"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