The US section of the International Marxist Tendency held its largest-ever National Congress on the weekend of October 9 and 10. As the morning sun lit up the bright fall-colored foliage around the Pittsburgh Congress venue, 170 delegates and comrades filed into the meeting hall to take their seats.
The participants were buzzing with energy, and not only due to the wonderful services of the comrades running the espresso bar. It was the first time we were able to organize an in-person national gathering of the IMT since the start of the pandemic nearly two years ago, and the mood was one of jubilation.
A period of rapid growth
Since the start of 2020, the organization has doubled in size and expanded to dozens of new cities. After long months of holding meetings primarily virtually, comrades were elated to come together in person and celebrate the immense progress that has been made since the last Congress.
With comrades in attendance from over 50 cities and 29 states, the event provided a glimpse of the truly national scope of the organization, which has begun to sink roots in every corner of the country. Of special significance was the participation of several delegations from the South, which has been the fastest-growing region of the organization in the last period. For the first time, there were comrades in attendance who had travelled from Atlanta, Georgia; Raleigh, Durham, Greensboro, and Asheville in North Carolina; Fort Mill, South Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Washington, DC and the surrounding Virginia area; Austin, Dallas, and Houston in Texas; and Tulsa, Oklahoma.
There were also first-time delegations and participants from a dozen other new cities from coast-to-coast—quite literally from Portland, Oregon to Portland, Maine. In addition to the many cities where comrades have begun the work of building new branches, some of these efforts have already yielded such rapid success that the newly-built branches qualified for voting delegates, as in the case of Chicago, Seattle, Portland, Detroit, Ann Arbor, Flint, New Haven, and Providence.
Given the spectacular growth of the IMT in the recent period, over half of the US population now lives in a metropolitan area where the organization has a presence. This represents an important achievement in the vast continental expanse of the US, and our nationwide reach was keenly felt by the participants, who mingled with comrades from every region of the continental US between sessions.
When the delegates had all settled into their seats, comrade Laura Brown stepped up to the speakers’ platform to call the meeting to order and deliver the opening comments. The bright colored banner hanging on the wall behind her echoed the ever-present theme of the weekend’s sessions: “Marxism on the Rise!”
After recognizing the delegates and highlighting the growth of the organization since the last Congress, Laura took a moment to honor the legacy of those comrades who are no longer with us by asking for a minute of silence. As an example, the COVID-19 pandemic and its criminal mishandling by the capitalists and their states took the lives of two leading comrades of the International: Hans-Gerd Öfinger, a founding member and leader of the German section of the IMT, and Roque Ferreira, a leading member of the Brazilian section. The Congress also recognized the loss of comrade Alfredo Peña, who was a founding member of the NYC branch and a life-long militant class fighter. Laura pointed out that if the comrades had been at the event, they would have been glowing with pride to see the progress that has been made in the growing forces of revolutionary Marxism in the belly of the beast of world capitalism.
After the introductory comments, it was time for international greetings. Normally, a comrade from the International Secretariat in London would have been in attendance to lead off the morning session on World Perspectives. Unfortunately, federal travel restrictions made it impossible for comrades from other countries to join us in person this year. However, warm video greetings and interventions were transmitted from various sections of the IMT around the world—a powerful reminder that we are by no means an International in name only! Thanks to the professional work of the comrades on the AV team, and equipped with a projector and sound system, it felt almost as if the comrades from the International were there in the hall with us.
Comrade Oleg Bulaev spoke on the situation in Russia, highlighting the growing popularity of the Communist Party in lockstep with the declining approval ratings of Vladimir Putin. The changing tide of the class struggle will open up many opportunities for our comrades in the land of Lenin and Trotsky. Next up was Adam Pal, who delivered a detailed report on the events in Afghanistan and the ignominious defeat of US imperialism after two decades of disastrous occupation and hundreds of thousands of lives lost.
Our whirlwind tour of the global capitalist crisis then took us to Latin America, where Caio Dezorzi addressed the Congress from São Paulo. Caio spoke of the havoc wrought by the pandemic and exacerbated by the government of Bolsonaro. The “Fora Bolsonaro!” slogan, initially launched by our Brazilian comrades of Esquerda Marxista, has gained a broad echo for good reason! Jorge Martín then spoke on the critical situation in Cuba and the need for an international struggle to defend the revolution against the mortal threat of capitalist restoration.
Up next was Rob Sewell who reported on the civil war in the British Labour Party, where the comrades of Socialist Appeal have stood firm and are quickly becoming a reference point for the revolutionary youth in Britain.
Finally, Fred Weston delivered greetings on behalf of the International Secretariat in London and presented a brief update on the many hot spots of the class struggle around the world. He touched on recent events in Afghanistan, Russia, China, and on the changes unfolding in the consciousness of the working class in one country after another. The general picture of the global situation is as somber for the ruling class as it is promising for revolutionary Marxists—there has never been a better time for our ideas to take root around the world!
Perspectives for revolutionary socialism in the US
After concluding the session on World Perspectives, John Peterson, Editor of Socialist Revolution, took the stage to lead off the discussion on US Perspectives. Presenting a sweeping overview of the changes that have reshaped the political landscape in recent decades, John explained the underlying conditions that gave rise to Trumpism on the one hand, and a reborn socialist movement on the other.
Ultimately, the historical impasse of the capitalist system—and of American capitalism in particular—is the driving force behind the rise of revolutionary ideas among the young generation. The crises and contradictions of our time stem from the fact that this system should have been overthrown over a century ago. Profit-driven production for the market and the constraints of the nation state have long outgrown their ability to take humanity as a whole forward. This is clearly demonstrated by the climate catastrophe, and the capitalist class’s impotence when dealing with the urgent and dramatic measures demanded by the situation.
Meanwhile, billionaires like Jeff Bezos have accumulated such obscene wealth that they are toying with leaving the world and its problems behind, by embarking on recreational space voyages. Coupled with such mind-boggling wealth disparities, declining living standards, the pandemic, and the earth-shaking events of the George Floyd movement, it is not hard to see why the process of class struggle is intensifying. John spoke about the growing wave of strike activity at companies like Kellogs, Nabisco, and among construction workers in the Pacific Northwest. The militancy of those organized in IATSE, whose 60,000 members authorized a strike by a virtually unanimous vote, shows that the stage is being set for a rise in open class struggle on a scale we’ve not seen in living memory.
Last summer’s mass movement against systemic racism and police terror was the most momentous event of 2020, and marks a turning point in US history. It was an inspiring and unprecedented outpouring of solidarity, and a sign of the kind of mass struggles in store in the years ahead. As stated in the US Perspectives document, the centerpiece of the discussions on day one:
The events of the last few years can leave no doubt that we have well and truly entered the epoch of the world revolution. With last summer’s George Floyd movement, American workers have had a glimpse at their revolutionary potential and future. If a strong Marxist organization with roots in the key industries and layers of the working class had been in position across the US last summer, 2020 could have marked the beginning of the end for world capitalism.
John’s remarks were followed by a lively discussion by the delegates, all of whom added various angles and debated the amendments which the branches had submitted to the draft document. The session was a culmination of a months-long exchange of ideas within the organization, aimed at producing the highest quality perspectives document to date. After the delegates voted on the various amendments, the final draft was put to a vote and approved unanimously by the Congress.
Raising resources for the work of the IMT
The US Perspectives session was followed by a thorough report on the work of the IMT around the world, delivered once again by Fred Weston via video. Comrades were inspired to hear about the growth of so many sections of the International, and the many new footholds we are establishing in one country after another.
To close out the first day of the Congress, comrade Pete Walsh gave an inspiring launch to an organization-wide dues-increase campaign. Pete explained that much of our recent progress comes down to our ability to harness the opportunities implicit in the objective situation, and it takes material resources to do this. In light of the many ordeals faced by revolutionaries throughout history, the act of digging deep to collectively finance our activities presents us with a more bearable burden—an additional sacrifice many comrades were willing to make.
After all, the capitalists will never fund the force that will overthrow them, and our financial independence guarantees our political independence! We are beholden only to our comrades, our program, and the ideas of Marxism!
After a successful first day filled with much discussion, learning, debate, and applause, it was time for an evening of food, drinks, camaraderie, and revolutionary singing.
Comrades gathered outside for booming renditions of “Solidarity Forever,” “Bella Ciao,” “Das Einheitsfrontlied,” and many other songs which brought the world socialist movement ringing out into the Pittsburgh night.
Building camaraderie and singing revolutionary songs at our National Congress in Pittsburgh last weekend! Solidarity forever ✊ pic.twitter.com/JZ817KfEI6— Socialist Revolution (@usimt) October 14, 2021
American Bolshevism in the 2020s: the road to revolution
Day two was dedicated to the topic of Bolshevism and the concrete tasks facing Marxists in the US at the present juncture. Antonio Balmer kicked off the first session with an overview of the development of the IMT over the last period, and organizational perspectives for the decade ahead of us.
The US section of the IMT began in 1998 as the undertaking of a single cadre living in Fargo, North Dakota, armed only with the ideas and methods of the International, and confidence that great historic events would confirm our perspectives. Since then, the IMT has steadily spread from coast to coast, laying the foundations for the type of organization that can assemble around its banner the most serious of the leftward moving revolutionary youth of this generation.
While previous decades presented major challenges in the spreading of Marxist ideas, today we see that the tide has turned decisively among the layer of the working class that has grown up in the post-2008 era. The past decade has revealed a clear leftward trajectory: from the vague class content of the Occupy movement’s “We are the 99%”; to the rise of the liberal reformism of modern-day “democratic socialism”; to the rising interest in unequivocally revolutionary ideas. Today, Marxism is viewed favorably by 27% of Millennials and 30% of Gen Z. Translated into hard numbers, these statistics suggest that some 39 million young people are open to the ideas defended by the IMT!
However, these tens of millions of young people remain largely isolated and atomized. Our task is to transform this radicalization from an amorphous undercurrent into an organized and disciplined political force that can play the role of an enormous transmission belt for carrying revolutionary ideas into the struggles of the working class. The 2021 Organizational Resolution, which was also debated and approved unanimously by the delegates, highlighted the legacy and modern relevance of Bolshevism as a method for training the cadres who will act as a backbone and a skeletal framework for a much larger organization down the road.
The subsequent afternoon sessions then delved into the specific platforms of our work nationally, giving the comrades a chance to hear reports of our activities in the labor movement, on picket lines, with other organizations in the movement, and among the youth on campuses across the country. The sessions gave a general picture of an active and energetic cadre organization that is picking up steam and learning to sink roots among a broader layer of the working class. As our branches grow and develop, they become increasingly efficient training grounds for the political education of new comrades, who receive a grounding in the foundations of Marxism and the basic skills and methods for building the branches.
John Peterson delivered the closing comments to bring the Congress to a rousing finale. Drawing from the Hegel quote that opens our US Perspectives document, John highlighted the idea that “our epoch is a birth-time and a period of transition.” We are on the threshold of a new dawn “which, in a flash and at a single stroke, brings into view the form and structure of the new world”—the dawn of world socialism.
It is our great fortune to be fighting for the socialist revolution at a time when history is preparing a mass audience for Marxist ideas. John recalled the words of the poet William Wordsworth, who took inspiration from the experience of the Great French Revolution: “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive. But to be young was very heaven!” These words capture the sense of revolutionary optimism that drives our fight for socialism in our lifetime.
Comrade John’s closing remarks were met with a standing ovation and a heartfelt eruption into the Internationale—the anthem of the world working class. After such an inspiring and energizing event, it was hard for many to say their goodbyes and part ways. But comrades journeyed back to their cities with a redoubled commitment and a sense of urgency for the political tasks before us, as well as an eager excitement to see how much bigger our next national gathering will be.
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