While FRSO/OSCL was formed in 1985 as a merger of socialist organizations that came from the movements of the 1960s and 70s, today we are multi-generational, with a majority of our members under age 35 – not yet born when our organization was formed.
FRSO/OSCL renewed our commitment to both our historical principles and to make a more powerful contribution to the social movements in the United States, with a clear focus on building the resistance to Trump, and challenging the left and the fighters in the social movements to confront the question of a path to power.
FREEDOM: WHAT WE WANT
For as far back as the historical record goes, human society has been propelled forward by the struggle for freedom. From the slave rebellions of ancient Rome to the peasant uprisings that slashed through China’s history, from the resistance against the slave trade to the anti-colonial struggles that have rocked Africa, the Americas and the Asian-Pacific region over the last two centuries, to the bloody fights to build unions at the workplace, people have always resisted grinding exploitation and brutal oppression.
Today the rich and powerful, the tiny handful who squat atop our social pyramid, try to claim the banner of freedom for themselves. They use this mighty word to sell everything from convertibles to toothpaste, and now even racist right wing populists have tried to steal this language. And when they do, they reveal what they think freedom means. For the rulers, freedom means the freedom to structure everything in society to serve their own interests. Meanwhile, for the great working class majority, the freedom preached by the one percent means only the freedom to choose between a rock and a hard place, between selling our labor to them to enrich them further and starving to death.
But we have a different vision of freedom. The great majority of the globe’s people want freedom from misery, from exploitation, from the jackboots of the state, from living our whole lives in alienation and insecurity. We want freedom for the peoples of the world to own our histories, cultures and languages, and to determine our own destinies. And more, we want freedom to become fully human, to develop all our gifts and abilities. And millions of us sense that this cannot be done by each of us as individuals, but only by the pooling of our collective strength and wisdom.
ROAD: HOW WE GET THERE
The long history of people struggling for freedom shows us a lot about the path we have to travel. It is always a struggle because those who run and benefit from the existing order have no interest whatsoever in giving up their power and privilege. We stand in internationalist solidarity with all people of the world who are waging this battle under their own conditions, and often waging it against the same ruling class we are fighting, for the rulers of the US are still the dominant power in the world today.
We look for inspiration and lessons to key episodes in this long struggle for freedom. The Paris Commune of 1871 showed that the wretched of the earth could storm heaven, seize power and reorganize society. The Russian revolution showed that the new society could be defended and built in the face of everything the old order could throw against it. The Cultural Revolution in China showed that only the masses of people can challenge a new elite from taking over the government and seizing the fruits of the revolution, as had happened in the Soviet Union. Each of these heroic efforts to push forward into the realm of freedom eventually wound up in a swamp or a box canyon, but not before our road had been blazed far into new and uncharted terrain.
There is also much to learn from the countless fighters who have helped scout the terrain ahead. These include not just Karl Marx and V.I. Lenin and Mao Zedong, but Malcolm X, Ella Baker, Amilcar Cabral, Jose Carlos Mariategui, Antonio Gramsci, Jose Marti, Franz Fanon, Digna Ochoa, Berta Carceres, and many, many more. And in the end, of course, we can only bring the road into being through the hard work of building it.
FREEDOM ROAD: THE PATH IN THE US
These two words, linked together, have a special meaning. This country was built on the enslavement and continued exploitation and domination of the African American people and other oppressed peoples like the First Nations (Native Americans) and the Chicana/o people, whose homeland, Aztlán, is in the Southwest. In slavery days, Freedom Road referred to the Underground Railroad. The words became the refrain of the marching song of the 200,000 Black troops in the Civil War who dealt a decisive blow to the power of the Southern slaveocracy, a great stride forward on history’s path.
Today, the oppression of minority nationalities remains central to the capitalist system in this country. Today, the road to freedom means that those communities must have the right to determine their own destinies. Because of this, the central feature of the road to freedom in the United States is the alliance of the people’s movements in different communities of color with the movement of the vast working class, made up of laboring people of all nationalities and races.
SOCIALISM: THE SOCIETY WE WILL BUILD
Freedom cannot be won for a few. If any are in chains, no one is truly free. Nor can freedom be given as a gift. It must be taken by the many because only in doing so can we learn to use and expand it.
The rich hate the thought of socialism so much that they call socialist any reform in the system that cuts into their wealth in the slightest—from public education and the graduated income tax in the old days, to environmental regulations and a national health care system today. Such reforms, however righteous and needed they might be—and we fight for them tooth and nail–are not socialism.
Real freedom will require the destruction, by every means necessary, of the whole current social order based on the rights of the wealthy to keep everything they have and constantly grab for more.
Real freedom, socialism, will mean turning that system over, or, more accurately, standing things right side up. It will mean organizing society and the economy on an entirely different basis, where the wealth created by the labor of the many goes to serve the people and not to enrich a tiny handful of parasites. It will mean that education, health care, jobs, air we can breath and water we can drink — will all be rights, and that people will have the opportunity and resources they need to develop their potential as human beings and to increase their contributions to the well-being of all.
The working people will rule and the old exploiters (and newer wannabes) will be held back. So will those, like white supremacists, who seek to poison and divide the people. True democracy is not choosing between two puppets for the capitalists once every four years. It is the masses of people learning to become the masters of society.
The wealth of society, produced by the labor of millions, will benefit the many, not enrich the few. Because the highest law of giant capitalist corporations is “expand or die,” enormous waste, suffering and environmental destruction are built into the system we live under. In place of this dog-eat-dog madness, we need cooperation, collectivity and planning.
Socialism is society ruled by the vast working class majority, and the first step in a transition to a world without classes. The plain fact is: we, the working class of people, make all of society run, each and every day. Why shouldn’t we run all of society?
ORGANIZATION: THE KEY TOOL
The only way that working people have ever won anything is by organizing and fighting. In our neighborhoods, in community organizations, in our workplaces, in unions, wherever there is a need to fight, people build organization. As the great labor anthem “Solidarity Forever” says,
What force on earth is weaker than the feeble strength of one? But the union makes us strong.
This is where you will find members of the Freedom Road Socialist Organization. We are involved in and build a wide range of organizations in many fronts of the people’s struggles. We are in immigrant workers’ centers and labor unions and rank and file caucuses. We are in organizations in oppressed communities, in the Movement for Black Lives and the Climate Justice movement. We are in student groups, in teacher and parent organizations. We are in the LBGTQ organizations and movement, international solidarity groups, and many more.
In each of these fights we unite all who can be united, and always have three goals:
- Win as much as possible and weaken the enemy through collective and militant action;
- Spread class consciousness and build the unity of the working class through education and organization;
- Recruit people to socialism by promoting international solidarity, agitating against capitalism, studying, and providing a program to build an alternative world.
We learn from Ella Baker, a leading light of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s, and her insistence that people make their own history and movements must develop their own leaders. We learn from the Chinese leader Mao Zedong, with his insistence that all correct ideas come “from the masses, to the masses.” We listen, we learn, and we lift our people.
SOCIALIST ORGANIZATION: FRSO/OSCL
Again, these are words that have a special meaning when linked together. The various organizations mentioned above aim to defend the rights and living standards of working people and other sections of the population. They are invaluable, but they are not enough.
In the final analysis, we need an organization dedicated to building all of those struggles and welding them together into a revolutionary movement which replaces the whole capitalist system and builds a new world on the ashes of the old. Such an organization needs to be disciplined. It needs to be able to call on its members for ideas and summation of the struggle, for sacrifice in building the people’s movements, and for courage in fighting the enemy.
Such an organization must also be large enough to unite the tens of thousands and eventually millions of us into a mighty force, a party or parties, that can shatter the foundations of this corrupt, racist system.
We have no illusions that Freedom Road will on its own become such an organization, but we work to help bring such a force into being when the conditions for it grow ripe. In the meantime, we will seek to strengthen our members, to train and recruit new fighters and always to continue to build the many struggles which defend the ground the people have gained in earlier battles. We will always work to unite with other revolutionary forces. And we will always fight to push the road to freedom a little further into the new territory that lies ahead.
The Central Task Today: Building From Protest to Power
The waves of protest that spread across the country after the 2016 election showed the power of the people’s rage and resistance. But it has been built, in general, without a strategy to contend for power. We need to move from protest to power. We need to build independent political organization.
Trump’s electoral victory was the culmination of decades of organizing by the right wing forces that we call the New Confederacy. The Republican Party today is a social bloc of forces committed to austerity, white supremacy and social hatreds. When they gain power – and they have come to control 25 states in all three branches of government, while the Democrats control 6 – they destroy unions, push the most homophobic and trans-phobic propaganda and policy, overrule progressive local movements or laws by state legislative “preemption”, and organize to repeal every last trace of the New Deal and the Civil Rights movement, and more. They have seized the initiative against the increasingly exposed neo-liberal Democrats, who have to answer for their own share of suffering and are subservient to the banks. And their power is rooted in the Old South.
In response, state-by-state efforts have emerged by progressive forces to bring together the multi-racial working class with minority nationalities and others to fight back. These organizations, which differ in many ways, have several things in common. They have a broad vision of contending for power. They work in the street and in the election booth. They work inside and outside the Democratic Party. They fight both austerity and white supremacy. And they build on the strategic alliance of the working class of all races and languages with the movements based in communities of color.
Bringing together the advanced fighters around the necessity of political organization and strategy is the focus of our work today, as part of the movement for socialism, and as we build the resistance. In some cases we will initiate such efforts, in others we will pitch in and learn from others where such efforts are already going strong.
We have entered a period of numerical and political growth of the socialist movement in the US. We hope you will join us.