From Marxist-Leninist Organizer
The attacks of September 11, 2001, have heightened all the contradictions of imperialism: between imperialism and the oppressed nations, among the imperialist powers themselves and between the capitalists and the working class. The war that began with the U.S. attack on and occupation of Afghanistan is continuing with the Israeli attack on the Palestine Authority and may well follow with a U.S. invasion of Iraq. Government spokespersons have talked of a war that will not end in our lifetime. The U.S. has been stepping up its attacks on the oppressed peoples, in areas as far apart as Colombia and the Philippines but mainly in the Middle East and Central Asia. Its main goal is to control the oil and gas resources in that area, while denying this control to its imperialist rivals in Europe and Japan. At a time of growing economic crisis, the U.S. ruling class is attacking the wages and working conditions of all working people, and seriously undermining democratic rights, of which it has boasted for over 200 years.
In the imperialist countries, and especially in the U.S., the left as a whole, and the Marxist-Leninist groups in particular, have remained small, often very small, and isolated, often extremely isolated, from the working class and oppressed nationalities. This isolation is most evident at times of spontaneous mass outbreaks. For example, when a rally of 40,000 construction workers turned into a mass confrontation with scabs and cops in June of 1998, the left was nowhere to be seen. And in the first mass demonstrations that took place after the killing of Amadou Diallo in February of 1999, the leftists were on the outskirts (most obvious because they were in the great majority Anglo petty-bourgeois), trying to hand out leaflets and newspapers to the mass of African and African-American demonstrators. Partly this isolation is due to objective conditions, that there is not yet a sustained upsurge in the mass and revolutionary movements. But it is also a question of our subjective outlook, of refusing to make tactical changes that are necessary in our work. (We are still in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution; our strategic goal is still the overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But tactics change with the ebb and flow of the movement; tactical changes include changing the form of struggle. This does not mean that tactical questions are unimportant.)
The number of workers or members of the oppressed nationalities who today understand the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat is still miniscule. There is no question that we need to consolidate those who do and to continue to win over others to fight for this. But can we, in the conditions of today, leave aside the great majority, the 99% or more of the class, who are not yet ready to fight for this? The answer should be clear.
For a Program for the Rights of the Workers and Oppressed Nationalities
Today, while the corporations are getting rich, the workers are again being hit by mass layoffs. Since September 11, some 100,000 workers in New York City, and some 1 million workers throughout the U.S., have lost their jobs. The majority of the trade union bureaucrats have done nothing about this, besides call for support of the Democratic (or even the Republican) Party. We need a fighting program against layoffs, as well as long-term and increased relief for the unemployed.
Today, working people are facing cutbacks in social services, such as reduced funds for public education (and reduced quality of education, undermined by phony calls for "standards," voucher programs and privatization). There are increased tuition and cuts to public higher education, in state and city schools such as SUNY and CUNY. We need to demand programs for increased and improved public education.
There are cutbacks in medical services, both in underfunding of public hospitals, in increased co-payments, deductibles, premium payments, etc. while HMOs continue to grow and profit. We need to demand that the government and corporations pay for health care. Even in revolutionary Cuba, which has been suffering from over 40 years of blockade and over 10 years of the cutoff of trade with its former chief trading partners in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, there is better medical care for working people, a lower infant mortality rate, better education as well as other social services.
There are huge increases in rents, especially in the big cities (and increased mortgages for those who own their own homes and co-ops), while landlords get rich. We need to demand a freeze on rents (and mortgages), a rollback of rents to affordable levels, the strengthening of rent regulations. Tenants are paying increasing portions of their wages in rent; in the most extreme cases this leads to homelessness, but also to the doubling and tripling up of families and individuals in apartments, to people in their 30s and 40s living with their parents since they cannot afford to move on their own, to even people in the lower petty-bourgeoisie ("middle class") having to take in boarders to afford the rent. The U.S. bourgeoisie always boasted that "in America, everyone can own their own home." Today this has become a mockery.
Many elderly people cannot live off of social security and have no additional funds. Many families, particularly those headed by single women, do not have access to pre-school facilities or after-school facilities for their school-age children. Youths, who suffer from a lack of constructive educational, sports and other programs, are caught up in a video-game culture.
War vs. Democratic Rights
Using the excuse of a war in "defense of freedom," the U.S. government is whittling away at democratic liberties at home. The government is attacking immigrants, it is undermining its own Constitutional protections of freedom of speech, it is spying on private conversations of arrested suspects with their lawyers, it is taking prisoners of war and deporting them to the U.S. and third countries (even to countries where they occupy extra-territorial bases without the permission of the government, such as Guantanamo Bay in Cuba). These attacks affect not only immigrants but citizens as well, as the government is using its vast electronic network (such as Echelon in Scotland and Carnivore within the U.S.) to listen to all telephone, fax and electronic messages (through satellites, etc.). Thus it is undermining all the rights that the U.S. bourgeoisie has always proclaimed as "hallmarks of our freedoms." We need to fight to preserve and extend the rights that we have, while still pointing out the limited nature of the democratic rights for working people under this system, that this is a bourgeois dictatorship.
The U.S. government can forbid strikes through "cooling off" periods, by declaring national emergencies (such as with the airline industry), by prohibiting public employees from striking (such as by the Taylor Law in New York State), or it can make them totally ineffective by injunctions limiting picketing, by mass arrests (as in Charleston, South Carolina), etc. These restrictions can and have been beaten, but by mass actions, often despite and against the trade union bureaucrats.
The oppressed nationalities, African-Americans, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, immigrants and others, still have the lowest incomes (despite the existence of a weak petty bourgeois stratum), the worst housing, the poorest educational facilities, fewer hospitals and other medical facilities. They continue to suffer from police brutality, racial profiling, etc. The unity of the multinational working class and the oppressed nationalities is the key to the formation of a successful united front.
All these demands and programs must be connected to the war. We must show that this war is not a consequence of the September 11th attacks, but is part of the history of more than 100 years of imperialism (monopoly capitalism), beginning with the 1898 occupation of Puerto Rico, Philippines, Guam, the establishment of a protectorate over Cuba, until today. The current war is a continuation of the war in Vietnam, the wars against Iraq and Yugoslavia, and the support for the continuing occupation of Palestinian territory by Israel. The war has not ended with Afghanistan.
We must continue to point out the connections between the increased attacks on working people in the U.S. and the war. This does not mean that we must insist that everyone involved in protests against the attacks at home must also oppose the war. We can show how this "patriotism" was used against the strike of government workers in Minnesota, how the government is using the war as an excuse for cutbacks. We must show how they are bailing out the billionaire monopolists (such as in the airline and real estate industries), without doing anything for the workers in these industries, either for those who have lost their jobs or for those who are still working.
It is not enough to draw up a program of demands. We must have a fighting plan of action and some successes in these actions in order to begin to win working people to this program. We need a bold plan of action in the different fields of work, whether it be sit-down strikes to prevent scabs from replacing striking workers, the mobilization of people in a neighborhood to block evictions, etc. These are just some possibilities – a real plan of action would obviously have to be worked out carefully with the people directly involved. We must also examine the lessons of both victories and defeats from the experience of the spontaneous movement.
Many of these ideas are drawn from the united front against fascism in the 1930s. This does not mean that we already have fascism in the United States. In Germany also fascism did not arrive overnight. It was preceded by a period of several years of conservative governments that paved the way for fascism. (The Social-Democrats were also no barrier to fascism. They not only refused to mobilize the workers under their influence to unite with the Communists against fascism; Social-Democratic governments in Germany (nationally, regionally and locally) also kept lists of Communists that were taken over by the fascists when they came to power and used to round up the Communists.) Remember that Hitler was appointed (not elected) by the conservative President Hindenburg. Fascism may come in a somewhat different form in the United States, without even necessarily forming a fascist party that comes to power; it could come, for instance, in the form of a Republican government that dismantles all democratic rights, with the overwhelming support of the Democratic Party, as is already starting to happen today. We cannot wait until the emergence of fascism to put forward our own tactical program of demands for the basic economic and political interests of the working people.
A program for a united front cannot be put forward by one party or organization. Moreover, at first, there will not even be a single program with a united set of demands. Such a program must be developed and taken up in all organizations of working people, in the trade unions, in the oppressed nationality organizations, in the tenants' movements, in homeless organizations and soup kitchens, among students, progressive intellectuals, even among progressive religious forces. This work should include progressive forces among the petty bourgeoisie, but the key must be workers. Without the participation and leadership of actual workers from the start, we will just be left with another organization of petty bourgeois activists. This is not what is needed. It will be necessary over a prolonged period to unite the individual, local struggles into a consolidated whole, into a coordinated fightback. These struggles must be formed into a united front against the offensive of capital, for democratic rights and against war.
There will be many problems in the formation of such a united front. One will be that groups helping to build it will have to break with organizational sectarianism. They will have to work with others without being concerned with whether they are in the leadership. A positive example of such a step towards unity was shown in the joint mass rally of the two anti-war coalitions, International ANSWER and A20, in Washington DC on April 20. Also, in such a broad coalition with people of widely varying ideological backgrounds, there will be all sorts of ideas and practical methods of work put forward. Some will want to do only electoral work, some only peaceful protests, while others will propose individualist anarchist tactics. It will be up to the genuine revolutionaries, as few and disunited as we are, to push such a front in a good direction, while seeking to unite ourselves in the process.
The Need for a Vanguard Party of the Working Class
Does the fight for a broad united front negate the need for a vanguard Marxist-Leninist party, the fight for the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat? It certainly does not. It simply means that we cannot demand adherence to socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat as a precondition to the formation of such a front, either ideologically or organizationally.
Genuine revolutionaries, through the process of aiding in building such a front, must begin to unite on the basis of Marxism-Leninism. At this point, a real vanguard organization can only come from those Marxist-Leninist elements, as well as others who really want to put an end to imperialism, who work in and lead the mass movement and unite themselves in the process. Unfortunately, since the fall of the Communist Party USA into revisionism, there has not been a genuine vanguard party of the working class in the U.S., and almost all the groups that call themselves Marxist-Leninists today are little more than sects. The most serious attempts to build such a party, though not without their own weaknesses, have been by organizations among the oppressed nationalities in the U.S., such as the Black Panther Party, the Black Workers Congress, the Puerto Rican Revolutionary Workers Organization, the August Twenty-ninth Movement, I Wor Kuen, etc. However, there are currently no such mass advanced organization among the oppressed nationalities either.
We cannot treat the formation of a vanguard organization as a secondary question. Such an organization, leading to a real Marxist-Leninist party, will be critical in building and directing a united front. It will be necessary to fight against the tendency to spontaneity and local narrowness, the idea that "I can do best what I am doing now, in my local area of work." Unfortunately, such an outlook still affects even some of our best elements.
Let us add a brief word on the question of security here. Most of the members of existing revolutionary organizations are already known to the authorities. It would not be hard for them, when they want to get rid of the remaining bourgeois rights, to simply round up the majority of these members if they felt it necessary. We must use the opportunity of developing new cadres from within the mass organizations to also establish some elementary rules of security. There is no reason that every recruit from among the masses into a vanguard organization should be a public member, or that his/her membership in such a vanguard organization need be known to his/her co-workers. Such a person could simply appear as a supporter of the work of this organization. Obviously further tactics need to be developed on this question.
A genuine Marxist-Leninist party will have to be based on certain clearly defined principles. These must include: first, the recognition of the need for the revolutionary overthrow of imperialism and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Second must be the recognition of the need to put an end to class collaboration and support for the political parties of the capitalist class, especially the Democratic and Republican Parties. Third must be proletarian internationalism, the support for the struggles of workers against capital and for the struggles of all oppressed nations and countries under attack by imperialism. And finally, a vanguard organization must be built on the basis of democratic centralism.
Does this mean that the ideological questions of the past are of little or no importance? Not at all, but they will have to be fought out mainly on the basis of practical questions of today, not on historical questions.
The Need for Organized Study
We need to organize study, not just for ourselves but for new forces from among the working people. But this must also be done differently from the way it has been organized previously. In the past, we often studied some classics of Marxism-Leninism, but frequently in an abstract way, i.e. divorced from the questions of the day. We must turn this around. For example, if we take up the question of the state, we should start by examining the role of the state today, how it is being used against workers’ strikes, against uprisings of the oppressed nationalities, against revolutionaries and progressive people at home and abroad. Then, we should look at parts of, say, State and Revolution that clarifies that this is a bourgeois dictatorship and the need for a proletarian dictatorship.
Or if we take up the question of classes, we should first examine the situation of classes in the United States, which class (the working class) is the producer of almost all value, which class (the bourgeoisie) profits from the labor of the working class, what are the intermediate strata (small owners and petty bourgeois professionals). We would study the changes that these classes and strata are undergoing. Then we should look at, say, parts of Capital and other works for clarification, or the Manifesto in dealing with various historical relations of production.
This is what Lenin did in forming the League of Struggle for the Emancipation of the Working Class in Russia in the early 1890s. The advanced workers always pointed out that Lenin was in this way the best of the propagandists, as he put forward ideas in a concrete manner. This will allow us to develop real roots and cadres among the working people.
This is certainly not meant to be the "last word" on this subject. Clearly, a program of demands and actions for a broad united front needs to be developed through much discussion with people in various mass organizations, in different localities and different arenas of struggle. It will have to be written in a popular, practical style. This is simply meant to be a starting point in a long process. But every process must have a first step. Let us begin!
This issue of Marxist-Leninist Organizer was specifically designed for people of varying ideological backgrounds. Even the logo on the masthead was changed to show only two of the great historical leaders of the proletariat, Marx and Lenin. [Note: the print version of all earlier issues of Marxist-Leninist Organizer, as well as this Appendix, showed a logo with Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin.] We feel that this was a principled concession in keeping with the spirit of the issue. It was not meant to downplay the role of Engels or Stalin.
Today there are no socialist countries. (We consider Cuba, and possibly the DPR of Korea, to be revolutionary but not socialist, as they never established the dictatorship of the proletariat). In this situation such questions as whether or not the Soviet Union was socialist after 1953, whether Mao or Hoxha was right, etc. do not need to taken up in a party program. This is not to say that they are of no relevance – they are crucial to understanding the factors that led the Soviet Union into revisionism, to the question of state capitalism and the "party of the whole people" under Khrushchev and later. But a full answer to these questions will most likely come from those who have experienced revisionism first-hand, particularly from our Soviet comrades. And a correct line on such questions should not be a determining factor for admission into the party. Stalin pointed out (in his report to the Plenum of the CC of the CPSU(B) in February-March 1937) that it is not correct to demand that party members master the program, just that they accept it. We think that applies to the above questions today.
Comrade Dimitrov in his famous speech, For the Unity of the Working Class Against Fascism, at the 7th Congress of the Communist International in 1935, devoted a section to the "Political Unity of the Working Class." In striving to form united Marxist-Leninist parties that would include revolutionary workers from the social-democratic parties, he listed five principles for such a party. This principles laid out in this issue are drawn from this.
In the fight to build a party, we will have to deal with opportunism in various forms. Only the socialist revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat can end the exploitation of people by people and build a new, socialist society on the road to classless society, communism. Recognition of this will be a real demarcation with revisionism as well as Trotskyism. We will have to fight the right opportunism of those who still support the Democratic Party. We need to support the struggle of oppressed peoples against imperialism, for the right to self-determination; this will be a real demarcation with Trotskyism as well as revisionism. We will also have to fight the "left" error of those who want to make recognition of the socialist revolution a precondition for unity in mass organizations.
Let us win over the revolutionary elements from the mass movement, and unite the genuine Marxist-Leninists from the existing revolutionary groups, into a genuine vanguard party of the working class! Let us direct the disparate mass organizations into a genuine united front against the attacks of imperialism!
ˇPa'lante – Forward!
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