February 29, 2012

On Pham Binh’s “Occupy and the tasks of the Socialists”: Maintaining a Correct Analysis of the Occupy Movement


The present pamphlet was composed December 2011 into February 2012. After a year of tremendous economic and political turmoil at home and abroad, coupled with the initial upswing of the Occupy protests, class struggle began to come out into the political arena. While we cannot speak deeply of the specific nature of class struggles going on in various other countries, the events which occurred within the United States ushered in a new age of socialist revival in grassroots politics that hitherto have been mostly non-existent. Despite the financial crisis and the political acceptance of anarchist and socialist politics, the American socialists have demonstrated their incompetence. The American Party of Labor has published this analysis for two reasons.

Firstly; in the wake of the recent tide of spontaneous forms of struggle that characterized the Occupy movement as well as the wave of labor battles that preceded it, came vicious attacks on the working class in the form of union-busting measures, anti-immigration laws, and attacks on women’s rights. However, despite destitution of the so-called socialists of our country, the working class was able to demonstrate a steadfastness that could withstand these blows and became invigorated with a fighting spirit previously unseen since the 1930's. Only now has the socialist movement begun to take the working classes burdens seriously and is for this reason an exposition was necessary. 

Secondly; despite an increase in the class consciousness of the American proletariat, that has in some respects, lagged behind the proletariat of the other imperialist countries, there was almost a complete absence of any sort of Marxist analysis coming from the “socialist” parties. Here and there, we saw a brief elucidation of this or that struggle, but our “Marxists” failed to grasp the overall significance. In step with this (or perhaps a direct consequence) dialectical materialist analysis was replaced with a tailing of the movement, or conclusions that would project the blame of these organizations on to the proletariat, who they claim were unable to grasp their secular doctrines. What was actually the case however was the inability to understand the unfolding of the movement and consequently an inability to give such clarification to the working class. Tactics suffered as a result and the entire socialist movement found itself marginalized, unable to link itself up with the masses, nor was it able to properly criticize the banal inklings spewing from the propaganda of such so-called socialist organizations.

It would appear that in these past years of development, our “Marxists” have forgotten (or perhaps failed to inherit) what being a Marxist actually entailed. They forgot that in analyzing the course of development in general, the course of our practice is revealed. They forgot that simply writing about this or that struggle is but one small aspect of the overall revolutionary process.

We will later go on to show how it was precisely this ignorance among the American Marxists that lead to their own degradation, as well as the degradation of the labor elements involved with the present social movements that have been afforded the excellent leverage point of anti-capitalist fervor. It was our duty to elucidate what was really going on, in a Marxist way, and to use these conclusions that would eventually serve as the basis for the formation of revolutionary forces, and to prepare these forces for the ultimate aim of seizing political power.

Having closely examined these new historical developments, participating in them, learning from their errors as well as our own, the American Party of Labor has found it pertinent to bring forth our conclusions in an attempt to bring attention to the labor movements overall weakness, so as to overcome them and the primitiveness of tactics that our so-called “Marxists” engendered. In addition, it too is our aim to lend such conclusions to these groups to help them come to terms with that fact that their revisionism is the actual cause of the overall alienation of otherwise revolutionary Marxists from the working class in particular, and the social movement in general.

Concerning an Article Published by the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal

On December 14th 2011, an article was published by a fairly known “socialist” named Phan Binh entitled, “Occupy and the tasks of Socialists” which, despite being the first attempt at a serious analysis and criticism of the socialist movement and making some valid points, perfectly captures the malady of opportunist trends and revisionist ideology that has characterized the American socialist movement in the past three decades. It is for this reason it must be dealt with in length, for it is exactly this dialogue that the socialist movement has been lacking. Yet Binh irresponsibly handles it. We wish to demonstrate how Binh uses Marxist conclusions and uses them to mask opportunism and at the same time derive proper conclusions from his otherwise correct premises.

The Class Character of the Occupy Protests and Marxist Stubbornness in regards to its "Impure" Character

Binh’s article begins with a vague claim that the Occupy movement presents the opportunity for a “remerge” of socialist groups in the United States (we will deal with this call later on in the article). He goes on to say that the “Socialist Left” as he calls it, has not yet begun to consider the big picture implications of the Occupy movement, nor has it been able to aptly adapt to its rapid development. That, as a result, the “Socialist Left” has been bowing to the spontaneity of the movement rather than making attempts to, or winning a leadership role.

Binh goes on to rightfully distinguish the Occupy movement and some other movements that have been taking place in the United States in the past decade, which the author claims have been the sole product of liberal elements. It is important here to point out that in an attempt to make a class analysis he completely misses the mark by neglecting such struggles as the Madison protests, the nationwide teachers strikes and the immigrant rights struggle, all of which were, despite liberal leadership and derailment, proletarian in class character. We mention this for the sole purpose of clarifying that this strain of labor protests differed for two reasons:

1) None of these labor struggles adopted a mass character as the Occupy movement did, and

2) The Occupy movement, while drawing masses of workers into the struggle, was not primarily proletarian.

Binh goes further to explain that in this past decade, militancy was the sole product of the anarchists, which is true insofar as the anti-globalization protests go (albeit, it would be more correct to call these “militant actions” adventurism). Despite this, the only fruit of such struggles were arrests and extensive police brutality that is the distinguishing consequence of any prospect where the Black Bloc is in a leading role. What’s further, the working class has little to no part in any of these demonstrations, for prior to 2009, the financial crisis had not yet taken such acuteness to the point where the working class was enticed to participate in such actions. It was during this time that a “lifestyle” trend was highly popular in anarchist circles, which quite ironically would equip them with the training needed to prolonged occupations that were to become the leading form of struggle within the Occupy movement. It should come to no surprise then that the anarchists would emerge as the Occupy movement’s de-facto leadership, precisely because they were not only able to camp out at these locations but were able to train other participants in their methods and organization, which would serve to extend the movement all across the country. One factor in the “Socialist Left’s” inability to win outright leadership was due to the fact that, at this time, the socialists had still confined themselves to “The Crisis of Theory” where inward fighting among various socialist groups, as well as their self-education, was the order of the day. But not a word of this comes from Binh.

The previous point brings us to direct confrontation with Binh’s initial conclusion that the Occupy movement “… mobilised more workers and oppressed people in four weeks than the entire socialist left combined has in four decades.” Given the fact that the individual occupations required consistent and prolonged presence in a particular area at once excluded full-time participation of core proletarian elements for the simple fact that a great part of them were working, thus being able to engage in them if they were too far from their locality (many occupations were situated in rich areas). This is not to imply there was a complete absence of the working class, as there clearly were proletarian elements. Many unions participated, cycled membership, provided funds, and even lead key struggles that occurred during the course of the movement. Furthermore, many of the working class desired to be active participants for the movement’s vague anti-capitalist nature for it tied directly to the low wages and alarming rates of unemployment the American working class is currently still faced with. No, the great majority of Occupy and its leadership actually consisted of petty-bourgeois elements who carried with them their political prejudices, most of whom found “radical” expression in the anarchist doctrine, yet who just recently backed the Tea Party movement for the same reasons. 

It is here where our American “Marxists” chimed in. Binh’s article goes on to explain how “The US socialist left did not cover OWS in its daily publications until after NYPD deputy inspector Anthony Bologna pepper sprayed cornered women on a sidewalk near Union Square on September 24.” Which is not true to the slightest degree, nor can we forgive our Trotskyite opponents for having being correct in general, but sorely mistaken in regards to those socialist parties that did display their competence by immediately involving themselves as soon as the first occupations began. Discussions concerning an occupation began as far back as July 2011, in an attempt to form similar movements to the Egyptian and Spanish protests underway around that time, and it was the inspiration these movements garnered that granted the masses such confidence to participate in them when the movement began on September 17th  the same year.

In terms of foresight and preparation, yes, the entire socialist movement is to blame, for it was completely blind to the prospect of connection to such struggles abroad and the application to the material conditions of our country. If it had been able to do so, it would have rendered us a tremendous service in being able to give this enormous movement a more working class orientation as well as being able to put fourth tangible socialist slogans to help shape and direct the movement. Yet, once again, on this point Binh remains silent, perhaps unwilling to admit he too was guilty of this mistake which forced us to take a back seat from the outset.

On the other hand, we cannot completely neglect the fact that, the American socialists’ lack of recent practice in this regard was probably a major contributor to this lack of prowess, coupled with the years of peaceful development to which we were condemned. Even if this is the case however, some group of people somewhere did make the call and did make the necessary preparations to bring it to fruition.
Binh’s main point here is not the theoretical decadence of the “Socialist Left” but more so the practical shortcomings.  He specifically points to the delayed publication of the Occupy movement’s coverage which he correctly points out:
“This tardiness reflected the socialist left’s deep-seated scepticism at a protest without demands, a rally without a permit, OWS’s talk of prefiguring a future non-capitalist society in an outdoor camp in the middle of Manhattan’s financial district and a “leaderless” “horizontal” process.”
Binh mentions four organizations in particular; the Socialist Equality Party (SEP), the Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL), the International Socialist Organization (ISO) and Solidarity. As to why he mentions these four in particular, it’s not quite clear (we suspect that Binh believes these parties have the most “merit” for their numbers). We cannot speak for the enormous array of “Marxist” organizations within the U.S., but we will say at this juncture is that the American Party of Labor did re-publish an article on The Red Phoenix concerning the Occupy Wall street protest on September 17th- the same exact day when occupation first began - and before the ISO’s first article which appeared on September 28th, before the SEP’s first article on September 26th and before Liberation News (PSL’s newspaper) first covered it on the 27th. Immediately after our coverage, the American Party of Labor sent its cadres to the protest (later to other occupations, and actively participated in forming them where there were none, successfully).
We mention our Party’s activity specifically, because albeit we too are responsible for not being able to take the lead in the formation of the Occupy movement, but were able to swiftly correct ourselves by not only going to Wall Street, assessing the situation, conducting propaganda and agitation, but also attempting to work within the General Assemblies and helping to form new occupations -- taking an active role and attempting to merge our Party with the working class elements in the hopes of gaining leadership. When Binh uses blanket accusations against the entire socialist movement without paying tribute to those parties, like the American Party of Labor, that did act responsibly, be it out of ignorance or malice, he is actually damaging the socialist movement by not addressing those few groups who proved their competence. If Binh is not willing to invest the time and effort required to make a factual statement, but instead projects the failures of some on the rest of us, he should not have made such blanket statements in the first place! What’s further, he only discredits his own claims and those of the journal that published him, furthering the idea that they are not genuinely concerned with role of the workers and revolutionary elements within the Occupy and socialist movements. This point we will prove in later parts of this work.

However, we do not wish to imply that Binh’s criticisms of the parties who are guilty are wrong or misguided. Again, he is absolutely correct that generally speaking this does represent the sort of ideological bankruptcy of our country’s socialists that could only stem from a lack of Marxist understanding. There is a widespread misconception that a social movement is not worth participating in if the working class is not at the forefront, or if petty-bourgeois and capitalist prejudices are dominating the social movement, that somehow the proletariat should find itself as the only politically active class in capitalism’s discourse. Marxist analysis is replaced with a vulgar fetishism of the working class abstracted from the overall class dynamic in society. This is not to imply the proletariat isn’t the only class capable of leading a socialist revolution. Lenin’s words are quite often forgotten in regards to this matter:
“Inevitably, sections of tile petty bourgeoisie and of the backward workers will participate in it[Socialist revolution]—without such participation, mass struggle is impossible, without it no revolution is possible—and just as inevitably will they bring into the movement their prejudices, their reactionary fantasies, their weaknesses slid errors. But objectively they will attack capital, and the class-conscious vanguard of the revolution, the advanced proletariat, expressing this objective truth of a variegated and discordant, motley and outwardly fragmented, mass struggle, will he able to unite and direct it, capture power, seize the banks, expropriate the trusts which all hate (though for difficult reasons!), and introduce other dictatorial measures which in their totality will amount to the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the victory of socialism, which, however, will by no means immediately “purge” itself of petty-bourgeois slag.”
Although we do not consider the Occupy movement to be a revolution of any sort, or even socialist, what we do reaffirm is that the masses have become thoroughly aware that there is a separation and irreconcilable differences between them and the capitalists. This is engendered in the “We are the 99%!” slogan, which, while not accurate, does acknowledge an instinctual resistance to capital. There were many socialist parties who Binh says took the “wait and see” approach, and then participated, or who took the same approach and used it as grounds to excuse participating entirely. Despite which course they chose, they acted contrary to the interests of socialism. For every moment that went by where they did not participate was another second that allowed for petty-bourgeois ideology to tighten its stranglehold over the working-class and progressive elements within the Occupy movement, unopposed.
Further still, there were also, as Binh mentions, those groups who rejected participating within the functional organs of the Occupy movement on the grounds of its self-proclaimed “leaderless” or “horizontal” character.  Binh writes:
“Of course as Marxists we know that every struggle requires leadership in some form, and Occupy is no exception. The leaders of Occupy are those who put their bodies on the line at the encampments and get deeply involved in the complex, Byzantine decision-making process Occupy uses known as ‘modified consensus.’ Occupy’s leaders are those who make the proposals at planning meetings, working group, and general assemblies (GAs) that attract enough support to determine the uprising’s course of action.”
Binh is correct again. Those groups (whom Binh does not mention) who did not immediately participate on these grounds exposed themselves has phony Marxists, for they took the movement for what it said about itself rather than what it objectively was. This whole notion of “leaderless” movements is an age-old trope when we consider its notion on a grand, historical context. What’s further, those people who advocate such a style of organization the loudest and with the most resolution ironically emerge as leaders and therefore contradict themselves (an excellent leverage point for discrediting such a form of organization for the purpose of forming and advocating organizations better suited for tackling the practical issues the Occupy movement faced) and if nothing is done to combat them, we allow them to drive the movement into the ground. 
The point to be drawn from all of this (as Binh will later mention) is that leadership must be won from actively participating and proving through struggle that we are superior to the anarchists in their tactics and modes of operation, and unless we are resisting all which is backward within the movement through such participation, we will not only allow those workers who express their frustration through the Occupy movement to be arrested by infantile tactics, but we also prove ourselves superfluous to the workers in the movement all for the sake of some faulty notion that calling yourself a Marxist assumes you have some divine right to lead. Leadership must be earned, and this is the only thing to be learned from the anarchists at the present time.

On Anarchist Involvement
Binh now goes in-depth concerning the anarchists’ role within the Occupy movement. He credits an anarchist by the name of David Gracber with the coining of the slogan “we are the 99%!” and how the anarchists rightfully brought forward the “refusal to acknowledge the legitimacy of the state and corporate authorities and its insistence on direct action, direct democracy, non-hierarchical organizing, consensus and prefigurative politics.” Of course, as anyone who is informed on the matter will tell you, very rarely did these slogans and procedures amount to anything more. If they did somehow manifest into action, it was the work of this or that isolated group. Simply because the anarchists were recognized as de-facto leaders, does not imply that their word was the last one.
Drawing from our own experience from Occupy, the protest had drawn in a variety of political trends and classes into the public demonstration, carrying with it a fantastic malady of political and social tendencies varying from Puerto Rican nationalists, Libertarians, anarchists, students, indie media, Trotskyites, RCP-ites, the Green Party and the like. Binh puts very great emphasis on the anarchists because of the tactics they brought to the table and the training they provided, but overlooks the reality of the situation in regards to their leadership. The anarchist leadership was highly constrained precisely because they rigidly clung to the “non-hierarchical” structure, “direct democracy” and other “left” slogans. It was this deep-seated fear of “authority” in the abstract that the Occupy movement, nationally and within each chapter, was unable to participate in any particular form of action that embraced the whole movement. More concern was given to its populist outcries than to that which was practical or helped foster the furthering of the movement - especially to clarifying and extending its demands to the working class, which has only now just begun.
Binh of course, pays tribute to this in words, but only briefly, and does not thoroughly include this in his criticisms, a criticism which seems to be the whole point of his article directed toward the “socialist left.” It is for this reason that when he refers to the Occupy movement as “the vanguard of the 99%,” he is wrong. Because the anarchist leadership did not seek to impose an overarching structure on some lofty notion that all authority is detrimental to a mass movement, it was absolutely incapable of directing it in ways other than by example or slogans, which often led to their own alienation from various sections within the movement. As is always the case with anarchist practice and propaganda, it related the current struggle to the struggle of classes insofar as it brought immediate gains to the populist movement, for that’s all of which could be mustered given its “non-hierarchical” struggle, upon which they were so insistent. While it is true that Occupy’s general methods were preferred to what Binh calls “more traditional organizations such as unions, liberal NGOs and socialist groups,” he falls into error when he fails to acknowledge that it means nothing if there is no chain of command that can unify its actions on a national basis, confer with its local chapters on feasible tactics, bring forward solid demands and necessarily link the anti-capitalist fever of the protests with the working class and other such elements which could serve the socialist cause. 
Binh goes on to say that the socialist task in regards to the anarchists is to “navigate Occupy’s anarchist terrain.” However, because Binh bases this conclusion on the false premise that anarchist leadership is complete and undisputed, he once again falls into error for the sole fact that the anarchists were against exercising their leadership responsibly “on principle.” This is not to say that nothing can be learned from working with the anarchists or that everything they did was absolutely flawed, but the whole point of our work is to overcome their flaws and complete what they are unwilling and unable to finish.
In order to win leadership we must recognize what works and what doesn’t, to foster what does and to denounce what doesn’t. This cannot be achieved without a principled and militant organization which is capable of conveying a single message, tangible demands, and is able to examine the concrete and political situation in order to determine the best course of action on a class basis. All of this could not simply be done without such an organization, which is the only form the vanguard can take. If Binh wishes to call a broad coalition of groups disgruntled with capitalism a “vanguard,” he is within his right to do so, but do not muddle this quintessential Leninist concept, especially in a time where its repudiation is a widespread practice! Binh further obscures the concept of the vanguard party when he attributes it to the practice of the anarchists, who both in words and practice denounced such a thing “on principle.” Binh, for some reason, cannot see that the anarchists were not bound into a single force, but rather treat their participation as a loose coalition rather than a party which is knit tightly. As a result, Binh cannot realize that it is for this reason that the anarchists have never been able to overcome their own shortcomings and immaturity, for such ailments are inherent to anarchism itself.
Binh attributes the vanguard to the anarchist conception of horizontal leadership which he claims earlier does not exist! Binh only hits the mark when he claims that we must show in practice how our methods are superior, which cannot be done if he insists on obscuring political lines for the sake of unity (one of Binh’s conclusions which we will deal with in length later in the article). When Binh defines the movement by its primary slogan, he only prolongs its immaturity, which is contrary to what the socialist objective of advancing it entails (see our section on the 99% slogan). On this point, Binh remains silent and contradicts himself, for he says in the very same article that our task is help the movement overcome the frustrations that stem from its disjointed and leadership after winning recognition by working with the movement.
Binh does formulate the correct postulate that the socialists should not simply see this anarchist failure as vindication of our desire for a more organized movement, but should use this as a means to “flaunt our feathers” so to speak, that is, our superior methods of waging class struggle and to allow such actions to serve as stepping stones to earn leadership as the advanced detachment of the working class, which will ultimately serve as a means of bringing our point of view to the producing classes and to show that our way of doing things is the only way of bringing about socialism, that will cure once and for all, the ills and grievances plaguing class society in the United States. Yet in spite of this, if we are to prove we are genuine revolutionaries, we must not shy away from such difficulties -- lest we prove ourselves useless aspects of this political arena.
Binh also discusses the participation of the Black Bloc. This is a topic that has sparked a fierce controversy within the Occupy movement among socialists and anarchists alike. Since the anarchists were generally recognized as the backbone of Occupy and represented its most radical elements, it was only a matter of time before the Black Bloc was employed, which, as Binh notes, came to the fore on November 2nd when the Oakland General Strike occurred. Its participation, according to Binh, was in response to the vicious police repression which critically injured an Iraq War veteran by the familiar name of Scott Olsen, who suffered serious brain damage from a tear gas canister launched by riot police. Oakland in particular has a rich history of working class based politics and political action given its history as a testament to the former industrial capabilities of the United States.
To give a brief historical recap; the 1934 General Strike in San-Francisco linked itself with the Oakland workers in a successful attempt to upset transportation operations between the two cities. It was cut down by the National Guard as soon as the workers threatened to seize the means of transportation. Another general strike occurred in 1946, which was primarily fueled by the industrialization taking place shortly after WWII. This led to mass unemployment, especially felt by the black workers in this area. In addition, housing and basic standards of living were revoked. This was the final strike in a long string of such protests which resulted in the greatest amount of working class participation in U.S. history (in scope, but in numbers did not enjoy as much at-once participation as the Great Railroad Strike of 1877 which expanded over several U.S. states). This area was also one of the primary battlegrounds for socialist organizations such as the I.W.W. and the Black Panther Party for Self-Defense. It should come to no surprise to us that the working class and its rich experience in fighting class struggle within the Oakland area should become the first occupation to begin fusing the demands of the movement in general (which were of a vague anti-capitalist character) to the working class, which is a positive step in the right direction. Without central organization and discipline required to combat a class that is globally organized, has innumerable resources at its disposal and the physical force of the state at its disposal, it is impossible to conceive a mass action that can achieve any sort of tangible ends. 
This lesson of history was abandoned and forgotten by the anarchists, who, in failing to understand the historical development of the working class in this area, resorted to tactics that would lead to its outright abandonment by the whole of the Occupy movement. The Black Bloc’s first recognized action, according to Binh, occurred with the vandalism of the various banks and of the Whole Foods grocery, in response to the Whole Foods employers threatening their workers with lay-offs if they were to even consider participating in the strike. What were the results of such tactics? The only logical conclusion of adventurist tactics that have proven time and time again, throughout the Black Bloc’s history (we speak of course of the modern Black Bloc, which arose out of the anti-globalization protests of the late 90’s) has only lead to the alienation of progressive elements from the broader working class, and people who would otherwise become active participants if the “spear” of the movement were taking a more rational approach. Reports of infighting between the rank-and-file of the Occupy movement against the Black Bloc manifested in physical violence between the two. This alone stands as a testament to the weakness of anarchist leadership, but the issue became exacerbated in lieu of the severe state repression that was to follow their recklessness. The Black Bloc’s tactics only served as a means to damage the welfare of the strike’s active participants, which had the characteristic feature of being primarily proletarian for the duration of the strike, as well as people who were not willing nor tactically prepared for such state repression. This is one of the most infuriating set-backs of the entire Occupy movement, for it will discourage the use of illegal mans of struggle for a long time, perhaps even when a time for such struggle becomes imperative.
For some of the anarchists in the Black Bloc, they saw their actions as a sort of necessary heroism to demonstrate to the masses that violence against the state is possible in the hopes of turning the general strike into an insurrection. This carries the same weight as the ultra-left argument for individualist terrorism, which carries the same political consequences as the aforementioned adventurism. The failures of the Black Bloc could not have been rectified by socialist participation due to the long-standing and historically developed divide between us and the anarchists. Binh agrees with us on this point. Because the autonomous groups within the Occupy movement do not answer to a higher discipline which could serve as a means of preventing such tactics, each group is free to do as they please, even if it is against the democratic consensus of the General Assemblies.
Binh points out that the Black Bloc’s actions received heavy criticism from both anarchists and socialists. The former for the fact that the majority of the Black Bloc fled like cowards in the face of the state during the conflict that was to follow their actions. The latter criticized them on the grounds that they were divorced from any solid participation or approval from the General Assembly. Binh goes on to say that the socialists were wrong for criticizing the Black Bloc on the these grounds for the previously established point that the General Assemblies have little to no say over the actions of autonomous groups. This is ironic for Binh, because he also claims that our failure to win influence within Occupy ties directly to the fact that an overwhelming majority of socialist groups did not participate in them. Binh’s words are muddled. If one of his major points of divergence with the socialists was that they did not participate in the General Assemblies and at the same time says we are wrong in criticizing them on the same grounds, he is not only negating his own argument, but he is also absolving the Black Bloc from a criticism he himself made!
Binh attributes the Black Bloc’s failures to logistical questions, such as not quietly seizing the TAS building, lack of suitable barricades and self-defense, as well as the self-destruction of their already flimsy defenses. We will take this opportunity to express our opinion that the occupation of the TAS building failed in part because of the Black Bloc’s poor procedures but more importantly because the entire affair was an adventure from the get-go. Seizing a single building, no matter how well-barricaded, could not have led to any long-lasting gain, because sooner or later the state would have sent the necessary forces needed to take it back. The real error lies in the fact that such an action did nothing to satisfy or advance the political and economic demands of the Occupy movement, nor did it help in overcoming its practical issues. Instead, the Black Bloc took full advantage of the frustration of the masses and directed its suicide. If Binh’s problem is on the one hand, the inexperience and juvenility of the Black Bloc and on the other hand, the adventurism committed on their behalf, why is Binh offering them “practical” advice as to how to conduct such adventurism correctly, instead of failing to address the overall issue of adventurism, a stance a responsible socialist would take?
Binh’s conclusions on the matter are as follows:
“Our tasks with respect to the anarchists are twofold:
1) to work with them in neutralising adventurists and ultra-lefts when their activities threaten Occupy as a whole, and
2) to out-compete them in daring, audacity, creativity, improvisation, and revolutionary elan in the most friendly, collaborative, and comradely manner possible."
In regards to the first point: how are we to work with the more sober-minded anarchists if, on the one hand, the General Assemblies do not have such coordinating powers (a point which Binh says himself) and, on the other hand, when Binh admits that to expect the Black Bloc to submit to any consensus is not a viable means of dealing with their tactics? Binh fails to recognize the Occupy locations as broad groupings with separate agendas, and an organizational structure that could not possibly produce any sort of coordinated action or address the socialist demands coming from certain sections of the movement. He is incapable of conceiving a real solution to a real problem. The Black Bloc’s failure was proven in the fire; the masses have learned where those tactics lead. If we truly wish to prevent this trend from reoccurring, our actual tasks are as follows:

1) Continuously reaffirm to the Occupy movement the results adventurist tactics produced. Foster the discontent with such tactics and use them as a leverage point to wage a ruthless struggle against anarchism and ultra-leftism within the movement, both of which are a passive and direct source of such ideological bankruptcy.
2) Address the source of the greatest hindrance of the Occupy movement, this being a flaw in its organizational structure. Because the General Assemblies do not serve as a central organ for the groups within Occupy, and because Occupy itself is a movement “without a head,” we cannot honestly assume this movement will go further than it already has precisely because its goals have now come into direct conflict with its present forms of struggle.
This current form of struggle makes no attempts to link its interests with that of socialism. Anyone who was engaged with the Occupy movement can testify that there was no consensus as to what the demands were, which only served to undermine them. The task is to involve ourselves with the Occupy movement, merge with its best and working class elements and work to bring forward socialist demands and draw a dividing line between working class interests and those interests of the petty-bourgeois. To promote this form of adventurist struggle, which has already proved to be a failure is to stand in the way of socialism - we find it especially ironic that Binh is in favor of such “horizontal structure” based on the tired, old, ultra-left dogma of “bureaucracy,” and then has the audacity to criticize the socialist movement as a whole! Binh does not realize that he is not the cure, but part of the problem.
Binh further demonstrates his anti-Marxist character in his position on the state in regards to the Occupy movement, and that such a horrifying stance goes to show that he, and the “socialist” trends he represents, do not genuinely care for the interests of the working class.

How the State Exposed its Class Character and How Binh Attempts to Obscure It
What Binh expresses in the following section of his article entitled, “Reds Verses Blue” is reminiscent of a very popular and widespread misconception about what the state is (and the police in particular), their role in class society and how communists must deal with them. Binh claims to be speaking on behalf of the socialist movement as a whole, yet has elucidated a position that is ravenously anti-Marxist which is no doubt the direct consequence of paying lip-service to socialism and words while actually repudiating it deeds. Because Binh masquerades as a socialist in the hopes that his ideas will be heard and put into practice, we must give special attention to his position and attempt to refute his claims. In completely ignoring the class content of the issue, he runs the risk of jeopardizing the entire movement which has already lost its initial thrust due to the nationwide attempt by the police to suppress the movement.
What is Binh’s position on the police, and why is it wrong? Binh begins the relevant section of the article saying that the socialists’ “most consistent criticisms of Occupy has concerned the issue of the police.” This is partially correct. He mentions an article in the PSL’s Liberation News entitled “Are the police forces part of the 99% or tools of the 1%?” But other than that he makes no specific references to the content of the article. Briefly summarized, the PSL’s article mentions the nationwide attempts by the police to suppress the movement in lieu of its growing strength. The author of the article recalls a conversation with fellow protesters while they were detained in the Brooklyn Bridge Affair.* The article concerns the role of police in the regards to the 1% versus 99% dichotomy. Liberation News took the correct line on police as part of the state which serves as the physical force of the “1%.” The PSL’s article sums up “ If cops want to be considered part of the 99%, there is only one way: by quitting their jobs as the enforcers of the 1%.” It is this correct position Binh wishes to challenge.

Binh goes on to mention two more articles concerning the police, one published by the Internationalist Group (an off-shoot of the Fourth Internationalist trend) who attributes the lack of black and Latino participants within the Occupy movement as the result of general acceptance of police as the “99%.” The second article, published by the International Socialist Organization (ISO), expands upon this racial aspect and claims that such acceptance only served to alienate the “darker-skinned comrades” from participation, and that such an acceptance of police ignores the historical relationship blacks and Latinos share with the police. Binh also mentions a public meeting held by the ISO on the same topic which further attempted to emphasize the class character of the state. The police, according to the ISO, are in fact servants of the ruling class, despite simply expressing individual support for this or that struggle.
All of these articles took a correct Marxist stance on the matter and where the police fall in the 1% vs. 99% dichotomy. ** Binh gives a few examples of those who brought forward a Marxist stance on the matter precisely because it was his intent to refute it. Binh tells us that “Socialists are duty-bound to object to politics, strategy, tactics and slogans we believe harm or impede movements of the oppressed and exploited. On this point there can be no debate.” We couldn’t possibly agree more! Binh explains that the socialists who took the correct line were not doing so because they were genuinely concerned with the needs of the Occupy movement, but because there was some sinister plot to preach “Marxist orthodoxy” to the majority opinion that somehow the police were actually part of the ambiguous 99%.
The socialists who did take the correct line, according to Binh, are somehow “out of touch” with what was going on at various occupations because there was in fact, according to Binh, a strong hostility towards the police, despite claims that Occupy was, generally speaking, in favor of including them among their ranks (Binh later takes this same position). While Binh is absolutely correct when he claims that Occupy displayed a certain level of hostility since day one, it is Binh who finds himself out of touch when he says that this was the majority opinion. At this point in the article, he deals with the issue one-sidedly, giving no immediate consideration to those who were friendly to the police, which he hints weren’t of the majority position. He even goes as far as to claim that it was this hostility which allowed for the unreported and continuous sexual harassment within the Occupy encampments due to the police being “too afraid” to enter them safely and do something about them. Binh actually adopts a “blame the victim” complex because for him these cases of sexual harassment were not the fault of cowardly police, rogue and undisciplined individuals or the direct consequence of a lack of discipline measures fostered by a more centralized structure, but the result of hostility which socialists promoted yet were at the same time abstracted from the movement.

Binh never once stops to consider as to why people were hostile to the police. By ignoring this question he ignores his own claim that anarchists -- whose political doctrine is the violent destruction of all states -- were the de-facto leaders of the movement. What he also ignores is that the blacks and Latinos who were present do have historically developed reasons for distrust and hostility for the police (an argument he claims is “bogus”) and finally, ignores the fact that such hostility was ultimately fostered by the police themselves! Even though there were always clashes between Occupy and the police, the question as to whose side they were on never reached it’s zenith until after the Brooklyn Bridge incident, coupled with the continued violence they exhibited. This point is particularly important, because Binh is hinting here that it was those socialists who were acting responsibly in attempting to formulate the question of police in a Marxist way, so as to help Occupy overcome the practical issues the police posed for them, were responsible for this sexual harassment which was occurring. We can safely assume this is his stance, for gives no other reasons as to why this hostility was present.
It’s curious to observe someone who claims to be genuinely concerned with socialist movement yet claims that hostility towards the armed wing of the state should not be expressed, in spite of their repetitious displays of hostility toward the movement. What Binh should see, and what all Marxists should see is the presence of two ideological inclinations that stem from particular classes. Turning a blind eye to the nature of police serves the class who benefits from their existence. Even if the notion that the police shouldn’t be trusted was somehow imposed from without, it would have only taken root if the police were reaffirming such claims in their practice.
Binh’s travesty does not stop there. Recalling the Scott Olsen incident, Binh quotes the aforementioned ISO article in the Socialist Worker, the author of which claims the question as to whose side the police were on has been thoroughly settled. Binh disagrees, however:
“No act of police violence will “finally settle the debate” about whether the police are part of the 99% because there is no debate, at least within Occupy. The police rank and file are part of the 99%. They are the part of the 99% that keep the rest of the 99% in line at the behest of the 1%. The police rank and file are professional class traitors. Shouting “you are the 99%!” at them drives that point home far better than calling them “pigs” or “our enemies in blue”. PSL’s juxtaposition, “are the police forces part of the 99%  or tools of the 1%?” is false because they are both. It is not a case of either-or.”
Only the socialist who suffers from acute ideological muddle could draw such a backward conclusion. To claim that no act of violence will ever settle the question is not only to treat the issue in an un-dialectic manner, but completely rejects the Marxist conception of the state. The facts are that the police did create such conditions that would allow for a widespread feeling of rejection of police involvement in the Occupy protests. There was no reason why the class character of the state could not have been thoroughly exposed by activists. Groups such as the PSL, APL and others issued propaganda in this direction and did enjoy success in this regard. Such agitation would’ve helped the movement at large come to terms with the reality of the situation. Simply because Pham Binh seems incapable of making the simple connection between police violence and the ruling class does not mean he must project his errors to the entire socialist movement.
Binh claims that there was no debate within Occupy about whether or not the police were part of the 99%. Yet, no more than a few paragraphs ago, our teacher of socialist pedagogy was arguing the opposite point, for his initial clam was that Occupy’s problem was that it “was excessive” in its “hostility” towards police. In Binh’s analysis, was Occupy actually hostile to the police, or was the hostility a deranged pipe dream by armchair leftist intellectuals? On this particular issue we must digress, for it appears Binh’s train of though is departing in opposite directions. Binh continues:
To argue that the police are “not part of the 99%" means to argue that they are somehow part of the 1%, a radically and demonstrably false notion. This explains why the socialist left’s argument on this issue has gained zero ground within Occupy despite all the beatings, arrests, abuse and brutality.”
For Binh to assume that Occupy’s slogan accurately represents the class dynamics involved rather than a spontaneous outcry of the frustration that stems from class antagonisms in the United States is to base his argument on a very flimsy foundation. The 99% phrase is used as a slogan for the purposes of agitation. It is a slogan advanced in the right direction of class struggle. Binh’s purpose in this article was to draw “some practical conclusions aimed at helping the socialist left” so that the socialist movement may “become central rather than remain marginal to Occupy’s overall direction.” If this is his task, Binh has failed miserably.
In rejecting Marxism for the use of Occupy’s slogan as a means on analysis, a paradigm by which to now understand the world, supposedly for the purpose of drawing “practical conclusions” he actually draws erroneous ones, conclusions that reinforce the backwards prejudices of the Occupy movement.
Binh’s replacement of a slogan for a thorough Marxist analysis leads him to forget the class struggle. It lead him to ignore the fact that Occupy’s existence was the direct result of class antagonisms beginning to mature in our country. He forgets that the exploitation by the capitalist class is a prerequisite for their continued existence as a class and such exploitation will inevitably create conditions of violence, either on their behalf, or against them. It is precisely for these reasons that the state exists -- to mediate the open conflicts between the two classes by force.
What Binh also forgets is that as time passes these conflicts become more exacerbated, and thus so too will the suppression of the proletariat by the state. The very fact that Occupy’s largest encampments were violently suppressed, that Congress passed the NDAA, is precisely because Occupy was turning into something they could not handle normally. The United States government is especially skilled in combating movements like Occupy. If we are to keep its momentum it becomes our immediate task to unwaveringly expose the state and police for what they are and suggest methods and forms of struggle that can effectively handle attempts to suppress the movement. There are innumerable historical experiences to draw upon in achieving this important task.
When Binh makes statements like “Occupy is absolutely correct in its openness to including rank-and-file cops in a struggle against the 1%” he is attempting to draw us backward. He is ignoring not only the recent history of police behavior in the Occupy movement, but the entire history of the existence of police. His suggestions run contrary to what history has taught us and this very movement has brilliantly demonstrated -- that the police are on the side of the capitalists.
At this point in the article, it is no longer hard to imagine why Binh draws incorrect conclusions from his correct premises. The renouncement of scientific socialism has led people such as Binh to ignore the innumerable cases where the state exposed its true nature, not to mention people such as Scott Olsen and other victims of police brutality who might have reservations about welcoming the police into Occupy with open arms.
When Binh puts forward his thesis on including the police, he is neglecting the historical patterns of such tactics. The number of times certain sections of a mass movement have attempted such a thing with the same overall results need not be expressed in detail here. ***  His claims that shouting “you are the 99%” is a viable means of “neutralizing” them is effectively suggesting that we should bite the bullet until the time comes where we have been able to successfully appeal to their morality. As the Civil Rights movement clearly showed, simply trying to appeal to their morality while faced with their violent conduct against otherwise amounts to the passive acceptance of such violence.
Binh goes on to give a handful of isolated examples of police “seeing the light” and coming over to the side of the protesters in a pitiful attempt to give weight to his ideological deviations. But his attempt crumbles before his very eyes, for his three cited examples do not account for the innumerable examples that run contrary to his conclusion. He addresses the case of one officer by the name of Ray Lewis, who was a retired captain arrested in uniform at Occupy Wall Street. What Binh perceives as support for his theory is actually a good example of what the state’s reaction is when faced by a renegade like Ray Lewis. What’s further, such action actually deters other police from following his example. The state needs merely to accompany such wariness with pay raises and other forms of bribery to extinguish any thoughts being harbored of defection.
Binh further explains that “we should be going out of our way to organise actions that might split the police along class lines or cause them disciplinary problems.” Such tactics can be useful and should be seized upon when the opportunity presents itself. However, in the first place, such tactics are just that; tactics. Their use is limited to particular circumstances, which do not address the more common occurrence of cut-and-dried repression, nor can they effectively serve as an overall strategy. Secondly, if such tactics mean the compromise of our class interests as workers, and cannot serve the cause of socialism in the long run. Such tactics do not take into consideration the fact that police are trained and screened in such a way as to prevent such breaks in discipline from occurring.
Binh goes as far as to support the idea of a Malik Rhaasan (founder of Occupy the Hood) who entertained the prospect of forming “pro-cop” demonstrations in defense of their pensions. Such actions, he says, should serve as “warnings” to our “disproportionately white” socialist groups. Binh accuses the movement of using “bogus arguments” against the police who oppress them. There is no need to delve into serious discussion on this point, as it speaks for itself -- especially if we consider our disproportionate prison populations who would surely sing a different tune to such an idea.
Binh tells us that the task of socialists is not to teach the participants the finer points of “Marxist Orthodoxy,” but to overcome the police as a repressive force, to “neutralize” them. He overplays the success of an Iraq veteran who was able to humiliate thirty riot police by “taking the moral high ground.” The source Binh uses is a YouTube video posted October 16, several months before the Wall Street occupation was suppressed. Such an example only speaks against Binh’s line as a viable and longstanding solution. For Binh and others, the task is not directing attention and exposing the class character of the state consistently and in a comprehensive manner, but a collaboration with police in an attempt for them to turn their bludgeons against the capitalists, in the hopes that the moral high-ground and intangible demands will somehow overcome the terrible force of the state and the class they protect.
Wealth dominates capitalist society, and if the state must, the cops will be bribed, if only to protect the powers-that-be from the growing awareness of class antagonisms that exist and are daily drawing more and more attention. Binh’s lack of Marxist-Leninist analysis blinds him to the fact that the real task of socialists imbuing the masses with the real notions of police violence and the depravity at the heart of capitalism, and the promotion of socialism as the manner to do away with those ills. We must teach the best elements of the Occupy movement that police violence is a sign of irreconcilable antagonisms between us and the capitalists. As well, we must infuse the experience of the movement with Marxist-Leninist theory as a means of giving it a public face and demonstrating the superiority of Marxist theory and practice. Only in active participation and giving such expositions with the utmost dedication will we win the confidence of the workers within Occupy and direct the movement’s ambitions toward socialist goals. If we do not take advantage of every instance where the state exposes its class character, we will never succeed in this task.
When Binh suggests that we should not confront the police on the false notion that they are part of the 99% in spite of their violent actions, he is not taking into consideration that the workers have no common interests with the police. When he neglects the historical role of violence against the state, he is not taking into consideration that one day, class struggle will manifest as such violence, and therefore refuses to begin the work of preparing for this.
When Binh obscures the state by ignoring the class content of the issue, he is once again standing in the way of socialism, because he who does not shed light on the objective and underlying laws of human society and the state’s role is speaking against our class interests.

* The Brooklyn bridge Affair was a bait and arrest tactic employed by the NYPD, wherein having caught wind of Occupy’s attempt to capture the Brooklyn Bridge, were directed by a group of police so as to sheppard them into an enclosed area where it would be easy to surround and detain.

** This is not to imply these organizations are at all Marxist in practice. They have simply learned to parrot those who are.

*** Except of course, in the recent case of the Greek protests, where the police have been defecting to the side of the protesters en-masse. This however, is a point wherein the state can no longer afford to keep the police bribed, and at this juncture, is not a feasible circumstance, given that the economic conditions of the U.S. have not yet reached such a circumstance. Such defection is to be expected in political and economic crisis.

On Democrat and Social-Democratic Involvement
Having concluded his thoughts on police, Binh now moves to discuss an issue which he says the socialists (in our opinion, rightfully) addressed -- the danger of the Democrats' * involvement. The adherents to the Democratic Party played out their historic role in attempting to pacify the growing militancy within the Occupy movement. When media blackouts no longer proved feasible, they contented themselves with giving speeches to serve their ends. Binh claims that the “socialist left” confined themselves to mere exposition of this phenomena rather than offering practical advice as to how it should be dealt with. This notion likely stems from Binh’s earlier conclusion that socialists mainly participated from afar and those who were involved were being led themselves. This is a particularly odd charge coming from Binh, who earlier absolutized the movement’s slogans into class analysis, thus allowing the movement to lead him as well.
For simplicity’s sake, we will take his argument for what it is, aimed at those who were guilty of playing an only advisory role. Binh makes note of one example, an article published by the Socialist Worker in which the ISO exposes the betrayal of the Wall Street occupation on behalf of the SEIU (Service Employees International Union) and how the union failed to fulfill its obligation to Wall Street protesters on the day of the Brooklyn Bridge affair. The SEIU was supposed to send marshals to deter riot police and traffic to keep the street clear for the event, but instead used the opportunity to assume control of the march -- against what was agreed upon at the General Assembly which discussed the logistics of the march. The Socialist Worker article mentions that it wasn’t so much the rank-and-file workers belonging to the union, but the union leadership who coordinated the betrayal. While Binh agrees that the ISO did the right thing in exposing them, he says that simple exposition was not enough and that they should have offered advice on how such situations should be resolved. This particular blunder was on the head of the ISO alone, not the socialist movement in general.
Binh makes an error here. The case of the SEIU was not a case of Democrat involvement, but of social-democratic involvement. While it is true that the SEIU is another example among many of organizations tailing the Democrats (the CPUSA and ACLU come to mind) this case is of a different nature. Unlike Democratic politicians, individuals espousing social-democratic or “democratic socialist” ideas make more overtures to the proletariat in some capacity. Because of the lack of class-conscious leadership of Occupy, many are unable to recognize that they have the same agenda as the bourgeois parties, and are therefore susceptible to situations such as the case with SEIU’s role in the Brooklyn bridge affair.
Generally speaking, Occupy had a weariness of the Democrats from the outset. It could be argued that one of the reasons Occupy existed is because the Democrats have proved themselves incapable of serving the interests of the lower classes. Binh rightfully points out that this weariness should not be interpreted as complete nullification of the Democratic threat. However, Occupy’s “horizontal” structure, Binh claims, serves as a sort of countermeasure to the Democrats’ ability to redirect the movement - the dark fate met by the workers and unions during the Wisconsin General Strike. He goes on to say that the socialist movement erred when it did not practically deal with them in Wisconsin, and believes that we should have formed General Assemblies to counterbalance the influence of the Democrats over the majority of union leadership. In fact, the conditions in which class struggles were fought in Madison differ greatly. What we saw in Wisconsin was a rare glimmer of solidarity among the working class, wherein the attack of the public sector workers was seen as an attack on all workers, who later were to join in a class battle of a political character. Occupy differs in that it is a general outcry among several classes, who are struggling for economic reasons, and consequently have various demands which leave the movement disjointed. Binh is blind to this because he is so enamored with Occupy that he feels it’s methods should be practiced everywhere and always, so much so to the point where he would readily give up class analysis and socialism for it’s own sake.
Further on, Binh tells us now is the time to hinder any possibility the Democrats have of hijacking the movement. We agree with this assessment. However, if Binh claims that the horizontal structure of Occupy serves as a safeguard against the Democrats, so much so that it should have been deployed in Wisconsin, why are we told to hinder them? Because, he says, the Democrats may be pulling something unexpected. How does Binh propose we offer practical advice and work against them? Taking a one-sided and muddled approach, the article says that deeds and action are the remedy, not words and propaganda. In the face of unexpected tactics by the Democrats, wouldn’t it be wise to use both agitation and propaganda? One can be given greater weight or focus in a particular time and place, but can we merely exclude some forms of the struggle at such a critical time?
Binh cautions us to “be careful in ruling any course of action out,” given that Occupy’s “creative and original” ways of dealing with the issues it faces are one of its greatest strengths. He even goes as far as to say: “Failure to be open minded is what caused us to lag behind Occupy’s rise in the first place.” While it is true that we cannot reject a particular tactic based on emotionalism, and we should not limit our moving space, this does not mean we should entertain the notion that Occupy as a whole is at all capable of such maneuvers and rational, organized tactics, especially if we consider the lack of cohesion within local occupations and the movement on a national basis.
Even if a reasonable decision is reached and generally agreed upon within Occupy, there isn’t a single thing that stands in the way of rogue groups from taking action contrary to the consensus as the actions of the Black Bloc proved. Is it genuinely reasonable to assume, given the populist character of Occupy and the fact that different classes and class interests are represented, that the movement will be able to agree on tactical questions which inevitably exist to bring about a strategy that serves a tangible end? Ends which serve to advance this or that participating class?
The issues socialists face in regards to Occupy movement do not stem from a lack of “open mindedness.” They stem from Occupy’s organizational structures and from the socialists’ inability to properly distinguish the class dynamics at play, thereby undermining any attempt to distinguish the working class from the broader movement and put forward tangible ends that speak on behalf on the working class. In fact, it was “open mindedness” like Binh’s which laid the basis for believing the police are our “friends in blue” and other such notions that are completely alien to Marxism. To ignore the class content of the movement, to perceive it through its own consciousness, leads Binh to assume all courses of action presented can equally represent our interests as workers. Liberal conclusions such as these can only be cured through the exact opposite of open-mindedness – principled working class ideology whose sole purpose is to strengthen us in the face of the 1%.

* A “left-wing” bourgeois political party in the United States.

Pham Binh's Conclusions
Pham Binh summarizes his conclusions in the final section of his article entitled, “Some Conclusions.” This section details what he believes to be the fundamental tasks facing the socialist movement at the present time. First, Binh writes:
The most basic and fundamental task facing socialists is to merge with Occupy and lead it from within. [Binh’s emphasis] Socialist groups that insist on “intervening” in the uprising will be viewed as outsiders with little to contribute in practice to solving Occupy’s actual problems because they will be focused on winning arguments and ideological points rather than actively listening to, joining hands with and fighting alongside the vanguard of the 99% in overcoming common practical and political.”
Binh’s first sentence is correct. While Occupy is not an end itself, but rather a means to an end, as the first major political movement for quite some time, it is imperative that every socialist be active within the movement as practical advisors, agitators and organizers. The masses have shown their rapidly growing discontent with capitalism and the political institutions that assure its continuity. Binh once again struggles to derive correct conclusions from his otherwise correct premises. Viewing the Occupy movement as “the vanguard of the 99%,” he obscures the meaning of the word vanguard. A vanguard, in the Leninist sense, implies both leadership and revolutionary objectives. Since Occupy’s leaders insist there is no such thing, it’s difficult to imagine they would use such leadership for the movement’s benefit, even if these leaders claim the contrary. The fundamental question of any revolution is the question of the state, which of course denotes the class question as well. Seeing as how the 99% is not a class, nor is its leadership capable of conducting or imposing revolutionary objectives, we are forced to admit that Binh is attempting to degrade those who may potentially be revolutionary to the level of amateur.
The revolutionary vanguard can only belong to a revolutionary class. As it stands in the U.S., the only revolutionary class in capitalist society capable of leading a revolution is the proletariat. If Binh insists on ignoring this most fundamental of Marxist concepts, he and others like him will fail at promoting socialist objectives with the movement and impede the socialists and workers within the movement by making no attempts to bring scientific clarity to the working class. Binh writes:
“One difficulty the socialist left faces in accomplishing this basic and fundamental task is the divisions in our ranks that serve in practice to weaken the overall socialist influence within Occupy, thereby strengthening that of the anarchists. They have their Black Bloc, but where is our Red Bloc? Where are the socialist slogans to shape and guide the uprising’s political development?
Out of clouds of pepper spray and phalanxes of riot cops a new generation of revolutionaries is being forged, and it would be a shame if the Peter Camejos, Max Elbaums, Angela Davises, Dave Clines and Huey Newtons of this generation end up in separate “competing” socialist groups as they did in the 1960s. Now is the time to begin seriously discussing the prospect of regroupment, of liquidating outdated boundaries we have inherited, of finding ways to work closely together for our common ends.”
This age-old argument “divided we are weak, united we are strong” is a very tantalizing one for today’s would-be socialists and invades our imaginations with grandiose prospects and beautiful images. To our more sober-minded comrades however, it produces a weary reaction. Not all can be united, not all have the same interests at heart. An alliance of foxes and chickens doesn't lend itself to the security of the chicken coop; only for the satiation of the foxes. Unequal partnerships, alliances with motives moving in different directions -- these things, while in the short term inspiring awe at greater numbers, in the long run dilute, like pouring water into coffee. Is it truly feasible to mend the great ideological divisions that exist within the communist movement? Can one imagine the I.W.W. merging with the CPUSA, or with any of the number of squabbling Fourth International traditions?

To do so would mean to overlook the historical and ideologically-developed divergences that exist between these parties and the political lines they all seek to uphold. In other words, to take this kind of chauvinist view of history is to prevent a theoretical advancement forward, to prevent the settling of contradictions by denying they should exist at all. The divides within the socialist movement are not simply a bad case of stubbornness, born out of nowhere.

To borrow from one of Binh’s few good points, the generally delayed response to the Occupy movement and the tailing of it reflect something much more significant than petty stubbornness. It is one of Lenin’s most well-known lessons: “Without a revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement” and that “the role of vanguard can be fulfilled only by a party that is guided by an advanced theory.” The left failed to lead because of its lack of traction within the working class, especially within the Occupy movement. Binh does not realize that numbers and influence which is the only conclusion to be drawn from such outcries are not necessarily correlated. A small army can topple the biggest if it is equipped with the proper understanding of warfare. The same principle can be applied to an organization small in numbers. Will anything truly be gained by further blurring the already obscured dividing lines?

If nothing is done to address the theoretical bankruptcy of the American socialists, the only fruit the tree of a “broad-based radical party” will bear is a sour hodgepodge of half-baked Marxists, whose number-based influence will ultimately prove ephemeral without revolutionary theory. Such an entity would undoubtedly make poor decisions and serve to reinforce the notion that we are superfluous to the working class struggles at hand.

By adopting a stance on police which includes their participation in the face of their violence, based on a spontaneous movement’s slogan at that, and by promoting and advocating this as socialism, he is deliberately sowing confusion among the working class elements. Binh calls for unity based on these anti-Marxist claims which effectively attempt to pacify the workers to police repression. The only justification he gives for this stance is because it is supposedly the majority opinion within the Occupy movement. Binh is an opportunist; so too are the “socialists” who agree and work with him on these grounds. Opportunism is something to be opposed, not emulated.

Concerning the Slogan of "We are the 99%"
We have already dealt extensively with Binh’s article. In criticizing the socialists for having attempting to foster that section of Occupy who expressed hostility toward the police, he is impeding the development of class-consciousness of the U.S. working class on the grounds that police are part of the so-called 99%, which is not a scientific analysis. Consequently, this leads Binh and others to erroneous conclusions. This opportunism is a rapidly developing trend within our movement in the wake of recent struggles within the country and around the world. This opportunism has always existed, but is now emerging as an active participant.

Not long after Pham Binh’s aforementioned article dealing with the socialists’ tasks was published on the Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, another article was published in the same journal also criticizing Binh’s contribution. The critical article in question, entitled “Revolutionary organization and the Occupy movement” was authored by Paul Le Blanc. We will not go into all the finer details and flaws with this particular publication, but instead will confine ourselves to addressing Le Blanc’s treatment of the 99% slogan -- a method which suffers from the same fundamental errors as Binh’s.

It begins with Le Blanc correctly criticizing Binh’s conclusion that, in order to facilitate a stronger influence within the Occupy movement, the “socialist left” must now regroup and unite, sacrificing Marxist-Leninist principles for the sake of unity. LeBlanc says that temporary alliances are permissible, but complete regroupment is a step backward. Indeed, temporary alliances are permissible but only for tangible political ends, not for opportunist objectives such as “influence.”

Le Blanc to exposes his own errors shortly after his correct criticism of Binh:
“The Occupy movement, in its opposition of the 99% to the 1%, creates, in highly popularised form, a class analysis that is consistent with Marxism. The modern-day system of corporate rule and exploitation overseen by the wealthy 1% (and their servants in the upper fringe of the 99%) is what we mean by capitalism. The heart and soul, and great majority, of the 99% are the working class (blue collar, white collar, unemployed, etc.). The goal of establishing the democratic control of the 99% over our economic and political life is what we understand as socialism. This actually reflects radical traditions that run deep in the history of the United States.
It was, for example, Martin Luther King, Jr., who emphasised that the triple evils of racism, exploitation and war are interrelated and deeply rooted in the very nature of the US social-economic system, insisting that the “whole structure must be changed... American must be born again!” (See “Where Do We Go From Here”, in A Testament of Hope, pp. 250-251.) What the Occupy movement has done, and the way it has defined itself, has resonated powerfully among millions of people in the United States. We in the Occupy movement have a responsibility to be true to that, and to sustain and expand it to the best of our abilities. What we are about, as defined in the Occupy Pittsburgh statement, involves winning the overwhelming majority of the 99% in support of and struggle for the commitments and goals of replacing the power of the 1% with the power of the 99%.
Socialists involved in Occupy have a responsibility to explain how we see things – that this movement of and for the 99% is basically a working-class movement, and that its stated goal of waging a struggle for universal human rights, a central aspect of which is economic justice (the possibility of a decent life for each and every person), is – along with the notion of rule by the people over our economic and political life – what socialism is all about. More than this, our Occupy movement represents a life-giving revitalisation for the labor movement as a whole.”

Thus we arrive at the crux of our topic. Le Blanc claim that the 99% slogan is “in highly popularised form, a class analysis that is consistent with Marxism.” What needs to be thoroughly understood is that Occupy’s slogan of “We are the 99%” is a slogan, not a deep or understanding analysis. The Occupy movement was the necessary consequence of developing class antagonisms, and Occupy’s slogan expresses a sense of these antagonisms, but not a thorough and complete understanding. It is important not to undermine the role of socialist agitation and the role played by a working class organization when judging the class consciousness of a movement.

Le Blanc says that the 99% slogan serves as the basis of “a class analysis that is consistent with Marxism.” This does not address the malady of petty-bourgeois ideological influence over the movement or its effects on the working class, and it makes no attempts to distinguish between the interests of the two classes. Consequently, ideas that suggest these developing class antagonisms can be rectified by merely regulating big business are not ideas that bring the working class to its revolutionary potential. Taking Occupy’s chief slogan and using it as a tool for analysis leads Binh to take a reactionary stance on police and Le Blanc, having chosen to take what Occupy says about itself rather than trying to discern what the movement actually is, exposed the weakness in their theory and methods.

The 99% slogan is once again used to distort the real class dynamic, effectively abstracting democracy from the class question. Phrases like “replacing the power of the 1% with the power of the 99%.” and “its stated goal of waging a struggle for universal human rights, a central aspect of which is economic justice (the possibility of a decent life for each and every person), is – along with the notion of rule by the people over our economic and political life – what socialism is all about.” are liberal phrases, muddled and unscientific – in other words, they are the perfect basis of a slogan, not an analysis. Le Blanc will readily say we must explain to Occupy how we see things, but if what Le Blanc says tails the movement, how is forward motion possible?

The 99% slogan is not enough for Occupy to be considered a proletarian movement or to imply that Occupy can handle its own issues without drawing a line between the workers and other classes, and showing the role they play in the course of the movement. Binh and Le Blanc make the same fundamental error. Lenin taught that we should never to allow ourselves to fall to the level of amateur, but emancipate the amateur to level of revolutionary. Occupy, overall, has no revolutionary demands and is not primarily proletarian. Occupy cannot in of itself serve as a vehicle to revolution in the United States, it can however, serve as a means to an end. In the wake of the collapse of the socialist countries, the socialist movement, right now, above all else, needs to relearn what revolutionary theory means. It is unfortunate that with this intense focus on “unity” among the left, fundamental concepts and lessons are being forgotten, abandoned or outright rejected. Opportunists are forgetting and distorting what makes Marxism a revolutionary doctrine. Until these endless attacks on Marxist-Leninist science are uprooted and consistently struggled against we will be unable to form a movement that can lead the working class, both through its political struggles and into a socialist future.

* We say use the terms “science” when referring to Marxism-Leninism, meaning scientific socialism. Dialectical materialism is a science, for it studies the general laws of motion and development of material reality. Applied to human society, this science not only grants us insight to know the material world, but if used properly can lead to accurate predicative conclusions which render us a priceless service in our daunting task of building a powerful proletarian movement.