Tuesday, January 29, 2013

A Farewell to Arms, or a Workers’ Uprising?

  A Response to the CPUSA National Committee’s statement on Gun Control
By Daniel Lee

A document bearing the headline “A statement by the CommunistParty USA” was recently emailed to CPUSA membership and email subscribers, as well as posted on its website and social media. The “statement”, actually issued by the national leadership at 23rd street in New York, titled “The fight to curb gun violence is a working-class issue,” comes out like an imperial edict or dictatorial decree. The “head honchos” have apparently forgotten the democratic processes the Party has in place for decision-making. It seems everything that comes from Sam Webb and his cronies are now considered infallible ex cathedra, and instantly becomes the official line of the party without discussion or room for dissent. Other instances of this include Webb’s “unofficial” documents, such as “A Party of Socialism in the 21st Century: What It Looks Like, What It Says, and What It Does” which when it was published by Political Affairs carried the disclaimer - “The following article represents the views of its author alone. It doesn't necessarily reflect the official views of any organization or collective.” – but somehow became set in stone, bronzed and lacquered, embossed and covered in gold leaf as the Official Party Line, and any member who has spoken out against it since has been labeled “anti-party”, “ultra-leftist”, and “does not represent any part of the Communist Party USA”. Those of us who point out its blatant revisionism are immediately accused of “name-calling” and being “dogmatic”. With this latest statement however, there is not even the pretext of democracy. Any dissent or differences of view are not only considered to be in violation of “Democratic Centralism”, but according to this statement, are “supporting the enemies of America’s working people.”

Moving on to the actual text of the message, however, shows it to be a thinly-veiled attempt to link gun ownership to:

  •          Union busting
  •          “Attacking…Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security”
  •          Working to cut and privatize public education
  •         “Seek[ing] to slash accessible and affordable health care”
  •          “Oppos[ing] President Obama’s stimulus program to create millions of jobs and rebuild infrastructure”
  •          “Promot[ing] racism and attacks on the rights of women, immigrants, gays and lesbians.
  •          “Climate-change deniers who are backed by the fossil fuel industry.”

Did they miss anything? It seems that having a gun is apparently the Original Sin which caused the fall of man! This ridiculous logical fallacy of “guilt by association” is not only intellectually dishonest by even an elementary schoolchild’s standards, but shows the desperation of the Webb faction to scare the membership into following their every utterance blindly, which is in complete disregard for the principles of Marxism-Leninism, and over 150 years of revolutionary Marxist history.

They point to the second amendment as having been “adopted to enable the new American republic, lacking a standing army or state national guards, to muster militia to put down domestic uprisings and repulse any attempted return by the British. Which is what it did in repressing slave revolts, Native Americans, and poor farmers during Shay’s Rebellion.” Should I also point out that it was guns which enabled the champions of the people to rise up and defend themselves, their families, and the oppressed, such as John Brown’s Rebellion in 1859, whose actions brought to the forefront of the American consciousness the need to abolish slavery? 

Look, John Brown’s holding a gun! He must be a racist!

Shay’s Rebellion itself in 1786 was an armed uprising  led by trained ex-Army officers who attempted to seize an armory for the purpose of securing more, you guessed it, weapons– hardly the “nonviolent mass organization” of poor farmers the Webbites claim them to be. Thomas Jefferson himself, in reference to the rebellion in a letter to James Madison said “I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government”, and “The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.”[i]

Native Americans also have been known to use guns to defend themselves and their people against an Imperialist US government. In fact, had they not used “military-grade” weaponry, they would have all been obliterated long ago.

Definitely NOT Charlton Heston.

From the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864 to the Wounded Knee incident in 1973, Native Americans have needed weapons to defend themselves against Federal and State “democratic” governments who have ordered their murders, the abduction of their children, and the genocide of their peoples and culture.

Here in Oklahoma, there was a Socialist uprising in 1917 called the Green Corn Rebellion. It was an uprising by white tenant farmers, Seminoles, Muscogee Creeks and African-Americans in response to the government’s attempts to enforce a draft sending their young men to fight and die in an Imperialist war. They were armed, and ready to defend themselves and their people.

Union workers for over a century have had to be armed to protect themselves against strike-breakers and police forces that brutalize and murder their comrades and their families. The Ludlow Mine Massacre did not happen because a group of miners sat down and sang “Kumbayah” – but rather because the miners dared to defend themselves against attack, and held off the strike breakers’ thugs and National Guard goons for months, before they were finally massacred in the spring of 1914. However, their deaths paved the way for many of the workers’ rights we have today.

The Black Panther Party is famously known for exercising their second amendment rights and carrying weapons to demonstrate their ability to defend their rights. In fact, it is their “bearing of arms” which caused the NRA and the KKK to support stricter gun control laws! The Deacons for Defense and Justice were another African American civil rights and defense organization which were armed during the 1960’s throughout the South. While many do not remember them today, the Deacons were instrumental in protecting African American communities from brutal repression not only from the Klan, but also the US government. According to Robert Hicks, a former civil rights leader and activist in the Louisiana chapter of the Deacons for Defense and Justice:

 “The Klan would drive through our neighborhood shooting at us, shooting into our homes, and the police wouldn't help. The black men in the community wouldn’t stand for it. You shoot at us, we shoot back at you. I’m convinced that without our guns, my family and many other black people would not be alive today.”

Of course, the reformist milksops cry, those armed uprisings and rebellions were unsuccessful! They did not succeed in their aims, and the participants were killed or imprisoned. Even the Deacons were investigated intensely by the FBI, who cared nothing about the violence the black community faced from the KKK.  However, just because a particular uprising is not successful, it does not mean that it was wrong. Rosa Luxemburg led the workers in the Spartacist Uprising in 1919. Was she wrong for doing so because the Social-Democrat government brutally murdered her and the other workers? 

Even the Russian Revolution took over 20 years of agitation and unsuccessful uprisings which resulted in hundreds of deaths for the workers to successfully overthrow the Czar, and then, it took one more revolution for the Bolsheviks to overthrow the “democratically elected” bourgeois government and establish the worker’s Soviet state. Did they accomplish this by peaceful, “nonviolent mass organization”? No! It took the sacrifice of many for the rest of the workers to rise up as they saw their sons, daughters, mothers and fathers, neighbors and friends bravely fighting and dying to liberate their fellow workers.

Flying in the face of these truly revolutionary examples, the Webb faction thunders condemnation at those of us who honor the sacrifices of workers past and seek to chart a course in their example –

“And we want to make this clear: Personal possession of weaponry is not a revolutionary means to change the system in our country in the 21st century, as some self-proclaimed “revolutionaries” and some extreme right wingers claim. The great social changes that have transformed our society in the modern era have come about through the nonviolent mass organization and struggles of the American people. In unity there is strength. This is the way forward to progressive change as well as the path to achieve more basic transformation - a socialist society that is deeply democratic, egalitarian, and at peace with the world.”

These outright lies are not only a complete repudiation of revolutionary Marxist-Leninist principles, but do a grave disservice to all those who fought and died for workers freedoms here in the US and around the world. Standing in sharp contrast are the very words of the Communist Manifesto –

“The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win.”

I choose the side of the “self-proclaimed ‘revolutionaries’” such as John Brown, Marx, Lenin, Che Guevara, and Huey Newton. Whose side are you on?

[i] The results of Shay’s rebellion, which though it was put down, influenced the adoption of the US Constitution and the necessity for a Bill of Rights to protect people (at the time, white male property owners) against undue encroachment from the government on personal liberties – including gun ownership.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

A Marxist-Leninist response to Gun Control

By Daniel Lee

In a recent editorial piece published by Peoples World, the newspaper of the CPUSA, titled “Guns, profits and Sandy Hook” – the article started by opening with the need for the country to “get serious about regulating guns.” It pontificates further, giving a perfunctory nod to universal health access as “a piece of the puzzle” to preventing the epidemic of gun violence.  The editorial then issues a call for a “broad enough coalition to confront and curb those who profit from manufacturing and dealing in these individual weapons of mass destruction”. It places the blame squarely on the gun lobbyists, and the corporations that profit from the sale of guns. The article ends finally in demanding a “Ban [of] assault weapons and high capacity bullet clips”. This article, which could have been written by any bourgeois Democrat or liberal group from Nancy Pelosi to Moveon.org, buys into the reactionary “liberal” approach of treating the symptom without curing the disease. Certainly those profiting off of the sale of weapons through the promotion of violence and racism must be made accountable for their exploitation and oppression of our fellow workers – and let us not forget that the US Government is one of the largest gun runners in the world, fueling instability, murder, and genocide of the proletariat around the globe, a fact PW conveniently leaves out. The article fails to mention that nearly 2,000 civilians were wounded in our War of Imperialism in Afghanistan , Pakistan, and Iraq during the first six months of 2012. About 1,145 civilians were killed in that same time period, according to U.N. totals. James Holmes’, Adam Lanza’s, and other serial killers’ crimes are dwarfed by this monstrosity in comparison, making the US government by far the most psychotic killer, still at large and continuing to slaughter men, women and children by the thousands.  These figures don’t even take into account the hundreds of unarmed civilians slaughtered by uniformed bourgeois Police gangs across the country. Where is PW’s outrage to this crime? Where is the demand to confiscate the government’s guns?

As Marxist-Leninists, we must approach the issue of gun control as we do any other issue – under the scientific principles of Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory and practice. We affirm first and foremost the absolute supremacy of the interests of the working class, and the necessity of revolution for the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat to completely overthrow the oppression of the Bourgeois state and its minions. As Marx and Engels famously wrote at the end of the Communist Manifesto, "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains.”
When we talk about gun ownership then, we must talk about the rights of the workers to bear arms. One way or another, the bourgeois will exert their will through force either directly or indirectly, and usually through the cats-paw of the government and its military and police institutions to repress the working class and protect their own property interests. How then shall the workers protect their interests? As Marx writes,

 "The arming of the whole proletariat with rifles, guns, and ammunition should be carried out at once [and] the workers must ... organize themselves into an independent guard, with their own chiefs and general staff. ... [The aim is] that the bourgeois democratic Government not only immediately loses all backing among the workers, but from the commencement finds itself under the supervision and threats of authorities behind whom stands the entire mass of the working class. ...As soon as the new Government is established they will commence to fight the workers.  In order that this party (i.e., the democrats) whose betrayal of the workers will begin with the first hour of victory, should be frustrated in its nefarious work, it is necessary to organize and arm the proletariat." - Karl Marx, Address to the Communist League (1850)

This quote sounds as if it were written for the times we are facing today! However, Dialectical Materialism teaches us that the issues and struggles of history are cyclical, and though taking new forms, at the heart of the struggle remains the eternal war for class dominance.
Moving forward to Lenin, the great leader of the October Revolution in Russia, we see that he too advocated arming the workers:

 “The minimum programme of the Social-Democrats calls for the replacement of the standing army by a universal arming of the people. Most of the official Social-Democrats in Europe and most of our own Menshevik leaders, however, have “forgotten” or put aside the Party’s programme, substituting chauvinism (“defencism”) for internationalism, reformism for revolutionary tactics.
Yet now of all times, at the present revolutionary moment, it is most urgent and essential that there be a universal arming of the people. To assert that, while we have a revolutionary army, there is no need to arm the proletariat, or that there would “not be enough” arms to go round, is mere deception and trickery. The thing is to begin organizing a universal militia straight away, so that everyone should learn the use of arms even if there is “not enough” to go round, for it is not at all necessary that the people have enough weapons to arm everybody. The people must learn, one and all, how to use arms, they must belong, one and all, to the militia which is to replace the police and the standing army.
The workers do not want an army standing apart from the people; what they want is that the workers and soldiers should merge into a single militia consisting of all the people.” - A Proletarian Militia by VI Lenin

Comrade Stalin, the fierce defender of the fledgling workers’ Soviet democracy and the Champion against Nazi aggression, said that the “most important countermeasure against counterrevolution is the arming of the workers and peasants.”

Finally, from the writings of the revered leader and liberator of the Chinese people, Mao Zedong, we find this important commentary on the role of the Red Army:  "The Chinese Red Army is an armed body for carrying out the political tasks of the revolution. Especially at present, the Red Army should certainly not confine itself to fighting; besides fighting to destroy the enemy's military strength, it should shoulder such important tasks as doing propaganda among the masses, organizing the masses, arming them, helping them to establish revolutionary political power and setting up Party organizations."

Certainly, each statement above applies to a particular instance in time at that particular stage of revolution in each writer’s respective countries. However, the principle remains the same. The workers must be made able to protect and defend themselves. In some cases, such as in 1916 Russia, the bourgeois were even willing to finance a workers militia - to protect their own interests – which Lenin said should be paid for by the bourgeoisie, but that the militia must above all protect the workers both from external threats, and from the bourgeois within the gates.

At this point in time, the bourgeois state is not in a state of flux which would necessitate them calling upon the workers to form militias – in fact, such a thing is considered a threat to the Imperialist State’s hegemonic domination. Thus we can expect no checks to be coming in the mail from the rich for the funding of workers’ protection. However, we must still encourage the exercising of such rights still granted to all people by the Bourgeoisie state for the protection of the working class and minorities. We can take a lesson from the Black Panthers, who encouraged black communities to arm and protect themselves instead of relying on the unpredictable and brutal police forces and judicial system for protection. We can encourage the formation of community defense groups which are founded along class lines, upholding and protecting the rights of oppressed minorities. We can encourage and sponsor gun safety training, and work to create the best conditions possible for working class neighborhoods to protect themselves. We can encourage organized labor to stand together in solidarity to help protect the schools and surrounding communities, creating a “thin red line” of our own which acts as a deterrent against crimes from any source. And in the center must be the party, directing, protecting, and organizing the workers defense. Lenin would do no less.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Sandy Hook: Diagnosing our Society's Illness

by Daniel Lee

The tragedy at Sandy Hook last month has left a lasting impression on the hearts and minds of the working class here in Oklahoma and around the nation. The senseless killing of children and teachers by a mentally disturbed young man is yet another chapter in the increasing pattern of savage violence of the past few years. In this time of grief and sorrow, it is natural to seek to make sense of the senseless, to look for answers to the problems which are becoming endemic to our society. We, the Communist Party of Oklahoma, offer our heartfelt condolences to the families of the victims of this tragedy.

The Smoking Gun
This incident, and others like it, such as the murders in Aurora Colorado, and Virginia Tech, shows us several problems, which we, as Marxist-Leninists, see to be originating from the same source.  First of all, there is the fact that the perpetrators of these heinous crimes were severely mentally disturbed individuals, whose conditions went untreated for many years, despite their parents’ futile attempts to get help for their sons. Adam Lanzana’s mother fought the school district to get help for her son’s Asperger's syndrome and other emotional issues. James Holmes’ mother told police they had the right man when he was captured and acknowledged his history of schizophrenic mental illness. Seung-Hui Cho’s parents turned to a local church for help, after unsuccessfully attempting to deal with his mental illness throughout childhood, but by the time he began attending Virginia Tech, it was too late. Each instance shows the same failure in our society – the failure to provide adequate mental healthcare for the mentally ill, just as we fail to provide adequate healthcare for much of the working class in our country.

A History of Neglect
Since the Kennedy administration, the government had mandated that mental health care be made available on par with regular health care for Federal employees in the Community Mental Health Centers Act of 1963 (which became available to low-income workers through Medicare after 1965). By the Carter years, legislation was passed expanding and bringing much needed reforms to the system under the Mental Health Systems Act in 1980 which made federal funding a priority for homeless and impoverished citizens with mental illness. However, the next year, Regan rescinded the act, and slashed funding for mental health services, which continued to decline through the Bush and Clinton years. More and more mentally ill people were institutionalized in the prison system or became homeless. It was the next generation however which showed a more disturbing trend – school shootings. The late 1980’s saw a drastic rise in school shootings, but it was the Columbine massacre in Littleton Colorado in 1999 which brought the epidemic to nationwide attention.  Since that time, there have been over 25 incidents in schools alone. Other shootings to grab national headlines have included the DC Beltway sniper (suffering from PTSD) and the Uni-bomber (schizophrenia).

The Real Problem: Capitalism
The root of the problem lies within the core of our society. The lack of proper physical and mental healthcare is symptomatic of a system which shows no regard for people, only placing value on property and profit. Workers in the capitalist system are made into automatons, producing endlessly without receiving the fruits of their labors. When one of them breaks or is defective, they are replaced by another, readily waiting to sell their own labors in order to survive. Our capitalist society uses up and discards working people as trash – and then is surprised when those pieces of discarded humanity fail to conform to society’s rules. This symptom is called the theory of alienation. As Marx put it,

“The propertied class and the class of the proletariat present the same human self-estrangement. But the former class feels at ease and strengthened in this self-estrangement, it recognizes estrangement as its own power, and has in it the semblance of a human existence. The class of the proletariat feels annihilated, this means that they cease to exist in estrangement; it sees in it its own powerlessness and in the reality of an inhuman existence.” – Marx, The Holy Family

Until we address the base problem of the alienation caused by Capitalism, we will continue to have shocking incidents such as occurred at Sandy Hook or Aurora. Gun control will not solve the problem – guns will continue to be available, either legally or illegally, and if a gun is not available, Oklahoma knows through painful experience how much damage household items and a Ryder truck can cause. To cure society’s illness, we must destroy the disease – Capitalism itself.