Sunday, November 30, 2014

International Day of Solidarity with the African-American People

Solidarity With the African-American People (1967-08-18)

Solidarity With the African-American People (1968-08-18)

Day of the Guerrilla (1968-10-08)

African-American Solidarity with the People of the World (1969, BPP)

Solidarity With the African-American People (1970-08-18)

Eldridge Cleaver bibliography

1968-02 "Eldridge Cleaver: Post-prison writings and speeches by the author of 'Soul on Ice' ", edited and with an introduction by Robert Scheer. A Ramparts Book.

"Juche! The Speeches and Writings of Kim Il Sung", with a forward by Eldridge Cleaver.
published 1972, hardcover, 271 pages, ISBN 067041011X

* "The Defection of Eldridge Cleaver& Reactionary Suicide" by Huey P. Newton []

Eldridge Cleaver Crusades: "The Crusader" newsletter Vol. 1, No. 1, June 1, 1977.
Description from "Bolerium Books" of San Francisco []:
Eldridge Cleaver Crusades, Stanford, CA. 1977, Eight page newsletter, 8.5x11 inches, illustrated with numerous black and white photos. Likely the only issue produced (OCLC shows no later issues) Produced after the former Black Panther fugitive's conversion to Christianity and the founding of his ministry, the newsletter outlines includes a substantial article by Kathleen Cleaver (portrayed in her trademark Afro) discussing his legal travails. She thanks the Lord for his release on bail, noting that background information about police frameups of the Movement had become public and changed the atmposphere around his trial. Includes excerpts from Cleaver's addresses to universities and religious organizations around the country, such as a speeh from Vanderbilt, "The achilles heel of the stumbling Red Monster" (a repudiation of communism). Cites an emotional encounter with a family of Chinese-American former radicals in San Francisco who had also turned to Jesus.

"The FBI, OPD and Eldridge Cleaver"
c1977 from "The Friends of Eldridge Cleaver", San Francisco.
Description from "Bolerium Books" []: [32]p., illus., slightly worn wraps. On Cleaver's case, with special focus on Cointelpro and its war against black communities.

Poetry chapbooks, published 1984 by "C.P. Times Press" of San Francisco, as a series of six volumes, 8 pages each:
* "Gangster Cigarettes"
* "Idi and the sultan"
* "Toxic waste & acid rain"
* "Natasha"
* "A Hit Squad of Chinks"

"Soul on Islam", by Ahmad Eldridge Cleaver , published 2006 by "Seaburn", 102 pages, ISBN 159232097X

“Soul on Islam” is the first book written by Ahmad Maceo Eldridge Cleaver, the son of best selling author Eldridge Cleaver. This book is an informative memoir sketching his life with his parents, activists in America's civil rights movement, including details of their life in Algeria, where he was born, France and in America. Then the book continues to unfold and gives the reader a very moving and beautifully put description of how the author came to embrace Islam twelve years ago. He has spent nearly a decade living and traveling amongst the Muslims in countries in the Arabian Peninsula and in Africa and in the book he shares some of the stories and scenes that he has passed through while living in Sudan and in Qatar.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Elections in Brazil: The intervention of the section of the Fourth International and the fight for the Constituent Assembly

Fourth International Newsletter N° 37 (Old Series No 308) November 25, 2014          

Elections have just been held in Brazil. How has the Brazilian section of the Fourth International, the O Trabalho current of the PT intervened? This is what a comrade of the leadership of the Brazilian section explained during a Marxist study conference in Paris, which met on November 13th. The main excerpts are published here in Fourth International Newsletter.

You have heard about the results of the elections that have just taken place in Brazil. The election concerned members of both houses and the president.
I'll start with the results of the PT candidate for the presidency, Dilma Rousseff, in the framework of a broad coalition with parties that have nothing in common with the PT and its essential values, won the election with a rather narrow 3.5 million-vote margin. This was the fourth victory in a row of a PT candidate, which is rather uncommon throughout world for a left-wing party, even though it is a badly run-down one and having made alliances against its nature. The bourgeoisie sometimes accepts the victory of a working class party, but with the intention of recovering its grasp on things as quickly as possible.
The election differed from the previous ones in the sense that it was uncommonly polarised, with imperialism engaging its forces and the means that it can muster, and even means that can be called putschist, such as media manipulation and so on. Such things had not been witnessed since the heroic times when Lula stood for the first time (the PT candidate had been defeated then)
Because of this, the climate in the country was totally different from the one prevailing during the two last elections.
After this year's elections, PT activists and sympathisers and people of every political horizon who are not politically engaged consider they have won, contrary to the leadership and those who are called “allied” parties.
This victory can and should be assessed as a defeat for imperialism. It should be compared with the recent electoral results in Bolivia with the victory of Evo Morales, and in Uruguay with the anticipated victory of the candidate of the broad front regrouping “Popular Front” organisations.
As far as Brazil is concerned, the Financial Times explained that this polarisation was actually a war to win a market counting 200 million consumers. The word “war” is used in the figurative sense, but it gives an indication on the means that they have used to reach their ends, and the fact that they have been defeated.
On the other hand, in the discussion within the PT and outside its ranks, there is some “anxiety” springing from the fact that the president was defeated in a majority of working class strongholds in the country. Polls conducted in factories of the ABC region (Sao Andre-Sao Bernardo-Sao Caetano, the industrial belt of Sao Paulo and birth place of the PT) show that the PT reaped only 60% of the votes when it is a known fact that winning a city means a 80% to 90% favourable vote in the city's factories. This has caused some damage.
The PT still retains its majority among workers but, from a strictly parliamentary angle, it has sustained a defeat. While it remains the party reaping a majority of votes and the largest group in the national assembly, it has shrunk by some 20%.
Why this result? Because despite the gains reaped during the 12 recent years, which have been secured through direct class struggle or measures that the government has had to take, such as social programmes, the country is frayed by social unease. In June 2013 protests erupted by the thousands and then millions against the 20-cent increase of public transport fares. People protested against run-down public services, victimised by the “debt payment” (which has now largely become an “internal debt” of the federal State with the 27 States making up the Federal Republic of Brazil). Those protests have now become protests against the institutions, especially the national Congress and politicians who are resented as foes.
This is also social disruption caused by the PT's failure to react to rigged accusations against some of its main leaders who are still in prison. Only a fortnight ago, Dirceu, the best known among them was let out of the total isolation regime he had been sentenced to. And, during that time, he has constantly been depicted as a criminal.
And finally the party’s maintaining its alliance policy with corrupt bourgeois politicians, which means that any accusation levelled at the PT, be it true or false, has sounded true, especially for youth, has caused this.
The situation was therefore deeply marked by the June 2013 events, by class struggle. And after the elections, activists do not consider they are defeated but they feel they have won and can take initiatives.
This helps understand what the leaders explain.
In her victory speech, the newly re-elected president called for reforming political institutions and took up the idea of a plebiscite on that point. It is however not the axis of her campaign but one among several items. It gives the feeling she would have shifted towards the left at the end of the campaign. What is still more surprising is that during the first executive committee meeting of the PT, a resolution was voted which sounds very much like a working class party (when the documents released by the PT leadership, especially during the run-up, were very far indeed in their content from those of a working class party). If the PT remains a working class party it is not thanks to its platform or what it utters. It is because it is rooted in the working class and, still today, its social basis is largely working class.
This is consequently an astonishing situation. The resolution voted right after the victory does not say one word of the “coalition”. It toes the line of the CUT's agenda and of its – incomplete but correct – demands on public healthcare, reducing the length of the working-day and, above all – this is the rupture point – it takes a stand for political reform with a plebiscite on a Constituent Assembly as a pre-requisite.
How have we come to this?
This question of the Constituent Assembly has not come out of the blue. When confronted with the June 2013 protests, the President herself made the proposal of a Constituent Assembly. Her major ally, the PMDB, a bourgeois party, immediately refused. The president backed off within 24 hours.
But the CUT (the Unified Workers’ Central), the Landless Movement and other popular organisations, and some sectors of the church happened to take up this slogan. A year ago, these organisations and others – we among them – launched a campaign for a popular - not official – referendum. This is not like what happened in Catalonia where it was organised by the local government, even if it was not recognised by the federal government. With us, the popular referendum has been organised by people's organisations themselves. Therefore they took charge of all the organisational details, poll boxes, and voters’ lists on the following question: “Are you for or against an exclusive sovereign Constituent Assembly?”
This is how eight million Brazilian people voted one month before the official elections and gave a 97.05% majority vote for an exclusive sovereign Constituent Assembly. That is a political force. Before the elections, a delegation of the organisers went to Dilma - who at the time was standing for her re-election. We were not sure that we would be received. Finally she gave us an interview which was video recorded. It was shown on TV during the viewing time which the PT was entitled to. This is how, in a way, Dilma gave voice to this demand, and this certainly carried weight in the final lap of second round of the elections. And this helped in getting a larger turn-out of people who would not have voted for the PT, or people who would have voted for the PT but would not have campaigned, even layers of parties such as the PSOL (comprising former PT members and among them those linked to the French NPA – T.N) who stood in the opposition for the elections and who nearly abstained in the second round. This resulted in a broad united front reaching way beyond the elections themselves.
A demand runs like a common theme through the elections and it comes from June 2013; it has re-emerged today. Otherwise the reason why the leadership has just adopted a “left-leaning” position cannot be understood. Even though one should realise that they know perfectly well, better than we do, how rickety their position is at the moment in factories. From that angle, some would undoubtedly accept being “sacrificed”, others would not. One thing is certain: if the leadership keeps on this “left-leaning” orientation, not the whole party will follow. Broad layers of the party bureaucracy are so corrupt and so closely linked to the bourgeoisie that it is unthinkable. The result is that tensions inside the party are running high.
In 2013 protesters were said to have highlighted the rift between the institutions and the people, between “representatives” and the “represented”. The election results have widened the rift. For the new Congress is more reactionary that the previous one, with an additional 30% large land-owners and 44% less trade unionists among the deputies. Therefore, the question of the Constituent Assembly for a political reform is more relevant than ever before.
Should be added the 8 million voters who took part in the popular referendum to say that things cannot continue as now, even if their awareness of the problem is still hazy. People perceive that the Congress is a corrupt body and stands in the way of popular reforms in favour of the underprivileged. And even within the bourgeoisie, there are those leaders who will say that the system of a “coalition executive body” (a mix of prevailing executive and legislative) cannot last any longer. They cannot rule as they used to. And at the same time, there is no alternative formula for the regime. This shows the need for a Constituent Assembly.
We are campaigning for an official, institutional plebiscite legally and formally valid based on a bill that has already been presented, a detail on the difference in Brazil between a referendum and a plebiscite. A referendum means that the Congress takes a decision and then asks the people whether they agree or not with the decision. The Congress by itself cannot possibly call for a Constituent Assembly – that would be sheer suicide. But in a crisis situation, under the pressure of the masses, it may be compelled to call a plebiscite to say whether or not the people want a Constituent Assembly to be convened.
Having such bill passed by the Congress is very difficult, unless the conditions of a plebiscite be negotiated or even the election of a Constituent Assembly which would guarantee the perpetuation of the present or similar majority. This is the root cause of the diverging opinions of the different currents campaigning for the plebiscite on the Constituent Assembly.
Some leftists and some sectors of the church consider that everything boils down to the private funding of the election process – which is indeed a genuine scandal – and the under-representation of some sections of the population (meaning that there are not enough women, Blacks, youth and so on.). The point for them is to negotiate and make a deal. This can be achieved without a Constituent Assembly or even without a plebiscite.
It is true that in Brazil there is no Indian deputy, few Blacks and few women. But the problem is not that some layers of the population are “under-represented” but the fact that the nation itself is not represented because it is subjected to institutions that have been inherited from the dictatorship. So the first requisite of a sovereign Constituent Assembly is that it should be elected by proportional representation (one voter = one vote), which is not the case today.
Private funding should be banned. What we need is a vote by lists and not on a single figure (today any well-known sportsman or TV announcer can be elected with no platform whatsoever). What we need is a vote for a single house, no senate.
To conclude, what is going to happen? We do not know. Sometimes in history, things combine in such way that we have to wait a few weeks to see how things will turn out.
If the party continues on the “left-leaning” orientation that has been adopted, it is going to completely explode. On the other hand, if it moves back, many people will not accept, not because they agree with us, but because they are engaged on the path to secure the people's sovereignty through the plebiscite for a sovereign Constituent Assembly.
And this was not achieved by Trotskyists only. It is because the CUT decided to act. If we and the Landless Movement had been the only initiators as it was at the start, the impact would have been nil. With the CUT, the Landless Movement, other organisations joined. If the President moves back, it will be worse for her. The form it will take cannot be anticipated. The bill which has been presented is one of several possibilities.
Knowing how long the “left-leaning” orientation will last is a matter of guess-work but in line with it, the leadership of the PT is calling to mobilise far and wide towards the inauguration of the President on January 1st. It is the first time since the PT came to power that it has decided to mobilise on inauguration day.
Brazil is a vast country and Brasilia is its centre. Bringing thousands of people to the centre, as we have no railways means hiring buses, coaches, cars, etc., is complicated and expensive. To achieve this, the bureaucracy must mobilise. They need the mobilisation because the right wing act as if they had reaped the victory and they demand the implementation of their programme as if they had won.
A section of the right wing is even trying to introduce an impeachment procedure against the president. The whole right wing supports a procedure to denounce corruption before courts of justice based on the major firms working for Petrobras, in a case that reaches way beyond Penal Action 470 which got PT leaders sentenced to prison, as I have already mentioned.
The PT leadership needs support from the people and cannot obtain it without a political fight justifying this support. Because today, chanting the name of Lula is not enough. Thus the conditions are ripe for a “red” inauguration with much space devoted to the Constituent Assembly. We'll see.
Last point: the leadership of our section met last week-end and the main decision we took was to reach the objective of recruiting new members which we had set at our June congress. This is feasible thanks to the quite new space we are occupying in a country going through an institutional crisis.
We had some influence on the campaign for the plebiscite. Never, even during the heroic period of the '80s, had we achieved this. This must bring some concrete results, organisation-wise, through a whole range of forms: campaigning for broad united front for the plebiscite, or through the transitional body which we have organised which is called “Petista Dialogue and Action”, which started acting publicly in the street only three weeks ago. This might seem self-evident, but it is not.
O Trabalho, section of the Fourth international, is a current of the PT (Workers' Party). We will normally march under the banners of the PT. Sometimes we sport banners of our current to be well marked. But at the same time we regroup far and wide under a banner that is neither ours nor the banner of the party. For the time being, it works. Where will this lead to? We are Marxists and do not read tea leaves, so we do not know. But we well know what we have to do as I have tried to explain in those introductory remarks.

At the end of the discussion the comrade came back over several points
On the question of the social content which indeed is an essential point.
[begin answer]
The demand to “demilitarise the police”. This is a special concern with youth and is directly related to the June 2013 events. In Brazil, police forces are a military body. They shoot first and ask questions after, as if they were at war, that is how they were trained. It is what we have inherited from the dictatorship and the so-called “democratic transition” has not in any way altered this aspect of “civilian life”. Demilitarising the police is therefore one of the most important demands.
Another point of our platform is the agrarian reform. The Congress actually adopted a host of measures restricting any possibility for an agrarian reform. The government is increasingly influenced by large land-owners, who today are called agribusiness, private large scale agri-food business. Those are not the old latifundia; They are more “modern” companies but quite as reactionary and exploitative as the old ones.
Third point is renationalisation, which, according to Brazil's tradition is called “re-statization”. In other words, all the companies that were privatised before Lula's presidency. He rather slowed down the process of privatisation but did not put an end to it. This is linked to the change in the articles of the Constitution to make it possible to privatise former state monopolies, but also other measures making the handing out public services to private companies possible and on that point Lula is responsible.
Finally the most important question concerns “primary fiscal surplus” because it is linked to the question of the debt through a mechanism too complex to be fully explained here. In 1998, under the Cardoso government, the IMF imposed an agreement that organises the payment of the debt through a mechanism called “primary fiscal surplus”. It has nothing in common with the compulsory budget balance required by the Maastricht Treaty, it is worse. The mechanism aims at prioritising the payment of the debt. It is as if when a wage earner comes back home with his pay package, he subtracted what it takes to pay the debt and tried to survive with what was left. From the mayor to the State governor and the President of the federation, whoever fails to abide by the mechanism, may be sentenced to prison. It means withholding the money at the source for the benefit of banks and speculation.
[end answer]

Another question: “how can a Constituent Assembly be convened?”
Several ways. First Dilma, in her January 1st inauguration address can repeat what she said on the day she scored her victory: “The mother of all the reforms is the political reform, constituent plebiscite”. Technically, 185 deputies have already presented a bill. The PT now has only 80 deputies. It means that several deputies, even right wing parties, endorsed it, which does not mean that they are going to pass it. “The most economic” possibility as Lenin would say if he were alive, would be that the President, who has been elected and inaugurated, whose responsibility it is and whom the masses still believe in - though not so much as previously - should do what she has to do.
Another possibility would be that people should shortly mobilise on a scale comparable to June 2013, in other words, a popular uprising. After the popular plebiscite which came as the conclusion of a discussion process within trade unions, student organisations, community organisations to muster enough power to organise it, thousands of activists devoted their energies to organising 20 000 polling stations across the country. This was not done by the State but by activists. This is a force. So, if the masses swamp the streets even spontaneously, such force can help the masses forge a platform for a Constituent Assembly, now. And, under pressure, the Congress could convene it. Many other ways are possible.
But I am not over-worried about which of these possibilities will be implemented. We are for the proletarian revolution, for the power of councils. And the revolutionary democratic demand of the Constituent Assembly is very important to get there. It is not a problem in itself.
The Constituent Assembly is not the narrow way through which all the historical process should necessarily pass. It is a political slogan that seeks to express the needs of the masses, making use of all the contradictions of the institutions. For the rest, the Transitional Programme already said that what is important in the fight for the Constituent Assembly is that, at one point, soviets can and will arise.
That is why the campaign for the plebiscite on the Constituent Assembly is so important because of the links it has brought, the committees which have been formed which are not soviets but something that is in the way of the unity of popular organisations on the question of power.
[end answer]

Sunday, September 28, 2014

"In 1864, the first working international was born in London"

from "Alternative Libertaire (AL)" #242 of France, machine translation distributed 2014-10-10 by "A-infos-en Digest" Vol 114, Issue 10, archived at [] []:

More than 2,000 people thronged the venue of St. Martin's Hall in London on the evening of
Wednesday, 28 September 1864 A meeting of solidarity with Poland, under the yoke of
tsarist Russia, brings together the leaders of the trade unions English, but also French,
German and Italian workers. English and French mutual trade unionists have their reasons
to realize the rhetoric of solidarity by the constitution of the International
Workingmen's Association. ---- Workers who are in the gallery that night know and have
organized this meeting with a specific project of international working society, they are
already planning for several years. The main architect of this merger is George Odger.
Shoemaker 50, he is the head of the council that brings together leaders of major unions
in London.

The Franco-British couple

International solidarity is a major concern of the British working class. The union
organized demonstrations against slavery in the southern United States in 1862 or against
the suppression of the Polish uprising of 1863, was on this occasion that George Odger
brought a French workers' delegation at the meeting in St. James Hall, 22 July 1863 The
bronziers Tolain Henri Joseph and ?tienne Perrachon and the weaver Charles Limousin then
represent the French workers, who also campaigned for France to support the Polish people.
Tolain Perrachon and had already met the English trade unionists when Napoleon III sent a
delegation of 200 French workers at the World Exhibition in London in the summer of 1862,
hoping to benefit from the example of modern British industry.

The new generation of workers which includes Paris Tolain intends to take advantage of the
kindness of the emperor, in a lot of popularity. She struggles to organize the working
class by creating cooperatives, mutual funds or presenting candidates for legislative
workers 1863 In February 1864, Tolain is behind the Manifesto of 60 claiming "freedom of
labor", c that is to say to the workers freedoms (freedom of association, assembly...).
The call of the foot of the trade unions falls rather well and these French workers coming
to London in 1864 with a proposed international working association.

The weight of the trade unions

For their part, the leaders of the trade unions in international solidarity see a solution
to the competition as laid bosses with necessarily less paid and more docile foreign
workers. In a written by Odger after the meeting in St. James Hall address the motivations
of British trade unionists are evident: "A fraternal union between peoples is absolutely
essential to the cause of workers, because we realize that every time we try to improve
our social condition by reducing the hours of work, or increasing the price of labor, our
bosses threaten us to bring French, Germans, Belgians and others to do our work by
accepting lower wages. Unfortunately it happened while our brothers of the continent did
not have the intention to do us harm, simply due to the lack of regular and systematic
contact between the working classes of all countries. ".

At St. Martin's Hall, the British delegation is composed of leaders of the trade unions:
the carpenters William Cremer and Robert Appelgarth, cabinetmaker Benjamin Lucraft,
printer Robert Hartwell and naturally Odger itself. They are accompanied by Republican
Edward Spencer Beesly, which is not labor but teacher.

The real powers

French side and found Tolain Perrachon accompanied the engineer Andr? Murat, the
anti-Bonapartist journalist Henri Lefort (originally the Manifesto of 60 alongside Tolain)
and the outlaw Victor Lubez (a French socialist in exile in London, very involved in the
organization of the meeting alongside Odger), which acts as an interpreter.

To strengthen the international character of the meeting, and Odger Lubez contacted some
exiles in London activists who are supposed to represent the working class of their
countries: Major Luigi Wolff, Secretary of Guiseppe Mazzini, for Italy, a Forbes talks
about Ireland, while "Doctor" Karl Marx, philosopher (which simply mute presence at the
podium) and his friend Johann Georg Eccarius, tailor and former member of the Communist
League, Germany. The evening was enlivened with a few songs by a choir of German workers.

Despite the presence of political activists, journalist, philosopher... it is clear that
the initiative is working and that its goal is social and economic. This is also what Marx
decided to attend as he had promised to refuse such an invitation. He wrote to Engels in
November 1864: "this time real powers were present, both on the side of London that side
of Paris".

The AIT was born

The intervention of Professor Beesly in the introduction to the meeting, gave a very
anti-colonialist tone and recalls the solidarity with the Polish people, but also all
other oppressed peoples in the world, with particular focus on British foreign policy and
that of the French empire in Italy, China, Ireland, India,... In this destruction rule of
any "patriotic bias", succeeded by reading Odger address to French workers in 1863 and the
response Tolain (see below). The intervention of Tolain, whose charisma impresses the
audience, is highly acclaimed, even before being led Lubez. A resolution is passed by the
entire room to implement the international association project proposed by the French
delegation. According to the draft, a central committee in London, consisting of focal
points for each region of Europe, would serve to make the connection between locals.

After the speeches on Italy, Germany and Ireland, a committee was elected to implement the
resolution. It contains most of the major leaders trade unionists and exiles, including
Lubez for France, and Marx Eccarius for Germany, Major Wolff for Italy. The Central
Council (later renamed the General Council) of the AIT was born.

But it was not until the strikes of 1867-1868 for the Association to become more important
among the workers and, at the same time, lose the goodwill of governments. In bourgeois
circles, the meeting of St. Martin's Hall is rather greeted with condescension is hoped
that by worrying a little more of public affairs, workers become responsible partners.
Instead, this international agreement becomes a revolutionary organization, accused of
being behind all the strikes and insurrections.

Renaud (AL Alsace)

At a meeting in St. Martin's Hall, it was Henri Tolain who speaks on behalf of the French
workers. It responds to the address of the British workers, reread a few minutes earlier
by its author, George Odger. The French delegation, very close to the ideals of Fourier
and Proudhon (without necessarily knowing the texts of these authors), calls for
international solidarity of workers who will be an effective counterweight to the
concentration of capital, which is described as "fruitful auxiliary work".

Brothers and Friends, Yes, you are right, the feeling that unites us, is a certain
indication of a better future for the liberation of peoples. It takes more than the
Caesars, forehead stained with bloody crown, share them peoples exhausted by the
plundering of the great, countries devastated by wild wars. Again Poland is covered with a
bloody shroud and we remained helpless spectators. One oppressed people endangers the
freedom of other peoples. On behalf of his dignity every free man or anyone who will be
his competition is his oppressed brethren. No doubt we will have many obstacles to
overcome, there are many who fall wounded in the melee. No matter; to Freedom at the
Progress as the earthing is fertilizer. [...]

Workers of all countries that want to be free: your turn to have congress. It is the
people who finally returned to the stage, aware of its strength and standing in front of
tyranny in the political order, in front of monopoly privilege in the economic order. [...]

Industrial progress, division of labor, free trade, these are the issues that need our
attention today, as they will profoundly change the economic conditions of society. Driven
by the needs of the time, by force of circumstances, capital focus, organize themselves
into powerful financial and industrial associations. If we are not careful, this force
will soon reign despotically without counterweight. [...]

Faced with this powerful and scholarly organization while bending, more yield, the
isolated man is nothing: he feels every day reduce its freedom of action and independence.
Given this organization, individual initiative turns off or discipline for the benefit of
the organization. Work is the law of humanity, the source of public wealth, the legitimate
basis of individual property. It should be sacred, free. [...]

When the principal, assistant fruitful labor becomes his relentless domineering, reduces
the worker to famine, this is called the exchange of services, freedom of transactions.
When placed under adverse conditions, industrial reduces the price of labor to restore the
equilibrium between him and his rivals is then free competition. As if free trade were to
have the result of moving the battlefield. [...]

Free trade, complete with the freedom to work, do not perpetuate the struggle; but,
instead, he would develop the skills and genius of each people, finally changing enemies
into rivals. Thus, by default vocational science is the privilege of the capital, by the
division of labor the worker is no longer a mechanical agent and free trade, without
solidarity among workers, generate industrial serfdom more relentless and more fatal to
mankind than the one destroyed by our fathers in those great days of the French
Revolution. This is not a cry of hatred, no, it is a cry of alarm. We must unite, workers
of all countries to oppose an insurmountable barrier to a fatal system that would divide
humanity into two classes - an ignorant populace and bloated and plump mandarins.

Save us by solidarity!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

1970s Nazi Banker funds European "terrorists"

A fascist banker funds communist militias across western Europe, and in response, western Europe increases state security and implements stricter controls...

"The Terror Network" by Claire Sterling, 1981, pgs. 118, 119:
( ... ) banker in Europe: Francois Arnoud.
Arnoud was a founder of Switzer-land's neo-Nazi Party and had been a trusted banker for the German Nazis too. The documents he published after the war, autographed by Hitler, reportedly came from the renowned Martin Bormann's archives. ( ... ) As head of the Arab Commercial Bank in Geneva, Arnoud soon became a formidable financial power. Tens of millions of dollars passed through the hands of this neo-Nazi financier for the Palestinians' use in Europe. Much of it went to the militant Communists forming the world's first multinational terrorist band in Paris at the time.

Monopolists in the USA fight the rising working class revolution prior to 1917 and intervention in World war 1

April 1917: The United States of America Goes to War
By François Forgue, published in "La Vérité (The Truth)" No. 82, 688 Old Series.
Notes are numbered and produced after the article.

April 1917: The United States of America goes to war against Germany and the powers linked with it. With the direct entry into the conflict of the most powerful state outside of continental Europe, the war indeed became a World War not only in terms of its stakes but through its participants.
Viewed strictly in terms of military operations, on the eve of the US intervention the Western Front remained in deadlock: nether camp appeared capable of bringing about a decisive breakthrough. To the East, the revolution that had begun in Russia had straightaway overthrown tsarism; the new government was giving assurances that it would continue with the war on the side of the Allies, but would it be able to?
The first detachments of the American Expeditionary Forces arrived in France as early as May. The US war industry, which was operating at full capacity, no longer had the European conflict simply as an outlet: it was now a direct component part of the conflict. However, several months were needed before the US forces became operational, to use the accepted phrase. But in the spring and then the autumn of 1918, American troops played an important role in defeating the last of Germany’s big offensives. The US contribution tipped the scales in the military situation.
The US’s military engagement cost the lives of 116,000 young Americans — as with all of the belligerent countries, most of them were blue- and white-collar workers, farmers and students. This figure may appear low when compared to the losses suffered by Germany (1,800,000), France (1,600,000) and Great Britain (800,000), but it underlines the fact that trench warfare resulted in terrible carnage; the American contingent had taken up position in just a limited part of the front, and that for only a few months.
If we were to limit this brief and necessary factual report to the figures, we would be missing the main point.
Why did the United States intervene? What is the historic significance of that intervention?

US imperialism and the establishment of imperialism at the world level -
The French statesman Raymond Poincaré referred to 1917 as “the terrible year”. The Russian Revolution had begun with the overthrow of the imperial regime — an uprising by the workers and peasants against the war, poverty and autocracy. In the army as all over the country, it was embodied in a network of committees of workers, peasants and soldiers (the soviets); in October 1917, it was to result in the establishment of the first workers’ government.
Activity by the masses against the war and the system that had caused it developed everywhere: mutinies on the Western Front and the Italian Front, and strikes in Germany, France and Great Britain.
The US military intervention was straightaway a directly counter-revolutionary intervention against the peoples and workers of every country.
The intervention confirmed the reactionary and imperialist character of the conflict that was underway. The two opposing camps were fighting for the same goals of pillage and exploitation. But more precisely, what was the significance of this intervention for young US imperialism itself, and what changes would it bring about for the world imperialist system?
Lenin wrote in December 1915: “Needless to say that there can be no concrete historical analysis of the present war, if that analysis does not have for its basis a full understanding of the nature of imperialism, both from its economic and political aspects.” (1)
How did Lenin summarise his conception of imperialism? He wrote: “Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.” (2)
Just before giving this concise definition, Lenin pointed out: “Imperialism emerged as the development and direct continuation of the fundamental characteristics of capitalism in general. But capitalism only became capitalist imperialism at a definite and very high stage of its development, when certain of its fundamental characteristics began to change into their opposites (. . .).”
The way in which the capitalist mode of production developed in the United States was a component part of that worldwide process. Every study that addressed the question of imperialism at the time it was constituted — the empirical descriptions of the changes that were underway, like the attempts to address the question in Marxist terms, i.e. in relation to the class struggle and the perspective of the proletarian revolution — referred to what was happening in the United States.
In the very first pages of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Lenin noted that “During the last fifteen to twenty years, especially since the Spanish-American War (1898) and the Anglo-Boer War (1899-1902), the economic and also the political literature of the two hemispheres has more and more often adopted the term “imperialism” in order to describe the present era.” (3) As the 19th century drew to a close, US capitalism and the US state were already draping themselves in “the need to bring democracy” in order to install their rule using the worst forms of violence. It was in Cuba that Pershing — who in 1914 was to command the US forces in France — first came to fame. The carving-up by force of the colonial possessions of the big powers, that characteristic trait of imperialism which was to be the root-cause of the First World War, was the motivation for US policy 15 years earlier, with regard to Spain. The emergence of the United States as a world power was a constituent element of imperialism at the world level.
In the United States itself, the period that followed the Civil War was a period of frenzied development in every sector of the economy. Between 1860 and 1884, coal-extraction rose from 14 million to 100 million tons; between 1880 and 1910 steel production increased 25-fold. This period also saw the spread of the railways. There were already 330,000 kilometres of railtrack in 1890; in 1911 this had risen to 540,000 km. We will not review here the bloody epic of the building of a modern economy across the country-continent, the reign of the “robber barons”. In order to carry out this titanic task, the number of loans had to increase tenfold. The banks brought the developing branches of industry under their control and guaranteed them in order better to control their concentration; during the 1890s, the majority of the rail companies merged into six networks, four of which were completely controlled by the Morgan bank. The banks themselves underwent the same process of concentration, as pointed out by Bukharin: “In the United States there are only two banks of such importance: The National City Bank (the Rockefeller firm) and the National Bank of Commerce (the Morgan firm).” (4)
Lenin pointed to the United States as a country where concentration was increasing: “Almost half the total production of all the enterprises of the country was carried on by one-hundredth part of these enterprises! These 3,000 giant enterprises embrace 258 branches of industry. From this it can be seen that at a certain stage of its development concentration itself, as it were, leads straight to monopoly“. (5)
It was in reference to US firms — Standard Oil, the United States Steel Corporation — as well as German examples that Lenin specified his definition of the concentration of the monopolies: “The concentration of production; the monopolies arising therefrom; the merging or coalescence of the banks with industry — such is the history of the rise of finance capital and such is the content of that concept.” (6)
This epoch of tempestuous developments was also a period of violent class struggles.
If one of the conditions of capitalism booming in the United States had been the destruction of the slavery system through war, one of the necessities for the stability of the system of capitalist exploitation had been the crushing of the revolutionary movement of the Blacks in the South, who for the first time in the history of the United States were in the majority in some state assemblies and were posing the question of radical land reform. It was this process that was to form the basis of widespread racial segregation.
It was at the moment when this veritable counter-revolution was completed in 1877 that the state placed its means for repression at the service of the railway magnates to crush a strike-wave which had been started by the railworkers but which was actively supported by broad sectors of the population.
It was again the railworkers who entered into struggle in 1884. In 1885-6, there was the huge movement for the 8-hour day which culminated in Chicago on 1 May 1886 and was smashed through bloody repression, notably accompanied by the conviction of six of the movement’s main organisers following a provocation involving a bombing. The latter decades of the 19th century and the first decades of the 20th were marked by intense class conflicts, especially in the mines. It was during this period that the labour organisations that succeeded the Knights of Labor, which were to play a predominant role in the class struggle, were formed: the American Federation of Labor (AFL) set up in 1886 and the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW), founded in 1905 (7).
The particular characteristic of the development of capitalism in the United States during the second half of the 19th century and the early part of the 20th was that its expansion — in the course of which some of the characteristics of imperialism emerged — occurred mainly within national borders as they had been defined at the time, including through previous conquests (e.g. the Mexican War, 1846-8). In order to consolidate its empire, US capitalism needed to expand, hence the war in Cuba and the Philippines, and the incursions into Central America and Mexico. But these imperialist thrusts had a secondary impact on the economy: the domestic market remained the determining factor.
At the turn of the century, the United States became the most powerful industrial power in the world. In absolute figures, its coal production, for example, was higher than in all other capitalist countries, and the same was true for steel production. Although American capital was exported in large quantities to Mexico and Latin America, the United States remained above all a country where foreign capital was invested. British capital in particular realised large profits from its financing of the building of the railways.
Although a big industrial power — the world’s leading power in certain sectors — the United States did not yet challenge the domination of the world market exercised by the old capitalist powers, notably Great Britain. But everything about its development headed towards challenging the basis on which the world market was constituted. War would provide the occasion — and the form — through which these imperialist tendencies would impose themselves.

"The master of the capitalist world" -
The main outcome of the First World War — which had clearly turned into a “civil war” — was the victory of the October Revolution under the direction of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky and the establishment of the first workers’ state.
On 28 July 1924, ten years after the start of the war, Leon Trotsky delivered a speech on the “Perspectives of World Development“. (8) He spoke of the United States at that time as “the central figure in the modern history of mankind” and emphasised that “whoever wishes or tries today to discuss the destiny of Europe or of the world proletariat without taking the power and significance of the USA into account, is in a certain sense drawing up a balance-sheet without consulting the master. For the master of the capitalist world — and let us firmly understand this! — is New York, with Washington as its state department. We observe this today even if only in the plan drawn up by the experts. We observe that Europe, which only yesterday was so powerful and so proud of her culture and her historical past — we observe that in order to get out from under, in order to crawl out on all fours from those fearful contradictions and misfortunes into which Europe has driven herself, she is compelled to invite from across the Atlantic a general by the name of Dawes (. . .) [to draw up] a precise prescription concerning the regulations and dates of Europe’s restoration.” (9)
It was during this speech that Trotsky defined the wishes of US capitalism with regard to the European imperialisms using his famous and often-quoted formulation: under the hegemony of American capitalism, “Europe will be permitted to rise again, but within limits set in advance, with certain restricted sections of the world market allotted to it. (. . .). If we wish to give a clear and precise answer to the question of what American imperialism wants, we must say: It wants to put capitalist Europe on rations.”
This had nothing to do with a programme aimed at establishing a peaceful balance, a harmonious division. “This American “pacifist” programme of universal bondage is by no means a peaceful one. On the contrary, it is pregnant with wars and the greatest revolutionary paroxysms. (. . .) The indicated era of pacifist Americanism is laying the groundwork for new wars on an unprecedented scale and of unimaginable monstrousness“, Trotsky added.
These lines first appeared in 1924. It would be misleading to yield to temptation and see them by analogy as a key which on its own would allow us to understand today’s developments, almost a century later, just as it would be pointless to indulge in academic exercises aimed at evaluating, after the event, the validity of this or that forecast.
The onward march of the international class struggle had already changed many of the facts ten years further on: the crisis of the whole capitalist system, certainly adding to the decline of Europe but also hitting the leading capitalist power itself with unparalleled force; the rise of fascism in the face of the threat of social revolution; the degeneration of the state that resulted from the Russian Revolution; the political counter-revolution waged by Stalinism, etc.
The Second World War, its consequences, the revolutionary upheavals it generated, the situation created by the survival of an imperialist system in decay, the collapse of the USSR whose foundations had been undermined by the bureaucracy, all constituted a new situation in which the United States nevertheless remained the leading imperialist power.
What is striking above all is the degree to which the issues raised by Trotsky have in no way been resolved and have retained all of their importance. The world capitalist system has only been able to survive by preserving and enhancing the major role played by the United States. There has not been any new factor, redistribution of roles or change in the hierarchy within the capitalist system:
“This Babylonian tower of American economic might must find its expression in everything, and it is already expressing itself, but not yet fully by far“, Trotsky said in 1924. Is this not exactly what was imposed via the catastrophes that have punctuated the history of the preservation of the capitalist system? And are not the obstacles facing US capital rooted in the generalised crisis of the capitalist system itself?
The amazing expansion of American capitalism, its manifest power acquired in the very first years of the 20th century, the degree of concentration that was achieved in the US, the role of the monopolies and the role of finance capitalism, all required that in order for the United States to become fully-formed as an imperialist power, its combative diplomacy and its recourse to military aggression should no longer be exercised first and foremost at the regional or continental level. In order to become the leading imperialist power in the full sense of the term — realising the potential offered by the development that had brought it thus far — the American imperialist state had to assert its rights through war.
When President Wilson — who on several occasions had repeated that the United States would remain neutral — asked Congress for its approval for entering the First World War (which Congress granted by a large majority) he justified it by defending the right of US citizens to sail on merchant ships in the war zone. In fact, this was an affirmation of free trade in a sophisticated form.
Once again, the main issue is stated in Europe and America. After detailing the stages on the path of imperialism to which the United States had deliberately committed (the Spanish-American War of 1898, the detaching of the province of Panama from Colombia and the construction of the Panama Canal), Trotsky wrote:
“The decisive signpost along this road was the war. As you will recall, the US intervened in the war toward the very end. For three years the US did no fighting. More than that, two months before intervening in the war, Wilson announced that there could be no talk of American participation in the bloody dogfight among the madmen of Europe. Up to a certain moment the US remained content with rationally coining into dollars the blood of European “madmen.” But in that hour when fear arose lest the war conclude with victory for Germany, the most dangerous future rival, the United States intervened actively. This decided the outcome of the struggle. (. . .) America avariciously fed the war with her industry and avariciously intervened in order to help crush a likely and dangerous competitor“.

“War is the health of the state” -
“War is the health of the state“. This is the title given by American historian Howard Zinn to a chapter in his book A People’s History of the United States. It was the title of a book by an American writer, Randolph Bourne, published during the First World War.
On the eve of the war in 1914, Zinn points out, the United States was suffering a serious recession. During his 1912 presidential campaign, Wilson stated: “Our domestic markets no longer suffice, we need foreign markets.”
The outbreak of the war in Europe constituted a drive-wheel that benefited the whole of the US economy. US industries became the main suppliers of war materials to the Allies: the massacre that was underway offered an endlessly renewable outlet for the means of destruction supplied by the Americans. In April 1917, the United States had sold more than US$2 billion’s worth of goods to the Allies. To appreciate the significance of this amount, we should bear in mind that during the same period, private investment in the United States amounted to US$3.5 billion. Howard Zinn notes: “With World War I, England became more and more a market for American goods and for loans at interest. J P Morgan and Company acted as agents for the Allies, and when, in 1915, Wilson lifted the ban on private bank loans to the Allies, Morgan could now begin lending money in such great amounts as to both make great profit and tie American finance closely to the interest of a British victory in the war against Germany.” (10)
More generally, it was in the crucible of war that US imperialism re-invented itself, undergoing the transformation that would see it become the world’s principal factory, its principal depot for commodities and its central banker, as Trotsky explained in Europe and America.
Immediately, there was prosperity, accumulation of profits linked to the war and “good health” for the exploiters, which also meant good health for their state.
The war would of course be good for the state in yet another sense. We referred in the first part of this article to the intensity of the class struggle in the United States. The years leading up to the outbreak of the First World War were marked by an upsurge in the activity of the working class in all fields, an upsurge in struggles for demands which sometimes resulted in clashes with the state apparatus and which in every case signalled a broadening and deepening of trade union activity. This was the case over the course of several months, including after the United States’ entry into the war.
The revolutionary trade union organisation Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) was to play a decisive role in these conflicts. It was the IWW that led the big strike by textile workers in Lawrence, Massachusetts in 1912 — a strike that could not be broken through attempts to divide or recourse to police repression (the town of Lawrence was placed under siege and the trade union leaders were jailed). The IWW turned the strike, which involved nearly 30,000 workers, into a national issue. Another strike began in early 1913, in the silk industry in Paterson, New Jersey. There again, police repression and solidarity demonstrations turned it into a national event.
Other strikes did not succeed in having the demands met. But they were significant, not only because they evidenced the workers’ combativity and wish to organise, but also because they marked the IWW’s entry into the most crucial of industry’s sectors, sometimes also drawing AFL trade unions into joining the strikes. This was the case in Akron, Ohio, following a spontaneous movement that began in the big tyre-pressing factories, and with the strike at auto-manufacturer Studebaker in Detroit.
We could also include in the list of significant conflicts the strike the by iron ore miners of the Messabi Range in Minnesota, which involved 6,000 workers in 1916. There, the powerful United States Steel Corporation had to give way, and was forced to agree to an 8-hour working day and a wage-rise across the board of around 10 percent.
The trade union leader Eugene Debs, who was the moving spirit of the big Pullman Strike in 1894, has become one of the main representatives of the Socialist Party. Under his leadership, the party developed widely, and in the 1912 presidential election Debs stood as a candidate and received nearly one million votes, doubling the result he obtained in 1908.
The capitalists and their political representation, their state, demonstrated their concern in the face of this surge of the socialist labour movement. Just before Wilson became President, a strike broke out in the mines in Colorado run by the Colorado Fuel and Iron Corporation, owned by the Rockefeller family. Very quickly, the bosses turned to violence; strike-breakers were brought into the mines under the protection of armed men who attacked the strikers, killing several of them. In April 1914, after eight months of strike, Rockefeller called out the National Guard, who attacked the strikers’ encampment, killing 26 people. Many miners then took up arms in turn. Finally, federal troops had to be called in, and a conciliation commission was set up.
What appeared at the time as a “messy moment” was to become the norm. the United States’ entry into the war gave the State the opportunity to engage in a violent and bloody offensive against the labour movement, amounting to a preventive civil war.
In June 1917, Congress passed the Espionage Act. In the name of taking action against espionage, this repressive law in fact put into question the most fundamental of democratic rights enjoyed by US citizens, including their right to have an opinion and to express it — at least as far as the war was concerned.
The new law “had a clause that provided penalties up to twenty years in prison for “Whoever, when the United States is at war, shall wilfully cause or attempt to cause insubordination, disloyalty, mutiny, or refusal of duty in the military or naval forces of the United States, or shall wilfully obstruct the recruiting or enlistment service of the US“.” (11)
As one can gather, an article or a speech explaining the causes of the war, even if it did not involve any slogan, could fall under the Act. Randolph Bourne, the author of the book War Is the Health of the State, was obliged to undergo its rigours.
Howard Zinn quotes one example of the application of this law which demonstrates all of its arbitrariness but which also displays unintended humour. The maker of a film entitled The Spirit of ’76 was sentenced to 10 years in prison under this law because, the judge said, the film tended “to question the good faith of our ally, Great Britain“. The film was based on the American Revolution of 1776 and depicted atrocities committed by the British colonial troops! (12)
But where the Espionage Act was used most liberally was against the labour movement, combined with activities by “extra-legal” militias that involved attacks, kidnapping and lynching.
Although Samuel Gompers and most of the AFL leadership agreed to participate in the war effort, the government was not able to enlist the support of the Socialist Party or the IWW.
Just after the declaration of war, the Socialist Party held an emergency conference in St. Louis which described the declaration of war as “a crime against the people of the United States“. Without giving slogans opposing recruitment and then conscription, the IWW condemned the United States’ entry into the war.
Initially, the government was counting on attracting volunteers, but after six weeks only 73,000 volunteers had enlisted. It needed to pass a law bringing in conscription.
Throughout the United States, thousands of socialist activists, trade unionists and pacifists were arrested. More than 900 people were convicted under the Espionage Act. There were hundreds of “incidents” where groups of “outraged patriots” broke up meetings, trashed offices and injured or killed labour activists.
In the case of the IWW, a real manhunt was unleashed across the country. Daniel Guérin summarised the situation as follows, in Où va le peuple américain? [Where Are the American People Going?] (Paris: Julliard, 1950-1): “The entry of the United States into the war unleashed fierce repression against the. All of the combined forces of capitalism, the public authorities and veterans used as fascist militias were employed in crushing them (. . .). Thousands of IWW members were arrested and given long prison sentences.”
The American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon, who before being one of the founders of the Communist Party of America had been a IWW organiser, shared this view. He even thought that the disorganisation produced by the repression and the need to concentrate every effort on  solidarity between prisoners had hindered the discussion on the Russian Revolution which would have allowed the majority of the IWW to move towards the Communist International.
The same policy of repression was unleashed on the Socialist Party.
Thus, its most popular leader, Eugene Debs, was convicted for having delivered a speech against war in Canton, Ohio, on 16 June 1918, recalling that “Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder” (see the excerpts from this speech featured separately in this article). He was charged under the Espionage Act on the basis that his words could incite his audience to resist the draft. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison. He appealed, and his appeal was heard by the Supreme Court in 1919. The war had ended. Nevertheless, the sentence was upheld. That 66-year-old man then spent three years in a federal penitentiary under strict conditions, before being freed by presidential order. (13)
Physically worn-out, Debs died in 1926. During the final phase of his life, he did not play the role he could have. In the name of unity between “all socialists”, he came out in favour of a utopian reconstitution of the Socialist Party on the same basis as just before the war — he refused to go further down the path of the “Bolshevism” he had begun to draw on in his Canton, Ohio Speech. His evolution cannot be separated from the consequences for the whole of the American labour movement of the wave of reaction generated by the war. All the restrictions on the right to organise and the right of expression — decreed in the name of the state of war — were maintained for years afterwards. They provided the “legal” basis for a reign of terror directed against Communist, anarchist and trade union activists, against Blacks and against immigrant workers during the 1920s, as means of discouraging a new upsurge by the working class in the world and in the United States itself, expressed most notably in the Seattle General Strike of January 1919.
Through its participation in the first global conflict, US imperialism created the conditions for the global role it was to play. In direct terms, the United States’ going to war met counter-revolutionary objectives, forming part of the “conversion of the imperialist war into civil war” (14), but in the camp of the counter-revolution. Occurring in 1917, after the Russian Revolution had begun to erupt and at the time when the first mutinies were occurring at the Front and strikes were breaking out in Britain, Germany and France, it was a counter-revolutionary operation.
At the same time as US imperialism was using war to begin to impose itself as the leading imperialism, it was led to play the role of main guarantor of the world order against the revolution. In order to play that role, it first had to carry it out in the United States itself, against the American working class.

- – - – - – - – - -

Excerpts from the anti-war speech given by Eugene Debs on 16 June 1918
(“The Canton, Ohio Speech”) [Debs speaking in Canton, OH]
“Wars throughout history have been waged for conquest and plunder. (. . .)
And here let me emphasize the fact — and it cannot be repeated too often — that the working class who fight all the battles, the working class who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish the corpses, have never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. (. . .)
Yes, my comrades, my heart is attuned to yours. Aye, all our hearts now throb as one great heart responsive to the battle cry of the social revolution. Here, in this alert and inspiring assemblage our hearts are with the Bolsheviki of Russia. Those heroic men and women, those unconquerable comrades have by their incomparable valour and sacrifice added fresh lustre to the fame of the international movement. Those Russian comrades of ours have made greater sacrifices, have suffered more, and have shed more heroic blood than any like number of men and women anywhere on earth; they have laid the foundation of the first real democracy that ever drew the breath of life in this world. And the very first act of the triumphant Russian revolution was to proclaim a state of peace with all mankind (. . .).
Here we have the very breath of democracy, the quintessence of the dawning freedom. The Russian revolution proclaimed its glorious triumph in its ringing and inspiring appeal to the peoples of all the earth.
(. . .)"

[The full speech is available here on the Marxists Internet Archive]


(1) Introduction to Nikolai Bukharin’s Imperialism and World Economy [].

(2) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Chapter VII: “Imperialism as a Special Stage of Capitalism“ [].

(3) Preface to the French and German editions, July 1920 [].

(4) Imperialism and World Economy, Chapter IV [].

(5) Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Chapter I: “Concentration of production and monopolies” [].

(6) Op. cit., Chapter III: “Finance Capital and the Financial Oligarchy” [].

(7) The Knights of Labor was one of the first national organisations of a trade union nature formed just after the American Civil War. It retained the character of a society whose members were initiates, but addressed all workers. It was to play an important role after 1876. The AFL organised the workers on the basis of craft unions. For decades it was to be the main trade union organisation in the United States. By refusing to organise unskilled workers or those in insecure jobs — the mass of immigrant workers — and by rejecting Black workers, in practice it limited its activity to the labour aristocracy. Its main leader, Samuel Gompers, would give his name to what was referred to as “business unionism”: Gomperism .
The Industrial Workers of the World, which stood for revolutionary trade unionism, called for the setting-up of trade union organisations based on the branches of industry. They would be in the vanguard of organising millions of immigrant workers, and through their activity they prefigured what was to become the Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO).

(8) The speech was published the following month as The Premises for the Proletarian Revolution. This and a second speech were published together in February 1926 as the pamphlet Europe and America [].

(9) Charles Dawes had been appointed by the US government as head of a committee of experts with the job of overseeing the economic reorganisation of Europe following the end of the First World War.

(10) A People’s History of the United States, Chapter 14.

(11) Ibid.

(12) Ibid. Zinn points out a further irony: “The case was officially listed as U.S. v. Spirit of ’76.”

(13) President Harding commuted Debs’ sentence to time served.

(14) See V I Lenin, Socialism and War, Chapter 1 [].

"100 Years After World War I (Special Double Issue)" 
of "La Vérité (The Truth)",
Presented by The Organizer Newspaper []:
We are proud to announce the publication of a Special Double Issue (No. 82, 688 Old Series) of La Vérité/The Truth, the theoretical magazine of the Fourth International. This Special Issue includes 11 articles on the meaning of 1914 and its lessons for today.
We are including below the Table of Contents of this issue (published in two parts), the Introduction, and one article dealing with the United States by François Forgue titled, “April 1917: The United States Goes to War.”
We urge our readers and supporters to order a copy today of this Special Double Issue (76 pages) for $10, includes postage.
Please send your check, made payable to The Organizer, to P.O Box 40009, San Francisco, CA 94140.
* * * * * * * * * *
LA VERITE/THE TRUTH No. 82 (688 Old Series)
* Introduction
* 1914-1918: A Chronology with Commentary by Henry Halphen
* The Root Causes of the Collapse of the Second International by Lucien Gauthier
* Lenin, Imperialism and War by Daniel Gluckstein
* Lenin and Revolutionary Defeatism by Jean-Jacques Marie
* The Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the Labour Movement and the Fight for the Balkans-Danube Federation by Dominique Ferré
* Fraternisation and its Significance by Pierre Roy
* * * * *
* The Labour Movement in France Before and at the Start of the War by Jean-Marc Schiappa
* “A War for Colonies . . . Conducted with the Help of Colonies” by Olivier Doriane
* April 1917: The United States of America Goes to War by François Forgue
* The Unfortunate Peace of Brest-Litovsk: The Dilemmas Facing the Russian Revolutionary Party by Michel Sérac
* War and Revolution: The United States of Europe (Leon Trotsky)
* * * * * * * * * *

Introduction -
This special issue of La Vérité-The Truth is entitled: “Another point of view on 1914“. One hundred years after the outbreak of the imperialist war, there is no shortage of commemorations: newspaper articles, reviews, films, radio and TV programmes.
All over the world, the event is being commemorated in ways which, to varying degrees, develop a common theme: the horrors of the war are behind us, and the more or less obscure reasons that led to it have faded away. The idea is that the peace reached between the belligerents, and in particular between France, Germany and the big European powers, opened a new era. This chorus of self-congratulation is dominated by the presentation of the European Union as a supposed instrument for moving beyond all antagonisms.
In this special issue of La Vérité-The Truth we want to offer to workers, to activists, to the youth, to all those who are committed to the cause of the workers’ emancipation and the independence of the working class, to all those who are genuinely and sincerely committed to the cause of peace and the peoples’ sovereignty, the opportunity of addressing the topic from a different point of view. The facts speak for themselves: in the elections to the so-called European Parliament (25 May 2014), the European Union was massively rejected by the peoples in most of the 28 countries that comprise it. That rejection was expressed particularly through massive abstention and condemnation of the parties with their roots in the Second International, which for decades have been committed to a so-called “European project” that is nothing more than a factor of poverty and destruction.
Peace guaranteed by the European Union? The workers of Greece, Portugal and Spain, who have been subjected to the destructive plans of the troika (European Central Bank, European Commission, International Monetary Fund), obviously have a different point of view, one that they have expressed on this occasion, just as they have expressed it through several class movements in the recent period by rising up in their millions to say: “Out with the troika’s plans!”. Peace made possible by the European Union? The events in Ukraine show how the European Union and the International Monetary Fund, using their diktat of pillage as a threat, jointly precipitated the crisis of disintegration in a country ruined — like every one of the countries of the former Soviet bloc — by its expulsion of all international division of labour within a world ravaged by the crisis of decay of the world imperialist system.
Peace guaranteed more generally by the dominance of the big imperialist powers at the global level? Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria, not to mention the various imperialist military interventions in Mali or the Central African Republic, provide the answer. As do the threats to the sovereignty of nations (Algeria in particular), the continuing pillage of the natural resources of South Africa and the super-exploitation of its workers, as the South African miners and their organisations fight back despite the government’s acts of repression, carrying out the demands of the multinationals.
All around the world, the rule of imperialism in crisis continues the pattern set in 1914, with wars of pillage and wars of conquest, with the dismantling of nations, with the sovereignty of those nations put into question. Is Lenin’s formulation of imperialism as “reaction all down the line” not extremely relevant today?
It is from this point of view that we must re-examine the significance of 1914. This issue of La Vérité-The Truth deliberately adopts the viewpoint of those internationalist workers who immediately made the link between the struggle against the war and the struggle against the failed system of private ownership of the means of production, between the struggle against the war and the struggle against the betrayal of the opportunist leaders of the Second International, who rallied to social chauvinism. It is from this point of view that we think it important to open the discussion and reflection on the burning topicality of what was posed in 1914 by a handful of internationalist militant activists, who remained faithful to the working class at a time when their leaders sought to force the labour movement into embracing chauvinism.
This issue of La Vérité-The Truth contains eleven contributions which adopt different angles of attack. Some of them concentrate on facts, others on analysis, yet others on theoretical developments made necessary by the struggle against imperialism. In these convergent forms and within a common framework, we want to open a discussion. That common framework is the framework of the members of the Fourth International, who want to use it to help the workers understand the mechanisms that link August 1914 to October 1917, as part of the same struggle that links one century to the next: the struggle for the independence of the working class, for the Workers’ International, for putting an end to the failed system of private ownership of the means of production. This is the discussion we wish to open in this way. It is up to you, our readers, to pursue it.

"Defying the Democrats: Marxists and the Lost Labor Party of 1923"

2014-09-10 by Eric Blanc (eblanc17 [at], posted at [] (
Footnotes are numbered and produced after the article
Discussions on how to break working people from the hold of the Democratic Party have acquired a new immediacy as a result of the recent electoral victories of independent working-class candidates in Seattle, Washington, and Lorraine, Ohio, as well as the campaign for Chicago union leader Karen Lewis to run as an independent for mayor. Those interested in promoting independent politics today may benefit from studying the rich experience of the labor party movement of the early 1920s.
During the wave of radicalization following World War One and the October Revolution of 1917, initiatives to build a Labor Party based on the trade unions blossomed throughout the United States. These developments provoked sharp debates over strategy among Marxists. Should revolutionary socialists fight for the formation of a national Labor Party? Could such a project be linked to the project of building a revolutionary party to overthrow capitalism? And how should cross-class "Third Party" movements be approached?
This article will chart the development of the movement for a Labor Party from 1919 to 1924, discuss the strengths and weakness of the Communists' orientation towards it, and conclude with an analysis of the dissolution of the Labor Party movement into the "Progressive Party" presidential campaign of Wisconsin Republican senator Robert La Follette.

Marxists and the Labor Party Question -
The movement for a nationwide Labor Party grew out of the massive revolts that shook the United States and the world after the Russian Revolution. Strikes spread like wildfire - more work-hours were lost because of strikes in 1919 than in the next six years put together. Seattle longshoremen led a general strike in February that shut down the city for five days and, later in the year, refused to load arms shipments going towards the counter-revolutionary White Army in Russia. Both the coal miners' union and the steel workers' union - which, breaking with past practices, massively organized black workers - organized huge national strikes. Farmers across the country rose up against the "robber barons." This was also a period marked by the independent mobilizations of Black people, as expressed notably in the "New Negro" movement in Harlem, the socialist African Blood Brotherhood, and Marcus Garvey's nationalist Universal Negro Improvement Association.[1]
More and more workers and farmers came to conclusion that both the Democrats and Republicans were deaf to their pleas. Labor party movements based on the trade unions arose in Illinois, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Minnesota, Ohio, and other states. These forces joined together in Chicago in November 1919 to launch a national Labor Party; the name was changed to the Farmer-Labor Party (FLP) in July 1920 to attract farmer support.[2]
The main leader of this movement was the head of the Chicago Federation of Labor, John Fitzpatrick, a radical unionist who supported the October Revolution of 1917 and criticized the reactionary leadership of the American Federation of Labor (AFL) based around Samuel Gompers.[3] The 1919 Chicago conference called for the nationalization of the basic industries, public utilities, natural resources, and banking systems, as well as workers' participation in the running of industry. The chief theme of the FLP's 1920 presidential campaign drive was the need for independent labor politics in opposition to the twin parties of the bosses. The FLP received more than 250,000 votes. The national AFL leadership was eager to maintain the status quo and denounced the FLP.
More surprisingly perhaps, the Communists were equally hostile toward this party. The first years of U.S. Communism were plagued by what Lenin called the "infantile disorder" of ultra-leftism. James P. Cannon - a founder of the Communist and, later, Trotskyist movements- recalled that, "the sectarianism of the Americans was expressed most glaringly in their attempt to construct revolutionary unions outside the existing labor movement; their refusal to fight for 'immediate demands' in the course of the class struggle for the socialist goal; and their strongly entrenched anti-parliamentarism."[4]
When the government's repressive 1919 Palmer Raids forced the Communists to go underground, they decided to stay there - on principle. Even after the arrests and witch-hunts of the first "red scare" ended in the summer of 1920, the Communists declared that it would be a betrayal of Marxist principles to return to doing open and legal work. In other words, the Communists' hostility towards the labor party movement was just one expression of a deeper political problem.
As early as 1886, German Marxist Frederick Engels had declared that the formation of a Labor Party "with no matter how inadequate a provisional platform, provided it be a truly working-class platform - that is the next great step to be accomplished in America" and advised the Socialist Labor Party to advocate and work within a Labor Party.[5] Needless to say, the Marxists in the United States had abandoned this method by 1919. Later, Cannon lamented that, "Engels' perspicacious letters on [the Labor Party question] were unknown to us."[6]
The founding program of the Communist Party in September 1919 declared that the movement for a Labor Party was "a minor phase of proletarian unrest" organized by the unions "to conserve what they have secured as a privileged caste." The program concluded that, "there can be no compromise either with Laborism or reactionary socialism."[7] The Communist Labor Party refused to "associate" with anyone "not committed to the revolutionary class struggle."[8] Deprived of political guidance from the Communists, the FLP soon retreated and politically backslid by merging with the liberal, middle-class "Committee of Forty Eight" and gravitating towards the cross-class Conference for Progressive Political Action (CPPA).
From 1919 to 1922, Lenin and Trotsky waged a political battle against the ultra-leftism within many sections the young Communist International (Comintern). In 1920, at the Second Congress of the Comintern, Lenin asked Louis Fraina, a leading U.S. Communist, whether it would be advisable for the Communists to advocate a Labor Party in the United States. Fraina argued against it, and Lenin dropped the question - for the time being.[9] Nevertheless, the Second Congress proved to be instrumental in helping the Communists begin to break free of ultra-leftism.
At the Second Congress, Lenin called on the British Communists to affiliate with the British Labor Party. The leaders of the British Communist Party originally balked at the idea and only after a long and heated debate did Lenin's views prevail. Cannon wrote:
"It is indisputable that Lenin's proposal to the British communists that they should 'urge the electors to vote for the labor candidate against the bourgeois candidate,' in his pamphlet on Left-Wing Communism, and his later recommendation that the British Communist Party should seek affiliation to the British Labor Party, gave the first encouragement to the sponsors of a similar policy in this country, and marks the real origin of the policy."[10]
At the Comintern's Third Congress in 1921, Lenin and Trotsky challenged the ultra-left tendency centered around the German leftists. Lenin even went so far as to declare himself a member of the right-wing of the Congress. The slogan of Third Congress was "To the Masses!" and its thesis "On Tactics" made it explicit that:
"From the day of its foundation the Communist International has clearly and unambiguously stated that its task is not to establish small communist sects aiming to influence the working masses purely through agitation and propaganda, but to participate directly in the struggle of the working massesŠ It is not a question of appealing to proletariat to fight for the ultimate goal, but of developing the practical struggle which alone can lead the proletariat to the struggle for the ultimate goal."[11]
During the Third Congress, Lenin met with the U.S. delegates and suggested that the advocacy of a Labor Party might advance the political project of Communism in the United States. Upon returning home, these delegates reported back to the party membership Lenin's comments about the Labor Party, but no concrete steps towards changing the party's policy were taken.[12]
At the Fourth Congress in 1922, the Comintern codified the strategy of the united front. The Congress' "Thesis on Comintern Tactics" explained:
"The Communist International requires that all Communist Parties and groups adhere strictly to the united front tactic, because in the present period it is the only way of guiding Communists in the right direction, towards winning the majority of workers. Š The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie."[13]
By 1922, Cannon was leading a fraction of Communists who, having absorbed the lessons in strategy of the Comintern, were determined to break out of their isolation. At the Fourth Congress, Cannon and two other delegates met with Trotsky and made the case for the legalization of the party - significant sectors of the U.S. party still objected to legalization - and for the advocacy of a Labor Party. Cannon recalled that, "Trotsky stated unambiguously that he would support us, and that he was sure Lenin and other Russian leaders would do the same."[14] The Comintern subsequently announced its decision in favor of legalization and stated that the formation of a Labor Party in the United States would be "an event of world historical importance."[15]

The Struggle for a Labor Party: 1922 to 1923 -
In 1922 the newly united U.S. Communists - whose legal political expression was the Workers Party - adopted the united front method, the political application of which was deemed to be a Labor Party.[16] The party's 1922 "Theses on the United Front of Labor" explained:
"The creation of a United Front of Labor on the political field in the United States is the problem of the development of independent political action of the working class. The working class of Europe has for a long time participated independently in political activities. Not so in the United States. Here the problem is not to unite existing political groups and organizations for common action but to awaken political class consciousness among the workers."[17]
The resolution continued:
"To oppose this tendency toward the formation of a labor party would be folly. The capitalists realize the potentialities of even a tame and not in the least revolutionary independent labor party for the development of class consciousness of the working class. Their tools in the labor movement have, therefore, consistently opposed its formation. Š To promote the development of the political action of the working class into revolutionary action the communists must become factors in any labor party that may be formed. We can achieve this end only if we anticipate the formation of such a party and now adopt a policy through which we will become established as a force in the political struggle of the workers and thus an important factor in the labor party."[18]
The text concluded by warning that independent political action could be derailed into an amorphous formation endorsing Democratic or Republican politicians:
"Attempts to misuse the name of Labor Party in the formation of some sort of a league must be guarded against. Such a body would merely exploit the growing desire for independent working class political action to get endorsements for some misleaders of labor on capitalist party tickets, on the principle of Gompers' 'reward friends - punish enemies.' It is the work of the Communists to guard also against the formation of such a labor party as is forecast in the work of the Conference for Progressive Political Action. This conference includes not only representatives of labor, but progressives and liberals of every shade."[19]
The practical implementation of this orientation became the burning task of the day. In Chicago, on February 20 and 21, 1922, hundreds of delegates met at the "Conference for Progressive Political Action", representing over fifty national and international unions, all the main farmer organizations, the FLP, the Socialist Party, the Non-Partisan league, as well as dozens of middle-class organizations. The conference, which was "the most significant gathering of representatives of American mass movements in decades,"[20] was organized on the initiative of the relatively conservative railroad brotherhoods.
Historian Stan Phipps outlined the contradictions of the CPPA as follows:
"As a result of the cross-class makeup of the invited delegates, the 'call' for the Conference explicitly stated that the CPPA was not an attempt to form a new political party. . . . As Mackay observes, they risked becoming yet another one of those 'spineless creatures known as the American political party' by opting to say nothing of substance in order to avoid alienating constituents of a rather amorphous political coalition.Š Like the business parties, the CPPA attempted to be all things to all people."[21]
In line with this approach, the Conference supported a "lesser evil" strategy of supporting liberal candidates of the business parties. Fitzpatrick and the FLP opposed this orientation and, at the second CPPA convention, they sponsored a resolution in favor of independent, class-based political action in opposition to the parties of capital. When this resolution was voted down, Fitzpatrick and the FLP walked out of the conference.[22]
Fitzpatrick soon issued an invitation to all labor organizations and activists to attend the July 3,1923, FLP conference in Chicago. Significantly, the Communists - who had not been allowed to participate in the CPPA - were invited. Fitzpatrick's invitation was clearly a major opening. Draper writes, "Not for another dozen yearsŠ were the American Communists presented with so favorable an opportunity to become a major political force as this alliance offered them in the first six months of 1923."[23]
The Communists, having discarded most of their ultra-left baggage by 1922, enthusiastically entered into an alliance with Fitzpatrick. Cannon and his ally William Z. Foster summarized the successes of this period:
"Our labor party policy, as we declared many times was simply the application of the united front policy of the Communist International. The policy was absolutely correct, and so long as we held to it we made great headway. Our campaign for a united front labor party met with a wide response. We drove the labor party movement forward and our party advanced along with it, gaining great prestigeŠ. We were able to broaden the mass movement of the rank and file, strengthen the position of the Workers Party, and throw an ever increasing force against the Gompers machine."[24]
But just as the Communists were gaining momentum and influence through their participation in the labor party movement, a leader of the Workers Party named Joseph Pogany, known publicly as John Pepper, plunged the Communists down a new course. Pepper had been assigned by the Comintern in 1922 to work in the United States with the Hungarian-American Communists. Due to his tremendous factional manipulation skills and his false claims to represent the Comintern, Pepper took control of the Workers Party soon after his arrival. Cannon later described him as "the most brilliant phony I ever knew."[25]
Pepper saw the upcoming July 3 FLP conference primarily as an opportunity to recruit to the Workers Party. In the months preceding July, he began provoking a split with Fitzpatrick and the FLP. In a letter to the Workers Party leadership titled "Don't Pack the July 3 Conference" Cannon warned:
"The greatest tact and caution is necessary by our party to avoid giving the enemies of the conference an opportunity to brand it as a Workers Party affair. This will have the effect of blowing it up entirelyŠ. What is it we expect this conference to do? Do we look upon this conference as an opportunity for a big public forum for the advertisement of the Workers Party wherein we will have a hard struggle with the other elements in it? If that is the case, of course, we are working chiefly for party advantage and advertisement at the conference itself. Then we want to pack in as many delegates as we can possibly muster up. But that is not our view of the conference. We think the chief significance of this conference consists in the possibility of laying there the basis for the organized drive towards a labor party and our party cooperating in it as an integral unit from the start." [26]
Pepper and the Workers Party leadership ignored Cannon's advice and soon ordered the Chicago Communists to break off all discussions with the FLPers. Faced with Communist provocations as well as huge political pressure - the AFL leadership, the Socialist Party, and most of the trade unions were boycotting the conference - Fitzpatrick backtracked in the weeks proceeding the July 3 and began to argue for a later date to found a new party.
On July 3, 1923 approximately 600 delegates from four national unions, four state farmers' organizations, and 247 local trade-union and farmer branches converged at the Chicago conference - as many as 600,000 people were represented. Even though the official Workers Party delegation was quite small, the Communists had managed to pack the conference by presenting themselves as delegates from groups such as the Workmen's Gymnastic Association and the Lithuanian Workers' Literature Society. One in three delegates to the conference, according to Pepper, were members of the Workers Party. Pepper and the Communists proceeded to split the conference by pushing through a motion calling for the immediate formation of a new party, the Federated Farmer-Labor Party (FFLP). Fitzpatrick and his forces bitterly walked out.
Superficially, it seemed that the Communists had won a big victory. A leading Communist proclaimed that the Workers Party "assumed the position of leadership and the first mass party of the American workers - the Federated Farmer-Labor Party - was formed."[27]
In reality, the formation of a "mass party" under obvious Communist control only served to isolate the Marxists. After the Chicago conference, most of the non-Communist unions and activists quickly distanced themselves from the FFLP. A leading Communist later admitted that the FFLP consisted "of ourselves and our nearest relatives."[28] Historian Nathan Fine concluded that the Communists succeeded in "capturing themselves."[29] Fitzpatrick was livid. He proclaimed that Communists "have killed the possibility of uniting the forces of independent political action in America" and had so "broken the spirit of [the labor party movement] so that we will not be able to rally the forces for the next twenty years!"[30]
The Communists, having lost the protection provided to them by their alliance with the FLP, were subjected to widespread red-baiting and expulsions in the trade-union movement. In November 1923, Cannon and Foster attacked the "false policy which was a deciding factor in causing the split of July 3_ and concluded that "we have departed from the principal of the united front and have gotten onto a sectarian basisŠ. As a consequence, our comrades are largely isolated, and face a united front of all other elements against themŠ. It is foolish for us to form a little labor party of our own in order to be the leaders of it."[31]
The damage had been done. The labor party movement was dealt a mortal blow by the split, and the stereotype of Communists as "disrupters and wreckers" became pervasive in the labor movement. "For years," Draper observes, "the leaders of American Communism were haunted by a great ´if´: What would have happened to the Farmer-Labor Movement, the Trade Union Education League, and the inner life of the Workers Party, if they had refrained from breaking with Fitzpatrick's forces in July 1923?"[32]

Dissolution of the Labor Party Movement -
The July 3 split paved the way for the dissolution of the movement for a labor party into "Third Party" politics. Robert La Follette, a populist Republican Senator from Wisconsin, took advantage of the fact that hundreds of thousands of workers and poor farmers were still looking for an alternative to the two capitalist parties. By 1924, virtually every single organization that had supported the labor party movement jumped on the La Follette bandwagon - including the Communists. In reaction to the adventures of Pepper, and under pressure from the new Comintern leadership headed by Grigory Zinoviev, the Communists dropped their labor party orientation and gave their support to La Follette. Cannon recalled: "The cold fact is that the party Š became, for period in 1924, the advocate of a ´third party´ of capitalism, and offered to support, under certain conditions, the presidential candidacy of the petty-bourgeois candidate La Follette .Š The bewildered party disgraced itself in this affair."[33]
Trotsky sharply criticized the U.S. party and the Comintern leadership, arguing that they were bending to La Follette and cross-class politics: "For a young and weak Communist Party, lacking in revolutionary temper, to play the role of solicitor and gatherer of 'progressive voters' for the Republican Senator Lafollette is to head toward the political dissolution of the party in the petty-bourgeoisie. The inspirers of this monstrous opportunism are thoroughly imbued with skepticism concerning the American proletariat."[34]
Under pressure from Trotsky, the leadership of the Comintern and the U.S. Communists dropped their tacit support for La Follette. Other labor and farmer organizations did not follow suit. The July 4 CPPA Nomination Convention in Cleveland - which brought together 600 delegates, representing trade unions, farmer organizations, the Farmer-Labor Party, the Socialist Party, as well as middle-class formations like the Committee of Forty-Eight - supported La Follette's presidential bid as well as the proposals to only run candidates for president and vice-president, postpone the formation of a Third Party and, in this way, support the "progressive" candidates of the Democrats and Republicans in the state and regional elections. The CPPA and the La Follette movement's decision to not found an alternative party was, in the words of Phipps, "the primary failing of the 1924 Progressive Party campaign."[35]
La Follette received 16.8 percent of votes in the 1924 presidential election - an impressive 4,826,371 total. For an independent working-class party, even a fraction of this number of votes would have been a great victory. The election campaign would have strengthened and developed working-class political structures based on and controlled by the main institutions of the workers - the trade unions - and may have provided sufficient steam for a labor party to take root in the United States.
Phipps argues that the La Follette movement's cross-class orientation was its fatal flaw: "The ultimate collapse of the supra-class political movement may have been inevitable. Mackay shows real insight when he comments that, 'Lafollette's mixed army went in too many directions at once.' The heterogeneous makeup of the Progressive Party made it difficult to agree on a program of action or even place much confidence in other members of the coalition."[36] The La Follette movement fell apart immediately after the election. "Despite the vote Š which Lafollette received," writes Fine, "the army behind him melted away soon after the election and C.P.P.A went up in smoke."[37] Unfortunately, the damage to the labor party movement had been done.
The La Follette candidacy tapped into the energy and resources of trade unions and farmer organizations but created no political structures through which these groups could fight for independent political action after the 1924 election. Following this electoral campaign, the AFL leadership of Gompers - which had endorsed La Follette in a bid to divert the labor party movement into safe channels - proclaimed that "the launching of third party movements has proved a wasted effort and injurious to the desire to elect candidates with favorable [voting] records."[38] As Foster noted in late 1924, "The sweep of the Lafollette movement shriveled the tender plant of the farmer-labor party movement like a hot blast from the desert."[39]

Conclusion -
Today, as in 1919, the political structure of capitalist rule in the United States rests on the two-party system. To successful challenge the labor movement's suicidal subordination to the parties of the bosses - and to prevent mass movements from continuing to succumb to the Democratic Party co-optation machine - requires that the working class form its own independent political party.
The creation of a fighting Labor Party - not just to run candidates, but to help lead mass struggles in workplaces and communities across the country - would radically alter the whole national political situation. Apathy often reigns among working people when no real alternatives are offered. The emergence of a Labor Party, starting with local labor-community candidates in cities across the country, would be a ray of hope and a point of leverage for united mobilizations around the demands of all the oppressed.
As was the case in the early 1920's, by advocating and participating in this political awakening of the working class, a revolutionary organization could quickly grow in size and influence. The struggle for a Labor Party remains a principal vehicle for workers and their unions, in alliance with the organizations of all the oppressed, to break free of the stranglehold of the capitalist parties and move forwards on the road toward a workers' government.

1919 U.S. Labor Party convention, detail

U.S. Labor Party convention, Chicago, November 22, 1919

John Fitzpatrick

James P. Cannon

William Z. Foster

John Pepper (Jószef Pogány)

- - - - -
Notes -
[1]. To my knowledge, the crucial dynamic between the labor party movement and the Black struggle in this period has not yet been documented and remains a task for future study. The only reference I've found concerning the racial politics of the labor party movement was the 1920 founding congress of the Farmer Labor Party's call for Black civil rights. See Mitchell Newton-Matza, Intelligent and honest radicals: The Chicago Federation of Labor and the Illinois Legal System 1919-1933 (PhD Thesis, Catholic University of America, 1999), 91.
In contrast, the early texts of the Communists on the labor party, cited below, are problematically silent on the fight against the oppression of Black people. On Black radicalism in this period, see Minkah Makalani, In the Cause of Freedom: Radical Black Internationalism from Harlem to London, 1917-1939 (The University of North Carolina Press: 2011) and Jeffrey B. Perry, Hubert Harrison: The Voice of Harlem Radicalism, 1883-1918, (Columbia University Press: 2008).

[2]. While a discussion of the political dynamics and challenges of the worker-farmer alliance in this period goes beyond the scope of this text, I should note that the central problem of the cross-class "Third Party" approach represented by the CPPA and La Follette was not that it attempted to unite workers and the mass of farmers, but rather that it sought an alliance with representatives of the capitalists and their parties.

[3]. On Fitzpatrick, see John Howard Keiser, 'John Fitzpatrick and Progressive Unionism, 1915-1925' (PhD thesis, Northwestern University, 1965).

[4]. James P. Cannon, "The Roots of American Communism", International Socialist Review, Vol. 18, No. 3, Summer 1957. Accessed at

[5]. Frederick Engels, "The Labor Movement in America," in The Condition of the Working-Class in England, 1887. Accessed at

[6]. James P. Cannon, "Origin of the Policy on the Labor Party," Fourth International, Vol. 16 No. 2, Spring 1955. Accessed at

[7]. "The Communist Party Manifesto", in New York (State) Legislature, Revolutionary and subversive movements abroad and at home, 1920, 782.

[8]. "Platform and Program of the Communist Labor Party of America," The Ohio Socialist, September 17, 1919. Accessed at

[9]. Theodore Draper, American Communism and Soviet Russia (New York: Viking, 1960), 32. For the congress debates, see John Riddell, ed., Workers of the World and Oppressed Peoples, Unite: Proceedings and Documents of the Second Congress, 1920 (New York: Pathfinder, 1991).

[10]. Cannon, "Origin of the Policy on the Labor Party." Canadian Communists in this period similarly turned toward supporting the fight for a Labor Party; see Ian Angus, Canadian Bolsheviks: The Early Years of the Communist Party of Canada (Vanguard Publications: 1981).

[11]. Third Congress of the Communist International, "On Tactics," July 12, 1921. Accessed at

[12]. Draper, American Communism, 32.

[13]. Third Congress, "On Tactics."

[14]. James P. Cannon, "The 'American Question' at the Fourth Congress," Fourth International, Vol. 15 No. 3, Winter 1955. Accessed at

[15]. Cannon, "Origin of the Policy on the Labor Party."

[16]. The U.S. Communists were split into two rival organizations from birth. Under pressure from the Comintern they united in May 1921 and named their new legal organization the Workers Party.

[17]. Central Executive Committee of the Communist Party of America, "Theses on the United Front of Labor," May 29, 1922. Accessed at See also the Workers Party pamphlet, "For a Labor Party: Recent Revolutionary Changes in American Politics," 1922. Accessed at

[18]. Ibid.

[19]. Ibid.

[20]. Stan Phipps, "The Labor Party Question in the U.S., 1828-1930: An Historical Perspective." Accessed at

[21]. Ibid.

[22]. James P. Cannon, The First Ten Years of American Communism: Report of a Participant (New York: Lyle and Stuart, 1962), 62.

[23]. Draper, American Communism, 31.

[24]. Cannon, "Statement on Our Labor Party Policy."

[25]. James P. Cannon, "The Year 1923 The Pepper Regime", Fourth International, Vol. 16 No. 3, Summer 1955. Accessed at

[26]. James P. Cannon, "Don't Pack the July 3 Conference," May 25, 1923. Accessed at

[27]. Draper, American Communism, 48.

[28]. Draper, American Communism, 75.

[29]. Nathan Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties in the United States, 1828-1928 (New York: Russell and Russell, 1961), 432.

[30]. Draper, American Communism, 46.

[31]. Cannon, "Statement on Our Labor Party Policy."

[32]. Draper, American Communism, 95.

[33]. Prometheus Research Library, "Introduction to James P. Cannon and the Early Years of American Communism," The Early Years of American Communism (New York: Spartacist Publishing Company, 1992). Accessed at

[34]. Leon Trotsky, The First Five Years of the Communist International, 1924. Accessed at

[35]. Phipps, "The Labor Party Question in the U.S."

[36]. Ibid.

[37]. Fine, Labor and Farmer Parties, 414.

[38]. Phipps, "The Labor Party Question in the U.S."

[39]. Draper, American Communism, 120.