Who Are You?
The American Party of Labor is a revolutionary working class organization. Our aim is to abolish the capitalist system and all its horrors by replacing it with socialism, a system based on the principle laid out by Marx, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work.” This is the first phase toward the higher phase of communism, defined by the principle “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.”
Why is Socialism Necessary?
Take a look around some time at life in America. The productive forces of America are vast, yet look at America’s rating for health care or poverty when compared with other industrialized nations. The United States has more than enough potential to provide a decent life, if not at least a decent, equal opportunity for every citizen regardless of race or gender. Yet for all its wealth, it doesn’t do so. Why not? Because it is not in the interests of the American ruling class to solve America’s problems with poverty, illiteracy, infant mortality, crime or unemployment, not to mention related social problems like racial discrimination, sexism, homophobia, etc.
In fact, many of these things, from the viewpoint of the ruling class, are actually positive insofar as they serve the interests of the ruling class. We see for example, how bankrolled right-wing pundits drum up old prejudices against African-Americans to prevent them from supporting a health care system that we would actually benefit from. We see how women are objectified by the media, and how media directed towards women discourages them from being strong, independent, and using their full intellectual potential. We see ignorance and hatred of foreigners being lauded as patriotism and being used to support imperialist wars on foreign soil. On the other hand we have a phony “left” that occasionally chooses some other conflict in the world as a pet cause, supporting military intervention on “humanitarian” grounds when the real motives are every bit as imperialistic.
In short, every social problem has a cause, and we, according to the methodology of Marxism-Leninism, work to understand those causes by examining their present and historical features. The problems we see before us, and look no further than the recent economic crisis for a real-life example, is largely a consequence of the capitalist system and the society which grows from it.
What is Socialism?
Many people, especially in light of recent events, are throwing the word “socialism” or “communism” around without any regard to what it really means.
First of all, a country is not socialist simply because it calls itself thus. Socialism is also not a welfare state, because socialism is defined by which class holds control over the means of production and state power. Socialism is not when the government intervenes in the private sector, because it is impossible to have a capitalist private sector without a state and its institutions, and that state will naturally find itself forced to intervene in the private sector from time to time for various reasons.
Socialism is, in short, the socialization of the means of production, the means by which we produce all the things we need and want, and ensure that those things get to the consumers. This means that property that once belonged to a privileged few, such as factories, agribusiness enterprises, railroads, port facilities, mines and many other such production centers become the property of the nation’s working people as a whole. It means that every citizen owns a piece of their nation and its productive power collectively, and they are entitled to the full fruit of their labor, rather than laboring for a tiny cut while a private capitalist pockets huge profits.
Is Socialism Even Possible?
Most definitely—it has been achieved before! Like all new modes of production and societies in human history, socialism has made successes and suffered defeats. Socialism industrialized some of the most backward nations on earth, brought popular literature to peoples who were once mostly illiterate and gave women rights in places where they were once thought of as personal property. In fact, there are entire nations that exist today, which would not had it not been for socialism.
Wait, Didn’t Communism Fail?
Defenders of capitalism constantly point out the collapse of the socialist bloc in Europe as proof that Marxism “failed.” Revolution is not like programming your DVD player. In the relatively short time in which “real world socialism” existed, massive accomplishments were made, many of which still have lasting positive effects to this day.
Are we insisting that people give another chance to an ideology that failed? Clearly that’s what the capitalists are doing. Capitalism fails to produce a humane society, leading instead to war, imperialism, and starvation for millions. We have somewhere around 100-150 years of failure for capitalism. Forced to adopt reforms, mainly thanks to the workers’ movement, the Bolshevik revolution and the triumphant socialist camp, capitalism again tries to reinvent itself as more humane under the watchful eye of government regulations. Once again, failure in the form of neo-liberalism ascends as the dominant capitalist ideology, a school of thought that has basically failed to serve anyone other than the richest private individuals wherever its tenets have been applied, bringing instead to the masses in those unfortunate countries untold suffering. And that’s just capitalism’s major failures, not all of them.
Remember the dot-com boom? Remember how the stock market was going to make all of us “average Joe’s” rich one day? Remember how easy credit, homeownership, and globalization were all supposed to finally make class divisions irrelevant as we all reap the prosperity of capitalism’s triumph? Fail, fail, fail and fail. The same people saying that socialism doesn’t deserve another chance in spite of all it has accomplished with far less casualties and destruction than capitalism to date are the very same people insisting that we give capitalism endless chances to redeem itself. No thanks, we’ll stick to fighting for socialism.
But Still, the Socialist Countries Collapsed. Why Did This Happen?
Naturally the answer to this is probably one of the most debated topics related to Marxism both inside and outside of the movement. One should be skeptical of those who try to oversimplify the reasons for the socialist collapse to mere reasons of “too much bureaucracy” or “corruption,” which are statements that it would be hard to prove. If the reason for the collapse could be boiled down to one word, the best choice would probably have to be “revisionism.”
Revisionism means revising Marxist-Leninist theory and removing essential elements from it. No truly socialist society has ever failed while it was still socialist. The decline and final collapse only happened when capitalism was restored, first in politics and then, years later, in economics. In the revisionist nations of the 20th century, such as the Soviet Union after 1956, aspects of capitalist society which naturally remain in any socialist nation were not actively fought, or in some cases left to fester or even encouraged. Ultimately, in terms of economics became more or less capitalist nations. With that view in mind, it is not difficult to see why the Eastern Bloc and the USSR failed in the long run. Either a nation is striving towards socialism, or it backslides towards capitalism. Attempts to create long-term, permanent compromise, often called “market-socialism,” has been proven to lead to the market, and not socialism.
But weren’t socialist countries dictatorships? Weren’t communist leaders dictators and didn’t communist countries have one-man rule?
All states are dictatorships of one class over another. The American state, for example, is a dictatorship of big business. Capitalist governments are dictatorships—they are states in which political power is in the hands of big business and rich capitalists. Socialism is the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” not the dictatorship of an individual. What this means is that political power in a socialist country is in the hands of the working class. This dictatorship is not anti-democratic. Quite the opposite. Since democracy means rule of the common people, proletarian dictatorship is much more democratic than what the world has now. Working class power is genuine democracy.
State leaders like Barack Obama and George W. Bush are not regarded as autocratic dictators even though the President of the United States has much more power than the leaders of socialist countries ever did; the President is automatically able to appoint and dismiss their cabinet. Leadership in socialist countries was never entirely ruled by one person but was collective, even if individuals were much more visible or became over-emphasized.
Is Revolution Really Necessary?
History teaches us that no privileged class has ever given up its position willingly. We have no reason to believe the current rulers will do otherwise. It will fight tooth and nail, and there is no crime too heinous to commit in the name of preserving the status quo. Our ultimate goal is revolution, the overthrow of the old order.
You are more than welcome to go door-to-door amongst the neighborhoods of the politicians and richest 1-2% that control nearly all of America’s wealth, asking them to work towards giving up their productive property, assets and state power willingly. If you think that task is too difficult, you might be interested in the American Party of Labor, because we already have a pretty good idea of what their answer will be.
We believe that reforms in favor of workers are worth fighting for, but reforms must never become the ultimate goal. Any concessions that the ruling class may see fit to grant, usually when their back is against the wall, can be taken back later. It is only when they are thrown out of power and the means of production are taken out of their hands that real change can begin. Even then, class struggle continues under socialism, on one hand due to ruling class elements or fellow travelers who find themselves losers due to the revolution, or due to the fact that capitalist society has created many divisions among people and it is thus natural for some people to put short-term personal interests ahead of long-term social and personal interests. The former elements, remnants of the defeated class, may attempt to sabotage society from within, or perhaps by insurrection supported from abroad, and the struggle against them often requires military or police action. As for the latter group, this struggle must be fought in the arena of ideas, and requires an organized, politically aware working class that is always ready to remind people about the importance of society’s long term goals.
Can’t We Just Use What Political Power We Have to Elect the Right People and Obtain Policy Changes like Regulations on Big Business?
You mean like that time when the American people recently elected a Democratic congress to get out of the Iraq War and possibly impeach Bush, and then neither happened? Or how about the time Democrats got the White House and an even bigger majority in both houses of congress, and now they still refuse to make any decisive actions on behalf of the people who elected them? In fact in the past, and not just in the US, workers have managed to regulate the private sector or gain concessions.
The problem is that the ruling class is still left with their private property, plus all their capital. They buy up the radio stations and the newspapers, they buy cable TV networks, they create think tanks and organizations to train armies of pundits to drum up support for anti-worker policies, even among workers. There is a reason why there are literally millions of Americans who would benefit from health care and a more progressive income tax, yet actually go out and protest against both of these policies, in fact even fear them. The reason is because the businessmen have the resources to fund a massive media machine capable of surrounding a person nearly 24 hours a day.
The ultimate effect of this imbalance of resources is that the owning classes set the framework for debate. Many controversial issues are debated more or less freely across the airwaves, but some key issues become marginalized to the point where simply bringing them up causes vicious attacks from both “wings.” These are issues like class, militarism, and imperialism.
Why is Marxism-Leninism the Best Answer? Can’t We Regulate Capitalism or Try to Create Some Kind of Third System That Isn’t Fully Communist or Capitalist?
One must understand there is an important fundamental difference between Marxism and other so-called anti-capitalist or “third way” theories. Marx, unlike many thinkers of his day, did not just see a problem with capitalism and start proposing an alternative system. Instead, he and his compatriots analyzed capitalism itself to understand how the system worked. Marx’s ideas for revolution are based off of that analysis, not ideas he dreamt up on his own. Solutions to the problems of capitalism can only be reached by understanding and observing the system itself, not by dreaming up some wonderful, Utopian alternative.
As for regulating or restraining capitalism, this has been done many times before.
Oftentimes the governments of capitalist states must restrict the private sector for various reasons. The problem is that political power is still stacked in favor of the ruling class, and if you slap regulations on big business, they have every avenue and all the resources necessary to see those regulations overturned in the long run. What truly led to the collapse of the old socialist bloc was not that these countries followed Marxism-Leninism, which was ultimately too radical, but rather quite the opposite- that these nations all came under the impression that they needed more and more market style reforms, until they had more or less become capitalist countries.
Nowadays, ideas such as “21st century socialism” would have us do basically the same thing, if not less – regulate capitalism, nationalize some industry, and try to maintain a welfare state- without expropriating the ruling class, without giving the nation a clear direction for the future, and worst of all, without putting the working class in power. This kind of idea can only lead to temporary gains for the workers.
Isn’t Socialism Against Human Nature?
Human nature is not something constant and unchanging—it depends on the society which teaches human beings how to behave and how to think. Yes, there are some natural instincts and desires that humans have always had in some form or another, but throughout human history what was considered acceptable, positive, negative or abhorrent has changed greatly. If you want proof, try looking in the laws of nearly any ancient religion. Today we would and do find many ideas in those sacred texts to be abhorrent and disgusting, yet in those societies it was considered perfectly normal. Human ideas are shaped by the material world around us. More specifically, they are shaped by society, which is in turn shaped by the mode of production, and the organization of classes in society according to that mode.
Thus there was a time when it was perfectly normal to buy and sell human beings as property, even breaking up entire families. Go back even further and you will find that there were times when child marriages and incest were also considered perfectly normal. They were “normal” in those times because the conditions of the era and society necessitated such behavior. These ideas became looked at as backward or even worse as society changed and developed.
Lastly, on the subject of human nature, it is often suggested by capitalist apologists that capitalism is in accordance with human nature, because humans are naturally selfish. This argument is as idiotic as it is fallacious. Firstly, if capitalism fits human nature so well, we should have expected either capitalism or a more capitalist-like system to develop much earlier than it did, with far less dissent and disarray in its wake. Second, humans, particularly as children, are selfish. Most of us understand that as we mature, we must learn to consider the needs and wants of other people. On the other hand, that maturity and ability to reason also helps us realize that we can often better achieve our personal interests if we work in concert with others. Socialism, for the working class, is in fact working for personal interests in cooperation with others.
Can Capitalism Really be Abolished?
Yes. Capitalism has not existed throughout all of human history. In fact, when we look at the history of mankind, capitalism is a rather young system, and in its early centuries, even up into the early 20th century, many intellectuals of different philosophies and ideologies saw the system as being absurd. Many of these people still had living memory of a time when people who produced crafts made more wealth by working harder, or improving their skills and working more efficiently, thus producing more. Peasants and serfs were exploited by their lords, but there was a complementary relationship between the two classes and the serf population could meet its daily needs from their land and livestock. Capitalism began with slavery in Africa and the Americas on one hand, and with the expropriation of serfs in Europe and Asia on the other. Recently similar processes, by which peasants find themselves driven from their land, continue to occur in the developing world today.
Those serfs who did not end up as slaves in colonies found themselves as the new working class, the proletariat. Without any land or livestock, and without any means to produce goods necessary to obtain money (capital) and purchase food, shelter, and other necessities, they had only one choice—they were forced to find a capitalist who could put them to work on or in property he owned. In the beginning the wage was simply whatever was necessary to keep the working people coming in day after day. Those too unlucky to find work either begged in the streets, became prostitutes, or found themselves in some criminal activity.
Already people found it absurd that men could become rich simply by owning property. It seemed more ethical that a person should be entitled whatever they produce with their own labor, or if they should sell it, the money they get from the exchange. But that was only part of the absurdity. Whereas throughout much of human history, mankind has found it difficult, if not barely possible, to satisfy the needs of a majority of the population, capitalism created an absurd paradox whereby the technology and means to provide for everyone were being created, but the goods produced were actually limited deliberately. That is to say, with the growth of capitalism we have seen amazing technological innovation, yet still the vast majority of people in this world cannot meet their basic needs, and there are many social problems which could be solved by theoretically achievable technological advances—yet those people aren’t fed and those more efficient or perhaps eco-friendly machines are not invented. Why is that?
One word: profit. The capitalist is not interested in satisfying human need, protecting the environment, creating a democratic society, or anything of that nature. The motive of a capitalist is above all, profit. The occasional billionaire philanthropist cannot and does not offset the vast majority of businessmen who do precisely what businessmen are educated and trained to do—run a profitable business. The profit motive means that corporations must limit the amount they produce, to avoid flooding the market and driving price down. It means they must put more money into marketing like their competitors, to the overall detriment of quality or the loss of thousands if not hundreds of thousands of jobs. It means—and pay attention now—that when some bank finds a new type of investment that seems really profitable at the moment, other banks can’t sit back and wait to see if those investments might only be profitable due to temporary conditions. It means when you need more markets for your goods, and some leader wants to protect his country’s national industries, you must lobby the government to send military intervention, or undermine them via other ways, such as crippling debts with the condition that national industries and even utilities will be privatized, open to multi-national corporations of course.
This is just the tip of an iceberg of a global system that is defined by periodic crisis with catastrophic results for everyone. Well okay, not everyone. After all, when the billionaires do what they are trained to do and their businesses end up going down the drain, they can rest assured that their pawns in the government will give them some of your money. Just don’t expect anyone to give you your job back or help you pay your crippling debts. For you it’s all about personal responsibility. For them, they get their benefits privately, while the cost of their failure is distributed collectively amongst every one. No wonder capitalism was, and still is, seen as an absurd system.
How Can Capitalism be Abolished?
Karl Marx, along with Friedrich Engels, worked together like many economists to figure out what made capitalism tick. In their day, in fact even since the dawn of capitalism, philosophers, economists and ideologues tried to come up with solutions, if not a complete alternative, to the system of capitalism. In fact this process continued through the 20th century all the way to the present. Nearly all of these ideas not only failed, but they never even got off the ground.
For all the legitimate complaints that may be made against it, Marxism-Leninism, that is the methodology worked out by Marx and Engels along with the contributions of Vladimir Lenin, is the only alternative to capitalism that has left meaningful, and yes, positive effects in the world. Even where socialist revolutions never occurred, just the fear of a socialist nation forced the ruling class of many nations to make compromises with their respective labor movements, which would have been unthinkable had it not been for the success of revolution in Europe. The prestigious position occupied by the Soviet Union and the communist movement after the Second World War also forced many governments to listen to their workers and grant them concessions, concessions which sadly, since the destruction of socialism, are in danger of being snatched back.
Marx never promised that socialism as he saw it could be achieved and accomplished in one stroke. He and other thinkers always understood that socialism, like other systems before it, could suffer reverses and defeats. Perhaps more importantly, Marx was purposely vague about explaining what socialist society would be like, so as not to be like the many utopian thinkers of his time who lovingly planned out their ideal society in advance. He and his ideological descendents did figure out some key ground rules though. What follows is a short summary, it should by no means be considered absolute.
First, the proletariat, the working class had to seize political power. This form of state is called the dictatorship of the proletariat, and it is a fundamental element of Marxism-Leninism. Even in the liberal democratic state, which nearly all Marxists saw as being the most progressive form of capitalist government, political power rests firmly in the hands of the ruling class. Even if the ruling class is overthrown, inequalities remain in society. The constitution, laws, military, courts, etc. must be geared toward first serving the majority, the working class. This system is necessary so long as significant differences between workers exist, or for example, the vast differences between intellectual and manual labor. This does not mean, by any stretch of the imagination, that society’s deck must be stacked against intellectuals or technical workers. It just means that the workers are taken into consideration first and foremost.
Marxism-Leninism reveals that the state is always a class dictatorship, regardless of its actual form. So America has two parties, but you don’t need to dig very deep to see which class they work for. While the Democrats squirm and wring their hands over their pathetically modest health care bill, the bailout of insolvent banks was passed enthusiastically by both parties. Overthrowing this system and establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat would basically mean that something like health care would be deemed a right of the people, and instituted immediately. Whereas the posh lifestyle of the top bourgeoisie would be deemed irrelevant to society, and thus their assets over a certain amount would be seized and socialized, and they would be made to do productive work, whether intellectual, manual, management and planning or otherwise—for a living, much like we do now.
How is the American Party of Labor Different than Other Socialist, Communist, or Left-Wing Parties or Organizations?
First of all, the main difference is that we see the solution to the problems of the working class in revolution and the seizure of state power by the working class and its political organizations. The methodology by which we strive for revolution is Marxism-Leninism—that is, the scientific methodology of social/economic revolution first devised by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, and contributed to by figures such as Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin and the late Albanian leader Enver Hoxha. This does not mean, however, that we look at these figures the way religions look at their own prophets, nor do we see their every written word as some kind of Holy Scripture or their every action as blameless and divine.
That being said, we critique their actions from the Marxist methodology of historical dialectical materialism, analyzing actions and events in their historical context, taking into account the benefit of hindsight and trying to avoid idle speculation about what could have been if such and such had or hadn’t happened, etc. Because we uphold the general line of these figures, from Karl Marx to Enver Hoxha, we consider ourselves “anti-revisionist,” and it is in this way that we differ from most communist parties or organizations in the United States.
What is “Anti-Revisionism?”
The term “revisionism,” in the context of Marxist science, means to “revise” Marxism, to remove certain revolutionary elements of Marxism so as to weaken it and make it no more than a reformist movement. Fighting revisionism is a two-part struggle, which takes place in different forms before and after a revolution.
Our main concern at the present time is fighting revisionism prior to the revolution, which means clearly adhering to Marxist-Leninist principles in regards to revolution, and ensuring that our party does not make unprincipled compromises regarding our ideology and our end goals. It means that while we try to apply the useful practical and theoretical knowledge of Marx, Engels, et al, we must on one hand take into consideration the current and historical conditions of our era and country, but on the other hand we must not make radical changes that aren’t based on material reality. More importantly, we must not tolerate changes that detract us from our end goal. Lastly, while we are all concerned about issues like racism, sexual discrimination, and the environment, we cannot lose sight of the fact that these issues have material causes rooted in the system, and we are dedicated to overthrowing that system as opposed to just focusing on one of its consequences.
How Do You Relate to Other Left-wing Organizations?
This depends on the organization. We do not get along so well with, for example, idealistic ultra-left organizations which believe the solution to all society’s problems lie in “smashing the state.” These individuals insist that they have a far better society than us socialists, and perhaps they do. The problem is that the society they wish for is impossible to achieve, and history has proven this. However one judges 20th century socialism, one can find real, lasting achievements. Anarchism has given us nothing, and never will. We can always imagine in our minds an ideal society, but if that ideal cannot be achieved, then it really isn’t an alternative to capitalism, and as such it is essentially serving the status quo indirectly.
This also applies to a certain group of ultra-leftists who love to re-fight the revolution of 1917 over and over again, insisting that if Trotsky had been in power rather than Stalin, everything would have been different. Every day new evidence is revealed about how the USSR actually worked under Stalin. To say they should have done this or that is pointless and ignores the historical context of the time, and ignores the benefit of hindsight we have today. “Leftists” who insist on an all-or-nothing form of revolution are again, indirectly supporting the status quo, if only because their solution is impossible.
We Marxist-Leninists look back on the genuine mistakes of those leaders whose line we support, and we analyze them and try to think how we can avoid them, and we want the help of the working masses in this endeavor. At the same time, we must understand that we cannot predict the future beyond the fact that the ruling class will respond to us with fury and brimstone, and while we now have a historical foundation for the future struggle, we will inevitably come face to face with extremely difficult decisions. Most of us are willing to have civil debates with any group that claims to be “leftist” or for the working class, if only to win more workers to our side, but we are not going to attempt to have a dialogue with those who think that slogans about “freedom,” “revolution from below” or “bureaucracy” are arguments. If someone says “freedom,” we ask for whom, to do what. If someone talks about “grass roots” or “from the bottom up,” we need to ask what exactly they mean and how that is helpful to the workers’ cause. If someone talks about historical bureaucracy we ask that they sufficiently explain how their alternative would prevent bureaucracy and then apply that theory to the present time. Basically, we do not argue with slogans, clichés, or hackneyed phrases.
As for other socialist or communist parties which do not fit into the above-mentioned categories, our relationship with them depends on their views towards us, and in most cases we will try to carry on civil debate and discussion with them. All experience and knowledge gained by the workers’ movement has some value.
Who Can Join? How Do I Get Involved?
Every working person who is sick of being abused by capitalism, is open to our plan for change, agrees with our Program and Platform, who lives in the United States and is over the age of 18 is welcome to join.
We recommend that you check out our publications page to get a more in-depth look at the Party. Another good place to look is our online library. The cornerstones of our Party are the works of Karl Marx, Frederick Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Enver Hoxha.
You can find everything that you should know about us here, and you can join online or contact us and connect to members in your area.
If we don’t have a presence in your city, we’ll get to know you and help you establish one.