Thursday, September 10, 2009

An Appeal to The Working Class: Support the Cause of Jet Airways Pilots! Appeal issued by 'the new wave'; 9 September 2009


The pilots of Jet Airways have gone on strike, in protest against the termination of two of their colleagues, from services. The two pilots had been trying to form a trade union of airplane pilots, for which they have been penalised by the employers.

The strike of pilots, has once again made it glaring that it is the working class which makes the world run and if they wish they can stop everything by moving a finger. And if a handful of pilots can give such a big jolt to the whole system, what would happen if the multi-million working class rises to take its destiny in its own hands! In ordinary times, an illusion is created as if rich bosses are everything and the workers nothing. Only strike tells that bosses are nothing and it is workers who are everything.

It is why all the forces of the system run by the rich, have joined hands to defeat the striking pilots. The corporate and their media, the government, the courts, the police, as if everyone has pulled the strings against the pilots. Court has issued a restraint order against the strike, while government is making preparations to call into service, the ESMA. By issuing a statement, the pilots, however, have demonstrated their will to continue the strike against all odds, till their colleague pilots are reinstated to work.

The two days strike has given a very important lesson that the struggle of the workers cannot be confined against the individual employers. The employers are immediately backed not only by their entire class, but also by the whole machine of state, designed to serve the bosses against the workers. As it becomes clear that handful of workers are no match for the combined strength of the rich employers and their government, the need arises for the working class to join hands against its class enemies. The workers essentially realise that they have to confront the state before they could resist the employers. This way every struggle of the working class, whatever its causes and dimensions may be, at the very next step, essentially becomes a political struggle against the state machine in service of the rich. The struggle teaches the workers that it is not their individual employer, but the class of employers and the whole system of capitalism put in place by them, which is responsible for their woes.

The development of science and computerisation, has increased the strength of working class hundredfold. A handful of workers, in agreement with each other, now can bring down the entire system to its knees within minutes and it is impossible to substitute these highly skilled workers at ease. The flash strikes, like the one of the Jet pilots, in defiance of laws like Industrial Disputes Act, which make it mandatory to issue a 14 days notice before a strike, so as to provide sufficient cushion to employers to make preparations in advance, including a ‘stay’ against it from a Court, are very effective weapon in the hands of the working class. Without giving an opportunity to the enemy to take to its feet, the strike appears. Pilots’ strike is the pathfinder for future struggles.

The issue, raised by the pilots’ action, i.e. the right to organise in class unions, is of universal significance for the working class. Paradoxically, however, the action of pilots has itself shown, that of real and crucial importance is the class struggle of the working class, and not any legal rights. But the struggle of sections of workers, becomes a genuine class struggle when it is directed against the class of their enemies- the rich bosses and their stooge governments- in which the broadest sections of the working class, those millions and millions take part to fight against their deprivation of all rights. Every trivial struggle of the workers, in this way, may be the trigger for a real struggle of the entire working class, which reels under much worse conditions of life as compared to that of the better paid pilots. This is another reason why the workers must support the cause of the pilots. Support to the cause of pilots is in fact a fight against the common enemies of the working class!

We, thus, call upon all sections of the working class to support the action of pilots by all means and measures, including demonstrations, protests, strikes etc. and express their class solidarity in action.

Political Committee
‘the new wave’
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Cell: 0- 9810081383; e-mail:

Monday, June 22, 2009

Bombay: The Stalinist Leadership and the Destruction of the Left

Any visitor to the cities of Maharashtra, would be greeted, today, with the sight of saffron flags and pompous glorification of Thakares. But the cities of Maharashtra today, especially its capital Bombay, bear a striking contrast to the cities, as they were in the decades of the 1960s and 1970s. For these cities of Maharashtra were once one of the leading bastions of the working class and Communists. Mumbai in particular had a militant tradition among the working classes since the days of the freedom struggle. One has only to look at the glorious history of the workers struggles, there in the textile mills to get an idea of the city that once was. The situation around 1970, could be judged from the fact that the armed squads of the workers, used to disband the ‘Shakhas’ of fascists forcibly and publicly beat up those attending these Shakhas, conducted by Shiv Sena and RSS.
In the national context this was happening at a time of severe economic crisis of 70’s, when the national and local bourgeois could have risked such labour militancy, less than ever. The decade of the 1970's was infamous as a decade of acute fiscal deficit and mounting inflation. At this crucial juncture of the crisis of bourgeois regime, the militancy of workers arose and consequently the influence of the Communists over them. Under the influence of workers movement a militant youth movement was also taking shape at fast pace. The youth movement was to have tremendous impact on the political life of Maharashtra, once this movement integrated itself with the labour movement and succeeded in mobilising behind it the discontented Marathi youth. In that eventuality, the bourgeois, both liberal and fascist, would have been completely isolated.
The powerful levers of the real mass movement of the working class, elevated the CPI and its leader Krishna Desai, an MLA form Dadar, to the mass leadership in entire Maharashtra, followed not only by sections of petty bourgeois in the cities, but vast majority of the peasant toilers in the villages.
The puzzle then bogs the mind of a visitor to Bombay, how come this real left bastion, which rested upon the might of such a militant working class, with great fighting traditions to its credit, was bogged down by the fascist bands of Shiv Sena?
The roots of this historic failure, can only be traced to the fact that though the working class in Bombay and other cities of Maharashtra, showed heroism in the struggles against its class enemies, but unfortunately, the overall leadership of this movement remained, at the time, in the hands of the Stalinist CPI. The flawed policies of the Stalinists, which based themselves on class collaboration with national bourgeois and its parties in the name of popular-front, developed a very docile and capitulationist caricature of revolutionary Marxism. This tail-ist attitude of Stalinist leadership, was in fact, no match for the rising militancy of the working class. Sooner than later, the inevitable was to happen. Either the working would have overthrown its bogus Stalinists leadership, before setting out to overthrow the bourgeois power, or the bourgeois was to destroy the working class and its movement. It was in the interest of the bourgeois as a whole, and primarily of the Congress, to check the advance of rising militancy of the working class.
The bourgeois had sensed the danger in the offing, and rightly so, which the militant working class has aroused in its heart. The sword of a proletarian upsurge, was hanging right above the head of its regime, as Bombay was commercial nerve centre of the country, known as its commercial capital. Not the local bourgeois, but the national bourgeois was thus deeply concerned about the immense growth of the movement of the working class. If bourgeois rule was to survive, it was imperative upon its leaders to break the back of the labour movement, as soon as possible.
The bourgeois had already formed its rabidly fascist wing, under the banner of Shiv Sena in late 1960’s, on the tune and patterns of SS bands of Hitler, and white shirts of Mussolini, with an all out support of section of the State and its armed forces , primarily of the state police, to it. It started raising mass chauvinist hysteria against the South Indians, in Bombay, majority of whom, were workers. This was fuelled by the demands for a unified Maharashtra which had come to a conclusion in the formation of the state of Maharashtra on 1st May 1960. The Shiv Sena based itself on this passing mood, and by fanning it out of proportion, rose it to cultural regional chauvinism to gain support among the petty bourgeois middle classes of Mumbai and Pune. If it could meet with partial success, it was due to political impotence of the Stalinist leadership. Shiv Sena, however, failed to make any serious inroads even into the middle class petty bourgeois of Maharashtra, much less the trust and support of the workers. This was the strength and influence of the working class at that time.
The sectarian split of Stalinist leadership, in mid 1960’s, and the ensuing dog-fight between the two factions for bureaucratic controls over the movement for their narrow ends, adversely affected the unity of the working class. The Shiv Sena sought an opportune moment, finding the space for itself and the ground to discredit the leadership, as a political force, in the eyes of the workers. In tacit understanding with a section of the Congress, the Sena penetrated the rank and file in the Maharashtrian workers, and simultaneously started attacking non-Maharashtrian Communist leaders. This dual tactic, slowly but surely, yielded the results. Street fights often broke out between the fascist forces of the SS and that of the CPI. This reached a fever pitch in the late sixties in the famous Worli street fights which lasted for months. These clashes reached their climax in June 1970 with the murder of popular CPI leader Krishna Desai.
Preceding the murder was a Sena assault on the CPI office in Mumbai, in which the office was burnt down. The workers became furious on this, and a large gathering of armed workers numbering in the thousands assembled at the charred office. In this frenzied mood the workers vowed to wipe out the fascists in one day. Workers were all prepared to execute their will. But the bogus Stalinist leadership was frightened and could not dare to issue a signal. The armed workers looked towards the leadership, but the leadership consciously held them back. The truth is that the sight of armed workers ready to attack, struck not an inspiration but fear in the minds of the Stalinist leadership itself, because of its own allegiance to the bourgeois. They feared losing control over the workers at that moment and prevented the workers from rising against the impending fascist threat. The Shiv Sena, however, was not so sparing. It immediately identified an opportunity in the dwindling mood of Stalinist leadership and wasted no time in advancing the assault against the working class. Stalinist leadership, instead of signalling the workers to confront the fascist advance, ran away from Bombay.
Emboldened by the docile attitude of Stalinist leadership, the Sena dared to conspire to physically eliminate kill Krishna Desai. By this time the fascists in Mumbai had managed to muster the open support of the Congress leadership for their project. In June 1970, men from Shiv Sena, headed by Bal Thakrey himself, killed Krishna Desai in broad daylight, in full public view. The attack left the Stalinist leadership stunned. While Stalinists remained in dilemma, the fascists carried out the murderous campaign of annihilation of the movement. Having disposed of its arch communist nemesis, Shiv Sena became ever more bold, and by the mid-eighties it forced significant intrusion into the trade unions of Mumbai. Perplexed and confused Stalinist leadership, having no independent policy to counter fascists, kept on looking towards the bourgeois state to tackle the fascists, which in fact, lend a supporting hand to the fascists to wipe out the movement of the working class. With a do-nothing attitude, the Stalinist leaders looked at the labour movement being finished by the murderous hordes of the fascist Shiv Sainiks with the obvious backing of the Congress. This left the working class in disarray.Thus came the tragic end of the labour militancy in Maharashtra and the rise of fascists!After betraying the cause of the working class, the Stalinists, however gained through parliamentary manuevre, on the back of the crushing defeat of the working class. As an echo of the heroic battle of the working class in the recent past, the CPI managed to gain a considerable number of seats in the state assembly, in 1978 elections, with the lifting of the emergency. This shadow influence however, could not have last long. Instead of fighting, the Stalinists, rapidly adapted to the influence of armed hordes of the Shiv Sena fascists, who in time managed to decimate the entire labour movement in Maharashtra.
Shiv Sena, thus gradually increased its strength with the tacit support of the Congress and the overt support of the bourgeois, both local and national. By 1995, Sena managed to form the government in Maharashtra with support of the BJP. In the meanwhile the working class in Maharashtra, continued to be more and more marginalised as a political force, partly under the Stalinists and partly under fascists.
And what of the workers? The onslaught of fascism and the subsequent move to liberalization in the 1990s and the first years of the twenty first century have lead to ever greater pains for the working masses. The decade of the 90's witnessed to major riots pitted against muslims, a clear effort to further divide and weaken the proletariat of Maharashtra who had already been weakened by the destruction of its movement and its further division at the hands of fascists, on the lines of regional chauvinism and false identities.
The failure of the Stalinist CPI to mobilise the working class for a virtual fight against the fascists, thus led to the complete destruction of the labour movement as a whole in Maharashtra, paving way for the eventual rise of fascism. This bogus policy of Stalinists, was only the replica of their old policy which had led to defeat of Communists in Germany, Spain etc. at the hands of the fascists. In both cases it was the hopelessly reactionary line of the Stalinist Comintern, which had paved the way for the defeat of mature revolutions and the eventual rise of fascist forces.
The events of 1970 are a watershed in the history of the working class in India. The lessons of 1970’s call for an ouster of Stalinist leadership from the labour movement, not only in Bombay, but everywhere in the country. The line propounded by Leon Trotsky of confronting the fascists directly relying upon the forces of a United Front of the working class, is the only way to advance.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

India: Parliament of the Multi-Millionaires

The largest number of the poor on the globe are domiciled in India, with over 280 million people living below the poverty line. Recent UN statistics estimate that more than 80% of its habitants live on a average of less than $2 per day. There has been recent spate of suicide by more than 3,000 farmers, due to hunger and immense poverty. However, these deprived poor are separated by a chasm from their rulers, who get themselves polled to power, through the votes of these very poor. The 543 Members of Parliament, who have been elected to the 15th Lok Sabha (the lower house of Parliament), in the recently concluded general elections, have a combined asset worth of Rs 30,750 million, with an average asset of the individual member, coming out to be over Rs fifty million. Interestingly, these are only the declared part of the assets, that too arbitrarily undervalued. There are an estimated 300 MPs with assets worth Rs ten million or more in the new Lok Sabha, which is nearly double the number of MPs at 154 in the previous 14th Lok Sabha.A total of four MPs have assets worth more than Rs 1000 million and include Congress' L Rajagopal in Andhra Pradesh and NCP's Padamsinha Bajirao Patil from Maharashtra. These are followed by NCP's Praful Patel (Rs 899 million), Congress' G Vivekanand (Rs 729 million), Congress' Y S Jaganmohan Reddy (Rs 728 million), Congress' Rajkumar Ratna Singh (Rs 678 million), Akali Dal's Harsimrat Kaur (Rs 603 million) and National Congress Party's Supriya Sule (Rs 504 million).Telugu Desam Party's Namma Nageswara Rao, who has won the election from Khammam in Andhra Pradesh, leads the tally of MPs with assets worth about Rs 1740 million, followed by Congress leader and industrialist Naveen Jindal (Rs 1310 million). Jindal has won the election from Kurukshetra in Haryana for the second time. Besides, there are Bahujan Samaj Party's Surendra Singh Nagar (Rs 492 million), BJP's Shivakumar Udasi (Rs 482 million), Congress' Praneet Kaur (Rs 423 million), Congress' Annu Tandon (Rs 421 million), Congress' Rajamohan Reddy (Rs 363 million), Congress' Priya Dutt, (Rs 349 million) and Congress' Kapil Sibal (Rs 319 million).In terms of parties, Congress has as many as 138 multi-millionaire MPs, followed by Bharatiya Janata Party with 58, Samajwadi Party's 14 and Bahujan Samaj Party's 13. Besides, there are 11 from Dravida Munnettra Kazhagam, nine from Shiv Sena, eight from the Janata Dal(United), seven from NCP and six each from Biju Janata Dal and Trinamool Congress.Interestingly, the aggregate size of the assets of these new MPs, makes their congregation more valuable than a vast majority of the public companies in the country. There are close to 4,700 listed companies in India, out of which just about 150 companies have their assets valued at more than Rs 30,000 million. The above composition of the house of Parliament, apparently depicts the domination of money power over this prime institution of bourgeois democracy and through it upon the capitalist republic as a whole. This has taken place at two levels. In the first instance, those who were elected as MPs, have enriched themselves making use of their position in the Parliament, to accumulate wealth through serving the interests of the rich. Secondly, the rich themselves have entered more and more into the Parliament. Without much effort, one may see that the noose of money around the neck of ‘democracy’ continues to tighten its grip with each passing day, as is reflected by every consecutive general election. Not only the public opinion is manoeuvred through corporate media, run on the power of millions, but the conscience of the electorate is systematically maligned through direct and indirect bribery etc. etc. This direct subjugation of the representative institutions by the money power, turns the bourgeois democracy into a farce for the proletariat. All declarations of equality, liberty and freedom remain meaningless for the poor. The right to universal franchise, under the unbridled domination of money over the institutions of democracy, turns into universal subjection of the electorate at the hands of those who have the omnipotent power of money at their disposal. In the institutions of bourgeois democracy, remains embedded the real nexus between the rich and the government. Parliament is the show window of this alliance between the capitalists and the government. Engels commented -“In a democratic republic, wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely, first, by means of the direct corruption of officials (America), secondly, by means of an alliance between the government and the Stock Exchange (France and America).”This alliance, acquires the most blatant form, among others, in the domination of the Parliament, the highest organ of bourgeois democracy, by the class of exploiters who had already gained a de-facto control of the bourgeois parliamentary system. With 300 out of 543 members of the house of parliament being multi-millionaire, the Parliament itself becomes an instrument in the hands of the rich to echo their own agenda through it, while stifling the interests of the poor and marginalised sections, within the framework of the bourgeois democracy. The parliament thus loses any effective political role or significance in the bourgeois state and becomes a platform for hollow and meaningless discourses. It turns into a virtual smokescreen for the real power of the money, vested chiefly, in the class organisations of the rich, like the Chambers of Commerce and Industries, the real directors of the state, and executed through the bureaucratic organs of the state.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Socialism's relation to religion

James Connolly

The New Evangel

Socialism and Religion

The Known and the Unknowable

Workers’ Republic, 17 June 1899

Perhaps upon no point are the doctrines of Socialism so much misunderstood, and so much misrepresented, as in their relation to Religion. When driven into a corner upon every other point at issue; when from the point of view of economics, of politics, or of morality, he is worsted in argument, this question of Religion invariably forms the final entrenchment of the enemy of Socialism – especially in Ireland.

“But it is opposed to Religion,” constitutes the last words, the ultimate shift, of the supporters of capitalism, driven from every other line of defence but stubbornly refusing to yield. “Socialism is Atheism, and all Socialists are Atheists,” or “Your Socialism is but a fine name to cover your Atheism in its attack upon the Church;” all these phrases are so commonly heard in the course of every dispute upon the merits or demerits of the Socialist doctrine that we require no apology for introducing them here in order to point their illogical character. So far from it being true that Socialism and Atheism are synonymous terms, it is a curious and instructive fact that almost all the prominent propagandists of Freethought in our generation have been, and are, most determined enemies of Socialism. The late Charles Bradlaugh, in his time the most aggressive Freethinker in England, was to the last resolute and uncompromising in his hatred of Socialism; G.W. Foote, the present editor of the Freethinker, the national organ of English Secularism, is a bitter enemy of Socialism, and the late Colonel Bob Ingersoll, the chief apostle of Freethought doctrine in the United States, was well known as an apologist of capitalism.

On the continent of Europe many other quite similar cases might he recorded, but those already quoted will suffice, as being those most easily verified by our readers. It is a suggestive and amusing fact that in the motley ranks of the defenders of Capitalism the professional propagandists of Freethought are comrades-in-arms of His Holiness the Pope; the ill-reasoned and inconclusive Encyclicals lately issued against Socialism make of the hierarchy of the Catholic Church belated camp followers in the armies marching under the banners raised by the agnostic exponents of the individualist philosophy. Obviously, even the meanest intelligence can see that there need be no identity of thought between the Freethinker as such, and the Socialist as a Socialist. From what then does the popular misconception arise? In the first instance from the interested attempt of the propertied classes to create such a prejudice against Socialism as might deter the working class giving ear to its doctrines – an attempt too often successful; and in the second instance, from a misconception of the attitude of the Socialist party towards the theological dogma in general. The Socialist Party of Ireland prohibits the discussion, of theological or anti-theological questions at its meetings, public or private. This is in conformity with the practice of the chief Socialist parties of the world, which have frequently, in Germany for example, declared Religion to be a private matter, and outside the scope of Socialist action. Modern Socialism, in fact, as it exists in the minds of its leading exponents, and as it is held and worked for by an increasing number of enthusiastic adherents throughout the civilised world, has an essentially material, matter-of-fact foundation. We do not mean that its supporters are necessarily materialists in the vulgar, and merely anti-theological, sense of the term, but that they do not base their Socialism upon any interpretation of the language or meaning of Scripture, nor upon the real or supposed intentions of a beneficent Deity. They as a party neither affirm or deny those things, but leave it to the individual conscience of each member to determine what beliefs on such questions they shall hold. As a political party they wisely prefer to take their stand upon the actual phenomena of social life as they can be observed in operation amongst us to-day, or as they can be traced in the recorded facts of history. If any special interpretation of the meanings of Scripture tends to influence human thought in the direction of Socialism, or is found to be on a plane with the postulates of Socialist doctrine, then the scientific Socialist considers that the said interpretation is stronger because of its identity with the teachings of Socialism, but he does not necessarily believe that Socialism is stronger, or its position more impregnable, because of its theological ally. He realises that the facts upon which his Socialist faith are based are strong enough in themselves to withstand every shock, and attacks from every quarter, and therefore while he is at all times willing to accept help from every extraneous source, he will only accept it on one condition, viz., that he is not to be required in return to identify his cause with any other whose discomfiture might also involve Socialism in discredit. This is the main reason why Socialists fight shy of theological dogmas and religions generally: because we feel that Socialism is based upon a series of facts requiring only unassisted human reason to grasp and master all their details, whereas Religion of every kind is admittedly based upon ‘faith’ in the occurrence in past ages of a series of phenomena inexplicable by any process of mere human reasoning. Obviously, therefore, to identify Socialism with Religion would be to abandon at once that universal, non-sectarian character which to-day we find indispensable to working-class unity, as it would mean that our members would be required to conform to one religious creed, as well as to one specific economic faith – a course of action we have no intention of entering upon as it would inevitably entangle us in the disputes of the warring sects of the world, and thus lead to the disintegration of the Socialist Party.

Socialism, as a party, bases itself upon its knowledge of facts, of economic truths, and leaves the building up of religious ideals or faiths to the outside public, or to its individual members if they so will. It is neither Freethinker nor Christian, Turk nor Jew, Buddhist nor Idolator, Mahommedan nor Parsee – it is only human.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Einstein on Socialism

Why Socialism?
by Albert Einstein

This essay was originally published in the first issue of Monthly Review (May 1949).

Is it advisable for one who is not an expert on economic and social issues to express views on the subject of socialism? I believe for a number of reasons that it is.

Let us first consider the question from the point of view of scientific knowledge. It might appear that there are no essential methodological differences between astronomy and economics: scientists in both fields attempt to discover laws of general acceptability for a circumscribed group of phenomena in order to make the interconnection of these phenomena as clearly understandable as possible. But in reality such methodological differences do exist. The discovery of general laws in the field of economics is made difficult by the circumstance that observed economic phenomena are often affected by many factors which are very hard to evaluate separately. In addition, the experience which has accumulated since the beginning of the so-called civilized period of human history has—as is well known—been largely influenced and limited by causes which are by no means exclusively economic in nature. For example, most of the major states of history owed their existence to conquest. The conquering peoples established themselves, legally and economically, as the privileged class of the conquered country. They seized for themselves a monopoly of the land ownership and appointed a priesthood from among their own ranks. The priests, in control of education, made the class division of society into a permanent institution and created a system of values by which the people were thenceforth, to a large extent unconsciously, guided in their social behavior.

But historic tradition is, so to speak, of yesterday; nowhere have we really overcome what Thorstein Veblen called "the predatory phase" of human development. The observable economic facts belong to that phase and even such laws as we can derive from them are not applicable to other phases. Since the real purpose of socialism is precisely to overcome and advance beyond the predatory phase of human development, economic science in its present state can throw little light on the socialist society of the future.

Second, socialism is directed towards a social-ethical end. Science, however, cannot create ends and, even less, instill them in human beings; science, at most, can supply the means by which to attain certain ends. But the ends themselves are conceived by personalities with lofty ethical ideals and—if these ends are not stillborn, but vital and vigorous—are adopted and carried forward by those many human beings who, half unconsciously, determine the slow evolution of society.

For these reasons, we should be on our guard not to overestimate science and scientific methods when it is a question of human problems; and we should not assume that experts are the only ones who have a right to express themselves on questions affecting the organization of society.

Innumerable voices have been asserting for some time now that human society is passing through a crisis, that its stability has been gravely shattered. It is characteristic of such a situation that individuals feel indifferent or even hostile toward the group, small or large, to which they belong. In order to illustrate my meaning, let me record here a personal experience. I recently discussed with an intelligent and well-disposed man the threat of another war, which in my opinion would seriously endanger the existence of mankind, and I remarked that only a supra-national organization would offer protection from that danger. Thereupon my visitor, very calmly and coolly, said to me: "Why are you so deeply opposed to the disappearance of the human race?"

I am sure that as little as a century ago no one would have so lightly made a statement of this kind. It is the statement of a man who has striven in vain to attain an equilibrium within himself and has more or less lost hope of succeeding. It is the expression of a painful solitude and isolation from which so many people are suffering in these days. What is the cause? Is there a way out?

It is easy to raise such questions, but difficult to answer them with any degree of assurance. I must try, however, as best I can, although I am very conscious of the fact that our feelings and strivings are often contradictory and obscure and that they cannot be expressed in easy and simple formulas.

Man is, at one and the same time, a solitary being and a social being. As a solitary being, he attempts to protect his own existence and that of those who are closest to him, to satisfy his personal desires, and to develop his innate abilities. As a social being, he seeks to gain the recognition and affection of his fellow human beings, to share in their pleasures, to comfort them in their sorrows, and to improve their conditions of life. Only the existence of these varied, frequently conflicting, strivings accounts for the special character of a man, and their specific combination determines the extent to which an individual can achieve an inner equilibrium and can contribute to the well-being of society. It is quite possible that the relative strength of these two drives is, in the main, fixed by inheritance. But the personality that finally emerges is largely formed by the environment in which a man happens to find himself during his development, by the structure of the society in which he grows up, by the tradition of that society, and by its appraisal of particular types of behavior. The abstract concept "society" means to the individual human being the sum total of his direct and indirect relations to his contemporaries and to all the people of earlier generations. The individual is able to think, feel, strive, and work by himself; but he depends so much upon society—in his physical, intellectual, and emotional existence—that it is impossible to think of him, or to understand him, outside the framework of society. It is "society" which provides man with food, clothing, a home, the tools of work, language, the forms of thought, and most of the content of thought; his life is made possible through the labor and the accomplishments of the many millions past and present who are all hidden behind the small word “society.”

It is evident, therefore, that the dependence of the individual upon society is a fact of nature which cannot be abolished—just as in the case of ants and bees. However, while the whole life process of ants and bees is fixed down to the smallest detail by rigid, hereditary instincts, the social pattern and interrelationships of human beings are very variable and susceptible to change. Memory, the capacity to make new combinations, the gift of oral communication have made possible developments among human being which are not dictated by biological necessities. Such developments manifest themselves in traditions, institutions, and organizations; in literature; in scientific and engineering accomplishments; in works of art. This explains how it happens that, in a certain sense, man can influence his life through his own conduct, and that in this process conscious thinking and wanting can play a part.

Man acquires at birth, through heredity, a biological constitution which we must consider fixed and unalterable, including the natural urges which are characteristic of the human species. In addition, during his lifetime, he acquires a cultural constitution which he adopts from society through communication and through many other types of influences. It is this cultural constitution which, with the passage of time, is subject to change and which determines to a very large extent the relationship between the individual and society. Modern anthropology has taught us, through comparative investigation of so-called primitive cultures, that the social behavior of human beings may differ greatly, depending upon prevailing cultural patterns and the types of organization which predominate in society. It is on this that those who are striving to improve the lot of man may ground their hopes: human beings are not condemned, because of their biological constitution, to annihilate each other or to be at the mercy of a cruel, self-inflicted fate.

If we ask ourselves how the structure of society and the cultural attitude of man should be changed in order to make human life as satisfying as possible, we should constantly be conscious of the fact that there are certain conditions which we are unable to modify. As mentioned before, the biological nature of man is, for all practical purposes, not subject to change. Furthermore, technological and demographic developments of the last few centuries have created conditions which are here to stay. In relatively densely settled populations with the goods which are indispensable to their continued existence, an extreme division of labor and a highly-centralized productive apparatus are absolutely necessary. The time—which, looking back, seems so idyllic—is gone forever when individuals or relatively small groups could be completely self-sufficient. It is only a slight exaggeration to say that mankind constitutes even now a planetary community of production and consumption.

I have now reached the point where I may indicate briefly what to me constitutes the essence of the crisis of our time. It concerns the relationship of the individual to society. The individual has become more conscious than ever of his dependence upon society. But he does not experience this dependence as a positive asset, as an organic tie, as a protective force, but rather as a threat to his natural rights, or even to his economic existence. Moreover, his position in society is such that the egotistical drives of his make-up are constantly being accentuated, while his social drives, which are by nature weaker, progressively deteriorate. All human beings, whatever their position in society, are suffering from this process of deterioration. Unknowingly prisoners of their own egotism, they feel insecure, lonely, and deprived of the naive, simple, and unsophisticated enjoyment of life. Man can find meaning in life, short and perilous as it is, only through devoting himself to society.

The economic anarchy of capitalist society as it exists today is, in my opinion, the real source of the evil. We see before us a huge community of producers the members of which are unceasingly striving to deprive each other of the fruits of their collective labor—not by force, but on the whole in faithful compliance with legally established rules. In this respect, it is important to realize that the means of production—that is to say, the entire productive capacity that is needed for producing consumer goods as well as additional capital goods—may legally be, and for the most part are, the private property of individuals.

For the sake of simplicity, in the discussion that follows I shall call “workers” all those who do not share in the ownership of the means of production—although this does not quite correspond to the customary use of the term. The owner of the means of production is in a position to purchase the labor power of the worker. By using the means of production, the worker produces new goods which become the property of the capitalist. The essential point about this process is the relation between what the worker produces and what he is paid, both measured in terms of real value. Insofar as the labor contract is “free,” what the worker receives is determined not by the real value of the goods he produces, but by his minimum needs and by the capitalists' requirements for labor power in relation to the number of workers competing for jobs. It is important to understand that even in theory the payment of the worker is not determined by the value of his product.

Private capital tends to become concentrated in few hands, partly because of competition among the capitalists, and partly because technological development and the increasing division of labor encourage the formation of larger units of production at the expense of smaller ones. The result of these developments is an oligarchy of private capital the enormous power of which cannot be effectively checked even by a democratically organized political society. This is true since the members of legislative bodies are selected by political parties, largely financed or otherwise influenced by private capitalists who, for all practical purposes, separate the electorate from the legislature. The consequence is that the representatives of the people do not in fact sufficiently protect the interests of the underprivileged sections of the population. Moreover, under existing conditions, private capitalists inevitably control, directly or indirectly, the main sources of information (press, radio, education). It is thus extremely difficult, and indeed in most cases quite impossible, for the individual citizen to come to objective conclusions and to make intelligent use of his political rights.

The situation prevailing in an economy based on the private ownership of capital is thus characterized by two main principles: first, means of production (capital) are privately owned and the owners dispose of them as they see fit; second, the labor contract is free. Of course, there is no such thing as a pure capitalist society in this sense. In particular, it should be noted that the workers, through long and bitter political struggles, have succeeded in securing a somewhat improved form of the “free labor contract” for certain categories of workers. But taken as a whole, the present day economy does not differ much from “pure” capitalism.

Production is carried on for profit, not for use. There is no provision that all those able and willing to work will always be in a position to find employment; an “army of unemployed” almost always exists. The worker is constantly in fear of losing his job. Since unemployed and poorly paid workers do not provide a profitable market, the production of consumers' goods is restricted, and great hardship is the consequence. Technological progress frequently results in more unemployment rather than in an easing of the burden of work for all. The profit motive, in conjunction with competition among capitalists, is responsible for an instability in the accumulation and utilization of capital which leads to increasingly severe depressions. Unlimited competition leads to a huge waste of labor, and to that crippling of the social consciousness of individuals which I mentioned before.

This crippling of individuals I consider the worst evil of capitalism. Our whole educational system suffers from this evil. An exaggerated competitive attitude is inculcated into the student, who is trained to worship acquisitive success as a preparation for his future career.

I am convinced there is only one way to eliminate these grave evils, namely through the establishment of a socialist economy, accompanied by an educational system which would be oriented toward social goals. In such an economy, the means of production are owned by society itself and are utilized in a planned fashion. A planned economy, which adjusts production to the needs of the community, would distribute the work to be done among all those able to work and would guarantee a livelihood to every man, woman, and child. The education of the individual, in addition to promoting his own innate abilities, would attempt to develop in him a sense of responsibility for his fellow men in place of the glorification of power and success in our present society.

Nevertheless, it is necessary to remember that a planned economy is not yet socialism. A planned economy as such may be accompanied by the complete enslavement of the individual. The achievement of socialism requires the solution of some extremely difficult socio-political problems: how is it possible, in view of the far-reaching centralization of political and economic power, to prevent bureaucracy from becoming all-powerful and overweening? How can the rights of the individual be protected and therewith a democratic counterweight to the power of bureaucracy be assured?

Clarity about the aims and problems of socialism is of greatest significance in our age of transition. Since, under present circumstances, free and unhindered discussion of these problems has come under a powerful taboo, I consider the foundation of this magazine to be an important public service.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

William F. Warde

Trotsky on the Role of the USA

(July 1951)

Source: Fourth International, Vol.12 No.4, July-August 1951, pp.114-118.
(William F. Warde was a pseudonym of George Novack.)
Transcription/Editing/HTML Markup: 2006 by Einde O’Callaghan.
Public Domain: George Novack Internet Archive 2006; This work is completely free. In any reproduction, we ask that you cite this Internet address and the publishing information above.

Leon Trotsky looked upon the United States as “the foundry in which the fate of man is to be forged.”

This country was marked out for such a role, not because its inhabitants were possessed of unique virtues beyond the reach and ability of other peoples but because of the entire course and tendencies of world development in modern times.

Thanks to exceptionally favorable historical circumstances and natural endowments, the productive forces of modern society and its techniques – which are the mainsprings of progress – had reached their highest levels here.

The wealth and productive facilities of America could supply the material basis for a new social organization which would ensure plenty for all in the shortest time. But the capitalist ownership of industry and the monopolist control of the government stands in the way of using these riches and facilities for the benefit of the American people as a whole and for mankind.

Two Main Contradictions in US

Because its economic and financial strength is locked within the framework of capitalist relations, America finds herself simultaneously impelled in two opposite directions. On the one hand, Trotsky explained,

“... it is precisely the international strength of the United States and her irresistible expansion arising from it, that compels her to include the powder magazines of the whole world into the foundations of her structure, that is, all the antagonisms between the East and the West, the class struggle in Old Europe, the uprisings of the colonial peoples, and all wars and revolutions.”

The United States is thus subjected, externally and internally, to tremendous revolutionary pressures far greater than any other advanced country has had to withstand.

On the other hand, the operation of these same forces produces just the opposite effect, transforming “North American capitalism into the basic counter-revolutionary force in the modern epoch interested in the maintenance of (capitalist) ‘order’ in every corner of the terrestrial globe.” That is why, for all its vast material achievements, the United States has appeared to the rest of the world, not as the trailblazer to socialism, but as the supreme embodiment of its opposite – capitalism.

These words, laying bare the dynamics of -the world role of America, were written almost a quarter of a century ago. They have been entirely confirmed by the course of events.

Trotsky’s First View of America

A Marxist, who understood how world conditions and tendencies dominate the development of every separate nation, Trotsky always took as his point of departure the review and analysis of world economic and political relations. The problem of America’s role in world affairs first preoccupied his attention when he was expelled from France and then Spain for his socialist anti-war activities and came to New York in the third year of the First World War.

Shortly after his arrival in January 1917 he addressed an international meeting of welcome in the following words:

“It is a fact of supreme importance that the economic life of Europe is being blasted to its very foundations whereas America is increasing in wealth. As I look enviously at New York – I who still think of myself as a European – I ask myself: ‘Will Europe be able to stand it? Will it not sink into nothing but a cemetery? And will the economic and cultural center of gravity not shift to America?’”

In one of the New York libraries he assiduously studied the economic history of the United States.

“The figures showing the growth of American exports during the war astounded me; they were, in fact, a complete revelation. And it was those same figures that not only predetermined America’s intervention in the war but the decisive part that the United States would play in the world after the war, as well. I wrote several articles about this at the time, and gave several lectures,” he wrote in My Life (pp. 270-271).

“Since that time the problem of ‘America versus Europe’ has been one of my chief interests. And even now I am studying the question with the utmost care, hoping to devote a separate book to it. If one is to understand the future destiny of humanity, this is the most important of all questions.”

Foresaw World Importance of USA

After his return to Russia, despite his absorption in the Russian revolution or more accurately, precisely because of it, the question of America keeps recurring again and again in his work. In the period between the close of the civil war in the USSR and the outbreak of World War II, the role of US imperialism loomed in his mind as the paramount problem of world economy and world politics.

As early as 1920, in the Manifesto issued by the Second World Congress of the Communist International, he set forth the main considerations on the dynamics of American monopoly capitalism. These guided the outlook of the Communist International in its most progressive years until Lenin died, and Trotsky’s own thinking on the subject over the next two decades.

With its decisive intervention in World War I, the United States had become thoroughly imperialistic, displacing Britain as the master of world capitalism and compelled to pursue an aggressive policy of expansion on a global scale. Henceforward, the needs of the imperialist ruling class and their tool, militarism, would tend more and more to dominate not only American life but the entire course of international affairs.

This perspective was summarized by him as follows:

“The (First) World War has completely dislodged the United States from its continental conservatism (‘isolationism’). The program of ascending national capitalism – ‘America for the Americans’ (The Monroe Doctrine) – has been supplanted by the program of imperialism. ‘The Whole World for the Americans’.” (The First Five Years of the Communist International, p.109)

Perspectives in Europe and America

Trotsky sketched out the book he hoped to write on the interrelations between the Old World and the New in a

number of speeches delivered in 1924 and 1926 to audiences of Russian workers. These were later published by the Soviet State Publishing Mouse under the title: Europe and America. In his speeches Trotsky reviewed the prospects of world development as they appeared in the mid-Twenties. He pointed out how imperialist America was moving out into all world channels and taking the offensive against its rivals.

What did this mean for Europe?

“This means that Europe will be permitted to rise again, but within limits set in advance, with certain restricted sections of the world market alloted to it. American capitalism is now issuing commands, giving instructions to its diplomats. In exactly the same way it is preparing and is ready to issue instructions to European banks and trusts, to the European bourgeoisie as a whole ... This is its aim. It will slice up the markets; it will regulate the activity of the European financiers and industrialists. If we wish to give a clear and precise answer to the question of what American imperialism wants, we must say: It wants to put capitalist Europe en rations.” (Europe and America, p.16)

Following the defeat of the German revolution in 1923, America’s new role in Europe enabled the bankrupt capitalism to be temporarily stabilized there. Trotsky was the only one who emphasized that the intervention of the Almighty Dollar had become the most important factor in European life. The German Social Democracy, the French Radicals and the British Labor Party adapted themselves materially and ideologically to this situation and put forward a new gospel of salvation through the aid of American gold and loans.

These economic and political conditions helped prop up European capitalism at the time and fed the democratic and pacifist illusions of its “leftist” parties. Meanwhile, however, the inexorable pressure of American imperialism upon Europe was disrupting world economic relations and preparing new conflicts. The staggering material preponderance of the United States excluded the possibility of economic upswing and regeneration for capitalist Europe. “If in the past it was European capitalism that revolutionized the backward sections of the world, then today it is American capitalism that revolutionizes overmature Europe,” pointed out Trotsky. America was pushing Europe into an economic blind-alley from which there was no escape except through the proletarian revolution.

Internal Repercussions of New World Role

But this expansion of US imperialism into Europe and Asia was bound to have momentous consequences not only for Europe but for the United States itself.

“The more the United States puts the whole world under its dependence, all the more does it become dependent upon the whole world, with all its contradictions and threatening upheavals ... America is no longer a self-sufficing whole. In order to maintain its internal equilibrium the United States requires a larger and larger outlet abroad; but its outlet abroad introduces into its economic order more and more elements of European and Asiatic disorder.” (Europe and America, pp.68-69.)

The crash of 1929 was the first demonstration of the consequences of this inescapable interdependence.

One of the outstanding peculiarities of American imperialism Trotsky singled out for examination was the mask of democracy and pacifism donned by the American monopolists, no less predatory, dictatorial and ruthless than their European predecessors. This has deceived, as it still continues to do, many people. Thanks to the special conditions of American development, and its relative geographical and political isolation, this pacifist and democratic mask had, so to speak, become glued to the imperialist face making it difficult to peer beneath it and pry it off. This feature has persisted to the present day. But as American imperialism grows more openly militaristic and reactionary in its operations, the discrepancy between the real face and the mask is becoming more apparent, as, for example, the Korean war illustrates.

So long as Lenin lived the basic ideas outlined above constituted an important part of the programmatic position of the world communist movement. It was generally accepted by Marxists that one of the first tasks of the proletarian revolution was the establishment of the Socialist United States of Europe as the only progressive way of resolving the internal chaos of the Old Continent. This slogan was, in fact, formally accepted by the Communist International in 1923.

Stalinism and America’s Role

But in Lenin’s lifetime the world revolutionary movement did not succeed in formulating or adopting a definitive international program. This was not done until 1928 when at the Sixth World Congress, a program drafted by Bukharin and Stalin was finally adopted. The basic ideas of Leninism received only lip service, but were scuttled in action. And among the things that went overboard were all of Trotsky’s scientific expositions of the interrelations between capitalist America and the rest of the world, Europe in particular. The slogan of the Socialist United States of Europe was the very first to be scuttled.

The original draft of the Stalin-Bukharin program did not even contain a reference to the United States by name; this, along with a few other formal references, was included only under the pressure of Trotsky’s criticism, from his exile at the time in Alma-Ata, Central Asia.

To the conservative, narrow-nationalistic Stalinist bureaucracy the state boundaries of Europe represented the same untouchable fetish as to the capitalists. They not only failed to understand the reactionary character of these state boundaries, but as experience was to prove, following World War II, they maintained them intact in Eastern Europe.

They never understood, as Trotsky pointed out in his classic critique of Stalinism, The Third International After Lenin, that “the inevitable further development of American expansion, the contraction of the markets of European capital, including the European market itself, entail the greatest military, economic and revolutionary convulsions, beside which all those of the past fade into the background.” (p.7)

They were blind, as they still are, to the fact that

“the further inexorable pressure of the United States will reduce capitalist Europe to constantly more limited rations in world economy; and this, of course, implies not a mitigation, but, on the contrary, a monstrous sharpening of inter-state relations in Europe accompanied by furious paroxysms of military conflict, for states as well as classes fight even more fiercely for a meagre and a diminishing ration than for a lavish and growing one.”

The culmination of both of the above-outlined processes has been taking place before our very eyes.

Following the crash of 1929 when fraudulent pacifism still remained the official pretense of Washington, Trotsky once again emphasized that precisely the international strength of the US and its tremendous productive capacity, requiring the whole world as an outlet, would impel America’s monopolists toward the conquest and domination of the globe. “The changes introduced ‘by the (first world) war into the American structure have in turn made the entry into the world arena a life-and-death question for American capitalism,” he warned in an article, Nationalism and Economic Life written for Foreign Affairs.

“There is ample evidence that this entry must assume extremely dramatic forms ... Sooner or later American capitalism, must open up ways for itself through the length and breadth of our entire planet. By what methods? By all methods. A high co-efficient of production denotes also a high co-efficient of destructive force.” (Reprinted in Fourth International, September 1945)

Insight on “New Deal”

Six years before the outbreak of World War II in the theses War and Fourth International Trotsky predicted:

“Capitalism in the United States is running head on into those problems which impelled Germany in 1914 upon the road of war ... For Germany it was a question of ‘organizing’ Europe. For the United States it is a question of ‘organizing’ the world. History is taking mankind directly into the volcanic eruption of American imperialism.”

These words were written at the height of the “New Deal” ballyhoo. In his study of US capitalist development – “Twentieth-Century capitalism’s most perfect mirror” – Trotsky set forth the reasons why Roosevelt’s reforms and oft-repeated pacifism would not allay the warlike and dictatorial trends of the monopolist magnates but on the contrary reinforce them and prepare the soil for their open manifestation.

“The New Deal policy with its fictitious achievements and its very real increase in the national debt is unavoidably bound to culminate in ferocious capitalist reaction and a devastating explosion of imperialism.” (The Living Thoughts of Karl Marx, p.25.)

These prophetic words, written in 1938, outline the grim realities of recent years: US participation in World War II, the Truman Doctrine, Taft-Hartleyism, the unbridled witch-hunts, the growth of militarism and the feverish preparations for World War III.

That is the reactionary side of American developments. So far as the revolutionary perspectives are concerned Trotsky originally inclined to the view that the socialist revolution was far closer in Europe than in the United States. But he always qualified this position. In a letter written in 1929 to the first conference of the Communist League of America, the pioneer Trotskyists, he repeated this thought but immediately added that a turn of events was possible that could alter the succession of revolutionary events and pull the United States into the front rank of the revolution as well as the counter-revolution.

Perspectives on Labor in USA

By next year, however, he drastically revised his estimates of American revolutionary potential.

“It is nowhere written,” he then concluded, “and theoretically it cannot be substantiated, that the American workers will perforce have to pass through the school of reformism for a long period of time. They live and develop in another period, their coming to maturity is taking place under different circumstances than that of the English working class, for instance ... It is not at all permanently established that the United States will be last in the order of revolutionary primacy, condemned to reach its proletarian revolution only after the countries of Europe and Asia. A situation, a combination of forces is possible in which the order is changed and the tempo of development in the United States enormously accelerated” (The Militant, May 10, 1930.)

Thirties, Trotsky became increasingly preoccupied with the problems presented by revolutionary prospects in the United States. He was firmly convinced that the very position of the United States as the foremost capitalist power made it impossible for it to escape the effects of the disintegration and decay of world capitalism.

The collapse of the entire capitalist economy which began in the United States demonstrated this. The two chief objective factors required for a sweeping social change were already present: on the one side, the highly developed forces of production which could easily be tripled once capitalist parasitism was eliminated and, on the other, a deepening social crisis.

A revolutionary movement further requires a progressive class interested in and impelled toward a radical transformation of productive and property relations. This too existed in the formidable American working class which embraced the majority of the population and could give leadership to the distressed farmers and oppressed Negroes.

The remarkable organizational capacities of this central social force were dramatically displayed in the battles that gave birth to the CIO, the most important product of the great storms that shook America from top to bottom during this period. The CIO lifted American labor to new heights. This organization of the industrial workers is ordinarily looked upon by superficial observers as nothing more than a change in the trade union movement.

Saw Significance of CIO

But it is far more than that, as Trotsky perceived. The CIO was a colossal mobilization of the vanguard of the industrial proletariat pitted in combat against the corporate giants who rule America, a combat from which the workers had emerged victorious in their immediate objectives. It was a surging, seething rank-and-file revolt, organized and led on picket lines by militant leaders from the shops, mines and mills, democratic in spirit and bold in its methods of struggle.

“The rise of the CIO is incontrovertible evidence of the revolutionary tendencies within the working masses,” Trotsky summarized in 1941. [sic!] He had previously noted in the founding document of the Fourth International:

“The unprecedented wave of sit-down strikes and the amazingly rapid growth of industrial unionism in the United States (CIO) is the most indisputable expression of the instinctive striving of the American workers to raise themselves to the level of the tasks imposed on them by history.”

However, although this new union movement born of the radicalization of the industrial workers was profoundly revolutionary in its potentialities, these did not find means of expression at this first stage. Trotsky analyzed the reasons for this retarded and drawn-out development. He saw the biggest internal obstacle to the progress of the CIO in the conservative character of its capitalist-minded top leadership, seconded by the Stalinists. This leadership did its utmost to keep the insurgent masses within the narrow confines of bargaining with the corporations and collaboration with government boards and mediators. They subordinated the independence of the CIO to the needs of their political coalition with Roosevelt, as subsequently with Truman.

Proposal for a Labor Party

The second obstacle was the immature political and class consciousness of the American workers, their lack of traditions of independent political activity, their illusions about Rooseveltism, which were cleverly exploited by the leadership. Yet there were already signs, such as the setting up of Labor’s Non-Partisan League that the ranks were chafing at their subservience to the capitalist political machines and would enthusiastically respond to a clear call for a definitive break with them.

How could these tendencies be fortified? The CIO as the economic expression of the new stage in the advancement of American labor had virtually overnight become a powerful political factor that could – and should – be able to blaze another political pathway for the entire American people. The growth of the CIO and the deepening decline of American capitalism made the creation of such a new political instrument imperative. “We must put forward a proposal which can enable the trade unions to throw their full weight into the political balance,” urged Trotsky beginning with 1938. Under the given conditions that meant the formation of a national Labor Party.

Such a party need not be reformist and in any case the Marxists should endeavor to make it the most effective agency for solving the problems of the working people. One way was the presentation of a basic program for such a party, a program of transitional demands which could both meet the needs of the current stage of struggle and. lead the workers forward to the conquest of power through a Workers and Farmers Government.

With the economic nosedive of 1937-38 Trotsky expected a sharpening of the social crisis and a rapid radicalization of the labor movement which would open up wide-ranging revolutionary perspectives. Under the impact of this developing crisis, he remarked, “I believe that the change in the mentality of the American workers will come at a very speedy rhythm.” However, the military preparations, and then the war itself, cut across this line of development. But even though the war retarded the further unfolding of the social crisis in this country, it did not and could not alter the fundamental trends or overcome the inner contradictions of American capitalism. When conditions change, so will the mood and mind of the masses, Trotsky kept reminding the American Marxists. Then the workers will quickly discard their conservatism and prejudices and incline toward socialist ideas and the most radical solutions. What is essential at all stages in this process, through all the ups-and-downs of the class struggle, is to build a socialist workers party that will be ready, willing and able to provide the American workers with the kind of leadership they need and deserve. The struggles between capitalist reaction and the advancing hosts of labor can last for a long period “and during this time our people will steel themselves, become more sure of themselves, and the workers will say: ‘They are the only people capable of seeing the path’,” Under revolutionary conditions a party prepared to fulfill its tasks can become the decisive political force within the country in a comparatively short time, like Lenin’s Bolsheviks in 1917.

American Revolution and Soviet Bureaucracy

Nowadays the solicitors of support for the schemes of global conquest projected by the American militarists and monopolists depict the capitalist “free enterprise” system as the sturdy protector of civil rights at home and the carrier of democracy abroad – on B-29’s and flamethrowers. On the other hand, to frighten workers from the road of struggle for socialism, they point to the bogy of Stalinist totalitarianism and declare that such a police state is the inescapable outcome of a socialist revolution.

In an interview given to a St. Louis Post Dispatch reporter in February 1940 Trotsky explained that in reality it was the uninterrupted decay and sharpening crises of capitalism which generated fascist trends and gave rise to police states in the capitalist countries confronted by the demands of the workers for a better life. And that the Stalin despotism which strangled and replaced the working class democracy of the early Russian Revolution had nothing in common with socialism but was a horrible political relapse toward the worst features of class rule, fostered by the backwardness of Russia, the isolation of its revolution and the persistent scarcity of material goods.

Actually the victory of the workers revolution in so developed a country as the United States would remove these exceptional historical conditions and thereby eliminate the material reasons for the existence of any bureaucratic governing caste resting on poverty, scarcity and the scramble for privileges at the expense of the living and working conditions of the masses. The high technological and cultural level of the American workers would likewise guarantee an expansion of genuine democracy under a Workers and Farmers Government. Asked whether the rule of the workers would not necessarily mean the suppression of personal freedom and the surrender of civil rights, as the anti-socialists allege, Trotsky replied:

What a Socialist America Would Mean

“It would be a great mistake to think the socialist revolution in Europe or America will be accomplished after the pattern of backward Russia. The fundamental tendencies will, of course, be similar. But the forms, methods, the ‘temperature’ of the struggle, all this has, in each case, a national character. By anticipation it is possible to establish the following law: The more countries in which the capitalist system is broken, the weaker will be the resistance offered by the ruling classes in other countries, the less sharp a character the socialist revolution will have, the shorter it will be, the sooner the society will be reborn on the basis of a new, more full, more perfect and humane democracy. In any case, no revolution can infringe on the Bill of Rights as much as imperialist war and the fascism it will engender.

“Socialism would, have no value if it should not bring with it, not only the juridical inviolability but also the full safeguarding of all the interests of the human personality. Mankind would not tolerate a totalitarian abomination of the Kremlin pattern. The political regime of the USSR is not a new society, but the worst caricature of the old. With the use of the might of the techniques and organizational methods of the United States; with the high well-being which planned economy could assure there to all citizens, the socialist regime in your country would signify from the beginning the rise of independence, initiative and creative power of the human personality.”

Trotsky himself embodied the “independence, initiative and creative power of the human personality” to an exceptional degree. But he developed these traits through his entire life work as a socialist determined to bring forth conditions in our world which would make possible such a flowering and fulfillment of the human personality, not simply for a favored few, but for the billions of toiling and aspiring mankind. In his outlook the ultimate purpose and supreme justification of all revolutionary activity in our time was not only to liberate the economy from capitalist restrictions so that it could provide abundant material goods to satisfy the needs of all. This was indispensable and preliminary to a higher goal: the creation of a new type of human being cleansed of the abominations bred by class-divided society. The productive facilities of a Socialist America would derive their decisive importance and value from the great part they were destined to perform in the making of a free race of human beings for the first time on our planet.

Monday, January 26, 2009

The Communists and the Building of Capitalism : Prabhat Patnaik

The conception of a communist party being always concerned exclusively and immediately with the ushering in of socialism is theoretically erroneous. Further, to infer from the practical policies of the state governments which are an empirical matter, the theoretical positions of the party, is an inversion of reason.

Does the fact of communist-led state governments operating within a capitalist system and hence playing
host to private investment, necessarily entail that the communists have abandoned socialism? The media reactions to statements
by some West Bengal communist
leaders would suggest that the answer is a clear “yes”. But this is a non-sequitur. It is worth examining the issue theoretically, even if it involves restating
certain bread-and-butter theoretical

A communist party is founded with the objective of achieving socialism. Its raison d’ĂȘtre is to struggle for the achievement of this objective. But the achievement of socialism
requires a social revolution which entails the substitution of private ownership
of the means of production by social ownership, and of the bourgeois state that defends such private ownership by an alternative
proletarian state which is a very different kind of state from all hitherto
existing states, in the sense that it must “wither away” over a period of time. Since the conditions for such a social revolution
take time to mature, all communist parties must work within the capitalist system for long stretches of time, bringing theory to the working class and helping it through its struggles to prepare itself for the task of leading this revolution.

All this however presupposes that the democratic revolution, which the bourgeoisie
had led historically, has been more or less completed, so that a socialist revolution
has come on the agenda. But in societies where the bourgeoisie appears late on the scene, it proves singularly incapable of completing the democratic revolution itself, and instead makes common cause with feudal and pre-bourgeois elements, since it is afraid that any attack on pre-bourgeois property could well encompass an attack on bourgeois property as well. This compromise,
which was evident in the case of
pre-revolutionary Russia, incorporates a compromise with imperialism as well in the context of third world societies.

People’s Democratic Rrevolution

The anti-feudal and anti-imperialist tasks of the democratic revolution in such societies
therefore cannot be completed by the bourgeoisie but devolve upon the proletariat
which must carry the democratic revolution to completion. Its key ally in this democratic revolution is of course the broad mass of the peasantry. This democratic
revolution led by the working class in alliance with the peasantry is called the “people’s democratic revolution”, which third world communists have traditionally seen as the immediate historical task on the agenda.

The people’s democratic revolution is a rich and complex concept. Since it entails a carrying forward of the democratic revolution,
i e, a completion by the proletariat of the task that the bourgeoisie historically had undertaken, its objective is to remove the fetters upon the most thoroughgoing bourgeois development; it creates therefore
the conditions for the most vigorous and the most broad-based capitalist development. At the same time, since it is the proletariat that leads the people’s democratic
revolution, it is not content only to create the conditions for the most thoroughgoing capitalist development, and then sit back and watch capitalism unfold in its full vigour; rather, it unleashes
a historical process where the people’s democratic revolution leads on to the socialist revolution. Once the proletariat
has acquired a “subject” role, it does not withdraw from that role; rather it uses that role to ensure that the people’s democratic
revolution leads on to the socialist revolution over a more or less protracted period of time.

Two important points have to be noted here: first, while the people’s democratic revolution creates conditions for capitalist
development, the nature of this capitalist
development is different from the capitalist development that would have occurred otherwise. “Capitalist development”
is not a homogeneous term. There is capitalism and capitalism. What was developing in colonial India was capitalism;
what the bourgeoisie leading the freedom struggle wanted was capitalism; what the Nehruvian development strategy promoted was capitalism; what neoliberalism is promoting today is capitalism;
and what the working class will create the conditions for, through the people’s democratic revolution, is also capitalism. So, to say that the people’s democratic revolution is meant to create conditions for the development
of capitalism
is only a half-truth; it is meant to create the conditions for the development of capitalism that is different
from the capitalism that would have developed otherwise; it is meant to develop a capitalism
that is the most thorough-going and broad-based, a capitalism that is based inter alia on radical land reforms and a widening of the mass market.

Secondly, the struggle for creating the conditions for the most thoroughgoing and broad-based capitalist development, which the proletariat has to lead in conditions
like ours, does not become an end in itself; it leads on to the struggle for socialism.
The continuity of this struggle was expressed by Lenin in his Two Tactics in the following words: “The proletariat must carry the democratic revolution to completion,
allying to itself the mass of the peasantry in order to crush the autocracy’s resistance by force and paralyse the bourgeoisie’s
instability. The proletariat must accomplish the socialist revolution, allying to itself the mass of the semi-proletarian elements of the population, so as to crush the bourgeoisie’s resistance by force and paralyse the instability of the peasantry and the petty bourgeoisie.” Precisely
because the consummation of the democratic
revolution, the most thoroughgoing attempt at building capitalism, cannot occur in societies like ours under the
aegis of the bourgeoisie, precisely because it can be carried out only under the aegis of the proletariat, the struggle for such development becomes integrated with the struggle for socialism, leads on to the struggle for socialism.

The Immediate Task

It follows then that the conception of a communist party being always concerned exclusively and immediately with the ushering in of socialism is theoretically erroneous. But that is not all. While the people’s democratic revolution
is on the historic agenda in our country,
in the sense that in its absence the democratic revolution would not only not be carried forward, but would actually witness retrogression (such as for instance
the reversal of land reforms, the attenuation of bourgeois democracy, and an even greater integration with imperialism),
it is by no means imminent. The communists in other words have to work within the capitalist system even as they work for the maturing of the conditions for the people’s democratic revolution, let alone a socialist revolution. And this work involves not just work in trade unions,
among the peasantry, on the various
mass fronts, and in the parliamentary opposition, but also as leaders of state governments
in the three states where they are powerful.

Work in the state governments is no different from work elsewhere, though the terrain of work is novel and the conditions
of work constrained by explicit and specific provisions of the Constitution:
its aim must also be to change the correlation of class forces, to prepare the conditions for the people’s democratic revolution by fighting to carry forward the democratic advance of the people and against all slide-backs, retrogression, and counter-revolutionary rolling back of this advance.

In the case of the state governments led by the communists, this requires a correct policy towards the development of the productive forces. This policy too must be informed by the objective of creating
the conditions for the people’s democratic
revolution, forging the class alliance
required for it, raising the level of class consciousness, and strengthening the proletariat as a revolutionary force. Stagnation in the development of the productive forces in these states in comparison
to others, i e, stagnation that is not systemic but specific to such states, can damage this objective by restricting employment generation, and alienating the people from the communists (which indeed is one reason why the capitalists used deliberately to avoid investing in these states earlier); on the other hand, any development that, even while creating
employment in some sectors, destroys employment in others, including in agriculture
through the alteration of the land-use pattern, can also have a damaging

Likewise, while boycott by capitalists, which amounts to an economic blockade of communist-ruled states, can damage the communists and hence the cause of the democratic revolution, any acceding to the demands of the capitalists that results
in a hiatus between the basic classes (i e, workers and peasants) and the party can have an equally deleterious effect. Avoiding these deleterious consequences, striking a correct path based on an all-round appreciation of the situation, making use of investments by capitalists even while not succumbing to their excessive demands, by taking advantage of competition among them, and by building
up the countervailing force of government investment, is not always easy. The exact strategy in each case has to be specifically determined. But the basic criterion for deciding on the correct course of action must be: does it contribute
towards an advance of the democratic revolution?

Struggle on Many Fronts

While applying this criterion however it is clear that there is no reason for shunning
capitalist investment, since within the capitalist system in which the
led governments are functioning,
the investible resources are by definition concentrated in the hands of the capitalists. Of course, such capitalist investment must be treated with circumspection;
it must not be allowed to thwart the advance towards a people’s democratic
revolution; and for that purpose the communist-led state governments must have a counterweight against the excessive
demands of capital; but shunning such investment altogether can also be equally damaging.

Such an understanding clearly does not entail an abandonment of socialism, or an acceptance of capitalism. It only recognises the fact that the struggle for carrying forward the democratic revolution,towards its ultimate goal of socialism, has to be fought on many fronts, in
complex terrains, and in conditions not of one’s choosing. While it is true that in coping with this complexity, the ultimate objective must not be lost sight of, a lack of recognition of this complexity makes the ultimate objective even more elusive in practice.

Party and Government

The critics of the communists are also wrong on a third count, quite apart from their lack of understanding of the concept
of the people’s democratic revolution,
and also of the complexity of the work needed to create the conditions for it. And this relates to a lack of distinction between the government and the party. Party-led governments
are not identical with the party. The party embodies a theory; a government per se does not, even when led by the party. The party works for a revolution; it works through many channels including through heading
state governments. But just as there is a difference between the party and its front organisations, there is a difference between the party and the governments it leads, as indeed between these governments
and the Party’s front organisations.
These governments are formed in accordance with the provisions of a Constitution
which in turn was framed as scaffolding for the structure of a state led by the bourgeoisie. Their practical positions
on a number of issues cannot always
be expected to be coterminus with what the party’s theoretical understanding
dictates. To infer from the practical policies of the state governments which are an empirical matter, the theoretical positions of the party, is an inversion of reason.

There may be reservations about the concrete policies of the communist-led state governments in India, but these are a separate matter; they must not be allowed
to cloud theoretical understanding.
On the contrary, theoretical clarity is essential for assessing the validity of such reservations.

Prabhat Patnaik is at the Centre for Economic Studies and Planning, Jawaharlal Nehru University,
New Delhi, and is a leading Marxist economist.

Courtesy: EPW February 2, 2008

The revolt of 2006

Revolt of the garment and textile workers in Bangladesh

From 20 May to 6 June 2006, nearly 1.8 million garment workers of
Bangladesh concentrated in industrial areas in and around the capital
Dhaka engaged in a series of simultaneous massive wildcat strikes
that took on the proportions of a mass proletarian revolt. During
this period, especially from May 20 to May 24 when garment workers'
revolt was at its peak, workers of nearly 4000 factories struck work.
These workers, and other workers from the industrial suburbs,
continuously demonstrated and blocked highways connecting industrial
suburbs to the capital Dhaka and Dhaka to other cities – Mymensingh,
Ashulia, and Chitgong etc. In the face of this mass revolt, the
bourgeoisie resorted to massive repression. In the first one week, as
per official figures, at least 3 workers were shot dead, 3000 injured
and several thousands were put into prisons. Striking workers
continuously confronted and chased away paramilitary and police
forces deployed to crush their movement. "The capital city appeared
in the middle of a siege, as garment workers took to streets at about
8:30AM", reported New Age, the Dhaka English daily on 24th May
2006. This line was repeated on several days by bourgeois press in
Bangladesh as workers persisted with their struggles. Although by May
25-26, bourgeoisie succeeded in blunting the edge of workers revolt
by massive deployment of paramilitary forces and with the help of
unions, the revolt continued till 6-7 June 2006. Workers in different
Export Processing Zones (EPZ) and industrial areas continued to
engage in wild cat strikes and demonstrations – most garment
factories remained closed. The state proclaimed that factories will
open only from 8th June 2006 once order is fully restored.

Barbaric exploitation of workers in Bangladesh – the real face
of 'outsourcing and boom'

Amid the whole stagnant economy of Bangladesh, readymade garments
sector is the only one the bourgeoisie boasts of. This sector is
entirely export oriented and is composed of above 4400 units – most
of them working for international buyers. Some are owned by
international companies. Most of the garment units are clustered in
industrial areas and Export Processing Zones in and around Dhaka –
Ghazipor, Savar, Ashulia, Mirpur, Tejgaon, Mohakhali, Uttara, Wari
and Tongi etc. The textile and garments export constitute 70% of
total $ 9.3 billion export from Bangladesh.

This sector employs 1.8 million workers, 90% of them are women and
therefore particularly vulnerable to intimidation and repression.
Garment workers constitute 40% of the total industrial workforce of
Bangladesh. Brutality of exploitation of garment workers in
Bangladesh is typical of the conditions of workers in many
sectors 'outsourced' by center of capitalism to third world
countries. Minimum wages are 900 Takka (14$) per month. Even this is
not paid in half of the garment as well as other factories. These
minimum wages were fixed in 1994 and have remained unchanged despite
consumer prices having grown three fold in the last 12 years. After
the recent workers' revolt, it is now being said that the garments
sector, which has thrived due to cheap, slave labor, had consistently
opposed efforts to revise the minimum wage. "Powerful lobbies of
garment owners have been able to keep the government convinced that
if wages in garment sector increase, it will increase production
costs and discourage local and foreign investors from investing in
the burgeoning sector", said Mr. Jafrul Hasan a representative of the
ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (New Age, 29th May 2006). Even
boss's top body, BGMEA (Bangladesh Garment Manufacturers and
Exporters Association) is now saying "Owners of the sweater
manufacturing factories, who cheat their workers by paying abysmally
low `piece rates' (…) are to be blamed for igniting the workers'
unrest that focused national and even international interest on the
gross underpayment of the garment workers and inhuman violation of
their rights" (New Age, 29th May 2006).

But starvation wages are not the only expression of brutal
exploitation. A few years ago the legal work week was extended to 72
Hours; actual working day is often up to or above 16 Hours. There is
no weekly time off in the garment sector – mandatory weekly time off
was one of the demands of the revolt. There are no public holidays,
no annual leave. Also bosses "show a reckless disregard for safety at
workplace as deaths of 4000 workers in industrial accidents such as
fire and building collapse point to", (New Age, 24th May 2006). Not
only this, there have been cases of beatings and killing of
workers. "Intelligence sources said some senior staffers of the
factory killed two female workers at Dhaka Export Processing Zone (…)
about one and a half years ago but workers could not protest at the
time for fear", Daily Independent, 2nd June 2006, Dhaka.

Apparently in these conditions of barbaric exploitation the
bourgeoisie dispensed with even a myth of representation - no unions,
even linked to ruling gangs, were allowed in any of the garment
factories. As per an academic in Labor Studies, "only 100 out of
5000-plus garment factories have participation committees'", New Age,
3rd June 2006. This absence of bourgeois tools to control workers
became an element in the strength and violence of the workers

Small beginnings of a mass revolt

As per reports there have been cases of workers struggles in garment
factories in last few months. But these were mostly in individual
factories with demands addressed to individual bosses. FS Sweater
factory, whose events became detonator for the recent revolt, has
been in turmoil since last some months with workers repeatedly
agitating for their demands.

On Saturday, 20 May 2006, as morning shift started at 8.00 AM nearly
1000 workers of FS Sweater factory at Sripur, in the suburbs of
Dhaka, started a sit-in demanding increase in their wages and release
of their arrested colleagues – who were arrested on 18 May for
participating in an agitation for their demands. The bosses of the
company, not willing to tolerate collective resistance from the
workers, locked them in. Amid sweltering heat they cut off drinking
water and power supply to the areas where workers were gathered and
called the police. The police entered the factory at around 11.00AM
and along with private security of the factory started beating the
workers. Police also opened fire on workers inside the factory. Many
workers were injured, at least 12 workers sustained bullet injuries
inside the factory. Six of these wounded workers were arrested and
taken by the police. Attacked by the police and the private security
of the bosses, workers jumped above the walls to come out of the

Enraged workers started gathering on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway
outside the factory. Workers of FS Sweater factory were joined by
thousands of other workers and their families from neighboring slums
where most of the workers live. By noon the workers blocked the
traffic on the highway and took out a procession for their demands
and against police repression. This procession of workers was
attacked by bigger, reinforced contingents of police force that once
again resorted to beating the workers and opened fire on
demonstrators. Police also went inside the slums and beat up workers
and their families. Workers and their families in turn chased the
police. The traffic on the highway remained blocked till evening.

By the end of the day, one worker was shot dead by the police in
front of FS Sweater Factory. As per official accounts eighty workers
sustained bullet injuries. While the wounded and angry workers went
back to the slums, the news of repression and of death of a worker
spread throughout the industrial suburbs of Dhaka. Next day, 21st
May, was Sunday. Although no major incident happened that day, the
news of police atrocity continued to spread. At this moment the
bourgeoisie did not expect any major trouble on Monday and did not
take any preventive action by way of union, political or police
mobilization. Different leftist factions contented themselves with
issuing some statements 'condemning' the police attack.

A mass explosion of accumulated anger

It is not clear what type of self-organization and co-ordination
developed among the workers that propelled this revolt. But it seems
to be very elemental and rudimentary, essentially informal and among
the workers in the same areas. What united the workers across many
towns around Dhaka and in Dhaka itself was their burning hatred
against brutal exploitation, daily repression and the latest police
atrocities. The depth of this anger expressed itself in generalized
confrontation between workers and repressive forces of the state
everywhere in coming few days. It also expressed itself in burning
down of several hundred factories during this revolt.

On Monday, 22 May 2006 movement erupted at fully fortified Savar EPZ,
another suburb of Dhaka. In the morning, workers of Universal
Garments Limited gathered in front of the factory to demand payment
of their back wages and were attacked by private guards of the
factory. Instead of dispersing, the attacked workers of Universal
Garments went to neighboring factories and called other workers for
support. Together with other workers, they went from factory to
factory calling other workers to join them – at one point more than
20,000 workers are reported to have joined this militant procession.
Hundreds of factories of Savar EPZ and New EPZ had joined the strikes
by the afternoon. The highways going out of Dhaka were blocked.
Striking workers fought back against police and paramilitary forces
sent to attack them. Repressive forces of the state opened fire on
workers in different parts of industrial suburbs and in Dhaka.
Several hundred workers were injured by bullets; more workers were
killed in firing by the forces of the state. Enraged by news of death
of workers, by evening workers in other industrial suburbs were
coming out of their factories.
On 23 May all industrial suburbs of Dhaka were paralyzed by a
generalized revolt – most workers stopped work and took to the
streets demanding end to repression, release of arrested workers,
higher minimum wages, weekly time off, overtime pay for extra work,
public holidays etc. Most highways out of Dhaka were blocked.
Thousands of agitating workers from suburbs and from within Dhaka
paralyzed the capital. There were clashes between the forces of the
state and workers everywhere with paramilitary forces opening fire.
By this time the bourgeoisie had become aware of the gravity of the
situation and set out to mobilize all its political and oppressive
forces. There were calls from bosses to hand over the city to the
Army. By evening of 23 May, Bangladesh Rifles (Border Security Force)
was deployed in huge numbers throughout the industrial suburbs.
The 'central unions' belonging to different bourgeois political gangs
(BNP, AL, Leftists), none of whom has any presence among garment
workers, were brought together and they cobbled together a list of
demands. On the evening of 23rd May this 'union co-ordination' issued
a list of demands. A bourgeois commentator observed, possibly with
some exaggeration regarding the insurrection part, "While an
insurrection was already in process, the unions put forward a list of
demands 'threatening' to go on strike from 12 June (20 days later) if
these demands are not met" (

Despite deployment of the Bangladesh Rifles, factories remained
closed, the city and suburbs remained paralyzed by workers' revolt on
24th May. But government now compelled the bosses' body, BGMEA and
the newly cobbled together 'union coordination' to sit in a meeting.
By evening the Minister for Labor, with BGMEA and Unions Reps on both
sides, declared that bosses have agreed to all demands of the workers
on revolt – increase of minimum pay to 3000 Taka, mandatory weekly
time off and other holidays, 8 hours working day and overtime pay for
extra work etc. "It is now time to go back to work", the union co-
ordination proclaimed. It is another matter that a few days later
once workers revolt ebbed, the BGMEA representatives proclaimed that
they will not honor agreements of 24th May 2006.

While the edge of the workers revolt was blunted from 25th May 2006
their anger and revolt continued to simmer and explode. There was
fresh round of large scale rioting and clashes between workers and
forces of the state from 29th May – 4th June. This renewed wave of
strikes erupted to protest non-implementation of proclamations of
24th May 2006. Between these days one more worker was killed,
hundreds more were injured by bullets. Savar and other EPZ were once
again shut down by striking workers. These businesses were finally
opened from 8 June 2006 with deployment of much bigger paramilitary

The role of the unions

One of the major political weaknesses of the bourgeoisie in
Bangladesh is the fragility of its democratic apparatus and as a
result of democratic mystifications. The current Prime Minister, Mrs.
Khalida Zia, is the wife of assassinated military dictator Zia Ur
Rahman. There have been other military dictators in the short history
of Bangladesh so far. The political process is characterized by gang
wars, killings, and large scale bombings between main bourgeois
factions – Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of Khalida Zia and
Awami League (AL) of Hasina Sheikh. The reason of this fragility is
perpetual bloody battle between China and India to control
Bangladesh – BNP aligned with China and AL with India.

Due to this weakness of its state structures, bourgeoisie has not
been able to set up a trade union apparatus, especially in the
garment factories. This weakness of the bourgeoisie allowed workers
to develop their revolt and give it such a sharp edge for several
days. But once the bourgeoisie saw the danger of the situation they
quickly set out to redress it. Union coordinations were quickly set
up – mostly at formal level, with no presence in the factories.
Agreement between them and bosses was widely propagated on radio, TV
and newspapers. They were presented as standing up for workers. A
demand for 'union rights' was pushed forward. Although workers have
not been sucked in by these lies – as shown by persistence of workers
revolt till 6th June and unions' inability to control it – in the
absence of major development of workers self-organization, union lies
have not been without influence.

The bourgeoisie itself has seen the danger of its present ways –
especially of absence of unions. This has been expressed in numerous
proclamations by bourgeoisie that if unions have been there,
if 'democratic rights' of workers have been respected, the workers
movement would not have exploded the way it did. "Trade union leader
Mishu said 'if there had been trade unions in factories… the
situation would not have turned violent'" (New Age 3rd June 2006).
Another trade union boss declared, "The absence of trade unions is
very much more dangerous than the presence of active unions" (Letter
from International Textile, Garment and Leather Workers' Federation
to Prime Minister Khalida Zia). There has even been talk to take help
of International Labor Organization in setting up the unions.

Lessons of the garment workers revolt

There is no doubt that garment workers' revolt has been the biggest
and the most militant struggle so far of the working class in the
history of Bangladesh. Despite all odds workers were able to rise up
in revolt against brutal exploitation. They were able to develop
their struggles in a courageous way in the face of violent
repression. The explosion of this revolt and its persistence for
nearly 20 days, despite all the repression, expresses great
determination and will to fight of the working class. It is an
important advance in the development of proletarian challenge to
capitalist exploitation. This is the reason the bourgeoisie
everywhere blacked out all news of this movement.

Experience of Bangladesh shows that physical absence of unions is not
enough. Important thing is the ability of the working class to
consciously reject the unions. Even more important is its ability to
develop its own self-organization. Development at this level has been
very rudimentary, if at all. Although this movement would not have
developed if workers have not stood up to the repressive forces, in
the absence of self-organization the revolt sometime took the
character of rioting. While some of the weaknesses are expression of
the lack of experience of the working class in Bangladesh, they also
point toward the need for appropriating all the experience of the
workers' movement world wide. It is the responsibility of the
revolutionary organizations of the communist left to contribute to
the development of the workers' consciousness of their class identity
and of their historic goal: the communist revolution which alone can
put an end to the brutal exploitation of the working class not just
in Bangladesh but throughout the world.

Communist Internationalist, 13th June 2006