Waters, a leader of the Socialist Workers Party and editor of the Marxist magazine New International, chaired the event, "Communists and the Fight Against Imperialism Today." The response by more than 350 workers, students, and young people--from up and down the East Coast, and from as far away as Tucson, Arizona, St. Paul, Minnesota, Omaha, Nebraska, and Vancouver, British Columbia--was evidence of their determination to deepen that campaign.
"The class struggle doesn't go into remission," Waters said, as the propertied ruling class and their government in Washington exploit the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon to rationalize use of massive U.S. military might to maintain their world domination and continue attacks on workers' wages, job conditions, and democratic rights. To the contrary.
As the meeting convened, Waters said, tens of thousands of state workers in Minnesota were preparing to strike October 1 against employer efforts to reduce medical benefits and maintain wage increases below the rise in the cost of living. She also pointed to the response by members of the United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) who are organizing to expose company responsibility for the September 23 deaths of 13 coal miners in two methane explosions at the Jim Walter No. 5 mine in Brookwood, Alabama. And she called attention to recent protests in Cincinnati, condemning the acquittal after a one-week bench trial of the cop who killed Black youth Timothy Thomas last April.
Communist workers are more deeply involved as part of the rising resistance by a broader vanguard of workers and farmers against capitalist assaults on their living and working conditions, Waters said. SWP members are also teaming up with members of the Young Socialists to reach out to students on college campuses who are attracted to this increase in struggles by working people and can be won to the revolutionary movement.
"The determination by layers of working people to press forward with their strikes and other struggles, to refuse to be cowed by what will be increasing patriotic demagogy that 'now is not the time,'" Waters said, "is at the heart of the fight against imperialism and its wars."
The September 30 meeting was part of five days of meetings and discussion by members and supporters of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists. Socialist workers who are members of the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union and the Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees (UNITE) met September 29-30 to chart a course for the party's work in the industrial unions (see article on page 12). SWP members who are coal miners and belong to the UMWA, as well as those who are members of the United Auto Workers (UAW), will be meeting in October.
The SWP National Committee met October 1-2, along with leaders of the party's trade union work, organizers of party branches and organizing committees, and leaders of communist organizations in Australia, Canada, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. On October 3 a subcommittee of that body continued deliberations.
U.S. rulers need blood of GIs
Waters explained that the organizers of the September 30 meeting had discussed and decided to open the program with a presentation on the class struggle in the United States. They asked Alice Kincaid, a coal miner, to be the first speaker and report on her just-concluded visit to Brookwood, Alabama, where the mine disaster had taken place. Kincaid was followed by several others speakers who discussed aspects of politics in the United States, as well as in the region where Washington has launched its war. ( These presentations are covered in the article on page 9.)
Jack Barnes, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, was the final speaker at the event. At that time, a week away from the Bush administration launching its bombing of Afghanistan, the patriotism the U.S. rulers and big-business media was trying to whip up was still "skin deep," Barnes said.
He pointed to several of his own recent experiences. As Barnes and another SWP leader, Jack Willey, were on their way to a meeting in midtown Manhattan the previous Friday, for example, they walked past a young Mexican woman on the street selling American flags. "Patriotic zeal," he noted, "is not the main motivation of most of those selling flags and colored ribbons on the streets these days."
At just that moment, Barnes said, a large truck rounded the corner, decked out with two full-sized American flags. The young driver spotted the woman, shot his fist out the window, and shouted: "Viva Zapata!" She returned the salute with a big smile.
To really crank up war fever, the socialist leader said, "the U.S. rulers need the blood of American GIs killed in combat. They need body bags to start being unloaded on tarmacs at U.S. air bases.
"The death of 5,000 civilians at the World Trade Center is not enough," Barnes said. That's "the slaughter of the innocents": something "abhorred, in word, by all three of the desert monotheisms--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. Despite the spectacle of 'national mourning' the superrich ruling families have promoted and sucked dry since September 11," he said, "they truly care little or nothing for the lives of civilians.
"It is class-conscious workers and fighters for national liberation who draw a hard-and-fast distinction between the killing of innocent civilians and the deaths of soldiers in combat."
To get a war hysteria rolling the rulers need one of two things, Barnes said. Either the assassination of a top bourgeois figure. Or a substantial spilling of the blood of soldiers--such as the sinking of the USS Maine in 1898, used by President William McKinley as a pretext to go to war against Spain, the first war of the imperialist epoch; or the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, utilized by the administration of Franklin Roosevelt to advance the U.S. rulers' aim of declaring war against their imperialist rivals in Japan and Germany.
'We' versus 'they'
In the meantime, Barnes said, the U.S. rulers have sought to stir up a patriotic whirlwind of emotionalism and sentimentality to reinforce the illusion that "we Americans" have common interests--whether we're among the hundreds of millions of workers and farmers exploited by a handful of capitalist families in this country; or a member of one of those exploiting families and their hired servants in top echelons of the government, big business, the church, schools, and press.
"This classless 'we,' for example," Barnes said, "embraces both death-row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal and Pennsylvania governor Thomas Ridge, who has signed Mumia's death warrant and refused to grant him a new trial." Barnes pointed out that President Bush has named Ridge the new, cabinet-level "czar" of "homeland security."
Behind the rulers' concerted public lamentations, Barnes said, they are seeking to disarm opposition to their deepening militarization on the home front and course toward war abroad. In this regard, he pointed to an interview with U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor in the September 29 New York Times, conducted by the paper's law correspondent Linda Greenhouse.
"Describing herself as 'still tearful' after viewing the World Trade Center site," Greenhouse wrote, this chief justice-hopeful "told a law school audience in Manhattan yesterday that as part of the country's response to terrorism, 'we're likely to experience more restrictions on our personal freedom than has ever been the case in our country.'"
According to Greenhouse, O'Connor added that "lawyers and academics will help define how to maintain a fair and just society...at a time when many are more concerned with safety and a measure of vengeance."
Barnes asked: "How many of you want to hand over decisions about your 'rights' to the tender mercies of lawyers and academics?"
"Count me out," he added.
The U.S. rulers, Barnes said, want working people to ask: "How can 'we' protect ourselves against 'fanatics' around the world? What are 'we' going to do about stopping 'terrorism'?"
But for workers and farmers here or anywhere else, Barnes said, the only "we" is other working people the world over with whom we share common class interests and a common class enemy--first and foremost the capitalist rulers of the United States, the earth's mightiest and most brutal military power, and its most ruthless exploiters.
"From the standpoint of working people," Barnes said, "that ruling class, its twin political parties, and its state and other institutions are not 'we' but 'they.' It's they, the capitalist war-makers, out of whose hands the working class must organize our fellow toilers and those we can win from the middle classes into a revolutionary struggle to take power--or else they will never stop terrorizing humanity."
The imperialist rulers want to hide from workers and farmers the truth explained in the statement released September 11 by the Socialist Workers Party through its candidate for mayor of New York, Martín Koppel. After calling on working people to oppose the U.S. government's war drive and deepening assaults on workers' rights, and explaining that revolutionists reject the use of violence against innocent civilians such as that in New York and Washington, the statement said:
The U.S. government and its allies for more than a century have carried out systematic terror to defend their class privilege and interests at home and abroad--from the atomic incineration of hundreds of thousands at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, to the 10-year-long slaughter in Indochina, to the war against the Iraqi people in 1990-91, to the burning to death of 80 people at Waco on its home soil, to other examples too numerous to list. In recent weeks, the White House and Congress have stood behind Tel Aviv as it escalated its campaign of both random killings and outright murders in its historically failing effort to quell the struggle by the dispossessed Palestinian people for the return of their homeland.
Half a century ago the revolutionary workers movement and other opponents of colonial outrages, racism, and anti-Semitism in all its forms warned that by waging a war of terror to drive the Palestinians from their farms, towns, and cities, the founders of the Israeli state and their imperialist backers in North America and Europe were pitting the Jewish people against those fighting for national liberation in the Middle East and worldwide; they were creating a death trap for the Jews, which Israel remains to this day. By its systematic superexploitation of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America; by its never-ending insults to their national and cultural dignity; by its ceaseless murderous violence in countless forms--U.S. imperialism is turning North America into a death trap for working people and all who live here.
"Workers and farmers in the United States have now entered the world," Barnes said.
"For a century the U.S. rulers have largely succeeded in convincing American working people that, at least on home territory, we were exempt from the mass slaughter and misery inflicted worldwide as a result of capitalism's inherent drive toward imperialist domination, fascism, and war. That's the source of the dangers to human civilization in today's world, not 'fanatics' or 'terrorists.' Our class has now joined the rest of toiling humanity."
In this regard, Barnes quoted a British columnist who wrote, "It reminds me of the bitter old foreign correspondent's joke that in news terms, one dead Americans equals 10 Israeli Jews, equals 100 Bosnians, equals 50,000 Bantu Africans."
Over the previous weeks, Barnes said, the employing class in the United States had organized moments of silence, blood drives, volunteer rescue brigades, ceremonies, and other such "civic" displays in order to play on human solidarity to mobilize the population behind the rulers' war drive.
"They put Oprah on a stage in Yankee Stadium to turn on the tears before millions over nationwide television," Barnes said. "But human beings don't grieve for people we don't know. That's a fact of human psychology; otherwise none of us could ever function.
"For self-serving ends, the rulers and their shameless media propagandists have ripped away privacy from thousands of people who did lose family members and friends on September 11. They are cynically exploiting concrete individual weeping in order to turn it into general patriotic fervor."
But none of this has anything to do with human solidarity, Barnes said. It is part of the capitalists' political preparations to maintain their inhuman social system, restrict the rights and drive down the conditions of working people at home, and inflict unimaginable horrors on toilers abroad.
"It's part of the 'pornographication of politics' that has accompanied the deepening crisis and instability of the world capitalist order over the past decade," Barnes said.
"The rulers barrage working people with sensationalized stories of individual corruption, 'decadence,' sex, divorce, and tragedy, all of it turned into group emotion. Whether it's the sex life of President Clinton or Prince Charles; the death in a car crash of Princess Diana; or the private mourning for friends and loved ones killed at the World Trade Center or the Pentagon--the effect of such engineered public spectacles is to take our eyes off the exploitative class relations that are the source of social ills and human misery under capitalism."
All this is part of the rulers' manipulation of anxiety, resentment, and fear of loss in order to diminish what Barnes pointed to as the only reliable basis for human solidarity--the political solidarity of workers, farmers, and other exploited toilers. That solidarity is based not on sentimentality or fear but on the growing political consciousness and confidence of the working majority of humanity who have no class interest in the exploitation, oppression, and humiliation of other human beings.
"That's why the front page of every issue of the Militant during the campaign against the imperialist war," Barnes said, "needs to feature an article or two about a strike or rally organized by workers, a farmers protest, a demonstration against cop brutality, an action in defense of immigrants' rights, or a protest to demand affirmative action for Blacks, women, and other oppressed layers of the working class.
"That's how growing numbers of workers and youth will come to understand in practice who 'we' and 'they' really are--and to think and act accordingly."
Written for 'posterity'?
Barnes commented on a letter from a Militant reader in Miami Beach that he had received shortly after the September 11 statement was released by the Socialist Workers Party.
The writer said that after first hearing about the statement from "my New York friends," who are "understandably...very emotional about the situation," he read the statement on the Militant web site and was "very troubled by the tone and presentation of the SWP's point of view." He forwarded to Barnes the reply he had written to these New York friends.
The writer was particularly disappointed, he explained, that it was only in the seventh paragraph that the SWP statement said: "Whoever may have carried out the September 11 operations, the destruction of the two World Trade Center towers, and the air attack on the Pentagon--with the resulting deaths and injuries of thousands of men, women, and children--these actions have nothing to do with the fight against capitalist exploitation and imperialist oppression. Revolutionists and other class-conscious workers, farmers, and youth the world over reject the use of such methods."
The SWP, the writer told his New York friends, "seems to have lost a sense of the moment. Twenty years from now that statement from the NYC Mayoral candidate may seem as if it was to the point." But, he continued, "The essence of a situation does not accurately describe the reality of that moment."
The "tone and presentation" of the party's statement, the writer of the letter said, "will prevent all those American workers who are not emotionally dead from getting to paragraph #7.... I believe that this campaign statement was written for posterity not from the point of view of intervening in this struggle as it exists today. That's the mark of a sect!"
The letter is wrong on both counts, Barnes replied.
"First, the statement was not written for 'American workers' but for the workers of the world, remembering that working people in the United States are an integral part of that international class.
"Communists don't take our political positions and principles from the current consciousness and concerns of these workers," Barnes said, "let alone from emotions 'of the moment.' We explain, as clearly as we can, the class interests and historic line of march of the working class, which is no different for workers in the United States than for our sisters and brothers in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Palestine, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the world."
Second, Barnes said, communists never write anything "for posterity." The party's September 11 statement was written for the present, to politically arm class-conscious workers, farmers, and young people to act. Because revolutionaries know that if working people act, if we organize to fight, Barnes said, "we will transform the possibilities before humanity."
That's what communist workers and youth have done in the weeks since September 11, he pointed out. They have taken the campaign against imperialism and its war drive onto the streets in workers' districts; onto the job in plants, mines, and mills; onto the campuses; and to union events and social protests.
As during the opening days and weeks of Washington's war drive against Iraq 10 years earlier, Barnes said, worker-bolsheviks across the United States and around the world were immediately confronted with decisions about what to say and how to conduct themselves on the job. They came under pressure from their employers, and often from some co-workers as well, to observe patriotic moments of silence called for by the Bush administration, to take American flags or yellow ribbons, to attend church services, to join in union-organized blood drives or collections--all organized under the banner of public mourning to mobilize support for the U.S. rulers' chauvinist militarization drive.
Barnes called attention to the example set by communist workers--none of them either "emotionally dead" or mentally dead--who held their ground, stuck to their principles, and steadfastly refused to join in these patriotic displays.
In doing so, these workers established where they stood from the outset, won respect from co-workers, and laid the basis for ongoing discussions and political work as the U.S. war and its consequences unfold.
These workers were prepared above all--in their minds, in their habits, and in their gut--by their accumulated experience as disciplined cadres of the communist workers movement. Equipped with that training in proletarian politics, Barnes said, the timeliness, tone, and communist clarity of the Socialist Workers Party's September 11 statement undoubtedly stood them in good stead, as well.
Two classes, different responses
In the wake of the World Trade Center attack, Barnes said, public discourse in much of New York City had been covered by "a patina of petty-bourgeois hysteria and panic."
But there's not a single, socially homogeneous "New York," Barnes said, any more than there is a single "America." Cities, like countries, are class divided, and they are politically polarized. "They are a geographical connection of 'we' and 'they.' And especially as the rulers head into a war, they want to make us think of everybody, altogether, as we."
Barnes read from a recent Op/Ed piece by New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd, reflecting the panic among layers of the professional and middle classes and the deepening social crisis and insecurity underlying it. "Women I know in New York and Washington debate whether to order Israeli vs. Marine Corps gas masks, and half-hour lightweight gas masks vs. $400 eight-hour gas masks, baby gas masks and pet gas masks, with the same meticulous attention they gave to ordering no-foam-no-fat-no-whip lattes in more innocent days.
"They share information on which pharmacies still have...antibiotics that can be used for anthrax," Dowd wrote. "They are toting around flats and sneakers in case they have to run, and stocking up on canned tuna, salmon and oysters, batteries and bottled waters" And Dowd goes on in that vein for 16 paragraphs.
"But you don't see gas masks in the subways used by millions of working people every day, do you?" said Barnes. In fact, many workers are becoming impatient at cops who act even more brazenly like they own the streets in parts of the city, as well as the stoppages on roads and tunnels that are adding hours to the working day in some cases.
"Despite the hysteria that saturates the big business media," Barnes said, "there really are two New Yorks."
A would-be Bonaparte undone
New York City since September 11, Barnes said, also provided a textbook study in all the elements of Bonapartism at this stage of the capitalist crisis in the United States, as well as its current limitations.
Playing on the panic and insecurities of middle-class layers in times of crisis--ultimately the root of the mass base of any serious fascist movement--bourgeois figures will push themselves forward as someone who stands above conflicting classes and can restore order and stability. They demagogically pledge to cut through government bureaucracy and workaday politics to "get the job done," often by setting aside "legalities." Like H. Ross Perot during his run for the U.S. presidency in 1992, they appeal to special armed units--such as the Navy SEALs in Perot's case--as the only "trustworthy" and "incorruptible" force that can protect the population.
With the onset of the crisis in New York City, Barnes said, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani hoped to reverse his fortunes to push himself forward as the "can-do" man of the hour. Prior to September 11 Giuliani had still been the object of a nearly year-long press campaign scandalizing him over his personal life, part of the pornographication of bourgeois politics noted earlier.
Now, scheduling frequent press conferences at "Ground Zero," the mayor sought to project an image of composure, control, and candor--the man "in charge." He repeatedly reminded the public that the "uniformed services" are "my people"--above all the cops but also firemen, several hundred of whom were killed when the Twin Towers collapsed. The members of the "uniformed services" who died in the catastrophe have been elevated by the press and politicians as heroes above the 4,000 plus civilians also killed there.
A would-be Bonaparte, Giuliani then began testing the waters, first to see if the current two-term limit could be set aside so he could run for mayor again this fall, or if his term could at least be extended for a few months.
"But in a situation where timing was everything," Barnes said, "Giuliani made his bid too late, days after the atmosphere of crisis had peaked and begun to recede in New York City, along with his own place in the limelight. Even more decisive, the mayor had misjudged the stage of the broader social crisis, which was not yet ripe for an open move to push parliamentary forms to the side."
Nonetheless, Giuliani's class intuition that from within the "uniformed services" will come the shock troops of Bonapartism in the United States was on the mark, Barnes said--and of fascist movements, too. Police departments, sheriffs offices, and other "law enforcement" agencies are already honeycombed by those with ultrarightist sympathies. And this will become more the case as the capitalist crisis deepens and the employing class begins unleashing armed gangs against workers picket lines and organizations of labor and the oppressed.
At the National Committee meeting the two days following the public meeting, Barnes responded to several questions about whether the cops and firemen serve the same class interests in capitalist society. No, Barnes said. The police are armed defenders of capitalist order and property; becoming a cop puts anyone, regardless of class origin, outside the working class and on the side of the propertied in the class struggle. It is a class divide, Barnes said.
Firemen are not an armed force in defense of bourgeois property and rule. Many firemen see themselves more like other public employees and can express solidarity with unions and embattled workers. But the ruling class organizes fire departments in a hierarchical, military fashion, with a chain of command from lieutenants and captains on down. The officer corps of the police and fire departments collaborate day in and day out on many different levels, making the cadres in fire houses vulnerable to all the reactionary pressures emanating from the ranks of the cops and rightist currents they gravitate toward.
Pakistani toilers are U.S. workers' allies
The U.S. rulers face formidable obstacles in carrying out their war against Afghanistan and points beyond--from the Philippines and Indonesia in the East, to Iraq and Syria to the West.
"More than half a century after the peak of its world domination in the years just after Washington's victory in World War II," Barnes said, "U.S. imperialism--history's final empire--is acting today from relative weakness, not strength."
With only London solidly at its side, Washington has not been able, and will not be able, to marshal the kind of broad if conflicting and unstable coalition it patched together 10 years ago to wage war against Iraq. Other European powers have been more guarded in their support and have little to offer militarily in any strategic sense. Putin is eager to boost Russia's leverage in Europe as much as possible and deal blows to restive Muslim oppressed peoples from Chechnya eastward throughout its current territories and the former lands it still dominates; authorities in Moscow, however, still look upon the U.S. military buildup across their southern flank in Central Asia as a mixed blessing.
The biggest obstacle to the war drive right now, Barnes said, are the working people of Pakistan, who have mobilized in their tens of thousands to oppose U.S. war preparations and to condemn Islamabad's support for the aggression.
For this very reason, he said, they are also objectively the most important international ally of working people in the United States, as are working people and youth from Egypt and Palestine to Indonesia and the Philippines who are already going into action to respond to Washington's war moves.
World Youth Festival in Algeria
Barnes called attention to those seated on the platform at the meeting who had participated in the 15th World Festival of Youth and Students in Algeria in August, which drew some 6,000 delegates from around the world, particularly from the Middle East, Africa, Latin America, and Asia.
These young people--part of some 25 Young Socialists from seven countries who participated in the festival-- "had an effect on something historic," Barnes said. "I think it's hard either for them or others to fully absorb what was registered by that gathering."
The success of the Algiers festival, Barnes said, marked another step forward in building a new anti-imperialist youth movement worldwide.
This is quite a shift in international working-class politics, Barnes said. During the first 13 World Youth Festivals between 1946 and 1989, the Stalinist movement that drew on the immense resources of the regime in Moscow had tightly controlled the festivals. They sought to use these gatherings as a way to advance Moscow's class-collaborationist diplomatic goal of reaching a long-term accommodation with imperialism--an objective as ultimately utopian as it was counterrevolutionary.
With the collapse of the Stalinist regimes across Eastern Europe and in the Soviet Union itself between 1989 and 1991, he said, it appeared for a time that there would never be another world youth festival. But the Cuban government hosted a festival in Havana drawing some 12,000 participants in 1997, welcoming a broad range of revolutionary and anti-imperialist forces from around the world, excluding no one, and closing down no conversations or literature tables.
The Algiers festival, the first ever held on African soil, was a second advance for that new, anti-imperialist tradition, said Barnes.
Barnes noted that in 1965 a previous World Youth Festival had been scheduled for Algeria. It held out the promise of being more open than prior festivals to exchanges among young revolutionaries, under the impact of developments at that time in the anti-imperialist struggle: the wave of successful independence fights across Africa and the Middle East, the Cuban Revolution, and the victorious struggle against French colonial rule in Algeria itself, which had culminated in the establishment of a workers and peasants government there with close ties to revolutionary Cuba.
Barnes said he had been planning to participate in that earlier Algeria festival as part of a delegation from the Young Socialist Alliance. A few months earlier, he said, he and another YSA leader had conducted an interview with Malcolm X for the Young Socialist magazine; the interview is still in print in a pamphlet and book published by Pathfinder, both under the title, Malcolm X Talks to Young People.
When Barnes took Malcolm the completed interview to look over, Malcolm was glad to hear about the YSA's plans to attend the youth festival in Algeria. Malcolm said he had met a number of young revolutionaries during his visits over the previous year to Africa, including Algeria, and Europe. He said he would draw up a list of these contacts, so the YSA could send them copies of the Young Socialists interview and arrange to meet and hold discussions at the Algeria youth festival.
That way, Malcolm added, "both sides can broaden your scopes."
"I told Malcolm we looked forward to doing so," Barnes said.
Two events happened that changed those plans.
First, in February 1965 Malcolm X was assassinated, before the interview in the YS had been printed and before the YSA leaders had gotten the list of young revolutionaries from Malcolm. "We fully intended to carry out our pledge to Malcolm, nonetheless," Barnes said. "We were confident that if we went to the festival in Algeria, we would find some of those young revolutionaries Malcolm had spoken of, and meet many more like them."
Second, in the spring of that year, just days before the festival was scheduled to open, the workers and farmers government was overthrown in a counterrevolutionary coup and the gathering was canceled. Barnes was half way down the Italian peninsula on a train en route to Algeria when he got the news.
"So, fulfilling our pledge to Malcolm was postponed," Barnes said. "I never thought it was canceled--pledges among revolutionaries never are. I always considered fulfilling that pledge to be postponed--but, of course, I had no way of knowing for how long, or under what circumstances the deed would be done.
"Now we know," Barnes said. "It was fulfilled last month by the international Young Socialists delegation to the 15th World Youth Festival in Algiers."
That delegation, he said, had discussions and established relations with young revolutionists and anti-imperialist fighters from across the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and Latin America, and got hundreds of copies of communist and revolutionary books and pamphlets into their hands.
In contrast, a substantial number of the official Communist Parties and their youth organizations with historic ties to the former Stalinist regime in Moscow either boycotted the 2001 Algiers festival altogether (such as those from France, Italy, Canada, and Japan), or sent only a token delegation (such as two leaders from the Young Communist League in the United States).
The pretext for this de facto boycott was that the Algerian government had repressed protests for language and national rights by the oppressed Berbers in that country and that political conditions had become too explosive and dangerous at the time. The call to stay away from the festival was in fact organized, behind the scene, by the imperialist government of France and by international Social Democracy, which scheduled a competing youth festival in Panama some weeks earlier.
At the SWP National Committee meeting following the September 20 public event, Barnes noted that both the political character of the Algiers festival and its composition was falsified by the article that appeared in the September 8 issue of the People's Weekly World, the newspaper of the Communist Party USA. The article was written by Noel Rabinowitz, one of the two YCL leaders who attended the festival.
"Though we were not a large delegation," Rabinowitz wrote, "the participation of anti-imperialist youth of the U.S. was a political victory for the festival. the Young Communist League USA (YCLUSA) took our internationalist responsibility seriously and played a leadership role in the effort. The YCLUSA convened the United States National Preparatory Committee (USNPC) ensuring the re-pre–sentation of a broad array of national youth and student groups such as the United States Student Association and United Students Against Sweatshops. The YCLUSA repre-–sented the USNPC in the Inter–national Organizing Committee, led the U.S. delegation and participated in the plenaries of several key sessions."
The truth--that the YCL ended up discouraging participation in the gathering and only organized for two of its own members to go--is completely covered up in the article.
Ever since the 1930s, Barnes said, the world Stalinist movement had gotten used not only to being able to circulate lies but also to "make them true"--simply by means of corruption, thuggery, and ass-ass-–inations by its worldwide murder machine.
"The greatly weakened remnants of this former international movement are no longer able to do so," Barnes said. "That's a big advance for the international working class.
"But as the People's Weekly World article on the World Youth Festival shows," Barnes added, "that doesn't mean they won't still try."
The SWP leader noted at the party's National Committee meeting that since September 11 both the YCL and Communist Party USA were among those in the working-class movement that had gone the farthest in accepting the U.S. rulers's patriotic framework of "we" and "our country's" fight against "terrorism."
The YCL featured a badge on its web site saying, "I love New York, Honor their memory.... Unite in Peace." The YCL urged its chapters "to support the vigils and rallies for peace that are spontaneously happening around the country," along the central political axis: "No more victims! End the cycle of violence."
In a September 21 statement, CPUSA national chairperson Sam Webb had the following to say: "The death of more than five thousand people is an American tragedy. Other countries have experienced equal or worse tragedies, but this took place on our national soil and was so cruel and unexpected....
"Indeed, people are questioning long held assumptions that inform how we think about our lives, our families, and our nation's future. We are all asking, 'How could it happen here and what can be done to prevent it reoccurrence?'"
Soldiers, not warriors
In closing his talk at the September 30 meeting, Barnes said that while the events of the previous two weeks had not "reshaped the globe"--as a headline in that day's New York Times "Week in Review" section had proclaimed--political forces that were already in motion had indeed begun speeding up.
That fact, he said, places special responsibilities on the communist movement, as well as increased opportunities, to deepen its course of following the lines of resistance in the working class and among farmers, to reinforce its industrial union fractions, and to win young forces to the Young Socialists and the Socialist Workers Party.
"We are building a movement of disciplined soldiers, not individual warriors, he said.
"Warriors have many traits worthy of emulation," Barnes said, "chief among them being courage."
No revolutionary organization can accomplish much without cadres who display courage, both politically and physically, Barnes said. "But courage and discipline are not the same thing. And courage without discipline becomes just another form of petty bourgeois individualism. It can lead to unnecessary harm--to individual workers, to the communist movement, and to innocent bystanders."
"We've often said that discipline is something that cannot be imposed," the SWP leader said. "It is something the cadres of a proletarian party internalize over time, through collective class-struggle experience and Marxist political training. When we need party discipline most, there often won't be time to check with some higher body: we'll simply act on the basis of who we've become through that process of political preparation."
At the same time, Barnes said, September 11 was the time, more than ever, when all the units of the communist movements--the party branches and organizing committees, the trade union fractions, the chapters of the Young Socialists--needed to get together, discuss the political situation, and decide what they were going to do.
"The organizational structure, norms, and institutions of the communist movement become more important at times such as these," he said. "That's when all of them are put to the test, in the crucible of an imperialist war and militarization drive."
These questions were central to the two days of discussion and decisions by the Socialist Workers Party leadership following the September 30 public meeting, as well as the international leadership gathering that wrapped up the five days of deliberations.
Returning to the themes that had been struck by Mary-Alice Waters in opening the New York public meeting, Jack Barnes noted in his closing remarks that during an imperialist war, strikes by workers and other actions in which working people oppose the oppression and brutalities of capitalism are the cells of the most fundamental counter to the rulers' patriotic course.
"Communists are not organizing an antiwar campaign," Barnes said. "As the Bolsheviks put it during World War I, we don't have a revolutionary policy in peace time and a peace policy in wartime.
"Instead, in the midst of Washington's war, we are organizing a stepped-up campaign against imperialism, against what Lenin taught us is the final stage of capitalism--the stage we're still in. We keep our eyes focused on the class struggle."
It is in the course of class battles, Barnes said, that the illusion that "we"--the ruling class and working people together--need to "equally" sacrifice for the war effort is challenged in practice by the actual experience of growing numbers. Workers who go on strike or stay the course in some social or political struggle, despite the pressures of imperialist war, are refusing to sacrifice their rights, wages, union organization, or life or limb to the needs of the capitalist exploiters, Barnes said.
For communist workers, Barnes concluded, it is both possible and necessary to turn more deeply toward the resistance of working people in the Untied States in response to the imperialist war against Afghanistan. At the same time, a new generation can be won to the Young Socialists and the communist movement if revolutionary workers collaborate with YS members to go out to college campuses and elsewhere to meet young people repelled by the course of the imperialists and who can be attracted to the working class and revolutionary struggle.
Other articles from the ISR:
Speakers weigh revolutionary traditions, political opportunities
Lessons of U.S. war against Iraq
Socialist workers in unions discuss campaign against imperialism and its war drive
Anti-imperialist struggles by the peoples of Afghanistan and surrounding countries
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