Workers World Party hosts Marxist classes on theory and practice

Over the July 4th weekend, young activists and revolutionaries from across the country, including Baltimore, Buffalo, Houston, New York City and Durham, N.C., attended an educational weekend of Marxist-Leninist theory and practice hosted by Workers World Party in New York City.

The weekend began with a presentation by Fred Goldstein, WWP secretariat member and author of “Low-Wage Capitalism” and “Capitalism at a Dead End,” about how Marxist theory is put into Leninist practice. As Lenin wrote, “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” Goldstein emphasized the importance of theory in guiding revolutionary political practice, along with providing an analysis of the current global capitalist crisis and the class struggle.

Goldstein discussed that in this period of protracted capitalist reaction, uniting on the basis of struggle against capitalism must include the right of self-determination and self-defense. “Anyone who contemplates proletariat revolution must come to grips with this quickly,” he said on the point of self-defense. “Even if it is not practical at the moment — an unarmed proletariat cannot defend itself or wage revolution.” To underline this point, Goldstein brought up the example of the party’s militant defense of and material support for the Black Panther Party, along with other Black liberation organizations that came under attack in the 1960s and 70s by the state in targeted assassinations by the police and the U.S. government.

The first class of the weekend included a panel on dialectical and historical materialism, scientific socialism and the role and centrality of the working class. The changing character of the U.S. working class and its revolutionary potential in this period of high-tech development were also discussed.

Bill Dores opened the panel on dialectical and historical materialism by discussing the historical basis of class society, the class struggle and the eventual development of capitalism, drawing from Frederick Engels’ book, “The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State.” Prior to the development of class society through the advent of agriculture and the resulting surplus, “hunter/gatherer” cooperative, egalitarian cultures existed in what Engels’ called “primary communism.” Agriculture later gave rise to class society through farming, the development of cities and the resulting changes in the forces of production.

FIST (Fight Imperialism, Stand Together) organizer Ramiro Funez gave a presentation on dialectical materialism, the methodology used to understand the historical process from a class perspective. Material conditions affect historical conditions, determine ideas and drive contradictions. Contradictions, in this sense, are defined as two opposing social forces or systems that are in constant confrontation with each other, such as capitalism and socialism, the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Capitalism was presented as “a system from inception which already had the kernel of contradiction that will lead to its own demise.”

Larry Holmes, WWP’s first secretary, spoke on developments in the current working-class movement and why historical materialism is critical to understanding this. The current phase of the capitalist crisis was produced by the scientific-technological revolution and the ability to produce more with less labor. Simultaneously, it became possible to produce anything anywhere, which meant the capitalists could find cheaper labor around the globe in an ever-expanding imperialist quest for cheaper markets and larger profits. As Holmes noted, this development has forged a new working class in the current phase of low-wage capitalism, the importance of which is overlooked by many who are frustrated with some of the conservatism in the U.S. union leadership.

However, these changes in the working class and productive forces have resulted in a global uprising of low-wage workers, many of whom have been forced into low-paying jobs. For example, on May 15, in a tremendous display of solidarity, a global strike of fast food workers was called, with workers in over 30 different countries and hundreds of cities participating.

Economics, the state, imperialism and special oppressions

The next set of classes started with an introduction to basic Marxist economics, which provided an understanding of capitalism, surplus value and the current economic crisis. This class was led by WW technical editor Andy Katz.  Another class, led by WW Secretariat member Monica Moorehead and FIST activist Alex Renner, discussed the role of the state in class society, as understood by Lenin in his work “The State and Revolution.” The state is “a product of the irreconcilability of class antagonisms” — a repressive apparatus used by the ruling class to “forcibly [keep] the exploited class in the conditions of oppression determined by a given mode of production (slavery, serfdom … wage labor).” What conditions gave rise to the state and its various forms were also discussed.

This laid the basis for classes on the Marxist view of women’s and LGBTQ oppression, along with today’s struggles against extreme reactionary attacks. WWP national leaders Naomi Cohen, LeiLani Dowell and Phebe Eckfeldt made presentations and facilitated a lively discussion.

Another panel by Imani Henry, Eddie Childs and Honduran activist Lucy Pagoada discussed the national question, the right to self-determination and the importance of internationalist solidarity with liberation struggles. The leadership and perspective of the most oppressed — especially people from oppressed nations — is critical to the revolutionary struggle. Exercising affirmative action solidifies this principle in the party and in our principled support for national liberation struggles both in the U.S. and globally.

All these important classes laid the groundwork for the second day of classes which centered on the Leninist view of imperialism. Lenin’s five-point definition of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism was presented, along with the three main stages of imperialism, by Fred Goldstein based on the last chapter of “Low-Wage Capitalism.”

Beginning with the period of inter-imperialist wars (1898-1946), which led to a period of war between the socialist and imperialist camps, the main force driving these wars was a struggle between two class camps representing two irreconcilable social systems: capitalism and socialism. The last and current stage of imperialism is the war for reconquest and division of the globe after the fall of the USSR. FIST members Colleen Davidson, Garrett Dicembre and Scott Williams made opening remarks.

The final class was a panel on anti-imperialism with a talk about why WWP defends workers’ states and other countries locked in anti-imperialist struggles. Internationalist solidarity with national liberation struggles, countries undertaking the tremendous goal of building socialism and countries under attack by imperialism is a vital task of a Marxist-Leninist party. FIST leaders Caleb Maupin and Taryn Fivek led this discussion.

In closing, WWP founding member and WW editor Deirdre Griswold gave a presentation on the origins of Workers World Party begun by Sam Marcy, Dorothy Ballan and Vince Copeland, the role of a Marxist-Leninist party and the history of various struggles the party has been involved in since 1959.