The rapidly changing times demand that we in the League of Revolutionaries for a New America master the practice of summing up our discussions in order to use them as a foundation for moving our analysis on to the next stage of development. In order to assure that we are talking about the same things, we should spell out some of the terms we will be using. First, what is a General Line? It is not a program. A program is a statement of how you do something. A general line is a statement of what you do. A proposal for a general line is for the movement rather than something that is imposed on individual organizations. If revolutionary organizations agree to such a line, they carry it out in their own way.
In Europe, at the beginnings of the communist movement, that struggle was clearly between the worker and the capitalist. With the development of imperialism the main aspect of the struggle shifted to the front between exploiter and exploited countries. During the 1920s and 1930s the front shifted to the struggle for democracy and against the fascist dictatorships. All of this was the collision of classes but the form it took constantly changed, demanding new statements of general line.
We are again undergoing a change in the form of the struggle. The deepening destructive phase of the social revolution is moving the struggle past anti-imperialism and into a new area. New conditions call for a new general line for the movement. In order to contribute to the spelling out of that line we first need to have a firm grasp on the situation.
Without needlessly repeating what we have agreed upon we should summarize our understanding. We have entered the beginning, destructive stage of a vast social revolution brought on by the transfer of social production from electro mechanical to electronics. The outstanding feature of this stage is irresolvable overproduction. Automated production within the wage-labor – value system polarizes society with unheard of wealth at one pole and unheard of poverty at the other. The antagonism is irresolvable within the system and the struggle moves from the economic level to the political, revolutionary level. This reality must guide any discussion on general line.
Even as the social democratic organizations denounce such an analysis, they are compelled to move toward some form of unity in order to influence the rapidly growing mass movement. Their first step is to propose a general line even as they deny the need for such a line. Ideas are being exchanged with the goal of uniting the "Left" around the general line of “fight the right.”
This is a catchy slogan, but the real world demands that slogans are a summation of reality and before we can accept or reject such a slogan we have to determine if it reflects reality.
Revolution, not fight the right
First we have to define what is the right. There is a right because there is a left and vice versa. Therefore the right and left belong to the same body. The working class movement or the trade union movement is not the left. They contain a right and a left. The working class and the capitalists are mutually inter dependent, but they are mutually exclusive. So therefore when we speak of the right and the left we are referring to one or the other entities.
Secondly, is the right or left an ideological position or a political one? Any dictionary, any book on politics will state that politics expresses economics – clears the way for the economy or a section of the economy to develop. Thus the Democratic Party was the political expression of the agrarian bourgeoisie and the rising industrial class had to create a new party, the Republican Party to represent its interests. Or in later times, the Roosevelt Coalition, which dominated the Party, was the political expression of international finance capital, and it stood against the Republicans, which were the expression of national finance capital. The point is the political right and left expressed definite sections of the capitalist class.
It is interesting to note that President Franklin Roosevelt once told one of his top aids that the Italian fascist dictator Benito Mussolini had a right wing fascist government where the corporations dominated the government, and added, "We need a Left wing fascist government where the government dominates the corporations." This is what “fight the right” means today, because no one is suggesting that the government can ever disengage from the corporations. Both the right and the left are fascist.
The question becomes – are there two economic centers of gravity in capitalism today? If the idea of right and left within the system does not hold water, the struggle then is between two hostile classes rather than between two groups within the ruling class.
We do not confuse the “right wing” ideological groupings with the stable fascist political groups that are based in the economy. Together they make up the fascist movement. In dealing with the Communist movement, the government carefully distinguished between the ideological “crazies” and the communist core that was attached to actual social and economic motion. We have to do the same thing. We are not going to get caught up the argument of the past period where the demonstrator is fighting the dog and the revolutionary is advising him to fight the policeman who controls the dog. As serious revolutionaries we must concentrate our fire at the fascist center of gravity while participating in the “battle for the streets.”
There will be some who will point to such political fights as over health care as an example of contradiction within the ruling class. Although there are tactical differences within the ruling class, there is no strategic difference. What we are seeing in the struggle around health care is the ongoing polarization of American society. This polarization is the necessary prelude to class struggle.
Any examination of the economy will show that the slogan "fight the right" is a dangerous denial of the reality that there is no longer any meaningful struggle between polarities within classes, but a growing struggle between economic classes. That struggle is not fight the right. That implies supporting one section of the capitalist class against another. We are dealing with the beginning stages of revolution.
Unity on a new foundation
While we must always try to learn from other countries, we must be constantly aware that the forms and specifics of the revolutionary movement in the U.S. will conform to American history. Revolutionaries instinctively reject any reference to American exceptionalism as an attack on science. The reality is that classes were clearly defined in Europe. This is not true of the United States. The mobility between classes that is a part of American life is almost unknown in Europe. For example, the billionaire who created the sub-prime mortgage scheme was the son of a butcher and the billionaire who developed the idea of packaging toxic assets with prime investments once worked at a fast food restaurant. This means we are going to go through a period of mass struggle before the class features become clear. Any discussion on general line has to take this reality into consideration.
The qualitatively new situation demands that the general line today is that the revolutionary movement should center upon the support and struggle for the concrete demands of the growing mass of dispossessed. Under previous conditions the political center of gravity shifted from the skilled craftsmen and trades to the growing new mass of industrial workers. The American Federation of Labor could not understand the significance of that shift and therefore began its decline. Today, the political center of gravity is shifting from the industrial workers, who, under attack from electronics and globalization, find themselves almost helpless, to that growing core of dispossessed workers who have the option of fighting or starving. This is crucial since they cannot win their demands within the system. Everything depends on them getting their jobs back. Those jobs are gone forever. So fighting for their concrete demands means educating and fighting against a system rather than against an employer.
How is such a general line implemented? First by understanding that the line of march of the revolution is basically from economic to political struggles. Concretely this means from demands against an employer to demands against the state. The bourgeoisie itself has and will give us the necessary openings to this fight. As revolutionaries, we have to train ourselves to recognize when the door is open.
Political Report of the Standing Committee of League of Revolutionaries for a New America, September 2009.
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