Friday, August 12, 2016

A Workers' Party or a Third party?

Eugene Debs.  Leader of the US Socialist Party who fought to build a workers party early in the last century.

Sean O'Torain.

There have been some discussions on some lists recently on the need to have what is termed a "third party." And why there is not a "third Party". I do not think this is a helpful term. It creates confusion. Here is what I wrote on another list as to why US politics is dominated by the two main capitalist parties, the Democrats and Republicans, why this is coming to an end, and what should be posed as an alternative, rather than some sort of vague "third party."

I wrote: I think there are a few reasons for US imperialism being dominated by the two main capitalist parties, the two main parties of the capitalist class. It is not a question of the number of parties that exist, it is a question of class, which class which party or parties represent. And the balance of class forces between the classes, the working class and the capitalist class.

US imperialism originally looted the North American land mass and most of the rest of the planet. The loot they accumulated gave them great resources. Their ability to loot North America and most of the rest of the planet allowed them to buy off sections of their own working class. At the same time when big class struggles would develop on many occasions the working class could move west into territory which had been depopulated through the genocide of the Native American people. On top of this US capitalism lived of the unpaid labor of the African American slave population for 300 years. US imperialism could therefore afford guns and butter. The thing to see now is that this balance of forces has changed. US imperialism cannot any longer afford the weaponry to loot the rest of the world and at the same time buy off the US working class. It can no longer afford guns and butter. 

That is what has been taking place over the last decades. The US capitalist class has been reducing the living standards of the US working class so they can try and continue to afford to dominate the rest of the world. They are trying to take away the butter. This assault on the US working class will force the working class to fight. As Marx said there are times when the revolution needs the whip of the counter revolution. Given the cowardly pro capitalist role of the US union leaders this is one of these times. The whip of the US capitalist counter revolution will force the US working class to fight and will bring about a mass US workers party. The issue then will be will that party have a program and leadership that can end capitalism. To end, I do not think that it is useful to talk about this issue as having a third party. The issue is not to have a third party. The issue is to have a mass party of the united working class which can challenge and end capitalism.


G de Leon said...
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Sean Ahern said...

Social control over the laboring people in the US and during the colonial era is not based primarily on the super profits (derived from the displacement and extermination of the indigenous population, racial slavery or imperialism) which are then used to "bribe" a section of the working class and ensure their loyalty to the bourgeoisie.

I think Marx offers an insight into the particular conditions of the US proletariat that many remain blind to today. In his 1864 letter to Lincoln written on behalf of the International Working Men's Association Marx writes:

"While the workingmen, the true political powers of the North, allowed slavery to defile their own republic, white before the Negro, mastered and sold without his concurrence, they boasted it the highest prerogative of the white-skinned laborer to sell himself and choose his own master, they were unable to attain the true freedom of labor, or to support their European brethren in their struggle for emancipation, but this barrier to progress has been swept off by the red sea of Civil War." (p137 On American and the Civil War, The Karl Marx Library Vol II, Saul K Padover, ed McGraw Hill NY 1972)

The "prerogative" of the "white-skinned laborer" is the historically constructed form of social control particular to the US which accounts for the absence of a working class party. Workers who want their "prerogatives" don't want socialism, but in aligning themselves in defense of these "prerogatives" or "privileges" they "...hold to their bosum the adder that stings them." (quoted in "Class Struggle and the Origin of Racial Slavery" Theodore W Allen. 1975.

The working class cannot constitute itself as a class for itself if the "white" socialists and working class leaders do not see the "prerogatives" of the white-skinned laborer in their proper light; Not as "benefits" as is taught in the "whiteness studies" college classes or in the Peggy MacIntosh workshops but as the form of social control which has repeatedly been used to divide and control the working class.

Theodore W Allen, who coined the phrase "white skin privilege" and called for their repudiation is widely ignored by the "white" left. I urge you to read his works, some of which are available on line. For more info on Allen and Harrison see

Richard Mellor said...

The comment by G De Leon above was accidentally removed. Here it is:
you're correct on the "third" party issue. there are actually a bunch of "third" parties out there. there are also a number of socialist groups that aspire to organize, "lead" a worker's party. Socialist Alternative has shown that it may not be necessary to have a "milder" intermediary "labor" or "socialist" or even "green" party prior to communists gaining electoral victories. what the left needs is to be involved in the movements that exist. i was at the GP conference. we met. i don't consider myself a "member" of GP. after the conference, i realized that GP membership is a vague concept. to many the GP is a fallback ballot line when they don't make it onto the Demi-can ballot line. there does seem to be a move within the GP to convert it into a member driven, member funded party where the candidates w'd be accountable to the membership. "candidates" w'd not like that. i spoke to several that though "progressive" squirmed at the idea of being accountable to members. on