First Published: The Worker, for Hawaii, Vol. 1, No. 9, June 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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“Jobs or Income Now! We Won’t Fight Another Rich Man’s War! We’ve Carried the Rich for 200 Years–Let’s Get Them Off Our Backs!” With these fighting demands and slogans, the July 4th Coalition–including the Vietnam Veterans Against the War, the Unemployed Workers Organizing Committee, the Revolutionary Communist Party and the Revolutionary Student Brigade–is going full steam ahead to build for the July 4th demonstration in Philadelphia to take on the Bicentennial and help build a powerful movement against the rich parasites who run this country.
In the course of doing this, people have come up against the fact that at least two other groups are planning their own Bicentennial actions, and this has caused some confusion. Why can’t there be a single, joint demonstration? This is a question of what kind of movement can and must be developed by the working class around the Bicentennial and beyond, and what kind of movement these other people are trying to pull together.
Basically, what these outfits say is that the Bicentennial should be a time to complain because things aren’t the way they’re “supposed” to be–that we should “make this country live up to its revolutionary promise” of 1776. One of these groups, the People’s Bicentennial Commission, is pretty out front about this. They say that what’s wrong today is that, “The Giant Corporations have subverted our Constitution and the principle of government by and for the people.” They’ve put a lot of ads in papers saying things like, “John Hancock was not an insurance company”–by which they mean he was a right-on revolutionary and we should go back to those “good old days.”
The other group is calling itself the “July 4 Coalition.” Among others this bunch includes the long ago sold-out Communist Party, the Prairie Fire Organizing Committee (an “above-ground” group led by the politics of the Weatherman underground) and the Puerto Rican Socialist Party. They consider themselves more “radical” than the People’s Bicentennial crowd, but basically they say the same things. They say that on July 4th we should demonstrate for the “universal application of those rights proclaimed to the world from Philadelphia 200 years ago.”
The fact is that the way things are, the basic setup we have today, is the way things are supposed to be according to the class of people who run this country. John Hancock was a rich merchant and smuggler, part of a revolution whose goal was the freedom to establish capitalism in America without interference from Britain. Today the real freedom millions of working people yearn for is the freedom to get out from under the system and the rule of the descendents of those “founding fathers.” This means we can’t be misled by people who whine about what’s “supposed” to be or appeal to these rich parasites to please not be so greedy. We have to organize to fight for what we need and build our fight to deal with the source of our problem.
The harm that these people do is clearer when we look at how they’re trying to hitch onto some real struggles facing working people. The People’s Bicentennial complains that it’s “unpatriotic” for businesses to lay people off and set up runaway shops overseas. The other crowd tells us that to end unemployment we should demand “an end to the irrational squandering of our resources on weapons of war and the pursuit of profits. We have to demand that this government meet the real and pressing needs of all our people.”
But for the class of big businessmen and the government that serves them, all this is not “irrational.” For them, the only “rational” thing to do is to squeeze every dollar they can out of the working people here and millions more like us around the globe. That’s the cause of both unemployment and war. That’s their “real and pressing need.” They can’t change their “priorities” or they’d go out of business and be swallowed up by their competitors, and end up having to work for a living instead of being rich capitalist parasites.
What these people are saying helps out the capitalists because it hides the fact that unemployment and war are built into the capitalist system, and it holds back the struggle against these things by hiding the cause of them. These people ask us to put our trust in the hope that even though it’s never happened before, this time this country’s rulers will be guided by something besides their naked business interests, when in fact the only way we can deal with the situation is to build our strength in fighting against them on these fronts.
The truth is that these so-called “radicals” really want us to believe that through their “pressure group” politics the system can somehow be made to work. For instance, one of their main slogans is “For a Bicentennial Without Colonies.” They say that it is “the supreme irony” that a country which was a colony itself 200 years ago today hangs on to its own colonies like Puerto Rico, and call on our rulers to become more “consistent” with their so-called “principles.”
Again, this goes against all our history and experience. Our “founding fathers” didn’t revolt against Britain because they were loyal to some abstract principles but because they wanted to be free to make maximum profits. Although that revolution was a step forward at that time, since then they’ve always done whatever they could to rake in profits everywhere in the world they could, and they always will as long as their system stands. This is their one and only “principle” and no appeal to their “conscience” can stop them, even on their birthday.
They’ll fight to hang on to their colonies (direct and indirect) and every other piece of earth where they can get profits for the same reason that they spend every minute trying to squeeze more and more out of working people here. In order to pry their fingers loose from the necks of our fellow workers and others oppressed by them in other countries as well as from our own necks, we can’t waste time trying to appeal to their “reason” but have to build a movement that really fights them.
Along with this, these people are also strangely silent about the fact that what’s increasingly staring us in the face is the danger of world war between the rulers of this country and the capitalists now ruling the Soviet Union behind a “socialist” mask–a war between bands of thieves over protecting and extending their robbery of people all over the world. Instead of exposing this crime and the system behind it in order to mobilize people to fight against it, the opportunists are prettying up the situation and trying to leave people unprepared and unarmed to deal with it.
Our point of view is that we mean to have what we need and we don’t care what it takes. Our interest is not in wasting our time trying to find a way to fix up the system. When we say “Jobs or Income Now,” we’re saying we mean to have these things no matter what. When we say “We Won’t Fight Another Rich Man’s War,” we’re saying what the last war in Vietnam was all about, and how we feel about our rulers’ attempts to gear us up to fight for them again, which is part of what all their flag-waving hoopla around the Bicentennial is all about. What we’re saying about the endless cycle of economic crisis and war that their system has caused is that it’s a hell of a way to live and we just won’t take it. Instead of trying to fool people with all sorts of false hopes and games, of one-shot publicity gimmicks and “pressure group” politics, we have to build our understanding of what we’re up against as we build our organized strength and unity to take them on in the course of battle.
That’s why we raise our slogans and demands around the Bicentennial not as cure-all gimmicks but as part of a fight aimed squarely at the rich class of capitalists. Built in this way, the Bicentennial demonstration can help to strengthen the growing working class movement. We aim to come out of it stronger–with more organization and more understanding to carry on our fight against these rich exploiters. And in doing this, the working class can also bring forward and organize many other people who are pushed down by and disgusted with this system.
These advances would be impossible if we didn’t put out and organize around a line that really reflects how things are. We take the question of unity very seriously, because the working class has to unite all who can be united to take on and finally defeat our deadly enemy. But we want to unite to go forward, to build a movement and organization that will make a difference, that will move things ahead long after the Bicentennial is gone, and not walk into a dead end. In order to make the greatest advances possible, we have to fight for the political line and program that can lead this struggle, and oppose schemes and gimmicks that pretty up and give support to the very class we’ve carried on our backs for so long.