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THE MILITANT: Socialists discuss world crisis, transformation of the working class

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  • Walter Lippmann
    THE MILITANT Vol. 72/No. 48 December 8, 2008 Socialists discuss world crisis, transformation of the working class BY BRIAN WILLIAMS NEWARK, New
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 1, 2008
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      Vol. 72/No. 48 December 8, 2008

      Socialists discuss world crisis,
      transformation of the working class

      NEWARK, New Jersey—For 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 today’s accelerating contraction of capitalist production and
      employment, Barnes said, it is this perspective—the working-class fight to
      take power—that 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
      U.S. Possible?

      The pamphlet answers yes to that question—the 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 Waters’s 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 fair—60 percent more than the previous year—including 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
      American Revolution.

      Book on Africa transformation

      Waters said that Pathfinder’s next book will be on the big economic and
      social changes taking place in Africa and the internationalist example of
      Cuba’s 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 today—as 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 forged—a 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 leadership—the
      revolutionary struggle for political power—to those political forces backing
      the “prolonged guerrilla warfare” course of the Revolutionary Armed Forces
      of Colombia (FARC), including the FARC’s 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.

      Proletarian revolution
      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
      socialism—and 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, it’s the exhaustion of the
      possibility of using a greater and greater expansion of credit—including of
      winning those in the working class to becoming debtors to a degree never
      before seen in history—as 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
      workers—despite the denial of simple working-class solidarity by top UFCW
      officials—nonetheless 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 wasn’t a 2008 editorial, said Barnes, but one from 1931!

      Like then, bankruptcies today will declare labor contracts null and void.
      “We’re 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 don’t 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 won’t
      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 movement’s 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 afternoon’s talks continued at a sit-down dinner at the hotel and a
      lively party that followed.

      Los Angeles, California
      Editor-in-Chief, CubaNews
      "Cuba - Un Paraíso bajo el bloqueo"
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