the socialist revolution before World War II and Karl Liebknecht, the hellfire and brimstone propagandist and public speaker of that same party were assassinated in separate locale on the orders of the then ruling self-same Social-Democratic Party. The chasm between the Social-Democratic leaders trying to save Germany for “Western Civilization” in the wake of the “uncivilized” socialist revolution in Russia in 1917 had grown that wide that it was as if they were on two different planets, and maybe they were.

(By the way I am almost embarrassed to mention the term “socialist revolution” these days when people, especially young people, would be clueless as to what I was talking about or would think that this concept was so hopelessly old-fashioned that it would meet the same blank stares. Let me assure you that back in the day, yes, that back in the day, many a youth had that very term on the tips of their tongues. Could palpably feel it in the air. Hell, just ask your parents, or grandparents.)

Okay here is the conditional and maybe think about it before you dismiss the idea out of hand if only because the whole scheme is very much in the conditional. Rosa and Karl, among others made almost every mistake in the book before and during the Spartacist uprising in some of the main German cities in late 1918 after the German defeat in the war. Their biggest mistake before the uprising was sticking with the Social Democrats, as a left wing, when that party had turned at best reformist and eminently not a vehicle for the socialist revolution, or even a half-assed democratic “revolution” which is what they got with the overthrow of the Kaiser. They broke too late, and subsequently too late from a slightly more left-wing Independent Socialist Party which had split from the S-D when that party became the leading war party in Germany for all intents and purposes and the working class was raising its collective head and asking why. 

The big mistake during the uprising was not taking enough protective cover, not keeping the leadership safe, keeping out of sight like Lenin had in Finland when things were dicey in 1917 Russia and fell easy prey to the Freikorps assassins. Here is the conditional, and as always it can be expanded to some nth degree if you let things get out of hand. What if, as in Russia, Rosa and Karl had broken from that rotten (for socialism) S-D organization and had a more firmly entrenched cadre with some experience in independent existence. What if the Spartacists had protected their acknowledged leaders better. There might have been a different trajectory for the aborted and failed German left-wing revolutionary opportunities over the next several years, there certainly would have been better leadership and perhaps, just perhaps the Nazi onslaught might have been stillborn, might have left Munich 1923 as their “heroic” and last moment.  

Instead we have a still sad 100th anniversary of the assassination of two great international socialist fighters who headed to the danger not away always worthy of a nod and me left having to face those blank stares who are looking for way forward but might as well be on a different planet-from me.  



In honor of the 3 L's. The authority of Lenin, leader of the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 in Russia, and Luxemburg, the Rose of the Revolution, need no special commendation. I would however like to comment on Karl Liebknecht who has received less historical recognition and has had less written about him. Nevertheless, Karl Liebknecht apparently had the capacity to lead the German Revolution. A man whose actions inspired 50,000 Berlin workers, under penalty of being drafted to the front, to strike against his imprisonment in the middle of a World War is self- evidently a man with the authority to lead a revolution. His tragic personal fate in the aftermath of the Spartacus uprising, killed by counterrevolutionaries, helped condition the later dismal fate of the German revolution, especially in 1923.

History has posed certain questions concerning the establishment of socialism that remains unresolved today primarily to due the crisis of leadership of the international labor movement. Although Liebknecht admittedly was not a theoretician I do not believe that someone of Lenin's or Trotsky's theoretical level of achievement was necessary after the Russian experience. To these eyes the Trotsky's theory of Permanent Revolution and Lenin's Bolshevik organizational concepts have stood the test of time, if mainly by negative experience.

What was necessary was a leadership that assimilated those lessons. Liebknecht, given enough time to study those lessons, seems to have been capable of that. A corollary to that view is that one must protect leading cadre when the state starts bearing down. Especially small propaganda groups like the Spartacists with fewer resources for protection of leadership. This was not done. If you do not protect your leadership you wind up with a Levi, Brandler or Thalheimer (successively leaders of the German Communist Party) who seemed organically incapable of learning those lessons.

One of the problems with being the son of a famous politician is that, as founder of the early German Social Democratic Party Wilhelm Liebknecht's son, much was expected of Karl, especially on the question of leading the German working class against German militarism. Wilhelm had done a prison term (with August Bebel) for opposition to the Franco-Prussian War. As for Karl I have always admired that famous picture of him walking across the Potsdam Plaza in uniform, subject to imprisonment after lost of his parliamentary immunity, with briefcase under arm ready to go in and do battle with the parliamentary cretins of the Social Democratic Party over support for the war budget. That is the kind of leadership cadre we desperately need now. REMEMBER HIS FAMOUS SLOGANS- ‘THE MAIN ENEMY IS AT HOME’-‘ NOT ONE PENNY, NOT ONE PERSON (updated) FOR THE WAR’.

Wilhelm would have been proud.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

*From The Archives Of The American Communist Party-James Cannon On The Early Days Of The Party -Origins Of The 1920s Labor Party Policy

Markin comment:

In the introduction to a recent posting that started a series entitled From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.) I noted the following that applies to this series on the roots of the American Communist Party as well:

“In October 2010 I started what I anticipate will be an on-going series, From The Archives Of The Socialist Workers Party (America), starting date October 2, 2010, where I will place documents from, and make comments on, various aspects of the early days of the James P. Cannon-led Socialist Worker Party in America. As I noted in the introduction to that series Marxism, no less than other political traditions, and perhaps more than most, places great emphasis on roots, the building blocks of current society and its political organizations. Nowhere is the notion of roots more prevalent in the Marxist movement that in the tracing of organizational and political links back to the founders, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, the Communist Manifesto, and the Communist League.

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Deb’s Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive…..”

I am continuing today in that vane in what I also anticipate will be an on-going series on the early days of the American Communist party from which we who are students of Leon Trotsky trace our roots. Those roots extend from the 1919 until 1929 when those who would go on after being expelled, led by James P. Cannon, to form the Socialist Workers Party which also is part of our heritage. That is not the end of the matter though as the American Communist Party also represented a trend in the 1930s, the Popular front strategic policy, that has bedeviled revolutionaries ever since in one form or another. Those 1930s issues need to be addressed as well.
Additional comment on this article-Markin

A certain amount of caution is needed in dealing with the Stalinized American Communist Party, as with the Communist International, because the Stalinists, then and now, were more than happy to slander political opponents on their left, and to rewrite history for their own purposes. Hardly a new idea among those who “win” whatever battle they are fighting. But a little bit tough on those of us who are trying to draw the lessons of the past for today’s left-wing militants. This series starts with the reflections of that early Communist leader mentioned above, James P. Cannon, who had his own axes to grind politically, no question. However, as Theodore Draper who wrote the definitive study on the history of the early American Communist Party in two volumes noted, of all the people whom he interviewed for the his books James Cannon was the one that stood out as wanting to remember as truthfully as he could that early history. I will use that statement as the touchstone for using Cannon’s work first. William Z. Foster, Earl Browder and the others will get their chance later.
James P. Cannon
Letters to a Historian
(1954 – 1956)
* * *
These articles from the magazines Fourth International and International Socialist Review are based on letters Cannon wrote to Theodore Draper who was then researching his two-volume series on the history of the US Communist Party

Written: March 1954 to February 1956.
Published: Fourth International, Summer 1954–Spring 1956, & International Socialist Review, Summer 1956–Spring 1957. Source: Original bound volumes of Fourth International and International Socialist Review and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive

James P. Cannon
Early Years of the American Communist Movement
Letters to a Historian


Origins of the Labor Party Policy


Source: Fourth International, Vol.17 No.1, Winter 1956, pp.25-26.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


March 17, 1955

Dear Sir:

I think there is enough evidence to establish beyond dispute that the initiative for a positive attitude toward a prospective labor party in the United States came from Moscow. Just when the decision was first made by the Comintern, and the specific steps taken by the American party in the process of putting the pdlicy into effect, are not so easy to sort out.

My own recollections are far from clear. It had been my impression that the definitive decision of the Comintern on this question was made only at the time of the Fourth Congress at the end of 1922. I think the statement of the Foster-Cannon group, published in the Daily Worker of November 26, 1924 to the effect that the Comintern’s approval was obtained“ mainlyon the strengthof the information supplied to the Comintern by our delegates” – was intended to refer to the discussions in Moscow at the time of the Fourth Congress, and not to an earlier discussion.

It may be that the earlier 1922 American delegation – Bedacht and Katterfeld – discussed the question at the Plenum of the Executive Committee of the Comintern in February-March, 1922, and that some sort of directive issued from the discussion. But I have no recollection of it.

I don’t remember the labor party statement issued by the American party in May 1922. Prior to my departure for Moscow about the middle of that month, I have remembered only general talk and general sympathy for the idea “in principle” but no concrete action to implement it. But now that you refresh my memory, I would say you are probably correct in your guess that the meeting of the Conference for Progressive Political Action in February 1922 stimulated the first action by the party.

I recall a conversationon the subject with Lovestone, initiatedby him. By party standards at that time, we were both “right wingers,” looking for all possible openings for the party to break out of its isolation and become a factor in American life. That was probably his reason for approaching me first.

Lovestone said the party should try to get into this CPPA movement some way or other. I was sympathetic to the idea, although it had not occurred to me until he brought it up. I don’t recall anything concrete being done before I left far Moscow. But reconstructing the evolution of the question, it is probably safe to assume that Lovestone continued to press his idea after my departure and that his persistence contributed, first to the affirmative statement on the labor party question published in the Worker, June 24, 1922 and, later, to the decision to send Ruthenberg to the second conference of the CPPA in Cleveland, in December 1922.

In my memory, therefore, Lovestone stands out as the initiator of the first positive proposal to approach this CPPA movement, which led, in a chain of circumstances, to the Chicago Farmer-Labor convention of July 1923, arranged by a collaboration of the Workers Party with the Fitzpatrick leadership of the Chicago Federation of Labor.

* * *
It must be remembered, however, that in the meantime Pepper had become a factor in the affairs of the American CP – and what a factor! – and that he undoubtedly was the driving force in all the labor party experiments and adventures thereafter. When he entered the situation, the production of ideas and decisions was put on a whirling conveyor and things really moved. I recall now that toward the end of 1922, or early in the next year, before he had his feet wet in the country, he wrote a pamphlet on the problem of the labor party in America. The pamphlet was widely distributed in 1923 as an exposition of the party’s position.

I was outside all these developments during my long stay in Moscow, and again for many months on my tour after my return. For that reason, I had no direct part in the decisions, but I was involved in them by a general sympathy with every move in an outward direction, even at the risk of opportunist errors to which, I must admit, I was not very sensitive at that time.

I do not recall that the question of the labor party was a specific issue between the liquidators and the leftists. But the liquidators had a more affirmative tendency to expand party activity and were undoubtedly the initiators of all the concrete moves, even it the leftists did not specifically oppose them. By the middle of 1923 the “Goose Caucus” of the leftists had been demolished and any opposition from its few recalcitrant members wouldn’t have counted for much anyhow.

As far as I know, all the liquidators went along with the various decisions that lead upto the organization of the July 3 convention at Chicago. The differences within their camp became serious, and took definite form, only after the catastrophe of the July 3 affair.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon

James P. Cannon
Early Years of the American Communist Movement
Letters to a Historian


After the 1924 Elections


Source: Fourth International, Vol.17 No.1, Winter 1956, pp.26-27.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


March 22, 1955

Dear Sir:

Here are some brief comments on matter-of-fact questions in your letters of December 21 and February 28, not specifically dealt with in my long letter of March 17.

After the 1924 presidential election, as I recall it, the Ruthenberg faction (still master-minded to a considerable extent by Pepper from Moscow) wanted to continue the old labor party policy as if nothing had happened. We considered the labor party a dead issue for the time being and were opposed to any policy that would lead to the creation of a caricature of a labor party under communist control without any mass base in the trade unions.

In one of my articles in the Daily Worker, in the public party discussion after the November 1924 election, I stated that we were not opposed to the labor party in principle but conditioned our support of the labor party slogan on the existence of a mass sentiment for it in the trade unions. There’s no doubt, however, that we did bend the stick backward in the course of the conflict and that we began to show a decided sectarian trend. I think it fair to say that Bittleman’s influence came into play in this situation more than at any other time. Foster himself was the initiator of the proposal to drop the labor party slogan, on the ground that the movement lacked vitality and that it would be a waste of time and effort to try to build a shadow labor party which in essence would be a mere duplicate of the Communist Party. I repeat, Foster was the initiator of this change of policy; but we all readily agreed with him. The change was accomplished without difficulty in all the leading circles of our faction. As I recall it, there were some objections from the Loreites such as Zimmerman (now a vice-president of the ILGWU).

It was also Foster who initiated the proposal to drop the candidates of the “Farmer-Labor Party” nominated at the St. Paul Convention in June 1924 and to nominate our own party candidates instead. On this we also followed Foster’s lead, and the Ruthenberg group went along without opposition.

In general, the main initiative in determining the policy of our faction, from the time of Foster’s return from the Comintern Plenum of April-May 1924 until the conflict within the faction over the Comintern cable at the 1925 Convention, came from him. I went along in general agreement. But I did not share the sectarian twist which Bittleman and Browder tended to give to the policy, and was careful to emphasize in my writings during the discussion that our opposition to the labor party at the given time was based on the lack of mass sentiment for it and was not put as a question of principle.

I believe Foster tended to go overboard a little bit in the direction of Bittleman’s slant, but this was probably due more to overzealousness in the factional struggle than to real conviction. Foster was no sectarian. While Foster and I were in Moscow in the early part of 1925, Bittleman and Browder were running things in the party, and I remember that we were both quite dissatisfied with the sectarian trend they were manifesting.

I probably had less difficulty in accepting the Comintern decision in favor of a continuation of the labor party policy than Foster did. In retrospect it appears to me now that this decision of the Comintern was dead wrong, as were virtually all of its decisions on the American question thereafter. After the internal struggle broke out in the Russian party, the American party, like all other sections of the Comintern, became a pawn in the Moscow game and Comintern decisions on national questions were no longer made objectively. But that is the wisdom of hindsight. I was a thoroughgoing “Cominternist” in those days and it took me three more years to get the picture straight.

I didn’t know what was really going on in the Comintern, and I can’t recall than I even knew of any differences between Trotsky and Zinoviev on the American question. It may be true that Pepper was in reality Zinoviev’s agent, and that Zinoviev yielded to Trotsky on the LaFollette question to avoid a showdown on an inconvenient issue. Trotsky’s polemics against the Zinovievist policy on the so-called “Peasants’ International,” and the whole business of seeking to build a communist party by maneuvers with petty-bourgeois leaders of peasant movements, later revealed a big controversy around this point.

I did not get a grasp of this dispute until I first saw Trotsky’s Criticism of the Draft Program (published later in America under the title The Third International After Lenin) at the Sixth Congress of the Comintern in 1928. As I have related in my History of American Trotskyism, I was preoccupied with “our own” American questions at that time and did not know, or even suspect, that the fate of our party was so directly involved in the Russian party struggle.

I didn’t know Lore very well personally and never had close relations with him, but I always thought he was a very likeable fellow. His tradition was that of the pre-war left Social Democracy. I don’t think he ever felt really at home in the Comintern, or that he ever became an all-out communist in the sense that the rest of us did. Ass I recall it, he interpreted the united front policy of the Comintern favorably as a step toward reconciliation and reunification with the Second International and not as, among other things, a means of struggle against the Social Democrats.

I think his opposition to the “Third Party Alliance” was determined, by his left social-democratic orthodoxy on the question of the peasantry. I don’t know whether he was influenced by Trotsky in his position or whether he knew what stand Trotsky was taking in Moscow on this question. I doubt it.

Lore’s political tendency in general was to the right. In the first stages of the fight in the Russian party, Lore, like some others in Europe, supported Trotsky under the mistaken impression that his opposition represented a revolt against the “leftism” of Zinoviev. Lore’s later evolution showed very clearly that he was no “Trotskyist” in a political sense. Looking back now, there is little doubt that the Comintern blasts against Lore were motivated by his original declaration in favor of Trotsky and not, as alleged, by his policies in American affairs.

I don’t think the LaFollette policy was the only or main reason for Lore’s break with the Ruthenberg-Pepper group and his support of the Foster-Cannon group. He was decidedly anti-Pepper and against “maneuverism” in general. He was also anti-Zinoviev, but whether he considered Pepper Zinoviev’s agent or not, I do not know.

Lore was popular in the party ranks in New York but not decisively influential in a factional showdown. He was a supporter of the Foster-Cannon faction but was never a decisive member of its inner councils. The two strong factions between them completely dominated the parity. This state of affairs confronted Lore and his sub-group with the necessity of making a choice; there was no prospect whatever for his group to contest with the others for party control.

I think his determining reasons for supporting us were that he considered us more American, more proletarian trade-unionist, and therefore more capable of establishing the party as a factor in the real life of the country.

Third Party Convention
The Third Convention (1923) took place before the extensive organization of caucuses of the factions in the party ranks. Probably a majority of the delegates came to the Convention uncommitted. As the delegates straggled into town on the eve of the Convention, both factions worked industriously to secure their allegiance. I suppose I was most active and effective on this front for our faction and Lovestone for the Pepperites.

The general disposition of the majority of the delegates in bur favor, and their dissatisfaction with the Pepper regime, became fairly evident before the formal opening of the Convention. The election of Bittleman as Convention Chairman at the first session, by a decisive majority over the candidate of the Pepper faction, indicated a Convention line-up which was never changed during the subsequent debates.

We made no special efforts to win the support of Lore and the Finnish leaders and offered them no special inducements. That would not have been necessary in any case; they indicated their preference in the first discussions with them before the Convention was formally started.

I recall that they were pleased at the prospect of Foster graduating from his position as trade-union specialist and taking his place as a party leader, and that they strongly objected to Bittleman having a prominent position in the new leadership. In fact, they objected to Bittleman altogether. This was in deference to Olgin and his supporters in the Jewish Federation, who were closely associated with Lore, and who had had plenty of trouble with Bittleman.

Foster was impressed and worried by this opposition to Bittleman. Foster was always ready to dump anybody who was under fire, but I learned of his addiction to this annoying peccadillo only later. At the time, I attributed his concern in this matter to his unfamiliarity with party affairs and party people, and he yielded to my insistence on Bittleman. The Loreites finally accepted Bittleman as a “concession” on their part.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon


James P. Cannon
Early Years of the American Communist Movement
Letters to a Historian


The Beginning of the Degeneration


Source: Fourth International, Vol.17 No.1, Winter 1956, pp.27-29, 35.
Original bound volumes of Fourth International and microfilm provided by the NYU Tamiment Labor Libraries.
Transcription & Mark-up: Andrew Pollack/Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.


March 31, 1955

Dear Sir:

Fourth Plenum of the Comintern

I did not attend the Fourth Plenum of the Comintern in 1924. We had no report of it except that given by Foster. This was not so much a report on the Plenum as on the decisions on the “American Question.” At least, that’s what we were primarily interested in and that’s all I remember. We had been prepared for the decision against the “Third Party Alliance” by previous letters from Foster as well as by a telegram directly from the Executive Committee of the Communist International.

I don’t recall that anybody in either faction raised any objections to the decision. We were pronounced “Cominternists” at that time and Comintern decisions, especially those on political questions, were accepted as coming from the highest authority and as binding on all. Both sides were far more interested in the question of party control, and what bearing the Moscow decisions might have on that, than in the LaFollette question.

I don’t recall that anybody in the top caucus of our faction got excited about the Comintern’s criticisms of Lore. He had been with us, so to speak, but not of us; we did not feel responsible for him as an all-out member of our faction. It is true that he had supported us in the Convention, but in his daily practice he acted pretty much as a free lance. He had his own little principality in the Volkzeitung, and his own ideas, and he expounded them freely from day to day without consulting us.

We tcok the Comintern’s political criticisms of Lore, like all its other political pronouncements, for good coin and thought it was up to Lore, to straighten himself out with the Comintern. At the same time, it can be safely said that we would have paid no attention to Lore’s “deviations,” and most probably would not have noticed them, if they had not been pounced on in Moscow. I am sure that it did not occur to any of us at the time that the strictures against Lore ware in reality motivated by factional considerations in the struggle against Trotsky in the Russian party and in the Comintern.

* * *
I believe it would be risky to say flatly that “the beginnings of anti-Trotskyism coincide with the beginnings of pro-Stalinism” in the American party – or for that matter, in the Russian party and in the Comintern. That’s the way it worked out, but the process by which Stalin came to complete domination was gradual and insidious, and all the more effective because of that.

I do not recall that we identified Stalin as the leader of the Russian majority in 1924 as much as Zinoviev, who was the Chairman of the Comintern with whom the party had had the most direct dealings.

The opposition of Trotsky had been represented to us as the revolt of a single individual against the “Old Guard” of Lenin who constituted the Central Committee of the Russian party, the official leadership. We knew nothing of any differences within the ruling group at that time. Stalin came fully into prominence in our understanding only after the split between him and Zinoviev, and even then Stalin appeared in alliance with Bukharin, with the latter as Chairman of the Comintern.

It may be that the conflict between Zinoviev and Stalin within the camp of the Russian majority was already being prepared in 1924 and that the Ruthenberg faction, which had Pepper in Moscow as a representative and source of information, knew what was pending better than we did, and were better prepared to jump on the new bandwagon before it started rolling. But even at that, they were not sharp enough to break with Bukharin in time, and this hesitancy cost Lovestone his head in 1929.

Fifth Plenum of the Comintern
I attended the Fifth Plenum of the CI in 1925 together with Foster. Both factions had their delegates in Moscow weeks in advance of the Plenum. Our work there before the Plenum consisted chiefly of an endless round of interviews with various leading people in the Comintern, particularly the Russian leaders, in an attempt to gain their support.

The eventual decision was pretty clearly intimated beforehand. I soon got the chilling impression, and I think Foster did too, that the position of our faction was far weaker in Moscow than at home, and that we couldn’t do anything about it. The other faction had the advantage there. With Pepper as an active representative, busy in the apparatus of the Comintern, the Ruthenberg faction seemed to have the inside track.

Bukharin was particularly outspoken in favor of the Ruthenberg faction and acted like a factional partisan. So also did the leftists then representing the German party, particularly Heinz Neumann. Zinoviev appeared to be more friendly and impartial.

I had the definite impression that he wanted to correct our position on the labor party question without upsetting our majority, to restrain the majority from any suppression of the minority, and in general to slow down the factional struggle. I remember him saying to Foster at the end of one of our talks, in a friendly, persuading tone: “Frieden ist besser.” If I remember correctly, we did not see Stalin and did not know that he was becoming the real power behind the scenes.

* * *
My memory is not too sharp about the details of the negotiations and proceedings that led up to Zinoviev’s original proposal that “the new Central Committee [of the American party] is to be so elected at the Party Conference that the Foster group obtains a majority and the Ruthenberg group is represented proportionally at least by one-third.”

Foster was jubilant about the proposal, but I wasn’t. The idea that the composition of the American party leadership should be arbitrarily fixed in Moscow did not sit well with me, even if we were to be the beneficiaries of the decision at the moment. In arguing with me Foster emphasized the point that it would guarantee our majority control of the party. He was more interested in the bare question of party control than I was at that time, and this difference between us – at first apparently a nuance – grew wider later on.

I was disturbed because I had become convinced in our discussions with the Russians, that we had made a political error in our estimate of the prospects of a labor party in the United States, and I was most concerned that we make a real correction. With inadequate theoretical schooling I was already groping my way to the conception, which later became a governing principle, that a correct political line is more important than any organizational question, including the question of party control.

Looking back on it now, in the light of later developments in the United States, I think the evaluation we had made of labor party prospects in this country, and our proposals for party policy on the question, were far more correct and closer to American reality than those of the Ruthenberg faction. Even the 1925 Comintern decision on the question, which was more restrained and qualified, was away off the beam. But at the time I was convinced by the arguments of the Russians, and perhaps also by the weight of their authority.

There was hardly a trace of a genuine labor party movement in the United States in the ensuing years, and the feverish agitation of the party around the question, based on the Comintern decision came to nothing. This was tacitly recognized in 1928 when the party again nominated its own independent candidates for President and Vice President and relegated the labor party to a mere slogan of propaganda.

The “Parity Commission” of 1924
The decision of the Comintern to set up a Parity Commission to arrange the Fourth Convention of our party, with Gusev, a Russian, as chairman, was manifestly a decision against us, for in effect it robbed us of our rights as an elected majority. I do not think Zinoviev was the author of this decision; it was far different from his original proposal. His acceptance of the parity commission formula manifestly represented a change on his part, and probably a compromise with others who wanted to give open support to the Ruthenberg faction.

After the arrival of Gusev and the setting up of the Parity Commission – Foster, Bittleman and Cannon for our faction, Ruthenberg, Lovestone and Bedacht for the other side – the elected Central Committee and its Political Committee, as such, virtually ceased to exist. All question’s of party policy, organization matters, convention preparations and everything else were decided by the Parity Commission, with Gusev casting the deciding vote in case of any disagreements.

Within that strict framework the struggle for Convention delegates proceeded furiously. Gusev proclaimed a strict neutrality, but he gave us the worst of it whenever he could do so neatly and plausibly. The fact that under such conditions we gained a majority of 40 to 21 at the Convention, is the most convincing evidence, I think, of the real will of the party members to support our majority and to reject the Ruthenberg group, which should more properly be called the Ruthenberg-Lovestone group, with the latter playing an increasingly important role in the struggle.

I think the beginning of the degeneration of the internal life of the party, from conflicts of clearly defined political tendencies, which had characterized all the previous factional fights since the beginning of the movement in 1918, into an increasingly unprincipled struggle of factional gangs, can be traced to the year 1925.

As far as political issues were concerned, the situation in the party, in the period of preparation for the Fourth Convention, could be approximately described as follows: Both sides had accepted the Comintern decision on the labor party, which had favored the Ruthenberg position with some important modifications. The trade union policy of Foster had been accepted by the Ruthenbergites. From a political point of view there really wasn’t much to fight about. This was shown most convincingly by the circumstance that the Parity Commission agreed unanimously on both the political and trade union resolutions, the former written for the greater part by Bittleman and the latter by Foster.

The party members had only one set of resolutions before them, and they accepted them unanimously all up and down the party. Normally, such unanimity should have called for a moderation of the factional atmosphere, a trend toward the unification of the contending groups in the leadership, and toward the liquidation of the factions. But that’s not the way things went. The factional struggle raged more fiercely than ever before in the history of the party – over the issue of party control.

The debate over political issues, insofar as there was such a debate, could deal only with nuances and factional exaggerations. There was not much for the party members to learn in that kind of a fight, and not much satisfaction in at for conscientious communists who hadn’t forgotten the great ideal they had started out to serve. I believe I already began to feel at that time that we were all caught in a trap; and that the only sensible thing to do was to look forward to a liquidation of the factional gangs and an agreement of the leading people to work together in a united leadership.

But the task in hand at the time was to secure a majority for our faction in the Convention, and I worked at that as earnestly as anyone else. We won a two to one majority in the fight for delegates on a strict basis of proportional representation. But it didn’t do us any good.

The “Cable from Moscow”
As the drawn-out Fourth Convention in the summer of 1925 was nearing its end, Gusev called us to a meeting of the Parity Commission to hand us the famous “cable from Moscow.” This cable stated that “the Ruthenberg group is more loyal to the Communist International and stands closer to its views,” and prescribed that the Ruthenberg group should be allotted not less than 40 per cent of the representatives in the new Central Committee. That was a sudden blow for which we were in no way prepared, a blow calculated to put one’s confidence in the Comintern to a rather severe test.

My immediate reaction was to wait, to say nothing there at the session of the Parity Commission. As I recall, Bittleman also kept silent. But Foster exploded with a statement that he would not accept the majority under such conditions, that the Ruthenberg group should take over the majority of the new Central Committee, and that he personally would not accept membership. I decided immediately to oppose such an attitude but did not say it there. I think it was on my proposal that we adjourned the meeting to report the cable to the majority caucus of the Convention delegates who were assembled and waiting for us.

This was the one time that Foster, Bittleman and I went straight into a caucus meeting without prior consultation and agreement among ourselves as to what we would recommend. I don’t know why we skipped this customary procedure, but that’s the way it happened. Foster seemed bent on taking his defiance directly to the caucus and I was no less determined to oppose it.

He had no sooner reported the cable to the caucus and announced his decision to let the Ruthenbergites have the majority in the Central Committee, to which he would not belong, than I took the floor with a counter-proposal that we lock up the new Central Committee on a 50-50 basis, with each faction sharing equally in the responsibility in the leadership.

Dunne supported my position, Bittleman and Browder supported Foster. Abern and Schachtman spoke for my proposal. Johnstone and Krumbein spoke for Foster’s. One by one, as the ominous debate proceeded, the leading people from all parts of the country took positions, and the split of our faction right down the middle began.

* * *
It is an effort to describe this stormy conflict in tranquillity thirty years afterward, without the embellishment of hindsight wisdom; to report it as it really happened, what we did with what we knew and didn’t know and with the sentiments which actuated us at the time.

As I have remarked previously, I was then a convinced “Cominternist.” I had faith in the wisdom and also in the fairness of the Russian leaders. I thought they had make a mistake through false information and that the mistake could later be rectified. I did not even suspect that this monstrous violation of the democratic rights of our party was one of the moves in the Moscow chess game, in which our party, like all the other parties in the Comintern, was to be a mere pawn.

I thought Foster’s attitude was disloyal; that his ostensible willingness to hand over the majority to the Ruthenbergites, and to withdraw from the Central Committee himself, was in reality designed to provoke a revolt of our faction against the Comintern. Foster made the dispute between us a question of confidence in himself personally, as the leader of the faction. This hurt him more than it helped him, for the communist militants in those days were not the regimented lackeys of a later day. There was outspoken resentment at Foster’s attempt to invoke the “follow the leader” principle.

I felt that I was fighting for the allegiance of the party to the Comintern, and I think the majority of the delegates who supported my motion were actuated by the same sentiment. The final vote in favor of my motion, after an all-night-and-next-day debate, not only ended Foster’s revolt against the Comintern – and I repeat my conviction that that was the real meaning of his proposal to “step aside.” It also ended all prospects of his ever realizing his aspiration to rule the American party with a group of subordinates who would support him out of personal loyalty and serve in an advisory capacity, something like a presidential “cabinet,” but leave final decisions to him.

* * *
I had thought that the adoption of my motion for a 50-50 Central Committee would stalemate the factional struggle, make each faction equally responsible for the leadership, and compel them to work together until the situation could be worked out with the Comintern. I was not permitted to nurse that childish illusion very long.

When we went to the first meeting of the new 50-50 Central Committee, the Machiavellian Gusev made another contribution to what might be called “The Education of a Young Man” who had a lot to learn about the ways of the Comintern in the post-Lenin era. Gusev blandly announced that while the agreement was for a parity Central Committee he, as Chairman, would feel obliged to follow the spirit of the Comintern decision and support the Ruthenberg group.

That meant, he said, that the Ruthenberg faction should have a majority in the Political Committee and in other party bodies and institutions. So it turned out that Foster’s caucus proposal to hand over the majority to the Ruthenbergites was actually carried out in practice, and my proposal to freeze the committee on a parity basis was deftly frustrated by Gusev.

If I admit that I went along with this treacherous double-play and still refused to have any part in any revolt against the Comintern, it is not to claim any credit for myself. I write down this distasteful recollection now simply to show that devotion to the Comintern, which had originally been one of the greatest merits of the pioneer communists, was being turned into a sickness which called for a radical cure.

That sickness, on my part, hung on for three more years and affected everything I did in the party. It was not until 1928 that I took the cure, but with the help of Trotsky, I took it then for good and all.

Yours truly,
James P. Cannon