from Getting Together Newspaper April, 1977
In past articles in Getting Together we have put forth our view that only socialist revolution can solve the basic problems of this society.
A very important part of the revolutionary struggle is the fight to improve the immediate conditions of the masses. In the U.S. today, the masses of people face continual suffering and increasing impoverishment at the hands of the capitalist class. The working class and oppressed nationalities face extreme exploitation and oppression in every aspect of their daily lives.
Revolutionaries always must uphold the fundamental interests of the masses, not only in words but also in deeds. This means we must concretely oppose the suffering of the masses and fight to improve their conditions. We must take the lead in struggling for the day to day interests of the masses. In this editorial we would like to explain why the struggle for the immediate demands, the struggle for reforms, is an important task of the proletarian revolution.
What are Reforms and When and Why Do We Support Them?
Reforms are measures to improve the conditions of the masses but without eliminating the source of oppression, the capitalist system. There are economic and political reforms.
Although revolutionaries realize the limitations of reforms, we fight for them when they serve the interests of the masses and the long-term goal of revolution. For instance, reforms can improve the living conditions of the masses, although temporarily and in a small way. The struggle for improved wages and working conditions of the working class has advanced their well-being to some extent.
The fight for reforms can also serve the long. term interest of revolution by showing that successes can be achieved through militant mass struggle. For example, the successful mass movement in San Francisco in 1972 against the false arrest and police beating of progressive newsvendor, Harry Wong, provided a concrete inspiration to many fighting against repression by the reactionaries, the police and the courts.
In addition. after reforms are won, they can be used to educate the masses that no fundamental improvement in their lives is possible within the framework of capitalism. For example, working women have fought against their oppression by militantly demanding low cost childcare. Although the federal government has conceded some funding for such centers, the number and quality of the facilities has been very inadequate. Furthermore, with the current economic crisis, the government is closing the few centers that do exist. The inability of this reform to even come close to fulfilling the demands of the masses has raised the political consciousness and determination of many women.
Thus, reforms in themselves do not end capitalism. Revolutionaries, however, support reforms when they can improve the conditions of the masses and serve the long-term struggle for revolution.
Some Lessons In Waging the Struggle
How we fight for immediate demands is important. The kind of struggle conducted often determines whether or not the demand is won, how extensive the reform will be, and whether the immediate struggle contributes to the deepening and broadening of the revolutionary movement.
We must avoid the error of fighting for reforms as end goals in themselves and become reformists. This sells out the basic interests of the masses. Reformism is in the interests of the bourgeoisie for it keeps the mass movement away from the revolutionary path. For the reformists, the reform is everything. They promote the idea that the problems of the masses can be basically solved within the bounds of capitalism and in such a way they try to restrict the activity and demands of the masses. They promote the view that revolution is undesirable.
In the course of the actual struggle for immediate demands, the reformists try to stifle every attempt by the masses to take the initiative into their own hands. In this way, they try to force the masses into a passive and defensive position, and trail after every maneuver of the capitalists to oppose and squash the mass movement.
In contrast. revolutionaries must fight for the day to day interest of the masses in a revolutionary way.
Concretely that means first of all that campaigns and struggles must be fought by relying on the masses. The masses must be organized to have full participation in formulating demands and deciding the general course of the struggle.
A good example of this point is the International Hotel Struggle in San Francisco. The militancy of the tenants and the thousands of people who have come out to the demonstrations as well as the thousands of workers and oppressed nationality people in the Bay Area and around the country who support the International Hotel have been decisive in preventing the destruction of the Hotel and further dispersal of the Chinatown·Manilatown communities.
There are some forces within the I·Hotel, however, who have been trying to sell out the struggle through advocating the buy·back plan by which the tenants would have to "buy" the Hotel back from the City. Some opportunists have tried to implement this plan by stifling the initiative of the masses. They have tried to keep the plan a secret and spread confusion about the overall situation.
Revolutionaries, on the contrary, have been fighting to be sure that all decisions for the direction of the struggle are made in the light of day and by the tenants, and in the interest of the masses.
Secondly, in fighting for reforms, we cannot rely on the courts or legislative proceedings. The courts and government are instruments of the capitalist class to' oppress the masses. While legal forms of struggle can sometimes be useful and cannot be ignored, the most important way that the masses can win their demands is through militant struggle that is not chained to the legal process.
For example, in the Harry Wong case, if the masses had relied solely on legal tactics to overturn the false charges against Wong, the' struggle would have failed. The mass demonstrations and support were pivotal to the success of the legal defense and also advanced the overall struggle.
Lastly, to wage the struggle for immediate interests in a revolutionary way, we must put out lively and timely propaganda and agitation to the masses. We must expose me attack and maneuvers of the capitalist class and their agents on the immediate issue. We must expose why the capitalist class is opposed in gener.al to the interests of the masses and point out clearly what path tile masses must take to struggle against and finally end their oppression.
For example. in the New York Gouverneur Hospital struggle, different kinds of written materials were used to advance the struggle. Besides leaflets put out by the rank and me strike committee, IWK put out its own independent leaflets which targeted the City and the bourgeoisie as well as their agents, the union bureaucrats, who were sabotaging the struggle. These leaflets advocated a concrete revolutionary action for the struggle to take.
At the same time in Getting Together longer articles were written which analyzed the economic crisis and national oppression and how it related to the Gouverneur struggle.
Revolutionaries must increase efforts to take up the struggle for the immediate demands of the masses and wage these struggles in a revolutionary way. We must vigorously uphold the interests of the masses by resisting the increasing attacks coming down on the working class and oppressed nationalities. We must organize the masses of people to take up the revolutionary struggle for the immediate and long· term interests.