by Michael Roberts
The cryptocurrency craze seems to have taken a dive in recent
weeks since the Chinese authorities clamped down on speculation in the
bitcoin market. The history of financial markets is littered with asset
price bubbles, from tulips in the early-1600s to more recent examples,
such as internet stocks in the late-1990s and US house prices before
2008. This looks like another. The ascent of the virtual currency
bitcoin, which recently neared $5,000 and has risen about 350% this
year, has now turned round, dropping back to $3000, if still hugely
above its initial start. But it may be heading for a reckoning now.
Bitcoin aims at reducing transaction costs in internet payments and
completely eliminating the need for financial intermediaries ie banks.
But so far its main use has been for speculation. So is bitcoin, the
digital currency that operates on the internet, just a speculative scam,
another Ponzi-scheme, or is there more to the rise of all these
cryptocurrencies, as they are called?
Money in modern capitalism is no longer just a commodity like gold
but instead is a ‘fiat currency’, either in coin or notes, or now mostly
in credits in banks. Such fiat currencies are accepted because they
are printed and backed by governments and central banks and subject to
regulation and ‘fiat’. The vast majority of fiat money is no longer in
coin or notes but in deposits or claims on banks. In the UK, notes and
coin are just 2.1% of the £2.2 trillion total money supply.
The driver of bitcoin and other rival crypto currencies has been the
internet and growth of internet-based trading and transactions. The
internet has generated a requirement for low-cost, anonymous and rapidly
verifiable transactions to be used for online barter and fast settling
money has emerged as a consequence.
Cryptocurrencies aim to eliminate the need for financial
intermediaries by offering direct peer-to-peer (P2P) online payments.
The main technological innovation behind cryptocurrencies has been the
blockchain, a ‘ledger’ containing all transactions for every single unit
of currency. It differs from existing (physical or digital) ledgers in
that it is decentralized, i.e., there is no central authority verifying
the validity of transactions. Instead, it employs verification based on
cryptographic proof, where various members of the network verify
“blocks” of transactions approximately every 10 minutes. The incentive
for this is compensation in the form of newly “minted” cryptocurrency
for the first member to provide the verification.
By far the most widely known cryptocurrency is bitcoin, conceived by
an anonymous and mysterious programmer Satoshi Nakamoto just nine years
ago. Bitcoin is not localized to a particular region or country, nor is
it intended for use in a particular virtual economy. Because of its
decentralized nature, its circulation is largely beyond the reach of
direct regulation or monetary policy and oversight that has
traditionally been enforced in some manner with localized private monies
The blockchain’s main innovation is a public transaction record of
integrity without central authority. Blockchain technology offers
everyone the opportunity to participate in secure contracts over time,
but without being able to avoid a record of what was agreed at that
time. So a blockchain is a transaction database based on a mutual
distributed cryptographic ledger shared among all in a system. Fraud is
prevented through block validation. The blockchain does not require a
central authority or trusted third party to coordinate interactions or
validate transactions. A full copy of the blockchain contains every
transaction ever executed, making information on the value belonging to
every active address (account) accessible at any point in history.
Now for technology enthusiasts and also for those who want to build a
world out of the control of state machines and regulatory authorities,
this all sounds exciting. Maybe communities and people can make
transactions without the diktats of corrupt governments and control
their incomes and wealth away from the authorities – it might even be
the embryo of a post-capitalist world without states.
But is this new technology of blockchains and cryptocurrencies really
going to offer such a utopian new world? Like any technology it
depends on whether it reduces labour time and raises the productivity of
things and services (use values) or, under capitalism, whether it will
be another weapon for increasing value and surplus-value. Can
technology in of itself, even a technology that apparently is outside
the control of any company or government, really break people free from
the law of value?
I think not. For a start, bitcoin is limited to people with internet
connections. That means billions are excluded from the process, even
though mobile banking has grown in the villages and towns of ‘emerging
economies’. So far it is almost impossible to buy anything much with
bitcoin. Globally, bitcoin transactions are at about three per second
compared to Visa credit at 9000 a second. And setting up a ‘wallet’ to
conduct transactions in bitcoin on the internet is still a difficult
More decisively, the question is whether bitcoin actually meets the
criteria for money in modern economies. Money serves three functions
under capitalism, where things and services are produced as commodities
to sell on a market. Money has to be accepted as a medium of exchange.
It must be a unit of account with a fair degree of stability so that we
can compare the costs of goods and services over time and between
merchants. And it should also be a store of value that stays reasonably
stable over time. If hyperinflation or spiralling deflation sets in,
then a national currency soon loses its role as ‘trust’ in the currency
disappears. There are many examples in history of a national currency
being replaced by another or by gold (even cigarettes) when ‘trust’ in
its stability is lost.
The issue of trust is brought to a head with bitcoin as it relies on
“miners”, or members that contribute computational power to solve a
complex cryptographic problem and verify the transactions that have
occurred over a short period of time (10 minutes). These transactions
are then published as a block, and the miner who had first published the
proof receives a reward (currently 25 bitcoins). The maximum block size
is 1MB, which corresponds to approximately seven transactions per
second. In order to ensure that blocks are published approximately every
10 minutes, the network automatically adjusts the difficulty of the
cryptographic problem to be solved.
Bitcoin mining requires specialized equipment, as well as substantial
electricity costs and miners thus have to balance their technology and
energy investment. That means increasingly bitcoin could only work as
alternative replacement global currency if miners became large
operations. And that means large companies down the road, ones in the
hands of capitalist entities, who may well eventually be able to control
the bitcoin market. Also if bitcoin were to become as viable tender to
pay tax to government, it would then require some form of price
relationship with the existing fiat money supply. So governments will
still be there.
Indeed, the most startling obstacle to bitcoin or any other
cryptocurrency taking over is the energy consumption involved. Bitcoin
mining is already consuming energy for computer power more than the
annual consumption of Ireland. Temperatures near computer miner centres
have rocketed. Maybe this heat could be ecologically used but the
non-profitability of such energy recycling may well ‘block’ such
Capitalism is not ignoring blockchain technology. Indeed, like every
other innovation, it seeks to bring it under its control. Mutual
distributed ledgers (MDLs) in blockchain technology provide an
electronic public transaction record of integrity without central
ownership. The ability to have a globally available, verifiable and
untamperable source of data provides anyone wishing to provide trusted
third-party services, i.e., most financial services firms, the ability
to do so cheaply and robustly. Indeed, that is the road that large
banks and other financial institutions are going for. They are much
more interested in developing blockchain technology to save costs and
control internet transactions.
As one critic of blockchain points out: “First, we’re not
convinced blockchain can ever be successfully delinked from a coupon or
token pay-off component without compromising the security of the system.
Second, we’re not convinced the economics of blockchain work out for
anything but a few high-intensity use cases. Third, blockchain is always
going to be more expensive than a central clearer because a multiple of
agents have to do the processing job rather than just one, which makes
it a premium clearing service — especially if delinked from an equity
coupon — not a cheaper one.” Kaminska, I., 2015, “On the potential of closed system blockchains,” FT Alphaville.
All this suggests that blockchain technology will be incorporated
into the drive for value not need if it becomes widely applied.
Cryptocurrencies will become part of cryptofinance, not the medium of a
new world of free and autonomous transactions. More probably, bitcoin
and other cryptocurrencies will remain on the micro-periphery of the
spectrum of digital moneys, just as Esperanto has done as a universal
global language against the might of imperialist English, Spanish and
But the crypto craze may well continue for a while longer, along with
the spiralling international stock and bond markets globally, as
capital searches for higher returns from financial speculation.
- AFSCME Local 444 negotiations assesment 1997
- Preparing for Revolution: A discussion document
- The Internal lives of Revolutionary Organizations
- Socialist Alternative members: Questions and Answers
- Sanders: Our Alternative
- The Nature of the New European Left
- Catastrophic Climate Change: Caused by Capitalism
- University of California workers and Unions
- An Invitation to Our Readers
- Facts For Working People Weekly Phone Conferences and Discussions
Sunday, September 17, 2017
Friday, September 15, 2017
Resignation of Rhode Island Branch of Socialist Alternative. Some observations from Facts For Working People Blog.
|3 to 4 million protest on the women's marches|
We very much appreciate the resignation statement of the former Rhode Island branch of Socialist Alternative in which they explain why they decided to leave that organization and the Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) to which it is affiliated.
We appreciate both the content of the statement and also its non-sectarian tone. Thank you Comrades.
The founders of Facts For Working People Blog, are former members of the Committee For a Workers International (CWI) of which Socialist Alternative is presently the US Section. We were expelled from the US section of the CWI and from the CWI in 1996 when the US section was called Labor Militant. Below are our observations based on our experience in that organization, and our experience in relation to our expulsion from that organization and based on our political work since.These experiences have led us to look critically at our past work, to look critically at the work of all self-styled revolutionary groups and draw conclusions from this. We have concluded that as revolutionaries, it is crucial that we change, and we consider we have changed, our way of working in several areas.
We consider the last two decades of our political work to have been the most fruitful period of our political lives. We have had to think about the many basic ideas and methods of our work and have been forced, thankfully, to consider these, make judgements, draw conclusions and, we hope, learn lessons. We have also taken note of the approach and methods of the many self-styled revolutionary groups and drawn conclusions in this area also. Being expelled from the CWI was in a way the best thing that ever happened to us. It unshackled our thinking. We wish to share our experiences and conclusions with the RI Comrades and with the readers of our Blog. In doing so we would like to emphasize that we remain committed to what we consider the task of tasks in this period of history. That is, contributing to the building of a mass revolutionary international leadership of the working class which would be capable of overthrowing capitalism.
Having said this, we would like to offer the following observations.
You state the following reasons for your resignation from the SA/CWI.
1. SA's decision to endorse Sanders in the 2016 election.
2. SA's approach to the Democratic Party and DSA.
3. SA's approach to identity politics and special oppression.
4. SA's position on International issues.
5. Serious problems you have had with the SA's leadership and you give examples.
Your setting out of these reasons so clearly is a great help. We would like to respond to them individually. But before doing so we would like to make a few points in relation to our thoughts concerning the building of revolutionary currents and organizations.
Regardless of what they say, most revolutionary groups such as the CWI, expect unity on just about every detail and punish in one way or another, or exclude, those who do not toe the line. We have concluded that this approach is incorrect and not only incorrect, but damaging to the struggle to end capitalism. We have concluded that while there has to be unity on such fundamental issues as the need to end capitalism and the need to work to assist the international working class to come to power and build a democratic socialist world, it is idealistic to imagine that there can be unity on all issues at all times in a healthy revolutionary organization. To expect this is in fact a reactionary viewpoint.
Let us see what some of the founding leaders of the revolutionary movement had to say on this. Engels said that the law of the internal life of the revolutionary party is struggle. Trotsky said that the healthy period of Bolshevism was the time of factions and even factions within factions. Lenin would get enraged when members who had differences would not write these down and circulate them for discussion and debate and so would not help clarify the organization’s ideas. Marx, as the First International took shape, was involved nonstop in debate with all sorts of groupings inside the First International. Rosa Luxembourg stated: "Self criticism, cruel unsparing criticism that goes to the very root of the evil, is life and breath for the revolutionary movement".
Stack this up against the approach of the CWI and all the self styled revolutionary groups today. It is a different world.
It is true the Bolsheviks banned factions during the civil war. We have doubts if this decision was correct. But this happened at the height of a ferocious military conflict and no left group today is in anything like the same universe as the Bolsheviks were at that time.
We keep the following in mind. It will take a revolutionary organization of tens of millions in the US and hundreds of millions internationally to carry through the world revolution. It is utterly impossible to imagine such forces assembling and being built without differences, debate, discussion, continual exchange of views and without the recognition that there has to be factions, that there will be factions, to express the different views. Such a concept is utterly foreign to the CWI/SA and in fact to all self styled revolutionary organizations. Along with the CWI/SA's bad politics, especially the tendency towards opportunism which is rooted in its approach, and which was expressed in their relationship to Sanders and earlier in their role in the short lived Labor Party Advocates, it is utterly un Marxist, utterly un dialectical, utterly inorganic, to imagine as the CWI/SA leadership and the leaders of all the self-styled revolutionary organizations do, that they can become semi mass organizations never mind mass organizations with their present bureaucratic centralist approach.
The bigger organizations like the CWI become, if they become bigger, the greater will be the diversity of opinions. But because these organizations cannot tolerate different views, the present state of affairs where we see split after split, resignation after resignation, expulsion after expulsion, bureaucratic repression, public condemnation and slander, all will continue.
This does not mean that a split in a revolutionary movement or organization is never justified. At certain times it could be justified. But the issue is that groups like the CWI do not see that the building of a mass revolutionary international will only happen with great majestic struggles over ideas, over perspectives, over program, over strategy, over tactics; the cut and thrust of real life------the cut and thrust of the great challenging contradictory dialectic. Not the dead hand of bureaucratic centralism that dominates the internal life of groups like the CWI and SA.
We could go on with this, but we will leave it here except to say that one thing to be considered is how come the British section of the CWI led a struggle like the anti-poll tax in Britain where18 million people refused to pay the tax and where hundreds went to jail; a struggle that brought down Thatcher, and yet they came out of it in crisis, never mind failing to build a large revolutionary force! Even a large anti capitalist force! Of course there was the collapse of Stalinism which was not anticipated by the CWI, but this was not all. There was also the fear the CWI leadership had that it would lose control and also their misunderstanding of how a mass revolutionary force can be built, will inevitably be built if it is to be built at all. They want to build it block by block one at a time, top down under the direction of the chief of construction, that is the dominant figure in the British section. The madness of it. They do not even consider what will happen when this person, now in his seventies is no longer around. This approach is shared to a greater or lesser degree by all self-styled revolutionary organizations.
Any organization that has the same person heading it (generally a male figure) for decades, and this is the case with most of the self-styled left groupings, cannot be a healthy organization. The presently leading figure in the CWI has headed that organization for over half a century. This is a reflection of a mistaken approach.
But to go directly to the resignation statement of the RI Comrades. In doing so we approach it not with what is the usual sectarian view of immediately seeking to find where we disagree, like a terrier seeking to find its prey and pounce on it, shaking it up in the air in 'triumph'. Strutting with chest out proud that some difference has been found. We have a very different approach. We seek to see where we agree and proceed from this point. We are pleased when we find agreement. We then seek to identify if there are areas we think need clarification and more discussion. And also as part of this process we seek to identify if there are areas where there might be disagreement, and if there are, can we live with this disagreement, and if so how?
So now to the resignation statement of the RI Comrades.
On the first reason the RI Comrades give for resigning from the SA, that organization’s relationship to Sanders. We feel there is total agreement between us. We published a number of pieces on our Blog and a number of fliers to do with this issue. You can read one here . There are many more on our Blog. At the time we were reaching out to the youth to whom we had access and were putting out our ideas mainly through this blog. We were struggling to find a name for ourselves, hence the name on that flier. This name did not last. We were discussing with a number of youth around the Sanders campaign and thought correctly, that when the penny dropped and Sanders supported Clinton as we explained he would, many of these youth would be seeking an alternative. Having a sense of proportion we did not consider there was any possibility of any significant numbers of such activists joining the left sectarian groups, or for that matter grouping themselves around our Blog.
We considered the possibility that some of them might turn to the Greens with its somewhat of a national presence and with it recently having adopted an eco-socialist plank in its platform. We were in the main incorrect on this. We made a limited initiative around the Green Party for a little time, mainly through discussing ideas on their sites and we were able to increase the audience for our ideas, increase our little core of comrades somewhat, around our Blog and our associated Think Tank out of which has come our weekly conference calls.
But we were mistaken in thinking that there was a possibility that any substantial numbers of Sanders supporters when they saw his supporting of Clinton would go to the Greens. We did not fully see the serious weakness, in fact the conscious obstruction of the leadership of the Green Party, its right wing character as it refused to put forward its eco socialist plank and its fear of growth. In this, the leadership of the Green party has something in common with the sectarian organizations. A fear of growth in case they might lose control. The same can be said of the heads of organized labor. They too prize their control of their organizations over all else, in their case organizing the unorganized.
We did not see the rise of the DSA. How it would to a small extent appear to many young people as an organization through which to fight. We think it is important to openly state where we make or made mistakes. Otherwise we cannot learn. Mistakes are inevitable. But if honestly recognized and discussed they can lead to improvements in ideas and ways of working. If the inevitable mistakes are not recognized openly, success in our struggle is impossible.
On the RI Comrades second reason for resigning from the SA/CWI------SA's approach to the Democratic Party and the DSA.
On the Democratic Party we are in complete agreement. We do not have to dwell on this point.
On the DSA we believe we are also in agreement. We see the growth of the DSA as a positive development. However we also see that it faces a very troubled future. It has attracted many very good and sincere mostly young people. But it has a wide variety of opinions within it, and most importantly no clear strategic vision for ending capitalism. This will lead to many serious crises in the future. These will not be avoided, in fact they will be made worse, by the decentralized nature of the DSA. The future of the DSA will also be complicated by the myriad of sectarian groups and sectarian and ambitious individuals of all shapes and sizes who are hovering in or around it like vultures. We think it is important to contribute in the effort to help the membership of the DSA in clarifying ideas. But we do so with some humility. The DSA has grown to over 20,000 members; a growth like this inevitably presents problems. We recognize that this membership is of a varied nature. But nonetheless, any serious revolutionary grouping has to start by asking why the DSA has had this growth and seek to learn from this while at the same time assisting in the clarification of ideas.
Whether this is best done by joining the DSA or by working in united fronts with local DSA branches is we believe a tactical issue which is also influenced by what resources revolutionary socialists have and the different situations that exist in different areas.
Something to be taken into consideration in relation to this is that DSA has its no 'democratic centralist grouping' rule. That is that no 'democratic centralist' group can have membership. Those of us around the Facts For Working People Blog and Think Tank and conference calls have been discussing the issue of what is known as democratic centralism for some time now, totally separate from any thought of the DSA. In our opinion this term has become inseparable from Stalinism and left sectarianism and we no longer use it. It no longer clarifies. It only confuses. We think if we tie the term democratic centralism to our banner then it will be impossible to convince people that we are neither Stalinists or left sectarians. This will put an unnecessary obstacle in front of our work of campaigning for socialism.
But more important, if we use the term democratic centralism we ourselves will not thoroughly discuss and clarify our thinking on internal organizational questions. So we reject the term democratic centralism, what is known as democratic centralism and what is practiced under the name of democratic centralism, whether by Stalinists, left sectarians or so called Trotskyist or Maoist groups.
In our opinion the method of organizing known as democratic centralism has shown itself to be an unsuccessful method of organizing.
Further, in relation to where we feel we have full agreement with the RI comrades on the Democratic Party we have many articles and commentaries on the Democrats, the trade union leadership and the relationship between them if Comrades wish to check the labels on the right of the blog. Check Democrats, Team Concept , unions, and Labor
On the RI Comrades third reason for resigning from the SA/CWI - identity politics and special oppression. We feel that this is an area where we would find it very helpful for us to have further discussion and clarification. The RI comrades’ statement where these issues are dealt with has made us all think more. We thank the Comrades.
The RI comrades state in relation to the SA/CWI position: "At every turn, white supremacy and anti blackness are subordinated to an analysis of class as mere derivatives." We believe that those of us around FFWP do not do this. The Comrades' statement also explains that the SA/CWI position is that "fighting classism is the best - and indeed the ONLY WAY (RI comrades' emphasis) to eradicate racism." We are not exactly sure of the RI comrades thinking around this sentence. We would like to explore it more. In this context we would like to share our experience in Northern Ireland where some of our FFWP people did political work. It was not race but religion and gender but much more overtly religion, that was the basis for special oppression and the tool used to divide and rule.
A personal experience of one of the founders of Facts For Working People blog is useful here. This Comrade was from a Protestant Orange Order background on the border of Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland. He took the lead in building the civil rights movement in the town of Strabane. The Northern Ireland civil rights movement was inspired by the civil rights movement in the US. In Northern Ireland it was in opposition to the discrimination against the Catholic population. This Comrade, as well as leading in building the civil rights movement in Strabane also led in the building of the Young Socialists organization in Strabane. He was also a member of the Young Socialists and the Labor party in Derry the second biggest city in Northern Ireland.
In 1969 there was an uprising in the Catholic area of that city of Derry. The Bogside Uprising. For more details Google "Battle of the Bogside 1969". This comrade physically took part in that uprising against the Protestant and British state. A body was formed to organize that uprising called the Bogside Citizens Defense Association (The Bogside was the name of that Catholic area of the city) This present FFWP comrade was the only person from a Protestant background who was on that defense committee, political people are well aware that this could have cost him his life.
We make this point not to boast but to try to show that we do not retreat from the defense of oppressed minorities, just confining ourselves to repeating phrases about class unity.
After the 30 year war of the IRA there is now a peace agreement in Northern Ireland. But Northern Ireland is more divided along sectarian lines than ever and unless there is a socialist revolution in England, Scotland, Wales and Southern Ireland which engulfs the North of Ireland there will most likely be a new war in the future and most likely ethnic (religious) 'cleansing' and a new Protestant statelet. As long as capitalism lasts, the problem of sectarianism and discrimination against the Catholics and against women in Northern Ireland will continue. We also believe that here in the US as long as capitalism exists the US will be a vicious racist and sexist society.
We agree very much with the RI Comrades' statement that "Violence against people of color is often counter productive from the perspective of capital". We used to put it this way in the North of Ireland: British imperialism bases itself on sectarianism and divide and rule and the special oppression of the Catholics in the North. They cannot rule without this. But what we explain is that while British imperialism cannot rule without divide and rule, without sectarianism, they want sectarianism to simmer, not boil over. When it threatens to boil over, in most circumstances they take action to get it back to the simmering level. Here in the US, the ruling class is now looking at the danger of an explosion of the oppressed minorities in race and gender and worry that Trump will cause the whole racist situation to boil over and seriously damage their cities and industries and institutions. As well as this having negative affects for them at home it would further undermine their diminishing authority around the world.
There is a book by a bourgeois writer that draws a balance sheet of the economic cost to US capitalism of the uprisings in the African American communities in the US in 1968. US imperialism is aware of this. They do not want it repeated-----at least at this stage. It would be different if they were faced with a mass revolutionary movement of the working class challenging for power. Then they would turn to drown this revolutionary threat in a racist blood bath and to hell with the immediate economic consequences as their hold on power would be threatened. Defeating the threat of losing power would be their first priority. So they would seek to unleash the nightmare of a racist civil war.
One of the many problems US imperialism is faced with at the moment is it does not have a conscious, astute bourgeois in the White House at a time when there is a general economic, political, social, environmental and military crises of US capitalism. Having what is close to an idiot, a totally self-serving moron in the White House, destabilizes their system further. Amongst other things, they are worried with the racist Predator in Chief that they might not be able to keep the racism simmering. It might boil over. So they make a few "concessions". The racist statues for example; at least take a few down and make some gestures to take more down. They are hesitating on DACA as Trump threatens to take it away while at the same time blaming Republicans for failing to make it work and giving six months for them to come up with something. It is not inconceivable that he could make a deal with the Democrats to “legalize” DACA as a major section of the bourgeois, especially the high tech sector, strongly opposes taking it away. US capitalism is also fearful of an uprising of the 800,000 people covered by DACA and their supporters.
They are also worried if their racist pot boils over, their misogynist pot boils over, their repression of gender orientation boils over, that this will weaken their military where approximately 40% are either minorities or women or transgender.
To draw further on the experience of Northern Ireland. British imperialism and its Northern Protestant state had to make some concessions over the past years to end what had degenerated into an open sectarian thirty-year military conflict. It is very similar to how US imperialism had to make some concessions to the 1960's black revolt, put in place a few anti racist laws and develop a Black and Latino petit bourgeois and leadership. As we face the consequences of their destruction of the environment and their climate change, it is worth noting that the mayor of Houston is African American and the mayor off Miami is Latino. Whatever the color of the skin of whoever is in some position of power in the US, US capitalism is still, and always will be, a vicious racist state and society.
We have numerous statements and commentaries on this issue on our blog. We do not believe we will have any serious disagreement with the RI comrades on this but it is in our opinion an issue which would be useful for us to explore further.
In closing on this point. We would again like to emphasize that under no conditions do we subordinate the fight against racism sexism etc., to the class struggle. This is an accusation used by much of the petite bourgeois left and left academia. These people do not see that the struggle that is subordinated above all others and that they assist in subordinating, is the need to pursue, to bring to the fore, the struggle of the working class against capitalism. This struggle is practically never mentioned in US society and unfortunately practically never mentioned amongst the left petite bourgeois and academia.
We stand with Malcolm X when he said: “You cannot have capitalism without racism.” We then proceed on from that. This statement by Malcom X if it means anything, means you cannot eliminate racism, and we would include sexism something which Malcom X did not address in the main, without eliminating capitalism. And we would proceed further. The only force that can end capitalism and therefore racism and sexism, is the united working class with a revolutionary leadership. Therefore we must at all times fight racism and sexism, and at no time subordinate the fight against racism and sexism to the fight of the working class over wages conditions etc.
Our thinking is that we should seek to fight racism and sexism in a manner that takes into account building working class unity, uniting the working class, as this is the only force that can in the last analysis overthrow capitalism which is necessary if racism and sexism is to be ended. And of course in this way, and simultaneously, the working class will be capable of emancipating itself.
We do not think it is an accident that so much of the struggle of left academia, of the African American and Latino petit bourgeois and bourgeois, never mention Malcom X except to stress his nationalism. Never mention Martin Luther King, except on occasion to point to his non-violence. Both Malcom X and Martin Luther King before they were assassinated were talking about ending capitalism, were talking about socialism, about "the unity of the oppressed” (Malcolm X), about "the need for some sort of democratic socialism in the US" (Martin Luther King) and Martin Luther King was organizing his "Poor Peoples " march on Washington. And he was moving to oppose US imperialism and its savagery in Vietnam.
This evolution of ideas and methods of these leaders toward these conclusions was the reason the bourgeois had these leaders assassinated when they did. No, the evolution of these leaders towards a united movement of all the oppressed, towards the need unite all poor people, towards the need to end capitalism and imperialism does not fit into the approach of most of the petite bourgeois leaderships of the various groupings and individuals opposing in one way or another racism and sexism at this time.
Here are links to a few pieces we have written or statements we have made on this subject. We feel it would be very useful for all if we had further discussion and clarification on this subject with the RI Comrades and all who are involved in fighting racism and sexism.
On the RI comrades fourth reason for resigning from the CWI, the international issues, from what we see in the resignation statement we have full agreement. One of the many potholes the SA got itself into with its opportunist support for Sanders was his position on Zionism and on US imperialism. They staggered about and waffled on Sander's position on these issues. It would be interesting to see what position the CWI group in Israel has on Zionism and Sanders. We hear that it may be different from the position of the CWI. See an article on our Blog by Roger Silverman, the first secretary of the CWI and another Comrade whom the CWI could not tolerate because he was a critical and independent thinker.
On the RI comrades fifth reason for resignation-------SA/CWI's leadership and internal life------ we have complete agreement. We have had a similar experience to the RI comrades. We have tried to draw general conclusions from this experience. We have concluded that it is not only a question of petty ambitious individuals running that organization, though this is the case in the CWI, and their selection and promotion of people in the leaderships of its various sections who are similar to themselves, petty ambitious people who will do what they are told and who will repress others in their sections who will not do what they are told.
The CWI is an organization which selects those most unfit, those most incapable, to lead its sections, and either crushes or drives out those most fit those most capable. The most fit, the most capable, meaning those with the strongest, deepest roots in the working class and those most willing to critically assess the ideas and methods of the organization and put forward their views-----these comrades are either driven out, or "re-educated."
It is the case that the leadership of the CWI is dominated by people who have petty individual ambitions. But Comrades of the FFWP do not believe this is the only factor involved. There is also the false method, the false understanding of the CWI leadership of how the internal life of a revolutionary organization has to take shape. As we have already explained, the method of the CWI is to build its organization from the top down one block on top of another, crushing any different views by fair means or foul, driving out any independent thinkers, seeking at all times to have unity under the command of the top few leaders, usually male. The CWI and SA shares this false method with all the self styled revolutionary organizations.
Finally: This statement from FFWP is not a statement set in stone. Unlike the old methods of the CWI where a statement, a document, from the leadership was holy writ and had to be accepted and if later events showed it was incorrect it was buried and anybody who tried to dig it up and discuss it was acted against. Comrades of the FFWP share this statement with all who are interested and in the course of discussion if there is any change of opinion of any FFWP comrade this will be shared openly on our Blog.
In relation to leadership. FFWP Comrades believe there needs to be a leadership, one way or another there will always be a leadership, but we reject the false method where all decisions are made in advance by the leadership and then by fair means or foul these decisions are imposed on the membership, as is the practice of the SA/CWI and all of the self styled revolutionary left organizations. We also believe that there has to be more emphasis on building a collective and diverse leadership.
We believe a revolutionary organization is essential. We hesitate to use the word a centralized organization as this has so many negative connotations given how it has been and is used by Stalinism and the left sectarian organizations. But we oppose the undemocratic decentralization and consensus methods of organization. We seek a short phrase with which to describe the type of internal life of a revolutionary organization that we seek to help build. We would more prefer some term such as a democratic unified organization. Or perhaps a unified democratic organization. We are exploring this and would welcome help in developing a precise formulation.
Settling on a precise formulation for organization is difficult. We are dealing with a complicated issue both historically and at the present time, and one in which all things are in a continual process of change and development, it is difficult to adequately describe such a complicated and continually moving phenomenon using a two or three word term. Perhaps all that is possible is to state the principles which we believe should govern organization. We believe in an organization with full open discussion, decisions made by majority with minority opinion having the right to be heard and to organize as factions to better present their opinion. But with the policies of the organization being decided by the majority of the organization. We do not believe in the undemocratic methods of decentralization or consensus.
The method of the CWI/SA is that the leadership is the teacher of the membership. We reject this method; we reject the cult of the leader. We believe that revolutionaries who play leading roles, in fact all revolutionaries have to harness their ego to the needs of the movement. This is not the case in groups like the CWI. The CWI leadership sees that the membership's role is to carry out the policies of the leadership, policies which the membership never have a real genuine role in formulating. The CWI and all the self-styled revolutionary left organizations when they have the resources, also have a full-time apparatus that assists them in this, very much like the staffers in the trade union movement.
We are not against a full time apparatus by any means but it is how their role is understood, and related to this how the leadership sees its role. We are for leadership but we are for a dialectical interaction between the leadership and the membership. A dialectical relationship which would not be fixed but would be influenced by the phase through which the organization was passing at any given time. The situation where a tiny organization exists which has no influence on the mass consciousness, on the working class, would be very different than if there was a mass organization such as the Bolsheviks were in the 1917 October days faced with taking power.
There are articles on many subjects pinned to the top of our Blog. On the right side of our Blog there are many labels on many different subjects. Our Blog represents a body of work, our high tech library, which seeks to explain the process of our thinking over the past years. Please feel free to have a look at any subject of interest and also feel free to raise any issue. We can say we no longer hold to every detail of our thinking on all issues, even more than that on occasion. But that is the beauty of the method of being determined to always face up to and openly acknowledge the evolution of our views and where we were wrong and why we were wrong, that is, show the evolution of our ideas. We reject the method of the CWI where every meeting is to congratulate itself on how correct it has been on everything and take bureaucratic action against any suggestion to the contrary.
Comrades, we are very enthused by the statement of the RI Comrades and the steps they are taking. Many thousands of people have gone through the CWI and other sectarian self styled organizations and found them wanting and have either retreated into fighting on a local basis, or even given up fighting capitalism, or given up trying to build an international revolutionary current/organization. The statement from the RI Comrades shows that they are taking none of these roads. They are committed to continuing the fight, to learning the lessons from their experiences so far and building on a healthy basis.
Speaking for the FFWP this is very inspiring. We appeal to all the many people who have gone through revolutionary organizations and found them wanting, to the many people who are in revolutionary organizations and find them wanting, to continue the fight but to do so in collaboration with those of us who have found the methods of the existing organizations incorrect and work together to build a revolutionary movement with a healthy culture. FFWP Comrades seek to assist in the building of an international revolutionary movement with a healthy culture. We hope that we can discuss with the RI Comrades and other Comrades workers and youth who are opposed to capitalism to this end.
We seek to discuss with and collaborate with the many people who consider themselves revolutionary socialists but who see the false methods of the existing self styled revolutionary groups. It is a staggering fact, it is a staggering condemnation of all the self styled revolutionary groups, that there are many, many, more people who consider themselves revolutionary socialists outside these organizations than there are inside them. There is something wrong with all these organizations. Something new has to be built. Something which learns the lessons from the past, from the mistakes of the past. Something with a healthy culture.
We very much wish to continue discussion on this issue both with the RI Comrades and any other Comrades and workers and youth who are prepared to fight capitalism.
Please get in touch, we can be contacted through the e mail on this blog firstname.lastname@example.org or through the blog’s Facebook page at:
Please get in touch, we can be contacted through the e mail on this blog email@example.com or through the blog’s Facebook page at:
Tuesday, September 12, 2017
|Boston: 40,000 workers protest Nazis|
Resignation Statement From Former Rhode Island branch of Socialist Alternative. September 2017.
The Rhode Island branch of Socialist Alternative has been in existence since 2014. The branch experienced the majority of its growth in 2015 and 2016. Over this time, we have consistently tried to work within the larger national organization, but recently, that has become more and more difficult. The following members of Socialist Alternative Rhode Island have decided to resign from the organization. The reasons for our resignation center around SA’s decision to endorse Bernie Sanders in the 2016 election, SA’s approach to the Democratic Party and DSA, the approach to identity politics and special oppression, international issues, and serious problems within SA’s leadership.
Bernie Sanders, The Democrats, and DSA
One issue that the members of the Rhode Island branch have always had strong disagreements over with the leadership of Socialist Alternative is the organization's orientation towards Bernie Sanders. While it was certainly understandable to try and recruit new members from Sanders's base, there were ways to do this without directly supporting his campaign for presidency. Claiming to be "revolutionary Marxists" while wholeheartedly supporting reformist, anti-communist campaigns doesn't attract many new members, it just confuses people. While Socialist Alternative did experience growth, it came more from Trump's election than Sanders's campaign. The largest consequence from supporting Sanders was, in fact, the loss of a great number of experienced cadre. SA wouldn't need to focus so much on building more cadre if the cadre you had to begin with didn't leave due to opportunism around the Sanders campaign, amongst other things.
Continued support for Sanders is even more embarrassing: he clearly will not form a new party. It is not in his interest. Even if he did form a new party and became the leader of it, Socialist Alternative would then be supporting a western chauvinist imperialist who voted for sanctions on Russia and would have continued Obama's secretive drone program. Even with that aside, however, why are we so certain that Sanders wouldn't form a new party? One only has to investigate his history, as good Marxists should.
Bernie Sanders arguably did begin his political career as a socialist. In the 1970s, he was in favor of the CIA being abolished, and in the 1980s, as mayor, he vocally opposed US imperialist action in Nicaragua. Even during this time, however, he was beginning to succumb to opportunism. For example, he supported Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1984, and Michael Dukakis's general election campaign in 1988. This slide was not fully complete, however, until he was elected to Congress in 1991. In order to stay elected, Sanders agreed to caucus with the Democrats and not attempt to form any third party. He didn't only not form a third party himself, he even obstructed local independent efforts like those in the Progressive Party, which he was formerly allied with. He voted against the Gulf War once, but his record on foreign affairs has been spotty at best since then, and even the Gulf War vote wasn't without its share of political dealings. He alienated many of his former allies, including some of his staff, by voting to bomb Serbia in 1999 and then arresting protesters who performed a sit-in at his office after the fact (http://www.libertyunionparty.org/?page_id=363 ). While he voted against the Iraq War in 2002, he voted for the War in Afghanistan, voted for the new AUMF language that allowed the Iraq War to happen in the first place, and voted to continue the Iraq War on various occasions.
As senator, his record has even been wishy-washy on domestic issues. When the 15 dollar minimum wage was gaining popularity as a movement issue, Sanders was only willing to support a 10 dollar minimum wage. It was only due to pressure from Socialist Alternative and others that he relented. More recently, he has watered down his old call for "Medicare for All”, first by focusing only on ACA reform, then by writing a “single-payer” healthcare bill that keeps copays (http://www.pnhp.org/docs/SandersLetter_2017.pdf) and is endorsed by Kamala Harris, a centrist Democrat.
From his recent positions to his more distant past, it should be clear to Marxists upon honest analysis that Bernie Sanders is a careerist coward at best and a blatant opportunist at worst. Trusting him to do what's best for the working class - to the point where you are willing to spend 20,000 dollars hosting town halls and calling for petitions about the subject - is a sorely misplaced trust. 20,000 dollars is a lot of money, a sum that could be spent on resources that could truly help your organization and the communities it is situated in, instead of wasted on a wild goose chase.
Related to your mistaken views and approach on Bernie Sanders is your approach to the Democratic Party. For the longest time, Socialist Alternative officially rejected working within the two-party system, and rightfully recognized the Democratic Party as an organ dedicated to perpetuating bourgeois interests while paying mere lip service to social and labor justice. Ever since the Sanders campaign, however, Socialist Alternative's stance on the Democratic Party has gotten more ambiguous. While Member's Bulletins and newspapers still recognize that there are at least some reactionary elements in the Democratic Party, your publications also commonly mention a "Sanders wing" or a "Sanders/Warren wing" within the party (https://www.socialistalternative.org/2017/07/13/democrats-divisions-deepen/). With this rhetoric, you assume that Sanders and Warren and the “wing” of the Democrats that they supposedly lead is in any way to the “left” in any way that matters. This is decidedly false. Sanders, Warren, and even Democrats to their “left” (for example, Raul Grijalva), are still a part of a party that upholds the interests of the bourgeoisie when push comes to shove, and are easily reigned in by a center-right leadership. Hoping these Democrats would create a coherent faction within the party that could accomplish anything beyond showboating is wishful thinking at best.
Furthermore, the suggestion that was made in Member's Bulletin 86 that "forcing" "left" Democratic politicians to endorse and speak at Socialist Alternative events will draw in new "layers" (an obnoxious, overused bit of jargon) of workers and youth is also misleading. Revolutionary socialist parties should not try to make liberal politicians look redeeming. Instead, it should be our job to point out the strong contradictions that naturally arise from liberal politics and lead newly radicalizing people away from Democrats as much as we can.
Lastly, it is our belief that Socialist Alternative's view of the Democratic Socialists of America is a bit too optimistic. DSA was founded by Michael Harrington to be an anti-communist alternative to other socialist parties, and from its inception it has focused on trying to influence the Democratic Party with little success. It is certainly true that the character of DSA has shifted a bit due to the massive influx of young new members, but we have to keep our heads about us. For one thing, the way DSA counts its membership is different from Socialist Alternative's. As you know, SA only counts people as members if they pay regular dues AND attend branch meetings. DSA's practice, on the other hand, counts people as members from dues-paying status alone. Therefore, it is far more difficult to say how many actual ACTIVE members DSA has at any given time. Related to this is the fact that DSA is a decentralized organization. While this makes it easier for specific chapters to become more radical, it also makes it a lot harder for those chapters to hold influence over the organization at large, or for problems within the organization to get resolved. For example, recently, a man named Danny Fetonte was elected to DSA's National Political Committee by withholding information about his work in CLEAT, a police union. When rank-and-file discovered this lie of omission, many of them were upset and called upon Fetonte to resign ( https://twitter.com/DSA_SF/status/898629195634425856 ).
These calls, however, are from individual chapters and not a unified movement. The decentralized structure of the organization makes it difficult for such unified actions to come together and succeed. It also makes it easier for people like Fetonte to slip through the cracks: if DSA were a centralized organization with better vetting and security procedures, it's likely Fetonte's lie of omission would have been caught far earlier than it was. While similar issues of abused power dynamics have occurred in Socialist Alternative, this has been due more from lack of internal democracy instead of a lack of centralist structure.
What should the proper approach to DSA be, then, with all this in mind? It is our view that working with DSA chapters in united front actions, especially if the chapters in mind are of the more radical vein, is a smart and perfectly acceptable tactic. Trying to become more appealing to DSA members by focusing more on Bernie Sanders and sliding to the right, however, is a total mistake. DSA and SA are separate organizations with separate aims. A democratic socialist and a revolutionary socialist will ultimately have different goals, and thus, different preferred strategies and tactics. These differences should be recognized. While it is understandable to worry about the disparity between SA's membership numbers versus DSA's, it is our opinion that having
valuable, dedicated members and cadre is far more important than having a huge amount of paper members that signed a form once. Further, trying to be more like DSA will not bring SA those numbers anyway. SA should remember its revolutionary socialist past, bring it into its present, and focus on pointing out the differences between revolutionary and democratic socialist tactics and aims. Confusing potential new members or letting them grow complacent in left-liberalism is not the way forward. We can't just meet people where they're at: we have to guide them to the right conclusions. Socialist Alternative, however, has only focused on the former, while paying far too little attention to the latter. This, along with your approach to the Sanders campaign and the Democratic Party, amounts to an irreconcilable difference in how we view and interact with bourgeois politics.
Race and Racism
Another significant source of dissent from the Rhode Island branch stems from Socialist Alternative's position on racism. Regarding white supremacy and anti-blackness, it is the opinion of the undersigned that the national organization's perspective is incompatible with goals of racial justice. Until Socialist Alternative re-calibrates its register of discourse on racism, its liberatory praxis will be severely compromised and ethically suspect.
While the national organization has made an effort to become involved in the struggle for racial justice, there is a widespread failure to grapple with the structures of white supremacy and anti-blackness. To verify this claim, we need to look no further than the Marxism and the Fight for Black Freedom pamphlet circulated several months ago. This text was critiqued by a large number of comrades in an internal document, so it is not our goal to belabor the point. Our comrades raised brilliant points in their dissenting letter - only to be ceremoniously dismissed. We must announce that a handful of devoted Rhode Island members signed that criticism - only to have our names omitted from the final record. In an effort to combat this disenfranchisement, we submit our criticisms of the pamphlet, it's dumpster-fire of a sequel in Members Bulletin #87 , and Socialist Alternative's politics more generally.
Socialist Alternative's perspective on racism can best be described as class reductivism. At every turn, white supremacy and anti-blackness are subordinated to an analysis of class as mere derivatives. The standard refrain is as follows: racism is a tool utilized by the ruling class to divide and conquer working people. From this vantage point, white supremacy and anti-blackness are theorized as the most odious defense mechanisms of the bourgeoisie in the name of profit. The conclusion, then, is that fighting classism is the best - and indeed the only way - to eradicate racism.
We do not wish to debate the "origins" of racism. We grant leverage to Eric Williams, C.L.R. James and the countless other prominent scholars who contend that class exploitation gave birth to racism. We take issue, however, with the genetic fallacy inherent in this line of reasoning. It is illogical to draw a conclusion based solely on the origin of the phenomena in question, as opposed to its current meaning. Stating that racism has class origins does not foreclose upon the possibility that it became unhinged from its "base." Irrespective of racism's roots, white supremacy and anti-blackness are now organizing principles in and of themselves. Racism cannot be reduced to a reflex of capital - it is a structure with material consequences. The tendency of describing anti-blackness as "ideological" or "individual" in nature demonstrates a failure to grapple with structural racism, that, in the final analysis, exposes a racist worldview.
There comes a time where one needs to realize that the profit motive lacks explanatory power in the face of anti-blackness. Socialist Alternative routinely makes the intellectually facile argument that seizing the means of production is the panacea for a civilization steeped in racism. But this is absurd - as it presupposes that violence against people of color is always, or mostly, motivated by a running ledger. Violence against people of color is often counterproductive from the perspective of capital. Other variables are operating beneath the surface - those which can only be described as the sadistic desires to inflict torture and re-organize one's being. The problem is also existential and ontological in orientation. Making alterations to the political economy without re-organizing the symbolic economy of humanity is not a revolution at all. It is, rather, a guarantee that anti-blackness will remain under communism.
Socialist Alternative still theorizes in the tradition of unraced and unsexed positionality. The terms "working class" and "labor" are offered as inherently objective, as if they are automatically free from racial and/or sexual bias. Upon further analysis, this perspective is a problematic continuation of oppression. It is important to understand the mechanisms of the power structures we seek to destroy. The idea of race, and by extension, the process of racialization, was created by Europeans to label those who were deemed 'other.' This means that whiteness was established as the baseline and norm for humanity, while simultaneously rendering it invisible. In keeping with the Enlightenment's principle of objectivity, whiteness is the identity that denies itself as an identity . Racial identities belong only to others . Whiteness is a deeply biased position that masquerades as a universal fact in the best interest of everyone.
Socialist Alternative is yet to take inventory of the racial or sexual demographics of its favorite scholars. The Mount Rushmore of Marxists - Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky - were all white men from Europe. None of these individuals suffered racial or sexual oppression, and many of their writings on the topics reflect as much. Exploitation was their sole axis of suffering, so of course, it was easy to conclude that the political economy was the engine of society. We are not saying that a Marxist analysis applies only to Europe and European societies, rather we are saying that Marxism done correctly must marry itself to intersectionality if we are to unite the working class against capitalist exploitation. Socialist Alternative is populated predominantly by white men who are cheer-leading for the colorblind position that race must take a backseat in the socialist revolution. One fact is overlooked: the working class is an identity. Socialist Alternative’s position on “identity politics” is vacuous. The working class does not simply float adrift from language, meaning, or social reality - it is produced and reproduced by racialized and sexualized beings. The notion that the working class can be unraced and/or unsexed is racist and sexist. Arguing that the working class can transcend race and/or sex (i.e. "multiculturalism", "gender diversity") are not-so-subtle ways of advancing anti-blackness and transphobia by way of crowding out those at the bottom. The world is, and has been, dominated by white males. Subordinating racism and heteropatriarchy as merely superstructural side effects of class exploitation ensures that the revolution will be led by white males and create a new world for white males.
In Members Bulletin #87 , the authors argue that calling people out is counterproductive because it uses "guilt and shame" as a form of politics. Considering the fact that Socialist Alternative views race as additive as opposed to constitutive of their analysis, this passage is to be viewed in a different light. The real concern for the writers is that white males will be decentered by those who are suppressed the most by white orthodox Marxism: black women . The policing of black women, especially those who are trans, is the animating force behind the document and Socialist Alternative's approach to organizing. For these brief reasons outlined above, we no longer view our political relationship with Socialist Alternative as reconcilable.
Unless you are a hardened Zionist or otherwise misinformed on the issue, the only way to view the Nakba of 1948 is as an act of aggression, carried out with the blessing of the United States and Britain, that left 750,000 Palestinians displaced and established a settler-colonial state with a separate set of rights for its indigenous Palestinian population and its (largely white) Jewish population. Further land grabs starting in 1967 and continuing to today, as well as the continued repression of of the Gaza, has shown just what the Zionist project is all about: apartheid .
In 2005, due to the oppressive measures of the Israeli government, representatives of Palestinian Civil Society put out a call for “international civil societies and people of conscience all over the world” to “impose broad boycotts and implement divestment initiatives against Israel similar to those applied to South Africa in the apartheid era” until Israel ends “its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands”, dismantles the Wall in the West Bank, recognizes “the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality”, and respects, protects, and promotes “the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties” as stipulated by the UN ( https://bdsmovement.net/call ). This call has been taken up internationally by many different kinds of organizations, including, most recently, the DSA, yet Socialist Alternative and the CWI have not done so. Surely this is an oversight?
Judy Beishon, a member of CWI in Britain, writes “...it needs to be taken into account that boycott campaigns can assist the propaganda of the Israeli government domestically, and can create a barrier between workers in Israel and internationally, negative consequences that need to be weighed up against the advantages”. She also cites that BDS will alienate and impact the Israeli working class: but what are they being alienated from? Jewish Israelis, from rich to poor, have political rights and privileges that Palestinians do not, and if there were a large-scale resistance to that in the Israeli working class, it stands to reason that they would take the lead from the call from Palestinian Civil Society to support BDS.
We found out from a former member of Socialist Alternative that SA’s views on Israel/Palestine differ from the positions of the Israel/Palestine section of the CWI. The demands put forth by our international comrades call for the eviction of all settlements formed after 1967, and make explicit calls to end all occupation and settlements. The demands of comrades from different sections of a coherent international should not be watered down to appease soft Zionists.
The Jewish people have had unimaginable horrors perpetrated against them throughout history; none of us denies that. However, the CWI position invoking the right of self-determination for oppressed nations and applying it to Israel forgets that the history of Zionism from Hertzl to Balfour has been a history of seeking collaboration with imperialism to displace and oppress the people who previously lived in historic Palestine. Furthermore, Israel is not just a junior partner of U.S. imperialism, but an oppressor nation itself. The only principled, socialist position is to both oppose anti-semitism and to support a secular, free Palestine.
Leadership and Structure
Among the most serious issues we have with Socialist Alternative revolve around the actions of its leadership. During the time that Margaret Collins was in the process of being suspended from the organization, the Rhode Island branch wrote a document in her defense. We submitted it to be published in the next Member’s Bulletin, but it was left out. Member’s Bulletins are supposed to be open to submissions from rank-and-file members of the organization, and we felt it was highly irregular and undemocratic for our document to be rejected in such a manner. Later on, many members of the Rhode Island branch chose to sign a letter which criticized the political level and content of the Marxism and the Fight for Black Freedom pamphlet. While that letter was eventually published in a Member’s Bulletin, every single Rhode Island comrade’s name was omitted from the list of signatures. This erasure of our names marked the second time the Rhode Island branch had been involved in submitting material for a Members Bulletin, and the second time we were censored.
Socialist Alternative also lacks an objective standard for moving branches from “associate branches” to “full status branches”. The Rhode Island branch has been around for several years, has more members than some other branches, does plenty of political education and activity, and yet was still not made a full status branch in the organization. A well-developed branch should be made a full status branch in order to have voting and decision making rights within Socialist Alternative.
During a contact meeting, our Branch Organizer was describing to this contact, at her request, the differences between SA and other left groups, such as the DSA. The conversation was overheard by a member of the Providence chapter of the DSA, and he later posted an extremely exaggerated account of what was said online, which subsequently went viral among the DSA’s social media and their followers. The Branch Organizer was then contacted by a member of SA leadership, who urged him not to openly criticize DSA or their leadership. Things have already been said about SA’s new orientation to the DSA above, but it is highly inappropriate for the leadership of what is supposed to be a revolutionary socialist organization to attempt to curb criticism of a social democratic group like DSA, who consistently eschew revolutionary politics in favor of class collaboration with the Democratic Party: especially in light of the fact that this was not a comment posted on an official social media page, but part of a real-time conversation between two people.
We have also had issues with an NC member who also used to be an observer on our Branch Committee. He would frequently police comrades’ Facebook feeds if they posted anything online that even slightly skewed from the SA party line. One of these occasions lead to this NC member accusing our comrade of “race baiting” him, and almost cost our branch the membership of an intelligent, articulate, and well-developed comrade. This person would also frequently make farfetched accusations of the branch based on branch meeting notes taken wildly out of context. His habit of filibustering his way through political discussions created a negative environment for political decision making, and did not leave sufficient time for other comrades to contribute to the conversation and have their voices heard.
The actions of leadership over the last few years have cost SA much of its most experienced cadre through suspensions, expulsions, and the “freezing out” of members. Most recently this was seen with what happened with Margaret Collins in the Queens, NYC branch, when she disagreed with and strongly debated against some of the rightward drift of SA positions, especially having to do with the endorsement of the Sanders campaign. An overblown claim that Comrade Collins was being “uncomradely” and creating tensions at branch meetings was used as a reason to first suspend her, then expel her, and most recently, to uphold that expulsion. Comrades from New York have shown us evidence that her expulsion was mostly based on political reasons, including a letter from a former comrade, who left over the Sanders fiasco, indicating that leadership in New York had wanted Margaret out of the way several years ago.
Recently, another comrade in that same branch was pushed out of the organization. She was taken off website work, had her articles and Member’s Bulletin submissions rejected, and was treated in a foul manner by members of her branch. She took some time off from SA work due to this harassment, and was immediately accused of “not being a real member anymore.” The only reason she stepped back from SA work was because of the harassment and lack of support she was dealing with in the branch. She has since resigned.
The low political level of the paper has been an issue for a while as well. While we understand that the paper is partly a recruiting tool and thus is not meant to have the same political level as internal material such as Member’s Bulletins, we believe that the political level could be raised significantly. During the election, and continuing to to this day, many articles are about Sanders and the supposed “left” democrats in the party. There have also been articles of support of the Draft Bernie movement. These point to serious political mistakes that an experienced socialist leadership should not be making. Furthermore, each article comes out of SA’s collective editing process sounding like it was written by the same exact person. While we agree that articles in the paper should point towards the same politics, editing them to the point where they lack any original voice is going too far. The paper’s low political level has been noticed even by some of our newer comrades, who don’t see much difference between articles in SA’s paper and articles from left-liberal outlets already existing online. If SA is offering the working class something different than what the liberal sectors are offering, then the paper should deliver that message much more clearly.
These actions indicate a leadership that wishes to grow cozy with the Democratic Party and members of the social democratic left instead of engaging in real revolutionary politics. This, combined with the focus on gathering donations from contacts before they join SA (as outlined in the new Fall Building Priorities), also points to a leadership that is more concerned with maintaining their own positions and power within SA than in growing a Marxist, revolutionary socialist organization.
Due to the above political disagreements with the national policies and international positions of Socialist Alternative, and due to the serious issues that we have with the leadership, the following comrades feel that it is time to resign from Socialist Alternative. We feel that we cannot continue to work productively within an organization whose leadership uses these tactics. We will continue our work in revolutionary politics, and we will continue to work with our like-minded comrades who choose to remain in Socialist Alternative. We hope to re-engage with Socialist Alternative in the future, should the organization return to revolutionary socialist politics.
Contact us at: RhodeIslandSocialists@gmail.com
Contact us at: RhodeIslandSocialists@gmail.com