Friday, December 22, 2017

Socialist Methodology and the Mass Struggle: Lessons from Detroit and Beyond
Leninist ideology guides our approach to building a revolutionary movement

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Note: This address was delivered at the National Workers World Party Conference held in Newark, New Jersey from November 18-19, 2017. To watch this speech just click on the following URL:
This year represents the centenary of the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, a monumental cataclysmic socially transformative occurrence which served as a political model for all Peoples seeking to liberate themselves from capitalism and imperialism.

As a group principally concerned with building a revolutionary political party of the working class and the nationally oppressed, we need to study both the ideological and organizational contributions of V.I. Lenin.

First and foremost it is necessary to adopt a dialectical materialist approach to the struggle against exploitation and oppression. It is imperative to understand the nature of the enemy in which we are seeking to overcome.

Ultimately the destruction of the world capitalist system is a prerequisite to the genuine emancipation of humanity. Socialism leading to a communist society provides the only hope for the realization of world peace, security and sustainability.

Nonetheless, the freedom of the proletariat and oppressed nations will not be achieved spontaneously. Perhaps the most profound lesson of the Bolshevik party is the emphasis placed upon scientific organization based upon the principles of democratic centralism.

These axioms are as relevant today as they were during the early 20th century when Lenin published his groundbreaking work entitled “What Is To Be Done? (1903).During this time period, industrial capitalism was rapidly consolidating its exploitative productive processes which were labelled as “Taylorism” and later “Fordism.”

The emergence of the assembly line, mechanized agriculture, the rapacious mining of strategic minerals, oil drilling, international trade and shipping, along with the consolidation of finance and banking as the dominant economic force within global capitalism, which Lenin defined as being Imperialism during World War I, in another important pioneering book, (Imperialism: The Highest State of Capitalism, 1916), shaped the character of the system in which we continue to struggle against in the contemporary epoch.

In “What Is to Be Done?” Lenin poses a challenge to the socialist movement, saying: “We must now deal with a question that has undoubtedly come to the mind of every reader. Can a connection be established between primitiveness as growing pains that affect the whole movement, and Economism, which is one of the currents in Russian Social-Democracy? We think that it can. Lack of practical training, of ability to carry on organizational work is certainly common to us all, including those who have from the very outset unswervingly stood for revolutionary Marxism. Of course,were it only the lack of practical training, no one could blame the practical workers. But the term ‘primitiveness’ embraces something more than lack of training; it denotes a narrow scope of revolutionary work generally, failure to understand that a good organization of revolutionaries cannot be built on the basis of such narrow activity, and lastly — and this is the main thing — attempts to justify this narrowness and to elevate it to a special ‘theory’, i.e., subservience to spontaneity on this question too. Once such attempts were revealed, it became clear that primitiveness is connected with Economism and that we shall never rid ourselves of this narrowness of our organizational activity until we rid ourselves of Economism generally (i.e., the narrow conception of Marxist theory, as well as of the role of Social-Democracy and of its political tasks). These attempts manifested themselves in a twofold direction. Some began to say that the working masses themselves have not yet advanced the broad and militant political tasks which the revolutionaries are attempting to ‘impose’ on them; that they must continue to struggle for immediate political demands, to conduct ‘the economic struggle against the employers and the government’ (and, naturally, corresponding to this struggle which is ‘accessible’ to the mass movement there must be an organization that will be ‘accessible’ to the most untrained youth). Others, far removed from any theory of ‘gradualness, said that it is possible and necessary to ‘bring about a political revolution’, but that this does not require building a strong organization of revolutionaries to train the proletariat in steadfast and stubborn struggle. All we need to do is to snatch up our old friend, the ‘accessible’ cudgel. To drop metaphor, it means that we must organize a general strike, or that we must stimulate the ‘spiritless’ progress of the working-class movement by means of ‘excitative terror. Both these trends, the opportunists and the ‘revolutionists, bow to the prevailing amateurism; neither believes that it can be eliminated, neither understands our primary and imperative practical task to establish an organization of revolutionaries capable of lending energy, stability, and continuity to the political struggle.”

Our Work During the Recent Period in Detroit

As revolutionaries we have no other choice than to respond to the continuing crises generated by the contradictions within the capitalist system. Detroit having been the materialist birthplace of industrial capitalism in its most advanced form provides tremendous insights into the transformation of the exploitative system over the last decade-and-a-half.

In the fall of 2002, the Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI) was formed just five months prior to the United States-led massive bombing, invasion and occupation of Iraq. Just sixteen months prior to the second intervention in Iraq, Afghanistan was targeted for occupation, a war which continues to this day more than sixteen years later.

From the outset, MECAWI adopted the slogan: “Money for Our Cities, Not for War.” This captured the direct link between the Pentagon budget and the burgeoning impoverishment of the urban areas in the U.S. Another distinguishing feature of the MECAWI program was that the organization is clearly anti-imperialist. There is a distinction between being anti-interventionist and anti-imperialist. Our struggle against imperialism is informed by the unconditional support for the right of self-determination and national liberation of all oppressed peoples.

One of the greatest achievements of MECAWI has been the founding and institutionalization of the annual Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Rally & March. Here we set out to reclaim the actual social justice and anti-war legacy of MLK, rejecting the false and distorted history of the Civil Rights Movement by emphasizing its progressive contributions to the struggle against racism and economic exploitation through emphasizing the merger with the struggle for Black Power, Black Liberation and solidarity with the national liberation movements. January 15, 2018 will mark our fifteenth year of MLK Day in Detroit.

This manifestation has resulted in an effective alliance with the principled and honest veterans of the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s. Moreover, subsequent generations of activists from the youth, labor, community and left sectors are brought together annually to celebrate the gains of the struggle as well as being inspired with the possibilities of future advances.

Moratorium NOW! Coalition and the Campaign Against Finance Capital in All Its Forms

The Moratorium NOW! Coalition to Stop Foreclosures, Evictions and Utility Shut-offs grew right out of the work of MECAWI. It is not enough for revolutionaries to only focus on what may be considered anti-imperialist work.  In a municipality such as Detroit, with its 82 percent African American population which has been systematically impacted by the ravages of national oppression and super-exploitation, constitutes an integral demographic within the oppressed African nation in the U.S. empire.

Having gone from being the center of African American working class politics, social activity and national culture to a city which illustrates clearly the declining system of capitalism requires the consistent intervention of the Leninist party within the mass struggle. This is why we have continued for more than a decade now to organize around the housing crisis. We demanded a moratorium on all foreclosures and evictions. For us housing is a fundamental human right of working people. We reject the notion that only certain people are deserving of quality housing, education, water and utility services along with environmental sustainability. All oppressed people must be free from police terrorism and the overall tyranny of the racist capitalist state.

Our work on housing led us to defend municipal retirees from the pseudo-legalized theft of pension and healthcare benefits, the privatization of public resources and the erosion of bourgeois democratic rights. These rights gained through decades of Civil Rights and labor campaigns are the property of the working class and the oppressed. Bourgeois democratic rights are being reversed as a by-product of the crises of capitalism and imperialism. The war machine and the criminal policies of the financial institutions are two sides of the same vicious system designed to disempower the masses and further the profit-making capacity of the ruling class.

Here again we are compelled to interject revolutionary class politics into the mass struggle. Our work in this area has served to clarify a principled approach to the popular movement as contrasted with an opportunistic one, as Lenin outlined in “What Is to Be Done?.”

Perhaps one of the most essential sections of Lenin’s work, “Imperialism: The Highest Stage of Capitalism”, which we have studied in the regular Detroit Marxism Classes, encompassed in chapters three and four of this book are valuable insights into the character of exploitation on a grand scale. Lenin provides examples of the increasing concentration of industrial ownership and the eventual domination of manufacturing, real estate and global trade by the banking firms. A century later this phenomena has become far more pronounced and evident. Consequently, in order to fight the exploitative system we have no other choice than to focus our attention on finance capital.

The State and Revolution: We Are Seeking Political Power

Lenin in another important contribution entitled “The State and Revolution” written in the months leading up to the Bolshevik’s seizure power in 1917 discusses the political imperatives of state control by the proletariat. The capitalist state serves the interests of the monopolies and financial institutions. A revolutionary organization and movement must take control of the state apparatus in order to build a socialist society paving the way towards communism.

Lenin stresses that: “Furthermore, during the transition from capitalism to communism suppression is still necessary, but it is now the suppression of the exploiting minority by the exploited majority. A special apparatus, a special machine for suppression, the ‘state,’ is still necessary, but this is now a transitional state. It is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word; for the suppression of the minority of exploiters by the majority of the wage slaves of yesterday is comparatively so easy, simple and natural a task that it will entail far less bloodshed than the suppression of the risings of slaves, serfs or wage-laborers, and it will cost mankind far less. And it is compatible with the extension of democracy to such an overwhelming majority of the population that the need for a special machine of suppression will begin to disappear. Naturally, the exploiters are unable to suppress the people without a highly complex machine for performing this task, but the people can suppress the exploiters even with a very simple ‘machine,’ almost without a ‘machine’, without a special apparatus, by the simple organization of the armed people (such as the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies…).”

In order to suppress the capitalists and imperialists we are tasked with the building of a revolutionary organization of the workers and the oppressed. The masses of the people through the selfless sacrifices of the Marxist-Leninist party, guided by its scientific analysis of the objective conditions facing the exploited and oppressed, tutored in its actual experience of propagandistic and programmatic work deriving from the needs and aspirations of the proletariat, farmers and youth, is the only hope for the transformation of human society.

After the seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in October 1917 and amid the protracted armed struggle to defeat the counter-revolution consisting of a coalition of imperialist countries, monarchists, the so-called socialist-revolutionaries and Russian capitalists, Lenin reflected once again on the need to maintain the objectives of the revolutionary party. Even under the weight of threatening reversals of the gains of the socialist revolution Lenin maintains his view of what is necessary to eradicate all forms of exploitation and oppression.

In a lecture delivered at Sverdlov University on July 11, 1919, Lenin observes: “Whatever guise a republic may assume, however democratic it may be, if it is a bourgeois republic, if it retains private ownership of the land and factories, and if private capital keeps the whole of society in wage-slavery, that is, if the republic does not carry out what is proclaimed in the Program of our Party and in the Soviet Constitution, then this state is a machine for the suppression of some people by others. And we shall place this machine in the hands of the class that is to overthrow the power of capital. We shall reject all the old prejudices about the state meaning universal equality—for that is a fraud: as long as there is exploitation there cannot be equality. The landowner cannot be the equal of the worker, or the hungry man (person) the equal of the full man (person). This machine called the state, before which people bowed in superstitious awe, believing the old tales that it means popular rule, tales which the proletariat declares to be a bourgeois lie—this machine the proletariat will smash. So far we have deprived the capitalists of this machine and have taken it over. We shall use this machine, or bludgeon, to destroy all exploitation. And when the possibility of exploitation no longer exists anywhere in the world, when there are no longer owners of land and owners of factories, and when there is no longer a situation in which some gorge while others starve, only when the possibility of this no longer exists shall we consign this machine to the scrap-heap. Then there will be no state and no exploitation. Such is the view of our Communist Party. I hope that we shall return to this subject in subsequent lectures, return to it again and again.” (The State)

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