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Workers Viewpoint Organization

United Front against Monopoly Capitalism or United Front against Fascism – Watergate and Fascism ....

Published: Workers Viewpoint Journal, Vol. 1, No. 2, September 1974.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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This article was originally a speech delivered at the GUARDIAN forum on April 19, 1974.

The original targets of this polemic were the New American Movement and the Antifascist Commentator who both held a right line on this question of Watergate, fascism and their significance to our overall strategy. Subsequent developments have shown that this right line has unity with the “left” “Communist” League. Recently we have further developed our understanding on this question, parts of which are presented in our polemics against the “Communist” League (See “C”L’s Metaphysical United front Against Fascism Strategy and Nixon and Ford: Whence the Differences?).

* * *

A cardinal principle of Marxism is that we must examine all social phenomena in their proper context of time and place. To formulate correctly whether the strategy for U.S. revolution is the United Front Against Monopoly Capitalism or the United Front Against Fascism, we must examine the economic, political and social development of American history and try to understand its present trends.

After the U.S. emerged as a victor in World War II, the U.S. gained hegemony in the non-socialist world in the political, military and economic arenas. At that time she produced one-half of the world’s industrial products, controlled one-third of the world’s trade and owned three-fourths of the world’s total gold reserves. However, after this period of prosperity resulting from a war economy, arms sales, and the seizure of the world market, there was a slump at the outbreak of the Korean War. With the tremendous expansion of the socialist economic system after 1949, the capitalist world market had greatly shrunk. The periodic economic crises of capitalism no longer occurred as before once every ten years or so, but had greatly intensified and came almost every three or four years. From 1954 to 1961, for example, there were three economic recessions.

The victorious Indochinese peoples’ struggle against U.S. imperialism further pierced the capital front of U.S. imperialism and completely shattered their perspective for expansion into the Third World countries. Thus what is emerging is a further tightening of the capitalist market. Since the strategic defeat of the U.S. in Indochina, the U.S. economy has entered a stage of “total crisis” – that is, a crisis characterized by a combination of economic recession (surplus in production, unemployment), fiscal crisis and a dollar crisis. The inflationary trend of the U.S. economy, planned by the government according to Keynesian theory to postpone the economic crisis and to rob our yet unborn future generations, and the militarisation of the economy, have caused inflation to go from the stage of “creeping inflation” to the stage of “galloping inflation”.

Since the disintegration of the U.S. armed forces abroad, the Third World countries are all standing up in demanding fair prices for their raw material exports. Following the lead of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), producer countries of bauxite, copper, coffee, and a whole array of necessary industrial raw materials are all uniting to attempt to change the former “buyers’ market” into a “sellers’ market.” These are all objectively anti-imperialist struggles of many non-socialist countries who are attempting to break loose from the shackles of the “single-crop economy” foisted upon them by imperialist plundering. This squeeze caused by the Third World has triggered off an International monetary and gold crisis which has further aggravated U.S. relations with her European allies and Japan.

All this indicates that the U.S. is not. simply in another business cycle but is confronting an irreversible general oriels. In other words, U.S. Imperialism is drawing closer and closer to its inevitable doom. All this signifies that U.S. imperialism, as moribund capitalism pregnant with a new society, is at the eve of social revolution. Yet, despite this situation, U.S. corporate profits enjoyed a thirty per cent increase in the second part of 1972-1973 and correspondingly, real wages of the workers took a three per cent cut in the same period, U.S. imperialism, in its last ditch struggle, is shifting the whole brunt of this crisis onto the backs of the American working class. This is done by super-exploitation of the national minority workers, speed-ups, unemployment, wage controls, an ever higher burden of taxes on the working class, and every other conceivable method at its disposal.

Revolution is the Main Trend in the World Today

What we witnessed throughout, the six-ties was the rebellion of the most conscious sectors of the society. In the early sixties the Freedom Rides, the Free Speech Movement, and from the mid-sixties to the early seventies the antiwar, the black people’s rebellion and the G.I. movements swept the country. Coupled with these movements were the vanguard workers movement and community movements, such as the DRUM and HRUM, led by the black and Latin workers. All these movements had a profound effect on American society as a whole. The domestic opposition had basically forced Johnson to resign and helped to isolate the U.S. government internationally. It raised the social consciousness of the majority of the American people. It therefore can be said that the American people as a whole were very much marching in step with the rest of the people around the world. Taking into account the development of the course of events as a whole, we agree that even though the danger of world war and fascism at home does exist, the main trend in the world is revolution.

Yes, there are setbacks, tragic setbacks too for that matter. Chile, for example, is one. And the ruling class here is successfully whipping up many cases of racial hysteria at home and has successfully infringed upon many working people’s democratic rights. It can be concluded that the menace of fascism in this country is increasing. However, we must bear in mind that in this period of heightening social contradictions, all forms of attack and resistance, such as the resistance against the attack on the standard of living, on the rights of national minorities, etc., are all increasing. And when we speak of a revolutionary program, whether it be the United Front Against Fascism or the United Front Against Monopoly Capital, there must be a concrete analysis with regard to the overall situation of class contradictions and class resistance, and should reflect the essence of the particular epoch.

On the features that distinguish characteristics of one epoch from another, Lenin has the following to say:

We are speaking here of big historical epochs; in every epoch there are, and there will be, separate, partial movements sometimes forward and other times backwards, there are and will be various deviations from the average type and average tempo of the movements. We cannot know how fast and how successfully certain historical movements of the given epoch will develop. But we can and do know which class occupies a central position in this or that epoch and determine its main contents, the main direction of its development, the main characteristics of the historical situation in the given epoch, etc. Only by taking into consideration first and foremost the fundamental distinctive features of different “epochs” (and not individual epochs in the history of different countries) can we correctly work out our tactics.(Under the False Flag)

Many comrades in the movement today have formulated the strategy for the U.S. revolution as the United Front Against Fascism. Some theorize in this strategy that the principal contradiction in the U.S. today is between bourgeois democracy and fascism, and justify their position by quoting from Dimitrov’s speech at the Seventh Congress of the COMINTERN held in 1935 that it is necessary today to “...make a definite choice, and making it today, not between proletarian dictatorship and bourgeois democracy, but between bourgeois democracy and fascism.”

This is a glaring example of how Marxism-Leninism can be used out of context of time and place! In August 1935, the international situation was drastically different from what it is today. In 1935, the imperialists had basically completed their conquest of the world. At that time, they were in the process of re-dividing the spoils – the subjugated colonies – among themselves. The forces of reaction were very strong. The only socialist country in the world at that time was the Soviet Union and the very few national liberation struggles around the world, such as the one existing in China at that time, were at their low ebb. Fascism, on the other hand, had already triumphed and had taken power in several countries such as Germany, Italy, Austria and Japan, and fascist movements were surging ahead in Spain and other countries. At that time, the fascist countries also formed an alliance among themselves known as the Axis. Their avowed aim was to destroy the Soviet Union – the only bastion of socialism in the world at that time. With the international proletarian forces very weak and the reserves of the proletariat at that time, the national liberation movements of the colonies, at a low ebb, the COMINTERN called for the United Front Against Fascism.

Is there any parallel between the conditions existing then and now? Absolutely not. The main trend in the world in 1935 was counterrevolution. The main trend in the world today is revolution. This is the qualitative and fundamental difference between then and now. It is imperative that Marxist-Leninists take into account this difference in formulating our present strategy and tactics.

The general conditions for social change are severe economic and social crises such that the working class can no longer live in the same way and the ruling class can no longer rule the same way. The class relations will then be as Lenin enumerated:

1) All the class forces hostile to us have become sufficiently entangled and have sufficiently weakened themselves in a struggle which is beyond their strength.

2) All the vacillating and unstable intermediate elements – the petty bourgeoisie and the petty-bourgeois democrats, as distinct from the bourgeoisie – have sufficiently exposed themselves in the eyes of the people, have sufficiently disgraced themselves through their practical bankruptcy and

3) among the proletariat, a mass sentiment favoring the most determined, bold and dedicated revolutionary actions against the bourgeoisie, has emerged.

The social conditions for any social change are basically similar. The only difference is which ideology prevails and who wins over the workers, the middle strata and the youth. For that reason it is extremely important for us to win over the advanced elements of the working class to socialism now. Through them, socialist ideology will strike roots in the whole working class. At the same time, we must propagate the danger of fascism by exposing the culture which aids the development of fascistic ideology. This propaganda should, of course, be aimed not only at the working class but at all strata, especially the youth. Some of the cultural developments that we see as dangerous and containing within them seeds of fascistic ideology are pornography, sadistic films like The Exorcist, Dirty Harry and Kung Fu movies in general, all of which propagate mysticism, nihilism, “law and order”, individualism and moreover, racism. Racism is the most readily available ideology for the petty-bourgeoisie and the upper strata of the working class to accept as an ideology to rationalize social ills and therefore should be combatted each step of the way, in whatever form and whenever it manifests itself. Racists such as Shockley and Jensen, who “theorize” that racism is something “scientific,” should be smashed wherever they go.

Another ideological and philosophical trend which must be combatted and taken seriously is American pragmatism. An American pragmatist can at the same time be a devil worshipper, a Jesus freak, a follower of Maharaj Ji, a scientist, or even a “Marxist.” A pragmatist is one who doesn’t care for principles but only worships experience, whatever works for him, whatever is expedient, and whatever satisfies him. Because of particular American traditions and history, pragmatism is a fertile philosophical ground for fascism. Mussolini, for example was an American pragmatist. He once complimented William James, an originator of American pragmatism, by saying that “...pragmatism has been extremely useful in my political career. James taught me that all action should be judged by its results and not by its principle. I learned from James the confidence towards action. Pragmatism enables me to have a strong will towards life and struggle! fascists all succeed because of that. I think the most important thing is action.” This is Mussolini, an American pragmatist.

In our opinion, these ideological and cultural developments are as a trend more dangerous a step toward fascism than the Watergate scandal, which hiddenly violates people’s civil liberties, for they openly pave the ideological ground for the majority of the American people to accept fascism.

Watergate and Our Tasks

The roots of Watergate do not lay in Nixon’s growing use of repression against the people’s mass movements, or against other sectors of the ruling class. All sectors of the bourgeoisie employ the tactics of secret raids, bugging and repression when they feel it is in their interests. It is because of the deep splits within the ruling class that the use of these policies is coming into the limelight at this time and is being used as ammunition for one ruling class group or another. This conflict within the ruling class has shown that the bourgeoisie can no longer live and rule in the old way, a clear sign of imperialism’s crisis and the maturing of the revolutionary situation. So besides participating in the impeachment movement and exposing the Nixon gang and all his behind-the-scenes bosses like ITT and other businesses, we should also, instead of praising Kennedy and Erwin, say to them, “Yes gentlemen, Mr. Erwin and Mr. Kennedy, but what are you so happy about? After all, don’t you engage in corruption, political intrigues, live on the backs of our people, reject the Civil Rights bill and cut the daycare programs for our children? How did your father get so rich? Why did your brother bug Martin Luther King and put him under surveillance? And under whose rule was Malcom X murdered and how did you get away with a murder? And who started the war in Vietnam, invaded Cuba, and killed thousands of innocent children, women and men? Do you really believe in justice and law? If so, how come all the law-abiding citizens are so poor and your family is so rich?”

While we support the massive campaign in the bourgeois press in exposing Watergate, we would be negligent as communists in not pointing out that one of the chief purposes of the campaign is to shore up the sagging belief of the American people in bourgeois legality and democracy. The chorus for impeachment now runs the entire gamut of the press. It cannot be coincidental if we understand that the press is but a tool of the ruling class. The impeachment campaign is no different from the brain-bashing propaganda of “Gunsmoke,” only magnified a thousandfold. While exposing the conspiracy of Watergate, we also must expose the conspiracy of the bourgeois press. For we want no part in helping to create illusions of change and to willingly sign a new lease on life for monopoly capitalism.

This is what we should do. We should draw crystal clear lessons and teach the American public about the real nature of the state, raise their consciousness, so that they can draw the lessons from their own experience that the capitalist system is thoroughly rotten, that the entire class of the bourgeoisie is not fit to rule and the real solution is for themselves to take up their rightful place in history, becoming the masters of their own society, under the revolutionary system of socialism, under the dictatorship of themselves, of the working class.

This is a diametrically opposed approach to tailing after bourgeois politics, to create illusions of change by impeachment movements and willingly to sign a new lease on life for U.S. monopoly capitalism. Our approach in the struggle for democratic rights, as Lenin put it, should be to“...put forward all these demands, not in a reformist, but in a revolutionary way; not by keeping within the framework of bourgeois legality, but by breaking through it,...by drawing the masses into real action, by widening and fomenting the struggle for every kind of fundamental democratic demand, right up to and including the direct onslaught against the bourgeoisie, to the socialist revolution which will expropriate the bourgeoisie.” This is the only correct approach.

The “Lesser of Two Evils” Line

The content of the “lesser of two evils” line is exactly what the name implies – choosing the lesser evil within the existing social system. Objectively, this is a line of unity with the bourgeoisie, in support of the bourgeois state. This line says that since the problem is urgent, the immediate alternative is between the lesser of two evils within the bourgeois state.

There are two kinds of people who pursue this line. There are people who don’t understand the real alternative to fascism is socialism. For them to pick the lesser evil is progressive, that is, to the extent that they think it is anti-racist, and pro-working class etc. For communists to pursue the same line is, however, totally incorrect and reactionary. By not pointing out the true alternative to fascism, they betray their duty to the working class. By holding high the banner of bourgeois democracy, they tighten ;:he stranglehold of liberal ideology, the dying ideology of moribund capitalism, on the working class. The lesson of the German Weimar Republic teaches us nothing if not that crude and blind faith in bourgeois democracy only paves the ground for fascism. The Weimar Social Democrats, counterparts of the liberals here in this country, served as the midwife of fascism. In “defense of democracy” they murdered Liebknecht and Luxembourg. In defense of liberty they let the irrational and decadent fascist ideology run amuck. They armed the fascist thugs in violation of the Versailles Treaty and disarmed the working class in accordance with the treaty. In 1932 when the mantle of bourgeois democracy was already thrown aside by the German ruling class, when the transferring of power to Hitler was already in progress, the Social Democrats continued to cling onto the line of the lesser evil.

How can the liberal bourgeoisie pave the ground for fascists to come into power? The liberal bourgeoisie, of all the sectors of the bourgeoisie, have the greatest illusions on the question of freedom. Like the Kennedys they would appeal to the petty-bourgeoisie and labor aristocrats with their solution to salvage the collapsing economy, at the same time attempting to pacify the lower strata of the working class by welfare programs, and bribe off the most chauvinistic labor leaders. Meanwhile, they would allow fascist culture and pornography to creep in and to flourish by their liberal courts in the name of freedom of expression and speech. They would disarm the working class by pushing through anti-gun legislation while the organized thugs, mafia, and lumpen elements would be arming themselves to the teeth. (The Kennedy anti-gun legislation is an example of this). They would refuse to make an alliance with the communists to fight the fascists, but would make an alliance with the fascists to fight the communists (such as the Kennedy-Wallace Axis shows).

What can the effect be of the “lesser evil” line and the United Front Against Fascism line in the communist movement today?

The communist movement today is at the crossroads between two movements and two periods. The mass movements of the sixties were movements of a spontaneous character. The change in the international situation now has a profound effect on the American economy and thus what has happened in England recently only foreshadows what is coming up in this country. There is no question in our minds that there will be a monumental upsurge of the American working class in the near future. The task confronting the American communist movement therefore is to prepare for that upsurge and to fuse the spontaneous mass movement with the conscious communist movement.

Our task, our present principal task, whose development will influence and determine the development of a multitude of other tasks, is the task of party-building. Specifically, it means the task of studying Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung-Thought, consolidating the advanced elements, especially among the working class, and struggling to formulate a correct program based on our study and our past experience in struggle. This understanding of the principal task is imperative for the communist movement today, for without this understanding the movement will flounder and drift after spontaneous events. This way the movement will totally lose its revolutionary initiative which is so necessary to help shoulder our great historical mission – the American Revolution.

The United Front Against Fascism line says that the “immediate alternative is between bourgeois democracy and fascism.” What this has meant in practice to those who follow it has been that you should go all out and put all your effort into supporting McGovern, Badillo, to fight against Beame, and now, to impeach Nixon. In this period, when all social contradictions are accentuated and when the working class is looking for a real alternative when there are countless crises in the ruling class, to take a side with one sector of the ruling class and tail after their politics is actually to “regard the immediate movement as everything, determine their conduct from case to case, adapting themselves to the events of the day and sacrifice the basic interests of the proletariat.”(From A Proposal Concerning the General Line of the International Communist Movement). This is social-democracy – pure and simple. Tailing after bourgeois politics is objectively to become an appendage of the bourgeois party, and tailing at this particular period is to lose the crucial question of revolutionary initiative of the working class to the bourgeoisie: it means abandoning the long-term interests of the working class.

To us, the United Front Against Fascism is not a strategy. The fight against the menace of fascism is a component of an overall strategy. The fight against the menace of fascism is and can only be one component part of our immediate struggle to oppose monopoly capitalism, to fight against the attack on our standard of living, to defend our democratic rights (which includes the rights of the nationalities and minorities, women’s rights, and judicial rights) and to oppose wars of aggression and to support the oppressed countries around the world. Of course, these struggles should be conducted flexibly in all forms, legal and illegal. This is our minimum program and it is not confined to the fight against the menace of fascism. To subordinate all these struggles, or any one of these struggles, to the struggle against the danger of fascism at home is to liquidate the essential revolutionary thrust of these movements which are currently developing and pounding on the U.S. monopoly capitalists and inflicting mortal wounds on them.

Are we disarming the masses by refusing to sound the false alarm that fascism is at the threshold and by refusing to adopt the position that “today the main immediate alternative is between bourgeois democracy and fascism?” No. We don’t think so. On the contrary, we think it is the attitude of petty bourgeois pessimism which always underestimates the consciousness and the strength of the American people and overestimates the strength of the bourgeoisie, and thereby poses the immediate alternative for the American people as one between “bourgeois democracy and fascism,” that diverts the independent course of the forward march of the American working class, that is really disarming the American people.

It is one thing to be sober-minded and vigilant towards various social tendencies and trends, and to be prepared to fight against them. It is quite another to point at one trend and subordinate all fronts to it. Lenin teaches us not to be hypnotized by one particular form of growth of the working class movement. He said, “The principal reason for their (the renegades Kautsky. Bauer, etc., in the Second International) bankruptcy is that they were hypnotized by a definite form of growth of the working class movement and socialism, forgot all about the one-sidedness of that form, were afraid to see the breakup which objective conditions made inevitable...” And he said finally that however “the world revolution has been so powerfully stimulated and accelerated by the horrors, vileness and abomination of the world imperialist war and the hopelessness of the situation created by it” that revolution will therefore “develop in scope and depth with such splendid rapidity, with such a wonderful variety of changing form...that it will refute all doctrinairism of both the left and right.”

The danger of fascism and world war exists. To deny that is not historical materialist, to deny that is not communist. But the main trend is revolution. Present society is rotten ripe for revolution and we should chart an independent course of the proletariat and unwaveringly move on it. This is the only way that the proletariat can gain initiative in the struggle instead of tailing after the rapidly changing events and dance to the tune of the enemy. Fascism is not a necessary stage of capitalist development and is not inevitable.