Saturday, December 06, 2008

*Defend The Republic Window Workers' Chicago Factory Occupation

Click on the title to link to an article in December 2009 "Socialist Appeal" concerning last year's factory take-over at the Republic Door and Window factory in Chicago.


This is a little news item that I have just picked up from the AP. I note here that last week I mentioned as a "fantasy" that the Detroit auto workers needed to "seize" the factories in order to get something for all the wealth they had produced. One should also note that this was a union-led action. More, hopefully much more, later. Markin

Idled workers occupy factory in Chicago

By Rupa Shenoy

Associated Press Writer / December 6, 2008

CHICAGO—Workers laid off from their jobs at a factory have occupied the building and are demanding assurances they'll get severance and vacation pay that they say they are owed.

About 200 employees of Republic Windows and Doors began their sit-in Friday, the last scheduled day of the plant's operation.

Leah Fried, an organizer with the United Electrical Workers, said the Chicago-based vinyl window manufacturer failed to give 60 days' notice required by law before shutting down.

Workers also were angered when company officials didn't show up for a meeting Friday that had been arranged by U.S. Rep Luis Gutierrez, a Chicago Democrat, she said.

During the peaceful takeover, workers have been shoveling snow and cleaning the building, Fried said.

"We're doing something we haven't since the 1930s, so we're trying to make it work," Fried said.

Union officials said another meeting with the company is scheduled for Monday.

Representatives of Republic Windows did not immediately respond Saturday to calls and e-mails seeking comment.

Police spokeswoman Laura Kubiak said authorities were aware of the situation and officers were patrolling the area.

Crain's Chicago Business reported that the company's monthly sales had fallen to $2.9 million from $4 million during the past month. In a memo to the union, obtained by the business journal, Republic CEO Rich Gillman said the company had "no choice but to shut our doors."

© Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
More articles in Nation

*Since I Met You Baby- The Music Of Ivory Joe Hunter

Click on the headline to link to a "YouTube" film clip of Ivory Joe Hunter performing his classic "Since I Met You Baby."


Since I Met You Baby: The Best of Ivory Joe Hunter, Razor and Tie Records, 1994

Here is a little quiz. Ask someone from the Generation of ’68 (forget anyone younger) if they know who the legendary rhythm and blues pianist Ivory Joe Hunter was. Probably, no response. Then ask whether they remember the song "Since I Met You Baby". They will start singing out the verses for you from a time of young love, class proms or school dances. Yes, that is Ivory Joe Hunter. While he never was at the top of my list of rhythm and blues artists who played piano he nevertheless was one of those instrumental artists who, kind of behind the scenes, influenced a whole generation of musicians to play and sing in that very sweet sing-song way. This, in fact, was the key to white kids like me in the 1950’s getting hip to black music. Nobody, at least who I knew, started with a dose of Ike Turner doing "Rocket 88" to beat the band. Or Elmore James stomping on that slide guitar doing "Dust My Broom". Or even Big Joe Turner jumping on "Shake, Rattle and Roll". We all learned about that ‘black’ thing from Ivory Joe then moved to the big boys (and girls).

As far as the work in this best of album goes, obviously "Since I Met You Baby" is tops. A few others using that same basic melody, like "Empty Arms", are here. Some early boogie woogie work like "Rockin’ Chair Boogie" jumps out at you. However overall, despite the importance of Ivory Joe to the roots of rhythm and blues and to our young love lives, there are, frankly, other artists I would run out and buy first now that I know what’s what with this kind of music.

IVORY JOE HUNTER lyrics - Since I Met You Baby

(Ivory Joe Hunter)

Since I met you baby
My whole life has changed
Since I met you baby
My whole life has changed
And everybody tells me
That I am not the same

I don't need nobody
To tell my troubles to
I don't need nobody
To tell my troubles to
'Cause since I met you baby
All I need is you

[Instrumental Interlude]

Since I met you baby
I'm a happy man
Since I met you baby
I'm a happy man
I'm gonna try to please you
In every way I can

Friday, December 05, 2008

*From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard" - We Are The Party Of The Russian Revolution- A Guest Commentary

Clink on the headline to link to a Part Three of a three part "Workers Vanguard" commentary , dated December 5, 2008, on the continuing relevance of the lessons of the Russian revolution of 1917 for the international labor movement.

Markin comment:

If you believe, as I do, that the Russian October Revolution of 1917 led by Lenin, Trotsky and their fellow Bolsheviks was the defining moment for the international working class in the 20th century and for world politics you should read this three- part commentary. If you also desire to learn the lessons of that revolution, warts and all, you NEED to read this article as a primer on that revolutionary catalyst. If you fervently want to help create new Octobers then you best get busy and read everything you can on the subject. And then come out and join us, as the children of the Russian revolution, in order to put substance into the slogan in the headline.

Workers Vanguard No. 924
7 November 2008

We Are the Party of the Russian Revolution

Part One

We print below, edited for publication, a presentation by comrade Victor Gibbons given in Los Angeles on 10 November 2007 in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution.

The vast political gulf that separates the International Communist League from the rest of the left can be summed up in one declaration: “We are the party of the Russian Revolution.” We salute the 90th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution in the same spirit as the red proletariat of Petrograd celebrated its first anniversary—as “the greatest event in the history of the world.” And it remains the most important event in the history of human civilization: the path that the workers and toiling masses must follow, if we are to escape the death agony of capitalism and embark on the transition to communist society.

The founder and historic leader of American Trotskyism, James P. Cannon, stated in his 1939 “Speech on the Russian Question”:

“The Russian Bolsheviks on November 7, 1917, once and for all, took the question of the workers’ revolution out of the realm of abstraction and gave it flesh and blood reality....

“The October revolution put socialism on the order of the day throughout the world. It revived and shaped and developed the revolutionary labor movement of the world out of the bloody chaos of the war. The Russian revolution showed in practice, by example, how the workers’ revolution is to be made. It revealed in life the role of the party. It showed in life what kind of a party the workers must have.”

For a more extended discussion of the 1917 Revolution, I recommend that you read a series of four educationals on Leon Trotsky’s The History of the Russian Revolution (1932) in WV Nos. 874, 875, 877 and 879 (4 August, 1 September, 29 September and 27 October 2006).

During the course of the Russian Revolution, the multinational proletariat, drawing behind it the peasantry and the oppressed nationalities, forged its own new organs of class power, the soviets. With the smashing of the old capitalist state, these organs, under Bolshevik leadership, formed the basis of the new workers state. The vanguard of the workers understood that they were not just taking power in Russia; they were opening the first chapter of the world socialist revolution. They inspired workers uprisings throughout Europe and inspired rebellions by imperialism’s colonial slaves.

The tremors of October 1917 extended all the way around the globe to right here in the richest bastion of imperialism. In 1919, the Bolsheviks launched the Communist International (CI). Under Bolshevik leaders V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, the CI and the Soviet state became the most powerful revolutionary force ever yet assembled by the world proletariat.

The October Revolution forged a Red Army that emerged victorious from four years of civil war as well as invasion by the armies of 14 capitalist powers in league with their local capitalist henchmen. The Soviet government expropriated the capitalists and repudiated outright the tsar’s massive debt to foreign bankers. It proclaimed the right of working people to jobs, health care, housing and education, as the first steps to building a socialist society.

It gave land to the peasants and self-determination to the many oppressed nations of the tsar’s prison house of peoples. It tore down the whole edifice of Russian patriarchal medievalism. The early Soviet government not only separated church and state, it put all available resources toward universal secular education and science. It eliminated all laws discriminating against national and ethnic minorities, women and homosexuals. Soviet Russia not only gave the vote to women at a time when the Western imperialists were beating them bloody for demanding such a thing; the Bolsheviks put women in the front ranks of proletarian rule as factory managers, state commissars and army commanders.

The Soviet workers state proved the superiority of nationalized property and planned economy over capitalist private property and anarchy in production. Out of the historical poverty left by tsarist Russia, the wreckage left by imperialist invasions, the continuing economic and military encirclement by imperialism, and in spite of Stalinist mismanagement and parasitism, the Soviet Union achieved unrivaled modernization and growth. At the same time as the capitalist world had fallen into the abyss of the 1930s Great Depression, the Soviet planned economy brought tens of millions of Soviet workers and peasants out of Russia’s medieval villages and turned them into educated modern proletarians, scientists, directors of industry and commanders of the mechanized Red Army.

The Soviet Union was the industrial and military powerhouse that made possible, and protected, the overturns of capitalist rule from Cuba to East Europe to China to Vietnam and North Korea. Had it not been for the USSR, the imperialists would have attacked North Korea, China and Vietnam with nuclear weapons during the Korean and Vietnam wars.

The destruction of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism there in 1991-92 and in East Europe transformed the political landscape of the planet and threw proletarian consciousness back to a point in which workers today by and large no longer associate their struggles with the goal of socialism. Capitalist counterrevolution triggered an unparalleled economic collapse throughout the former Soviet Union, with skyrocketing rates of poverty and disease combined with a catastrophic decline in the average lifespan. Internationally, with the absence of the Soviet Union as a counterweight to their ambitions, the imperialists feel they have a free hand to project their military might, from Serbia to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The bourgeoisie has always wanted to wipe the October Revolution from historical memory by burying it under a mountain of lies. They often call it a conspiracy or putsch, but the 1917 October Revolution was no putsch and no accident. It was needed because the socially organized productive forces of the planet were tearing at bourgeois private property forms, and at the bourgeois nation-states as well. These had become shackles on social progress. The first imperialist world war of 1914-18 marked the descent of the capitalist system into a barbaric destruction of society’s productive forces, culture and humanity itself. World War I signaled that, to free the planet’s productive forces from the death grip of capitalist imperialism, proletarian revolution, in the historical sense, had to be on the order of the day. The October Revolution happened because it was organized and led by a party that was able to instill in the proletariat this understanding of its historic mission.

Capitalist imperialism is still caught in its fatal contradictions; it still creates a proletariat with the social power to overthrow the bourgeoisie, and it still compels the workers to fight for their survival. Our duty is to make sure that there will be a party like Lenin’s in the right place at the right time. So this talk is not just about what happened in 1917 in Russia, it is also about the fight of the ICL to make new Octobers.

War and Revolution

The immediate backdrop to the outbreak of revolution in Russia in February 1917 was World War I. This war had a profound impact on Lenin’s thinking. It had triggered the collapse of the Second “Socialist” International. Beginning on 4 August 1914, the vast majority of its affiliated parties lined up behind their bourgeoisies’ war mobilizations. The Bolsheviks turned out to be among the few that sought to act on the International’s prior resolutions to use war to hasten workers revolution.

The collapse of the old International led Lenin to generalize his split with the Mensheviks in Russia. That split went back to the 1903 fight over the definition of party membership; the differences broadened shortly thereafter as the Bolsheviks rejected the Mensheviks’ promotion of the liberal bourgeoisie as the purported leadership of an overthrow of the tsar. The split had become definitive by 1912.

Lenin concluded from World War I that opportunism in the workers movement was not a vestigial or localized phenomenon that could be overcome within a common party. He concluded that the Second International had been destroyed and that a new revolutionary international must be built through a complete split with not only the outright jingoists, but also the centrists who covered for them by using fake-Marxist arguments. The archetype of such centrists at the time was the German Social Democrat Karl Kautsky.

Lenin held that the war had demonstrated that capitalism was in its final stage of decay and that proletarian socialist revolution offered the only way out of a continuing descent into barbarism. He maintained that the path to proletarian revolution was the transformation of the imperialist war into a revolutionary civil war and that the condition for this was that socialists must stand for the defeat, above all, of their own bourgeois state in the war. Lenin’s policies brilliantly anticipated the revolutionary sweep of events to come and pointed to the program needed to meet them.

It was in the Russian capital of Petrograd on International Women’s Day, 23 February 1917 (by the old Julian calendar) when the social tensions exacerbated by World War I burst. A strike of mostly women textile workers demanded bread and war rations. There were over 1,000 casualties as ever more workers joined the street fighting and launched a general strike on the 25th. This was the start of the February Revolution. Throughout Russia, police and state officials were sent packing, and on February 27 the Soviet of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies was formed. The election of soviets in the factories and in the army reflected the workers’ experience in the 1905 Revolution. (You can read a presentation on the 1905 Russian Revolution in WV No. 872, 9 June 2006.)

Let’s take a moment to define “soviets.” These were working-class organs, councils of deputies elected from workplaces and army units. The workers elected their deputies, could actively control them and, whenever need be, recall them. The soviets were organs of struggle, insurgency and proletarian administration.

But the paradox of the February Revolution was that while the autocracy had been overthrown by the workers, many of them schooled over the years by the Bolsheviks, the official government that emerged was bourgeois. Even as street fighting was raging in Petrograd, a self-appointed Provisional Committee of bourgeois-monarchist politicians met in the Tauride Palace on the night of February 27, behind the back of the popular revolution. They declared a Provisional Government aimed at erecting a constitutional monarchy.

And while the Bolsheviks and the workers were still in the streets battling the tsar’s gendarmes, a cabal rushed to the other wing of the Tauride Palace and appointed themselves the heads of the Petrograd and All-Russian soviets. These were the leaders of the Mensheviks and the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (SRs). While the SRs were largely based on the peasantry, the Mensheviks represented urban petty-bourgeois layers and the more conservative and privileged workers. The program of the Mensheviks and SRs was that the bourgeoisie should lead and rule, and they desperately appealed to the bourgeois Provisional Government to take control.

The February Revolution thus resulted in a situation of dual power. That is, alongside the Provisional Government of the bourgeoisie, there stood the Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, based on the working class and answering to it. This situation could not last. One class or the other would have to rule.

Lenin and the Bolsheviks

The Bolsheviks’ internal life was an arena of constant debates. And in the course of 1917, a struggle recurred between Lenin and a conservative wing centered around Bolshevik leaders Lev Kamenev, Gregory Zinoviev and Joseph Stalin. And as we will see, the latter three would come together again after the October Revolution.

Lenin waged a key fight with them when he returned to Petrograd on April 3. While still trapped in Swiss exile, he had been reading with increasing alarm in the party paper, Pravda, of Kamenev and Stalin’s “conditional” support to the Provisional Government. They dropped Lenin’s revolutionary defeatism on the war and embraced a variety of Menshevik defensism, under the cover of pressuring the Provisional Government to negotiate an end to the war. They moved to merge the Bolsheviks with the Mensheviks. They were steering the party towards the Menshevik mirage of a parliamentary pressure group on the government of Prince Lvov!

When he finally arrived at the Finland Station in Petrograd, Lenin climbed atop an armored car to address the cheering crowds that had brought down the tsar. Lenin hailed them and, to the shock of the official pro-war Soviet welcoming committee, gave an internationalist salute to the German revolutionary Marxist leader Karl Liebknecht who was in a prison cell for opposing German militarism and its fake-socialist supporters: “The hour is not far when, at the summons of our comrade Karl Liebknecht, the people will turn their weapons against their capitalist exploiters.... Long live the world-wide socialist revolution!”

This was the opening shot of Lenin’s fight to rearm the party. He was adamant on the principle of no support to the capitalist Provisional Government and its imperialist war. It was a split issue. He was a minority of one, but he knew his program corresponded to the needs of the proletariat and peasantry. Lenin’s program for proletarian seizure of power was already taking shape in the masses’ own struggles. “Turn the imperialist war into a civil war!” would be concretized on Bolshevik banners that read “All Power to the Soviets!” and “Down With the War!” What made it possible for Lenin to turn the party wheel toward the proletarian seizure of power was that by the end of April he rallied decisive support from the proletarian provinces and industrial districts of the capital.

Whenever you hear us Spartacists being called “splitters” or you hear sermons about “unity, unity,” just remember: Lenin could not have led a workers revolution alongside supporters of the bourgeois government and imperialist war.

State and Revolution

One of Lenin’s great achievements during 1917 was his revival and defense of the teachings of Karl Marx and his lifelong comrade, Friedrich Engels, on the state. In July, as he was hiding from a government death squad, Lenin devoted what he thought might be his last days to completing a pamphlet, The State and Revolution. He wrote that the bourgeoisie uses lies to hide its dictatorship, but that Marxists must state the truth: states are not neutral arbiters above classes.

Engels defined the core of the state as armed bodies of men, the prisons and police who hold a monopoly of violence over society. These instruments were forged in wars and revolutions for the social domination of particular classes. These social classes are defined by their property rights in relation to society’s means of production. Thus all states are instruments for the domination of a particular class’s property forms in the means of production. In modern society, there are only two fundamental classes: the bourgeoisie, which owns the means of production; and the proletariat, defined as those who own only their labor power. The capitalists require private property in the means of production, the workers need socialized ownership of them. The interests of the capitalists and workers are thus absolutely counterposed and cannot be served by one and the same state.

Lenin also explained that it is impossible to make the institutions of the bourgeoisie’s class dictatorship serve the proletariat: “Marx’s idea is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery,’ and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it.” The proletariat had to build up its own organs of state power out of such things as factory committees, unions, red guards, workers militias, soldiers committees and revolutionary soviets, independent of, and in active struggle against, the old bourgeois state. These were built in 1917 and, after the workers’ revolutionary seizure of power, became the basis of a new kind of state: the dictatorship of the proletariat. This was a fundamentally different power from all previous states in that its purpose was ultimately not perpetuation of class domination, but the transition to classless, therefore, stateless, socialist society.

The Bolsheviks’ Fight Against Class Collaboration

The first Provisional Government was brought down in a political firestorm over its pledge to continue the hated imperialist war. A new cabinet was formed on May 5, and this time the SR and Menshevik Soviet leaders took ministerial posts in the capitalist government. Trotsky later called this Russian coalition government “the greatest historical example of the Popular Front.” The popular front was the name that the Stalinists would use, starting in the 1930s, to designate their coalition government betrayals. It also goes by other names: Union of the Left, Unidad Popular, Tripartite Alliance.

Such class collaboration is not a tactic, but the greatest betrayal. Any political bloc that a workers party enters into with capitalist parties, whether in government or in opposition, is a pledge by the traitorous working-class leaders that they will not violate the bourgeois order. It means that the workers party will take political responsibility for policing the bourgeois social order.

Lenin and Trotsky devised a slogan in response to the coalition government: “Down With the Ten Capitalist Ministers!” This meant: break the coalition with the capitalists; the workers and soldiers Soviets should take all the power! The refusal of the Mensheviks and SRs to do this exposed them before the mass of workers, soldiers and peasants of Russia who still followed them.

In June, the coalition government launched a new war offensive. This impelled the Petrograd proletariat and sailors of the neighboring Kronstadt naval base to embark on a three-day armed demonstration in July to demand the Soviet leaders end the hated war and take power. The Bolsheviks strove to prevent a premature showdown but, unable to hold back the mobilization, took their place at its head to provide leadership.

Capitalist Petrograd’s reaction was to bring in reactionary troops from the front and launch a reign of terror. But when even this failed to stop the Bolsheviks, the bourgeoisie in August resolved on a military coup by the Commander-in-Chief of the army, General Lavr Kornilov, to crush the Soviets altogether. The conciliationist Soviet tops were paralyzed, but the masses rallied around the Bolshevik-organized united-front action that stopped Kornilov in his tracks.

Kornilov was gearing up to sweep away the Provisional Government along with the Soviets as a whole. In mobilizing to stop Kornilov, the Bolsheviks were defending the Provisional Government, but this was strictly military defense. The Bolsheviks gave absolutely no political support to the Provisional Government. On the contrary, while the workers and soldiers mobilized against the counterrevolutionary threat, the Bolsheviks exposed the traitors—the Mensheviks and SRs—in the Provisional Government, who were in constant communication with Kornilov.

A crucial corner had been turned by the beginning of September. The masses were convinced through their Bolshevik-led struggle against Kornilov that the old Soviet misleaders were kaput and that only the Bolsheviks would take decisive action to end the war and stop capitalist sabotage of the economy. The General Staff of the army was no longer capable of mobilizing military units against revolutionary Petrograd. The countryside was aflame as returning peasant soldiers seized the landlords’ fields and torched palatial estates. On September 4, Trotsky was released from prison, and by the 23rd he was elected Chairman of the Petrograd Soviet. The Bolsheviks finally had solid majorities in the Moscow and Petrograd Soviets. Trotsky declared, “Long live the direct and open struggle for a revolutionary power throughout the country!” Lenin hammered home: Get on with it, take power!

The Party, the Soviets and the Conquest of Power

The Bolshevik Central Committee met on October 10 and 16 to finalize the insurrection. At both meetings Zinoviev and Kamenev were opposed to insurrection, while the Lenin and Trotsky wing carried the majority in support of it. Everywhere, factory Red Guards were drilling, workers at the arms factories funneled weapons directly to the workers militias, and the Petrograd Soviet and Bolshevik headquarters in the Smolny Institute became a beehive of working-class organization.

On October 18, Kamenev and Zinoviev publicly blew the whistle on the insurrection in the press. Lenin called them strikebreakers and demanded their expulsion. As Trotsky explained in his 1924 work, Lessons of October, sharp turns such as the leap to insurrection footing provoke conservative tendencies latent in the party into opposition. Trotsky defined the essence of Bolshevism as “such a training, such a tempering and such an organization of the proletarian vanguard as enables the latter to seize power, arms in hand” and the social-democratic (Menshevik) tendency as “the acceptance of a reformist opposition activity within the framework of bourgeois society and an adaptation to its legality—i.e. the actual training of the masses to become imbued with the inviolability of the bourgeois state.”

As we’ve seen, the soviets by themselves do not settle the question of power. They can serve different programs and leaderships. As Trotsky wrote, “Without a party, apart from a party, over the head of a party, or with a substitute for a party, the proletarian revolution cannot conquer.”

The insurrection took place on the eve of the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets on October 25th. Lenin reappeared in public and read out declarations on peace, land and the rights of the toilers. The Bolsheviks’ proclamations were punctuated by the steady boom of red naval artillery directed against the government holdouts in the Winter Palace. Lenin declared: “The Russian started the revolution, and the German will carry it through to the end.” He also said: “A new phase has opened up not just in Russia, but throughout the entire world.”

Isolation of the Revolution and Stalinist Degeneration

The masses of workers in war-ravaged Europe looked to the example of Soviet Russia. However, the social-democratic leaders of the mass reformist workers parties sought to preserve the capitalist order and strangle the October Revolution. Hamstrung by this treachery, insurgent workers in Europe failed in their efforts to take and hold power in Finland (1918), Germany (1918-19), Hungary (1919) and Italy (1919-20), where revolutionary struggles went down to defeat. What was lacking were programmatically grounded and battle-tested revolutionary parties like the Bolshevik Party, capable of leading the workers in victory over the social-democratic and nationalist defenders of capitalist rule.

Within Soviet Russia, the Red Army eventually repulsed all the imperialist-sponsored troops and domestic White Guards, but the country emerged exhausted and drained from the Civil War. There was a vast gulf between the Bolsheviks’ communist goals and the prevailing material scarcity and want. Not only was industry in ruins, the vibrant proletariat that had accomplished October had practically ceased to exist. Vast parts of Moscow and Petrograd were like dark, frozen ghost towns. Instead of an influx of material resources from a Soviet Europe to help rebuild Russia’s devastated infrastructure, Soviet Russia was swept by famine that reached the point of cannibalism in the countryside.

Because of the material and cultural poverty inherited from tsarism, the Bolsheviks early on had to utilize those remaining former functionaries, technical specialists and military officers who, often for careerist reasons, offered their services to the new regime. Lenin warned at the March 1922 Eleventh Party Congress that “‘Four thousand seven hundred responsible communists’ in Moscow administer the state machine. ‘Who is leading whom? I doubt very much whether you can say that the communists are in the lead’” (quoted in Trotsky’s The Revolution Betrayed, 1936). A nascent conservative and bureaucratized layer had developed—using its position to secure privileges amidst general scarcity—that became a transmission belt for alien class interests and conservative political moods into the Bolshevik Party itself.

These were the conditions in which the revolutionary core of the Bolshevik Party was outflanked by the growing conservative wing, centered on the party apparatus headed by Stalin. After Lenin was struck down by a stroke in May 1922, Stalin, Zinoviev and Kamenev formed a secret “troika” (or triumvirate) to stop Trotsky from succeeding him as central leader of the party. Their bloc against Trotsky became a center around which opponents of the party’s Leninist wing would act to usurp political power. Stalin emerged as the protector and spokesman for the conservative, bureaucratic layer in the party and state apparatuses.

Doing away with Great Russian chauvinist despotism, the Bolsheviks in power offered full democratic rights to all ethnicities in what had been, in Lenin’s words, the tsarist “prison house of peoples.” In order to liberate the myriad peoples at different levels of national consolidation, a variety of soviet republics were established, from Union Republics for fully formed nations to Autonomous Oblasts (provinces) for various nationalities. In areas of heavy interpenetration of peoples, such as the Caucasus, the resulting complicated checkerboard of autonomous regions set an internationalist framework for intercourse among the peoples.

It was precisely over the national question in the Caucasus that the first decisive political fight against the developing Stalinist bureaucracy was waged by Lenin. After Stalin attempted to deny the Georgian, Azerbaijani and Armenian republics their sovereign status and force them into a Transcaucasian federation, Lenin broke with him in late 1922. Lenin resolved to consummate a bloc with Trotsky, preparing to, in the words of one of his secretaries, drop a “bomb” on Stalin at the upcoming Twelfth Party Congress, held in April 1923. However, Lenin was debilitated by another stroke shortly before the Congress opened, ending his active participation in the affairs of the Soviet party and state. With Lenin ill, Trotsky’s primary concern was to avoid a split within the leadership. Thus, he accepted a deal in which his resolutions on key issues, including the national question, were adopted by the Congress while Stalin kept his post as General Secretary (see “A Critical Balance Sheet: Trotsky and the Russian Left Opposition,” Spartacist No. 56, Spring 2001).

The final straw was the defeat of the October 1923 revolution in Germany. It stopped the postwar revolutionary wave, allowing the global bourgeois order to stabilize. This was hugely demoralizing for Soviet workers. They had strained every nerve preparing for common revolutionary struggle alongside a Bolshevik Germany. Instead, they now faced, for the first time, the prospect of national isolation for the foreseeable future.

The delay of international revolution is what enabled the ascendancy of a conservative bureaucracy in Soviet Russia, which step-by-step strangled the remnants of the Bolshevik Party’s revolutionary core. Trotskyism (i.e., genuine Marxism) is the continuation of Leninism. Stalinism did not flow from Leninism; it was a conservative reaction against it.

A qualitative turning point occurred at the Bolshevik Thirteenth Party Conference in January 1924. In the discussions leading up to that conference, Trotsky and the emerging opposition to bureaucratism and Stalin’s Great Russian national chauvinist policies received unexpectedly broad party support. The apparatus panicked and demonstratively slammed shut the doors to the last party forum where Lenin and Trotsky’s revolutionary core might have been able to overcome their opponents. The elections for delegates to this conference were systematically rigged by the Troika to allow only three supporters of Trotsky to attend. The nascent bureaucracy had shaken its fist in the face of the Opposition: you are out!

One of the three Oppositionist delegates seated at the Conference was Ivan Vrachev. As he denounced Stalin’s undermining of Lenin’s party from the floor of the Thirteenth Conference, he was repeatedly interrupted by hecklers. Vrachev fired back in protest: “Comrades, it may be that we have only a few hours left of full democracy, so let us use it!” He was right. From that point on, the people who ruled the USSR, the way the USSR was ruled and the purposes for which it was ruled all changed.

It took some time for the bureaucracy to consolidate its rule. The Stalin clique had to carry out bloody purges throughout the 1930s. (As an aside, one of the things that the ICL did in the USSR was to seek out surviving veterans of the Trotskyist Opposition. We found Ivan Vrachev and interviewed him.)

In defending its privileges, the Stalinist bureaucracy necessarily soon acquired political self-consciousness in opposition to the Bolshevik Party’s Marxist program. The change of purpose of the USSR’s leadership was encapsulated in December 1924 when Stalin trampled on October’s banner of world revolution by propagating the false dogma of economic autarky and isolationism known as “socialism in one country.” As a theory it was absurd. A workers state cannot ignore the capitalist-dominated international economy. In order to achieve a classless, socialist society, what is required are socialist revolutions to expropriate the bourgeoisies and establish planned, collectivized economies. But Stalin’s nationalist formula crystallized a mood of conservatism, a retreat into a false hope of stability for which Soviet society ached after years of war, revolution and privation.

As the Kremlin bureaucracy became more conscious of its position, this revisionism of internationalist principle became a rationale for political betrayal. Increasingly, Communist parties abroad were transformed into Soviet foreign-policy bargaining chips in a bid for illusory “peaceful coexistence” with imperialism. Over the coming decades, one opportunity after another for socialist revolution in the capitalist countries was strangled.

The Left Opposition that emerged from the crucible of the anti-bureaucratic struggle in the Soviet party was unquestionably the continuity of Leninism, the real heirs to the 1917 Russian Revolution. Trotsky’s Left Opposition fought, both in the Soviet Union and—insofar as they were able—in the Communist International, to preserve and extend the gains of the Russian Revolution. Trotsky’s 1928 “Critique of the Draft Program of the Communist International” proved that the fight in the Russian party was a fight not only for a revival of the Soviet proletariat and against the bureaucratic deformation of the Soviet Union, but also to preserve the theoretical and programmatic heritage of Bolshevism, the revolutionary Marxism of the imperialist epoch. Trotsky’s The Third International After Lenin, containing his 1928 “Critique,” stands as the founding statement of international Trotskyism.

In 1933, Hitler came to power in Germany without a single shot being fired. The Stalinists, who were then in an ultra-left phase that they termed the “Third Period,” referred to the Social Democrats as “social fascists” and refused to call for a united front with this mass reformist working-class party against Hitler’s drive to power. In the face of this historic defeat—and the fact that no opposition was voiced nor a balance sheet drawn within the Stalinized Comintern—Trotsky called for forging a new, Fourth International.

The Communist International under Stalin, after the catastrophic ultra-left line, zigzagged to the right and, at the Seventh (and last) Comintern Congress in 1935, consolidated around a policy of forming class-collaborationist coalitions that they termed “popular fronts.” At the time, the Stalinists sought to justify this treacherous policy by arguing that they were uniting with supposedly “democratic” bourgeois parties “against fascism.”

It was through tying the workers politically to their class enemy that the 1936 French general strike was betrayed by the French Socialist and Communist parties. From the Spanish Revolution of 1936-38 to Chile in 1970-73, the popular front has served to undermine any independent bid for proletarian power, paralyze its struggles and set it up for defeat, often bloody. Like Lenin and Trotsky, we are opposed in principle to any coalition with capitalist parties, whether in government or in opposition, and we are against voting for the workers parties that are part of a popular-front coalition.

In the aftermath of the Stalinist betrayal in Germany, followed by the Comintern’s codification of the reformist popular-front line, Trotsky and his comrades founded the Fourth International in 1938. The 1938 Transitional Program of the Fourth International characterized the Soviet Union under Stalin as follows:

“The USSR thus embodies terrific contradictions. But it still remains a degenerated workers’ state. Such is the social diagnosis. The political prognosis has an alternative character: either the bureaucracy, becoming ever more the organ of the world bourgeoisie in the workers’ state, will overthrow the new forms of property and plunge the country back into capitalism; or the working class will crush the bureaucracy and open the way to socialism.”

Trotsky’s program pointed to how these contradictions could be resolved: the Fourth International fought for unconditional military defense of the degenerated workers state from imperialism and counterrevolution. This was based on the understanding that the Stalinist bureaucracy’s usurpation of power was a political, rather than social, counterrevolution because it did not overthrow the proletarian property forms created by October. As Lenin had taught, the state—a repressive apparatus of armed bodies at its core—defends the property relations of the ruling class: a bourgeois state defends capitalist private property relations, a workers state defends collectivized property relations. The Soviet Union, with the political rule of the parasitic and repressive Stalinist bureaucracy, had become a bureaucratically degenerated workers state.

The Trotskyists called for proletarian political revolution. Such a revolution, based on defense of collectivized property forms, is not a social revolution or a counterrevolution, which overturns existing property relations and puts a different class in power. Rather it is a political revolution to oust the bureaucracy, restoring workers soviet democracy and a Trotskyist internationalist leadership such as the one that led the October Revolution.

[TO BE CONTINUED]- Part Two is below


Workers Vanguard No. 925
21 November 2008

We Are the Party of the Russian Revolution

Part Two

We print below, edited for publication, the second part of a presentation by comrade Victor Gibbons, given in Los Angeles on 10 November 2007 in commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the Russian Revolution. Part One of this presentation was published in WV No. 924, 7 November.

Leading the fight against the Stalinist degeneration of the world’s first workers state, which was created by the 1917 Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky’s Left Opposition upheld the revolutionary-internationalist program of V.I. Lenin’s Bolshevik Party. Central to the program of Trotsky’s Fourth International was the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution and the call for proletarian political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracy and restore working-class political power in the USSR.

A crucial turning point in the fate of the Soviet Union—and world history—proved to be the war in Afghanistan during the 1980s. In December 1979, Leonid Brezhnev’s Kremlin had intervened militarily into Afghanistan to shore up a strategically important client state along the southern border of Soviet Central Asia. The modernizing bourgeois-nationalist regime in Kabul had repeatedly requested Soviet aid against a reactionary Islamic insurgency—backed and armed by the U.S.—which had taken up arms against the regime’s modest social reforms, especially those that improved the horribly oppressed condition of Afghan women.

In dreadfully backward Afghanistan, the Red Army represented the only real basis for social progress. A Red Army victory and a prolonged occupation of the country posed the extension of the social gains of the October Revolution to Afghanistan, transforming it along the lines of Soviet Central Asia.

It should have been easy for any leftist to see that it was necessary to take the Soviet side in this war. The war was doubly progressive on the part of the USSR, defending both the fate of women and elementary social progress in Afghanistan, as well as defending the Soviet Union’s strategic southern flank. Against the solid front that ran from the imperialists to their “left” drummer boys, the international Spartacist tendency (predecessor of the International Communist League) declared: “Hail Red Army in Afghanistan! Extend social gains of the October Revolution to Afghan peoples!”

The 1979 Red Army intervention into Afghanistan cut against the grain of the Stalinists’ nationalist dogma of “socialism in one country.” Our internationalist line, aimed squarely against the CIA-backed mujahedin, at the same time promoted political revolution against the Kremlin bureaucracy.

During the onslaught of the war hysteria cranked out by the U.S. ruling class—beginning with Jimmy Carter’s “human rights” demagogy and escalating to Ronald Reagan’s crusade against the Soviet “evil empire”—a defining moment took place for the left internationally. Much of the left rushed to embrace what was the biggest “covert” CIA operation in history. The lackeys of imperialism did not give a damn about the genuine progress that the Soviet presence from 1979-89 did start to bring about for Afghan women, anymore than they care today about the living hell women have been thrown back into by the triumphal march of imperialism and the Islamic cutthroats that they spawned in the region.

Left apologists for U.S. imperialism’s holy war against the USSR and progress in Afghanistan screamed bloody murder over purported Soviet violations of Afghanistan’s supposed “national rights.” But Afghanistan is not a nation. It is a feudal-derived state that is a mosaic of nationalities, ethnic and tribal groupings. And, in any case, this is beside the point. Even if Afghanistan were a homogeneous nation, revolutionary Marxists would have supported the Soviet Union’s armed intervention since the furthering of social revolution, including defense of the USSR against capitalist imperialism, stands higher than the bourgeois-democratic right of national self-determination.

The war in Afghanistan would prove to be a watershed. The Stalinist bureaucracy’s treacherous withdrawal from Afghanistan in 1989 was the direct precursor to capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union itself. As I will explain below, we fought for an internationalist response to help defeat the Afghan reactionaries. We said it would be better to fight against imperialism there than against counterrevolution in Moscow—and we were proved very right.

Bourgeoisie, Social Democrats Promote Counterrevolution in Poland

In the early ’80s, another anti-Communist campaign was waged around events in Poland where striking workers lined up behind an opposition composed of reactionary ultranationalists, Catholic clerics and pro-capitalist social democrats. Significant sections of the working class were mobilized against the Stalinist bureaucracy through Solidarność, a “trade union” sponsored by the CIA, West European social democrats and the Vatican. In the U.S. and West Europe, the trade-union bureaucracy went whole hog in mobilizing support for Solidarność.

The ascendancy of Solidarność was a direct consequence of the political bankruptcy of Stalinism. In Poland in 1956, 1970 and again in 1976, proletarian upheavals were headed off as the bureaucracy each time put forward a new leader or new promises for a better deal. At the same time, the Polish Stalinists strengthened the Catholic church in various ways, including by perpetuating a landowning peasantry. By the late 1970s, having been disillusioned three times with “national-liberal” Stalinism, significant sections of the Polish working class became susceptible to being organized in Solidarność.

At its first national congress in September 1981, Solidarność consolidated around a program of open counterrevolution. Its call for “free trade unions” was a war cry of Cold War anti-Sovietism. In regard to the Stalinist-ruled workers states, we have historically fought for trade unions that are independent of bureaucratic control and are based on the principle of defending the workers state and its collectivized economy. Solidarność also called for “free elections” to the Sejm (parliament), a program of capitalist restoration under the guise of a parliamentary government.

We described Solidarność as a company union for the CIA and bankers. Stressing the need to unconditionally militarily defend the Polish deformed workers state against capitalist restoration, we raised the call “Stop Solidarność Counterrevolution!”

When in December 1981 the bid for power by Solidarność was spiked by General Wojciech Jaruzelski, we unconditionally defended that measure as a means to defend the workers state and buy time for the formation of a Trotskyist party. By contrast, much of the left backed Solidarność. At the same time, we warned that the Stalinists were capable of selling out the Polish workers state to capitalism—and that is exactly what happened. In 1989, the Polish Stalinists ceded governmental power to Solidarność, which had won a landslide electoral victory that June. Thus Solidarność formed the first of the capitalist-restorationist regimes in East and Central Europe.

In Poland today you can see the result of capitalist counterrevolution: whole parts of the Polish economy—mining, heavy industry and textiles—have been massively destroyed. Unemployment—largely nonexistent in the period before 1989—hovers around 20 percent, and there are hardly any unemployment benefits. Women’s rights have been rolled back and a reactionary clerical capitalist government established.

The ICL and the Struggle Against Capitalist Counterrevolution

The fact that the Soviet Union was able to recover from the utter destruction caused by the Nazi invasion during World War II—and become an industrial and military superpower—was further testimony to the superiority of the collectivized planned economy. However, the Soviet economy—its level of productivity and technological base—necessarily continued on the whole to lag behind the advanced centers of the capitalist West. Over the next decades, the Soviet Union was subjected to the unremitting pressures of imperialism—not only military encirclement and an arms buildup aimed at bankrupting the Soviet economy, but also the pressure of the imperialist world market.

Trotsky had explained that the Stalinist bureaucracy was capable of extensive ecomomic growth. The Kremlin oligarchy could and did expand the Soviet economy by crudely transplanting capitalist production methods and even entire factories from abroad. But it was incapable of consistently raising the overall level of technology and labor productivity. As Trotsky put it in The Revolution Betrayed (1936): “Under a nationalized economy, quality demands a democracy of producers and consumers, freedom of criticism and initiative—conditions incompatible with a totalitarian regime of fear, lies and flattery.”

Although the planned economy proved its superiority over capitalist anarchy during its period of extensive growth, as the need for quality and intensive development came to the fore, the bureaucratic stranglehold more and more undermined the economy. By the 1980s, the cumulative effects of Stalinist mismanagement and parasitism had brought the USSR’s once explosive growth rate to just a few percentage points a year, and then none at all.

The bureaucratic caste in the Kremlin was no longer able to simultaneously fund defense spending, maintain the steady postwar rise of Soviet workers’ living standards, and invest in new industrial technology. A change of course was inevitable. In 1985, Mikhail Gorbachev came to power with his slogan of perestroika, a program of “market reforms” intended as a whip to spur worker productivity and enterprise efficiency. This was linked to a policy of glasnost (which means “openness”). The attempt to restructure the Soviet economy through so-called “market socialism” signified a transition away from central planning in favor of market mechanisms for running the economy. This led to a deepening of social inequalities and a strengthening of forces pushing for the restoration of capitalism.

These reforms were combined with increased diplomatic conciliation vis-à-vis imperialism under the slogan “new thinking” in foreign policy. When, in early 1989, the Soviet bureaucracy under Gorbachev withdrew Soviet troops from Afghanistan in the vain hope of winning the good graces of the imperialists, we denounced this as a crime against both the Afghan and Soviet peoples—as has been amply verified by subsequent events.

The reason Gorbachev threw Afghanistan to the imperialist wolves by withdrawing the Soviet Army was not that the USSR was militarily defeated in Afghanistan. That is a Cold War myth manufactured and marketed by the CIA and its media chorus. Today the imperialists’ spies and diplomats who ran the operation readily concede that the high point of the mujahedin insurgency was in 1980. From then on, the mullahs were consistently “getting beaten” and “are not strong enough to hold or deny territory to the Soviets” (quoted in Diego Cordovez and Selig S. Harrison, Out of Afghanistan: The Inside Story of the Soviet Withdrawal).

One’s blood boils reading the Politburo records of the generals and party bosses wrestling with the Afghan dilemma. Gorbachev ruled out extending the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples. Soon after coming to power he lectured the Politburo that, “after all, it’s not socialism we want there.” He stated in 1986 that “the USSR does not intend to remain in Afghanistan and does not seek a ‘breakthrough to warm seas’ [of the Indian Ocean].” Gorbachev was countering those who chafed at the humiliating retreat he demanded by evoking the Stalinists’ shared renunciation of the struggle for world revolution. But it was not just Gorbachev personally who betrayed the masses of Afghanistan for the sake of appeasing Ronald Reagan. No wing of the bureaucracy had an alternative to Gorbachev’s attempt to reduce the Soviet military budget and its commitments through a vain attempt to appease imperialism.

Just days before Gorbachev pulled the last Soviet units out of Afghanistan, the Partisan Defense Committee—the class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—sent a 7 February 1989 letter to the Afghan government offering to organize an international brigade to fight to the death to defend the right of women to read; to defend freedom from the veil and the tyranny of the mullahs and the landlords; to defend the introduction of medical care and the right of all to an education.

Unfortunately, the Afghan government declined our offer. They asked instead that we raise funds internationally for the civilian victims of attacks by the CIA’s cutthroats in the Afghan city of Jalalabad. We took up this cause and raised over $40,000 from all around the world. In immigrant communities, at factories, workplaces and union halls, and among foreign students, people who keenly knew what a victory of the mujahedin would mean donated generously. We also sent a press representative to Jalalabad to help break the imperialist information blockade. You can read about this in our bound volumes of WV for 1989-90; see, for example, “Afghanistan: Scenes of Civil War—Exclusive Photographs from Our Correspondent,” WV No. 484, 1 September 1989.

Had our proposal for fighting internationalist brigades taken shape, it could have had a real impact on the Soviet veterans of the Afghan war, whose socialist aspirations had been rekindled by their internationalist service. It could have helped to galvanize their real but partial and unfocused opposition within the USSR to Gorbachev’s betrayals. Reports emerged stating that “Soviet veterans of the Afghanistan war have asked the Central Committee of the CP to be allowed to return there with a voluntary division” to fight the counterrevolutionaries (Süddeutsche Zeitung, 27 July 1989). This mood was particularly felt by Soviet veterans coming from Central Asia, who in Afghanistan had battled the very slavery that the 1917 October Revolution had saved their grandparents from. The Soviet soldiers who had been told, and rightly believed, that they were fulfilling their internationalist duty in fighting against the reactionary Afghan mujahedin on the USSR’s southern border, were now maligned at home as “war criminals” who had supposedly perpetrated “Russia’s Vietnam.”

Now we have authoritative records kept by participants in Politburo meetings that show Gorbachev’s humiliating orders to “get out!” of Afghanistan. This evoked resistance all the way up to the Politburo, although in the end they bowed to Gorbachev. Had the beginnings of a Soviet Trotskyist party been crystallized in 1989—had our brigades helped to serve as a catalyst for this—history might have taken a very different path. Instead, Gorbachev’s ignominious pullout from Afghanistan only served to instill a sense of defeatism and demoralization among the Soviet masses.

Proletarian Revolt Against Stalinist Regime in China

During the 1980s, the influence of petty-bourgeois democrats and nationalists increasingly gained strength throughout most of East Europe, with the notable exception of East Germany. In July 1989, Gorbachev disavowed Soviet “interference” in the Eastern bloc countries. At the same time, as part of his market restructuring, he announced that the Soviet Union would now sell oil and raw materials to the East European deformed workers states at world market prices for hard currency—i.e., no more subsidies. Gorbachev was offering up East Europe to the imperialists. The fate of the East European and Soviet workers was thus posed: either proletarian political revolutions to defend and extend the gains embodied in the collectivized economies, or capitalist counterrevolution and all-sided social devastation.

The first sign of political revolution in this period appeared not in East Europe but in China. In May-June 1989, a protest initiated by students in Tiananmen Square in Beijing won widespread support among workers, who were furious at growing economic inequalities, rampant corruption and endemic inflation encouraged by Deng Xiaoping’s “market socialist” economy. Under Deng, during the preceding decade, agriculture had been decollectivized and centralized economic planning had been weakened. The “iron rice bowl” of guaranteed lifetime employment and social benefits for workers was becoming rusted out.

Groups of young workers joined the demonstrations at Tiananmen Square, which spread throughout the country. As we wrote at the time, “It was the beginnings of a working-class revolt against Deng’s program of ‘building socialism with capitalist methods’ which gave the protests their mass and potentially revolutionary nature” (“Defend Chinese Workers!” WV No. 480, 23 June 1989). Initially, both rank-and-file soldiers and some senior military commanders refused to carry out orders to suppress the protests.

The two weeks during which the army refused to implement martial law were a critical juncture. There was a political vacuum. Even a tiny Chinese Bolshevik organization could have played a significant role in 1989, especially during those two weeks. The situation in which working people were beginning to take control of the cities in their own hands needed to be developed into a fight for political power. Deng was finally able to find military units willing to suppress the protests. This was directed primarily at the working class rather than at the student protesters. The key factor in China in 1989 was the absence of a revolutionary leadership.

Nascent Proletarian Political Revolution in the DDR

The events in China were echoed in Central and East Europe, specifically in the German Democratic Republic (DDR) or East Germany. The broadening crisis there led to growing weekly demonstrations in October against the Stalinist regime of Erich Honecker. Gorbachev and the Soviet Army command in the DDR refused Honecker’s request to use troops against the protesters. The unlamented Honecker regime fell in late October. On November 4, a million-strong demonstration took place in East Berlin. Five days later the Berlin Wall came down.

Today we are constantly subjected to bourgeois propaganda that depicts all East Germans at that time rushing out to embrace West Germany and capitalist reunification. This is a big lie. The mass of workers, students and soldiers wanted to save the DDR from the collapse caused by the bankrupt Stalinist rulers. They marched under banners saying, “For Communist Ideals” and “Against Privileges.”

This was the setting in which we launched the largest and most important effort in the history of our tendency. Comrades, whether they knew German or not, volunteered from all around the world to fly into Germany. In December 1989, we began publishing a near-daily press: Arprekorr (Workers Press Correspondence). We turned our readers’ circles into a series of Spartakist-Gruppen (Spartacist Groups). Arprekorr took on a life of its own. Comrades would hit a new city and discover our press and leaflets had preceded us.

We called for proletarian political revolution in the East and socialist revolution in the West, as the road to a red, soviet Germany in a Socialist United States of Europe. We called for the founding of workers and soldiers councils. We unconditionally opposed capitalist reunification with imperialist West Germany.

We also directed propaganda and slogans to soldiers in the East German National People’s Army (NVA). Some units and soldiers committees of the East German army responded to our propaganda and circulated Arprekorr in the barracks. The West German bourgeoisie and U.S. imperialists moved to spike the nascent political revolution by fomenting German revanchism. Neo-Nazis incited provocations against the soldiers of the Soviet garrison, which was the decisive military force in the DDR.

We countered this right from the start by massively distributing greetings in the name of the insurgent German workers fighting for political revolution to our class brothers and sisters in the Soviet Army Zone. We saluted them and invited them to join us to celebrate the New Year in the Soviet custom of Novogodnyaya Yolka. We also distributed greetings to Cuban, Vietnamese and other foreign workers in the DDR.

The principal stalking horse intervening in the DDR for capitalist reunification was the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD). At the same time, the key obstacle to fighting against capitalist reunification was the ruling East German Socialist Unity Party (SED), because many had illusions that it would defend the DDR. Under pressure from below, the SED convened an emergency congress in December 1989 and added to their old name Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS). The SED-PDS, as it was now called, promised to oppose a “profit-dominated capitalist society.” It simultaneously advocated market-oriented reforms and praised West German chancellor Helmut Kohl’s program for “confederative structures,” which in reality served to incorporate the DDR into capitalist West Germany.

The SED-PDS leadership took the decisive steps toward disbanding the Betriebskampfgruppen (factory militias). These had been the voluntary, armed, factory-based militias for defense of the DDR under the political leadership of the SED. Established after the 17 July 1953 pro-socialist workers uprising in East Berlin against Stalinist rule, these militias were intended by the bureaucracy to be used against any future workers uprising. But it became clear that many workers in the Kampfgruppen did not take kindly to the idea of being used in that way. The Kampfgruppen had the real potential in November 1989 to become a crystallizing point for proletarian political revolution against the bureaucracy in defense of the DDR—so, the Stalinists dissolved them and thus disarmed the working class.

We called for a new Leninist egalitarian party to fight for the revolutionary reunification of Germany and “No to the Sellout of the DDR!” We emphasized: “For an Effective Planned Economy Through Workers Democracy!” Meanwhile, Arprekorr (19 December 1989) argued for the potential of workers political revolution in the USSR:

“All these aims must be combined with a vigorous offensive for a comparable proletarian political renewal in the Soviet Union so that a far larger combined economy in transition from capitalism to socialism may defend itself against the fifth column of social democrats, restorers of capitalism, and large masses of the intelligentsia who imagine, sometimes foolishly, that they will acquire the soft lives of the new capitalist masters. In the short run, look not to the West but to the East!”

The Fight for a Red Germany of Workers Councils

The validity and necessity of this perspective were soon borne out. In late December, the neo-Nazis went so far as to desecrate the Soviet monument in East Berlin’s Treptow Park. This monument honors the Red Army soldiers who fell liberating Germany from the Nazi scourge.

The ICL initiated a united-front demonstration against this provocation. In essence, this was a call to defend the DDR and the Soviet Union. The response to our call ran deep and wide. It compelled the ruling Stalinists to join in the mobilization for the demonstration on 3 January 1990. One leader of the SED-PDS, Lothar Bisky, told us, “You have the workers.” He didn’t mean that we had them organized in our ranks (yet); rather, that our program was articulating the aspirations of the pro-socialist workers. The potential for the explosive growth of a Trotskyist party was real.

The turnout to the demonstration showed the face of the nascent proletarian political revolution. Treptow Park was filled to capacity with over a quarter-million workers, soldiers of the DDR and USSR, immigrant workers and students. At this mass demonstration, for the first time in the history of the Stalinist-ruled Soviet bloc, the ICL was able to present its Trotskyist program in counterposition to the Stalinists’ betrayals of the DDR.

In the face of organized heckling by Stalinist hacks, comrade Renate Dahlhaus declared:

“Economic absorption and political incorporation by stages—which West German imperialism, aided by the SPD, seeks—can turn this political revolution into a social counterrevolution. This must not happen!...

“Our economy is suffering from waste and obsolescence. The SED party dictatorship has shown that it is incompetent to fight this…. The fight for the power to make these decisions and to run this country must lie in the hands of workers councils so that rational decisions satisfactory to the majority can be arrived at. This can only be done through open and sometimes painful debates before the whole people. Perhaps our example will encourage the Soviet Union to take the same road.”

Our program was beginning to take on living form in the struggles of the masses. In many instances, the SED-PDS tops had more knowledge about this than we did at the time. Thus, unbeknownst to us, in the days prior to the Treptow demonstration, a series of mutinies broke out in various DDR garrisons.

Gorbachev saw the historic importance of Treptow too—from his own treacherous point of view. Later, on 8 November 1999, he declared on German TV:

“We changed our point of view on the process of unification of Germany under the impact of events that unfolded in the DDR. And an especially critical situation came about in January. In essence, a breakdown of structures took place.... This began on January 3 and [went] further almost every day.... This a torrent of fiery lava: the current was flowing.”

The Stalinist betrayers from Moscow to Berlin moved swiftly to head off further revolutionary developments. The SPD, howling at our exposure of their counterrevolutionary intentions, castigated the ruling SED-PDS on national TV for sharing a platform with the Trotskyists. The capitulating Stalinists quickly aimed their political fire at us and made any further actions like Treptow “verboten.” Gorbachev immediately summoned Helmut Kohl to Moscow. He gave the green light for capitalist Anschluss (annexation). The West German bourgeoisie threw 20 billion deutschmarks toward annexing East Germany and promised to make the ostmark equivalent to the West German deutschmark. DDR elections were moved up by several months and every CIA Cold War party, agency and priest came flooding in from the West to bury the banner of Treptow and raise in its place the flag of the Fourth Reich, the Greater German Fatherland.

We continued the fight into the elections, which had become a referendum on capitalist reunification. The Spartakist-Gruppen fused with the ICL’s Trotskyist League of Germany to form the Spartakist Workers Party. We ran an electoral campaign for the East German legislature in March 1990. We proposed the following no-contest agreement: if an organization is prepared to say clearly, publicly, unambiguously and in writing that it opposes capitalist reunification, we would call on our supporters to vote for its candidates in places where we don’t run, and the other party would likewise call on its supporters to vote for our candidates where it wasn’t running. Not one party took up our offer! On the ballot, the Spartakist Workers Party stood alone as the party of the Russian Revolution, of proletarian political revolution against Fourth Reich capitalist restoration.

The election results registered the post-Treptow reactionary blitzkrieg: the Auschwitz bourgeoisie was the new master. The workers of East Germany, West Germany, of the USSR and of the whole world had suffered a historic defeat. But history also recorded that the ICL alone knew what to do, and acted on it.


Part Three is linked above in the headline

*From The Pen Of James P. Cannon- "No Illusions In The Labor Skates"

Click on the headline to link to a "Workers Vanguard" posting, dated December 5, 2008, quoting the early Trotskyist leader, James P. Cannon, on reliance on the labor skates at the top of the labor movement.

Markin comment:

Today's labor militants, especially the younger militants who have only been through this trough in the class struggle, could do worst that to listen to words of James P. Cannon, an old Wobblie, American Communist Party founder, American Socialist Workers Party founder, and, most importantly, a central intelligence in the great Minneapolis Teamsters strikes in Minneapolis in 1934. And this above-linked quote is a good reason for that comment.

"Food, Housing And Peace"- Programmatic Notes For The Anti-Capitalist Left Opposition in Obamian Times

Click on title to link to the Lenin Internet Archive's copy of his 1917 article, "Banks And Ministers".


In a recent entry in this space I pointed out that it was both necessary and desirable for the anti-capitalist left opposition to begin formulating our alternative program NOW for the forthcoming political struggle during the Obamiad. In that entry entitled "Bread, Land and Peace"-Fighting Slogans For Obamian Times, dated November 30, 2008, I made comparisons with the slogans that animated the working masses in the Russian Revolution in 1917 and today's concerns, all historical proportions guarded. Here, upon further thought, I would only change those slogans slightly to reflect more correctly today's immediate concerns. Thus from here on in I, for one, will fight under the banner of Food, Housing and Peace. Still, not so different from 1917, wouldn't you agree? That said, here's today's entry


These are hard times for militant leftists for we have just come through an election period where all the political air, including that of our extra-parliamentary leftist turf, was sucked out by the effects of the Obama avalanche. Moreover, just now, we are between bourgeois capitalist administrations, the infamous “lame duck” period. We no longer effectively have the Cheney-Rove-Bush trifecta as a target. And although he has made some disturbing appointments, which have the liberals muttering among themselves in horror, to fill out his administration Obama is in a “grace” period. That period should, given the wasteland of the past eight years, last for some time barring unforeseen developments. Nevertheless, we can usefully spend formulating the anti-capitalist left opposition program that we need to propagandize for and expand over the coming period. Especially concerning those systematic problems with the capitalist system that, at this point, may well be beyond Obama’s team’s capacity to correct other than to apply bandages. We wait in the wings. But here are a couple of points until then.

In a few previous commentaries in this space I have attempted to begin to articulate some programmatic points that militant leftists are going to have fight around as we face the Obamiad. The shorthand for these programmatic points – the “three whales of anti-capitalist militancy” to use an old leftist expression- is indicated by the headline to this entry above- “Food, Housing And Peace”. The last part of the slogan, which I addressed previously in this space in the entry mentioned above, forms the first axis of intervention and the one most likely to prove an opening for us in the coming escalation of troop levels in the Afghanistan quagmire. Obama has signaled his intention to escalate troop levels, most prominently by his selection as key National Security Adviser of ex-Marine General James Jones. We now fight under the slogan “Obama- Immediate Unconditional U. S. Troop Withdrawal From Afghanistan And Iraq!”. That, my friends is a “no-brainer” and is merely the beginning of wisdom.

While I have not mentioned previously, other than in passing, the food issue- the increasingly desperate worldwide struggle for bread, I will not deal with that question today because I am still thinking through an appropriate approach to the question that does not sound like one befitting a charitable relief agency . I do however want to mention this second point about homes. I have already mentioned that a moratorium on foreclosures for a prolonged period is in order. I have also noted that precious little time or energy is being spent by any of these major players in articulating a program to “bail out” individual homeowners who are up against the wall. That is the axis I want to fight around today.

Over the past couple of months there have been several rounds of financial, credit and corporate governmental bailouts for those whose greed and need to expand profit margins beyond even the expansive capitalist norms of rationality turned this capitalist system on its head. As a reaction, and justifiably so, there has been something of a populist outpouring against those bailouts, from lower- level bourgeois politicians who are getting irate messages from constituents to those average citizens who are ticked off that these corporate wizards and financials mavens aren’t hanging from trees somewhere.

The recently electorally defeated Republican Party, now that it will be in the bourgeois political wilderness, is beginning to make noises in that direction as well since they are not in power in order to tap into this anger. Fellow leftists this, by right, is our issue and we best fight around a program that fights for the interests of working people who are our political base or the right-wingers will surely reap the benefits. That is, in the final analysis, the problem with getting a handle on vaguely articulated populist stirrings- they can go left or right. American history is replete with such movements, like that of George Wallace in the 1960’s and early 1970’s, that get fired up by right-wing demagogues. Let’s fight to make it a left turn. No To Corporate, Credit Or Financial Market Bailouts! Stop Individual Homeowner Foreclosures! Jobs For All! It is also time to dust off that old slogan from the 1930’s- “30 hour work for 40 hours pay” to really “redistribute the wealth” in this time of high unemployment. That slogan, by the way, is the one right-wingers will not touch. Enough said.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Do You Want To Hear The Start Of Rock And Roll? - Little Milton's Sun Record Sessions


Little Milton- Sun Sessions, Little Milton, Rounder Records, 1990

For those of you who have read some of my other musical reviews in this space you may have noticed that I am on a crusade to check out early Sun Record material, black and white. For all practical purposes Sun started out as a black label (although the late Sam Phillips who ran the Sun studio was nothing but the epitome of a white 'good old boy'- Memphis-style) or to use the term of the day "race records" (ouch!). Virtually anyone with the price of the recording fee tried to get recorded in those days- some failed, some were one-shot johnnies and some like the artist under review, Little Milton, are the stuff of legend.

I have mentioned previously elsewhere in this space that there was something about the sound at Sun that brought out the best in the talent that survived. Little Milton also recorded on Chess and other labels but these early recordings just hum along, like those of early Johnny Cash, Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf and so on. Maybe, they were hungry and that is what comes through the music. Whatever it was this, my friends, was the roots of rock 'n' roll. And, whatever you might think of his treatment of Tina and it was not good, the late Ike Turner on piano in some of these selections keeps the beat jumping. Wow.

What do you absolutely need to hear here? Well, this is one of those albums where the music kind of grows on you (like with Bessie Smith and some others). "Looking For My Baby", "Running Wild Blues" and "I Love My Baby" set the mood in the middle. Is this Little Milton's definitive work? No. But he is hungry for fame and he is starting to rock- rock into musical history.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

***Defense of A Nation- The Struggle Against British Imperialism-Part II-The War of 1812

Click on the headline to link to a Wikipedia entry for the War Of 1812


The History Channel Presents: The War of 1812, two volumes, 2004

If you do not, like most people, know anything about the War of 1812-the so-called- ‘forgotten war’- or even if you are familiar with its details then this History Channel presentation will give you more than you will ever want to know about that event. I know, despite my intense love of the study of history, that I had had enough once I got through this two-volume four hours plus work. Mercifully it is broken up into sections so, for the faint-hearted, you can pick and choice. In any case, the section entitled "First Invasion" is must viewing to get an overall sense of the conflict.

So what is all the bother about? Well the short answer, very short, is that this war against old Mother England was the definitive moment when the seemingly improbable American victory announced to the world that fragile as the Republic was, and as isolated and uncomplicated its people that it was now a factor, if at that time a small factor, in the international scheme of things. Not bad for a ‘forgotten war’. Remember if the bloody British had been victorious America would have a name like, say, the United States of Canada.The History Channel’s presentation shows that this victory was a near thing. Suffering defeats, the torching of the capital, internal dissension and an apparently inevitable defeat at New Orleans after a peace treaty was signed this motley group of American yeomen and women broke through to preserve a slender democracy.

No look at the War of 1812 is complete without acknowledging the role of two men of opposing temperaments, James Madison, under whose presidency the issues became clarified and the causes of war outlined and Andrew Jackson whose victory at New Orleans sealed the fate of the country. By this last point I do not mean merely Jackson’s military victory but the rush toward a plebeian democracy that the forces who fought and supported the war unleashed. Later in the century the children and grandchildren of those fighters would be lost in the scramble to make America a capitalist fortress but back then the American world was young and fresh. Take a look.

Monday, December 01, 2008

*Support The PDC Holiday Appeal- Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

Markin comment:

The following is an article from an archival issue of Women and Revolution, Winter-Spring, 1996, that may have some historical interest for old "new leftists", perhaps, and well as for younger militants interested in various cultural and social questions that intersect the class struggle. Or for those just interested in a Marxist position on a series of social questions that are thrust upon us by the vagaries of bourgeois society. I will be posting more such articles from the back issues of Women and Revolution during Women's History Month and periodically throughout the year.


Class- Struggle Defense Work In The U.S. - Building on the Heritage of the International Labor Defense

We print below an edited speech by Deborah Mackson, executive director of the Partisan Defense Committee, prepared for April 7995 regional educationals in New York, Chicago and Oakland as part of a series of meetings and rallies sponsored by the PDC to mobilize support for Mum/a Abu-Jamal and the fight against the racist death penalty.
Mumia Abu-Jamal describes his current conditions of incarceration on death row at the State Correctional Institution at Greene County, Pennsylvania as "high-tech hell." When Governor Tom Ridge assaults all of the working people and minorities of this country by initiating the first execution of a political prisoner in America since the Rosenbergs, he must hear a resounding "No!" from coast to coast. Because Jamal is an articulate voice for the oppressed, this racist and rotting capitalist state wants to silence him forever. He is indeed dangerous. He is indeed a symbol. He is, indeed, innocent. Hear his powerful words, and you will begin to understand the hatred and fear which inspires the vendetta against this courageous fighter:

"Over many long years, over mountains of fears, through rivers of repression, from the depths of the valley of the shadow of death, I survive to greet you, in the continuing spirit of rebellion.... As America's ruling classes rush backwards into a new Dark Age, the weight of repression comes easier with each passing hour. But as repression increases, so too must resistance.... Like our forefathers, our fore-mothers, our kith and kin, we must fight for every inch of ground gained. The repressive wave sweeping this country will not stop by good wishes, but only by a counterwave of committed people firm in their focus."

We of the Partisan Defense Committee, the Spartacist League and the Labor Black Leagues are committed to a campaign to free this former Black Panther, award-winning journalist and supporter of the controversial MOVE organization who was framed for the 1981 killing of a Philadelphia policeman. Our aim is to effect an international campaign of protest and publicity like that which ultimately saved the nine Scottsboro Boys, framed for rape in Alabama in 1931, from the electric chair. We must mobilize the working class and all the oppressed in the fight to free this class-war prisoner framed by the government's murderous vendetta.

As Marxists, we are opposed to the death penalty on principle. We say that this state does not have the right to decide who lives and who dies. Capital punishment is part of the vast arsenal of terror at the hands of this state, which exists to defend the capitalist system of exploitation and oppression. America's courts are an instrument of the bourgeoisie's war on the working people and the poor; they are neither neutral nor by any stretch of the imagination "color blind."

To us, the defense of America's class-war prisoners— whatever their individual political views may be—is a responsibility of the revolutionary vanguard party which must champion all causes in the interest of the proletariat. The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated by the Spartacist League in 1974 in the tradition of the working-class defense policies of the International Labor Defense, under its founder and first secretary from 1925 to 1928, James P. Cannon. Today, I want to talk to you about how that tradition was built in this country by the best militants of the past 100 years—the leaders of class-struggle organizations like the pre-World War I Industrial Workers of the World, the early Socialist and Communist parties and the Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party.

The Roots of Black Oppression

To forge a future, one has to understand the past. The modern American death penalty is the barbaric inheritance of a barbaric system of production: chattel slavery. Like the capitalists who hold state power today, the slavocracy used the instruments of their power, special bodies of armed men and the "justice" system— the laws, courts and prisons—to control people for profit. Directly descendant from the slavocracy's tradition of property in black people is the death penalty. A trail through history illustrates this truth. The "slave codes" codified a series of offenses for which slaves could be killed but for which whites would receive a lesser sentence. In Virginia, the death penalty was mandatory for both slaves and free blacks for any crime for which a white could be imprisoned for three years or more. In Georgia, a black man convicted of raping a white woman faced the death penalty; a white man got two years for the same crime, and punishment was "discretionary" if the victim was black. Slaves could not own property, bear arms, assemble or testify against whites in courts of law. Marriage between slaves was not recognized; families were sold apart; it was illegal to teach a slave to read and write. Slaves were not second- or third-class citizens—they were not human, but legally "personal, movable property," chattel.

William Styron in The Confessions of Nat Turner has the fictional character T.R. Gray explain the slaveowners' rationale to Turner:

"The point is that you are animate chattel and animate chattel is capable of craft and connivery and wily stealth. You ain't a wagon, Reverend, but chattel that possesses moral choice and spiritual volition. Remember that well. Because that's how come the law provides that animate chattel like you can be tried for a felony, and that's how come you're goin' to be tried next Sattidy. "He paused, then said softly without emotion: 'And hung by the neck until dead'."

While the slave codes were a Southern institution, legal and extralegal terror were never exclusive to the South. As early as 1793, fugitive slave laws were on the federal books. The 1850 Fugitive Slave Law was passed in response to the growing abolitionist influence which had inspired several Northern states to pass "personal liberty laws," giving some protection to slaves who had successfully negotiated the Underground Railroad. The 1850 law, seeking to protect the private property of slaveholders, put the burden of proof on captured blacks, but gave them no legal power to prove their freedom—no right to habeas corpus, no right to a jury trial, no right even to testify on their own behalf.

Many blacks were caught in the clutches of this infamous law, which had no bounds. For example, a man in southern Indiana was arrested and returned to an owner’ who claimed he had run away 79 years before. The law knew no pretense. A magistrate's fee doubled if he judged an unfortunate black before the bench a runaway slave instead of a tree man. And fugitives were pursued with vigor. In Battle Cry of Freedom, historian James McPherson recounts the story of Anthony Burns, a slave who stowed away from Virginia to Boston in 1854. The feds spent the equivalent of $2.3 million in current dollars to return him to his "owner." That is approximately equal to what an average death penalty case costs today.

Any hope that "blind justice" could be sought from the U.S. Supreme Court was dashed with the 1856 Dred Scott decision. Chief Justice Taney wrote that at the time the Constitution was adopted, Negroes "had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior far inferior, that they had no rights which a white man was bound to respect."

While slavery itself was overthrown in the Civil War and Reconstruction, the needs of the American capitalists for compulsory agricultural labor in the South remained. A new, semi-capitalistic mode of agriculture developed, in which the semi-slave condition of the freed blacks was made permanent by the re-establishment of the social relations of slavery: color discrimination buttressed by segregation and race prejudice.

After the Civil War the slave codes became the "black codes," a separate set of rules defining crime and punishment for blacks and limiting their civil rights. They were enforced by the extralegal terror of the Ku Klux Klan; in the last two decades of the 19th century, lynching vastly outnumbered legal executions. As W.E.B. Du Bois said of lynching:

"It is not simply the Klu Klux Klan; it is not simply weak officials; it is not simply inadequate, unenforced law. It is deeper, far deeper than all this: it is the in-grained spirit of mob and murder, the despising of women and the capitalization of children born of 400 years of Negro slavery and 4,000 years of government for private profit."

The promise of Radical Reconstruction, equality, could only be fulfilled by attacking the problem at its very root: private property in the means of production. Neither Northern capitalists nor Southern planters could abide that revolution, so they made a deal, the Compromise of 1877, in their common interest. That's why we call on American workers, black and white, to finish the Civil War—to complete, through socialist revolution, the unfinished tasks of the Second American Revolution!

In the wake of the Compromise of 1877, the U.S. Supreme Court began to dismantle the Civil Rights Acts of the Reconstruction period. One landmark decision was Plessey v. Ferguson in 1896, which permitted "separate but equal" treatment of black and white in public facilities. But separate is never equal. This was simply the legal cover for the transformation of the "black codes" into "Jim Crow"—the "grandfather clause," poll tax, literacy test, all designed to deny blacks the vote, and the institution of separate facilities from schools to cemeteries. This legal and practical segregation, instituted in the South and transported North, was a tool to divide and rule.

America's Racist Death Penalty

The death penalty was applied at will until 1972. From 1930 to 1967 the U.S. averaged 100 or more executions per year. In 1972, following a decade of civil rights protests, the Supreme Court ruled the death penalty was "cruel and unusual punishment" because of its arbitrary and capricious application. But the hiatus lasted only four years.

In 1976-the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty and has been expanding it ever since. In 1986 the court ruled it unconstitutional to execute the insane, but gave no criteria for defining insanity; in 1988 it approved the execution of 16-year-olds; in 1989 it ruled for the execution of retarded persons. Since 1976, 276 people have been executed in this country. Between January and April of 1995, 17 were killed. And innocence is no barrier, as the Supreme Court recently decreed in the case of Jesse Dewayne Jacobs, executed in Texas in January 1995 after the prosecution submitted that he had not committed the crime for which he had been sentenced. The Supreme Court said it didn't matter, he'd had a "fair trial." What an abomination!
Perhaps the most telling case in recent history was the 1987 McCleskey decision. The evidence submitted to the courts illustrated beyond the shadow of a doubt that racism ruled the application of the death penalty. Overall, a black person convicted of killing a white person is 22 times more likely to be sentenced to death than if the victim is black. When the McCleskey case went to court, liberals across the country hoped for a Brown v. Board of Education decision in regard to the death penalty. The evidence of racial bias was clear and overwhelming. But while the Supreme Court accepted the accuracy of the evidence, it said it doesn't matter. The court showed the real intention of the death penalty when it stated that McCleskey's claim "throws into serious question the principles that underlie our entire criminal justice system" and "the validity of capital punishment in our multi-racial society." Or as a Southern planter wrote in defense of the slave codes, "We have to rely more and more on the power of fear.... We are determined to continue masters" (quoted in Kenneth Stampp, The Peculiar Institution).

Let's take a look for a moment at "our multi-racial society." The U.S. has the highest rate of incarceration in the world: 344 per 100,000. It is one of the two "advanced" industrial countries left in the world which employs capital punishment. As of January 1995, 2,976 men, women and children occupied America's death rows; 48 are women, 37 are juveniles. According to the latest census, blacks make up 12 percent of the population, yet 51 percent of the people awaiting execution are minorities and 40 percent are black.

Eighty-four percent of all capital cases involve white victims even though 50 percent of murder victims in America are black. Of a total of 75 people executed for interracial murders, three involved a black victim and a white defendant, 72 involved a white victim and a black defendant. The death penalty is truly an impulse to genocide against the black population for whom the ruling class no longer sees any need in its profit-grabbing calculations.

Understanding this and understanding the broader importance of the black question in America, we take up Jamal's case as a concrete task in our struggle for black freedom and for proletarian revolution in the interests of the liberation of all of humanity.

Early History of Class-Struggle Defense

From the beginning of the communist movement, a commitment to those persecuted by the ruling classes, whether "on the inside" or out, has been recognized as an integral part of the class struggle. Marx and Engels spent years defending and supporting the refugees of-the Paris Commune.

As Trotskyists, we feel this responsibility keenly because we inherited some of the finest principles for class-struggle defense from James R Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism. The traditions which inspired the International Labor Defense (ILD) were forged in hard class struggle, dating back to the rise of the labor movement after the Civil War. One of the first acts of the Republican government following the Compromise of 1877 was to pull its troops from the South and send them to quell the railway strikes that had broken out throughout the Northern states. The federal strikebreakers tipped the scales in the hard-fought battles of the time, many of which escalated into general strikes, and the workers were driven back in defeat. But united struggle against the bosses had been launched, and less than a decade later the workers movement had taken up the fight for an eight-hour day.

In the course of this struggle, workers in Chicago amassed at Haymarket Square in early May of 1886. The protest was just winding down when a bomb went off, likely planted by a provocateur. The cops opened fire on the workers, killing one and wounding many. The government’s response was to frame up eight workers, who were sympathetic to anarchist views, on charges of murder. They were tried and convicted, not for the bombing but for their agitation against the employers. Four were hanged, one committed suicide, three were finally pardoned in 1891.

The period from the turn of the century to America's entry into World War I was one of intense social struggle; militant strikes were more numerous than at any time since. The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW—the Wobblies) led union organizing drives, anti-lynching campaigns and a free speech movement. The level of struggle meant more frequent arrests, which gave rise to the need for defense of the class and individuals. The left and most labor currents and organizations rallied to the defense of victims of the class war. Non-sectarian defense was the rule of the day. The Wobbly slogan, "an injury to one is an injury to all," was taken to heart by the vast majority of the workers.

This was Cannon's training ground. One of his heroes was Big Bill Haywood, who conceived the ILD with Cannon in Moscow in 1925. As Cannon said, the history of the ILD is "the story of the projection of Bill Haywood's influence—through me and my associates—into the movement from which he was exiled, an influence for simple honesty and good will and genuine non-partisan solidarity toward all the prisoners of the class war in America."

Big Bill Haywood came from the Western Federation of Miners, one of the most combative unions this country has ever produced. The preamble to their constitution was a series of six points, beginning, "We hold that there is a class struggle in society and that this struggle is caused by economic conditions." It goes on to note, "We hold that the class struggle will continue until the producer is recognized as the sole master of his product," and it asserts that the working class and it alone can and must achieve its own emancipation. It ends, "we, the wage slaves...have associated in the Western Federation of Miners."

Not all labor organizations of the time had this class-struggle perspective. Contrast the tract of Samuel Rompers' American Federation of Labor (AFL), "Labor's Bill of Grievances," which he sent to the president and Congress in 1908:

"We present these grievances to your attention because we have long, patiently and in vain waited for redress.

There is not any matter of which we have complained but for which we nave in an honorable and lawful manner submitted remedies. The remedies for these grievances proposed by labor are in line with fundamental law, and with progress and development made necessary by changed industrial conditions."

The IWW, whose constitution began, "The working class and the employing class have nothing in common," was founded in 1905. Haywood was an initiator and one of its most aggressive and influential organizers. As a result of that and his open socialist beliefs, in 1906 he, along with George Pettibone and Charles Moyer, were arrested for the bombing murder of ex-governor Frank Steunenberg of Idaho (the nemesis of the combative Coeur d'Alene miners). The three were kidnapped from Colorado, put on a military train and taken to Idaho.

The Western Federation of Miners and the IWW launched a tremendous defense movement for the three during the 18 months they were waiting to be tried for their lives. Everyone from the anarchists to the AFL participated. Demonstrations of 50,000 and more were organized all across the country. It was this case that brought James Cannon to political consciousness.

The case was important internationally, too. While they were in jail, Maxim Gorky came to New York and sent a telegram to the three with greetings from the Russian workers. Haywood wired back that their imprisonment was an expression of the class struggle which was the same in America as in Russia and in all other capitalist countries.

On a less friendly note, Teddy Roosevelt, then president of America, publicly declared the three "undesirable citizens." Haywood responded that the laws of the country held they were innocent until proven guilty and that a man in Roosevelt's position should be the last to judge them until the case was decided in court.

The Socialist Party (founded in 1901) also rallied to the defense. While in jail, Haywood was nominated as the party's candidate for governor of Colorado and got 16,000 votes. The leader of the SP, Eugene Debs, wrote his famous "Arouse, Ye Slaves" for the SP's Appeal to Reason:

"If they attempt to murder Moyer, Haywood and their brothers, a million revolutionists, at least, will meet them with guns.... Let them dare to execute their devilish plot and every state in this Union will resound with the tramp of revolution....
"Get ready, comrades, for action!... A special revolutionary convention of the proletariat...would be in order, and, if extreme measures are required, a general strike could be ordered and industry paralyzed as a preliminary to a general uprising."

Haywood's trial began in May of 1907. It was Clarence Darrow for the defense and the infamous Senator William E. Borah for the frame-up (prosecution). That this was a political trial was clear to everybody. The prosecution, for example, introduced into evidence issues of the anarchist journal Alarm from 1886, when Haymarket martyr Albert Parsons was its editor. Haywood thought that Dar-row's summary to the jury in his case was the best effort Darrow ever made in the courtroom. But Haywood also got a bit exasperated with his lawyer. In his autobiography, he tells the story of Darrow coming to jail depressed and worried. The defendants would always try to get him to lighten up. Finally Pettibone got tired of this and told Darrow they knew it would be really hard on him to lose this great case with all its national and international attention, but, hey! he said, "You know it's us fellows that have to be hanged!"

Every day of the trial the defense committee packed the courtroom with what Haywood called "a labor jury of Socialists and union men." This is a practice we proudly follow today. On the stand, Haywood told the story of the Western Federation of Miners and its battles against the bosses, putting them on trial. He refused to be intimidated by Senator Borah. When Borah asked whether Haywood had said that Governor Steunenberg should be exterminated, Haywood replied that to the best of his remembrance, he said he should be "eliminated."

On June 28 Haywood was acquitted. Soon thereafter, so were his comrades. At a Chicago rally organized to greet him upon his release, he told the crowd of 200,000, "We owe our lives to your solidarity." Haywood knew that innocence was not enough. It is that kind of solidarity we are seeking to mobilize today for Mumia Abu-Jamal.

The Labor Movement and World War I

Haywood was elected to the National Executive Committee of the Socialist Party in 1908, during its most left-wing period. In 1910, he was one of the party's delegates to the Socialist Congress of the Second International in Copenhagen. Shortly after, the SP moved to the right, and in 1912 (the year Debs polled nearly a million votes in his campaign for president) a number of leftists, including the young Jim Cannon, left the Socialist Party. A year later, when Haywood was purged from the executive board, there was another mass exodus.

The IWW, in which Haywood and Cannon remained active, expanded the scope of its activities. This was the period of the free speech movement and anti-lynching ' campaigns. One Wobbly pamphlet, "Justice for the Negro: How He Can Get It," discusses the question of integrated struggle and how to stop lynchings:

"The workers of every race and nationality must join in one common group against their one common enemy—the employers—so as to be "able to defend themselves and one another. Protection for the working class lies in complete solidarity of the workers, without regard to race, creed, sex or color. 'One Enemy—One Union!' must be their watchword."

They almost got it right: as syndicalists, they didn't understand the need for a vanguard party to fight for a revolutionary program.

With the beginning of World War I and preparations for U.S. involvement, the government declared political war on the IWW and the left. Thousands of Wobblies were imprisoned under "criminal syndicalism" laws—100 in San Quentin and Folsom alone. In response, the IWW adopted the slogan, "Fill the jails." It was a misguided tactic, but unlike many so-called socialists today, the Wobbliest had a principled position where it counted: they'd go to jail before they'd cross a picket line.

1917 was the year of the Russian Revolution. A month after that world-historic event, Haywood was back on trial in Chicago with some 18 other Wobblies. He was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in Leaven worth prison. In 1919 he was released on bail pending appeal and devoted his time to the IWW's General Defense Committee, launching a campaign to raise bail money for those in prison. When the Red Scare and the Palmer Raids began, Haywood learned that he was a primary target. So, as his appeal went to the Supreme Court, he sailed for the Soviet Union. A student of history, he had no illusions in "blind justice."

Cannon was also heavily influenced by the case of California labor leaders Tom Mooney and Warren Billings. In 1916, as America was preparing to go to war, Mooney and Billings were framed up for a bombing at a Preparedness Day Parade in San Francisco. The Preparedness Movement was a bourgeois movement of "open shop" chamber of commerce, right-wing vigilante groups, who were very serious about getting the U.S. into World War I. They went into Mexico to fight Pancho Villa as practice. The Preparedness Movement was opposed by labor, and in fact two days before the bombing there had been a 5,000-strong labor demonstration in San Francisco.

Mooney and Billings were convicted. Mooney was sentenced to hang, Billings got a life sentence. At first, their case was taken up only by the anarchists. The official AFL labor movement took a hands-off position. But when it became clear that they had been framed with perjured testimony, a "Mooney movement" swept the country.

The Mooney case had a big impact on Russian immigrant workers, among others. Thus the Mooney case was carried back to Russia, and in April of 1917 the Russian anarchists led a Mooney defense demonstration in Petrograd at the American consulate. Worried about Russia pulling out of World War I at that point, Woodrow Wilson personally interceded on behalf of Mooney and Billings. It didn't get them out of jail, but the effect of international pressure was not lost on Cannon.

In the U.S., the cops broke up Mooney defense meetings and arrested those present. The class-struggle nature of the defense movement, involving such actions as one-day strikes, was a felt threat to the ruling class, especially in the face of a war. In a conscious effort to dissipate this movement, the state commuted Mooney's death sentence to life in prison. In combination with the domestic repression following the war, this took the life out of the Mooney movement. Mooney and Billings stayed in prison for 22 years. They were released in 1939, and Mooney spent two and a half of the next three years in the hospital and then-died.

In his eulogy "Good-by Tom Mooney!" Cannon wrote:

"They imprisoned Mooney—as they imprisoned Debs and Haywood and hundreds of others—in order to clear the road of militant labor opposition to the First World War, and they kept him in prison for revenge and for a warning to others."

As World War II began, Cannon would find himself in the same position.

The Tradition of International Labor Defense

The parties of the Second International backed their own ruling classes in World War I, and the Bolsheviks fought for a new international party committed to the Marxist movement's call, "Workers of the World Unite!" In 1919, the leaders of the Russian Revolution founded the Third International, the Comintern, to build revolutionary parties which could take up the struggle against capitalist rule. 1919 was also a year of massive strike activity in the U.S. This wave of class struggle swelled the ranks of the Socialist Party, which then split in September. The most left-wing workers regrouped, giving birth to the American Communist movement, and Cannon was among them.

America in the 1920s was not a nice place to be. Warren Harding was elected in a landslide victory on the slogan of "Return to Normalcy." And "normal" was racist and repressive. His attorney general, A. Mitchell Palmer, launched a war on the left inspired by fear of the Russian Revolution, which resulted in massive deportations of leftists and jailing of American radicals. The young Communist Party went underground. 1920 saw more lynchings and anti-black pogroms than any time in recent memory. The Klan grew like wildfire, and the government passed anti-immigration legislation that would give Newt Gingrich and Pete Wilson wet dreams.

When it was clear that the IWW was for all practical purposes broken, many of its jailed members, including Eugene Debs, were pardoned. The Communists, however, remained in jail. The union movement took it on the chops as well, and by the end of the 1920s only 13 percent of the workforce of this country was unionized.

The 1921 Third Congress of the Comintern was held under the watchword "To the Masses." In the U.S., the newly formed party had been underground and could hardly make a turn to the masses. At the Comintern's urging, the Workers (Communist) Party emerged in December of 1921 with Cannon as its first chairman and main public spokesman.

By the time of the Fourth Congress of the Comintern in 1922, the tactic of the united front had been defined; the Fourth Congress detailed its application. The need for the united front grew out of the post-World War I ebbing of the revolutionary tide following the Russian Revolution. The offensive by the capitalists against the proletariat and its parties was forcing even the reformist-led organizations into partial and defensive struggles to save their very lives.

The slogan "march separately, strike together" encapsulated the two aims of the united-front tactic: class unity and the political fight for a communist program. The Comintern sought both to achieve the maximum unity of the working masses in their defensive struggles and to expose in action the hesitancy of the leadership of the reformist organizations of the Second International to act in the interests of the proletariat and the inability of its program to win against the ruling class.

The united front is a tactic we use today. Our call for labor/black mobilizations to stop the execution of Mumia Abu-Jamal and abolish the racist death penalty has brought together many different organizations and individuals to save Jamal's life. At these rallies and demonstrations, we

have insisted on the right to argue for our program to put an end to racist injustice and capitalist exploitation through socialist revolution.

In line with the policies hashed out at the Third and Fourth Congresses, the Communist International founded an international defense organization, the International Red Aid. These events had a substantial effect on the young American party, and one of the direct results was the foundation in 1925 of the International Labor Defense (ILD).

Cannon's goal was to make the ILD the defense arm of the labor movement. Cannon wrote to Debs on the occasion of his endorsement of the ILD:

"The main problem as I see it is to construct the ILD on the broadest possible basis. To conduct the work in a non-partisan and non-sectarian manner and finally establish the impression by our deeds that the ILD is the defender of every worker persecuted for his activities in the class struggle, without any exceptions and without regard to his affiliations."

From 1925 to 1928, the ILD was pretty successful in achieving that goal. It established principles to which we adhere today:

• United-front defense: The ILD campaigns were organized to allow for the broadest possible participation.

• Class-struggle defense: The ILD sought to mobilize the working class in protest on a national and international scale, relying on the class movement of the workers and
placing no faith in the justice of the capitalist courts, while using every legal avenue open to them.

• Non-sectarian defense: When it was founded, the ILD immediately adopted 106 prisoners, instituting the practice of financially assisting these prisoners and their
families. Many had been jailed as a result of the "criminal syndicalism" laws; some were Wobblies, some were anarchists, some were strike leaders. Not one was a member of the Communist Party. The ILD launched the first Holiday Appeal. Of course, the ILD also vigorously defended its own, understanding the vital importance of the legal rights of the Communist Party to exist and organize.

Social Defense and Union Struggle

The ILD's most well-known case was the defense of Sacco and Vanzetti. The frame-up for murder and robbery of these two immigrant anarchist workers, who were sent to their deaths by the state of Massachusetts in 1927, grew directly out of the "red scare" of the early '20s. The ILD applied with alacrity the main lines of its program: unity of all working-class forces and reliance on the class movement of the workers. Thousands of workers rallied to their cause, and unions around the country contributed to a defense fund set up by Italian workers in the Boston area. But the level of class struggle is key to the outcome of defense cases, and the ILD's exemplary campaign proved insufficient to save the lives of Sacco and Vanzetti.

As the case drew to a close, one of the feints used by the state was to start rumors that Sacco and Vanzetti's death penalty sentence would be commuted to life without parole. This was designed to dissipate the Sacco and Vanzetti movement and prepare their execution. Cannon rang the alarm bells from the pages of the Labor Defender, rallying ILD supporters to mass demonstrations and warning them of the devious and two-faced nature of the bourgeoisie. Cannon had not forgotten the demobilization of the Mooney movement after his sentence had been commuted nor the living death that Mooney and Billings were enduring in their 22 years of internment.

This has significance for us today as we fight against the threatened execution of Jamal. Life in prison is hell. Think about the "life" of Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt), another former Panther, jailed for a quarter of a century for a crime the state knows he did not commit. While some call upon Pennsylvania governor Ridge to convert Jamal's sentence to life without parole, we demand the freedom of both these innocent men.

The ILD also worked in defense of the class as a whole. In 1926, about 16,000 textile workers hit the bricks in Passaic, New Jersey. Their strike was eventually defeated, but it drew sharp lessons on the role of the state and demonstrated for Cannon the absolute necessity for a permanent, organized and always ready non-partisan labor defense organization. Cannon wrote in the Labor Defender:

"Our I.L.D. is on the job at Passaic. Not a single striker went into court without our lawyer to defend him. There was not a single conviction that was not appealed. Nobody had to remain in jail more than a few days for lack of bail.... A great wave of protest spread thru the labor movement and even the most conservative labor leaders were compelled to give expression to it."

In 1928, the Trotskyist Left Opposition (including Cannon) was expelled from the Communist Party. The ILD remained under the control of the Communist Party and thus became subject to the zigzags of Stalinist policies throughout the 1930s, including the perversion of the united front from a tactic for class unity into an instrument for class collaboration and counterrevolution.

In 1929, Stalin declared the "Third Period," an ultraleft shift, the main tactic of which was to smash the Social Democratic and other leftist parties by creating what the Stalinists called "united fronts from below." The Comintern charged the reformists with "social fascism"; the real fascists were to be dealt with secondarily. In Germany, this policy contributed to Adolph Hitler's seizure of power— there was no united fight against fascism by the workers in the mass Communist and Social Democratic parties. This policy had an effect on the U.S. party and its defense work.

Legal Lynching in the American South

One result of the stock market crash of 1929 and the ensuing Depression was that 200,000people made the rails their home as they moved from place to place looking for work. On 25 March 1931, nine black youths, ranging in age from 13 to 20, were riding the Memphis to Chattanooga freight train. Two young white women, fearful of being jailed for hoboing when the train was stopped after reports that there had been a fight with some white boys, accused the blacks of rape. Among the nine were Olen Montgomery—blind in one eye and with 10 percent vision in the other—headed for Memphis hoping to earn enough money to buy a pair of glasses; Willie Roberson, debilitated by years-long untreated syphilis and gonorrhea—which is important if you're going to be talking about a rape case; and Eugene Williams and Roy Wright, both 13 years old.

The group were nearly lynched on the spot. The trial began in Scottsboro, Alabama on April 6. Four days later, despite medical evidence that no rape had occurred—not to mention gross violations of due process—eight were sentenced to death and one of the 13-year-olds to life in prison. The Communist Party issued a statement condemning the trial as a "legal" lynching. That night, the campaign to free the Scottsboro Boys began.

Freedom was a long time coming. A series of trials and appeals all went badly for the defendants. In 1933, one of the alleged victims, Ruby Bates, recanted her testimony, but it wasn't until 1937 that four of the defendants were freed. Three more were paroled in the 1940s, and in 1948 Haywood Patterson escaped from Angola prison to Michigan, where the governor refused to extradite him. The last, Andy Wright, who had had his 1944 parole revoked, was finally released in 1950. The nine had spent 104 years in jail for a "crime" that never happened.

The ILD made the word "Scottsboro" synonymous, nationally and internationally, with Southern racism, repression and injustice. Their campaign was responsible for saving the Scottsboro Boys from the electric chair. As Haywood Patterson's father wrote in a letter to his son, "You will burn sure if you don't let them preachers alone and trust in the International Labor Defense to handle the case."

The CP's publicity was massive and moving. They organized demonstrations in Harlem and across the country, appealing to the masses to put no confidence in the capitalist courts and to see the struggle for the freedom of these youths as part of the larger class struggle. Young Communists in Dresden, Germany marched on the American consulate, and, when officials refused to accept their petition, hurled bottles through windows. Inside each was the note: "Down with American murder and Imperialism. For the brotherhood of black and white young proletarians. An end to the bloody lynching of our Negro co-workers."

In the South, the defense effort faced not only the racist system but the homegrown fascists of the Ku Klux Klan as well, which launched a campaign under the slogan "The Klan Rides Again to Stamp Out Communism."

The ILD's success in rallying the masses to the defense of the Scottsboro Boys happened despite their sectarian "Third Period" tactics. The ILD denounced the NAACP, the ACLU and most of the trade-union movement as "social fascists" and threw the "Trotskyite" likes of Jim Cannon out of Scottsboro defense meetings. But fascism was on the rise in Europe, and, seeking now to make as many allies as he could, in 1935 Stalin' declared the "Third Period" at an end. A Comintern resolution urged the Communist parties to form "popular fronts" with any and all for progressive ends. In the U.S. this meant supporting Roosevelt and abandoning the struggle to link the defense of black people with the fight against the capitalist system. You can imagine the surprise of the NAACP, who were now greeted warmly by the ILD as "comrades"! This comradeship did not extend to the Trotskyists. The Scottsboro Defense Committee was formed, and a lot of the life went out of the movement as the case dragged on.

Cannon and his party, the Communist League of America, supported the efforts of the ILD to free the Scottsboro Boys. The Trotskyists insisted on the importance of an integrated movement to fight in their defense. Cannon pointed out that it was wrong to view the Scottsboro case solely as a "Negro issue" and agitated in the pages of the Militant for the organization of white workers around the case.
When Clarence Darrow refused to work on the case unless the ILD withdrew because he didn't like its agitation methods, Cannon wrote:

"The ILD was absolutely right in rejecting the presumptuous demands of Darrow and Hays, and the Scottsboro prisoners showed wisdom in supporting the stand of their defense organization. Any other course would have signified an end to the fight to organize the protest of the masses against the legal lynching; and with that would have ended any real hope to save the boys and restore their freedom."

Darrow's big argument was: "You can't mix politics with a law case." Cannon replied:

"That is a reactionary lie. It is father to the poisonous doctrine that a labor case is a purely legal relation between the lawyer and client and the court.... It was the influence of this idea over the Sacco-Vanzetti Defense Committee which paralyzed the protest mass movement at every step and thereby contributed to the final tragic outcome. Not to the courts alone, and not primarily there, but to the masses must the appeal of the persecuted of class and race be taken. There is the power and there is the justice."

Communists on Trial
During the time that the Scottsboro Boys were languishing in their Southern jails, World War II began in Europe. The American workers had gone through the experience of one of the biggest union organizing drives in the history of the country, resulting in the formation of the CIO, and many of the new industrial unions had won significant victories. Communists, including the Trotskyists, Jim Cannon and the Socialist Workers Party, had participated in and led many of these struggles. War is great for capitalist economies—the destruction creates constant demand, and if you win, you get new markets to exploit. But to go to war, you have to regiment the population at home, and that begins with the suspension of civil liberties.

On the eve of America's entry into World War II, Congress passed the Smith Act, requiring the fingerprinting and registering of all aliens residing in the United States and making it a crime to advocate or teach the "violent overthrow of the United States government" or to belong to a group advocating or teaching it.

For public consumption, this act was billed as an antifascist measure, but the Socialist Workers Party (successor to the Communist League of America) and Minneapolis Teamsters were the first victims of the Smith Act prosecutions. Why did the head of the Teamsters Union, Daniel J. Tobin, the U.S. attorney general, Francis Biddle, and the president of the United States, Franklin Roosevelt, conspire to take away the First Amendment rights of a small Trotskyist party, a party with maybe a couple thousand members and influence in one local of one union?

Part of the answer is that the SWP was effective. The party had led some hard class struggle; it was their comrades who had provided the leadership for the Minneapolis strike of 1934 which led to the formation of Teamsters Local 544. Another part of the answer is politics: the SWP was forthright in its opposition to the coming war. This was a calculated government attack designed to cripple the SWP where it had the most influence in the proletariat as America girded for imperialist war.

In the courtroom, the SWP's goal was to put the capitalist system on trial, a tradition we carry forward in our own cases. On the stand, Cannon pedagogically explained the positions of the SWP on the questions of the day and Marxism in general. But the Minneapolis defendants went to jail for 16 months—sentenced on the same day that Congress voted to enter the war. The ruling class hoped that the party would be leaderless and pass from the stage. But at that time the SWP was still a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program and a collective leadership—so that hope was, in the main, dashed.

A number of CIO unions issued statements in defense of the Minneapolis defendants, as did numerous black organizations. The American Communist Party, however, issued the following statement: "The Communist Party has always exposed, fought against and today joins the fight to exterminate the Trotskyite fifth column from the life of our nation." In line with their support for Roosevelt and the war, the CP aided the government in the Smith Act prosecution of the SWP and aided the FBI in their persecution of the Trotskyists in the trade unions. The CP's disgusting collaboration did not prevent them from being prosecuted under the very same Smith Act, beginning in 1948. The Trotskyists, of course, defended the CP unequivocally against the government prosecution while criticizing the CP's Stalinist politics.

Years later the attorney general, Francis Biddle, apologized for prosecuting the Trotskyists. The bourgeoisie sometimes apologizes when its crisis is safely over. Fifty years after the end of World War II, the U.S. government "apologized" for the wartime roundup and internment of Japanese Americans, offering a token compensation to those whose homes were seized and livelihoods ruined. They say whatever outrageous trampling of civil liberties occurred was an "excess" or "wrong" and of course it will "never happen again." But the Reagan government drew up plans to intern Arab Americans in concentration camps in Louisiana after the bombing of Libya. Those camps are ready and waiting for the next time the bourgeoisie feels its rule is substantially threatened.

Class-Struggle Defense Work

The Partisan Defense Committee was initiated in 1974 by the Spartacist League with the goal of re-establishing in the workers movement united-front, non-sectarian defense principles in the tradition of Cannon's ILD.

This was not anticipated to be, nor has it been, an easy task. Unlike the ILD, which inherited the rich and principled defense traditions of the IWW and the personal authority of mass leaders like Cannon and Haywood, we were the immediate inheritors of a tradition of Stalinist perversion of defense work. In addition, the ILD was founded as a transitional organization, seeking to organize the masses for class-struggle defense work under the leadership of the party. By its second conference, the ILD had 20,000 individual members, a collective, affiliated membership of 75,000, and 156 branches across the country. The PDC attempts to conduct its work in a way that will make the transformation to such an organization possible.

The PDC program of raising money for monthly stipends for class-war prisoners is an example of an ILD practice to which we adhere. We currently send stipends to 17 prisoners, including Jamal, Geronimo ji Jaga and other former supporters of the Black Panther Party, victims of the FBI's murderous COINTELPRO frame-ups; Jerry Dale Lowe, a miner condemned to eleven years in prison for defending his picket line; and members of the MOVE organization locked up because they survived the racist cop assaults on their homes and murder of their family. We also follow the ILD's policy of strict accounting of finances and have modeled our journal, Class-Struggle Defense Notes, on the ILD's Labor Defender.

We take to heart Cannon's point:

"The problem of organization is a very significant one for labor defense as a school for the class struggle. We must not get the idea that we are merely 'defense workers' collecting money for lawyers. That is only a part of what we are doing. We are organizing workers on issues which are directly related to the class struggle. The workers who take part in the work of the ILD are drawn, step by step into the main stream of the class struggle. The workers participating begin to learn the ABC of the labor struggle."
Class-struggle defense is a broad category. We are a small organization and must pick and choose our cases carefully, with an eye to their exemplary nature. The case of Mario Munoz a Chilean miners' leader condemned to death in 1976 by the Argentine military junta, is a good example. This was the PDC's first major defense effort. Co-sponsored with the Committee to Defend Workers and Sailor Prisoners in Chile, the international campaign of protest by unions and civil libertarians won asylum for Munoz and his family in France.

Some of our work has been in defense of the revolutionary party. The Spartacist League takes its legality— the right to exist and organize—very seriously, and has been quick to challenge every libel and legal attack. The party successfully challenged the FBI's slanderous description of the SL as "terrorists" who covertly advocate the violent’ Overthrow of the government. A 1984 settlement forced them to describe the SL as a "Marxist political organization."

The PDC takes up not only the cases but the causes of the whole of the working people. We have initiated labor/black mobilizations against the Klan from San Francisco to Atlanta to Philadelphia to Springfield, Illinois, and mobilized sections of the integrated labor movement to join these efforts to stop the fascists from spewing their race hate.

In 1989, we broadened our thinking about how the PDC could champion causes of the international proletariat and offered to organize an international brigade to Afghanistan to fight alongside the forces of the left-nationalist Kabul regime against the imperialist-backed, anti-woman Islamic fundamentalists on the occasion of the withdrawal of Soviet troops. When our offer of a brigade was declined, we launched a successful campaign to raise money for the victims of the mullah-led assault on Jalalabad. To reflect this, we expanded the definition of the PDC to one of a legal and social defense organization. To carry out this campaign, it was necessary to expand the PDC internationally. Sections of the International Communist League initiated fraternal organizations in Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy and Japan.

Currently we focus our efforts on Mumia Abu-Jamal and the fight to abolish the racist death penalty. Our actions in the Jamal case embody many of the principles of our defense work and the integral relationship of that work to the Marxist program of the Spartacist League, in this case particularly in regard to the fight for black liberation, which is key to the American revolution. This is a political death penalty case which illustrates the racism endemic in this country in its crudest, most vicious form and lays bare the essence of the state.

Throughout the very difficult period ahead, we will put all our faith in the mobilization of the working class and none in the capitalist courts. We embark now on exhausting every legal avenue open to Jamal, but we know the result hinges on the class struggle.

We hope you will join us in the fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, to abolish the racist death penalty and finish the Civil War. Forward to the third American revolution! •