The Party for Socialism and Liberation, Workers World Party, Struggle – La Lucha, the Communist Workers League and the New Orleans Workers Group all trace their roots back to the political brilliance of one man. However, his tactics and methods were not perfect and were specifically designed for a period very different from our own. It is urgent in our time for revolutionaries to get “Out of the Movement, To the Masses!”
The December 20th, 2021 issue of Struggle – La Lucha, the publication of one of Workers World Party’s (WWP) many splinter groups contains the following tragic and almost comical headlines: “No support for Ukrainian Rittenhouses!” “Why there is no anti-vaccine movement in Cuba.” On the anniversary of the January 6th Capitol Riot, Richard Becker, founding member of the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) repeated the liberal claim that the events constituted an attempted coup during an appearance on PressTV. When challenged by Keaten Mansfield of the Center for Political Innovation, Becker went as far as saying that Mossad and Israel could not have possibly been involved in the day’s events, despite the many Israeli flags displayed among Trump’s crowd and Netanyahu’s close alliance with the Trump White House.
While Jimmy Dore, Jackson Hinkle, Fred Hampton Leftists, members of the Communist Party USA, and supporters of the Center for Political Innovation participated in the “Medicare for All” marches across the country, the various organizational descendants of Sam Marcy have focused on protesting Trump as a “fascist,” attempting to somehow lead the Black Lives Matter protests without inserting a class struggle message amid the identity politics, and otherwise taking their lead from CNN.
Sam Marcy (1911-1998) was clearly a genius and brilliant Marxist organizer. His contribution to building anti-imperialist movements and class struggle in the post-WW2 years should be more widely studied in our time when even his own followers and ideological descendants work to obscure it. Samuel Ballan was born in Ukraine to a Jewish family and had vivid memories of the Red Army protecting his family during the Russian Civil War that followed the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. Ballan migrated with his family to Brooklyn, New York, and as a teenager during the 1930s Great Depression, he joined the Communist Party USA and was heavily involved in its unemployed struggles and labor organizing. During this period the young activist took on the “party name” Sam Marcy after Marcy Avenue where he lived, and the pseudonym stuck for the rest of his life.
Sam Marcy resigned from the Communist Party USA and joined the Trotskyite movement at some point in 1933 or 1934. The reason he regularly stated for joining with Trotskyism and leaving the CPUSA was the failure of the Communist International to prevent Hitler’s rise to power in Germany. However, there may have been other, more personal, factors. Later in his life, Marcy often castigated the CPUSA for attempting to appear “more American” by elevating US-born white men like William Z. Foster, Earl Browder, and Gus Hall to leadership positions in order to combat the perception that they were foreign agents. It is very likely that as a Jewish Ukrainian immigrant who grew up speaking Russian, the policy of attempting to “Americanize” the party’s image directly impacted him in a negative way.
Marcy is known to have spoken harshly about the decision to move CPUSA’s national headquarters to Chicago in 1928. William Z. Foster’s position that this industrial city should be the capital of a “Soviet America” was considered by Marcy to be pandering to reaction. He maintained a kind of Atlanticist perception of the country, with a subtle contempt and suspicion of the broad masses of working people, perhaps rooted in his family’s direct experience of horrendous persecution at the hands of European Christians, and certainly reinforced by the reactionary turn of US society in the post-war years. Like Trotsky, Marcy believed New York City was the “foundry where the fate of mankind will be forged,” and this mindset was a barrier to reaching the broad masses of Americans.
Marcy joined the Trotskyites, but found himself increasingly uncomfortable with the anti-communism and middle-class nature of these circles. Many of the “New York Intellectuals” who dominated Trotskyism in the city during the late 1930s eventually abandoned Trotskyism for Neo-Conservatism. The most prominent of the New York City Trotskyites was Max Schachtman who broke with Trotsky in 1939, claiming the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact proved the USSR could not be a “degenerated workers state.”
Marcy, along with a few allies such as Vince Copeland (step-father of WWP leader Deirdre Griswold), relocated to the industrial city of Buffalo near the Canadian border. Marcy formed his own branch of the Socialist Workers Party, and amid Mccarthyism, the Buffalo branch of the SWP was known for its lack of hostility to the CPUSA. While many Trotskyites celebrated the repression of the CPUSA, Sam Marcy and his disciples teamed up with the CPUSA to protest against Taft-Hartley, in support of the Rosenbergs, and for Civil Rights.
In 1956, Marcy saw Khruschev’s secret speech in a negative light, rather than as validation of Trotsky’s criticism of Stalin. Marcy also saw the Hungarian Revolt of 1956 as a counter-revolutionary fascist uprising and defended the Soviet Union’s intervention. Marcy wrote a number of documents critiquing the “vulgar anti-Stalinism” of the Trotskyites. By 1959 it became clear that Marcy’s “Global Class War Tendency” was at odds with the rest of the Socialist Workers Party and a new party with a new newspaper was formed. The name “Workers World Party” was not chosen until a year after the initial split according to some records.
After leaving the SWP, Marcy pointed to Black Nationalism at home and Mao Zedong, Fidel Castro, and the postwar wave of third world revolutionary movements abroad as the center of revolutionary energy. While Marcy still considered his grouping to be the purest interpreters of Trotsky’s teaching, after the early 1960s, WWP rarely quoted or promoted Trotsky in a public way. While internally considering themselves to be in line with Trotsky’s Theory of Permanent Revolution, WWP realized that Trotskyism was becoming rightly synonymous with counter-revolution and middle class anti-communism. Marcy developed his own criticism of Trotsky’s organizing style, and by the 1970s, WWP’s ideology was a complete ideological mish-mash centered around one great leader with license to interpret revolutionary theory.
WWP aligned itself with all Marxist-Leninist governments, not falling into the divisions of the Sino-Soviet Split, and recruited many young street fighting activists during the political upsurge of 1968-1972. Marcy’s success as an economic forecaster and geopolitical analyst won him the respect of Fidel Castro and Kim Il-Sung, both of who personally sat down with on multiple occasions. Marcy analyzed events like the Chinese Cultural Revolution, the Kampuchea War, and the rise of Euro-Communism with a level of perception and depth rarely found elsewhere among western Marxists.
By 1974, Marcy had built up a cadre of nearly a thousand followers, most of them teenagers and college-aged radicals. When it became clear that upheavals of the early 70s had ended, Marcy oriented his followers to build community organizations focused on economic issues such as jobs, rent, food prices, and veterans benefits. The Marcyites organized a very successful demonstration against the racist anti-busing riots in Boston.
This post-1960s turn was labelled “face to the masses.” The Center for United Labor Action was envisioned to be something like the CPUSA’s Trade Union Educational League of the 1920s, and while economic populist and anti-racist activism kept the membership very busy, WWP adopted the practice of concealing itself. The feeling was that average workers were not intelligent enough to understand the sophisticated Marxism Marcy taught, and that anti-communism necessitated organizing a semi-underground organization to covertly lead pro-labor and anti-racist protests. WWP’s idea of being “mass” or “popular” was headlines about unemployment or bemoaning food prices. The elitist perception that average Americans were just too stupid to understand Marxism-Leninism and could only be “agitated” and manipulated by economist rhetoric prevented WWP from recruiting or expanding its ranks. Most of WWP’s recruits came from either the middle class street mobilizations of the 60s, or from other wings of the Marxist movement during the various regroupments amid the confusion of 1970s and the New Communist Movement.
As the Socialist Workers Party declined in the late 70s, Workers World Party stepped up to fill the void by becoming the primary organizer of national anti-war protests in Washington DC. In May of 1981, WWP organized a massive demonstration called “The People’s Anti-War Mobilization.” This was the first national anti-war protest to have a Palestinian speaker and an LGBT speaker. In the following years, loyal Marcyite underlings Brian Becker, Richard Becker, and Gloria La Riva learned the art of outmaneuvering political rivals for permits and utilizing their leverage as “King of the Protest Cage” in the decades to come.
As the 1980s and 90s went on, Marcy oriented his followers to “take over the movement” and dominate left-wing spaces where veterans of the 1960s upsurge congregated and regrouped. The way protests in Washington DC are regulated, securing a permit enables an organization to have a state sanctioned monopoly on a public space for a certain period of time. WWP’s rivals became infuriated with the sectarian nature with which the organization claimed its “turf” with the authority of the capitalist government. WWP employed a team of marshals to cooperate with the police and remove anyone who challenged Brian Becker’s “face time” in international media or narcissistic rambling before introducing each scheduled speaker.
WWP convened the “All People’s Congress” in Detroit and held national progressive demonstrations on an almost annual basis. The rallies grew to have a more and more liberal nature as time went by, though the Marcyites were always careful to include the demands of every anti-imperialist struggle from Palestine to the Philippines in the fine print of posters promoting demonstrations with names like “We Won’t Take Four More Years!” or “The People’s March Against Reaganism!”
The reason WWP had substantial success with “taking over the movement” during this period was because leftism was in decline and imperialism was stabilizing. The imperialists had no need to foment social democracy to control the discontented masses or mobilize a “movement” of foot soldiers in bonapartist struggles within the ruling class. When “the movement” existed as a kind of leftover from the 1960s upsurge, a group of disciplined, hardline Marxist-Leninist cadre could effectively maneuver into leadership of it.
In the age of BreadTube, Jacobin, and well-funded and widely promoted social-imperialist trends, the opposite is the case.
Sam Marcy was known to say “I have no crystal ball” as a kind of disclaimer before making his often correct economic forecasts. The phrase was meant to emphasize that Marxism was a science based on understanding the objective laws of history, not a form of mystical divination. The fact that Marcy had no crystal ball became very apparent in 1989-1993 when Marcy was completely blindsided by the fall of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Marcy had oriented his followers to operate as if no such thing could ever occur. With tragic optimism up into 1992 and 1993 Marcy continued to insist that “it’s not over yet” and that there was still hope for the Soviet Union to be revived.
The reason that Sam Marcy and his followers had been blindsided by the fall of the USSR was because they had taken tactical direction from it. They had focused on opposing the military industrial complex and Republicans as the main danger to the USSR, building up the anti-nuclear movement and protests against “Reaganism.” In his book “The Bolsheviks and War” Marcy called for the anti-war movement to “take on a working class character.” He wrote: “These giant multi-national monopolies are more powerful than any ancient empire ever was. There are even few modern imperialist states that can rival the power of one of the dynastic finance capitalist groupings which bankroll the various weapons systems. They relentlessly milk the U.S. Treasury which in turn passes on its losses to the masses of the working class and oppressed. If the struggle against imperialist war is to become serious, it must take on a working-class character. That doesn’t mean to narrow the appeal, as capitalist politicians maintain. On the contrary, it means to broaden it, for it is the working class and the oppressed people together with the lower middle class that constitute the majority in any case. Taking on a working-class character means that the fundamental aim of the anti-war struggle is not merely against the military-industrial complex, but also the defense contractors and the big banks, as well as the giant oil corporations. In a word, the struggle against imperialist war must be conducted as an all-around class wide struggle against the bourgeoisie.”
What Marcy failed to recognize is that in addition to the Reagans, Bushes and Pentagon Brass, the bourgeoisie had a liberal side well-embedded in the intelligence apparatus. Intelligence-connected occult guru Marilyn Ferguson who served as Al Gore’s spiritual advisor, the Congress for Cultural Freedom program of the CIA, the MKULTRA drug and mind control operations all worked to bring down the Soviet Union by more covert means.
While the military industrial complex had most certainly been threatened by the lack of hawkishness within the Carter administration as Marcy observed in his book “Generals Over The White House,” Carter was not simply a two-faced liberal appeaser of the masses. Marcy noted that events following the 1979 Iranian Revolution in the lead up to the 1980 election represented an internal conflict among the bourgeoisie. He wrote: “There are contradictions in the imperialist camp, as evidenced by the unwillingness of the imperialist allies to support the U.S. military adventure in Iran, or to go whole-hog with Washington in its confrontational brinkmanship with the USSR…Most significant is the inability of the Carter administration to get the kind of response from the mass of the American people that it needs in order to really launch a war. And this is despite having pulled out all the stops in a flood of jingoistic and chauvinist propaganda that has saturated the masses. It is no longer the early 1950s or even the 1960s when there was capitalist economic stability and development. The U.S. capitalist economy has now been in decline for several years, wracked by galloping inflation and rising unemployment.”
What Marcy missed was that while National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski may have left the White House with Carter, the soft-power manipulative strategies he advocated and the Rockefeller think tanks that dreamed them up remained intact. The anti-Nuclear movement of the 1980s, the inflow of liberal intellectuals to the USSR in the same decade, the covert funding of Marxian academics in Europe, and the courting and manipulation of dissident intellectuals in the Eastern Bloc all continued.
The USSR was not been brought down by military threat, but from ideological penetration. The cultural hedonism and pessimistic thinking of the New Left, spawned by US intelligence agencies, had seeped into the Soviet intelligentsia and boosted the Gorbachev wing of the Soviet leadership. “Democratic Socialism” and “anti-Stalinism” had wooed many among the younger generation of Soviet Communists into having a less hostile view of US imperialism and denouncing the “dogmatism” of their forefathers. The cultivation of dissident elements during the 1970s and 80s in the Eastern Bloc involved a large number of people being sucked into the delusion that they were part of a “global consciousness raising movement” that is “neither pro-communist or anti-communist” but seeks to “bring people together” and spread “open-mindedness and freedom.” The strategies of Zbiegnew Brzezinski were carried out with covert projects often funded by Hungarian Billionaire George Soros, creating ideological confusion in Soviet society and paving the way for Yeltsin among a population weary of war and economic embargoes.
The “New Left” that Marcy’s followers embedded themselves in and pandered to while often concealing their own politics ultimately delivered the “stab in the back” that destroyed the USSR. There’s a reason that Fidel Castro condemned rock music and drugs and other socialist states viewed counterculture with open contempt. The Marcyite tendency overlooked the illiberalism of socialist states and tragically under-estimated the importance of ideological and cultural struggle. The New Left should have been treated as a serious ideological threat, not a useful milieu to be courted and maneuvered within. “Movementism” or “Movementarian Revisionism” can correctly be identified as the greatest flaw of the Marcyite tendency.
Amid the string of bitter defeats, Marcy composed a pamphlet called “Soviet Socialism: Utopian or Scientific” in 1992 falling back on the Trotskyite theory of Permanent Revolution, insisting that the Soviet Union was doomed from the beginning because no workers’ revolution had happened in the west and it existed in competition with capitalist powers. Marcy wrote: “Why did it [the Utopian commune of New Harmony] disintegrate? The common explanation given by bourgeois critics of these early communist experiments is that they failed to reward “personal initiative” and the “rugged individualism” for which capitalist imperialism is so famous. However, the more important reason for their failure was that they were in competition with the capitalist mode of production and dependent upon it for the purchase and sale of materials. Even the Rappites who were quite prosperous, had had to move their communal society from Indiana to Pittsburgh to be nearer the market…Communism as an idea has existed for centuries. Communist societies like New Harmony and New Lanark and hundreds of others were not an accident of history but a response to the meanness, inequality, poverty, etc., of class society…Now that the counterrevolution is fully in the saddle in the USSR, and its wrecking crews are breaking down every progressive and revolutionary reform shall we say that this too was a form of utopianism? Was not the Soviet Union in reality as isolated as was New Harmony? Was it not an attempt to build an oasis within a world imperialist environment that was rent by malignant class contradictions?…The socialist revolution unexpectedly broke out first in Russia, not in an advanced capitalist country. The USSR was to a large extent an isolated phenomenon in a world still dominated by capitalism. Although it covered one-sixth of the earth’s surface, it was surrounded by a world imperialist environment. The Bolsheviks had a revolutionary and scientific approach to building socialism but they were no more immune to the social environment, to the domination of monopoly capitalism on a world scale, than was New Harmony in its day.” (Emphasis from C.M.)
What Marcy (and Trotsky) failed to predict was that by the first decade of the 21st Century the world would be on a steady trajectory of no longer being centered around the west. Socialist revolutions laid the basis for Russia and China to emerge as superpowers, and fill the void as western capitalism became more unstable as a result of the computer revolution. The USA is on the brink of societal collapse, not social revolution, and if such a collapse happens the globe can easily re-center itself around the two Eurasian superpowers that are already supplying the world with the majority of its telecommunications technology, computer chips, steel, oil and natural gas. The idea that the peoples of the world are stuck “waiting for the workers in America to move” is a 20th century delusion excessively repeated in Marcyite workshops. The face of geopolitics has changed.
Learning nothing from the disastrous fall of the USSR, WWP focused on “building the movement” and embracing the pessimistic, drug infested, sex obsessed middle class trend that dominates leftist spaces in the United States even more in the 1990s. WWP was ahead of its time in a way, with the kind of cancel culture, bitter punitive atmosphere and identity politics obsession that is now typical in almost any “socialist” environment first being unleashed inside the Manhattan loft of the International Action Center. WWP never recruited a substantial amount of people of color, and was always a primarily white organization. However, in the name of aspiring to be the vanguard of the Black liberation struggle certain individuals were given veto power over anything the organization did and protected from any criticism of their actions.
Brian Becker’s skills as a protest stage manager came in handy in 2002-2004 during the height of protests against the Iraq War. Seeing an opportunity the ANSWER (Act Now Stop War End Racism) coalition was formed and began reserving protest permits. With enough money coming in and a layer of cadre loyal to him and the ANSWER coalition rather than the party overall, the Becker family led more than half of WWP to walk away and form the Party for Socialism and Liberation in 2004.
WWP responded to the split by accusing PSL of being “racist” and re-energizing for a bit. Fred Goldstein, one of Marcy’s older proteges who had mentored Brian, composed a book called “Low Wage Capitalism” giving a Marxist perspective on the financial crisis and started acting as WWP’s new theoretician. A slew of ex-members who had been driven out amid the group’s decay in the 1990s were welcomed back as long as they denounced Brian Becker as a traitor to Marcy’s legacy. Fred Goldstein oriented the party to once again emphasize economic demands and highlight the history of the CPUSA’s role during the 1930s. From 2008 to 2011 the organization seemed to have some aspiration to be a functional, class struggle anti-imperialist organization like the Communist Party of Greece (KKE) or other more healthy Marxist-Leninist groups around the world.
But even amid its brief resurgence, the seeds of failure and collapse had already been planted. In 2008 WWP cadre were oriented to not criticize Barack Obama and to celebrate his election as a huge victory over racism. During the 2011 Occupy protests, WWP cadre proved completely incapable of answering basic ideological questions young activists presented them or winning over any substantial layer of the many young people interested in anti-capitalist ideas. At this point it became clear that “The movement” was run by somebody else, who believed something very different. The 1980s and 90s were over and the ruling class was fomenting Synthetic Leftism for its own reasons. WWP was not going to be able to “take over” Occupy Wall Street or Black Lives Matter, especially when it did not even understand its own ideology.
In 2012, with a slick package of NGO money traceable to the very banks they were protesting, WWP stage managed the protests against the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. The protests were held the day prior to the convention and instead of exposing the Democrats, they called a “March on Wall Street South” that barely criticized the White House.
While WWP endorsed Cynthia Mckinney’s Green Party campaign in 2008, in 2012 the party was completely silent, giving almost a passive endorsement to Obama. In 2016 Monica Moorehead ran an embarrassing identity politics laced campaign, echoing MSNBC’s claims that Trump was a fascist while the party pathetically attempted to lead liberal anti-Trump mobilizations. In January of 2017 while Trump was being sworn in, WWP held a small demonstration along with the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. The feeder march eventually merged into the liberal crowd who carried signs accusing Trump of being a Russian asset and comparing him to Kim Jong-Un.
While “Tankie” politics becomes increasingly relevant in the current climate of ideological confusion, Marcyism and its failed movementist strategy is certainly in decline. Brian Becker’s Party for Socialism and Liberation is the largest and most effective piece of Marcyite Cold War wreckage, though many of its younger members do not even know Marcy’s name. Following the Marcyite tradition, PSL stages rallies around the latest trendy liberal causes, hoping fruitlessly to convince crowds that think Trump is a Russian agent to oppose regime change wars.
For the anniversary of the January 6th Capitol Riot, PSL’s Liberation republished a transcript of Brian Becker’s rather unoriginal rambling about the events saying “When one examines January 6, what Trump tried to do was prevent the peaceful transfer of power from one ruling class party to the other. This is a cornerstone of the legitimacy, or perceived legitimacy, of the American system of governance – the fact that when one side loses the election, it doesn’t, you know, end up in street fighting or civil war, which would be the hallmark of an unstable system of governance. The US has acknowledged this peaceful transition, at least since the end of the civil war in 1865. So what Trump did is he violated this basic rule – the cardinal rule of politics in America – by putting his own interests ahead of the interests of the capitalist system to demonstrate stability in its form of governance… I think the most important failure of the Democratic party was the way they did not encourage the prosecution of the chief architects of the violent assault, meaning they did not file charges against Trump and his entourage who clearly planned this event. They were the ones who summoned tens of thousands of Trump supporters to Washington in the middle of the work week.”
One almost wonders if Becker is hoping his “Socialist Program” podcast will be picked up by MSNBC. The notion that the Democratic Party which is embracing tech censorship, cancel culture, sweeping “domestic terrorism” legislation, and all kinds of political repression in the aftermath of the Capitol Riot is somehow not going far enough is a bizarre thing for any supposed Marxist revolutionary to say.
Perhaps the ANSWER coalition will next hold rallies in Washington DC calling for the mass confiscation of firearms or placing “Russian Assets” in concentration camps to protect the homeland? As working people are being driven deeper into poverty amid post-pandemic inflation, with war danger rising as US media is whipping up cultural divisions, PSL’s “great achievement” is holding rallies in the hopes of helping drive Kyle Rittenhouse out of Arizona State University.
In multiple instances Becker has used the term “sedition” to describe the rowdy demonstration of Trump supporters that involved trespassing and vandalism. One wonders if Becker is not familiar with Schenck v. United States or Abrams v. United States. 1918 Sedition Act was created specifically to silence socialist anti-war protesters like him. But now that Becker is simply defending the liberal order from dissident rightists, his concern for civil liberties has vanished.
Youth who attend PSL functions and show a knowledge of or strong interest in Marxism will be treated with suspicion. PSL Cadre are quick to tell you “We are real organizers! We aren’t interested in those books by old white men!” PSL wants to be a protest club for young liberal hipsters, not a group of working people embracing history’s challenge. If one challenges PSL’s ideological positions or tactics, the argument will inevitably lead to the classic Marcyite-movementist refrain of “Yeah? Well we actually do something!” PSL recruitment materials, while slicker and having better production values than other socialist tendencies, are about as watered down and liberal as you can get. Recruitment videos consist of members staring into a camera saying something more or less equivalent to “Look at us! We are a group of people of diverse races and genders who can recite liberal mantras! Don’t you think racism and war are bad? Join the PSL because we do lots of protesting and stuff.”
The fact that PSL nominated Gloria La Riva as their 2020 Presidential candidate instead of a younger or more charismatic cadre reveals an entrenched bureaucratism that will ultimately doom the organization beyond its mistaken tactical orientation. PSL is the property of the Becker family and their selected clique of activists, a protest hustle they have opportunistically monetized and will never willingly give up despite the actual needs of the class struggle. Like WWP, PSL will cling to the toxic liberal “movement” and continue to reassure everyone of its supposed potential, much like musicians who kept strumming away as the Titanic sank.
In 2017 and 2018 Workers World Party fractured, first with a hysterical purge against the Detroit branch for daring to challenge Marcy’s handpicked lifelong successors, followed by sexual assault scandals, rape allegations and violence between members resulting from events in Baltimore. The party is now roughly a third of the size it was in 2015, with a few ever loyal cadre holding on and a few naive youth who will most likely see through the scam in a year or two. A couple more sincere breakaway splinter groups made up of old believers repeating Sam Marcy’s Cold War mantras have websites and newspapers, while whats left of the party itself functions as an undead animated corpse staging small rallies and maintaining a very expensive but almost always empty office in midtown Manhattan.
Many figures formerly associated with WWP such as Imani Henry and Elena Everett have devolved into mere liberal activists, taking WWP’s disdain for ideology and celebration of liberal activism to its logical conclusion. Former WWP cadre Taryn Fivek has moved on to the CPUSA, where she and a small clique of well-connected allies are whipping up a hysterical campaign against the Center for Political Innovation that much of the party’s rank and file is highly uncomfortable with. Fivek’s theatrics center around the conspiracy theory that Russian intellectual Alexander Dugin is covertly directing Jimmy Dore, Glenn Greenwald and this writer in a sinister plot to undermine Joe Biden’s progressive agenda and Kamala Harris’ reputation.
Edward Bernstein’s slogan “The Movement is Everything! The Goal is Nothing!” with which he coined the term ‘revisionism’ would most likely be met with approval by most late Marcyites if a poll were taken. Such thinking is far more dangerous in 2022 than in 1910.
Millions of Americans do not trust the government, the Pentagon, big pharma or the mainstream media. In the hopes of drumming up some public support and beating back the dissident right-wing, US imperialism is attempting to have a “woke” makeover. Rather than winning the working class away from Trumpian demagogy in a time when they are more critical of the status quo than ever before, the Marcyites have instead opted to join “the movement” fomented by the imperialists in the hope of saving their system.
The notion that PSL, WWP or some other Marxist organization will be permitted by the bourgeoisie to maneuver into leadership of their mobilizations to defend the status quo against Trump is pure delusion. The Popular Front alliance of the Roosevelt-era was only possible because the Communist Party had spent the previous half-decade building up a huge base of support among impoverished urban workers. At the time, the Communist Party USA was tied to the Soviet Union and Roosevelt aligning with it also had geopolitical implications amid the imperialist rivalry with Germany and Italy.
Trump is not Hitler. The USA is not Weimar Germany. Furthermore, the crowds of middle-class CNN college liberals being mobilized to defend the wildly unpopular Biden administration do not represent the proletariat. The BreadTube/Young Turks/DSA cult that mesmerizes its recruits with infantalizing corporate-style “Wokeshops” rooted in scientology practices, while calling for concentration camps for the unvaccinated and equating “Tankies” with Nazi holocaust deniers, is not where serious revolutionaries should be attempting to recruit. While conservatives and right-wing dissidents often appear open to conversation despite their backward views, the vile, hateful entity called “the movement” looks a lot more like fascism to those who understand what the term actually means.
Socialism is the only way out of the unfolding nightmare of US capitalism. The teachings of the proletarian movement and its message of salvation, comradeship, and emancipation must become well embedded among the broad masses of Americans. Imperialism is the enemy of American workers and the greatest cure for racism has always been the picket line, bringing working people together to see their common interest against the bankers and warmakers. To be truly patriotic and love the United States, to truly follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, it is necessary to embrace anti-imperialism and socialism.
The above sentiments must be made abundantly clear to millions of people. This is the URGENT NECESSITY of the moment. The Marcyites will never take on this task because deep down they do not love the broad masses. Much like Hillary Clinton who dismissed all of Trump’s supporters as a “basket of deplorables,” the late Marcyites view average American working people who aren’t as “woke” as they are with contempt. During the Cold War, it certainly made sense for Communists to retreat into the labor movement or hippie counterculture as the comfortable lifestyle of many US workers was a basis for the chauvinism, racism and anti-communism among a big layer of the country.
But the Cold War is long over and the labor aristocracy is being eroded. Living standards are falling. The Center for Political Innovation seeks to reorient socialism away from the New Left’s distortions. Demands for jobs, housing, and schools have potential to take hold among the broad masses, as do anti-imperialist sentiments. However, in order to reach the broad masses, a solid break with the toxic, middle class, pro-imperialist “woke” left and its liberal cultural atmosphere must take place.
Lenin wrote: “Neither we nor anyone else can calculate precisely what portion of the proletariat is following and will follow the social-chauvinists and opportunists. This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution. But we know for certain that the “defenders of the fatherland” in the imperialist war represent only a minority. And it is therefore our duty, if we wish to remain socialists, to go down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole purport of the struggle against opportunism. By exposing the fact that the opportunists and social-chauvinists are in reality betraying and selling the interests of the masses, that they are defending the temporary privileges of a minority of the workers, that they are the vehicles of bourgeois ideas and influences, that they are really allies and agents of the bourgeoisie, we teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution through all the long and painful vicissitudes of imperialist wars and imperialist armistices.”
The question facing US society is whether or not it will be restructured with socialism and join the alternative global economy, or simply deteriorate along with the Atlanticist international system. Rosa Luxemburg’s question of “socialism or barbarism?” raised in 1915 amid the First World War has returned with a vengeance. Luxemburg wrote: “Today, we face the choice exactly as Friedrich Engels foresaw it a generation ago: either the triumph of imperialism and the collapse of all civilization as in ancient Rome, depopulation, desolation, degeneration – a great cemetery. Or the victory of socialism, that means the conscious active struggle of the international proletariat against imperialism and its method of war.”
In such a time the goal of leftists cannot be to simply “burn it down” and spread chaos within the USA in solidarity with the third world. A program for stabilizing US society by breaking it out of the international monopolist system and transitioning to a rational socialist economy must be put forward. Socialists must be the political current that offers the working people of America hope for progress, peace, stability, and community in the face of chaotic imperialist societal collapse.
The reason Stalin ascended into leadership of the Soviet Communist Party was because unlike Trotsky, he had a deep love and spiritual connection with the peoples of the region. Stalin was not a cosmopolitan intellectual of the revolutionary intelligentsia, but a the son of a boot-maker who grew up in a small village. Prior to 1917 Stalin, himself a Georgian, organized factory workers, peasants, and workers of many different ethnic and religious backgrounds into a unified disciplined organization. In his biography of Stalin, British historian Simon Sebag Montifore described his methods: “Stalin was hostile to bumptious intellectuals, but he was less with the less educated worker-revolutionaries, who did not arouse his inferiority complex, he played the teacher — the priest…The workers listened reverently to this young preacher — and it was no coincidence that many of the revolutionaries were seminarists, and the workers often pious ex-peasants… Trotsky, agitating in another city, remembered that many of the workers thought the movement resembled the early Christians and had to be taught that they should be atheists.”
Stalin’s effectiveness in mobilizing the USSR to rapidly industrialize and defeat the Nazis came for being amazingly in touch with the soul of the Soviet peoples. He understood what compromises to make, what methods of persuasion to use, and how to build the Soviet state into an effective vehicle for transforming and defending the land. US Communists must strive to have this deep love and connection with the various peoples of the United States, Black, Arab, Asian, Latino and white, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Hindu, men, women, or LGBT. Beyond Wall Street and Hollywood, between Canada and Mexico, there is a huge country full of working families, vast natural resources, and a hopeful optimism that once gave US society a special glow and energy amid the rightly decried ugliness of its history. Mao Zedong wrote: “The masses are the water and the revolutionaries are the fish.”
The strategy of mass socialist education among the wider population, summed up by the slogan “Out of the Movement, To the Masses!” is the only option for serious anti-imperialists.
Marcy’s late cold war strategies and analysis contain many important lessons, but as its ideological heirs become weaker and more attached to the liberals, the “movementist” approach must be chucked.
In a time where millions of working class youth feel disempowered and hopeless, the City-Building Tendency must appeal to their inner desire to become heroic. In his pivotal text “The Role of the Individual in History,” Georgi Plekhanov the father of Russian Marxism wrote: “A great man is precisely a beginner because he sees further than others, and desires things more strongly than others… He is a hero. But he is not a hero in the sense that he can stop, or change, the natural course of things, but in the sense that his activities are the conscious and free expression of this inevitable and unconscious course. Herein lies all his significance; herein lies his whole power. But this significance is colossal, and the power is terrible.”