Sunday, July 31, 2016

A black socialist in Trump Country By AUGUST H. NIMTZ 

If the pundits are to be believed, a recent expedition I undertook was either foolhardy or mission impossible. But it proved to be a uniquely instructive correction to what passes for wisdom in politics today.

I campaigned with members of the Socialist Workers Party for two days on the Minnesota Iron Range. Given my politics, the SWP’s history in the state, the economic reality of the Range and this unprecedented election cycle, there may be nothing particularly surprising or significant about that. That I’m visibly African-American, however, adds something to the picture...

Saturday, July 30, 2016

"It can’t be tweaked or reformed. It must be replaced."


Capitalism can’t be reformed

We are living through an irreversible crisis of the capitalist system — a slow-burning depression that is building toward an even greater catastrophe. This drives never-ending imperialist interventions and wars in the Middle East and elsewhere as the old order continues to unravel with no end in sight.

The capitalists have no solution. That’s why the two main bourgeois parties are in crisis, the Democrats even more than the Republicans.

The Obama administration denies there is a problem. The economy is doing great, the president says. This is echoed by Hillary Clinton, who vows to continue the great “progress” of the last eight years. Many workers ask, “What progress?”

Donald Trump wins a hearing because he talks about the crisis: high unemployment, low wages, women without access to childcare. But his answers are anti-working-class demagogy: promising to “make America great again” and “safe again,” and to create jobs by putting “America First” and negotiating better trade deals. Scapegoating immigrants and blaming all Muslims for terrorism — in fact the largest number of victims of Islamist terrorists are Muslims — serve to divide working people. Blaming trade pacts for the economic crisis obfuscates the real enemy: capitalism.

The Bernie Sanders campaign — and the Occupy movement that hopes to gain control of the Democratic Party — is no better. Their mantras — campaign finance reform, more liberal Supreme Court judges, tax the rich — also take workers’ eyes off the real problem. There is no better, more humane capitalism. It can’t be tweaked or reformed. It must be replaced.

Working people, the producers of all wealth, can see our potential power reflected in the fear the rulers have of us, and how hard they try to convince us to accept our lot in life. “The Revenge of Unrealistic Expectations” is the title of a July 24 opinion piece by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post, attacking all those who pine for a “romanticized world” of higher wages and low unemployment. But workers and farmers will not accept the rulers’ vision of the world.

All the bourgeois candidates, from Trump to Clinton and Sanders, assert that it is your vote Nov. 8 that matters. Their message is have faith in the elections.

Socialist Workers Party presidential candidate Alyson Kennedy is spot on when she says that whoever wins the election, the bosses will keep trying to boost their falling profit rates on our backs, the worldwide capitalist economic crisis will continue, the imperialist order will keep unraveling.

The only road out of this crisis is for working people to act to end the rulers’ class dictatorship, like workers and farmers did in Cuba in 1959.

The party joins every battle that increases the self-confidence of working people, our discipline in struggle, our class consciousness and understanding of our own worth. This includes union fights to improve wages and conditions, protests against police brutality and for a women’s right to abortion, and actions like the Sept. 8 United Mine Workers union march on Washington, D.C., to that demand health care benefits and pensions for retired miners be maintained.

“Workers need a revolutionary party to educate and organize the working class to fight for political power,” Kennedy says. “That’s what the Socialist Workers Party is.”

Friday, July 15, 2016

Recommended: Ernest Mandel's "From class society to Communism"

Just finished Ernest Mandel's 1977 book From class society to Communism: an introduction to Marxism last night.

No time do full review at the moment, but it's a wonderfully clear introduction that bears a refresher reading again every so often to keep the big picture of scientific socialism in mind.

It's out of print.

Here is the PDF:

Workers can change America, prez candidate tells Utahns | The Salt Lake Tribune

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Farewell to Grant Dunne – Worker-Warrior: speech by Farrell Dobbs

From this issue:

Grant Dunne 1894-1941

I was listening to some audio recordings today of Farrell Dobbs. They covered the 1934-1941 Minneapolis Teamster struggles.  He mentioned this article specifically when talking about the 1941 Smith Act case, and recommended his audience look it up.

From this issue:

JOIN THE FIGHT AGAINST POLICE BRUTALITY AND KILLINGS: Socialist Workers Party campaign statement

Saturday, July 9, 2016

From Grynszpan to Micah Xavier Johnson

Dallas, Texas sniper Micah Xavier Johnson acted out what lots of people FEEL, and are justified in feeling: revulsion, contempt, and hatred of the cops.

The role of a movement and a communist party is to recruit such people and win them to think politically.

The fact that Black Lives Matter movement events around the U.S. today seem to be undiminished is a promising sign.


For Grynszpan:

Against Fascist Pogrom Gangs and Stalinist Scoundrels

Leon Trotsky


Source: Socialist Appeal [New York], Vol. III No. 7, 14 February 1939, p. 4.

Translated: Socialist Appeal

Transcription/HTML Markup: David Walters.

Public Domain: Leon Trotsky Internet Archive 2005. This work is completely free to copy and distribute.


It is clear to anyone even slightly acquainted with political history that the policy of the fascist gangsters directly and sometimes deliberately provokes terrorist acts. What is most astonishing is that so far there has been only one Grynszpan. Undoubtedly the number of such acts will increase.

We Marxists consider the tactic of individual terror inexpedient in the tasks of the liberating struggle of the proletariat as well as oppressed nationalities. A single isolated hero cannot replace the masses. But we understand only too clearly the inevitability of such convulsive acts of despair and vengeance. All our emotions, all our sympathies are with the self-sacrificing avengers even though they have been unable to discover the correct road. Our sympathy becomes intensified because Grynszpan is not a political militant but an inexperienced youth, almost a boy, whose only counselor was a feeling of indignation. To tear Grynszpan out of the hands of capitalist justice, which is capable of chopping off his head to further serve capitalist diplomacy, is the elementary, immediate task of the international working class!

All the more revolting in its police stupidity and inexpressible violence is the campaign now being conducted against Grynszpan by command of the Kremlin in the international Stalinist press. They attempt to depict him as an agent of the Nazis or an agent of Trotskyists in alliance with the Nazis. Lumping into one heap the provocateur and his victim, the Stalinists ascribe to Grynszpan the intention of creating a favorable pretext for Hitler’s pogrom measures. What can one say of these venal “journalists” who no longer have any vestiges of shame? Since the beginning of the socialist movement the bourgeoisie has at all times attributed all violent demonstrations of indignation, particularly terrorist acts, to the degenerating influence of Marxism. The Stalinists have inherited, here as elsewhere, the filthiest tradition of reaction. The Fourth International may, justifiably, be proud that the reactionary scum, including the Stalinists, now automatically links with the Fourth International every bold action and protest, every indignant outburst, every blow at the executioners.

It was so, similarly, with the International of Marx in its time. We are bound, naturally, by ties of open moral solidarity to Grynszpan and not to his “democratic” jailers, or the Stalinist slanderers, who need Grynszpan’s corpse to prop up, even if only partially and indirectly, the verdicts of Moscow justice. Kremlin diplomacy, degenerated to its marrow, attempts at the same time to utilize this “happy” incident to renew their machinations for an international agreement among various governments, including that of Hitler and Mussolini, for a mutual extradition of terrorists. Beware, masters of fraud! The application of such a law will necessitate the immediate deliverance of Stalin to at least a dozen foreign governments.

The Stalinists shriek in the ears of the police that Grynszpan attended “meetings of Trotskyites.” That, unfortunately, is not true. For had he walked into the milieu of the Fourth International he would have discovered a different and more effective outlet for his revolutionary energy. People come cheap who are capable only of fulminating against injustice and bestiality. But those who, like Grynszpan, are able to act as well as conceive, sacrificing their own lives if need be, are the precious leaven of mankind.

In the moral sense, although not for his mode of action, Grynszpan may serve as an example for every young revolutionist. Our open moral solidarity with Grynszpan gives us an added right to say to all the other would-be Grynszpans, to all those capable of self-sacrifice in the struggle against despotism and bestiality: Seek another road! Not the lone avenger but only a great revolutionary mass movement can free the oppressed, a movement that will leave no remnant of the entire structure of class exploitation, national oppression, and racial persecution. The unprecedented crimes of fascism create a yearning for vengeance that is wholly justifiable. But so monstrous is the scope of their crimes, that this yearning cannot be satisfied by the assassination of isolated fascist bureaucrats. For that it is necessary to set in motion millions, tens and hundreds of millions of the oppressed throughout the whole world and lead them in the assault upon the strongholds of the old society. Only the overthrow of all forms of slavery, only the complete destruction of fascism, only the people sitting in merciless judgment over the contemporary bandits and gangsters can provide real satisfaction to the indignation of the people. This is precisely the task that the Fourth International has set itself. It will cleanse the labor movement of the plague of Stalinism. It will rally in its ranks the heroic generation of the youth. It will cut a path to a worthier and a more humane future.

Leon Trotsky: For Grynszpan (1939)

Excerpt from ‘Are They Rich Because They’re Smart?’ 

Excerpt and purchase information here:

Friday, July 8, 2016

Victims of cop violence deserve a struggle we can win

Killing cops sets back fight against police brutality 

January 2015 Article in The Militant:

Provocative ultraleft actions deal
blow to fight against police brutality 

NEW YORK — Over the past few months, tens of thousands of working people have taken to the streets to protest the police killings of Eric Garner in Staten Island and Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri. The actions against cop brutality have been larger, more multinational and marked by more union involvement than any in decades.

The protests were strengthened by the spread of workers’ resistance to the grinding capitalist economic crisis. Some Walmart and fast-food workers fighting for $15 an hour, a union and a 40-hour workweek; health care workers in 1199SEIU; and other unionists have joined the protests. In addition, broader labor struggles and the mobilizations against cop brutality have reinforced each other.

More people see police brutality and intimidation are directed at the entire working class. While African-Americans are disproportionately targets, thousands of Caucasians, Latinos and Asians are also victimized by cops every year.

The protests were dealt a blow by the effects of provocative ultraleft actions at demonstrations in New York, Washington, D.C., and elsewhere that created an atmosphere in which a disturbed individual like Ismaaiyl Brinsley felt encouraged to assassinate two New York police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, Dec. 20. Just before killing Ramos and Liu, Brinsley posted a message on Instagram: “They take 1 of ours … let’s take 2 of theirs,” according to the New York Police Department. The killings undermine the moral high ground taken by the protest mobilizations denouncing cop attacks on the lives, safety and dignity of working people.

The Brown and Garner families condemned the assassination of the cops. “Anyone who’s standing with us, we want you to not use Eric Garner’s name for violence, because we are not about that,” Gwen Carr, Garner’s mother, told reporters.

“The killing of the cops was a cowardly act,” Chuck Ferrell, a nurse, told the Militant Jan. 5 near the March Houses, a public housing project just blocks from where the two cops were shot. “Nobody wants to see a life taken, cop or civilian.”

“But too many unarmed men, especially Black men, are getting killed by the police,” he said. “The men in blue have too much power, they go around with Courtesy, Professionalism and Respect written on the side of their police cars, but they don’t show any respect.”

The cops, capitalist media and politicians — from liberal Mayor Bill de Blasio to the conservative New York Post — seized on the killings to call for a halt to the demonstrations.

Provocations undercut protests

At two of the largest protests against police brutality Dec. 13, 10,000 in Washington, D.C., and more than 25,000 in New York, small provocative ultraleft groups put forward slogans that ran 100 percent counter to the aims of the protests and the overwhelming majority of participants. In New York, a group in the protest chanted, “What do we want, dead cops!” In D.C., some protesters involved in an attempt to take over the speakers platform carried signs that said, “‘Hands up don’t shoot’ didn’t work. Fists up, fight back.”

Such unchecked provocative conduct from within the protests — in the absence of a proletarian leadership strong enough to build a disciplined movement — created an atmosphere where a Brinsley could feel encouraged to act.

Protests spread after Garner’s killing

The July 17 attack on Garner was caught on tape and posted widely on the Internet, seen by millions. Garner did nothing to provoke the attack and can be heard saying “I can’t breathe” 11 times while undercover cop Daniel Pantaleo applied a chokehold and his fellow officers piled on Garner’s back.

The Dec. 3 grand jury decision not to indict Pantaleo fueled even larger and broader protest actions. “After Michael Brown was killed there was a lot of ‘he said, she said,’ over what happened,” Brooklyn resident Ferrell noted. “But with Garner, it was all on tape, there was no question at all.”

NYPD rules ban chokeholds that prevent breathing, but don’t explicitly bar those that compress the carotid arteries, like the one used by Pantaleo in the assault on Garner. Despite the “ban,” the chokehold is standard operating procedure for New York police — and for cops across the country. According to a city government report, the use of the hold is going up. Police magazine wrote in its Jan. 30, 2014, issue that the goal of the widely used “carotid restraint” is to render the person being arrested unconscious in 7 to 10 seconds to make it easier for cops to put on handcuffs.

Cops and their apologists argue that use of such chokeholds — like the use of Tasers — are progressive reforms that prevent deaths, allowing cops to bring suspects under control instead of shooting them dead. These methods protect both the cops who use them and those they subdue, they say, but “unfortunately” sometimes kill people.

The fact is Pantaleo and the cops who assisted him were acting like all cops are trained and conditioned to act, to “protect and serve” the interests of the propertied rulers and to make sure working people know their “place.”

Cops, politicians seize opportunity

The cops and their supporters seized on the killing of Ramos and Liu to slander the entire protest movement, charging that by criticizing the cops, they opened the door to the cops’ deaths.

Mayor de Blasio called for a moratorium on protests against the killing of Garner, at least until after the two officers were buried. When the next protest did take place, the New York Daily News — which had editorialized for the indictment of Pantaleo — ran a banner front-page headline telling marchers “Have You No Shame?”

The New York Post went to town on de Blasio, claiming that an earlier statement to ABC’s “This Week” about telling his son, who is Black, that he needs to be careful when stopped by the police because of his race encouraged attacks on cops by protesters.

Thousands of cops turned their backs on the mayor when he spoke at Ramos’ funeral Dec. 27 and again at Liu’s funeral Jan. 4. “I did turn my back out of disgust on how the country feels about cops,” an NYPD lieutenant told the Wall Street Journal after Liu’s funeral.

According to the Post, the cops also staged a “virtual work stoppage” resulting in a 66 percent drop in arrests since the shootings and a more than 90 percent drop in parking tickets.

While the protests against police brutality have subsided for now, the cops will continue to act as the propertied rulers demand: to treat working people as an outlaw class that must be kept in check. Police brutality is part of their program and more beatings and killings are inevitable.

As workers continue to come together to fight against the relentless attacks of the bosses and their government, they will construct a leadership capable of restraining ultraleft disruption and taking on cop brutality and killings as they transform themselves on the road to overthrowing capitalist rule.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

"Socialist Workers Party candidates will challenge Clinton, Trump...."

Ernest Mandel on "progressive disalienation"

Very clear and informative book; just finished it. Only a few hundred pages. Very concrete examples and lots of context to make the subject more accessible to people intimidated by Marx's own economic writings.

From Ch 11, the final chapter:

....But the task for scientific thought is to analyze the social and economic sources of the continued existence of phenomena of alienation during the period of transition between capitalism and socialism and during the first phase of socialism, and to discover the driving forces of the process of disalienation during these historical phases. This means undertaking an analysis that begins by putting aside those factors reinforcing and aggravating alienation as a result of the bureaucratic distortion or degeneration of a society in transition, and then later on integrating these special factors in a more concrete analysis of the phenomena of alienation in countries like the U.S.S.R., the “people’s democracies,” and so on.

The general source of the continued existence of phenomena of alienation during the transition period and in the first phase of socialism is the inadequate level of development of the productive forces and the resulting survival of bourgeois norms of distribution. 16 The contradiction between the socialized mode of production and the bourgeois norms of distribution—the chief contradiction of the transition period—brings factors of alienation into production relations. The workers continue to suffer, even if only partially, from the effects of an objective and elemental social evolution which they do not control (the survival of the “laws of the market” in the sphere of consumer goods; the survival of a selection procedure for jobs which does not permit full development of all the aptitudes of every individual, etc.).

When to these circumstances we add the hypertrophy of bureaucracy, the lack of socialist democracy on the political level, the lack of workers’ self-management on the economic plane, the lack of freedom to create on the cultural plane, specific factors of alienation resulting from bureaucratic distortion or degeneration are added to the inevitable factors mentioned in the previous paragraph. The bureaucratization of the transitional society tends to aggravate the contradiction between the socialized mode of production and the bourgeois norms of distribution, particularly by intensifying social inequality. The generalization of a money economy works in the same way.

Wolfgang Heise makes a very subtle analysis of this problem. While collective ownership of the means of production and socialist planning in principle overcome social helplessness in relation to the evolution of society as a whole, this does not mean that this social helplessness is immediately overcome for every individual. It is necessary to take into account not only the ideological slag of the capitalist past, of the members of the former ruling classes who are still around, of the inadequate level of education of part of the proletariat, and so on; we have also to realize that this helplessness is overcome in practice only when individuals realize their identity with society through social activity based on a large number of free decisions. 17 This implies not only complete self-management by labor at the level of the economy taken as a whole (not merely in the production process but also in distribution and consumption), but also a withering away of the state and the disappearance of all human relationships based on constraint and oppression....

Amazon review of "Are They Rich Because They're Smart?: Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism"


July 5, 2016


Marc Lichtman

This review is from: Are They Rich Because They're Smart?: Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism (Paperback)

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas” (Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology, including Theses on Feuerbach (Great Books in Philosophy)).

Every ruling group since the end of pre-class society (SeeOrigin of the Family, Private Property and the State [Paperback] [1972] Friedrich Engels) uses myths to explain their exalted position; once people believed in “the divine right of kings.”
Force alone is not enough, although there’s plenty of that—just look at the number of workers, especially African American ones, shot down by cops, or those in other countries killed by US drones. (Does anyone actually believe the Obama administration’s claim that airstrikes it has conducted outside conventional war zones like Afghanistan have killed only 64 to 116 civilian bystanders and around 2,500 members of terrorist groups?)

Capitalism requires its own myths to explain why the people who do all the work wind up on the bottom of society, while those who own land, mines, mills, factories, laboratories, offices, and so on can be at the top. Labor and the earth are the only two sources of wealth. How is it that a small number of people come to own the earth, and it’s products, and we have to sell our labor power to them? Are we really not as capable of running society as they are?

Unfortunately, the “Occupy” movement presented a wrong view of class relations in the US, which many accepted. It’s not 1% percent v. 99%. The actual capitalist class is only a few hundred families, but there are millions whose position in society is based on their loyalty to ruling class ideas. Some of these are directly involved in high levels of government, or in the officer corps of the armed forces, or in the many, many cop agencies, public and private.

And there’s a growing wealthy layer, a self-anointed ‘meritocracy’ with little relationship to production, who serve as the ideologues, and tell us what they think is best for us. They’re convinced we’re too stupid to figure it out for ourselves.

A number of developments have recently underscored this:

(1) In the United Kingdom millions of workers protested in a non-binding referendum against the status quo, and the liberal and conservative media and political leaders act like the sky is falling! They consider all these workers to be stupid, and claim they all acted out of hatred of immigrants and narrow national interests, when they’re clearly protesting the economic crisis that the rulers like to pretend doesn’t exist. Plus why should any European worker want to have to deal with two bureaucracies—one is bad enough! We communists, contrary to popular belief, are not for big government!

(2) The bourgeois media and politicians in the US have analyzed the vote for Donald Trump the same way. The whole “white working class” is reactionary and is backing Trump for his racist, anti-immigrant views! Instead they should vote for the “liberal” who stands by her husband’s gutting of social benefits, and sending huge numbers of non-violent offenders to prison for years. Clinton is currently under government investigation, she continues to lie about the unemployment rate, and she told West Virginia miners that if elected she’ll take away the only good paying jobs in the state! (Talk about stupid....) Again, it’s a protest vote, similar to the vote for Bernie Sanders. Neither of these people represent any threat to capitalism, but the fact that workers aren’t voting for who they’re supposed to vote for has some middle class elements in hysterics. And, just like the EU vote, they can’t restrain their contempt for working people.

In the last chapter, Jack Barnes talks about “preparing the working class for the greatest of all battles in the years ahead—the battle to throw off the self-image the rulers teach us, and to recognize that we are capable of taking power and organizing society.”

The three chapters in this book originally appeared in two previous books by Jack Barnes: Capitalism's World Disorder: Working-Class Politics at the Millennium andMalcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power. They have been updated a bit, with new statistics and new events that have happened since their last publication, and presented with an introduction by Steve Clark. But those books are still worth reading in their entirety, along with two other books by Barnes, The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions and Cuba and the Coming American Revolution. I would also suggest another book on the Cuba Revolution and the US: It's the Poor Who Face the Savagery of the US Justice System: The Cuban Five Talk of Their Lives Within the Us Working Class.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Workers World Party: All workers who vote for Trump are racists

Less than a week after siding with big capital in the U.K. on the "Brexit" vote, and writing off working class Leave voters as racists or stooges of racists in this article, Workers World Party has today defined any U.S. worker who votes for Donald Trump (whatever their stated reason) as a racist.
They quote with approval the Democrat head of West Virginia's NAACP:
....“While some people in this area might say they ‘like Trump because he promises to bring back coal mining jobs,’ one cannot support a candidate that is endorsed by the terrorist Ku Klux Klan and not be a racist.”


....Reading this piece from Haaretz this afternoon, on how Wiesel was received in Israel, helped concretize my feelings. The article shows how little standing Wiesel actually has in Israel. Both the right and the left dislike him, for different reasons. And his particular brand—a survivor who shrouded his experience, and the Holocaust as a whole, with an aura of religiosity—just didn’t sell there for many years, if ever.

What the article shows, by implication, is that the hushed tone we’re all expected to adopt, here in the US, when speaking of Wiesel and his work actually has less to do with the Holocaust or even Israel than with the pervasive sentimentality of American culture and argument, the notion that trauma confers privilege and precludes judgment or argument, that when it comes to the most terrible matters of history, we’re all supposed to act as if we’re in church....

Alienation in Marx: The Grundrisse

From: Ernest Mandel's The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx: 1843 to Capital.

Chapter 10 From the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts to the Grundrisse: From an Anthropological to a Historical Conception of Alienation


….In order to complete the picture, we must add to this passage others in the Grundrisse in which Marx describes the total subjection of “living labor” to “objectified labor” (“dead labor,” fixed capital),71 and the remarkable passage in which Marx explains the difference between “repulsive” labor, the labor of the slave, the serf, and the wage worker, on the one hand, and “free labor,” “attractive labor,” on the other.72

There are also other passages in the Grundrisse in which the concept of alienation reappears explicitly. In particular there is the very important passage in which Marx returns to the distinction between objectification and alienation: “The bourgeois economists are to such an extent prisoners of the concepts of a particular historical phase in the development of society that the necessity of the objectification of social labor power seems to them inseparable from the necessity of the alienation of this labor power in relation to living labor. … No special intelligence is needed to understand that, given the free labor that had emerged from serfdom, or wage labor, machines could not effectively be created otherwise than as property which was alienated from them [the workers] and which appeared to them as a hostile power, that is, which was bound to confront them as capital. It can be understood just as easily, however, that machines will not cease to be agencies of social production when they become, for example, the property of the associated workers.”73

And, above all, there is the following passage which recalls almost word for word the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts: “But if capital appears as the product of labor, the product of labor appears, in the same way, as capital—not merely as just a product, nor merely as an exchangeable commodity, but as capital: labor objectified as domination, as the power to dominate living labor. It thus appears so much a product of labor that its product appears as an alienated quality [my emphasis—E.M.], an independent mode of existence with which living labor is confronted, a value existing for itself, and the product of labor is crystallized as an alien power [my emphasis—E.M.] in relation to labor. From labor’s own standpoint, labor appears as being active in the production process in such a way that it at the same time detaches from itself its own realization … as an alien reality, and thus presents itself as a capacity for labor which is without substance, filled exclusively with needs, confronted with the alienated reality [my emphasis—E.M.] which does not belong to it but to others.”74

….With the slow progress of the social productivity of labor, an economic surplus progressively comes into being. It creates the material conditions for exchange, for the division of labor, and for commodity production. In the last, the individual is alienated from the product of his labor and from his productive activity, and his labor increasingly becomes alienated labor. This economic alienation , which is now added to social, religious, and ideological alienation , is essentially the result of the social division of labor, of commodity production, and of the division of society into classes. It produces political alienation , with the rise of the state and the phenomena of violence and oppression that characterize the relations between men. Under the capitalist mode of production, this multiple alienation reaches its climax: “The transformation of all objects into commodities, their quantification in fetishistic exchange values [becomes] … an intense process which affects every objective form of life.” 77

Economic alienation acquires an extra aspect in technical alienation , because the worker is not merely alienated from his instruments of labor but finds them opposed to him as an alien and hostile power which enslaves and stifles him and deprives him of his elementary potentialities of self-development. 78 But this same mode of production creates, with the universality of exchange relations and the development of the world market, the universality of human needs and human capacities, and a level of development of the productive forces that makes it objectively possible to satisfy these needs and bring about the all-around development of man. 79 Ending the capitalist order then makes possible the progressive withering away of commodity production, of the social division of labor, and of the mutilation of human beings. Alienation will not be “abolished” by a single event, any more than it appeared all at once. It will wither away progressively, just as it appeared progressively . It is not rooted in “human nature” or in “man’s existence,” but in specific conditions of labor, production, and society. It thus is possible to glimpse the conditions necessary for it to wither away.

I do not share the view of Gajo Petrović that alienation means non-realization of human potentialities that have already been historically created.80 If that were so primitive man (who actually did realize the potentialities that existed in his time) would indeed have been a non-alienated man, contrary to what Petrović himself says. The following observation by Helmut Fleischer seems to define the problem better: “Some of the relationship of alienation revealed by Marx may be born of previously integrated unities; but in its general anthropological sense, alienation cannot be a loss of something that has already been, in its essentials, previously possessed; the concept must have a forward-looking rather than a backward-looking meaning; it could signify that one lags behind in relation to what is already possible, rather than that one has lost what one once already possessed. For the positive notion (contrasted with that of alienation) of what is proper to man cannot be conceived, according to Marx’s premises, as a Platonic idea or an Aristotelian entelechy, but rather as an anticipation or projection which is rooted in nature and linked with a historical situation, and more. precisely as a completed projection which starts from the horizon of the given social problematic …”81

However, these concepts of “anticipation” and “projection” should not be confined within that of what is already historically possible, as the writer seems to confine them in the first part of the passage quoted. For one of the special features of man’s capacity for anticipation is precisely that he can set himself problems long before the conditions for solving them have matured. The hope of a society free from oppression and exploitation, without class divisions or alienation, could arise in classical antiquity or in the Middle Ages, long before the conditions for creating such a society had become “historically possible.” The fact that this dream could arise gives expression, however, to a subjective awareness of alienation, just as much as it reflects an objective reality. The same is true, mutatis mutandis, of primitive religions.82

Some writers have spoken of a transformation of the primitive Marxist theory of alienation into a “general theory of the fetishistic character of commodities.”83 I do not think this formulation is correct. It is true that Marx reduced human alienation in society based on commodity production essentially to the reification of human and social relations caused by commodity relations. But, in the first place, he made this reduction only so far as the essence of the matter was concerned, and not for all aspects of alienation; for even in bourgeois society the concept of alienation embraces a wider field than that of “reification” or of “commodity fetishism” (e.g., alienation on the plane of consumption, alienation of the individual’s capacities for development, alienation of socially possible knowledge, etc.). And, furthermore, Marx continued to speak of alienation in primitive society, as we see from the Grundrisse passage quoted above, though in that society there was neither commodity production nor, a fortiori, commodity fetishism.

The social significance of the three mystificating interpretations of the relationship between the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts and Capital, the three mistaken interpretations of the relationship of the mature Marx with the anthropological concept of alienated labor, can now be better understood. They reflect certain historical conditions and definite social and economic contexts which explain their appearance, over and beyond the accidental fact of the publication of the Manuscripts in 1932.

For the bourgeoisie it is a question, after the remarkable rise of the Marxist-inspired labor movement, of “integrating” Marx by reducing him entirely to Hegel. At the same time, the bourgeoisie tries to “de-fuse” the explosive revolutionary significance of Marx’s teaching in order to integrate him, as “thinker” and “philosopher,” into a capitalist world conceived, if not as the best of worlds, then at any rate as the least bad of all possible worlds.

Reformist social-democracy marches in step with the bourgeoisie. But it has more difficulty in identifying the Marx of the youthful writings with the Marx of Capital. For a long time it strove to hide the revolutionary character of Marx’s work by upholding a mechanistic interpretation: the task of overthrowing the capitalist mode of production was entrusted to the “inexorable development of the productive forces” rather than to the action of the organized proletariat.

When, however, the economic crisis of 1929–1933 and the rise of Fascism showed everyone that there was no inevitable cause-and-effect relationship leading from the undoubted conflict between the level of development of the productive forces and capitalist production relations, on the one hand, to the coming of socialism, on the other, social-democratic ideology was obliged to change its approach. After having for a long time disdained the works of Marx’s youth,84 social-democracy suddenly sought inspiration in them to counterpose an “ethical message” to hopeless capitalist reality, to the socialist revolution for which it had no enthusiasm, and to the degeneration of that revolution in the Soviet Union in the Stalin period, which provided a welcome foil....

Alienation in Marx: from anthropology to political economy

From: Ernest Mandel's The Formation of the Economic Thought of Karl Marx: 1843 to Capital.

Chapter 10 From the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts to the Grundrisse: From an Anthropological to a Historical Conception of Alienation


….Hegel’s philosophy of labor that provided Marx with the conceptual tools with which to undertake his first struggle with political economy. 3 This philosophy of labor, whose foundations were laid down in the System der Sittlichkeit (System of Morality), developed in the Realphilosophie (Philosophy of the Real), firmly established in the Phenomenology of Mind , and defended in the Philosophy of Right and the Science of Logic , 4 is at the same time a veritable anthropology.

….Marx states clearly his critical position as regards political economy, no less than as regards philosophy. 12 His starting point in this critique is by no means the “concept” of alienated labor; on the contrary, it is his practical observation of the misery of the workers , which increases parallel with the increase of the wealth that these same workers produce. His conclusion is by no means a philosophical conclusion, on the plane of thoughts, ideas, intellectual work. On the contrary, he concludes that: “In order to abolish the idea of private property, the idea of communism is completely sufficient. It takes actual communist action to abolish actual private property.” 13 The call to revolutionary action, to be carried out by the proletariat, is already substituted for the resignation of the “philosophy of labor.”

Does this mean that in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts Marx had already rid himself of all the philosophical slag from a way of thinking that thenceforth became rigorously social and economic? This is obviously untrue. What we have here is the transition of the young Marx from Hegelian and Feuerbachian philosophy to the working out of historical materialism. In this transition, elements from the past are inevitably combined with elements belonging to the future. Marx combines in his own way—that is, by profoundly modifying them—the dialectics of Hegel, the materialism of Feuerbach, and the social facts established by political economy. 14 This combination is not a coherent one; it does not create a new “system,” a new “ideology.” It presents us with scattered fragments which contain many contradictions. 15 Nor must we forget that this was a manuscript that was “not merely unfinished but also partly destroyed.” 16 It is precisely in the light of the concept of alienated labor that the contradictions contained in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts can be most clearly revealed….

….The evolution of Marx’s concept of alienated labor is thus clear: from an anthropological conception (Feuerbacho-Hegelian) before the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts , he advances toward a historical conception (starting with The German Ideology ). The Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts constitute a transition from the first to the second, with the anthropological conception surviving here and there, though it already marks a considerable advance on Hegel’s conception, first because it is no longer based on a dialectic of needs and labor that issues in the impossibility of a solution, 27 and second because it already implies the possibility of transcending alienation through the communist struggle of the proletariat.

….the attempt to equate the concept of alienation of labor in the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts with the concept of alienation and mutilation of the worker that we find in Marx’s later works, ignores the real problem, namely, the juxtaposition in the Manuscripts of an anthropological and a historical conception of alienation which are logically and practically irreconcilable. If alienation is indeed rooted in the nature of labor, and labor is indispensable to man’s survival, as Marx was later to declare in a well-known letter to Kugelmann, 32 then alienation will never be overcome. In a precise comparison of two passages, one from the Manuscripts and the other from Capital, 33 Fromm does not notice that in the former what is being discussed is labor and products of labor in general , whereas the latter begins with these very words: “Within the capitalist system …”

….Nor can we accept the view expressed by Palmiro Togliatti that in the Manuscripts “economic categories are reduced to the necessary expression of a real dialectical process. The road is open to the critique of bourgeois society as a whole, a critique that would be made in the years and in the works that were to follow, culminating in Capital, but which we can say was already largely complete.” We agree still less when he writes: “Despite the form, which is not simple, we indeed sense that all Marxism is already contained here.”35 All Marxism—without the labor theory of value, without the theory of surplus value, without the understanding that the conflict between the level of development of the productive forces and the relations of production is the driving force of social revolutions?

It is interesting to note the identity of the views of Togliatti and Father Calvez: “There have been … plenty of commentators who have accepted the view that the economic categories of Capital do not spring from the same way of thinking as the philosophical categories in Marx’s youthful writings. … I have come to a conclusion that runs absolutely contrary to any attempt of this sort to dissociate the two. The whole of Marx’s argument is based on the connection between the various alienations.” And again: “There is a genuine unity in all Marx’s work: the philosophical categories of alienation which he took from Hegel in his youth were to form the framework of the great achievement of his mature years.”36 Unfortunately for this hypothesis, the “philosophical” categories taken from Hegel had already been “stood on their feet,” that is, transformed into socioeconomic categories, from the Manuscripts onward, and they represent at most the motivation of Capital, not its “framework,” which is provided by a critique of the categories of bourgeois political economy, and by the perfecting of the theories of value and surplus value.

Nor can I agree with the following observation by Jean Hyppolite: “… Marx’s original theses are to be found in Capital and provide the best means of understanding the full significance of the theory of value.”37 By saying this, Hyppolite is actually suggesting that Marx’s theory of value is not to be understood except as an expression of its author’s moral indignation when faced with the phenomena of alienated labor. The real dialectic of Marx’s evolution is both more complex and richer. There is conformity between the ethical motivation and the conclusions of the economic analysis; the one does indeed coincide with the other. But this economic analysis has an independent value of its own. It results from a strictly scientific study. The theory of surplus value corresponds to an objective reality; though it reinforces Marx’s moral indignation regarding capitalism, it is independent of that feeling.

A similar confusion is to be found in some writers who nevertheless emphasize the differences between the Manuscripts and Capital. Thus, Adoratsky writes in his introduction to the first Soviet edition of the Manuscripts that “the real contradictions of the capitalist social order are here strikingly revealed in the situation of the working class.”38 Instead of saying “revealed” it would have been much more correct to say “suggested” or “foreshadowed.” The Manuscripts are far from giving an analysis of the real contradictions of capitalism, and even the description of the workers’ situation is seriously hindered by the presence of the theory of “absolute impoverishment” that Marx was later to abandon.

Even a writer like Wolfgang Jahn, who erects an absolute dogmatic screen between the concept of alienation and that of labor value, tries to find a theory of “production relations in general” in the Manuscripts, whereas no such theory can be found there.39 Similarly, Heinrich Popitz, though he stresses the differences between the “young Marx” and the “mature Marx,” sees in the Manuscripts a sign of the discovery of the conflict between the level of development of the productive forces and the relations of production,40 even though in 1844 Marx was clearly still only on the threshold of discovering this conflict—a threshold he had not yet crossed.41

….This is how Marx introduces the problem of alienated labor in the Grundrisse, in the chapter on money: “It has been said, it can be said, that what is fine and great [in commodity economy] is based precisely upon this interconnection, this material and spiritual metabolism, independently of the knowledge and will of the individuals involved; and presupposing precisely their mutual independence and indifference. And this objective interconnection is certainly preferable to a lack of interconnection, or to a purely local interconnection, or to one based on something narrow and primitive such as a blood relationship, or relations of domination and slavery. It is likewise certain that individuals cannot take control of their social interconnections before they have created them. But it is foolish to think of this merely objective interconnection as an interconnection that is ab origine impossible to dissociate from the nature of individuality (in contrast to reflected knowledge and will) and immanent in it. It is its product—a historical product. It belongs to a definite phase of its evolution. The alien character and independence that it retains in this regard merely show that it [the individuality] is still in the process of creating the conditions of its social life, instead of having started from these conditions in the first place. It is the original interconnection between individuals within the framework of definite, limited, production relations. Individuals with an all-around development whose social relations have been subjected to their own collective control as their own collective relations, are not a product of nature but of history. The degree and universality of the development of the capacities [of the productive forces] which makes such individuality possible, presupposes precisely production based on exchange values, which produces, along with generality, the alienation of the individual from himself....

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Can a socialist government provide a healthy life to everybody?

A book to better understand the world

A book about the capacity of workers

Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Class, Privilege and Learning Under Capitalism,
by Jack Barnes, 111 pages. Pathfinder Press, 2016.


This is a book about us — working people — and our capacity to organize and to learn, to transform ourselves and all social and human relations as we fight to end capitalist rule and establish workers power.

It is also a book about them — those who rule and the millions of privileged, well-paid professionals who administer their state power and its institutions over us — and why they continually discount our abilities and worth.

As the author, Jack Barnes, explains, that’s “the greatest of all battles in the years ahead” for the working class — the battle to throw off this image of ourselves that the rulers teach us.

Numbering just over 100 pages this book is highly accessible. It contains three articles by Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, taken from talks and reports he gave to large public audiences between 1993 and 2009. More recent information has been incorporated into the text to make the articles more up-to-date and useful.

The reader will find a wealth of material that helps better understand the world we live in and the political and economic conflicts and battles we are living through. More importantly, it offers a perspective for how to act as part of a fighting working-class movement.

Outbursts portraying working people as “uneducated trash” have been a feature of numerous articles in the media over recent months. What underlies this, explains Steve Clark in the book’s introduction, is “fear that exists at the highest levels of government … about what’s building up among working people” in response to capitalism’s “slow-burning global depression.”

Barnes notes that the bosses also see “the potentially explosive consequences of what is happening in the world capitalist economy, including the effects of the employers’ ‘successes’ in downsizing and cost cutting.”

Barnes explains that the problems we face are rooted in the capitalist system. Far from working people being worthless, it is our “social labor that makes possible all civilization and the advance of culture,” he says. “Through our labor, the working class, in this country and worldwide, produces more than enough wealth to provide education, health care, housing, and retirement to every human being on earth, for a lifetime.”

Not only that, but “we’re capable of taking power and reorganizing society,” Barnes says. To do that we need to come to see our own worth and to “begin to transform ourselves and strengthen bonds of human solidarity” as we build a working-class movement to confront capitalist rule.

The book looks at the sharpening class inequalities in the United States and the rise of a high-earning, “self-designated ‘enlightened meritocracy,’” a “social layer of middle-class professionals, technocrats, managers and academics” numbering in the “millions, if not tens of millions.”

This is a bourgeois layer “in its class interests, its values, its world outlook — in who it serves. But it’s not a section of the capitalist class,” nor is it on the road to become that, Barnes explains. It is “largely divorced from the production process” and has “a parasitic existence.”

To rationalize their privileged status and wealth, the meritocracy has become a leading voice in support of capitalism and its values and its demonization of the working class.

This layer holds that their “brightness” and “quickness,” Barnes says, “give them the right to make decisions, to administer and ‘regulate’ society for the bourgeoisie.” As the concentration of powers in the executive branch of the imperialist state has increased, they have become an ever-greater weight in centralized government bureaucracies, with ever-more invasive powers over our daily lives.

Barnes also looks at the function of education under capitalism. Its purpose is not to educate, he explains, but to give “certain privileged social layers a license to a higher income” while for workers it teaches “us to be obedient,” to “become units of production.” For learning to be a lifetime experience requires that society is reorganized, first “to get rid of the capitalist state and use the workers state to begin transforming humanity, to begin building human solidarity,” he says. “I cannot think of a better reason to make a socialist revolution,” emphasizes Barnes.

This is a book that all workers should buy and read, and then help to get copies into the hands of friends, co-workers and others.

Was the American Revolution revolutionary?

Why American Revolution was necessary 
(Books of the Month column)
The following are excerpts from “Was the revolution necessary?” an essay by George Novack that appears inAmerica’s Revolutionary Heritage: Marxist Essays, which is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for November. Novack edited the book and contributed many of its chapters. This article appears in the section “The First American Revolution.” Copyright ©1976 by Pathfinder Press, reprinted here by permission. 

On March 22, 1765, George III gave his royal assent to the Stamp Act, which had passed both houses of Parliament with no more commotion than “a common Turnpike Bill.” The effects of this hateful tax measure on the American colonists and the attempts to enforce it provoked the first large-scale outbursts against the crown.

Ten years later, on March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry stood up and, in answer to those opposed to arming the people, told the Second Virginia Convention that war with Britain was inevitable.

“We have petitioned, we have remonstrated, we have supplicated, we have prostrated ourselves before the throne…. Why stand we here idle?” Henry asked. “What is it that gentlemen wish? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God. I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!”

The motion to take up arms against the king passed by a small majority and the next week a committee, including George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and Richard Henry Lee, established a plan for a militia in Virginia.

Why did loyal subjects become converted into rebels-in-arms over those ten years?

This question poses a highly debatable issue in history and politics. Have revolutions been produced by lawful causes or is their occurrence an avoidable accident? And how necessary was the First American Revolution?

The concept of historical necessity is in disrepute in contemporary American thought and has been disavowed by such influential English professors as Sir Isaiah Berlin and Karl Popper. The former categorically asserts, “For historians determinism is not a serious issue….”

Marxists take the contrary view that social phenomena are regulated by their own laws, that the conflict of classes with opposing material interests and aims is the motive force in civilized societies, and that intensification of class antagonisms logically and irresistibly leads toward a revolutionary showdown in the contest for supremacy.

This line of thought originated among the Greeks, notably in the works of Thucydides and Aristotle. In examining the reasons for the Peloponnesian War, Thucydides wrote that “what made war inevitable was the growth of Athenian power and the fear which this caused in Sparta.” Two and a half millennia later, Marxism gave a far more deepgoing and rounded formulation to this mode of historical interpretation.

The revolution that took place along the coastal area of North America during the last quarter of the eighteenth century introduced a salutary change in the destiny of the American people. Nowadays no one will contest this judgment. There are no Loyalists to be found in the fifty states, as there are in Canada and New Zealand. Today scarcely a single voice will lament that the colonists broke away from British rule. Patriotism, realism, and two centuries of national sovereignty make such a position ridiculously anachronistic.

Despite the unanimous opinion that the revolution was desirable and beneficial, wide disagreement persists on the degree of its objective necessity. This uncertainty goes all the way back to the decade before the Declaration of Independence, when the revolt was ripening behind the backs of its prospective signers.

Tom Paine wrote in Common Sense that “it is contrary to nature that a whole continent should be tributary to an island.” Nonetheless, England had dominated North America for almost two centuries and was then the strongest imperial power in the world.

Although some colonials believed that their fellow citizens would one day cut loose from England’s apron strings, before 1775 they could not see how independence could be achieved, nor did they expect that it would come in their lifetimes.

The decision to proclaim national freedom crystallized quite suddenly in the early months of 1776. It had taken a decade of compromises before the desirability and the immediacy of independence merged in the minds and deeds of the Patriots.

Here we bump into another familiar philosophical, historical, and moral problem: the relation of end to means.

The rebels finally resorted to armed struggle to attain their goals. Did they have to apply violence for that purpose, and was this revolutionary means justified?

Marxists have no difficulty in answering these questions affirmatively. The liberal thinkers since that time have found it as difficult to resolve this dilemma in theory and square it with their principles as the moderates did at the time of the revolt.

Many scholars argue that armed conflict might have been averted if reason and moderation had prevailed in adjudicating the differences. They seek to rearrange the course of history in accord with their preconceptions much as a teacher corrects mistakes in a pupil’s paper. Yet they are the ones who have the most to learn from the actual historical process of their own country.

The revolutionary cycle in which the Declaration of Indepen-dence falls was launched by the Stamp Act demonstrations in 1765-—the first intervention of the plebeian masses as an independent force in the contest against British exactions—and was consummated with the establishment of the Constitution in 1789.

Here was a tenacious twenty-five-year struggle, involving millions on both sides of the Atlantic and the major maritime powers. Was it an event that might as well not have happened? Or was it aninescapable stage in the advancement of the American people that had been in the making for decades and had necessary and sufficient causes for its emergence and development?

A scientific historian who wants to explain how something came to be—rather than to explain it away—has to face up to this crucial issue.  


Labor's next giant step

‘Need to learn to think socially
and act politically’ 
(Books of the Month column)

Below is an excerpt from The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party. This Books of the Month excerpt is from “Prospects for Socialism in America,” a resolution adopted by the 27th national convention of the SWP in August 1975. Copyright © 1981 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

In the United States, as elsewhere, the revolutionists constitute a relatively small nucleus grappling with two central problems:

How to help the masses, through their own experiences of struggle, to cross the bridge from general dissatisfaction and demands that stem from their immediate problems, to revolutionary socialist solutions.How, in this process, to gather fresh forces and train the cadres who, in the course of their experiences in the class struggle, can build a mass revolutionary party capable of leading millions of working people to victory. …

Several points must be borne in mind in relation to the method of our program. …

We begin from the objectivecontradictions of the capitalist system and the direction in which these are moving. On that basis we derive our demands, and we formulate them in terms that are, as much as possible, understandable to the masses at their given level of consciousness and readiness for action.

We do not begin by demanding that the masses understand what “the system” is or that they reject any particular aspects of it. Instead we chart a course, raise demands, and propose actions aimed at shifting the burden of all the inequities and breakdowns of capitalism from the shoulders of the working people onto the employers and their government, where it properly belongs.

We champion the progressive demands and support the struggles of all sectors of the oppressed, regardless of the origin and level of these actions.

We recognize the pervasiveness of the deep divisions within the American working class bred by imperialism and class society, and we press for revolutionary unity based on support for the demands of the most oppressed.

We press the working class to give clear and concrete answers to the problems faced by its allies. And we unconditionally reject any concept that the oppressed should “wait” for the labor movement to support them before entering into their own struggles.

We raise demands that challenge the “rights” of capitalist property and prerogatives claimed by the government to control the lives of the working masses and the wealth they create.

We do not stop with the necessary struggle to defend and extend all democratic rights. We carry the fight for democracy into the organization of the economy and the process of making decisions over the standard of living of the working class. This is the dynamic leading to control by the workers over the institutions and policies that determine the character of their work and life, the dynamic of direct democracy through councils or committees of action, and the dynamic leading to a workers government.

Our method is one of class-struggle action leading to deeper and clearer class consciousness. We promote the utilization of proletarian methods of struggle where the workers can make their weight count advantageously in direct mass actions in the streets and in the workplaces. In this perspective united-front-type tactics are central.

Our goal of mass independent political action by the working class precludes any subordination to the needs of bourgeois parties, figures, or institutions. It necessitates the workers building their own political instrument, a mass party of the working class capable of leading their struggles to their revolutionary conclusion, the establishment of a workers government.

Think socially; act politically

To meet this revolutionary perspective the American workers will have to learn to think socially and act politically. They must see the big social and political questions facing all the exploited and oppressed of the United States as issues of direct concern to them. They must stop placing their hopes in “individual solutions” to capitalism’s blows and begin moving toward collective political action independent of the employers and their Democratic and Republican hirelings.

Defensive struggles against the bosses and their government will generate the nuclei for a class-struggle left wing in the unions. Striving to defend themselves against the squeeze on jobs, real income, social welfare, and on-the-job conditions, the workers will come into direct confrontation with the entrenched labor bureaucracy and its class-collaborationist perspective. A class-struggle left wing will begin along these lines—a wing that stands for the transformation of the unions into instruments of revolutionary struggle whose independent power will be used on every level in the interests of the whole working class, organized and unorganized, and its allies.

Labor’s next giant step will be to break the stranglehold of the bourgeois two-party system to which it is tied and through which it vainly tries to find solutions to capitalism’s breakdowns. With a labor party based on the organized power of the unions, all the interrelated social, political, and economic interests of labor and its allies can be encompassed and fought for. This will reinforce the independent mobilizations of all sectors of the oppressed and help aim their force at the common enemy. And the workers can effectively counter the efforts of the rulers to diffuse and co-opt independent struggles of the masses by using their two-party monopoly.

The precise slogans and demands that will be raised, and the order in which they will appear, will depend on the development of the crises faced by American imperialism and the intensity of the pressures generated by the spontaneous struggles of the oppressed and exploited. But it is along this line of march that the politicization of American labor will take place. The role of independent political action will begin to become clear to millions, placing on the agenda the decisive question of which class shall govern—the workers or the employers.

Friday, July 1, 2016

James P. Cannon on July 4

From Karl Marx to the Fourth of July

By James P. Cannon 

From page 2 of the July 16 1951 issue of The Militant

I’m a Fourth of July man from away back, and a great believer in fire crackers, picnics and brass bands to go with it. You can stop me any time and get me to listen to the glorious story of the greatness of our country and how and when it all got started. The continent we inhabit has been here longer than anyone knows—but as a nation, as an independent people, the darlings of destiny favored above all others, we date from the Declaration of Independence and the Fourth of July.

The representatives in Congress assembled 175 years ago were the great initiators. When they said: “We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they started something that opened up a new era of promise for all mankind. That’s what I am ready to celebrate any time the bands begin to play—the start and the promise. But nobody can sell me the Fourth of July speeches which represent the start as the finish and the promise as the fulfillment. I quit believing in them a long time ago. As soon as I grew old enough to look around and see what was going on in this country—all the inequality and injustice still remaining—the beneficiaries of privilege, claiming the heritage of our first revolution, struck me as imposters. I recognized the standard Fourth of July orators as phonies, as desecrators of a noble dream. They didn’t look like the Liberty Boys of ’76.

But that never turned me against the Fourth of July, as was the case with so many American radicals and revolutionists in the past. I thought the Fourth of July belonged to the people. I always regarded its renunciation as one of the biggest mistakes of American radicalism. It is wrong to confuse internationalism with anti-Americanism; to relinquish the revolutionary traditions of our country to the reactionaries; to let the modern workers’ revolutionary movement, the legitimate heir of the men of 1776, appear as something foreign to our country.

That is why it did my heart good to see The Militant blossom out this year in a special Fourth of July issue, with its front page manifesto greeting the people of Asia, fighting for their national independence, in the name of our own revolution of 1776—and a whole page of special articles devoted to this revolution and its authentic leaders. The articles in this special issue are obviously the result of serious study and historical research. They throw new light on the most important features of the revolution which have long been obscured, and even deliberately hidden, to serve the special interests of the present-day Tories. These revelations put a powerful propaganda weapon into the hands of those who see in the coming revolution of the American workers not a negation, but a continuation and completion of the revolution for national independence of 175 years ago.

The authors of these remarkable articles were guided in their research by a theory which required them to look for the essential facts and study them in their inter-relationship. They sought to uncover the motive force of the class struggle—the key to the real understanding of all history. The theory which inspired the authors of these articles to study the first American revolution, and guided them in their work, is Marxism—which Congress and the courts would outlaw as a “foreign” doctrine, and the teaching of which in the schools is now virtually prohibited.

The procedure through which these articles in the Fourth of July issue of The Militant finally took shape is an interesting story in itself. They are the work of students in our party school of Marxism. We are committed to the proposition that the cadres of our party have a historical task to accomplish. That task is to organize and lead the coming revolution of the American working class. How better can one prepare to take effective part in such a colossal enterprise than to study the revolution out of which this nation was born? And how can one study revolutionary history seriously and profitably without the aid of the only revolutionary theory of history there is? That’s our point of view anyway. And we are serious enough about it to take a group of our leading people of the younger generation out of everyday activity for six months every year to study the history of their country and this “foreign” doctrine which alone explains it.

You will never find two subjects which fit better together. Marx sketched the whole broad outline of American capitalism as it is today in advance of its development. In return for that, American capitalism in all its main features is the crowning proof of Marxism. Our students go to Marx to study America, and study America to verify Marx.

Marxism is a hundred years old, and has been refuted a thousand times by professional pundits. Not satisfied with that, its opponents—who have far more than a scientific interest in the matter—continue to refute Marxism daily, weekly and monthly in all their publications and other mediums of misinformation and miseducation. Our students know all about that, and examine all the refutations conscientiously as part of their study of the doctrine itself. In the course of this examination and counter-examination they become real Marxists. They learn their doctrine thoroughly, and in learning they proceed to apply it. Marxism is not a dogma to be studied for its own sake, but a theory of social evolution and a guide to action in the class struggle. It is not a substitute for the knowledge of concrete reality, past and present, but a theoretical tool for its investigation and interpretation. Our students understand it that way.

They went to Marx—and discovered America.

And that, in my opinion, is a very important discovery. We have nothing to do with jingoism, or any kind of vulgar national conceit and arrogance. We are internationalists, and we know very well that our fate is bound up with that of the rest of the world. The revolution which will transform society and bring in the socialist order is a world-wide affair, a task requiring international cooperation to which we contribute only a part. But our part in this international cooperation is the revolution here at home. We must attend to that, study it and know it. And we can’t do that properly unless we know our country and its history and traditions. They are, for the greater part, good. The country itself is good, and so are the great majority of the people in it. Their achievements are many and great. There is nothing really wrong with the USA except that the wrong people have usurped control of it and are running it into the ditch.

The cure for that is not to throw away the country and its traditions, but to get rid of the usurpers by the process popularized by our forefathers under the name of revolution. This new revolution will have to complete the work started by the men of 1776. They secured the nation’s independence. The Second American Revolution of the Sixties, known as the Civil War, smashed the system of chattel slavery, unified the country and opened the way for its unobstructed industrial development. The task of the Third American Revolution is to take this great industrial machine out of the hands of a parasitical clique who operate it for their own benefit, and operate it for the benefit of all.

That’s the general idea. But it is not quite as simple as it sounds. There are complications and complexities. The workers have to make their way through a jungle of traps and deceptions. They need a map and a compass. They need a generalization of the experiences of the past and a theoretical guiding line for the future. That’s what Marxism is. The American workers will come to Marx, and with him they will be invincible. “Marx will become the mentor of the advanced American workers,” said Trotsky. We have the same opinion, and we are working to realize it.

Karl Marx, the German Jew, who lived and worked out his profound theory in England, is native to all countries. The supreme analyst of capitalism is most of all at home in the United States where the development of capitalism has reached its apogee. Marx will help the American workers to know their country, and to change it and make it really their own.


From page 2 of the July 16 1951 issue of The Militant