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The road to build consciousness, fightback

Published Dec 22, 2008 6:44 PM

Excerpts from a talk given by Sharon Black at the Nov. 15-16 WWP National Conference.


Sharon Black
WW photo: Gary Wilson

Karl Marx proclaimed that “being determines consciousness” and already we can see this in our own experience in the foreclosure struggle.

In Baltimore on Oct. 25 we held a “Bailout the People” demonstration during a horrific rainstorm while C-SPAN filmed the rally, which it later aired.

Because of that coverage, we received scores of calls from all over the country. A woman from Missouri called saying she wanted to help us. What could she do? Did we have a protest nearby that she could attend? A Wisconsin woman explained her knees were “shot from her job and she couldn’t walk anymore,” but she could do something from her house. She had a friend who had been foreclosed.

A nonunion truck driver called several times from Arkansas to give a 10-point program for truckers who are being abused on the job. In New Jersey a young man was thrilled to hear that we were considering a march on Wall Street.

These calls were dramatically different from the ones we received when we first mobilized for the Mortgage Bankers Association conference protest called by the National Network to Stop Foreclosures and Evictions in April.

The callers in April were angry about the foreclosure crisis but most were primarily interested in seeing if the network could counsel them on how to stop an individual foreclosure or find a solution to a particular problem. Many of these calls were very moving and all of them certainly important.

But the calls we received after the federal bank bailout reflected a higher level in consciousness. Workers wanted to know what could they do, how could they get involved. There were also many more questions about what we thought the solutions were.

In the space of a few months, you could sense that a change had taken place.

It takes a revolutionary party

One of Lenin’s important contributions was to figure out what kind of organization it would take to throw out the old regime and ultimately bring the working class to power.

The old forms of organization couldn’t cut it—where people sat around debating and even if they did arrive at some conclusion, each individual did and said whatever they wanted, without discipline of action or resolve. This certainly could not successfully challenge the ruling elite with all their centralized power—with their secret police and jails.

Lenin also saw with his own eyes that the spontaneous actions of the workers, no matter how heroic they might be, couldn’t do it either. He learned this from history—from the Paris Commune and from the Russian workers themselves.

It would take a party of revolutionaries who were dedicated to distilling the lessons of working-class struggle and who could guide that struggle based on political theory tempered with real experience.

Without theory—meaning an understanding of how capitalism and imperialism work in their totality—and a broader goal of eradicating the old system and putting in place a new socialist one, the workers could never advance beyond small reforms that were ultimately lost.

Lenin wanted the Bolshevik Party to be a workers’ party. Not that everyone had to be a worker or from the working class. Everyone who was interested—including intellectuals, youth and everyone from all walks of life—should be in the party. What was crucial was that they had revolutionary working-class politics and were doers.

Lenin thought it was critical to win the workers themselves. And the first party to win a proletarian revolution made it a priority to energetically pursue winning workers and the oppressed. They set up underground schools to train new cadre.

Workers World Party seeks to be the same kind of party. And since its inception we have struggled to do this. Our great difficulty is that history—particularly the collapse of the Soviet Union and the relative strength of capitalism borne on the backs of the oppressed colonial world—has made this process difficult. In some sense our members have had the task of keeping the fire burning rather than being able to spread the torch.

But everything is changing. The time has come to spread the torch.

This economic crisis has and will continue to open up the eyes of thousands of workers to new ideas. We need to go to the workers, to be with them in their struggles, to recruit them to the party—especially the most oppressed—the Black, [email protected], Native, Asian, youth, women, LGBT and immigrant workers—everyone.

Revolutionary Marxism has the answers for why and how this could happen and it has the answers to how we can build an entirely new world.