Barnes was speaking at a January 28 public meeting here titled Imperialisms Spreading Wars and Financial Disorder in Face of the Irreversible Strengthening of the U.S. Working Class. Workers and young people from across the United States and several other countries attended. For a good number of the nearly 380 participants, the event was a way to learn more about the SWP and Young Socialists, the two sponsors of the meeting.
Militant editor Argiris Malapanis and Ben OShaughnessy, organizer of the YS National Steering Committee, co-chaired the program. OShaughnessy opened the meeting with a report on actions the previous day to demand immediate withdrawal of the U.S. troops from Iraq. He highlighted the response by protesters to the Young Socialists and SWP. The majority in the audience had participated in the actions, which took place in Washington and other cities. (See the articles Bring troops home!; Not one penny, or person, for Washingtons wars!; and 1,400 protesters buy Militant at antiwar actions in last weeks issue.)
The meeting also launched Pathfinders newest book, The First and Second Declarations of Havana. Some 230 people bought copies of the title in English and Spanish over the weekend.
Example of Cuban Revolution
The new book was born at the Caracas book fair in November, said Mary-Alice Waters, the editor of the book, and editor of New International magazine.
Today in Venezuela substantial numbers of workers, farmers, and student youth, as well as oppressed national minorities of many origins, are being politicized by popular struggles that have been a driving force in Venezuelan politics for a decade, she noted. These include struggles for land, greater control by workers over job conditions, retaking control over the countrys vast patrimony of natural resources such as oil, and to push back economic sabotage by entrenched capitalist owners of industry, financial institutions, and land. Among the most committed of the popular forces, especially the youth, thirst has grown for a revolutionary socialist perspective and for broader knowledge of the modern history of popular revolutionary movements, she said. Many wonder why some have succeeded while others have failed?
At the Caracas book fair we were involved in nonstop political discussions over such questions, Waters said. Is Marxism still relevant today? Is it still worth reading Marx, Engels, and Lenin? Is socialism a set of ideas or the line of march of the working class toward power? It was also stunning to see the degree to which most who consider themselves revolutionaries in Venezuela dont think that what they are doing has anything to do with the Cuban Revolution, she noted.
The First and Second Declarations of Havana clearly answers these questions. It shows that the revolutionary struggle for power by working people is necessary throughout the Americas, Waters said. Pathfinder Press has kept these documents in print for 45 years in the pamphlet The Second Declaration of Havana. With the passage of time, however, the historical context becomes unfamiliar, making them less understandable to new generations.
We had to take that pamphlet and transform it into a new book, she said, referring to the chronology, glossary, index, and photographs in it. These place the mass mobilizations by working people in Cuba in the early 1960s, which surrounded the two declarations, in the context of the class struggle at the time, including the fight for Black freedom in the United States and the Algerian revolution.
The new book helps expand the reach of the international campaign to promote and use Our History Is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution, said Waters. She pointed to upcoming events in five countries around this title.
Waters introduced young socialists seated on the platform who are taking part in February in the International Book Fair in Havana, where The First and Second Declarations of Havana will be presented; and to a meeting in March of the World Federation of Democratic Youth in Hanoi, Vietnam. Young socialists participating and reporting for the Militant on the Havana book fair have accepted an offer from the Union of Young Communists of Cuba to speak at pre-university high schools there to discuss with students what life is like under capitalism, she said.
Waters also introduced young socialists taking part in a summer school organized by the communist movement in Australia and New Zealand, pointing to how indispensable Marxist education is to building proletarian parties.
Breakdown of imperialist order
Speaking about the unanimous confirmation by the Senate of Gen. David Petraeus as the new commander of the U.S. forces in Iraq, Barnes noted that Petraeus had responded positively to a question from Sen. Carl Levin as to whether the Senate could support the course Petraeus outlinedthe biggest escalation of the U.S.-led war in Iraq since the 2003 imperialist invasionwithout supporting the policies of the [Bush] administration. Such open politicization of the officer caste of the imperialist armed forces, giving military officers direct access to the people, is dangerous for the working class, he said.
Barnes noted that the swift confirmation of Petraeus by an 81-0 vote showed that no section of the U.S. ruling class has any serious alternative to the escalation of the imperialist war in that country. Instead of the charade over nonbinding resolutions opposing the Bush administration plan, and empty threats to cut off funding for more troops, all the Senate had to do to hold off the rapid deployment of more troops was to put off confirming Petraeus.
The fragmentation of the world evident from Yugoslavia to Iraq, which is imposed or fostered by imperialism, has nothing to do with national liberation, said Barnes. As an example, he pointed to how the U.S. government is pressing for greater autonomy for Kurds in Iraq as part of its drive to establish a stable capitalist regime in that country friendly to imperialist interests in the region. But this has nothing to do with national self-determination for the Kurds, who live in an area that spans the borders of Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria, he said. At the same time, Washington has been cooperating militarily with Ankara to smash the Kurdistan Workers Party, a Kurdish organization based in Turkey that has led an armed campaign for independence.
The Bolsheviks explained the only road to world solidarity was through a voluntary union of Soviet republics, Barnes said, referring to the revolutionary leadership of V.I. Lenin in the early years of the Russian Revolution.
The SWP leader emphasized that the breakdown of the imperialist order makes understanding and applying Marxist theory and practice essential for those seeking today to chart a road forward for the toilers, the vast majority of humanity.
Communism is not an idea, nor a party, nor a specific group, said Barnes. Its the practice of a section, of the vanguard, of the working class. Its a movement. To the degree its a theory, it is a generalization of the lessons of the working-class fight for power. Workers head toward communism before they know it, he said, but without a theory and strategy the proletariat cannot conquer power and transform the world.
Barnes pointed to the importance of systematic study of Marxist theory. To learn Marxism as part of history, which is the only way it can be learned, is an enormous undertaking, he said. That is why the work by more than 200 volunteers of the Printing Project to transform some 400 titles published by Pathfinder Press so that they include glossaries, chronologies, indexes, and photos wherever possible, and are issued in larger and more readable type, is so essential. Doing so makes them understandable to new generations of readers of all ages, making it possible to integrate into the communist movement workers and youth attracted to a revolutionary party.
Barnes also spoke about the permanent strengthening of the U.S. working class, and the changing place of the Militant as a supplement, not a substitute, to the mass work of socialist workers and young socialists. One reflection of this reality is the response to the Militant by workers at meatpacking and other plants recently raided by immigration police. He pointed to a photo display showing how workers welcomed the Militant after immigration cops raided six Swift plants in December, arresting nearly 1,300 meat packers. Workers at these and other factories in the Midwest bought 1,000 Militants600 of them at factory gatesand 90 subscriptions, Barnes pointed out.
Meeting other revolutionaries
Discussion after the presentations lasted late into the evening, including over a delicious dinner of Haitian food.
Among those attending the meeting was Ingrid Franco, 20, a student at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. About six or seven months ago I started reading Pathfinder books. I believe a revolution needs to be done and will have to happen, she said. Franco also took part in the Washington march against the Iraq war. It was powerful to see all the people coming out united to stop this war, and lots of people realizing this is not a war against terror, but of imperialist domination, she said.
Pedro Huinil, 34, a landscaper from Atlanta, said the number of young people attending the meeting impacted him. What the Young Socialists are working on now is important, he said.
Huinil came to the weekends events in a van from Atlanta with several other workers. Among them was Cesar Castro, 21, who works in a grocery store. I like how the Socialist Workers Party calls for legalization for all workers, he said. I agree with what the speakers said about the war. I want to know more about the movement.
Sarilla Culver, 20, a student at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario, offered her reaction to both the public meeting and the march in Washington. I find participating in actions helps to strengthen the political side of yourself, she said. I really liked meeting YSers from all over. I missed class on campus, but youre going to learn more like this than youre going to learn in class.
Speaking as part of the program, Dave Prince of the Socialist Workers Party in Atlanta announced the launching of a $500,000 Capital Fund Appeal for 2007. Donations to this fund of $1,000 or morewhich come from bequests, injury settlements, accidents of birth, and elsewherewill be essential to help produce new books and transform the entire Pathfinder arsenal, he said. He announced that seven people have already contributed $90,000.
In response to a separate SWP Party-Building Fund appeal, those present pledged or contributed $20,406.
Rebecca Williamson, from St. Paul, Minnesota, contributed to this article.
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Imperialist fragmentation, not liberation
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U.S. Special Forces fighting terror group in Philippines
Donate to cover costs of 'Militant' reporting team to Cuba
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