Participants came from around the United States, as well as from several other countries. About 100 of those present were in the middle of several voluntary projects to advance the work of the Militant, Perspectiva Mundial, and Pathfinder Press, from organizing Pathfinder’s library to preparations to digitally archive thousands of photographic prints. Among those attending were a number of Young Socialists as well as youth who had been drawn to the communist movement and their explanations in the thick of the ongoing peace demonstrations and other political events.
Naomi Craine opened the meeting on behalf of the Socialist Workers Party and Young Socialists in New York. On the speakers platform together with Barnes, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, were Mary-Alice Waters, president of Pathfinder Press, and Young Socialists Lawrence Mikesh and Arrin Hawkins. The co-chair was Róger Calero, a Militant staff writer and Perspectiva Mundial associate editor, who is fighting a deportation threat by the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
Mikesh spoke of his experiences joining with others to campaign in defense of Róger Calero during a recent visit to nine cities in Iceland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. Everywhere he went, he said, "students and workers were interested in news of the class struggle in the United States and in supporting Calero’s fight"--from youth organizing protests against the deportations of Salvadoran and Chechen immigrants in Sweden, to Irish republicans in Scotland, to students at a university in London and in three high schools in Iceland.
Build U.S.-Cuba Youth Exchange
Hawkins, who has been working as a volunteer in Pathfinder’s printshop for the past year, spoke about other aspects of the political work of the Young Socialists. One effort YS members are involved in is working with other youth to organize a trip to Cuba in July, the Third Cuba-U.S. Youth Exchange, which Hawkins said will be "a pole of attraction for those looking to oppose imperialism and its wars." It will be an avenue to "help educate participants on the Cuban Revolution and in the need to build a revolutionary movement in the United States," she said.
Another such opportunity to meet and work with revolutionary-minded youth will be a speaking tour of 11 U.S. cities by two Cuban youth leaders scheduled for late March and April, she said.
Hawkins explained that she was part of a Young Socialists leadership delegation that would attend the March 4–7 General Assembly of the World Federation of Democratic Youth, of which the YS is a member, and a March 8 preparatory meeting to discuss plans for the next World Festival of Youth and Students, both taking place in Havana. The Young Socialists are working to draw other student and youth groups into the youth festival as part of long-term efforts to build an international anti-imperialist youth movement.
Hawkins had just returned from Cuba, where she reported for the Militant on the January 30–February 9 Havana International Book Fair. An international team of communist workers and youth staffed Pathfinder’s booth at the fair.
Pathfinder participation in Havana fair
Pathfinder has participated in the Havana book fair for nearly 20 years, said Mary-Alice Waters. This year was one of the most fruitful in broadening collaboration with revolutionaries in Cuba, as registered in the success of Pathfinder’s book launchings at the fair. The three titles it launched this year were Malcolm X Talks to Young People; Marianas in Combat: Teté Puebla and the Mariana Grajales Women’s Platoon in Cuba’s Revolutionary War, 1956–58; and October 1962: the ‘Missile’ Crisis As Seen From Cuba by Tomás Diez Acosta.
Among those speaking at the presentations of these books at the fair and afterward were several longtime revolutionary combatants such as brigadier generals Delsa Esther "Teté" Puebla and Harry Villegas, and other generals of Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces.
In her presentations at the meetings, Waters said, she explained "that we don’t publish such titles primarily to bring them to Cuba, but because they are needed by working people in the United States and in other countries, to bring the example of the Cuban Revolution to those engaged in struggle." Many Cuban participants in the meetings were struck by this point and appreciated it.
"We should never take for granted this response to Pathfinder books in Cuba," Waters emphasized. Pathfinder supporters have participated in the fair since 1984, Waters said, and "each effort has built on the others." The success of this year’s book launchings registered this long-term cumulative political work.
In recent years at the Havana book fair Pathfinder has presented a number of books, mostly about the Cuban Revolution. Malcolm X Talks to Young People was the first Pathfinder book launched in Havana that "covers the class struggle in the United States," Waters said. Casa Editora Abril, the Union of Young Communists (UJC) publishing house, joined Pathfinder to present its own edition--the "first-ever collection of Malcolm X speeches published in Cuba," she said.
The book’s availability in Cuba is timely, she noted, given the ongoing political offensive by the Cuban leadership to win the new generations to the revolution, commonly known on the island as the Battle of Ideas. This includes efforts to address real social problems such as the growing social inequalities between those who have access to U.S. dollars, through their jobs or their relatives in the United States, and those who don’t.
In a recent speech Cuban president Fidel Castro pointed out that while the Cuban Revolution had taken giant steps to uproot institutionalized racist discrimination, a legacy of racism from capitalist society remains and must be addressed. The Battle of Ideas is being used to expand education as a way to integrate into productive activity those youth who have dropped out of school and are not working, or who end up in prison--including a number of youth who are Black.
The Battle of Ideas, she said, is a class approach based on making education available as a lifetime right for all working people.
Capitalism’s long hot winter
SWP national secretary Barnes, who gave the main presentation, began by explaining that "two processes are necessary in the accumulation of the conditions for a socialist revolution." One is the deepening of the class struggle, as workers and farmers respond to capitalism’s unfolding economic catastrophe and to the ruling class’s need to use rougher methods of rule at home and abroad.
We are at the beginning of "the long winter of capitalism," said Barnes, "a period of depressed economic development, financial instability, and explosions.
"We add a qualifier," he said: "it will be a hot winter," as relations between imperialist countries become increasingly marked by discord, competition, and war.
The other necessary process is subjective, said Barnes. Through a number of historic stages and experiences, a vanguard of working people must be won to adopting, implementing, and renewing the communist program as part of building a revolutionary workers party.
Today, Barnes noted, political traditions within labor are still weak. One reflection of this is the fact that vanguard fighters among working people have by and large not yet joined the large peace actions that have taken place in recent months. Such actions will at first not involve many workers.
Socialist workers act to encourage their co-workers and fellow unionists to attend such protests, while they argue for a proletarian internationalist perspective against the pacifist and nationalist slogans put forward by the organizers of these actions. They report back to their co-workers on the demonstrations, increasing the likelihood that fellow workers will participate in the future.
In this way, communists act as "tribunes of the people," said Barnes, citing a phrase popularized by Bolshevik party leader V.I. Lenin to describe the party’s cadre. Lenin contrasted such "tribunes," who bring a broad political perspective to fellow workers, to the model of the reform-minded "trade union secretary" focused on narrow "bread and butter" issues within the plants.
Need for a culture of Marxism
Outside the small nuclei of communist workers in the United States and several other countries today, Barnes said, the culture of Marxism that previously existed in the world has all but disappeared. Such a culture, with wide-ranging debates taking place on political and scientific thought, is necessary to help organize and prepare for a socialist revolution.
Over more than six decades the Stalinist bureaucracy in the Soviet Union and worldwide, which organized one defeat after another of revolutionary openings, turned Marxism into its opposite, using their doctrines to justify their thuggish, counterrevolutionary methods. At the same time, Barnes said, they felt obliged to defend Marxism in the abstract and, for their own reasons, print and distribute the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin.
With the collapse of the bureaucratic regimes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, and the accompanying political crisis of the political parties that looked to them, Stalinist leaders have increasingly discarded any pretensions as followers of Marxism. Even many revolutionary forces in the world do not feel obligated to be consistent with Marxism. Consequently, debates in the workers movement do not "take place on the ground of Marxism," Barnes said. Such a culture of Marxism will have to be rebuilt, he said.
In today’s world, Barnes pointed out, for the first time since World War II, the prospect of a shooting war between major imperialist powers does not seem inconceivable to many working people.
In the debates over how to further grind Iraq underfoot and grab hold of the oil wealth in the Middle East, we see the "clash of real imperialist class interests," he said--a clash that is evident in the conflicts between Paris and Washington.
The French rulers oppose a U.S. invasion and a "regime change" in Iraq because it would spell the end of the business contracts they have built up over a decade with the Saddam Hussein regime. French companies have signed almost 800 contracts with Iraq in that period. U.S. companies have signed precisely zero.
Rivalry not just about Iraq
The rivalry is not about one country, Iraq, but about mineral and strategic platforms throughout the Mideast and worldwide, Barnes emphasized. The U.S. rulers are also targeting the oil fields and agricultural wealth of Africa--a continent where the French and other European imperialist powers have enormous interests at stake. In the Ivory Coast, some 3,000 French troops are seeking to impose a Paris-engineered "peace settlement" on the opposing sides in the civil war.
The impending war in the Middle East is not the "continuation of the last Gulf war," Barnes said. The communist movement described the events of 1990–91 as the "opening guns of World War III," pointing to the sharpening interimperialist conflicts that marked the conflict then. But much has happened over the past decade, he said. The coming war will be the first imperialist war to come out of the new situation announced in the previous war.
With the "9/11" argument largely exhausted, Washington continues to drive toward military confrontations along the lines of the "axis of evil" proclaimed by President George Bush at the beginning of 2002, said Barnes. Those officially targeted are Iraq, Iran, and the north Korean workers state.
While Iraq is under the gun today, it is not the only target, Barnes pointed out. Iran is a bigger prize, because of the blows that the Iranian masses dealt to the imperialist order in the 1979 overturn of Washington’s client regime of the shah.
The likelihood of a prolonged and bloody war--rather than a rapid military attack with few U.S. casualties, as Washington hopes to pull off in Iraq--increases as Washington takes on countries in which the workers and peasants have transformed social relations through a revolution and see a stake in defending their conquests, he said. That is the case in Iran.
In that respect, Barnes said, the most significant development of the last week was not the continuing imperialist buildup on Iraq’s borders, but the intrusion into Iran--under United Nations cover--of nuclear "inspectors" who snooped around new nuclear plants in the towns of Natanz and Arak.
The record of such "UN inspection teams" can be seen in Iraq, Barnes said. Trampling on its national sovereignty, the imperialist powers have used the "UN inspectors" to progressively weaken Iraq’s defensive capabilities and justify an imperialist invasion.
The U.S.-led war on Iraq has effectively begun, he said. Fronts of this war include the intrusive inspections; the control of the "no-fly zones"--covering half the country’s area--by U.S. and British planes; a naval blockade; and the deployment of U.S. special forces in the north, poised to secure the oil wells. All this is combined with the grinding effect of more than a decade of brutal UN-approved economic sanctions.
This is the real face of the United Nations, which Barnes called an "imperialist instrumentality" put together by the victorious powers after the second world imperialist slaughter.
This is something communists must consistently explain to those who are joining today’s peace protests, in which slogans like "let the inspectors do their work" play a prominent part, he said. As the inspectors have "done their work" of assaulting Iraq’s sovereignty, Washington has relentlessly continued to prepare an invasion.
Predominant among the forces that organized the large February 15–16 protests in the United States were the Stalinists, who orient to the Democratic Party. They have consistently called for the implementation of UN resolutions in Iraq, the very resolutions that Washington and other imperialist powers have used to devastate Iraq over the past decade.
A number of those who have participated in the demonstrations applauded the French government for its resistance to a new Security Council resolution placing a fresh stamp of approval on an Anglo-American-led invasion.
Millions in Africa, Asia, and the South Pacific know the real record of French imperialism, said Barnes. Although Paris dons the peacemaker’s garb today, its military officers and cops were, along with those from Belgium, perhaps the most savage of the representatives of the imperialist powers.
Tens of thousands of the young people who are joining the peace protests are ignorant of these historical facts, said Barnes. They know nothing of the record of all the imperialist powers and the United Nations. With illusions that the sheer size of the peace marches will sway the imperialists, or looking to some government, party, or bourgeois figure willing and able to stop the drive to war, they are unprepared for the rough reality of imperialism in a period of crisis.
"Many will be disillusioned when war is unleashed," said Barnes, "but their spirit will not be shattered. Those are the ones we seek to meet and to engage in discussion, as we explain as clearly as possible the character of imperialism and the need to build a revolutionary party capable of leading a movement to disarm the war makers and take power."
What we offer young workers and students is the opportunity to act in politics with an eye to this future, said Barnes.
Craine’s appeal for an initial boost to the fund resulted in a collection of about $20,000 in pledges and nearly $2,000 in cash and checks.
The Militant and Perspectiva Mundial are funded exclusively by working people and others who value these socialist periodicals for accurately presenting the facts and explaining a revolutionary working-class perspective. Raising the $75,000 is necessary to cover the operating expenses for producing and shipping these publications that cannot be met through subscription and bundle sales alone.
Supporters of the Militant and Perspectiva Mundial around the world are discussing local quotas they will adopt to help make the international goal; the Militant should be informed of these targets by March 10. In next week’s issue a chart will appear with the quotas adopted.
Coming in March,