Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL): “What We Stand For” (1984)


Program in Brief of the Revolutionary Socialist League

1. The REVOLUTIONARY SOCIALIST LEAGUE is an organization dedicated to the fight for freedom for all the world’s people – freedom from poverty and hunger; from racism and all forms of national, sexual, age and class-related oppression; from privileged rulers and wars – freedom from capitalism.

We believe that that this fight is more necessary than ever. Today, the world capitalist system is sliding deeper and deeper into a massive economic, political and social crisis. This crisis is bringing conditions as bad as or worse than the Great Depression of the 1930s. In all countries, the ruling classes are responding to the crisis by bludgeoning down the living standards of the masses of people and curtailing our rights. Unemployment and wage-cutting, cutbacks in social services and a beefing up of the repressive apparatus – the police, military, prisons, etc. ­ – all are part of the capitalist attack. As in the 1930s, the crisis is paving the way for the rise of fascist groups eager to impose their genocidal solution on humanity.

Internationally, the crisis will cause the battles among the different blocks of national capitalists to flare into full-scale wars, as each seeks to defend and increase its power, markets, investment outlets and control of natural resources against the others. Twice already in this century the capitalists have fought devastating world wars, in which millions of people have died. Now, with this development of huge nuclear arsenals capable of blowing up the planet hundreds of times over, human civilization itself hangs in the balance.

Thus the continued existence if the capitalist system is pushing us closer every day to depression, fascism, world war and possibly total destruction.

2. We in the RSL believe there is an alternative to all of this. That alternative lies in the workers, small farmers, peasants, unemployed, national and other oppressed minorities, youth, women, lesbians and gay men – in sum, the downtrodden and persecuted people of every society – uniting together to overthrow our common enemy, the capitalist system, and establish SOCIALISM.

This will require a REVOLUTION in which the masses of people fight to seize control of the governments, banks, means of transportation and communication, factories, fields, mills and mines. A revolution would also have to smash the capitalists’ state apparatus: their police and armed forces, their courts and prisons, their political bodies (legislatures, congresses, parliaments, etc.) and mammoth bureaucracies, and other institutions of capitalist class rule.

While such revolutions are most likely to develop on a national basis, we believe that to be successful they must become worldwide in scope. Capitalism is an international system, with a world economy and a world market. Only through an international socialist revolution can the workers and their allies eliminate all capitalist oppression and have access to the human, natural and technical resources necessary to solve the problems confronting human society.

3. In place of the dictatorship of the capitalists, the RSL believes working and oppressed people can build a cooperative, humane world society. Run by workers’ councils and other mass organizations of farmers, women, soldiers and specially oppressed groups, the new society would provide the fullest democracy for the vast majority of people while ruthlessly suppressing the capitalists and those who seek to get ahead by stepping on the backs of others.

Although the destructive legacy of capitalism would be severe, a truly democratic, mass-controlled government could begin to reorganize society to fulfill human needs, not provide a privileged existence for tiny elites. Resources currently thrown into the military, for example, could be used to end hunger, build housing, schools, roads, etc. The workweek could be shortened, creating jobs for millions of unemployed people.

In ways such as these, the inequality and scarcity that lie at the heart of capitalism’s dog-eat-dog competitiveness could be eliminated. People would increasingly have no reason to get over on others, and the material basis of classes, the state, racism, sexism and anti-gay bigotry would disappear. Increasingly, everyone would have the time and opportunity to develop their full human potential: everyone would become truly FREE, able to control their own destinies.

This is our vision of SOCIALISM. It will not be easy to achieve. And it is not inevitable –­ people have to want it and fight for it. But we believe it is the only alternative worth fighting for.

4. Socialism does not exist anywhere in the world today. What is called socialism in countries like Russia, China, Cuba, Albania, Poland, etc. is state capitalism, a 20th century variation of traditional, private shareholding capitalism. In the state-capitalist (often called Stalinist) countries, as in the “regular” capitalist nations, a small elite dominates society, making all the decisions and reaping all the benefits. Working and oppressed people have no more control of the factories and other workplaces, the economy, the government or anything else than do workers in traditional capitalist countries. The state-capitalist ruling class controls the state apparatus and nationalized industry, while the workers are in the position of being wage slaves, chained to a giant capitalist machine.

In these countries – as in all countries of the world – REVOLUTION is the only way to establish real socialism and win freedom for all working and oppressed people.

At a time when the struggle between the world’s two main imperialist powers, the U.S. and the U.S.S.R., is being portrayed wrongly as one between capitalism and socialism, democracy and totalitarianism, the RSL believes it is more important than ever to take a clear stand in opposition to capitalism in all its forms and to fight for a revolutionary, libertarian vision of socialism.

5. In the coming period, as the capitalist crisis intensifies, we expect mass movements and mass struggles – both of the right and the left – to break out with increasing frequency around the world. The question is: Will these upheavals lead to fascist dictatorships, state-capitalist transformations, a new world war – or an international socialist revolution that puts all the capitalist garbage behind us?

The RSL believes that the last outcome can be brought to pass only with the active intervention and political leadership of a disciplined international revolutionary working class party. This party, and its sections in countries around the world, is needed to educate and organize workers and other oppressed people about the cause of their misery and the solution to it; to work in different movements and struggles to increase the class-consciousness and militancy of their participants; to combat reformist, social-democratic, state-capitalist, fascist and other leaderships that would derail mass, popular struggles and lead them to certain defeat; and to help unite the different forces oppressed by capitalism into a massive assault on the system.

The existence of revolutionary working class parties does not guarantee victory. But without them, the more-organized and powerful enemies of socialist revolution will surely triumph.

The RSL considers the construction of a revolutionary party in the U.S. and around the world to be our main strategic task. In so doing, we reject any and all elitist notions that have come to be associated with such parties: that the party stands separate from and above the working class; that the party may use any method, no matter how base or dishonest, to gain leadership of the masses in struggle; that its goal is to form a one-party state within a supposedly socialist society. Our goal is a society where human beings can consciously shape their own existence; we see a revolutionary party simply as the vehicle through which this can be made possible.

6. As an organization based in the U.S., it is our special task to fight U.S. imperialism’s domination and exploitation of the peoples of the world, and to support working and oppressed people of all countries in their struggles for self-determination and freedom. We stand for the immediate and unconditional independence of all U.S. colonial holdings: Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands and the islands of the Pacific. We also demand the immediate withdrawal of U.S. troops and military installations in the Caribbean, Central and South America, Asia, Europe, Africa, the Middle East – everywhere. Within the U.S. we support the right to self-determination for Native Americans, Blacks, Latinos of the Southwest, and other oppressed groups.

7. The RSL identifies itself in the tradition of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky, particularly the pioneering theoretical work of Marx and Engels; the conception of the party, the stress on the importance of national liberation struggles and the anti-statism shown in The State and Revolution of Lenin; and the fight against Stalinism of Trotsky. But we also identify with the best of anarchism, particularly its libertarian spirit. And we hold in no less regard those leaders throughout the ages who have fought against various forms of exploitation and oppression: from Spartacus to Harriet Tubman, from Emiliano Zapata to Malcolm X.

We believe it is crucial for the left to rid itself of the state-capitalist baggage which it has carried for too long. To do so requires a careful evaluation of the theoretical underpinnings of the modern left, from Marx to the Russian Revolution to the current day. Only in this way can the best of our heritage – the fight against oppression and for revolutionary socialism – be preserved and the worst of it – an infatuation with technocratic planning and strong states – be discarded. Revolutionaries must be the vanguard in the fight for common decency and true freedom. It is to that fight the RSL is committed, body and soul. Join us!

& & &

“Where to find us:” At the bottom is a box which lists the RSL’s National Office in New York City, branches in Chicago, Cincinnati, Detroit, Los Angeles, New Orleans and San Francisco, and their Caribbean affiliate, the Revolutionary Marxist League of Jamaica, in Kingston.

= = =

from the RSL newspaper The Torch, December 15, 1984–January 14, 1985, p 11.


RADICAL ARCHIVES note: See my comments at the bottom of this post for more on the history of the RSL and its relationship to anarchism, especially Love & Rage.

2 Responses to “Revolutionary Socialist League (RSL): “What We Stand For” (1984)”

  1. 1 Poumista April 30, 2010 at 8:12 pm

    Thanks so much for posting this stuff. Fascinating.

  1. 1 Neues aus den Archiven der radikalen (und nicht so radikalen) Linken « Entdinglichung Trackback on May 4, 2010 at 9:49 am

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