By the Marxism-Leninism Today Editors
April 4, 2017
1. Capitalism, Class Struggle, and the Working Class
2. Capitalism Today and Changes in the World Balance of Forces
3. A Look Back on People’s Struggles in the US
4. From Struggles Against Corporate Power to Socialist Revolution
5. Racism: a Weapon of Monopoly Capital
6. The Struggle for Political Independence
7. A Communist Party, Its Theory, Its Organization
The election of Donald Trump had one meaning more important than all others. It represented a profound crisis of the capitalist system not only in the United States, but in the whole developed capitalist world.
This crisis has been camouflaged because it has presented itself not as previous capitalist crises as economic panic and depression, war, or insurrection in the streets, but as a crisis of the political system. It has also been obscured by the failure of most commentators to recognize its fundamental economic, social and class roots. Instead, the focus has been on the election itself and on shallow, self-exonerating and dangerously misleading explanations of Trump’s victory and on hysterical warnings of impending fascism.
Among the fashionable but utterly lame explanations of Clinton’s loss are those placing the blame on FBI Director public letters on Clinton’s emails, a low African-American voter turnout, racist and misogynist “white male anger,” “fake news, ” and above all the alleged Russian interference in the US elections.
The real explanation of the Trump victory and the panicked reaction of his Democratic opponents is a profound economic and social crisis of capitalism that has been brewing for forty years and which extends beyond the U.S. It is a capitalist crisis brought on by “neo-liberalism,” an oft misunderstood term in the US, where “liberalism” has connoted New Deal bourgeois reformism.
In the US, neoliberalism means the attempt to re-establish the political and class relations that existed before the New Deal (1932-45). Neoliberalism seeks the rollback of New Deal working class and democratic gains. Hoping to restore the laissez-faire policies of the “Gilded Age” (the late19th century in the US), neoliberalism means privatization, deregulation, tax cuts for the rich, public bailouts for private corporations, and austerity.
These policies have led to almost forty years of stagnant or declining wages for the masses of people and obscene profits for the top 1 percent, the export of jobs and de-industrialization, unprecedented wealth inequality, attacks on unions, labor standards and labor rights, degradation of the environment, ripping new holes in the social safety net, growing poverty, insecurity and debt.
Neoliberalism aggravates all forms of special oppression: from police violence against Black youth and mass incarceration of minorities to the deportation of immigrants. All of these tendencies were exacerbated by the 2008 financial crash and the subsequent recession that caused millions to lose their jobs and homes while the banks and industries received a trillion-dollar bailout. Meanwhile, the Bushes, Clinton and Obama wasted money and lives and devastated entire countries with their policies of “regime change,” endless war, and drone attacks.
Trump’s election is a reflection of this crisis but his new Administration will not resolve it. By choosing a cabinet of generals, millionaires, Goldman Sachs financiers (five at latest count) and extreme right-wing Republicans, Trump has already made it clear that he will betray the hopes of many working class people who voted for him.
Everyone knew that voter anger would come, sooner or later. It came first in 2008 with the election of the seemingly anti-establishment figure of Barack Obama. After he betrayed the hopes that had elected him, the anger turned against establishment figures in the Republican Party, and, in the Democratic Party, through the insurgent movement of Bernie Sanders. Anger and dismay at the two candidates offered by the two main parties were also manifested in the low voter turnout of Election Day 2016.
We Communists think that the political crisis of 2016 can only be understood by a class analysis. Our theory can chart a path to a better future by a strategy of curbing corporate power and opening the path to even more fundamental change—socialism.
We are also well aware that a class analysis of our current situation and a socialist strategy and program for the future are far from the thinking of most Americans, conditioned by a hundred years of anti-Communist propaganda since the Russian Revolution of 1917, propaganda reinforced after the downfall of socialism in the Soviet Union and eastern Europe. Truth, however, has a way of rising in spite of the lies and slanders that seek to bury it.
Indeed, the failures of capitalism have never been as clear as they are today and the objective ground for socialist ideas has never been so fertile. What is needed is the subjective factor—Communists and a Communist Party willing to develop these ideas, take them to the people and put them into action around common struggles.
These considerations prompt us to put forward a fuller statement of our ideas on the path to revolutionary change in the U.S., a further step toward a full program for a new Communist Party in the USA. This document builds on our earlier statement of purpose. It aims to expand that statement, to spell out more explicitly and in greater detail our own core convictions, to aid our club building and to guide our discussions with other left groups. It does not address everything. It is not a full party program, but rather a contribution to one.
We need a re-statement both of the fundamental principles and aims of Communists and our views on how best to defend and promote the rights and welfare of the people of our country. This contribution to a program sets forth some essential steps on the road ahead — to the people’s complete victory over capitalism and the establishment of a socialist United States.
This document is also necessary because the Communist Party USA, in spite of its glorious history and many decent members, has irretrievably lost its way. The CPUSA has abandoned most of its former ideology and organization, forsaken the struggle against racism and international solidarity, eschewed the fight for change in the trade unions and action in the streets, and tried to channel all discontent into support for the Democratic Party. In 2016 it supported Hillary Clinton.
1. Capitalism, Class Struggle, the Working Class
The social, political, and economic problems that plague the majority of the US people are ultimately rooted in the system of private ownership, corporate accumulation of wealth, class rule, and savage selfishness: capitalism.The most transparent expression of this unjust system is the division of our society into two major classes: those who must seek employment to live and those who employ and exploit the others.
The underlying class contradictions of capitalism have not changed since capitalism appeared on the world stage. The world is entering a period when these contradictions are becoming more and more evident. The divisions between rich and poor in the world, in developed countries most strikingly seen in the United States, become ever wider. The effects of pollution and climate change are growing. The climate crisis adds another powerful argument to the case for the transition from capitalism to socialism – human survival.
The Working Class
Opponents of Marxism – bourgeois, reformist, ultra-left — are tireless in denying that the working class is the agency of revolutionary change, almost since the words of Marx and Engels penned the words proclaiming the role of the working class in the historical process. It is astonishing how a-historical this opposition to Marxism is. In the 20th century the working class of many countries — whether a relatively large or relatively small proportion of the population – was the main support base of revolutionary movements, led them, and created and sustained socialist states.
The denial takes many forms. The deniers assert that the working class is “shrinking” or “vanishing.” It has been “integrated” into capitalist society. The working class has become “middle class.” Modern society is “no longer divided into social classes.” The working class is being “eliminated from the productive process.” The working class was “once” revolutionary, but is no longer. Some writers attempt to arbitrarily define the working class as a small and diminishing category: unskilled manual workers.
We are convinced the working class is the agency of revolutionary change. The fundamental reason is not that it works in large-scale industrial plants, but because it is exploited and subordinated in the process of production. “Exploitation” does not mean badly paid work, the conventional definition.
Marxist political economy demonstrates that the basic source of profit, wealth and power for the capitalist class is the exploitation of workers at the job site – the extraction of surplus value. Workers are paid only a fraction of the value of what they produce. Capitalists appropriate the remainder. Surplus value (i.e., profit) is unpaid labor. The fight between capitalists and workers over the share going to each class never stops. This antagonistic contradiction cannot be resolved without one of the two terms of the contradiction being abolished. In this lies the special position of the working class. It cannot free itself without ending this exploitation, which excludes it from decision-making in the workplace and the larger society and produces insecurity, inequality and often poverty.
From the very circumstances of its existence the working class must continue to oppose exploitation. The only way it can get rid of what it opposes is by winning political power and using that power to reorganize social relations. The working class can solve its problems and end exploitation only by changing the system, i.e., by abolishing capitalist relations of production.The question is not what a worker or the working class as a whole understands at any given moment, but “what the proletariat is and what, in accordance with this being, it will historically be compelled to do.”
What are the implications for class antagonism, class unity and class consciousness of the relative decline of industrial work (manufacturing, mining, engineering, construction, energy, transport) and the relative growth of service work?
These are some major trends in US class relations:
Views belittling the working class fail to take into account the birth of new industries, as old ones decline or die. Labor-replacing new technology has been around for centuries.
Yet the working class grows . Marxists define a social class objectively by the relationship of a large social group to the means of production. The US working class is the great majority of people in the US, perhaps 80 percent of the population, if not higher, who must work for a wage or a salary in order to live and who do not have significant ownership of a business.
New categories of professional and white-collar workers are pushed down into the working class by capitalist development (a generation ago, teachers; today, pharmacists, even some physicians and lawyers). New industries are born. The information revolution expands the categories of office workers and hi-tech workers. Service workers – often low-paid, undocumented immigrants — have grown dramatically.
Transient historical conditions can affect the sharpness of class antagonism. In the 19th century the “top dog” position of Britain in world capitalism allowed the British ruling class to maneuver to lower the temperature of revolutionary sentiment in the British working class. That class had been in a rebellious mood in the 1840s (the Chartist movement). With the rise of competitors in the late 19th century (Germany, the US) British supremacy faded. In due course, the long winter’s sleep of the British working class ended.
Almost the same thing happened in the US in the last half of the 20th century. Signs are now multiplying that the monopoly position enjoyed by the US after 1945 is ebbing. Economic competitors are gaining strength. Political consequences are already following. The “unipolar” world evident since 1991 is seemingly slipping away. US relative decline has set in. The aggravation of class conflict inside our country is a likely result.
On the size of the working class: the definitions of government statistical agencies should not be used uncritically. For example, US monopoly capital does not employ production workers only in the 50 states of the federal union. It employs vast numbers of workers in East Asia, Latin America and elsewhere. By any reasonable definition many of these would fall into the category of industrial workers. There is no easy way to measure their number, but it is a vast reality. Consider all the low-wage workers that Wal-Mart employs through subcontractors in China. So the vanishing working class isn’t so vanishing, just spatially redistributed.
It is not only industrial workers, the core of the class, who are capable of union organization, militancy, sustained struggle, and political consciousness. The recent development of the $15 minimum-wage fight among service workers (fast food and other service industries), illustrates similar radical potential. This is to say nothing of unionization drives among college teaching adjuncts, computer service techs, bicycle repair workers, and others that show the mettle of non-industrial workers in developed capitalist countries.
It is true that industrial workers, defined in the conventional way, are a considerably reduced share of the total working class within the borders of the 50 states. But it is largely labor-intensive, low-wage work that has been exported. “Department I” workers, i.e., producers of the means of production, to use the Marxist concept, are still employed here by the millions. They still make up, in our view, the core of the US working class.
The working class has been changing in its composition for as long as capitalism has existed. The working class is not defined by “industrial” conditions of work (big factories, concentration of many workers, dirty, speeded-up work, etc.), but by its relation to the means of production, by its role in a system of social relations.
The heightened export of capital to low-wage countries reduced the number of workers in this sector both relatively and absolutely. Technological change diminished the number of extremely large industrial plants. It is, however, far from the case that there are few or no large industrial plants left in the US.
Larger industrial workplaces offer certain advantages in organizing trade unions (social distance from the boss, therefore fewer illusions about actual class position than in small shops; ease of organizing large numbers of workers in one place; efficacy of strike action when undertaken).
Working class consciousness is partly determined by objective conditions of work, which can be more or less favorable. But class consciousness is also determined by subjective factors such as historical experience and the influence of political parties. A socialist understanding of what is wrong with society and how to change it has to be injected into the economic struggles of the working class, by the-conscious efforts of those who understand Marxism. It is for these reasons that the working class requires its own party based on the ideas of Marxism.
Deteriorating working class conditions over the last 40 years were behind the electoral upheavals of 2016. The lack of jobs and lack of hope in the partially de-industrialized heartland of the Midwest was a prime cause of the Trump and Sanders vote.
The US working class is a suffering class. Unemployment remains a principal scourge. Besides the normal surge of joblessness in a cyclical slump (and, since 2007-2008 the economic cycle is getting more and more violent) longer-term factors overlay and worsen the problem. Slow economic growth remains a key culprit in US unemployment. NAFTA and other trade deals have resulted in the export of jobs. Information technology, robotics, etc., have an ever bigger role in social life. The media are full of accounts of giant tech companies (Google, Amazon) experimenting with driverless cars and trucks, and package deliveries by drone, and the like.
Under socialist centralized planning, these technological advances could be harnessed for human liberation: to cut the workweek, to increase leisure, and to raise the standard of living. While capitalism remains, such advances heighten the threat of accumulating technological mass unemployment.
Skepticism about the many breathless predictions of a jobless future is reasonable. As early as the 1950s, there were exaggerated estimates of the impact of “automation,” then a very trendy word. Then, it was part of the Cold War ideological offensive against Marxism. And right now, similarly, there is a spate of books arguing the same case.
Decades of no-struggle opportunist trade union leadership and the resulting concessionary contracts have taken a toll on working class living standards and conditions. In basic industry, younger workers have been sold out by union acceptance two-tier system resulting in low entry-level wages, objectively creating divisions between older and younger workers for years to come. It’s not only the low per-hour wage. Many of the low-paid young workers are temporary. They will have no benefits even if they work for years. The gig economy has come to basic industry.
More accommodation to the demands of capital seems on the way. Top union movement official Richard Trumka praised Trump’s speech to Congress as “Trump’s shining moment.” The present Administration’s attack on unions is only beginning. The right’s strategy to further divide an already weakened movement, sector by sector, is unfolding. Private sector unions face a national “Right–to-Work” bill now in Congress, and pending appointments of reactionaries to the key Department of Labor posts. Public sector unions face a revived version of the Friedrichs case that would have deprived public unions of much of their funding. So far Trump, the real estate tycoon and builder, has managed to seduce the national building trades officialdom.
The nature of work is changing in other ways. The growth of precarious employment, the “gig economy” so called, means short-term jobs, without health care benefits and without pensions of stable value.
Service work tends to become more industrial in nature. In the fast food industry one sees the enlargement of the workforce at a given retail site whose back room is full of machinery, the speeding up of the pace of work, and intensive monitoring of productivity. In US-based call centers workers are monitored for “output” constantly. Their tasks are programmed completely by management, often by computer algorithms. The pace is frantic and debilitating. At a health care insurance company – a growing sector thanks to the absence of a rational health care payment system in our country — in one huge hall hundreds of registered nurses are seated in front of computers evaluating the paperwork claims submitted by patients seeking reimbursement.
Many immigrants bring radical, trade union, and left-wing traditions with them from their homelands. Example: in 2006 Latino immigrants threatened by an anti-immigrant bill in Congress came into the streets by the millions to protest. In one day of action they revived the militant May Day tradition in the US.
There is newly minted confusion about the term “working class.” In the 2016 election campaign political commentators in the US media endlessly pontificated about “the white working class” as if Black workers and other workers of color were not also members of the class. Those who use the term “middle class”, long favored by the corporate media, muddy the waters even more. Lately there is a tendency in the media to define the working class as workers without a post-high school degree. More confusion comes from the effort by capitalists to reclassify workers as “independent contractors” or “freelancers” to avoid paying for the protections of labor law. Most “independent contractors”, regardless of legal fictions, are workers too because the economic reality is they must earn wages under the direction and control of large corporations, for example, the Uber cabdrivers.
Seen as concentric circles around a still-sizable industrial core, the US working class can acquire a cohesion and a degree of organization matched by no other class confronting corporate power. The ability to take united action at the point of production places the working class in the strongest position to combat capitalist exploitation.The working class is the decisive force for social progress. The workers as a class are the strongest and most consistent opponents of corporate domination. They are in the best position to lead all other social strata victimized by the Wall Street ruling class in a united movement for revolutionary change. The working class of the United States is composed of men and women of many races and nationalities. But regardless of differing origins, its members have common class interests.
2. Capitalism Today. Changes in the World Balance of Forces
Imperialism is capitalism in its monopoly stage. We live in the era of imperialism and resistance to it.The US remains militarily the strongest imperialist country on the planet, although capitalism still develops unevenly, and other countries and blocs challenge the US economically.
Despite the fact that in the 20th century most nations freed themselves from direct, overt colonial control, imperialist exploitation, occupation, and war dominate the developing world. Ironically, US imperialism pioneered neocolonial methods of rule, but the US still holds Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, the Northern Mariana Islands, and US Virgin Islands in colonial subjugation.Nevertheless, the resistance to US domination is increasing in Latin America, Africa, and Asia, where imperialism strains to hold back national independence and social and economic development. Because these goals are beyond the strength of US imperialism, the class struggle in the US promises to intensify.
As residents of the main imperialist power, U.S. Communists have a special obligation to fight against the military interventions, nuclear arms race, expansion of the worldwide network of military bases, electronic spying, CIA operations, drone attacks, torture, and other affronts to peace and human dignity carried out by the U.S. Government. For the same reason, we have a special obligation to build international solidarity with Communists and others abroad fighting for peace, workers’ power, national sovereignty and socialism. The War on Terror, like the big lie of the “Soviet Threat” before it, is used to justify US aggression and boundless military spending.
A Sketch of Recent World History
As Marx and Engels foresaw in The Communist Manifesto (1848), capitalism has unleashed immense productive forces. In the 20th century, thanks to the scientific and technological revolution, the growth in productivity, if anything, speeded up. Never has humanity had such possibilities to develop its creative powers and reduce the drudgery of physical labor and long hours. In the 21st century, the capacity exists to overcome hunger, disease and misery worldwide, to make possible a dignified life for all peoples, and simultaneously to pass the earth on to future generations. And yet the reality is otherwise.
Since Marx published Capital in 1867, significant changes have taken place in capitalist society. By the close of the 19th century, monopolies – giant corporations and banks — were created, and came to play a decisive role in economic, social and political life. Imperialism, the monopoly stage of capitalism, was shaped. Banking and industrial capital merged to create finance capital, along with a financial oligarchy. The export of capital took on greater significance than the export of commodities. International monopoly associations of capitalists were formed, leading to a new stage in the internationalization of capital and production.
In the early 20th century monopoly capitalism began to give way to state-monopoly capitalism, which is the fusion of the most powerful financial monopolies and the bourgeois state machinery. Heightened state intervention in economic life was necessary mainly to cope with the capitalist system’s growing instability. The development of imperialism, and the struggle between the main capitalist powers to re-divide the world, also led to two worldwide inter-imperialist wars, to the rise of fascism, and to colonial and neo-colonial plunder and imperialist aggression against peoples in many countries. Important scientific, political and social advances also marked the past century.
The most significant political event of the 20th century was the October 1917 socialist revolution in Russia, which brought the working class to political power, led to the formation of the first socialist state, and ushered in a new era in the development of human social relations. This epoch-making revolution, the decisive role played by the USSR in the defeat of fascism, and the consequent emergence of other socialist states together comprising one third of the world’s population, had a profound impact on world developments.
The revolutionary, Communist trend within the working class movement grew and matured, and other socialist revolutions occurred. National liberation struggles succeeded in breaking the chains of direct colonial bondage throughout much of the “Third World.” Tremendous class and democratic struggles in the US and other capitalist countries succeeded in winning many key social and economic gains for working people, and extended social rights for workers, women, and youth in many countries.
The three decades after Second World War were comparatively prosperous in the developed capitalist world. But corporate power was all the while biding its time to take back the gains workers made in 1945-75.
Around 1980, the shift to neoliberalism, beginning in the US and UK, had worldwide implications. It meant more impoverishment, both absolute and relative. Standards of health and education have declined. The ruin or stagnation of agriculture in the under-developed countries has led to massive migration of peasants into the cities, overwhelming the under-funded urban infrastructures, generating environmental crises.
Around the world there has been an enormous increase in the reserve army of unemployed workers. The new, “neoliberal” phase of capitalism has revealed more clearly the predatory, parasitic, and moribund character of imperialism. Capitalism as a system and its ruling class maintain their positions only at the expense of the vast mass of working people and the world environment. The anti-labor and anti-people policies of capitalist governments have led, not to social progress, but to social regression, worsening the immense problems facing humanity.
As human society enters the 21st century, international developments are marked by imperialism’s barbaric and inhuman policies. Humanity is living through grim times due to the aggressive imperialist drive to dominate and subjugate, displayed more openly since the 1991 downfall of the Soviet Union.
Changes in the World Balance of Forces
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern European socialist countries represented the gravest setback in the history of workers’ and peoples’ struggles. Though these socialist lands were not without problems, the Soviet Union represented the strongest curb on imperialism. Its social, industrial, and scientific advances promoted the economic well being of workers everywhere in the world. Its diplomatic and military might aided the countries and movements struggling for national independence and socialism. The downfall of the Soviet Union caused many Communists or former Communists to become confused, cowardly and ashamed of their own history.
The dramatic reversals suffered by socialism in the last decade of the 20th century shifted the balance of world social and class forces in favor of imperialism, forcing the world’s working class, progressive and anti-imperialist movements onto a defensive footing.Imperialism took full advantage of the new situation arising from this historic, though temporary, setback. Since 1991 U.S. imperialism, whose most fanatical ideologues still seek a “new American Century”, has embarked on a global drive to extend its sphere of influence and to capture all possible markets and sources of raw materials, or at least to deny them to rivals.
The drive occurs amid all major contradictions that have shaped the world for the last century, which are far from disappearing. These contradictions include that between labor and capital internationally, as well as within each respective capitalist country; the contradiction between imperialism and the forces of national independence, including the remaining socialist countries; the contradiction between imperialism and peoples of the developing world; and the contradiction among the leading imperialist countries themselves.
What is new is a major contradiction maturing between the capitalist mode of production and the global environment.
Planet Earth is reaping the harvest of centuries of subjecting nature to the blind play of capitalist market forces. Under capitalism both labor and the natural environment are subordinated to and exploited for the capitalists’ overriding objective —profit. As a mode of production and consumption, capitalism has raised the degradation of nature to historically unprecedented levels. Only liberation from capitalism will open up new possibilities for a fundamental change in humanity’s relationship with nature.
Climate change now adds a powerful new argument for socialism. Not only can the human race be made extinct by imperialist war – above all, global nuclear war and a resulting “nuclear winter,” our species can also be made extinct by global climate catastrophe.
Many in the environmental movement see this glaring contradiction, but frequently will not mention socialism as solution. Some speak of a “green capitalism”. Only a socialist system that bases the economy on people’s needs can truly solve this contradiction. A sustainable economy is not one based on reckless, unbridled, profit-driven growth and extraction of the earth’s resources particularly fossil fuels.
Climate change, increasing species extinction, the acidification of the oceans and other environmental problems add a powerful new argument for socialism. Some Communists have underestimated this contradiction. Not only can the human race be made extinct by imperialist war, but it can descend into an environmental dystopia leading to the same result.
The basic contradiction of capitalism remains that between capital and labor. Only the triumph of the working class can bring about socialism, whose commitment to science and planning can solve the contradiction between capitalism and nature.
The enormous potential for developing the productive forces opened up by the scientific and technological revolution is being distorted and limited by the imperatives of capitalist production relations and the drive for maximum profits. Whole sections of the main productive force — working people — are being devalued, cast aside and even destroyed. Unemployment, underemployment and lack of education represent an enormous waste of economic potential as well as a human tragedy.
For good reason, “We are the 99 Percent” became a slogan that caught the popular imagination a few years ago. Capital itself is being accumulated and centralized at an astounding pace. Corporate acquisitions and mergers, stimulated by fierce competition to control the global market, and involving the largest transnationals, are concentrating economic and political power in the hands of an ever-dwindling super-elite of capitalists.
Not only is the working class affected. Radical restructuring of industry and commerce, and the massive rationalizations and “downsizing” that result, are having a devastating impact on peasants and farmers, professionals and other members of the middle strata, and even on smaller, non-monopoly firms.
Another alarming trend is the increase of parasitic capital, which some have labeled “financialization.” Vast resources are no longer employed in productive enterprises, but are diverted to currency speculation, in “futures” and in the stock market, where huge profits are siphoned off without ever generating increased production. This speculation worsens the anarchy inherent in capitalist production, giving rise to deeper cyclical and structural crises throughout the system.
In 2007-2008 in the US and elsewhere, the huge bubble in capital values based on overaccumulation burst. That triggered the greatest crash since the Great Depression of the 1930s. Across the developed capitalist world, governments and central banks used public money and public institutions to rescue the financial monopolies.
The 2007-8 capitalist crash underlined both the growing instability of the monopoly capitalist system and the ability the capitalist state temporarily to stabilize the system through gigantic bailouts of failing banks and corporations. The bailouts were a stunning example of state-monopoly capitalism in action.The austerity that followed in Europe and the US represented the financial oligarchy’s striving to shift the burden of the crisis onto the backs of working people.
Those same governments and central banks attacked public services and socially useful jobs, and resisted stricter national and international regulation of the financial system. From 2008 on, mass unemployment returned to the record post-war levels of the early 1980s. As of early 2017, the recovery in developed capitalist countries has been slow and halting.
Clearly, the world’s major capitalist powers are unable or unwilling to control the immense anarchic, parasitical, anti-social capitalist system. Since the disintegration of the post-war system of international regulation, scrapped in 1971, all attempts to construct a new stable financial and economic architecture have failed.
The gap is widening between the levels of development of the advanced capitalist countries and the underdeveloped countries. Unfair trade relations, the terms of debt repayment imposed by international banks and financial institutions, and the imperialist monopoly of high technology combine to extract trillions of dollars of wealth from the less developed countries in favor of the imperialist centers, causing the disparity in the international division of labor and development to deepen. This increasingly uneven pattern of development is giving rise to growing instability in local and regional economies, leading to more violent and protracted outbreaks of crisis which the capitalist oligarchy is increasingly unable to contain.
Countries such as Cuba, Russia, Iran, Venezuela and North Korea which resist imperialist dictates are punished severely through economic warfare including blockades, disinvestment and capital flight, speculative attacks on their currencies, the withdrawal of foreign aid, the halting of technological transfers, and trade penalties.
Where such measures prove insufficient, imperialism does not hesitate to resort to crude military force to achieve its ends. Unilateral aggression by the U.S. alone, or with the support of other imperialist states, is occurring with alarming frequency. There have been recent US military interventions in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Yemen and Somalia. The ability of the imperialist powers to resort to military threats and overt aggression has greatly increased since the demise of the Soviet Union and the socialist community of states which had previously acted as a substantial brake on U.S. imperialism.
One of the principal objectives of this all-sided offensive of imperialism is to extinguish the remaining socialist and socialist-oriented states (People’s China, Vietnam, North Korea, Cuba, Laos). Utilizing economic blackmail, military pressure, and ideological penetration, and taking advantage of internal difficulties and contradictions, imperialism seeks to weaken and to ultimately dismantle socialism and to restore capitalist relations in these countries. If the aftermath of 1989-91 is a guide, a successful counterrevolution will mean eliminating the state-owned sector and selling it for a pittance to private interests. The period of the “Cold War” may be officially over, but the fight between the forces of imperialism and the forces of socialism is still very much alive. The US imperialist offensive includes an ideological campaign aimed at discrediting socialism, and discouraging working people from rejoining the fight for a new wave of socialist transformations.
However, the law of the uneven development of capitalism, discerned by Lenin a century ago, still operates. That law declares that under the anarchic rules of capitalist production individual enterprises, individual branches of industry, and consequently individual countries develop unevenly and spasmodically. With the emergence of monopoly capitalism, unevenness in rates of national growth became even more accentuated. Result: continual changes in the balance of strength between states and a heightened struggle between them, sometimes leading to war.
Displacing British imperialism, US imperialism enjoyed unrivaled dominance beginning just after the Second World War. US dominance got a new lease on life after the downfall of the European socialist states in 1989-91. Suddenly, the struggle between “two systems, one capitalist and one socialist” (1945-91) became, a “globalized”, “unipolar” world of US power reaching across the globe.
Unipolarity did not last long. In the last ten years it has become clear that other states — socialist-oriented People’s China in the first place — and some capitalist states are growing faster than the US and pose a challenge to US supremacy. US imperialism with its overwhelming military strength maneuvers to keep military and economic pressure on China (e.g., in the South China Sea, in Africa) Similar US pressure is exerted on independent capitalist states such as Russia (e.g., in Ukraine, in Syria).The US relative decline, if sustained, means greater instability in international relations, a heightened war danger and, in time, sharper class conflict at home as the US strives to sustain a giant arms budget and worldwide military commitments.
Contradictions among the imperialist states are also sharpening. The US pushes other NATO states to pay a greater share of NATO expenses. Trade disputes between the US and EU states are frequent. While the imperialist powers have a common interest in imposing a single global market, which they can dominate, and control, the main imperialist centers are also engaged in a bitter struggle over the division of the spoils of global domination.
Imperialism, above all U.S. imperialism, exacerbates ethnic, religious and border conflicts, cultivates nationalism and chauvinism, instigates regional conflicts and wars of extermination, breeds extremely reactionary and obscurantist forces, and supports repressive and even fascist regimes. The most dangerous reflections of this shift to political reaction are the militarization of international relations, the continuing arms race, and the imperialist campaign to weaken the role and authority of the United Nations in favor of unilateralism by U.S. imperialism and its NATO allies. Imperialism is the main source of the continuing arms build-up, the fomenting of regional conflicts, and the danger of more generalized, and even global war. As long as imperialism exists, there will be the danger of imperialist war. It constitutes the principal danger hanging over the world today, threatening the future of humanity and all life on the planet.
The maturing of these contradictions deepens the systemic crisis of capitalism on a world scale, and inevitably evokes greater resistance and struggle by the working class and oppressed in all countries.The struggle for deep-going democratic and antimonopoly reforms, and ultimately for working class political power – socialism — must still be conducted primarily at the level of the national state in each country.
In an earlier era, Communist political programs typically declared that the victory of the Russian Revolution in 1917, in the midst of the First World War, marked the first time the working people succeeded in taking power and abolishing capitalism. This “ushered in the general crisis of capitalism, the period of its revolutionary replacement.” This transition from capitalism to socialism was “the main content of our epoch.” The general crisis of capitalism goes through stages of “deepening,” as the capitalist system shrank, as more countries broke free, and as the system’s internal contradictions sharpened.
In truth, the facts of 20th century history up until 1985 did seem to sustain this notion. It was a basis for confidence in the revolutionary goal and in the strength and permanence of new socialist states, no matter what the temporary difficulties in any given country.
We remain convinced that the laws of history identified by the classics of scientific socialism still operate. The most fundamental law of social development still operates. Revolutionary change occurs when the new forces of production grow incompatible with outmoded relations of production. This law ensured that feudalism was replaced by capitalism in the 17th and 18th centuries, and it will ensure that that capitalism will be replaced by socialism. This contradiction, which can only be resolved by revolution, imparts a direction to contemporary history.
There is, then, a general crisis of capitalism. Revolutionary change is a law-governed historical necessity, if we can prevent the disasters that would interrupt Its unfolding, such as nuclear war and climate catastrophe.The reversals suffered by socialism in 1989-91 have not changed the historical nature of this epoch, the epoch of the transition from capitalism to socialism. It took capitalism centuries to develop, and capitalism developed in a zigzag way, with periods of setback as well as advance.
The counterrevolutions of 1989-91 were a generation ago. The present phase, in which the international working class and revolutionary movements have retreated, is proving to be temporary. Anti-imperialist consciousness and militancy are growing. In Venezuela, for example, the Bolivarian Revolution, though facing difficulties now, has stimulated a wave of progressive political change across much of Latin America. There are other signs that a new, resurgent phase is already maturing. The 21st century will be one in which the revolutionary forces regroup to repel the offensive by international capital, and mount a decisive counterattack in defense of humanity, peace, a sustainable environment, and working class power.
3. Peoples’ Struggles in US History
There is no “American Exceptionalism.” While every capitalist country has some unique features, capitalism in the United States suffers the same inherent contradictions, anti-democratic features, and social evils as capitalism everywhere.
In the ugliest chapters of US history, Native American peoples were “ethnically cleansed” and slaughtered in the drive by settler colonialists to amass private fortunes. U.S. capitalists profited from the inhuman enslavement of African peoples. US capitalists extracted wealth from the labor of immigrants who came to these shores from around the world. European, Asian, and Latin American workers and peasants who fled oppression in their native countries became fodder for the sweatshops of capitalist industries.
The riches of U.S. capitalism also came from the seizure of lands from Mexico and the oppression of the Mexican-American people. At the turn of the twentieth century, U.S. capitalism embarked on its imperialist stage, colonizing Puerto Rico, the Philippines and other lands. Almost all the great productive facilities of our land, developed by centuries of toil by the people, are monopolized by a small fraction of the population.
However, the struggles of the common people for their needs and for greater democracy are also a constant theme of our history. The Revolutionary War for Independence was a great, liberating step forward. It freed the North American colonies from British colonialism, abolished monarchical rule and established a republic. This was a historic blow against feudal reaction on a world scale. But native capitalists and slave-owners captured most of the benefits of these hard-won victories.
The original draft of the Constitution included no guarantees of individual rights. Mass popular insistence won the addition of the Bill of Rights, which still left Black slaves, indigenous peoples, women, youth and even un-propertied white males uninvited to the banquet. During the nation’s first century the brutal reality of slavery mocked the assertion in the Declaration of Independence that “All men are created equal.” The fight to abolish slavery stood at the heart of the struggle to extend democracy and labor’s rights. Four years of bloody civil war finally abolished slavery and won adoption of the basic rights enshrined in the 13th, 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. Triumph over the slave owners also paved the way for the democratic advances of the Reconstruction Era.
Until well into the twentieth century, trade unions were treated as illegal “conspiracies to restrain trade.” The very idea of workers joining together to improve wages and working conditions was rejected by the government. Labor leaders were frequently framed-up and jailed, and strikes were broken by force.
Finally, in the 1930s the efforts of uncounted rank-and-file organizers breached the biggest open-shop fortresses of industry and won union representation for millions of production workers. In the early years of the nation, the rights to vote and to hold office were generally restricted to white male property owners. Every grudging extension of the franchise in the more than two centuries since has been wrung from a reluctant ruling class by people’s struggles. The winning of women’s right to vote was won by militant suffragist campaigns and was finally crowned with success in 1920. It took Freedom Rides, boycotts, sit-ins, mass demonstrations and the Civil Rights and Voting Rights Acts to reopen Southern voting booths to African-Americans in the 1960s.US history, in short, like that of every other class society, is a history of class struggles. Much has been won by these struggles. But whatever reforms have been won have not changed the basic nature of the system.
4. From Struggles against Corporate Power to Socialist Revolution
Although it discloses the laws of motion of modern society, Marxism does not confer magical powers of prophecy. It is impossible to blueprint every step on the line of march to political independence and radical anti-corporate change and socialism. But we can identify the main class forces likely to operate at each stage.
By 1945 the era of the Popular Front, a Communist strategy aimed at uniting the whole working class and the middle strata against fascism, was over. The main fascist aggressors, Germany, Italy, and Japan, had been defeated by the Allies. It was a war in which the socialist USSR had borne the main burden of the fighting and dying, an estimated 27 million lives.
The Communist movement searched for a new strategic path to socialism. In the developed capitalist countries, the movement projected an anti-monopoly coalition. This intermediate strategic goal naturally suggested itself because the monopolies — the giant banks and corporations — having merged with the capitalist state – state-monopoly capitalism — oppressed all other major social classes in modern society.
Then and now, anti-monopoly struggles, planned or spontaneous, offensive or defensive, are waged all around us. For example, the battle to prevent the Dakota Access Pipeline has united the environmental movement opposing fossil fuels and the Native American peoples defending their land. Similarly the struggle against Trans Pacific Partnership united labor, consumer, and other democratic movements. Health care reform, the struggle to enact HR 676, to create Medicare for All, i.e., a single-payer health care system would oust the parasitic and wasteful private insurance giants from the system. The Fight for $15, the campaign to lift the statutory minimum wage, unites unions with the minorities and immigrants working in low-wage service industries.US state-monopoly capitalism blocks advance on every front. Here lies the objective basis for uniting these forces in an anti-monopoly alliance, in favor of redeveloping America’s productive economy and combating the anti-democratic use of state power against the interests of the great majority of people.
The power of monopoly capital can be curbed and defeated only by a coalition of all those it oppresses. They all face a common foe.
Only the working class movement can lead an anti-monopoly coalition. Workers, the largest social class by far, have the clearest objective interest in radical change. The labor movement is already a major source of material support for other people’s movements. If these movements and struggles proceed in isolation from one another, they can only challenge the ruling class on single, isolated issues but not its overall domination. The labor movement must provide political leadership too and unite them, thereby educating itself for more advanced, radical and revolutionary change.An anti-monopoly coalition will have as its objective the restructuring of US society so that the interests of the majority of Americans come first, and the stranglehold of finance capital on every aspect of life is broken. It will seek to advance the working people’s interests through all available avenues of struggle, not just in the halls of Congress and statehouses but in massive and united action in the streets.
The coalition will strive to score electoral advances, and the winning of power by a people’s government dedicated to carrying out sweeping measures to democratize society and transform economic relations in the interests of the working class and the US people as a whole. One strength, among many, that Communists will bring to this coalition is that, without giving up any arena of struggle they have no illusions about electoral politics as the totality of politics.
The anti-monopoly government would be committed to a program of action geared to serve people before profit. An anti-monopoly government would signal a qualitative shift in the balance of class forces in US society. Before long, its advances would be likely result to in a class showdown and open the door to a revolutionary transformation, to socialism.
The Next Step: a Mass People’s Party?
In 2016, Lesser Evilism among working people – always voting for whichever candidate was deemed Less Evil, usually a Democrat – waned. Voters in their millions no longer wished to settle for the Lesser Evil. They wanted to protest.In 2016 the Bernie Sanders insurgency against Clinton — even in a distorted way the Trump candidacy — reflected a revolt among ordinary voters, shaking the ruling cliques in the Democratic and Republican Parties. The revolt is unlikely to go away. Many Sanders supporters are already disappointed. Disappointment among many Trump voters desperate for change is setting in. The pro-corporate policies of Trump, and the near-certainty of Democratic Party capitulation and accommodation to the Trump White House and the Congressional Republicans, can only keep inflaming the desire for real political change.
Communists have long projected the need for a new mass people’s party based on organized labor and the major sectors of the specially oppressed. Such a mass people’s party, if it were created, would be a leap toward political independence. It would be a non-monopoly party –- no corporate funding; no pro-corporate leading personnel — though it would not necessarily yet be an anti-monopoly party. We envision the latter as a more advanced formation, the political expression of stable, class alliance determined to uproot ruling class power.
Communists will struggle to win support for the most advanced program of political, economic and social transformation possible. It is reasonable to suppose that other ideologies will be represented in a mass people’s party, (social reformism, liberalism, etc) How radical a mass people’s party program will be and how radical the antimonopoly program will be depends on the strength of its most advanced, conscious, and disciplined sector, the Communists.
From Antimonopoly Coalition to Socialism
An anti-monopoly program must aim: to curb the power of finance capital and to extend public ownership of key sectors of the economy; to redistribute wealth and raise the living standards and conditions of life for the vast majority of the people; and to introduce sweeping reforms to enhance popular control and administration of the state at all levels of government. Of course, monopoly will resist with all its might, aware that its grip on state power is at stake.
Although such measures would not constitute socialism, the victory of an anti-monopoly government devoted to carrying out such a broad program would mark a significant step forward in the struggle for fundamental change and socialist transformation. The anti-monopoly coalition, in the course of fighting for its radical aims will have to confront the basic question: either it destroys corporate power or corporate power will destroy it. At some point – sooner rather than later, we believe — a decisive majority will recognize that the power of monopoly must not only be curbed, monopoly power must be replaced by socialism — public ownership of the means of production and rule by the working class. The anti-monopoly goal is not a long-lived stage on the road to socialism, as reformists have argued. It is an intermediate strategic goal. It concentrates popular wrath against the main class enemy. It is useful for the period when masses do not yet fully grasp the need for a complete break in class rule, socialist revolution. Such a revolutionary transformation cannot be achieved without the fullest mass participation and majority support.
Will the socialist revolution be peaceful? Alas, our country’s history does not suggest it. The US has gone through two revolutionary upheavals before, first in 1775-1781 and then in 1861-65. Neither was peaceful.
Nevertheless the past need not mechanically determine the future. As we approach the day of revolutionary change we will better discern the exact correlation of forces and we must work to shape it in our favor. In great social upheavals it is usually ordinary people who suffer the most from the violence of a desperate ruling class. Revolutionaries cannot guarantee a completely peaceful transition to socialism. They can strive, however, to restrict monopoly’s ability to use violence by assembling a people’s majority wielding levers of decisive power.
5. Racism: a Weapon of Monopoly Capital
In 2008 the election of an African-American President convinced some that we had entered a “post-racial” era in which a person’s race was socially irrelevant and no longer played a role in determining one’s life chances. However, the racist legacy of slavery, “Jim Crow”, and segregation continues in the form of mass incarceration, Stand Your Ground gun laws, attacks on public education, the militarization of policing in Black neighborhoods, and other ongoing and increasing attacks on all working people of color.
The struggle of almost 43 million African-Americans, 13.3 percent of the US population, is the struggle of an oppressed national minority for full political, economic and social equality. African-Americans are still victims of an outrageous system of institutionalized racial and national oppression.The African- American struggle lies at the heart of all struggles for democracy economic and social justice economic political progress for all US working people. The monopolies reap immense extra profits from the lower wages paid for labor of the African-American working people.
Contemporary racism is not only a historical legacy; it is sustained by the drive for corporate superprofits. We believe compensatory actions, affirmative actions are essential elements on the path to erasing the legacy of slavery and the forms of oppression that came in its wake.
Racism against African-Americans, historically and today, is the main division in the US working class. It is central to US history. In 1861-65 this country fought a civil war claiming more than 600,000 lives whose root cause was slavery. Therefore we speak of the centrality of Black liberation
. Not all of that progress has been dismantled, but there have been significant roll backs in affirmative action (gutted by the US Supreme Court) , and in voting rights.Old forms of racism persist. Racism and racial discrimination continue to take their toll on every aspect of Black life from greater poverty, worse health indicators, housing segregation, greater unemployment, higher school dropout rates, underfunded public schools, higher mortality rates, mass incarceration, and police violence against Black youth. No other sector of the US people has suffered more from this kind and extent of oppression.
New forms of racist oppression, a “New Jim Crow, ” have appeared. The US is now the mass incarceration state. African-Americans now constitute nearly 1 million of the total 2.3 million incarcerated population. At 13 percent of the US population Blacks are 40 percent of the incarcerated. African-Americans are incarcerated at nearly six times the rate of whites.
Progress was made as a result of the civil rights struggle of 1950s and 1960s.
For several years there has been a wave of police violence against Black youth in cities across the US. The violence has led to an upsurge of new struggle, especially among youth. All African-Americans experience the humiliation of racist bigotry. The vast majority of African-Americans — its most progressive sector— are in the US working class. They experience class exploitation, indeed super-exploitation. Black workers are over-represented in industry. The Black middle strata – the better-paid professionals and small businesses – have grown somewhat larger in relative weight. So has the capitalist segment of the community. A generation ago one economist estimated the class composition of the Black community, calculating that shop and office workers comprised 88.8 percent; petty bourgeoisie comprised 3.2 percent (managers, administrators, better paid professionals, self employed, farmers); intellectual workers (teachers, nurses, clergy) comprised 8 percent and capitalists were a negligible percentage. The growth in these sectors , but perhaps even more important, attempts by monopoly capital and the political right to cultivate conservatism has imparted a less consistently progressive character to Black elected officialdom. It resists political independence of the Democratic Party and militant struggle. Nevertheless, the working class preponderance in the Black community is still marked, making the great majority of the African-American community still a reliable ally of the working class movement, supporting and often leading struggles for peace, justice and equality.
Racist oppression directly diminishes the health, safety, income, and overall well-being of people of color. It pits white workers against workers of color, and stokes antagonisms among racially oppressed workers of different races and ethnicities. Racism not only harms people of color, but also harms white workers who are encouraged to blame racial minorities for problems caused by capitalism and that can only be solved through the self-activity of a working class united across all ethnic, racial, religious, and national lines. The struggle against racism thus remains a central task of Communists, one inextricably tied to workers’ struggle in their own class self-interest.
Similarly, the Mexican-American, Puerto Rican, Native American and Asian Pacific peoples are discriminated against on the basis of race and nationality. This short document cannot hope to address all the forms of national and special oppression specifically and in detail. Special oppression in the US takes many forms; it is not only racial and national. Special oppression harms women. It harms minorities of sexual orientation. A few brief comments about certain categories:
“Latino” is a cultural and linguistic category, not a nationality. Each minority from Spanish-speaking country has its own specific national question and form of special oppression
Puerto Rico is a direct US colony since 1898. US colonialism has sought to mask itself by conferring a bogus constitutional status on Puerto Rico. The island nation, now called a “Free Associated State,” is being newly pillaged by a Washington-imposed financial control board imposing austerity to pay off public debt to hedge funds.
Mexicans are the largest category of Latinos in the US. Among Mexicans are many undocumented immigrant workers, threatened by harsh immigration policies of deportation and family breakup carried out by the Bush, Obama, and Trump Administrations.
Add to this the anti immigrant threats against recent Muslim arrivals by the incoming Trump Administration which treats them as “terrorist” threats.
The largest category of special oppression is women who still earn only 80 cents for every dollar earned by men. The gap is much greater for African-American and Latina women. The oppression the latter suffer is not only economic. The continuing attack on the reproductive rights of women particularly affects working class women and women of color.
With inspiring militant, united resistance of scores of tribal peoples and their allies against the Dakota Access Pipeline, the struggle of Native Americans for survival is back in the headlines. Words can barely do justice to the horror of more than five hundred years of dispossession and extermination of indigenous peoples by European settlers and their descendants. Today these tribal nations suffer from neocolonialist policies of US federal agencies. They suffer from poverty, mass unemployment on reservations, and extreme social cultural and economic deprivation.
Youth and Students The heaviest burden falls on Black and other youth of color, who suffer all the special oppression that their communities suffer. Thousands have been radicalized by the struggle against racist police violence aimed mainly against young Black men. Many students of all backgrounds are burdened by mountainous student loans. Most politicians are loathe to provide relief because debt relief entails taking on the almighty banks. Since 2008 the job prospects for graduates have been bleak, and all too many face obstacles in earning an income adequate to establish their own households and families. The receptiveness of so many youth and students to the Bernie Sanders campaign reflected these worsening conditions.
Longer-term Meaning of the 2016 Elections
The recent campaign and election shook the political-party system in more ways than one. In 2016 racism in many forms was pivotal to the Trump campaign. His right-wing “populist” campaign message included a refusal to distance himself from openly racist supporters (such as the Ku Klux Klan). He blamed so many of the country’s problems on immigrants and Muslims. He whipped a nationalist fervor that gradually gained traction and tapped into the economic insecurity of many.Trump’s campaign represented a long US tradition of right-wing populism that mingles racism, xenophobia, nationalism, and isolationism with nostalgia for a golden past.
Right-wing populism combines attacks on socially oppressed groups with distorted forms of anti-elitism based on scapegoating. Recent US examples are George Wallace in the 1960s and 1970s, and Patrick Buchanan in the 1990s. In the 1930s, the movement led by anti-Semitic radio priest Father Coughlin was an example of right-wing populism.Trump’s election confirms that right-wing populism is growing in strength. It is an international phenomenon. There is the rise of United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain, the National Front in France, the Alternative for Germany party, Hungary’s Fidesz Party , Poland’s Law and Justice Party, and others. And now Trump.
Why is it growing? In France, big sections of the working class that used to vote for the French Communists now vote for the National Front of Marine LePen. For almost forty years after 1945, the memory of the heroic anti-Nazi patriotic resistance led by the French Communists won them the lasting respect of millions of French workers.
If the left does not defend legitimate national interests — and the Europhile social democratic “left” and their Eurocommunist cousins have not done so — the right will fill the gap with right-wing populist demagogy.
Trump appealed not just to racism and nativism but to American nationalism, as well as a sense of incipient national decline (his slogans were “Make America Great Again!” and “America First”) The US as a whole does not have a “national question” in the same sense as that of most European states, i.e., restrictions on sovereignty imposed by the supranational European Union enforcing the collective interests of West European finance capital.
Nevertheless, even in the US, the muscle-bound hegemonic power, the betrayal of national interests by US monopoly capital has been expressed in unrestrained export of capital and consequent de-industrialization of much of the industrial heartland, in immigration policies heedless of impacts on workers and communities whose main goal was to satisfy US corporate employers’ drive for cheap immigrant labor, and in perpetual “regime change” wars claiming working class lives and seeking to make the world safe for the superprofits of transnational corporations. Some of the Trump vote was an implicit protest against these betrayals.
Progressive forces must recognize the existing immigration policy has a class character. It mainly serves employer interests.Under capitalism, we must fight for an alternative anti-monopoly and anti-imperialist policy on immigration, reflecting working class and people’s interests: against war, against neocolonialist dependence that causes poverty and migration in Latin America, for full employment on both sides of borders, against policies inflaming racist and nativist divisions in te US, for humane treatment of all working people and border communities (not border zones of super-exploitation, for example, the maquiladoras).
As an immediate task we must fight the outrageous scapegoating, racism, nativism, Islamophobia, Wall-building, and fear-creating cruelty of Trump’s emerging immigration policy.
We must go far beyond the liberal and Democrat Party approach to immigration. Democrat Party officials, now “outraged” by Trump’s immigration policy, looked the other way when Obama was earning his nickname Deporter-in-Chief. Liberals, for their part, seldom acknowledge the role of imperialist war in setting migrations in motion.
Existing immigration policy is in US monopoly capital’s interest, not working class interests, on either side of the US border. A new immigration policy rooted in working-class internationalism and authentic patriotism will be far more humane than the Bush and Obama policy that deported more than 400,000 people annually.
Working-class internationalism derives from the recognition that the fundamental class interests of workers of all nations are the same.
Some ideas for a fightback:
•There must be an end to deportations and raids, an amnesty for undocumented workers who are already here and a short path to legalization and citizenship.
•The most militant protests against Trump’s “Muslim ban” — such as the spontaneous airport protests in late January 2017 — must be supported.
•We must ramp up a campaign for justice for asylum seekers and victims of human trafficking.
•In areas of high or sudden immigration local tensions can be fanned by employers trying to cheapen labor and push down wages, by landlords buying up property and collecting exorbitant rents by jamming migrants into overcrowded dwellings, by the lack of affordable housing and adequate schools. Border communities may suddenly find themselves with large numbers of pupils whose native language is not English. The unions and allied progressive movements must oppose making migrant workers the scapegoats for exploitation, lack of planning and inadequate public spending. Funding must be expanded for migrants and border communities no matter what the political climate in Washington.
•The union movement and the progressive movement, to counter the fear, ignorance, and resentment promoted by the new Administration, should mount an internal education campaign. At its center should be the understanding that worker migration is the consequences of conditions – economic collapse, underdevelopment, war, and destitution — generated by powerful economic and political forces. Unity between working people is the only basis to challenge and defeat monopoly’s attempts to divide the working class and weaken unions’ bargaining power.
•New impetus should be given to organizing immigrant workers into unions.
•Immigration reform should start with the class understanding that the movement of workers on large scale is never free. It is economically coerced and has always been used by capital to drive down wages. The trade union movement and people’s movements should seek to be more involved in fighting for direct involvement in immigration reforms and in rejecting bogus “free market” principles which reflect monopoly interest and which play into the hands of the political right including fascists and racists.
•Longer term, there must be more coordination among trade unions looking toward an international policy on migration designed to overcome the underdeveloped state of the counties which are the victims of coerced migration. There must be meaningful economic aid to these countries from the developed countries. Rich countries have benefitted from the unequal relations of power and wealth. US capitalism has long benefitted from the “brain drain” from the Third World. Recently Germany’s admission of a wave of Syrians (skewed to middle-income professionals and skilled workers) was motivated more by employer requirements in the German labor market than by generous altruism.
Such advanced policies will be by no means easy to establish while capitalism still exists.
In the migrations affecting our country (involving millions of Mexican and Central American workers), a “push” factor was the unequal NAFTA treaty imposed by Big Business under Bill Clinton which accelerated the export of US jobs and enabled US agribusiness to impoverish and uproot millions of Mexican small farmers, not to mention the US wars and US coups in Central America, and generations of US neocolonialism thwarting Mexican and Central American independent economic development. The “pull” was the opportunity to super-exploit migrant labor in an ever more deregulated US labor market.
In the dramatic migrations in the Mediterranean affecting Europe (Syrians, North Africans, et al.) the push factors are the NATO “regime change” wars in Libya, Iraq, and Syria), resulting in political chaos and state collapse in Libya, against a regional backdrop of European neocolonialism, and mass poverty worsened by drought and environmental collapse.
Though he campaigned as a right-wing populist, it is increasingly clear that Trump and his cabinet, filled with generals, investment bankers and CEOs, will not govern in that way. Even now the dwindling chances of a less aggressive approach to Russia by Trump causes ferocious opposition from the national security state, the CIA, military-industrial complex, the foreign policy establishment, their media allies, all with a big stake (foreign arms sales, domestic defense spending, careers) in the new Cold War with Russia.
But Trump is not a fascist, though the rightmost component of his electoral base, the open racists of the so-called “Alt Right” and KKK, for example, must be ruthlessly fought. Some writers on the left prefer using “fascism” loosely, as any extremely reactionary ideology. In our view, making the wrong assessment of objective conditions, or substituting rhetoric for class analysis, can lead to mistakes of strategy and tactics.Marxism has a time-tested, scientific, class definition of fascism: “Fascism is the open, terrorist dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinist, most imperialist elements of finance capital.” The decisive test is not Trump’s statements (often contradictory) nor the thuggish actions of some of his followers at his campaign rallies.
Rather, the key test is the class forces behind Trump. In the campaign, his right- wing populism and unpredictability scared off much of Wall Street and other big donors, as well as the Republican Party political establishment. Some were frightened into supporting Clinton who got generous help from Wall Street.Another test is the historical circumstances. Unlike in Germany in the early 1930s, where socialist revolution was a possibility, US capitalism is not in any existential crisis. State power is not slipping out of the hands of the representatives of Wall Street.
Another test is the fascist resort to violent repression against Communists, labor unions, minorities, and media and judiciary that exhibit any independence.Yet, caution in our estimates is necessary. Circumstances could change. Since his election Trump seemingly has rallied more of his own Republican Party’s oligarchs to his side. A deep economic crisis – there are many signs of an economy reaching the end of an expansion – could alter many ruling class political calculations.
The Trump election means not just that the US two-party system in crisis, but there is a shift away from the method of capitalist parties’ campaigning and governance which prevailed for decades on both sides of the Atlantic. The rising sectors of the right are turning to a new method of winning votes: right-wing populism. It more demagogic, more racist, more contradictory and unstable, more reliant on nationalism and favorable to protectionism, more inclined to scapegoating, more scornful of bourgeois democracy, than the previous method of rule. The shift to right-wing populist rule in a growing number of countries is itself symptomatic of the decay of bourgeois democracy, a trend Lenin noted long ago.
Social democracy (or, in the US, its rough approximation, the Democratic Party) continues to lose ground, but it shows little or no ability to understand why it is losing ground. It is doubling down on “politics in the sphere of social services” and on identity politics.
What is the trajectory of the new Administration? Trump’s policy ideas as enunciated in the campaign were a dizzying, bewildering jumble of contradictions. So were his appointments in the early days of his Administration. So is his new budget plan, perhaps a more reliable indicator of the real direction. He would increase military spending by $54 billion and fund a vast infrastructure program but he also wants to cut taxes. He sold himself to voters as a Washington “outsider” aiming to “drain the swamp” and “fight the establishment” ‘ but he put five Goldman Sachs executives in his inner circle of advisers. He made noises about rejecting the “regime change” policy on Syria of his predecessor but has already injected more US Special Forces and ground troops into Syria and the region. He has mused about making the Republican Party a “workers’ party” but has nominated Neil Gorsuch to the US Supreme Court. The Gorsuch record shows a marked tendency to favor the interests of corporations over workers.
Promising a “terrific” health care system, better than Obamacare, Trump embraced a House Republican Obamacare repeal plan that would have given tax breaks to high-income earners and taken away or denied coverage to millions of his own voters. He claims to aspire to better relations with Russia yet he fills his Administration with neo-cons eager for war with Russia. He wants to speed up economic growth but threatens a trade war with a powerful, rising China, a trade war that could cripple world growth. He boasts of his dream of forging a Mideast peace, but appoints an ambassador to Israel who is a super hawk on the West Bank settlements.
In March 2017, Trump’s suffered his first major legislative defeat, the inability to pass the House Republicans bill repealing Obamacare, ironically thanks to the strength of the ultra right Freedom Caucus which wanted an even more draconian bill. The defeat underlines the importance of independent forces leading the anti-Trump movement, not the Democrats. The corporate Democrats, like the Republicans, take insurance industry campaign donations. Democrats will likely content themselves with Obamacare, whose inadequacies are well-known and worsening. Independent forces must fight for the real anti-monopoly solution, a single-payer system.
When the failure of Trump’s agenda occurs, whether because it is not enacted or because, if enacted, it solves no problems or worsens them — there is a real danger of intensified racist scapegoating. Right-wing populism revels in scapegoating of domestic targets. Externally, its nationalism aggravates the danger of war.
“Identity Politics” is Not the Fight against Special Oppression
A hallmark of Communist politics is an understanding special oppression and its relation to class exploitation. When in 1919 the Communist movement emerged from the Socialist Party, militant trade unions, immigrant groups and others, a key reason for the break – along with an understanding of the need to oppose imperialist war — was the understanding that the African-American people were victims not only of exploitation — like all workers — but special racist national oppression as well.
The Communist position on struggles against special oppression, however, differs from what has come to be known as “identity politics.” The term is a murky and ill-defined, so much so that one hesitates to weigh in. What concerns us most is the use of identity politics in the Democratic Party in whose mass base ( workers, Blacks, Latinos, women, gays, et al.) so many of the core forces for progressive social change are trapped.
Identity politics sometimes looks like a fight against special oppression; hence its usefulness as a cover for a Democratic Party leadership moving rightward. In 2016 the efficacy of identity politics as a cover has waned. For example, millions of women voted for Trump as a protest candidate, ignoring his gross misogyny.
Identity politics is much more than a set of demands for equality but rather reflects a worldview in which the struggles and interests of ethnic, or gender, or sexual-orientation minorities and the celebration of differences and multiculturalism becomes the supreme political value, overshadowing the struggle against class exploitation, and battles for democratic rights and popular economic interests.
Identity politics serves the goals of sections of the ruling class. In the 1980s and 1990s identity politics was useful to the “New Democrats” around BiIl Clinton, seeking Wall Street funding. As they moved rightward to replicate the positions of the openly pro-corporate Republicans, “New Democrats” substituted identity politics in place of the traditional orientation of the Democratic Party to completion of the New Deal agenda. The Democrats’ resort to identity politics, ironically, also served the political needs of Republicans, with their new socially conservative, religious mass base in the white South. They used the Democrats’ championing of “liberal” identity politics as a wedge issue to activate that conservative mass base.
The popularity of identity politics on the left end of the political spectrum—even in some socialist groups—has coincided with weakening of class politics brought about by the collapse of the Soviet Union and by the decline of the US labor movement.
Another reason for the temporary decline of class politics has been the changing composition of the working class. De-industrialization, new immigration and technology have changed the working class and introduced new divisions. Old consciousness, solidarity and organizations have been weakened and not yet replaced by new ones. This has set back class struggle and has led some people on the left to minimize the importance of class struggle.
Communists believe that the most important conflict throughout history, including today, is the class conflict between those who own the wealth of society and those who do not. Today the conflict of interests between finance capital and the interests of the vast majority of people, workers and their allies, permeates every aspect of society and every political issue. Progress toward greater equality and greater democracy has only occurred in the past and can only occur in the future when the great majority of people can unite and struggle for economic and social demands that benefit the vast majority.
For this reason, “identity politics” – the effort to separate ethnic, racial, and gender interests from the economic and democratic interests of the majority—is divisive and self-defeating. Identity politics may rankle religious and political conservatives, but it in no way threatens the interests of capitalists.
Over and over again identity struggles have been assimilated by capitalism and the existing system. It is a delusion to think that identity politics does much to improve the lives of the specially oppressed, Blacks, women, or gender minorities. Only an approach to minority concerns and special oppression that integrates them into a class struggle of all working people and that cannot be co-opted for capitalist and neo-liberal ends can make lasting improvements in the lives of all.
6. Labor and Other Forces for Political Independence
The struggle for workers’ interests and workers’ power remains the fulcrum for changing the world. The cutting edge of this struggle remains the trade unions. Communists must not only resist the erosion of collective bargaining and union rights but must struggle within the trade unions for a program of class struggle unionism.
Reading William Z. Foster’s classic booklet “The Bankruptcy of the American Labor Movement” (1922), a group of mostly young union activists remarked that the grim state of the US labor movement in 1922 described by Foster resembled its condition in 2016. Little had changed in almost a century.
Foster was arguing for the Trade Union Educational League (TUEL), a left formation he founded that fought to end the sectarian policy of “dual unionism” that siphoned off the best class fighters into ideologically pure unions. Instead, TUEL encouraged militants to enter stagnant mainstream unions and to revitalize them. His TUEL strategy would bear fruit in 1935 with the birth of the CIO, the greatest upsurge of the US working class in the 20th century.
In 2016 the crisis of the US trade union movement deepened. Underestimating membership anger with the status quo, most of Washington-DC based top leaders thought they knew better than their most active members and threw union support to the corporate Democrat Hillary Clinton, well before any voters had a chance to vote in a primary. Most top leaders ignored the wishes of local unions and activists who expressed support for social democrat Bernie Sanders. Unions spent more than $100 million to elect Clinton. Clinton won only narrowly among voters from union households, by 51 percent to 43 percent according to exit polls.
The US labor movement has been on the political defensive for several generations. The anti-union Taft-Hartley Act (1947) ended the 12 years of union growth and opened an era of anti-communist witch hunts which deprived the unions of their best leaders and militants. Right-wing AFL-CIO leaders such as George Meany (1955-79) and Lane Kirkland (1979-95) proclaimed a policy of class collaboration. Ultimately it was of no avail. The long decline in union density soon set in. The percentage of workers belonging to a union in the United States (or union “density”) was 10.8 percent, compared to 20.1percent in 1983 and over 30 percent in the 1950s. Union membership in the private sector has now fallen to 6.4 percent— levels not seen since 1932, the depths of the Great Depression.
Labor law reform in an alliance with the Democrats — so that organizing in the private sector could resume again — was attempted under Presidents Jimmy Carter in 1976-1980, Bill Clinton in 1992-2000 and Barack Obama in 2008-2016. It came to nothing. In 1995 after the end of the Cold War, the AFL-CIO leaders, streamlining federation structure and trying to orient the movement to new organizing, formally ended the persecution of the left. But new AFL-CIO internal structures and policies proved to be a false dawn. Decline and splits resumed.
Since the November 2016 election, top leaders show scant sign of understanding of why so many unionized working people voted for Trump. Humiliated by the inability to deliver the vote of member unions to the Democrats, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka expressed irritation that President-elect Trump was presuming to speak for workers But Trumka also praised union partnership with the employers and even with the Trump Administration. Trumka used the phrase “democratic capitalism” without embarrassment.
Labor’s crisis goes much deeper than can be remedied by changes in labor’s methods of organizing, or rearranging federation structures through mergers and consolidations. The problem is political power. Under the present labor law regime, organizing in the private sector is nearly impossible. The vicious circle is that declining union density leads to diminished political clout, which in turn leads to declining union density.
In his day Foster challenged the principal left sectarian error — dual unionism — that shunted the best activists into ideologically pure, but very small unions. This held the movement back and produced the bankruptcy he decried.
In our day it is a right opportunist error – class collaboration generally but more specifically the refusal even to consider a process of building union independence of the Big Business-controlled Democratic Party — that holds the movement back. Because it is unrecognized, it is the most insidious and stubborn form of class collaboration.
It is by no means a simple matter for organized labor and its best allies to move in the direction of political independence. It will require leadership commitment (and probably new leaders), left and activist unity, energy, political will, significant allies among the major organizations of the specially oppressed, patience, imagination, openness to new methods of struggle, and bold trial and error. Monopoly will strive to make costly any breakaway from its two parties. But it must be done or else the union downward spiral, already far advanced, will continue. At 6.4 percent density in the private sector, a sector that makes up eighty percent of the US economy, our unions are not far from complete irrelevancy.
Not everything is bleak. The US working class is stubborn, as Foster used to say. There have been militant struggles, militant resistance and strikes. Here and there, there have been strike victories and organizing victories. More than a few unions are well led. Not all union leaders are enemies of class struggle and independent political action. Recent decades are filled with attempts to build rank and file movements to revitalize the unions. As 2016 proved, millions of the multiracial, multinational US working class are angry and ready to fight in one way or another. But the general decline of the union movement continues.
In the absence of a strong Communist Party in the US two different left outlooks have dominated “labor revitalization” discussions. One, the ultra-left, sees the main contradiction as “the trade union bureaucracy versus the rank and file.” The ultra-left tends to see every question through the prism of “union democracy.” Union bureaucracy can be reduced or eliminated by reform measures to increase union democracy. But only a revolution can oust a capitalist class.
The other, larger trend is social reformism, or social democracy, which denies the main contradiction, class struggle. While the US has no mass social reformist party like Britain’s Labour Party or Canada’s New Democratic Party social reformism is a prominent current in people’s movements and among those writing about union revitalization.
Reformism weakens the fighting capacity of the unions. Reformism accepts the validity of exploitation and defends the capitalist framework. It makes many proposals for piecemeal reform, but only presents demands that do not basically challenge the system. The trouble for reformism is, a defense of the capitalist system conflicts with defense of the workers’ interests. Communists strive to win reforms that benefit the people. But they reject the notion that such reforms within the framework of capitalism can ever be sufficient. Communists are for reforms, but they are opposed to reformism.The reformist influence in the unions, progressive organizations and progressive media, conscious or unconscious, is immense.
Reformism cannot or will not admit the real class nature of the Democratic Party. It confines its proposals for change — Bernie Sanders and Robert Reich are doing this now — to a “reformed” Democratic Party. Notwithstanding 40 years of contrary evidence, reformism believes the Democrats can become again, as in the New Deal, a vehicle to achieve progress for workers. Reformism denounces the “neoliberalism” dominant since the 1980s. It blames neoliberalism, not capitalism for inequality. It will use the word “capitalism” but seldom if ever calls for ending capitalism.
For union revitalization, it advocates smarter organizing techniques, improving labor’s image by having it champion progressive public policies of all kinds and alliances with “social movements. “Reformism thinks it can smoothe the sharp edges of capitalism. Not recognizing the class nature of the state it rejects revolution – that is, changing the class character of the state. It accepts the legitimacy of employer viewpoints, for example, on “competitiveness”. It seeks out forms of class collaboration, “partnership” in Richard Trumka’s phrase. It usually seeks to trail behind the liberal wing of the bourgeoisie. Reformist governments will make workers pay if capital insists on it. Reformism accepts the legitimacy of ruling class demands for austerity, shifting the burden of economic crisis away from finance capital to working people. Since 2008, this complicity in austerity has produced a revolt at the ballot box in countries ruled by social democrats.
Social democracy has had to reinvent itself with more radical phrases, slogans, and imagery, even with new parties. The more right-wing forms of social democracy remain anti-communist. Reformism calls itself the “left” and often appropriates the language and symbols of the revolutionary left, (e.g., Bernie Sanders’ “Our Revolution”, Die Linke’s “Rosa Luxemburg Institute”) “21 Century Socialism” — as a label for a set of political ideas — is one such self-reinvention by social democracy. The term does not denote the socialism that exists or will exist in our century. Rather, it is a thinly veiled rejection of 20th century socialism.
Communists struggle over historical memory. In the former lands of socialism, the misery inflicted by gangster capitalism and right-wing government has caused tens of millions of people who lived through the counterrevolutions to think again. It would be no more acceptable for us to downplay or ignore the vast democratic and socialist achievements of the Soviet Union and other socialist states than it would have been for 20th century revolutionaries to ignore or defame the heroic Paris Commune of 1871. Class solidarity with the existing socialist states, especially those most threatened by US imperialism, is the absolute duty of all US Communists.
The third type of trade unionism — which Communists and other genuine left-wingers support — is class struggle trade unionism. Class struggle unionism does not concede the employers’ right to a profit, for profit is ultimately is unpaid labor. Nor does it concede that capitalism is forever. It does not separate the struggle of members for a contract from the larger political issues that impact the whole working class, community, the nation, or the world.
Unlike the ultra-left, Communists see the main contradiction as the class struggle between workers and capitalists, not between workers and “trade union bureaucrats”. Vibrant democracy inside unions is an important goal, but, far from being a panacea, it serves the larger purpose of strengthening the union in its battles with the bosses.
Unlike social reformists, we acknowledge the reality of class struggle, the class nature of the capitalist state and of the two major US parties, and the immediate need for working people to have an independent mass party of their own that will fight for their needs.Communists — and class struggle trade unionists generally — fight right-wing policies, or right-wing leaders, or right-wing ideas held by members. Right wing policies advocate class partnership, defend or ignore imperialism, sustain or accommodate racism and the other divisions in the US working class. Left-wing policies, left-wing leaders, left-wing members, do the opposite. Center forces will vacillate. Communists always work to change the balance of forces between the two main classes.To reject this basic reality of the class struggle between capital and labor makes a huge difference in practice. A Communist Party bases its work on the view that the main divide in the trade unions is an ideological one between right and left. If the union movement’s chief problem is rooted — not in treacherous leaders — but in the need to heighten the political consciousness and activity of workers, then it follows that unity must be forged between all progressive political forces, whether they be rank and file members or union leaders, striving to give a left direction to the movement in opposition to the forces of class collaboration.
Other Forces for Political Independence
2016 made clear that millions now see that the two-party system sustains corporate power and is an impediment to majority rule. Democracy requires building political independence of the two-party system. The institutions of modern-day US capitalism — the two-party system, the criminal-justice system, the media, cultural production— express and reflect the grip of Wall Street on everything. They create profound crises for the rest of us. While organized labor must be the main driver of political independence, labor has potential allies in all the specially oppressed groups, the Black and Latino communities being the most obvious.
African-American Communist leader Henry Winston noted that US history teaches that major new political parties are born when a crisis causes a mass breakaway from old party allegiances and when advanced forces have patiently prepared the way. The best example: the Abolitionists and their allies. After unwisely abstaining from electoral politics, they experimented with party after party – the Liberty Party, the Free Soil Party, eventually the Republican Party. By the late 1850s the crisis over slavery reached a breaking point. Old political parties, such as the Whigs, the Democrats, and the “Know Nothings,” disintegrated or split over the slavery question. But the anti-slavery coalition was ready: it had a candidate, Lincoln, a central demand — no extension of slavery into the territories — and a party, the Republicans. The struggle against corporate power in the 21st century is akin to the struggle against the power of the slave owners in the 19th century. The task now is to build a mass people’s party that will begin to curb corporate power. It cannot be done without an organized revolutionary vanguard. The Abolitionists were such a vanguard in their era. A Marxist-Leninist party will be needed in our era.
7. A Communist Party, Its Theory, Its Organization
Political parties have a class character. Parties are the expression of social classes. They are one of the most important instruments by which classes fight for their interests and for political power. In the US today, the ruling class has two parties, the Republicans and the Democrats. To be sure, their mass base differs, but what is decisive is their funders and their controlling personnel who share the outlook and serve the needs of the same ruling class, but by means of different tactics. As long as they are bound to a Big Business party, working people cannot win any fundamental victories. As we have argued, political independence, based on the action of the labor movement in the first place, is a prerequisite. The monopolies have long understood organized labor’s potential as the core of an anti-monopoly electoral coalition. Big Business uses every possible method to keep labor from building its own political and electoral organizations.
US workers lack a mass people’s party and they also lack a unified, strong revolutionary party, a Communist party. Lenin’s idea of a revolutionary vanguard party was perhaps his most important theoretical achievement. It sprang from his profound diagnosis of the rise of imperialism and, with it, opportunism. Opportunism had crippled even the strongest parties of the Second International and in August 1914 led to their capitulation to war fever and support for imperialist war.
A Communist Party defends the people’s democratic rights and works for their extension. It actively combats all forms of racial, national and sex discrimination, inequality and oppression. It also works for the satisfaction of the special needs of women, youth, seniors and oppressed nationalities and others who suffer from the rule of Big Business. A Communist Party in the US must advocate peace, and disarmament, based on the understanding that imperialism – the monopoly stage of capitalism — is the cause of most wars. In the age of nuclear weapons, war threatens the extinction of humanity.
A Communist Party seeks tirelessly to sink roots in the working class. It is not enough for left-wing party to do good anti-imperialist and anti-war work, or good anti-racism and anti-repression work, but to neglect trade union work. A real Communist Party prioritizes a serious approach to changing the crisis-wracked US trade unions and to winning political leadership in them.
The science of Marxism-Leninism and its key concepts such as class struggle, state-monopoly capitalism and imperialism remain the best guide to understanding our world. Socialism — that is, a society based on productive property democratically owned and controlled by the workers for the benefit of all people — remains our goal, and the Leninist prescription of a “party of a new type” remains the best guide for successful struggles against capitalism.
In 1919 left socialists, trade union militants, war opponents and others gathered in Chicago . They founded the Communist Party. That party played an immense role in 20th century history: the birth and success of the CIO, the antifascist war of liberation in 1941-45, the struggle against McCarthyite repression and Cold War, the Black civil rights movement, and the struggle for nuclear disarmament, detente, and against the imperialist wars in Vietnam and elsewhere.
A Communist Party is not an ordinary organization. Its principles of organization were worked out by Lenin and his followers after profound study of the weaknesses of the revolutionary movement which rendered almost all the parties of the Second International helpless when the First World War crisis came.As a vanguard party (a vanguard is a military detachment that precedes the main regular army) a Communist Party knows the line of march and represents the general interest of the working class movement. To lead the struggle it sometimes must take a position well in advance of public opinion. For example in its better days, the CPUSA opposed the war in Vietnam well before a majority of the US people opposed it. A Communist Party seeks to forge popular opinion, not passively to reflect or follow it. It imparts higher class-consciousness and class politics to the working class movement. It is a party of action designed to unite theory and action. It must be able work on any terrain of struggle, (in conditions of bourgeois democracy or fascist repression, in legislative bodies or in trade unions, legally or illegally). It seeks to gather into its ranks the most resolute, active, knowledgeable, and disciplined militants.
There is an urgent need for just such a vanguard party today. Without one, movements against racism and all forms of special oppression, against imperialist war and nuclear weapons, movements for a revitalized union movement, for political independence, for a mass people’s party and an anti- monopoly coalition , even for a successful fightback against the incoming Trump Administration, will lack backbone, strategic vision and theoretical coherence.US Communists are heir to a long tradition of struggle which can count among its own such heroes abolitionist Frederick Douglass, left socialist Eugene V. Debs, revolutionary Black intellectual W.E.B. DuBois, trade unionists Elizabeth Gurley Flynn and William Z. Foster, thousands of other people’s advocates, and scores of thousands of unsung heroes.
As Lenin taught, and the history of the Communist movement has proven, the two greatest impediments to successful revolutionary struggle are opportunism (giving up principles for short-term gain) and left sectarianism (a dogmatic unwillingness to work with others because of differences). In US Communist movement it has been right opportunism that has played the most destructive role. We believe that resolving differences in tactics is achieved through engagement with others in the crucible of struggle. There are communist parties and organizations parties on the US left that share our basic perspective. We are eager to develop unity in action with them.
The science of Marxism-Leninism and its concepts of class struggle, state-monopoly capitalism and imperialism remain the best guide to understanding our world. Socialism — that is, a society based on productive property democratically owned and controlled by the workers for the benefit of all people — remains our goal, and the Leninist prescription of a “party of a new type” remains the best guide for successful struggles against capitalism.
Fundamental social and historical laws were discovered by Marx and his followers. These laws help us to understand the multiplicity of events of history and society to understand the forces that are the most important. Central to the science of Marxism-Leninism is dialectical and historical materialism. Underlying historical development is the contradiction between the continuously developing forces of production and the relations of production — property relations — which resist change. This contradiction underlies the class struggle, the conflict between the interests of capitalists in more profits and the interests of the workers in higher wages and better conditions of work and life. Though there are many other conflicts, religious, racial, gender, environmental and so forth, these usually have a class component. In any case, the class conflict is the most important conflict and the only one capable of transforming a society.
Marx mastered political economy. He taught that though there are many ways that capitalists make money—stealing, corruption, interest, rent and so forth, the most fundamental source of profit in a capitalist society is surplus value or profits, that is, money made by exploiting the labor of others, the working class.
He taught that capitalism is a crisis-ridden economic system that leads to periodic recessions and depressions and to growing economic inequality.The growth of monopoly and its constant search for profit—for natural resources and markets to turn into profits—leads to imperialism and the resistance to imperial expansion by other capitalists and by those exploited abroad leads to constant war, and this is another source of capitalist instability.
Socialist revolution has only succeeded when the working class has overthrown capitalist rule under the leadership of a revolutionary vanguard party and replaced capitalism with socialized property and socialist democracy. No fundamental problem facing humanity can be solved by capitalism. While capitalism exists there will be war, poverty, racism, unemployment, environmental degradation, Third World misery, inequality, and the threat of human extinction. The system is outmoded and must be replaced. The only way out is socialism.
In this year 2017, with the reactionary Trump Administration taking power in Washington DC, and on the centenary of the first working-class breakthrough against capitalism and war, there are two choices before the left and US working people. The first is to take the long, hard path to revolutionary change. The forces of political independence were stirred in 2016. We can build on that.
The second is to repeat the old cycle of hopeless entrapment in the two-party system, as in the well-known film Groundhog Day, where the protagonist played by actor Bill Murray finds himself in a time loop; each morning he wakes up to yesterday and re-lives it .
We argue for the former, for a break with the two-party system, for creating a coalition to confront the whole corporate-dominated political system and in time to overthrow capitalism itself. Years ago, arch-reactionary British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher declared, “There is no alternative” to her cruel policies. She was wrong. There is an alternative, if we will struggle for it. Its name is socialism.
We welcome comments on this draft. Please write to us at editor@mltoday .com
 Capitalism, whether in its Keynesian/social democratic form or its neoliberal form, is the cause of the present crises, even if capitalism’s contradictions and failures are aggravated by neoliberalism. A problem with the overused word neo-liberalism is that liberals and social democrats attribute almost all crisis phenomena to neoliberalism, not to capitalism itself. These groups thereby imply that merely reversing neoliberal policies would make capitalism acceptable. They lament the demise of Keynesianism and yearn for the “golden era” of the welfare state (1945-75). They deny that that era has passed. In the 1970s world capitalism entered a new phase. Capitalist accumulation in the imperialist countries faced intensified international competition, a technical revolution in communication and transportation, the burden of an unbridled arms expenditures, and the shock of energy crises. Driven by a decline in the rate of profit, finance capital embarked on a “neoliberal” course. Politically, the right tried to take back the gains won by workers in the 1945-75 period. Although in the US, neoliberal policies began in earnest under Democrat Jimmy Carter, the coming to power of Thatcher in the UK (1979) and Reagan in the US (1980) came to symbolize the decisive rightward turn. Neoliberal policies mean deregulation, privatization, subcontracting, attacks on labor and environmental standards, and the dismantling of social programs. This was not simply a shift of a government “policy” but a historic re-assertion of capitalist class power. All pro-capitalist parties — conservative, liberal, social democratic — moved in the same general direction, at varying speeds.
 “Where We Stand”, <<mltoday.com/where-we-stand>>, January 8, 2015.
 The Open Philosophy and the Open Society, by Maurice Cornforth (NY: International, 1968) p. 156.
 Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Holy Family, Collected Works. Vol. 4 p. 37.
 One author, John Smith, in his Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century (NY: Monthly Review, 2016 ) has estimated trends (1950-2010) in the global working class, using ILO data. His fascinating chart (p. 103) Global Industrial Workforce shows two lines. In the developed world, industrial employment was about 120 million in 1950. It peaked at just under 200 million in the early 1980s, and has gently declined to about 150 million in 2010. In other words, there was a decline but not a collapse. By contrast, the less developed regions show about 60 million industrial workers in 1950. Their number soars to 530 million in 2010.
 Estimates vary, depending on assumptions and definitions. Fifty years ago in a pamphlet “American Labor Today” (1967) Marxist economist Victor Perlo estimated the US working class to be 82.4 percent of the population. More recently (2011), Michael Zweig in The Working Class Majority: America’s Best Kept Secret estimated it, more conservatively, to be 62 percent.
 According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in goods-producing industries
(manufacturing, mining & logging, construction) the data show this pattern: 1960, 19.2 million; 1970, 22.2 million; 1980, 24.3 million; 1990, 23.7 million; 2000, 24.6 million; 2010, 17.8 million; 2012, 18.4 million; 2014, 19.2 million.
This is low growth or no growth, but not disappearance. (Table B-46 “Employees on Non-Agricultural Payrolls by Major Industry.”)
 According to the Census Bureau report, “Management of Companies and Enterprises”
“(NAICS Sector 55) in 2012 in the US there were 18,209 firms with enterprises employing more than 500 workers.
 The Rise of the Robots: Technology and the Threat of a Jobless Future by Martin
Ford (2016); People Get Ready: the Fight against a Jobless Future and a Citizenless Democracy by Robert McChesney and John Nichols (2016); Humans Need Not Apply: A Guide to Wealth and Work in the Age of Artificial Intelligence by Jerry Kaplan (2015).
 CPUSA Program, The People Versus Monopoly, 1984 p. 4
 Monopoly, a short and precise term in Marxism, denotes concentrated economic, political and market power. For the sake of variety, this document also uses plain English near-synonyms such as “Big Business”, “Wall Street”, or “the ruling class”.
 The Economics of Racism, USA by Victor Perlo. (NY: International, 1975)
 An article by a Black scholar estimated that in 1959 managers and professionals were
7.1 percent of the African American community. In 1987 they were 12.8 percent. More recent estimates have been hard to find. Trotter Institute Review Vol 4 Issue 3, Sept. 23,1990 “Recent Changes in the Structure and Value of African-American Male
Occupations” by Jeremiah P. Cotton, University of Massachusetts, Boston.
 “Don’t Let Trump Speak for Workers,” Richard Trumka, NY Times Op-Ed, Dec. 27,