Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Sunday, August 30, 2015
2. Conservative or Bourgeois Socialism
To this section belong economists, philanthropists, humanitarians, improvers of the condition of the working class, organisers of charity, members of societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals, temperance fanatics, hole-and-corner reformers of every imaginable kind. This form of socialism has, moreover, been worked out into complete systems.
The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.
A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of Socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work, of bourgeois government.
Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison Reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism.
It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois — for the benefit of the working class.
Saturday, August 29, 2015
Madrid's 70-year war on the Basque struggle
BY PATRICK O'NEILL
Vowing that his "priority is to fight every type of terrorism," the new Spanish prime minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has made it plain that his Socialist Party government will make full use of the March 11 train bombings in Madrid to reinforce the Spanish capitalist rulers' decades-long assault on the struggle by the Basque people for national self-determination.
The incoming administration supports the ban that the outgoing Popular Party government imposed last year on the main Basque pro-independence party, Herri Batasuna, which had won 10 percent of the votes in the 2001 elections in the Basque country, in the north of Spain. Zapatero has even said his government will "fiercely oppose the Ibarretxe Plan"—a proposal for increased limited autonomy made by Basque National Party leader and regional president Juan José Ibarretxe.
The Spanish rulers' anti-Basque offensive has been waged in the name of fighting "ETA terrorism," referring to a small underground Basque pro-independence group that has assassinated a number of government officials over the years.
Living in an area that straddles the modern-day border of France and Spain, the Basque people, who today number 3 million, are a distinct national group, with their own language, culture, and geographical area, known as Euskadi. Spain, one of the most economically backward nations of Western Europe, was late in forging a single bourgeois republic, a historic task of the bourgeois revolutions of the 19th century. As a result, Spain became a imperialist power in the 20th century but maintained significant economic and cultural differences between different regions—the Basque region, Catalonia, Galicia, Andalusia, and other areas.
While Euskadi and Catalonia are the two main industrial centers, they have historically been subjected to national oppression.
The Basque national movement arose in the 19th century with protests against compulsory taxation, military service, and other indignities imposed by Madrid on a region that had previously enjoyed a degree of economic autonomy. During the Spanish revolution of the 1930s, workers and peasants throughout the Spanish state overthrew the monarchy and established a republican government. The Basque National Party (PNV)—a bourgeois nationalist formation—and allied forces rose to power throughout the Basque provinces, advocating increased autonomy.
By the time the republican government, comprised of Socialist, Communist, and bourgeois parties, granted formal autonomy to Euskadi, it was already split in two by Franco's fascist rebellion. But the refusal of the leaders of the Socialist (PSOE), CP, and the anarchist movement to champion the Basque struggle for self-determination had effectively handed the initiative in the region to the PNV and other bourgeois forces.
The labor misleaders rationalized their stance by pointing to the reactionary character of the leading Basque parties, which were closely tied to the Catholic Church hierarchy. As Felix Morrow writes in Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Spain, this policy "gave the Basque clericals"—who were themselves threatened by the growth of the working-class movement in weight and political confidence—"a new hold on the masses."
The social-democratic and Stalinist parties, compromising with their bourgeois allies, blocked the working-class upsurge from heading toward the overthrow of capitalist rule and the establishment of a workers and farmers government. This course mortally weakened the republic in the face of the fascist rebellion led by Gen. Francisco Franco, which was employed by the majority of the capitalist rulers to crush the worker-farmer revolution.
While Basque country president José Antonio Aguirre opposed the rebellion, the Basque provincial governments split in their alliances, half siding with Franco and half backing the republic.
Like their brothers and sisters across Spain, many Basque workers and peasants fought heroically against the fascist forces in the ensuing three years. In April 1937 the Nazi government in Germany used its air force in support of Franco against the ancient Basque city of Guernica, leaving it in ruins and killing more than 1,600 people. This was a decisive blow to the Basque resistance and to the republic, which was overthrown in 1939.
Repression under Franco
The Basque people were a special target of the Franco dictatorship. In the period immediately following the seizure of power it jailed and executed thousands of Basques. One historian says that in 1937 alone up to 150,000 were forced into exile in France, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. In the ensuing four decades Franco's police killed and imprisoned thousands more. All displays of Basque culture, including spoken and written use of the language, were banned.
The late 1950s and 1960s saw a resurgence of national resistance among Basques, sparked by the ferocious repression and inspired by the wave of anti-colonial and anti-imperialist struggles in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, including revolutions in Cuba, Algeria, and Vietnam. This was the context for the formation in 1959 of the armed group ETA (Euskadi ta Askatasuna—Basque Homeland and Freedom). ETA's leaders demanded the right to establish an independent Basque state, incorporating Basque regions on both the Spanish and French sides of the border. By the late 1960s ETA had embarked upon a strategy of kidnapping and killing government officials and prominent figures.
As the Franco regime came to an end in the mid-1970s, Basques mobilized in a series of massive demonstrations to assert their national rights. Since then the Basque people have won a degree of autonomy—including a regional government with limited powers—but not full self-determination.
But the capitalist rulers of Spain are afraid that a successful Basque independence movement would give workers and farmers and other oppressed nationalities renewed confidence in their ability to struggle. As a result, successive Spanish governments have cracked down on the Basque movement—all under the pretext of combating ETA and "terrorism." The government has enacted a raft of legislation giving authorities greater powers to spy, harass, and imprison Basque nationalists by accusing them of supporting ETA.
The PSOE and Communist Party, along with the union federations they lead, have played a key part in helping the wealthy minority mobilize bourgeois public opinion in Spain against the Basque struggle. On several occasions massive demonstrations have been organized to condemn ETA's armed actions and to support the government's crackdowns in the Basque country.
The 1982-96 PSOE government was notorious for its repressive policy toward the Basques. The administration of Prime Minister Felipe González oversaw a "dirty war" against the pro-sovereignty movement, using death squads made up of cops, known as the Antiterrorist Liberation Group (GAL). Revelations about police murders of 27 people accused of being ETA members helped to end González's reign in disgrace.
Today hundreds of Basque political prisoners remain in Spanish and French jails. Many of them, accused of supporting ETA, go before special tribunals. "Detention doesn't follow an investigation—it's the other way round. Electrodes, beatings, drowning, putting a bag over the person's head, sexual assault, and death threats" are among the interrogation techniques, said Iñigo Elkoro, a lawyer representing Basque political prisoners, in a 1997 interview in the Militant.
"Spain's antiterror laws permit the use of incommunicado detention, secret legal proceedings, and pre-trial detention for up to four years," said a March 2003 report by Human Rights Watch. "The investigating magistrate of the Audiencia Nacional, a special court that oversees terrorist cases, can request causa secreta [secret cause] for thirty days, consecutively renewable for the duration of the four-year pre-trial detention period. Secret proceedings bar the defense access to the prosecutor's evidence, except for information contained in the initial detention order."
In May 2003 tens of thousands protested in Bilbao against the outlawing of Herri Batasuna by the outgoing administration of Jose María Aznar. The previous year the National Court had suspended the party, accusing it of being linked to ETA, a charge denied by Batasuna leaders.
On March 22 Zapatero, having reaffirmed his support for this repressive course, dismissed an offer by ETA representatives of negotiations and a possible ceasefire.
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'All-people's front' versus working-class political road
(Reply to a Reader column)
BY MARTÍN KOPPEL
In a letter to the editor published in last week's issue, reader Shane Brinton challenges the Militant's stance of opposition to the two-party system of capitalist rule in this country. Advocating a vote for Democratic candidates as a legitimate "tactic" for socialists today, he argues for a "broad coalition (the All-People's Front) against Bush and the ultra-right."
What is the stance of revolutionaries toward the Democratic and Republican parties? This is not a matter of tactics but a more fundamental question of strategy. It begins not with elections but with the historic line of march of the working class. Wars of plunder, exploitation, racist oppression, the second-class status of women, the destruction of the environment, and other social ills are all inherent to capitalism—they cannot simply be reformed out of existence. Working people must lead a socialist revolution to eliminate capitalism: a struggle by millions to take power out of the hands of the ruling capitalist class, establish a government of workers and farmers, and create a different kind of state—a workers state.
In this epoch of imperialism that has existed worldwide since the 1890s, as V.I. Lenin explained in Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism, there is no progressive wing of the capitalist class in the United States or any other country. Today, as capitalism slides toward a worldwide economic catastrophe because of its built-in contradictions, the ruling class as a whole is driven to try to reverse the long-term decline of its system. To do so they have no choice but to launch increasingly brutal assaults on the living standards and rights of working people at home, while unleashing wars of conquest abroad. The U.S. government serves as the executive body for this capitalist class. No matter who occupies the presidency, whether a Democrat or a Republican, their job is to continue to enforce the interests of the real, unelected rulers.
The capitalist ruling families have two parties who work in cahoots with each other to try to hoodwink working people into thinking they have a democratic choice. The outstanding revolutionary leader Malcolm X explained well the dead-end trap of backing either capitalist party. In the 1964 presidential elections, when liberals and most radicals supported "peace" candidate Lyndon B. Johnson against Republican Barry Goldwater, Malcolm noted that "the shrewd capitalists, the shrewd imperialists, knew that the only way people would run towards the fox [Johnson] would be if you showed them the wolf." At that very moment, he noted, Johnson "had troops invading the Congo and South Vietnam!" Once elected, of course, Johnson brutally escalated the imperialist war against Vietnam.
Just as working people need to organize independently of the bosses in the economic arena by forming trade unions—rejecting company "unions"—our class must organize independently of the bosses in the political arena. An "all-people's front" based on supporting the Democratic Party is like a company union on a political level.
This stance is based on the approach revolutionary socialists have always taken in the United States—since Karl Marx and Frederick Engels collaborated with the young communist movement in the late 1800s, arguing for the building of an independent working-class political party. "Where the working class is not yet far enough advanced in its organization to undertake a decisive campaign against the collective power, i.e., the political power, of the ruling classes, it must at any rate be trained for this by continual agitation against this power and by a hostile attitude toward the policies of the ruling classes. Otherwise it remains a plaything in their hands," wrote Marx in a Nov. 23, 1871, letter to Friedrich Bolte, a communist working-class leader in New York. Lenin continued along these lines, explaining in a Nov. 9, 1912, article on the U.S. elections that year, "This so-called bipartisan system prevailing in America and Britain has been one of the most powerful means of preventing the rise of an independent working-class, i.e., genuinely socialist, party." The U.S. Communist Party in its early years rejected supporting any capitalist party. And since its founding in 1938, the Socialist Workers Party, following this political continuity, has maintained the perspective of independent working-class political action. I urge Brinton and other readers to study these rich lessons in the two-volume Revolutionary Continuity: Marxist Leadership in the U.S. by Farrell Dobbs; Labor's Giant Step: The First Twenty Years of the CIO, 1936-55 by Art Preis; and The Changing Face of U.S. Politics by Jack Barnes.
Brinton says, "I certainly agree that the Democratic Party is both reactionary and a party of capitalism." He says that workers "are becoming increasingly dissatisfied," but that the majority are "sticking with the Democratic Party." Therefore, he argues, a "tactic" of supporting the Democratic Party in the elections is necessary for workers to "have their own political experience" and for communists not to be isolated from the masses.
To the contrary. The "political experience" of remaining tied to the Democratic wing of the exploiters' party has been a trap for working people. What our class needs is not dependence on the bosses but a truthful explanation and a political course that raises its class consciousness and trust in its own forces.
In reality, it's the capitalist minority that needs the support of working people, not the other way around (in fact, the majority of working people simply don't vote, because they don't see much difference in choosing between one or the other big-business party). The so-called all-people's coalition is "a coalition between the owners of American industry and finance, and…the professional ward-heelers and politicians who keep the [Democratic] party machinery oiled, and, on the other hand, the various trade union bureaucrats and leaders of protest movements in American society, whose job it is to bring out the ranks of the coalition at voting time to guarantee the continuance of the rule of this party as opposed to the Republican Party," said Jack Barnes in a 1965 debate with social democrat Stanley Aronowitz, published in the Pathfinder book The Lesser Evil? Debates on the Democratic Party and Independent Working-Class Politics. Barnes added that when dissatisfaction among working people toward Democratic politicians and the bipartisan system grows, "it's those boys who whip things into shape, who go to the workers, to the Negroes, to the socialists, and say, 'Look, it's in your class interests, it's in your interests as socialists, to come out and vote from this group, as a tactic'—in order, of course, to defeat the 'greater evil.'"
This is the same argument the Communist Party USA has promoted since the 1930s, after the party became Stalinized and abandoned Lenin's revolutionary course. And this election year, once again, we are warned by Stalinist, social democratic, and centrist groups that the Republican wolf, George W. Bush, is akin to "fascism" and that we should go running toward the Democratic fox—John Kerry or whoever gets nominated.
Explaining this revolutionary course is the opposite of sectarian isolation. Precisely because of the dissatisfaction among many workers that Brinton points to, there are greater opportunities than ever for communist workers to discuss a class-struggle perspective with fellow working-class militants as we join with them in battles against the bosses and other social struggles.
Working people and youth do have a clear class choice in the elections—the Socialist Workers candidates, who put forward a revolutionary working-class alternative to the twin capitalist parties of imperialist war, exploitation, racism, and depression. They will be campaigning over the coming months at union picket lines, factory gates, campuses, on the job, at labor and political actions. Joining with campaigners for the socialist alternative is one of the most effective ways to get a broader hearing for a working-class political perspective and to build a party that will be capable of leading workers and farmers to make a revolution in the United States and join the worldwide struggle for socialism.
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'Evolution applies to social organization, too'
(Books of the Month column)
Printed below are excerpts from The Long View of History, one of Pathfinder's Books of the Month for January, by noted Marxist George Novack. The pamphlet contains two talks given by Novack in 1955: "How humanity climbed to civilization" and "The main course of American history and its next stage."
They offer a popularized sketch of the key line of evolution from fish—the first backboned species—to humans, from savagery to civilization, and from Indian life to contemporary capitalism in the United States. The talks were designed as an introduction to a study of the march of humankind from the viewpoint of scientific socialism.
Novack aimed to show that the same principles of evolution that were uncovered with each new fossil record of natural life were indispensable tools in understanding social development and human history as well. "Contradictory as it is," Novack explained, "many scholars and scientists who take the order of evolution of organic species for granted, stubbornly resist the extension of the same lawfulness to the changing species of social organization. They will not admit that there has been, or can be, any definite and discernible sequence in the social development of mankind analogous to the steps in the progress from the invertebrates to the fish, through the reptile and mammalian creatures, up to the advent of mankind."
Copyright © 1960 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.
BY GEORGE NOVACK
I propose first to trace the main line of human development, from our remote animal ancestors to the present, when humanity has become lord of the earth but not yet master of its own creations, not to mention its own social system. After that, I will deal with the central course of evolution in that specific segment of society that occupies the bulk of North America and represents the most developed form of capitalist society.
I will try to show not only how our national history is related to world development but also how we, collectively and individually, fit into the picture. This is a broad and bold undertaking, a sort of jet-propelled journey through the stratosphere of world history. It is forced upon us by the urge to grasp the whole vast spread of events and to understand our specific place within them, as well as by the very dynamic of scientific theory in sociology, which has its highest expression in Marxism. The movement based upon scientific socialism, which prepares most energetically for the future, likewise must probe most deeply into the past.…
We can single out four critical turning points in the timetable of evolution. The first was the origin of our planet about three or four billion years ago. The second was the emergence of life in the form of simple one-celled sea organisms about two and a half billion years ago. (These are only approximate but commonly accepted dates at the present time.) Third was the appearance of the first backboned animals about four to five hundred million years ago. Last was the creation of mankind, within the past million years or so….
It required four to five hundred million years to create the biological conditions necessary for the generation of the first subhumans. This was not brought about through anyone's forethought or foresight, or in accord with any plan, or with the aim of realizing some preconceived goal. It happened, we may say, as the lawful outcome of a series of blind and accidental developments in the forms of natural life, spurred forward in the struggle for survival, which eventually culminated in the production of a special kind of primate equipped with the capacities for acquiring more than animal powers.
At this juncture, about a million or so years ago, the most radical of all the transmutations of life on this planet took place. The emergence of mankind embodied something totally different which became the root of a unique line of development. What was this? It was the passage from animal separatism to human collectivism, from purely biological modes of behavior to the use of acquired social powers.
Where did these added artificial powers come from that have marked off emerging mankind from all other animal species, elevated our species above the other primates, and made mankind into the dominant order of life? Our dominance is indisputable because we command the power to destroy ourselves and all other forms of life, not to speak of changing them.
The fundamentally new powers mankind acquired were the powers of production, of securing the means of sustenance through the use of tools and joint labor, and sharing the results with one another….
In its evolution to our own century, civilized society can be divided into three main epochs: slavery, feudalism, and capitalism. Each of these is marked off by the special way in which the ruling propertied class at the head of the social setup manages to extract the surplus wealth upon which it lives from the laboring mass who directly create it. This entire period covers little more than the past five to six thousand years….
As a result of a long list of technological and other social advances, merging with a sequence of exceptional historical circumstances, feudalized Europe became the nursery for the next great stage of class society, capitalism. How and why did capitalism originate?
The epoch-making innovation upon which capitalism rested was the institution of working for wages as the dominant relation of production. Most of you have gone into the labor market, to an employment agency or personnel office, to get a buyer for your labor power. The employer buys this power at prevailing wage rates by the hour, day, or week and then applies it under his supervision to produce commodities that his company subsequently sells at a profit. That profit is derived from the fact that wage workers produce more value than the capitalist pays for their labor.
Up to the twentieth century, this mechanism for pumping surplus labor out of the working masses and transferring the surpluses of wealth they create to the personal credit of the capitalist was the mightiest accelerator of the productive forces and the expansion of civilization. As a distinct economic system, capitalism is only about 450 years old; it has conquered the world and journeyed from dawn to twilight in that time. This is a short life-span compared to savagery, which stretched over a million years or more, or to barbarism, which prevailed for four thousand to five thousand years. Obviously, the processes of social transformation have been considerably speeded up in modern times….
Capitalism has produced many things, good and bad, in the course of its evolution. But the most vital and valuable of all the social forces it has created is the industrial working class.
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.... it is the failure of capitalism and the rightward drift of the two parties that provides these demagogues with the themes of their campaigns and makes other capitalist politicians so vulnerable to them. They simply state forthrightly the reactionary presumptions behind the politically more right-wing direction that politicians in both parties are taking, even as they spar with each other over how fast and how far to go right now in their assault on the freedoms and living standards of working people and the oppressed.
How many politicians, Democratic or Republican, for example, are willing to answer Buchanan's rightist demagogy by saying that they are for quotas when necessary to combat racist and antiwoman discrimination and move toward equality in hiring and education? Or that they welcome all those who choose to immigrate to the United States? Or that they are not for "America First"? The truth is that regardless of platitudes about world peace and cooperation, a harsher and harsher bourgeois nationalism increasingly marks the language of capitalist politics across the board in the United States (and throughout the imperialist world).
That is why we said Clinton will be a war president, that the elections prepared expanding world aggression. His administration, we said, will be marked by efforts to find new ways of threatening to use, and if necessary using, U.S. military force. The U.S. rulers try to use their small allies as surrogates in some cases. During the National Committee meeting last week, communists from New Zealand, Australia, Canada, and Sweden listed the places around the world where troops from these countries are currently stationed: Lebanon, Cambodia, Bosnia, Somalia, and elsewhere.
But when push comes to shove, it is the U.S. armed forces that will dominate any sustained, large-scale military operation. And after initial enthusiasm and grudging support for our boys, a fight at home will open that will begin to transform politics in this country, as happened during the U.S. war against Vietnam.
Communist analysis and the test of events
This is the world--its accelerating disorder, its lines of disintegration, its class struggles--whose dialectics the Socialist Workers Party and our co-thinkers in other countries have brought into focus since the 1987 stock market crash. Each time we have confronted a new turning point, we have gotten together at international leadership gatherings, evaluated how our analysis has stood up, made any indicated adjustments, and used that assessment as our guide for what to do next, as our guide to action.
I have taken the time to review this record to try to make the case for one conclusion: new turning points like these are not what is in store for us now. What is on the agenda is the further unfolding of this world pattern: growing class tensions, political polarization and radicalization, and class differentiations and conflicts within all nations and nationalities. Communists have to clearly and confidently present this world and explain it. That is what thinking workers and revolutionary-minded fighters want to hear about and discuss. Because if this description is true, then it has historic consequences for every fighter, everywhere in the world.