Workers Vanguard No. 947
20 November 2009
Fighting Reformists Obamamania
WV Subscription Drive Success
Comrades and sympathizers of the Spartacist League and Spartacus Youth Clubs successfully concluded our Workers Vanguard subscription drive in October, making 110 percent of the national quota and adding 674 new subscriptions to WV. The annual sub drive is always a major campaign for the party, providing an opportunity to introduce new readers to our Marxist biweekly press, along with our international theoretical journal, Spartacist, our publication Black History and the Class Struggle and the publications of other sections of the International Communist League. It is also an occasion to make contact with and resubscribe longtime readers.
The outcome of the sub drive was successful, but it was not easy going. Our sub drive took place in the context of the biggest world economic crisis since the Great Depression and the first year of Obama’s presidency, hailed by the trade-union bureaucrats, bourgeois liberals and reformist “socialists” as a sea change from the oddly demented Bush regime. Last year, we stood out for our class opposition to all capitalist politicians, including Obama, whose election has provided a facelift for blood-soaked U.S. imperialism. While there is a certain level of disappointment among many in Obama’s presidency, illusions in this Wall Street Democrat run deep. Indeed, in the face of right-wing mobilizations, particularly around the issue of health care “reform,” many, especially black working people, have solidarized with Obama against wingnut reaction. Headlines such as “Down With Obama’s War in Afghanistan!” (WV No. 942, 11 September) were especially controversial.
At the same time, the disastrous effects of the Great Recession have increased interest in learning more about Marxism among new subscribers, a few of whom are or have been around various reformist groups. A giveaway popular with new subscribers was our May 2009 pamphlet, Capitalist Anarchy and the Immiseration of the Working Class.
Our press is our central weapon for raising consciousness of the need for a working-class vanguard party to lead the proletariat and the oppressed in the struggle for socialist revolution to overthrow the capitalist order and establish working-class rule. As Bolshevik leader V.I. Lenin put it in “Where to Begin” (1901): “A newspaper is not only a collective propagandist and a collective agitator, it is also a collective organiser.” This understanding stands in sharp counterposition to that of the reformists, whose opposition to socialist revolution means liquidation into the Democratic Party swamp. The stodgy, thoroughly reformist Communist Party—whose main “principle” is to support the Democrats—has gone so far as to relegate its journal Political Affairs only to the Internet, and there are rumors that it plans the same for its newspaper, People’s World.
Marxists do not normally expect heightened class and social struggle in the immediate wake of a massive economic meltdown threatening the jobs and livelihoods of workers. At the same time, we intersected expressions of disgruntlement among working people during our sub drive. In the Bay Area, we sold well to BART transit workers who were going through their contract negotiations. Comrades in Chicago went to the Teamsters picket lines when SK Hand Tools workers struck in August, after the company had canceled all health benefits. We also sold well at a New York City Transport Workers Union Local 100 rally, and a few “Day of Outrage” rallies at work sites, in defense of the union’s contract. Trips to several Southern port cities allowed us to renew contact with our longtime readers in the docks and shipyards. We intervened at rallies protesting the California budget cuts and the proposed massive tuition fee hikes at UCLA and UC Berkeley. The rallies were held in conjunction with a one-day statewide strike by the University Professional and Technical Employees union. At UC Berkeley, other campus workers, students and faculty joined the UPTE picket lines, chanting “Don’t cross the picket lines!” The 5,000-strong rally held that day was the largest at UC Berkeley in years.
We sent a sub drive team to New Orleans, which is still groaning under the impact of Hurricane Katrina and the rulers’ racist atrocity against the poor and black population of the city in its aftermath. WV’s lead article “For Socialized Medicine! Expropriate the Health Care Industry!” (No. 943, 25 September) touched a raw nerve there. Other trips to the South included those to North Carolina, Norfolk, Charleston and Washington, D.C., where a key task was combating widespread illusions in Obama and the Democrats. We also highlighted our struggle for black liberation through socialist revolution, including through our articles on Michael Jackson, the arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the fight to free death row political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal.
Throughout the sub drive, comrades made a particular effort to sell subscriptions to Espartaco, the publication of our comrades of the Grupo Espartaquista de México. Working with comrades in the Trotskyist League/Ligue Trotskyste of Canada, we also made a trip to Montreal, where our newly published French-language edition of Spartacist, particularly the article on the Spanish Civil War, was the biggest selling point by far for subscriptions.
More generally in the sub drive, our unconditional military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state and our opposition to the counterrevolutionary “Free Tibet” movement sparked heated exchanges with students, anarchists and others. Our insistence on full citizenship rights for all immigrants was polarizing, especially in the Southwest. Also controversial was our call for free abortion on demand and our defense of director Roman Polanski, who faces extradition to the U.S. for having consensual sex with a 13-year-old girl over 30 years ago.
WV sales teams intervened into several demonstrations organized by and/or built by the reformists, seeking to break activists from Democratic Party pressure politics. Among these events were the G20 protests in Pittsburgh outside the September 24-25 summit. While defending those arrested, we pulled no punches in our political exposure of the organizers of the protest, whose demands “vainly sought to pressure the capitalist state to serve the interests of the people” (see “Cops Rampage at G20 Protests,” WV No. 944, 9 October).
The largest demonstration was the October 11 protest in D.C. in support of gay rights, which appealed to the Democratic Obama administration, the heir to Clinton’s “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy and the Defense of Marriage Act. Reporting on the demonstration, Sherry Wolf of the International Socialist Organization made clear her organization’s fealty to the Democratic Party, pushing the lie that it can serve the interests of the oppressed if enough “pressure” is applied: “Many organizers cut their teeth in the Obama campaign and feel, rightly, that without the mass pressure, President Obama never would have addressed LGBT issues as he did last weekend—and he never will act on those sentiments without an active and ongoing struggle” (“We’ve Just Begun to Fight,” Socialist Worker online, 16 October).
Congratulations to all comrades on their hard work in the sub drive and especially to comrade Laura in the Bay Area for selling the most subs (109 points). Welcome to all of our new readers and those who renewed their subscriptions. We are proud of our history and revolutionary program and offer bound volumes of WV for sale as well as other publications of our party. We strive to make our paper forthright, polemical and hard-hitting, basing ourselves on the work of our revolutionary Marxist forebears.