US and World Politics

The Road to Socialism

By Bonnie Weinstein

“Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full.”1 —Leon Trotsky

In this issue of Socialist Viewpoint we are featuring two articles based upon presentations made to the First International Academic Meeting on Leon Trotsky that was held in Havana, Cuba May 6-8, 2019. They are, “Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution,” by Ernest Tate; “The Darker the Night, the Brighter the Star,” by Paul Le Blanc; and a report about this historic event, “Neither Kings Nor Bureaucrats,” by Suzi Weissman.

These presentations outline how Trotskyism has impacted and continues to shape the struggle toward a socialist world—the struggle that will save the future of life on our planet.

The primary lessons of the struggle against capitalism

The main lessons that Trotskyism teaches us is that workers’ solidarity, independent class action and democratic decision making on behalf of, and in the interests of, the working class—never crossing the class line—is what lead to the victory of the first workers’ revolution in Russia in October 1917; and that the only way to achieve socialism is to extend that revolution to the rest of the world.

Trotsky wrote:

“The party that leans upon the workers but serves the bourgeoisie, in the period of the greatest sharpening of the class struggle, cannot but sense the smells wafted from the waiting grave.”2

In today’s world we can’t expect to teach that it is capitalism, itself that is the enemy of humanity and destroyer of the planet if we give support to even the most progressive-sounding candidates of the parties representing the capitalist class.

Our job is to convince young socialist-minded people that any support to capitalist politicians—no matter how liberal they sound—will lead to defeat and demoralization since they will inevitably be silenced or bought off by the capitalist class.

Our goal must be to rid the whole world of capitalism and establish socialism. We can’t expect the capitalist class to help us on our way.

Lesser-evil politics and the privatization of protest

Lesser-evil politics—voting for the less-reactionary capitalist politician—has led us to where we are today.

The labor unions, whose hard-earned union dues are donated to capitalist politicians, are virtually decimated from being in partnership with the bosses. That’s what collective bargaining is all about—how many cutbacks can the bosses get away with through partnership negotiations around the bargaining table? It is a lose/lose partnership for the working class.

Protest movements such as Black Lives Matter and the women’s movement are being sidelined into the 501C3 non-profit arena, which ties them to the necessity of raising money from capitalists—to wrest concessions here or there—to demand that a small percentage of new housing be built for low income people when masses of people are homeless; or for equal pay for equal work and control of our own bodies as capitalist politicians of both parties curtail or outright outlaw abortion, and continue to perpetrate the inequality of opportunity and pay for people of all colors and genders.

Depending on charitable donations to achieve the basic rights of equality, jobs, housing, education, healthcare leads only to supporting capitalist politicians who promise such reforms—and to defeat and demoralization when those candidates sell us out again and again.

This supports and promotes the capitalist lie that there is no hope but charity or chance—trickle-down economics or winning the lottery—for a better future for humanity.

Independent political action—independent of the capitalist class

Our fight here and across this capitalist world is to build a socialist organization of the working class that is anti-capitalist and pro-socialist, profoundly democratic, and completely independent of capitalist politics and parties, or any party that thinks they can partner with capitalist politicians.

This includes very left-sounding parties like the Green Party, when, in the 2016 elections, they claimed to run independent candidates, yet, in districts where the votes between the Democrats and Republicans were very close, they encouraged their members and followers to vote for the Democrats.

And Senator Bernie Sanders, who claims to be a socialist but who runs as a candidate for the Democratic Party, did the same when he encouraged his followers to “Follow Me to Hillary,” when Hillary Clinton—one of the most ruthless and bloodthirsty war mongers—became the Democratic Party candidate to run against Trump.

Standing firmly on our side
of the class line

A revolutionary socialist party, democratically organized and independent of the capitalist class, is the true expression of the power of the world’s working class to bring justice and equality to all of us.

Under no circumstances can we advocate for a vote for the capitalist parties of war, racism, sexism and environmental destruction. Capitalism is the destroyer of our future.

As Trotsky said:

“As long as human labor power, and, consequently, life itself, remain articles of sale and purchase, of exploitation and robbery, the principle of the ‘sacredness of human life’ remains a shameful lie, uttered with the object of keeping the oppressed slaves in their chains.”3

Independent political action and organization is the most powerful and democratic tool for the working class—majority of humanity—to fulfill our task to finally take ownership and control of the means of production for the benefit of everyone and the planet we share.

We workers have that power! And it is our only road toward a future without war, exploitation and destruction of the planet, which is the inevitable outcome of the continued dictatorship of private capital over the means of production.

1 “Testament of Leon Trotsky,” Mexico, February 27, 1940

2 “What Next,” Chapter 1: The Role of the German Social Democracy, January 1932

What’s Next Chapter 1

3 “Terrorism and Communism,” Chapter 4, Terrorism

Terrorism and Communism, Chapter 4