[Marxism] Some of my thoughts

Joaquin Bustelo jbustelo at bellsouth.net
Thu Nov 16 21:55:54 MST 2006

Alan Bradley writes in defense of organizing a party "dedicated to class

"Here's the argument: the class struggle is still being waged....

"Some of these fights are mass struggles too. The best example is the
immigrant movement in the US. If we're not part of that, and a serious part,
we're just no damned good.

"OK, so our current organisations are 'just no damned good'. I'll accept
that. We had better fix it, hadn't we?"

Yes, but we had better start by figuring out what was broken. "Dedicated to
class combat" is the sort of phrase that goes unquestioned in our circles.
But it is precisely there that the questioning should start.

Take the example cited by Alan, the U.S. immigrant rights movement. 

This movement happened in a certain context, in which the ruling class is
uncertain about which way to go with immigration policy.

On the one hand, the Forever War against "Terrorism" with any and every
foreigner cast in the title role of terrorist feeds rightist/nativist
sentiment and requires that immigration and immigrants be perceived as a
threat hopefully one that is "under control." Also, the Clinton-Gingrich
changes to laws affecting undocumented immigrants, such as the denial of
drivers licenses, which formally went into effect at the end of the year
2000, as well as increased militarization of the border, making the crossing
more difficult and thus more expensive, destabilized the status of

On the other hand, this status had served the ruling class well for half a
century or more. The essence of the policy has been not to drive out the
undocumented but to keep them here as "illegals," unpersons before the law,
workers denied all rights and means of redress. Both the largely unintended
consequences of the Clinton-Gingrich reforms (the measure on requiring
Social Security numbers to get a drivers license was motivated not as a blow
against immigrants but so-called "deadbeat dads," i.e., young Black men). 

This movement was the result of the House of Representatives passing the
Sensenbrenner Bill declaring all out-of-status immigrants to be aggravated
felons and the White House's endorsement of this bill.

That led to capitalist sectors that have Latinos as their primary market, as
well as some who rely on immigrant labor, literally freaking out and coming
out in support of protest demonstrations that had previously been scheduled
by left-wing forces. In effect, they threw themselves into the arms of the

Those demonstrations and other protests (such as the two "paros económicos"
--moratoriums on business as usual-- we held in Atlanta) were promoted and
publicized by the Latino capitalist media and especially radio station DJ's,
who have the largest Latino audience in the country. Shopkeepers by the
thousands put up posters for the actions. The day of the Big Los Angeles
protest, La Opinion, the oldest and largest-circulation Spanish-language
daily in the country, had a huge front-page headline "A LA CALLE" -- "To the

What does this tell us? That this was not the "class against class" movement
that we idealize. This was in fact a *MULTICLASS MOVEMENT,* a united front
of the Latino working class and its "national" bourgeoisie, a national
movement ("national" not in the sense of nationwide, but in the sense of a
nation or nationality, a people) within which and through which different
classes expressed their immediate interests. 

As soon as the immediate danger of the Senate ratifying the Sensenbrenner
"deport them all" bill receded, the defacto coalition that had built the
massive protests fell apart, with the union officialdom of the SEIU and
UNITE-HERE taking the lead in carrying out the split by forming the "We Are
America" coalition and dumping the central demand of legalization for all.
Ostensibly the aim was to get the "best possible" compromise legislation in
Congress. In this, they dragged along with them the traditional Latino
organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).

The question that is raised is: what political organization is beneficial
here? A multinational "class combat"-oriented formation or a vanguard
organization of Latinos? My belief is that a grouping of 50 or 100 Latino
radicals, would have been and would be today much more useful than all the
radical multinational groups put together. 

Worse, insofar as these two, three ... many self-styled vanguards of the
multinational U.S. working class succeed in attracting some Latino
militants, we are worse off. The people that have to work together to make
something of this movement now find themselves divided into different
warring organizations.

Normally, these organizations demand loyalty and allegiance overriding other
priorities and commitments. The immigrant rights movement becomes an arena
for the work of the various organizations. 

Meanwhile, the most experiences, prestigious and authoritative figures in
the movement, the actual central leadership of the radical wing, the ones
with real roots and a real following in the community, are none of them in
any of these groups nor do they have the slightest inclination to join them.
Yet they lack a space or forum for thorough-going discussion and analysis of
strategic perspectives in an anticapitalist framework. And you can't do that
in the structures of the immigrant rights movement itself.

Now, if you're going to be serious about getting beyond playpen Bolshevism,
those central leading cadre rooted in the communities are the ones you have
to have, unless you're going to reduce the concept of "vanguard" to a purely
idealist construct. And all experience shows it is simply not true that you
can simply shove those people aside. 

Since they're not going to join your party, the only possible way of
constituting an actual vanguard formation is for you to join THEIR party.
But THEIR party does not exist. And thus the question arises, what
conditions would favor the emergence or constitution of their party.

One possibility (hypothetical) is a fusion or coalescence of the
revolutionary left groups into a single new organization or at least a
common structure or front of some kind. The other is the liquidation or
destruction of the existing organizations to create the space in which
something new might arise.

I discount two other hypothesis, "their" party arising despite the existence
of all these groups, or one of these groups becoming "their" party. This
just on the basis of experience. 

The latter course is the one followed by Marx and Engels, not once, but
repeatedly. They never founded an organization of their own, and three times
took the initiative to effectively dissolve groups they had joined because
they had outlived their usefulness, or circumstances had changed making it
impossible for them to play the role they had been playing before. 

Perhaps it is time for revolutionary Marxists to emulate the founders of the


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