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
Image: Sou Mi

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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:

  • Voting rights for all U.S. residents, citizens and noncitizens, to halt the xenophobic disenfranchisement of immigrants.
  • Voting rights for all formerly or currently incarcerated people, to eliminate the use of the criminal “justice” system as a racist tool of voter suppression.
  • Lower the voting age to 16 to give voting rights to the millions of teenagers across the country.
  • Automatic voter registration of all residents nationwide once they reach voting age.
  • Free and unrestricted access that makes voting easy, by making Election Day a federal holiday, instituting easy vote-by-mail nationwide, opening more polling places, abolishing all discriminatory voter ID laws, and ensuring free public transport to and from polling places.
  • Ballot and debate access for all parties, to break the blockade by the Democrats and Republicans — in collusion with the bourgeois media — that maintains the undemocratic two-party system.
  • Abolish the Electoral College, which is the direct consequence of slavery. When it was created, 40 percent of the people living in the Southern states were Black slaves. The framers of the Constitution knew that the white plantation owners and farmers would not stand for Black electors representing the newly freed and enfranchised population.

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:

  • Jail killer cops who, with the blessing of the state, murder and harass Black and Brown people and the rest of the working class with impunity.
  • Immediately end qualified immunity for all government officials. This legal principle enshrines state impunity in law and enables the police to murder and harass working people in the service of the ruling class without fear of repercussions.
  • Make reparations to victims of state violence, paid for with the funds previously allocated to police budgets.
  • Release all political prisoners and drop all charges against them. Free all the Black Power revolutionaries languishing in jail, as well as those from the Chicano, Indigenous, and other movements. End the criminalization of the Black Lives Matter movement by federal, state, and local governments — run by Democrats and Republicans alike. No infringements on our right to protest. Halt the arrest and incarceration of protesters on outrageous charges.
  • Kick out all police organizations from all unions, immediately, and disband all cop “unions” that enable cop harassment, bogus arrests, beatings, and murder.
  • End the use of slave labor in prisons. The capitalists make million-dollar profits by exploiting the salaried working class and by exploiting slave labor in prisons.

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:

  • Tax the rich. The 50 richest Americans now hold almost as much wealth as half the United States. The social programs we need to save the working class must be financed by taxing the wealth of the parasitic rich. But this alone is not enough; it is a basic and immediate measure that must lead eventually to the expropriation of the large monopolies of industry and services and the rational and democratic planning of the whole economy.
  • Extend and increase unemployment benefits for all unemployed or underemployed workers, including undocumented immigrants, students, and those who were already jobless before the current crisis.
  • Immediately cancel all forms of personal debt, including student and medical debt.
  • Freeze all layoffs for the duration of the crisis to prevent worsening unemployment and to protect workers’ livelihoods.
  • Redistribute work hours to all available workers with no reduction in pay — this is the best solution to the growing unemployment crisis, and it will reduce workers’ exposure to Covid-19.
  • Guarantee income provided by the state for all those who cannot work because of health or childcare issues.
  • Provide housing for all by seizing from profit-seeking landlords the millions of apartments and houses that are sitting empty. Cancel rent for the duration of the crisis, along with the back payment of rent, dating back to the beginning of the shutdown.
  • End evictions. Covid-19 cannot be allowed to increase homelessness. Not one person or family should be put out of their home.

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:

  • Organize the unorganized and the unemployed. Only one in 10 U.S. workers is unionized today. That must change.
  • No limits on the right to unionize or strike. Every worker must have full rights to a union that can fight and strike. Repeal all unjust laws that limit these rights.
  • Expand workplace action to confront the crises, taking as examples the Amazon workers in distribution centers around the country and the Covid-19 Frontline Workers Task Force at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York City, where Left Voice activists helped create a coordinating committee to confront the bosses and government over their failures to protect healthcare workers. These sorts of groups will be important in laying the groundwork for future, larger actions as they emerge.
  • Establish full union democracy, including the direct election of all staffers and functionaries to be paid the wage of the average worker and without any privileges or special benefits. We must expel the union bureaucracy that negotiates with the bosses and enriches itself to the detriment of rank-and-file workers.
  • Fund organizing and strikes, not bourgeois candidates. For decades, the Democratic Party has taken union money and support for granted, all the while representing the bosses’ interests. It’s time to put the hundreds of millions of dollars wasted on Democratic candidates into organizing, strike funds, aiding workers and their families, and supporting workers’ independent political organizations.

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:

  • Nationalize health care under workers’ control, with free universal healthcare for everyone living in the United States, regardless of their age, income, employment, or citizenship status.
  • Provide safe and unrestricted access to reproductive health care, including abortion. One’s right to choose should not be contingent on the decision of the Supreme Court, on state law, or on one’s ability to pay for costly medical procedures, especially in the middle of an economic crisis.
  • Expanded and guaranteed access to healthcare for all trans* people. The pandemic has put trans* people disproportionately at risk. But discrimination and lack of access has prevented trans* people from attaining care for much longer. Trans* people must have unrestricted access to all forms of health care, without fear.
  • Put all health and safety in the hands of workers through workers’ committees, created at every workplace, such as schools or hospitals, that follow the guidelines of public health experts. Bosses and the state must play no role in the decision-making process.
  • Provide free, widely available Covid-19 testing and treatment for everyone, under the control of workers, healthcare professionals, and scientists.
  • Provide full paid leave for all caretakers who must stay at home to care for others who are sick, at risk, or need supervision.

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:

  • Cease imperialist wars, both the growing “cold war” and the threats of “hot war” — which in no way serve the interests of the working class of either country and are aimed at reestablishing U.S. imperialism’s lost hegemony in the world. Without giving political support to the capitalist Chinese government, we must fight the U.S.’s hostilities against China that represent its imperial agenda.
  • Withdraw all U.S. military forces throughout the world, immediately, whether they are on bases during “peacetime” or actively engaged in wars, as in Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • No U.S. military aid to other countries, which — like Israel — count on U.S. weapons and money to maintain power and wreak repressive action on populations in their own countries and elsewhere.
  • Demand a democratic, secular, single Palestine state in all the historic Palestinian territory, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and an immediate halt to any further annexation of the West Bank. The only way to realize this demand of the Palestinian people is to fight for the dismantling of the Israeli state as a pro-imperialist and colonial enclave in the perspective for a workers’ and socialist Palestine where Arabs and Jews can live in peace.
  • Lift all U.S. sanctions against other countries, which keep people — from Iran to Cuba, from Venezuela to North Korea, in Gaza, and everywhere else — from receiving the food, medicine, and other things they desperately need.
  • No U.S. interference in Venezuela, either through covert activities or open threats of military intervention. We support the working class in Venezuela against the imperialist agenda of the United States. This does not mean, however, giving political support to the capitalist, pro-capitalist, or totalitarian governments of any country. On the contrary, we fight for the freedom of workers and oppressed political prisoners, and we demand an end to repression against the working class and oppressed in Venezuela and all other countries.
  • End the phony “war on drugs” that U.S. imperialism uses as a cover to intervene in countries to prop up friendly governments and advance the interests of capital.
  • Cancel all foreign debt, a tool of oppression that capitalism uses to keep most of the world’s nations dependent on the imperialist countries through the banks and international financial institutions (such as the World Bank and IMF) that do capital’s bidding.
  • Respect the self-determination for all U.S. colonies — what the U.S. government calls “territories,” such as Puerto Rico, in the Caribbean and Pacific.

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:

  • Not one penny for a U.S. southern border wall, part of a racist and anti-humanitarian effort to scapegoat migrants fleeing poverty and crime in countries that have been decimated by U.S. imperialism.
  • Halt all deportations and repressive measures against migrants. No human is illegal, and no one should be expelled from the country they choose to live in.
  • Abolish Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which has unleashed a reign of terror against immigrant communities throughout the United States.
  • Close the ICE detention centers, which function as concentration camps as part of the brutal policies of family separation and criminalization of migration that have been unleashed against humanity’s poorest, most vulnerable, and most marginalized.
  • Fully legalize, and establish the rights of, undocumented immigrants living in the United States, regardless of their country of origin or the color of their skin.
  • Defend indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and to self-determination. Just as this country was built on the enslavement of Black people, so too was it built through the colonization, displacement, and genocide of the continent’s indigenous people. Paying the debt owed to indigenous people is long overdue.

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:

  • Nationalize all energy companies and the auto industry, under workers’ control.
  • Stop all extraction of fossil fuels and expropriate the owners of all fossil fuel producers in order to seal off abandoned fracking wells and prevent the further emission of methane gas.
  • Establish total conversion to renewable energy, which can be accomplished only by taking U.S. industry out of capitalist control and centralizing production for a rapid economic transition.
  • Massively expand free public transportation nationwide, along with a rapid increase in infrastructure for bicycling, so we can move away from individual car use as quickly as possible.

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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