Based on a talk given at the Feb. 5 webinar “Global Class War: Lessons from Sam Marcy for workers struggles today.” Go to youtu.be/5Arb33Q8SN0 to view the webinar.
Sam Marcy was someone who I never got a chance to meet, but if I had the chance to, I would have way too many questions to ask him. Sam Marcy has impacted my politics in profound ways. His political teachings not only helped clarify a general understanding of the world for me but also gave me the particular knowledge I needed for specific fights — like the fight to build Starbucks Workers United, in which we won the first recognized Starbucks union in the U.S. here in Buffalo, New York.
Sam taught me that class consciousness and international solidarity are inseparable. Once you understand the worldwide nature of the capitalist system, you understand that you are in a global class war. You also understand that you have comrades and allies all over the world.
Many organizations on the left talk of the term “revolutionary defeatism,” advocating for the defeat of one’s own imperialist government in war — something that is indispensable to us in stopping the U.S./NATO led imperialist proxy war in Ukraine.
But Sam also spoke of “revolutionary defensism,” that is in defense of our global class. This means defending the revolutionary gains made by our class and being clear about the fact that not only do we take up the defense of countries against imperialism on the basis of self-determination, but that we defend workers’ states as workers’ states, regardless of any setbacks that occurred under the pressures of imperialism.
Whether it is the guerillas in the jungles of the Philippines, or in India struggling to wage a peoples’ war for our class, or communists in Cuba, Vietnam or China struggling to maintain proletarian power against their own domestic reactionaries and the external imperialist menace. Or whether they are freedom fighters on the front lines in Palestine fighting for freedom against Zionism and U.S. imperialism — Sam has given us the political tools to navigate these developments in our world, as well as the contradictions that come with them, while maintaining a rock-solid defense of our class on all fronts.
We must defend the burgeoning workers’ movements at home and around the world and defend those that have stood the test of time. Revolutionary defeatism and revolutionary defensism must go hand in hand.
Marcy tied class struggles together
Sam did an excellent job at tying the struggles around the world to the struggle at home. He reminds us there is no destiny for workers in the U.S. separate from workers of the whole world and that we must approach the class struggle always from an international perspective. Many of his writings were invaluable to me in my union struggle at Starbucks, as was his analysis of the limitations of traditional trade unionism.
Sam wrote about how most contract bargaining presupposes that capitalist property relations stay intact and negotiations only deal with bread-and-butter issues. Taking this fight outside of the purely economic sphere and into the political sphere is essential, not only to win real power for our class in the workplace, but it may be necessary to win any contract at all, when the courts stand as an obstacle like they do with Starbucks.
So now I find myself here, 25 years after the passing of Sam, in the middle of a U.S. labor revival led by young socialists and communists, in the middle of yet another U.S. proxy war in Ukraine, while a new one is being brewed in Taiwan. These circumstances could easily demoralize and frighten the average person, but to those armed with revolutionary Marxism-Leninism and a global class perspective passed down to us by Sam, we must trade in any fear for hope, knowing that we have the tools to handle it.
As conditions become more dire, the potentiality of a revolutionary situation continues to ripen. When it arrives, we must be prepared.
Marcyism: revolutionary scientific socialism
So what is Marcyism to me? Marcyism is an attitude. Marcyism is revolutionary scientific socialism, freed from the sectarian cage that has bound much of the political discussion on the revolutionary left. Marcyism is understanding which side you’re on at all times, without delving into eclecticism. It means understanding that there are contradictions within our class camp, but that despite them, it still constitutes our class camp and that our position is to defend and strengthen it.
Marcyism is uncompromising anti-imperialism, whether that is supporting oppressed nations under threat of the U.S. empire abroad or supporting the struggles of oppressed nations within the borders of the empire, like the struggle for self-determination for Black and Indigenous peoples.
Marcyism is understanding that the special oppressions of racism and national oppression, sexual and gender oppression, oppression of those with disabilities and others are not secondary to the class struggle, but are essential components of the class struggle. They must be at the forefront of our fight, not left to be sorted out “after the revolution.” To paraphrase Comrade Larry Holmes, there won’t be a revolution if these oppressions are ignored.
Marcyism is showing up for every fight, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant. If we can be there, we are there. Our comrades showed up for the Amazon Labor Union before there was any indication it would make the headlines it has. But they didn’t show up because they knew ALU would win; they showed up because ALU was on the front lines for our class.
Consistency and militancy are what won me to Workers World Party after years of hanging around with the Buffalo branch. When it came time to get serious, I knew I wanted to be with the folks who never backed down, who I saw at every protest with sharp analysis on every struggle.
I am a Marxist-Leninist walking in the footsteps of Sam. I try my best every day to maintain unshakable optimism against the most dreadful capitalist system, because I know that we can win. That’s what the Marcyist attitude means to me. Long live Comrade Sam! Build a workers world!