Over the past few months, the US Marxists of Socialist Revolution hosted a series of tremendously successful schools right across the country, as part of the International Marxist Tendency’s #CommunismOnCampus campaign. Hundreds of radical youth flocked to events in Phoenix, Minneapolis, Atlanta, New York City and Bellingham. We commend our US comrades on painting the nation red!
We have compiled reports of all the different schools here, so our international readership can get a sense of the amazing work our US section is conducting to build the forces of Marxism, right in the heart of world imperialism. Forward to socialist revolution in the USA!
The International Marxist Tendency held its first-ever Phoenix Marxist School on the weekend of September 17–18. Socialist Revolution at Arizona State University, the IMT’s student club on campus, co-hosted the event. Since the start of the academic semester, the club has made a profile for itself and a number of ASU students came to the school. The Phoenix Marxist School saw a total attendance of 37 people, looking to learn more about revolutionary socialism to fight capitalism’s impasse.
The Phoenix comrades were joined by Socialist Revolution editor John Peterson from New York. Also in attendance were comrades from Flagstaff, AZ, Texas, California, and Mexico.
All over the world, the youth are seeking a revolutionary path forward. This includes young people in Arizona’s Valley of the Sun. In recent months, Arizonans have written to our website asking to join because “capitalism isn’t working,” and “the people deserve the power, not big corporations.” The International Marxist Tendency is the only organization in the world whose slogan is “Socialism in Our Lifetime”—we are the only group with the revolutionary optimism to declare that capitalism can be swept aside now!
The school was held in the midst of the 2022 midterm elections, but this year is also the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Soviet Union. No matter how hard the bourgeoisie try, they can never erase the colossal feat of the October Revolution of 1917, the greatest event in human history.
This was the theme of comrade John Peterson’s opening talk on Saturday. He covered the legacy of the Soviet Union, the ignominious role of Stalinism and the material conditions that gave rise to it, and how Lenin’s Bolshevik Party differed from the Soviet bureaucracy that emerged later on. He also explained the basis for workers’ democracy and the withering away of the state on the basis of superabundance for all. Any serious Marxist who wishes to understand this topic should read Trotsky’s classic, The Revolution Betrayed, as well as Ted Grant’s modern analysis of the USSR and its collapse, Russia: From Revolution to Counter-Revolution.
On Saturday afternoon, the comrades discussed US Perspectives for Revolutionary Socialism in 2022. Comrade Nick Brancaccio, an IMT organizer in Phoenix, outlined the entanglement of inter-imperialist conflict between the United States and China, the war in Ukraine, the upcoming elections, and the complete lack of confidence among the youth in either the Democrats or the Republicans. In the last period, the capitalists used risky measures to extend the post-2008 economic recovery beyond its natural limits. Now, the Federal Reserve has to admit that the working class will experience “some pain” in the next period as the state attempts to combat inflation. The US ruling class has no solution that will benefit the workers or youth, because in order to fix their system, they would need to uproot it and replace it completely.
On Sunday morning, the school took up the important subject of oppression. Comrade Jon D. from Phoenix led off, explaining how only the working class united in mass action can effectively combat oppression. There is no other theory that can organize the workers for this urgent task than Marxism—not Identity Politics, Queer Theory, Post-Modernism, etc. The recent overturn of Roe v. Wade also shows that the Supreme Court is no friend to the workers. Oppression can only be defeated by the working class, united across all national, racial, ethnic, religious, gender, and other lines. Such unity can only be forged in common struggle.
Later that afternoon, comrade Jake Thorpe from California led off on the question of water rights in Arizona and the climate crisis all around the world. The western United States is experiencing the worst megadrought in over 1,200 years, which is a product of capitalist mismanagement and pollution. Many western states, like California and Arizona, have it written into their state constitutions that the public has a right to water access. However, in practice, big businesses get access first, so that cash crops like almonds get priority before people. Recent floods in Pakistan show what the future will look like for nearly one-third of the world’s population, as the planet becomes less inhabitable for all of us. What we need is a revolutionary change to combat climate change, because these crises have been created by corporations and can only be averted with a rationally planned economy under workers’ control.
For Sunday’s final session, everyone’s spirits were raised again when comrade Erica L. from Phoenix explained why a revolutionary leadership on a Bolshevik model is necessary in the United States. We face the greatest crisis of capitalism in world history. As Rosa Luxemburg described it, we are posed with the question of “socialism or barbarism.” The only way out of capitalism’s impasse is through a socialist revolution, which requires that we prepare the necessary leadership for when a revolutionary situation arises. Comrade Erica also announced that over the course of the school, the Phoenix comrades had raised a record amount for a local public event, the surplus of which will go to the IMT’s campaign for a new international office in London.
In the closing remarks, local comrade Devan C. summed up the need to build the International Marxist Tendency, after which we sang the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa. The Phoenix Marxist School was a great success and we hope to make this an annual event! Over the course of the weekend, the comrades had great discussions with new attendees who had never been to one of our events before, inviting them to join us in the fight for socialism in our lifetime.
Comrades from across the Midwest attended the Minneapolis Marxist School on the weekend of October 1 and 2. This was the first regional school here since 2019—and by far the largest—with more than 70 people registered and attending. There were comrades and contacts in attendance from IMT branches—both established and in the process of construction—in Minneapolis, St. Louis, Madison, Chicago, Sioux Falls, Des Moines, Milwaukee, Columbus, as well as a contact who flew from Hollywood, CA after hearing about the event from a friend who had seen it on social media!
Huge thanks are due to the planning committee and students who helped bring this school to fruition! Securing locations, getting lunches, and delegating tasks for the two days, the school was carefully planned for many weeks. Additionally, as has already been reported, the student club comrades had to deal with university bureaucracy, which attempted to cancel our Saturday booking.
This school was a fantastic financial success. In addition to money from registration, raffles and socials, a whopping $900 was made from book sales. There was a clear thirst for Marxist ideas. One comrade alone bought nine books!
Comrade Pete Walsh opened the school on Saturday morning describing the current impasse of capitalism, and why the US is heading towards revolution. Generation Z has no memory of a time when capitalism worked. Instead, their lives have been impacted by the decline of US capitalism, and an opening epoch of instability, revolutions, and counter revolutions. The ruling class is seriously divided, with polarization in society occurring both to the left and right. The American ruling class now suffers an acute crisis of legitimacy in all its institutions. Increasingly, the anger felt by workers and youth is being channeled into social movements and unionization efforts. A common struggle must be waged with workers, youth, and oppressed fighting shoulder-to-shoulder to end this rotten system.
On Saturday afternoon, the school discussed the question of Bolshevism versus Stalinism, 100 years after the founding of the USSR. Josh Lucker pointed out the need to understand our legacy, and what the October Revolution truly stood for. While Stalinism was basically extinguished after the fall of the Soviet Union, there has been some revival in interest in it, particularly on the internet. Stalin, and the bureaucracy that he represented, could only come to power due to the isolation and backwardness of Russia. While so-called “Marxist-Leninists” claim the legacy of the October Revolution, the reality is a river of blood separates Stalinism from it. What was needed was for the revolution to spread abroad, especially to the advanced capitalist countries, and a political revolution to overthrow the bureaucratic rule while preserving the nationalized planned economy that had been retained. This historical lesson shows why it is so important to build the International Marxist Tendency before major events unfold.
Our financial appeal at the end of Saturday was a roaring success. Comrades David and Justin gave a rousing and humor-filled appeal for the campaign for an International Center and to sacrifice for the building of the revolutionary party. Many revised their pledges higher during the course of the appeal.
Sunday morning was opened with a discussion on “Class War versus Culture War,” led off by Erika Roedl. Recent years have seen a sustained growth in class anger and frustration with the existing order, to which the ruling class can only respond with by intensifying a “culture war” to divide the working class and obfuscate who the real enemy is. On one hand, this means attacks on abortion rights, crafting of anti-LGBT laws, and fear-mongering of “CRT” to prevent the teaching of the history of slavery and racism. On the other hand, it means the encouragement of postmodernism, identity politics and related ideas in the universities. In both cases, Marxism is identified by the ruling class as the enemy. Fighting against all forms of oppression is a necessity for the class struggle, and far from being “class reductionist,” Marxism gives us the tools to understand people’s oppression and how to end it for good.
The discussion Sunday afternoon was on “Marxism versus Postcolonialism,” and how best to fight imperialism. Arman Ebrahimi explained that imperialism is a stage in capitalist development, where monopoly and finance capital give rise to the export of capital abroad and the division of the globe among multinational corporations and imperialist powers. The ruling class justifies this awful exploitation with racism and chauvinism, painting colonized peoples as backwards and needing to be “brought to civilization”. The Communist International upheld the national liberation of the colonial world, and advocated for socialist revolutions as part of an eventual world socialist federation. On the other hand, postcolonialists such as the late Edward Said turned this on its head, arguing imperialism was a result of Western notions about the East. This leads to toothless discussions of “decolonizing curricula” at best, and a defense of reactionary beliefs in colonial countries at worst. Only Marxism has a truly effective weapon against the scourge of imperialism.
The school was wrapped up with closing remarks by Pete Walsh and the singing of the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa. Overall, the school was an electrifying and joyous event, and surely raised the spirits of everyone involved, hot off the heels of an excellent Fall Offensive. The contacts at the event were very impressed and excited, and many gave pledges themselves. Forward to a far larger organization! Long live the International Marxist Tendency!
On October 22–23, Socialist Revolution organized its first-ever Southern Regional Marxist School in Atlanta, GA. The weekend was an exciting and important step forward for building the forces of Marxism in the region. 22 people attended two days of discussions on Marxism and the fight for socialism, with comrades participating from Atlanta, Dallas-Fort Worth, TX, Louisville, KY, Raleigh-Durham, NC, and Fort Mill, SC, along with comrades from Chicago and New York.
The school kicked off on Saturday with a discussion on Bolshevism vs Stalinism, in commemoration of the 100-year anniversary of the founding of the USSR. Bryce Gordon led off the discussion, explaining the significance of the Russian Revolution and the revolutionary wave that followed across Europe and the world. This was the first time in history that the working class took power and began the socialist transformation of society. But as Bryce explained, the Russian Revolution became isolated in the years that followed, and in those conditions of severe economic hardship, famine, and wartime destruction, the young workers’ state started to bureaucratize.
Despite the political counterrevolution of Stalinism, the utter superiority of a nationalized planned economy against the anarchic market economy allowed for rapid industrialization and modernization of the Soviet economy, raising living standards substantially and transforming it into a world superpower in a matter of decades. While the USSR has since collapsed, it is still vital that all Marxists understand this history, as a necessary precondition to fight for future victories.
Brandon Whitfield led off the second session on perspectives for socialist revolution in the US. He described the world situation since the end of the postwar boom and the relative decline of US imperialism. American and world capitalism are at an impasse which can be felt and observed at all levels of society. The representatives of the bourgeois are unable to stabilize the situation. Events and experience are transforming the consciousness of the working class, especially Gen Z and Millennials, who are poised to eventually transform the labor movement. The recent wave of unionization efforts by workers at Starbucks, Amazon, and elsewhere are a sign that class struggle is back on the agenda, and the prospect of revolution in the US no longer appears as a far-off perspective, but rather, a development we will see in our lifetime.
The second day opened with a discussion on Class War vs. Culture War, led off by Danielle Anderson. There has been an immense collective effort by the ruling class to confuse and divide our class with all kinds of identity politics and alien class ideas—of both the right- and “left-wing” variety. This is an example of the tactic of “divide and rule,” pursued by the ruling classes for millennia. In the US in recent years, in response to the rising tide of class struggle, there has been an attempt to blur the class line by posing political issues in “cultural” terms. This obfuscates the real problem: the capitalists and their system. The Marxists must fight to forge working-class unity and fight all forms of oppression and exploitation, and explain that the fight is tied to the overall fight for emancipation of the working class.
The second session on Sunday, led off by Ysabel, was a discussion on the climate crisis. The threat of climate change is an existential question for civilization, which can no longer be ignored. The bourgeoisie of various countries are ostensibly making pledges and commitments to do something to combat this threat, but in their actions another story is told. Various conferences and summits are held each year, but the profit motive, private ownership of the means of production, the nation state all stand as barriers to the collective human action needed to address this crisis.
This stands in complete contrast to what would be possible with a democratically planned economy under a workers’ government. The technical means to address this threat are available now, but the logic of capitalism has meant that the climate crisis has gone unaddressed for decades. Only the working class can effectively mitigate it. This is yet another reason we must rapidly build a revolutionary leadership for our class.
Finally, the last session of the weekend was a discussion on Building the Revolutionary Party, led off by Kevin Nance. Kevin explained why a revolutionary party is needed, and how the course laid out by the Bolsheviks contains the key lessons needed to apply to our work today. He explained what it means to be in a revolutionary organization, to be a cadre, and the responsibilities and skills needed to build an effective cadre organization.
Contrary to the pessimism that pervades most of society, now is the best time to be a Marxist! Revolutions are being prepared everywhere. After a period of lull in the class struggle, the Marxists are now starting to swim with the changing stream. But we must consciously build our forces in preparation for the events on the horizon. This was an inspiring, sobering discussion to close on, which laid out the tasks ahead of each one of us, and how we must take the reins in building the Marxist tendency in order to achieve socialism in our lifetime.
The school was wrapped up with an inspiring Fighting Fund Appeal which raised pledges and donations from across the region, as well as rousing renditions of the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa.
Throughout the weekend, there was enormous excitement about the progress being made in the cities represented at the school. Comrades in the American South have a long road ahead, and there is a huge amount of work to be done to build the Marxist tendency. But fueled by the ideas of Marxism, comrades will return to their cities and continue building an organization that can tap into the revolutionary potential that exists throughout the region.
On October 29–30, the New York Marxist School gathered over 130 revolutionary socialists from across the Northeast for a weekend of discussions on Marxism, class-struggle history, and the fight for socialist revolution in our lifetime.
After two years of pandemic disruption, this was the first New York Marxist School since 2019, and comrades were especially eager to hold an in-person regional event, to catch up with old comrades, and meet many new people who have joined the Marxist tendency in recent years. The NYC branches were joined by comrades from across the metro area, New Jersey, Connecticut, Philadelphia, Boston, Rhode Island, as well as delegations from Canada and Puerto Rico.
The school commenced with a discussion on the USSR. Alex Grant from Fightback, the Canadian Section of the International Marxist Tendency, led off. As Alex explained, young people across the world are turning to the ideas of communism, and in some cases reaching out to their local Communist Parties—only to find reformist-Stalinist shells of what they once were.
For Marxists, the Russian Revolution was undoubtedly the greatest event in human history, marking the first time the working class successfully took power and began the socialist transformation of society. It established the most democratic state that has ever existed. But in conditions of isolation and extreme economic backwardness, the regime of workers’ democracy established under Lenin and Trotsky was usurped by the bureaucracy around Stalin, which arose in the early 1920s. Nonetheless, the many gains of the revolution are a proud and inspiring example of what can be achieved on the basis of economic planning. And as Ted Grant once explained, the collapse of the Soviet Union was merely the prelude to a far more dramatic development: the crisis of world capitalism and the opening of a new epoch of socialist revolution, which we are preparing for today.
Antonio Balmer led off for the second session on why the US is headed towards a revolution. He explained the structural reasons why capitalist society is inherently prone to crisis, and demonstrated with many facts and figures the complete impasse of capitalist society in recent decades. Wages and conditions have been stagnating or declining for decades. Productive investment is much lower than in previous eras. Capitalism is unable to meaningfully develop the productive forces as it once did, and meanwhile, the shocks and crises of the last period are radicalizing the young generations against the system. As Antonio said, this must be the starting point for Marxists when we consider the strategy required to fight for socialism in our lifetime.
For the last session on Saturday, Tom Trottier presented on the topic of Building the Revolutionary Party. Flowing from the previous discussion, Tom explained the importance of building the organized forces of Marxism, which comrades of the IMT are pursuing across the world. Comrades from New York, Philadelphia, New Haven, and Toronto gave reports on the work of the IMT in those cities. Additionally, a comrade from the Puerto Rican delegation gave an inspiring report on the political situation on the island and how the 2019 movement showed the need for precisely the kind of Marxist leadership that comrades of the IMT are building. The day closed with a financial appeal that raised money to help sustain and expand the work of the organization, followed by a lively social.
Sunday opened with a discussion on Class War vs the Culture War, led off by Laura Brown. Laura explained the extent of the so-called culture war in the US in recent years, and what it represents. In the course of the discussion, comrades gave numerous examples of the poison of identity politics, the superiority of class-struggle methods for fighting oppression, as well as the way in which class struggle itself is capable of cutting across racial, religious, and cultural divisions.
After lunch, comrades convened for a discussion of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, led off by Mark Rahman. Drawing on extensive original research, Mark explained the significance of this “before and after” event, and how it shaped the American labor movement. As several comrades pointed out during the discussion, the missing piece in the strike was also what is needed to take the labor movement forward today: a centralized and coordinated class-struggle leadership, with roots in every city, workplace, working-class neighborhood. With rail workers again entering the road of struggle, and a massive strike possible in the coming weeks, there are many vital lessons to be learned from past struggles.
With this in mind, comrades of Socialist Revolution recorded a message in solidarity with the railway workers who are again gearing up for a potential strike in the coming weeks, after several major unions in the industry rejected the tentative agreement.
The school ended with some inspiring closing comments by John Peterson, who emphasized that the key takeaway from the whole event is the need to urgently build the Marxist tendency in the Northeast and everywhere else. As John pointed out, the very first New York Marxist School happened 15 years ago, starting with a very small handful of people. But while the US Marxists have made important progress in recent years, there is still a long way to go.
John spoke to the fact that the development of revolution is nonlinear, and the 2020 BLM uprising expended a lot of societal energy. Large numbers of people in US society are severely demoralized and pessimistic at the present time. But by virtue of the method of dialectical materialism, which allows us to see beyond the surface appearance of things, the Marxists are filled with revolutionary optimism. The ruling class is fundamentally unable to stabilize their decaying system, and so it is only a matter of time until the working class again seeks to take matters into its own hands, drawing on the lessons and experiences, the victories and defeats of the past. This is why we need all hands on deck in our efforts to build the IMT in advance.
On December 3–4, more than 50 revolutionary socialists attended the first-ever Bellingham Marxist School in Washington state. It was a weekend of inspiring discussions and several firsts for the IMT in the Pacific Northwest.
This marks an enormous success and stepping stone for our work in the region, which has recently experienced rapid growth. It was also the most successful school the IMT has ever held on the West Coast, both in quantity of attendees and quality of discussion, reflecting the firm ground upon which we are now building across the West.
Participants included comrades from Los Angeles, San Diego, Northern California, Oregon, Utah, Idaho, New York, and Seattle, along with contacts and members from across the state of Washington. In addition to this excellent US attendance, comrades also hosted enthusiastic delegations coming across the border from Vancouver and Victoria in Canada.
The school convened in the midst of ongoing developments around several extremely significant and inspiring labor struggles in the US, many of which Socialist Revolution comrades have been involved and intervening in. With class-struggle fightback on the rise, so-called “socialists” in Congress serving as strikebreakers, and the circus of the two capitalist parties in the US on full display in the recent midterm elections, the need for Marxist ideas and militant methods is sharply evident.
The opening session kicked off Saturday morning, on the topic of “Bolshevism vs. Stalinism: 100 Years Since Founding of the USSR.” This discussion was led off by Bryce Gordon, who emphasized the fundamental Marxist approach to theory as a distillation of the experience of past struggles.
For Marxists, the October Revolution of 1917 is the single most important event in human history. For the first time, the working class and oppressed not only rebelled against their exploiters and tossed them out of power, but also took power into their own hands and established a new society on the foundations of socialized property and a planned economy. The question of the legacy of the USSR is therefore of critical importance for Marxists.
As the crisis of capitalism polarizes society, “alternative” political trends of all stripes are seeing a revival, including Stalinism—a caricature of genuine Marxism that ossifies its revolutionary method. Reducing Marxism to a dogma, Stalinism obfuscates the vital lessons of past revolutionary triumphs and failures, constructing a revisionist history that acts as an apologia for totalitarianism and political opportunism. Setting the record straight on the reasons for the Russian Revolution’s degeneration, the roots of Soviet bureaucracy, and the Stalinist counterrevolution, the discussion laid bare pivotal lessons. A revolution can only ensure its success by spreading across national borders, and an international revolutionary leadership must be built in advance of the developments that will place social revolution within the grasp of the working class. Building this very leadership is the goal of the International Marxist Tendency.
On Saturday afternoon, participants discussed the paralyzing crisis of US capitalism, which will inexorably move towards revolutionary developments. Led off on by Drew Merkel, this session elucidated the factors in the US that have led to a sharpening of class struggle across the board.
The past year has seen growing militancy among American workers, with actions taken at Trader Joe’s, Starbucks, Amazon, Apple, state universities, and beyond. Along with these signs that the slumbering giant of the US working class is stirring under the weight of repeated attacks and brutal inflation, the complete impasse of the American political system, with no viable working class platform on offer, assures that no serious answers will be found at the ballot box.
While 85% of Americans feel the country is “on the wrong track,” the youth, in particular, are actively seeking alternatives to the status quo. Unable to overturn the capitalist basis of the system that placed them in power, the two major parties have no answers to fix the economy. Any attempt to restabilize their economic system will only destabilize the social and political situation. This is a recipe for heightened class struggle in the next period, as their actions continually fall short of what they promise, what’s needed, and what’s possible if the workers move to take power for themselves.
Following an evening of camaraderie and lively informal discussion, the next sessions took place the next day, beginning with a discussion led off by comrade Krissy McGonnigle on the Marxist solution to oppression and the so-called “culture war”.
In the afternoon, the school launched into a discussion on the looming threat of climate change and the Marxist solution to it, led off on by Jake Thorp from California. Examining recent climate disasters around the world, clear patterns began to emerge. In Pakistan, a storm hit levees and dams that had gone unmaintained due to austerity. The resulting flooding ravaged villages and camps set up by poor workers already suffering from a deep economic recession. In Jackson, Mississippi, working people already contending with a lack of potable water due to failing infrastructure were hit with disastrous floods, leading to further contamination and subsequent insistence by the governor that the system ought to be privatized.
Record numbers of tornadoes have caused mayhem among economically depressed regions in the South, where the population is largely unaccustomed to dealing with such storms. The driving point of the discussion was clear: climate struggle is class struggle! Everywhere one examines a case of climate disaster, the class struggle is already there, leaving ordinary people vulnerable and reeling from the one-two punch of capitalist-driven disasters. Only a planned economy under democratic workers’ control is capable of appropriating and administering the resources required to ameliorate and eventually reverse climate change.
Our final session was on the need for a new, American Bolshevik party to lead the way in future revolutionary struggles, led off by Jesse Worland. Simply put, a major role of Marxists today is to retie the knot of history. Many of the militant-struggle traditions of the US working class have been forgotten, though not entirely lost. As the memory of the working class, Marxists have an implacable revolutionary optimism towards the future and a sense of proportion gained from taking the “long view of history.”
Basing ourselves on the best traditions of the Bolsheviks and other revolutionaries who came before us, this discussion centered on what kind of leadership is needed to steer the working class to victory. We need cadres painstakingly trained and organized before the onset of big events, working tirelessly to position ourselves to be in eventual lockstep with the coming revolutionary movement of the working class. It’s only with this patient preparation and enthusiastic participation in the class struggle that we will earn our place as leaders of the future American Socialist Revolution.
Finally, the school wrapped up with a financial appeal that doubled the target comrades had hoped to raise! With rousing singing of the Internationale and Bandiera Rossa, we brought the electrifying, first-ever Bellingham Marxist School to an end. This also marked the close of our enormously successful nationwide series of Marxist schools this year. The hundreds of comrades from across North America who have taken part in these discussions are brimming with confidence, eager to see what 2023 holds, as we reach new, fertile ground for Marxist ideas to take root! If you would like to attend future schools such as these and are eager to join the fight for socialism in our lifetime, contact us today!