Workers Vanguard No. 928
16 January 2009
Break with the Democrats!
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
For Black Liberation Through Socialist Revolution!
In December, the Partisan Defense Committee—a class-struggle, non-sectarian legal and social defense organization associated with the Spartacist League—held its 23rd annual Holiday Appeal, which raised funds for the PDC’s program of sending monthly stipends and holiday gifts to 16 class-war prisoners and their families. Holiday Appeal events took place in New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, the Bay Area and Toronto. Spokesmen for the Spartacist League, Spartacus Youth Clubs, Labor Black Leagues and the PDC addressed these benefits. In Chicago, one of the laid-off members of United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) Local 1110 spoke about the courageous six-day plant sit-in at the Republic Windows & Doors factory in Chicago (see “UE Workers Win Severance Pay,” WV No. 927, 2 January).
More than 150 people attended the New York Holiday Appeal event, held on December 13 at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe. The benefit included the one-man play John Brown: Trumpet of Freedom, by George Wolf Reily and Norman Thomas Marshall (who performed the play). The following speech, edited for publication, was delivered at this event by SL Central Committee member Don Alexander.
In about a month, U.S. imperialism’s first black Commander-in-Chief will take office. The ascendancy to power of Democrat Barack Obama’s administration is no historic victory against racism, as the liberals and reformists say, but a victory for the bourgeoisie. Obama offers the capitalists a more effective means to implement their imperialist interests. His message of “national unity” patriotism is a program of lining up the working class behind the interests of its “own” ruling class. Who benefits? The capitalists. That’s why a significant section of the bourgeoisie put their money on him. In the face of worldwide capitalist economic crisis, Obama and the Democrats embraced, with minor modifications, the Bush administration’s plan to transfer $700 billion of taxpayers’ money to the banks and other financial institutions.
As Marxists we are fighting to build an internationalist revolutionary workers party like the one that the Bolsheviks built under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, the one that led the workers to power in the October 1917 socialist revolution. That is our model: a vanguard party that is a tribune of the people. Such a party has no separate interests from the working class, but constitutes its most advanced detachment. It educates and organizes the most conscious workers and leads behind it all of the oppressed. We are opposed on principle to giving any political support to any capitalist party, whether the Democrats, the Republicans or the Greens. Unlike the reformist left, from the International Socialist Organization to Workers World, we were forthright in our opposition to Obama, Hillary Clinton, John McCain and Cynthia McKinney.
Democrats: Party of Racism and War
The bloody U.S. imperialist occupation of Iraq, despite its much heralded and much ballyhooed surge, has bogged down and damaged U.S. imperialism’s credibility and tarnished its “democratic” pretensions. Obama and the Democrats want a more effective “war on terror” and plan to send more troops to Afghanistan. Obama’s newly appointed cabinet was called by the Wall Street Journal, approvingly, a war cabinet. Among his advisors are bona fide war criminals Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeleine Albright and many others. The mass murderers and torturers of blood-drenched U.S. imperialism are the enemies of working people and the oppressed worldwide.
Imperialist wars and racial, sexual and national oppression are not aberrations, but intrinsic components of capitalist rule. It is our elementary internationalist duty as revolutionary Marxists to demand the unconditional, immediate withdrawal of U.S. imperialist troops from Afghanistan, Iraq and Central Asia. We say, hands off Pakistan and Iran! In the lead-up to the imperialist attacks against Iraq and Afghanistan, we fought for the military defense of those countries while politically opposing the reactionary Taliban and Saddam Hussein’s bloody capitalist regime. Insofar as the forces on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan aim their blows against the imperialist occupiers, we call for their military defense against U.S. imperialism without giving them any political support. Such blows weaken imperialism and are in the interests of the working class. We stand for the defeat of imperialism through workers revolution.
Like his allies in the capitalist Democratic Party, such as Jesse Jackson, who hark back to the liberal-led civil rights movement, Obama blames black people for their oppression. With his election, the message to black people is to shut up and take it, and to working people, it’s to sacrifice. Obama has talked a lot about rebuilding the infrastructure, but the solution to the fundamental ills of moribund capitalism isn’t a few band-aids, at best. It isn’t spraying perfume on a walking corpse. It’s the fight for a socialist planned economy that uses the talents and energies of society’s most important productive force: the working class.
For many black people, pride over Obama’s victory is bound up with the memory of centuries of black oppression in America—the legacy of black chattel slavery, struggles against racist Jim Crow segregation, racist cop terror and killings, desperate poverty, mass incarceration, and being the last hired and first fired. Sooner or later expectations in Obama will be brutally dashed. The growing gulf between the black petty bourgeoisie and the ghetto masses is a reflection of the sharpening class antagonisms in this society writ large. The class divide in the U.S. is unprecedented in its scope and carries with it potential social unrest. Like his black Democratic Party friend and associate David Dinkins here in New York, Obama reassures the capitalists, for a while at least, in the words of Dinkins, “they’ll take it from me.” The capitalist Democratic Party postures as the “friend of labor,” the better to deceive the working people and keep their struggles confined within the framework of capitalism. No less than the Republicans, they are the class enemies of workers, black people, women, immigrants and all of the oppressed.
For a Class-Struggle Leadership of the Unions!
There was a recent settlement in the Chicago sit-in by workers organized in the United Electrical union for severance pay, vacation pay and health benefits. Two hundred sixty courageous workers occupied Republic Windows & Doors. They weren’t fighting to keep their jobs. They were fighting because the plant was closing. They were fighting not to be dumped on the street like garbage, without any of their hard-won benefits in hand. The company has relented, but it will reopen elsewhere as a non-union outfit.
In the interests of domestic peace and tranquility, Democrats such as Jesse Jackson Jr., Luis Gutierrez, Rod Blagojevich—the ever-so-popular governor of Illinois—and Obama cynically postured as being on the side of the workers. The whole lot of them would drop their masks if there were sit-down strikes to save jobs and stop plant closings. The Flint, Michigan, sit-down strikers, in building the United Auto Workers in 1937, occupied the factories. The whole array of capitalist politicians, their cops and their state was hurled against these workers.
The relentless onslaught of union busting requires militant class struggle. Labor must play hardball to win. However, this requires a political struggle within the unions to replace the “die on your knees” trade-union bureaucracy with a leadership fighting uncompromisingly in the interests of the working class and the oppressed, independent of the capitalist parties.
Our class brothers and sisters are Mumia Abu-Jamal, Jamal Hart, the many MOVE prisoners, all the class-war prisoners entombed for their political beliefs, all those fighters imprisoned for standing up to the racist capitalist rulers. Our class brothers and sisters are immigrant workers. We fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, for a labor-led fight against deportations, for international solidarity with the struggles of working people around the world. Our class brothers and sisters are working-class and poor women who face daily, rampant sexual discrimination and oppression. We fight for women’s liberation through socialist revolution; for mobilizing labor to champion women’s rights; for free abortion on demand; for equal pay for equal work; for free, quality, 24-hour childcare. We defend the right of gay marriage—and divorce—against its opponents, such as Obama, Hillary Clinton, Republican gay bashers and reactionary religious bigots. This flows from our perspective to build a Leninist vanguard party that fights to cleanse this world of all oppression and exploitation.
Defend, Extend Gains of Chinese Revolution!
The Democrats are in the forefront of pushing anti-China chauvinist protectionism, backed by the labor lieutenants of the capitalist class, the labor bureaucrats who talk about “American jobs first.” Liberal Democrat Nancy Pelosi and her cabal were falling all over the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan counterrevolutionaries during the riots in Tibet last March. Workers Vanguard, the revolutionary Marxist newspaper of the Spartacist League and the flagship paper of the International Communist League, told the truth to the world’s working class: the hue and cry over Tibet, joined by an assortment of reformist leftists promoting “democracy” in China, was in reality a means of promoting capitalist counterrevolution.
The imperialists have been emboldened by the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union, a bureaucratically degenerated workers state, which was the most formidable counterweight to U.S. imperialism. U.S. imperialism is leading the charge toward the imperialist encirclement of China, from arming its bourgeois allies in Taiwan to its nuclear pact with bourgeois India. It pursues bloody restoration of capitalism in the remaining workers states.
We are the party of the Russian Revolution. We uniquely fought against capitalist counterrevolution in the former Soviet Union and the East European deformed workers states. Today, we Trotskyists of the International Communist League fight for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam and North Korea, and for workers political revolutions to replace Stalinist bureaucratic misrule with regimes of workers democracy and revolutionary internationalism.
Racist Bosses’ Black Front Men
In his heavily censored 1963 speech at the March on Washington—a march that was rightly denounced by Malcolm X as the “farce on Washington”—Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee activist John Lewis, who today is a Democrat, asked: “Where is our party?” He said that the Democratic Party of John F. Kennedy was also the party of James Eastland, a rabid Mississippi segregationist. Today the Democratic Party is Lewis’s party, and he and other black ex-civil rights activists, including the likes of Maxine Waters, are front men and women for the racist capitalist system. They are the main beneficiaries of the civil rights movement, which was crippled and derailed by Martin Luther King’s “turn the other cheek” pacifism and by pro-Democratic Party liberalism.
The American imperialists have opened the door for their most trusted black servants, as shown by their promotion of Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell, to prominent positions as architects of imperialist slaughter. Now Obama gets to be the head overseer on their plantation, that is, on the plantation of the modern-day slaveholders.
Upon his capture in 1859 after he led some 20 of his followers—white and black, slave and free—to a raid on the federal arsenal at Harpers Ferry, the great revolutionary insurrectionist John Brown declared: “You may dispose of me very easily—I am nearly disposed of now, but this question is still to be settled—this Negro question, I mean; the end of that is not yet.” The Civil War was the U.S.’s second bourgeois revolution, which finally settled the question of black chattel slavery. We pay homage to the revolutionary democrats of that era, the John Browns and the Frederick Douglasses and Harriet Tubmans, who were dedicated to the struggle for black liberation.
Douglass paid tribute to Brown, who “began the war that ended American slavery.” Douglass and Brown were longstanding political associates, but Douglass refused to go to Harpers Ferry on tactical grounds of feasibility. Douglass subsequently declared that he himself had been deficient in courage. Nonetheless, in the aftermath of Harpers Ferry, Douglass faced charges of “murder, robbery, and inciting servile insurrection.” He temporarily fled to Canada knowing that otherwise he would have been hanged.
Neither Brown nor Douglass appealed to the pro-slavery American Constitution. Their appeal was to the slaves to rise up and break their chains. We have Norman Marshall here with us to perform his tribute to John Brown—the great revolutionary abolitionist who was not only known as the Oliver Cromwell of his time, after the great 17th-century revolutionary who led the English Revolution against King Charles I, but also known by anti-slavery Frenchmen like Victor Hugo as the Spartacus of the U.S., after the Roman slave who struck fear in the hearts of the Roman slave masters.
Finish the Civil War!
The promise of black equality was betrayed by the Northern capitalists during Reconstruction, which was ended through political counterrevolution backed by Klan terror. Almost 150 years after Brown’s death this question still hasn’t been settled, and it can’t be as long as capitalism continues to exist. The oppression of the black masses as a race-color caste, forcibly segregated at the bottom of society but constituting a key component of organized labor, is the strategic question for proletarian revolution in the U.S. Our program of revolutionary integrationism, the struggle for the full assimilation of black people into an egalitarian socialist order, is based upon the understanding that black oppression is materially rooted in this capitalist system, and that black workers, as the most conscious and experienced section of the working class, will play an exceptional role in leading the working class to topple this brutal system.
The struggle for black freedom is an inseparable part of the fight for the emancipation of the working class from capitalist exploitation. Contrary to the lies of bourgeois ideologists, white workers have common class interests with black workers, the ghetto poor and immigrant workers, not with the white ruling class. Militant class struggle can and will break down the color line. Many of us saw that in action during the powerful but brief New York City transit workers strike almost three years ago.
It was no accident that thousands of black and poor people were left to die in Hurricane Katrina. Millions of workers and, increasingly, middle-class professionals are losing jobs and homes and pensions under this so-called “sacred” private property system. The right to a job is, as the Bolshevik leader Leon Trotsky once stated, “the workers’ most serious right.” We need a revolutionary leadership of labor that will mobilize the power of the working class. Such a leadership will organize the unorganized, fight for a shorter workweek with no cut in pay to spread the available work, fight for socialized medicine, for free quality health care, for massive public works programs, for unemployment benefits.
These struggles must ultimately lead to the fight for international socialist revolution, which requires the expropriation of the capitalist class without compensation, just like the expropriation of the Southern slaveholders during the Civil War. Just as you had to be a revolutionary abolitionist to be in the vanguard of the struggle to end black chattel slavery, today you have to be a communist, a revolutionary internationalist, a Trotskyist, to uproot the system of capitalist wage slavery. It is utopian to think that you can get the capitalists to reorder their priorities by pressuring them and/or appealing to their so-called conscience. They will put nothing before their class interests. Their class rule is enforced by their repressive bourgeois state apparatus, their cops, courts and military.
We don’t need the “audacity of hope” or pie-in-the-sky religious obscurantism, but a consistent revolutionary internationalist program. Our battle cry is for multiracial class struggle against all of the exploiters, no matter what their color or their sex, against the barbaric and anarchic and decrepit capitalist system! We say, free all class-war prisoners! Long live the struggle for international proletarian revolution! Workers of the world unite—you have nothing to lose but your chains!