USA: revolutionary fervour and Bolshevik resolve at the 2023 Socialist Revolution Congress

On June 3 and 4, some 230 communists gathered in Philadelphia for the largest-ever National Congress of Socialist Revolution, the US section of the International Marxist Tendency. The atmosphere was electric throughout the entirety of the event, which featured no fewer than a dozen thunderous standing ovations.

Comrades and delegates from over 30 cities and areas across the US assembled at the Congress venue, joined by international guests from London and Montréal. In addition to the host city, attendees came from New York; New Jersey; New Haven, Connecticut; Minneapolis-St. Paul; Phoenix; St. Louis; Boston; Western Massachusetts; Providence, Rhode Island; Portland, Maine; Seattle; Bellingham, Washington; Chicago; Dallas-Fort Worth; Houston; Los Angeles; San Diego; the San Francisco Bay Area; Chico, California; Madison, Wisconsin; Milwaukee; Atlanta; Portland, Oregon; Boulder, Colorado; Louisville, Kentucky; Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Raleigh, North Carolina; Fort Mill, South Carolina; Fredericksburg, Virginia; Columbus, Ohio; and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The Congress convened under a banner bearing Lenin’s famous words: “Without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.” In every session without fail, the resolute and fervent discussions proved again and again how seriously comrades take this central truth of Marxist doctrine. The immense hunger for Marxist theory was palpable throughout the weekend. This expressed itself not only in the contributions from the floor but also in record sales of over $12,300 at the Marxist Books table. Some of the most popular titles sold out before lunch the first day.

USConf2Some 230 comrades and delegates from over 30 cities across the US gathered in Philadelphia for the National Congress of Socialist Revolution / Image: Socialist Revolution

Laura Brown of the Socialist Revolution editorial board opened the Congress. She noted how appropriate it was that the forces of organized Marxism were preparing for the US and world socialist revolutions in Philadelphia, a city which played a predominant role in the first American bourgeois revolution. She then read out warm and inspiring comradely greetings from IMT sections in countries around the world, including Mexico, South Africa, Russia, and Pakistan.

USConf3The Congress opened with inspiring comradely greetings from IMT sections in Mexico, South Africa, Russia, and Pakistan / Image: Socialist Revolution

Preparing for world revolution

Comrade Fred Weston, representing the International Secretariat of the IMT, opened the discussion on the perspectives for world revolution. He described a planet rocked by “economic crisis, social upheaval, wars, famine, climate change, and mental health crises.”

Fred explained how all of these calamities are rooted in the private ownership of the means of production and the suffocating limits of the nation state. Since the end of the postwar boom, the capitalists have sought to extricate themselves from the vice grip of these contradictions, partly through a massive expansion of credit. In the beginning, this allowed them to temporarily overcome the limits of their outmoded system, but now, “instead of being a stimulus, debt is choking the world market.” In many countries, interest payments on existing debts are so high, there is little money left for the provision of basic necessities.

Added to this, rampant money printing since the 2007–9 crisis, and especially since the COVID-19 pandemic began in 2020, has led to skyrocketing inflation across the globe. The only weapon the capitalists have found to combat inflation is the rapid raising of interest rates. This set off a series of bank collapses, including SVB and Credit Suisse. Increasingly, the dreaded prospect of “stagflation”—high inflation combined with high unemployment—looms over the world economy.

USConf4Fred Weston, representing the International Secretariat of the IMT, opened the discussion on the perspectives for world revolution / Image: Socialist Revolution

All this has put workers in a tight bind, leading to an intensification of class struggle worldwide. Fred highlighted big strike movements and protests in Britain, France, Spain, Greece, Finland, and other European countries hard hit by inflation and shortages which have only been exacerbated by the wretched inter-imperialist slaughter in Ukraine. But Europe is not alone, with the masses recently rising up in countries like Iran and Sri Lanka, while the Sudanese workers and peasants are paying a bloody, barbarous price for two failed revolutions over the last four years.

Fred also addressed the changing balance of forces internationally. The class balance of forces between the working class and the capitalists has never been more favorable, with workers numbering no fewer than three billion people. Meanwhile, the balance between various national ruling classes is ever more unstable, with China and Russia challenging the dominance of US imperialism. At the same time, the Chinese capitalists have problems of their own since the world market can no longer absorb the torrent of Chinese goods. As the Chinese and American rulers face off over control of the Pacific, a crisis of unemployment is underway with over 20% of Chinese youth aged 16–24 jobless.

The discussion was packed with enthusiastic contributions from the floor, as comrades added vivid detail about growing crises and class struggles in places like Iran, Nigeria, China, Latin America, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Canada, Spain, France, and others.

Faced with intractable capitalist cataclysms, workers in country after country are beginning to lose faith in bourgeois democracy, as evidenced by rising rates of electoral abstentionism. Political struggles increasingly take place in the streets and not at the ballot box. The mass movement against Macron’s pension “reform” in France is the most notable example of this phenomenon. However, with all the traditional Social Democratic, Labor, and Communist parties thoroughly infected by the disease of opportunist reformism, growing class consciousness around the world is cut across time and again by the lack of genuinely revolutionary working-class parties. Building such parties is the task animating every section and group of the IMT.

USConf5The discussions were packed with enthusiastic contributions from the floor / Image: Socialist Revolution

Chaos, instability, and the crisis of the regime

Comrade John Peterson, executive editor of Socialist Revolution, led off the afternoon session on “The Road to the Third American Revolution.” Contrary to the false doctrine of “American exceptionalism,” the US is not immune from the effects of the global capitalist crisis.

The system is in terminal decline, and the signs of it are visible everywhere. There have already been over 200 mass shootings in the US this year; 42% of working mothers suffer from anxiety or depression; and the US working class collectively owes over $20 billion in overdue energy bills. Doom and gloom are the order of the day across society, with the sole exception of the Marxists who are fired up with revolutionary optimism.

The US economy is on a precipice. Rising default rates in commercial real estate and risks in the shadow-banking sector threaten to send US capitalism into a deep recession. Once the world’s largest creditor, the US is now the world’s biggest debtor, with debt now standing at over 120% of GDP. Labor productivity is falling while unit labor costs rise, a conundrum which the ruling class can only attempt to solve by vicious attacks on the living standards of the workers.

USConfJohn Peterson, executive editor of Socialist Revolution, led off the afternoon session on perspectives for revolutionary socialism in the US / Image: Socialist Revolution

Workers will need to fight back, but class consciousness tends to lag behind events. Despite an uptick in strikes and labor organizing, the three years since the explosive George Floyd uprising have seen a relative lull in the class struggle. The price paid for the failure of the movement has been dear, including savage attacks on women’s rights and a wave of transphobic legislation. Frightened to their core by the masses in the summer of 2020, the ruling class have further fostered the spread of gangrenous identity politics and “culture wars,” seeking to divide different layers of the working class against one another.

John emphasized the importance of preparing for the circus of the 2024 election. The choice between Democrat Joe Biden and either of the Republican frontrunners, Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis, will not be an attractive one, particularly for radicalizing young people. Socialist Revolution must be prepared to recruit the best of these youth to the only real alternative to the “chaos and instability” of American capitalism.

Despite the many ups and downs inherent in life under capitalism, John raised comrades’ horizons and encouraged them to never lose sight of the big picture:

If we keep the long view of history in mind, fuel ourselves with ideas, theory, reading, perspectives, and camaraderie, we will stick to this for the long haul and get to play an active role in the greatest drama in human history: the successful overthrow of capitalism on a world scale.

The discussion was vigorous with comrades explaining the need for class independence and the reactionary role of the liberal socialists of DSA, whose Congressional representatives voted to illegalize a rail strike in December 2022. Other topics ranged from the dereliction of duty on the part of trade union leaders to the recent debt ceiling debacle, where the “lesser evil” Democrat Biden struck a deal with Republicans which promises massive austerity in the coming period.

USConf6The discussion was vigorous, with comrades explaining the need for class independence in US politics and the labor movement / Image: Socialist Revolution

Several comrades exposed the poisonous role of identity politics, including an important analysis of the Black struggle and the reactionary utopia represented by a number of slavery-reparations schemes put forward by capitalist politicians. Comrades made it crystal clear that the struggle against all forms of oppression is a class struggle which can only achieve victory by and through the socialist revolution.

Following the discussion of US perspectives, comrade Fred gave a rousing international report on the over 60 countries where the IMT is currently working. He highlighted the work of fast-growing sections in Austria, Germany, Indonesia, South Africa, and elsewhere. Particular attention was paid to Britain, where the bold “Are you a communist?” campaign is achieving dramatic results in reaching a growing layer of radicalized youth. Comrades at the Congress were fired up at the prospect of launching a similar campaign in the US later this year.

The first day concluded with possibly the most vibrant and energetic session of the whole Congress: a record financial collection to fund the building of the forces of Marxism in the US and internationally. With many of our comrades and sympathizers not present at the congress, there is still much more money to be raised. Click here to donate!

USConf7The first day concluded with a record financial collection to fund the building of the forces of Marxism in the US and internationally / Image: Socialist Revolution

Camaraderie and conviviality were in ample supply during the evening socials on Saturday and again on Sunday. On both nights, the Congress hall reverberated with the sounds of revolutionary songs, as comrades sought to recover a tradition lost by the American labor movement. The commitment to music carried over into Sunday morning, when the comrades staffing the coffee and espresso bar sang “Solidarity Forever” each time someone paid solidarity price for their morning pick me up.

How Marxists are formed

Day two kicked off with comrade Antonio Balmer, managing editor of Socialist Revolution, leading a discussion of how Marxists are formed. He focused on the lessons comrades can take from the birth of Marxist theory and organization in the 19th century and from the building of the Bolshevik Party in Russia in advance of the October Revolution of 1917.

USConf8Day two kicked off with comrade Antonio Balmer, managing editor of Socialist Revolution, leading a discussion of how Marxists are formed / Image: Socialist Revolution

Antonio stressed the importance of deep theoretical preparation to all revolutions. Indeed, this is not limited to socialist revolutions. Pointing to the role materialist philosophy played in preparing the Great French Revolution, he said, “before the French put Louis XVI in the guillotine, they first put God in the guillotine.”

He continued, “Marxist cadres require theory like the body needs oxygen … but it’s not enough to have a grounding in theory, we need to build something unyielding.” That “something” is a steadfast Bolshevik organization guided by iron discipline and revolutionary will.

The discussion was notable for the spirited interventions from many of the younger Socialist Revolution comrades, most of whom took up communist politics in the wake of the stormy events of 2020. Time and again, these comrades returned to two common themes: firstly, the spirit of sacrifice necessary in all revolutionaries and secondly, the urgent need to declare all-out war on the fashionable petty-bourgeois ideas with which the capitalists seek to deceive and bamboozle left-moving workers and youth.

USConf9The hunger for Marxist theory expressed itself in record sales of over $12,300 at the Marxist Books table / Image: Socialist Revolution

The afternoon discussion of organizational priorities and tasks was opened by comrade Tom Trottier of the Socialist Revolution editorial board. He spoke of how the objective conditions for socialist revolution are maturing faster than the necessary subjective factor of the revolutionary party. This situation can only be overcome by careful prioritization and flexible tactics. The task may seem daunting, but Marxists have always stood against pessimism and fatalism, “if you tell people the truth, give them a clear picture of reality, and tell them what is necessary for victory, then people will rise to the occasion.”

He compared Marxists to paratroopers, constantly surrounded by the enemy, saying “the ruling class and its thugs will always attack Marxists.” Comrades must steel themselves against all alien class ideas and petty-bourgeois pressures.

Tom summed up the current situation of the IMT by quoting Trotsky:

Yes, its ranks are not numerous because it is still young. They are as yet chiefly cadres. But these cadres are pledges for the future. Outside these cadres there does not exist a single revolutionary current on this planet really meriting the name. If our international be still weak in numbers, it is strong in doctrine, program, tradition, in the incomparable tempering of its cadres. Who does not perceive this today, let him in the meantime stand aside. Tomorrow it will become more evident … [the international] uncompromisingly gives battle to all political groupings tied to the apron-strings of the bourgeoisie. Its task: the abolition of capitalism’s domination. Its aim: socialism. Its method: the proletarian revolution.

Comrade Fred delivered the closing remarks of the Congress. Drawing on his experiences as a Marxist revolutionary in Italy during the 1970s, he compared the world situation today with the explosive class struggles of that time. We have once again entered a period where a significant section of workers and youth are moving rapidly towards revolutionary conclusions. The task of the International Marxist Tendency is to make contact with the best elements of this layer, organize them, and train them as communist cadres capable of building a mass Marxist party.

The formal business of the Congress concluded with rollicking renditions of the Internationale—the battle hymn of the world working class—and Bandiera Rossa—a favorite anthem of the Italian workers’ movement. Comrades left the Congress buzzing with revolutionary optimism and implacable resolve to tackle the urgent task of building the forces of Marxism. The next Congress is scheduled for the summer of 2025. Anyone interested in attending should join Socialist Revolution today!

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