RAY O' LIGHT NEWSLETTER
From the Belly of the Beast
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-
Also included in this issue:
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
TOWARD SOVIET AMERICA REVISITED!
by RAY LIGHT
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 movement — actively 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  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:
1. UNEMPLOYMENT AND SOCIAL INSURANCE AT THE EXPENSE OF THE STATE AND EMPLOYERS.
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.
LET'S GO "BACK TO THE FUTURE" OF SOVIET POWER!
LET'S FIGHT FOR A UNITED SOVIET STATES OF AMERICA!