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Need for a revolutionary organization

Published Nov 20, 2008 9:49 PM

Larry Hales
WW photo: Gary Wilson

I want to talk not just about the importance of a party of professional revolutionaries, but also about the challenge of recruiting youth.

A 15-year-old has had different historical experiences than someone who is 35. It is important to understand what we who were born under the Carter administration, who were born after the great social movements, have come up in—the reaction we grew up in.

We were babies of the Reagan era. We grew up in a period during deindustrialization, when the prison-industrial complex was booming, when the death penalty was reinstituted. We grew up during the war on drugs. We grew up during the crack epidemic. We also grew up during the rise of hip-hop culture.

There are a lot of things that have contributed to the difficulty of recruiting youth. The collapse of the Soviet Union didn’t necessarily have that much of an effect on us, certainly not as much as the great Los Angeles Rebellion. That’s what we remember. That was a great defining moment.

This is the period we lived in. There weren’t the great social movements, the struggles for socialism. There was the victory of the Sandinistas, but what we remember of that is the Iran-Contra hearings.

We had to suffer through seeing our parents or our friends’ parents losing their jobs or experiencing the fear of losing jobs. I grew up in the Rust Belt, and the wave of closures, plant closures and layoffs, felt like a cloud of doom as it destroyed communities, especially the oppressed communities.

There is a crisis of youth. It’s because of the period of reaction we grew up in. It’s also a crisis of ideology and of bourgeois society.

Someone was talking about consumerism. We don’t want to make the workers the enemy because they buy stuff. People have a right to stuff, but have a difficult time buying. Capitalism staved off a crisis with credit buying. People couldn’t afford things so they got them on credit. They got groceries on credit. You bought a house or a car on credit.

When you turn on the television, walk outside your door, turn on the radio, go on the Internet, everywhere: buy, buy, buy. If you buy a television and it breaks down, you’ve got to buy a new one because there is nobody to repair it.

The government controls the education system. Not only do we have to contend with the period we grew up in, but also with the decadence of bourgeois society and the fact that the schools aren’t teaching history.

Something very simple that we can explain is the dialectical nature of struggle—how two things butting against one another can create a thing of quality, that struggle is going to produce a better society, that we did not always live under this system in the past and will not always live under it in the future.

We have to talk about the ideas of Marx. Not only do we have to teach the dialectics of struggle and history, but also you have to tell people what is possible for society in simple words. Malcolm X used to say, “Make it plain,” when a person talked too long. We have to make it plain what socialism actually is.

They are talking about socialism like it’s this monster rearing its head. It’s never gone away. People are beginning to say, “Wait a minute, something’s wrong with this.” But, in order to actually get to that next step you need an organization.

Some youth don’t see the importance of centralization and organization because they are taught that power corrupts and organizations become corrupt. “Look at the Soviet Union. They were corrupt.” It’s like trying to convince people that there is no corruption in the capitalist government. What about Nixon? What about eight years of Bush, of Clinton?

We need a revolutionary organization. The thing about the L.A. rebellion was that it lacked organization. It was great, but it was smashed into the ground. If there had been a revolutionary organization on the ground, it could have propelled it much further.

The idea is the importance of a revolutionary organization to make demands upon the system. As the workers start to move, we actually push it further. As the capitalists try to smash the rising of workers and workers begin to see the system baring its teeth, we need an organization that says, “We need to go further. Keep going, keep struggling because this is what we have to do to win a new society and that new society is socialism.”

As an individual activist I started to get demoralized. You get tired and worn out, but not if you are grounded in a revolutionary understanding of history and of the ability of the masses to rise up and build a better world for themselves. Not if you are grounded in Marxism and you are part of a revolutionary organization.

I believe that one of the shining moments, at least from my perspective, of the party is what we did with the Barack Obama phenomenon. I’ve only been in the party four years, but it has to be one of the shining moments of this organization, because we did the right thing and we will see how that will play out. All those organizations that said, “It’s nothing. It’s nothing.” How are they going to be able to lead the masses in struggle to build a better world if they couldn’t see the very basic question of supporting self-determination and the national question? How will they be able to lead?

I think there are great things in the future. This is a period of struggle, and this is the right organization to help push the struggles forward. We have the right people, the right relations.

This party has given me a great deal of confidence. I’m so glad to be a member of Workers World Party and of the revolutionary youth group Fight Imperialism, Stand Together, and I look forward to working with you all in the future.