Epochal Change Brings Forth New Leadership
The country is seeing the beginnings of new revolutionary forces developing, especially in recent years.
Alamance County in North Carolina, with a long history of struggle dating back before the Revolutionary War, is once again a sign of the times. Groupings there are fighting against voter suppression, wage theft from undocumented workers, the ravages of opioids, and the invasion of luxury condo buildings. Various organizations are banding together to stop Alamance County from rejoining 287(g). This program allows state and local police to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to identify and deport immigrants from their communities. These organizations are not only concerned about one injustice or another. Their bigger concern is that the working class unites to determine its own future.
The murder by police of 17-year-old Antwon Rose, Jr. on June 19, 2018, in Braddock, Pennsylvania, sparked ten demonstrations there across more than twenty square miles over several weeks.
Summer Lee, a community organizer, joined others who gathered where police killed Rose. Lee had organized her community around attacks by police on students in Woodland Hills, Pennsylvania. She helped a local parent run for the school board and lobbied to replace the Woodland Hills senior administrative staff. Lee decided to run as a Pennsylvania District 34 House candidate. “I just came to the realization that I can’t lead someone some place where I’m not willing to go myself,” Lee told Pittsburgh publication The Incline in December 2017. “So that’s how I got into this campaign.” Lee participated in the demonstrations following Rose’s death, including blocking a highway exit. Lee has inspired others to become outspoken.
In 2011, Flint, Michigan, was placed under the Emergency Manager Law. In April of 2014, Flint’s Emergency Manager switched the city’s drinking water source from Detroit’s Lake Huron to the highly polluted Flint River. Almost immediately, residents complained of foul-smelling yellow-brown water, rashes, and other maladies. They were met with dismissive arrogance at all levels of government. The residents of Flint, including doctors and researchers, brought attention to the lead poisoning of children. Between 6,000 and 12,000 children have been exposed to drinking water with high levels of lead and face serious health and developmental problems.
There was a tremendous outpouring of support from people all over the country as Flint parents and children spoke out about horrors inflicted on them. Hundreds of organizations descended on the city with their lists of demands for Flint residents. But it is the residents themselves, who daily experience the deterioration of children’s intellectual capabilities, rashes, seizures, clumps of fallen hair, legionellosis, and other unexplainable illnesses, who are leading the protests and exposing the corruption underlying what happened.
America is a vast country, and its history shows that mass uprisings are key to the revolutionary process here. Political organizing has to be local to prepare for this inevitability, deeply embedded in the grievances of the community, and giving rise to local leaders who are in touch with these aspirations and motion.
We can look at history for some understanding. Mississippi was a bastion of slavery before the Civil War, and, long after Reconstruction, lynchings, segregation, and disenfranchisement kept African Americans in a new form of slavery on the plantation. But after World War II, Black soldiers returning to Mississippi became the heart of the Civil Rights movement that brought change to Mississippi.
As John Dittmer, in his 1994 book Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi, wrote: “The decade following World War II was one of intensifying black activism in Mississippi, beginning with modest voter registration efforts and culminating in an attack on the color line in the state’s public schools. Although local people did obtain some assistance from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the drive for political and educational equality was indigenous, receiving no support or encouragement from the federal government or from the labor movement, an ally of black activists in other southern states.
The World War II veterans and traditional black leaders were facing a seemingly impossible task in Mississippi, for despite the wartime upheavals, whites were determined to maintain their supremacy by denying blacks political, educational, and economic opportunity and by maintaining racial segregation in all walks of life.”
Up until this time, most labor performed by Blacks was in tasks once performed under slavery, but change was coming. In late 1944, the Hopson Planting Company in Mississippi produced the first cotton crop totally without the use of hand labor. Machines planted the cotton, chopped it, and harvested the crop.
The new methods of growing and harvesting cotton were essential to the liberation of Blacks from the chains of cotton production. New technology and methods, combined with the historical aspirations of the African American people and the courage of the Civil Rights fighters uniting people around the idea of attaining equality, produced progress in the cause of working people.
It is common to think that change is determined only by the influence of individual leaders. Upon closer examination, it is clear that underlying processes are fundamental to changes in society. During epochal change, individuals, groups, and organizations come forward to effect the direction that change takes. Today the transformation of the economy from the era of industrial production with gigantic machinery to production based on microchips, robotics, and artificial intelligence requiring little or no human labor is upending everything.
No one can stop the more efficient means of production from replacing the less efficient. As that happens, it becomes increasingly impossible to maintain the existing society. New thinking and new solutions are the order of the day. Today’s changes in the economy are changing our class; it is equalizing poverty among those who are pushed out of a job altogether or into contingent jobs. It puts new demands on our class.
The American ruling class has been very successful in fomenting racial violence, division, and hatred to prevent the working class from uniting around its common interests. The unity between the capitalist class and a section of the workers is coming to an end with the end of a jobs and wages-based economy. Millions of Americans are not making it, some living paycheck to paycheck, some with no real paycheck at all, no place to call home, no decent health care or education.
These millions are being forced into a fight simply to live. They are part of something new in America – a class that can only exist if goods produced with no labor are distributed according to need. Communism. It can only exist if the means to produce what people need is taken out of private hands, put into public hands, and used for the benefit of all. This class is the last, best hope for true economic and political democracy and is the engine for change.
The ruling class is turning to fascism through repressive laws locally and nationally, violence, and restriction of the ability of people to even protest. They also have hundreds of years of experience in controlling the leadership of the working class with money, vicious attacks on character, and deception. Going forward requires a firm grasp of the revolutionary process in America, a vision of what can be achieved, and developing our own leadership abilities.
The struggles of today express an underlying motion developing in America for an end to the destruction of communities and culture, to violations of voting rights, to treating those without homes as criminals, to callous disregard for the future of our young people. The end of these things requires envisioning a new kind of society, an understanding of how to bring it to fruition, and unwavering leaders who can bring that vision into every part of the country. RC
March/April 2020 Vol30. Ed2
This article originated in Rally, Comrades
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The age-old vision of a world without scarcity, without exploitation, class domination, organized violence, and stultifying labor has been the dream of millenia. The new completely socialized labor-eliminating means of production ... sets the basis for its realization. Now human history can begin, the light of the individual shining in the full brightness of liberated life, that can only be realized within true equality and cooperation: communism, a cooperative society.'Without Vision, the People Perish'
Rally, Comrades ! May/June 2011