The ORGANIZER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
Issue No. 33 — July 22, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE OF THE ORGANIZER WEEKLY NEWSLETTER
– G7 Summit Designates China as Main Target
– Support the International Tribunal “In the Spirit of Mandela”!
– Letter from a Reader in Response to Our Editorial on Cuba
– Message to the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Socialist Organizer from Daniel Gluckstein
– Message to the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Socialist Organizer from François Forgue
– From Our Archives: Leon Trotsky and the Struggle for a Labor Party and a Black Workers Party Linked to the Fight for a Labor Party
G7 Summit Designates China as Main Target
U.S. President Joe Biden’s recent European tour, which took him from the G7 meeting to the European Union and NATO, is highly significant.
Biden kept repeating that “America is Back,” his own version of Trump’s “America First.” During his tour, he made it clear that as far as U.S. capitalism is concerned, the main issue was strengthening ties and ensuring that the major European powers maintain their unwavering submission to Washington.
In line with Trump’s policy, Biden ordered the G7 summit to designate China as the main target and to support capitalism’s offensive against state ownership in China. The G7’s final communiqué went so far as to suggest that China is responsible for the global pandemic, calling for “a Covid-19 Origins study, including … in China,” and warned Russia to “stop its destabilizing behavior.”
In line with its mission, NATO faithfully hammered home the point, saying that the “multifaceted threats [and] systemic competition from assertive and authoritarian powers” such as China and Russia must be “confronted.”
So, it is pretty clear: In the name of “America is Back,” Biden is demanding that U.S. allies – especially Britain – fall in line. This is what the most powerful bourgeoisie in the world needs as it faces the crisis of the capitalist system, a crisis whose magnitude can be seen in the events in Palestine, Colombia, the Sahel, Chile and Peru, to name but the most recent.
Why did Biden need to tighten the screws? Because defending and promoting the U.S. economy requires a further sharpening of international competition, even with its allies; but also because the screws are coming loose under the pressure from workers and peoples who are looking for ways and means to resist.
Organized workers and oppressed peoples around the world are resisting the same attacks on their basic democratic rights, their working and living conditions, and even on their very lives. They are facing the same attacks by the same capitalist system and “world order” implemented by governments of every political stripe – including by those that traditionally claim to represent the interests of the workers but that through their actions endorse capitalism’s failed economic and political system.
The State of Israel’s recent attacks on the Palestinian people in Gaza is nothing new. What is different this time is the united response by Palestinians and Jewish Israelis, rejecting the limits of what they are told is possible: the so-called “two-state solution.” What is also different is the scale of the anger and solidarity expressed by organized workers and activists for labor and democratic rights around the world, demonstrating once again that the class struggle against capitalism is international.
That resistance is being expressed here in the UK, where the crisis of the capitalist system is embodied by the crisis of the Tory government and the British political institutions – including the Labour Party. …
Working people and youth in the UK, like working people and youth around the world, are refusing to pay the price for capitalism’s crisis. The nurses who – together with their union, the RCN – are demanding an immediate wage increase of 12.5 percent, are right. The bus drivers at Go North West (Manchester), the Thurrock refuse collectors, the Goodlord workers, and so many others fighting against “fire and rehire” are right. And they are all right to expect their organizations to fight for their demands fully, without concessions.
What we need is a workers’ government whose first action will be to satisfy the needs expressed by working people and the youth.
This requires fighting in all parts of the labor movement across the country – in Labour Party branches and CLPs, in LP-affiliated union branches, in local Trades Councils and community campaigns – for a government that serves the interests of the majority, a government that breaks with the capitalist system, which can only serve the interests of a privileged minority.
This is what Labour Internationalist intends to be part of.
[The statement above was excerpted from the editorial published in Labour Internationalist No. 18 by supporters of the OCRFI in the UK; for more information: http://labour-internationalist.com or email@example.com).]
Support the International Tribunal “In the Spirit of Mandela”!
Dear Friends at The Organizer and International Workers Committee,
I write to ask for your support in publicizing and obtaining endorsements, especially international endorsements, for The International Tribunal “In the Spirit of Mandela.” The Tribunal, which is scheduled for October 22 through 24 at Columbia University in New York will be addressing a range of issues dealing with the oppression of Black people in the U.S., including that of political prisoners both in this country and, to some extent, in other countries.
As the Tribunal organizers put it:
“This Tribunal is a major organizing tool around the issues that have impacted Black people for literally centuries! Now is our time to not only litigate these issues in the eyes of the people/public, but to organize strategic plans of action immediately afterwards.”
Jalil Muntaqim, whom The Organizer and the IWC supported while he was in prison, the founder of the Jericho Movement with Safiya Bukhari while he was still in prison, is now thankfully out after almost 50 years of incarceration and is playing an important role in teaching and mentoring young folks. He will surely be active at this upcoming Tribunal.
See the Tribunal Call below for more detailed information and a sense of what this initiative is about. The people leading this work are primarily former political prisoners, leaders in the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, who were incarcerated for their work in the 1960s and ’70s. Younger activists are also involved.
The organizers are hoping to have as many endorsers from around the world as possible. To get involved with and endorse the Tribunal: https://spiritofmandela.org/
With warm greetings of solidarity to all of you,
International Concerned Family and Friends of Mumia Abu-Jamal
* * * * *
CALL FOR THE INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL “IN THE SPIRIT OF MANDELA”
Sincere Greetings of Peace:
The “In the Spirit of Mandela Coalition*” invites your participation and endorsement of the planned October 2021 International Tribunal. The Tribunal will be charging the United States government, its states, and specific agencies with human and civil rights violations against Black, Brown, and Indigenous people.
The Tribunal will be charging human and civil rights violations for:
• Racist police killings of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Hyper incarcerations of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people
• Political incarceration of Civil Rights/National Liberation era revolutionaries and activists, as well as present day activists,
• Environmental racism and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people,
• Public Health racism and disparities and its impact on Black, Brown, and Indigenous people, and
• Genocide of Black, Brown, and Indigenous people as a result of the historic and systemic charges of all the above.
The legal aspects of the Tribunal will be led by Attorney Nkechi Taifa along with a powerful team of seasoned attorneys from all the above fields. Thirteen jurists, some with international stature, will preside over the 3 days of testimonies. Testimonies will be elicited form impacted victims, expert witnesses, and attorneys with firsthand knowledge of specific incidences raised in the charges/indictment.
The 2021 International Tribunal has a unique set of outcomes and an opportunity to organize on a mass level across many social justice arenas. Upon the verdict, the results of the Tribunal will:
• Codify and publish the content and results of the Tribunal to be offered in High Schools and University curriculums,
• Provide organized, accurate information for reparation initiatives and community and human rights work,
• Strengthen the demand to free all Political Prisoners and establish a Truth and Reconciliation Commission mechanism to lead to their freedom,
• Provide the foundation for civil action in federal and state courts across the United States,
• Present a stronger case, building upon previous and respected human rights initiatives, on the international stage,
• Establish a healthy and viable massive national network of community organizations, activists, clergy, academics, and lawyers concerned with challenging human rights abuses on all levels and enhancing the quality of life for all people, and
• Establish the foundation to build a “Peoples’ Senate” representative of all 50 states, Indigenous Tribes, and major religions.
Endorsements are $25. Your endorsement will add to the volume of support and input vital to ensuring the success of these outcomes moving forward, and to the Tribunal itself. It will be transparently used to immediately move forward with the Tribunal outcomes.
We encourage you to add your name and organization to attend the monthly Tribunal updates and to sign on to one of the Tribunal Committees. (3rd Saturday of each month from 12 noon to 2 PM eastern time). Submit your name by emailing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please endorse now: http://spiritofmandela.org/endorse/
To get involved with and endorse the Tribunal: https://spiritofmandela.org/
Letter from a Reader in Response to Our Editorial on Cuba
Your statement on Cuba (T.O Weekly 32)notes correctly that the social and economic situation in Cuba is the direct consequence of the intolerable U.S. embargo imposed since 1962 to constrain the Cuban Revolution.
The embargo has been maintained, until today, by all U.S. administrations, Republicans as well as Democrats —including Joe Biden, the so-called “advocate of socialism,” if we are to believe the world Stalinist press. Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump, worsened the conditions imposed on Cuba. A year before the end of his term, he added 240 new economic sanctions, which have only worsened the living conditions of Cubans, pushing them to the breaking point. Biden has maintained all of Trump’s sanctions.
In response to the demonstrations in 40 Cuban cities that were sparked by the protest that began July 11 in a small town 30 miles from Havana, and in response to the arrests of dozens of protesters, the U.S. government issued a statement in defense of “Cuban citizens” warning the Cuban leadership that it “would not tolerate repression.”
Replying to Washington’s overt intervention in Cuba’s internal affairs, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel stated that “the U.S. administration has tightened the blockade even further, with a series of restrictive measures of financial persecution against the energy sector aimed at suffocating the Cuban economy. This action, in turn, would seek to provoke a long-awaited social explosion, raising the possibility a U.S. led ‘humanitarian intervention’ that would end in military intervention and interference, affecting the rights, sovereignty, and independence of all the Cuban people.”
Yesterday and today, revolutionaries denounce the embargo imposed by U.S. imperialism on the Cuban people and State — just as they denounce all forms of imperialist intervention aimed at bringing the Cuban Revolution to its knees.
However, there can be no question of absolving the Castroist government of its responsibility for this situation. This has been particularly illustrated, since 2010, by the government’s implementation of anti-worker and anti-popular measures that have combined with the consequences of the imperialist embargo to make life impossible for the Cuban masses.
Favoring the upper strata of the State, these measures have produced a profound social inequality while calling into question the gains of the revolution, especially in the healthcare and national education sectors. Some sectors of society outside the regime, but also within the State apparatus, have been called upon by the regime to get richer. Those benefiting from these measures openly fight for the restoration of capitalism.
We must not conceal the reality of the Cuban regime and revolution, which was incomplete and deformed from the start (lack of institutions of workers’ democracy) – something that you make reference to in passing in your editorial when you write that the people hardest hit by the current crisis “have had no conduit to air their legitimate grievances on account of Cuba’s bureaucratic rule.”
I very much hope that in future articles, The Organizer Weekly will elaborate further on the nature of the Cuban State and regime and on the dangers, both external and internal, that threaten it.
A foreign reader of The Organizer Weekly
Message to the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Socialist Organizer from Daniel Gluckstein
[Daniel Gluckstein is a co-convener of the International Workers Committee Against War and Exploitation, For a Workers International, and a leader of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International]
Comrades and friends, I’m glad to send my greetings for this 30th anniversary of Socialist Organizer and The Organizer newspaper.
Let me remind you about what happened 30 years ago. Thirty years ago, in our French weekly, I wrote an article that was titled “Greetings to The Organizer.” In this article I highlighted the fact that we reject the opposition between so-called rich people and poor people throughout the world. The article insisted on the fact that the working class is one single working class throughout the world. And specifically, I wrote that the U.S. working class is part and parcel of the exploited and the oppressed people the world over.
In this article I also highlighted the fact that your choice to call your newspaper “The Organizer” and to state specifically that your newspaper was taking a stand for a Labor Party and for the Workers’ International, this choice was putting the focus on a crucial issue. “The U.S. working class needs a Labor Party”, I wrote at that time. “And the U.S. working class needs The Organizer.”
This statement was written and sent out at the end of March 1991 – 30 years ago. It was specifically sent to the comrades who I met two months earlier at the Barcelona Open World Conference. Many of you are aware that the Barcelona Conference gathered comrades and delegations coming from 56 countries the world over. And in these circumstances, I had the opportunity to meet American comrades — in particular, comrades Mya Shone, and Ralph Schoenman, Alan Benjamin, among others.
It was a great event held a very short time after the fall of the Berlin Wall, and comrades came from different parts of the world, all of them sharing the same will to go further on the road of rebuilding the working-class movement at the national and the international levels. We understood at this moment that the working-class organizations were entering into a new era in which a combined process was taking shape — that is, a combined process involving both the decomposition and the re-composition of working-class organizations. At the Barcelona Conference, we shared the view that the activists from the working-class organizations the world over had the responsibility to forge the way to rebuilding independent working-class organizations.
We understood at this stage that such a process wouldn’t be accomplished overnight. I remember one delegate from Russia, a young man at the time, who said: “I’m here to represent a new working-class organization – but frankly, I don’t know where I will be politically in the next period, where I’ll be in six months.”
He was right. Some months later, the same delegate became one of the most important officials of the official trade union federation, the former Stalinist one, and from there he became a member of parliament in Putin’s party, and he is still now a member of this new oligarchy.
From the Barcelona Conference, some people left the camp of the labor movement, some people went away, and sometimes very far away – in the direction of the bureaucratic leadership of the labor organizations, even toward accepting official positions in the government.
But some of the participants at the Barcelona Conference remained, through the past 30 years, firmly on the ground of the independence of the working class, on the ground of the need for a workers’ international – of the need for working-class-based labor parties the world over.
I’m glad to see that many of the participants in the Barcelona Conference from the U.S. delegation, from the French delegation, we are still here. We are here despite all the difficulties and all the obstacles that the working class has had to face over the past 30 years. We are here despite the destructive consequences of the deep crisis of capitalism, with its massive destruction of not only jobs, but of social conquests. We are here through all the wars, the starvation, and the poverty, which are expanding the world over… We are still here with new comrades, new currents, new organizations, which have appeared in the past period, and which share the same commitment to be part of the process of re-composition of the working class on a new axis, the axis of class independence.
And this continuity is, in my eyes, highly important. The continuity of The Organizer is the continuity of the work that was started together in the International Liaison Committee for the Workers International, which has now become the International Workers Committee for a Workers International.
We are facing today the same issues and the same struggles as we pursue the fight against war (we’re witnessing the deepening war against the Palestinian people) and the fight against exploitation. We can see the different capitalist governments — in the United States, in France, in the rest of Europe, and in different parts of the world — take advantage of the pandemic to strengthen their offensive against all the gains of the working class. But we also see that millions and millions of workers, of young people, of oppressed nationalities, and of women and the Black people in the United States — all have taken to the streets in recent months. We have witnessed huge demonstrations in the United States, in Lebanon, in Nigeria, in many countries, on other continents; we have seen the uprising in Chile.
We can be confident that the exploited workers throughout the world, the oppressed peoples, are not oriented towards caving into to all the pressures. In fact, they are seeking the way, not only of resistance, but they are seeking the way of victorious struggles, and that is the importance of the continuity, the continuity of the U.S. workers, the continuity of the U.S. comrades who have gathered around The Organizer. This is our own continuity, whatever the difficulties.
This continuity places front and center the question of the tool of the continuity — that is, the newspaper. No orientation towards the building of a workers’ party, a Labor Party, is possible if you don’t have the possibility to express your opinion, to give an orientation, to propose your struggles, to propose the prospect of socialism. And this needs a newspaper. That is the importance of the regular publication of The Organizer newspaper. I hope that as soon as the most serious consequences of the pandemic are overcome, I hope that it will be possible to go back to the regular publication of the printed issue of The Organizer newspaper.
And the continuity is also the continuity of generations. What is important for Marxists is not only the individual role of each of us, but the collective continuity. And the collective continuity means that of course all of us – Ralph, Mya, Alan, me, and others – we are not as young as we were 30 years ago. So, it’s important to make every effort to put the focus on the new generation. Trotsky wrote that the future of the movement is in the hands of the new generation.
The generation that launched The Organizer newspaper, all of us who were part of the Barcelona Conference 30 years ago, we have the responsibility to be sure that the continuity lives on. That is why we have to make it possible for the new generation to take into its hands, as soon as possible, the responsibility of this continuity.
As Trotsky wrote in The Transitional Program of the Fourth International: Open the door to the woman worker, open the door to the youth; they are the future of our movement.
Long live The Organizer newspaper, long live the U.S. working class, fighting for its independence, long live the international working class and the Fourth International.
Message to the 30th Anniversary Celebration of Socialist Organizer from François Forgue
[François Forgue is a veteran leader of the Fourth International. He currently serves on the Coordinating Committee of the Organizing Committee for the Reconstitution of the Fourth International.]
Dear comrades and friends,
It is of course a gratifying political assignment to be associated with the celebration of the 30th year of existence and the struggle of your organization. It is of course in my case linked to the long years of common struggle and exchange with the Trotskyist movement in the United States. One of my first tasks in the international field was in 1957, to take the Trotskyist workers’ leader, Farrell Dobbs, around France at the time of our struggle against the war of Algeria, then attending the SWP’s Oberlin conventions in the 1970s as an observer — and, of course, since then, and especially in the 1990s, working closely with the comrades of Socialist Organizer (SO).
I say it’s a political assignment because this celebration, in the present developments of the class struggle worldwide and in the United States itself, is a significant political event. The history of SO is of course not an easy one. Neither was the class struggle in those 30 years. Linked to the class struggle, Socialist Organizer went through ups and downs, but precisely in spite of all the difficulties and challenges it faced, one of the main achievements of SO has been to preserve the continuity of the political struggle on the basis of the program of the Fourth International.
When I say SO maintained that continuity, I do not mean that it preserved it as some hidden treasure, but on the contrary, it asserted it in the day-to-day struggles of the U.S. working class, and in the struggle of the most exploited and oppressed sector of that class, the Black working class.
In that sense, Socialist Organizer has embodied a rich revolutionary heritage, the heritage of the Socialist Workers Party, of the revolutionary fighters such as James P. Cannon and Farrell Dobbs, and of many others. That heritage, as you are aware, was betrayed by those leaders who brought about the disintegration of the SWP by giving up the struggle on the basis of class independence and on the fundamental internationalist principles of the Fourth International.
Now, your struggle – the struggle of those who uphold the revolutionary program of the Fourth International – rests on the reality and the strengths of the class struggle in the United States which, in spite of the denial of all those who are subordinated to the needs of the ruling class, remains the main factor that shapes the political developments in the United States. That is of course expressed in the present struggles of the exploited and oppressed in your country, but also in the whole history of the United States.
As we all know, the international day of struggle in the working class, the 1st of May, has its origin in the struggles of the U.S. workers. Recently we celebrated the 150th anniversary of the Paris Commune, of the first workers’ government in history. Let us recall that it was in New York, in December 1871, that one of the strongest demonstrations in the world of solidarity with the Paris Commune took place.
Today, the U.S. working class is being called upon to play an important part in the world class struggle. We are now living worldwide in the midst of a critical crisis in the capitalist system. U.S. imperialism is the keystone of that system. It is therefore playing a major part in the march towards disasters, attempts at destroying all democratic rights at a world level, wars and bloody blows against the people of the world. For instance, everybody knows that the tragic fate of the Palestinian people, who are being displaced from their homes and their lands because Biden and his administration have given a free hand to the Zionist State, in spite of the fact that they use a more sophisticated rhetoric than Trump.
What U.S. imperialism is doing worldwide means that it must also try to crush the labor movement in the United States itself, whatever party of the ruling class is in power. The crisis of imperialism is also expressed in the deep political crisis in the United States.
Therefore, the break with the two-party system, the action to build a political party of the working class through the struggles against the reactionary policies of the present imperialist government of Biden and the Democratic Party is the only way to fight against the threat of destructive wars and murderous blows against the U.S. workers’ movement and the movement of all the oppressed in the United States. In that struggle, I am convinced that Socialist Organizer will stand in the vanguard.
FROM OUR ARCHIVES
Leon Trotsky and the Struggle for a Labor Party and a Black Working-Class Party Linked to the Struggle for a Labor Party
By FRANK WAINWRIGHT
The Fourth International is rooted in the understanding of the confrontation on a world scale of opposing fundamental social classes: the working class and the capitalist class. This understanding is what underlies our constant political struggle against all those who, under the cover of the so-called theory of “socialism in one country,” would like to subjugate each and every working class to the exigencies of the policies of their own imperialisms.
While the class struggle is international in content, it nonetheless takes on various forms, each marked by the imprint of the distinct national situations. The history, traditions, and concrete conditions of the development of the working class all imbue the class struggle with its own distinct national characteristics, thereby expressing the same content but under different forms.
In every country across the globe, the militants of the Fourth International fight for the class independence of the proletariat. This means the fight in every country to build independent workers’ organizations — be they trade unions or political organizations. This includes the fight to preserve the defense of these organizations against all attempts to integrate them into the state apparatuses or international financial institutions — which would be tantamount to their destruction.
The class struggle demands independent workers’ organizations, hence the need to oppose all “labor-management cooperation” schemes in the workplace and “tripartite” plans aimed at integrating them into the bosses’ plans. In this sense, promoting the independence of workers’ organizations from every state, religion, government, and international institution of capitalism is a constant for the members of the Fourth International in every country.
As far as the relationship between workers’ parties and trade unions, we must take note of the fact that the histories and national traditions on this issue vary from one country to another. Many readers in France, for example, may be surprised to learn that in the United States the question of the Labor Party is posed as a Labor Party resulting from the break of the trade unions with the Democratic Party.
In a country like France, the tradition of the class struggle has established — going all the way back to the Amiens Charter [the founding charter of the CGT labor federation 100 years ago—ed] — the deeply rooted need to ensure the reciprocal independence of the unions and all political parties. In other countries, the history of the workers’ movement gave rise to other traditions that linked parties and trade unions organically.
The question, in reality, is not a new one. What is important for Marxists is that they learn to take these diverse facets of the history and traditions of the workers’ movement into account in their analyses and political orientation.
Referring to this difference in national situations, in a discussion with U.S. Trotskyists in 1938 — a discussion which, incidentally, focused on the question of the Labor Party — Leon Trotsky explained:
“I believe that it is necessary to remind ourselves of the most elementary facts from the history of the development of the workers’ movement in general and the trade unions in particular. In this respect we find different types of development of the working class in different countries. Every country has a specific type of development, but we classify them in general.
“In Austria and in Russia especially the workers’ movement began as a political movement, as a party movement. That was the first step. The Social Democracy in its first stage hoped that the socialist reconstruction of society was near, but it happened that capitalism was strong enough to last for a time. A long period of prosperity passed, and Social Democracy was forced to organize trade unions. In such countries as Germany, Austria, and especially in Russia where trade unions were unknown, they were initiated, constructed, and guided by a political party, the Social Democracy.
“Another type of development is that disclosed in the Latin countries, in France, and especially in Spain. Here the party movement and the trade union movement are almost independent of one another and under different banners, even to a certain degree antagonistic to one another. The party is a parliamentary machine. The trade unions are to a certain degree in France — more in Spain — under the leadership of anarchists.
“The third type is provided by Great Britain, the United States, and more or less by the dominions. England is the classic country of trade unions. They began to build trade unions at the end of the 18th century, before the French Revolution, and during the so-called industrial revolution. (In the United States during the rise of the manufacturing system.) In England the working class didn’t have its independent party. The trade unions were organizations of the working class, in reality the organization of the labor aristocrats, the higher strata. In England there was an aristocratic proletariat, at least in its upper strata, because the British bourgeoisie, enjoying almost monopoly control of the world market, could give a small part of the wealth to the working class and so absorb part of the national income. The trade unions were adequate to abstract that from the bourgeoisie. Only after a hundred years did the trade unions begin to build up a political party. This is absolutely contrary to Germany or Austria. There the party awakened the working class and built up the trade unions: In England the trade unions after centuries of existence and struggle were forced to build up a political party.
“What were the reasons for this change? It was due to the complete decline of English capitalism which began very sharply. The English party is only a couple of decades old, coming into prominence especially after the World War. What is the reason for this change? It is well known that it was due to the abolishing of England’s monopoly control of the world market. It began in the eighties of the 19th century with the competition of Germany and of the United States. The bourgeoisie lost its ability to give the leading strata of the proletariat a privileged position. The trade unions lost the possibility to improve the situation of the workers and they were pushed onto the road of political action because political action is the generalization of economic action. Political action generalizes the needs of the workers and addresses them not to the parts of the bourgeoisie but to the bourgeoisie as a whole organized in the state.
“Now in the United States we can say that the characteristic features of English development are presented in even more concentrated form in a shorter period because the whole history of the United States is shorter. Practically, the development of the trade unions in the United States began after the Civil War, but these trade unions were very backward even compared with the trade unions of Great Britain. To a great degree they were mixed trade unions of employers and employees, not fighting, militant trade unions. They were sectional and tiny. They were based on the craft system not according to industry, and we see that it is only during the last two or three years that genuine trade unions developed in the United States. This new movement is the CIO.
“What is the reason for the appearance of the CIO? It is the decay of American capitalism. In Great Britain the beginning of the decay of the capitalist system forced the existing trade unions to unite into a political party. In the United States the same phenomenon — the beginning of the decline — produced only the industrial trade unions, but these trade unions appeared on the scene only in time to meet the new chapter of the decline of capitalism, or — more correct — we can say that the first crisis of 1929-1933 gave the push and ended in the organization of the CIO. But scarcely organized, the CIO meets the second crisis, 1937-1938 which continues and deepens.
“What does this fact signify? That it was a long time in the United States before the organization of trade unions but now that genuine trade unions exist, they must make the same evolution as the English trade unions. That is, on the basis of declining capital, they are forced to turn to political action. I believe that this is the most important fact of the whole matter.” (Discussions with Trotsky, May 31, 1938)
It is not the place here to review all the historic and political reasons that prevented the movement that Trotsky referred to in 1938 from creating a Labor Party in the United States. [For more on this question, see the article “Strengths and Weaknesses of Cannonism” on our Socialist Organizer website—ed.] But what we can underline is the fact that all the objective conditions Trotsky evoked in 1938 as the necessary backdrop for the formation of a Labor Party are all very much present in the United States today — perhaps even in a more acute form.
On various occasions, Trotsky returned to this examination of the comparative development of the workers’ movements in different countries. In July 1938, he wrote:
“The most important fact we must underline is the total difference in America in connection with the working class from Europe. In Europe, let us say in Germany before Hitler, in Austria, France now, Great Britain, the question of a party for the workers was looked upon as a necessity.
In his discussions with his American co-thinkers, Trotsky reflected out loud about the different types of labor parties that could arise in the next period in the United States. He spoke of “large and confusedly opportunist parties,” or of “opportunist parties led in a centralized manner by labor-fakers and careerists,” or, a third possibility, “a centralized revolutionary party where the militants of the Fourth International would hold the reins of leadership.” He went on to note:
“We should not expect to find a pure Labor Party. There will be different stages, different combinations, different components, and different types of labor parties.”
And he stressed the following point:
“If the party were broad enough to accept us, it would be absurd not to go in.”
At every point, Trotsky opposed all those who, on the grounds that the Labor Party might be founded with an opportunist/reformist program, refused to fight for the formation of such a Labor Party. He explained:
“Of course, if we had any real choice between a reformist party or a revolutionary party, we would say this is your address (meaning the revolutionary party). But a party is absolutely necessary. It is the only road for us in this situation. to say that we will fight against opportunism. … [B]locking a progressive step which can produce opportunism, is a very reactionary policy, and sectarianism is often reactionary because it opposes the necessary action of the working class.
The necessary action of the working class, according to Trotsky in 1938 — and this is still very much the case today, was the break by the trade unions with the Democratic Party, a bourgeois party to which the unions have been subordinated for decades and decades. In a discussion with a U.S. trade unionist, Trotsky stated:
“The first step is clear. All the unions must unite to create their Labor Party — not a party controlled by Roosevelt or La Guardia, which would be a Labor Party in name only, but a political organization of the working class that would be genuinely independent.” (Discussions with Trotsky, Sept. 29, 1938)
Reviewing these discussions with Trotsky in 1938 allows us to see that the discussions within the U.S. Trotskyist organization today have a long line of continuity with the history of the U.S. workers’ movement and with the history of the Fourth International itself. During the past 30 years since its founding, Socialist Organizer has focused its energies and attention on building a Workers’ International and a Labor Party. To advance this Labor Party orientation, Socialist Organizer benefited from all the previous discussions on this issue and also on the theoretical contributions of the Fourth International. It was also necessary for Socialist Organizer to draw its own assessment of the failures and weaknesses of the main Trotskyist organization, the SWP, in relation to the fight for the International and a Labor Party — weaknesses which contributed to the degeneration of the SWP.
At the same time, for all who wish to understand the specific discussion below concerning the Black Workers’ Party and its link to the Labor Party, it is necessary to take into account the very unique historic and political characteristics of the Black question in the United States. In an article published recently in the French Trotskyist press, the editors noted:
“Do Black people in the United States consider themselves part of the American nation, or don’t they? Without a doubt they are a component part in the sense that the horrific slave-labor exploitation to which they were subjected was necessary for the primitive accumulation of capital that enabled the United States to become the most powerful country in the world. Without the exploitation of the Black working class over the following century, the U.S. economy would not have grown or attained the levels of performance that it did. Without the participation of the Black troops during the Civil War (participation which the Northerners shunned at first), it is far from clear that the North could have prevailed militarily. And this doesn’t include the fact that in all subsequent wars, particularly World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the recent Gulf War, the U.S. Army always sent Black troops into the front lines of combat.
“In a word, Blacks paid a high price — with their blood, sweat and tears — for their place on U.S. soil. But at the same time, how could Black Americans not feel rejected by U.S. society, when they are continuously denied equal rights and equality in all domains — economic, social, political, juridical?” (I.O., Oct. 18, 1995)
The Black question was also the subject of many discussions between Trotsky and the American Trotskyists in the 1930s. At that time, a number of leading members of the U.S. organization opposed the slogan of “self-determination for Black Americans.” Trotsky answered them in these terms:
“An abstract criterion is not decisive in this question; far more decisive is the historical consciousness of a group, their feelings, their impulses. … The Negroes [the term used widely at the time to refer to African Americans-ed.] have not yet awakened, and they are not yet united with the white workers. … Those American workers who say: ‘The Negroes should separate if they so desire, and we will defend them against our American police’ —those are revolutionists, I have confidence in them. The argument that the slogan for self-determination leads away from the class point of view is an adaptation to the ideology of the white workers.” (“On Black Nationalism and Self-Determination, Feb. 28, 1933)
In the late 1930s, Trotsky opened a discussion with his American co-thinkers about the possibility of building a specific Black political organization in the United States. Trotsky himself acknowledged that this proposal was something altogether new and unprecedented:
“Our movement is familiar with such forms as the party, the trade union, the educational organization, the cooperative; but this is a new type of organization which does not coincide with the traditional forms. We must consider the question from all sides as to whether it is advisable or not and what the form of our participation in this organization should be.” (“A Negro Organization,” April 5, 1939)
What were the factors that justified the existence of a specific Black political organization? Trotsky explained:
“There is a certain analogy with the Negroes. They were enslaved by the whites. They were liberated by the whites (so-called liberation). They were led and misled by the whites, and they did not have their own political independence. They were in need of a pre-political activity as Negroes. Theoretically it seems to me absolutely clear that a special organization should be created for a special situation.” (Ibid.)
And Trotsky pursued the discussion:
“Your project would create something like a pre-political school. What determines the necessity? Two fundamental facts: that the large masses of the Negroes are backward and oppressed and this oppression is so strong that they must feel it every moment; that they feel it as Negroes. We must find the possibility of giving this feeling a political organizational expression. You may say that in Germany or in England we do not organize such semipolitical, semi-trade union, or semi-cultural organizations: we reply that we must adapt ourselves to the genuine Negro masses in the United States.
For Trotsky, the discussion on the political organization of Black Americans was not a discussion limited to Blacks. He went so far as to denounce as a “very disquieting symptom” the weakness in the political discussions and thinking of the American Trotskyists on this question. He stated:
“The characteristic thing about the American workers’ parties, trade union organizations, and so on, was their aristocratic character. It is the basis of opportunism. The skilled workers who feel set in the capitalist society help the bourgeois class to hold the Negroes and the unskilled workers down to a very low scale. … Under these conditions our party cannot develop—it will degenerate. …
“The old organizations, beginning with the AFL, are the organizations of the workers’ aristocracy. Our party is a part of the same milieu, not of the basic exploited masses of whom the Negroes are the most exploited. The fact that our party until now has not turned to the Negro question is a very disquieting symptom. If the workers’ aristocracy is the basis of opportunism, one of the sources of adaptation to capitalist society, then the most oppressed and discriminated are the most dynamic milieu of the working class.
“We must say to the conscious elements of the Negroes that they are convoked by the historic development to become a vanguard of the working class. What serves as the brake on the higher strata? It is the privileges, the comforts that hinder them from becoming revolutionists. It does not exist for the Negroes. What can transform a certain stratum, make it more capable of courage and sacrifice? It is concentrated in the Negroes. If it happens that we in the SWP are not able to find the road to this stratum, then we are not worthy at all. The permanent revolution and all the rest would be only a lie.” (Ibid.)
Without a doubt, the conditions today are in many ways different from the conditions that prevailed in 1938-39, when these discussions with Trotsky took place. The Black masses have, in great numbers, moved from the rural areas in the South to the urban centers in the North, East, and even West Coast of the United States — which alters the content of the demand for self-determination, particularly in relation to the right to separate and form a separate state on a portion of U.S. territory, as had been envisioned in the earlier part of the century.
Another important change is the fact that the decline of U.S. capitalism is fueling a combined assault on Black people and on all other sectors of the working class, including sectors heretofore more qualified and privileged. And it is precisely this new situation that has led to a profound destabilization of the traditional base of the AFL-CIO and to the advent of important currents within the house of labor that are calling for the formation of a Labor Party.
We should point out as well that the price paid by the Black people during World War II, and later in Korea and Vietnam, together with the civil rights movement of the 1960s, contributed to dismantle if not all at least a good bit of the Jim Crow legislation which framed the relationship between whites (included the white working class) and Blacks.
Nonetheless, despite the gains made, there is still a gigantic gulf that continues to separate the majority of white and Black workers. Paradoxically, the conditions of decay of U.S. imperialism are creating, as never before, new possibilities for bridging that gulf. But this is only possible on the condition of waging an unyielding struggle for the independence of the organizations of the working class as well as the organization of the fight for the self-emancipation of the working class. And this is concentrated today in the need for a Labor Party that would be linked to the struggle for a Black Workers’ Party.