Spartacist Speaker at LRP Debate

We Are the Party of the Russian Revolution!

Reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 805, 6 June 2003.

We publish below, slightly edited, the Spartacist League presentation by SL Central Committee member Don Alexander at the May 10 debate with the League for the Revolutionary Party (LRP).

Well, the spirit of the State Department is hovering in this room—and you just heard the speech, a “State Department socialist” speech. The League for the Revolutionary Party is a centrist, fake-Trotskyist organization—that is, revolutionary in words but opportunist in deeds—and an obstacle in the path of proletarian revolution. On every fundamental question confronting the proletariat and oppressed, they bend to the winds of prevailing petty-bourgeois radicalism and cover this over with revolutionary phrasemongering.

How can you be a genuine Trotskyist organization and embrace class-collaborationist unity with the reformists and the liberals in a so-called “common” struggle against war? How can you be a genuine Marxist party and support in the name of “democracy” imperialist-backed counterrevolution from East Europe to the former Soviet Union? And give “critical” support to trade-union bureaucrats who were installed by the Labor Department—which was the case with the so-called reform candidate Arnold Miller’s Miners for Democracy in the 1970s?

The LRP promoted illusions in Roger Toussaint, whose New Directions outfit was boosted to power by a union-suing group, the Association for Union Democracy. This is a direct repudiation of the struggle for working-class independence from the capitalist state. The Spartacist League insisted that the out-bureaucrats that espouse more “democracy” but who embrace class collaborationism, such as Toussaint and New Directions, no less than the “old guard,” would betray, sell out the workers struggle and subordinate the transit workers to the arrogant bosses and the Democratic Party and capitalist state.

Real Trotskyists tell the bitter truth to the masses. And unlike the LRP we don’t tell the workers: “Hey, go ahead drink this poison. We know it’s poison. If you wake up, we’ll ask you, ‘Now do you know it’s poison?’” That’s fighting for class independence for the LRP! Our role is to bring revolutionary consciousness into the labor movement. That’s the job of a revolutionary party and that’s what we do.

How can the LRP claim to be Trotskyist—that is, fighters for the oppressed—if they reject the fight for the most elementary democratic rights for black people, such as integration of the schools, which was centered on busing in the ’70s? Busing was not a be-all and end-all, but nonetheless a partial step toward black equality which was won through struggle and not through judicial fiat.

How can the LRP claim the mantle of Trotskyism and justify crossing picket lines at Columbia University during a brief graduate student strike? The picket line is the battle line of the class struggle—not just for communists, but for trade unionists defending their unions—which at every step the capitalists seek to weaken, undermine and destroy. So you’re not Trotskyists!

For Marxists, the struggle against imperialist war is necessarily a struggle against the capitalist system of production for profit, which is the root cause of war, racism, exploitation and oppression. The fight against imperialist war is part and parcel of the fight against the war against working people here at home. The working class, which produces the wealth of society, bears the full brunt of the attacks of the capitalists internationally, as the competing capitalist powers scramble for new markets, raw materials and spheres of investment—which is what imperialism is. Only the fight for a workers revolution that seizes control of society’s productive forces from the capitalists and reorganizes society on the basis of economic planning for need can prevent future interimperialist wars like World War I and World War II.

The Russian Question: The Question of Revolution

I want to briefly address how the world got to this point in which the nuclear madmen of bloody U.S. imperialism run roughshod over the working class and oppressed of the entire planet. And in that regard, the LRP has performed a certain valuable service in a small way in terms of the present state of affairs. How so? At every juncture, they haven’t missed an opportunity to express an anti-Communist loyalty oath to the American imperialists. In general, like their political godfathers Burnham and Shachtman in the Socialist Workers Party [SWP] in 1940, which I will get into in a minute, they have deserted Trotskyism and Marxism by supporting in the name of “democracy” the capitalists’ rollback of the gains of the October Revolution.

Before they came up with their ingenious theory that Russia was a “statified capitalist society,” there were others who had beat them to the punch, who had promulgated similar pro-bourgeois democracy rubbish—like the German exMarxist Karl Kautsky, a staunch opponent of the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution which swept away capitalism and parliamentary horsetrading and replaced it with the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers deputies, the democratically elected councils that administered the revolutionary workers government. This was the dictatorship of the proletariat that took power out of the hands of the capitalists.

Lenin and revolutionary internationalists like the German communist and Spartacist Rosa Luxemburg, they had Kautsky’s number. They knew that the centrist politics that he espoused were dangerous, even more so than the reformists. The reformists were openly for reforming and saving the capitalist order, whereas centrists like Kautsky in practice stood for the same thing but fooled some workers with their quasi-Marxist phrases. In The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky [1918], Lenin polemicized against Kautsky, the LRP’s ideological forebear: “It is natural for a liberal to speak of ‘democracy’ in general; but a Marxist will never forget to ask: ‘for what class?’”

It’s important to study the Russian Revolution—the only successful workers revolution in history—led by the Bolsheviks who built a vanguard party that was a tribune of the people, that fought against all aspects of social oppression. Now there’s a lot to say about the Russian Revolution and the subsequent political degeneration.

In the 1930s, Leon Trotsky (and also James P. Cannon, who was one of the founders of the American Communist Party and of American Trotskyism) presented a very useful comparison of the Soviet Union, comparing it to a gigantic trade union that had fallen under reactionary leadership. Just like we defend the unions—which were gains for the working class wrested from the capitalists—against the blows of the capitalist exploiters while we also work to replace their class-collaborationist leadership with revolutionary leadership, so too was it necessary to defend the Soviet degenerated workers state against imperialism and capitalist restoration.

For the Spartacist League, for the International Communist League, the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union was an unprecedented defeat for the international working class. The consequences of the counterrevolution have been total economic collapse; production has fallen at least 50 percent since 1991, capital investment by 90 percent. Today a third of the urban labor force in Russia is effectively unemployed; 75 percent of the population lives below or barely above subsistence level and 15 million people are actually starving.

Life expectancy has fallen dramatically and now stands at a mere 59 years for men, below what it was a century ago, while the overall population actually declined by three and half million from 1992 to 1997. More and more women are forced into prostitution and into being sex slaves and have borne the brunt of the devastating poverty and unemployment. HIV/AIDS has reached astronomical levels and is catching up with the rates of sub-Saharan Africa; and a 16-year-old boy today has less chance to survive to age 60 than in the benighted filth of tsarist Russia!

So now even the LRP has to acknowledge that something has happened in the USSR. Now they claim after the fact that somehow Stalin’s so-called “counterrevolution” of the ’30s did not erase all of the gains of the Bolshevik Revolution. Of course, they never once defended these putative gains when they were under attack by capitalist restorationists. For the LRP, the capitalist counterrevolution was a victory. They say in their article, “Twenty Years of the LRP,” [Proletarian Revolution, Winter 1997]: “The class struggle received a magnificent shot in the arm when the grip of the Stalinists in the West as well as in the East was shattered.” Well, you should tell that to the impoverished masses of Russia and East Europe who have experienced the “shock and awe” of free-market immiseration.

Moreover, the consciousness of the working class as a result of capitalist counterrevolution has reverted back to pre-Marxist doctrines such as anarchism and syndicalism—which reject the struggle for the dictatorship of the proletariat, the struggle for working-class state power led by internationalist Leninist vanguard parties. We of the Spartacist League and International Communist League uniquely fought against capitalist counterrevolution in the Soviet Union and East Europe, in defense of the gains of the October Revolution. We fight today for the unconditional military defense of the remaining deformed workers states in China, in Cuba, in North Korea and Vietnam. We fight for proletarian political revolutions to oust the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracies which undermine the defense of those states against imperialism. In short, we struggle for new October Revolutions.

The October 1917 Bolshevik Revolution smashed the capitalist system and gave the struggle for socialism flesh and blood reality. It inspired the working class and oppressed worldwide to intensify the struggle to get rid of their own exploiters. It proved in real life the superiority of a collectivized property system, a planned economy, over the irrational boom-bust system of capitalism.

Shachtman’s Snotty Grandchildren

We are Trotskyists because Trotsky—the co-leader with Lenin of the October Revolution—waged a fight against the subsequent political degeneration of the revolution, against the Stalinist bureaucracy, by fighting for the return to the proletarian, revolutionary, internationalist program that animated that revolution. He fought for that program to the very end of his life.

In the pamphlet written by Trotsky, “The Class Nature of the Soviet State” [1933], he had organizations such as the LRP in mind when he said, “To these gentlemen the dictatorship of the proletariat is simply an imponderable concept, an ideal norm not to be realized upon our sinful planet. Small wonder that ‘theoreticians’ of this stripe, insofar as they do not denounce altogether the very word dictatorship, strive to smear over the irreconcilable contradiction between the latter and bourgeois democracy.”

Trotsky’s last great fight was against a petty-bourgeois opposition in the Socialist Workers Party in the U.S. led by the direct political forebears of the League for a Revolutionary Party. Max Shachtman, James Burnham and Marty Abern split from the American Trotskyist movement in 1940. This was in the period in which there was anti-Communist hysteria following the 1939 Hitler-Stalin Pact and the Soviet invasion of capitalist Finland and Poland at the outbreak of World War II. Shachtman repudiated the Trotskyist program for unconditional military defense of the Soviet Union and the LRP has throughout its existence followed in his footsteps.

In close collaboration with Trotsky, Cannon fought against this petty-bourgeois anti-Soviet opposition in the Socialist Workers Party that abandoned the defense of the Soviet Union against imperialism. In defense of this revolutionary program, Cannon had the following to say about the gains of the October Revolution in his “Speech on the Russian Question” in 1939:

“The mighty power of the October revolution is shown by the vitality of its conquests. The nationalized property and the planned economy stood up under all the difficulties and pressures of the capitalist encirclement and all the blows of a reactionary bureaucracy at home. In the Soviet Union, despite the monstrous mismanagement of the bureaucracy, we saw a tremendous development of the productive forces—and in a backward country at that—while capitalist economy declined. Conclusion: Nationalized and planned economy, made possible by a revolution that overthrew the capitalists and landlords, is infinitely superior, more progressive. It shows the way forward. Don’t give it up before it is lost! Cling to it and defend it!”

And that is exactly what the Spartacist League and the ICL did and have continued to fight for.

The LRP actually wrote something on this fight, trying to claim it as their own. They happened to omit one tiny little detail—it was over the Russian question! In The Struggle for the Revolutionary Party, they wrote, “Trotsky, shortly before his murder at Stalin’s hands, had waged a critical faction fight in the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the American section of the Fourth International, against the Shachtmanite minority who traitorously split the party on the eve of World War II.”

The fact that they made no reference to the Russian question which was at the heart of this “critical faction fight” is not surprising. There’s a certain method at work in this clumsy and pathetic attempt to evade the fact that their side was the side of the petty-bourgeois, pro-imperialist, anti-Soviet opposition whose progeny they are.

Our tradition is that of the Bolshevik-led Russian Revolution embodied in the program of Leninism and Trotskyism—the continuation of revolutionary internationalism. In the post-Soviet world, we fight to forge the vital instrument for leading a fight for new October Revolutions: a Leninist vanguard party, a tribune of the people, which the LRP contemptuously rejects as an organization of “condescending saviors.”

Class Collaboration in the Antiwar Movement

Our fighting program is class against class, which is directly counterposed to the reformist and centrist swindle of “unity” of all opponents of war. Unity with whom, against whom and for what? That’s the Leninist way of posing the question. We fought for a revolutionary, proletarian, internationalist perspective in the face of U.S. imperialism’s war preparations against Iraq, for military defense of semicolonial Iraq. We call for an end to the racist colonial occupation—for U.S. and allied troops out!

The LRP charges us with being sectarian and for not understanding that there is a distinction between the movement and the leadership, and says that we’re against united fronts. You wouldn’t know that we were at several demonstrations with our Revolutionary Internationalist Contingents—organized and led by the Spartacist League, Spartacus Youth Clubs and the Labor Black Leagues—to tear militant youth and working people away from the class-collaborationist program of the ANSWER organizers who steered the struggle into the arms of the Democratic Party. We called for: “All U.S troops out of the Near East now! Down with U.S. imperialism! Defend Iraq! For class struggle against U.S. capitalist rulers!” Our class-struggle program drew a sharp class line against the pro-imperialist pacifists, the bourgeois liberals and reformists. Our program is for the defeat of imperialism through proletarian revolution; the chief means in fighting for military defense is to mobilize the working class here at home.

The LRP talks out of both sides of their mouths. They struck an oppositional posture. They called for “the defeat of imperialism and the defense of the Iraqi people in any war against the imperialist powers” [Proletarian Revolution, Fall 2002]. However, they champion unity with the very forces keeping the struggle against war separated from the struggle against capitalism and thereby subordinated to the bourgeoisie. Referring to these antiwar coalitions, they say, “We need also to fight for them to be built as genuine united fronts, where all voices are heard, including that of revolutionaries—not just those who support the Democrats and other pro-imperialist liberals.”

Okay. We are for genuine united fronts—march separately, strike together is the slogan—and not class-collaborationist antiwar coalitions based upon unity with the political representatives of the bourgeoisie. Examples of this: our demonstration last year in the Bay Area which was centered on defense of immigrant rights and against the Patriot Act and the Maritime Security Act, based upon the heavily black longshore union, the ILWU; the Spartacus Youth Clubs had many demonstrations against the racist apologist for slavery, David Horowitz; the recent Spartacus Youth Club united-front demonstration against the ROTC at UC Berkeley, and many others. But they know of this—it’s just that they hate our Leninist program underlying these struggles.

The LRP’s version of real “united fronts” is a caricature and perversion of Trotskyism, which is based upon the fight to mobilize the working class and oppressed independently of the capitalist exploiters and their agents. It was Lenin and the Bolsheviks who taught us that the precondition for a revolutionary struggle against imperialist war is embodied in Lenin’s call “to break with the chauvinists and rally about the old banner of Marxism—such is the task of the day” [“Socialism and War,” 1915]. Yeah—and that is the task of today. And they made a revolution.

Well, that was then and now is now, right? In practice, the role of the LRP is politically indistinguishable from garden-variety opportunists. They act as a left cover for the social-chauvinist outfits, which means that they played a role of keeping the struggle against imperialism within the bounds of the capitalist system. It’s all nicey-nicey: unite with and preach unity with the liberals who called for UN sanctions—we’re all part of this one common movement. This is a class-collaborationist program, all right, and it stands in the way of the fight to mobilize the working class against the murderous U.S. imperialists!

We are critical and objective-minded toward everything and everybody including ourselves, as anyone who regularly reads Workers Vanguard knows. We don’t trifle with the dearly paid lessons of proven dead-end strategies of the class struggles of the past. And if we look at the proven dead-end strategies that have derailed class struggles, for instance from the Spanish Revolution to Chile in the ’70s, such popular-frontist programs which unite the workers with the so-called progressive elements of the bourgeoisie—this has a particular name in this country: it’s called the Democratic Party and fomenting, creating illusions in that party. In fighting against the assortment of centrists in the ’30s, Trotsky noted that you can spot them a mile away by their sins of commission and omission.

We in the Spartacist League and the ICL, we are welded together by a common internationalist program and during these demonstrations against the U.S. war in Iraq, our comrades worldwide fought for a revolutionary internationalist program. Check out the ICL’s declaration on the war against Iraq [“Defend Iraq Against U.S. and Allied Imperialist Attack!” WV No. 790, 1 November 2002]. We took head-on the prevailing illusions in each country of “national unity,” from South Africa to Japan to Germany, France and England.

“Third Camp”= Camp of Imperialism

The LRP’s professed stand for the defeat of imperialism is a manifest fraud. You can’t wage a revolutionary struggle against U.S. and world imperialism and support capitalist counterrevolution. Like all of the advocates of the so-called “new class” theories, which is nothing but a rationale for capitulating to imperialism, they supported bourgeois reaction and capitalist counterrevolution all down the line. They were on the other side of the barricades time and again, from supporting the so-called “Iranian Revolution” of Khomeini in 1979, the imperialist-backed Islamic reaction in Afghanistan against the Red Army, the anti-Semitic, woman-hating, clerical-nationalist CIA-backed Solidarnosc [in Poland] to their support to Yeltsin-Bush capitalist counterrevolution.

Yeah, we hailed the Red Army in Afghanistan, which opened up the possibility of the extension of the gains of the October Revolution to the Afghan peoples, especially to the hideously oppressed women. The Soviet intervention posed in the first instance the defense of the USSR against a CIA-backed insurgency on its southern flank. The Kremlin Stalinist bureaucracy intervened at the request of a left-nationalist government which implemented modest reforms on behalf of women in terms of reducing the bride price, curbing the power of the woman-hating reactionary caste of mullahs and teaching girls, schoolgirls, to read and write. This was an integral part of our program of unconditional military defense of the USSR and for workers political revolution against the sellout bureaucracy.

We opposed the CIA-, Vatican- and White House-backed Solidarnosc counterrevolutionary bid for power and the Yeltsin-Bush capitalist counterrevolution, which they embrace. Boris Yeltsin, you know, the Russian-chauvinist demagogue who as Moscow party chief in the mid 1980s legalized the fascist Pamyat organization. That’s the scum they supported. We actively fought against capitalist counterrevolution, which included distributing over 100,000 leaflets in Moscow in order to defeat it [“Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution!” WV No. 533, 30 August 1991]. The LRP on the other hand, would have “tactically lined up in a military bloc with Yeltsin”—and with Yeltsin’s sponsors and advisers in the White House and CIA.

The LRP sang the praises of the bankers’ union, Polish Solidarnosc, which was so beloved by Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher and the Vatican and Western imperialism. We were for spiking Solidarnosc’ counterrevolutionary bid for power, and right here in New York City the Wall Street Journal warned against the Spartacists demonstrating in the streets against Solidarnosc. We supported Jaruzelski’s military coup against counterrevolutionary Solidarnosc. This was a straightforward application of Trotsky’s position as laid out in the Transitional Program, wherein Trotsky envisioned the possibility of revolutionaries making “a ‘united front’ with the Thermidorian section of the bureaucracy against open attack by capitalist counterrevolution.” In so doing, the revolutionaries “would nevertheless defend not the Bonapartist clique but the social base of the USSR, the property wrenched away from the capitalists and transformed into state property.” We also indicted the Polish Stalinists for having driven the historically socialist Polish proletariat into the arms of nationalism and clerical reaction, and called for the forging of a genuine Trotskyist party.

As I pointed out, we unconditionally defend the remaining bureaucratically deformed workers states of China, Cuba, Vietnam—the collectivized property and the planned economy—against imperialism. What about the LRP? They claim to defend North Korea and its right to nuclear weapons. But what is the concrete content of this “defense”? Well, they write, they advocate “an all-Korean constituent assembly to forge reunification” [Proletarian Revolution, Spring 1997]. This is a call for capitalist reunification, at least implicitly. We as Trotskyists are for the revolutionary reunification of Korea—through proletarian political revolution in the North and socialist revolution in the South. This is directly linked to the fight for proletarian power in Japan.

You know, these questions are what your program is; and how you try to evade it, that’s the historic role of centrism—as the embodiment of “crystallized confusion”—to blur the class line, to confuse, deceive and demoralize workers, to paralyze potential revolutionary action against the exploiters. The North Korean deformed workers state, which is led by a nepotistic Stalinist bureaucracy which is pretty bizarre, is regarded by U.S. imperialism as part of the “axis of evil” which sooner or later will include China. They don’t defend the workers states which were the product of social revolutions against capitalism.

How about China, which they barely write about. The gains of the Chinese Revolution hang in the balance. They claim that the 1949 Revolution was a bourgeois-democratic revolution “of sorts” and a defeat for imperialism. Except, hey, which side would they have been on in 1949, you know, in this “bourgeois-democratic revolution”? Which side would they have been on in Korea? We know what the Shachtmanite history is on these questions. On the ground, with regard to China, they’re with the spirit of Seattle in 1999. They’ve written a heap of praise about that despite the fact that those protests were stamped by anti-Communist, anti-Chinese racist protectionism by the AFL-CIO bureaucracy; they dumped Chinese steel.

Trotskyism isn’t some kind of “united front” against Stalinism, or “anti-Stalinism.” Cannon pointed out that there is a profound misconception on this score that will lead you straight into the arms of the bourgeoisie. Stalinophobia isn’t simply hatred for the labor camps, the purges and the like. “What is Stalinophobia?...Is it the opinion that Stalinism is not the leader of the international revolution but its mortal enemy? No, that is not Stalinophobia.... This sentiment goes wrong only when it leads to reconciliation with American imperialism, and to the assignment of the fight against Stalinism to that same imperialism.” Cannon was speaking similarly to Trotsky, who pointed out in “Once Again: The USSR and Its Defense” [1937]: “The proletariat has sufficient reasons to overthrow and to chase out the Stalinist bureaucracy, corrupt to the bone. But precisely because of that it cannot directly or indirectly leave this task to Hitler or to the Mikado. Stalin overthrown by the workers—that’s a great step forward toward socialism. Stalin crushed by the imperialists—that’s the counter-revolution triumphant.”

The Myth of “Statified Capitalism”

You get a glimpse of the Stalinophobes when you read the LRP’s recent article, “Theories of Stalinism’s Collapse” [Proletarian Revolution, Fall 2002], which is a miserable manifesto of self-congratulatory hoopla in defense of capitalist counterrevolution and is rich in centrist charlatanry. Nowhere does it even mention, much less take up, Trotsky’s Revolution Betrayed, the decisive Marxist analysis of Stalinism and the degenerated workers state. To justify their support to Yeltsin in this piece, they claim that Trotsky supported the bourgeois Spanish republic against the fascists. This was no slip of the pen—it represents their consistent embellishment of bourgeois democracy and unremitting hostility to red revolution everywhere. It is a slander against the Trotskyists, who while fighting for military support to the Republican forces did not support the capitalist government.

So why have they invented this slander and lie? Well, they don’t want to talk about the tradition that they stand in. Their social-democratic anti-communism is nothing new. Theirs is the tradition of Karl Kautsky, as I pointed out earlier. Both Kautsky and the anarchists were hostile to the Bolsheviks and maintained that Soviet Russia under Lenin and Trotsky was economically a “state capitalist” system in which the Communist bureaucrats exploited the workers. The LRP, as I said, call it “statified capitalism.” According to them, state capitalism in the Soviet Union was a “necessary prop” for the world imperialist system, which implicitly denies the reality of the Cold War and the historical possibility of the restoration of private ownership of the means of production. It also ignores the key role of Western, and centrally American, imperialism in the capitalist counterrevolution, for example, in the former USSR.

There is a methodological similarity between Stalinist ideology and the theoretical framework of the Stalinophobic splits from the Trotskyist movement. The Shachtmanites, the Cliffites, the LRP—and all their progeny for that matter—they date the transformation of the USSR from a workers state to a new form of class exploitation with the consolidation of the Stalin regime between the late 1920s and the mid-to-late ’30s. In a converse but parallel way, the Maoists date the restoration of “capitalism” in the USSR with the replacement of the Stalin regime by the “revisionist” Khrushchev in the mid-to-late ’50s.

The methodological similarity between the Stalinists and the Maoists and Shachtman is made clear in our pamphlet, Why the USSR Is Not Capitalist: “Stalin and Shachtman shared a common identification of the political character of the ruling party or group with the dominant social class represented by the state.”

So we should look at what this has to do with the imperialist war. Well, you can’t claim to have a consistent revolutionary program for the overthrow of capitalism if you capitulate to your own ruling class all down the line, as I’ve pointed out. The LRP provided a left cover for the reformists in the antiwar movement and also they’ve been marching in lockstep with certain black Democrats like Charles Rangel, the black Democratic Party Congressman who called for the reinstitution of the draft. Rangel said we need a draft because we need equality of sacrifice for the rich and the poor. This is a gross attempt to whip up black support for a racist colonial war against Iraq. And it’s been met by contempt by a lot of the black victims of racist American imperialism, who are calling it a white man’s war. One expects that from the likes of Rangel or some other capitalist politician, who tries to enlist blacks and minorities as cannon fodder for the imperialist military.

Genuine communists historically have opposed conscription, and we say today in the spirit of revolutionaries like German communist Karl Liebknecht did during World War I, “Not a man, not a penny for the imperialist military.” Not so the LRP which has discovered the virtue of a conscripted army. They actually go so far as to oppose the demand “No to the draft” and try to give that a socialist veneer, about how you have to learn how to use arms. They even have the nerve to quote Lenin—he’s rolling in his grave onto the sidewalk by now. In fact, Lenin never called for a conscripted army. In his pamphlet, “The Military Programme of the Proletarian Revolution” [1916] on this question he says, “We are not in favour of a bourgeois militia; we are in favour only of a proletarian militia. Therefore, ‘not a penny, not a man,’ not only for a standing army, but even for a bourgeois militia, even in countries like the United States, or Switzerland, Norway, etc.” And also the LRP picked up one of Trotsky’s weakest positions—the Proletarian Military Policy, which called for “workers control of conscription”—and turned it into a reformist caricature. We say hands off Lenin and Trotsky, you centrist swindlers! You trample underfoot their most fundamental Marxist teachings on the class nature of the state, the need to smash the rule of the bourgeoisie and fight for working-class revolution.

Revolutionary Integrationism: The Fight for Black Liberation

Let me just make a couple of other points. The LRP supports the integration of blacks into the imperialist armed forces. However, they oppose the struggle for integration. And you heard that, I don’t have to repeat that. Because really what they’re doing with their program of so-called proletarian interracialism is to chase behind the black separatist, pseudo-nationalists and they cite Karl Marx and they cite C.L.R. James, the former SWPer and centrist, in support of their wretched accommodation to the racist status quo. Here’s what they say about Marx in justification of their position in their pamphlet on interacialism [Sy Landy, Marxism, Interracialism and the Black Struggle], “Marx and Engels strongly advocated assimilation as a means to effectively build and consolidate the capitalist nation-state. However, Western capitalism’s decisive transformation from its progressive epoch into in its imperialist epoch has turned everything around for Leninists. To apply the assimilationist outlook today is a direct capitulation to imperialism; it is dangerous advice to oppressed peoples who in this epoch will not be allowed to assimilate.”

No, no, no, no! What is dangerous nonsense is for a so-called Marxist organization to rail against the fight for integration, the fight against forced segregation in racist capitalist America. Moreover, what you referred to about the age of imperialism—precisely at the end of the 19th century, the rise of American imperialism saw the resurgence of racist reaction in this country. You had a certain person, a conservative black capitalist spokesman named Booker T. Washington, who was pushing segregation, and he was warmly embraced by the racist capitalist exploiters.

So the LRP also claims that white workers are a “labor aristocracy,” which means that they’re bought off, and they lump them with the white racist rulers. This is how they put it: “Black workers no longer have to wait upon whether or not white workers will lead a struggle or not. Black—and Latino—workers are now strategically placed in major industries and in the dominant cities. Their militancy and their actions can be a decisive pole in what the white workers do.” This is a pseudo-leftist rejection of the centrality of the working class in the fight to abolish the racist capitalist system. If white and black workers don’t have common interests, which means a common fight against the racist exploiters, then you drive the white workers into the arms of the white ruling class and, at worst, the fascists!

How can any serious struggle for proletarian power be undertaken by an organization that has just consigned a significant section of the American working class to the scrap heap! In the late 1960s, when the radical-nationalist League of Revolutionary Black Workers refused to hand out their leaflets at Detroit auto factories to white workers, this was a big blow against working-class unity, and a missed opportunity to win them to a program of revolutionary struggle. So this is what the LRP passes off as revolutionary strategy in the imperialist epoch. What a gift to the violent, bloody U.S. imperialist ruling class. The American government must be saying: Hey, give us some more socialists like that!

For Trotskyists, the fight for black liberation is strategic to the American revolution, and black oppression is the bedrock of American capitalism. There will be no proletarian revolution unless the most conscious workers are won to the banner of black liberation through proletarian revolution. This is ABC for communists—a revolutionary workers party that champions the interests of all the oppressed and exploited. In many ways today, the conditions of the black masses are even worse than at the time of the civil rights movement. So our program of revolutionary integrationism—for the assimilation of blacks in an egalitarian socialist order—means fighting for power. And it speaks to the felt needs of millions of people.

Concluding on this point, I just want to point out our long history of struggle fighting for black freedom: for over 20 years our history of successful labor-black mobilizations against the Klan, which in most instances involved a struggle against black Democratic Party politicians; our fight for black people to even be served at Denny’s restaurants; to our long history rallying for Geronimo ji Jaga (Pratt) and Mumia Abu-Jamal, ex-Panthers, our fight for all class-war prisoners—MOVE members and Jerry Dale Lowe, the white miner in jail.

When we fought for labor-black defense to defend busing against white racist mobs, we were standing in the Leninist tradition, with Lenin’s Bolsheviks. In Lenin’s pamphlet [“The Nationality of Pupils in Russian Schools,” 1913], he pointed out that: “We must strive to secure the mixing of the children of all nationalities in uniform schools in each locality.” So this is the tradition we stand in, and I can develop this a little more.

The LRP rejects the liberating ideals of communism which animated the Bolshevik Party under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky. Internationalist unity of the proletariat is ABC for communists, for real, revolutionary Marxists—that is, Trotskyists. They have reaffirmed their advocacy, in fact, of national war as against internationalist class struggle in their reply to us with regard to the Near East. They continue to call on the Arab bourgeoisie to arm the Palestinians—the same capitalist rulers who have slaughtered thousands of Palestinians and oppress women, religious and national minorities. They uphold their support of the Arab rulers in the Arab-Israeli wars of 1948 and 1967. They claim to defend the Palestinians, but they tie them to their worst enemies and lyingly denounce us as Zionists for upholding class unity against all of the exploiters in the Near East. This is their standard mode of operation.

We defend the Palestinians; we call for the Israeli troops and settlers out of the Occupied Territories, and we have consistently pointed out that where you have two peoples competing for the same territory, under capitalism there cannot be a democratic resolution of competing national claims. This is what we refer to as interpenetrated peoples. So we fight for a socialist federation of the Near East, which means fighting for the building of internationalist Trotskyist parties to overthrow the sheiks and the colonels and the nationalist strongmen and Zionist rulers. The struggle for the overthrow of the bloody Zionist rulers from within means winning the Hebrew-speaking working class from Zionism and it means championing social and national liberation for the dispossessed and horrifically oppressed Palestinian masses. While this is going to be a very difficult struggle, obviously that’s the only program that’s in the objective interests of the working class and oppressed in the Near East.

For the LRP, there is no Hebrew-speaking nation—“All Israel is Occupied Territory!” Ultimately this is a program of genocidal irredentism. It is also a repudiation of the Leninist program of self-determination and equality of all nations, peoples and languages. How can anybody deny that Israel is a class-divided society except for crazed Zionists, petty-bourgeois Arab nationalists and those like the LRP. Why, if there is no Hebrew-speaking nation, do you have 700,000 Israeli workers—Hebrew and Arab workers organized in the Histadrut—on strike against their own government? The LRP expresses the petty-bourgeois despair about breaking Hebrew-speaking workers from their rulers—which is not going to happen overnight and as we pointed out is going to require massive class struggles in that region. But if you don’t have national rights—what are they saying? That the Hebrew-speaking people don’t have a right to live, the right to be.

We’ve written many articles on the fight for the liberation of women in Iraq, against the persecution of Egyptian gays, the oppression of the Berbers, Kurds, etc., because we are really fighting to forge a world party of socialist revolution—a reforged Fourth International and an organization that Trotsky would recognize as his own.

ICL Home Page