Sharon Black, Age 74
Amazon Warehouse worker, Baltimore
John Parker, Age 60
Freelance IT worker, Los Angeles
Greg Butterfield, Age 49
Office worker, Brooklyn, New York
1. Is it possible in the 21st century - taking in to account all the economic and political changes in the world that have taken place over a hundred years since the Great October Revolution - that the victory of a socialist revolution in a single country or within a large region could take place?
Combined and uneven development under capitalism means that socialist revolution will likely break out in a particular country or region before others. But today, more than a century after the Bolshevik Revolution, the working class is more than ever an international class. Workers in all corners of the world often participate in the production process of a single commodity, generating profit for the same capitalist.
The class struggle and the revolutionary impulse can travel rapidly from the workers in one country or region to another. The globalized high-tech production process means workers in one area can quickly adopt the tactics of class struggle pioneered in another. The internet and social media allow for international coordination of protests and strikes in ways that were impossible 100 years ago, or even 20 years ago. The labor movement, with some exceptions, is largely still mired in older national tactics that reflected the realities of the Cold War. The communist movement has barely begun to scratch the surface of the possibilities that exist for coordinated, united action.
With the growth of the working class globally and the intensification of state power by the capitalist class, particularly in the U.S. and other major imperialist countries, we cannot hope for the prolonged prosperity or existence of isolated socialist countries. It is essential to return to the perspective of world revolution that guided the early years of the Communist International and of the Soviet revolution in Lenin’s time.
2. Taking into account the experience of the countries of the "left turn" in Latin America in the last two decades, is the victory of an unarmed revolution possible (or, as it is often called, "by peaceful means")? Is it possible for the working people to come to power on a broad popular front using bourgeois electoral devices?
The enormous accomplishments of the Latin American left struggles have inspired workers around the world. It has been especially important as a force to revive the hope for a socialist future in the years since the destruction of the USSR and the European socialist camp.
It is no insult to Venezuela, Bolivia or other examples of the “left turn” to point out that these efforts have resulted in a kind of “halfway house” of socialism. These governments, rooted in mass popular movements, have carried out significant reforms to alleviate the worst results of poverty and discrimination imposed over centuries of colonialist and imperialist rule. However, in none of these cases has the capitalist class been successfully expropriated. The gains that have been made remain constantly in danger of being stolen back when the struggle ebbs or the imperialists gain the upper hand.
Bolivia is a good example. We are thrilled by the victory of the Movement Towards Socialism in the recent election, coming after a year of white terror against the workers, peasants and Indigneous communities. That victory was possible because of the mobilization of the masses and the fact that U.S. imperialism was distracted by internal and external challenges. But unless the revolution goes further -- to the dictatorship of the proletariat and the expropriation of the local and international capitalists -- it is only a matter of time until the people face a similar crisis.
As Lenin explained, communist should make use of bourgeois electoral means to fight for the rights of the people and educate them. But sowing illusions that the workers and oppressed can come to power and nationalize capitalist property against the vicious, armed might of the bosses through only peaceful, electoral means is just as dangerous now as it was in 1917.
3. Is the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat relevant today, and what could be the forms of implementing it? When answering this question, please take into account that the very concept of "proletarian" inevitably needs to be clarified due to the scientific and technological revolution, the changes in the level of education of the population, etc.
The working class is always growing and changing along with the process of capitalist production. In the U.S. over the last 40 years, as the bosses have exported more of factory production to other countries, the number of low-wage, service-industry workers has exploded here, workers lacking in job security and basic union protections. Professions that once were considered “petty bourgeois” like teachers, nurses and office workers have been proletarianized. In other parts of the world, an industrial and technological proletariat has grown where once there were mostly peasants or workers extracting raw materials for the imperialist powers.
At the same time, the process of production, from extraction to assembly through to delivery, has been further internationalized. While intensifying the exploitation of workers everywhere, the capitalist system has also streamlined and simplified the production and distribution process, making it ready for the workers to take over and run themselves.
This will not be possible, however, without the workers -- the vast majority -- becoming the ruling class of society. Today, just as in 1917, a successful “compromise” class rule of the workers and bosses is impossible. Even if extreme circumstances impose such a compromise temporarily, one or the other class must prevail in the end, and society will be unable to advance until it does.
One of the great innovations of the Russian Revolution was to show that the workers had discovered their own instrument of class rule -- the soviets. The revolutionary Marxist understanding of the soviets, developed by Lenin and others, was rooted in the experience of the Paris Commune.
Like many other basic Marxist concepts, this understanding of workers’ power expressed through the soviets (assemblies, councils, etc.) has been largely lost as a result of the world-historic setback suffered by the workers and oppressed after the destruction of the USSR. In the coming period, as the struggle deepens around the world, one of our most important tasks will be to revive the study and understanding of basic Marxist concepts like the soviets, the class character of the state, and imperialism.
This education has to happen in tandem with practical efforts to unite our class and its vanguard elements in the daily struggle against capitalism and resurgent fascism.
4. Is the victory of the revolution in the United States and other centers of global imperialism possible in the foreseeable future?
It is possible and necessary. For decades after the defeat of the revolutionary wave in Europe between 1918 and the rise of Hitler fascism in Germany, the center of revolutionary energy was in the oppressed countries of the Global South. These heroic efforts destroyed the old system of colonial slavery. In some cases, with the help of the USSR, they were able to achieve the dictatorship of the proletariat -- in China, the DPRK, Cuba and Vietnam, for example.
But all of them confronted a wall blocking their ability to develop in a revolutionary way: the global economic and military domination of imperialism. And when the USSR disappeared, the hardships caused by imperialist power grew.
This year, with the multinational working-class uprising against racist police violence, we have witnessed an important breakthrough in the class struggle in the U.S. For the first time in decades, a mass movement has threatened the most powerful weapon the ruling class has to keep the workers divided: white supremacy, that is, the racism of the oppressor nation against the oppressed.
The communist movement in the U.S. is still weak and divided, politically and geographically, as a consequence of the global setbacks of the past 30 years. However, for the last 10 years, the interest of young workers in class politics generally and socialism in particular has grown immensely. The current capitalist crisis, exacerbated by the global pandemic, has put a harsh light on the inability of the system to provide even the most basic needs of the people for health care, housing and jobs. More people than ever reject two-party capitalist electoral politics as a natural and useful solution to their problems.
So we have great confidence that objective conditions will put a revolutionary movement on the agenda here. The best solidarity the workers here can offer to the peoples of the world is to get the boot of imperialism off their necks. That will make the process of revolution so much more practical everywhere!
5. What are the reasons for the decline of the communist movement in the world? We ask this question with pain, but it is impossible to ignore the fact that in many countries, ultra-right, populist or downright demagogic movements or the ones that distance themselves from politics deliberately, have more supporters among the workers and exploited than the Communists do.
6. How justified is the existence of communist parties on a national scale in the modern world? What could be the logic and the prospects for the development of the Communist Party today and in the future?
After the defeat of the 1848 revolution in Europe, and later the Paris Commune, there were long periods of disruption to the revolutionary movement and its ability to lead the class struggle. The destruction of the USSR and the European socialist camp in the late 1980s and early 1990s similarly caused the decline of the world communist movement, disruption and confusion, for a prolonged period. Despite inspiring developments of a partial character in Latin America and other parts of the world, we’re still living with the consequences of that defeat.
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the crucial work of communists was to keep a core of revolutionary activists together and Marxist ideas alive against the raging tidal wave of anti-communism.
Now that we see signs that the tide is beginning to turn in our favor, it can be frustrating to see that we as a global movement are still divided and at a disadvantage, and that the working class is not responding in the most militant way to the awful conditions unbridled capitalism has exposed. Consciousness always lags behind material conditions. We must have confidence in our Marxist analysis and historical experiences so that we continue organizing, educating, and taking to the streets whenever possible, always alert for the opportunities that will come.
Communists must work toward great unity, both at the national and international level. But what does that mean? In our view, it can only be accomplished through joint work and comradely cooperation for practical goals. Long divided by ideological and historical differences, exacerbated by the post-Soviet setback, we need to relearn how to work together.
Only in the process of practical cooperation based on solidarity and respect will we be able to reach an understanding on the fundamental disputes in the history of the communist movement.
The founder of our tendency, Sam Marcy, described our purpose this way: “The basic contradiction in the radical movement today is between those who espouse Marxism but renounce it in deeds, and in particular shun revolutionary methods of struggle, and those who make bona fide effort in deeds to struggle but who have no Marxist conception of the class struggle, and therefore end up in a blind alley. Our tendency exists for the purpose of reviving and restoring revolutionary Marxism and bringing back the synthesis between the word and the deed.”
7. Why do the old forms of economic struggle by labor against capital such as strikes do not bring the desired results to modern workers? What forms of economic and political struggle are possible and necessary in the current and projected conditions?
New forms of strikes and economic struggle are certainly needed to address the massive changes to the capitalist production process. The most urgent need, in our view, is to expand the international character of labor struggles. With the globalization and incorporation of high-speed internet technology into production, isolated local and national strikes are at a great disadvantage. The day is coming when a great, coordinated international strike shuts down an industry and revolutionizes labor tactics. We’ve already seen the early signs of this in struggles against international monopolies like Amazon.com
Here in the U.S., the strikes of teachers and other school workers in the last few years have included important innovations. Most significant has been a return to the tactics of the industrial union movement of the 1930s -- organizing and including broad sections of the working class and the affected communities. These very basic needs of the class struggle were largely abandoned by the “official” labor movement during the Cold War years. Their revival now is a hopeful sign of the coming working-class resurgence.
8. What practical forms of international workers' solidarity are possible and necessary today and tomorrow?
Let’s work together whenever possible! Cross-border organizing of workers can bring the era of international strikes closer. International days of action -- against war, sanctions and racism, for the rights of women and sexual minorities -- even if modestly attended, show a commitment to unite against our common foe. Despite the restrictions caused by the pandemic and imperialist sanctions, international conferences and meetings are still possible by webinars. Translating and republishing the news and analysis of our comrades in other countries brings us closer and expands our ability to get a comprehensive view of the global class struggle.
Long live the legacy of the October Revolution! It lives on through our struggles.
We thank you for inviting us to participate in this important initiative to further internationalist solidarity and ideological clarity on the 103rd anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
As you know, we are in the midst of tumultuous period of struggle here in the belly of U.S. imperialism, with the ongoing Black Lives Matter uprising against racist police violence, the spread of violent fascist groups, and the U.S. presidential election this week, which is likely to be contested and foment greater unrest and struggle.
We wish we could devote more time to developing our responses to your questions. We will do our best to contribute to the international conversation amidst the preparations for the difficult days ahead. At the same time, we appeal to all the comrades to support the struggles of the workers and oppressed in the U.S. for democratic rights, against fascism and white supremacy, and for socialist revolution.
On behalf of the Socialist Unity Party (U.S.) and Struggle-LaLucha newspaper,