Workers Vanguard No. 1158
26 July 2019
15th National Conference of the SL/U.S.
In the Predominant Imperialist Power
Revolutionary Internationalism Is Key
The Spartacist League/U.S., section of the International Communist League, held its 15th National Conference late last year. The highest decision-making delegated national meeting of the membership, a conference is charged with critically reviewing the work of the organization, addressing issues in dispute and electing a new Central Committee. Even before the Conference Call had been issued, there was an intense political struggle with a small minority that promoted the politics of “people of color” liberalism and Chicano nationalism, while denigrating the strategic centrality of the black question in the U.S.
This faction, which had not declared itself as such and did its work in secret, had been politically defeated before the conference, with its two most vociferous advocates simply quitting. The politics it promoted reflected the pressures that have battered the SL/U.S. in this period that continues to be defined by the devastating global impact of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the Soviet degenerated workers state in 1991-92 and the absence of much in the way of working-class struggle in the U.S. Those pressures bearing down on us have been amplified with the election of the flagrantly racist Trump administration and the frenzied “fight the right” response by Democratic Party liberals and the reformist left.
The conference document, “In the Predominant Imperialist Power,” stressed the centrality of our international to the SL/U.S.’s fight to maintain its revolutionary program and purpose as a small Leninist organization in the world’s most powerful imperialist country. In particular, it underlined the importance of the ICL’s Seventh International Conference (see “The Struggle Against the Chauvinist Hydra,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 65, Summer 2017). The 2017 conference crucially corrected a longstanding perversion of Leninism on the national question, particularly as it applied to relatively advanced multinational states such as Canada, which oppresses Quebec. That fight led to the emergence of a layer of cadres in the ICL who became the basis for a largely new International Executive Committee. Many of these ICL cadres, particularly Québécois comrades as well as the leadership of the Mexican section, played a critical role in the discussions and political struggles leading into, at and after the SL/U.S. conference.
Although still in the process of being tested and consolidated, this generational shift in leadership, coming out of political struggle, is vital to the very future of the ICL. That future is rooted in fighting to preserve the dearly bought lessons of past struggles waged by our revolutionary forebears. These stretch back to Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and the 1917 October Revolution led by V.I. Lenin and Leon Trotsky’s Bolshevik Party, as well as James P. Cannon, the founder of American Trotskyism. From the inception of the SL/U.S., our founding cadre fought to break out of national isolation, understanding that the combined impact of the strength of U.S. imperialism and the relatively backward consciousness of the American working class would lead to deformations. The appendices to the SL/U.S. conference document included our 1974 “Declaration for the Organizing of an International Trotskyist Tendency,” which formally constituted the international Spartacist tendency on the principles of proletarian revolutionary internationalism.
Noting that our continuity is not simply political but also personal, the conference document underscored: “We are fortunate to still have and be able to work with all our senior cadre and particularly Jim Robertson, who is 90 and who has been in the workers movement for over 70 years. He has been essential to maintaining the unbroken programmatic continuity of our movement.” Comrade Robertson remained an active collaborator and an essential component of the leadership of the SL/U.S. and ICL up until he died in April. Although his death is a tremendous blow, he was vital to forging a new generation of cadre to carry forward his life’s work in the struggle for the socialist emancipation of humanity.
Another of the appendices to the conference document were the minutes of a series of meetings in 1963-64 of Robertson and other members of the Revolutionary Tendency (RT), which was fighting to maintain the program of Trotskyism against the political degeneration of the once-revolutionary Socialist Workers Party (SWP). Anticipating their expulsion from the SWP, the members of the RT debated their future existence, with the central question being propaganda. One wing argued for establishing an infrequent theoretical magazine open to others on the left. Robertson argued for a newspaper that could serve as a timely and regular organ for intervention in working-class and other struggles as well as for polemics against organizations falsely claiming adherence to revolutionary Marxism. Robertson’s conception, which he underlined “is the traditionally Leninist approach,” reflecting the perspective of fighting to build a vanguard workers party, was adopted. It would become embodied in the publication of Workers Vanguard.
In the lead-up to the SL/U.S. conference, our ability to continue to publish Workers Vanguard on a biweekly basis was called into question by the political defections of two younger cadres, one of whom was National Secretary and the other slated to become WV editor. Overwhelmed by the pressures of “fight the right” liberalism and a sense of demoralization over our current and future existence, they reneged on the political commitment and integrity required for communist leadership. While both pulled back from the abyss and continue to play important roles in the party, their actions led to the implosion of the SL/U.S. leadership configuration. However, the central party leadership rebounded, forging a new axis of leadership in both the Political Bureau and Workers Vanguard.
The conference underscored our commitment to the production of the biweekly Workers Vanguard as critical to our existence, allowing us to intervene as events unfold and influence the consciousness of the several thousand who read or peruse our press. Reflecting our commitment to forging a revolutionary, multiracial workers party that acts as the tribune of the people, we have also begun the semi-regular publication of Spanish-language suplementos en español de Workers Vanguard and the inclusion of bilingual pages in the paper (see “Introducing: Suplementos en español de Workers Vanguard,” WV No. 1151, 22 March).
As the flagship paper of the ICL, Workers Vanguard also publishes timely line articles on vital international issues. At the same time, as a sectional publication, it is necessarily nationally limited. The critical instrument for the ICL is quadrilingual Spartacist (in English, French, German and Spanish). As comrade Bishop, the editor of English-language Spartacist, noted in a report to the conference, beginning with issue No. 23 (Spring 1977), Spartacist became the organ of our international tendency and is today published by the International Executive Committee. It embodies the application and extension of the lessons of the first four Congresses of the Communist International (CI), as exemplified by our substantive articles on executive office and the constituent assembly (see “Down With Executive Offices of the Capitalist State! Marxist Principles and Electoral Tactics,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 61, Spring 2009 and “Why We Reject the ‘Constituent Assembly’ Demand,” Spartacist [English-language edition] No. 63, Winter 2012-13).
Political opportunism is always national and narrow in character. In line with the recognition that it is impossible to survive as a Marxist nucleus in the world’s most powerful imperialist country without the international to help maintain our revolutionary moorings, the fight to further integrate the SL/U.S. into the ICL was fundamental to the proceedings of the conference. As a leader of the ICL’s Greek section put it, “The antidote to national narrowness is nothing less than internationalism.”
The Struggle Against
This conference was the first such gathering for the SL/U.S. during Donald Trump’s presidency. It was thus vital to situate struggles in the party in the context of the political pressures we face. In opposition to the liberal “fight the right,” anti-Trump “resistance,” we have held the line against the reformist left’s open embrace of the capitalist Democratic Party, especially its “progressive” wing represented by the likes of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. For its part, the Cliffite International Socialist Organization, faced with the growth of the Democratic Socialists of America since Trump’s election, outright dissolved with many of its former members fully embracing the Democratic Party—an embrace rooted in the Cliffites’ anti-Communist support for “democratic” imperialism against the Soviet Union. In opposition to our “own” imperialist ruling class, we stand for the unconditional military defense of the Chinese deformed workers state, including against Trump’s trade war, which the Democrats fully support.
Nonetheless, demoralized liberalism and despair of integrated class struggle have seeped into our organization, exemplified not only by the promotion of liberalism by the now-erstwhile minority, but also a number of other political flinches and capitulations. One clear example was the centrist article, “Capitalist Injustice and the Supreme Court” (WV No. 1137, 27 July 2018), which was our initial piece on Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the Supreme Court.
The opening paragraph of the article baldly declared, “Kavanaugh’s confirmation would give the Supreme Court a solid right-wing majority lasting perhaps a generation. This would strengthen the hand of the capitalist rulers in their drive to crush the already attenuated rights of the working class and oppressed.” As an 18 October 2018 SL/U.S. Political Bureau motion noted, “The first section of the article in particular—i.e., its political envelope—represented a capitulation to ‘fight the right’ pressures in the Trump era and accepted the current dismal state of class and social struggle in the U.S. as a permanent feature.” By so doing, the article represented a flinch toward the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, which promotes the federal courts, and especially the Supreme Court, to defend gains like abortion rights. Reforms beneficial to workers, black people, women and all the oppressed are not won through the good graces of “enlightened” or “progressive” politicians or judges; they are the product of hard-fought class and social struggles and cannot be defended against the capitalist rulers without such struggles.
The article, in fact, sowed the illusion that the capitalist state can be reformed in the interests of working people and the oppressed by never stating that the working class has no side as to who sits on the Supreme Court, which is part of the core of the American capitalist state. A Québécois comrade who is a central leader of the ICL strongly objected to the article, rightly noting, “Kavanaugh is certainly bad news for the working class and the oppressed, but a ‘progressive’ judge would still be a judge of the Supreme Court.” This point was amplified by a Spartacist League/Britain comrade, who wrote, “The reader would conclude from that statement that having a ‘left-wing’ majority would weaken the capitalist rulers—reformist nonsense.”
The criticisms of the Kavanaugh article were for months strongly resisted by elements in the SL/U.S. central party leadership. However, the interventions by leading comrades outside the U.S. led to an important political corrective that the conference endorsed. It also laid the basis for another corrective that took place after the conference on our repeated references to “Trump’s base” (see article above).
What Makes America America
In the months leading up to the conference, a discussion that had begun as a push to translate more WV articles into Spanish and to seriously study the oppression of Mexican Americans in the Southwest and the country more generally was seized on by a small minority to promote “people of color” liberalism and Chicano nationalism. Essentially, they were importing a form of Democratic Party “constituency politics” into our organization. The handmaiden to this anti-Marxist program was the equation of the special oppression of Mexican Americans and Latinos in the U.S. with the race-color caste oppression of black people—all the while writing off white workers, without whom socialist revolution in this country would be impossible.
Ignorantly identifying the Mexican-derived population in the U.S. as a “caste,” the minority minimized the forcible segregation of the majority of the black population as a race-color caste, obliterated class divisions in the Latino population and reduced the question of slavery to a historical footnote. Far from an artifact, the structural oppression of black people at the bottom of society is to this day fundamental to maintaining the capitalist order in the U.S. by obscuring the class divide between the workers and their exploiters, perpetuating backward consciousness and undermining the workers’ struggles. As we wrote in the SL/U.S. conference document, black oppression
“is the fundamental reason the working class has never had a party of its own. It lies behind why this is the only advanced capitalist country without any real national health care system. The ‘right to work’ measures recently expanded by the Janus decision have their origins in the former states of the Confederacy, the ‘Open Shop’ South. Those threatening to overturn abortion rights have their roots in the segregationist movement. The forcible segregation of the overwhelming majority of the black masses remains the touchstone of social reaction in capitalist America.
“Indeed, one cannot understand the special oppression of Mexican Americans and Latinos without understanding the black question…. Latinos, Asians and other populations that are predominantly non-white suffer oppression as non-whites, but, as an intermediate layer, they also navigate a society where the main dividing line is between black (at the bottom) and white (at the top).”
Responding to the minority’s claim that Mexican Americans, like black people in the U.S., suffer oppression as a “caste,” comrade Robertson noted that “in caste-ridden countries (e.g., India, the U.S., Japan) the invariant criteria for caste is a sexual line of division drawn in blood.” The concept of race—and racism—was perfected in American slavery, in which black skin was deemed a sign of inherent “inferiority.” Permanent and hereditary, the color line was enforced so rigidly that anyone who had “one drop” of African ancestry was branded as black.
Under slavery this was wielded to ensure that the offspring from the rape of a slave by anyone in the master’s house would remain in bondage. After slavery, the “one drop” rule served to enforce racial segregation. As veteran American Trotskyist Richard S. Fraser put it in his 1953 lecture on the black question, the point of the “one drop rule” was not “to keep a visibly white person of one-sixty-fourth Negro ancestry in the ghetto in segregation with dark people, but to prevent social contact between white and black in the beginning of such a family descent by stigmatizing the offspring of mixed marriages as black” (“The Negro Struggle and the Proletarian Revolution” [November 1953], printed in “In Memoriam—Richard S. Fraser,” Prometheus Research Series No. 3 ).
The brutal legacy of “a sexual line of division drawn in blood” runs from racist terror and lynchings under the Klan rallying cry of “protecting white womanhood” to so-called anti-miscegenation laws outlawing black/white intermarriage, which existed in some states until the late 20th century. Although no longer legally enshrined, the relatively low rate of intermarriage between blacks and whites is testament to the endurance of the race-color caste oppression of black people. In contrast, the most common form of intermarriage in this country is between Latinos and whites. While the children of black/white marriage are invariably designated as black, the children of Hispanic/white marriages may be considered either Hispanic or white depending on many factors, including class and skin color.
As a longtime black cadre wrote in response to the minority, key to ending all forms of capitalist oppression “is the recognition that the fight for black freedom and equality is fundamental to bringing down the entire structure of capitalist rule in this country.” The black question is the strategic question of the American socialist revolution. Unless the multiracial proletariat takes up the fight for black freedom, it will never free itself from capitalist wage slavery.
Our goal is to forge a multiracial workers party committed to the program of revolutionary integrationism: a proletarian-centered struggle against every manifestation of racial oppression based on the understanding that the complete integration and equality of black people can be realized only in an egalitarian socialist society. Key to the struggle for workers power is the black proletariat. As we wrote in “Black and Red—Class Struggle Road to Negro Freedom,” a key document adopted at the 1966 founding conference of the Spartacist League, “Because of their position as both the most oppressed and also the most conscious and experienced section, revolutionary black workers are slated to play an exceptional role in the coming American revolution.”
It was precisely this understanding and perspective that the underground faction rejected. Nonetheless, a wide layer of comrades in the SL/U.S. were initially swayed by the minority’s “caste” arguments, indicating a disturbing shallowness on the black question. As part of addressing the issue, a cadre educational on the black question by comrade Jacob Zorn was organized and held on the eve of the conference. His presentation, which was published in WV during Black History Month (see “Black Liberation Struggle: The Key to American Socialist Revolution,” WV Nos. 1148 and 1149, 8 and 22 February), began by reasserting the centrality of the fight for black freedom to working-class revolution in the U.S.: “Any party which sets out to lead a workers revolution in the United States but which does not fight for black liberation will fail. The struggle against black oppression has proven its ability, time and again, to shake American capitalism to its core.”
The Latino Question: A Struggle for Equality and Integration
In addition to the election of a new Central Committee of the SL/U.S., an initial impetus for holding a National Conference was to deepen and extend our understanding of the oppression of the Latino and Mexican-derived populations in the U.S. Seizing on this impetus, the minority sought to abuse and misuse the 2017 ICL conference and its vital corrective on the national question by claiming that the right of self-determination applied in all of the territory seized from Mexico in the conquest of Texas, the 1846-48 Mexican-American War and the 1853 Gadsden Purchase. As the conference document noted, this is a revanchist line that “denies the reality that for the overwhelming majority of Mexican Americans and Latinos, the question is not one of self-determination but of integration.”
The Mexican-derived and Latino populations in the U.S. suffer special oppression—that is, their oppression is trans-class and not solely defined by class exploitation. They have endured vicious discrimination and segregation, poor and monolingual education, dilapidated housing and lack of medical care, police terror and disproportionate incarceration, as well as, historically, vigilante and state terror on a mass scale. However, their response has not been to fight for self-determination in territories that have long been integrated into the political economy of the United States. The defining feature of their struggle is for equality and integration.
There is a national question in the American Southwest, specifically in those contiguous border regions that are mainly populated by a Spanish-speaking population, which is part of a nation, Mexico, while residing in what is formally the United States. Though it has not appeared in our press for many years, our position has always been that the right of self-determination applies in these areas. Moreover, as our 1971 article “Labor and La Raza” pointed out, as an attempt to correct historic injustices committed by the U.S. capitalist rulers, a workers government in the U.S. would transfer “a substantial section of the border areas back to Mexico,” adding: “The Chicanos would then be free to decide whether to return to Mexico with these areas or definitely opt for settlement in the U.S.”
However, these positions have nothing in common with those argued by our former minority, which was based on “identity politics”—i.e., organizing solely on the basis of one’s own ethnic identity—rather than the revolutionary proletarian internationalism of Marxism. The minority even resurrected the mythical nation of Aztlán. This represented a rejection of the Leninist understanding of what constitutes a nation, substituting in its stead a concoction of 20th-century Chicano nationalism.
The minority also repeatedly referred to Mexican Americans as a “conquered people.” In fact, the Mexican-American War resulted in the conquest of territory, not a people. It was a war waged for territorial expansion of slavery, a basic point challenged by the minority as it sought to downplay the centrality of slavery and black oppression. The U.S. seized that vast portion of Mexico that contained the fewest number of Mexicans—nearly 80,000 in the stolen territories, compared to six to eight million at the time in what is today Mexico. As the conference document noted, “Mexican Americans are not a conquered people; they are immigrants and their descendants.”
At the same time, the Latino population in the U.S. is highly variegated, comes from different national backgrounds and has different experiences depending on geographic location, migration patterns and class. Moreover, by its sheer scale and historic relationship to U.S. imperialism, immigration by Mexicans and other Latinos is different from that of previous populations—it is not a product of one or two or three waves of immigration but a constant flow. This flow is conditioned by the fact that between the U.S. and Mexico is a roughly 3,000-kilometer (1,970 mile) border where the First World and the Third World meet, with the U.S. capitalist rulers seeing Mexico and Central America as little more than a pool of superexploitable cheap labor.
Indeed, a substantial percentage of Latinos are part of the working class, and as such are a strategic component of the multiracial American proletariat. Over the past decade or two, as U.S. industry increasingly moves into the low-wage, non-union South, Latinos searching for work have also moved there, where previously their numbers had been tiny. As the conference document noted:
“Seven of the ten states with the fastest-growing Latino populations are today in the former Confederacy. There these workers have played an important role in labor struggles, such as the successful unionization of the Smithfield meatpacking plant in Tar Heel, North Carolina in 2008, which required the unity of Latino, black and white workers in the face of anti-union drives, including deportations. This underlines the necessity for the workers movement to fight against deportations, for full citizenship rights and against the segregation and oppression of both black people and Latinos. Any struggle to revitalize the labor movement through organizing the unorganized, including in the South, will require that the labor movement take up the oppression of both black people and Latinos.”
This understanding underscores the desperate need for a Leninist workers party whose leadership and membership is 70 percent black, Latino and other minorities. Forged in opposition to all the political parties of the capitalist class enemy, such a party would fight to mobilize the multiracial working class in defense of all the oppressed. It would call on labor to wage a class-struggle fight not only against the bipartisan anti-immigrant drive, but also for demands that address the oppression and discrimination suffered by Latinos in the U.S., the majority of whom were born in this country. Such demands include: quality, integrated housing, education and health care free at the point of delivery, as well as bilingual education, not only to learn English but to maintain Spanish capacity. (Bilingual education would also give U.S.-born children the opportunity to learn multiple languages in addition to English.) As we argued in “Labor and La Raza,” the fight to make Spanish a recognized standard language in the Southwest borderlands would “go a long way toward making the Chicanos not feel like foreigners in their own country.”
Struggles over the questions of “caste” and “self-determination” also led to discussion and debate on aspects of the American Indian question. Native Americans have endured and continue to endure horrific oppression under U.S. capitalism. Their lands have been stolen, their languages virtually silenced and their cultural practices suppressed. As the conference document noted:
“There’s probably no population in this country that has suffered more than American Indians, who were, uniquely in the U.S., subjected to outright genocide. But that does not mean that the Indian question is qualitatively similar to the black question, including in its strategic nature. We reject the view that the most oppressed are the most revolutionary.... The European conquest happened. It was savage and bloody. It cannot be undone.”
As Engels put it in a February 1893 letter: “History is about the most cruel of all goddesses, and she leads her triumphal car over heaps of corpses, not only in war, but also in ‘peaceful’ economic development. And we men and women are unfortunately so stupid that we never can pluck up the courage to a real progress unless urged to it by sufferings that seem almost out of proportion.”
Key to addressing the Native question is the understanding that “at bottom, the American Indian question is today not a land question but a social one,” as the document stated. A workers government in the U.S. would seek to spend the money to provide a decent life for all, not least Native Americans. It would fight to ensure the social emancipation of American Indians, promoting their voluntary integration on the basis of full equality while providing the fullest possible regional autonomy for those who want it.
The Working Class
and Its Discontents
The conference document included a preface that sought to situate Trump’s rise as reflective of the decline of U.S. imperialism. While U.S. imperialism remains the world’s pre-eminent power, both militarily (by far) and economically, it has experienced a relative decline since the heyday of the post-World War II “American Century”—in 1945, the U.S. share of the world’s gross product stood at nearly 50 percent; today, it is less than 25 percent. To boost profits in the face of intensified international competition, U.S. capitalists, under both Democrats and Republicans, have for decades pursued a union-busting drive to increase the exploitation of the working class at home.
In the face of these attacks, the pro-capitalist labor bureaucracy has lain prostrate, preaching that the fortunes of the workers lie with a more profitable U.S. capitalist order and chaining the proletariat to the Democrats while sowing illusions in the bosses’ laws. The result has been a trail of crippled unions, busted strikes and declining wages. With unions representing less than 11 percent of workers, nearly half of working Americans today make less than $30,000 per year.
The conference held an Industrial Commission on our intervention in and intersection with the working class. A presentation by comrade Francis at the commission noted that the small uptick in strikes since 2018 has generally not been carried out by the core of the organized industrial proletariat but rather by more impoverished unionized workers, such as teachers and other school employees and hotel workers. The slogan of the hotel strikers, “One job should be enough,” spoke to the felt needs of the overwhelming majority of the working class.
This underlines the desperate need for the labor movement to mobilize in defense of its members while waging a concerted drive to organize the unorganized. But such a struggle runs straight up against the trade-union bureaucracy, which has served as an active accomplice of the bosses’ one-sided class war. The union misleaders have sold to their members multi-tier contracts, helped the bosses gut pensions and health plans and enforced other givebacks. Their “American jobs for American workers” protectionism has in turn fed nativist reaction against foreign-born workers.
Reports on various unionized workforces submitted for discussion at this commission confirmed the racial and ethnic hierarchy of American capitalist society. While white workers have the greatest access to the dwindling number of higher-paid and skilled jobs, black workers, who remain the most highly unionized sector of the working class, are generally employed in the hardest jobs at the bottom end of the pay scale. Latinos have more access to semi-skilled and skilled work in unionized workforces, while Latino immigrants predominate in some of the lowest-paid, most backbreaking, non-union jobs. Meanwhile, conditions for all workers continue to deteriorate.
Another reporter to the commission, comrade Jennings, pointed out that our trade-union supporters have gained particular authority and respect in fighting against the poisonous racial and ethnic divisions fomented by the bosses. While confronting expressions of racism by backward white workers, our supporters have also had to deal with the notion of “white-skin privilege,” the lie that white workers benefit from the oppression of black people and other minorities, which serves to alibi the bourgeoisie. Black oppression and discrimination against non-white workers serves to deepen the exploitation of all workers by the capitalists. It is in the interest of white workers to fight for black freedom and against racial and ethnic chauvinism.
International comrades at the commission, particularly from Greece and South Africa, where the working class is far more combative and where many workers look toward the heritage of the Russian Revolution, spoke to the importance of learning from the history of the SL/U.S. trade-union work and its exemplary actions against fascist terror, successfully mobilizing the power of labor in united-front action. Today our roots in the working class are slender but nonetheless real and important. Our main vehicle for intervention in the U.S. is Workers Vanguard. In a period marked by a dearth of struggle by the multiracial working class, comrades at the commission underlined the importance of articles addressing the hard-fought labor battles of the past, such as our 2015 Then and Now pamphlet on the lessons of the three 1934 strikes led by Reds that paved the way for the organization of industrial unions in the U.S.
The Fight for
The main reports at the conference were given by comrade Williams, the National Chairman, on the question of leadership, and comrade Wilde, who was elected National Secretary, on the conference document. After discussion and debate, the conference concluded with delegates electing a new Central Committee to lead the SL/U.S. until its next conference. The leadership of a Leninist organization is as vital to the party as the party is to bringing revolutionary consciousness to the working class. As James P. Cannon wrote:
“We all know that it is the program that makes the party. But it doesn’t make the party automatically. The party also is made by leaders selected on the basis of the program…. It is people who have to make the party, with the party program as their weapon.”
—“On Selecting the Leadership” (1942)
In the SL/U.S. the outgoing leadership has always taken responsibility for recommending a slate of comrades for the new CC. In addition, a Nominating Commission is elected at the beginning of the conference to hear and solicit the recommendations of conference delegates for candidates to the CC. Presenting its proposed CC slate to the conference, the head of the Nominating Commission reported that it represented a selection of those comrades who have shown a proven capacity to lead the work as well as a high programmatic understanding of the conclusions of the 2017 ICL conference and the more recent struggles in the SL/U.S. in defense of the centrality of the fight for black freedom and the program of proletarian internationalism. Cutting against the bourgeois division between mental and manual labor, the conference also elected to the CC a number of comrades who play key roles in central party administration.
Underlining the vitality of the new ICL leadership, whose interventions into the discussions of the SL/U.S. have been critical, the conference added key components of the Grupo Espartaquista de México and the Trotskyist League in Quebec and Canada as full members of the SL/U.S. Central Committee. Our commitment to maintaining the biweekly Workers Vanguard was also central to the selection of comrades to lead the section.
Noting that “the key task facing the party is the ongoing struggle for communist continuity,” the conference document pointed out: “Our senior cadres are the repositories of, collectively, hundreds of years of work, experience and training.... We are certainly the only Trotskyist party in history that has managed to get to a point where we have so many cadre who still uphold our revolutionary program, insofar as we have been tested.” At the same time, we face the painful contradiction of fighting to defend and extend our party while organizationally our forces are contracting under the combined impact of aging and mortality, several quits of intermediate cadre and an unfavorable objective situation defined by the absence of much class struggle.
The national terrain in many countries is rapidly changing, reflecting the inevitable contradictions generated by the capitalist system itself. In the U.S., the capitalist rulers’ decades-long onslaught against the working class and oppressed will inevitably produce social and working-class struggles. Our job is to hold the internationalist, proletarian and revolutionary banner of communism high and apply the lessons of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky in order to intervene when and where struggle breaks out. In the 1845 Theses on Feuerbach, Marx put it simply: “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”