Thursday, December 8, 2016

Crucial role of political clarity in writing and translation

…. The English-language political vocabulary of the communist movement in the United States has been established in the struggle of the Socialist Workers Party to speak in clear class terms to working people and to peel away the counterrevolutionary obfuscations of the Stalinist and social democratic forces, as well as to eliminate various centrist pretensions and adaptations. The United States is the only country where, due to historical factors beyond any party's control (such as the fact that the United States escaped the physical destruction World War II wreaked upon the working class in Europe), communist continuity has been organizationally unbroken and comparatively strong for the last eighty years, numbers notwithstanding. The relative weakness of the organized communist movement throughout Latin America and Europe over that same time period means that the Spanish political terminology of our movement, like the French, has also tended to adapt to the political culture of the Popular Front "left," as mediated through the "far left" fashions in those countries.

There was an opportunity to break the mold of Stalinism, centrism, and social democracy between the early 1960s and the end of the 1970s. A small political vanguard, attracted to communism, emerged in many countries under the impact of the Cuban and Algerian revolutions, the worldwide impact of the Black struggle in the United States, the anti–Vietnam War movement, and popular proletarian explosions that reached prerevolutionary dimensions in France, Portugal, and Spain, as well as across the Southern Cone of Latin America, and then in Central America. But these currents and organizations failed to proletarianize themselves or systematically colonize the industrial unions. Without a working-class foundation and political practice, they began to disintegrate politically under the impact of the retreat of the labor movement and blows dealt by the capitalist rulers in the 1980s and early 1990s. Without being rooted in the broad proletariat, the "far left" was increasingly vulnerable to the nostrums accepted and promoted by the radical milieus of middle-class professionals and academics, union functionaries, and skilled workers in which they lived, worked, socialized, and practiced politics.

Another historical factor--which may at first seem contradictory--is important. The powerful ups and downs in the class struggle in Europe and Latin America, as compared to the United States, mean the political traditions of the workers movement are in fact stronger there, even if the proletarian vanguard has never been able to carve out a stable nucleus with decades-long communist continuity. So the political language that "sounds right" to workers in these countries, even those newly recruited to the communist movement, is much more heavily weighed down with Stalinist, social democratic, and centrist political content, embodied in a vocabulary that blurs class clarity and distorts historical honesty. It means that workers won to the communist movement in these countries often have more to unlearn than newly radicalized workers elsewhere--just to be able to express dialectical contradictions, materialist concepts, and, above all, revolutionary class-struggle content.

The accentuated unevenness and contradictory social combinations that mark the final historical days of the imperialist epoch are felt in many ways.

Given the growing social weight of Spanish-speaking workers, including within the imperialist countries of North America, and the fact that they compose a significant and increasing proportion of the cadre and leadership of communist parties in those countries, clarity and accuracy in translation between English and Spanish especially become a crucial part of the fight for the political homogeneity and revolutionary centralism necessary to forge a proletarian leadership powerful enough and broad enough to lead the toilers through storm and victory….


'Workers underestimate what they are capable of'

Mary-Alice Waters

February 1999

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Workers World Party: tailist whateverism

Lack of principles and a desire to please and appeal to the political shortcomings and backwardness of contacts encountered in the mass movement has been a defining characteristic of Workers World Party's brand of tailist "whateverism."

Well-expressed here:


....The union halls are great, but we have to get out to the hood. We have to make [Vladimir] Lenin relevant to the ghettos and barrios. And what that means is that we may have to give people the Black Panther Party first before we give them Marx and Engels, particularly in Black and Brown communities. Most of all, we have to be open-minded. We have to listen to new ideas and new perspectives. We have to be able to evolve without sacrificing our principles.

Just to share a brief example, while Monica and I were on the campaign trail, at one of our branch stops we met a young sister who had expressed her interest in “decolonizing the mind.” Though she did describe herself as an anti-racist and anti-capitalist, she wasn’t interested in Marx and Engels. And I can totally understand why.

For most Black people, that’s all we’ve taught: the work of old white men. Just because she was resistant to Karl Marx, doesn’t mean that she’s off target....

Full article here:

Pearl Harbor: The Marxist view

How Roosevelt Provoked Tokyo's Attack On Pearl Harbor  


The following are major excerpts from the article "War Guilt in the Pacific: A Political Analysis of the Pearl Harbor Reports." It was first published in the October 1945 issue of the Marxist magazine Fourth International, a predecessor of New International. The author, C. Frank Glass, signed the article with the pen name Li Fu-Jen. We are publishing it on the occasion of the 54th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor by Tokyo, which took place on December 7, 1941.

C. Frank Glass (1901-1988) was a revolutionary socialist journalist and a longtime leader of the Socialist Workers Party. Born in Birmingham, England, he emigrated with his family to South Africa when he was 10.

Glass was one of the founding members of the South African Communist Party in 1921 and was later elected as one of the party's four executive officers. He broke from that organization in 1928 as part of those veteran communists who opposed the growing Stalinization of the party leadership and supported the fight led by Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky to continue V.I. Lenin's communist course.

In 1930, Glass's work as a journalist took him to Shanghai, China. At that time the bourgeois regime of Gen. Chiang Kai-Shek was carrying out bloody repression of a powerful revolutionary uprising by workers and peasants in China that had erupted in 1927.

Glass worked actively to help establish the Communist League in China, whose ranks included veteran militants of the Chinese Communist Party who had continued to fight for a Leninist course in the face of that party's Stalinist degeneration.

Glass reported for the Militant during the 1937 invasion of China by the Japanese armed forces. He was forced to leave the country in 1941 as Tokyo's troops approached Shanghai, and he moved to New York. There he joined the SWP and served on the Militant's editorial staff for the remainder of World War II.

Glass was elected to the SWP's national committee in 1944 and served on that body until 1963. In the late 1940s he moved to Los Angeles, where he became active in the party branch. He lived there for the rest of his life. Over the years he contributed many articles to the revolutionary press, particularly to the early New International magazine, and its successors, Fourth International and International Socialist Review. His articles appeared under the pen names Li Fu-Jen, Ralph Graham, and John Liang.

The Fourth International and the other theoretical magazines of the communist movement in the U.S. are being scanned and will soon be available on CD-ROM. The article below is copyright New International and is reprinted by permission. Subheadings are by the Militant.


After this article was written, striking confirmation of the author's thesis was given by John Chamberlain, in an article which appeared in the September 21 [1945] issue of Life magazine. Chamberlain declared that "long before" the 1944 election Republican Presidential Candidate Thomas E. Dewey learned "that we had cracked the Japanese `ultra' code some time prior to Pearl Harbor and that [U.S. president Franklin D.] Roosevelt and his advisers knew what the Japanese were going to do well in advance of the overt rupture of relations."

But Dewey joined Roosevelt in the conspiracy of silence and deception which made it possible to brand Japan as the "aggressor" and fasten "war guilt" on the Japanese nation. Had the American people known the full truth, even as late as the 1944 election campaign, the "political impact," as Chamberlain says, "would have been terrific and might well have landed Dewey in the White House." But Dewey, concerned like Roosevelt for the interests of U.S. imperialism, kept silent, and by keeping silent sacrificed the chance to deliver a telling and perhaps fatal blow to his opponent's candidacy.

On August 29, 1945, President Truman released for publication lengthy reports by the Army and Navy giving the facts and circumstances of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor which precipitated the extension of the Second World War to the Pacific area. The lengthier of the two reports, that of the Army Pearl Harbor Board, is dated October 20, 1944, and is accompanied by a statement of Secretary of War Stimson. The other is a fact-finding report of a Navy Court of Inquiry with a statement by the Secretary of the Navy and is dated October 19, 1944.

Why were these reports withheld from the public for almost a year? An attempt has been made to represent the suppression as having been necessitated by considerations of military security, since the war was still in progress. It is true that the reports deal largely with matters of a purely military character.

Yet the principal event to which they relate, the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, had occurred almost three years prior to the completion of the reports. What they contain in the way of military information was already stale and musty and had no bearing whatever on the further course of the Pacific war. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that the reports were suppressed for political and not for military reasons….

The Army Board and the Navy Court were charged with the task of ascertaining the facts of the Pearl Harbor disaster and establishing the responsibility therefor. The Army investigation centered on the acts and policies of General Short, who was in charge of the Hawaii Command of the Army. The Navy investigation centered on the acts and policies of Admiral Kimmel, who was commander-in-chief of the Pacific Fleet.

These high-ranking officers were removed from their posts after Pearl Harbor and were called upon to defend themselves against charges of incompetence and dereliction of duty. In order to exculpate themselves from blame for the disaster, they were obliged to make reference to the general policies of the Administration by which they were bound, for much more was involved than simply matters of military precaution and preparation. The investigators, too, had to delve into Administration policies, for without doing so there clearly existed no possibility of establishing the full truth or apportioning the blame for what had occurred.

It is precisely here that the reports are highly revealing, for they establish incontestably the following conclusions, even though these conclusions are not drawn in the reports:

1. That President Roosevelt, while proclaiming his love of peace and hatred of war, was embarked on a deliberate course of war with Japan (and Germany) long before Pearl Harbor and that this was the conscious policy of his Administration.

2. That Roosevelt's policy toward Japan was one of systematic pressure to force the Japanese imperialists to commit the overt act which would touch off a war explosion. Roosevelt was obliged to pursue this strategy in order to be able to brand Japan as the "aggressor" and stampede the people of the United States into a war to which a majority of the nation had been steadfastly opposed. The "peace- loving" President had assured the American people that their sons would not be sent to fight in "foreign wars." This made it necessary that the United States should be "attacked" so that the drive of American imperialism for mastery of the Pacific could be presented in the guise of a war of national defense and survival.

When Roosevelt read the reports, he must have realized their explosive political quality. Here, out of the mouths of his own generals and admirals, he was convicted as a war conspirator who under cover of unctuous protestations of his love of peace plotted to plunge the American people into the most terrible of all wars so that the "manifest destiny" of American imperialism might be achieved....

The Roosevelt strategy

The Roosevelt strategy of forcing Japan to become the "aggressor" is revealed unmistakably in that section of the report which relates to messages between the War Department and the Hawaiian Command in the last days before Japan struck. On November 27, 1941, 10 days before the attack on Pearl Harbor, the Chief of Staff radioed General Short as follows:

Negotiations with Japanese appear to be terminated to all practical purposes with only the barest possibilities that the Japanese Government might come back and offer to continue. Japanese future action unpredictable but hostile action possible at any moment. If hostilities cannot, repeat cannot, be avoided, the U.S. desires that Japan commit the first overt act.

That Roosevelt himself was the author of this policy was stated by General Gerow of the War Department who testified that "the President had definitely stated that he wanted Japan to commit the first overt act." From desiring the commission of an overt act by Japan it was but a short step to provoking one. This is just what Roosevelt sought to do. The vast economic power of the United States, and the economic frailty of Japan guaranteed the success of Roosevelt's strategy of provoking war by tightening an economic noose around Japan. The sanctions imposed on Japan in 1940-41 are referred to in the Army Board's report. The Army's investigators understood their drastic character and had no doubt that the Roosevelt policy "led only to war." The pertinent section of the report reads, in part, as follows:

It was in the fall of 1940 that we cast the die and adopted economic sanctions. And we find it significant that about June 1940 General Herron as Commanding General of the Hawaiian Department upon Washington orders went into an all-out alert into battle positions with live ammunition for six weeks.

In September the export of iron and steel scrap was prohibited. The effect of the United States policy was to cut off from Japan by the winter of 1940-41 the shipment of many strategic commodities, including arms, ammunition, and implements of war, aviation gasoline and many other petroleum products, machine tools, scrap iron, pig iron and steel manufactures, copper, lead, zinc, aluminum, and a variety of other commodities. . . .

Full article here:

Monday, December 5, 2016

The rise and political degeneration of the FSLN

....The FSLN was named after Augusto César Sandino, a peasant and mine worker who led a seven-year war that forced U.S. marines out of Nicaragua in 1934.

The Sandinista National Liberation Front came to power on the heels of a popular revolution that overthrew the Somoza dictatorship in July 1979. During the initial years of the Nicaraguan revolution, the FSLN leadership, despite errors and political hesitations, pursued a course that promoted the organization and mobilization of the workers and peasants of Nicaragua. The new government increasingly used its power to advance the toilers' class interests against the exploiters at home and abroad.

The actions by the workers and peasants regime gave a boost to struggles against the U.S.-backed landlord-capitalist tyrannies in El Salvador and Guatemala, linked up with the revolution in Grenada, and gave a powerful new impetus to political steps forward by the workers in Cuba.

The Sandinista leadership's initial course was in continuity with nearly two decades of revolutionary work by the FSLN, codified in the Historic Program of the organization drafted by Carlos Fonseca and first published in 1969.

This program pledged to destroy the dictatorship's "military and bureaucratic apparatus" and "establish a revolutionary government based on an alliance of workers and peasants and a convergence of all patriotic forces opposed to imperialism and the oligarchy." The new regime would establish broad democratic rights and initiate social, political, and economic measures to "create a Nicaragua that is free of exploitation, oppression, and backwardness."

The program pledged to "expropriate the landed estates, factories, companies... and other enterprises fraudulently acquired by the Somoza family [and] their accomplices"; to "nationalize the holdings of all foreign companies that exploit mineral, forest, maritime, and other natural resources"; to "establish workers control over the management of factories"; and to "plan the national economy, putting an end to the anarchy characteristic of the capitalist system of production."

The Historic Program called for "a massive campaign to immediately wipe out illiteracy" and measures to uproot discrimination suffered by women and by Blacks and Indians living on the Atlantic Coast and elsewhere in Nicaragua.

On international perspectives, the program declared that a workers and peasants government would "actively support the struggle of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America against both traditional and modern forms of colonialism, and against the common enemy: U.S. imperialism." The entire text of this document appears in New International no. 9 (see ad below).

The revolutionary government's steps to organize workers and farmers to carry out this program were electrifying to workers, peasants, and youth throughout the region and even around the world. Washington, having stood behind Somoza to the last ditch and failing to economically pressure the new government to change its course, began by late 1981 training and financing a counterrevolutionary army headed by former members of Somoza's officer corps.

Over the next six years the U.S.-organized contras mounted a murderous war to destroy the revolution.

Despite the toll on the country's economy, the 30,000 lives lost during the fighting, and the tens of thousands of maimed and wounded, the workers, peasants and youth in the Sandinista army defeated the contras by late 1987. But during that period the leadership of the FSLN abandoned the organization's historic program, transforming the FSLN from a revolutionary organization to a radical bourgeois electoral party by the end of the 1980s. Land reform and other revolutionary measures came to a halt and the government forged a "social pact" with landlords and capitalists, demoralizing workers and peasants.

Thus the workers and farmers government was defeated before the February 1990 elections, when the FSLN lost the vote to the National Opposition Union (UNO) -an amalgam of liberal bourgeois forces that had been part of the anti-Somoza fight in the 1970s, conservative politicians and businessmen, contra leaders, and two Stalinist organizations that had opposed the FSLN. The group was backed and financed by Washington.

Full 1996 article here:

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Stalin embraces Hitler over bones of Europe's working class: August 1938

From front page page of this issue:

Ukraine from Lenin to Stalin

Trotsky, writing in April 1939:

The Bolshevik Conception of Soviet Ukraine

In the conception of the old Bolshevik party Soviet Ukraine was destined to become a powerful axis around which the other sections of the Ukrainian people would unite. It is indisputable that in the first period of its existence Soviet Ukraine exerted a mighty attractive force, in national respects as well, and aroused to struggle the workers, peasants, and revolutionary intelligentsia of Western Ukraine enslaved by Poland. But during the years of Thermidorian reaction, the position of Soviet Ukraine and together with it the posing of the Ukrainian question as a whole changed sharply. The more profound the hopes aroused, the keener was the disillusionment. The bureaucracy strangled and plundered the people within Great Russia, too. But in the Ukraine matters were further complicated by the massacre of national hopes. Nowhere did restrictions, purges, repressions and in general all forms of bureaucratic hooliganism assume such murderous sweep as they did in the Ukraine in the struggle against the powerful, deeply-rooted longings of the Ukrainian masses for greater freedom and independence. To the totalitarian bureaucracy, Soviet Ukraine became an administrative division of an economic unit and a military base of the U.S.S.R. To be sure, the Stalin bureaucracy erects statues to Shevchenko but only in order more thoroughly to crush the Ukrainian people under their weight and to force it to chant paeans in the language of Kobzar to the rapist clique in the Kremlin.

Towards the sections of the Ukraine now outside its frontiers, the Kremlin’s attitude today is the same as it is towards all oppressed nationalities, all colonies, and semi-colonies, i.e., small change in its international combinations with imperialist governments. At the recent 18th Congress of the “Communist Party,” Manuilsky, one of the most revolting renegades of Ukrainian communism, quite openly explained that not only the U.S.S.R. but also the Comintern (the “gyp-joint,” according to Stalin’s formulation) refused to demand the emancipation of oppressed peoples whenever their oppressors are not the enemies of the ruling Moscow clique. India is nowadays being defended by Stalin, Dimitroff and Manuilsky against – Japan, but not against England. Western Ukraine they are ready to cede forever to Poland in exchange for a diplomatic agreement which appears profitable at the present time to the bureaucrats of the Kremlin. It is a far cry from the days when they went no further than episodic combinations in their politics.

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Page 15 of issue
MAY 2, 1986 The Militant