Has the world changed in fundamental ways since Sept. 11? Most Americans would say that it has, but not everyone shares this view. Some, especially in circles on the left, maintain that the world of Sept. 11 is much like Sept. 10. This is a very problematic claim in my opinion.
Actually, Sept. 11 is very much unlike Sept. 10. The context and texture of the class struggle changed in fundamental ways when commercial jets struck the Twin Towers and the Pentagon. To be more specific, political initiative shifted to the most reactionary sections of transnational capital on Sept. 11 and they have pressed their advantage since then in every arena of struggle.
The many-sided offensive that was set in train on Sept. 11 could not have happened a day earlier. It was a non-starter on Sept. 10. Admittedly, not everything changed. There is always continuity in the historical process as well as change. Capitalism in the attack’s aftermath is much like it was before the attack. The transnational corporations are much the same now as they were on Sept. 10.
Imperialism’s aggressive, parasitic, and reactionary nature did not arise following Sept. 11. And struggles continue in the post Sept. 11 period. So in this sense, the world on Sept. 11 is much like Sept. 10. But our analysis can’t be left at this level of abstraction and generality.
If we want to influence politics in a practical way we have to move to a lower level of abstraction. Or, to put it differently, we have to get closer to the ground. When we do, we find the conditions of struggle have changed markedly in the wake of Sept. 11.
The war danger has grown immensely. The erosion of democratic rights is proceeding at nearly mind numbing speed. Racist profiling is occurring on an unprecedented scale.
The weight of the economic crisis is falling on the shoulder of the exploited and oppressed. In short, a rupture, a disjunction, a turning point in world and domestic politics in a right direction occurred on Sept. 11.
Not to see this, not to take this in into account, not to see what is new, and not to make all the necessary political adjustments is to render oneself irrelevant in the pressing struggle to win the American people to oppose the offensive of the Bush administration.
You might think that I have constructed a straw man. But I don’t think so. For the issue isn’t whether the world has changed or not. Everyone across the political spectrum acknowledges that it has. But rather the issue is what is the nature of the change that occurred on Sept. 11?
Is the political terrain of struggle marginally or qualitatively different? I would argue that it is clearly qualitatively different and what follows is the necessity of adjusting mass slogans, demands, and forms of struggle and unity to the new conditions of struggle.
With such changes, the fight to curb the war drive of the Bush administration can turn an uphill battle into one that shifts the balance of political forces decisively against Bush administration and the far right gathered around it.
Sam Webb is national chairman of the Communist Party USA. This is an excerpt from his report to he CPUSA National Board Jan. 12-13.