Science and Socialism

The issues posed by the worldwide March for Science

20 April 2017

Hundreds of thousands of scientists and other professionals, together with students and working people who support them, will take part this Saturday in the worldwide March for Science. The demonstration has evoked a significant response, in large measure because it is seen as a way to protest the Trump administration’s attacks on scientific knowledge and investigation.

The Socialist Equality Party welcomes this demonstration. We call for the mobilization of working people throughout the world against the destruction of the environment by giant chemical and energy corporations; attacks on public education that threaten access to all aspects of human culture for an entire generation of young people; the subordination of science to the profit requirements of the ruling class and the military; and all censorship and restrictions on research and teaching.

The call for the March for Science refers to these issues, but it has definite limitations, summed up in its declaration that the attacks on science “are not a partisan issue.” This question must be understood correctly. The defense of science is only “nonpartisan” in the sense that both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the attack on public education, the deteriorating environment, the growth of militarism and the effort to censor and suppress scientific research.

The defense of science is, however, profoundly political, as it has been throughout history, as far back as Galileo Galilei’s trial by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Every reactionary government and class persecutes scientists and seeks to suppress and subordinate science to its own ends. The progress of science and reason has always depended upon the progress of society and social relations—and this is a political question.

The challenge today is to recognize the source of the attack on science, which did not suddenly arise from the limited brain of Donald Trump. He is only the crudest and most backward representative of a social system in which all human activity, including science, is subordinated to private profit. While science and technology have immensely developed the power of social production, this production remains trapped within the increasingly irrational forms of private capitalist ownership.

The defense of science is therefore inseparable from the revolutionary struggle of the main progressive force in modern society, the working class, against the corporate ruling elite.

Science and technology have made it possible to abolish hunger, cure disease, banish ignorance and secure a decent standard of living for every person on this planet. But under the profit system, vast wealth is monopolized by a tiny handful of the super-rich. Just eight mega-billionaires possess greater wealth than the poorest half of humanity, while hundreds of millions go hungry; millions die of preventable diseases; and schools, roads, water systems and other public infrastructure are crumbling.

Modern technology, from revolutionary developments in transportation to the creation of the Internet, has shattered the barriers to human interaction and made possible the integration of all humanity. Science itself is the most international of human enterprises, developing through global collaboration.

However, because of the division of the world into rival nation-states, technology is made the instrument of repression and persecution: the hounding of refugees and immigrants throughout the world; the building of walls against immigrants on the US-Mexico border; China’s “great firewall,” separating one billion people from the rest of the world; and the development of the NSA’s vast apparatus of global spying directed against the population of the entire world.

Most ominously, in the hands of the rival nation-states, with US imperialism taking the lead, science and technology have been perverted into means of mass destruction. The April 22 demonstration takes place under conditions of a growing threat of world war, with the Trump administration, backed by the US media and Democratic Party, firing missiles at Syria, dropping the largest bomb since Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Afghanistan, and threatening a preemptive military strike against North Korea.

The danger of a direct military conflict involving nuclear-armed powers is very real. More than anyone else, scientists know that this would mean the extinction of civilization, if not life on planet Earth.

What is the way forward? Those who wish to defend and advance the work of science must confront a contradiction in their own ways of thinking. They are accustomed to applying scientific methods to the processes of nature, but not to the workings of society, still less to politics.

In part, this derives from the greater complexity of social life, where the number of variables—including human beings—makes scientific analysis more complicated. More importantly, it reflects the ideological domination of the corporate ruling elite, which opposes efforts to apply rational standards to the operations of a social system that affords them unparalleled wealth and privilege. Within academia, the attack on objective truth and reason spearheaded by postmodernism and other forms of irrationalism is directed at all forms of scientific knowledge, above all at the science of society and history.

Scientists must find their way back to insights of their greatest predecessors like Albert Einstein, who were drawn to socialism as the application of reason to the development of modern society—and as the only means of ending war and dictatorship. This means taking up a study of Marxism, which bases its revolutionary politics on an analysis of objective reality and class interests.

The working class is the revolutionary force that has the capability to put an end to capitalism and establish a socialist society based on equality, democracy and social ownership of the wealth created by collective labor. In the Russian Revolution, whose centenary we mark this year, this scientific understanding was vindicated in practice, with the working class coming to power under the leadership of a Marxist party.

The working class cannot advance without the aid of science. But science itself requires the advance of the working class, which will provide science with the necessary mass base in society. In the final analysis, the progress of science—and the progress of humanity as a whole—depends on the resurgence of a new revolutionary movement of the working class. The socialist movement unites under its banner both the pursuit of scientific truth in all its forms and the struggle for human equality.

Statement of the Socialist Equality Party


A socialist response to Brexit

No to British nationalism and the European Union!

By Chris Marsden
25 March 2017

The following article is being distributed at today’s Unite for Europe demonstration in London.

With Prime Minister Theresa May set to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty on March 29, warnings as to the impact of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) abound.

May is touring the UK promising to “deliver a deal that works” for everyone and describing Wednesday’s beginning of the two year process of exiting the EU as a “historic event [that] will precipitate a shift in our role in the world and see Britain begin a bold new chapter as a prosperous, open and global nation.”

But she does so amid demands for a £57 billion “divorce” settlement from the EU, threats of punishment by the 27 remaining member states, reports of economic dislocation including banks such as Goldman Sachs and HSBC leaving London that in total threatens 230,000 finance jobs, and of a 92 percent fall in EU nationals registering as nurses in England.

The announcement will, moreover, be made under conditions in which the Scottish National Party-led parliament at Holyrood has made an official demand for a second independence referendum and with Sinn Fein in Ireland raising the issue of the continued status of Northern Ireland’s six counties as British territory.

It is against this background that the Unite for Europe national march to parliament has been organised.

There are clear and valid reasons for the concerns of those who will take part, including repugnance over the government’s refusal to guarantee the rights of EU nationals already residing in Britain. In addition, the attacks on such protests that are centred exclusively on the insistence that they are impermissible because they seek to flout the “public will,” as expressed in last year’s referendum, have wholly reactionary implications.

Dissent with the result among the 48 percent who voted against Brexit is entirely legitimate and its suppression has nothing to do with a genuine concern for democracy. It merely gives carte blanche to the reactionary pro-Brexit wing of the British ruling class to complete what they describe glowingly as the “Thatcher revolution,” based on slashing corporation tax and public spending while stepping up the exploitation of the working class to ensure that the UK business can go “out of Europe and into the world.”

However, neither are those individuals and political tendencies leading the Unite for Europe protest and the broader opposition to Brexit the “friends” of democracy and “progressive values,” or the future of the younger generation, as they claim to be. Their sole genuine and overriding concern is that alienating the UK from Europe, above all exclusion from the Single Market, is damaging to the interests of Britain’s capitalists. Everything else they say, centred as it is on a politically degraded apologia for the EU, is moral effluvia and lies.

That is why, having first opposed efforts to “incite hate and divide communities,” etc., the number one demand of Unite for Europe’s “open conversation where the UK’s civil society is consulted and where Parliament or the people have the final say on our future” is: “We want to remain a member of the Single Market.”

In the Brexit referendum campaign, the Socialist Equality Party refused to support either a Remain or a Leave vote because neither represented the interest of working people. We called instead for an active boycott and dedicated our efforts above all to explaining the fundamental issues posed for workers, not just in Britain but throughout Europe.

We wrote that the EU “is not an instrument for realising the genuine and necessary unification of Europe”, but rather “a mechanism for the subjugation of the continent to the dictates of the financial markets…”

The EU and its constituent governments have spent years imposing a social counterrevolution on Europe’s workers through unending cuts in jobs, wages and social conditions–in the process impoverishing millions and bankrupting entire countries.

As to associating the EU with “free movement,” its proper designation is that of “Fortress Europe.” It is a continent surrounded by razor wire, concrete walls and concentration camps, whose leaders have the blood of thousands of desperate refugees—forced to flee the consequences of wars waged by the US, Britain and Europe—on their hands.

It is for this reason that the xenophobia whipped up by Brexit finds its corollary throughout Europe, above all in the rise of fascistic movements such as the National Front in France.

Likewise, the claim of Unite for Europe, whose real leadership is an alliance between the Blairite right of the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats—to be “resisting” not only “hard Brexit” but also US President Donald Trump—is equally bogus.

It is essential to distinguish between genuine popular opposition to Trump’s nationalism, militarism, racism and misogyny and the use that it is being put to by the pro-Remain forces. They view Trump’s presidency and May’s alliance with him as antithetical to the interests of British imperialism for two related reasons:

· His “America First” doctrine makes Trump an active opponent of the EU, because he sees it as a trade rival dominated by Germany that must be curbed.

· He has expressed reservations over the US commitment to NATO and the focus of the previous Obama administration on stoking up military hostilities with Russia, when China should be America’s main concern.

The response to this among Trump’s political opponents—the Democrats in the US and the European powers led by Berlin—is wholly reactionary.

On both sides of the Atlantic, the main charge levelled against Trump is that he is a stooge of Russian President Vladimir Putin for opposing NATO’s military build-up on Europe’s borders. In Europe, all talk is of building an independent military capability to project the interests of the major powers on the world arena—combined with efforts to capitalise on US hostilities with Beijing by signing trade deals that make a clash with Washington ever more certain.

To side with the EU against Trump is therefore to tie the working class to an escalating drive towards trade war and militarism that can only mean accelerated austerity and a potentially catastrophic confrontation with Russia.

Brexit, Trump and the ongoing fracturing of the EU along national lines are all rooted in the irreconcilable contradiction of capitalism that twice in the 20th century plunged Europe and the world into war—between the integrated and global character of production and the division of the world into antagonistic nation states.

Following the Second World War, the European powers, with the support of the US, sought to stabilise the continent and regulate such hitherto disastrous national rivalries through ever-closer economic and political integration.

This project has failed and cannot be revived. Only the unified and independent political mobilisation of the working class against all factions of the bourgeoisie, in Britain, Europe and internationally, offers a way forward.

The task at hand is the struggle for a workers’ government in Britain and the United Socialist States of Europe within a world federation of socialist states.

An essential foundation for such a movement is the conscious rejection by the most thoughtful elements—above all by young people attracted to the pro-EU protest due to its support for “free movement” and declared hostility to xenophobia—of all efforts to divide the working class along pro- and anti-Brexit lines.



Clinton primary contest losses intensify Democratic Party crisis


28 March 2016

Bernie Sanders scored landslide victories over Hillary Clinton in Democratic Party caucuses held Saturday in Washington state, Hawaii and Alaska.

The scale of the defeats for Clinton, the presumptive front-runner in the contest for the presidential nomination, was overwhelming in all three states. In Washington’s caucuses, Sanders beat Clinton by 73 percent to 27 percent. In Alaska, the margin was 82 percent to 18 percent. Sanders won the Hawaii caucuses by 70 percent to 30 percent.

The Vermont senator has won six of the last seven Democratic Party contests, including last Tuesday’s victories in Utah and Idaho. Clinton won in Arizona the same day.

Turnout for the weekend caucuses, which generally involve far fewer participants than elections, approached or exceeded records set in 2008, including at least 225,000 in Washington. A report in the Atlantic noted that Sanders “won from wall to wall,” adding, “He took every county in Washington, and in Alaska, he posted double-digit margins in all 40 districts.”

These votes have deepened the political crisis in the Democratic Party. Even a Clinton victory over a candidate who describes himself as “socialist,” if the margin of victory were small, would be of great significance. During the 1968 Democratic Party primary campaign, which unfolded amidst growing opposition to the Vietnam War, Senator Eugene McCarthy’s performance in the New Hampshire primary, in which he won 42 percent to Lyndon B. Johnson’s 49 percent, was considered a near-fatal blow to the sitting president. It helped precipitate Johnson’s decision to withdraw from the presidential race three weeks later.

It is extraordinary that Clinton, who has emerged as the political personification of the status quo, is not only losing, but being trounced in so many states. She is being routed in many contests under conditions where she is presented as the all-but-inevitable winner of the nomination process. Her defeats are a repudiation of calls from leading Democratic Party officials, including President Obama, for Sanders to end his campaign. In a political system that was in any way responsive to popular discontent, Clinton’s candidacy would be considered doomed.

The general media line notwithstanding, the issue is not so much who has the most delegates, but the political dynamic at work. Even if Sanders is not able to surpass Clinton’s still sizable lead, due to a significant degree to the pledges of so-called “super delegates”—party operatives, officeholders and politicians who are not elected in primaries and caucuses—it will be impossible to conceal the fact that the Democratic Party’s standard-bearer is deeply unpopular.

The eventual outcome of the nomination process—for both the Democrats and Republicans—remains highly volatile and unpredictable. What is clear, however, is that the two-party system, through which the American capitalist class has exercised its rule nearly 150 years, is breaking apart.

The social anger that has built up over decades, vastly intensified since the crash of 2008, is beginning to find political expression. The United States is riven by extreme levels of social inequality, with a handful of billionaires controlling more wealth than the bottom half of the population. To this must be added the destabilizing consequences of a quarter-century of unending war, particularly in the decade-and-a-half of the “war on terror.”

More and more, this underlying reality is breaking through the ossified structure of American politics. Expressing the shock this has produced within the political establishment, the New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof recently made the remarkable admission that he—along with the rest of the media—“were largely oblivious to the pain among working class Americans.”

While Kristof was referring to the support for Trump among sections of workers, the basic trajectory of the American working class is not to the right, but to the left.

Support for Sanders is the initial expression of a broadly felt anticapitalist sentiment among workers, and particularly among younger voters who have seen nothing but economic crisis and war for their entire politically conscious lives. Sanders, who has had far less media coverage than the other major candidates, has received 1.5 million votes from those under 30 in the primary process prior to Saturday, 300,000 more than Clinton and Trump combined.

These numbers express deeper social trends and corresponding changes in political consciousness. A survey by YouGov released earlier this year found that Americans under the age of 30 rated socialism as better than capitalism (43 percent had a favorable opinion of socialism versus 32 percent who had a favorable opinion of capitalism). Sixteen percent of those under the age of 30 described themselves as socialist, while only 11 percent said they were capitalist.

Another recent poll found that among those age 18 to 35, 56.5 percent described themselves as “working class”—a term that is virtually proscribed in American politics and banned from the media. The percentage of those describing themselves as “middle class” has fallen steadily, from 45.6 percent in 2002 to a record low 34.8 percent in 2014.

While the evident willingness of millions of American workers and young people to consider socialism as an alternative to the existing capitalist system has come as a shock to the political establishment, this development is a striking confirmation of the political program and perspective published by the Socialist Equality Party in 2010. The SEP anticipated a profound shift in the political consciousness of the working class:

In the final analysis, the vast wealth and power of American capitalism was the most significant objective cause of the subordination of the working class to the corporate-controlled two-party system. As long as the United States was an ascending economic power, perceived by its citizens as “the land of unlimited opportunity,” in which a sufficient share of the national wealth was available to finance rising living standards, American workers were not convinced of the necessity of socialist revolution.

The change in the objective conditions, however, will lead American workers to change their minds. The reality of capitalism will provide workers with many reasons to fight for a fundamental and revolutionary change in the economic organization of society. The younger generation of working people – those born in the 1980s, 1990s, and the first decade of the twenty-first century – do not know, and will never know, capitalist “prosperity.” They are the first generation of Americans in modern times who cannot reasonably expect to achieve a living standard equal to, let alone better than, their parents’ generation.” [The Breakdown of Capitalism and the Fight for Socialism in the United States]

The scale of his support has taken the Sanders campaign itself by surprise. It reflects an emerging revolutionary potential that is entirely unacceptable to the candidate and the mildly reformist sections of the Democratic Party establishment for which he speaks. It has never been Sanders’ intention or desire to lead a popular movement against capitalism. From the beginning, his campaign was intended to serve as a safety valve for the political establishment.

As the campaign progresses, the contradiction between Sanders’ own objectives and the aims of those who have supported him will inevitably emerge. Aware of the dangers involved, Sanders spoke out of both sides of his mouth in interviews over the weekend. Asked whether he had any conditions for endorsing Clinton if she won the nomination—including that she support his campaign planks of Medicare for all, a $15 minimum wage and free tuition at public colleges—Sanders evaded the question. He said it was a “misinterpretation of what I said” to suggest that there were any conditions, while refraining from saying directly that he would back Clinton.

But when he announced his bid for the Democratic nomination last year, Sanders pledged to support the eventual nominee, whoever he or she was. And in the course of the primary contests, he repeatedly promoted his campaign as the most effective means of increasing the turnout for the Democratic Party in the November general election.

Sanders’ campaign slogans—denouncing the “billionaire class” and a political system dominated by corporate money—address only certain surface aspects of American society, but by no means go to the source of mass discontent—the capitalist system itself.

The issues that are driving the working class into political struggle—the fight against war, inequality and the destruction of democratic rights—cannot be resolved without a decisive break with the Democratic Party and the building of an independent political movement of the working class on the basis of a genuinely socialist program. This means a fight to unite workers throughout the world in a common struggle to overturn the capitalist system, replacing it with a rationally planned and democratically controlled economy based on social need, not private profit.


Joseph Kishore

Sanders and the left feint in capitalist politics

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 16, 2015, to discuss Republican efforts to cut Social Security and Medicare and other programs that have an impact on working families. Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, became the ranking minority member on the Senate Budget Committee when the new GOP-controlled Congress began. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

6 February 2016

Four days before the first presidential primary election, self-styled “democratic socialist” Bernie Sanders holds a double-digit lead in New Hampshire over the presumed frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

The first national poll taken in the wake of Sanders’s virtual tie with Clinton in the Iowa caucuses showed that the senator from Vermont had surged nationally, trailing Clinton by only a narrow margin, 44 percent to 42 percent. If confirmed in subsequent polling, this would signal a remarkable shift in political sentiment compared to three months ago, when Clinton led Sanders by 61 percent to 30 percent.

The growing support for Sanders signals a dramatic change in the political environment in the United States, and hence, the world. It is all the more remarkable in a country where socialist ideas have been suppressed and excluded from official political discourse for three-quarters of a century.

The past three decades, in particular, have seen an extraordinary lowering of political culture, even by the standards of American politics. The political environment has been utterly stagnant, dominated by a relentless glorification of wealth and the exclusion of anything that smacks of genuine opposition. Every State of the Union address, including President Obama’s last month, has carried the obligatory assurance of how good things are in America.

The corporate media have perfected the art of creating a synthetic public opinion that bears no relation to the real sentiments of the vast bulk of the population, and then using that supposed public consensus to justify the reactionary policies of the ruling class. The broad support for Sanders and the crisis of the supposedly unbeatable Clinton campaign, which have taken the entire political and media establishment by surprise, have exposed the fraudulent character of what has passed for public opinion.

Particularly noteworthy is the radicalization among young people, who sided with Sanders over Clinton in the Iowa caucuses by 84 percent to 14 percent. Sanders leads Clinton by similar margins among likely Democratic primary voters 30 and under in New Hampshire, according to the most recent polls.

As Washington Post columnist Catherine Rampell grudgingly admitted in the Friday edition of the newspaper, the current generation of youth, to which she belongs, “love Sanders not despite his socialism, but because of it… Many of us also entered the job market just as unbridled capitalism appeared to blow up the world economy. Perhaps for this reason, millennials actually seem to prefer socialism to capitalism.”

The support for Sanders is inextricably linked to his professions of intransigent hostility to the financial aristocracy that dominates American society. In Thursday night’s debate in New Hampshire, Sanders declared again that “the business model of Wall Street is fraud,” while reiterating his criticisms of Clinton for accepting millions in campaign contributions and speaker’s fees from Goldman Sachs and other major financial institutions. The entire first hour of the debate was devoted to a discussion of the pernicious role of big business and whether the major banks should be broken up to prevent a recurrence of the 2008 Wall Street crash.

The rise of Sanders is a response to decades of war and reaction, culminating in the financial collapse of 2008, with its devastating impact on social conditions in the United States. As the consequences of the global crisis of capitalism have unfolded—the destruction of decent-paying jobs, the austerity policies of capitalist governments throughout the world, the buildup of the forces of a police state to suppress working class opposition, and the unending series of wars by American imperialism—tens of millions of workers and youth have begun to draw increasingly radical conclusions.

There are signs of panic setting in within the Clinton campaign and the Democratic Party establishment as a whole. This is not because they view Sanders himself as a threat to capitalism or the political domination of the corporate-financial elite. The ruling class has a long experience with the “independent socialist” from Vermont. For decades, first in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate, he has caucused with the Democratic Party and supported every Democratic presidential candidate and every Democratic administration.

Always treated respectfully, he has been seen as a valuable political asset, providing a left cover for the Democratic Party and promoting the illusion that this right-wing capitalist party is somehow a progressive party of the people.

However, the popular credibility of the Democrats has been massively undermined by seven years of the Obama administration. In this situation, the grave danger confronting the American capitalist class is the emergence of a political movement outside the two-party system that challenges the domination of the super-rich over every aspect of US society. Bernie Sanders is not the herald of such a movement, but a false prophet who is neither genuinely socialist nor genuinely independent.

The Socialist Equality Party evaluates the significance of the Sanders campaign not by its campaign promises, or the illusions of those who now support him, but on the basis of a Marxist analysis of objective class relations and a historically grounded international perspective.

The rise of the Vermont “socialist” is not purely an American phenomenon, but the American expression of an international process. In country after country, under the impact of the global economic crisis of capitalism, the ruling class has brought forward “left” bourgeois parties to divert mass opposition into harmless channels. This is the role of figures like Jeremy Corbyn, the newly elected leader of the Labour Party in Britain, and Podemos in Spain, now maneuvering to form a coalition government with the discredited social democrats. In the most extreme cases, as in Greece, the “left” has been brought directly into power, in the form of the Syriza government, and charged with the responsibility of imposing capitalist austerity policies on the masses.

Leon Trotsky, the co-leader of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, explained how the ruling class manipulates the political system within the framework of bourgeois democracy. “The capitalist bourgeois calculates,” he wrote, “’At the right moment I will bring into existence opposition parties, which will disappear tomorrow, but which today accomplish their mission by affording the possibility of the lower middle class expressing their indignation without hurt therefrom for capitalism’” (Terrorism and Communism, p. 58).

If the American financial aristocracy thought Sanders represented a genuine threat to its interests, it would not be putting him on national television to deliver his jeremiads before a mass audience. The ruling elite has more than a century of experience in the use of such figures to manipulate mass sentiment and safeguard the profit system from challenges from below. These include third-party efforts like the Populist Party of the 1890s, the Progressive movement of the early 20th century, the Farmer-Labor Party of Robert La Follette in Wisconsin in the 1920s (and related groups in Minnesota and the Dakotas) and the Progressive Party of Henry Wallace in 1948. All these campaigns dissolved, sooner or later, back into the Democratic Party.

In the past half-century, the ruling elite has sought to avoid any significant “left” third-party efforts, using the Democratic Party itself as the principal vehicle for containing and dissipating mass popular opposition to the US ruling elite, whether over the Vietnam War, the violent attacks on labor struggles in the 1980s, or the endless wars in the Middle East and the staggering growth of social inequality. Eugene McCarthy and Robert Kennedy in 1968 and George McGovern in 1972 were followed by Jesse Jackson in 1984 and 1988, Howard Dean in 2004, and now Bernie Sanders.

Considered in this historical framework, what is remarkable about Sanders is how vacuous his supposed radicalism really is. He is far less radical in his domestic policy than the Populists, the anti-Wall Street presidential campaigns of William Jennings Bryan, and the Farmer-Laborites. In the crucial area of foreign policy, he is virtually indistinguishable from Obama and Hillary Clinton, even attacking them from the right on issues like trade with China. When asked directly last year about his attitude to US military intervention abroad, he declared he was for “drones, all that and more.”

If Sanders goes on to win the Democratic nomination and the presidency, he will betray the aspirations of his supporters flagrantly and with extraordinary speed. A thousand excuses will be brought forward to explain why the wars must continue abroad and nothing can be done to rein in Wall Street at home.

Sanders is not the representative of a working class movement. He is rather the temporary beneficiary of a rising tide of popular opposition that is passing through only its initial stages of social and class differentiation.

The Socialist Equality Party welcomes every sign of a leftward movement and radicalization among workers and youth. The objective conditions of capitalist crisis and imperialist war are the driving forces of a profound leftward shift in the consciousness of tens of millions. But there is nothing more contemptible than to patronize and adapt to the illusions that characterize the present, initial stage in the development of class consciousness and popular opposition. That is the specialty of the various pseudo-left appendages of the ruling class and the Democratic Party.

It is legitimate for genuine socialists to adopt a sympathetic and patient attitude to the growth of popular opposition, but it is politically impermissible to politically adapt to the movement’s prevailing level of understanding. It is necessary to expose the contradiction between Sanders’ social demagogy and his bourgeois program, without suggesting that he can be pushed to the left by popular pressure from below.

The task taken up by the Socialist Equality Party is to open up a new path for the movement of the working class and lay the foundations for a broadening and deepening of the radicalization, breaking irrevocably from the Democratic Party and all forms of bourgeois politics and establishing the political independence of the working class. This is the essential basis for transforming the growing opposition into a conscious political and revolutionary movement for international socialism. The prerequisite for this task is to tell the working class the truth.

Patrick Martin

Green Party candidate launches US presidential campaign


By Patrick Martin
27 June 2015

Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party presidential candidate in 2012, announced June 22 that she will seek the party’s nomination for president in 2016. Stein made the announcement on the “Democracy Now” radio program in an interview with host Amy Goodman. This was followed by a formal declaration the next day in a speech at the National Press Club in Washington.

Stein is not a socialist, and the word “socialist” was never spoken in the interview or speech and appears nowhere in her campaign literature. She is running as a capitalist candidate seeking to reform American capitalism. She uses the language traditional to American populism, both right and left, contrasting Main Street to Wall Street.

Perhaps the most remarkable feature of Stein’s campaign is its parochialism. The world outside the borders of the United States might as well be invisible. In her interview, speech and campaign program, the words Syria, Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and Ukraine do not appear. China, Russia, Europe and Africa do not rate a mention. There are a few references to immigrants, but not to any of the countries they come from, or what drives them to seek refuge in the US.

There is no assessment made of the wars and military provocations which US imperialism has conducted for the past 25 years along the periphery of the former Soviet Union, from the Baltic States to Afghanistan. Insofar as Stein even addresses the question of military spending—she advocates a 50 percent reduction—it is essentially as a budgetary issue, not because the wars waged by the Pentagon are reactionary and criminal in character. Significantly, she brands Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a war criminal, but makes no such characterization of Barack Obama or George W. Bush, who have far more blood on their hands.

This exclusive focus on US domestic issues has a practical political benefit for the Green candidate, since she can pass in diplomatic silence over the reactionary record of fellow Green Party leaders who have entered capitalist governments around the world. From Germany to Australia, Greens have carried out capitalist policies of austerity, cutting jobs and social spending—the exact reverse of what the Green Party candidate claims to stand for in the United States.

The Green record on foreign policy is even worse. The German Greens opened the door to the reemergence of German imperialism, spearheading the deployment of German troops to the Balkans and Afghanistan. Green politicians are supporting imperialist intervention in Iraq and Syria, the US “pivot to Asia” against China, the preparations of NATO for military conflict with Russia over Ukraine, and the impoverishment of the Greek working people under the boot of the IMF and European Union.

More fundamentally, Stein’s silence on virtually all foreign policy questions is a signal to the US ruling class. The US Green Party will do nothing to challenge the global interests of American imperialism. Like its counterparts worldwide, the US Greens seek to gain access to the halls of power by reassuring those who really call the shots in American politics—Wall Street and the military-intelligence apparatus.

There is much in Stein’s domestic program that could attract popular support among American workers and youth. “Guarantee economic human rights, including access to food, water, housing, and utilities,” she urges, along with “economic rights for everyone—the right to a job, the right to complete healthcare through a Medicare for All… the right to quality education, from preschool through college, and that includes free public higher education and abolishing student debt.”

But like a snazzy car that unfortunately lacks an engine, the Green candidate fails to explain how such a program of social rights can be realized economically. Apparently, according to the Greens, this program can be accomplished within the framework of capitalism, without disturbing or even greatly inconveniencing the capitalist ruling elite.

The Socialist Equality Party calls for the realization of basic social rights: to a job, a living wage, health care, education, housing, a secure retirement. But we make clear that these rights, essential for a decent life in an advanced society, are incompatible with capitalist property relations. These rights can be achieved only through the confiscation of the wealth of the financial aristocracy, the nationalization of the major corporations and banks, and the reorganization of economic life under the democratic control of working people.

For the Green Party, however, these social rights are pie in the sky promises to workers that can be achieved without overthrowing the profit system, and even without any significant struggle, other than voting for Green candidates.

Stein declares, “Our Power to the People Plan lays out these solutions in a blueprint to move our economy from the greed and exploitation of corporate capitalism to a human-centered system that puts people, planet and peace over profit.” But when spelled out in detail, this “blueprint” consists of nothing more radical than breaking up the largest banks and supporting the development of cooperatives and small businesses, as well as efforts to “make Wall Street, big corporations, and the rich pay their fair share of taxes.”

There is no reference to wealth redistribution, a staple even of liberal Democratic Party candidates in the era of the New Deal and Great Society, but now banned from official capitalist politics, which includes the Greens. This reveals something about the class foundation of the Green Party. It is a creation of layers of the upper-middle class, living in comfortable circumstances and possessed of a certain degree of private wealth. The Greens are motivated largely by environmental and lifestyle concerns, not by the desperate struggle for economic survival that confronts the vast majority of working class families.

Much of Stein’s interview with Amy Goodman was taken up with discussion of her attitude to “left” Democratic candidates such as Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who is challenging frontrunner Hillary Clinton for the Democratic Party presidential nomination.

Sanders, despite his occasional misuse of the label “socialist,” is nothing more than a liberal Democrat with conventional views about setting modest limits on the power of the biggest banks and corporations, while supporting the worldwide military operations of American imperialism and its client states such as Israel.

Stein hailed the initial support won by Sanders, declaring, “It’s wonderful, and I wish him well. I wish him the best.” She dodged a direct question about whether she would support Sanders if he should run as an independent candidate for president, suggesting instead, “If we were both running as Greens, you know, we would have probably been in a Green primary, which would have been wonderful.”

She continued, “I wish that he had run outside the Democratic Party. There are many similarities, obviously, between his vision and my vision…” She added that “in the Democratic Party, we’ve seen wonderful efforts—Jesse Jackson, Dennis Kucinich, Al Sharpton—who had extremely vigorous, spirited, visionary campaigns.”

The problem with these campaigns, Stein concluded, was that “It’s very hard to beat the system inside of the Democratic Party. And, you know, when those efforts ended, that was the end. Ours will keep going, and it will continue into the general election. And when it’s over, we’re building a party that’s not going away.”

What is most noteworthy here is that Stein does not distinguish herself or the Greens from Sanders, Jackson, Kucinich or Sharpton in terms of political program. They are bourgeois politicians who defend capitalism and American imperialism, and so is she. The difference is that they do so within the framework of the Democratic Party, one of the two traditional parties of bourgeois rule in America, while Stein seeks to create a new political prop for bourgeois rule outside the two-party system.

Pressed by Goodman to elaborate on policy differences with Sanders, Stein exhibited a bad conscience, first conceding that the differences were small, then trying to correct herself.

“You know, certainly I have more in common with Bernie Sanders than differences,” she said. “I think if you had to look for differences, you would find them in foreign policy, where my campaign is perhaps more critical—I would say definitely more critical—of funding for regimes like that of the Netanyahu government, which are clearly war criminals.”

She continued, “These are, you know, small, big. I mean, foreign policy, I think, is big. It tends to be one issue among many, but it is the majority of our discretionary expenditures, and it’s really inseparable from all the other critical issues that we’re trying to solve.”

Stein spelled out in her interview with Goodman the essential perspective of middle-class “radical” politics in the United States: that protest in the streets and pressure from ethnic minorities, gays, women, trade unionists and others can compel the Democratic Party—or even the Republicans—to enact meaningful reforms.

“It’s important to remember what we did under Richard Nixon, as demonic a Republican as any,” she said. “We did amazing things: on women’s rights, the war, establishing the EPA and the Clean Air Act. We did that because we mobilized, and political activism became a way of life. It’s going to have to be again.”

Stein also revealed how the aspirations of the US Greens have been whetted by the electoral success of the Syriza party in Greece, a coalition of Stalinist and pseudo-left groups, including the Greens. “We wouldn’t presume that the odds are in our favor at this point, but the odds are shifting,” she told Goodman. “Let’s test those waters! Let’s find out! Who would have thought that Syriza would go from 3 percent to 70 percent in five years? We need to get started.”

Neither Stein nor Goodman mentioned that Syriza has cruelly betrayed those who voted for it, capitulating to the austerity demands of the European Union and the IMF and imposing cut after cut on Greek workers, youth and pensioners.

Just after this reference to Syriza, Stein said, “At some point, the tide is going to turn, and it may turn after there are 100 Katrinas up and down all of our coasts, but it’s somewhere along the line.”

What a perspective! Perhaps after 100 Katrinas—destroying 100 American cities, killing tens of thousands and displacing millions—the American people will finally be jolted from their political lethargy. Here, in unvarnished form, is the reactionary pessimism of the upper-middle class ex-radical, disappointed that nothing has come of their decades of engagement in protest politics. The underlying premise is that the fault lies with the workers, who haven’t suffered enough.

There is no question that as a mass movement against capitalism emerges in the United States, rooted in the working class, the attitude of groups like the Greens will be fundamentally hostile. They will prop up the left wing of the Democratic Party, or, failing that, seek to divert the workers into some new bourgeois political trap, such as Syriza in Greece.

The fight to establish the political independence of the working class from all forms of capitalist politics requires an intransigent struggle to unmask the political representatives of the upper-middle class, including the Greens.

The Bernie Sanders campaign and the American pseudo-left


By Tom Hall
6 June 2015

In the aftermath of the announcement by “independent” Senator Bernie Sanders that he is seeking the Democratic Party nomination for US president, the various groups that comprise the American pseudo-left have engaged in a debate over the best tactical approach to the Sanders campaign.

One of the central tasks of the Sanders campaign is to attempt to inflate illusions in the Democratic Party after more than six years of the Obama administration. While occasionally presenting himself as a “socialist” and making an appeal to deep anger over growing social inequality, Sanders has long functioned as a run-of-the-mill Democrat, caucusing with the party in Congress and backing the US military war machine. (See, “The right-wing political record of Bernie Sanders”)

Groups like the International Socialist Organization and Socialist Alternative, which operate in and around the periphery of the Democratic Party, see their own role as complementary to that of Sanders himself. Their aim is to promote the Democrats and do what they can to block an independent political movement of the working class.

Out of all the pseudo-left organizations, Socialist Alternative has arguably been the most open in its support for Sanders. They have adopted the position of integrating themselves directly into the Sanders campaign in order to exert “pressure” on him, arguing that he can be convinced through such means to run as an independent if and when he inevitably loses the nomination.

Such a campaign, they argue, would be a potentially epoch-making political event. In a May 9 article titled “Bernie Sanders calls for Political Revolution against Billionaires,” Socialist Alternative member Philip Locker writes that an independent campaign could “open up a completely new chapter in US politics, acting as a huge impetus towards the building of a new political force to represent the 99%.”

Locker openly admits that running as an independent “would go against Sanders’ stated intention and his general political approach,” but, he writes, “it cannot be excluded. It will be influenced by how events unfold and how much pressure Sanders comes under from his own supporters demanding that he continue running in the general election rather than endorse Clinton.”

There is a definite progression in Socialist Alternative’s writings on Sanders before and after the announcement of his candidacy. In a March 4 article, SA’s Tom Crean declared that, should Sanders decide to run as a Democrat rather than continue his decades-old “independent” charade, it would represent “a lost opportunity to build a left political alternative to the two-party system.”

Barely a month later, the same writer struck a more conciliatory pose as it became increasingly clear that Sanders had made up his mind. “Socialist Alternative welcomes the fact that Sanders is seeking a dialogue with progressive and left activists inside and outside the Democratic Party about whether he should run, and, if so, whether he should run in the Democratic primaries or as an independent left candidate.” [emphasis added] He concluded, so as not to create the appearance of impropriety, by declaring that “our most pressing difference with Sanders is on the Democratic Party.”

Following Sanders’ formal announcement, SA rushed to present the campaign in the most glowing terms possible. The May 9 article cited above proclaimed that Sanders “has launched an insurgent campaign for President.” It adds that Sanders’ decision to run as a Democrat is “unfortunate,” but hastens to add that his campaign “stands in sharp contrast to the waffling and empty rhetoric of Hillary Clinton and other establishment politicians.”

Lest there be any ambiguity, the supposedly “socialist” organization declares that it “welcomes Sanders’ decision to run for President.” As for Sanders’ program, it is presented in glowing terms, with caveats along the following lines: “Regrettably, he did not oppose the war in Afghanistan and failed to oppose the recent Israeli massacre in Gaza.” These, however, are only minor issues!

Socialist Alternative’s criticism of Sanders for running openly as a Democrat is entirely tactical in character. They would prefer that he run as an independent, the better to channel opposition and contain it within a framework that is not at all threatening to the ruling class and the capitalist system. Phrase mongering about “pressuring” Sanders to the left, which was used seven years ago in reference to Barack Obama, is only window dressing to cover their prostration to the Democratic Party.

In fact, for all the talk of “independence,” Socialist Alternative has for some time consciously sought to develop intimate and direct ties with the Democratic Party. In February, Socialist Alternative’s Seattle city councilwoman Kshama Sawant was caught on video attending a fundraiser and birthday party for local Democratic Party leader, King County Councilmember Larry Gossett. When pressed by the protesters who recorded the video, Sawant retorted that Gossett “has been the ally of working people for a long time,” despite his recent vote to approve a $200 million juvenile detention center.

The craven prostration of Socialist Alternative has provoked a debate, albeit of an entirely friendly character, with their co-thinkers at the International Socialist Organization. The ISO is concerned that aligning itself too closely with such an obvious political sham would be counterproductive. For its part, the ISO is signaling that it would prefer to back a presidential campaign by the Green Party.

At the same time, the ISO makes clear that they have no principled opposition to Bernie Sanders’ politics. Indeed, last month the ISO and Socialist Alternative cosponsored a conference in Chicago, the “Left Electoral Action Conference,” in which representatives of the Sanders campaign participated. Nor do they have any genuine principled dispute with Socialist Alternative over the issue of the Democratic Party. Both organizations backed Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, a Cook County commissioner and longtime staple in the local Democratic Party, for Chicago mayor, hailing him as a “progressive” alternative to the eventual winner and former Obama chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel.

The ISO writes in an article appearing on their Socialist Worker website on May 27 entitled “A socialist FAQ on Bernie Sanders and the left,” that “[while] [w]e do support many of Sanders’ proposals for reform…[w]e also disagree with Sanders’ support for apartheid Israel and his failure to consistently challenge [!] U.S. imperialism, his weak position on the issue of racist police violence, and his support for restrictions on immigrant rights.” But, they hasten to add, “the question for us isn’t mostly about the ‘purity’ of Sanders’ political positions,” they write. “The crux of our objection is Sanders’ decision to run for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, and to promise in advance that he will endorse the mainstream Democrat who will all but certainly defeat him.”

All the political narrowness and disdain for principled politics that define the politics of the pseudo-left are encapsulated in this statement, which is apparently intended to mark them out as principled opponents of the Democratic Party. The “decisive” issue for the ISO is not that Sanders’ politics is completely hostile to the interests of the working class (and his right-wing record is here referred to only in passing, as an issue of purely secondary importance, of “purity”), but the formal avenue in which he is now peddling them.

For principled Marxists, the decisive question in appraising a political tendency is not formal membership in the Democratic Party but, as the Socialist Equality Party wrote in its Statement of Principles, “their history, program, perspective, and class basis and orientation. By ridiculing such considerations as dogmatic “purity,” the ISO demonstrates that it is not socialist at all, but instead represents a narrow layer of the upper middle class interested only in making themselves more comfortable under capitalism.

At any rate, countless third parties and “independent” political movements have sprung up throughout the history of the United States that serve only to channel popular opposition back into the Democratic Party, including Sanders’ “independent” congressional campaigns, the Green Party, and, one might add, the ISO and Socialist Alternative themselves.

Instead of supporting the Sanders’ campaign, the ISO is apparently preparing to provide support to the eventual Green Party nominee. In their tactical criticisms of Socialist Alternative, they have consistently held up the ISO’s support for various Green Party campaigns, such as Ralph Nader’s presidential campaigns and the New York gubernatorial campaign last fall by Howie Hawkins, as models to be emulated. These campaigns themselves functioned largely as pressure valves for the Democratic Party.

Indeed, last week the ISO opened up Socialist Worker to Hawkins to denounce Sanders as being “no Eugene Debs.” In that article, Hawkins echoed the ISO’s tepid criticisms by declaring that “[Sanders’] positions on the issues is secondary to the question of whether his politics are helping the working class act for itself or subsume itself under the big business interests in charge of the Democratic Party.”

The essence of the ISO’s position was further revealed in the article, “Can the Democratic Party be Used for Good?” Like many of the ISO’s programmatic articles, it treats as an open question something that would not even be a legitimate subject of debate among genuine Marxists. The article makes clear that, while the ISO feels compelled to formally distance itself from the Sanders campaign, there is no line they will not cross if they find that it suits their purposes.

Author Danny Katch begins by writing that the Democratic Party is “one of the most criminal enterprises the modern world has ever known.” If that is the case, and it most certainly is, how can one seriously pose the question in the title?

“Can the Democratic Party be transformed from within?” Katch asks rhetorically. “The honest approach to answering this question,” Katch replies, “is deciding whether our energy is best spent trying to overcome the tremendous obstacles to building an independent left-wing party or trying to overcome the tremendous obstacles to transform the Democratic Party from the inside,” to which he humbly responds that “my money is on the former.” In other words, the question is reduced for him to one of tactics, not of principled political considerations based on an appraisal of the class character of the Democratic Party, much less the fight for an independent revolutionary program.

In any case, the ISO makes clear that it will continue its practice of working with the Democratic Party (and the trade unions and “civil rights” organizations that help buttress it) in the form of close collaboration with the Sanders campaign. “Of course, we should work alongside Sanders supporters in labor, political and social struggles,” Katch concludes. “We can applaud their opposition to a political system that is thoroughly rigged by big money donors and the corporate media. But socialists should talk to them not just about corporate domination of politics, but why imperialism, racism—and ultimately Democratic Party itself—are vital to that domination.”

Both the ISO and Socialist Alternative orient themselves completely around the middle-class supporters of the Democratic Party because this is the layer they speak for. Despite the minor variations in their tactical approach, both are resolutely opposed to a class analysis of the Sanders campaign, of the Democratic Party, of the world situation as a whole. Notwithstanding their current mild criticisms of Obama, both promoted Obama and declared his election to be a “historic” (ISO) transformation of American politics.

No small element in their obsession with Sanders is the prospect that his campaign in one way or another opens up the possibility of securing lucrative positions within and around the Democratic Party and the unions.

Nothing frightens these organizations more than the prospect of an independent revolutionary working-class movement. Instead, they aim to carve out “political space,” in order to serve as a roadblock for such a movement. That is the meaning behind the “debate” over the Sanders campaign.