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Raising the banners of socialism in the United States

by Echo Park Community Coalition (EPCC) Sunday, May. 10, 2009 at 1:34 PM 213-484-1527 1714 W. Temple St. Los Angeles, CA 90026

The members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and our friends would promote socialism whether or not there was a worldwide capitalist economic crisis. But if there was any time to revive the socialist movement and build a multinational working-class party of revolutionaries, we believe that the time is now. We realize that we are not raising the banners of socialism and calling for revolution in the United States in a vacuum.

Raising the banners ...
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EPCC NEws and Commentaries

May 9, 2009

Raising the banners of socialism in the United States

Friday, May 8, 2009

By: Jon Beacham

Build the Party for Socialism and Liberation

This is an edited version of a talk given at the April 25 Chicago Socialism conference.

The members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation and our friends would promote socialism whether or not there was a worldwide capitalist economic crisis. But if there was any time to revive the socialist movement and build a multinational working-class party of revolutionaries, we believe that the time is now.

We realize that we are not raising the banners of socialism and calling for revolution in the United States in a vacuum.

We know that most workers are not socialists and that a socialist revolution is not likely to happen tomorrow. But that does not invalidate socialism as the answer to the myriad of oppressions caused by capitalist rule.

Socialism is not a fantasy or a pipe dream. It is a concrete political answer to the exploitation of workers and the oppression of women, LGBT people, immigrants and others. The capitalist system empowers the rich. Socialism empowers the working class. We fight for socialism because it is the only way to end poverty and war once and for all. It is the only way to abolish class rule and economic crises.

The relatively low level of class consciousness of U.S. workers points to the need to build a fighting organization that can educate and help lead the multinational working class in political struggles in the streets, factories, school campuses, the barracks and everywhere in society.

The political ideology of socialism provides clarity for those who wish to struggle against injustice in a capitalist society. It also provides a strategy for victory.

Socialism is part and parcel of U.S. working-class struggle

Contrary to prevailing "wisdom," socialism is not alien to the United States. Millions of people in the United States have been members of socialist parties. The U.S. working class has a long history of militant struggle. Workers are responsible for the great wealth of this country and fought and died in struggle against the bosses and their state for voting rights and all civil rights, the 8-hour day, unemployment insurance, social security and more.

Marxists fought in the U.S. Army in the Civil War, which was really a revolution that ended the slave owners’ rule in the South.

In 1917, socialists in Oklahoma, Black and white, took up arms against the draft during World War I. The U.S. Socialist Party was one of a handful of socialist parties that opposed that first great imperialist blood bath. They called for workers to protest the war and resist the draft. They supported the 1917 socialist revolution in Russia.

Leaders of the Socialist Party were imprisoned for opposing the war. In opposition to World War I, Eugene Debs, the leader of the Socialist Party in the United States, said, "I am not opposed to all war, nor am I opposed to fighting under all circumstances, and any declaration to the contrary would disqualify me as a revolutionist. When I say I am opposed to war, I mean ruling class war, for the ruling class is the only class that makes war."

At his treason trial in Cleveland in 1918, Debs said, "I believe, as all [s]ocialists do, that all things that are jointly needed and used ought to be jointly owned—that industry, the basis of our social life, instead of being the private property of a few and operated for their enrichment, ought to be the common property of all, democratically administered in the interest of all."

In the 1920s and 30s, the Communist Party waged a militant struggle against apartheid and lynching, forming organizations like the Sharecroppers Union that had thousands of southern Black farmers as members.

Socialists helped organize the labor battles of the 1930s through the 1950s and for decades before this. In the factories, mines and fields, socialists fought racism and promoted unity between immigrants, women, African Americans and all workers in struggles against the bosses.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Black Panther Party and the League of Black Revolutionary Workers fought for Black liberation and socialism.

For the last five years, Party for Socialism and Liberation members, along with our allies in the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism) and the anti-war movement, have worked tirelessly to initiate and carry out mass actions against imperialist war. Millions of people have participated in these protests.

PSL members helped to organize the largest demonstration ever in support of Palestine in 2002. The party has helped organize the massive immigrant-rights protests, protests in solidarity with the people of New Orleans, solidarity campaigns with socialist Cuba, support for the 2005 New York Transit Strike, national days of action to Free the Jena 6 and much more. It is our socialist orientation that has helped us play pivotal roles in many of the mass mobilizations for justice.

Building socialism

The work of socialists is not over. Capitalism has not been defeated. In the late 1980s, the socialist movement suffered a great setback. The Soviet Union and most of the Eastern European socialist countries were overthrown. The capitalist politicians and the media proclaimed the death of socialism, dismissing it as contrary to human nature to organize society on the basis of rational planning and thought. They relentlessly attack and demonize all remaining socialists countries.

In the absence of much of the socialist camp, things have not improved for workers around the world. In most places, they have deteriorated. In some independent countries, like in Venezuela and Iran, where the people are actively fighting against U.S. domination, living conditions have improved for the majority of the people. The Iraqi people, the Palestinian people and the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and many more countries are under bloody siege.

Without struggle and the continued intervention of socialists, revolutionaries and all progressives, the conditions of life for workers and the oppressed will not improve. So, we take up the banners of socialism out of necessity and out of the desire to fight our class enemies for justice, rights and revolutionary change.

We can make a socialist revolution in the United States, because the working class is a revolutionary class. Workers make everything run. We can take the reigns of society into our hands and harness its productive forces to ensure jobs, housing, health care, education and more for everyone on the planet. We can end racism, sexism and homophobia. We can remove the racist cops from our streets.

Build the Party for Socialism and Liberation

For a revolution to happen, particular circumstances have to arise. The country must enter into a period of crisis. Revolutionary crises are usually brought on by a severe economic downturn or during times of imperialist war or both. We do not have control over when these crises happen, but they are part and parcel of any class system organized to benefit a ruling class instead of society as a whole.

During a crisis, workers must take action and come to the conclusion through their own experiences that the whole system should be replaced—that the working class should be the ruling class.

In order to take advantage of a revolutionary crisis, there must be a party, built in advance of the crisis that can help provide direction—that knows through its experience in the struggle the best tactics to use at any given time. We need a party that can go out—with newspapers, leaflets and other materials in hand—and agitate for socialism in all of our communities, work places, schools and everywhere possible.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation is building that kind of a party, a Marxist-Leninist party, a fighting organization that plans to train thousands of socialist leaders from all communities. A multinational party with women, LGBT people and people from oppressed communities as leaders and members. We are building a united workers’ movement that can go toe-to-toe with the racists, the bigots and the capitalists.

If you like the work we do, if you want to help expose and fight the capitalist system and learn the art of socialist revolution, you should join us in struggle. You should join the Party for Socialism and Liberation.

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