Monday, August 31, 2020

I propose a vote for socialism.

How SWP opposed 1964 election 'lesser-evil' scam


In some respects the current presidential campaign has a good deal in common with the one in 1964. Then, as now, the Democrats were running a candidate who projected a liberal image, while the Republicans had nominated an outspoken right-winger.While there was little popular enthusiasm for the Democratic nominee, Lyndon Johnson, many people mistakenly believed they had to vote for him to prevent the right-winger, 'Barry Goldwater, from assuming the presidency.


Some radical groups already committed to the Democrats exploited the fear of Goldwater as justification for supporting a capitalist party.


Then, as now, the Communist Party was a prime example of this.The Socialist Workers Party firmly opposed the lesser evilism of those who pointed to Goldwater to justify supporting Johnson.The party's ticket- Clifton DeBerry for president and Edward Shaw for vice-president - campaigned against both capitalist parties.


In September 1964, Shaw participated in a New York Militant Forum election symposium in which he argued against other radical figures who favored a lesser-evil vote for the Democratic ticket. The following is an abridged version of Shaw's remarks.


* * *


We should not support Goldwater because he has the same basic interests and goals as does Johnson. The aims of both parties can be summed up, perhaps, in one phrase- we must have law and order.


We have to have law and order in the streets of Harlem, in the cotton fields of Mississippi, in the industrial plants of Detroit, in the coal fields of Kentucky, and also in the cane fields of Cuba or the copper mines of Chile,the rubber plantations or the rice plantations of the FarEast . . .


Law and order in Mississippi is the law and order of the semifeudal gentry. Law and order in Harlem is the law and order of the tenement landlords. Law and order in Kentucky is the law and order of the coal barons. InDetroit it's the law and order of the manufacturing corporations.And abroad, in Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia,the law and order they speak of is the law and order of that almighty that has its finger in every other pie - the law and order of finance capital of the imperialist United States.


The great and overwhelming unity of the two major parties in this election campaign in the service of that master overcomes all small differences of tactics or personality.These two parties compete in the electoral field. They compete for the right to run the store for the ruling class.They compete for the right to put into practice a program already clearly mapped out.


They needn't make any new programs on this score. Defeat the colonial revolution is first on  the agenda right now. Save Asia. Keep it from going further out of thecapitalist orbit. Africa must be made safe.


At home, there's not much trouble right now. But the program is, and has been, as we can see through the past Democratic and Republican administrations, more and more repressive laws aimed at the labor movement. Keep the union power down is part of the program. Prevent therise of any independent formation and above all, rightnow, keep the Negro struggle in its place.


But there are superficial differences. Goldwater has proposed even harsher measures both at home and abroad to carry out this bipartisan program. He proposed a measure and Johnson moved in that direction. ·We at first were presented with, it seemed, a slight difference in approach over the war in Vietnam. The question was going to be asked of us, Do you want a continuation of this costly, inhuman stalemate in the war in Vietnam, or do you want to extend it? Before we even had a chance to vote in that referendum, Johnson removed the difference and attacked North Vietnam. He removed that point from the agenda.The lesser-evil policy, regardless of what you call it, in the name of social progress has resulted only in social regression.


Truman was worse than FDR. Eisenhower was worse than Truman. Kennedy was worse than Eisenhower. Johnson was worse than Kennedy. And now, however, Johnson is better than Goldwater.


I propose, my party proposes, that a vote against the war in Vietnam will weigh against it. But a vote for it will not. And we do not see how you can vote for either one of the two parties without voting for war. I propose a vote for socialism.


http://themilitant.com/1984/4832/MIL4832.pdf




Vote for the Democrats? A revolutionary socialist perspective

No, I am not saying the world is the same today as it was in 1984 (or 2004, or 1964).  


The same liberal and middle class left electoral rationalizations do persist. (I support the U.S. Socialist Workers Party campaign.)



Will vote for Mondale slow down U.S. war in Central America? 'Guardian' ignores lesson of Vietnam


BY GEOFF MIRELOWITZ


Should socialists, radical-minded workers, and opponents of the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean support Democrat Walter Mondale in the November elections to get rid of Ronald Reagan? Would this slow the war and austerity drive of the U.S. ruling class? In an August 8 front-page editorial the Guardian newspaper, a nationally circulated radical weekly, answers yes. "Reagan must go," proclaims the headline. Dumping Reagan "is crucial," argues the Guardian, "to prevent consolidation of power by the right. This includes voting against him - and for his Democratic Party opponent Walter Mondale."


This view is widespread throughout the U.S. left, including among many, like the editors of the Guardian, who consider themselves Marxists. The Daily World, newspaper of the Communist Party, for instance, promotes a "dump Reagan" perspective in page after page of its every issue. The Communist Workers Party, which four years ago campaigned to "crash the Democratic Party convention," seems to have found its way through the front door and today urges support for Mondale.


The Guardian's stand, its editors acknowledge, "represents a change from previous positions." It is the first time the Weekly has openly urged a vote for a candidate of one of the two big capitalist parties in a presidential election.


Those who have not caved in to the considerable pressure to back the "lesser evil" among the capitalist candidates and who support independent working class political action, including supporters of Socialist Workers presidential and vice-presidential candidates Mel Mason and Andrea Gonzalez, will find much to disagree with in the Guardian editorial. This includes the support it gave to the procapitalis Democratic Party election campaign waged by Jesse Jackson.


Chief argument of 'Guardian'

This article will not attempt to dispute the Guardian point by point. Rather it will consider the editorial's chief argument in favor of a vote for former vice-president Mandale·- that it is an effective means to slow the U.S. war in Central America. This mistaken view is shared by others beyond the Guardian, including many committed antiwar fighters and Central America solidarity activists.


"We should not expect the Democrats to be peaceful," the Guardian concedes, "either toward revolutionary peoples around the world or working people and minorities in the U.S." But, it continues, "the worst the Democrats are likely to do is continue what the Republicans are doing."


A Mondale victory however, opens another possibility, Guardian editors contend. "The best that could happen," they say, "is that the strangulation of the Nicaraguan revolution might ease up somewhat,. some pressure might be put on the fascist South African government, some human rights demands be made on the Salvadoran government and the assault on labor unions, women, and minorities at home might be eased."


At the heart of the Guardian's position is the opinion that "A defeat of the reactionaries in November can offer an important breathing space to the left and progressive forces in the U.S. and, perhaps more importantly ' to liberation movements and anti-imperialist countries around the world."


Wishful thinking

This is wishful thinking. Organizing to win workers to solidarize with the Central American revolutions and oppose the U. S. war there is a vital responsibility of all socialists today. A vote for Mondale, however, will not slow the war drive nor gain breathing room for Nicaraguan and Salvadoran working people fighting U.S. intervention. It does nothing to help advance the process of building a mass working-class antiwar movement. It is an obstacle to educating working people to rely on their own independent action to fight the war. The Guardian, however, has no confidence in independent working-class political action. It looks to a capitalist politician for relief instead.


The Guardian admits that "the current war buildup began in the Democratic Carter administration." (A designation the editors evidently find more convenient for their current purposes than the more accurate "Carter-Mondale administration.") But it also points out that the Reagan administration has been steadily escalating the war over the past four years. It fears that as soon as the elections are over, Reagan, "unrestrained by the considerations of having to face the electorate again," will send U.S. combat troops into. the region and a full scale, Vietnam-style war will develop. Thus its call for a vote for Mondale.


The Guardian is not wrong to point to the danger of a U.S. invasion of Nicaragua El Salvador. A sharp escalation of the U.S. war is sure to come - but it does not hinge on a Reagan victory in November. The employing class cannot tolerate the advance of the socialist revolution- especially in what they arrogantly consider their own backyard. They recognize that the Nicaraguan revolution, like the Cuban revolution, wrenched a section of the Americas out from under their political and economic domination. The Salvadoran revolution threatens to do the same. The U.S. rulers have decided they must put an end to these powerful examples. That is why they aim to overthrow Nicaragua's workers and farmers government and why they are fiercely resisting Salvadoran working people fighting to overturn imperialist domination. Both capitalist parties in the United States support these goals.


Grenada invasion

That's why the U.S. invasion of Grenada last October won virtually unanimous support from Republicans and Democrats. Today neither Mondale, Ferraro, Jackson, nor other leading Democratic Party figures criticize that invasion or oppose the continuing U.S. military occupation of the island. What if the Carter-Mondale team had won the 1980 presidential contest? In. April1980 they did not hesitate to launch a U.S. commando raid on Iran. Do the Guardian's editors seriously believe that Carter and Mondale, presented with the same opportunity for imperialism offered by the counterrevolutionary overthrow of the Maurice Bishop-led government in Grenada, would not have ordered an invasion? And a Mondale-Ferraro administration? Wouldn't it have done the same? What evidence indicates the contrary? The decision to invade Grenada did not represent the views of just one section, a right wing, of the U.S. ruling class represented by Reagan. The overwhelming support of capitalist politicians for the invasion was further proof of the fundamental agreement on U.S. foreign policy goals that has existed in ruling-class circles for many years.


What differences do exist on U.S. government policy in Central America are tactical. They concern pace, timing, and how to minimize the political price the U.S. government will have to pay for an invasion.


But this does not change the fundamental agreement on the purpose of U.S. intervention. This is spelled out in a recent article titled "Mondale's G.O.P. Latin Policy," authored by Alan Tonelson, associate editor of Foreign Policy, a magazine published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a liberal "think tank." "The Democrats' ….decision to accept Ronald Reagan's bottom line in Central America," Tonelson explains, "could make deeper United States military involvement inevitable no matter who wins in November.


"[T]he Democrats," Tonelson observes correctly, "essentially accept Mr. Reagan's estimation of the stakes for the United States in the Central American conflict." He quotes the Democratic platform which states, "the strategic importance of Central America is not in doubt, nor is the fact that the Soviet Union, Cuba, and Nicaragua have all encouraged instability and supported revolution in the region." "The result," says Tonelson of the policy Mondale could be expected to implement in Central America, "would be Reaganism without Ronald Reagan."


It is not "Reaganism," however, that is out to stop the Central American revolution, it is imperialism. Reagan is simply the current "commander-in-chief' of U.S. foreign policy. Mondale is campaigning to take over both the title and the job that comes with it, as Tonelson admits.


Lessons of 1964

The Guardian acknowledges that this may be the case - but it outlines a political course based on the hope that it is not. A similar error was made by many on the U.S. left in 1964.


In that year's presidential election many argued that Republican candidate Barry Goldwater represented the extreme rightwing in U.S. politics as the Guardian says of Reagan. Goldwater, said most radicals then, had to be defeated at all costs, even if that meant voting for the Texas Dixiecrat Lyndon Johnson. The Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) tried to show that it recognized some of Johnson's "weaknesses" - as the Guardian claims to recognize Mondale's today - by putting out a button that read, "Part of the way with LBJ."


It was certainly true that Goldwater, like Reagan today, openly voiced many reactionary and right-wing ideas which, while shared by most in the ruling class, are not always publicly advanced. But voting for Johnson proved to be worse than useless as a strategy to either prevent prowar policies from being implemented, or "offer important breathing space" to Vietnamese liberation fighters. After winning the election by a gigantic landslide, Johnson quickly tossed aside his vote-getting promises, and within weeks of his inauguration, ordered a major escalation of the U.S. war in Vietnam. And het ook this course without regard for whether it jeopardized his chances in the 1968 presidential race (as it turned out that it did). Antiwar forces were left unprepared and disarmed by the "vote LBJ" stand (both the "part of the way" and "all the way" varieties). Many felt betrayed and cried that Johnson was implementing Goldwater's foreign policy. In this they were mistaken.


With the campaign rhetoric successfully behind him, Johnson simply set out to do the job the U.S. ruling class selected him to do - implement imperialist foreign policy. The Guardian editors ignore the lessons of 1964 and argue that antiwar forces can pressure Mondale by voting for him. This they suggest, can slow the escalation of the war and thus give the workers and peasants of Central America more time to prepare. Buying time for the Nicaraguan and Salvadoran revolutions is a worthy goal. Our difference with the Guardian is over how to do this. But behind that difference is a much deeper one over what strategy can effectively oppose imperialist war.


Strategy to fight war

The Socialist Workers campaign puts forward a perspective of educating and organizing the working class to lead the fight to end the U.S. war in Central America and the Caribbean. That is because the working class is the only force in U.S. society with the power to do so - other than the ruling class which is waging the war.


The Guardian however is speaking in a completely different tongue. It does not aim to map a strategy of opposition to the war based on the working class. It is not even speaking to workers. Instead it has opted for the most unrealistic course of all- hoping the leader of an imperialist party will slow down an imperialist war.


Supporters of the SWP election campaign begin with telling the truth about what is coming in Central America and the Caribbean. It means following the example set by revolutionary fighters in Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Cuba who are working for peace by preparing for war.


This approach was captured by Sandinista Commander Tomas Borge a year ago when he told a group of Canadian unionists visiting Nicaragua, "I am not optimistic in regards to peace. But I am absolutely optimistic in terms of victory. "Like the Sandinista leaders, antiwar forces here, especially those who consider themselves socialists, should tell the truth to working people: an invasion of Central America is being prepared. We cannot predict the timing or the exact circumstances, but U.S. combat troops will be sent. We cannot stop this any more than we could stop the invasion of Vietnam, but we can be confident that sending the GIs will generate widespread opposition and lay the basis for a much bigger struggle against the imperialist warmakers.


Along with the struggle of working people in Central America and the Caribbean, the fight by U.S. workers against Washington's intervention can make imperialism pay a high price for its actions. This can lead, over time, to a defeat for the U.S. government as it did in Vietnam. The firm determination of the Cuban, Nicaraguan, and Salvadoran fighters in the face of U.S. threats, and the organized mobilization and expression of antiwar sentiment among U.S. working people has already given the rulers pause in their war drive.


But it has not ended it. Nor can it. Imperialism will not give up in Central America without a much bigger fight than it has put up so far. That is why a further escalation of the war is inevitable. Today opponents of the war should do everything possible to educate U.S. workers about the real situation in Central America and the Caribbean, including the aims and accomplishments of the revolutions there, and the anti-workingclass goals of the U.S . government's war.


Important opportunities exist to do this, a fact the Guardian seems to ignore. Its editorial refers to "the masses of alienated and apathetic citizens." Nowhere is there any mention of the noteworthy accomplishments made by opponents of the war in the unions or the important differences in this respect from the early years of the fight against the Vietnam war.


Today, even before U.S. combat troops are on the battlefields in large numbers, several U.S. trade unions have taken an antiwar stand. Scores of local unions have heard antiwar presentations by visiting Salvadoran and Nicaraguan unionists and revolutionary leaders. Thousands of U.S. workers have travelled to Nicaragua to see the revolution firsthand.


Supporters of the SWP campaign who are active in the U.S. labor movement seek to build on these accomplishments. These socialist workers are organizing other trips by unionists to Central America and the Caribbean as an aid to the fight against the U.S. war.


At the same time, supporters of the SWP campaign have joined in other efforts to mobilize opposition to the war that originate outside the labor movement, such as the June 9 demonstration of 5,000 held in New York City. SWP campaign supporters participate in such efforts with the goal of orienting them to the unions and other organizations of U.S. working people and the oppressed nationalities, drawing them into the fight against the war.


Socialist campaign supporters use the SWP campaign as a tool to take the fight against imperialist war into the working class. While SWP candidates educate about the war, they also tell the truth about the . elections themselves. Unlike the editors of the Guardian, SWP candidates do not tell working people that voting on election day can stop, or slow, the U.S. war.


Instead they explain why workers must rely on their own independent action to fight the war, as they must rely on independent class action to oppose union-busting and other ruling-class attacks. They point to the necessary task of building a mass working-class party that can fight to overtum the imperialist warrnakers once and for all.


The Guardian editorial denigrates this modest example of independent working-class political action as "symbolic" but "unrealistic."


But what is really unrealistic in advancing the fight against war is urging a course based on the hope that the Democratic Party is not as completely committed to imperialist foreign policy as the Republicans, and on the idea that elections actually decide how that policy is implemented . 


https://themilitant.com/1984/4832/MIL4832.pdf









Friday, August 21, 2020

Workers World Party continues support for Democrats

A WWP leader admits "....the two major bourgeois parties.... will do and say anything to occupy the White House, Congress and other capitalist institutions that administer class rule."


But, in the same article, she goes above and beyond in promoting:


....these four congresspeople [Reps. Ilhan Omar, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib] symbolically represent the global working class, despite their political affiliation and loyalty to the Democratic Party.  The fact that their respective nationalities — Somali, Puerto Rican, Black and Palestinian — represent millions of oppressed peoples globally is an inspiration to the movement for revolutionary change....


WWP and the US left in general may say they understand there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans, but in the breach they fall all over themselves for the Democrats as soon as a new brand of the party's snake oil is introduced.


....These congresspeople defend the rights of migrants, including calling for abolishing Immigration and Customs Enforcement and closing down the detention centers, uplifting the rights of the Palestinian people to return to their homeland, supporting Medicare for all, deploring Trump's attempts to cut over 3 million more people off the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and generally support Black Lives Matter and more.


Supporting or deploring different policies of the big business parties and promoting pipe-dreams like "abolishing" ICE in no way differentiates "the Squad" or WWP and their ilk on the middle class left from the mainstream of US bourgeois politics.



Jay

21 August 2020

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Yugoslavia 1996

Don't Give NATO What It Hasn't Taken Discussion with reader on why Yugoslavia is not dismembered yet  

BY ARGIRIS MALAPANIS

In a letter printed on page 15, reader Steve Craine raises questions and disagreements with the column "Why Yugoslavia is not yet `former' " in the January 22 Militant. Hasn't the class unity Yugoslav workers won through their revolution, he asks, "been lost or is well on the way to being buried for a long time?" That is the heart of the matter.

The working class in Yugoslavia has been facing deteriorating conditions of life and work for nearly two decades because of the Stalinist bureaucratic and anti- working-class methods of planning and management by the petty- bourgeois layer that controlled state power. The resulting crisis was worsened by the economic stagnation world capitalism has experienced since the mid-1970s, and the depression conditions the entire imperialist system has been mired in since the opening of the 1990s. Yugoslavia was particularly vulnerable since the regime of Josip Tito had opened up its economy to foreign investment and loans from imperialist institutions much earlier than other workers states in Eastern Europe.

The assault on the Yugoslav working class took a qualitative turn for the worse when the competing regimes in the different republics - primarily in Serbia and Croatia - launched their bloody war in 1991 in the attempt to control land, factories, and other economic resources, with the goal of maintaining or improving the parasitic and privileged way of life of the castes they represent.

Since then, the working class in Yugoslavia has been embroiled in a fight to resist this onslaught - much like workers in Russia, France, the United States, Argentina, and elsewhere. Granted, the conditions, challenges, and immediate tasks workers and farmers face in these countries vary widely. But in each of these confrontations communists and all proletarian fighters must never give up what has not been wrested from our class by the enemy class in battle. One of these conquests is the Yugoslav workers state.

The rival gangs of wanna-be capitalists in Serbia, Croatia, and other Yugoslav republics - all originating from the break- up of the formerly centralized Stalinist regime - and the invading imperialist powers would like to declare the Yugoslav federation over. But for some reason they are having a hell of a time making that stick. I will give my reasons.

First is the relentless resistance by millions of Yugoslav working people to the attempt to force them to no longer live with, work alongside, and intermarry with those of different national origins as they have done for decades since the triumph of the Yugoslav revolution in the 1940s. This resistance has permeated five years of the slaughter, butchery initiated by the rival bureaucratic regimes and aided by the intervening imperialist powers - first Bonn and then increasingly Paris, London, and Washington.

Beyond obfuscation of capitalist media
To support his argument that most working people in Yugoslavia have been swept up on the side of one or another of the competing bureaucratic gangs, Craine points to "the mass exodus of Serbs from areas surrounding Sarajevo (taking with them even the exhumed bodies of deceased family members)."

According to United Nations figures, some 12,000 of the 70,000 people of Serb origin who live in the suburbs of Sarajevo such as Ilizda and Vogosca had left by early February for other areas controlled by pro-Belgrade forces. Since December a few dozen graves of relatives have been exhumed by some of these departing Serbs, many of whom do not like the prospect of living under the rule of the Bosnian government.

This story of grave removals, like much of what passes as "news" reports, is part of the ruling-class propaganda to justify the imperialist war drive against Yugoslavia. The television scenes and newspaper headlines and photos gave the impression that virtually every Serb in Sarajevo was digging up graves. But buried in the middle of the New York Times story, for example, was the fact that only 50 graves had been exhumed. Sorting out propaganda from fact is an essential part of any class-struggle fighter's task in confronting NATO's war drive.

What all the bourgeois media also carefully hide every day is that that an equal or greater number of Serbs have stayed inside Sarajevo.

In July 1992, when I visited Sarajevo reporting for the Militant, there were 100,000 Yugoslavs of Serbian origin inside the city under siege along with another 200,000 Muslims and Croats. I met some of the Serbs who fought as part of the Bosnian army against the troops of Bosnian Serb chauvinist leader Radovan Karadzic. "These Serbian extremists are terrorists," mechanic Nenad Colic, himself a Serb, told me, referring to Karadzic's army. "I don't know how long we can hold against them."

Ramiz Beshlija, a Muslim shepherd living on the Trebevic mountain in the outskirts of the city, offered to take me to the front line where one of his Serbian neighbors, among several Serbs in the Bosnian defense forces in that end of town alone, was in the trenches with a platoon of the Bosnian army. "Before Sarajevo was attacked he went and fought in Vukovar against the Yugoslav army," Beshlija said of his neighbor. He was referring to the 1991 assault by the army of Serbia's president Slobodan Milosevic on the town of Vukovar in eastern Slavonia, a sliver of Croatian territory now occupied by Belgrade.

Most of these Serbs inside Sarajevo stayed in the city during the four years of relentless bombardment, many giving their lives in battle along with their Muslim brothers and sisters, holding up against the chauvinst forces that often had clear military superiority.

This military resistance to Karadzic's troops in Bosnia has been based on the political resistance by big sections of the Yugoslav working class to the chauvinist offensive right up to today. It has been prevalent not only among Muslims, Serbs, and others inside Sarajevo, but throughout Bosnia and other Yugoslav republics.

Resistance throughout Yugoslavia
A Feb. 1, 1996, article in the Toronto daily Globe and Mail, for example, lifted the curtain a little from this well- kept secret by the big-business media.

"There were Serbs who secretly helped the Muslims in attempting to ease the suffering caused by Serb extremists," Ibrahim Halilovic, a Muslim cleric for the northwest Bosnia region around Banja Luka, told the Globe. "We are very grateful for that." Banja Luka houses the headquarters of Karadzic's gangs. Since 1992 Halilovic has lived under virtual house arrest there, says the Globe article, "presiding over a Muslim community that was the target of expulsions and violence." Halilovic described how an underground network of Banja Luka residents of Serb origin - smack at the center of the chauvinist Serb stronghold, where many of the "ethnic cleansing" assaults were planned - have opened their homes and given other help to persecuted fellow Yugoslavs of Muslim and Croat origin from 1992 until today.

A few similar stories can occasionally be distilled from items in U.S. dailies amid countless lines always ascribing the roots of the conflict to centuries-old animosity between Serbs, Muslims, and Croats; lines of type shaped by gallons of ink that the bourgeois editors never allow to form the word "Yugoslav" when describing the people of Yugoslavia.

An item in the January 18 New York Times, for example, quoted several Serbs in the rural town of Ljubinje in southeastern Bosnia, in an area under Karadzic's control. Referring to the war he described as senseless, Zeljko Berberovic told the Times reporter, "I got out alive, and now the only thing I want is to leave the Serbian republic [that is the area Karadzic's ilk want to break off from Bosnia and preserve just for Serbs]. I'll go almost anywhere else." Thousands of other Serbs in these "ethnically pure" areas feel the same disgust toward the chauvinist offensive and are ready to act on their beliefs.

Desertions from `Yugoslav' army
As many as 50 percent of those called up for the draft under Belgrade's rule to fight in the "Yugoslav" army against fellow working people in Slovenia and Croatia in 1991 refused. (The Yugoslav army came under the complete control of Milosevic's regime by 1991.) And thousands more youth, many of Serbian origin, deserted the same army when Belgrade launched its war against Bosnia. The desertions have continued, though on a smaller scale.

Even among many of the Serbs who fought in the Yugoslav army there is little identification with the course ordered by Belgrade and its lackeys in Bosnia. Miroljub Torbica, a Serb who spent four years in a Bosnian government jail as a prisoner of war and was released recently in an inmate exchange, told the New York Times January 27, "I was part of the Yugoslav army. It was my job, but I am not a Chetnik." Chetnik is the derogatory term widely used by citizens of Sarajevo to describe Karadzic's forces.

The Chetniks were a guerrilla group in the early 1940s set up with London's backing by people loyal to the Serbian monarchy that ruled Yugoslavia before the 1945 revolution. They were a Serbian chauvinist group that fought some battles in the mountains against the occupying German troops at the time. But their main role was to counter the domination of the liberation movement by the Partisans, led by the Yugoslav Communist Party.

Torbica told the Times he would like to stay in Sarajevo, his hometown, where he has many friends.

Similar reactions are found among many of the more than two million refugees displaced by the war. At least a dozen Militant readers who are industrial workers have described to me discussions with a number of co-workers from Yugoslavia who have immigrated to the United States as a result of the war. One common thread among these stories is that the big majority of these workers consider themselves Yugoslavs. Some take it as an insult to be called "Serbs," "Muslims," or "Croats" regardless of their national origin.

These are a few of the countless examples that prove working people throughout Yugoslavia have continued to defend one of the fundamental gains of the revolution: class unity that cut across national lines.

It is this Yugoslav working class that in its millions remains the obstacle to the aims of the competing gangs of bureaucrats and above all to the invading imperialist armies.

Why many buy nationalist demagogy
During the early 1940s, workers and peasants of varied national origins and beliefs in Yugoslavia organized an armed movement, led by the Partisans, to throw off the German imperialist occupation during World War II. In the process they launched a powerful social revolution. Working people took the power out of the hands of the landlords and capitalists. By the end of the 1940s they had carried out a radical land reform and expropriated the bourgeoisie's factories, mines, warehouses, and banks. They had established a workers state.

The gains of the revolution extended well into the 1960s. They included the progressive narrowing of the gap in living standards and working conditions between the highly industrialized republics such as Slovenia and the less developed like Macedonia. Such affirmative action programs, along with respect for different languages and cultures, cemented the bonds of working-class unity.

But the Tito leadership acted to break the forward motion of the revolution and hasten its bureaucratic degeneration. Belgrade carried out a policy of conciliation toward imperialism, backing Washington in the Korean War and taking a "neutral" stance during the U.S. assault on Vietnam. Capitalist methods of competition among enterprises and profitability were institutionalized in industry, packaged as "workers' self-management." Market mechanisms were extolled, encouraging eventual competition between different republics. The state monopoly of foreign trade was allowed to erode.

As a result, the direction of the early measures of the revolution was halted and began to be reversed, a process that accelerated in the 1970s. Social differentiation began to widen. It was amplified by the impact of the first capitalist world recession in 1974-75.

At the opening of the 1990s, the Stalinist regime and Communist Party that dominated the Yugoslav workers state begun to crumble, as was happening in the workers states throughout Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union. When members of the petty-bourgeois layer that dominated the state apparatus in Yugoslavia organized along nationalist lines to justify the grabbing of territory and resources, they did find some support among the population in each republic.

Because of decades of Stalinist misleadership, the class consciousness of workers and farmers had been eroded. The regime in Belgrade, the main culprit for the slaughter, also played on the fact that millions of working people opposed imperialist intervention - either in the form of German tanks and military advisers first sent by Bonn to the Croatian regime of Franjo Tudjman in Zagreb, or the subse-quent sanctions slapped on Serbia and Montenegro by the United Nations. For these combined reasons many working people bought into the nationalist demagogy of Milosevic, Tudjman, and company and supported or did not resist the formal break-up of the Yugoslav federation.

But even among the hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavs who turned out and applauded the nationalist tirades by Milosevic at rallies in Belgrade and elsewhere, a majority opposed the terror of ethnic cleansing. The Serbian regime often had to blatantly lie to rally working people behind its military offensives. When the Yugoslav army, for example, was called out of the barracks to halt the independence of Slovenia, troops were told by officers that Yugoslavia was being assaulted by Austria and Italy. As soon as most soldiers discovered the truth, fraternization of the troops of different nationalities took place and a bloodletting was averted in that republic.

The Yugoslav working class has been pushed back but has not lost the battle. The important fact is the widespread resistance to the course of Milosevic and his rival bureaucrats described earlier. The dictatorship of the proletariat may not be well but is still alive throughout Yugoslavia.

Hitler triumphed in Germany in the 1930s and established a fascist regime after the working class in that country had been dealt a crushing defeat. The Nazis won popular support for their openly stated aims of exterminating the Jews and other non-Aryans based on the smashing of the labor movement.

In Yugoslavia, neither Tito nor his heirs have been able to crush the working class to the point of returning the country to the prison house of nations it was prior to the 1945 revolution.

If the working class in Yugoslavia had been smashed and the workers state there torn to pieces already, imperialism would not need to be sending in its armies, using the opening provided by the war that the Serb and Croat regimes initiated. Such a blow would also be registered by a qualitative shift in the relationship of forces in favor of imperialism worldwide - from Cuba to China to capitalist Europe.

As is the case in Yugoslavia, the toilers throughout the workers states of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union keep surprising the imperialists by their resistance to attempts to integrate those countries in the world capitalist market. The recent miners' strikes in Russia and Ukraine are one such example. (In a similar way workers from Seattle to Peoria, Illinois, keep surprising the capitalist employers and their government by fighting and continuing to prove that even a declining and bureaucratized union is not the same as no union whatsoever.)

A union of soviet republics
"If `the Yugoslav workers state has not been dismembered into little pieces,' how is it that at least five separate states exist, each with its own government, constitutions, army, and international relations," asks Craine.

The formal break-up of the Yugoslav federation is not synonymous with the splintering of the workers state into five pieces being picked up one at a time into the fold of the imperialist system. (By the way, that's what Stalinist groups such as the Workers World Party and the Communist Party USA argue: that Serbia and Montenegro remain the only socialist republics and the rest such as Croatia and Slovenia are already ruled by capitalist regimes.)

What the Yugoslav revolution put in place was not a state akin the bourgeois democracies in western Europe, albeit with nationalized property forms. It was a union of soviet republics - a social dictatorship of the majority, the producers - kept together through the class unity of Yugoslav workers and farmers, conquered on the basis of a common struggle against capitalist exploitation and all forms of national oppression.

It is these social relations, along with the property forms put together by the revolution, that have not been destroyed. That's why it's not useful to use Craine's yardstick.

In addition, the internal borders of each of the Yugoslav republics are very porous with constant movements of populations largely caused by the war. You can also hardly argue that Macedonia, for example, has its own full-fledged army with a few rusty tanks and minimal weaponry. Not to mention the situation in Bosnia, where borders and controlling armies are fluid, changing month by month. The economic infrastructures of the different republics are still totally interlinked, with power plants and other factories producing for neighboring or distant republics, for example. And the invading imperialist powers are nowhere close to establishing capitalism in any piece of Yugoslavia.

Several articles in the big-business press make similar observations from the capitalists' point of view.

"Just over a month after the suspension of United Nations sanctions imposed for its role in the Bosnian war, Serbia is fast retreating into the closed economy of its Communist past," complained an article in the February 6 Wall Street Journal.

"This is bad news not just for potential investors, but also for the U.S.-led effort to bring peace and economic stability to neighboring Bosnia. Prying open this key Balkan nation," the Journal article continued, "is viewed by many experts as crucial to the success of the Bosnian peace process, since so many of the region's industries are intertwined. A closed Serbian economy also could hurt countries such as Greece, Turkey and Bulgaria, which desperately want to reopen roads and trade links through Serbia to northern Europe."

Task of reestablishing capitalism `overwhelming'
As for Bosnia, the task of pouring in massive investments and establishing a market economy seemed daunting to the Journal.

In an accompanying article in the same issue reporter Mark Nelson said "the task at times seems overwhelming." He was referring to efforts by foreign engineering and other firms to capture contracts for power plant repairs and other construction projects, each of which have received pledges from imperialist institutions adding up to a few billion dollars.

"After World War II," Nelson continued, "it took the Western allies more than three years to do in Germany all the things that the Dayton Accord aims to do during the next six months: organize elections, create a democratic, free-market society, and start rebuilding a functioning economy. And the allies enjoyed some advantages in Germany: That country was completely occupied and already had a tradition of efficient companies and bureaucracies.

"Here the economic inheritance from old Yugoslavia offers little comfort."

Indeed, the capitalist powers and their mouthpieces are not in for a comfortable ride to capitalism in Yugoslavia. They do not occupy the entire country - at least not yet - and even in the portions they do control they have to confront militarily the inheritance of the Yugoslav revolution: a working class that will resist any shock therapy measures and any attempts to return to capitalist social relations.

Despite the efforts of Milosevic, Tudjman, and other bureaucrats, the social and economic foundations of the Yugoslav workers state have not been torn apart.

No stable capitalist ruling class exists with the accompanying system of bourgeois values; stable legal and contractual relations; and the dominance of privately owned industrial, banking, financial, and commercial capital. The fight is not settled over any of these questions. That's why Yugoslavia is not yet former.

This is what NATO's war drive is all about: putting the imperialist powers in place to smash the working class there directly through military violence in order to reestablish capitalism. Youth and working people in North America and throughout the world can make this task of the competing imperialist sharks even more monumental.

We can do so by telling the truth about NATO's war drive, explaining the Yugoslav revolution and its accomplishments, and joining other fighters in all defensive struggles and asking them to add to their demands getting the U.S. and other imperialist troops out of Yugoslavia now.

Above all, winning fighters today to a communist party capable of leading workers and farmers to take state power and defend it arms in hand is the biggest aid we can give to working people in Yugoslavia.

Giving to the capitalist exploiters what they haven't already taken from our class would hurt our embattled brothers and sisters in the Balkans.

 




https://themilitant.com/1996/607/607_11.html


Celebrate life of SWP leader Ed Shaw

On The Lookout For Revolutionary Fighters
Hundreds at meetings in three cities celebrate life of SWP leader Ed Shaw  

BY MAURICE WILLIAMS
Photo displays from the struggle for power and the opening years of the Cuban revolution were among the most popular features at each of four regional socialist educational conferences held over the New Year's weekend in Atlanta, Boston, Detroit, and Seattle. As reported in last week's issue of the Militant, some 560 people participated in these events, jointly sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party and the Young Socialists.

Leaders of the communist movement speaking at the gatherings urged participants to spend some time looking at the photos and studying their captions. The political and military battles portrayed on the displays, and the fighters pictured throughout them, helped bring to life a central conference theme: why working people and youth in North America and elsewhere need to emulate the Cuban revolution. The exhibits helped underline the importance of building the kind of revolutionary organizations capable of leading workers and farmers to follow the Cuban example of wresting power from the capitalist exploiters - and defending that power of the toiling majority, the dictatorship of the proletariat, arms in hand, against counterrevolutionary violence by the property-holding minority.

Only along that road, the conference speakers explained, is it possible to advance the fight for a socialist world.

The New Year's gatherings took place 37 years to the day after the revolutionary victory over the U.S.-backed Batista dictatorship on Jan. 1, 1959. The rare photos of the Cuban revolutionary movement on display were reproduced courtesy of Pathfinder Press, which had assembled them for publication in a new English-language edition of Ernesto Che Guevara's Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War: 1956-58, as well as Pathfinder's other titles on the Cuban revolution.

The exhibits began with a photo of Cuban leader Fidel Castro confronting police chief Quirino Uria during a November 1950 demonstration in Havana, one of numerous student-led protests against the corrupt government of Carlos Prío and its subordination to Wall Street and Washington. The display included photos of workers' and students' demonstrations both before and after the 1953 attack on the Moncada barracks in Santiago de Cuba that initiated the revolutionary armed struggle against the U.S.- backed Batista tyranny. Fulgencio Batista had seized power through a military coup in 1952. In addition, there were numerous pictures of the Rebel Army during the two-year-long revolutionary war that culminated in a victory for working people in the closing weeks of 1958 and the daybreak of 1959.

Conference participants got a kick out of an Associated Press dispatch from Dec. 31, 1958 - the day Rebel Army forces captured the city of Santa Clara amid a popular uprising, sending Batista into flight from the island at 2:00 a.m. the next morning. In the true spirit of objective bourgeois journalism, the U.S. newspaper article was headlined: "Cuba Rebels Driven from Santa Clara: 4,000 Casualties Reported in City; Batista Troops Pressing Attack"!

Among the photos attracting the most attention were those taken by Lee Lockwood, a young reporter who happened to be in Havana on January 1, when the Rebel Army entered the capital just hours after Batista had fled the country. Lockwood captured the faces of working people, including many Afro-Cubans and women, who with increasing confidence came to the forefront of street mobilizations and began forming militias to defend the revolution from its enemies.

The exhibit extended through the first years of the 1960s, when the workers and farmers government led the toilers in expropriating the plantations, factories, banks, warehouses, and other holdings of both Yankee and Cuban capitalists and landlords, and establishing a workers state. The socialist revolution had opened in the Americas.

Celebrating Shaw's life

These exhibits, while a highlight of the New Year's socialist conferences, had in fact been prepared several weeks earlier for three public meetings in December to honor the life and political contributions of Ed Shaw - a longtime SWP leader who died in Hialeah, Florida, on November 9 at age 72.

Shaw had been a national leader of the movement in defense of the Cuban revolution. He traveled to the Caribbean island shortly after the triumph of the workers and peasants to find out the truth about the revolution firsthand. He then did a nationwide speaking tour in the United States showing slides from his trip and explaining the accomplishments of Cuba's working people. That tour was sponsored by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, of which Shaw was the Midwest director in the early 1960s.

The exhibits, made possible with the assistance of Pathfinder's editorial and printing staffs, had been put together by organizers of the meetings to celebrate Shaw's life, held in Miami, New York City, and San Francisco on December 3, 10, and 17 respectively. The displays grew and developed over the course of the three weeks, with the addition of several photos reproduced from slides taken by Shaw that he used on his tours, as well as leaflets and articles from the Militant highlighting events that marked the half century of Shaw's political life.

As in any newspaper, magazine, or photo section of a book, the captions prepared for the displays helped make the events portrayed in the photographs understandable to everyone at the meetings, from those with little or no prior experience in socialist politics to those who had been in the communist movement for decades. The captions were closely read by participants who gathered around the exhibits during the receptions before and after the meetings for Shaw, as well as throughout the New Year's weekend conferences.

`Suicide Squad'

Jack Barnes, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party and a longtime friend and collaborator of Ed Shaw, spoke on behalf of the SWP national leadership at the three meetings to honor Shaw's life. At the close of his talk in New York, Barnes called special attention to the photo exhibit, attractively displayed along the walls of Columbia University's Earl Hall in upper Manhattan, and illuminated by the bright afternoon sun.

"To the youth here," Barnes said, "I want to suggest a particular picture. It's the photograph of the `Suicide Squad' of Che Guevara's column in the Rebel Army. It was a volunteer squad, almost all of its members in their late teens or early 20s and selected by their fellow combatants. They took the most hazardous tasks and the most dangerous place in the order of battle in every fight - from the Rebel Army's base in the Sierra Maestra mountains of eastern Cuba, to the final drive to take the cities of Fomento and Santa Clara and open the road to march to Havana.

"They called themselves the Suicide Squad," Barnes said. "That was the name these exemplary fighters chose.

"Che explains in the Episodes that sometimes, when young fighters - they were often very young - weren't selected for the Suicide Squad, they actually wept. But they were determined to be elected the next time and began getting ready to make sure they were.

"Like everyone else in the Rebel Army," the SWP national secretary said, "the members of this squad took their weapons from enemy troops in combat, before they were ever supplied with more and better weapons from the guerrillas' limited arsenal. Like everyone else, those who aspired to join this squad had to prove they could fight before they were allowed to take on this special assignment.

"These young people carried out the most dangerous missions imaginable," Barnes said. "But they were not people who courted death." They did court danger, he said, if that's what was needed to advance the fight of the Cuban workers and peasants to wrest power from Batista.

"It was the greatest honor to be a member of the Suicide Squad," Barnes explained.

"That was exactly the kind of person Ed Shaw was. If he had been there, if he had been one of those young people, he would have been right in the middle of it."

Most important, Barnes said, Shaw devoted his life as a leader of the SWP to recruiting those kinds of workers and rebel youth and training them as cadres of the communist movement. "That's who communist workers have our eyes on," Barnes said. "We're on the lookout for revolutionary material - workers and young people with the revolutionary spirit and determination of those who formed the backbone of the Rebel Army."

Shaw and other party leaders were always looking for young fighters who had decided to put revolutionary activity at the center of everything they did. "That's who revolutionists can count on, those you can trust on your flank as class combat accelerates," Barnes said.

That central theme developed by Barnes and other SWP leaders at the celebrations of Shaw's life, set the political tone and axis for the four New Year's socialist educational conferences and the concrete tasks presented there.

Broadly attended meetings

Altogether, more than 420 people attended the three December meetings to celebrate Shaw's political contributions. The audiences included family members, friends, and co-workers of Shaw; members of local Cuba coalitions and a leadership delegation from the Antonio Maceo Brigade; activists in groups organizing defense of Pennsylvania death-row inmate Mumia Abu-Jamal, abortion rights organizations, and Haitian rights groups; as well as many of Shaw's comrades in the communist movement.

A couple of dozen members of each audience had worked with Shaw for many years in the Socialist Workers Party. Others were from younger generations of fighters, including close to 50 members of the Young Socialists and other young people. At the New York event, held the same weekend as a meeting of the SWP National Committee, members of the leaderships and supporters of the communist movement in Canada, New Zealand, Sweden, the United Kingdom, France, and Iceland were also present.

The New York meeting was opened by Joel Britton, the SWP's national trade union director, who attended all three celebrations and helped politically coordinate the speakers, written messages, and displays. Britton welcomed the 250 participants and introduced Mary-Alice Waters, who chaired the New York event as well as the Miami and San Francisco gatherings.

Waters is the editor of the new English-language edition of Guevara's Episodes. Like Barnes and Britton, she was part of a younger generation of central party leaders who had been won to the communist movement by Shaw and others in the SWP leadership in the early 1960s, under the impact of the Cuban revolution and upsurge in the struggle for Black freedom.

"Ed had a wonderful, I would say an earthy, an irreverent sense of humor," Waters said. "He loved writers such as Mark Twain and Kurt Vonnegut, who satirized the evils and absurdities of the society we live in. He loved to prick the balloons of pretension, of pomp, of obscurantism that mark class society," Waters said. Shaw knew that beginning to see through such fakery was one of the ways working people - including he himself as a young sailor - were inspired to resist these injustices and irrationalities.

Waters related a story told by Catarino Garza in one of a dozen or more written messages received in the weeks following Shaw's death. Garza was also a seaman who had joined the SWP in the 1940s and collaborated with Shaw in building the party for many years.

Shaw was working in a factory during the 1950's, Garza wrote, and one day the boss came through the plant shaking hands with the workers. "I'm Mr. So and So, but call me Frank," the boss would say as he went down the production line. He eventually reached Ed, who stepped forward, grabbed his hand, and said, "My name is Mr. Shaw, but you can call me Ed."

"The owner was taken aback," Garza wrote, "and Eddie played the situation with his great deadpan expression."

Shaw was a materialist through and through, Waters explained. "He had an insatiable curiosity, an interest in the world, in science and history." As a merchant seaman, he had developed a love for travel, especially "because of what he could learn from the struggles of working people all over the world as he did so. He was at home with the lives of working people in many parts of the world."

In a letter he sent her a few years ago, Waters said, Shaw remarked that his "real adult education began in 1943," when he had finished his training for the merchant marine and was waiting to ship out. Not content to while away his hours only at the 42nd Street hotel where he was staying in New York City and at the nearby bars, he wandered into a second-hand bookstore on the same street and picked up two books: The Origin of Species and The Descent of Man by Charles Darwin.

"Those two books began to open the world to me, to all of history," Shaw wrote. A few years later, while at sea, a fellow sailor gave Shaw two more books: The Dialectics of Nature and The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, both by Frederick Engels, one of the founders of modern communism. "Engels was the one who recruited me to the Marxist movement," Shaw wrote in his letter to Waters.

Waters then introduced veteran SWP leader Tom Leonard, who also spoke at all three celebrations. Like Shaw, Leonard had been a merchant sailor as a young man in the 1940s and early 50s. In recent years, Leonard and Shaw had collaborated in preparing a series of talks and classes drawing some of the political lessons of the activity by communist workers in the maritime union.

Union militant in maritime

Leonard pointed out that Shaw, having been born in 1923, came into the world "five years after the beginning of the great Russian Revolution," and "his life span covered a period of tumultuous imperialist wars and revolutionary struggles." (For more on Shaw's life, see "Ed Shaw: 50 years in the fight for socialism" in the Nov. 27, 1995, Militant.)

"Ed grew up in a community with a wide variety of taboos that he occasionally talked and wrote about to friends, usually in a humorous but never in a derogatory way," Leonard said. Shaw had been born in the small, rural Illinois town of Zion, which had been founded in the late 1800s by a Christian religious sect

"The taboos included things like not bouncing a ball or playing in the house on Sunday, no gum chewing, no bare legs in public, no smoking, no eating pork, and so on." In the religious school Shaw attended for a few years, students were taught that the earth was flat, Leonard said. As Shaw grew into his teens, he increasingly rebelled against the narrowness of the world outlook that surrounded him.

At the same time, Leonard added, "During his lifetime, Ed used up an awful lot of labor power, both physical and intellectual. In the process, he acquired a wide variety of skills and work habits, some of which can be traced back to his early years as a working farmer on that small farm in Zion."

After high school, at the outbreak of World War II, Shaw enrolled at the Armour Institute in Chicago, now known as the Illinois Institute of Technology. Failing the handwriting section of a test for a scholarship offered by the U.S. Marines, he moved to New York in 1942 and entered the military-run Maritime Service training school at Sheepshead Bay, where he got his papers for the merchant marine. As more and more merchant seamen worldwide were dying from torpedo and bomb attacks, jobs on cargo and passenger ships were advertised at the time, as Shaw once put it, as "a draft-deferred civilian occupation with good pay and possibilities for travel and adventure."

Leonard said that both he and Shaw were part of a generation of workers "a little too young to have participated in the strikes and rise in working-class consciousness that reached a high point in the mid-1930s. But we were old enough to be affected by the social crisis of the Great Depression," he said, "and to absorb the solidarity and combativity that working people demonstrated during the labor struggles in the years just before the second interimperialist war."

Leonard described Shaw's first deep sea voyage, a trip to the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico in 1943. The majority of the seamen on that ship were Puerto Ricans who lived on the island. During that voyage, Leonard said, Shaw not only got his baptism in the labor movement, being elected a union ship's delegate, but received his first education "about the oppressive role of U.S. imperialism in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean." In particular, Shaw learned firsthand "about the Puerto Rican independence movement, which many of the crew members supported."

After being introduced to socialist literature by other seamen, including some SWP members, during layovers in Philadelphia and New York, Shaw joined the SWP in 1944. He was particularly attracted to what he learned about the campaign to defend 18 leaders of the SWP and the Minneapolis Teamsters union who were imprisoned for their communist Continued from Page 9

views and opposition to Washington's entry into World War II. (The story of that political frame-up and international labor defense campaign is told, among other places, in Teamster Bureaucracy, the last of a four-volume series by Farrell Dobbs, a Teamsters organizer and longtime national secretary of the SWP, who was one of those tried and imprisoned.)

"Ed used to point out," Leonard continued, "that seamen not only got to see the world, but that since the ships always docked in the poor part of town, in the slums, you saw what life was really like in colonial countries in Latin America and elsewhere. Ed thought it was easier for sailors to become internationalists, at least if you had any inclination in that direction to begin with. That was the experience of many of us who were in the party and in the seamen's unions."

Fight for Black freedom

Leonard pointed out that Shaw's experiences with Jim Crow segregation during the war years, both on the merchant ships and off, turned him into an intransigent opponent of racism, as well.

Mary-Alice Waters, in her remarks in New York, pointed to one of those experiences, which Shaw had recounted to her in a letter. In June 1943 Shaw was in Detroit on his way to ship out on the Great Lakes. "I was in a hotel near Cadillac Square when the 1943 race riot erupted," Shaw wrote. "That was an eye-opener.

"I watched a mob catch up with and overturn a streetcar, pull out a Black conductor and beat him to death. The look on the faces of people in that mob is stuck in my mind as the ugliest thing I have ever seen. I wandered around, and probably saved the life of one guy being pursued by a small group," Shaw said.

"He ran past me and ducked into an alley. The pursuers asked which way he went. I pointed the opposite direction and off they went, looking for blood."

That experience, Waters said, "marked the rest of Ed's life." As a cadre and leader of the Socialist Workers Party, he was to be an active participant in the struggle for Black freedom over the years.

Waters also read an excerpt from a message from Betsey Stone that shed light on how a hatred of all forms of oppression and discrimination becomes blood and bone of communist workers such as Shaw. Stone, a friend and comrade of Shaw for 35 years, recalled the story he had told her about how he met his wife Mary.

They both were working at a factory in Miami in the late 1970s, Stone said. One day, "somewhat out of the blue, Mary, who hadn't talked politics with Ed, asked him if he was a communist. Taken aback, Ed asked why she would think that. Mary, a Cuban by birth who had come to Miami as a child, replied that from what she knew a communist treats women and Blacks as equals. She told Ed, since you do that, I thought you might be one."

"The political fortunes of Ed Shaw were completely intertwined with the Cuban revolution," Jack Barnes explained in the closing talk at the New York celebration, as he did in Miami and San Francisco as well.

Political fortunes tied to Cuba

"The Cuban revolution was the most important event that occurred in the world class struggle during Ed's lifetime," Barnes said. "Of course, it's also the most important event that has occurred in the lifetime of anyone in this room, with the exception of anyone here who may have been alive during the opening years of the Bolshevik-led revolution in Russia."

Only by recognizing that this judgment is not an exaggeration, Barnes said, is it possible to understand Shaw's political life, and his contributions as part of the leadership of the communist movement spanning several generations.

"Ed had already been an active proletarian revolutionist for close to 20 years when the Cuban revolution began unfolding," Barnes said. "He had been through many experiences in class politics that have been described at this meeting. He had already absorbed a lot of communist politics.

"But for a communist, a victorious socialist revolution - the practical demonstration in life of how the working class can do it - is the decisive test of everything you've previously learned and done," Barnes said. "It revitalizes revolutionary ideas, and produces a commitment to press forward the struggle, in ways that our class has experienced only twice in our century: coming out of the October 1917 Russian revolution, and then out of the Cuban revolution at the opening of the 1960s."

It was the response by the revolutionary internationalist cadre of the Socialist Workers Party to the Cuban revolution, Barnes said, that "put the decisive stamp on the political relations between people of my generation and those like Ed who won us to the communist movement in those years."

Barnes recalled a meeting held on Feb. 27, 1961, at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota, where he was a student. Looking out at the audience, Barnes said there were several other people in the room who had also attended that meeting and, like him, later gone on to join the Young Socialist Alliance and then the Socialist Workers Party. At that meeting, Ed Shaw had spoken about the Cuban revolution along with Robert F. Williams, a militant civil rights leader from Monroe, North Carolina, who was framed up later that year for organizing armed self-defense of the Black community against the Ku Klux Klan.

Shaw and Williams were on a nationwide speaking tour sponsored by the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. Shaw had actually first met Williams, a Korean War veteran, when both were working at an aircraft engine plant in New Jersey in the early 1950s.

What struck Barnes most about that meeting, he said, was that during the discussion period, "I began noticing that as questions were asked about Cuba, Robert Williams started answering them. And as questions were asked about the battle against racism, Ed started fielding them. That fact had a bigger impact on me than even the content of their answers. Like a number of other young people in the room, I began to learn something about the kind of political organization - and the kind of people - I had never known before."

Following the meeting, Barnes and several other Carleton students showed slides from their own trip to Cuba the previous summer, continuing the discussion and debate begun during the Williams-Shaw tour.

A `known quantity'

Barnes said it was Shaw who had recruited him to the Socialist Workers Party. "It's important to explain how he recruited me, however," Barnes added, "because it says something important about how fighters are won to a communist organization."

Shaw never directly asked him to join the SWP, Barnes explained. He already considered himself a revolutionist before he met Shaw, Barnes said. During his stay in Cuba the previous summer, he, like many other young revolutionists, had been involved with friends in a militia unit, and he had joined in the giant street demonstrations to celebrate the overturning of capitalist property relations.

During the week of August 6-13, 1960, most foreign-owned mines, factories, and utilities had been expropriated and nationalized. Barnes pointed to a number of photos on display, picturing workers, peasants, and young people in Cuba during the week-long jubilee that culminated in a massive mobilization in Havana and the "Burial of the monopolies." Coffins bearing the names of each of the major imperialist corporations were carried by workers to the seawall and then sent to their grave beneath the waves.

When Shaw and Williams had come to campus in early 1961, Barnes said, "Ed was already a known quantity to me and others who ended up joining the communist movement. We had heard about him in Cuba before we met him. He was one of the leaders of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee, and people we knew and trusted in Cuba told us to look him up and work with him when we got back to the United States."

Revolutionaries in Cuba were committed to the perspective that defense of the Cuban revolution in the United States should be organized without factional bias or exclusion. "They thought that no one party should control this work," Barnes said, "and that those who spoke in the name of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee should judge everyone on the basis of how they carried out its work, not what other organizations they happened to belong to.

"Ed and other leaders of the SWP agreed with this approach," Barnes said. "Surely one of the greatest tests of any political organization is the capacity of its members to participate in mass work with others, regardless of diverse points of view, to carry out agreed-on tasks."

"So, by the time Ed came to Carleton," Barnes explained, "all he had to do was to tell us what party he supported and introduce us to some other members of that party, so we could judge for ourselves whether they too shared his approach to the Cuban revolution.

"Once we found out more about Ed's party, the SWP, a whole different world opened for us politically."

Standing up to witch-hunters

In June 1961, Shaw was subpoenaed by the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee to appear before hearings on the Fair Play for Cuba Committee. The subcommittee, the Senate counterpart of the House Un-American Activities Committee, was chaired by Sen. James Eastland, a notorious segregationist Democrat from Mississippi. Sen. Thomas Dodd, a liberal Connecticut Democrat, was also a prominent member of the witch-hunting committee.

The Senate committee had subpoenaed more than a dozen people, including Shaw, after the appearance of an unsigned United Press International dispatch charging that the Communist Party and the SWP controlled the Fair Play for Cuba Committee.

"Ed's testimony before the Senate subcommittee was a model," Barnes explained. "As revolutionary-minded young people, we considered Ed and anyone else who stood up to the ranking members of this witch-hunting Senate committee to be heroes." Steadfastly refusing to cooperate with this inquisition, Shaw refused to testify about the activities of the Fair Play for Cuba Committee or its members. Despite hours of bullying by Senator Dodd in an executive session June 14, Shaw didn't budge. This caused the near-apoplectic Dodd to shout, "You're the worst witness I have had in 30 years."

Shaw wore Dodd's exclamation as a badge of honor for the rest of his life, Barnes said.

At a public session the next day, Shaw read a statement blasting the subcommittee's violations of the Bill of Rights and suggesting that it instead investigate the April 1961 invasion of Cuba by U.S.-organized counterrevolutionaries at the Bay of Pigs. The invaders were held in check by the Cuban militias and then swiftly crushed by the Revolutionary Armed Forces. The Fair Play committee had organized rallies and picket lines across the United States and Canada blasting Washington for its efforts to overthrow the revolutionary Cuban government.

To top it off, Barnes said, throughout the public hearing Eastland and Dodd kept going back and forth demanding that Shaw put out his cigarette. "He kept stubbing it in the ashtray, but somehow, half an hour later, the smoke would still be drifting up.

"Ed drove those senators crazy," Barnes said to laughter from the audience.

At Shaw's suggestion, Fair Play for Cuba Committee activists ordered copies of the official government transcript of the Senate committee hearings and circulated them widely. "They spend your tax money producing thick green books with these hearings they're so proud of," Barnes quoted Shaw as saying. "So at least order some copies and let people read it!"

"That was the first time," Barnes added, "that we ever campaigned with an official government transcript."

Shaw's statement to the Senate subcommittee was also published in full in Cuba at the time by the weekly magazine Bohemia.

Shaw loved politics

One of the messages read at the New York meeting made the point that Shaw loved politics. That was true, Barnes said, but a more interesting question for revolutionists was, "Why did Ed love politics?"

"Ed loved politics," Barnes said, "because he deeply believed it is the one arena of freedom open to workers in capitalist society. To engage in working-class politics doesn't require property or wealth. It simply requires workers to work together to transform themselves, to become different people, as they fight to transform society. This is what politics is to a communist."

Barnes said that in Shaw's public talks, he "always went after the pretensions and lies of the capitalist rulers - the biggest thugs in the history of humanity; the biggest traffickers in the abuse of women; the biggest destroyer of the potential of youth; the teachers of hatred and division among human beings.

"But Ed never left it at that when he was talking to workers and revolutionists," Barnes continued. "At the same time, Ed always explained that it's ultimately ourselves - not the class enemy, not the bosses or the cops - who erect the biggest obstacles to revolutionary advances. Our greatest challenge is to free ourselves as a class from the bourgeois ideas, values, and goals that the exploiters impose upon us.

"The only way we can fight effectively against capitalist exploitation and oppression is by changing ourselves in the process," Barnes said. "Through revolutionary political activity, workers can become what they can never be under capitalism: human beings capable of reorganizing society and running it in the interests of the toiling majority."

Political `state of grace'

Shaw and other SWP leaders of his generation and older did not and could not anticipate the Cuban revolution, Barnes said.

"Ed used to say that the Cuban revolution placed the SWP in a `state of grace' - that is, it was undeserved, unplanned, and unpredictable. But suddenly there it was.

"Inside this metaphor is the most important of all lessons for communists," Barnes emphasized. "The lesson is this: When the biggest opportunities come to build the communist movement, it's already too late at that point to begin politically preparing to take advantage of them."

During the half decade from 1943 to 1948, when Ed first became involved in communist politics, a labor radicalization was under way in the United States, along with an upturn in the fight for Black rights. "As a young member of the SWP, Ed could see a straight line forward to the revolution," Barnes said. "But that was not to be." What followed instead was a retreat of the labor movement and the anticommunist witch-hunt of the 1950s.

Became cadre during 1950s

"Ed Shaw became a cadre of the Socialist Workers Party, and learned some of the initial arts of proletarian leadership, during that retreat, well before the triumph of the Cuban revolution," Barnes said.

"It was then that he learned that there is no separation between work in the mass movement and the internal work of the party. It was then that he learned to be a disciplined, professional revolutionist."

In the fall of 1953 Shaw, along with a handful of other party members, moved to Detroit to help reinforce the party there. The big majority in that branch had abandoned hope of building a revolutionary party - recoiling in face of the witch-hunt, and softened by the relative prosperity following Washington's victory over its imperialist rivals in World War II.

Those in Detroit who were abandoning revolutionary proletarian politics, Barnes explained, proposed curtailing or outright doing away with petitioning to put SWP candidates on the ballot. They opposed organizing regular public meetings. They argued against adopting nationally centralized goals for sales and financial campaigns, proposing instead that national goals simply be the summation of local decisions.

"Some of them, rather crudely, even referred to subscription drives for the Militant, as `pissing in the ocean,' " Barnes said. "That was the measure of their contempt for the political potential of working people."

Shaw was among the younger cadre of the party who defended the SWP's communist continuity and dug in to help rebuild the Detroit branch. "Ed was part of the party majority who argued that communists could and should carry out public political work and broad propaganda campaigns, despite McCarthyism and the relative postwar prosperity and retreat of the labor movement," Barnes said.

During those years, the SWP branch in Detroit built a regular forum series on Friday nights that set an example for the entire party; organized a successful petition drive that put SWP candidates on the ballot in the 1954 elections; and participated along with others in building solidarity for defensive strikes and other battles in the labor movement.

Barnes told the story of Ed Keemer, a doctor who was Black and ran an abortion clinic in Detroit in the 1950s, when this medical procedure was still illegal.

During World War II, Keemer had been offered a commission in the armed forces like many other young doctors. Given a choice, he decided to join the Navy as an officer. But the Navy was completely segregated at the time. Blacks served only as cooks and sometimes as cleaners; they were not even allowed to serve the officers' mess. So Keemer was turned down by the Navy because he was Black. When he was subsequently informed he still had to be drafted, Keemer refused and was sent to jail, but subsequently won his case against the government.

Keemer later joined the SWP, which had campaigned in defense of his rights throughout his fight, and he wrote a regular column in the Militant for some time. Party members in Detroit, backed Keemer in his work running the abortion clinic and provided protection and support for many women who used it. "In those days, an abortion could be a matter of life or death for many women, especially working women who didn't have great resources and ended up being forced into murderous - often literally murderous - back-alley abortions," Barnes explained. Keemer charged a small flat fee and accepted women who couldn't afford even that.

Members of the Detroit branch, like their comrades across the United States, "spoke openly on behalf of communism, on behalf of the true legacy of the Russian revolution, throughout the witch-hunt," the SWP leader said. During a period when the party nationally couldn't afford to keep much of its arsenal of revolutionary literature in print, Shaw and his comrades set up a tiny lithograph in the back of the branch headquarters in Detroit to produce small pamphlets.

"This difficult period was the most important part of Ed's life, as it was for others in his generation of the party cadre and leadership," Barnes said. "It was only as a result of what Shaw and his party did during these years that they were ready for the new openings when the Cuban revolution came along in 1959."

Shaw served as the organizer of the executive committee of the Detroit branch in the late 1950s. He was elected to the SWP National Committee at the 1959 party convention and served on that leadership body until 1981.

At the end of 1961 Shaw was asked to organize a session of the party's leadership school in the Poconos in New Jersey. The following year he moved to New York City to take an assignment as a volunteer in the party's national office, assuming more and more of the responsibilities of an organization secretary. During much of his stay in New York in the 1960s, Shaw worked part-time as a compositor for the New York Times to support himself and his family.

Presidential campaign

In 1964, Shaw was nominated by the Socialists Workers Party as its candidate for vice president of the United States, running on the presidential ticket with Clifton DeBerry. DeBerry was among the some 100 participants at the San Francisco celebration of Shaw's life.

Youth for DeBerry and Shaw campaigned on many campuses, winning new recruits to the Young Socialist Alliance. The YSA had been formed in 1960 by young people who were partisans of the Cuban revolution, active in civil rights actions, and committed to advancing the communist perspectives of V.I. Lenin and the Bolsheviks in face of the Stalinist counterrevolution. By the time of the DeBerry-Shaw campaign, the YSA was also beginning to actively oppose Washington's growing military aggression in Vietnam.

"That's when I first met Ed," Mary-Alice Waters explained at the New York meeting. "I was the organizer of the Berkeley chapter of the YSA when Ed came to the San Francisco Bay Area on a campaign speaking tour."

Shaw just happened to arrive on the day the Free Speech Movement erupted on the Berkeley campus. This mass student protest was sparked by an attempt to shut down a table set up by the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to raise funds for the struggle against Jim Crow segregation. University officials said CORE was not a recognized campus organization, and ordered the cops to arrest those staffing the table. Thousands of students surrounded the cop car and would not let it move, day or night, for an entire week. These actions received widespread national and international press coverage.

"We canceled most of our previously planned meetings for Ed," Waters said. Instead, YSA members, who were part of the steering committee of the Free Speech Movement, took Shaw to the campus, where the protest organizers invited him to climb on top of the police car and give his speech there. He ended up addressing 2,500 students and expressing his support for the Free Speech Movement.

Waters also read a portion of a message from former Militant editor Doug Jenness. "Ed was really an excellent candidate, one of the best the SWP has ever fielded," Jenness said. "His talks were more like conversations he initiated, referring to a few articles he had read in the big-business press that day. Simply, concretely, and with a good dose of humor, he cut through the press's obfuscation and laid bare the workings of the capitalist system of exploitation and the reasons why the working class can be confident they can overturn this decaying order."

Shaw also worked closely with the members of the Young Socialist Alliance in those early years, Waters said. She recalled that Shaw stayed up all night one time with YSA members to help them finish an issue of the Young Socialist magazine in time for a big protest action against the Vietnam war.

Current Young Socialists leaders Verónica Póses, Brock Satter, and Tami Peterson spoke at the Miami, New York, and San Francisco celebrations respectively.

Leadership transition

Following the 1964 campaign, Shaw accepted the responsibility as organization secretary of the Socialist Workers Party for the next three years, serving alongside the party's national secretary, Farrell Dobbs. "That was Ed's biggest single contribution to the party," Barnes said, because it was crucial to making a transition in leadership to the new generation being won to the communist movement.

"When we look at the kind of disciplined workers party we have today," Barnes said, "we can sometimes forget all the bridges that had to be built to get here. We can forget the time for political experience that had to be allowed in order for young leaders to handle revolutionary responsibility.

"Ed does not deserve more credit than the rest of his generation for making it possible for us to have the kind of party we have today," Barnes said. "He would have been very insistent about that.

"But Ed does deserve a special kind of credit, because he understood that taking on the responsibility as a national officer of the party during those years was a decisive part of ensuring a transition in leadership. It was necessary to build a bridge between the leaders who came out of the labor struggles of the 1930s and those who were going to carry the party forward, shaped by the Cuban revolution, the struggle for Black rights, and the battles that were coming against the Vietnam War and for women rights."

Barnes said that Shaw, like every genuine leader of the workers movement, was never preoccupied with the leadership responsibilities or positions the party asked him to take on. "I don't think Ed cared in the least whether or not he had a particular leadership position one day to the next. I don't think he ever doubted that he would keep on doing what he had been doing as a party cadre, no matter what elected committee he was or was not a member of."

In agreeing to shoulder the responsibilities he took on in the 1960s, Shaw set an important leadership example for the communist movement. "Without such decisions by party cadres who have reached middle age - without their finding a second or third wind, before revolutionary breezes blow - the necessary bridges between generations cannot be built and the political continuity of the communist movement cannot be maintained."

In May 1968 Barnes was elected organization secretary of the party by the SWP National Committee, and three years later national secretary.

That entire leadership transition, beginning with Shaw's decision in 1964, Barnes said, made it possible, among other things, for Dobbs to more and more concentrate his energies on writing the four-volume political record of the class- struggle leadership of the Teamsters strikes and organizing drives in the upper Midwest in the 1930s - Teamster Rebellion, Teamster Power, Teamster Politics, and Teamster Bureaucracy. As the central leader of the Midwest Teamsters during those years, Dobbs was the only politically qualified person on earth who could have written that account as an indispensable guide to coming generations of worker- bolsheviks. Having completed it, Dobbs, before his death in 1983 at the age of 76, was also able to write the first two volumes of his historical and political account, Revolutionary Continuity: Marxist Leadership in the United States.

Above all, Barnes said, without this leadership transition, the party would not have been able to take advantage of the opportunities that began reopening in the 1970s to carry out disciplined communist political work in the most strategic organizations of the working class, the industrial trade unions. Along that course, he said, the SWP has been strengthened politically as a revolutionary proletarian party. There is no other preparation possible for the sharpening class battles that are coming throughout the imperialist countries, as world capitalist disorder increases in the closing years of this century and the opening years of the next.

Party's publishing program

"One of Shaw's lifelong commitments was to advancing the party's program to publish, keep in print, and distribute the basic political works of the communist movement," Barnes said. As organization secretary in the mid-1960s, Shaw helped supervise the assembling of the printing equipment, and the gathering of the initial cadres, to expand the party's publishing program and begin the necessary training to establish a professional print shop.

"Ed had a special love for the Spanish-language publishing program of the party," Barnes noted. "For Ed, the number of books we could first effectively distribute, and then begin to publish, in languages other than English - especially in Spanish, the main language of the Americas, as he never tired of pointing out - was an acid test of the proletarian character of the party."

During much of the 1970s, Shaw shouldered leadership responsibilities for the SWP in the world communist movement as well. As recounted both by Waters and Barnes at the three meetings, Shaw traveled extensively throughout Latin America, collaborating with revolutionaries in many countries. He visited Argentina and Bolivia during the revolutionary upsurges there in the early 1970s. And he was personally involved in efforts to help revolutionists escape imprisonment, torture, and death following the rightist coups in Chile in 1973 and Argentina in 1976.

During these years, Shaw also assisted revolutionists in Spain in their efforts to circulate communist literature among workers and youth during Franco's disintegrating dictatorship, and he spent many weeks in Portugal during the rise of revolutionary struggles in the wake of the collapse of the military regime there in 1974-75.

As he carried out this work, Shaw was always on the lookout for young revolutionists, both inside and outside the borders of the United States, who could be drawn into the efforts to broaden the translation and circulation of communist literature in Spanish. The Spanish-language monthly Perspectiva Mundial, and the modest but expanding numbers of Pathfinder books and pamphlets in Spanish, are a product of these efforts by the SWP leadership.

Shaw moved to Miami in 1977 and became a member of the SWP branch there. After retiring from day-to-day political activity in 1982, he continued to follow the party's press and its work nationally and internationally and to carry out projects proposed by the party leadership.

Sell the books workers need!

The celebrations of Shaw's political contributions helped prepare for the international effort, decided by the SWP National Committee during the weekend of the New York meeting, to expand the sales of revolutionary books and pamphlets to meet growing political opportunities among workers and youth. The plans for this effort are described in the article on the New Year's regional conferences in last week's issue of the Militant.

At the meetings for Shaw in New York and San Francisco, one of the featured speakers was Virginia Garza, one of Shaw's longtime collaborators in the SWP and a volunteer staff member in the early 1960s for Pioneer Publishers, the predecessor of Pathfinder Press.

Pioneer's office at 116 University Place in Manhattan, Garza said, was where she and other volunteers organized "the warehousing, shipping, and receiving of books - all in the same little room. The book supplies were kept in a walk- in closet," she said.

Then as now, Garza added, the only point of the operation was to get the books out of the closet and sell them to the revolutionary-minded workers and young people who needed to read them, study them, and use them as political weapons in advancing the working-class struggle.

Garza held up copies of several of the pamphlets Pioneer produced and distributed in those years. Some of them, she said, were produced in the 1950s and early 1960s by volunteers in Detroit and Chicago, because the communist movement did not at that time have either a print shop or the financial resources to keep up with the political needs of the movement and the openings that were beginning to attract a new layer of youth.

"By 1962," she said, "the need to expand the publishing operation became unpostponable. I remember Ed coming into New York from Detroit around that time and taking part in the plans of how we could change things, so we'd be ready for new political opportunities.

"When I go into the Pathfinder Building in New York today," Garza said, "I am amazed by what has been accomplished since those initial efforts. Communists can't afford not to continue advancing this work," she said.

With that goal in mind, Garza asked participants to make financial contributions to Pathfinder's program to continuing publishing the history of the Cuban revolution and the record of its leadership, building on its publication in early 1996 of Guevara's Episodes of the Cuban Revolutionary War. Altogether, participants contributed $7,133 toward this effort at the three meetings.

Emulate Shaw's example

"Ed was a generalist - I think that's what doctors call them - as opposed to a specialist," Barnes said in closing his remarks at the New York meeting.

"He believed above all in the rounded capacities that workers can develop to put together an organization of their own to advance the revolutionary transformation of society and of themselves - which is the most important thing denied to workers under capitalism.

"The best way to celebrate Ed Shaw's life," the SWP national secretary concluded, "is by emulating his example."  
 



https://themilitant.com/1996/604/604_17.html