in the U.S. is possible
Printed below is an excerpt from Is Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible? one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month in March. In two talks, presented as part of a wide-ranging debate at the annual Venezuela Book Fairs in 2007 and 2008, Mary-Alice Waters, a member of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee, explains why revolutionary struggles by working people are inevitable, initiated not by the toilers, but forced upon us by the employing class’s crisis-driven assaults on our living standards and job conditions—on our very humanity. As solidarity grows among a fighting vanguard of working people, the outlines of coming class battles can already be seen. Copyright © 2008 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.
BY MARY-ALICE WATERS
Today, above all I want to address my remarks, with all due respect, to those who doubt that socialist revolution in the United States is possible—to those who believe, or fear, that U.S. imperialism is too powerful, and that revolution has become at best a utopian dream.
To those who harbor such doubts, I will pose a question: What assumptions about the future, explicit or implicit, could justify such a conclusion? What would the future have to look like?
I hope others here will address this as well. But I would like to give my answer.
To reach that conclusion, you would have to believe that the coming decades are going to look more or less like those we knew for nearly half a century following World War II.
You would have to believe that there won’t again be economic, financial, or social crises on the order of those that marked the first half of the twentieth century. That the ruling families of the imperialist world and their economic wizards have found a way to “manage” capitalism so as to preclude shattering financial crises that could lead to something akin to the Great Depression; to growing assaults on the economic, social, and political rights of the toilers; to spreading imperialist war; to the rise of mass fascist movements in the streets. That such a crisis of the capitalist system would no longer be met by working-class resistance like the mass social movement that exploded in the United States in the 1930s and built the industrial unions.
You would have to be convinced that competition among the imperialist rivals, as well as between them and the more economically advanced semicolonial powers, is diminishing and that their profit rates, which have been on a long downward trend since the mid-1970s, are now going to begin to rise for several decades on an accelerated curve.
You would have to believe that such a turnaround in their accumulation of capital can be accomplished without the massive destruction of productive capacity—human and physical—wrought by decades of war, such as those that culminated in the interimperialist slaughter of World War II. That is what was necessary for the capitalist rulers to get out of the last great depression.
I believe the evidence is overwhelming that the future we face is the opposite. Just read the headlines this last week! Think about what is happening from Wall Street to Pakistan, from Moscow to Tehran, from the Shanghai stock exchange to the ever-deeper gold mines of South Africa, to the world banking system.
The opening guns of World War III are already a decade and a half behind us. We are already living through the opening stages of what will be many decades of bloody wars beginning with ones like those in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Iraq again. That is what the “transformation” of Washington’s military structure and strategy is all about.
What is coming are years of economic and financial crises of which the current, still-expanding subprime mortgage crisis—and the even more massive debt balloon it is part of, on and off the balance sheets—offer only a hint.
What is coming are years that will bring increasingly conscious and organized resistance by a growing vanguard of working people pushed to the wall by the bosses’ drive to cut wages and increase what they call productivity.
What is coming are years punctuated by street battles with ultrarightist movements aimed against fighting union militants, revolutionary socialists, Blacks, immigrants, Jews, and others—in even the most “stable” of bourgeois democracies.
What is coming are years of economic, social, and political crises and intensifying class struggle that will end in World War III, inevitably, if the only class that is capable of doing so, the working class, fails to take state power—and thus the power to wage war—out of the hands of the imperialist rulers.
A fighting working-class vanguard
In the United States, the outlines of these coming battles can already be seen. The historic shift is not ahead of us, it has already occurred.
The most important political development in the United States is something you rarely see images of on your TV screen or read about in the press. Its power has been expressed, however, by the millions of workers who have taken to the streets in cities and towns large and small across the breadth of the country the last two years on May Day, as that historic working-class holiday is fighting to be reborn in the United States as a day of struggle.
A fighting vanguard of the working class has emerged in action in the U.S.—taking the rulers by surprise, as registered in their divisions and heated debates over immigration policy. That vanguard is already placing its mark on politics and the class struggle.