Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Ahmad Sa’adat: Prisons, the Black Liberation Movement and the Struggle for Palestine
Ahmad Sa'adat
15 October 2018
Huey Newton (l) | Ahmad Sa’adat (r)

The following article, by imprisoned Palestinian national liberation movement leader Ahmad Sa’adat – the General Secretary of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – was originally published in French as the preface to the new French-language edition of “Revolutionary Suicide” by Huey Newton.

On 15 October – the anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party – we salute the profound legacy and ongoing struggle of the Black Liberation Movement, on the front lines of confrontation against U.S. racism, imperialism and capitalism. Sa’adat’s article, published in English for the first time here, elucidates the common struggles and revolutionary alliances of the Palestinian and Black movements. It focuses particularly on the struggle against racist and colonial imprisonment:

It is an honor to write an introduction to this book by a great leader of the Black liberation struggle in the United States, Huey P. Newton. From inside the occupier’s Ramon prison, on behalf of myself, my comrades and the Palestinian prisoners’ movement, we extend our clenched fists of solidarity and salute and arms of embrace to our Black comrades whose struggle for liberation in the belly of the beast continues today against fierce repression.

From Ansar to Attica to Lannemezan, the prison is not only a physical space of confinement but a site of struggle of the oppressed confronting the oppressor. Whether the name is Mumia Abu-Jamal, Walid Daqqa or Georges Ibrahim Abdallah, political prisoners behind bars can and must be a priority for our movements. These names illustrate the continuity of struggle against our collective enemy – their legacies of organizing that reach back to the anti-colonial, liberation movements of the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s to today. Political prisoners are not simply individuals; they are leaders of struggle and organizing within prison walls that help to break down and dismantle the bars, walls, and chains that act to divide us from our peoples and communities in struggle. They face repeated isolation, solitary confinement, cruel tortures of the occupier and jailer that seek to break the will of the prisoner and their deep connection to their people.

So when we witness the escalation against our movement as we see today in the Philippines, as we see the murderous and orchestrated attacks on our Palestinian resistance, as we see the criminalization of Black people and movements, it is clear that we are still facing the situation that Huey Newton identified and confronted. We are still seeking to defend our peoples from the relentless assaults of capitalism, Zionism and imperialism and their police and military forces. We have not yet been able to realize our dreams and transform the prisons into museums of liberation. Revolutionaries across the world struggle and dream for this future, in every movement of oppressed people. Indeed, when we speak of the prisoners’ movement, we are in essence speaking of Resistance.

Prisons exist for a reason, for the needs and interests of those with power. And when there are prisons to lock up the people, when there is occupation, colonialism, oppression; where there is occupation and colonization, there will be prisons and all of the laws and legal frameworks erected to legitimize exploitation, oppression and injustice and criminalize resistance and liberation. From the Fugitive Slave Acts of the 1800s to the “terrorist lists” that seek to criminalize and isolate the resistance movements of the peoples of the world, these are reflections of a war on the people. We salute sister Assata Shakur, still struggling and free in Cuba, while facing renewed threats and “terrorist” labeling to justify hunting down this global symbol of freedom.

This also illustrates clearly that the struggle, the cause, and the movement of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Movement are not a closed file. It is an open file, an ongoing struggle and a continuing movement for justice and liberation. As I write today, the revolutionary Palestinian Left, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is marking its 50th year of struggle, a time for both celebration and review of this legacy in order to sharpen and strengthen our march toward revolutionary victory. Similarly, we have just passed the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Black Panther Party, whose vision for revolutionary change continues to be just as relevant today.

This is a legacy that is carried on both with ideas and with people themselves whose histories of struggle continue to animate and inspire their communities. You could pass by the first prisoner of the PFLP somewhere on the streets of Berlin, still organizing Palestinians. You could feel the legacy of the Black Panther Party and the continuing Black struggle on the streets of Chicago, Oakland and Harlem. There are people who carry within them the legacies of struggle as a human treasure. The experiences of the elders of our movement, especially those who have come through prison, stand alongside the ideas passed down through writing, books and literature in carrying on, from one generation to another, the trajectory and path of struggle toward a future in which youth are coming forward to lead Black and Palestinian revolutionary struggles for liberation.

Every political prisoner, whether they are currently in prison or not in prison, carries within them the dream and reality of liberation and what it can and must mean in practice. Today, when we look at the Black Liberation movement or the Indigenous and Native struggle in the United States and Canada, we are talking about the same camp of enemy that we confront in occupied Palestine. The bullets that assassinated Malcolm X or Fred Hampton could have been used to kill Ghassan Kanafani or Khaled Nazzal or Mahmoud Hamshari, and today we see the same tear gas and bullets shipped around the world for use against the people. We see corporations like G4S profiting from the attacks on our movements and the mass imprisonments of our people and U.S., European and Israeli police forces exchanging training with one another to escalate racism, “counter-insurgency” and repression on the streets of our cities, camps and villages.

In our circles here in prisons, we always hope and wish to communicate to movements elsewhere and political prisoners everywhere. We want to share our experiences with one another to strengthen all of our movements for liberation and the movement to free our prisoners. The political prisoners have a firsthand experience of confrontation, and the experience of the prison can be a transformative one for a political prisoner. It is not an individual experience but a collective one; the heroism of a prisoner is not simply to be in prison but to understand that they carry with them the leadership of a movement and a continuing struggle in a new location that continues to have international reverberations. Georges Ibrahim Abdallah today is struggling in Lannemezan prison just as Mumia Abu-Jamal is struggling in Mahanoy. The heroism also does not come simply in that one has spent years in prison and now has been released; but in being a veteran of struggle who continues to carry the message of liberation for those who remain.

The political prisoner is not weak and is not broken, despite all of their best efforts. The responsibility of the political prisoner is to safeguard the flame. This is not a role that we have sought out or worked for. But now that we are in this position we must hold our position to set an example, not to our people, who are rooted and steadfast, but to the enemy, to show that imprisonment will not work to defeat us or our people. We carry a cause, not simply an individual search for freedom. Israel or France or the U.S. would free us, or Georges Abdallah, or Mumia Abu-Jamal, if we were willing to become tools of the system or betray our people. But instead, the prisons have generated striking examples of a culture of resistance, from art, to literature to political ideas.

Today, our movements and the revolutionary movements around the world are facing very difficult times. However, these difficult times can also hold value if we look more closely; we are paving the way for new generations of revolutionaries around the world who can still carry the demand for socialism, for people’s democracy, for an alternative world. In the era in which Newton wrote, movements and prisoners shared experiences and communicated through letters, books and art, often smuggled out of or into prisons, past censors and iron walls. Today, with all of the great revolutions in technology, political prisoners are struggling to have their words heard at all, denied access to even telephones to speak with our families and loved ones.

Why do we still consider and read and reprint the writings of Huey Newton today? Fundamentally, because his analysis and that of the Black Panther Party was right and continues to be right, valid and essential. Today, when we see the ravages of U.S. imperialism, the threats of Trump against the world and the shooting down of Black people on U.S. streets by cops, then the fundamental correctness and necessity of the Black Panthers’ work is underlined. Today, when popular movements are under attack and liberation struggles labeled as “terrorist” and criminalized, we see a massive coercive attack on our peoples. Prisons are only one form of coercion in the hands of the occupier, colonizer, capitalist and imperialist; stripping the knowledge of the people and imposing new forms of isolation are yet more forms of coercion.

The imposition of consumerism, the stripping of peoples from their humanity, the isolation of peoples are all forms of coercion alongside the prisons that act to undermine our movements, our peoples and our visions of liberation. They want to see all of our movements isolated from one another, through the terror of the “terrorist list” and the silence of solitary confinement. Capitalist and imperialist media blankets the world, so even here in Israeli prison we hear about the latest technologies in the U.S. while the repression of Black people is rendered invisible. But the reality today is that every day, a little Huey or Assata or Khalida or Ishaq is being born that can carry forward the vision of their people.

Huey Newton and the Black Panthers stood for socialism, for social justice, against racism, imperialism and war, from the streets of Oakland to the refugee camps of Lebanon. Huey Newton said, “We support the Palestinians’ just struggle for liberation one hundred percent. We will go on doing this, and we would like for all of the progressive people of the world to join our ranks in order to make a world in which all people can live.”

Of course, I cannot speak as an expert about incarceration in the United States today. But just looking at the numbers is a stunning illustration of what is deeply wrong with the system. As Palestinians, we also face an experience of negation, of attack on our existence, as being treated as lesser or non-humans for our designated racial identity. We understand through our own experiences how occupation and capitalism are all about profit and the example that U.S. prisons are creating for the world, where prisons are seen as a source of cheap and coerced free labor and a profit for capitalism. We see how incarceration is used to control, divide and threaten communities and peoples under attack. Incarceration means a lot of money for corporations at the same time that it means a direct threat to Black children and their futures. And this is the “security solution” that Trump and U.S. imperialism is marketing to the world as a solution to the crisis of capitalism, a solution built on bloody and brutal exploitation.

Here in our cells, we can feel the reverberations of these attacks and the physical impact of them in the invasions and inspections of the special repressive units of the occupier. We also see the potential and indeed, the necessity, for movements to rise inside prisons together with those on the outside. We see thousands of people sentenced to massive sentences of 20, 30, 40 years in prison and even more, stripping people’s freedom and taking people’s lives. Resistance is critical and it must have a real impact on people’s lives. Our sacrifice in prison has meaning when it can lead to fruits for the poor and liberation for our peoples. Our struggle must impact people’s lives in a material way.

From Ireland to the United States to France to Palestine, political prisoners continue to be leaders in movements fighting racism, imperialism and colonialism. We also see the prisoners of the Palestinian movement facing political imprisonment around the world in the jails of the enemy – from the heroic Rasmea Odeh forced from the United States to the Five prisoners for Palestine, called the Holy Land Five, held in extreme solitary confinement alongside Black strugglers, for engaging in charity work for our people, to our dear comrade Georges Abdallah who has suffered for 34 years in French prisons.

The prisons and the political prisoners are also an example of the power and necessity of “breaking the law.” The law – the law of the imperialist and the colonizer – is used to steal the rights and resources of our people and also to justify our imprisonment and repression and criminalization. Through the collective “breaking” of the law and its power to define justice and injustice – when people, collectively, confront and “break” the law, not merely as individuals but as a collective power, it loses its claim to legitimacy. Breaking of the law must become the norm, and not the exception – the law of capitalism, imperialism and exploitation.

Political prisoners are jailed because they fear our actions and they fear our ideas, our power to mobilize our peoples in a revolutionary way against their exploitation and colonization. They fear our communication and they fear the powers of our people. They fear that if we come together that we will build an international front for the liberation of oppressed peoples. They know, and deeply fear, that we can truly build an alternative world. For them, this is the terror of defeat, but for us, and for our peoples, this is the hope of freedom and the promise of victory.

Ahmad Sa’adat

Ramon Prison

November 2017
The Communist Manifesto, 170 Years Later
by Samir Amin
(Oct 01, 2018)

Samir Amin (1931–2018) was director of the Third World Forum in Dakar, Senegal, and the author of many books, most recently Modern Imperialism, Monopoly Finance Capitalism, and Marx’s Law of Value (Monthly Review Press, 2018).

This essay was the last sent to Monthly Review by Samir Amin before his death. He requested that we delay publication until it had first appeared in Sociološki pregled, which has now occurred.

There is no other text written in the mid-nineteenth century that has held up as well as the Communist Manifesto of 1848 by Karl Marx and Frederick Engels. Even today, entire paragraphs of the text correspond to contemporary reality better than they did to that of 1848. Starting from premises that were hardly visible in their era, Marx and Engels drew the conclusions that the developments of 170 years of history fully verified.

Were Marx and Engels inspired prophets, magicians able to gaze into a crystal ball, exceptional beings with respect to their intuition? No. They simply understood better than anybody else, in their time and ours, the essence of that which defines and characterizes capitalism. Marx devoted his entire life to deepening this analysis through the twofold examination of the new economy, beginning with the example of England, and the new politics, starting from the example of France.1

Marx’s Capital presents a rigorous scientific analysis of the capitalist mode of production and capitalist society, and how they differ from earlier forms. Volume 1 delves into the heart of the problem. It directly clarifies the meaning of the generalization of commodity exchanges between private-property owners (a phenomenon that in its centrality is unique to the modern world of capitalism, though commodity exchanges existed earlier), specifically the emergence and dominance of value and abstract social labor. From that foundation, Marx leads us to understand how the proletarian’s sale of his or her labor power to the “man with money” ensures the production of surplus value that the capitalist expropriates, and which, in turn, is the condition for the accumulation of capital. The dominance of value governs not only the reproduction of the economic system of capitalism, but also every aspect of modern social and political life. The concept of commodity alienation points to the ideological mechanism through which the overall unity of social reproduction is expressed.

These intellectual and political instruments, validated by the development of Marxism, demonstrated their worth in correctly predicting the general historical evolution of capitalist reality. No attempt to think about this reality outside of Marxism—or often against it—has led to comparable results. Marx’s criticisms of the limitations of bourgeois thought, and in particular of its economic science, which he rightly described as “vulgar,” is masterful. Since it is incapable of understanding what capitalism is in its essential reality, this alienated thought is also unable to imagine where capitalist societies are going. Will the future be forged by socialist revolutions that will put an end to the domination of capital? Or will capitalism succeed in prolonging its days, thus opening the way to the decadence of society? Bourgeois thought ignores this question, posed by the Manifesto.

Indeed, we read in the Manifesto that there is “a fight that each time ended either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.”2

This sentence has attracted my attention for a long time. Starting from it, I have progressively come to formulate a reading of the movement of history focused on the concept of unequal development and the possible different processes for its transformation, originating most probably from its peripheries rather than its centers. I also made some attempts to clarify each of the two models of response to the challenge: the revolutionary way and the way of decadence.3

Choosing to derive the laws of historical materialism from the universal experience, I have proposed an alternative formulation of one unique pre-capitalist mode, that is, the tributary mode, toward which all class societies tend. The history of the West—the construction of Roman antiquity, its disintegration, the establishment of feudal Europe, and, finally, the crystallization of absolutist states of the mercantilist era—thus expresses, in a particular form, the same basic tendency presented elsewhere toward the less discontinuous construction of complete, tributary states, of which China is the strongest example. The slave mode is not universal in our reading of history, as are the tributary and capitalist modes; it is particular and appears strictly in connection to the extension of commodity relations. Furthermore, the feudal mode is the primitive, incomplete form of the tributary mode.

This hypothesis views the establishment and subsequent disintegration of Rome as a premature attempt at tributary construction. The level of development of the productive forces did not require tributary centralization on the scale of the Roman Empire. This first unavailing attempt was thus followed by a forced transition through feudal fragmentation, on the basis of which centralization was once again restored within the framework of the absolutist monarchies of the West. Only then did the mode of production in the West approach the complete tributary model. It was, furthermore, only beginning with this stage that the level of development of the productive forces in the West attained that of the complete tributary mode of imperial China; this is doubtless no coincidence.

The backwardness of the West, expressed by the abortion of Rome and by feudal fragmentation, certainly gave it its historic advantage. Indeed, the combination of specific elements of the ancient tributary mode and of barbarian communal modes characterized feudalism and gave the West its flexibility. This explains the speed with which Europe experienced the complete tributary phase, quickly surpassing the level of development of the productive forces of the East, which it overtook, and passed on to capitalism. This flexibility and speed contrasted with the relatively rigid and slow evolution of the complete tributary modes of the Orient.

Doubtless the Roman-Western case is not the only example of an abortive tributary construction. We can identify at least three other cases of this type, each with its own specific conditions: the Byzantine-Arab-Ottoman case, the Indian case, and the Mongol case. In each of these instances, attempts to install tributary systems of centralization were too far ahead of the requirements of the development of the productive forces to be firmly established. In each case, the forms of centralization were probably specific combinations of state, para-feudal, and commodity means. In the Islamic state, for instance, commodity centralization played the decisive role. Successive Indian failures must be related to the contents of Hindu ideology, which I have contrasted with Confucianism. As to the centralization of the empire of Genghis Khan, it was, as we know, extremely short-lived.

The contemporary imperialist system is also a system of centralization of surplus on the world scale. This centralization operated on the basis of the fundamental laws of the capitalist mode and the conditions of its domination over the pre-capitalist modes of the subject periphery. I have formulated the law of the accumulation of capital on the world scale as an expression of the law of value operating on this scale. The imperialist system for the centralization of value is characterized by the acceleration of accumulation and by the development of the productive forces in the center of the system, while in the periphery they are held back and deformed. Development and underdevelopment are two sides of the same coin.

Only people make their own history. Neither animals nor inanimate objects control their own evolution; they are subject to it. The concept of praxis is proper to society, as an expression of the synthesis of determinism and human intervention. The dialectic relation of infrastructure and superstructure is also proper to society and has no equivalent in nature. This relation is not unilateral. The superstructure is not the reflection of the needs of the infrastructure. If this was the case, society would always be alienated and it would not be possible to see how it could succeed in liberating itself.

This is the reason why we propose to differentiate two qualitatively different types of transition from one mode of production to another. If this transition develops in unconsciousness, or with alienated consciousness, that is, if the ideology that influences classes does not allow them to control the process of change, this process appears as if it operates analogously to natural change, with ideology becoming part of this nature. For this type of transition we reserve the expression “model of decadence.” In contrast, if the ideology captures the real dimension of the desired changes in their totality, only then can we speak of revolution.

Bourgeois thought has to ignore this question in order to be able to think of capitalism as a rational system for all of eternity, to be able to think of “the end of history.”

Marx and Engels, on the contrary, strongly suggest, from the time of the Manifesto, that capitalism constitutes only a brief parenthesis in the history of humanity. However, the capitalist mode of production in their time did not extend beyond England, Belgium, a small region of northern France, or the western part of the Prussian Westphalia. Nothing comparable existed in other regions of Europe. In spite of this, Marx already imagined that socialist revolutions would happen in Europe “soon.” This expectation is evident in each line of the Manifesto.

Marx did not know, of course, in which country the revolution would begin. Would it be England, the only country already advanced in capitalism? No. Marx did not think this was possible except if the English proletariat emancipated itself from its support of the colonization of Ireland. Would it be France, less advanced in terms of its capitalist development, but more advanced in terms of the political maturity of its people, inherited from its great revolution? Maybe, and the Paris Commune of 1871 confirmed his intuition. For the same reason, Engels expected much from “backward” Germany: the proletarian revolution and the bourgeois revolution could here collide together. In the Manifesto, they note this connection:

The Communists turn their attention chiefly to Germany, because that country is on the eve of a bourgeois revolution that is bound to be carried out under more advanced conditions of European civilization and with a more developed proletariat than existed in England in the seventeenth, and in France in the eighteenth century, and because the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution.4

This did not happen: the unification under the world-historic crook (Bismarck) of reactionary Prussia, and the cowardice and political mediocrity of the German bourgeoisie permitted nationalism to triumph and marginalized popular revolt. Toward the end of his life, Marx turned his glance in the direction of Russia, which he expected could engage in a revolutionary path, as his correspondence with Vera Zasulich testifies.

Marx thus did have the intuition that the revolutionary transformation could begin from the periphery of the system—the “weak links,” in the later language of Lenin. Marx, however, did not draw in his time all the conclusions that imposed themselves in this respect. It was necessary to wait for history to advance into the twentieth century in order to see, with V. I. Lenin and Mao Zedong, the communists becoming able to imagine a new strategy, qualified as “the construction of socialism in one country.” This is an inappropriate expression, to which I prefer a long paraphrase: “Unequal advances on the long path of the socialist transition, localized in some countries, against which the strategy of the dominant imperialism is to fight continuously and seek to severely isolate.”

The debate pertaining to the long historic transition to socialism in the direction of communism, and the universal scope of this movement, poses a series of questions concerning the transformation of the proletariat from a class in itself to a class for itself, the conditions and effects of capitalist globalization, the place of the peasantry in the long transition, and the diversity of expressions of anti-capitalist thought.

Marx, more than anyone, understood that capitalism had the mission of conquering the world. He wrote about it at a time when this conquest was far from being completed. He considered this mission from its origins, the discovery of the Americas, which inaugurated the transition of the three centuries of mercantilism to the final full-fledged form of capitalism.

As he wrote in the Manifesto, “Modern industry has established the world-market, for which the discovery of America paved the way…The bourgeoisie has through its exploitation of the world-market given a cosmopolitan character to production and consumption in every country.”5

Marx welcomed this globalization, the new phenomenon in the history of humanity. Numerous passages in the Manifesto testify to this. For example: “The bourgeoisie, wherever it has got the upper hand, has put an end to all feudal, patriarchal, idyllic relations.”6 As well as: “The bourgeoisie has subjected the country to the rule of the towns…and has thus rescued a considerable part of the population from the idiocy [isolation—Ed.] of rural life. Just as it has made the country dependent on the towns, so it has made barbarian and semi-barbarian countries dependent on the civilized ones, nations of peasants on nations of bourgeois, the East on the West.”7

The words are clear. Marx was never past oriented, regretting the good old days. He always expressed a modern point of view, to the point of appearing as a Eurocentrist. He went a long way in this direction. Yet was not the barbarization of urban labor as stultifying for the proletarians? Marx did not ignore the urban poverty that had accompanied capitalist expansion.

Did the Marx of the Manifesto measure correctly the political consequences of the destruction of the peasantry in Europe itself and, even more, in the colonized countries? I return to these questions in direct relation to the unequal character of the worldwide deployment of capitalism.

Marx and Engels, in the Manifesto, still do not know that the worldwide deployment of capitalism is not the homogenizing one that they imagine, that is, giving to the conquered East its chance to get out of the deadlock in which its history has closed it and to become, in accordance with the image of the Western countries, “civilized” nations or industrialized countries. A few texts of Marx present the colonization of India in a consoling light. But Marx later changed his mind. These allusions, rather than constituting a systematically elaborated argumentation, witness the destructive effects of the colonial conquest. Marx gradually becomes aware of what I call unequal development, in other words, the systematic construction of the contrast between the dominant centers and dominated peripheries, and, with it, the impossibility of “catching up” within the framework of capitalist globalization (imperialistic by its nature) with the tools of capitalism.

In that respect, if it were possible to “catch up” within capitalist globalization, no political, social, or ideological force would be able to oppose this successfully.

With respect to the question of the “opening” of China, in the Manifesto Marx says that “the cheap prices of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate.”8

We know that this was not how this opening operated: it was the canons of the British navy that “opened” China. Chinese products were often more competitive than Western ones. We know also that it was not more advanced English industry that permitted the successful domination of India (again, Indian textiles were of better quality than English ones). On the contrary, it was the domination of India (and the organized destruction of Indian industries) that gave Great Britain its hegemonic position in the capitalist system of the nineteenth century.

However, an older Marx learned how to abandon the Eurocentrism of his youth. Marx knew how to change his views, in the light of the evolution of the world.

In 1848, Marx and Engels therefore imagined the strong possibility of one or more socialist revolutions in the Europe of their time, confirming that capitalism represents only a short parenthesis in history. The facts soon proved them right. The Paris Commune of 1871 was the first socialist revolution. However, it was also the last revolution accomplished in a developed capitalist country. With the establishment of the Second International, Engels did not lose hope in new revolutionary advances, in Germany in particular. History proved him wrong. However, the treason of the Second International in 1914 should not have surprised anyone. Beyond their reformist drift, the alignment of workers’ parties in all of Europe at the time with the expansionist, colonialist, and imperialist politics of their bourgeoisies indicated that there was not much to expect from the parties of the Second International. The front line for the transformation of the world moved toward the East, to Russia in 1917 and then to China. Certainly Marx did not predict this, but his later texts allow us to suppose that he probably would not have been surprised by the Russian Revolution.

With respect to China, Marx thought that it was a bourgeois revolution that was on the agenda. In January 1850 Marx wrote: “When our European reactionaries…finally arrive at the Great Wall of China…who knows if they will not find written thereon the legend: République chinoise, Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité.”9 The Kuomintang of the 1911 revolution, of Sun Yat-sen, also imagined this, like Marx, proclaiming the (bourgeois) Republic of China. However, Sun did not succeed in either defeating the forces of the old regime whose warlords regained the territory, or in pushing away the dominance of the imperialist forces, especially Japan. The drift of the Kuomintang of Chiang Kai-shek confirmed Lenin’s and Mao’s arguments that there is no more room for an authentic bourgeois revolution; our era is the one of the socialist revolution. Just as the Russian February Revolution of 1917 did not have a future since it was not able to triumph over the old regime, calling therefore for the October Revolution, the Chinese Revolution of 1911 called for the revolution of the Maoist Communists, who were the only ones capable of answering to the expectations of liberation, simultaneously national and social.

It was thus Russia, the “weak link” of the system, that initiated the second socialist revolution after the Paris Commune. Yet the Russian October Revolution was not supported, but fought by the European workers’ movement. Rosa Luxemburg used harsh expressions for the drift of the European workers’ movements in this respect. She spoke of their failure, betrayal, and “the unripeness of the German proletariat for the fulfillment of its historic tasks.”10

I have approached this withdrawal of the working class in the developed West, in which they abandoned their revolutionary traditions, by emphasizing the devastating effects of the imperialist expansion of capitalism and the benefits that the imperial societies as a whole (and not only their bourgeoisies) drew from their dominant positions. I have therefore considered it necessary to dedicate an entire chapter in my reading of the universal importance of the October Revolution to the analysis of the development that led the European working classes to renounce their historic tasks, to use the terms of Luxemburg. I refer the reader to chapter four of my book October 1917 Revolution.

Revolutionary advances on the long road of the socialist or communist transition will therefore no doubt originate exclusively in the societies of the periphery of the world system, precisely in the countries in which an avant-garde would understand that it is not possible to “catch up” by integrating into capitalist globalization, and that for this reason something else should be done, that is, to go ahead within a transition of a socialist nature. Lenin and Mao expressed this conviction, proclaiming that our time is no longer the epoch of bourgeois revolutions but instead, from then on, the epoch of socialist revolutions.

This conclusion calls for another: socialist transitions will happen necessarily in one country, which will additionally remain fatally isolated through the counter-attack of world imperialism. There is no alternative; there will be no simultaneous world revolution. Therefore, the nations and states engaged on this road will be confronted with the double challenge: (1) resist the permanent war (hot or cold) conducted by the imperialist forces; and (2) associate successfully with the peasant majority in advancing on the new road to socialism. Neither the Manifesto, nor Marx and Engels subsequently, were in a position to say something on these questions; it is the responsibility of living Marxism to do so instead.

These reflections lead me to assess the views that Marx and Engels developed in the Manifesto concerning peasants. Marx situates himself within his time, which was still the time of bourgeois unfinished revolutions in Europe itself. In this context, the Manifesto reads: “At this stage, therefore, the proletarians do not fight their enemies, but the enemies of their enemies, the remnants of absolute monarchy, the landowners…every victory so obtained is a victory for the bourgeoisie.”11

But the bourgeois revolution gave the land to the peasants, as shown particularly in the exemplary case of France. Therefore, the peasantry in its great majority becomes the ally of the bourgeoisie within the camp of the defenders of the sacred character of private property and becomes the adversary of the proletariat.

However, the transfer of the center of gravity of the socialist transformation of the world, emigrating from dominant imperialist centers to dominated peripheries, radically modifies the peasant question. Revolutionary advances become possible in the conditions of societies that still remain, in great part, peasant, only if socialist vanguards are able to implement strategies that integrate the majority of the peasantry into the fighting block against imperialist capitalism.

Marx and Engels never believed, neither in the editing of the Manifesto nor later, in the spontaneous revolutionary potential of the working classes, since “the ruling ideas of each age have ever been the ideas of its ruling class.”12 Due to this fact, workers, like others, subscribe to the ideology of competition, a cornerstone of the functioning of capitalist society, and, hence, the “organization of the proletarians into a class, and consequently into a political party, is continually being upset again by the competition between the workers themselves.”13

Therefore the transformation of the proletariat from a class in itself into a class for itself requires the active intervention of a communist vanguard: “The Communists…are on the one hand practically the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”14

The affirmation of the unavoidable role of the vanguards does not mean for Marx an advocacy in favor of the single party. As he writes in the Manifesto, “the Communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties.… They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.”15

And later, in his conception of what should be a Proletarian International, Marx considered it necessary to integrate into it all the parties and currents of thought and action that benefit from a real popular and worker audience. The First International included in its membership the French Blanquists, the German Lasallians, English trade unionists, Proudhon, anarchists, Bakunin. Marx certainly did not spare his criticisms, often harsh, of many of his partners. And one might say that probably the violence of these conflictual debates is at the root of the brief life of this International. Let it be as it may. This organization nevertheless was the first school for the education of the future cadres engaged in the fight against capitalism.

Two observations lead to the question of the role of the party and the communists.

The first is related to the relationship between the communist movement and the nation. As we can read in the Manifesto: “The working men have no country. We cannot take from them what they have not got. Since the proletariat must first of all acquire political supremacy, must rise to be the leading class of the nation, must constitute itself the nation, it is, so far, itself national, though not in the bourgeois sense of the word.”16 And, “though not in substance, yet in form, the struggle of the proletariat with the bourgeoisie is at first a national struggle.”17

In the capitalist world the proletarians do not share the nationalism of their country; they do not belong to that nation. The reason is that in the bourgeois world the only function of nationalism is to give legitimacy, on the one hand, to the exploitation of workers of the given country and, on the other hand, to the fight of the bourgeoisie against its foreign competitors and its fulfillment of its imperialistic ambitions. However, with the triumph of eventual socialist revolution, all would change.

The foregoing relates to the first long stages of the socialist transition in the societies of the peripheries. It also expresses respect for the necessary diversity of the roads taken. Additionally, the concept of the final objective of communism strengthens the importance of this national diversity of the proletarian nations. The Manifesto already formulated the idea that communism is built on diversity of individuals, collectives, and nations. Solidarity does not exclude but implies the free development of all. Communism is the antithesis of capitalism, which, in spite of its praise of “individualism,” produces in fact, through competition, clones formatted by the domination of capital.

In this connection I shall quote what I recently wrote in October 1917 Revolution:

The support or the rejection of national sovereignty gives rise to severe misunderstandings as long as the class content of the strategy in the frame of which it operates is not identified. The dominant social bloc in capitalist societies always conceives national sovereignty as an instrument to promote its class interests, i.e. the capitalist exploitation of home labor and simultaneously the consolidation of its position in the global system. Today, in the context of the globalized liberal system dominated by the financialized monopolies of the Triad (USA, Europe, Japan) national sovereignty is the instrument which permits ruling classes to maintain their competitive positions within the system. The government of the USA offers the clearest example of that constant practice: sovereignty is conceived as the exclusive preserve of US monopoly capital and to that effect the US national law is given priority above international law. That was also the practice of the European imperialist powers in the past and it continues to be the practice of the major European states within the European Union.18

Keeping that in mind, one understands why the national discourse in praise of the virtues of sovereignty, hiding the class interests in the service of which it operates, has always been unacceptable for all those who defend the laboring classes.

Yet we should not reduce the defense of sovereignty to that modality of bourgeois nationalism. The defense of sovereignty is no less decisive for the protection of the popular alternative on the long road to socialism. It even constitutes an inescapable condition for advances in that direction. The reason is that the global order (as well as its sub-global European order) will never be transformed from above through the collective decisions of the ruling classes. Progress in that respect is always the result of the unequal advance of struggles from one country to another. The transformation of the global system (or the subsystem of the European Union) is the product of those changes operating within the framework of the various states, which, in their turn, modify the international balance of forces between them. The nation-state remains the only framework for the deployment of the decisive struggles that ultimately transform the world.

The peoples of the peripheries of the system, which is polarizing by nature, have a long experience of positive, progressive nationalism, which is anti-imperialist, and rejects the global order imposed by the centers, and therefore is potentially anti-capitalist. I say only potentially because this nationalism may also inspire the illusion of a possible building of a national capitalist order that is able to catch up with the national capitalisms ruling the centers. In other words, nationalism in the peripheries is progressive only on the condition that it remains anti-imperialist, conflicting with the global liberal order. Any other nationalism (which in this case is only a façade) that accepts the global liberal order is the instrument of local ruling classes aiming to participate in the exploitation of their peoples and eventually of other weaker partners, operating therefore as sub-imperialist powers.

The confusion between these two antonymic concepts of national sovereignty, and therefore the rejection of any nationalism, annihilates the possibility of moving out of the global liberal order. Unfortunately, the left—in Europe and elsewhere—often falls prey to such confusion.

The second point concerns the segmentation of the working classes, in spite of the simplification of the society connected with the advancement of capitalism, evoked in the Manifesto: “Our epoch, the epoch of the bourgeoisie, possesses, however, this distinctive feature; it has simplified the class antagonisms. Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat.”19

This double movement—of the generalization of the proletarian position and simultaneously the segmentation of the world of workers—is today considerably more visible than it was in 1848, when it was barely appearing.

We have witnessed during the prolonged twentieth century, up to our days, a generalization without precedent of the proletarian condition. Today, in the capitalist centers, almost the totality of the population is reduced to the status of employees selling their labor power. And, in the peripheries, the peasants are integrated more than ever before into commercial nets that have annihilated their status as independent producers, making them dominated subcontractors, reduced in fact to the status of sellers of their labor power.

This movement is associated with the pauperization processes: the individual “becomes a pauper, and pauperism develops more rapidly than population and wealth.”20 This pauperization thesis, retaken and amplified in Capital, was the object of sarcastic critiques by the vulgar economists. And still, at the level of the world capitalist system—the only level that gives the full scope to the analysis of the reality—this pauperization is considerably more visible and real than Marx imagined. Yet, parallel to this, capitalist forces have succeeded in weakening the danger that generalized proletarianization represents by implementing systematic strategies aimed at segmenting the working classes on all levels, nationally and internationally.

The third section of the Manifesto, entitled “Socialist and Communist Literature,” could appear to a contemporary reader to belong truly to the past. Marx and Engels offer us here commentaries concerning historical subjects and their intellectual production that belong to their time. Long forgotten, these questions seem today to be the concern exclusively of archivists.

However, I am struck by the persistent analogies with more recent, in fact contemporary, movements and discourses. Marx denounces reformists of all forms, who had understood nothing of the logics of capitalist deployment. Have these disappeared from the scene? Marx denounced the lies of those who condemn the wrongdoings of capitalism, but nevertheless, “in political practice…they join in all coercive measures against the working-class.”21 Are the fascists of the twentieth century and of today, or the allegedly religious movements (the Muslim Brothers, the fanatics of Hinduism and Buddhism), any different?

Marx’s criticisms of the competitors of Marxism and their ideologies, as well as his efforts to identify the social milieus for which they are spokespeople, does not imply that for Marx, and for us, authentic anti-capitalist movements should not be necessarily diversified in their sources of inspiration. I point the reader to some of my recent writings on this subject, conceived from the perspective of the reconstruction of a new International as a condition for the efficacy of the popular struggles and visions of the future.22

I shall conclude with words that follow my reading of the Manifesto.

The Manifesto is the hymn to the glory of capitalist modernity, of the dynamism which it inspires, having no parallel during the long history of civilization. But it is at the same time the swan song of this system, whose own movement is nothing more than a generation of chaos, as Marx always understood and reminded us. The historical rationality of capitalism does not extend beyond its production in a brief time of all the conditions—material, political, ideological, and moral—that will lead to its supersession.

I have always shared that point of view, which I believe to be that of Marx, from the Manifesto to the first epoch of the Second International lived by Engels. The analyses that I have proposed concern the long ripening of capitalism—ten centuries—and the contributions of the different regions of the world to this maturation (China, the Islamic East, Italian cities, and finally Atlantic Europe), its short zenith (the nineteenth century), and finally its long decline that manifests itself through two long systemic crises (the first from 1890 to 1945, the second from 1975 to our days). These analyses have the objective of deepening that which was in Marx only an intuition.23 This vision of the place of capitalism in history was abandoned by the reformist currents within Marxism of the Second International and then developed outside of Marxism. It was replaced by a vision according to which capitalism will have accomplished its task only when it will have succeeded in homogenizing the planet according to the model of its developed centers. Against this persistent vision of the globalized development of capitalism, which is simply unrealistic since capitalism is in its nature polarizing, we put forward the vision of the transformation of the world through revolutionary processes—breaking with the submission to the deadly vicissitudes of the decadence of civilization.

↩ I wrote about this subject in chapter three of my book October 1917 Revolution: A Century Later (Montreal: Daraja, 2017).
↩ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The Communist Manifesto (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1998), 2.
↩ I have further written about this question in the conclusion of my book Class and Nation (New York: Monthly Review Press, 1980).
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 61–62.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 4–8.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 5.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 9. Editors’s Note: “Idiocy” is a mistranslation, since in classical Greek Idiotes referred to isolation from the polis, a meaning carried over in the German—a fact recognized in several translations of the Manifesto. See Hal Draper, The Adventures of the Communist Manifesto (Berkeley: Center for Socialist History, 1998), 211.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 9.
↩ Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, On Colonialism (New York: International Publishers, 1972), 18.
↩ Rosa Luxemburg, The Russian Revolution, 1918, available at http://marxists.org.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 17.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 37.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 18–19.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 25–26.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 25.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 35–36.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 22.
↩ Amin, October 1917, 83–85. I have discussed this question specific to Europe in chapter four of my book The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2013).
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 3.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 23.
↩ Marx and Engels, The Communist Manifesto, 44.
↩ See “Unité et Diversité des Mouvements Populaires au Socialisme” in the book Egypte, Nassérisme et Communisme; and “L’Indispensable Reconstruction de l’Internationale des Travailleurs et des Peuples,” in Investig’Action blog, http://investigaction.net/fr.
↩ See Samir Amin, The Implosion of Contemporary Capitalism.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Communist Workers League Solidarity Statement Supporting Emory Douglas: African American Liberation and the Palestinian Question
The Communist Workers League stands in full solidarity with Emory Douglas and Professor John Cheney-Lippold as they face Zionist attack for their principled actions in defense of Palestine at the University of Michigan.

In September, Dr. Cheney-Lippold became the object of a vicious attack by supporters of the Zionist regime for his refusal to write a letter of recommendation for a student seeking to study abroad in Tel Aviv, citing the academic boycott of Israel. These critics condemned the professor as being anti-Semitic. While neither the Board of Regents nor university administration have sanctioned Dr. Cheney-Lippold as of yet, the university has shown that it firmly stands on the side of its Zionist supporters. Board of Regents member Denise Ilitch, the daughter of Detroit real estate tycoon and robber baron, echoed the Zionist criticisms, saying that “This type of profoundly exclusionary conduct by a University of Michigan professor flies completely against our mission. Let’s call this what it really is: anti-Semitic" (http://record.umich.edu/…/schlissel-speaks-out-professors-r…). This is a common silencing-tactic employed by ruling class institutions across the country to denigrate critics of Israel. This smokescreen de-legitimizes criticism of Israel by equating the state of Israel with Jewish identity. Under this scheme, speech and actions in support of Palestinian self-determination become hate speech.

Additionally, a student at the University of Michigan Penny W. Stamps School of Art & Design created a Facebook post that attacked the university for “forcing” her to sit through a lecture given by the inimitable revolutionary artist and former Minister of Culture for the Black Panther Party, Emory Douglas, in which Douglas presented and discussed much of his tremendous corpus. One of the pieces included was a collage that compared Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to Adolf Hitler for their shared roles in perpetuating genocide. This post quickly gained traction and has spiraled into another Zionist media attack following shortly on the campaign against Dr. Cheney-Lippold. The attack on Mr. Douglas has a dual-pronged nature and seeks to silence him additionally because he represents a legacy of revolutionary African-American solidarity with anti-colonial struggles.

It is the duty of supporters of freedom, peace, and self-determination for Palestine to support the boycott of Israeli institutions, and it is a most important responsibility to defend tactics of academic boycott as part of the Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions campaign initiated by Palestinian activists. Academic institutions have a gruesome history of supporting imperialism and colonialism across the globe. Their roles range from performing military research and investing in companies that profit from imperialism, to acting as recruiting grounds for the intelligence and military apparatuses and providing critical intellectual support to ruling class think-tanks. Indeed, a full accounting of the universities’ role as a critical infrastructure of imperialism is beyond the scope of this statement. At UM in particular, the university has longed resisted any attempts by Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) and other Palestinian solidarity groups to even begin an audit of the university endowment's investments in companies that profit from the occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine, let alone actually completely divest.

We unconditionally affirm the right of Professor Cheney-Lippold and Mr. Douglas to speak out in solidarity with Palestine and to righteously portray Israel's history as an illegitimate, genocidal, settler-colonial entity. We reject the attempts by the University of Michigan and its Zionist community to silence these two principled men. It is not only the right, but the imperative, for all who oppose Israeli genocide to uphold boycott as a means of exposing Israel’s crimes.

You may find the solidarity statement in support of Dr. Cheney-Lippold issued by SAFE at the University of Michigan here (https://www.michigandaily.com/…/solidarity-professor-cheney…).

Detroit, October 2018
C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson): The Negro Question--There Is No Evil Without Good, 17 October 1939
“Labor with a White Skin Cannot Emancipate Itself Where Labor with a Black Skin Is Branded” – Karl Marx

From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 79, 17 October 1939, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

There is no evil without good. What the Negro means to the American revolution and the world revolution is being demonstrated with unmistakable clarity by the actions of the Stalinists in Harlem, in Chicago and on the West Coast. With their newline of “down with the imperialist war,” they feel they can once more appeal to the Negroes.

For years they have been discredited among thinking Negroes everywhere. They lived entirely on the remnants of their past reputation. In their press they concentrated on Negro singers, Negro athletes, Negro parsons. But politics, particularly revolutionary politics, occupied a distinctly minor part of their propaganda and agitation.

They reached their lowest ebb during the weeks that followed the beginning of the war. In Harlem for instance, they practically disappeared. You could not walk along Lenox Avenue or Seventh without running into groups of Negroes discussing the war and the role of the Negroes. There were West Indians denouncing Britain, Garveyites denouncing all whites and praising Japan, Americans sneering at Roosevelt’s war for “democracy” – these and other groups were well represented. But you could not find a Stalinist. They stayed at home, and not only because of the mental effort of unravelling the new line. Militant Harlem Negroes showed an inclination to beat them up, in other words, to apply to them that kind of liberation from Stalinism that Stalinism had just applied to the Poles in western Ukraine. James Ford wrote a letter to the Amsterdam News. The Amsterdam News did not publish it for weeks, and then only when Ford was attacked by someone who had read Ford in the Daily Worker and denounced him in a letter to the News.

Stalinist Name Is Mud

All this was not due entirely to the Hitler-Stalin pact and the invasion of Poland. The Stalinists’ name had been mud in Harlem for a long, long time, the Negroes had watched them boost the League of Nations as a means of saving Ethiopia, and had seen the deflation and collapse of that balloon. The Negroes had been able to compare the relative values of Litvinov’s speeches on the side of Ethiopia and the oil Stalin sold to Italy. They had been ignorant and backward enough to believe that to make speeches on behalf of an attacked colonial country and to sell oil to the attacking imperialist country might be very good Stalinism but was no more than a base betrayal of the Negro people.

The Stalinists said that to denounce such a two-faced policy was Trotskyism. But without caring what the Stalinists called it the Negroes left the Communist party.

Political dishonesty leads inevitably to personal and organizational corruption. In order to meet the pressure of Negroes hostile to their policy, the Stalinists had to take such organizational measures inside the party as drove from them even those Negroes who had been faithful to them for many years. They set out on their crusade to make America fight a war against Hitler, at that time Stalin’s enemy. They changed their make-up from red to stars and stripes, and began their seduction of the intellectuals and all the petty-bourgeois democrats.

But in these new circles they found the Negroes to be an encumbrance. All these New Dealers, singers of the Star-Spangled Banner, and believers in Americanism, whose paths into the Communist party were strewn with roses by Browder, Hathaway, and Amter – all these people brought with them, as an indispensable part of their American “democracy,” the ill-disguised prejudices of the American “democrat” against the Negro. Between the rival claims of American “democrats” and the American Negro masses, the Communist party did not hesitate.

They were out to get the “democrats”, so they shoved their Negro sympathizers into the Negro Congress and they invited a body of Negro parsons and bishops, newspaper editors, and small business men into the Congress in order to be sure to stifle Negro militancy. They discovered a basis for Negro emancipation in Father Divine. Altogether, between 1935 and 1939, they disrupted and corrupted the Negro revolutionary movement as thoroughly as they ruined the revolution in Spain and the revolution in France. The Negroes retaliated by leaving them in thousands. During the last two years they lost some 1,600 Negro members in New York State, about 80 per cent of their Negro membership. The Hitler-Stalin pact and the Stalinist invasion of Poland were merely a climax to a series of events which had thoroughly exposed Stalinism among the Negro people.

Venture into Public Again

Then a few weeks ago came the change in the Stalinist policy. Stalin tied the Soviet regime to Hitler, and in the present stage, a victory for Hitler is an essential part of Stalin’s policy. The Stalinists had disrupted and confused the revolutionary movement among black and white workers by their incessant propaganda and agitation for Roosevelt and the New Deal and Roosevelt’s war for “democracy.” All this in obedience to Stalin. So now, still obedient to their Moscow master, they are striving tooth and nail to keep America from intervening on the side of the “democracies,” to stir up anti-war agitation among the British and French workers and colonials – in other words, to help Hitler as much as possible. In this activity, as in their previous period of calling all who opposed a war for the “democracies” Trotskyite-fascists, they are acting merely as agents of the Moscow bureaucracy and not as leaders of the revolutionary movement.

What is most noticeable and most revealing, however, is that after crawling in the grass and sneaking around in the byways and alleys of the Negro areas for some years, they are now once more out in full blast. “Down with the imperialist war!” “The Negroes have nothing to gain by this war!” “War for democracy is a fraud!” “The war is a war between two bloated groups of capitalists!” Day after day in the Daily Worker the Stalinists thunder these irreproachable sentences. They hold meetings. They distribute leaflets. They beg for money. We can expect not only the continuance but the intensification of this renewed activity among the Negroes.

And why? Because they know that by the exposure of the conditions of Negroes in Africa, by the exposure of the fraud that African Negroes have anything to gain by fighting for British and French imperialism, by exposing the imperialist character of the War, they have the possibility of gaining a greater response among the oppressed Negro people than among any other section of the American workers and farmers. This is indeed the depth of political dishonesty and degradation for Ford and the Negro Stalinists in particular. They seek to use Negro militancy for the sake of Hitler’s victory.

Any Negro who understands what the Stalinists are after must make it his duty unremittingly to expose them. The Fourth International, the Socialist Workers Party, have never doubted the tremendous revolutionary energy that is bottled up in the Negro masses. We claim particularly that our special theoretical contribution to the Marxist understanding of the Negro question is that the Negro’s place is not at the tail but in the very vanguard of the revolutionary struggle against capitalism. But it is their very eagerness and response to the revolutionary appeal against the war that make the Negro masses so susceptible to this most recent Stalinist maneuver. The Stalinists have come most hopefully out of their holes and corners. They know that this new policy gives them a chance.

We therefore have to show that the last thing they are thinking of is the emancipation of workers, white and black. We of the Socialist Workers Party shall point out that the Negroes and the white workers must fight against the imperialists, both gangs of them, in war as in peace. But we must not for one single moment neglect the exposure of the new Stalinist line. We must analyze it to its roots and point out that whatever these people may say at a given moment, however sincere may be the Stalinist rank and file, yet those who are responsible for their policy are thinking of nothing else but how best to preserve the power and privileges of the bloated and murderous bureaucracy of Stalin.
C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson): Labor and the Second World War--17 November 1939
From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 88, 17 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

The failures of Russia, the degradation of Russia, are in the last analysis due to the failure of the workers of the world to establish socialism. Had countries like France, Britain, Germany, and the United States followed the road to collective ownership and planned economy, what they would have done in twenty years would not only have lifted the workers and the entire population of these countries to undreamt of heights of social well-being and equality. It would have prevented the emergence of such a hydra-headed monster as the Stalinist bureaucracy and its corrupt spawn, the Browders, the Fosters, the Fords, and their kindred throughout the world.

Those who have studied the true causes of the rise and decline of Soviet Russia know that its history is an argument not against, but for socialism, an indictment not of collective ownership and planned economy but of the chaos of capitalism. It is capitalism that, using the cowardice and selfishness of the Stalinist bureaucrats, has managed to stave off victorious revolution and slowly drags the Soviet Union down into the blood and muck of world imperialism.

Without the socialist revolution in one or more of the advanced countries, Soviet Russia is doomed. That is the key to the understanding of Soviet Russia, yesterday, today, and tomorrow. No wonder that Lenin in the five years of his working life as ruler of the country publicly repeated this profound truth little less than fifty times.

Against War Means for Socialism

From all the above it follows that the struggle against war is the struggle against capitalism for the socialist society. The workers must fight against their own capitalists at every turn—in the factories, in the legislatures, against the WPA cuts, against the anti-alien bills, against the armament budgets whether large or small, against Roosevelt’s foreign policy, against his ceaseless propaganda that America must prepare for a war in defense of “peace” and “democracy.” Any concession to the capitalists on any front means just so much more freedom for them in their relentless drive to war. If war does come, the word will go forth that we must have “national unity” against aggressor. Then more than ever it will be necessary to continue resistance, legal and illegal.

The masses may be swept into the war. But those who recognize the true nature of imperialist war, though they may have to submit for a period, must never for a moment relax their opposition, but continue to seek ways and means of influencing the masses against the war. For history shows us that though the people, under the stimulus of fright, propaganda, and mass hysteria, may enter a war, the strain that it imposes upon them is such that revulsion soon begins. This can culminate, as it has culminated before, in a determination to sweep away those responsible for the slaughter, the suffering, the privation. In their recognition of the real enemy at home, they forget the supposed enemy abroad. That is what we must work for.

The revolutionary fighter against imperialist war must remember that it was not the statesmen who brought the last war to a conclusion. It was the revolutionary workers of Russia who, by the Russian revolution of 1917, made the first great break in the war. And the German workers, by their revolution against the Kaiser and his government, brought the 1914–1918 war to an end.

The Sham Fighters Against War

If the workers do not succeed in stopping Roosevelt from dragging us into the war, who will do it? Many so-called anti-war groups and persons tell the masses it is they who will. Test them all by their stand on the capitalist system. If they are not fighting to overthrow it, they belong to capitalist society and are in the camp of the enemy. Isolationists like Senator Borah fill the public press. But it is the finance-capitalists like Morgan who decide, and when they give the word and Roosevelt drags the people in, Borah will not call upon the workers to stop Roosevelt. He and his kind will say, “My country, right or wrong,” and support the war with the rest.

The labor leaders like Lewis and Green follow Roosevelt like the trained lap-dogs that they are. In Germany, in Britain, in France, when the last war came these pampered, well fed, capitalist-aping lackeys called the workers to the colors. And in 1939 as in 1914 they have shown once more that as long as they can sit in the offices, draw their fat salaries, visit the best hotels in the company of “good society,” they have no quarrel with capitalism and will support their imperialist masters in whatever way they are told to. Look for a moment at their record.

In 1918–1920 the capitalist system was rocking in Europe. The capitalists, utterly discredited, were hated by millions of workers and farmers in every country. All that was needed was resolute leadership. But these labor leaders, who had talked about socialism for twenty years or more, went to the rescue of capitalism and, having the confidence of the workers, preserved instead of overturning the system. The capitalists left them in control for a time and, when the revolutionary energy of the workers had been dissipated, rewarded the social-democrats with the fascist terror. Against fascism as against war the labor leaders were helpless, and for the same reason. Well paid and comfortable under the capitalist system, they work to preserve it, with the resulting ruin of both them and the workers who follow them. In America as elsewhere the social-democrat leaders support capitalism. They must be bracketed with the imperialist war-mongers and fought on the war issue without quarter.
C.L.R. James (aka J.R. Johnson): Labor and the Second World War--21 November 1939
From Socialist Appeal, Vol. III No. 89, 21 November 1939, p. 2.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.

Committees calling themselves “Keep America Out of War” profess to be lovers of peace. One such was composed of Lovestoneite communists, social democrats, and isolationists like Hamilton Fish, the reactionary Senator from New York. Once you understand that the fight against imperialist war is the fight against the whole capitalist system, it becomes patent that the anti-war pretensions of these committees is demagogy on the part of Ham Fish and opportunism and publicity-wooing on the part of the Lovestonites and socialists. Fish is a die-hard supporter of the capitalist system. Any communist worthy of the name maintains as his first aim the overthrowing of the system. Is it any wonder that this united front of reactionaries and treacherous so-called communists went to pieces even before the European war broke out? Whoever is not opposed to capitalism root and branch is not opposed to war.

Pacifists refuse to fight and instead go to prison. How does that help to stop any war? How does it help to mobilize the masses for the death struggle that stopping imperialist war demands?

Stalin’s Agents in America

The Stalinists, with a great revolutionary past and backed by the financial resources of the Soviet Union, have for five years confused the workers with their talk of supporting the “democracies” against fascism. Now that Stalin is working so closely with Hitler, they wish to keep Roosevelt from joining Britain and France. They call the war an imperialist war. If the cooperation of Stalin and Hitler continues to increase, more of the leaders, corrupt as they are, will denounce the Soviet Union and seek cover under the wing of “democracy,” driving the masses into the imperialist war. But those who stay with the Stalinist bureaucracy will merely be carrying out orders and will change their policy as soon as Stalin makes a change in his. The revolutionary workers must see the Stalinists for what they really are and must realize that they represent a corrupt and treacherous bureaucracy and not the world revolution.

Karl Liebknecht’s Great Example

If the workers do not awake in time and stop Roosevelt, the revolutionary movement will see some dark days. But a sense of historical perspective will help to keep our forces together. In 1914 no single voice in Germany was raised against the war. Karl Liebknecht wanted to denounce the war-mongers and to rally the opposition for resistance, if even it could not at that moment stop the war. But the labor leaders imposed party discipline upon Liebknecht and he was weak enough to submit to it. Some few months after he broke the discipline and spoke out. He was arrested. But even from prison he and Rosa Luxemburg continued to oppose the war by underground means.

And in November 1918, the German workers brought the war to an end by the revolution. The masses came to Liebknecht’s point of view in time. They will come to ours, and they will not take four years.

The German revolution gives us another great warning. Our revolution must not stop at the mere, destruction of one capitalist government and its replacement by another. The workers must sweep away the whole system and establish the socialist state. For if not, then as Germany shows us, monopoly capitalism will take its predestined course. It will resort to fascism, crush the revolutionary workers, enslave the working class. It will then seek to destroy its rivals abroad by yet another imperialist war.

The war in Europe may come to a crisis so quickly that Roosevelt may not have had time to take America in. We cannot go into all the possibilities here. But as long as American imperialism remains, it will wage imperialist war.

A Glorious Future for the Workers

The American workers must aim at establishing the United Federation of American Socialist Republics. The workers of Europe must have as their aim the United Socialist States of Europe. While each people will retain its own language and national customs, together they will abolish national boundaries, quotas, customs duties, tariffs, and the burden of national armies, which now weigh like mountains of lead upon the common people in every country. The national rivalries and jealousies will disappear with the disappearance of the causes that give rise to them. Free plebiscites will give minorities an opportunity to decide with which larger group they want to live. The Jews have no future except with the victorious working class movement. Wherever the workers still have their organizations the Jews can live. As soon as the working class movement in any country is smashed the reactionaries make the Jews a scapegoat for the evils of capitalism. Socialism alone can stop the persecution of Jews.

The revolutionary workers will encourage and assist the millions of colonial workers to free themselves from their imperialist jailers. This is one of the greatest crimes of imperialism, its strangulation of the creative capabilities of millions of colonials for the sake of a few hundred thousand bondholders in the leading imperialist countries. While hundreds of millions work for ten cents a day, modern industry cannot realise its vast potentialities and must continue to decay. And what but the socialist revolution against imperialism can release the colonials from their bondage? It is in such a reorganization of American and world economy that the American Negroes will find equality. They will never get it under capitalism.

The world is crying for a true internationalism, not because this is a noble ideal, but because world economy has reached a stage where it can go forward only by breaking the control of the finance-capitalists and by abolishing national states. A worldwide crisis, thirty million unemployed, fascism and imperialist war—that is what the capitalists have to offer. They must be broken, and only the workers’ revolution can break them.

The Struggle for the Fourth International

“Only along this road can the proletariat liberate itself from its dependence upon the chauvinist bourgeoisie and, in one form or another, more or less rapidly, take decisive steps on the road to the real freedom of nations and on the road to socialism.

“Long live the international fraternity of the workers against the chauvinism and patriotism of the bourgeoisies of all countries!”

Today the Fourth International, with its cadres in every country, hold fast to these words of Lenin. The Fourth International seeks, by precept and example, to make Lenin’s doctrines a militant reality for the workers and farmers of the world, crushed and demoralised by capitalism. Those American workers who recognize the enormous importance of revolutionary socialism for the world today, who see that we must be socialists or perish, will seek their fellow revolutionaries and assist them in the building of the Socialist Workers Party, the American section of the Fourth International.
Kwame Nkrumah 1961--I Speak of Freedom 
Source: I Speak of Freedom: A Statement of African Ideology (London: William Heinemann Ltd., 1961), pp. xi-xiv.
Transcribed: Internet Modern History Sourcebook
Transcription Edit/HTML: Mike B.

For centuries, Europeans dominated the African continent. The white man arrogated to himself the right to rule and to be obeyed by the non-white; his mission, he claimed, was to "civilise" Africa. Under this cloak, the Europeans robbed the continent of vast riches and inflicted unimaginable suffering on the African people.

All this makes a sad story, but now we must be prepared to bury the past with its unpleasant memories and look to the future. All we ask of the former colonial powers is their goodwill and co-operation to remedy past mistakes and injustices and to grant independence to the colonies in Africa?

It is clear that we must find an African solution to our problems, and that this can only be found in African unity. Divided we are weak; united, Africa could become one of the greatest forces for good in the world.

Although most Africans are poor, our continent is potentially extremely rich. Our mineral resources, which are being exploited with foreign capital only to enrich foreign investors, range from gold and diamonds to uranium and petroleum. Our forests contain some of the finest woods to be grown anywhere. Our cash crops include cocoa, coffee, rubber, tobacco and cotton. As for power, which is an important factor in any economic development, Africa contains over 40% of the potential water power of the world, as compared with about 10% in Europe and 13% in North America. Yet so far, less than 1% has been developed. This is one of the reasons why we have in Africa the paradox of poverty in the midst of plenty, and scarcity in the midst of abundance.

Never before have a people had within their grasp so great an opportunity for developing a continent endowed with so much wealth. Individually, the independent states of Africa, some of them potentially rich, others poor, can do little for their people. Together, by mutual help, they can achieve much. But the economic development of the continent must be planned and pursued as a whole. A loose confederation designed only for economic co-operation would not provide the necessary unity of purpose. Only a strong political union can bring about full and effective development of our natural resources for the benefit of our people.

The political situation in Africa today is heartening and at the same time disturbing. It is heartening to see so many new flags hoisted in place of the old; it is disturbing to see so many countries of varying sizes and at different levels of development, weak and, in some cases, almost helpless. If this terrible state of fragmentation is allowed to continue it may well be disastrous for us all.

There are at present some 28 states in Africa, excluding the Union of South Africa, and those countries not yet free. No less than nine of these states have a population of less than three million. Can we seriously believe that the colonial powers meant these countries to be independent, viable states? The example of South America, which has as much wealth, if not more than North America, and yet remains weak and dependent on outside interests, is one which every African would do well to study.

Critics of African unity often refer to the wide differences in culture, language and ideas in various parts of Africa. This is true, but the essential fact remains that we are all Africans, and have a common interest in the independence of Africa. The difficulties presented by questions of language, culture and different political systems are not insuperable. If the need for political union is agreed by us all, then the will to create it is born; and where there's a will there's a way.

The present leaders of Africa have already shown a remarkable willingness to consult and seek advice among themselves. Africans have, indeed, begun to think continentally. They realise that they have much in common, both in their past history, in their present problems and in their future hopes. To suggest that the time is not yet ripe for considering a political union of Africa is to evade the facts and ignore realities in Africa today.

The greatest contribution that Africa can make to the peace of the world is to avoid all the dangers inherent in disunity, by creating a political union which will also by its success, stand as an example to a divided world. A Union of African states will project more effectively the African personality. It will command respect from a world that has regard only for size and influence. The scant attention paid to African opposition to the French atomic tests in the Sahara, and the ignominious spectacle of the U.N. in the Congo quibbling about constitutional niceties while the Republic was tottering into anarchy, are evidence of the callous disregard of African Independence by the Great Powers.

We have to prove that greatness is not to be measured in stockpiles of atom bombs. I believe strongly and sincerely that with the deep-rooted wisdom and dignity, the innate respect for human lives, the intense humanity that is our heritage, the African race, united under one federal government, will emerge not as just another world bloc to flaunt its wealth and strength, but as a Great Power whose greatness is indestructible because it is built not on fear, envy and suspicion, nor won at the expense of others, but founded on hope, trust, friendship and directed to the good of all mankind.

The emergence of such a mighty stabilising force in this strife-worn world should be regarded not as the shadowy dream of a visionary, but as a practical proposition, which the peoples of Africa can, and should, translate into reality. There is a tide in the affairs of every people when the moment strikes for political action. Such was the moment in the history of the United States of America when the Founding Fathers saw beyond the petty wranglings of the separate states and created a Union. This is our chance. We must act now. Tomorrow may be too late and the opportunity will have passed, and with it the hope of free Africa's survival.
George Padmore 1938--West Africans, Watch Your Land
Source: International African Opinion, Vol. 1, No. 3, September 1938;
Transcribed: by Christian Hogsbjerg for Marxists.org 2007, with thanks to Marika Sherwood.

Communal Land Tenure

Because West Africa was known as the white man’s grave, the native inhabitants have until now been spared the worst depredations of British Imperialism. The malarial climate, and the absence of highlands saved the people from land alienation.

Allotments are cultivated in conformity with certain prescribed laws and customs, and their sale to foreigners is prohibited. On the Gold Coast the chiefs allot land to the heads of households.

A communal land tenure system has precluded concession-holders, and has given rise to an indigenous peasantry. Gold Coast agriculture is restricted almost entirely to cocoa. Palm oil is the premier product of Nigeria, which produces also ground nuts and cocoa. The production of exportable crops occupies the peasants almost completely. Thus even most of their ordinary staples, tools and manufactured goods have to be bought at European stores.

Although the West African natives have so far been spared from the “proletarianising” which has overtaken the Bantu peoples of South and East Africa, British imperialists, despite climatic handicaps have not failed to squeeze the peasants as producers and consumers. By combining into “buying pools” and “selling rings,” they have on the one hand depressed the prices paid to the peasants for their products, and on the other maintained at arbitrary levels the cost of the goods the natives are obliged to purchase from the stores.

In many instances buyer and seller are one, so that when, under pressure of strikes or hold-ups, they are forced to increase the prices paid to the peasants for their agricultural commodities, they correspondingly increase the price of manufactured goods. A consequence of this double extortion was the combined cocoa hold-up and boycott of imported goods which occurred on the Gold Coast last winter. As a result of this strike, Unilever’s West African subsidiary (United African Company), prime instigator of the pool, lost £1,000,000. Yet, because of its wide interests, the company could declare a profit of £1,811,099, £374,073 increase over the previous year; dividend was improved from 10 to 11 percent.

Not satisfied with such handsome profits, Unilever is anxious to eliminate the peasant, and by monopoly production on a plantation system, reduce the natives to wage slavery. Thus, Lord Leverhulme some years ago tried to obtain concessions in Nigeria and Sierra Leone, second to Nigeria in palm oil production. Sir Hugh Clifford, the then Governor of Nigeria, informed him that the land belonged to the people and any disturbance of the tenure would precipitate revolt. Leverhulme then turned to Central Africa, and obtained a concession of 1,800,000 acres in the Belgian Congo, where his Huileries du Congo Belge established extensive plantations on the system practised in Dutch Sumatra, with whose products he is successfully competing.

These plantations form an enclave 75 miles in diameter, and break into the native villages, whose interests have been entirely disregarded. Whole communities have been forced into the service of the company, to whom they are obliged to forfeit their products. There have also been forceful confiscations of the natives’ own crops on the false pretext that these have been stolen from the company’s concessions. Thus, out of the misery of thousands of native toilers, is produced the soap which retains “that schoolgirl complexion.”

But the Congo is not wide enough for Unilever. Eyes still upon the West coast, the combine has managed, through United Africa Company, to establish the N’dian estate in the Cameroons, which is administered by the Nigerian Government under a mandate. This 7,000-acre plantation is an experimental one, and its staff works in close collaboration with the Department of Agriculture of Nigeria. For the present Governor, Sir Bernard Bourdillon, looks more favourably than his predecessor upon the Leverhulme schemes. In his 1938 Annual Address to the Legislative Council, Sir Bernard pays tribute to the assistance which the N’dian estate has given and the service it has rendered in supplying seeds and seedlings to the Government.

An insidious propaganda is aiming at the industrialisation of the palm industry. West Africa, (July 9, 1938), mouthpiece of British vested interests in West Africa, declares that “organized plots on plantation lines will have to be provided unless a more co-operative spirit is induced in the native producer,” which can be translated if the African peasant will not accept the impossible prices United African and other companies offer, vested interests will push for a change in the land tenure system. As West Africa has bluntly put it, the present land tenure system does not hold out much promise for them (the companies). “It is definitely unhelpful if a scheme of improvement of the oil palm is being considered.”

So the Leverhulme Trust has appointed a commission comprising certain reactionary Members of Parliament with imperial interests, namely Col. J. Sandeman Allen (Member of the Council of the Joint East African Board); Mr. E. Clement Davies, K.C. (member of the Colonial Empire Marketing Board and a director of the Unilever group of companies!), and Mr. C. G. Ammon, M.P. The chairman is Dr. L. Haden Guest, and it is a shameful thing that the Labour Party, of which he and Mr. Ammon are Parliamentary Members, cannot discipline its members so that they will not associate themselves with openly imperialist commissions, or publicly censure them if they do. How can the Labour Party expect the colonial peoples to have any faith in the British working-class movement when it sees responsible members allying with the imperialist class to exploit them?

The Leverhulme Commission is to investigate, study and report on the British West African colonies generally, but in particular it is to investigate “the present system of land tenure and its effect on agricultural development with a view to indicating what system is likely to be most advantageous for the fullest development of the inhabitants and the land.”

“The inhabitants of the land” will cynically discount the solicitude for their welfare expressed by those who have been foremost in exploiting them, and must be on their guard against even a suggestion from such quarters that their system of land tenure requires investigation. They must oppose any hint at change, for while Imperialism exists they must jealously watch the rights they have, and the communal ownership of the land is one to which they should cling.

The money economy which has been introduced into West Africa has created a landlordism which has benefited only a few. The masses of the people are being strangled by monopoly capitalism. When the chiefs are willing to associate themselves with the peasants against monopoly interests, the people should accept their assistance and be loyal to them. The moment, however, the chiefs subordinate the people’s interests to their own and show the least sign of collaborating with the exploiters, the people must denounce them also as agents of the capitalists and traitors to their country. The West Africans have before them the example of the Omanhene of Akropong who signed the quota agreement with the European cocoa buyers against the wishes of the Akropong farmers, who, alive to this treachery, have passed a vote of censure upon the chief through the Native Council.

West Africans must unite to protect their land rights against the imperialist aggressors. West Africans, watch Unilever!