6 January 2012

Holiday Appeal for Class-War Prisoners

“Join Us in the Fight to Change the World!”

As part of its 26th annual Holiday Appeal, the Partisan Defense Committee held a fundraising event at the United Electrical workers union hall in Chicago on December 11. The Holiday Appeal provides support for the PDC’s program of sending monthly stipends and holiday gifts to 16 class-war prisoners—those who have been imprisoned for standing up to racist capitalist repression and whose freedom is in the interest of the entire working class. The following speech, edited for publication, was delivered by Paula Daniels on behalf of the Chicago Spartacist League.

The class-war prisoners we are honoring tonight paint a vivid and painful picture of lives stolen from courageous individuals, locked away for decades for taking a stand against this racist capitalist system in some way. These class-war prisoners are a reminder that the bourgeoisie does not take lightly any challenge to its order or any infringement on its profits, and eagerly metes out vindictive punishment to those who tear away at the democratic facade to reveal the rotting beast that is U.S. imperialism.

Persecuting those who buck the system or cut across the grain of mainstream beliefs is hardly new. Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno was burned at the stake for advocating the Copernican belief that the Earth indeed orbits the sun. John Brown was indicted for “treason to the Commonwealth” and “conspiring with slaves to commit treason and murder,” and executed for his heroic fight against slavery. Many of the most prescient, bold thinkers have been met with scorn or worse for their innovative and accurate ideas. This theme frames my remarks for tonight. Karl Marx was another brilliant, yet vilified thinker. Marx’s views hold true to this day and their validity is inescapable from every angle.

For instance, never has it been clearer what a losing strategy it is to ally with the class enemy, in this case the Democratic Party of capitalism, racism and war. Obama bailed out the banks with one hand as he stuck it to the workers and oppressed with the other. What began as Bush’s “war on terror” has continued under Obama’s leadership: the war in Afghanistan, the bombing of Pakistan, threats to bomb Iran.

As the first black president, dangerous illusions in Obama soared particularly high and many feel let down. But let’s be clear—he did not betray. He is doing right by his class—the capitalist ruling class. From the White House to the State House to City Hall, black Democrats play a special role in enforcing racist oppression against the black masses, acting as overseers for the white ruling class. There can be no justice for black people in this racist capitalist system. Our program of revolutionary integrationism means mobilizing the tremendous power of the multiracial working class against every manifestation of racial oppression—such as segregation in schools and housing, mass incarceration, lack of jobs—as part of the fight for black freedom, which means uprooting the source of black oppression: capitalism. Black people will only be fully integrated in an egalitarian society, through workers revolution.

The trade-union misleaders play a critical role in keeping the working class tied to this same Democratic Party. Indeed they are a useful player with their protectionism, their derailing strikes and ensuring class peace. As the next electoral circus rolls into town with the upcoming presidential elections (complete with the new deranged Tea Party tent), rest assured these trade-union misleaders will mobilize thousands...to ring doorbells for the Democrats.

The aptly dubbed “labor lieutenants of capital” gave us a stunning display of the impotence of their class-collaborationist politics last winter in Madison, Wisconsin. Tens of thousands from unions representing hundreds of thousands of unionists converged on Capitol Square in Madison, outraged by the anti-labor legislation. Encapsulated in this was massive potential social power: men and women, black, white, Hispanic, Asian ready to fight. And what were they told? Recall the bad Republicans, elect good Democrats. In other words, don’t struggle—vote for the lesser of the capitalist evils. Instead of this losing strategy, what is needed is some good old-fashioned class struggle to counter these massive attacks being waged against us.

In addition, these labor misleaders get help from a plethora of self-avowed socialist groups peddling their pressure politics, begging the powers that be to behave more humanely. You’ve seen them out there—Progressive Labor, Revolutionary Communist Party, Workers World Party, Party for Socialism and Liberation, etc.—pushing that tired reformism. The International Socialist Organization (ISO) always seems to win the Most Shameless award. You can hear it in their own words: “Obama had the opportunity to change the direction of U.S. politics and society—and the popularity to accomplish it. Even those on the left, like us at Socialist Worker, who were skeptical of Obama’s promises concluded that the multiple crises facing the White House would compel the president to move away from the free-market, neoliberal policies that characterized not only Bush, but the Clinton administration before him” (Socialist Worker, 27 January 2010). Shameless, right?

This short quote graphically shows the ISO’s touching faith in the bourgeoisie. Not one of these groups believes you can mobilize the working class on a revolutionary program, so they look to pressuring the bourgeoisie—the same bourgeoisie running roughshod across the globe in defense of its profits.

Economically, things are no better in capitalist Europe. Daily we hear about the fragile state of the European Union (EU) and the brutal assault on the working class and immigrants. Though the crisis in Europe has been met with more militancy and strikes, the workers are equally disarmed politically (see “Economic Crisis Rips Europe,” WV No. 992, 9 December 2011).

From day one, we pointed out that the European Union was a reactionary imperialist consortium. The origins of the EU go back to the 1950s when the West European imperialists, led by the U.S., sought to consolidate their alliance against the Soviet Union through improved economic cohesion. In spite of its degeneration under a parasitic bureaucratic caste led by Stalin which appropriated political power starting in 1924, the Soviet Union remained a workers state based on the expropriation of the capitalists and the collectivization of the means of production resulting from the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. That is why we Trotskyists defended the Soviet Union, and why the imperialists wanted to destroy it in order to regain unlimited access to those markets, including throughout East Europe. Today, following the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet Union in 1991-92, the EU remains committed to squeezing what it can out of the working class and the oppressed.

As the capitalist economies nose-dive internationally, China’s economy is growing. Why? There is a different economic system in place in China. It is not capitalist and the international imperialist bourgeoisie knows it. That is what is behind the China-bashing and behind Obama’s move to beef up the U.S. military presence in Australia, and elsewhere. Despite China’s bureaucratic deformations, its economy is not based on private ownership of the means of production and therefore is not held prisoner to the anarchy of the free market—which is not to say China is not affected by international market forces. As with the Soviet Union when it existed, we unconditionally defend China against imperialist attack or internal capitalist counterrevolution. And key to that defense is calling for a political revolution to oust the Chinese bureaucracy that stands as a roadblock to building a healthy workers state.

We need a new ruling class—the working class! Karl Marx was right! Marx and Engels explained that the only way to end the boom-bust cycles inherent to capitalism is for the working class to take control of the means of production through socialist revolution and institute a planned, collectivized economy. It was true over 160 years ago and it remains true today.

So to wrap it up: Galileo, another farsighted yet persecuted genius, once said, “All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them.” Marxism is one of those truths. The truth is that the interests of the bourgeoisie and the working class are irreconcilable. No one argues that the interests of the slave and slaveholder can be united yet we are supposed to believe that the working class, i.e., the wage slaves, have a common interest with the bosses, i.e., the capitalists. The truth is that what is necessary is a political struggle to break the multiracial proletariat from the class enemy and unleash workers’ massive social power. We must mobilize the proletariat with its own party, for its own interests and for the interests of all the oppressed—fighting against racist oppression, for women’s rights, in defense of gays, for full citizenship rights for immigrants—a “tribune of the people,” if you will, independent of and in opposition to the bourgeoisie and all of its parties.

Though I like Galileo’s remarks, I like these from Karl Marx even better. He said, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.” That’s what we aim to do. Join us in that fight to change the world and open up the possibility of a socialist future and a world where the terms property, economic crisis and exploitation would drop out of use and mankind can at last cross the threshold into true humanity. 

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(reprinted from Workers Vanguard No. 993, 6 January 2012)

Workers Vanguard is the newspaper of the Spartacist League with which the Partisan Defense Committee is affiliated.