Saturday, November 23, 2013

From The Archives-The Struggle To Win The Youth To The Fight For Our Communist Future-Join the Spartacus Youth Clubs!-What We Fight For

Logo Of The Communist Youth International

Markin comment on this series:

One of the declared purposes of this space is to draw the lessons of our left-wing past here in America and internationally, especially from the pro-communist wing. To that end I have made commentaries and provided archival works in order to help draw those lessons for today’s left-wing activists to learn, or at least ponder over. More importantly, for the long haul, to help educate today’s youth in the struggle for our common communist future. That is no small task or easy task given the differences of generations; differences of political milieus worked in; differences of social structure to work around; and, increasingly more important, the differences in appreciation of technological advances, and their uses.

There is no question that back in my youth I could have used, desperately used, many of the archival materials available today. When I developed political consciousness very early on, albeit liberal political consciousness, I could have used this material as I knew, I knew deep inside my heart and mind, that a junior Cold War liberal of the American For Democratic Action (ADA) stripe was not the end of my leftward political trajectory. More importantly, I could have used a socialist or communist youth organization to help me articulate the doubts I had about the virtues of liberal capitalism and be recruited to a more left-wing world view. As it was I spent far too long in the throes of the left-liberal/soft social-democratic milieu where I was dying politically. A group like the Young Communist League (W.E.B. Dubois Clubs in those days), the Young People’s Socialist League, or the Young Socialist Alliance representing the youth organizations of the American Communist Party, American Socialist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S.) respectively would have saved much wasted time and energy. I knew they were around but not in my area.

The archival material to be used in this series is weighted heavily toward the youth movements of the early American Communist Party and the Socialist Workers Party (U.S). For more recent material I have relied on material from the Spartacus Youth Clubs, the youth group of the Spartacist League (U.S.), both because they are more readily available to me and because, and this should give cause for pause, there are not many other non-CP, non-SWP youth groups around. As I gather more material from other youth sources I will place them in this series.

Finally I would like to finish up with the preamble to the Spartacist Youth Club’s What We Fight For statement of purpose:

"The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter."

This seems to me be somewhere in the right direction for what a Bolshevik youth group should be doing these days; a proving ground to become professional revolutionaries with enough wiggle room to learn from their mistakes, and successes. More later.

(Young Spartacus pages)

The Spartacus Youth Clubs intervene into social struggles armed with the revolutionary internationalist program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky. We work to mobilize youth in struggle as partisans of the working class, championing the liberation of black people, women and all the oppressed. The SYCs fight to win youth to the perspective of building the Leninist vanguard party that will lead the working class in socialist revolution, laying the basis for a world free of capitalist exploitation and imperialist slaughter.

1 Mobilize students behind the social power of the multiracial working class! Picket lines mean don’t cross! For union-run minority job recruitment and training programs! For union hiring halls! Down with union-busting “workfare” schemes! Jobs for all at union wages! Organize the unorganized! Unionize the South! Down with multi-tier wages, which pit younger and older workers against each other! Cops, prison guards, security guards out of the unions! Keep the bosses’ government and courts out of the unions!

2 Black oppression is the bedrock of racist American capitalism. Finish the Civil War! For black liberation through socialist revolution! For mass labor/black mobilizations to stop the fascists and race-terrorists! No to gun control! For the right of armed self-defense! No reliance on the capitalist courts or politicians! Fascist terror is not a question of “free speech.” Stop the Nazis! Stop the KKK!

3 For free, quality, integrated public education for all! Nationalize the private universities! Down with the racist purge of higher education—defend affirmative action, no to tuition hikes! No to budget cuts! For an end to tracking! For open admissions, no tuition and a state-paid living stipend for all students! Abolish the administration—the universities should be run by those who work and study there! Down with police occupation of public schools! Cops off campus!

4 For women’s liberation through socialist revolution! For mass, labor-backed mobilizations to defend abortion clinics! Down with parental consent laws and “squeal rules”! For free abortion on demand! For free, quality 24-hour childcare! For free, quality health care for all! Equal pay for equal work! Down with anti-gay laws! Down with reactionary age of consent laws! Full democratic rights for homosexuals! Government out of the bedroom! Down with the anti-sex witchhunt! Down with all laws against consensual activities, called “crimes without victims,” like pornography, gambling, drug use, prostitution and “statutory rape”!

5 Down with racist anti-immigrant laws! Full citizenship rights for all immigrants! Organize foreign-born workers into the unions! No deportations! No to racist “English only” laws! Down with anti-Hispanic, anti-Arab, anti-Asian, anti-Semitic and all racist bigotry!

6 Down with the “war on terror,” which is a war aimed at immigrants, labor, the left and minorities! Free all the detainees! Abolish the racist death penalty! Free Mumia Abu-Jamal! Free all class-war prisoners! There is no justice in the capitalist courts! Defend victims of racist cop terror and police frame-up! No illusions in civilian review boards or “community control” of the police! For labor mobilizations against racist cop terror! Down with the “war on drugs,” a racist war by the ruling class against black and Hispanic youth! The capitalist state—at its core consisting of the cops, courts, prisons—is the executive committee of the ruling class, an instrument of organized violence by the capitalists against the workers and the oppressed. It must be smashed through workers revolution!

7 Defend separation of church and state! Defend science against superstition and mysticism! Keep religion out of the schools! No prayer in the schools! Down with the teaching of creationism! For the teaching of evolution! No government funding for religious, private or “charter” schools!

8 Defeat U.S. imperialism through workers revolution! U.S. and allied forces out of Iraq, Afghanistan now! Down with the neocolonial occupations! For class struggle against U.S. capitalist rulers at home! No illusions in the UN—a den of imperialist thieves, their victims and their lackeys! All U.S./UN/NATO troops out of the Balkans, Haiti! For the right of independence for Puerto Rico! U.S. troops out of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean! U.S. imperialist butchers: hands off the world! No to the draft! Not one man, not one penny for the imperialist military! Drive ROTC, CIA and police recruiters off the campuses!

9 For international working-class solidarity! Down with the chauvinist poison of protectionism! Workers of the world, unite! For unconditional military defense of the deformed workers states of Cuba, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos against capitalist counterrevolution and imperialist attack! For workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucrats and establish regimes of workers democracy, based on the power of workers councils, and revolutionary internationalism!

10 Break with the racist, warmongering Democratic and Republican parties of capitalism! No support to any capitalist parties, including Greens! For a revolutionary, multiracial workers party that fights for socialist revolution! Look to the example of the heroic, Bolshevik-led workers of 1917 Russia! For new October Revolutions! For the international rule of the working class!

15 May 2011

The Spartacus Youth Clubs are the youth groups of the revolutionary Marxist Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League (Fourth Internationalist).
City College of New York-Reinstate the Morales/Shakur Center! Cops Off Campus!

(Young Spartacus pages)

Workers Vanguard No. 1034
15 November 2013

We reprint below an October 26 leaflet issued by the New York Spartacus Youth Club. The City College of New York (CCNY) is one of 24 public colleges and schools that make up the City University of New York (CUNY). As we go to press, the Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Community and Student Center, a room in CCNY’s North Academic Center (NAC), is still shut down with a sign above the door that reads, “Careers and Professional Development Institute.”

The Spartacus Youth Club denounces the outrageous eviction of the Morales/Shakur Center by the CCNY administration on October 20. As the Center was raided and all of its contents confiscated, campus cops shut down the entire NAC building, arresting a CUNY alumnus. The timing of this raid is no coincidence, coming off weeks of CUNY protests against the reinstatement of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) military recruiters and the appointment of war criminal David Petraeus as a visiting professor. At an anti-Petraeus protest on September 17, cops brutally attacked the crowd and six protesters were arrested, all part of an attempt by the CUNY administration to stifle leftist activism. The sinister eviction of the Morales/Shakur Center represents an attack on the democratic rights of all campus groups to organize. Reinstate the Morales/Shakur Center! Drop all charges against CUNY protesters! ROTC and Petraeus out of CUNY!

The Morales/Shakur Center was a space for leftist, minority and other student groups and community organizations to hold meetings and events. Assata Shakur is a former Black Panther who was framed up for the 1973 killing of a New Jersey state trooper. Guillermo Morales was a member of the FALN, a Puerto Rican nationalist group. Shakur is now being hunted by the FBI as part of a racist “anti-terror” vendetta.

The CUNY administration is currently considering a new draconian policy on “expressive activity,” i.e., campus protests. The proposed rules enhance the powers of the administration to crack down on protest and other political activity. Along with this attack on democratic rights, the CUNY Board of Trustees has been on a drive to make the city university more exclusive, making it harder for black, Latino, poor and immigrant students to attend. CCNY, which sits in the middle of Harlem, has seen the enrollment of black students plummet in the last 10 years, from 31.2% in 2001 to 14.4% in 2010. In 2011 a new round of tuition hikes was pushed through—accompanied by the violent repression of students who protested it. This was just the latest wave in a decades-long campaign to reverse the gains of the 1969 student strike, which won open admissions for high school graduates to CUNY’s community colleges and lowered entrance requirements at the four-year universities. In 1976 tuition was imposed for the first time in 129 years and has gone up steadily. Open admissions has been whittled away over the years, and was completely gutted in 1999. We fight for free, quality, integrated education with a full stipend! For open admissions! Abolish the student debt!

The Morales/Shakur Center was won in 1989 as a result of massive student struggle against tuition hikes at CUNY. But under capitalism these gains are always reversible. Universities under capitalism serve the purpose of upholding bourgeois ideology and training the next layer of technicians and managers. We hold no illusions in the administration to act in the interest of students—we say abolish the administration, for student-teacher-worker control of the university! In order to remove the universities from the control of the bourgeoisie, you need a workers revolution to sweep away the whole capitalist system. Students, who have no real social power to transform society, must ally with the multiracial working class which can bring production to a halt. To do away with the decaying capitalist system, we need a socialist revolution.

At the recent protests in defense of the Center, some students have expressed the view that the campus cops work for the students since the students pay tuition. The Revolutionary Student Coordinating Committee also peddles illusions that the cops can be pressured into serving students and the oppressed by calling for “any security force to be controlled by the community” (RSCC Platform). In reality the cops carry out the orders of the administration and the capitalist state, not the students. The role of all cops under capitalism is to defend the interests of the bourgeoisie—they cannot be reformed. The brutal enforcement of capitalist rule is their job, whether in the ghettos and barrios, on the picket lines, or on the campuses. Cops off campus!

With the mayoral elections approaching, students and workers are being told to place their hopes in the liberal populist de Blasio. The illusion is that this capitalist politician will bring some relief from the racist police brutality, union-busting and attacks on democratic rights that marked Bloomberg’s years. Don’t be fooled! Whether it’s through Wall Street Democrat Obama or more left-talking local politicians like de Blasio, Ydanis Rodriguez or Charles Barron—the Democratic Party is charged with defending the interests of the racist, imperialist capitalist system. And don’t forget it was Democrat Obama’s FBI that increased Assata Shakur’s bounty to $2 million. Break with the Democrats! We need a class-struggle workers party independent of and in opposition to all parties of capitalist rule. If you are interested in a program to get rid of capitalism and imperialism once and for all, check out the Marxist Spartacus Youth Club, youth group of the Spartacist League, and our paper, Workers Vanguard.
Let the Fire Burn-A Powerful Documentary on the 1985 Bombing of MOVE-A Review by Conor Kristofersen

Workers Vanguard No. 1034

15 November 2013

Let the Fire Burn-A Powerful Documentary on the 1985 Bombing of MOVE-A Review by Conor Kristofersen

On 13 May 1985, black Democratic mayor Wilson Goode and his city administration, acting in collaboration with the Feds, firebombed the West Philadelphia home of the MOVE organization, a mostly black, back-to-nature commune. It was the culmination of a daylong police siege, during which over 10,000 rounds of ammunition had been pumped into the house. With the Fire Department under orders to “let the fire burn,” high-pressure water cannon on site sat idle for over an hour. In the ensuing inferno, eleven people were incinerated, including five children, and hundreds were left homeless as an entire city block in the black working-class neighborhood was reduced to ashes.

The operation to “evict” those inside MOVE’s Osage Avenue home, which resembled more the leveling of a Vietnamese village, began with the proclamation: “Attention, MOVE. This is America!” Indeed, the hideous crime that followed was a concentrated expression of the racist state terror meted out to black people every day in capitalist America. None of the perpetrators ever faced charges, while Ramona Africa, the sole adult survivor, was arrested and served every day of a seven-year prison sentence. The only other person to make it out of the MOVE house alive was 13-year-old Birdie Africa, later known as Michael Ward, who recently died at the age of 41.

From the day of the massacre, and ever since, the Spartacist League has solidarized with the victims of this racist atrocity and vowed to sear it into the memory of the working class. The recently released documentary Let the Fire Burn is a valuable tool for this very purpose, making it a must-see. The director and producer, Jason Osder, has described in interviews the impact that the bombing of MOVE had on him as an eleven-year-old growing up in Philly. He spent more than ten years collecting clips from television news programs, police videos and other archival film footage that comprise the documentary. The result is a vivid chronicle of the day of the slaughter and its background, namely the ever-escalating cop vendetta against MOVE, a group that first appeared in 1972 denouncing “the system” and would come to proclaim the right of armed self-defense in the face of brutal state repression.

Minimal narration (in the form of captions) is given to this footage in an effort by Osder to force his viewers to “interpret and deal with” the events of May 13. What filmgoers are forced to deal with are the visceral and shocking images of mass murder by the state that the capitalist rulers would prefer for people to forget. There is no escaping the devastating explosion of MOVE’s roof, the flames that engulf Osage Avenue and the unapologetic racism of the cops. In one of the more shocking moments, cops can be heard laughing and joking in the background of a police video of the burning house: “They won’t call the police commissioner a motherf----r anymore!” The cover-up is also evident, with Mayor Goode and Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor shown blatantly lying and contradicting each other’s stories about who ordered who to put out the fire, if anyone had at all.

The bombing polarized the “city of brotherly love.” In its aftermath, liberals and virtually the entire left rushed to alibi Goode, Philly’s first black mayor, who vowed: “I’d do it again.” These apologists for Goode exuded disdain for the intended victims of racist state repression, even as they expressed shock at the “excessive” force and the harm done to b1acks whose houses were burned down in the process. Among those groups attempting to straddle the line between MOVE and its murderers was the Socialist Workers Party, which helped organize a May 30 demo in Philadelphia, purportedly to protest the massacre. We initially pledged to mobilize 100 supporters to stand with MOVE, which was planning to attend. But after the organizers had the gall to debate whether to censor MOVE at the protest, MOVE pulled out and in solidarity so did the SL. The demonstration was a travesty, with the emcee announcing that organizers “wanted it to be made very clear to the city administration and the City of Philadelphia that we are not marching today in support of MOVE” (Philadelphia Daily News, 31 May 1985).

Some weeks later, we held a public forum in New York City where MOVE supporters LaVerne Sims and Louise James were able to express their outrage and pain. In the discussion period, a member of the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP) rose to denounce us for not sufficiently polemicizing against MOVE—at a public meeting specifically called to honor the memory of the MOVE martyrs! To attack them would have been obscene. But that’s exactly what the LRP did. In its publication Proletarian Revolution (Summer 1985), the LRP blamed the victims, writing: “MOVE’s isolation opened it up for a police siege.”

The mass murder of MOVE members was a signature act of the Reagan years, which were marked by a concerted drive to reverse the gains of the civil rights movement and other social struggles of the 1960s and early ’70s. The bourgeoisie had also thrown down the gauntlet before the organized workers movement, exemplified in the mass firing of 13,000 striking members of the PATCO air traffic controllers union by the White House in 1981. This all-sided social reaction was the domestic reflection of U.S. imperialism’s Cold War push to “roll back Communism” internationally, from the threats of nuclear annihilation of the Soviet Union to efforts to crush leftist insurgents in Central America. Only days before the MOVE bombing, Reagan had returned from saluting Nazi SS graves in Bitburg, Germany.

As we wrote in our front-page article “Philly Inferno: Racist Murder!” (WV No. 380, 31 May 1985), which was part of our coverage of the atrocity reprinted in Black History and the Class Struggle No. 3 (February 1986):

“The Osage Avenue massacre was supposed to be a message to anybody who gets ‘out of line’ in Reagan’s America—blacks will get the Philly treatment, labor will get the PATCO treatment and everyone, not least the Marxists, will get the ‘terrorist’ treatment. But you can fight the terrorists in City Hall and the White House and win. Black people do have social power: they are concentrated in some of the key sections of the American proletariat, constituting its most militant layer. But to unlock this power means breaking the capitalist two-party stranglehold, fighting for a workers party to mobilize labor and oppressed blacks in revolutionary struggle against this racist, capitalist system. Avenge the Philly inferno—For black freedom through socialist revolution!”

Lies and Racist Mass Murder

For all its merits, Let the Fire Burn shies away from addressing a vital part of the story of the MOVE bombing: the fact that the responsibility for this horrendous crime went well beyond Mayor Wilson Goode and his ghoulish coterie of Philly cops and extended right up to the Ronald Reagan White House. The film leans heavily on footage of the investigation commission that was set up by Goode to absolve his administration but which nonetheless was compelled by the sheer magnitude of the massacre to reveal its horrors. Yet Let the Fire Burn does not even allude to some of the most important testimony before those hearings, which implicated the Feds in what was a carefully planned conspiracy to commit state terrorism.

Even before the commission was convened, chief Sambor told the New York Times (19 May 1985) that two days before the bombing he had gone over the assault plans with FBI agents, who “found the plan sound.” At the hearings, both Sambor and Goode’s managing director, Leo Brooks, who was nominally in charge of the operation, testified that the use of explosives had been planned for over a year. The commission obtained evidence from the FBI that agents had supplied Philly cops with nearly 40 pounds of the military explosive C-4. Other testimony before the commission revealed that the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms helped the city obtain military-grade arms for the assault, including Browning automatic rifles, an M-60 machine gun and an anti-tank gun.

Mayor Goode’s handpicked eleven-member commission would later seek to whitewash the coldblooded state murder in the report on the findings of its nine-month investigation. The commission acknowledged the obvious racism behind the assault and declared that the deaths of the five children “appear to be unjustified homicides.” At the same time, it called MOVE “an authoritarian violence-threatening cult,” implying the adults deserved to die!

Washington’s role was apparently too hot for the commission members to handle, so they went to absurd lengths to avoid implicating federal authorities. While noting that an FBI agent had delivered the C-4 plastic explosive to the Philadelphia police, the commission report claimed that “neither agency kept any records of the transaction.” As such, the report concluded that FBI officials “unwittingly furnished the commission with inaccurate and untruthful accounts of that agency’s involvement.”

Years-Long Campaign of State Terror

The film depicts the odd lifestyle and social views of MOVE and shows them shouting obscenities at their neighbors and the cops over outdoor loudspeakers. A wave of racist propaganda painting MOVE as violent crazies accompanied the 1985 slaughter. In Reagan’s America, to be black and a social nuisance was enough to be made a non-person and bombed to smithereens. In fact, the eclectic MOVE group reflects a long tradition in this country of attempted non-cooperation with the state on moral, religious or political grounds, from Quaker pacifists who refuse to fight in wars to right-wing tax resisters.

The cop vendetta against MOVE got its start at a time when Philadelphia was lorded over by Mayor Frank Rizzo, a law-and-order racist. In one scene in the film, he rails against a “vocal minority” that has supposedly gained undue influence over the country. Under his direction, police planted themselves on MOVE’s doorstep, hounding members and supporters every time they left their home. Arbitrary stops, beatings and arrests became the norm. In 1976, blackjack-wielding cops descended on a MOVE celebration, and in the resulting melee Janine Africa’s newborn infant was trampled to death.

Beginning in May 1977, the cops put MOVE under round-the-clock surveillance. The following March, police set up a full-scale barricade, sealing off a four-block area of MOVE’s Powelton Village commune with eight-foot-high fences and cutting off gas and water service. Early on August 8, 600 cops surrounded the home. One member of the Philly cops’ notorious “Stakeout” squad, James Ramp, was killed by his fellow cops when they opened fire on the house. In the documentary, a brief clip of a witness insistently pointing at the source of the gunfire is included, followed by the caption: “MOVE members believed there was a police cover-up and that officer Ramp was actually killed by friendly fire.”

Nine MOVE members were framed up for that killing and eight remain imprisoned to this day, one having died in prison. Radical journalist and former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal would become a supporter of MOVE in the course of reporting on the trial. Already known and despised by local police, Mumia became even more of a marked man as a result.

In the film, officers recounting the 1978 assault to the commission state that Delbert Africa emerged from the house with a knife and was then subdued. The documentary then jumps to footage of the scene showing an unarmed Delbert Africa with empty hands raised in the air. Cops proceed to almost beat him to death, slamming his head into the ground with their boots.

Little changed for the oppressed black masses after Rizzo left office in early 1980. The campaign against MOVE continued unabated for several years, building up to 13 May 1985. The documentary shows the overwhelming firepower deployed by the state that day: water cannons, tear gas, automatic weapons and, finally, the powerful mixture of Tovex and C-4 dropped by helicopter on the roof of MOVE’s Osage Avenue home. As the house burned, police were stationed at key locations in a back alley with shotguns and Uzis. When two MOVE members emerged from the blaze, one was gunned down by the cops and the other, a child, was driven back inside to die in the fire.

While some cops may relish it more than others, their job is to enforce racist law and order on behalf of the capitalist rulers. Toward the end of Let the Fire Burn, the film highlights the testimony before the commission by one cop who recalled leading Birdie Africa away after he emerged from the burning building. A caption concludes his story: the cop’s locker was later scrawled with the epithet “n----r lover” and he left the police force, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Of Racist Cops and Black Democrats

Going back before MOVE, Philadelphia was known for its killer cops. Foremost among them were those in the Stakeout unit, an urban death squad made up largely of veteran military sharpshooters. This squad was established by Rizzo, then-deputy police commissioner, as part of the drive by the city rulers to crush any expression of opposition to vicious racism and police brutality after the city’s black ghetto erupted in 1964. Together with the department’s “red squad,” it spearheaded the brutal repression of the Black Panther Party and other black militants in the city. Later, when the police turned their attention to MOVE, Stakeout cops again played a forward role, from the vicious beating of Delbert Africa to the shooting in the Osage Avenue alley seven years later.

The city itself was a bastion of racist reaction. In the 1920s, Pennsylvania had the fourth-largest Klan concentration in the country; the Philadelphia area alone had 30,000 Klansmen. The city’s capitalist rulers played on racial divisions to pit white workers against black workers, who were last-hired and first-fired. Ethnic and racial hostilities in Philadelphia were further exacerbated with the devastation of its heavy industry, particularly in the 1970s. In this context, the racist bonapartism of the Philadelphia police became even more pronounced as the cops were deployed to keep the lid on this pressure cooker of discontent.

Another reaction by the ruling class to black discontent and rebellion in Philadelphia, as well as other cities across the country, was to install black mayors to contain the rage and frustration. But Wilson Goode—who instructed the cops to get MOVE “by any means necessary” prior to the firebombing of West Philadelphia—is the ultimate proof that the black Democratic mayors were and are the frontmen for the bourgeoisie’s war on black people, as well as on workers and all the oppressed. In the aftermath of the fire, Jesse Jackson spotted in the charred remains of people’s lives a chance to push a little black capitalism. His main concern was that Goode hire black contractors to rebuild the destroyed homes!

From the 1921 bombing of black Tulsa, Oklahoma, to the 1993 incineration of the Branch Davidian religious sect outside Waco, Texas, the American capitalist rulers have a long history of mass murder of those considered to have stepped out of line. When it came to MOVE, authorities first branded them “terrorists” to justify their slaughter. As we noted shortly after the 1985 massacre: “Our duty to combat the state vendetta against MOVE is part of our unremitting campaign against the government’s targeting of troublesome opponents as ‘terrorists’” (WV No. 381, 14 June 1985). This is all the more the case today, with the bourgeoisie having amassed a vast arsenal of surveillance and police powers under the pretext of the “war on terror.” Ultimately, it will take a workers revolution to put the capitalist state apparatus of violence and murder out of business for good and bring justice to its hired thugs who have committed untold crimes.
From Death Row to “Slow Death Row”

Workers Vanguard No. 1034
15 November 2013

From Death Row to “Slow Death Row”

For over 20 years, a central focus of the PDC Holiday Appeals was the urgent fight to free Mumia Abu-Jamal from the executioner’s hands. A former Black Panther Party spokesman, renowned journalist and MOVE supporter, Mumia was framed for the 1981 killing of Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner and sentenced to die explicitly for his political beliefs. First taking up Mumia’s defense in 1987, the PDC and the Spartacist League made his case known through publicity and protest to a wide range of death penalty abolitionists, student groups, black activists and the labor movement. From the beginning, we fought for the understanding that the power of labor must be brought to bear in the fight to win Mumia’s freedom. Indeed, it was an outpouring of protest internationally, including by trade unionists, which helped win a stay of execution for Mumia in August 1995.

Mumia’s conviction was based on lying testimony extorted by the cops, a “confession” manufactured by the police and prosecutors and phony ballistics evidence. Time and again, federal and state courts refused to even consider the massive evidence that Mumia was innocent, including the confession of Arnold Beverly that he, not Mumia, shot and killed Faulkner. In December 2011, ten years after a ruling by a federal judge that overturned Mumia’s death sentence, the Philly district attorney’s office announced that it would no longer pursue Mumia’s legal lynching, finally removing him from death row to what he termed the “slow death row” of life in prison without possibility of parole.

The deprivation of basic rights that marked his trial and imprisonment continues unabated. For nearly a month after he was released from death row, Mumia was held in solitary confinement. Then in August 2012, he was secretly resentenced in direct violation of Pennsylvania law, which mandates a hearing where the prisoner has the right to be present and heard. Mumia’s appeal of that backroom sentencing, filed in February, was unanimously rejected in July by the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

It appears that Mumia’s legal efforts to win his freedom have now hit a brick wall—not even the prospect of parole awaits him. In commenting on the denial of his most recent appeal, Mumia told two PDC representatives who visited him in August that state authorities never want to see Mumia in their courtroom again. Despite this, Mumia remains strong, unbowed, politically engaged and writing prolifically. In addition to his own musical studies, we discussed the musical genius of Curtis Mayfield, the latest excrescences of the U.S. “war on terror,” the acquittal of Trayvon Martin’s killer, the documentary Long Distance Revolutionary about Mumia that was released early this year, the struggle to finally win the right to a contact visit with his son Jamal Hart and the prospects of a Miami Heat “three-peat.”

It has been many years since thousands took to the streets for Mumia. As the PDC said after the D.A.’s efforts to kill him were abandoned: “The state authorities hope with the latest decision that Mumia’s cause will be forgotten and that he will rot in prison hell until he dies. This must not be Mumia’s fate.”
From the Archives of Workers Vanguard-1991-92 Capitalist Counterrevolution-Why the Soviet Workers
Did Not Rise Up

Workers Vanguard No. 1034
15 November 2013


From the Archives of Workers Vanguard-1991-92 Capitalist Counterrevolution-Why the Soviet Workers Did Not Rise Up

In our last issue, we marked the anniversary of the 1917 October Revolution with the article “The Proletarian Revolution in Russia” (WV No. 1033, 1 November). Fighting against the revolution’s degeneration under Stalinist misrule, Leon Trotsky insisted that defense of the Soviet workers state against its imperialist and domestic class enemies was an essential precondition to fighting for proletarian political revolution to oust the bureaucratic usurpers.

Based on this understanding, the International Communist League intervened into the crucial events touched off by Boris Yeltsin’s U.S.-backed power grab in August 1991, with our comrades in Russia distributing over 100,000 copies of a leaflet titled “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!” However, in the absence of mass working-class resistance, Yeltsin’s forces eventually consolidated power. A historic defeat for the international proletariat, capitalist restoration meant social catastrophe for the Soviet working people, a fate that would surely befall the masses in China and the other remaining deformed workers states in the event of a victorious counterrevolution.

Accommodating the bourgeois “death of communism” lie, self-styled Marxists worldwide rushed to remove any taint of association with Bolshevism. In contrast, the ICL drew the lessons of the bitter defeat in the former Soviet Union in order to go forward in the struggle for new October Revolutions. Below we reprint excerpts from our article “How the Soviet Workers State Was Strangled,” which appeared in WV No. 564 (27 November 1992) and later in a pamphlet of the same name.

*   *   *

Since rising to power over the backs of the Soviet working class through a political counterrevolution in 1923-24, the Stalinist bureaucracy imposed a suffocating isolation on the first workers state, suppressing one international revolutionary opportunity after another. In the name of building “socialism in one country,” the Stalinists—through terror and lies—methodically attacked and eroded every aspect of the revolutionary and internationalist consciousness which had made the Soviet working class the vanguard detachment of the world proletariat.

The isolated workers state was subjected to the unremitting pressures of imperialism, not only military encirclement and an arms buildup aimed at bankrupting the Soviet economy, but also the pressure of the imperialist world market. As Trotsky wrote in The Third International After Lenin: “it is not so much military intervention as the intervention of cheaper capitalist commodities that constitutes perhaps the greatest immediate menace to Soviet economy.” Although the planned economy proved its superiority over capitalist anarchy during its period of extensive growth, as the need for quality and intensive development came to the fore the bureaucratic stranglehold more and more undermined the economy. Finally, through his perestroika “market reforms” and acquiescence to capitalist restoration throughout East Europe, Gorbachev opened wide the floodgates to a direct counterrevolutionary onslaught by Yeltsin & Co.

The bourgeoisie and the Stalinists alike have long sought to identify Lenin’s October with Stalin’s conservative bureaucratic rule. But nationalist Stalinism is the antithesis of Leninist internationalism. The Soviet degenerated workers state (and the deformed workers states which later arose on the Stalinist model) was a historic anomaly, resulting from the isolation of economically backward Russia and the failure of proletarian revolution to spread to the advanced imperialist countries. Stalinism represented a roadblock to progress toward socialism. As Trotsky wrote in “Not a Workers’ and Not a Bourgeois State?” (November 1937):

“That which was a ‘bureaucratic deformation’ is at the present moment preparing to devour the workers’ state, without leaving any remains, and on the ruins of nationalized property to spawn a new propertied class. Such a possibility has drawn extremely near.”

While the Stalinist regime was able to prolong its existence as a result of the heroic victory of the Soviet masses over the Nazi invasion in World War II, Trotsky’s Marxist analysis has ultimately, unfortunately, been vindicated in the negative.

Why did the Soviet working class not rally to defend its gains? How did the counterrevolution triumph and destroy the workers state without a civil war? In his seminal 1933 work laying out the perspective of proletarian political revolution, Trotsky polemicized against social democrats and proponents of various “new class” theories who claimed that under Stalin’s rule, the Soviet Union had imperceptibly changed from a workers to a bourgeois state without any qualitative transformation of either the state apparatus or the property forms:

“The Marxist thesis relating to the catastrophic character of the transfer of power from the hands of one class into the hands of another applies not only to revolutionary periods, when history sweeps madly ahead, but also to the periods of counterrevolution, when society rolls backwards. He who asserts that the Soviet government has been gradually changed from proletarian to bourgeois is only, so to speak, running backwards the film of reformism.”

—“The Class Nature of the Soviet State” (October 1933)

There was certainly nothing gradual or imperceptible about the social counterrevolution in the ex-USSR, which has been extremely violent and convulsive throughout the former Soviet bloc. However, Trotsky also advanced the prognosis that a civil war would be required to restore capitalism in the Soviet Union and undo the deepgoing proletarian revolution.

In a wide-ranging discussion in the ICL two years ago on the counterrevolutionary overturns in East Europe and the DDR (East Germany), it was noted that Trotsky had overdrawn the analogy between a social revolution in capitalist society and social counterrevolution in a deformed workers state (see Joseph Seymour, “On the Collapse of Stalinist Rule in East Europe,” and Albert St. John, “For Marxist Clarity and a Forward Perspective,” Spartacist No. 45-46, Winter 1990-91). Where the capitalists exercise direct ownership over the means of production, and thus are compelled to violently resist the overthrow of their system in order to defend their own property, the preservation of proletarian power depends principally on consciousness and organization of the working class.

Trotsky himself emphasized this point in his 1928 article “What Now?”:

“The socialist character of our state determined and secured in a decisive measure by the role of the party, the voluntary internal cohesion of the proletarian vanguard, the conscious discipline of the administrators, trade union functionaries, members of the shop nuclei, etc.”

—The Third International After Lenin

And again, in “The Workers’ State, Thermidor and Bonapartism” (February 1935), he stated: “In contradistinction to capitalism, socialism is built not automatically but consciously.”

When Trotsky wrote these articles, the memory of the October Revolution was still a part of the direct personal experience of the overwhelming mass of the Soviet proletariat, albeit already considerably warped by Stalinist falsification and revision. In the intervening decades, the nationalist bureaucracy did much to extirpate any real understanding of what came to be iconized as the “Great October Socialist Revolution.” In Soviet mass consciousness, World War II, dubbed by the Stalinists the “Great Patriotic War” and suffused with the Russian-nationalist propaganda Stalin churned out during the war, came to supplant the October Revolution as the epochal event in Soviet history. In the end, Stalin and his heirs succeeded in imprinting their nationalist outlook on the Soviet peoples; proletarian internationalism came to be sneered at as an obscure “Trotskyite heresy” of “export of revolution” or, at best, emptied of any content while paid cynical lip service.

With Gorbachev’s “new thinking”—i.e., his cringing capitulation to each and every imperialist ultimatum—even lip service to the ideals of the Bolshevik Revolution went by the boards. The Soviet soldiers who had been told, and believed, that they were fulfilling their “internationalist duty” in fighting against the reactionary Afghan mujahedin on the USSR’s border, were then maligned for perpetrating “Russia’s Vietnam” against Afghanistan. Gorbachev’s ignominious pullout from Afghanistan and his green light to the imperialist annexation of the DDR served only to further a sense of defeatism and demoralization among the Soviet masses, while the so-called Stalinist “patriots” who denounced Gorbachev’s concessions did so only to beat the drums for Great Russian imperial ambitions, explicitly harking back to the time of the tsars.

Even so, the spontaneous strikes which erupted in the Soviet coal fields in the summer of 1989 against the ravages of Gorbachev’s “market socialism” dramatically demonstrated the potential for militant working-class struggle. As Russian social democrat Boris Kagarlitsky documents in his book Farewell Perestroika (1990), the strike committees in many areas became “the actual centre of popular power,” organizing food distribution, maintaining order, etc. As we pointed out at the time, the Kuzbass strikes “have quickly generated organizational forms of proletarian power, including strike committees and workers militias” (“Soviet Workers Flex Their Muscle,” WV No. 482, 21 July 1989).

These developments pointed to the possibility of authentic soviets, which—by drawing in collective farmers, women, pensioners, soldiers and officers—could have served as the basis for a new proletarian political power, ousting the bureaucracy through a political revolution. But when the Gorbachev regime reneged on its promises to the miners, pro-imperialist agitators trained by the “AFL-CIA” moved into the vacuum of leadership and set up the Independent Miners Union, organizing an activist minority of the miners as a battering ram for Yeltsin.

However, a majority of the miners as well as the rest of the Soviet working class remained passive in the three-sided contest between the Yeltsin-led “democrats,” Gorbachev and the more conservative wing of the Stalinists. The mass of workers were wary, if not outright hostile, to the pro-Western advocates of a “market economy.” Unlike in Poland during the rise of Solidarność​, the forces of capitalist counterrevolution were not able to mobilize the Soviet masses in the name of anti-Communism.

At the same time, the bureaucratic elite (the so-called nomenklatura) was totally discredited by the flagrant corruption and cynicism of the Brezhnev era. Occasional appeals to defend “socialism” made by the more conservative elements of the Gorbachev regime, such as Yegor Ligachev, fell on deaf ears. The Stalinist “patriots,” organized for example in the United Front of Toilers (OFT), were able to mobilize only a relatively small number of worker activists.

Atomized and bereft of any anticapitalist leadership, lacking any coherent and consistent socialist class consciousness, skeptical about the possibility of class struggle in the capitalist countries, the Soviet working class did not rally in resistance against the encroaching capitalist counterrevolution. And, as Trotsky noted in The Third International After Lenin: “If an army capitulates to the enemy in a critical situation without a battle, then this capitulation completely takes the place of a ‘decisive battle,’ in politics as in war.”...

The proletariat which made the October Revolution learned from Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks that it was part of an international struggle. It understood that its only prospect for survival lay in the extension of the revolution to more advanced industrial powers, chiefly Germany. The opportunities were manifold, but the revolutionary parties outside Soviet Russia were too weak and politically immature to pursue them. The German Spartakist uprising of 1918-19 and the 1919 Hungarian Commune went down to bloody defeat. The possibility of the Red Army marching to the aid of the German workers in 1920 by unleashing proletarian revolution in Pilsudski’s Poland was foiled. Finally, with the defeat of the German October in 1923, the Soviet proletariat succumbed to the demoralizing prospect of a lengthy period of isolation, which allowed the bureaucratic layer headed by Stalin to usurp political power. Thus was the revolution betrayed.

But this betrayal did not go unchallenged. The Left Opposition of Leon Trotsky continued the struggle for the authentic program of Leninism. In its struggle to defend and extend Soviet power, the Left Opposition urged a policy of planned industrialization to revive the enervated proletariat and enable the isolated workers state to hold out against imperialist encirclement. The Trotskyists fought uncompromisingly against the nascent bureaucracy’s Great Russian chauvinism. They fought against the treacherous policies emanating from “socialism in one country,” in the first instance the subversion of the Chinese Revolution of 1925-27 and the Anglo-Russian trade-union bloc which led to the knifing of the 1926 British General Strike. This led to the subordination of the German working class to Hitler’s jackboot, to the outright suppression of the Spanish revolution in the late 1930s. By selling out revolutionary opportunities at the end of World War II, particularly in Italy, France and Greece, Stalinism enabled capitalism to survive, and thus prepared the way for its own ultimate demise.

With the utter liquidation of the Communist International as an instrument for world revolution, Trotsky organized the founding of the Fourth International in 1938. Today the International Communist League fights for the rebirth of the Fourth International, whose cadre were decimated by Stalinist and Hitlerite terror and which finally succumbed in the early 1950s to an internal revisionist challenge which denied the need for an independent revolutionary leadership. Only as part of the struggle to reforge an authentic world party of socialist revolution can the workers of the former Soviet Union cohere the leadership they need to sweep away the grotesque horrors they now confront.
Workers Vanguard No. 1034
15 November 2013

U.S. Imperialists Squirm over Exposures

Spying and Lying in the Belly of the Beast

The highly secretive National Security Agency (NSA) has found details of its snooping activities splashed across the front pages of newspapers the world over ever since its former analyst Edward Snowden made off with a cache of documents earlier this year. Recent disclosures over U.S. surveillance of foreign heads of state have now put the White House in an awkward spot. For its part, the NSA baldly presents itself as the very guardian of democracy. In the words of the agency’s own (classified) five-year plan, its electronic eavesdroppers “hold the moral high ground, even as terrorists or dictators seek to exploit our freedoms.” In reality, the billions of electronic intercepts the NSA has amassed are simply the covert face of U.S. imperialism’s drive to dominate the world. In the seventy years that the U.S. has been the top imperialist power, millions have been slaughtered in wars to enforce its domination.

Snowden, and before him Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange, deserve full credit for revelations that at great personal cost have chipped away at the imperialists’ facade of piety. The spying scandal has brought additional discomfort to an administration that lost face when it had to back down from an attack on Syria and then found its credibility further damaged when it bungled the implementation of its signature health care law. The White House is attempting to cover up its responsibility for the “excesses” of the American snoops with an outpouring of lies, obfuscations and two-faced apologies. President Obama has surpassed his predecessor when it comes to invading privacy, shredding basic democratic rights and enhancing covert police powers. Meanwhile, Congressmen who voted to pour oceans of money into the NSA (its 2013 budget request was $10.8 billion) have feigned surprise over the extent of spying.

An article by Henry Farrell and Martha Finnemore in the November/December issue of Foreign Affairs makes the obvious point that nothing has been revealed thus far about NSA spying that was really unexpected. The authors observe, “The deeper threat that leakers such as Manning and Snowden pose is more subtle than a direct assault on U.S. national security: they undermine Washington’s ability to act hypocritically and get away with it.” Hypocrisy is a necessary component of the democratic form of capitalist class rule. It is a sugar coating that masks the bitter taste of the exploitation and oppression inherent to capitalist society.

While attempting to lull the masses with hypocrisy, the bosses also employ the cops, the courts, the military and the prisons as the fundamental guardians of their rule. The NSA’s massive accumulation of data facilitates the depredations of U.S. imperialism abroad as well as state control over the American population, including the repression of those who defy the dictates of the capitalist rulers. Never far from the minds of the exploiters is the working class, the only force with the cohesion and social power to overthrow capitalist rule.

The “war on terror” is a convenient fiction, a political crusade that has provided the U.S. bourgeoisie with a pretext for enhancing its repressive arsenal. This apparatus of state terror will be brought to bear in any future upsurge in workers struggle, when the capitalists’ war against labor militancy again flares up. In the 1886 Haymarket massacre, Chicago police attacked workers rallying for the eight-hour day and arrested eight anarchist labor organizers who were subsequently framed up and imprisoned or executed. After World War I, thousands of foreign-born radicals were deported in an attempt to quash the labor militancy that had been ignited in the U.S. by the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia. After World War II, the McCarthy witchhunts purged the reds who built the CIO industrial union federation from the labor movement.

U.S. Spying and the European Bourgeoisies

For their truth telling, Snowden, Manning and Assange have all become targets of the American capitalist rulers. Chelsea Manning, then known as Bradley, was charged under the 1917 Espionage Act, convicted and sentenced in August to 35 years in prison for the “crime” of exposing U.S. imperialism’s atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Assange, trapped in the Ecuadorean Embassy in London, is the target of a CIA manhunt for publishing Manning’s revelations on WikiLeaks. Snowden depends precariously on a one-year residency permit granted by Russian president Vladimir Putin, who nonetheless described the NSA’s mass surveillance programs as “the way a civilized society should go about fighting terrorism.” Some German politicians have now mooted offering Snowden political asylum in exchange for his testimony about U.S. spying.

Capitalist rulers like German chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff are no doubt dismayed that the wheelings and dealings conducted on their cell phones have become the property of the NSA. Merkel, who is seen as the Torquemada of European Union (EU) austerity, and Rousseff, who faces increasing economic discontent at home, have opted to enhance their reputations by demagogically indicting the excesses of the American behemoth and posturing as champions of privacy rights that the U.S. government is trampling.

But the great power competitors of U.S. imperialism are themselves well practiced in turning the tools of espionage against their own populations. Soon after the French and German governments made a show of outrage over the NSA bugging their diplomatic offices, it was revealed that the two EU heavyweights were engaged in the same kind of domestic mass data collection as the NSA, sharing information with the Americans. Among the “Success Stories” trumpeted in one classified NSA document made available by Snowden is the German government modifying its interpretations of privacy laws “to afford the BND [intelligence service] more flexibility in sharing protected information with foreign partners.”

Germany has long been miffed by its exclusion from the Five Eyes—the alliance of the U.S., Britain and the junior imperialist suckerfish of Canada, Australia and New Zealand, which supposedly allows these partners access to virtually all of each other’s intelligence. Britain has, to date, been especially zealous in its defense of the U.S. super spies. Invoking anti-terror law, British authorities detained David Miranda, the partner of reporter Glenn Greenwald who published Snowden’s initial revelations, at Heathrow airport for almost nine hours supposedly to divest him of 58,000 NSA electronic documents. Earlier, the Government Communications Headquarters, the British equivalent of the NSA, had overseen the destruction of a copy of Snowden’s files held at the offices of the Guardian newspaper. (Several other copies remain.)

American “Democracy”: Capitalist Class Dictatorship

The U.S. capitalist class—in whose interests the spying is carried out—is concerned with the impact that the exposures might have on future dealings with their European counterparts. Most concerned are the giant information processors—Google, Yahoo et al.—who fear that the decline in business of late will only continue, as the bulk of them are known to have readily provided the NSA with access to their data. Google executive Eric Schmidt is attempting to bluff his way out of trouble by feigning outrage against the NSA data burglars.

Many Americans are given to self-exposure on the Net and accustomed to having their personal data looted by Google, Yahoo and the rest on the behalf of advertisers. But the massive scope of snooping has raised the temperature of an American populace increasingly disgusted with a Congress and a president that have done nothing to alleviate the ravages of the Great Recession.

Even as he tries to give the impression that he wants to rein in spying, Obama has been loath to acknowledge any wrongdoing. In fact, his administration has stated that there is no alternative to the bulk collection of data, offering only that the NSA could perhaps destroy the information it has stockpiled after three years instead of the current five—as a sop to those naive enough to believe that the data will ever be destroyed. When it matters to the bourgeoisie, however, Obama seems magically able to adjust the electronic surveillance machine, as witnessed by his recent assurance to Merkel that her cell phone was not currently bugged.

More retreats and apologies may lie ahead as the web of U.S. surveillance is further brought to light. There is some movement in Congress to modify sections of the Patriot Act, with a few politicians suggesting its repeal. Among the lawmakers expressing some dismay at the extent of snooping is Republican Jim Sensenbrenner, an author of the Patriot Act who now wants to put “reasonable limits” on it. The Freedom Act, the draft legislation that he has sponsored, is supported by a range of right-wing libertarians and civil-rights groups like the ACLU. It would be welcome if such efforts created some speed bumps for the agents of U.S. imperialism. It would be foolish to believe that reforms will ever significantly impede the imperialists’ spying on whomever they want whenever they want. In fact, rival legislation from Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein would simply provide a solid legal footing for across-the-board surveillance, explicitly authorizing the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.

The NSA was founded in 1952 by secret order of Democratic president Harry Truman, mainly to spy on the Soviet Union during the Cold War. It greatly expanded during the late 1960s and early ’70s, as the government targeted radicals, Vietnam antiwar activists and black militants. Recently revealed documents indicate that the NSA viewed its very own Operation Minaret program, under which it spied on everyone from Martin Luther King to Jane Fonda, as “disreputable if not outright illegal.” This program complemented the FBI’s COINTELPRO, which began as a spying operation on the Communist Party and later unleashed murderous repression against Black Panther militants. After the Watergate scandal in the early 1970s and under the impact of the social struggles of that period, some of this sordid history was made public through the investigation and hearings of the Senate’s 1975-76 Church Committee.

Among the measures adopted to curb NSA/CIA spying following the Church hearings was the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). Sponsored by the liberal icon Democratic senator Ted Kennedy, this legislation set up a special secret court to vet requests for “national security” wiretaps. FISA, or some similar oversight body, is invoked in many of today’s proposed NSA reforms. In reality, FISA has served as a doormat for the NSA on its way to securing warrants for its clandestine data raids. In its first 33 years, the court denied only eleven of nearly 34,000 wiretap applications! The annual statistics provided to Congress put the current application approval rate at over 99 percent.

The capitalist rulers, a tiny minority of the population who live off the labor of the working class, depend on lying, spying and violence to keep the majority of the population underfoot. Diplomatic skullduggery, which Obama in a rare moment of candor referred to as “how intelligence services operate,” is a means to maneuver for influence, markets and cheap labor. When the working class took power in Russia after the 1917 October Revolution, the Bolsheviks who led the revolution published the secret World War I treaties concluded by the prior tsarist and Provisional Government regimes with their imperialist allies, exposing the war as a quest for plunder. With that stroke, the Bolsheviks demonstrated that they abandoned all hypocrisy and lies in addressing the workers of other nations, while continuing to employ all necessary subterfuge and deceit in dealings with the domestic and imperialist forces of counterrevolution.

In 1923-24, a parasitic bureaucracy headed by Stalin usurped political power from the Soviet proletariat (see article on page 2). The bureaucracy’s police apparatus would be used to suppress all opponents of the regime, not only counterrevolutionaries but especially communist oppositionists, first and foremost the Trotskyists, who fought against the Stalinists’ betrayal of the struggle for world socialist revolution. Meanwhile, the Kremlin’s foreign spy service targeted the imperialists as well as, at times, working-class struggle in other countries, such as during the Spanish Civil War.

For their part, the U.S. and other imperialist countries built up armies of spies to serve the drive for capitalist restoration in the USSR. With the destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the common enemy of the imperialists was removed. Subsequently, their clandestine operations were directed more to gaining advantage over one another, even as military and economic pressure has been kept on China and the other remaining deformed workers states.

Spying and treachery between states will persist until international proletarian revolution erases the basis for national antagonisms and sets the stage for the withering away of the state. After that, as Karl Marx’s collaborator Friedrich Engels eloquently explained, “State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production” (Anti-Dühring, 1878).
BART Strike Ends with Blood on Tracks

Workers Vanguard No. 1033
1 November 2013

Bosses Kill Own Scabs

BART Strike Ends with Blood on Tracks

The second Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) strike in the last four months ended late October 21 with the leaders of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1021 and Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1555 announcing that they had a deal with management. Their 2,400 members were told to take down their picket lines and return to work without even knowing the terms of the agreement, much less getting to vote on it. For her part, BART general manager Grace Crunican announced that “this offer is more than we wanted to pay.” Indeed, the aim of the BART bosses was to force the unions into total submission to their “last, best, final offer,” if not to bust them entirely.

They didn’t succeed. But no credit is due to the misleaders of the BART unions, who went far more than half way down the road to meet management’s demands for concessions. The very first day of the four-day strike, a joint statement by the ATU and SEIU tops offered to get the trains back up and running, noting their “100 percent” agreement with the bosses’ demands that union members start shelling out pension contributions from their wages and up their health care payments more than a third. They further offered to submit management’s demands for unilateral authority over crucial workplace rules on scheduling, discipline and other issues to binding arbitration, i.e., to the agents of the capitalist state. The BART bosses weren’t budging. They wanted the unions to crawl back under management’s terms. But in the end they were foiled by their own vicious arrogance and literally deadly stupidity.

It all blew up in the early afternoon of the second day of the strike when two of management’s own scabs working on the tracks were run over and killed by a BART train operated by scab trainees. It was practice for operating a skeletal strikebreaking service. Initially, the transit bosses simply lied through their teeth. Denying that this was a practice run, they said the train was simply being moved to another yard to have graffiti cleaned off and that it was being run automatically, not for training. These lies were exposed by an investigator from the National Transportation Safety Board who reported that the train was carrying six BART employees “for training and maintenance purposes.” Two of them shared time in the driver’s seat, backed by an “experienced trainer,” while the train was being run automatically, traveling at 60 to 70 miles per hour.

Before the strike, it was widely acknowledged that the BART bosses had plans to set up such a strikebreaking operation between Oakland and San Francisco. But this operation went down with the severed bodies of the two scabs killed on the tracks. Their lies exposed, the BART bosses settled for an agreement that wasn’t the total rout they were aiming for. While hardly a victory for the workers, they did not go back with their tails between their legs to be subjected to the untrammeled dictates of management. Nor do many workers think they will get much better under their current union misleaders. What is vital now is for union militants to draw the lessons from this strike to prepare for future battles.

The Partnership of Capital and Labor Is a Lie!

Writing about the 1936 West Coast Maritime strike, American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon observed:

“A good deal is said about strike ‘strategy’—and that has its uses within certain clearly defined limits—but when you get down to cases this strike, like every other strike, is simply a bullheaded struggle between two forces whose interests are in constant and irreconcilable conflict. The partnership of capital and labor is a lie. The immediate issue in every case is decided by the relative strength of the opposing forces at the moment. The only strike strategy worth a tinker’s dam is the strategy that begins with this conception.”

—“The Maritime Strike,” 28 November 1936 from Notebook of an Agitator (1958)

No such conception guided the strategy of the BART union leaders. On the contrary, they peddle the myth of a “BART family,” the workers and the bosses all in it together to make the system work. The class line is so foreign to the bureaucrats that they organized to mourn the death of the BART track engineer and contractor who were killed doing scab duty for management.

Pointing to the $100 million in cuts to wages, benefits and working conditions that they dealt away in 2009 to bail management out of a supposed budget shortfall, the BART union leaders this time argued that it was only fair for the workers to be rewarded for their sacrifice. But it doesn’t work that way. This system is based on production for profit, and even though it is supposedly a “public service” BART works on the same principle. Increasing their profits means driving down the cost of labor. Under capitalism, this is a constant and ongoing war, in “good times” as well as bad. The only thing that alters that calculus is class struggle, i.e., when workers withdraw their labor and cut off the flow of profits, mobilizing their allies behind them.

The BART bosses came into negotiations prepared for war. A notorious union-buster, Thomas Hock of Veolia Transportation, was brought in at the price of some $400,000 to head the negotiations. Hock and Veolia have a vicious anti-union record stretching from Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Arizona to Boston and further across the globe. As an ATU leader in Arizona—where bus drivers waged a six-day strike against Veolia in Tempe and Phoenix—put it: “If Hock can bust a union, he will.” But instead of preparing the ranks for battle, as the clock ran down on the contract expiration at the end of June, the leaders of ATU Local 1555 went looking for allies in the camp of the capitalist class enemy, appealing to California’s Democratic Party governor Jerry Brown to impose a 60-day “cooling off” period.

Four days into the first strike at the beginning of July, Brown pressed the union tops to call off the strike. They happily obliged, ordering their members back to work. Returning to the negotiating table, SEIU leader Roxanne Sanchez warned that if management didn’t agree to a deal “we will be prepared for the bloodiest, longest strike since the 1970s.”

The massive labor battles in the Bay Area at that time are indeed instructive in demonstrating both the power of labor and the treachery of the trade-union bureaucrats. In San Francisco in 1974, a strike that began with SEIU city workers spread to hospitals and closed the city sewage treatment plant. At the height of these strike actions, workers in San Francisco’s MUNI system, AC Transit and BART shut down all public transit within and to the city. Two years later in 1976, MUNI workers again halted the buses for over a month in solidarity with a strike by city craft workers. The determination and militancy of the workers from the city unions and MUNI to longshore was such that the Central Labor Council voted to prepare for a general strike.

But the union bureaucrats folded under pressure from the SF Democratic Party administration of “progressive” mayor George Moscone, preferring defeat to unleashing the unions in an all-out battle against the city’s rulers. They were “rewarded” when Moscone unleashed a barrage of anti-union propositions. Today, Democratic Party politicians who were heavily bankrolled by the unions are leading the charge for legislation outlawing transit strikes. Here again is the bitter fruit of the bureaucrats’ prostration before the Democrats, promoting a party that no less than the Republicans represents the bosses’ interests.

On the other side of the coin, the 1974-76 strikes showed the power of labor that lies in its solidarity, collective organization and above all the ability to shut down production, transportation and other operations. For all Sanchez’s bluster, such a fighting unity of the workers was not to be seen during the BART strike. Far from it. Throughout the strike, the ATU and SEIU maintained separate picket lines rather than mobilizing their forces together in mass pickets to hit the bosses where it would hurt.

They had ready allies in the 1,500 overwhelmingly black East Bay bus drivers and mechanics at AC Transit, who have twice now overwhelmingly voted down sellout deals made by their union leadership. Had BART workers picketed AC Transit bus barns, this could have brought these workers out, shutting down another key lifeline in the Bay Area’s integrated transit system. That would have meant defying the bosses’ laws. There would be no unions at all in this country if workers hadn’t waged pitched battles against the bosses and their government, cops and courts. In contrast to this history, in the midst of the BART strike the AC Transit union tops in ATU Local 192 readily bowed before the imposition of a 60-day cooling off period. The AC Transit workers now face going it alone.

As we wrote after the BART union leaders called off the July strike: “The unions are elementary defense organizations of the working class against unbridled exploitation. The purpose of union leadership should be to lead their ranks in struggle. Instead, the union bureaucrats act like labor-management consultants keeping labor ‘peace’ while begging for a few crumbs” (“Union Tops Call Off BART Strike,” WV No. 1027, 12 July). Why? Because the purpose of trade-union officials, so aptly described by early American socialist leader Daniel De Leon as the “labor lieutenants of capital,” is to ensure the subordination of the workers’ interests to the interests of their exploiters. Indeed, even the notion that there is a working class in this country has been deep-sixed by the bureaucrats, who present the unions as defending the “middle class.”

The beginning of wisdom for those looking for a road forward for the working class is the understanding, as Cannon put it, that the “partnership of capital and labor is a lie.” If labor is to win some battles for a change, it must fight them out class against class, independent from and in opposition to the bosses, the government and all of the political parties of the class enemy.

The Road of the Class Struggle

During the BART strike, there certainly was no lack of raw class hatred whipped up by the bourgeois media. Alongside the well-heeled professionals employed in San Francisco’s financial district, the filthy rich high-tech moguls in Silicon Valley let loose with a union-hating barrage and barely concealed racist contempt for the highly integrated BART unions. One of these self-perceived “masters of the universe” declared: “Get ’em back to work, pay them whatever they want, and then figure out how to automate their jobs so this doesn’t happen again.” Given the outcome of BART management’s efforts to get an automated scab system going, we can only recommend the bosses of cyberspace be the first to take a ride on a totally automated BART train.

The BART bosses are a danger not just to the safety of the workers but also to the lives of the 400,000 people who ride these trains daily. To get something of an idea, consider the mangled bodies of the more than 90 people who were killed when a train being run by an untrained scab motorman ran off the tracks during a 1918 transit strike in New York City. In the decades since, the city’s transit bosses have never again tried to run such a scab operation.

Operating the BART trains is highly complex and requires a great deal of skill. There are no train conductors, so the drivers are on their own. For decades, under a BART company policy called “simple approval,” track workers have been made to do repairs while trains continued to run at full speed without being told when a train was approaching. The declared purpose was to force the workers to remain vigilant! Five years ago, BART worker James Strickland was killed on the tracks when struck from behind by a train that had been single-tracked without his knowing. According to an SEIU 1021 statement, over the past ten years BART management has authorized spending “more than $300,000 to fight state safety regulators.” Now under investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board, the BART bosses have announced that they are temporarily shelving “simple approval.”

When the lives of the BART track engineer and contractor were cut down, the unions were well-positioned to win allies from the riding public in the fight for safety and to put paid to the bosses’ campaign against them as “greedy” workers bilking the public purse. Instead, ATU Local 1555 pulled down its picket lines, and both unions held vigils mourning the deaths of people who at management’s behest had crossed their picket lines. As a retired longshoreman commented when she went to the picket lines to support the strike, there was no such vigil by the unions for Oscar Grant, the 22-year-old black father who was executed by BART police on New Year’s Day 2009. On the contrary, the BART cops—whose job policing the trains is not only to target black and other minority youth but also to act as the private strikebreaking force for the bosses—are welcomed as “union brothers.” A deadly danger to the unions, such an embrace of these cops can only alienate black and immigrant working people and the poor from seeing any stake in the unions’ fight.

At one time, the gains made by the unions in their struggles were seen as setting a standard for wages and living conditions for other workers. Now, as one Bay Area union official commented during the BART strike, “The situation definitely raises issues of how unions are being perceived by the public. To many we are just another special-interest group” (SF Chronicle, 19 October). This stage was set in 1981 when Republican president Ronald Reagan crushed the PATCO air traffic controllers union (which had given him electoral support), ushering in a war against the unions under the battle cry of protecting the public against overpaid workers living high on the hog at others’ expense. The aim was to further the most vicious exploitation of the workers who were to be “happy” to get any job at any wage, while slashing social programs for the growing masses of unemployed, particularly the ghetto poor.

The trade-union misleaders who have all but turned their backs on the unorganized workers, the poor, the jobless, black people and immigrants are themselves culpable in making the unions appear as little more than bastions of privilege that are only out for themselves. Moreover, in doing so little to fight even in their own defense, the unions are far from providing inspiration for others to struggle.

If the unions are to wage the battles necessary for their own defense and the defense of all the oppressed, there must be a political struggle to get rid of the sellouts sitting on top of the unions who strangle the workers’ fighting spirit. What is needed is a leadership that will arm the workers with the understanding of both their social power and their historic interests to free all of humanity from the exploitation and all-sided misery inherent to a system based on production for profit. Such a leadership will be forged in the crucible of future class battles and will be integral to the fight to build a revolutionary workers party whose aim is no less than to do away with the entire system of capitalist wage slavery through socialist revolution.

As Cannon wrote in “Who Can Save the Unions?”, which was reprinted in our last issue and sold to BART workers on the picket lines:

“Let the labor unions put aside their illusions; let them face the issue squarely and fight it out on the basis of the class struggle. Instead of seeking peace when there is no peace, and ‘understanding’ with those who do not want to understand, let them declare war on the whole capitalist regime. That is the only way to save the unions and to make them grow in the face of adversity and become powerful war engines for the destruction of capitalism and reorganization of society on the foundation of working class control in industry and government.”
As Legal Attacks Mount-Film Honors Heroic Abortion Providers

Doctor George Tiller

Workers Vanguard No. 1033
1 November 2013

As Legal Attacks Mount-Film Honors Heroic Abortion Providers

“We’ve been at war since Roe v. Wade was passed, except there’s only been one side that’s been fighting this war.” That defiant statement was made by Dr. LeRoy Carhart in the recently released documentary film After Tiller. A former lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, Dr. Carhart is one of only four doctors left in this country who openly provide late-term (third-trimester) abortions. After Tiller, by filmmakers Martha Shane and Lana Wilson, introduces us as well to Drs. Warren Hern, Susan Robinson and Shelley Sella. They all knew and worked with pre-eminent abortion provider Dr. George Tiller, who was assassinated in his church on a Sunday morning in 2009. The film portrays the doctors’ compassion for their patients and steely determination to stand up to the anti-abortion bigots who hound them and threaten their lives.

Most abortions take place in the first trimester when the procedure is relatively simple and can often be achieved with medication alone. Less than 1 percent of abortions in the U.S. take place in the third trimester, when the procedure is much more complicated. But this is not the reason why so few doctors are trained or willing to perform this procedure. Third-trimester abortion is prohibited in all but nine states, and late-term abortion providers have been vilified, terrorized and murdered. Dr. Tiller faced massive legal and extralegal harassment for over 35 years for the abortion services he provided women, including late in pregnancy.

Dr. Tiller was the eighth person killed in murderous attacks on abortion providers since the 1973 Roe v. Wade Supreme Court ruling struck down anti-abortion laws. After Tiller makes it abundantly evident that Tiller’s four colleagues, who have likewise faced years of harassment and threats, are well aware that they, too, could be picked off at any moment. Carhart and his wife recall the arson attack on their property that was carried out in the early 1990s, not long after Carhart had started performing abortions in Bellevue, Nebraska. His daughter was hounded out of her home, and for years Carhart fought anti-abortionists seeking the eviction of his general surgery practice.

The Roe v. Wade ruling represented a precious gain for women’s political and social rights, but from the beginning it was limited and partial. After Tiller underlines the fact that the 1973 Supreme Court ruling specifically granted states the right to outlaw abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy—“after viability,” in the words of the court. The majority decision written by Judge Harry Blackmun upheld the states’ right to interfere in the personal decisions of women, stating that some “argue that the woman’s right is absolute and that she is entitled to terminate her pregnancy at whatever time, in whatever way, and for whatever reason she alone chooses. With this we do not agree.”

To make crystal clear what the court meant, the ruling referenced the case Buck v. Bell. That 1927 decision endorsed the racist, anti-poor eugenics theories that states used to justify sterilization of men and women. Tens of thousands were sterilized across the country in the 20th century, often on the specious grounds of “imbecility.” California, which sterilized more people than any other state, has overturned its eugenics laws, like other states. Yet it has been exposed for having recently sterilized female prisoners.

The majority ruling in Roe v. Wade specified measures that could be taken by states to regulate abortions after the first trimester, among them:

“Requirements as to the qualifications of the person who is to perform the abortion; as to the licensure of that person; as to the facility in which the procedure is to be performed, that is, whether it must be a hospital or may be a clinic or some other place of less-than-hospital status; as to the licensing of the facility; and the like.”

That list has become, in the hands of the anti-abortionists, a veritable “How To” Guide for restricting women’s right to abortion.

The legislative assault on abortion rights by Republican-controlled state governments in recent years has been even more effective in rolling back abortion rights than the bombings and assassinations carried out by anti-abortion terrorists in the 1990s. Over the past three years, abortion providers have been forced to shut down at the fastest rate since the time of Roe v. Wade. According to a survey by the Huffington Post, since 2010 at least 54 clinics have closed down or stopped providing abortion services. Today, fully 97 percent of rural counties in the country have no abortion services whatsoever.

In the face of this reactionary offensive, it is not difficult for Democrats to be viewed as defenders of abortion rights. Texas state senator Wendy Davis became a nationwide sensation by mounting a filibuster that delayed passage of an omnibus anti-abortion bill. The bill contains almost every one of the attacks on abortion rights that have been adopted by various states in recent years. It bans abortion after 20 weeks due to supposed “fetal pain”; requires abortion doctors to have hospital admitting privileges; prohibits doctors from phoning prescriptions to pharmacies, thus making women visit a clinic for medication doses in early-term abortions; requires clinics to upgrade their buildings to meet the standards for ambulatory care centers (i.e., they must make medically irrelevant but expensive changes that will put some clinics out of business). On October 28, a federal judge ruled the part of the Texas law concerning admitting privileges to be unconstitutional. Part of the anti-abortionist strategy is to get a test case before the Supreme Court in hopes of overturning the Roe ruling.

While opposing such laws like the one in Texas, the Democratic Party does not even pretend to fight for anything beyond preserving Roe v. Wade, which legalized abortion but did not make it generally available. Like all aspects of health care, access to abortion reflects the class divisions and racial discrimination that are inherent in U.S. capitalist society. Over two-thirds of the women who have abortions are poor, and black and Hispanic women are more than twice as likely as white women to experience unwanted pregnancies and to have abortions. What was and is needed is mass struggle to ensure that poor and working women have unrestricted access to abortion. For the rights to abortion and contraception to mean anything, the services must be free.

Bourgeois feminists have never intended to launch such a struggle because their framework is limited to seeking legal reforms through the agency of the Democrats. Despite their pro-choice rhetoric, Democrats have in fact helped restrict access to abortion for working and poor women. Soon after the Roe decision, it came under attack by Democratic president Jimmy Carter, who signed the Hyde Amendment eliminating abortion coverage under Medicaid, which all but deprived poor women of the service. The Hyde Amendment has been renewed every year since, regardless of which party sits in the White House.

We say the state has no right to interfere in the reproductive or sexual lives of women and call for free abortion on demand. The fight for abortion rights must be part of a broader struggle for free, quality health care for all. Decent health care is a burning need for all working people, with employers in recent years gutting the health plans that unionized workers had won in the struggles of earlier decades. But the fealty of the labor bureaucrats to the parties of capital, especially the Democrats, undermines this and every other necessary struggle.

Religious Bigots Target Women’s Rights

Directly after Tiller’s murder, a “fetal pain” law was crafted specifically to drive Dr. Carhart out of business and out of the state of Nebraska. Such laws are based on a cynical hoax. The idea that pain can be felt by a fetus at 20 weeks after gestation has been dismissed by every reputable medical association that has commented on the issue. The passage of that 2010 bill was a watershed victory for the anti-abortionists. Twelve more states have since passed similar legislation.

After Tiller shows the lead-up to the passage of the Nebraska bill and the travails of the Carharts as they tried to relocate afterward. They moved to Maryland, where the law allows late-term abortions under certain conditions, but the anti-abortionists there protested Dr. Carhart’s arrival. They even organized a picket of the middle school attended by the clinic landlord’s daughter.

A similar “fetal pain” measure is on a November municipal ballot in Albuquerque, New Mexico. That city has been specifically targeted in an attempt to close down the clinic where Dr. Robinson and Dr. Sella work, as seen in the film. The push for its passage has been accompanied by an increase in intimidation. On the weekend of August 10, “Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust” held a “training camp” in Albuquerque during which an abortion doctor’s house was besieged, trapping his family inside.

Another prong of the anti-abortionists’ pitchfork is the campaign for “fetal rights” laws. These have been adopted by some states as a means to persecute pregnant women for activities that are often harmless to the woman and the fetus, e.g., smoking marijuana. In recent years, hundreds of women across the country have been detained, arrested or forced to accept medical procedures in the name of “fetal protection.” The president of the anti-abortion outfit Operation Rescue has gloated: “We win every time we establish the precedent that the unborn child in the womb is a unique human individual.”

As Marxist materialists, we reject the idealist notion—ultimately derived from religion—that a fetus is a human with a “soul.” Since a fetus and the mother are biologically united during pregnancy, all attempts to endow the fetus with rights come at the expense of those of the mother.

The religious reaction and family-values bigotry that have come to dominate the general social climate in this country make it much harder, especially for teenagers, to avoid pregnancy and to obtain an abortion. Sex education is either woeful or a pack of lies. Parental notification rules for teen abortions are another hurdle. Teen access to contraception is often restricted. Two years ago, the Obama administration blocked easy access by young women under the age of 17 to the morning-after pill, subsequently reversing itself under pressure. The net result is that the U.S. teen pregnancy rate is one of the highest in the developed world, more than twice as high as that in Canada and five times that in Sweden.

After Tiller compellingly relates the stories of individual women who sought late-term abortions. Some had wanted to be pregnant until they learned of severe fetal abnormalities. Others could not find the time or money to make arrangements for abortions before the deadline in their states. One woman had to wait for her tax rebate. One teenager was terrified of telling her religious parents. An older woman had light periods and a negative pregnancy test and so did not know that she was pregnant. In the film, Dr. Robinson rejects the idea that a woman has to have a good story to justify her abortion. She notes that her only criterion is medical safety because women “are the world’s expert on their own lives.”

The Family: Key Institution of Women’s Oppression

The Roe ruling took place against the backdrop of broad social struggles in the U.S. From the civil rights movement to the anti-Vietnam war movement, wide sections of the population were demanding significant social and political changes. The capitalist rulers felt pressure to grant some reforms. The apex of the gains for women won in this period was the Roe ruling, which has been under legislative attack ever since.

In the 1980s, Ronald Reagan packed the Supreme Court with conservatives in order to reverse the gains of the social struggles of the 1960s and early ’70s. A 1992 court decision left Roe in place but granted extra rights to states to extend waiting periods for abortions and enforce parental consent for teenagers. In the words of the chief justice at the time, that ruling made Roe “a sort of judicial Potemkin Village.” These assaults have continued to this day under both Republican and Democratic administrations.

The deep-seated oppression of women is rooted in the institution of the family, which arose with the advent of private property as a mechanism for passing property from one generation to the next—the monogamous wife ensures the paternity of the heirs. A major role of the family is to instill respect for authority and act as a conservatizing force. Together with religion, the family serves to instill a morality that proscribes anything that deviates from the ideal of one man on top of one woman for life.

The war on abortion rights, a battering ram for general social and political reaction, has gone along with a broader offensive against democratic rights and workers gains. With its hands on the wheels of production, the working class objectively has the social power to mobilize the struggle needed to defend its own interests and those of all the oppressed, including women. But given the high level of religiosity in this country, anti-abortion prejudices strongly influence much of the working class. With the dearth of social struggle today and its impact on political consciousness, it is even more difficult to win workers to the understanding that abortion must be defended not only as a “women’s issue” but also an essential democratic right, the loss of which would redound against all working people.

We seek to forge a revolutionary party that will fight for all the oppressed layers in society and render the proletariat conscious of its role as gravedigger of the capitalist system. Such a party will be modeled on the Bolshevik Party of V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky, who led the October 1917 Revolution in Russia. Only through a victorious workers revolution can society be liberated from the profit system and private property and be reconstructed on socialist foundations. This will lay the basis for the full equality of women and the replacement of the family with socialized care of children and household duties. That is the meaning of our call: For women’s liberation through socialist revolution!