An ongoing series on membership in the IMT, in which comrades explain what drove them to reject the capitalist system and embrace revolutionary socialism.
“Why can’t we all just get along?”: That was my constant question, from my childhood to my youth and into my teenage years. The question that all children ask their parents when they see or hear of evil and exploitation, hatred and bigotry, war and death, and reasonably and naturally wonder why such things exist and why people cannot just put their differences aside. In the political context, this question is often a gateway for those of us who do not yet understand the roots and structure of class society but are beginning to recognize capitalism and its inhumanity.
In my early teens when I was beginning to form my own political opinions, the view that the two-party system was normal and that “that’s just how things are” was my predominant view. I also believed that everything would be alright as long as “all Americans” worked together to solve common problems that we all cared about, such as poverty and hunger. I thought the problem was that “Democrats and Republicans are not committed to working together yet. Soon they might be, however, because both parties care for their country, and only want what’s best.” I wanted to believe that appeasing every person and making both “the left” and “the right” happy was the goal of the state.
Then, in 2003, I sat watching grainy night-vision footage of American bombs exploding in Baghdad. I remember seeing the millions in the streets around the world and in my hometown of San Diego against this wanton death and destruction, based on deceit and lies. I vividly recall watching George W. Bush on television, giving the ultimatum to Saddam Hussein to destroy his non-existent weapons of mass destruction.
At that point, I had still not questioned the political and economic system that had made the war a reality. I blamed Bush and his Republican Party, not capitalism or US imperialism, despite what I knew of the history of US imperialism around the world since WWII. This marked my departure from uninformed vacillation between the two parties to an only slightly less shallow liberalism, a vague notion that the Republicans were very bad indeed, but the Democrats less so.
When I began high school, I still had the idea that America was the “Shining City on the Hill”, and that, despite Bush, most of what we did was for the better of the world. Like many people my age, I was hopeful when Barack Obama was elected in 2008. I thought it might be a turning point for America, that the wars would end along with the hunger, poverty, and exploitation that I knew existed but scarcely thought about.
Around this time, I learned about the Bolshevik Revolution and the names Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. The ideas of those two men captivated me; their notion of working-class control over the means of production and an eventual classless society were things that had never occurred to me. Of course, having first come across these ideas in an American public high school, there was a big dose of propaganda. Namely, I was told that communism destroys the individual, that we would all have to work collective farms, wear matching boiler suits, and live an existence akin to a Charles Dickens novel. However, such myths were dispelled when I got my hands on Marx’s actual writings and read them for myself. That was when I realized that the constant refrain of the right-wing and their capitalist allies about how communism is inherently authoritarian is absolutely false propaganda.
I began to realize that “why can’t we all just get along?” was not the question I should be asking myself, because I now knew the answer: capitalism inherently functions in a way that drives massive wedges between human beings to suit its own ends. The only solution to this was the system’s destruction and its replacement with a social and economic system that accounted for the needs of all.
From there I read further, and I began to read socialist news and articles on the internet, taking in as much as I could. The first site that gave me an idea of the foolishness of my youthful illusions in the Democratic Party was the World Socialist Web Site, run by the Socialist Equality Party. I learned about the complicity of the Democrats in endless wars and austerity, their close connections with corporate America, and their deceitful posturing as the party of “progress”—while stabbing the working class in the back at every turn.
It was then that my final, irrevocable break with the Democrats finally came—at long last. But it was also in the WSWS’s articles that I got my first bitter taste of stifling, suffocating, irrational sectarianism. The constant refrain of its pages seemed to say “we are the one true proletarian party, and all others are pseudo-leftist scum, fascists in disguise.” Their shrill denunciations of the entire left as well of the trade unions as a whole was clearly a dead end, and ultimately led me to seek greener pastures.
I got involved with a number of political groups. But as time went by, each organization lost my confidence—I simply didn’t believe they had the consistently revolutionary outlook and program necessary to successfully combat capitalism. None of them seemed to have a real answer as to how we should educate and build a revolutionary force capable of winning the leadership of the working class, fighting for revolutionary principles, and refusing to go down the blind alley of trying to change the Democrats “from within” into a working-class party. Some seemed to think we could accomplish socialism through policy-making and trying to reform capitalism. In the case of other organizations I looked into, I was repulsed to find that they glorified the figures of Stalin and Mao, holding them up as revolutionary examples, instead of viewing them as the tyrannical caricatures of socialism that they were.
From this, I was led to the International Marxist Tendency. What attracted me to the IMT was its program of uncompromising revolutionary principle, its emphasis on the theoretical education of its members and of telling the truth to the working class as a whole, and its mission to give the working class the tools to combat and destroy capitalism. We believe we can create a system that ensures enough for all, a roof and food and security for every human being, and a happier existence free of the evils of capitalism and exploitation by the small minority that controls most of the world’s wealth. For the IMT, “a better world is possible” is not just a slogan, but words to live by and the ultimate goal of all the work done by its members.
So why can’t we all just get along, comrades? Because we are not “all” members of the same class. But a better world is possible—and the working class must fight for it together.