It has long been a popular observation that the socialist movement never took root in the United States as deeply as it has in other countries. This view is not entirely accurate — we have the history of the Socialist Party, the Industrial Workers of the World, the Communist Party, the Socialist Workers Party, the Black Panthers, and many other revolutionary organizations and radical working class trends to look to in our history — but the kernel of truth behind it has been explained in number of fashions.
Some of the more popular explanations include that the U.S. working class has been bought off by imperialism or has living conditions which don’t require it to struggle in a radical manner, that racism has broken the basis for working class solidarity, or that deep-rooted individualism and adherence to America’s “democratic tradition” have created infertile soil. There are elements of truth in these explanations; in some more than others. But, a key dynamic that needs to be understood is that living in an unjust society does not automatically produce organization and militant resistance to oppressive conditions. This divergence between experience and action is more acute here than in most countries.
The U.S. working class doesn’t lack things to complain about: ballooning rents, insurmountable debt, declining real wages, precarious employment, abuse on the job, and a daily life dominated by alienation and scarred by racist violence, patriarchal relations, anti-queer political campaigns, and a whole host of other oppressive dynamics. Nonetheless, the nature of resistance to these injustices expresses itself more often than not in short periods of mass explosion rather than as concerted movements to organize our fight for liberation. These explosions, like the riots and mass demonstrations in 2020 demanding justice for George Floyd and an end to racist violence, are inspiring shows of force by the masses.
However, as we saw in the aftermath of this struggle, these explosions can cause fear in the ruling class and their police lackeys, but they can be contained. When the masses' energy was spent, the Democratic and Republican Parties commenced their ideological clampdown on the demands for racial justice and an end to police repression. They manufactured a panic around the so-called “crime wave” and blamed anti-police rhetoric for it. While the Republicans blamed the defunding of police in cities (which in fact never took place), the Democrats distanced themselves even further from defunding the police and reaffirmed their belief in the centrality of police repression in maintaining “order.”
When the two wings of the U.S. ruling class commenced their campaign of co-optation and ideological attack on the movement, there was no one left to fight back. The spontaneous energy was spent, and discontent fell back into its normal expression — festering underground.
In the United States our tradition of organization generally leaves much to be desired, and the situation has, in the main, only gotten worse in the 4 decades of the ruling class offensive known as neoliberalism. The ruling class here encourages a culture of atomized individuals who only participate in the country’s political culture once every 2 or 4 years by voting, and even that group is a small minority of the population. The problem goes even deeper: true communities are rare in the United States, and few Americans feel empowered to build them. We have school, work and family, but beyond that, many millions in this country are not part of any social community which can provide them support and purpose. Even organized religion has seen a sharp decline. What’s left of these communities is often either actively reactionary or has little to offer people who are seeking change in society.
This is the hurdle to be overcome. You know that this society is run by a criminal clique with little support from the people which oppresses not only the 332 million in this country, but many times more worldwide. You know that capitalism is dependent on the exploitation of the working class, that imperialist violence is an inextricable part of the system, and that racism, sexism, and all the other forms of oppression are a tool the ruling class uses to oppress us all even further.
When faced with the enormity of these problems and the strength of the oppressors, it is natural to feel that resistance is futile. However, it is you and others like you who are the key to building the organizations which can begin the concerted struggle needed to vanquish them.
What our organization and others like ours can offer you is a community, a vehicle for fighting for your rights, an education in the nature of our oppression and the methods of fighting it, and a structure for using your energies effectively. What you can offer us is your skills, your unique experiences and insights, and your dedication to the liberation of all people. It is up to people like you to get involved in organizations so you can train yourself and bring more people into the protracted struggle against capitalism.
As the revolutionary Amilcar Cabral once proclaimed, “Tell no lies, claim no easy victories.” Our organization is weak, and all organizations like ours are as well. We do not have the numbers and the collective experience to advance the struggle in the ways which are needed. This is why we need you and why you need us. What we and other organizations like ours can offer you is a supportive community, a vehicle for fighting for your rights, an education in the nature of our oppression and the methods of fighting it, and a structure for using your energies effectively. What you can offer us is your skills, your unique experiences and insights, and your dedication to the liberation of all people. In this era of weakness, it is necessary for passionate individuals like you to seek out and organize within revolutionary organizations so as to train yourself and bring more people into the protracted struggle against capitalism. We need the commitment of people like you today so we can transform the movement from one of thousands into one of millions.
There is purpose and meaning in struggle. Since thousands of years ago when human societies first began to develop classes, there has always been resistance. Rebellions, riots, strikes, and mutinies have been a common theme running through each new form of class rule which oppresses the majority in any given epoch.
What is unique in the modern era however is that we have the means to bring humanity back to the equality which existed before classes and before the gendered and racist oppression that we know today through moving forward. Capitalist society has produced the technological capacity and social forces necessary to provide for every human being on this planet. Yet, our antiquated social relations accrue the labor of billions into the hands of a gang of thousands. Capitalism has produced efficiency and plenty, but it has also produced the class that can dig its grave and the grave of all exploiters.
From the narrow standpoint of our individual lives, world capitalism seems to be an eternal force: unshakeable, deeply rooted. But the past 200 years have been the most unstable, the most transformative. We live in the age of revolutions, even though the lull we’ve lived in appears to us as eternal.
This is why we need you. It is the masses who make history, and it takes scattered individuals in a period like this to create the channels by which millions can eventually take destiny into their own hands. Through our revolutionary organizations, our unions, our tenants unions, and the variety of forms waiting to be built, we can turn our individual energy into a collective vehicle in the service of total liberation.
We need to educate, agitate, and organize today. The struggle continues until final victory. And it is our collective duty today to lay the groundwork for every worker and oppressed person on this planet to accomplish our collective interest — to initiate the world revolution and wipe away every last bit of exploitation and oppression which is the order of the day. The communist future is ours for the taking if only we reach out to grasp it.