Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Defend Julian Assange

The following statement was issued by the editor in chief of Wiki Leaks, Julian Assange.  We are reprinting it here unchanged as it appeared in the Australian newspaper, The Australian.[1].  Assange has been the target of a vicious campaigns of threats, character assassination and a judicial frame up for exposing the criminal nature of the foreign policy of the United States and other imperialist powers.  The defense of Assange should be a cornerstone of the struggle against imperialist war.

Assange's statement is an eloquent defense of his actions in exposing the lies that governments routinely tell their people. As a result of the material published in Wiki Leaks recently we have a birds eye view of what goes on in the world of diplomacy where, behind the veneer of bourgeois democracy and its hypocritical invocation by our political leaders, whether they be Bush or Obama,  there lies relations power so cynical, ruthless and amoral as to make the Borgias' blush.  It may come as a surprise to some that Assange invokes the father of the notorious right wing press baron Rupert Murdoch, namely Keith Murdoch, as an example of a journalist of integrity.  But in fact the allusion is appropriate as Keith Murdoch stood up against the British government in World War I and exposed an uncomfortable truth about their military policy.

Julian Assange

Don't shoot messenger for revealing uncomfortable truths

WIKILEAKS deserves protection, not threats and attacks.

IN 1958 a young Rupert Murdoch, then owner and editor of Adelaide's The News, wrote: "In the race between secrecy and truth, it seems inevitable that truth will always win."

His observation perhaps reflected his father Keith Murdoch's expose that Australian troops were being needlessly sacrificed by incompetent British commanders on the shores of Gallipoli. The British tried to shut him up but Keith Murdoch would not be silenced and his efforts led to the termination of the disastrous Gallipoli campaign.

Nearly a century later, WikiLeaks is also fearlessly publishing facts that need to be made public.

I grew up in a Queensland country town where people spoke their minds bluntly. They distrusted big government as something that could be corrupted if not watched carefully. The dark days of corruption in the Queensland government before the Fitzgerald inquiry are testimony to what happens when the politicians gag the media from reporting the truth.

These things have stayed with me. WikiLeaks was created around these core values. The idea, conceived in Australia, was to use internet technologies in new ways to report the truth.

WikiLeaks coined a new type of journalism: scientific journalism. We work with other media outlets to bring people the news, but also to prove it is true. Scientific journalism allows you to read a news story, then to click online to see the original document it is based on. That way you can judge for yourself: Is the story true? Did the journalist report it accurately?

Democratic societies need a strong media and WikiLeaks is part of that media. The media helps keep government honest. WikiLeaks has revealed some hard truths about the Iraq and Afghan wars, and broken stories about corporate corruption.

People have said I am anti-war: for the record, I am not. Sometimes nations need to go to war, and there are just wars. But there is nothing more wrong than a government lying to its people about those wars, then asking these same citizens to put their lives and their taxes on the line for those lies. If a war is justified, then tell the truth and the people will decide whether to support it.

If you have read any of the Afghan or Iraq war logs, any of the US embassy cables or any of the stories about the things WikiLeaks has reported, consider how important it is for all media to be able to report these things freely.

WikiLeaks is not the only publisher of the US embassy cables. Other media outlets, including Britain's The Guardian, The New York Times, El Pais in Spain and Der Spiegel in Germany have published the same redacted cables.

Yet it is WikiLeaks, as the co-ordinator of these other groups, that has copped the most vicious attacks and accusations from the US government and its acolytes. I have been accused of treason, even though I am an Australian, not a US, citizen. There have been dozens of serious calls in the US for me to be "taken out" by US special forces. Sarah Palin says I should be "hunted down like Osama bin Laden", a Republican bill sits before the US Senate seeking to have me declared a "transnational threat" and disposed of accordingly. An adviser to the Canadian Prime Minister's office has called on national television for me to be assassinated. An American blogger has called for my 20-year-old son, here in Australia, to be kidnapped and harmed for no other reason than to get at me.

And Australians should observe with no pride the disgraceful pandering to these sentiments by Julia Gillard and her government. The powers of the Australian government appear to be fully at the disposal of the US as to whether to cancel my Australian passport, or to spy on or harass WikiLeaks supporters. The Australian Attorney-General is doing everything he can to help a US investigation clearly directed at framing Australian citizens and shipping them to the US.

Prime Minister Gillard and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have not had a word of criticism for the other media organisations. That is because The Guardian, The New York Times and Der Spiegel are old and large, while WikiLeaks is as yet young and small.

We are the underdogs. The Gillard government is trying to shoot the messenger because it doesn't want the truth revealed, including information about its own diplomatic and political dealings.

Has there been any response from the Australian government to the numerous public threats of violence against me and other WikiLeaks personnel? One might have thought an Australian prime minister would be defending her citizens against such things, but there have only been wholly unsubstantiated claims of illegality. The Prime Minister and especially the Attorney-General are meant to carry out their duties with dignity and above the fray. Rest assured, these two mean to save their own skins. They will not.

Every time WikiLeaks publishes the truth about abuses committed by US agencies, Australian politicians chant a provably false chorus with the State Department: "You'll risk lives! National security! You'll endanger troops!" Then they say there is nothing of importance in what WikiLeaks publishes. It can't be both. Which is it?

It is neither. WikiLeaks has a four-year publishing history. During that time we have changed whole governments, but not a single person, as far as anyone is aware, has been harmed. But the US, with Australian government connivance, has killed thousands in the past few months alone.

US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates admitted in a letter to the US congress that no sensitive intelligence sources or methods had been compromised by the Afghan war logs disclosure. The Pentagon stated there was no evidence the WikiLeaks reports had led to anyone being harmed in Afghanistan. NATO in Kabul told CNN it couldn't find a single person who needed protecting. The Australian Department of Defence said the same. No Australian troops or sources have been hurt by anything we have published.

But our publications have been far from unimportant. The US diplomatic cables reveal some startling facts:

► The US asked its diplomats to steal personal human material and information from UN officials and human rights groups, including DNA, fingerprints, iris scans, credit card numbers, internet passwords and ID photos, in violation of international treaties. Presumably Australian UN diplomats may be targeted, too.

► King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia asked the US to attack Iran.

► Officials in Jordan and Bahrain want Iran's nuclear program stopped by any means available.

► Britain's Iraq inquiry was fixed to protect "US interests".

► Sweden is a covert member of NATO and US intelligence sharing is kept from parliament.

► The US is playing hardball to get other countries to take freed detainees from Guantanamo Bay. Barack Obama agreed to meet the Slovenian President only if Slovenia took a prisoner. Our Pacific neighbour Kiribati was offered millions of dollars to accept detainees.

In its landmark ruling in the Pentagon Papers case, the US Supreme Court said "only a free and unrestrained press can effectively expose deception in government". The swirling storm around WikiLeaks today reinforces the need to defend the right of all media to reveal the truth.

Julian Assange is the editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks.

[1] http://www.theaustralian.com.au/in-depth/wikileaks/dont-shoot-messenger-for-revealing-uncomfortable-truths/story-fn775xjq-1225967241332

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi's Court Statement

Jafar Panahi in Teheran this past August

Note: We are reprinting in full the passionate statement issued last week by Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi to the court in Teheran. Panahi has established an international reputation based on such films as The White Balloon,” “ Crimson Gold,” and “ Offside.” He was arrested earlier this year by security forces of the clerical Iranian regime while making a film that was characterized by the pro-government press as "anti-state". Panahi had made no secret of his support for the protests that broke out following last year's election. In March he was jailed in the notorious Evin prison for three months. After staging a hunger strike he was finally released on bail in May. An international campaign demanding his freedom won the support of the elite of the film community. Among the notables who spoke up for Panahi are the famed Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami. He was joined by American filmmakers Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Francis Ford Coppola. At the Cannes film festival last year the famous French actress Juliette Binoche could not hold back her tears at a news conference for Panahi.

Panahi's statement is a powerful defense of basic democratic rights against the autocratic theocracy of modern day Iran. He also makes it clear that it is not only he personally who is on trial but the entire Iranian cinema and Iranian culture as a whole. Panahi's statement is not that of a revolurionary socialist but of a principled advocate of democratic rights and the autonomy of culture. Doubltess Panahi maintains certain illusions about the viability of the leadership of the protest movement, illusions which we as Marxists do not share. Nevertheless it is important to proclaim our solidarity with the protestors despite our opposition to their leadership. It is in that spirit that we are reprinting Panahi's eloquent statement. (For previous statements we have published about Panahi's case, see "A case of political hypocrisy: The WSWS's 'defense' of jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi" and "More on the WSWS and Panahi: An exchange with a reader". )

Alex Steiner

Nov. 18, 2010

Your Honor, I would like to present my defense in two parts.

Part 1: What they say.

In the past few days I have been watching my favorite films again, though I did not have access to some of them, which are among the greatest films of the history of cinema. My house was raided on the night of March 1, 2010 while my colleague Mr. Rasoulof and I were in the process of shooting what we intended to be a socially conscious art-house film. The people, who identified themselves as agents of the Ministry of Intelligence, arrested us along with other crew members without presenting any warrants. They confiscated my collection of films as well and never returned them to me. Subsequently, the only reference made to those films was by the prosecutor in charge of my case, who asked me: “What are these obscene films you’re collecting?”

I have learned how to make films inspired by those outstanding films that the prosecutor deemed obscene. Believe me I have just as much difficulty understanding how they could be called obscene as I do comprehending how the activity for which I was arrested could be seen as a crime. My case is a perfect example of being punished before committing a crime. You are putting me on trial for making a film that, at the time of our arrest, was only thirty percent shot. You must have heard that the famous creed, “There is no god, except Allah,” turns into blasphemy if you only say the first part and omit the second part. In the same vein, how can you establish that a crime has been committed by looking at 30 percent of the rushes for a film that has not been edited yet?

I do not comprehend the charge of obscenity directed at the classics of film history, nor do I understand the crime I am accused of. If these charges are true, you are putting not only us on trial but the socially conscious, humanistic, and artistic Iranian cinema as well, a cinema which tries to stay beyond good and evil, a cinema that does not judge or surrender to power or money but tries to honestly reflect a realistic image of the society.

One of the charges against me is attempting to encourage demonstrations and incite protests with this film. All through my career I have emphasized that I am a socially committed filmmaker not a political one. My main concerns are social issues; therefore my films are social dramas not political statements. I never wanted to act as a judge or a prosecutor. I am not a filmmaker who judges but one who invites other to see. I don’t get to decide for others or to write any kind of manual for anybody; please allow me to repeat my [intention] to place my cinema beyond good and evil. This kind of belief has caused my colleagues and myself a lot of trouble; many of my films have been banned, along with the films of other filmmakers like me. But it is unprecedented in Iranian cinema to arrest and imprison a filmmaker for making a film, and harass his family while he is in prison. This is a new development in the history of Iranian cinema that will be remembered for a long time.

I have been accused of participating in demonstrations. No Iranian filmmaker was allowed to use his camera to capture the events but you can not forbid an artist to observe! As an artist it is my responsibility to observes in order to get inspired and create. I was an observer, and it was my right to observe.

I have been accused of making a film without permission. Is it really necessary to point out here that no law has been passed by the parliament regarding the need for a permit to make a film? There are only some internal memos which are going through changes each time the deputy minister is changed.

I have been accused of not giving a script to the actors. In our filmmaking genre where we work mostly with non-professional actors, this is a very routine way of filmmaking practiced by myself and many of my colleagues; the cast mostly consists of non-actors. Therefore, the director does not find it necessary to give them a script. This accusation sounds more like a joke that has no place in the judiciary system.

I have been accused of having signed a declaration. I have singed one: an open letter signed by 37 prominent film makers, in order to express their concern about the turn of events in the country. I was one of them. Unfortunately, instead of listening to the concerns, we were accused of treachery. However, these filmmakers are the very same people who have expressed their concerns in the past about injustices around the world. How can you expect them to remain indifferent to the fate of their own country?

I have been accused of organizing demonstrations at the opening of Montreal Film Festival. At least some truth and fairness should back up any accusations. I was the chair of the jury in Montreal and arrived only a few hours before the opening. How could I have organized a demonstration in a place where I hardly knew anyone? Let’s not forget that in those days the Iranian Diaspora would gather at any relevant event around the world to voice their demands.

I have been accused of giving interviews to Persian-speaking media abroad. I know for fact that there are no laws forbidding us from giving interviews.

Part 2: What I say.

History testifies that an artist’s mind is the analytical mind of his society. By learning about the culture and history of his country, by observing the events that occur in his surroundings, he sees, analyzes and presents issues of the day through his art form to the society.

How can anyone be accused of any crime because of his mind and what passes through the mind?

The assassination of ideas and sterilizing artists of a society has only one result: killing the roots of art and creativity. Arresting my colleagues and I while shooting an unfinished film is nothing but an attack by those in power on all the artists of this land. It drives this crystal clear however sad message home: “You will repent if you don’t think like us.”

I would like to remind the court of yet an other ironic fact about my imprisonment: the space given to Jafar Panahi’s festival awards in Tehran’s Museum of Cinema is much larger than his cell in prison.

All said, despite all the injustice done to me, I, Jafar Panahi, declare once again that I am an Iranian, I am staying in my country and I like to work in my own country. I love my country, I have paid a price for this love too, and I am willing to pay again if necessary. I have yet another declaration to add to the first one. As shown in my films, I declare that I believe in the right of “the other” to be different, I believe in mutual understanding and respect, as well as in tolerance; the tolerance that forbid me from judgment and hatred. I don’t hate anybody, not even my interrogators.

I recognize my responsibilities toward the future generations that will inherit this country from us.

History is patient. Insignificant stories happen without even acknowledging their insignificance. I, myself, am worried about the future generations.

Our country is quite vulnerable; it is only through the [guarantee] of the state of law for all, regardless of any ethnic, religious or political consideration, that we can avoid the very real danger of a chaotic and fatal future. I truly believe that tolerance represents the only realistic and honorable solution to this imminent danger.


Jafar Panahi

An Iranian filmmaker

Monday, November 8, 2010

On the Anniversary of the October Revolution

On this day, the 93rd anniversary of the Russian Revolution, we are publishing an excerpt from a speech given by Trotsky on the occasion of the Fifth Anniversary of the revolution.  The text is taken from the volume, The First Five Years of the Communist International, Volume 2.  This HTML version is from the Marxist Internet Archives. 

Nov. 7, 2010 

The Fifth Anniversary of the October Revolution and the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International

Delivered Before the Active Membership of the Moscow Organization
October 20, 1922

Comrades, the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International will convene during a jubilee for the Soviet power, its Fifth Anniversary. My report will be devoted to these two events. The jubilee is of course a purely formal one; involving a date on the calendar, but events are not regulated by the calendar. The fifth anniversary of the Soviet power does not represent any kind of completed historical period, all the less so because in our revolutionary epoch everything is undergoing change, everything is in flux, everything is still far from static, nor will the finished forms be reached soon. Nevertheless it is quite natural for every thinking individual, all the more so a Communist, to strive toward an understanding of what has taken place, and to analyse the situation as it shapes up on this formal date on the calendar, on the fifth anniversary of the Soviet power and, therefore, also on the occasion of the Fourth World Congress of the Comintern.

The Tangled Skein of Capitalist Contradictions is Becoming Unravelled, Beginning with Russia

Two day ago I happened to attend a party cell meeting at the former Bromley plant. One of the comrades there, a member of the cell, raised the following question: In what country would the proletarian revolution be most advantageous from the standpoint of Communist interests? After a moment’s reflection I replied that taking it so abstractly one would have to say that a revolution in the United States would be the most advantageous. The reason for this is quite easy to understand. This country is the most independent in the world, economically speaking. Its agriculture and industry are so balanced as to enable the country to lead, in the event, say, of a savage blockade, a wholly independent existence. Moreover it is the richest country in the world, disposing of the foremost industrial technology, holding in its hands approximately one-half, perhaps slightly less, of the visible gold reserve. It is a country concentrating in its hands the bigger half of world production in the most important branches. Naturally, were the proletariat of this country to take power into its hands, it would possess unsurpassed material foundations, and organizational and technical premises for socialist construction. The next country in order is – Great Britain, while Russia would come on this list if not the very last in the series (because there exists Asia, there is Africa), then at any rate very low toward the bottom of the list of countries within the borders of Europe. Yet history is, as you know, unravelling this tangled skein from the opposite end, namely from the end where Russia is located, a country which, in the cultural and economic sense, is the most backward among the major capitalist countries, a country which is extremely dependent in the economic and technological sense, and which, in addition, has been utterly ruined by the war. And if we were to ask ourselves today what are the political premises for the proletarian revolution in the United States, then naturally one may grant a possible course of events such as may extraordinarily hasten the conquest of power by the American proletariat. But if we take the situation as it stands today, then we must say that in this strongest, largest, and most decisive leading capitalist country, the political premises, i.e., premises on the plane of the creation of systematic party and class organizations, are the least prepared. One could devote an entire report to explain why history began unravelling the skein of revolution from such a weak and backward country in the economic sense as ours, but in that case I would be able to speak of neither the Fourth World Congress nor of the fifth anniversary of the Soviet power. It suffices right now that we have been compelled for these five years to pursue the work of socialist construction in the economically most backward country, while capitalism, mortally hostile to us, has been preserved in bourgeois countries far superior to us economically. This is the fundamental fact, and from it, naturally, stemmed the fearsome intensity of our civil war.

The Fundamental Lesson of the Russian Revolution

Here, if we wish to draw our fundamental conclusion, we must say in praise of our party that it has set a colossal example – for the proletariat of all countries – of how to fight for power and of how, after conquering it, to defend this power by means of the most resolute measures, applying wherever necessary harsh and ruthless methods of dictatorship, without flinching before any decisive measures in trampling upon bourgeois hypocrisy, when at stake is the securing of state power by the revolutionary proletariat. And this textbook of the Russian Revolution, which ought to be written, the workers of all countries will study in the course of the next few years or perhaps decades, because it is impossible to say how long the proletarian revolution will endure from its beginning to its termination: It is a question of an entire historical epoch. Whether we did or did not make mistakes during the civil war (and of course there were mistakes), we nevertheless did on the whole accomplish the most classic part of our revolutionary work. We have more than once spoken of the mistakes which conditioned our need to retreat in the economic sphere, a major retreat which is known among us as the NEP (New Economic Policy). The fact that we marched forward at the very beginning along a certain road, and then retreated and are now fortifying ourselves on certain positions, tends to disrupt in the extreme the perspective not only among our enemies but also among many of our friends. Correspondents sympathetic to us and many Communists, European and American alike, pose as the first question, both during the departure of our delegation to Genoa as well as today, the fact that many things have changed in Moscow (and there were many visitors to Moscow in 1919 and 1920) and that Moscow now resembles too much other European and American cities. And in general where is the guarantee that you Russian Communists will check the further development and head for Communism and not for capitalism? Where is the guarantee?

The general impression at a superficial glance is that the socialist conquests gained in the first period are now spontaneously and automatically melting and crumbling away and there does not seem to be a power capable of retaining them. It is possible, Comrades, to approach the question from the other end and say as follows: Let us for a moment forget that we proceeded along the line of the so-called War Communism and later retreated to the present position. Let us take the situation as it exists today and compare it with what it was on October 25, or on the eve of the 1917 revolution. If our foreign well-wishers or the European and American Communists were to submit us to a cross-examination, we would say: The railways, the mines, the plants and the factories were at that time in the hands of private owners. Enormous areas of the land and the country’s natural resources were in the hands of private owners. Today all the railways, the overwhelming majority, or in any case all of the most important plants and factories, all of the most valuable natural resources in the country are in the hands of the state, which is, in turn, the property of the working class, supporting itself upon the peasant masses. This is the fact which we have before us as the product of five years. There was an offensive followed by a retreat, but here is the balance sheet: As the product of five years, the most important means of industry and production and a considerable sector of agricultural production are under the direct supervision and management of the workers’ state. This is a fundamental fact. But what has produced the retreat? This is a very important question, because the very fact of the retreat tends to disrupt the perspective. How did we conceive the successive order, the course of nationalizing the means of industry and of the organization of socialism? In all our old books, written by our teachers and by us, we always said and wrote that the working class, having conquered state power, will nationalize step by step, beginning with the best prepared means of production, which will be transferred to the socialist foundations. Does this rule remain in force today? Unquestionably it does, and we shall say at the Fourth World Congress, where we will discuss the question of the Communist program: will the working class on conquering power in Germany or in France have to begin by smashing the apparatus for organizing the technical means, the machinery of money economy and replace them by universal accounting? No, the working class must master the methods of capitalist circulation, the methods of accounting, the methods of stock market turnover, the methods of banking turnover and gradually, in consonance with its own technical resources and degree of preparation, pass over to the planned beginnings, replacing accounting by a computation of the profitability or non-profitability of a given enterprise, replacing accounting by taking stock of the centralized means and forces, including the labour force.

This is the fundamental lesson which we must once again teach the workers of the whole world, a lesson we were taught by our teachers. If we violated this lesson, it was owing to conditions of a political character, owing to the pressures brought to bear upon us after our conquest of state power. This is the most important difference between the proletarian revolution as it has occurred in Russia and the revolution which will occur, say, in America. In that country, prior to the conquest of power, the working class will have to surmount the most colossal difficulties but once it has conquered power, the pressure on those fronts on which we were compelled to fight will be far less, because our country with its petty-bourgeoisie, its backward kulaks (well-to-do peasants), experienced the revolution in a different way and because our revolution caught the Russian bourgeoisie by surprise. By the very fact of the October revolution we taught the bourgeoisie to understand just what it has lost when the workers took power and it was only the fact of the revolution itself that impelled the bourgeoisie, the kulaks and the officers to organize. We smashed the bourgeoisie not so much prior to October 25 and during the night of October 25-26 as in the three years’ interval following October 25, when the bourgeoisie, the landlords and the officers fathomed what was involved and began the struggle against us with the aid of European capitalism. In Europe we have a process differing profoundly from that in our country, because there the bourgeoisie is far better organized and more experienced, because there the petty-bourgeoisie has graduated from the school of the big bourgeoisie and is, in consequence, also far more powerful and experienced; and, in addition, the Russian Revolution has taught them a good deal. In these countries therefore the preparation and the arming of counter-revolutionary gangs is now taking place parallel with the preparation and tempering of the Communist Party for this struggle, which will be far more intense prior to their October 25, but not afterwards. Only before. The fact that in our country, the day after the conquest of power, the plants and factories turned out to be the fortresses and citadels of the bourgeoisie, the main base upon which European imperialism was able to depend, this fact compelled us to resort to nationalization, independently of our ability or the extent of our ability to organize these enterprises with our own forces and resources.

And if, for political reasons, we drove the property owners out of the factories, while being ourselves bereft of the possibility of even immediately gaining hold of these factories; if, for political reasons, we brought down the sword of dictatorship and of terror upon the stock market and the banks, it is self-evident that we thereby mechanically destroyed the apparatus in the service of the bourgeoisie and which the bourgeoisie employed for organizing the economy and for distributing the productive forces and commodities in the country. Insofar as we destroyed this apparatus at a single blow, we were, generally speaking, obliged to replace it with another – with the apparatus of centralized accounting and distribution. But such an apparatus had first to be created; we had to have it; but, naturally owing to all the preconditions, owing to our entire past, owing to our level of development and knowledge, we could not possibly create it. And so, because of the titanic and ineluctable aspects of the civil war as such, and because of the impossibility even for an advanced working class and all the more so for us, in a backward country, to create an apparatus of socialist calculation and distribution in the space of twenty-four hours – precisely because of this there arose the entire tragedy of our economy. War Communism, too, was not our program – it was imposed upon us. To the extent that there were fronts in the civil war, to the extent that we were compelled to destroy the enemy’s bases of support behind these fronts, i.e., the private capitalist enterprises of all categories, to that extent we were driven to manage the enterprises in a migratory and warlike manner. This was the epoch of War Communism and I shall not conceal that here, as is always the case, people tended to make a virtue out of necessity, i.e., in the same measure as War Communism was imposed upon us, the party workers and the leading party institutions tended to be carried away by inertia, in the sense of deluding themselves that we had here a complete solution of the tasks of socialist economy. But if we draw the balance sheet, we must say that the offensive and the retreat in the domain of economy had been dictated by the requirements of the civil war, which were absolutely imperative, and which cut across our economic conditions and the degree of our economic adaptation, or lack of adaptation. In other words, essentially both our offensive along the line of War Communism as well as our retreat along the line of the NEP were historically unavoidable in part and as a whole; and only on the basis of this historic necessity is it possible and necessary to analyse our subjective errors – both as a party and as a state power.

The Overhead Expenditures of the Revolution

There remains, Comrades, the most important question of all. As a result of five years, the workers’ state, as I said, disposes, after our retreat, of the most important means of production, and wields power. This is a fact. But there also is another fact – namely that we represent today one of the poorest countries in Europe. Yet it is quite obvious that socialism has meaning only to the extent that it assures a higher productivity of labour. Capitalism in its day superseded feudalism, while the latter superseded slave economy. Why? Because each succeeding economic order was more profitable in the socio-technological sense than the order it shunted aside; and socialism will naturally acquire its practical and not theoretical justification only on the condition that it supplies a greater quantity of goods per each unit of labour power for the satisfaction of social needs. And this is the chief argument employed against us. It was made use of even by the French representatives at Genoa; and Colrat, the French economic expert, repeated it in a crude and insolent form: “Don’t you dare teach us socialism when your own country is in a state of complete disorganization.” We would have preferred to provide in the last five years proofs of empirical character that is, show Europe an economy superior to the one which we obtained in 1917. This does not happen to be the case, but this is already ascribable entirely to the expenditures incurred by the revolution itself. Not a single revolution was ever accomplished without a lowering of the country’s economic level; and one of the conservative bourgeois historians of the French Revolution, Taine, so highly esteemed in the Third French Republic, has affirmed that for eight years following the Great French Revolution, the French people remained poorer than they were on the eve of revolution. This is a fact. Society is so shot through with contradictions, that it is capable of reaching a higher stage of development only through an internal class struggle. Society is so constituted that an internal class struggle in the fully unfolded form of civil war implies a lowering of economic levels. But, at the same time, of course, (every school boy knows this today), it was precisely and exclusively the Great French Revolution that created in France those governmental, juridical and cultural premises which provided the sole basis for the development of capitalism there, with all of its prowess, its technology and its bourgeois culture. In other words, what I wish to say is that the five-year period (and we must say this to all our critics, malicious and well-meaning alike who employ this argument) does not provide a historic scale by means of which it is possible to weigh the economic results of the proletarian revolution. All that we see up to now in our country are the overhead expenditures in the production of the revolution. These are expenditures for the revolution itself. And naturally, since these expenditures had to be covered from inherited capital, which, in turn, had been disorganized and devastated by the imperialist war, it therefore follows that we see in our country many more ruins of capitalism than results of socialist construction. The scale is far too small. This is what we must repeat once again at the Fourth World Congress of the Communist International. Five years in relation to the task of superseding capitalism by socialism, a task of the greatest historical magnitude – five years could not naturally bring about the necessary changes and what is, naturally, most important these five years constituted the period when socialism – as I said in the beginning – was being built or attempts were made to build it in the most backward country. The Great French Revolution, on the other hand, unfolded in the most advanced country on the European continent, a country that had attained a higher level than any other, with the exception of England across the Channel. In our country, the state of affairs assumed a far less favourable turn from the very beginning.

Here, Comrades, are in rough outline, those arguments which we shall develop in our party’s name at the Fourth World Congress where we are bound to ask our European and American comrades and at the same time ourselves, too: How do matters really stand with regard to the chances for the development of the European revolution? Because it is perfectly self-evident that the tempo of our future construction will in the highest measure depend upon the development of the revolution in Europe and in America.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The "first regular National Congress" of the SEP: Distorting the history of the International Committee

On Aug 30, 2010 the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) published a resolution from what it called the “first regular National Congress” of the Socialist Equality Party, held in Ann Arbor, Michigan in August of this year. The bizarre quality of this resolution is only punctuated by the incongruity of describing a movement that has been functioning as the Socialist Equality Party for 15 years as having its “first regular National Congress”. Presumably this designation is meant to distinguish this convocation from the “Founding Congress” of the SEP which took place either in 2008 or in 1995 depending on which pronouncements from the WSWS you read last.  

The resolution reported out of this Conference “Twenty-Five Years Since the Split with the Workers Revolutionary Party", was, as usual, adopted “unanimously”, following a pattern that we have come to expect from Congresses of the SEP.

Read More

In Spanish / Español

Friday, August 20, 2010

On the Seventieth Anniversary of the Assassination of Trotsky

Trotsky with Natalya and his grandson Seva

Today marks the Seventieth anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky. Rather than indulging in empty tributes to the memory of Trotsky while dishonoring his legacy in practice, as so many do, it is worth reflecting on the reason why Stalin had Trotsky murdered in the first place. In our times of economic devastation when socialist culture has all but been consigned to the dustibin of history by bourgeois commentators, it takes an effort to absorb the significance that Trotsky’s struggle held for millions of people in the 1930s and 1940s despite his near total isolation in Coyoacan during his last years in exile. For many workers and intellectuals, Trotsky represented the alternative to the nightmare of Stalinism, fascism and imperialist war. He symbolized the road that was opened up by the Russian Revolution for a few brief years, and then shut down by the rise of the Stalinist bureaucracy. While those heady days of revolutionary optimism are long gone, their memory remains to inspire new generations in new revolutionary struggles. And although the working class is now cut off from this historical memory, it can and will be revived to once again inspire millions. Although Stalin succeeded in murdering Trotsky, he failed to eradicate the memory of the Russian Revolution, thanks in large part to the literary and theoretical output of Trotsky and of the Fourth International that he built in his last days.

A remarkable book that was recently published provides a unique portrait of exactly why Stalin ordered Trotsky’s death. It confirms in every detail Trotsky’s own political analysis of the motives and methods behind the GPU assassination squads. Chief among the reasons given was the crisis precipitated by the imminent outbreak of war between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany.

"Sudoplatov was given the order [to arrange for the assassination of Trotsky] in March 1939...

Accompanied this time by the fearsome Beria, Sudolplatov entered the Kremlin building, took the stairs to the second floor and walked down the long wide carpeted corridor. He remembers the occasion in detail, as he does all his meetings with Stalin. ‘I felt I could hear my heart beating when Beria opened the door and we entered a reception room so huge it made the three writing tables seem tiny.’ Stalin got up, shook their hands and motioned them to sit down as he ‘began to pace back and forth in his Georgian boots’.

Then he sat down opposite them and spoke. I doubt that he used the exact clichés that Sudoplatov puts in his mouth but his meaning, as he came to the point, would have been clear: he’d had enough of Trotsky’s vitriol, of his sway – of his existence. He wanted him dead: dead within a year, dead before the war broke out, dead before there could be any question in anyone’s mind of his return to the Soviet Union as the more competent war leader. And dead finally before he could finish writing the biography of Stalin he’d embarked on a few years before."

From “The Eitingons: A Twentieth-Century Story”, by Mary-Kay Wilmers, Verso, 2010, p. 288-289

This account from the leading organizer of Trotsky’s assassination (Sudoplatov) confirms in every detail Trotsky’s own explanation of Stalin’s motivation in one of his last articles, "Stalin seeks my Death."

"After the active and truly murderous participation of the GPU in the Spanish events I received many letters from my friends, chiefly in New York and Paris, concerning agents of the GPU who were being sent into Mexico from France and the United States. The names and photographs of some of these gentlemen were transmitted by me in time to the Mexican police. The outbreak of the war aggravated the situation still further because of my irreconcilable struggle against the foreign and domestic policy of the Kremlin. My declarations and articles in the world press on the dismemberment of Poland, the invasion of Finland, the weakness of the Red Army beheaded by Stalin, etc.-were reproduced in all countries of the world in tens of millions of copies. Dissatisfaction inside the USSR is growing. In the capacity of a former revolutionist Stalin remembers that the Third International was incomparably weaker at the beginning of the last war than the Fourth International is today. The course of the war may provide a mighty impulsion to the development of the Fourth International, also within the USSR itself. That is why Stalin could not have failed to issue orders to his agents-to finish me as quickly as possible."

(For the entire essay, see http://www.marxists.org/archive/trotsky/1940/05/stalin.htm )

Finally we can think of no better tribute to Trotsky than to recall his own spirit of revolutionary optimism, an optimism based not on wishful thinking but on science and the power of the human imagination. This was summed up in Trotsky's last words as he lay dying at the hands of his assassin:

“I am confident in the victory of the Fourth International. Go forward!” ...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

More on the WSWS and Panahi: An exchange with a reader

Note: The article by Frank Brenner, “A case of political hypocrisy: the WSWS's 'defense' of jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi”, published on the permanent-revolution web site on May 29, 2010 - http://forum.permanent-revolution.org/2010/05/case-of-political-hypocrisy-wswss.html - elicited the following response from an anonymous reader. Today we are publishing the comment by Anonymous followed by Frank Brenner’s reply.

Mr. Brenner,

I visit your blog on a regular basis, but I am far from convinced by your analysis. With regard to the WSWS coverage of Iran, they did an excellent job of pointing to the class basis of the Green movement that was ignored by virtually all "leftist" news outlets. To ask that they sympathize further with the Iranian "masses" (of what class?) seems to reek of the ultra-leftism you accuse the WSWS of perpetuating. The WSWS has consistently called for the Iranian working class to assert itself independently of other class interests, such as those expressed by Mousavi.

However, the main contention you express that I would like to express disagreement over is your assertion that the SEP is "a movement that has little contact with workers and exists almost solely as a website." Among the various interventions into the working class that the SEP has carried out recently, one of the most noteworthy is the formation of the Dexter Fire Inquiry and afterward the creation of the Committee Against Utility Shutoffs. It is obvious that you read the WSWS very closely, so this statement seems to be somewhat disingenuous. I appreciate your efforts to ensure that the SEP remains loyal to Trotskyist principles and Marxist analysis, but statements like this seem to take away from this goal.


Frank Brenner’s reply:

Some points in response to Anonymous:

1. You say nothing about Panahi. If it was right to defend him, why did the WSWS wait two months to do so? And why has there been virtually nothing said about the thousands of other victims of Iranian government repression? In that context, isn’t the WSWS statement on Panahi outright hypocrisy?

2. Your statement that “the class basis of the Green movement” was ignored by “virtually all ‘leftist’ news outlets” is simply not true. I very much doubt you’ve actually read other radical websites and are relying instead on the claims of the WSWS itself. There were lots of voices on the left who were hostile to Mousavi. The ex-Maoist Workers World Party was even more vehement than the WSWS in denouncing reports of voter fraud in the Iranian election and provided the same analysis of the class basis of Mousavi’s support as the WSWS (http://www.workers.org/2009/editorials/iran_0625/). The neo-Stalinists of the Monthly Review magazine ran a long piece which provided a far more detailed analysis of Mousavi’s big business links and neo-liberal economic policies than anything on the WSWS (http://mrzine.monthlyreview.org/2009/pourzal270609.html). Even the International Socialists, as typical a middle class radical group as there is, were quite clear about Mousavi’s ties to the financial elites and the Islamic clerical establishment (http://socialistworker.org/2009/06/23/between-revolt-and-repression). And it deserves to be noted that one of the most vocal defenders of Ahmadinejad in the aftermath of the election was none other than Hugo Chavez, president of Venezuela and darling of the middle class radicals. This paints a rather different picture of opinion on the left on this issue than what the WSWS would like its readers to believe.

3. Why is it “ultra-leftism” to express solidarity with the Iranian masses? This has nothing to do with the way Lenin and Trotsky defined this term; on the contrary, they would have considered it an elementary duty of Marxists to stand with the masses in their struggles for basic democratic freedoms. Your statement expresses the sectarianism that now prevails within the SEP, a sectarianism that is deeply suspicious of – and even overtly hostile to – mass struggles.

4. As to which class the millions of protestors belong, many indeed do come from the urban middle classes, but there was lots of evidence that sections of workers, for example the Teheran bus drivers, were joining the protests. Even the WSWS conceded as much when there was a new flare-up of anti-government demonstrations in December (http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/dec2009/pers-d29.shtml), citing reports that the working class neighborhoods of south Teheran were involved. Of course such a mass movement is never going to be homogeneous, especially in its initial stages. To expect an independent movement of the working class to emerge – on its own! – is a complete delusion, which is exactly what characterizes sectarian politics. But there is also lots of evidence of tensions between the conservative bourgeois leadership of this movement and the increasingly radicalized mass base. The crux of revolutionary practice in this situation is for Marxists to do what we can to exploit those tensions and thereby help bring about the emergence of an openly socialist and working class opposition to the Islamic regime. But no such intervention is possible if you are denouncing the demonstrators “as pawns in an attempted palace coup.” They will treat everything else you say to them with contempt – and rightly so!

5. Moreover, for all its rhetoric about the working class, the WSWS shows remarkably little interest in the actual struggles of Iranian workers. Strikes by teachers and bus drivers have received little if any coverage. The Teheran bus drivers’ leader, Mansour Osanlou, was arrested for leading an illegal work stoppage in 2005 and handed a five year sentence. His case was prominent enough to be featured by Amnesty International but the WSWS never issued a statement calling for his release. Had he been a famous filmmaker getting lots of press at Cannes, no doubt the WSWS would have paid more attention.

Jailed union leader Mansour Osanlou

6. You cite one example of an SEP intervention in the working class - the Dexter Avenue fire inquiry. You either ignore or haven’t read our account of the long history of the SEP’s abstentionism. (See “Marxism Without its Head or its Heart” [MWHH], especially chapter 5: http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/mwhh_ch05.pdf ). Yes, very, very occasionally the SEP does interventions like the Dexter inquiry: in fact, the last time they did something like this – the Mack Avenue fire inquiry – was 17 years ago! It’s hard to believe that in all that time there weren’t other egregious cases of utility shutoffs and victimizations of working class families in Detroit, Chicago, New York, Los Angeles etc. Where was the SEP in all that time? Somewhat more frequently the SEP conducts election campaigns. A good example of their efforts was the 2008 US presidential election, held at the very moment the global financial system was undergoing a meltdown. If ever there was a time for the voice of socialism to be heard, this was it, and yet the SEP made no effort to get its candidates on the ballot in any state and even treated its call for a write-in vote as a completely perfunctory exercise. Given that record, I think our characterization of the SEP as a party that is largely estranged from the working class and exists almost solely as a website is quite accurate.

7. A further point in this regard. Sectarians sometimes intervene in the working class, but those interventions are typically characterized by lecturing at workers and presenting them with ultimatums. Bolshevik and Trotskyist practice, embodied in The Transitional Program, is about engaging the masses politically and helping build bridges to socialist consciousness. The SEP does no work in the unions, no work among working class youth, and though it routinely issues calls for strike committees, this is purely journalistic rhetoric, as we showed in detail in MWHH. In that context, we can safely say that the Dexter Avenue fire inquiry won’t amount to much more than a propaganda exercise – which is all that sectarians understand by revolutionary practice.

Frank Brenner,

June 22, 2010

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A case of political hypocrisy: the WSWS's 'defense' of jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi

by Frank Brenner
May 29, 2010

The surrealist poet and revolutionary Andre Breton once declared with obvious exasperation that “the intellectual trade is plied with such impunity.” What he meant is that intellectuals often get away with flagrant contradictions and inconsistencies in their positions, which they never bother to account for. Alas, the same could also be said for many supposed Marxists. A case in point is a recent statement by the World Socialist Web Site (WSWS) in defense of jailed Iranian film director Jafar Panahi.

Panahi is a world-famous director, whose films include “The White Balloon” and “Offside”, which won the Berlin Film Festival Silver Bear award. He was arrested at his home along with family members and friends, and while the others were quickly released, the director has been held now for two months in the notorious Evin prison in Teheran. He was jailed for his support for the opposition protest movement against the disputed reelection of President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad last year. Panahi has recently begun a hunger strike to protest his imprisonment. [1]

(In the latest update on this story, Panahi was released from jail on bail on May 25, clearly as a response to the international outcry over his arrest. However, the unspecified charges against him have not been withdrawn and will be referred to an Islamic revolutionary court for trial.)
Jafar Panahi at his home shortly after his release from prison.
As anyone familiar with our website knows, we have for years provided a detailed analysis of the evolution of the ICFI away from Marxism and towards an increasingly hardened sectarianism. We have long since given up charting every example of this degeneration, though it would be possible to cite articles from the WSWS on a weekly and at times even daily basis that could confirm our analysis. But the article on Panahi is such an egregious case of the kind of intellectual dishonesty Breton was talking about that it deserves a brief comment.

It should go without saying that Marxists defend Panahi and demand his immediate and unconditional release. This the WSWS article does, but it ends with “a word of caution”, stating that “while Panahi and many other artists and intellectuals are sincere in their opposition to the Islamic regime, the Green Movement offers no way forward for the working class and is deeply antagonistic to its social interests. Headed by Mir Hossein Mousavi, a big business politician, this movement represents a section of the Iranian bourgeoisie who are hostile to genuine democratic rights and are seeking a new deal with the US and other imperialist powers.”

This greatly understates the vehemence with which the WSWS denounced last year's mass demonstrations, which posed the most serious challenge ever to the Islamic regime. As we explained elsewhere, [2] while it was necessary for Marxists to expose the bourgeois leadership of Mousavi, it was equally essential to solidarize ourselves with the democratic aspirations of the millions of demonstrators who were risking life and liberty to oppose the hated regime of the mullahs.

But the WSWS coverage of these events was, as we pointed out, “noteworthy precisely for its antipathy to the masses.” The WSWS made no distinction between the leadership and the demonstrators even though there was lots of evidence “even before the election that many of those who backed Mousavi were only doing so because they felt there was no other viable choice and that their opposition to the Islamic Republic went far beyond what their candidate stood for. Those contradictions came out in the demonstrations themselves, which were often organized to a large extent outside the official control of Mousavi’s Green movement and increasingly replaced the approved slogans of reform with the revolutionary challenge of 'Death to the Dictator.'”

The WSWS also insisted on portraying the demonstrations as a purely middle class movement, ignoring reports that sections of the working class were joining the protests. There was also the clear implication that the protest movement was being manipulated, if not directly hatched, by US imperialism.

The WSWS line on the Iranian events was epitomized by the following statement: “To the extent that students, young people and any workers opposed to the regime have been swept up in the opposition movement, they are being exploited as pawns in what can only be described as an attempted palace coup.” [3]

We pointed out that as a consequence of this vilification of the demonstrators as “pawns in an attempted palace coup”, the WSWS “said nothing for months about the brutal repression meted out to the protestors by Ahmadinejad’s thugs, including mass arrests, beatings, murders while in custody and judicial frame-ups.”

Now, in the high-profile case of Jafar Panahi, the WSWS has chosen to end this shameful silence. What accounts for this? There's no indication of any rethinking of the WSWS political line: that's evident not only from the “note of caution” at the end of the Panahi statement but most tellingly from the links to the recommended articles appended to the statement, which includes the same article I just cited, the one that characterizes the demonstrators as “pawns in an attempted palace coup.”

One has a right to ask: if this characterization is still valid, then on what grounds is the WSWS defending Panahi? After all, if Panahi is just another of the “pawns in an attempted palace coup,” isn't there some legitimacy to the Ahmadenijad regime's jailing of these “pawns”?

But listen to Panahi, in a message he sent from prison, thanking those who were working for his release: “Your voices are joined with those of my wife, my children, and those of all of my compatriots working for my freedom, that reach me from beyond these prison walls. But let us not forget the thousands of defenseless prisoners here, who have no one to pass on the message of their distress. Like me, they have committed no crime. And my blood is no more important than theirs.”

But the WSWS has indeed forgotten these “thousands of defenseless prisoners.” Panahi is right – “my blood is no more important than theirs” – which means that anyone who fails to defend them isn't really defending Panahi. But that is exactly the sort of 'defense' of Panahi the WSWS is putting forward.

Defending these prisoners doesn't mean endorsing Mousavi and the bourgeois leadership of the Green movement. To anyone not blinded by sectarianism, it should be evident that Marxist politics has to work on two fronts – solidarizing ourselves with the democratic aspirations of the demonstrators while doing everything we can to show them that those aspirations will only be met through a politically independent movement of the working class for a socialist Iran. The WSWS is happy to issue calls for socialism in Iran but it completely isolates those calls from the living struggles of the masses, which means that its calls are nothing more than empty rhetoric.

To go back to the question of why the WSWS chose to issue a statement defending Panahi, it is clear that factors other than political principle were involved. One doesn't need to be a Sherlock Holmes to figure out what is going on here.

Panahi's case had become a cause celebre within the film community. Many prominent filmmakers, actors and intellectuals had come out with statements demanding Panahi's release. At the Cannes film festival earlier this month, his case was raised time and again: renowned Iranian director Abbas Kiarostami praised Panahi at a news conference, actress Juliette Binoche told the audience at the closing night ceremony that Panahi's so-called crime was “to be an artist, to be independent,” and since Panahi's jailing prevented him from participating as a judge for the prestigious Palme d'Or, the other judges left one chair empty during their deliberations as a sign of protest.

The WSWS has worked for many years now to develop ties in the film community, especially through regular attendance at various film festivals. Arts editor David Walsh covers film festivals in North America, Richard Phillips (who wrote the Panahi statement) does the same in Australia, Stefan Steinberg has the German beat.

(For a tiny movement this is an extraordinary investment of resources, to what end it's hard to say. How endless reams of film reviews are supposed to raise the cultural consciousness of the working class – or contribute to a Marxist theory of art – is very much a mystery. Nor has this work produced anything noticeable in the way of recruitment among filmmakers or actors. What it has done is given the WSWS a superficial credibility as a commentator on cultural issues. And that matters in a movement that has little contact with workers and exists almost solely as a website.)

In any case, if you spend a lot of time at film festivals, you can't avoid responding to the pressures emanating from these circles. The Panahi case was a big deal in those circles, and for a supposedly revolutionary socialist website to say nothing on this matter would have raised a lot of eyebrows. In other words, the decision to make a statement on Panahi had less to do with defending the democratic rights of a jailed filmmaker and more to do with 'practical', i.e. cynical, considerations. The statement amounts to a fig leaf to hide the unpleasant truth about the WSWS's reactionary vilification of the Iranian masses.

Even at that, the WSWS waited an unconscionably long time – two months – to make its statement, though WSWS film reviewers like Walsh and Phillips undoubtedly heard about Panahi's arrest soon after it happened. In other words, grudgingly and only in the case of someone too famous to ignore, would the WSWS come out in defense of one of the “pawns in an attempted palace coup.”

(The contrast between this slow-motion reaction on the Panahi case and the rapid response of the WSWS in defending famed film director Roman Polanski – who is facing extradition to and imprisonment in the US – is striking. To be sure, the defense of Polanski is justified, but there is nothing overtly political about the charges he is facing, though of course there are many political implications to his case. With Panahi, however, the politics are front and center – and that's precisely why the WSWS waited so long before commenting.)

Sectarians have often been known to combine ultra-left rhetoric and reactionary politics. Underlying this apparent contradiction is the sectarian's distrust of, and even hostility towards, the living struggles of the masses. That is really what is behind the WSWS stance on Iran. While wanting to be on record as defending Panahi, the WSWS has actually served as a de facto apologist for the regime that put him in jail. To call this hypocrisy is an understatement.

[1] “Jailed Iranian filmmaker Jafar Panahi on hunger strike,” WSWS, May 24, 2010: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2010/may2010/pana-m24.shtml

[2] The Downward Spiral of the International Committe,Conclusion: http://www.permanent-revolution.org/polemics/downward_spiral_ch08.pdf, p. 210, n. 11

[3] “For workers' power and a socialist Iran,” WSWS, June 17, 2009: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/jun2009/pers-j17.shtml.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

May Day and the International

THE CHARACTER of the entire workers’ movement during the era of the Second International is reflected in the history and the fate of the May Day holiday.

May 1 was established as a holiday by the Paris International Socialist Congress in 1889.

The purpose of designating it thus was, by means of a simultaneous demonstration by workers of all countries on that day, to prepare the ground for drawing them together into a single international proletarian organization of revolutionary action having one world centre and one world political orientation.

The Paris Congress, which had taken the above decision, was treading the path of the International Communist League and of the First International. For the Second International to adopt the pattern of these two organizations was impossible from the start. In the course of the 14 years which had passed since the days of the First International class organizations of the proletariat had grown up in every country which carried out their activity quite independently within their territory and were not adapted to international unification on the principles of democratic centralism.

The celebration of May Day should have prepared them for such a unification and therefore the demand for the eight-hour working day was introduced as its slogan, which was conditioned by the development of the productive forces and was popular among the broad working masses of all countries.

The effective task which was assigned to the May Day holiday consisted of facilitating the process of transforming the working class as an economic category into the working class in the sociological sense of the word, into a class, conscious of its interests in their totality, and striving to establish their dictatorship and the socialist revolution.

From this point of view demonstrations in support of the socialist revolution were most appropriate to May Day. And the revolutionary elements at the congress achieved this. But at the stage of development through which the working class was then passing the majority found that the demand for the eight-hour working day provided a better answer for carrying out the task in front of them. In any case this was a slogan capable of uniting workers of all countries.

Just such a role was also played by the slogan of universal peace which was subsequently put forward.

But the congress proposed and the objective conditions of the development of the workers’ movement disposed.

The May holiday gradually turned from the means of struggle of the world proletariat into a means of struggle of the workers of each separate country for their local interests. And this was made more possible by putting forward the third slogan—universal suffrage.

In the majority of states May Day was celebrated either just in the evening after work was finished or else on the following Sunday. In those places where the workers celebrated it by a stoppage of work as in Belgium and Austria it served the cause of realizing local tasks but not the cause of closing the ranks of workers of all countries into one world working class. Side by side with progressive consequences (as a result of bringing together the workers of a particular country) it had therefore a negative conservative side—it linked the workers too tightly with the fate of a particular state and in this way prepared the ground for the development of social-patriotism.

The task which had been placed on the order of the day by the Paris Congress has not been realized. The formation of an International as the organization of international revolutionary proletarian action, with one centre and with one international political orientation, had not been achieved. The Second International was merely a weak union of workers’ parties which were independent of each other in their activity.

May Day turned into its opposite and with the war its existence came to an end.

Such were the consequences of the inexorable logic of the dialectical process of development of the workers’ movement.

Wherein lies the cause of this phenomenon? What guarantee is there against its repetition? What is the lesson for the future from this? Of course the basic cause of the failure of the May Day holiday lay in the character of the given period of capitalist development, in the process of its deepening in each separate country and the struggle conditioned by this process for the democratization of the state system and for the adaptation of the latter to the needs of capitalist development. But even in the development of a capitalist or of any other type of system there exist tendencies of two sorts— the conservative and the revolutionary.

With the working class, which is the active participant in the historical process, its vanguard, the socialist parties, is destined to go ahead of this process and counterpose its revolutionary tendency to the conservative trend at every stage of the workers’ movement and to put forward and defend the overall interests of the whole proletariat in its totality independent of nationality. This is the very task which the socialist parties during the period of the Second International did not fulfil and this had a direct influence on the fate of the May Day holiday.

Under the influence of the party bosses made up of intellectuals and the labour bureaucracy, the socialist parties in the period described concentrated their attention on very useful parliamentary activity which was in its essence national and not international or of a class character. The organizations of workers looked on their activity not as a means of class struggle but as an end in itself. It is sufficient to recall how the leaders of German Social-Democracy argued for transferring May Day to the following Sunday. They said that one could not expose an exemplary party organization, parliamentary activity and numerous rich trade unions to danger merely for the sake of a demonstration.

The present epoch is directly contrary in character to the past epoch. Opened by the war, and in particular by the Russian October Revolution, it reveals itself as the epoch of the direct struggle of the proletariat for power on a world scale.

Its character is favourable to May Day fulfilling that role to which the revolutionary elements at the Paris Congress of 1889 attempted to assign it. It is presented with the task of facilitating the formation of a Third Revolutionary International and of serving the cause of the mobilization of proletarian forces for the world socialist revolution.

But to assist in the carrying out of this great role the lessons of the past and the demands of the present epoch powerfully dictate to socialists from all countries:
  1. a radical change in their policy,  
  2. putting forward appropriate slogans for May Day.

In the first instance the following steps are necessary:

  1. concentrate efforts on the formation of the Third Revolutionary International;  
  2. subordinate the interests of each country to the general interests of the international proletarian movement and subordinate parliamentary activity to the interests of the struggle of the proletarian masses.
The main slogans of May Day in the present epoch should be:
  1. The Third International.  
  2. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat.  
  3. The World Soviet Republic.  
  4. The Socialist Revolution.

Izvestia VTsIK, No.87 (351), May 1, 1918