Chicago, IL, USA (31 December 2015): About 150 activists in Chicago (IL, USA) held a spirited and righteous – if politically naive – demonstration at City Hall on the final day of 2015, calling on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez to resign.
Led – apparently – by “Black Lives Matter” activists (we were never able to confirm it), the crowd assembled on the first floor of Chicago’s City Hall and was addressed by speakers from – probably – BLM. A dozen or so police monitored the demonstration and basically let it occupy the ground floor in front of the elevators for 45 minutes, at which time the entire demonstration boarded the elevators and headed to the 5th floor, where Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s office is located. There the crowd reassembled in the hallway just outside his office; various speakers addressed the crowd and led it in chants calling for Emanuel to step down.
Outrageously, there was no sign of any trade union members in attendance, and only a couple of the city’s main revolutionary socialist groups had a presence there, including the Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) – who brought an excellent banner along. Socialist Alternative was there as well, as was the Progressive Labor Party. The International Socialist Organization and the Spartacist League were nowhere to be found, though they may have been at the earlier Democratic Party-led demo featuring Jesse Jackson and Father Michael Pfleger. Unfortunately, we don’t have enough members to cover both demonstrations! Those larger parties do, though, so it’s odd that they missed the demo we attended.
After about a half an hour in front of the (apparently empty) Mayor’s office, the demonstration headed to the street and began a march from City Hall to the site on Michigan Avenue near the Tribune Tower (where the city is to have its “Chicago Rising” New Year’s Eve soiree), marching right down the middle of the street as the cops frantically tried to keep the traffic disruption to a minimum.
The “Chicago Rising” New Year’s Eve event was originally supposed to be free of charge to the public – but out of alleged concern for “public safety” the city fathers chose instead to sell tickets to the event for the “low, low price” of $90 or $150 per person! In order to get to the Hyatt Hotel on East Wacker Drive where the giant LED star symbolizing Chicago’s “Rising” was to ascend the building, citizens had to pay $150 at ticket booths that were set up behind barricades blocking off the street. This is in keeping with the Democrats’ apparent desire that only the rich be allowed to participate fully in the cultural life of Chicago while the poor and working class citizens can all just go to hell.
The police, on bicycles, had apparently been ordered to keep their bloody “hands off” the demonstration; they made a futile attempt to block the protestors from marching from Trump Tower to Michigan Avenue – but after the protestors, urged on by a young woman activist, quickly were re-routed around the police daisy chain, the cops otherwise left the protestors to their own ad-hoc devices. This may have been due to previous arrangements with the organizers of the demonstration: we observed one of the men leading the chants “fist bumping” a number of bicycle cops in a far too friendly manner.
The marchers briefly blocked the intersection at Wacker and Michigan Avenues just south of the bridge over the Chicago River. It looked to us as if they’d be there for a while, so we took a break at a local pastry shop for less than 10 minutes. By this time the crowd had dwindled to about 50 people or less. When we emerged from the coffee shop, the demonstration had disappeared. We overheard the police on their radios saying the demo was at Washington and Michigan, but even though we immediately headed to that location and arrived in 5 minutes, the demo had vanished without a trace and we were unable to relocate it!
There seemed to have been very little in the way of planning for this march; no one was informed as to where it was headed or if there would be any events later on.
The primary political demands of the protest leaders were for the resignations of Emanuel and Alvarez and for an elected civilian police review board to be created to “oversee” the cops. The protest leaders also urged the demonstrators to register to vote, although it was not clear who they intended us all to vote “for”! Seeing that they do not even call for a new political party to be formed we can only conclude that they intend to vote for the Democrats again, since the Republicans are so convinced that it would be futile to run candidates for Mayor in this heavily Democratic city, they don’t bother to do so.
The “Black Lives Matter” movement has done an excellent job of organizing powerful demonstrations against police murder which has exposed to the entire world the deep racism that remains at the heart of the US capitalist system. But their demands fall far short of what is necessary to end the endless series of killings of black workers by the racist cops. Nothing short of workers socialist revolution is necessary to put and end once and for all to racism and racist killer cops here in the USA and throughout the entire capitalist world. We see racist cops attacking workers in EVERY capitalist state, from the US to France to South Korea, Egypt and Israel. The killer kops of kapitalism are the enemies of the working class!
The idea that an elected civilian police review board would give the workers “control” over the police department is a popular one. Unfortunately it is our duty as revolutionary Trotskyists to tell you, sisters and brothers, that it is completely impossible for the working class to exert “control” over the police in a capitalist state! The police exist to protect the private property rights of the capitalist class – the wealthiest 10% of the population. The capitalist state is not “neutral” when it comes to adjudicating the endless conflict between the workers and the capitalist bosses. The cops, courts and the military in every capitalist state are owned and operated by – and exert their power in the interests of – the capitalist class. The only way that the working class can truly “control” the police is if the workers overthrow the capitalist state itself and replace it with a revolutionary socialist workers state. THEN – and only then! – can we have complete control over the killer kops of kapitalism – and put them in jail where they belong! Those who tell you, sister and brother workers, that you can “control” the cops without first overthrowing the capitalist system are either naively misleading you… or are consciously telling you lies – plain and simple. We believe that when it comes to the majority of Black Lives Matter activists it is naivete rather than deliberate lying going on; although some of the BLM leaders are definitely in the camp of the Democratic Party and therefore are deliberately trying to keep the protests well within the boundaries of what is “acceptable” to the capitalist class enemy.
We spoke with a number of activists from different groups, emphasising the vital necessity of organizing a revolutionary socialist working-class political party to break the stranglehold enjoyed by the twin parties of capital in the US’ completely undemocratic political system.
The self-described “Trotskyists” of Socialist Alternative were handing out leaflets pushing the candidacy of the phony-socialist Democrat Bernie Sanders! We criticised this policy as basically being an outright betrayal of the working class. SA defended their support of Sanders by claiming that since the workers were naively supporting him, and because, in SA’s analysis, Sanders is a social-democratic improvement over Hillary Clinton, SA should not discourage workers from supporting Sanders. This is not revolutionary Trotskyism at all, but tailing after the naive political backwardness of US workers instead of leading them away from pro-capitalist candidates and in the direction of revolutionary socialism. Sanders is a pro-capitalist candidate who has garnered financial support from the National Association of Realtors – among other sections of the US bourgeoisie. Sanders has also come out side-by-side with Hillary in support of the US’ murderous war against the workers of Afghanistan, as well as the US’ cynical and fraudulent “War on Terror”. Encouraging workers to vote for such a pro-capitalist, pro-war cretin as Sanders amounts to a complete betrayal of the working class and is the opposite of revolutionary Trotskyism.
The other extreme pole of the revolutionary working class party vis a vis electoral politics was represented by the RCP, whose rep stated to us that it was pointless to participate in bourgeois elections at all! Workers should simply join the RCP and organize demonstrations. Eventually- according to the RCP – the demonstrations will become so large that we can immediately overthrow the capitalist system! The only problem with this concept is that it has never succeeded in the history of the world. The revolutionary workers party must prove it will fight intransigently for the interests of the working class by leading strikes and by producing honest and self-sacrificing leaders who always uphold the highest principles of the revolutionary socialist movement – including as elected representatives of the working class in legislative bodies.
We say that a revolutionary workers party needs to utilize all methods at its disposal to organize the working class and to prepare them to overthrow capitalism. We should participate in bourgeois elections while it is legal for us to do so, seeking non-executive elective offices only. At the same time we must never stop pointing out to workers that revolutionary change will require more than simply electing a “socialist President”, as it has time and time again been PROVEN that the machinery of the capitalist state can not be seized and forced to work in the interests of the working class; it must be completely overhauled from top to bottom and a workers state created to completely replace it. Marx and Lenin taught that trying to use the capitalist state machinery to defend the rights of the working class would be like trying to force a steel mill to produce baby clothing; it’s impossible! The capitalist state was designed to defend the private property rights of the capitalist class and it cannot be reformed to promote and defend workers’ rights; the capitalist state must be “smashed” or broken up to its foundations and an entirely new workers state created in its place. Every fake-socialist party that has ever tried to use the capitalist state machinery to defend the workers’ rights has failed and usually ends up being overthrown in a military coup and its party leaders and many of the best leaders of the trade unions executed. One of the most tragic examples of this occurred in Chile with the fake-socialist Allende government in 1973. The Venezuelan working class, betrayed by the “Bolivarian” fake-revolutionaries known as the “Chavistas” are today heading down the same disastrous road to defeat taken by Allende and his fake-socialist party. “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”. We in the Independent Workers Party of Chicago study history so that hopefully we can prevent such a disaster from occurring to the workers of the United States and the rest of the world in the future.
To refuse to participate in bourgeois elections is to render the revolutionary workers party utterly useless to the working class from now until the time of the workers revolution. The Bolsheviks of Lenin demonstrated very clearly how a revolutionary socialist party could utilize the bourgeois democratic system to effectively and in a principled way put forward a revolutionary socialist program. In this way they were able to continually expose to the eyes of the workers and peasants of Russia the utter political bankruptcy of the capitalist system and its hired politicians of all stripes.
What’s the point of organizing a political party if you’re not going to participate at all in any political process except the revolution itself? How do we get from where we are today to where we want to go? Revolutions can’t just be pulled out of the air. It takes years for a revolutionary party to prove to the working class that it means exactly what it says and that it will not sell out the workers in exchange for government offices. The example set by the Bolsheviks of Lenin in the period leading up the the great Russian Revolution of 1917 is the model upon which the Independent Workers Party of Chicago is based. We encourage all workers to read “The History of the Russian Revolution” by Leon Trotsky (who became Lenin’s right-hand man during the Russian Revolution) to see how Lenin’s Bolsheviks masterfully used bourgeois democratic processes to lead the Russian working class to understand the absolute necessity to overthrow the capitalist system – not just in Russia but throughout the entire world. The Bolsheviks’ revolutionary socialist program never led them to present frauds like Bernie Sanders and the Democrats as “friends of the working class”, nor did it lead them into the dead end of refusing to participate in bourgeois elections. A truly revolutionary socialist party with a truly revolutionary socialist program avoids both of these extremes easily. That’s the kind of program Marx, Engels and Lenin created; it’s the kind of program Trotsky defended; and it’s the kind of program we aspire to base our revolutionary Trotskyist party on. They were the best leaders the working class ever had and we’d be betraying your trust if we urged you, our working class brothers and sisters, to follow any example besides theirs!
Workers of the World, Unite!