“The underlying contradictions of world capitalism pushing toward depression and war did not begin on September 11, 2001. Some were accelerated by those events, but all have their roots in the downward turn in the curve of capitalist development a quarter century ago, followed by the interrelated weakening and then collapse of the Stalinist apparatuses in the Soviet Union and across Eastern and Central Europe at the opening of the 1990s. . . . One of capitalism’s infrequent long winters has begun. With the accompanying acceleration of imperialism’s drive toward war, it’s going to be a long, hot winter.”
—Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun
Jack Barnes, July 2002
As we enter 2005 the employers’ offensive, begun in the early 1980s, continues and intensifies. Pressing factory by factory, industry by industry, they have driven down workers’ wages, increased differentiation among wage earners, and diluted seniority. The bosses have intensified speedup, extended hours of work, and made pensions and medical care more expensive, less secure, and narrower in coverage. In doing so, they keep weakening the union movement.
At the same time, these “conquests” have not been enough to enable the employing class
- to push labor off center stage of politics in the United States;
- to break the spirit of vanguard workers in packinghouses, sewing shops, mines, and other workplaces where the capitalists have pressed their offensive the farthest for the longest time; or
- to reverse the sea change in working-class politics, marked by renewed rank-and-file resistance to antilabor assaults.
Progress limited to companies and workplaces, however, has not been, and will not be, sufficient for the employers to establish a new economic, social, and political relationship of forces between the capitalist class and working class. The owners of capital must achieve a much greater shift in class relations if they are to successfully dominate rival imperialist powers, organize to meet and withstand financial crises and depression conditions, pay for increasing war spending, and stabilize state finances. The U.S. rulers have been unable to push back far enough either the living standards workers and farmers have come to expect or the Social Security benefits they consider a right. These class expectations remain an untested social and political terrain of battle. They are an obstacle that cannot be bypassed by the employers, an obstacle that, unless surmounted, guarantees continued failure in their efforts to open a new period of sustained world capitalist expansion.
To try to accomplish such goals, the capitalists must slash the social wage wrested from them by working people in the course of class battles beginning in the mid-1930s. These gains culminated in the great advances of the late 1960s and early 1970s: the extension of Social Security benefits, establishment of Medicare and Medicaid, and the addition of escalator clauses protecting retirement, medical, and disability benefits against inflation. But starting a fight over programs that tens of millions of workers, farmers, and broad layers of the middle classes not only consider their right, but also feel less able to sacrifice than at any time in their memory, is a necessity in face of which the rulers still flinch. They recognize that such a fight, by its very nature, will have to be waged not just in the factories, mines, and mills but simultaneously on the terrain of a nationwide political struggle.
Coming after a brutal, decades-long offensive by hundreds of thousands of individual employers, the sea change in working-class politics has been punctuated by scattered pockets of workers trying to organize unions effective enough to defend themselves. These rank-and-file militants are seeking to use union power. The transformation of this atomized but ongoing resistance into a broader fighting vanguard of the labor movement will not begin solely by worker militants learning from each other’s struggles, emulating them, and reaching out to one another in solidarity; it will gain ground as militants start to recognize that what they achieve through any strike or organizing drive can be defended and consolidated only by actively extending union power to other workplaces in their industry and in their region. Through the spread of class-struggle experience of such a scope, moreover, a growing number of workers—as well as youth drawn to the possibilities of what strengthened unions can do—will also be attracted to the disciplined activity and program of communists with whom they are fighting shoulder to shoulder in the front lines of such battles.
In face of the rulers’ mounting financial and economic vulnerability, the political and military challenges they confront worldwide, and the inevitable sharpening of class conflict these conditions entail, America’s propertied families and their political representatives in both the Democratic and Republican parties have become increasingly conscious of the need to use both the economic and the military power of U.S. imperialism. Gone is the illusion that the outcome of the Cold War in itself was a victory that would bring global stability under the domination of a Pax Americana, together with a cushion in state finances provided by a permanent “peace dividend.” The rulers sense—even if they do not see clearly or understand—the uncontrollable forces carrying them toward a future of sharpening crises, with its intertwined faces of depression, war, and increasingly violent class battles with higher and higher stakes.
The frustration born of a vague but growing awareness of this vulnerability, combined with the inability to find a self-confident course to decisively surmount it (there is none), is the single greatest source of the deepening factionalism, demagogy, and degradation of political discourse—what can accurately be called its “pornographication”—that characterize all bourgeois politics in the United States, not only between but increasingly within the dominant ruling parties and their peripheries.
To prepare to defend their more and more crises-ridden global order, the U.S. rulers, led by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld with broad bipartisan backing, are carrying out the most profound transformation in Washington’s military policy, organization, and initiatives in more than half a century. No longer facing down massed Warsaw Pact troops and tank divisions across northern Europe, U.S. imperialism has begun implementing a fundamental shift in the strategy, global deployment, structure, and leadership of its armed forces.
This military “transformation,” as they call it, barely begun by the Clinton administration and Congress in the closing years of the last century, can be accelerated and secured by the U.S. rulers only through war. The history of the twentieth century demonstrates, moreover, that only in the midst of deep-going economic crisis and spreading war, with patriotic appeals for “national unity,” “mobilization,” and “equality of sacrifice,” can the capitalists convince substantial layers of working people and the insecure middle classes, at least for a time, of the need for “temporary” but sweeping “mutual” economic concessions. This includes radical reductions in the social wage, as much of the care of the young, the ill, and the elderly is pushed back on the family, aided by the church and charitable institutions.
Struggles bred by attempts to impose these conditions, however, are the very ones through which a growing vanguard of the working class will test itself and become steeled and politically experienced in class combat. This long, hot winter of economic and social crises and wars, whose opening stages we have already entered, inseparably intertwines their transformation and ours.
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1. A historic shift in the global deployment of U.S. imperialism’s armed forces, its military strategy, and its order of battle is being sharply accelerated. Championed by the White House and pushed forward by the Defense Department, this transformation aims at preparing for the character of the wars the imperialist rulers know they need to fight—at home as well as abroad. No substantial wing of either the Democratic or Republican parties has a strategic alternative to this course. And it is already too far advanced to be reversed.
“This is the most significant change of your Army since 1939,” Gen. Richard Cody, deputy to Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker, told the House Armed Services Committee in February 2005.
Between the beginning of 1939 and December 1941, when the Roosevelt administration declared war on Tokyo simultaneous with Germany’s declaration of war against the United States, the U.S. Army was increased from 125,000 troops to 1,640,000 (and finally to 8,300,000 during the war itself); a major expansion of ship construction, as well as establishment of the first Atlantic patrol, was begun by the U.S. Navy (which increased from 300,000 to more than 3 million sailors and officers by the end of the war); and the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force) began its massive enlargement.
Underscoring the changing character, geographic scope, and accelerating frequency of U.S. imperialism’s military operations, Cody pointed out: “From 1950 to 1989 the size of the total Army ranged from 64 Divisions during the Korean War, to 40 Divisions during the Vietnam War, to 28 (18 Active Component and 10 National Guard) Divisions when the Cold War ended. During this 39-year period, the Army participated in 10 distinct operations including those in the Dominican Republic, Vietnam, and Grenada. In the 14 years since the end of the Cold War (1989 to 2003), the size of the total Army further decreased from 28 Divisions to 18 Divisions; however, the operating tempo increased dramatically as the Army answered this nation’s call in 57 distinct operations . . . including Panama, Desert Storm, Somalia, Haiti, Macedonia, Bosnia, and Kosovo, as well as commitments in Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, the Horn of Africa, and many other locations.”
“Peace will be the exception and war will be the norm for this Army,” Cody pointedly told representatives of military production industries a few weeks later.
2. The U.S. rulers will never again fight the kind of wars that were the hallmark of the twentieth century: massive, extensive land wars in Europe and Asia, population against population. They will not fight such wars because they cannot win them. Washington will use whatever weapons necessary, offensively or defensively, to preempt such wars.
3. In seeking to accelerate transformation, the U.S. rulers are aggressively working to break through the conservative bias of the imperialist officer caste formed during the Cold War and marked especially by their political experience during the war in Vietnam. This determined push is sparking the most bitter factionalism within the officer corps of the armed forces—and of the intelligence services—since the opening years of the U.S. Civil War in the mid-nineteenth century. Many within the bureaucracies of the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, and CIA stand to lose (or win) not only promotions but control over big resources. Never before have so many generals and intelligence officials gotten away with publishing so many politically partisan “tell it like it is” books in so short a period, often within a few months of resigning or retiring from active duty. They line up on one side or another in these turf wars and openly join the factional and electoral struggle for control of the executive and legislative branches of the government.
4. There can and will be no repeat of a war conducted in the manner of the 1990–91 assault on Iraq, waged by a large U.S.-organized coalition under the flag of the “peacekeeping” United Nations. Nor will there be a rerun of the strategy used by Washington to half-heartedly wage the first European wars since the end of World War II—in Bosnia in 1994–95 and Kosova in 1999, brutally employing cruise missiles and aerial bombardment from afar against the toiling classes of the Balkans. The consequences of these Balkan wars are made even more explosive by the fact that the political questions at their root remain unresolved and are building toward further conflict.
These wars, fought in the 1990s, registered the decisive need for a transition from the command structure and order of battle established some fifty years earlier by U.S. imperialism to promote its “free world” interests.
5. The second Bush administration has accelerated transformation by mobilizing patriotic support for its course through the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. The concrete challenges the rulers confronted during these wars, and the initial experience gained in the course of fighting them, reinforced their commitment to structuring and carrying through this fundamental transition.
The place of U.S. special operations forces has been qualitatively upgraded. Army Rangers and Delta Force troops, Navy SEALs, Marine Expeditionary Units, and Air Force special operations wings collected on-the-ground intelligence, conducted combined combat maneuvers with allied indigenous forces (the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan and Kurdish peshmerga militia in Iraq), selected real-time bombing targets, and directly called in U.S. air strikes and naval firepower.
The Pentagon field-tested new weapons systems under battle conditions, including unmanned aerial reconnaissance planes and attack drones and Stryker light-armored vehicles. The U.S. rulers, to a degree undreamt-of in previous wars, pressed forward joint command and operations by the Army, Marines, Navy, Air Force, and their special forces, down to the company level.
6. The 33 existing U.S. Army brigades are being restructured into between 43 and 48 faster, more mobile, more lethal, light-armored brigades called Brigade Combat Teams (Units of Action). The announced goal is to be able by 2010 to put a combat-ready brigade into action anywhere in the world within 96 hours, a full division within 120 hours, and 5 divisions (some 75,000 troops) within 30 days. Substantial powers of command are being devolved from the division to the brigade level, including joint command, as needed, across all four services (including, in all probability, any CIA covert operatives in the field).
In a major shift from the post-World War II configuration of the U.S. armed forces, top Pentagon officials are projecting the need for a new “strategic triad,” prioritizing the Army, Marines, and special operations forces relative to the Army, Air Force, Navy triad. Air Force fighters and bombers, as well as Navy carriers and other warships, will remain decisive, but as part of, and subordinate to, joint operations across all the services under centralized command. The new triad builds on and consolidates two changes in the command structure instituted by the U.S. government in 1986 (the Goldwater-Nichols Act), during the closing years of the Cold War: (1) that combatant commanders report directly to the secretary of defense, not to the top officer of their respective service on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; and (2) that no officer is promoted to general or flag rank without prior experience in commanding joint forces.
The Pentagon’s press release on its 2006 budget projections and “the restructuring of U.S. forces” points to the centrality of “the increase in combat units in the Army and Marine Corps,” as well as initiatives to strengthen special operations forces, which “have been critical to the fight against terrorism.” At the same time, the budget proposes measures so “the Navy can deploy more aircraft carriers and supporting ships more rapidly,” including further reductions in Navy personnel, as well as a restructuring of Air Force expeditionary forces so they “can rapidly provide the right mix of capabilities . . . to U.S. Combatant Commanders across the globe.”
7. To advance these goals, the Pentagon is reshaping the “global footprint” of the U.S. armed forces.
With the end of the Cold War, U.S. imperialism no longer confronts Warsaw Pact tanks and troops across the Fulda Gap in central Germany. Another 70,000 troops and 100,000 family members stationed at massive, sprawling “little Americas” in Europe and Asia, especially in Germany and South Korea, will be relocated to the United States. This includes the recall of all four heavy combat brigades in Germany (the better part of two divisions) to be replaced with one lighter brigade. Washington has already announced the withdrawal of 12,500 of its 37,000 troops in south Korea, recognizing that defense of U.S. imperialist interests on the peninsula can no longer rely on massing infantry and artillery as a “trip wire” along the border with north Korea. The sizeable cut in U.S. overseas-based troop deployments, especially in Western Europe, carried out during the first Bush and Clinton administrations will be further extended in the course of Washington’s “global force posture review.”
Among the 35 percent of U.S. bases and installations abroad scheduled for closure over the coming decade, Washington intends to pull back from those in countries, and those at locations within countries, where U.S. troops are the object of particularly strong popular hatred and resentment—beginning with the Prince Sultan Airbase near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (from which they have already withdrawn), downtown Seoul, and Vieques in the U.S. colony of Puerto Rico.
Instead of stationing large numbers of U.S. troops and their families at bases abroad, the Pentagon is negotiating with governments to establish smaller “Forward Operating Sites,” sometimes referred to as “lily pads,” and others called “Cooperative Security Locations.” Along with “sea-based” launching pads and matériel reserves, these installations will be situated closer to parts of the world where Washington anticipates a greater need to use its military might—primarily in the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, former Soviet republics, and Eastern and Central Europe, with proximity to oil resources among the explicit criteria.
Most “lily pads” will support small numbers of frequently rotated troops, unencumbered by families, and maintain equipment depots to provision fighting units deployed from North America or elsewhere on short notice. Such installations are already operational in Oman, Honduras, Kyrgyzstan, and elsewhere, and Washington is holding talks with governments for sites in Bulgaria, Romania, and São Tomé and Príncipe (Gulf of Guinea), among a dozen or so others. “Cooperative Security Locations,” like those under negotiation in Senegal and Uganda, will be maintained by “contractors” or “host nation personnel,” according to the Pentagon, and involve no permanent, substantial U.S. military presence.
Through such negotiations, Washington is moving to establish its military presence in oil-rich West Africa at the expense of its imperialist competitors in Paris and London (and its aspiring rivals in Moscow and Beijing).
Under the banner of anti-drug-trafficking operations, the U.S. rulers are also strengthening themselves militarily in Latin America, expanding cooperation with Colombia especially (already the world’s third-largest recipient of U.S. military aid, surpassed only by Israel and Egypt). In mid-2004 Congress doubled the authorized size of the U.S. military mission there to 800. Among other things, these moves are being accelerated in preparation for coming “border” conflicts and oil pipeline disputes with Venezuela.
8. The U.S. rulers are committed to maintaining an all-volunteer armed forces. Their opposition to reinstituting a draft today is not a public relations trick. It is based on their judgment of the kind of armed forces they need to prepare for the coming decades of wars they intend to fight; on lessons from the broad decline of military discipline and morale in the conscript army during the closing years of the Vietnam War; on attempts to raise the average intelligence and aptitude test scores of recruits, which have climbed with the volunteer army; and on their judgment about how best to mobilize patriotic support for a draft when they do inevitably need it in face of future, more large-scale wars.
The U.S. rulers recognize that filling recruitment quotas becomes more difficult during wartime, as deaths and injuries mount. As a result, the U.S. government is raising salaries of armed forces personnel; increasing bonuses for recruitment, reenlistment, combat theater deployment, and skills-upgrading; increasing benefits for families; continuing to expand ROTC programs on campuses; improving education and housing benefits; and increasing National Guard and Army Reserves inducements. Signing up for the Guard or Reserves is no longer a guarantee of one weekend a month and two weeks a year in return for college tuition. As of December 2004, when the Pentagon tripled retention bonuses for the Guard to $15,000, a quarter of its members had served in Iraq, nearly a third were deployed abroad, and 40 percent of U.S. troops in Iraq were from the Guard or Reserves. These and other rising military expenditures will exacerbate the battle in the U.S. ruling class over state finances, upping the stakes for them in winning the American people politically to support the “sacrifices” in their standard of living that must soon accompany these outlays.
9. Lessons from the class and racial divisions that eroded military discipline and undermined morale during the Vietnam War remain sharply etched in the consciousness of the military high command. With that in mind, since the 1991 Gulf War the Pentagon has reduced the assignment of GIs who are Black to combat units. The composition of those killed in action in Iraq registers the impact of these changes. As of early January 2005, 11 percent of those killed in action were African-American, the Defense Department reported, down from 17 percent during the 1991 Gulf War (Blacks make up roughly 13 percent of the U.S. population today).
The U.S. rulers have also made a concerted effort in recent decades to build an officer corps whose racial and national composition more closely resembles the ranks.
More than 8 percent of active-duty officers in the armed services today are Black, versus 2.4 percent in 1973. In the army, Blacks comprise 12 percent of the officer corps, up from 4 percent in 1973. Weighty support from within the upper echelons of the officer corps for the University of Michigan Law School affirmative action program was a determining factor in the decision of the Bush Justice Department attorneys to present only a limited challenge to that plan before the Supreme Court, which largely upheld the program in 2003.
10. In 2005 the Defense Department’s Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) will release a list of bases in the United States to be shut down, an estimated 25 percent of current military installations on U.S. soil. Selected Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine bases will be consolidated to facilitate joint training and operations.
The Bush administration plans to redirect much of the projected $3–5 billion in savings to increase spending on military salaries and bonuses, as well as to expand research, development, and deployment of what the Pentagon calls its “network-centric” Future Combat Systems: advanced communications devices and global positioning systems, designed for real-time battlefield command and control by small units; unmanned reconnaissance planes; laser-guided artillery and bombs; Light Armored Vehicles; and attack helicopters. In the process, Washington is scrapping or cutting back weapons programs carried over from Cold War combat priorities. The Comanche helicopter and Crusader artillery system have been canceled, and substantial reductions planned in the F/A-22 “Raptor” fighter jet program, as well as the Navy’s aircraft carrier fleet. In an era of U.S. air dominance, fighter-bombers are the future; “dogfights” are the past.
Base closings and cutbacks in weapons systems produced by U.S. war manufacturers are particularly sensitive pork-barrel issues. They will generate more vocal opposition among both the Democratic and Republican party politicians than closing U.S. installations abroad.
11. Before attempting to increase the size of the U.S. armed forces, the Defense Department is expanding the number of combat-ready troops—what they call “war fighters”—by transferring soldiers out of noncombat tasks and replacing them with civilian employees under Pentagon supervision. The weakened union and civil service protections of Pentagon employees are already being imposed on workers in the Department of Homeland Security and presented by the Bush administration as a template to “reform” pay scales and hiring, firing, and promotion policies for increasing numbers of employees of the federal government.
The Defense Department is also “rebalancing” needed skills and responsibilities in the armed forces, among other things transferring many military police, drivers, and “civil affairs” troops from Guard and Reserves units to active-duty units.
12. Among the central aims of the transformation of the U.S. military is the creation—under the banner of antiterrorism measures—of the command structures and operational capabilities needed to respond to the resistance the capitalists know will inevitably deepen inside the United States as the consequences of their economic course bear down on workers, farmers, and other working people. The employing class’s preparations register their awareness of the cumulative social and political consequences of more than three decades of stagnating capital accumulation, stiffening world trade competition, and mounting assaults on living standards and job conditions.
In contrast, during the mid-1960s and early 1970s, when U.S. imperialism was waging the Vietnam War, the rulers were still able, in response to a mass proletarian movement in the streets, to grant major social and economic concessions such as Medicare, Medicaid, and the indexation of Social Security benefits. Average hourly wages were still continuing to rise. The employers, their government, and their twin parties felt no pressing need to ready themselves for sharpening conflicts with workers, farmers, and the union movement.
Not so at the opening of the twenty-first century and the years that lie ahead. As U.S. finance capital wages war abroad, it is simultaneously advancing more and more openly on its front at home. Laying the groundwork for stepped-up militarization of civilian life, as needed, is central to their transformation.
Toward this end, in October 2002 the Northern Command was established, one of nine “war-fighting” commands of the military’s global Unified Combat Command structure. For the first time in U.S. history, a military command has responsibility for the continental United States and the rest of North America. NORTHCOM, as it is called, shares facilities and a common commander with NORAD, the joint U.S.-Canadian North American Aerospace Defense Command that since the late 1950s has had the authority, by signed agreement, to place the Canadian air force under U.S. command as needed. NORAD is the center of the “missile defense” of North America.
The Northern Command also encompasses Mexico, the first time Washington’s southern neighbor has been included under any of U.S. imperialism’s global combat commands (including the Southern Command, long responsible for the Caribbean and Central and South America).
Under the rationalization that civil disorder is a national security matter since “terrorists” and their supporters and sympathizers exploit such situations, dealing with civil disorder within and along the borders of the U.S. has by law—for the first time since the aftermath of the Civil War—now been made a military matter for the federal government, not solely a police matter for city, state, and federal authorities.
13. The establishment of an armed forces command for the continental United States is combined with other, more publicized preparations to meet worker and farmer resistance at home. The capitalists deliberately drape these preparations in civilian, not military, trappings. Like NORTHCOM, elements of such measures—dubbed “Homeland Defense” since 9/11, and centralized through a new civilian cabinet department of that name—were initiated by the Clinton administration. Avoiding the xenophobic Americanism the rulers will inevitably nurture among layers of the population as conditions of social crisis and broader war require, they present the preparatory steps they need to take today as matters of “civic duty” and as minor intrusions of privacy required of “us all” in face of “terrorists” imperiling hearth and home.
These measures range from increased federal centralization of “surveillance” of “suspected terrorists” both at home and abroad, to a de facto national identity card system in the guise of Social Security numbers; from omnipresent “security” controls at airports, in office buildings, and elsewhere, to appeals to report “suspicious” packages in public places or behavior that’s “out of the ordinary” in your apartment building, neighborhood, or on the streets; from curtailment of habeas corpus and even Fifth Amendment protections of the accused and spying on individuals’ library use, book purchases, and bank accounts, to stepped-up targeting of foreign-born residents, whether “legals” or “illegals.”
The decks are being cleared of restraints placed on military intelligence operations within the United States following the 1975–76 Senate Church Committee reports that detailed sweeping constitutional rights violations by military and other federal intelligence units carrying out often brutal operations against opponents of the Vietnam War, supporters of the Black and Chicano movements, the women’s liberation movement, the labor movement, communists, and others. The FBI’s domestic “counter-terrorism” work is once again being rapidly expanded.
These spying operations, which sooner or later include political disruption efforts, will be centralized by a cabinet-level “Director of National Intelligence” directly responsible to the president. Equally important, exempted from the purview of this centralization, in fact, are the massive armed forces intelligence operations organized by and responsible to the Pentagon. The intelligence “reform” bill, pushed through Congress in December 2004 by a campaign led by the Democrats, was crafted before final adoption to meet Bush and Rumsfeld’s demands.
The big majority of workers and farmers in the United States do not yet directly feel, or politically understand, that what is happening today and in recent years at Guantánamo, what is happening with the “preventive detention” of U.S. citizens, what is happening with the curtailment of the right to appeal deportations is targeting us above all, not primarily pockets of suspect “foreigners.” Even to all but a minority of foreign-born workers and other immigrants, any threat still seems several times removed. As throughout the history of the U.S. class struggle, from the Palmer Raids to the Smith Act labor frame-ups to Cointelpro, however, new and increasingly more militarized probes by the rulers will be recognized for what they are—and resisted—as working people and the labor movement are pressed into struggle to defend ourselves and our toiling allies against accelerated assaults by the employers and the state that represents and defends their class interests.
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‘The Mission Defines the Coalition’
14. Following the disintegration of not only the Stalinist regimes of Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, but also of the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance (Comecon) and Warsaw Pact—through which trade and military ties among the Soviet Union and European workers states had been structured—triumphalist talk of a new era of “peace,” “democracy,” “stability,” even “the end of history,” was accompanied by massive reductions in the size of the U.S. armed forces and cuts in military spending. The “peace dividend,” used by the Treasury on behalf of U.S. bond traders, laid the basis for the exaggerated rise of the dollar and stoked the fire beneath what became the financial balloon of the late 1990s and opening decade of the twenty-first century.
The end of the “peace dividend” and the beginning of transformation came with the rulers’ growing recognition, beginning during the closing years of the Clinton administration, that they themselves would have to compensate for the fact that it was no longer possible for Stalin’s heirs to police the toiling masses. Or for the fact that Moscow no longer has the political standing in the working-class movement needed to get a response to rationalizations for dampening the class struggle across vast areas of the globe.
15. “Liberation” not “stabilization,” “freedom” not the “balance of power,” register not just a change in watchwords but a historic shift in world political strategy under the second Bush administration, compared to Clinton and his predecessor.
What is decisive in this reshaping of U.S. imperialist foreign policy, often called the “Bush doctrine,” is the administration’s post-September 11 concretization and accelerated implementation in combat of the transformation of the U.S. armed forces. Those changes, in and of themselves, register the reversal of what a broad layer of the U.S. ruling class in both imperialist parties now agrees was a quarter century of politically and militarily inadequate responses to “terrorist” attacks on U.S. targets and belated action against states deemed capable of developing weapons and delivery systems endangering Washington’s imperial interests.
The U.S. rulers’ overturn of the Taliban and Saddam Hussein regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, and the ongoing threats and pressures against Iran and north Korea—the two countries, along with Iraq, on Bush’s “axis of evil”—are meant, among other things, as object lessons. These demonstrations of military might are aimed at “persuading” bourgeois forces in Syria, Libya, Palestine, and elsewhere from North Africa through Central Asia and Latin America that continuing to get crosswise with Washington is not only against their class interests but contrary over any extended period to their own survival. The Iraq war and its ongoing repercussions have displaced the Israel-Palestinian conflict as the center of politics in the Middle East, its effects radiating east, north, even all the way across to West Africa.
16. Neither NATO, an alliance born of the Cold War, nor the coalitions Washington patched together in the 1990s under UN or NATO fig leaves to fight wars in the Gulf and Yugoslavia, can serve the evolving purposes of U.S. imperialism. Nor can the coalition that was put together—or better, declared—to support the Anglo-American war against Saddam Hussein’s Baathist apparatus.
As the U.S. government prepares to engage battles around the world that it won’t be able to avoid (and in its majority no longer wants to avoid), in each and every case Washington’s armed forces command will be the centerpiece. “The mission will define the coalition,” not vice versa, in Rumsfeld’s words.
17. The Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), described by the State Department as “an activity, not an organization,” is a prime example of Rumsfeld’s dictum. Some sixty governments have so far signed on as part of this Pentagon-led and -organized worldwide piracy operation. Its purpose is to “interdict” shipments to “rogue states” and “hostile regimes” of materials the imperialist powers claim might possibly be used to produce or deliver weapons of mass (or “substantial”) destruction.
Since the PSI was announced in May 2003, ships have been boarded on the high seas and cargoes confiscated in port. The governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Australia, Canada, Japan, Mexico, Singapore, and numerous other countries have participated in one or more of the dozen joint exercises held as of the opening of 2005. The most recent have been Team Samurai 2004 in October in the Pacific not far from the territorial waters of north Korea, and Exercise Chokepoint ’04, the first such exercise in the Americas, organized in November in the Caribbean between Key West and the island of Hispaniola, shared by Haiti and the Dominican Republic, just to the east of Cuba.
18. In Iraq the backbone of the imperialist-dominated coalition has been the governments of the United States and United Kingdom, plus those of Australia, Italy, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands—more than thirty in all, from Europe, Asia and the Pacific, and Central America.
To these governments, the U.S. rulers are making the demand (with offers to assist those who cooperate) that they transform their own armed forces to fit the logistical, training, and special operations tasks, as well as international leadership example, they will increasingly be called on to provide in supporting U.S.-led operations.
Tokyo especially is using its dispatch of some 600 troops to Iraq on a “noncombat” mission to accelerate the breakdown of post-World War II barriers to Japanese imperialism’s exercise of military power in the Pacific and beyond. At the center of this historic shift is a sharp increase in Nippon nationalism at home, greater overt support for Taiwan, and a tighter military alliance with Washington in face of China’s military buildup, especially its naval expansion. The Pentagon “is concerned about and is attentive” to Beijing’s growing naval power, said Rumsfeld, with classic understatement, in testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in February 2005. “[W]e hope and pray [China] enters the civilized world in an orderly way,” he added. Not answered prayers, however, but self-fulfilled fears will be the order of the day.
19. Washington’s course toward the shifting state alliances and conflicts called the European Union is to press for a more rapid expansion of that political relationship, from Turkey to Ukraine to the Black Sea.
In doing so, the U.S. rulers aim to have the biggest and most heterogeneous pool possible of potential allies; to further reduce the political weight of Russia; and to accelerate the displacement of the EU’s long-standing Franco-German center. The goal of U.S. finance capital is to undermine the euro’s ability to act as a competitor to the dollar as the dominant reserve currency as well as medium in world trade and finance, and to force Washington’s rivals to bear the costs of integrating into the world capitalist market and imperialist military alliances the countries of Central and Eastern Europe where capitalist social relations were overturned in the wake of World War II, and increasingly the former Soviet republics as well.
20. For U.S. imperialism, the geopolitical center of the world is shifting to the east, both within continental Europe and beyond. Poland, Ukraine, or Slovakia is each more important to the U.S. rulers than Belgium; Pakistan or India more important than France; Indonesia more so than Germany.
21. Whatever diplomatic minuets the U.S. rulers engage in at the United Nations or other international forums, they will accept no alliances, even temporary, that hobble achievement of their strategic objectives. Nor do they believe any longer in either the possibility or effectiveness of UN-sponsored “Desert Storm”-type coalitions, as during the 1990– 91 Gulf War, which ranged from London and Paris to Riyadh, Cairo, Damascus, and Moscow, with tacit backing from Beijing. The second Iraq War has sharply accelerated the conflicts among former components of the Desert Storm alliance, giving further evidence that what sounded during the earlier Gulf conflict were indeed the opening guns of World War III.
22. The efforts by a bloc of imperialist governments led by Paris and Berlin to stop Washington’s invasion of Iraq in 2003 registered the attempt of these relatively weaker imperialist powers to protect their economic, political, and military interests in the Middle East.
These moves by certain imperialist powers, in turn, became a pole of attraction for some semicolonial governments trying to resist Yankee domination. Middle-class radicals the world over—whose nationalist “strategy” more and more is simply “No to America!”—find it easy to adapt to this “benign” face of imperialism.
23. Washington’s initial deployment and ongoing development of an anti-ballistic missile weapons system occupies a central place in its political offensive to shift the balance of forces against its imperialist rivals as well as vis-à-vis Russia and China. ABM systems are no longer a bargaining chip, used over decades of “arms talks” to pressure the Soviet Union to limit expansion of its nuclear arsenal. The Reagan administration’s accelerated development of the “Star Wars” program in the 1980s marked the beginning of a fundamental shift. The affirmation of this course as bipartisan policy was completed more than a decade later with the Clinton administration’s course towards abrogating the 1972 ABM treaty with Moscow and its decision to proceed with building the system. Whatever technological shortcomings these anti-ballistic missile systems may have today, Washington will continue to improve their effectiveness, and all the more rapidly under conditions of war.
Washington’s imperialist “allies” are being given an offer they can’t refuse and—in the case of London, Tokyo, and some others—don’t want to refuse: “Ante up land, facilities, and support for ABM deployment, and you will have a say in decisions and be protected by the shield. If not, as missiles approach your sovereign territory, we will decide without you.”
Bush’s offer to Russia’s President Vladimir Putin is straightforward: “Don’t take your eyes off China! Come in under the shield. Accept the loss of your former Soviet republics. And when you run into real trouble with your own workers, peasants, and oppressed nationalities, the U.S. armed forces will be there to help.” The faint undertone saying “until we can replace you,” however, makes negotiations with Moscow rocky going.
24. U.S. imperialism’s objective in the Cold War was to ensure that in bringing down the regime in the Soviet Union, they would defeat the working class and its toiling allies on the land. The imperialist powers assumed that in doing so they could move rapidly toward establishing the bourgeois class relations, legal structure, and other preconditions for a stable capitalist Russia.
The imperialist rulers lost, however. The heirs of Stalin were felled, but the war with the working class has yet to be joined. Washington’s military transformation is aimed at preparing for that war. The “cooperative security locations” from one end of the Silk Road to the other, the bases that will eventually be negotiated in Belarus following those in Bulgaria and Romania, the lily pads in Ukraine, even refueling rights in Russia—all that is, or will be, on the table. As will the offer to Moscow that when civil strife threatens to spread “terrorism,” “drug wars,” or “nuclear proliferation,” the U.S. military will be there to prop up Moscow’s wretched declining armed forces against the workers and peasants—as well as, Putin hopes forlornly, against bourgeois-democratic oppositions both inside Russia and along its retrenched borders. However, neither experiences in the former Soviet republic of Georgia at the opening of 2004, nor in Ukraine a year later, bode well for these illusions.
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What the U.S. Rulers Have Accomplished; What They Cannot Achieve
25. There is a difference between problems the imperialist rulers face due to mistakes they can and will correct (underestimate them at your peril!), and those resulting from the dynamics of the world class struggle that they can affect to one degree or another but cannot avoid. The rout of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan in 2001, as well as imperialism’s devastating, decade-long squeeze on Iraq topped off by the 2003 invasion, put the writing on the wall for governments and other bourgeois forces from North Africa through Southeast Asia that were at odds with U.S. imperialism.
a) The Pervez Musharraf regime in Pakistan—former protector of the Taliban, and organizer of a worldwide black market in nuclear technology—is being transformed into an unstable but staunch U.S. strategic ally. The Pakistani army is carrying out joint operations against the Taliban with U.S. special operations forces on both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, and has curtailed the international nuclear arms network organized through sections of Islamabad’s military intelligence apparatus and A.Q. Khan, “father of the Pakistani A-bomb.”
b) Even more important, for the first time the U.S. rulers have pulled the government of India, including its two main competing bourgeois parties, into their orbit. The shifts by Washington in relations with Islamabad and New Delhi alike have precipitated steps to deescalate the decades-old conflict over Kashmir between these two nuclear-armed regimes.
c) In a joint operation by London and Washington, the Muammar el-Qaddafi leadership of Libya has been “persuaded” to see the error of its ways. It is abandoning its nuclear and other weapons development programs, settling billions of dollars of claims from victims of past terrorist attacks attributed to Libyan government agents, and opening its vast natural resources to imperialist exploitation in a manner more amenable to international finance capital.
d) In the interests of its own self-preservation, the royal house of Saud, sitting atop the world’s largest known oil reserves, is joining forces with imperialism to help destroy networks like Al Qaeda, for whom the Wahabi rulers of Saudi Arabia are the infidels controlling and profaning the holy sites of Islam. Each such step deepens the contradictions and shakes the stability of this corrupt, rentier regime, while the results for the princes will be even worse if these steps are not taken.
e) Evidence is also mounting that the U.S. rulers’ escalating squeeze on Syria is having an effect, with repercussions spreading to Lebanon. Together with the impact of the Iraqi elections, the pressure is even beginning to be felt in Cairo.
The U.S. government is demanding that Damascus take action against émigré Baathist forces in Syria who organize and finance the flow of weapons and combatants into Iraq, and that the Assad regime continue its de facto acceptance of U.S. military operations inside Syrian territory along the Iraqi border. The U.S. rulers are also demanding that Damascus halt its efforts to obtain “weapons of mass destruction.”
26. Washington is taking advantage of its military gains in the Middle East to further strengthen its ties to the Israeli government, armed forces, and intelligence agencies. The U.S. rulers are increasing their pressure on leaders of Palestinian organizations, with the aim of deepening divisions within and among them. This process has accelerated with the election of Mahmoud Abbas as the first post-Yassir Arafat president of the Palestinian Authority. For imperialism, however, the exhaustion and defeat of the second intifada has been the decisive factor in its efforts to impose a bourgeois coalition on the Palestinians in agreement with Israel.
Advancing under cover of the assault on Iraq and the “global war on terrorism,” the Israeli regime had devastated towns and camps that have been organizing centers of mortar attacks, “martyrdom” bombings, and other armed actions; pressed ahead with construction of the 400-mile-long wall deep inside the West Bank; systematically assassinated layer after layer of the Hamas leadership; and initiated the political battle within Israel to withdraw settlements from Gaza in order to consolidate occupied territories in the West Bank and establish a more secure border.
27. The imperialist powers have effectively nullified the 1968 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty by declaring, contrary to treaty provisions, that “nonnuclear weapons states” will be barred from developing technology and facilities needed to produce uranium sufficiently enriched to power reactors for energy production. The U.S. government, with varying degrees of success, is pressing the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to turn itself into an international police force targeting semicolonial countries deemed insufficiently compliant with imperialist demands to abrogate their sovereignty and treaty rights. Washington’s campaign to replace Mohamed ElBaradei as head of the IAEA is part of its efforts to accelerate that organization’s police work on behalf of the U.S. rulers.
a) The Iranian regime has come under increasing pressure, above all from Washington, to agree to unconditional inspection of all its nuclear facilities and to abandon extensive nuclear power development—a program initiated with Washington’s aid and blessings under the pro-imperialist dictatorship of Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi, overthrown in the revolutionary upsurge of 1979. London, Paris, and Berlin have joined in this squeeze on Tehran, whatever the disputes between them and Washington over how fast and how far to tighten the vise.
Wiping out Iran’s nuclear potential remains a premier Israeli strategic objective, prompting frequent references to Tel Aviv’s 1981 air strike that destroyed Iraq’s nuclear reactor at Osirak. Tehran’s nuclear facilities are more geographically spread out than were Baghdad’s (a lesson learned from the Osirak strike), and only when Washington believes the odds of success are high—or comes to believe it has no choice—will it initiate military action against Iran, or agree to Israel doing so. As shown by the virtually simultaneous destruction of Iraqi antiaircraft positions in the opening hours of the 2003 war, however, U.S. special operations forces can locate and take out widely dispersed installations with devastating speed and effectiveness. They have long ago begun the reconnaissance, mapping, electronic surveillance, and other steps inside Iran to prepare for such an eventuality.
b) The Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the third country on Washington’s “axis of evil”—together with Iran and the former Iraqi regime—withdrew from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty in 2003. It has defended its right, and proclaimed its intention, to continue developing nuclear weapons for its defense. Pyongyang is the target of a multifront effort, which includes Beijing, to force the DPRK to halt development of its nuclear program. At the same time, Washington has aided south Korea’s effort to sweep under the rug the fact that as recently as 2000 it produced weapons-grade plutonium and uranium in experiments hidden from the IAEA.
c) After months of insisting that IAEA demands for on-site inspection violated Brazil’s right to protect patented technology, the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva conceded, agreeing in late 2004 to allow access to sufficient-enough areas of its Resende nuclear facility to satisfy the agency.
28. The government that emerges from the January 30, 2005, Iraqi elections will have to balance the increasingly autonomous Kurdistan Region in the north and rival political forces from within the Shiite majority and Sunni minority. The Baathist regime was based among sectors of the Sunni population with a vested class interest in preserving the minority privileges whose consolidation was bestowed on them by British imperialism. Among the bloodiest dictatorships in Middle East history, over its more than thirty-five years in power it systematically organized the wholesale slaughter of dissenting Baathist forces, Communist Party members and those accused of being communists, along with Shiite and Kurdish leaders.
Following the 1991 Gulf War, under protection of U.S. and British imperialism’s no-fly zone, the Kurdish region functioned more and more as a separate country. Leaders of the Kurdish area, which has its own government and the best-trained and most disciplined indigenous armed force in Iraq, are determined to claim a substantial share of control over, and revenues from, the oilfields on the perimeter of its region. And they are demanding reversal of the Baathists’ “arabization” of Kirkuk and other cities and towns in Kurdish areas.
With the U.S. presidential race safely behind it, the Bush administration in November 2004 relaunched the war in Iraq to consolidate power over the Baathist stronghold in the center of the country, which it had originally stopped short of carrying through to the end following the taking of Baghdad in April 2003. Well-financed forces from Saddam Hussein’s elite Republican Guard and secret police used the time to regroup as Baathist irregulars and to link up with groups such as that headed by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
U.S. forces conducted this stage in the war with little opposition among the Shia population, who have themselves been targets for decades of Baathist terror, bombings, and assassinations. U.S. operations also enjoyed overwhelming support in Kurdish regions. Despite deep wells of hatred among the Iraqi toilers for the imperialist occupiers, the detested Baathist forces and their allies who are waging the war they didn’t fight in 2003 are antagonistic to and incapable of mobilizing and leading a revolutionary national liberation struggle in Iraq. None has a class interest in uniting the workers and peasants of Iraq to advance their national sovereignty. None has a program to do so.
A telling confirmation of this fact has been the stunning absence of any broad outpouring of opposition to the imperialist invasion and occupation of Iraq anywhere in the Middle East, or in any predominantly Muslim country. To the contrary, governments from Morocco to Indonesia have been under little pressure at home to pull back from their course of lining up behind Washington and Baghdad to legitimize, however ”critically,“ the U.S.-installed regime and the government emerging from the January 30, 2005, elections. The surprising scope of the participating electorate and the impact of the turnout in Shia and Kurdish areas have dealt the biggest blow yet to the prospects of the Baathist-organized forces.
The unintended consequence of the imperialists’
course, however, is to open up space in Iraq and throughout the region for the working class and peasants to organize and fight to advance their interests; to open up space for oppressed nations such as the Kurds; to open up space for the fight to advance women’s rights; to open up space to advance the separation of religious institutions from politics and the state; to open up space for the circulation of propaganda popularizing and explaining proletarian politics. The unintended consequences throughout the Middle East, South Asia, North Africa, and beyond will continue to unfold. That is the future the imperialists can do nothing to avoid.
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Capital, Wages, and Class Struggle
29. The more than quarter-century-long stagnation in the U.S. rulers’ rate of capital accumulation is sharply accelerating interimperialist competition and increasing pressure to shift further to their favor the relationship of forces between capital and labor. As explained in “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun”: “In seeking to boost their profit margins, more and more employers have been unable to count on anything other than pressing to drive down wages and benefits, lengthening hours, and intensifying labor. This stretch-out and speedup is the ‘secret’ to the productivity growth that Greenspan exaggerates and brags about in order to reassure the capitalist class that something more is happening than a further expansion of massive government debt and its private counterpart in corporate paper, mortgages, and credit cards.”
30. Only in face of a social crisis triggered by depression and war has finance capital in the United States been able to mobilize the kind of patriotic appeals for “national unity” and “equality of sacrifice” that can convince broad sections of the population, at least for a time, to accept sweeping cuts in their living standards. It will take such circumstances once again for the rulers to mobilize, on a national political plane, a campaign that attempts to roll back wages and conditions further and to substantially reduce the social wage. Tens of millions in the working class and middle layers have come over decades to consider Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, workers’ compensation, and other benefits to be rights. Most depend on these benefits for survival after retirement, or after an injury or illness that has left them unable to work.
The progress thus far by individual employers in increasing the rate of exploitation through assaults on wages, hours, and conditions falls far short of what the capitalists must accomplish. The ruling class needs to slash payouts for Social Security pensions and other components of the social wage. It must shift more of the costs of education, public transportation, care of the young and old, and other government-funded services onto individuals and their families, making them more dependent on the church and charities.
Above all, the rulers must radically lower expectations bred over the last three decades by gains wrested from their hands during the 1960s and early 1970s that transformed Social Security into a modest but real inflation-protected pension to live on and medical coverage to fall back on.
When Social Security pensions were first won by workers in the course of labor battles in the mid-1930s, the monthly payments were at best a small supplement to individual family support and church and county charity. Average life expectancy in the United States at that time was six years below the retirement eligibility age set at 65. From the mid-1960s through the early 1970s, as a by-product of the mass proletarian struggle for Black rights, Social Security was significantly extended and strengthened. Benefits were indexed to inflation for the first time; Medicare was established for all those receiving Social Security; and Medicaid became available for those below a certain income level, and for many with physical disabilities, regardless of age.
Today life expectancy is twelve years—and rising—above the age at which most people become eligible for full Social Security benefits. The bosses are scrambling to devise ways to reappropriate more and more of even this small portion of the wealth workers create through our labor—a portion the capitalists, contrary to the assurances of the reformists, never intended to be settled for all time. Over several decades, however, as both jobs and increases in real cash money earnings have become more insecure, millions have come to believe they need a retirement income and emergency medical protection that are less vulnerable to risk, not more so. Thus, despite its need to slash these entitlements, the capitalist class recoils from the kind of social and political fight they know they’ll be picking if they attempt anything more than takeback “reforms” around the edges.
In 1996 the Clinton administration took the initial slice out of the social wage, out of these “rights” of the working class, leading Congress to end federally funded Aid to Families with Dependent Children, which had been established as part of Social Security in 1935—the end of “welfare as we know it,” in Clinton’s cold and contemptuous phrase.
For more than a quarter century, both Republican and Democratic party politicians have escalated demagogic cries that Social Security is “going broke,” implying that blame falls on growing numbers of “greedy geezers” who save too little, retire too early, and live too long. As far back as 1983, Democratic and Republican politicians joined together to raise the Social Security eligibility age, currently heading to 67, and hike the payroll tax—the most regressive and anti-working-class of all federal, state, or local taxes, aside from lotteries. What’s more, despite the myth that these payroll tax funds are “put aside,” are isolated from the flow of general tax revenues, they are in fact used by Washington year in and year out to fight its wars and prop up the dollar, one of the unspoken consequences of which is to subsidize massively inflated bourgeois consumption.
31. In order to prepare the ground to continue taking back what they can from the social wage, the U.S. rulers seek to undermine class solidarity. They aim to deepen divisions, pit younger working people against older, and win political support among layers of workers to place more of the burden for medical care, retirement, and other needs onto individuals and families. The capitalist parties play on insecurities fueled by the fact that, under cover of bankruptcy proceedings, growing numbers of companies—from coal operators, steel bosses, and garment and textile employers, to packinghouses, airlines, and others—are simply declaring null and void health insurance coverage and “defined benefit” pension plans supposedly guaranteed by contract to retirees.
The capitalists hope to convince not only broad sections of the middle class but “ambitious” workers and their families that they would be better off with individual “investment” accounts that won’t “run out of funds” (as the rulers falsely claim Social Security is doing, even though there are no “dedicated” pension funds to run out of), that no employer or government “can take away,” and that workers can “take with them” from job to job. The bosses rarely if ever mention that such “investment” accounts can be devastated by a sharp drop in the stock or bond markets, such as occurred starting in early 2001.
That such self-serving deceit and demagogy by the employing class gains a hearing among substantial layers of working people is the payoff for the post-World War II class-collaborationist course of the labor officialdom. For more than half a century, the union bureaucracy has blocked any social and political fight by the working class and our organizations for government-guaranteed universal health care, pensions, and other programs that return to all working people a greater portion of the wealth produced by our labor. Instead, they continue to pursue the class-collaborationist course of negotiating, or seeking to preserve, “fringe benefits” in union contracts that rely on the competitiveness and (hoped for) profitability of particular companies and some industries. Above all, “fringes” sharply differentiate “unionists” covered by such contracts from the big majority of our class and its toiling allies, lending credence to the employers’ antilabor propaganda aimed at convincing workers that unions are job trusts, selfishly concerned only with maintaining the relatively better conditions of their own few members.
32. For nearly a decade following the end of the Cold War, the “peace dividend,” combined with an overlapping federal tax revenue bonanza from the stock market bubble of the late 1990s, buffered the sharpness of the crisis in state finances confronting the U.S. ruling class. Over the ten years between 1989 and 1998, during the Bush senior and Clinton administrations, federal military spending was cut by nearly a third—by $135 billion, or close to 10 percent of the entire 1998 federal budget. Contrary to liberal mythology, the result was not to “free up” funds for education, food stamps, unemployment insurance, or other social needs, every single one of which was reduced during the eight years of the Clinton administration, but instead to help hold down real interest rates, prop up the “strong” dollar, and line the pockets of wealthy bondholders.
Between 1998 and 2004, however, Washington increased military spending by 50 percent, with the overwhelming bulk of the increase—$122 billion, or 41 percent—coming in the three years since September 11. These figures, moreover, do not include the annual $80–100 billion “supplemental” spending for Washington’s ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as untold amounts for what the Pentagon calls “black reconnaissance” by U.S. combined special operations forces in Syria, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Colombia, the Philippines, and elsewhere. The rulers are already exploiting the return of federal budget and trade deficits to rationalize further “belt tightening”—our belts, not theirs—on social spending.
33. Since the 1970s Democratic and Republican administrations, on behalf of finance capital, have successfully used Federal Reserve Bank and U.S. Treasury maneuvers to postpone a financial crisis and depression spiral and to cushion the consequences of a social crisis. At the federal, state, county, and local levels, as well as through corporate, mortgage, and consumer lending, they have inflated a debt balloon they depict as always expanding and never popping. This quarter-century-long accelerated debt creation has stretched out expansions and moderated slumps. It has done so, however, at the cost of inflating the dollar relative to many other currencies and to precious metals.
Since 1971, when the last vestige of the dollar’s fixed convertibility to gold collapsed under the blows of Vietnam War-fueled inflation, all the world’s currencies have become so-called fiat money—that is, none of them, including the greenback, has any labor value, and none has any price except relative to the others. They are nothing more than notations on a hard drive.
By creating more and more dollars to finance debt expansion, the U.S. rulers are inevitably and deliberately weakening their currency relative to that of their strongest rivals. Since what “stands behind” any currency, however, is the “full faith and credit” of the government issuing it, the dollar is and will remain first among fiat monies: it has the economic and military might of U.S. imperialism in its corner. No alternative national “brand name” can or will replace it as the dominant reserve currency in world finance and trade. The dollar’s Pyrrhic victory, however, has destabilizing consequences for the capitalist system. It increases not only the odds of runaway inflation but also the likelihood of a world banking and monetary crisis, as rival finance capitals and state treasuries work to break the dollar’s stronghold.
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Exhaustion of Alternatives to Revolutionary Leadership
34. Underlying the absence of popular response to the U.S.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq in the Arab and Muslim world is the exhaustion of the bourgeois-nationalist leaderships that, over the span of some eighty years, came to power on the shoulders of anti-imperialist struggles involving hundreds of millions of workers, peasants, and youth across Asia, Africa, and the Americas.
Throughout much of the last century, these bourgeois currents filled a political vacuum left by political misleadership—if not outright betrayal—of worker and peasant battles and national liberation struggles by Moscow and its subordinate Stalinist parties in colonial countries themselves as well as the metropolitan centers of the respective imperialist overlords. If these bourgeois regimes in the oppressed nations toed the line sufficiently on matters of diplomatic importance to the Soviet bureaucracy, moreover, the caste in turn gave its tacit blessing to ruthless repression of workers, peasants, and national minorities, often including the local Communist parties themselves. In this way, governments such as that of Nasser in Egypt, Nkrumah in Ghana, or Sukarno in Indonesia gained some room for maneuver in conflicts with the imperialists and burnished their “radical” credentials for a time, both at home and through world forums such as the Movement of Nonaligned Nations.
With the end of the Cold War, even regimes that had still felt it in their interests in the closing decades of the century to retain some residual “anti-imperialist” verbiage found the cost-benefit equation abruptly altered to their disadvantage. Those in the state bureaucracy and officer corps hoping to “make it” as part of rising bourgeois layers were suddenly and involuntarily weaned from the largesse and privileges made possible by their former relations with Moscow. (The massive funds available through United Nations agencies and related “Non-Governmental Organizations” helped, but were nowhere near the scope of paradise lost.)
Too fearful of the revolutionary energy of the toiling masses, too desirous of siphoning to themselves crumbs from the table of the imperialist exploiters, too beholden to their former colonial masters, and now bereft of patrons in the former Soviet Union, these second-, third-, and fourth-generation bourgeois-nationalist layers are operating in different world conditions from those even a quarter of a century ago. For the bourgeois ruling classes in these countries, both the times and stakes have changed. They’re different from the ones amid which—under pressure from the toilers’ democratic and anti-imperialist aspirations and mobilizations—Nasser took back the Suez Canal from British and French finance capital in 1956, and other governments as recently as the late 1960s and early 1970s nationalized oil fields, refineries, and other natural resources owned by the propertied ruling families of U.S. and other imperialist powers.
35. A parallel and related exhaustion of revolutionary content marks the political evolution of petty-bourgeois and aspiring bourgeois leaderships of national liberation movements today: from the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and other Palestinian organizations such as Hamas, to the Irish Republican Army (IRA) and the Basque Fatherland and Liberty (ETA).
These organizations arose (or re-arose) during the closing decades of the twentieth century on the basis of powerful opposition to national oppression among the Palestinian, Irish, and Basque peoples. Over the past four decades, however, the leaderships of these organizations have relied on spectacular armed actions, in combination (especially as such operations not only produced no gains but met intensified repression) with diplomatic and political maneuvers to reach a negotiated accommodation with the oppressors. Mobilizations organized by them were more and more used solely as pressure to better realize such an accommodation.
None of these leaderships ever proved capable of mobilizing and leading the workers and peasants as the backbone of a revolutionary democratic movement capable of fighting effectively for national liberation, freedom from imperialist domination, land to the tillers, the right to armed self-defense, and the organization of the working class to act in the interests of the producing classes. None developed a leadership of the revolutionary caliber and political capacity of the July 26 Movement and Rebel Army in Cuba, the National Liberation Front of Algeria, Sandinista National Liberation Front of Nicaragua, New Jewel Movement of Grenada, or the revolutionary movement in Burkina Faso.
Miseducated over decades by Stalinism, leaders of these organizations experienced repeated betrayals by Moscow and the world movement beholden to it. They were left high and dry when the regime of the Soviet caste and its European sisters collapsed at the opening of the 1990s. The military structure and internal methods of functioning they learned from Stalinist organizations, directly and indirectly, left them vulnerable to penetration by police agents and provocateurs. As the operations of the capitalist market have accelerated class differentiation within these oppressed nations (both bourgeoisification and proletarianization), the petty-bourgeois course of these leaderships has reached a political dead end. Frustration and demoralization are bearing fruit in intensified factionalism, including bloody internal score-settling.
These revolutionary national struggles themselves, the imperialist subjugation fueling them, and the self-sacrificing courage and determination of the toilers to fight are far from exhausted. The Palestinian people will continue to fight Israel because it occupies their land. Workers and farmers in northern Ireland and the Basque country will continue to resist oppression perpetuated by the ruling families of British and Spanish finance capital. But the political consequences of the crisis of leadership and its bourgeois corruption are posed more and more sharply.
36. What is often called “Islamism,” “Wahabism,” “jihad Islam,” “Salafism,” or “Islamic fundamentalism” (as distinct from the Islamic religion) has no revolutionary, let alone proletarian, content of any kind. Nor is it the wave of the future anywhere in the Muslim or Arab world. Its high point is behind us, not ahead.
September 11 marked a sensational blowoff, not a new beginning. These movements arose as a surrogate for revolutionary political leadership of the popular masses in face of the bankruptcy of Stalinist and bourgeois-nationalist forces.
The Iranian Revolution of 1979 was a profound political and social upheaval, not a religious jihad. It became a deep-going, modern, popular social revolution in city and countryside, a revolution against the pro-imperialist monarchy of the shah and the brutal despotism of his hated SAVAK police agents. It opened space for workers and landless peasants, for women, for oppressed nationalities, for youth—for communists. It made possible the flowering of political space, debate, and culture that to this day are far from being taken away.
The weight of religious figures and institutions grew stronger and more repressive as part of a political counterrevolution, stifling in the name of Islam the rebellion of the most intransigent workers in the oil fields and factories, peasants on the land, Kurds and other oppressed nationalities, women fighting for equality, revolutionary-minded soldiers, students, and other youth, and the boldest communists. The power and depth of that revolution is registered in the fact that the clerical-dominated bourgeois regime has never been able to come close to imposing suffocating political and cultural conditions of the kind the Taliban inflicted on Afghanistan or the Wahabi monarchists on Saudi Arabia.
The high point of “Islamist” action came with the seizure of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in late 1979, the year the Iranian Revolution brought down the shah. But the political content was the opposite. The armed units that laid claim to the mosque did so in the name of ousting royal Saudi infidels defiling Islam’s holiest site. Over the subsequent two decades, this was followed up, among other actions, by the 1983 bombings of U.S. and French barracks in Beirut, Lebanon, killing 241 U.S. marines and 58 French paratroopers; the 1993 bomb planted in the basement of the World Trade Center, killing 6 and wounding thousands; the 1996 truck bombing of the Khobar military complex in Saudi Arabia, killing nineteen U.S. soldiers and injuring hundreds; the almost simultaneous 1998 bombings near U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing 224 people and wounding some 4,500 (few of them Americans); and the 2000 speedboat assault on the USS Cole in the Yemeni harbor of Aden, killing 17 U.S. sailors.
In terms of the scope of death and destruction inflicted, the September 11, 2001, terror attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon were the most sensational of these actions. And there will be others (such as the 2004 Madrid railroad bombings and attacks in Bali and elsewhere in Indonesia in 2002 and 2004), just as the kidnappings, assassinations, robberies, and bombings by anti-working-class groups such as the Red Brigades, Baader-Meinhof Gang, Black Liberation Army, and Weather Underground continued for years after the “armed struggle” ultraleftism of the 1960s had peaked and headed further into political eclipse.
The September 2001 attacks, however, were a registration of weakness, not growing social or political strength. Al Qaeda and other such organizations have become more politically isolated internationally, including among working people and the middle classes throughout Arab and Islamic countries. And the imperialist rulers learn from each of these attacks, making them more difficult to repeat.
37. The disintegration of the Stalinist apparatuses of Eastern Europe and above all the Soviet Union has had profound repercussions throughout the world for the petty-bourgeois forces within the workers movement that call themselves “the left”: the popular front terrain within bourgeois politics defined since the 1930s by the Communist parties of the world Stalinist movement, social-democratic parties in their more “left” guises, and centrist organizations that have split from, adapted to, and/or vacillated between them.
It has now been some fifteen years since the collapse of the bureaucratic castes to whose diplomatic needs Stalinist parties around the world subordinated their program and activity, and on whom their recruitment, organizational structure, and resources were based. Over that period, some of these parties have literally dissolved, their former cadres drifting out of politics or deeper into imperialist liberal activism. Other former CPs, qualitatively reduced in size and resources, have changed their names to distance themselves from what they now view as a stigma, no longer providing any offsetting privileges and benefits.
Most, however, including the Communist Party USA, have kept the name for now. The day-by-day work of their members, however, has less connection with the ranks of the working class and union movement, as opposed to the labor officialdom and its staffs, than at any time since the end of the 1920s, when the political counterrevolution in the Soviet Union, including the bureaucratic strangling of the parties of the Communist International, was consolidated.
These counterfeit communist parties—which for more than sixty years sought to legitimize themselves among class-conscious workers by falsely posing as the continuators of Bolshevism—make fewer and fewer claims today to continuity with Marx, Engels, or Lenin. They are increasingly jettisoning even many of Stalinism’s own legends and dogmas in order to integrate themselves more comfortably into the left wing of liberal bourgeois politics.
Less and less does the CPUSA acknowledge any political heritage separate and apart from the “progressive” wing of the Democratic Party and various labor, Black, and defense efforts from the New Deal on. They pride themselves on having been “the best canvassers for Kerry” in Ohio in 2004. Socialism has more and more explicitly become the extension of democracy.
38. Since capitulating to “their own” bourgeoisies at the opening of World War I in August 1914, the parties of the Socialist International have been imperialist labor or socialist parties. Unlike Stalinist parties that were politically subordinate to Moscow and to the needs of the Stalinist bureaucratic caste, the social-democratic parties are and have been loyal to their respective imperialist (or national) bourgeoisies and states.
The social democrats’ relationship to Stalinist parties since the 1930s has been not only that of rivals within the labor movement but also periodic partners in popular frontism, especially amid financial, social, or international crises when CPs were under orders from Moscow to secure such blocs in order to gain greater diplomatic muscle. With the irreversible decline of international Stalinism, as social-democratic parties today pursue electoral opportunities to administer the “restructuring” and “reforming” of the bourgeois state and its finances, they will be able to rely much less than in the past on patching together governmental coalitions with parties shaped in the class-collaborationist politics of the world Stalinist apparatus.
Gone is another crutch, as well. Less and less can social democrats contrast themselves to a Stalinized Communist Party—the basis for the revival of “left socialism” in the 1930s—as a way to hold onto the allegiance of workers by presenting themselves as a lesser evil on the left.
The imperialist character of these “Social Democratic,” “Socialist,” and “Labor” parties has undergone no fundamental change for nine decades. They have, however, converged in their political character and functioning with imperialist bourgeois parties such as the Democratic Party in the United States. While maintaining an electoral base in the working class, they have sought, above all, to consolidate expanded support in the middle classes and have organized to weaken institutional controls—in fact or in form—by the trade union movement over their policies and course. The Blair government is today no more beholden to the program adopted at a Labour Party conference (much less that of the Trades Union Congress) than Democratic or Republican candidates to the platform of their respective party conventions. Like their U.S. counterparts, social-democratic party conferences today are increasingly scripted showcases for their apparatuses, higher state functionaries, and parliamentary leaderships.
39. For decades, Stalinism and its cadres were the popular front glue structuring the broader left of bourgeois politics. Communist and social-democratic parties intersected not only within the trade union officialdom, but also within an array of political, social, and cultural organizations—from those involved in struggles against racism, war, and sometimes women’s oppression, to opposition to corporate abuse of the environment, support for “progressive” artists, and others. The political line and resources of the existing bureaucratic castes most often provided the motivation and inducements drawing centrist sects—the “far left”—into bourgeois politics as well.
Today, the glue has come unstuck. Within the international workers movement and broader radical milieus, even the pretense of any “culture of Marxism,” involvement in the ranks of labor and their struggles, or colonization of the unions has melted away. Some currents subordinate themselves to figures in, or “progressive” caucuses of, the labor officialdom. None, however, organizes its cadres to become industrial workers or build industrial union fractions in order to join with other working-class militants to use, strengthen, and spread union power. The “industrial concentration” policy of the Communist Party USA had been more talked about than carried out for at least a quarter century. But it was finally dropped even in word over the past half decade, with the death or incapacitation of the last of its central leaders going back to labor struggles of the 1930s (who “kept the faith,” but made damned sure their children and grandchildren were never part of the rank and file inside a factory, mill, or mine).
Fewer and fewer individuals or organizations on “the left” refer to themselves as communists. Some university professors still say their writings are “informed by” what they claim to be Marxism. But this is ideological and academic posturing shorn of any revolutionary working-class content, always unconnected to the proletariat’s fight for power, let alone the inevitability of that struggle. Among these petty-bourgeois radical layers, it is the ultimate scandal (if it’s of any interest at all) that the Socialist Workers Party and others in our world movement continue to judge everything we say and everything we do from how best to advance as part of the fighting working class along its line of march toward the dictatorship of the proletariat.
This turn away from the working class and even the semblance of Marxism is the political trajectory of the currents that make up the left in the United States: from the Communist Party USA itself; to the Greens and “radical” supporters of Ralph Nader; to sects such as the Workers World Party, Freedom Socialist Party, International Socialist Organization, and various “Trotskyist” groups; to the assortment of other radical organizations. Many enmesh themselves more and more in the attempt to “politicize” the personal, intimate, sexual, psychological life of the semiprofessional-acting-as-if-semibohemian petty-bourgeois liberal left, with roots in the memories of the radical movement of the late sixties and early seventies—the “soixant-huitards,” the generation of the ’68ers, as they are known in France.
Above all, what marks these organizations is not what they are for (few any longer even nod their heads to the proletariat’s line of march) but what they are against. What marks them is their shared antagonism to American imperialism, or more precisely in most cases, their antagonism toward the wing of American imperialism associated with the Republican Party and, today, the Bush administration (or the “right wing” of the Democratic Party when it holds the White House or Congress). Orbiting around Paris, especially, and Berlin, they are the “left wing” of the bourgeois international “coalition to hate Washington” and to fear the “red state” masses who voted for the current incumbent. The rationalization, spoken or unspoken, is that the world has now “changed”; that socialism is a utopian fantasy; that there must be and is an alternative “third way” between socialism and imperialism, itself increasingly denied by euphemisms such as “globalization” or “neoliberalism“; and that the permanence of capitalism—hopefully a “reformed,” increasingly democratic capitalism—is beyond challenge.
By rejecting the proletarian course insisted on by Lenin and Trotsky for the parties of the Communist International, by refusing to colonize basic industry, following the lines of resistance in the working class, all these political currents in the United States still identifying themselves to one degree or another as socialist have today moved beyond their long-standing rejection of the struggle for a proletarian party. Acting in accord with the class position and activity of their members and leaders, they are erasing from the historical memories of their organizations even the past forms of such a course. They are codifying what they carried out in practice many decades ago: turning away from the historic line of march of the working class toward state power, and from a proletarian orientation and discipline necessary to its victorious culmination.
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40. Since the closing years of the 1990s, renewed resistance in the workplace to the brutal effectiveness of the employers’ antilabor offensive has led to the beginnings of important changes in the combativity and self-confidence of pockets of working-class militants. Members of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists—working and building unions today in industries such as meatpacking, coal, and garment and textile, where the bosses’ offensive has been among the fiercest for the longest—are among the workers taking the lead in learning to organize and use union power. Over the past half decade, we’ve been involved in such vanguard fights in packinghouses in the Midwest, the Point Blank Body Armor factory in Florida, and the Co-Op mine in Utah.
41. The seeds of labor’s transformation that are being planted within this sea change in working-class politics are germinating at the same time that the trade unions in the United States continue to weaken, as they do throughout the imperialist countries. While still-atomized groups of workers are gaining greater experience, solidarity, and confidence through unionization efforts and strikes, the basic defensive institutions of the working class, as a result of the treachery of the class-collaborationist trade union officialdom, have been rendered less capable today than at any time since the early years of the Great Depression of successfully organizing and fighting the bosses and their government institutions.
The labor movement remains hobbled by the decades-long class-collaborationist course of an officialdom focused on its own routines, its own daily creature comforts, and its own retirement benefits, as well as mergers solely designed to bolster the latter two, at least for the union tops. The unions continue to shrink as a percentage of the working class. They are bound hand and foot by the policies of these misleaders, who identify the interests of labor with those of capital—factory by factory, company by company, industry by industry—as well as through subordination of the unions to the election and reelection of capitalist, most often Democratic Party, politicians. Workers searching for effective tools with which to fight find themselves swaddled in bourgeois ideas advanced by union officials—reinforced by schools, churches, and the media—and often overlaid with the flotsam and jetsam of dead-end leftism picked up by “labor leaders” willy-nilly over the years from petty-bourgeois radicals.
42. At the same time, labor remains at center stage of U.S. politics. In face of ongoing employer attacks, and no matter how weak the labor movement has become, workers reach toward organizing unions and trying to use them to defend wages and job conditions against such assaults.
The employing class, even with its unrelenting offensive on the factory and industry level, still cannot radically alter relations between capital and labor, as they must do in order to reverse the downward pressures on rates of profit. Yet they continue to fear launching a social and political fight that takes a chance on spreading resistance and leading to a new intensity, unity, and solidarity of workers’ struggles.
As these deep contradictions work their way to the surface, the postponed class battles will come.
43. Class-struggle-minded militants such as those who have been engaged in the UMWA organizing drive in Huntington, Utah, set an example of determination and solidarity for others. The decisive step in transforming such resistance into forging a broader vanguard of the working-class movement is the recognition by militants, as they gain class-struggle experience through such fights, that their initial victories, both small and large, will not be maintained or secured unless they extend union power to other plants, mines, and mills in the industry and region.
As a result of the Co-Op miners’ struggle, the organization of Western coal has begun. It will advance, however, only as cadres of that fight and those influenced by them actively reach out to other mines and miners—union and nonunion—to strengthen the UMWA in Utah and also in Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico, and elsewhere in the West. The same is true for workers who are leading fights in Midwest packing, in garment shops, textile mills, or wherever else the lines of resistance in the working class have and will spread.
44. Learning how earlier generations of workers gained experience in union combat—forging a class-struggle leadership in the process and, over time, winning increased numbers of workers to revolutionary conclusions—is necessary to strengthen the ability both of party cadres and other militants to take part effectively in struggles already unfolding, as well as those that lie ahead. Members of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists who are an integral part of working-class resistance have advanced this understanding by introducing fellow militants to Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs, as well as organizing systematic classes on it in party units. The task ahead of vanguard workers today—captured well in the chapter title “The Struggle Widens” in Teamster Power, the second in the four-volume series—underlines the importance of systematically reading and discussing not only the first book but also Teamster Power, Teamster Politics, and Teamster Bureaucracy.
Read and absorbed together, the four-volume Teamster series describes how a growing workers vanguard put itself to the test in widening union combat, experienced inevitable differentiations, and advanced toward proletarian political consciousness: the capacity to think socially and act politically in the interests of the working class, independent of the employers, their political parties, and the capitalist state.
45. Learning the political realities of the class struggle—discovered and clarified through actions, intertwined with studying and absorbing the lessons of past fights to spread union power—is a precondition for a growing politicization of vanguard militants. Progress in extending and strengthening the union opens the door to start bringing labor’s weight to bear in support of Black rights, women’s equality, the rights of immigrants, defense of the social wage, and other social and political struggles. It opens the door to organizing education about, and opposition to, the imperialist rulers’ militarization drive, expanding war budget, and increasing use of military might abroad and at home, including the fight to bring the troops home from Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East—now!
46. Individual workers engaged in union struggles become interested in the ideas, program, and disciplined political activity of fellow workers who are communists and alongside of whom they are fighting, or whose paper they are reading. Some are attracted to a party whose politics start not with elections, or with “reasonable” profit needs of the U.S. imperialist rulers, but with the world. They become interested in a party advancing a program and strategy to close the gap in economic resources, social conditions, and political experience of workers and farmers worldwide—from working-class communities, factories, mines, and fields across the United States and other imperialist countries, to those throughout Asia, Africa, and Latin America.
This revolutionary political continuity—this integration of history, theory, and practice—can be maintained and applied over time only by the cadres of a party that is proletarian not just in program but also in composition, activity, and milieu. A party and world movement of this kind is capable of ensuring that our class does not “lose its memory”—that we do not lose the political history of the struggles of the revolutionary workers movement, the generalization of whose lessons is the foundation of communist theory, and of the continual renewal of that theory in the course of ongoing revolutionary class-struggle activity.
A century and a half of experience has confirmed, as the Communist Manifesto explains, that trade unions are bred by the very workings of capitalism itself. “The real fruit of their battles,” moreover, “lies, not in the immediate result, but in the ever-expanding union of the workers.” So too the rebellion of the hanged—the irrepressible struggles of oppressed nations and nationalities the world over. But the class-conscious political organization of the proletariat, the building of communist parties with a program and strategy for the conquest of power, for the dictatorship of the proletariat—that does not arise spontaneously from the operations of the law of value. As Lenin succinctly reminds us, “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.”
The struggle for a proletarian party is impossible without the generalization of lessons of working-class battles—not in any single factory or industry, not in any single country, nor at any given moment or even any single century. Only through the experiences of overlapping generations of workers and other toilers—youth new to the class struggle, together with those tested and trained over years—in many workplaces, spread geographically around the world, are those lessons accurately drawn.
47. Central to guiding the rounded political work of such parties today are the “six points” adopted by the 1990 Socialist Workers Party convention (“The Communist Strategy of Party Building Today: A Letter to Comrades in Sweden” by Mary-Alice Waters, in New International no. 11):
i) The turn to industry: Carrying out “consistent, professional communist work in the unions accompanied by the deepening proletarianization of the experience and composition of the party and its leadership.” This is built on the foundation of active participation by the overwhelming majority of the members and leadership of the party in building industrial union fractions along the lines presented in The Changing Face of U.S. Politics: Working-Class Politics and the Trade Unions by Jack Barnes, including consolidating the gains of the third campaign for the turn begun in the late 1990s, described in “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun.”
ii) Political centralization: “The turn can only be real if it is the axis of work for an organization whose leadership is striving for political homogeneity and centralization, carrying out (in a particular country) an international political orientation…. [This] can’t be done without having both strong, politically well-rounded, and confident branches and fractions. The two have some different tasks, but through the common political content of their work, they mutually reinforce each other.”
iii) A weekly rhythm of working-class political life: This weekly rhythm, dictated by the capitalists’ organization of wage labor, provides an “irreplaceable basis for the disciplined life of a centralized, combat party”—weekly Militant Labor Forums; participation in mass work, from labor battles and actions of social protest to solidarity with anti-imperialist vanguard struggles internationally; educational classes; sales of the Militant, Perspectiva Mundial, and books and pamphlets on street corners in working-class neighborhoods, at plant gates and mine portals, on campus, and at political events; and regular decision-making meetings of party branches, organizing committees, and union fractions to politically guide and centralize this ongoing activity.
iv) Expansion of broad propaganda work built around the distribution of books and pamphlets published or distributed by Pathfinder Press, including New International: Getting these hundreds of titles—which record lessons earned in blood by the international communist workers movement over more than a century and a half of struggle—into the hands of workers, farmers, and youth is a permanent axis of the work of a proletarian party. These works clarify “questions that are vital to the future of working people in every country.”
v) Youth recruitment: “In everything we do our attention is directed above all towards those fighting young workers who are the communist cadres of the future . . . as well as students who are attracted towards working-class battles and are open to joining a proletarian organization.” Reaching out politically to young people, and attracting them to the Young Socialists and our movement, “is especially important given the increasing average age of all our forces, and the increasing pressures this brings to adapt to the rhythms and norms of the society in which we live, including the unions of which we are members.”
vi) Proletarian internationalism “under the banner of the new international”: Through every aspect of the work of the Socialist Workers Party, Young Socialists, and our sister Communist Leagues in other countries, organizing to advance the rebuilding of an international communist organization in continuity with the Communist International forged by Lenin and the Bolsheviks in the wake of the victorious October 1917 Russian Revolution, subsequently corrupted and destroyed by the world Stalinist movement.
Such is a summary of the strategic goal of the proletarian orientation. From 1959 to today, moreover, every organization claiming to advance along that course has had to meet—and continues to have to meet—“the ‘acid test’ of the Cuban revolution . . . recognizing the place of the communist leadership in Cuba and acting on that understanding.”
48. For the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists, joining with young people and other organizations and currents to build the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students in Caracas, Venezuela, August 7–15, 2005, provides an opportunity to advance communist political work along the axes of each of “the six points.”
As with the last two youth festivals in Algiers (2001) and Havana (1997), the upcoming event enables our movement to reach out to, and engage in political work with, young workers and students who can be attracted to working-class resistance here and abroad and who can be won to seeing the need to make a revolution in the United States and to joining the communist movement to help achieve that objective. The fact that this festival is being held in Venezuela offers additional opportunities, and responsibilities, to organize events on campuses and elsewhere to present a political description and explanation of the class struggle that continues to unfold there today; to report on the internationalist work of volunteer Cuban teachers and medical workers; and to mobilize defense of Venezuela and Cuba in face of Washington’s confrontational political course and military buildup in neighboring Colombia.
These are the revolutionary proletarian and anti-imperialist axes along which we organize to win young people to this effort. In doing so, we are primarily contending politically with the Communist Party and Young Communist League, in addition to a handful of other political opponents. During the heyday of world Stalinism’s control of the festival movement from the late 1940s through the late 1980s, the CPs and their youth organizations dominated every aspect of the organization of delegations participating in these events. To this day, they fight to preserve the class-collaborationist political continuity of “peace and friendship,” as well as the bureaucratic norms and methods designed to politically strangle, to narrow not broaden the involvement of young people.
The collapse of the Stalinist apparatuses in the Soviet Union and across Eastern Europe at the beginning of the 1990s opened up space for the first time for revolutionary-minded young people previously barred from the festival movement to join with others in working to build these international gatherings as a way to meet radicalizing young people from around the world, learn from them, and help show how to use such get-togethers to advance the worldwide fight against imperialism. Since that time, the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists have been doing so. Our collaboration in these efforts with, among others, leaders and cadres of the Union of Young Communists (UJC) in Cuba has been interconnected with U.S. speaking tours for Cuban youth leaders; cooperation in publishing books by Ernesto Che Guevara, Malcolm X, and other revolutionists for use in the United States, Cuba, and elsewhere; work with young people interested in learning firsthand for themselves the reality of the Cuban Revolution; and other political activity. We talk politics with, learn from, develop political relations with, and have a political influence on cadres of organizations from across the Americas and around the world.
Building U.S. participation in the 16th World Festival of Youth and Students as a central priority of a turn party means both working with student organizations, political opponents, and individual young people through the National Preparatory Committee (NPC) organizing the U.S. delegation. It means taking advantage of opportunities through our fractions and branches to involve young workers and unionists in political activity that broadens their horizons. It means designing Militant Labor Forums to join the many disputed political questions that come out of discussions in this work.
As we contest with opponents, the political clarification and differentiation will both educate and steel our own members as well as enhance opportunities for recruitment to the communist movement.
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Historical Trends and Proletarian Strength
49. The prospects for forging a revolutionary proletarian political vanguard of the labor movement and building a communist international composed of disciplined combat parties are enhanced by six broad social and political trends that will increasingly mark the twenty-first century:
i) The size of the hereditary working class, both in absolute terms and relative to other social classes, continues to expand on a world scale. This increases the possibilities for proletarian participation in, and leadership of, revolutionary struggles for national liberation and socialism in the Middle East and worldwide. As new layers of toilers are proletarianized, the class struggle in Asia will intensify in a qualitatively new way from China to Pakistan, India, Indonesia, Russia, and beyond. In China especially, explosive contradictions are deepening as tens of millions of peasants, born and educated in a workers state however deformed it may be, pour into an urban factory workforce concentrated in rapidly expanding coastal industrial centers.
ii) Women continue to be integrated into the workforce, and barriers to women and men working alongside each other as equals, performing the same jobs, are progressively being breached in both imperialist and semicolonial countries. This proletarianization, the cornerstone for the realization of women’s liberation, not only weakens the economic foundations of women’s oppression and strengthens the working class. It also increases the social and political weight and centrality to the class struggle of the fight for women’s equality. This process expands the active involvement of women in the unions, popular struggles, and revolutionary workers movement, as well as the possibility and, even more, the necessity of their leadership integration at all levels.
iii) Through accelerated immigration, impelled by grinding economic conditions in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, the working class is becoming more and more internationalized in the imperialist world and in most industrially advanced semicolonial countries. These changes in composition not only break down national divisions, provincialism, and prejudices that sap the power of the labor movement, but also enrich the political and union experiences of the working class and broaden historical and cultural horizons.
iv) As a result of the social weight and disproportionately proletarian composition of the oppressed Black nationality in the United States, workers who are African-American will make up a larger component of the fighting political vanguard of the labor movement in the class battles ahead, including the struggle against imperialist war, than during the labor radicalization of the 1930s. Their struggles, past and present, also set a powerful example for growing numbers of immigrant workers confronting racist discrimination, and often shedding their own backward, anti-Black prejudices in the course of common battles.
v) The history of the last half century has confirmed that revolutionary proletarian leadership of the highest caliber can and will develop from struggles by the most oppressed layers of toilers not just in the imperialist countries, as exemplified by Malcolm X in the United States. Even in the most economically backward and industrially undeveloped parts of the world, leaders such as Thomas Sankara in Burkina Faso, Maurice Bishop in Grenada, and others have emerged from revolutionary struggles by working people and been looked to for leadership not just in semicolonial countries but by vanguard workers and youth in the imperialist centers. This registers a major political shift from objective possibilities in the days of Bolshevism and the Communist International in Lenin’s time and the decades immediately following it, a shift that alters the relationship of forces worldwide to the advantage of the working class.
vi) The separation of religion and religious institutions from politics and the state continues to advance hand in hand with the worldwide spread of capitalism and the consequent expansion of the proletariat. The hold of religious beliefs on the political behavior of the toilers also continues to decline. Whatever the religious affiliations of hundreds of millions of toilers worldwide, it is not religious bigotry but the proletarian habits of mutual trust, tolerance, and class solidarity that working people learn in the course of common struggles.
50. More so than any time beginning with the Socialist Workers Party’s first presidential campaign in 1948, our 2004 communist campaign—Róger Calero for president and Arrin Hawkins for vice president—stood out politically in contrast to every other current claiming to speak for the interests of the working class.
That political fact was perhaps most striking amid the large protests during the Republican convention in New York City—the apex of the all-embracing “Stop the Bush Agenda!” alliance, ranging from those happy to vote for Kerry (including the CPUSA); to the mélange determined to vote for “Anybody But Bush” (so long as their ballots “counted,” which meant voting for Kerry where the election was “close”); to those who stood candidates but made no effort to win ballot status or carry out any aspect of a serious, nationwide campaign (such as the Workers World Party, on the ballot in three states with small petitioning requirements). Only campaigners for the SWP ticket—Calero, Hawkins, and more than forty other candidates in twenty-two states and the District of Columbia—were on the streets, day after day, reaching out to working people and youth with an independent working-class platform.
Calero, Hawkins, and their supporters began with their class and the world. They spoke on behalf of an international class that has no borders, one that has nothing to survive on for a lifetime but selling our capacity to labor to one or another employer. Our campaign banner struck a theme—unique, true, and timely—that is decisive to the broader strategic task of politically strengthening the nucleus of a revolutionary proletarian movement in this country and worldwide: “It’s not who you’re against, but what you’re for! Vote Socialist Workers in 2004!”
Only from within the ranks of the industrial working class and unions, from within the ranks of labor militants in the front lines acting to organize and use union power to resist the bosses’ offensive, can a proletarian political road be found to meet the consequences of the economic and military course the U.S. rulers are today pursuing. We gained confidence explaining this during the 2004 campaign. The first decisive steps toward independent working-class political action, toward a labor party based on the unions, will be taken as a by-product of organizing together with others to use and transform our most elementary class institutions—by organizing, strengthening, and extending union power. That point of departure is a precondition to our transformation—the forging of the broad political vanguard of which the communist movement is an irreplaceable component.
Decades of consistent work by the communist movement to build parties that are proletarian in composition, life, habits, and milieu is the only foundation that can make a difference as the working class enters the great furnace of historical battles ahead. Only parties tempered and trained on that basis will be prepared, through the course of tumultuous struggles, to draw millions into disciplined, class-struggle activity. That is the course our movement was founded on, the course being carried out by the Socialist Workers Party and the world movement of which we are part.
As stated in “Capitalism’s Long Hot Winter Has Begun,” communists, like other workers, find themselves “in the very opening stages of what will be decades of economic, financial, and social convulsions and class battles. . . . [We] must internalize the fact that this world—the likes of which none of us have known before in our political lives—is not only the world that must be faced today, but the one we will be living and fighting in for some time. . . . By acting on this reality today, we will not be caught short politically as wars erupt, deeper social crises explode, pogroms are organized and attempted, and union conflicts become life-and-death battles. The proletarian party that exists tomorrow can only grow out of the proletarian party we put together today.”
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Copyright © 2005 by New International