Wednesday, November 28, 2012



November-December 2012
Number 75

From the Belly of the Beast

Publication of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA

The 2012 U.S. Election Results:
The U.S. Empire Wins and We Lose

-Statement of the Revolutionary Organization of Labor, USA
   November 10, 2012-

The results are now in on the 2012 U.S. Election. Imperialist apologist George Will accurately summed it up, as follows: "A nation vocally disgusted with the status quo has reinforced it by ratifying existing control of the executive branch and both halves of the legislative branch." ("And the winner is: The status quo," Washington Post, 11-7-12)

Will pointed out that the voters are worse off than they were when Obama entered office; they have less net worth; they have less income and official unemployment has been more than eight percent in forty-three months under Obama, more months than the total under all eleven previous presidents over the past sixty years combined. "Yet voters preferred the president who presided over this to a Republican who … made his economic expertise his presidential credential," said Will. (Will could have added many other seemingly contradictory facts, including: that Obama beat Romney, the supposed candidate of the rich, in eight of the ten wealthiest counties in the USA, and that, compared to his 2008 election contest with John McCain, there was a sharp increase in Obama's share of the important Latino vote which climbed to 70% against Romney, despite the fact that the Obama Regime more than doubled the deportations of Latino immigrants from the Bush years!) Will points out, compellingly, that the voters in this same election "ratified Republican control of the House, keeping in place those excoriated as obstructionists by the president the voters retained." (ibid.)

Will, the reactionary, appears baffled by the seeming contradictions in the 2012 voters decision-making. This is because he, like all the U.S. imperialist-sponsored pundits, frames the political scene in the USA as a "battle" between the Republicans and Democrats.

These election results become quite understandable, however, when we take into account two important facts: First, political rule on behalf of Wall Street finance capital, the ruling class of the USA, is carried out by the "Republicrats." The Democratic and Republican Parties (some tea party forces excluded) operate, they fight and cooperate, as a dialectically intertwined single force in defense of the U.S. Empire at home and abroad. The clearest indication of this fact in the 2012 campaign was the content of the third televised presidential debate between Obama and Romney in which their political unity on virtually every foreign policy issue regarding war and diplomacy, and the strategic military and economic interests of U.S. imperialism was unmistakable.

Secondly, this was the first U.S. election conducted during the Citizens United era of unlimited, untraceable corporate cash. A whopping six billion dollars was spent, mostly by Corporate America and Wall Street finance capital, the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class. And they got what they paid for. For there was no political fall-out, no sweeping out of either the incumbent Congress, with its record low popularity, or the incumbent president, presiding over the ongoing economic crisis plaguing the 99%, because of their "Republicrat" bail-outs of Wall Street, their failure to provide any relief for Main Street, and their ongoing efforts to increase their austerity measures aimed against the 99% of us, and especially against the U.S. working class and oppressed nationalities. Watch out for the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and revival and implementation of Obama's bipartisan (i.e. Republicrat) Simpson-Bowles Commission austerity plan recommendations in 2013!

From these election results it should be crystal clear that New Jersey's Larry Hamm, leader of Peoples Organization for Progress (POP), had it right when he said six months ago, "The most important day of the 2012 election season will be the day after the election. We'll need to be out in the streets demanding decent jobs and homes, etc. …" On the eve of the 2012 election, brother Hamm and POP announced: "On November 13th we will march to demand a national jobs program, a moratorium on home foreclosures, universal health care for all, an end to student debt, and the immediate return of all U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan." According to brother Hamm, the November 13th New Jersey demonstration will make a call for a National March for Jobs in Washington, DC.

Across the USA, we should follow the good example of New Jersey POP in the days ahead as well as respond to their call. Mass protest actions against the "Republicrat" austerity measures through which the Wall Street finance capitalists want to permanently place the burden of their capitalist economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and oppressed nationalities of the USA are vital to our survival.

— But they are not sufficient. Short run resistance to the monopoly capitalist and imperialist offensive, to its unrelenting effort to place and keep the burden of the world-wide capitalist economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and oppressed, can only be effective when it is dialectically interconnected with the long run aim of socialist revolution. We need only recall the rich revolutionary experience of the workers throughout the USA and the world during the 1930's and the last great capitalist economic depression to recognize this truth. On this 95th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia let us reclaim the marvelous legacy of the Soviet Union that grew, flourished and prospered while surrounded by a hostile capitalist world engulfed in and paralyzed by the economic crisis in the Great Depression, the Soviet Union whose legendary heroism played the decisive role in the defeat of fascism in World War II. For this Soviet legacy contains the path forward for the working people of the USA and the world out of the jungle of capitalist enslavement.


On the 95th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution



The 2012 U.S. presidential election campaign has been held in the midst of what even the most hardcore U.S. imperialist apologists have admitted is the worst and most persistent economic crisis in the USA since the Great Depression of the 1930's. Immediately after the crisis became acute in the Fall of 2008, the "Republicrat" government began its massive bail out and rescue of the Wall Street ruling financial oligarchy, first under President George W. Bush and ever since then under President Barack Obama. Under Bush and Obama, not one criminal Wall Street banker has been charged with a crime, let alone convicted and imprisoned. And this same imperialist government has refused to provide relief to the hard-pressed masses of the working class and the shrinking middle class even four years later. Instead, increasingly, austerity measures are being introduced against the 99% of us straining under the yoke of the dictatorship of Wall Street finance capital.

Nevertheless, initially, and for much of this period, the only significant political mass mobilization of the angry mass response to the monopoly capitalist-dominated U.S. government took place among the ruined petty bourgeois small businesspeople and other increasingly desperate middle class folks as they were organized by right-wing, semi-fascist forces into a variety of reactionary "tea party" groups around the country.

Finally, in February 2011, inspired by the Arab Spring and by the massive working class resistance throughout Southern Europe to European Union-dictated austerity measures, a powerful public sector union-led occupation of the Wisconsin State House broke out in response to an all-out assault on collective bargaining by newly elected tea party Governor Scott Walker. It was followed by militant actions and effective electoral referenda work of organized labor in neighboring Mid Western states including Ohio.  In September of 2011, working people and distressed youth and elderly folks began to come together spontaneously in "Occupy" groups across the USA, beginning with the very positive Occupy Wall Street initiative in New York City. Thus, thousands of U.S. workers and tens of thousands of unemployed, underemployed (including college youth saddled with heavy student loan debt), those without health care, the homeless and those on the verge of being homeless, finally began to express some anger and outrage directed politically at various branches and sectors of the U.S. government and at the Wall Street ruling class.

Unfortunately, since then, while the conditions of the U.S. working class and the poor have continued to deteriorate, this progressive mass motion has been undermined, disrupted and diverted into "toothless" electoral activity around the 2012 Presidential campaign (in support of Obama and the Democratic Party) for most of this year.* That is, until now.

* One exception was the brief but explosive USA-wide mass protest demanding that the murderer of Trayvon Martin, a clearly innocent Afro-American youth, be arrested.

With not much more than a month left in the campaign, the Chicago Teachers Union (CTU), aroused and mobilized by a Black woman-led militant and democratic union leadership core, with impressively strong backing of parents and the Chicago labor community, launched and won a daring strike to defend public school education and their students as well as their own working and living standards. What made this strike all the more noteworthy is that, while the national leadership of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) and of the entire AFL-CIO has been pressuring the CTU membership to support the Democratic Party and its candidates, the main adversary and target of their strike was one of the most powerful Democratic Party personages, Chicago Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Barack Obama's first chief of staff and one of his closest political friends!

The Chicago teachers' bold and well organized strike has, in turn, inspired Walmart workers in Illinois and elsewhere to dare to begin to take on that global giant retailer, a monster corporation more powerful than many governments. Walmart worker protests are continuing to spread across the USA as we write these words.

But all these mass protests, strikes and organizing drives will lead nowhere over the long run without a political break with the Democratic Party — a political break with U.S. monopoly capitalism and imperialism. What is most seriously missing and needed in the current U.S. situation is the presence of a substantial communist party connected to all these "green shoots" of working class, unemployed and underemployed youth and oppressed nationality rebellion and connected to a vibrant, revolutionary international communist movementactively working toward the goal of replacing moribund, destructive capitalism with a bright and beautiful socialist future for toiling humanity.

The aim of this article is two-fold. First, is to make clear the nature of the current U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist offensive against the workers and oppressed peoples within the USA. The goal of this Wall Street drive to further impoverish the 99% of us, is to place and keep the burden of the world-wide capitalist economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and oppressed. Indeed, in our previous issue, I asserted that the 2012 Presidential Election in the USA, rather than being about Romney versus Obama, Democrats versus Republicans, etc. has been mainly concerned "about positioning the U.S. government so as to give it the best chance for implementing a most severe austerity program against the 99% of the people of the USA in its desperate effort to save the U.S. monopoly capitalist and imperialist ruling class and, if possible, to preserve its hegemonic position in the world capitalist system. This requires that the government lead the effort to impoverish the people of the USA, U.S. society, deepening the basis for the super-exploitation of the workers and oppressed nationality people within the U.S. multinational state." ("The Declining U.S. Empire and the 2012 U.S. Presidential Election," Ray O' Light Newsletter #74, September-October 2012)

The conclusion from this first point is that the working people in the USA have no choice but to militantly resist the Wall Street finance capitalist ruling class and its "Republicrat" imperialist state apparatus.

The second point is to establish the fact thatshort run resistance to the monopoly capitalist and imperialist offensive, to its unrelenting effort to place and keep the burden of the world-wide capitalist economic crisis on the shoulders of the workers and oppressed, can only be effective when it is dialectically interconnected with the long run aim of socialist revolution. And the conclusion we hope you draw from this article is that the socialist revolution is not only good and necessary for working class and oppressed nationality folks like us but that the struggle for socialism is such a noble and realizable aim that you become inspired to "get on board."

At this point it is worth recalling that, as the world capitalist economy, including the U.S. capitalist economy in particular, was collapsing in 2008, Republican vice presidential candidate, Sarah Palin, declared: "This is no time to experiment with Socialism."  Such has been the weak and bankrupt state of the U.S. and international communist and workers movement in recent years that her ignorant and counterrevolutionary statement went virtually unchallenged!

Indeed, Sarah Palin's position is supported in the 2012 election campaign period by arguably the most "left-wing" Democratic Party functionary of this period, Robert Reich, Secretary of Labor in the first Clinton Administration. The current issue of The Progressive (November 2012) contains a substantial interview with the "left progressive" Reich. After boldly exposing Obama as a "Rockefeller Republican," thus ridiculing the Republican Right's accusation that Obama is a "socialist" but also unwittingly exposing the bankruptcy of most of the U.S. left (for their support of Obama) at the same time, Reich makes clear his own anti-socialist viewpoint. Reich asserts that, "it's not a matter of capitalism versus socialism or capitalism versus communism. There are no other isms in the world [other than capitalism]. There never really were. Russia was not a communist state. It was a totalitarian state. European socialism was really European democratic socialism … not really socialism." (My emphasis)

Soviet Union Coat of Arms

This year the U.S. presidential election takes place on November 6th, the day before the 95th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia. So it is fitting that we expose "the Big Lie" of Palin-Reich and the "Republicrats" as we commemorate the earth-shaking revolution's anniversary. This great proletarian revolution led to the creation of the magnificent Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) with its unprecedented successes in turning that prison-house of nations into the model for solving the problem of nationalities living together in peace and harmony. The Soviet Communist Party, while still under Lenin's leadership, as part of the consolidation of the USSR, led in the establishment of the Communist International (Comintern) that inspired the creation of revolutionary communist parties all over the world.

The USSR, under the leadership of Stalin and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, made the decisive contribution to the defeat of world fascism in World War II, ushering in a period of unprecedented flowering of political independence for oppressed peoples throughout Asia, Africa and Latin America, crowned by the victorious Chinese national democratic revolution, and the establishment of a Socialist Camp that rivaled the imperialist world capitalist camp in its size and scope. Finally, perhaps even more buried than these gigantic achievements, were the unprecedented economic, social and cultural accomplishments of the Soviet people in developing the USSR from a backward to an advanced country in little more than a generation. Even more striking, most of this was accomplished while the rest of the world, the capitalist world, was mired in the Great Depression.

Among so many other significant contributions to world proletarian revolution, the victorious Russian Revolution inspired the creation of the Communist Party of the USA and drew the veteran Irish-American militant working class leader, William Z. Foster, into the ranks of world communism.*

* Foster was widely known, even before the founding of the CPUSA, because of his outstanding leadership of important national strikes in the meatpacking and steel industries during and just after World War I. Thus he was already deeply feared by Corporate America as well as its labor stooges, the bankrupt AFL top leaders (from Gompers to Woll to Green).

Eighty years ago, in 1932, in the first U.S. presidential election during the Great Depression, William Z. Foster was nominated as the Communist Party candidate for President of the USA.* With the strength of their connections to the Comintern, Foster and the CPUSA were already widely seen as the outstanding champions of the unemployed and the impoverished masses of the USA.**

* His Vice Presidential running mate was veteran Afro-American communist James Ford – in 1932, in the teeth of U.S. apartheid!

** The Communist International (Comintern) resolved to hold "International Unemployment Day" demonstrations all over the world on March 6, 1930. In the USA, it became "the first major protest demonstration of the Depression years," as thirty-five thousand workers, led by Foster, marched in the face of the New York City police and spectacular demonstrations of the unemployed were held in other large cities across the USA as well. As the CPUSA's most prominent leader, Foster was arrested that day in New York and was sent to prison for more than six months.

The small and weak proletarian revolutionary forces in the USA today as well as the working class and oppressed nationalities in this country are currently experiencing the first U.S. presidential election in the midst of the most acute capitalist economic crisis since that great depression. And this current crisis, showing no signs of resolving or being overcome anytime soon, could yet become an even deeper and more intractable crisis than the Great Depression.

William Z. Foster

In the lead-up to the 1932 election campaign, to cultivate and take advantage of the renewed interest in the Communist Party's program and practice among hard-pressed working people in the Depression-ridden USA, Foster wrote a book, entitled, Toward Soviet America. "Its central purpose is to explain to the oppressed and exploited masses of workers and poor farmers how, under the leadership of the Communist Party, they can best protect themselves now, and in due season cut their way out of the capitalist jungle to socialism." (p. vi) 

In light of the fact that there is today no genuine and militant communist party in the USA with significant influence among the working class and the oppressed masses and linked to a vibrant international communist movement, I am revisiting Foster's Toward Soviet America with the hope that this eighty year old CPUSA book and political experience will help us find our way back to the winning ways of our now distant past.

Foster outlined the Party's approach to the Capitalist Economic Depression and why and how the U.S. working class needed to take the revolutionary path out of the crisis. Essential to Foster's argument were the undeniable, unprecedented accomplishments of the first 14 years of the Soviet dictatorship of the proletariat in the USSR. And, by 1932, these marvelous Soviet accomplishments were in stark contrast to the rest of the world, mired in the misery of the world capitalist economic crisis, the Great Depression! Thus, Foster opens Chapter I with the following: "The most striking and significant political and social fact in the world today is the glaring contrast between the industrial, political and social conditions prevailing in the capitalist countries and those obtaining in the Soviet Union." (ibid., p. 1) 

In this chapter, entitled, "The Decline of Capitalism," Foster documents the unprecedented rapid decline in business, trade and industrial activity, the closing of banks, retail stores, bankruptcies of cities and towns. He states: "Since the onset of the present economic crisis, American workers and poor farmers, through unemployment, part-time work, wage-cuts, reduced prices for agricultural products, tax increases, etc. have suffered a general decline in their living standards of at least 50%." "The standards of living of the producing masses have declined catastrophically, mass starvation existing in every capitalist country, including the United States." (ibid.) This result is due to the fact, as Foster explains, that, "Throughout capitalism the policy of the ruling class is to try to find a way out of the crisis by throwing its burden upon the shoulders of the working class, the poor farmers and the lower sections of the city petty bourgeoisie." (ibid., p. 7)

After surveying the capitalist offensive throughout Europe featuring wage cuts and reduction of unemployment benefits and social insurance generally, Foster describes the crisis of famine in China and India and the health crisis in Brazil. Foster concludes: "The world over, the bankrupt capitalist system is physically destroying the producing masses … All this is a picture of a society in decay. Great mills and factories standing idle and warehouses piled full of goods, while millions of toilers starve and lack the necessities of life … never until capitalism appeared upon the world scene was such an anomaly possible – starvation in the midst of plenty … it is a crime against the human race."  (ibid., pp. 14 & 15)

The remainder of Chapter I features an astute Marxist analysis of the basic ingredients that made the Great Depression not just another cyclical crisis that capitalism had experienced for generations, but a general crisis of capitalism. These ingredients include:

a) overexpansion of industry – for example, the U.S. auto industry with an estimated yearly capacity of ten million cars was at 20% capacity the year he wrote the book [in the current crisis: the Obama-led bail out of the over-extended auto industry featured drastic worsening of auto workers' wages and working conditions];

b) chronic industrial stagnation, especially of older industries such as shipbuilding, coal and textiles, a problem that plagued older industries in all the capitalist countries [replicated today when the only growth industries are in new age computer-related industries, robotics, etc.];

c) permanent mass unemployment – during the boom period of the 1920's there were still three million U.S. unemployed [in the post World War II period, U.S. economists created the "discouraged worker" category that made millions of long term unemployed statistically disappear when they became too discouraged to look for work];

d) choking of international trade – with "the tendency for each capitalist country to wall itself off from the commerce of the others" [in the current crisis there are increasing suits filed in the World Trade Organization and elsewhere by the USA, China, the EU and other global powers against each other's anti-competitive maneuvers]; 

e) breakdown of the medium of exchange – "more than half the capitalist world off the gold standard" "with various systems of inflating the currency in effect" [in 1971, Nixon took the USA off the gold standard and made the dollar the dominant medium of exchange, on the basis of the hegemonic military, political and economic power of U.S. imperialism; in this crisis period the U.S. government has engaged in "quantitative easing," deflating the value of the currency by printing more dollars and making those in possession of current dollars such as the Chinese and Japanese creditors less wealthy];

f) "the development of fascism in various forms in all capitalist countries" [in the current crisis in the USA – the scapegoating of Latino immigrants and the proliferation of anti-immigrant laws in Arizona and elsewhere, the proliferation of white supremacist vigilante organizations, and the tea party-Republican-led effort to "take back" the United States from the non-whites, the increasingly ignorant, vicious and open attacks on the status of women, and the increasingly repressive domestic laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act and the National Defense Authorization Act];

g) the birth of a new world social system – with the rise of the USSR, capitalism has lost territorially one-sixth of the territory of the globe "and is rapidly losing more to the Chinese Soviets …" (these excerpts quoted from pp. 33-40) [point g is the one big difference between the Depression-era global environment described by comrade Foster and the current global situation when the vibrant, expanding Socialist Camp established on the basis of the Soviet-led victory over global fascism in World War II has disintegrated, as the victorious Chinese Revolution of 1949 never proceeded to the socialist stage by advancing back to Chinese Soviets when the conditions had arrived to do so and the Soviet Union itself degenerated to a point where it could be openly replaced by capitalism.] 

As indicated above, this chapter has such a familiar ring to it for those of us experiencing today's economic crisis in the USA. As another example, in the first few years of the current crisis, we had taken note of the fact that just about every day bourgeois political and economic "experts" claimed that the worst was over; there was good news on the jobs front; sales were up, etc. etc. Such pieces of "good news" are now called "green shoots" and putting a positive "spin" on the crisis is considered a patriotic duty by the media folks fronting for the U.S. monopoly capitalist ruling class and its bankrupt system. Eighty years ago, Foster described "the cultivation of prosperity illusions" as "one of the principal methods of the capitalists to break the resistance of the workers against wage-cuts, starvation, relief systems, etc." (ibid., pp. 18 & 19)  In this regard, Foster quotes U.S. President Herbert Hoover's ludicrous assertion (just two days after the great CPUSA-led national demonstration of the unemployed exploded across the country on March 6, 1930) that, "The depression will be over in 60 days." 

Foster concludes this chapter with the following: "Capitalism has created the objective conditions for Socialism. But it can go no further. It cannot carry society to higher stages of development, to Socialism and Communism; it has become an obstacle in the upward path of humanity, a means of condemning hundreds of millions of people to mass starvation and death. History will soon sweep aside this obsolete system." (ibid., pp. 69-70) But Foster also warns: "Where there is no strong revolutionary movement the capitalists will find a way out at the expense of the toiling masses; that is, the economic crisis, following the laws of cyclical crises, will eventually wear itself out by reducing production, slashing prices and wages and drastically reducing the living standards of the masses."(ibid., p. 68)

Chapter II is entitled "The Rise of Socialism." Foster cites the 22% to 25% yearly increase in the USSR's industrial production as never before seen in history. The best average achieved by the USA, from 1870 to 1890, was 8.3%. Writing for The Nation magazine, never known as a communist journal, Louis Fischer is quoted by Foster as follows: "The Soviet frontier is like a charmed circle which the world economic crisis cannot cross. While banks crash, while production falls and trade languishes abroad, the Soviet Union continues in an orgy of construction and national development. The scale and speed of its progress are unprecedented." (The Nation, 11-25-31)

The "right to work" established in the USSR was no empty gesture as unemployment was eliminated. Already by 1932 there was a seven hour day and five day work week. Workers on disability received full wages. There was a concerted and effective campaign to wipe out illiteracy and already the USSR was the biggest publisher of books in the world, ensuring that the Soviet population would be well informed. As the hard-core working class leader Foster put it, "Under Socialism wages are as high as the total economy will permit; under capitalism they are as low as the workers can be compelled to accept." (Toward Soviet America, p. 101) According to Foster, "the wages of Russian workers are now about double what they were before the revolution … in contrast to rapid wage declines in all capitalist countries." (ibid.)

Moreover, at a time [1932] when virtually no Afro-Americans could vote in the Southern USA and millions of northern workers in the industrial heartland were immigrants whose right to vote was being denied wherever possible, "citizenship in the Soviet democracy is based upon work … whoever works can vote … [with] no qualifications of sex, nationality, residence, etc." In direct contradiction to today's "prevailing wisdom" that Soviet or socialist society was a liberal welfare state without a healthy work ethic, Foster explained that "The dictatorship of the proletariat, unlike the capitalist dictatorship, makes no pretenses of being an all-class democracy, a democracy of both exploiters and exploited. It is frankly a democracy of the toiling masses, directed against the exploiters. Its freedom is only for useful producers, not for social parasites." (Ibid., p. 134, my emphasis)

Foster exposed how the workers and poor peasants of the Soviet Union decisively answered the "left" and right opportunist critics of the building of socialism inside and outside of the USSR, in the first place with their heroic labor. At the time of his writing of this book, the first great Five Year Plan, which western imperialist experts and social democrats had laughed at as an unreachable goal, had already been completed — a year ahead of schedule!

Lenin had taught that, "The Soviet democracy consists of workers organized so informally that for the first time the people as a whole are learning to govern." (Cited by Foster (p. 139) from "Soviets at Work") In this connection, says Foster, "the Russian workers and peasants have built up the most gigantic mass organizations in human history." Among the most important of these organizations, Foster lists the "communist organizations proper (the Party, the Youth and the Pioneers [children])" with about 15 million members, the trade unions with 17 million members, and the consumers coops with 70 million. In addition, there were many huge organizations for culture, sport, defense, aviation, etc. containing scores of millions more. Finally, he lists "the Soviet electorate of 85 million voters, the largest in the world." Foster refers to these mass organizations as "the very backbone of the whole Soviet system." (ibid., pp. 139-140)

No wonder the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) had grown seven-fold (from 440,000 members to 2.8 million members) in the eight years since Lenin's death. For the Communist Party was then the leader and organizer of the proletarian dictatorship ushering in the bright future of socialism and communism. 

Chapter III is entitled, "Capitalist Attempts to Liquidate the Crisis." Among the futile efforts of the U.S. monopoly capitalists and imperialists to solve the economic crisis of the Great Depression many of the same maneuvers used then are again being foisted upon the working class today. Foster describes the introduction of intensified speed-up, greater efficiency and productivity. Today, these not-so-modern "techniques" have helped to generate what the Obama Regime and the Republicrat Congress have demagogically spoken of as the "jobless recovery." With these "techniques," the working class and especially the working poor continue to experience chronic and epidemic unemployment and underemployment as well as pay cuts, while Wall Street has experienced near record profits.

Likewise, Foster discusses the efforts by the trusts and cartels to boost their profits by destroying huge sections of their commodity production. He gives examples of one hundred thousand gallons of milk dumped into a river in Oakland, California and similar efforts with salmon in Alaska, as well as the destruction of cabbage and eggs to keep them off the market. Because these concentrated capitalist combinations stimulate production in the midst of a crisis of overproduction (where the working people cannot buy back what they have already produced because they are systematically shortchanged when they exchange their living labor for a wage from the capitalist), the trusts and cartels only aggravate the crisis. This is also the underlying problem with efforts at state capitalism or planned capitalist economy. In the current crisis, the several trillions of dollars of our tax money used by Bush and Obama to bail out Wall Street did not result in the recipient financial institutions making loans to small businesses and new mortgage buyers. Instead, it was used to buy up distressed companies and further consolidate and concentrate U.S. finance capital.

In addition, Foster exposed quite thoroughly the fact that the treacherous main leadership of the American Federation of Labor (Green, Woll and company) was an integral part of the monopolists' attempts to get out of the crisis. "Their support of the rationalization of industry is part of the speed-up program of the bosses. Their systematic betrayal of the Negroes, women and young workers dovetails into the employers' special exploitation of these sections of the workers." At their worst when dealing with the key Depression-era issue of unemployment, Foster cites the 1931 AFL Convention held in Vancouver that reaffirmed the existing policy opposing unemployment insurance for the working class in the USA such as was already provided in Great Britain and Germany! Foster said that the AFL's rank and file members supported unemployment relief and that "the AFL Convention which could adopt such a decision was made up of 90% high-paid officials; the workers had no voice or representation."

Unemployment relief is a concrete demand that was won under the leadership of Foster and the CPUSA during the Great Depression and the only significant benefit that U.S. workers have had in this current crisis. But the treacherous role of the current AFL-CIO leadership (so similar to that AFL leadership eighty years ago as described by Foster) has been crucial to the fact that there has been so little militant trade union resistance to the Wall Street bailouts made by the current Republicrat government and to the mortgage foreclosures, wage cuts, layoffs, education cuts, et al. that have ravaged the 99% of us.

So Foster's description of the U.S. monopoly capitalist ruling class efforts to escape the economic crisis of its own making through speed-up, greater efficiency and productivity, through trusts, cartels and tax-payer subsidized state monopoly capitalism and through the treachery of the top leaders of the trade union movement have much in common with efforts of the U.S. ruling class to do so today.

Chapter IV is entitled, "The Revolutionary Way Out of the Crisis." Here, among other things, Foster presents "The Communist Party Program of Immediate Demands." He explains that "the Party bases its immediate struggle upon partial demands corresponding to the most urgent necessities of the toiling masses."

Foster then states: "The most important of these demands are concentrated in the Party's 1932 election platform, as follows:


2.   Against Hoover's wage-cutting policy.

3.   Emergency relief, without restrictions by the government and banks, for the poor farmers, exemption of poor farmers from taxes, and from forced collection of debts.

4.   Equal rights for the Negroes, and self-determination for the Black Belt.

5.   Against capitalist terror; against all forms of suppression of the political rights of the workers.

6.   Against imperialist war; for defense of the Chinese people and of the Soviet Union." (ibid., pp. 247, 248)

Foster made a detailed, well thought out explanation of each of these demands and the militant struggle that would be required to win these demands. This was a serious communist party with deep connections to the U.S. and international working class. Its serious and battle-tested leader, William Z. Foster, explained many of the challenges facing the communist movement in the USA on the revolutionary road out of the crisis. Foster observed that, "… on the surface of things, the workers of the United States are the most conservative of any great industrial country. This is primarily because, living in the land of the most powerful and rapidly rising imperialism, their standards of living have been somewhat higher than those in other countries. Besides, their class consciousness has been greatly hindered by the so-called democratic traditions in the United States, harking back to the days of free land." (ibid., p. 260) Foster also points to "the lack of homogeneity among the workers – many races, many nationalities, many traditions" and the unparalleled flood of propaganda "through countless newspapers, schools, churches, labor leaders, politicians, radios, motion pictures, etc." by which the capitalists exploited all these factors.

Despite all these challenges, Foster believed that, while large numbers of these conservative U.S. workers would fall victim to social reformism "…hence, the great danger of the Socialist Party and the A.F. of L. leadership … ," he was optimistic. He felt that "the conservative American workers did not have to pass through a stage of social reformism before they will accept the Communist program." According to Foster, already in 1932, "experience already amply demonstrates that the Communist party, with its program of partial demands and united front policy, coupled with its ultimate revolutionary objectives, can and does successfully mobilize masses of these workers just breaking from the two old parties." (ibid., p. 266)


Foster understood that "the capitalists, in the midst of the sharpening general crisis of capitalism, are determined to force the living standards of American toilers down to European levels or lower." As a result, he believed, "The workers will respond to this offensive by increasing class consciousness and mass struggle. More and more they will turn to the Communist party for leadership … The working class of this country will tread the path of the workers of the world, to the overthrow of capitalism and the establishment of a Soviet government."  (ibid., p. 267)

Chapter V is entitled "The United Soviet States of America." Comrade Foster opens with this profound observation: "The Marxian principle holds true that the prevailing mode of production and exchange determines the character of the general organization of a given society. Thus the pioneer British capitalist society, based upon the private ownership of industry and the exploitation of the workers, forecast the type which, with only minor variations, came later to be developed by the whole capitalist world. Its parliamentary democracy, rampant patriotism, robot-like education of the masses, reformist trade unionism, etc. fitted naturally into the capitalist scheme of things everywhere. By the same principle, the Soviet Union now forecasts the general outlines of the new social order that the world is approaching." (ibid., p. 268)*

* The authoritative History of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolshevik) describes the emergence of the Soviets, as follows: "… in the fire of the struggle against tsardom, the revolutionary creative initiative of the working-class masses forged a new and powerful weapon – the Soviets of Workers' Deputies. The Soviets of Workers' Deputies – which were assemblies of delegates from all mills and factories – represented a type of mass political organization of the working class which the world had never seen before. The Soviets that first arose in 1905 were the prototype of the Soviet power which the proletariat, led by the Bolshevik Party, set up in 1917. ... They were set up exclusively by the revolutionary sections of the population, in defiance of all laws and prescripts of tsardom. They were a manifestation of the independent action of the people who were rising to fight tsardom. The Bolsheviks regarded the Soviets as the embryo of revolutionary power." (p. 79)

Foster continues, "From capitalism to Communism, through the intermediary stage of Socialism; that is the way American society, like society in general, is headed. It represents the main line of march of the human race to the next higher social stage in its historical advance. It is the trend to which all the economic, political and social forces of today are contributing." (ibid., p. 269) "A Soviet government will provide the workers and poor farmers with the political instrument necessary to defend their interests. The whole purpose of such a government will be to advance the welfare of those who do useful work." (ibid., p. 275)

There are so many wonderfully enlightened political expressions in this final and most speculative chapter in the book. For example, Foster, in 1932, is projecting that the United Soviet States of America (USSA) will provide free medical care in the USA with the emphasis on healthful living.* Compare this to the current U.S. obesity epidemic largely generated by the monopoly fast food restaurants, and soft drink corporations, etc. He discusses the need for the USSA to eliminate the adulteration of our food, decades before genetically modified crops. He sees the value of the USSA eliminating congestion in cities through urban planning. He expressed similarly enlightened views on crime and incarceration, eliminating Prohibition and making the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages as well as education against excessive drinking all the responsibility of the socialist state.

* Of course, the USSR was then the first and only country to have universal free medical care.

With regard to the capitalist charges about "forced labor" in the USSR, Foster exposes the fact that "forced labor is native to capitalism, not Socialism. The whole Socialist system is utterly antagonistic to any enslavement of the workers."  (ibid., p. 330) Among other things, Foster cites a newspaper quote from R.T. Rainey, the Democratic leader in the House of Representatives asserting that, "Labor is freer in Russia than in any other country in the world." (New York World-Telegram, 4-8-32) With regard to the wages received by the leaders of the ruling Communist party in the USSR, Foster observes: "Besides the revolutionary enthusiasm and initiative of the masses and many other indications already present of the eventual wageless system, there is the 'Party maximum.' That is, the members of the Communist party have a set wage limit above which they cannot go. Thus Stalin gets the same wages as many hundreds of thousands of other workers and much less than large numbers of non-Party mechanics and engineers." (ibid., p. 331)

Finally, Foster addresses the issue of Collectivism and Individualism. "Defenders of capitalism declare that Socialism destroys individualism … They mean that the anti-social individualism of capitalism will go. Under Socialism no one will have the right to exploit another; no longer will a profit-hungry employer be able to shut his factory gates and sentence thousands to starvation; no more will it be possible for a little clique of capitalists  and their political henchmen to plunge the world into a blood-bath of war. Yes, such deadly individualism is doomed. But the revolution will create in its stead a new and better development of the individual. The collectivist society of Socialism, by freeing the masses from economic and political slavery will, for the first time in history, give the masses an opportunity to fully develop and express their personalities." (ibid., p. 333)

In this spirit of collectivism, let's pause to reflect on where the people of the USA are in the aftermath of the lose-lose 2012 U.S. Election season. Carl Sandburg's epic poem, The People Yes, has insight and encouragement for us.

Excerpt from The People Yes by Carl Sandburg

"The people yes
The people will live on.
The learning and blundering people will live on.
    They will be tricked and sold and again sold
And go back to the nourishing earth for rootholds,
     The people so peculiar in renewal and comeback,
     You can't laugh off their capacity to take it.

The people know the salt of the sea
    and the strength of the winds
    lashing the corners of the earth.
    The people take the earth
    as a tomb of rest and a cradle of hope.
    Who else speaks for the Family of Man?
    They are in tune and step
    with constellations of universal law.

In the darkness with a great bundle of grief
    the people march.
In the night, and overhead a shovel of stars for keeps, the people march:
     'Where to? What next?'"

Some concluding thoughts about Toward Soviet America

1)   Toward Soviet America reads extremely well, even with eighty years of historical hindsight. The imperialist powers' war preparations directed against the USSR and the rising Chinese revolution as described in the book was key to the outbreak of World War II. Indeed, the world capitalist system only recovered from the Great Depression on the basis of the incredibly destructive and bloody World War that cost sixty million lives, including almost thirty million Soviet citizens. The menace of fascism was real and the German fascist war machine's invasion of the USSR, in June of 1941, was arguably the most powerful and brutal such invasion in modern history. And it took legendary heroism and sacrifice on the part of the Soviet people and the Red Army under the leadership of Stalin and the CPSU(B) to militarily defeat Nazi Germany. The terrible toll of the war left the Soviet Party and people with more of an orientation toward peace than revolution, a weak strategic position from which to deal with predatory U.S. and international imperialism. And neither the Eastern European democracies (other than Socialist Albania) nor China, Korea and Vietnam ever actively reached for the goal of developing Soviet power in their countries thereafter.

2)   I found only one significant political weakness in the book, Foster's use of the concept of "social fascism" as a substitute for "social democracy." This was no doubt a reflection of the left sectarian tendency during the Cominern's Sixth Congress to rely so much on the mighty USSR that communists around the world were under the illusion that they did not have to seek allies in the struggle against capital. To overstate the reactionary character of social democracy in the short run by calling it "fascist" meant to abdicate our communist responsibility to unite the proletarian and peoples forces to the maximum while isolating the enemy to the maximum. It served to hand over large sections of the masses to the enemy. Indeed, from 1924 on, the CPUSA had run its own presidential candidate, Foster himself.  And Foster had recognized, especially in 1924, that the CPUSA had unnecessarily isolated itself from its previous allies in and around the labor movement, important labor people such as Debs and John Fitzpatrick, as well as the Farmer-Labor Party, the LaFollette movement, etc. by running its own slate. 

For the purposes of this revisit to Toward Soviet America, however, I believe the most compelling point is just how spectacularly successful the Soviet Union itself was in such a short period of time. This proletarian truth is completely contrary to the conventional wisdom of the pathetically weak, social pacifist and social chauvinist social democratic U.S. left today and various Trotskyite, revisionist and reformist NGO forces around the world that the Soviet Union was a "failed project" which should be permanently abandoned. The incredible success of the USSR is reflected in every page of Toward Soviet America. And, in reality the emergence and persistence of this left sectarian error, not only on the part of the CPUSA but of communist parties all over the world that were connected to the mighty USSR, reflected this truth as well.

In order to correct this error, in 1935 the Seventh World Congress of the Communist International (Comintern) under the leadership of the legendary anti-Nazi Bulgarian Communist hero, Georgi Dimitrov, charted a "united front (with social democracy) against fascism" strategic corrective of what Dimitrov referred to as "self-satisfied sectarianism."  The Seventh Congress "rightist" correction of the left errors of the Sixth Congress period never had the opportunity to be recalibrated by an Eighth Congress since the Comintern was dissolved in 1943 and never reestablished in the post World War II period.

3)   In Toward Soviet America, Comrade Foster reports that, on the 14th Anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, November 7, 1931, a Provisional Chinese Soviet government was organized with 70 million people living in the territory where the Chinese Soviets held power. Comrade Foster believed that, "It was largely the fear of the growing Chinese revolution, its tremendous effect upon the vast millions of Asia, the danger of a great Russian-Chinese Soviet Union, that determined the imperialists upon their present war to partition China and to lay the basis for an attack upon the Soviet Union." (Toward Soviet America, p. 60, my emphasis)

In 1935, at the same time that Mao Tse-tung came into Chinese Communist Party leadership, and the "right" correction of the Comintern Sixth Congress line was implemented all over the world, the Chinese Communist Party, implementing the "united front against fascism" line, abandoned the goal of a "Soviet China" in favor of a "Peoples Republic." Even in all the more than six decades since the world-historic victory of the Chinese national democratic revolution in 1949, there has been no apparent serious effort to advance to the Soviet, socialist stage of the revolution in China.

In the main military battles between the communist and capitalist forces in the twentieth century, it was the communist forces that prevailed. But, beginning in the post World War II period, and especially since the death of Stalin, imperialism, headed by U.S. imperialism, has been able to win the peace. Sun Tzu, the ancient and legendary Chinese expert on the art of war, taught: "supreme excellence consists in breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." The fact that the goal of Soviet power has been discarded and abandoned along the way by the so-called international communist movement has been key to the successes of U.S. imperialism and world reaction in their struggles against the international working class and the oppressed peoples over the past fifty years and more.

4)   Last but not least – impressively, most of what Foster projected with regard to the USA and the CPUSA in Toward Soviet America actually came to pass. While the country has not yet become the United States of Soviet America, the CPUSA did lead the U.S. working class throughout the Great Depression. It led in the creation of the militant and democratic Congress of Industrial Organization, the CIO, the industrial union that united the skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled workers, men and women, the native-born and immigrant workers, the Afro-American and white workers. It led in the establishment of the unemployed councils that actively led the fight against evictions in cities and towns throughout the USA that helped achieve and maintain unity between the employed and unemployed sectors of the working class. And the CPUSA, including through its mass influence, and its own members' and contacts' participation in the war against fascism, contributed to the Soviet Union-led global defeat of world fascism.

      This magnificent victory ushered in the immediate post World War II period of the flowering of the national liberation movements of the oppressed peoples of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East against international imperialism, culminating in the victory of the Chinese national democratic revolution in 1949 that liberated one-quarter of humanity. And it led directly to the creation of a Socialist Camp that, with the liberation of Eastern Europe by the Soviet Red Army and the liberation of half of Korea and Vietnam, equaled in size and scope the capitalist camp and threatened to end capitalism as a powerful force in the world.




Protest: "Red Dawn" is War Propaganda! Peace in Korea!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

U.S. SWP on 2012 elections

Capitalist pundits election 'analyses' show their class disdain, blindness
The big-business media, from the left to the right, has spilled much ink analyzing the recent U.S. elections. What comes through in their various demographic theories is a bourgeois class blindness that prevents these "experts" from understanding attitudes and trends in the working class and how they may or may not be reflected in the elections.

Among these "theories" are conjectures about voting patterns of the majority of so-called whites, whom they often refer to in writing as blue-collar or poor whites, but whom they view with disdain as "white trash."

But the "white America" the pundits write about doesn't exist. And they prefer not to see the reality of an America that is increasingly class divided.

In the mind of self-styled progressive liberals, heavily represented by bourgeois-minded meritocrats and professionals, workers who are Caucasian are essentially ignorant, reactionary, and becoming increasingly racist as a natural response to the effects of the economic crisis on their lives. According to this view, these workers can be expected to vote Republican in general, and all the more so in the recent election in order to vote out a Black candidate. This is why a layer of Democratic Party liberals write off any effort to win the so-called white vote and instead focus on the so-called Latino and Black vote, along with those of "smart people" like themselves.

This sentiment was partially captured by Obama himself in 2008 when he spoke about workers in small towns in Ohio and Pennsylvania: "It's not surprising then that they get bitter, and they cling to guns or religion, or antipathy toward people who aren't like them, or anti-immigrant sentiment."

Another notion that flows from this outlook is the idea that growth of reactionary views among working people in the U.S. are part of a similar trend around the world.

A good example of this is an article by New York Times guest columnist Thomas Edsall, who interviewed Ruy Teixeira, a senior fellow at the American Center for American Progress and adviser to the Obama campaign.

Edsall writes: "In the United States, Teixeira noted, 'The Republican Party has become the party of the white working class,' while in Europe many working-class voters who had been the core of Social Democratic parties have moved over to far right parties."

Conservative pundits hold a similar version of the same class prejudices about workers who are Caucasian as liberals do, but instead of lamenting about it, many wish it were more true.

Attitudes in the working class are not something that can be directly gleaned from election results or any other method by those who live in a world entirely outside of the working class. Workers' views only find distorted reflection in the bourgeois electoral arena, where, in the absence of sustained class-struggle battles from which workers gain self-confidence and a sense of political independence, most today look for a "lesser evil" to vote for.

One thing the election results do not support is the view that there is a rising tide of racism among workers today. There are plenty of reasons why one would not vote Barack Obama, from his open disdain for working people to concerns about growing government interference in people's lives.

The most striking thing about the election is that—after four years of the most profound economic crisis in living memory—the lesser evil for most workers, including a substantial section of those who are Caucasian, was not the challenger but the incumbent. And an incumbent who has not even talked about a real jobs program much less shown an inclination to enact one.

But many saw Romney as more out of touch with the crushing effects of the capitalist crisis. Many assumed a second Obama presidency might at least be more open to providing government relief from the crisis.

The exit polls reflect some of these sentiments. While 51 percent of voters said that government was too intrusive in their lives, 55 percent said the U.S. economic system favors the wealthy. And the majority thought that Romney's policies would favor the rich.

"Romney did terribly among the white working class" in Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania, complained Steven Sailer, a conservative with openly racist views, on Nov. 7.

And some 9 million workers who are Caucasian were among the millions of working people who didn't bother to vote for either of the bosses' parties.

This doesn't mean Romney didn't win votes from lots of working people who are Caucasian, particularly in more rural areas and parts of the South. He did, especially from those fed up with the accumulated economic blows suffered over Obama's first four years. But there is no reason to assume that a growing—as opposed to shrinking—minority did so for racist reasons. There is no rise in KKK violence or other evidence to support such a contention.

And workers on the job know that coworkers who voted for Obama or Romney are equally likely to jump into discussion about how to meet the bosses' attacks and fight together, regardless of racial, religious or other differences.

Profound social changes resulting from the massive proletarian Black rights battle of the 1950s and '60s that smashed Jim Crow segregation have wrought irreversible changes in the working class that have opened the door to greater unity in action. And today working people in general are feeling the effects of the crisis and increasingly look to advance their class interests above all.

This is true within the Black nationality, where conditions of life for workers—both absolute and relative to others sections of the working class—are getting worse under the impact of the economic crisis. And the crisis is reinforcing forms of national oppression endemic to social relations under capitalism. At the same time, class divisions among African-Americans are widening.

The fight against racist discrimination and to overcome national divisions remains one of the biggest tasks ahead in forging a working-class vanguard in the U.S. But, contrary to the hopes of conservative pundits and the accepted wisdom of liberals, racist bigotry against African-Americans and other forms of prejudice are not on the rise among working people who are Caucasian or of other backgrounds.

This conclusion is consistent with the personal experience of many working people today on and off the job. This is one of the strengths of our class, the only truly progressive class, in the U.S.

Votes on ballot measures
Another more recent shift in attitudes among working people in favor of equal rights and against bigotry was registered in votes on a number of ballot referenda. In Maryland, Maine, Washington and Minnesota, millions of workers voted to push back state laws that discriminate, based on prejudice, against equal rights in marriage based on gender and sexual orientation.

In Florida, a measure to strengthen discriminatory restrictions against young women's ability to get an abortion was rejected. The vote also upheld legal protection for the right to privacy.

Some measures put on the ballot by labor unions did not fare so well. But here it would be wrong to think the vote is a reflection of those who are for and against organized labor. Rather the referenda highlight the failing strategy of the top labor officialdom.

Among the ballot measures, in Michigan leaders of the Service Employees International Union and others organized an effort to write into the state constitution the right of public sector unions to bargain collectively and a prohibition against the legislature enacting "right to work" laws.

The measure, Proposition 2, failed by 58 to 42 percent.

The Socialist Workers Party called for a yes vote. "Not because restrictive laws are the reason our unions are getting weaker, a rationalization often heard from union officials," James Harris, SWP presidential candidate said, but as part of "laying the groundwork to transform our unions into effective working-class combat organizations against the bosses' deepening attacks."

At the same time, such substitutes for organizing unions or bringing union power to bear are not something workers will or can rally around. The ballot measure is put forward by the same labor officials who, contrary to leading battles against efforts by politicians and employers to slash our rights or wages, have worked overtime to avoid and limit such fights while supporting some of the same capitalist politicians leading the assault.

Regardless of which "lesser evil" they pulled the lever for, or if they stayed home, or how they voted on any referenda, workers by the millions are feeling the squeeze from the propertied rulers' attacks and are looking to discuss where they come from and a way to fight back.

Through these discussions and coming battles, workers will gain experience and self-confidence, and will begin to transform themselves by the millions into actors on the stage of history. And along the way, they will stop looking for lesser evils and start looking for a way to replace the rule of the propertied class with a government of workers and farmers.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Derrida - lifetime aversions

Derrida: A Biography by Benoît Peeters - review
Terry Eagleton

In May 1992, the dons of Cambridge University filed into their parliament to vote on whether to award an honorary degree to the French philosopher Jacques Derrida, founder of so-called deconstruction. Despite a deftly managed smear campaign by the opposition, Derrida's supporters carried the day. It would be interesting to know how many of those who tried to block him in the name of rigorous scholarship had read a single book of his, or even a couple of articles.
The truth is that they did not need to. The word was abroad that this purveyor of fashionable French gobbledegook was a charlatan and a nihilist, a man who believed that anything could mean anything and that there was nothing in the world but writing. He was a corrupter of youth who had to be stopped in his tracks. As a teenager, Derrida had fantasised with some of his friends about blowing up their school with some explosives they had acquired. There were those in Cambridge who thought he was planning to do the same to western civilisation. He did, however, have an unlikely sympathiser. When the Duke of Edinburgh, chancellor of Cambridge University, presented Derrida with his degree in the year in which Charles and Diana separated, he murmured to him that deconstruction had begun to affect his own family too.

Deconstruction holds that nothing is ever entirely itself. There is a certain otherness lurking within every assured identity. It seizes on the out-of-place element in a system, and uses it to show how the system is never quite as stable as it imagines. There is something within any structure that is part of it but also escapes its logic. It comes as no surprise that the author of these ideas was a Sephardic Jew from colonial Algeria, half in and half out of French society. If his language was French, he could also speak the patois of working-class Arabs. He would later return to his home country as a conscript in the French army, a classic instance of divided identity.

At the age of 12, Derrida was excluded from his lycee when the Algerian government, anxious to outdo the Vichy regime in its antisemitic zeal, decided to lower the quota of Jewish pupils. Paradoxically, the effect of this brutal rejection on a "little black and very Arab Jew", as he described himself, was not only to make him feel an outsider, but to breed in him a lifelong aversion to communities. He was taken in by a Jewish school, and hated the idea of being defined by his Jewish identity. Identity and homogeneity were what he would later seek to deconstruct. Yet the experience also gave him a deep suspicion of solidarity.

If he was always a man of the left, he had an outsider's distaste for orthodoxy and organisation. His role was that of the gadfly, the professional dissident, the joker in the pack. In the end, he was writing of the "absolute singularity" of every human being, and was always a dedicated non-joiner. Norms, doctrines and mass movements were likely to be oppressive, whereas margins and deviations were potentially subversive. Yet the English Defence League is marginal. And it took a mass movement to topple Gaddafi. Respecting freedom of speech is an orthodoxy, and the right to strike is a doctrine.

From a modest background in Algiers, Derrida moved to the most prestigious lycee in France, and from there to the Ecole Normale Supérieure. It was a heavily Stalinist institution at the time, which confirmed his reluctance to shout with the larger crowd. If Derrida was later to declare himself a communist, it was only in the sense that Kennedy called himself a Berliner. When student revolt erupted around him in May 1968, he stood mostly on the sidelines. Yet the libertarian impulse of the sixty-eighters was also a driving force behind his own work. The previous year had been his annus mirabilis, witnessing the appearance of three of the books that were to make his name revered and reviled across the globe.

Before long, the taciturn, socially gauche young man from the colonies was gracing the dinner tables of a galaxy of French luminaries: Jean Genet, Roland Barthes, Julia Kristeva, Maurice Blanchot and others. Even the French government fell under his spell. When François Mitterrand came to power in 1981, Derrida was invited to set up an international college of philosophy in Paris. Deconstruction was now all the rage from Sydney to San Diego, while Derrida himself was feted as an intellectual superstar. Soon, there was an American comic book featuring a sinister Doctor Deconstructo, and magazines on home decor were inviting their readers to deconstruct the concept of a garden.

I suspect that one reason Derrida enjoyed travelling the world so much was because it allowed him some respite from the bitchy, sectarian, backstabbing, backscratching climate of Parisian intellectual life, which this superb biography faithfully records. What the book fails to underline quite as heavily is how waspish the maitre himself could be.

Two dramatic moments stand out in Derrida's subsequent career. Travelling to communist Prague in 1981 to address a secretly organised philosophy seminar, he was arrested and charged with drug smuggling. It seems the authorities saw the dismantling of binary oppositions as a threat to the state. The police officer who had planted the drugs in Derrida's suitcase was himself later arrested for drug trafficking.

Six years later, Derrida's life was again disrupted, this time by the revelation that his recently dead friend, the critic Paul de Man, had contributed antisemitic articles to the pro-German Belgian press during the second world war. Shattered by the news, Derrida wrote a long essay in De Man's defence – which must rank among the most shamelessly disingenuous texts of modern times.

Benoît Peeters has ransacked the voluminous Derrida archives and interviewed scores of his friends and colleagues. The result is a marvellously compelling account, lucidly translated by Andrew Brown. The man who emerges from this portrait is an agonised soul with sudden outbreaks of gaiety, an astonishingly original thinker with more than a dash of vanity who nevertheless made himself fully available to the humblest student.

In personal conversation he was that most admirable of intellectuals, one visibly relieved not to have to speak of intellectual matters. He was one of the latest in an honourable lineage of anti-philosophers – from Kierkegaard, Nietzsche and Marx to Freud, Adorno, Wittgenstein and Walter Benjamin – who could say what they had to say only by inventing a new style of writing and philosophising.

Not all of Derrida's writing is to everyone's taste. He had an irritating habit of overusing the rhetorical question, which lends itself easily to parody: "What is it, to speak? How can I even speak of this? Who is this 'I' who speaks of speaking?"

Even so, the Cambridge backwoodsmen were wrong. Derrida, who died of cancer in 2004 urging his friends to affirm life, was no nihilist. Nor did he want to blow up western civilisation with a stick of conceptual dynamite. He simply wished to make us less arrogantly assured that when we speak of truth, love, identity and authority, we know exactly what we mean.

• Terry Eagleton's Why Marx Was Right is published by Yale University Press.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Khrushchev's Downfall

The Premature Obituary of Socialism by Paul Siegel [San Francisco: 1993]

Women & the Socialist Revolution by Mary-Alice Waters [New York: 1976; Second Printing 1979]

COINTELPRO against the Women's Movement

2012 U.S. elections: a Trotskyist view

Extensive review of 2012 U.S. elections by the Spartacist League:

Elections 2012: Wall Street Democrat vs. Wall Street Republican

For a Workers Party That Fights for a Workers Government!

Part One

The following is a presentation, edited for publication, by Spartacist League spokesman Paul Cone at an October 13 forum in Los Angeles.

As revolutionary Marxists, our approach to the elections is the same as our approach to all our work and especially our interventions into class and social struggle. We seek to break the workers from illusions that the Democrats, Republicans or any capitalist party can be relied on to promote their interests, or that any lasting improvement of their lot can be achieved under capitalism. At bottom, the belief that any fundamental change for workers and the oppressed can be achieved through the ballot represents a utopian belief in the reformability of the bourgeois state.

We seek to instill in the working class, as well as radicalized youth, the recognition of the unique social power the proletariat possesses as the collective producers of most of the wealth of this society. Such social power needs to be realized through a party of their own, a workers party. What we mean by that is not an electoral vehicle but a party that leads the working class and oppressed in a fight for workers rule: the expropriation of the capitalist class through workers revolution and the formation of a workers government. In a society under workers rule, the productive capacity and resources are owned in common and production is based on human need—not the mad chase after profits.

I want to also point out that we communists would run for elective office and serve in the Congress and other legislative bodies as revolutionary tribunes of the working class—i.e., as oppositionists to the capitalist order. But we would not run for executive offices such as president, governor, mayor. Holding executive office means taking responsibility for the administration of the machinery of the capitalist state. Running for such offices can only reinforce illusions that the capitalist state, under the right leadership, can be made to serve the interests of the exploited and oppressed.

Although the working class here has historically waged some of the fiercest battles against the bosses and their state, the U.S. stands out as the only advanced capitalist country where the working class has not attained even a minimal level of political class consciousness. In its mass, the American working class has never supported a party whose declared ultimate goal is the replacement of the capitalist system with a socialist society, or which even claims to stand simply for workers’ interests in their day-to-day struggles against the employers. The two primary, and interrelated, obstacles have been illusions in the Democrats and the racial and ethnic divisions promoted by the capitalists, both of which are purveyed by the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy.

Capitalist Crisis: Workers Pay

This year’s elections come in the context of four years of the most severe economic crisis since the Great Depression of the 1930s. We’ve seen the continued hemorrhaging of jobs, home foreclosures and massive indebtedness along with a massive bolstering of the forces of state repression under the pretext of the wars against terrorism and drugs.

To the tune of trillions of dollars, first Bush and then, even more so, Obama bailed out the con men on Wall Street whose financial swindles were central to this collapse. The working class, black people, Latinos, the poor, the sick and the aged have been made to foot the bill. Alongside large-scale and long-term unemployment, corporate profits have, on the average, risen at an annual rate of 4.8 percent over the past three years. Over the past year, the net worth of the 400 richest Americans grew by $200 billion—an average of $50 million each. In that same period, median household income fell by 4 percent. In New York City, the center of American finance capital, nearly 1.7 million people are officially classified as poor, the highest figure in more than a decade. Officially, the homeless population of the city is 46,000.

The national jobs report issued on September 7 disclosed that only 69.8 percent of men over the age of 16 were either working or looking for work—an all-time low. With one-quarter of jobs paying below the poverty line for a family of four, 58 percent of all job growth since what they like to call the “recovery” is in low-wage occupations, earning less than $14 an hour. Six million people have no income other than food stamps. Some 2.8 million children live in households with incomes of less than $2 per person a day—a benchmark generally associated with the impoverished Third World.

In racist America, it’s all the worse for black people and Latinos, who were among the main victims of the banks’ subprime mortgage scams. One-third of black and Latino households have no net worth, with many underwater in debt. Over 25 percent of blacks and Latinos are officially recorded as living in poverty.

Periodic economic crises, such as the one we are in now, are inherent in the capitalist system of production for profit. In the 1930s, the one country that not only wasn’t ravaged by the Great Depression but experienced great economic development was the Soviet Union, where the working class in 1917 had taken state power, which was maintained despite the subsequent bureaucratic degeneration under Stalin. Today in the Chinese deformed workers state, where capitalism was overthrown by the peasant army led by Mao in 1949, state control of the economy has greatly offset the effects of the worldwide economic crisis.

Short of the working class taking power, there is no crisis that cannot be surmounted by the bourgeoisie. In “The Death Agony of Capitalism and the Tasks of the Fourth International,” better known as the Transitional Program, which was written in 1938 during the Great Depression, revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky put forward a series of demands that are applicable today. These demands address the economic catastrophe facing the working class, “unalterably leading to one final conclusion: the conquest of power by the proletariat.”

In the face of mass unemployment, Trotsky called for a shorter workweek at no loss in pay to spread the available work, for a massive program of public works and for wages to rise with prices to guard against the ravages of inflation. To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the capitalist owners and the swindles of the banks, he argued that the workers should demand that the capitalists open their books. He also raised the call for the expropriation of branches of industry vital for national existence and of the most parasitic of the capitalist owners. He underlined that such a demand must be linked to the fight for the seizure of power by the working class, as against the Stalinist and social-democratic misleaders for whom the call for nationalization was merely a prescription for bailing out capitalist enterprises.

Trotsky bluntly put it: “If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish.” In opposition to the capitalists and their reformist agents, Trotsky argued that “‘realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’” would be “decided only by the struggle,” by means of which, “no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”

Obama at Helm of U.S. Imperialism

Our opposition to Obama and the Democrats, no less than our opposition to the Republicans, is a class opposition. It’s not a protest against the Democrats’ failure to live up to expectations—they did exactly what we expected. It is not a search for some alternative within the capitalist electoral framework—a formation like the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party that would supposedly break the two-party monopoly with a bourgeois third party. Nor is it an exercise of political coquetry: “Oh, if you know we always vote for you Democrats, what would compel you to carry out our political wishes?” All of these are how the radical liberals and reformist socialists approach the question of the Democratic Party. No less than open support to the Democrats, these do nothing to advance class consciousness but rather keep the working class enthralled to the capitalist order. They are all obstacles to building the revolutionary workers party necessary to end this nightmare of capitalism once and for all.

As we wrote four years ago (“Obama: Commander-in-Chief of Racist U.S. Imperialism,” WV No. 925, 21 November 2008):

“The election of Barack Obama as the first black president of the United States has aroused great expectations among working people and the oppressed around the world. Black people and others celebrated on streets throughout the country the election of the next Commander-in-Chief of bloody U.S. imperialism.... Amid fears of a new Great Depression...hopes for ‘change’ center on the incoming Democratic Obama administration. These hopes will be brutally dashed.”

We also pointed out: “As America’s next top cop, Obama will preside over the racist capitalist system, which is based on the exploitation of working people at home and abroad.”

That prognosis was verified—and then some. But we didn’t need a crystal ball. V.I. Lenin, who founded the Bolshevik Party and together with Trotsky led the October 1917 Russian Revolution—the only successful workers revolution in history—aptly described the choice in elections under capitalism as a process “to decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people.”

This time around, the reality show to become America’s next top war criminal pits the two rich white guys, Romney and Ryan—who look like a walking ad for khakis, hair gel and Pearl Drops tooth polish and who promise to eliminate just about all of the remaining government social services that are a lifeline to a large bulk of the population, while promising greater riches to the capitalists—against the hoops-playing, change-promising Obama, who stuffed his administration with a Wall Street all-star team, such as Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers and Jacob Lew. The Obama administration has handed out lucre to just about every industrialist and banker that came, hat in hand, knocking on the White House door—and not even spare change for the rest.

A lot has happened in the last four years. Mass unemployment has provided a more fertile climate for the decades-long attacks on the basic organizations of defense of the working class—unions. The current attacks were kicked off by the 2009 auto contracts forced upon workers at General Motors, Ford and Chrysler by the United Auto Workers’ Ron Gettelfinger and the newly elected Obama—part of the bailout of the auto bosses. This opened the floodgates for extending two-tier agreements to other union contracts throughout the country, and threw thousands of auto workers on the scrap heap.

We’ve seen the emergence of the Tea Party crazies, launched and funded by some of the fattest of fat cats in the conservative Republican establishment. They seem to have consolidated a great deal of control of the Republican Party, peddling religious obscurantism, anti-women bigotry, nativist hatred of anyone who wasn’t born in the U.S.—that is, born with white skin and speaking English. Their not so thinly veiled racism is expressed, among other ways, in the hallucinogenic belief that Obama is forcing socialism on the U.S., the only basis for which is his black skin. To defend the purity of elections, they have been on a drive to purge blacks and Latinos from voting, imbibing so much of the “voter fraud” Kool-Aid they have begun to visualize magic buses full of “illegal” voters pouring into polling places across the country.

After decades of massive redistribution of wealth to the richest sliver of the population under both Democratic and Republican administrations, even the bourgeois press has noted the gaping inequality between the haves and have-nots. The populist Occupy phenomenon burst across the scene with an impact reminiscent of the 1973 comet Kouhoutek.

Earlier this year Charles Murray, author of the racist screed The Bell Curve (1994), turned his attention to poor white people in a new book, Coming Apart. According to Murray, poor people are poor because they make poor choices—usually citing what he considers “moral” ones, like smoking, drinking, a little pot, having sex at a young age. As if the well-heeled don’t do exactly the same—and probably to a greater extent since they have the money to burn. (This is the same drivel that Bill Cosby, Obama and others have been handing down to poor black people to blame them for their oppression.) Obviously the poor “choices” begin with choosing to be born into a poor family. Although the book overwhelmingly represents the view of the capitalist class, it didn’t get that much play thanks to its inopportune timing—both political parties are fighting over precisely that demographic in the key swing states.

The right to abortion has been further eroded. Obama promised to ease the Republicans’ war on immigrants only to have his administration shatter prior records for deportations by such a wide margin it is a wonder they weren’t called before a Congressional committee investigating steroid use. Obama also promised to reverse much of the decimation of civil liberties under the “war on terror” only to expand government spying to a level that would make George Orwell’s Big Brother envious. Meanwhile we have seen authorized assassinations of U.S. citizens, indefinite detention and persecution of leftist opponents of government policies.

Two-Party Electoral Circus

In his September 25 lecture to the United Nations, Obama told this gathering of imperialist thieves and their victims that Americans “have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their view.” No. Since its emergence as an imperialist power with the Spanish-American War of 1898, the U.S., like its imperialist rivals, has sent its young men, and now some women, to fight and kill in its quest for world domination, to secure markets and resources and geopolitical military advantage. For over a century, Washington has placed in power and/or propped up just about every military dictatorship around the world.

This Nobel Peace Prize recipient initiated a surge of troops for the occupation of Afghanistan and supplied the firepower for NATO’s devastation of Libya. He has bolstered U.S. military forces in Asia directed against the Chinese deformed workers state, declaring the Pacific to be the Pentagon’s number one priority, and the U.S. also maintains the embargo against the Cuban deformed workers state. Obama has also implemented starvation sanctions against Iran as punishment for their purported program of developing nuclear arms. U.S. drones regularly rain death and destruction from Pakistan to Somalia. DEA narcs help terrorize Latin American farmers and workers in the name of the “war on drugs,” and when the U.S.’s puppet rulers meekly suggest decriminalizing some controlled substances they get slapped down from Washington. U.S. imperialism, hands off the world!

Obama promised nothing to black people. He kept that promise. In the supposedly “post-racial” utopia ushered in by his election, we have the continued mass incarceration of black people and the escalating terrorization by cops of black and Latino youth in ghettos and barrios, which in turn fuels vigilante terror like the racist killing of Trayvon Martin.

Yes, Obama has done just about everything the capitalist masters asked and so much more. Yet from the day he took office, a core component of the Republican Party took to the streets demanding “Take our country back!” Back from whom? No secret there. Even as the Commander-in-Chief of U.S. imperialism, Obama is marked by his black skin and African heritage. Newt Gingrich called him the “Food Stamp President.” Romney, not unexpectedly, has even charged, falsely, that Obama is undoing Clinton’s signature law eviscerating welfare by removing the work requirements, resurrecting Reagan’s “welfare queen” chimera that impoverished black women are sucking up the government dollars of hard-working, tax-paying white people.

Add to these the likes of abortion opponent Todd Akin, the Republican candidate for Senator from Missouri, who said that a woman who gets pregnant following a rape wasn’t really raped; the spectacle at the Republican Convention, where a black woman working for CNN was pelted with peanuts while one of the Republican faithful screamed at her, “This is how we feed the animals”; the efforts across the country to destroy unions; draconian immigration laws enacted in Arizona, Georgia, Alabama and elsewhere. You get a sense of why workers, blacks, immigrants, women, gays, who have nothing to show for their past support, are going to again vote Democrat as a lesser evil.

How to account for a significant portion of the American bourgeoisie being so mentally unhinged? Did a Klingon warship pass over the U.S. 30 years ago firing some form of brain-destroying phaser? Maybe the answer is buried in the UFO museum in Roswell, New Mexico. But I don’t think so. After the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, it appeared that the U.S. imperialists had finally become masters of the world. But even as the U.S. achieved unrivalled military supremacy, its industrial base continued to decline. To some in the ruling class, this decline of the country’s economic might defies explanation—besides being contrary to “God’s will.” In consequence, a wing of the bourgeoisie has seemingly gone totally insane.

The massive redistribution of wealth to the top, the increasing segregation of black people, shredding of the social “safety net,” embrace of “Christian family values,” rollback of democratic rights, imperialist wars and occupations: all have been bipartisan policies. The Republicans may explicitly announce that it is open season on workers and oppressed minorities; the Democrats instead offer a pat on the back, maybe a little consolation that we “share your pain,” while enforcing capitalist misery and social reaction, often more effectively.

Yet at the same time that the differences between these two capitalist parties have increasingly narrowed, the vitriol between them has grown. This is not a unique development. Writing about the 1912 presidential election won by the Democrat Woodrow Wilson, in an article titled “The Results and Significance of the U.S. Presidential Elections,” Lenin observed:

“Since the Civil War over slavery in 1860-65—two bourgeois parties have been distinguished there by remarkable solidity and strength. The party of the former slave-owners is the so-called Democratic Party. The capitalist party, which favoured the emancipation of the Negroes, has developed into the Republican Party.

“Since the emancipation of the Negroes, the distinction between the two parties has been diminishing. The fight between these two parties has been mainly over the height of customs duties. Their fight has not had any serious importance for the mass of the people. The people have been deceived and diverted from their vital interests by means of spectacular and meaningless duels between the two bourgeois parties.”

Centrality of Black Oppression

Shortly after the Republican Ronald Reagan’s 1980 election victory, Richard Viguerie, a key conservative fund-raiser and organizer, said, “It was the social issues that got us this far, and that’s what will take us into the future. We never really won until we began stressing issues like busing, abortion, school prayer and gun control.” Reagan aide Lee Atwater made clear what that meant. For obvious reasons I’m going to paraphrase here: “You start out in 1954 by saying the ‘N’ word. By 1968 you can’t say the ‘N’ word—that hurts you. Backfires. So you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights. You’re getting so abstract now you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.”

In fanning the flames of racist reaction, the Republicans are implementing the “Southern Strategy” that has served them well for the past 40 years. The shape of bourgeois politics in America was fundamentally altered by the civil rights movement. The New Deal alliance between labor, Northern liberals and Southern segregationists cemented by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930s was blown apart. The 1964 Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, who voted against the Civil Rights Act, was the one who authored the “Southern Strategy,” persuading racist Southern Democrats—the Dixiecrats—to defect.

The bourgeoisie, which was willing to permit the gradual abolition of legal segregation and provide avenues for the upward social mobility of a small layer of black people, at the same time unleashed a campaign of white backlash which eventually took the form of opposition to “big government”—identified as forcing white children to go to school with blacks, giving tax money to black welfare mothers and poverty bureaucrats, and giving jobs to blacks and women under affirmative action. While most black people were no better off, the government created a layer of black middle-class professionals. Racist politicians began deliberately stoking white resentment.

All this underscores that the oppression of black people, a race-color caste overwhelmingly segregated at the bottom of society, remains at the core of American capitalism. The forcible segregation, stigmatization and vilification of those whose ancestors were dragged here in chains as slaves serves to maximize profits, regulate labor and divide the working class. As historic American Trotskyist Richard Fraser noted of segregation some 60 years ago:

“Prejudice is the product of this complex social relation. But although it is directed immediately against the Negro, its object is the working class as a whole. Through discrimination and segregation, Negro labor is degraded and its wage falls to the bare subsistence level. But this sets the pattern and controls the conditions of labor as a whole.”

—“The Negro Struggle and the Proletarian Revolution” (1953), reprinted in “In Memoriam—Richard S. Fraser: An Appreciation and Selection of His Work,” Prometheus Research Series No. 3, August 1990

Fraser added: “Without racial separation in the United States, there would be no possibility of maintaining the discriminatory social and economic practices which are fundamental to the economic and social well-being of American capitalism, and its role in the world today.”

The fight for black equality remains the strategic question of the American revolution. We fight for black freedom on the program of revolutionary integrationism. In fighting for the working class to oppose all instances of racist discrimination, we have supported scatter-site public housing in opposition to residential segregation; defended school busing as part of our fight for free, quality integrated education; initiated mobilizations centered on the multiracial labor movement against KKK and Nazi terror. At the same time, we stress that genuine equality for black people in the U.S. will only come about through the smashing of capitalism, preparing the road to an egalitarian socialist order. This perspective is counterposed to liberal integration, which is premised on the utopian notion that equality for black people can be attained within this capitalist society founded on black oppression. Our perspective is counterposed as well to go-it-alone black nationalism—a petty-bourgeois ideology of despair which at bottom accepts the racist status quo.

There will be no effective resistance to the immiseration of American working people without the unity in struggle between the trade unions and the black and Latino poor. Despite the destruction of industrial jobs and erosion of union strength, black workers, who have a significantly higher rate of trade-union membership than white workers, continue to be integrated into strategic sectors of the proletariat, which alone has the power to shatter this racist capitalist system. Won to a revolutionary program, black workers will be the living link fusing the anger of the dispossessed ghetto masses with the social power of the multiracial proletariat under the leadership of a Leninist vanguard party.


Part Two

This part concludes this article. Part One appeared in WV No. 1011 (26 October).

The “Southern Strategy” [by which the Republican Party attracted white Southern Democratic voters in the wake of the civil rights struggles] may be associated with the Republicans, but the rightward turn in this country really kicked into gear with the Democratic Party administration of Jimmy Carter. Coming to office in 1977, the Carter administration kicked off an onslaught of domestic social reaction and the renewal of the Cold War drive against the Soviet Union.

A primary concern was to reverse the economic decline of American imperialism. By the 1970s, the arrogant U.S. rulers had let their industrial infrastructure become technologically obsolete. Particularly with the economy distorted by defense spending for the Vietnam War, the U.S. no longer was the world’s undisputed capitalist powerhouse. A good number of auto and steel factories were closed. To increase profitability, the ruling class moved a good deal of production to low-wage places in the open shop South as well as to neocolonies in Latin America and Southeast Asia. The ruling class launched a campaign to crack down on the working class.

For the American bourgeoisie, the radicalism of the 1960s—the fight for black equality, the struggle for women’s rights and against the Vietnam War—was a dangerous bubble, with social protest threatening to spill over into an aroused labor movement. A major ideological assault was launched, aimed at instilling unquestioned acceptance of capitalism, god and family, including the desirability of dying for one’s country. The “born again” Carter brought religion into the White House. As school busing was going down to defeat in city after city, Carter stoked the anti-busing, segregationist backlash by proclaiming the virtue of “ethnic purity.” Carter signed the Hyde Amendment cutting off government funding for abortions for poor women, while declaring that “there are many things in life that are not fair.” He drafted plans to break a threatened strike by the PATCO air traffic controllers union, and his successor, Reagan, fired the entire PATCO membership of 12,000 when they went on strike, opening the way for what has been a one-sided war on labor.

Having lost the presidency to Reagan and George Bush the First in the 1980s, the Democratic Leadership Council came up with a plan to win back white racist voters. In 1992 they fielded a ticket with two Southerners—Clinton and Gore. Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it,” a promise he kept—something the arch-conservative Reagan couldn’t accomplish. The Southern and Southwestern states achieved new prominence. This largely non-union region contains a big part of the “bible belt,” whose considerable yahoo fringe became a potent political force. Within each party, the former right wing became the mainstream.

Capitalists’ Labor Lieutenants

No less than the Republicans, the Democrats are a capitalist party, a political vehicle for the filthy rich, racist capitalist rulers. Structurally part of the Democratic Party, the labor bureaucracy acts as the political agents of the capitalist class within the workers movement. Presiding over the decimation of the unions they sit atop, the “labor statesmen” work harder and harder to keep an increasingly frustrated base in the Democratic Party fold. Since the 2000 election cycle, the AFL-CIO has ponied up at least a billion dollars for the Democrats while doing next to nothing to organize the unorganized or to prepare and support strike action to defend unions from a bipartisan capitalist onslaught. How about this for a souvenir at the next AFL-CIO convention: “My union federation spent hundreds of millions on the Democrats and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”

The bosses and their state have been taking it to what’s left of the organized labor movement. The past two years have seen an increased use of the tactic of locking out union workers. At the height of this summer’s heat wave, New York’s giant Con Edison utility locked out over 8,500 utility workers for nearly four weeks. Members of the United Steelworkers were locked out for 13 weeks by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. in Ohio. After more than a year, workers at American Crystal Sugar in North Dakota and other states remain on the street, and Oakland Teamsters at Waste Management Inc. have been locked out since July as well.

The pro-capitalist union tops have overwhelmingly met this onslaught with the same prostration they perfected in past decades. In a bitter and ominous defeat for labor, on August 17 a 15-week-long strike against the Caterpillar corporation by 780 members of International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers Local Lodge 851 in Joliet, Illinois, ended when workers narrowly voted to accept a draconian two-tier contract. With company profits at an all-time high, the company got wage freezes for most workers, while the contract also doubles health care premiums, weakens seniority rights and eliminates the defined-benefit pension plan.

And it’s not like there isn’t anger and will to fight out there. In Chicago, public school teachers, perhaps the most vilified sector of the labor movement, struck and held firm for seven days at the start of the school year. For a couple of September days last year, in Longview, Washington, the ILWU longshore workers union and its allies flexed their muscle in the kind of labor action not seen in this country for decades. Mass pickets mobilized to block trains bringing grain into the scab terminal, and ports in the region were shut down for a day. Longshoremen from throughout the Pacific Northwest poured into Longview. Ultimately the union held the line but ended up with a concessionary contract that could embolden the bosses in future struggles.

As the Wisconsin legislature debated a law last year to strip collective bargaining rights from public workers, some 100,000 pro-union demonstrators flooded the streets of Madison, the state capital. The teachers unions organized sick-outs, causing schools to close across the state. But there was no strike action. The labor leadership worked overtime to divert workers’ militancy into Democratic Party electioneering, centrally through a campaign to recall Republican legislators as well as the union-busting governor Walker—which failed.

Parroting the bosses, the union bureaucrats have told their members that sacrifice is needed to assure the continued profitability of American industry against foreign competition. Obama has gone after Romney for “outsourcing American jobs” as head of Bain Industries in the 1980s. As he set out on a campaign swing in the Midwest a few weeks ago, Obama announced that his administration was bringing its second lawsuit in two months (the eighth since he took office) against what the U.S. calls China’s unfair trade practices, this one targeting the export of automobiles. Such chauvinist appeals have been used to sell givebacks in health insurance coverage, work rules, seniority rights and wage scales. Wages have been reduced to near Walmart levels by the infamous “two tier” system, leading many embittered younger members to call into question the value of unions at all.

Labor and the Fight for Immigrant Rights

Just as the union tops line up with a wing of the capitalist rulers in mobilizing American workers against their working-class allies abroad, they are aligned with the administration in screaming that immigrants are stealing “American jobs.” The capitalist-imperialist rulers see in immigrant workers a pool of labor to be brutally exploited and deprived of the most fundamental rights. While much of the bourgeoisie wants to preserve this cheap and vulnerable labor pool to ratchet up the rate of exploitation of all workers, the openly nativist wing that is behind the spate of anti-immigrant laws rants that American culture—by which they mean white Anglo-Saxon Protestant culture—is being overrun by those from south of the border. They particularly mean Mexico, which had one-half of its land including Texas stolen by the U.S.

Thanks to the nativist bigots, Obama and the Democrats are able to posture as friends of immigrants, winning 70 percent of the Latino vote last time around. They are way ahead in the polls once again, despite carrying on a coldly more effective policy than the Bush administration of sealing the borders, rounding up brown-skinned people and deporting those here without papers.

It is important to combat anti-immigrant chauvinism in the working class and especially among black workers, while the immigrant-derived proletariat must understand that anti-black racism remains the touchstone of social reaction in this country. As we wrote nearly 40 years ago in “Immigration and the Class Struggle” (WV No. 41, 29 March 1974):

“It is in the interests of the working class to back the fight of undocumented workers for their rights, because undocumented workers will otherwise continue to be used as a weapon against the rest of the working class. Those in desperate, illegal situations are more difficult to organize and must accept lower wages. Unfortunately, labor does not always see its real interests so clearly. It is led today by bureaucrats who not only accept, but actively enforce, the capitalist ‘rules of the game’ in which unemployment and high profits are automatically accepted as natural....

“In fact, as long as the labor movement accepts unemployment it will remain divided against itself. Instead of fighting for more jobs it will fight against those it sees as threatening the jobs it has. And the bosses will use this fight quite skillfully against the working class, breaking strikes and pushing down wages. The solution to the problem of both U.S.-born and immigrant workers lies in overthrowing the system which creates unemployment and perpetuates poverty....

“It is not enough to provide an alternative to the capitalist parties. There must be an alternative to capitalist politics.”

In the late 1950s, 35 percent of workers were unionized—today it’s under 12 percent. The only way the labor movement can be revitalized is by returning to the road of class struggle. Immediately posed is the fight to organize the mass of unorganized workers, particularly in the “right to work” South. This will require actively combating black oppression, long used by the capitalists to divide and weaken labor as a whole. Against the government’s anti-immigrant crackdown, which has derailed one organizing campaign after another, the union movement must fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants. Key to all such battles is the fight for the political independence of the workers from the capitalists and their government and political parties.

Racism and Patronage Politics

I wasn’t much of a student and actually peaked in the first grade. One of the few things I recall from my early education was the textbook characterization of the early Democratic Party as representing the interests of the working man and the Republicans as representing the unbridled greed of the rich. I am sure you are aware that the Democratic Party that was being portrayed as the champion of the downtrodden was the party of slavery and the defeat of Reconstruction; the party of Jim Crow segregation and KKK terror.

We had a very interesting series of articles in Workers Vanguard called “Wall Street and the War Against Labor,” which is reprinted in our pamphlet on the economy, Karl Marx Was Right: Capitalist Anarchy and the Immiseration of the Working Class. The articles made the point that sundry left-populist movements that have existed in the U.S. have been absorbed by the Democrats. Since I keep using the word populism, I should define what it is, which is nothing but the doctrine that if the little people get together and democratically elect representatives of the little people, the government will carry out their will. It is nothing less than a doctrine of profound illusions in the capitalist state.

The Democratic Party has played a critical role in maintaining the divisions within the working class, while at the same time fostering the belief within each of these constituencies that it is the political vehicle through which their particular needs and interests can be realized. The patronage machines and political bosses of yesterday may be gone, or significantly attenuated, and the ethnic constituencies may have changed a bit, but the Democrats still play this same game, which is instrumental to capitalist rule in the U.S.

The quintessence of such political machines was Chicago under Mayor Richard Daley. It was such patronage that made Chicago known as Segregation City. Yet the black component of that machine, led by Harold Washington (who later became the city’s first black mayor in 1983), always dutifully delivered the black vote for the party’s candidates. Should any of Washington’s black constituents have sought to relocate their families to another Democratic Party stronghold, they would more likely have been met with firebombs than a welcome wagon. Daley insured that there was never an attempt to implement school busing. To a greater or lesser degree, this type of political machine was replicated in cities across the North and remains the norm to this day, with Latinos becoming a key part of the Democratic Party structure in cities like New York, L.A. and others.

In the early 19th century, the Democratic Party, then dominated by the Southern slavocracy, gained support among the Irish Catholic immigrants who made up the bulk of unskilled urban workers in the North before the Civil War. The Democrats combined a posture of hostility toward the Yankee ruling elite with racist demagogy that the abolition of slavery would result in black freedmen taking their jobs and driving down wages. Following the Civil War, the Democrats benefited from growing support among Midwestern farmers, especially those of German ancestry, along with foreign-born Catholics. In industrial states, immigrants from Ireland and Germany filled factories and voted Democratic, many of them alienated by the Republicans’ pursuit of some rights for black people, who were seen as competition in the job market.

Populism and the Democrats

As described by Mike Davis in Prisoners of the American Dream:

“The cooptation of individual labor leaders was facilitated by the revolution in American city government that occurred in the 1880s as an aspirant petty bourgeoisie of Irish—and occasionally German—extraction began to take municipal power from old Yankee elites.... Local trade-union leaders—especially in the Irish-dominated building trades—were often key links in cementing machine control as well as principal beneficiaries of political sinecures. The overall effect of this ‘spoils system’ was to corrupt labor leadership, substitute paternalism for worker self-reliance, and, through the formation of ethnic patronage monopolies, keep the poorer strata of the working class permanently divided.”

In a Congressional debate following the 1893 economic collapse, Nebraska’s William Jennings Bryan declared, “Today the Democratic party stands between two great forces, each inviting its support.... On one side stands the corporate interests of the nation, its moneyed institutions, its aggregations of wealth and capital, imperious, arrogant, compassionless.... On the other side stands the unnumbered throng which give a name to the Democratic party and for which it has assumed to speak.” The “side” of corporate interests was led by President Grover Cleveland. Tales of Cleveland’s contempt for the poor were legion, including one joke describing Cleveland confronting a man eating the White House front lawn, who explained he was unemployed and hungry. Cleveland suggested, “Why don’t you go around to the back yard? The grass is longer there.”

Three years later, that same Bryan headed the Democratic Party’s presidential ticket and won as well the endorsement of the populist People’s Party, largely under the illusion that Populist leader Tom Watson would be Bryan’s running mate. This paved the road for the fusion of the Populists back into the Democratic Party. But the populist Bryan selected bank president and railroad director Arthur Sewall.

The Populists were initially a multiracial movement, encompassing poor white and black farmers as well as small businessmen. But the heroic efforts of its organizers in the South were defeated when the local ruling class and its Democratic Party enforcers launched a wave of racist demagogy and violence. Having made their way back into their Democratic Party home, many Populist leaders, such as Watson, turned against impoverished blacks and openly embraced racism. Watson himself became an outspoken champion of lynching. On the other hand, the Populist movement also included people who would become key figures in the labor and socialist movements, such as Eugene V. Debs.

The New Deal Coalition

In the North, ethnic ward politics remained a constant of the Democratic Party, which increasingly won support of the young labor movement. The support of Samuel Gompers’ American Federation of Labor was instrumental in the 1912 election of the patrician “progressive” Woodrow Wilson, the former president of Princeton University and a staunch segregationist. Gompers played a key role in winning labor support for U.S. entry into the first imperialist World War. In 1919-20, Wilson’s administration launched the first anti-red witchhunt, the Palmer Raids, named for his attorney general, in which thousands of foreign-born communists, anarchists and socialists were deported.

This coalition was later consolidated in the New Deal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The New Deal coalition, which is today hailed by most liberals and leftists, included pro-Communist labor organizers, liberals and black leaders in the North and racist Dixiecrats and Klansmen in the South. Key to the New Deal was an attempt to protect U.S. capitalism against growing radicalization and labor struggle. New Deal reforms such as the National Labor Relations Act, which made it easier to organize unions, or the Works Progress Administration, which carried out public works, were aimed at stabilizing capitalism by tying the new, powerful industrial unions, grouped in the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO), to the capitalist system. On the part of the CIO tops, the social democrats and Stalinized Communist Party, the New Deal coalition was a betrayal of the interests of the working class, heading off the evident possibility of forging an independent workers party.

Now, I said that our opposition to the Democrats is a class opposition to any capitalist party. So what precisely is meant by “class”? In this country, where the most rapacious imperialist ruling class wields the purest ideology of raw, naked exploitation of any advanced capitalist country, there’s a longstanding obfuscation of what class means. In a 1948 article in the Militant, our forebears in the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party wrote:

“The biggest political myth the ruling capitalists are trying to sell to the workers is that this country is different from any in history, that here there are no real class divisions, and, therefore, no basis for class politics.... But all politics is class politics. It is to the interests of the ruling capitalists and their various agents and dupes to conceal this elementary fact of the realities of political life.”

The capitalists, their agents and dupes are still at it. Donning his populist hat for a few months, Obama has resurrected himself as the champion of the “middle class.” Echoing their Commander-in-Chief, the labor tops appeal not for labor action but to broad public opinion by describing the war on the unions as attacks on the middle class. In the 1950s and ’60s, a middle-aged white industrial worker could be excused for believing in the “American Dream,” living in a suburban home with an affordable government-subsidized mortgage and driving a late-model car. Some may have added a Harley, others maybe even took up golf, with their children attending state universities or city colleges with low tuition. (For black people, of course, it has always been an American nightmare, as Malcolm X described, even for a unionized black worker in the Northeast or Midwest, who was more likely to live in an inner-city ghetto than in a tree-lined suburb.)

That was a short period based on a particular set of circumstances. By 1945, one-third of nonagricultural labor was in unions. The international dominance of U.S. imperialism, secured through the devastation of its imperialist rivals Germany and Japan in World War II, made possible some substantial improvement in the material conditions of the working class. But the industrial economies of Germany and Japan eventually recovered from the devastation of WWII and made deep inroads in world markets, including the American market, and started to surpass the U.S. By the late 1960s, U.S. wages were stagnating and good jobs were soon to become scarce, especially for young workers. The deterioration of conditions for unionized industrial workers shows that whatever gains they had made was the best that American capitalism could offer—and those days are long gone.

This past year and a half has added to the political lexicon the “99 percent” versus the “1 percent.” This was the mantra of the fleeting Occupy movement. For months, the Occupy trademark was affixed to just about any political activity called by the reformists: “Occupy the Hood,” “Occupy the Justice Department,” even protesting mass incarceration by calling to “Occupy the Prisons”—something the capitalist rulers would be very happy to accommodate. It got to the point where I was wondering if Robert De Niro’s next movie would be “Occupy This.” Not surprisingly, as the elections near you no longer hear about Occupy, largely because as we predicted, such an amorphous, populist movement could in the main only occupy the Democratic Party.

It is false that 99 percent of the population, which includes such diverse strata as the unemployed, technicians, computer programmers, dentists, and direct agents of the state—cops, security guards, judges—as well as real workers, share common interests. We start from the Marxist understanding that society is divided into two main classes: The bourgeoisie—that is, the tiny group of families (more like the .001 percent) that own the banks, industry, mines, newspapers, telecommunications—and the proletariat—that is, the vast majority of society who must sell their labor power to the capitalists in order to live. It is the labor of the working class that creates just about all of the wealth of this society.

The interests of these two classes are diametrically counterposed—they cannot be reconciled. The capitalist state is, at bottom, organized violence to protect the class rule and profits of the bourgeoisie. At the core of the state are armed bodies of men—the cops, military, courts and prisons. The state cannot be made to work in the interests of the exploited or oppressed. Social gains and political reforms that have benefited workers and the oppressed were not won through the ballot or in the courtroom but were the product of tumultuous class and social struggle. Gains that have been won by unions, often in pitched battles, have immediately come under attack before the ink is dry on the contract, which, as the bosses recognize, is but a momentary truce in an ongoing class war. Similarly, the capitalist rulers set about dismantling those formal political and legal rights that resulted from the civil rights and women’s movements as soon as they were attained. No democratic rights are secure under capitalism.

Reformist Left: Democrats’ Fifth Wheel

Lending what little authority they may have to the miseducation of young radicals is the reformist left. Before talking about their posture toward Occupy, it is worth reviewing their take on the elections.

Four years ago, the Workers World Party (WWP) stated: “The election victory of Barack Obama will go down in history as a triumphant step forward in the struggle against racism and national oppression in the U.S.” (Workers World, 14 November 2008). Now in an editorial titled “Stay in the Streets” (Workers World, 29 August), the WWP declares, “Workers World is for socialism—where the workers, not the billionaires, own the means of production. This will take a titanic struggle by the masses of people who have nothing to lose but their chains. One of those chains is the two-party political system.”

Look carefully: Helping wield those chains is the same Workers World Party, which has a decades-long history of supporting black Democrats, going back to Harold Washington, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. The latest object of their affections is Brooklyn’s Charles Barron, who they supported in the Democratic primary for Congress in 2006. Workers World also supported Barron’s 2010 campaign for governor on the ticket of the stillborn Freedom Party, which they deceitfully described as “a break from the imperialist Democratic Party.” This year, they again supported Barron’s efforts to be the Democrats’ candidate for Congress.

Also upon Obama’s election, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) threw an election night party in Harlem to “celebrate the end of far too many years of Republican rule” and to discuss “what can activists do to press their demands on the next administration?” Today, the ISO describes the Democratic Party as the “graveyard of social movements.” They easily could have added, “Pass the shovel.”

Then there’s the Maoist Freedom Road Socialist Organization in New York. A recent polemic against them in the Young Spartacus pages in WV that pointed to their electoral support to Obama in 2008 struck quite a nerve. In response, one of their leaders protested that their organization didn’t support Obama, it was just most of their leadership. In terms of the Freedom Road split-off in the Midwest that publishes Fight Back!, this is what they have to say: “We know that many activists…are likely to continue to vote for the lesser of two evils” (, 12 August). And what do they think about that? “In terms of voting in the presidential election, it is better to vote against Romney, especially in swing states. In other states like California, the Republicans are unlikely to win. In these cases, it would be positive to have a strong third party vote total.” They add, “Our faith and our future are in the people’s struggle, not the ballot box.”

Of course, all these groups fawned over Occupy. Last fall the ISO wrote: “The movement is already a success in what it has done to revive the legitimacy of mass protest and establish beginnings of a new radical left in the United States.” This is the present-day watchword of the heirs of Eduard Bernstein, the revisionist leader of German Social Democracy a little over a century ago, who declared, “The final goal, no matter what it is, is nothing; the movement is everything.” Bernstein was characterized by the great Polish Jewish revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, who wrote in 1898-99 that whatever lip service such revisionists may pay to wanting socialism, they are not choosing a different “road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modification of the old society.” This certainly fits Bernstein’s modern-day acolytes.

History has shown that whether it be the Occupy kids, the antiwar movements led by Workers World and ISO front groups or the other movements that episodically spring up, these movements can only be a tail on and ultimately be subsumed by the Democrats because they are not consciously directed toward the formation of an independent working-class party to lead the working class in struggle against capitalist rule. Invocation of the “people’s struggle” and action on “the streets” is little more than a conjurer’s trick to pretty up the pro-Democratic Party pressure politics common to all the reformists.

Though careful not to explicitly support a Democratic Party politician, the ISO speaks for them all in promoting activities that are centered not on advancing the need for independent working-class politics leading toward socialist revolution but on pressuring the Democrats to come through. At a talk in January 2010 on “The Left and Obama,” leading ISO member Lance Selfa described the need to “provide a foundation for further organization to pressure the government to respond to the progressive majority and not to the loud right-wing minority.”

In a recent interview, Selfa declared, “If the Democrats know that activists won’t hold them accountable for their record—i.e., what they actually do—they have no incentive to do anything the left might demand” (, 5 September). On such political foundations, the ISO has supported capitalist third parties, what they call a “left alternative,” momentarily standing outside Democratic Party ranks. Examples are Ralph Nader or their own member Todd Chretien running a few years ago on the ticket of the Green Party, a bourgeois environmentalist outfit whose counterparts in Germany were part of the capitalist government that joined the U.S. in carrying out the bombing of tiny Serbia in 1999.

The 1912 article by Lenin that I’ve cited (“The Results and Significance of the U.S. Presidential Elections”) addressed such capitalist third parties. Writing about the Bull Moose progressives of Theodore Roosevelt, who polled over four million votes, surpassing the Republican Taft, Lenin stated:

“We shall save capitalism by reforms, says that party. We shall grant the most progressive factory legislation. We shall establish state control over all the trusts (in the U.S.A. that means over all industries!). We shall establish state control over them to eliminate poverty and enable everybody to earn a ‘decent wage.’ We shall establish ‘social and industrial justice.’ We revere all reforms—the only ‘reform’ we don’t want is expropriation of the capitalists!”

A Revolutionary Perspective

In closing, I have an observation for someone looking around at the world and hating what he sees and wanting to do something fundamental about it. Coming to political awareness when I did, having grown up in the ’50s and ’60s, had an advantage over today. We had the benefit of seeing labor when it was more likely to use its muscle—like the 1966 NYC transit strike that shut the city down for twelve days and won. One could not avoid seeing the question of black oppression as central to American society. And you also had the courageous Vietnamese workers and peasants fighting to defend a social revolution against the most dangerous imperialist power in the world—and winning.

Most important, though, was the existence of the Soviet Union, a workers state that, despite its bureaucratic degeneration, showed that a different type of society was possible. Many of those seeking to change the world were compelled to study Marxism to see what this was all about. Obviously, most of those young activists did not choose the revolutionary Marxist path and found their way back to the Democrats and points further right, thanks in no small measure to the same reformists I’ve referred to. But with the destruction of the USSR and the triumphalist blaring of the “death of communism” by bourgeois ideologues, you don’t see the same impulse to study revolutionary Marxism, and the idea of creating a new world is gone. In its place is left a belief that the best one can fight for is a partial amelioration of the horrors of capitalism.

But just as medical science, despite being confined under capitalism, is continuously finding new cures for horrible illnesses, such as the recent genetic studies that pose breakthroughs in treating certain cancers, Marxism is the science of the development of society through class antagonism. It provides the framework for rooting out the cancer of capitalist rule through workers revolution and finally bringing a better world to birth. The necessary instrumentality to make that happen remains, as Trotsky eloquently put it, “a party; once more a party; again a party!”