No 1586 27th November 2020
Deluded cheers that US “democracy has been saved” because Trump’s coup might be on hold underlines mind-numbing brainrot effect revisionism has given the world working class, long abandoning any sense of inexorable total breakdown brought by capitalist crisis and the revolutionary necessity that imposes on the working class everywhere to survive and move forwards. The very fact preparations and plans have been set in motion at all and with serious intent, potentially backed by 70 million sour, poisoned and alienated minds is the story – the ruling class ready to tear up all “democracy” if necessary to suppress growing working class revolt, (and even using a twisted version of democracy to do it - just as Hitler did). A split bourgeoisie hesitates out of weakness but Catastrophe will not loosen its grip on a ruling class that has no other choice but to plunge the world into conflict and world war to escape. Biden serves the billionaires as does Trump while platitudes disarm the working class
Trumpite intransigence, holed up in a bizarrely barricaded White House and pushing its outrageously specious “legal” challenges and brazen defiance of the presidential election result (notionally for the Democrats) by claiming “fraud”, has been delivering new and extra lessons to the world proletarians in just what is now on the cards from a desperate crisis-paralysed imperialist system, if not now then soon.
Of course there was fraud, large and small – it riddles the whole racket of supposed “democracy” under capitalism. Usually the “winner” is the one that gets away with the most outrageous manipulations, character assassinations and dirty dealing alongside the usual $10billions advertising and media distortions and hype for their own side and the lying pretences of probity and sincerity.
In fact the great “parliamentary/presidential” voting racket could be said to be nothing but a giant fraud offering the pretence of “choosing” the way forwards between different wings of the ruling class (or craven class collaborating stooges acting for them like Labourism, for when the ruling class parties cannot hold the line directly).
They all serve the same ultimate interest, the preservation and expansion of bourgeois class domination and the monopoly capitalist corporate exploitation of the great majority domestically, and even more tyrannically, throughout the Third World.
Ultimately the Trumpites and the Bidenites are both nothing but front men for a ruling class of corrupt and degenerate billionaires and mega-billionaires.
None of them will change anything for the working class in the long term and short-term there will only ever be cosmetic changes to hoodwink and fool them, and any such minimal crumbs both transient and reversible (taken away again in crisis - as with the privatisation, secret and not-so-secret of the NHS, especially under cover of Covid).
Both will preside over a system heading for total catastrophe and world war and both have, and will, impose slump measures.
But something new has been going on.
After losing the vote, the whole Trump racket of vote challenges and blocking, “legal” overturns and specious deadlines, has gone much further than just the usual rotten trickery, scamming and lying to twist things round as the Bush Republicans did in 2000 over the Florida result (EPSR 1069 05-12-00).
Instead it has been readying the system for a “judicial coup” along the lines already rehearsed and pushed through, or attempted, with the usual CIA coaching, half a dozen times in Brazil, Honduras, Paraguay, Bolivia, Ukraine etc, in recent times; as currently it is trying to provoke in Belarus or Hong Kong, and as was carried out multiple times elsewhere in the whole post-war period by CIA-coordinated overthrows using stunted-up “demonstrations” and “colour revolutions” (all counter-revolutionary).
Its courtroom challenges to undermine confidence and create confusion, also buy time while the Trumpites stuff the Pentagon, federal intelligence agencies, police and legal structures with loyalist chiefs and operational staff.
Given the careful tailoring of the judiciary already by ultra-reactionary appointments during Donald Trump’s first term, and fixing of the military and security services with Trumpite loyalists, removing “doubtful” elements (who are hardly “progressives” or liberals in their own right) the ground is clearly being prepared to go further, for outright military and police coup if needed (if the “legal” path should falter or need backup).
As spelled out by Lenin a century ago in his incisive “State and Revolution”, judges and police, military and spies, courts and prisons, are the key institutions of bourgeois rule, their state structure’s “bodies of armed men” which serve the ruling class and impose capitalism’s dictatorship authority, openly if necessary, using every kind of violence, intimidation, brute force and ruthless suppression to cow and force down the working class and lower sections of the petty bourgeoisie.
Alongside these manoeuvres the Trumpites continue to incite vigilante and “freelance” fascist repression, already visible in the street killings encouraged in Minnesota and against other anti-police riots, and in the deliberately violent federal police and military crackdowns mobilised against the states-wide street revolts of the spring and summer over racism and police violence.
If the continuing Trumpite manoeuvring does not yet come to an all-out move to override the “democratic” process with tanks in the streets, police repression, and the rounding up and eventual torture and killing of “lefts”, anarchists, anti-fa, anti-capitalists, eco-warriors and other assorted naïve rebelliousness, that is not because it is not really a serious threat.
Nor that such descriptions are “just the lurid fantasy of an over-inflamed imagination” or “the kind of thing that might happen in the Third World but ‘civilised’ countries are different”.
World War history already proves the opposite, since Germany was by far the most cultured, scientific and advanced of the European countries in 1933 when the Nazis took over and slaughtered or imprisoned all the left and trade unionism.
So too does Chile in 1973, one of the most cultured of the Latin American countries with Salvador Allende’s “democratic socialist” government counting on the “honour and patriotic principles of the army” to suppress turmoil (fomented by the CIA), only to be deposed itself with bloody coup butchery by the very General, brought into the cabinet and entrusted with keeping order, Augosto Pinochet.
Nor does it indicate some “deep resilience” in the America democratic system now “correcting itself” as liberals and fake-“lefts” of all kinds have started to say.
Such debates in a thousand variants, in the liberal bourgeois press and the “left” press, and the corollary of “whether it is valid to use the term fascism”, or whether we are “there yet” and have “crossed the line” – have been disarming the working class and any progressive intelligentsia for decades.
So for example the revisionist CPGB Weekly Worker runs a letter declaring that a Trumpite coup could not really happen because “it would trigger a revolution” (by implication in defence of “democracy”).
This is completely upside down.
However inchoate and lacking consciousness, there already is revolution brewing, across the world and new deep into the heart of the US empire itself, which is why the bourgeoisie is now considering the most desperate measures.
Such complacency and confusion in the fake-“left” and academic debates about whether or not the Trumpites, skulking in their fortified White House basement are “really” preparing for a coup of some kind are the equivalent of turkeys discussing Christmas and “whether it is real”.
If an outright coup agenda is not followed through for the moment, it simply underlines the paralysis and splits in the ruling class and its weakness in the face of the greatest historical breakdown ever (as is true for all the fascist impositions throughout history, made “necessary” because of the impossibility of keeping control using the normal mechanisms and illusions).
Doubts and reluctance by sections of the uncertain and split billionaire ruling class, who actually run things in their own class interest behind the “democracy” façade, will be the key factors.
The reactionary Murdoch media empire’s “calling” of the election for Democrat Joe Biden, despite years of Fox News reactionary ranting for Trump, is one powerful signal of doubts about how far it is necessary or possible to push things instantly – and thereby paying the price of irrevocably confirming the total lie all such bourgeois “voting” pretences.
Fearfulness and cynical calculation are what hold back sections of even the more gung-ho wing of the ruling circles, still wanting, if possible, to hide just where the crisis is pushing things.
Can the long post-WW2 “boom” interregnum with its “international community” of imperialist “allied” powers lined-up in a pecking order behind the topdog US empire to share out the spoils of ruthless neo-colonial slave-level exploitation, still hold the line with the same grossly hypocritical “freedom and democracy” and “rule of law” flannel established post-war, while simultaneously making a few cosmetic changes and reforms domestically? ie the Democrat Tweedledum-Tweedledee alternative as usual?
Or is the spiralling collapse into Depression and slump failure, and the unstoppable viciousness of cutthroat trade war inevitably forcing the hand of the ruling class towards open dictatorship now in some form, mobilising frenzied jingoism and flagwaving with whatever “fascist” components might be thought necessary?
“Democracy” is, after all, a huge racket to give up on. In its modern evolved form (from the original bourgeois advance it was against feudal privilege and absolutism) it has become one of the most useful weapons in all history for a ruling class to keep control, with its bogus nonsense of “everyone having a say”.
Marxism has long explained however that in class society the reality of how things are run under the surface is bourgeois dictatorship.
The ruling class takes all the decisions that matter via a thousand hidden mechanisms; freemasonries (the actual “F” one and many other backscratching special interest groups like the “Jewish lobby”, much Labourism etc); hidden links and interconnections behind the scenes; secret bodies like the Privy Council; “market pressure” and international finance demands, and simple coordination from a class that knows its own interests, - all obscured in public by lies, flannel, media pretences, and ever more sophisticated public relations image building and distraction, as well as the political circus around parliament itself, solemnly going through the motions of “running things” as if their decisions carried any weight on anything but trivial matters.
The whole edifice is further propped up from the left by the opportunism and grovelling of class collaborating reformists, in America the Democrats (including the new “left” wing of Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez etc) and in Britain the long established imperialism-corrupted opportunism and servitude to the ruling class of the TUC/Labourites (and their “left” wing).
A slew of petty bourgeois “leftism” and even pretend revolutionary socialism of assorted shades then props things up further out, all still advocating voting and pacifist protest as a means to hold back capitalism and its warmongering and even to win socialism.
The masses are thereby misled and headed away from communism, which alone can end the grotesque and ever growing inequality, misery, alienation and humiliation of their daily lives and is the only possible future for mankind to overcome the disastrous chaos and breakdown now inexorably and inevitably unfolding into bitter cutthroat trade war and eventual all-out inter-imperialist conflict.
And they are disarmed of the most vital weapon there is, the constantly developing conscious scientific understanding of the world class struggle and the great contradictions in the capitalist system which drive it.
The proletariat will eventually overcome all illusions in bourgeois “democracy” building a cadre party leadership of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary consciousness, to carry through the overthrow of the monstrously degenerate slump-ridden system and the quicker the better.
But there is a long way and many struggles and setbacks to go.
A hundred and one obstacles to such understanding still have to be battled through, and not least the impact of a century of anti-communist brainwashing which has left the working class devoid of any understanding of the giant achievements made by the workers states and particularly the Soviet Union in its 73 years of existence, before the long and increasingly debilitating philosophical retreats of its revisionist leadership led to the Gorbachevite liquidation, and the restoration of capitalism in the particularly crude and gangsterish oligarch form prevailing since (despite some forced restraint on the new capitalists by Putin’s Russian nationalist bonarpartism to head off the revival of communism which is inevitable at some stage, once the world crisis bites really hard).
And a huge part of it must involve taking on and demolishing the great mass of non-Leninist reformism and pseudo-leftism which has poisoned all such discussion so far, most of all with its hostility to the dictatorship of the proletariat, the only possible counter to the bourgeois dictatorship which rules the world and is plunging it towards World War Three.
The great debate on all this, fighting to understand the flaws and faults in the world’s first great attempts to go past the antagonisms and destructiveness of capitalism, while recognising, celebrating and supporting the great revolutionary advances that were made in human society and organisation (and which are still being made heroically by Vietnam, China, Cuba, North Korea etc, despite their own leaderships’ shortcomings and revisionist limitations) can only grow rapidly throughout the masses on the planet.
It is coming.
Complacency over Trump results from a complete lack of any such revolutionary perspective about the world even from those declaring themselves to be “Marxists”.
Instead the underlying assumption is that somehow things will always continue more or less on an even keel, failing to see the great anti-imperialist tumult everywhere on the planet (except as “condemnable terrorism”), and having no grasp of the scale and sheer mind-bogglingly paralysing scope of the great Catastrophic breakdown capitalism has run into (as it always will - see economics box).
Whether this US coup attempt comes to fruition immediately or is obliged wait on the (very short term) future, proves nothing: the unfolding events still reveal an historic shift by a ruling class preparing to abandon the old racket of “democracy”.
The unprecedented development of a president holed up in a White House alamo and ready potentially to tear up all “niceties” of the 250 year-old bourgeois democratic system (itself established by America’s revolutionary bourgeois class war against the still partially feudal colonial rule of the British) needs to be take very seriously indeed.
It is not some aberration by a “loose cannon” or maverick. However much Trump’s personality is stamped on events this is nothing to do with individuals, any more than Hitlerism was, and no more can its significance be tied to single people - such developments are driven by the ripening contradictions of an entire world system of class rule.
It is the Leninist perspective of the worldwide crisis collapse and class war that is the crucial lens to view things through.
What makes this Trump manoeuvring far more than “petulance” (which in itself would be a devastating enough indictment of the supposedly civilised and “free” world, rule-of-law and “American (or British/French/etc) values”, “peaceful progress new world order” anyway) can only be explained by understanding the total Catastrophe that capitalism has reached, its gigantic scale and speed, hurtling towards an abyss of complete breakdown and dollar collapse never seen before (accelerated by, but not caused by, the Covid pandemic which the unrolling disaster long predates).
A panicked and desperate ruling class barely knows which way to turn as its world-dominating system of exploitation falls apart and the economic heart of its profit driven system implodes, heading for the greatest slump disaster in all history (the incompetence, callousness and indifference of the Covid response a mere hint of what is coming).
Antagonistic contradictions inseparable from the monopoly capitalist profit-making system are driving conflict and turmoil across the planet, now erupting in bitter wars everywhere from Nagorno-Karabakh and Tigray-Ethiopia to Libya, Ukraine, the eastern Mediterranean gas fields(potentially), and Kashmir, to name only a few.
Anti-imperialist revolt grows relentlessly across Africa north and south, Mozambique, the Sahel (Britain about to send 600 troops to join the French in “protecting” Mali from “jihadism”), throughout the Middle East and continuing, pending, or fermenting in Latin America (the latest an uproar in Peru, toppling the government and a burning parliament in Guatemala), Haiti, the Philippines, Indonesia, Syria and Afghanistan, despite barbaric suppression by imperialist special forces, non-stop drone assassinations and the all-out blitzing of countries like the Yemen, reduced to rubble and outright famine but with a rebellion scoring repeated successes against the degenerate gangster-sheikhs of Saudi Arabia who have been waging this degenerate war guided by their US and British military “helpers”.
Thailand is in anti-absolutist monarchy anti-military uproar, despite draconian repressive laws and a history of vicious repression in coup after coup and secret assassinations (never mentioned by the “democracy-loving, human-rights-supporting” Western politicians so ready to pour out their poison around every stunted-up street protest against workers states like China, workers state remnants like Belarus or anti-imperialist nationalism like Venezuela).
The dogged fightback of the Palestinian people, and the 250 million strong Arab nation supporting them, continues deepening against the endless torment and repression by the imperialist-serving Zionist occupation (backed by Trump but also by Biden-ism), despite being monstrously harassed daily, collectively “punished” with house demolitions, child imprisonments, torture, and hundreds and hundreds of sniper maimings, daily brutalised and slaughtered, with ever-extending “ethnic cleansing” perpetrated against the remaining minority of the (mostly displaced) indigenous population still living in the areas the Jewish occupation covets, (ie most of the West Bank, Jerusalem - and ultimately the whole of the “Greater Israel” of Zionist ambition):
Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank have razed a Palestinian village, leaving 73 people – including 41 children – homeless, in the largest forced displacement incident for years, according to the United Nations.
Excavators escorted by military vehicles were filmed approaching Khirbet Humsa and proceeding to flatten or smash up tents, shacks, animal shelters, toilets and solar panels.
“These are some of the most vulnerable communities in the West Bank,” said Yvonne Helle, the UN humanitarian coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory.
Three-quarters of the community lost their shelters during Tuesday’s operation, she said, making it the largest forced displacement incident in more than four years. However, by the number of destroyed structures, 76, the raid was the largest demolition in the past decade, she added.
On Wednesday, families from the village were seen rifling through their wrecked belongings in the wind, with some of the first rain of the year arriving the same day. The UN published a photo of a bed and a cot in the open desert.
The village is one of several Bedouin and sheepherding communities in the Jordan Valley area that is located within Israeli-declared army training “firing zones”, and despite being within the Palestinian Territories, people there often face demolitions for a building without Israeli permission.
“Palestinians can almost never obtain such permits,” said Helle. “Demolitions are a key means of creating an environment designed to coerce Palestinians to leave their homes,” she said, accusing Israel of “grave breaches” of international law.
Nearly 700 structures have been demolished across the West Bank and East Jerusalem in 2020 so far, she said, more than any year since 2016, leaving 869 Palestinians homeless.
prominent Israeli human rights group, B’Tselem, said forces destroyed 18 tents and sheds housing 11 families, 29 tents and sheds used as livestock enclosures, three storage sheds, nine tents used as kitchens, 10 portable toilets, 10 livestock pens, 23 water containers, two solar panels, and feeding and watering troughs for livestock.
Israeli forces also destroyed more than 30 tonnes of food for livestock and confiscated a vehicle and two tractors belonging to three residents, the group added.
“As part of its efforts to take over more and more Palestinian land, Israel routinely demolishes Palestinian homes and property,” said B’Tselem spokesperson Amit Gilutz.
“But the wiping off of a whole community at once is extremely rare, and it seems like Israel was making use of the fact that everyone’s attention is currently set elsewhere to move forward with this inhumane act,” he said in reference to the US election.
Revolt and upheaval, always just below the surface has now erupted inside the US empire itself as the enormous wave of demonstrations and anti-racist anti-fascist rage has demonstrated this summer and in years previously.
And almost certainly it will soon be erupting in the UK as ex-Prime Minister Gordon Brown has been desperately warning the increasingly arrogant, incompetent and indifferent Tory ruling class:
The former prime minister Gordon Brown has said that unless the government comes up with an immediate anti-poverty programme it will face a rebellion from a deeply divided Britain.
Brown called on the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to announce that the one-year £20 a week increase in universal credit (UC) announced at the start of the coronavirus crisis would be extended and that child benefit would be made more generous.
The Treasury is weighing up whether to continue with higher UC payments after next spring in light of the expected increase in unemployment caused by the prolonged pandemic. The second lockdown in England and the likelihood that restrictions will be in force for the rest of the winter have increased the pressure on ministers to continue with the payments, despite the annual cost of about £9bn.
Brown told an event organised by the Resolution Foundation thinktank that Sunak was falling behind the curve and that instead of “levelling up” the government was “levelling down”.
...the former prime minister said cuts to the welfare system threatened to push the vulnerable into penury and debt.
“I see a country very fragmented, very polarised and very divided – more divided than I have ever seen it before,” Brown said. He said Britain was on course for an “angry and really desolate” new year.
“Action is now urgent because March’s planned withdrawal of £20 from weekly universal credit payments will automatically bring 700,000 more into poverty, 300,000 of them children, as £6bn of spending power is removed from an already fragile economy.
“500,000 of the already poor will be plunged into even deeper poverty as they lose out on £1,000 a year.
“Add to this the impact of rising unemployment, rising food prices and the continuing impact of the two-child limit and the cap on benefits and other social security cuts now in train, and we face a worsening social crisis in the new year.”
Brown serves the ruling class by giving it canary-in-the-mine warnings of the rumbling beneath the surface, which will become more and more explosive and eventually ready to turn to the revolutionary politics that alone can pull mankind out of the great spiralling collapse into war and eco-destruction that capitalism has brought things to.
His palliatives are useless sticking plasters for deep economic wounds that are bleeding the working class to death, and which cannot be cured except by completely ending this rotting and corrupt system. All the old reformist pay-offs and bribes paid for with colonialist super-profits, which kept a corrupted section of the working class and petty bourgeoisie quiet in the heyday of imperialism’s world dominance (and which still finds expression in the TUC/Labour treachery) cannot go on.
The “democracy” system, will not hold the line in the old way for much longer and the ruling class realises it.
Hence the extraordinary rehearsals for tearing it up.
In the end the great “democracy” edifice gets in the way when crisis dictates sharper action and a necessary drive to international conflict, inevitable as the antagonisms of world market competition become all-out trade war with growing cutthroat intensity.
Trumpism has been laying the foundations for a Nazi-line, picking up the thread from the New American Century warmongering belligerence of the Bushites, but with added virulence from the populist pretence of being “anti-establishment” and ready to “tear up” the old politics.
But for the minute the ruling class remains torn over whether there is still enough air in the “democracy” tyres to spin things out a little longer, perhaps encouraged by or dismayed by, the increased turnout in the election which reflected the anti-Trumpite hostility built up this summer in street revolt and by the disastrous agony of the Covid pandemic which the Trumpites let run unrestrained.
But a Democrat Joe Biden presidency can only be a transient stop gap, an attempted last extension to PC single-issue Obama-ism.
But that is almost a worked-out seam: Trumpism emerged precisely because Obamaism was not going to hold the line for much longer.
The slump/crisis rapidly deepening since the dot.com crash of 2000 and particularly since the global bank failure of 2008-9 is now breaking up all established relations and certainties, and forcing the working class and world proletarian masses towards the revolutionary path, however crudely and often confusedly that is manifest in “jihadism” or “democracy” movements, or anarchism and raw street anger like the 2011 Arab Spring in Cairo or the myriad upheavals across the world against capitalist regimes.
US imperialism turned to war to try and keep things under control, opening up with the 1999 onslaught on Serbia firstly and then the post 9/11 blitzing of Afghanistan and then Iraq, aiming to intimidate the whole world.
But it failed disastrously, serving mainly to stir far more revolt and recruitment into “terrorist” insurgency including the ruthlessly efficient upheavals of ISIS still spreading worldwide despite its blitzed destruction in Iraq and Syria, while demoralisation and war-weariness spread at home.
The result was a collapse in what already long diminishing popular confidence remained in the Bush presidency, and in “democracy” itself, by the US working class, compounded by the onset of the all-out global crash.
The vacuum could not remain unfilled.
So the system was rescued by playing the PC cards of a “black man in the White House” laced with feminism and eventually tapping a cascade of other PC single-issue politics too.
In both 2008 and 2012 the cynical Barack Obama presidency was used to drag sections of the working class and petty bourgeoisie, in the cities especially, back behind the “democracy” pretences aided by the reformist “left”, using the ammunition of single-issue political correctness.
But salvaging the US “democracy” could only work for a short while because the pressures of the long-brewing crisis really became obvious in 2008-9, forcing Obama-ism quickly to make clear that it was serving the same master - capitalism and the bourgeoisie.
The 2012 election was already more difficult, needing to further tap the PC single-issue spectrum by offering gay marriage rights to hold up the vote, as the black civil rights vote dropped back, already disappointed and disillusioned by the lack of any significant change.
The reactionary establishment nature of Obamaism quickly became clear, and despite supposedly pulling back from Iraq and Afghanistan, it continued to wage war across the planet, supporting the monstrous Zionist occupation of Palestine (including during outright genocidal blitzkriegs on Gaza), supporting a violent coup in Honduras, pushing through the NATO invasion of Libya in 2011 to suppress the Arab Spring, and provoking the bogus extension of the Arab Spring into Syria, which was actually a counter-revolutionary provocation, again to help head off the Egyptian upheaval, and which led on to the sick and degenerate civil war destruction of the entire country; helping the Venezuelan bourgeoisie’s endless disruption against Chávez and Maduro subsequently, carrying through the illegal assassination raid into Pakistan against Osama bin Laden and organising the counter-revolutionary “Orange” revolt in Ukraine which installed a pro-Nazi government which has waged war on the working class in the east and turned a blind eye to killings and intimidation by openly Nazi militias complete with Hitler insignia and torchlight parades.
Trumpism was needed because of working class dismay at this ultra-cynical shallowness.
Complete disillusionment at the corruption and sleaze in Washington provided a ready audience for a pretence of “standing against all the old politics” and particularly when there was no coherent revolutionary perspective to counter its lies, only the PC saturated posturing of the fake-“left” giving Marxism a bad name.
As the EPSR said about Le Pen 20 years back when the shallow “left” was hysterically demanding a campaign to “keep out the fascists”:
It is not what Le Pen stands for which makes French society sick. It is what Chirac stands for which is poisoning life.
Le Pen merely REFLECTS how demoralised, cynical, and small-mindedly bitter, people are being made by the INCURABLE failure of capitalist society to any longer remotely satisfy vital human needs.
Voting for Chirac merely continues capitalism’s unstoppable process of more and more alienating (see Marx) the majority of people who have to live under this ludicrous elitist class system. Voting for Chirac will only ADD TO and MAKE WORSE the “Le Pen problem” (EPSR 1133 23-04-02).
Trump won much of his populist support from just such bitter demoralisation across the board and not simply from the reactionary and outright fascist elements.
As the latest voting pattern demonstrates:
The prevailing narrative of the last five years has been that Trump seized and maintains power by appealing to the desires of white voters and men (and especially, white men) to preserve the patriarchy and white supremacy.[Not according to] exit poll data.
Let’s start with gender: across racial and ethnic groups, women shifted towards Trump this cycle. In the last election, Trump won white women by a margin of 9 percentage points. This year, he won by 11 percentage points. In 2016, Democrats won Hispanic and Latina women by 44 percentage points; in 2020 they won by 39. Last cycle, Democrats won black women by 90 percentage points. This year, by 81 points. That is, in a year when a black woman was on a major party ticket for the first time in US history, the margin between Democrats and Republicans among black women shifted 9 percentage points in the other direction – towards Trump.
Trump saw comparable gains with Black and Hispanic men as well.
Overall, comparing 2016 and 2020, Trump gained 4 percentage points with African Americans, 3 percentage points with Hispanics and Latinos, and 5 percentage points with Asian Americans.
...while recognizing that these populations are not monolithic, and although Democrats won most of the Hispanic and Latino vote overall, nonetheless Hispanic and Latino voters shifted decisively towards Trump this cycle.
Similar patterns hold among Asian Americans: Filipino, Korean, Chinese and Indian Americans alike seem to have drifted towards Trump. The trend was so dramatic among Vietnamese Americans that they, like Cubans, actually favored Trump outright. Among Asians, only Japanese Americans seem to have shifted towards the Democrats since 2016.
That is, minorities and women (and minority women) – the very people who are supposed to be central to the Democratic coalition, and who have suffered most in the current pandemic and economic recession – seem to have shifted in Trump’s direction across the board.
In fact, virtually the only racial or gender constellation the President did not gain with are the people that are often described as his core constituency: white men.
In 2016, Trump won white men by a margin of 31 percentage points. In 2020, however, he won this constituency by 23 percentage points.
What changed in the racial and gender dynamics this cycle to produce these apparently extraordinary results? The truth is, absolutely nothing. These trends have been underway for the entirety of Trump’s public life.
In the leadup to the 2020 election, the polling continued to tell the story it’d been telling all along: Trump was poised to see continued defections from whites, while Democrats would see continued attrition among voters of color. The trends in the polling were consistent and clear.
Shifts among minorities were responsible for Trump’s surprising strength this cycle, while shifts among whites are what helped put Biden over the edge in the end.
When discussed at all, Democrats’ surprising weakness with women in 2016 is typically attributed to white women having prioritized their commitment to white supremacy above their commitment to feminism. Yet, there was absolutely nothing special about Trump winning a majority of white women:
Going back to 1972, Democrats have literally never won an outright majority of white women, and only reached a plurality twice. White women were less supportive of Trump in 2016 than they were of the Republican candidates in 1972, 1984, 1988, 2004 or 2012 (for the reference, similar patterns hold for white men).
Nonetheless, white women’s 2016 votes are often described as being uniquely motivated by racism – despite the fact that voters were choosing between two tickets comprised 100% of white people.
This time around, spinning such narratives will be much harder. Yes, white women actually did shift in Trump’s direction this time, unlike in 2016. However, Black women and Hispanic women shifted in the exact same direction.
While this analysis obscures class issues – not making clear that Hispanics in Florida for example are hate-filled anti-communist exiles from Cuba, and that many of the non-white-worker population makes a living from petty bourgeois occupations like shopkeeping, it also shows how disparate and volatile the “Trumpite” support is, expressing an anti-establishment sentiment that is double-edged; just as Hitler’s Brownshirt movement contained backward workers misled by “national-socialism”.
Greek fake-“left” commentator Yanis Varoufakis points out the economic disillusionment:
Trump trades on anger, weaponises hatred and meticulously cultivates the dread with which the majority of Americans have been living after the financial bubble burst in 2008. Obscenities and contempt for the rules of polite society were his means of connecting with a large section of American society.
...it was the year when normality was shattered once-and-for-all. The original postwar social contract broke in the early 1970s, yielding permanent real median earnings stagnation. It was replaced by a promise to America’s working class of another route to prosperity: rising house prices and financialised pension schemes. When Wall Street’s house of cards collapsed in 2008, so did this postwar social contract between America’s working class and its rulers.
After the crash of 2008, big business deployed the central bank money that refloated Wall Street to buy back their own shares, sending share prices (and, naturally, their directors’ bonuses) through the stratosphere while starving Main Street of serious investment in good-quality jobs. A majority of Americans were thus treated, in quick succession, to negative equity, home repossessions, collapsing pension kitties and casualised work – all that against the spectacle of watching wealth and power concentrate in the hands of so few.
By 2016, the majority of Americans were deeply frustrated. On the one hand, they lived with the private anguish caused by the permanent austerity to which their communities had been immersed since 2008. And, on the other, they could see a ruling class whose losses were socialised by the government.
Donald Trump simply took advantage of that frustration. And he did so with tactics that, to this day, keep his liberal opponents in disarray. Democrats protested that Trump was a nobody, and thus unfit to be president. That did not work in a society shaped by media which for years elevated inconsequential celebrities.
Even worse for Trump’s opponents, portraying him as incompetent is an own goal: Trump combines gross incompetence with rare competence. On the one hand, he cannot string two decent sentences together to make a point, and has failed spectacularly to protect millions of Americans from Covid-19. But, on the other hand, he tore up Nafta, the North American Free Trade Agreement that took decades to put together. Remarkably, he replaced it swiftly with one that is certainly not worse – at least from the perspective of American blue-collar workers or, even, Mexican factory workers who now enjoy an hourly wage considerably greater than before.
Moreover, despite his belligerent posturing, Trump not only kept his promise to not start new wars but, additionally, he withdrew American troops from a variety of theatres where their presence had caused considerable misery with no tangible benefits for peace or, indeed, American influence.
...Trump’s rudeness to his opponents, however disagreeable, might have even brought some relief to the forgotten Americans. Not unreasonably, they see Biden as a polite emissary of the bankers who repossessed their homes and, at once, a member of an administration that bailed out – with public money – those same bankers.
They hear Biden’s sleek, well-mannered speeches about unity, respect, tolerance and bringing citizens together and they think “no, thanks, I don’t want to be united with, or tolerant of, those who got rich by shoving me in a hole”.
To them, Trump’s behaviour is an ugly but welcome manifestation of solidarity with ordinary folks who feel empowered by the combination of the president’s vulgarity and his evocations of America’s irrepressible greatness – even if, deep down, they never expected their prospects to improve significantly when America becomes “great again”.
The tragedy of progressives is that Trump’s supporters are not entirely wrong. The Democratic party has demonstrated time and again its determination to prevent any challenge to the powerful that are responsible for the pain, anger and humiliation that propelled Trump to the White House.
Democrats can talk until the cows come home about racial justice, the need for more women in positions of power, the rights of the LGBT community etc. But ...Trump’s supporters’ contempt for the liberal establishment is rooted in the realisation that the rich Democrats behind the Biden-Harris ticket won’t ever truly change conditions for the poor. ..Without a readiness to confront the greatest concentration of corporate power in the history of the United States, even the most amiable of presidents will fail to deliver either social justice or serious climate change mitigation.
The sick and degenerate record of the Obama period makes any attempt to repeat the trick a fraught business as another US commentator voiced:
A few hours ago I was startled by a collective shout that went out across my neighborhood here in Los Angeles. I quickly realized the cheers were due to the fact that all the networks were officially calling the presidential race for Joe Biden.
For the fools here in the City of Angels celebrating Biden’s victory, nothing will fundamentally change in their lives, for good or for ill. They will still have to step over hordes of homeless people and used needles and human excrement as they navigate this sick, venal, miserable third world shithole trying, and usually failing, to scratch out a living and to make ends meet.
Biden’s rapturously received electoral victory is a vacant win for nothing but a stylistic change. The hysterically happy masses around me are overjoyed because Biden isn’t as much of a boor as Trump, not exactly a high bar. That said, Biden will certainly be more of a bore than Trump.
On substance, Biden is, like the Orange Man liberals love to loathe, a shameless corporatist who will bend over backwards to fill the coffers of the fat cats in board rooms and on Wall Street, all while screwing over poor, working and middle-class people.
For instance, those who think public college should be tuition free for the working class and student debt cancelled, meet Joe Biden, the man who was instrumental in getting a bankruptcy bill passed that made it impossible to discharge student debt, thus damning generations to indentured servitude to pay back school loans over-inflated through government interference.
For people who think we should have universal health care, meet Joe Biden, an architect of Obamacare, that insidious bill written by insurance companies that fleeces Americans by forcing people to buy their abysmal product at exorbitant prices under force of law. Biden, similar to Trump, has even promised to veto any universal health care bill that would ever come to his desk.
For those opposed to Wall Street socializing losses while privatizing gains, meet Joe Biden, who will, like Clinton, Bush, Obama and Trump before him, populate his administration with nefarious Wall Street shills and despicable devotees of the Goldman Sachs cult who will hungrily devour any taxpayer bailouts that they can get their hands on.
For peace loving people who think America should be less militaristic, belligerent and bellicose abroad, meet Joe Biden, the man who voted for the Iraq War that killed tens of thousands, and is a poodle to the Pentagon with an itchy trigger finger to get tough with America’s adversaries, be they real or imagined, across the globe.
For those who think the drug war and criminal justice system are an abject failure, meet Joe Biden, the man who wrote the 1994 Crime Bill that has given America the dubious distinction of having the highest prison population rate in the entire world.
For working class folks that have repeatedly gotten screwed by Washington’s corporate friendly free trade policies that decimated the manufacturing base in America and eventually led to the rise of Donald Trump, meet Joe Biden, the NAFTA-loving narcissist who pretends to be a man of the people but is really the lap dog of big money interests.
For those who despised Trump for his war on the press, meet Joe Biden, who was vice president for Obama, the man who waged more than a Trumpian rhetorical war on the press, but an actual war on the press by using the Espionage Act to prosecute whistleblowers more times than every other president in US history combined.
For people outraged by Trump putting “kids in cages” as part of his crackdown on illegal immigration, meet Joe Biden, who was vice president during the Obama administration which aggressively deported more immigrants than Trump and who also put “kids in cages”.
For every emotionally triggered simpleton so gloriously giddy over Trump’s demise and Biden’s rise: meet the new boss… same as the old boss.
Repeat playing of the PC card is a sick joke too, with Biden’s running mate a monster of anti-working class careerism:
Sen. Kamala Harris ...Joe Biden’s running mate, repeatedly and openly defied U.S. Supreme Court orders to reduce overcrowding in California prisons while serving as the state’s attorney general, according to legal documents reviewed by the Prospect...extreme resistance to a Supreme Court ruling was done to prevent the release of fewer than 5,000 nonviolent offenders, whom multiple courts had cleared as presenting next to no risk of recidivism or threat to public safety.
While...questions were raised about her criminalization of truancy and her tough-on-crime reputation during her time as San Francisco’s district attorney, her role in California’s prison reduction case largely flew under the radar.
California was a unique case, with its uniquely awful prison system. At its height, it was stuffed to some 200 percent of its designed capacity. There were not enough beds or medical personnel but an extreme excess of bodies. In one prison, 54 prisoners shared a single toilet. Preventable deaths due to substandard and overstretched medical care occurred every five to six days. Suicidal inmates were locked in telephone-booth sized cages for 24 hours at a time.
[Federal] Justice Anthony Kennedy..wrote the majority opinion in the case, including an array of gruesome details from inside those prisons, and condemning the state for facilitating “needless suffering and death,” as he called it.
At that point, Kamala Harris had been the state’s attorney general for just over four months,
It soon became clear that the state would hold out on complying with the judicial order. 2011 passed with little progress made on the decarceration mandate, and by 2012, a report surfaced that proved the state actually intended to increase its prison population.
...Harris has been criticized on multiple occasions for fighting to keep people, including innocent ones, in prison.
... Harris’s office launched into a campaign of all-out obstruction, refusing to answer why they could not simply release low-risk, nonviolent inmates to conform to the Supreme Court’s request
And the feminist agenda is providing an equally sick trick for the Democrats to pull elsewhere across the board:
restoring America’s “soul” apparently means placing weapons manufacturers back in charge of the Pentagon.
Biden announced his Department of Defense landing team on Tuesday. Of these 23 policy experts, one third have taken funding from arms manufacturers, according to a report published this week by Antiwar.com.
Leading the team is Kathleen Hicks, an undersecretary of defense in the Obama administration, and an employee of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), a think tank funded by a host of NATO governments, oil firms, and weapons makers Northrop Grumman, Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and General Atomics. The latter firm produces the Predator drones used by the Obama administration to kill hundreds of civilians in at least four Middle-Eastern countries.
Hicks was a vocal opponent of President Donald Trump’s plan to withdraw a number of US troops from Germany, claiming in August that such a move “benefits our adversaries.”
Two other members of Biden’s Pentagon team, Andrew Hunter and Melissa Dalton, work for CSIS and served under Obama in the Defense Department.
Also on the team are Susanna Blume and Ely Ratner, who work for the Center for a New American Security (CNAS). Another hawkish think-tank, CNAS is funded by Google, Facebook, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. Three more team members – Stacie Pettyjohn, Christine Wormuth and Terri Tanielian – were most recently employed by the RAND corporation, which draws funding from the US military, NATO, several Gulf states, and hundreds of state and corporate sources.
Michele Flournoy is widely tipped to lead the Pentagon under Biden. Flournoy would be the first woman in history to head the Defense Department, but her appointment would only be revolutionary on the surface. Flournoy is the co-founder of CNAS, and served in the Pentagon under Obama and Bill Clinton. As under secretary of defense for policy under Obama, Flournoy helped craft the 2010 troop surge in Afghanistan, a deployment of 100,000 US troops that led to a doubling in American deaths and made little measurable progress toward ending the war.
President Trump, who campaigned on stopping the US’ “forever wars” in the Middle East and remains the first US president in 40 years not to start a new conflict, has nevertheless also staffed the Pentagon with hawkish officials. Recently ousted Defense Secretary Mark Esper was a top lobbyist for Raytheon, while his predecessor, Patrick Shanahan, worked for Boeing. Trump’s appointment this week of National Counterterrorism Center Director Christopher Miller as acting secretary of defense, coupled with combat veteran Col. Douglas MacGregor as senior adviser, looked set to buck that trend, given MacGregor’s vocal opposition to America’s Middle Eastern wars.
Given Biden’s fondness for Flournoy, whom he tapped in 2016 to head the Pentagon under a potential Hillary Clinton administration, the former vice president appears unconcerned about curtailing the influence of the armaments industry.
The industry apparently roots for Joe, too. As Donald Trump surged ahead of Biden on election night, stocks in Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, and the Carlyle Group all plummeted. Only when counting in swing states stopped and resumed, giving Biden the advantage, did they climb again.
Should a Biden administration make good on running mate Kamala Harris’ post-election promise to return to regime-change operations in Syria, these firms and their supporters in the Pentagon stand to make a killing.
As the EPSR has long argued, feminism as single-issue reformism, and all the other single-issue campaigns for LGBT rights, ecology and the environment, black nationalism, animal rights, are a last bastion of defence for capitalist ideology, all arguing their own priority as causes, and hostile to the revolutionary understanding that capitalism is the generator and cause of all the inequalities and divisions in society.
Such success as they have in opening up opportunities and reducing the worst prejudices only smooth the edges off the capitalist system which continues its plunge towards slump and world war, which is destroying the lives of hundreds of millions, men and women.
So glaringly do these latest appointments serve reaction that the house-feminists at the Guardian were obliged this week to disown them.
Well they might since what is shown clearly is the reality of reformist PCism of all kinds, namely class collaboration with a foul warmongering agenda at best and outright anti-communist reaction at worst.
As a stopgap this Biden presidency might survive for a while.
Some limited token gestures around the Covid pandemic for example, might even be acceptable to the reactionary wing of the ruling class, to take some heat out of a disastrously callous and contemptuous approach to the pandemic which has seen hundreds of thousands dying.
The virus has reached all the way into the mid-West and southern states and rural areas which provide the strongest base for the Trumpites, undermining support.
Much of what the Bidenites will do does not differ markedly from Trump anyway; over Zionism, leaving the US embassy in its provocative new location in Jerusalem, for example, tacitly supporting the reactionary Nazi-Netanyahu despite token murmurings about continuing the completely joke notion of “pursuing a two-state solution” for the Palestinians - an option which was always impossible and now nothing but a contemptuous humiliation for them; maintaining the international sanctions and trade hostility against China’s workers state; ditto against communist North Korea, and especially Cuba; continuing the general imperialist domination and exploitation of the planet,
But it is clear that the Republicans will continue plotting, using a stitched-up Senate to hamstring anything the Bidenites try to do that even hints of concessions to the working class.
And if the atmosphere of hatred, distrust, and uncertainty created by the Trumpite refusal to concede the election does not translate into a populist coup attempt immediately, it lays the ground for non-stop sabotage and disruption up to the next election.
Continuing unfolding of the world economic crisis is critical.
In as much as there is a difference between the Trumpites and Bidenism it lies in the Democrat wing of the bourgeoisie wanting to maintain and rely on the imperialist alliances of the post-war epoch, dominated by US imperialism, with aggression aimed at China and Russia.
The Bidenites are actually likely to be more aggressive and brutal in the maintenance of US imperialism’s predatory and exploitative role in the world and ready to send troops to “aid the fight against terrorism” in Africa and the Middle East.
But Biden’s declared policy of re-establish “better relations” with other imperialist powers cannot last.
The Trumpites’ America First isolationism and belligerence reflects the sharpest side of oncoming crisis, which has seen the international trade war intensify between the great monopoly blocs of the imperialists with the US lashing out in all directions to blame the world for its difficulties.
The capitalist system needs war and destruction.
The flag-waving jingoism of the Trumpite wing is not going to go quietly.
Only class war to overturn this fascist degeneracy and establish the dictatorship of the proletariat can stop this slide into chaos and barbarism.
But not one voice from the great swamp of fake-“leftism” speaks out clearly and sharply revolutionary understanding, and the building of a conscious party to fight for it.
Most of the cited articles limply conclude that “democracy has been rescued” or that “Trump has been defeated” despite their recognition of the disastrous material onslaught and disillusionment poured onto working class heads by the crisis.
Or listen to some of the points made by Democrat “left” Bernie Sanders:
The truth is that Trump put more billionaires into his administration than any president in history; he appointed vehemently anti-labor members to the National Relations Labor Board (NLRB) and he gave huge tax breaks to the very rich and large corporations while proposing massive cuts to education, housing and nutrition programs. Trump has tried to throw up to 32 million people off the healthcare they have and has produced budgets that called for tens of billions in cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and social security.
Yet, a certain segment of the working class in our country still believe Donald Trump is on their side.
Why is that?
At a time when millions of Americans are living in fear and anxiety, have lost their jobs because of unfair trade agreements and are earning no more in real dollars than 47 years ago, he was perceived by his supporters to be a tough guy and a “fighter”. He seems to be fighting almost everyone, every day.
He declared himself an enemy of “the swamp” not only attacking Democrats, but Republicans who were not 100% in lockstep with him and even members of his own administration, whom he declared part of the “deep state.” He attacks the leaders of countries who have been our long-standing allies, as well as governors and mayors and our independent judiciary. He blasts the media as an “enemy of the people” and is ruthless in his non-stop attacks against the immigrant community, outspoken women, the African American community, the gay community, Muslims and protesters.
He uses racism, xenophobia and paranoia to convince a vast swath of the American people that he was concerned about their needs, when nothing could be further from the truth.
Biden will be sworn in as president on 20 January and Nancy Pelosi will be speaker of the House.
But if the Democratic party wants to avoid losing millions of votes in the future it must stand tall and deliver for the working families of our country who, today, are facing more economic desperation than at any time since the Great Depression. Democrats must show, in word and deed, how fraudulent the Republican party is when it claims to be the party of working families.
And, in order to do that, Democrats must have the courage to take on the powerful special interests who have been at war with the working class of this country for decades. I’m talking about Wall Street, the pharmaceutical industry, the health insurance industry, the fossil fuel industry, the military industrial complex, the private prison industrial complex and many profitable corporations who continue to exploit their employees.
If the Democratic party cannot demonstrate that it will stand up to these powerful institutions and aggressively fight for the working families of this country – Black, White, Latino, Asian American and Native American – we will pave the way for another rightwing authoritarian to be elected in 2024.
What a fraud!!!!!
Sanders know full well the Bidenites will do no such “standing up to” corporate interests - but are in their pockets and will wage as much war and aggression on their behalf as all other US regimes. That’s why he ran against Biden for the nomination (before opportunistically endorsing him).
“Standing up to” capitalism is a reformist nonsense and the more so in an obvious time of Catastrophic slump failure and trade war; only overturning the whole system can change anything, through setbacks and defeat for imperialism worldwide and the conscious battle from revolutionary leadership that opens the way for.
The Trumpites know that struggle is coming which is why they are ready to take over - and the more easily that minds remain deluded by “democracy” and PC single-issue platitudes. They disarm the working class and get in the way with their hostility to revolutionary theory and communism, the only way any real equality for all rational human development will ever be achieved - built by establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat overseeing the development of planned socialist society.
Build Leninism Alan Moss
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Struggling with contradictions in the party discussions and the damaging effect of petty bourgeois class influences on the fight for Leninism
A long running and sometimes fractious dispute with a senior comrade in the EPSR over leadership and subjectivism is belatedly bringing to light past weaknesses and one-sidedness in the leadership approach to polemics and discussion at the centre of the supporters group.
The comrade has remained outside the group for nearly a decade, declaring that he would tread his own path but continuing to subscribe to the EPSR paper and supporting its content while fighting to expose petty bourgeois class influences.
Eventually he requested access to a larger number of the papers in order to use them in discussions and meetings despite continuing to remain outside and rejecting any group discipline; this practical arrangement was accepted despite the possible confusion of such a de facto faction might cause, being balanced against the usefulness of greater exposure for the political line of the paper, as long as he made clear he is not part of the EPSR.
In public meetings he has tended increasingly to refer to himself as “speaking for the EPSR” and also speaks out for the EPSR in social media postings, meetings and online polemics and engages in friendly debates with the EPSR group on political perspectives, making valuable contributions and pointing out an important error in the paper at one point on Lenin’s 1905 revolutionary position (EPSR No 1548 13-01-19) in which, struggling to expose Trotsky’s ultra-leftism, the paper swung too far towards the Menshevik position.
Overall however the paper’s line and perspective is sufficiently strong to hold his support, he has declared, despite some reserved differences as now discussed.
That confirms the Leninist understanding that the basis of leadership is the struggle for a correct perspective on the world.
This comrade has recently requested to be fully part of the EPSR again.
But this has raised unresolved issues dating back to the initial dispute over a challenge to the leadership and behaviour in commonly shared local branch work where he says he was mistreated and impugned and later, bullied.
This was rejected in a heated rebuttal in a discussion by the group; later it was agreed that the rebuttal was too sharp and a further discussion was arranged for the subsequent meeting.
In all four meetings on the issue were held with an increasing fraught and fractious atmosphere.
The sharpness reflected a weakness in the leadership understanding which did not allow a sufficiently calm discussion to take place to let the contradictions emerge.
The manner in which the debate was raised, suddenly as a overall challenge to the leadership, caused a defensive reaction (correct or not) which obscured underlying problems.
He has recently recognised that it was a wrong approach – but not that he does not feel the issue needs to struggled with.
The comrade declares that he was maligned by the discussion and that he was not taking a position against the party as asserted.
That relations in the local branch were strained is accepted (and that it was the responsibility of the leadership, both by virtue of having a leading role and by virtue of allowing subjective irritations to find expression), is not denied.
Nor is it denied, now or then, that the comrade had the right to bring up the matter for discussion with the full group.
It must be a part of building a revolutionary party that differences, including those over party building itself should be allowed to be brought out, and in fact be encouraged.
An article submitted by this comrade follows on which puts forwards an attempted class/psychological explanation of difficulties caused by the resulting defensiveness, trying to draw out the influence of petty bourgeois class pressure on the tiny minority battling for Leninist understanding.
Some doubts about the approach are discussed below, and some of its assertions and implications are not accepted, particularly the implication that an atmosphere of violence prevailed in the group.
But a key aspect must be fully accepted despite the bruising effect it has on egos.
That is, that instead of allowing full expression of contradictions and differences to develop in the inner party struggle and in fact to encourage the debate, the viewpoints of other comrades have sometimes been challenged too peremptorily when they have seemed to diverge from the central line.
Such polemical debate has to be the heart of Leninism as has been repeatedly discussed in the EPSR during the years of its editorship under Roy Bull, for example in issue No1006 (14-07-99) on Soviet revisionism and the retreat from a world revolutionary perspective into eventual liquidation of the giant achievements of the Soviet Union:
It all turned into total catastrophe, and it was this ‘organisation for its own sake’ which was the class/emotional root of this complacency, a petty-bourgeois misappropriation of Marxism which had shorn it of its own self-correcting cutting edge.
The key to that fatal wrong-turning in history was the banning of genuine debate, the failure to dialectically hold fast the conflicting opposites in order to see understanding further grow out of the contradiction, and to benefit from it, — the failure to grasp the very essence of all scientific method but especially that of Marxist analysis, — the wish to kick out the discordant voices and have everyone singing the same tune in perfect harmony.
Stalinism was right to clamp down on counter-revolutionary factionalism. It was the disastrous start to Revisionist ultimate catastrophe when all conflicting views about how imperialism would develop next, and how to tackle it, were banned as well.
Without genuine conflict and contradiction, correct Marxist scientific analysis can only slowly die. The ultimate debacle of the self-liquidation of the dictatorship of the proletariat under longtime steadily maturing (beginning with Stalin) delusions about the development of imperialist crisis and its nature, and about Soviet relations with imperialism, duly followed.
The key lesson for renewed communist struggle at the end of the 20th century has to be that not only must the free conflict of ideas be allowed but it must be positively encouraged as the most fertile educative source for the working class of all.
How was the whole world communist movement originally educated? Via virtually nothing but polemical writings by the best leaders against other leaders’ mistaken ideas INSIDE the communist internationals (I, II, and III), and INSIDE the Bolshevik Party.
The communist education of mankind in the works of Marx, Engels, and Lenin consists of virtually nothing but polemics, in book, pamphlet and article form, against other communist leaders; — against Plekhanov, Martov, Trotsky, Kautsky, Bernstein, Proudhon, Kropotkin, Bakunin, Lassalle, Liebknecht, etc, etc.
But as soon as Stalin’s polemics against Trotsky, Bukharin, etc, petered out at the end of the 1920s, to be replaced by loftily ignoring alternative voices or silencing them, the inevitable deterioration in Marxist scientific understanding and ability began slowly to infect the whole world party.
And what crucially helped drive out Marxist scientific inquiry (and the method of all-ideas-in-conflict as the only source of development, through contradiction) was this stifling human wish to belong, this stifling wish to be part of the team at all costs, this stifling complacency, the reactionary bourgeoisification of the former communist leadership of the workers movement.
The EPSR has tried formally to follow this principle and has not banned or suppressed discussion, and continues to not only welcome but request polemic and debate both for regular meetings and in writing for the paper (and from all comers).
It has not been the case that any suppression of political positions has been imposed.
But in practice the debate has been conducted too one-sidedly without succeeding in the crucial but philosophically and politically difficult “holding fast the conflicting opposites” in order to fully apprehend arising phenomena in the class struggle (and nature in general).
It should be added that such holding of opposites is nothing to do with shallow petty bourgeois “democratic” notions of allowing a eclectic stew of subjective opinions and factions to coexist without any resolution of differences (as various fake-“left” alliances, popular fronts and entryist manoeuvres have repeatedly tried, only to fall apart or capitulate to class collaboration), but to work them through to an accepted conclusion (albeit with sometimes reserved positions which cannot be resolved until further material development throws better light on them).
Once positions are agreed they need to be held to in a disciplined manner (until better understanding arises) in order to put them to the test in practice.
Such a democratic centralist Bolshevik method is the basis for establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat which is the only way to achieve socialism through strong communist organisation and disciplined leadership.
It is one of the highest points of dialectical materialist understanding, the philosophical foundation of Marxism-Leninism and one which capitalism tries its hardest to knock down, including all fake-“left” groups who either distort it into arbitrary sectarian discipline or try to belittle or deny it in favour of abstract “democracy” (which can only leave bourgeois democracy unchallenged) as a tediously long-winded academic debate in the crypto-Trot/Kautskyite revisionist paper Weekly Worker has just been doing.
In the vacuum left petty bourgeois class forces have found expression in the EPSR group too it must be accepted.
The issue was discussed several times by the group, the issue has not been discussed openly in front of the working class; partly because some of the issues involved “yes you did, no I did not” assertions and it was not clear if such unwitnessed differences amounted to anything more than squabbles, not able to produce much useful knowledge in the to and fro, and partly because the significance of such a dispute in a small supporters group around the EPSR was also considered uncertain in comparison to the huge events of the capitalist crisis, imperialist warmongering, world revolt and the great historical movement inexorably heading for the revolutionary ending of the corrupt and degenerate imperialist system an attempted resolution.
But this was wrong - if the Leninist method of party building is to be carried through – and no other possibility exists for reaching a correct scientific understanding which alone can guide the enormous struggle to end the degenerating imperialist order and establish rational society – all such discussions have to be in the open as far as possible (eg as the Grenadan comrades were struggling to do - see subsequent article) allowing for the constraints of security or underground activity which have always faced revolutionary movements.
It has been asserted at various points in the dispute that the EPSR has been akin to sectarian and autocratic groups such as the former Trotskyist WRP under Gerry Healy, and even that its leadership was “as bad as Stalin” with ALL the implications of being capable of the crimes and paranoid distortions that are luridly claimed by bourgeois ideology (and which remain to be properly assessed by a Marxist examination of the historical record – impossible in current conditions).
Some of the wilder exaggerations and assertions of violent intimidation that have been made at times have only increased the defensiveness of the group.
And some of the principles adduced in the following article essentially posit in abstract form behaviours which have not happened. On point 11 it has never been asserted that comrades are “not allowed to talk with anyone about anything” - only that flinging inflammatory comments around in the background without raising them directly was wrong and damaging.
Or that it was said “everything is rotten” or that comrades were told they could not question the judgement of the leadership.
Questions of anger or “tetchiness” are more complex; presented in the abstract then of course these are sound principles and the principle of patiently explaining is correct, but that leaves hanging such phrases as “unwarranted anger” or even tetchiness without any means of determining when there might be “warranted anger” for example or tetchiness (even Lenin had door slamming moments, albeit regretting them).
Hyperbole like this of various kinds helped inflame a sharp response that prevented the real problems being drawn out (or allowed petty bourgeois tendencies to prevent them being drawn out as the comrade argues).
It could even be said that the very way the issue was raised, as a call for the demotion of the chairman (inasmuch as the informal supporters group had one) was hyperbole and with an equally counter-productive effect.
The comrade has recently conceded that the “issue was tackled in the wrong way” in raising out of the blue such a demand without any indication to other comrades that any such move was afoot, or any earlier attempts to raise the perceived difficulties in a quieter and more comradely way.
But it is still perfectly valid to persist with the dispute and pointing the impact of petty bourgeois class forces on thinking and behaviour and trying to call it out is correct.
There has been anger expressed which was counter-productive and defensive.
A further difficulty in the form of criticism, is in giving petty bourgeois individualism a kind of specific substance and making it into a thing, which then affects comrades almost like a demon which can be spotted and dealt with (as set out in the point 8). “If comrades are faltering in their grip of Leninism” posits the question of “who decides?” either what Leninism is, and who is “falling short”.
But surely it has to be spotted in each particular polemic and debate in the concrete form it arises?
The awful weight of petty bourgeois class pressure (which Lenin declared would be the major enemy for decades even after the working class had taken power) is real and has coloured development of the party.
The issue has a long history running back a decade to the period of the full emerging of the capitalist crisis.
The 2008 global bank collapse and the imposition of mass austerity in the major imperialist countries signalled a giant shift in class relations, compounded by the quagmire of defeat US empire had got into in the Middle East.
It found expression inside the EPSR in a conflict over the new Obama government (among other issues) and whether it could be considered a step forwards for the working class, forced, despite its bourgeois character, to make concessions by crisis developments, or whether the working class should be warned that its purpose was solely to hoodwink them and rescue the tottering credibility of the presidential democracy system, which under Bush had reached a historic low point as the Iraq and Afghanistan wars grew messier, and war weariness increased domestically and the full impact of world economic Catastrophe was emerging.
A similar warning needs to be strongly made now about the Biden tweedledee-tweedledum presidency which tries similarly to give the “democracy” delusion a new lease of life to disarm anti-capitalism, as discussed in the main story (but in much more fraught circumstances of far deeper economic collapse).
The vigorous nature of the discussion became rancourous and led to a split with some comrades.
It must now be re-assessed whether the polemic and meetings might have been better developed and the issues have been better clarified.
It was in the context of that difficult split that the subsequent conflict now under discussion, emerged from that demoralising split.
There has been a long delay in tackling this issue and in front of the working class, itself an error.
With the currently limited numbers of comrades ready to build Leninism, and available for producing a regular Leninist analysis of the latest events and their significance for the world balance of class forces, the matter was deferred.
Also the nature of the discussion, including various allegations of personal behaviour that were alleged or denied, seemed to be just a “squabble” that was not likely to clarify anyone.
But that was wrong; the world proletariat is only going to carry through the gigantic class war to overturn the rapidly degenerating imperialist system, plunging towards Catastrophic failure and World War Three if it has the sharpest and clearest revolutionary understanding, and that is only possible if it builds a Leninist cadre party consciously struggling with all questions – avoiding them is part of the problem as again the EPSR said:
One of the most unfortunate Stalinist legacies from the Third International in this matter is the line, variously expressed, that “now is not the time for discussion; now is the time to be out there doing something”; or “the ruling-class will be laughing at seeing our party and the left torn by debate”; or “just keep your head down for now, and discuss all this later when there is an opportunity”; etc, etc, — — all the more insidious for being so plausibly well-meaning.
But it is the absolute essence of the WHOLE REVISIONIST DISASTER which eventually befell the Soviet workers state; and it is not ‘well-meaning’ at all, of course, in the sense that it is so subjectively WRONG that it amounts to party-disruption by ignorance from purely cosy conservative motives utterly at odds with the really revolutionary spirit of Marxism which grasps unity AND conflict in all things as the only basis for all progress. [No1007 21-07-99]
The comrade’s letter which follows is a simply first attempt to tackle this long running dispute the author says to strengthen the EPSR. Don Hoskins
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Inner-party life and battling problems with petty-bourgeois individualism
[All of this has to be put in the context of the EPSR group’s massive success in keeping going for 40 years and particularly in keeping the fight for Leninism going after the death of Roy Bull, thanks to his leadership and training of the group and the enormous personal efforts of all comrades, and the group’s belief in leadership and its role, following Bolshevik traditions. What follows is an attempted contribution to Leninist scientific understanding aimed at strengthening the EPSR and the confidence of its supporters and leadership. Chris Barratt]
Petty-bourgeois individualism (PBI) is a hostile class force to proletarian communism and will always show itself as such as long as it is exposed and made conscious, either by the comrade recognising the problem themselves or by alert fellow comrades being able to recognise it and highlight an issue.
Making the problem conscious is crucial, so knowing the signs that PBI is affecting judgment is equally crucial.
An Internet article by Stephanie McMillan* is a useful starting point (despite its flaws) just because it sums up the basics (see So, what are the signs of PBI in a comrade’s words or actions?
1. Unwarranted anger at another comrade. This is No 1 because anger at the capitalist system is part of being a communist, so when this anger is turned on another comrade for almost any reason it suggests that PBI has subverted the discussion. Even tetchiness at another comrade can be absurd, because being heartened that a comrade is involved in any communist discussion should be valued and a pleasure for all comrades (especially when there are so few of us and when the monumental pressure of bourgeois ideology is so fierce on people’s thinking).
2. Abuse directed personally AT a comrade, rather than at a line of argument; and even when taking on lines of argument the communist should always be looking to induce enlightenment and understanding, rather than hurting feelings unnecessarily. Instead, when comrades step into a discussion they should be seeking UNITY and conflict – seeking to get the best out of what the other comrade is saying NOT seeking to immediately contradict it harshly; if immediate contradiction is required then still trying to understand the point from many angles is surely the Marxist approach.
3. Words, phrases and actions that suggest that the individual concerned is fixated on their own contribution and belittling the contributions of other people in a non-objective way. Words that imply that the person argued with should “leave the party” – such words are always likely to be PBI-directed hostility because why would a communist want to cut numbers at a time of Leninist weakness in numbers and lack of participants in the struggle?? Anti-party, anti-collective words are likely to be PBI-driven for obvious reasons.
4. Subjectivism. This is not always easy to spot because people can have elaborate ways of convincing themselves they are being objective; but one giveaway is that PBI has struck when a comrade admits that they were thinking about something before an incident which is what led to their flashes of anger at another comrade; in other words, they are not thinking objectively about the latest incident or discussion with a comrade, they already have a negative response in their mind from stewing over it previously.
5. Violence against a communist of any sort is likely to be PBI-driven.
6. Lines of argument starting with “I’m entitled to say this because…” or “Are you questioning my judgment?” strongly suggest PBI is at work.
7. Power-grabbing or demoting other comrades, either in real terms or in their own minds. Comrades should be alert to PBI when any leading comrade “removes” them from any status, such as NC member or editorial board member without the party’s approval.
8. Failure to take matters of inner-party life seriously. The inner-party discussion is the highest level of the class struggle, not necessarily in the simplistic way of exposing traitors or backsliders and distancing the party from them but in the way of building Leninist revolutionary theory and taking as many comrades forward with it as possible. For this reason, it is obviously the responsibility of all comrades to strengthen revolutionary theory and strengthen the party’s adherents in both numbers and confidence. Maximum comradeliness is also obviously a great virtue. If comrades are faltering in their grip of Leninism, the party should be trying to restrengthen their grip and all comrades should be assured that everything that can be done to win the argument with them is being done in the most enlightened way by having the conflict but also by seeing and understanding their concerns. If the worst comes to the worst, and the dissenting comrades leave then all remaining comrades obviously want to feel certain that everything short of weakening the EPSR’s grip of Leninism was done and the discussion was handled as reasonably as possible. Some basic politics are needed here: if a split is looming then counting noses of who can be counted on beforehand is useful so that desperation to defend the party from an anti-party vote does not set in.
9. On the same lines, this failure to take inner-party life seriously sees such PBI-influenced lines of argument that “party life cannot be talked about now because of pressing international matters” or that such discussions “disrupt the party” rather than resolving them in a positive way as much as possible precisely so the party can move on united; there should always be time for tackling the concerns of the party membership and comrades with issues should surely be taken as seriously as Lenin took Bogdanov.
10. In a non-constitutional party, it is all the more of an obligation on the party centre to be mindful of all Bolshevik party traditions and history when dealing with the election of the editor and chairman, criticism or membership/sacking/split/faction issues. If these traditions are trampled over, it is a sign that PBI is at work. Much as the EPSR does not want factions, it should always be remembered that the Bolsheviks were a faction of the RSDLP, and we cannot be sure that at some point in the future that a factional battle won’t be required.
11. All of us are entitled to talk about anything we want to whomever we want. The notion of it being “bad behaviour” for comrades to be “caught talking behind the back of the centre” has to be disabused. The content of what is discussed is the issue. Over Grenada the EPSR criticised Cuba’s Fidel Castro for only knowing Maurice Bishop and not taking the trouble to get to know all leading members of the NJM [But see Grenada article following - ed]. Malicious gossip is bad behaviour; building friendly relations in all directions is positive and strengthens the party for future battles and can help to ensure PBI problems are spotted and tackled in a supportive, positive way.
12. Anything that implies “everything is rotten” is highly likely to be PBI-driven. But it has to be borne in mind that this can apply to the attitude of the comrade first accusing another of behaving as if “everything is rotten”.
13. Shouting over another and interrupting to disrupt a line of argument is highly likely to be PBI-driven, especially in any formal discussion. This is Trump-like – the PBI drives dissembling and disruption because it fears the triumph of rational argument. PBI also tends to ramp this up with charged emotion – this flows out of the PBI class force that has taken over the comrade at that moment. Comrades here need to spot when heat and hyperbole are being injected into the discussion which is blocking clarity about the opposing lines of argument. Of course, comrades may feel their views are being distorted but they should do their best to calmly put the record straight at their turn, which the chairman should permit immediately afterwards.
What is the source of PBI in a communist?
All world influences are bearing down on everybody’s heads all the time. But it should also be borne in mind that all of us are individuals who arrived at communism AFTER our childhoods and the formation of our personalities. To be a communist at this time of intense pre-Revolution pressure has required our previously developed willpower (or drives) as well as the willpower that stems from our enlightened self-interest (communist understanding). The mightier the now observed complete willpower, then the more the former variety of willpower could exist, which contains within it egotism, selfishness, individualism and even anti-collectivism that can, when provoked by challenge or criticism of any sort or confrontation, come out in anti-communist forms.
What if this problem is not conscious to the subject but other comrades are spotting the problem?
As the McMillan article states, comrades who exhibit PBI issues need to be assisted by maximum sympathy and a supportive discussion. This is where McMillan stops and an even deeper psychological grip is required; the sympathetic approach is required partly because a more confrontational approach will always switch on their individualist anger buttons and tackling the issue will prove a thousand times harder.
Earlier attempts to tackle the PBI issue within the EPSR faltered precisely for this reason, even while containing many of the lines of reason expressed here and despite constantly stating friendly intentions to make the subject stronger, the lines of argument were still not sympathetic enough; the tone had to be even more considered and should have been written generically (as an abstract issue) but that was because the author thought the PBI-suffering comrade was conscious of the wrongness of their reasoning but dissembling. This was not the case: the individual was unconscious of the problem.
However, given the decade-long efforts to sort this out, it is also pretty obviously the case that only the long-term material force of the discussion would tell in the context of the continuing strength of Leninist understanding of the EPSR review and the long-term Bolshevik stoicism of the comrade struggling to overcome the PBI issue within the EPSR.
How can it be so severe in a leading comrade?
Because the dialectic rules; and that means that the stronger the PBI-driven individual willpower works in the direction of the fight for communism so the opposite force must exist, and, if unconscious, will express itself in damaging negative PBI that lashes out at any challenge to itself because the subconscious id of the unconscious individualist is intensely self-protective (both low self-esteem and its opposite can be at work here too). The intelligence and conscious Leninism of the subject then have to work very hard to justify to THEMSELVES (and everyone else) any PBI comments or actions that the negative class force generates.
What damage does PBI do?
Consider what PBI is, and what its characteristics are: it is dishonest, conceited, disdainful, arrogant, full of delusions, prone to hysteria, prone to high-handedness, hostile to collective endeavour, hostile to communist people, has contempt for others’ efforts, cowardly/bullying, prone to violent rage at communists – in short, as a CLASS FORCE it can manifest itself in damaging the party, undermining confidence in others, exacerbating splits, etc. It is also positively challenging, iconoclastic and prepared to fight which is why, especially at this early stage of very few enlightened individuals coming together to battle for Leninism, it is hardly surprising that PBI can be a problem.
It is important to consider that, at this time of intense isolation of the struggle for Leninism, that much of the fighting has been carried out by comrades being prepared to go out on a limb, to be lone voices of reason at meetings, to write what nobody else is writing, to have to argue fiercely against all-comers, to be incredibly defensive of the EPSR’s battle, to keep the paper going but suppose, dialectically, this is taken a step too far and the “one-man battle” aspect of the paper’s struggle turns into its opposite – an attack on comrades or a comrade for trying to expand the work or insist on actual partyness as opposed to one-man-bandness.
Super-defensiveness leads to anger; what element of the anger is good strong Leninism and what stems from PBI?? When this is not clear, then PBI damage can be done.
*Combat individualism http://koleksyon-inip.org/strengthen collectivity-combat-individualism
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Discussion: Phil Waincliffe
Part Two (continued from issue No 1585)
By mid-1977, Coard had won the party unanimously over to his proposals for a complete reorganisation of the party from its loose, amorphous structure into one that he describes as “tightly-knit, highly disciplined, and work-orientated” based on work committees in local communities, and the development of a “well-organised party support structure”. Alongside this reorganisation of the party, its underground army, the PRA, [ People’s Revolutionary Army] commanded by Hudson Austin, was rebuilt to military preparedness following the demoralisation that had set in after the 1974 defeat (see Skyred, chapter 29).
Coard also correctly identified that the time was right for revolution in early 1979, having previously (and also correctly) opposed calls for an uprising when the party and the masses were unprepared. His insightful assessment of local, regional and international conditions (including Gairy’s absence from the country, economic collapse and growing unrest in Grenada, bitter splits in the Grenadian ruling class, Gairy’s increasing isolation regionally, the devastating impact the colossal military defeat in Vietnam had on US imperialism’s confidence and morale, and the huge upsurge in the revolutionary struggle internationally, – Iran, Angola, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Guinea-Bissau etc – that was putting the US on the defensive) won the leadership over to his position in favour of revolution against Bishop’s calls for delays.
Although Bishop was the official leader, it was Coard’s insistence on study, party discipline, organisational reform and a collective leadership approach to decision-making that steeled the NJM for the eventual overthrow of bourgeois class rule under Gairy in March 1979.
Tellingly, high court judge Godfrey Smith philistinely attempts to pin the roots of the party crisis on Coard’s fight for revolutionary theory (“dogmatism”) whilst promoting Bishop’s charismatic personality qualities and populist appeal; and he indulges in huge dollops of psycho-babble about egos to undermine sympathy towards Coard (and communism in general) in this interview to promote the book:
They were doing very well indeed, as recognised by international financial institutions like the World Bank. They were given glowing remarks […] The sad tragedy is that it all imploded because, as is shown in the book, of differences of opinion and approach, and ambition and so on … jealousy.
That introduces the tragic element of the story. It happens when egos get in the way. Your ego gets so inflated that you can’t reach out to the other side; the other side feels unable to reach out to you. That’s what happens when dogmatism sets in, when you believe that you are so correct that there is no room to understand your co-leader’s point of view, or why he is not as doctrinaire as you are. That is what happens when the whole ambition sets in. You know what ambition can do. So all those factors led to an absolute breakdown of communication and distrust between two people who worked so closely, who brought about the revolution, and were achieving clearly recognisable success in building the revolution. It is said that trust takes years to develop and a few minutes to destroy. It’s so tragic and sad that that is what happened to destroy the lives of outstanding and charismatic Caribbean leaders, and to destroy the only English-speaking Caribbean’s successful revolution.
There is a contrary view to mine held by some of those who were involved in the demise of the revolution, that the whole thing was because of the United States, and it is the United States who mash up the revolution by their invasion, which some call an intervention. My own view is that … those who were opposed to Bishop – Bernard and his acolytes – served up Grenada on a platter [by] providing the perfect pretext for the United States, who had long been wary of them, to invade, take power, and turn back the revolution.
[The Americans] are not let off the hook … I accept that there is a chance that they may have invaded later on down the road. The tragedy is that these fellows destroyed it for themselves.
Smith’s “contrary view” is nonsense. Washington was “wary” of making direct military interventions anywhere following their devastating defeat in Vietnam. However, they had been making preparations for an invasion of tiny Grenada at least as far back as August 1981 when they launched their mock ‘Amber and the Ambergines’ assault on a Caribbean island as part of a major NATO military exercise. President Ronald Reagan had also been making increasingly threatening statements from the start of 1983, which coincided with numerous incursions of US naval vessels into Grenadian territorial waters and led the NJM to believe that an invasion was imminent.
It was Bishop’s failure to depose the NJM leadership on 19th October (after capitulating to US imperialist pressure), and thereby bring Grenada’s forward movement towards socialism to an end, that led to the invasion plans being enacted six days later. The need to detract attention from a humiliating suicide bomb attack on US and French military barracks in Lebanon on on 23 October that killed over 300 military personnel – in the middle of Reagan’s re-election campaign – would also have been a factor.
The “tragedy” for the Caribbean Smiths was that the revolution did not stop at the bourgeois national-liberation struggle against the British-imperialist stooge thug Gairy and hand power over to them but, under a more disciplined party leadership around Coard, was threatening to press ahead towards socialism. Bishop’s defeat scuppered the hopes they had that the revolutionary process would be halted. It is for this reason that Bishop is portrayed as a bourgeois-nationalist martyr-victim of “doctrinaire” communism.
The tragedy for the proletariat in Grenada and internationally is that they are left disarmed of the revolutionary understanding necessary to counter such anti-communist slanders against the majority NJM leadership by revisionism and the fake-”lefts”, who still shamefacedly refuse to explain their mistake in backing (or not challenging) the pro-Bishop line encouraged by the CIA.
Without arguing through the questions raised by the dispute to an agreed line that as closely as possible approximates objective reality there can be no moving on, and the proletariat will remain forever in a state of confusion in the face of endless imperialist anti-communist propagandising.
Smith helps to maintain this state of confusion by presenting Bishop’s ill-discipline as a part of his “charms”:
His infectious bonhomie made it hard not to like him. He honed the art of listening and tried to please everyone. This led him to make decisions after full discussion and then reverse them after people, who stood to be affected, petitioned him to walk back [on] his decisions (e.a.). Older women fussed over him and treated him like a son or grandson. His housekeeper and cook, Theresa, delighted in cooking his favourite dishes. Green bananas, salt-fish, souse and eggs for breakfast and maybe crab backs or fish for lunch. Younger women found him magnetic; few could resist his charm.
But the key to understanding the dispute lies in Bishop’s growing inability to abide by agreed decisions as the pressures against the party and the revolution intensified. This is how Coard described the party decision-making process in the first volume of his memoirs:
The NJM had developed its own decision-making culture from its very inception in March 1973. Decisions were always taken collectively after lengthy deliberation in the case of major decisions. After everyone had the opportunity to argue his or her position - strenuously at times - the leadership always closed ranks and assiduously carried out whatever was the decision of the majority. For example, no one from our planet could have imagined that Maurice and Uni (Whiteman) had argued forcefully for three days against the party taking up arms against Gairy on March 13, 1979, and that they had actually voted against the move. They were outvoted by the slimmest of margins: three votes to two in the Security & Defence Committee of the Bureau. Maurice and Uni had then wholeheartedly thrown themselves into ensuring the success of the March 13 Revolution, even though they had grave reservations about whether the Party had the means at the time to successfully pull it off. This was their attitude and action when their lives and everyone else’s were on the line should the decision taken have been the wrong one, as they had thought it was; and there had been other similar incidents over the years. Every member of the leadership always carried out the decisions of the majority.
The weakness here is that Coard fails to emphasise strongly enough that the struggle is to work collectively towards establishing a party line that is objectively correct according to reality. Also needing to be emphasised is the importance of arguing through differences (no matter how small or divisive) in front of the working class, drawing as many of the advanced layers as possible into the debate, with the aim of advancing the revolutionary understanding of all involved (obvious security questions aside like military deployments, or underground work).
However, Bishop’s growing tendency to undermine, or ignore, decisions agreed (encouraged by hostile elements within the NJM determined to put a halt to the party’s moves towards Leninism), or follow established procedures if new information emerges between meetings that requires changes to be made once decisions had been made, is the real issue here as it was seriously undermining the NJM’s party development:
Towards the end of October, 1981… the CC [Central Committee of the NJM] instructed the OC [Organisational Committee of the NJM] to undertake a particular course of action. I cannot recall the specific organisational steps the OC began to carry out. I do remember, though, that the OC’s work was negated mid-stream. It turned out that the Party members who were to carry out the task given them by the OC were suddenly contracted to Maurice and told to work on a different project instead.
… Over the next three weeks, there were three more incidents of a similar kind. Each involved Maurice’s changing a CC’s decision without consulting the CC members by phone if the matter could not wait, or doing so at the next meeting if it could. On each occasion, too, no one on the OC had been contacted so as to prevent time and manpower wastage or a situation where party members ended up working at cross purposes.
… I remember Maurice telling me, when I raised the last of the incidents with him, that the CC would not have had a problem with his changing his decision … There were a couple more relatively minor incidents. Up to this point, however – the end of 1981 – I did not see these incidents as any major matter. They were irritating, that’s all.
Things changed in the first half of 1982, however. I can never forget the incident which both annoyed and alarmed me. It had arisen out of a CC decision to prioritize five areas of the Party’s work in several dozen areas. These five areas were in turn prioritized in terms of which would be treated number one priority, down to number five. The CC had spent several hours debating the matter. One of the areas of contention was whether building the Party through expanding its membership should be the number one priority. Or reorganizing and expanding the People’s Militia. It was a spirited debate.
Those who argued for militia expansion, reorganization and enhanced training pointed out that the country faced the very real threat of a US or US-orchestrated military invasion … A majority of the CC, however, including myself, felt that the recruitment of Potential Applicants, or PAs to the Party should be given the greater priority. The proposal was to identify one thousand individuals form throughout the country who had demonstrated natural leadership ability, a capacity for hard work and some level of organisational skills, and train them immediately to help with the Party’s current unsustainable workload, with the goal of the vast majority becoming members of the Party as well.
… The immediate and rapid training of a thousand PAs won the debate, with most of the CC members including Maurice and myself voting in favour of that position. Militia mobilization was not even accorded the number two spot at that time. The OC was therefore instructed to organize all those identified as PAs into groups of around twenty, and assign Party members to commence their training. This also entailed identifying suitable buildings throughout the country and determining the days and specific 2-3 hours on each of those days that each group would meet over the next six months with their tutors. The entire exercise was to commence the following Saturday.
… That Saturday, various members of the OC fanned out around the country to ensure that all the logistical arrangements were in place, and to solve on the spot, where possible, any organizational hiccups. My first stop in this supervisory exercise was the Teachers’ College. On arriving there, I noticed that all one hundred PAs scheduled for that location were present including the fourteen to be taught by Einstein [Louison] and Chris [Stroude], but there was no sign of Einstein or Chris. Calls from the College’s phone to their homes and army offices could elicit no information as to their whereabouts. I therefore placed their names before the OC for disciplinary action, as was the standard policy when party comrades fell down on their duties without warning or explanation.
I soon discovered that these comrades were not guilty of any dereliction of duty. Just minutes before they were about to leave for the Teachers College, they had been summoned by Maurice to report immediately to York House, one mile away, for a meeting to reorganize the militia. Several other comrades, including some assigned to teach groups of PAs in other parts of the country, had received and responded to similar last-minute orders. Others, based in the countryside far from St. George, decided to stay and tutor the PAs in their area. This meant that neither Potential Applicant activity nor the militia-planning one was fully attended; neither area of work was satisfactorily concluded.
I went to see Maurice … I thought that Maurice had had his days mixed up; hence the schedule of meetings by the OC and then by him for the same hour involving the same comrades. To my astonishment, he informed me that he has had a change of mind and had decided to switch around the priorities decided on by the CC.
It was clear to me then, as now, that there could be a genuine basis for changing one’s position. After all, the country was in real danger from foreign military attack, and this was why Layne and the military comrades had been and remained extremely concerned. What worries me was the fact that Maurice had done something which he had never done before in the history of the Party: unilaterally reversed a major policy decision of the CC, arrived at after several hours of debate, without consulting or even informing members of the CC or OC. [e.o.]
… With the PA incident, I realised that consciously or unconsciously, Maurice was now acting independently of the CC, even taking it upon himself to reverse carefully considered – even if possibly incorrect – decisions without bothering to do what had always been done in these circumstances before: ring up other CC members and tell them of his change of position. On many occasions in the past, members had agreed to changes of decision in the light of a member’s deeper reflection on an issue.
… The breaking point came in July 1982. The CC, chaired by Maurice of course, unanimously decided and directed the OC to hold meetings with leaders of all Party work-committees with a view to rationalizing (and in the process seeking to reduce) the work of each Party member. As a result, the OC held extensive sessions with those involved as instructed … I discovered, towards the end of these sessions, that while these meetings were in process, Maurice had proceeded to take numerous decisions, reassigning some party members to new areas, and so on. These later decisions had the effect of scuppering the work of the OC. [B. Coard, The Grenada Revolution: What Really Happened, chapter 16]
Not long after, Coard resigned from the central committee, forcing the convening of the Extraordinary Meeting of the CC of October 12-15, 1982, which concluded that there was a “lack of collectivity” in building the NJM and organising its works; that the real issues within the party had been “ducked”, that there was “dead-weight” within the CC and the Bureau; and that the issue of non-performing CC members needed to be addressed. Rightly or wrongly, low performing members were removed from their positions or warned to raise their standards.
US imperialist intimidation intensified at the turn of 1983, with numerous implicit threats of invasion at the same time as US-financed and armed ‘contra’ fascist thugs crossed into Nicaragua from Honduras to destabilise its Sandinista revolution, and the blocking of crucial IMF loans and other funds needed to stem a collapse of prices of Grenadian export crops.
The problems of exhaustion and illness within the party (which the system of “Potential Applicants” described above by Coard was intended to address) continued to intensify, resulting in the falling away of party members and near collapse of party work by August 1983. A CC meeting of September 14 to 16 concluded that the CC had not developed a clear enough perspective to get the party and the revolution out of the grave crisis it was facing, and the consensus was that Bishop lacked the qualities of leadership to resolve the crisis.
The outcome was a proposal aimed at combining the strengths of Bishop and Coard by establishing a joint party leadership, near unanimously agreed at a party AGM (including by Bishop) with one abstainer (George Louison – one of the hostile anti-Leninist elements who Bishop listened to). Coard accepted this collectively agreed decision despite his reluctance to take on a greater leadership role (which contradicts Smith’s “power-grab” sneers).
Following this decision, Bishop embarked on a state visit to eastern Europe, accompanied by Cletus St. Paul (another member of the anti-Coard faction -) as his personal security detail, and following Louison, who had gone in advance to prepare the groundwork. On the eve of his return the delegation stopped at Cuba, and Bishop had a private all-day meeting with Castro. That night, St. Paul was reported to have phoned his lieutenant in Grenada and threateningly said “Ah hear them men and them in the CC fucking up the chief, but blood will flow!”
Bishop did not meet the CC immediately on his return on October 8 (unexpectedly, returning with the Cuban ambassador to Grenada who had cut short his holiday to accompany Bishop on the flight). However, they had received reports that Louison was phoning around party members to persuade them to change their position on joint leadership, claiming Cuban support. The CC met on 12 October and Bishop declared that he now opposed the decision. following that meeting, St. Paul allegedly circulated (at Bishop’s request) provocative and intimidatory rumours around Grenada that Bernard and Phyllis Coard were planning to kill Bishop.
It was in this atmosphere of increasingly violent threats and intimidation, and justified fears that Bishop may call on Cuba for military support to resolve the dispute in his favour, that the CC agreed to put Bishop under an easy-going form of house arrest.
From here, the situation escalated with counter-revolutionary mobs (which included non-party people and business owners) stirred up against Coard under the slogans “We Want We Leader”, “Maurice is We Leader” and “No Bishop, No Revolution!” (later joined by suspiciously placed placards stating “C for Coard, C for Communism” and “God Bless America”), the storming of the guards at Bishop’s house, and the seizure of arms from nearby Fort Rupert’s armoury described below.
The true details of Bishop’s counter-revolutionary assault on the NJM majority are now being more widely discussed and acknowledged, as in this recent ‘open letter letter to the Grenadian peoples’:
In response to a recent letter that I had published in The New Today, I was invited by the editor of the paper to write again giving more information on what happened on Fort Frederick and Fort Rupert, as then named, on 19 October 1983.
I accepted the invitation, and what is set out below is my detailed response. Sadly, it seems that the truth hurts and the letter has not been published, so instead, I am sending it as an open letter to the people of Grenada. However, in doing so, I need to expand on why I offered Cletus St Paul the opportunity finally tell the truth.
Several social commentators have conflated a number of events of October 1983 with the issues I have raised in my original letter to my friend Cletus. Matters such as the events leading to the crisis in the New Jewel Movement (NJM), the US invasion, etc., are not what I am addressing. My letter centres on the trial of the Grenada 17 (G17), including the surviving members of the NJM’s leadership and that only.
The court record shows that the sole evidence used to convict the members of the NJM Central Committee was that of Cletus St Paul. In his summing up, the trial judge made it clear that without this evidence there could be no conviction.
In summary, the key evidence that he gave was this. In the late morning of 19 October 1983, a crowd released Maurice Bishop from his house arrest. Bernard Coard and the other members of the Central Committee fled to Fort Frederick. There, they held a meeting and ordered troops to go to Fort Rupert, capture and liquidate Prime Minister, Maurice Bishop.
No other person witnessed this meeting and it transpired that at the time the Central Committee members arrived at Fort Frederick Cletus St Paul was miles away. He was in fact under arrest in Calivigny, at Camp Fedon, for admitting his part in spreading the false rumour that Phyllis and Bernard Coard were plotting to kill Maurice Bishop. Camp Fedon was then a Peoples Revolutionary Army (PRA) base.
When he did arrive at Fort Frederick, he was in the company of Errol George, one of the members of the security personnel attached to the leadership of the government. George testified at the preliminary hearing that he saw no such meeting and indeed, from where they were sitting it would have been impossible to see it. All visitors to Fort Frederick were entered into a log with the time of arrival. It would, therefore, have been simple to show who was on the Fort and what time they arrived. This log was taken by the Americans after the invasion and they declined to return it for the trial. Your readers may question why the document was not returned if it supported the evidence of St Paul. Although he was listed as a prosecution witness, Errol George was not called by the prosecution to give evidence and the defence was denied the opportunity to call him.
The report on the trial produced by the world-renowned human rights NGO, Amnesty International, indicated that the original President of the Court of Appeal, Justice Haynes, expressed considerable concerns about the evidence of St Paul and intended to call him to the court to be questioned. As when he requested his police statements the contradictions between them and his trial evidence were so great, he could hardly believe that they were from the same person. Sadly, Justice Hayes died before the hearing where St Paul was to be questioned, and when the defence lawyers requested copies of the statements the next morning, the Appeal Court refused the application for St Paul’s prior statements to be examined, having accepted an assurance from the prosecution, apparently given out of court, that there were no contradictions.
With regard to what occurred on Fort Rupert, I and colleagues have spent considerable time researching this and now have a number of affidavits from soldiers who were present on the day in question. The actual events unfolded as follows.
When Maurice Bishop was released from his house arrest by the crowd, he did not go to the Market Square as expected, but instead went to Fort Rupert, which was the People’s Revolutionary Army headquarters. As the crowd approached, the senior officer on the fort ordered the troops not to fire on the crowd, who then entered the fort. The soldiers were then ordered to put down their weapons and the senior officer was ordered to open the armoury from which weapons were distributed to civilians by those with Bishop. Civilians with military training were asked to come forward to be armed. Plans to seize the main armoury and other PRA camps were announced. A number of PRA soldiers have stated that a female soldier was stripped of her uniform and left in her underwear in front of Maurice and other leaders who made no attempt to stop this.
When the crowd first arrived at the fort, telecommunications were still in place and there was a call to Fort Frederick explaining that weapons were being distributed to the demonstrators. However, persons were sent to the telephone exchange with a list of numbers to disconnect and at the same time the army’s communications system was jammed, so there was no effective communication system in place; in particular, there was no communication possible between the two forts.
On receiving the information that arms were being given to members of the crowd on Fort Rupert, it was decided that the fort had to be recaptured, not least because explosives were stored in the tunnels and that one stray cigarette could have destroyed the whole area. Cadet Officer, Conrad Mayers, was therefore ordered to retake the army headquarters with an armed unit comprised of 3 armoured vehicles. Their orders were to enter firing into the air to create shock and disorientation; quickly secure the high ground and to then chase the crowd out of the fort. If they came under fire, they could return it, but this was very much the last resort. It is clear that the soldiers did not expect to be fired on as they were sitting on top of the vehicles rather than inside and some were casually waving at the public on the way to the fort.
As the units arrived at Fort Rupert and just as they were about to take the hill leading to the Bottom Square of the fort, they were ambushed by armed civilians firing from the fort. A soldier in the first armoured car, Warrant Officer Mason, was shot multiple times in the chest and died instantly. The PRA soldiers are adamant that firing started from the fort and have indicated that the first shots were fired by an Asian looking man. The units returned fire but this was targeted at the Operation Room from where they had been fired on, not on the crowd. There was an exchange of gunfire and explosions and people panicked and bolted in every direction.
In the chaos, it was difficult for the soldiers in the second armoured car to manoeuvre their way to the Bottom Square a few yards away. When they reached the Bottom Square, they discovered that both Cadet Officer Mayers and Private Martin Simon had been shot, the former in the lower abdomen and the latter with 4 bullets in the lower chest.
Having secured the fort, the soldiers placed Bishop and the others under arrest. By all accounts, the soldiers were clearly enraged by the ambush and when the news came that Mayers had died from his wounds all discipline broke down and the unit’s commander admits that he “lost it”. He ordered a firing squad to be assembled and Maurice Bishop and the others were executed. He has made it clear publicly that he was under no prior instruction to execute Bishop as alleged by St Paul and he had no communication with anyone at Fort Frederick once Fort Rupert had been secured. He was bitterly angry over what he saw as a betrayal of the Revolution by Bishop and the reported death of one of his closest friends had pushed him over the edge.
I appreciate that this is not the version of events that the people of Grenada have been fed over many years or are happy with, but as one Grenadian said to Bernard Coard when he was launching his first book in the UK, “I have hated you for years, and now I see that I was sold a Yankee lie.” The revolutionary period was not perfect, but there were significant gains for the people of Grenada brought about by their own endeavours. The US has systematically sought to discredit everything brought about by the Revolution and the people who organised it, including the ordinary Grenadians who sacrificed so much to achieve these gains. The false evidence of Cletus St Paul was designed to destroy the reputation of the leaders of the Revolution, like that which befell the leaders of the Fédon Revolution, thus ensuring that the noble experiment of self-determination would not be tried again.
The facts of what happened on Fort Rupert on the afternoon of 19 October 1983 are known to numerous Grenadians, a large number of whom are alive and can be asked for their recollections. Likewise, there would have been many on fort Frederick who could provide factual testimony as to what happened. The US-created narrative rests upon one man, Cletus St Paul.
I must confess that I am a little late to this part of Grenada’s history. An article was published in the New York Times in August 1991 that makes the same point about Cletus’ role that I do now. Were Cletus to correct his evidence, there would be no case against the Central Committee who were convicted of the murder of Maurice Bishop.
Come on Cletus. Do not let your false witness cascade through the ages, now is the time to tell the truth.
[Continued next issue]
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