This article is based on an edited talk, “What Road to Socialism?” given at a Workers World Party Forum on Nov. 23 in New York City,
The question of “What road to socialism?” can be posed as “What road to survival for the human species and for the rest of life on the planet?” But it is also an immediate and practical question which impacts all our everyday work.
Workers World Party takes inspiration from the massive upsurges in Haiti, Lebanon, Chile, Colombia, the resistance to the fascist coup in Bolivia and the steadfast struggle of the Bolivarian revolution. The people of the world are in the streets demonstrating against capitalism, imperialism and oppression.
While these massive uprisings are tremendous, the impacts of imperialism and neoliberal capitalism will not end without the growth of the world communist movement. As we have seen throughout history, massive resistance to capitalism and oppression, led by revolutionary communist organizations with deep connections in the masses, is the route to socialism.
We are starting to see signs of a rejuvenated workers movement in the U.S. Chicago teachers struck against racism and inequality. Education workers, low-wage workers, women, people of color — and more of the working class — are flexing the strike muscle. We saw the longest General Motors strike in decades. Unionizing campaigns across the U.S. continue to win. The left is rising.
Support for socialism is also on the rise. According to recent polls, 70 percent of millennials, people 23 to 38 years old, would vote for a socialist. One-third of millennials view communism favorably compared to capitalism. Communism’s popularity is growing quickly.
Millennials’ support for communism has increased by 8 percent in the last year, and 35 percent of millennials view Marxism favorably. Twenty percent of millennials believe the world would be better off if private property were abolished. The tide is turning toward us.
These are the youth of Black Lives Matter, the Occupy movement and the global climate strike movement. These youth face a declining life expectancy and deteriorating living standards in a crumbling, racist, genocidal empire.
While socialism is growing more popular, so are right-wing terrorism and white-supremacist fascism, organized by the president himself. The call for solutions is everywhere. We have to show that we have the answers. Through our ideological efforts and our work in the struggle, we need to prevail.
Social democracy’s dead-end road to socialism
We are not the only group that has a proposed road to socialism. One of the most popular programs of social democracy today is the recently publicized Labour Party Manifesto 2019, put out by the British Labour Party led by Jeremy Corbyn. In the lead-up to the Dec. 12 parliamentary elections, Corbyn dropped what he called “the most radical” Labour platform ever. While the document looks radical during this period of neoliberal capitalism, in many ways it is a classic example of a social democratic program in an imperialist country.
Corbyn’s program is bound to be popular among working-class people in Britain. It promises a Green New Deal to tackle the climate crisis — nationalizing the energy industry, creating 1 million unionized green jobs, expanding the National Health Service, increasing funding for education, creating a minimum wage equivalent of $13 an hour, improving workers’ rights and ending precarity at work. Interestingly, Corbyn could win with this program. This would be a step forward. But will the Labour Party lead workers toward socialism?
British social democracy has many serious problems. Labour’s support for imperialism, the police and the border patrol should shock a revolutionary reader. Isn’t Corbyn the notorious anti-imperialist? Some may remember him as the politician who flew to the Washington, D.C., demonstration against war in Iraq in 2003 — called by Answer and supported by WWP. He has been seen as an anti-imperialist because of his defense of basic Palestinian rights and his opposition to war. Yet the Labour Party’s program does not oppose war and empire.
In the final section of the Manifesto, Labour outlines its foreign policy approach in a piece entitled “New Internationalism.” It includes proposals such as the following: “Conduct an audit of the impact of Britain’s colonial legacy to understand our contribution to the dynamics of violence and insecurity across regions previously under British colonial rule.”
In talking about the British Empire that killed millions of people across the world, the word “reparations” doesn’t appear once. An audit alone will not begin to solve the crisis of “Britain’s colonial legacy”! In reality, the Labour program seeks to maintain the Empire. It reads: “We have a duty to stand up for the security and sovereignty of our overseas territories, including the Falklands.” This statement couldn’t be a clearer call to defend the Empire.The Malvinas Islands (called the Falklands by Britain) belong to Argentina, not the British. [The Malvinas are 288 miles east of Argentina.]
Some of the proposals in this section appear progressive, such as suspending the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia and calling for an end to the Israeli blockade, occupation and settlements in Palestine. In the same sentence that defends Palestine’s right to exist, the program violates the Palestinian people’s right to self-defense, calling for “an end to rocket and terror attacks” by the Palestinians.
Labour Party’s stance on war exposed
This “New Internationalism” is as treacherous as the Second International’s encouragement of World War I. It reads: “Labour will increase funding for UN peacekeeping operations to £100 million” ($131 million), meaning more funding for troops like those in Port-au-Prince which repressed the movement in Haiti. And there’s this: “Labour supports the renewal of the Trident nuclear deterrent.”
So much for stopping war. Corbyn and the Labour Party want to keep nuclear missiles pointed at Russia. In other proposals, Labour promises to expand the military-industrial complex.
Labour proposes to increase the number of police by 2,000 and blames the Conservative Party for underfunding the police and causing crime. Their program calls for “closer counter-terrorism co-ordination between the police and the security services” and calls for more border patrols.
Unfortunately, the global working class doesn’t seem to exist for the Labour Party. Rather, the Empire should be reformed to provide better services for its working-class citizens. For socialists in the U.S., the question of international solidarity is even more critical. Jacobin, a leading socialist publication in the U.S., covers the Labour Manifesto very positively, with no mention of its support for the police, border patrol or military forces.
The Labour Manifesto is not a road to socialism, but a dead end toward defending and modernizing empire. In reality, socialism will not be attained through elections. It will develop as part of a massive upsurge of working-class action. Where are the strikes and demonstrations promoting Labour’s program? Without a mass movement, this parliamentary socialist program is destined to disappoint.
Impeachment and the 2020 election
Perhaps no one is more responsible for the growth in popularity of socialism than Sen. Bernie Sanders. His program has connected to these young radicals and given a voice to progressive politics in a way that few politicians have.
Yet in the unlikely event that Sanders wins the presidential election, he would need the working class mobilized to win the basic elements of Medicare for All, the Green New Deal, College for All, taxes on the rich and other parts of his program.
Meanwhile, the U.S. ruling class is in decline. It is not likely to make compromises. It is more likely to be repressive, smash working-class unity and get increasingly violent abroad to defend its increasingly fraught system.
The impeachment proceedings have been a hidden attack on the Sanders movement. This is an attempt to take people off the streets and focus their attention on boring legal proceedings in Congress. The message is clear: Nancy Pelosi and the corporate Democrats will provide “resistance” to Trump. In reality, the dubious, irrelevant charges against the racist, sexist, imperialist Trump may mobilize the right wing and effectively enable him to win a second term.
Another term for Trump is good for business. As the next economic crisis looms, the ruling class will demand austerity, more privatizations, more blood and more fascistic violence. They don’t want worker militancy or a President Sanders who will join workers on a picket line.
In the case that Sanders wins, his presidency would be met with capital strikes, stock market crashes and capitalist sabotage, paired with fascistic mobilizations to threaten any chance of a progressive presidency.
A proposed beginning to a route toward socialism
How do we defeat the rise of fascism in a country built on genocide, white supremacy, slavery, patriarchy and anti-communism? How do we support struggles against capitalism, racism, sexism and all forms of oppression and turn them into a movement for a revolutionary socialist future? This overly simplified proposal includes three parts: a renewed ideological campaign, continued mobilizations and a turn toward deeper organizing.
First of all, we need an ideological initiative in which we clarify and highlight our program. We did this to an extent in 2016 with the Workers World Party presidential campaign. Our candidates, Monica Moorehead and Lamont Lilly, raised demands such as abolishing the police and Immigration Customs and Enforcement, and dismantling the Pentagon. We called for global reparations for the crimes of the U.S. empire. We addressed the Black Lives Matter movement in a way that no other campaign did.
We have to support the struggles for reforms while explaining the need for revolutionary change. In the future, we need to explain why Medicare for All, an important reform, doesn’t go far enough as long as the capitalists own all the hospitals, medicines and, increasingly, more medical practices.
We need to clarify that by abolishing capitalism, we mean the establishment of workers’ control over every major industry — energy, education, finance, transportation and more — and that this is possible and necessary. We need to get this program out further than ever before.
A revolutionary program is not enough. We know publishing our ideas will not stop the U.S. empire from killing Indigenous peoples and destroying human life — and all life — on the planet. We know that the real power is in the streets.
Our party has successfully mobilized around several key struggles in the past year. Building solidarity with im/migrants, connecting to the upsurge in workers’ struggles and fighting U.S. imperialism’s attempts to conquer Venezuela and Bolivia have been significant developments. We have continued to build solidarity against racism and mass incarceration. And we apply the party’s unique perspective on the centrality of fighting national oppression and racism as key to the success for revolution in the U.S.
We need to be bolder. We need to keep organizing major mobilizations which come at key points for our class, recognizing that it is multinational, multigenerational and multigender, and includes our im/migrant sisters and brothers. These need to be openly anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist, anti-racist and pro-im/migrant campaigns and coalitions which build global working-class solidarity.
Think about these demonstrations as a global strike against capitalism and imperialism. Every time there is a crisis and the Democrats won’t call a protest action, we need to plan to shut down the system with our allies, including those on the left.
Mobilizations are not enough. For our party to succeed, we need to sink our roots deeper into the working class. The comrades we win through our mobilizations and ideological initiatives need to become trusted fighters for our class. We need to be seen as the best community organizers, the most principled union fighters and the clearest thinkers.
We need a strategy in which people will dedicate their lives to building the working-class organizations which will carry out the revolution here. Those include unions, workers’ and people’s assemblies, community organizations and study groups..Deep organizing, the work of building relationships with the leaders of our class, is our only weapon.
Finally, we need to continue to be the loudest voice for Marxist-Leninist unity. We must keep on being a principled, nonsectarian party which attempts to build broader Marxist-Leninist unity and solidarity among fellow communist organizations. Our comrades in Bolivia and throughout Latin America deserve no less.
We need real, practical unity. The crises of this period require a greater level of communication, deliberation and unity among the most advanced forces in the left.
Finally, let’s not give up hope. Demoralization can be the gravest of illnesses for a communist party. I believe that we will win, and I hope you do as well.
Build a Workers World! Socialism or death!
WW photo: Monica Moorehead