Sunday, February 28, 2016

A communist view of "Washington gridlock"

"....A little gridlock in the capitalist government is perhaps the one positive development—the less the capitalist exploiters’ representatives can agree and act in their efforts to take their crisis out on the backs of working people, the better."

A comrade and fellow SWP supporter on Facebook had this to say:

"We are for the separation of powers in the three branches of government as long as the capitalist class hold state power.  We are in favor of gridlock.  We are for defending the constitution and the Bill of Rights.  We are opposed to judges writing law from the bench, be they liberal social engineers or right-wing reactionaries.  Given this choice, it is preferable for the Supreme Court to decide law on a strict interpretation of the Constitution.  This is ABC which I was taught as a 19 year-old YSA'er."

Donald Trump isn't a liberal, he's a Marcyite

Donald Trump is a liberal Democrat running, in this year of fascinating dialectical negations, as a Republican.

His Marcyist Stalinism, however, is only now being uncovered as GOP opponents begin to drain the ocean of press coverage this defender of Social Security and Planned Parenthood has received over decades.

From a 1990 Playboy interview with Trump:

What were your other impressions of the Soviet Union?

I was very unimpressed. Their system is a disaster. What you will see there soon is a revolution; the signs are all there with the demonstrations and picketing. Russia is out of control and the leadership knows it. That’s my problem with Gorbachev. Not a firm enough hand.

You mean firm hand as in China?

When the students poured into Tiananmen Square, the Chinese government almost blew it. Then they were vicious, they were horrible, but they put it down with strength. That shows you the power of strength....

Saturday, February 27, 2016

"The direction of motion today among capitalist parties and politicians is to the left in bourgeois terms, not to the right."

Excerpt from 2016 Havana Book Fair speech by US Socialist Workers Party leader Mary-Alice Waters:

....The US national security apparatus has undergone a massive expansion over the 15 years since 9/11, facilitated by technological advances embodied in the Internet and spread of what is called “social media.” Concerns about this among workers and others is one of the elements driving support for the presidential candidacy of Donald Trump, for many years a Democrat, now running as a Republican (and, yes, marked by “New York values” the entire time, as the Texas-Cuban has taunted him).

Some on the left in the US think Trump speaks for a deeply reactionary, even fascist, development among sections of the working class. That is a gross misreading. There is no growing ultrarightist, much less fascist, movement in the US today. The direction of motion among capitalist parties and politicians is to the left in bourgeois terms, not to the right. That motion, among other things, has been registered in the bipartisan shift toward opening diplomatic and trade relations with Cuba.

Most people here in Cuba are surprised when we explain that we have no more difficulty selling our press and talking working-class politics with those who attend large Trump election rallies than we do engaging in the same communist propaganda work at Bernie Sanders election events.

The ever-expanding surveillance of and intrusion into every aspect of our lives by Washington’s national security apparatus is hated by the working class. As are arbitrary “executive actions” and “regulation.” And there’s nothing reactionary about that. Smaller government has been a cornerstone of the communist program from 1848 to today.

Reaction to smoldering depression

It is not Trump’s crude anti-Mexican, anti-Muslim invective that accounts for his showing in initial primaries. It is his slashing attacks on the hypocrisy, lies, and manipulations of the political “establishment.” It is his success in casting himself as an “outsider.” Above all, it is his ability to play on the anxiety and fear generated by the smoldering depression conditions US workers have known for almost a decade, and the feeling of helplessness in face of an imperialist world order that is coming apart at an accelerating pace.

It is the heroin epidemic that is devastating working-class families across the US. It is the deliberately manipulated and camouflaged size of the scourge of unemployment. It is the scandalous lack of medical care and help for young workers who have been torn apart mentally and physically as cannon fodder for Washington’s military actions in the Mideast. It is the numbing and terrifying disregard for human life that marks the spreading class conflicts in the Mideast and beyond.

The ancient mandarin curse, “May you live in interesting times,” is for revolutionaries, for communists, a tremendous opportunity — and responsibility. And that is what we in the Socialist Workers Party will be oriented to, in the streets, factories, and on picket lines.

There are no large-scale labor battles today, no powerful social protest movements. There are many signs of growing resistance, however. There are strikes, fights against employer lockouts, and actions for a $15 minimum wage and a union. There are protests against cop killings that have pressed the rulers, for the first time in many years, to hand down indictments and firings in a number of prominent cases, putting a leash on police violence to some degree.

Above all, there is an unprecedented economic and social crisis unfolding across the capitalist system worldwide. When that crisis breaks, as it will sooner or later, the kind of class battles at the center of the books we are discussing here today will explode once more.

Fifty-five years ago, on the eve of the battle of Playa Girón, Fidel confidently assured the Cuban people, “There will be a victorious revolution in the United States before there is a victorious counterrevolution in Cuba.”

He was right then, and the line of struggle he laid out more than five decades ago remains our common guide to action. We can only add that the political capacities and revolutionary potential of workers and farmers in the US are today as utterly discounted by the ruling powers as were those of the Cuban toilers. And just as wrongly.

Speed the day!

Friday, February 26, 2016

World World Party's lesser-evil chauvinism

2 years ago, reading this Workers World Party pro-Putin offal:
I posted this on Facebook in response:
WWP lays it on the line: 300 years of Russian oppression of the Ukraine is a lesser evil than an imperialist trade deal with Washington that might thwart Putin.
WWP, again ignoring the historical context of national oppression by Russia against Ukraine.
Russian oppression of Ukraine has been a consistent and devastating fact of life for Ukrainian workers and farmers for centuries. Except for the period 1917 to 1924, it was continued in the Soviet period through today, not jus under the tsar.
In the period after 1924, such oppression was rationalized murderously as the dictatorship of the proletariat. Is it any wonder in such a historical context that Ukraine's workers and farmer have been repeatedly driven into the arms of the class enemy?
When today's Ukraine CP voted for Yanukovich's crackdown and laws restricting free speech and assembly, IN PARLIAMENT, the cause of communism and motion toward class consciousness was again dealt a blow.
This is the objective historical context for pulling down some Lenin statues and vandalizing Soviet-era public art.
Telling workers of the world that fascism has triumphed in Kiev is premature, dishonest, and demoralizing. It dehistoricizes the fruits of past struggles against, and analysis of, fascism. It is subjective emitionalisms run wild.
Telling workers of the world that political explosions and unexpected events are a conspiracy to thwart Russia's regional moves toward political suzerainty, and not part of the normal and understandable workings of the capitalist crisis, cuts against a materialist understanding of history and BREEDS DEMORALIZATION, wrecking any motion toward class consciousness and class CONFIDENCE.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Apple vs. Obama

A comrade posted this on Facebook:

I'm for Apple, of course, in its fight with Obama.

I just wish Apple's lawyers were a bit more sophisticated, and more conscious of history. They raise all kind of examples of why Apple should not be forced to take action, but they leave out the greatest example of all:

Dred Scott.

In 1857, the US Supreme Court ruled that every person in the US was obligated, on pain of imprisonment, to chase down runaway slaves. (The decision also ruled that no black person could ever be a citizen with rights.)

So if you farmed in Ohio, and some slaveowner claimed ownership of your neighbor -- no evidence needed -- you better help out in the capture, or go to jail. Fortunately, some people said no.  #OberlinRaid

Stakes for the Working Class in Defending the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments

Important discussion:

The Militant Labor Forum presents:

Stakes for the Working Class in Defending the Constitution,
the Bill of Rights, and the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments

*Equal Protection Under the Law and Due Process
* Why the Working Class Should Defend Separation of Powers
*Debate over Antonin Scalia’s Vacancy on the Supreme Court

Speaker: Margaret Trowe, Socialist Workers Party

Friday, February 26
Dinner 6:45 p.m. – Program 7:30 p.m.
Suggested donation — $5 for program, $7 for dinner

227 W. 29th Street- 6th Floor- Manhattan
(On 29th St. between 7th and 8th Avenues)
(Subway stops on 34th St., 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, N, Q, R)

For more information, call (646) 964-4793

Sunday, February 21, 2016


....As the debate unfolds, the Communist League is running Jonathan Silberman for mayor of London.

“There is no class-neutral ‘thing’ called Europe. The EU is a bosses club,” Silberman tells workers as he campaigns at their doorsteps, political events and actions to back workers’ struggles. “It was established to strengthen the propertied rulers against their capitalist rivals, against working people, and to bolster imperialist interests against the oppressed peoples of the semicolonial world. We urge workers to vote for an end to the U.K.’s membership.

“Both the government-led ‘yes’ campaign and the ‘no’ campaign are nationalist and anti-worker,” he says. “They start from what’s in the interests of ‘Britain.’ Class-conscious workers start from what’s in the interests of working people.

“The challenge facing workers is not to look to the capitalist rulers for protection — be they inside or outside the EU,” says the Communist League candidate, “but to fight for independent political action and international working-class solidarity, to forge a labor party that can mobilize working people in a revolutionary struggle for a workers and farmers government.”

2016 Socialist Workers Party campaign event

How the bourgeoisie and it's middle class defenders see the U.S. working class

....The notion that a majority of voters are increasingly to blame, or suffer from some form of stupidity for backing Bush, is becoming more and more pronounced among liberals, especially since Kerry slipped behind Bush in the polls after the Republican convention. Eric Linden, another Zabar shopper, a graduate student, gave this explanation for the seemingly growing support for Bush. “Honestly,” he said, “I think it’s a lack of education.”



....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. 

The Militant - December 3, 2012 -- Capitalist pundits election ‘analyses’ show their class disdain, blindness

Notes on mass psychology & Trumpism

Is Trump a "New York liberal"? 

[See for that characterization.]

Shifts in bourgeois electoralism in the last 40 years make definitions of  liberalism a moving target.

Recalled this from 1992:

....This is a mass psychology most of us have not seen in our political lifetimes - a widespread belief among layers of people that what is needed is not this or that particular solution, but a charismatic individual in high office who also has the will to impose change, whatever it may be. The conflicting class interests that underlie the rising social crisis get covered up in capitalist society; the fact that the mounting economic and social problems faced by millions are class questions is kept hidden. Nothing that happens in U.S. politics today openly takes the form of class politics.

Politically, fighting workers are the last remaining liberals in the United States today. As the bipartisan axis of social policy has kept shifting to the right over the past twenty years, most self-proclaimed liberals have become less and less liberals of the New Deal/Fair Deal variety. But fighting workers still talk like liberals, because it is the only politics they know. There is no politics except bourgeois politics in the United States on any mass level, and there has not been for decades.

We should never be fooled by this political reality into concluding that workers in the United States are somehow committed to bourgeois liberalism, however; they are not. Any more than we should be fooled into thinking that the working class here in Britain has moved to the right because many workers vote Conservative when the Tories promise lower taxes. No, it is just that as the Labour Party acts more and more openly as a bourgeois party, workers - if they go to the polls at all - vote under normal conditions for what they hope may at least improve their immediate situation. Both examples underline the absence of any genuinely independent political voice of the working class, either in the United States or the United Kingdom.

Nowhere in the world today, in fact, does the working class have a political voice powerful enough to be heard on any mass scale (with the exception of revolutionary Cuba, that is). Many organizations speak in the name of the working class - social democratic and Stalinist parties, centrist formations, union officialdoms. But none of them speaks for the interests of the working class. These voices pretending to speak for labor, pretending to speak for the traditions of socialism, actually speak as lieutenants of the capitalist rulers in decline, who are squeezing the working class.

This political misleadership, this lack of any clear working-class political alternative or program, tosses layers of workers into the same pot with hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions, from the middle classes who find the radical solutions they are looking for among demagogic voices on the far right of bourgeois politics.

From: The Militant - 9/6/99



The Militant - November 24, 2003 -- Behind the outcome of California election:

....workers are not loyal to the ideology of imperialist liberalism. That was not even true between 1936 and 1948, the high tide of the Roosevelt administration’s “New Deal” and the Truman administration’s initial “Fair Deal,” much less today. 

In this regard, the campaign wrap-up editorial in the October 27 issue of the Militant slipped in saying that, “Despite Davis’s very liberal record over the past two years, half of union households voted to oust him” (emphasis added). It has never been the fact, and never the position of communists, that workers are more prone to be attracted to the program of imperialist liberalism than imperialist conservatism. Either way, working people and the oppressed go to the wall.

In the absence of any mass proletarian leadership, working people seldom vote on the basis of “program.” To the degree workers vote—and the “electorate” under bourgeois democracy is disproportionately weighted toward the middle class and professionals—they look above all for a possible road forward in face of the concrete conditions of daily life under capitalism. In doing so, they’re forced to choose between the twin parties of the exploiting classes, or occasionally a short-lived “third party” offshoot of one of them. And if “our country” is fighting a war, they have to be very convinced before switching from the incumbent “commander in chief.”

So-called party loyalty is shallow in U.S. capitalism’s two-party system, relative to imperialist countries with mass ideological parties—be they labor, social democratic, Stalinist, or Catholic- or Protestant-based. This fact has served the U.S. rulers well when their social system is under strain. The fact that the chief executive has a fixed term is a stabilizer underlying this party fluidity. A recall, like impeachment, is never anything but a hesitantly used last resort for the rulers. But the pornographication of politics and its sabotage of civility may well increase the use of these forms, and with them space for destabilizing radical right demagogy within bourgeois politics.


Saturday, February 20, 2016

John Ellis Bush

Astonishing how little weight former Florida governor John Ellis Bush ended up having in the 2016 Republican Primary season.  Most, myself included, thought his ordination preordained.

Astonishing also how few appearances he had in the pages of The Militant, outside the Schiavo case:


....The retreat by these forces came after protests across Florida defending affirmative action programs--actions that involved tens of thousands. The demonstrations were organized by civil rights organizations, unions, and other groups, and targeted Gov. John Ellis Bush's "One Florida" initiative. Some 4,000 turned out at a February 3 hearing in Miami, 2,000 students marched February 8 in Tallahassee, and a March 7 statewide march drew thousands of unionists, farmers, students and others in Tallahassee.

Bush issued this executive order in November 1999, with the goal of eliminating affirmative action in public college admissions and state contracts.

The move by Connerly's group came only days after the state legislature passed portions of the governor's anti-affirmative action plan. In the wake of the public protests, Bush had scaled back some parts of his original proposal, and spokesman Justin Sayfie expressed the governor's satisfaction that Connerly's "initiative is not going to be on the ballot because he [Bush] believed it would be divisive for the state." Connerly in turn charged that Bush's plan didn't go nearly far enough in dismantling affirmative action. "It's like a 39-cent hamburger," he said, "Big bun, no pickle, no lettuce, no tomato, teeny-weeny patty."

Connerly called off his campaign claiming a lack of time to collect 500,000 signatures by the August deadline. The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments in March but has not yet ruled on whether the petition was legal. Connerly stated that he and his allies will try another petition drive in 2002. 

The Militant - June 12, 2000 -- Florida initiative against affirmative action is dropped



....In 2000, Judge George Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court in Florida ruled that Schiavo’s feeding tube could be removed after concurring with the doctors’ opinion that she was in an irreversible vegetative state and hearing convincing testimony at a trial that she had expressed the view before her accident that she would not have wanted to live that way. Since then, her feeding tube has been withdrawn twice and in both cases the decisions were reversed.

State lawmakers in Florida hastily passed “Terri's Law” in October 2003 after Schiavo’s feeding tube had been removed for six days. The measure allowed governor John Ellis Bush to order it to be reinserted.

The Florida Supreme Court subsequently declared “Terri’s Law” unconstitutional. In its ruling the court said that “if the Legislature with the assent of the Governor can do what was attempted here, the judicial branch would be subordinated to the final directives of the other branches. Also subordinated would be the rights of individuals, including the well established privacy right to self-determination.”

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal of the state court’s decision.

On February 25 of this year, Judge Greer ruled that the feeding tube should be withdrawn on March 18. 

Medical diagnosis debated in Congress

As the deadline for the feeding tube’s removal neared, the two houses of Congress began debating bills designed to allow the case to be heard in federal court in order to override the state court decision and Michael Schiavo’s rights as his wife’s legal guardian. On March 21, the House passed the bill on a 203-58 vote after calling lawmakers back Sunday for an emergency session. The measured received considerable bipartisan support: 156 Republicans and 47 Democrats voted in favor, 5 Republicans and 53 Democrats against. In the debate House Speaker Dennis Hastert and others rejected the description of the brain-damaged woman as persisting in a “vegetative” state. ”She laughs, she cries and she smiles with those around her,” Hastert asserted.

Highly edited videotape showing Schiavo’s various reflexive responses was presented by politicians as medical “evidence” that she had cognitive ability. Florida congressman David Weldon, a doctor for 16 years, presented his diagnosis without ever examining the patient, claiming that Schiavo was “not in a persistent vegetative state.” Another physician, Congressman Joseph Schwarz, followed suit, claiming “she does have some cognitive ability.”

The California Medical Association at its annual session, in which 1,000 delegates set policy for the 35,000 physicians throughout the state, passed an emergency resolution March 21 in response to the law. It voiced the group’s “outrage at Congress’ interference with medical decisions.” 

Right-wing campaign

Rightist forces have organized to demand state intervention in the case. Many of the groups that claim they are defending Terri Schiavo’s life are also vocal opponents of a woman’s right to choose abortion. Bush, in his March 17 statement on the case, included a demagogic appeal to these rightists. “It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued,” he said, using language that clearly evoked the anti-abortion movement.

Outside the Pinellas Park hospice where Terri Schiavo is receiving care, about 35 protesters gathered March 19 carrying signs saying, “Judge Greer: Florida’s Hitler,” “Michael Schiavo: Which Wife do You Want Dead?” and “Michael: Give Terri Back to Her Parents!”

In the latest public opinion poll conducted by ABC News and the Washington Post, 87 percent said they would not want to be kept alive if they were in Schiavo’s condition. On the question on who should have the final say over life support in this situation, 65 percent said the spouse and 25 percent the parents.

The Militant - April 4, 2005 -- Schiavo case: Most oppose gov’t intrusion into right to privacy




In August 2013, Attorney General Eric Holder ordered all federal prosecutors to stop filing charges that carry mandatory sentences against nonviolent drug offenders. Democratic Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Republican Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky have introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at reducing prison time and sealing juveniles’ criminal records. Other bipartisan initiatives are also pending in Congress.

Hillary Clinton, a likely Democratic presidential candidate, said in December that “we have allowed our criminal justice system to get out of balance.” Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, expected to seek the Republican nomination, is among some 70 leading conservatives who have signed the Right on Crime initiative, calling for reform.

In recent years 17 states have started programs aimed at bringing down the number of prisoners, and figures have begun to decline. 

The Militant - April 20, 2015 -- Supreme Court justices: ‘Prison system is broken’

Tax the rich and the bankers?

2012 article excerpt:

Populist demagogy of ‘tax the rich’

President Obama has ratcheted up populist demagoguery calling for increasing taxes on the rich, the “1 percent,” with a nod toward the Occupy forces he hopes to harness into his campaign. His aim is to raise the revenue needed to fund an expansive government bureaucracy to do “good works” and regulate workers’ behavior, such as with new taxes on soda pop to keep us from getting too fat.

Obama invokes what he calls the “Buffet rule,” urging that those with annual incomes over $1 million—less than 450,000 out of the 144 million who filed tax returns in 2010—should pay at least the same percentage in taxes as those with median income.

Warren E. Buffett, Obama’s inspiration, is the third richest man in the world as of November 2011 according to the “World’s Billionaires” list in Forbes magazine, worth about $39 billion.

(This, of course, is pure demagogy. Buffett and others like him know all the loopholes to evade taxes and can pay all the lawyers and accountants they need. They can afford not to pay taxes. It’s their system.)

Workers are barraged with all these tax schemes and urged to choose their poison in order to save “our” economy. But there is no “our” economy, or “our” government. We live under their government, a dictatorship of capital.

Workers have no interest in how the capitalist class organizes to get the money to fund their government. This is the reason the capitalist class levies taxes: to beef uptheir cops and prisons; to pay for their ever-expanding government; to pay for the profit-producing interest they rake in on their government bonds; to balance theirbudget. Whatever they need to advance their class interests, which are irreconcilable with those of the working class.

For this reason, communists have no “tax program,” urging some taxes be raised and others cut. Communists oppose all taxation on working people. Up until 1943, workers in the U.S. paid no income tax. The first was imposed by Democrat Franklin D. Roosevelt, because the U.S. rulers needed to pay for their drive to dominate the world capitalist order through the slaughter of World War II.

Can’t tax our way to political power

The working class needs to chart its own political course. There is no way for workers to tax our way to taking political power out of the hands of the capitalist exploiters. No way to change the government and its class priorities by advocating more taxes on the rich.

This can only be done out of the battles fought by working people to defend themselves and others, deepening class consciousness, leading to a victorious revolutionary struggle for political power.

To do this requires a break with both capitalist political parties, the Democrats and Republicans. We have to do away with all illusions that their system can be reformed to serve us.

Workers know that the rich get away with murder. They also know the capitalists’ government bureaucracy is a nightmare for us. But no reform or tax scheme can alter the class nature of the power we face.

It is the labor of working people that creates the massive surplus value that capitalists appropriate and from which they derive their profits and power. Nothing workers get in terms of schooling, medical care, or pensions is charity—it’s all produced by us.

A workers and farmers government will not levy taxes on working people. A government of toilers will provide universal lifetime education, health care, and disability and pension benefits by drawing on society’s enormous surplus wealth—wealth produced in one and only one way, by the working class.

Ta-Nehisi Coates

For information purposes only.

A look back at the Tea Party

What a lot of leftwing ink was spilled six years ago fretting over the Tea Party (including right here on this blog, alas.)

The Tea Party now seems like a precursor for the sucessful electoral campaigns of Trump and Sanders. It expressed many of the same middle class and working class frustrations flowing from the slow-burning world crisis of capitalist production and trade that began in 2007.

A look back with the help of The Militant archive:


Victories by Tea Party-backed candidates in recent midterm primaries are exposing some fracture lines within the Republican Party in several states.

In Colorado, Tea Party candidate Dan Maes narrowly won the August 10 primary for the Republican nomination for governor against Congressman Scott McInnis, who was preferred by the Republican Party establishment. His Democratic rival in the November election will be Denver mayor John Hickenlooper.

Maes, a businessman, said he “grew up on the wrong side of the tracks” and was campaigning against the Republican Party “kingmakers.”

“Instead of being fueled by special interests and big money, Dan Maes’s campaign is fueled by traditional American values,” campaign supporter Paige Rodriguez told the press.

Tea Party supporters have challenged Republican establishment candidates in Alabama, Arizona, Kentucky, Nevada, Florida, Virginia, and Utah. Like other populist groupings before it, those who identify with the Tea Party are heterogeneous and hold competing points of view. 

Resentment and insecurity

Although the Tea Party burst on the scene with a number of highly publicized demonstrations, its supporters are now focused on making their voice heard through elections, not through mobilizations in the streets, arguing that they are the ones who can best defeat the Democratic incumbents, who they view as especially corrupt and unpopular. The development of the Tea Party is a reflection of growing resentment and insecurity due to the grinding economic crisis and distrust toward both the Democratic and Republican Parties.

Based especially on middle-class layers, including professionals, lawyers, and small business owners, it also has won support from some working people.

In an article titled “The Two Faces of the Tea Party” in the Weekly Standard, a conservative magazine, Matthew Continetti writes, “The Tea Party is unified by the pervasive sense that the country is wildly off course. It believes the establishment has bent and twisted the rules for its own benefit.” By the establishment, they mostly mean the Democrats and the Barack Obama administration, who some Tea Party backers label as socialists.

The Tea Party is “opposed to bailouts, which favor the wealthy and connected. It’s opposed to out-of-control spending at every level of government,” Continetti notes.

While often using vague, demagogic appeals to “take back the Congress,” to stop “Obama-care” or “turn things around,” candidates who identify with the Tea Party offer no coherent program or solutions to the crisis. They are united more by what they are against, not what they are for.

But because the working class in the United States does not have its own organization or leadership on a mass scale, the Tea Party populists gain a broader hearing.

The Tea Party is made up of scores of competing national and local groups. The National Tea Party Federation, which claims it is comprised of 85 organizations, emphasizes that it’s for “fiscal responsibility,” “constitutionally limited government,” and “free markets.”

The federation expelled the Tea Party Express and its leader Mark Williams from its ranks after Williams wrote a racist parody attacking the NAACP....

The Militant - August 30, 2010 -- Economic crisis fuels Tea Party campaigns


....In response to the discussion about why some workers and middle-class layers are attracted to the tea party and its candidates, Herbert said, "What drives the tea party is the economic crisis which faces the country. It's not racism."

Campaigning among the crowd, Sarah Robinett, SWP candidate for U.S. Senate from New York, spoke to a man who used to work on Wall Street for Bank of America. He was laid off and now drives an Access-a-Ride van for those who are not able to take mass transportation. "This meeting didn't have anything to offer," he said.

"Many people turning out for events like the Glenn Beck rally have taken blows due to the economic crisis and are looking for answers. They don't see any strong working-class voice from the labor movement," Robinett said. "You can't make capitalism work better. The Socialist Workers Party campaign is about discussing how workers can organize to take power, and when we raise our ideas we find a response."

"The answer is not to vote for the lesser evil,” Robinett told a member of the Transport Workers Union. "I recommend you campaign for the SWP, but more than that, the socialist candidates urge workers to campaign for a labor party based on a fighting union movement." 

The Militant - October 11, 2010 -- Workers need labor party, say socialist candidates


Questions about the tea party 

(Reply to a Reader column)


Two readers asked recently about the Militant’s coverage of the tea party and August 28 “Restoring Honor” rally in Washington, D.C. Relevant articles include: “Economic Crisis Fuels Tea Party Campaigns” in the August 30 issue and “Glenn Beck Rally in D.C. Prompts Counterprotest” in the September 20 issue.

What is called the tea party “movement” encompasses various conservative groups and individuals appealing to resentful middle-class layers and working people whose lives have been shaken by the capitalist economic crisis, which they do not understand.

Incorporating competing points of view on many questions, the tea party’s only consistent, collective message is what they are against—“fiscal irresponsibility,” bank bailouts, increasing interference by big government in peoples’ lives, and squeezing of the “little guy” by monopoly and finance capital. Based in the Republican Party, tea party leaders rail against the “establishment,” criticizing the policies of both Democratic and Republican party politicians—with particular focus on the current administration of President Barack Obama and Democratic Party incumbents.

The tea party is not rooted in a racist reaction to the first Black president. If anything, the tea party is less racist than the many demagogic “popular” movements of the past in the United States. While the percentage of adherents who are Black is low, tea party leaders have sought to highlight prominent Black tea party advocates. The Tea Party Federation expelled the Tea Party Express after its leader Mark Williams wrote a racist parody attacking the NAACP.

Neither does the tea party signify a rightward shift in politics or growing social conservative attitudes among working people. To the degree that tea party figures have expressed overtly racist or otherwise bigoted remarks, their support has narrowed, as evidenced by the sharp drop in support for New York gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino following his recent antigay comments.

Attendance figures used in the Militant for both the Glenn Beck “Restoring Honor” action and the October 2 pro-Democratic Party “One Nation Working Together” rally were based on the most commonly cited and credible numbers in the press, as well as the Militant’s reporters on the scene. Both were large and driven by the effects of the unfolding economic and social crisis.

The composition of the October 2 rally was clearly more favorable to campaigning with a revolutionary working-class perspective. But it is important to recognize that among those attracted to the tea party banner are also workers and farmers who should hear a working-class explanation and solution to the capitalist system that is ruining their lives. 

The Militant - November 1, 2010 -- Questions about the tea party

Background on Hammonds frame-up

....The tension between the Hammonds — and other ranchers — and government agents goes back decades.

In the 1970s nearly all the ranches in that area were bought up by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to expand the Malheur refuge. But the Hammonds, who had permits to graze their herd on federal land since they bought their ranch in 1964, refused to sell.

In August 1994 Dwight Hammond was arrested and charged with interfering with federal officers after he allegedly tried to prevent the Fish and Wildlife Service from fencing off a watering hole his cattle had used for 30 years.

The Oregonian reported that "more than 450 ranchers, loggers and sawmill workers turned out" at a public meeting to support the Hammonds and demand the charges be dropped.

In the latest attack, Dwight and Steven Hammond were sentenced to prison twice on the same arson charge, the second time with an extended sentence under federal mandatory-minimum terms required by the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

"Setting controlled fires is a common practice here," Danielsen said. Not only ranchers, but the Bureau of Land Management and other federal agencies often set fires to get rid of invasive plants or to prevent the spread of wildfires caused by lightning.

"This is the first time anyone has been charged for this under the Antiterrorism law," Danielsen notes. "In other cases if there's any charges at all it's usually just probation and a fine."

The frame-up of the Hammonds takes place in the context of a decades-long shift in U.S. policy, marked by the 1976 Federal Land Policy and Management Act and the National Forest Management Act, passed under the banner of protecting the environment.

Increases in grazing fees; restrictions on grazing and planting hay; bans on harvesting fallen trees — a big issue because it increases the fuel load for fires; and pressure to sell ranch land became common in government regulators' efforts to cobble together wildlife refuges and to save "endangered species" at the expense of local ranchers.

With some 50 percent of all land in the western United States owned by the federal government these are life-and-death questions for ranchers.

"It's the smaller ranchers who get hurt the most," Merlin Rupp, 80, who calls himself a retired buckaroo, said by phone from Burns, Oregon. "It's criminal what they did to the Hammonds."

"If you've got a ranch you're not going to destroy the land, you want to make it better," Rupp said, referring to claims that cattle grazing destroys the land.

"I worked in logging when I was younger," Larry Lent, a retired ranch hand and meatpacker, told the Militant from John Day, Oregon. "Back then the log crews all stopped what they did and put out fires. Now if there's a lightning strike and you put it out without their permission you can get fined or jailed."

Many ranchers say that government red tape and rules affect both large capitalist ranches and small family run ones. "But if it was Ted Turner who did a back burn, do you think he'd be in jail like the Hammonds?" said Lent. "Hell no!"

Fight to free the Hammonds

Danielsen is working with the Hammond family to ask President Barack Obama to commute their sentence. She encourages people to send letters to Obama asking they be freed.

Letters can be sent to the Hammonds in prison at: FCI Terminal Island, 1299 Seaside Ave, San Pedro, CA 90731. Dwight Hammond #59886-065 and Steven Hammond #60061-065.

While support for the Hammonds is widespread in the region, the wisdom of the occupation of the wildlife refuge is still hotly debated.

Federal prosecutors have charged 25 people with conspiracy to "impede officers of the United States" for their role in the refuge occupation, including leaders Ammon and Ryan Bundy. The FBI arrested their father, Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy, when he flew to Portland, Oregon, Feb. 10 to visit his sons in jail. He was charged with six felony counts stemming from a 2014 confrontation in Nevada with federal agents when they attempted to confiscate 1,000 of his cattle they said were illegally grazing on federal land.

Trump and Sanders: the Marxist view


Trump remains well ahead in the Republican primary, playing on the anxiety, fear and anger generated by the smoldering depression conditions workers and middle layers face when he attacks the lies and hypocrisy of the "establishment" candidates.

Trump's insistence that as a strong and wily businessman he can "make America great again," combined with promises not to start any new ground wars, is popular among many workers, including veterans who Trump often points out have been "treated so horribly" by Washington.

Attacks on Trump from his rivals on grounds that he's not a "real conservative" miss the point. The fact is he's a New York liberal, a former Democrat. When Ted Cruz accused him of defending Planned Parenthood, Trump responded that it does "wonderful things" for women's health, though he now says he opposes abortion.

He says while he would have made a better deal, Obama's moves to restore diplomatic relations and open the door to more trade with Cuba are a good thing.

Following his victory in the New Hampshire primary, Trump said the real unemployment figures are many times the official 5 percent, "I even heard recently 42 percent." This comes closer to the truth than what most bourgeois candidates will admit. Less than 60 percent of those over 16 are employed today, a big drop from before the 2008 recession.

"If we had 5 percent unemployment, do you really think we'd have these gatherings?" he asked.

"I was laid off in 2009 for two years, and called back in 2011," Dwayne Johnson, a union member and team leader on the receiving docks, told Kennedy outside the EMD plant in Chicago. "There have been steady layoffs, one after another, in the past few years. The union is weak."


"Sanders says he wants a political revolution," a reporter said to Kennedy while she was campaigning on the street outside Sylvia's restaurant in Harlem Feb. 10, where people had gathered while Sanders was meeting with Rev. Al Sharpton to seek his endorsement.

"He's talking about reforms that won't change anything fundamental," Kennedy said. "We need to overthrow the rule of capital, to change which class rules."

The central theme of Sanders' campaign has been the call for a "political revolution" to "take big money out of politics" that he says is ruining "our democracy." At the top of his agenda is overturning the 2010 Supreme Court ruling known as Citizens United, which lifted restrictions on corporations paying for political advertising.

Sanders' emergence as a serious competitor for the Democratic Party nomination comes from a similar source as support for Trump — the widespread discontent among workers and others fueled by the depression conditions. His answer is the same liberal program he's been advocating for decades. When asked, Sanders says he's a democratic socialist, but his program is not socialist, as the Militant's coverage last week wrongly stated.

Both Sanders and Trump also benefit from an ongoing shift in politics toward the bourgeois left. Trump has shoved the old Tea Party out of the picture. All the political pundits said Sanders had no chance against Clinton, but now they're neck and neck.

The centerpiece of Sanders' Johnny-one-note campaign is the proposal to raise taxes on the wealthy and on "Wall Street speculators," to finance social programs, including a national health system and free tuition at public universities, and to provide some jobs. His campaign has generated enthusiasm, especially among a layer of youth, and he continues to draw large crowds rivaled only by those Trump attracts.

With the race tightening, and heading toward primaries in states in the north, south and west, many with large Black populations, Hillary Clinton received the endorsement of the Congressional Black Caucus Political Action Committee Feb. 11. Clinton resonates with Black elected officials and meritocratic minded professors, NGO staffers and like-minded "brights." She and husband William Clinton have done the most to elect Black Democrats, help them become chairs of subcommittees, and "has been on the stump with us" throughout the years, said Rep. Gregory Meeks, chair of the CBC PAC....


Scalia's death prompts debate on 
Supreme Court, Bill of Rights



The Feb. 13 death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia sparked a partisan debate on nominating his replacement and a broader debate about the role of the court and the place of the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution that defend equal protection under the law.

Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders urged President Barack Obama to nominate a liberal replacement rapidly. Republicans demanded Obama decline to make a nomination, leaving it to the next president in 2017.

Scalia was hated by most liberals and leftists for his socially conservative views, but more importantly because he argued the court should base its rulings strictly on the Constitution, rejecting "outcome-driven" decisions that amount to decreeing laws from the bench.

But it's in the interest of the working class that the court uphold the Constitution, especially the Bill of Rights and subsequent amendments won in struggle that are protections of the people against the government.

In his dissent on last year's ruling legalizing gay marriage, Scalia pointed to the narrowness of the class background of the justices, writing they are "only nine men and women, all of them successful lawyers who studied at Harvard or Yale Law School."

The justices are all Catholic or Jewish, he pointed out. "Not a single evangelical Christian (a group that comprises about one quarter of Americans), or even a Protestant of any denomination. … Eight of them grew up in east- and west-coast States."

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a long-serving liberal Supreme Court justice, has raised other concerns about what is called judicial activism concerning the court's 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that decriminalized abortion. "It's not that the judgment was wrong, but it moved too far too fast," cutting short the political fight needed, she told a Columbia Law School symposium in 2012. She has also criticized the court for not basing the decision on the 14th Amendment's guarantee to every person of equal protection of the laws, a conquest of the revolutionary struggle that ended slavery.

Liberal supporters of judicial activism and the "living Constitution" say the court should prioritize achieving an outcome they view as positive and progressive, and then find some justification.

Scalia took the opposite approach, insisting on applying the Constitution and its amendments strictly, as limits on government abuse.

For example, in Kyllo v. U.S. in 2001, he wrote that the government violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition of unreasonable search and seizure when it used thermal imaging technology without a warrant to detect marijuana cultivation inside a suspect's house.

When the court struck down a St. Paul, Minnesota, "hate-crime" law against racist speech in 1992, Scalia wrote, "Burning a cross in someone's front yard is reprehensible. But St. Paul has sufficient means at its disposal to prevent such behavior without adding the First Amendment to the fire."

Friday, February 19, 2016

Let’s Stop Being Surprised by Antisemitism

....The 'dismissing it as anti-Israel' response is also extremely troubling in this case. This is because the allegations against OULC members show a clear link between the extreme anti-Israel rhetoric and blatant antisemitism. When it is the same people who are sharing conspiracy theories about Jewish/Zionist lobbies controlling the world that are celebrating rockets on Tel Aviv, it goes far beyond criticism of the Israeli government. When it is these same people advocating the endorsement of Israeli Apartheid Week then we must question if their motive is to challenge Israeli policies or something else.

A plaintive expression of defeat and pessimism

A plaintive expression of defeat and pessimism. No acknowledgment of the advances made by Fight for 15 or the mass Black demos against copy brutality.


The formal gains of the civil rights movement have been rolled back.


The dearth of class struggle today has created the climate of hopelessness and despair where angry black youth are sold "love yourself" identity politics and white anti-racists are told to "check your privilege." The noted black spokesman for the politics of despair Ta-Nehisi Coates has some cachet because he dissed Obama for blaming blacks, especially black men, for their own oppression. But his best seller Between the World and Me collectively guilt-trips white people. Thereby it amnesties the truly guilty, the white American ruling capitalist class. According to Coates, every broken black body, like Freddie Gray's in the back of a Baltimore police van, "privileges" the white race, because it wasn't the body of their son, brother or lover. And there is nothing you can do about it, he says, except demand that whitey pay some blood money in the form of reparations.

Coates opens this work with a quote from acclaimed black writer James Baldwin, whom he claims to imitate: "And they have brought humanity to the edge of oblivion: because they think they are white." This quote, taken from Baldwin's essay "On Being 'White'...and Other Lies," has exactly the opposite meaning from that which Coates seeks to impart. Baldwin was a liberal integrationist and a universalist. In his searing indictment of racial and sexual oppression in America, Baldwin sought to debunk the myth of "white privilege," as the title of the essay underlines. In the passage directly preceding the quote above, Baldwin said of whites: "By informing their children that Black women, Black men and Black children had no human integrity that those who call themselves white were bound to respect. And in this debasement and definition of Black people, they debased and defamed themselves."

Spartacist League Speaker at Oakland Holiday Appeal

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Conspiracy mongers imperil working class

....The right wing in bourgeois politics today has no monopoly on conspiracy bombast. The middle-class left, too, is rife with supporters of "9/11 truth brigades," Kennedy assassination buffs, AIDS-origins hucksters, and more. All these forces are a danger to the working-class and labor movement.

By peddling the false notion that wars and social breakdowns have their roots in secret plots, conspiracy demagogues seek to divert the eyes of workers and farmers from the real cause: the capitalist system and the bourgeois political parties and state—its cops, courts, and armed forces—that serve and protect that profit-driven system.

What's more, an obsession with the "mysterious" source of social crises inevitably calls out for scapegoats. It raises, in sinister tones, the question "Who?"

Whether the answer is "the Jews," "the foreigners," or, as in Strunk's lawsuit, "the Catholics," a dagger is thrust through the heart of working-class solidarity, confidence, political consciousness, and determination to fight.

As the world capitalist crisis accelerates, and as workers defend ourselves on picket lines and in the streets, our class enemies will resort to bigotry and conspiracy rhetoric more and more.

But there are no mysteries. The causes of today's capitalist crisis can be understood and explained. Most importantly, so can the political course needed to combat the worsening consequences of the dictatorship of capital for the lives, livelihoods, and rights of the oppressed and exploited—to advance along the road of the revolutionary working-class struggle for power.

Pre-history of Islamic State



A number of groups in the middle-class left have attempted to paint up resistance to the U.S. occupation as a national liberation movement. The most prominent among them in the United States is the Workers World Party. An article by Richard Becker in the May 15 Workers World, the party's newspaper, concluded with the following: "Having achieved their victory…the occupiers now confront a people who have a long and proud history of resistance. The anti-war movement here and around the world must give its unconditional support to the Iraqi anti-colonial resistance." A more recent article by Fred Goldstein in the November 6 Workers World stated, referring to the guerrilla attacks on U.S. and other occupation forces in Iraq, "The war of resistance is moving in the direction of a genuine people's war with widespread popular support."

The logic of these statements is a stance of political support for the Baathist regime of Saddam Hussein and favoring its return to power. The recent attacks on U.S., Italian, and other troops in Iraq have been largely carried out by remnants of the brutal party-police state the Baathist Party led, not a popular guerrilla force like the National Liberation Front of Vietnam that earned that popularity through its decades-long fight against French, Japanese, and U.S. imperialism. The attacks have been concentrated in the Sunni-dominated region of central Iraq, which had been the Baathist Party apparatus's main stronghold. That's why the claims by the U.S. forces of support or at least acceptance of their occupation by many, if not most, Iraqis are not simply a hoax.

Most news reports from Iraq show that U.S. forces have faced far fewer attacks in southern Iraq than they have in the Sunni heartland.

The reason is that much of the population in the south is from the Shiite Islamic majority and had faced fierce discrimination from Iraq's predominantly Sunni ruling clique, including bloody repression by the Hussein regime during the Shiite rebellions at the end of the 1991 U.S-led Gulf War.

A November 24 New York Times article stated, "Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shiite group, has established a significant presence in Iraq, but is not taking part in attacks on American forces inside the country…. Iran is believed to be restraining Hezbollah from attacking American troops." Tehran fears Washington's concerted efforts to undermine Iranian sovereignty and push for another "regime change" in the region.

Not only in Iraq and Iran but throughout the Mideast, anti-imperialist-minded workers and farmers have no leadership that represents their interests. Decades of Stalinist counterrevolutionary policies, both by Moscow and by Stalinist organizations throughout the Middle East, created a void that bourgeois nationalist organizations waving Islamic banners fill today—groups such as Hezbollah, Hamas, and al-Qaeda, which have nothing in common with the popular liberation movements that marked an earlier period.

Years of Stalinist betrayals in Iraq helped pave the way for the Baathist regime to come to power, which under Hussein beheaded the 1958 popular democratic revolution and dealt crushing blows to the working class.

As the editorial in the November 17 Militant put it, "Revolutionists in Iraq today would fight for Iraqi sovereignty, which the U.S. armed forces prevent. At the same time, they would be opposed to the return of the Baathist regime. They would use whatever civic space exists to build and consolidate a revolutionary organization that could lead working people there down the road to get rid of the U.S. troops and keep the United Nations out as well." 

The Militant - December 8, 2003 -- What's the 'war on terrorism,' resistance in Iraq?



Liberal and radical critics of the Bush administration have made many predictions. Prior to the invasion they claimed that large peace demonstrations—or the United Nations, or the "peaceful" imperialist hyenas in Paris and Berlin—would stop Washington from going to war. When the Anglo-American armies launched the war anyway and the pacifist rallies collapsed, they predicted massive resistance and a "quagmire" for the U.S. troops. They claimed Washington was going to inflict huge civilian casualties. These claims proved false as the regime collapsed like dry rot and the invaders easily took Baghdad while avoiding a bloodbath or the total devastation of Iraq's infrastructure.

Today, similar voices assert that there is massive popular resistance to the occupation. The burden of proof, however, is on them. Tariq Ali, a prominent radical academic in the United Kingdom, for example, asserted in a December 4 radio debate in New York with pro-occupation commentator Christopher Hitchens that the imperialist occupation is an unqualified failure, that there are "great, growing armies" of Iraqis joining the armed opposition, and that "what we're seeing in Iraq is classic first-stage guerrilla warfare." Ali, however, has no facts to back up these claims. What does "classic" refer to? To the popular liberation movement that successfully fought the French and U.S. imperialist armies in Vietnam, or the mass struggle led by the National Liberation Front in Algeria that defeated French colonial rule? The remaining forces loyal to the former Baathist regime have not an iota in common with these popular anti-imperialist movements. They are hated by the big majority of Iraqi people—and are incapable of waging a fight against imperialism, as they proved when they were in power.

Revolutionists in Iraq today would not call for a victory by the pro-Saddam thugs or for Hussein's return to power, however unlikely, explaining that it would not be a step forward for working people in Iraq. It is the last thing that millions of Iraqis want, especially the majority of the population that bore the brunt of the former regime's brutality, the Shiite Muslims and the Kurds. That reality allows the U.S.-led forces to enjoy a certain level of acceptance today, in contrast to countries where working people have been able to resist an imperialist invasion even under unfavorable conditions and misleadership, from Panama in 1989 to Somalia in 1993, to name just two examples.

Is there any substantial resistance beyond these Baathist remnants? Again, the burden of proof is on those making these assertions. One thing is certain, however: Tariq Ali's claim of "very severe demoralization inside the ranks of the U.S. army" is a fiction. In the U.S. armed forces today, which is made of highly trained volunteers, not draftees, the morale of the ranks will not take big blows until they encounter the kind of terrible casualties inflicted by the workers and peasants of Indochina in the last half of the 20th century.

The stance of class-conscious workers in the United States and other imperialist countries is to demand the unconditional withdrawal of all occupation troops from Iraq to Afghanistan and beyond. The struggle to free Iraq from imperialist domination, however, is not short-term. It can only be carried out by workers and farmers, not by a stand-in for working people. Revolutionists in Iraq today would use the civic space that does exist, however limited, to build organizations that can lead the toilers toward this goal. Developing the necessary leadership will take time and experience and will be influenced above all by developments in the class struggle worldwide. The biggest obstacles facing the imperialist rulers' aggressive course are world capitalism's continuing tendency toward financial collapse and, most importantly, the resulting resistance among workers and farmers throughout the world, including in the United States. It is this relationship of forces between the main contending classes—the capitalists and working people—that class-conscious workers must accurately assess and act on.

The Militant - December 22, 2003 -- What's the nature of Iraqi resistance?




The U.S. takeover of the city of Fallujah in November was a powerful military blow to Baathist groups and their allies. Following the brutal U.S.-led assault on Fallujah, more evidence has been made public of the central role played by remnants of the Hussein regime in organizing the attacks on U.S. forces and the Iraqi interim government.

Having lost their territorial base in Fallujah, the Baathist-led forces have tried to regroup in sections of Mosul and other former Baathist strongholds, and more and more are turning to desperate attacks on civilians. The isolation of these armed groups is also demonstrated by the fact that the two largest Sunni-based political parties have decided to participate in the elections, along with the parties with majority support within the Shiite population and the Kurdish groups in the north.

Washington has taken advantage of these kind of attacks to push ahead with the January 30 elections as the only "democratic" alternative for Iraqis, and increase the pressure on the Syrian regime to clamp down on Baathist forces operating from its territory....

The Militant - January 11, 2005 -- Killings of civilians in Iraqi cities show desperation of Baathist forces


Imperialist war and uneven and combined development


in a war between an imperialist power and a nation oppressed by imperialism, class-conscious workers always side with the oppressed nation--regardless of its political regime--and argue that the defeat of the imperialists in the war is in the interests of working people everywhere, including those living in the imperialist country. That's the position taken by the Bolshevik party under the leadership of V.I. Lenin, which led workers and farmers to power in Russia in October 1917.

Writing in 1938, on the eve of World War II, Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky summarized this position in an article titled "Lenin and imperialist war." He explained:

"From 1871 to 1914 European capitalism, on the foundation of national states, not only flowered but outlived itself by becoming transformed into monopoly or imperialist capitalism. 'Imperialism is that stage of capitalism when the latter, after fulfilling everything in its power, begins to decline.' The cause of the decline lies in this, that the productive forces are fettered by the framework of private property as well as by the boundaries of the national state. Imperialism seeks to divide and redivide the world. In place of national wars there come imperialist wars. They are utterly reactionary in character and are an expression of the impasse, stagnation, and decay of monopoly capital." 

'Socialists completely on side of oppressed country'

"The world, however, still remains very heterogeneous," Trotsky continued. "The coercive imperialism of advanced nations is able to exist only because backward nations, oppressed nationalities, colonial and semicolonial countries, remain on our planet. The struggle of the oppressed peoples for national unification and national independence is doubly progressive because, on the one side, this prepares more favorable conditions for their own development, while, on the other side, this deals blows to imperialism. That, in particular, is the reason why, in the struggle between a civilized, imperialist, democratic republic and a backward, barbaric monarchy in a colonial country, the socialists are completely on the side of the oppressed country notwithstanding its monarchy and against the oppressor country notwithstanding its 'democracy.'"

For that reason, socialists supported a victory for Argentina during the 1982 Malvinas war--even though a U.S.-backed military dictatorship ruled the country at the time--when British imperialism launched the Royal Navy against Buenos Aires to put the "Falkland Islands" firmly back under London's colonial rule. Likewise, the Militant supported a military victory by Baghdad over the imperialist invaders in the just-concluded war, pointing out that such a victory would have strengthened the hand of working people around the world, including the struggles of the Iraqi people against the police-party state run by the regime of Saddam Hussein.

The U.S.-British victory in Iraq and occupation of the country by imperialist troops is a blow to working people. That's why the statement made in the front-page editorial in last week's Militant, "The unfolding occupation of Iraq is not a major defeat for the working class. That defeat came a long time ago... in the bloody counterrevolution that brought Saddam Hussein to power," is wrong. It contradicts the editorial stance of the paper outlined above, which is based on long-held positions of the communist movement.

Washington's conquest of Iraq is one in a number of defeats the Iraqi working class has suffered over the past four decades. Among the most devastating of these blows was the coming to power and consolidation of Saddam Hussein's regime in the 1970s.

The end of the armed conflict in Iraq will bring a larger measure of "safety to the troops"--the U.S. troops, that is--at least in the short run. The safety of those armed forces, however, is not the starting point for socialists in face of an imperialist assault on a semicolonial nation. They are not "our troops." They are the troops of the imperialist ruling class, which uses its armed forces to police its frontiers, defend its currency, and wage predatory wars to expand its domination over other peoples and their resources. Like all imperialist wars, the U.S.-led assault on Iraq is against the interests of working people both in Iraq and the United States, including workers and farmers in uniform, who are being used as cannon fodder by the rulers.

We welcome the suggestion in Mindy Brudno's letter for a fuller explanation of how American patriotism is used to boost support for Washington's foreign and domestic policy. To politically disarm workers, the bosses want working people to think in terms of "we Americans," to accept the false idea that workers and the employers who exploit us have common interests, and the lie that the bosses' government is "our" government. Trotsky took this up in The Transitional Program for Socialist Revolution, also written on the eve of the second worldwide imperialist slaughter. He pointed out that the imperialist rulers use terms such as "collective security," and "national defense" to justify their drive toward war. " 'Defense of the Fatherland?'"--Trotsky asked. "But by this abstraction, the bourgeoisie understands the defense of its profits and plunder. We stand ready to defend the fatherland from foreign capitalists, if we first bind our own capitalists hand and foot and hinder them from attacking foreign fatherlands; if the workers and the farmers of our country become its real masters; if the wealth of the country is transferred from the hands of a tiny minority to the hands of the people; if the army becomes a weapon of the exploited instead of the exploiters."

The Militant - April 28, 2003 -- Revolutionary defeatism and the Iraq war

Conditions for a socialist revolution


"two processes are necessary in the accumulation of the conditions for a socialist revolution." One is the deepening of the class struggle, as workers and farmers respond to capitalism's unfolding economic catastrophe and to the ruling class's need to use rougher methods of rule at home and abroad.

We are at the beginning of "the long winter of capitalism," said Barnes, "a period of depressed economic development, financial instability, and explosions.

"We add a qualifier," he said: "it will be a hot winter," as relations between imperialist countries become increasingly marked by discord, competition, and war.

The other necessary process is subjective, said Barnes. Through a number of historic stages and experiences, a vanguard of working people must be won to adopting, implementing, and renewing the communist program as part of building a revolutionary workers party.

Today, Barnes noted, political traditions within labor are still weak. One reflection of this is the fact that vanguard fighters among working people have by and large not yet joined the large peace actions that have taken place in recent months. Such actions will at first not involve many workers.

Socialist workers act to encourage their co-workers and fellow unionists to attend such protests, while they argue for a proletarian internationalist perspective against the pacifist and nationalist slogans put forward by the organizers of these actions. They report back to their co-workers on the demonstrations, increasing the likelihood that fellow workers will participate in the future.

In this way, communists act as "tribunes of the people," said Barnes, citing a phrase popularized by Bolshevik party leader V.I. Lenin to describe the party's cadre. Lenin contrasted such "tribunes," who bring a broad political perspective to fellow workers, to the model of the reform-minded "trade union secretary" focused on narrow "bread and butter" issues within the plants. 

Need for a culture of Marxism

Outside the small nuclei of communist workers in the United States and several other countries today, Barnes said, the culture of Marxism that previously existed in the world has all but disappeared. Such a culture, with wide-ranging debates taking place on political and scientific thought, is necessary to help organize and prepare for a socialist revolution.

Over more than six decades the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and worldwide, which organized one defeat after another of revolutionary openings, turned Marxism into its opposite, using their doctrines to justify their thuggish, counterrevolutionary methods. At the same time, Barnes said, they felt obliged to defend Marxism in the abstract and, for their own reasons, print and distribute the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.

With the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the accompanying political crisis of the political parties that looked to them, Stalinist leaders have increasingly discarded any pretensions as followers of Marxism. Even many revolutionary forces in the world do not feel obligated to be consistent with Marxism. Consequently, debates in the workers movement do not "take place on the ground of Marxism," Barnes said. Such a culture of Marxism will have to be rebuilt, he said....

The Militant - March 17, 2003 -- New York meeting: Capitalism's long hot winter has begun

"Wars and depression are the outlook provided by this system."


the drive to war is not an optional but a necessary course by the imperialists, with those in the United States to the fore, as they act to defend their interests. They are pressing to gain a bigger share of the resources of the semicolonial world--including the massive oil wealth of the Middle East. War and military occupation are the accompaniments to this drive.

Wars and depression are the outlook provided by this system. Such developments go hand in hand with a push against workers' rights, as the bosses and their government seek to carve more profits from working people and to curtail our ability to fight back.

On the face of it, it's clearly not true that the protests have thus far stopped the launching of war. Washington has moved steadily and ruthlessly to put together the troops and equipment for an invasion. Now that most of what they need is in place, U.S. officials are beating the drums more loudly.

We also shouldn't forget that the air war has already begun: U.S. and British planes have stepped up their bombing of Iraq's so-called "no-fly" zones. They are deliberately targeting the country's air defenses.

Antiwar protests have never by themselves stopped the imperialists' march to war. We shouldn't draw the wrong lessons from the U.S. defeat in Vietnam. Washington was defeated by the workers and peasants of Indochina, who waged a heroic and increasingly large-scale war against the most brutal and heavily armed power the world has ever seen. The antiwar protests and the defeatist moods that penetrated the armed forces were important allies in that revolutionary fight.

At present the large antiwar protests have a pacifist stamp characteristic of a pre-war period. Alongside the capitalist politicians and liberal forces, who will fall in behind the war effort when the shooting starts, are many young people looking for a way to respond effectively to the brutality of capitalism. The Militant aims to provide factual coverage of the war buildup and to explain scientifically the foundations of the war drive. We also explain that out of the struggles of today and tomorrow, including the fight against imperialist war, working people will go through the defeats and victories necessary to forge a revolutionary movement. Only by overthrowing their rule can the capitalists be disarmed and the drive to war be stopped.

The Militant - February 10, 2003 -- Why antiwar protests don't stop wars