Spartacist Canada No. 171
Occupy Protests Push 99 Percent Populism
We Need a New Ruling Class—the Workers!
Widespread anger over corporate profit-gouging, mass unemployment and stark economic inequalities found an outlet this fall in the Occupy protests that began in New York City and spread to cities across the U.S. and Canada. A wave of police attacks descended upon many of the encampments in the U.S. in November. New York cops left protesters on a November 17 march bloodied and beaten, detaining over 200, including trade unionists and journalists. In Oakland, where protests drew 10,000 or more youth and workers, cops acting at the behest of “progressive” Democratic Party mayor Jean Quan staged repeated and brutal attacks before finally shutting down the protest. Protests in Canada were also shut down under a variety of legal pretexts. Drop all charges against the Occupy protesters!
Many of the youth and workers whose prospects have been blighted by the capitalist meltdown embraced the Occupy protests, seeing in them the potential to do something, anything, about this catastrophe. But this populist movement presented not the slightest challenge to the functioning of the capitalist profit system, which is the root cause of misery and inequality. Thus sections of the bourgeois ruling class looked favourably on the protests, seeking to co-opt and channel widespread discontent. Even ex-prime minister Paul Martin said the protests had “touched a chord...it’s a very important thing they’ve done” (Huffington Post, 18 November). Bank of Canada governor (and former Goldman Sachs investment banker) Mark Carney called them “entirely constructive.”
The organizers prided themselves on not having a clear political agenda, affiliation or even a fixed set of demands, but they did have a program: liberal reform, especially of capitalism’s financial sector. Issuing patriotic appeals to this country’s purported democratic values, they raised slogans like: “We are the 99 percent,” “Tax the rich” and “Canada before capital—Not for sale.”
It is false that “99 percent” of the population share common interests. There is a fundamental class divide in society between the capitalists—the tiny group of families that owns industry and the banks—and the working class, whose labour is the source of the capitalists’ profits. The working class is the only force with the potential power and historic interest to sweep away the capitalist system and rebuild society based on a centralized, planned economy that serves human need, not profit.
At the core of populist protest is the petty bourgeoisie, a heterogeneous and highly stratified social layer comprised of, among others, students, professionals and small businessmen. Lacking social power and its own class perspective, the petty bourgeoisie is incapable of offering an alternative to capitalism. In the end, this layer has but two choices: it can either swing to the side of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie.
A case in point is Adbusters, the Vancouver-based magazine that issued the original call for a Wall Street occupation. This “anti-corporate” outfit has received funds from the Tides Foundation, a clearinghouse for the Ford and Gates big-business foundations. But Adbusters doesn’t just take money from fat cats; it also runs its own “grassroots capitalism”—the production of sneakers, which they hail as “ethical.” Ask the workers in Pakistan who produce these “no logo” kicks for the pitiful local minimum wage if it feels more humane to slave over hemp rather than nylon.
Reflecting the widespread view that cops are “part of the 99 percent,” Toronto Occupy organizers thanked the police for their “restraint” and even praised them as protesters were being turfed out of St. James Park on November 23. The police are neither workers nor potential allies. They are the armed fist of the state, which defends the property and profits of the capitalist ruling class. Recall the mass arrests and barbaric police violence against the Toronto G20 protesters in June 2010. The vast majority of the 1,100 protesters who were rounded up ended up facing no charges. However, six activists originally hit with bogus conspiracy charges now face jail time for counseling to commit mischief and/or obstruction. These people have committed no crime and should not spend a day in jail!
The Social Power of the Working Class
At every level of government, from Harper and the Tories down to city halls across the country, the rulers are waging a one-sided war on the workers. A particular target of the Occupy Toronto protests was the right-wing regime of mayor Rob Ford, which has been slashing services and attacking the city unions. Trade unionists joined the marches, and the St. James Park encampment received considerable aid from the union movement, including the Ontario Federation of Labour. Yet the Occupy protesters generally regard the working class as just one more victim of capitalist austerity within the “99 percent.”
The populist notion that everyone from workers to students, yuppies and shopkeepers (or even cops) has common interests also serves the trade-union misleaders, who are desperate to avoid even a hint of class struggle. This is in line with the social-democratic New Democratic Party, which more and more presents itself as the party of “middle-class families.” As for the pseudo-socialist left, the International Socialists (I.S.) and the Fightback group pandered to the “99 percent” populism with their own pale pink reformist politics. The I.S. dubbed Occupy a “new anti-capitalist movement” which can “become a pole of attraction for resistance” (Socialist Worker, October 2011). Fightback says the answer is to put the NDP in power “on a socialist program.” Such “fight the right” opportunism is a complete dead end for workers and radical youth.
Occupy Toronto organizers were largely silent on the crimes of Canadian imperialism abroad, such as the recent NATO assault on Libya. They did, however, join a reactionary “free Tibet” demonstration outside the Chinese Consulate on November 4. The drive for a “free Tibet” amounts to a political lever for the restoration of capitalism to China, including Tibet, and a return to imperialist enslavement. This “free Tibet” protest was in perfect keeping with luminaries of the Occupy protests like home-grown liberal ideologue Naomi Klein and pseudo-Marxist academic Slavoj Zizek, whose rants against China as an affront to “democracy” are an ideological service to Wall Street and Bay Street.
The 1949 Chinese Revolution overthrew capitalist rule, liberating the country from imperialist subjugation and leading to massive advances for workers, peasants and deeply oppressed women. However, the peasant-based revolution was deformed from its inception, putting into power a bureaucratic nationalist regime akin to that of the Soviet Union after its degeneration under Stalin.
Today, despite major inroads by both foreign and indigenous capitalists, the core elements of China’s economy remain collectivized. State ownership of the banking system has promoted massive economic growth in China, mainly through investment in infrastructure. This stands in stark contrast to the profit-driven world’s dominant capitalist economies, which have been mired in crisis. As Trotskyists, we stand for the unconditional military defense of China against imperialism and internal counterrevolution. At the same time, we fight for proletarian political revolution to replace the parasitic Stalinist bureaucracy with a regime of workers and peasants soviets (councils) committed to the fight for world socialist revolution.
As for Zizek, no one should be fooled by his “revolutionary” verbiage, which he spouts when it serves his “bad boy” image in academia. The core of his politics was evident when he hailed Obama’s 2008 election in the U.S. as “a sign of hope in our otherwise dark times.” Zizek was an active participant in the capitalist counterrevolution that devastated Yugoslavia, a deformed workers state, in the early 1990s—a crime against the international working class.
The ruling class has two primary ways of dealing with protest—state repression and political co-optation. Describing how the Occupy movement in the U.S. receives funding and support from key Democratic Party outfits, Patrick Henningsen commented in the London Guardian (15 November): “When the dust settles and it’s all said and done, millions of Occupy participants may very well be given a sober lesson under the heading of ‘controlled opposition.’ In the end, the Occupy movement could easily end up doing the bidding of the very elite globalist powers that they were demonstrating against to begin with.”
Against those who purvey illusions in capitalist “reform,” we Marxists have intervened in the Occupy protests with our revolutionary program: the only road to eliminating economic scarcity is the fight for new socialist revolutions. Mobilizing the power of the working class independent of the parties of capital is crucial to every struggle against imperialism, exploitation and the multiple forms of oppression under capitalism. We print below in abridged and edited form a presentation entitled “Karl Marx Was Right: The World Economic Crisis—Profits Rise, Millions Starve.” The talk was given by Tynan Maddalena, editor of SC’s Young Spartacus pages, to a September 24 Trotskyist League/Spartacus Youth Club day school in Toronto.
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As stock markets crash and the world economy stands on the precipice of a second “Great Recession,” consider that the collapse of 2008-09, the worst global economic crisis since the 1930s, added 130 million people to the ranks of the chronically malnourished and hungry. That brings the total number to over one billion. In so many words, one-seventh of the human race is starving. One-seventh and counting.
Across the European Union, 23 million workers are out of work. In Spain, which was recently rocked by general strikes and enormous protest movements, youth unemployment is over 44 percent. In Greece, hundreds of thousands of jobs are gone, homelessness is through the roof, and many people, especially pensioners, line up at soup kitchens in order to survive.
Every so-called bailout for every financial crisis across the eurozone—from Greece to Ireland to Portugal—brings with it unrelenting attacks on the living standards of the masses, who seethe with discontent. The IMF, the European Central Bank, the governments of Germany, France and the United States all chauvinistically chastize the peoples of these countries in crisis as living beyond their means or lazy. In reality, the financial powers are only bailing out themselves—their own failed banking systems—on the backs of workers and the poor.
Here in North America, we hear a lot of talk about an economic recovery. It is a jobless recovery, a wageless recovery, a fragile recovery, a “still-nascent” recovery. At the end of July, the American government revised its statistics: the 2008 recession was deeper than reported, and the “recovery” was even more dubious than reported. As for the Canadian economy, we recently learned that it shrank by 0.4 percent in the second quarter of this year. Scotiabank released a report two weeks ago forecasting another drop in the third quarter which could be as great as 2.5 percent. “Canada could be among the first of the world’s advanced economies to fall into a technical recession,” warned the CBC. That’s rich. We’ve had a jobless, wageless, fragile, still-nascent recovery, but don’t worry, the coming recession is going be only a “technical” one!
In human terms, one in six Americans is now unemployed, with the average time out of work close to ten months. Forty-five million people are on food stamps, and that has increased more than 30 percent during the two years of this specious recovery. Since the housing bubble burst in the U.S., there have been over seven million home foreclosures. Enforcing them is a brutal act of state repression: the police come to a home, haul the furniture and other possessions onto the street and lock the family out. The bourgeois media would have you believe that the worst was over by 2008. The truth is that 932,000 of those foreclosures came in the first quarter of 2010, and that was an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. And under racist American capitalism, blacks and Latinos, one-third of whose households have no net worth, always suffer disproportionately. In some largely black and Latino neighbourhoods of South Chicago, as well as across the Detroit metropolitan area, one of every 20 households was in foreclosure.
In Canada, well over a quarter million manufacturing jobs have been lost since 2002. This underscores the decades-long deindustrialization of North America, represented in the rusted wreckage of steel mills and the shells of auto plants. As Karl Marx put it: “Thus the forest of uplifted arms demanding work becomes ever thicker, while the arms themselves become ever thinner.”
At the same time, corporate profits have reached record levels. Ed Clark, chief executive officer of the Toronto-Dominion Bank, whose profits recently rose to a staggering $1.45 billion, recently joined billionaire capitalist parasites Warren Buffett and George Soros in advocating higher taxes for the rich. Their only concern, of course, is to better preserve the capitalist system, including by giving it a facelift—though that did not prevent right-wing demagogues from labeling Buffett and Soros “socialists.” As they say, truth is stranger than fiction.
It should come as no surprise that the Conservatives, now with a majority government, are moving rapidly against the unions. The government ended a lockout by Canada Post this spring by legislating wage levels that were even lower than the employer’s final offer. Recently, two different unions at Air Canada were threatened with strikebreaking legislation.
The bailouts of the banks—in some cases to the tune of trillions of dollars—were enacted uniformly by every government in the imperialist West and Japan at the expense of the working class. These measures point to an elementary truth of Marxism-Leninism: that the executive of the modern state is but a committee for deciding the common affairs of the ruling class as a whole. Or look at Export Development Canada’s agreement to lend $1 billion to the Vale mining conglomerate. This came after a year-long strike at Vale’s Sudbury nickel mines, during which the company claimed that funds simply weren’t available to meet the union’s modest demands.
Various reformists and even self-professed Marxists claim that the way forward is to look for “concrete” solutions “in the here and now,” i.e., liberal palliatives. The problem is that any reform wrested from the capitalists today will only be taken away tomorrow—and today the rulers aren’t even offering the pretense of reform. The reformists especially drag out their cant about “real world” solutions when they want to express disdain for the theory and program of revolutionary Marxism, which they dismiss as “abstract.”
In fact, the reformists’ perspective is counterposed to the only road that can end the hunger, poverty and social degradation that are intrinsic to capitalism. Vladimir Lenin, who along with Leon Trotsky led the October Revolution of 1917, warned: “Champions of reforms and improvements will always be fooled by the defenders of the old order until they realise that every old institution, however barbarous and rotten it may appear to be, is kept going by the forces of certain ruling classes” (“The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism,” 1913). Lenin stressed that “there is only one way of smashing the resistance of those classes, and that is to find, in the very society which surrounds us, the forces which can—and, owing to their social position, must—constitute the power capable of sweeping away the old and creating the new, and to enlighten and organise those forces for the struggle.” As scientific socialists, we fight for workers revolution to establish an international, centrally-planned economy based on satisfying human want.
Marxist Theory and the Class Struggle
Lenin called Marxist theory the “granite foundation” of the Bolshevik Party. Without revolutionary theory, he explained, there can be no revolutionary movement. The core of Marxism is the labour theory of value, elaborated by Marx in the first volume of Capital. Not a breeze to read. But when it comes to the theory that all value in a capitalist economy derives solely from, or is indeed synonymous with, labour, whether or not someone wants to learn hinges to a great extent on their sympathies for the working class. It was Marx’s commitment to the modern industrial proletariat that allowed him to unlock the secret of value that underlies commodity circulation. As we Spartacists say, program generates theory.
Capitalist production developed from commodity circulation. People have always had to come together to produce for their needs. However, as the techniques of production developed and diversified, people no longer produced goods solely for their own groups, but for trade with others through the medium of exchange. Thus Marx called commodities a relationship between people expressed as a relationship between things.
Obviously, there would be no need for someone to trade their product for something they already had. In order to be exchanged, two commodities must have different uses to satisfy different wants. At the same time, they must on some level be equivalent: they must possess equal value, otherwise there would be no basis for each person to voluntarily give up their product for someone else’s. The great discovery of Karl Marx was that the basis for this equivalence is that all commodities are the product of labour, labour in the most abstract and general sense.
Go to an economics lecture at a university and you may learn that people exchange things solely because they have different uses. But why not just get it yourself? The answer is that it has to be produced: it takes work to acquire it. A slightly more sophisticated version of the same bourgeois argument is that you can’t get it yourself because it is scarce. That reflects a certain truth. However, it is a rigid, static view of the truth that is conditioned by the values of the bourgeoisie, which is an idle class. Anyone who works readily understands that all commodities are scarce until they are brought into existence by labour.
It has never been the case that people have produced commodities on a level playing field. Capitalism did not begin with a clean slate, but was built up on the previously-existing systems of feudalism and slavery. Large sections of the ruling classes of these societies capitalized their wealth, whereas the slaves remained dispossessed and the peasants were often brutally robbed of what little they had. Through market competition, the larger, more efficient producers drove the smaller, weaker ones out of business, bought out their capital and conquered their share of the market. Those who were amassing the wealth became capitalists—the bourgeoisie. Those who had nothing left to sell but their own sweat and blood were the workers—the proletariat.
It’s often said that workers sell their labour. In fact, they are not permitted to do even that. The prerequisites for labour in an industrial society—machines and factories, the core of which can be scientifically termed the means of production—belong to the capitalist. The worker cannot work without first receiving permission from the capitalist. What the worker actually sells is therefore not his labour, but rather his potential to labour. That is what Marxists call labour power.
Labour power is bought, sold and consumed. It is a commodity, but there is something peculiar about it. The price of any commodity is based roughly on its value, or the amount of labour necessary for its reproduction. What is the value of labour power? The cost of reproducing the ability of the worker to perform his labour. That consists of food, shelter, clothing, some means of relaxation and of acquiring the skills necessary for doing the job. And finally, enough to support a family so that the working class can continue to exist from one generation to the next.
Taken together, the labour required for these measures constitutes the value of labour power. The gist of capitalist exploitation is that the proletariat generates far more value than is required for the production and reproduction of its labour power. In other words, the peculiarity of the commodity of labour power, its unique attribute, is that it is a source of value. The difference between the total value the worker adds to the product and the value of labour power is called surplus value. Exactly how much of the total value goes to the capitalist and how much goes back to the labourer? This is determined by living factors, by a contest of forces—in other words, by the class struggle.
Take Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold. Their operation in Indonesia faced a strike last July. Reuters news agency, which is anything but Marxist, made the following calculation: the workers’ wages were $1.50 an hour, the price of gold, $1,500 an ounce; therefore, the gold output lost during the eight-day strike could have covered three times the workers’ annual wages.
To begin to determine the rate of exploitation of these miners—otherwise known as the rate of surplus value—you would need to know the value of the machinery and fuel used up during production and subtract it from the total product. Otherwise, you could not verify the total amount of value the workers add to the product through their labour. However, the fact stands that these gold mines yield 137 times the workers’ annual wages each year, and Indonesian mines are not famous for being high-tech. Since based on our present knowledge we are confined to being somewhat less than scientific, let’s just say that someone is being taken advantage of here, and it’s not the capitalist.
There can be no fair division of the social product between the worker and the capitalist. As Trotsky explained: “The class struggle is nothing else than the struggle for surplus-product. He who owns surplus-product is master of the situation—owns wealth, owns the state, has the key to the church, to the courts, to the sciences and to the arts” (“Marxism in Our Time,” 1939). There can be no such thing as equality, fairness, freedom or democracy between the slaves and the slave masters.
Exploitation and Capitalist Crisis
So what are social classes? Lenin defined them as “large groups of people differing from each other by the place they occupy in a historically determined system of social production, by their relation (in most cases fixed and formulated in law) to the means of production, by their role in the social organisation of labour, and, consequently”—only consequently—“by the dimensions of the share of social wealth of which they dispose and the mode of acquiring it” (“A Great Beginning,” 1919).
Social class does not derive from a state of mind, nor is it even fundamentally a question of the rich and the poor. For example, a skilled unionized worker in a modern factory in an imperialist country may under exceptional cases make over $100,000 per year. Yet because labour productivity is so high, his or her rate of exploitation is likely much higher than that of far more oppressed and impoverished labourers in a semicolonial country. Moreover, a unionized worker in the trades may make as much as or more than a yuppie supervisor in an office. Nevertheless, the worker still has an economic interest in overthrowing his capitalist exploiter, while the supervisor is an accessory to capitalist production and thus bound to it materially and, you could say, spiritually.
Just about anyone can criticize capitalism from the standpoint of reason or morality. Yet Marx criticized capitalism from the standpoint of maximizing labour productivity, which is generally promoted by capitalism’s ideological defenders as its strong point. Marx proved that capitalist production increasingly puts the brakes on historical development, at the same time as it creates its own gravedigger, the proletariat.
Day in and day out, the proletariat continues to produce. It cannot use its own labour to get ahead as a class, because it is only paid what is necessary to allow it to continue producing. Everything necessary to get ahead goes to the capitalists. As Marx put it: “If the silk worm were to spin in order to continue its existence as a caterpillar, it would be a complete wage-worker.”
As capitalism develops, the bourgeoisie amasses more and more capital. Technology advances. Machinery becomes more and more sophisticated and extensive and labour productivity rises. The capitalist devotes an increasingly large ratio of his wealth toward acquiring machinery, and a correspondingly declining ratio toward employing workers. In Marx’s words, the organic composition of capital increases. The effect of this is contradictory. On one hand, the rate of exploitation increases. On the other hand, the rate of profit decreases. That’s the dilemma the capitalist faces. Even if he ratchets up the rate of exploitation, the rate of profit still tends to go down. That is why the capitalist has no future. Let’s take a closer look.
Say you’ve got your engineering degree and you’re looking for a job in your field. Off you go to the Celestica factory at Don Mills and Eglinton to pave the information superhighway, one transistor at a time, for $11.75 an hour on six-month contracts with no benefits. (And your boss can call you a few hours before your shift starts to tell you to stay home without pay.)
So there you are with your coworkers paving the information superhighway with these transistors; array enough together in the right way and you get a flip-flop, an edifice of the binary logic used on a grand scale in computers. It’s nowhere near as glamorous as it sounds in Wired magazine or those trendy post-Marxist academic seminars. Away you work. Eventually, the company replaces the soldering irons that each of you uses with a wave solder machine. A chunk of your coworkers gets laid off. You’re producing way more circuit boards than before, only your wage is the same. Since most of your friends were laid off, the company’s spending on wages has gone way down. The rate of exploitation overall has increased astronomically. Good times for the capitalist, right? Not so fast.
At first, the company will have an advantage over its competitors. Soon, however, that new machinery will become the standard across the industry. Even though the rate of exploitation has gone up, the rate of profit will go down. It all comes back to labour being the sole source of value. One capitalist can sell another capitalist a machine, but that exchange does not increase the total amount of value in the economy. The value just changes hands. It’s only once the capitalist purchases labour power, and consumes it by having the worker do his job, that any new value is added to the economy. The lower the ratio of the capitalist’s wealth that is spent on wage labour, the lower is the ratio of surplus value to his total expenses. More and more of his wealth gets tied up in replacing and maintaining machinery—what Marx evocatively termed “dead labour.”
As I said, the rate of exploitation is going up, but the rate of profit is going down. The capitalist does not resign himself to that fate peacefully, however. He panics and slashes wages like a madman, doing whatever he can to transfer the burden of his decaying system onto the backs of the people he exploits. When that capitalist can no longer produce at a competitive rate of profit, he simply ceases to produce. He throws his workers onto the street. Like Malcolm X said of the slave master, he worked them like dogs and dropped them in the mud. Production is in chaos. The empty factories rust.
Once the slave escapes his master, he is no longer a slave; once the serf gets his plot of land, he is no longer a serf. But even after the proletarian punches his time card for the final time and quits (or loses) his job, he remains a proletarian. The modern slave, the wage slave, is slave to the entire capitalist class. The proletariat cannot escape this exploiting class but must overthrow it in its entirety, worldwide, and in so doing liberate everyone who is oppressed by capitalism.
For a Revolutionary Workers Party!
What has been placed on the agenda is proletarian revolution, even if this seems far off today. We look above all to the legacy of the Russian Revolution. As Trotsky noted about the early years of the Soviet Union:
“Socialism has demonstrated its right to victory, not on the pages of Das Kapital, but in an industrial arena comprising a sixth part of the earth’s surface—not in the language of dialectics, but in the language of steel, cement and electricity. Even if the Soviet Union, as a result of internal difficulties, external blows and the mistakes of its leadership, were to collapse—which we firmly hope will not happen—there would remain as an earnest of the future this indestructible fact, that thanks solely to a proletarian revolution a backward country has achieved in less than ten years successes unexampled in history.”
—The Revolution Betrayed (1936)
We Trotskyists fought against the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR, and against its final counterrevolutionary collapse in 1991-92. Nevertheless, that collapse did occur, and the ideologues of the bourgeoisie have done everything they can to bury the lessons of the October Revolution, which remains our model.
The key political instrument for victory is the revolutionary vanguard party as developed by Lenin. Trotsky explained: “The class, taken by itself, is only material for exploitation. The proletariat assumes an independent role only at that moment when from a social class in itself it becomes a political class for itself. This cannot take place otherwise than through the medium of a party. The party is that historical organ by means of which the class becomes class conscious” (“What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat,” 1932). We seek to win the working class, starting with its most advanced layers, to understand the necessity of sweeping away capitalist rule and establishing what Marx called the dictatorship of the proletariat. That is the only road to communism, a global high-tech society of material abundance where classes, the state and family no longer exist, and where thereby social inequality based on sex is eradicated and the social significance of race, nation and ethnicity abolished.
Where to get started? We come full circle to the question of what to do concretely in the here and now. We can now approach that question scientifically, from the standpoint of the historic interest of the proletariat as a class. We can avoid the pitfall of do-gooder moralism, of becoming, as Lenin warned, “the foolish victims of deception and self-deception in politics,” whether in the form of right-wing religious demagogy or social-democratic opportunism.
The class consciousness of the proletariat and its will to struggle have been greatly undermined by the social-democratic misleadership of the labour movement, exemplified by the New Democratic Party. Three years ago, the now-deceased NDP leader Jack Layton—who, unlike the reformist left, we do not eulogize—called on workers to have the “courage” to “take a pay cut so your friends at the plant can keep their job.” This is one of many reasons why we said “No vote to the NDP” in the May federal election, and we say so again for the upcoming Ontario election.
The NDP is based not merely on a bad set of ideas. It is rooted materially in the trade-union bureaucracy of English Canada. That bureaucracy expresses the interests of a stratum of the working class that Marxists term the labour aristocracy. Where does the labour aristocracy come from? It lives off scraps from the superprofits the capitalists in imperialist countries tear out of the semicolonial countries. Thus, to Marxists, it was no surprise that the NDP voted with both hands for NATO’s war on Libya. The NDP is what Marx’s close collaborator Friedrich Engels called a bourgeois workers party: it may be linked to the organizations of the working class, but it is thoroughly pro-capitalist in its leadership and outlook.
What is needed is something completely different: a class-struggle workers party that understands that the interests of the capitalists and the workers have nothing in common. Such a party would be, in Lenin’s words, a tribune of the people, which understands that the working class can only emancipate itself by ultimately abolishing all forms of oppression.
A revolutionary workers party would intervene into the class struggle as the most historically conscious and advanced element of the proletariat. It would advocate Quebec independence to oppose the dominant Anglo chauvinism and get the stifling national question off the agenda, making way for a higher level of class struggle. It would champion free abortion on demand and fight for the perspective of women’s liberation through socialist revolution, including among the more backward layers of the proletariat. To combat mass unemployment, it would demand the sharing of available work, with no loss of pay, and a massive program of public works.
To unmask the exploitation, robbery and fraud of the capitalist owners and the swindles of the banks, a class-struggle workers party would demand that the capitalists open their books. Raising the call for the expropriation of branches of industry vital for national existence, it would explain that this must be linked to the fight for the seizure of power by the working class, as against the reformist misleaders for whom the call for nationalization is merely a prescription for bailing out bankrupt capitalist enterprises. As Trotsky argued in opposition to the capitalists and their reformist agents in the Transitional Program (1938):
“If capitalism is incapable of satisfying the demands inevitably arising from the calamities generated by itself, then let it perish. ‘Realizability’ or ‘unrealizability’ is in the given instance a question of the relationship of forces, which can be decided only by the struggle. By means of this struggle, no matter what its immediate practical successes may be, the workers will best come to understand the necessity of liquidating capitalist slavery.”
That is the task to which we of the Trotskyist League and the Spartacus Youth Clubs are dedicated. In the trough of the reactionary political period following the destruction of the Soviet Union, it’s a task with few immediate rewards. But let’s be sober and scientific about this—there is an overhead to historical progress. And on the grounds of that necessity, we urge you to join us in that struggle.