“The real purpose of socialism is to advance above and beyond the predatory environment. … The economic anarchy of capitalism is, in my opinion, the real source of evil.”
-Albert Einstein, Time magazine’s Man of the Century
The turn of the century is a mathematical calculation. But the changing of the age is a social and political development. Therefore, we do not know yet exactly when the 21st century will actually begin, although we can already see its probable outlines.
The 20th century, in the historical sense, began with the first Russian revolution, in 1905. It was that event that exploded illusions that steady growth of the capitalist system would lead to a solution of humanity’s major problems.
The culmination of the revolutionary process that opened in 1905 was the Russian socialist revolution of 1917. That event opened an age of rebellion against the world capitalist system, an age of mass revolutionary struggles either explicitly or implicitly for socialism.
But the momentum of the Russian victory was broken, and a conservative bureaucratic caste arose that lived off the collective economic institutions created by the revolution while it sought more and more to divert them to serving its selfish interests.
The logic of this process first expressed itself as an attempt to make an accommodation with world capitalism-ie., “socialism in one country” and “peaceful coexistence.” The latter part of the 20th century saw the culmination of this counterrevolutionary process; a more and more consistently reformist orientation on the part of the Communist Party leaderships dependent on the ruling bureaucracies, and finally a decisive shift of these bureaucracies toward openly restoring capitalism.
It may be said that this turn by the ruling bureaucracies was the real end of the 20th century. But it has not eliminated the changes in the world caused by the rise of revolution nor ushered in a new age of capitalist stability like that ended by the Russian revolution of 1905.
The capitalist “prosperity” of the end of the 20th century is precarious and marked by explosive contradictions. The collapse of its Southeast Asian showcase has already led to the opening of a new revolutionary process in the world’s fourth largest country, Indonesia. In the developed capitalist world itself, important new working-class offensives have developed in France. And the countries ruled by the Stalinist bureaucracies are in deep crisis.
Thus, it appears likely that the real beginning of the 21st century will be marked by another breakthrough of the socialist revolution. The preparations for that are underway now with the building of renewed revolutionary leaderships. That is the work that Socialist Action and its cothinkers in many countries are engaged in.
Defend NY Transit Workers
On Dec. 14, the governments of New York City and the state of New York imposed unprecedented restraining orders upon Transport Workers Union Local 100 and its membership. Although the city’s order was lifted on Dec. 22, the state’s order remains in effect.
Draconian fines were threatened if the transit union strikes or if any member advocates a strike or work stoppage. This action was taken to ram a concessionary contract down the throats of the transit workers. On Dec. 15, the contract was approved by a narrow margin in the union’s executive committee, and the membership is scheduled to vote on it this month.
The injunctions also instructed the union officials (who are more than willing to comply) to act as finks and report any members of the union that may advocate a strike or other work stoppage to the authorities. They actually gave union officials the power to remove anybody from the union who advocates any alternative course of action that may be necessary to secure a non-concessionary contract.
The restraining orders were designed not only to prevent a free discussion of the issues within the transit union but also as leverage in upcoming contract talks with other municipal unions.
The fines are so large that if the transit workers vote down the contract and then refuse to work without a contract that protects and insures their rights to a safe workplace, the government can impose the fines to force the workers back to work and make them indentured to the state for life!
This action is a direct violation of the First Amendment of the Bill of Rights, which guarantees free speech, and the 13th and 14th Amendments against slavery. All supporters of the right to strike and defenders of civil liberties should mobilize to defend the transit workers and to oppose the action of the New York city and state governments.