Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Phil Thompson and Dennis T. Torigoe

Capitalism Destabilized – Our Task


First Published: Workers Viewpoint, Vol. 6, No. 34, September 16-22, 1981.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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In our view, the main bulk of a revolutionary strategy in the U.S. must be the political mobilization and disposition of the U.S. multinational working class and its primary reserves – the national movements, the women’s movement, the youth, intellectuals, farmers and all those oppressed by monopoly capital. The main force is the U.S. multinational working class, the 90 million workers in this country including the industrial and service workers. This latter category includes many professionals such as teachers, some engineers and lawyers as well as other white collar workers.

The target of our revolution is the small handful of monopoly finance capitalists represented by the major monopolies and their financial institutions such as the major banks, insurance companies, etc.

To carry out our strategy, the Party must be a vanguard party of leaders. The Party has to serve the pacesetting role in the various movements as leaders.

As the vanguard, the Party must be able to unite all honest Marxist-Leninists and win over the advanced elements and leaders from all walks of life without exception; it must build pacesetting fighting mass organizations and rank and file movements which are led by the Party. The left cannot just be a spectrum of “left” ideas. Foremost of all, it must be a militant grassroots movement. That’s the only kind of left that will be able to maintain its real independence and initiative and build a left-center coalition in the larger broader vehicles of mass political activity such as a labor or third party here.

Transitional Demands to Rally the Majority

In today’s conditions of capitalist destabilization, communists must develop a concrete program of transitional demands to serve our overall strategy. Transitional demands are broader than any single issue such as getting the U.S. out of El Salvador, fighting against the budget cuts or Atlanta. They tie together politically the various movements and focus them at a single target – the handful of finance capitalists who hold state power.

Transitional demands such as the nationalization of the oil companies and the banks; equal representation for blacks, Hispanics and all oppressed nationalities in Congress and all levels of government (for example, the concrete demand of having 40% of all seats in Congress reserved for minorities) – these are examples of demands the U.S. people will fight for because they make sense. Transitional demands like these and others correspond to their own experiences through Vietnam, Watergate and the punishing toll of inflation and severe unemployment.

The fight for these demands will have to take place through “legitimate” forms in order for the majority to participate and be won over. One such form is electoral politics, where the masses would vote for a candidate who will fight for these demands. We have to use forms where the broad masses can participate in the tens of millions and where they can participate without running substantial risks of direct militant actions.

Revolution is not made by ideals but by necessity. The situation of the 80’s is such that these necessities, of the masses are becoming an emergency. Transitional demands are demands that as a whole cannot be coopted. The tasks of communists are not as Theoretical Review suggests to limit our demands to what is “possible” under capitalism. The demand to nationalize the oil companies and major banks (as opposed to the dying savings banks and savings and loan associations and near-bankrupt companies that the bourgeoisie would love to have nationalized) cannot be realized under capitalism. As a whole, the demands of women and national minorities for consistent equality are not “realizable” either under capitalism. But that does not mean that revolutionaries do not fight for these demands.

Transitional demands are concentrated expressions of the real aspirations and needs of the masses which can be used to rally the masses from the different streamlets of struggle to the political battlefront which will lead to the military struggle to smash the state. The bourgeoisie will either have to implement the demands or else be brought face-to-face politically and ultimately militarily with the people. The whole point is that in the course of fighting for the immediate demands of the masses, communists must unite ever larger sections of the population and at the same time through the masses’ very own living experiences show them the utter necessity to overthrow the capitalist system – precisely to realize their demands.

In practice, the rallying banner of the transitional demands will result in the vast majority of the; American people challenging the framework of capitalism by taking independent historical action’ such that the majority of the more than 200 million American people will stand united to confront a handful of finance capitalists. That is the purpose of communists raising the transitional demands – to rally the vast majority to smash the monopoly’s state apparatus. The masses will not move and take independent historical actions through ideas or communist propaganda.

The stronger the vanguard, the more the leaders of the mass formations – the united fronts, mass parties, unions, etc. – are in the vanguard party, and through the consistent practice of the mass line, the more we can shape these demands and enforce their implementation. That, along with the influence of our communist propaganda, is our independence and initiative in the broader united front.

We must teach the masses through their own experience who are the traitors to their cause to win direct communist leadership. Communists must be in a position to unite with and command sufficient moral authority to expose the reformists and sell-out leaders in the course of struggle. This is so that the masses can learn for themselves the bankruptcy of reformism and why socialism is the only solution.

The Party must have the core of experienced leaders with close ties to the movements, who have historical scope, who understand the lessons of socialism in the last 60 years and who have the spirit of struggle and sacrifice to lead the broad masses forward to overthrow capitalism and set up workers rule.

Neither Line of March nor Theoretical Review Pose a Revolutionary Strategy

Neither Line of March (LM) nor Theoretical Review (TR) pose a revolutionary strategy. For LM, the ultimate strategic question is that the U.S. working class must “break completely” with racism before there can be a revolution. LM’s trade union position also boils down to “bringing the line of opposition to war and racism to the labor movement.” Here, LM has made a fundamental break with historical materialism. The masses make revolution not out of some mystical spiritual transformation, but out of historical and practical necessity. If revolution depended on a “complete break” with racism, there would never be a revolution.

As long as capitalism exists, racism will continue to exist. If you were to tell black-workers that under socialism white workers will “break completely” with racism, none would be so naive as to believe you. You will never convince the majority, of whites to make revolution out of feeling sorry for blacks. You must convince them that fighting racism is in their own interests, in the interest of fighting their foremost enemy, the U.S. bourgeoisie. That is why communists must include leading the defense of the interests of white workers against the bourgeoisie, be it taxes, crime or family, precisely those movements LM would leave to the fascists and the Moral Majority.

Communist strategy cannot be fighting racism and militarism alone, because it is precisely in the thick of the struggle of white workers against the bourgeoisie on issues most hurting to them that racism and militarism must be exposed as tools of the ruling class. Communists must organize white workers by fighting for OSHA, job security and other basic economic issues, and win their respect. It is on the basis of fighting in the class struggle that workers will respect and respond to communist leadership to fight national oppression and racism. This is the real challenge which LM conveniently avoids. They would rather wage an ideological crusade to purify white workers and make them “break completely” with racism before they start strategically organizing them for revolution.

This approach is extremely similar to that of the Philadelphia Workers Organizing Committee which instead of politically analyzing and solving the ways to win over workers and black people to communism, “solves” it by an ideological crusade to purify their heads. The LM wants to anti-racize the entire U.S. working class “completely.” They try hard to amplify the PWOC’s incorrect line on the national question a thousand-fold. Certainly they will have even less luck. In fact, their line will lead to a narrowing of communist influence in the class, and will result (if practiced by those in the plants) to helping the working class to the right.

Without a strong communist party with a strong base among the workers it will be impossible to forge a strong United Front against Fascism or any other type of united front in this country. This is the relation between united front and party-building which LM avoids. We are not told how communists can “forge” a united front in the working class without any base in the working class. The LM strategy, which negates party work in the masses, will only lead to a tailist sect and a loss of independence and initiative in the united front they hope to build. It is not a strategy for revolution but a strategy based on coalition-hopping.

LM’s line on the centrality of the struggle against racism is itself a liquidation of the Afro-American question. LM argues against the right to self-determination for Afro-Americans in the Black Belt South because they say there never was a nation. LM also argues that the struggle against inequality for Afro-Americans is non-strategic, it is “reformist.” The main reason LM gives to explain why an oppressed Afro-American nation never existed in the South is that they never developed a “distinct” national economy. This is a tautology based on thorough-going chauvinism, since the reason Afro-Americans never developed a distinct national economy in the first place is because they were oppressed. Blacks did not have the political and military strength to win a nation-state in the late 19th century. Their early efforts were crushed by U.S. imperialism. Without state power, no nation can consolidate a “distinct” national economy. By LM’s mechanics, the Palestinians and Namibians would have no right to self-determination either, since all lack a “distinct” national economy.

Likewise, LM dismisses the struggle for equal rights on the part of Afro-Americans as “reformist”. While the struggle for equality can be led in a reformist way or in a revolutionary way, King vs. Malcolm, the demand for equality is objectively revolutionary. You don’t have to be a Marxist to see that the historical demands of the Afro-American people for equality and fair treatment have not and cannot be won under capitalism. LM’s downplay of the struggle for equality and liquidation of the right to self-determination is a whitewash over the revolutionary essence of the historical struggle of black people in this country. It is a white wash covered with phrases of fighting racism.

LM denies that Afro-Americans are a distinct nationality. What do they have to say about the role of Afro-American national culture – the Negro spirituals, the Negro National Anthem, the poetic and literary traditions which continue to play a strong role today in forging the Afro-American nationality today? National culture is a necessity in the forging of any nation and any nationality. LM has no comprehension of the Niagra movement, the Garveyite movement, the Nation of Islam in the 50’s, the Black Liberation Movement and Malcolm X, the Pan-Africanist movement and cultural nationalist movement, or the National Black Independent Political Party or National Black United Front today. Can LM say that any of these movements are simply anti-racist struggles? Does the historical nationalism of the Afro-American community simply spring from the sky or what? Do Afro-Americans have a natural tendency for “divisive” nationalism, as LM calls it? Or is national resistance a response to national oppression Afro-Americans suffer? Who is right, LM or thirty million Afro-Americans?

If national pogroms and genocide (as in Atlanta) continue to develop, there certainly will be resistance to it. Does LM plan to denounce and reject these national forms of organization which always spontaneously develop in the black community and which exist today? We will not. Communist leadership and disposition of forces must be based on what exists, and what exists is a national movement. The Afro-American movement is already relatively politically conscious and Afro-Americans relatively disposition-ed as a people against the monopoly capitalists. The National Black Independent Political Party and the National Black United Front are in a position to pace-set the development of a broad third political party and may do so if it continues to develop. With LM’s raggedy chauvinist line, there is no way they can win over the best representatives and leaders of the Afro-American national movement in NBIPP or any other movement. Afro-American revolutionaries will laugh at them, if they don’t spit in their face!

While LM’s mechanical and doctrinaire strategy blocks them from building communist leadership in the actual struggles of the working class and the national movements, TR’s empiricism causes them to elevate tailism to the level of strategy. So far, we find little to differentiate TR’s strategy from that of a common liberal.

To begin with, the “progressive” restructuring of U.S. capitalism that TR dreams of ended with the 19th century. Since then, we have not yet seen anything even remotely “progressive” in the restructuring of U.S. (or European) monopoly capitalism. Imperialism is today reactionary all along the line. The only restructuring we have seen has been for the purpose of increasing monopoly profits or for diffusing mass movements and undercutting their revolutionary leadership.

TR’s “strategy” is neither a communist strategy nor revolutionary. It is an economist plan for concrete “realizable” reforms “short of revolution,” which is quite a “tricky” idea indeed. What is a realizable reform under imperialism and under today’s crisis in particular? TR should recall that even the crumbs won by the Black Liberation Movement of the sixties did not come from NAACP lawsuits, but literally took nationwide revolutionary upsurges to bring about. Once the revolutionary upsurge was over, the bourgeoisie took these crumbs away. Today it is not only Afro-American youth and students who are in motion. The entire multinational working class, combined with the national movement and women’s movement, etc. will give infinitely more scope and force to the class struggle of the 80’s. The stakes are higher for the bourgeoisie now as compared to the 60’s. Yet they are unable even of giving the limited reforms of the sixties without increasing inflation and intensifying the overall crisis. The capitalist system is extremely volatile and fragile. For that reason it will take incomparably more far-reaching and revolutionary struggle to bring about genuine reforms today than it did in the sixties. And contrary to TR and LM, the masses of workers in this country are increasingly ripe for the struggle. The paradox is that the very concessions that TR talks about “forcing” are not “realizable” without difficult revolutionary struggle in this period, precisely the type of struggle TR is “far from posing visions of.”

The problem with TR’s analysis is that they think there is some kind of new equilibrium within the framework of bourgeois democracy. This is nothing but a doctrinaire illusion. If the period now – when as the TR points out, there is no revolutionary upsurge evident – calls for more selective repression (authoritarian statism), what happens when the masses do rise up? The bourgeoisie have no illusions about this. They have talked since 1975 in the Trilateral Commission of “the crisis of democracy” and are right now streamlining the state apparatus to deal with the mass movement. Does the TR think that the Greensboro assassinations, the framing of the NASSCO 3 or the murders in Seattle show the confidence of the bourgeoisie in the workings of bourgeois democracy? Under the volatile political situation today, the doctrinairism of the TR is not only opportunism, but potentially fatal.

We unite with the attempt that TR made to put out a comprehensive political plan for this period. However, TR’s idealism shows that they have no understanding of the concrete practical movements today and no. feel for the concrete history of our times. This we feel stems from the fact that the TR has not been willing to take up the concrete class struggle. Simply put, they are not in the class struggle except in the theoretical front, which of course inevitably becomes one-sided and academic when divorced from concrete practice. Their direction today is like those of the Legal Marxists in Russia, a “literary trend” as Lenin put it. The difference is that TR is following this road (as the “rectification” trend) years too late. It is as though the Legal Marxists, after “missing” the 1905 Revolution, tried to intervene in the 1917 Revolution.

The key difference between our strategic thinking and that of LM and TR is that while LM puts off revolution until white workers “break completely” with racism and TR puts off revolution until a “progressive restructuring” of capitalism, we believe communists must take advantage of the capitalist destabilization and devise revolutionary strategy and tactics for the seizure of state power. While LM thinks most white workers are “cushioned” and attaches no strategic importance to leading the class struggle, TR cannot conceive of leading the class struggle beyond the “progressive restructuring” of capitalism. Both of these views will only lead to the isolation of communists from the mass movement, at best tailing at its rear end, and set up the masses for a bloodbath.

The different political lines and strategies in the communist movement are antagonistic, but the resolution of these differences does not have to be antagonistic. The opportunity to unite Marxist-Leninists is greater now than before. As long as comrades maintain an honesty and openness to struggle, and a scientific attitude to the materialist science of Marxism-Leninism and to the working class, we are certain the majority of communists will unite on a correct revolutionary definition of tasks and help usher in a new socialist U.S.A.