Showing posts with label communism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label communism. 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!

Friday, February 28, 2025

*From The "SteveLendmanBlog"- Global Sweatshop Wage Slavery

Click on the headline to link to a "SteveLendmanBlog" entry, a report on the world wage scale, aptly termed sweatshop.

Markin comment:

Karl Marx said it long, too long ago- not a fair day's wage but abolish wages. He spent his life also saying, and more to the point for us- don't just analyze the world, do something about it. And you know what that means.

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.

Saturday, October 01, 2022

'Fantastic' Musings On The Financial Meltdown: Are We Miliant Leftists Today Prepared To Take Power In Order To Solve The Economic Crises?

Fantastic Musings Of An Old Militant: Are We Communists Prepared To Take Power Today In Order To Solve The Economic Crises Confronting Humankind?


Build A Workers Party To Fight For A Workers Government!!! Pronto!!!!

Those of us militant leftists old enough to have seen a few social battles like the struggle for black civil rights and against the Vietnam War in the 1960’s know that organizing such efforts don’t come fully formed out of thin air. They need to be organized. We have spend much of our time since that period fighting essentially rearguard actions in order to defend those democratic rights and those of other oppressed sections of society and attempting to slow down the American imperial military monster that is rightly seen to threaten the peoples of the world.

Thus, in one of those little ironies that history is filled with, we have been essentially condemned to a propaganda force trying patiently, if frustratingly at times, to bring the notions of socialism to the center of the political stage: centralized planning to even out the dislocations in the world economic order caused by the inherent irrationalities of the capitalist mode of production; fighting special oppressions like racism, sexism and for democratic rights, including the right to self-determination for national minorities; and, presenting a vision of what communistic solidarity would do for an advance in the culture of humankind

Frankly, we may have gotten too cozy with the concept of seemingly always having to have confront the great social issues of the day solely from a propagandistic perspective. In short, we may have developed a propaganda circle mentality. The recent virtual meltdown of important segments of the vanguard of the international capitalist system- finance capital- the operations that grease the wheels of international commerce has some implications for our work theses days. I therefore pose the question in the headline to this entry: Are we communists prepared today to lead the working class and its allies to state power in order to reconstruct human society on a new basis and solve some of the fundamental problems of human existence?

Naturally, this question takes the form of a fantastic musing – a Utopian idea if you will- on the part of this old militant, given the hard political realities we confront among them that nobody in national politics today is , in a lukewarm manner or otherwise, even projecting such a proposition-except presenting various schemes that amount to socialism for the rich. Some may, in fact, question whether Markin has had too much to drink or is sulking over his last weekend’s disastrous college football selections. No, not this time. That is the point here. We have to be able to move outside the envelope- a little audacity can go a long way.

With that in mind a little look at our international working class history may help us. It is always dangerous to draw too close an analogy with the Russian Revolution of 1917 when talking about prospects in America in 2008 but there is one idea we can take from that time. The Bolsheviks were an extremely small, virtually broken organization at the start of 1917. During the course of several months they increased their influence and directed their propaganda to the seizure of power. Why were they successful? They were able to articulate the demands of the populace that needed to be resolved- bread, land and peace. Moreover, with Lenin’s lead (and Trotsky’s support) they were audacious enough to think that they had the capacity to resolve those issues.

Of course there was more than that at play like the fact that the Bolsheviks had some authority in the Russian working class from years of legal and illegal work, their previous experiences in the Revolution of 1905 and the generally more pro-progressive and socialistic political orientation of the Russian plebeian masses. That said, we nevertheless need to have a fighting agitational perspective providing socialist solutions for the next period. Here is a start. No Foreclosures! No Government Bailouts For Finance Capitalism! For Workers Committees to Liquidate Bankrupt Operations! For Workers Control of Production! No To The Democrats, Republicans, Greens and Nader! For a Workers Party That Fight For Workers Government! Utopian? Maybe. Necessary? Absolutely

Friday, March 26, 2021

March Is Women’s History Month-Honor Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to the Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archives.

March Is Women’s History Month

Markin comment:

Usually I place the name of the martyred Polish communist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, in her correct place of honor along with Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht when we of the leftist international working class movement honor our historic leaders each January. This year I have decided to, additionally, honor the Rose of the Revolution during Women’s History Month because, although in life she never fought on any woman-limited basis in the class struggle, right this minute we are in need, desperate need of models for today’s women and men to look to. Can there be any better choice? To ask the question is to give the answer. All honor to the memory of the Rose of the Revolution- Rosa Luxemburg.
From The Archives Of "Women And Revolution"-The Revolutionary Heritage Of Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to a "Wikipedia" entry for Rosa Luxemburg-the "Rose Of The Revolution".

March Is Women's History Month

Markin comment:

The following is an article from the Sprong 1982 issue of "Women and Revolution" that has some historical interest- for old "new leftists", perhaps. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of "Women and Revolution" during this Women's History Month.


The Revolutionary Heritage of Rosa Luxemburg

The present situation in Poland cries out for a revolutionary proletarian leadership to cut through the disastrous polarization between a particularly vile and utterly discredited Stalinist bureaucracy and the counterrevolutionary nationalist/clericalist Solidarity "trade union" which lines up with U.S. imperial¬ism's bloodthirsty drive to "roll back Communism" throughout the world. The Trotskyist vanguard which must be forged to defend and extend socialized property in Poland will build on the strong traditions of Polish socialism—the party Proletariat, the SDKPiL, the early Polish Communist Party, ruthlessly purged and finally dissolved by Stalin, and above all the revolutionary heritage of Rosa Luxemburg.

It is striking that all sides in the Polish crisis are united in their silence on Rosa Luxemburg, the greatest proletarian revolutionist in Polish history. Certainly the Stalinist usurpers cannot claim Luxemburg; they have had to obscure and slander her revolutionary example for decades.

Still less will Luxemburg, a woman, a Jew and a communist, find defenders among the fans of Solidarity, a "movement" which embraces virulent anti-Semites and ultra-reactionaries. Solidarity program is openly counterrevolutionary—for private ownership of the land, a bourgeois parliament, a dominant role for the Catholic church in government, for turning the nationalized Polish economy over to the International Monetary Fund, the bankers cartel that starves the Chilean masses. That Solidarity', which openly spurns even the word "socialist," disdains Luxemburg and all she stands for, is fully appropriate.

The social-democratic "left" outside Poland embraces Solidarity and wants therefore to separate itself from Luxemburg. At a February 7 forum in Boston, a Socialist Workers Party (SWP) spokesman solidarized wfth Polish "dissident" Marta Petrusewicz when the latter stated, "The problem with Rosa Luxemburg in Polish minds was that Rosa Luxemburg considered... that the existence of the Polish national being was not an important problem for Polish workers."

It is true that Luxemburg incorrectly opposed the right of Poland to national self-determination, for which Lenin took her to task, pointing out that socialists must support this basic democratic right in order to take it off the agenda and expose the underlying class conflicts which national oppression masks. Her error in his eyes lay in not taking the national question sufficiently into account, thereby rendering more difficult the exposure of nationalism as a mortal enemy of the proletariat. Needless to say it is the height of hypocrisy for the SWP and kindred anti-communists to manipulate Lenin's criticisms of Luxemburg in order to make common cause with the deadly enemies of Leninism, the Pilsudskiite reactionaries who hate everything that Lenin and Luxemburg stood for.

Despite errors on the national question (and other questions), Luxemburg was a communist and in Lenin's phrase "an eagle." Leon Trotsky summed up her historic role with these words:

"We can, with full justification, place our work for the Fourth International under the sign of the'three L's,'that is, not only under the sign of Lenin, but also of Luxemburg and Liebknecht."

—"Luxemburg and the Fourth International," New International, August 1935

The Polish proletariat must recover its revolutionary heritage, the socialist heritage of Rosa Luxemburg, hated by the counterrevolutionaries (and feared by the Stalinists) as a revolutionary leader and martyr. We are reprinting below excerpts from some of Luxemburg's works, which with every word breathe a spirit of militant proletarian internationalism. The first selection, from "The Crisis of Social Democracy" (better known as the "Junius Pamphlet," from her penname), written in prison and published in 1916, indeed "saved the honor of the German proletariat" by condemning the German Social Democratic Party's (SPD) historic betrayal in supporting its "own" bourgeoisie in the first imperialist World War. We reprint also an excerpt from Luxemburg's "Socialism and the Churches" (first published in Cracow in 1905 under the penname "Jozef Chmura") because of its almost eerily appropriate condemnation of attempts by the Catholic church to mislead the workers.

We include the last part of her final work, "Order Reigns in Berlin," written when she and Liebknecht were already in hiding during the bloody of the 1919 Spartakus uprising by the Social Democratic hangmen of the German revolution, Scheidemann and Noske. Luxemburg had opposed the uprising as premature; nonetheless she and Liebknecht took their place in the struggle alongside the best of the German proletariat. Finally, we include as well Karl Liebknecht's final rallying cry, "Trotz Alledem" (In Spite of All). The latter two items are taken from J.P. Nettl's biography Rosa Luxemburg, the former two from Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Pathfinder Press, 1970.

-from the Junius Pamphlet" (1916)

In refuting the existence of the class struggle, the social democracy has denied the very basis of its own existence. What is the very breath of its body, if not the class struggle? What role could it expect to play in the war, once having sacrificed the class struggle, the fundamental principle of its existence? The social democracy has destroyed its mission Its only mission now is to play the role of the gendarme over the working class under a state of military rule… The leaders of the social democracy are convinced that democratic liberties for the working class will come as a reward for its allegiance to the fatherland. But never in the history of the world has an oppressed class received political rights as a reward for service rendered to the ruling classes....

The war has smashed the Second International. Its inadequacy has been demonstrated by its incapacity to place an effective obstacle in the way of the segmentation of its forces behind national boundaries in time of war, and to carry through a common tactic and action by the proletariat in all countries.

In view of the betrayal, by the official representatives of the socialist parties in the principal countries, of the aims and interests of the working class; in view of their passage from the camp of the working-class International to the political camp of the imperialist bourgeoisie; it is vitally necessary for socialism to build a new workers' International, which will take into its own hands the leadership and coordination of the revolutionary class struggle against world imperialism.

To accomplish its historic mission, socialism must be guided by the following principles:

The class struggle against the ruling classes within the boundaries of the bourgeois states, and international solidarity of the workers of all countries, are the two rules of life, inherent in the working class in struggle and of world-historic importance to it for its emancipation. There is no socialism without international proletarian solidarity, and there is no socialism without class struggle. The renunciation by the socialist proletariat, in time of peace as in time of war, of the class struggle and of international solidarity, is equivalent to suicide....

The immediate mission of socialism is the spiritual liberation of the proletariat from the tutelage of the bourgeoisie, which expresses itself through the influence of nationalist ideology. The national sections must agitate in the parliaments and the press, denouncing the empty wordiness of nationalism as an instrument of bourgeois domination. The sole defense of all real national independence is at present the revolutionary class struggle against imperialism. The workers' fatherland, to the defense of which all else must be subordinated, is the socialist International.

— from "Socialism and the Churches" (1905)

The clergy has at its disposal two means to fight social democracy. Where the working-class movement is beginning to win recognition, as is the case in our country (Poland), where the possessing classes still hope to crush it, the clergy fights the socialists by threatening sermons, slandering them and condemning the "covetousness" of the workers. But in the countries where political liberties are established and the workers' party is powerful, as for example in Germany, France, and Holland, there the clergy seeks other means. It hides its real purpose and does not face the workers any more as an open enemy, but as a false friend. Thus you will see the priests organizing the workers and founding "Christian" trade unions. In this way they try to catch the fish in their net, to attract the workers into the trap of these false trade unions, where they teach humility, unlike the organizations of the social democracy which have in view struggle and defense against maltreatment.

When the czarist government finally falls under the blows of the revolutionary proletariat of Poland and Russia, and when political liberty exists in our country, then we shall see the same Archbishop Popiel and the same ecclesiastics who today thunder against the militants, suddenly beginning to organize the workers into "Christian" and "national" associations in order to mislead them. Already we are at the beginning of this underground activity of the "national democracy" which assures the future collaboration with the priests and today helps them to slander the social democrats.

The workers must, therefore, be warned of the danger so that they will not let themselves be taken in, on the morrow of the victory of the revolution, by the honeyed words of those who today from the height of the pulpit, dare to defend the czarist government, which kills the workers, and the repressive apparatus of capital, which is the principal cause of the poverty of the proletariat.

In order to defend themselves against the antagonism of the clergy at the present time, during the revolution, and against their false friendship tomorrow, after the revolution, it is necessary for the workers to organize themselves in the Social Democratic Party.

And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: The social democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion. But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working class, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police.
— from "Order Reigns in Berlin" (1919)

It was a matter of honour for the revolution to ward off this attack with all its energy, if the counterrevolution was not to be encouraged to further efforts— The revolutions so far have brought us nothing but defeat, but these inevitable defeats are themselves one stepping-stone on top of another to the final victory....

But the leadership has failed. None the less, the leadership can and must be rebuilt by the masses out of the masses… The masses were up to the mark, they have forged this defeat into the chain of those historical battles which are themselves the strength and pride of international Socialism. And that is why a future victory will blossom from this "defeat."

"Order rules in Berlin." You stupid lackeys! Your "order" is built on sand. Tomorrow the revolution will rear ahead once more and announce to your horror amid the brass of trumpets: be!"

—from Karl Liebknecht's "Trotz Alledem" (1919)

Hold hard. We have not fled. We are not beaten ... for Spartakus—that means fire and spirit, heart and soul, will and deed of the proletarian revolution. For Spartakus—that stands for all the longing for achievement, all the embattled resolution of the class-conscious proletariat... whether or not we shall survive when all is achieved, our programme will live; it will dominate the world of liberated peoples. In spite of all.

Friday, January 01, 2021

*In Honor Of The Three L's-Lenin, Luxemburg and Liebknecht-Our Anthem-"The Internationale"

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.  

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of "The Internationale".

As is always appropriate on international working class holidays and days of remembrance here is the song most closely associated with that movement “The Internationale” in English, French and German. I will not vouch for the closeness of the translations but certainly of the spirit. Workers Of The World Unite!

The Internationale [variant words in square brackets]

Arise ye workers [starvelings] from your slumbers
Arise ye prisoners of want
For reason in revolt now thunders
And at last ends the age of cant.
Away with all your superstitions
Servile masses arise, arise
We'll change henceforth [forthwith] the old tradition [conditions]
And spurn the dust to win the prize.

So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.
So comrades, come rally
And the last fight let us face
The Internationale unites the human race.

No more deluded by reaction
On tyrants only we'll make war
The soldiers too will take strike action
They'll break ranks and fight no more
And if those cannibals keep trying
To sacrifice us to their pride
They soon shall hear the bullets flying
We'll shoot the generals on our own side.

No saviour from on high delivers
No faith have we in prince or peer
Our own right hand the chains must shiver
Chains of hatred, greed and fear
E'er the thieves will out with their booty [give up their booty]
And give to all a happier lot.
Each [those] at the forge must do their duty
And we'll strike while the iron is hot.



Debout les damnés de la terre
Debout les forçats de la faim
La raison tonne en son cratère
C'est l'éruption de la fin
Du passe faisons table rase
Foules, esclaves, debout, debout
Le monde va changer de base
Nous ne sommes rien, soyons tout

C'est la lutte finale
Groupons-nous, et demain (bis)
Sera le genre humain

Il n'est pas de sauveurs suprêmes
Ni Dieu, ni César, ni tribun
Producteurs, sauvons-nous nous-mêmes
Décrétons le salut commun
Pour que le voleur rende gorge
Pour tirer l'esprit du cachot
Soufflons nous-mêmes notre forge
Battons le fer quand il est chaud

L'état comprime et la loi triche
L'impôt saigne le malheureux
Nul devoir ne s'impose au riche
Le droit du pauvre est un mot creux
C'est assez, languir en tutelle
L'égalité veut d'autres lois
Pas de droits sans devoirs dit-elle
Egaux, pas de devoirs sans droits

Hideux dans leur apothéose
Les rois de la mine et du rail
Ont-ils jamais fait autre chose
Que dévaliser le travail
Dans les coffres-forts de la bande
Ce qu'il a crée s'est fondu
En décrétant qu'on le lui rende
Le peuple ne veut que son dû.

Les rois nous saoulaient de fumées
Paix entre nous, guerre aux tyrans
Appliquons la grève aux armées
Crosse en l'air, et rompons les rangs
S'ils s'obstinent, ces cannibales
A faire de nous des héros
Ils sauront bientôt que nos balles
Sont pour nos propres généraux

Ouvriers, paysans, nous sommes
Le grand parti des travailleurs
La terre n'appartient qu'aux hommes
L'oisif ira loger ailleurs
Combien, de nos chairs se repaissent
Mais si les corbeaux, les vautours
Un de ces matins disparaissent
Le soleil brillera toujours.


Die Internationale

Wacht auf, Verdammte dieser Erde,
die stets man noch zum Hungern zwingt!
Das Recht wie Glut im Kraterherde
nun mit Macht zum Durchbruch dringt.
Reinen Tisch macht mit dem Bedranger!
Heer der Sklaven, wache auf!
Ein nichts zu sein, tragt es nicht langer
Alles zu werden, stromt zuhauf!

Volker, hort die Signale!
Auf, zum letzten Gefecht!
Die Internationale
Erkampft das Menschenrecht

Es rettet uns kein hoh'res Wesen
kein Gott, kein Kaiser, noch Tribun
Uns aus dem Elend zu erlosen
konnen wir nur selber tun!
Leeres Wort: des armen Rechte,
Leeres Wort: des Reichen Pflicht!
Unmundigt nennt man uns Knechte,
duldet die Schmach langer nicht!

In Stadt und Land, ihr Arbeitsleute,
wir sind die starkste Partei'n
Die Mussigganger schiebt beiseite!
Diese Welt muss unser sein;
Unser Blut sei nicht mehr der Raben
und der machtigen Geier Frass!
Erst wenn wir sie vertrieben haben
dann scheint die Sonn' ohn' Unterlass!

Friday, November 06, 2020

*A Snapshot View Of The Leaders Of The 1917 Bolshevik Revolution- Joseph Stalin

Click on title to link to Wikipedia's entry for the 1917 Bolshevik revolutionary leader Joseph Stalin.

Markin comment:

Once again, before everyone starts yelling, Stalin, although not the puffed up 1917 revolutionary leader that he had his Communist Party political apparatus make him out to be, was a central leader (including being on the Bolshevik Central Committee that decided to seize power on behalf of the Soviets)of the 1917 revolution. We will leave the falsification of our precious common Communist history, in this case by an unforthright omission where acknowledgement is necessary, to the Stalinist remnant and others who still get weak at the knees on hearing his name.

Saturday, May 02, 2020

*Our Flag Is Still Red- Reflections On Boston May Day 2010- A Personal Note On Marching With The Black and Red Anarchists

Click on the headline to link to a "Boston IndyMedia" post on the 2010 Boston May Day ceebration.

Markin comment:

Over the past several years celebrations of our international working class holiday, May Day, not only have we paid tribute to the Chicago Haymarket anarchist martyrs and the struggle for the eight hour day but the hard pressed struggle against the denial of immigrant rights and the attempt by Tea Party-types and other to “close the door” to immigration. This addition reflects the increasingly important role that Hispanics and other militants from the international working class milieu play in the left wing of the American labor movement. Thus, the call for full citizenship rights for those who make it here is an appropriate one on this day.

With this thought in mind I, and a few of the local anti-imperialist activists that I work with marched under that slogan in the 2010 Boston May Day festivities as well as the slogan for the modern equivalent of the eight hour day, especially in these times- “30 For 40”. That slogan, for those not familiar with it, is an algebraic formula, long associated with the Trotskyist movement, although not by any means exclusively raised by us. All we have proposed by the call is the eminently rational solution to unemployment (and underemployment) by spreading the work around so that all have work, and a living wage. Of course the catch is this- it ain’t going to happen under capitalist and so the question of socialism and central planning are starkly posed. And that, after all, is the idea.

What makes all of the above political lead up to my main point interesting, beyond the intrinsic value of such work, is that we found ourselves marching along with a local anarchist collective that had its own set of slogans, and... a marching band. (See linked article.) The whole atmosphere brought back the old days when such musical accompaniment, especially in the old ethnic neighborhoods, were a matter of course on May Day and other left occasions. Now here is the kicker- this group of anarchists marched under the banner of the Haymarket martyrs. That is enough to warm any old militant's heart. And, they were to a man and women, young, very young. Be still my heart, despite our political differences.

Now some may ask why are a confirmed Marxist and his comrades are walking on the same streets as those anarchist partisans. Wrong question, or better, wrong way to pose it. One of the real damaging effects that the variants of historical Stalinism have left on the international working class movement is the hard fact that different political tendencies within the movement are almost literally at war with each other, 24/7/365. To the eternal glee of the capitalists. On the political level those fights are correct. However on our common holidays, like May Day, we should be showing our united face to the international capitalists.

In that sense James P. Cannon, an old Wobblie (IWW), American Communist Party founder and Trotskyist leader had it right. One way he had it right was in his early leadership of the International Labor Defense, an organization dedicated to the struggle to free class war prisoners. All class war prisoners. The other was his long time friendships with those of other working class political tendencies like the great anarchist leader, Carlo Tresca. Hell, he even borrowed money off him. (And eventually paid it back.) I will not go and on about this but let’s leave it at this. After a spring of an anti-war agenda of what looked like a leftist variant of AARP meetings it was such nice to march with the kids. We will get back to the political struggle over differences soon enough.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

March Is Women’s History Month-Honor Communist Leader Rosa Luxemburg- The Rose Of The Revolution

Click on the headline to link to the Rosa Luxemburg Internet Archives.

March Is Women’s History Month

Markin comment:

Usually I place the name of the martyred Polish communist revolutionary, Rosa Luxemburg, in her correct place of honor along with Russian revolutionary Vladimir Lenin and German revolutionary Karl Liebknecht when we of the leftist international working class movement honor our historic leaders each January. This year I have decided to, additionally, honor the Rose of the Revolution during Women’s History Month because, although in life she never fought on any woman-limited basis in the class struggle, right this minute we are in need, desperate need of models for today’s women and men to look to. Can there be any better choice? To ask the question is to give the answer. All honor to the memory of the Rose of the Revolution- Rosa Luxemburg.
Honor The Three L's-From The Pen Of Rosa Luxemburg -A Call to the Workers of the World (November 1919)

Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht,
Klara Zetkin and Franz Mehring
A Call to the Workers of the World
(November 1919)

Written: Late November, 1918.
First Published: Die Rote Fahne (The Red Flag), November 25, 1918.
Translated: (from the German) by A. Lehrer.
Transcription/Markup: A. Lehrer/Brian Baggins.
Copyleft: Luxemburg Internet Archive ( 2002, 2003. Permission is granted to copy and/or distribute this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License.

PROLETARIANS! Men and Women of Labor! Comrades!

The revolution in Germany has come! The masses of the soldiers who for years were driven to slaughter for the sake of capitalistic profits; the masses of workers, who for four years were exploited, crushed, and starved, have revolted. Prussian militarism, that fearful tool of oppression, that scourge of humanity – lies broken on the ground. Its most noticeable representatives, and therewith the most noticeable of those guilty of this war, the Kaiser and the Crown Prince, have fled from the country. Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils have been formed everywhere.

Workers of all countries, we do not say that in Germany all power actually lies in the hands of the working people, that the complete triumph of the proletarian revolution has already been attained. There still sit in the government all those Socialists who in August, 1914, abandoned our most precious possession, the International, who for four years betrayed the German working class and the International.

But, workers of all countries, now the German proletarian himself speaks to you. We believe we have the right to appear before your forum in his name. From the first day of this war we endeavored to do our international duty by fighting that criminal government with all our power and branding it as the one really guilty of the war.

Now at this moment we are justified before history, before the International and before the German proletariat. The masses agree with us enthusiastically, constantly widening circles of the proletariat share the conviction that the hour has struck for a settlement with capitalistic class rule.

But this great task cannot be accomplished by the German proletariat alone; it can only fight and triumph by appealing to the solidarity of the proletarians of the whole world.

Comrades of the belligerent countries, we are aware of your situation. We know full well that your governments, now that they have won the victory, are dazzling the eyes of many strata of the people with the external brilliancy of their triumph. We know that they thus succeed through the success of the murdering in making its causes and aims forgotten.

But we also know that in your countries the proletariat made the most fearful sacrifices of flesh and blood, that it is weary of the dreadful butchery, that the proletarian is now returning to his home, and is finding want and misery there, while fortunes amounting to billions are heaped up in the hands of a few capitalists. He has recognized, and will continue to recognize, that your governments, too, have carried on the war for the sake of the big money bags. And he will further perceive that your governments, when they spoke of “justice and civilization” and of the “protection of small nations,” meant capitalist profits as surely as did ours when it talked about the “defence of home”; and that the peace of “justice” and of the “League of Nations” are but a part of the same base brigand that produced the peace of Brest-Litovsk. Here as well as there the same shameless lust for booty, the same desire for oppression, the same determination to exploit to the limit the brutal preponderance of murderous steel.

The Imperialism of all countries knows no “understanding,” it knows only one right – capital’s profits: it knows only one language – the sword: it knows only one method – violence. And if it is now talking in all countries, in yours as well ours, about the “League of Nations,” “disarmament,” “rights of small nations,” “self-determination of the peoples,” it is merely using the customary lying phrases of the rulers for the purpose of lulling to sleep the watchfulness of the proletariat.

Proletarians of all countries! This must be the last war! We owe that to the twelve million murdered victims, we owe that to our children, we owe that to humanity.

Europe has been ruined by this damnable slaughter. Twelve million bodies cover the grewsome scenes of this imperialistic crime. The flower of youth and the best man power of the peoples have been mowed down. Uncounted productive forces have been annihilated. Humanity is almost ready to bleed to death from the unexampled blood-letting of history. Victors and vanquished stand at the edge of the abyss. Humanity is threatened with famine, a stoppage of the entire mechanism of production, plagues, and degeneration.

The great criminals of this fearful anarchy, of this unchained chaos – the ruling classes – are not able to control their own creation. The beast of capital that conjured up the hell of the world war is incapable of banishing it, of restoring real order, of insuring bread and work, peace and civilization, justice and liberty, to tortured humanity.

What is being prepared by the ruling classes as peace and justice is only a new work of brutal force from which the hydra of oppression, hatred and fresh bloody wars raises its thousand heads.

Socialism alone is in a position to complete the great work of permanent peace, to heal the thousand wounds from which humanity is bleeding, to transform the plains of Europe, trampled down by the passage of the apocryphal horseman of war, into blossoming gardens, to conjure up ten productive forces for every one destroyed, to awaken all the physical and moral energies of humanity, and to replace hatred and dissension with internal solidarity, harmony, and respect for every human being.

If representatives of the proletarians of all countries could but clasp hands under the banner of Socialism for the purpose of making peace, then peace would be concluded in a few hours. Then there will be no disputed questions about the left bank of the Rhine, Mesopotamia, Egypt or colonies. Then there will be only one people: the toiling human beings of all races and tongues. Then there will be only one right: the equality of all men. Then there will be only one aim: prosperity and progress for everybody.

Humanity is facing the alternative: Dissolution and downfall in capitalist anarchy, or regeneration through the social revolution. The hour of fate has struck. If you believe in Socialism, it is now time to show it by deeds. If you are Socialists, now is the time to act.

Proletarians of all countries, if we now summon you for a common struggle it is not done for the sake of the German capitalists who, under the label of “German nation,” are trying to escape the consequences of their own crimes: it is being done for your sake as well as for ours. Remember that your victorious capitalists stand ready to suppress in blood our revolution, which they fear as they do their own. You yourselves have not become any freer through the “victory,” you have only become still more enslaved. If your ruling classes succeed in throttling the proletarian revolution in Germany, and in Russia, then they will turn against you with redoubled violence. Your capitalists hope that victory over us and over revolutionary Russia will give them the power to scourge you with a whip of scorpions.

Therefore the proletariat of Germany looks toward you in this hour. Germany is pregnant with the social revolution, but Socialism can only be realized by the proletariat of the world.

And therefore, we call to you: “Arise for the struggle! Arise for action! The time for empty manifestos, platonic resolutions, and high-sounding words is gone! The hour of action has struck for the International!” We ask you to elect Workers’ and Soldiers’ Councils everywhere that will seize political power, and together with us, will restore peace.

Not Lloyd George and Poincare, not Sonnino, Wilson, and Ersberger or Scheidemann, must be allowed to make peace. Peace most he concluded under the waving banner of the Socialist world revolution.

Proletarians of all countries! We call upon you to complete the work of Socialist liberation, to give a human aspect to the disfigured world and to make true those words with which we often greeted each other in the old days and which we sang as we parted: “And the Internationale shall be the human race”.

Sunday, March 08, 2020

*From The Bolshevik Archives On International Women's Day- Alexandra Kollontai's 1909 "The Social Basis Of The Woman Question"

Click on title to link to the "Alexandra Kollontai Internet Archives" for the works of 1917 Bolshevik secondary revolutionary leader Alexandra Kollantai.

Markin comment:

No revolution can succeed without men and women of Kollontai's caliber. As Trotsky noted, on more than one occasion, the West, for lots of reason, in his day had not produced such cadre. I believe that observation, for the most part, is even truer, much truer today.

Alexandra Kollontai 1909

The Social Basis of the Woman Question


Source: abstract from Selected Writings of Alexandra Kollontai, Allison & Busby, 1977;
First Published: 1909, as a pamphlet;
Translated and Edited: by Alix Holt;
Transcribed: Andy Blunden for;
Proofed: and corrected by Chris Clayton 2006.


Leaving it to the bourgeois scholars to absorb themselves in discussion of the question of the superiority of one sex over the other, or in the weighing of brains and the comparing of the psychological structure of men and women, the followers of historical materialism fully accept the natural specificities of each sex and demand only that each person, whether man or woman, has a real opportunity for the fullest and freest self-determination, and the widest scope for the development and application of all natural inclinations. The followers of historical materialism reject the existence of a special woman question separate from the general social question of our day. Specific economic factors were behind the subordination of women; natural qualities have been a secondary factor in this process. Only the complete disappearance of these factors, only the evolution of those forces which at some point in the past gave rise to the subjection of women, is able in a fundamental way to influence and change their social position. In other words, women can become truly free and equal only in a world organised along new social and productive lines.

This, however, does not mean that the partial improvement of woman’s life within the framework of the modem system is impossible. The radical solution of the workers’ question is possible only with the complete reconstruction of modem productive relations; but must this prevent us from working for reforms which would serve to satisfy the most urgent interests of the proletariat? On the contrary, each new gain of the working class represents a step leading mankind towards the kingdom of freedom and social equality: each right that woman wins brings her nearer the defined goal of full emancipation. ...

Social democracy was the first to include in its programme the demand for the equalisation of the rights of women with those of men; in speeches and in print the party demands always and everywhere the withdrawal of limitations affecting women; it is the party’s influence alone that has forced other parties and governments to carry out reforms in favour of women. And in Russia this party is not only the defender of women in terms of its theoretical positions but always and everywhere adheres to the principle of women’s equality.

What, in this case, hinders our “equal righters” from accepting the support of this strong and experienced party? The fact is that however “radical” the equal righters may be, they are still loyal to their own bourgeois class. Political freedom is at the moment an essential prerequisite for the growth and power of the Russian bourgeoisie, without it, all the economic welfare of the latter will turn out to have been built upon sand. The demand for political equality is for women a necessity that stems from life itself.

The slogan of “access to the professions” has ceased to suffice; only direct participation in the government of the country promises to assist in raising women’s economic situation. Hence the passionate desire of women of the middle bourgeoisie to gain the franchise, and hence their hostility to the modern bureaucratic system.

However, in their demands for political equality our feminists are like their foreign sisters; the wide horizons opened by social democratic learning remain alien and incomprehensible to them. The feminists seek equality in the framework of the existing class society, in no way do they attack the basis of this society. They fight for prerogatives for themselves, without challenging the existing prerogatives and privileges. We do not accuse the representatives of the bourgeois women’s movement of failure to understand the matter; their view of things flows inevitably from their class position. ...

The Struggle for Economic Independence
First of all we must ask ourselves whether a single united women’s movement is possible in a society based on class contradictions. The fact that the women who take part in the liberation movement do not represent one homogeneous mass is clear, to every unbiased observer.

The women’s world is divided, just as is the world of men, into two camps; the interests and aspirations of one group of women bring it close to the bourgeois class, while the other group has close connections with the proletariat, and its claims for liberation encompass a full solution to the woman question. Thus although both camps follow the general slogan of the “liberation of women”, their aims and interests are different. Each of the groups unconsciously takes its starting point from the interests of its own class, which gives a specific class colouring to the targets and tasks it sets itself. ...

However apparently radical the demands of the feminists, one must not lose sight of the fact that the feminists cannot, on account of their class position, fight for that fundamental transformation of the contemporary economic and social structure of society without which the liberation of women cannot be complete.

If in certain circumstances the short-term tasks of women of all classes coincide, the final aims of the two camps, which in the long term determine the direction of the movement and the tactics to be used, differ sharply. While for the feminists the achievement of equal rights with men in the framework of the contemporary capitalist world represents a sufficiently concrete end in itself, equal rights at the present time are, for the proletarian women, only a means of advancing the struggle against the economic slavery of the working class. The feminists see men as the main enemy, for men have unjustly seized all rights and privileges for themselves, leaving women only chains and duties. For them a victory is won when a prerogative previously enjoyed exclusively by the male sex is conceded to the “fair sex”. Proletarian women have a different attitude. They do not see men as the enemy and the oppressor; on the contrary, they think of men as their comrades, who share with them the drudgery of the daily round and fight with them for a better future. The woman and her male comrade are enslaved by the same social conditions; the same hated chains of capitalism oppress their will and deprive them of the joys and charms of life. It is true that several specific aspects of the contemporary system lie with double weight upon women, as it is also true that the conditions of hired labour sometimes turn working women into competitors and rivals to men. But in these unfavourable situations, the working class knows who is guilty. ...

The woman worker, no less than her brother in misfortune, hates that insatiable monster with its gilded maw which, concerned only to drain all the sap from its victims and to grow at the expense of millions of human lives, throws itself with equal greed at man, woman and child. Thousands of threads bring the working man close. The aspirations of the bourgeois woman, on the other hand, seem strange and incomprehensible. They are not warming to the proletarian heart; they do not promise the proletarian woman that bright future towards which the eyes of all exploited humanity are turned. ...

The proletarian women’s final aim does not, of course, prevent them from desiring to improve their status even within the framework of the current bourgeois system, but the realisation of these desires is constantly hindered by obstacles that derive from the very nature of capitalism. A woman can possess equal rights and be truly free only in a world of socialised labour, of harmony and justice. The feminists are unwilling and incapable of understanding this; it seems to them that when equality is formally accepted by the letter of the law they will be able to win a comfortable place for themselves in the old world of oppression, enslavement and bondage, of tears and hardship. And this is true up to a certain point. For the majority of women of the proletariat, equal rights with men would mean only an equal share in inequality, but for the “chosen few”, for the bourgeois women, it would indeed open doors to new and unprecedented rights and privileges that until now have been enjoyed by men of the bourgeois class alone. But each new concession won by the bourgeois woman would give her yet another weapon for the exploitation of her younger sister and would go on increasing the division between the women of the two opposite social camps. Their interests would be more sharply in conflict, their aspirations more obviously in contradiction.

Where, then, is that general “woman question”? Where is that unity of tasks and aspirations about which the feminists have so much to say? A sober glance at reality shows that such unity does not and cannot exist. In vain the feminists try to assure themselves that the “woman question” has nothing to do with that of the political party and that “its solution is possible only with the participation of all parties and all women”; as one of the radical German feminists has said, the logic of facts forces us to reject this comforting delusion of the feminists. ...

The conditions and forms of production have subjugated women throughout human history, and have gradually relegated them to the position of oppression and dependence in which most of them existed until now.

A colossal upheaval of the entire social and economic structure was required before women could begin to retrieve the significance and independence they had lost. Problems which at one time seemed too difficult for the most talented thinkers have now been solved by the inanimate but all-powerful conditions of production. The same forces which for thousands of years enslaved women now, at a further stage of development, are leading them along the path to freedom and independence. ...

The woman question assumed importance for woman of the bourgeois classes approximately in the middle of the nineteenth century – a considerable time after the proletarian women had arrived in the labour arena. Under the impact of the monstrous successes of capitalism, the middle classes of the population were hit by waves of need. The economic changes had rendered the financial situation of the petty and middle bourgeoisie unstable, and the bourgeois women were faced with a dilemma of menacing proportions, either accept poverty, or achieve the right to work. Wives and daughters of these social groups began to knock at the doors of the universities, the art salons, the editorial houses, the offices, flooding to the professions that were open to them. The desire of bourgeois women to gain access to science and the higher benefits of culture was not the result of a sudden, maturing need but stemmed from that same question of “daily bread”.

The women of the bourgeoisie met, from the very first, with stiff resistance from men. A stubborn battle was waged between the professional men, attached to their “cosy little jobs”, and the women who were novices in the matter of earning their daily bread. This struggle gave rise to “feminism” – the attempt of bourgeois women to stand together and pit their common strength against the enemy, against men. As they entered the labour arena these women proudly referred to themselves as the “vanguard of the women’s movement”. They forgot that in this matter of winning economic independence they were, as in other fields, travelling in the footsteps of their younger sisters and reaping the fruits of the efforts of their blistered hands.

Is it then really possible to talk of the feminists pioneering the road to women’s work, when in every country hundreds of thousands of proletarian women had flooded the factories and workshops, taking over one branch of industry after another, before the bourgeois women’s movement was ever born? Only thanks to the fact that the labour of women workers had received recognition on the world market were the bourgeois women able to occupy the independent position in society in which the feminists take so much pride. ...

We find it difficult to point to even one fact in the history of the struggle of the proletarian women to improve their material conditions to which the general feminist movement has contributed significantly. Whatever the proletarian women have achieved in the sphere of raising their own living standards is the result of the efforts of the working class in general and of themselves in particular. The history of the struggle of the working women for better conditions of labour and for a more decent life is the history of the struggle of the proletariat for its liberation.

What, if not the fear of a dangerous explosion of proletarian dissatisfaction, forces the factory owners to raise the price of labour, reduce hours and introduce better working conditions? What, if not the fear of “labour unrest”, persuades the government to establish legislation to limit the exploitation of labour by capital? ...

There is not one party in the world that has taken up the defence of women as social democracy has done. The working woman is first and foremost a member of the working class, and the more satisfactory the position and the general welfare of each member of the proletarian family, the greater the benefit in the long run to the whole of the working class. ...

In face of the growing social difficulties, the sincere fighter for the cause must stop in sad bewilderment. She cannot but see how little the general women’s movement has done for proletarian women, how incapable it is of improving the working and living conditions of the working class. The future of humanity must seem grey, drab and uncertain to those women who are fighting for equality but who have not adopted the proletarian world outlook or developed a firm faith in the coming of a more perfect social system. While the contemporary capitalist world remains unchanged, liberation must seem to them incomplete and impartial. What despair must grip the more thoughtful and sensitive of these women. Only the working class is capable of maintaining morale in the modem world with its distorted social relations. With firm and measured step it advances steadily towards its aim. It draws the working women to its ranks. The proletarian woman bravely starts out on the thorny path of labour. Her legs sag; her body is torn. There are dangerous precipices along the way, and cruel beasts of prey are close at hand.

But only by taking this path is the woman able to achieve that distant but alluring aim – her true liberation in a new world of labour. During this difficult march to the bright future the proletarian woman, until recently a humiliated, downtrodden slave with no rights, learns to discard the slave mentality that has clung to her, step by step she transforms herself into an independent worker, an independent personality, free in love. It is she, fighting in the ranks of the proletariat, who wins for women the right to work; it is she, the “younger sister”, who prepares the ground for the “free” and “equal” woman of the future.

For what reason, then, should the woman worker seek a union with the bourgeois feminists? Who, in actual fact, would stand to gain in the event of such an alliance? Certainly not the woman worker. She is her own saviour; her future is in her own hands. The working woman guards her class interests and is not deceived by great speeches about the “world all women share”. The working woman must not and does not forget that while the aim of bourgeois women is to secure their own welfare in the framework of a society antagonistic to us, our aim is to build, in the place of the old, outdated world, a bright temple of universal labour, comradely solidarity and joyful freedom. ...

Marriage and the Problem of the Family
Let us turn our attention to another aspect of the woman question, the question of the family. The importance that the solution of this urgent and complex question has for the genuine emancipation of women is well known. The struggle for political rights, for the right to receive doctorates and other academic degrees, and for equal pay for equal work, is not the full sum of the fight for equality. To become really free woman has to throw off the heavy chains of the current forms of the family, which are outmoded and oppressive. For women, the solution of the family question is no less important than the achievement of political equality and economic independence.

In the family of today, the structure of which is confirmed by custom and law, woman is oppressed not only as a person but as a wife and mother, in most of the countries of the civilised world the civil code places women in a greater or lesser dependence on her husband, and awards the husband not, only the right to dispose of her property but also the right of moral and physical dominance over her. ...

Where the official and legal servitude of women ends, the force we call “public opinion” begins. This public opinion is created and supported by the bourgeoisie with the aim of preserving “the sacred institution of property”. The hypocrisy of “double morality” is another weapon. Bourgeois society crushes woman with its savage economic vice, paying for her labour at a very low rate. The woman is deprived of the citizen’s right to raise her voice in defence of her interests: instead, she is given only the gracious alternative of the bondage of marriage or the embraces of prostitution – a trade despised and persecuted in public but encouraged and supported in secret. Is it necessary to emphasise the dark sides of contemporary married life and the sufferings women experience in connection with their position in the present family structure? So much has already been written and said on this subject. Literature is full of depressing pictures of the snares of married and family life. How many psychological dramas are enacted! How many lives are crippled! Here, it is only important for us to note that the modem family structure, to a lesser or greater extent, oppresses women of all classes and all layers of the population. Customs and traditions persecute the young mother whatever the stratum of the population to which she belongs; the laws place bourgeois women, proletarian women and peasant women all under the guardianship of their husbands.

Have we not discovered at last that aspect of the woman question over which women of all classes can unite? Can they not struggle jointly against the conditions oppressing them? Is it not possible that the grief and suffering which women share in this instance will soften the claws of class antagonism and provide common aspirations and common action for the women of the different camps? Might it not be that on the basis of common desires and aims, co-operation between the bourgeois women and the proletarian women may become a possibility? The feminists are struggling for freer forms of marriage and for the “right to maternity”; they are raising their voices in defence of the prostitute, the human being persecuted by all. See how rich feminist literature is in the search for new forms of relationships and in enthusiastic demands for the “moral equality” of the sexes. Is it not true that while in the sphere of economic liberation the bourgeois women lag behind the many-million strong army of proletarian women who are pioneering the way for the “new woman”, in the fight for the solution, of the family question the laurels go to the feminists?

Here in Russia, women of the middle bourgeoisie – that army of independent wage-earners thrown on to the labour market during the 1860s – have long since settled in practice many of the confused aspects of the marriage question. They have courageously replaced the “consolidated” family of the traditional church marriage with more elastic types of relationship that meet the needs of that social layer. But the subjective solution of this question by individual women does not change the situation and does not relieve the overall gloomy picture of family life. If any force is destroying the modern form of the family, it is not the titanic efforts of separate and stronger individuals but the inanimate and mighty forces of production, which are uncompromisingly budding life, on new foundation’s. ...

The heroic struggle of individual young women of the bourgeois world, who fling down the gauntlet and demand of society the right to “dare to love” without orders and without chains, ought to serve as an example for all women languishing in family chains – this is what is preached by the more emancipated feminists abroad and our progressive equal righters at home. The marriage question, in other words, is solved in their view without reference to the external situation; it is solved independently of changes in the economic structure of society. The isolated, heroic efforts of individuals is enough. Let a woman simply “dare”, and the problem of marriage is solved.

But less heroic women shake their heads in distrust. “It is all very well for the heroines of novels blessed by the prudent author with great independence, unselfish friends and extraordinary qualities of charm, to throw down the gauntlet. But what about those who have no capital, insufficient wages, no friends and little charm?” And the question of maternity preys on the mind of the woman who strives for freedom. Is “free love” possible? Can it be realised as a common phenomenon, as the generally accepted norm rather than the individual exception, given the economic structure of our society? Is it possible to ignore the element of private property in contemporary marriage? Is it possible, in an individualistic world, to ignore the formal marriage contract without damaging the interests of women? For the marital contract is the only guarantee that all the difficulties of maternity will not fall on the woman alone. Will not that which once happened to the male worker now happen to the woman? The removal of guild regulations, without the establishment of new rules governing the conduct of the masters, gave capital absolute power over the workers. The tempting slogan “freedom of contract for labour and capital” became a means for the naked exploitation of labour by capital. “Free love”, introduced consistently into contemporary class society, instead of freeing woman from the hardships of family life, would surely shoulder her with a new burden – the task of caring, alone and unaided, for her children.

Only a whole number of fundamental reforms in the sphere of social relations – reforms transposing obligations from the family to society and the state – could create a situation where the principle of “free love” might to some extent be fulfilled. But can we seriously expect the modern class state, however democratic it may be, to take upon itself the duties towards mothers and children which at present are undertaken by that individualistic unit, the modern family? Only the fundamental transformation of all productive relations could create the social prerequisites to protect women from the negative aspects of the “free love” formula. Are we not aware of the depravity and abnormalities that in present conditions are anxious to pass themselves off under this convenient label? Consider all those gentlemen owning and administering industrial enterprises who force women among their workforce and clerical staff to satisfy their sexual whims, using the threat of dismissal to achieve their ends. Are they not, in their own way, practising “free love”? All those “masters of the house” who rape their servants and throw them out pregnant on to the street, are they not adhering to the formula of “free love”?

But we are not talking of that kind of ‘freedom’ object the advocates of free marriage. On the contrary, we demand the acceptance of a ‘single morality’ equally binding for both sexes. We oppose the sexual licence that is current, and view as moral only the free union that is based on true love.” But, my dear friends, do you not think that your ideal of “free marriage”, when practised in the conditions of present society, might produce results that differ little from the distorted practice of sexual freedom? Only when women are relieved of all those material burdens which at the present time create a dual dependence, on capital and on the husband, can the principle of “free love” be implemented without bringing new grief for women in its wake. As women go out to, work and achieve economic independence, certain possibilities for “free love” appear, particularly for the better-paid women of the intelligentsia. But the dependence of women on capital remains, and this dependence increases as more and more proletarian women sell their labour power. Is the slogan “free love” capable of improving the sad existence of these women, who earn only just enough to keep themselves alive? And anyway, is not “free love” already practised among the working classes and practised so widely that the bourgeoisie has on more than one occasion raised the alarm and campaigned against the “depravity” and “immorality” of the proletariat? It should be noted that when the feminists enthuse about the new forms of cohabitation outside marriage that should be considered by the emancipated bourgeois woman, they speak of “free love”, but when the working class is under discussion these relationships are scornfully referred to as “disorderly sexual intercourse”. This sums up their attitude.

But for proletarian women at the present time all relationships, whether sanctified by the church or not, are equally harsh in their consequences. The crux of the family and marriage problem lies for the proletarian wife and mother not in the question of the sacred or secular external form, but in the attendant social and economic, conditions which define the complicated obligations of the working-class woman, of course it matters to her too whether her husband has the right to dispose of her earnings, whether he has the right by law to force her to live with him when she does not want to, whether the husband can forcibly take her children away etc. However, it is not such paragraphs of the civic code that determine the position of woman in the family, nor is it these paragraphs which make for the confusion and complexity of the family problem. The question of relationships would cease to be such a painful one for the majority of women only if society, relieved women of all those petty household cares which are at present unavoidable (given the existence of individual, scattered domestic economies), took over responsibility for the younger generation, protected maternity and gave the mother to the child for at least the first months after birth.

In opposing the legal and sacred church marriage contract, the feminists are fighting a fetish. The proletarian women, on the other hand, are waging war against the factors that are behind the modem form of marriage and family. In striving to change fundamentally the conditions of life, they know that they are also helping to reform relationships between the sexes. Here we have the main difference between the bourgeois and proletarian approach to the difficult problem of the family.

The feminists and the social reformers from the camp of the bourgeoisie, naively believing in the possibility of creating new forms of family and new types of marital relations against the dismal background of the contemporary class society, tie themselves in knots in their search for these new forms. If life itself has not vet produced these forms, it is necessary, they seem to imagine, to think them up whatever the cost. There must, they believe, be modem forms of sexual relationship which are capable of solving the complex family problem under the present social system. And the ideologists of the bourgeois world – the journalists, writers and prominent women fighters for emancipation one after the other put forward their “family panacea”, their new “family formula”.

How utopian these marriage formulas sound. How feeble these palliatives, when considered in the light of the gloomy reality of our modern family structure. Before these formulas of “free relationships” and “free love” can become practice, it is above all necessary that a fundamental reform of all social relationships between people take place; furthermore, the moral and sexual norms and the whole psychology of mankind would have to undergo a thorough evolution, is the contemporary person psychologically able to cope with “free love"? What about the jealousy that eats into even the best human souls? And that deeply-rooted sense of property that demands the possession not only of the body but also of the soul of another? And the inability to have the proper respect for the individuality of another? The habit of either subordinating oneself to the loved one, or of subordinating the loved one to oneself? And the bitter and desperate feeling of desertion, of limitless loneliness, which is experienced when the loved ceases to love and leaves? Where can the lonely person, who is an individualist to the very core of his being, find solace? The collective, with its joys and disappointments and aspirations, is the best outlet for the emotional and intellectual energies of the individual. But is modern man capable of working with this collective in such a way as to feel the mutually interacting influences? Is the life of the collective really capable, at present, of replacing the individual’s petty personal joys? Without the “unique,” “one-and-only” twin soul, even the socialist, the collectivist, is quite alone in the present antagonistic world; only in the working class do we catch the pale glimpse of the future, of more harmonious and more social relations between people. The family problem is as complex and many-faceted as life itself. Our social system is incapable of solving it.

Other marriage formulas have been put forward. Several progressive women and social thinkers regard the marriage union only as a method of producing progeny. Marriage in itself, they hold, does not have any special value for woman – motherhood is her purpose, her sacred aim, her task in life. Thanks to such inspired advocates as Ruth Bray and Ellen Key, the bourgeois ideal that recognises woman as a female rather than a person has acquired a special halo of progressiveness. Foreign literature has seized upon the slogan put forward by these advanced women with enthusiasm. And even here in Russia, in the period before the political storm [of 1905], before social values came in for revision, the question of maternity had attracted the attention of the daily press. The slogan “the right to maternity” cannot help producing lively response in the broadest circles of the female population. Thus, despite the fact that all the suggestions of the feminists in this connection were of the utopian variety, the problem was too important and topical not to attract women.

The “right to maternity” is the kind of question that touches not only women from the bourgeois class but also, to an even greater extent, proletarian women as well. The right to be a mother – these are golden words that go straight to “any women’s heart” and force that heart to beat faster. The right to feed “one’s own” child with one’s own milk, and to attend the first signs of its awakening consciousness, the right to care for its tiny body and shield its tender soul from the thorns and sufferings of the first steps in life – what mother would not support these demands?

It would seem that we have again stumbled on an issue that could serve as a moment of unity between women of different social layers: it would seem that we have found, at last, the bridge uniting women of the two hostile worlds. Let us look closer, to discover what the progressive bourgeois women understand by “the right to maternity”. Then we can see whether, in fact, proletarian women can agree with the solutions to the problem of maternity envisaged by the bourgeois fighters for equal rights. In the eyes of its eager apologists, maternity possesses an almost sacred quality. Striving to smash the false prejudices that brand a woman for engaging in a natural activity – the bearing of a child – because the activity has not been sanctified by the law, the fighters for the right to maternity have bent the stick in the other direction: for them, maternity has become the aim of a woman’s life. ...

Ellen Key’s devotion to the obligations of maternity and the family forces her to give an assurance that the isolated family unit will continue to exist even in a society transformed along socialist lines. The only change, as she sees it, will be that all the attendant elements of convenience or of material gain will be excluded from the marriage union, which will be concluded according to mutual inclinations, without rituals or formalities – love and marriage will be truly synonymous. But the isolated family unit is the result of the modem individualistic world, with its rat-race, its pressures, its loneliness; the family is a product of the monstrous capitalist system. And yet Key hopes to bequeath the family to socialist society! Blood and kinship ties at present often serve, it is true, as the only support in life, as the only refuge in times of hardship and misfortune. But will they be morally or socially necessary in the future? Key does not answer this question. She has too loving a regard for the “ideal family”, this egoistic unit of the middle bourgeoisie to which the devotees of the bourgeois structure of society look with such reverence.

But it is not only the talented though erratic Ellen Key who loses her way in the social contradictions. There is probably no other question about which socialists themselves are so little in agreement as the question of marriage and the family. Were we to try and organise a survey among socialists, the results would most probably be very curious. Does the family wither away? or are there grounds for believing that the family disorders of the present are only a transitory crisis? Will the present form of the family be preserved in the future society, or will it be buried with the modem capitalist system? These are questions which might well receive very different answers. ...

With the transfer of educative functions from the family to society, the last tie holding together the modem isolated family will be loosened; the process of disintegration will proceed at an even faster pace, and the pale silhouettes of future marital relations will begin to emerge. What can we say about these indistinct silhouettes, hidden as they are by present-day influences?

Does one have to repeat that the present compulsory form of marriage will be replaced by the free union of loving individuals? The ideal of free love drawn by the hungry imagination of women fighting for their emancipation undoubtedly corresponds to some extent to the norm of relationships between the sexes that society will establish. However, the social influences are so complex and their interactions so diverse that it is impossible to foretell what the relationships of the future, when the whole system has fundamentally been changed, will he like. But the slowly maturing evolution of relations between the sexes is clear evidence that ritual marriage and the compulsive isolated family are doomed to disappear.

The Struggle for Political Rights
The feminists answer our criticisms by saying: even if the arguments behind our defence of the political rights of women seem to you mistaken, is the importance of the demand itself, which is equally urgent for feminists and for representatives of the working class, thereby reduced? Cannot the women of the two social camps, for the sake of their common political aspirations, surmount the barriers of class antagonism that divide them? Surely they are capable of waging a common struggle against the hostile forces that surround them? Division between bourgeois and proletarian is inevitable as far as other questions are concerned, but in the case of this particular question, the feminists imagine,, the women of the various social classes have no differences.

Feminists keep returning to these arguments with bitterness and bewilderment, seeing preconceived notions of partisan loyalty in the refusal of representatives of the working class to join forces with them in the struggle for women’s political rights. Is this really the case?

Is there a complete identity of political aspirations, or does antagonism hinder the creation of an indivisible, above-class army of women in this instance as in all others? We have to answer this question before we can outline the tactics that proletarian women will employ in winning political rights for their sex.

The feminists declare themselves to be on the side of social reform, and some of them even say they are in favour of socialism – in the far distant future, of course – but they are not intending to struggle in the ranks of the working class for the realisation of these aims. The best of them believe, with a naive sincerity, that once the deputies’ seats are within their reach they will be able to cure the social sores which have in their view developed because men, with their inherent egoism, have been masters of the situation. However good the intentions of individual groups of feminists towards the proletariat, whenever the question of class struggle has been posed they have left the battlefield in a fright. They find that they do not wish to interfere in alien causes, and prefer to retire to their bourgeois liberalism which is so comfortably familiar.

No, however much the bourgeois feminists try to repress the true aim of their political desires, however much they assure their younger sisters that involvement in political life promises immeasurable benefits for the women of the working class, the bourgeois spirit that pervades the whole feminist movement gives a class colouring even to the demand for equal political rights with men, which would seem to be a general women’s demand. Different aims and understandings of how political rights are to be used create an unbridgeable gulf between bourgeois and proletarian women. This does not contradict the fact that the immediate tasks of the two groups of women coincide to a certain degree, for the representatives of all classes which have received access to political power strive above all to achieve a review of the civil code, which in every country, to a greater or lesser extent, discriminates against women. Women press for legal changes that create more favourable conditions of labour for themselves; they stand together against the regulations legalising prostitution etc. However, the coincidence of these immediate tasks is of a purely formal nature. For class interest determines that the attitude of the two groups to these reforms is sharply contradictory. ...

Class instinct – whatever the feminists say – always shows itself to be more powerful than the noble enthusiasms of “above-class” politics. So long as the bourgeois women and their “younger sisters” are equal in their inequality, the former can, with complete sincerity, make great efforts to defend the general interests of women. But once the barrier is down and the bourgeois women have received access to political activity, the recent defenders of the “rights of all women” become enthusiastic defenders of the privileges of their class, content to leave the younger sisters with no rights at all. Thus, when the feminists talk to working women about the need for a common struggle to realise some “general women’s” principle, women of the working class are naturally distrustful.