Saturday, February 02, 2013

Pardon Bradley Manning

***When The Blues Is Dues- In Jim Crow Times – 50 Years Later It’s Still Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddam”

Make Sure To See The Netflix Documentary What Happened, Miss Simone? 

… his hitchhiked ride, a good guy, a guy in pick-up truck, an almost new 1961 Ford model, who picked him up after dark just south of Richmond, left him off right off Highway 61, just outside of town, Clarksburg, early that next blazing hot afternoon after that good guy had tooled that pick-up about fourteen hours straight with only a couple of pits stops. As he ambled toward the center of town figuring to get a little lunch at the bus stop before heading out on the bus to head west some before he picked up the hitchhike trail again he noticed, he clearly noticed that he was in the colored section of town, or what seemed like it. All kinds of shacks, run-down and worst, junk cars, or worst, the latest, maybe about a 1949 Hudson from what he could see, litters of little black children playing in front of decayed yards filled with debris, and a feel of poverty, not ground-down, groveling poverty but just the poverty of the poor, the poor who have been poor for a few generations and don’t know any other existence. As he passed the rows of shacks some residents gave him short looks, not hostile but more like“whitey, what are you doing here in this section of town, you must be a stranger.” Others just went about their poking around business.

These stares (or indifferences) kept up until he hit the edge of the colored section, or what seemed to be the edge, when he thirsty, thirsty as hell, by this point stopped in a store, one of those old time country-type stores, a store out of some William Faulkner Mississippi novel, he thought, filled with colored folks, and one white man behind the counter. He approached the counter, asked for a Pepsi, cold, ice cold, and large. The white man behind the counter (who turned out to be the owner, and who he would hear of a couple of years later in some televised news report as the leader of that town’s White Citizens Council) said this -“boy, where do you think you are, Boston?”, this here is a nigra store and no whites are served here. By rights I should have you thrown out of town but since you are a stranger I will just tell that if you want a Pepsi, or any damn drink, you will have to go to my store over in town a couple of miles from here up this same road, right next to the bus station which I hope you plan to be using.” He left without a word, but still thirsty as hell.

After walking what seemed like an eternity, now with white stares coming from all kinds of shacks, run-down and worst, junk cars, or worst, the latest, maybe about a 1949 Hudson from what he could see, litters of little white children playing in front of decayed yards filled with debris, and a feel of poverty, not ground-down, groveling poverty but just the poverty of the poor, the poor who have been poor for a few generations and don’t know any other existence, he reached the downtown bus station, and Mister’s grocery store next door. He went into the store, now filled with white folks, and with a white man behind the counter, approached the counter and asked for a Pepsi, cold, ice cold, and large. In reply the white man said the following-“We don’t take with white folks trading at the colored store so if you want a Pepsi, or any damn drink, you’ll have to get it at the bus station-on your way out of town.” He left, again without a word.

He entered the small bus station, stepped up to the clerk’s counter, bought a ticket to New Orleans, and then asked for a drink of water. The clerk pointed behind him and he went and got that precious drink of water, a drink at the “whites only”drinking fountain not the “colored only” one that his new found instinct told him that he should not use…

…and thus james crow in the flesh. And Mississippi goddam too.

Friday, February 01, 2013

***When Young Women’s Voices Ruled the Airwaves Before The British Rock Invasion Of The 1960s- Another Look – "The Battle Of The Sexes-Round 235"-For Cindy P., Class Of 1968

From The Pen Of Peter Paul Markin:

Several years ago, in response to a question on questionnaire sent by members of my 1964 high school class reunion committee, a question posed simply as this-did one prefer the Beatles or the Rolling Stones during one's high school days? I answered in favor of the latter. Needless to say in recounting that experience I provided more than that simply either/or answer. I went on and on about how the Stones' blues-driven early rock numbers “spoke” much more to my boy teenager alienation and angst, girl angst if you must know, than the more “happy music” the Beatles originally produced. I also noted that, as a general proposition, the earlier male rockers of the period from Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Bo Diddley and Chuck Berry “spoke” more to me, for those same reasons, than the girl doo-wop (the term of the times) vocalists with their generally wistful, whimsical lyrics about the age old boy-meets-girl relationships, and their pratfalls.

That simple, or I thought simple, observation from ancient youth brought a storm of protest from an unexpected (well, now that I think about it, not so unexpected) source, my long time dear companion, my "significant other.”She lambasted my male-based choices unceremoniously and challenged me to really listen to the great female vocalists from those days. And I did, although somewhat haphazardly. And thereafter I, in this space, posed the Beatles/Stones question for the distaff side. Brenda Lee or Patsy Cline? At the time I did that somewhat artificially because I was actually pretty unfamiliar with their works. And, as it turned out, ditto for most of the young female vocalists of that period. So more recently I have been on something of a learning, or rather re-learning binge (re-learning because of, course, fixated on my transistor radio up in my room to keep out parental and sibling noise I had heard most of the girl vocalists back then, their songs just didn’t register). To answer the question I posed though, no question Patsy Cline was the “max mama” of the late 1950s song night before her untimely death.

All of the above is just a roundabout, very roundabout way, of getting to the core of this review. One of the great features of the Rock ‘N’ Roll Eraseries that I have spent some time memory lane covering is the cover art work. And that remained true on the 1960s: Jukebox Memories compilation. The cover portrayed a very Brenda Lee/Wanda Jackson/Leslie Gore wannabe young female vocalist surrounded by a standard rock trio backing up her vocals. And that sent me flashing back to those tunes, those girl tunes. And I will just repeat here what I mentioned as a result of listening to about ten girl doo wop group or just straight girl solo vocalist CDs. As you will not doubt see I have “got religion”:

“As I also noted in that earlier review [referring to a review of girl doo wop compilations] one problem with the girl groups, and now with these generic girl vocals for a guy, me, a serious rock guy, me, was that the lyrics for many of the girl group songs, frankly, did not “speak to me.” After all how much empathy could a young ragamuffin of boy brought up on the wrong side of the tracks like this writer have for a girl who breaks a guy's heart after leading him on, yes, leading him on, just because her big bruiser of a boyfriend is coming back and she needs some excuse to brush the heartbroken lad off in the Angels' My Boyfriend’s Back. Or some lucky guy, some lucky Sunday guy, maybe, who breathlessly catches the eye of the singer in the Shirelles' I Met Him On Sunday from a guy who, dateless Saturday night, was hunched over some misbegotten book, some study book, on Sunday feeling all dejected. And how about this, some two, or maybe, three-timing gal who berated her ever-loving boyfriend because she needs a good talking to, or worst, a now socially incorrect, very incorrect and rightly so, "beating" in Joanie Sommers’ Johnny Get Angry.

So you get the idea, this stuff could not “speak to me.” Now you understand, right? Except, surprise, surprise foolish, behind the eight- ball, know-nothing youthful guy had it all wrong and should have been listening, and listening like crazy, to these lyrics because, brothers and sisters, they held the key to what was what about what was on girls’ minds back in the day, and maybe now a little too, and if I could have decoded this I would have had, well, the beginning of knowledge, girl knowledge. Damn. But that is one of the virtues, and maybe the only virtue of age. Yah, and also get this- you had better get your do-lang, do-lang, your shoop, shoop, and your best be-bop, be-bop into that good night voice out and sing along to the lyrics here. This, fellow baby-boomers, was our teen angst, teen alienation, teen love youth and now this stuff sounds great. And from girls even.”

As for the stick outs in that compilation: Dum Dum by Brenda Lee; Runaroundby The Fleetwoods; I Wonder What She's Doing Tonight by Barry & Tamerlanes; Dear One by Larry Finnegan; You Don't Have To Be A Baby To Cry by Caravelles; My One And Only Jimmy Boy by The Girlfriends; That's The Way Boys Are by Lesley Gore; Happy Birthday by Kathy Young & Innocents; and, My Own True Love by The Duprees.

P.S. Oh, you thought I was finished. Well with the review, yes, but there is still that little nagging question of that companion, that“significant other,” lambasting me about my male youth choices. Well sometimes one cannot win. The gist of her indignant argument, as you now know, centered on my alleged testosterone-driven choices of male Rock 'n' Roll bands to the exclusion of kinder, gentler music-in short, choices that women might prefer. As mentioned above I took her point to heart. But explain this. In the summer of 2005 I attended a Rolling Stones concert at Fenway Park. Now who do you think was standing beside me shaking, as the kids say, her "booty" for all she was worth? So much for that testosterone theory. Moreover, who imprisoned me in Fenway Park practically at gunpoint, until I bought her a sassy little Stones T-shirt as a memento of the occasion? Enough said. I rest my case.

Here Are Some Lyrics For Brenda and Patsy So You Can Make An Informed Decision On These Burning Questions Of The Day.

Brenda Lee - I'm Sorry lyrics

Lyrics to I'm Sorry :

I'm sorry, so sorry

That I was such a fool

I didn't know

Love could be so cruel

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Uh, oh

Oh, yes

You tell me mistakes

Are part of being young

But that don't right

The wrong that's been done


(I'm sorry) I'm sorry

(So sorry) So sorry

Please accept my apology

But love is blind

And I was to blind to see

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Uh, oh

Oh, yes

You tell me mistakes

Are part of being young

But that don't right

The wrong that's been done

Oh, oh, oh, oh

Uh, oh

Oh, yes

I'm sorry, so sorry

Please accept my apology

But love was blind

And I was too blind to see


She's Got You Lyrics

Artist: Patsy Cline

I've got your picture that you gave to me

And it's signed with love just like it used to be

The only thing different, the only thing new

I've got your picture, she's got you

I've got the records that we used to share

And they still sound the same as when you were here

The only thing different, the only thing new

I've got the records, she's got you

I've got your memory, or, has it got me?

I really don't know but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring that proved you cared

And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear

The only thing different, the only thing new

I've got these little things, she's got you

I've got your memory, or, has it got me?

I really don't know but I know it won't let me be

I've got your class ring that proved you cared

And it still looks the same as when you gave it, dear

The only thing different, the only thing new

I've got these little things, she's-got-you

 Saint Patrick's Peace ParadeThe Alternative People's Parade for Peace. Equality, Jobs, Environmental Stewardship, Social & Economic Justice
Sunday March 17, 2013

Assemble Time: 2:00 pm
Start Time: 3:00 pm (Approx.)
Start Location: Corner of West Broadway & D Street,
Four Blocks East of the - MBTA Redline "Broadway Station"
Look for Veterans For Peace Flags
End Location: Corner of Dorchester Ave. and Dorchester St)
"Andrew" MBTA Station

* The St. Patrick's Peace Day Parade STARTS on West Broadway (easterly), left onto East Broadway, Right onto "P" Street, Right onto "East 4th" Street, Left onto "K" Street, Right onto "East 5th" Street, Left onto "G" Street, Right onto the 'Southerly Arm of Thomas Park', Left onto "Telegraph" Street, Left onto "Dorchester Street" and ENDING at "Dorchester Avenue" (Andrew Square).


Sign Daniel Ellsberg’s petition to free Bradley Manning!

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower, and one of the sponsors for this petition to free Bradley Manning.
Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistle-blower
Sign the petition to free Bradley Manning, the brave young whistle-blower who exposed war crimes and who has been unlawfully punished before trial.
This petition to President Obama at the White House, as well as prosecuting military authority US Army Major General Karl Horst, was created by Pentagon Papers whistle-blower Daniel Ellsberg, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the Bradley Manning Support Network.
We ask that you join us by adding your name in support of transparency, democracy and justice.

Petition to free human rights whistle-blower Bradley Manning!

Bradley Manning has worldwide support because the information he released to the public uncovered human rights abuses and corruption, and contributed to peace and democracy. Nobel Laureates like President Obama shouldn't send Nobel Peace Prize Nominees like Bradley Manning to prison for life! After more than 950 days of pre-trial imprisonment by the US military, and multiple instances of outrageous government conduct, it is time to drop the charges and free Bradley Manning!
Share this with your friends:

Why this is important

Accused WikiLeaks whistleblower and Nobel Peace Prize nominee Bradley Manning will spend the rest of his life in prison for telling the public the truth, if US officials get their way. Government conduct, apparently aimed at discouraging whistleblowers, has ignored due process and made a fair trial impossible. But, in the past, outrageous government conduct has led judges to dismiss the charges against whistleblowers. Tell the prosecutors in Bradley’s military Court Martial to do the same!
  • Bradley was held in pre-trial solitary confinement for 11 months, in conditions condemned by the UN Rapporteur on Torture as “cruel, inhuman and degrading,” including being stripped and made to stand naked at roll call. This was a clear violation of the US military’s Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ: Article 13). Yet, only worldwide outrage–including over 500,000 supporters signing a petition–ended this illegal treatment.
  • Both President Obama and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dempsey have declared publicly, prior to trial, that Bradley “broke the law.” Their statements make a mockery of presumption of innocence and have prejudiced the proceedings with Unlawful Command Influence (UCMJ: Article 37).
  • Article 10 of the UCMJ promises defendants a speedy trial. However, Bradley was imprisoned for nearly two years before his pretrial proceedings even began, and his court-martial trial has yet to start.
  • The prosecution has withheld key evidence which the defense believes will show that Bradley’s alleged actions have not damaged US national security. And there is clear evidence that the leaks were motivated entirely by conscience. Yet the military says that Bradley’s intention should not even be considered by the court, and that he should be convicted of ‘Aiding the Enemy’ and sentenced to life in prison, regardless of any moral motive, lack of harm, or overwhelmingly positive results of the disclosures. Against all Justice, this would make any kind of whistleblower defense impossible.
Call on prosecuting authority Karl Horst to acknowledge the outrageous government conduct in Bradley’s case, and drop the charges against him, and tell President Obama to pardon him in the event of any conviction!
The information released has helped inform public understanding of the realities of the War on Terror, and revealed governmental and corporate corruption and collusion. It has contributed to the ending of the Iraq War and to positive people-power movements such as the Tunisian Revolution and the Occupy Movement. Tens of thousands of regular citizens worldwide have supported Bradley and funded his legal defense (See: It is time for US officials to stop obstructing democracy and free Bradley Manning!
Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower
Center for Constitutional Rights
Bradley Manning Support Network

Pardon Private Bradley Manning Stand-Out-Ashmont Redine MBTA Station-Dorchester, Ma –Tuesday February 5, 2013 -4:00 PM

Pardon Private Bradley Manning Stand-Out-Ashmont Redine MBTA Station-Dorchester –Tuesday February 5, 2013 -4;00 PM

Let’s Redouble Our Efforts To Free Private Bradley Manning-President Obama Pardon Bradley Manning -Make Every Town Square In America (And The World) A Bradley Manning Square From Boston To Berkeley to Berlin-Join Us At Ashmont Redine MBTA Station-Dorchester –Tuesday February 5, 2013-4:00-5:00 PM

Support And Build The Bradley Manning International Day Of Solidarity February 23, 2013 –The 1000th Day Of Pre-Trial Confinement

The Private Bradley Manning case is headed toward an early summer trial now scheduled for June 2013. The news on his case over the past several months (since about April 2012) has centered on the many pre-trial motion hearings including recent defense motions to dismiss for lack of speedy trial. Private Manning’s pre-trial confinement is now at 900 plus days and will be over 1000 days by the time of trial. That motion, still not ruled on as of this writing, is expected to be decided by the next round of pre-trial hearings in late February.

The defense contends that the charges should be dismissed because the military by its own statutes (to speak nothing of that funny old constitutional right to a speedy trial guarantee that our plebeian forbears fought tooth and nail for against the bloody British and later made damn sure was included in the Amendments when the founding fathers“forgot” to include it in the main document) should have arraigned Private Manning within 120 days after his arrest. They hemmed and hawed for almost 600 days before deciding on the charges and a court martial. Nobody in the convening authority, as required by those same statutes, pushed the prosecution forward in a timely manner. In fact the court-martial convening authority, in the person of one Colonel Coffman, seems to have seen his role as mere “yes man” to each of the government’s eight requests for delays without explanation (and without informing the defense in order to take their objection). Apparently the Colonel saw his role as a mere clearing agent for whatever excuse the government gave, mainly endless addition time for clearing various classified documents a process that need not have held up the proceedings. The defense made timely objection to each governmental request to no avail.

Testimony from military authorities at pre-trial hearings in November 2012 about the reasons for the lack of action ranged from the lame to the absurd (mainly negative responses to knowledge about why some additional delays were necessary. One “reason” sticks out as a reason for excusable delay -some officer needed to get his son to a swimming meet and was thus “unavailable” for a couple of days. I didn’t make this up. I don’t have that sense of the absurd. Jesus, a man was rotting in Obama’s jails and they let him rot because of some damn swim meet). The prosecution, obviously, has argued that the government has moved might and main to move the case along and had merely waited until all leaked materials had been determined before proceeding. We shall see.

The defense has also recently pursued a motion for a dismissal of the major charges (espionage/ indirect material aid to terrorists) on the basis of the minimal effect of any leaks on national security issues as against Private Manning’s claim that such knowledge was important to the public square (freedom of information issues important for us as well in order to know about what the hell the government is doing either in front of us, or behind our backs). Last summer witnesses from an alphabet soup list of government agencies (CIA, FBI, NSA, Military Intelligence, etc., etc.) testified that while the information leaked shouldn’t have been leaked that the effect on national security was de minimus. The Secretary of Defense at the time, Leon Panetta, also made a public statement to that effect. The prosecution argued, successfully at the time, that the mere fact of the leak of classified information caused irreparable harm to national security issues and Private Manning’s intent, even if noble, was not at issue.

The recent thrust of the motion to dismiss has centered on the defense’s contention been that Private Manning consciously and carefully screened any material in his possession to avoid any conflict with national security and that most of the released material had been over-classified (received higher security level than necessary).(Much of the materials leaked, as per those parts published widely in the aftermath of the disclosures by the New York Times and other major outlets, concerned reports of atrocities in Iraq and Afghanistan and diplomatic interchanges that reflected poorly on that profession.) The Obama government has argued again that the mere fact of leaking was all that mattered. That motion has also not been fully ruled on and is now the subject of prosecution counter- motions and a cause for further trial delay.

A defense motion for dismissal based on serious allegations of torturous behavior by the military authorities extending far up the chain of command (a three-star Army general, not the normal concern of someone so far up the chain in the matter of discipline for enlisted personal) while Private Manning was first detained in Kuwait and later at the Quantico Marine brig for about a year ending in April 2011 has now been ruled on. In late November and early December Private Manning himself, as well as others including senior military mental health workers, took the stand to detail those abuses over several days. Most important to the defense was the testimony by qualified military mental health professionals citing the constant willful failure of those who held Private Manning in close confinement to listen to, or act, on their recommendations during those periods

Judge Lind, the military judge who has heard all the pre-trial arguments in the case thus far, has essentially ruled unfavorably on that motion to dismiss given the potential life sentence Private Manning faces. As she announced at an early January pre-trial hearing the military acted illegally in some of its actions. While every Bradley Manning supporter should be heartened by the fact that the military judge ruled that he was subject to illegal behavior by the military during his pre-trial confinement her remedy, a 112 days reduction in any future sentence, is a mere slap on the wrist to the military authorities. No dismissal or, alternatively, no appropriate reduction (the asked for ten to one ratio for all his first year or so of illegal close confinement which would take years off any potential sentence) given the seriousness of the illegal behavior as the defense tirelessly argued for. And the result is a heavy-handed deterrent to any future military whistleblowers, who already are under enormous pressures to remain silent as a matter of course while in uniform, and others who seek to put the hard facts of future American military atrocities before the public.

Some other important recent news, this from the November 2012 pre-trail sessions, is the offer by the defense to plead guilty to lesser charges (wrongful, unauthorized use of the Internet, etc.) in order to clear the deck and have the major espionage /aiding the enemy issue (with a possibility of a life sentence) solely before the court-martial judge, Judge Lind (the one who has been hearing the pre-trial motions, not some senior officer, senior NCO lifer-stacked panel. A wise move, a very wise move.). Also there has been increased media attention by mainstream outlets around the case (including the previously knowingly oblivious New York Times), as well as an important statement by three Nobel Peace Laureates (including Bishop Tutu from South Africa) calling on their fellow laureate, United States President Barack Obama, to free Private Manning from his jails. Check the Bradley Manning Support Network - for details and future updates.

Check the Bradley Manning Support Network - for details and future updates.

*Contribute to the Bradley Manning Defense Fund- as the trial date approaches funds are urgently needed! For link go to for

*Sign the online petition at the Bradley Manning Support Network (for link go to )at the Bradley Manning Support Network site to the Secretary of the Army to free Bradley Manning-1000 days is enough!

*Call (Comments: 202-456-1111), write (The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500),, e-mail ( White House to ask (or demand) President Obama to pardon Bradley Manning- In federal cases, and military cases are federal cases, the President of the United States can pardon the guilty and the innocent, the convicted and those awaiting trial- Free the whistleblower!

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Workers Vanguard No. 857
28 October 2005

Not One Person, Not One Penny for the Imperialist Military!

Marxism, Militarism and War

U.S. Out of Iraq Now! Down With the Imperialist Occupation!

(Young Spartacus Pages)

The following Young Spartacus article was issued in leaflet form on October 19 and distributed by the SYC at the “On the Frontlines” national “counter-recruitment” conference at UC Berkeley on October 22-23.

* * *

As the barbaric U.S. neocolonial occupation of Iraq drags on, hundreds of thousands rallied for an end to the occupation in Washington, D.C., L.A. and San Francisco on September 24. Hundreds of students in San Francisco and Washington, D.C., marched in “College Not Combat, Relief Not War” contingents. These contingents represented students around the country who have waged campaigns against military recruiters in high schools and on college campuses, broadly known as the “counter-recruitment” movement. These student protests have been motivated by opposition not only to the occupation of Iraq, but also to the “economic draft,” which drives many working-class, disproportionately black and other minority youth to sign up for the military, as well as opposition to the military’s anti-gay discrimination.

The U.S. rulers’ crusade against Iraq for more than a decade, under both Republican and Democratic administrations, has exacted a huge death toll, primarily of Iraqis: over 1.5 million were killed by malnutrition and disease as a result of UN sanctions alone and several hundred thousand more during both wars and the occupation. While much sympathy in the U.S. is directed currently toward the almost 2,000 American soldiers who have died in Iraq, the starting point for Marxists is that working people must take a side in the war and occupation—against U.S. imperialism. Every blow, setback or defeat for the bloodiest imperialist power on the planet is a blow in the interests of working people around the world. Just as we stood for the defense of Iraq against U.S. attack during the war, today we stand for the unconditional, immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and for defense of the peoples of Iraq against U.S. attack and repression. Insofar as Iraqi forces on the ground aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers and their lackeys, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism. At the same time, we oppose the murderous communal violence against ethnic, religious and national populations often carried out by the same forces fighting the occupation.

While much of the activity around the “counter-recruitment” movement is directed at preventing individual youth from signing up for the military, the main campus organizers of many of the college protests, the Campus Antiwar Network (CAN), which is dominated politically by the International Socialist Organization (ISO), state: “We believe that it is not enough to convince people on an individual level that the military is a bad idea.... We need to build a movement that will force the military out of our school and our classrooms for good” (“College Not Combat: Get the Military Out of Our Schools,” CAN Web site).

The question is: Can you actually accomplish that? While it is a very good thing that student protests may succeed in temporarily kicking the military off campus, the reality is that recruiters and officer training programs like ROTC will keep coming back so long as the imperialist army exists. During the late 1960s and early 1970s, ROTC was kicked off over a hundred campuses, not only as the result of student protest, but especially because there was massive social struggle going on more broadly and because the U.S. imperialists were losing the war against the revolutionary Vietnamese workers and peasants. But over the years, ROTC was restored to many of these campuses again. As Marxists, our goal is not just to get ROTC and military recruiters off campus for now, but to win students to the struggle to organize the social power of the working class for socialist revolution to get rid of imperialist militarism, and the capitalist system it serves, once and for all.

Revolutionary Anti-Militarism vs. Pacifist Delusion

The Spartacus Youth Clubs and the Spartacist League have initiated, led and participated in many protests to drive military recruiters and ROTC off campuses over the course of four decades. As we stated at an SYC-led protest against ROTC at UC Berkeley last April: “Military recruiters and ROTC are direct appendages of the military machine that exists to defend the American imperialist ruling class” (“SYC Leads Protest Against ROTC,” WV No. 848, 13 May). We understand that the military exists to carry out imperialist conquest abroad and repression against working people at home. We uphold the call raised by German Marxist Wilhelm Liebknecht: “Not a man nor a penny” for bourgeois militarism.

We vigorously defend all those who have been victimized by campus administrations and the cops for their actions against military recruiters, including most recently, student protesters at Holyoke Community College in Massachusetts who on September 29 were assaulted by police while picketing an Army National Guard recruiting table in the school cafeteria. We also defend those organizations that have been victimized by the campus administration for organizing protests, such as the ISO and Students Against War at San Francisco State University.

As Marxists, we have a program for fighting against the imperialist military that is counterposed to that of the “counter-recruitment” movement, whose organizers range from religious and liberal pacifists to supposedly socialist organizations such as the ISO. The difference comes down to how you answer two fundamental and related questions: How do you successfully fight to end imperialist war? How do you fight to end militarism? We understand that you cannot end war, imperialist militarism or the economic conditions that force working-class and minority youth into the military without getting rid of the capitalist system in which these are rooted.

In contrast, the program of the “counter-recruitment” movement is to try to reform the capitalist system to be less militarist and imperialist. This is summed up in CAN’s “College Not Combat” pamphlet:

“We believe that the money that is going to fight the occupation of Iraq and the $4 billion spent annually on military recruiting should be spent on real educational opportunities and job funding. The best way to win that demand is to build a mass movement to get recruiters off our campuses for good.”

This strategy is entirely consistent with the politics of purportedly socialist organizations such as the ISO, Workers World Party (WWP) and Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which have sought to build an “antiwar movement” consisting of “peace-loving” people of all different classes to pressure the imperialist rulers to stop the war on Iraq, end the occupation and put resources into worthy endeavors rather than war. The main goal for such organizations is to reform the capitalist system, a system that can’t be made to serve the interests of working people and the oppressed.

The ISO, WWP and RCP’s program of pressuring the capitalists to make their system more humane serves to demobilize struggles of radical youth, workers and the oppressed. Preaching pacifist reformism, these groups are an obstacle to the development of revolutionary consciousness among those engaged in struggle. A resolution during World War I by a conference of exiled Russian revolutionary Marxists in Switzerland, including Bolshevik leader V. I. Lenin, explained:

“Pacifism, the preaching of peace in the abstract, is one of the means of duping the working class. Under capitalism, particularly in its imperialist stage, wars are inevitable….

“The propaganda of peace unaccompanied by a call for revolutionary mass action can only sow illusions and demoralise the proletariat, for it makes the proletariat believe that the bourgeoisie is humane.”

—“The Conference of the R.S.D.L.P. Groups Abroad,” February 1915

It is precisely such pacifist duping that reformist “socialist” groups engage in by building antiwar and “counter-recruitment” movements based on calls such as “No to war!”, “War is not the answer,” “Hurricane relief, not war”—the preaching of peace in the abstract with no call for revolutionary action by the working class against the capitalist system. Such campaigns push the lie that imperialist militarism and war can be ended through means other than the overthrow of the imperialist order through proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist struggle.

The Road to Peace Lies Through Class War

As the newspaper of the American Trotskyist youth organization of the 1930s from which we take our name stated:

“For the youth, as for other workers, it is imperative that he learns the class nature of society and of government and of warfare. When he learns these lessons he will have made headway in the fundamental question. Between classes there can be no peace till one or the other is vanquished. The workers have to understand that the road to peace lies through war: class war, class struggle.”

—“Disarmament and Pacifism,” Young Spartacus No. 3, February 1932

Imperialist war and militarism are the outcome of capitalist, class-divided society, in which a tiny minority of the population owns the banks and industry and amasses profit by exploiting the labor of the working class. The military is an integral component of the capitalist state, which consists also of the cops, the courts, the prisons—forces of repression and violence that defend the rule of the capitalist class against the working and oppressed masses.

The drive toward war is inherent in the capitalist system. In his classic work on the subject, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin laid out that imperialism is not some reformable policy, but the final stage of capitalism in its decay. Contending imperialist powers carve up the world into spheres of economic influence, as the nation-state proves too narrow and confining in terms of markets and the availability of cheap labor and natural resources. Imperialism is fundamentally an economic system backed up by massive military force to “settle” the inevitable economic rivalries between major capitalist states. These rivalries throw humanity into interimperialist world wars of massive devastation, such as World Wars I and II. The drive to control markets and spheres of exploitation also leads to predatory wars by imperialists against colonial and semicolonial countries.

Revolutionary Marxist Rosa Luxemburg in her 1916 Junius Pamphlet described the true nature of imperialist capitalism, as revealed at that time by World War I:

“Shamed, dishonored, wading in blood and dripping with filth—thus stands bourgeois society. And so it is. Not as we usually see it, pretty and chaste, playing the roles of peace and righteousness, of order, of philosophy, ethics and culture. It shows itself in its true, naked form—as a roaring beast, as an orgy of anarchy, as a pestilential breath, devastating culture and humanity.”

While this barbaric system generates discontent among wide layers of the population, the only power that students have on their own is to register their anger through various forms of protest. However, there is a social force that has the power not just to protest, but to shut down the whole system we live under—the multiracial working class. Its social power derives from the fact that it has its hands directly on the means of production—the mines, factories, means of transport and communications—and can shut down production and capitalist profit by withholding its labor, by striking. One solid longshore strike during the Iraq war would have had a far greater impact on the U.S. government than many millions of peace protesters marching in the street. It is that kind of social power that students and the oppressed masses need to look to and ally with.

The working class not only has the social power but the objective interest to put an end to capitalist rule. The workers’ interests can never be reconciled with those of the capitalists who exploit them. The interests of working people and the oppressed can be served only by creating a socialist society where production is for human need, not the profit of a small layer of exploiters. It is only through class war, i.e., the struggle of the working class leading the oppressed against the capitalist order, that the economic and political roots of imperialist war and militarism can be destroyed. The destruction of capitalism will not happen spontaneously, but requires the intervention of a conscious Marxist leadership, a revolutionary workers party that fights for socialist revolution. It is such a party that the Spartacist League, of which the SYCs are the student-youth auxiliary, is dedicated to forging.

Left Servants of Imperialism

If the idea of mobilizing the working class in mass struggle seems far-fetched to most youth in the U.S. today, it is because what they have seen of class war in their lifetimes has mostly consisted of a capitalist assault on workers, with very little working-class struggle in response. It is important to understand from a historical perspective not only that the class contradictions of this system will inevitably lead to future mass struggles by working people, but also that the power of the working class has been kept in chains by working-class misleaderships. Class struggle has been demobilized by the false ideology pushed by the trade-union bureaucracy and its left helpers: that the interests of labor and capital can be reconciled, that the overturn of this whole rotten, stinking system is impossible and therefore the best we can do is to negotiate “better” terms of capitalist exploitation for working people. As part of the struggle to uproot the whole profit system, a class-struggle leadership of the labor movement would fight for free, quality, integrated education for all, free health care, decent jobs and housing for all and against racial and sexual oppression.

The lie that working people and their exploiters can share a common interest is pushed in practice through the trade-union bureaucracy’s open support to the capitalist Democratic Party and the promotion of “antiwar” Democrats and petty capitalist Greens by ostensibly socialist organizations in the antiwar movement. Pro-imperialist trade-union bureaucrats who support the “war on terror” (in reality a war on immigrants, black people and labor) and the war and occupation in Iraq are clearly misleaders of the working class. More insidious are those who stand in opposition to the war but preach a program of capitalist reform, a program that is objectively for the maintenance of the system that breeds war—these are also misleaders of the working class.

Such left-talking misleaders are hardly a recent development in the history of the class struggle. Lenin’s trenchant polemics against two “servants of imperialism” during World War I, Karl Kautsky and Filippo Turati, fit today’s ISO, WWP and RCP to a tee:

“When socialist leaders like Turati and Kautsky try to convince the masses, either by direct statements…, or by silent evasions (of which Kautsky is a past master), that the present imperialist war can result in a democratic peace, while the bourgeois governments remain in power and without a revolutionary insurrection against the whole network of imperialist world relations, it is our duty to declare that such propaganda is a deception of the people, that it has nothing in common with socialism, that it amounts to the embellishment of an imperialist peace….

“Their [Kautsky and Turati] attention is entirely absorbed in reforms, in pacts between sections of the ruling classes; it is to them that they address themselves, it is them they seek to ‘persuade,’ it is to them they wish to adapt the labour movement.”

—“A Turn in World Politics,” January 1917

An example of how the ISO and WWP look to the capitalist class enemy, not the working class, is their promotion of cross-class liberal “antiwar” alliances, such as the strategy of working with Democratic and Green Party politicians to get city council resolutions (in New York) and ballot propositions (in San Francisco) passed against military recruiters in schools. Seeking to persuade the powers that be on the campus level, the ISO appeals to those who administer the colleges on behalf of the capitalists to stop violating their professed anti-discrimination policies and ban military recruiters. We call for a “yes” vote on San Francisco Proposition I as a basic statement of opposition to military recruiters in schools. However, it is not through propositions that you can fight to end imperialist militarism—only through working-class struggle. And working-class struggle must be independent of the capitalist class enemy, including the Democratic Party of racism and war.

Revolutionary Politics and Military Defense of Iraq

The ISO, WWP and RCP’s refusal to call for the military defense of Iraq against U.S. and British imperialism in the lead-up to and during the war is yet another proof of their class-collaborationist orientation. Marxists are not pacifists. In his 1915 work, Socialism and War, Lenin summarized the attitude of Marxists to wars between imperialist powers and colonial or semicolonial countries:

“If tomorrow, Morocco were to declare war on France, or India on Britain, or Persia or China on Russia, and so on, these would be ‘just,’ and ‘defensive’ wars, irrespective of who would be the first to attack; any socialist would wish the oppressed, dependent and unequal states victory over the oppressor, slave-holding and predatory ‘Great’ Powers.”

The Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Club applied this program of revolutionary defensism in the lead-up to and during the Iraq war, uniquely raising the slogans: “Defend Iraq Against U.S./British Imperialist Attack! Down With U.S. Imperialism! For Class Struggle Against U.S. Capitalist Rulers!” We took a side militarily with semicolonial Iraq against the U.S. imperialist invaders, while politically opposing Saddam Hussein’s bloody capitalist regime. While favoring the defeat of the U.S., we understood that given the enormous military advantage of the United States, the most effective means of opposing the U.S. war drive was international working-class struggle against the capitalists, especially here in the U.S.

Forthright military defense of Iraq was anathema to the ISO, WWP and RCP because their goal was not to mobilize working people on the side of the Iraqi people and for the defeat of the U.S., but to build a “movement” for pressuring the imperialists to end the war. In practice this meant uniting with liberals and capitalist politicians like Democrats Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, who came out against the Iraq war not because they are opposed to U.S. imperialism but because they don’t think the war/occupation is the best way of advancing the interests of U.S. imperialism. That sentiment has grown among a layer of the ruling class who want to extract the U.S. from the quagmire the Iraq occupation has become. In addition to being the voice for a section of the ruling class who thought that an anti-Communist campaign against North Korea made more sense than going after Iraq, these “antiwar” politicians are doing their job for the capitalists of containing black and working-class anger against this system safely within the confines of bourgeois electoralism.

In a seeming about-face, the very organizations that steadfastly refused to call for the defense of Iraq during the war, i.e., when it counted, such as the ISO and WWP, are today cheering the “right to resist” the U.S. occupation forces. The ISO has suddenly discovered quotes from Lenin and Trotsky on the need to defend oppressed nations against imperialism. But what is really behind their shift in position is the hope that victories by the Iraqi “resistance” will augment support within the Democratic Party for withdrawal from Iraq. Just as the ISO and WWP practice class collaboration at home, they cheer on Islamic reactionaries and other forces as “anti-imperialists” in the neocolonial world. The ISO writes: “Even if it were true that the resistance was dominated by Baathists and hard-line Islamists, this wouldn’t be the central issue. Whatever the religious and political affiliations of the different resistance organizations and groupings, the main goal—the one that unites various forces of the Iraqi resistance—is ‘to liberate their country from foreign occupation’” (“Why We Support the Resistance to Occupation: Iraq’s Right to National Self-Determination,” Socialist Worker, 4 February).

In fact, the Iraqi “resistance” largely consists of disparate and mutually hostile ethnic, religious and communalist forces that aim much of their fire against rival civilian populations. When such forces do aim their blows against the occupation forces and their lackeys, we militarily defend them. However, in contrast to the ISO, we have stated: “We do not imbue the forces presently organizing guerrilla attacks on U.S. forces with ‘anti-imperialist’ credentials and warn that in the absence of working-class struggle in Iraq and internationally against the occupation, the victory of one or another of the reactionary clerical forces is more likely to come about through an alliance with U.S. imperialism” (“The Left and the Iraqi Resistance: U.S. Out of Iraq Now!” WV No. 830, 6 August 2004).

The class-collaborationist, anti-revolutionary program of groups like the ISO is defined by their visceral hostility toward those countries where capitalism has been overturned. The ISO supported every counterrevolutionary movement that sought to overturn the gains of the Russian Revolution and cheered the destruction of the USSR in 1991-92. Capitalist restoration has been a disaster for the working people of the ex-USSR, resulting in unprecedented devastation of living standards and the destruction of historic social gains for women and ethnic and national minorities. In opposition to the imperialist triumphalism that communism is dead, as well as the widespread view among radical youth that there is nothing about the Soviet Union worth replicating today, we understand that the 1917 October Revolution remains the model for social liberation. That revolution, led by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, established the world’s first workers state, a beacon for all those struggling to liberate humanity. Despite later Stalinist degeneration, the USSR demonstrated the power of a planned, collectivized economy, providing free education, health care, inexpensive housing and jobs for all.

The destruction of the Soviet Union represented a world-historic defeat for working people around the world, removing the military and industrial power that stayed the hand of the imperialists and made possible victories like the overturn of capitalism in East Europe and in Cuba, North Korea, China and Vietnam. We followed in the footsteps of Leon Trotsky by fighting for the unconditional military defense of the USSR against imperialism and against the restoration of capitalism, while simultaneously fighting for working-class political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats. Unlike pacifists and the anti-Soviet ISO and RCP, we militarily defend the workers states, despite their Stalinist deformations, against the imperialists, which includes upholding their right to nuclear weapons. The Soviet bureaucracy’s nationalist, parasitic rule undermined the gains of the Russian Revolution, especially by renouncing the struggle for international socialist revolution. The anti-Marxist Stalinist dogma of “socialism in one country” meant betrayal of revolutionary opportunities around the world and led ultimately to the final undoing of the Russian Revolution itself.

Race, Class and Militarism

Reflecting the growing opposition among the U.S. populace as a whole to the occupation of Iraq was the outpouring this summer of support and sympathy for Cindy Sheehan, the mother of an American soldier killed in Iraq, who is for ending the occupation. Sheehan captured headlines for weeks with her encampment outside President Bush’s Texas ranch. Sheehan’s poignant protest exposed the capitalist rulers’ contempt for the overwhelmingly working-class and minority ranks of the military and their families, who are expected to unquestioningly obey “God and country” and provide the cannon fodder for the U.S. imperialist war machine.

Notwithstanding the working-class background of most U.S. troops, the imperialist armed forces are the instrument of American conquest and enforcers of the capitalist system of exploitation. Against those who in the wake of Hurricane Katrina have called to bring the troops home to help in the Gulf Coast, we say that the imperialist army is no friend of working people at home, either. There is a long and deadly history of the use of troops within the U.S. to suppress strikes, repress student antiwar protesters and crush upheavals of black people against entrenched racial oppression. And while National Guard troops sent to New Orleans have played a role in search and rescue actions that saved lives, they were sent mainly not to help the population but to impose reactionary “law and order.” Democratic Louisiana governor Kathleen Blanco said as much when 300 members of the Arkansas National Guard were sent to New Orleans: “These troops know how to shoot and kill…and I expect they will.” They were sent to hunt down “looters,” desperate black people trying to find food and water, and imposed strict curfews, essentially martial law, forcing out those who didn’t want to leave and preventing journalists from even photographing the dead.

At the same time that Marxists are emphatic opponents of bourgeois militarism, we recognize the internal class contradictions of the military. As Karl Liebknecht stated in his classic 1907 work, Militarism and Anti-Militarism:

“Thus we are confronted by modern militarism which wants neither more nor less than the squaring of the circle, which arms the people against the people itself, which dares to force the become oppressors and enemies, murderers of their own comrades and friends, of their parents, brothers and sisters and children, and which compels them to blight their own past and future. Modern militarism wants to be democratic and despotic, enlightened and machine-like, nationalist and antagonistic to the nation at the same time.”

In addition to the class divide between the working-class ranks and the bourgeois officer corps present in all capitalist armies, the U.S. military reflects the deep-rooted racial oppression of black people in this country. The disproportionate number of black and minority youth in today’s volunteer army—driven to join in large part because they have no jobs and no future, or because it is the only way to afford college or learn a skill—represents an Achilles heel for U.S. imperialism. The American military reflects the racism, anti-woman and anti-gay bigotry of capitalist society in a concentrated way.

Because we uphold Liebknecht’s opposition to a single person or penny for the bourgeois army, we oppose volunteering for the army. We likewise oppose the reinstatement of the draft. The last time the U.S imperialists seriously considered reinstating the draft, during the height of their Cold War II drive against the Soviet Union in 1980, we agitated against the draft and in defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state. At the same time, we have no illusions that the U.S. imperialists won’t reinstate the draft when they need to, and they will eventually need to.

“Individual Resistance”: A Losing Strategy

The “counter-recruitment” movement has drawn inspiration from soldiers, such as Camilo Mejia and Kevin Benderman, who have refused orders to serve in the Iraq war and occupation and sought to expose the horrors of imperialist war. They and several other soldiers have been court-martialed for their refusal to serve. We say: Free Kevin Benderman and hands off the other “resisters”! “Antiwar” reformists have placed great emphasis on these acts of individual resistance, promoting the idea that if more people were prevented from signing up for the military and more soldiers refused to serve it could throw a monkey wrench in the works of the war machine. This strategy is false because it seeks to paralyze a core component of the capitalist state through pacifist resistance.

It is precisely because the military is integral to the capitalist state that it has very repressive means for dealing with those who refuse to serve. Insubordinate soldiers can face discipline in military tribunals with punishments that include execution. As we wrote in “On Draft Resistance: You Will Go!”: “It would be approximately as easy to directly overthrow the government as to deprive that government of its armed forces” (Spartacist No. 11, March-April 1968). In other words, to talk about paralyzing the military as a repressive force means the prelude to revolution. Such a situation is possible only in the context of massive working-class and social struggle against the capitalist order. Marxists seek to organize for collective victory through proletarian struggle, not defeat through martyrdom in individual, moralistic acts of “resistance.” The key task today is to imbue the discontented, exploited and oppressed working masses with the consciousness that they can and must organize to struggle on the basis of their common class interests against the war-mongering capitalist rulers.

The logic of the strategy of individual resistance parallels the promotion of draft “resistance” during the Vietnam War. This is expressed by the youth group of the WWP, which supports the “No Draft, No Way” movement that advocates “refusal to be inducted into the military under any circumstances” ( The duty of revolutionaries who are drafted is to go with the mass of working-class youth into the military. During the Vietnam War, as youth were chanting “Hell no, we won’t go!” we said, “You will go!” Our Spartacist article “You Will Go!” addressed antiwar activists:

“If you refuse induction, you will either go to prison, or you will flee the country. In both cases your body will be exactly where the rulers of the U.S. want it: removed from struggle and removed from contact with the youth who fight the wars….

“For prominent working-class leaders to dodge the draft earns them the disrespect of the workers and is a direct aid to the ruling class, as it removes them from any contact with the workers they claim to represent.”

Our article went on to explain: “The main argument for draft resistance is that it will hurt the U.S. war effort. But this is not going to happen. A few hundred middle-class, anti-war students might be diverted from military service, but the tens of thousands of black and white working-class...youth who are to be drafted will not respond to the anti-draft campaign.” It was with the perspective of influencing the working-class and oppressed ranks of the military with a socialist program that Spartacist supporters in the Army published several issues of an antiwar newspaper distributed to GIs during the Vietnam War called G.I. Voice.

For a Class-Struggle Perspective

In fact, many of those who advocated draft resistance during the Vietnam War were students benefiting from the “College Not Combat” measure of the time: student deferments. We called for the abolition of the student deferment because it expressed class privilege, meaning that wealthy and petty-bourgeois youth who had the privilege of being in college didn’t get drafted, while poor and working-class youth did. More generally, the bourgeoisie uses its wealth and privilege to keep its sons out of combat. A prime example is George W. Bush, who avoided combat in Vietnam by taking advantage of family connections to get a safe sinecure in the Air National Guard.

Polemicizing against anarchists, Karl Liebknecht succinctly captured the difference between liberal and revolutionary anti-militarism in his Militarism and Anti-Militarism. Noting that “It [anarchism] lays great stress upon individual refusal to do military service, individual refusal to resort to arms and upon individual protests,” Liebknecht argued:

“Anarchism works here, first of all, with ethical enthusiasm, with the stimuli of morality, with arguments of humanity, of justice; in short, with all sorts of impulses on the will which ignore the class war character of anti-militarism, and attempt to stamp it as an abstract efflux of a categorical imperative of universal application….

“Social-Democratic [Marxist] anti-militarist propaganda, on the contrary, propagates the class-struggle and therefore it appeals on principle exclusively to those classes which, necessarily, are the foes of militarism in the class struggle.... It enlightens people to win them over, but it enlightens them not concerning categorical imperatives, humanitarian points of view, ethical postulates of freedom and justice, but concerning the class struggle, the interests of the proletariat therein.”

Military society is a reflection of civil society, and major shifts in the consciousness of the poor and working-class ranks of the military parallel such shifts in civil society. For example, many of the soldiers who carried out acts of rebellion against officers during the Vietnam War were black. This had much to do with the mass social struggle against racial oppression that was taking place back home. War often brings the class contradictions of society acutely to the fore—this was especially the case in the massive, seemingly senseless all-sided slaughter of World War I and in wars where the imperialists were losing to forces fighting for social revolution, such as Vietnam. This is why, as Leon Trotsky noted, “war is the mother of revolution” (Military Writings, Volume 1: 1918). War brings the contradiction between the interests of the capitalist rulers and those of working people starkly to light in a way that is often obscured in times of “peace.” It is only in a revolutionary situation that the bourgeois army will split along class lines. The role of revolutionaries in such a situation is to provide the program and leadership to struggling soldiers and working people for a successful overturn of capitalism.

Bolshevik Revolution: Model for Today

The need for a revolutionary Marxist party to lead the fight for working-class power was demonstrated in both the positive and negative during WWI. This war brought to a head a historic split in the Marxist movement throughout Europe. The war was essentially fought to redivide world markets among the belligerent imperialist powers of Europe, and was completely unprecedented in the level of death and destruction—some 15 million people were killed. Nearly every socialist party that faced the challenge of World War I failed miserably. The most spectacular failure was the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) whose parliamentary deputies voted, on 4 August 1914, for war credits, i.e., in support of the war on the side of their “own” bourgeoisie. Within the Marxist movement throughout Europe there were some leaders who similarly capitulated to the intense pressures of patriotism and declared that socialists could stand for the “defense of the fatherland.” Breaking with the social-chauvinist SPD leaders in Germany, Karl Liebknecht voted against war credits in December 1914 and used his parliamentary post to agitate against the war and the social-chauvinists. The German bourgeoisie tried to silence him by drafting him into the military where he continued his agitation in his soldier’s uniform, and was imprisoned a second time for his agitation against militarism and war.

Tens of thousands of leaflets authored by Liebknecht and his comrades of the Spartakusbund were published with the ringing internationalist slogan: “The Main Enemy Is at Home!” Unlike a predatory war by an imperialist power against a colonial country, in a war between imperialist powers such as WWI the working class has no side. Liebknecht’s slogan paralleled Lenin’s demand that the working class turn the interimperialist war into a civil war against their “own” capitalist rulers. This cut across not only the social-chauvinism of leading European Social Democrats, but also against the social-pacifists whose only demands were for “peace,” i.e., for a return to capitalist stability.

In Russia, Lenin had fought since 1903 to build a hard revolutionary party with a clear program, and so, unlike the majority of the SPD, the Bolsheviks did not cave in to the bourgeois pressures around WWI. The social-chauvinists and social-pacifists in Russia were constituted in the Menshevik and Social Revolutionary parties. Lenin insisted on the necessity for revolutionaries to split with the opportunists within the Marxist movement over the question of the war. Lenin described opportunism as having the same content as social-chauvinism: “collaboration of classes instead of class struggle, renunciation of revolutionary methods of struggle, helping one’s ‘own’ government in its embarrassed situation instead of taking advantage of these embarrassments for revolution” (Socialism and War).

In this same pamphlet he continued, “Today unity with the opportunists actually means subordinating the working class to their ‘own’ national bourgeoisie and an alliance with the latter for the purpose of oppressing other nations and of fighting for dominant-nation privileges; it means splitting the revolutionary proletariat of all countries.” It was this revolutionary intransigence that enabled Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party to lead the October Revolution in Russia, pulling Russia out of WWI. In 1917 rebellious soldiers took their stand with the revolutionary proletariat against Russian tsarism, capitalism and the war, signaling the collapse of the state and unraveling of capitalist rule in Russia. The Bolsheviks led these struggles toward the seizure of state power by the working class.

It was the lack of such a leadership in Germany that led to the defeat of the revolutionary wave between 1918 and 1923. The heroic leaders, Liebknecht and Luxemburg, having eventually split first with the SPD and then the Kautskyite centrists to form the German Communist Party, were shortly thereafter murdered by counterrevolutionary forces dispatched by SPD leaders in 1919. When a revolutionary crisis erupted in 1923, the German Communist Party had a vacillating leadership and was programmatically weak (see “A Trotskyist Critique of Germany 1923 and the Comintern,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 56, Spring 2001).

It is precisely the fight to expose the opportunists in the workers movement, and split the working class away from the false program these reformists offer, that is required to unshackle the power of labor today. Mobilizing that power is the critical factor in every struggle against imperialism, exploitation and the myriad forms of oppression engendered by the capitalist system. Marxist historian Isaac Deutscher powerfully summed this up in a 1966 speech addressed to New Left antiwar radicals during the Vietnam War:

“Unless you have found a way to the young age groups of the American working class and shaken this sleeping giant of yours, this sleeping giant of the American working class...out of the sleep into which he has been drugged, unless you have done this, you will be lost.

“Your only salvation is in carrying back the idea of socialism to the working class and coming back with the working class to storm—to storm, yes, to storm—the bastions of capitalism.”

—“On Socialist Man,” Marxism in Our Time, 1971

Let's Have A Party- The Year 1957

At one time I spilled much ink memory covering, extensively covering, many CD compilations from a Rock ‘N’ Rock Era series (that would be, ouch, a classic rock and roll series now, damn). A highlight of that series, and the one thing that clearly peaked my interest beyond the songs, or some of the songs, the ones that were able to defy age, and are lyric remembrance etched in my brain, had been the cover artwork that had evoked, and evoked strongly, the themes that dominated our lives, our hubristic teenage lives, in the classic age of rock, say from about the mid-1950s to about the mid-1960s (after that things went all over the place, the music and the times both) as we watched it unfold. Things like last dance school dances (and dreams of she and dreads of not she for that last one, god it better be a slow one to make my pitch), lovers’ lanes (down by the seaside sifting sand, against the cold ocean night, against the Seal Rock night, in the back seat of Jimmy’s car, and, well let’s leave it at and, okay), dancing the night away to the latest rock music, drive-in movies (alternative spot for that “and” mentioned above), drive-in restaurants (a night cap of burgers and fries after that “and,” hopefully) , summer beach life (watching, intensely watching, those long-legged college girls home for the summer and restless, but just watching high school odd-ball watching between the two yacht clubs where they were preening themselves) and on and on. One part of the series, the one I am thinking of here, driven by year dates, at least as observed through the cover work, seemed to be less concerned with strong old time evocations by flashy artwork but rather used old time photos (Kodak, of ancient memory, of course). Nevertheless sometimes just a simple photograph as appears on the 1957 cover evokes those memories in a more subtle way.

And what does that photograph picture. Well, Johnny (we’ll just call him that for our purposes here, okay), hair slicked back as was the Elvis-want-to-be style, no facial hair, jesus, no facial hair , we are not dealing with those low-life reefer mad beat beasts here in the Amityville night, no way, that is music for the future, suited up in sports coat, white shirt, and tie (pants not observed although they had to be black chinos, uncool cuffed or cool uncuffed, and shoes, well, loafers for sure, no silly pennies inserted that was strictly for nerds, thank you, serious nerds) and Susie (ditto Johnny on the name thing), pulled back pony-tail to keep that long hair out of her eyes while fast-dancing with Eddy, Billy and Teddy before lemming on Johnny , dressed up in her best frilly party dress, long, and not black, not black as night anything for the same reason, the same non-beat in Amityville reason Johnny has not facial hair, (no bobby socks or nylons showing so I cannot discuss that issue here nor will I venture into the girl shoe night any more than I would today into the woman’s shoe night) are comparing notes on the latest 45s. Nice wholesome kids, white kids just so you know who the record companies were appealing too although most of the best music was black, black and beautiful as the darkest night (like the songs from YouTube that accompanies this sketch). No mad dog hopheads, or dipsos and no nerds either. Let them go use the library or something.

For those not long in the tooth who may have wandered into this space and are not sure why that 45RPM was the size record we played on our old time record players (no not wind-up Victrolas, wise guys) when we wanted to drown out ma, pa, and sibling noises about homework, chores, or just the stuff of everyday life. Each record had a one song A side (the hit) and a one song B side, each side a little over two minutes long. That idea didn’t last too long before responding to the crush of the market they started making LPs, records with several songs on each side. Oh, I forgot, for those who don’t know what a record is, long or short, look it up on Wikipedia. I have given enough time to the subject.

And in the year 1957 what musical chooses might the pair be comparing on this night, this house party night (or on other school dance nights) shown here. As usual another round in the “battle of the sexes” will be played out just like from teen time immemorial. At least records and record player time immemorial. While Buddy Holly, Patsy Kline, Rickey Nelson, and the Everly Brothers have some spin in the early going the real fight, the real important fight, school dance or house party, is what song will be played for the last dance. Yes, the key last dance to see whether the evening continues when they hold each other tight after a night of apart self-expression fast rock and roll dancing. So the battle really boils down to Could This Be Magic? by The Dubs or Happy Happy Birthday Baby by the Tune Weavers and if Johnny does not want to be lonely tonight he better make the right choice. Good luck, brother Johnny.

Pierre Broué

Germany 1921: The March Action

(Summer 1964)

From Workers ACTION.
Originally published in English in Fourth International, Vol. 1, No. 2, Summer 1964.
Transcribed by Ted Crawford.
Marked upby Chris Clayton.
Proofread by Einde O’Callaghan (September 2011).

The March Action – Introduction

Richard Price

This short article first appeared in English in Fourth International, Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 1964. Its author, Pierre Broué (b.1926), was for many years a member of the Lambertist tendency in France (variously OCI, PCI, and latterly Parti Ouvrier). An internationally recognised historian, Pierre Broué has published a steady stream of books and articles on the history of the revolutionary movement for over four decades. His only book-length work to be published in English is The Revolution and the Civil War in Spain (with Émile Témime), which was originally issued in France in 1961. Other works yet to be translated include The Bolshevik Party (1971), Revolution in Germany 1917–1923 (1971), an epic 1,000-page biography, Trotsky (1988), and his History of the Communist International (1997). He is also the editor of many collections of Trotsky’s writings, including an authoritative version of his post-1928 writings, The Chinese Question in the Communist International, and Leon Trotsky, Alfred and Marguerite Rosmer: Correspondence (1929–39). He is the founder and editor of Cahiers Léon Trotsky, a journal dedicated to historical research on Trotsky and the revolutionary movement. He was expelled from the PCI in 1989, on the pretext that he had addressed a right-wing gathering (on Trotsky!) without the party’s permission. He currently publishes Le Marxisme Aujourd’hui, and is a member of the Socialist Party. Translations of five articles by Broué can be found at:
The debacle represented by the ‘March Action’ in Germany in 1921 was a crucial turning point in the development of the Communist International. The defeat led to a crisis in the German Communist Party (KPD), which had repercussions for the entire International. Under the immediate impact of the defeat, the Third Congress of the Comintern steered a course away from the adventurism and putschism which Bukharin and Zinoviev’s ‘theory of the offensive’ had encouraged, and adopted the policy of the united front. Yet even after such a graphic lesson, the united front continued to be resisted in practice by a number of important Comintern sections.
The March Action does contain enduring lessons for the left above and beyond the specific adventurist actions advocated by the majority of the KPD leadership. At their broadest, they are that to attempt to lead workers across a broad front into offensive actions, without having first convinced a majority of workers to take part, still less having won their organisations to supporting the action, will almost always lead to defeat and confusion.
In Left Wing Communism, Lenin had insisted that ‘... you must soberly follow the actual state of class consciousness and preparedness of the whole class (not just of its communist vanguard), of all the toiling masses (not only their advanced elements)’. Many on the left today disagree in practice with Lenin’s approach. Instead, their method is to itemise the betrayals of the Labour and trade union leaders, and counterpose to this ‘what is necessary’, whether this involves making a fetish out of the call for a general strike, or elevating the standing of candidates in elections into a principle. The groups affiliated to the Socialist Alliance may not have that much in common. But they do share a common belief that the central task at present is to organise ‘the left of the left’ independent of a significant level of radicalisation across broad sections of the working class.
What unites the ultra-leftism of the 1920s with its less spectacular, though no less mistaken, forms today is that together they are the ‘Marxist’ first cousins of the anarchist ‘propaganda of the deed’. The decision for action is taken largely independent of the organisations of the working class, and is relayed to workers at best as an example to follow, and at worst as an ultimatum.
Further reading: Pierre Broué’s Revolution in Germany 1917–1923 is perhaps the most important Marxist study of Germany in this period, but it remains untranslated (see above). There is, however, an extensive literature on the March Action and its aftermath. For a general overview of the German workers’ movement and the prospects for revolution, see Chris Harman, The Lost Revolution: Germany 1918–1923, Bookmarks, 1982; Mike Jones, The Decline, Disorientation and Decomposition of a Leadership in Revolutionary History, Vol.2, No.3, Autumn 1989; and Germany 1918–23: From the November Revolution to the failed October, Revolutionary History, Vol.5, No.2, Spring 1994. Extracts from Paul Levi’s pamphlet, Our Course Against Putschism, together with documents and correspondence from Radek are in Helmut Gruber (ed.), International Communism in the Era of Lenin, Anchor, 1972. The Executive Committee of the Comintern’s statements on the March Action and on the expulsion of Levi, together with its manifesto on the conclusion of the Third Congress, are reprinted in Jane Degras (ed.), The Communist International 1919–1943: Documents, Vol.1, Oxford, 1956. Lenin’s comments (referred to in the text of the article that follows) can be found in Klara Zetkin, My Recollections of Lenin, Moscow, 1956, together with her own views. Brief comments by another participant, Heinrich Brandler, can be found in Isaac Deutscher, Marxism, Wars and Revolutions, Verso, 1984, pp.135–137. Other memoirs include Alfred Rosmer, Lenin’s Moscow, Bookmarks, 1987, pp.144–151, and Rosa Leviné-Meyer, Inside German Communism, Pluto, 1977, pp.17–20. The assessment made by the Third Congress of the Comintern, in section VII of the ‘Theses on Tactics’ and in the brief resolution The March Events and the United Communist Party of Germany, can be found in Alan Adler (ed.), Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International, Pluto, 1983. Trotsky’s speech to the Third Congress dealing with the March events is in The First Five Years of the Communist International, Vol.1, New Park, 1973, while a later assessment and a sharp public attack on Paul Levi is in Vol.2, New Park, 1974. Lenin’s speeches to the Third Congress are in Speeches at Congresses of the Communist International, Progress, 1972, while his later Letter to the German Communists is in his Collected Works, Vol.32, Progress, 1965, pp.512–523.

March 1921. An atmosphere of civil war. Armed nationalist bands provoke workers suffering from crisis and unemployment. In central Germany hard-fought strikes break out; the miners have bloody tussles with the police. On March 16, Horsing, the Social Democratic security chief, announces that the police will occupy the mining district of Mansfeld. Objective: to restore calm, disarm the workers.
The police were welcomed with firing. Rote Fahne, organ of the German Communist Party, on the 18th appealed for resistance: ‘Every worker should defy the law and take arms where he can find them.’ On the 19th a thousand police occupied the district: the strike spread to all trades in the affected region. The workers barricaded themselves in their factories; on the 23rd there was fighting throughout the district. On the 24th the Central Committee of the German CP called for a general strike. It was not followed. Fights between workers broke out everywhere: the strikers, few in number, took on the ‘blacklegs’ who remained in the majority, the Social Democrats and the trade unions indignantly denouncing the attempted ‘rising’ of the communists ...
Here and there Communist officials organised false attacks on themselves in order to provoke the indignation of the masses and bring them into the struggle. In the centre of the country the factories were surrounded and bombarded and gave up one after another: the Leuna factory, the last to do so, surrendered on the 29th.
On the 31st the CP rescinded the strike order. Illegal once again, it was to experience an unprecedented crisis: a number of its leaders, including Paul Levi, denounced its adventurist policies and were expelled. Shortly afterwards the Third World Congress of the Communist International gave its verdict on the ‘March Action’, in which it saw a ‘forward step’ at the same time as it condemned the theory of ‘the offensive at all costs’ which its supporters had put forward. The German party lost a hundred thousand members, including many trade union cadres, who had refused to follow it, condemned its actions or been overwhelmed by the publication in the bourgeois and socialist press of documents which incriminated its leaders.
It was some time before it was understood that the March Action brought to a close the post-war revolutionary period, that it was the last of the armed actions of the proletariat which had begun with the struggles in Berlin in January 1919. The contribution which this affair made to the failure of the German Communists to build a revolutionary mass party, a Communist Party of the Bolshevik type, has yet to be measured.

The building of the party

The Bolsheviks thought that their revolution could only be the forerunner: the problems posed in Russia could only be resolved on a world scale and, in the meantime, the decisive battlefield was Germany, where the bourgeoisie, after November 1918, owed its survival to the alliance between the officer corps and the Social Democratic and trade union apparatus against the Workers’ Councils. The murderers employed by the socialist Noske won the first round: by assassinating the revolutionary leaders Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg, the outstanding founders of German communism, they decapitated the young party which was coming into being.
The vanguard, moreover, was deeply divided. Years of opportunism had fed a violent anti-centralising reaction in the German working class; the years of war pushed the young generations towards impatience and adventures. Against the leadership around Paul Levi a strong leftist minority called for the boycotting of elections, condemned work in the trade unions and wished to retain from the Russian experience only the lesson of the insurrection, which was possible at any time since the workers were armed and the bourgeoisie was provoking them. Lenin, who polemicised against them in Left Wing Communism, nevertheless wished to keep them in the party, but Levi took steps to expel the leftists.
Despite the difficulties, the new perspectives seemed to confirm his viewpoint. The Independent Social Democrats [USPD], born of the split from the Social-Democratic Party during the war, had recruited hundreds of thousands of instinctively revolutionary workers whom Levi hoped to win for communism en bloc. Their leaders had collaborated in the crushing of the Councils in 1918, but the difficulties of the working class in post-war Germany, the prestige of the Russian Revolution, the tenacious action of the International, radicalised them and won them gradually towards communism. In September 1920, at their Congress at Halle, the majority of the Independents decided to ask for affiliation to the Communist International and to accept its 21 conditions. In December the Unified Communist Party was born: it had over half a million members, a solidly organised vanguard with strong fractions in the big unions, control over local unions in several industrial towns, 40 daily papers and several specialised reviews and periodicals, an underground military organisation and considerable financial resources. It was the instrument which had so far been lacking to bring the proletarian revolution in Germany to a successful conclusion, all the communists thought.

The conquest of a majority of the proletariat

The Second Congress of the Communist International in 1920 had set itself the task of the construction of such parties, with the perspective of an early conquest of power in several countries. Summing up its work, Zinoviev, president of the International, declared: ‘I am profoundly convinced that the Second Congress of the Comintern is the prelude to another congress, the world congress of Soviet republics.’ And Trotsky explained why the Communists wished to see a split in the working-class movement: ‘There is no doubt that the proletariat would be in power in all countries if there had not been between the Communist Parties and the masses, between the revolutionary masses and the revolutionary vanguard, a powerful and complex machine, the parties of the Second International and the trade unions, which, in the epoch of the disintegration and death of the bourgeoisie, placed their machine at its service. From the time of this Congress, the split in the world working class must be accelerated tenfold.’
Zinoviev indicated the meaning of the split at Halle: ‘We work for the split, not because we want only 18 instead of 21 Conditions, but because we do not agree on the question of the world revolution, on democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat.’ For the Communists the split was not simply a state of affairs destined to last for some time, but an immediate necessity in order to eliminate definitively from the workers’ movement the reformist leaders who acted as ‘agents of the bourgeoisie’. It was the preface to the reconstitution of unity on the basis of a revolutionary programme, a condition for victory in the struggle for power.
Once the split had been realised there was still the question of wresting from the reformist chiefs the millions of proletarians who made up their following. Lenin, more than anyone, sought to win support in the Communist Parties for the understanding of the necessity for a United Front policy; later, Zinoviev said of this policy that it was ‘the expression of the consciousness that (i) we have not yet won a majority in the working class; (ii) the social democracy is still very strong; (iii) we occupy defensive positions and the enemy is on the offensive; (iv) the decisive battles are not yet on the agenda’.
It was from analysis such as this that at the beginning of 1921 the leaders of the German CP addressed an ‘open letter’ to the trade unions and workers’ parties proposing common action on an immediate programme of defence of living standards. The letter, which Lenin described as a ‘model political initiative’, began with the recognition that more than ten million workers still followed the Social Democratic leaders and the trade union officials and obeyed their orders. ‘Communist strategy,’ wrote Radek, ‘must be to convince these large masses of workers that the trade union bureaucracy and the Social Democratic Party not only do not want to fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat, but also do not want to fight for the most fundamental day-to-day interests of the working class.’
However, the Second Congress fixed as a first objective the construction of parties capable of leading the struggle of the masses for power: for Zinoviev and a part of his group, in the headquarters of the International, the idea of the ‘conquest of the masses’ apart from the march to power was an opportunist conception. They saw the ‘open letter’ as an instrument of demobilisation.

Destructive activism

Rallying to the Zinoviev line after having been one of the authors of the ‘open letter’, Karl Radek then wrote to the German CP that it was necessary to break with the wait-and-see attitude which it had followed while it was still a sect and become conscious that, now that it was a mass party, it had become a real factor in the class struggle. It was necessary, he wrote, ‘to activise our policy in order to draw in new mass support’. For his part, Rakosi, emissary of the International at the Italian Socialist Party Congress at Livorno, adopted the same activist position and took pleasure in the perhaps inevitable but catastrophic split, which left the overwhelming majority of the revolutionary workers behind the centrist leaders of the Socialist Party and reduced the scarcely founded Italian CP to the status of a sect. Against Levi, who maintained that they had no right to split when the movement was in retreat, he boasted before the Central Committee of the German CP of the necessity and virtue of splits, developing the theme of a ‘too large party’ which ‘would strengthen itself by purging itself’.
Another collaborator of Zinoviev, a compatriot of Rakosi, Bela Kun, bore the responsibility, as emissary of the International, for having thrown the German CP into the ‘March Action’. Did he, as has been supposed, follow the suggestions of Zinoviev, who was frightened by Russian internal difficulties at the time of the Kronstadt revolt? Did he try to ‘force’ a revolutionary crisis in Germany to prevent the Russian communists from having to make the retreat of the New Economic Policy? In the present state of documentation no certain answer is possible. What is certain is that Kun placed his prestige as Comintern delegate behind a theory of the offensive which was to be used to justify the position of the CP in March and was to end in disaster.
It is equally unquestionable that the centralised structure of the International, the doubtful practice, introduced by Zinoviev, of Comintern agents not responsible to the parties which they supervised, raised a problem of organisation which would be pointed out by Lenin at the Fourth Congress, but never really tackled.

Lenin on the party and the March Action

It is known today, on the other hand, that Lenin and Trotsky had to wage an energetic political struggle in the leadership of the Russian CP and the CI against the partisans of the offensive, at the head of whom stood Zinoviev, before imposing their point of view at the Third World Congress. It was upon Trotsky that the task devolved of showing that the international situation had been modified since 1919, that the taking of power was no longer on the agenda, but that the Communist Parties had to turn to the conquest of the masses: a condition for the struggle for power in the next phase of revolutionary advance.
To Lenin fell the task of denouncing, ‘wringing the neck’ of, the theory of the offensive, holding up to ridicule the puerile arguments of its defenders – the ‘kuneries’, as he called them, of Kun, as well as the boasting of the Italian Terracini, who took advantage of the Bolshevik example in order to excuse the small size of his own party.
Lenin joined Levi in denouncing the March Action. He was careful, in approving someone who had broken party discipline, not to anger those who, through discipline, and in good faith, had followed absurd slogans. He conveyed his inner thoughts to Clara Zetkin, who, very fortunately, later recounted them. Lenin thought that Levi’s criticism was justified. Unfortunately, he made it in a ‘unilateral, exaggerated and even malicious fashion’, in a way which ‘lacked a sense of solidarity with the party’. In short, ‘he lost his head’ and thus concealed the real problems from the party, which turned against him. For this he had to be condemned by the Congress and was. But Lenin added: ‘We must not lose Levi, both for ourselves and for the cause. We cannot afford to lose talented men, we must do what is possible to keep those that we have.’ Lenin declared himself ready, if Levi ‘behaved himself’ (for example, by working for the party under an assumed name), personally to ask for his re-admission after three or four months. ‘The important thing,’ he said, ‘is to leave the road open back to us.’
Speaking to Clara Zetkin of two workers, Melzahn and Neumann, supporters of Levi and delegates at the World Congress, who had even been reproached by hecklers for the posts which they held in the trade unions, while they replied by attacking ‘hair-splitting intellectuals’, Lenin said: ‘They are wonderful ... I do not know whether they will make shock troops, but there is one thing of which I am sure: it is people like these who make up the long columns with solid ranks of the revolutionary proletariat. It is on their unbreakable force that everything depends in the factories and the trade unions: these are the elements who must be assembled and led into action, it is through them that we are in contact with the masses.’ He added, speaking of the Independent leaders who had come to communism in 1920: ‘With them also patience is necessary, and one mustn’t think that the “purity of communism” is in danger if it sometimes happens that they do not succeed yet in finding a clear, precise expression of communist thought.’
Through these informal words of Lenin to the German militant can be seen the constant concern of the revolutionary leader for his party. Lenin saw that a leadership cannot be built in a few days by bureaucratic decisions, but develops and raises itself up in years of patient effort. It was vital not to ‘close the doors’ by purely negative attitudes to erring comrades but to aid them, develop a deep sense of the solidarity of the party and enable them to take their bearings. The party of the workers’ vanguard had to bring together different generations, comrades with varied experience: the young, the impatient, the ‘leftists’ together with the older, more solid and prudent, often ‘opportunist’ members. The intellectuals had to be brought into harness with the practical men of the trade unions. The contacts of the party had to be enriched and its understanding, consciousness and means of action developed by the qualities brought into it by people from very different, yet close, backgrounds: syndicalists, socialists, anarchists – who sought a common goal by different roads, like the proletariat itself. All these men had to be brought into a common struggle by a constant effort to construct the party, raise the level of its consciousness and by fighting to raise the level of the consciousness of the masses. ‘Learn, learn, learn! Agitate, agitate, agitate! Be prepared, prepared to the utmost in order to use the next revolutionary wave with all our conscious energy.’
These are the real lessons of the March Action. Thus, as Lenin stressed in a letter of August 14, 1921, to German militants, revolutionaries must learn ‘to determine correctly the times when the masses of the proletariat cannot rise with them’. Ten years later, in the face of the Nazi hordes, there would not be a revolutionary party in Germany, but a Stalinist party and a Social Democratic Party which equally shared the responsibility for the disaster of 1933. The responsibility of those who were unable to build the party which was necessary in Germany is no less crushing. After them, however, it is no longer possible to underestimate the difficulties of the enterprise, and to believe that it is enough to ‘proclaim’ ideas in order to win, without undertaking the hard labour of construction of the historic instrument for their victory.