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Fight Racism, Imperialism, and the Current Crisis: A Program to Unify the Exploited and Oppressed

In a context of global instability and national turmoil, the most critical task for socialists in the U.S. is to combine the immediate struggle against attacks on the lives and democratic rights of the exploited and oppressed with the greater battle for socialism. What might that look like?

Left Voice

October 14, 2020
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A new period of instability and polarization has opened worldwide, fueled by the two-pronged crisis of Covid-19 and a global economic downturn. As a result, class struggle has revitalized across the planet. Meanwhile, U.S. global hegemony, which has declined in recent years, faces new challenges — especially as rivalry with China becomes more pronounced than ever.

The wound opened by the coronavirus pandemic is far from healing. As a catalyst and accelerant of capitalist crisis, the pandemic radically changed the prospects of the world situation. But the crisis is not the product of something outside capitalism. The pandemic and its social impact result from the structural fissures of a system that has shown symptoms of exhaustion for decades. U.S. imperialism, with President Trump at its head, is suffering the spasms of historic decline. This crisis has opened deep divisions among the U.S. bourgeoisie over how to reassert U.S. hegemony.

And in the context of a global economic crisis, the outlook for capitalism is bleak. As the depression opened by the pandemic passes and we enter into a much longer recession, one that promises to be more dire than the 2008 crisis, many of the world’s capitalists are struggling to recover. Meanwhile, a parasitic minority of multimillionaires are making billions off the pandemic. Yet for the vast majority of the population, the recession will mean greater hardship.

The imperialist bourgeoisie will try by all means to make the workers pay for the crisis. The working class will again, as in previous crises, be divided between the unemployed, the precarious workers and the unionized workers. It will be divided as well between countries and borders. Racial, national, and gender oppression will be exacerbated to discipline and divide the laboring masses. Sectors of the ruling class — as Trump has already shown — will not hesitate to unleash the rage and violence of far-right, white-supremacist organizations to attack the oppressed. The ongoing crisis will inevitably develop into class struggle.

The BLM movement in the United States and the previous uprisings in France, Chile, and Lebanon are just a taste of what is to come. The significant struggles led by the working class at the beginning of the pandemic reminded the world that workers are essential but the bosses are not.

It is urgent that the international socialist Left, radicalized workers, and the youth discuss a program to unify the struggle for democratic rights against racism and to make the capitalists pay for the crisis.

In the United States, it is urgent that a new socialist Left emerges, one that challenges reformist common sense, according to which we must conquer our demands through the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is unreformable, and the hope of a left-wing split has already proved a failure with Bernie Sanders’s enthusiastic support for Joe Biden. A new left force is blossoming in the younger generation, which was radicalized during the uprising against police brutality, forming a multiracial and anti-capitalist youth movement that has few illusions in bourgeois politics and politicians and does not look to them as their saviors from the yoke of capitalist oppression.

Socialists must be on the front lines of every struggle that benefits the working class and the oppressed. But we also need a program to build a bridge between the immediate struggle and the struggle to destroy the capitalist system in favor of a new society that guarantees the liberation of the most oppressed and exploited. And we need to do this by relying on our own strength and our own organization. Those at the top, the Republicans and Democrats, are not going to fight for us in this crisis. They are going to fight to save themselves, their profits, and an empire in decline. The Left and the working class, in contrast — in the fight against racism and the struggle of frontline workers at the beginning of the pandemic — are fighting for the lives of the great laboring majorities of America and the world.

For that program to reach the ears of many people and become flesh in struggle, it is necessary to build a socialist and revolutionary organization of the workers and oppressed in the U.S. and the world. A party made up of workers, people of color, queer people, and all those who are fighting to prepare for the revolutions to come.

The programmatic issues raised in this statement are not intended to be a complete or finished program. They are a first proposal — to the Left, to the activists of the BLM movement, and to workers’ and community organizations — to discuss the tasks we face now to defend ourselves and prepare for future struggle.

Defend and Expand Democratic Rights for the Working Class

The Democrats and Republicans alike are committed enemies of the working class and the oppressed. They represent the ruling rich, whose only solution to the crisis is to force the working class to pay for it. Meanwhile, basic democratic rights have come under an escalating assault. We cannot depend on any capitalist party to defend these rights.

We reject both parties of capital and U.S. imperialism. The 2020 election shows the urgent need to build an independent party of the working class and the oppressed, a party that fights for socialism and against all kinds of oppression and that runs socialist candidates on class-independent platforms and ballot lines. Such a party would use elections to expand its political influence, winning seats in Congress to amplify class struggle and agitate for socialist politics. But far from “voting our way to socialism,” this would be part of a larger strategy to overthrow capitalism and establish a workers’ government, which cannot be achieved within the framework of the current imperialist regime.

Further, we reject the U.S. Constitution and the deeply undemocratic and oppressive system it upholds. A document written by slave owners more than 200 years ago should not stand as the highest law of the land. The reactionary institutions enshrined in this document, from the presidency to the Senate, were designed to keep power concentrated in the hands of the ruling-class minority, excluding the vast majority from society’s most important decisions. In this same vein, we also denounce the Supreme Court as one the most powerful pillars of the ruling class in the United States. It is despicable that nine unelected judges who serve for life can take away our hard-won rights, and we must fight this with the combined power of the working class and oppressed.

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What little space in bourgeois politics working and poor people have won for themselves is limited and manipulated by the U.S. government at every turn, and has been since the country’s conception. The right to vote is not guaranteed in the Constitution. The Electoral College effectively neutralizes the popular vote, leaving the decisions of the highest offices of the U.S. government to unelected officials and silencing millions of votes. But on top of this, voter-suppression tactics at the state and local level prevent millions of people — primarily people of color — from voting in every election. Such attacks on the right to vote — many of them born in the Jim Crow era and sustained by systemic racism — are meant to strengthen the control of the ruling class. 

Workers democracy is impossible under capitalism. But as socialists we have a responsibility to raise democratic demands to protect the concessions our class has already won and to reveal the undemocratic nature of the capitalist state that will not concede power to working people. By raising these demands, the labor movement and social movements will be forced to confront the necessity to fight for radical democracy and to conclude, based on their own experience, that the working class must organize itself and overthrow of the capitalist state.

Following this perspective, we propose that the organizations of the working class and the oppressed take up the fight for the following:

Fight Racism with the Full Power of the Working Class

Racism is embedded in the origins of U.S. capitalism and the police. Racism was promoted by capitalists and slave owners to superexploit enslaved Black people and to create division and bigoted views among poor and working-class whites. No amount of police reforms will end the violence perpetrated by the state against Black people. Ending police brutality requires the complete abolition of the police and the entire criminal “justice” system it serves, including the prison-industrial complex. But achieving this requires confronting the capitalist system with the full power of the working class, the only class that is in the position to shut down capitalist society.

Sparked by the horrific deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of the police, the movement against police brutality and anti-Black racism — the largest of its kind in U.S. history — has transformed the political landscape, bringing newly radicalized sectors into the streets of major cities and challenging the deep systemic racism foundational to U.S. capitalism. It has won the support of the majority of the U.S. population. A new generation has been radicalized by the Black Lives Matter movement and has committed itself to ending systematic racism; “abolish the police” and “defund the police” are no longer fringe demands. But the massive demonstrations and the fight against repression have not been enough to impose even our immediate goals. The victims of police brutality and their families are still demanding justice.

An immediate task is to build, in particular with the unions, a united front among workers’ organizations and anti-racist and community organizations. To do this, the unions must break with the policy of class collaboration and radicalize in action to intervene forcefully and independently — as West Coast dockworkers did in their June strike for Black Lives Matter and as illustrated by the movement to kick cops out of unions. We need assemblies in workplaces and in movement spaces to plan and deliberate in a fashion counterposed to the top-down organizing of the Democratic Party, the NGOs, and the union bureaucrats. We also need this united front to discuss, organize, and promote actions of struggle on the path of the general strike.

The working class must unite with the Black Lives Matter movement to make these demands:

Make the Capitalists Pay for the Crisis

We are in the midst of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression — a crisis that is actually a continuation and deepening of the 2008 recession, from which both capitalism and the working class have never truly recovered. The spark of Covid-19 has set the entire global economy ablaze; the ruling class is dead set on making the working class pay for this crisis. The bailout given to financial and industrial capital at the beginning of the pandemic unequivocally demonstrates that the capitalists want to save themselves from the crisis to the detriment of millions of working class and poor families. The only realistic prospect for preventing the working class and poor from being robbed is to expropriate corporations that have continued to profit — or who have even increased their profits — while millions of workers lost their jobs as a result of the pandemic and economic crisis. We must take the profits that Amazon, General Electric, Walmart, Boeing, and others have made during the pandemic and redirect them toward aid for the millions of working and poor people who are struggling during the crisis. Similarly we must nationalize the banking system with the expropriation of private banks (while protecting the savings of working people) and form a single public bank that is controlled by workers and the people who keep their money there.

As we enter a long recession that brings with it the promise of austerity, the working class must prepare itself to respond to these attacks in kind, using its own methods — strikes, walkouts, sickouts, and, when it comes to it, taking control of businesses that the capitalists leave for dead. Only a united working class can fight the attacks to come and make the capitalists pay for the crisis they created.

The working class and oppressed must demand:

Transform Our Unions into Weapons for the Working Class

Amid the crises of 2020, including record-high unemployment, workplaces have been the scene of actions for better safety measures against Covid-19 and against racism and police brutality. While limited, these strikes, sickouts, and slowdowns were initiated by rank-and-file unionists and the unorganized alike. Such collective action has found a new resonance in the working class: new polling shows that 65 percent of Americans approve of unions, and 60 million would join one if given the chance. But unions need to be fully democratized so that they can help lead the struggle against austerity, racism, and assaults on democratic rights. At present, the leadership of the unions is in the hands of bureaucracies that negotiate behind the backs of the workers, in complicity with the bosses and both parties of the regime. Against the interest of rank-and-file workers, they instead uphold the interests of U.S. capital which benefits from the exploitation of workers in Mexico, China, and others around the world.

History has shown that unions’ greatest power comes when they wage a general strike, uniting every sector of the labor movement to fight together. This will be an important tool with which to confront the crisis and the oppressive plans of capitalism. As we said above, unions must be at the forefront of promoting and building a united front of organized and unorganized workers, the unemployed, community organizations, and anti-racist organizations to fight as one against the economic crisis, racism, and attacks on our democratic rights.

In our unions, we must demand:

Health Care That Puts People over Profits

The Covid-19 pandemic has already killed more than 200,000 people in the United States. The government’s abysmal response and the push to prematurely reopen the economy only increased the number of cases and deaths. A healthcare system dominated by corporations produced the inevitable outcome: big profits for pharmaceuticals and other health-related industries, while healthcare workers face unsafe working conditions and millions of people remain uninsured. Other so-called essential workers have been forced to work without the necessary protective equipment. Unsafe school reopenings, imposed at the state and federal level to get parents back to work, have put teachers, staff, students, and communities at risk and are contributing to rising numbers of Covid-19 cases across the country. We need to organize ourselves in every workplace to fight for PPE and safe working conditions.

The working class and oppressed must demand:

Down with U.S. Imperialism

U.S. capitalism maintains its power not only by oppressing the working class at home, but through its interventions across the globe — both directly in the form of military action and starvation sanctions, and indirectly by sponsoring and propping up repressive regimes and international institutions as well as covert actions aimed at replacing governments that refuse to do its bidding. Today, U.S. imperialism’s actions are especially focused on a brutal attempt to reestablish the dominance of American capitalism throughout the world — which puts the world’s people at the risk of war and deprivation. In the middle of a global pandemic and economic crisis, the Republicans and Democrats united to impose further sanctions on Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, exacerbating the effects of the crisis for millions of working people in an attempt to gain a foothold in these regions. And as we have seen in the election campaign, both parties are in a race to see who can take a tougher stance on China to protect U.S. hegemony.

Trump’s “America First” policies and the imposition of unilateralism in foreign policy is an aggressive manifestation of an empire in decline. But Biden’s plans to reinvigorate traditional neoliberal multilateralism is not the lesser evil for the world’s masses. The massive budget allocated to the U.S. military to perpetuate imperial domination also affects the masses in the U.S. who lack public health care, education, and housing. The struggle against imperialism is international and unifies the whole of the working class and the oppressed throughout the world. In America, it is essential to build strong opposition to Trump’s imperialist agenda and U.S. bipartisanship. We support the struggles of the working class and oppressed around the world, seeking the international unity we need to make the capitalists pay for the crisis and end reactionary wars.

The working class and oppressed must demand:

Fight Anti-Immigrant Oppression and Xenophobia

Imperialism has created unbearable conditions for the masses of the semicolonial countries through militarism, the war on drugs, and the massive penetration of transnational capital. It is the deepest cause of migration to the United States, primarily from Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean.

The bipartisan regime has always enforced the same oppression of immigrant and racialized communities within its borders. The history of the United States is permeated with state violence and systemic racism against people of color, from the colonization, displacement, and genocide of the continent’s indigenous people to the mass enslavement of Black people kidnapped from Africa. The masses of the world and in the United States have the same enemy. That is why the struggle for a world without borders is international.

With the ongoing pandemic and the resulting economic crises, the capitalist state is strengthening the attacks against immigrants and undocumented communities. ICE detention centers have been hotbeds of Covid-19, and the state has denied detainees proper health care, allowing immigrants to die in custody. With torture methods mirroring those of fascist concentration camps, immigration officials have enacted horrific sterilizations of immigrant detainees against their will. The economic crisis has hit the immigrant population particularly hard, but the state denies them state aid and relief.

The working class and oppressed must demand:

Stop Climate Change by Expropriating Capital

Climate change is not some distant, theoretical danger: it is a reality for people around the world, manifested in the form of droughts, floods, fires, and devastating weather. The year 2020 has seen unprecedented fires engulf West Coast states and record-breaking storms pummel the East Coast. It is undisputed that climate change is caused by the emission of carbon dioxide, methane, and other greenhouse gases. Capitalist governments have demonstrated their complete unwillingness to take the immediate, drastic measures necessary to stop this existential threat. Conservatives deny the reality of science, while liberals propose wholly inadequate market-based “solutions.”

Capitalism’s ceaseless, anarchic drive for profit is why it can never be “green” or sustainable. The only way to save the planet is to expropriate capital. Production needs to be under the control of the workers and the oppressed, so it can be reorganized to meet human needs in a sustainable way, rather than to accumulate wealth for a parasitic minority. This can be accomplished only by a workers’ government — but we can take steps right now to slow down climate change.

The working class and oppressed must demand:

Workers’ Government and the Fight for Socialism

There is no going back to normal from the crisis capitalism has created. The current moment brings into sharp relief the contradictions of a system based on the oppression of the many to benefit the few. As fires burn across the world and deaths by Covid-19 continue to rise each day, the world’s billionaires are stuffing their pockets with profits wrested from the labor of essential and precarious workers forced to choose between feeding their families and exposing themselves to a virus for which they can’t afford to seek treatment.

The working class and all oppressed people need an organization that will fight for and mobilize for their interests. Left Voice stands for a worker’s party that fights for socialism. To replace the violently exploitative and irrational system of capitalism and its state power, we fight for a system in which working people run all of society democratically. We stand for a workers’ government that expropriates the capitalists — a government based not on the existing state apparatus, with its police, courts, and bureaucracy all working to protect capitalism — but based on bodies of working-class self-organization.

That workers’ government would put society’s wealth under the control of everyone. Over time, as working people organize their lives collectively and democracy reaches heights never before seen, even that government would become superfluous. Our goal is for a society without classes and free from all forms of oppression, as it was first envisioned by those who gave it a name — communism.

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