Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

July 4 Protests Safe and Harmless

First Published: The Call,Vol. 5, No. 11, July 12, 1976.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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Philadelphia, Pa.– More than 30,000 people demonstrated in this city of the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall on the Fourth of July. But it was all in the spirit of reforming and perfecting the rule of capitalism rather than overthrowing it.

Two demonstrations, the larger one organized by the July 4th Coalition and the smaller one by the “Off Our Backs” Coalition, both reflected the strong opposition to the policies of U.S. imperialism which exists among the broad masses of people. But under the reformist leadership of the demonstrations, this sentiment was channeled into safe and harmless avenues.

The July 4th Coalition called for an end to the “irrational squandering of our resources on war and in pursuit of profits” and raised the slogan “A Bicentennial Without Misery” as if misery, profits and war were “policies” of the government rather than inherent features of the system of capitalism.

In this way the demonstration really covered up capitalism’s crimes and provided the loyal opposition so badly needed by the ruling class in presenting its picture of U.S. “democracy” on the Bicentennial.

It is no wonder that the coalition leadership, which developed out of last winter’s Hard Times Conference, received thousands of dollars from the U.S. government itself, to prepare for this demonstration. Under the auspices of the “American Issues Forum” this money was channeled to those who could guarantee a reformist path to steer the thousands coming to Philadelphia.

Neither demonstration, including the “communist”-led “Off Our Backs” march, did anything to prepare the people for the inevitable world war which lies ahead or to educate the working people in the spirit of revolution.

The main speaker at the “Off Our Backs” demonstration was Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP), which was the central force in the coalition. Avakian rambled through half an hour of confusing metaphors without pointing to the need for socialism. He failed to educate people about where the danger of anew world war is coming from– the two superpowers and especially the Soviet Union.

Avakian’s speech and in fact the whole RCP-led demonstration bordered on out right chauvinism. The struggles of Blacks and other minorities presently shaking the whole city of Philadelphia and the rest of the country went unmentioned.

Both demonstrations were made up mainly of white, middle-class youth, even while marching through the heart of Philadelphia’s Black community. As a Chicago Tribune reporter wrote the following day,

“The exuberant, peaceful nature of the protest appeared more as propaganda for America’s free-enterprising, free-talking system, and in that sense was a tribute to the spirit of the Bicentennial.”

The influence of the revisionist Communist Party USA (CPUSA) was evident in the July 4th Coalition which focused on improving capitalism, spreading propaganda about imperialism’s phony “detente” and confining its protest to that which was acceptable to the ruling class.

The CPUSA in its July 4th editorial posed the main contradiction in this country as one between “reaction” and “democracy.” The revisionist line that we are still fighting the revolution of 1776–the revolution for capitalist democracy–was taken up by the whole July 4th Coalition. Their gripe with capitalism is that the exploiters should exploit more “democratically.” To the revisionists and all the opportunists who led the July 4th marchers, today’s ruling class has gone wrong only in so far as it has deviated from the path of the founding fathers.

The Soviet revisionists themselves expounded this view in the July 4th issue of Pravda. They called the U.S. a country of “suffering and woes” run by people who have betrayed the 1776 revolutionaries.

But the 1776 revolutionaries had no vision of the tasks of the working class today or of the fight for socialism which would be taking place 200 years later.

The 1776 revolution was a great, earth-shaking event in its day, but now we are in a new era, the era of working class revolution. This revolution represents a thoroughgoing break with capitalism rather than being the evolutionary development of 1776 which the revisionists make it out to be. In their opposition to this revolution today, the phony “communists” and U.S. big business can find a common hiding place behind the American flag.

While the battle for democratic rights must be waged relentlessly, it must be fought for in a revolutionary way and linked closely to the fight for socialism. The working class movement will not allow itself to be chained within the boundaries of capitalism or its founding documents like the constitution which reflected the struggle of a different class and an earlier stage of history.

The Philadelphia demonstrations succeeded for a short time in confining the class struggle and making it “safe” and legitimate in the eyes of the ruling class. But the leadership of the reformists and revisionists is being exposed and weakened. People are learning through their own experiences that reforming capitalism is a dead end street.