Friday, August 3, 2012

U.S. Socialist Workers Party 2012 perspectives

Some readers of Marxist Update have been wondering when the re-cap of the US Socialist Workers Party's June Active Workers Conference would be posted.  Since the Militant published the re-cap over three issues, I decided to wait until they were all available, paste them all together, and post them as one piece.  Links to the three articles are located at the bottom of the post.  I hope readers will feel free to offer their comments. 


Maura DeLuca (left), Socialist Workers candidate for vice president, talks with working people in Newark, N.J., July 7. More than 1,800 signed petitions July 7-8 to put party on ballot in state.

Socialist Workers conference charts working-class course as party joins labor fights, social protests;
Strengthening branches of a proletarian party in response to capitalist crisis and political openings to present road to workers power


Out of the seeming chaos of today's world capitalist crisis and false "solutions" offered by bourgeois politicians and middle-class misleaders of workers and the oppressed, there is a clear voice speaking for the interests of the working class in the 2012 U.S. elections, said Jack Barnes in his opening talk to the Socialist Workers Party Membership Conference held June 21-23 in Oberlin, Ohio. Barnes is the party's national secretary.

That voice, Barnes said, is the Socialist Workers Party campaign, and its ticket of James Harris for president and Maura DeLuca for vice president, as well as candidates for state and local offices across the country.

Coming out of the June conference, Harris and DeLuca began a campaign tour that is taking them across the United States. "Join us, join with us! The working-class, labor, socialist campaign"—that was the banner displayed at the final session of the Ohio gathering, which introduced the 2012 presidential ticket.

The socialist candidates stand shoulder to shoulder with workers in struggle, talking with them about the roots of the capitalist crisis and of Washington's wars and unleashing of killer drones from Pakistan and Afghanistan to Africa and elsewhere. The candidates and campaign supporters present a course for workers and our unions to strengthen solidarity, to fight for a massive public works program in face of rising long-term joblessness, and to chart an independent working-class road toward the fight for political power.

"Thank you for taking on the task of making sure there is a voice for the millions of workers who aren't being heard," said Buddy Howard in a message to the Socialist Workers candidates read to participants at that closing event. Howard was a leader of a fight by some 240 union grain millers locked out for 10 months in 2010-2011 at Roquette America's corn processing plant in Keokuk, Iowa. (See message in July 16 issue.)

SWP members, young socialists, and other campaign supporters are signing up workers, farmers and young people as endorsers of the 2012 socialist ticket of Harris and DeLuca.

The conference projected building on the more than 2,400 Militant subscriptions sold during the spring international circulation drive to expand the readership of the only weekly newspaper presenting a working-class perspective on world politics. SWP members and young socialists are selling the paper door to door and on street corners in working-class neighborhoods, including communities predominantly of workers who are Black; on the job in factories and other workplaces; on union picket lines; and at actions of social protest.

They are helping get out the truth about struggles, from the demonstration of some 7,000 against New York City cops and their "stop-and-frisk" harassment, which took place the weekend before the socialist conference; to the fight that began the week afterwards by more than 8,000 workers in New York against a lockout by Con Edison; to actions in support of unconditional legalization of immigrant workers and in defense of a woman's right to choose abortion.

Building a proletarian party
Politically strengthening branches of a proletarian party able to effectively carry out such a course—from Los Angeles to New York, from Seattle to Omaha—was at the heart of the opening conference talk "What We've Accomplished, Where We Are Going," which Barnes presented to some 325 members, supporters and young socialists.

Today's deteriorating conditions of working people are not the product of breakdowns in banking and financial markets, Barnes said. What today's generations are experiencing for the first time in our lives is a deep-going crisis of capitalist production, profitability, and contraction of investment to expand plants, equipment and employment.

As workers respond to the consequences of this crisis, SWP members are also finding greater interest than in many years in reading books and pamphlets recording lessons from past working-class battles.

Among the essential tools socialist workers and young socialists are using in their campaigning, including special offers with a Militant subscription, are two titles by Barnes: Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, and The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform Under Capitalism. Coming out of the June 21-23 conference, a special offer is being added for the new book Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos, and Yolanda Ferrer.

Space for politics worldwide
Both the capitalist crisis and workers' resistance are global in scope. The space to practice working-class politics is opening from Europe, to growing parts of Asia and the Pacific, and to the Middle East—from the so-called "Arab Spring" and massive protests in Israel over the past year, to the growing circulation in Iran of revolutionary literature.

Stretching the reach of the communist movement to meet these openings was the focus of the other conference talk, "Starting with the World: The Practical Work of the Party," presented by Mary-Alice Waters, a member of the Socialist Workers Party National Committee. Waters described the opportunities to take the Militant and books published and distributed by Pathfinder Press—and translations of them into more and more languages—to workers, farmers and youth from the Americas to China, Iran, Indonesia and Sri Lanka.

Five classes given during the conference supplemented the political themes of the talks.

Crisis of capitalist production
Under capitalism, history moves like a drunken beggar on horseback, Barnes said in his opening talk. Tendencies inherent to capitalist production produce and reproduce crises, he said, but there's nothing predictable about its course.

Today's crisis of production and capital accumulation will stretch out and deepen in coming years and decades. The owners of capital, their governments and politicians, their universities, think tanks and press commentators are not prepared for what they face, Barnes said. They are in denial.

No matter who is elected president in 2012, the global contraction of production, trade and employment will continue. The social crisis will deepen. No bourgeois policy course or financial manipulations can make it otherwise. The propertied rulers are pressing their attacks on our living and working conditions, our ability to hold a job, our unions, and our basic human dignity.

Barnes called attention to a recent, widely publicized study by the Federal Reserve bank pointing to a nearly 50 percent drop in what it called median family wealth (or "net worth") since 2007. But workers have no wealth, he said. If we did, we could support ourselves and our families off dividends and interest, instead of having to sell our labor power to a boss in return for wages—and then there would be no working class!

The illusion that workers possess wealth is one of many ways the capitalist rulers seek to blunt working-class consciousness, Barnes said. They want to persuade us that if we become "home owners," we too have "an equity stake" in preserving capitalist social relations, just like the employers who hire us, lay us off, and do grow wealthy from the value we produce with our labor. Or they want us to believe the payroll taxes we pay into Social Security, or equivalent wage deductions for a private pension, end up in a lockbox where they sit safely and collect interest for the time later in life when we need those funds.

That's why when class-conscious workers hear the question, "What are you worth?" dollar signs don't flash in our minds, Barnes said. To us, he added, "worth" signifies workers' capacity, by fighting together, to strengthen our discipline and transform ourselves through the battle.

Global in scope and resistance
The U.S. ruling families have made more progress in squeezing profits from the labor of working people than their imperialist rivals in Europe and the Pacific, and even more than capitalists and landlords in parts of the semicolonial world. So much so that some manufacturing jobs overseas have begun "coming back" to the United States—to use the bosses' fetishistic language, Barnes said—as well as "back North" from so-called "right-to-work" states in the U.S. South.

Today's economic and social crisis is more truly global than those in the 1920s and 1930s, when the vast majority of toilers in Asia, Africa and Latin America lived on subsistence farming largely outside the world capitalist market. Today working people in China, India and across the colonial world are drawn into capitalist production—in factories, as well as on the land—and are actors in the resistance and class battles beginning to be joined.

What's more, Barnes said, there is mounting evidence of a sharp slowdown of production and trade in China, which in some bourgeois circles has been looked to as an "engine of growth" they hope can pull the entire world out of crisis. That illusion is starting to shatter. Far from being a way out, the massive migration of peasants into cities and factory jobs in China in recent decades, and the rapid accumulation (and export) of capital—have become a powerful new source of class contradictions and struggles both in China and in the world.

Declining role of Europe
Hopes among the imperialist ruling families across Europe that the European Union could enable them to compete successfully against U.S. finance capital and pose a challenge in world markets to the dominance of the dollar—and to the economic and industrial base, state power and military prowess that stand behind it—are being dashed. Under the pressure of the world capitalist crisis, the EU, a so-called common market with no prospect of a common state, is foundering on the conflicting class interests of the stronger and weaker exploiting classes that comprise it: those of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, versus those in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and elsewhere.

That's why wealthy individuals and governments the world over are buying up U.S. Treasury bonds despite the historically low interest rates they pay. In an unstable capitalist world, however, there is no safer place for the exploiting classes to park their capital, certainly nowhere in Europe, including Germany.

The interconnectedness of capitalism means tremblors anywhere shake every corner of the earth.

Never in modern history have any of the imperialist powers in Europe been less ready to fight and win wars to defend their class interests, Barnes noted. Not only are the cabinets in England and France making deep cuts in troops and weaponry, but so is the German government, which since its defeat in World War II has never had substantial armed forces. Even during the 2011 mop-up actions to finish off the Gadhafi regime in Libya, supposedly carried out largely by planes and ships from the U.K. and France, operations depended entirely on U.S. air reconnaissance, refueling, armaments, and covert special forces spotters on the ground.

However strong the production and trade of Germany's imperialist rulers may be relative to all but a handful of their rivals in Europe, devoid of anything even close to commensurate military might, Berlin will never throw strategic weight in world politics, including in Europe.

Increasingly for the imperialist rulers in Washington, Barnes said, the most important military allies today are not in Europe, but in Israel, Turkey, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. In Asia, where the U.S. government is shifting military resources to contain China and hold on to its post-World War II domination of the Pacific, Washington is turning for allies to the capitalist rulers in Australia and smaller countries in the region.

Elections in Greece, France and elsewhere in Europe are less and less important in determining what will happen next, Barnes said. They change nothing, since there is nothing any bourgeois government, party or politician can do to reverse the crisis or will do to stop the heaviest blows being dealt to working people.

The trend for now is toward the bourgeois left in Europe's parliamentary politics, as reflected in electoral victories for the Socialist Party in France and the emergence in Greece of Syriza—the self-proclaimed Coalition of the Radical Left—as a big league player. After only a few weeks in office, the new SP president of France, François Hollande, was already taking steps to carry out the capitalist rulers' anti-working-class plans.

Despite alarmist coverage in the bourgeois media, echoed by many middle class radicals in Europe and the U.S., there is no rising fascist threat. Given the class-collaborationist misleadership of the labor movement across Europe, and lack of a serious challenge to bourgeois rule anywhere on the continent, no European ruling class sees reason now to turn toward fascist forces to try to smash workers organizations. In fact, Barnes said, large ultrarightist parties such as the National Front in France are working to clean up earlier fascist-like trappings in order to cultivate broader parliamentary appeal.

The weaker ruling classes in Europe keep being preyed upon by the stronger. The crisis of the euro continues, but it is not easy for the rival rulers to unwind and widening fissures are coming down the road. Whatever governments are in power, and whatever bourgeois policies they pursue, the workers go to the wall, either way.

While the capitalists cannot give up the intensifying competition among themselves to conquer markets and maximize profits, the same is not true for the working class, explained Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party.

Competition for jobs is the condition of workers under capitalism, but the working class can counteract that dog-eat-dog rivalry. We can do so through class solidarity, organizing unions, and carrying out independent labor political action.

Barnes presented the opening talk and closing summary at the Socialist Workers Membership Conference held June 21-23 in Oberlin, Ohio.

Today, Barnes said, as the employing class reacts to the capitalist crisis by deepening their assault on our wages, conditions, unions and very dignity, workers are standing up and resisting, regardless of how great the odds may seem.

Example are mounting in the United States: the fights against union-busting lockouts by the bosses, from the one-year struggle by 1,300 workers against American Crystal Sugar in the Upper Midwest, to actions by more than 8,000 workers against Con Edison in New York; and strikes, big and small, from 780 workers taking on Caterpillar in Joliet, Ill., over a wage freeze and pension cuts, to 85 Teamsters in Kent, Wash., resisting Davis Wire's relentless "productivity" drive.

Regardless of the immediate outcome, workers often come out of these fights more ready to continue the struggle inside the plants, as well as to organize solidarity with embattled working people elsewhere. Many deepen their interest in struggles by workers and farmers the world over, as well.

That's true, for example, among members of the Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers union who fought a 10-month battle against Roquette America's lockout in Keokuk, Iowa, in 2010-2011; of Steelworkers who for 14 months stood up to Honeywell's lockout at its uranium plant in Metropolis, Ill.; and of dockworkers in Longview, Wash., who after an eight-month fight against union busting by EGT Development forced the company in February to hire members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Through these battles, Barnes said, small groups of militant workers come together, look for others like them, and seek out discussions of how the working class can prepare more consciously and effectively for future battles. Efforts by socialist workers and use of the Militant are part of this process.

SWP 2012 campaigns
The conference discussed using Socialist Workers Party 2012 election campaigns as a voice presenting a fighting course for workers and our allies to confront the capitalist crisis. The party is running James Harris for president and Maura DeLuca for vice president, along with candidates for state and local offices. (See article on front page.)

James Harris

The campaign puts forward immediate demands workers can organize around today to strengthen our unity and fighting capacity, such as a massive public works program to combat joblessness. At the same time, the socialist candidates point to the need for working people to chart an independent political course from the bosses, their parties, and their government, along the road toward the revolutionary fight for workers power.

Part and parcel of this effort is getting the Militant and books on working-class politics into the hands of workers in neighborhoods in cities and small towns, on picket lines and at demonstrations, on the job and at factory gates, in prisons and elsewhere. More and more workers today see the Militant as their own paper, Barnes said. This is not only because it's the only paper that—week in and week out—champions and tells the truth about fights by working people like themselves. It's also because these workers are more and more interested in learning the political lessons of struggles by working people of today and yesterday that are found in the pages of the Militant.

Communist workers take SWP campaign flyers, the paper and books with us as we join workers' battles and social struggles, from fights against cop harassment and brutality to defending women's right to abortion.

Party of industrial workers

The activity of SWP members together with fellow workers includes organized political and trade union work with those we work alongside in factories across the United States. Without that, Barnes said, we're an organization composed of factory workers, but not a disciplined proletarian party.

Communist workers sell Militant subscriptions and sign up SWP campaign endorsers on the job, and look for opportunities to join with fellow workers in bringing solidarity to union fights and social protests, locally and beyond. We're part of efforts to strengthen our unions and bring union power to bear against the bosses. When we're holding down jobs in the growing percentage of workplaces that are unorganized, we act on the recognition that there's always a union in embryo as workers look for ways to fight to defend each other, Barnes said.

Socialist workers reject any and all prejudices against fellow workers who hold religious views, Barnes said. We're as likely to get a Militant subscription from a worker who has a crucifix or other religious symbol at their workstation, or on their door or wall at home, as we are from a worker who doesn't, he said.

That distinguishes socialist workers from middle-class radicals, bourgeois liberals, and bureaucratic-minded union officials, who tend to consider themselves "smarter" and more "enlightened" than workers.

'Wisconsin' and 'Occupy'
Barnes contrasted the SWP's political course—more broadly into working-class and popular struggles worldwide, as we build the nucleus of a proletarian party able to lead working people toward the fight for power—with the perspectives of various petty-bourgeois organizations and currents in U.S. politics.

Many of these forces, for example, threw themselves into the labor-officialdom-led effort earlier this year to "recall" Wisconsin's Republican Governor Scott Walker. In early 2011, Barnes said, SWP members from across the U.S. joined with other workers in the mobilizations in Wisconsin against union busting by the state government targeting public employees. But the aim of the "recall" campaign was to put Democrats into office, at the very time that Democratic administrations from the White House to states and cities across the country are leading assaults not just against public employees but workers and unions of every kind.

Government workers, Barnes said, are being forced to pay the price for the procapitalist labor officialdom's decades of collaboration with the Democratic Party, dependence on "deals" with government officials, and embracing as supposedly part of labor cops, prison guards, and other police- and court-linked "uniformed services"—whose job is to defend capitalist property and rule by violence and repression. A fighting course to defend the working class and unions, including public employees, requires a break from the bosses' parties and their government, the SWP leader said, not deepening reliance on them.

Socialist workers took that message and the broader working-class course presented in the Militant not just to demonstrators in Madison (a government and university-centered town, with a disproportionately middle-class composition), Barnes said. We increasingly concentrated our effort on going door to door in cities and small towns across Wisconsin, talking to privately employed workers and government employees, union and nonunion workers, farmers, and others. Just as the party continues to do in states and regions across the U.S.

Similarly, Barnes said, when the "Occupy" actions began in New York and spread to other areas in late 2011, socialist workers and young socialists went to them to bring working-class politics to participants looking for answers. We joined actions called under "Occupy" auspices that were part of broader social protests in the interests of working people.

But virtually all centrist and other petty-bourgeois organizations claiming to be socialists or part of the workers movement, Barnes said, ended up burying themselves in Occupy—"Occupy is our party," became the watchword. Or else, he said, they looked to Occupy as a substitute for the transformation of the labor movement by the ranks of the working class—organized and unorganized—into instruments of struggle to defend workers' interests. (For example, Occupy forces on the West Coast organized ultraleft adventures earlier this year during the hard-fought battle by ILWU members against union busting on the docks in Longview, Wash.)

The SWP, to the contrary, acted from the outset on the recognition that this phenomenon wasn't and couldn't be a surrogate for a class-struggle union movement, much less for a proletarian party. Its middle-class base and political trajectory precluded either one.

What's more, socialist workers explained how Occupy's "We are the 99 percent!" slogan obfuscates true class relations under capitalism and dovetails with the anti-Republican demagogy of the Democratic Party's campaign strategy.

Using political space
The political space opening for workers and farmers the world over to defend our living and working conditions was at the center of the talks and discussion at the socialist conference.

Everything points to this space remaining open for the foreseeable future, Barnes said, and that fact will be key to strengthening the organization, solidarity and political clarity of vanguard workers in the U.S. and worldwide.

This is not a matter of how "democratic," or how "secular," a particular capitalist regime may be. Conditions are often fraught with dangers and sharpening class conflict as political space opens, as, for example, in Syria. As civil war rages there, the old regime that for decades kept a lid on working people engaging in politics is cracking, and the capitalist rulers are deeply divided.

Both in the semicolonial world and a growing number of imperialist countries, Barnes said, divisions within the propertied rulers, often registered in difficulty maintaining stable governments, are exacerbated by the capitalist crisis. These divisions within the enemy class—whether in Greece or elsewhere in Europe, or in parts of the Middle East—provides greater latitude for workers and farmers to organize and defend our class interests.

In Egypt, for instance, the contest for political dominance between the wing of the bourgeoisie tied to the officer corps and those behind the Muslim Brotherhood is good for maintaining the space for workers won in 2011 by the mass mobilizations that toppled the regime of Hosni Mubarak.

And in Israel itself, the grinding consequences of the capitalist crisis on working people, middle layers, and youth, both Jewish and Arab, are fueling mounting social struggles and class conflict.

Political openings in Iran
More than any other country in the region, or in much of the world, the political space in Iran to circulate books and pamphlets recording the lessons of revolutionary struggles for power by workers and farmers the world over remains open, Barnes said.

This is true despite blows working people have taken from the ruling capitalists and religious hierarchy there since the 1979 Iranian Revolution went into retreat soon after the victory. That deep-going social upheaval, in which workers' strikes and mobilizations proved decisive, overturned the U.S.-backed monarchy and ripped from Washington a strategic ally in defending imperialist interests.

The bourgeois counterrevolution has narrowed the space won by working people in 1979 but never succeeded in closing it. Communist literature is more available in Farsi, the main language of Iran, than any other language today other than English, Barnes pointed out.

Some four dozen books translated from Pathfinder titles are published in Iran, said Mary-Alice Waters in her conference talk, "Starting with the World: The Practical Work of the Party." She pointed to a review by the Iran Book News Agency of the new Farsi edition of The Revolution Betrayed by Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky, recently issued by the Talaye Porsoo publishing house. (See review in next week's issue.)

"The capitalist crises at the present time put wind in the sails of left currents, more than before, to beat the drum of capitalism's future demise," the reviewer for the government-run news agency wrote. "…. For years Pathfinder Press has been publishing books in the field of left-wing thought. The publisher stood its ground at the height of the domination of capitalism, especially in the U.S., and published books by Trotsky, Lenin, Marx and Engels, as well as thinkers of the contemporary left in the U.S. such as Jack Barnes."

The review then listed several other Pathfinder titles published in Farsi in Iran, including U.S. Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War and Feminism and the Marxist Movement.

As the capitalist market draws more and more toilers worldwide into the working class and modern communications continue to make the earth a smaller place, Waters told the conference, the world is getting bigger for the communist movement.

Living Marxism has had, and continues to have, only one source—the practical work of proletarian parties such as the Socialist Workers Party involved in working-class politics and drawing the lessons of revolutionary battles by the working class worldwide. And our publishing program, Waters said, provides the only written record of those lessons today.

The communist movement reaches out to anyone, anywhere in the world who demonstrates an interest in the class struggle and the lessons of workers' battles to take on capitalist rule—from the Bolshevik Revolution of October 1917, to the Cuban Revolution of 1959 and its ongoing revolutionary course today. Doing that is an integral part of the day-to-day work of proletarian parties whose members, through their branches, carry out political and trade-union activity with fellow workers on the job and off, Waters said.

As members of the Socialist Workers Party join in the spreading resistance by fellow workers against relentless attacks from the bosses and their government, our involvement is grounded in understanding what the communist movement is, said Jack Barnes, the party's national secretary, to participants in the June 21-23 Socialist Workers Membership Conference in Oberlin, Ohio.

Communism is not an idea, he said; it's a movement of the working class, an international movement, one that proceeds on the basis of the existing class struggle, on the basis of facts, not preconceived doctrines or principles.

Recognizing who we are, and acting accordingly, is the foundation of all our activity, Barnes said, whether we're fighting alongside and organizing solidarity for locked-out sugar beet workers in the Upper Midwest; or longshore workers on the West Coast; or those fighting cop brutality, supporting a woman's right to abortion, and demanding legalization of immigrant workers; or workers and farmers combating exploitation and oppression anywhere in the world. We're part of a vanguard of the working class that's gaining experience in the course of struggles.

We're meeting groups of workers and getting to know them, Barnes said. Through use of the Militant and in other ways, we're helping bring them together with embattled workers elsewhere. We're just like them, and they're like us. We want to strengthen the working-class movement, so we can fight better.

Communist workers bring to those we're fighting alongside political lessons from working-class battles for more than a century and a half—lessons that are hard-fought, often earned in blood, and written down for use by succeeding generations. Above all, these are generalized lessons from struggles on the road to the revolutionary conquest of political power by the working class. This isn't a course that's "discovered", but one that's built and renewed by vanguard workers over many decades.

These extend from the conclusions reached by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels as leaders of the communist workers movement in the revolutions of 1848-49 in Europe and during the Paris Commune of 1871, where for the first time the working class, for nearly three months, held political power; to lessons from forging the Bolshevik leadership of the 1917 Russian Revolution, led by V.I. Lenin, and efforts to build proletarian parties in other countries able to extend workers power worldwide; to today's living, fighting revolution in Cuba, brought to victory in 1959 by workers and farmers under the leadership of the Rebel Army led by Fidel Castro.

One of the five classes at the conference focused on the place of the Cuban Revolution in this continuity—a discussion of the new book Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution by Vilma Espín, Asela de los Santos and Yolanda Ferrer. The class was led by Martín Koppel and Lynn Hudson. Each class was aimed at supplementing political themes of the main talks, presented by Barnes and by Mary-Alice Waters, a member of the SWP National Committee.

Through firsthand accounts by Espín and de los Santos—combatants in the revolutionary struggle and founders of the Federation of Cuban Women—the new title explains how Rebel Army combatants and exploited farmers and agricultural workers fought alongside each other to become a stronger, more politically conscious revolutionary force; how they transformed themselves in the process; and how growing numbers of women were drawn into revolutionary activity and productive work.

Revolutionary centralism
In order to build a workers vanguard in face of the capitalist crisis and growing resistance, Barnes said, communist workers need to remain loyal to disciplined habits and organizational norms conquered over decades through the struggle for a proletarian party.

That means rejecting the bourgeois illusion of "individual freedom" promoted by the capitalist rulers to pit us against each other, Barnes said. Class-conscious workers take responsibility for each other in struggle and learn to organize in a disciplined way. That's what makes it possible for workers to pay attention to planning, timing and detail, which are essential to fight and win against the bosses and their government.

These questions were at the center of another conference class, "Proletarian Revolutionary Centralism: From the Communist League (1847-48) to Today," led by Louis Martin and Sam Manuel.

The revolutionary centralism of a proletarian party isn't a set of rules, Barnes said. It's how revolutionary-minded workers function together—voluntarily in harness, as part of a common organization—in order to defend ourselves against the employing class and their cops, thugs and armed forces. It begins on the picket line or wherever workers engage in class combat. It's the bedrock of a revolutionary party fighting to win workers power from the ruling capitalist families who own the land, factories, and other means of production and who use the state to maintain their property and their political rule.

A proletarian party cannot be built in the U.S. without involvement in the fight for Black liberation and recruitment of growing numbers of workers who are Black. This extends from participating in actions against cop brutality and "stop and frisk" harassment of youth, to labor battles alongside fellow workers who are Black, to social and political struggles of all kinds. It involves regular sales of the Militant in neighborhoods with large numbers of workers who are Black.

Socialist workers act on a recognition of the disproportionate weight, both in numbers and combat record, of workers who are African-American in the vanguard of working-class-led social and political battles since the Civil War and Radical Reconstruction—the second American Revolution.

Barnes pointed to the place of outstanding proletarian leaders who are Black in battles that overthrew Jim Crow segregation in the 1950s and '60s, opening the road to broader fights for Black freedom—from E.D. Nixon in the 1955-56 bus boycott in Montgomery, Ala.; to Fred Shuttlesworth in the 1963 "Battle of Birmingham"; to Malcolm X. The SWP joined these struggles and reached out to working people involved in them.

These themes were addressed in a third conference class, "The Struggle for a Proletarian Party and the Fight for Black Liberation in the United States," led by Steve Clark and Gerald Symington. It was based on the book Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power by Jack Barnes.

The book includes discussions from the 1930s by members of the SWP and its predecessors with Leon Trotsky, a leader of the Bolshevik Revolution and world communist movement. Trotsky urged the party leadership to turn toward broader involvement in the fight for Black freedom along the road to power in the U.S. "It is a question of whether the party is to be transformed into a sect or if it is capable of finding its way to the most oppressed part of the working class," Trotsky said.

Israel not exempt from class struggle
Since the state of Israel was established some 65 years ago on the dispossession of the Palestinian people, Barnes said, the reactionary and failed "solution" put forward by all Arab regimes and misleaderships of Palestinian organizations has been military conquest to "drive the Israelis into the sea."

But the road forward in Israel and Palestine, as elsewhere, is through the class struggle. It is through common revolutionary struggle by Jewish, Arab and other working people that state power can be won and national oppression and capitalist exploitation can be ended, Barnes said.

A class on "Israel Is Not Exempt from the Class Struggle and Social Contradictions, at Home or Abroad," led by Norton Sandler and Lea Sherman, explained how bosses there aim to make Jewish, Arab and other workers pay for capitalism's crisis. There are growing numbers of immigrant workers, including Africans. The working class is more and more a part of the region and the world.

Lifetime of learning, working
The revolutionary workers movement, Barnes said, fights for the transformation of learning, so it becomes a universal human activity—a lifetime of working, producing and creating together.

That's the opposite of the class-divided character of education under capitalism, where schools for the ruling families and better-off middle layers prepare them to maintain their privileges. But for the big working-class majority, Barnes said, our lives are a cycle divided into being a child, the time we "learn" (above all to be obedient to a boss); then a worker, when we produce profits for the employing class; then a used-up "pensioneer."

Presenting a course toward a lifetime of learning and a lifetime of working is part of preparing the working class to cast off the self-image the rulers impose on us, so we recognize our revolutionary capacity to conquer workers power, end capitalism's dog-eat-dog relations, and reorganize on new social foundations of working, studying and producing together. In that world, Barnes said, nobody will even know what the word "retiree" used to mean.

The final class, led by Dave Prince and Laura Garza, focused on Barnes' pamphlet The Working Class and the Transformation of Learning: The Fraud of Education Reform under Capitalism. Socialist workers at the conference decided to step up campaigning to get that pamphlet— along with the Militant, Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, and Women in Cuba: The Making of a Revolution Within the Revolution—into the hands of workers and others battling employer and government attacks.

New openings in the world

The conference talk by Mary-Alice Waters, "Starting with the World: The Practical Work of the Party," focused on expanding political opportunities for the communist movement the world over.

Mary-Alice Waters
[Recent Cuban solidarity media article on Waters here.]

Waters pointed to the response by the Socialist Workers Party and its sister Communist Leagues in Australia and New Zealand to the publication in the Indonesian language last year of two Marxist works: Woman's Evolution by Evelyn Reed, an SWP leader until her death in 1979; and The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State by Frederick Engels. The books, published in English by Pathfinder, were issued in Indonesia by Kalyanamitra, a women's rights organization.

Earlier this year Waters completed a successful speaking tour in Australia and New Zealand with two Kalyanamitra leaders, Rena Herdiyani and Hegel Terome. The tour was aimed at learning more about the fight for women's rights and other struggles in Indonesia, and promoting the two new books.

In a talk as part of the closing conference panel June 23, Jane Ridge from New Zealand said the tour was a way for leaders of communist organizations there and in Australia and the U.S. "to work with two Kalyanamitra leaders, and for us to learn more about each other."

What's more, Ridge said, most of those involved in the tour "were people we hadn't worked with politically before." That helped us "learn what is open to us politically, when we reach out confidently, without fear or favor," as members of proletarian parties joining together with fellow workers and others.

Waters reported on opportunities to deepen the communist movement's international work, including a Militant reporting trip to Indonesia, the world's fourth most populous country. Worker correspondents will report on the class struggle there, from protests by working people against fuel price hikes to the fight for women's right to abortion.

In October delegations from the Socialist Workers Party and Communist Leagues in Australia and New Zealand will participate in the Asia-Pacific Regional Conference of Solidarity with Cuba in Colombo, Sri Lanka, co-sponsored by organizations and individuals in Sri Lanka and by the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP).

The gathering will set plans for defense of the Cuban Revolution and Gerardo Hernández, Ramón Labañino, René González, Fernando González, and Antonio Guerrero, Cuban revolutionaries known the world over as the Cuban Five. Arrested in 1998, they were framed up on various conspiracy charges and imprisoned by Washington. All but René González remain in prison.

The SWP's defense of the five Cuban revolutionaries is part of all political work by party members and young socialists, Waters said—first and foremost in the U.S., as well as abroad. So far more than 3,000 copies of The Cuban Five: Who They Are, Why They Were Framed, Why They Should Be Free, edited by Waters and Martín Koppel, have been sold around the world as a contribution to this fight.

Producing Pathfinder books
"Pathfinder books are used as part of the daily practice of building proletarian parties," Pat Nixon, a member of the Organization Committee of the Print Project, said at the panel that closed the conference. The project organizes supporters of the SWP and communist organizations in other countries to help with proofreading, formatting, design, indexing and other aspects of producing these books and pamphlets.

"The Print Project's work is tied to the perspectives presented and discussed at the conference, and to the place and importance of Pathfinder books" in the work of communist parties, Nixon said. The next day, Print Project volunteers met to discuss how to continue expanding the numbers of them taking on regular tasks and leadership responsibilities in this work.

They also registered progress in the Supporters Monthly Appeal, which by July 1 was collecting more than $755,000 a year to help support the SWP's activity in the class struggle. Supporters are organizing to break through a goal of $790,000 by year's end.

Participating in the resistance
The closing conference session presented the 2012 SWP ticket of James Harris for U.S. president and Maura DeLuca for vice president—the working class, labor, socialist campaign.

Politically strengthened by the gathering, party members are deepening participation in growing resistance by working people, using the SWP campaign, the Militant and Pathfinder books, expanding collaboration with groups of workers across the U.S., and reaching to growing opportunities around the world. 

James Harris, left, Socialist Workers Party candidate for president, chats with Rachele Fruit, SWP congressional candidate, in downtown Newnan.
SWP candidates: James Harris and Rachelle Fruit
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