Would it be better to support a Democratic or Green Party candidate who comes close to socialist ideals? Why back a losing horse and never infiltrate the system?
How do you advocate change?
By speaking, writing and discussing on the basis of logic, peoples’ life experiences, historical example, and our own experiences. Through engaging with others in every struggle for democratic rights and humane change.
We advocate the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism internationally and its replacement with a socialist workers’ democracy. And to guarantee the success of socialism in other countries, we believe that the U.S. working class must unite to take power in this country. Otherwise, the globe’s top imperialist will continue to sabotage anti-capitalist developments around the world.
Further, we assert that only by defending the issues and the leadership of the most exploited and oppressed workers — women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQ people, people with disabilities — can the working class overcome the “isms” that divide it, and achieve the solidarity necessary to make a revolution. The role of a party is indispensable in this process because of the direction, organization, and understanding of history and revolutionary dynamics it can provide.
Is the Freedom Socialist Party like the Democratic and Republican Parties?
No. Our goals are exactly opposite: the capitalist parties uphold the profit-driven status quo and we are determined to abolish it and create the conditions for planetary health and the achievement of full human potential.
Our internal functioning is completely different too: we are a small “d” democratic party in which the members are the highest decision-making body. We are also centralist, meaning that after free-wheeling discussion and debate lead to a vote, we act as one. So, when we run candidates, they can be relied upon to stick to the platform we collectively agree to.
Do you think that human nature is basically good?
Human nature is an open, changing thing that is shaped predominantly by its social environment. In a society where dog-eat-dog is the rule, human nature is stunted, suspicious, hostile, competitive and violent. Where mutual cooperation and support are reinforced, human nature is just the opposite. Parents know that babies and small children who receive love and tenderness are friendly, loving, sociable and generous — and have to be taught aggression.
What are the roots of FSP’s ideas?
We are a Trotskyist, socialist feminist party. We are revolutionary integrationists, which means that we believe that Blacks in the U.S., because of their unique history and proven leadership, have a special role to play in the common fight to win a new society for everyone. We are Marxists and Leninists.
Karl Marx and Frederick Engels outlined the historic laws of capitalism’s origins, development, decline and downfall. They proved scientifically that the overthrow of capitalism has to be carried through by the very class created by the bourgeoisie (the capitalists) to labor in offices, agriculture, and factories for the profits of the few who own the means of production.
Engels laid the basis for modern socialist feminism in Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State, which explained the communal, matriarchal social system that preceded private property, class society, patriarchy, slavery, the state, and “civilization.” He pinpointed the primary role women played in the economic, social, cultural and political life of the matrilineal tribes, and the egalitarian relationships enjoyed by all its members.
V.I. Lenin, the founder and leader of the Bolshevik Party that led the working class to power in the great Russian Revolution of 1917, made his chief contribution by recognizing the need for a centralized and democratic party of full-time professional revolutionaries to coordinate and lead the masses in the seizure of state power. And the combat, vanguard party, he taught, must be scrupulously independent of bourgeois and petty bourgeois parties, and must demonstrate international solidarity in practice.
Leon Trotsky was the leader of the 1905 Revolution and the co-leader of the 1917 Revolution. After Lenin’s death, he led the fight against Stalin and the bureaucracy that seized Soviet state power during the dark days of civil war, famine, social chaos, and economic disintegration that afflicted the U.S.S.R. in the early 1920s. The Stalinist bureaucracy throttled the revolution in order to maintain its privileges amid the poverty, disorder and demoralization that prevailed when it became apparent that the German and Western European revolutions would not happen quickly enough to bring support to the isolated U.S.S.R.
Trotsky, almost alone, kept alive the idea of workers’ democracy after the Stalinist bureaucracy smashed it. Trotsky’s great concept of Permanent Revolution showed that the continual social, national and proletarian (working-class) upheavals of the 20th century were part of an uninterrupted and interconnected process of anti-capitalist warfare which constituted the birth pangs of the emerging socialist order and workers’ democracy.
Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky represent the ongoing line of development of basic Marxist theory and practice. They, together with early female and feminist revolutionaries like Rosa Luxemburg and Clara Zetkin, are the forebears of the Freedom Socialist Party.
How does socialism differ from communism?
Socialism, for Marxists, is the transitional period between the overthrow of capitalism and the attainment of communism, when “each shall produce according to their ability and receive according to their needs,” when the state will have vanished, and economic progress and cultural/personal freedom will have reached a stage far, far higher than ever attained under capitalism. In popular parlance, however, “communism” is now associated with Stalinism, and socialism with a non-Stalinist ideology.
Lenin’s State and Revolution clearly delineates the differences between the two stages of socialism and communism.
Do you see the need and inevitability of revolution?
Yes and no! The need is absolute, or nuclear holocaust or environmental devastation together with fascism will prevail. But nothing in politics is inevitable unless people make it happen.
No ruling class in history has ever given up power without a fight and U.S. imperialism is no exception. The capitalists have set in motion a systematic onslaught of right-wing attacks against the rights of workers, the poor, and the specially oppressed. Everything from abortion and affirmative action to Native treaties, LGBTQ rights and unionism is under siege, and Uncle Sam has resurrected a virulently racist patriotism to fuel armed conflict in Iraq and Afghanistan, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment, and acceptance of an all-out assault on the Bill of Rights.
All of this signals the inability of the U.S. ruling class to reverse the disintegration wrought by capitalism, and to keep workers docile, through use of the normal democratic process.
If the system is to be able to maintain its profits and prolong its survival in our times, its methods can only be police-state measures and perpetual wars of aggression, including the cynically misnamed “war on terrorism.” The only alternative is socialist revolution. International class struggle is on the order of the day, and the working class and the oppressed can win with the right political program, motivation, strategy and leadership.
What form of government would FSP advocate in a socialist U.S.?
A government elected by a council (soviet) of workers, people of color, soldiers, women, small farmers, etc. These councils, which differ from legislatures in that they combine executive, administrative, legislative and judicial functions, would make up a network of decision and policy-making committees at the neighborhood, local, regional, national, and eventually international level. Decisions on economic, social, political, and cultural issues at each level would be arrived at through open and free discussion and majority vote. A reversal of any decision would be made through the same process. Council decisions would be subject to review and could be overruled by a council at a higher level.
Delegates to all councils would be nominated by the membership and elected by majority vote. All representatives would be subject to immediate recall upon a majority vote of the membership. And no representative would receive a wage greater than that of the highest-paid workers in their communities.
The rights of all racial, ethnic, national, and sexual minorities, and those of any specially persecuted or long-harassed group, would be absolutely guaranteed under constitutional law. These types of minority groups would have the right to autonomous organization if so desired and would be represented at every level of government. National minorities would further have the right to settle separately if they chose.
Is democracy a part of your socialism?
Democracy is essential to real socialism. The members of any body need to have the right to freely discuss, debate, and decide key questions by majority vote, hold the leadership to account, and recall the leadership or reverse any policy. Political minorities must be guaranteed full rights. Without these conditions, socialism will be corrupted by the bureaucratic and dictatorial rule of an elite caste accountable to nothing and no one but its own narrow interests. Degeneration and betrayal, à la Stalinism, will be inevitable.
Such bureaucratic rule can only lead to disaster, because its policy is not made, shaped, reviewed or checked by the people.
Are opposing and minority viewpoints respected?
The capitalist point of view, which seeks the destruction of socialism, will be neither respected nor protected by a revolutionary people. Bourgeois ideology will be dealt with through education and the power of socialist example. Should its proponents seek military overthrow of the workers’ state, they will be dealt with by force.
All points of view that accept and reflect the basic framework and principles of socialism will be respected, protected and encouraged in the interest of a healthy socialist democracy. All questions of policy — agricultural and industrial production, distribution of goods and services, education, administration, technology, ecology, civil rights and liberties, health, culture, housing, etc. — will be subjected to the widest range of ideas before decisions are made.
Nobody has all the answers to these and the host of other questions that arise in a workers’ state, and socialism benefits from the cross-fertilization of ideas, from the fierce and joyous struggle over policy in every sphere of life that characterizes a living revolution.
Would it be better to support a Democratic or Green Party candidate who comes close to socialist ideals? Why back a losing horse and never infiltrate the system?
A Democratic candidate “who comes close to socialist ideals” is a contradiction in terms. Democrats who promise to implement a socialist platform invariably sell out on their campaign promises, as they maneuver and wheel and deal in compromises to stay in office.
The Democratic and Republican Parties are both treacherous swamps. While the politicians of the former campaign, they are friends of the working class; once in power, they abide by the “political realities” of a system run by Wall Street and giant multinational corporations. Internationally, the Green Party does likewise. In the U.S., there is little difference between Greens and liberal Democrats; Green Party candidates who win elections are indistinguishable from Democrats.
As the great U.S. socialist Eugene V. Debs said, “It’s a whole lot better to vote for what you want and not get it than it is to vote for what you don’t want and get it.”
The FSP campaigns in order to teach, to learn, and to proclaim principles, so there is no question of “losing horses.” What’s the point of supporting a “winner” who doesn’t need us and opposes us? We gain nothing and lose the lobbying power that comes from our independence. We constantly do “infiltrate the system” but never as capitalist party representatives.
Is atheism part of FSP’s ideology?
Yes. We believe that the concept of God and the heavenly afterworld are put forth as a substitute for a decent life in this world. Organized religion is a pacifier, a hoax, and a defender of the status quo and the bourgeoisie.
At the same time, we uphold the right of anyone to believe and worship as they choose. Religion is a private affair which we expect to vanish as humanity increasingly controls its own destiny. In the meantime, we oppose the ill-gotten wealth, tax cuts, privilege, reaction and political influence of the institutionalized church.
What’s the party’s relationship with Radical Women?
Radical Women was founded in 1967 when two seasoned feminist revolutionaries, Gloria Martin and FSP co-founder Clara Fraser, joined with young radicals from the Students for a Democratic Society who were fed up with sexism. The new group’s mission: to provide a feminist voice in the labor, antiwar and civil rights movements and a radical voice in the women’s liberation movement. Today Radical Women is an autonomous organization affiliated by program and aims with the Freedom Socialist Party.
How does FSP differ from other socialist organizations? And why are there so many?
All socialists see themselves as working toward an eventual society run to meet basic human needs and provide a good life for the many instead of fabulous profits for a few. But there are divergent ideas about what that world would look like and, especially, how to get there.
At its founding in 1966, FSP was unique in being a socialist feminist party, although that label was adopted a little later. Our in-the-bone feminism is still a distinguishing feature, although many left groups today are more advanced on this question than they once were. Also setting us apart was our belief in revolutionary integration — the idea that Black leadership in the U.S. is indispensable to class struggle, while at the same time African American liberation cannot be won short of socialist revolution.
And FSP believes that socialism requires revolution, not just a series of specific progressive changes. In contrast, some groups who were formerly revolutionary have become reformist, thanks to a long period of isolation and general reaction.
Socialist organizations fall roughly into three general categories: Trotskyists, like FSP, who believe that socialism can only be built on the foundation of workers’ democracy and the power of the international working class; Stalinists/Maoists, who claim that full “socialism” can be realized in one country alone (like the former Soviet Union, China, or Cuba); and social democrats, who think that socialism can be attained through gradual reform of the capitalist system.
Although the fragmentation of the Left is a sore point for many non-affiliated activists, there are meaningful political differences among many of the groups. They are competing in the marketplace of ideas, and there’s nothing wrong with that. What is unfortunate, to say the least, is the sectarianism that too often keeps radical organizations from working together despite their disagreements. The FSP has a strong record of doing everything we can to build left cooperation and united fronts, which are so necessary to defending the working class and advancing its interests.
On to specifics:
The Socialist Workers Party (SWP) is the original Trotskyist party in the U.S. Since the 1960s it has moved in a reformist, opportunist, and sectarian direction. The SWP operates bureaucratically and follows the lowest level of political thinking in the labor movement. Today it is an adoring PR firm for the collapsing Cuban workers’ state and a publishing enterprise with no interest in making a revolution anywhere.
Socialist Action (SA) is an organization that came directly out of the SWP, as the FSP did, but later, several decades into the SWP’s political degeneration. SA and FSP share many ideas in common. But SA can tend toward liberalism and opportunism in mass arenas including the women’s and anti-war movements. And it considers Blacks in the United States an oppressed nationality, while FSP believes that an understanding of African Americans as a racially oppressed group is crucial to overcoming the skin-color divide in the working class.
Socialist Alternative (SAlt) is Trotskyist as well, with its roots in the Labour Party-oriented Militant tendency in Britain. Its seriousness about revolution has to be questioned thanks to its serial support for Democratic Party and pro-capitalist candidates like Bernie Sanders and Ralph Nader, who call for reforming the profit system rather than overthrowing it. Its main objective seems to be trying to use the electoral arena to add numbers to its ranks, class principles be damned. It occasionally voices support for issues relating to women. But it does not appear to appreciate that women, people of color, queers and immigrants provide essential radical leadership due to their experience of the worst that capitalism has to offer.
International Socialist Organization (ISO) also grew out of the Trotskyist milieu. Until 2013, ISO defined feminism as intrinsically bourgeois, though it said it supported women’s liberation. It is now examining this position and also its stance that race privilege does not exist within the working class. After decades of abstaining from any electoral or legislative activity, the ISO backed Ralph Nader’s Green Party campaign for president in 2000 and has run some of its own candidates under the Green label. It rarely endorses other socialist candidates.
Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) comes from Trotskyist origins too, but has a history of supporting Stalinist and “anti-imperialist” authoritarians over movements for workers’ power or democratic rights. Currently, they support the Syrian regime’s bloody crackdown against the opposition movement in that country, which began as a secular, revolutionary uprising. PSL is ultra-competitive toward other left parties, for example refusing to support their candidates and instead backing non-socialists such as Roseanne Barr and Ralph Nader for the sake of popularity.
The Revolutionary Communist Party (RCP) is the only Maoist party left in the U.S. adhering to “Mao Tse Tung Thought.” RCP theory and practice are simplistic, confused, and ultra-left. They want to fight the revolution now, without first organizing for it. This kind of mentality tends to get people hurt, because RCP never bothers to get any outside support for their political adventures. They talk a lot about “the workers,” but don’t have anything to do with the living labor movement.
The Communist Party was the first Leninist party in the United States. Today, it organizes liberals to stay liberal, and has been sunk in the mire of the Democratic Party and U.S. labor bureaucracy for decades. It is hopelessly reformist and unrelentingly bureaucratic in the mass movements.
Social-democratic organizations such as the Democratic Socialists of America regularly support Democratic Party candidates, crossing class lines and holding out the vain hope that this second of the bosses’ parties can be transformed. The Socialist Party is a hodgepodge of leftists and liberals without a clear political line or cohesive organizational structure.
In the Green Party, youth members have won passage of a platform plank decrying capitalism (and also “state socialism”), but the party’s history and current practice are not anti-capitalist. Its candidates tend to switch parties once elected and become Democrats. It lacks the strength of its own convictions, as evidenced in several presidential elections where the party faithful were asked to vote for the Democrat rather than the Green Party’s own candidate. In Germany and elsewhere, Greens have joined capitalist governments and become indistinguishable from other bourgeois parties.
How does one become a member of the FSP?
We need your brain-power, muscle-power, and talents! The first criterion for joining is agreement with the general line of the party’s program. The second is a commitment to become as active as possible in pursuing the party’s goals and carrying out its work and to contribute financially to its efforts. For more information, see Join the Freedom Socialist Party — we need you!