Workers Vanguard No. 924
7 November 2008
Bourgeois Elections and the Imperial Presidency
Fight for a Revolutionary Workers Party!
Obama/McCain/McKinney—Class Enemies of Workers, Oppressed
NOVEMBER 4—As we go to press, the winner of the 2008 presidential election has not been announced, though it appears that the nasty, brutish and seemingly endless campaign season is finally coming to an end. Whether the victor is John McCain and his “pit bull” Sarah Palin or Barack Obama and Joe Biden, the Iraq occupation will continue, the Afghanistan occupation will intensify, the U.S. imperialists will continue to threaten the world and the economy will proceed with its downward spiral.
As Marxists, we are opposed on principle to giving any political support to any capitalist politician, as underlined in the October 25 Bay Area forum that we print below, edited for publication, by Spartacist League speaker Diana Coleman. As she explains, working people need their own party “to lead the exploited and oppressed in their struggles to the revolutionary overturn of the racist capitalist order.”
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Taking my cue from Workers Vanguard No. 921 (26 September), I am going to start with a quote from Bertolt Brecht. This is from a poem called “Those Who Take the Meat from the Table,” written in the 1930s in the midst of the Great Depression:
Those who take the meat from the table
Those for whom the taxes are destined
Those who eat their fill speak to the hungry
Of wonderful times to come.
Those who lead the country into the abyss
Call ruling too difficult
For ordinary men.
We say that those who labor must rule. As the expanding financial crisis highlights the destructive irrationality of capitalism, it could scarcely be clearer that working people need a party that fights for their class interests, a workers party committed to sweeping away the capitalist system. We stand for the political independence of the working class from the capitalist class enemy. We are opposed to giving political support to any capitalist politician—Democrat, Republican, Green or “Independent.” Not Obama, not McCain, not Cynthia McKinney. A vote for a bourgeois candidate is a vote of confidence in the reformability of capitalism and a vote against the need for socialist revolution. We say that black liberation and the liberation of all working people will only come through socialist revolution.
Americans are currently engaged in that once every four years elephant and donkey show, the election to the imperial presidency. V.I. Lenin, leader of the Russian Revolution, commented in his 1917 work, The State and Revolution, that the essence of capitalist democracy is “that the oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament!” He also said that in a democratic republic “‘wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely,’ first, by means of the ‘direct corruption of officials’ (America); secondly, by means of an ‘alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange’ (France and America).” We certainly see that these days.
This presidential election differs from previous ones in two regards. There is a black candidate who actually has a chance of winning, which is a new thing in this deeply racist country. And a significant portion of the electorate is actually excited by the event for the first time in a long time. There are, of course, many blacks and a portion of youth who are animated by the prospect of electing a black man as president; and then there are most others who are animated by a chance to replace one of the most venal, stupid and sadistic presidencies by something they hope will be better.
Generally in most presidential election years the turnout runs between 35 and 55 percent of those qualified to vote. It’s hard to care a great deal about who oppresses you. You hope they will be nice, but, you know. The excitement around the Obama campaign has been compared to John F. Kennedy’s campaign in 1960 where about 60 percent of the people were not only registered to vote but actually voted. So one suspects the turnout will be somewhat larger in this election than in most others.
It is interesting to look at the question of presidential popularity. Among the biggest vote-getters in history have been Herbert Hoover, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon. Herbert Hoover was greeted by the Great Depression during his term, after which he couldn’t run for dogcatcher. Franklin Delano Roosevelt died in office; that had nothing to do with anything except biology. LBJ was elected in 1964; near the end of his term he found himself in front of the TV cameras promising people he would never run again. People were very delighted by this announcement because in the course of the Vietnam War he had come to be hated. And then there was Richard Nixon who was elected in 1968 and then again in 1972. After this mammoth victory, he left office to avoid going to jail. This was another offshoot, indirectly, of the Vietnam War. The Spartacist League had a popular headline that said “Impeachment Is Not Enough” (WV No. 43, 26 April 1974) and we called for Nixon to be extradited to North Vietnam to be tried by a jury of his victims.
My point is that the consciousness people have at any given point in time is responsive to the anarchy and destructive violence of this imperialist order. There is no such thing as an enduring state of bliss in terms of people’s confidence in their society. It is very much the product of what is happening to them at any point in time. Today, everybody is worried about the economy. There is plenty to worry about.
For Class Struggle Against U.S. Capitalist Rulers!
Our starting point is the understanding that capitalist society is divided between two fundamental classes: the capitalist class and the working class. The bourgeoisie owns the means of production—the factories, mines and transportation systems of modern industrial capitalism; the proletariat, in order to survive, is forced to sell its labor power to the capitalists, and through its labor generates the surplus value that the capitalists reap as profit. The interests of these two classes are irreconcilably counterposed.
With its hands directly on the means of production, the working class has the social power and objective interest to overthrow capitalism. Only then can the material basis be laid for ending exploitation, imperialist war, racial and other forms of oppression, all of which are endemic to the capitalist system. But for the working class to become fully conscious of its historic task to overthrow the capitalist order requires revolutionary leadership.
Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels taught in the Communist Manifesto that “the executive of the modern state is but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie.” The state is in its essence special bodies of armed men—police, military, prisons, courts—who maintain the rule of a few capitalist overlords over the many workers and oppressed. The state cannot be taken over and run in the interests of the working class. It must be smashed through socialist revolution.
The U.S. is today the Dorian Gray of imperialism. It’s old and hoary. For a century, it has been the most powerful and wealthy imperialist power in the world. It is, of course, occasionally prettified and cosmetically altered by those candidates that run for public office. This is exactly Barack Obama’s role: he offers a facelift for U.S. imperialism. American capitalism has never claimed to provide all people with jobs or health care or decent retirement or education or the ability to live if you don’t happen to be employed. There isn’t even a scrap of paper to indicate that women might have equal rights with men. The American capitalist system maintained Jim Crow segregation, administered by the Democrats in the South, until a little over 40 years ago. The 2005 man-made racist atrocity in the Gulf Coast in the face of Hurricane Katrina shows the American rulers’ very real and continuing impulse toward genocide of black people.
U.S. imperialism entered onto the world stage with the 1898 Spanish-American War, which was manufactured by newspaper magnate William Randolph Hearst and an obliging president. Its supposed drive to liberate people from Spanish domination was in fact the crushing of the indigenous Cuban independence struggle and the slaughtering of up to half a million Filipinos. The United States participated in the imperialist bloodbaths of World War I and World War II, coming out of each better off than it went in—as opposed to its imperialist rivals. It ended the Second World War with the atomic incineration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—cities of no military importance—in an already defeated Japan. It was a racist massacre used to send a message to the Soviet Union that you better watch out—we’re pretty powerful. Fortunately, the Soviet Union soon procured nuclear weapons.
Since the end of WWII, the U.S. has been involved in over 50 military interventions, adding an additional ten million dead to the previous body counts. Some six million were slaughtered in U.S. imperialism’s counterrevolutionary wars in Korea and Vietnam alone. Today, we have the ongoing occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan. There is the bipartisan saber rattling against capitalist Russia. Both parties continue to threaten Iran over its nuclear energy program, and there are threats against North Korea. The U.S. has increased its incursions into Pakistan, the kind of thing that Obama has called for. Obama’s cautious and uneven opposition to the Iraq war and occupation is directed at restoring U.S. imperialism’s ability—weakened by the Bush administration’s disastrous policies in Iraq—to project its military and diplomatic power globally, not least against the Chinese deformed workers state, the largest and most powerful of the remaining states where capitalist rule was overthrown.
Then there’s the current economic meltdown. Raising the spectre of the Great Depression, bourgeois economists and media pundits have insisted that the Wall Street bailout was the price that everyone had to pay to restore stability. Obama and McCain certainly have agreement on the bailout—money out of the taxpayers’ paychecks and into the coffers of Wall Street. But the bailout sure hasn’t done much for the economy; the stock market continues to plunge or is at best erratic, credit remains tight and the economy is contracting. Mortgage foreclosures are sweeping the country at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. The wholesale destruction of pension programs now means that many are also seeing the retirement monies that they invested in the stock market and other accounts go up in smoke. There was this cartoon in the New York Times (5 October) of “The Scream” by Edvard Munch. It shows the agonized little figure on the bridge screaming—only in this case he’s holding his 401(k).
For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
When I was 18 years old, I might have considered voting for Democrat Lyndon Johnson in 1964. He was supposed to be a peace candidate and certainly the “lesser evil.” His official slogan was “All the Way with LBJ.” The right wing of Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) had the slogan, “Part of the Way with LBJ,” one of the funnier “critical support” slogans for the Democrats. But you couldn’t vote at 18 at that time. This was changed during the Vietnam War. “You’re old enough to kill, but not for votin’” was a line from the song “The Eve of Destruction,” which I will not sing for you.
In 1965 I went to Mississippi for one of the Freedom Summers with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). We were supposed to be registering blacks to vote—Democrat, of course. I, like many others by this time, preferred direct action and fighting to integrate lunch counters, although I was for the right to vote. I saw how Mississippi was controlled by the Dixiecrats and plantation owners like Senator James Eastland, how the Mississippi delegation to the 1964 Democratic convention had been all white despite SNCC’s vast voter registration drive. I came back saying that hell would freeze over before I’d vote for the Democrats.
Both the Democrats and Republicans are capitalist parties. In a “state of the union” speech 32 years ago, America’s great essayist and novelist Gore Vidal aptly noted, “We have only one political party in the United States, the Property Party, with two right wings, Republican and Democrat.” For all his hoopla about “change,” Obama is in fact a mainstream capitalist politician, linked to the Illinois Democratic machine, who has put himself forward as the best candidate to run U.S. imperialism and keep working people, blacks, immigrants and all the oppressed down. He supports the death penalty, a legacy of slavery, the lynch rope made legal. We oppose the death penalty as a matter of principle—for the guilty as well as the innocent. Obama voted to expand the border fence and further militarize the border with Mexico. In South Africa, immigrants face being eaten by lions as they come across the border from Mozambique. Here in the U.S., a more advanced country, they face dying by starvation, being burned alive by giant forest fires, or dismembered riding the rails in Mexico. People should read Enrique’s Journey by Sonia Nazario to get a sense of what desperate immigrants endure. We say: Full citizenship rights for all immigrants!
The way forward is to break the political chains that bind workers, blacks, immigrants and the oppressed to their class enemy, particularly through support to the Democratic Party. The pro-capitalist trade-union tops have done their best to paralyze class struggle by promoting Democratic Party lesser-evilism. Part and parcel of building a revolutionary working-class party in this country will be waging a political struggle against the trade-union bureaucracy, to forge a new leadership of labor so that the trade unions can realize their ability to play a leading role in the struggle against exploitation and oppression. Our conception of a revolutionary workers party is not an electoralist vehicle but an instrument to lead the exploited and oppressed in their struggles to the revolutionary overturn of the racist capitalist order.
For his part, Obama wishes to become the overseer of the whole plantation and, as we have said, is well qualified to be the chief executive of U.S. imperialism. This is not a compliment. We typically wind up calling for imperialist presidents to be tried by their victims. And be assured that Barack Obama will have victims if elected. Obama’s own position is that the civil rights movement brought America “90 percent of the way” toward racial equality. His statement that “the ineptitude was colorblind” in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is a disgusting lie. It wasn’t ineptitude and it wasn’t colorblind!
The reality is that the condition of black Americans is no better, and in some cases worse, than at the time of the civil rights movement, with two exceptions. There has been a recovery of the right to vote, at least partially. And there has also come into existence a black middle class of some weight. In terms of what the black population faces—ghettos, cop terror, lack of jobs, social benefits and education—things are as bad as ever or worse. There were more black students when I went to UC Berkeley 40 years ago than there are now. And of course there is the fact that since the civil rights movement, the U.S. has filled the prisons with black people. The race-caste oppression of black people will not be ended by America’s rulers. It is an invaluable tool for them to keep working people divided to put a brake on class and social struggle. It is precisely the absence of class and social struggle that allows Obama to run as a black candidate promoting the lie that racist oppression is 90 percent dead.
The only way forward is to link the struggle for black freedom and equality to the fight for socialist revolution. Due to their special oppression and the fact that they are among the most conscious and experienced in struggle, black workers are slated to play an exceptional role in the coming American socialist revolution. Our struggle for black liberation is based on the program of revolutionary integrationism. While opposing every manifestation of racist oppression, fighting in particular to mobilize the social power of the multiracial labor movement, we underline that full equality for the black masses requires that the working class rip the economy out of the hands of the capitalist rulers and reorganize it on a collectivized, socialist basis. Only then will it be possible to eliminate the material roots of black oppression through the integration of black people into an egalitarian socialist society based on a planned, collectivized economy with jobs and quality housing, health care and education for all.
American “Democracy” and Black Disenfranchisement
In this election, as in all previous, we see much praise of democracy and the right to vote as a vehicle for change. The trappings of American democracy and the illusions they reinforce serve a crucial function for the capitalist rulers in blocking the development of workers’ class consciousness. We tenaciously defend the right to vote. But we emphasize that fundamental change will not come through voting. All the gains working people and black people have made came through their seizing them, by mass struggles on the battlefields, in the factories and on the streets, from the racist rulers.
Do you want to know how many popular votes George Washington won by? You can’t find out. Nor can you find out about Thomas Jefferson or John Adams, because there was no recorded nationwide popular vote until 1824. Throughout the 19th and the early 20th centuries, some 13 to 19 percent of the population voted. Capitalist democracy is democracy for the capitalist rulers, it is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.
The struggle to expand the vote has been the product of large social movements and part of the struggle for freedom and against exploitation and oppression. The Civil War, the second American revolution, gave the franchise to black men, who then had it taken away several decades later by Jim Crow legislation in the South. The young Soviet workers republic was among the first countries to accord women the right to vote, which was the direct cause of women getting the right to vote in other countries, including the U.S.
The civil rights movement regained the right to vote for black people. But even that has been partial. Andrew Hacker has an interesting article in the New York Review of Books (25 September) called “Obama: The Price of Being Black.” In it he explains how in certain states you need a driver’s license or other official ID to vote; blacks are less likely to have cars and driver’s licenses. The New York Times (5 October) had an editorial called “Foreclosures and the Right to Vote,” which states: “It has been a long time since there were property requirements for voting. Election officials must not impose them now, by disenfranchising people because they have lost, or are losing, their homes”
—i.e., blacks, Latinos and working-class poor.
But it is mass black incarceration that has had the most impact. If you have been in prison, then in most states (Florida is the most notorious) you lose the right to vote, sometimes for life. We’re for the decriminalization of all drugs and say that the “war on drugs” is a war on black people. Some 13 percent of black men have been disenfranchised through incarceration. We demand the restoration of all citizenship rights to all prisoners and ex-felons.
For New October Revolutions!
Against all reformist illusions and delusions in the reformability of the capitalist system, we point to the 1917 Russian Revolution as our model. It was the single most liberating event in human history. The capitalist owners and the landlords were expropriated, and land was given to the peasants. The right of self-determination was declared for the nations and peoples of the former tsarist prison house of peoples. In the course of the 1917 Revolution, the soviets, popular organs of insurrection and working-class power, were formed. Representatives from these soviets constituted the working-class government that emerged from the October Revolution under the leadership of the Bolshevik Party. It is interesting to note that even after the political degeneration of the Soviet Union, which began in 1923-24 under the nationalist Stalinist bureaucracy, the Soviet economy grew during the Great Depression. This is because it was not a society run for profit but by collectivized social planning, albeit bureaucratically.
Marx’s statement in the Communist Manifesto that the working class is the only social force capable of overturning capitalism and proceeding to build a socialist order was realized by the Bolshevik Revolution—the word became flesh. We stood for the unconditional military defense of the Soviet degenerated workers state against imperialism and capitalist counterrevolution—just as we do today for the remaining deformed workers states of China, North Korea, Vietnam and Cuba. At the same time, we fight for workers political revolution to oust the Stalinist bureaucracies and replace them with regimes based on workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism. In 1991-92, as our political opponents on the left acted as cheerleaders for Yeltsin’s counterrevolution, we fought to the end in defense of the homeland of the October Revolution. We fight for new October Revolutions.
Reformists, Greens and Obamania
What about the Green Party and Green presidential nominee Cynthia McKinney? The Greens are a small capitalist party. They are quite clear in their program that they are for small-time capitalism. One feels like reminding them that small-time capitalism becomes big-time capitalism. McKinney is not well known. On the campuses students came up to us when they saw our signs against McKinney as a bourgeois politician, telling us that we had misspelled McCain’s name! McKinney is one of many homeless Democratic politicians who use the Green Party as a vehicle to try to pressure the Democrats to the left. McKinney’s role is to herd radical youth, workers, blacks and others fed up with the Democrats back into the Democratic camp.
For all her claims to stand “independent” of the Democrats, McKinney, herself a longtime Democrat, issued a statement of congratulations to Obama, after Hillary Clinton conceded the primary race, that was clear enough: “Coming from Barack Obama, the word ‘change’ did not appear as just another empty campaign slogan. It galvanized millions of people—mostly young people—to register to vote and to get active in the political system.” After laying out a series of liberal demands, certainly more left-sounding than most Democratic politicians, McKinney explicated the central task of her campaign: “I encourage the Democratic Party and its new presumptive nominee, Senator Obama, to embrace these important suggestions for policy initiatives.” McKinney and the Greens not only act as shills for the Democrats, but more broadly steer the disgruntled into the illusory quest for reform through electoralism—as though the right politician will change all.
In this the Democrats and Greens are served by the reformist left which, especially since the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, has ever more defined its political activity as within the bounds of bourgeois democracy. The anti-Communist International Socialist Organization (ISO) has acted as an appendage of bourgeois democracy from its inception, when it made common cause with the imperialists in their drive for capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union. Currently the ISO has been seized, as has much of the left, by Obamania. While not coming out openly in support of Barack Obama, they have been gushing about his message of “hope.”
In their monthly theoretical journal, International Socialist Review (March-April 2008), they write that “just breaking the stifling conservative orthodoxy of the last generation would make liberalism a more viable ideological alternative for millions who want to see real social change.” That’s the ISO summed up: trying to resurrect Democratic Party liberalism. Having supported Ralph Nader and the capitalist Greens in the past, the ISO wrote this year: “While Nader may be the candidate who deserves our votes in November, we at Socialist Worker believe it would be a poor use of scarce resources for those who want to build a stronger left to concentrate their energies working on Nader’s candidacy” (Socialist Worker, 7 March). They have since flirted with supporting McKinney, but are not putting much into that campaign; they’re too busy cozying up to the Democrats. They enthused over Obama’s March 18 “More Perfect Union” speech where he denounced Reverend Jeremiah Wright: “Obama proceeded to do what no ‘electable’ presidential candidate has ever done—speak explicitly about the reality of racism in America” (Socialist Worker, 28 March). No! Obama’s talked about race in order to dismiss race. Regarding Obama, they grotesquely wrote: “U.S. politics are at a potential turning point, in which a nation founded upon slavery, with racism ingrained in its very foundation, could finally begin to correct its hideous past” (Socialist Worker online, 5 June).
The misnamed Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) has denounced Obama as being on the same side as Bush and McCain, but don’t let their posturing fool you. The RCP, through its World Can’t Wait coalition, has worked tirelessly to mobilize liberals to “Drive out the Bush regime!” And replace it with what? The Democrats! During the 2004 elections, they told their readers and members to “vote for Kerry if you feel you really have to” (Revolutionary Worker, 29 August 2004). The RCP’s appeal to bourgeois-liberal politicians comes across in the World Can’t Wait’s call for protests at the Democratic National Convention in Denver. The call (printed in Revolution, 3 August) does not demand that the U.S. get out of Afghanistan, Obama’s preferred theatre of imperialist carnage. It obscenely exhorts people to take responsibility for the actions of “your government.” This is not our government and imperialism is not a policy that can be pressured to change through protest.
Workers World Party (WWP) explicitly supports capitalist Green candidate Cynthia McKinney. The Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), which split from WWP, are themselves running as Greens and in California under the petty-bourgeois Peace and Freedom Party. But in case this crossing of the class line was not clear enough, the PSL wrote in an article hailing McKinney’s and Cindy Sheehan’s candidacies that they have “the potential to build a stronger base for the people’s progressive movement in the coming period” (23 August statement, www.pslweb.org). My parents were in the Communist Party, and I heard a lot about “progressive” movements growing up. That always means reforming capitalism. In fact the only people I have met who support McKinney are leftists who remain committed to electoralism. Frankly it’s a sham because they know all their supporters are going to go for Obama anyway.
Socialist Action, in arguing against voting for the Democrats or Republicans, nevertheless shows where they are really coming from: “Elections pose the question as to which class will rule society.” And later on: “Again, elections in essence pose the issue of power, of which class shall rule, the minority capitalists or the majority of workers and their allies among the oppressed” (Socialist Action, August 2008). This is anti-Marxist and anti-Leninist. Elections do not pose the question of state power; the working class has to seize state power through socialist revolution, as the Russian Revolution showed.
Down With Executive Offices of the Capitalist State!
The fundamental line between reform and revolution is one’s attitude toward the bourgeois state. The reformist attitude is that one can administer it in the interests of workers; Marxists understand that the capitalist state apparatus must be smashed through proletarian revolution and replaced with organs of working-class power. It was in this framework that we took up the question of running candidates for executive office during the Fifth International Conference of the International Communist League (of which the Spartacist League is the U.S. section) in early 2007. By executive office we mean the mayor, the governor, the president. Unlike the U.S. Congress, parliaments and other legislative bodies, where communist deputies can, as oppositionists, serve as revolutionary tribunes of the working class, assuming executive office requires taking responsibility for the administration of the machinery of the capitalist state. As Marxists, we do not stand for executive office. To stand for election to executive positions carries the implication that one is ready to accept such responsibility, no matter what disclaimer one makes in advance. For self-proclaimed Marxists to engage in such activity only lends legitimacy to prevailing and reformist conceptions of the state.
The distinctions between executive and legislative offices are clearer when you see them in action. When I was visiting South Africa recently, I spoke to a young man who was in the youth group of the South African Communist Party (SACP) about the fact that a leader of the SACP, which is in the bourgeois-nationalist Tripartite Alliance and helps run capitalism for the Randlords, is the Minister of Safety and Security and called out the army and cops against black strikers last year. The young man looked pained and said: “Well, that’s his job description.” Well, if elected, Obama’s job description will be to run U.S. imperialism.
We stand on the first four Congresses of the Third or Communist International (Comintern), the revolutionary international built by the Bolsheviks in the immediate aftermath of the Russian Revolution. But we are not totally uncritical. The Second Congress of the Comintern produced “Theses on the Communist Parties and Parliamentarism” that contained contradictory language on the appropriateness of Communists running municipal councils. Thesis 5 noted correctly that “the bourgeoisie’s institutions of local government
are in reality organizations similar to the mechanism of the bourgeois state, which must be destroyed by the revolutionary proletariat and replaced by local soviets of workers’ deputies.” But Thesis 13 states that Communists who “hold a majority in institutions of local government” should “organize revolutionary opposition against the central bourgeois government.” Administering local councils has historically been used as a mechanism by which the bourgeoisie has co-opted reformist parties into the capitalist order. In “Down With Executive Offices of the Capitalist State!” (reprinted in the April 2008 ICL pamphlet, The Development and Extension of Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution), we stated:
“In adopting the position against running for executive office, we are recognizing and codifying what should be seen as a corollary to Lenin’s The State and Revolution and The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, which are really the founding documents of the Third International. This understanding was attenuated by the time of the Second Congress of the CI, which failed to draw a distinction between parliamentary and executive office in pursuing electoral activity. Thus we are continuing to complete the theoretical and programmatic work of the first four Congresses of the CI. It is easy enough to pledge that you won’t take executive office when the chance of winning is remote. But the question is: what happens when you win?... If we cannot arrive at a correct answer of how to deal with executive offices we will inevitably bend in the direction of reformism when the issue is posed.”
In the aftermath of the Bolshevik Revolution, Trotsky made a point that the world is rotten-ripe for socialist revolution. By that he meant all the objective conditions existed for proletarian revolution. What was needed, as Trotsky and other revolutionaries underlined, was revolutionary leadership, the subjective factor. The question of forging a leadership capable of leading the proletariat to power is one of the main lessons of the Russian Revolution. The revolution was victorious because of the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky’s Bolsheviks. The forging of a revolutionary party to lead the proletariat to fulfill its historic mission as destroyers of the bourgeois order remains the main crisis today. One thing we have to acknowledge is that with the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, this crisis has been deepened, with even advanced sections of the working class no longer viewing their struggles as part of a fight for socialism. Marxism must once again win the allegiance of the proletariat.
The need for class struggle is critically urgent in this country, where workers do not even perceive themselves as a class opposed to the capitalists. Struggles will occur. The capitalist order of exploitation and oppression will summon class awakenings. But that doesn’t mean there is nothing to do now—you know, go home and “call me when the socialist revolution is on.” We must not passively await the stirring of the masses. We must assemble the cadres to forge a revolutionary working-class party so that when the proletariat awakens, the cadres are assembled to lead the struggle to overturn the bloody American imperialist order. The task of the ICL is to organize, train and steel the proletarian vanguard parties, sections of a reforged Fourth International, necessary for the seizure of state power and the establishment of workers rule around the globe.