Wednesday, February 10, 2016

"What the workers needed above all was a revolutionary party"

Do workers need a party? 
In response to the letter printed on page 15 titled "Why a party?" we are reprinting an excerpt fromRevolutionary Continuity: Birth of the Communist Movement, 1918-1922 by Farrell Dobbs. The piece takes up the importance and indispensable role of a revolutionary party that would lead workers and farmers in a revolutionary struggle to "destroy the capitalist state and replace it with one defending the interests of the workers and poor peasants in order to move toward a socialist order," as Dobbs explained. The excerpt opens with a discussion of why Lenin in April 1917 proposed changing the official name of the Bolshevik party from the Social Democratic Labor Party to the Communist Party. Copyright © 1983 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted by permission.


The Bolshevik leader presented several reasons for the proposed change in party name. The designation "social" was scientifically incorrect, Lenin said; it was too limited. Following Marx's explanation to German socialists in the mid-1870s, Lenin explained that in overturning capitalism on a world scale, the workers could first construct socialism; by this, Lenin explained he meant state ownership of the means of production under which "the distribution of products [would be determined] according to the amount of work performed by each individual."

That doesn't end the matter, however, Lenin said. "Our Party looks farther ahead: socialism must inevitably evolve gradually into communism." Society would then have the abundance and productive capacity to apply the motto, "From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs."

The term "democracy" as used in the party's name was also scientifically incorrect, Lenin added. Democracy had come to signify a form of bourgeois state, a parliamentary republic, used to consolidate capitalist rule by means of a police, army, and government bureaucracy as a repressive force over the people. The goal of Marxists is the eventual abolition of "every kind of state," Lenin said.

Unlike anarchists, however, Marxists recognize "the need for a state for the purpose of the transition to socialism," he explained. Even this will not be a state in the previous sense of "domination over the people by contingents of armed men divorced from the people." It will be a state in which the armed forces are "the massesthemselves, the entire people," mobilized to crush all attempts at counterrevolution.

Such a state, Lenin said, would represent an "emergent new democracy, which is already ceasing to be a democracy, for democracy means the domination of the people, and the armed people cannot dominate themselves." Therefore, the emergence of soviets of workers and peasants as the sole power in a state would be "the harbinger of the 'withering away' of the state in every form...."

What the workers needed above all was a revolutionary party that would break unequivocally with the social democrats and expose the political conspiracy being hatched against the toilers; that would explain the imperative need to destroy the capitalist state and replace it with one defending the interests of the workers and poor peasants in order to move toward a socialist order; and that would teach them how to wield their power for that purpose.

There was no counterpart in Germany, however, to the Bolshevik Party that had led the Russian toilers to victory. In 1914 the ranks of the German Social Democratic Party had been thrown into political confusion and turmoil when the party leaders capitulated to the bourgeoisie and supported the imperialist war. At the outset most socialist militants were demoralized. Few were able to chart a revolutionary programmatic course on their own. It was thus not difficult for Karl Kautsky and other centrists in the party, who had pulled back from their initial outright support for the German imperialist war effort, to draw a minority of socialist workers into a pacifist campaign for a negotiated peace--which meant continued de facto support of the goals of German imperialism.

Revolutionary opponents of the war such as Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht managed to win some of the disoriented militants to their views. Slow but steady progress was made in building a nucleus of internationalists. By New Years Day 1916 the revolutionists had become strong enough to formally organize a left wing, which became known as the Spartacus League.

This represented an advance toward the creation of a revolutionary Marxist party that could challenge the reformist-dominated Social Democratic Party for political leadership of the German working class. To fully realize that objective something more was needed, however. The new party had to be built as a revolutionary combat formation along the political lines followed by Lenin in organizing the Russian Bolsheviks.

The vanguard working-class party, Lenin had taught, should make every effort to teach the masses, through drawing the lessons of their own experiences, that they must distrust the bourgeoisie and all its parties and petty-bourgeois agents. The vanguard of the working class had to provide clear answers and timely aid to its allies, above all the poor peasantry, and thereby win them away from petty-bourgeois misleaders to a common struggle against the exploiters. It had to champion and give leadership to the oppressed nationalities in their struggle for self-determination. Emphasis should constantly be placed on the socialist alternative to capitalism, and transitional steps should be charted toward the workers' conquest of state power in order to reorganize society on a higher plane.

The party should apply a Marxist strategy developed on that basis to project a course of action in various concrete situations. At the same time, an irreconcilable political struggle should be waged against the reformists and centrists. The Marxists should patiently explain--again and again--the errors of such misleaders in theory, program, strategy, and tactics in order to help the workers avoid repetition of such mistakes.

If these tasks were to be carried out, Lenin stressed, the vanguard party had to strive for political homogeneity in its ranks, based upon adherence to Marxist principles. Its members were cadres, professional revolutionists. They were not only active in the class struggle, but all their activity was carried out in a disciplined way under the direction of the party.

Moreover, the party constantly had to aim to be proletarian in composition and leadership as well as in program. Toward that end, party members should integrate themselves into the mass organizations, going through the workers' experiences with them, and in the process recruit the best militants into the revolutionary vanguard. Through such efforts, increasing numbers of proletarian fighters could be educated politically in the course of their assimilation into all phases of party activity. In that way they could develop both as competent leaders of mass actions and as candidates for the leading committees of the party itself--an interrelated process through which the party as a whole would become better equipped to win the workers' confidence by proving its capacity to guide them in their struggles against the capitalists.


Excerpt from a 2002 article:

Peronism: main obstacle for workers 

Politics in Argentina today cannot be understood without looking at the unfolding of the historic currents in the workers movement over the years, Koppel pointed out. Today, he said, the main obstacle to working people in Argentina building a revolutionary leadership remains Peronism, a bourgeois current that has dominated politics there since World War II.

"This obstacle was not inevitable, however," he added. The main current in the working-class movement prior to World War II was the Argentine Communist Party. This Stalinist party betrayed the working class leading up to and during World War II. Faithfully carrying out the foreign policy dictates of the ruling bureaucratic caste in Moscow, it backed the war efforts of Argentina's main imperialist oppressor--the United Kingdom--and its ally in Washington. The Communist Party opposed strikes by packinghouse and other workers in order to "aid the war effort." Such treachery discredited the CP among militant workers.

The Stalinists thus handed the banner of national liberation to the bourgeois nationalist current around Juan Domingo Perón, which was able to divert the potential revolutionary struggles of workers and farmers into pro-capitalist channels.

Argentine capitalists had been able to take advantage of the war between imperialist rivals, selling them meat and raking in high profits. This allowed them to make substantial concessions to the working class. Under Perón, appointed minister of labor by a military junta and then elected president in 1946, workers organized massively into unions and won significant increases in wages and social benefits. During the postwar boom, working people attributed the fruits of their struggles to Perón and his wife Eva, who posed as a champion of the dispossessed and defender of "the Argentine nation." The leadership of the powerful industrial unions, affiliated to the General Confederation of Labor (CGT), became subordinated and completely tied to Perón and his Justicialist Party.

Since that time, the Argentine labor movement has been marked by the contradiction between the militancy of the rank and file and the class-collaborationist union bureaucracy that has tied the unions to the Peronist party and the capitalist state.

With the end of the postwar boom, Perón was overthrown in a military coup. Workers and their organizations suffered blows but were not defeated.

In 1969, a working-class uprising against the military regime took place in Córdoba, the country's center of auto and aerospace production. Similar revolts took place in the industrial center of Rosario, and then in a number of other cities--except the country's capital, Buenos Aires.

The Cordobazo, as it became known, opened up a prerevolutionary situation in Argentina, at a time when working-class upsurges swept through several South American countries. "With proper leadership, a struggle for power by workers and farmers throughout the country could have been posed," Koppel pointed out.

To defuse the mass upsurge, the military announced elections that took place in 1973, and the Peronists won decisively.

During this period, class-struggle-minded currents began to grow in the union movement, seeking to challenge the pro-employer course of the Peronist bureaucracy. Various organizations identifying themselves as socialist or communist were active in the labor movement. Among them was a small Marxist current that received a hearing from many vanguard workers.

In face of the obstacle of Peronism and the treachery of Stalinism, however, "thousands of revolutionary-minded youth and workers turned toward an ultraleft course," Koppel said. "They were inspired by the Cuban Revolution but misapplied its lessons. Rejecting the perspective of building a revolutionary party of workers rooted in its struggles and mass organizations, they elevated the method of guerrilla warfare to a political strategy, believing it possible for a small group to spark the masses into action through bold but isolated deeds." Prominent among these groups were the People's Revolutionary Army (ERP) and the Montoneros, a group arising out of Peronism that used socialist language.

"This ultraleft sectarian course led to disastrous results," Koppel emphasized. "Workers and farmers were increasingly relegated to the sidelines by this strategy. And as the ruling class unleashed a brutal repression, thousands of courageous revolutionaries were slaughtered."

He pointed out that the lessons of that experience are drawn in the Pathfinder book The Leninist Strategy of Party Building: The Debate on Guerrilla Warfare in Latin America by U.S. Socialist Workers Party leader Joseph Hansen. It was one of a number of books on sale during the socialist educational weekend.

The Argentine rulers responded with a bloody military coup in 1976. Under the U.S.-backed dictatorship, some 30,000 workers, students, and others were "disappeared." Thousands more were imprisoned or forced into exile. It took years for the working class to recover from these blows.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Clinton: ‘Build wall along border’

From 2006, when Bush was too liberal:

In an interview published in the New York Daily News two days earlier, Sen. Hillary Clinton, a Democratic Party presidential hopeful, outlined proposals to the right of Bush, such as building a wall along much of the U.S. border with Mexico.

"As for how to stem the tide of illegal immigrants, 'A physical structure is obviously important,' she [Clinton] said," the News reported. "'A wall in certain areas would be appropriate,' as long as it was not a 'dumb wall' that could be scaled or tunneled. Advocating 'smart fencing,' she added, 'There is technology that could be in the fence that would spot people coming from 250 or 300 yards away and signal patrol agents who could respond.'" The separation wall Tel Aviv is building between the West Bank and Israel might help guide Washington, Clinton stated.

The Democratic senator said she welcomes a crackdown by Washington on employers hiring undocumented immigrants. Such steps, along with "securing the border," have to come first before any measures may be implemented to regularize the status of immigrants already in the United States, she added.

"We need to structure it as one piece of comprehensive legislation, with a staged implementation," Clinton said, referring to the immigration debate in the Senate. The legalization process could begin "12 to 24 months" after border control measures take effect, she told the News.

Clinton joined other critics of the Bush administration faulting it for being "soft" and "incompetent" on law enforcement.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Cuba's sovereignty at stake in 2000 Elian Gonzalez controvery

....To clarify the issues at stake, it's useful to respond to arguments raised in a letter in sharp disagreement with the Militant. In a letter e-mailed around the world, and printed here in the letters column, Karen Wald writes that the SWAT-style assault by special forces of la migra's Border Patrol "was simply the only way to rescue a small child being illegally held." 

From the standpoint of the exploited and oppressed, however, a question posed this way can never produce an answer in the interests of the working class. Because it proposes that those of us in the workers movement share responsibility with the capitalist rulers and imperialist state — whose interests are irreconcilable with ours —in solving their problems and resolvingtheir dilemmas. 

Malcolm X used to say that in the days before the U.S. Civil War, when the slavemaster got sick, the house slave would say, "'What's the matter boss, we sick?' When the master's house caught afire, he'd try and put the fire out." But the field slave would "pray that the master died. If the master's house caught afire, they'd pray for a strong wind." 

The latter is what marks the course of class-conscious workers today toward "our own" bourgeoisie, the masters of modern finance capital. Our starting point is not winning concessions from the exploiters, but how to educate and mobilize working people along a line of march that can culminate in getting rid of the exploiters. Along that road, the toilers will win the maximum concessions. But above all, through revolutionary class independence we will prepare the ground to overthrow the imperialist rulers whose march toward fascism and war poses historic dangers to working people, the Cuban revolution, and all humanity. 

It's only among those who share this class objective and standpoint, of course, that there is common ground for discussion. 

In an earlier e-mail, Wald wrote that she thought "sending roses to Janet Reno was going overboard in one direction," but that "the Militant's editorial position is going overboard in the other." Wald's reference was to an exchange in last week's Militantletters column headlined "Flowers for Reno?" 

But Wald's own April 22 letter reprinted in last week's letters column issued a call to write individual letters of "congratulations" to Reno, Clinton, Gore, INS Commissioner Doris Meissner, Hillary Clinton, and Tipper Gore....

Green Party: Swamp of chauvinist reformism

....Although a campaign press statement claims McKinney "broke with the Democratic Party," she gave a speech in June "congratulating Senator Obama for a feat well done" after it was clear he would be the Democratic presidential nominee. "Coming from Barack Obama," she said, "the word 'change' did not appear as just another empty campaign slogan."

McKinney is running what she calls a "power to the people" campaign. Clemente says they will fight all "-isms and ideologies that divide us." They are running on the 10-point "Draft Manifesto for a Reconstruction Party," which includes demands for withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, recognizing "affordable housing as a human right," granting "reparations" to Blacks, "ending prisons for profit," creating a "single-payer" health-care system, and enacting "real immigration reform."

McKinney's claim to be "the only genuinely antiwar candidate" is contradicted by her votes when she was in Congress. She voted for the September 2001 bill authorizing the U.S. war on Afghanistan and for the May 2005 "Department of Homeland Security Authorization Act." She says she is for cutting "bloated Pentagon spending" and for deploying "our diplomats" to "resolve conflicts through peaceful means" and for "the orderly withdrawal of U.S. troops" from around the world.

McKinney often promotes conspiracy theories about Sept., 11, 2001, alleging that the Bush administration knew in advance about the planned attack on the World Trade Center.

Although McKinney says she is for immigration "reform," while still in Congress she voted against expanding the number of visas for some categories of immigrant workers. She also voted both for and against lifting the U.S. travel ban to Cuba.

While McKinney uses radical-sounding rhetoric against the Republicans and Democrats, her political framework represents no break from capitalist politics at all. Rather, she puts forward an American nationalist perspective of rescuing "the soul of our country." She tries to gloss over the class divisions that exist between the ruling billionaires on one side and the working class on the other. And she puts forward the idea that Washington's wars around the world are the result of mistaken policies and not an integral part of the workings of imperialism.

"Our country has been hijacked," McKinney told a March 2007 demonstration at the Pentagon against the Iraq war. "Our beloved America is divided again into two Americas… . We want an America that is respected in the commonwealth of men. We want our values to shine like a beacon around the world."

Two parties that call themselves socialist, Workers World and the Workers International League, are backing McKinney. "We are taking the unusual step of endorsing" her candidacy, the Workers World Party said July 17 "because these are unique times and this is a unique candidate."

"Because of her militancy in the struggle against war, the struggle to impeach Bush, as well as her struggle to expose the government's role in the displacement of survivors of Hurricane Katrina," the group said, "she was branded too Black and too radical."

According to Workers World, socialists should "put aside narrow views, sectarian habits and small differences that have festered during a long and demoralizing period of world reaction" because McKinney's campaign is "Black-led, anti-imperialist, working-class-centered and has a multinational radical base with the potential of unlimited growth."

The Militant - August 18, 2008 -- Green Party nominates McKinney for president