Unite for Struggle:
The People Cannot Wait
Important sections of the U.S. left have recently made regroupment and realignment the order of the day. Dialogue on new forms of unity could produce positive results over the next few years. Grass-roots activists sense that a more united left could build more effective fightbacks on a day-to-day level.
Effective unity always needs a focus. We believe that the focus for the U.S. left lies with the freedom struggles of African Americans, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, Latinos, Asian Americans, and Native Americans for justice, equality, self-determination, and liberation.
Throughout U.S. history, the movements of oppressed nationalities have challenged capitalist domination and inspired other social justice struggles. During the 1960s, for example, it was the civil rights movement that sparked a wave of public-sector union organizing, third-party reform initiatives, and the liberation movements of women and gay people. The oppressed nationality movements will remain in the forefront of the struggle.
Historically, we see that the left has had its most profound impact on mass struggles when it has been grounded in the movements of poor workers and the oppressed nationalities. Today, these movements have left-oriented activists and formations that are an essential component to any anti-capitalist left in the United States.
Building left unity within each of the oppressed nationality movements is vital. Strengthening ties among the left forces of the various national movements is also crucial. And if the left in this country is going to get anywhere, all socialists must recognize the leadership of the oppressed nationality movements and take up the demands of their struggles.
FRSO/SON Completes Congress
FRSO/SON has just completed its 1994 congress to formalize the merger between Freedom Road Socialist Organization and the Socialist Organizing Network. We met as the Clinton administration is spearheading an assault by federal and state governments against oppressed nationalities and working people. Its aim is to shift the burden of the capitalist economic crisis onto the most oppressed sectors of the working class. The FRSO/SON congress recognized that the challenge for the people’s struggle today is to fight back against this assault.
The tasks before the left are great in these times. We must never return to the days when left parties and organizations were torn by petty sectarianism and unprincipled power disputes that only hurt the people’s struggles. If we are to fight back effectively and lead in the struggle against the attacks from the ruling class, left forces must unite and base ourselves firmly among the people.
Our congress reaffirmed that FRSO/SON is united in seeing the strategic alliance between the multinational working class and oppressed nationality movements as key to building socialism. Yet it also showed that we are an organization of many political trends. Through principled struggle and revolutionary patience, we continue to build unity within our growing organization.
Within the left as a whole, political diversity can be an obstacle. Or, alternatively, we can learn from each other’s experiences of struggle and dialogue about our differences in a principled way. This would enable each of our organizations, and the movement as a whole, to deepen analysis and fight more effectively against white supremacist bourgeois rule.
We in FRSO/SON know that left unity is not easy. It requires learning trust, discipline, and new methods for resolving differences, and keeping in mind why we’re doing this. We are committed to the struggle for socialism, to solidarity with people fighting imperialism around the world, to the liberation of oppressed nationalities in this country, and to the leadership of the multinational working class in the struggle for democracy and justice.
Looking for a Left Unity Program
While we on the U.S. left contemplate our existence, form, and future, our struggle continues. Oppressed peoples, women, and workers continue to do battle with the forces of capitalism, racism, national oppression, male supremacy, and homophobia. If the left is to be relevant, it must regroup around the day-to-day issues and democratic struggles facing the most oppressed sections of the working class and communities of color.
o We can make the demonization and criminalization of African Americans and other oppressed people a rallying point for the left. We need to reject the federal and state “three strikes and you’re out” crime bills. We need to reject the racist anti-immigrant hysteria against Mexicanos and Central Americans in the Southwest, against Haitians on the East Coast and in the South, and against other nationalities.
• We need to fight the Republican attack on national health care and organize for a single-payer plan that will ensure everyone in this country of the basic right to health care.
• Instead of forcing poor women off welfare, we need to demand real jobs—equally available for all who can take them—and decent welfare benefits for those who can’t.
• We need to align ourselves with urban communities’ struggles to preserve and redefine public education in our cities.
• We need to make the South and Southwest focuses of labor and community organizing.
• We need to resist environmental racism—the widespread targeting of communities of color for deadly waste and toxic manufacturing facilities.
National oppression rages in the United States. The rising generation inside the liberation struggles cannot wait until all questions related to socialism and organization get answered. It’s time for the left to come out of retreat and begin building a united front for social justice in this country—a united front that will need the leadership of the oppressed nationality movements. The broad left must gear its regroupment process to the requirements of these movements. If we don’t, then we are condemning ourselves to irrelevance. Even worse, we’ll be abdicating our responsibilities to younger activists, who need to learn from our failures and our achievements in order to fight more effectively for socialism and liberation.