of the Class Struggle Education League
Where We Come From
and Where We Are Going
The Class Struggle Education League seeks to take our place as revolutionary working-class activists and cadres in the fight to reforge an authentically Trotskyist Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution. As part of that effort we are presenting this brief statement on the CSEL’s origins, development and perspectives.
The Class Struggle Education League has its roots in the Lowell/New Hampshire branch of Socialist Alternative (SAlt). The establishment of the CSEL grew out of our efforts to deepen, generalize and draw the lessons from struggle against the politics of class collaboration within SAlt and its parent body, the Committee for a Workers International (CWI).
At the time that our two founding members resigned from SAlt in September of 2017, we had eight and five years’ membership, respectively, in the organization. We were part of the inchoate internal opposition to SAlt’s blatant tailing and building of the Bernie Sanders campaign for the presidential candidacy in the Democratic Party of racism, war and exploitation, the oldest and most experienced capitalist party in the world.
This inchoate opposition never coalesced into a faction. Nor did it have any theoretical consistency, as its supporters ranged from defenders of CWI “orthodoxy,” including formal opposition to the Democratic Party, in some branches, to a semi-Maoist orientation in others, to a softness towards petty-bourgeois identity politics in yet others – although it should be noted that such softness partly reflected a reaction to the Labourite adaption towards social chauvinism that SAlt had absorbed from its mother party.
Thus this opposition within SAlt was a far cry from a principled, programmatically cohesive Leninist faction modeled on the tradition of James P. Cannon. However, orbiting around opposition to SAlt’s endorsement of a bourgeois politician and capitulation to the Democratic Party, the opposition’s members saw themselves as defending the basic Marxist principle of the political independence of the working class. Yet the opposition failed to accomplish this modest task. Even the basic question of proletarian class independence was blurred by the fact that some opposition supporters considered it acceptable to vote for candidates of the bourgeois “third party” Greens.
Nor did the opposition succeed in preventing the SAlt leadership’s suspension of a founding cadre, Margaret C., on the laughable grounds of “creating a negative atmosphere” by refusing to back down from opposing support to the Democrats. This was followed by her expulsion on the pretext that visiting comrades in opposition branches such as Mobile and Lowell/New Hampshire supposedly violated the terms of her suspension. (It should be noted that Margaret continued to uphold the general framework of traditional CWI politics, which we have rejected.)
CSEL contingent at International Women's Day in Boston highlighted the cases of Jeffrey Pendleton, a New Hampshire labor martyr who was arrested on 8 March 2016 and died in jail five days later; and Nina Droz, a Puerto Rican political prisoner, in jail since May Day 2017 for protesting against austerity imposed by Yankee imperialism.
The bureaucratic measures aimed at suppressing opposition to the class-collaborationist “Bernie turn” caused widespread indignation, compounded by the outright sexism used in attempts to discredit and silence this widely respected comrade with 31 years in the organization. As we said in a motion passed unanimously at a SAlt Lowell/NH branch meeting and forwarded to the Executive Committee on 18 March 2017, the leadership’s measures were “a violation of democratic centralist norms” and the organization’s own established procedures.” In retrospect, we were much too circumspect in our language regarding this anti-democratic grotesquerie. Meanwhile, without a coherent programmatic agreement hammered out in vigorous debate, the opposition was easy pickings for a not terribly competent internal regime. One by one, clots of oppositionists resigned in a combination of demoralization, disappointment and/or indignation at affronts to their personal dignity.
Through the course of this oppositional struggle, and continuing subsequently, we undertook a reexamination of the meaning of Marxism, Leninism and Trotskyism, and we found SAlt and the CWI lacking in all ledgers. From failure to defend the deformed workers states – both in the past (Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union) and in the present (e.g., North Korea and the People’s Republic of China) – to the claim that cops and prison guards are “workers in uniform”; from the slogan of the “Party of the 99%” to backing “Brexit” and SYRIZA in Greece, we came to reject in toto the rotten history of social-democratic opportunism that passes for Marxism in the CWI.
During the course of our reexamination, we held discussions with representatives of Left Voice, the U.S. publication of the Fracción Trotskista tendency. Initially attracted to them due to their criticism of not only the Bernie Sanders campaign but also the bourgeois Greens, as well as the motion they supported in UAW 2865 in 2015 calling on the AFL-CIO to end its association with police unions, we were put off by their approach as a “media project” rather than a Leninist party. Study of their materials led to the conclusion that their approach to the Democratic Socialists of America has been just as tailist as the one employed by Socialist Alternative. We also noted the failure of Left Voice articles about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to forthrightly call for the deformed workers state’s defense against threats from U.S. imperialism, which have escalated under the rabid Donald Trump administration.
Through our investigation of these and other key issues we concluded that the cause of international proletarian socialist revolution is best embodied in the historic Trotskyist program that was upheld for three decades by the Spartacist tendency (now International Communist League), which the ICL has increasingly decisively abandoned in the wake of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the USSR. Studying the literature of the ICL alongside that of the League for the Fourth International and its U.S. section, the Internationalist Group, we were won to the positions of the IG on all points of contention. Among those that have stood out particularly over the recent period are the genuine Leninist position on the national question; the fight for the independence of Puerto Rico and all colonies; defense of refugees and immigrants; and the struggle to mobilize the power of labor against fascist provocations (notably over anti-fascist mobilizations in San Francisco and Portland).
Our conclusion is that the League for the Fourth International are the true heirs of the program of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky and we seek fusion with them to further the cause of world communism. This perspective is being concretized is an agreement for joint work between the CSEL and IG/LFI with a perspective for early fusion.
Draft CSEL statement of principles,
first outlined in Fall 2017
[The points below are included here for reference, based on the effort to draw up a “statement of principles” first outlined in late Fall 2017.]
1. Proletarian Political Independence
We unequivocally oppose voting for or supporting any capitalist parties or politicians. In the United States, that means unremitting opposition to all wings of the Democratic and Republican parties, including the Democrats’ “inside/outside” sheepdogging agents such as Bernie Sanders and the Democratic Socialists of America. We similarly oppose voting for or supporting small-time bourgeois or petty-bourgeois parties like the Green Party or any such formations that are yet to exist. What’s needed is a revolutionary workers party committed to the overthrow of the world capitalist system, and it is such a Leninist vanguard party that we seek to forge.
2. Reformism versus Revolutionary Politics
The main contradiction in society today, as it was a hundred years ago, is the contradictions between the social nature of production and the private ownership of the means of production. In the age of imperialist decay, this is heightened by the contradiction between increasingly international productive forces and the national boundaries of capitalism. There has been no crisis that capitalism hasn’t been able to worm itself out of; no concessions to the working class and oppressed that it hasn’t been able to claw back. While we support and defend every legitimate reform that benefits the proletariat and other oppressed layers of society, we, at the same time, understand that short of a socialist revolution that dismantles the capitalist system once and for all, the energies and efforts of the working class will be squandered fighting the same battles over and over again.
3. The Labor Movement
Despite the savage losses the unions have suffered in the last forty years, they are still the basic defense organizations of the working class. They must be defended by class-struggle means. One of the key tasks for communists is to embed ourselves into the unions and struggle against the reactionary, pro-capitalist (usually Democratic Party) trade-union bureaucracy and to replace it with a communist leadership committed to the class struggle.
4.Revolutionary Integrationism and Black Liberation
In the United States, a key task of the communist vanguard is the fight against racist oppression and the struggle for black liberation. World capitalism and American capitalism in particular (both the U.S. and the hemisphere) were founded on genocide against the indigenous population and the enslavement of Africans. Throughout its history, the United States ruling class has excelled at pitting one segment of the working class against other segments of the class. The multiracial working-class unity needed to overthrow capitalism requires the labor movement taking up struggle against racism in all its forms. Only socialist revolution, by dismantling the material basis for racial oppression, can lay the foundation for the eradication of racial, nativist and other forms of bigotry and oppression. We stand on the program of revolutionary integrationism as first developed in the 1950s by Richard S. Fraser inside the then-Trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. In contradistinction to both the liberal integrationism of the mainstream Civil Rights Movement and black nationalism (which so often covers for self-proclaimed Marxists tailing after black Democrats), revolutionary integrationism explains the strategic role of the fight for black freedom as key to proletarian revolution, and that only workers revolution can fulfill the promise of black freedom.
5. Women’s Oppression and the Tribune of the Oppressed
We stand on the historical Marxist understanding of the oppression of women and the program developed by Marxists from Bebel, Zetkin and others in Germany to the Russian Bolsheviks on how to fight it. The source of women’s subjugation is the economic and social unit of the family and women’s subservient role inside it. We stand for the replacement of the family with socialized services – such as free laundries and cafeterias – as well as for free high-quality health care, birth control and access to abortion. From the March on Versailles to the February Revolution, from the immigrant picketers of the 1912 Bread and Roses Strike to Ahed Tamimi today, working women have time and time again demonstrated their ability to rank among the most ferocious defenders of their class. Bringing this to bear on the basis of a revolutionary program is key to socialist revolution and a crucial task of the revolutionary party. Furthermore, we stand on the Leninist conception of the vanguard party as the tribune of the oppressed. We fight to mobilize the power of the multiracial working class in defense of women, youth, gays and lesbians, gender-nonconforming people, immigrants, indigenous people, religious minorities and all those targeted by chauvinism, bigotry and capitalist persecution.
6. Imperialism and the Deformed Workers States
We stand against imperialism and colonial oppression. We understand that imperialism is not a policy, but the “highest stage of capitalism” and inextricable from the decaying capitalist system. We stand against all imperialist wars, occupations and “humanitarian interventions,” whether under the aegis of the United States or other imperialist powers, NATO, the United Nations, et al. In the belly of the imperialist beast, a precondition of forging a revolutionary workers party is unflinching opposition to all militarist adventures and CIA plots in Africa, Latin America, the Middle East and Asia. We further call for independence for all colonies. In the United States, this includes championing independence for Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and Guam. We further stand on the Trotskyist understanding that the Soviet Union was a bureaucratically degenerated workers state and that other countries where capitalist rule has been overthrown (e.g., North Korea, China, Cuba, Vietnam) are deformed workers states. We stand for unflinching defense of these deformed workers states from imperialist attack and internal capitalist counterrevolution. We stand for proletarian political revolution in the deformed workers states to oust the anti-revolutionary, nationalist, bureaucratic castes and for the establishment of revolutionary workers democracy. At the time of this writing, a key task for revolutionaries in the United States is forthright defense of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea against imperialism, including its right to arm itself with nuclear weapons.
“Nothing human is foreign to me” – Karl Marx. We are internationalists. The cause of socialism and liberation anywhere on the face of the planet is our cause. We understand that the forging of an international revolutionary Trotskyist party is not only the answer to the myriad oppressions and degradations engendered by the world capitalist system, it is also the only path to preserving human life on this planet. We seek to reforge, including through splits and fusions of communist militants, the Fourth International as the party of international proletarian socialist revolution. ■
Agreement for Joint Work Between the Class Struggle Education League and the Internationalist Group
26 January 2018
Class Struggle Education League and Internationalist Group at April 30 mobilization in Philadelphia demanding freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Right: Pam Africa speaking with microphone.
The Class Struggle Education League, based in the Lowell, Massachusetts/New Hampshire area, and the Internationalist Group, U.S. section of the League for the Fourth International, hereby agree to carry out joint work aiming at an early fusion of our forces, on the basis of:
– Statement of the Class Struggle Education League (January 2018);
– The programmatic positions embodied in the documents of the First National Conference of the Internationalist Group, “The Trotskyist Struggle for International Socialist Revolution” (published in The Internationalist No. 40, Summer 2015) and the First International Conference of the League for the Fourth International, “The Struggle to Reforge a Genuinely Trotskyist Fourth International” (published in The Internationalist No. 50, December 2017).
This agreement formalizes the perspective for carrying out joint work first discussed during the visit by IG representatives to meet with the CSEL in late October 2017. Since that time, the CSEL comrades have carried out further intensive reading and discussion of IG/LFI publications; additional study of key differences between the LFI and other ostensibly Trotskyist tendencies, particularly the latter-day Spartacist league/ICL and the Fracción Trotskista; and distributed IG/LFI literature at events and demonstrations.
A CSEL comrade’s recent trip to work with the IG’s New York local included participating in the IG contingent at a rally in Philadelphia for the freedom of Mumia Abu-Jamal; joining IG and Trabajadores Internacionales Clasistas comrades in distributing Internationalist literature to workers at a large unionized facility facing a possible strike and participating in our Marxist study group.
Perspectives over the following period includes the following:
– Distributing the IG statement “Let Haitians Stay!” as well as The Internationalist and other IG/LFI publications at the January 27 Boston rally protesting the deportation of Morocco-born activist Siham Byah and the detention of immigrant activists Ravi Ragbir, Maru Mora-Villalpando and others.
– Pursuing opportunities for labor-based solidarity with and defense of immigrants in the Lowell/N.H. and Boston areas.
– Gathering further information on Teamster organizing among African immigrant car attendants in Boston for use in materials on class-struggle defense of immigrant rights.
– Seeking to further consolidate the Marxist study group in the Lowell/N.H. region established by the CSEL; systematic discussion with youth and trade-union contacts there and in Boston; to further develop perspectives for key work in the Boston area, including a periodic campus sale.
– February 17 joint forum on the Haitian Revolution.
– Joint preparations for May Day with an eye toward our early fusion.
– Working on a more in-depth balance sheet and Marxist analysis of Socialist Alternative and its internal crises that can be used particularly in approaching current and former members of that organization. ■