Where’s the League of Struggle*? A Response to Where’s the Winter Palace

The following essay was written and published by Struggle for a New World’s fraternal publication in the U.K., The Lever, in the summer of 2018, prior to our coming together as a collective. We are republishing it with their permission because it was one of the theoretical interventions which led to the creation of our platform. We consider this polemic to be a valuable contribution to the rearticulation of revolutionary communism in English-speaking imperialist countries, and we largely agree with it and uphold it. We hope that interested readers will be in touch with us and The Lever about the ideological and practical positions outlined therein, and in other pieces on our platform and theirs.

WHERE’S THE LEAGUE OF STRUGGLE*? A RESPONSE TO WHERE’S THE WINTER PALACE

We wish to extend our most comradely greetings to Avery Minnelli and Eliezer Levin, the authors of Where’s the Winter Palace? On the Marxist-Leninist Trend in the United States, and those behind the blog The Left Wind. We have found the analysis of US Marxism-Leninism contained within the essay to be extremely timely. We find our issues with the broadly trotskyite organised left in the UK reflected in your essay. We thus hope that through developing criticisms of your work to come to a greater understanding of our own positions, and further develop our own theory and practice. We also believe the piece to be broadly correct in it’s analysis and recommendations for moving forward. We hope to offer comradely criticism in the hopes that it will be useful for both sides in developing our ideas further, hopefully bringing us closer together.

We have kept our criticism within the boundaries of what we think is appropriate for our means and ends. We have no organising experience in the US, and are thus unable to comment directly on your points related to this. We do however have a number of issues with your work which we feel it necessary to comment on. The following paragraphs set out these criticisms.

THE PARTY AND DEMOCRATIC CENTRALISM

We welcome the criticism of sect culture which has blighted the US left in a similar way to the UK left. We particularly think it is important to understand the historical context of how party structures we associate with Leninism were understood in the process of formation, and welcome the engagement with authors who engage this history, even Trotskyites such as Hal Draper, and particularly Lars T. Lih’s work placing texts like What Is To Be Done? and the evolving Bolshevik conception of the party and Democratic Centralism. We feel that this comes at a time where many who have been drawn into the western Marxist-Leninist milleu are beginning to question – through their own involvement with these organisations or through various publicised cases of misconduct by members and the utterly appalling way that ‘Democratic Centralism’ has been used to shut down legitimate and necessary criticisms of party conduct in these matters.

In our piecBetter Late than Never we have tried to articulate what such a ‘Democratic Centralist’ party may look like in practice, and what it should seek to embody:

‘To defend a politics which sees leadership and centralism as necessary for a movement of the oppressed to win, we must articulate a form of democratic centralism which sweeps away the autocratic and cultic forms which are predominantly practiced in this country today. For this to be successful, we have to develop robust methods of party democracy which sees the relationship between leadership, lower, and middle cadre as one of teaching and learning. As important as leadership is, it is incapable of leading without the organisational, theoretical, and democratic input of all cadre. Cadre are unable to provide this input without entering into an organic and dialectical relationship with the class as a whole.

A party should seek to embody an organic social trend which tends towards freedom and justice, and use the practical means at our disposal to raise this social trend to the level of a genuine social force. It should seek to articulate new social grievances as they arise. We argue for a party that is centralist in form, but democratic in essence.

We believe in the necessity to build a party not attached to some dead and stale dogma, but part a living creative tradition of liberation.’

We believe that this is something that has played a part in Leninist organising in all periods of the existence of the Leninist party, even in those periods of ‘acute civil war’ which are discussed in Where’s the Winter Palace. This has perhaps taken it’s most explicit form in the Maoist conception of the Mass Line (embodied in the phrase ‘from the people, to the people’), however, we do not see this (or Maoism in general) as a decisive break from Leninist practice before this, indeed, the dialectical relationship between the subjectivities of mass and organisation have been articulated even prior to articulations of “Leninism” as such, by such Marxist theoreticians as Rosa Luxemburg.

The piece crucially links the dogmatic and faulty application of Democratic Centralism with a dogmatic focus on ‘party line’ experienced in the US. We feel the issue of ‘line’, and the relationship to theory and practice is one in dire need of re-theorising in general, and in the US and UK in particular, and believe that your piece takes a significant step in this process of re-theorisation.

THE ISSUE OF “LINE”

“We believe the conception of “line” as an end in itself is detrimental to both theory and practice. Placing importance on “line” in this way severs theory from practice by suggesting that theory can be “correct” without practice

– Where’s The Winter Palace

Certainly, the concept of “line” as an end to itself is dangerous and damaging to the movement, particularly when combined with the sectarian approach to the party which this essay outlines so well. However, the theory/practice dynamic is twofold – just as there can be no correct theory which does not result in correct practice, so too will even the most correct practice become unmoored quickly is it does not crystallise into a correct theoretical architecture. It was with this understanding that Lenin famously said “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.

Our concern is that this essay places too much emphasis on developing correct practice but doesn’t recognise that the importance of the relationship between theory and practice. Furthermore, we wish to emphasise that fundamentally this relationship is dialectical. Theory and practice should be in constant tension, with developments in one informing and developing the other. The experience of the ML movement in the US is not simply one where abstract line was placed over concrete practice, by one where this dialectical process was arrested by sectarian organisations which were unable to manage the multiplicitous contradictions between theory and practice as they arose.

As such, in doing away with the sect system, organisations must also reset the balance between theory and practice. We believe that it is only an organisation operating on the principles we have outlined above has the ability to begin this process.

REVOLUTIONARY THEORY

“But what is the practical value in having to “keep quiet” on internal disagreements, especially on historical or international topics that have very little direct bearing on our practical tasks as it stands (such as whether China is socialist)? Or on relevant modern theoretical questions which do not have a definitive answer yet?”

 – Where’s The Winter Palace

“Theory is the experience of the working-class movement in all countries taken in its general aspect.

 – J. V. Stalin, Foundations of Leninism

We disagree that historical or international questions (such as ‘is China socialist?’) have little or direct bearing on practical tasks. At the same time, we agree with the authors that cadre should be able to have free and frank discussions about such issues, and that holding fierce battles over these questions in organising spaces (within one or between several organisations) can be distracting, even fully counter-productive in many cases. However, such nonchalance on crucial topics is typical of a lack of focus on the internationalism which should be at the core of any socialist organising.

The positions various groups take on international and historical issues show us how various organising tendencies apply the Marxist method, which is intimately linked to their day-to-day organisational practice. Whether China is socialist or not may seem like an abstraction, but it involves crucial questions that must be discussed, such as the issues of the dictatorship of the proletariat, debates on ‘productivism’, imperialism in the 21st century, and how we conceive of the contradictions of class society on a national and international level.

The fact that US Marxist-Leninists have debased the idea of internationalism and international solidarity to who they ‘uphold’ and who they denounce is indicative. International solidarity is built by fostering real connections with comrades who are struggling in many different contexts, providing them material and ideological support where possible, and with principled criticism where necessary. Ultimately, we feel that the incorrect approach to internationalism seen amongst the US ML movement and many ‘anti-imperialists’ in the UK boils down to seeing states, rather than the revolutionary international proletariat in diverse particular contexts as the motive force of revolution and history. In their defence of actually existing socialism, they have come to identify the state as the agent of revolution, rather than a form the revolution reifies as part of a process of social organisation necessitated by the current stage of historical development, which is used as a tool by the revolutionary class in pursuing and consolidating revolution, with all the risks and contradictions this engenders. To come to this conclusion, it is necessary we believe to engage in discussion and investigation on the topic of ‘revisionism’ in the 20th century Marxist-Leninist movement, not merely as a formal defence of the figures of Stalin, Mao, or Hoxha, but in terms of a real loss of the historical and dialectical materialist method outlined by Marx and solidified in practice from Lenin onwards in diverse countries, with all their successes and failures, our common heritage from which we must learn.

Here we come again to the need for the construction of a vanguard organisation which is able to stand with the people in their daily struggles and also connect those struggles to the struggles of other workers and oppressed people internationally. It is no minor thing that the slogan of our movement has always been some variation of ‘workers of the world, unite!’

It is vital at this juncture that we discuss our history and where our class stands now, both nationally and internationally. Despite all the victories of the last century, we stand here, a century after the October Revolution, utterly unable to comprehend the scale of what we have lost. We have lost practically every political structure that could support us in constructing a new revolutionary movement in either of our countries, and we must come to terms with this loss by taking a thorough account of the last century, and making an unflinching assessment of where we stand, and in which direction we are travelling. Posing as vanguards, so many who fancy ourselves communists are sectarians who are marching in radically different directions from the proletariat. Only by understanding our own failures will an organisation be able to operate as a meaningful vanguard, as the advanced detachment of the working class, as the body which the class uses to lead itself.

We believe now is the time to undertake this historical reckoning, and to instigate a thoroughgoing struggle against revisions to the Marxist method. We do not seek to rehash the petty ideological squabbles of the past, but to begin with investigation and comradely criticism and self-criticism, always with the goal of uniting our disparate forces and preparing our class for the revolutionary struggle ahead.

A REVOLUTIONARY SITUATION?

“Are we in a revolutionary period in the U.S. right now? Clearly not. One could perceive a revolutionary situation arising sometime in the next several decades, but it is hardly on the immediate agenda. It is clear that our time is very different from Stalin’s. While “proletarian revolution” is still our goal in general, it is not constitutive of our current period in the way that it was for Stalin’s, in that we are not in a period of major revolutionary upheaval.

– Where’s The Winter Palace

An important question is asked here – are we in a revolutionary period in the US right now? However, what remains unasked is the more important question – what is a revolutionary situation? Lenin stated in 1915 that:

“To the Marxist it is indisputable that a revolution is impossible without a revolutionary situation; furthermore, it is not every revolutionary situation that leads to revolution. What, generally speaking, are the symptoms of a revolutionary situation? We shall certainly not be mistaken if we indicate the following three major symptoms: (1) when it is impossible for the ruling classes to maintain their rule without any change; when there is a crisis, in one form or another, among the “upper classes”, a crisis in the policy of the ruling class, leading to a fissure through which the discontent and indignation of the oppressed classes burst forth. For a revolution to take place, it is usually insufficient for “the lower classes not to want” to live in the old way; it is also necessary that “the upper classes should be unable” to live in the old way; (2) when the suffering and want of the oppressed classes have grown more acute than usual; (3) when, as a consequence of the above causes, there is a considerable increase in the activity of the masses, who uncomplainingly allow themselves to be robbed in “peace time”, but, in turbulent times, are drawn both by all the circumstances of the crisis and by the “upper classes” themselves into independent historical action.”

Without these objective changes, which are independent of the will, not only of individual groups and parties but even of individual classes, a revolution, as a general rule, is impossible. The totality of all these objective changes is called a revolutionary situation. Such a situation existed in 1905 in Russia, and in all revolutionary periods in the West; it also existed in Germany in the sixties of the last century, and in Russia in 1859-61 and 1879-80, although no revolution occurred in these instances. Why was that? It was because it is not every revolutionary situation that gives rise to a revolution; revolution arises only out of a situation in which the above-mentioned objective changes are accompanied by a subjective change, namely, the ability of the revolutionary class to take revolutionary mass action strong enough to break (or dislocate) the old government, which never, not even in a period of crisis, “falls”, if it is not toppled over.

– V. I. Lenin, The Collapse of the Second International

It is crucial to grasp that, upon the arrival of objective conditions, there must be a corresponding subjective push to change the possibility of these conditions into a real change. But when Lenin says: “the ability of the revolutionary class to take revolutionary mass action strong enough to break (or dislocate) the old government, which never, not even in a period of crisis, “falls”, if it is not toppled over”, he emphasises a strength of subjective actors, which does not arrive out of nowhere and is not independent of the objectivity in which it operates: the truly heightened political consciousness is one that understands that our subjectivity is not only shaped by our objective conditions, but at every stage, plays a role in shaping it. We cannot will a revolution out of nothingness, but we also cannot stand idly by and allow our ideological enemies to shape the narrative and the objective conditions without any resistance from our side.

Here in the the UK, we are also not in a period where the objective conditions for a revolutionary situation yet exist. However, we believe that it is also necessary understand the tendencies of struggle by the working classes and the contradictions in society which can be directed towards such a moment, and which can challenge the hegemonic forces throughout the process.

As unlikely as it is that revolutionary situations will develop in the declining core imperialist power such as the US and the UK, the decline in their hegemony produces and is produced by an international crisis which we have not yet seen the end of, and may prove terminal. The last US election revealed deep divisions within the US ruling class. Since the election of Donald Trump as president, we have seen a nakedly xenophobic wing of US national capital gain a strong hand against the traditional tendencies of international capital in the US and their partners abroad. In spite of the actions of the majority of forces within the Democratic and Republican parties to suppress this trend as well as the upsurge in socialist rhetoric and action in the name of business as usual, the centre is eroding and the contradictions are being laid bare. This significant rift shows only signs of deepening – with ultimately the working class and oppressed nations of the US, as well as migrants, refugees and the working and oppressed peoples of peripheral and semi-peripheral countries paying the price.

However, we also see new resistances growing, whether it be against the horrors of ICE, or through a resurgent social democratic and even socialist politics within the DSA, or in the projects of Black liberation and autonomy exemplified by Cooperation Jackson in Mississippi. It is our task as revolutionaries to unify these struggles, learn from them, raise them higher, and prepare the proletariat for the possibility of a revolutionary situation. This is why we agree with the authors that there should be a focus on base building in the short and medium term. The building of the base, just like the building of a Marxist organisation, however, is no end in itself. Both are actions which must be carried out with the consciousness of higher unity in struggle by the masses themselves, and intervene on a broader and deeper scale. It is to bring the working class and oppressed peoples back onto the stage of history as the third, decisive force in our separate contexts, to topple all forces of reaction and bring a new society, where the poor and downtrodden control their own lives, into being.

***

“Where will the revolution begin? Where, in what country, can the front of capital be pierced first?

Where industry is more developed. Where the proletarian constitutes the majority Where the proletariat constitutes the majority? Where the there is more culture? where there is more democracy-that was the reply usually given formerly?

No, objects the Leninist theory of revolution, not necessarily where industry is more developed, and so forth. The front of capital will be pierced where the chain of imperialism is weakest, for the proletarian revolution is the result of the breaking of the chain of the world imperialist front at its weakest link

– J. V Stalin, Foundations of Leninism

Revolutionary situations are revealing themselves around the world at this very moment, revolutionary parties and mass movements are grappling with how lead the broadest masses to power against the oppressor ruling classes. Along with the Leninist dictum that the imperialist chain breaks at its weakest link, we see revolutionary struggles which have been decades in the making reaching new and higher levels, and facing new and more perilous challenges. The Kurdish national liberation movement in North and West Kurdistan, the Communist Party of the Philippines. Political crisis grips Turkey, where the fascist dictatorship presently headed by the AKP has governed for nearly two years by emergency decree, and changes election rules constantly while calling election after election in an attempt to push the progressive HDP out of parliament. In these areas where contradictions are sharpening, and dominant and oppressed classes come closer and closer to all out war, we see Marxist theoreticians producing theoretical output at an astounding rate to account for their own social contradictions and social developments the world over.

Parties involved on the front lines of organising in these countries are to be found in new international forums, for example the International Coordination of Revolutionary Parties and Organizations (ICOR) and both organisations named the International Conference of Marxist-Leninist Parties and Organizations (ICMLPO/ICMLPO) – to share their theoretical and practical experiences and to coordinate solidarity work. We must follow the example of these parties in seeking to unite our revolutionary organisations in new forms of international organisation.

MARXISM-LENINISM AS A HISTORICALLY CONTINGENT IDEOLOGY

“Thus, we would argue that U.S. “Marxism-Leninism” is an historically contingent ideology rather than a modern iteration of Marxism fit for our time and place. However, that does not mean that we should throw the baby out with the bathwater. The successes and failures of 20th century socialist experiments have much to teach us moving forward, from how to organize unemployed workers to how to run a planned economy. Lenin is arguably the most important Marxist since Marx, and it would do us good to learn from him and the evolution of his thought, not a mythological, prophetic version of Lenin. While we should study and learn from Leninism, we should also study other trends: autonomism & operaismo, Marxist-feminism, pre-war social democracy, and all historical anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist, and feminist movements.

– Where’s The Winter Palace

As we have stated, we believe many of the criticisms of the US Marxist-Leninist movement are correct. However, we still believe it is important to uphold something called ‘Marxism-Leninism’, though something that is radically different from what is practiced by those revisionist organisations which dominate the theoretical discourse in the US and the UK today.

Is Marxism-Leninism a historically contingent ideology? Yes, in the broadest terms, all such ideologies are historically contingent. We do, however, hold that there is a contemporary ideology in existence today which may be described as Marxism-Leninism, a practical political theory for the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution, which continues to prove to be the most vital and revolutionary ideology today.

We agree wholeheartedly that we must read outside of a narrowly defined ‘Marxist-Leninist canon’ if we are to revitalise Marxism-Leninism in the anglophone world. But it was never the position of Marx or Lenin that our reading or our work were to be trapped within the narrow confines of party-approved thinkers. Lenin read Hegel in a time of crisis, Marx’s writings are filled with literary references. Beyond such historical references, however, we believe our ideology to express the truth in the totality strongly enough that there is of course nothing wrong with reading, engaging with, and working with persons from diverse ideological commitments. It has never been our position that anarchists and Trotskyites, for example, are “heretics”, simply that these formal labels happen to reflect a broadly different historical perspective than our own. In our practical work, however, many who identify with this traditions have proven themselves greater than many “Marxist-Leninists”, and important insights from sincere critics of the established order, even those who identify with merely as liberal democrats, may be engaged with to produced a fuller analysis. If the truth is in the totality, as dialectical thinkers believe, we will understand the social processes which produce diverse thinkers and political trends, rather than sectarianly dismiss them as heretics while rereading, with no critical eye or sincere understanding, a few works of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and Stalin as if they were sacred texts to be regurgitated to suppress critical thought.

The traditions of Marxism-Leninism which we believe are most vital are rarely seen inside the anglophone world. In Turkey, Kurdistan, Sri Lanka, India, Latin America, the resurgence of Maoism in the Philippines, India, Afghanistan, and even China. In this sense, the incorrect ideas and lines of various communists are a result not just of their sectarian behaviour, but of their inability to develop on the nascent revolutionary traditions which have developed in their own society (for example the heroic socialist Black liberation trend from the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense onwards). This has been exacerbated by the lack of contact with revolutionary traditions outside of the US since China closed itself of to revolutionaries and opened itself up to foreign capital, or since the death of Enver Hoxha (notable exceptions are the Revolutionary Organisation of Labour and the relatively new American Party of Labour, who have made active attempts to grapple with deep theoretical and practical debates happening between organisations in diverse countries). Imperial arrogance and great nation chauvinism lifts the likes of Sam Marcy in the United States, or Tony Cliff in the United Kingdom, to great theoretical leaders, and as such, any true internationalist tendencies which existed in these countries withered on the vine, meaning that now, as the need for a revolutionary communist approach to mass organisation is needed, we find ourselves without the tools we need to develop one.

CONCLUSION

There is no better time for a piece such as Where’s The Winter Palace to be published. We believe that it’s positive reception amongst many in the US and Anglophone left is indicative of its correct analysis of many of the problems of the US Marxist-Leninist movement which we believe are also applicable to the context of UK Trotskyite organisations as well. We see it as particularly important in this context, as we have seen a rise of a number of young, vocal, self-declared Marxist-Leninists on social media joining these organisations (in particular the PSL). We support the authors in their critiques of the movement as it stands, and have high hopes that through interventions such as this, a stronger, fighting proletarian movement can be built.

We level our critiques here in the spirit of proletarian internationalism and comradely criticism, and we hope they are taken as such. Our critics focus on seeing the need to unite the strong focus on new revivified forms of practice and party organisation, with an equal focus on revolutionary theory. We wish to highlight again the importance of internationalism for every and any organising effort which parties undertake, and believe we have set out the criteria needed for this to be done on a principled and effective basis to avoid the pitfalls that the authors have so effectively demonstrated in the work.

We hope that this essay is the beginning of a fruitful and productive exchange between our two publications.

In solidarity,

– The Lever Editorial Group.

* The title was chosen as a tribute both to the original League of Struggle in St. Petersburg which would go on to lay the foundations for what would become the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (Bolsheviks) to emphasise the need for theoretical development that will complement practical work, and also for the League of Struggle for Negro Rights, an organisation from the heroic era of the Communist Party USA when they fought for Black liberation, prior to selling out Black people in the US south in 1935. We believe the name “League of Struggle for Negro Rights” was chosen as a tribute to the history of the communists in the Russian empire who fought for the liberation of so many peoples suffering under the Tsarist yoke prior to the revolution. We hope that interested US communists will appreciate this heroic moment in their own history, brief though it was.

 

On Thanksgiving

On this Thanksgiving, Struggle for a New World wishes to extend our solidarity to the Indigenous peoples of the U.S. and their ongoing struggle against settler-colonialism. We recognize that one of the foundational acts for the global hegemony of capitalism was the invasion of this continent and the genocide carried out against its diverse inhabitants. We recognize that this invasion and genocide is still ongoing. We recognize that the U.S. is stolen land and that its decolonization is a central task in the struggle against the imperialist U.S. and the struggle for socialism. We recognize that the descendants of the original settler population and those who have been integrated into the nation they built still have a settler-colonial relationship to the colonized peoples, and that this contradiction does not only implicate the ruling classes, but even the working class of the colonizing nation, who benefit from the ongoing oppression of Native Americans and the theft of their lands. We recognize that this land mass, Turtle Island, is home to countless struggles of Indigenous peoples that cross the borders imposed by capitalism-imperialism. In the final instance, it is these anti-imperialist struggles which will play the decisive role in winning socialism, not the trade unionist bargaining of the settler-colonist working classes, which must be united with the liberation struggles of the colonized. We recognize that victory will only be won by uniting and subordinating the struggle of the settler proletariat with the struggle of the proletariat of the oppressed peoples:

“The English working class will never accomplish anything before it has got rid of Ireland. The lever must be applied in Ireland. That is why the Irish question is so important for the social movement in general.”
–Karl Marx

In the national mythology of the settler-colonist nation which dominates the United States, Thanksgiving plays a significant role in how they imagine their early settlement on the continent. In the settler-colonial school system children are taught a whitewashed version of history in which friendly Native Americans welcomed the Pilgrims with open arms and taught them how to survive, with this supposed friendship being consummated with a great feast of “thanksgiving.” But the children are not taught what we all know, that from the very start the settlers carried out a campaign of genocide and land theft across the continent, that the hospitality of Squanto was rewarded with rivers of blood and torched villages. They are not taught that the first official day of thanksgiving in Massachusetts was declared in 1637 following the massacre of over 700 Pequot men, women, and children.

What is taught is the Squanto narrative, a narrative that makes the Indigenous sound like a disposable set of characters who exist only to advance the plot of the settler heroes, a plot in which the settlers’ Christian god gave them the Indigenous peoples’ aid in various forms to help them survive during the rough years of early colonization, and then helpfully cleared them away, out of sight, out of mind, to grant the settlers all the lands of all Indigenous peoples, a destiny made manifest.

As Thanksgiving is celebrated this year, most states across the Americas, and in particular the settler-states in North America continue to perpetrate atrocities against Indigenous peoples. Forced sterilizations of indigenous women, a tool of genocide, continue to this day. Indigenous women in Canada who were coerced into the procedure under threats of having their children taken from them are suing the Canadian state, citing cases as recent as 2017. In the United States, the U.S. government prepares to revoke a Mashpee Wampanoag land trust, in the very region that is now central to the Thanksgiving myth. Water Protectors who struggled against the Dakota Access Pipeline are incarcerated, facing decades in prison for defending their lands and cultures. Celebrating Thanksgiving is not celebrating a myth. It is not celebrating a centuries-old past. It is celebrating crimes like this. It is a celebration of settler-colonialism itself as a system.

What do the Indigenous have to be thankful for? That they can, after centuries of genocide bringing them under the domination of Euro-Christian settlers, practice what remains of their own faith without being “corrected” by colonial authorities? That after years of having their languages destroyed by the market and colonial schools, if they still remember some words of their own language, they will not be beaten by nuns for this? That they can walk on their own land without being brutalized or murdered, provided they do not attempt to claim this land, or exercise meaningful political sovereignty on it? With these being the best case scenario for the colonized Indigenous peoples, no wonder that on Thanksgiving 1969, they occupied Alcatraz, the prison island symbolizing the prison the United States is to their peoples, in protest of all that had been stolen from them, not given to them. No wonder that Indigenous people have called for Thanksgiving, like Columbus Day, to be declared a countrywide day of mourning. No wonder that all across the country Indigenous people and progressives from the settler-colonial oppressor nation hold their own events to teach the true history of Thanksgiving. We encourage all comrades to participate in or organize such events.

On this Thanksgiving, let us redouble our efforts to finally bring down settler-colonialism and the U.S. Empire. Let us redouble our efforts to unite in struggle with the Indigenous and struggle in unity with them for their concrete liberation. Let us redouble our efforts to decolonize Turtle Island and build a new world.

WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

Transgender Day of Remembrance Statement

Today is the Transgender Day of Remembrance. This day is observed every year to remember all those murdered because of transphobia and the oppression of trans and gender nonconforming people. This year, it is observed following 23 reported murders of trans people, primarily trans women of color, in the U.S. and countless more around the world. It is observed as trans people continue to face a disproportionate level of violence at the hands of the state and society in general and a disproportionate level of poverty, homelessness, unemployment, lack of access to healthcare, and harassment on the job and off. It is observed following the Trump administration’s move to redefine gender solely on the basis of biological sex, an official act of delegitimization of trans people’s very existence. This is all evidence of a rising tide of transphobia and anti-trans violence that is part of a general rising tide of fascism and attacks on all oppressed and marginalized peoples.

On this Transgender Day of Remembrance, Struggle for a New World extend our solidarity to all our trans siblings and comrades and their struggle. We not only condemn the presence of transphobia within society in general, but especially its presence within our own movement. Transphobia within our movement cannot be tolerated, indeed, to tolerate its presence would be the greatest act of betrayal we could commit. The struggle for trans liberation is an indispensable and inseparable component of the struggle for socialism and the liberation of all the exploited and oppressed. Without socialism, there will be no trans liberation, and without trans liberation there will be no socialism. We call on all comrades to not only speak out against transphobia, but redouble their efforts to unite with trans people in their concrete struggles, and to struggle with them in unity to win their liberation, just as we must unite with all oppressed in struggle for our common liberation.

WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, UNITE!

After the Election: Where Do We Go From Here?

A week has passed since the midterm elections that occurred last Tuesday. The results are in, and although we still live in the same “Trump’s America” we did a week ago, there were a small number of hope-instilling wins, such as the social democratic DSA candidates (despite whatever criticisms we may have of them) who made it past the DNC’s money and then their GOP challengers with the help of their real grassroots support; additionally there was the passing of Amendment 4 in Florida, restoring voting rights to the formerly incarcerated, and the passing of Amendment 2 in Louisiana, removing a Jim Crow law from the state constitution. Both of these formerly inconceivable wins fly in the face of the Democratic Party establishment, who cannot tolerate even the most moderate reformism by the DSA elements in their midst, and who practically refuse to organize in the south, as consistently pointed out by Bernie Sanders, who condemns their lack of a “50-state strategy”. Yet, what wins are achieved on their ballot line will be used by the DNC and their cheerleaders as we plunge forwards into the 2020 Presidential Election campaign which will inevitably come to dominate the discourse in the coming months.

How do we regard such elections? We know that young people in the U.S., as elsewhere in the world, engage in both electoral and extra-electoral politics on a more critical basis than their elders who constantly scold them and fear their radicalization. But taking a bird’s eye view of this process, is the more radical option to try to draw them away from elections, or to try to win elections in the name of the most radical trends in the youthful left?

In fact, if we draw an analogy to another sphere of legal left organizing, we can see that this is a false choice: we do not ask whether young people engaging with strikes more critically than their elders should kick older people out of their unions, or should be told to leave unions, because they are reformist. We know that all of these reformist spheres are part of the totality of class struggle which is objectively taking place in our society at all times, whether we subjectively grasp this fact or not. To conscious communists, all political activity is subordinate to the bigger picture of class struggle; to the unconscious whom we organize among, however, this activity helps reveal this totality to us, to awaken their consciousness.

A formalist fetishization of elections and a formalist fetishization of boycotts are both wrong, because what matters is the content, as Vladimir Lenin pointed out in his book Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder. While this text is frequently used by electoralists to justify the very parliamentary cretinism he so adamantly rejected and criticized, the actual point that Lenin and other revolutionaries have continually stressed is that we must intervene in every site of struggle and continually try to revolutionize them. In as much as elections can be used, in certain circumstances and when they have not yet become obsolete for the masses, to fight the powers that be and win real gains for the masses while educating them through their own political experience about their power and the nature of the capitalist system, then elections should be intervened in.

But all action taken in this site of struggle, as in all legal, bourgeois-democratic struggles, should be taken with the ultimate goal of exposing the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie masked by bourgeois democracy and the fundamental necessity of revolution to overthrow this dictatorship. Similarly, when elections have become an impediment to revolutionary struggle, or obsolete not just for revolutionaries but for the broad masses, elections should also be rejected. What is needed is a concrete analysis of the concrete conditions of the election in question, and the time and place in which they take place.

This, briefly stated, is our view on the participation of revolutionaries in elections. But whatever debates we engage in and whether or not we participate in elections, they will continue to take place. And despite the fundamental lie of bourgeois democracy, they have great social significance in the current political climate. So we must examine them.

Trends

First off: in general, what happened?

The GOP increased its majority in the Senate from 51 seats to 54. The Democrats broke through Republican control of all three branches of the federal government and won a majority in the House of Representatives. While the much-touted “Blue Wave” proved to be more of a Blue Trickle, the Democrats did win a majority, flipped districts in “red states”, and even in a Republican stronghold like Texas came only a couple of percentage points short of winning a Senate seat. Such closely contested races have been particularly discussed, and are the subject of much controversy. The bourgeois media has been making much ado over all this, with many attempting to claim them as evidence of the exacerbation of the U.S. urban-rural divide, a much-heralded supposed desertion of college-educated suburban white women and moderates from the GOP tent, the opposition that Trump is supposedly bound to face come the swearing-in of the new congress, increased partisanship and polarization, etc.

But do we believe all this? And what does all this actually mean for the workers and the oppressed, the poor and exploited, of the US and the world?

A midterm shift away from the President’s party is normal, but we do not live in normal times. Yet one thing that is striking about this election is how normal it seems. The GOP increased its Senate majority, but most of those races were in “red states”. The Democrats won the House, but they are the (so-called) opposition party and two years into a new presidency voters tend to be dissatisfied with the party in power and swing away from it. This is a favorite tactic of U.S. imperialism, which is able to take popular dissatisfaction and pin it on the rule of whichever of the twin parties of capital is in power, channeling discontent into support for the other party. Like clockwork, the Republicans and Democrats switch off and engage in just enough shadowboxing to keep up the illusion of actual opposition while working in concert to maintain the rule of Wall Street. This is not to say that there are not real differences between the two parties, stemming from inter-bourgeois disagreements and their popular bases, but in the long run these differences are of little consequence. This has been proven with Pelosi’s immediate and now notorious tone of cooperation with Trump, setting a fine example for the DNC-loyal hashtag resistance.

Republicrats

Voters are taught that the only meaningful form of political activity is voting, that voting is the only way to take part in “democracy”, and that any and all problems under this democracy can be found not in shortcomings of our democratic culture, popular decision-making, or, God forbid, social contradictions, but in the idiocy of those who voted for the other party. Party identification becomes another form of identity and partisanship a means of dividing and conquering while capital laughs all the way to the bank. Those who are not hyper-partisans are disgusted by the whole thing, becoming apathetic and “apolitical”.

This state of affairs is not at all harmed by the fact that for the majority who tend to vote Democrat, the political identity of the Republican Party at present is one of open chauvinism towards women, LGBT+, and of course, immigrants and oppressed peoples. But the Democrats’ own weakness in defending these peoples, limited only to the class interests of the ruling classes which control the DNC, means that despite being implored to “for the love of God, VOTE!”, outside of the party faithful, even a great many oppressed peoples feel apathetic about voting. Even more damningly for the Democrats, their historical refusal to fight against voter disenfranchisement in “red states” means that even those oppressed who want to vote for them are unable to do so. But 2018’s midterm revealed a significant increase in turnout, despite a lack of change in the Democrats’ overall strategy. And as Sanders has many times pointed out, it is in fact the Democrats who benefit from this, despite their lack of a “50-state strategy”.

Because we are trained to think that the be-all and end-all of political activity is elections and voting, when people become politically active it usually shows itself first in increased electoral activity and voting. Clearly, in the Trump era politics is becoming an increasingly significant part of life for people. And this is evident in the increased turnout numbers. But unfortunately, this increased turnout has not been restricted to engagement by anti-Trump masses who are more or less forced to identify with the Democrats. There was also an increased turnout on the Republican side, thanks in a large part to the campaigning of Trump and his fascistic base, who are rallying around their leader in the polls when they are not terrorizing innocent people for their identity. As Trump continues to tighten his grip on the GOP and draw his base closer together, the disunity of the anti-Trump forces contained largely within the tent of the conciliatory Democrats is disheartening.

This increased turnout has both a positive and a negative side. The positive side is that it is a sign that more and more people––still dominated by white petty bourgeois liberals, but also increasing numbers of the working class, and in particular oppressed peoples––are becoming politically active and engaged, motivated by opposition to Trump. The negative side is that this political engagement is largely confined to support for the Democrats, in spite of the Democrats fundamental role as the “soft” version of the Republicans. The Democrats are unabashed supporters of capitalism and imperialism, and wage war without qualm on the poor and oppressed at home and abroad. Even when they offer hand-wringing appeals to “decent” “democratic” values, with the vast majority of reactionary proposals the Republicans put forth, they concede and lay the groundwork for our further slide to the right, election cycle after election cycle. The fascist wave that Trump stands at the head of finds its breeding ground in the class war that the Democrats have waged without apology for as long as any of us can remember. Trump and the Democrats have the same end goal: to reinforce the declining U.S. Empire and maintain its murderous reign. If opposition to Trump leads to nothing more than support for the Democrats, then the reign of capital will only be strengthened, and more Trumps, worse Trumps, can easily follow.

With this in mind, we must take note of the victories of the social democratic DSA candidates under the Democratic banner, like that of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, both of whom were elected to the House of Representatives. This reflects the huge increase in popularity of at least the vague notion of socialism among the youth over the past five years, but their immediate moderation on issues of imperialism shows the strong ability of the Democratic Party mainstream to co-opt and drain of any ideological character activist movements in a way the UK Labour Party mainstream was unable to do with Momentum. They reflect both the growing fightback of the workers and oppressed, but also the timidness of this fight so far. Though overall this trend is positive, so long as the movement remains inside the Democratic Party and without a broad framework for opposing the ruling classes which have built the Democratic Party, it will be stripped of vitality and militancy, it will be reduced to being nothing more than the extreme left wing of the program of the imperialist bourgeoisie, timidly fighting for a modest redistribution of the wealth stolen by US imperialism and failing to win even that while providing cover for the continued oppression and exploitation of the rest of the class outside the borders of the US state.

Other races that should be taken note of are the governors’ races in Georgia and Florida. Both of these races feature blatant election stealing tactics on the part of the GOP. While the Democratic establishment and its media defenders have been literally calling people to the streets for Jeff Sessions, what happened in these states that can be viewed as politically normal and unworthy of mass protest?

In Georgia, Democrat Stacey Abrams (an Afro-American woman) ran against Republican Brian Kemp. Kemp, as Georgia’s Secretary of State, was able to manage his own election, despite calls to step down and even a legal challenge on election day. During his tenure in office, Kemp purged over 1.4 million registered voters from the rolls, including 53,000 immediately prior to the election. These purges overwhelmingly targeted Afro-Americans, in an effort to suppress their political participation. Many polling places were closed prior to the election. Georgia voters also reported malfunctioning voting machines and polling places with too few voting machines on election day, as well as prohibitively long lines.

In Florida, Democrat Andrew Gillum (an Afro-American man) is running against Republican Ron DeSantis, in a race that has not been called, and that has now entered a recount. DeSantis is currently ahead, but less than half a percentage point separates the two candidates, and Gillum has retracted his concession. Florida, like Georgia, has restrictive voting laws and voter roll purges that target Afro-American voters. The outcome of the election has not yet been determined.

Furthermore, even where Republicans were not running against Afro-American candidates, they still engaged in the most blatant and egregious forms of election stealing, as the Florida Senate race between Republican Rick Scott and Democrat Bill Nelson. While Scott has claimed victory, the race is currently undergoing a recount.

 

State officials—and Trump himself—are engaging in racist talking points about Democratic “voter fraud” and “illegal voting” when discussing the possibility of counting every vote. Their (historically justified) hope is that their legal election-stealing tactics will, in fact, ensure that the outcome of the election is in their favor: decades of voter disenfranchisement even worse than that seen in this election have convinced them that this is a winning strategy. The Democrats, who in the name of rule of law were the first to raise the alarm against Radical Reconstruction in the Black Belt South (one of the least “democratic” parts of the United States), were silent on decades of voter disenfranchisement in the south almost every election since then, so why, the Republicans reason, should it not work this time?

Election-stealing tactics are not limited to the South either. Porter County, Indiana was subject to flagrant negligence and/or sabotage by officials that resulted in 50% of the precinct being left out. This is Porter County’s first year of holding elections run by the County Clerk’s office. They were formerly run by an election board, but there was a vote to transfer that responsibility to the Clerk’s office and the County Clerk was one of the deciding votes which made this possible.

This flagrant sabotage of America’s already highly undemocratic bourgeois democracy is morbidly fascinating to observe. Why are the Republicans engaging in such antagonistic actions toward the Democrats? Is their imperialist partnership nearing an end? Could a sort of “war” between them be on the horizon?

Rather, what this reflects is a growing internal split within the bourgeoisie about how best to repress the rightful demands of the masses for a change to their oppressive living conditions. As the U.S. Empire declines, capital is increasingly confronted with the problem of how to maintain its rule in the face of crisis and the possibility of popular revolt. One section takes the route of fascism. In the present era this section finds a popular base among the openly chauvinist petty bourgeoisie and labor aristocracy of the largely white (and openly white-supremacist) “Yankee” nation, and its discontent with the project of neoliberal globalization. This is the faction represented by Trump and his forces within the GOP, who are becoming increasingly dominant. As the GOP has become “Trump’s party,” the “mainstream” Republicans have been pushed out, or, after a very mild fight, capitulated entirely to the Trumpites. And we should not mistakenly think that this began with Trump, even in terms of the structure of the Republican Party: following the 2008 Global Financial Crisis, the Tea Party began to lay this groundwork, gaining widespread influence within the GOP.

The other section of capital, the mainstream one of “bipartisanship” currently led (and perhaps in the future only represented by) the Democrats, is the faction still committed to the project of neoliberal globalization and the world as presently ordered. So this is our rock and our hard place: on the one hand there is the increasingly fascist-dominated GOP, and on the other there are the Democrats, who are still committed to the old rules of civility and propriety. But the GOP, with its ever-stronger fascist tendencies and disregard to any notion of fairness within their class, is quite willing to impose its program by any means necessary. And those means include election stealing. The Democrats do nothing but wave their hands, file lawsuits, and mildly grumble about unfairness (while pursuing similar undemocratic methods against the mildest reformism as they did with Sanders).

The GOP, with its committed base and willingness to be ruthless in pursuit of victory, stands at the head of a growing fascist tide. Their first-time-a-tragedy-second-time-a-farce would-be Führer Trump is its embodiment, and indeed the embodiment of the most nakedly reactionary elements of the U.S. state of affairs. The Democrats, with their reclamation of the House, have gained a temporary victory of the conditions which give rise to fascism over fascism itself. While the GOP stands ready to slide further and further down the fascist path, the Democrats stand ready to capitulate. As already mentioned, in the wake of their reclamation of the House Nancy Pelosi’s first move was to make bipartisan overtures and assurances that they would not pursue impeachment.

Image result for trump pelosi

While such statements are normal, the conditions that we face are not. The stakes are high indeed, and it is the Democrats unbreakable adherence to normality that will usher in their inevitable capitulation to fascism. Maybe not now, and maybe not in 2020, but when the time comes, fascism will be too powerful for the Democrats to stop it even if they were willing to, which they aren’t. When fascism comes the Democrats will greet it with cheers if they aren’t imposing it themselves.

Having taken note of all this, what are our tasks?

Our Tasks

Our continuing task is to support every struggle against the existing order of things, to unite our theoretical leadership with the practical leadership of those struggles and prove that our theory is worthy of this leadership with word and with deed, Our theory is the theory of uniting all struggles, revolutionizing them, and leading the oppressed to bring down the old order and usher in their new order.

More concretely, this means that we need to intervene in the struggles of workers, of women, of Afro-Americans and other oppressed nationalities, of immigrants, of LGBT+ people, the struggle against Islamophobia, against anti-Semitism, the anti-fascist struggle, and form a united front against Trump, against fascism, and against Wall Street. This can mean working with anarchists, and it can mean working with people like Sanders, but in the final instance it must mean breaking from the ruling classes and their political order, the Democrats.

As revolutionary communists, to facilitate this process and as part of it we seek the rebuilding of a revolutionary communist party which can play the necessary vanguard role. We seek to unite with all forces which share our vision in this historic mission.

The building of a broad anti-fascist front, in legal electoral terms represented by a party of labor and the oppressed, which will have the means not only to theoretically expose the Democrats but practically overcome them, this is our answer to the problems posed by this election.

Announcing Struggle for a New World

WHO WE ARE

Struggle for a New World is a new revolutionary communist intervention in U.S. politics. We are composed of members and sympathizers with various organizations and traditions who have come together around a common vision of theory and practice in the current conditions of the U.S. and the world. As an editorial collective, we seek to build a publication which will provide a theoretical framework for political and social developments across the U.S. and the world, drawing on our collective and personal experience and contacts with diverse social movements which constitute particular parts of the whole of the revolutionary struggle which we are committed to.

We take our name from a line of the Russian version of the Internationale, the hymn of the international working class. It reads, “Мы наш, мы новый мир построим, – Кто был ничем, тот станет всем,” which translates to “we’ll build our new world, he who was nothing will become everything.” We unite behind this publication in the hopes of making some small contribution to the struggle to build this new world.

WHAT WE BELIEVE

We uphold the heritage of the revolutionary theory and practice of Marxism, in its three sources and three constituent parts. We affirm that the power of Marxism is in its ruthlessly critical, dialectical, and materialist method that grasps the totality of human social life and experience. We believe in the revolutionary power and will of the toiling proletarian masses, divided into diverse national, gender, and other identities which in the first instance are trapped in a daily struggle for survival in the inverted logic of class society and in the final instance have the potential to overcome these relations and build a new society and a new world.

Our critical approach both appropriates and criticizes our diverse heritage, particularly that of the 20th century. We believe that the revolutionary waves of the 20th century, both in their successes and failures, are our heritage, our teachers, and our ancestors in struggle. We believe in the fundamental right and historical necessity of the people to seize control of their own lives and apply our criticisms to our society and our own existence as progressives and revolutionaries in our society with the aim of bringing together diverse trends of popular struggle to bring about a socialist way of life which will make this self-liberation, this control of our own lives, real.

We believe in socialism, which means the control by the proletariat over the means of producing the material wealth which springs from their labour, of women and the gender oppressed over their bodies and identities, of all peoples over their own culture, land, and destiny. We believe in a struggle against all forms of oppression, exploitation, and alienation; both now, in our immediate struggle to unite the forces to bring down the capitalist state, the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, and further after the revolution, when the proletarian masses are in power. The alienation of which we speak is not only from the economic product of our labor but from our environment which is under assault, from our social lives which are becoming atomized, and from our very own identities, which we cannot develop under this inhumane and suicidal system.

We believe that through this struggle we can break the rising tide of fascism, overcome the capitalist-imperialist world which lurches from crisis to crisis that spawns the arch-reactionary forces known as fascists, transcend the nation-state and class society and pass from necessity into freedom: a communist way of life where each individual will contribute to the collective according to their ability and develop themselves freely from our collective human wealth in accordance with their needs.

WHY WE EXIST

We consider now to be the ideal time for putting forward a new publication for multiple reasons: internationally, the US empire’s decline and sharpening inter-imperialist contradictions have created many centers of intense struggle from the Philippines to Kurdistan to Latin America. From the super-exploited neo-colonies of Sub-Saharan Africa to the imperialist centers in Europe, from Korea to Mexico, the contradictions of this system are becoming ever more acute. In the United States, the failure of the Sanders campaign resulted in the most naked reactionary US presidency in decades, that of Donald Trump.

In the midst of this, revolutionary organizations are attempting to intervene in 21st century struggle using diverse means and are developing Marxist theory to higher levels. Here, the United States is in many ways sadly behind, and in spite of the continued or new existence of several sympathetic organizations, we consider it to be of vital importance to bring together diverse, critical voices to take up this task where other organizations are either too dogmatic, too clandestine, or both to intervene in the era of the internet as we see it.

It is of particular importance that we intervene in the United States, not only because of its continued status as the strongest imperialist power on Earth, whose politics must be reconnected to the revolutionary trends around the world, but because of the diverse struggles which already exist in the United States. As a settler-colony by birth, the United States cannot be discussed without reference to the national question, including not only the Indigenous nations on the US “mainland” (the so-called “lower 48 states”) and across its “legal” empire legitimized under various administrative schemes (Puerto Rico, Hawai’i, etc.), but also the Afro-American/New Afrikan people who struggle on the soil of their suffering and in the diaspora across the US (North), where they were driven by fascist KKK terror, and the various immigrant nationalities who still have organic connections to the social struggle in their homelands from which they were driven by war and economic circumstances brought about by imperialism. Further, even the “settler” proletariat is being drawn into struggle by the latest crisis, with thousands of youth joining the reformist organization, Democratic Socialists of America. The 21st century has also witnessed the popularization of radical gender politics in the form of feminism and queer theory, which has the potential to strike ideologically and materially at the social relations on which the family and class society is built.

We exist, as we consider the conscious vanguard must, to bring these struggles together. We believe it is possible to unite these struggles in spite of their diverse subjectivities by their objective common interests in the final instance: to weaken and ultimately bring down US imperialism and class society. While a culture of revolutionary solidarity in the US is weak, thanks to decades of FBI violence, particularly against oppressed nationalities, and modern revisionism in diverse (and sometimes hidden) forms which has sought to covertly divide these struggles in exchange for petty privileges for organizational leadership or for the labor aristocracy of the oppressor nation, we see signs that it can be rebuilt: Jackson, Mississippi is host to intense ideological and practical struggle by Afro-American proletarians, who have attempted to unite their righteous struggle for self-determination with the (still weak and largely social democratic) “white” left in the US (North), through Sanders’s visit, through correspondences, and through calls for solidarity and political interventions.

HOPE

We hope that in some modest way, we can play a part in rebuilding a revolutionary solidarity between these struggles. We hope that we can gather forces to intervene ideologically within our publication and guide the struggle of our comrades in material practice. We hope that we can engage with our international comrades on diverse historical, political, and theoretical topics. We hope that the various honest revolutionary organizations in the US will engage with us in an honest and comradely fashion, and that we can struggle together and draw closer, so that our resources may be directed towards our cause of liberation and socialism.

Most of all, we hope that our writers and readers will help build a culture of positive and revolutionary criticism. We hope to use our political subjectivity to intervene in the objective conditions which have shaped us and shape the masses from whom we come into a new political subject. We hope that the socialist movement of tomorrow will be built in the image of the diverse proletariat, whose increasing consciousness of itself and the contradictions it faces and in which it exists, will be the beginning of a new era of struggle for human liberation.

We hope that it is not already too late to save humanity from the mad, inverted world of class society and profits. Human need has been not only buried but sacrificed on the altar of this violent, rapacious system. The environment’s degradation has set a ticking clock on our struggle to overcome our alienation from ourselves and our history and to seize control of the future.

We hope that you will join in with this process, not by following us as some preordained leaders, but by criticizing us as comrades, by intervening in practice. Through this process, we hope that we will all grow together.

WORKERS AND OPPRESSED PEOPLES OF THE WORLD, UNITE!