Friday, June 9, 2017

Reactionary terror does not equal resistance

This is the crucial point, and I've never seen it more clearly formulated:

....In a May 29 interview on Legacy Radio, Clifford took up Corbyn’s claim that the growth of Islamic State and its terror attacks are a blow-back from London’s participation in the Washington-led Middle East and Afghanistan wars.

Reactionary terror isn’t an understandable response by the toilers to imperialist aggression. The Algerian people faced tremendous brutality at the hands of French colonialism, but they didn’t respond in a reactionary anti-working-class IS-style way, Clifford said. “They organized a powerful revolutionary struggle and established a workers and farmers government.”

And in Cuba, Fidel Castro and the July 26 Movement led workers and farmers to overthrow the U.S.-backed Fulgencio Batista dictatorship. They have defended their socialist revolution for over 50 years, setting an example for workers everywhere.

Working people in the Middle East don’t need U.N.-imposed “stability,” as Corbyn has argued, Clifford said. They need time and space, free of foreign intervention, to find the way to fight for political power. “The Communist League calls for U.K., U.S. and all foreign troops out.” 

The Militant - June 19, 2017 -- Communist League campaign in UK fights attacks on workers’ rights

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Bourgeois liberals' war on workers

‘Deplorable’ workers are true target of liberals’ fury



It is tens of millions of workers in the United States, not President Donald Trump, who are the target of today’s relentless liberal press hysteria and efforts by Democratic Party politicians to invalidate the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Middle class radicals are cheering in the stands.

These liberal-inspired assaults reached a new crescendo following Trump’s dismissal of FBI Director James Comey in early May.

What’s fueling this frenzied crusade? Why can’t the big business media, liberal Democratic Party figures, and even growing numbers of Republican politicians and mouthpieces reconcile themselves to Trump’s election?

The answer is that it’s neither Donald Trump, nor “a Trump presidency,” that sticks in their craw. What these ruling-class voices find irreconcilable are the millions of working people who voted for Trump. As Washington Post columnist Charles Lane complained May 4, “There hasn’t been nearly enough blaming of the people most responsible for [Trump’s] rise: his voters.”

The target isn’t simply working people who are victims of capitalism’s spreading carnage. The target is those (whatever their skin color or mother tongue) determined to find some way to say “no” to the never-ending assaults and indignities inflicted by the propertied ruling families on workers and farmers today.

These workers are drawn to the prospect of “draining the swamp” — cleaning out the growing federal bureaucracy of those who’ve found themselves a comfortable berth, as they contrive new ways to “nudge” and “regulate” us.

That’s why Trump won the 2016 election.

That’s shown, among other things, by the fact that in states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wisconsin, Iowa and others, Trump won the votes of workers — most of them Caucasian — who had cast ballots for Obama in more than 200 U.S. counties in 2008 and 2012. These workers were looking for a change from government as usual, from capitalism’s mounting blows over the prior eight years and more (as were many workers who just stayed home on election day).

But Trump is a billionaire capitalist politician. Like those who came before him, he aims to serve the needs of the U.S. rulers abroad (arguably doing better so far than his two predecessors in advancing imperialism’s class interests), and at home (still very much a work in progress, from the standpoint of both exploiters’ parties).

Capitalists fear working people 
The capitalists’ fear of working people didn’t begin in 2016. It’s been growing as the capitalist crisis deepens, and as more and more workers are open to the necessity of deep-going change. This includes growing openness by working people to explanations and proposals of Socialist Workers Party members who knock on their doors campaigning for communism, who fight alongside them at work and on picket lines, or who join them in protests against cop brutality or for a woman’s right to choose abortion.

Increasing numbers of workers are beginning to sense there is nothing the bosses can do to respond to the stagnation of capitalist production and trade apart from taking more of it out on us. A broad social crisis is unfolding, as a significant section of the working class has been pushed out of the workforce and working people confront deteriorating access to health care, an epidemic of drug addiction, and, for the first time in decades, falling life expectancy.

That’s why Democratic and Republican politicians alike are taking steps to curtail the political rights working people use, and will need to use more in months and years ahead. The rulers are disenfranchising more and more workers by strengthening and expanding the bureaucratic and “regulatory” apparatuses of the capitalist government and state.

From the outset of Barack Obama’s primary bid in 2007, he and his Democratic administration demonstrated the same anti-working-class attitudes that led Hillary Clinton last year to demean those planning to vote for Trump, not for her, as “deplorables.” They are “offensive, hateful, and mean-spirited,” Clinton said.

What’s more, those on Obama’s own “deplorables” list aren’t just Caucasian workers who, as he said in 2008, “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them.” In his sights are also millions of workers who are Black. African-Americans, Obama said that same year, need to “replace the video game or the remote control with a book once in a while.” And they should stop feeding their children “cold Popeyes” for breakfast. (See box.)

Both parties of the employing class are in the midst of crises and makeovers. Neither will ever be the same as they were prior to the 2016 elections.

More workers sense the accuracy of a political cartoon run during the election campaign. It depicted two neighbors with signs on their lawns reading, “He’s worse” and “She’s worse.”

Even if liberals now were somehow able to get Trump impeached, as the Washington Post recently acknowledged, there is no reason Trump supporters “would suddenly be satisfied again with the old Republican and Democratic parties.”

Saint Mueller 
On May 16, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed former FBI Director Robert Mueller as special prosecutor, tasked with investigating alleged ties between Trump’s 2016 election campaign and Moscow. “My decision is not a finding that crimes have been committed or that any prosecution is warranted,” Rosenstein said.

The liberal press and top figures in both capitalist parties responded with fawning tribute to Mueller, practically elevating him to sainthood. But this former U.S. top cop built his reputation working for the capitalist ruling families to make their federal police agency more effective and virulent in spying and disruption.

The campaign against Trump has relied on classic frame-up techniques, slapping together lurid allegations and innuendos, in hopes some will stick.

Workers, including those targeted by the bosses for union or political activity, are all too familiar with this kind of witch-hunting. Vanguard working-class fighters, including members and leaders of the Socialist Workers Party, have been railroaded to prison, beaten up, or threatened with deportation when such inquisitions pick up speed.

All this is reinforced by endless lewd and vulgar “comedy” on late-night talk shows slurring Trump, including demeaning, anti-women comments about his daughter Ivanka and wife Melania. Morning “news” shows pick right up where the foul-mouthed “comics” left off.

Disenfranchising working class 
Political servants of the U.S. propertied families — especially the liberal think tank, university, foundation, nongovernment organizations and other middle-class and professional meritocrats who buttress bourgeois rule — are finding more ways for the government to dilute workers’ use of the franchise.

There is no better example right now than the U.S. rulers’ new special prosecutor.

In Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein’s memo on Comey’s conduct, Rosenstein recounts how the former FBI director baldly usurped the authority of the Justice Department and refused to acknowledge it.

“At most,” Rosenstein says, Comey “should have said the FBI had completed its investigation and presented its findings. … The Director now defends his decision by asserting that he believed Attorney General Loretta Lynch had a conflict. But the FBI Director is never empowered to supplant federal prosecutors and assume command of the Justice Department.”

Republicans had urged Lynch to step aside from the investigation, after former President Bill Clinton flagrantly maneuvered to compromise her by walking onto her plane as it waited on the tarmac at Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International Airport in June 2016. Rather than telling Clinton to take a hike, Lynch proceeded to talk for 30 minutes with the husband of a candidate under investigation by the “Justice Department” that she herself was in charge of.

The working class has no stake in who heads up the cop agencies and other government bodies that serve the interests of the capitalist class. These are their tools to defend the rule of the propertied ruling families. But workers have plenty of experience with FBI frame-ups and disruption of struggles against exploitation, racism and imperialist war.

In his investigation into the Trump campaign, former FBI head Mueller has the power to compel witnesses to testify, and to impanel a grand jury, which meets behind closed doors interrogating individuals with no right to counsel alongside them. He won’t be responsible to any elected body.

Nothing new 
Liberals have always been the first to move against workers’ rights, and then, when the employing class finds it necessary, capitalist rulers turn to the thugs of the ultra-right to carry their assault on workers to the end.

The McCarthyite witch-hunt in the 1950s was set up under the administration of Democrat Harry Truman.

It was the Democratic administration of Franklin Delano Roosevelt that initiated the FBI’s assault on class-struggle-minded union militants and opponents of Washington’s entry into the Second World War, leading to the frame-up and imprisonment of 18 leaders of the Socialist Workers Party and the Midwest Teamsters union under the notorious Smith “Gag” act.

Today the middle-class left and liberal groups increasingly blame workers — most of whom they consider ignorant, racist, xenophobic, and dangerous — for derailing what they consider “progressive politics.”

Many are circulating posters and bumper stickers saying “Impeach Trump,” while some furtively post flyers reading “Kill Trump.” Many celebrate the breaking up of meetings in Berkeley, California, and Middlebury, Vermont, closing down political space so necessary for workers and workers’ organizations to organize and act under conditions of capitalist rule.

And when a witch-hunt against working people opens up in bourgeois politics, it rapidly bumps into the communist vanguard.

It is the two Democrats on the Federal Election Commission, for example, who dealt a blow to workers’ rights when they defeated the extension of the Socialist Workers Party’s exemption from campaign disclosure laws last month.

That action by these liberal federal “regulators” gave a freer hand to government and right-wing spying and harassment of the SWP and other workers’ organization

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Affordable Care Act and Medicaid

....The Trump administration’s bill, like Obamacare, is not based on providing health care for all who need it, but pressuring more people to purchase health insurance, with rising premiums and deductibles for plans that offer less and less coverage. All these moves aim to maximize the superprofits of insurance, hospital and pharmaceutical companies....

Attack on Medicaid entitlement

Trump’s health care proposals included steep cuts to Medicaid, enacted as an entitlement program in 1965, a result of the massive Black-led proletarian struggle that eliminated Jim Crow segregation. It provides medical care for workers with the lowest incomes and the disabled. It currently covers more than 70 million people.

During the election campaign Trump promised not to cut Medicaid, but his administration’s final proposal involves the biggest structural alterations to the program since it was created. Block grants would replace federal matching funds. States for the first time could impose work requirements, drug tests, or place a cap on the number of years a person could be covered by Medicaid.

Some of these proposed attacks were the result of demands made on Trump by members of the House Freedom Caucus, a group of some 35 conservative House members, many elected pledged to the Tea Party.

More importantly, a number of Republicans felt pressured to oppose the attacks on Medicaid in the bill, at a time when the carnage being visited on working people by the crisis of capitalism is deepening. Medicaid covers health care for one in five people in the U.S., including four of 10 children, nearly half of all births, and the cost of care for two-thirds of people in nursing homes.

Medicaid is widespread and popular. Two-thirds of everyone in the country — over 215 million people — either are covered by the program or have family or friends who are.

“I was not willing to gamble with the care of my constituents,” Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from New Jersey said, reflecting fear of the political price he would pay if he voted for the bill.

Many Republicans opposed the bill because they said its cuts would deepen the opioid epidemic ravaging their districts.

Workers are facing rising “deaths of despair” from deteriorating health care compounded by the unavailability of full-time work, a report issued March 23, by two Princeton University economists says. The study describes rising mortality of Caucasian men and women ages 45 through 54, from suicides, drug overdoses and alcohol-related deaths. In 2015 overuse of opioids killed more than 30,000 people in the U.S. 

Full article:

Saturday, April 29, 2017

Which class rules: communist response to climate change hysteria

Petty bourgeois political hopelessness in the face of capitalist crisis, carnage, and supposed "passivity" of the working class is seen (deflected and distorted) in the lurid, hysterical tenor of any discussion of man-made climate change in the bourgeois press and its middle class offshoots.

A communist perspective has a different tone entirely, and that is all to the good.



Working class must lead fight to defend 
environment, labor

Thousands will join the March for Climate, Jobs and Justice in Washington, D.C., April 29, seeking to protest the increasing perils to life and limb, pollution of the soil, water and skies.

How the destruction of the environment is a consequence of the rule of the capitalist class and the governments that serve them — Democratic and Republican alike — is addressed in this excerpt from “The Stewardship of Nature Also Falls to the Working Class: In Defense of Land and Labor.” The statement was adopted by the July 2007 convention of the Socialist Workers Party and printed in New International no. 14. It explains how the fight to prevent the profit-driven rulers’ destruction of the environment is bound up with the fight by working people for political power.

An excerpt from the book is printed below. Copyright © 2008 by New International. Reprinted by permission.

How social labor is organized to transform nature — to whose benefit, to what social and economic ends — depends on the class relations of production. It depends on which class rules, which class holds state power. A 1993 talk by Jack Barnes published in Capitalism’s World Disorder addressed this fundamental point. “Environmental pollution is a social question, a class question,” Barnes observed.

Workers must not fall into accepting the common view—that is, the bourgeois view — that the environment …is a “scientific” question, a “natural” question, that somehow hovers above classes and outside the class struggle. That is how many middle-class opponents of nuclear energy, and of nuclear weapons, for example, often present those questions. Many who call themselves environmentalists say the problem is “consumerism,” or industrial development per se. But the workers movement has to explain the source of ecological destruction and why the answer lies along the revolutionary line of march of the working class….

The working class must also reject all forms of fake science, exaggerations, catastrophism, and crankism. There is a decades-long record of such frenzied prophecies — the impending exhaustion of fossil fuels and other natural resources, the “limits to growth,” and so on. These originate in sections of the bourgeoisie and are then picked up and propagated by petty-bourgeois reformers. They feed into the conspiracy nostrums that are floated in the working class and labor movement, taking workers’ eyes off the true source of such social ills: the capitalists and their profit system….

[I]f we translate everything commonly thought of as an environmental issue into how to advance the protection of the working class, and how the working class can extend that protection to all, then we can hardly ever go wrong. With that approach, we will increase the possibilities for concrete solidarity in fighting against ecological abuses and outrages.

The labor movement should expose the differential effects of pollution on the working class, including the even more devastating consequences for sections of the working class that are the poorest and most vulnerable, as well as those that are Black, Latino, or foreign born…. The workers movement must take the lead in actively exposing the destruction and dangers produced by capitalism and in organizing opposition to them.

This communist course, Barnes concludes, enables us to explain how “the sources of all wealth — land and labor — are increasingly the victims of the domination of capital. And, most importantly, why the working-class-led struggle for a socialist revolution opens a way forward on this front as well.”

As Cuban Gen. Armando Choy concludes in Our History Is Still Being Written, “Yes, a better world is possible. But only with a socialist revolution.”

In the mid-nineteenth century some 85 percent of energy for human use was produced by burning wood, charcoal, and crop residue. Today some 85 percent of energy supplies comes from fossil fuels — primarily coal, oil, and natural gas. The production and use of these resources in pursuit of profits has always been detrimental not only to the health of the workers involved but simultaneously to the natural environment in which we live and labor.

A transition to other energy sources can and will be neither smooth nor rapid. The dog-eat-dog laws of rival capitals ensure that every “energy policy” implemented by corporations and bourgeois governments will serve the interests of maintaining capitalist rule — not the economic, social, and cultural needs of the earth’s population, nor the health and safety of the workers involved. Communists oppose anti-working-class “solutions” promoted by big business and various bourgeois and petty-bourgeois reformers. We expose and counter their reactionary notion, for instance, that “too large” a population of toilers — as well as too much consumption and too high living standards for many of them — is a threat to a “livable” world.

The capitalist rulers warn workers and farmers throughout the semicolonial world that they must forego the level of economic development and living standards existing in the imperialist countries — development achieved in no small part by superexploiting the toilers and plundering the resources of these very same oppressed peoples. “The ecological consequences are unsustainable!” impatient toilers are scolded. This is another of finance capital’s smokescreens masking the reasons for the widening gap in economic, social, and cultural conditions between earth’s great toiling majority, on the one hand, and, on the other, the bourgeoisie and professional middle classes in the imperialist centers and in the more economically advanced semicolonial countries.

In the United States and other imperialist countries, politicians and other bourgeois voices tell working people “we” must tighten “our” belts in order to stem environmental destruction. They tell us “we” must accept higher prices for fuel and other necessities, including regressive “carbon taxes” on gasoline, home heating oil, and commercial travel. “We” must recycle, turn off the lights, lower the thermostat, go without air conditioning, ride a bike, change our showerhead, join a carpool, flush the toilet less, plant a tree.

But there is no “we” that embraces both working people and those who grow wealthy off the exploitation of our labor: the ruling families and their rentier tagalongs among the middle class and professionals. Such “solutions” not only inaccurately place the blame on individuals and families and promote the sale of “green” and “organic” products and services at premium prices. Above all, they are part of the drive by the capitalist rulers to boost their profit rates at the expense of the working conditions, wages, living conditions, trade union solidarity, and genuine social security of workers and farmers, all of which have been under relentless assault since the mid-1970s.  


Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Working class "passivity"

" Wiseacres of the day spoke pontifically about the “passivity” of the working class, never understanding that the seeming docility of the workers at a given time is a relative thing. If workers are more or less holding their own in daily life and expecting that they can get ahead slowly, they won’t tend to radicalize. Things are different when they are losing ground and the future looks precarious to them. Then a change begins to occur in their attitude, which is not always immediately apparent. The tinder of discontent begins to pile up. Any spark can light it, and once lit, the fire can spread rapidly....."

Full article here:

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

On French elections

Comment by a comrade on Facebook:

There was no one to vote for in the first round, and there will be nobody to vote for in the second round! Lots will get sucked into "voting against Le Pen." But it's either a working class vote (and there's no genuine workers candidate in any sense of the term), or a vote for capitalism. It's not who you're against, it's what you're for. If Macron wins, it will be Le Pen next time, since there are no capitalist solutions.

And a note:

Unlike Trump, Le Pen has fascist credentials, although she's been moving her party to the center-right. But fascism is not merely an electoral party, it's a mass movement of the middle classes, using lumpen elements as it's battering ram, against the trade unions and workers parties. It's a movement for saving capitalism masked in anti-capitalist rhetoric.

In relationship to the government, fascism conquers peacefully, but in relationship to the working class, Jews and other scapegoated elements it uses intense violence before it comes to power. We're not seeing anything like this in France today.

The working-class fight for the environment and jobs

Saturday, April 22, 2017

"Let the Korean people alone!"

SWP in 1950: ‘Stop US Korea War! 
US troops out now!’

Below are excerpts from three letters protesting the Korean War by James P. Cannon, then national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, that were featured in the Militant in 1950-51. The letters, written to President Harry Truman and Congress, are from Cannon’s Notebook of an Agitator. The 1950-1953 U.S.-organized, imperialist war against the Korean people took the lives of over 4 million people including 2 million civilians. Copyright © 1958 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.


THE MILITANT, July 31, 1950

To the President and Members of the Congress:


I disagree with your actions in Korea, and in my capacity as a private citizen I petition you to change your policy fundamentally, as follows:

Withdraw the American troops and let the Korean people alone.

I am setting forth the reasons for this demand in detail in the following paragraphs. But before opening the argument, I beg your permission, gentlemen, to tell you what I think of you. You are a pack of scoundrels. You are traitors to the human race. I hate your rudeness and your brutality. You make me ashamed of my country, which I have always loved, and ashamed of my race, which I used to think was as good as any.

The American intervention in Korea is a brutal imperialist invasion, no different from the French war on Indo-China or the Dutch assault on Indonesia. American boys are being sent 10,000 miles away to kill and be killed, not in order to liberate the Korean people, but to conquer and subjugate them. It is outrageous. It is monstrous.

The whole of the Korean people — save for the few bought-and-paid-for agents of the Rhee puppet regime — are fighting the imperialist invaders. That is why the press dispatches from Korea complain more and more about “infiltration” tactics, increasing activities of “guerrillas,” the “fluid” fighting front, the “sullenness” and “unreliability” of the “natives.”

The Korean people have a mortal hatred of the Wall Street “liberator.” They despise unto death the bestial, corrupt, U.S.-sponsored Syngman Rhee dictatorship that made South Korea a prison camp of misery, torture and exploitation.

The high morale and fearlessness of the North Koreans and the hostility of the South Koreans toward their U.S. “liberators” alike testify to the unity of the entire Korean people in this unflinching opposition to imperialistic domination.

The explosion in Korea on June 25, as events have proved, expressed the profound desire of the Koreans themselves to unify their country, to rid themselves of foreign domination and to win their complete national independence. It is true that the Kremlin seeks to take advantage of this struggle for its own reactionary ends and would sell it tomorrow if it could get another deal with Washington. But the struggle itself has the overwhelming and wholehearted support of the Korean people. It is part of the mighty uprising of the hundreds of millions of colonial people throughout Asia against western imperialism. This is the real truth, the real issue. The colonial slaves don’t want to be slaves any longer.

This is more than a fight for unification and national liberation. It is a civil war. On the one side are the Korean workers, peasants and student youth. On the other are the Korean landlords, usurers, capitalists and their police and political agents. The impoverished and exploited working masses have risen up to drive out the native parasites as well as their foreign protectors.

Whatever the wishes of the Kremlin, a class war has been unfolding in Korea. The North Korean regime, desiring to mobilize popular support, has decreed land reforms and taken nationalization measures in the territories it has won. The establishment of people’s committees has been reported. These reforms, these promises of a better economic and social order have attracted the peasants and workers. This prospect of a new life is what has imbued a starving subject people with the will to fight to the death. This is the “secret weapon” that has wrested two-thirds of South Korea from U.S. imperialism and its native agents and withstood the troops and bombing fleets of mighty Wall Street.

American imperialism was quite willing to turn northern Korea over to Stalin in return for control over South Korea, which it ruled through the bloody dictatorship of Syngman Rhee. Now Washington is seeking, against the resistance of the Korean people, to reimpose its imperialist puppet rule, to enforce the division of Korea and to maintain it as a colony and military base for future war on the Soviet Union.

There is not an iota of concern for the wishes and rights of the Korean people in this brutal invasion. The attempt to prop up the Syngman Rhee regime by armed force is part of Wall Street’s planned program to dominate and exploit the whole world. Your undeclared war on Korea, Mr. President, is a war of enslavement. That is how the Korean people themselves view it — and no one knows the facts better than they do. They’ve suffered imperialist domination and degradation for half a century and they can recognize its face even when masked with a UN flag. …

THE MILITANT, December 4, 1950

Once more, as at the start of your Korean intervention, I take this means to tell you what I believe is the heartfelt sentiment of the overwhelming majority of humanity, including the American people, today:

Stop your criminal aggression against the Asian people.

Your reckless military adventure in Korea has brought this country into a clash with the 500 millions of China and threatens an “entirely new war” that will engulf millions more of our youth and drain our last resources.

You have permitted MacArthur, with his mad ambition to be the conqueror of all Asia, to deliberately provoke a situation that could mean war on a titanic scale. Now he has turned for a “solution” to the “United Nations and chancelleries of the world.”

But that is precisely where this grave crisis of humankind has been forged — in the UN and the chancelleries. Can we then entrust the further fate of the world to pin-striped diplomats?

Your proposed solution, Mr. President, is a threat to repeat the atrocities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by using the atom bomb in Korea.

Take heed, Mr. President, before it is too late! Hear the voice of the people of America and the whole world. They are thundering: Stop the war NOW! Recall your madly ambitious MacArthur! Withdraw the troops from Korea! Let the peoples of Asia alone to settle their own fate!

Who wants this war?

Not the Koreans, whose cities, towns and villages have been reduced by your bombs to charred rubble, and who mourn hundreds of thousands of the slain.

Not the Chinese people, whose dead in the struggle against imperialism and Chiang Kai-shek’s despotism number tens of millions. Not the peoples of Europe, whose fears are reflected today in the warnings to you by their governments. …

THE MILITANT, May 7, 1951

My purpose in addressing you for the third time since the Korean war began is to present three concrete proposals on foreign policy as an alternative to the policies of the Truman administration on the one hand and MacArthur-Taft on the other.

Your differences are merely tactical. My differences with both sides in your so-called “Great Debate” are fundamental. You are preoccupied with the problem of how to conduct a war the American people do not want and never approved. I propose to end the war at once and let the American people themselves decide the life and death questions of foreign policy.

I submit the following three proposals: (1) Withdraw all American troops from Korea. (2) Recognize the Peking government. (3) Let the people vote by referendum on the issue of war and peace.

I have opposed your Korean war from the start. Twice before in open letters I urged you to heed the peoples’ will to stop the war and bring the American soldiers home. American troops have no business in Korea. They are being slaughtered by the tens of thousands for no good purpose. Every day they remain swells the casualties list and inflicts more grief upon parents, wives and children. Every day they remain intensifies the hatred of the Asian people for all things American. Again I urge you: Withdraw the U.S. troops from Korea.

The way to peace in Asia is neither to wage a “limited war,” as you are now doing, nor to expand it by bombing Chinese cities and killing the civilian population. The way to peace in Asia is to get out of Asia and let the peoples of Asia run their own affairs. 
Related articles:
Socialist Workers Party: ‘US hands off Korea!’
All US troops, warships, fighter bombers out now!
US armada heads to Korea, Washington threatens to act
US THAAD anti-missile battery out of Korea!
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home 

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Lenin, Fidel and the role of the individual in history


....As all the great revolutionary leaders of the working class have taught us — from Marx and Engels, to Lenin and Fidel — no one becomes a Marxist without being a student of science and history. Not history as it is taught in the academies — an incomprehensible catalog of names, dates, events, and above all rationalizations for the "existing fact" of capitalist social relations.

What I'm talking about is living history, in which we — working people — are the protagonists. "The existing class struggle," "the historical movement going on under our very eyes," to use the words of the Communist Manifesto. And always from the point of view of a person who automatically asks Was tun?

"And what is to be done?"

It is in that spirit that Isabel and the compañeros of Ciencias Sociales invited me to participate today. Pathfinder Press, where part of my activity is centered, has published dozens of books on the Bolshevik Revolution and its ongoing continuity. Some of them are available on the table at the side of the room.

And, as the pamphlet you all received a copy of explains, Pathfinder itself Was Born with the October Revolution.

Two great socialist revolutions

Last November, in the hours following the death of Fidel, Jack Barnes, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party in the United States, sent a message on behalf of the party to compañero Raúl. I want to begin by quoting from that letter, which states with clarity the theme of my remarks today: "Lenin, Fidel and the Role of the Individual in History." You each received a copy of this message as well.

Dear Compañero Raúl,

There were two great socialist revolutions in the twentieth century, one in Russia, the other in Cuba. Neither was the product of a single individual. Both were the result of the operations of capitalism itself. But without the presence and political leadership of Vladimir Lenin and of Fidel Castro Ruz at decisive moments in those historic battles by working people, there is no reason to believe either revolution would have been victorious.

Apart from Lenin and Fidel, the history of the twentieth century — and the twenty-first — is unthinkable. Both of them, Marxist students of science and history, gave their lives to uprooting the dog-eat-dog exploitation, oppression, and compulsion on which the capitalist world order depends and replacing it with a workers state, with new social and economic relations based on the liberating capacities of working people and the youth they inspire….

[Fidel's] highest achievement was forging in struggle a revolutionary cadre, a communist cadre, capable of leading the workers and farmers of Cuba to establish the first free territory of the Americas and successfully defend it for more than five and a half decades against the determination to destroy it by the mightiest and most brutal empire the world has known….

His life work, Cuba's socialist revolution — its example, and above all its ongoing march — stand as his monument. He needs no other.

A tribute to Lenin and Fidel

Our discussion here today is as much part of the Havana International Book Fair's tribute to Fidel — and his political leadership of the Cuban Revolution — as it is to Lenin and the 100th anniversary of October. No other events did more to change the course of history in our epoch and open the road forward for all humanity. And, as the message to Raúl says, it is likely that neither revolution would have succeeded without the presence and leadership of Lenin and Fidel at decisive turning points.

Debate among revolutionists over the reciprocal action of objective and subjective factors in the historical process is not new, of course. It goes back to the foundations of Marxism. Georgi Plekhanov's classic 1898 essay on The Role of the Individual in History — a polemic against the Narodnik current in Tsarist Russia, which exalted the lone hero as an autonomous creator of history — was one sided and mechanical. But it influenced the generation being won to Marxism in the years before the betrayal of the leadership of the Second International in face of the first interimperialist slaughter.

Would the October Revolution have succeeded without both the presence and the political leadership of Lenin at decisive moments in 1917? Could another revolutionary leader, or a combination of them, have assumed Lenin's place?

Leon Trotsky, whose standing in the leadership of the Bolshevik Revolution was second only to Lenin's, wrote about this question more than once in the years after Lenin's death. As those of you here today are well aware, Trotsky was the organizer of the insurrection and then of the Red Army that successfully defended the young Soviet republic from the combined forces of domestic and international reaction — from London and Paris, to Tokyo and Washington, to the so-called White armies of Russia's defeated landlords, capitalists, and monarchists.

And for those who come from a different political past than I do, I'll add that despite Trotsky's differences with Lenin's unwavering course that made possible the toilers' victory, after Trotsky unreservedly joined Lenin in rejecting conciliation with the Mensheviks and other class collaborationists in mid-1917, "from that time on" — in Lenin's words — "there has been no better Bolshevik."

From April to October and beyond

In his History of the Russian Revolution — in the chapter "Who Led the February Insurrection?" — Trotsky answered that question as follows: it was led by "conscious and tempered workers educated for the most part by the party of Lenin." Lenin's leadership was thus crucial not only after the February Revolution but in the years leading up to it, years during which Lenin was in exile.

Lenin's leadership took on a decisive and irreplaceable character, however, from his post-February political reorientation of the Bolshevik leadership — boldly presented in the "April Theses" — through the October insurrection and beyond. No one else could have taken Lenin's place, and he could not have led the working class to victory from afar.

There are moments in politics when timing — and unflinching determination — is everything. Fidel's clarion call to action in 1956, announcing to the world that before year's end the men of the Granma expedition "will be free or we will be martyrs," is such an example.

Lenin's presence on the front lines of the revolutionary struggle — sheltered by workers in the proletarian districts of Petrograd — was necessary to the success of the proletarian revolution. As was Fidel's leadership in the Sierras, protected by peasants and rural toilers among whom the Rebel Army began laying the foundations of the new social order.

And Lenin's political leadership of the Bolshevik party at critical moments was equally irreplaceable. The Bolshevik party led the workers and peasants to victory. But it was Lenin who led the leaders of the revolution. It was Lenin who stabilized the party and won the fainthearts in the Bolshevik leadership through the waverings of March and April, to the perilous July days, and beyond. It was Lenin who insisted on publicly announcing the date of the insurrection, without which it would have likely failed.

The political authority Lenin had earned among the cadres through years of revolutionary struggle was equal to none.

Chance played a role too. We can ask ourselves, what might have been the course of history had the German high command, for its own reasons, not allowed Lenin to travel by train through German lines to Sweden, and then on to Petersburg in April 1917? Or if Lenin had been mortally wounded by his would-be assassin in August 1918? Or felled by a stroke such as those that ended his political life a few years later?

Writing from exile in 1935, Trotsky's conclusion was unambiguous: "For the sake of clarity I would put it this way. Had I not been present in 1917 in Petersburg, the October Revolution would still have taken place — on the condition that Lenin was present and in command. If neither Lenin nor I had been present in Petersburg, there would have been no October Revolution: the leadership of the Bolshevik party would have prevented it from occurring."

From Moncada to 1959 and beyond

Returning to the Cuban Revolution, the parallels are inescapable. The historical conditions that gave rise to the Batista coup, the Centenary Generation, and the revolutionary struggle for power led by Fidel had been gestating for years. Objective conditions were more than ripe.

But without Fidel's leadership, would the bold call to action — the assault on the Moncada Garrison — have been organized? Would the Granma landing and the November 30 uprising in Santiago have occurred?

If by chance Fidel had been killed in any of these events, or struck down in combat during the revolutionary war, had he been felled by the traitor resting next to him in the Sierras — would the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army have defeated the offensive of Batista's 10,000 troops? Would they have won the political authority to displace the scheming bourgeois opposition leaders with their Miami Pacts and other conciliationist maneuvers?

Would the Cuban people have achieved the unprecedented feats of holding the imperialist empire to the north at bay for decades, defeating the army of the South African apartheid regime, and leading the epic battle of the Special Period to victory?

Without Fidel's steady moral, political and military leadership of the leadership — over more than 60 years — would Cuba's socialist revolution, despite all historical odds, still be on course today?

No one can prove a negative. But as historical materialists, we have to say that all evidence makes it unlikely.

A proletarian line of march

Fidel's leadership, like Lenin's, was proletarian leadership. Fidel spoke less frequently in class terms, but the class line of march was the same. As Raúl reminded us, Fidel led a revolution "of the humble, by the humble and for the humble."

Like Lenin and Che, he believed in the capacity of ordinary human beings to accomplish what others believed to be impossible, and, above all, to transform themselves in the process.

"Our revolution started from scratch, from nothing," Fidel said in 1987. "We did not have a single weapon; we did not have a penny, even the men who started the struggle were unknown, and yet …we confronted the thousands of soldiers, and the revolution triumphed because we believed in man."

The revolutionary war had one and only one objective: to take power as quickly as possible, with the least possible cost in human lives. "With a minimum of weapons and a maximum of moral values," to cite a Radio Rebelde broadcast from the Sierras in August 1958.

"Politics begin where millions of men and women are," Lenin told the Extraordinary Congress of the Russian Communist Party in March 1918, "where there are not thousands, but millions, that is where serious politics begin."

That is what guided the Bolsheviks during the tumultuous years of the Russian Revolution and its early struggle for survival.

It is what guided and continues to guide the Cuban leadership to this day.

Imperialism lost Cold War

Some twenty-five years ago, shortly after the collapse of the "meringue," to use Fidel's term, the Socialist Workers Party adopted a resolution entitled "US Imperialism Has Lost the Cold War." (It is published in the magazine of Marxist politics and theory, New International, and is available on the table over there.) At the time, there was hardly a soul on the planet who didn't think we were delusional. Including here in Cuba, where you were living through the darkest days of the Special Period.

Today, perhaps, we aren't so alone in holding to that view.

The "Cold War" was never about bringing down a bureaucratic caste in the Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies. For the imperialist rulers, it was always about trying in vain to hold off the inevitable acceleration and sharpening of the class struggle on both sides of what they called "the Iron Curtain." It was about trying to convince working people on both sides that they were enemies of each other — not allies — in order to divide, weaken, and conquer.

The meringue fell first, but today it is the European Union, NATO, and other institutions of imperialist rule that are cracking. All the unresolved contradictions of the last century are reemerging with explosive force. And the privileged classes everywhere are scrambling to try to find ways to protect their interests from the humble majority, those who Hillary Clinton during her presidential election campaign scornfully labeled "the deplorables."

The exploiters scramble to find ways to deny their fear.

On the 100th anniversary of the great October Revolution, there are those who say the occasion should be commemorated with angry denunciations and shouts of "Never Again!"

For our part, we can affirm with confidence, as Fidel did in his words to the closing session of the Cuban Communist Party congress last April, that it will not be another century before "another event like the Russian Revolution occurs, in order that humanity have another example of a magnificent social revolution that marked a huge step in the struggle against colonialism and its inseparable companion, imperialism."

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Capitalist carnage

Below are the remarks by Mary-Alice Waters at a Feb. 10 presentation of three new books on the U.S. class struggle at the Havana International Book Fair (see accompanying article). Waters is a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and president of Pathfinder Press. Copyright © 2017 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

....In his inaugural address three weeks ago, President Trump used the phrase “this American carnage” to describe the conditions of life faced by broad layers of US working people today, both rural and urban. That word — carnage — was singled out by the hysterical anti-Trump media as an example of the president’s twisted refusal to acknowledge what those who’ve benefited so greatly from the “Obama years” portray as an economic recovery.

It was a “dark” speech, these commentators said. It failed to recognize that “America Is Already Great,” echoing the imperialist sloganeering of Hillary Clinton’s liberal Democratic Party campaign.

But carnage it is.

That’s exactly the right word. It’s the word you’ll find in the pages of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record, published months before the changing of the guard in Washington.

Its accuracy is backed up by massive documentation in the pages of these three books. Each of them recounts the consequences for US working people of the social policies put in place, with bipartisan support, over the quarter century ago since the inauguration of Bill Clinton, policies supported and continued by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

You’ll find here the machinations used to conceal the true level of joblessness, as well as workers’ declining real wages.

You’ll find the consequences of slashing social welfare programs for women and children.

You’ll find facts on the soaring prison population, the record numbers of deportations and prosecutions of immigrants, and the large increase in federal crimes for which a judge can impose the death penalty.

You’ll find the growing suicide rate among young adults, and the epidemic of narcotics addiction in small cities, towns, and devastated farming and mining areas.

You’ll find the toll on the working class of Washington’s endless wars and its repeated deployments of workers and farmers to Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And much more.

More important than charts and statistics, however, is the visual evidence available to anyone willing to look as they drive across vast areas of the United States. I hope Fernando will speak about what he saw, with his own eyes, when the US Bureau of Prisons gave him the “opportunity” to drive through the rural Southwest in a prison bus transporting him to Safford, Arizona.

Growing class inequalities

It’s not only the social inequities that have accelerated in the last quarter century. It’s the class inequalities.

It’s not just the wealth of the multibillionaires, including Trump and family, or multi-multimillionaires like their rival Democratic Party family, the Clintons. It’s also the steady expansion of high-earning professional and upper middle-class layers who dominate the media and populate the universities, administrative and “intelligence” agencies of the federal government, “Silicon Valley,” and tens of thousands of “charitable” foundations and other “nonprofit” institutions that promote worldwide the capitalist and imperialist interests of their financial backers.

Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? — one of two books by Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party — that we’re presenting here today, deals with the growing significance of this social layer.

In these privileged circles, it’s common to hear someone remark that they can’t understand how Trump won the election — “I don’t know a single person who intended to vote for him.”

This class isolation was captured by a Washington Post columnist a few months ago who was voicing his fear of the rising anger of millions of working people in the US. “Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us,” he wrote. “We must weed out ignorant Americans from the electorate.”

For him, this “ignorant electorate” clearly includes the overwhelming majority of the working class in the United States.

It is not Trump’s crude insults, his vulgar misogyny, or anti-immigrant demagogy that this well-remunerated social layer finds most unsettling. What they fear is something different. They fear the millions of men and women — Black and white, immigrant and native born, religious and nonreligious — who recognize their own lives, and the lives of their neighbors, in that word carnage.

When Hillary Clinton announced during the election campaign that those who weren’t going to vote for her — those who weren’t going to vote to continue the carnage — were nothing but a basket of irredeemable “deplorables,” at that moment she was finished.

Opportunities and responsibilities

The election was a protest vote in the framework of bourgeois politics, the only framework that exists today for the millions.

It registered the blows dealt since the 2008 world financial crisis to the stability of the two-party system through which the US capitalist class has long governed. Neither party will emerge intact.

Trump’s inauguration boast — “This American carnage stops now” — will not come to be, of course. There are no capitalist policies that can achieve that, and there is no imperialist politician who can change what is going to happen. The law of value is stronger than any of them, or all of them together.

Until we, the working class and our allies, are strong enough to put an end to their system, their crises will continue to be paid for by working people the world over in our flesh and blood, in the misery of hundreds of millions.

As a result of these conditions — and the disrespectful response by the rulers and their political servants to the victims among working people — there is today greater openness in the US working class than at any moment in our lifetimes to discuss the broadest social questions and political issues. For communists that means growing opportunities along with enormous responsibilities.

Contrary to the picture painted by the liberal media and across “the left,” there is less racism and less anti-immigrant chauvinism today among working people than ever before in US history. Ultraright fringe groups are more marginalized than ever following Trump’s victory.

There is more space, not less, to fight to organize the unorganized, demand amnesty for foreign-born workers, mobilize against police brutality, advance the struggle for women’s rights, and oppose Washington’s imperialist wars. There is more space to rebuild our unions as instruments of solidarity and struggle.

Most important, there are more opportunities than we’ve known in decades to win young workers and other youth to the need to build a party, a communist party, within the vanguard of the working class.

It is along that road that the men and women capable of making a socialist revolution in the US will be forged, as they were here in Cuba.

That is what the books we are presenting here today are about.

In the name of my party, the Socialist Workers Party, I want to say to you, however, that until that battle is won, we will continue to act on Fidel’s words to the Federation of University Students two years ago:

“I do not trust the policy of the United States” — here in Cuba, in the US, or anywhere else in the world.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Building a party of seasoned fighters, not summer soldiers

Dobbs: ‘Our task is to chart a revolutionary course’

One of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for February is Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs. Excerpted below is the concluding portion of a 1966 speech given by Dobbs, which is quoted by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes in his introduction. Dobbs, a long-time leader of the SWP and central leader of the victorious battles in the 1930s that built the Teamsters union in the Midwest, was speaking to an audience substantially composed of Young Socialists. “Dobbs summed up the world historical view that best describes his lifetime political course; the class characteristics indispensable for any proletarian revolutionist; and what the working class demands of its leaders, above all,” Barnes says. Copyright © 1972 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.  


We must be constantly aware of the key role of the United States in the world. United States imperialism is today the powerhouse of world reaction, as the war in Vietnam is abundantly demonstrating.

It is an iron fact that until capitalism is overturned here in the United States of America, the gang of imperialist mad dogs that rule this country are going to remain a mortal threat to all humanity. We must never forget that.

That means the showdown battle for world socialism is going to be fought right here in the United States of America. And when the revolutionary victory is won, outlived, decadent capitalism is going to disappear literally overnight from the face of our planet. Humanity is going to march forward to the building of an enlightened socialist society where people for the first time can really live together on this planet in peace and in security and with freedom. Humanity will finally realize the type of rewarding life that human intelligence is so abundantly capable of making, even at the present level of technological development. Once humanity learns how to conduct itself politically, organizationally, and socially, it can take advantage of these wonders.

That’s what we dedicate our lives to. We of the party, we revolutionaries in the United States — acting as best we can in solidarity with revolutionary fighters across the world — must always keep in mind that in the last analysis the fate of humanity rests on the socialist revolution in the United States. Our task is to build a party capable of leading that revolution, going up against the most heinous of the reactionary, monstrous ruling class regimes that exist on the face of this planet: the imperialist ruling class of the United States.

The road ahead in that struggle is going to be strewn with obstacles, and there are going to be many pitfalls. There’s no roadmap, no way you can find some kind of a detailed handbook that’s going to tell you what to do at each juncture. Our task is to chart a revolutionary course, based on a fundamental understanding of our program — a basic feel of our revolutionary strategy—and to hammer out the tactics in that direction as we go along.

There’s no timetable. Nobody can say how long it’s going to take or when it’s going to happen. I personally feel that those of you sitting in this room today, who have got all your youth going for you, have got at least Damon Runyon’s six-to-five chance of seeing that explosion.

But in saying so I want to add immediately: don’t make that a condition. Don’t adopt the criterion that the revolutionary change must happen in your time. Don’t take as a guide to your active life that narrow, provincial, self-centered notion that if it doesn’t happen during the time of your own subjective existence on this planet, it’s not important.

Always remember that history is magnificently indifferent to the problems of the individual. History doesn’t care whether you die at six or live to be seven hundred, if that were possible, or what happens during your particular lifetime. As the German poet Goethe once said, “History marches like a drunken beggar on horseback.”

A lot can happen during your limited lifespan, or you can live a dull existence. Some people have had the good fortune to live more in a year than others at a different historical juncture could live in their whole lifetime. Or, as Plekhanov once put it, “If it hadn’t been for the French Revolution, Napoleon would probably have ended up as a corporal in the French artillery.”

Don’t make it a condition that the socialist revolution must come in your lifetime. Be not only a citizen of the planet; be a citizen of time. Recognize that what’s fundamental is to be in rapport with the human race from the dawn of history, on to heights we can only vaguely begin to dream of.

And what’s the alternative? The alternative is to make a compromise with this rotten capitalist system. Do you know what people who do that are like? You remember the movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster? Jabez Stone, you know, sold his soul to Scratch, the devil. He did so on the promise that his personal ambitions would thus be served. Later he regretted the action and asked to have his soul returned. Scratch, who was played by Walter Huston, that magnificent actor, finally said all right, he’d give it back.

So Scratch took a small matchbox from his pocket. He opened the box and began poking around in it with his stubby finger trying, and trying, to find the mean little soul of Jabez Stone so he could give it back.

That’s symbolic of what you do to your own soul if you make a compromise with this rotten system.

Our job is to build a movement of men and women who emulate the seasoned fighters of the Continental line in the first American Revolution. Learn to be professional revolutionary fighters. Don’t be summer soldiers. Don’t dabble; don’t vacillate. Put nothing above the considerations of the movement. Maintain your place in the front ranks of the revolutionary fighters, and stand in that place for the duration.

There is no other way in which you can find so rich, so rewarding, so fruitful, and so purposeful a life.

The Militant: focus on clarity in today's struggles

Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class

Anarchist ‘black bloc’ politics pose threat to working class

Join the protests! Demand amnesty!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Workers World Party attacks free speech and promotes violence against suspected Trump supporters


....“The vibe in the crowd was a unified front against fascism. It was good to see young communists and anarchists working together. For example, we commandeered a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat from a hubristic white male who decided to walk through our crowd. We worked together to take his hat and start that f*cker on fire, using communist flyers and an anarchist’s lighter.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Free speech and censorship

From a friend on Facebook

"I'm for free speech, but that doesn't mean that bigots and fascists are entitled to a platform at our university. The vast majority of the students here reject hate speech and bigotry, and we won't tolerate it in our lecture halls. We have no tolerance for the incendiary rhetoric of racists who incite violence towards the students of marginalized communities. We're under no obligation to give a lectern to hate speech, and they've got plenty of airtime elsewhere to espouse their views."

-Said the censors one and all

Don't let a racist troll with a book deal goad you from your democratic rights. We need that space that he's baiting you to choke and shout away, and we need it more than he does. We need to organize our own meetings, and bigger meetings.

We need those lecterns for prison leaders, revolutionists, traitors, "enemies of the state" etc... If the bigots can't rely on the cops to defend their meetings than it should be clear as all hell that we can't either.

We defend our meetings with disciplined organization, and by appealing to the broad democratic inclinations of the vast majority, who rightly detest anyone who tells them what they can and can't listen to. Don't deride that instinct, it's a good one. It's the instinct that gives those of us who hold a minority viewpoint the hope for a real hearing.

When you tell people that some ideas are too repugnant for them to hear, you're saying that they're:

A. Too stupid not to be hypnotized
B. Dormant bigots who just needs to hear what they believe already said through a microphone

If you believe either A or B there's not much for us to discuss. But I suspect that most of you don't. I suspect that most of you would-be censors are rightfully repulsed by racism, and that you're earnest in your desire to eradicate it from the earth. Good. We agree.

I think you do that the Cuban way, by organizing working people to make a revolution and reorganize society on the basis of human solidarity. Maybe you disagree, no problem. We can debate that. We could even hold a large public meeting debating revolutionary politics, and I bet we'd find a curious audience among the millions of working people searching for a way forward. A lot of people wouldn't like that though, especially as the social crisis in the United States deepens. A lot of them would say that we shouldn't get to organize that meeting, they may even try to shut us down. But fear not, I'm sure the cops would defend our right to speak, just like they defended that bigot troll with the bleached hair.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Marxolalia and Marxophasia

Having finished Volume 1 last week, today i began reading. Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. II: The Politics of Social Classes by Hal Draper.  It was initially published in 1978.
In the Foreword, Draper reviews his own strict procedures for the use of quotation in his exegesis.
He also spends some time on the question of unintentionally relaxed standards used in the quotation of Marx and Engels.
I get the feeling that the more Draper worked on this series of books, the more he felt compelled to settle accounts with 150 years of pseudo-scholarship.
Except from pages 14-17:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

No DAPL Cleveland Rally. Feb 4 2017. Market Square.

No DAPL Cleveland Rally. Feb 4 2017.

Market Square.

Video from Facebook Live here and here.

More photos:

Cold day. 60 to 70 showed up. Some old hands, many young men and women.

Vocal anti-Trump element. "No Trump, No Pence, no KKK, no fascist USA."

One young guy pointed out, commenting on such slogans, that since Trump got so many votes, we had to find a way to his voters, too.

Older folks with bull horn had slogans against the U.S. Bank branch across the street. Apparently U.S. Bank is part of the pipeline octopus.

Lots of "Leave it in the ground" and "You can't drink oil" signs and statements.

No signs or demands around Native American rights.

See also:

Draper sums-up Marx's approach to the state

The end of chapter 23 marks the end of Draper's book. (Except that there are still several hundred pages of appendices, notes, and indexes to go.)
The final section of chapter 23 serves as a kind of summation of themes Draper has explicated in rich detail in the preceding 520 pages.
Hal Draper. Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. Volume 1: State and Bureacracy. 1977.
From Chapter 23, Section
....Engels presented the basic formularization of the socioeconomic foundation of the state structure. It is expressed in terms broad enough to include the normal class interpretation of the normal state; that is, it underlies the class formula. Like the latter, it is put in terms of executors. Writing specifically of the complex role of the Russian state absolutism, Engels stated:
All governments, be they ever so absolute, are en dernier lieu [in the last analysis] but the executors of the economic necessities of the national situation. They may do this in various ways, good, bad and indifferent; they may accelerate or retard the economic development and its political and juridical consequences, but in the long run they must follow it.35 
This, Engels continued, was why the industrial revolution in Russia was unavoidable.
This was no new thought for Engels, even in this aphoristic form. He had met the same problem in a similar way, if from another direction, in 1875. In the essay against Tkachov, as mentioned, Engels showed how the interests of the various classes are the material bases on which the state stands, instead of hanging inthe air. But he does not turn the Tkachov fantasy over on its other side by trying to prove that this Russian state is simply the instrument of a particular class. The conclusion he comes to is put as follows: 
Not only the Russian state in general but even its specific form, the czarist despotism, instead of hanging in the air, is the necessary and logical product of the Russian social conditions with which, according to Mr. Tkachov, it has “nothing in common”!36 
This is a formula for the nature of the state which cuts behind—or deeper than—the normal class formula.* 
The relation between these two formulas can now be understood to state the full content of Marx’s theory of the state:
Under normal conditions—conditions of relative stability in society—the necessary product of the social conditions is the accession of a particular class to the unshared domination of the state power. But this can hardly be the product in a period when a societal transition is still unresolved. It cannot be the product when classes are still struggling for dominion in an undecided contest; in such a flux the state’s class content will reflect the state of the war. Nor can it be the necessary product in a situation such as Russia’s, driven into the maelstrom of social revolution from above, where no class of civil society was capable of acting as “executors of the economic necessities of the national situation.” 
In this Russian case, what was needed was a class whose own interests impelled it to act as the instrument to save the real interests of all the social strata that had a stake in the ongoing society, to save them by saving the society itself from the collapse which was the only alternative to the social transformation . This is what defines “the economic necessities of the national situation,” not in terms of the interests of any single class, but in terms of the class constellation as a whole.
The only social power that could perform this function was the state apparatus. In this way the state acts as the Gesamteinheit—the overall Unity—not simply of “society” in the abstract, but of all class elements whose real interests rest on the maintenance of social exploitation in one form or another. 
And the maintenance of social exploitation in one form or another, in the midst of the Russian transmogrification, had a very concrete meaning, capable of being figured in rubles. In general, we here meet a phenomenon that was also important in Western Europe in the eventual bourgeoisification of the feudalaristocracy itself, insofar as the latter reconciled itself to the inevitability of change instead of inviting a 1789 type of revolutionary convulsion. Both the old and the new ruling class—the landowning nobles and the bourgeois—were equally property-owning, exploitive classes. The revolution from above was a shift from one mode of extracting surplus labor to another. This was also the reason why a revolution from above was possible . The old ruling class in crisis learns that, at any rate, this sort of revolution offers them some very comforting mitigations of the indignity forced upon them: namely, continued economic privileges to one degree or another. (We had occasion to make this point in Chapter 14 regarding the Bismarckian development.)38
But this consolation prize depends on channeling the inescapable revolution into a form that maintains social exploitation in one form or another. It is not usually just one of the contending classes themselves that can undertake the organization of this redistribution of power; as we have pointed out elsewhere, it is difficult for one sector of the capitalist class, for example, to referee the internecine struggles of competing capitalists to make sure that the system is not shaken apart by the melee. In the Russian case, it is the state that acted as the executor for the interests of class society as a whole.
Autonomous from any particular class of civil society, it could embody what the contenders had in common: the need to ensure the conditions under which to continue the extraction of surplus labor from the mass of people.
This spells out the class content of Engels’ formulation of the theory of the state: the state, “necessary and logical product of the [given] social conditions,” is always in the last analysis “the executor of the economic necessities of the national situation.” Thus it is always the organizer of society in the interests of the class (exploitive) structure taken as a whole. This is the general theory of the state in Marx and Engels.
Within its framework lies the special theory of the state which applies to normal times and conditions in roughly the same way as Euclidean geometry applies to normal space. It is the view of the state as the managing committee of a ruling class with which we started in Chapter 11.
Normality here is a function of the process of change. The more rapid the change—the more revolutionary the times, the more history is caught in the flux of becoming—the more does the special theory begin to warp away from a close match with reality, and the more does the general theory of the state become applicable in order to explain the pattern of political power in the process of social transformation.
Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution I, Hal Draper.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Facebook post From a comrade of mine:

And so the self-chosen "avengers" of the oppressed contribute to the restriction - instead of the broadening - of much-needed space to discuss and debate a road forward for working people, today. What matters most is not WHO you are against or what "ideology" you oppose, but what you are for!

"Eleven people have been arrested outside New York University during a heated protest against a conservative comedian who gave a speech at the school, police said on Friday.

"A group that organized the protest against Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes said he was known for using incendiary language, according to local media.

"McInnes said on Twitter he had been sprayed with pepper spray, but 'being called a Nazi burned way more.'

"The protesters face charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief after they were taken into custody during a demonstration against McInnes, who made an appearance at the university late on Thursday, a New York City Police Department spokesman said..."

Live video: Hundreds protest Trump’s immigration order in Cleveland

View it here:

Trump and Bonapartism: Reply to a reader

The Socialist Workers Party does not have one policy during Republican administrations and another for Democratic administrations. 

 John B. writes:

You may remember that a few months ago I asked why the SWP did not characterize Trump as a Bonapartist, since he would seem to fit the definition to a "T." Back in the '90s they were very quick to describe Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan and even Jesse Ventura this way.

I know you're not a member of the SWP, or even an "organized supporter," but since all of a sudden you're posting articles on the subject, I suspect a line change is imminent, and it will now officially define Trump as a Bonapartist. The problem this poses for them is if they admit it now, the whole edifice of their orientation toward the "Trump Movement" for the last year and a half comes crashing down in a heap. What to do?

My reply:

This blog has posted several articles in the last few days on the Marxist concept of Bonapartism.  I am currently reading Hal Draper's 1977 book Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 1: State and Bureaucracy.  Chapters 15-18 of that book cover the development of Bonapartism as a scientific classification by Marx and Engels.  They did this while studying living events in France and Germany, focusing on the rule of Napoleon III and Otto Von Bismarck. 

The value of Draper's discussion of Bonapartism is that he grounds the formulation in its historical context, and does not deal with it as an academic abstraction.  Marx and Engels identified Bonapartist elements in the rule not just of Napoleon III and Bismarck, but also Simon Bolivar and several absolutist monarchies in Europe.

The Bonapartist leader, they concluded, was primarily a semi-autonomous arbiter, pretending to be "above" all contending classes, but in fact defending the dictatorship of capital in periods of crisis and polarization.  The Bonapartist leader defended bourgeois rule against the threat of working class organization and political action, and also against threats from capitalists or layers within the ruling class.  [Hence Bismarck's harsh treatment, "for their own good," of Junkerdom.]

Is Trump a Bonapartist?

I disagree with John B.'s statement that Trump is a definitive Bonpartist.  Draper makes clear that under bourgeois rule, with its autonomously functioning capitalist state machinery, there are always elements of an arbitrator function, and of arbitrary executive rule. The U.S. government since 1930s has certainly seen this Bonapartist tendency, as have state and city governments.

The 1990s saw the emergence of figures in bourgeois politics who rejected Republican and Democratic political parties. I would call Perot and Ventura premature wannabe Bonapartes. They presented themselves as "decisive men" and nominated themselves for the role. The appearance of such figures, and the increased use of exclusively executive powers, are complimentary phenomenon. 

Donald Trump has presented himself as an arbitrator, but exclusively within the context of salvaging the fortunes of the Republican Party, not rejecting it.

The Republicans are being remade by Donald Trump, a multibillionaire pretending to speak in the interests of working people while seeking to find policies that further enrich the capitalist class, in a futile attempt to end the inevitable crisis of their system. This has nothing to do with hysteria about “fascism” among liberal and middle-class radicals, Barnes said. In fact, the Trump electoral victory is weakening already marginal ultra-rightist currents, who are unable to gain any traction in U.S. politics. [Source]

Likewise, Trump's use of executive orders is in continuity with the practice of previous U.S. presidents in the modern era.

One executive order issued by Trump on Jan. 25, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” states that it is government policy to extend the wall on the Mexican border, speed up deportations, expand immigration detention facilities and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The order traces its continuity to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, signed by then President Bill Clinton. The average daily population of men, women and children held in immigration detention centers soared from 8,000 before the law to 34,000 in 2014.

Does the SWP orient to a Trump Movement?

I do not speak for the U.S. Socialist Workers Party.  I support its program and activity, as do hundreds of others.  My knowledge of the party's politics and approach is based exclusively on my reading of the party press.  Based on this understanding, I reject the statement that the party has had an "orientation toward the 'Trump Movement' for the last year and a half”.

The Socialist Workers Party has an orientation to the working class.  This is carried out where party members happen to work, as well as in cities where party branches take their literature and program door-to-door in an undifferentiated way in working class districts.

In 2015-2016, this orientation included joining fellow workers at Democratic and Republican campaign rallies.  What party members found in discussions at these events was that workers rejected the Clinton campaign's "Things are great" message.  Trump's demagogy, within the two-party straight-jacket, looked to many like a chance to effect the intolerable status quo. But the SWP has never given an inch to the idea that Trump’s campaign could be a political vehicle; it rejects any suggestion Trump is a tribune for workers.

This is in stark contrast to the approach of a galaxy of bourgeois Democratic Party pundits and promoters, and petty bourgeois left and radical movementarians and activists.  They flattered themselves that supporters of Democratic Party demagogue Bernie Sanders were pay dirt for a new socialist movement in the United States.  These same characters, who eight years ago said they would "make Obama keep his promises" by their mass street actions, spent most of 2016 conducting street actions to disrupt and attack workers interested in checking out Trump events.

The Socialist Workers Party does not have one policy during Republican administrations and another for Democratic administrations. 

This alone makes the party unique in U.S. politics.  No other party in this country can say the same. Quite the contrary! Today liberal-left organizations, media, and sundry outfits attempt to whip-up hysteria among former Clinton and Sanders supporters around issues [abortion, immigrant rights, "imperial presidency"] they have accepted with stunning complacency for the last eight years.

What does the Socialist Workers Party counterpose to  this lesser-evil Groundhog Day?

I'll close with lines from this statement, released today:

The propertied rulers’ capitalist system is in deep crisis today, facing declining profit rates, contraction in production and trade, and growing conflicts over resources and markets. The deepening competition between capitalist rulers worldwide has produced growing carnage, devastating economic crises and dispossession of millions of human beings around the world. Washington and other imperialist powers have engaged in nonstop wars since the turn of the millennium in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

Workers need our own party to organize independent of the bosses and their political parties, to defend our interests on the road toward taking power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers. The Socialist Workers Party is your party.

Let’s fight together: Unionize all workers! No deportations! Speak out against attacks on Muslims and mosques! All U.S. troops out of the Middle East!