THE MILITANT: Socialists discuss world crisis, transformation of the working class
- THE MILITANT
Vol. 72/No. 48 December 8, 2008
Socialists discuss world crisis,
transformation of the working class
BY BRIAN WILLIAMS
NEWARK, New JerseyFor the first time in the lives of some four generations,
workers in the United States are living through years in which the question
before them, practically and concretely, is to build toward a proletarian
revolution, said Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers
Party, at a November 22 public meeting at the Robert Treat Hotel here.
In face of todays accelerating contraction of capitalist production and
employment, Barnes said, it is this perspectivethe working-class fight to
take powerthat communists must explain through the Militant, through the
2009 SWP election campaigns for state and local office, and in other ways.
And it is to this course, he said, that revolutionary-minded workers and
youth will be politically attracted, and the basis on which they will be won
to the party and the Young Socialists.
The event, titled The Crisis Has Barely Begun! and the Workers Fight to
End the Wages System is Posed, was sponsored by the Newark and New York
Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists. Some 375 workers and youth
came from throughout the United States as well as from Australia, Canada,
France, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Militant
editor Sam Manuel and SWP National Committee member Diana Newberry, a meat
packer in Des Moines, chaired the program.
Mary-Alice Waters, a member of the SWP National Committee and editor of the
Marxist magazine New International, also spoke. Having just returned from
the Venezuela International Book Fair in Caracas, Waters described the
public presentation there of the pamphlet Is Socialist Revolution in the
The pamphlet answers yes to that questionthe question that was the featured
debate at the central forum during the book fair held in 2007. The
discussion at that event led Pathfinder Press to publish the title,
centering on Waterss talk, which opened the five-day forum.
This year we returned to this debate in a very interesting way, said
Waters. The pamphlet was launched in Caracas jointly by Pathfinder and the
Venezuelan publishing house Monte Avila, which printed and distributed its
own edition. Monte Avila made 1,000 free copies available to book fair
participants and the title has been placed for sale in bookstores throughout
The question under discussion, said Waters, is not just the possibility of
socialist revolution in the United States, but anywhere in the world. There
was more interest in what we had to say than at previous book fairs, she
said, pointing to the more than 1,600 Pathfinder books and pamphlets sold at
the fair60 percent more than the previous yearincluding 320 copies of Is
Socialist Revolution in the U.S. Possible?; 125 of issue number 8 of Nueva
Internacional, featuring the article Revolution, Internationalism, and
Socialism: The Last Year of Malcolm X; and 100 of Cuba and the Coming
Book on Africa transformation
Waters said that Pathfinders next book will be on the big economic and
social changes taking place in Africa and the internationalist example of
Cubas socialist revolution. The book is based on 2005 and 2008 reporting
trips to Equatorial Guinea that Waters and others took part in.
The working title had been Imperial Plunder and the Transformation of
Africa. But the editors decided this should be changed, said Waters. There
are many books about the imperialist plunder of Africa. This one, she said,
is about how capitalism is transforming Africa todayas it always does,
dripping with blood and dirt from every pore, as Karl Marx wrote. And how,
in the process, a working class is just beginning to be forgeda class
capable of leading the fight for the social and economic advancement of the
toilers throughout Africa.
The book will be available at the February 2009 Havana International Book
Fair, as will Habla Malcolm X (Malcolm X Speaks), a new edition by the Cuban
publishing house Ciencias Sociales of the book originally published by
A political highlight of the Venezuela book fair was the presentation of La
paz en Colombia (Peace in Colombia) by Cuban leader Fidel Castro. The book,
said Waters, contrasts the longstanding course of the Cuban leadershipthe
revolutionary struggle for political powerto those political forces backing
the prolonged guerrilla warfare course of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
of Colombia (FARC), including the FARCs treatment of prisoners and policy
of taking and holding civilian hostages.
Meetings broadly sponsored by academic departments, professors, and student
groups to discuss the book Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of
Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution have taken place on
campuses across the United States, the United Kingdom, and in other
Waters described the upcoming opportunities to reach out with the book as
part of participating in the upcoming international conference on José
Martí, Benito Juárez, and Abraham Lincoln scheduled for May 17-19, 2009, in
Monterrey, Mexico. As part of that event, Pathfinder will be making
available for the first time ever a Spanish-language edition of the writings
of Marx and Engels on the United States.
In December, Moisés Sío Wong, one of the Chinese-Cuban generals interviewed
in Our History Is Still Being Written, together with Waters and Martín
Koppel, who participated in interviewing the generals, will travel to
Beijing, Shanghai, and other cities in China to present the newly published
Chinese-language edition of Our History Is Still Being Written. This is the
first time in decades anything like this has been published in China, said
Waters. The book presentations will be part of activities there to mark the
50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution.
The book opens opportunities especially in Asia, noted Waters, pointing to
the International Conference on Overseas Chinese that will take place in
July 2009 in Auckland, New Zealand.
The experiences at the Venezuela book fair, in Equatorial Guinea, and in
promoting revolutionary literature from Havana to Beijing show how a
proletarian party reaches out to the world as an indispensable part of
planting its feet firmly in the class struggle in the United States, said
This was also illustrated by the large, attractive displays on reaching out
to the world through promotion of books like Our History Is Still Being
Written; charts and articles explaining the roots and consequences for
workers of the current economic crisis; announcements of the 2009 SWP
mayoral campaigns; and lessons from the bourgeois New Deal/War Deal
policies of the U.S. rulers during the depression years of the 1930s. This
included a number of photos highlighting working-class resistance, such as
women strikers occupying a Detroit lock factory in 1937 and sit-down
strikers at a General Motors plant in Flint, Michigan, that year.
In his talk, Barnes said capitalism is drawing working people into
conditions like what the United States and the world entered into in 1929,
the year of the stock market crash in the United States that triggered more
than a decade of depression, social crisis, and intensified class conflict.
Socialism is not inevitable, he said, but proletarian revolutionary struggle
is. Whether those struggles culminate in the working class and its allies
taking state power will determine the prospects for the advance toward
socialismand the very survival of humanity.
The greatest fight the working class has is to get rid of the picture of
itself inculcated by the bourgeoisie, said Barnes.
Above all, a proletarian revolution opens the revolutionary transformation
of the working class. Workers learn how to run society only through their
own struggles, their own capacity for civil discussion and debate, their own
shared labor. Out of this comes the political experience necessary to begin
organizing the production of goods and running the government in the
interests of the toiling majority.
The contraction world capitalism has entered into is not at its root a
banking or credit crisis, Barnes said. Rather, its the exhaustion of the
possibility of using a greater and greater expansion of creditincluding of
winning those in the working class to becoming debtors to a degree never
before seen in historyas a way of countering declining profit rates, and
the capitalists incapacity to find lucrative outlets for capacity-expanding
investments in plant and equipment and increasing employment.
The unfolding social catastrophe, however, also produces working-class
resistance. Barnes described the victory won last week when some 1,000
workers at the JBS Swift meatpacking plant in Hyrum, Utah, voted by a
two-thirds majority to join the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW),
winning an organizing fight that had been going on since the 1980s.
When six Swift plants, including the one at Hyrum, were raided by
immigration agents in 2006, UFCW officials never said a word in defense of
workers at the Hyrum plant, since it was nonunion. That the Hyrum
workersdespite the denial of simple working-class solidarity by top UFCW
officialsnonetheless fought to join the union shows they have a higher
caliber of leadership than the entire labor movement officialdom, noted
Bailouts no answer for workers
When industry resumes production it will have the advantage of
substantially less labor costs, wrote the editors of the Wall Street
Journal. That wasnt a 2008 editorial, said Barnes, but one from 1931!
Like then, bankruptcies today will declare labor contracts null and void.
Were against the bailout of the auto companies, he said. This is not how
workers will defend themselves and other working people. They will defend
themselves by realizing they dont have a union.
Only as the unions are transformed in struggle to organize the organized,
he said, will they be able on a broad scale to organize the unorganized.
Commenting on the expanding U.S. war in Afghanistan and Pakistan, Barnes
noted that conditions there are very different from Iraq. The war will be
decided and fought in Pakistan, already the sixth largest country in the
world and growing. It will be a hard-fought war, one that Washington wont
be able to win by transplanting its surge tactics from Iraq. The U.S.
rulers are beginning to recognize that a volunteer U.S. army will not be
enough to defend their imperialist class interests in the Middle East, Asia,
and worldwide. Washington will be probing possibilities in the months and
years ahead to reinstitute the draft.
Dave Prince, a member of the SWP in Atlanta, spoke about the launching of
the Capital Fund for the coming year. Already $105,000 has been contributed.
The Capital Fund accepts donations of $1,000 or more to continue the
communist movements publishing program.
A fund appeal by Ben Joyce, a leader of the Young Socialists, raised more
than $18,000 to help the party continue its work. Discussion on the themes
of the afternoons talks continued at a sit-down dinner at the hotel and a
lively party that followed.
Los Angeles, California
"Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"