Saturday, October 22, 2016

Workers power

‘Instead of capitalists, a workers and farmers government’

The French-language edition of Socialism on Trial is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for October. It contains James P. Cannon’s testimony in a Minneapolis federal court in November 1941. Cannon, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, was one of 18 communist and Teamster leaders framed up and convicted on federal “conspiracy” charges under the Smith Act — a law that made it illegal “to teach, advocate and encourage” revolutionary ideas. President Franklin Roosevelt, preparing for Washington’s entry into World War II, wanted to isolate and silence proponents of socialism and their opposition to the imperialist slaughter. The defendants used the courtroom as a forum to clearly present their working-class program. This excerpt is from the section “Private property in the workers state.” Copyright © 1942, 2014 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission. 


Q: When you say “capitalist government,” what do you mean?

A: We mean a government that arises from a society that is based on the private ownership of the wealth of the country and the means of production by the capitalists, and which in general represents the interests of that class.

Q: And in contradistinction to this government you propose to establish a workers and farmers government?

A: Yes, we propose in place of the capitalists a workers and farmers government, which will frankly represent the economic and social interests of the workers and the producing farmers.

Q: Well, what would happen to the capitalists?

A: Under the workers and farmers government, the main task of the government will be to carry out the transfer of the most important means of production from private ownership to the common ownership of the people.

Q: Well, what would happen to the individual capitalists who would lose their wealth?

A: What do you mean, “happen to them,” in what way?

Q: Would you kill them or put them to work or what?

A: Well, under our theory, citizenship participation in the benefits of society would be open to everybody on a basis of equality. This would apply to former capitalists as well as to workers and farmers.

Q: When you use the term “productive wealth,” do you mean any property that an individual owns?

A: No — when we speak of the means of production, the wealth of the country, we mean that wealth which is necessary for the production of the necessities of the people. The industries, the railroads, mines, and so on. We don’t propose — at least, Marxist socialists have never proposed anywhere that I know — the elimination of private property in personal effects. We speak of those things which are necessary for the production of the people’s needs. They shall be owned in common by all the people.

Q: What would happen to small businesses, the owners of which do not have labor to hire?

A: Well, the best Marxist authority since [Frederick] Engels is that small proprietors, who are not exploiters, should be in no way interfered with by the workers and farmers government. They should be allowed to have their farms, their small possessions, their small handicraft shops, and only insofar as they become convinced, by the example of socialized collective farming and voluntarily would agree to pool their land and their resources in a collective effort, only to that extent can collectivization of small farming enterprises take place.

In the meantime, it is a part of our program that the workers and farmers government should assist such enterprise by assuring them reasonable prices for their implements, for fertilizers, arrange credits for them, and in general conduct the government as a government which is concerned for them and wants to represent their interests.

I am speaking now of small producing farmers, not of big landowners and bankers, who exploit a lot of people, or who rent land out to sharecroppers. We certainly intend to socialize their land in the very first stages of the workers and farmers government, turn it over to the administration of the people who actually till the soil. That also, I may say, is the standard Marxist doctrine since the earliest days, and the doctrine of [V.I.] Lenin and [Leon] Trotsky in the Russian Revolution.

Q: How will this socialist society be controlled and directed?

A: Well, socialism naturally would have to grow out of the new situation. After the social revolution has been effected in the political arena, and the capitalist government has been replaced by a workers and farmers government, which proceeds to the socialization of the industries, the abolition of inequalities, the raising of the level of the income of the masses of the people, and the suppression of any attempts at counterrevolution by the dispossessed exploiters, the importance and weight of the government as a repressive force would gradually diminish.

Then as classes are abolished, as exploitation is eliminated, as the conflict of class against class is eliminated, the very reason for the existence of a government in the strict sense of the term begins to diminish. Governments are primarily instruments of repression of one class against another. According to the doctrine of Marx and Engels and all of the great Marxists who followed them, and based themselves on their doctrine, we visualize, as Engels expressed it, a gradual withering away of the government as a repressive force, as an armed force, and its replacement by purely administrative councils, whose duties will be to plan production, to supervise public works, and education, and things of this sort. As you merge into socialist society, the government, as Engels expressed it, tends to wither away and the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things.

The government of a socialist society in reality will be an administrative body, because we don’t anticipate the need for armies and navies, jails, repressions, and consequently that aspect of government dies out for want of function.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The notorious RBG: a Marxist view

From 2012

Supreme Court justice: U.S. Constitution passé

Workers should defend protections won in struggle



The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights is passé, so says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, considered the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing. According to this view, a constitution that gives the capitalists’ government more power and “flexibility” to bestow numerous promises of rights and entitlements is better than the current Constitution and Bill of Rights, which are built around protections against the capitalist state.

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg told a local television station when she was in Egypt at the end of January. “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights.”

The liberal justice, also pointed to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom and the European Convention on Human Rights as better models than the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Amendments won in struggle

The Bill of Rights of 1791 along with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution—which abolished slavery, recognized “equal protection of the laws,” and voting rights—were won as a result of massive, bloody struggles by and in the interests of workers and farmers, including the revolutionary war for independence, Shay’s rebellion in 1786, the 1861-65 Civil War and related struggles that followed it.

South Africa’s Bill of Rights, which is four times longer than the U.S. Bill of Rights, begins by saying it “affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom” and guarantees the “full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.”

Among the more than 35 categories containing scores of highly detailed rights, so highly lauded by Justice Ginsburg, are the rights to “life,” “freedom of artistic creativity,” “fair labour practices,” “sufficient food and water” and “access to adequate housing.”

These rights, the South African law says, may be limited “to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society” or if a state of emergency is declared.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees rights subject “to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Compare those descriptions to the preamble to the Bill of Rights, which notes that the amendments to the Constitution were made “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.”

Succinct, clear and to the point. No worthless promises from the capitalist rulers to ensure “human dignity,” much less caveats about “reasonable limits.”

The last thing working people need is to depend on the capitalist state to “give us rights.” We need it to leave us alone so we can organize independently and with as little interference as possible, until the working class and our allies are strong enough to wrest power and establish a new social order based on solidarity and the needs of the great majority of toiling humanity.

There are useful examples from the early history of the United States. The words “equal rights to life, liberty and property” were popular among bourgeois opponents of monarchial tyranny and feudal reaction in the late 18th century and were included in the constitution of the antislavery New York Manumission Society. In drafting the Declaration of Independence, however, these words were altered by slaveholder Thomas Jefferson to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The exploitation of wage and slave labor is predicated on dispossession and denial of property for the toiling majority.

We don’t need any government involved in our “pursuit of happiness.” We have as much use for that as so-called rights to “artistic freedom” or “adequate food and water” championed in Ginsburg’s model constitution, while in the real world people go hungry. No, we’ll work to take care of those things ourselves despite their rule—and we find “happiness” in fighting to replace it.

The fact is, the U.S. capitalist rulers are constantly working to undermine the Bill of Rights. The right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” has become the right to plea bargain and go to jail—unless you want to risk a 10-fold harsher sentence. The right “against unreasonable searches and seizures” has become “stop and frisk” anywhere, anytime. “Equal protection of the laws” is today further from reality than at any time in nearly half a century. And President Barack Obama now asserts the Constitution does not protect citizens accused of being “terrorists” from being assassinated on his orders.

New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak put forward views similar to Ginsburg in a Jan. 6 article that reports on a study soon to be published in the New York University Law Review.

Liptak says the U.S. Constitution is “out of step with the rest of the world” is “terse and old” and “guarantees relatively few rights.” He calls the “right to bear arms” an idiosyncrasy and favorably quotes University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson bemoaning that “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.”

That difficulty, including the separation of powers and restrictive rules for approving amendments, was built into the Constitution as a result of the heterogeneous alliance of merchants and slave owners that made up the first U.S. governments, their suspicions of each other and their fears of the laboring classes.

“Our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes,” Obama complained in a Feb. 6 interview with NBC’s Today Show.

As long as we’re under capitalist rule, we’ll stick with the current Constitution—especially the Bill of Rights and 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Anything that helps to provide some protection from the state and slows down the ability of the rulers to impose their will is better than any dependency on the repressive state and false promises of the enemy class.

The Militant - April 16, 2012 -- Supreme Court justice: U.S. Constitution passé

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On The Allies We’re Not Proud Of: A Palestinian Response to Troubling Discourse on Syria

"....We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria."

Read full piece here:

Saturday, October 1, 2016

World Socialist Web Site marshalls Jew-hating vocabulary in Peres article

A new footnote to the current climate of antisemitism on the middle class left.

Classic Jew-hating motifs in the World Socialist Web Site article on Shimon Peres.

Full article here: (dot) html

....the rapacious, land-grabbing, militaristic state....

....the carving out....

....most rapacious actions....

....arch-schemer and back-stabber ....

....poisoned by assassins working for the state of Israel.

....a dispossessor, a pariah....


Readings on this anti-worker pseudo-left group:

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Babi Yar - a Marxist view

Stalinists whitewashed Nazis’
massacre of Jews at Babi Yar 

(feature article)

Sept. 28 and 29 mark the 73rd anniversary of the cold-blooded murder over two days in 1941 of more than 33,000 Jews at Babi Yar (Granny’s Ravine) on the outskirts of Kiev, Ukraine, by Nazi occupying troops and some collaborating Ukrainian police units. Over the next few years another 70,000 to 80,000 were killed and dumped in the ravine. Most were Jews, along with Romas, pro-Soviet partisans and anyone else who resisted or the Nazis thought should die.

Babi Yar was the most infamous Nazi massacre of Jews in Ukraine. In 1933, the Jewish population numbered more than 1.5 million. Most of those who survived, fled the country. Today there are around 67,000 there.

Two days before the killing started, German forces organized to put up some 2,000 posters in Russian, Ukrainian and German ordering all Jews in Kiev and the surrounding area to appear Monday morning near the train station with all documents, money and valuables.

The Nazis spread a rumor that the Jews would be put on American boats and shipped to Palestine. Instead, they were stripped naked, pushed into the ravine in waves, and shot dead. The mass slaughter took two days.

After the defeat of the fascist forces by Soviet troops, officials — in both Moscow and Kiev —refused to erect any memorial to the Holocaust massacre.

Anti-Semitism was an ideological feature not only of Nazism, but of the privileged and reactionary government bureaucracy under Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin.

“The revolutionary wave revived the finest sentiments of human solidarity,” Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky wrote in 1937 about the first years of the Russian Revolution. Referring to the counterrevolution led by Joseph Stalin that was consolidated in the late 1920s, Trotsky said that the “reaction has stirred up all that is low, dark and backward. … The bureaucracy does not even hesitate to resort to chauvinistic tendencies, above all to anti-Semitic ones.”

The Stalinist regime’s anti-Semitism became more strident in the post-war decades.Jewish intellectuals, artists and others were arrested and killed as part of an “anti-cosmopolitanism” campaign. Conspiracy theories were spun to target Jews, such as the “Doctors’ Plot” of 1952-53 in which Jewish doctors were accused of plotting to poison government officials.

Demands that a memorial recognizing the Jewish victims be built at the site of the Babi Yar massacre began in the 1940s. To head off continuing pressure for a memorial, Soviet authorities in 1957 ordered construction of a dam to fill in the ravine, and planned to cover it with a park and a sports stadium.

In October 1959 Viktor Nekrasov, a veteran of the Second World War and Stalin-Prize-winning author of the 1946 In the Trenches of Stalingrad, published a protest inLiteraturnaya Gazeta, the main literature magazine in the Soviet Union, and called for a monument to those killed.

But authorities drove forward with the project and began filling the ravine with waste. In March 1961, the dam collapsed and a wall of sludge and debris swept through workers’ neighborhoods. Officials said 150 were killed, but some reports say it could be several thousand.

Shortly after the disaster, Yevgeny Yevtushenko — a well-known poet, opponent of Stalinism and champion of the Cuban Revolution — visited the ravine and wrote “Babi Yar,” which began with the words “No monument stands over Babi Yar.” He gave public readings of the poem in Moscow and Kiev in August 1961. The poem was published the following month inLiteraturnaya Gazeta and reprinted all over the world. The day after it was published, the magazine’s editor was sacked by Soviet cultural officials.

Composer Dmitri Shostakovich worked with Yevtushenko to write “Babi Yar,” his 13th symphony, which included the poem as well as four other works against Stalinism and anti-Semitism by Yevtushenko. Soviet officials tried to sabotage the premiere. After two performances, the composer and poet were told the work would be banned unless they agreed to change some of the lines in two of the poems, “Babi Yar” and “Fears.”

For example, “I wish that men were possessed of the fear of condemning a man without proper trial” was replaced with “I see new fears arising, the fear of being insincere to the country.”

In 1966 Soviet author Anatoly Kuznetsov published a book entitled Babi Yar. Though heavily censored by Soviet authorities it described Kuznetsov’s visit to the site after the collapse of the dam: “I went there and looked in amazement at the lake of mud, swallowing the ashes, bones, stone debris gravestones.”

The book has a chapter detailing the slaughter at Babi Yar by Dina Pronichev, one of a handful of survivors.

In 1966, on the 25th anniversary of Babi Yar, thousands of people — from Kiev and throughout the Soviet Union — came to the ravine. A spontaneous rally took place that included three speakers, Pronichev, Nekrasov and Ivan Dzyuba, a Marxist who wrote Internationalism vs. Russification. Dzyuba’s book defended Soviet policy under the leadership of V. I. Lenin to back the fight to free Ukrainians and other oppressed people from centuries of oppression under the Russian empire and support their cultural development. But after Lenin’s death, Stalin revived Russian domination, including resettlement of ethnic Russians in Ukraine, known as Russification.

Dzyuba’s speech was clandestinely published as samizdat and circulated in the Soviet Union and abroad.

“Babi Yar is a tragedy of the whole of mankind, but it happened on Ukrainian soil,” Dzyuba said. “And therefore a Ukrainian must not forget it any more than a Jew.”

“But what is strange is that no battle has been waged against [anti-Semitism] during the postwar decades,” he said, “and what is even stranger, it has often been artificially nourished.”

“The Jews have a right to be Jews and the Ukrainians have a right to be Ukrainians in the full and profound, not only the formal, meaning of the word,” he said.

Under pressure, Stalinist officials eventually put up a monument to Babi Yar in 1976, but it contained no mention that any of those killed were Jews.

A monument to the Holocaust victims at Babi Yar was finally erected after the fall of the Soviet Union and the establishment of Ukraine as a sovereign nation in 1991, along with memorials to Jewish victims in World War II in cities across the country.

In November 2013 popular protest began in Ukraine that led to the overthrow of pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych in February 2014. The government of Vladimir Putin in Russia sought to paint the protesters as rightists and anti-Semites.

Asked if there was anti-Semitism at the “Maidan” protests, one of a number of Jewish fighters leading self-defense units there told the Israeli news website Hadashot, “There was not even a hint of such attitudes.”

“There is little doubt that the spirit of freedom and unity is concentrated on Maidan in abundance,” he said.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Fear of working class rife among Democrats and Republicans

SWP: What is ‘deplorable’ is capitalist crisis, not working class



Half of Republican candidate Donald Trump’s supporters are a “basket of deplorables. … racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamophobic — you name it,” Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton said Sept. 9. “They are irredeemable, but thankfully they’re not America.”

Democratic Party leaders and liberal pundits defended Clinton, saying she was accurate — in fact, understated.

Considering Caucasian workers backward bigots is a widely held proposition among liberals and the left. They look at those who come to Trump rallies and see danger.

Trump — who also has no proposals to advance the interests of working people as they face “slow burn” depression conditions and worse to come — takes advantage of workers’ search for an alternative to capitalist politics-as-usual and the Clintons’ lack of credibility. But much of what he offers is rightist demagogy, aimed at dividing the working class.

He moved to capitalize on the angry reaction of many workers to Clinton’s contemptuous remark, declaring himself the representative of the “deplorables.”

“What is deplorable is what working people face in the U.S. and around the world,” Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy, the only candidate representing the interests of the working class in the election, told the Militant Sept. 19. “When I campaign door to door with supporters, workers tell us about the reality they face — joblessness, low wages, speedup on the job and more dangerous conditions. They tell us of social problems like opiate and heroin addiction ravaging their communities.”

Kennedy said her experience — and that of hundreds of campaign supporters talking to workers about the SWP and its program on their doorsteps — shows opposition to racist attacks and a desire to build unity among workers of all nationalities against attacks by the bosses and the government.

“The capitalist rulers are afraid of the working class. They portray the majority, workers who are Caucasian, as reactionary to divide and discourage us,” Kennedy said. “But it’s not working. The mass movement that overthrew Jim Crow segregation, as well as recent protests against police killings, inspired millions of workers of all races and strengthened the working class.

“If this wasn’t true, how could you explain the speed and breadth of Confederate flags being taken down at statehouses all across the South over the past year?” she said.

“We meet workers of all races and nationalities who are attracted to the SWP’s confidence that working people are capable of fighting for unity, organizing the unorganized, and opposing the bosses and their government’s wars,” Kennedy said. “By doing this we will become strong enough to displace the capitalist dictatorship and build a new society run by workers and farmers based on values of solidarity and dignity.”

In a Sept. 15 Financial Times article, Edward Luce interviews people in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, especially Caucasian workers who say they’re leaning toward voting for Trump. Hazleton was built by workers from all across Europe who emigrated for jobs and made a living mining anthracite coal and in other factory jobs that have since shut down. The town began to shrink.

But it began to grow again, as the Latino population, largely Dominican, grew from 4 percent in 2000 to nearly half today. In 2006 then Mayor Louis Barletta gained nationwide notoriety trying to demonize the newcomers.

Much has changed in 10 years. “A striking thing about Hazleton’s Trump supporters is their reluctance to copy their candidate’s derogatory language about Hispanics,” Luce writes.

“Every time I see a Dominican they greet me and they smile,” Karen Ezak, 73, who favors Trump, told Luce. “I have never had a problem with them. They’ve brought life back to the schools and churches.”

Members of the Socialist Workers Party knocked on doors in a working-class area in Hazleton Sept. 18.

“I’m a full-time office worker, but I need a second job,” Dottie Pisano, 52, told the socialists. “I don’t live a flashy life. But I can’t make it month to month with one job. And if you get sick, forget about it — you have to move in with your folks.” She doesn’t like Trump but leans toward him, saying, “I refuse to vote for that woman,” meaning Clinton.

Pisano’s neighbor Angela Carrasco, in her 20s, at home on parental leave caring for her month-old son Johnny, was born in the Dominican Republic but grew up in Hazleton. Like many in the town she works for the big Amazon distribution center.

“There was a lot of discrimination against Dominican immigrants in the past,” Carrasco said, “but it’s much less now.”

Writing off large numbers of workers who are Caucasian, the Clinton campaign is counting on votes from African-Americans and Latinos, as well as those of women. But leaders of Clinton’s campaign are worried about lack of enthusiasm among Blacks.

“The Clinton campaign has refocused its efforts to a big turnout push directed at black and young voters,” the New York Times reported Sept. 18. “Younger black voters, in particular have expressed misgivings about Mrs. Clinton because of some of the policies of her husband’s administration,” including the 1994 crime bill, which imposed tougher sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and Clinton’s moves to “end welfare as we know it,” which resulted in deeper poverty, insecurity and social crisis for millions of working-class women and children.

“I will consider it a personal insult — an insult to my legacy — if this community lets down its guard and fails to activate itself in this election,” President Barack Obama, revealing some panic and a meritocratic contempt for Black workers, told the Congressional Black Caucus Sept. 17.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Last time U.S. workers were this deplorable? Glad you asked!

Middle-class contempt for workers
fuels liberal panic over U.S. elections
(front page)


U.S. president George Bush won another four years in the White House November 2 by a significant margin. He received 51 percent of the popular vote, compared to 48 percent for Democrat John Kerry. The result was even more stunning to liberals and middle-class radicals because the turnout was larger than in previous elections and closer to what Democrats and their hangers-on worked for and dreamed about. About 116 million people, or 58 percent of eligible voters, went to the polls—the largest percentage since 1968, according to the Associated Press—and Bush won 3.5 million more votes than Kerry....

Read in full here:

The Militant - November 23, 2004 -- Middle-class contempt for workers fuels liberal panic over U.S. elections