Introduction to US Perspectives 2006

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The background against which we must develop our perspectives for the U.S. is one of increasing instability on a world scale.  The capitalist system has entered a deep crisis which is causing convulsions at all levels: economically, politically, socially, and militarily.  The contradictions that have built up for decades beneath the surface of society are now bursting to the surface. This affects every country on earth; none more so than the world’s only super-power: the United States of America.

A cursory look around the planet confirms what we have said now for a number of years: we have entered a period of wars, revolutions, and counter-revolutions. The convulsions of a system suffering from an organic crisis – the “death throes of capitalism” as Leon Trotsky described it – will mean terrible suffering for billions of people around the planet. The choice before humanity at the beginning of the 21st century truly is “socialism or barbarism”.

But out of the chaos of this decaying system, order can and must arise. However, this will not happen automatically. It will require the conscious and organized struggle of the world working class. In one country after another, there will be opportunities for the working class to seize power and begin the process of building world socialism. We can already see the beginnings of this revolutionary process in Latin America. But the fate of the World Revolution ultimately depends on what happens here in the United States. The contradictions of the capitalist system are sharper in the U.S. than anywhere else on the planet, and events can accelerate far more quickly than we anticipate. Hurricane Katrina and the explosion of the immigrant rights movement are just a hint of what’s to come.
We must therefore learn from history, from the revolutionary processes unfolding internationally, and above all, we must prepare for the American Socialist Revolution.

We provide as a short appendix to this introduction some excerpts from a piece by Leon Trotsky, The “Third Period” of the Comintern’s Errors, written in January, 1930.  In it he explains the importance of perspectives in order for a revolutionary Marxist organization to work out a correct political orientation to the working class.
“A Marxist sees the road as a whole, all of its conjunctural ups and downs, without for a moment losing sight of its main direction – the catastrophe of wars, the explosion of revolutions.

“The political mood of the proletariat does not change automatically in one and the same direction. The upturns in the class struggle are followed by downturns, the floodtides by ebbs, depending upon complicated combinations of material and ideological conditions, national and international.  An upsurge of the masses, if not utilized at the right moment or misused, reverses itself and ends in a period of decline, from which the masses recover, faster or slower, under the influence of new objective stimuli. Our epoch is characterized by exceptionally sharp periodic fluctuations, by extraordinarily abrupt turns in the situation, and this places on the leadership unusual obligations in the matter of a correct orientation.

“The activity of the masses, properly understood, expresses itself in different ways, depending upon different conditions. The masses may, at certain periods, be completely absorbed in economic struggles and show very little interest in political questions. Or, suffering a series of defeats in economic struggles, the masses may abruptly turn their attention to politics. Then – depending on the concrete circumstances and the past experiences of the masses – their political activity may go in the direction of either purely parliamentary or extra-parliamentary struggle.”

“We give only a very few variants, but they characterize the contradictions of the revolutionary development of the working class.  Those who know how to read the facts and understand their meaning will readily admit that these variants are not some kind of theoretical construction but an expression of the living international experience of the last decade…”

“…The art of revolutionary leadership is primarily the art of correct political orientation.  Under all conditions, communism prepares the political vanguard and through it the working class as a whole for the revolutionary seizure of power.  But it does it differently in different fields of the labor movement and in different periods.

“One of the most important elements in orientation is the determination of the temper of the masses, their activity and readiness for struggle. The mood of the masses, however, is not predetermined. It changes under the influence of certain laws of mass psychology that are set into moion by objective social conditions. The political state of the class is subject, within certain limits, to a quantitative determination – press circulation, attendance at meetings, elections, demonstrations, strikes, etc., etc. In order to understand the dynamics of the process it is necessary to determine in what direction and why the mood of the working class is changing. Combining subjective and objective data, it is possible to establish a tentative perspective of the movement that is a scientifically based prediction, without which a serious revolutionary struggle is in general inconceivable. But a prediction in politics does not have the character of a perfect blueprint; it is a working hypothesis. While leading the struggle in one direction or another, it is necessary to attentively follow the changes in the objective and subjective elements of the movement, in order to opportunely introduce corresponding corrections in tactics. Even though the actual development of the struggle never fully corresponds to the prognosis, that does not absolve us from making political predictions.  One must not, however, get intoxicated with the finished schemata, but continually refer to the course of the historic process and adjust to its indications.”

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