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An Introduction to International Sociallsts

Number 1-

International Socialists
17300 Woodward Avenue, Detroit MI 48203
Socialist Unity
33091 Mission Street, Box 163, San Francisco, CA 94110
Workers Power
45 West 10th Street, #2G, New York, NY 10011


This collection of articles comes from Changes, the magazine published by

the International Socialists since 1979. During this period, we have published
a number of articles which amount to re-statements of rasic I.S. the<D!ry and
method. We feel that in sum, they do this job as well if not better than longer,
convoluted and harder-to-read mimeographed documents.

We have focussed in this collection on the I.S. theory on the centrality of

working class consciousness and self-activity to any successful revolution; our
evolving understanding of the union movement and the problems posed by the labor
bureaucracy; women's liberation; the nature of the Soviet Union; and because of
its relevance in the present regroupment process, one article that explains at
least on a historical level our critical attitude toward the legacy of the Fourt h

Not included in this collection are several articles which are of equal
importance, l:ut ".:canr readily available from us as reprints and which we there-
fore decided to leave out for space reasons. These include our statement ''Unity
on the Left," "Building A Politics of Solidarity: Who Can Defeat The Right?"
which was written follOwing the November 1984 election, and 'The Family In The
Capitalist Crisis" by nene Winkler. Also still available is the discussion bul-
letin The Problem of The Party, which inclUdes articles by David Finkel from I.S.
and Steve Zeluck from Workers Power on the application of the Bolshevik concep-
tion of the revolutionary party to current tasks.

The I.S. was formed as a national. organization in 1969. We identify our

political tradition with the Independent Socialist Clubs of 1964-69, the left-
wing =ent in the Independent Socialist League of the 1950s, the Workers Party
of the 194Os, the American Trotskyist movement and the early Communist Party. We
are critical of aspects of this political legacy in all its periods, but nonethe-
less we can see the roots of our politics in the lessons assimilated by these pre-
vious generations of revolutionary socialists.

After a split with the RSL group in 1973, the I.S. deepened what it had begun
in the early 1970s, a turn to the working class with the expectation that a rela-
tively rapid radiCalization of sections of the class would create conditions both
for a large-scale militant rank and file movement and for creating the core of a
working class revolutionary party. Our goal was summed up as the development of
"a workers' comrat 'organization" whose leaders both in our union work and increas-
ingly, we anticipated, at all levels of our organization would be militants re-
cruited to socialist politics from the shop floor. During this period we moved
to a more disciplined method of functioning and to some degree mOdelled ourselves
on the experience of the Br1tisij IS (now British SWP) -- although in American con-
ditions we felt it necessary to "industrialize" our members in a way the British
group argued was a mistake. During the Portuguese revolution of 1974-75 we began
to build ties of solidarity with the PRP, which we saw as the best hope for the
emergence of a revolutionary leadership in that process.

The failure of the party-building side of our perspectives led to major prob-
lems which we lacked the experience to anticipate or handle well. Exacerrated by
factional manipulations by the British SWP leadership, a faction fight broke out
which resulted in the expulsion of the ISO group and the severing of our relations
with the British SWP in 1977. This damaging split was followed by the resignation
of the Workers Power group in 1979, following a discussion in which tactical dif-
ferences over the question of trade union work (especially in the matter of relating
- 2 -
to real or potential cleavages in the trade union bureaucracy) created little
political clarity but a rising level of mutual frustration. There was no one
. incident or struggle that precipitated the resignation of the WP comrades; it
was rather a cumulative frustration and feeling that the I.S. no longer had
any potential to move forward.

The survival of the I.S. during the past several years has been due pri-
urily to our members' involvement in a wide range of activities, particularly
rank and file union work Jhose seeds were sown during the intense activity of
the 1970s. Altijaugh the immediate perceived link between this work and the build-
'ing of a party was broken, and indeed it has often seemed difficult to make
any serious link between day-to-day struggle and broader political issues, a
core of members has remained active. In the past several ;years we have campaigned
for a revolutionary socialist regroupment. We teel that such a develoj:lllent otters
the best opportunity to build the crucial political linkage between the day-to-
day struggle and the long-term goal ot revolutionary socialism.




A revolutionary workers' party

in America?
from CHli.NGES, April 1979 by Kim Moody
This is the third, andfinal article £n a series by Kim
J generation after generation. This is the American
Moody on the Marxist theory afthe revolutionary party. tradition of . 'socialist evangelism." It never called its.elf

that, but that is its proper name. (A discussion of the
o revolutionary socialist organization of signi- other important tradition in America-that of the
ficant size exists today within the working class, Communist Party-will be taken up in a future issue of
or even at its fringes. And none has existed for over a Changes.)
quarter of a century. There is not even an active on-going It may accept or reject revolution or class struggle. It
socialist tradition roored in the working class. may be an extension of the social gospel. or it may be
Socialist organizations, ideas and traditions were violently anti-religious. But its method is evangelist all
destroyed and uprooted by a long and complex process. the same. For just as the great preachers of the
And the results are devastating. While there are nineteenth century converted millions to Methodism or
individuals, and small groups of working class socialists, Baptism through fire and brimstone preaching, so the
there is no cominuous tradition shared by even a section socialist evangelist converts by preaching.
of the American working class. This faith in the transforming power of the spoken and
For socialists, inside or outside the working class, this printed word was common to an wings of early American
has meant starting from scratch. With no active tradition socialism. It was hardly exaggerating when the Socialist
to appeal to. with few experienced socialist workers. Campaign Book of 1900 stated, "it is the conviction of a11
socialists have appeared as .' outsiders" - even when socialists that the presentation of the facts of our
they come from working class families. The job of going economic and industrial conditions is sufficient in itself
against the highly active anti-socialist traditions of the to expose the uselessness and falsity of the capitalist
American working class has been difficult. The question parties." (I)
of what experiences and ideas will change the minds of
Before World War I, when the Socialist Party was
American workers, continues to perplex American
strongest. the analogy with evangelism was carried out
with thoroughness. Massive camp meetings were held
Even though there is no active socialist tradition within
on the great plains, in imitation of Christian evangelism.
the working class. that does not mean that there is no
But for the Socialist Party of those years the heart of their'
socialist tradition at all. In both reformist and
evangelism was the election. Federal, state, and local
revolutionary variants, there are a number of past
elections provided the bulk of party activity. Elections
traditions which socialists in the United States look to.
provided a mass audience, a pre-requisite of any
These traditions have been carried down through the
evangelism. and a simple goal- a vote for the Socialist
years by small groups of political activists, or by
intellectuals, or strangely enough in the political
Socialist evangelism implied then, as now, a division
memories of a few top labor leaders. Indeed, every
of labor between the party (preachers) and the trade
socialist grouping in the U.S. has its lineage. its "roots".
union. The party did the preaching, it fought for the
that it can trace back over I 00 years to the first socialist
minds and souls of the workers. The unions led the
organization, the International Workingman's Associa-
economic struggle. They fought for the pocket books of
tion of Karl Marx.
the workers. Trade unionists could, and should, be
Unfortunately, these traditions are the product of
members of the party, to be sure. But their political
other times and circumstances. After 25 years of
activity was carried out in the electoral arena, or other
inactivity they tend to be lifeless - even when they are
places where the debate over political ideas was though
not downright harmful. Any number of individuals or
groups could agree on the theory of how socialist
The party did not see that it should organize its
consciousness develops. Revolutionary class conscious-
members in any given union, or in the labor movement
ness is the result of an interaction between experience in
as a whole. in order to carry out the ideas and strategies
the class struggle and revolutionary socialist theory.
of the party. The economic struggle was left solely to the
But American Socialism has a poor record when it comes
whims of the trade union leaders. Some trade union
to the practical application of this theory.
leaders were socialists, of course. Max Hayes, President
of the International Association of Machinists, and
, "- hen it comes to the question of how workers are to Socialist Party member, ran for President of the
Y "Y be won to socialism, there is one regrettable American Federation of Labor and got a third of the votes
tradition that returns to haunt the socialist movement at its 1912 convention. (2) But neither Hayes. nor any

other Socialist Party members in the unions acted under Its naive use of elections and preaching style were to be
the direction, much less the discipline. of the party copied. Both the Weinstein group. and in its earliest
leadership. Nor were the trade unionists generally stages, the New American Movement. believed they
leaders of the party. In other words, the leaders of the could recreat the experience of the Debsian Socialist
economic struggle tended to be divorced from the Party.
leaders of the political struggle. This strategy has been abandoned by most of its
Class struggle was assumed to exist. Preaching would previous adherents. There was no receptive audience.
highlight this struggle and point the way past it. But this outside of a few university towns, for socialist preaching.
preaching, precisely because that is what it was, did not Preaching gave way to other activities, some more
extend to policy on the day-ta-day conduct of that positive. activist and linked to the realities of the class
struggle. The separation of political and economic struggle, others reformist utopian. For the group around
struggle meant two things. The economic struggle would Socialist Review, it meant packing up the old evangelism
tend not to become political. And politics remained and carrying it into the Democratic Party, where it
detached from the actual struggles of the workers. became its opposite-not socialist preaching. but

support to "lesser evil" capitalist candidates.
olitical preaching can have a ·certain effectiveness
when an audience is already receptive. Thus, the
socialist evangelism of the early Socialist Party found an
audience among many immigrants from Europe who
brought their own socialist traditions with them. and
S ocialist evangelism cannot build a socialist
movement in the working class because it lacks a
receptive audience. Furthermore. American workers
among western farmers and workers who had been have good reason to distrust preaching politicians with
involved in the Populist movement only a few years big promises. An approach that begins by preaching in
before. the electoral arena, in the belief that the biggest
But in America today. there exists no such prior audience is there. truly misunderstands the whole
political experience within the working class. Support for problem of "ideological hegemony." As we pointed OUt
various Democratic Party candidates is a "political" in the first of this series, the ideological hold of the ruling
experience that has bred only passivity and cynicism. as class over the workers is not based on their persuasive
one candidate after another does the opposite of what abilities, but on the perpetuation of institutions and
they promise. The alleged ··populism·· of Jimmy Carter modes of existence that make capitalist ideas appear
and others has no real similarity, even superficially, with valid in everyday life. For the ideas to change, the hold to
the agitational·activist populism of the 1890's. In any be broken, the situation must change. For the changing
event, American party politics of the last 30 years could situation to be interpreted in a class conscious manner,
hardly provide an experience that can be appealed to by bearers of socialist ideas must be present to explain the
socialism evangelists. . new situation, and they must be organized in such a way
This does not preclude precisely such a theory from as to do it eff~ctively.
arising. G. William Domhoff. who ironically has done As most people on the left now realize, the
more than anyone to show how thoroughly the capitalist conservatism· of the American working class-or the
class dominates the life of the Democratic Party, has ideological hegemony of the ruling class - was sustained
produced a strategy of socialist evangelism within the by a long period of capitalist expansion and relative
Democratic Party. The mistake that leads Domhoff down prosperity that followed World War II. What capitalism
this welI·worn road is not primarily his views on that said about itself appeared to be true-or true enough to
Party, but his utterly sincere socialist evangelism. swallow. Today the situation is changing. Capitalism has
In an article in Socialist Review, formerly Socialist been in crisis for a decade or more. That crisis is driving
Revolution, Domhoff rejected a third party strategy for the capitalist class to get nastier with the workers. The
socialism on the grounds that you couldn't get enough material basis for a changed consciousness is in the
votes that way to make socialism attractive. He argues, making .
. 'Thus, a third party cannot contribute to the breakdown But a new class consciousness, certainly socialist
of ideological hegemony by piling up a large vote for a consciousness, is by no means inevitable. The capitalist
socialist platform, and giving the hope and the class does not sit still as the situation changes. It seeks to
encouragement to people that comes when they realize convince the workers that this is the way things must be,
there are others in the country who agree with or even that they-the workers-are to blame for it.
them.·' (3) Often the capitalists are successful. A lot of workers, for
In other words, the ideological domination of the example, buy the notion that it is their wages that cause
working class by the capitalist class is to be broken down inflation. Sometimes the capitalist enlist the labor
b-y '''piling up a large vote for a socialist platform .. , This leadership to convince the workers to go along with the
is- surely classical socialist evangelism of the type program. For example. the selling of protectionist
practiced by the early Socialist Party-only this time policies to steel workers.
without a socialist party. In his latest book. G. William Domhoff, who we earlier
This odd hybrid is the direct decendent of a recent criticized. pointed out correctly. that it is not so much a
attempt to imitate the Socialist Party of the Debs era, and question of the capitalists convincing the workers of their
its evangelistic approach. Pioneered by James Weinstein world view as it is in preventing a counter world view
of Socialist Revolution, the idea was the the old Socialist from developing. Domhoff shows that the capitalist class
Party was the only real American tradition of socialism. controls an "ideology network" of organizations and

programs directed at that task. And he notes: "Thus, the been a slow and painful process in its early stages. In
most important role of the ideology network may be its most advanced industrial countries this process was well
ability to help ensure that an alternative view does not under way, or nearly accomplished a hundred years ago.
consolidate to replace the resigned acquiesence and The reasons for this historic lag in the United States are
disinterest that are found by pollsters and survey beyond the scope of this essay.
researchers to permeate the political and economic Much of the American left would simply prefer to
consciousness of Americans at the lower levels of the ignore this uncomfortable fac[. The various tendencies of
socio·economic ladder." (4) the left strain to leap over the lack of class consciousness
The problem is further compounded by the weIl known and the absence working class socialist organization. For
fact that consciousness usually lags behind events. The many groups on both the Maoist and Trotskyist left, a
Italian Marxist. Antonio Gramsci. gave some thought to type of socialist evangelism is joined to phoney
this while he was in a fascist prison in the 1930·s. In his vanguardism. Not only do these groups attempt to
Prison Notebooks, he wrote that "mass ideological convert workers by preaching at them, but they posture
factors always lag behind mass economic phenomena. as the political leadership of their potential flock. The
and that therefore. at certain moments. the automatic main result of this approach has been to increase the
thrust due to the economic factor is slowed down, number of socialist organizations rather than the number
obstructed or even momentarily broken bv traditional of socialist workers. As they trip over the reality of
ideological elements." (5) The cominuatio~ of "tradi· working class consciousness, these groups tend to
tional.·' that is capitalist and defeatest. ideas in the splinter racher than grow.
American working class goes a long way to explain the The socialist left must realize that all of it together
slow and. as yet, limited response to the growing would not compose a genuine revolutionary workers
capitalist offensive against labor. party. It lacks the numbers and the roots in the working
class. The task that faces the left is not a simple
Preaching, or even genuine socialist propaganda are re-groupment. nor the declaration of The Party. It is far
not enough to break through this situation. Gramsci. more difficult task of relating to. providing some
goes on, however, to point toward what can move direction for, and participating in the actual struggles of
consciousness. Taking up from the last quotation. workers in order to draw lessons about the system. The
Gramsci goes on to say: •• ." hence that there must be a task is to become an integral part of the process that
conscious, planned struggle to ensure that the exigencies impels workers into self·a~tivity and to use that process
of the economic position of the masses, which may to advance consciousness. It is to end the separation of
conflict with the traditional leaderships' policies. are economic and political snuggle by bringing political
understood. An appropriate political initiative is always understanding of today's struggle to the active workers.
neccessary to liberate the economic thrust from the dead As most people on the left are aware. there is both a
weight of traditional policies." (6) general crisis of the system and an intensifying
In other words, there must be a concrete action that employers' offensive against organized labor. This is the
the workers, given their current awareness, can take in lash which drives people to activity and resistance.
order to break through the present situation and allow vVorkers are restrained in this activity as much by their
their actual experience to advance. On the basis of that passin' tradition and a fragmented view of the vlo'orid. as
advance. new ideas can take root. by tht, resistance of the labor bureaucracy" One"s class
For the American left today, this must mean an position is always experienced. bur seldom are its
increased participation in the actual struggles of the politit'al ~lIld social implications understood. This
working class. To put it more precisely. the lack of an becomes hoth a cause and effect of the lag of
independent class political tradition. means that the only consciousness hehind evems. If. howe,:er. there are
real handle on advancing working class consciousness in socialists alllong the active workers to present a coherem
America lies in the strategic focus on industrial and trade explanation of eV('llts in class terms and to poim the way
union struggles of the moment. This is not to say that the forward. the eHen of an~ gIven struggle on
only issues the left can raise or talk about are trade union consciousness can be entirel\" different.
or economic issues. But the industrial and trade union
struggles are the only context in which any sort of
political fight can be made to advance class
consciousness, because they are virtuall the only form
that working class self-activity has taken in America. as
W ile there is no continuous" actin' socialist
tradirion within the American working class. there
are traditions of class struggle and nade union acri\"it\""
Marxists are fond of poiming ro the limits of trade uni(;n
yet. Socialist propaganda can only be effective on the struggle or tradition. Some even regard thcst' as a
basis of workers self-activity. In turn, socialist ideas held barrier to revolutionary consciousness Certain!\" the
by workers have meaning only when the workers are in ideology of American bu"siness unionism is anti·oSoe"ialist.
But there are traditions of struggle that run roumer to
business unionism and to the passi\"ity that charactcrizes

M ass conversion to socialism is possible only

when a "critical mass of active worker
leaders - those who are opinion makers at the most basic
trade unionism today. Part of hreaking the lag in
consciousness involves an appeal [Q these traditions" For
often. these remembered moments of struggle. of mass
level and in the most important sections of the working participation. membership im"oivt'mt'nt in the union. can
class-have already been won to socialist politics. This is be a transition from the passive and defeatist ideas of the

-esent to a new way of seeing things and a new way of
, Active involvement in trade union struggle does not
ltomadcally lead one to draw socialist conclusions. But
T he unions are the only mass organizations of U.S,
workers today. Just as the intensified class
struggle of his time made it possible for a trade union
·tiv; involvemem in class struggle activity. like activist like Debs to become a socialist. so the intensified
vn1vement in almost any social movement. does change attack on the unions and the response to that attack open
~o.. It changes the range of things they think about the possibility of winning workers in significant numbers
Id tile way they think about them. Once a worker to socialism in the coming years. But this requires a
~gins to think in class terms. the ideas that he or she is strategiC focus on the actual struggles, organizations,
len t.9 changes qualitatively. and tentative steps toward class independence that
workers take. It means that socialists must be active in
We have seen this happen in the reform movemems the unions, in the life of the local, in opposition caucuses.
~,t have arisen in various unions, notably the Steel women's caucuses, Black caucuses, and broad reform
orke'rs and the Teamsters. As militams become aware movements as well as in strikes and other specific
the class struggle traditions of their unions. they struggles where they can bring the socialist movement
uallv become aware of the role of socialists in many of into contact with the self-activity of [he working class.
:" ea'rlier struggles that built the union. This tends to Socialists who are not in trade unions can playa political
ange their minds about the role of socialists in the role in aiding these movements and in organizing the
}or movement today. Socialists are no longer seen types of socialist activities that bring workers into contact
nply as .. infiltrators," or .. troublemakers." These with socialist ideas, and with ocher social movements.
:ivists begin to understand that socialists of various There must be a clear political focus on working class
Ids played a big role in the organizing of the self-activitv.
ion - just as they are playing a role in building the The Am~rican left today is poorly organized to carry
~\'ement to make those unions militant again. The class out such a task, h is small, fragmented, often sectarian.
uggle traditions of the union provide a bridge to the and often not focused on the working class at all. Much of
.g' buried traditions of the American working class. the activity of the revolutionary left is concerned with its
'JaturaUy. it is not just a matter of linking traditions, own educ~tion. and [hat in a ~lass vacuum. Its external
:' of helping people see the true structure of the political activity tends to be focused on movements lilat
,tern. how it is rigged against the workers, and how to still draw their activists from [he middle class. Socialists
mge it. All of these ideas involved in this task make should he active in middle class based movement.
re sense when they conform to or at least converge CI('arl\', the women's movement, to give one example,
h the actual experience of the workers. People in has p~ofound implications for working class women and
.lggle learn faster and draw the right lessons more for the struggle for socialism. But. these movement, in
ily. The example of Eugene V. Debs is instructive in themselves, do not provide a strategic focus for building
i respect.
a sot'ialist trend in the working class.
Vhile Debs might be thought of as the greatest The size of the left and its fragmentation are barriers
nitioner of socialist evangelism. he neither came to [0 winnning workers to socialism and laying the basis for
ialist politics as a result of preaching. nor did he view a revolutionary party in America, Very fe ...... workers are
activity in lhat way. Debs was a product of the willing to join a tiny group, while many are simply
erican class struggle. It was in the wake of the repelled by the seemingly useless sectarianism of the
!man railroad strike of 1894 that Dehs began to left, A simple re-groupment of the existing left would nor
stion the nature of the svstem. The use of troops to solve the problem by itself. The intensification of c1a ... s
ak the strike had a big i~pact on him. As he put it. struggle and the growth of independent working class
[he gleam of every bayonet and the flash of the every self'at,tivit\' must be the basic process on which \'ariou ...
~ rhe class struggle was revealed." (7) While he was stages of It:ft re·groupment are based. At the same time.
Jrison for leading that strike he studied socialist how('\'t·r. the revolutionary left cannot let its st'ctarian
'alUrc and held conversations with a number of heritage stand in the way of viable initiatin's !Oward
alist leaders, He was not immediately convinced. In UOIl\',
S. he actively supported the Populist Party, breaking Todav there is a crisis on the revoimionan' left. It is
I !hf" Demoaa[ic Party in \\'hich he had been active
charact~rized bv (he attraction of the right fri~ges of {he
)rt'" the Pullman strike, With the collapse of Populism r("volutionarv le'ft to the Democratic Socialist Organizing
~111 independent forcl'. Debs decided American Committee, ~n the one hand. and growing fragmentation
kef'S ne{'"ded a socialist party of their own. of the rest on the other, But this crisis also offers an
took Debs a while to draw socialist conclusions. and opportunity to the left. since the pre\'ious perspective of
hC'ip from somt" who already had, But his journcy ro so many groups are collapsing or stagnating. it is
~lis' political ac:ti\'ity was charanerized by growing possibie for socialists active in the unions to begin (Q
-; c':>nS('iOllSness based on experience, and by a carve out a common strategic focus and a common
~' ~ indept'n<ience from both capitalist ideas and "ocialist program for the U.S.
lL !ons, in partintlar the Democratic Party, Debs. of
."t', was a I("alier. so he not only become active as a
dist. hUI took on the responsibility of heing ont' of
tountiers of the Socialist Party, even afte'r some
)urag-ing- false !Harts.
T o create a political' movement in America
requires concentration and focus on the trade
union anti industrial struggles of wday and the coming
years. This is not. as some would say, "economism." but self-activity of the working class may not be easy. but
its opposite. For political struggles cannot be left to unlike any other strategy. it has, at least once in Russia,
middle class activists. while the workers carry on the produced a successful workers' revolution. tJ
economic struggle-that is economism! The point is to
win worker activists to political ideas and, thereby to
politicize the struggles of the day - whatever they begin FOOTNOTES:
as. Active workers' involved in prolonged struggle or in 1. Ira Kipnis, The American Socialist Movement, 1897·1912.
union politics think about political question. The problem Columbia University Press, 1952, p. 115.
2. Theodore Draper, The Roots of American Communism,
is sometimes what people think about these matters. Viking Press, 1957, p. 42.
Thus. the active intervention of socialists in that thinking 3. G. William Oomhoff, "Why Socialists Should Be Democrats:
is required if socialist conclusions are to be drawn. The A Tactic For The Class Struggle In America," Soci~list
Review, p. 29.
key element in the strategy for building a revolutionary 4. G. William Domhoff, The Powers That Be, Vintage Book.,
workers' pany in the United States is panicipation in 1979. p. 192.
active workers' struggles over wages, working condi- 5. Antonio Gramsci, Selections From The Prison Notebooks.
tions, etc. The tempting illusion of mass conversion New World Paperbacks, 1978, p. 168.
6. Ibid., p. 168.
through evangelism offers no hope for the beleaguered 7. Howard Morgan, Eugene V. Debs: Socialist For President,
revolutionary left in America. A strategy focused on the Syracuse University Press, 1962, p. 10.
from C1IA.NGES, liay 1982 - '3' -
A Troubled History: Did Economism
Wreck the Communist Movement?
The Communist Movement, the subordination of the national sections the consciowness of reformist workers.? Or
From Cominlern 10 Cominform. of the Comintern to the will of the Soviet put anothn way. how does the revolution-
,By Fernando Claudin. bureaucracy led to the corruption and ary movement break the mass of workers
Monthly Review Press, 1975 failure of the Communist movement - as from reformism!
seen from the vantage point of revolu~ There is hardly a question more basic to
By Kim Moody tionary socialism. But unlike many of the revolutionary Marxist politics. This was, of
Maoist or even Trotskyist views of this pro· course, precisely the question that the new-
Though written over ten years ago. Fer o

cess, its explanation does not fall back on ly formed Comimem faced in the wake of
nando Claudin's The Communist Move o

subjective factors. the Russian Revolution and the failure of

~ent is a study of enormous relevance to That is, the behavior of the Soviet the first German Revolution in 1918. This
revolutionary Marxists in the United States bureaucracy towards the various Com· was, in fact, the reason the Comintem was
today, for more than one reason. It is. first munist Panies- panicularly Spain from fonned. The failure of the Comintern to
and foremost. an eloquent and penetrating 1936, and Europe during and immediately break the masses from refonnism in the
analysis of the transformation of the Com- following World War II-is not simply years immediately following the Russian
munist International from a revolutionary seen by Claudin as a result of some Revolution quite naturally leads Claudin
socialist movement to an impediment and theoretical failure, but is based in the to question the basic theory and method
barrier to socialist revolution. material position of the Soviet bureaucracy with which the Comintem approached
It is an historical analysis of Stalinism. as a ruling class. that task.
not only as a political movement embodied
in the Comintem and Cominform - but as None of this is to imply that there are no DEPTHS OF REFORMISM
a theoTetical corruption of Marxism. as a political problems with the study or with
Claudin's own politics. Claudin, for exam· Early in the opening section of Vol. I en-
political method embodying the worst
pie. seems unable to apply the same social titled. "The Crisis of Theory," Claudin
elements of reformism and opponunism in
analysis [0 China or Yugoslavia. simply says:
its subordination to the foreign policy re~
quirements of the Soviet bureaucracy. and because Mao and Tho pulled off revolu- "But what is interesting to note here in
finally as a social system. tions against Stalin's wishes. Also he exag- this transposition of the Russian model [to
The study is all the more valuable gerates the alleged inflexibility of the Com· other countriesJ is Lenin s grave under-
because it cannot be viewed as a Trotskyist intern under Lenin. He does not seem. estimation of the influence of reformist
rehash or Third Camp polemic_ Claudin aware, for instance, that Comintem policy politics and the reformist mentality among
was a life-long Communist. a leader of the for the United States was not the same as the proletariat of the advanced countries. I
Spanish Communist Pany from the 1930's that applied in Europe. In fact, the Com- do not mean to say that Lenin underesti-
until 1965. The Communist Movement is, intern in the early 1920's had to force the 17Ulted the wide ~tent of the reformist
in fact. an eloquent plea for independent, tWO competing U.S. communist parties to phenomenon. but rather its depth, the
revolutionary organization and creative unite and to abandon their sectarian at- ft'rm roots that it possessed in the working
Marxism. tempts to mechanically apply the "Soviet class ma.sses of 'he West. "(p, 58, Vol. I)
While the book does not present an ac- model" in a country that was not teetering The point is well taken. For it was not
tual analysis of the nature of the Soviet on the brink of revolution. only the early Comimem and Lenin who
Union and allied nations. it is based on While it is not explicit in The Com- underestimated the depth of reformism.
such an analysis, the conclusion of which munist Movement. Claudin is generally but much of the subsequent socialist move-
Claudin reveals at the end. know as a left Euro-Communist. In short- ment that views itself in the Bolshevik
Claudin concludes about the Soviet hand. this means he favors the parliamen- tradition. How else. for example, could
Union: tary road to socialism but sees the necessity Trotsky write in the opening lines of the
"Neithn capitalist nOT socialist, it was for mass working class action and institu- "Transitional Program:" "The world
based on the exploitation of the main tions as well. This perspective is not spelled political situation as a whole is chiefly
means of production by a new type of out, even in the conclusion where he pre, characterized by a historical crisis in the
social class which began to grow u.p out of sents his critique of Leninism (far less lea,uTsh,p of 'he proletariat, "
the elements capable of taking on the most thorough and less enlighting than his criti- Claudin's basic critique of the early
useful and most urgent functions in a ruin- que of Stalinism) which he sees as embody- Comintem in Lenin's time is of its theory
ed and starving country, the organization ing the danger of substitutionism. for moving the masses, based on its analysis
and control of the economy. Believing sub- Far most imponant for American social- that the material underpinning for reform-
jectzwly-at least for a urne-that it was ists today than this discussion of the ism, capitalism's ability to produce gains
bu.tlding socialism and embodied the dic- organizational aspects of Lenin's thought is for sections of workers. had evaporated.
tatorship of the proletariat, that it was put- Claudio's discussion of the basic method The' first aspect of this theory that
ting Marmm into practice. this new ruling and theory of Lenin and the early Com- Claudin points to is the assessment of the
class became the real beneficiary of the intern. It is imponam both because it first Three Congresses of the Comintern
- -means of production, immune to any in- raises questions very real to American that capitalism had reached the end of its
tervention OT control by the mass of the socialists. and because it involves Claudin's rope. Even then, the Congress resolutions
workns, and gradually acquired the sub- theoretical justification for drawing Euro- were careful to point OUt Lenin's frequent
jectz've characteristics of a dominant class. " Communist (i.e. refonnist) conclusions warning that. as the Third Congress said,
(pp. 559, Vol. II) from what stans out as a plea for a gen- "The collapse of capitalism is not in-
uinely revolutionary socialist movement. evitable," (Claudin, p, 606) They did,
The central theme of the study is that
The question he raises is: how do revolu- nevenheless, insist on "the impossibility of
Kim Moody is a contributing editor of tionary socialists (workers as well as in- restoring capitalism on the old foundation"
Changes. tellectuals) and their organuat£ons raise (p. 606) at the First Congress in 1919 and

that in "our time the curve of the capitalist go against the capitalists, the Communists revolutionary content than democratic
evolution proceeds through temporary can seize the leadership and lead the reforms. but rather his method.
rises constantly downward . ... " (p. 607) at masses of workers toward a break with First of all, his separation of the
the Third. Capitalism was in its irreversible reformism and the fight for Communism. economic class struggle from the political
"death agony." Claudin terms this approach "econo- class struggle - in a period of both'
The core of Caludin's argument is that mist-catastrophist". In his view it is this economic and political crisis such as that
this theory of catastrophe links the Lenin- political method, connected with the that followed WWI - is quite stark. While
ist and Stalinist Comintems. despite the economic theory of imminent collapse. he quotes Rosa Luxemburg for other pur·
enormous political gulf he recognizes that was responsible for the failure of the poses he forgets her remarkable contribu- ~
between them. The catastrophe perspec- revolutionary offensive of the early 19205 in tion to Marxist understanding in The Mass
tive. he maintains. underlay the idea of a Europe. He argues. in fact. that it was the Strike, the Political Party and the Trade
unified world revolutionary strategy and Social Democracy that benefited from the Unions.
"leading center" which he considers to general economic struggle of the '20s. Here Luxemburg pointed out. on the
have been disastrous from the beginning. While admitting that economic struggle basis of the 1905 experience in Russia, that_
Claudin also argues that this economic has some (unspecified) "importance for mass economic strike movements, under
assessment itself was wrong. His argument revolutionary action against capitalism," conditions of crisis. tend to grow over inco
is that capitalism did resume a period of he argues that economic struggle is "com- political struggles. The political content
expansion in the 1920's that was more than patible with the functioning of the will depend on the role of the party and the
the "relative stablization" that the Com- system." that it "swelled, rather than quality of leadership, but the phenomenon
intern acknowledged in 1925. An addi· reduced. refonnist illusions," and. in any is undeniable when the economic struggle
tional problem is that after 1923, the event. "it did not have the significance at- takes on the proportions of a mass confron·
economic analyses became increasingly ra- tributed to it in the economist-catastro- tation between classes.
tionales for a series of disastrous political phist view." (p. 611) Funhennore. based on what she wrote
zigzags, rather than results of serious in- about the inability of any leadership to
In other words, class struggle based on
vestigationo tum on and off mass struggle, we can
economic issues, even severe economic cir·
Given. however, the fact that Britain assume she would have been the first to
cumstances. even led by rewlutionanes,
was in a depression for most of the 20's, point out the absurdity of the notion that
does not lead to a break with reformism or
that Germany was an economic shambles. the economic struggle can be "made" part
reformist c01l.Scrowness.
that the whole expansion collapsed in of an ideological campaign. Claudin has it
1929. and the drive toward a new world This is a critically important proposi. all backward.
war was already apparent in the early 30's, tion. Here, Claudin has moved from his The task of revolutionan'es is. in reality,
the analysis of the early Comintem was not ongoing critique of the Comintern to a to introduce ideological struggle into the
so far off the mark as Claudin makes out. much more far-reaching idea. The core of economic struggle. For the truth is that it is
Nevenheless. taken from the long-range a successful revolutionary strategy, he sug- the economic struggle that is always with
view of today. it is dear that capitalism was gests. lies outside the issues of class struggle us, and which first heats up under condi·
able to "restructure" itself. as Claudin puts that arise most naturally from workers' tions of severe and desperate crisis. It is this
it. following the Second World War. From economic needs. that forms the natural ground of the class
today's vantage point it is easy to see that It is a viewpoint far from unique to struggle. This is nO{ less, but more true in
the news of the death agony of capitalism Claudin. Indeed, the fear of "economism" the u.s .. where there exists no indepen,
was indeed exaggerated. has come to be almost a common dent vehicle of political class snuggle.
The mechanism for creating the post- denominator for much of the left. non· One does not have to support or
WWIl expansion. however. was by no revolutionary and revolutionary alike. It apologize for aU the crude redunions of
means automatic or easily reproducible. It ranges from Marxist-Leninists whose Leninist strategy that floated around the
was the mass destruction of capital produc- understanding of "economism·· rests on early Comintem to understand that their
ed by World War II. the rise of the United what they think Lenin said in What Is To approach was ba.ied on the revolutionary
States as the hegemonic. organizing power Be Done'. to historians of the American Marxist idea that revolutionary con-
of international capitalism (something left (such as James Weinstein in Am- sciousness emerges. if it emerges at all, in
lacking in the 19205). and the persistence biguous Legacy) who attribute its failures the context of actual struggle - self-
of the permanent arms economy that pro- to the economist sin. activity.
duced the expansion. In its broadest aspects the question of The greatest defeat of the period
The second aspect of Claudin's critique what "economism" really means lies out- Claudin is discussing was the German
of early Comincern theory is of its political side [he scope of this review. But much can revolution. A large part of the inabili-
method. To illustrate it Claudin quotes a be learned from Claudin's discussion of the ty of Rosa Luxemburg"s Spartacis[s to
tactical thesis from the Third Congress of supposed alternative - since we find the break the German workers from their
the Comintern. It says: same ideas not only in Claudin's left·wing reformist leaders was precisely the fact that
version of Eurocommuism. but in other the Spartacists abstained from the
"The eS.!ence of the revolutionary modem socialist strategies far to the right economic struggle. Long on ideological
character of the present penod consists in of his. Claudin writes: "For a different campaigns. they did not play the sort of
the fact that the most modest living condi- result, the economic struggle wo.uld have role in the struggles of the day that could
tions for the proletanat are incompatible had to be made part of a paliticai Qnd have won them the respect of the Revolu- ..-
with the existence of capitalist society. As a ideoiog;ad CQmptlig" ..... (p. 611. em- tionary Shop Steward movement (the main
result of this the struggle fOT the most phasis added.) leadership of day-to-day activism) in time
modest demands takes on the prOportIOns The content of the campaign he pro- to make a decisive difference.
of a struggle for Communism." (p. 610) poses is the "practical struggle for real To most reformists the economic strug- ~
What the Comintern appeared to be democracy in all aspects of life. in the con- gle. even those whose job it is to manage it
saying was that in a situation of deepening text of bourgeois democracy. This is all as union leaders. is an annoyance. Their
crisis. when the capitalists are unwilling to pretty vague, but what interests us here is "real" struggle is the "political" struggle -
concede even the "most modest" demands. not his specific (typically Euro-Communist) meaning the electoral and legislative
and the reformist leaders are unwilling to suggestion for a period that held far more "struggle." Unfortunately, there are all tOO

many socialists and leftists around to justify also clear today that serious capitalist crisis else in that tradition. It is the same fun-
this attitude by telling us that intervention can coexist with a significant degree of ex- damental core of method that separates
in the economic struggle is mere pansion (in some advanced capitalist coun· revolutionary politics from the retreats
economism, or something that takes care of tries and a number of areas of the Third from the day·to-daY economic struggle into
itself. while the political (electoral) struggle World) for a prolonged period. varieties of reformism - whether that be
is~ where it's at. What matters is the Additionally, it seems undeniable that parliamentary cretinism, class collabora-
"political and ideological campaign." both the capitalists and the refonnist tionist labor leadership, or the idealism of
Economic and political struggle has leaders have more latitude within this son merely "talking socialism."
become counterposed in practice, if not of crisis than they would under conditions That core is the understanding that it is
always in theory. Claudin tries to avoid this such as the Russian Revolution from the day-to-day confrontation of capital and
counterposition but clearly offers economic February through October of 1917 - labor - sometimes dramatic. often prosaic
class struggle no role in the transfonnation which is, after all. the experience on which - that provides the context for the
of consciousness. It is not that he doesn't the Comintem's method was largely based. ideological struggle. that provides the ex-
like to see workers fighting for their needs, However. there is a fundamental core of perience of the mass of workers which
it'~ just that he doesn't attribute any political method in that approach which opens them to the ideas of revolutionary
significance to it when it comes to class underlies all of the great advances in workers and activists. The inversion of this
consciousness. In fact. he goes so far as to revolutionary politics in the twentieth cen- understanding inevitably leads on to refor-
imply that socialist consciousness is a prere- tury - whether we are speaking of Lenin. mism, sectarianism, or simply the arm-
quisite to making economic struggle impor- Luxemburg, Gramsci, Trotsky or anyone chair. o
This, of course, is an inversion of reality.
The fact of uneven consciousness in the
working class means that far broader
elements will be drawn into economic
struggle than simply those who are already
If one is to arrive at a genuinely revolu-
tionary strategic fonnulation. rather than
Claudin's step toward refonnism or the ad-
mittedly crude reduction of Leninism
presented in the early Comintem theses.
one would have to reverse Claudin's recom-
mendation and conclude that the political
and ideological campaign needs to be
made part of the economic struggle.
Unfonunately, Claudin's approach. not
really full fonned in The Communist
Movement, is now generally current in
Euro-Communist circles as it has long been
in social democratic circles. It fmds its ex-
pression in the American left as well -
panicularly. in the inheritors of the new
left. the New American Movement (now
joined with the Democratic Socialist
Organizing Committee) and sometimes in
the pages of In These Times.
The American version is the theory that
the economic, trade union struggle is
economist. although generally suppor·
table, and offers little opportunity to talk
about socialism. The theory, most explicit
in NAM. was that one had to talk socialism
to America and that so long as you are talk-
ing to politically interested. people, no one
context is better than another 0

Whatever loyalty to the working class

_these comrades may have. the political
method is essentially classless. It not only
df?eSIl't break workers from reformism, but
it· seems to have led much of the NAM
leadership toward it.
The agitational method built on revolu-
tionaries' panicipation in economic class
sttuggle. as developed by Lenin and the
early Comintem, like all revolutionary
political methods and tactics, is not equally
applicable at all times and all places. It is
from CmmlES -1/-


JilINI' & I~II~I~

Confronting Labor's Crisis in the 1980's
their allies in the- union, Holmes and his legion of overpaid
BY KIM MOODY business agents.
TDU in Local 337. as in most places. grew out of a long
In Octolier 1980. Teamsters Local 337 held elections for series of fights against contract concessions and other con-
local officers. During the course of the c.ampaign some flicts with the employers. Many of these were lost. but
people were beaten - at least one sent to the hospital- and there have been some important victories along the way.
some: were shot at. The victims were members of the "Rank Win or lose. TDU fought: and because TDU fought they
and. File Slate" fielded by Teamsters for a Democratic grew and became a real force in the local.
Union (TOU). Only two candidates of the "Rank and File Slate"
There were popular opposition slates before. but this won-one of them defeating Holmes' son. Bobby Jr.
time- there was a movement and an organization with deep However. the slate averaged 48% of the vote. In any event.
roo~ throughout the local. Violence and intimidation. this election was only one milestone in an ongoing struggle.
alOng with a good deal of employer cooperation in busing That struggle may see ups and downs. but it is unlikely to
Holmes supporters to the polls. were the best the in· end without a decisive victory for one side or the other.
cumbents could do to hold their offices in the face of age· There is much about Local 337 and the Teamsters that
nniite- rank and file movement. is unique. But cenain features of the forces in motion in
The- iIKUmbents had a lot at stake. The incumbent this Local can be found throughout most of the labor
president was (and unfortunately still is) Bobby Holmes. movement and much of American industry.
an fntemational Vice· President. head of Michigan Joint
Council 43,>- a member of the National Freight Bargaining
Committee.. and chief negotiator of the national contract
with. Kroger. Holmes pulled down $138.661 in 1979 for
T he idea of a rank and file movement arises from two
very material facts of American life and history: the
employers' offensive spurred by the economic crisis of the
holding these posts. In short. Bobby Holmes is a top level past and present decades. and the bureaucratization of
American, labor It''ader and bureaucrat with a lot to lose. American trade unions. Much has been written in
There is a third force that is key to understanding the CHA NGES and elsewhere about the crisis and the
explosive- cronfrontation that characterizes life in ~ocal employers' offensive and I won't dwell on it here. But
33'];-th" employers. The employers of most of the 12.000 before assessing the state and prospects of the various rank
members:, of this local are in the grocery business. some and file movements, something does need to be said about
smalr~. some big. and all reflecting the current pressures of the bureaucratization of the unions.
an:economyin long term crisis. Business failures. shrinking
profit margins. and shifting markets have aU swept die sag· 1. What Is The Bureaucracy?
ging::-economy of southeastern Michigan. The employers. Bureaucracy in the unions is not just a matter of having
or-course. have turned on their workers with demands for a big staff. a fleet of cars, fat salaries. or using heavy-
concessions; in contract terms and. most recently. in wages handed measures in dealing with the membership. These
as- welL They have turned to the union leadership. ·and things, in fact. derive from the more fundamental mean-
Bobby Holmes in particular. for help in imposing those ing of a labor bureaucracy.
concessions~ They have not been denied that help. The labor bureaucracy it a social stratum within the

unions that is separated from the mass of the membersh!p
he- 337 elections were not simply an internal by various institutional baTTiers, as well as by lIfe-style and
: _ political contest between two factions of the union. income. Its existence as a distinct social stratum within the
nor,' were they seen that way by most TDU activists. They institutions of the working class, with developed matenal
were 'part' of, a long-standing clash with the employers and interests different from those of ordinary workers, deter-

mines much of the consciousness of the bUTeaucTacy. bargaining v.:ithin well understood, though seldom ar·
As a relatively well·tQodo group in daily contact with ticulated, limits required the exclusion of the mass of
professionals ("other professionals" in their own view of members. After all, ignorant of the rules of the game, the
themselves) and with employers. they come to share much rank and file ~ight make "unrealistic" demands,
of the outlook of the middle class and some of the assump· Thus over 'he years, the higher levels of leadership.
[ions of the employers themselves-such as the view that those who actually carry out relations with the employers,
the workers' well·being is tied [0 the company's profitabili- have been insulaced from che direct (ontrol oi lower la yers
ty. of the union.· At the same time, in many (perhaps most)
At the same time. as an "employee" of the workers and unions, the power of the lowest levels, the locals and the
their organizations. the labor bureaucrat tends to carry shop floor organizations. has been gutted.
these middle class and pro-em ployer views around in a The only real exceptions to this are those unions dealing
liberal or even social democratic context. Revolutionary with decemralized industries or with a wide variety of
views are rare 3!I10ng bureaucrats partly because, as employers. and which do not have national or regional
Michels long ago pointed out in his classic study of the Ger- comracts. In these unions, regional or local baronies tend
man labor movement, the bureaucrat has already made to develop. forming geographic bureaucracies. as was the
his or her "social revolution" by rising above the condition!; case in the Teamsters before Hoffa.
of the class s/he represents.
Of course. there is a wide variety of thinking and
methods among -today's labor leaders - from gangster
unionism, through business unionism, to various forms of
T he alliance with [he Democratic Party was also a--
force for bureaucratization. This alliance was not a
democracic expresSion of labor's self-interest in politics. -It -
social unionism. But these all share the central feature of was an alliance with people from other classes, whose basic
the consciousness of ,he I"bor bureaucracy: the deeply held interests were nO[ the same as labor's, even if they oyerlap-
belief that ordinary wOTkers are incapable of running their ped at times. These were politicians loyal to their own
own oTganizations or of making the Tight decisIOns political organizations. whether that was an urban
concerning complicated m.atters of stTategy. tactics OT machine, a refonn club, a more or less clean party
politics. organization. or most importantly a fund raising network.
usually business dominated, of which labor was only one

B ureaucracy is also largely the product of a par-

ticular practice-that of class collaboration. In the
U.S., where union bureaucracy seems to have achieved
small piece.
Labor's political activists never controlled the politi-
dans; rather they had to negotiate wich them, cajole, flat-
greater heights and extremes than in most countries. the ter, beg, or pressure them. As in the "delicate" relations
origins of bureaucracy in the major non-craft unions go with the employers, these sorts of politics do not call for
back to the 1940's and involve two levels of class collabora- mass involvement, except on election day --long after all
tion - industrial and political. . meaningful decisiqns have been made. So the important
With the beginning of World War II 'he decision was political activists, those at or near the top presumed to
made, throughout the labor movement, to end the period have the most influence with the politicians. had to be seal-
of confrontation between labor and management. Collec· ed off from the membership.
tive bargaining was no longer designed to increase che size This elitism not only dictates the workings of the AFL-
of labor's slice of the pie, but was to depend on the growth CIa and UAW political committee, (COPE/CAP). but
of the pie. This meant tying bargaining goals to produc· reaches into the structure of the union itself. Today, all
tivity _increa~es and the expansion of profit margins. (This rnajar decisions on political strategy or legislative policy
has remained the practice until recently when tht" arc made at the level of the national or international ex·
employers began to try [0 limit even farther the boundaries ccutive board. Conventions rubber·stamp these decisions.
of bargaining). As with most things in real life. there is no simple line of
The political side of this turn toward class collaboration demarcation denoting the borders of the labor
involved labor's links to the Democratic Party. Although bureaucracy. It is a social phenomenon. not a geographic
this alliance began even before the CIO got off the ground, one. The top officials must create a political machine that
it did not really achieve its institutional form until the reaches down to the locals.
1940's. During that decade the debate over whether to stay The entirety of this machine cannot be regarded as the
with the Democrats or launch a new party of labor was ter- bureaucracy. The union structure reaches through every
minated and the new labor Political Action Committees level of leadership and into the rank and file at the local
were set up. Supposedly set up as arms of labor in the ievel. But neither can it be doubted thac the international
political arena, they were, in fact, and still are. function- and regional officials. with their annies of usually ap-
ing subcommittees of the Democratic Party, influenced by pointed reps or agents. compose a bureaucracy in both the
more often than influencing the party_ sociological and political sense of the word.

III. Bureaucracy's Consequences

II. Collaboration and Bureaucratization The consequence of bureaucratized unions is more than
Both industrial collaboration and the alliance with the just the conservative thought and behavior of the top
Democratic Party demanded bureaucratization. Orderly leaders. though those in themselves are a crucial barrier to

C1! gfi'"nuine defense of the the rank and· me of the
rm:ett'I1ht·rs;'- inlt'rt"sts. It means unIOns . though not hy thrir
that! tite unions as oTf{aniza· own choice.
!'lJml.'i..,. r"f(..ltnllt'sJ (~f thf' sllbjpc- Thr rmploy("rs, at lrast those
I;"p atlit",I" of the leadership, in the' crisis-ridden srctors of
amv unfit to wage effective the economy. have no intC'ntion
st7mgp;le. of backing off. Inaerd. thr Vf"ry
<D£ cou:rse-~ all unions are not willingness of some traditional-
tfur same in terms of structure. ly strong unions-notably the
tnd'itiom, or heavy· handed UAW, Teamsters, and
@1l3'cic... The U A W is not the UR W - to grant concessions
Teamsters... Some unions· like has whetted the employers' ap-
tin?- Rubber Workers or th.e Oil petites and visibly accelerated
ChemicaL and Atomic Workers the movement towaTd wage
(@(CAW) maintain a fairly high cutting· and concessions. Fur-
dI!gree of formal democracy. thermore, the Reagan victory
BUtt bureaucracy and the has opened a new floodgate of
ong;anizational oSsification that employer boldness in every
ffOWS; from. it are not simply a area_
qp1!!tion of democrati.c forms. Even the labor bureaucracy
important' as those are. has launched a few opening
Bllreaucracy can be as effee- shots. Marches and demonstra-
tirrel'l' nurrured and guarded by tions .this year by the United
pm:tttices- that create passivity Mine Workers, the railroad
irn tin?- membership ("leave the workers. and the Amalgamated
bm!gaining ta the experts") as Clothing and Textile Workers
by. goon, "'luads. Just as the were the first such action in
capitalist. class rules as much years. They will help legitimize
tbt:ough ideofogy as by force, '0 the idea of mass direct action.
d_the labor bureaucrat. The The March 28 anti·nuclear
diffirrence- in structure. in march on Harrisburg and, of
political. traditions, in methods United Mine Workers marched on Washington to protest course. the May 3 march in
ofT bureaucratic rule. will caU Reagan's threatened cuts in Black Lung benefits. Washington were also signs
fon different forms of rank and that times are changing. What
filft- motiorr.- and involvement. But the changes needed to then of the rank and file movement?
rnake-·even' the most formally democratic union into an ef-
fective- organization can never be accomplished without IV. Rank and File Movement
substantial; rank and file participation.
I have used the. term "rank and file movement"' to

T ~ his. means that making the unions effective again

involves more than just electing new people with
gpod: ideas-: to office. It means more than having a good
denote a specific form and aspect of class struggle. To be
perfectly accurate there is not yet one rank and fiie move-
ment aware of itself as such. Rather there are many rank
Cat1Q.US; to:; ic.ep your candidates honest and on the pro- and file movements, taking many different forms.
gram:. k rl!tfUires a restrucl\lring of the unions from bot- Only one of these, Teamsters for a Democratic Union
torm. to' top. (TDU). has a defined organizational form. Another, the
Democratizing the structure; rebuilding workplace refonn movement in the Unitro SteelworkeTs. is large
organization: and returning power to the shop floor and to enough to contest for significant power at the Inuarna·
th~'Ia-c,:al;-_building solidarity into the structure, rather than tional level though it possesses little national organization.
t~ purposeful disunity now built into most unions; And so far only one, the rank and file of the United Mine
diminatin~- the- subtle and not so subtle barriers to par· Workers. is capable of sustained strike activity and massive
tioipation,bywomen and minorities- these are some of the contract rejections on a national scale. though it has no
things" that: must be done to make the unions fighting organizational form and only a poor series of networks in
OrmunzatiODs:... It will also be necessary to rewrite and geographical1y isolated are'as.
redefine most' contracts so they become instruments for the Most of today's rank and file movements are confined to
protection:: au workers rather than proscriptions on worker the local level and to a loose network of like-minded people
activity;_ in other locals of the same union. A handful of people in
These' are-- big tasks and it is diffi~ult to imagine ac- these many and diverse movements are conscious of events
complishinw them without a more intense level of class in other unions and think of themselves as pan of a broad
stTU~tnhan:lwe have seen so far in the U.S. Hut that class movement. A significant portion of this last group are
~tTUQtp-'is;prrcj.5("ly thl' ("Ont('Xl rhat is most likely to face sOl'i;,i ists.

-14. -

Yet it is possible to see a movement in the making. To tern bargaining has c.orne undone in several major in-
say this means mOTe than lumping together disconnected dustries.
events, caUC'WBJ. or un;un elections and In'onouncing them Choked with bureaucratic structures and practices. the
similar enough to, be regcn'dsa as a movement. whBther Of UniOllj have been unwilling and unable to resj~t. The
not the participants aTe aware of themselves as a move- pressures for rank and file militants to enter the vacuum
menl, It is pOSJiblelo trac. the direction and dynamics of are enormous.
some of the majar rank. and file developments of the last
decade or so, and some recent events that point toward a
broaan movement consciou.mess. O f course, many of the problems facing workers to-
day are also at certain stages a deterrent to action.
. Unemploynient, plant closings, the apparent growth of
employer power bOlh on 'he job and in politics, all breed
T he 1970's opened with a burst of rank and file ac-
tivity. The opening months of 'he decade saw ma-
jor national wildcat strikes of Teamsters. postal"workers
caution as well as resistance. When fear will turn to anger
or frustration to action is impossible to predict. The rela-
tionship between changing conditions, consciousness, and
and coal miners. S.trike statistics in g~eral soared in the action is far too complex for this article to deal with.
laie '60's, reaching a climax in 1970. Large-scale rank and
The basic point is that the rank and file .movements.
me organization appeared in the form of the United Na-
organization and leaders that are taking shape in the early
tional Caucus (UNC) in the UA W, the Miners for
1980's face a qualitatively different situation than 'he
Democracy (MFD), and Teamsters United Rank and File
. movements of the la,e '60's and early '70's.
It is not simply a matter of economic conditions, plus
Within tWo or three years these organizations had disap·
growing employer hostility. It is, ralheT, the unravelling of
peared_ Each, of course, had its own particular history and
the entire Amencan system of LabOT relations in the con-
reasons for decline_ But it also seems clear that the general
1.",/ of a significant swing to the Tight in the political think-
conditions that brought about the rise in strike activity, as
ing and actions of the American capitalist clas,.
well as much of the impetus for these rank and file
It is not simply wages and conditions that are at stake. A
movements, changed.
vacuum is being created out of which a new system of labor
This first burs, of rank and me motion was a response to
relations will emerge. If the unions are mortally weakened,
the very early years of economic crisis. The twO major ef-
then the new system will be one of nearly absolute
fects of 'he early unfolding of the crisis were inflation and
employer domination. with the remnants of the old unions
'he first phase of 'he employers' offensive-the a!lack on
serving as a companymunion fig-leaf (perhaps under the
working- conditions,
"Quality of Work Life" banner?). '
In some cases, deteriorating conditioJU were associated
with technolosical change, For example the rill! of mack
If this ia to be prevented lhe union~ wiil h~ ve '0 b.
remolded, as they were in ,he 1950', when a basic change
Lung, which played an important role in the birth of ,he
in labor relations occurred. This is inconceivable without
MFD. was a result of the mechanization of the coal mines
mass rank and file involvement.
during 'he 1950's and was not widely recognized until 'he
mid-60's. The attack on working conditions was usually
gradual. and not often experienced universally or at the V. Resistance: A Case Study
same time by members-of the same union-in those days. One of the first unions to experience the unravelling of
On the other hand, inflation, very universally experienc- traditionallahor relations was the Teamsters. ]n particular
ed, abated for a period following 'he imposition of· wage- this inv.olved dismantling the Master Freight Agreement
price contTols in August. 1971. In any event, at that time. (MFA) and the pattern it set for numerous other jurisdic-
the larger unions managed to stay ahead of inflation. tional contractso Contract conceSsions began as early as
The conditions under which Dew rank and file activity 1970, shordy after Frank Fitzsimmons double-crossed Jim-
arose in the second half of the 1970's, and srill more so my Hoffa,
those unfolding in the 'SO's. are both more severe and more TDU. the rank and file organization discussed at the
varied. Auto, trucking. coal. and many others were still beginning of this anicle, was born out of the fight around
growth industries in 1970. Now many of these industries. MFA and related contracts in 1976. Most of its subsequent
though not coal. are in crisis and decline. growth has come from fights around scores of national and
Unemployment is twice the average level of the late 60's. local contracts.
Inflation_ is about twice what it was in those }rears. Perhaps Of course, TDU is often most known for union reform
most important is that ten years of crisis have pressured the activity - bY laws campaigns. elections. getting elected

employers not only to broaden and deepen their at- stewards, pension reform, membership rights. And TDU
tacks- from conditions to wages. pension plans. medical has accomplished much in these areas. But the emphasis of
benefits. and just about everything they can get away TDU activity is on the fight with the eIT.. ployers, both a[
with - but in one case after another to break the whole contract time and daily on the job.
basic deal upon which post-war labor relations WeTe built. While TDU began as a fight for a better contract, today
Wages and benefits can no longer be assumed to rise. the bulk of its effl)rts is resistance to the cascade of conces·
even with the productivity rate, In 'pile of inllalion, waKe .ion••weeping .1111001 every branch uf the trucking in:
cuts are on the agenda [see CHANGES, March 1981}. Pat- 9ustry-and many other jurisdictions covered by 'he IBT

- :J: 7 -

as well. Sometimes. these fights are successful. as in the As we shall see this notion of building from the bottom
fight against "flexible work week" at Consolidated up appears to have some validity in the Steel Workers and
Freightways in Columbus, Ohio and sev~ral other places. Mine Workers as wen, even though those unions have the
The main focusofTDU activity at the 1981 IBT conven- referendum vote for top officers.
tion was around a resolution calling for an end to conces- For at least some TOUers this notion is explicit. In a
sions, defense of pattern bargaining, and laying out a pro- speech to the Association for Union ~ocracy's con-
gram, for accomplishing these ends. ference last fall. TDU international organizer. Ken Pafr
Teamsters for a Decent Contract. predecessor to TDU. ~d: ' .
was born in 1975 at a meeting attended by 30 Teamsters. There's a lot of talk about refonning the unions. That is. of
mostly from the mid-west. TDU now claims about 8.000 coune. what we say we are doing. But I really think you can
members in 40 chapters in the U.S. and Canada. TDU's understand when I say that what we are reany doing is
1980 Convention was attended by about 500 Teamsters. rebuilding the union from the bottom to the top.
In this context. sometimes I think we are really lucky to
TDU-backed candidates have won local executive board
have so few rights. That may sound ridiculous. and I cer·
or top officer seats in about two dozen locals. including tainly don't mean it literally. There is. howf'v~r. an element
some very important locals in the mid-west and on the west or truth to it. In a way we're ronunate that we don't have
coa••. A few of these candidates have "defected" after be- such rights as voting on our top officers, because we don't
ing in a pn.itinn of pow.r for a while. rollecting the dilem- have the option oC rallying around one individual and try·
ma of reformers operating in a bureaucratic: set-up. Most ing to make a quick change. If we could vote Cor Frank Fitz·
have heJd (rue, helping to strengthen the position from simmons. he couldn't win an election for anything. Not for
which TDU carries out its campaigns. At the 1.976 IBT dog.catcher. Anywhere. But we don't have that option. We
convention both PROD (Professional Road Drivers Coun- have to build rrom the bottom. among the grassroots. and I
cil, an earlier Teamster reform group that has since merg- think. we are building on a sounder roundation as a result.
ed with TDU) and TDe were represented by one lone
delegate. Pete Camarata. This year. in spite of a system
that makes it almost impossible to elect rank and file can- TDU will have about 25 delegates.
A n important part of that foundation is leadership.
Contrary to the old Wobbly phrase "we are all
leaders here". movements. th~ Wobblies included. have
always needed leaders. From the start TDU has always put

T he dynamic behind TDU's growth is the same as we
saw in the example of Local 337 that opened this
essay. The employers' offensive. combined with union
an emphasis on leadership training. One of the worst con-
sequences of bureaucratic unionism has been the attempt
by the officials to mon,?polize the skills needed to run a
cooperation with that offensive, intensifies to the point
The mere act of building TDU has helped innumerable
where it can't be ignored. Rank and file activists. few in
rank and' file Teamsters break that monopoly. But TDU
number to begin. more as the fight unfolds. attempt to fill
has also conducted a conscious leadership training pro-
the vacuum. But it is a vacuum surrounded by a wall. The
gram over the years open to all. As a result TDU does
rank and file activists must fight their way in. Hence they
possess a national leadership cadre. as well as many
take on the union leadership in order to fight the
talented local leaders. It is this. among other things. that
employers more effectively.
makes TDU a durable and viabJe nation~l organization.
Numbers alone don't explain how a rank and file move-
Such a development takes years of experience. in strug·
ment such as TDU, and probably most others. begins laef-
gles and in acquiring skill.. It i. qui.e likely that the
feet change. In its early days, and still in most locals and
relatively quick win achieved by the Miners for Democracy
areas, TDU attempted to influenl:e eVents through
in a little over two years. from 1970 to 1972, contributed to
pressure tactics. This explains the enlphasis on contract
the collapse of the MFD leadership once it took office in
campaign- and hy-Iawa campaign •.
th~ UMW. and 10 Ih~ Iragic demiar of MFO iuelf.
Essentially an active minority. with no positions of
powrr. mmlt tty to mohilil(" gTe'3tf"r numhrrs to prt"ro.t;urr
the incumbent leadership to act righl. TOU had above-
average succes with such campaigns. But sometimes it VI. Other Movements Slowly Growing
doesn't work out. The 1979 Master Freight campaign. for The reform forces in the Steelworkers first emerged as a
example, never got much momentum. visible national force during Ed Sadlowski's campaign for
But as TDUers get elected and actuany hold a measure International President in 1977. Sadlowski did well. carry-
of power, the possibilities-and the frustrations- become ing basic steel, but was not able to win. After that the
greater. reform movement seemed to disappear as a national force.
In effect, it appears that rank and file movements work but in reality it did not disappear at all. It grew. but its ac·
their way up the structure of the union, until they have tht'" tivities were localized except for a moderatt"iy effective in-
power base to contend at the Int('rnational level. In the tervention at tht' 1978 International convention. By 1981
IBT this scenario is imposed by the union's constitution. these localized forces grew enough to mount a serious
There is no referendum vote for International officers. and challenge at the International level in several District elec·
except for very large locals only local officers go to conven- tions held in May.
tions. The results of the elections were mixed. but overall a

defeat. Jim Balanoff, director of District 31 and the first tional reform organization would" come out of the cam-
open ft·rormt~r to win lnternatiomd office, was narrowly paiJ{n. It is an t'lll"our4lginK siKn that Ill" has rt"ptOattod this
defeated. idl'a fullowing hi,s defeat. Indeed. this could make aU the
Along with Balanoff, four other open reformers ran as a diffeJ;cnce as far as the future of this movement is can·
group. They held a national press conference and declared cerned.
a joint program: Joe Samargia (District 33), Ron Weisen The inability of reform forces to effectively intervene at
(District 15), David Patterson (District 6) and Marvin the national level probably hun the credibility of the
Weinstock (District 27). Only one of these four won, Dave reform .caRdidates. The reformers. were not seen as a force
Patterson of Canada's District 6. His victory seems to have to change International policy, which is a prerequisite to
been largely a result of Canadian issues and was one of the changing the deteriorating balance of power between work
few elections to show a larger than average turnout; in and company in an industry like steel, but as individuals.
District 31, for example, about 6,000 fewer people voted In cases like this people will often vme for the "safer"
this time than in 1977. The Q[her three reformers iost, choice rather than a rebel who can be i~olated by the Inter-
although most did well. national. and whose district can be rendered ineffective
Two other candidates, who did not run in association because of the disfavor of the lnternationat A bigger idea,
with Balanofr but whose programs and approach to a. projected national force. is often required to break
unionism are similar. won. Dave Wilson from Sparrow's through this all toO materially-based worker conservatism.
Point (Baltimore) Local 2609 and Harry Lester in District
29 (Michigan) beat pro·international candidates. Lester
won by a big margin, Wilson by • plurality in a three way
The reasons for reform candidates' defeat are
T he rank and file movement in the United Mine
Workers is even more difficult to assess because of
the shadow cast by the failure of the MFD and its leader·
numerous. BalSically. though. they underline the fact that ship. which has created a suspicion of reformers as ineffec-
even where reform forces are large there are still vast tive people. At the same time, the initial successes of MFD,
numbers of union members willing to vote for and support its fairly thorough· going democratization of the structu're
a conservative approach to unionism. of the UMWA. has lessened the need for union reform in
Before the election Balanoff stated that he hoped ana· the most conventional sense. Nevertheless, opposition to

A 1976 rally of Teamsters tor a Decent Contract atl8T headquarters in Washington. D.C. The '76 contract fight was a first step in building a
national Teamsters rank and file movement.

the CUTrent leadership of Sam Church is undoubtedly The Independent Skilled Trades Council (ISTC), led by
widespread. a number of former UNC leaders. arose in the mid-1970·s,
The surface signs of this are the miners' 2·1 rejection of It has had considerable support at various times and is
the first contract approved by Church, and the results of definitely critical of the International leadership, but it is
some of the district elections that occurred during the not a national opposition caucus and represents only skill-
strike. The first contract was viewed, quite correctly. as a ed tradesmen.
further erosion of the basic integrity of the union. In the last year or so, a national network of locally-based
Indeed. the issues that united militants in the UMWA. oppositionists has taken some modest steps toward
without any national rank and file organization. are those rebuilding a national rank and file movement. In 1980,
related to the declining power of the union. This concern the Rank and File Exchange was set up. This is not an
was reflected in the district elections, where several incum- organization and has no formal program. Its function is to
bants associated with the first contract and generally. sup- exchange local literature-newsletters, leaflets, etc. More
portive of Church were turned out by morc militant can- recently, short "editorials" on UAW policies have been ad·
didatc5. ded. While extremely modest in its goals, the Exchange
In December, a rank .and file slate in District 6 (Ohio) has helped to re·establish a national network of activists.
put Ed Bell in as District President and Tony Bumbico as One outcome of this network building has been a plan·
International Executive Board member. Rich Trumka. a ned series of national meetings of rank and file activists
miner who earned a law degree and served on the UMWA and oppositionists. The first of these, held last Spring. was
staff in Washington for a time. was elected Board called a "think tank" and attempted to deal in an educa-
representative from District 4 (Western Pa.) by an 11·1 tional manner with the crucial and difficult issues facing
margin in May. Cecil Patterson, the popular vice· president the auto industry and the union. The next national
of District 17 (West Virginia), the union's largest, was the meeting is set fOT the Fall and will attempt to bring a
initiator of tht" rany - which was originally to be directed broader group of militants.
against the oil companies-in Pittsburgh early in the It also seems that this year's local elections represented
strike-~ These are some of the leaders who could become some small break with the generally conservative trend
prominent in a reborn rank and file movement in the , which was the first response of many auto workers to the
UMWA. crisis of the industry. Last year's df"legate and local elec·
Yet there is little or no coordination between districts tions had seen conservative. pro-International candidates
and no organization within district. The sweep of ap' sweep most contests. This year, while no mandate for op· .
parently more militant candidates was not coordinated position appeared. militants generally did better and in
(even to the extent of the reform candidates in the many cases, though still a minority of cases. won.
Steelworkers) and it is by no means clear that these new In- Another significant development occurred at last year's
ternational Executive Board members wi11 represent a UAW convention. For the first time in ages a genuine op'
unified force. position to a Regional Director was mounted, among
Part of the lack of organization stems from the relatively Region 6 (California) delegates. One oppositionist was a
democratic set·up of the UMWA. It has always been possi- staffer. who was'subsequently fired after he lost. The other
ble for militants to controllo_cals and. since the changes in- was Bob Berghoff, leader of a large caucus in aerospace
stituted by MFD, for local leaders to function together at Local 148. The two oppositionists together got 40% of the
the district levf"l. . \'Of~, R('"rghoff was fir('"d hy his employ~r shortly aft~r the
Hence a separate caucus seems superfluous to the con\'cntion, but has won a favorable arhitration award.
militants. But this perception has made it'all the more dif· Other networks of dissidents exist in the two transit
ficult for them to maintain control at the national work('rs unions. the Transport Workers Union (TWU) and
level--at first over Miller. then to pr~vent Church's con· the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU). In both these
solidation of power. It has also retarded steps toward na' unions there has been considerable reform and opposi-
tional coordination. tional activity. In both New York and Philadelphia signifi-
Still. it must be considered that there is a rank and file cant opposition groupings have challenged old leadership.
movement in the UMW A. It is as yet disorganized, which is both in elections and at contract time.
the case in most unions, and without any recognized na· In Philadelphia, a rank and file caucus called Driving
donal leadership. The hope is that leaders at the local. Force worked with others to elect a new leadership and
district and even International levels will see the nero for played a leading rolf" in the recent victorious transit strike
greater coordination and organization if the disastrous th('rc. Much of the opposition in New York and
decline of that union is to be stopped. Philadelphia is based among Black workers.
There is also a group in Milwaukee. in the ATU, around
a newsletter called "Running Hot." Most of these groups

A fter the United National Caucus (UNC) declined

and died in the early 1970's, the rank and file move·
ment in the UAW seemed almost to disappear. Opposition
are based among city transit workers. but there is some ac·
tivity among Greyhound drivers in the ATU. A step toward
national activity was taken when a Transit Network,
at conventions was minimal, attempted contract cam· basically a sharing of information and newsletters based on
paigns ineffective. opposition to the Woodcock- and Fraser the model of .a Rank and File Exchange organized by
leadership confined to the local level. UA W activists, was set up last year.

National networks of dissidents exist in the International union democracy and membership rights. attracted more
Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) and the building trades dissidents. The LaboT Notes conference
Laborers International Union. In the case of hoth these was attended by a generally younger group. with a concen-
building trades unions the networks are extremely loose. tration in the big industrial unions and a higher propor-
consisting of little more than exchanges of letters acca' tion of political leftists.
sionally. The differences. however, can be overstated. For both
While the local rebellions upon which these networks are the building trades dissidents and the younger
based are real- a couple in the Laborers have taken local radicals - and of COUfse. everyone between the two on the
office - the networks themselves exist largely as a result of political scale-share an understanding of the employers'
contact with outside forces. These are the Association for offensive. Both understand that the rightward shift in the
Union Democracy (AUD) in the caSe of the IBEW political atmosphere and policy·making is part of the at·
reformers, and the writing and publishing of the August tack on workers and their unions. and see the unions as the
1980 Mother Jones article on the Laborers. Yet, as loose as central vehicle in the immediate future for resisting these
these may be thc::y represent a step toward a movement in trends and turning matters around.
the future.
While both AUD and Moth .. Jones have. documented
the fairly widespread existence of opposition within these
unions. the lack of national contracts and the regional and
local nature of construction work have held back the
N o doubt there is disagreement on larger goals. Like
any social movement the rank and file movements
of today have a left, right and center. Most important at
development of a national consciousness. However. the this point in the development of a rank and file movement,
growth of large·scale national and even international can· however, is the common immediate goals and the will·
struction finns. a general crisis in large pans of that in- ingness and desire [0 work together. to draw strength from
dustry. and a vicious and highly coordinated union- cooperation and unity.
busting drive organized by the Big Business users of con- The significance of these two conferences did not lie in
tract construction. all point toward the need and growing any of the speeches or workshops. although many were ex·
likelihood of national coordination. ceHent. It Jay in the fact that hundreds of rank and file in~
surgents could get together and become conscious of
themselves as part of something bigger. They were

I n addition to the more or less national rank and file

movements and networks we have described. and
some we may have overlooked. there are countless local
evidence of the emerging movement, and events aiding the
construction of that movement. Bor.h AUD and LaboT
Notes are planning more conferences.
rebellions. groups and organizations that represent a mili- Neither of these conferences provided :J single strategy
tant. democratic rank and.m,e unionist outlook. or perspective for the broader movement. The AVD con-
Some have achieved important electoral victories. These ference limited itself mostly [0 questions of democracy and
include the rank and file group in Local 2 of t1"!e Hotel and rights. The LaboT Notes conference attempted to deaJ with
Restaurant Workers in the Bay Area. and those in the west a much broader range of strategic. tactical. and political
coast Inland Boatmen's Union (an autonomous affiliate of questions, but still did not project what many who came
the IL WU). Many more have won one or two spots on a wanted: a coml!lonly held direction for this movement.
local e~ecutive board. The reasons for this do not lie in the intentions of the
What does seem dear is that the militants. dissidents conference organizers, but in the nature of the emerging
and reformers who compose the emerging rank and file movement itself. While there are easily articulated com·
movements are no longer simply critics with a newsletter. man goals and analyses of the general situation (nature of
They h'ave become contenders for and increasingly holders [he bureaucracy, crisis and employers offensive), the
of power at the local union level. They bring not only a American trade union movement is very diverse.
negative critique of union functioning to office. but in Structures, political tradicions. the quality of leadership,
most cases a program for fighting the em ployer and for and the nature of the industries bargained with, all differ
making the union an effective instrument in that fight. from union to union. As the waves of the emp!oyers' offen·
Within the last year. another step forward was taken sive hit these unions. some as a tidal wave, some as only a
toward a genuine nadonal rank and file movement con- vigorous surf. they affect the internal lives of these unions
sciousness in the form of two importanc events: the in different ways-calling for somewhat different tactics
Association for Union Democracy (AVO) Conference in and strategies in rebuilding the unions from [he bottom
Occober 1980 and the LaboT Noles conference in April up.
19H1. Both of these meetings brought together rank and
file militants for the first time in a national context, [0
he "TDU MOth·I" i5 one pu~iuiJjty. III ulhn ulliuns
tlj!iCUS5 shan'u problems. The AUU cunference was attend·
ed by over 300 people. while the Labor Nules conference
attraC[ed almost 600 regi~trams.
T , a more sociolugically "mixed" movement· may
t"nlt·rg-e. One example.' of this is the Oil Chemil'ai and
The compositions of the twO conferences overlapped as Atomic Workers (OCAW). The campaign of OCAW
might be expected. but there were also differences. The Health & Safety Director Tony Mazzocchi for President
AUD. which concentrates almost exclusively on issues of reveaJs a split in the hierarchy of that union. But it is by no

-,.~- ~
.J WITH,'llJKF. kfAGAN ~~;
,'II\rlm 1010'- IDle

lOOl UNION 6787
Steelworkers join anti·nuclear march in Harrisburg. Pa on March 28, 1981.

means just a contest between two top bureaucrats. one VII. The Common Denominator:
more to the left than the other.
Mazzocchi has led over the years a growing movement Organization
within the union over health and safety issues. Mazzocchi's None of this. however. is to say that genuine grass roots
popularity (hr moarly won la!t timt") !trm!ll from hi! will· mov("mf'nt and organization can or should be bypa~s('d. It
ingness to unleash the· rank and file. Because it is a is evident that as long as the structure of the union is out of
relatively democratic union, the local leaders who support the hands of its members. to whatever degree· and in
him tend to be genuine rank and file leaders. the same sort whatever form. the need for some level of organization and
of people you lind leading a TDU chapter. or heading up a coordination i. needed. Thi. i. true both in the light with
UMWA local. the employers and in the arena of internal union ..aairs. It
While both the health and safety movement and the is also likely to prove true in the realm of politics and coali-
campaign are not rank and file movements in the usual tions.
sense of the term, they do have a certain Tank and fiI(" A part of the dire-ction for the rank and me movement as
aspect and can be part of ending bun~aucratic practices a whole. then. is the question of organization. The next
and thinking in that union. step for the insurgents or refonners in almost any union is
Similar developments could unfold in some other to improve the level and quality of organization. For some
unions. This is panly because a great many bureaucrats unions, the Steel Workers for example. this may mean
realize that their organizations are incapable. as currently founding a national opposition organization. Whereas in
constituted. of resisting the growing attack on union power the IBT this became possible and necessary because of the
and. in more and more cases, on unionism itself. Most of exclusion of the members from that union's political struc-
the thinking that follows this realization is itself thoroughly ture, it is the reform forces' penetration of the hierarchy of
bureaucratic - mergers that create bigger unions. but also the USW which makes that sort of step possible and
even more grotesque structures; organizing drives directed necessary in that union.
at workers with no relation to the major jurisdictions of the In unions where actual organization among the more
union but which increase the treasury; letterhead coali- conscious militants is not yet possible. networks of the
tion~ "representing" millions of p('opie but shrinking from Rank and File Exchange sort now operating in the UA W
the mobilization of those people. should be considered. Premature organization can be
However, it is possible that some bureaucrats, perhaps isolating. An information network. a national contract
those at slightly lower levels of the hierarchy. will take a campaign. or some form of inteTVention at a national con-
genuine left tum. In that case, it would make sense for vention may be more appropriate, given the forces that ex-
rank and file miJitants to support that deveiopmeRt. ist in most unions right now. But the direction should be

"The main thrust for the labor party idea:comes
from the lower echelons of labor.
Sympathy for this idea diminishes as one moves up
the ladder toward those most intimately involved
with the higher layers of the Democratic Party.
The major exceptions to this are among a small
group of top leaders who see the need for broader
change within the unions, like Tony Mazzocchi,
whose keynote speech at the Labor Notes
conference focussed on the labor party issue."
~ Tony Mazzocchi

toward higher levels or organization. filers. local officials. and sometimes organizers, who are
engaged in a snuggle for democratic, collective ends for

T he need for this sort of organization does not flow

from the need to insulate the militants from the
temptations of progressive bureaucrats, or from the desire
their union. .
It is not that all rank and mers are to the left of all
bureaucrats in all situ~tions. And certainly, the vast rna·
[0 remain pure and honest. Consciousness of masses of jo-rity of rank and file activists do not view themselves as
workers. not organizational structure, is the only ultimate socialists. Indeed, a higher percentage of labor
defense against bureaucratic practice. bureaucrats than union members would call themselves
The need for rank and file organization flows simply "socialists," either active or sentimental.
from two very basic facts. The first is the very material fact We are not speaking of how people view themselves at
that. on a national or'International scale. the union struc- any moment. but about the actual content and direction of·
ture is not accessible to the ranks. Thus. if the insurgents their views and consciousness. Democracy. collective
are, in fact. going to conduct struggle against the responsibility. solidarity. the drawing of clear class lines.
employers, coordinate activity, carryon education and sqcial equality (in this case within the institutions of the
train leaders. it will require organization. class), and mass action are all fundamental values of the
The second. perhaps even more important. reason for historic socialist movement. They are aU abhorred in prac-
this is that the struggle to rebuild the unions is a political tice-if not in rhetoric-by coday's labor bureaucracy.
struggle. in spite of 'he fac' ,hat much of 'he language of
this political struggle is sociological ("bureaucracy" versus
"rank and file"). The content of the fight between Tanks
and bureauCTats, between two social strata in the unions, is
T his leads us to the next important difference be·
tween the presently emerging rank and file
movements. on the one hand. and those of the early '70's
a Left veTSUS Right struggle. on the uther. That difference is [he existence of a signifi-
The rank and file movement represents a left-right fight cant socialist left within the major industrial, service and
between [he historic values of the working class movement public employee unions at the local and rank and file
and those of conservativisffi, class collaboration. in fact, of levels.
bourgeois ideas in the labor movement. A slice of this trade union Left showed up at the LaboT
It is a political fight in its most embryonic and inconsis· Notes conference discussed earlier. It is relatively young,
tent form. but it is political nonetheless. Out has achieved considerable seniority. experit'ncc and
Bureaucracy is a conservative phenomenon which maturity. A surprising proportion have gained lo(.'al union
breeds conservative thinking. On the spectrum of office above the level of steward and appear to have a gen-
American bourgeois politics - the only kind currently uine following with varying degrees of organization.
practiced in the major electoral arenas ~ bureaucratic The vast _mqjority at the conference were not in groups.
labor politics usually fall well left of center. But this is though some had probably passed through one or another
simply a relative characterization. Bureaucratic politics. socialist organization. Many of these people were radicals
the politics of class collaboration, are, in the context of the who had gone into industry years ago, mhers were
labor movement and of the interests of the working da~ as radicalizt'"9, workers. In age. style and political outlook this
a whole, right· wing politics. distinction did not seem to have much operational mean·
109 anymore.
VIII. The Political Struggle Reflected at the LaboT Notes conference was a desire for
And The Role Of Socialists a unified direction for this trade union Left. In·spite of the
fact that these people came from a variety of political
Within the institutions of the working class. primarily backgrounds, representing a broad spectrum of views on
limited in the U.S. to trade unions. the basic values of the the nature of the Soviet Union or China. party· building,
left. the fundamental content of a genuinely working class and no doubt reVOlutionary strategy. there was also broad
uutlouk. arc.' t'mbudied in the valul's of those r~lOk. and .lgrt·('IIH·lIt Oil dw issu('!\ of tilt" day solid~Hity with EI

Salvador and the workers' movement in Poland, for exam- tent at th(" r'ank and file level.
ple. This was true in the early CIO days and remained tTue
This Left trade union milieu does not yet repres~nt a . until the top levels of the union hierarchy stifled that
cohe-Trnt politic-a) trt'nd in tht' unions. But it dOt'S r("pr('- debate in th(" late '40'5. It is true again today. where the
sent. in the longer run. a part of the human material for main thrust for the labor party idea comes from the lower
socialist regroupment. and in the shorter run a key element echelons of labor. Sympathy for this idea diminishes as on("
in the Iradrrship of the emerging rank and fil(" mov("mrnts. mov('S up th(" ladder toward those most intimately involved
This is not to imply some sort of phony vanguardism in with the higher levels of the Democratic Party. The major
which the Left dreams up an elaborate program. sets its exceptions to this are among a small group of top leaders
own agenda, and attempts to impose this on the various who see ·the need for broader change within the unions,
opposition organizations. The spectacle, common enough . like Tony Mazzocchi. whose keynote speech at the LAbaT
a few years ago. of tiny caucuses with platforms embracing Notes conference focused on the labor pany issue.
an or most of the Left's favorite planks and then remaining None of this is to say that some or even many top
isolated. is familiar enough to most trade union radicals bureaucrats will not jump on the bandw~gon or be con-
that they want to avoid a repetition. verted down the road. What it does mean is that the fight
Rather. the role of the Left - at this point - is to provide for such independent class politics. for realignment on
the "Big Picture." It must construct, for the emerging class lines. will depend on a dynamic from below. which in
movement as a whQle. a picture of the crisis in America. tum will significantly depend on the role of the Left.
the collapse of traditional labor relations. the nature of This is not a call for a shower of labor party resolutions
bureaucracy and its role in this process, the alternative within rank and file organizations or movements. The rank
systems of labor relations that He ahead. and the most and file movements. insofar as they are real. depend on be-
pressing political directions that flow from this picture. ing much broader than the Left.
This understanding can become the glue for the day-to· Neither TDU, nor the reform forces in the USW or th~ .
day tactical leadership provided in the scores of separate UMWA, could agree on this question. As we said. the rank
u!lions and hundreds of locals. and the overall guide for a and file movments have a left. right and center: and the
p·olitical strategy for labor that can be carried out as the unity of these around a program fOT the union and fight
movements actually gain some power at the various levels against the employers gives the movement its strength. To
of the union. blow this apart with clumsy political moves would be a
IX. Labor Party: A Coming Idea?
The rank and file movements, like labor as a whole. ex·
ist in the context of a general crisis. Foreign policy. social
questions. basic economic policy and the whole alignment
T he role of the Left of these movements on questions
like the labor party is. right now, primarily an
educational one. Activity around the labor party need not
of American politics are matters of pressing concern to have the stamp of approval of the opposition group. In-
labor and the working class as a whole. deed, without formally identifying the labor party as an
A broad program on a new system of labor relations can oppositional platfonn. one may get more support from
be a useful tool for building rank and file consciousness those who do not necessarily view themselves as opposi.
now .. In only the slightly longer run, the emerging move· tionists. such as local or state officials.
ment needs an outline of goals on the broader questions In carrying out the tasks of buiJding a more political
and the fundamentals of a political strategy to achieve rank and file movement. the Left should not fall into the
them. formalism of seeing one organizational form (the opposi.
In particular. we believe that the notion of a laboT par- tion caucus) as necessarily the vehicle for all these tasks.
ty. and of some initial steps toward that goal. aTe central to To put it another way. the rank and file group, be it na-
this strategy and to a qualitative step forward in political tional or local, is not "the party." "Other organizational
class consciousness. forms embodying somewhat different forces at various
Labor party sentiment is on the rise in a number of times can be found for different tasks. For example. one
unions. As militants and radical!!; gain influence and power can think of a labor committee against intervention in EI
at the local level. it becomes possible to project concrete Salvador, such as was set up in New York before the May 3
action on this question at the local and state levels-which March on Washington; an independent committee to
is. historicaJIy where labor party JJlovements begin in the organize discussion and/or initiatives where possible
U.S. This was illustTated recently at the May 15 meeting of toward independent politiCal action by labor as in Califor-
120 California local union officials. called to discuss steps nia: or the many local miners support committees set up
toward a labor party. recently to aid that strike.
In the U.S. the question of the labor party does not arise
primarily as an extension of the interests of the labor
bureaucracy. a~ it did in turn·of-the-century 8ritain or
X. A Program For Industrial Action
Canada of the 1950's, although elements of this may enter Between th~ specific program of change for each union
into it. Primarily. the rise of labor party sentiment heTe has and the big questions of political stratt"gy for the ·RO·s. lies
occurred in periods of mass struggle initiated to a large ex· another level of program that is important in the develop·

'ment of rank and file unionism. A movement that projects Part -of building a labor party involves the mobilization
itself as an alternative leadership of a new kind of union of the union membership in mass direct action:
must also have something to say about what the labor demonstrations, marches. rallies, and the political strike.
movement as a whole can do to reverse the degenerating both general and specific. Apathy and cynicism can be
balance of power between labor and capital. broken thro'Ugh such mobilizations. directed at political
Labor power in the electoral arena is based on its goals_
numbers and its ability to marshal resources. But a far Labor has not won anything of significance for so long
more fundamental power - for industrial. social and because no one in political power takes it seriously or
political change -lies in its ability to bring industry" com- believes' it will break [he gentlemanly rules now governing
merce and even government to a halt. It is this power. most labor's relation to the legislative process. It is time to be
of all. that is key to a positive change in the balance of taken seriously.
forces in society. This power is also the most feared and As much as these steps would benefit the labor
fragmemed by the bureaucracy_ Yet it is doubtful if the bUTeaucracy by incTeasz"ng its own poweT and influence,
unions can be saved without the skillful use of this power. and as awaTe as they aTe of all these ideas, they aTe paTalyz-
The growth of multi national corporations, can·
ed by theiT own proceduTes, feaTS. and pTaclices fTom caT-
glomerates. and the flight of capital to the south and rying them. out.
abroad have all weakened labor's traditional strength in Hence these ideas, which are reasonable in the eyes of
'many industries. Yet there are obvious steps that could be most union activists let alone oppositionists. tend to
taken. yet have not been_ Organizing the sou,h and other underline the need for a new leadership and a different
unorganized workers in ilew elements of conglomerates is kind of unionism_ They are part of the rank and file
one step. This is not a matter of the slight increments in movements' program for remaking .the unions.
such activity that some unions make from year to year, but The period we face is one of great change. The institu-
of a coordinated crusade. tions, good and bad, of American labor relations are com·
To be successful this will involve using the power of ing rapidly undone. Traditional. conservative means of
.organized workers to pressure the company into accepting resistance are increasingly ineffective. The te~ under
the union in unorganized units. in the case of con· which the bureaucracy held its authority over the union
glomerates that have moved South. Such actions. not membership are being eroded for all to see_
technically a secondary boycott. could have been used by These trends are accompanied by a significant shift [0
uI\ions like the Rubber Workers to prevent the growth of a the right by 'he employers and their politicians. With it
majority non-union sector in an industry that was once goes the unravelling of the political rules of the game
nearly 100% union_ under which labor has functioned. and around which it
Combined with coalition bargaining, the use of the has developed its gentlemanly modes of political behavior
strike weapon in more powerful units of a conglomerate for the past 40 yeaTS_
could help smaller units win quicker victories. Such action It is, in shoft, a time of great danger and of great oppor-
in the case of Colt Industries, for example, could mean vic- tunity for the American working class and its most active
tory for the strikers at Colt's Menasco steel subsidiary. elements. Rank and file movements. mostly still weak or
Steps have been taken toward coordinated bargaining at embryonic. a few strong ~nough to achieve public visibility
Colt. but there is still an unwillingness by other unions to and contend for higher union offices. can move into the
strike in support of the Machinists at Menasco. Indeed. the vacuums that will be created and open up situations that
whole set·up of coordinated bargaining spelled out by the still appear closed.
Industrial Union Dept. of 'he AFL-CIO i. a nightmare of They can, over the course of this decade, become a new
protocol and red tape that precludes tactical t1exibility. generation of leadership for a union movement that cries
Organizing the unorganized calls for the rcptaal uf Stat.-- out fur rt·shapiIlK. Alollg- with the rise ill Uiack at.-tivism.
dlC.~ WOfllt"'U'S movemcnt. and the uew anti-war and anti·
tion 8(b)(4) of the National Labor Relations Act which
governs strike activity, including the prohibition of tht" militarist movement that has exploded on the scene, this
"secondary boycott" - a basic traditiunal tool of labor rauk and filt.· movement Ullt." of the be~a hupes fur
solidarity _ Given the current political atmosphere such a political and social change in [he 'MO's.
repeal is unlikdy \ and in a.ny case is [lot even part of labor's The Left in the traue unions has a specific responsibility
official legislative program. This being the case labor to build these rank and fik movements, and to move the
must, in Sidney Lens' words, choose morality over legality consciousness of their activists toward broader class con-
and use the secondary boycott where it can make a dif- sciousness. That means building lhe self-awareness of the
ference. rank dUO tile movement across union lines. as a class move·
ment wich the historic tasks of rebuilding the labor move·
ment and launching the fight for labor's political in-

O rganizing the unorganized. coalition bargaining,

and the judicious use of the strike weapon and
secondary boycott co build solidarity are all things that
These are tasks that fall short of the achievemem of
socialism. But the struggle required to achieve these goals,
could improve the balance of power between labor and whether or not they are ever fully achieveu. are most cer·
capital. But the stumbling block of political conservativism tainly among the preconditions for the longer-range strug-
now in power in Washington calls for something more. gle for workers' power and socialism. 0

from CRAJroES,. Oct. 1981.

II~ lrltil~
This article is taken from Kim Moody's presentation on pendent political party of the working class.
the Tole JOT the left in the trade union movement to an The 160 people who attended "Tasks for the '80s" in·
educational conference on "Tasks for the '80s" sponsored cluded many who aTe active in various unions, including
by the International Socialists and Changes magazine. The the UA W, USW, IBT, UE, AFSCME, etc. and many com·
conference explored two themes. The first, "The Left in munityactivists. The conference provided the opportunity
the Unions," discussed the responsibl1itz"es and OPPOT· to exchange ideas and strategz'es as the left enters the
tunities facing socialists organizing in the trade unions. challenging period ahead. We in the International Social-
The second, "Strategies Towards a LaboT PaTty, "focuss· ists were pleased by the number of people attending from
ed on one particular area of work in the labor diverse organizations because we believe that increased
movement: building sentiment JOT independent cooperation and unity on the left are key to
political action, for breaking labor away from meeting the challenges that face us zn
the Democratic Party and for building an inde· the 1980s.

T he organized working class. and the

revolutionary left, face the most severe
challenge that organized capital has mounted
reemergence of classical Stalinism among
others, and even the ever-present
phenonmenon of irrelevant sectarianism.
in the U.S. since the 1920s. How that
challenge is met in the 1980s will determine
the socialist possibilities in this country for a i l
long time to come. :.
Y et viewed from anocher angle, there is
reason for hope, there is potential for
[he ranks of labor to turn [he situation
The institutionalized channels of class -'l:_~' around and for the left to rise to the occa·
struggle politely known as "collective .....L • ..::::.,.!i1!11! sian.
bargaining" and "labor relations" are go- Q....-;::::....~ ... First. there are a number of rank and file,
ing through their third major transforma· UNION If progressive and union reform movemenc~ in
tion in the twentieth century. Political sen· LA BUSTING important unions. and countless local
timen' in the ruling class has taken the Boll -. UNITE caucuses and reform groups throughout the
most spectacular leap to the right in our union movement. Their level of organiza·
political lifetime. And now an administra- tion is generally low. Teamsters for a
tion backed by a Congressional majority Democratic Union (TDU) IS the only
has come to power, intent on implemen- organization of its kind in an international
ting social reaction, union busting, and a union as yet. Bue strong networks of activists
corporate riot in the streets called "free and visible forces exist in many places.
enterprise ... Union elections are not a good indication of
On our side of the fence stand unions in the internal strength of a movement, but [hey do
retreat, restrained from action by the tell us something of the body of sentiment in
sclerosis of bureaucracy, and - it must be which the activists must operate. In [his regard.
admitted - by large sections of the rank and 1981 can be called the year of [he close election.
file who are for the moment paralyzed by Local and district elections in Teams[ers, aueo
fear for their jobs and welfare, and confused workers, and mineworkers' unions saw some militants
by a rapidly changing world their leaders and oppositionists win, and more come close.
seem unable to explain. Nor are there the The 'election for top officials of the Oil Chemical
highly visible social movements that challeng- and Atomic Workers (OCAW). where Tony \,Iazzoc-
ed [he structure of America in the 1960s. chi lost. was very close. The Steelworkers elections for
Alongside and amidst the ranks of labor district directors saw a major setback for reform forces
stands a .imall revolutionary left in no less with Jim Balanoffs close loss in District 31. but also
disarray. Dashed hopes, failed perspectives saw some victories. Except for Canada all contests
and collapsed organizations characterize tended to be close.
some of the best elements of the left. In It would appear that union reformers. progressive
response, we see a somewhat reluctant drift and militant oppositionists have become a serious
toward social democracy among many, the I force. but - measured in terms of the sentiment of me

ranks-clearly not a majority force. In most cases we are table amount of experience. The sectarian responses and
talking about movements that have gone from locally· tactics of the earlier attempts have been largely outgrown.
based to nationally· based. from small to larger, frolI). the A richer understanding of the difficulties of trade union
status of gadfly to contenders for power in a growing work is evident.
number of unions. Furthermore, in a number of cases leftist have been able
At the same time. there is no doubt that fear and uncer· to win and hold union office, at least -at the local level. As I
tainty are strong among the ranks and produce barriers to will discuss later, this can make a critical difference.
the growth of rank and file movements. Conservatism that There is as yet no organization, network or consciousness
"comes from fear exists throughout the labor mov~ment. of the broad trade union left as a force-which, of course.
The desire to fight, and the desire to hide. exist side by side means that it is not yet a force~i-n--rea-lity;- R-arh-er,-iris-a:
in the minds of many workers today. Overcoming the fear force in its potential, one which needs an organizing prin-
and paralysis is, to a large extent, a function of leadership ciple. We believe that organizing-principte-is--a- seC6ftasks
and organiz.ation-and this fact determines much of the that can be mutually agreed on: tasks determined not by
challenge that faces us. the subjective agendas of the left, but by the situation and
conditions the unions face. One of the first and most im·
portant tasks is to provide an analysis that gives activists an
T he function of leadership in building movements is
every bit as important in social and reform strug-
gles as it is in revolutionary strategy. I will return to this
understanding of what contract giveaways, plant closings,
union· busting, attacks on affirmative action, all alongside
the mammoth right· wing social offensive are about - in
point several times.
short, putting the vicious employers' offensive, into a "big
A look at the rank and file movements of the late '60s picture. "
and early '70s illustrates this. The United National Caucus
in auto, Teamsters United Rank and File, Miners for
Democracy, along with a tremendous rise in strike activity
throughout industry, all reflected a militant response to
the earliest symptoms of economic crisis. Our own perspec·
T he capitalist class. in its majority, is engaging in a
more or' less systematic dismantling of the e~~iEt:.~._
postowar system of Jabor reIationS~ ·Tl1e·p·rocess~t-hat is 'un-
tives for the International Socialists in the early '70s were folding, while it may take years. is directed at producing
based on these movements and militancy. (as I mentioned before) the third major shift in the institu-
Yet within a couple of years these large and volatile tionalized relations of class struggle in this century. The
movements disappeared. I would argue that a major first occurred in the 1920s. when unionism was reduced to
reason (not the only one, of course) for this rapid decline in near-powerlessness in all but a couple of industries. The
rank and file activity and organization was the lack of ex- open shop regime and company unionism held sway. and
perienced leadership - that is. there was not an adequate the general system of bargaining established with craft
infrastructure of activists at the rank and file level with a unions in the late 19th century ended. The second major
clear understanding of the forces they were dealing with. shift occurred with the rise of the CIO in the 1930s and
Historically, in America as elsewhere. this sort of leader· '40s, and was institutionalized (and bureaucratized) into
ship has come from the socialist left. But in the postwar the postwar system we've known most of our lives~ Under
era, although American workers have displayed a high this system large industrial unions set national patterns in
degree of creativity at the workplace level in dealing with their own industries, and for others as well. The arrange-
the bosses, the monopolization of political skills by the ment allowed stability for both employer and union, with
union bureaucracies and the defeat of the left in the unions regular and general increases in the standard of living for
created a tragic political vacuum at the lower levels of the most organized workers.
labor movement. Workers who have been willing to step As Marxists, of course, we have long been critics of this
out and become leaders have lacked, for the most part, the system. We know that bureaucratization of the unions,
political skills that rank and file leaders of earlier genera- based on class colIaboration, was as essential for this system
tions learned in the socialist and communist movements of of collective bargaining as was the stability which the
those times_ employers allowed the unions. I would be scarcely exag-
Now. however, there is a small section of the rank and gerating if I said that most of us in the left have denounced
file that have developed political skills. through the reform almost every major contract this system produced. Yet it is
movements or through the organized or semi-organized undeniable that. given capitalist expansion and business
left. This layer of activists includes both people from the prosperity. this system provided an expanding standard of
left who went into industry or public employment for living for millions of organized and unorganized workers.
political reasons, and those workers who drew political Today the employers have decided that this system, and
conclusions from their experiences and their contact with the deal it was based on, is too expensive a price to pay for
the left. We can call these activists a "broad trade union "labor peace." So pattern bargaining is being attacked and
teft." It is important to keep in mind. we are talking in places dismantled. The once unbreakable three-year
primarily of people at the rank and file and local union contract is now re-opened at will. not by the workers but by
level. with a very tiny handful of people higher in the the employers in order to grind out concessions. Labor's
union structure, not top-level liberal labor officials. right to organize the unorganized - a right chat was part of
- This broad trade union left, in the sense we're using the the postwar deal, though labor often failed to use it - is be-
term, numbers well into the thousands, though it is still a ing revoked. In a growing number of industries the ex-
tiny minority in all unions and scarcely exists in some. Yet istence of unions themselves is now in question. These
in the past several years, this left has accumulated a respec- related trends. added together, represent an anempc to

-:;l~- -
unravel the old system. Equally important is the defense of national pattern
I do nO[ think the employers as a class have a clear or bargaining, preserving national contracts and extending
agreed· upon conception of a new system of labor relations, them internationally when dealing with transnational cor-
except that it will be thoroughly employer·dominated and porations. In a period when our ultimate goal-socialist
that the unions will be relegated to a minor role. There are revolution and the abolition of wage labor - is not on the
some key elements which we can see, however: agenda. most of us could agree on these and related objec-
• Decentralization of bargaining, which means- given tives. Taken together. they outline an alternative to a
the present levels of workers' confidence and com- fragmented and totally employer-dominated system of
bativity-a weakening of industrial unionism. labor relations. But presenting this broad program also
• So-called "Quality of Work Life" and fake workers raises some difficulties .
"participation" as a means of circumventing real unionism Constructing a new unionism and a new set of institu·
in the workplace. This would also be combined with: tions for the defense of the working class is no small job.
$ The "new technology" which actually consists of There is the question of how we get there. We believe that
phenomenal mechanisms for controlling the workplace. part of the answer lies in the kind of organizations we have
S Outright union-busting. already described: the rank and file reform and progressive
All these represent an attempt to fragment unionism. movements in the unions. These movements are not simply
subjecting the unions and their members to the mercy or the carriers of union democracy. though that is crucial.
vengeance of larger and larger units of capital that are tak- They represent the potential for reviving all the militant
ing shape through corporate mergers and conglomerates. ideas and traditions of the past - the ideas that can provide
the alternative to the fear and despair so common today.
I have already indicated that we believe that rank and

B oth the "Quality of Work Life" fraud and the new

technology require a thorough overhauling of
unionism at the workplace. The shop steward system has
file movements contending for. and ultimately winning.
power in the unions is crucial. As the movements win office
and move up the structure of the union. they gain the
become weak and ineffective in most industries. The fight forces to take on the employers in areas of struggle chat
for workers' control does not begin. as some would have it. emerge as the old system of labor relations breaks down.
with joint labor-management therapy sessions or by put- They give. in fact, life to the new unionism.
ting agreeable union leaders on corporate boards of direc- Such possibilities depend largely on the quality of the
tors. It begins with building aggressive workplace new leadership, their ability to grasp and act on the
oTganizations. possibilities for action. and the degree of communication
A crusade to organize the unorganized in new industries between activists in different locals or unions. One can see.
and occupations. as well as old. could make all the dif· though. that the potential would be greater if some of the
ference in the coming decade; the aggressive use of the recent close elections which were lost had been won. \Ve
sympathy strike and the secondary boycott will be needed. can see that even here in Detroit. where militants in

_________________ 'j () II (".\ r 1


The 1978 coal miners'

strike revived traditions
of labor militancy as
strikers defied 'Carter's
Taft-Hartley injunction
(right). Also during the
strike renewed labor
solidarity emerged, as
shown in auto workers'
food convoy to the coal
fields (above).

Teamsters Local 337 were narrowly defeated_ When the socialists in the unions. In particular. it means that the
reform movement begins to reach this level on a general tTade union left must be willing to take responsib.lity fOT
scale in a few cities. the possibilities for solidarity work, for bu.lding the rank and file movement. I do not mean
organizing the unorganized (very relevant in. Local 337's substituting for the movements; or merely participating in
jurisdiction for example). and in the future. we believe, for such movements as arise without our intervention; or at-
political action, will become qualitatively greater. tempting to lead through political pronouncements. I
mean takz"ng responsibility for the organizational, tactical

°L et me digress here to point out a problem we will

face and the nature of the fight we want.
and polit1:cal details that are required to advance the state
of oTganization of the working class - building local
caucuses, constructing national networks within unions.
Since the employers are confronting the very integrity of advancing those networks to higher stages of organization.
unionism as we know it, the idea of the uncn'tical united running and electing candidates, and training broader
iTont with the laboT leadeTship will arise. Indeed. in a leadership at all levels throughout the unions.
number of ways. some innocent, some quite insidious, the For the left. this responsibili~y means coming to grips
labor bureaucracy is pushing this line today: "Don't rock with the nature of the immediate period and with the
the boat. After all, we're all in trouble, so stand by us to failures of the left in the 1970s.
save the union." First we must understand and state frankly that the
Naturally, insofar as union leaders fight the employers failure of the various party-building movements' of the '70s
and the right wing we should stand by them-indeed. push was not due to tactical errors or mistakes in emphasis,
them. But the problem is that not only are they by and though we in the International Socialists and other groups
large incapable of doing this. but increasingly it would certainly made enough of those. They failed for the reason
seem they are happily joining in the process of fragmenting that the level of self*activity, organization. and con-
and circumventing unionism. Some unions are celebrating sciousness of the American working class could not provide
a new "spirit of cooperation" between company and union, the level of self-confidence and the political understanding
management and worker. to make the emergence of a working class-based revolu-
Quality of Work Life and protectionism play into the tionary socialist party possible.
hands of the employers' conception of a new labor relations Marx. writing during the years of the birth of the Euro-
set·up. The readiness with which unions now make conces- pean working class movement. was dear that in its struggle
sions, without a fight and demanding no repayment in bet- to become a conscious class for itself, i.e. a class capable of
ter times. is a major factor in the speed at which unionism ruling society. the growth of self-activity, organization and
is fragmenting and losing ground. The implications of consciousness were indivisibly intertwined. He saw a class
these policies of cooperation are far·reaching. For exam- move from simple mutual aid societies, to trade unions,
pie. how are you going to organize new millions into unions through a bewildering variety of parties, toward mass
whose main functions seems to be the orderly granting of revolutionary parties. Unlike so many of the idealists of
concessions and the reduction of wages? that era, Marx understood that the working class had to go
The fact is that a new unionism requires a new genera* through various stages. History would not be cheated.
tion of union leaders, risen from the ranks and tied to them Many of the organizational gains and advances in con-
through organization, consciousness, and unity around a sciousness made by the American working class in the 30s
program for labor. This kind of leadership is being built in and 40s have been lost or eroded in the last 30 years. The
the movements that are arising. and to some extent in the rank and file movements are, in effect. attempt~ to regain
broad trade union left. this ground. The various attempts by the left to by-pass or
crudely exploit this process (especially through so*called

W eare arguing, in short. that the rank and file

movements are essent£al in rebuilding the unions;
and this has specific implications for revolutionary
"revolutionary caucuses" or grotesque front groups) served
neither to advance the level of organization of the class nor
to produce the party.

The Rank & File~

W hile event.s are movirig rapidly and the employers'
attacks getting bolder, we must recognize that no
qualitative leap of the SOrt required to produce revolu-
tionary consciousness is on the agenda in the near future.
. BY KIM MOODY Qualitative leaps in consciousness are always the results of
The employers have launchea an attack on the prior gains in consciousness, self-activity and organization.
jobs, living standards and unions of American To put it bluntly, the next few years will not be a period
workers. This pamphlet discusses why the labor fruitful for "party·building."
~ bureaucracy is unable to lead an effective fight This is not to say that we should not build socialist
back, how rank and file union reform movements organization. seek steps toward socialist regroupment. or
are emerging to fill the vacuum, and what role confine these activities to middle class arenas. The recruit-
. socialists can play in this process. ment of workers to socialism and [he advancement of
Copies aTe available for 25'each. socialist organizations are a necessary part of the process.
But the term party· building implies a great deal more than
Send orders to;
CHANGES / 17300 Woodward / Detroit / MI / 48203 this. and in many versions, it has meant an approach that
hinders real advances in class organization. If the left is to

--;). -1-
take responsibility for building the rank and file move- that reform movements are movements to be built and led.
ment, i.e. for advancing the level of class organization, it not used or mischaracterized.
will have to abandon some of the party building practices One of the ironies of history is that it is often the refor·
of the 70s. These include: mists who are incapable of leading genuine mass refonn
• The notion. intentional or not, that working class movements, while those who view themselves as revolu-
organizations. whether unions or rank and file groups, are tionaries have often proven themselves imaginative and
primarily pools for recruitment drives. powerful leaders. In periods such as today, reformist
• The related notion that the shop floor or union are leaders often prove too timid to make a difference. Of
places to run down the latest line (a form of behavior course, workers will follow timid leaders when they see no
which has been most destructive to many revolutionaries real alternative. But if the left, broadly conceived, can
whose organizations discipline them to engage in it). provide a credible alternative in a growing number of
The common denominator of both these errors. and situations, it can advance the movement in ways no refor-
others. has been the tendency faT the left to set Its own mist could.
agenda fOT the wOTking class. TegaTdless of the objective Part of the reason revolutionaires can. under certain cir-
natUTe of the peTiod OT the actual challenges facing the cumstances, provide superior leadership and direction for
class. reform movements lies in their approach to society and the
Party-building inevitably involves a high degree of working class. We do not wish to preserve this system. so we
"voluntarism": that is, very intense levels of activity based do not fear the collapse of institutions that protect it. As
on a conviction that one's own organization represents the Marxists, in particular, we are able to provide a long view
alternative to the capitalist crisis. If rooted in objective of things in a way reformists usually cannot. We do not
conditions, this can be very positive. In periods and cir- fear struggle. or view it as disruption. we are for it. We
cumstances where revolutionary organization on a mass would not hinder the democratic demands and actions of
scale is possible, voluntarism can produce results. When it the workers. we fight for them. We are not interested in
is not possible it produces erratic behavior and political appeasing the political establishment or its liberal wing, so
flip-flops that often leave the workers who have been the we encourage struggle independent of it.
objects of one or another exercise in line execution Of course, many militants and progressives share much
bewildered or disgusted. In many cases, the members of of this approach and many more can be won to it in the
. the party-building groups themselves wind up equally dire times ahead. That is what gives the trade union left. in
disgusted, as the activity of the last decade shows. its broadest definition, the potential to play an important
role in the events and struggles of the '80s. In particular,
the left can make the difference if it can combine its will·
I believe the '80s to be crucial to future revolutionary
developments in the U.S. The outcome will. to a large
extent, determine whether revolution in this country- is
ingness to fight with the three general tasks I have talked
about: providing the big picture that shows the rank and
file the nature of events and the directions to be taken;
possible in our political lifetime. If the capitalist class suc- putting forth a broad program for labor as a whole to fight
ceeds in its plan to fragment unionism and eliminate the the employers' scheme for fragmenting and mortally weak·
slim gains made by Blacks and women, then advances in ing unionism; and taking responsibility at every level for
political independence for workers and the oppressed are building and advancing union reform and progressive
unlikely. This in .tum would certainly postpone revolu- movements.
tionary possibilities.
The building of the rank and file movements, like the
rebuilding of the movements of the oppressed and the fight
for a labor party, is the alternative to this grim scenario.
For the International Socialists these activities are also an
O ne thing that has made it difficult for the left to see
itself as a force with the potential for unity in action
has been the fragmented nature of much trade union
indispensible part of the process of building a revolu- work. It is difficult. sometimes impossible, to conceive of
tionary movement, because of what I said earlier about the joint actions when much Qj.-p~r work is !oc~liz_e~.~when t~e
interrelation of self-activity, organization and con- internal situation in various unions is so different and the
sciusness. Nevertheless, they are not the same thing as detail of our work so different. Yet there are some things
party-building in terms of immediate activity-and we that can be done that reach beyond our day-to-day work
have to be willing to say so. and point toward a broader movement consciousness
Today's rank and file movement is, in reality, a refoTm among activists.
movement. not a revolutionary one. If it is to be a suc- One of these is solidarity work around key strikes or
cessful refoTm movement that actually advances the level struggles. such as the miners strike and now the PA TeO
of working class organization and self-confidence. revolu- strike. These struggles not only provide the opportunity for
tionaries must be prepared to build and participate in it as national campaigns, but they concretely point to the
such. methods of struggle that could beat [he employers, and
The relationship of revolutionaries to reform movements that compose much of our alternative to the employers new
has always confounded the American marxist left. In the system of labor relations.
New Left this dilemma was solved by dubbing every reform Another type of campaign we must be willing to con-
and social movement a "revolutionary" one. In the '70s the sider is more political in nature. These could be campaigns
difference between the two was recognized, but the reform around attacks on OSHA, affirmative action. or other pro-
movements became- for much of the left - arenas to be grams and legislation of vital interest to many workers.
used. It is to be hoped that in the '80s the left will learn This sort of campaign ties in:with-whaf'+would~-regard as

the political side of the tasks I have mentioned, the fight
- the '70s are leary of perspectives that create grand roles for
for a labor party. the left, or ehat pose things in such a way that it seems,
Somewhat more distant from the day-to-day work of once again, the fate of humanity rests on the shoulders of
building a trade union opposition movement, but still im- America's tiny left.
- portant to the overall nature of the situation, will be the Naturally, whether the employers get their way may not
role of the trade union left in bringing labor forces into the be up to us at all. The working class may suffer defeats in
social and an~i-imperialist movements that develop in spite of our best efforts, or win striking victories without
,response to the escalation in right wing reactionary our help. But we in the International Socialists have learn-
pOlicies. ed that while all the voluntarism in the world won't get you
Then, of course, there is the matter of the role of the left what history is not yet willing to grant, our actions
in building and setting the tone of officiallahor events like alongside those of others working in the same direction can
September 19th. Solidarity Day. It is my impression that make a difference. In a few situations, as you know, we
o trade union leftists were among the most vigorous in have made a difference, and we have learned why methods
organizing for this important event. The current level of of struggle and non -sectarian functioning are needed to
disorganization and localism, however, prevented us from make successes possible.
having any real impact on the character of September We did not begin by understanding all of this. we began
19-for example. giving support for PATCO a more cen- like many of you with a plan to build the party - or in our
tral place in that event. case the embryo of the party. But we did learn these
I am keenly aware that most of us in the left have been lessons. We believe others have learned or are learning
through a number of years of hectic, difficult activity, these lessons as well. This fact and the process of unified
based on great hopes and ending in disappointment. I'm struggle against the employers and for a new unionism is
sure that many who have been through the experience of what allows us to flirt with great hopes once again. fi

- :.,~

A Response to Staughton Lynd

What Strategy For

Rank And File

Mike Patrick's article is a c01ltributi01l to an important

discussi01l current in the Socialist movement. In
response to the failures of the trade Uni01l leadership,
I just came back from a meeting in Youngstown.
and it was one of the most exciting things I've ever
seen. We've got a hell of a group of leaders together now
rank and file wOTkers are building movements to reform after the steel haul strike." That was how TDU organizer
their unions. These movements provide socialists with Ken Paff staned an interview of "Where is the Teamster
the opportunity of again playing a significant Tole in the Rebellion Going?"
labor movement. "We had people from seven steel hauling centers
At -the same time~ these movements are reform together after the strike to talk about the future and
movement.. Their goals are nol the transformation of evaluate the strike. There was considerable criticism of
society, but the reform of the ·union movement. Hence, ourselves, but we were all damn proud of this victory. This
many sympathetic observers feel therB is the dDnger that is really one of the first and certainly the biggest national
these efforts wiU ultimately reproduce the conservative victory we've had. Out of these victories we're building a
bureaucracies they are attempting to dismantle. movement. and we're building some damn good rank and
In the' MarchiApril issue of Radical America file leaders who know where we're headed' and how hard'
Siaughton Lynd addressed himself to this problem in it's going to be. In this strike we had to fight the com·
"Where is the Teamster Rebe/ljon Going". Mike panies. the Teamster hierarchy from Fitzsimmons down to
Patrick's article begins by taking up the questions Lynd Cassidy (a T earnster Local president significant in the s,eel
has raised and then goes on to layout a strategy fOT hauling division of the union) and the government to boot. •
socialists in the reform movements. And we won, because we were organized in key areas, link-
ed together nationally and had a winning strategy. Now
hundreds are joining us and getting active .....

The Teamster rebels have a victory to savor, and the tile struggle. Consider some examples:
fan:es to build a new section in their movement. One more • Kroger Foods has 19 centers nationally and has
example of them leaming their power, organizing to become adept at playing tilem off agaimst each other.
~RRrVe and extend their gains. When Detroit drivers refused to agree to a mileage
How are they organizing? Where will this rebellion lead? requirement last year. Kroger transferred a good part of
B!>w will this lead to socialist consciousness? its warehouse operation to tile Grand Rapids center.
m. Radical America Staughton Lynd argues that At tile same time, Kroger has also been subcontrac-
:Iimgers face the Teamster rebellion: that it might end up ting deliveries out to companies which have sweetileart
'" a new union bureaucracy. He urges a strategy of Teamsters contracts and pay tileir drivers CUt rates. This
''''ganizing "horizontally" - toward city-wide is all made possible by agreements made by tile
ll""'P"- rather than nationally as the way to prevent this. Teamsters union nationally, not in each individual city.
Hir li!as raised some important questions. The Teamster national leadership has just agreed to
anotiler contract witil Kroger. Not only does it do
Organizing: National"•. Horizontal

DOming about tilese problems. but now they are
proposing to pay new hires only 75% for tile fust
taughton Lynd suggests the following guidelines:
two-and-a-half year., To fight tilis. Kroger rank and
"In a nutshell, I suggest that it i. right to run for
f'IIers have organized Kroger-wide witil a regular
:Dr oft"",. of steward and local union president, despite
newsletter. tile KYogeT Connection and a good amount of .
~ ~ real compromises involved, and wrong to seek
travel and communication between the centers. Despite -
tigher position or to control the union on a broader scale.
recommendation by tile Teamster leadership, the ranks
bdic:aJS in local office, according to tile view urged here,
overwhelmingly voted down tile contract. .
.muId tilink horizontally: tiley should reach out to tileir
tmmterparts in other locals of tile same international • One of the special features of trucking compared to
miIm, and otiler locals and rank·and-f'IIe groups in otiler industries is tile high proportion of capital
tif£erent unions in the community. Their aspiration. in investment that can so easily be moved. New warehouses
!N;Jibstance. should be a "parallel central labor uniOD7' or, are relatively cheap. and you can drive most of your
m >are' situations, control of tile official central labor capital investment to its new home. Freight companies
~ to which all unions in a locality send delegates. sbop around and relocate tileir barns in areas where they
"Such imstitutions should be seen as places where can get sweet-beart contracts. It has to be stopped
'eklS; in. various work settings can meet one another. regionally or nationally.
mdl educate each other into a consciousness which. • The trucking industry has changed drasticially in the
iJMa!lSC s.ensitive to the circumstances of all involved, is past ten year.. Mergers and buyouts and national
:t.ei!fin:ce a consciousness." bargaining have created a national industry. While local
contracts can still win some concessions on a few issues.
'Jlie question is whetiler such guidelines are relevant:
h£ is" do tiley grow out of tile needs of tile rank and f'IIe tilis i. becoming Ie•• and less true, The base terms for
D:a.v..ement itself? the major issues are DOW determined nationally by
Ch>ganizers are not free to set tile direction of real national bargaining and by interpretations made by
<>ciaJj movements any way tiley would like. To be sure, company national officies. Talk to a Teamster and fmd
ll7pllizers who insist on the wrong ideas can head out why he i. mad: loss in real wages, poor pension
llOVements into temporary dead ends or even into system, unsafe working conditions. job security and so
f1l3Nqards. But if a movement is successful it is because on. Of cours" the.e i. a local aspect to tilese. And you can
, was; ahie to speak to and meet tile needs of its fight locally to secure tile best possible interpretation of
ltem:bers-._ The good organizers are the ones who national agree,m"nts.
mme:crly.' understood what tilese were, and were able to
Il1iiIg; inta leadership the ,alents developed by a real
~~ Such is the case with the Teamsters for a
llmtncratic Union (TDU).
ClIne, of the problems witil the popular mystique of tile
",mil: driver that Lynd so well describes is tilat it
~ important realities. The image of tile
~raad driver hardly fits tile majority of Teamsters
.dlm actualIy- work in warehouses. drive city routes or
nlli! dozens of otiler jobs.
~even the relatively well-paid macho. lone cowpoke
uiding;his rig off into the sunset has some really serious
robiems;. seventy hour weeks on the road; mined family
~,kidneys taking a beating, "good" pay for 40 hours
lIruOaut;,aitertaxes and inflation. to be only slighdy more
iamwliatrthe U.S. government calls moderate level for a
..JUli5t""'''~erss ioined TDU to deal witil some of tilese
mIIlent$ to fight tile class struggle. The form and Nighthawk Becomes Checker Express:
inmtiJm,ofthe organizing has to be that which best fits One Of The Mergen Which Are Designed To Eliminate Jobs.

The main local complaint is about poor representation A further word should be said here about "horizontal"
from stewards and BA's. But even here the grievance pro- organizing. Where it is a way of extending the class strug·
cedure quickly takes power out of the local. It is hard for a gle in concrete circumstances, it should be pursued
good steward or Business Agent to keep winning when the vigorously. This could include a range of possible issues
International is knif'mg them in the back. from major plant closedowns to police interfering in the
There i. no neat dividing line between local and right to strike. But sometimes. so-called "horizontal"
national struggles. Often it is national campaigns that movement can be deceiving. It can become a substitute
give rise to local organizing. Many TDU chapters have for the class struggle. This is a favorite trick of liberal
apparently started when people in a particular area gOt union bureaucrats. Walter Reuther supponed commu-
involved in a national contract fight or campaign. For nity civil rights activities while he smashed Black rank
example, the Youngstown chapter is composed largely of and me opposition in his union; The Doug Fraser who
carhaulers who got involved in TDU's Carhauler tries to link up with all "progressive" forces is the same
Contract Committee, and steel haulers who got involved person who sold out in -the contracts and organized
in and helped lead the recent strike. Usually, once people hundreds of UA W goons -to smash- an autoworkers
are brought together in this way, local organizing wildcat strike over safety conditions. Sf. Louis- Teamster
follows, as in Youngstown. leader Harold Gibbons whom Lynd cites for community
Similarly, local struggles turn into national struggles. involvement. at the same time put a tight lid on rank and
Struggles over work rules, harrassment. or local rtIe initiative in his territory, including cooperating with
contracts take place locally. But as they are often the UPS in firing militant stewards in 1972.
result of a national or industry-wide crackdown,. they can Capitalism is not neutral turf for the class struggle. The
best be fought if the struggle spreads. Recently TDU was capitalist class controls all the major institutions - the
involved in spreading a local grocery industry strike in economy, the government, the media. the ideological ap·
Northern California to LA and to other states, even paratus. Workers enter the struggle with no real power as
though the contract is local. The same industry-wide individuals. Collectively they have mighty power if they
"productiviry drive" is occuring throughout the grocery can only become conscious of that power and decide to use
industry. which is a major sector of the Teamster it. But until that time the initiative is with the capitalist
membership. Rank and me organizing is both local and class. The workers' struggle is mainly a resonse. It is the
national in this area. capitalist class which opens factories, decides line
speeds, introduces technological changes, makes
The strategy is not "national" or "local", or "horizontar decisions about production which ultimately translate
- it is a strategy of building the class struggle.

into expansion and hiring or layoff. and moves plants
At times the working class can and does take the in·
itiative and as it grows stronger. more self-conscious of its
power and better organized. can challenge capitalism
more directly and more often. But until "the fmal
conflict,"it is the capitalist class which controls the general
ground on which the class struggle is fought.
Good organizers understand that the. frrst ~o
organize along the lines best suited for waging the
immediate struggles and going on to build that struggle
and win real victories. There is no timeless blueprint for

Union RefOTm {I Class Struggle

T he struggle has led naturally to a focus on the

national Teamsters union because there is no way
around. it.
Staughton Lynd argues: "I believe groups like Miners
For Democracy or Teamsters for a Democratic Union Harold Gibbons. St. Louis Teamster Boss. . . .
conditions to wage the class struggle . To do this they
need organization. They particularly need to control their
own class wide institutions - their unions. In order to
get their unions to fight JOT them they must fight for
democracy within the union locally and nationally. Most
workers are probably for cleaning up and making their
unions more democratic in an abstract sense. But the
motion to reform the Teamsters union now is coming
from the need to fight back more effectively against the
employers. It is this need which produces the amount of
time spent and energy given to union reform.
Union reform. is a part of the process in waging the
class struggle rather than an end unto itself. but it is an
imponant part. The connection is critical 0

The Fraternal Order of Steel Haulers (FASH) was

organized in 1967 to win a better Teamster contract for
steel haulers, and particularly owner~operators. Until
then. steel haulers had been taking a beating. By
organizing, they were able to win pay for .. detention"
(waiting) time and significant rate increases. F ASH
continued winning gains for steel haulers thr~ugh well
drift into an expectation that their ultimate objective is to
take over and clean up the international union. I believe
this perspective to be in error. For this great expectation
union reformers are repaid in broken hopes and inactive
co~workers ...
"The more oppressive the union, the greater the
temptation to forget that the employer is the main
oppressor. American labor law offers the extraordinary
worker far more tools and freedom with which to combat
his or her union, than to engage the company. Union
politics can become a sandbox wherein workers vent
frustrated energy against one another."
But this argument misunderstands the reason why
"union politics:' and the national and international
llnion structures, become a focus of concern in the first
;:>lace. Workers need their union in order to fight
mc.cessfully. Lynd is wrong in suggesting that the main
lim of the Teamster rank and -m.e rebellion is to "take
>ver and clean up the international union. ,. Workers
lave begun to organize because they are being forced to
19ht to defend themselves. They are' forced by ... And TDU Democracy.

publicized militant struggles. You thought twice about --:5:3 -
messing with a FASH strike. powerful than any of the freight companies. Through the
But the FASH strategy was to ignore the national development of the Master Freight Contract, the IBT
Teamster union in a period when both the IBT and the was able to provide some regulation to the trucking-
trucking industry were moving to consolidate things on industry and at the same time make significant
the national level. When FASH finally had to deal with improvements for most Teamsters. But by the 70's~ the
the union, its strategy was to try to get out. a strategy trend in the industry was merger and buyout. The.
which not only failed to link up with other Teamsters stronger freight companies combined into stronger
but also tended to divide the owner·operators from the national associations and began to go on the.
other steel haulers. The F ASH strike last winter failed. counter-attack. They demanded work rule chana;es. time
The highly successful steel hauler strike in April took a studies and productivity rules (MTM), flexible schedu-
different form. It was organized around the conttact; it ling, and· a free hand in mergers and change. of
understood the necessity of independent organizing and operations. This. combined with inflation, amounted to a·
action, and the need at the same time to force the official giant takeaway campaign against the Teamsters union.
union to back them; and out of it a new, more effective In battles like this, victory for the workers was
vehicle for struggle has been formed, TDU-SHOC (Steel sometimes just managing to stand still.
Haulers Organizing Committee). TDU organizers played Now the skimming and the gangsterism made a
an important role in providing organizational network. difference. While most Teamsters would have preferred
communication. information and direction. But the a democratic union under Hoffa, they were able to close
motion was that of rank and me steelhaulers. The leaders their eyes to what was going on. But now they simply
were steeIhaulers. The national organization and the cannot afford to ignore it.
national strategy toward the union fit. The same thing is true at the local level. With 'he
Thus the steel haulers kept that section of the industry employers on the attack, you really need your Business
closed down tight after> the International ordered Agent and steward to fight for you, rather than malting
everyone back to work. They forced the International to their own deals with the company. The campaigns in
sanction their continuing strike, and to come back with a many locals for elected stewards and BAs reflect this_
good contract. Effective representation is the issue. In some locals, the
proposal to elect BAs has been defeated because the

A nother organization of rank and me Teamsters has

also missed the connection between the struggle
for reform in the union and the class struggle. The
Professional Drivers Council (PROD) was originated by
bureaucrats have been able to convince enough barns
that they would not get good representation from
someone chosen by the majority (i.e. the other barns).
The old stoty: where a movement is weak, workers think
Ralph Nader and headed by liberal attorneys. PROD in their individual self· interest, and "divide and
attacked cOITUption.ln the Teamsters with exposes in the conquer" works.
media, court cases and Congressional testimony. This
attracted a following among Teamsters. especially the
interstate drivers concerned with safety laws. PROD has
organized numerous meetings and publishes a good
paper for Teamster members. But because PROD is not
organized to fight contract struggles, on the shop floor,
and in the locals. TDU has surpassed it as the dominant
rank and me force.
A few years ago this would never have happened. An
Organization based on the dyoarnic of the class struggle,
led by no big names, and red· baited by the union
leadership would not have overshadowed an organization
based on a legal strategy of reform-from-above. with its
connections to Joseph Raub, Ralph Nader, and the
establishment media.
Corruption and gangsterism are nothing new to the
Teamsters. Why the large reform movements now and
not 20 years ago when the spotlight was put on the
connections between the Teamster leadership and the
racketeers? Under Hoffa and before. the Teamsters
union delivered the gOOds to its members. Actually, they
only delivered a part of the goods with another good part
skimmed off, but at least they delivered something. It
was not because Hoffa and the others were better, but
because the trucking industry would give more. U.S.
capitalism was in the midst of prolonged economic
prosperity> The trucking industry, although growing
wildly, was still made up of a large number of smaller
companies. The national Teamsters union was way more

The Employers' Offensive

E conomic forces have shaped the changes in the

trucking industry which in turn have produced
the Teamster revolt. These same forces are being felt
throughout the entire economy with generally the same
For SO years, American capitalism had maintained an
era of prosperity through world war. imperialism, and a
permanent arms economy. But by the 1970'., the
continuous high level of arms spending had produced
still new contradictions for the U.S. At the same time,
world economic development and political and militaty
defeats meant the U.S. was no longer able to regulate the
capitalist world to its advantage. The energy crisis.
balance of trade problems, collapse of the dollar. and
foreign competition are all part of the collapse of
American hegemony in the world.
What was true in trucking was true throughout the
economy. The companies had to move to increase the
surplus value. This meant productivity drives, more
efficient operations, getting rid of the troublemakers. At
the same time they could not offer their old trade·off of
higher wages in exchange for more employe. conll'Ol
over working conditions. The old deals with the trade
union bureaucracy were off. Trade unions were no longer
automatically accepted by the dominant wing of
capitalism in return for labor peace. There was a
resurgence of outright union busting and shifts to
non· union areas. GM followed the pattern of the low
wage industries like garment, trying to get a docile.
non·union labor force in the south. "Takeaways"



Socialist Consciousness'

I n the course of a strike it is not

unusual for workers to smash
company property, defy court orders,
and battle the pOlice. These sanie
strikers believe in America. Free
Enterprise, and Law and Order. Lynd

asks how will groups Ilke mu, PROD or FASH avoid proletarians into a class and consequently into a political
becoming new corrupt bureaucracies and' 'move on from party, is continually beiog upset again by competition
union reform to socialist transformation." between the workers themselves. But it rises up again
The heart of Staughton Lynd's concern is the fear that stronger, fmner, mightier." (C.M. p.1S). Since th~
self·conscious socialists in the reform movements may be working class was on the inevitable road to socialism.
acting io contradiction to their own long· term goals of there was no need for any separate communist party. All
socialism: that had to be done was to organize the class struggle.
"Accordingly, Marxists who organize withio the Lenin held the same view io his early work.
Teamsters union face a familiar dilemma. Only with their This dynamic that Marx and Lenin relied so much on
energetic aid, seemingly, can the bourgeois revolution was certainly real. Struggle was the key to changiog
(Lynd uses this term to mean "democracy") io the union consciousness.
be effected. Yet the fruits of successful democratic There are many barriers to stripping away false
busioess unionism are all too evident. The maiolioe CIO consciousness of the working class and achieving
unions - UAW. Steelworkers and so on - offer one set socialist consciousness. These include the hegemony of
of examples. Arnold Miller's election to the presidency bourgeois ideology throughout the society, the lack of
of the United Mioe Workers and its sequel is another. education and knowledge. nationalism, racism, and
"One need go no further than the history of the sexism.
Teamsters themselves to prove the point still agaio. The But inter-related with all of these is the most critical -
IBT bad guys Hoffa, Fitzsimmons, Rolland that the working class is unawaTe of its poweT to
McMaster, Dave Johnson - were one and aU rank and challenge capitalist hegemony and remake society.
me reformers io the 1930's ... What happens to such Workers like all people tend to limit their range of
iodividuals? Can it be prevented? Must union desirable choices to what they can reasonably expect to
organization endlessly reproduce dull and corrupt win. which in tum is a reflection of their sense of power.
bureaucracy as a result? Why should mu, or PROD, or Workers who are isolated have no senseJ)f the power of
F ASH, avoid the same fate, much less move on from the working class. Their consciousness reflects this and
union reform to socialist transformation? It manifests itself by attempts to get -ahead within the
To properly address these concerns, and they are system by such means as dealing individually with the
genuine ones, we have to take a look at the Marxist view bosses. or dreams about escaping from the working class
of how working class consciousness is shaped in (saviog up and owniog a small shop).
struggle. Workiog class struggle changes the objective
What we are seeing now_is •'militancy" • as Lynd says. conditions which shape cc;>nscious_ness by changing the
but how do we get "radicalism"? Or, io the traditional context from the powerlessness of the individual to the
Marxist terms, how do we get from Trade Union power of worker soli~arity. G.:nce __~~p~1"ienced, this sense
Consciousness to Revolutionary Consciousness 1 of power opens new possibilities for the struggle.
Further, it is not enough that the workiog class simply Thus the smallest victory in th~. class struggle has
agree to the ideas of socialism. How will the working significance beyond capturing a tiny piece of the surplus
class train itself to run society - the factories. the value. In the act of winning a few cents more, or slowing
economy, everything? down the speed of the production line, workers learn to a
This is a tall order when we stan with a working class greater degree first that they do have- power and second
composed not of some romantic noble heroes but of real how to organize themselves.
people mistraioed from day one under capitalism - But while this dynamic always seeiIfed -to -be at work it
"braiowashed" through schools. the media. and was not an inevitable process as Marx and the early
misleaders, to believe that they are just ordinary folk Lenin seemed to conclude. The cla_$,s__ struggle always
who better leave running thiogs to those qualified. continued on at some level, but socialist conclusions and
Marx's contribution was an understanding of class activity did not always follow. _-
struggle. The class struggle was not a series of events Lenin made an important att~mpt to deal theoretically
which marked time until the socialist revolution took with this problem in 1902: in· the struggle with the
place. It was the dynamic which produced socialist "Economists" . In brief. he argued that the working class
consciousness and the training ground which prepared as a class could not- develop beyond trade union
the workiog class for rule. consciousness simply as a result of its trade union
But Marx and Engels mistakenly believed that process struggles. Class and revolutionary consciousness
was almost automatic. In the Communist Manifesto, required understanding beyond the workers' own direct
after describiog how the development of iodustry forces experiences. For this.~~r.kers had to rely on what they
workers to form combinations - trade unions - they go were taught and heard. Therefore they were even more
on: at -the mercy of the bourgeoisie which controlled the
"Now and then the workers are victorious. but only for schools. the press. the established "leaders" etc., which
a time. The real fruit of their battles lies not in the presented the bourgeois interpretation of the facts as
immediate results but in the ever expanding union of the well as the framework for interpretation (bourgeois
workers. This union is helped on by the improved means ideology). . .
of communication that are created by modem industry The class struggle wa~ stIlI dre underlying dynamic in
and that place the workers of different localities in developing political consciousness. It was just not
contact with one another ... This organization of the enough.

" ... The working class spontaneously gravitates This doesn't mean that additional struggles cannot be
mward socialism, nevertheless the more widespread brought into the working class. On the contrary, it is
(and continuously revised in the most diverse forms) vitally necessary that self-conscious revolutionaries
lmurgeois ideology imposes itself spontaneously upon champion within the working class the range of general
the working class more than any other. (What Is To Be struggle from abortion rights and affirmative action to
Done p42) the battle against nuclear power and imperialism.
Contrary to Marx's writings Lenin argued for a Further, working class leaders must be won to the idea
distinction between the organization of the working class that thes" fights are their own. The mistake often is
and the organization of revolutionaries. The organization posing these issues in such a way that they prevent
of the working class had to be as broad as possible to broader united struggle around other immediate class
engage effectively in struggle. At the same time there issues.
had to be a self-conscious revolutionary leadership
organized around its ideas. The tasks of the EcOftomism.'
revolutionary organization in addition to helping advance

the actual class struggle were to counter the influence of
Bourgeois ideology and institutions in the working class here are some on the left (not Lynd) who criticize
in two ways. One was education and propaganda. The groups like the TDU or PROD in the Teamsters,
other was through training working class leaders to lead the Independent Skilled Trades Council in the UAW, and
;;" other struggles in society. similar organizations and movements in the steel-
But note, Lenin was always clear that the base on workers. miners and other unions as .. economist ... The
which socialist consciousness could be built was the class very charge shows a misunderstanding. TDU and the
struggle. Therefore the organizations of class struggle others are not ,. economist. .. They are not even
had to correspond not with the consciousness of the .• economist ... They are not and do not pretend to be and
most advanced workers but with that of the broadest should not be socialist groups. They do not and cannot
mass of workers ready to struggle at the time. have a perspective for becoming such.
This charge about .. economism" is just the opposite
side of the same coin as the economists themselves. Both

C onfusing the organizations of class struggle with

the organization of conscious revolutionaries is at
the root of numerous setbacks over the years, both big
try to collapse the process of developing socialist
consciousness into one convenient package. Lynd knows
better and does not make this charge. But because he
apparendy does not have a perspective for building a
and small. It was part of the issue in the failure of the
German Revolution following World War I. and the revolutionary group. the confusion creeps into his article
collapse of the national opposition group (UNC) in the when he phrases the question in terms of how groups like
UAW in the 1970's. Attempts to collapse the reform TDU, PROD or FASH "will move on from union reform
struggle and revolutionary politics into one organization to socialist transformation?"
on one road more often than not leads to the destruction The task for revolutionaries is not the transfonnation
of both. of TDU into a socialist organization. One of the strengths
One tendency is to reduce all questions of of mu is that as an autonomous organization,
revolutionary politics to the questions of refonn struggle Teamsters just getting involved can think of it as their
at the current level of class consciousness. The ideas of organization because it really is. Our goal must be to
socialism become reduced to something vague and bland develop within the working cla... leaders who
(like "what they have in Sweden"). Rather than understand that the struggle has to go beyond TDU and
organUing so that there is some force to a socialist similar organizations. These militants will be the basis of
presence, individual socialist. floating around. .. doing a revolutionary socialist party.
theirthing," leave a giant vacuum in the working class.
Althongh the class struggle opens up possibilities for
changiog consciousness, the field i. left to bourgeois The Failure of the Left
ideology and leadership to provide the range of

interpretations. The net result is that working class
leaders as they emerge are not trained in leading broader t is understandable that for most socialists
struggles and have little opporttiliity '0 develop a actively involved in working clas. struggles the
perspective beyond the struggle for reforms. notion of a revolutionary party rarely enters the picture
Alternately, trying to force the organization of working in trying to deal with real problems. The sad truth is that
class straggle to adopt a part of revolutionary program there is no revolutionary party which today stands as a
because it fits some abstract conception of advancing pole in the working class. There is no group which by its
consciousness is not the solutioDG If such a program size. experience, and connections as well as its ideas can
results. m dividing off part of the class so that i. weaker be treated as a serious alternative to all the forms of
and cannot struggle as effectively, then the group loses capitalist leaderShip. There is no group which itself can
its vitality and goes Out of existanceo And then what have serve as the link between the most conscious leaders of
you accomplished? While class struggle cannot th.. working class so that struggles can be joined up
guarantee advancing mass consciousness, it is the across trade union lines. Instead there are probably a
necessary precondition for it. dozen self·proclaimed miniature caricatures of a

revolutionary party. Most function as though the others
among real forces in the labor movement about a labor
are greater enemies than the capitalist class. But we can pany.
try to learn from our mistakes and move on. MteT years These working class militants will not develop into_,
of various approaches sections of the left are rejecting self-conscious revolutionaries overnight. But the process
sectarianism. can begin with these militants beginning to link up with
We believe that there is sufficient agreement on the one another in more organized forms including some
important questions for a larger. united revolutionary forms of joint work, conferences. and possibly some form ~
organization that can present itself as a more serious of periodical. A national newspaper where worker
force in the working class. We think that this is activists could share experiences and analyses could"
necessary not just because it would be nice to be in an provide the means by which participants of disparate
organization with more people. but because effective struggles could recognize each other as an emerging
work in the class struggle requires the most strength we force in politics. This will not work as a front group for a,
can muster. (This view is laid out more fully in Changes particular sect or even something controlled by a broader
magazine June 1979). left formation. What is needed is something which both
truly belongs to these class leaders and develops with
But unity on the left is only part of the road to a them. As the working class continues to struggle against
revolutionary party. The left today is still largely middle the employers' offensive it is likely that these class
class. With some important exceptions it is still on the militants in dialogue with today's socialists will down the
fringes of the class struggle. No revolutionary party will road become the leaders of a real revolutionary socialist
be real unless its core is working class leaders trained in party,
actual struggle. While no large number of working class I Right now we are still almost at the beginning. Thus
leaders have yet joined socialist organizations. there has far the employers' offensive has produced rank and file
begun to emerge a working class leadership who see struggles in the whole range of industries from steel and
beyond their own trade union issues and who have come auto to chemical and clerical. But we are still fighting on
to identify with the struggles in other unions and in capitalist terrain. There is no guarantee that there wi1l
society as a whole. not be setbacks and more defeats. But there is no easy
They are a developing class leadership. They were in way to hasten events or sidestep the process of building a
evidence in the strong solidarity activities for the miners' real working class movement and a real socialist party.
strike. They understood that the Teamster contract was There is no choice except to keep working because the
also a battle for all workers. They understand that alternative is barbarism.
nuclear and oil energy policy is something that they
haves to address as workers, They are beginning to talk
about how labor can effectively intervene in politics. For Mike Patrick is a trade union activist and a member of
the first time in years. discussions are taking place Ihe Intemational Socialists.

TDU Picket Line Outside The 18T Convention In Las Vagas In 1976.


Building The Party:

An Assessment of
the Trotskyist Experience
The revolutionary movement today has inherited a rich but has also prohibited all discussion of what had oc·
tradition that was kept alive by the Trotskyist movement in cUlTed. And this shameful interdiction was not violated
the 1930's. It is an invaluable legacy. Like all legacies it is nor overthrown. No national congresses; no interna-
not to be worshipped, but critically applied to the world as tional congress: no diSCUSSions at party--meetings; no
it exists today. discussion in the press! An organization which was not
roused by the thunder of fascism and which submits
In 1933 the Trotskyist movement launched a campaign docilely to such outrageous acts of the bureaucracy
to build a new, Fourth International. While it ended in demonstrates thereby that it is dead and that nothing
failure, their experiences are rich in lessons for those who can ever.-revive it . ..
are taking up, today, the tasks of organizing mass revolu·
tionary parties. Writings of Leon Trotsky, 1932-33, p. 305. Hereafter
Writings will be referred to only by date. (Emphasis ad-
The following article argues that much of the experience ded).
of the Trotskyist movement has been miSinterpreted by its
own historians who fail to recognize that Trotsky was aim· In 1928, Trotsky had been expelled from the Com-
ing at two goals: not only preserving the movement's munist Party in Russia for opposing the growing internal
cadres and political principles, but also bUilding parties bureaucratization and opportunist foreign policies of
which could actually take a lead in working class struggles. Stalin. An international campaign of vilification and even
The article also argues that part of the reason why this terror was launched against him and his supporters. Any
party·building goal failed, is that the conception that such a who spoke out in his defence were expelled.
party could be built /rom scratch starting with a ''fuji inter· Trotsky had organized his followers into the Interna-
national program" was wrong and could only contribute to tional Left Opposition (lLO). There was no thought at this
failure. time of organizing new parties. For five years they had
considered themselves a faction of the Third International,
though they had be~n expelled. They would fight for read-

U nlike the Third International (also called the Com-

munist International or Comintern) which had
been born as a result of the victorious Russian Revolution,
mission and struggle to change~ the policy of the Com-
They had still believed that the Communist Parties were
the movement for a Fourth International was born out of revolutionary, no matter how bad the leadership, and that
the greatest defeat yet suffered by the working class. It was the bulk of revolutionary workers were members of those
symbolic of the whole period. parties. Toward the thousands of revolutionary workers in
In January 1933 Hitler came to power in Germany and those parties, they had aimed their propaganda and their
proceeded to destroy the most powerful labor movement hopes that the workers would rise up against their leaders
in Europe. He did so without a serious fight from the Ger- and reform the Communist [nternationai. But the
man Communist Party (which, acting on Comintern in- castastrophe of 1933 changed their perspectives.
~ctions, had refused to build a united front of all
workers' organizations against fascism).
Such a disastrous defeat should have forced a re-
evaluation of policy upon the Third International. Yet in
April the leadership of the Comintern met and declared
T he International Left Opposition renamed itself the
International Communist League (lCL). No longer
considering themselves a faction of the Comintern, they
that the poliCies of the German CP had heen entirely cor- were now the embryos of new, revolutionary parties. In-
rect! The lesson for Trotsky was clear: itially these emOryo, were qutte small, contrasting starkly
"The Moscow leadership has not only proclaimed as with the tremendous tasks that faced them. They would be
infallible the policy which guaranteed victory to Hitler:, further weakened by defections.

One of the largest sections of the ICL, the Greek their bankruptcy. Trotsky's perspective for the Fourth In-
Archeo-Marxist group, claimed 2000 members and was in ternational was fundamentally based upon the inability of
the process of splitting away to the right. The most impor- these parties to respond to the danger facing them. The
tant section was organized around Nin and Andrade, in troops for the Fourth International would come from the
Spain. They would soon leave to organize with Maurin the thousands of workers who were abandoning the Second
Workers Party of Marxist Unity (POUM), which accepted and Third Internationals, and a new gereration of young
the Comintem point of view that the Spanish revolution workers:
would be a bourgeois democratic one, not a proletarian "It must not be forgotten, on the other hand, that in
revolution. every country there are thousands of revolutionaries
For the rest, the French section was initially most impor- who have abandoned the official party (e?) or been
tant, yet it had only about 200 members and was riven with expeUed from it, who did not join us chiefly because tQ
cOl;npeting factions. One hundred and fifty four members them we were only a faction of that same party with
had been reported in the U.S. in 1931. Elsewhere there which they were disgusted. An even greater number
were slmilar small groupings or handfuls. of workers are breaking right now with reformism. and
This initial weakness of the movement was unavoidable seeking revolutionary leadership. Finally, amid the
given its origins: putrefaction of the Social Democracy and the wreck of
Stalinism, a young generation of workers that needs a
"The victory of fascism seizes tens of millions. stainless banner is rising." (1933·34, p.23).
Political prognoses are accessible only to thousands or
tens of thousands, who, moreover, feel the pressure
Throughout the thirties, as defeat followed defeat, Trot·
of millions. A revolutionary tendency cannot scorE
sky never wavered in his belief that these setbacks were
stormy victortes at a time when the proletariat as ~ only temporary. Given time the working class would leam
whole is suffering the greatest defeats. But this is no the lessons of its defeats, and when it did so a new revolu-
justification for letting one's hands hang. Precisely in tionary upsurge would inevitably ·resulr.:lfyesterd~.Ger­
the periods of revolutionary ebb tide are cadres form many was the key to the Situation, tomorrow it would be
ed and tempered which wiD later be caned upon to Spain, then France, and lastly, perhaps, the United States.
lead the masses in the new assault." (1932·33, p. At some time the tide of history would tum. The tasks of
306) revolutionaries was to be ready when it did.
With such meager forces at their disposal it was not a
matter of proclaiming the Fourih International. That was to TWO THEMES
come later. For now, the immediate task was to build a
movement for a new International. Could these small
groups build such a movement?
Trotsky argued against any fatalistic pessimism. The
future would depend not only upon the march of historic
T here were two themes in Trotsky's campaign to
recast the political orientation of the International
Communist League in order to enable it to fulfill its historic
tasks, and these themes remained fairly constant
events, but also on the role played by revolutionaries In the throughout the thirties.
unfolding of those events. "An organization that is armed First, the ICL must give up its narrow, sectarian orienta-
with a reliable compass, but has for a long period remained tion and methods of functioning and tum to the masses.
in an insignificant minority, can with the advance of a Secondly, while engaging in mass work it was necessary to
historic tum suddenly rise to a higher level." (1933-34, p. defend the programmatic purity of the movement, its un-
44). stained banner, without which success would be impossi-
Bleak as the present moment might appear to be, it was ble. These two themes were combined as complementary
bound to change as a result of the threat facing the work- aspects of a common perspective.
ing class. The turn to mass work would mean breaking with the
whole previous orientation. For five years the ILO had
THE THREAT OF FASCISM AND WAR functioned as a propaganda group trying to convince
members of the Communist Parties of their point of view.
"The position of world capitalism; the frightful crtsis Many had grown comfortable with this orientation, which
that plunged the working masses into unheard-of emphasized ideas, instead of action. The ILO was made
misery; the revolutionary movement of the oppressed up preponderantly of intellectuals without any mass base
colonial masses; the world danger of fascism; the or following in the working class. They had Virtually no
perspective of a new cycle of wars which threatens to presence in the trade unions.
destroy the whole human culture - these are the con· The new perspective would require mass agitational
ditions that imperatively demand the welding together work, penetrating and winning influence in the trade
of the proletarian vanguard into a new (Fourth) Inter- unions and other mass working class organizations. At
national." (1933·34, p. 51). times, it would even mean- entering centrist or reformist

organizations in order to gain a wider hearing for their pro-
oone, at the time, could be unaware of the dangers gram. To accomplish all this, it was imperative to "pul an
thai the international working class faced. There end to narrow propagandism." (1933·34, p. 24).
were, indeed, to be heroic battles. But if history has shown The initial program of the ICL had been adopted al a
that the crisis did not usher in a new era of world revolu- time when they were still trying to reform the Comintern. It
tion, it was certainly a realistic prospect at the time. included as basic points the following:
Nor could the parties of the Second (the social·
democratic Socialist Parties) and Third Internationals be
depended upon to change their policies and lead the 1. Independence of the Proletarian Party;
working class in battle. Time and again they had proven 2. Recognition of the international and thereby of

examples of those who split with Trotsky finally
the Permanent character of the Proletarian Revolu- capitulating to reformism, and not only individuals but en-
3. Recognition of the Soviet state as a workers state; o tire groups.
4. Condemnation of the [domestic] economic poncy The continuing series of defeats would take its toll in
of the Stalinist faction; political disorientation:
5. Recognition of the necessity of systematic com- "A revolutionary organization whose cadres have
munist work in proletarian mass organizations; not absorbed into their blood and bones the strategic
6. Rejection of the formula of the 'Democratic dic-
tatorship of the proletariat and peasantry' as a lessons of the last decade cannot possess, under pre-
separate regime distinguished from the dictatorship of sent conditions. the necessary force of resistance to
the proletariat; the decomposing tendencies; and in any case, it will
7. Recognition of the necessity of mobilizing the prove incapable of leading real masses." (1933-34, p.
masses under transitional slogans; 201)
8. Recognition of the necessity of a developed Any numerical success, without the necessary political
united front policy with respect to the mass organiza- program, would be short lived:
tions of the working class; "In the epoch of dissolution. ferment and confu-
9. Rejection of the theory of social fascism;
10. Recognition of the necessity of the creation of a sion. political half-heartedness may sometimes register
genuine Communist International (this version of great successes that are of the greatest surprise to itseH
pOint 10 adopted after the tum)' and blind it; but these successes are not trustworthy;
11. Recognition of party democracy not only in they disappear together with the political conjecture
words but also in fact." (1932-33, p. 53) that gave birth to them." (1933-34, p. 230)
Trotsky felt that the international discipline of the ICL
(Several of these points have importance because of the would be strong enough to overcome any problems of
current line of the CP's at that time, what has been called adaptation in the national sections. In the final analysis this
the "Third Period". This was a classic ultra-left line, em- meant that Trotsky became the international arbiter and
phasizing the immediacy of revolution, denouncing the guardian of the unstained banner. He would be dragged
Social Democratic parties as soda! fascist, and rejecting into every dispute, no matter how petty (which partly ex-
any joint work with them, even in defensive struggles plains the voluminous quantity of his writings during this
against fascism. This was the policy which had allowed period).
Hitler to take power. The Comintern also urgued for leav- In the hands of his followers these two themes were
ing the reformist unions. and setting up instead "Red" or sometimes turned around against Trotsky. More than once
revolutionary unions. In the U.S. this led to the attempt to he would complain that "some comrades, homesick for
organize independent unions around the Trade Union the mass organizations. exhibit a desire to gather frUits that
Untty League. This Une would be changed to that of the are still unripe. Others, anxious about the purity of the
"Popular Front" in 1935.)
principles of the Left Opposition. regard all attempts to ap-
In carrying out mass work it would be important to em- proach the larger mass organizations with distrust."
phasize points 5. 7 and 8. Several programs of action in-
(1932-33. p. 276)
volving partial, democratic and transitional demands were
developed by Trotsky for particular countries, culminating Throughout the thirties Trotsky would play upon these
in the Transitional Program in 1938. ·themes. depending on whether or not he felt the greatest
danger to the movement consisted in its isolation and sec-
tarianism, or rather in the reformist pressures of its mass

T rotsky emphasized that a smaD group would need a

reliable compass in order to successfully navigate
the long journey to SOCialist revolution. The program
work. First he would bend the stick one way, then the
other, which explains why some of his writings have a par-
ticularly one-sided character.
would, he believed. be that compass. Summing up the
lessons of the past 15 years, it represented the only revolu-
tionary policy that would lead to victory. Time and again
Trotsky would fight against any attempt to change the pro-
gram, or reduce it to a more minimal program, as a
I t Is easy today to questioll whether these two
themes are in fact compatible in a party-building
perspective. It is hard to see how a small group can create
capitulation to centrism or reformism. a mass party while maintaining its programmatic intran-
In France, Trotsky would attack the idea of organizing sigence. It appears to expect the mountain to come to
the revolutionary youth around a minimal program of Mohammed.
Marxist principles. "The formula [of a minimal program) is Trotsky justified his perspective by the entire historical
almost classic as the beginning of a downsliding on the op- character of the epoch; not only its revolutionary poten-
portunist incline." (1934-35, p. 90) tialities, but also its reactionary and dissolving tendencies
It is hard not to see a sectarian, all-or-nothing attitude in as well. It is on the basis of those historical conditions that
Trotsky's intransigence on the program. But Trotsky could one must evaluate Trotsky's attempts to build the Fourth
argue, with reason, that it was precisely upon these fun- International.
damentals of program that the success of the whole ven-
ture depended. The perspective of a new International TO THE MASSES I
made little sense otherwise.
He was also partly motivated by a fear of the political Any immediate prospects for building new parties
dissolution of the ICL as it turned to mass work. The depended upon various centrist organizations and cur-
pressure of the more conservative masses would create rents. (The term "Centrism" has a specific meaning for
strong centrifugal pressures on the small forces in the ICL. revolutionary Marxists. It has nothing to do with middle-of-
This was not an idle fear. There are,sadly, far too many the-road politicians in the center of the political spectrum

from right to left. Rather it refers to parties and groupings confirm everything Trotsky had written on Germany. Yet
whose politics represent a middle ground between social it also worked against the call for a new International. After
democratic reformism and revolutionary Marxism. • all, to many workers it seemed that would mean new
Typically, centrists talk revolution whUe practicing refor- splits, and more divisions, when what was necessary was
mism. While their heart may be in the right place, their unity.
courage is lacking. Faced wtih great tasks calling for With no immediate prospects for a new International,
decisive action they tend to vacillate between the poles of the main danger facing the ICL was its isolation, and
revolution and reform.) hence its inability to influence events or even numbers of
During the summer of 1933 an international conference workers.
was called by the Independent Labor Party of Great Bri- "In the unity of the ranks, the masses now see their
tain, a left centrist group which had recently left the Labor only means of salvation. Everyone who remains out-
Party. The purpose of the conference was to discuss how side the common ranks, everyone who criticizes from
to respond to the recent victory of Hitler in Germany. the Sidelines, the masses look upon as an
Fourteen parties and groups, including the ICL, par- -oOstacle ... With the rise of the movement, the task of
the Marxists consists in, supported by the wave, bring-
ticipated. The largest party by far was the left reformist ing the necessary clarity of thought and method."
Norwegian Labor Party (NAP). While it was a significant (1934-35, p. 42)
mass party, it was also the most conservative, and was Trotsky's solution was to propose a radical new
shortly to form a reformist government in Norway. turn-the actual entering of the reformist social democratic
The Trotskyists hoped to get enough other groups to , parties. Trotsky gave several reasons for this new strategy.
join them in a call for a new International to enable them to First, it was still necessary to overcome sectarian prac-
launch a serious international campaign. Only three other tices that members had developed in isolation (a serious
groups were wUling to do so. These were the German problem in France).
Socialist Workers' Party (SAP), an emigre group which Secondly, the Socialist Parties were developing strong
had recently left social democracy; and two Dutch groups, left wings and attracting thousands of revolutionary
the Independent Socialist Party and the Revolutionary workers, who thus were not being attracted to the ICL.
Socialist Party. A permanent commission was set up to Thirdly the ICL was too inSignificant to participate in the
continue the work of these four groups in promoting a new coming united front as an independent organization. To be
International. on the inside, it would have to be inside one of the larger
This initial success qUickly evaporated. While the four mass parties, and that meant the social democratic parties.
were to caU a conference of their own later that year, short- Fourthly, the CP's would not let them join, and in any
ly afterwards nothing was left. The SAP quickly moved to event would be losing members.
the right, breaking with the ICL in order to maintain its ties Lastly, he emphasized that the ICL was entering the
with the NAP and other reformist and centrist organiza- reformist organization, not to give up the fight for a new In-
tions. The two Dutch organizations meanwhile merged to ternational, but to be able more effectively to carry out that fight.
form the Revolutionary Socialist Workers Party. It too, There was tremendous opposition throughout the ICL
however, shortly split in support of the POUM against to this proposal, which did not auger well for its success.
Trotsky. Over a year of endless debates would take place before
A year later the ICL was back where it started. It was Trotsky would win a majority, and this led to the inevitable
time for a new turn. splits.
In France the turn became a farce, as the group split on
TO THE MASSES Il- THE FRENCH TURN the way in, while they were in, and when they came out,
only to reunite and then split again, all of this drearily
The construction of a new international seemed as dis- recorded in "The Crisis of the French Section". Yet in spite
tant as ever. Indeed. even historic events were working of this they met with some initial success. By the summer
against them now. In February of 1934 Austrian clerical of 1935 they had 300 members and were receiving as
reactionaries smashed the Austrian Social Democratic Par- much as 20% of the vote in the Paris sections of the SFlO
ty and set up a dictatorship wtih fascist trappings. Unlike (French Socialist Party) and the bloc in the youth group
Germany, the Austrian social democrats fought· back, be- had about a third of the delegates.
ing defeated after bitter resistance. As a result parliamen- It must have come as quite a surprise that at preCisely
tarism suffered a blow, and there was a shift to the left in this moment Trotsky was arguing for leaving the SFlO.
other social democratic parties. Less surprising was the fact that the SFlO was taking steps
In France the fascists organized a riot during that same to expel or force out the Trotskyists. (Reformists, always so
February in an attempt to bring down the government. Its ardent in their support of "democracy", are quick to deny
near success resulted in a general strike in Paris. Changing democratic privileges to their left wing).
directions, the Communist Party even took part, marching In "A New Tum is Necessary" Trotsky argued that the
shoulder to shoulder with the social democratic workers French section, "thanks to the entry, has changed from a
they had only yesterday denounced as social fascist. By propaganda group into a revolutionary factor of the first
June the Comintern had dropped its line of the "Third order." (1934-35, p. 315)
Period", in favor of building People's Fronts of all anti- Nothing could have been further from the truth. By
fascist forces. April 1936, after splits and reunifications, the French sec-
tion still reported only 615 members. They were never to

T he desire for unity in the fight against fascism now

gripped the working class. Indeed, it appeared to
be a serious factor in French political life. If so little had
changed in the strength of the ICL, why argue for an in-

-l-/l.-: ,
For Trotsky, the SP was a "miserable centrist political
T rotsky'sreasons were partly based upon the new in-
ternational situation, and partly by contradicting his
· motivation for entering.
abortion" and it was a dangerous illusion to talk of con-
quering it. Such a policy of passive adaptation "threatens,
on the contrary, the loss of members of your own faction."
The rightward drift of the Comintern , Trotsky felt, was (1936-37, p. 307)
the prelude to the outbreak of a new world war. The threat He called for denouncing the leaders of the SP as
of war made it imperative for the ICL to carry out pro- "traitors and rascals", .as "agents of the Stalinist-reformist
· paganda for a new international. Since the SFIO was try- hangmen of the Russian revolution as well as the Spanish
ing to mllZ2le the Trotskyists, this meant leaving and set- revolution." (1936-37, p. 335) Furthermore, only by such
. ting up an independent organization. an attack "can we prevent hesitations among our sym-
He also now argued that the workers were, in fact, not pathizers and the best elements of the Clarity faction." (p.
in the SFIO . To carry their message to those workers they 335) (The Clarity faction was a caucus which won a ma-
· would have to leave. jority at the 1937 convention and was pledged to oppose
Lastly, there was the danger of the political adaptation any expulsions. Under pressure from the right, it eventual-
of some elements of the French section to centrists they ly did expel the left in September.)
were working with, primarily the grouping around Marcel Trotsky also defended his recommendation for a split on
Pivert. (This primarily concerned negotiations with Pivert the basis of the international situation, which, as previously
on condtlions for the Trotskyists remaining in the SFIO). in France, necessitated an independent organization.
Upon leaving, however, wouldn't the masses of workers Primarily his analysis concerned the CP. The defeat in
once again view them as an "obstacle", as mere outside Spain, the failure of the Popular Front government in
critics? Trotsky admitted that this might initially be the France, and the repression (massive purges and show
case, but he felt that the unfolding of the crisis would soon trials) in Russia would combine to cause a crisis in the CP.
justify them in the eyes of the advanced workers. In any "This party cannot possibly be left intact by the above-
event, given that the SFIO was intent on silenCing them at mentioned political factors . Crises and splits are inevitable.
a minimum, any attempt to stay in would probably have It is possible that by fall we can prepare an amalgamation
meant capitulating on their ability to raise and fight for their of a part of the CP with our own independent organiza-
program. tion." (1936-37, p. 335)
. This entire process was then repeated one year later in Here Trotsky's internationalism got the better of him.
the U.S. With the departure of their right wing, the Certainly international questions must be considered when
Socialist Party appeared to be moving left. Again Trotsky developing a national policy, but they are hardly sufficient.
argued that thousands of revolutionary workers were join- As Craipeau noted: "For a rank and file worker the discus-
ing the party. (He mistakenly believed that the SP had sion on the hlnglo-Soviet Committee or the Kuomintang
reached a membership of 25,000. It was probably less appeared completely abstract. Their preoccupations were
than half that figure. No matter, it did not approach the elsewhere." • (Cited in Hallas, International Socialism 53,
130,000 in the SFlO.) p.32).
Eventually, in fact two years later, with the Hitler-Stalin
pact in 1939 there was indeed a crisis in the CP, and
U nlike France, however, the American Trotskyists
were meeting with some success. In 1934 they had
led the tremendous struggle of the Minneapolis Teamsters
thousands left in disgust. But this brought no benefit to the
Trotskyists. Throughout the thirties it was to remain the
case that workers, disgusted with the betrayals of the Se-
which resulted in victory. They had also successfully car- cond and Third Internationals, lacked the energy to try
ried out a merger with another small socialist organization once again, and simply gave up.
led by A.J. Muste, to form the American Workers Party.
With the mass industrial workers' movement for the CIO
just beginning, prospects for the Trotskyists were certainly
I t must be remembered that all these tactics had two
basic goals, not just one. James P. Cannon, a main
This very success, combined with the weakness of the leader of the American Trotskyists during the thirties, em-
phasized only the first conSideration, the need to preserve
American SP relative to its European counterparts, caused
the cadre, in his history of that period. (History of
considerable oppOSition to carrying out entry in the U.S. American Trotskyism, p. 249). But to do so is to recognize
Once again, after a year of debate and the inevitable split, the relative failure of the entry into the SP. As an attempt
the majority of Trotskyists did finally enter the SP in 1936.
They would be expelled in September 1937, after hav- to achieve the second goal, that is to change the balance of
forces. to change from a propaganda group into at least a
ing gained a few hundred members. This was not soon
enough for Trotsky, who had been urging a split since small party. no serious headway was made.
May. His reasons were similar to those in France.
In fact, Cannon was forced to admit in 1940 that the
He was again worried about the political adaptation of whole experience of two years of factional struggle had
his followers to the milieu of the SP. In "A 'Critical' Adap- caused them to "let the great movement of the CIO pass
tation to Centrism" he attacked the line of the American over our heads." • (Struggle for a Proletarian Party. p. 59).
comrades as "opportunistic". These comrades believed Justifying the split from the SP solely on the need to
-the SP was closer to the politics of revolutionary socialism preserve the cadre was contrary to Trotsky's own inten-
than any other party in the Second or Third International tions. In fact, in a letter to Cannon in October 1937 he
(certainly. an exaggeration) and that consequently it was criticized the pessimism of some members. and insisted
possible for the Trotskyists and others on the left to gain a that the "development of the Fourth International will be
connected in the next period with a new crisis and the in-

evitable disintegration of People's Fro"t policies and the jected to extraordinary pressures by the class enemy and
Third International." (1936-37, p. 488) .. b\!.powerful centrifugal forces. These pressures could very
well destroy an organization as weak as our own."
TO THE MASSES 111- • (History of the A, in Intercontinental Press).
THE FOURTH INTERNATIONAL? Like Cannon before, such an approach reinterprets the
entire experience of the thirties in terms of defending the
By 1937 pessimism was understandable. After almost cadre, rather than buUding mass parties. It is to focus on
five years of activity the movemllnt for a Fourth Interna- only one side of Trotsky's writings, misrepresenting his
tional did not have much progress to report.. Nowhere was fundamental perspective.
it even on the verge of emerging as a real party able to in- "Reactionary epochs like ours," he wrote in 1937,
fluence events. WhUe in the U.S. there had been some "not only disintegrate and weaken the working class
pr-ogress, elsewhere there was only stagnation or collapse. and its vanguard but also lower the general ideolOgical
Conditions got grimmer as the Stalinists unleashed an level 01 the movement and throw political thinking
international campaign of terror against the Trotskyi~, back to stages long since passed through. In these con-
and against any internal opposition in RU$Sia. Numerous ditions, the task of the vanguard is above all not to let
itself be carried along by the backward flow: it must
leaders of the Fourth International were assassinated, in- swim against the current. If an unfavorable relation of
cluding Trotsky's son, Leon Sedov, and eventually Trot- forces prevents it from holding the positions that it has
sky himself in 1940. won. it must at least retain its ideological poSitions,
Furthermore, the increasingly right wing policy of the because in them is expressed the dearly purchased ex-
Comintem did not lead to its disintegration, but rather to perience 01 the past. Fools wUI consider this policy
tremendous growth. In France the CP grew from 34,000 'sectarian', Actually it is the only means of preparing
in 1934 to 150,000 in 1936, with another 100,000 in the fOT a new tremendous surge forward with the coming
youth. In Spain it grew from 1000 in 1934 to 117,000 by historical ude." 11936-37. p. 416. Emphasis added)
July 1937. In the U.S. the CP would also reach 100,000 With the coming historical tide! To the end, Trotsky
during the late thirties. never wavered in his belief that in spite of all defeats. in
In fact, the entire workers' movement had shifted to the spite 01 Stalinist and social democratic betrayals, the com-
right as defeat followed defeat. Trotsky was well aware of ing imperialist war would once again force the working
this: class onto the road of revolution. Once on that road it
"We are not progressing politically. Yes, it is a fact would need leaders armed with a program of socialist
which is an expression of a gener~ decay of the revolution. For that, they would tum to the unstained ban-
workers' movements in the last fifteen years. It is the ner of the Fourth International.
more general cause. When the revolutionary move·
ment in general is declining. when one- defeat fQllows
another. when Fascism is spreading over the world.
when the official 'Marxism' is the most powerful
organization of deception of the workers, and so on, it
is an inevitable situation that the revolutionary
T his perspective was summed up in the rising tones
of the transitional program adopted at the 1938
convention, and called "The Death Agony of Capitalism
and the Tasks of the Fourth International."
elements must work against the general historic cur-
The "objective prerequisites for the proletarian
rent." (1938·39, p. 63) revolution have not only 'ripened'; they have begun to
get somewhat rotten ... The historical crisis of mankind

I n this time of demoralization and defeat, Trotsky

declared that it was time to proclail1) the Foutth In-
ternational. Only a year before he denounced such an idea
is reduced to the crisis of the revolutionary
leadership ... The laws of history are stronger than the
bureauaatic apparatus. No matter how the methods
of the social betrayers differ (i.e. the reformists and
as idiotic. Had he now gone mad? Stalinists] ... they will never succeed in breaking the
It must have appeared that way to some of his followers. revolutionary will of the proletariat. .. The strategic task
At the founding conference of the Fourth International in of the next period-a prerevolutionary period of agita-
September 1938, only 11 countries were represented. tion, propaganda, and organization-consists in over-
Only the Americans had any strength at aU, claiming an in- coming the contradiction between the maturity of the
objective revolutionary conditions and the immaturity
flated 2500 members. For the rest only tiny groups ex-
of the proletariat and its vanguard ... The advanced
isted. Some delegates represented only themselves. (The workers, united in the Fourth International, show their
delegate from the USSR, where the Trotskyists had been dass the way out.of the crisis ... They offer a spotless
physically exterminated, was 'Etienne' a Stalinist police benner." • (Founding Documents of the FI pp 181-2.
agent.) 218).
Pierre Frank, a leader of the French Trotskyists, has
written more recently that the formation of the Fourth In- Duncan Hallas aptly summed up the foundation of the
ternational was necessary to defend the political integrity Fourth International as a desperate gamble, required by
of tha movement. "For him [Trotsky] the most important the desperate conditions facing the working class. If the
consideration was not the numerical size of our forces, nor odds for success were not great, no one was offering better
the readiness of a more or less large sector of the workers ones. If it began without the necessary forces, it was
to understand our decision; but above and beyond aU, it organized in expectation of the development of those
was a question of political perspective and political con- forces in the future.
tinuity. Trotsky was acutely aware that the workers move-
ment in general, and our movement in particular, was THE BALANCE SHEET
about to enter an extremely difficult period-the im-
perialist war-in the course of which we would be sub- All Trotsky's attempts to buUd new revolutionary parties

during the thirties ended in failure. They had to, for his It would be hard to find one mass party which has
analysis of key factors in the nature of the period were pro- developed from such Q perspective. Mass parties are not
ven faulty. built through recruitment of individuals to the full program,
The Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia and the Communist but through the identification of the party with certain
. Parties throughout the world were not destroyed by the issues that are of decisive importance to the masses.
war, but emerged stronger than ever. The continuing Today a new crisis grips capitalism. Once again we are
defeats of the working class, culminating in the slaughter of faced with the tasks of organizing mass revolutionary par-
World War II, finally did break the revolutionary will of the ties. As important as the party's program is the authority of
"working class. This defeat, of world historical proportions, the individuals who carry it, and that authOrity can only be
paved the way for a restoration of capitalist prosperity developed over years of participation in the ongoing strug-
~ollowing the war and put an end to revolutionary oppor- gles of the working class.
tunities in the major capitalist countries for an entire Exactly what the crucial issues are, what the character of
generation. the program must be, depends on the specific historic con-
The thirties was, indeed, a "reactionary epoch". The juncture and the immediate tasks facing revolutionaries.
historical tide never did come in. The Fourth International The key test of revolutionary leadership is the ability to cor-
was still-born. rectly grasp these issues, and to determine what the next
In the final analysis one of Trotsky's main successes, and steps are, not the ability to repeatformulas learned by rote.
a remarkable one at that, was keeping alive the revolu-
tionary tradition, the fundamental intellectual capital of the
working class movement. But the fact that this was a suc-
cessful defense of the cadre does not justify interpreting his
policies as solely aimed at that accomplishment.
Throughout the period, the two themes remained as
complementary aspects of a common party-budding
perspective. That perspective made sense if one accepted
Trotsky's entire analysis of the period.
It was only later that leaders of the Fourth International,
unwilling to accept its failure, would be forced to defend its
party building perspectives as correct for any time and
period. Desperate measures would be reinterpreted as the
highest revolutionary wisdom.
Cannon would write in his history: "r think one of
the most important lessons that the Fourth Interna-
tional has taught us is that in the modern epoch you
cannot build a revolutionary political party solely on a
national basis. You must begin with an international
program, and on that basis you build national sections
of an international movement ... You organize people,
no matter how few there may be in each country, on
the basis of the international program; you gradually
build up your national sections." " (,History', p.42)
Or more schematically: "We worked out our program,
formed our cadre, did our preliminary propagandistic
work first. Then, when opportunities arose for activity in
the labor movement, we were ready to put our activity to
some purpose." (p. 104). Subscribe!
History has announced its verdict on such a
perspective-it is bankrupt. It is a perspective, not
for building mass parties, but only for organizing numerous
small insignificant sects.
Today, the Fourth International continues, still more fic- Name .................... .
tion than fact. Its survival signifies, not the triumph of Trot- Street. , .................. .
skyism, but its degeneration. It has turned the program in- State ............. Zip ..... .
to a dogma, to be defended like holy writ. It also defends .... Regular subscription
the independent existence of the Fourth International with
a,sectarian intranSigence that has prevented it from in- $10.00
fluencing any of the real revolutionary movements that ..... Supporting subscription
have developed, but does not prevent it from sharp inter- $25.00
nal disputes and divergent political lines on almost every
important issue.
Fundamentally, the mistake is one of believing that the
nucleus or embryo of the revolutionary party already ex-
ists, organized around the full international program, and
that the task is Simply one of recruiting more numbers.
from CHANGES, June 197 however, refused any dialogue with the chance of bearing fruit in a more
IS majority, and later unilaterally decided favorable clime.
I.S. statement to split and form their own group. For the IS the crisis of the left is not
The organizational and political something we could ignore if we wanted
on minority's changes proposed for the IS by its EC to. As revolutionary Marxists our fate
were in large part directed precisely at depends on the dynamism of a self-active
resignation allowing more flexibility of action and a and self-emancipating working class
more open public debate. At the heart of _ movement. We are not immune to the
these proposals for a more decentralized . ·process around~ us:The left. and we, have
structure is the prespective toward been unable to expand and become a vital
revolutionary regroupment. (Our views factor in working class political life.
A political minority within the Interna- on the politics of regroupment and the We have had to draw a balance sheet of
tional Socialists has unilaterally an- problems of the revolutionary left are the last decade. of our efforts and those of
nounced its intention to leave the IS as a spelled out in a feature article by Mark the rest of the left. Despite pride in what
group. This minority. formerly known as Levitan in this issue of CHANGES). we have achieved and our exemplary
the Political Solutions Caucus and the The minority's unilateral action and its work in the labor movement. we
Rank and File Caucus, has been stated position on our regroupment recognize that those efforts alone are
organized for over a year around a proposal have made it clear that this split much too weak to create a revolutionary
critique of some of the trade union work is not over labor policy, per seA Nor is it workers' party. Ind.eed the whole left is
of the IS. These differences were over their right to publicly state their too weak-in numbers as well as
intensely debated at the IS convention views-that right was clearly spelled out ideas-to create a serious revolutionary
last November, as well as at the previous by the EC's proposals. Rather, their pole within the labor movement. It is
convention two years ago. The minority decision to split is over the question of further debilitated by unrealistic perspec-
is not claiming that any new differences revolutionary broad regroupment. The tives. by fantasies that the American
on these questions have arisen. minority has opted for the direction of the working class can be the tail to its kite if
These political differences between the smaller, "purer" sect, the same direction only the right program. method, tactic
minority and majority are real. They have which has failed for the American Left in and leadership were adopted. The left
been the subject of discussion, and this decade. They reject extended and we face a fork in the road-either a
unfonunately rumors, between conven- cooperation and eventual merger with new approach to building a revolutionary
tions. They concern primarily differences other forces on the left, in the belief that workers' party. or increasing left irrele·
over the importance of elections in the only their nuance on socialist politics is vance and further disintegration.
process of building a rank. and file reform genuinely revolutionary. Everyone else is For a start. the lesson of the
movement. and the degree and circum- seen as drifting to the right, tOO loose revolutionary experience of the 70' s has
stances under which rank. and file forces organizationally, politically soft. This is a to be assimilated_ The attempt of every
should cooperate with reform-minded or caricature of Leninism and of Marxist political tendency and nuance to organize
progressive union officials. We would be perspective. but one that is all to common itself as if it were the embryo of the
the last to deny that in practice such on the left today. To their own detriment. revolutionary party has to be rejected.
differences can be very ·important. as well as ours, the minority's split from The original goal, the creation of a party,
Nevertheless. on the scale of political the IS simply continues the current has been lost-replaced by a.vertible host
ideas and perspectives on the American process of disintegration being ex- of competing sects pretenq.lng that they
left. it is perfectly clear that these perienced by most of the revolutionary are the party-in-ovo. They are long on
differences are containable within one left. program and organizational structures-
socialist organization. There is no concei- Throughout the left there is a sense of something the left of the 60' s was totally
vable political justification for a split over crisis, of questioning and rethinking. The ignorant of to its peril- but antithetically
these existing differences. post-Vietnam period has marked a short on movement and potential. To
Furthermore. the minority's decision to political shift to the right. notwithstand· those workers and activists from social
split was taken after the Executive ing the return of capitalist crisis. With it . movements actually being radicalized-
Committee (Ee) of the IS had already has come isolation for the left and an and they are the harbingers of the next
circulated a proposal to loosen the internal crisis for many of its cadres. wave of radicalization-there is a new
structure of the organization, which Some have abandoned revolutionary obstacle to be hurdled; the plethora of
would allow the minority greater freedom politics. Others have been attracted to a mini-sects instead of a movement; the
of activity around its own views. Further, resurgent refonnism-to the growth of a almost insurmountable complexity of
upon hearing that leaders of the minority social democratic fringe within the competing groups to wade through before
were discussing a split, the EC proposed margins of the Democratic Party or in revolutionary activism can be organized.
further modifications. At a meeting of local reform organizing projects. A few The existence of revolutionary sects no
minority leaders a representative of the have chosen the classic denial of longer prevent the decline of the left,
EC argued that this was not the time for reality-the retreat to pure propagandis- but are its symptom. Nor are they any
splitting. but for broadening and re- tic criticism that is so prevalent and barrier to the revival of social democracy.
groupment on the revolutionary left. It is recurring in periods of left isolation in Sectarianism and sect life die hard. But
clear to us that the different views America. This is accompanied by a we believe they have run their course in
existing in the IS, and others as well, growing political inflexibility, organiza- the present period. and are wiping out
would necessarily exist within any tional rigidity and sectarian self-isolation. whatever progressive content they once
foreseeable viable socialist organization. As is so common, social democratic had in keeping alive the cadres of the
We pointed out that the minority, which opportunism and sectarianism in this movements of the 60' s.
has at most forty members, could not case are two sides of the same coin. the Until about a year ago, the IS held the
possibly exist as an effective organiza- inability in a difficult period to develop a perspective, like many other groups. that
tion. The leaders of the minority. revolutionary perspective that has a it would be the embryo of the future

workers' party-even though it was a We realize that some activists on the
small embryo indeed. We expected a left will be inclined to view the current
'more rapid intensification of the class split as just one more example of the
strUggle_ in the 70's, and based our problems of the IS-and for some,
perspectives on that expectation. We perhaps. another reason to reject Lenin o

recognize that both the expectations and ism. But the question for the left today is
-the high level of centralist norms of not whether tightly organized. small
organization based on them, cannot be revolutionary groups lead to splits
maintained. under all circumstances. regardless of
For us the fork in the road leads to a time or place. The question is how the left
new direction. to the building of a new in America today can reorganize to go
,left. of a strong, united. revolutionary forward. The truth is that in their
regroupment. We are committed to dedication to define themselves by what
uniting those sections of the left who is different ramer than by what they have
stand for the working class, revolution, in common with the rest of the left. and to.
democracy and all the struggles of the maintain (or attempt to maintain) tight
oppressed. We recognize that a broad. nonns of organization. the IS minority
revolutionary organization will not have takes with them precisely those elements
the organizational norms of a Leninist of the failures of the revolutionary left in
group. nor the ideological clarity that the 1970's, and of our own past. which we
produces those nonns at least for the now reject.
start. But a Leninist party will not In the movement for regroupment that
develop from the existing sects. It can we believe can unfold in the coming
come only from a regrouped, strengthen- period we win argue that the potential for
ed revolutionary left able to grow through building . working class socialism in
successful interactions with a new. America lies in the rank and file and
working class movement. We are con- union reform movements slowly develop-
vinced that it can develop OUt of uniting ing in the Jabor movement. The left win
those elements on the left who champ-ion succeed or fail in building a revolutionary
the rank and file of the Jabor movement, workers' party in America depending on
whose goal is clearly the revolutionary whether it provides a vehicle for these I

reconstruction of society and the rule of movements and their leading activists to j

me workers. We are for a united become stronger and politically con-

revolutionary left. able to counter the seious. There is no future in retreats to
claims of social democracy and stalinism, sectarianism and isolationist purity.
with their elitism and bureaucratic &ec:utive Committee
politics from above~ with the approach of
a working class socialist revolution from
below. Such a broad revolutionary
organization would have to have an open.
experimental attitude as it develops its
organizational forms.

We have for OUf part already started to

act on this perspective politically and
organizationally. Politically we have
initiated discussions with other organiza·
tions and individuals on the left to start a
debate on the left for a revolutionary
regroupment. We enter this dialogue
with our own views. but with an openess
ro the apporach of others. Organizational·
Iy we are modifying the nonns of the IS to
make them more amenable to take part in
a regrouped left. And we are altering
Changes. to make it a magazine which
champions regrouping and is open to
other views and dialogue on revolutionary
, regroupment as one contribution to unity.
This direction was established before
we had any knowledge of the minority's
intentions to split. Thus. this split is
- unfortunate in both fact and timing. We
cannot imagine on what political basis the
minority would abst~ from a broader
regroupment should that become possi.
ble in the foreseeable future.

Manning Marable: "For beH_r
or wor••, only J •••• Jackson
has seized the opportunity to
lead the ne"t stage of the ci"il
right. mov.ment to the very
center of national politics. Can Three Socialists Look At
the left afford to stand outside
of this mass movement?"
Ells. . Cla,ke: "The idea that
The Left in the 80s:
you can win a bigger audience "Prospects for Left Unity: 1984 and Forward" was
tor socialist politics by the title of a forum sponsored by the Detroit Left Uni-
attaching yourself to the
Democratic Party is an illusion. ty Committee on January 21. Over 200 people came
What heppens, Instead, is that out in what was officially Detroit's coldest day of the
the left lose. its voice." 20th century to hear a lively and wide-ranging ex-
John Trinkl: "Ideological strug· The three speakers. Manning Marable. Elissa
gle is still important, but to fake
it as an end in it.elf is a fecipe Clarke. and John Trinkl. gave Changes permission to
tor building a sect. Re"olu· print the texts of their presentations. We are grateful
tionary organization has to be for this opportunity to present the talks to a Wider au-
built in practice, not by selt· dience.
declared vanguard/sm." The forum was the fifth. and largest. meeting so

BY Manning Marable care and jobs_

The point here is obvious. although constantly
overlooked; the political "center" of the Black movement
is essentially an American version of -social democracy.
Whenever the Black movement is actively challenging the
state, other nonminority social protest movements
-from feminists to disarmament activists, lesbians and
gays to organized labor militants-are also pushed for-
ward_ The entire boundaries of American politics have
been pushed to the left since 1954 by the struggle for
desegregation and Black equality.
Even a Black "moderate" like Wilson Goode is further
left than 90% of any potential white candidates. Of
course. distinctions must be made here. In the British
political context. Ron Dellums would be a Tony Benn.
while Andrew Young would be a Roy Jenkins.
It remains true that the civil rights movement is not as
organized as it could or should be. despite the recent
stride forward in the August 27th march. But all things
considered. the bulk of the Black community is much fur-
ther to the left on the decisive issues (e.g .. nuclear arms
proliferation and war spending vs. human needs spend-
ing) than the great majority of whites. in both the petty
bourgeoisie and in the proletariat. The progressive core
of any prospective Rainbow Coalition must of necessity
be the Black movement and political movements of oth;r
national minority groups.

I n understanding the relationship between the militant

reform currents of the Black movement and other
nonminority forces. I generally identify the latter as the
"democratic left." And by the democratic left. I mean all
of the broadly-based social protest movements and
reform movements which challenge_ the existing status
Manning Marable is a widely syndicated columnist and Direc- quo and in doing so help prepare the ideological terrain
tor of Africana and Hispanic Studies at Colgate University. necessary for a socialist transformation at a later
He edits the journal "Third World Socialists" and is a Na- historical conjuncture.
tional Vice-Chairperson of Democratic Socialists of America.
His most recent book is "Race, Reform and Rebellion: The These trends would obviously include the civil rights
Second Reconstruction in Black America, 1945-1982." continued on page 10

(Of the three presentations included here, only Elissa Clarke1s re-
flects~ an lS perspective. Including all three helps to set thE!'
context of the discussion and also to indicate the political problems
the IS encountered in our early 1980s regroupment ~ampaign -- ed.)
Its Lessons, Its Visions, and Its Future
far sponsored by the Detroit Left Unity Committee. immediate prospects for political agreement, let
Th·e Committee includes activists from diverse alone common organization-could take place among
organizations and perspectives within the DetrOit left. activists from quite different political traditions, The
Gloria House, a community activist, chaired the fact that such a discussion can take place reflects a
forum. process pointed out by one of the speakers, John
There is no need to elaborate on the differences in Trinkl-a willingness of socialists to seriously ques-
political position and viewpoint expressed by the tion and reassess aspects of their own political tradi-
speakers. These wm be immediately evident, and the tions, and to take into account the positions and in-
views of this journal on the issues in debate are sights of others without abandoning their principles.
known to most of our readers. As was to be expected, the meeting raised more
More important to observe, perhaps, is the fact questions than answers_ Comments from our readers
that a serious exchange of views-even without are most welcome.

BY Elissa Clarke BY John Trinkl

LIKE HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of others, I LEFT UNITY IS a very broad topic. What! want to do
became political during the Vietnam war, more here is to talk not primarily about what principles of uni-
specifically when Nixon invaded Cambodia and the Na- ty there might be among particular Marxist organiza-
tional Guard killed students at Jackson State and Kent tions-I might touch on that a little-but rather to speak
State. to the concerns of individuals who aren't members of
Our enthusiasm was very high in those days. Where I Marxist organizations, and to look back on the problems
went to school, we used to ride all night to Washington in of people who have tried to build organizations in the re-
the back of a U-Haul truck, get beaten up and tear..gassed cent past. I'd like to make some general remarks, throw
by cops (of course, we didn't call them cops), and then out some thoughts, rather than to present a complete
tum around and come home. We had high expectations strategy.
of what we could accomplish. And we did end the war Wove been at this business a long time-about 140
... and we also drove a president crazy, no small ac- years. The first scientific statement of socialism, the
complishment either. Communist Manifesto, was published in 1848; and there
Like many thousands of others, I became a revolu- has been a great deal of historical experience accumulated
tionary socialist. I didn't know much about socialism, by the world socialist movement since that time.
but I knew that fundamental change was needed. I drop- Activists in the V.S. left often tend to look back at the
ped out of school and joined the 1.5., the International last five or ten years of the Marxist movement and throw
Socialists. Again, we had high expectations. There were up their hands in despair, and go all over the board. Mass
massive social movements-the Black power movement, movements have ebbed, organizations have collapsed
the women's movement the anti-war movement, and we
and Marxism doesn't seem to provide all the answers. But
thought we saw the beginning of a working class upsurge this isn't the first "crisis of Marxism." There has never like France in May '68, the Hot Autumn in Italy been a golden age when the international proletariat
in 1969, and in the V.S., the formation of Dodge Revolu- marched arm in arm to triumph after triumph, without
tionary Union Movement in '68, national wildcats in the any problems. There have always been serious setbacks
Teamsters and post office, the formation of Teamsters and reversals, as well as advances,
United Rank and File in '71, and the Miners for The collapse of the First international was followed by
Democracy victory in 1973. the organization of mass socialist parties in many Euro-
That summer, in Detroit, we thought we were witness- pean countries. The breakup of the Second International
ing a rank and file explosion when two Black production was followed by the victory of the October Revolution in
workers shut down the Jefferson plant by locking them- Russia. Fascism triumphed in several countries, but later
selves inside the power cage, and throwing the switch continued on page 17
that ran the main line. Then Chrysler's Detroit Forge
continued on page 14 John Trinkl is a staff writer for the Guardian, and a member
of the paper's political co-ordinating committee. He covers the
Elissa Clarke, a contributing editor of Changes, is a feminist left, the anti-nuclear movement and struggles in Central
writer and author of "Stopping Sexual Harassment: A Hand- America. He has been active in the anti-war movement in
book." She is a member of the Political Committee of the In- South Carolina and Chicago and was a co-founder of the
ternational Socialists, and is studying to be a nurse. Guardian Boston bureau.

Marable-continued from page 8
-'-t1.-take-all electoral districts, the absence ot a socialist or
organizations, feminists, abortion rights activists, gay labor-party-these antiracist campaigns are taking place
and lesbian activists, militant rank-and-file union within the Democratic Party. Perhaps m<;>re accurately, I
members, peace and disarmament organizations, com- would characterize the Harold Washington campaign as
munity-based refonn groups such as ACORN, Hispanic a Black revolt against the Democratic Party, but inside
and Native American groups, environmentalists, and so the Party.
forth., Some leftists would classify these forces as The Washington campaign, in which DSA played a
'1iberals" rather than as part of the left; but in tenns of small but effective part, was a blow to the racist and
their broad political outlook, they represent a type of elitist leadership of the Democratic Party machine; and it
American social democracy, with some minor elements pushed the programmatic boundaries of that city's
also representing what the West German Greens are. politics to the left. It provided the vehicle for white
Some of the key organizers in these various social socialists to develop new links with national minority ac-
movements are "nonorganizational socialists." However, tivists, and it set the foundation for more extensive
the typical political world view of most civil rights, or en- nonelectoral social protests in the future.
vironmentalist or feminist activists is not explicitly Marx- We must understand that in the context of Chicago
ist. But given the Marxist left's miniscule size, this is the politics, a vote for Harold Washington was a vote
basic social force, despite all of its internal contradic- againstthe Democratic Party-its fifty-year old legacy of
tions, which will be a central factor in moving the larger corruption, police brutality, and bossism. It was a protest
white electorate to the left. against a police force which was more than 85 % white in
What is the political responsibility of Marxists in the a city that is majority Latino and Black. Black voters op-
current period? I think our major goals should be 1) the posed former mayor Jane Byrne's gift of $205 million to
breaking of the right's political and ideological hegemony subsidize white real estate developers; they opposed the
within American political culture and its domination of firing of half of the city's physicians seeing adult patients,
the state apparatus; 2) the strengthening of the most pro- and the closing of "well baby" clinics and publicly funded
gressive or left social refonn movements within this shelters for battered women.
broadly defined democratic left; 3) taking a leading role A few sectarians, notably the Socialist Workers Party,
in all antiracist campaigns within electoral and nonelec- ran their own candidate in the general election against
toral politics and; 4) extensive solidarity work inside the Epton and Washington, stating that there was no mean-
U.S. in conjunction with major national liberation ingful difference between the two. But Harold's 99%
movements and in support of socialist states in the Third Black mandate is the most convincing counter-argument
World-Nicaragua, Angola's MPLA, Zimbabwe, Nam- to this sectarian position, which in reality assists the
ibia's SWAPO, the African National Congress, etc. racist backlash.
I raise these four concerns because they are inextricably Corporate leaders didn't funnel $10 million to Jane
linked within the current political culture. Over the long Byrne out of "civic charity." They understood that the
run, it seems clear that the essential precondition to the Washington campaign was in essence an anti-<:orporate
construction of a left-wing electoral majority in the U.S. movement, a working class protest movement which
is the creation of a permanent multiracial, multiclass created unprecedented links across the color line in that
front which not only opposes Reaganism, but also ad- racially-divided city. The social prerequisite to many ma-
vances an anticorporate and progressive agenda which is joritarian bloc for socialism in the U.S. is the the creation
taken from the programs of the existing democratic left of a permanent anti-racist coalition, which is initiated by
movements. One cannot predict when or whether the national minorities themselves.
next phase of the American political system will generate The recent Mel King campaign in Boston represented
an independent electoral vehicle which is tantamount to a different problems for the left. Mel of course has a very
labor or socialist party. It is clear to me, however, that rich history of progressive work within multi-racial
the contemporary currents of this democratic left are the movements in Boston. King worked for 15 years as an
nucleus of the future left majoritarian bloc. organizer for the United South End Settlements in the ci-
Moreover, for the right, the cutting edge of their offen- ty. For four years, he was executive director of the Urban
sive against the American working class is racism. League of Greater Boston. From 1973 to 1982, King was
Therefore, socialists must emphasize work which pro- the State Representative of Boston's Black community,
motes the· development of new and effective national Roxbury, and for other mostly white neighborhoods.
minority leaders; which attacks institutional racism and King is an unabashed socialist, and in fact had resigned
the bankrupt urban policies of Reaganites; and which from the Democratic Party. During his campaign. a radio
creates the possibility for Black and Latino-initiated talk show host asked him to choose beween Ronald
coalitions with white socialist and other elements of the Reagan and Fidel Castro; King replied that he would
democratic left. It is only when the left elevates antiracist choose Castro because of his commitment to helping the
struggle to the level of primacy that the basis for a gen- poor. In 1979's mayoral race, he came in third with 15%
uine Rainbow Coalition is possible; which, in tum, of the vote. This time around he came in tied for first in
creates the eventual possibility of a left-wing majoritarian the first race, and finished with over 35% of the vote in
political bloc. the run-off.
I'd like to see any white candidate with Mel's socialist

O ne of the principal fronts in the antiracist

struggle is in electoral politics. For historical
reasons-the lack of a parliamentary system, the winner-
credentials run for· mayor of any major U.S. city and ob-
tain over a third of the vote. Thus, in the sense that Mel's
running helped to increase the Black, Asian and Latino

(HM"'6 .. ,;) -:50-::- .
electorate, and that if forced the eventual winner Ray city coucilperson to vote against weakening the city's fair
Flynn to take many positions similar to King's, the race housing law. Flynn was endorsed by Local 26, a hotel and
was a real success. restaurant workers union with heavy Black membership,
The left, broadly defined, responded to the Mel King and the UFCW and ACTWU also endorsed Flynn.
ra<e in one of three ways. The Socialist Workers Party
ran its own candidate in the first race, despite the fact
that Mel's policy positions were virtually identical to
their own! But we may dismiss this handful of zealots as
T here were two basic considerations at work-both
of them faulty. Nanly Snyder,. staff director of 9 to
5, stated that Flynn, not King, was the only "progressive
particpants in revolutionary theatre. candidate who can win both the preliminary and the final
The second impulse, which essentially was that of en- election for mayor." There was a tacit admission that Mel
thusiastic endorsement and work for Mel. was shared by could finish in the run-off, but that he stood no chance
a broad left spectrum: the vast majority of DSAers, in- whatsoever in being elected mayor. Flynn was not the
dependent Marxists, progressive union members, the "lesser evil," but the "more-electable progressive."
Communist Party, the Communist Workers Party, many Since such a sizable share of the feminist, community
feminists and the majority of white community-based ac- and labor activists shared this perception, Mel's defeat
tivists. I should also add that two of Mel's major fund- was something of a self-fulfilling prophecy. In this
raisers were organized by DSA members. I spoke for Mel regard, a certain amount of intellectual dishonesty was at
before the first election, and Michael Harrington spoke work. Flynn's left supporters stressed that he "had a
before the second race with Flynn. powerful city-wide constituency in Black, Hispanic and
However, about one-third or more of the broadly- white neighborhoods alike." Implicitly, the Flynn cam-
defined left chose to work for Ray Flynn. Flynn's sup- paign would permit leftists to develop coalitions and
porters, including some DSA members, admitted that closer relations with the city's national miniorities, more
their candidate had first become prominent as an antibus- so than the King campaign! This analysis is contradicted
ing leader. When both were serving concurrent terms in by Mel's more than 90% vote within the Black communi-
the state legislature, Flynn had voted yes for ty.
reestablishing the death penalty, for the limitation of The second problem, however, was the principal dif-
abortion rights, and for corporal punishment in schools, ference between the two candidates-the subject of
while King had voted no. Flynn opposed handgun racism. Flynn tended to skirt the term "racism" in his
registration, taxing landlords for violations of the hous- speeches, declaring that "economic discrimination" is the
ing code, prohibiting sexual preference discrimination by real problem, and that it affects poor white people in
the state, and increases in state enviromental funds. South Boston or Charlestown just as seriously as it does
To be fair to Flynn, in the past six years he had a poor Black people in Roxbury. This "economistic"
measurable shift to the liberal-left, principally on bread- posture allowed Flynn to pick up the votes of the consti-
and-butter issues. During the campaign he was the only tuency of a James Kelly, of the racist South Boston Infor-
mation Center, while holding the allegiance of white
Jesse Jackson campaigning for Mel King in Boston's mayoral race. liberals. It also confronted some leftists who told
themselves that class (narrowly defined as common
economic interests) was the cutting edge for organizing a
permanent left movement in Boston capable of winning
office. The less Flynn discussed racism, the better.
An analysis of greater Boston's labor market reveals
the reason that thousands of Blacks and Hispanic viewed
Mel King's campaign as a significant battle against
racism. 22.3 % of all Black workers in Boston are found
in low-paying service jobs, compared to only 8.7% of the
white labor force. Almost two-thirds of all Black workers
(64.2%) are in either service, unskilled, semi-skilled, or
clerical jobs. Conversely, 38.3 % of whites and only
19.7% of Black employees are either managers, profes-
sionals or technicians.
Side by side, two distinct political economies exist in
the city of Boston; an underpaid labor market for the
poor and racial minorities, and a labor market of the
white, upwardly mobile middle-to-upper classes. This is
the root cause of the racist rhetoric, the anti-busing
polemics of the recent past, and the regular outbursts of
racist-motivated violence against people of color. Any
political economy which systematically super-exploits
the nonwhite and the poor, which maximizes profits at
their expense, must also foster a type of social relations
and political culture which divides neighborhood against
neighborhood, Black against white. So in this context,
socialists who minimize the role of racism as the key for

-5-# ~
to meet (Grenadian revolutionary leader) Vincent Noel,
head of the New Jewel Movement's trade unions. Both of
us stayed up most of Saturday night, guzzling beer and
watching the polemics between the PNP's left and right
I asked Vincent what the American left could do which
would most aid Grenada's Revolution .. Without hesitaC
tion, he replied, "Defeat Ronald Reagan next year." I
f)l9!B raised the classic objections to lesser-€vilism, that the
will never be able to Carter regime had set into motion the political embargo
develop ongoing, principled with national minority of Grenada. But Noel insisted that GrFnada, along with
movements for equality and self-determination. Nicaragua, would be crushed unless a more centrist
government was in power. Less than one month later,

H OW did Chicago and Boston relate to the Jackson

race a year later? It is clear that Harold
Washington's unprecedented victory against the Dem-
comrade Vincent was executed, along with Jackie Creft
and Maurice Bishop. With their deaths, the invasion was
accomplished all to easily.
ocratic Party sparked Black interest in challenging local What is our responsibility to the international left, to
Democratic machines; it gave renewed vigor to the the national liberation Vincent's position on
August 27th mobilization. This led to a social movement
calling for a basic redefinition in the relationship between
Blacks and the Democratic Party at the national level.
Like many Marxists, I opposed the candidacy of Jesse
Jackson throughout most of 1983. The basic reason was
that Jackson had never been known as a "progressive" or
'1eftist" within the context of Black politics. In fact, the
economic program of Jackson's Operation PUSH (People
United to Serve Humanity) is an updated verson of
Booker T. Washington's "Black Capitalism." For exam- the presidential race is echoed by SWAPO, the ANC, and
ple, PUSH's response to the loss of Black workers' jobs in the revolutionaries in Central America. Are these forces
the auto industry was the purchase of one hundred shares wrong?
of stock in Chrysler, Ford, and American Motors and Is there a qualitative difference in the context of world
General Motors Stock ownership, which according to politics between a reactionary Republican like Reagan,
Jackson, "assure(s) us the right and the platform to voice and a centrist like Mondale? Or to paraphrase a member
our concerns." of the International Socialists, is this support a "new low"
PUSH's "corporate covenants" with Seven-Up, Burger for the international left?
King, Coca Cola and other corporations have produced I should emphasize that I was a supporter of (Citizens
headlines for Jackson, but relatively few jobs. As recently Party candidate Barry) Commoner in 1980, and that in
as July, 1982, at the convention of the New Orleans principle I have not embraced the Democratic Party as
Business League, Jackson insisted that Blacks had to the "savior" of the Black masses. Our immediate political
move beyond "Civil Rights to Silver Rights and from aid goal must not be simply the defeat of Ronald Reagan, but
to trade. We want our share of opportunities for risks the entire reactionary philosophy of Reaganism-the
and rewards." elimination of public programs in health care, jobs,
Inside Black political circles, Jackson has represented public housing, and welfare; the buildup of both conven-
the personification of opportunism and ambivalence. At tional and nuclear weapons; an expansionist and im-
the crucial National Black Political Convensiton in Gary, perialist foreign policy abroad; and the repudiation of the
Indiana, on March 10-11, 1972, for example, Jackson very concept of social justice for national minorities,
delivered a keynote address and promised to help build women, gays and lesbians, the elderly, poor people and
the militant all-Black force: once he left the stage, he and the disabled.
PUSH were never heard from again. During the Miami Politically, this requires that the democatic left target
race rebellion of 1980, Jackson flew into the city to "cool Reagan's supporters for defeat in the November, 1984
off" Black militancy-only to be denounced by local election. It also demands support for representatives of
community leaders and activists. Given this checkered the democratic left who challenge centrists inside the
record, why should Blacks or the left support Jesse Democratic Party primaries this coming spring and sum-
Jackson's bid for the Democratic presidential nomina- mer. I am much more optimistic about the defeat of Con-
tion? gressional Reaganites than I am about the removal of the
In September, my basic outlook was changed by two incumbent president. As things stand now, either Walter
discussions. The first, which was with Ron Dellums, con- Mondale, John Glenn or Reagan will be inaugurated in
vinced me that we had to separate Jackson's gross per- January, 1985-and Reagan is the clear favorite.
sonal inadequacies from the broad social movement
which had come together behind his not-yet announced
candidacy. The second conversation occurred in
Kingston, Jamaica. I was invited to speak at the People's
A word about Walter Mondale is in order here.
First, Mandale's strategy is not new: we are
witnessing a revival of Hubert H. Humphrey's 1968 and
National Party's convention, and I had the opportunity 1972 presidential campaigns. Mondale's crucial base of

(HIfret'tfP.. f,) ~9J.-:-
support is organized labor, big city Democratic Party Some white progressives have even said to me, ''I'd
organizations, and the most moderate elements of na- love to support a Ron Dellums or julian Bond, but jesse
tional minority leaderships. His speeches and policy jackson isn't the right kind of candidate." This position
statements clearly indicate that he is not of the strikes me as metaphysical at best, and at worst pro-
democratic left, but a "liberal centrist" in the Cold War foundly ethnocentric. The white left isn't in a position to
Liberal tradition. choose which protest candidates emerge from national
Leftists who have now comitted themselves to Mon.. minority communities. The internal dynamics of the civil
dale's campaign insist that he is the "most liberal" can- rights movement have culminated into an electoral pro-
didate who has any hope of derailing Reagan. This is pro- test against the Democratic Party within its ranks.
bably true: if Mondale wins the nomination, a larger For better or worse, only Jesse has seized the oppor-
number of minorities, labor, and other liberal consli- tunity, riding upon the popular enthusiasm of the
tuents will tum out than if Glenn is the nominee. But this Washington victory, August 27th, and local electoral
obscures the more fundamental issues-how can we build movements to lead the next stage of the civil rights move-
a stronger democratic left, and how can we reverse the ment into the very center of national politics. Can the left
advances of mass conservatism? Moreover, how can we
seriously expand the electorate in 1984 to include millions
of young people, national minorities, women and poor
afford to stand outside of this mass movement?

t is unlikely that jackson will win more than 250

people? convention delegates, given the changes made to
Working for Mondale in the Democratic primary does reduce the impact of the McGovern reforms. However,
not do this-and, in fact, it virtually guarantees the Jackson's race will increase the number of registered
defeat of either Glenn or Mondale in the general election. voters (especially within the Black community), and in-
Given our meager resources, socialists should be involv- crease their turnout rates in both the primary and general
ed in campaigns which build coalitions with liberal and elections. The race will increase the number of Blacks
left constituencies within national minority communities, who will run for local and statewide office, and will
and which raise political issues from a democratic left strengthen the potential progressive bloc to undermine
perspective. Electoral politics mus! be used to help build the right. Local "Jackson-for-President" coalitions of na-
masS movements across racial, gender and class boun- tiona! minorities, feminists, environmentalists, etc. could
daries. survive the 1984 campaign as progressive, multiracial
As socialists, we have the responsibility to articulate an united fronts. Jackson himself is elevating political issues
alternative vision of a culturally pluralist, democratic (racism, U.S. militarism, etc.) which centrist candidates
society, and to seize every opportunity, no matter how like Mondale would ordinarily ignore. And, finally, the
flawed with internal contradictions, which advances the 1984 effort of Jackson sets the stage for another· race by a
goals of the democratic left and social movements in the Black, Hispanic or feminist candidate in 1988.
larger polity. Jesse is not my ideal candidate-far from it. But it
The candidate who comes ciosest to accomplishing would be extremely shortsighted for any socialist to stand
cv.. outside this historic movement of civil rights and poor
e\..~-c~.....L:: people's activists within national electoral politics. Most
0' l"\""""
~...,jIl \ '-:""..,£
(11 __ ""
of the social forces which embodied the "Coalition of
Conscience" at the August 27th March on Washington,
D.C., and which elected Harold Washington mayor of
"Ot.' 'i~? Chicago, are now coalescing behind Jackson. We must do
v,". '.,.... likewise, and we do not have to give up our voice, or our
i\-\JlI'.o commitment to Marxism to do so.
;""'It'"" So much of the American left is shackled to the
t; ... ideological dogmas of past struggles, bound to isolation
these strategic goals is "the country preacher," jesse and political irrelevancy from actual struggles in both the
jackson. Indeed, if he were white, the media would por- international and domestic context. If we join the lunacy
tray jackson as the most left candidate for the presidency of denouncing a Harold Washington as a "social fascist,"
.since Eugene V. Debs. Unlike Cranston or Mondale, as some have, or retreat from the Jackson campaign
Jackson recognizes that the cutling edge of white conser- because of an inordinate fear of tactical struggle via the
vatism is racism-attacks on affirmative action, civil Democratic Party, we will further ourselves
rights and economic opportunities for people of color. from the very social will create a
. Only jackson calls for a left social democratic economic socialist America. 0
program which calls for the total restoration of the
1981-84 budget cuts, tax increases on the corporations,
and massive public works programs.
On foreign policy, Jackson is again the left wing candi-
date, strongly condemning the Grenada invasion, U.S.
troops in Lebanon, the placing of Cruise and Pershing II
missiles in Europe, and U.S. support for apartheid. At a
national level. the jackson campaign is the Harold Wash-
ington/Mel King coalition, bringing together represen-
tatives of every element of the broad democratic left.

Clark&-continued from page 9 But one big difference between the '60s and the '80s is
wildcatted for a week over safety and forced overtime, that the people becoming radicalized today don't see the
and soon after workers at Mack Stamping Plant sat down relevance of socialist organization to their work.
in the welding department and occupied the plant over- When I became active in the women's movement about
night-a strike where I personally lost the best-paying a dozen years ago, we realized that if we wanted to
job I ever had, and got black-listed in the auto industry. change personal relationships, to find alternatives to the
Less than a year later, the forced overtime gave way to privatisation of childrearing and housework, to control
massive layoffs in the '73-'74 recession, but still we were our bodies, to fight for equality, and to imagine libera-
optimistic. I had a new baby, whose dad was a laid off tion, then we had to change the whole system. The gap
autoworker. I remember a friend expressing sympathy, between fighting for reforms and becoming a socialist
and adding that of course the recession would be good was one we crossed easily. It seemed like a natural con-
politically because workers would become more militant nection.
as the crisis got worse. Today it's not such an easy step. For one thing, sec-
We in the I.S. said-and sincerely believed-that we tarianism has led to splits between the left and the social
were the "nucleus" of the revolutionary party. We ex- movements. The women's movement, even the section
pected to recruit out of the working class in numbers suf- that calIs itself socialist-feminist, is deeply hostile to the
ficient to build a real party. left-and for some good reasons: the leff s support of
Needless to say, we were wrong. The era of party- women's liberation has been inconsistent at best,
building which lasted the greater part of the '70s, was a manipulative at worst.
failure, not just for the I.S., but for the entire party-.
building movement. The generation of socialists that was
created out of the mass movements of the '60s was, ten
years later, exhausted and demoralized. "Bum out" has
F urthermore,the 'SOs are far more conservative than
the '60s. The social movements created a radical
background in society-today the right-wing has the in-
become a popular word in the movement's vocabulary. itiative and liberalism is just a few steps to the left of
Many of the groups did not survive. Those that did are Reagan.
fragile and fragmented. Many more people gave up on A lot is said about how American politics are shifting
trying to build the socialist movement. A section turned to the right. Well, the left is becoming more conservative
to social democracy. Some stayed active, but as in- too. I was reading 1984 over Christmas. lf you
dependents. Others picked up their lives where they had remember, the party language was called "Newspeak." It
been interrupted when politics came along. was a kind of double-talk. For example, the party slogans
were, 'War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is

B ut politics are not static. I remember how elated I

was in 1978 when 100,000 women demonstrated in
Washington for the ERA. It was the first big demonstra-
The left has its own Newspeak. It used to be that if you
said you were a socialist, it meant something. Now, you
tion I had been in since the anti-war movement. In 1981, have to modify socialism with a string of adjectives.
the labor movement organized Solidarity Day, which Revolutionary socialist is distinguished from socialism
brought out half a million to protest Reaganomics. A without revolution, which must mean social-democracy;
year later, a million demonstrated in New York City for but social democrats call themselves "democratic
disarmament. Last summer, a quarter of a million came socialists" which, -in this country, means supporting
to Washington to commemorate the civil rights march of western imperialism and voting for a capitalist party (at
1963. least in Europe, social democrats have their own parties).
I don't mean to imply that the level of activism is the I always feel compelled to describe myself as a revolu-
same as the '60s, it's not, but new people are becoming tionary democratic socialist-three words to say exactly
radicalized by today's movements. what I used to mean when I first called myself a socialist
Millions around the world have participated in the in 1970.
disarmament movement. Some have expressed the depth The left used to have a vision of socialism, of what a
of their commitment with civil disobedience-last month better society might look like. Despite the excesses of the
53 people in Michigan went to jail for blocking the gate at '60s, that vision was one of the things that people found
Williams International where engines for the cruise inspiring, that attracted people to the left. Sections of the
missile are made. The women's movement has added a left have retreated from that vision. Today, every flicker
creative dimension with the Seneca Falls Peace Encamp- of life left in liberalism is heralded by the left as its own
ment, Greenham Common in England, and earlier, the victory. The campaigns of Black Democrats have gener-
Pentagon actions. There is a range of politics within the ated a lot of enthusiasm on the left; the fact that these
disarmament movement, but the point is that the issue is campaigns (with the exception of Mel King) remain
radicalizing, and many come to the idea that the arms squarely locked within the Democratic Party, a capitalist
race is a feature of imperialism that will only be stopped party, does not- cause many socialists to pause.
by socialism. We in the I.S. oppose supporting Democratic Party
Anti-war and solidarity movements have grown in politicians not because we are against incremental
response to the threat of war in the Middle East and Cen- reforms, but because we believe that the Democratic Par-
tral America, and in solidarity with the revolutionary ty is the biggest political obstacle to building class con--
struggles in Nicaragua and EI Salvador-small now, but sciousness in this country, and because history has
with tremendous potential for growth. demonstrated that every social movement that ties itself

to the Democratic Party, dies. Blacks, and still going up for Black teenagers ... and
The enthusiasm over the Jesse Jackson campaign has those are the government's figures. Where is the
led some to predict that Jackson will reinvigorate the left unemployed movement? Ronald Reagan just announced
and the Black movement, that it will be the basis of a new another cut in social spending and a 15 % increase in
'1eft majority coalition." I predict that after the military spending (I thought he had already gone as far in
Democratic Party convention in July, almost all the both directions as possible)-yet the left is barely a force
forces that supported Jackson-including the left-will in the disarmament movement, and has done even less to
go on and support Mondale, with the logic that we have organize the poor. Greyhound, a profitable company,
to get rid of Reagan at all costs. That's a pathetic pros- hires scabs, threatens to smash the union, succeeds in cut-
pect, and in my opinion, a new low for the left. ting workers pay and benefits by 15 % -what was the left
There are good reasons why the working class is disaf- able to sio? The U.S. invaded a country last month
fected from the Democratic Party; we should be capitaliz- -where were the massive protests7
ing on those sentiments, not winning people back. The question that confronts us is: How can we make
There are healthy reasons why the left is attracted to socialist politics relevant in the 'SOs7
"mainstream" politics: the desire to have a bigger au- The 1.5. concluded from our experiences in the '70s
dience, more impact, to see things change. But the idea that party-building is not on, but we do believe that
that you can win a bigger audience for socialist politics socialists need their own organizations if we are going to
by attaching yourself to the Democratic Party is an illu- have an impact.
sion. What happens, instead, is that the left loses its Sure, any of us can work as independents in the social
voice. We contribute to the rightward drift in American movements or the labor movement. Our work may be
politics by joining it. The Democratic Party does not very successful, important, worthwhile. But- socialism
need the time, talent or vision of the left. It will continue isn't just an idea we believe in-it's a goal toward which
on quite well without us. But we will not continue If we we are working. Whether we are active in the women's
give up our politics, our principles, our independence. movement, the Black movement, a Latin group or
The left will first become a mockery of socialism, and Palestine solidarity group, the labor movement, the
then it will disappear. freeze. or the anti-war movement, we're attempting to in-
volve others in the fight against the effects of capitalism,
and against capitalism itself.
hatever criticisms one wants to make of the mass
movements of the '60s, they were radical. They
were outside the spectrum of capitalist politics; they
When we give up on organization, we demonstrate
that we have no avenue to socialism. Without organiza-
tion, we have no way of recruiting other activists.
mobilized hundreds of thousands of people, and they Socialism becomes a nice idea, but not one that we expect
made left politics a visible force that was discussed, to be able to do anything about.
debated, disputed mostly-but we had an impact. History teaches us that there is a relationship between
Today, the left is marginal-to-irrelevant. For example, the level of class struggle and the level of socialist
we're supposed to be in a recovery now, while unemploy- organization. In the 1930s, the Communist Party and
ment in Michigan is 11.5 %, near 18 % nationally for other groups with cadres in industry were able to lead the

Ct. .. tttl.~"')
strikes which triggered the organizing that built the CIO. strategy to principle, but it wouid have agreement on
When things need to be organized, even today, it is often building a revolutionary, democratic socialism, rooted in
socialists who get the ball rolling. For example, it was the working class and the liberation struggles of the op-
socialist. in Pittsburgh who started the Mon Valley pressed.
Unemployed Committee. Imagine how much further un- Imagine the impact this organization could have. for
employed organizing might be if the left were less example, on the Greyhound strike. Undoubtedly the
fragmented. group would have some kind of labor fraction, and many
Organizations help us develop political ideas; we can of its members would be union activists', committeepeo-
draw on the talents of our comrades in areas where the pie, or local officers who would be in a position to initiate
individual is weak. Rarely is one person a cracker-jack strike support in their cities. They could organize ad hoc
organizer, a stirring speaker, and an expert in history, in- committees that would help to swell the picket lines, staff
ternational politics, and economics ... with organization, strike kitchens, organize plant gate collections and sup-
we can share our skills and teach others. Organizations port rallies ... maybe even sabotage a few buses. Presum-
develop understanding and interpretations of national ably this organization would also be active in the com-
and international events and trends. The individual munity, and could reach groups that serve Greyhound's
stands to gain as much as he or she gives. traditional ridership-the elderly, the poor, students
But what kind of organization for today's conditions? -explain the strike, and win support. This organization
For what is, frankly, not a revolutionary period? How could prepare literature outlining the importance of the
can the revolutionary left form a pole that is an attractive labor movement taking a united stand in support of the
alternative to social democracy? Greyhound workers as a first step in ending the drive for

W e in the 1.S. have given a lot of thought to these

questions, and we have discussed our ideas with
hundreds of other socialists. We've traveled to some 30
Some of these things were done by union activists,
many of them socialists. But not enough. If there had
been more coordination and a larger number of cadre to
. cities, and met not only with nationally organized carry out the strategy, support for the ATU would have
groups, but local collectives, bookstores. study groups been much more effective.
and individuals. We've published our ideas in our Such a group could have a similar impact when
magazine; Changes, and opened its pages for others to women's rights or gay rights are attacked. It could be a
put forward their ideas. force in the Freeze, raising the political questions that
The proposal that we made for unity on the left was the push people's politics to the left. When workers in eastern
creation of a broad, multi-tendencied organization, but Europe organize a labor movement such as Solidarnosc,
one with clearly stated revolutionary politics. this group could organize support. in the women's move-
What wouid such an organization look like? Imagine ment, this group could develop a radical pole, both in
-if I can be a bit visionary-a socialist organization with practice as an alternative to the electoral strategy so
perhaps a few thousand members, drawn from the predominant today, and in theory, developing a feminist
fragments of the existing left, sure, but also from the theory that is class-based and can explain the relevance of
movement activists who are becoming radicalized today, Marxism in the fight against women's oppression.
and the thousands of independent socialists, socialist- We realize that the idea of forming a new organization
feminists, and Black revolutionaries. This organization is an ambitious proposal. Too ambitious, in the opinion
would have a of views on from of many of those we have discussed it with. But, as one of
the groups responding to our initial statement said, "The
most powerful argument for 'Unity on the Left' is
undeniable: necessity."
We found the warmest response to the·ideas of ending
sectarianism and creating an authentic Marxist analysis
and politics. Our proposals have been welcomed as gen-
uine and unpretentious, and people have seemed to ap-
preciate our willingness to commit time and energy to
this project.
One question we've been asked repeatedly is if we see
left unity as a step to a party. The answer is simple: no.
We don't think the left should be looking towards
building a party today, rather it should try to create a
broader political vehicle that can make socialist politics
relevant to the struggles of a working class that is still
groping towards class independence.
"Unity on the Clne complexity of this type of left unity is that it
A statement by the International Socialists would be ideologically diverse; but those labels-Maoist,
presents the argument for a multi·tendencied revolutionary Trotskyist, Marxist-Leninist-often serve to obscure
socialist regroupment: "If socialists don't find a way to go areas of agreement and disagreement, not clarify them.
forward together, we may not go forward at all."
Copies 50- from 17300 Woodward, Detroit MI 48203 However, only if those involved have a real commitment
continued on page 19

.... z:: __
Trinkl-continued from page 9 outlasting the enemy, even if territory were lost. From
there was an upsurge of united front struggles and the someone who fought for thirty years before victory was
defeat of fascism. won, this point is well taken.
The next upsurge was the revolutionary struggles of
the 1960s and early '70s, sparked largely by the
worldwide movement against the Vietnam war, but also
in the U.S. marked by the explosion of the Black libera-
T here has been a great deal of turmoil on the left in
the U.S., and internationally, in the last five to ten
years. I'd like to talk a little specifically about the move-
tion movement, a mass student movement, and the ment the Guardian has been associated with and placed
women's movement. This wave, by and large, has now high hopes in-the party-building of "new communist
exhausted itself. movement," as it was called, of the 19705.
The problems of the U.S. left are not unique. The In 1973 the Guardian sponsored a forum called "What
movements that radicalized a whole new generation oc- Road to Building a New Communist Party?" It was at-
curred worldwide. 1968 saw a massive student and tended by 1,200 people. At least in certain sectors of the
worker movement in France that nearly toppled the left, people looked to the possibility that in the next two
government. There were strong movements in Italy, Ger- or three years, several groups and many individuals
many, Japan and other countries. Most of these have eb- could come together and form a new party.
bed. The current situation of the left in the U.S. is That did not happen. This isn't the place to go into an
reflected in many other countries, and in discussing them extended summary of the reasons, but I would like to cite
I'm going to focus on the developed capitalist countries. a few. Few groups are left from that period; most have
Because there have been enormous problems in the last dissolved. One of them was the October League, later the
decade, there has been a growth of cynicism and despair. Communist Party Marxist-Leninist. It had one kind of
Some have abandoned the struggle. Some don't consider problem-its international position. The CP-ML held the
Marxism relevant, some don't consider Leninism rele- "Three Worlds" theory, following the Chinese analysis.
vant. Others have drifted toward social democracy, some They said the Soviet Union was an equal danger to the
have embraced the pro-Soviet Communist Parties. But world's peoples as U.S. imperialism, and soon after that
because of these recent reversals, and reacting against they said the Soviet Union was the greatest danger.
many of the ultra-"Ieft" errors of the recent past it would The group was caught in a contradiction, generally
be a mistake to fall into the opposite errors of reformism. wanting to fight against the U.S. ruling class, and yet be-
There is a great deal of impatience on the left. In 1965 ing caught by their feeling that there was a greater danger
in Chicago I remember one group of leftists drew up a than that. Harry Haywood, a long-time communist
program for a "socialist Chicago in five years." Well, it (closely associated with the CP-ML during the 1970s)
didn't happen. People want quick fixes and short cuts, recently wrote a piece some of which the Guardian will
but it's going to be a long struggle. probably be printing soon. It think it's important,
The struggle for socialism is a long process and because of the depth of his experience in the struggle-he
socialism itself is a transitional stage containing elements first joined the Communist Party in the 1920s-to see
of capitalism. In the recorded history of the world so far how he talks about the kinds of problems that arose at
the conscious socialist movement is only an eyeblink. the time this theory was held:
Mao once remarked in his military writings that people's To a large extent we simply tried to ignore this basic con-
war takes place in the dimension of lime rather than tradiction in our line. But the pressure of international

space. This referred to the importance of perseverance, of Antinuclear demonstration in Toronto in October 1983.
-;;~~'~'7'-- -·~'-_8 UN
.. ····'';1

C"'1 fl. ........ '-) _5f'/~
developments meant we could not ignore these problems w~s a lack of democracy in internal functioning. Also, as
for long. In practical tenns this meant answering some they described it, an extreme preoccupation with trade
complicated questions. For example: should U.S. com- union questions led to marginalization of work on other
munists support the draft? Should we support increased b d
military budgets7 Should we support the Shah of lran7 issues, for example the national question (Que ec) an
Should we oppose or support Cuban "intervention" in women.
Central America7 Contradictions in [our I polltical line They practiced an extreme form of centralism over
became apparent. democracy-one of the most extreme I ever heard of.
That was one particular problem of a section of the Members did not know who was elected to the Central
new communist movement of the 1970s. I'll sum some of Committee. Members did not know what debates were
this up at the end, but now let me skip to mention some taking place in the upper reaches of the party. Members
developments in Canada, which in some ways paralleled were discouraged from having contacts with party
what happened in the U.S. members outside their cell. So there were no real struc-
tural guarantees of democracy -quite the opposite.
I was at a conference last year in Canada, to mark the
centenary of Marx's death. Seven hundred Canadian
Marxists got together to discuss what was happening to
On the brighter side, in reaction to these policies
something has arisen in Canada called the "Socialism and
Independence" trend, at least in Quebec. It's not an
the Canadian left. This came in the wake of the dissolu- organization itself, but a trend involving several
tion of two important Canadian organizations, both bas- organizations and basically rooted in mass movements.
ed in Quebec, which by Canadian standards were large One of these groups is the Mouvement Socialiste, which
and had some working class base, called "In Struggle" stresses the idea of unity as something in the process of
and the "Workers Communist Party." being built, rather than handed down at the outset.
Both were formed in the early '70s, and at their height It has four principles: democracy; feminism; in-
had several thousand members. In Struggle dissolved in dependence for Quebec, which is of parallel importance
1982, and the WCP early last year. to supporting the Black struggle here in the U. S.; and
One person from In Struggle summarized what they socialism. These experiences and conclusions drawn by
. themselves said about their dissolution. They saw the im- Canadian activists have something to teach us, I believe.
portance of'the working class, but their idea of the work-
ing class was largely male, preferably industrial workers.
"Family, wives, children were nowhere."
In hanclling differences within the organization, "we
believed one side had to be a bourgeois line, and the other
N OW I will skip back to the U.S. and touch on a dif-
ferent part of the left. The largest Trotskyist
organization in the U.S., the Socialist Workers Party, in
1976 took a tum toward industry, which I think in
a revolutionary line." The way democratic centralism
functioned was, to quote her, "Our leaders know better." general is healthy. It also moved toward much more sup-
The catalyst that exploded the organization was the port for the Nicaragua FSLN (Sandinist National Libera-
subservient position of women in the party, and how the tion Front) and Cuba. But in doing this, they developed
organization related to the women's movement. The an extreme workerism, their united front work and their
women almost spontaneously revolted and said, "We work in mass movements was drastically cut. They have
won't take it any more!" -and that was what precipitated gone from 2,000 members to maybe 1,000 by now.
the organization's collapse. I had a long discussion and did an interview with Peter
The other group, the Workers Communist Party did Camejo, a leader of the SWP from that period, who has
write an official sum-up after they dissolved. It mention- gone through a sort of evolution and tried to come to
ed four questions. One was their male chauvinism and grips with that part of the movement which he came
practice on women's issues. Another was English Cana- from. He told me:
The conception that there is a continuity of ideology since
dian chauvinism in regard to Quebec; they were a Marx is obViously true. But the manner in which the Trot-
Quebec group, but most of the leadership was English- skyist movement, and others, has app roached the ques-
speaking students. They did not relate to Quebec na- tion has strong overtones of dogmatism and ideal-
tional sentiments. A third issue was intellectual ism . .. The very concept of the party of Lenin is of a party
chauvinism toward worker members, and finally there that is itself a product of the living class struggle; not of
cadres who ideologically defend ~h.~_ 'true' program.
This is an example of someone heavily involved in one
tradition, analyzing and re-thinking some aspects of it.
Let me give another example, from a different ideological
tradition and a different country: El Salvador.
Shafik Jorge Handa!, a member of the general com-
mand of the Farabundo Marti Front for National libera-
tion (FMLN) and also the Secretary General of the Com-
munist Party of El Salvador (PCS)' has analyzed the
situation of the Communist parties in Latin America. In
December 1981 he wrote:
In Latin America. two great revolutions have taken place,
that in Cuba and in Nicaragua, and in neither of these
cases was the Communist Party at the head . .. The old
dogmatic conception that the Communist Party is, by
Salvadoran rebels relax in front of former national guard post. definition, "the party of the working class, the vanguard

("'7I'<.IN,<'1- )
of the anli-imperialist struggle and the struggle for the grouping were attacked in what became an orgy of
socialism," etc., reduces and even blocks our capacity to self-destruction. Pretty soon, nothing was left of this
comprehend that in the social and political conditions group.
engendered by dependent capitalism in Latin America, it
is impossible for these organizations [e.g. the FSLN and
Salvadoran popular organizations-ed.j not to arise.
That is, there is a recognition on Handa!'s part of truly
revolutionary organizations arising outside the c.P. Peo-
T his example, like some others, shows that relations
to the mass movements in general has been an enor-
mous problem for the left. Organic links have not been
ple who are familiar with the c.P. in this country know developed. In particular, any formation that would come
yery well that there is no such recognition by the together has to take up women's issues and grapple with
American party. I think it's a healthy development that feminism, in a much deeper way than in the past.
somebody who came out of the CP tradition is acknow- Democracy within organizations is also extremely im-
ledging that organizations ouside that tradition can be portant. I do not believe that democratic centralism, by
revolutionary . definition, will always mean centralism triumphs over
In Central America, because they are in a Iife-arid- democracy. But I do think that much more than in the re-
death struggle, there are tremendous pressures for unity. cent past, there have to be democratic procedures. Lastly,
Both the FSLN in Nicaragua, and the FMLN in EI environmental issues have to be addressed much more
Salvador with all its problems have reached a lot of uni- thall they have been.
ty. That's a brief overview of some of our primary tasks.
Now for another, very different case: the Green Party Thank you. 0
--;rrt:ll!rttfany. That whole experience is not just going to be
transposed to the United States, but survival issues are
very important, in a way Marxists have not always grap-
pled with. Issues of war and peace and technology-
capitalism's destruction of the planet-should be stronger
issues for the left.

I will try to summarize some of the problems I have

discussed. The history of the socialist movement in
the U.S. has been marked by swings back and forth be-
tween dogmatism and pragmatism, between purifying
Marxist teachings and "American exceptionalism," be-
tween left and right errors. Ideological struggle is still im-
portant, but to take it as an end in itself and starting point
is a recipe for building a sect. A great many who pattern-
ed themselves after Lenin and Marx forgot that Lenin and
Marx waged sharp struggles but were also leaders of
movements. A revolutionary organization has to built in
practice. not by self-declared "yanguardism."
For any coming together of the left there are several
key issues. On international questions, I think it is totally
impossible to hold that the Soviet Union is the greatest
enemy and still be a revolutionary group in this country.
And I think it's very unstable, and unlikely, for a group
to be able to function on the basis of a belief that it is an
eqW1.Z danger.
I think groups should have roots in the working class,
but in much of recent left history this has been done by
marginalizing other issues, especially the women's move-
ment. For an example, let me briefly mention a grouping
called the "Trend," part of the movement with which the
Guardian was associated, which was self-consciously
anti-sectarian and set about trying to lay the groundwork
for building a new party.
,One factor in the 'Trend's" disintegration was the
classic form of sectarianism-the leading group in this
movement (the Organizing Committee for an Ideological
Center) came to adopt the position that membership in
their grouping was the dividing line between those who
were revolutionary Marxist and those who were not.
They waged a campaign around the idea that "feminism
is racist." Another development was a disastrous "cam-
paign against white chauvinism," in which individuals in

What's Ahead for the Women's Movement?

ERA: The Lessons of a Defeat

from CHANGES', Septa 1982 BY Elissa Clarke

F rom the Wall Street Journal to the Guardian, every-

body has a theory about why the Equal Rights
Amendment failed. Some credit Phyllis Schlafly; others
A debate is taldng place within the women's movement
over why the ERA failed, and where to go from here. The
debate is a useful one. I hope it will be prolonged, and
the insurance industry. Some say the draft dealt the death that feminists will reject hasty conclusions. We should
blow; others that abortion was too closely linked to ERA; demand an analysis of the defeat before we troop on to
and still others that ERA activists did not make enough the next front. And we need to integrate these lessons into
links with other issues and movements. our future strategies and directions.
Some say the movement alienated "ordinary house- This article is one contribution to the discussion.
wives;" others say it wasn't radical enough. Some blame Changes welcomes other contributions.
"a handful of white men in a handful of state
legislatures;" others a massive, grass-roots, right-wing
movement. Some say the women's movement was politi-
cally naive and did not know how to run an electoral
campaign; others believe feminists concentrated too
T he ERA has always been the province of the conser-
vative section of the women's movement. Authored
by Alice Paul of the National Women's Party and first in-
much on lobbying and electing sympathetic politicians. troduced in Congress in 1923, the ERA immediately split
Of course, no one factor is responsible for the demise the women's movement along class lines. Trade union
of the ERA. But at the same time, it would be incorrect to and socialist women, who had been active in the suffrage
conclude that the defeat was inevitable. Movements can movement, opposed the ERA because they believed it
make huge gauis in difficult periods, just as there are would be used to wipe out protective legislation (state
times when it seems easier to win crumbs because the laws which helped to protect women in the workplace).
system has a bit of fat on it. It could also be worthwhile At any rate, the ERA languished in Congress for de-
to pursue a g"al even if it is unattainable to raise political cades. 11 wasn't until the rebirth of the women's move-
ideas or to build a movement. ment in the 19600 that interest in the amendment was
Some feminists are already drawing conclusions from renewed. In 1967, Paul, then 82, convinced the National
the ERA defeat and moving on to the next battle front. Organization for Women to endorse the amendment. In
For example, Ellie Smeal, president of the National 1970 it passed the House, and in 1972 the Senate. By the
Organization for Women (NOW), advocates getting end of the year, 22 states had ratified. Within three years,
women elected to office so that the state legislatures will 33 had.
be more sympathetic to women's issues. It seemed that the ERA would pass by virtue of its own
merits; it didn't need a movement to monitor its course.
Elissa Clarke is an activist in the women's movement and a But then the momentum died. The last state to ratify was
Indiana in 1977, bringing the total to 35, three states
contributing editor to Changes.

"Give Mom the ERA for Mother's Day" was the theme of a 75,QOO.strong demonstration in Chicago in 1980.

ervatism DeCrow dropped her references to revolution. There was
"The cons "ran up no contest for the presidency; Ellie Smeal won by a vote
that the ~Rthe state of 526-66. Smeal proudly told a press conference that she
against \0 s is a was a "typical housewife," 37 years old, and "never
\egis\a~ureat the worked a day in my life for wages." She promised to
reflection h·tt in direct NOW's resources to the "suburban housewife who
~~litiCS. wants to end her house arrest." This convention prioritiz-
ed the ERA as NOW's fOcus.
"m be
This cantn~'simp\'I b'l The ERA passed the House in 1970, while the women's
ob\itera e re liberation movement was alive and well. But while it was
winding its way through the state legislatures, the
'd'" mo
to ottice." women's movement itself was at a low ebb. It was not un-
'tnen s til the deadline for ratification approached that broader
short of the three-quarters needed to pass a constitutional numbers of women got interested. Most saw it as an
amendment. There it stopped. ideolOgical defeat; they were spurred to action by the
The ERA was caught between a rightward political thought that the country might not endorse the principle
shift in American politics on the one hand, and a lull in of women's equality.
the women's movement, on the other. In the period NOW's strategy made it difficult for women to do
(roughly) between 1972 and 1977, feminists debated anything for the ERA. Supporters were called upon only
whether the movement was dead, or just in remission. for the most lackluster tasks-writing letters to state
Women's "rights" organizations grew slowly, but the legislators, phonebanks, lobbying if you were a real ac-
more radical women's '1iberation" groups all but disap- tivist. There was no attempt to broaden the activists
peared. As the leadership of the ERA campaign, NOW beyond NOW's middle<lass constituency, to challenge
had no strategy that could overcome these factors. the passive supporters to take action.
NOW's strategy was based on electoral politics. It was a Meanwhile, NOW kept cutting off the left wing of the
numbers game against the right-wing. It had no chance. movement. Every attempt was made to disassociate ERA
For the first several years, NOW saw no need to inter- from the abortion rights movement, and socialists within
vene much in the ratification process-it looked as if the NOW were redbaited mercilessly. (The Socialist Workers
ERA would pass, and that was the goal, after all. To Party intervened in NOW for several years, until they
NOW, the victory was equally worthwhile if it came concluded that NOW was hopelessly tied to the Demo-
through the courts, through Congress, through the elec- cratic Party.) So suspicious was NOW of leftists that any
toral apparatus, or through a vigorous movement that ideas they proposed had a difficult time getting a hearing.
mobilized women in their own behalf. Therefore, the dynamic that might have pushed NOW to
It wasn't until the deadline for ratification approached try a more radical or creative strategy was never there.
that NOW realized that more organization would be nec-
essary to push the ERA over the top. NOW declared a
"state of emergency" in 1978 and launched a successful
campaign to extend the ratification deadline. Later the
state of emergency was extended. The sense of urgency
T he first (and only) national demonstration for the
ERA was held on July 9, 1978 (commemorating the
first anniversary of Alice Paul's deathY. It was part of the
rallied more women, but NOW never altered its basic campaign to extend the deadline. July 9 was evidence that
. strategy. reports of the death of the women's movement had been
exaggerated. 100,000 marched, which may seem small in
the light of recent demonstrations, but it was the first

. I n fact, while NOW has always been the organization

.of the middle class women's movement, the decision to
focus on the ERA marked the conclusion of a skirmish
large national demonstration on any issue since the anti-
war movement, and remains the largest feminist demon-
stration in history.
between the right and left wing of that organization. In In addition to numbers, _there was-breadth of society
1975, Karen DeCrow was narrowly elected president of represented-including working women marching under
NOW, campaigning on the slogan: "Out of the main- their union banners (from AFSCME and 1199 to women
stream, into the revolution." As one journalist reported: miners wearing t-shirts that read: 'Women can dig it,
'The majority of NOW's leaders expressed a desire to too.") There was a significant proportion of Black
take the movement 'out of the mainstream into the women, maybe 10%. For so long the women's movement
revolution,' including emphatic support for blue collar, had appeared to be a middle class movement; finally
ethnically and sexually oppressed women. A more con- there was evidence that it had made deep inroads.
Servative arm urged traditional priorities like ratification Women's liberation was part of the fabric of American
of the Equal Rights Amendment, enforcement of existing society.
equal rights laws, and insistence upon nonsexist educa- But the demonstration was a decidedly offbeat tactic
tion." aennie Phipps, Evening Journal, Wilmington, DE for NOW. In fact, it was largely because of the Socialist
11/24175) Workers Party that the idea of a big, national demonstra-
NOW's right-wing threatened to form its own tion was raised at all. NOW's leadership toned down the
organization, but by the next (1977) convention, the fight march to a "processional," and demonstrators were asked
was over: DeCrow's caucus had disappeared, and to wear white, in memory of the suffragists (who chose

-t,J- .

~~,~... _ ........ .-(-'

100,000 marched in Washington on July 9, 1978 for an extension of the ratification deadline. Many marched
under union banners, from AFSCME and 1199 to miners wearing t·shirts that said "Women can dig it, too."

that color to demonstrate their purity). Only signs pur-

chased through NOW were supposed to be carried and
the marchers were to proceed in silence. (These rules
B y the twilight hours, the number of women active on
behalf of the ERA snowballed. But despite the com-
mitment, energy and money that was poured into the
broke down due to the sheer size of the demonstration.) campaign, the ERA was never approved by another state,
The demonstration was important in that it mobilized and five states rescinded their votes (an indication that
women and gave them the opportunity to make a public reintroducing the ERA at this time would be a lost cause).
stand for the ERA and for women's liberation. The At rallies held -around the country on June 30, women
challenge to NOW was to bring these new supporters of declared that the women's movement is not defeated. Of
women's liberation into the movement. But no attempt course, it is pretty unconvincing to say that the defeat of
was made. That simply was not NOW's conception of its the ERA was not a defeat for the women's movement. It
role, or of the priorities for the women's movement. was, and a resounding one at that. But by the time it was
After July 9, the demonstrators went home and NOW re- over, a movement had been built around the ERA. Not
verted to its strategy of getting friends elected to office. only did opinion polls indicate constant support for the
Only two innovative tactics were used during the en- ERA at around ¥, of the population, but by the time of its
tire campaign. The first was the boycott of conventions death, millions of women felt like they had a stake in the
in unratified states. NOW claims the economic impact of outcome. And they are angry. ---
the boycott was considerable, though I'm not sure how The ERA rebuilt a section of thewomen's movement:
one would measure that. Chicago, in unratified illinois, NOW's membership jumped from 55,000 before July 9 to
leads the nation in convention dollars spent, 2S % over 100,000 after the 1978 demonstration, to almost 200,000
second-running New York, and 50% over third-running today. NOW has become an incredible money-making
Washington. Atlanta, though boycotted, is also in the machine, reaching an untapped source of funds that has
top ten convention cities. At any rate, the boycott had no the Democratic Party drooling. (NOW raised $1.3
impact on votes. But it was important because it allowed million a month for the last six months.) -
other progressive organizations and movements to make The women's movement is coming out of the ERA
a public stand in solidarity with the women's movement. campaign with tremendous potential. Whether that
The second was the missionary campaign. In the last potential is realized or not depends a lot on what kind of
year, women were urged to "take a year off for the ERA," assessment is made of the ERA defeat, and what future
and thousands were sent to unratified states, where they direction feminists decide upon.
went door to door explaining the issues. In my opinion,
this was a high point of the ERA campaign. It mobilized
thousands, many of them young college students. It en-
gaged them in a common and creative task (as opposed to
licking envelopes), and gave them the opportunity to
O ne could argue that the ERA was ahead of its time.
Gloria Steinem's analysis in the August issue of
Ms. is that the "first wave" of feminism took 100-150
work with other feminists, building a sense of solidarity years'to accomplish its goals, so feminists should expect
and community. the "second wave" to take more than 10 years (actually,

''The right has me- attacking the rights of the oppressed and the standard of
, mpUshed SO living of the middle and working classes.
aCCo t the
thin~ ~h: movement
tem,nl~ d to do.
. has tal\e nizations
. 'Their orgt~re in the
T he most relevant issue raised by the defeat of the
ERA is the question of strategy and the future direc-
tion of the women's movement.
.. have sta dscape Speaking at a rally on June 3D, Ellie Smeal said that
ilr4q···· po\\tica\ \~~e'l have women should become a "third force" in American
\)ecaUS~nto a grass:, politics. Some hopeful radicals have interpreted this to
tapped I \ituenc'l' mean that the women's movement is considering laun-
foots cons ching a new political party (while others, like Roberta
Lynch writing in In These Times (7/14/82) warn that
the ERA has been on the agenda since 1923-59 years, "such an idea seems manifestly impractical"). The
and long enough). But the women's movement was able women's movement did end the ERA fight disillusioned
to make tremendous changes in American society in 10 in the Democratic Party, but without a hint of what to do
years. Why not on ERA, seemingly one of the more in- about it. NOW recently published a list of 101 Democrats
nocuous of the demands of the movement? who voted against the ERA in four key states, and the
Abortion, for example, was (and is) a far more con- National Women's Political Caucus·published a list of the
troversial issue, with less widespread support. But abor- "dirty dozen" who they say blocked the ERA's passage.
tion was legalized in 1973. Why did one pass, and the Ten of the 12 are Democrats. But the strategy Smeal is
other fail7 promoting to address this problem is depressingly
Most obviously, the ERA is a constitutional amend- familiar-elect more women, elect more men who sup-
ment, not a judicial decision. A constitutional amend- port women.
ment must win approval through the state But what alternative does the left propose7 The left
legislatures-bastions of conservatism. Amending the often treats strategy as a timeless question. The formula
constitution is not an easy road to go. The ratification for social movements is more and bigger demonstrations,
procedure can be blocked by a minority, since three- an orientation to the working class and minorities, and a
quarters of the states must ratify. Illinois even requires a labor party. There may be a lot of validity to this
3/5 majority. The tactic itself may be doomed, unless strategy, but it is so well worn that no one wants to hear
there is a significant change in American politics. it anymore, and it cannot convince anyone. What is
Second, abortion was the key demand of an active and needed is an effective strategy for the time, coupled with
vigorous movement. While the Supreme Court ruling a convincing and fresh analysis.
came in 1973 when the women's movement was quiet, the Electoral politics would certainly be a component of
decision was the direct result of that movement. Court any strategy the women's movement adopts, but to rely
decisions often come in the aftermath of vigorous solely on electing liberal politicians is a loser. The conser-
organizing because they lag behind the social process. No vatism that the ERA ran up against in the state
similar movement for the ERA emerged -until it was too legislatures is a reflection of the rightward shift in the
late. Women were complacent about the ERA; they did country. This cannot be obliterated simply by electing
not rally to its defense until it appeared threatened. more "friends" to office.
Third, the growth of the right-wing balanced the social The ERA itself is a rich illustration of what is wrong
forces. In the 19605, progressive social movements were with a strictly electoral approach. There are countless ex-
the only social movements. Liberal politicians looking for amples of pro-ERA politiCians (who accepted money, en-
voters had to move to the left. Today, the right-wing is dorsements. and volunteer labor from feminists) trading
more active and organized. Under these circumstances, off their support, backing out or disappearing on impor-
liberalism itself moves to the right in pursuit of the tant votes, or simply turning coat. There are also
center, whatever that is. countless times that women were quoted in the papers
The right was clever enough to set up a women's after such incidents saying, "We really learned our
organization against the ERA, Stop ERA. Although Stop lesson." But the strategy was never altered.
ERA never seemed to have the grass roots flavor that the Two examples come to mind:
anti-abortion movement has, the emergence of a In June 1978 a critical vote for the ERA was up in the Il-
"women's movement" against the ERA made it much linois House of Representatives. It looked as if the
easier for politicians to vote against it. They were not (so amendment would pass. But when the roll was called,
·they said) against women's demands; they were just sup- five legislators-all ERA supporters-did not vote. They
porting one group of women over another. There was no were involved in a dispute over who would represent
similar movement against abortion, until it was legalized. them in the House leadership next year. They withheld
. Fourth, abortion was won during an era of prosperity. their votes on the ERA in order to pressure the outcome
All the social movements of the '60s made substantial of a completely unrelated question. Afterwards. the five
gains. During the ERA campaign. prosperity gave way to immediately issued a statement saying they were in favor
chronic economic slumps, and now crisis. In the 198Os, of the ERA, and would vote for it in the future. Thanks a
ratification of the ERA would raise women's expectations. lot; never again was the vote so close in that state.
at the very time that the government and employers are Likewise, when Jimmy Carter ran for president, he

The 1980 Republican Nalional Convenllon dropped support for Ihe Equal Rlghls Amendmenl from ils platform. 10,000 marched to
Ihe Convention site in downtown Detroit, demanding "ERA GOP."

promised that he would "see to it" that the ERA became right is a lot more than the sum total of its single-issue
law. NOW folded its resources into his campaign. But groups. The right presents a coherent and appealing
after election day, Carter barely lifted a finger for the world view-more visionary than feminists dare to be.
ERA. During his radio call-in show (remember the early Part of the success of the right must be credited to its
days of the "open" administration?), Carter soothed an ability to speak to the real needs and concerns that people
anti-ERA caller: "Although I've made a few telephone have. Yes, they play on people's fears, and yes, they pro-
calls since I've been in office, and have talked to some mise an illusion of the good old days that· never were. But
(legislators) personally .. .I haven't tried to interfere or feminists need a vision more il'Ispiring than electing
put pressure on them." friends to office, and re-fighting the issues of the '70s.
The strategy of single-issue politics is becoming more As Paul Weyrich, founder of the Committee for the
prevalent in the women's movement. NOW was formed Survival of a Free Congress, puts it: 'We talk about
as a multi-issue organization, but for the past five years it issues that people care about like gun control, abortion,
has poured almost all of its resources into the ERA. One taxes and crime. Yes, they're emotional issues, but that's
of the fastest growing organizations in the women's better than talking about capital formation." (Allen
movement today, the National Abortion Rights Action Hunter, "In the Wings: New Right Organization and
League, also proclaims proudly that it is the single-issue Ideology." Radical America, Spring, 1981)
group for abortion. Furthermore, the right is active on a variety of fronts,
The model of single-issue politics comes from the right- and ties issues together. mile the right has been able to
wing, which has organized successful movements against mobilize people around the ERA and abortion, these are
abortion rights and the ERA. The women's movement re- not the only issues it addresses. Phyllis Schiafly has
sponded by trying to build organizations that mirror the already announced that she plans to go on to sex educa-
organizations of the right. tion and the nuclear freeze. 'The atomic bomb," Schiafly
In one sense, the right has had a positive impact on the says, "is a marvelous gift that was given to our country
women's movement. It has inspired a reaction. There's by a wise God."
the feeling: 'If they can do it, we can do it, too: Feminists Finally, the right has accomplished something that the
looking at the successes of the right conclude that they feminist movement has failed to do. The right-wing or-
should follow the same strategies. If the victories of the ganizations have a certain stature in the political land-
right are attributed to their success in getting anti- scape because they have tapped into a grass-roots consti-
abortion legislators elected, then the women's movement tuency, not just because of their well-<locumented ties to
should get pro-choice legislators elected. It's the mirror- the highiy-organized and highly-financed New Right.
image of the right's strategy. But it cannot be applied. The women's movement on the other' hand, remains a
white, middle-class movement. There is obviously sup-
port for women's demands that reaches far into American

T he mirror-image strategy seems like the most exped-

ient route (and expediency is certainly called for),
but the issues are far more complicated. First of all, the
society, but the women's movement has been unable and
unwilling to take the .steps that would transform those
passive supporters into activists.

ing by the boards of economic crisis.
And yet, never before have the ideas of women's
liberation been supported by so many. The women's
liberation movement has had an impact on all out lives.
It is obvious that women will never go back to the "good
old days" exalted by the right-wing.
It is impossible to say whether the ERA would have
passed if NOW had built more and bigger demonstra-
tions, brought working class and minority women into
the movement, and declared independence from the
Democratic Party. What can be said is that the potential
for the women's movement would be brighter today if the
strategy had been designed to build the movement, not
Right-wing social movements are a reflection of the just to win.
politics of the ruling class. No matter whether the What is interesting today is, despite the defeats, the
Democrats or Republicans are in office, the right will get economic crisis, and the growth of the right, that on some
a sympathetic hearing. Therefore, the model of the anti- issues the women's movement is winning. Three come to
feminist organizations is hardly one which can be applied mind: sexual harassment, comparable worth, and union
tQ feminist organizations. Progressive movements suc- organizing in traditional women's jobs, particularly of-
ceed only if they can create a dynamic in the society. fice workers. Generally, a political strategy maps out a
When the Supreme Court ruled on abortion, feminists route to get to some goal. What if we begin at the end,
were surprised. It was not a carefully calculated numbers and ask ourselves why these issues have been able to win
game. but the impact of a social movement, that resulted in such a gloomy climate?
in that victory. What these three issues have in common is that they
address women as workers, While some of the traditional
The strategy of single issue politics has two com- battles of the women's movement are going down in
ponents. The first is support of individual politicians defeat, issues that address women as workers have made
because of their stand on one issue. In itself, this is pretty
gains. .
useless because a politician's promise is like the old joke Employment issues touch on a fundamental contradic-
about a cup of coffee (that and 50¢ ... ). But worse, a can- tion in right-wing politics. Women are told that they
didate who is for the ERA may be against abortion, or should go back into the home; the family of the Big Red
against unions, or against welfare rights. This is the se- Storybook is held up as the model. But at the same time,
cond level of single issue politics. By trading off priorities it is transparently obvious that women are not going
in this way, movements become isolated. The ERA back. No longer do you hear women justifying their right
movement cannot depend on support from the pro- to work; no one questions why women work anymore.
choice movement if abortion is not a criterion in suppor- The same right-wing politician eulogizes the traditional
tingacandidate. Instead of a single-issue approach, what role for women on the one hand, and slashes the standard
is needed is a new coalition that can bring together pro-
of living of the working class with the other. The crisis is
gressb<e forces both in the streets, and in the electoral becoming so acute that no one can miss the contradic-
tion. Women, of course, experience this contradiction in
NOW made a brief attempt at coalition building. One a very personal way as they struggle to support
of· the themes of its 1978 conference was the "alliance" themselves and their families. Employment issues are so
between the women's movement and the labor move- concrete, the stake in them is so clear and immediate, that
ment. The convention boycott was part of the alliance women see the urgency in fighting back.
strategy. But, by and large, what NOW meant by this Obviously, employment issues are not the only ones
. was an electoral alliance where progressive organizations that feminists need to address. But they do meet some of
could work together to defeat Republican candidates who the criteria for organizing around issues that can build the
were anti-ERA and anti-labor. (This illustrates another women's movement. Campaigns around work-related
point about singl.e-issue politics-it's easier to agree on issues can help to bring into the women's movement
what. you're against, than what you're for.) The alliance working class women who are now passive supporters.
turned' out to be mostly rhetoriC, because NOW's They are issues which take on the right-wing. They are
strategy did not include mobilizing the support of union issues around which the women's movement can build
members, It was an alliance at the top that never meant coalitions with the labor movement and the Black move-
., anything
. to the union membership. ment .
The '80s present a challenge, but they also present an

opportunity. Women do not have to go back to begging
&eseare the best and worst of times for the women's for favors from politicians. The debate now taking place
. movement. On the one hand, winning never looked around strategy for the women's movement is important.
so. difficult. The ERA defeated. Abortion rights whittled Whatever conclusions are reached, it does seem that the
away-, and in danger of being outlawed again. A power- movement is well-positioned to move forward. The ques-
fuLright-wing movement that sees women's liberation as tion is: will feminists seize the opportunities that present
the.scourge of American society. Affirmative action go- themselves? 0

from CRl\.NGES, May-June 1984 - (;.,-

~i':~s: Does Capi"talism Meed Pa"triarchy1

"The Unhappy Marriage of Marxism and which sexist ideology has assumed a work. The work women do in the home,
Feminism: T awards a More Progressive peculiarly capitalist lorm. That is, sexism apparently for men, is really for the
Union," by Heidi Hartmann. today is different from sexism in the Mid- capitalists. Cooking, sewing, feeding and
"Beyond the Unhappy Marriage: A dle Ages, for instance. taking care of men and children, all this
Critique of the Dual Systems Theory," Taking what she regards as three serves to reproduce the working class for
by Iris Young. representative Marxist analyses of "the the capitalists. Like Engels, Hartmann
Both essays included in Women and obsexves, Zaretsky focuses on women's
Revolution: A Discussion of the Unhap- woman questioJ)," Hartmann argues that
py Marriage of Marxism and Feminism. they concern themselves with women's relation to capital, not to men.
Edited by Lydia Sargent, Boston: South relationShip to the economic system-and Third is the "wages for housework"
End Press, 1981. $7.50 not with women's relationship to men, theory of Mariarosa Dalla Costa. House-
which she calls the "feminist question." wives, through their labor, create surplus
By Jane Slaughter Early Marxists, following Engels, value. (This theory is by now discredited
recognized women's inferior status in among most feminists, who understand
DOES CAPITAUSM NEED sexism, and capitalism and attn"buted it to the institu- that work can be important and useful
how do the two work together7 tion of private property. The "world- even if you can't show it produces surplus
The purpose of this review is to com- historic defeat of the female sex," said value.) Dalla Costa argued that women
pare two specific approaches to this very Engels, carne when women were forced to should demand wages for their work in
broad question. I will lay out Heidi Hart- be monogamous to produce heirs for the home rather than get paid jobs and b.
mann's theory of the relationship between men's property. Thus (says Hartmann), forced into a "double day."
capitalism and patriarchy, then look at Engels believed that among the pro- Here again, Hartmann objects that the
Iris Young's critique of what she calls letariat, who didn't own property, women analysis falls to acknowledge that men
Hartmann's "dual systems theory" of weren't oppressed. (not just the capitalist system) have a
women's oppression. These authors' work Actually, Engels said something dif- material interest in women's continued
appears in the book, Women and Revolu- ferent. He argued that the working class oppression, that housework as a social
tion, which is organized around Hart- family (which did oppress women) no relation perpetuates not just capitalism
mann's essay and 12 responses to it. longer had a material basis when workers but male supremacy. She also points out
I will explain why I find Young's posi- owned no property. He believed that as that Dalla Costa and Zaretsky igoore
tion more convincing, and, as an exam- capitalism drew women into the labor women's role as wage workers, which I
ple, discuss how both approaches view force, women and men together would would agree is a very large omission.
the fight for the "family wage."
Critique of Sex-Blind Marxism
Hartmann's criticism of Marxism is that
it is sex-blind (and race-blind as well). Its
categories of wage worker, capital. class, Abstractly, it is immaterial to the capitalist class how
value and surplus value have nothing to the working class reproduces itself, as long as we get to
do with gender. They say nothing about work in the morning with the right attitude. In South
why women are subordinated to men, Africa, because of the covergence of capitalism,
rather than the other way aroundo patriarchy, and national oppression, capitalists
Feminist analysis, on the other hand, encouraged one form of reproduction for white workers
has been blind to history, Hartmann -the nuclear family-and another for many Blacks-
says-not materialist enough, overly con-
cerned with the realm of the psychological women and men are forced to live separately, often
and ideological. Hartmann's goal, the men in barracks and the women in the Bantustans,
therefore, is to apply a "materialist fight for proletarian revolution. In fact, Hartmann then moves on to a critical
analysis to the relations of patriarchy," the question of what keeps the family go- assessment of radical feminism. That
just as Marx did to the economic relations ing turned out to be much more complex. theory holds that the original and most
of production. (I use the term Second, Hartmann looks at the "capit- basic division is between the sexes. The
"patriarchy" here as it is used throughout alism and everyday life" analysis of Eli motive force of history is the striving of
the book, to mean any SOCiety in which Zaretsky, who does focus on the dif- men for power over women-the "dialec-
men dominate women, not in the tradi- ferences between men's and women's lives tic of sex."
tional sense of the "rule of the father" under capitalism. Zaretsky's main thesis is
re£erring to pre-industrial societies.) that capitalism has created a separation While Hartmann sees materialist Marx-
Patriarchy itself, Hartmann wants to between private and public life, between ism as sex-blind, she sees radical feminists
show, is a social and economic structure. family Ihome and the workplace, and that as non-materialist. In their discussion of
Our society represents an evolved part- because of this separation women are male and female traits-men dominant
nership of capitalism and patriarchy, in more oppressed than under earlier modes and individualistic, women nurturing-
of production. they see these qualities as more or less in-
Jane Slaughter is a feminist and labor Says Zaretsky, while men are oppressed herent. Their use of history is usually
joumali$t. She is the author of the book by wage work, women are oppressed limited to providing examples of the ex-
"Concessions and How to Beat Them." because they're excluded from wage istence of patriarchy at all times and in all
pIaces-a characterization which is not dependence on men (enforced by ar- equal and oppressed under capitalism.
terribly helpful precisely because it is so rangements in the labor market), the Young argues that capitalism is nat
universal. state, and numerous institutions based on gender-blind. Rather, the marginalization
Hartmann, then, proposes to define pa- social relations among men-clubs, of women's labor is an essential and fun-
\riarchy as "a set of social relations be- sports, Unions, professions, universities, damental characteristic of capitalism. She
tween men, which have a material base, churches, corporations and armies. All of points out that capitalism was the first
and which, though hierarchical, establish the.. elements need to be examined if we economic system whose nature dictated
or create interdependence and solidarity are to understand patriarchal capitalism." that not all potentially productive people
"",ong men that enable them to dominate be employed, and also required that the
women. Though patriarchy is hierarchical Alternative Model proportion of the population which is
and men of different classes, races or Should male dominance in capitalism, employed should fluctuate. Capitalism
ethnic groups have different places in then, be understood as a separate system needs marginal workers, a "reserve army
patriarchy, they also are united in their from capitalist relations of production of labor."
shared relationship of dominance over with its own laws of motion (hence the Given the pre~xistence of patriarchal
!heir women; they are dependent on each term "dual systems"), or as part of the ino structures and ideology when capitalism
other to maintain that domination." (p. temal structure of capitalism itself7 was emerging. it was "natural" that
14) Thus, while there is inequality among Iris Young argues that if Marxism can o women became one of the groups of
men, all men are bought off by getting to not, or if feminists don't force Marxism marginalized workers. (Today, young
have control over some women. to, incorporate an analysis of the subor- people and minorities are others.) Women
Hartmann says the material basis of dination of women into the core of its could go into and out of the workplace,
patriarchy, the missing element in the theory of capitalist production relations, into and out of the home, according to the
radical feminist theory, is men's control two negative results follow. First, Marxist needs of capitalism. The use of women
over women's labor power. This control is
maintained by excluding women from ac~ MYSALAR,.V?
cess to some essential productive re-
sources (under capitalism, for example, TWICE AS MUCH
women by and large don't have jobs that AS I EXPECTED .••
pay a living wage), and by restricting SUT ONLY HALF OF
women's sexuality.
In this way, men can make women WHAT I'M WO~!
serve them-in housework, for sexual
purposes, and to bear their children.
Following Gayle Rubin's 'The Traffic in
Women," Hartmann calls the structures
that enable men to control women's labor
power a "sex/gender system," or "the set
of arrangements by which a society
transforms biological sexuality into pro-
ducts of human activity, and in which
these transformed sexual needs are
satisfied. "
Thus, together, economic production
(Marx's object of analysis) and the pro-
eduction of human beings within the
sexl gender system determine what society
-. is: like. Hartmann claims there is no
necessary connection between changes in and in- the other; the economic mode
of prOduction could be transformed from
capitalism to socialism, for example, theory will remain sex-blind, and there- workers during World-War nand the pro-
without dislodging patriarchy. fore unable to adequately analyze produc- paganda campaign to glorify housewifery
Her examples are China, Cuba and the tion relations. Second, the whole question afterwards are examples.
Soviet Union, where, she says, socialism of women's oppression and labor will re- Thus Young concludes that the devel-
exists but patriarchy persists. Hartmann main on the margins of radical economic opment of a capitalism that was inherent-
presumes that these societies are in fact theory. ly patriarchal was the only historically
socialist because "they regard themselves Young's solution to the problem is that grounded possibility.
as socialist and so do most other folks." "feminism must take over Marxism," i.e. Hartmann, on the other hand, believes
To summarize her argument, Hartmann that Marxism must take the gender divi- that the "mere historical convergence [of
says, 'The material base of patriarchy is sion of labor and the situation of women patriarchy and capitalism] is not suffi-
men's control over women's labor power. as core elements in its analysis from the cient" to explain their inherent connec-
Men exercise their control in receiving beginning. tion, if they have one. She prefers to see
personal service work from women, in Hartmann assumes, like Engels, that the two as "somewhat autonomous." She
not having to do housework or rear capitalism tended to homogenize the says that unless we can discover a theor-
children, in having access to women's workforce, reducing the importance of sex etical reason for the inherent connection
Dodi.. for sex, and in feeling powerful and differences. This assumption leads her to a between patriarchy and capitalism, "we
being powerful. The crucial elements of dual systems analysis: if the internal don't get very far trying to analyze them
patriarchy as we currently experience dynamic of capitalism itself were towards as one system."
them are: heterosexual marriage (and con- homogenization, then only the operation To this I would respond that "mere"
sequent homophobia), female childrear- of a separate systern-patriarchy-could historical reality ought to carry a great
ing and housework, women's economic explain the fact that women remain un~ deal of weight in a materialist analysis.
Capitalism did not step onto the stage of are manifest in identical social and sion of women which exist under
history and fiod that stage empty. It en- economic structures, they belong to one capitalism, including both lower wages
countered patriarchal social relations and system, not two." and women's relegation to the home
ideology. Although capitalism changed One can easily think of examples in under the "family wage" system, are
and shaped the way in which patriarchy which patriarchy and capitalism appear to essential to the nature of capitalism as it
was manifested, it was also shaped by that be operating simultaneously: the use of developed historicaliy.
pnHOCisting patriarchy. sex in advertising, women's relegation to On the Practical Level
Take the nuclear family-please. Ab- lower-paying jobs. Two issues which feminists have taken
stractly, it would be immaterial to the up recently point to the integrated nature
capitalist class how the working class The Family Wage Debate of the system we are fighting.
reproduces itself, as long as we get Hartmann and Young apply their dif- One is "comparable worth," or equal
ourselves to work in the morning with the ferent theories of the partnership of pay for work of comparable value. Com-
right attitude. In South Africa, for exam- patriarchy and capitalism to the struggle parable worth activists argue that a
ple, because of the particular convergence for the "family wage," the idea that the secretary's job is "worth" as much as a
of capitalism, patriarchy, and national man of the family should be paid enough truckdriver's and that women's traditional
oppression, capitalists encourage one to support a wife and children. jobs, such as clerical work, should b.
form of reproduction for white For Hartmann, the fight for the family brought up to men's pay
workers-the nuclear family-and wage came out of a "conflict over The demand is by nature very radical,
another for many Blacks-women and women's labor power which was occur- although it has sometimes been argued
men are forced to live separately, often ring between patriarchal and capitalist in- and fought for in a fashion not calculated
men in company barracks and women in terests at that time," that is, in the 19th to raise consciousness very much, such as
the Bantustans. century. "objective job evaluation" and lawsuits.
But because of the particular conjunc- She argues that the partnership between The comparable worth movement chal~
tion of early capitalism and the patriar- patriarchy and capital was not inevitable. lenges the patriarchal nQJion that ~
chal structures remaining from preeapital- The majority of men wanted to keep their women's work is not worth as much as
ist society, the nuclear family became the wives in the home to perform personal men's simply because women are-doing it.
main way in which the working class in services for them. But capitalists wanted And it challenges a very important prop
the United States and Europe reproduced to bring women into the factories in order of capitalism-its ability to get away _with
itself. And the arrangements which enable to lower wages. paying millions of clerical and· service
tlie nuclear family to exist and which flow The capitalists were successful at first. workers a barely living wage, or less. On.
from it got built into the internal structure Women and chidren were paid so little, judge ruling against a comparable worth
of capitalism. These included the "family and men's labor was cheapened so suit calied the concept "pregnant with the
wage," consumer industries based on drastically, that the whole family earned possibility of disrupting the entire
large numbers of separate households, less than the man alone as breadwinner economic system of the United States- of
and Social Security payments for old pe0- had taken home before. America."
ple who were no longer cared for at home. Working class men, therefore, fought Organizers have found the comparable
(This is not to say that any of these ar- for the family wage, against the interests worth demand very appealing to women
rangements could not change due to of capital. Instead of fighting for equal workers on an immediate intuitive level,
feminist struggle, working class struggle, wages for men and women, men sought to both as women-"it's not fair that we're
or the changing needs of capital.) exclude women from the workplace and paid less than men" -and as workers-- ----
A similar argument about historical to raise their own wages. By the end of the "it's not fair that we're paid so little."
convergence holds true for racism. There 19th century, the family wage was the (Heidi Hartmann, by the way, made an
is nothing in Capital's categories of norm, at least for stable working class important contribution to the comparable - ~ ~­
analysis that says racism has to exist. But families. worth movement with her National
capitalism as it developed in Western Hartmann describes this process as Academy of Sciences study which back,,-
Europe and the United States was in- "allowing one part [of the working class] up the arguments for comparable worth.)
timately bound up with the slave trade. (men) to be bought off at the expense of Sexual harassment is also both a
The development of capitalism and the other (women)." feminist and an anti-capitalist issue. Many
slavery at the same time led to a particular Young, on the other hand, believes that organizers and writers against sexual
form of racism, which persists and has one can understand the sexism of men harassment have shown how harassment
become integral to capitalism in this coun· workers by seeing the essentially patriar- is a product both of sexism and of authori 4

try. Capitalism benefits from racism both chal character of capitalism itself, without ty relations in the workplace.
to superexploit Black workers and to keep positing a system of social relations in- Sexual harassment lets individual men
the working class divided. Theoreticaliy, dependent of capitalism. feel more powerful. and it functions to
there need not be a connection between Capitalism is an economic system in help employers keep women workers in
racism and capitalism, but historically which a division of labor by gender their place. Feminist organizers who also
there was and is, and that is what we are marginalizes women's labor. It thereby want to strengthen workers' hand against
contending with now-one racist, sexist, gives men a specific kind of privilege and employers have argued that a woman can
capitalist system. status, which they have fought to main- and should deal differently with harassing
Young notes that the same features re- tain. Although Young doesn't spell it out, co~workers than with a harassing boss.
inforce both patriarchy and capitalism. this privilege presumably includes both It seems to me that activists who
We may recall that Hartmann includes in keeping the better jobs for themselves and organize around comparable worth or sex-
her list of the crucial elements of patriar- being waited upon in the home. ual harassment are dealing with patriar-
chy: women's economic dependence on Hartmann says that capitalism was able chal capitalism as one system, and that it
men (eniorced by arrangements in the to adapt to the family wage and even is more useful for socialist feminists to ap·
labor market), the state, corporations, benefit from it~ven though it was proach the issues that way.
and armies. She admits that "it is hard to patriarchy's idea. Young insists that What matters is that we continue to
isolate the mechanisms of patriarchy." capitalism did not just use or adapt to carry out our politics in a way that raises
Young says that the mechanisms cannot patriarchy but was founded on it. She women's (and men's) consciousness about
be isolated: "If patriarchy and capitalism argues that the specific forms of oppres- both battles. 0
from CHA.NOES, September-October 1984)

Toward U
Marxism. and the Oppression of
Women: Towards a Unitary
Theory. By Lise Vogel.
New Brunswick. NJ: Rutgers University
Press. 1984. 218 pp, $25 (hardcover).

By Elissa Clarke
new book, Marxism and the Oppression
of Women, is its scholarly review of
Marxist answers to the "woman
Chagrined by feminists' tendency to
misinterpret or reject Marxism, Vogel set
for herself the task of reviewing the major
:Marxist: contributions to feminist theory,
from the early writings of Marx and
Engels through the Second International.
and then ahead to the rebirth of the
discussion under the rubric "socialist
feminism" in the last fifteen years.
Vagel shows how this body of theory
evolved and built upon itself. By relating
it: to the cultural biases and scientific
limitations of its day, and by locating it in
the 19th and 20th century socialist
J:l101Irerrtents, Vogel gives the reader a basis
for understanding some of the theory's
shortcomings and an ability to appreciate
its, strides forward.
Manism and the Oppression of
Women is a complete account of the
evolution of Marx and Engels' thoughts
on women's liberation. While Vogel is the scope, it is concisely written, although "According to the materialistic concep·
dear that she begins from the perspective you may have to run over some of the tion, the determining factor in history is,
that Marxism provides a framework for sentences more than once to translate the in the final instance, the production and
understanding women's oppression, she theoretical verbiage into English, mentally reproduction of immediate life. This,
does not gloss over the weaknesses of this exchanging "worker" for "direct again, is of a twofold character: on the
body of literature. Therefore, Marxists producer" or. "family" for "generational one side, the production of the means of
have a valuable resource that not only replacement process." existence, of food, clothing and shelter
critiques but helps to advance socialist and the tools necessary for that -produc-
Two Schools tion; on the other side, the production of
Vogef5 account of the debates in the Vogel divides socialist feminist theoreti- human beings themselves, the propaga-
contemporary socialist feminist move- cians into two schools. The first, the "dual tion of the species." (Vogel. p. 31)
ment (this seems to be an obligatory systems" theorists, claim that two motors Indeed, that incredibly po'puj,ar
feature of socialist feminist theoretical ar- drive history-class oppression and sex
ticli5 these days) is particularly sharp. oppression. The mode of production and
Ameasure of Vogel's seriousness is that class enter as important variables, but
she not only analyzes Engels' The Origin variables all the same. They are seen as ex-
of tJl£ Family, Private Property and the ternal to the workings of women's oppres-
State:" but also Morgan's Ancient Society, sion. Dual systems, then, suggests that
the: ,anthropological study upon which women's oppression is essentially in-
Engels- based his work. Origin is tedious dependent from class oppression, and that
enou~;.- reading Morgan is indeed im- there is some other mechanism (patriar-
pressIVe.. chy) that is the main force behind
B!,lt don't get the impression that this is women's oppression.
""'impossibly detailed book. Considering Although popular today, dual systems
was not an invention of the modem
Elissa Oarke- is active in the women's women's movement. Engels was an early
movement,. and is a contributing editor proponent, to wit, the often-quoted
taChanges. preface to Origin:
has left a flawed legacy for the socialist etc.) are transcended by looking at both as It is women's dependence on men for
movement. Vogel makes a very convinc~ components of necessary labor. subsistence during pregnancy and lacta a

ing argument that Engels himself was con- This opens up a new way to explore tion that forms the basis for that differen-
fused and vacillated betw.." dual systems women's oppression, which does not tiallocation, not the sex division of labor'
and a more materialist theory. Therefore, automatically counterpose men to wom- itself, Vogel says.
Origin has been drawn on to prove very en. Rather, both are components of I can hear the single mothers of the
contradictory theories. necessary labor and play a role in the world heaving a collective sigh of ex-
A theme in Origin is the idea that there mechanics of capitalist expropriation. The asperation. Is that all there is? '
is a "natural" division of labor based on important point is that women's oppres- Vogel's emphasis on '1actation" is
sex in the primitive, communistic sion has a material root. rather cold-hearted, and an anachronism ~
household where family duties are the ex- The third concept, the industrial reserve besides. Babies, after all, are depende"t
clusive province of women. In positing army, ties a surplus population of the whether they are breastfed or not.
two separate modes of production, Engels unemployed (including, but not exclusive- Women, through history, have been so
was taking the distinction between natural ly, women) to the process of capital ac- manipulated over breastfeeding that I
and social phenomena to its logical con- Cumulation. Marx stated that the greater cringe to think that socialists are going to
clusion. This dichotomy was never en- the social wealth, the greater the surplus jump in. My daughter was born at the
dorsed by the socialist movement, in army. An expanding capitalism draws onset of the '73-'74 recession, so I
Engels' day or today. Socialists rejected more workers into the workforce, but graphically remember the sudden wave of
the implication that the family represents simultaneously, there is a drive to increase newspaper articles on breastfeeding,
an autonomous center of social develop- productivity by introducing machinery, quality time versus quantity time (10 .and
ment separate from the economic system. thus creating an opposite force that in- behold, it was found that quality doesn't
But it was precisely this formulation creases the surplus of labor. make up for quantity), increasing baby's
that "caught the imagination of contem- IQ with mother~ild interactions, the
porary socialist feminists, often tempting Analyzing Reproduction dire ramifications of letting a day care
them into a quite cavalier reading of the In this sense, the final two chapters of center bring up your child, etc.
Origin," Vogel writes. (p. 91) Vogel's book, comprising only 40 pages, I suppose that Vogel chose the term
Vogel suggests that socialist feminists fonn the crux of her thesis. There are cer- '1actation" to emphasize that women's op;.
turn their attention from dual systems to tainly valuable ideas here, as worthy of pression is, in the distant past, rooted -in
developing concepts set forward in Marx's discussion as the debates that have con- the immutable differences between the
"mature" writings. The Marx of Capital, sumed the socialist feminist movement sexes. However, emphasizing breastfeed-
Vogel says, "had more to say of relevance over the past 15 years, but in no way has ing at this point implies that men and
to the issue of women's liberation than Vogel set forward a theory that is com- women cannot share equally in the care of
either he or his socialist followers ever plete. infants. This implies that there is less
realized. Three concepts are key: in- The subtitle of the book-Towards a potential for change (both today and
dividual consumption, the value of labor Unitm1/ Theory-makes clear Vogel's under socialism) than we have
power, and the industrial reserve army."
(p. 63)
Marx never fully developed the idea of
individual consumption, but Vogel main-
tains that a discussion of the reproduction
of the working class lies "just below the
surface" of this concept. Marx contrasts
individual consumption to productive
consumption, which involves the bringing
together of the means of production-raw
materials, tools, machines, and workers.
In contrast, individual consumption refers
to the processes by which producers
(workers) consume the means of subsist·
ence-food, housing, clothing, etc.
According to Marx, the value of labor
power is determined in the same way as
the value of any other commodity. That goal, a new In Vogel's defense, keep in mind that
In p~:~;:Ji~~~' Vogel states
is, its value represents the socially childrearing used to be a lot more in-
necessary labor required for its produc- systems.
reproduction capadtating than it is now. In the mid-
tion. Necessary labor has two com· that women's oppression has a material 19th century, women spent the greater
ponents-material production (wage basis which is rooted in women's duferen- part of their adult lives pregnant or caring
work) and domestic labor. Domestic tiallocation within social reproduction as for small children. Poor living conditions
labor is that part of necessary labor that a whole. and primitive medical care meant that
falls outside of wage work. Of the three aspects of necessary many children died; in London in 1850
To illustrate, the worker's wages can labor-maintenance of direct producers nearly 60% of children died by the age of
purchase food, but even a frozen dinner (read: workers), maintenance of five.
has to be bought at the store, put in the dependents (children, elders, non- The advent of contraception, improved
oven, carried to the table, and thrown in working adults), and generational medical care, bottled baby foods, canned
the garbage can (afterwards, naturally). replacement (read: childbearing)-only formulas, disposable diapers have made
The traditional counterposition between the last requires a sex division of labor. childrearing a different thing.
domest~c work and wage work (or its Therefore, it must be biological reproduc- But even so, childrearing is not as sim-
various manifestations-home vs. mar- tion that lies at the root of women's op- ple as the women's movement originally
ket, private vs. public, unpaid vs. paid, pression. painted it. The supposed political solu-
-'It) -
tions to the working mother's burden plicably narrowed down. For example, en's lack of democratic rights, affects
(childcare, maternity/paternity leaves, noting that none of these (unnamed) women across class line.
etc) really are not solutions. Caring for a societies have abolished the family (a I don't understand the importance of
10tlng child remains an incredibly con- "drastic demand"), Vogel says, "Socialist drawing this kind of distinction. It doesn't
suming and awesome responsibility. society does not, it is clear, abolish the strike me as accurate, anyway. Ruling
family in the sense of doing away with in- class women are not all on the corporate
Dependence career ladder, Many define their lives as a
dividual social units in which domestic
V\J~ers ar~ument thdt women's oppres- labor is performed." She goes on, social appendage to their husbands, so
s-ion is nlllteu in a period ot dependence "Neither does it eliminate the sex division even if they have servants, their lives are
Juring pregnancy and lact.ation hinges on of labor." (p. 174) limited. And furthermore, democratic
the rl'idtionship n~ childbearing to the dp- These conclusions are the weakest part demands are not just about the Equal
prnpri..ltion ot surplus !clbor. Childbearing of the book and demonstrate a theoretical Rights Amendent, but flow from the sex-
diminishes the contribution to production vacuum in Vogel's work. These societies ual division of labor, which arises from
,J; w'orking clds-s woman Cdn m..lke because are not socialist because they say they are. women's role in the family.
she IS incapacitated while pregnant clnd If one views these societies, instead, as ex- Nor do I understand the current fashion
((.Iring tor intants. ploitative (of whatever stripe; it is the among socialists to advocate building
For the capitalist class, there is a con- view of this journal that the so-called cross-class women's organizations. (See
tradiction between long term and short socialist countries are bureaucratic collec- also Zillah Eisenstein, The Radical Future
term interests as regards childbearing. In tivist). then it is obvious why they have of Liberal Feminism and Meredith Tax,
the long term, childbearing is the only not eliminated domestic labor, eradicated The Rising of the Women.) Middle class
solution to renewing the working class. the sex division of labor, abolished the women have already organized. Socialists
BUt in the short term, childbearing entails family, or liberated women. need to evaluate where their time can be
ilIcostly decline in the mother's capacity to used most effectively. The need is to build
work, and requires that she be maintained These countries, like capitalist coun- a working class women's movement.
iuring the period of diminished contribu- tries. are motivated to get the most Finally, I am very uncomfortable with
tion. surplus product out of the working class. Vogel's equivocation on the family,
Women's oppression develops in the To call these countries socialist, or to ex-
another issue on which the socialist
grocess of the class struggle over the long trapolate a program for women's libera-
femininst movement appears to be unclear
term and short term contradictions of
tion from them, does irreparable harm to
of late.
C'ai:litalism's needs. Out of this struggle, a the cause. At one point, Vogel suggests that the
wide variety of forms of reproduction of As a result, many of the conclusions
relative oppressiveness of the family must
labor power have evolved in the course of Vogel draws are unconvincing, and in
be weighed on a moment by moment
history _ In our own lifetimes, we have some cases antithetical to the traditional
basis. "In a successful strike, for example,
seen the norm go from housewife to work- positions put forward by the socialist- solidarity within and among working-
ing mother. Other solutions implemented
feminist movement. class families may be a major factor,
oy the capitalist class to reproduce labor For example, Vogel stresses the idea although this defensive aspect of working-
powerinc1ude immigration, slavery, labor that the sexual division of labor is not in- class family life may recede after the con-
camps, dormitory facilities (as in the early herently oppressive. "Divisions of labor clusion of the battle, Elsewhere, a strike of
textile mills or South Africa today). exist in all societies. Even in the most male workers may be lost in part because
In virtually all cases, the forms of egalitarian hunting and gathering society, organizers fail to involve dependent wives
reproduction of labor power entail men·s a variety of tasks is accomplished every and children in support, thereby heighten-
greater responsibility for domestic labor. day, requiring a division of labor. Dif- ing already existing tensions in the
Also in virtually all cases, they include in- ferences among people arising out of family." (p. 171)
stitutionalized forms of male domination. biological and social development also What is good for the class struggle is
He,wever, the sexual division of labor characterize every society." (p. 148) good for women -even if they remain
~lved historically; it cannot be deduced Are we to conclude that we need not "dependent." The implication seems to be
theoretically. "The social significance of address the sexual division of labor? that the family itself is not the problem,
divisions of labor and of individual dif- In fact, it is oppressive to divide roles that without capitalism "the patriarchal
ferences is constructed in the context of along gender lines. I can't imagine a socie- family and the oppression of
the actual society in which they are ty where this would not be true. The fact women ... will wither away," (p. 175)
,mbedded," Vogel writes. (p. 148) that men and women do not share These glib conclusions and extrapola-
The resolution is the socialization of chiIdrearing limits children's views of tions undermine the thoughtful analysis in
:iomestic labor, which Vogel feels cannot themselves. this book. The contribution that Vogel
::7e accomplished under capitalism because In the workforce, the ramifications are has made to the socialist feminist move-
:he costs are too high for childrearing and even more obvious. Even if work is com- ment is found in the earlier part of the
:lousehold maintenance. pensated equally, some kinds of work are book. She has helped to guide the
Vogel also focuses on the idea that more challenging, engaging. creative, theoretical debate away from dual systems
women across class lines are denied fulfilling than others. This is so obvious I and redirect it to an analvsis rooted in the
:iemocratic rights. This commonality can 'f believe it needs to be restated. Fur- best traditions of Marxi~m. I only hope
:eack. her to project the importance of a thermore, the sexual division of labor can that enough people read this book that we
:ross-dass women's movement. be challenged now, in the capitalist might leave the dual systems discussion
market and in the socialist movement, behind us.
Hasty Extrapolation
and can be changed, at least to an extent. Vogel has also made an attempt to
Vagel's conclusions in the last pages of It should be eliminated under socialism. carry the discussion beyond its fonner
'he. book about the conditions for Vogel also draws a sharp line between boundaries by fleshing out the ideas of
lIIomen's liberation appear to be a hasty what she sees as two separate sets of necessary labor and the reproduction of
~)ttrapolation from "existing socialist issues. The first, women's responsibility the working class. Despite the weaknesses
;otieties." (p. 174) The complexity of the for domestic labor, affects primarily of the conclusions she draws from these
heoretical material is abruptly and inex- working class women. The second, wom- concepts, the ideas merit discussion. L.l

from CHANGES,. Jan.-Feb. 1984-

Where is Jesse Jackson Running?

dependent political alternative. This is especially tragic
A Statement by the International Socialists because, in principle, it doesn't have to be that way,
JESSE JACKSON FOR PRESIDENT? From the day The International Socialists (1.5.) do not believe that
Jackson officially launched his campaign for the socialists should participate in the leadership contests of
Democratic Party presidential nomination, to the day capitalist, imperialist parties, even when popular or pro-
when the nomination is given to either Walter Mondale gressive figures are candidates in those contests. We don't
or John Glenn, his campaign will be-by far-the most think the left can advance the goals of independent
interesting affair in the American political picture. politics by supporting Jesse Jackson or any other
Jesse Jackson's candidacy stimulated mass interest in Democratic candidate. We do think it is important for
the Black community, and excitement on the left, months socialists to understand and actively solidarize with the
before the formal announcement. The attractiveness of sentiments and aspirations of the millions of primarily
the campaign is, itself, a political factor that cannot be ig- Black and other oppressed people who will support Jesse
nored. There is a diversity of views across the breadth of Jackson's campaign. We will argue that there is, in fact, a
the political spectrum on the Jackson campaign: among way to do precisely this.
Black Democrats as to whether his candidacy will inspire
Black voters or split the Black-liberal coalition, among
political activists in the National Black Independent
Political Party and other organizations in the Black
J esse Jackson is not acting like a normal bourgeois
politician, chasing the middle ground or spending
millions (which he doesn't have in any case) to cultivate a
freedom struggle, and of course, within. the left. This smooth media image and welI-<>i1ed campaign organiza-
statement will, we hope, contribute to an important tion. Instead, he aims to change the location of that mid-
debate and hopefully to at least a modest program of ac- dle ground-through a massive voter registration drive
tion. primarily of the seven million unregistered Black voters,
The following analysis will argue that Jesse Jackson's out of a total Black voting-age population of 17 million.
campaign, and the well thought-<>ut political strategy Jesse Jackson is not going to change his style or strategy
that underlies it, is a contradictory phenomenon. It has a to cater to the norms of media politicking, and there is no
radical and inspirational character which will raise Black reason why he should. Since network television is
expectations and consciousness. It will appear, in the disinclined to show voter-registration rallies conducted in
minds of many people, as·a confrontation between Black Black churches-which is what most of Jackson's cam-
America and the institutions of racism for the first time paign events will be-most people outside the Black com-
since the 19605. It is also, at least in a limited sense, a munity will never see what may be the most significant
mobilization which may significantly change the political political events of 1984.
landscape through the entry of several million previously But with or without high media exposure, Jesse Jackson
unregistered and politically marginalized, primarily has a strategy for a Democratic victory over Ronald
Black people into the electoral process. Reagan in 1984-perhaps the only strategy. Speaking at
Jackson's entry into the presidential race temporarily the August 27 March for Jobs, Peace and Freedom in
displaced one of the long-standing laws of American life: Washington, 0, c., Jackson reeled off what has become a
that serious presidential politics must be dominated by standard litany, the list of states where unregistered
the Worst and the Dullest, the whitest and blandest men Blacks outnumbered Ronald Reagan's margin of victory
with no ideas or programs aside from who can race the in 1980. In ten states, including a crucial Southern block,
fastest to capture the electoral "middle ground." that Black unregistered vote, if cast for the Democrat,
That's one side of the campaign. The other side, would have kept Reagan out of the White House.
tragically, is that the strategy behind Jesse Jackson's cam- The strategy for 1984 and beyond, then, is to break up
paign-a quite conscious strategy, not an accidental one that "unholy alliance of the rich and the unregistered"
-guarantees that on Election Day 1984, the choice be- that elected Reagan. Alone among the Democrats, Jesse
tween the Worst and the Dullest, Ronald Reagan and Jackson insists that this strategy depends crucially on of-
Walter Mondale to be precise, will reassert itself with fering something-at least a sentiment and a hope, if not
redoubled force. The Jackson strategy means that in a very concrete program-to vote for. That hope is em-
November 1984 and perhaps years to come, Black bodied first and foremost in the figure of lesse Jackson,
America, other oppressed nationalities, the poor, the the first Black leader, aside from the short-lived 1972 can- •
unemployed, and labor will have no candidate and no in- didacy of Shirley Chisolm, to run for the Democratic
presidential nomination.
This statement was written by the P~liticizl Committee of the The strategy, therefore, depends on lackson's cam-
lntemah'onal Socialists. Changes welcomes any comments or paign maintaining its inspirational and radical tone and
other views on this issue. its appeal to Black pride and Black power, Further, if sue-

cessful, it would be the first political development in well issues of both domestic and foreign policy as well as
over a decade to shift the center of gravity in U.S. politics racial pride and equality, the image is accurate. While the
to the left instead of the right. It would be foolish to ig- other Democratic candidates give feeble lip service to op-
nore this potential, and the openings it might create for a posing U.S. military intervention-except where the U.S.
different kind of politics in America. is actually militarily intervening-Jesse Jackson con-
It would be equally mistaken, however, for the left to demns the U.S. war drive in Central America, and means
suppose that such a new politics could arise spontaneous- it. He has called for peace in the Middle East with justice
Iy. _ or out of the Jackson campaign itself-for as we will for the Palestinian people, and refused to back down
show in more detail below, the campaign proposes to from that stand in the face of vicious personal attacks
shift the center of gravity within the Democratic Party, from powerful forces in the traditional Democratic coali-
an4 in the process to stabilize the Democratic Party's tion.
political framework rather than in any way go beyond it. There are areas where Jackson's record is less positive.
His views on women's right to abortion have been

W hat, precisely, does Jesse Jackson stand for7 He

is regarded, of course, as a committed champion
of social justice for the poor and disenfranchised in
retrograde, although pressure from feminists has pushed
him to an essentially pro-<hoice position. In the October
Chicago Teachers' Union strike, his PUSH organization
general and Black people in particular-and on central was part of the strike-breaking coalition against the ma-

jOrity-Black union. Examples of
this kind of reactionary
behavior should not be swept
under the rug, or apologized
for-but they must also not be
taken out of proportion to
Jackson's total record of strug-
gle for civil rights and social
It is, of course, in the struggle
of the Black community against
racism and discrimination that
Jackson has made his greatest
mark. His program is a kind of
synthesis of the Black middle
c1as5 political and economic
aspirations with a populist
(rather than class) and radical
appeal to the poor and margin-
alized of all races and na-
Especially in his home base,
Chicago, Jackson has sought to
mobilize economic and political
leverage to win business fran-
chises for Black entrepreneurs
and jobs for Black youth, and
pushed a message of self-help to
strengthen Black education and
i (, !1 family life. His boycott of
\ ,I· -, Mayor Jane Byrne's 1982 Chica-
1 goFest helped generate initial
momentum for Harold Wash-
4" ington's mayoral campaign.
_. While not a career party politi-
cian, Jackson has a history of
involvement in Democratic Par-
l)RI\LL ty affairs-he played a powerful
role, for example in the
unseating of Mayor Richard
Daley's delegation at the 1972
party convention.
In short, within the American
bourgeois political spectrum,
Jesse Jackson can be seen as a

Jesse Jackson speaks at a PUSH convention in Atlanta as other convention. In his November 3 speech in Columbus,
Democratic presidential hopefuls listen-Walter Mandale, Alan Ohio, Jackson explicitly spelled out that the center of the
Cranston. Ernest Hollings (aU seated).
strategy is directed toward November 1984-toward
maverick who brings to the Democratic Party a reputa- "Ronald Reagan's retirement party." Further, if you ex-
tion and following he has won primarily outside (and amine the political evolution that led to the Jackson cam-
well to the left of) the party-political framework. He is by paign, you discover that his campaign is a tactic toward
no means anti-capitalist-indeed, only the more self- achieving a well-defined strategy which has been worked
deluding elements of the radical left are likely to think out over many years by a section of the Black leadership
they can inject anti-capitalist content by entering his cam- and articulated by some of its spokespersons such as John
paign. Jackson's populism-for-all classes in the Black Conyers and Ron Dellums,
community includes Black capitalism as a central The strategy envisions an electoral mobilization of
tenet-the perspective that Black business will provide Black people to restore the Democratic Party's national
the jobs, the political and financial muscle that enables majority, to re-negotiate the place of Black people in the
the community as a whole to make social gains. Democratic voting coalition, and to put Black people's
These facts, both positive and negative, about Jesse concerns higher on the agenda of that coalition.
Jackson's politics and program are important, but in our It is not only a question of the pivotal role of the Black
view, they are not the decisive criteria for determining a vote in electing a Democratic president. It includes a
socialist attitude toward his candidacy, Far more impor- "New Southern Strategy," as Jesse Jackson himself refer-
tant are the questions of what kind of political and social red to it in one article: the importance of Black members
dynamics his campaign might open up-a concrete anal- of Democratic Party state organizations, especially in the
ysis of whether this campaign, or some fraction of the South, would become much greater. The trend toward
forces within it, are fighting for independent political ac- white conservatives in the South supporting, or even
tion of the Black community and its potential allies, and joining, the Republicans would thus be countered by
if so how the left can most constructively maximize that making the Democratic Party in the South a uniquely
possibility , liberal, even in places a Black-led, party.
Once this thinking is understood, a number of facts

J esse Jackson himself has left no doubt about where

he stands on this central question. Immediately
after announcing' his candidacy for the Democratic
about the Jackson campaign fall into place.
First, the campaign is not, except very secondarily,
about building a multi-racial popular "Rainbow Coali-
nomination, he made clear that he would not run outside tion." (In a certain vague sense, of course, the
the Democratic Party as an independent following the Democratic Party itself has claimed for SO years now to

be such a coalition, but that is only rhetoric.) As far as ed Black people into it. And too much because there is no
practical politics and concrete organization is concerned, reason to think Jackson will have anything like the
what the Jackson campaign is trying to build is not a strength needed to broker the Democratic nomination.
Rainbow Coalition, but a Black voting block which "Power brokering" implies the old-fashioned horse-
might be a component of such a coalition at some future trading of votes for promises-promises of the number of
time. Jackson's statements about a Rainbow Coalition are appointments, job programs and other legislative gains
not what make his campaign important, and in any case the Democratic contenders might be willing to grant in
seem to be his own language for reviving what others call exchange for the votes of Jackson's delegate block. This
the "New Deal coalition." Jackson-in-the-smoke-filled-room scenario would be
In fact, given financial constraints and media hostility, plausible if there were the slightest doubt about how
Jesse Jackson is hardly even building a campaign either the Jackson delegates, or later in the general elec-
organization at all in the traditional sense, but rather bas- tion, the masses of Black Americans will vote. But there
ing his candidacy on the existing Black church (and Black isn't the slightest doubt!
business) networks that already support him. Some on First, the actual candidate selection process has been
the left, who would like to read into Jackson's candidacy re-rigged to make sure the candidate is selected by the
the potential of a "Rainbow Coalition" organization in- party powers-that-be at the convention, not through
side the Democratic Party, have criticized him for a too primary delegate elections, which have been reduced.
narrow and Black-oriented appeal; but given what the More than a third of the delegates will be chosen in
underlying strategy is, this criticism is quite misplaced. bureaucratically-run caucuses where Jackson's forces
Second, the Jackson campaign, quite contrary to the have negligible influence. With perhaps 200 delegates at
fears expressed by some of the more conservative en- maximum, out of total of 3900, Jesse Jackson will almost
trenched Black figures (like Andrew Young) in the Dem- certainly have a smaller delegate block than any other
ocratic Party, is in no way contradictory to the aim of "brokering" force. But even if he had the muscle, it seems
electing Walter Mondale as president in November. inconceivable that Jackson would use it in such a way as
In fact, it is precisely in the general election that the to create a victory for John Glenn.
viability of the whole strategy will be tested-not in the In essence, Jackson is every bit as committed to a final
number of delegates that Jackson commands at the Dem- vote for Walter Mondale as are those who vote for Fritz
ocratic convention. "Register and Vote for Me': is not on the first ballot. But if you are not able, or willing, to
Jesse Jackson's message to the Black community-rather, be a real "spoiler" then you have no real bargaining
it is "Register and Vote in November." From Jackson's power.
pont of view, it is not at the convention that he will fun- Furthermore, there is no doubt that Blacks will vote
damentally show the power to leverage concessions from Democratic in the November 1984 election-what really
the Democrats, but in the general election through the counts will be whether the numbers will be high enough
votes of millions of Black people, registered and mobiliz- to elect the Democrat. Mondale's forces certainly under-
ed under his auspices. stand all this. Whatever the clash of rhetoric during the
campaign, things are likely to go more or less smoothly at
There seems little doubt that Jackson is right, and his the convention-because the Jackson and Mondale strat-
critics wrong, in their tactical difference over how to ad- egies harmonize perfectly. Mondale does need a massive
vance Black interests within the Democratic Party struc- Black turnout to defeat Reagan, and so far only Jackson
ture. The critics of Jackson's candidacy seem, above all, has a strategy to accomplish this. Institutionally and
to be defending their own entrenched relations with the politically (as opposed to emotionally), the Jackson cam-
liberal establishment. But the fact of a clear political split paign is not a dash between Black America and the white
in the Black leadership has obscured the deeper fact that liberal establishment, as many of the struggles of the
there is no dissent in that leadership over whether the 1960s were,
place to pursue Black interests is inside the Democratic Of course, Jackson obviously cannot afford a humilia-
Party. tion at the convention, like the one suffered by the

T he most narrow and cynical interpretation of

Jackson's campaign from the standpoint of his con-
servative Black critics was offered by Chicago columnist
Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party in 1964. Further-
more, to mobilize such a massive voting Black turnout
that it would be impossible for the Democrats to dismiss
Black demands it is important for Jackson to play up the
Vernon Jarrett, who said: radical, inspirational, racial pride and populist character
Jesse is not running for president. He's running for the of- of his campaign, as opposed te' the usual slide to the
fice of chief power broker for Black people at the center and horse-trading maneuverism characteristic of
Democratic convention, where he will be televised and
portrayed as a Black power broker. His agenda is the pro- most candidates.
motion of Jesse Jackson as the king, the emperor, the most All this means that Jackson is likely to end his cam-
important Black person of this century. (Quoted in New paign not in a posture of helpless submission to the win-
York Times, September 22, 1983). ning candidate, nor with his radical image badly tarnish-
~ The "power broker strategy" analysis, however, seems ed by compromises, but rather with an enhanced
to us to be seriously off the mark. It gives the Jackson credibility, with a major role to play in mobilizing the
campaign too little and too much significance, at the Black vote for November, and with the appearance of
same time. Too little because, as we have already pointed greater clout to wield in Democratic Party affairs in years
Qut, Jackson proposes to permanently alter the contours to come.
of political debate by bringing millions of disenfranchis- continued on page 24 ~

JackSOn-continued from page 13
-,5- trol of social policy, the destiny of the Black community
The Jackson strategy is tragically self-defeating because

owever, there is a deep contradiction at the very
heart of this perspective. For exactly the same
reason that Jackson can hope to have little short-term im-
the very activity on which it centrally depends-massive
voter registration-is divorced from independent
organization of any variety (not even in the distorted
pact on the Democratic convention-being unwilling to sense of building an "independent" organized center of in-
be a "spoiler" -his campaign will be fundamentally in- fluence within the Democratic Party).
capable of forcing a basic long-term renegotiation of Jackson himself has not hidden the fact that the goal is
Black influence in the Democratic Party's ruling circles. to reestablish the Democrats' national majority status. It
The irony is that Black people will still have "no other is the opposite of a "break-out" strategy or of indepen-
place to go." They can elect the Democrats by voting in dent politics. Everyone seems to understand this-except
massive numbers, but they cannot threaten the Demo- the left.
crats except by failing to vote at all.
Despite its tactical flair and originality, the core of the
Jackson strategy is not very different from the tradi-
tional, increasingiy ineffective labor strategy-deliver a
T he Jesse Jackson campaign will test theory and per-
spectives across the American political spectrum.
The right wing-intellectual neo-conservatives,
big vote, negotiate appointments and legislative agenda economic monetarists, New Right supply-siders and
afterward. Unfortunately for the Black community, what purveyors of anti-feminist, anti-Black and other forms of
is won after the election depends on what the voting social bigotry, union-busting employers, so-called Chris-
block as a social force is willing and able to do in- tian fundamentalists and the computer-banked direct-
dependently of the new administration. Given its current mail operators who finance the lot-have been crowing
state of organization and political dependence, the Black ever since the election of Ronald Reagan that they were
community has very little to bargain with after the elec- the only people with "ideas."
tion. The real political dynamism and intellectual excitement
Even though Martin Luther King was willing to declare in America, they boasted, lay in the re-discovery of the
a moratorium on civil rights activity before the 1964 elec- curative powers of free enterprise and the market, de-
tion, he understood that action after the election was regulation, individual initiative and restoring national
essential for winning the movement's legislative agenda pride through a re-arming that wouldn't let the U.S. be
in 1964-5. The current strategy of the Black leadership, pushed around any longer.
whether for or against Jesse Jackson's candidacy, is pure- The perspective of the righ t wing has been tha tit had
ly electoralist and dependent on making deals from a not only the ideas, but a long-term new working political
position of subordination to the Democratic Party's pro- majority. The new political center of gravity would lie in-
gram and leadership. side the Republican Party, and the future trajectory of
So long as that strategy remains unchallenged, the American society would be decided by how the pie of
Black community will not be able to translate being on power was sliced up among the various interest groups
the winning side of an election battle into serious social and social policy lobbies within that new conservative
gains. When you consider that the Democrats main ruling coalition.
charge against Ronald Reagan in 1984 will be Reagan's The perspective of the center and of mainstream
runaway budget deficits; when you consider that liberalism has been little more than to move rightward
everyone in the Party except Jesse Jackson himself has themselves. The only answer from those sectors to the
proclaimed that the days of "big social spending" are over ravages of Reaganism has been a vague and very
forever; when you consider that Reagan's ax could not uninspiring slogan called "industrial policy," the leading
have been wielded against the Black community without code word for a Chrysler-type refitting and downsizing
the votes of the Democrat-controlled House -how much of the U.S. economy and work force. Liberalism in
will the Black community really gain by restoring the America had accepted almost without question the
Democratic coalition to its majority status? operating assumption that the electorate had moved per-
Without underestimating the profound potential im- manently rightward. The most liberals could hope for
pact of the Jackson strategy on the composition and was a rear-guard institutional defense of the advances
balance of forces in some state Democratic organizations, won by Black people and women; and in the long run to
the fact remains that the Democratic Party is decisively a demonstrate that they, through the Democratic Party,
party of American capitalism and its ruling class. This is could administer economic austerity and a redistribution
not some abstract definition: there is more than one pro- of power in favor of corporate capital. more effectively
cess of "realignment" taking place in the party. While its than the Reaganites.
active dynamiC base might become Blacker, its policy- Jesse Jackson's candidacy and the long-term strategy
making echelons are becoming ever more directly busi- behind it challenges the assumptions of a permanent
ness-<lriented and business-controlled. rightward tilt in the U.S. electoral terrain. That is one
The ascendancy of Walter Mondale-the same Mon- factor, of course, which gives his campaign inside the
dale whose election Jackson's strategy, to be successful, Democratic Party a tremendous attractiveness to much of
must achieve-is precisely the expression of this trend. the left. The other attractive factor, closely related, is
Mondale's campaign banner of "industrial policy" is a Jackson's appeal to a potential new social and political
thin disguise for austerity and for tight business direction coalition, with the Black community as its vanguard and
of government economic policy-which also means con- organizational backbone, to tum back the right-wing,

anti-Black, anti-women, anti-labor and militarist tide. negotiating the position of Black people within the
The challenge which this development poses to the Democratic Party. This does not change "the fact that the
theory and perspective of socialists is how to fight for most advantageous time to put the issue of independent
'that kind of social alliance against the right, in a way that political action up for debate is today, not at the last mo-
opens up the possibilities for progressive and independent ment when only small protest-vote gestures are possible.
politics rather than cutting them off. It isn't necessary to call on Jackson to quit the
A commonly held view in the left is that the way to do Democratic primary. He should only be asked to be con-
this is to build Jackson's "Rainbow Coalition" during the sistent in his fight to put Black, anti-war and other issues
course of the Democratic primaries, with perhaps the onto the political agenda, by continuing his campaign in-
vague idea that it will live on as an organized caucus or to the general election. In raising this call, the left would
pressure group afterward. It is the newest form of one of also be showing its solidarity with the democratic strug-
the oldest of all illusions. gle for the unregistered Black voters for the right to
Working within the Democratic Party primary frame- register and vote without racist harassment.
work, all the left will accomplish will be a small contribu- We in the 1.5. are for an independent radical presiden-
tion to an effort to restabilize the Democratic Party itself. tial campaign in 1984, with or without Jesse Jackson. In
That restabilization is exactly what will cut off future practice this will mean, unfortunately, without him. But-
progressive possibilities, precisely at the point when we are political realists, and we know the potential au-
millions of politically marginalized, oppressed Americans dience for the message for independent political action
may become part of political life for the first time in this will be the greatest precisely during the period when
country. Jackson's campaign is most visible.
It is exactly at times like this, when the political land- Many socialist activists and organizations sincerely
scape may be starting to shift, that the arguments over believe there is a place for socialist activity "both inside
the "realism" of working inside the Democratic Party or and outside" the Democratic Party, at the same time. We
breaking away from it become critical. The conventional, in the 1.5. don't share that view-but if there was ever a
"realistic" argument, of course, is that mass political pro- time for that perspective to be tested in practice, this is it!
cesses take place inside the Democratic Party and there- If there is any "outside" part to the operation of the "in-
fore the left must be there, too. That is exactly how the side and outside" strategists, the time to prove it is now.
left continually re-<:onvinces itself, election year after If it is "premature" to call for an independent Jesse
election year, not to do anything that might lead any sec- Jackson campaign, it will be too late when the Democrat-
tion of society out of the trap of bourgeois politics. ic nomination is sealed. If the argument is that the left
In 1984 this course of action is a disaster even in prac- must then go on to support Mondale instead of breaking
tical, short-range terms. By throwing its energy and to the outside of the Democratic Party, then the "outside"
political support to a Democratic Party leadership cam- part of the strategy is non-existent, a window dressing for
paign, where will the left be after that campaign is over, lesser-evil liberalism, pure and simple.
and the momentum and organization of the Jesse Jackson
campaign is transferred to Walter Mondale's election?
That scenario would leave the left, in November 1984,
impotent and irrelevant-or ultimately even supporting a
T here is a deep, historic and multi-level tragedy in
the politics of Black America. Black people, as an
oppressed nation and as the most _eavily proletarianized
Mondale in order to "defeat Reagan at any cost." sector of the American population, ultimately hold the
That, surely, would be the ultimate statement of key to their own liberation and to the revolutionary
political bankruptcy: for the American left to collapse in- transformation of America. .
to mainstream liberalism precisely when a certain social The potential power of the Black masses has been crip-
momentum toward the left was emerging. pled by a double political subordination: the subordina-
tion of the masses of Black peop'le to the petit-bourgeois

I t doesn't have to be that way. In the minds of the

masses of people who respond to the radical side of
Jackson's message-the demand for political and social
leadership of the Black community, and the Black leader-
ship's subordination to the white, capitalist ruling class
and its political parties. It is as profound an obstacle to
enfranchisement for the oppressed-there is no logical social change in America as the subordination of the rank
reason why Jackson should not run for president-all the and file of labor to the trade union bureaucracies, and of
way, not just part way. the latter to the very same Democratic Party.
The International Socialists believe that the left- A central task of the left in America is to break that
.activists in the new organizations of the Black struggle, in subordination. But the Jesse Jackson campaign, by virtue
the unions.. the antiGwar movement and other socialstrug- of its strategy of cementing even more firmly the relations
gles-should call on Jesse Jackson to run for president as between Black America and the Democratic Party, rein-
an independent. That call could reach a larger audience forces it. In the final analysis, it awakens and politicizes
than the left usually can attract, with a convincing, and inspires the politically marginalized sections of the
powerful and radicalizing vision of independent politics. Black masses, to ultimately strengthen the system's
. We don't believe Jackson would run independently, domination over them.
although it would be a fantastic development if he did. There is no simple, one-step way of breaking the tragic
The reason we don't think he will is not that the left is too cycle of labor and Black political dependency, just as
weak to influence him-he could after all make such a there is no formula for "instant revolution." But a crucial
decision on his own with no "advice" from the left-but problem for socialist theory and politics is to understand
simply because it runs counter to his entire strategy of re- the dimensions of this problem-the central problem,

perhaps, of revolutionary politics in America-and how 1984, to our potential good fortune, a political
to attack it in practice. phenomenon which may awaken Black America and its
We know that many on the socialist left who do not potential allies.
share our political conclusions fully share our concern The left can take no credit for making the Jesse Jackson
with the centrality of the issues we are discussing here. campaign happen, but it can take advantage of a unique
We urge them to respond to the analysis we have pre- and timely opportunity to present the case for indepen-
sented here. The resulting dialogue and debate can only dent politics to an audience that has never heard it
be to the benefit of us all. before. If we ignore the opportunity, or if the left chooses
There is an unusual relevance and urgency to this to sink itself into the Democratic Party in yet another il-
discussion. Events far beyond the left's ability to in- lusory search for mainstream electoral relevance, then it
fluence brought Ronald Reagan and the right wing to will be once again marginalized and impotent in 1984 and
power. Events equally far beyond our influence have pro- some time beyond-and in that case, it will not be objec-
duced a wracking economic and social crisis-and now in tive conditions but ourselves who are to blame. 0

Michael Urquhart
Co llecti vism:
A Marxist Theory
of the Soviet Union
The following is based upon a presentation at the Union theoretical analysis to justify its new attitude, nor to explain
of Radical Political Economists (URPE) conference on the how a counter-revolution had succeeded in Russia. As a
nature of the Souiet Union in New York City on March 17, result for some time there was no serious discussion, only
1979. two different "lines" emanating from Moscow and Peking.
Less dogmatic followers of China did attempt more ade-
quate explanations during the 1970's. Chief among them

I n March 1979, 1,500 people attended a conference

on the Soviet Union sponsored by the Union of Radical
Political Economists. The large audience was an indication
were Charles Bettelheim, Paul Sweezy, and other writers
around Monthly Reuiew. Other publications would also
carry more articles discussing the issues involved. And one
of the growth of interest and controversy concerning the journal, Critique, is almost solely devoted to the Russian
nature of the Russian system and its relation to the struggle question.
for socialism. Only 20 years ago such a conference could The discussion is now no longer confined to Russia and
not have been held. its satellites. With the death of Mao, and the fall of the
Since Stalin's ascendancy in Russia during the 1920's "Gang of Four," Bettelheim and others have concluded
and the subsequent liquidation of all opposition inside the that China, too, is no longer socialist. Indeed, the conclu-
international Communist Parties, all criticism of the Soviet sion seems inescapable that there are no socialist countries
Union had been denounced as counterrevolutionary. To- at all left in the world today.
day the international Communist movement is in disarray, The renewed interest in the nature of the Russian system
and one of the biggest disputes concerns the Soviet Union. is not misplaced. At the heart of the dispute is the question
The major event in the reopening of the "Russian Ques- of the nature of socialism itself and the type of struggle
tion" was ceriainly the split between China and Russia. In necessary to achieve it. The fact that this discussion is no
1964, Mao declared that "The Soviet Union is today under longer confined to the fringes of the revolutionary move-
the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, a dictatorship of the ment is a development that should be welcomed by all
'German fascist type, a dictatorship of the Hitler type." socialists.
From then on Russia was to be considered an example The following is a contribution to that discussion. While
of revisionism and social imperialism by the Chinese and it only discusses the Soviet Union, it applies equally to all
their international supporters. China never developed a of the so-called socialist countries. The focus on Russia is

justified, however, since iI,like Britain in the 19th century, defining characteristics of this new system are collectivized
represents the future of the other regimes. It is the most ad- state property, where the state is controlled by a
vanced and developed example of this new, exploitative bureaucracy that is a new ruling class. Furthermore, it is a
social system. system of use value production based on the class needs of
the bureaucracy.' It Is an expleitative system because the
OUR METHOD' working class has no control over its surplus labor, over the
Hal Draper wrote years ago about the two souls of process of production.
socialism-socialism from below and socialism from As an economic system it is common to all the so-called
above. These still characterise different methods of ap- socialist countries. Like capitalism, it also has considerable
proaching the issues. Our method, of socialism from variation from country to country, due to local conditiens,
below, begins with the working class, its position in society history, etc.
and production, its conditions. its struggles. Is it ruler, or
ruled? For Marx the revolution and the construction of
socialism could only be achieved through the self-activity WHY NEW?
of the working class, through its own institutim. and par- For Marx it was the method of appropriation of surplus
ties, through its conscious control over the conditions of its labor that distingUished one economic -system from
existence. This is the view of socialism from below. another. "The essential difference between the varieus
Sadly, this must be considered a minority viewpOint to- economic forms of society, between, for instance, a society
day. The starting point of much radical analysis today is based on slave labor. and one based en wage labor. lies
not the working class and class relations, but the political only in the mode in which this surplus-labor is in each case
line or program of a particular group, party or govern- extracted from the actual producer, the laborer ;'5
ment. The working class is often viewed merely as the Under capitalism. surplus labor is appropriated as prefit
beneficiary of socialism, not the creator. In fact, it is even of the indiVidual enterprise through sale of commodities on
allowed that socialism may be constructed by a "substitute the market. For Bureaucratic Collectivism, however, the
proletariat.'" surplus labor is not taken as a profit of the individu.1 enter-
This viewpoint, of socialism from above. is very clearly prise, nor is it realized through the market. Rather it is
expressed in the discussion between Sweezy and Bet- taken as a surplus product of society as a whole on a na-
lelheim on the transition to socialism. How can one deter- tional scale. Hence the appropriation of the surplus occurs
mine if the transitional society is moving in the direction of directly, through the planning and control of the economy.
socialism? Sweezy writes: Ross Gandy, however. is wrong to argue that this ap-
"If I understand him correc~y, BetteIheim's answer is propriation occurs through the higher salaries 0(-the
thai il depends on whether the proletarial is in power. If bureaucrats.' This represents only a small part of the
it is, then movement will be in the direction of socialism surplus product (as does the consumption of the capitalist
. . . This schema seems to me not so much wrong as class). The surplus labor or product also includes the funds
simply not very helpful. So far as I can tell, Bettelheim for accumulation and investrnent,alIaetense-spending,
offers no criterion for judging whether or not the pro~ unproductive state expenditures, as well as the luxury con-
letariat is in power other than the poliCies pursued by the sumption of the bureaucracy.
government and the party . . . there should be an In- Exploitation continues to exist under Bureaucratic Cel-
dependent method of establishing the identity of the lectivism because the surplus that is produced by the
class in power. "2
laborer Is not centrolled by him, but by the bureaucracy.
It is a good question which cuts 10 the heart of the mat- Even under socialism some surplus labor will have to go
ter. In his reply Bettelheim makes clear his approach has towards the general needs of society, for expansion of pro-
nothing to do with which class is in power. "One can speak dUction, etc. This would not be exploitation, however,
of proletarian state power only if its actual practices reflect because the working class weuld collectively central the
specific characteristics, and if the ruling party follows a pro- surplus, determining both its size and the social uses to
letarian line. ". (emphasis in original) which it would be put.
Later, when Bettelheim broke with China he maintained It is this lack of central by the working class ouer its own
Ihis approach. "Documents which are nOw being pUblish- labor and ouer its surplus labor which makes the class rela-
ed in China give expression to a certain political line , and it
is the existence of this line which has led me to the conclu-
sions I have drawn.'" (emphusls in original) e In Marxist theory, commodities in a capitalist economy have
two basic qualities, called "use value" and "exchange value." The
use value of any commodity. from a loaf of bread to a steel plant

T here are of course, independent methods of

establishing which class is in power. They are by and
large the same ones employed to determine if the working
to a nuclear submarine, is simply its specific use as an object of
production or consumption. Its exchange value. the quantity of
SOcially necessary labor required to produce it. determines how it
is exchanged with other commodities in the capitalist market. In a
class is in power in the U.S. Such methods are important,
non-market system like bureaucratic collectivism, where products
however, only if one agrees that the question of class rela- of labor (and labor power itself) are not bought and sold through
nons, of working class power, are central to an under· capitalist market laws. there is not "exchange value" ~Jut only a
standing of the Souiet Union and the struggle for socialism. use value for each product. It is the central state bureaucracy. i. e.
An examination of the actual class relations in the the ruling class, which determines how much of each use value
U.S.S.R. wtlliead to the inescapable conclusion that it is a will be produced and how surplus labor is used to increase tho
new exploitative system-Bureaucratic Collectivism. The bureaucracy's power, privilege. military might, etc.

tionships of Bureaucratic CollectiVism fundamentally an- with centralized planning alone, leaving out the
tagonistic, representing a new exploitative system that democratic, social content.
must be overthrown if socialism is to be built. If socialism is identified with centralized planning, then
all economic problems can be reduced to the working out
of the proper plan, or the search for the "optimal" plan.
This is further assumed to be a technical problem.
In this way the plan is given a supra-societal existence,
Marx began his analysis of capitalism with the commodi- abstracted from the class relationships which underlie it,
ty, within which was encompassed the entire capitalist and suspended in mid-air. Indeed, many discussions of
, system. For Bureaucratic Collectivism we must begin our planning occur as if it had a reality of its own, its own law,
analysis with the plan. etc. In this way the fetishism of commodities under
Marx and Engels never developed in any detail their capitalism is replaced with the fetishism of the plan. The
conception of the functioning of a socialist society. While plan then appears to dominate man, rather than man
they talked about planning under socialism, no perspective dominating the plan. This fetishism is made necessary in
. on how this would be organized was presented. However, order to disguise the actual class character of the planning
in Anti-Duhring Engels does provide some hints. process in Bureaucratic Collectivist countries.
"In making itself the master of all the means of produc· Here is one description of the planning procedure in the
tion, in order to use them in accordance with a social Soviet Union:
plan, society puts an end to the former subjection of "The Central Planning Commission first collects infor·
men to their own means of production. It goes without matian up the ladder of agencies from the enterprise in
saying that society cannot itself be free unless every.. in- order to evaluate the last year's performance and the
dividual is free. The old mode of production must present conditions and possibilities. Then the Commis-
therefore be revolutionized from top to bottom, and in
sion is told by the Council of Ministers what goals it must
particular the former division of labour must disappear.
strive to meet. On these bases. it draws up a general
Its place must be taken by an organization of production plan for the whole economy, although details of pro-
in which, on the one hand, no individual can put on to
duction and allocation are provided only for a couple of
other persons his share in productive labour, this natural
thousand commodities. The draft plan is then shown to
condition of human existence; and in which on the all agencies in the hierarchy from the Ministry to the
other hand, productive labour, instead of being a means
enterprise. After all these units have added their detailed
to the subjection of men, will become a means to their
modifications and suggestions, the Central Planning
emancipation. by giving each indiVidual the opportunity
Commission draws up the final draft . . . The Central
to develop and exercise aU his faculties, physical and
Planning Commission hands the plan over to ap·
mental, in all directions; in which therefore, productive propriate government bodies to enact into law, and it is
labour will become a pleasure instead of a burden."7 then passed on with detailed expansions at each in·
Later on Engels returns to the question of planning: termediate level until the enterprise receives a for·
"It [society} will have to arrange its plan of production in midable document. This document is supposed to tel!
accordance with its means of prodUction, which in- the enterprise for a year, or some other period, exactly
clude, tn particular, its labour forces. The useful effects what to produce. how to produce it, what prices to
of the various articles of consumption, compared. with charge, and what funds it may use. "\0
each other and with the quantity of labour required for Nowhere in this procedure are there any institutions or
their production, will in the last analysis determine the
organizations of the working class that partiCipate in
plan. People will be able to manage everything very
simply, without the intervention of the famous 'value'."8
developing the plan. Nor can it any longer be argued that
working class control is still exercised through the govern-
ment, and through the Communist Party's control of the

M arx and Engels did not elaborate on the method

for arriving at the plan. However, it is clear from
their other writings on the Paris Commune and elsewhere
that they expected this to be the result of the conscious
control of the working class organized democratically in its
own institutions. The comparison of the "useful effects"
would be essentially the comparison of consumer
preferences, man would dominate the productive forces
because of his conscious control over them. Such control
could only be exercised democratically.
"Freedom in this field can only consist in socialized man,
the associated producers, rationally regulating their in-
terchange with Nature. bringing it under their common
control, instead of being ruled by it as by the blind forces
of Nature; and achieving this with the least expenditure
of energy and under conditions most favourable to, and
worthy of, their human nature."')
No blueprint was or could be offered. Yet what they
wrote makes clear their differences with the top-down,
bureaucratic, centralized planning under Bureaucratic Col- Stalin, the organizer of the bureaucratic
lectivism. !.1nder the latter, socialism came to be identified counter-revolution.

government. These institutions ceased to be workers' in- THE GOAL OF PRODUCTION
stitutions during the twenties and thirties, with the various
purges, outlawing of soviets, etc. Today the part!) and
government are dominated by the central political
bureaucracy, managers, technocrats, etc.
B ureaucratic Collectivism is then a system of use
value production. Exactly what is produced is deter-
mined by that class which controls the plan, and controls
the surplus labor of the working class. The purpose of pro-
Trade unions do still exist. They are not independent, duction, what guides the planners, is the class needs of the
however, lacking all basic trade union rights, and function bureaucracy.
mainly as production arms of the government. Even so, Each ruling classsels the goals of production, goals bas-
they are denied any say,over the plan, or over questions of ed on the need to strengthen and extend its authority over
fundamental importance to workers, such as wages. production and society.
In 1940, Shvernik, chairman of the Central Council of "The material power of the bureaucracy, the scapp. of
Trade Unions, justified this policy by once a.gain appealing its authority over production, its international position
to the "logic" of planning. (ver)' important for a class organized as a group identify-
"When tile Plan becomes the decisive element of ing itselt with the state) all depend on the Size of the na-
economic development, questions of wages cannot be tiollaJ capital. Consequently, the bureaucracy wants to
decided indopendentiy of tt. Thus the collective agree- increase capital, to enlarge the producing apparatus, to
ment as a form of regulating wages has outlived its accumu:ate. "17
usefulness."tl Given the fact that bureaucratic collectivism has trium-
phed where capitalism is weak, in less developed coun-

T he lack of workers' most elemental democratic rights

is no accident. For the Bureaucracy's position as a
ruling class, indeed its very existence as a class, is based on
tries, the class goal of production has been rapid in-
dustrialization and the development of a modern defense
system of huge proportions. Such goals are absolutely
necessary to the continued existence of the local
its exclusive control of the state. As the Polish Marxists,
Kuron and Morlaewleski have correctly noted, "the pro- bureaucratic ruling class, to its independence from outside
perty of the bureaucracy is not of an individual nature, but imperialist control. Hence consumption is kept to a
constitutes the collective property of an elite which iden-
tifies itself with the state. This lact defines the principle of Bukharin was wrong to assume that in such a system the
the bureaucracy's internal organization, but its class only dynamic would be the level of consumption of the rul-
character does not depend on its internal organization or its ing class, and that growth would be slow since the ruling
mores, only on its relationship, as a group-to the means class would increase in numbers slowly." While this does
of production and to other social classes (above all the enter into it, much more important has been the need to
working class.}"tZ develop an economic basis to ensure the continued in-
In order to ir,sure that the plan is drawn up to meet its dependent existence of the system and the ruling class, to
own class needs the bureaucracy must of necessity have defend it from external attack from rival ruling classes and
total control over the planning process. In spite of all economic systems.
reforms, liberalizations, experiments, etc., this control has The emphasis on rapid industrialization has led to the
always been maintained. development of the primary sector (capital goods) of
All of the prr.{)lems associated with planning in the pathological dimensions. According to Carlo,
"a century was required for the American capitalist
Soviet Union are a result of the fundamental contradiction
system to increase its primary sector from 18.2% to
underlying bureaucratic planning: the contradiction oe- 55.8% of total industrial production, while in RUSSia a
tween the need for planning in a nationalized economy, more impressive jump (from 39.5% to 73.1 %) was
and the need for authoritarian restrictions on any initiative made in only 33 years. In 1%3 about 81 % of all in-
from below in order to defend the class position of the dustrial resources were destined for the primary sector,
bureaucracy. and irom the period 1959 to 1964 the growth rate of the
Under capitalism the market acts as a feedback consumer sector was about 6.6% as opposed to 10.3%
mechanism, enforcing a measure of rationality on the for the primary sector. "19 --

system. Under bureaucratic collectivism there is no similar Similarly, military and defense spending regularly take
mechanism. (For a brief description of some attempts at up between 15% to 25% of the entire national product
finding such a mechanism and their failure, see the attach- (depending on whose figures you use), compared to only
ed box. "Prices, Profits and the Plan.") It is simply impOSSi- about 7% in the U.S.
ble in a modern economy for the Central PlanMrs to
foresee everything, to plan everything. Since production is
not carried on to meet the needs of the working class. and CONTRADICTIONS
since there is severe repression aimed at preventing them As with other economic systems, the fundamental con-
from having ant, influence over the plan and over the tradiction of the system r8sults from the fact that at a cer-
methods of proJuction, they clearly have no stake in im- tain level of development the productive forces come into
proving the plan, improving the methods of production, conflict with the existing relations of production.
improving the rationality of the system. This appears to have happened qUite rapidly in the
T,) repeat, the bureaurcratic ruling class in Russia needs Bureaucratic Collectivist system, after an initiai period of
to plan the economy. But the authoritarian measures success. The turning pOint appears to have come when the
necessary to defend itself means that it cannot plan well. In system had to move from expansion based on extensive
fact, the more developed the economy, the more com- factors, to expansion based on intensive factors. By exten-
plex, the less capable is it of plannng what goes on. sive growth we are referring to growth based on bringing

more forces into production under existing methods of
, -'3"-- The inability of the system to overcome these contradic·
production. more people into the industrial labor force. tions has resulted in a tendency towards stagnation
more factories built on the same technological basis. etc. throughout the system, as the following figures for annual
By intensive growth we refer to increasing productivity and percentage of economic growth show.
efficiency primarily based on new technology.
This contradiction can be expressed in a number of 1950-55 1955-60 1960-65
ways: as that between the high development of socialized East Germany 11.4 7.0 3.5
production combined with bureaucratic appropriation; the Czechoslovakia - 8.0 7.1 l.8
tremendous growth of the primary sector combined with U.S.S.R: 11.3 9.2 6.3
the restricted growth of the secondary (consumer) sector; Hungary 6.3 6.5 4.7
and most fundamentally of all. the need for central plan· Poland 8.6 6.6 5.9"
ning that is in conflict with the need for totalitarian control The various reforms and liberalization schemes were a
over the planning process. response to this stagnation, attempts to find a way to pro-


The first plans were fairly primitive and covered for profit. But there is a more fundamental problem.
only about 300 products. According to Dobb, the It is generally agreed that in order for profits to
original plans were based on a combination J)f three serve as an effective evaluator of enterprise efficiency
methods; "static and dynamic coefficients;". "expert they must be based upon a "rational" price system.
estimates". and "comparative study of pre-war Otherwise the amount of profits may only be the
data"." The overall plan that resulted was a result result of the peculiarities of the administered prices.
largely of educated guesswork. and the results were The search for a rational basis for prices has led to the
as to be expected. debate over the applicability of the law of value to the
This was replaced in the thirties by the method of Soviet economy.
material balances. a primitive forerunner to linear While an examination of the issues in this con-
programming and imput-outpout analysis. At the troversy are beyond the scope of this paper, it can
heart of the method was an attempt at a detailed safely be said that to date no rational price system
"costing of output-programmes ... that is, a costing has been found. Prices remain adminstered. and the
intially in real terms-in terms of the actual input of system remains fundamentally based on the produc-
resources required at each stage of production to tion of use values.
yield a given output."" Nove pOints out that it was Nor is it likely that any of the proposed reforms
"carried out very largely in quantitative (physical) that have not yet been tried would be any more suc-
terms. "15 cessful. Most are based either on marginalist assump-
Up to now it is clear that the plan is based on the tions. or supply-demand theories. No one really sug-
production of a certain amount of use values; the gests the kind of reforms necessarily to actually allow
discussion is in terms of physical characteristics and the law of value to operate and to provide "rational"
physical quantities. The introduction of the "liber- prices.
man" reforms. however. changed all this. Prices
came to playa greater role. and profit was rein- For that would necessitate nothing short of the
troduced as a consideration in production. These destruction of the existing economic system. The law
reforms have led some observers to argue mistakenly of value assumes the production 0/ commodities by
that capitalism has been restored. individual producers or enterprises who compete
The Liberman reforms were instituted in the with each other to sell those commodities in the
1960's. Basically. they tried to overcome problems in market place.
planning by introducing incentive back into the It is the market which enforces the "rationality" on
system, and decentralizing authOrity more than in the capitalist prices. the equalization of the rate of profit.
past. It was hoped that material incentives along with etc. Such reforms would mean the destruction of
greater control at the local. plant level would result in central planning, and with it the power and position
the establishment of better plans. more rational fulfill- of the bureaucracy.
ment of plans. and an improvement in the quality of Bettelheim, in a thoroughly dense work called
products. "Economic Calculation and Forms of Property". has
Programming was now based on the prices of argued that rational prices are possible-though not
goods, and individual enterprises were at least par- on the basis of the law of value alone. He argues that
tially evaluated on the basis of profits. However. pro- "the objective laws that determine prices are laws
fit was not the sole, or even the main consideration that are uisibly dependent on both economic and
of the enterprise. For it was only after meeting the political levels". and furthermore "prices are also
output targets set by the central planning authority determined by objective social laws. "\6 (emphasis in
that profitability would take prime importance. We original). Unfortunately. what this is supposed to
are still far from the capitalist principle of production mean is never explained. nor is it ever demonstrated.

mote the growth of productivity and efficiency. And it is
the failure of these internal measures which has forced the
system to look for external solutions.


While Russian imperialism is partly a response to
western imperialism, the need for buffer states and spheres
of influence, its fundamental drive stems from the failure of
its domestic economy. Initially it involved the looting of
eastern Europe and the establishment of exploitive trade
But such methods cannot provide the sophisticated
equipment and technology needed to further develop its
economy. For this it r,lust tum to the west. The result is
detente, and the increase in trade with the west, and bor-
rowing from western banks to finance the trade.
It is doubtful this strategy will work, for it includes a
range of new problems. For along with the machinery they
also import the west's problems, such as inflation. The in-
creasing debt which results from purchases (amounting to
around 48 billion dollars for the Soviet Union and Eastern The import of technology from the west, needed .s the Soviet
Europe, the Comecon countries) must be paid for by in- Union turned from extensive to IntenSive industrial growth, is a
creasing exports. Furthermore, the increasing reliance on cornerstone of ·'detente. II

western goods can have a devastating effect on the entir~

economy, reducing the bureaucracy's control. Hence
rioting and fights with the police took place, culminating
more recently there has been a tendency for the rate of in attacks on the police headquarters and prison and the
growth of east-west trade to decline, from 49% in 1973 to burning of th~ party headquarters, the Union head-
only 2.3% in 1976." quarters and many other important buildings in town."
After Gomulka fen on December 19th the struggle con-
"The workers occupied, locked gates of the shipyards
and were themselves blockaded by the police . . . The
W hile labor power is not a commodity in the
Bureaucratic Collectivist system, the workers re-
main proletarians, alienated from the process of produc-
main demand of the strikes for a cancellation of price
rises introduced in December was not immediately won,
although it was conceded only a few weeks later. The
tion, with dead labor dominating living labor. They have workers did however assert their right to strike and
no control over the means of production and are therefore wrung from the regime important concessions relating
forced to labor for the state in order to survive. to workers democracy in the plant. The strike commit-
tee became the workers' commission and for a period of
The class struggle does not end with Bureaucratic Col-
six weeks supervised the execution of those demands
lectivism, in fact just the opposite is true. The fusion of
which had been won. CruCially they supervised new
economics and politics that exists in a totally nationalized elections at the plant. From these elections a trade
economy gives any workers' struggles a particularly ex- union branch was created which for a period become a
plosive character. Every economic struggle is at the same democratic force which extended the gains of thp
time a political struggle, every strike over economic condi- strike. "22
tions is at the same time a strike against the ·state. That brief description is typical of the struggles that have
It is not surprising that demands for more democracy broken out in Eastern Europe. A strike around an
have been an element in every workers' uprising, economic issue is quickly extended into a struggle against
regardless of the different circumstances that led to the im- the state. Democratic workers organizations are formed
mediate struggle. and demands are made to make them official and legal.
The events in Poland in 1970-71 are fairly typical in The enemy is perceived to be not only the government,
showing who the enemy was perceived to be, and in the but also the party and the union.
type of demands raised. They were vividly described by Nowhere are demands raised for a return to capitalism,
Edmund Baluka, a leader of {he struggle. for reintroduction of the market, profits, etc. Rather, the
"The first wave of strikes started on December 14th in main thrust, not always explicitly expressed, is for more
Gdansk and Gdynia, two major ports on the Baltic. The democracy, and for workers' control over production.
Issue was the 'experimental' introduction of a new
The struggles in Poland, as well as in Czechoslovakia,
piecework system foUowed a week later by price rises in
food. The effect of these two changes was to reduce
are a clear refutation of the "socialist" character of the
regimes, and Russian justifications for their invasion. It is
workers' real wages by about 45%. Many workers died
and the strikes were quickly crushed. On the 17th, the duty of socialists everywhere to support those workers'
when activity at these two ports was effectively at an struggles. It is those struggles which are the embodiment of
end, workers walked out of the shipyards at Szczecin, the proletarian movement in t!ios,h:Otii1&ies; and which .
the third major Polish port 200 miles away. A day of hold out the promise of a new socialist revolution.

-z-f/- -'
believe that socialism could be built by "substitutes" for the
The working class has suffered tremendous defeats dur- proletariat.
ing the last 50 years, the greatest of which has been the As attractive as that perspective is to intellectuals
loss of power in the Soviet Union. The bureaucracy, under throughout the world, fifty years' experimentation with
the leadership of Stalin, usurped all power and carried out "socialism from above" can lead to only one inescapable
conclusion: socialism from above leads. not to socialism,
its own revolution, from above. Since the thirties it has
been this model, of socialism from above, which has been but only to Bureaucratic Collectivism.
the main influence in the socialist movement around the
In spite of any advances mady by Bureaucratic Collec-
world. tivism in terms of developing the economy of the countries
where it exists, the fact remains that the working class re-
This model, of revolution made by an elite, in the name mains exploited by a bureaucratic ruling class. The class
of the working class, and ostenSibly for the working class, struggle therefore continues, and must continue, until such
but not by the working class, has led to successful revolu- time as· the working class, there as elsewhere, raises itseif
tions against. capitalism in several other countries. These to the position of the ruling class, and takes control over jts
successful revolutions led many good revolutionaries to own destiny. C


'Sweezy, On The Transition to Socialism, (Monthly Review '3Maurice Dobb, Soviet Econmic Development Since 1917, p.
Modern~Reader) p. 52. 348.
2ibid., p.49 uibid., p. 356.
libid., p. 57. ,sAlec Nove, The Soviet Economy. p. 81.
·China Since Mao. Monthly Review, July-August 1978, p. 37. "ibid., p. 16.
~Capital. Vol. I, (Kerr edition), p. 241. "Kuron and Modzelewski, p. 17.
'Gandy in Monthly Review, July~August 1977. uBukharin,lmperialism and the Accumulation of Capital, (MRl
7Anti-Duhring. (International Publishers), p. 328. p.226.
8ibid., p. 346. 19Antonio Carlo, The SOCia-Economic Nature of the USSR, Telos
Fall 1974, p. 53.
~Capital Vol. III (International Publishers) p. 820.
!OHoward Sherman, Radical Political Economy. (Basic Books) p. ZQChris Harman, Bureaucracy and Revolution (Pluto Press), p.
221. 255.
"Tony Cliff, Russia. A Marxist Analysis, p. 21. Z'Ernest Mandel, The Second Slump, (NLS), p. 155.
121\ Revolutionary Socialist Manifesto, New Politics Vol. 5, nos. 2 uEdmund Saluka and Ewa Barker in International Socialism 94.
& 3. Pages cited from pamphlet reprint from 1.5. London, p. 15. p. 19.

I "'.
, , r>-

Some Problems of "Permanent Revolution" from CHATTGES, 1.984 .
(JulY-~ttgust) 1.

Is Workers Power a Perspective'

BY David Finkel
IS SOCIALIST REVOLUTION possible in the so<all-
ed underdeveloped world1 No question is of greater im-
portance to an understanding of today's national libera-
tion movements, Third World revolutions and the
regimes arising from them.
Attempting to answer this extremely broad question
inevitably leads to a complex discussion of the nature of
class forces in the Third World, their relation to the im-
perialist system and its crisis, and what the term socialist
actually means.
The boldest hypothesis in twentieth century revolu-
tionary Mandsm, known as theory of Permanent Revolu-
tion, argued that socialist revolution-the taking of
power by the working class and the beginning of the con-
struction of socialism-is possible in so<alled backward
countries with relatively small working classes, as well as
in the powerful industrial nations. Did this theory, first
advanced by Leon Trotsky in the years before the 1917
Russian Revolution, accurately predict the unfolding of a
world-revolutionary process in this century7 Is the theory
useful for the study of today's Third World revolutions?
I will argue here that the theory of Permanent Revolu-
tion does offer key insights for understanding revolu-
tionary struggles today, but only with some crucial reser-
vations, and only if it is applied very critically and
Opposing a Mechanistic Orthodoxy
At the tum of the twentieth century, the coming Rus-
sian Revolution was already the hope of the international
labor movement. The Tsarist empire was visibly in crisis,
a new socialist workers' movement was stirring, impor-
tant strike movements had begun to shake its periphery
(e.g. Poland), and the rising new power of Japan threat-
ened it in the East.
No social democrat of the day doubted that Russia was
the lynchpin of every reactionary power in Europe. For
decades, the threat of Tsarist military intervention had
weighed down attempted social and political revolutions
far beyond Russia's own borders. The most backward
major power in economic and social terms, its industry
dominated by western European capital, its agriculture
resting on a miserable, semi-i!nserfed peasantry, Russia
nonetheless possessed a military state machine which
dominated the political consciousness of Europe.
What kind of revolution was on the agenda in Tsarist
Russia had never had its democratic, bourgeois revolu-
tion. Its capitalist development had barely begun, its
working class was a tiny minority of the population. For
"orthodox" European Marxists, the strategic objective of
the Russian revolution was therefore to put the bour-
geoisie in power, to replace Tsarist rule with a bourgeois

For Third World Revolutions?

democratic republic, to clear the way for the full develop- working class had an enormous stake in how it took
ment of capitalism. place.
This. in turn, would create a working class struggle for A process led by the bourgeoisie through its political
socialism-but until then, the idea of socialist revolution party, the liberal Constitutional Democrats (Cadets),
in Russia was a utopian dream. Certain speculative letters would be a half-strangled reform that would leave intact
of Marx which half-suggested that Russia might not have many of Tsarism's most repulsive features. To sweep
to follow the same stages of development as other Euro- away the system, to open the way for the fullest and most
pean countries had been buried. sweeping and most democratk development of capital-
As for colonial revolutions, most of the Marxist move- ism (including the "bourgeois program" of nationalizing
ment had only the dimmest idea that such a thing was the land and leasing it to the most productive farmers!), a
possible, let alone what its class content would be.' full-scale revolution was necessary.
The revolution must be carried out against the Tsarist

H owever, the revolutionary left wing of the e-

merging sociaJist workers' movement in
Russia-Lenin and the Bolsheviks-were developing a
autocracy by the workers and the peasants, not the big
capitalists who would compromise with Tsarism at every
point. Against his main opponents, the Mensheviks, he
politically more radical perspective. In an earlier work, argued throughout this period that the working class
The Development of Capitalism in Russia, Lenin had must not simply put the bourgeoisie in power and restrict
shown that Russia was already irreversibly on the itself to forming a revolutionary Parliamentary opposi-
capitalist road, shattering what remained of the tion. Rather, the working class and its party-the Rus-
revolutionary-populist illusion that the Russian peas- sian Social Democratic Labor Party-must lead the anti-
antry might leap straight over capitalism to a communist Tsarist revolution, never holding back for fear of
cooperative society. alienating the bourgeoisie, and must go on to form a
Now Lenin was seeking a perspective and strategy that revolutionary government.
fused the scientific Marxist theory of classes and social Such a revolutionary government in Russia would not
development with the populists' revolutionary will and be a proletarian dictatorship committed to socialism-
energy, organizational dedication and, above all, their which, Lenin agreed, was nonsense. It would be a coali-
deep hatred of Tsarism and capitalist exploitation. In a tion of the working class and the revolutionary petit-
chain of articles and polemics from What Is to Be Done? bourgeoisie, the peasantry-a "revolutionary-<lemocratic
to Two Tactics of Social Democracy In the Democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry," as
Rlroolution. leading up to and incorporating the ex- Lenin was to insist all the way up to 1917; a kind of
perience of the failed 1905 revolution, Lenin developed workers' and peasants' republic whose exact configura-
his perspective. tion, social potentialities and limitations Lenin refused to
To be sure, Russia's revolution must be a spell out.
democratic one to remove the obstacles to While the above summary of Lenin's views is com-
capitalist development. To deny this, he in- pressed, the basic idea Lenin argued was that the workers
sisted in Two Tactics. would lead to "ab- and peasants could carry out the "bourgeois-<lemocratic"
surd and reactionary conclusions." But revolution in their own way.
this process could be carried out in
more than one way, and the
• The great revolutionary socialist Rosa
Luxemburg wrote eloquently of the bru·
tality with which the colonies were pulled
L enin, in essence, adopted the "orthodox" Marxist
framework of his day and pushed it toward its
revolutionary limits. A third perspective pointing toward
into the process of capital accumulation. even more extreme and startling conclusions was put for-
However. rather than advancing a strate· ward by a Russian revolutionary outside the mainstream
gic political view of the importance of
colonial revolutions, Luxemburg mistak· Bolshevik and Menshevik tendencies, Leon Trotsky.
enly believed that the extension of cap- The new Russian working class, Trotsky observed,
italist relations to the entire globe would
mean the automatic collapse of the whole was relatively small (in relation to the huge peasantry).
system. On the other hand. the promin-
ent German reform socialist leader Ed-
but it had come into existence as a modem industrial
ward Bernstein had already written in his working class. The most backward country had imported
Et!olutionary Socialism that Gennan col-
onialism was a positive force for progress the most modern technique, the largest factories. and was
and civilization in Africa, The main- thus creating an advanced, not backward, proletariat.
stream socialist leadership in Germany
had repudiated Bernstein's reformist (Think of the comparable development in today's Brazil.
perspective as a departure from Marxism.
but no one yet suspected that the support
and you begin to see why this insight is still of great
of the "advanced" and "civilizing" im- relevance. )
perialism of one's own ruling class was This phenomenon of "uneven and combined develop-
the time bomb that would blow the inter-
national socialist movement to bits, ment," as Trotsky called it, carried some profound im-
plications that he was-the first to begin thinking through which the two classes shared power equally. Trotsky
systematically. For one thing, with a modem proletariat believed (accurately, as events showed) that equal shar-
coming rapidly into existence, there was no need for a ing of power between a concentrated, modem urban class
prolonged period of bourgeois rule before this proletariat and a scattered, backward rural one was impossible.
could develop socialist politics and consciousness. For To put this in a slightly different way, Trotsky's
another, as this proletariat entered the struggle for perspective as developed in 1905 and Results and Pros-
democracy, the bourgeoisie would take fright and aban- pects foresaw a twofold but simultaneous revolutionary
don its "own" bourgeois-democratic revolution, even at process. The mass force of the "bourgeois-democratic"
the cost of leaving Tsarism in power. revolution would be a revolutionary peasant upheaval to
The Mensheviks had sensed this danger and argued for seize the land and destroy the landlords. But the victory
political moderation to prevent it; Trotsky believed it of this agrarian struggle wouid only be secured through
was inevitable. The bourgeois revolution in Russia was the leadership of a proletarian revolutionary movement
so long delayed that its coming now threatened the in industry, which would embody the socialist aspira-
capitalists' own class survival. The working class would tions of the working class.
have to lead the bourgeois-democratic revolution, and Jointly, these two revolutions would smash Tsarism.
that dynamic would create a deep contradiction: the But the more the working class tended toward a socialist
revolution would be bourgeois-democratic and pro- perspective, the greater would grow the gulf between its
letarian, at the same time. goals and those of the peasantry, for whom the revolu-
What, exactly, did this mean7 To win, the proletariat tion would be completed as soon as they had their own
must ally with the struggles of the peasantry for land. piece of land. This contradiction, Trotsky argued, would
With the revolution in power, however, the working only be resolved if the proletarian power in Russia was
class would be self-impelled toward a socialist program: just the beginning of a series of successful socialist revolu-
expropriation of the industrialists, nationalization and tions in Europe.
state management of industry. The working class would,
on the one hand, form a revolutionary government coali-
tion with its peasant allies; on the other hand, because the
peasantry as a class was not capable of an independent or
I n pre-World War I Marxism, this perspective of a
socialist, proletarian revolution in the Tsarist empire
seemed like a bizarre, idealist aberration. But the events
leading revolutionary role, this coalition would be a pro- of 1917, the Russian Revolution, brilliantly confirmed it.
letarian dictatorship supported by the peasantry, rather In February the Tsar was overthrown, the peasants on
than Lenin's "revolutionary-democratic dictatorship" in the land began seizing the estates while those in uniform
walked away from the slaughter at the front-and the
working class organized itself into soviets, workers'
MAJOR SOURCES IN THIS ARTICLE councils. In October, the soviets took state power in an
There is still no substitute for the classics: Trotsky's
writings such as 1905, Results and Prospects, Permanent insurrection organized under the leadership of the
Revolution and the History of the Russian Revolution, Bolshevik Party.
especially the first chapter on the unique features of Shor~ly after February, Trotsky had joined the Bolshe-
Russia's development, are indispensable not only for a con- viks when he and Lenin found themselves in complete
crete understanding of the context of the theory of Penna- agreement on the perspective of organizing the working
nent Revolution, but also as examples of Marxist method.
For a current restatement and defense of the theory, I class to take power. To carry out that perspective, the
have relied heavily on Michael Lowy, The Politics of Bolsheviks first had to win decisive majority working
Uneven and Combined Development (Verso Editions, Lon- class support within the soviets, against the "moderate"
don, 1981). This stimulating and original work is of great Menshevik and Social-Revolutionary parties which sup-
interest as an attempt to incorporate the Third World ex-
perience into the theory. A critique of Lowy's work by Alex ported the pro-<:apitalist and pro-war Provisional
Callinicos, in the British journal International Socialism Governments. But besides this, Lenin also had to wage a
(Spring 1982), presents a viewpoint similar to the one I short but very sharp struggle with his own "Old
develop here. Bolshevik" cadres, who were initially opposed to the
Of course, while not length in this article, the
view that Lenin's "democratic dictatorship" formula, as op- perspective of struggling for power-because according
posed to Trotsky's perspective, correctly guided the to the pre-1917 Leninist "democratic dictatorship" for-
Bolsheviks throughout 1917 is widespread in the left. For a mula which they knew by heart, a socialist revolution in
presentation of this viewpoint see Doug Jenness, "Our Russia was anti-Marxist nonsense.
Political Continuity with Bolshevism," in the supplement to The cadres of the very revolutionary party which made
the Mililant, June 25, 1982.
Permanent Revolution In Nicaragua, by Paul Le Blanc. the workers' victory possible could have become a fatal
forms the basis for the discussion of Nicaragua in this arti- conservative barrier to that victory! Lenin won them
cle. Le Blanc. a member of Socialist Action, has produced over, but only by combining all his powers of persuasion
one of the most interesting theoretical essays to appear on with repeated threats to go over his comrades' heads and
the Nicaraguan revolution. It can be ordered from the
author for $6.90 plus $1.15 postage from PO Box 10769, appeal directly to the revolutionary workers and sailors_
Pittsburgh, PA 15203_ October 1917 was the first successful proletarian rev-
Samuel Farber has raised with me the problems of apply- olution, in the country where pre-World War I Marxism
ing a Permanent Revolution perspective in small. very poor had regarded it as hopelessly utopian and premature_ The
countries where no prospect exists of a socialist revolution workers' state created by the October Revolution had to
in a powerful neighboring country coming to the rescue.
Although this problem remains unresolved, it is a crucial attempt, simultaneously. to end Russia's war with Ger-
one. -D.F. many and defend the revolution from a vast imperialist-
backed counterrevolution; to prevent industry from col-
lapsing, which required sweeping nationalizations and
forced requisitions of grain harvests, while maintaining
the worker-peasant alliance to the extent possible; and to
assist the revolutionary movements in Europe on whose
. V iewing the dynamics of struggle in what we now
call "underdeveloped" societies, Trotsky identified
three basic democratic imperatives: agrarian revolution
victory the Russian Revolution's own survival depended. to free the peasantry from landlord domination; national
In their struggle to accomplish these tasks, the RUSSIan liberation and independence; and democracy, meaning
revolutionaries between 1917 and 1923 carried out the both I'oliticai freedoms and crucial social reforms such as
dlfssic application of the Permanent Revolution theory in the eight-hour day, universal literacy and the like. (For a
the field of political strategy. They acted on the assump- useful summary see Michael Lowy, p. 89.)
tioas both that the Soviet Union's survival depended In the Chinese revolution of 1925-7, he perceived the
upon world revolution, and that the struggles for pro- struggle for these basic necessities taking place under the
letarian rule and colonial liberation were themselves in- same conditions of uneven and combined development
separable. that had occurred in Russia-the formation of new, ex-
To assess the applicability of such a strategy to today's plosive and essentially modem industrial (though not as
liberation movements, it is important to grasp some of much so as in Russia) working class. The outcome was
the very specific elements of the reality of that time. The catastrophically different, because Stalin's policies forced
revolutionary workers movement had taken power in a the Chinese Communist Party to disarm the workers for
major European country. Workers' revolutionary strug- the sake of a supposed alliance with Chiang Kai-shek's
gles with the potential to take power in other strategic "national democratic" Kuomintang, which savagely
countries (Germany, Italy, perhaps France not far down slaughtered the workers at its first opportunity!
the road) were a live reality, not a distant dream. Based on this devastating experience, Trotsky sought
The capitalist system as a whole, shaken to the core by to systematize and sharpen his conception of the Perma-
the war and the class struggles it had unleashed, was only nent Revolution. The success of 1917 had proven once
beginning to restabilize its institutions. We will see later and for all that socialist revolution was a possibility in a
how the absence of such favorable conditions gravely country without a fully developed system of bourgeois
complicates today's problems of applying a Permanent rule.
Revolution strategy. China now proved that such a revolution was a
Tragically, the post-war revolutionary wave of nec:ssity. Trying to split. the revolution into stages, the
1919-23 in Europe was defeated; a new bureaucracy achIevement of democratic capitalism first and socialism
achIeved a growing stranglehold within the Soviet state in the future, was catastrophic for democracy and
apparatus; under Stalin, a theory of "socialism in one socialism alike.
country" and a revived "theory of stages" displaced the The 19305 led Trotsky tei expand the ahatysi,fevenfutc
perspective of world revolution, to fit into the social in- ther. In a world of growing crisis, fascism and bitter
terests and diplomatic maneuvers of the bureaucracy. inter-imperialist conflict, bourgeois democracy itself
Ultimately, the Stalin-led bureaucratic counterrevolution seemed to be disappearing in a general process of
destroyed all remnants of workers' power in the Soviet capitalist decay.
Union. the historic conquests of democracy in the "advanced"
How that counterrevolutionary process unfolded is not countries would be lost unless proletarian socialist
our topic here, Rather, we must now briefly summarize revolution succeeded. In the so-called backward colonial
Trotsky's own post-1917 generalizations of the Perma- and semi-colonial ones, democracy would never be
nent Revolution theory and then discuss whether it re- achieved unless the proletariat, organized independently
mains applicable for today. through its unions, its revolutionary party, ultimately its
soviets, took the lead in the anti-imperialist struggle of its
entire oppressed nation. By a dynamic similar to the Rus-
sian Revolution, in its broadest features (not details, of
course), Trotsky foresaw small but powerful, modem
and conscious workers' movements linking the colonial
and metropolitan revolutions.
The French socialist revolution might well begin in In-
dochina, or North Africa, the English revolution in Egypt
or India ... there was no way to predict how or where the
process would begin, nor its exact speed and duration,
but it would be a single world-revolutionary process
leading to triumphant socialism, or a defeat in which the
proletariat, culture and civilization itself would be
thrown back generations or centuries.
Permanent Revolution After Trotsky
!The Pennanent Revolution] strategy prevailed only dur-
mg the revolutionary high tide of 1917-23 ... After Lenin's
death, however, a new variety of stagism became' official
doctrin~. becau~ of its congruence with the shortsighted
Peru: neighborhood org~nizes self-defense during 1976 general reaipoiztzk that Increasingly dominated the thinking of the
strike. Community-labor lmks are key In Latin struggles. NACLA Soviet bureaucracy. In its consistent and, th?rough ap-
plication, Stalin's variety of stagism invariably producea development from a socialist standpoint!
tragic defeats for the labor movement; and only those A fourth phenomenon which added multiple layers of
communist parties who in practice went beyond the of- complexity is what Michael Lowy calls "unfinished
ficial limits and pursued an implidtly permanentist line bourgeois revolutions" -Mexico, Algeria, Egypt and
weTe able to triumph.
-Michael Lowy, The Politics of Uneven and Turkey being examples of various kinds-in which some
Combined Development, p. 189 (emphasis added) of Trotsky's prognoses were strikingly confirmed while
others collapsed. In these societies' class struggles, the
For the past 35 years or so, theoretical discussions of socio-economic analytical side of Trotsky's theories
Pennanent Revolution have centered around the question stood up best. The path of development of western Euro-
of how supposedly socialist revolutions could be led by pean and North American capitalism could not be repro-
bureaucratic Communist parties with Stalinist politics. duced in what was now called the Third World; the
That fact alone should be enough to alert us to the ex- working class struggle already assumed great prominence
istence of deep problems with the theory. well before the "bourgeois-democratic revolution" was
In fact, the main predictions of the general theory of completed; the bourgeoisie accordingly became less and
Pennanent Revolution did not materialize. To be.some- less democratic; and political strategy that seriously plac-
what more precise, a set of developments occurred which ed the "democratic" stage on a pedestal to be completed
were not predicted by the theory, and which need to be before the "socialist" one always ended in disaster.
understood before we can seriously assess what parts of Unfortunately, none of this meant the bourgeoisie
the theory may be relevant today. could no longer rule, or that the working class could take
First, bourgeois democracy did not collapse in the face over. Rather. a bewildering variety of bouregois Third

the workers," reported i I A year later, after taking i I the
people. Chinese workers are I to applaud. but not receive accurate information about Cambodia, or their own
of expanding fascism. It was European fascism that fell, World regimes emerged: sometimes governed by military
and bourgeois democracy that expanded, even into some castes (typically though not always rightist). or by mod-
of the fonner colonies. The leading example was, of ernizing elites with a state-capitalist perspective,
course, India, which achieved national independence sometimes taking the form of revolutionary Bonapartist
under national bourgeois Parliamentary democracy-a formations (the Ethiopian Dergue comes to mind) pro-
distorted half-democracy which has failed to solve basic claiming their anti-imperialism while crushing their own
agrarian and de""'lopmental problems, but clearly a working classes with more bloody ferocity than the aver-
bourgeois democracy as opposed to anything like fas- age Stalinist bureaucracy. The mere fact that such
cism, let alone socialism. regimes could emerge didn't seriously damage Trotsky'S
Second, the post-1945 decolonization process strength- theory; but their ability to survive, to successfully
ened the institutions of world capitalism, rather than modernize and often incorporate workers' institutions
destroying them. clearly did.
Britain and France declined precipitously as imperialist Now, the validity of Trotsky's Permanent Revolution
powers, but the United States government proved more theory did not depend on whether this or that particular
than capable of replacing them as the organizer of the in- prediction materialized. (Marxism is not astrology.) It
terests of capitalist imperialism as a whole. did, critically, depend on whether the theory could be
Third, the phenomenon that caused the greatest the- shown to explain a general dynamic toward world rev-
oretical crisis and confusion was that the system created olution. Thus, much of Trotskyist theory since the 1940s
by Stalin's counterrevolution in the Soviet Union also ex- has attempted to demonstrate such a dynamic.
panded. This fact threw up a new and wholly unan- Even after the generalized capitalist crisis of the 1930s
ticipated set of problems-beginning with the question of had given way to decades of post-war expansion (roughly
whether it represented a progressive or reactionary 1945-68), and then with the reappearance of instability
leading to systemic crisis from 1968 on, it was argued that socialist revolutions. In real life, however, all it proved is
the theory of Permanent Revolution still described an that certain Communist parties were capable of taking
uneven but worldwide movement toward proletarian power for themselves.
revolution. Put another way, it showed that "stagism" was not
necessarily fatal to a Stalinist party in the same way it

T he results of this attempt have been, on the

whole, dismal. Rather than enabling the Trotskyis!
movement better to analyze the world and struggle to
cliange it, Permanent Revolution devolved into a fetish
was to a socialist workers' movement. Stalinist parties
that sunk for years, even decades, in the muck of the
theory of stages, the bloc of classes, the necessity of con-
solidating the bourgeOis national democratic revolution
that helped transform the movement's own politics. The and all the rest, could be flexible enough to slough it all
greatest damage was done by the effort to locate a general away when the historic opportunity of bureaucratic state
world proletarian-revolutionary dynamic for a historic power presented itself. It was exactly this possibility of
period when, in tragic truth, none existed. This created a revolution-above-classes that attracted certain kinds of .
politics of substitutionism· which ultimately permeated intellectuals to these parties, a fact Lowy misses in his
the Trotskyist (or Fourth International. as it's also discussion of revolutionary intellectuals.
known) movement all the way to its core. In some instances (China), the long years of the
Most prominently, Stalinist-led revolutions were seen "stagist" ideology may have even helped the Stalinist
as vindications of the Permanent Revolution theory, leadership avoid infecting the workers with dangerous
whether workers supported these takeovers-from-above ideas of socialist revolution and workers' power. It was
actively (Yugoslavia), approved them more or less exactly to prevent that same infection that the Viet Minh
passively (China and Cl1ba), or experienced them as (Vietnamese Communists) murdered the Vietnamese
social catastrophies and foreign occupations (most of Trotskyists in 1945, not because the Viet Minh leadership
Eastern Europe). But this was only one problem among itself was loyal to capitalism. Against this backdrop,
many. The tendency to regard every social-<lemocratic Lowy's claim that the "historic loyalty to the proletariat"
electoral victory as heralding a pre-revolutionary crisis of these Communist parties transcended their official
analogous to France in 1936, if not Russia in 1917, led· "stagism" takes on an almost mystical character.
Fourth Internationalists to issue calls for "governments of Lowy's chapter on ''The Socialist Revolutions in
the left" (meaning SP-CP coalitions) as if those sterile Backward Capitalism" applies this concept, less convinc-
slogans would expose the reformism of the misleaders of ingly as it goes along, to Yugoslavia, China, Vietnam and'
labor. Cuba. In the case of Yugoslavia, one can at least give the
However, the best way to understand the problems of Communists credit for unifying a nation that would
the Permanent Revolution theory is to examine the most otherwise have dissolved in ethnic warfare and been
thoughtful attempts within the Trotskyist tradition to carved up between Moscow and Washington, and for
systematically defend and update the theory. For this brazenly lying to Stalin the whole time about their radical
purpose, The Politics of Uneven and Combined Develop- aims. In China and Vietnam, to an even greater extent
ment, by Michael Lowy, is the best source. than Yugoslavia, the Communist parties were intel-
Lowy's book is important for many reasons. The first lectual-led, peasant-based organizations; the only
three chapters trace the Permanent Revolution from early evidence Lowy can give that they represented "'the his-
suggestions by Marx and Engels, through Trotsky's con- toric interests of the proletariat" is that they said they
ception of the Russian Revolution and the further did. (See especially the quotes from Le Duan of the Viet-
development of his conception after 1917. They are in- namese CP, pp. 140-1.) The fact that the Chinese Com-
dispensible reading for anyone seriously interested in the munists under Mao developed the theory of stages and
theory. blocs of classes to almost Talmudic complexity, while the
Lowy also, more than any other author I know within Vietnamese regularly stressed "'the uninterrupted
the Fourth Internationalist framework, deals seriously character of the revolution,"' mysteriously turned out not
with the difficulties created by divorcing a concept of to make the slightest difference in the end.
proletarian revolution from actual class activity and Underlying Lowy's unsatisfying theorization of the
power. In his concluding chapter, he actually abandons Chinese and Vietnamese revolutions is a deeper historic
the standard Trotskyist designation "deformed workers' dilemma. Within the Trotskyist movement, because of
states" for the bureaucratic dictatorships of Eastern the Stalinist parties' long-standing verbal stagism, it was
Europe, and proposes to call them bureaucratic states of customary to regard them as being almost permanently
proletarian origin. While he does not quite call the counterrevolutionary. When, contrary to theoretical ex-
bureaucracy a ruling class, resorting instead to the term pectation, such parties took power, destroyed the
"estates" (p. 218-9), he has virtually dropped the notion bourgeoisie and announced their loyalty to the dictator-
that these states represent working class power of any ship of the proletariat, they suddenly had to be recogniz-
kiitd. ed as revolutionary parties in practice.
Despite the great value of Lowy's work, his discussion

T he theoretical substitutionism, however remains.

In the passage I italicized at the beginning of this
section, Lowy expresses one of his key contentions, that
of the Stalinist-led revolutions does not escape this dilem-
ma. He would have done better, despite the problems it
would have caused for the Permanent Revolution theory,
certain Communist parties "in practice" could adopt an to explore the ways in which these Communist leader-
"implicitly permanentist" strategy; and it is assumed by ships succeeded in simultaneously mobilizing nationalist
definition that they thus became the leadership of and anti-capitalist sentiments among intellectuals,
If this democratic revolution 5UC;C;eeOs. we But only the proletariat in power. as the
can begin to pass to the socialist revolu- leading class. can finally emancipate the
tion. We stand for unintll!lTUptil!d revolu- peasants through socialism.

peasants and workers, while deflecting and when revolution since 1979 which, Le Blanc argues, "will clear-
necessary suppressing the self-emancipating socialist class ly reveal the dynamic of permanent revolution."
potential of those very same workers. Recognizing that
reality would have gravely damaged the search for a uni-
fying world proletarian-revolutionary process, but it
would have cut through the tendency toward substitu-
O bviously, no time need be wasted asking whether
the Nicaraguan revolution represents a "revolu-
tion by stages." That theory looks even more absurd than
tionism. usual in the Nicaraguan context. On July 19, 1979, the
day of "the victory," it was not only the government but
Nicaragua: A Test of the Theory? the capitalist state apparatus in Nicaragua which disinte-
In addition to historical assessment, even more can be grated. Since that point, a new state has been in the pro-
learned from the application of theory to'a living revolu- cess of formation. To what extent does the theory of Per-
tion. Does the experience of the Nicaraguan revolution manent Revolution explain its direction?
confirm the dynamic predicted by the theory of Perma- Le Blanc quotes another author, Henri Weber, to the
nent Revolution? Is it, in fact, an important test of that effect that the Sandin;sta government with its mass base
theory? A recently written analysis of Nicaragua, from of support in the popular organizations "is what revolu-
an explicitly Permanent Revolution perspective, is ex- tionary Marxists term a 'workers' and farmers' govern-
tremely useful for a study of both those questions. ment.'" Now, exactly what a "workers' and farmers'
Permanent Revolution in Nicaragua, by Paul I.e Blanc government" is has been the subject of an obscure and
(Pittsburgh, 1983) develops an argument which applies not very enlightening debate, but Le Blanc goes on to
the Permanent Revolution to the Nicaraguan revolu- quote Trotsky's remark that after October 1917 the for-
tionary process. The first four chapters present a concise mula "represented nothing more than the popular desig-
summary of Nicaragua's social formation and revolu- nation for the already established dictatorship of the pro-
tionary movement, showing how strongly the phenom- letariat." (p. 61)
enon of uneven and combined development applies. The Here and in several other places, Le Blanc seems to be
fifth chapter, "Dynamics of Permanent Revolution," ex- telling us that Nicaragua is, perhaps without even know-
plains Trotsky's view of the class dynamic of the Russian ing it, a proletarian state. Yet it should be clear that
revolution. Nicaragua is no such thing, from any point of view. Mass
The author also suggests a comparison of the two proletarian institutions of the workers' council type (such
situations: as the Russian soviets of 1917) do not even exist, let alone
The development and concentration of heavy industry hold state power. From the Sandinistas' own point of
which characterized Russia was absent in Nicaragua, and view, the possibility of socialism is limited by the fact
this resulted in an industrial proletariat with different
characteristics. On the other hand, Nicaragua experienced that "we haven't enough capital to run that which we
a general proletarianization of its labor force (including have already taken over. We need the private sector to
majority sectors of the peasantry) which had been help keep the economy going." (A government economist
unknown in Russia. In fact, Nicaragua in the 19705 was quoted by Le Blanc, p. 67)
considerably more urban and more proletarian than was I.e Blanc's own view is more guarded than might be im-
Russia in the early 19005. (p. 49. My emphasis.) plied by the appearance of the term "dictatorship of the
The observations are accurate, and it is important that proletariat" in a few places. His analysis suggests that
the Nicaraguan workers are not surrounded by an enor- Nicaragua is not yet such a state, but is in rapid transition
mous "peasant sea" of the pre-1917 Russian type. toward it under the pressures of imperialist aggression,
However, it seems to me that Le Blanc understates the internal capitalist sabotage and mass sentiment. Further,
relative weakness of the Nicaraguan working class, large- he maintained, the transition to workers' rule is strongly
ly working in small. dependent enterprises rather than facilitated by the Sandinistas' ideology. FSLN leader
modem industrial factories. Sergio Ramirez is quoted as saying, "The mixed economy
The final four chapters, where I want to focus closer must start from the harmonious and limited insertion of
critical attention, present a view of the Nicaraguan the private economy into the overall strategic framework
of the People's Property Sector," i.e. that the nationalized quates it at length. It is a paternalism which bath reflects
sector must play increasingly the leading role. (p. 67) and perpetuates the political weaknesses of the Nicaraguan
One can agree there are tendencies in this direction. For working class itself, and shaws itself rather clearly in a
example, as this is written, news reports indicate the statement of the FSLN Natianal Directarate pertaining to
Nitaraguan government may take over private grain the rale .of electians in the revalutionary pracess:
distribution facilities to stop hoarding and speculation. For the Frente Sandinista democracy is not measured sole-
(When I visited Nicaragua in March, farmworkers' leader ly in the palitical sphere, and cannot be reduced only ta
Edgardo Garcia also suggested to me that some kind of the participation of the people in elections. Democracy is
intervention along these lines was contemplated by the nat simply electians ... it means participation by the peo-
ple in the political, economic, social and cultural affairs.
unions.) The more the people participate in such matters, the more
Nonetheless, there are both significant counter- democratic they will be ... Democracy begins in the
tendencies and other problems to be taken into account. economic order, when social inequalities begin to
Even after state intervention, laws of private capital may diminish, when the workers and peasants improve their
still dominate. As I understand it, some state farms must standard of living. That is when true democracy begins,
pay their workers more than double the official wages to not before ... in a more advanced phase democracy

means the participation of the workers in the running of

compete with the wealthier private landowners (and factories, fanns, cooperatives and cultural centers.. (p-, 83)
where do the state farms get the extra cordobas for this?).
Pro!etarian revolution in Ii badward "...
While solidarizing with this statement's absolutely car-
country like Russia cannot sucaed on its l rect critique of the limitatians of bourgeais elections, Le
own without the support of international
revolutions in more adva:n~ countries. Blanc overlaaks its own equally seriaus limitations. The
FSLN statement "reduces democracy," if y,?u like, ta the
"participatian by the peaple in palitical. economic, social
and cultural affairs," and even compaunds the errar by
making this participatian "a mare advanced phase" of
There is no doubt in my mind that;the Sandinistasgen-
uinely favar papular and warking class participatian. But
participation is nat pawer. The Sandinistas clearly favor
the revalutianary leadership having to explain, defend,
••• 01 ~s revolution, baded by a
madify, sometimes change their decisians in the face of
reofuu- proletariat/peasant alliance, might
in~ nationalization of the land as a
the criticism .of the peaple. However, in five years in
ba5is for industrial progress. But na- pawer, they have not shawn a commitment ta having the
tionaUzaI:ion doesn't mean socialism or
even equal land tmure. masses actually make the decisians.
For anotner thing, the state sector may expand- This wauld require a network of palitical .organs of
ed without abolishing capitalism (e.g. Mexico). And still papular power and, abave all, .open political debate
another consideration, as shown by Eastern Europe, is within the revolutianary camp far beyond anything the
that capitalism can be abolished without empowering the FSLN has ever suggested. Nat even in their farthest-
working class at all. Exactly how the Sandinistas' own laaking vision .of the future "socialist" Nicaragua have
politics relate to all this is also more ambiguous than Le the Sandinistas spelled aut a cammitment ta genuine
Blanc admits. revalutianary demacracy in that sense.
For example, he quotes Victor Tirado: '1t is necessary Later in his analysis, Le Blanc offers his awn insightful
to take into account that sacialism is going to be can- critique .of the Sandinista's idealogical contradictians. In
structed in a backward country ... socialism will not be 1980 and early '81, the FSLN paper Barricada commented
canstructed from great abundance, as wauld be ideal, but quite favarably on Polish Salidamasc. But follawing the
rather fram the little that we have." (p. 68-9) martial law crackdawn in Poland, Barricada essentially
Does this express the "permanentist" perspective .of em- endorsed the suppressian of the Polish workers in crude,
powering the masses to break through the chains .of ex- and, ta put it bluntly, dishanest language clearly follow-
ploitation, defying the threats of imperialism and inspir- ing the line of the Cuban Granma.
ing the masses .of the region ta their awn revalutians? Or Le Blanc recognizes that this tragic change cannot
does it express the straightforward Stalinist conception of simply be explained .only by diplomatic consideratians:
socialism in one country? It could, in fact, be either one. ... but rather [reflects) a tension' within the [Sandinistas)
perspectives themselves-a tension arising from the in-
tense contradictions facing the revolution at this

R egarding grassroots democracy, the revolution-

ary-pluralist dimensian .of Sandinista politics i.
well expressed in Tomas Borge's statement: 'The San-
time ... there has been a tendency to denounce unions and
workers not follOwing the line of the FSLN-led CST as
'counter·revolutionary' and 'imperialist-inspired,' even
dinista government does not want an official or govern- when this is obviously not the case, and sometimes there
mental union movement. What we need is a trade union has even been resort to repressive tactives against
them ... if pluralism is eliminated within the working
organization respansive ta the interests of the workers. class, then the workers will be weakened in their struggle
ThE' W<lrking class in Nicaragua must have the right to for self~ancipation." (p. 87-9)
say 'no' where appropriate, and must even have the right
to confront the government when it is necessary." (p. 75)
Yet there is also a paternalist dimension of Sandinism,
which Le Blanc does nat always recognize even when he
L eBlanc, and here I agree with him, puts these de-
viatians fram revolutianary-pluralist principles
within the context of the Nicaraguan revolutian's gigantic
accomplishments and even more profound potential. His But this is true whether Nicaragua attempts to "imple-
critique would be more effective, however, if he pointed ment socialist measures" or concentrates on economic
out the difficulties caused by the tightly closed character reconstruction within the contradictory present "mixed
of whatever debates occur within the revolutionary van- economy framework" -neither can succeed in isolation!
guard itself. This generalization, then, still leaves open the question
Le Blanc cites a 1980 Barricada article by Herberto In- of which strategy is likely to give Nicaragua the greatest
cer which virtually dismisses elections altogether as a breathing space and permit the process of self-empower-
"formal, non-e.sential element" of democracy. Accor- ment of its workers and peasants.
ding to Le Blanc, Incer's position is an aberration: Actually, I'm inclined to believe that the Sandinistas'
In fact, as the statement on democracy by the FSLN's Na- pragmatic economic policy has been a better strategy
tional Directorate indicates. elections are an assumed, not than the theorists of Permanent Revolution might be will-
a nonwessential, aspect of democracy. Incer's distortion, ing to admit. In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the
far from being a definition of genuine democracy is a re-
attempted implementation of a "permanentist" revolu-
flection of pressures on the Nicaraguan Revolution which
threaten its revolutionary-<lemocratic course. (p.89) tionary perspective within Nicaragua might prove to be
But does Le Blanc have any way of knowing which is the fastest route to the grotesque bureaucratism and
the "real" thinking of the FSLN on elections in the future brutalities of "socialism in one country."
Nicaragua? I don't think he does: I know I don't, and It might be argued that for the revolution to be suc-
what is more important by far, I don't think the Nicar- cessfully carried through, the Sandinistas must rapidly
aguan workers and peasants have any way of knowing "decisively break with imperialism," "expropriate the
their revolutionary leaders' views on these questions, capitalist exploiters," and other nice-sounding revolu-
apart from formal public pronouncements in which the tionary phrases. Yet in the present Nicaraguan context,
reality of sharp differences may be blurred over. these measures would probably be most destructive-
If I had to make a guess, it would be that the FSLN today-of the chances for a revolutionary socialist
itself does not yet know what form the "institutionaliza- development. Rather than increasing the power of
tion" of the revolution should take. That is quite workers at the workplace and political levels. the im-
understandable: the revolution must, above all, survive, plementation of such so-called "socialist tasks" would
and its greatest tests in facing imperialist invasion and most rapidly promote bureaucratization.
sabotage probably lie ahead rather than behind it. But if a Faced with the task of administering a statified
revolutionary-ciemocratic pluralism is to prevail, the Nic- economy far beyond its administrative capacity, the
araguan masses cannot be simply left to ratify or even FSLN leadership would be forced to impose a degree of
"participate" in amending a decision reached beforehand austerity that could only be enforced by coercion. The
by the vanguard. strain of pseudo-Marxist authoritarianism that exists in
Sandinista ideology, in uneasy balance with its

T here is another question which Le Blanc does not

really address, but which cries out for analysis. In-
sofar as Permanent Revolution implies the destruction of
revolutionary-ciemocratic thrust, would not only come to
the fore, but would rapidly harden into Stalinism of the
Castroist variety. The suppression of existing bourgeois-
capitalist relations of production even in a non- opposition political organs, newspapers and so on would
industrialized country, does carrying through that basic not lead in today's Nicaragua to a worker-controlled
"socialist task" as rapidly as possible really best ensure media and political process, but more likely to the
the survival and health of Nicaragua's revolution? elimination of all possible and suspected independent
Here, we are on rather tricky and uncharted ground. popular and working class organizations as well.
There are, after all, levels and degrees of underdevelop- Under such a disastrous course, Nicaragua might
ment, industrial backwardness and absolute physical become "another Cuba;" but in reality, given the extreme
small size. To be sure, the generalization that working popular disaffection and international isolation likely to
class power could not survive in isolation applies equally be generated by a forced march toward bureaucratic
in Nicaragua, Mexico, or Argentina. But there is the pseudo-socialism, the revolution would be lucky to avoid
crucial factor of time-it makes all the difference in the the fate of Grenada.
world whether a single workers' revolution could hold Based on my own observations in Nicaragua (Changes,
out for several years, during which time its very example May-June 1984), I believe the Sandinistas are (fortunate-
could inspire other revolutions to come to its aid, or ly) unlikely to adopt such a course, at least in the short
whether invasion and internal contradictions would run. It also seems clear to me that those defenders of the
make its destruction likely in a very short time. Nicar- theory of Permanent Revolution (in particular, Le Blanc
agua seems to me to belong in the second category. and Lowy) whose works I am discussing here recognize
A Mexican workers' state, by contrast, could exert a . that workers' democracy is as central a necessity to
certain leverage on imperialism by threatening to revolution as is anti-capitalism-as did Trotsky. They
repudiate its roughly $30 billion debt, an action which also recognize, at least implicitly, that the most rapid
could destroy the international banking system. But elimination of capitalist relations of production might not
Nicaragua, ironically, is too small and too poor to have advance working class organization and power.
accumulated enough debt to destroy the banks. Its debt, The problem, then, is that trying to force an analysis of
at something between $2-3 billion, is enough to destroy Nicaragua into the classic Permanent Revolution for-
Nicaragua, but not the lenders. mulas tends to create a certain theoretical schizophrenia.
Certainly, one may agree that regional and interna- According to the theory, one should assign a positive
tional events will ultimately determine Nicaragua's fate. value to certain short-term anti-capitalist measures
which, as a matter of concrete analysis, one knows may trol, expropriations, etc.), before and during the insurrec-
be destructive of a longer-term socialist goals. In Paul Le tionary taking of power, than we have yet seen in
Blanc's work in particular, where the theoretical presen- Nicaragua.
tation of Permanent Revolution and the concrete discus- For this reason, and because of the greater investment
sio~ of Nicaragua are both excellent, one can hear the and strategic stakes, the threat of direct imperialist
gears grinding as the two fail to quite mesh together. military intervention, not to mention choking off of loans
Toward a Critical Reaffirmation and other forms of aggression, would be enonnous from
the beginlning-greater than even Nicaragua faced for the
Despite these serious problems, I would suggest a way first three years of its revolution.
to dtically reaffirm the basic framework of the theory of Finally, the imperialist threat would create a more
Permanent Revolution for analyzing the dynamics of to- urgent need for the expropriation of both foreign-owned
day's Third World revolutions. It is not a perfect theory and domestic capitalist industry, and for its nationaliza-
and certainly not a guide to tactics for revolution in the tion. The feeling of class power of workers in such a
underdeveloped countries, but it can certainly be a useful country, in contrast to Nicaragua, would also tend to fuel
general framework for analysis. I will start from the the radicalization of the process.
specific case of Nicaragua, then take up some of the ques- Although highly schematic (surely these factors would
tions raised by my earlier critique. not all apply with equal force in every situation), these
Nicaragua, for the reasons I have cited, is not a decis- considerations suggest that the tendency (not inevitabli-
ive confirmation of the theory of Permanent Revolution. ty) of the revolutionary process breaking through
But it is also not a decisive test of the theory, one way or capitalist boundaries, both through its in~er logic and
the other. through responding to external threat, is valid in the most
In fact, Nicaragua is one of the poorest and smallest of crucial and strategic of the "underdeveloped" countries.
the underdeveloped countries, with weak classes and thin In fact, one can reasonably argue that this tendency
traditions of either bourgeois or proletarian politics. would operate today in more countries than it did when
Contrary to both imperialist propaganda and the roman- Trotsky generalized his theory in the .19205 and '30s (con-
tic conceptions of some revolutionaries, Nicaragua is too sider, for example, the "boom" countries of South Asia,
weak to be either a trigger or a secure fear base for Nigeria, Portugal with its aborted revolution of 1974-5,
revolutions in neighboring countries. the above-<:ited Latin American countries, the Philip-
Until and unless revolutionary movements succeed pines ... )
in-at the very least-EI Salvador and Guatemala, vic- In this broader context, the Nicaraguan revolutionary
tories which the Nicaraguans can hope for and morally process would be seen as a partial confirmation of some
support but unfortunately cannot do very much to direct- of the key aspects of Trotsky's theory-for example, the
ly hasten, the Nicaraguan revolution must find a way to revolutionary social and political implications of uneven
survive on its own. and combined development-but only within the limits
Seen by itself, in isolation, the dynamics of the dictated by Nicaragua's extreme poverty and objective
Nicaraguan' revolution can be characterized by Lenin's difficulties.
pre-1917 theory of a "democratic dictatorship" (a revolu- While this argument could (and hopefully will) be
tionary government remaining within the bounds of developed and challenged at length, I will leave it as
capitalism and living with the contradictions this causes) sketched and move to some more general considerations.
at least as well as by Trotsky's theory of the necessity of a
proletarian dictatorship which would smash through the The uniqueness of the Permanent Revolution theory
chains of capitalist relations and begin the construction of lay in showing that proletarian revolution, working class
socialism. self-<!mancipation, was possible in the "underdeveloped"
But would the same be true of successful revolutions or colonial world as well as the "advanced" countries. For
In, say, Argentina, or Brazil, or Venezuela or Mexico? Or the task of reconstructing an authentic Marxist theory
even Chile, Bolivia or Peru? Almost certainly, the answer and practice for our own time, the theory of Permanent
.s no: in the more developed and larger Third World na- Revolution offers the crucial insight that class organiza-
:ion5, there is every reason to imagine that the dynamic tion, politics, leadership of the struggles of all the op-
:heorized by Trotsky would be much more to the point. pressed, is as vital to the ultimate success of revolution in
There are several major grounds for this likelihood. Peru as it is in North America. It is an insight which needs
First, in such a country (Le. underdeveloped but not as to be critically integrated into our own Marxism, our
lesperately so, or as small, as Nicaragua) it is much less solidarity work, our theory. The centrality of class
,ossible for the entire bourgeois state apparatus to politics is the best possible antidote to all the elitist and
:fisin~egrate with the overthrow of one rotten govem- fuzzy illusions of our own left, which vacillates from
nef", as the capitalist state in Nicaragua collapsed with • The possibility of the destruction of capitalist relations from above is not to be
he flight of Somoza in July 1979. The bourgeoisie would easily discounted. It happened in Cuba in 1960-1, precisely in one of the "more
'" much more formidable in the defense of its class developed of the underdeveloped" nations. Samuel Farber's analysis of the weak
political traditions of the Cuban working class and middle class (Revolution and
roliticai power. (Already this has proven to be so in EI Reaction in Cuba. 1933-1960) is highly relevant to an understanding of this pro-
cess. However. while similar internal dynamics could create favorable conditions
iah'ador.) for a bureaucratic collectivist development elsewhere. I am inclined to believe that
Secondly, the revolutionary process in such a country the Cuban experience would be harder to reproduce than might appear on the sur-
face. For one thing, the geopoiiticallandscape of the early 1960s (the Sino-Soviet
unless carried through in a bureaucratic Stalinist competition for relations with Third World revolutions. the greater Soviet will-
ashion)' would tend to require greater working class and ingness to invest in subsidizing an ally in the western hemisphere. the relative
slowness of U.S. imperialism in reacting aggressively to this development, etc.) are
>easant inroads on capitalist social power (workers' con- not likely to reappear in the short run.

-tCf.6 -
romanticizing the whole Third World as one homogen- ing class power as Trotsky envisioned it to come on the
ous classless revolutionary bloc to hopeless despair in the agenda.
face of an apparently invincible U.S. imperialism. There are several important reasons for rebuilding a
theory that insists on the central importance of workers'

H owever, if the revolutionary Marxist left is to

make effective use of these very insights, it has to
get some of its own conceptions and definitions clear. It is
consciousness and organization in the "underdeveloped"
First, there is the straightforward depressing body of
necessary, first to reclaim the meaning of socialist revolu- experience proving that if workers are not organized to
tion as the taking of power by a conscious, organized defend their own rights, those rights will be subordinated
working class. to the needs of the state. This has been true whether the
A re-formulation of the theory of Permanent Revolu- state is ruled by an anti-capitalist bureaucracy in Cuba,
tion which puts working class self..,mancipation back at Yugoslavia or China; whether it represents a Third
the center needs to place the emphasis in a somewhat dif- World state capitalism of the "left" (Boumeddienne's
ferent place than most recent interpretations have done. Algeria, Sekou Toure's Guinea) or "right" (Sadat's Egypt)
One set of interpretations places enormous stress on variety; or whether it carries out a relatively successful
the objective factors of the crisis of imperialism which bourgeois stabilization (India, Venezuela). In all these
lead to anti-capitalist revolution. Any democratic revolu- places, strikes, and rights of trade union and working
tionary struggle in the colonial or underdeveloped world, class political organization have been suppressed or
it is argued, faced with the deep hositility of imperialism sharply restricted. Defense of such rights is central to any
and the betrayals of the cowardly local bourgeoisie, will socialist program whether or not there are short-term
be forced to take an "uninterrupted" revolutionary road revolutionary possiblities.
to liberation. Second, history has shown Trotsky's theses On the
This analysis has some strengths. However, it has led dynamics of struggle in the underdeveloped world to be
to the conclusion that objective pressures for socialism important insights into a set of possibilities that provided
are so great that socialist revolution can be made by to be more complex than he (or other Marxists) realized.
almost anyone in place of the working class: Stalinist par- The alternatives of triumphant socialist revolution versus
ties in Eastern Europe, China and Vietnam; revolutionary bourgeois counterrevolution have proven not to exhaust
guerilla or intellectual leaderships in Cuba (and perhaps all possibilities. A theory that focusses on the develop-
Nicaragua) . ment of class struggle and consciousness under conditions
of "dependent" or "underdeveloped" or "neo-colonial"
A second set of interpretations of the Permanent capitalism will help us to understand how conditions for
Revolution theory is associated with the most sectarian successful proletarian-led revolution can come about, as
and ideologically unstable sectors of the Trotskyist well as understanding (and defining a political attitude
movement. (1 have not dicussed them in this article toward) other outcomes of the class struggle.
because they are of practically no analytical interest.)' In Third, such a theory will enable Marxists to incor-
these interpretations, extreme sectarian subjectivity porate the concrete and unique experiences of each strug-
prevails: the one and only necessary condition for a suc- gle, rather than imposing pre-set formulas on them. Only
cessful proletarian revolution in Chile, South Africa, relatively recently have Marxists of all stripes begun to
Nicaragua, Zimbabwe or anyplace else is seen to be the realize that so-called Third World societies have their
construction of the ideologically correct section of a specific complex structures, traditions and unique
hypothetical reconstructed Fourth International. While memories of struggle.
virtually devoid of theoretical importance, political Undoubtedly, the phenomenon of uneven and combin-
groups engaging in such posturing have done a significant ed development within an ever-more-international
amount of damage in some countries to the reputation of economy creates dynamics which, given class struggles in
Trotskyism and revolutionary working class socialist these SOCieties, contain certain common features (con-
politics in general. sider, for example, the importance of grassroots
movements which link the marginal shantytown dwellers

would propose, instead, a critical re-affirmation of
the theory of Permanent Revolution that places the
greatest emphasis on the formation of working class
to the stable employed working classes in Latin America).
But such common features need to be theorized, and
discovered in practice, not assumed a priori-as if pure
political consciousness and independent organization. objective necessity or the implantation of a party with the
Very concrete historical and theoretical analysis must be right line would produce socialist revolution by instant
done to show how workers in Third World countries can formula.
become conscious both of their immediate economic in-
terests, and the political importance of championing and
leading the struggles for national independence, the
liberation of the peasantry, of oppressed minorities, of
M ost important, a theory that looks carefully at
the processes of class formation and class con-
sciousness in all phases of their development, will best
women. Such consciousness and organization of the help us to understand the politics of the movements and
working class are possible, but not inevitable, and nec- leaderships crystallized from those processes. What, for
essary-along with, of course, a revolutionary socialist example, has made possible the recent exciting emergence
working class party-for socialist revolution and work- of the Workers Party in Brazil? What pressures from the
~For those who willre<:ognize the tenninology, I am referring here to ''M:orenite,· ... base helped bring about the steps toward unification of
"Healyite" and "Spartacist" politics. the Salvadoran revolutionary movement? Why have the
successful national liberation struggles in Angola, tribution to the development of revolutionary theory.
Mozambique and Zimbabwe so far not produced in- There is not only no necessity for a "bourgeois-
dependent workers' movements-while, on the other democratic stage" of the revolutionary process in the
hand, Black workers in South Africa have forged a new underdeveloped world; in most cases, the very terms
trade union movement of such fantastic potentia!. the "bourgeois" and "democratic" are mutually contradic-
inost important union upheaval in recent world history tory. Not only is there no historic necessity for the work-
with the sole exception of Solidamosc in Poland? Why ing class to subordinate its goals and organization to a
did the working class in Iran fail to stop clerical fascism cross-class bloc or national unity; in every case it is
from destroying the great promise of the anti-Shah detrimental for it to do so, whether the short-term "tasks"'
revolution? (i.e. possibilities) facing labor be reformist or revolu-
Revolutionary political leadership certainly is crucial, tionary.
sometimes decisive, in the underdeveloped world. A
fruitful theory must not impute a mythical "proletarian"
character to non-proletarian and indeed anti-working
class leadership, nor on the other hand contemptuously
T here is one other essential attribute-besides class
loyalty, theoretical openness and a concrete
political priority of opposing the imperialist crimes of our
dismiss revolutionaries who don't adhere to a pre- own ruling class-that Marxists in the so-called advanced
determined correct ideology. Rather, we need to be able countries must bring to the study of Third World revolu-
to analyze concretely where a given leadership comes tions. That attribute is humility: not an uncritical wor-
from, where its class loyalities lie (not always easy to ship of every manifestation of Third World struggle, but
detennine!), how it advances or retards the consciousness an understanding of the limits of our own movement and
and organization of the classes it leads or speaks for. politics.
Even more difficul t, when we seek to analyze the The North American left knows nothing of what it
politics of a given tendency within, say, the Salvadoran means to build clandestine trade unions, popular
or Philippine or any other liberation struggle, the ques- movements whose cadres and their families face death
tion we need to know how to ask is not "Does this group squads every day and night, armed organizations linked
have the exact same theory and politics as my own?" to legal and semi-legal mass movements of struggle.
Rather, the critical question is: "Does this tendency have Those links which we sometimes discuss in mechanical,
a basic commitment to revolution; to the struggles of the abstract language are composed, in fact, of the in-
working class; and to non-sectarian revolutionary conceivable heroism of ordinary people who have been
organization; which give it the potential to become a transfonned into organized revolutionaries. True, objec-
vanguard party of the working class if the class itseif tive conditions and politics, not heroism alone, will
proves capable of creating that party?" determine whether their revolutions succeed or fail. But
The possibility of socialist revolution will depend on win or lose, their heroism must never be forgotten.
(in'addition to all the objective factors) at least two sub- Finally, if Permanent Revolution is seen as a complex
jective ones: the working class developing the level of international chain, then that chain must also include our
struggle and consciousness that can produce a revolu- own struggle, American workers' struggles against the
tiopary socialist leadership, and a core of revolutionary corporate ruling class of North America-the real
militants with politics capable of organizing that leader- controlling power of the misnamed multinational cor-
ship given the historic opening to do so. porations, banking institutions and other exploiters. It is
Within the context of this kind of emphasis. Trotsky'S that struggle, our struggle, which is today the weakest
method of analysis can again be seen as a decisive con- link of all. 0
-9.1 -
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