Against Capitalist Despair: Building a Working-Class Party For Socialism
The Following Is a Call and a Proposal
This document is a call to all the people across the country who are unionizing in their workplaces and fighting against racism, sexism, homophobia, and transphobia. It is a call to the thousands of activists who led the immense Black Lives Matter uprisings in 2020 and to the thousands who have taken to the streets to fight for abortion and full reproductive rights for all. It is a call to all those who want to fight the Far Right and their disgusting attacks on trans and queer people. It is a call to all those who stand with the Palestinian people and oppressed peoples everywhere around the world, including the thousands of activists who in recent years have mobilized against imperialism and in solidarity with migrants from Mexico, Central America, Africa, and the Caribbean. And it is a call to all those who are committed to stopping environmental catastrophe and who understand that doing so is impossible without ending capitalism.
It is also a call to the rank and file of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the caucuses in its ranks that are pushing for a “clean break” from the Democratic Party, such as DSA Boise and the Red Labor Caucus; to socialist organizations like Tempest, Socialist Alternative, and Denver Communists; and to the dozens of socialist and communist collectives across the country that are fighting for working people and against capitalism.
As many organizations, activists, and intellectuals have argued in the last several years (and for decades before that), the working class and all of us who suffer under the current system need our own political bodies to advance our interests, not those of our exploiters and oppressors. There has been much debate about what this means in practice in the United States, and we have participated in those debates and have made it clear that we believe that we cannot fight for our interests within the confines of any of the parties of capitalism. Therefore, it is our position that working people need a broad, democratic movement to build a working-class party with a socialist and anti-imperialist perspective, a party that is completely independent of the Democratic Party. Toward that goal, we are proposing that all the organizations mentioned above, and all of those who find this call compelling, come together to build a network towards a working-class party with a socialist perspective.
To this end, we want to submit a platform for discussion and debate with the whole vanguard and the Left, a platform for a working-class party that fights for socialism and the rights of all of the exploited and oppressed. We know that a new party will not be built with organizational maneuvers, or by elections alone, but by open political discussion, debate, self-organization, and class struggle. We consider this manifesto a step toward that open discussion. The new party, based on the program we are submitting for discussion, must, in our opinion, openly raise a revolutionary perspective for the United States.
Part I: Capitalism Is the Expansion of Despair
The Great Recession of 2008 inaugurated a new phase in a cycle of capitalist decline, opening up a whole series of wars, crises, and class conflict that has, once again, raised the specter of socialism for hundreds of millions of working people across the globe. The neoliberal phase of capitalist development is in its death throes, and the deeper consequences of this remain open, but, to paraphrase Nancy Fraser, it is clear that we are living through a period of global economic, environmental, and social reproduction crises the likes of which have not been seen in many decades. Capitalism is in crisis. Globalization is in crisis. Neoliberalism, as an ideology and as a capitalist agenda, is in crisis.
One of the most palpable and consequential recent outcomes of these developments is the slow retreat of major economies, particularly the United States, from the globalized form of capitalist reproduction that has become increasingly dependent on fragile global value and supply chains, which have themselves been severely weakened by Covid and the current war in Ukraine. In response, major economies have begun to adopt protectionist policies that are increasing economic and military competition between states, a fact that has laid bare the lie that capitalism can peacefully reproduce itself.
Despite the significant transformations of globalized contemporary capitalism, the crisis of neoliberalism has only further revealed how the massive riches created by technological development, the appropriation of nature, and the labor of humanity have been used to increase the wealth of a small minority, while the majority of the world’s racialized and gendered working classes, particularly the masses of the Global South, continue to suffer poverty, exploitation, and repression by local capitalists as well as imperialist powers. Meanwhile, the pandemic was a reminder that all human activity is embedded in socioeconomic production and reproduction. In other words, the pandemic revealed, in the most profound way possible, that it is our labor and our labor alone that makes the world run.
Yet, while neoliberalism may be in crisis, the material and ideological defeats of the neoliberal period still weigh heavily on the shoulders of the global working classes, particularly those who continue to find themselves on the receiving end of U.S. imperialism. Indeed, U.S. hegemony was reinforced hand in hand with neoliberalism after the end of the Cold War and the bourgeois restorations that followed. Fueled by the extension of capitalist forms of exploitation and capital investment into the former workers states of Russia and Eastern Europe, and above all China, neoliberalism led not only to the expansion of markets but also to the incorporation of hundreds of millions of new workers into the system of capitalist profit making and exploitation.
This mass and relatively sudden wave of proletarianization facilitated the internationalization of the capitalist production process, producing global value chains that devalued the price of labor and goods worldwide. At the same time, neoliberalism meant the privatization of state-owned companies or domains, the liquidation of the welfare state, and above all, the offensive against the rights of the labor movement. As part of this process, the extraction of natural resources increased dramatically, and the environmental crises inherent to capitalist production also took a new leap. All these elements allowed for a short-term recovery of the rate of profit and a revival of capitalist production after the crisis of accumulation of the 1970s. However, as our current crisis makes plain, this was merely a temporary solution for the capitalist class, one that was built on the backs of billions of working people.
In terms of class struggle, neoliberalism was imposed through intense, murderous defeats of the working class and social movements. Capitalism could advance in this new period only by checking the aspirations and power of the international working class. This was the aim of the strategic defeat of the mining strikes in the United Kingdom, for instance, and the defeat of the air traffic controllers’ union (PATCO) in the United States. It was also accomplished before this through a series of brutal defeats of the aspirations of working people across the globe. From the mass processes of 1968 to the turbulent revolutionary processes of the 1970s that were crushed by ruthless dictatorships backed by the United States, such as in Chile, the neoliberal order was everywhere imposed with blood and state violence. These defeats were followed by more than three decades of low class struggle, and the idea of social revolution largely disappeared from the consciousness of the global masses. The significance of these defeats cannot be overstated; the weakness of our unions and organizations are the direct product of this remaking of the world order and its reactionary attacks on working-class organization and class struggle.
Neoliberal capitalism also laid the groundwork for the many crises we are witnessing today. Whether it’s mass inequality, increasing war, technological domination, or environmental catastrophe, the problems faced by the working masses today are all the product of the inherent contradictions of the global economic model of production for profit. To paraphrase Leon Trotsky, capitalists are turning our world into a filthy prison.
During the years of the neoliberal boom that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union, U.S. imperialism and its partners in NATO managed to create and bolster a multilateral global order through a series of conflicts, wars, and interventions disguised as “humanitarian wars” or “wars against terrorism.” While these conflicts were devastating for the working people of Latin America, Africa, and the Middle East in particular, the war in Ukraine marks the beginning of a new type of war, concomitant with the global crisis in which we find ourselves. By challenging NATO’s postwar borders, Russia has precipitated a military crisis whose scope is still difficult to predict. Meanwhile, the United States and NATO, by supplying billions of dollars of aid and weapons to Ukraine, have used the war as an opportunity to weaken Russia militarily and to prepare themselves for potential future conflicts with both Russia and China. Thus, the war in Ukraine is the first military conflict and proxy war between new competing economic and military blocs — with the U.S. and NATO on one side, and an emerging China with close ties to Russia on the other.
“For now, the continuation of the war, even as it spells destruction for the people of Ukraine and Russia…remains in the interests of the conflict’s competing ruling classes. To continue to finance their war, the capitalists need the global economy to keep spinning, keeping profits up and extending their tentacles to every corner of the world. “
While some leftists have welcomed this conflict as a challenge to U.S. hegemony, the growing confrontation between the United States, Russia, and China can bring nothing good for global society. Whoever wins the war in Ukraine, the consequences will be disastrous for the workers and the oppressed of all the states involved. The Russian invasion of a semicolonial country, infinitely less well-armed than Russia itself, is neither beneficial for the Russian working class nor for Ukrainian workers and the oppressed. NATO’s offensive, its territorial expansion, and the historic rearmament and remilitarization of all its members — in particular Germany — won’t liberate our siblings in Ukraine or bring peace to Europe. They serve the warmongering interests of the great powers in their dispute for hegemony and global control. Our oppressors’ acts of war mean only more hardship, more environmental and economic crisis, and more violence for the masses of Europe and the world.
We do not yet face an imminent global war, but we can now see the contradictions of the imperialist epoch being played out on the world chessboard. The neoliberal period advanced a process of globalization to an extent never seen before in the history of capitalism, creating an ever closer, almost symbiotic interdependence between global economies. The clearest expression of this codependency of the economy can be seen in the global value and supply chains. Despite this internationalization, however, the historic crisis of capital accumulation has tested the partnerships built after World War II and in the advance of neoliberalism. As U.S. hegemony reached new lows in the wake of the 2008 crisis, its previously undisputed dominance precipitated cracks in traditional alliances that were put under increased pressure during the Trump administration. In this context, international cooperation has shifted to a scenario in which protectionism is growing among imperialist powers, as is a logic of strategic blocs among bourgeois nation-states, which are increasingly adopting measures to protect themselves and, above all, their own corporations.
This is what has motivated and energized the new international Far Right, which denounces globalization and, with a racist, xenophobic, and misogynistic discourse, blames immigrants and workers of the “enemy” countries for the economic crisis. From Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, to Marine Le Pen and Viktor Orbán, far-right populism has gained ground internationally because it takes refuge in the discontent created by globalization. But it is not only the Far Right that is questioning globalization. Biden himself took a dark view of its benefits in his speech to announce his administration’s National Security Strategy, stating that it has fueled pandemics and disinformation, and that it has contributed to unstable supply chains.
For now, the continuation of the war, even as it spells destruction for the people of Ukraine and Russia, and even as it disrupts global supply chains, remains in the interests of the conflict’s competing ruling classes. To continue to finance their war, the capitalists need the global economy to keep spinning, keeping profits up and extending their tentacles to every corner of the world. But since it is working people who make that economy run, it is working people who ultimately have the power to put an end to those profits. The political organization of the working class around a socialist program can build the kind of international solidarity with the workers of Russia and Ukraine, and the kinds of anti-war movements needed to stop the drums of war.
Even as capitalism is in crisis, capitalists continue to make millions in profits. Their greed knows no limits, and neither climate change nor the pandemic put a stop to their thirst for profit. According to a recent Oxfam report, “Billionaire fortunes are increasing by $2.7 billion a day even though at least 1.7 billion workers now live in countries where inflation is outpacing wages.” The same report establishes that “the richest 1 percent grabbed nearly ⅔ of all new wealth worth $42 trillion created since 2020, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99 percent of the world’s population.” Not for nothing, Oxfam’s report is titled Survival of the Richest.
The fallout from the Covid pandemic — created by capitalism itself — only exacerbated this inequality. According to Oxfam, the richest 1,000 people on the planet recouped their Covid-19 losses in just nine months, but it will take more than a decade for the world’s poorest to recover from the pandemic’s economic impacts.
Meanwhile, real wages across the globe are falling as companies take advantage of inflationary trends to increase their profits through raising prices, further driving economic misery and inequality for the masses and economic crisis for all.
While states across the globe continue to invest billions in military budgets, millions of workers everywhere are leaving behind their lives, their energy, their strength, and their souls at the factories, the mines, the refineries, the warehouses, the stores, the restaurants, the roads, the schools, the hospitals, the supermarkets, and every workplace worldwide.
Technological development, far from lessening the burden of human labor, has exacerbated it. Contemporary technology has become nothing but an instrument in the hands of the capitalists to extract more relative surplus value from human labor. In its stage of development, capitalism has created the technological capacity to reduce the time of socially necessary labor for the production and reproduction of goods and services at a level previously unthinkable. Yet while we have the technology to work far less and provide more to meet the needs of billions of people, increasing sectors of the population actually work longer and for less while capitalist profits soar to unseen heights.
Instead of liberating us, the capitalist class and the states that support it have used technology against the working class, using it to subject us to worse working conditions, to lower our pay, and to repress us across the globe. Nowhere is this more evident than in the practices of Amazon and other corporations that have developed increasingly vile and dangerous methods of extracting surplus value from workers’ labor through the use of surveillance and monitoring systems that would shock even Orwell. We know the stories too well by now: gadgets to surveil workers in fulfillment centers, tracking their every move. Workers are still essential, and yet, for huge portions of our waking lives, we experience the “authoritarianism of the machines” over our own bodies.
The capitalist crisis has turned into an environmental crisis — it could not be otherwise in an industrialized, technological society ruled by the law of profit. The capitalists are turning the planet into an uninhabitable sewer. Overproduction, overaccumulation, and war are driving society toward environmental catastrophe. Millions worldwide are already contending with droughts, floods, fires, and devastating weather events.
“The constant production and reproduction of capital ruthlessly eats up all resources, without taking into account the time required for their natural production and regeneration.”
The capitalist mode of production is in total contradiction with nature and its processes of development. Fierce competition forces each capitalist to constantly seek ways to replace workers with machines that increase the productivity of labor and the mass of goods thrown onto the market. This increases the amount of natural resources needed to produce them. The constant production and reproduction of capital ruthlessly eats up all resources, without taking into account the time required for their natural production and regeneration.
While the Biden administration made promises to address climate change, it has opened up more spaces for drilling and has accommodated capitalist interests that threaten the environment. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party has seized on the discussion of the climate with promises of a Green New Deal — which Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (AOC) has recently reintroduced. But these proposed reforms are both superficial and unlikely to pass.
There is an increasingly “green capital” sector of the economy, set to be a new sector of capitalist development, in which China is set to play an important role. These businesses seek to use capitalist underdevelopment in green technology and consumer hunger for more “ethical” modes of consumption to increase their profits and advance into a new sector of the economy.
These measures, which supposedly fight climate change, are nothing more than palliatives to quell public outrage over the destruction of the environment and to allow capitalists to continue amassing profits. Capitalist governments have demonstrated their complete unwillingness to take the immediate, drastic measures necessary to stop this existential threat. Conservatives and the Far Right deny the reality of science, while liberals propose wholly inadequate market-based “solutions.” The only way to save the planet is to expropriate capital.
The Seeds of Revolution
Crises and wars are, in Lenin’s words, midwives of revolutions. Economic and environmental crises, pandemics, and war have already mobilized the masses of the world. Faced with these concurrent disasters, workers and the oppressed have only one way out: to expropriate the capitalists and to build a future for themselves. The seeds of this revolutionary potential have already been planted, but they need class-independent organization and leadership to grow and flourish.
The economic and social crises since the pandemic have significantly altered the consciousness of working people across the globe, many of whom have come to realize the destructive nature of capitalism and the strategic value of their own labor — that is, that they are the ones who make the world run. One of the first expressions of this new consciousness was the explosive multiracial Black Lives Matter uprisings against police violence in 2020, which reverberated across the world. The lessons learned from these uprisings and the struggles for worker safety during the pandemic also helped inspire a wave of unionization efforts by a new generation of workers, who are now primed to build a fighting labor movement in the United States.
Meanwhile, workers across the globe are drawing similar conclusions.
In France, the struggle against pension reforms mobilized the masses, the youth, and key sectors of the workers’ movement, such as oil workers. For weeks the streets were in the hands of the protesters who bravely faced harsh police repression. That process was hindered by the timid policies of the union bureaucracies, but a new generation in the labor movement has emerged from these strikes and demonstrations, more militant, more radical, and more politicized. The demonstrations and strikes were the biggest since 2010, and they included a broad coalition of unions, students, immigrants, feminists, environmental activists, and more. This struggle was a chapter of the struggles to come of the French proletariat in the face of the crisis of the rotten regime of Emmanuel Macron and the Fifth Republic.
At the height of this heated process of class struggle, our comrades from Révolution Permanente, a revolutionary organization and Left Voice’s sister website as part of the Trotskyist Fraction, highlighted the ways that the Revolutionary Left can play a role in an uprising. From their website and their workplaces and communities, our comrades confronted the conciliatory politics of the union bureaucracies, developing the self-organization of the movement, putting forward committees for a general strike and a program for the movement to win, pushing back the pension reform as a way to transform the situation into a confrontation with the regime.
In the United Kingdom, workers have been staging the biggest and most militant actions in decades, demanding wage rises in the face of 14 percent inflation, which hangs like a sword over the heads of millions.
In Peru, the military coup headed by Dina Boluarte has been met with fierce resistance from the workers and the masses, uniting workers, peasants, students, and indigenous people against the political regime. Even as it faces new repression and new contradictions to carry its demands forward, the Peruvian uprising has the potential to eventually awaken a true social revolution. In Iran, the murder of Mahsa Jina Amini moved the feminist movement, as well as the labor movement, to challenge the dictatorial regime, which was met with solidarity actions all over the world.
The open path to war, the economic crisis, the environmental crisis, the precariousness of millions of human beings, the growth of the Far Right, and the incessant reproduction of racial and gender oppression — all these are signs of a bigger crisis that has called into question the very foundations of the global social system of capitalism, a crisis in which the working class must play a fundamental role if it is to avoid catastrophe.
In the second decade of the 20th century, on the eve of the Great War, German revolutionary socialist Rosa Luxemburg issued a call and a warning in her “Junius Pamphlet,” where she wrote:
The triumph of imperialism leads to the annihilation of civilization. At first, this happens sporadically for the duration of a modern war, but then when the period of unlimited wars begins it progresses toward its inevitable consequences. 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 a very different situation, a century later, the world faces a similar choice. And this manifesto is an emergency call to think and act so that socialist ideas and organization can flourish throughout the world and right here, in the heart of U.S. imperialism. This manifesto is also an invitation to join us to prepare for the new revolutions to come, the revolutions that, without a doubt, will be the extraordinary events of our time and that will almost certainly determine the future of humanity and our planet. It is the revolution of those from below, of the exploited, of the most oppressed, that can, to paraphrase Walter Benjamin, pull the emergency brake on this seemingly unstoppable train that is leading us to capitalist barbarism.
Part II: Toward an Independent Working-Class Party with a Socialist Perspective
For many on the Left, including former Bernie Sanders voters and the vocal minority of socialists who supported Joe Biden’s campaign in 2020, the latter’s election was a necessary step toward resolving the political crises produced by the rise of Trump and his disastrous presidency. A Biden presidency, so the argument went, would be better for the working class, and his election would stabilize the political system and put an end to the far-right politics of Trumpism. Though many of these advocates of lesser evilism vowed to fight Biden as soon as he took office, most of them, including the entire Progressive Congressional Caucus endorsed by the DSA, lined up behind the president and have apologized for almost all of Biden’s policies. Now, despite his many failures, they are vowing to support his reelection.
As history has shown, Biden’s election, though it may have temporarily weakened Trump somewhat, has done little to weaken the political power of Trumpism as a reactionary far-right ideology. Biden’s presidency has also done little to ameliorate the continued suffering of the working classes and the oppressed at home, while dramatically increasing the suffering of the global working classes abroad. Clearly, the belief that Biden would be a reformer and the Democratic Party an instrument of working-class demands has proved little more than an illusion.
Biden’s presidency was never about empowering working or oppressed people — it was about derailing the working-class struggles that erupted during the Trump years, driving them back into the safe harbor of the political establishment. Biden won the 2020 presidential election only after the Democratic Party launched powerful maneuvers to block Sanders during the primaries and to derail and co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement through both repression, on the one hand, and anti-racist rhetoric and empty promises to reform police departments on the other. Biden’s win was also fueled by millions of people fed up with Trump’s administration, and Trump’s last year in office was decisive. The working class and the oppressed masses suffered incredible losses during the pandemic to produce unprecedented profits for the capitalist class. The rejection of Trump at the polls in no small part resulted from his openly reactionary and repressive response to the Black Lives Matter movement, which included calling in the military to help stop the protests — with the help of Democratic and Republican governors alike. The Democratic Party used the rage built up over four years of the Trump administration to secure a win at the polls by selling themselves as an alternative to Trump and playing on the logic of lesser evilism.
During the first months of his term, Biden presented himself as a “great reformer” and an heir to Roosevelt and the New Deal. He promised to rescue the economy and advance a new New Deal that would supposedly reverse the misery of the pandemic and years of economic hardship and turn the tide in favor of working people, the environment, and social justice. More than two years later, it is clear that no serious reforms have been implemented to improve the conditions of working and poor people in the long term. In fact, the only promises that Biden has kept are the ones that he made to his billionaire donors when he said that “nothing would fundamentally change.”
The biggest accomplishments touted by the administration have been the American Rescue Plan, the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act — but this legislation was almost exclusively aimed at saving the capitalist economy, laying the groundwork for increasing competition with China, and mitigating some of the most severe economic consequences of the neoliberal crisis that were exacerbated by the pandemic. In the long run, these measures will do little to ease the suffering of working people but will instead make it even easier for the capitalist class to continue to plunder the planet and find new ways to exploit working people in the United States and across the world. The progressives’ Green New Deal is now a pipe dream of the past, and the bipartisan regime is still more concerned with propping up big business than with stopping climate change.
“Under the noses of Biden and the Democratic Party, the Far Right is consolidating a program built on attacks against the working class and marginalized groups”
Meanwhile, police departments across the country, far from being defunded, have been rewarded with increased budgets, including in cities and states governed by Democrats. On January 27, 2023, the video of the brutal murder of Tyre Nichols was released by the Memphis police, sending shivers down the spines of the entire nation, serving as a terrible reminder of the murders of Michael Brown, George Floyd, and all of the other lives taken by the murderous police. Under Biden’s administration, police departments also continue to receive military-grade weaponry to use against the public in their efforts to quell unrest, as they did in 2020. And in Atlanta, police murdered the climate defender known as Tortuguita, as he protested the construction of a police training center in the Weelaunee Forest.
Biden and the Democrats, who have consistently tried to present themselves as pro-union, have not even passed the limited Protecting the Right to Organize Act. Labor rights, including the right to unionize, are trampled on every day at Amazon, Starbucks, and workplaces nationwide. And last November, Biden, with the support of the entire Democratic Party, including several members of “the Squad” of progressives endorsed by the DSA, crushed a potential rail strike with direct congressional intervention, forcing through a contract that ignored the workers’ most important demands.
Instead of passing reforms to facilitate immigration to the United States, Biden’s government has strengthened its anti-immigrant orientation, deploying more troops and more federal agents to the border, where families continue to be separated, and millions of people are incarcerated in ICE detention centers. Meanwhile, far-right Florida governor Ron DeSantis’s anti-immigrant laws are being passed with little government opposition.
It was also during Biden’s presidency that the reactionary Supreme Court approved the greatest attack on reproductive rights since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973. The decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization has undermined access to abortion for millions of people in 14 states, with at least 10 more likely to follow their lead. With the overturning of even the limited provisions of Roe v. Wade, the road is clear for Republicans in state after state to outlaw and limit abortion access. This represents one of the widest-reaching attacks on bodily autonomy to date in the United States, orchestrated by the Far Right and condoned by the Democrats, who prefer to hold the promise of abortion over the heads of its base during election season.
As the Right advances its reactionary agenda to limit the rights of millions of people, it is the working class and poor — particularly people of color and queer folks — who are already suffering the worst consequences of these attacks. Biden’s government has done equally little to stop brutal attacks on trans people, particularly young trans people. Indeed, Republicans, encouraged by their far-right base, have proposed over 400 anti-trans laws in the last year alone, all aimed at restricting the most basic rights of trans people, and Biden has responded with little more than expressions of sympathy for the millions of trans people whose very identities are being erased in states across the country.
While Biden has largely failed to protect working and oppressed people from further exploitation and violence, he has been largely successful in overseeing the strengthening of the U.S.-led expansion of NATO in Europe under the guise of defending the Ukrainian people from the reactionary Russian invasion. This has led to the expansion of the NATO alliance to Finland, with Sweden likely to follow, and to a historic rearmament of several NATO countries. Biden has also called for billions of dollars to fund Ukraine’s army and has increased domestic defense spending to further arm the U.S. for future conflicts and offensives in a world where its hegemony is being called into question. Meanwhile, Biden has continued Trump’s anti-China policies and has continued to defend the United States’ sacred alliance with the apartheid state of Israel.
The truth is that Biden does not present any serious alternative to the Right. Last November, the GOP took back the House of Representatives, and it has used its platform to advocate increasingly reactionary attacks on the democratic rights of working people in the United States. Shortly after the 2022 elections, a group of 25 far-right Republicans — organized in the Freedom Caucus — blocked Kevin McCarthy’s appointment to Speaker of the House until he agreed to take up aspects of a reactionary agenda and assign them key appointments to House committees; their actions on the House floor demonstrated that a determined minority can turn everything to the right within Congress regardless of who is president.
Under the noses of Biden and the Democratic Party, the Far Right is consolidating a program built on attacks against the working class and marginalized groups. As a small group of ultrareactionary politicians try to advance this agenda and rail against “wokeness” at the federal level, far-right governors have taken up this program in the states, passing reactionary attacks against women, LGBTQ+ people, and voting rights; against teaching the history of systemic racism in schools. Meanwhile, their base — some of them organized in white-supremacist, anti-immigrant, and proto-fascist organizations — remain active, though they were somewhat checked and forced to rebuild themselves in the aftermath of January 6 and the criminal trials that followed.
Trump’s power has also been somewhat checked by the establishment’s attempts to discipline him through legal measures, but simply bringing a few charges against Trump isn’t enough to change the nature of this system, which exists to legally justify the murderous capitalist system. Indeed, if the years of the Biden administration have shown us anything, it is that the Right is not going away and that the Democrats will do more to make overtures to them than fight their reactionary agenda, especially since doing so would challenge the fundamental institutions of the regime. Democrats share more with Trumpism and the Republican establishment than with their social base, and this class alliance is the basis of the bipartisan regime.
Reformism without Reforms
While many on the Left saw support for Biden in 2020 as a mere tactical question, there is a large and influential sector of socialists and leftists who see working within the Democratic Party as an essential part of the strategy to build socialism in the United States. Using this strategy, they believe that they can (1) improve the living conditions of the working class by building up a critical mass of socialist candidates affiliated to the Democratic Party within Congress who would push through reforms, and (2) gain influence within the Democratic Party to turn it to the left. But this strategy has been a resounding failure. Biden proved not to be the reformer that most of the DSA national leadership and the mouthpieces for reformism at Jacobin magazine had hoped for, nor has the Democratic Party turned left as a result of the actions of the so-called socialists in Congress (a.k.a. the Squad).
On the contrary, DSA members in Congress and DSA-endorsed congresspeople have actually moved closer to the establishment Democrats in the last two years of the Biden administration, aligning with its program and giving up on the reforms that got them elected. And while this may have been a first experience for millions of people radicalizing and shifting to the left in recent years, this outcome is not just a fluke. It could not have been otherwise. One cannot govern “peacefully” with the democratic establishment without compromising even the most basic socialist principles.
Last November, DSA members were confronted with the fact that their representatives, including AOC, Jamaal Bowman, and Cori Bush, endorsed Biden’s proposal to prevent a railway strike. Their votes were not the products of individual error or a lapse in judgment; this was not a tactical mistake, but the inevitable result of a strategy of class-collaborationist politics. It is impossible to keep politicians accountable if they are part of a capitalist party like the Democrats. The Democrats are accountable to their bosses, such as Warren Buffet, who is one of the superrich donors to the Democratic Party and who has billions of shares in railroads.
This vote, openly favorable to the bosses who demanded that Biden intervene, adds to a legislative performance increasingly subordinated to the Democratic establishment and capitalist interests. With some exceptions, the Squad has reliably voted for military budgets to ramp up the U.S. imperialist war machine internationally and domestically, including funding the police. These congresspeople, who were supposed to represent something other than the brazenly pro-capitalist policies of the establishment Democrats, also endorsed — openly in the case of Bowman and by omission in AOC’s case — the billion-dollar budget granted by the United States to aid the murderous state of Israel.
DSA leaders and Jacobin magazine have presented their strategy of working within the Democratic Party as the only way to succeed and ensure that progressive politics remain nationally “relevant.” But because their strategy aligns socialist ideas with the interests of the bosses, the “relevance” they suggest merely fritters away the hopes of millions of people hungry for social change, associating the idea of “socialism” with the failures of reformism.
This isn’t simply a question of particular political actors and their shortcomings. This is the fundamental limitation of any attempt to reform the capitalist system or use the capitalist state to fundamentally change the economic and social system it protects. The experience of the last several years and beyond shows that there are no real reforms without struggle. And there is no way to defend those reforms and maintain them without a horizon that includes the radical transformation of society. On this question, we strongly agree with Rosa Luxemburg when she writes:
People who pronounce themselves in favor of the method of legislative reform in place of and in contradistinction to the conquest of political power and social revolution, do not really choose a more tranquil, calmer and slower road to the same goal, but a different goal. Instead of taking a stand for the establishment of a new society they take a stand for surface modifications of the old society. … Our program becomes not the realization of Socialism, but the reform of capitalism; not the suppression of the system of wage labor, but the diminution of exploitation, that is, the suppression of the abuses of capitalism instead of the suppression of capitalism itself.
A Party of Our Own, Grounded in Class Struggle
The Democrats and Republicans alike are committed enemies of the working class and the oppressed. They represent the ruling rich. All their talk about “democracy” stands in direct contrast to a regime that condones and facilitates escalating assaults on basic democratic rights. We cannot depend on any capitalist party to defend our rights. Both parties agree in staunchly defending the institutions of this democracy for the rich because their inherently anti-democratic character allows them to rule for the capitalists and against the workers and the oppressed.
“For all these reasons, and in the face of an ascendant Far Right, it is urgent that the labor movement, the anti-racist movement, and other social movements break with the Democratic Party and the institutions of the bipartisan regime, and embrace a perspective of class independence”
Likewise, all the institutions of the U.S. regime are inherently anti-democratic. The Supreme Court, made up of nine unelected justices who serve for life, liquidates our rights with the stroke of a pen, defying the will of hundreds of millions of people. The Senate, which can effectively veto the vote of the House, was created to protect the political influence of slave owners, and it undemocratically gives all states equal representation regardless of their population. For its part, the House of Representatives operates with other anti-democratic mechanisms, including rampant gerrymandering to control who sits in the halls of power. Voters do not so much choose their representatives as politicians from both parties “choose” their voters, by remapping the electoral districts every 10 years based on their electoral interests.
Perhaps one of the most anti-democratic aspects of U.S. “democracy” is the difficulty for third parties, especially independent working-class parties, to emerge in the country. Every election, the working class and oppressed are compelled to choose between abstention, symbolic votes for third parties that lack the resources and platform to mount a serious campaign, and voting for one of the two main parties of capital. This means that the workers and oppressed do not have the very basic democratic right to vote for representatives who actually express and defend their interests.
There is nothing that the U.S. bipartisan regime fears more than the emergence of an independent working-class party that politically organizes millions of workers of all races and anchors this in the development of class struggle. This would mean nothing less than a challenge to the entire system and its interests.
For all these reasons, and in the face of an ascendant Far Right, it is urgent that the labor movement, the anti-racist movement, and other social movements break with the Democratic Party and the institutions of the bipartisan regime, and instead embrace a perspective of class independence rooted in the knowledge that no reform, no concession has ever been won in this country without the determined and persistent struggle of the working class and the oppressed.
We need a party of our own to fight for our most basic demands and everything we deserve. We need an independent party of the working class and the oppressed to end this system of exploitation and oppression, to transform the fight for our basic rights into a force capable of creating a society where all needs are met and we can flourish. In short, we need a party that fights in the here and now against capitalism and for socialism.
Only with our strength, our organization, and our politics can we improve our living conditions and change this system at its roots: no more exploitation in the workplaces, no more oppression because of our skin color, no more oppression because of our identity. No more police, no more prisons. No more borders. No more imperialist wars. The working class and oppressed in the United States deserve a socialist future. A socialist revolution in the United States would contribute to the liberation of all the oppressed peoples of the world. Don’t let the capitalists tell us that this is impossible. It is the only realistic way forward for working-class and oppressed people.
In the current moment, much of the working class and the oppressed still trust the Democratic Party, even if they see it as the lesser evil. On the other side, a sector of the masses sees Trump and the Far Right as alternatives to neoliberalism.
But a section of the working class, a section of the Black liberation movement, and above all, whole sections of the youth, no longer trust the Democrats. Some of them are organized on the Left within the DSA or other organizations; some of them remain unorganized.
There are tens of thousands throughout the country who see this need. Organized, we can become a force that gains influence among the labor and social movements, intervening in every struggle, in every strike, in every unionization process, in every election, always putting forward a strategy of class independence and self-organization.
While our strategic task is to win millions to a politics of class independence, we cannot achieve this without class struggle, uprisings, and revolutionary processes. We have today the opportunity to reorganize the vanguard with a common goal: to set up an independent party of the working class to fight for socialism.
What does it mean to fight for a socialist perspective? It means to raise a program, a platform that links our most basic demands with our struggle for socialism and for the revolutionary transformation of society.
Part III: What We Fight For
Building a working-class party in the United States, one that fights for socialism, will require class struggle and self-organization. It will also, importantly, require intense discussion, debate, and collective organization among the sectors of the working class that are in struggle or preparing for struggle. An essential part of those conversations will be understanding clearly why we fight, what we are fighting against, and, importantly, what we are fighting for. The program that follows is meant to be a first contribution to that discussion.
At the heart of this program is an understanding that exploitation and oppression are intimately linked. The daily, alienating, frequently dehumanizing, and often violent exploitation of working people that underpins capitalism can be maintained only by dividing the working class. This is accomplished through the constant reinvention of new forms of reactionary, racist, sexist, homophobic, and xenophobic ideologies, which are promoted and upheld by the use of state or state-sanctioned violence and oppression. Therefore, if we wish to liberate ourselves from the horrors of capitalism, and win even the most basic dignities outlined in this program, we must fight both the boss and the state. We believe accomplishing that will require a revolutionary socialist horizon and strategy.
Quality Public Education, Health Care, and Housing for All
Unlike some other countries in the world, the United States does not provide free, universal education or health care. The children of the working class, particularly in Black, Brown, and immigrant communities, struggle to afford college, and they and their parents often go into debt for decades to pay for it. A working-class party in the U.S. must demand the cancellation of all student debt and the provision of free, quality education for all from pre-K to graduate school.
At the same time, public school curricula are under attack by the Far Right and its representatives, who, like Governor Ron DeSantis, deny the very existence of Black history and prohibit schools from teaching about racism, sexism, queer history, and the legacy of slavery. He is supported in this endeavor by institutions of the state that have continued to gut education funding and private institutions like the College Board that follow profit models rather than the needs of students. An independent party of the working class must fight these attacks and push for a diverse, inclusive, and historically accurate curriculum for schools, one that is democratically discussed by teachers, students, and their communities.
Despite the Affordable Care Act, which was passed in 2010, more than 30 million people in the United States still lack health insurance. Meanwhile, private, for-profit insurers, which often charge exorbitant fees and co-pays, cover the vast majority of those who do have health insurance. The most precarious working families struggle to get health insurance via employers that either do not provide benefits or have health plans that do not meet the healthcare needs of the working population. The Democrats pushed the Affordable Care Act, claiming it would solve the problem of healthcare access, but it has only further benefited private health insurance companies and further strengthened the for-profit healthcare model.
“We don’t want a for-profit healthcare system controlled by the capitalists who use our bodies to make their millions. We need a nationalized healthcare system under the democratic control of working people and their communities.”
In January 2023, the nation’s largest insurers, UnitedHealth Group and Elevance Health, reported profits that were 28 percent and 7 percent higher than those of the same period last year, respectively. UnitedHealth raked in $5.3 billion, while Elevance took in $1.6 billion. The United States invests almost 20 percent of its gross domestic product in the healthcare industry, yet this does not translate into universal access to healthcare whatsoever. Instead, this money goes right into the pockets of Big Pharma, insurance companies, medical device manufacturers, and healthcare executives.
The working class, and especially Black and immigrant families, also suffer as they struggle to find certain drugs that are not covered by insurance and that remain inaccessible due to the high prices set by Big Pharma. Medicare for All has been a rallying cry for millions of people fed up with their needs being subverted to profit. We must build a movement that fights for Medicare for All, including full reproductive care, mental healthcare, and gender-affirming care for everyone. But such a movement must fight for more: We don’t want a for-profit healthcare system controlled by the capitalists who use our bodies to make their millions. We need a nationalized healthcare system under the democratic control of working people and their communities. This means expropriating Big Pharma patents and technology in order to make lifesaving drugs free for all.
Thanks to the capitalist drive to commodify even the most basic necessities of life, millions of people across the United States do not have the fundamental right to housing. The lack of a public housing plan that allows working families and people of color to get housing has paved the way for gentrification, segregation, and the displacement of working-class and Black, Latino, and Asian families from their neighborhoods. At least 600,000 people are homeless in the United States. Black people and queer people are overrepresented in those statistics. In the United States, there are more empty houses than unhoused people. All major cities have been gentrified as big developers expand and profit from real estate speculation, making those cities unaffordable for all but the most wealthy. A working-class party must fight to ensure public and free housing for working-class families, building new facilities and expropriating corporate developers. We must tax the rich to get the resources to pay for these programs. And rather than putting these decisions into the hands of capitalist politicians and businesses, these plans must be controlled by tenant organizations, working people, and their communities.
Indigenous Rights and Self-Determination
While working-class people are forced to pay exorbitant rents just to survive, Indigenous communities in the United States have literally had their land stolen from them for the expansion of the U.S. colony and the expansion of U.S. capitalism. The genocide of indigenous people, the attempt to eradicate Indigenous cultures, and the current attempts to take what little land Indigenous people have left make them among the most oppressed sectors of society today. Native Americans also face disproportionately high levels of suicide, poverty, and health issues associated with malnutrition and lack of health care. The mortality rates among Native Americans are disturbingly high, and they often die of diseases that are curable or treatable, such as diabetes, tuberculosis, and alcoholism. As of 2019, a high incidence of rape continued to impact Native American women and Alaskan native women. According to some scholars, more than 80 percent of Native American victims identify their attacker as non-native. Femicide rates are also disproportionately higher among Native Americans.
A working-class party that fights for socialism must defend Indigenous peoples’ rights to their lands and to self-determination. The United States was built on the enslavement and violent oppression of Black people, so too was it built through the colonization, displacement, and genocide of the continent’s indigenous people.
The environmental crisis and capitalist dispossession have deprived Native Americans of their natural resources. Along with defending their lands, we must fight side by side with Native American communities to have full water rights; to win hunting, fishing, and gathering rights; and to stop the big corporations that steal their lands from extracting minerals and other natural resources. We must also demand public and free health care, housing, voting and civil rights, and religious freedom rights.
A Powerful Labor Movement
A small but significant minority within the labor movement has arisen from the overwhelmingly young and precarious sectors of the working class. This new generation of labor activists has faced a disappointing reality: that the labor bureaucracy has sold its soul to the Democratic Party and has no vision for a renewed labor movement beyond further entrenching itself in the U.S. state. Everywhere, from Bessemer, Alabama, to Boston to Staten Island, thousands of new young activists and workers are going through their first experiences of class struggle, unionizing and fighting for better working conditions and pay. This generation has the potential to build a national movement to organize tens of thousands of workers from below.
The formation of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) and the victory at the Amazon warehouse in Staten Island, as well as the hundreds of Starbucks stores that have been unionized in the last two years, show the power and potential of rank-and-file organizing. The recent victory of the nurses’ strike in two hospitals in New York, which resulted in significant improvements to working conditions, showed that striking is still the most effective tool of the working class. And the recent struggles put forward by the workers in higher education, from adjuncts to student workers and staff, have shown that sectors of the working class — those who directly face the consequences of increased precarity and underfunding in education — are angry and ready to fight. Some of this phenomenon was expressed in Chicago at the Labor Notes conference in 2022, which was the most well-attended Labor Notes conference ever. Around 4,000 workers, unionists, activists, labor journalists, and scholars gathered to debate strategies and tactics for taking the labor movement forward.
Despite the energy of these young workers, the labor movement still faces enormous challenges. Only one Amazon warehouse has successfully unionized, and corporations and companies across the country continue to resist unionization efforts through union-busting tactics, retaliation, intimidation, and firings. Meanwhile, anti-labor and anti-strike laws hinder workers every step of the way — while many people have faith in the NLRB as an institution that fights for the interests of workers against the bosses, the truth is they more often function to protect union busting and to uphold anti-strike, anti-worker legislation.
In states like New York, laws prevent public sector workers from going on strike, and the bureaucrats happily pander to these undemocratic laws. A working-class party in the United States must demand the right to unionize for all workers throughout the country, that is, a complete halt to union busting and the repeal of all anti-worker and anti-strike laws nationwide. A working-class party in the U.S. must always be on the side of the class struggle and be willing to challenge capitalists’ laws to fight for working-class interests.
The labor bureaucracy hinders the development of grassroots organizations and militant unions. Perhaps nothing has shown the role of the labor bureaucracy and the Democratic Party as obstacles and enemies in the development of a militant workers’ movement as the intervention of Congress in the potential railway strike last November. Biden’s strategy of blocking the railway strike at all costs by riding roughshod over the demands of the workers was endorsed by the union bureaucracy of eight of the big railway unions and the “progressive wing” of the Democratic Party, led by Bernie Sanders and the Squad. For decades, the AFL-CIO has collaborated and compromised with the U.S. state in order to control and limit the activity of the working class, pursuing a strategy of business unionism grounded in the idea that what is good for big business and the U.S. state is good for labor. The AFL-CIO has supported every single major U.S. war, up to and including the invasion and occupation of Iraq, as well as many of the reactionary U.S.-sponsored coups in Asia and Latin America since the end of World War II.
“An independent working-class party must intervene in the labor movement to challenge the traditional union bureaucracy, putting forward tactics to recover our organizations for the rank and file.”
These so-called labor leaders have historically been nothing more than co-opted tools of the bosses’ offensive against the living conditions of working people everywhere. Their task, nine times out of 10, has been to defang and neutralize the real power of the working class by discouraging militant workplace struggle and by agreeing to laws and contracts that limit the ability of unions to strike and to strike together. Not even during the pandemic, when millions of essential workers were sent to “war without a gun,” to contract Covid and die, did the union bureaucracy lift a finger to build a fightback.
And while millions of young people across the world took to the streets to decry the racist police murder of George Floyd, these leaders continued to allow the police to organize in defense of Floyd’s murderer within the federation by refusing to kick them out. At a time when the unorganized and precarious working class is growing increasingly interested in labor unions, it is crucial that we fight the labor bureaucracy in order to reclaim our unions as tools for the defense of our collective interests and rights. An independent working-class party must intervene in the labor movement to challenge the traditional union bureaucracy, putting forward tactics to recover our organizations for the rank and file, to build a grassroots labor movement, and to democratize our unions in order to break the bureaucracy’s control over the working class.
The renewed interest in labor unions and working-class organization, particularly among young people, is being driven by a whole host of crises that have only increased since the 2008 economic collapse. The profound economic inequality and rampant speculation that led to that collapse revealed the failure of capitalism to an entire generation of young people coming into the workforce, and the increasing interest in socialism that followed has led young activists to turn again toward the organization of the working class as a solution.
The other highly promising aspect of this new labor activism is the increased understanding of the connection between exploitation and oppression that is materializing in the struggle. Forged in the fire of the Black Lives Matter movement and uprising of 2020, this new generation of worker-organizers understands the connections between their lack of power and agency at work and their lack of freedom and safety on the streets; they see firsthand the connections between exploitation and racial oppression. They know that the state, and the police in particular, do not share their interests, and they know that they can use their labor power to fight for more than wages and benefits for themselves.
This new generation of workers, many of them members of oppressed groups, are making it clear that they want to build organizations that are willing to defend the most oppressed sectors of the working class — immigrants, Black folks, and people of color, and queer folks — at a time when trans rights and reproductive rights are both under assault from the Far Right.
The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), for instance, has a long history of radical labor action around issues of oppression and social justice. In 2020, they went on strike on Juneteenth in support of Black Lives Matter, and they have also regularly gone on strike against the Israeli occupation and destruction of Palestine. That same year, unionized bus drivers in Minneapolis and New York City also stood up for Black lives by refusing to cooperate with police to transport detained protesters to jail. Meanwhile, members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) are organizing a campaign to kick cops out of their union and similar campaigns exist to kick the cops out of the AFL-CIO as well.
Many of the workers and organizers at Starbucks Workers United are organizing to protect and defend trans-inclusive health care for themselves and their fellow workers. In New York City, where the big unions like the AFL-CIO have utterly failed to turn out to support reproductive rights, several of the new Starbucks unions have mobilized for abortion rights: joining actions, writing statements, and bringing this politics to the fights in their workplaces.
Holding a strike or walkout against attacks on trans rights and for reproductive health care, particularly in states where vicious legislation is being passed, would be a logical next step in the process of building militancy, and organizing further stores and could be a beacon for other labor activists and unions to follow.
The members of a working-class party must, from their workplaces, encourage the organization to fight the Far Right, to kick cops out of our unions, and to win a national law that makes on-demand abortion free, safe, and legal for all. Fighting for our labor rights and against oppression will require recuperating our most powerful tool: withholding our labor. Striking and walking out of our workplaces are where our power lies; using these tools, we can stop capitalist production, reproduction, and profit.
A World Free of Racism and Racist Police
Racism is embedded in the origins of U.S. capitalism and the police and is woven into the fabric of U.S. society. It is an integral part of capitalist ideology and must be rigorously combated as an economic and ideological enemy of the working class.
Historically, racism was promoted and used by capitalists and slave owners to hyper-exploit enslaved Black people and to create division and bigoted views among poor and working-class whites in order to divide the working class. And still today, capitalist hegemony is maintained and reproduced through racial stratification and racial inequality. Black and Brown workers, for instance, like those who make up the bulk of the lowest paid warehouse workers at companies like Amazon and UPS, still make on average more than 20 percent less than white workers.
But racism permeates all aspects of society. People of color still disproportionately have less access to healthcare and clean water, to affordable housing and educational resources, and are still disproportionately incarcerated by the state. This is why the uprisings of 2020 were so important. Because it was in those protests that the multi-racial masses of the working class took up the issues of racism and the oppressive role of the police in a systematic way, demonstrating that working-class racial unity is a powerful threat to the economic and political system.
Along with disciplining and harassing Black people and people of color, modern police departments, the kind that arose in urban centers in the early nineteenth century, have always had the central task of protecting private property and capitalist order — this includes breaking strikes and enforcing laws that protect the profits of the bosses. The brutal police murder of Tyre Nichols exposed yet again the inherently racist, authoritarian, and violent character of the police. Regardless of the race of the police officers, they are the armed wing of the capitalist state here and all over the world.
No amount of police reforms will end the violence perpetrated by the state against Black people and the entire working class. 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 and overthrowing 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 police murders of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, the multiracial uprisings against police brutality that erupted in 2020 — the largest of its kind in U.S. history — transformed the political landscape, bringing newly radicalized sectors into the streets of major cities everywhere, and challenging the very foundations of the capitalist system. These protesters won the support of a majority of the U.S. population, and Black Lives Matter became a worldwide movement against police brutality, with protests spreading to hundreds of cities across the globe. A new generation has been radicalized by the BLM movement and has committed itself to ending systematic racism. The slogans of “defund the police” and “abolish the police” are no longer fringe demands. However, the massive demonstrations and the fight against repression were not enough to undermine the power of the police. Even though Derek Chauvin went to jail as a direct result of the protests, the police continue to kill with impunity and the victims of police brutality and their families are still demanding justice.
The Democratic Party and the BLM nonprofit leaders who are close to it, managed to quell the protests and to direct the movement out of the streets and into the voting booth with promises of defunding police departments on the one hand, and open repression by police forces, the National Guard, and heightened criminal charges on the other. In the wake of the uprising, police departments have increased their military-like capacity to quell unrest, the state has taken action in many cities to restrict the right to protest, and activists face outrageous charges. For its part, the union bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO was also instrumental to the process of demobilizing and defanging the movement, preventing organized labor from participating decisively in the struggle against racism and limiting its support to declarations. At the same time, it blurred the class lines even further by defending police unions, claiming that the police are workers too, when in fact they are the paid instruments of capital, whose primary job is the oppression of working people.
“To defeat racist police brutality, it is imperative to organize independently of the Democratic Party and to set up our own direct democratic organizations that truly represent the working class and the oppressed…”
The main lessons of the anti-racist uprising of 2020 are clear: even in the United States there exists the potential for revolt. To make the most of those moments, however, we need a Left that is up to the task of developing a revolutionary perspective in these processes, and which is clear about what is necessary to win the demands of the social movements. More specifically, to defeat racist police brutality, it is imperative to organize independently of the Democratic Party and to set up our own direct democratic organizations that truly represent the working class and the oppressed, where we can discuss, debate, decide, and organize the fight against the racist, capitalist state. This fight must include the labor movement and its methods of struggle — including strikes, pickets, and walkouts.
To oppose or divorce the struggle against capitalism from the struggle for Black liberation is to misunderstand the fight we are waging and what it will take to win. This is because exploitation and oppression are two sides of the same coin, and each is used by the capitalist state to divide and keep down the masses. If we wish to end racism, we must also fight the capitalist system that perpetuates it, and vice versa.
If we had independent representatives of a working-class party in Congress, they would vote against every budget that gives one single penny to any institution that protects capitalist property by repressing the working class and oppressed. An independent working-class party would agitate for the total defunding and disarming of the police, and demand that these funds instead be used for public and free healthcare, housing, and education. Rather than playing the game of bourgeois politics to the benefit of capitalist interests, our politicians would be clear-eyed that such measures are not possible through the actions of Congress but only by action in the streets, schools, and workplaces; and they would highlight how getting rid of the system of policing is not possible without challenging the system of capitalism as a whole.
An independent working-class party must put forward the struggle for justice for Tyre Nichols and all the victims of police brutality. We should demand the jailing of killer cops who, with the blessing of the state, murder and harass Black, Brown, queer, and working-class people with impunity. We should immediately fight to kick out all police organizations from our unions, make reparations to victims of state violence, paid for with funds previously allocated to police budgets, and fight to entirely defund the police, which means the abolition of the capitalist system the police defend.
An independent working-class party would also fight against the massive prison industrial complex that targets and profits from incarcerating millions of people, especially Black and Brown people. We demand the immediate release of all political prisoners and that all charges against them be dropped. This includes freeing all the Black power revolutionaries languishing in jail, as well as those from the Chicano, Indigenous, and other liberation movements. We must also fight for the release of all those accused of non-violent crimes or “broken window” crimes, to end the use of slave labor in prison, to ensure that not a single new jail be opened to fuel the prison industrial complex, and to build a communist society without prisons.
Genuine Working-Class Democracy
We reject both parties of capital and U.S. imperialism. We fight for the right of the working class and the oppressed to have their own party and their own elected representatives. An independent working-class party would use elections not as ends in themselves, but in order to expand its political influence, winning seats in Congress to amplify class struggle and agitate for socialist politics. We would use our seats to relentlessly denounce the Far Right’s assaults on democratic rights, and to fight against each and every one of their conservative laws. We would use elections to spread socialist ideas and to increase class struggle. 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.
While a working-class party should defend every single right included in the Constitution and earned by class struggle, 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 little space in bourgeois politics that 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, and the Electoral College effectively neutralizes the popular vote, silencing millions of voters. But on top of this, voter-suppression tactics at the state and local level prevent millions of people — primarily people of color — from voting at all. 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.
Though we fight to have representatives and make our voices heard within the current political system, our struggle for democratic rights must go well beyond that. This means voting rights for everyone over 16, including all currently and formerly incarcerated people regardless of immigration status; automatic voter registration of all residents nationwide once they reach voting age; making Election Day a federal paid holiday; abolishing all discriminatory voter ID laws; and ensuring ballot and debate access for all parties in order to break the blockade by the Democrats and Republicans.
A party of the working class and the oppressed must also call for the abolition of the Electoral College, the Senate, and the Presidency. Using the example of the Paris Commune of 1871, we should fight for all legislative and executive functions to be concentrated in one elected body or representatives, while legal decisions must be made by juries composed of working people. Representatives would need to be directly elected and also instantly recallable by their voters, and would not earn more than an average worker. Such a system is not the socialist society that is our ultimate goal, however. Workers’ democracy is impossible under capitalism. But as socialists we have a responsibility to raise democratic demands to protect the rights 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 the capitalist state.
A Working-Class Solution to the Economic Crisis
Although the U.S. and global economy recovered slightly after the pandemic, the working class and the oppressed around the world and in the U.S. are plagued by inflation, high living costs, and renewed austerity. In the United States, the Federal Reserve has been somewhat successful in moderating inflation, but only by significantly increasing interest rates in an attempt to “cool” the economy and cap wage growth. While this has lowered inflation somewhat, it may also be leading to yet another recession, or worse, another major economic crisis.
This threat is nowhere more evident than in the ongoing bank crisis, which has been in part driven by these higher interest rates. First Republic was the third bank to fail after Silicon Valley and Signature failed in March. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation is scheduled to spend about $35 billion to bail out the wealthy clients of these banks and to provide support to already huge institutions like JP Morgan to purchase their dead carcasses. While the Biden administration insists this is a private solution to the crisis, it is in fact yet another publicly-funded bailout of the banking system and the very wealthy.
Public funds and the savings of the working class and of small business owners can no longer be at the disposal of private, for-profit financial corporations and banks. An independent, working-class party for socialism must demand the nationalization of the banks under the control of workers and their communities. As Michael Roberts argues:
Public ownership, democratically run would end banking as a wasteful, corrupt and unstable money-making machine paying grotesque salaries, bonuses and capital gains for a small clique of super-rich speculators (speculating with our deposits) and instead turn it into a public service for its customers, households and businesses, with any profits going to the country as a whole.
Along with the banking crisis, some economists warn of the danger of stagflation while others argue that the greater danger is recession. While it is still unclear which direction the economy may turn, in either case, the capitalist class is preparing yet again to ensure that the crisis is paid for by the working class and the poor.
Only a united working class can fight the attacks to come and make the capitalists pay for the crises they create. An independent working-class party must demand immediate wage increases for all workers equal to or greater than inflation; the extension and increase of unemployment benefits for all unemployed or underemployed workers, including undocumented immigrants, students, and those who were already jobless before the current crisis; the immediate cancellation of all forms of personal debt, including student and medical debt; a freeze on all layoffs to prevent further unemployment and to protect workers’ livelihoods; and the redistribution of work hours to all available workers with no reduction in pay.
Starting from these demands, the only realistic prospect for preventing the working class and poor from being robbed yet again is to expropriate without compensation all of the corporations that have continued to profit — or who have even increased their profits — on the backs of working people. 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 to get by.
The 50 richest Americans now hold almost as much wealth as half the population of 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 under the control of the working class.
No War but Class War
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 actions, economic sanctions, and embargoes — and indirectly by sponsoring and propping up repressive regimes and international institutions of working-class repression. This is in addition to an entire network of covert actions aimed at replacing governments that refuse to do the United States’ 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 further war and deprivation.
One example of this is the United States’ involvement in the war in Ukraine, which is not, as is commonly argued, about the liberation or defense of its people, but is aimed at re-arming and expanding the U.S.-led NATO alliance, and preparing for further confrontation between China and the United States. An independent working-class party must fight against the war, against Putin and the Russian invasion, against the reactionary anti-worker Zelenskyy regime, and against the imperialist rearmament and advancement of NATO member states, including the provision of U.S. and NATO arms to Ukraine. The proponents of the war in Ukraine want us to believe that Russian and Chinese workers are somehow the enemies of workers in the United States. But nothing is further from the truth; this is a form of misdirection, based on extreme chauvinism in order to justify a struggle for world hegemony. The huge Chinese proletariat is a friend of the powerful proletariat in the United States. An independent working-class party in the United States must reject the chauvinist discourse of the two imperialist parties and embrace a perspective of internationalist solidarity with the working classes everywhere. In the U.S. we must support every struggle of the Chinese working class against their own government, such as the recent explosive struggles at Foxconn and the struggle against the authoritarian Zero Covid policy, as well as the struggles of the Russian working class to resist the Kremlin’s war efforts.
Meanwhile, Republicans and Democrats are in a race to see who can take a tougher stance on China to protect U.S. hegemony and capitalist interests, and both are united in their efforts to impose further sanctions on Russia, Iran, Venezuela, and Cuba, exacerbating the effects of the ongoing global economic and health crisis for millions of working people in an attempt to gain a foothold in these regions.
Trump’s “America First” policies and the imposition of unilateralism in foreign policy was an aggressive manifestation of an empire in decline. But Biden has also been incredibly aggressive in terms of reinvigorating traditional multilateralism behind the rearmament of the NATO powers. 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 the bipartisan imperialist agenda. We support the struggles of the working class and the oppressed around the world, seeking the international unity we need to make the capitalists pay for the crisis and end reactionary wars.
“A working-class party in the United States must fight for a democratic, secular, single Palestinian state encompassing all the historic Palestinian territory, from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean, and an immediate halt to any further annexation of the West Bank.“
An independent working-class party in the United States must demand an immediate end to imperialist wars. But this does not mean giving political support to other capitalist regimes, including the capitalist Russian and Chinese governments. It must demand the immediate withdrawal of all U.S. military forces throughout the world and the immediate closure of the nearly 750 U.S. military bases overseas, whether they are on bases during peacetime or actively engaged in wars. No U.S. military aid should be provided to other countries, which — like Israel — count on U.S. weapons and money to maintain power and repress populations in their own countries and elsewhere.
A working-class party in the United States must fight for a democratic, secular, single Palestinian state encompassing 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, and for a workers’ and socialist Palestine where Arabs and Jews can live in peace.
We must also call to lift all U.S. sanctions against all countries. These sanctions — from Iran and Cuba, to Venezuela, North Korea, and Gaza — prevent millions of working people from receiving the food, medicine, and other items they desperately need to survive.
We must denounce covert and open U.S. interference in Venezuela, and show support for the Venezuelan working class in their fight 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 countries, especially those where the United States exercises its influence, plunders resources, and plays out its competition with China.
We also demand an end to United States interference and military operations in Africa, including dismantling AFRICOM and financial intervention across the continent that continues the legacy of colonization.
A working-class party in the U.S. must fight to stop the “war on drugs” in Mexico and Latin America, and ardently oppose militarization in those countries which is mandated by the White House and armed by U.S. corporations. We must fight to 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 International Monetary Fund).
Opposing imperialism also means demanding respect for the self-determination of all U.S. colonies in the Caribbean and the Pacific — what the U.S. government calls territories — including Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Open Borders and Working-Class Internationalism
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 U.S. regime has always enforced the oppression of immigrant and racialized communities within its borders. The history of the United States is permeated with state violence and systemic racism against immigrants and 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 global masses and the masses inside the United States have the same enemy. That is why the struggle for a world without borders is international.
The Biden government recently deployed troops and border patrol agents to the southern border, while in states like Florida, Ron DeSantis has undertaken a ruthless and opportunistic anti-immigrant offensive.
Therefore, any working-class party must also have an internationalist perspective, one that fights against the attacks on migrants and for the immediate opening and demilitarization of all borders. We must fight with the slogan that we should “let them all in!” We must also demand not one more penny for a U.S. southern border wall, a racist and anti-humanitarian project to scapegoat migrants fleeing poverty and crime in countries that have been decimated by U.S. imperialism; an immediate halt to all deportations and repressive measures against migrants; the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE); and the closure of all ICE detention centers, which function as concentration camps for the world’s most vulnerable immigrants. And we must also 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.
Let’s Make This Happen: A Network for a Working-Class Party for Socialism
As we have explained and argued throughout this document, it is evident that the world is once again at a crossroads. Faced with a new phase of capitalist economic degeneration, environmental degradation, wars, crises, uprisings, and emerging global struggle, it is imperative that we, the working class of the United States, in the heart of the imperialist world, act now to take our future into our own hands by quickly and boldly building the kind of independent working-class party needed to transform this situation from one of impending catastrophe into one of possibility and hope.
As part of this process, we want to invite all the organizations to whom we have addressed this call and all those that feel moved by this manifesto to discuss how to set up a network for an independent party of the working class that fights for socialism. This network would, as a first step, organize a broad and democratic debate and discussion with the Left, with labor and social movement activists, and with all those who struggle on behalf of the working class and oppressed, about the type of party we need and how to build it. This call and this discussion is for everyone who wants to organize outside the Democratic Party and build working-class hegemony through class independence, and everyone who believes that we need a party to fight for Socialism with the methods of class struggle. In addition to this manifesto, we want to help facilitate this conversation by opening up the pages of our publication, Left Voice, to all those who are interested in debating and discussing this important question in a constructive and comradely manner. We also encourage, and would be willing to participate in public discussions, panels, and debates about building a working-class party that fights for socialism.
At the same time, we want to call on the socialist Left — DSA, Socialist Alternative, Tempest, and other organizations — to intervene jointly and collectively to strengthen the voice of revolutionary socialists within the ongoing struggles we are all engaged in, whether they be in the workplace, the schools, or in the streets. We believe that there is no time to lose and that there are conditions for the voices of revolutionary socialists to reach far and move the new generations fighting for unions, labor rights, and against gender and racial oppression.
If capitalism is the extension of despair, let this discussion be the beginning of hope.