Nine months before the Bolsheviks successfully led the working class to power and established the first workers’ state, Lenin addressed a gathering of socialist youth in Zurich: “We of the older generation may not live to see the decisive battles of this coming revolution.” In the forty weeks that followed, the Bolshevik Party proceeded to grow from a membership of 8,000 to 250,000 and won over the vast majority of the working class to the program of socialist revolution.
A century later, millions in the US and around the world are gravitating to socialist ideas and entering political activity for the first time, and the preconditions for carrying out the historic mission of Bolshevism today are more mature than ever. The missing ingredient is a strong revolutionary leadership that can put forward a socialist program when the class struggle escalates to a tipping point.
The conviction that we are fighting for socialism in our lifetime was the central theme of the US IMT National Congress held on the weekend of May 26 and 27 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Following months of discussions in the branches during which comrades studied and debated the draft documents, elected their delegations, and submitted amendments for the Congress to vote on, nearly 90 delegates, comrades, and supporters from across the US came together—some flying, others driving up to 15 hours—to discuss the perspectives for socialist revolution on a national and international scale, and the tasks facing the forces of Marxism in this period.
In attendance were comrades from Ames, IA, Oakland/San Francisco Bay Area, Bellingham, WA, Boston, Boulder, Charlottesville, Chico, CA, Madison, Mesa/Phoenix, Minneapolis, North New Jersey, New York City, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, St. Louis, and Tucson, AZ. Also present were delegations from Toronto and Montreal, Canada, as well as comrade Fred Weston, editor of Marxist.com, who attended on behalf of the IMT’s International Secretariat in London.
On Saturday morning, comrade Laura Brown from New York welcomed attendees and shared international greetings that had been received from several sections of the IMT, who congratulated the comrades for building up the forces of Marxism in the “belly of the beast.” The first session on the agenda was World Perspectives, based on a draft document that is being discussed by all sections of the IMT and which will be voted on and finalized at the IMT World Congress in Turin, Italy in July.
Fred Weston kicked off the discussion by describing the events that had taken place just the day before: the massive turnout in the Irish referendum on abortion in which an overwhelming majority voted to repeal the reactionary 8th amendment—a legacy of the domination of the Catholic Church that denied women the right to an abortion, no matter the circumstances. Among the youth, a crushing 87.6% supported the repeal, revealing a profound mood of defiance against institutions like the Church which have been deeply discredited in recent years.
Fred explained that this is just the latest expression of a broader shift in consciousness that is unfolding everywhere. One pillar of capitalist rule after the other is being undermined as a consequence of the crisis of the system as a whole. The entire world situation is characterized by instability, turmoil, and polarization—to both the left and the right. Fred gave an overview of the political crises that are gripping governments around the world, in which the traditional bourgeois parties of the so-called “center” have been undermined.
At the root, these crises flow from the historic impasse of the capitalist system, which is incapable of delivering reforms or improvements in the living standards of the working class. A decade after the 2008 crisis, the global economy is crushed under the weight of an unprecedented debt of $164 trillion—a full 225% of the world’s GDP—which is higher than its 2007 levels, just before the 2008 crash. Sluggish growth rates and a 50-year low in capital investment in the US and Europe ultimately reflect the internal contradictions of capitalism. The capitalist class is sitting on a record $2.4 trillion in hoarded cash in the US alone, because the market is unable to absorb the mass of commodities that have been produced in the last period. Cheap credit and quantitative easing—i.e., printing money—have not helped spur investment. Instead, it has been a source of cash flow fueling a massive wave of speculation.
These processes have had their effect on the consciousness of millions of workers and youth, who have taken to the streets in one country after another in mass movements, strikes and mobilizations against the austerity and counterreforms imposed by capitalist governments. Fifty years after the revolutionary general strike of May 1968, the French workers and youth are again showing their fighting spirit in the face of Macron’s brutal attempts to roll back the gains of the French labor movement achieved over the previous century of class struggle.
Despite the pessimism of the reformists, who today, as in 1968, have no faith in the potential of the working class to fight and change society, the class struggle instincts are again coming to the fore, as shown by the wave of teachers’ strikes and mobilizations across the US in recent months. All the objective factors are present for a world socialist revolution. What is required is to build the forces of Marxism into a force that can connect its ideas with the mass of the labor movement, beginning with the most advanced layers. This is the task that the IMT has set itself around the world, and the current revolutionary generation is fortunate to have the opportunity to influence the course of humanity’s future—if we don’t make too many mistakes and build with enthusiasm and a sense of urgency.
After an inspiring start to the Congress, the afternoon session was dedicated to a discussion of US Perspectives, led off by John Peterson, the editor of Socialist Revolution. John began by laying out the fundamental economic and social forces which have prepared the way for the dramatic changes in the political landscape that are unfolding today. He highlighted the weight of US imperialism as a key factor in the global situation, pointing out that although the US has just 4% of the population, it accounts for 24% of the world’s nominal GDP and 35% of military spending.
Adjusted for inflation, US GDP has grown from $1 trillion in 1929 to $17 trillion today, while the population has only increased 2.5 times—a graphic indication of the tremendous surplus wealth created by the working class, despite stagnant wages and falling living standards. Nearly 132 million people in the US—51 million households—don’t earn enough to afford a monthly budget that includes housing, food, child care, health care, transportation, and a cell phone. That’s 43% of households in the world’s richest country. Meanwhile, the median pay of the top 200 CEOs was $17.5 million last year, and they received an average raise of 14%, on top of an average 9% raise in 2016, and 5% the year before.
It is these material processes in the foundation of society that have laid the basis for the dramatic swing in the direction of socialism that we’ve observed among the youth over the past couple of years. John explained that Trump’s “Make America Great” slogan reflected the aspiration among a layer of the working class for the full employment and economic security of the past. It is precisely the contradiction between the idealized American Dream and the reality of capitalist decay—including school shootings and the opioid epidemic—that is leading people to draw conclusions about the crisis of the system.
After John’s leadoff, comrades from all the delegations participated in the discussion with thoughtful and lively contributions about various aspects of the political, social, and economic situation in the US. Comrades spoke on the significance of the beginning of the revival in the labor movement that we’ve witnessed in recent months. Most of the left had abandoned the labor movement, but in our previous perspectives documents and discussions we’ve always clearly maintained that sooner or later the militant traditions of the US class struggle would be revived in some form or another, and that the “social powder keg” region of the Southern states would be at the forefront. The teachers’ strikes and mobilizations represent just the beginning of this revival, but we know that appetite comes with eating. Similar conditions lead to similar results and we can be confident that the class struggle will reach new levels in the years to come—exacerbated by the next, inevitable economic crisis.
The inspiring discussions on revolutionary perspectives were followed by a report on the work of the various sections of the International Marxist Tendency, in which comrades heard about the progress being made across Europe, Latin America, Asia, and Africa. Comrades were excited to hear about the growth of our forces in over 30 countries, and the experiences of other sections connecting with the recent movements of radicalized workers and youth around the world. We’ve grown through our orientation to the France Insoumise movement around Mélenchon, the struggle for a socialist republic in Catalonia, the fight to bring back the socialist Clause IV of the British Labour Party, and through our electoral campaign in Italy in which the comrades called for expropriation of the capitalist class on national TV with an audience of over 600,000 viewers.
The comrades also discussed the recent campaign of international solidarity with our Pakistani comrades, who were abducted by the state for their role in the growing mass Pashtun Defense Movement (PTM). The movement has spread from the Federally Administered Tribal Areas to all parts of the country and is connecting with all the other oppressed nationalities within Pakistan—a modern “prison house of nations,” as Lenin described tsarist Russia. Our comrades have been energetically supporting this movement and putting forward the perspective that it should unite with the rest of the workers of Pakistan. This is a powerful idea which poses a real threat to the Pakistani state, and this is why IMT comrades were targeted and disappeared in April.All sections of the International mobilized their forces and brought the message of the comrades’ struggle and the PTM to the international labor movement, gathering thousands of signatures and organizing protests outside dozens of Pakistani embassies and consulates around the world. Eventually the pressure forced the authorities to release our comrades, and the campaign helped raise the profile of the IMT internationally and within the Pashtun movement. It was an inspiring reminder for the US comrades of the sacrifices that our comrades are making every day to fight for a brighter future for humanity around the world.
Following the International Report, comrade Tom Trottier from New York kicked off the financial appeal, laying out the historic tasks and immediate targets before the organization, and evoking the legacy of self-sacrifice that allowed the Bolsheviks to grow from a small force into a mighty revolutionary party once their time had come. Electricity filled the air as one comrade after another made enormous sacrifices to contribute to the collection, knowing that their hard-earned resources would allow the organization to develop to a new level in preparation for the urgent tasks ahead. When Tom had finished his appeal, and all the comrades had made their contributions, the room fell silent waiting in suspense for the total to be announced. The comrades burst into excited cheering and applause when the total pledged was announced, which rose to over $70,000 by the end of the weekend, a new record. In that moment, the political conviction and revolutionary optimism of the comrades was crystal clear to everyone in the room, and this further boosted the mood throughout the weekend.
The second day of the Congress was full of discussions on revolutionary strategy and the “nuts-and-bolts” work of our comrades in over 20 cities across the country. Delegates from all the branches shared their experiences building in various fields of work, expanding the circulation of Socialist Revolution magazine, and reaching broader layers with our ideas.
Many comrades who had joined the IMT in the last year talked about their experiences being radicalized by the events like the Sanders campaign and the rise of the now-35,000-strong Democratic Socialists of America. There was a lively and engaging exchange of ideas and experiences as comrades described the questions being debated by socialists today: how to approach electoral work; the question of the Democratic Party and the need for a class-independent mass socialist party; the differences between base-building and a cadre organization; how socialists can connect with the broader labor movement, and more.
There was also an animated discussion of the IMT’s financial and organizational targets and the methods of Bolshevism, followed by unanimous votes by all the delegates to approve the organizational resolutions and targets of the national and international organization. The final session consisted of voting on all the pending documents and amendments, including updates to the US IMT’s program, and the IMT draft document on the need for Marxist theory and the struggle against alien class ideas such as identity politics and intersectionality, which will be finalized and voted on at the World Congress. After a comradely exchange of ideas on the amendments to the various documents, some of which passed, and some of which failed, all the draft documents were approved by the delegates.
Aside from the exhilarating high-level political discussions over the course of the weekend, comrades also enjoyed the opportunity to get to know fellow revolutionaries from across North America—a precious opportunity to exchange experiences of a common struggle across a 3,000-mile continental expanse. After each day’s sessions, dinner was served and the evenings were filled with revolutionary songs, sports, and camaraderie. And, as another example of the thirst for theory and ideas, nearly $3,000 in books and other political materials from MarxistBooks.com were sold throughout the weekend.
The electric mood that filled the Congress flowed from the political confidence of the comrades in the IMT’s ideas and in the revolutionary destiny of our class. There has never been a better time to be a Marxist and to fight for revolutionary socialist ideas. Socialism in our lifetime is not just a catchy slogan—it’s a dividing line in the socialist movement and a perspective that will become a reality if we continue to work correctly and build a revolutionary leadership. Join us!