The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 75/No. 4      January 31, 2011

‘What kind of socialism
for 21st century?’
New York meeting discusses world politics,
openings for communist movement
(feature article)
NEW YORK—More than 370 people turned out here for a public meeting sponsored by the Socialist Workers Party January 15 titled “What Kind of Socialism for the 21st Century?—The Long, Hard Battles Ahead.” Participants came from across the United States, as well as Canada, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom, Greece, and France.

The meeting was cochaired by Paul Mailhot, editor of the Militant and a member of the SWP National Committee, and Annalucia Vermunt, a member of the executive committee of the Communist League in New Zealand and the league’s 2010 candidate for mayor of Auckland.

The newly printed Pathfinder book Soldier of the Cuban Revolution: From the Cane Fields of Oriente to General of the Revolutionary Armed Forces by Cuban general Luis Alfonso Zayas was available at the meeting. The first speaker was the book’s editor, Mary-Alice Waters, who is also editor of the Marxist magazine New International and a member of the SWP National Committee.

Waters announced that three titles by Pathfinder will be launched at the Havana Book Fair this February: Soldier of the Cuban Revolution; the Spanish edition of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power; and the Spanish edition of Cosmetics, Fashions, and the Exploitation of Women, which is being published by Ciencias Sociales in Cuba.

Waters noted that Washington had just announced an adjustment to its embargo of Cuba that includes permitting any individual in the United States to send $500 a quarter to anyone in Cuba “to support private economic activity, among other purposes.” There is also a U.S. program called Cuban Medical Professional Parole, which encourages Cuban doctors on medical missions in foreign countries to contact any U.S. embassy to request immediate entrance into the United States as a “refugee.”

Both of these moves, explained Waters, are carefully crafted to capitalize on Cuba’s economic difficulties in order to undermine the state property established by the revolution and promote a “democratic” counterrevolution.

Soldier of the Cuban Revolution offers a real picture of the roots of the proletarian morality and discipline conquered by the young people who mobilized in the 1950s to get rid of the Batista dictatorship, Waters said. She quoted Zayas’s firsthand description of the march by 140 men in Che Guevara’s famous Column 8 from the Sierra Maestra to the Escambray mountains of central Cuba in September and early October 1958—an operation expected to take 48 hours that instead lasted 47 days.

“If we had covered those three hundred seventy miles in forty-eight hours,” observed Zayas, “perhaps we wouldn’t have weeded out the quitters, those who didn’t have the willpower to continue. Perhaps we would never have been able to measure the capacities of those who did.”

The socialist, revolutionary course of Cuba since working people there conquered power some 50 years ago also comes through in two recently published books by Cuban leader Fidel Castro, Por todos los caminos de la Sierra: La victoria estratégica (On every road through the Sierra: Strategic Victory) and Fidel Castro: My Life, an interview with Ignacio Ramonet. These books were highlighted in Waters’s talk.  
World Festival of Youth and Students
Harry D’Agostino, organizer of the Young Socialists at the State University of New York at New Paltz and candidate for lieutenant governor of New York endorsed by the SWP last year, spoke about building a Young Socialists club among his fellow students. He related how the Militant is helping to win young people to a working-class outlook. Like Vermunt he was one of some 15 people at the meeting who had recently returned from Pretoria, South Africa, where they participated with thousands of other young people in the World Festival of Youth and Students.

Describing the Young Socialists’s activity on campus, D’Agostino said, “We went from one to two young socialists in the fall. “Now with more confidence we can go further.”

Steve Clark, managing editor of New International and a member of the SWP National Committee, elaborated on this point. “The Militant gives workers a picture of the activities of the communist movement and responds to what is happening in the class struggle,” he said. At the festival in South Africa young people purchased 1,700 books by Pathfinder. A weakness was not getting into their hands subscriptions to the Militant as well, Clark said.

The Militant was launched in 1928 after members of the U.S. Communist Party who supported Leon Trotsky and others seeking to uphold the proletarian international course of V.I. Lenin in Russia were expelled by the party under the influence of a conservative bureaucracy in Russia headed by Joseph Stalin. Those expelled saw publishing a workers newspaper as their very first task. The effort was financed by workers in the party, such as the coal yard workers in Minneapolis who pooled their resources to send in $5 or $10 a week out of their meager wages.

Clark also spoke about the political openings for working people in Iran. Over the last 10 years, 65,000 Pathfinder titles translated into Farsi, the official language of Iran, have been sold there. A display at the meeting graphically captured the increasing interest in communist literature among Iranians. From March 2009 to March 2010, 1,834 Pathfinder titles by the Iranian publisher Talaye Porsoo were sold. From March 2010 to January 2011, 2,394 have been sold. On display were copies of the Tehran daily Donya-e-Eqtesad (The World of Economics), which serialized the Farsi edition of Teamster Rebellion.

A dozen other displays highlighted themes of the meeting, such as one titled “Washington’s ‘long war’ at home and abroad” and another illustrating the steps the capitalists are taking to increase their rate of profit by increasing the rate of exploitation of labor. Panels also showed the activities of socialists in the factories and trade unions.  
U.S. military strategy toward China
Jack Barnes, the author of Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power who is the national secretary of the SWP, was the final speaker. He opened his remarks pointing to the significance of U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates’s trip to Asia. During his trip Gates told reporters that the Chinese government has and continues to develop long-range intercontinental ballistic missiles as well as other missile technology that is designed to destroy U.S. aircraft carriers and aircraft.”

These advances are part of Beijing’s efforts to assert some control over Pacific waters near China, which have been dominated by Washington since World War II.

The threat of a powerful adversary in China has a great deal to do with the wars Washington is currently fighting in Afghanistan and on the border with Pakistan, Barnes said. Washington is trying to strengthen its alliance with the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India as a counterweight to Beijing. Gen. David Petraeus is “the commander of the Western front with China,” Barnes said. Concern over Osama bin Laden is not Washington’s motivation. There are much bigger questions at stake.

Washington needs to get the Pakistani and Indian governments to pull their troops away from each other’s borders and look toward China. Barnes noted Washington’s success in getting better relations with the Indian government, which had been a Soviet ally until the collapse of the Soviet Union at the beginning of the 1990s.

Meanwhile, at home, the Barack Obama administration is stepping up restrictions on freedom of speech and workers rights. It’s adopting a harder and harder line against Cuba, seeking to take advantage of the difficult economic situation the revolutionary government faces there.

Under the pressures of the capitalist world economic crisis, the Cuban leadership is working to preserve the continuity of the revolution, while making necessary retreats, including opening up the economy to more private economic activity, Barnes explained in response to a question during the discussion.

Barnes commented on the debate over whether “vitriolic rhetoric” by Republicans and tea party supporters was partly to blame for the shooting spree by a mentally deranged man that killed six people in Arizona January 8. Democrats were forced to back down as their attempt to blame Sarah Palin for the shooting fell flat. In his speech at the memorial service for victims, Obama acknowledged that “a simple lack of civility” did not cause the shootings, noted Barnes.

Liberal Democrats and commentators frequently slander conservatives as “stupid,” “crazy,” or “paranoid,” because they are unable to answer Republicans’ arguments. It’s also how they view workers or farmers who support one or another plank of the Republican platform.

Barnes pointed out that supporters of the Militant failed to organize sales to the hundreds of thousands who turned out for the “Restoring Honor” rally organized by Glenn Beck and others in Washington August 28. “We would have had no problems selling at that event and no Black person would have had a problem attending,” Barnes said.

A lower percentage of those at the event would have been interested in buying the paper than at an AFL-CIO labor event like the October 2 march for jobs, Barnes noted, but there were many workers at the August 28 rally who would have given the socialists a hearing, debated the issues, and shown interest in the Militant. They were, after all, driven to come to Washington by the effects of the economic and social crisis that is unfolding and ruining their lives, just as those who marched October 2 were.

In the United States “the working class is stunned” by the severity of the attacks coming down, he said. “It has no class consciousness yet,” giving the example of support among some workers for sharply reducing wages and benefits for public employees.

But “pockets of struggle do exist,” Barnes went on, “and they are important.” He noted that the workers at Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in Minneapolis “came out stronger” by fighting to organize a union, even though they narrowly lost the vote. Now they’re preparing for a second vote.

It’s through these kinds of struggles that workers can acquire class consciousness and begin to see that it’s not a question of winning a better contract or better labor legislation, but a revolutionary overturn of capitalism that’s needed, Barnes said.  
Financial support for party
Dave Prince, director of the Capital Fund, which accepts donations for the long-term political projects of the party, announced at the beginning of the meeting that this year’s fund stood at $105,000 so far. One of these was $3,500 from a hospital worker at a facility where the health-care teams have been reduced by layoffs. The worker wrote that the boss should have appended a note: “Thanks for working at a killing pace.”

By the end of the meeting the Capital Fund had grown to $215,000.

Carole Caron, part of the leadership of the Supporters Monthly Appeal, announced that the appeal had surpassed its goal of raising $55,000 by January 15. Contributors to this fund make a regular financial contribution to the party’s political activity each month.

A one-off appeal for donations by Angel Lariscy, Militant business manager and organizer of the New York Headquarters branch of the SWP, raised more than $24,000 for the party at the meeting.  
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home