Showing posts with label reformism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label reformism. Show all posts

Sunday, September 01, 2019

In Honor Of The King Of The Folk-Singing Hard-Living Hobos The Late Utah Phillips -From The Archives- The Struggle For The Labor Party In The United States- The Socialist Party Of America - A Primer

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the Socialist Party Of America

Markin comment on this series:

Obviously, for a Marxist, the question of working class political power is central to the possibilities for the main thrust of his or her politics- the quest for that socialist revolution that initiates the socialist reconstruction of society. But working class politics, no less than any other kinds of political expressions has to take an organization form, a disciplined organizational form in the end, but organization nevertheless. In that sense every Marxist worth his or her salt, from individual labor militants to leagues, tendencies, and whatever other formations are out there these days on the left, struggles to built a revolutionary labor party, a Bolshevik-style party.

Glaringly, in the United States there is no such party, nor even a politically independent reformist labor party, as exists in Great Britain. And no, the Democratic Party, imperialist commander-in-chief Obama's Democratic Party is not a labor party. Although plenty of people believe it is an adequate substitute, including some avowed socialists. But they are just flat-out wrong. This series is thus predicated on providing information about, analysis of, and acting as a spur to a close look at the history of the labor party question in America by those who have actually attempted to create one, or at to propagandize for one.

As usual, I will start this series with the work of the International Communist League/Spartacist League/U.S. as I have been mining their archival materials of late. I am most familiar with the history of their work on this question, although on this question the Socialist Workers Party's efforts run a close second, especially in their revolutionary period. Lastly, and most importantly, I am comfortable starting with the ICL/SL efforts on the labor party question since after having reviewed in this space in previous series their G.I. work and youth work (Campus Spartacist and the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus Newsletter inside SDS) I noted that throughout their history they have consistently called for the creation of such a party in the various social arenas in which they have worked. Other organizational and independent efforts, most notably by the Socialist Workers Party and the American Communist Party will follow.
Markin comment:

This entry is an overview of the Socialist Party of America and should be taken as just that. It was never a labor party in the true Marxist sense and certainly not a Bolshevik organization. Yet it important to draw some lessons from its work since today many labor militants and organizations work from this non-revolutionary perspective. More on its work to follow.

Monday, May 20, 2019

From The Marxist Archives-In Commemoration of the Paris Commune by Max Shachtman (When He Was A Revolutionary And Could "Speak" Marxism)

Workers Vanguard No. 980
13 May 2011

In Commemoration of the Paris Commune

(Quote of the Week)

On the 140th anniversary of the Paris Commune, we honor the heroic proletarian militants who seized power in the French capital in March 1871, the first historical expression of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Two months later, amid a reactionary frenzy whipped up by the bourgeoisies of Europe, French troops drowned the Commune in blood, massacring tens of thousands and imprisoning or deporting tens of thousands more. In a 1927 American Communist Party pamphlet, Max Shachtman, quoting from Karl Marx’s 1871 The Civil War in France, outlined the bold measures taken by the Communards, despite shortcomings, to establish workers democracy and begin undertaking socialist measures. Among the Commune’s best militants were members of the International Workingmen’s Association (First International), of which Marx was a principal leader.

The Commune took hold of the old bureaucratic and militarist apparatus, the bourgeois state, and crushed it in its hands, and on its broken fragments it placed the dictatorship of the proletariat, the workingmen of Paris organized as the ruling class of France. With a single stroke it abolished the standing army of the Second Empire and the Third Republic and replaced it with the people’s militia, a force, directly responsible to the Commune, of all the men capable of bearing arms....

The ruling body was based upon a real proletarian democracy, providing for the recall of unsatisfactory representatives, abolishing special allowances, paying all state officials the wages of workers, and realizing that “ideal of all bourgeois revolutions cheap government by eliminating the two largest items of expenditure—the army and the bureaucracy.” The parliamentarism of the bourgeois society was smashed and the Commune transformed itself into a “working corporation legislative and executive at one and the same time,” and held itself up to the provinces of France as the mirror of their own future. Church and State were separated, ecclesiastical property was confiscated and all education secularized.

The pawned property and furniture of the workers were returned, the workers were relieved of the payment of the overdue rents, it abolished the sickening piety of charity and “relief,” and resumed the pay of the National Guard. Thru Frankel, the Internationalist delegate of labor, it took its first steps, however few and unclear, to destroy the system of capitalist production and socialize it by turning it over to the trade unions; to ameliorate the conditions of the workers; to enforce a “fair wage” proviso in Commune contracts and abolish the abominable system of fines and garnisheeing of wages by employers; it planned the institution of the eight-hour day. Its internationalist character was testified to by the Hungarian, Frankel’s presence as delegate of labor, Dombrowski and Wroblewski, the Poles, in the defense.

Its heroic and noble spirit of sacrifice has been left as a revolutionary legacy to the new generations of the avenging proletariat. The Commune was a dim glass in which was reflected the rise of that greater and more powerful dictatorship of the proletariat, the successful proletarian revolution in Russia.

—Max Shachtman, 1871: The Paris Commune (1927)

Sunday, May 05, 2019

In Honor Of The 100th Anniversary Of The Founding of The Communist International-From The Archives- The 'Woes' of The British Labor Party

Click on the headline to link to a Leon Trotsky Internet Archives online copy of his Leon Trotsky’s Writings on Britain-Volume 1-The Labour Movement
to give a little historical perspective to this post.


Regular readers of this space have long been aware that this writer fights his propaganda war under the banner of struggling in America for a workers party that fights for a workers government. In the course of that propaganda war I have had occasion to use the British Labor Party (today, New Labor) as the whipping boy (oops, person) for all that the slogan does not mean. Over the past few days news has filtered out that in the recent local municipal elections in Britain the Labor Party has taken something of a political beating by the Conservative Party AND, hold onto your hat, the Liberal Party. These are desperate times in Labor Party circles, especially for the party bureaucracy and their remaining toadies in the Trades Union Congress. I will, however, not wake up screaming in the night over this development. I cry no tears that ‘radical’ Ken Livingstone has fallen as Mayor of London. Nevertheless a few remarks about how militants in Britain (and elsewhere) can take advantage of the situation seem in order.

One of the great truisms of British left wing politics for the last century or so (since the split with the above-mentioned seemingly previously moribund liberals and the formation of an independent working class party) is the need to have a strategic orientation toward the Labor Party. Most famously, Lenin in his nice little polemical of 1920 against the ‘wild boys and girls’ of anarcho-communism in Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder noted that, at times, militants are forced to support the Labor Party like “a rope supports a dying man”. And on occasion that little advice might be true in the future. But not today.

Every British militant, as an individual, should be a member of the Labor Party, or one of its organizations. The truth of the matter is that the bulk of the working class still owes at least formal allegiance to that party. The problem historically has been, and continues today including by militants who know better, that one needs to know as an organization how to file for divorce. That, my friends, is the fundamental problem with long term entry into a larger labor organization that I have discussed elsewhere in this space. I would argue that this is an excellent time to think about a regroupment of left forces outside the Labor Party. The particular contours of that regroupment are contingent on local conditions and particular prospects. Of course none of that makes sense unless there is programmatic agreement, to my mind that is a given. But it is something to think about.

These recent British elections, and the defeat of Mr. Livingstone as mayor, have also brought in focus a question that has been raised by the International Communist League on the question of revolutionaries running for executive offices in the bourgeois state. The ICL’s argument is that, unlike in the past, including in their own past, where revolutionaries ran with the understanding that they would not take office, it is a matter of principle not to even run for such offices and that we confine ourselves to parliamentary races. I had in the past, not without a few qualms, continued to favor the old policy. I believe that I am now ready to change my position on this question; however, I wish to write on that question separately. So, perhaps, old Ken Livingstone’s defeat serves a purpose after all.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

On The 80th Anniversary Of The Founding Of The Leon Trotsky-Led Fourth International (1938)- *From The Pen Of American Socialist Workers Party Leader James P. Cannon- "Don't Strangle The Party (1967)"

Click on the headline to link to a "James P. Cannon Internet Archive" online copy of his 1967 polemic, "Don't Strangle The Party".

Markin comment:

On a day when I am posting an article from the archives of "Women and Revolution" about the Socialist Workers Party's various policies toward the gay liberation struggle back in the 1970s it seems appropriate to post something from historic SWP leader James P. Cannon. This is from late in his career when he was not in day-to-day charge of the organization, some of the politics are also wobbly, and a lot of the issues concern internal party political in-fighting (as was the rationale for publishing and posting it by others at later times)but the entry is still worth a look at.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)-THE LEFT WING VIEWS THE KENNEDY ASSASSINATION (1964)

Click on the headline to link to an American Left History blog entry on the subject of my youthful reaction to the John F. Kennedy assassination on November 22, 1963 by way of comparison with more leftist views at the time.

Markin comment:

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

After mentioning the thread of international linkage through various organizations from the First to the Fourth International I also noted that on the national terrain in the Trotskyist movement, and here I was speaking of America where the Marxist roots are much more attenuated than elsewhere, we look to Daniel DeLeon’s Socialist Labor League, Eugene V. Debs' Socialist Party( mainly its left-wing, not its socialism for dentists wing), the Wobblies (IWW, Industrial Workers Of The World), the early Bolshevik-influenced Communist Party and the various formations that led up to the Socialist Workers Party, the section that Leon Trotsky’s relied on most while he was alive. Further, I noted that beyond the SWP that there were several directions to go in but that those earlier lines were the bedrock of revolutionary Marxist continuity, at least through the 1960s.

I am continuing today  what I also anticipate will be an on-going series about one of those strands past the 1960s when the SWP lost it revolutionary appetite, what was then the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) and what is now the Spartacist League (SL/U.S.), the U.S. section of the International Communist League (ICL). I intend to post materials from other strands but there are several reasons for starting with the SL/U.S. A main one, as the document below will make clear, is that the origin core of that organization fought, unsuccessfully in the end, to struggle from the inside (an important point) to turn the SWP back on a revolutionary course, as they saw it. Moreover, a number of the other organizations that I will cover later trace their origins to the SL, including the very helpful source for posting this material, the International Bolshevik Tendency.

However as I noted in posting a document from Spartacist, the theoretical journal of ICL posted via the International Bolshevik Tendency website that is not the main reason I am starting with the SL/U.S. Although I am not a political supporter of either organization in the accepted Leninist sense of that term, more often than not, and at times and on certain questions very much more often than not, my own political views and those of the International Communist League coincide. I am also, and I make no bones about it, a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, a social and legal defense organization linked to the ICL and committed, in the traditions of the IWW, the early International Labor Defense-legal defense arm of the Communist International, and the early defense work of the American Socialist Workers Party, to the struggles for freedom of all class-war prisoners and defense of other related social struggles.
Markin comment on this article:

By now, at least in this space, it should be obvious that communist militants are not born as such but come to certain political understandings depending on unfolding events, and their reaction, or non-reaction to them. At the time of the John Kennedy assassination I make no bones, as the above linked entry notes, about the fact that I was nothing but an idealistic young left liberal politico on the way to whatever form of glory that provided. Thus, my reaction, youthful or not, was appropriate. I would have found nothing wrong, or out of the ordinary, with the statements of the American Communist Party, Socialist Party or the Socialist Workers Party. The other anti-Kennedy diatribes presented here connecting him up as the “front man” for international capitalism and American imperialism would have been cause for outrage if I had seen them. The biggest thing that I held against Jack Kennedy then was around his handling of the Big of Pigs fiasco, and even that opposition was based on Cuba’s right to national self-determination (in the bourgeois Wilsonian sense) rather than class-based defense of the emerging Stalinist regime. In short, “fair play for Cuba.”

Obviously, those later unfolding events mentioned at the beginning of the last paragraph have changed my appreciation of Kennedy’s role in the world as, indeed, the "front man” for world imperialism at that time. I have also long adhered to the orthodox Marxist view that individual assassinations, acts of terror, or other forms of small group grandstanding are merely minor blips and will not produce the revolutionary change we need. That kind of big historic stage social action can only have a chance of occurring, and succeeding, when the masses take matters into their own hands. I nevertheless now scorn those messages of condolence and the reformist subservience behind the messages by the CP, SP, and SWP. Better to have said nothing than that drivel, especially by the SWP.

Note: Interestingly, intermingled throughout the various articles are early, half-formed versions of most of the conspiracy theories that would later create something of a cottage industry out of Kennedy assassination, most notably expressed in the hodgepodge of Oliver Stone’s film, JFK.

The assassination of President Kennedy was an add test of the class position of every left movement in the United States. Among the radical groups in America, a qualitative division, may be perceived between those tendencies which turned resolutely to the working class for an independent alternative to bourgeois statesmanship, and those formations which joined their cries to the liberal threnody for the late president.


Nov. 27, 1963 — "The assassination of President Kennedy, by a still unknown assailant, not only reflects the existence of serious political contradictions for the U.S. ruling class, but raises these contradictions to new heights....

"While it is essential that revolutionaries evaluate all of the political aspects of the assassination, it is also necessary for revolutionaries to reject assassination as a conceivable form of political struggle. The killing of one man cannot alter the course of history. Only efforts by millions to change the particular political and economic system can be decisive.. .. Finally, assassination only tends to confuse the real issues that face the workers. It encourages the ruling class to step up the oppression of the people.

"Assassination and individual violence, however, is part and parcel of the Capitalist system. . . .

". . . On several occasions our government has engineered or supported actual organized assassinations with great relish. The assassination of Patrice Lumumba was warmly welcomed by the Kennedy Administration. Furthermore, assassination has also been a way of eliminating friends who have outlived their usefulness to the Administration. Only weeks before the Kennedy assassination, the Administration (and many who now cry hypocritical tears for Kennedy) were laughing up their sleeves over the U.S.-inspired as¬sassination of Diem and his brother in South Viet-Nam. . . .

"In the face of this continued ruthlessness and terror, the people and especially those who consider themselves fighters for socialism, should not be caught up in the Whirlwind of ruling class contradictions. The people should utilize every moment for pressing their demands. They should not wait for the Johnson Administration to resume the offensive—as it will—against the people's fight for a better life. Johnson's record is part and parcel of-the oppression of the ruling class—with a dash of Southern seasoning added for good measure.

"The People are still faced with racism, unemployment, poor housing and schooling, high rents and high-priced (or no) medical services. The People, if they are really to unite, should unite around programs dealing with their problems."


Nov. 25, 1963—"The United States of America came close to a fascist coup d'etat, and the establishment of a Right Wing, reactionary, totalitarian dictatorship.

"This is really the main and funda¬mental fact to emerge from the assassination of President Kennedy.

"That the coup d'etat did not actually come off can only be explained by the fact that the forces of political reaction, virulent racism and 'preventive war' militarism, had failed to coalesce at the critical moment and emerge with 'a man on horseback.'

"The trend to totalitarian dictatorship can only be reversed by the intervention of an ever larger mass of the millionfold working class movement, and of unity between, black and white workers against the common oppressor."

(The Workers World deserves credit for reprinting excerpts from Fidel Castro's excellent statement on the assassination.)

(British organ of the Posadas group, the Latin-American-based Trotskyist tendency.)

Jan., 1964—"The assassination of Kennedy is the result of a struggle between bandits. One faction has liqui¬dated a member of the opposite faction.

"Within the heart of Yankee imperialism there are two tendencies. One tendency centers on what is called the Pentagon and is wrongly called 'right wing' (there is no left or right for capitalism but simply different po¬sitions in relation to the same policy) and the 'Kennedy' tendency. . . .

"Imperialism, the Kennedy tendency, tries to profit from the conservative interests of the Soviet bureaucracy to prolong its own existence to the maximum.

"The so-called Pentagon section is aware of this situation and feels that the very time delay means a direct loss for its economic, social and ideological interests. That is the reason for the offensive that it has just carried out.

"The Pentagon killed Kennedy within the framework of a policy designed to launch the war by surprise at that moment most convenient to itself."

From the publications of the three groups above, it can be seen that a basic class position was maintained during their discussions of the Kennedy assassination. A class line must not; only continue to orient the working class against their class enemy, the bourgeoisie, but must provide a correct analysis for the workers in a period of confusion and constellation. The three groups above never lost sight of their ruling class enemy—nor did they hesitate to point this out to their readers.
There were exaggerations and mistakes, such as the Workers World's confusion between fascism and a coup d'etat. Or the Progressive Labor group's referral to "our" government. And of course the Posadas tendency's conclusion that the Pentagon assassin¬ated Kennedy can only be considered interesting speculation at this point.

These positions stand out in bold contrast to those periodicals and organizations whose "Socialism" and "Marxism" led them in the moment of panic to genuflect to the ruling class. Statements about "Loving (!) This Country (!!)" and the like can only serve to confuse and misdirect socialist militants. Compare the following examples.


Dec. 13, 1963—"I am writing this on the day of mourning under a profound sense of shock and loss and shame. We mourn a gallant President, sincerely interested in peace and freedom, who was growing in strength. . . .

"You will be reading this column after Thanksgiving Day, when we will be putting this day of mourning into perspective. For what can we Americans be thankful in this time of tragedy? We can be thankful for some enrichment of memory. We can be thankful for the general outpouring of grief and recognition of the shame at the atmosphere of hate in which the trag¬edy took place. We can give .thanks for the orderly succession and the absence of bitter partisanship in President Johnson's accession to his high office." —Norman Thomas

"The Socialist Party joins the entire nation in deeply mourning the tragic death of our President. The senseless and dastardly murder which, took the life of John F. Kennedy was one of the greatest crimes and tragedies in the history of our country. To Mrs. Kennedy and the entire Kennedy family we extend our most sincere and heartfelt condolences."

Resolution of National Committee of
The Socialist Party


Nov. 26, 1963 —"Nation in Mourning for Martyred Leader" (Banner front page headline.)

"We share—along with all other Americans—immeasurable grief at the monstrous and shocking assassination of President John P. Kennedy.

"We extend our deepest synipathy to Mrs. Kennedy, to his son and daughter, and to his entire family. . . .

"Although anguished in sorrow over the loss of the highest officer of our nation, the American people will not be panicked. They will rally around the constitution, defend its basic Democratic traditions and rights, and they will not be diverted from the determination that our nation shall trod the path of ever-expanding democracy, social progress and peace."


"Let me then make clear as your President that I am determined upon our system's survival and success, regardless of the cost and regardless of the peril." —Speech of President Kennedy to the American Society of Newspaper Editors, April 21, 1961.(Following the Bay of Pigs fiasco.)


Dec. 2, 1963—"If We Really Love This Country We Must Abjure Hatred" (Front page headline quoting Chief Justice Earl Warren as a "Voice of Sanity.")

"The American people have undergone one of the most traumatic experiences in its history. The staggering news that President Kennedy had been assassinated, followed so quickly by the unexplainabte, televised murder of his alleged assassin in the Dallas, city jail by a crony of the police, left Americans reeling with bewilderment and shock. A wave of apprehension ran through the world with the news of the Kennedy assassination as people of all lands attempted to decipher the cause and portent of the tragic event. . . .

"Before all others, it is the federal government's duty to block the attempt to use the Dallas tragedy for the staging of an even more devastating witchhunt. Before all others, it is the duty of the federal government to furnish the people with a thorough-going analysis of the atmosphere of hate and violence which fostered that tragedy. Before all others, it is the federal government's duty effectively and fully to enforce the civil liberties of Americans of all political views, no matter how critical of those now dominant, and the civil liberties of all Americans, regardless of color. Only then can the cloud of violence and hate overhanging this country begin to be dispelled."
The Editors

"The Socialist Workers Party condemns the brutal assassination of President Kennedy as an inhuman, anti-social and criminal act. We extend our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Kennedy and the children in their personal grief .

"The act springs from the atmosphere created by the inflammatory agitation and. deeds of the racists and ultra-conservative forces. Political terrorism, like suppression of political freedom, violates the democratic rights of all Americans and can only strengthen the forces of reaction. Political differences within our society must be settled in an orderly manner by majority decision after free and open public debate in which all points of view are heard:"
—Farrell Dobbs,- National Secretary,
Socialist Workers Party

And Now, A Breath of Fresh Air!


(Organ of the Socialist Labour League, the British Trotskyists.) Nov. 30, 1963—

"This millionaire politician was destroyed by the very contradictions which he thought he could overcome smoothly and peacefully.

"Whether or not we ever learn the truth about the killings in Dallas, Tex¬as, Kennedy's death was without doubt the result of angonising conflict within the American ruling class.

"On the issues of Negro integration and foreign and defense policy, Kennedy's programme, reflecting the needs of one section of US big business, aroused sharp hostility from powerful economic and political groups.

"The roll of the Texas state authorities makes this very clear. If Oswald was framed, and this seems quite probable, the job was organized at a high level in the state machine. ...

"We do not mourn John F. Kennedy.

"As international socialists we see him as the world leader of the class enemy.

"If he was far-sighted, it was in the interests of the continuation of capi¬talist exploitation everywhere."
—John Crawford

Dec. 7, 1963—"Marxists and the Kennedy Assassination" (Headline, page two.)

"The assassination of President Ken¬nedy has given rise to a more than usual round of hysteria, tear-jerking and praise-mongering by the literary and political representatives of the middle class.

"Reading some of the articles in the so-called socialist and liberal press about his life, one might be forgiven for thinking that Kennedy stood for the freedom of the Negro people and was, in fact, a socialist in all but name.

"Thus do the hirelings of international capital endeavor to whitewash the most reactionary imperialist power in the world in its hour of crisis.

"Kennedy was, of course, a most able representative of his class. Everything that he did had but one objective, to strengthen American imperialism. . . .

"When he spoke about Negro rights, he was merely using high-sounding liberal phraseology so that he could all the better, on behalf of his class, continue to enslave the Negro people.

"Marxists express no sympathy what¬soever over Kennedy's death.

"We do not condone the act of individual terror responsible for his death, not because we are squeamish or humanitarian about how it was done, but because individual terror is no substitute for the construction of the revolutionary party.


"Terrorism is a weapon which in fact disorganises and leaves the working class leaderless. It creates the impression that the removal of prominent capitalist politicians and statesmen can solve the problems of the working class. "But for every tyrant shot, there is another ready to take his place. Only the overthrow of the capitalist system in the United States and its replace¬ment by working-class power and socialism can solve the problems of the American working-class whites and Negroes.

"Such a task cannot be accomplished by terrorists like Lee Oswald. The answer lies not with them, but through the preparation and building of a revolutionary party which, through mass action, will take the power. . . .

"The taking of power by th6 revolutionary party is not without terror. The ruling class will not hesitate to terrorise the working class, the Negro and colonial peoples. . . .

"The sympathy of Marxists, while not agreeing with the method of Oswald, must be given to the millions of Oswalds, black and white, who have been driven into pauperism by capitalism. The task of the American Marxist movement is to direct its attention towards these people, and not towards the sending of messages of sympathy to Mrs. Kennedy.


"When Lee Oswald fired the fatal shot, he did something more than assassinate a president.

"He also destroyed utterly and completely the lie that the Socialist Workers Party of the United States is a Trotskyist party and that it continues the traditions for which it was founded in the struggle to build the Fourth International.

"The Militant, weekly organ of the SWP which, according to its masthead, is 'published in the interests of the working people,' carried this news item in its issue of Monday, December 2, headed 'Socialist Leader Denounces

Murder of the President':
(Here follows the statement of Farrell Dobbs which is reprinted above.)

"This nauseating report repudiates every principle that Trotsky and the Bolshevik Party fought for. It is a report written by cowardly liberals, whose eyes are turned solely in the di¬rection of the. American middle class.

'"We extend,' says Farrell Dobbs, 'our deepest sympathy to Mrs. Ken¬nedy.' ;
"Indeed! And who is Mrs. Kennedy?


"She is the daughter of a Wall Street millionaire, and was the wife of the leader of the most reactionary imperialist power on earth. Marxists can have no sympathy whatsoever with Mrs. Kennedy and her class.

" 'Political differences within our society must be settled in an orderly manner,' says Dobbs.

"Indeed! Tell that to the Negroes of Birmingham, Alabama, and the miners of Kentucky. Tell that to the millions of colonial people in struggle against imperialism.

"The settlement of class issues will not take place in an orderly manner, but in a violent way, because the ruling class will never give up its power peacefully. To the millions of working people in struggle against imperialism all over the world, Dobbs is just one more American liberal,- who talks the language of 'order' so as to mask the brutality of his own imperialist government.

"How Trotsky would have loathed this statement of the leader of the Socialist Workers Party. He would have flayed its author alive in every language he could muster. This is cringing boot¬licking of the American petty-bourgeois by a man who claims to be a Marxist!


"Dobbs sends his condolences to 'Mrs. Kennedy and the children,' but not a word about Mrs. Oswald, a poor Russian woman whose children and herself will be singled out for attack wherever she goes.

"Instead of taking up the cudgels on behalf of the poor in the United States, Dobbs turns his eyes to to the representatives of the rich and mighty.

"There was, of course, a distinct possibility that anti-labour witch-hunters would utilise the Kennedy assassination in order to attack the left, but such an attack could not be answered by sending condolences to Mrs. Kennedy. The answer to any witch-hunt is to explain the class issues involved in the assassination, which ran only be done by a thoroughgoing exposure of Kennedy's role.


"Farrell Dobbs does not look to the working class as his only real ally in the fight against the witch-hunt. He looks in the opposite direction, towards the ruling class. On this, question, as on all others, Dobbs has betrayed the Marxist movement. . . .

"His political degeneration is a warning to Marxists everywhere. It follows closely on the heels of the so-called 'reunification' with the Pabloites, who supported the brutal assassination by the hired thugs of the FLN of the Algerian trade union leaders in Paris in 1957 and 1958.

"This unification was an alliance of renegades from Trotskyism to turn from the working class to the radical do-gooders whose sole aim is to white¬wash imperialism.

"We look forward to any news as to whether or not James P. Cannon, founder of the American Trotskyist movement, was prepared to sign the message of condolence to Mrs. Kennedy."

—Gerry Healy, National Secretary Socialist Labour League

The acid test of any organisation presenting itself as socialist takes place in periods of revolutionary opportunity or crisis. All such organizations were tested in their ability to maintain their principled positions at the time of the Kennedy assassination. To those for whom the concept of Trotskyism is synonymous with firm class positions under the most adverse conditions, the statement of Farrell Dobbs and the entire edition of the Militant on the Kennedy assassination came as a profound shock. At a calmer and more reflective moment, even the leaders of the Socialist Workers Party themselves must have been chagrined and surprised at their lack of stamina.

It is, of course, true that it is a perfectly principled tactic to carefully avoid the use of provocative phrases when the legal organizational existence, and possibly the lives, of revolutionaries are at stake. However, the words of Dobbs and the Militant were not those of a revolutionary Socialist, but rather of Social Democrats and bourgeois liberals, and richly merited the attacks of Gerry Healy and the Socialist Labour League.

The Revolutionary Tendency has repeatedly pointed out the attempt to convert the SWP into an appendage of petty-bourgeois radical formations. The abandonment of the concept that the working class and its vanguard must lead the masses, evidently and inevitably leads, at a moment of crisis, to the abandonment of the essence of all revolutionary working class positions.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

From The "HistoMat" Blog- On Ralph Milibrand

Click on the headline to link to a HistoMat blog entry on the British historian (and father current Labor party leaders)Ralph Milbrand.

Markin comment:

In the old days (the early 1970s) when The New Left Review (out of Britain) was closer to the cutting edge of world left-wing politics than its current more academic and ethereal presence I religiously read the journal, and always looked forward to anything Ralph Milibrand had to write in its pages.

A Frank Jackman disclaimer:

I place some material in this space which I believe may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. One of the worst aspects of the old New Left back in the 1970s as many turned to Marxism after about fifty other theories did not work out was the freezing out political debate with other opponents on the Left to try to clarify the pressing issues of the day. Those jackboot theories, mainly centered on some student-based movements that were somehow to bring down the beast without a struggle for state power, were theories that I earnestly adhered to sometimes more than one at the same time. Nevertheless by our exclusionism we were replicating the worst habits of the old Old Left (those who came of political age and fought the great class battles of the 1930s when kept their generation above water for a long time but which now despite the importance of studying have run out of steam). That freezing out , more times than I care to mention including my own behavior a few times, included physical exclusion and intimidation. I have since come to believe that the fight around programs and politics is what makes us different, and more interesting. The mix of ideas, personalities and programs, will sort themselves out in the furnace of the revolution as they have done in the past. 

Off-hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these various blogs and other networking media. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts. So read on. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Adam Smith Or Karl Marx?-Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story- A Review

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for Michael Moore’s Capitalism: A Love Story

DVD Review

Capitalism: A Love Story, directed by Michael Moore, 2009

No question the premier documentary director, Michael Moore, knows how to convincingly and artfully put together a collage propaganda (in the traditional sense) film. And he does not fail here. He shows the raw face of capitalism as it has ravaged his America, particularly over the past several decades when the working people of this country have taken it on the chin, repeatedly taken it on the chin, at the hands of today’s robber barons and economic royalists (okay, okay the 1%). His interviews of those who have been beaten down by home and farm (don’t forget those in the recent past) foreclosures at the hands of the merciless banks, the conscious “race to the bottom “ by American corporations to drive the wage rate down by outsourcing and off-shore operations, and the perfidious nature of the recent crop of politicians from selectmen to president most more than ready to do the bidding of the ruling class (okay, 1%) all are graphically and powerfully portrayed in this documentary.

Still and all as powerful as all of this work is as propaganda for an anti-capitalist (and maybe even a pro-socialist) perspective) I would, and gladly, take the expose more seriously if Brother Moore didn’t always find time to be front and center at every Democratic National Convention he can find, including, presumably, this year’s edition. One should at least be able to take one’s own conclusions seriously before asking others to do so.

Budget for All!-The Massachusetts Referendum to Stop the Cuts • Invest in Jobs • Tax the 1% • End the Wars

Markin comment:

I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts.
Budget for All!-The Massachusetts Referendum to Stop the Cuts • Invest in Jobs • Tax the 1% • End the Wars

Tell Your State Rep

Whom do we talk to next? After the energizing campaign kickoff on Sunday everyone's out there talking to neighbors and co-workers. But one group of decision makers also needs to hear from us: your state rep. and senator. You can find your legislator by clicking on this link. Watch this space for a list of key points to raise with them.

Our Question

Shall the state Representative (or Senator) from this district be instructed to vote in favor of a resolution calling upon the Congress and the President to:

1. Prevent cuts to Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and Veterans benefits, or to housing, food and unemployment assistance;

2. Create and protect jobs by investing in manufacturing, schools, housing, renewable energy, transportation and other public services;

3. Provide new revenues for these purposes and to reduce the long-term federal deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes, ending offshore tax havens, and raising taxes on incomes over $250,000; and

4. Redirect military spending to these domestic needs by reducing the military budget, ending the war in Afghanistan and bringing U.S. troops home safely now.

Write a Letter! Bring Common Sense to Budget Conversations

There's a whole lot of crazy talk in Washington about the budget. The House even passed a bill further cutting programs for working people so that they can fund weapon systems! So it's time to turn the conversation around, says campaigner Paul Shannon, "with a letter writing drive that let's the public know about the costs of Washington's priorities and tells them about the Budget-for-All signature gathering."

The campaign has provided a sample text that can be copied from this webpage or simply downloaded (both files have the same text, one is in Word format and the other is a plain text) and modified by you. Click on "read more" below for the letter and to download the files.

Read more about Write a Letter! Bring Common Sense to Budget Conversations.

Boston area outreach this weekend

Tue, 05/08/2012 - 17:45. | cole.

Join one of these groups as we gather petition signatures this weekend!

Saturday, May 12

Cambridge: 10am. Meet at Au Bon Pain, 684 Massachusetts Ave., near Central Square. Contact Mass. Peace Action or Paul Shannon at AFSC to sign up.

Brookline: 12:00 noon-1pm. Meet at Coolidge Corner and look for the multi-colored peace flags. Contact Frank Farlow to sign up, or just come by.

Sunday, May 13

Dorchester: 7:15am. Collect signatures at the Mother's Day Walk for Peace. Meet with Dorchester People for Peace at Town Field, Fields Corner.

Newton: 1pm. Spring Fair, at City Hall, 1000 Commonwealth Ave. Meet at the Newton Dialogues on Peace & War table.

Sign up on the volunteer form.

Only the signatures of registered voters are valid, others don’t count. (The voter may fill in a registration card and sign the petition on the same day.)

Collect only signatures from one city or town on any given petition page (print the name of that city or town in the space at the bottom).

Signatures from another city or town must be written on a different petition form designated for that city or town.

Collect only signatures from one State Rep or State Senate district on any given petition page. Be sure you know the exact boundaries of the district you are collecting for before you go out. Check our Targeted Districts list if necessary.

A district might contain some complete towns and some partial towns. For the partial towns, you'll need a map or street list in order to find out whether a given voter's address is in your district!

Using a laptop or smartphone, you can also go to to find out which district a given address is in. Be sure to scroll down to the bottom where it says "New District Information".

Petitions are ready! Pick them up at:

Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants, 42 Seaverns Ave., Jamaica Plain. Contact Michael Kane,, 617-233-1885

American Friends Service Committee (starting 4/27), 2161 Masschusetts Ave., Cambridge. Contact Paul Shannon,, 617-661-6130 (w) or 617 623 5288 (h).

American Friends Service Committee (starting appx. 5/3), 2 Conz St. Suite 2B, Northampton. Contact Jeff Napolitano,, 413-584-8975
To add your organization’s name to the list of endorsers, fill in this form.

Join our Facebook group at

Download and print the referendum flyer.

See the lists of districts we are targeting and those in which we need coordinators here. District maps are available here.

Can you help collect signatures? Volunteers are needed across the Commonwealth to gather 200 signatures per state representative district between April 26 and July 3. If you are interested in helping out, sign up here or contact one of the above names.
The Referendum Kick-Off Meeting will be held Sunday, May 6, 2-5 p.m. at Encuentro 5, 33 Harrison Ave, 5th Floor, Boston. Take the T to Chinatown station.

We will live-stream the meeting for those who cannot attend in person. The stream will be on and will also be available afterwards.

The meeting will include training on:

1) The policy issues which the Referendum addresses, and on how to talk to voters about those messages

2) How to gather signatures correctly. Registered voters. Districts. Voter file lists.

3) Review of the districts we are targeting, and what the members attending the meeting can plug in.

Also, a Referendum Planning Meeting will be held every Friday at 3-5 p.m. Contact Paul Shannon,, for details.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Latest From The British Leftist Blog-"Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism"

Click on the headline to link to the latest from the British Leftist blog-Histomat: Adventures in Historical Materialism

Markin comment:
While from the tenor of the articles, leftist authors featured, and other items it is not clear to me that this blog is faithful to any sense of historical materialism that Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, Vladimir Lenin or Leon Trotsky would recognize I am always more than willing to "steal" material from the site. Or investigate leads provided there for material of interest to the radical public-whatever that seemingly dwindling public may be these days.

Monday, September 26, 2011

From The Pages Of "Australasian Spartacist"- ALP Government's War on Workers and Oppressed

Click on the headline to link to other articles from this issue of Australasian Spartacist

Australasian Spartacist No. 213
Winter 2011

Federal Budget Pummels the Poor

ALP Government's War on Workers and Oppressed

We Need a Multiracial Revolutionary Workers Party!

From its draconian anti-union legislation to its brutal treatment of refugees and bloody militarism abroad, the minority federal ALP government, propped up by the Greens and “independents,” is an enemy of working people and the oppressed. That this government is thoroughly dedicated to administering in the interests of the Australian capitalist rulers was driven home yet again by the May federal budget. In aiming to slash $22 billion in spending over the next four years, the budget is framed to make workers and the poor pay for the massive deficit racked up by the government in its attempts to “save capitalism” with the onset of the global financial crisis in 2008.

Pushing mantras such as getting the budget “back in the black,” the government is targeting the neediest for cruel welfare cuts. In some cases this will not only threaten the livelihoods but the very lives of recipients. Under punitive new regulations access to the disabilities pension will be sharply curtailed. Disabled people deemed capable of working by the government are threatened with losing their pensions unless they submit to demeaning quarterly Centrelink interviews to prove they have been looking for work. Unemployed youth under 21 years of age will lose $43 a week from their benefits while poverty-stricken single parents (overwhelmingly women) will have their paltry pensions slashed by $56 per week when their child turns twelve. Alongside this, the government aims to slash more than 1,200 jobs from Medicare, Centrelink and Child Support services. These attacks on the poor take place as the cost of living for basic items such as electricity, water, groceries, education, health and accommodation are escalating. With soaring housing costs, including skyrocketing rents, thousands have been thrown onto the streets. As for public transport and hospitals, they sink deeper into disrepair.

Meanwhile the government’s punitive and racist welfare “quarantining” that accompanied the 2007 police and military occupation of Aboriginal communities in the Northern Territory is being extended to more communities in Queensland and Western Australia. This extension of welfare “quarantining,” which in NT Aboriginal communities combines with puritanical prohibition on alcohol and pornography, is in the service of an ever-increasing state intervention into the lives of the oppressed and working people.

Prime Minister Gillard openly competes with the Liberal/National opposition leader Tony Abbott over who can put forward the most reactionary social and economic policies. The current budget cuts targeting single parents and unemployed youth are designed to reinforce the grip of the family on women and youth. A key prop for the maintenance of capitalist rule and source of women’s oppression, the institution of the family, backed by church and state, is upheld to instil conservative obedience to the “values” of bourgeois morality and to raise the next generation of wage slaves for industry and cannon fodder for future imperialist wars. In Australia, where wife-beating is rife and a woman is killed almost every week by a male partner or ex-partner, the cuts to the single-parent benefit will help drive women and children back to the horror of domestic violence. Meanwhile, as the mining giants and banks rake in record profits, the bourgeois media is aggressively demanding deeper cuts to welfare as the ruling class worries about the effects of a future bust of the resources boom on the budget bottom line.

In representing the interests of the bourgeoisie, Gillard has long been a crusader against welfare. In 2007, speaking at a meeting of the Sydney Institute, she announced, “The old days of passive welfare for those able to contribute are gone.” Today this threat comes under the guise of what she now calls “The Dignity of Work.” This is the modern version of the cruder “dole bludgers” moniker used to single out, blame and victimise the unemployed and all welfare recipients for the failings of the capitalist system to provide decent education, training and jobs. Thus the budget also targeted the estimated 230,000 long-term unemployed, who will be required to do 11 months of work-for-the-dole or lose their payments from July next year.

By forcing people off welfare the government aims to create an even larger pool of desperate people for the bosses to ruthlessly exploit and to use as a wedge to drive down the conditions of all workers. With workers shackled at every turn by the union tops’ kow-towing to Labor’s anti-union legislation, for many the “dignity of work” means being exploited in a casual and/or part-time job for barely subsistence wages under a dictatorial boss, usually backed by vicious supervisors who enforce unsafe working conditions. Hundreds of workers are killed every year at work. Amidst this increasing denigration and brutalisation of the working class, slashing of welfare and blaming the victims of this irrational profit-gouging system, the budget assured a new round of company tax cuts.

All over the capitalist world, workers have been suffering the impact of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. With unemployment and house foreclosures threatening the lives of millions, capitalist governments have ramped up union-busting attacks and vicious austerity measures. In response, workers across Europe, from Britain, to Spain, France and Greece, have mobilised in massive defensive struggles, including strikes and protests, against these attacks. But, simultaneously, the misleaders of the working class have pushed parliamentary reformist illusions and virulent protectionism. This serves to tie the proletariat and their unions to “their” own capitalist rulers while whipping up racist reaction and dividing workers along national lines.

Resources Boom Masks Rotting Capitalist System

In Australia, the effects of the global economic crisis have been masked by the ongoing massive demand for resources, above all by the Chinese bureaucratically deformed workers state, which has pushed the terms of trade to the highest level in 140 years. But the economy that exists outside the resources sector is stagnant or going backwards. And it is being made sicker by the resources boom, which has sent the dollar soaring, creating inflationary pressures and driving up the cost of exports. Together these factors have contributed to downturns in retail, construction and manufacturing.

Exacerbated by recent natural disasters, the Australian economy just experienced its biggest quarterly contraction in 20 years. And it is the workers who are being made to pay. The official unemployment rate of 4.9 percent hides the real level of joblessness, estimated at around 6.9 percent and growing daily. Hardly a week goes by where a manufacturing plant or retail store doesn’t close and/or hundreds don’t lose their jobs. In June, the clothing chain Colorado announced that it would close 140 stores across the country, shedding more than 1,000 jobs. More than 100,000 jobs have disappeared in manufacturing in the last three years.

The ALP government, with help from the pro-capitalist trade-union tops, has held the economic crisis up as a club against workers’ struggles, arguing that any proletarian struggle would sabotage the national economy. Such nationalist class-collaborationist poison serves to derail class struggle by instilling in the proletariat the lie that workers, who are forced to sell their labour power to survive, and the capitalists, who grow fat profiting from the wealth produced by the workers, have fundamental interests in common.

There is a burning need for class-struggle opposition to the bourgeoisie’s onslaughts. With its hands on the levers of production the proletariat uniquely has the potential social power and interest to sweep away this irrational exploitative system. What’s needed is a revolutionary workers party that fights to unleash the proletariat’s social power in a struggle not just for its own class interests but for all the oppressed. Based on the understanding that the interests of the working class and the capitalist rulers are irreconcilably counterposed, such a leadership would not only seek to defend and improve the present conditions of the proletariat but fight to lead the working class in sweeping away the entire system of capitalist wage slavery.

The only way out of the endless cycle of capitalist economic crises and imperialist wars was shown by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, when the workers took power in their own hands, seizing the banks, the factories, mines, mills and other means of production from the hands of the capitalists, and established a proletarian state based on workers soviets (councils) and an internationalist program. It will take world socialist revolution, leading to the collectivisation of the means of production and economic planning on an international scale, to provide a future for humanity.

For a Class-Struggle Fight Against Racist Capitalism

While slashing welfare, Labor’s federal budget also showered in excess of one billion dollars on “border security,” including the vile campaign to demonise and punish the small numbers of refugees arriving by boat. The mandatory and long-term incarceration of refugees in inhumane detention centres, often ending in deportation, has driven many detainees to repeated desperate protests (see article, page 1). The May budget coincided with the Labor government announcing its despicable proposed deal with the Malaysian government to barter 800 asylum seekers currently in detention in Australia for “resettling” 1,000 refugees per year from Malaysia for the next four years. The bourgeoisie’s hysterical campaign against refugees is being used to promote xenophobic nationalism and inflame racial hostilities in order to keep the working class divided and to deflect it from the much needed struggle against the capitalist rulers who are driving down the conditions of all. Sharp opposition to racism and chauvinism is vital to the unity and integrity of the working class and to combat the bosses’ divide-and-rule schemes. We say: Down with the bi-partisan war on refugees! No deportations! Close the detention camps! Full citizenship rights for all who have made it here!

There is deep-seated worker hostility to the capitalist rulers’ all-sided attacks. On 8 June, thousands of women community sector workers, who assist the disabled and downtrodden, marched for equal pay in major cities across the country. A week later, angry New South Wales public sector workers rallied in their thousands against the Liberal state government’s legislation effectively imposing pay cuts. Pilots, engineers and transport workers are seething at Qantas management’s union-busting attempts to outsource jobs and drive down working conditions. And waterside workers, fed up with unsafe work conditions, have struck against the vicious union-busters at Patrick Stevedores.

To carry out the needed class-struggle fight against the government’s and bosses’ anti-worker attacks requires a political struggle against the pro-capitalist union bureaucrats who channel workers’ anger into support for the ALP and the bosses’ courts while sowing nationalism and protectionist poison. In May, when Patrick Stevedores provocatively closed down its container terminals and refused to pay wharfies in response to union bans in defence of job safety and a wage rise, the hidebound MUA bureaucrats quickly took a dive. Faced with Patrick’s provocation, they called off the bans and appealed to the “national” interest, seeking to appease the exporters who were baying for union blood. MUA national secretary, Paddy Crumlin, grovelled “We’ve listened to the concerns of the rural community and responded accordingly,” while his deputy, Mick Doleman, played the nationalist card railing that Patrick was “unAustralian” and “owns the decision to shut down the ports...” (“MUA Saves Patrick from itself,” MUA web site, 27 May). The MUA tops’ response is a far cry from the militant class-struggle actions—including solid strikes with mass pickets to shut down the ports—that helped build the waterfront unions. As the bosses’ labour lieutenants, union bureaucrats throughout the country have increasingly sacrificed class-struggle weapons. As a result, the union movement has shrunk to only 18 percent of the workforce as the bosses escalate their attacks.

Rather than mobilising their worker base in a fight against the capitalist rulers, the union tops invest great energy and purpose into promoting the bosses’ reactionary defence of state and nation. In the face of Qantas management’s open union-busting threats, Transport Workers Union honcho Tony Sheldon recently linked his opposition to Qantas’ attempts to cut costs by outsourcing labour, to “security” and “border protection” at Australian airports. As reported in the Weekend Australian Financial Review (7-8 May), Sheldon despicably ranted at a recent union-sponsored aviation forum that “there were ‘gaping holes’ in the system for ensuring that workers allowed into the secure sections of airports were subject to background checks and held an Aviation Security Identity Card.” Pro-capitalist to the core, Sheldon told the AFR that he was “of the strong view, to put to our delegates and our members, that we should take industrial action over that matter because it’s fundamental to frontline security of the aviation industry and it’s one that Qantas has avoided for a very long time.”

Helping to enforce the “security” of fortress “White Australia” is the kiss of death for the trade unions. It buys into the government’s reactionary “war on terror,” which has not only served to divide the working class by whipping up anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hatred, but has shredded civil liberties while greatly expanding the repressive powers of the state, targeting all working people. The draconian powers of the witchhunting Australian Building and Construction Commission (ABCC), which targets militant construction unionists for persecution and fines, are modelled on “anti-terror” laws introduced under the former Liberal/Coalition government of John Howard with the avid backing of the ALP Opposition.

In seeking to endear themselves to the bourgeoisie by trumpeting their defence of national borders and “protecting” Australian industry, class-collaborationist union misleaders poison potential for working-class solidarity at home and with workers’ struggles abroad. Understanding that it is not overseas workers but the irrational capitalist system that causes unemployment and exploitation, a class-struggle leadership of the unions would take up the fight to defend jobs at the bosses’ expense and seek to unite the employed and unemployed in common struggles around common demands. In opposition to sackings it would fight for jobs for all through a shorter work week at no loss in pay and for a massive program of public works to rebuild the crumbling infrastructure of decaying capitalist society. It would fight to organise non-unionised workers and for union hiring and training, with all workers (women, youth and immigrants) on union wages and conditions.

A revolutionary leadership would be first and foremost internationalist. In fighting for solidarity actions between workers across national boundaries, it would draw on immigrant workers’ experience of class struggle abroad and their living links to workers overseas. It would stand sharply opposed to the union tops’ nationalist bile and cringing loyalty to the capitalist state. Consisting at its core of the military, police, prisons and courts, the bourgeois state is an instrument of organised violence that exists to defend the capitalist exploiters against the strivings of the proletariat and oppressed. As Russian revolutionary leader V. I. Lenin explained in his powerful 1917 treatise, The State and Revolution, the capitalist state cannot be reformed or wielded in the interests of the working class and oppressed; it must be shattered through workers revolution.

Not Laborite Reformism But a Communist Perspective

Following the release of the budget, the reformist opponents of revolutionary Marxism brayed in unison about the attacks by Labor. “Federal Budget 2011-12 Lies and deception” wrote the Communist Party’s The Guardian. “Budget 2011: A budget for billionaires” declared Green Left Weekly. In their article “Desperately seeking surplus,” Socialist Alternative (SAlt) sagely warned “By embracing the rhetoric about public debt and the importance of budget surplus, the Gillard government has signalled the likelihood of more savage cuts in the future....” True enough. But who do the cynical hacks who lead these organisations think they are kidding? For all their moaning about the federal ALP government’s attacks, these reformist groups gave back-handed support to the ALP in last October’s federal elections through the preferential voting system or, in the case of SAlt, simply advocated “giving a first preference vote to either Labor, the Greens or others who are genuinely left-wing...” (SAlt election statement, 9 July 2010).

The CPA, Socialist Alliance and SAlt, each with their own particular brand of liberal-reformist program, all push the lie that, with enough pressure from the masses, the capitalist state, particularly when administered by Labor, can serve the interests of the working class. But whichever party is in power under capitalism it serves to administer capitalism on behalf of the capitalist class. In contrast, fighting for an independent proletarian-centred program, we in the Spartacist League forthrightly called for “No Vote to Labor! No Vote to Bourgeois Greens!” in the 2010 elections. Noting that both the Liberal/National Coalition and Labor were in a reactionary race to sell themselves to the capitalist rulers we wrote, “For the working class and oppressed, the only thing on offer in the upcoming Australian federal election is more capitalist austerity and reaction” (see “‘White Australia’ Elections: Racism, Austerity, Repression,” ASp No. 210, Spring 2010).

We fight to win militant workers, revolutionary-minded youth and anti-racist fighters to the perspective of building a revolutionary workers party. Such a party can only be built in opposition to, and in struggle against, the politics of the ALP and Laborite trade-union bureaucrats who sap and derail the fighting power of the working class by pushing the lie that there can be a partnership between labour and capital. The ALP is what Marxists term a bourgeois workers party, historically based on the trade unions but thoroughly committed to maintaining the capitalist order. It is necessary to replace the misleaders in the unions with a class-struggle leadership, linked to a multiracial revolutionary workers party that is committed to smashing capitalist rule and establishing a new social order run by those who produce the wealth: the working class.

The drive to extract ever greater profit from workers’ labour, the racist oppression of Aboriginal people and refugees, the blood-drenched imperialist carnage from Iraq to Afghanistan, the all-sided social bigotry targeting women and gays—all these are part of the system of capitalist rule. That system must be destroyed root and branch by workers revolution. Proletarian seizure of state power would abolish private ownership of the means of production, collectivise industry and establish a planned socialist economy. Only then will the wealth and productive capacity of society serve the needs of the majority and not the profits of a tiny layer. Ultimately only international working-class rule based on the fight for communism can eliminate the poverty, oppression and misery endemic to this decaying and barbaric capitalist order.

Friday, September 02, 2011

***The Struggle For The Labor Party In The United States-The Socialist Party's Attempt At A Labor Party-The American Labor Party (1936)

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the American Labor Party

Markin comment on this series:

Obviously, for a Marxist, the question of working class political power is central to the possibilities for the main thrust of his or her politics- the quest for that socialist revolution that initiates the socialist reconstruction of society. But working class politics, no less than any other kinds of political expressions has to take an organization form, a disciplined organizational form in the end, but organization nevertheless. In that sense every Marxist worth his or her salt, from individual labor militants to leagues, tendencies, and whatever other formations are out there these days on the left, struggles to built a revolutionary labor party, a Bolshevik-style party.

Glaringly, in the United States there is no such party, nor even a politically independent reformist labor party, as exists in Great Britain. And no, the Democratic Party, imperialist commander-in-chief Obama's Democratic Party is not a labor party. Although plenty of people believe it is an adequate substitute, including some avowed socialists. But they are just flat-out wrong. This series is thus predicated on providing information about, analysis of, and acting as a spur to a close look at the history of the labor party question in America by those who have actually attempted to create one, or at to propagandize for one.

As usual, I will start this series with the work of the International Communist League/Spartacist League/U.S. as I have been mining their archival materials of late. I am most familiar with the history of their work on this question, although on this question the Socialist Workers Party's efforts run a close second, especially in their revolutionary period. Lastly, and most importantly, I am comfortable starting with the ICL/SL efforts on the labor party question since after having reviewed in this space in previous series their G.I. work and youth work (Campus Spartacist and the Revolutionary Marxist Caucus Newsletter inside SDS) I noted that throughout their history they have consistently called for the creation of such a party in the various social arenas in which they have worked. Other organizational and independent efforts, most notably by the Socialist Workers Party and the American Communist Party will follow.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

From The Archives Of The Spartacist League (U.S.)-"Lenin And The Vanguard Party"-Part Eight- "The Fight (Today) For the Leninist Vanguard Party"

Lenin And The Vanguard Party-Part Eight-The Fight (Today) For the Leninist Vanguard Party

Markin comment on this series of articles:

Oddly enough, when I first became serious about making a revolution in the early 1970s, a socialist working class-led revolution, in the eternal quest for a more just and equitable society, there were plenty (no enough, there are never enough, but plenty) of kindred spirits who were also finding out that it was not enough to “pray” such a revolution into existence but that one had to build a party, a vanguard party in order to do so. The name "Lenin," the designation "Bolshevik," and the term "world socialist revolution" flowed easily from the tongue in the circles that I began to hang around in. As I write this general introduction, right this minute in 2011, to an important series of historical articles about the actual creation, in real time, of a Leninist vanguard working class party (and International, as well) there are few kindred, fewer still in America, maybe, fewest still, and this is not good, among the youth, to carry the message forward. Nevertheless, whatever future form the next stage in the struggle for the socialist revolution takes the question of the party, the vanguard party really, will still press upon the heads of those who wish to make it.

Although today there is no mass Bolshevik-style vanguard party (or International)-anywhere-there are groups, grouplets, leagues, tendencies, and ad hoc committees that have cadre from which the nucleus for such a formation could be formed-if we can keep it. And part of the process of being able to “keep it” is to understand what Lenin was trying to do back in the early 1900s (yes, 1900s) in Russia that is applicable today. Quite a bit, actually, as it turns out. And for all those think that the Leninist process, and as the writer of these articles is at pains to point it was an unfolding process, was simple and the cadre that had to be worked with was as pure as the driven snow I would suggest this thought. No less an august revolutionary figure that Leon Trotsky, once he got “religion” on the Bolshevik organizational question (in many ways the question of the success of the revolution), did not, try might and main, have success in forming such a mass organization. We can fight out the details from that perspective learning from the successes and failures, and fight to get many more kindred.
Markin comment on this article:

The most important point in this presentation is the notion of the continuing validity of the need for a vanguard party in order to lead the struggle for the socialist revolution. If you are not interested in socialist revolution as the solution to the crisis of human organization then you do not need a vanguard party. All others pay attention.

Moreover, if Leon Trotsky saw that, in the age of imperialism, his previously Russia-specific theory of permanent revolution about the necessity for the working class to lead that revolution (in alliance with the poor and non-owning classes and other allies) needed to be extended internationally then the same was true for the Leninist concept of the vanguard party as the organization of that struggle. If that fact was true at the time of the 1995 presentation in the immediate aftermath of the demise of the Soviet Union here in 2011 it looks like the absolute beginning of wisdom.
To read about the overall purpose of this pamphlet series and other information about the history of the document go the the American Left History Archives From-Lenin and The Vanguard Party-Preface To The Second Edition And Part One, dated March 15, 2011.
The following presentation by comrade Al Nelson of the Spartacist League Central Committee was first published in Workers Vanguard No. 634, 1 December 1995.
The first sentence of the founding document of the Fourth International, written by Leon Trotsky, who was the co-leader of the Russian Revolution with Lenin, reads, "The world political situation as a whole is chiefly characterized by a historical crisis of the leadership of the proletariat." Writing on the eve of the slaughter of World War II, the second interimperialist war, which ended with the dropping of two atomic bombs by U.S. imperialism that destroyed two whole Japanese cities, Trotsky said that, "The objective prerequisites for the proletarian revolution have not only 'ripened'; they have begun to get somewhat rotten. Without a social revolution, in the next historical period at that, a catastrophe threatens the whole culture of mankind."

The construction of revolutionary leadership capable of leading the working class internationally—that's what we mean by the "party question." Without a revolutionary party no socialist revolution can succeed, no matter how favorable the circumstances. Until the working class solves the problem of creating the revolutionary party as the conscious expression of the historic process, the issue remains undecided. For Marxists, therefore, it is the most important question of all—the question of the party.

Everywhere you look today you can see the effects of the absence of revolutionary leadership. There's Louis Farrakhan's Million Man March, which is both a perverted response to rising black oppression and also very similar in its reactionary patriarchal ideology to the very large and mainly white male Christian "Promise Keepers," currently holding mass meetings around the country. Or look at the very important Detroit newspaper strike. The workers have shown no lack of combativity and courage yet have been systematically betrayed and demobilized by a treacherous union bureaucracy that fundamentally believes in the interests of U.S. capitalism and knows that strikes are not in the interest of capitalism.

Or look at South Africa. If you read Workers Vanguard, it's clear that we aim to construct a section of the International Communist League, a Trotskyist party, in South Africa. Reports of the various comrades who have been traveling through in the last couple of years have had the same theme: the extreme contradiction between revolutionary-minded workers who yearn for fundamental social changes that can only be brought about by social revolution and the leaders of their parties and trade unions who say, "No, no, revolution is not necessary, nor is it possible; we can accomplish our
goals gradually by supporting the African National Congress." Meanwhile the ANC's real goal is to stabilize South Africa politically so that foreign capital can exploit black South Afri¬can labor even more intensely than has been the case in the past.

Stalinism finally succeeded in destroying the Soviet Union and ushering in capitalist counterrevolution in the land of the first workers revolution, a historic defeat for the world proletariat. No longer having a common enemy, the major imperialist powers are drifting apart like great tectonic plates as they seek to divide up the world into competing trade blocs. We've had two interimperialist world wars that prove that trade wars lead inevitably to shooting wars for the redivision of the world markets.

Why the Working Class Is Key
Only the industrial proletariat, led by Bolshevik-type vanguard parties, can prevent another world war by destroying the rule of capital once and for all. So what does it actually mean when we say that the revolutionary party is the "conscious expression of the historic process"? The Manifesto of the Communist Parly was written in 1848 by two young revolutionists named Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. They were, respectively, 29 and 27 years old at the time—just to give a little perspective. With the addition of an updating of the Manifesto, written by Trotsky in 1937, many of the Manifesto's most important sections read as though they were written yesterday.

Its fundamental propositions can be summarized in brief as follows: in every historical epoch the prevailing mode of economic production and exchange and the social organization following from it form the basis upon which the political and intellectual history of that epoch is built up. In other words, con¬sciousness is formed in an environment of social institutions created and controlled by the ruling class of that period.
The whole history of mankind, from the period of slavery through feudalism through the emergence of capitalism, has been a history of class struggles—con¬tests between exploiting and exploited, ruling and oppressed classes. As a propertied new class arising initially in the Middle Ages, the nascent bourgeoisie was able to develop its own economy, its own culture, religion, schools and so on, i.e., its own social institutions expressing its own social consciousness, within feudal society itself. The bourgeois class was able to develop organically within the feudal order. It was driven to overthrow the feudal political system and its social order only when the institutions of the old regime—the monarchy, the nobility, the church—prevented the natural expansion of the institutions of capital. The famous "Rights of Man," one of the main documents coming out of the great French Revolution of 1789, meant at that time the rights of the capitalist class to buy and sell all property, including land, as opposed to the hereditary rights of the old feudal order. It was an assertion of a new property-owning class for which competition was the driving force.

But the proletariat is not a propertied class, and therefore it is not able to construct the' institutions of a new society within the framework of capitalism. All it possesses is its labor power which it must sell piecemeal to the owners of industry in order not to starve. With all other productive classes driven out, the proletariat is the special and essential product of capitalism. So society has been split into two great and hostile camps: the working class and the bourgeoisie. They are the main forces in modern society.

Capitalism has concentrated workers in large factories and created great urban concentrations. In so doing it has created the instrument of its own destruction as an exploiting class. The working class cannot therefore emancipate itself from the yoke of capitalist exploitation without at the same time emancipating society at large from all exploitation, all class distinctions. This is what Marx referred to as the materialist conception of history.

Socialist Consciousness vs. Trade-Union Consciousness
To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. But the history of all countries has shown that the working class, exclusively by its own effort and day-to-day experiences, is not able spontaneously to develop a consciousness any higher than trade-union consciousness, the need to unite in unions for economic struggle against the employers and the government. But trade-union consciousness is bourgeois conscious-ness. Unionism in and of itself does not challenge the capital¬ist mode of production but only seeks to better the immediate conditions and wages of the workers in struggles with individual employers.

Revolutionary class consciousness, represented by the theories of scientific socialism, has to be brought into the working class from the outside through the instrumentality of a revolutionary party which embodies a higher consciousness of these historically necessary tasks than the working class possesses itself. That is the only way the struggles of the workers become class struggle, when the most advanced workers become conscious of themselves as a single class whose actions are directed against the entire class of capitalists and their government.
The founders of Marxism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and their followers like Plekhanov, Lenin and Trotsky, in fact most of the Bolshevik leadership, all came from the educated classes. As such they were the bearers of scientific socialism into the workers movement because they were educated and were able to study history and study economics and put together the understanding of historical materialism. These revolutionists were the instruments for bringing the theories of scientific socialism into the working class from the outside.

As long as the working class is not mobilized by a party based on revolutionary theory, its consciousness remains determined by bourgeois ideology and culture, leading it to see capitalist society as fixed and not open to fundamental change by workers revolution. This "false consciousness," as Marx called it, is what we see and confront every day, all over the world. Furthermore, the working class is not some uniform average but is itself very stratified, ranging from very advanced, knowledgeable workers to the most backward layers, blinded by racism, ethnic hatreds and general social piggishness. For the working class to move from an existence as a class in itself—that is to say, simply defined objectively by its relationship to the means of production—to a class for
itself—one that is fully conscious of its historic task to overthrow the capitalist order—requires revolutionary leadership.

These are the classic Marxist propositions that Lenin argues for in What Is To Be Done? (1902) against a current then called Economism. The Economists belittled the role of the conscious factor. Instead they projected class consciousness arising "organically" and "spontaneously" out of the day-to-day economic struggles of the workers. This infatuation with spontaneity was paralleled by a movement to criticize the revolutionary principles of Marxism as dogmatic and obsolete. Essentially, Lenin said, these socialists are adapting bourgeois criticisms of Marxism in order to transform the struggle for social revolution into a struggle for social reforms. In practice this meant tailing and seeking to pressure the bourgeois liberals while limiting the struggle of the workers to union struggles.
Lenin made a particularly powerful argument against the Economists that is fully applicable today, especially in the United States. For socialists to adapt to the existing trade-union consciousness of the workers keeps the workers in a lower state of consciousness insufficient for revolutionary activity and results. Whether intended or not, this adaptation strengthens the authority of the existing union bureaucracy and thereby strengthens the influence of bourgeois ideology upon the working class. In other words, if you don't break out of the framework of simple trade unionism, you simply reinforce the authority of the treacherous misleaders of the trade-union bureaucracy.

This basic lesson is not remote in time, by the way. It is, for example, at the heart of our criticism of the Revolutionary Workers League (RWL) in the current Workers Vanguard regarding their role in the recent newspaper strike in Detroit. They formed an ad hoc committee external to the union which based itself purely on a call for more militant strike tactics: mass picketing, defying injunctions, etc. That's all very fine; these are necessary tactics. But the RWL omits completely any political characterization of the union bureaucracy and any political explanation of why the union misleaders were consciously and deliberately seeking to defuse the militancy of the workers and to wear them down and suffocate them with legal restrictions. Therefore the RWL never raised the workers' consciousness above union consciousness and actually sowed illusions that a new leadership simply has to be "more militant."

But in many unions the existing bureaucratic leaderships were the militants of yesterday. Look at the president of the Teamsters union, Ron Carey. He's supported by an outfit called the TDU, Teamsters for a Democratic Union, which is an organization created by the International Socialists a long time ago. Or in the mine workers union, the Trumka leadership was hailed by all manner of fake socialists as representing a new, more militant leadership. And now he's got min¬ers—who used to know how to deal very effectively with strikebreakers—out on the tracks holding hands, singing, "We Shall Overcome." Disgusting.

And the reason that these militants of yesterday become the careerists of today is because they share and have never broken from the same pro-capitalist outlook of their predecessors. So for the RWL or anyone else to simply keep their criticisms of a given strike on the level of strike tactics and not characterize politically the existing leadership retards and damages the consciousness of the workers. Nothing is learned out of these defeated strikes except demoralization and cynicism.

Socialist consciousness therefore does not simply grow out of the economic struggle. In reality they exist side by side. The role of the revolutionary party is to saturate the working class with the consciousness of its social position and historic tasks in order to mobilize its most advanced layers in a revolutionary assault on the capitalist system itself. Against the attempt to degrade revolutionary Marxism, Lenin called for the building of a new kind of party, a combat party composed entirely of professional revolutionists. Such a party was not counterposed to the unions. The unions, he said, should be the mass organizations—a kind of united front of the mass of the workers—seeking to build as broadly as possible, to unite the greatest number of workers in defensive struggles against the employers.

But to build the kjnd of highly disciplined, professional organization necessary to lead the proletariat in the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism required that the party recruit only the most advanced workers, who would -then be systematically trained in all the necessary intellectual skills to be effective organizers and agitators able to travel broadly and organize other units of the party. In this party, he said, there shall be no distinctions between worker-Bolsheviks and the revolutionary intellectuals. This requires on the part of the intellectuals that they leave their class and come all the way over to the side of the proletarian party, where their intellectual skills are most valuable.

The 1903 Split Between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks
This period from 1899 to 1902 was the beginning of Lenin's campaign to build a centralized party based on a comprehensive political program. His desire for a narrower definition of membership was motivated in those early days by a general desire to exclude opportunists and to weed out dilettantes who had been attracted to the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party because of its very loose circle nature.

Later, in 1903 a split took place over Lenin's insistence on an organizational rule that party membership be limited to those who are willing to actually participate in an organization of the party, as opposed to the much looser criteria advanced by the right wing of the party of someone who merely renders personal assistance to the party—basically describing a kind of a sympathizer. Lenin wanted members who were going to devote their lives to the cause of proletarian revolution.

This split was the origin of the Bolshevik (Russian for "majority") faction and the Mensheviks ("minority"). While the split corresponded roughly to a left and right wing, the clarifying issues did not occur until later. It is a commonplace error to state that in 1902-1903 Lenin was fully conscious that his conception of the party was a definite break from social democracy and that Bolshevism began after the split in 1903.

In fact, the forming of the Iskra group in 1900 (around the newspaper of the same name), of which Lenin was the organizer, was the coming together of some of the older Russian Marxists, like George Plekhanov and Vera Zasulich, with younger members like Lenin, as a revolutionary grouping within Social Democracy to defend and restore the basic revolutionary principles of Marxism. The period from the forming of the Iskra group to the final split with Mensheviks and the founding of the Bolshevik Party as such in 1912 marked the transformation of the Bolshevik faction from a revolutionary social-democratic one into an embryonic communist organization.

When reading What Is To Be Done?, it's not immediately obvious that until the February Revolution in 1917 Russia was ruled by the Romanov absolutist monarchy, and all Marxists agreed that the immediate tasks were essentially
democratic, the overthrow of tsarism. However, there was an assumption on the part of the Menshevik right wing that this necessarily meant an extended period of capitalism. Basically, this rejected a revolutionary proletarian perspective in favor of a parliamentary opposition in a capitalist government.

Lenin agreed that overthrowing tsarism was the immediate task. But he vehemently disagreed with the perspective that the Marxists should form a bloc with the liberal bourgeoisie. What he posited was an alliance between the revolu¬tionary proletariat and the poor peasantry. As opposed to the Mensheviks, he was trying to draw a class line between the proletariat, and the toiling classes in general, and the capitalist class. However, this theory that Lenin called "the democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry" was essentially flawed in the sense that it posited a dictatorship, a state power, of two classes, one of which—the peasantry—is a property-owning class. But it did serve his main purpose of drawing a line against the Mensheviks and their purely democratic perspective. So that was the framework in which these arguments took place.

Lenin's perspective was that the overthrow of tsarism in Russia by the revolutionary proletariat and peasantry would serve as a spark for proletarian revolution in the more advanced countries, where the situation was much more ripe for socialist revolution. He saw the democratic revolution in Russia leading rather immediately to socialist revolution in West Europe, especially in Germany.

In this period up through 1912, Lenin's consistently revolutionary thrust frequently led him to break with opportunism well before he had generalized it theoretically or internationally. Until 1912, the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks were sometimes forced to exist as factions in the same party. While building his Bolshevik faction in a very disciplined manner, Lenin had not yet broken in principle with Karl Kautsky's conception of "the party of the whole class." This conception meant that the movement should not be split and that all shades of difference, including opportunism, could exist in one party. Karl Kautsky was the pre-eminent leader of German Social Democracy at the time. The German party was far and away the largest party in Europe. Lenin greatly respected Kautsky, and in fact in What Is To Be Done? you'll find Lenin quoting Kautsky on the basic propositions of Marxism.
War and Revolution
It was not until the outbreak of the first interimperialist war in 1914 and the total political collapse of the Socialist (Second) International that Lenin began to realize in hindsight the implications and effects of his earlier course. With the start of World War I, the parliamentary fraction of the German Social Democratic Party, on August 4, 1914, voted unanimously in favor of war credits for the government, supporting the German bourgeoisie in the war. This act had an absolutely shocking impact upon the revolutionists in the Second International. Lenin at first refused to believe the report.

But this single event was to transform Lenin from the left-wing leader of Russian Social Democracy and an embryonic communist into the founding leader of the world communist movement. Following the collapse of the German party, all the other socialist parties in Europe collapsed in the same orgy of social-chauvinism, each one urging the working class in each country to support the war aims of their own ruling class, totally ignoring thejr historical opposition to imperialist war. World War I was the most horrible slaughter yet seen on the face of the earth. Millions of the working class of each country were killed. German workers killing French and English workers and Russian workers and vice versa, all being urged on to fight for their respective fatherlands. It was a shocking betrayal of fundamental socialist principles.

Lenin's basic policy toward the war and the international socialist movement was developed within a few weeks. His policy had three elements: 1) Socialists must stand for the defeat, above all, of their own bourgeois state. 2) The war demonstrated that capitalism in the imperialist epoch threatened to destroy civilization itself. Socialists therefore must work to transform the imperialist war into revolutionary civil war, into proletarian revolution. 3) The Second International has been destroyed by social-chauvinism. A new revolution¬ary international must be built through a complete split with the opportunists in the socialist movement. These principles, these three policies remained central to Lenin's activities right up to the Russian Revolution of October 25, 1917.

Lenin understood that he was advocating splitting the international workers movement into two antagonistic parties: one revolutionary, the other reformist. While in 1903 he had split Russian Social Democracy before it had acquired a mass base, he did not at that time fully realize what he had done. Previously, he saw it as a split of proletarian socialism from petty-bourgeois democracy, i.e., that the influence for opportunism was coming from outside the party. Understanding the material basis for opportunism within social democracy was one of the main conclusions of his book, Imperialism, The Highest Stage of Capitalism, written in 1916. It is in this period, from 1914 to 1917, that Leninism arose as a qualitative extension of Marxism.

Examining the total collapse of the German Social Democratic Party, Lenin came to understand that the source of opportunism came from within the German party itself. Its top leadership was based on a labor aristocracy—a privileged layer that was enjoying the benefits of imperialist exploitation of colonies all around the world. The political outlook of the party leadership had become totally bourgeoi-sified as a result of their social position in German society.

Now Lenin realized that in practice his Bolshevik organization had in fact not been built according to the Kautskyan formula. The selecting, testing and training of Bolshevik cadre was fundamentally different than the social-democratic model of Germany. In 1912 they had completely broken politically and organizationally from the Russian opportunists, the Mensheviks—two and a half years before the outbreak of the war. Lenin now took the Bolshevik Party as a model for the new Third International that he was calling for. Following the victory of the Russian Revolution, the Third, Communist International was founded in 1919. All over the world, including in the United States, the Socialist parties split and the left wings founded new Communist parties, organized on the principles, program and practices of the Russian Bolsheviks. That is our model and ultimately where we come from.

The 1917 Russian Revolution
To see in reality the crucial role of leadership and the role of the revolutionary party, you should examine the course of the Russian Revolution between February and October 1917. Trotsky made the statement that the leadership is to the party what the party is to the class. Many years later Trotsky looked back to 1917 and asked, could the Russian Revolution have happened without Lenin? And he said, I would have to say "no."

There was considerable confusion and disorientation in the Bolshevik Party itself at the outbreak of the February Revolution when the tsar abdicated and a capitalist Provisional Government was formed. Side by side with that gov¬ernment were the Soviets ("soviet" is the Russian word for workers council). These were mass organizations which sprang up in the 1905 Revolution. Delegates to the Soviets were elected from the factories and ranks of the army.

So between February 1917 and the October insurrection, Lenin waged a furious political struggle on several fronts simultaneously. On the one hand, to expose and defeat the authority of the petty-bourgeois parties, the Mensheviks and the peasant-based Social Revolutionaries, who in the beginning had a majority in the Soviets. On the other, struggling within his own party against a persistent right wing that was adapting to the opportunist parties who in turn supported the capitalist government. Trotsky said that it was only Lenin's far-sightedness and his considerable authority with the party cadre that enabled the Bolsheviks to seize the moment and lead the insurrection.

In a revolutionary situation, the consciousness of the workers goes through very rapid changes from day to day, and often even the Bolsheviks lagged behind. But finally there comes a time that Trotsky refers to as the revolutionary moment, when the working class has rejected by experience all other possibilities and now has come to be fully conscious that there is no other, lesser course: We must take the power ourselves! Now they looked to the Bolsheviks to lead them.

The other prerequisite for a successful insurrection is the temporary exhaustion and confusion of the ruling class itself and a situation where it is denied the instruments of its own state power, essentially the army. You can't have an insurrection while the powers of the capitalist state remain intact. The capitalist state, as explained by Lenin, is the special bodies of armed men whose purpose is to defend the property forms of capitalism. The state, any state, is an instrument of coercion of one class over another. So you cannot have an insurrection without being able to split the army and take away the power of the bourgeoisie to militarily crush the revolution.

By early October 1917, all of these factors came together. The army garrisons in Petrograd refused to take orders from the Provisional Government. They would only take orders from the Soviets. Thus the insurrection itself, and the seizure of power, was extraordinarily bloodless.

But as Trotsky says, woe unto any party that flinches at this moment and begins to overestimate the forces of the bourgeoisie or simultaneously underestimates the revolutionary capacity of the working class at the crucial moment. This is what led to the failure of the German Revolution in Octo¬ber 1923, and that failure closed the door for extending the revolution to industrialized Germany and opened the door for German fascism. A frightened ruling class is a very dangerous opponent. Having almost had their power taken away from them, they were going to see that that was not going to happen again. They started financing fascist thugs to break up first the Communist Party and then the labor unions. Then they went after the Jews.

The failure of the German Revolution also ended the revolutionary period that had begun in Russia in October 1917 and left the economically devastated and exhausted young Soviet Republic completely isolated. Lenin and Trotsky knew that for the revolution to survive in backward Russia it must immediately extend to industrialized Western Europe. That was the basic understanding of classical Marxism: You cannot have a revolution remain isolated in one country, especially a backward one; you will be attacked immediately by the other imperialist powers. Therefore, you must take the revolution into the camp of the imperialists.

The closing of that door to Germany demoralized the Russian workers and sections of the Communist Party itself, resulting in a political counterrevolution led by Stalin and his faction in 1924 against the program and leadership of the October Revolution.

Democratic Centralism
The organizational practice of a Leninist party is based on the principle of democratic centralism, which means full freedom in internal discussion, complete discipline and unity in action. As Trotsky put it, without inner democracy, no revolutionary education. Without discipline, no revolutionary action. I couldn't do any better than to read a section from our founding documents to describe the basic conceptions of democratic centralism:

"The Spartacist League takes its organizational forms and practices from the evolved institutions and experiences of the Leninist movement, and seeks to function according to the best traditions of Leninism. We seek to make use of the widest amount of internal democracy and discussion which is compatible with functioning in an effective and disciplined way. Unlike many organizations, which give only lip service to the idea of factional democracy, the SL recognizes that the right to factions is basic and that factional struggle is not only educational but is, in cases of sharp difference, the only way in which the party can arrive at the correct political line....

"The SL must be primarily an action organization, not a discussion group. Once a position is arrived at, it may always be overturned by a higher body or later reversal, but until then it must be carried out."

Or, as James Cannon put it, "Only a self-acting and critical minded membership is capable of forging and consolidating the revolutionary party and of solving its problems by collective discussion and decision. A loosely knit, heterogeneous, undisciplined, untrained organization is utterly incapable."

Basically, democratic centralism is a simple principle. If there are disputes or differences in the party, they are discussed and debated up through the national conference, which is the highest body of the organization. But after a decision is reached by majority vote, the minority is bound by that decision in the public actions of the party, includ¬ing in its press. This does not mean that you have to abandon or give up your opinions. That was the bureaucratic and destructive practice instituted by Stalinism. They called this practice "criticism, self-criticism," culminating in the concept of unanimity. What it really meant was that if you came up on the wrong side of a question, that wrong side being decided by the leadership, you were required to stand up before the membership and criticize yourself for holding the wrong views. In other words, you had to get up and explain what kind of a bad person you were, some sort of petty-bourgeois dilettante or whatever.

But this kind of false confession, this abdication of one's views, simply guts you as a revolutionist. And that mechanism selected people out. What remained were those that learned to live within the framework of a bureaucratic organization where they were expected not to do their own think¬ing. Whereas we value the critical thinking of our own membership, and encourage it.

In fact that's the fundamental reason for the creation of a separate youth organization, so that it can be a training ground for the party, learning how to build a local, learning how to run local executive committees, how to be sales directors and organizers and writers and put out a paper and run a whole national organization parallel to the adult party itself. And they do so in a way where they're not surrounded by 20-year members of the party, which makes youth feel like they're the dumbest guys in the room, but amongst their peers. This encourages the fullest kind of critical discussion to take place. This is how you build critical thinking and higher consciousness.

Bolshevism vs. Bureaucratism
Social-democratic organizations, because they do not have a perspective of the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, but rather seek to pressure its so-called liberal wing, denounce Leninist democratic centralism as being the forerunner of Stalinist bureaucratism. That's the standard anti-Communist syllogism, which you hear all the time now since the bankruptcy of Stalinism caused the collapse of the Soviet Union: Stalinist bureaucratism flowed from Leninist democratic centralism.
Anybody can say almost anything they want in a social-democratic organization, reflecting their completely heterogeneous political composition. Except, there is a party line. It is carried in the newspaper and someone creates it, generally the ruling clique of the moment, which tends to change without any particular democratic discussions. Centrist and social-democratic organizations are always in practice bureaucratic organizations. Centrism is defined as that current which exists between the poles of revolution and refor¬mism. Even in the most left-sounding of the centrist groups there is a conflict between their stated aims—their paper positions—and their real practice.

Another definition of centrism is: revolutionary in words, opportunist in deeds. In fact this contradiction is the source of all bureaucratism. The Stalinists, from 1924 until the 1989-91 collapse of bureaucratic rule, were a living lie. They published the Collected Works of Lenin while seeking to conciliate imperialism by preventing workers revolutions. That profound contradiction was the basis for the police state and for the bureaucratism.
The understanding that the consciousness of the revolutionary party is higher than the consciousness of the work¬ing class means that we do not go outside the party seeking to mobilize more backward workers to pressure the party internally. Many years ago, we wrote "that the fundamental principle for communists is that one struggles among one's comrades to gain a majority for one's program, and that anyone who seeks to mobilize backward forces and alien class elements from outside a revolutionary Marxist organization in order to struggle for ascendancy inside that organization is no communist." Building and maintaining the party requires the highest level of conscious effort.

To ensure the revolutionary integrity of the whole party, the leadership must scrupulously guard the rights of all comrades or groupings in the party who have differences with the party. After all, they may be right. We were a left-wing opposition known as the Revolutionary Tendency (RT) in the Socialist Workers Party in the early 1960s. The SWP greatly abused our democratic rights. They kept us from doing public work in arenas of our differences. They kept us off the leading bodies of the party, they denied our right to exist as a faction in the party, and we constantly struggled to simply exist as an organized group trying to bring our views to the party members.

So we learned from this experience, being on the short end of a very bureaucratic stick, and that reflects itself in our organizational rules and guidelines where the rights of factions are codified, the right to proportional representation on leading bodies if the differences are not resolved at a national conference. Once during a debate in the New York local of the Socialist Workers Party, the national secretary, Farrell Dobbs, looked at me, a young supporter of the RT, and said, "The majority is the party!" And that was dead wrong, that was a fundamentally bureaucratic statement. The party is both the majority and the minority.
So we learned from this negative experience. We also understood that these departures from the norms of Leninism were because the SWP had lost its revolutionary perspective and was very rapidly moving toward reformism. They no longer required the practices necessary for a revolutionary party.
I welcome those of you who are joining the youth club this weekend. It is the first important step toward devoting your life to the cause of the proletariat. There is no higher form of service to humanity.

This article concludes this Lenin and The Vanguard Party series.