March in support of the Detroit

newspaper workers!

. Detroit Workers' Voice #14 (June 1, 1997) supported the demonstration in support of the newspaper workers which was held on Saturday, June 21 in Detroit. This demo was organized by the AFL-CIO unions, but the AFL-CIO leaders did not tell the workers the real story of the newspaper strike. DWV called on workers to go to the demonstration and contained two articles, one on the newspaper strike and one on the crisis of left-wing thought. These articles also appeared in Communist Voice #14 , and they follow below:

Rank-and-file action or union leader sellouts?

. Detroit newspaper workers and many others in solidarity with them have fought hard for nearly two years. Untold sacrifices have been made in the fight against the corporate media giants, Gannett and Knight-Ridder. But despite the efforts of the rank and file and their supporters, the truth is that the struggle has been derailed. The efforts to shut down scab production have ended. The mass plant rallies were dismantled. The strike itself has been called off. The handful of workers that have returned to work face worse conditions then when the strike began. Meanwhile the union leaderships are promising the newspaper bosses more concessions if only they hire back the former strikers. The goals of the struggle have been reduced to hoping that some year the National Labor Relations Board will order the newspapers to take back some more workers, with all the issues that led to the strike still unresolved, and with hundreds of workers never called back.

. The leaders of the AFL-CIO are pretending that the struggle is stronger than ever, but in fact it has suffered severe defeats. They present this rosy picture to cover their responsibility for the dilemma the workers now face. The reasons for these severe defeats were not just because of the financial power of the companies. Nor was it merely that the capitalist bosses, as usual, have had their facilities protected by court orders and the Detroit and suburban police, in addition to their own private goon squads. The truth is that the struggle has been subverted by the national and local leaders of the AFL-CIO unions. In the face of powerful enemies, these alleged champions of labor have gone all out to prevent the type of struggle that could have kept the company reeling. Right from the beginning they have worked to contain the militant strivings among the workers and solidarity activists. They undermined the most effective mass actions that proved it was possible to shut down scab production. If the police wanted to escort scabs through plant picket lines, the union bureaucrats were there to help the cops. If the courts banned plant actions, the union misleaders would counsel the workers to comply. While the NLRB banned effective forms of worker protests, the AFL-CIO leadership assured the workers that if only they obeyed these restrictions, this same NLRB would allegedly save the workers from being devastated. While cowering before the cops and courts, the union leaderships only got tough when it came to putting down rank-and-file militants and activists who wanted to go beyond their timid tactics.

. Of course, the AFL-CIO bureaucrats promise they will never betray the workers. Indeed, each time they have toned down the struggle, they bragged about how the strike would now be more powerful than ever. Now, they are patting themselves on the back for having organized the thousands-strong June 21 march. But the bureaucrats are not suddenly reversing their opposition to militant mass action after two years. Even with thousands of workers gathered for June 21, they are not calling for plant blockades. Indeed, it's notable that the national AFL-CIO leaders refused to agree to the march until after instructing their underlings at the local level to call off the strike and make an unconditional offer to return to work.

Using corporate boycotts to subvert militant action

. The failure of the union leaders to put up a serious fight is a national disease rendering the workers weak in the face of the corporate offensive. Time and again the workers have been channeled away from powerful actions that could really shut down scab production, such as the mighty plant blockades at the Detroit newspaper plant in Sterling Heights in September 1995.Instead the union officials tell the workers that all they need do is have a boycott campaign against the scab product. Boycotts have their place. But as a substitute for militant mass action, they are a recipe for failure. Look at the evidence. The AFL-CIO heads touted the corporate boycott as the answer for the major strikes of recent years. The results? The bureaucrats wound up swallowing rotten settlements leaving many strikers jobless and working conditions gutted. The workers at Staley, Caterpillar, and Bridgestone/Firestone are among those who have suffered this sad fate thanks to the bankrupt ideas of the so-called "corporate campaign. "

. Aren't the Detroit newspaper workers being led to the same slaughter? The union leaders can dress up their meek tactics with fiery slogans like "shut down Motown", but they are not even willing to shut down one single newspaper production plant! They can proclaim offering to return to work under slave conditions (already some returned workers have been fired!) as an escalation of the battle. But the fact remains that the lame AFL-CIO tactics have led to the strike being abandoned.

Build rank-and-file initiative

. If workers are not to suffer more bitter setbacks, the rank and file must take the initiative. The potential power of our class is enormous. Just look at how the plant blockades of September 1995 shut down the Sterling Heights plant. These actions became quite powerful not because the union bureaucrats were more militant then. The bureaucrats had organized for a pacifist action where workers would be peacefully carted away by the cops. Instead the workers fought back and defeated the police efforts to break the picket lines. But for the workers to carry out a consistent policy of militant action, the rank and file must develop its own organizations of struggle. Such organizations must not only develop mass militant tactics, but encourage a struggle against the union bureaucracy.

Working class politics vs. Labor Party politics

. For the working class to become a real force, it must have its own class politics. The trade union bureaucrats tell us that political activity means voting for the Democrats as the alternative to the Republicans. But in fact, both of these parties are in the pockets of the wealthy. Others claim the recently founded Labor Party represents the workers' political trend. After all, the Labor Party has said that both the Republicans and Democrats are representing the rich. But the Labor Party does not stand for developing independent working class organization, but relies on the very same AFL-CIO hierarchy that is betraying the workers. In fact the main leaders of this party are case-hardened union bureaucrats. They point out how the Democratic Party politicians have failed to deliver on their promises to the workers, but then promote such two-faced liberal politicians as former Democratic California Governor Jerry Brown. Their failure to really stand for building an independent class movement means undermining the fight for any useful reforms they might support. In this way, they mimic the traditional stand of the left-wing of the Democratic Party. Workers must oppose such politics if they are to begin to establish their own independent trend.

. For the workers to make a clean break with bourgeois politics requires more, however. The current corporate onslaught not only requires strong resistance, but raises the question of the root cause of the problems facing the workers and poor today. The capitalist system is behind the current attacks on the workers' livelihood. As long as a handful of corporate bloodsuckers rule, the workers will always be subjugated. As long as the profit system exists, even when workers win a bit of relief, the next day they will be under renewed attacks. Nor can we expect that as long as the wealthy corporations remain, the political system will be freed from their grip and converted into the protector of the exploited.

. Revolutionary class politics points to the need for a political party opposed to the capitalist system itself. As an opponent of the capitalist system, it fights for the most resolute struggle for the workers' immediate interests. Part of this involves winning workers away from the influence of the AFL-CIO leadership and exposing the two capitalist parties and the reformist "third parties" that trail in the Democrats' wake. As well, in the struggles of today, it works to demonstrate that the liberation of our class requires the overthrow of capitalism. It puts forward the perspective of a revolutionary workers' rule which eliminates class oppression and exposes the fake "communist" regimes that have existed in the Soviet Union, China and Cuba. <>

Marxism in an era of free-market capitalism

. Today the bourgeoisie is crowing that the free market has won the world contest. Its politicians and economists are shouting that Marxism is dead and the revolutionary working class movement is dead and capitalism will last forever. According to them, there is nothing for the workers to do but pull in their belts further and further so that the CEOs and yuppies can get richer and richer. Perhaps a few crumbs will trickle down to the workers of the country that is farthest ahead in the competitive race.

. But what has died was not socialism but more-or-less authoritarian regimes with extensive state ownership. The attempts at socialism in the 20th century didn't succeed, but were replaced by state-capitalist regimes. It is this that has died. And there must be no tears for such regimes if a truly militant working class movement is to rise again.

. And rise again it must. Free-market capitalism is triumphant, and so poverty is growing throughout the world. The more the world economy grows, the more "safety nets" are removed and the poorer are millions of people. Asia is one of the boom areas of capitalism, yet it has unprecedented numbers of child laborers and child prostitutes. The U. S. boasts of producing more jobs than any other Western industrial economy, and each year wages drop and more people are on the street. Meanwhile, despite pious declarations from Clinton and UN conferences, the world environmental crisis gets worse and worse. If this is capitalism at its height, then capitalism is bankrupt.

The crisis of revolutionary theory

. The class struggle will come back. But it will not come back on the old basis. All around the world, left-wing movements and workers' organizations are in crisis. The collapse of the fake "socialist" regimes abroad and the shrinking size of the reformist trade unions in the U. S. are not an accident. The only way the working class anywhere in the world can defend itself is to put the class struggle on a new basis.

. The Communist Voice Organization (CVO) is dedicated to paving the way for this proletarian reorganization. We don't hide the crisis of left-wing thought, but put overcoming this crisis at the center of our activity. We hold that Marxism shows the way to reorganize the left, but not just any kind of Marxism. The "Marxism" that is proclaimed in the regimes in Cuba and China today, and that was proclaimed by the fallen regimes in Russia and Eastern Europe yesterday, was not really Marxism. It was just a set of apologies for a different kind of capitalist oppression, state-capitalism rather than free- market capitalism. To use Marxism in this manner, it had to be "revised", and all the revolutionary principles of Marx and Lenin had to be falsified. This type of "Marxism" is what we call "revisionism". It has made millions of toilers around the world puke.

No tears for the fake socialist regimes

. This is why the Communist Voice Organization, unlike most Trotskyists and reformists, has no tears about the collapse of the fake "communist" regimes in the Russia and Eastern Europe. And this is why we denounce the remaining revisionist or state-capitalist regimes in Cuba, China, etc. But most left-wing organizations find one reason or other to apologize for these regimes. For example, they say they have disagreements with various Cuban policies, but that nevertheless supporting Castro is necessary to oppose U. S. imperialism. We say that, on the contrary, it is not Castro but the Cuban workers whom we should support. We must oppose U. S. imperialist bullying of Cuba, such as the Helms-Burton bill, but we must also oppose the Castroist regime which prevents the political activity of the working class. We must look not to the bureaucrats and armed forces of Cuba and the remaining revisionist regimes, but to developing the class-consciousness of workers in Cuba as well as here.

Trotskyism = revisionist twin

. Today, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the old pro-Soviet parties around the world have mostly renounced their past, and the Trotskyists organizations appear as among the largest forces still claiming to be Leninist. However, on the main issues, the Trotskyists are just a revisionist clone. They are not Leninists, but revisionists.

. For example, most Trotskyists still cry over the collapse of the revisionist regimes, and claim that these regimes, such as the Stalinist regime in Russia, weren't capitalist. They may defend today's China, or in some cases even Yeltsin's Russia, as not yet capitalist because there still is a large state sector in the economy, and most all of them defend Castro's Cuba. They have their "criticisms" of these regimes, sometimes harsh ones, but nevertheless hold that these regimes are some sort of defense against world capitalism. Some of the largest Trotskyist organizations, like the SWP, don't just defend fake "Marxist" regimes, but other backward regimes as well. They go so far as to find pretexts to defend the theocratic regime in Iran or the murderous regime in Iraq. This shows that Trotskyism is totally useless for the rebuilding of a militant working class movement. The Trotskyists are more interested in finding some excuse to ally with a big force, however corrupt, then in helping build an independent revolutionary movement.


. Many young activists, thinking the collapse of the revisionist regimes is the collapse of Marxism, have turned to anarchism. Anarchism claims to be above politics and political organization, and it thinks it overcomes the state and politics by basing itself mainly on loose networks of autonomous groups. They are skeptical of the Marxist idea of the working class as a whole running the economy, believing that large-scale organization must inevitably be oppressive. In the Spanish Civil War of the mid-1930's, one of the few cases in this century when anyone tried to implement anarchist economic ideas on a mass scale, they ended up stymied. Individual villages abolished the hated national currency and established local currencies, believing that local currencies weren't money. Individual workplaces were run on a separate basis, believing that this overcame capitalism. The result was a fiasco.

. Anarchists believe that government is the root of all evil, and don't understand that government is simply a symptom of the existence of conflicting classes. That gives them something in common with the free-market fanatics of the Libertarian Party. It is why, although most anarchists are left-wing, the pro-capitalist Libertarians can flirt with anarchist phrases.

The Communist Voice Organization

. We hold that a serious look at the history of the 20th century verifies Marxism. We seek to pave the way for the future development of a mass Marxist- Leninist movement by:

a) theoretical work analyzing the current mass struggles and the new features of world capitalism on the eve of the 21st century;
b) showing what anti-revisionist Marxism really is, and opposing all apologies for state-capitalist regimes; and
c) taking part in the present-day working class struggle, even when it is at a low level.

. This is long-term work. We hold that real revolutionary work doesn't mean sugarcoating the problems of the present and predicting socialist revolution around the corner. It means knowing how to help overcome the crisis of the left and build an truly independent working class movement today. Every step towards clarifying the disaster that has befallen the left, and every step towards organizing independently of the reformists, the trade union bureaucrats, and the apologists of the state-capitalist regimes, is work that will bear abundant fruit in the future.

. Let all those who wish to see an end to this capitalist hell, and who see the need for a thorough criticism of the travesties that have passed as "Marxism", join with us. Let those who are dissatisfied with lying bourgeois politicians in the West and lying revisionist politicians in the state-capitalist regimes, unite. Let those who are sick of Trotskyism, trade union bureaucrats, reformism and anarchism join with us. We say: no compromise with the fanatics of the marketplace or of bureaucratic state-capitalism! It is only the independent action of the working class that can provide a way out. It is only Marxist communism that can provide a theory to guide this class struggle. It is time to lay the basis for the rebirth of communism by revitalizing revolutionary theory and practice. <>

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Last changed on October 16, 2001.