Saturday, September 08, 2012

From The Pen Of Vladimir Lenin- The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion (1909)

Click on the headline to link to the Lenin Internet Archives.

Markin comment:

This article goes along with the propaganda points in the fight for our communist future mentioned in other posts.
Vladimir Ilyich Lenin

The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion


Published:Proletary, No. 45, May 13 (26), 1909. Published according to the text in Proletary.
Source:Lenin Collected Works, Progress Publishers, 1973,Moscow, Volume 15, pp. 402-413.
Translated: Andrew Rothstein and Bernard Issacs.
Transcription and Markup: R. Cymbala, B. Baggins, D. Walters, and K. Goins.
Public Domain: Lenin Internet Archive: (1996); (1999). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.


Deputy Surkov’s speech in the Duma during the debate on the Synod estimates, and the discussion that arose within our Duma group when it considered the draft of this speech (both printed in this issue) have raised a question which is of extreme importance and urgency at this particular moment. An interest in everything connected with religion is undoubtedly being shown today by wide circles of “society”, and has penetrated into the ranks of intellectuals standing close to the working-class movement, as well as into certain circles of the workers. It is the absolute duty of Social-Democrats to make a public statement of their attitude towards religion.

Social-Democracy bases its whole world-outlook on scientific socialism, i. e., Marxism. The philosophical basis of Marxism, as Marx and Engels repeatedly declared, is dialectical materialism, which has fully taken over the historical traditions of eighteenth-century materialism in France and of Feuerbach (first half of the nineteenth century) in Germany—a materialism which is absolutely atheistic and positively hostile to all religion. Let us recall that the whole of Engels’s Anti-Dühring, which Marx read in manuscript, is an indictment of the materialist and atheist Dühring for not being a consistent materialist and for leaving loopholes for religion and religious philosophy. Let us recall that in his essay on Ludwig Feuerbach, Engels reproaches Feuerbach for combating religion not in order to destroy it, but in order to renovate it, to invent a new, “exalted” religion, and so forth. Religion is the opium of the people—this dictum by Marx is the corner-stone of the whole Marxist outlook on religion.[1] Marxism has always regarded all modern religions and churches, and each and every religious organisation, as instruments of bourgeois reaction that serve to defend exploitation and to befuddle the working class.

At the same time Engels frequently condemned the efforts of people who desired to be “more left” or “more revolutionary” than the Social-Democrats, to introduce into the programme of the workers’ party an explicit proclamation of atheism, in the sense of declaring war on religion. Commenting in 1874 on the famous manifesto of the Blanquist fugitive Communards who were living in exile in London, Engels called their vociferous proclamation of war on religion a piece of stupidity, and stated that such a declaration of war was the best way to revive interest in religion and to prevent it from really dying out. Engels blamed the Blanquists for being unable to understand that only the class struggle of the working masses could, by comprehensively drawing the widest strata of the proletariat into conscious and revolutionary social practice, really free the oppressed masses from the yoke of religion, whereas to proclaim that war on religion was a political task of the workers’ party was just anarchistic phrase-mongering.[2] And in 1877, too, in his Anti-Dühring, while ruthlessly attacking the slightest concessions made by Dühring the philosopher to idealism and religion, Engels no less resolutely condemns Dühring’s pseudo-revolutionary idea that religion should be prohibited in socialist society. To declare such a war on religion, Engels says, is to “out-Bismarck Bismarck”, i. e., to repeat the folly of Bismarck’s struggle against the clericals (the notorious “Struggle for Culture”, Kulturkampf, i.e., the struggle Bismarck waged in the 1870s against the German Catholic party, the “Centre” party, by means of a police persecution of Catholicism). By this struggle Bismarck only stimulated the militant clericalism of the Catholics, and only injured the work of real culture, because he gave prominence to religious divisions rather than political divisions, and diverted the attention of some sections of the working class and of the other democratic elements away from the urgent tasks of the class and revolutionary struggle to the most superficial and false bourgeois anti-clericalism. Accusing the would-be ultra-revolutionary Dühring of wanting to repeat Bismarck’s folly in another form, Engels insisted that the workers’ party should have the ability to work patiently at the task of organising and educating the proletariat, which would lead to the dying out of religion, and not throw itself into the gamble of a political war on religion.[3] This view has become part of the very essence of German Social-Democracy, which, for example, advocated freedom for the Jesuits, their admission into Germany, and the complete abandonment of police methods of combating any particular religion. “Religion is a private matter”: this celebrated point in the Erfurt Programme (1891) summed up these political tactics of Social-Democracy.

These tactics have by now become a matter of routine; they have managed to give rise to a new distortion of Marxism in the opposite direction, in the direction of opportunism. This point in the Erfurt Programme has come to be interpreted as meaning that we Social-Democrats, our Party, consider religion to be a private matter, that religion is a private matter for us as Social-Democrats, for us as a party. Without entering into a direct controversy with this opportunist view, Engels in the nineties deemed it necessary to oppose it resolutely in a positive, and not a polemical form. To wit: Engels did this in the form of a statement, which he deliberately underlined, that Social-Democrats regard religion as a private matter in relation to the state, but not in relation to themselves, not in relation to Marxism, and not in relation to the workers’ party.[4]

Such is the external history of the utterances of Marx and Engels on the question of religion. To people with a slapdash attitude towards Marxism, to people who cannot or will not think, this history is a skein of meaningless Marxist contradictions and waverings, a hodge-podge of “consistent” atheism and “sops” to religion, “unprincipled” wavering between a r-r-revolutionary war on God and a cowardly desire to “play up to” religious workers, a fear of scaring them away, etc., etc. The literature of the anarchist phrase-mongers contains plenty of attacks on Marxism in this vein.

But anybody who is able to treat Marxism at all seriously, to ponder over its philosophical principles and the experience of international Social-Democracy, will readily see that the Marxist tactics in regard to religion are thoroughly consistent, and were carefully thought out by Marx and Engels; and that what dilettantes or ignoramuses regard as wavering is but a direct and inevitable deduction from dialectical materialism. It would be a profound mistake to think that the seeming “moderation” of Marxism in regard to religion is due to supposed “tactical” considerations, the desire “not to scare away” anybody, and so forth. On the contrary, in this question, too, the political line of Marxism is inseparably bound up with its philosophical principles.

Marxism is materialism. As such, it is as relentlessly hostile to religion as was the materialism of the eighteenth-century Encyclopaedists or the materialism of Feuerbach. This is beyond doubt. But the dialectical materialism of Marx and Engels goes further than the Encyclopaedists and Feuerbach, for it applies the materialist philosophy to the domain of history, to the domain of the social sciences. We must combat religion—that is the ABC of all materialism, and consequently of Marxism. But Marxism is not a materialism which has stopped at the ABC. Marxism goes further. It says: We must know how to combat religion, and in order to do so we must explain the source of faith and religion among the masses in a materialist way. The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching, and it must not be reduced to such preaching. It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion. Why does religion retain its hold on the backward sections of the town proletariat, on broad sections of the semi-proletariat, and on the mass of the peasantry? Because of the ignorance of the people, replies the bourgeois progressist, the radical or the bourgeois materialist. And so: “Down with religion and long live atheism; the dissemination of atheist views is our chief task!” The Marxist says that this is not true, that it is a superficial view, the view of narrow bourgeois uplifters. It does not explain the roots of religion profoundly enough; it explains them, not in a materialist but in an idealist way. In modern capitalist countries these roots are mainly social. The deepest root of religion today is the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their apparently complete helplessness in face of the blind forces of capitalism, which every day and every hour inflicts upon ordinary working people the most horrible suffering and the most savage torment, a thousand times more severe than those inflicted by extra-ordinary events, such as wars, earthquakes, etc. “Fear made the gods.” Fear of the blind force of capital—blind because it cannot be foreseen by the masses of the people—a force which at every step in the life of the proletarian and small proprietor threatens to inflict, and does inflict “sudden”, “unexpected”, “accidental” ruin, destruction, pauperism, prostitution, death from starvation—such is the root of modern religion which the materialist must bear in mind first and foremost, if he does not want to remain an infant-school materialist. No educational book can eradicate religion from the minds of masses who are crushed by capitalist hard labour, and who are at the mercy of the blind destructive forces of capitalism, until those masses themselves learn to fight this root of religion, fight the rule of capital in all its forms, in a united, organised, planned and conscious way.

Does this mean that educational books against religion are harmful or unnecessary? No, nothing of the kind. It means that Social-Democracy’s atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task—the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters.

This proposition may not be understood (or at least not immediately understood) by one who has not pondered over the principles of dialectical materialism, i. e., the philosophy of Marx and Engels. How is that?—he will say. Is ideological propaganda, the preaching of definite ideas, the struggle against that enemy of culture and progress which has persisted for thousands of years (i. e., religion) to be subordinated to the class struggle, i. e., the struggle for definite practical aims in the economic and political field?

This is one of those current objections to Marxism which testify to a complete misunderstanding of Marxian dialectics. The contradiction which perplexes these objectors is a real contradiction in real life, i. e., a dialectical contradiction, and not a verbal or invented one. To draw a hard-and-fast line between the theoretical propaganda of atheism, i. e., the destruction of religious beliefs among certain sections of the proletariat, and the success, the progress and the conditions of the class struggle of these sections, is to reason undialectically, to transform a shifting and relative boundary into an absolute boundary; it is forcibly to disconnect what is indissolubly connected in real life. Let us take an example. The proletariat in a particular region and in a particular industry is divided, let us assume, into an advanced section of fairly class-conscious Social-Democrats, who are of course atheists, and rather backward workers who are still connected with the countryside and with the peasantry, and who believe in God, go to church, or are even under the direct influence of the local priest—who, let us suppose, is organising a Christian labour union. Let us assume furthermore that the economic struggle in this locality has resulted in a strike. It is the duty of a Marxist to place the success of the strike movement above everything else, vigorously to counteract the division of the workers in this struggle into atheists and Christians, vigorously to oppose any such division. Atheist propaganda in such circumstances may be both unnecessary and harmful—not from the philistine fear of scaring away the backward sections, of losing a seat in the elections, and so on, but out of consideration for the real progress of the class struggle, which in the conditions of modern capitalist society will convert Christian workers to Social-Democracy and to atheism a hundred times better than bald atheist propaganda. To preach atheism at such a moment and in such circumstances would only be playing into the hands of the priest and the priests, who desire nothing better than that the division of the workers according to their participation in the strike movement should be replaced by their division according to their belief in God. An anarchist who preached war against God at all costs would in effect be helping the priests and the bourgeoisie (as the anarchists always do help the bourgeoisie in practice). A Marxist must be a materialist, i. e., an enemy of religion, but a dialectical materialist, i. e., one who treats the struggle against religion not in an abstract way, not on the basis of remote, purely theoretical, never varying preaching, but in a concrete way, on the basis of the class struggle which is going on in practice and is educating the masses more and better than anything else could. A Marxist must be able to view the concrete situation as a whole, he must always be able to find the boundary between anarchism and opportunism (this boundary is relative, shifting and changeable, but it exists). And he must not succumb either to the abstract, verbal, but in reality empty “revolutionism’˜ of the anarchist, or to the philistinism and opportunism of the petty bourgeois or liberal intellectual, who boggles at the struggle against religion, forgets that this is his duty, reconciles himself to belief in God, and is guided not by the interests of the class struggle but by the petty and mean consideration of offending nobody, repelling nobody and scaring nobody—by the sage rule: “live and let live”, etc., etc.

It is from this angle that all side issues bearing on the attitude of Social-Democrats to religion should be dealt with. For example, the question is often brought up whether a priest can be a member of the Social-Democratic Party or not, and this question is usually answered in an unqualified affirmative, the experience of the European Social-Democratic parties being cited as evidence. But this experience was the result, not only of the application of the Marxist doctrine to the workers’ movement, but also of the special historical conditions in Western Europe which are absent in Russia (we will say more about these conditions later), so that an unqualified affirmative answer in this case is incorrect. It cannot be asserted once and for all that priests cannot be members of the Social-Democratic Party; but neither can the reverse rule be laid down. If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the programme of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our programme and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction; and a political organisation cannot put its members through an examination to see if there is no contradiction between their views and the Party programme. But, of course, such a case might be a rare exception even in Western Europe, while in Russia it is altogether improbable. And if, for example, a priest joined the Social-Democratic Party and made it his chief and almost sole work actively to propagate religious views in the Party, it would unquestionably have to expel him from its ranks. We must not only admit workers who preserve their belief in God into the Social-Democratic Party, but must deliberately set out to recruit them; we are absolutely opposed to giving the slightest offence to their religious convictions, but we recruit them in order to educate them in the spirit of our programme, and not in order to permit an active struggle against it. We allow freedom of opinion within the Party, but to certain limits, determined by freedom of grouping; we are not obliged to go hand in hand with active preachers of views that are repudiated by the majority of the Party.

Another example. Should members of the Social-Democratic Party be censured all alike under all circumstances for declaring “socialism is my religion”, and for advocating views in keeping with this declaration? No! The deviation from Marxism (and consequently from socialism) is here indisputable; but the significance of the deviation, its relative importance, so to speak, may vary with circumstances. It is one thing when an agitator or a person addressing the workers speaks in this way in order to make himself better understood, as an introduction to his subject, in order to present his views more vividly in terms to which the backward masses are most accustomed. It is another thing when a writer begins to preach “god-building”, or god-building socialism (in the spirit, for example, of our Lunacharsky and Co.). While in the first case censure would be mere carping, or even inappropriate restriction of the freedom of the agitator, of his freedom in choosing “pedagogical” methods, in the second case party censure is necessary and essential. For some the statement “socialism is a religion” is a form of transition from religion to socialism; for others, it is a form of transition from socialism to religion.

Let us now pass to the conditions which in the West gave rise to the opportunist interpretation of the thesis: “religion is a private matter”. Of course, a contributing influence are those general factors which give rise to opportunism as a whole, like sacrificing the fundamental interests of the working-class movement for the sake of momentary advantages. The party of the proletariat demands that the state should declare religion a private matter, but does not regard the fight against the opium of the people, the fight against religious superstitions, etc., as a “private matter”. The opportunists distort the question to mean that the Social-Democratic Party regards religion as a private matter!

But in addition to the usual opportunist distortion (which was not made clear at all in the discussion within our Duma group when it was considering the speech on religion), there are special historical conditions which have given rise to the present-day, and, if one may so express it, excessive, indifference on the part of the European Social-Democrats to the question of religion. These conditions are of a twofold nature. First, the task of combating religion is historically the task of the revolutionary bourgeoisie, and in the West this task was to a large extent performed (or tackled) by bourgeois democracy, in the epoch of its revolutions or its assaults upon feudalism and medievalism. Both in France and in Germany there is a tradition of bourgeois war on religion, and it began long before socialism (the Encyclopaedists, Feuerbach). In Russia, because of the conditions of our bourgeois-democratic revolution, this task too falls almost entirely on the shoulders of the working class. Petty-bourgeois (Narodnik) democracy in our country has not done too much in this respect (as the new-fledged Black-Hundred Cadets, or Cadet Black Hundreds, of Vekhi[5] think), but rather too little, in comparison with what has been done in Europe.

On the other hand, the tradition of bourgeois war on religion has given rise in Europe to a specifically bourgeois distortion of this war by anarchism—which, as the Marxists have long explained time and again, takes its stand on the bourgeois world-outlook, in spite of all the “fury” of its attacks on the bourgeoisie. The anarchists and Blanquists in the Latin countries, Most (who, incidentally, was a pupil of Dühring) and his ilk in Germany, the anarchists in Austria in the eighties, all carried revolutionary phrase-mongering in the struggle against religion to a nec plus ultra. It is not surprising that, compared with the anarchists, the European Social-Democrats now go to the other extreme. This is quite understandable and to a certain extent legitimate, but it would be wrong for us Russian Social-Democrats to forget the special historical conditions of the West.

Secondly, in the West, after the national bourgeois revolutions were over, after more or less complete religious liberty had been introduced, the problem of the democratic struggle against religion had been pushed, historically, so far into the background by the struggle of bourgeois democracy against socialism that the bourgeois governments deliberately tried to draw the attention of the masses away from socialism by organising a quasi-liberal “offensive” against clericalism. Such was the character of the Kulturkampf in Germany and of the struggle of the bourgeois republicans against clericalism in France. Bourgeois anti-clericalism, as a means of drawing the attention of the working-class masses away from socialism—this is what preceded the spread of the modern spirit of “indifference” to the struggle against religion among the Social-Democrats in the West. And this again is quite understandable and legitimate, because Social-Democrats had to counteract bourgeois and Bismarckian anti-clericalism by subordinating the struggle against religion to the struggle for socialism.

In Russia conditions are quite different. The proletariat is the leader of our bourgeois-democratic revolution. Its party must be the ideological leader in the struggle against all attributes of medievalism, including the old official religion and every attempt to refurbish it or make out a new or different case for it, etc. Therefore, while Engels was comparatively mild in correcting the opportunism of the German Social-Democrats who were substituting, for the demand of the workers’ party that the state should declare religion a private matter, the declaration that religion is a private matter for the Social-Democrats themselves, and for the Social-Democratic Party, it is clear that the importation of this German distortion by the Russian opportunists would have merited a rebuke a hundred times more severe by Engels.

By declaring from the Duma rostrum that religion is the opium of the people, our Duma group acted quite correctly, and thus created a precedent which should serve as a basis for all utterances by Russian Social-Democrats on the question of religion. Should they have gone further and developed the atheist argument in greater detail? We think not. This might have brought the risk of the political party of the proletariat exaggerating the struggle against religion; it might have resulted in obliterating the distinction between the bourgeois and the socialist struggle against religion. The first duty of the Social-Democratic group in the Black-Hundred Duma has been discharged with honour.

The second duty—and perhaps the most important for Social-Democrats—namely, to explain the class role of the church and the clergy in supporting the Black-Hundred government and the bourgeoisie in its fight against the working class, has also been discharged with honour. Of course, very much more might be said on this subject, and the Social-Democrats in their future utterances will know how to amplify Comrade Surkov’s speech; but still his speech was excellent, and its circulation by all Party organisations is the direct duty of our Party.

The third duty was to explain in full detail the correct meaning of the proposition, so often distorted by the German opportunists, that “religion is a private matter”. This, unfortunately, Comrade Surkov did not do. It is all the more regrettable because in the earlier activity of the Duma group a mistake had been committed on this question by Comrade Belousov, and was pointed out at the time by Proletary. The discussion in the Duma group shows that the dispute about atheism has screened from it the question of the proper interpretation of the celebrated demand that religion should be proclaimed a private matter. We shall not blame Comrade Surkov alone for this error of the entire Duma group. More, we shall frankly admit that the whole Party is at fault here, for not having sufficiently elucidated this question and not having sufficiently prepared the minds of Social-Democrats to understand Engels’s remark levelled against the German opportunists. The discussion in the Duma group proves that there was in fact a confused understanding of the question, and not at all any desire to ignore the teachings of Marx; and we are sure that the error will be corrected in future utterances of the group.

We repeat that on the whole Comrade Surkov’s speech was excellent, and should be circulated by all the organisations. In its discussion of this speech the Duma group demonstrated that it is fulfilling its Social-Democratic duty conscientiously. It remains to express the wish that reports on discussions within the Duma group should appear more often in the Party press so as to bring the group and the Party closer together, to acquaint the Party with the difficult work being done within the group, and to establish ideological unity in the work of the Party and the Duma group.



[1] See K. Marx, Contribution to the Critique of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right. Introduction. (K. Marx and F. Engels, On Religion, Moscow, 1957, p. 42.)

[2] See F. Engels, “Flüchtlings-Literatur. II. Das Programme der Blanquisten”.

[3] See F. Engels, Anti-Dühring, Moscow, 1959, pp. 434-37.

[4] This refers to F. Engels’s preface to K. Marx’s pamphlet The Civil War in France (see K. Marx and F. Engels, Selected Works, Vol. 1, Moscow, 1958, p. 479).

[5]Vekhi (Landmarks)—a Cadet collection of articles by N. Berdayev, S. Bulgakov, P. Struve, M. Herschensohn and other representatives of the counter-revolutionary liberal bourgeoisie, published in Moscow in 1909. In their articles on the Russian intelligentsia these writers tried to discredit the revolutionary-democratic traditions of the best representatives of the Russian people, including Belinsky and Chernyshevsky; they vilified the revolutionary movement of 1905 and thanked the tsarist government for having, "with its bayonets and jails”, saved the bourgeoisie from “the popular wrath”. The writers called upon the intelligentsia to serve the autocracy. Lenin compared the programme of the Vekhi symposium in point of both philosophy and journalism with that of the Black-Hundred newspaper Moskovskiye Vedomosti, calling the symposium “an encyclopaedia of liberal renegacy”, “nothing but a flood of reactionary mud poured on democracy”.

From The Pages Of "Workers Vanguard"-Lessons of the Struggles in Quebec-Students: Ally with the Working Class!

Click on the headline to link to the International Communist League website.

Markin comment:

I place some material in this space which may be of interest to the radical public that I do not necessarily agree with or support. Off hand, as I have mentioned before, I think it would be easier, infinitely easier, to fight for the socialist revolution straight up than some of the “remedies” provided by the commentators in these entries. But part of that struggle for the socialist revolution is to sort out the “real” stuff from the fluff as we struggle for that more just world that animates our efforts.
Workers Vanguard No. 1007
31 August 2012

Lessons of the Struggles in Quebec-Students: Ally with the Working Class!

(Young Spartacus pages)

We print below the translation of a French-language Spartacist Canada supplement issued on August 20, which our comrades distributed at a large student demonstration in Montreal on August 22.

The student strike and mass defiance of the Liberal government’s repressive law (Law 78) have produced the most sustained social struggle in Quebec since the 1970s. Premier Jean Charest called the September 4 elections in large part to “solve” this crisis. This may very well work, even if the Liberals lose the vote. After months of exhausting struggle, intense police repression, media slanders and no tangible results, many students are now voting to go back to class. The Parti Québécois [PQ] is calling for a “truce” so as to not disturb the elections—actually a cynical excuse to re-establish “social peace.” The pro-PQ leaders of the FEUQ and FECQ student federations are campaigning to “get out the youth vote.” And Françoise David of Québec Solidaire (QS) has now explicitly pledged to support a possible minority PQ government—with PQ leader Pauline Marois already promising to increase tuition “with the cost of living.”

Youth who have mobilized and fought courageously for more than six months must ask themselves: What next? The solution is certainly not to be found in the electoral circus, nor can militancy alone provide a way forward. As we wrote three months ago, the student strike “has illustrated in a fundamental way the limitations of a struggle that has not been connected to the social power of the working class” [“Student Strike Shakes Quebec,” WV No. 1003, 25 May]. What is needed is a viewpoint broader than the immediate struggle in Quebec: a class-struggle, internationalist perspective that seeks to mobilize that social power.

The attacks on students in Quebec are part of a global capitalist assault on workers and the oppressed. From Greece to Spain, the U.S., Canada and beyond, the onslaught has been especially brutal since the latest capitalist economic crisis erupted in 2008. The fight for free education is an integral part of an international class struggle against the exploiters. And if there is one lesson to be drawn from the struggles to date it is that looking to “progressive” capitalist parties or the bosses’ social-democratic agents is a road to disaster. In the U.S., Obama continued the attacks (and the wars) of his predecessor George W. Bush; in France, the Socialist Party will continue the job-slashing and austerity seen under Sarkozy.

A defeat of the student strike would embolden the Québécois capitalists to push through their assault on social programs, the labor movement, youth and minorities. Both the Liberals and François Legault’s Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ) openly call to “re-engineer” Quebec society to make the workers “more productive.” While its rhetoric is more duplicitous, the PQ would do more or less the same thing, as it did with its “deficit zero” attacks in the 1990s. Pushing reactionary “identity” politics, the PQ is also already making clear that it will fan the flames of the “reasonable accommodation” scapegoating of immigrants and ethnic/religious minorities, particularly Muslims. Whether under the Liberals, CAQ or PQ (or the latter’s QS and Option Nationale tails), youth and workers will lose.

Québec Solidaire: A Pro-Capitalist Dead End

Primary responsibility for the current state of affairs lies with the trade-union bureaucracy and its decades-long alliance with the bourgeois-nationalist PQ. But also guilty is the reformist left—the Parti Communiste du Québec, Gauche Socialiste, Socialisme International, La Riposte, Alternative Socialiste, etc. These groups have all helped to create, build and sow illusions in Québec Solidaire, a petty-bourgeois populist party whose purpose is and has always been to channel the anger of youth and workers back into the safe channels of bourgeois parliamentarism and Québécois nationalism.

The groups who support QS will tell you that having QS deputies in the National Assembly is a way to ensure gains for students and workers. This is an absolute falsehood! First off, as some of these groups themselves admit, QS does not even pretend to be a socialist organization; it has no organic links with labor; its whole political framework accepts the continued existence of capitalist exploitation. The QS election platform includes calls for national protectionism and other measures flatly contrary to the workers’ interests. Pledging to support a PQ government is only icing on the cake.

At the height of the student strike, QS spokesmen joined in the “violence”-baiting furor against militant students. For our part, we have called throughout to defend all protesters against the repression of the Charest government and its police. It is also noteworthy that pretty much all of the reformist “socialist” outfits who back QS in Quebec support the social-democratic NDP [New Democratic Party] federally—the same New Democrats who have shown nothing but contempt for the students’ struggle!

One cannot “reform” away capitalist oppression or render the farce of the bourgeoisie’s parliament (or the “constituent assembly” that QS calls for) anything other than an instrument of class domination by the exploiters. As Russian revolutionary leader Vladimir Lenin explained: “The working people are barred from participation in bourgeois parliaments (they never decide important questions under bourgeois democracy, which are decided by the stock exchange and the banks) by thousands of obstacles” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918). The economic domination of capital can only be ended by a workers revolution and the subsequent reorganization of society in the interests of the vast majority.

Unlike the FEUQ and FECQ, the CLASSE student union does not directly promote the idea that the elections will “settle” the student struggle. But CLASSE too is incapable of stepping outside the framework set by the capitalist class. Its worldview is limited to a fight against so-called “neoliberalism,” which can only mean that in its eyes a “better” version of capitalism is possible. CLASSE focuses all of its attacks on Charest and the Liberals, leaving open the option of voting for the PQ, QS or Option Nationale as a “lesser evil.”

The recent CLASSE Manifesto revolves entirely around the need for more democracy, “a direct democracy,” “a democracy for everyone,” “new democratic spaces,” etc., etc. “We are the people,” it affirms. But speaking of democracy without asking for what class—the capitalists or the workers—inevitably reinforces illusions in the present system, which is a democracy for the rich, a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.

The same illusions are sowed by groups who falsely claim to be Marxist. Alternative Socialiste, an ardent partisan of QS, salutes the student movement for “putting on the agenda the contestation of the neoliberal order” (, 8 August). For its part, the Maoist Parti Communiste Révolutionnaire (PCR), which claims to oppose both the PQ and QS, thunders on the front page of its Drapeau Rouge [Red Flag] (August-September 2012): “If We Want Democracy, We Must Change the System!” Calling for “people’s power,” the PCR also dissolves the unique social power of the proletariat into a class-collaborationist concept of “the people.”

The Power of the Working Class

Many students have understood that they cannot win the battle for free tuition or even a freeze without the active support of broader forces, including the labor movement. This understanding lay behind CLASSE’s proposal for a 24-hour “social strike,” which the union bureaucracy predictably rejected. For CLASSE, the social strike was seen as a way to broaden popular support and put more pressure on Charest. But the working class isn’t just another “sector” of society—it is the only class with the power to bring the capitalist system to its knees.

A mobilization of the working class in defense of the student struggle remains essential to beat back this (or any) capitalist government. In 2003, union mobilizations and a few strikes managed to stop many of Charest’s attacks on the labor movement. At a much higher level, the May 1968 uprising in France, sparked by a student struggle, saw a general strike of the working class that could have overthrown French capitalism. Only the treachery of the workers’ leaders, centrally the reformist Communist Party of France, enabled the government to re-establish bourgeois order. May ’68 showed the enormous social power of the proletariat. Four years later, the Québécois workers demonstrated their own power in the May 1972 general strike against the jailing of union leaders.

The capitalist class—a tiny minority that owns all the means of production—derives its astronomical profits from the exploitation of labor. Workers have to sell their labor power to survive. When they are “lucky” enough to have a job, they toil away in the mines, factories, etc., adding the value of their work to what they produce, but only get paid what they are deemed to be worth on the labor market. This difference—between the value added by the workers and what they actually get paid—ends up in the capitalists’ pockets in the form of what Karl Marx termed surplus value. In other words, the workers produce the material wealth of capitalist society, but this is expropriated by a handful of ruling parasites.

When workers go on strike, this immediately hits the bottom line of the capitalist corporations. Thus the working class has the social power to attack the profit system at its very core. This is something that students, a petty-bourgeois layer with no direct relation to the means of production, lack entirely. An exploited class that makes just enough to live on and to produce the next generation of wage-slaves, the working class has no interest in the preservation of the capitalist system, but has a direct objective interest in its overthrow.

Students in Montreal don’t have to look far to find this social power. The area employs more than 200,000 people in the manufacturing sector alone, including workers in factories from Longueuil to St-Jérôme. Montreal has one of the largest concentrations of aerospace workers in the world. Tens of thousands more toil in transport—longshoremen, airport crews, transit workers—another key part of the capitalist economy. Beyond Montreal, there are huge proletarian concentrations in and around Trois-Rivières, Saguenay, the Abitibi and elsewhere. Cascades, Bombardier, SNC-Lavalin, Quebecor—these are the backbone of Quebec Inc., and all are powered by the sweat and blood of the proletariat.

The Role of the Union Bureaucracy

The working class, in Quebec as elsewhere, has a direct interest in the elimination of tuition fees: it is the workers and their children who are overwhelmingly denied the fruits of higher education, fundamentally because the capitalists only want them to know what is necessary to do their work. The student strike has been widely popular among the workers, as shown by the labor contingents at various demos, the cheers and honks that have greeted protesters everywhere, even the money donated by various unions.

Yet in the six months of student protests and strikes, not a single strike in support of the students has been undertaken by the unionized working class anywhere in Quebec. Why? Because the union leaders uphold the capitalist system, backing the PQ in particular; they seek to contain whatever social struggles erupt, diverting them onto the shoals of nationalism and parliamentary reformism.

The unions are the basic organizations for defense of the workers against the bosses’ constant attacks. They enable workers to have relatively better wages and benefits, and protect them somewhat against arbitrary firing and general abuse. They must be built and defended. But the present union leadership is an obstacle to mobilizing labor’s power.

Most North American unions were built in the last century through hard class battles including strikes and plant occupations, facing massive repression from the police, army and company thugs. Countless workers were murdered fighting to forge unions, from West Virginia to British Columbia, Detroit to Murdochville. The key activists who led this fight were leftists, mostly self-described communists. Many of these militants were purged from the unions in the anti-Communist witchhunts of the 1940s and ’50s. In their stead rose an openly pro-capitalist layer of bureaucrats who still run the unions today, including in Quebec.

Under imperialism, the system of modern capitalism where the world is divided among a few big powers and the dominance of finance capital ensures the flow of profits into the coffers of U.S., German, Japanese (and Canadian) banks, the capitalist class throws a few crumbs off its table to corrupt a layer of labor misleaders and turn them into willing “partners.” Seeing the world through the same lens as the capitalists, the heads of the AFL-CIO, Canadian Labour Congress [CLC], [Quebec trade-union federations] FTQ, CSN, etc. are willing to sacrifice the interests of their members in pursuit of partnership with their own national bosses. In the U.S., they largely support the capitalist Democratic Party. In English Canada, the CLC tops wave the Maple Leaf, tying workers to their exploiters, centrally through the NDP. In Quebec, the heads of the FTQ, CSN, etc. utilize Québécois nationalism and support to the PQ to undermine the workers’ consciousness and sabotage struggle in the name of “national solidarity.” They are all, truly, in the words of American socialist Daniel De Leon, the labor lieutenants of capital.

For a Revolutionary Internationalist Workers Party!

To resolve the intractable contradiction between the true, material interests of the working class and the deadly grip of the conservative union misleaders, a revolutionary agency must be forged: a vanguard workers party built around a program that is revolutionary and internationalist. As Lenin argued in his book What Is To Be Done?, such a party would fuse the most conscious elements of the proletariat with declassed intellectuals, including students, who dedicate themselves to the fight for workers revolution.

To transform the unions from narrow craft and industry-limited bargaining agents into organs of revolutionary struggle, the vanguard elements must fight to preserve the integrity and unity of the working class. They must combat all the forms of special oppression that divide workers along national, ethnic, language and gender lines.

Most Québécois workers continue to support the PQ, despite its many attacks on the working class over the years, while the bulk of student activists also back one or another nationalist party, whether the PQ, QS or Option Nationale. The hold of nationalism flows from and is constantly reinforced by the Anglo chauvinism that dominates the Canadian state. With workers in English Canada supporting the NDP or even the Liberals—parties with a long record of hostility to Quebec’s national rights—the working class of Canada is deeply divided, undermining its ability to fight the ruling exploiters. For this reason, we Marxists advocate Quebec independence. We do so as proletarian internationalists: getting the national question off the agenda would create better conditions for the workers to understand that their “own” national capitalists are not allies but class enemies.

Nationalism necessarily promotes racism. A particular flash point in Quebec has been the Liberals’ Bill 94, which foments anti-Muslim bigotry by calling to bar women who wear the niqab or burqa from getting government services or being employed in the public sector. Amir Khadir, the QS deputy in the National Assembly, supported this reactionary bill, while the PQ goes even further, demanding a complete ban on Muslim headscarfs and Sikh turbans in the public sector.

A revolutionary workers party would oppose all forms of discrimination against such minorities, in particular the racist state sanctions against Muslim women. At the same time, it would combat the religious backwardness that consigns so many women to the hideous oppression symbolized by the veil. Such a party would champion women’s right to abortion, equal pay for equal work and free 24-hour day care. It would also fight to mobilize the working class in defense of the black and Latino youth who are in the gunsights of the police in places like Montréal-Nord.

It is vital to oppose the divisions along linguistic lines promoted both by Anglo-chauvinist bigots and by Quebec nationalists who call to toughen the French-language Charter (Law 101). For example, the PQ seeks to compel everyone but anglophones to attend French Cégeps [junior colleges]. Marxists oppose all “official language” laws and any school system based on language or religion. We are for a single public, integrated and secular school system with bilingual or multilingual education wherever necessary. The working class can only be united by opposing all privileges for any nation or language.

For a Marxist Perspective

Through their struggles, layers of student youth have learned firsthand some basic truths about capitalism. They have witnessed the repressive role of the bourgeois state, centrally including the cops who have arrested over 2,500 students and their supporters. It is crucial that these and other lessons be assimilated and generalized by studying the historical experiences of the international workers movement and the program of revolutionary Marxism.

The best model for successful social struggle is the October 1917 workers revolution in Russia, which overthrew capitalism in the tsarist “prison house of peoples.” A myriad of national and ethnic minorities were denied their rights under the tsar’s brutal autocracy. Lenin’s Bolshevik Party fought for the right to self-determination—i.e., to secession—for such nations, combating Great Russian chauvinism and winning support from the non-Russian minorities. The Bolsheviks denounced national exclusiveness and privileges for any nation or language, which serve only to divide the working class.

By abolishing capitalist private property, the Revolution gave the Soviet masses access to jobs, housing and free education. Despite its degeneration under the nationalist bureaucracy of Joseph Stalin starting in 1924, the Soviet Union was able to maintain a centralized planned economy and develop into a modern industrial power. Illiteracy was practically eliminated. Students from around the neocolonial world flocked to Moscow for the quality of its free education system. The Soviets were able to compete with the much more powerful U.S. imperialists in a decades-long arms race (provoked by the U.S.), and achieved such huge technological advances as the first artificial satellite and the first man into space.

All this and more showed the huge advantages of economic planning no longer directed by the drive for private profit. But these achievements were undermined by the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy, and the Soviet Union was eventually destroyed by capitalist counterrevolution in 1991-92. We Trotskyists fought for its unconditional defense against imperialism and counterrevolution, while seeking a proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucracy and establish workers democracy. This remains our stance toward the bureaucratically deformed workers states of China, Vietnam, Laos, North Korea and Cuba. This stands in sharp contrast to the reformist left groups, including those who back Québec Solidaire as well as the Maoists and anarchists; indeed, most of them openly took the side of their own imperialists against the Soviet Union.

Only the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of workers rule can put an end to poverty and all-sided oppression and open up new vistas for humanity. This is not just a task for Quebec, but for all of Canada, the U.S. and the entire world. The way forward for Quebec student radicals is to commit their energy to forging a binational, multiethnic Marxist vanguard party, part of a reforged Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. We urge you to examine the principles, program and analyses of the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste—section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist)—and join us in this fight, which is essential to the future of mankind. 

The Latest From The SteveLendmanBlog

Markin comment:

I am always happy to post material from the SteveLendmanBlog, although I am not always in agreement with his analysis. I am always interested in getting a left-liberal/radical perspective on some issues that I don’t generally have time to cover in full like the question of Palestine, the Middle East in general, and civil rights and economic issues here in America and elsewhere. Moreover the blog provides plenty of useful links to other sources of information about the subject under discussion.

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

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

The Latest From The Partisan Defense Committee-Defend the UC Davis “Banker’s Dozen”!

Click on the headline to link to the Partisan Defense Committee website.

Reposted from the American Left History blog, dated December 1, 2010.

Markin comment:

I like to think of myself as a fervent supporter of the Partisan Defense Committee, an organization committed to social and political defense cases and causes in the interests of the working class and, at this time of the year, to raising funds to support the class-war prisoners’ stipend program. Normally I do not need any prompting in the matter. This year, however, in light of the addition of Attorney Lynne Stewart (yes, I know, she has been disbarred but that does not make her less of a people’s attorney in my eyes) to the stipend program, I read the 25th Anniversary Appeal article in Workers Vanguard No. 969 where I was startled to note how many of the names, organizations, and political philosophies mentioned there hark back to my own radical coming of age, and the need for class-struggle defense of all our political prisoners in the late 1960s (although I may not have used that exact term at the time).

That recognition included names like black liberation fighter George Jackson, present class-war prisoner Hugo Pinell’s San Quentin Six comrade; the Black Panthers, as represented here by two of the Omaha Three (Poindexter and wa Langa), in their better days and in the days when we needed, desperately needed, to fight for their defense in places from Oakland to New Haven; the struggle, the fierce struggle, against the death penalty as represented in Mumia’s case today; the Ohio 7 and the Weather Underground who, rightly or wrongly, were committed to building a second front against American imperialism, and who most of the left, the respectable left, abandoned; and, of course, Leonard Peltier and the Native American struggles from Pine Ridge to the Southwest. It has been a long time and victories few. I could go on but you get the point.

That point also includes the hard fact that we have paid a high price, a very high price, for not winning back in the late 1960s and early 1970s when we last had this capitalist imperialist society on the ropes. Maybe it was political immaturity, maybe it was cranky theory, maybe it was elitism, hell, maybe it was just old-fashioned hubris but we let them off the hook. And have had to fight forty years of rear-guard “culture wars” since just to keep from falling further behind.

And the class-war prisoners, our class-war prisoners, have had to face their “justice” and their prisons. That lesson should be etched in the memory of every pro-working class militant today. And this, as well, as a quick glance at the news these days should make every liberation fighter realize; the difference between being on one side of that prison wall and the other is a very close thing when the bourgeoisie decides to pull the hammer down. The support of class-war prisoners is thus not charity, as International Labor Defense founder James P. Cannon noted back in the 1920s, but a duty of those fighters outside the walls. Today I do my duty, and gladly.
Workers Vanguard No. 1007
31 August 2012

Defend the UC Davis “Banker’s Dozen”!

(Young Spartacus pages)

We reprint below an August 14 leaflet issued by the Bay Area Spartacus Youth Club.

In November of last year, the world watched as University of California Davis (UCD) cops attacked a group of seated Occupy student protesters with pepper spray, treating them with the disdain of an exterminator spraying cockroaches. On March 29, eleven students and one professor, most of them victims of the November police assault, were slammed with charges that could send them to prison for nearly eleven years and result in $1 million in fines.

Last January, the UCD Occupy protesters had begun a sit-in at the campus branch of U.S. Bank against the “university’s privatization” and “its collusion with corporate profiteers.” After nearly two months of sit-ins and other actions by dozens of protesters, U.S. Bank closed its branch on February 28. It dropped its $3 million deal with this public university after complaining that UCD did not dispatch campus police, or allow the bank to use its guards, to remove the protesters. Weeks after the bank closed shop the district attorney—who reportedly colluded with the same UCD cops who were involved in the November pepper-spray attack—charged the “Banker’s Dozen” with 20 counts each of “obstructing movement in a public place” and one count of “conspiracy.” Drop all the charges immediately! Cops off campus!

The outrage of the students is entirely justified. Once almost free, annual tuition and fees for California residents at the University of California have more than tripled over the past ten years to over $13,000. Job prospects are dismal to say the least—according to a Rutgers University study, over 40 percent of 2010 college graduates couldn’t find employment by spring of 2011. The Spartacus Youth Clubs demand: Open admissions, no tuition and a state-paid living stipend for all! Nationalize the private universities! Abolish the student debt! Capitalist institutions like U.S. Bank are undoubtedly benefiting from the nationwide budget cuts and tuition hikes, which force students to shackle themselves to mountains of debt that will weigh them down for decades after they graduate.

But it is the capitalist system as a whole, not individual banks, that is responsible for these attacks. The capitalists do not see education as a right; they see education in terms of investment vs. returns. Universities are training grounds for the administrative, technical and cultural personnel needed by the capitalist system. In general, the ruling class will spend only as much money on education as it thinks is necessary to maintain its profits. In the midst of the worst recession in decades, spending money to educate the sons and daughters of the working class and poor seems like a waste of money to these bloodsucking parasites whose tremendous wealth is based on the exploitation of the working class.

An April 23 “Statement by Some Banker’s Dozen Supporters” argues that the charges against the protesters are “an abuse of the legal system and a waste of our county’s already limited resources.” But this is exactly what the legal system is for: to protect the property rights and interests of the capitalists and their banks. The bourgeois state—which consists at its core of the police, courts, prisons and military—is an instrument of capitalist rule, not a neutral arbiter standing above society.

The fundamental role of the administration is to serve as the representative of the capitalist class within the universities. It is not a matter of the “over influence” of money in politics or in education; the banks don’t have to bribe UCD Chancellor Katehi to serve them any more than a fish has to be bribed to swim. The administration and the state work together to quell protest against the depredations of this brutal and decaying system. That is why Katehi gave the green light to violently clear out the protesters in November and that is why she embraces the persecution of the Banker’s Dozen, making the chilling statement on April 27 that “the students involved in this case will learn from this experience.” Abolish the administration! For worker/student/teacher control of the campuses!

Many students, however, have illusions that the universities—and indeed capitalism itself—can be reformed into putting “people before profits.” These illusions can be as blinding as pepper spray and just as dangerous. While the bosses have in times of class struggle been forced to offer cheap or even free higher education, these gains are always reversible as long as the capitalist system remains intact. In diametrical opposition to Occupy’s program of liberal, bourgeois populism, the SYCs seek to win young activists to the understanding that this system cannot be reformed. It must be smashed and replaced by a workers state.

The UCD protesters have shown courage and determination in the face of draconian state repression. But like all students, they have no direct relationship to the means of production and therefore no real social power. By contrast the working class—those whose labor produces and transports all of the goods and services in society—can bring the capitalist system to a grinding halt. The capitalists can send their cops to repress and terrorize the workers and students, but it is the workers whose labor keeps the factories running and the profits flowing. If students are to win their battles against the rulers’ assaults on public education, they must look to the proletariat. This struggle could find support among the workers, who are being ruthlessly squeezed in the vise of austerity.

As the youth auxiliary of the Spartacist League, the SYCs fight to win youth to the program of international workers revolution, which will replace the capitalist system based on production for profit with a centrally planned, collectivized economy. In such a system the resources of society will be rationally directed to provide for the needs of humanity, including universal employment and free, quality, racially integrated education for all. To do this, the efforts of workers and their student allies require the leadership of a revolutionary proletarian party, which is what we Marxists seek to build.

Defend the Banker’s Dozen! Drop all the charges! The next court hearing is currently scheduled for August 24 at the Yolo County Courthouse, 725 Court Street, Woodland, CA. To contribute to their legal fund, visit: Send protest letters to: District Attorney Jeff W. Reisig, 301 Second St., Woodland, CA 95695, fax (530) 666-8423. 

“Workers of The World Unite, You Have Nothing To Lose But Your Chains”-The Struggle For Trotsky's Fourth (Communist) International -Jean van Heijenoort writing as Marc Loris-The National Question in Europe-September 1942

Markin comment:

Below this general introduction is another addition to the work of creating a new international working class organization-a revolutionary one fit of the the slogan in the headline.

Markin comment (repost from September 2010):

Recently, when the question of an international, a new workers international, a fifth international, was broached by the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), faintly echoing the call by Venezuelan caudillo, Hugo Chavez, I got to thinking a little bit more on the subject. Moreover, it must be something in the air (maybe caused by these global climatic changes) because I have also seen recent commentary on the need to go back to something that looks very much like Karl Marx’s one-size-fits-all First International. Of course, just what the doctor by all means, be my guest, but only if the shades of Proudhon and Bakunin can join. Boys and girls that First International was disbanded in the wake of the demise of the Paris Commune for a reason, okay. Mixing political banners (Marxism and fifty-seven varieties of anarchism) is appropriate to a united front, not a hell-bent revolutionary International fighting, and fighting hard, for our communist future. Forward

The Second International, for those six, no seven, people who might care, is still alive and well (at least for periodic international conferences) as a mail-drop for homeless social democrats who want to maintain a fig leaf of internationalism without having to do much about it. Needless to say, one Joseph Stalin and his cohorts liquidated the Communist (Third) International in 1943, long after it turned from a revolutionary headquarters into an outpost of Soviet foreign policy. By then no revolutionary missed its demise, nor shed a tear goodbye. And of course there are always a million commentaries by groups, cults, leagues, tendencies, etc. claiming to stand in the tradition (although, rarely, the program) of the Leon Trotsky-inspired Fourth International that, logically and programmatically, is the starting point of any discussion of the modern struggle for a new communist international.

With that caveat in mind this month, the September American Labor Day month, but more importantly the month in 1938 that the ill-fated Fourth International was founded I am posting some documents around the history of that formation, and its program, the program known by the shorthand, Transitional Program. If you want to call for a fifth, sixth, seventh, what have you, revolutionary international, and you are serious about it beyond the "mail-drop" potential, then you have to look seriously into that organization's origins, and the world-class Bolshevik revolutionary who inspired it. Forward.
Jean van Heijenoort writing as Marc Loris-The National Question in Europe
“National Question in Europe” Fourth International, September 1942, pp.264-268, under the name “Marc Loris”, (5,051 words)

With the American Civil War, the Italian wars of unification, Prussia’s wars against Austria and France, the third quarter of the Nineteenth Century marks the end of the epoch of the formation of the great bourgeois states. This does not mean that national questions ceased to preoccupy humanity. Far from it. The uneven development of capitalism appears in this realm as in others.

A Glance into the Past The national problem was sharply posed then for a number of peoples in central and south-eastern Europe. Leaving aside the Irish struggle, the Alsatian problem of Germany, the Catalan and Basque questions in Spain, there were the oppressed nationalities of the two great semi-feudal empires, Austria-Hungary and Russia, as well as those that came out of the disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The national problem in Europe thus appeared essentially as a vestige of the great historical task of emancipation which had been created by the transition from feudalism to capitalism but which the latter had been unable to resolve completely.

The development of imperialism soon raised the national question in another group of countries, the colonial countries (or semi-colonial such as China and Persia). While liberals of all kinds were able to comfort themselves by thinking that the national problem in Europe was merely a historical lag which would catch up more or less quickly, the formation of the colonial empires soon demonstrated that the national question arose inevitably from the most modern phase of capitalism, finance imperialism. However, the colonial developments could also be interpreted as part of the historical lag, representing a historical rise toward the national state, evoked by the development of the productive forces in the colonies under the impact of capitalism.

Shaking the great multi-national empires, crushing the small nations between the large, the first imperialist world war revived the national problem in Europe, giving it a new acuteness in the countries where it had not been settled (Austria-Hungary, Russia), or reviving it in the countries where history had long ago disposed of it (occupied Belgium). Against those who, under various pretexts, denied or minimized the importance of the national questions in our epoch (Luxemburg, Radek, Bukharin, Piatakov), Lenin wrote many times during the last war: “Imperialism is the epoch of the oppression of nations on a new historical basis .... Imperialism renews the old slogan of self-determination.”

Lenin’s basic idea was that, contrary to the expectations of the liberals, capitalist development exacerbated national oppression. In the revolutionary ranks there were many people who tried to ignore the problems of national freedom, at least in Europe, under the pretext that imperialism made all national freedoms a Utopia and an illusion. To Bukharin, who denied the possibility of European national movements, Lenin replied that, as far as the national question is concerned, Bukharin “has not proved and will not prove the distinction between colonies and oppressed nations in Europe.” Of course, Lenin, better than anyone else, knew how to show the opposition between imperialist Europe and the oppressed colonial world. But he denied the absolute character of that opposition. He showed that the imperialist epoch not only revived the unresolved national problems in Europe, but was even able to give birth to new ones. For example, in a polemic against the Polish partisans of Rosa Luxemburg, Lenin mentioned hypothetically, in 1916, the possibility of occupied Belgium rising against Germany for its emancipation. At the same time Trotsky wrote: “The independence of the Belgians, Serbians, Poles, Armenians and others . . . belongs to the program of the fight of the international proletariat against imperialism.” He did not hesitate to place a crushed imperialist nation of western Europe on the same plane as the colonial peoples of the Orient.

For Lenin, the intensification of the national problem in Europe proper was not the fortuitous result of some military accident such as the superiority of the German armies. It had a much deeper cause. It sprang from the very nature of imperialism. Kautsky had attempted to explain imperialism by the need of industrial countries to combine with agrarian countries—a theory which obscured the violent and reactionary character of imperialism by presenting it as some sort of international division of labor. Lenin, refuting. Kautsky, wrote in his book on Imperialism:

“The characteristic feature of imperialism is precisely that it strives to annex not only agricultural regions, but even highly industrialized regions (German appetite for Belgium, French appetite for Lorraine), because (1) the fact that the world is already divided up obliges those contemplating a new division to reach out for any kind of territory, and (2) because an essential feature of imperialism is the rivalry between a number of great powers In the striving for hegemony, i.e., for the conquest of territory, not so much directly for themselves as to weaken the adversary and undermine his hegemony (Belgium is chiefly necessary to Germany as a base for operations against England; England needs Bagdad as a base for operations against Germany, etc.).” (Lenin’s italics.)

These lines are profoundly true, perhaps even more today than when they were written: 1. They explain the special features of colony-starved German imperialism: “The fact that the world is already divided up obliges those contemplating a new division to reach out for any kind of territory.” 2. They also show that at present all conquest has a strategical-military and economic character at the same time and that it is impossible to establish a clear distinction between the two. 3. Moreover, Lenin did not hesitate to place the occupation of a crushed small imperialist country (Belgium) and the conquest of a colony (Bagdad) on the same plane by showing that they both have the same deep cause, which is “the characteristic feature of imperialism.” These three points are all equally important for the understanding of the epoch through which we are passing.

The National Problem in Europe Today To destroy the absolute character of the assertions of the sectarians, Lenin, in his polemics on the national question, often had to indicate possibilities of historical development. These possibilities have today become realities. If during the last war the national problem in Europe had a fragmentary character, today it embraces the whole continent. The second imperialist war is the continuation of the first, but on a much larger scale. Notwithstanding the participation of America and Japan on the side of the Allies, the war of 1914-18 remained essentially a European war. The present war is world-wide in the full sense of the word. Just as for the Kaiser the occupation of Belgium was merely a preparatory operation for the serious struggle against France, so for Hitler the occupation of the European continent was only the prelude to the struggle against the British Empire, against the USSR and especially against America. Now all Europe is an invaded Belgium. Germany’s sensational victories caused all land fronts in western or southeastern Europe to disappear. Not counting some of Germany’s allies whose situation is not very different from that of a conquered territory, nearly 250 million non-Germans are now under the Nazi boot. An enormous quantitative difference from the last war! But there is also a qualitative difference: In the last war occupied Belgium was emptied of the most active part of her population, who went to France. Few remained in the country but aged men, women and children. Today the entire population of a dozen countries must live, work and suffer under the Hitlerian satraps.

The Europe of 1939 was no longer the Europe of 1914. It had been considerably impoverished. In the impasse of bourgeois society, all the social and national antagonisms had become exacerbated to an unprecedented degree. On the other hand, the war is now conducted on a world-wide scale. The absence of a historical way out on a capitalist basis, the sharpness of a struggle whose stakes are all or nothing, the reactionary political nature of Nazism—all this has led German imperialism to subject the invaded countries to a brutal exploitation and a barbarous oppression never before seen in the history of modern Europe. And this has also driven the peoples onto the road of resistance and revolt.

It is no longer a question of theoretically deducing the possibility of a national problem in Europe which had re-solved the greater part of this problem long ago. One has only to open one’s eyes to ascertain the existence of national movements, moreover on a scale never before equalled in Europe. Fascism, “imperialism in its chemically pure form,” concentrates and combines all forms of national oppression which have been observed up to the present in the colonies: forced labor, huge transfers of workers and farmers, mass evictions, privileges for members of the dominating nation (special courts, more abundant food rations, etc.), villages razed by punitive expeditions, etc. In the face of this reality, only an incurable pedant could deny the possibility of the existence of a national movement in Europe under the pretense that we are now in the epoch of imperialism. Actually, such reasoning reveals only a total lack of comprehension of imperialism, of its violent, reactionary and self-destructive character. Under a mask of radicalism, this argument betrays an inertia of thought inherited from liberalism. Similar reasoning, current among all types of liberals, denied some years ago the possibility of fascism in Germany: A highly industrialized country, just imagine! Fascist reaction is only possible in peripheral countries, little developed, semi-agrarian, . . . Such mentality betrays a complete lack of under-standing of our epoch. In reality, we are no longer in the period of the rise, nor even at the apogee of the capitalist system, but in its decline. All bourgeois society is decomposing, putrefying, and this disintegration brings us many new things, “even in Europe.” Fascism came. Now it is the national oppression of 250 millions in countries where history had, for most of them, long ago solved this problem.

The problem raised today by German imperialism can tomorrow be raised by American imperialism. In case of a German defeat, and delay of the proletarian revolution, American domination over Europe, as it deepens, will take new forms. Instead of the previous method of financial preponderance, it will seek political supremacy supported by military means. The “second front” can become the prelude to the occupation of the continent by American troops. Blackmail by means of food and credits will be completed by the establishment of a Yankee police power. If the proletarian revolution does not conquer shortly, the national problem will be installed in a ruined Europe for many years to come.

Thus the national movement in Europe is not merely the product of an accidental military episode, but flows from the whole imperialist decline. And it assumes great historical significance. If Hitler had been able to unify Europe, the proletarian revolution would have appeared much more remote. The abolition of the frontiers would have opened the way, on the basis of capitalism, to a new development of the productive forces on the European continent. But Hitler could not accomplish for Europe what Bismarck once accomplished for Germany. It is precisely this present movement of resistance that clearly shows the historical impasse in which Nazism, the most advanced political form of imperialism, finds itself. Thus in a certain sense, the movement of resistance of the oppressed peoples represents the historical interests of the development of mankind. It is the harbinger and the guarantee of a new march forward.

To confirm the existence of a European national movement does not mean to identify in every respect this present national problem with the national questions of the past in Europe or even of the present in the colonies. Germany’s occupation of Europe has raised a national problem sui generis, it is the movement of resistance of the peoples in those imperialist nations crushed by a more powerful imperialism in the epoch of the death agony of capitalism.

We must note here, in order to try to understand what is going on in Europe, that the Nazi administration in the conquered countries greatly differs from a traditional military occupation (for example, the Prussians in France in 1871). Certain territories have been incorporated formally into Germany; others (General Gouvernement of Poland, Protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia) have a colonial status, with no promise of future liberation. But even in the countries which are formally merely under military administration (Belgium, Occupied France), the Nazis have taken a great number of economic, political and social measures which surpass by far the requirements of a simple military occupation (for instance the measures against the Jews).

The Slogan of National Freedom Any national struggle is also, to varying degrees, a social struggle. This is particularly true of the present movement of resistance in Europe. Under the weight of oppression, the hatred, the rage and the despair accumulated in the conquered countries have poured out in the most diverse forms of revolt, and representatives of the most varied social circles are swept along in the movement. But if one considers the whole, it appears clearly that the focus of the resistance is in the laboring masses, the workers and, in central and south-eastern Europe, the peasants. The Nazis have, in general, easily found a common language with the big industrial and financial bourgeoisie, which is terrorized by its fear of communism and is looking for a way to save what it can of its profits and privileges. The most typical case is France. With the middle and petty bourgeoisie of the towns the Nazis have had much less success; they have, however, found political collaborators, fascist adventurers and, above all, functionaries of the former regime who stay at the side of the representatives of “order.” Around the Nazis also have gravitated a certain number of go-betweens, profiteers, black market speculators and nouveaux riches. But the more deeply one penetrates the popular masses, the more one feels the fierce hatred for the invader, the more universal is the opposition to Nazism.

It is interesting to note, in this connection, the recent statement of AndrŽ Philip, former French Deputy who escaped from Lyons some weeks ago and who, upon his arrival in London, was appointed by De Gaulle a member of the Fighting French National Committee. Philip’s testimony is important first because he is a Gaullist, thus our political adversary, also because he just recently left France where he was in close contact with the resistance movement, and finally because he is, in general, an honest observer. On his arrival in London he declared:

“The great mass of resistance is constituted by the workers. The peasants are hostile to Vichy but they are still dispersed. Traitors and collaborators have been recruited only among big businessmen and the wealthier class. The middle class and the representatives of the small and medium industries are generally favorable to us: they do what they can, at grips with tremendous difficulties.”

The last sentence sounds like an excuse for the lack of activity on the part of these middle class circles. Are we witnessing a struggle of the bourgeoisie in the midst of the indifference of the masses? No, it is exactly the contrary. Even the workers’ opposition to the native bourgeoisie, which does not hesitate to collaborate when it sees some profit in it, is part of the national struggle. National sentiment, long monopolized by the ruling class to better assure its domination and extend its rapine, is now a revolutionary ferment which is stirring up the masses against the existing order.

The social character of the movement is also particularly clear in Poland. There, in the towns at least, resistance to the German oppression is led by socialist workers’ groups who have only hate for the pre-war regime and only contempt for the government-in-exile at London. This feature of the movement does not prevent it, however, from unfolding under the slogan of independence of the country. And with reason! In all the invaded countries all the political and even the economic questions gravitate around the central problem: the presence of a foreign master. All the democratic tasks, so important at the present moment, take on an abstract and unreal character if they are not crowned with the demand for national freedom. The economic struggles likewise raise the problem of the independence of the country even in unoccupied France the population well knows that the lack of food is due to German plundering.

The elementary duty of Marxists is to write into their program the demand for national freedom which, although it had long lost all content for most of the European countries, has now been given a new reality by the catastrophes of the death agony of capitalism. For us it is not merely a question of a “trick” in order to “take advantage” of the present aspirations of the masses, but of sincerely and honestly recognizing an elementary principle of democratic rights. The Marxist proposes to fight for its realization in the same way that he solves all tasks, by revolutionary methods, and not by allying himself with one of the imperialist camps. To have a negative attitude toward the independence of a country is to abandon the working masses and the laboring people in general to the dangers of reactionary nationalist demagogy.

Europe is not on the eve of a new wave of national bourgeois revolutions, but of socialist proletarian revolutions. But such is the dialectic of history that the capitalist system is revealing its bankruptcy to a number of peoples in the form of a new national oppression. Toward the present movement of resistance three attitudes are possible. The first is to see in it a sort of reactionary VendŽe, menacing the Nazi work of “unification” of Europe. Only Hitler’s lackeys take such a position which amounts to according fascism some progressive features. The second attitude is indifference—the present situation is “temporary” and besides, very complex; let’s wait for better times. Needless to say, this has nothing in common with Bolshevism. The third is to recognize the explosive character of a popular national movement in the present-day Europe. Independently of the present consciousness of the movement, objectively, it opens the way to the proletarian revolution. “The dialectics of history is such,” wrote Lenin in 1916, “that small nations, powerless as an independent factor in the struggle against imperialism, play a part as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real power against imperialism to come on the scene, namely, the socialist proletariat.”

And, certain people may object, the imperialist war? Can we support the demand for national freedom in Europe while the present war is going on? Doesn’t this mean adhering to one of the imperialist camps? If, after the conclusion of the peace, the state of oppression would continue for some European countries then, doubtless, we would have to inscribe on our flag national freedom for those peoples. But can we do it now without participating ipso facto in the imperialist war?

The situation certainly would be much more simple if there were national oppression in Europe without imperialist war. But unfortunately our epoch is far from being simple and it is precisely the imperialist war that revives national oppression. The reasoning that would make us wait for the end of the war suffers from a fatal formalism. This is clearly shown if we take the example of Czechoslovakia. The non-German territories of Bohemia and Moravia became a German “protectorate” before the present war broke out. We would then have had to stand for the national freedom, of the Czechs, to abandon this demand at the moment of the declaration of war and to take it up again at the conclusion of the peace. But that is not all. An imperialist peace would be hardly distinguishable from the war. We are in an epoch of convulsion where the line between war and peace will become more and more faint. The present war can be and doubtless will be succeeded by other military operations: intra-European, colonial, among the former allies, against new proletarian powers, etc. Exactly when will the formalists “authorize” us to take up again the demand for national freedom?

All this formalism comes from a lack of understanding of the nature of the present national movements and of our support. In spite of its great importance at this hour, national independence remains a democratic demand. As such, we fight for its realization, but with our own methods, and we integrate it into our program of socialist revolution. If tomorrow Hitler attacks Sweden or Switzerland, we would give no supported the Norwegian, Yugoslav or Greek governments, for such .support can gain absolutely nothing for socialism or even for democracy. But if, in case of military defeat, when the bourgeois state is crushed, a popular national movement of resistance to German oppression springs up, we would support it, for such a movement, objectively, clears the road to the revolution. Our support does not depend upon the formal question of the moment—during or after the imperialist war—but on the political and social nature of the movement. As long as it is a real movement of revolt of the masses against oppression, it is our elementary duty to support it and, of course, this support can in no way signify political participation in the imperialist war.

The “second front” may be adduced against our slogan. It is quite likely that some day or other the United Nations will land in Europe. In this case, as long as a country is divided by a military front, the slogan of national freedom loses all revolutionary content. But to confuse the reality of today with the possibility of tomorrow is a serious fault in revolutionary tactics.

But, after all, cannot the cry of national freedom be used as an instrument in the hands of Anglo-American imperialism and its satellites to chain the peoples to the imperialist war? Undoubtedly! But is there one democratic demand that has never been utilized by the bourgeoisie to camouflage its aims and deceive the masses? Not a single one! The task of Marxists is not to abandon the democratic demands because the bourgeoisie tries to hide its foul face behind them, but to defend them by revolutionary means and to integrate them into the socialist reconstruction of society, as long as these demands correspond to the aspirations and the revolutionary interests of the great mass of people.

To reveal the falsity of the argument, one merely has to turn it around if the demand for national freedom plays into the hands of Anglo-American imperialism, then, inversely, ignoring or underestimating the national problem in Europe plays into the hands of German imperialism. All across Europe the Nazis and their lackeys console the starved and terrorized people with the picture of a unified Europe. Hurry to integrate yourself into this unity in order to receive all its benefits! An end to these puerile reactions of reactionary nationalism, today outmoded by the necessities of modern economy! This propaganda has not been without effect on quite a large number of pacifists, socialists and communists, who now greet Nazism as the realization of the socialist unification of Europe.

But isn’t “national freedom” the return to the status quo ante, that is, to the bourgeois regime? Lenin long ago ridiculed this argument when he answered those partisans of Rosa Luxemburg who opposed, according to his own words, a “national rebellion in annexed Belgium, Serbia, Galicia, Armenia":

“.. our Polish comrades are opposed to such a rebellion on the ground that there is also a bourgeoisie in the annexed countries, and this bourgeoisie also oppresses other nations, or rather, it may oppress them, since the only point under discussion is ‘right to oppress.’ It appears, then, that the criterion of a given war, or a given rebellion, is not its real social content (the struggle of an oppressed nation against the oppressor for liberation), but the possibility of the now oppressed bourgeoisie exercising its ‘right’ to oppress.” (Lenin’s italics.)

But doesn’t the slogan of national liberation destroy proletarian internationalism? In particular, doesn’t it hinder all fraternization of workers in conquered territories with the German soldiers and workers, without whose action any revolution in Europe is unthinkable? The cry of freedom of the peoples has nothing in common with the thirst for imperialist revenge. How can a German soldier free himself from the ideological hold of Nazism if he has not recognized honestly and without equivocation the right of the oppressed peoples to their freedom? The most elementary duty, not only of a German socialist worker or soldier, but of a sincere democrat (if this variety still exists) is to desire, to hail and to help the revolt of the oppressed peoples.

National Freedom and Socialism The slogan of national liberation in no way implies a program of restoration of a divided Europe. It means purely and simply that each people must be free to determine its own destiny and that the revolutionary party supports the struggle for this elementary freedom. The oppression of the peoples of Europe by German imperialism is a barbarous and reactionary undertaking. Resistance to the enslavement of the nations is at present a great progressive factor which, objectively, opens the way to the proletarian revolution. The revolutionary party must support and guide the painful efforts of the European peoples to tear themselves free from German domination. Such is the content of the slogan of national liberation. It is the simple expression of the struggle against oppression.

But, after the collapse of the Hitlerian empire, Europe must unite if it wishes to live. If this fundamental task is not accomplished, there will be new wars and new oppressions. Europe’s only hope is the economic unification of the continent, combined with freedom of national development for each people. And only the proletariat is capable of undertaking such a task. The proletariat will accomplish this by establishing the Socialist United States of Europe. However, only free peoples can unite. The first condition of a federation of European nations is their independence from the foreign yoke. If the national problems of Europe can only be resolved in a socialist federation, then inversely, this federation can only be achieved among free and equal nations. Far from being in opposition to each other, the two slogans, National Liberation and Socialist United States of Europe, are closely connected.

At the present time, when the Nazis are trying to justify their crimes in the name of “European unity,” it is especially important not to counterpose the federation against the nation, but to present it for what it really will be, a form of organization and of guarantee of national freedom. Those who oppose to the slogan of national liberation the “purely socialist” formula of United States of Europe fail to notice that this formula is itself a compromise, a compromise between the centralizing necessities of a planned economy and the centrifugal tendencies inherited from past centuries, which cannot be erased in a few months or a few years. The United States implies states. The complete economic and political unification of the continent will not be made in a day, but will be the product of a whole historical epoch and will largely depend, moreover, on what happens in the rest of the world. At what tempo and in what precise forms will this development be effected? Experience will tell. The slogan of Socialist United States of Europe merely gives the general algebraic formula. Moreover, let us note in passing, the disappearance of the borders between the different states will go hand in hand with the withering away of each state.

The clearest example of federation which led to an almost complete unity is the United States of America. But the building up of the federal power was a long process and it took a rather serious civil war to consolidate it definitively. Of course, socialism will have other methods than capitalism. However, the example of the United States shows us how artificial would have been any opposition between the slogans of the liberation of the thirteen colonies and the United States of America!

Whatever the transitional forms of organization, the realization of the socialist United States of Europe implies the freedom of each nation which enters the federation. But the only real guarantee of its freedom is the right to say yes or no. Any “guarantee” of free cultural development, etc., is an illusion if the nation does not have the right to withdraw from the union.

After the overthrow of the bourgeoisie, we do not wish to march to socialism by violence, but by patiently convincing the peoples of the superiority of centralization. Just as, in the agrarian problem, we are not partisans of “forced collectivization,” but we want to demonstrate to the peasant, by his own experience, the advantages of large collective enterprise over small property, so in the national question we are against any “forced unification” and the only real, not fictitious, guarantee is the right of secession.

Where is the assurance that the historical evolution will lead to complete unification? Not in violence, but in the development of the productive forces. Why was the rising bourgeoisie able to dissolve the feudal provinces in the unity of the great modern nations? Because its rise corresponded to a prodigious increase of the productive forces. Why cannot Hitler, who does not spare violence, unify the European “provinces"? Because he represents the decline of capitalism.

A socialist federation, European or world-wide, by no means excludes, but implies the right of each nationality to determine its own destiny. However, we are still far from the socialist federation. Today’s reality is the general oppression of the peoples of Europe by German imperialism. If under socialism it would be theoretically false to counterpose national freedom to the principle of federation, how absurd, pedantic and empty is such opposition in face of the present condition of Europe!

(In the next issue a second article will examine the question of our relations with the various underground groups, the nature of the war in Serbia, the slogan of a Constituent Assembly, and the problems of terrorism and sabotage.)




In the summer of 2006 I originally wrote the following commentary (used in subsequent election cycles and updated a little for today’s purpose) urging the recruitment of independent labor militants as write-in candidates for the mid-term 2006 congressional elections based on a workers party program. With the hoopla already in full gear for the 2012 election cycle I repost that commentary below with that same intention of getting thoughtful leftists to use the 2012 campaign to further our propagandistic fight for a workers’ party that fights for a workers government.

A Modest Proposal-Recruit, Run Independent Labor Militants In The 2012 Elections

All “anti-parliamentarian”, “anti-state”, “non-political” anarchist or anarcho-syndicalist brothers and sisters need read no further. This writer does not want to sully the purity of your politics with the taint of parliamentary electoral politics. Although I might remind you, as we remember the 75th anniversary of the beginning of the Barcelona Uprising, that your political ancestors in Spain were more than willing to support the state and enter the government when they got the chance- the bourgeois government of a bourgeois state. But, we can fight that issue out later. We will, hopefully, see you on the barricades with us when the time comes.

As for other militants- here is my modest proposal. Either recruit fellow labor militants or present yourselves as candidates to run for public office, especially for Congress, during the 2012 election cycle. Why? Even a quick glance at the news of the day is calculated to send the most hardened politico screaming into the night. The quagmire in Afghanistan (and unfinished business in Iraq and threats to Iran), immigration walls, flag-burning amendments, anti -same-sex marriage amendments, the threat to separation of church state raised by those who would impose a fundamentalist Christian theocracy on the rest of us, and the attacks on the hard fought gains of the Enlightenment posed by bogus theories such as ‘intelligent design.’ And that is just an average day. Therefore, this election cycle provides militants, at a time when the dwindling electorate is focused on politics, a forum to raise our program and our ideas. We use this as a tool, like leaflets, petitions, meetings, demonstrations, etc. to get our message across. Why should the Donkeys, Elephants, and the other smaller bourgeois parties have a monopoly on the public square?

I mentioned in the last paragraph the idea of program. Let us face it if we do not have a program to run on then it makes no sense for militants to run for public office. Given the political climate our task at this time is to fight an exemplary propaganda campaign. Our program is our banner in that fight. The Democrats and Republicans DO NOT RUN on a program. The sum of their campaigns is to promise not to steal from the public treasury (or at least not too much), beat their husbands or wives, or grossly compromise themselves in any manner. On second thought, given today’s political climate, they may not promise not to beat their husbands or wives or not compromise themselves in any untoward manner. You, in any case, get the point. Damn, even the weakest neophyte labor militant can make a better presentation before working people that this crowd. This writer presents a five point program (you knew that was coming, right?) that labor militants can run on. As point five makes clear this is not a ‘minimum’ program but a program based on our need to fight for power.


The quagmire in Afghanistan and elsewhere in the Middle East (Iraq, Syria, Libya, Palestine, Iran) is the fault line of American politics today. Every bourgeois politician has to have his or her feet put to the fire on this one. Not on some flimsy ‘sense of the Congress’ softball motion for withdrawal next, year, in two years, or (my favorite) when the situation is stable. Moreover, on the parliamentary level the only real vote that matters is the vote on the war budget. All the rest is fluff. Militants should make a point of trying to enter Congressional contests where there are so-called anti-war Democrats or Republicans (an oxymoron, I believe) running to make that programmatic contrast vivid.

But, one might argue, that would split the ‘progressive’ forces. Grow up, please! That argument has grown stale since it was first put forth in the “popular front” days of the 1930’s. If you want to end the wars in Afghanistan and elsewhere fight for this position on the war budget. Otherwise the same people (yes, those 'progressive Democrats') who almost unanimously voted for the last war budget get a free ride on the cheap. War President Barack Obama desperately needs to be opposed by labor militants. By rights this is our issue. Let us take it back.


It is a ‘no-brainer’ that no individual, much less a family can live on the minimum wage (now $7/hr. or so). What planet do these politicians live on? We need an immediate fight for a living wage, full employment and decent working conditions. We need universal free health care for all. End of story. The organized labor movement must get off its knees and fight to organize Wal-Mart and the South. A boycott of Wal-Mart is not enough. A successful organizing drive will, like in the 1930’s; go a long way to turning the conditions of labor around.


Down with the Death Penalty! Full Citizenship Rights for All Immigrants who make it here! Stop the Deportations! For the Separation of Church and State! Defend abortion rights! Down with anti-same sex marriage legislation! Full public funding of education! Stop the ‘war on drugs’, basically a war on blacks and minority youth-decriminalize drugs! Defend political prisoners! This list of demands hardly exhausts the “culture war” issues we defend. It is hard to believe that in the year 2012 over 200 years after the American Revolution and the French Revolution we are fighting desperately to preserve many of the same principles that militants fought for in those revolutions. But so be it.


The Donkeys, Elephants and other smaller bourgeois parties have had their chance. Now is the time to fight for our own party and for the interests of our own class, the working class. Any campaigns by independent labor militants must highlight this point. And any campaigns can also become the nucleus of a workers’ party network until we get strong enough to form at least a small party. None of these other parties, and I mean none, are working in the interests of working people and their allies. The following great lesson of politic today must be hammered home. Break with the Democrats, Republicans!


We need our own form of government. In the old days the bourgeois republic was a progressive form of government. Not so any more. That form of government ran out of steam about one hundred years ago. We need a Workers Republic. We need a government based on workers councils with a ministry (I do not dare say commissariat in case any stray anarchists are still reading this) responsible to it. Let us face it if we really want to get any of the good and necessary things listed above accomplished we are not going to get it with the current form of government.

Why the XYZ part? What does that mean? No, it is not part of an algebra lesson. What it reflects is that while society is made up mainly of workers (of one sort or another) there are other classes (and parts of classes) in society that we seek as allies and could benefit from a workers government. Examples- small independent contractors, intellectuals, the dwindling number of small farmers, and some professionals like dentists. Yes, with my tongue in my cheek after all my dental bills, I like the idea of a workers and dentists government. The point is however you formulate it you have got to fight for it.

Obviously any campaign based on this program will be an exemplary propaganda campaign for the foreseeable future. But we have to start now. Continuing to support or not challenging the bourgeois parties does us no good. That is for sure. While bourgeois electoral laws do not favor independent candidacies write-in campaigns are possible. ROLL UP YOUR SHEEVES! GET THOSE PETITIONS SIGNED! PRINT OUT THE LEAFLETS! PAINT THOSE BANNERS! GET READY TO SHAKE HANDS AND KISS BABIES.