Across the capitalist world today there is a clear political polarization.1Many thanks to the comrades who gave me feedback on an earlier version—David Camfield, Todd Gordon, Kate Doyle Griffith, Zach Levinson; and to the participants in my session at Socialism 2019. As the policies of the neoliberal center continue to deliver declining living standards and working conditions for the vast majority of the world’s inhabitants, more radical alternatives have gained a mass audience. The dominant alternative has been a right-wing populism that targets both “global elites” (with “the Jews” at their core) and immigrants, racialized people, women, and LGBTQ folks as equally responsible for the current social crisis. The defeats of mass struggles and the failure of ostensibly left governments to end austerity, in particular in Greece, has demoralized many and fed the radical right. However, we are also seeing a rebirth of a mass, although politically heterogeneous socialist left across the capitalist world. In the United States, the astronomical growth of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has made socialism a small but significant political force for the first time in over forty years.
As significant minorities of working people are again looking to a socialist alternative to capitalism, we have seen a revival of the discussion of how to organize for the transition to socialism—a revival of the debate on socialist strategy. 2See, among many recent contributions: Vivek Chibber, “Our Road to Power,” Jacobin, December 5, 2017, www.jacobinmag.com/2017/12/our-road-to-power; Charles Post, “What Strategy for the US Left?” Jacobin, February 23, 2018, www.jacobinmag.com/2018/02/socialist-organization-strategy-electoral-politics; James Muldoon, “Reclaiming the Best of Karl Kautsky,” Jacobin, January 5, 2019, www.jacobinmag.com/2019/01/karl-kautsky-german-revolution-democracy-socialism?fbclid=IwAR3z6h0Xf99cTkbeTcfrlbnu7JBcLOPcTN6I-Hk_yZLr8bKBlqxajF2rFoo; Charles Post, “The ‘Best’ of Karl Kautsky Isn’t Enough” Jacobin, March 9, 2019, www.jacobinmag.com/2019/03/karl-kautsky-socialist-strategy-german-revolution; Eric Blanc, “Why Kautsky Was Right (and Why You Should Care),” Jacobin, March 2, 2019, www.jacobinmag.com/2019/04/karl-kautsky-democratic-socialism-elections-rupture; Sotiris Panagiotis, “The Strategic Question Revisited: Ten Theses,” Socialist Project: The Bullet, May 23, 2019, https://socialistproject.ca/2019/05/the-strategic-question-revisited-ten-theses/. Unfortunately, many have presented this debate as between advocates of a “democratic” versus an “insurrectionary” road to socialism. In my opinion, this debate, which revisits the key issues discussed by Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky, Luxemburg, and others in the pre-1914 socialist movement is not between “democrats” and “insurrectionists.” On one side are those comrades who believe that the working class and oppressed can use all or parts of the existing democratic capitalist state to abolish capitalism and build a socialist society. On the other are those, like myself, who believe that the existing capitalist state is fundamentally undemocratic and cannot be permeated by working people and molded to meet our goals. Instead the existing capitalist state must be dismantled (smashed) and replaced with new and radically more democratic political institutions that embody working class and popular power.
These strategies are, implicitly or explicitly, based in different theories of the capitalist state. As we will see, there is no one-to-one correspondence between theories of the state and socialist strategy—many of the left have defended theories that are at odds with their politics. However, different visions of how we will organize to transcend capitalism assume different understandings of the relationship of the state to capitalist accumulation and competition and to the class struggle. This essay examines the theoretical underpinnings of different socialist strategies in order to determine not simply their logical coherence, but whether or not they are based on a realistic understanding of capitalism and the capitalist state. Only such an assessment of these theories will allow us to determine whether or not the strategies they inform are utopian.
The classical reformist political strategy, put forward by both the social-democratic parties after 1914 and the communist parties after 1945, prioritizes electoral politics. This strategy proposes that once a socialist party assumes office through elections, they would carry out a series of political and economic reforms. Politically, a socialist government would attempt to democratize the existing state—for example, the establishment of proportional representation for the legislature and an executive that is directly accountable to the legislative body. Economically, socialists in office would strengthen trade union rights, expand social welfare programs, nationalize select industries, and use monetary and fiscal policies to promote economic growth, full employment, and higher wages. For some reformists, especially those in the Communist parties, these political and economic reforms will initiate a piecemeal transition to socialism. For others, in particular those shaped by social democracy, the reforms will effectively balance the interests of capital and labor, guarantee stable economic growth and allow enduring improvements in workers’ standard of living.3The most recent, coherent presentations of the classic reformist strategy are from the “Eurocommunist” Parties of the 1970s. See Santiago Carillo, “Eurocommunism” and the State (London: Lawrence & Wishart, 1977) and G. Nepolitano, The Italian Road to Socialism: An Interview with Eric Hobsbawm (Westport, CT: Lawrence Hill, 1977).
The classical reformist strategy flows from what has been called an instrumentalist theory of the capitalist state. This theory is often not presented in an explicit fashion, but rather is embedded in empirical and historical analyses. A careful reading of the work of radical sociologists like C. Wright Mills and G. William Domhoff, and the early work of the Marxist Ralph Milliband,4C. W. Mills, The Power Elite (New York: Oxford University Press, 1956); G. William Domhoff, Who Rules America? The Triumph of the Corporate Rich (New York: McGraw Hill, 2014); Ralph Miliband, The State in Capitalist Society (New York: Quartet Books, 1973).[/] allow us to identify the key elements of their theory: the close personal, economic, and political-ideological ties between the capitalist class and the leading state personnel determine the class content of the state institutions. Capitalists possess economic power, derived from their ownership of the means of production. The state personnel’s place in the state institutions give them political power—the ability to make and enforce political decisions. Capitalists become both the economic and political ruling class through their ties to the state personnel—campaign donations, direct participation of capitalists in government, the power of lobbying organizations and the role of a corporate-sponsored “policy planning network” that confines the limits of normal political debate to options acceptable to capitalists. Put simply, the capitalist state is a neutral instrument capable of being wielded by a variety of social forces, depending upon who occupies the key state institutions. If the working class and its political representatives can displace state personnel linked to capital, the existing state can become a tool for either enduring reform or a gradual transition to socialism, according to this view.
Many on the new socialist left understand that the classical social-democratic strategy is a dead end. We can cite, ad infinitum, examples of how the election of reformist governments have led to some combination of capitulation and abandonment of reforms in the face of capitalist resistance (Mitterand in France in the early 1980s; the ANC in South Africa since 1994, the MAS in Bolivia since 2006; and most recently Syriza in Greece in 2016). Worse failures have opened the road to capitalist repression of the workers’ movement (Spain, 1936–39; Chile, 1970–73; Venezuela today). This strategy failed, not primarily because of the lack of commitment on the part of social-democratic politicians, but because it is based on a utopian understanding of the relationship of the capitalist state to both capitalist accumulation and the class struggle.4See Robert Brenner, “The Paradox of Reformism: The American Case,” in M. Davis, F. Pfeil, and M. Spinker, eds., The Year Left: American Socialist Yearbook, vol.1 (London: Verso, 1985).
On the one hand, the laws of motion of capitalism—in particular the dynamics of profitability and competition—gravely limit what any government can do under capitalism.5See F. Block, “The Ruling Class Does Not Rule: Notes on the Marxist Theory of the State,” Socialist Revolution 33 (May–June 1977). Capital’s ability to withhold investment in the face of government policies that reduce profitability or undermine competitiveness is usually sufficient to guarantee that the reformists will fail. If a government is actually committed to radical reforms and implements them in the face of capitalist economic resistance, the structure of the capitalist state institutions will allow capitalists to bypass elected branches of government and use the military and police to violently crush any challenges to its rule.6Ralph Miliband, “The Coup in Chile,” in R. Miliband and J. Saville, eds., Socialist Register 1973 (London: Merlin Books, 1973) In sum, the capitalist state is not a neutral instrument that either capitalists or workers can wield for their own distinctive and antagonistic goals.
Alternatives to Reformism
For much of the twentieth century there were two strategic alternatives to classic social-democratic reformism. The first was another variant of what Hal Draper called “socialism from above,” where a self-proclaimed armed revolutionary vanguard destroys the existing state and establishes a single-party dictatorship that rules in the name of working people. This alternative should be a political anathema for the new socialist left. This strategy deepens the popular equation of socialism with bureaucratic class rule, defends regimes that were doomed to social and economic failure, and makes revolution the voluntarist act of an armed elite rather than the democratic self-activity of working people. This strategy has led the global left to adapt their activity to the political and diplomatic needs of states that purport to defend socialism, but actually undermine it at every step. Put simply, revolutionary “socialism from above”—Stalinism—is not only a dead end, it is morally and politically bankrupt.7Charlie Post, “Actually Existing ‘Socialism’—A Critique of Stalinism,” New Socialist, February 16, 2018, https://newsocialist.org/actually-existing-socialism-a-critique-of-stalinism/.
The other alternative to reformism, which admittedly has not commanded the support of significant portions of the working class since the 1930s, is revolutionary socialism from below.8Karl Marx, The Civil War in France (1871), www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/index.htm; V. I. Lenin, The State and Revolution: Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution (1917), www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1871/civil-war-france/index.htm; E. Mandel, “Socialist Strategy in the West,” in Revolutionary Marxism Today (London: New Left Books, 1979). Recognizing that the existing state is a mechanism of capitalist domination, revolutionary socialists argue that only the independent, self-organization and self-activity of working people can either win reforms from capital or transcend capitalism through a revolution. Reliance on routine collective bargaining, lobbying, and electing pro-labor candidates to office rarely wins significant or lasting reforms. For the most part, massive, disruptive struggles—mass strikes, occupations, etc.—are the way workers raise the cost of capitalist resistance and force capitalists to make, albeit temporary, concessions to working people.9Brenner, “The Paradox of Reformism”
Transcending capitalism will require dismantling the existing capitalist state institutions. This strategy is often caricatured as imagining a simple, frontal confrontation between a revolutionary counter-government and a monolithic capitalist state. In reality, revolutionaries have often organized within the existing capitalist state. Not only have revolutionaries run in elections, primarily to promote popular struggles, but we have sought to build independent organizations of state employees and the enlisted personnel of the military to challenge the supposedly legitimate authority of their superiors. Put another way, revolutionaries try to promote widespread insubordination with the state. In a revolutionary situation, committees of state workers and soldiers could challenge the discipline exercised by unelected state bureaucrats and military officers, short-circuiting capital’s ability to derail or repress popular struggles. Along with committees elected in workplaces and communities, they are the basis of a radically democratic alternative state—that can smash the existing capitalist state, in particular its core repressive institutions.
Theories of the State
While Marx and Lenin formulated the key elements of this strategy, they did not explicitly present a theory of the capitalist state in either Civil War in France or State and Revolution. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Marxists Joaquim Hirsch and Nicos Poulantzas10J. Hirsch, “The State Apparatus and Social Reproduction: Elements of a Theory of the Bourgeois State,” in J. Holloway and S. Picciotto, State and Capital: A Marxist Debate (London: Edward Arnold, 1978); Nicos Poulantzas, “Social Classes and their Extended Reproduction,” in Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (London: New Left Books, 1975) elaborated structural-relational theories of the capitalist state that supports the revolutionary strategic vision. Hirsch’s work begins with Marx’s discussion in Capital of capitalism’s laws of motion to provide a clear understanding of the relationship of the state to the process of capitalist accumulation, competition, and crisis. Poulantzas’s work, which focuses on the relationship of social classes and their struggles to the capitalist state apparatus, is more problematic. As Simon Clarke points out, for the early Poulantzas, “The revolution is made by the state (the appearance of a new form of state presaging the appearance of a new mode of production) and not by the activity of the exploited classes.”11“Marxism, Sociology and Poulantzas’s Theory of the State,” in Simon Clarke, ed., The State Debate (London: Palgrave MacMillan, 1991), 103; also available at https://libcom.org/files/statedebate.pdf. However, I believe there are theoretical insights that can be extracted from Poulantzas that must inform our understanding of the capitalist state.
The capitalist state is not, as some have claimed, a loosely interconnected set of institutions whose social character is given by the social ties of its leading personnel, but instead a fetishized form of the capital-labor social relation. The capitalist state functions as a sphere of public authority institutionally separate from the private sphere of exploitation and accumulation. Capitalists don’t need the state to enforce economic domination over the working class. Instead, the reproduction of capitalist social relations takes place primarily through the dull compulsions of the market – one submits to workplace discipline because one needs the job in order to pay the bills and buy the groceries. Direct political-juridical coercion is not usually necessary for workers to be subjected to capitalist exploitation. The relative autonomy of the capitalist state from accumulation gives capitalists the structural capacity to discipline the state through investment strikes and the like. This structural separation of the political and economic under capitalism strictly limits capitalist state economic policies—no socialist government can use the existing state institutions to abolish the laws of motion of capital.
The capitalist state is itself the institutional crystallization of capitalist class relations—of capital’s dominance over labor. To paraphrase Poulantzas, the capitalist state serves to organize the class struggle of capital and disorganize the class struggle of labor. To unite a capitalist class riven by competition, the capitalist state must be relatively autonomous from any individual or group (fraction) of capitalists. Segments of capital, especially in the democratic form of the capitalist state, may have close ties to certain state personnel or branches of the state apparatus. However, the state as a whole has a measure of autonomy so that it can provide the institutional framework to overcome divisions and create a consensus among the capitalist class.
The hierarchal-bureaucratic relations that mark the capitalist state institutions—from elected legislatures to the unelected civil service and the military—ensure labor’s disorganization. Working people appear within the capitalist state in one of two ways. On one hand, they appear as atomized individual citizens with legal-juridical rights subject to the bureaucratic-hierarchical dominance of capital through the so-called rule of law.12Nicos Poulantzas, State, Power, Socialism (London: New Left Books, 1978), 49–75. See also P. Anderson, “The Antinomies of Antonio Gramsci,” New Left Review vol 1, no. 100 (November 1977–January 1978), 42–45. On the other, they appear as a corporate entity represented by their official leaders (labor bureaucrats, professional leaders of oppressed groups), whose interest are supposedly balanced with other corporate interests (business, consumers, the public, etc.).13Leo Panitch, “The Development of Corporatism in Liberal Democracies,” Comparative Political Studies vol 10, no. 1 (1977). In neither case are workers present in the capitalist state as a collective force capable of disrupting capitalist rule. In all cases, the price of admission for representation within the capitalist state is eschewing the forms of organization that allow working people to exercise power—massive, socially disruptive, and usually illegal forms of struggle.
The concrete relationship of forces between capital and the working class and oppressed in any society historically shapes the various forms of the capitalist state—parliamentary democracy, military dictatorship, civilian despotism (Bonapartism), and fascism.14See Nicos Poultantzas, Fascism and Dictatorship: The Third International and the Problem of Fascism (London: New Left Books, 1974) However, by themselves, none of these forms—including the most democratic institutions of capitalist states—can be wielded by working people to secure enduring reforms or initiate a transition to socialism. Poulantzas, despite his later strategic wavering, was quite clear on this question:
The state is not an “entity” with an intrinsic instrumental essence, but it is itself a relation, more precisely the condensation of a class relation. This implies that . . . political domination is itself bound up with the existence and functioning of the state apparatuses.
It follows that a radical transformation of social relations cannot be limited to a change in state power, but has to “revolutionize” the state apparatuses themselves. In the process of socialist revolution, the working class cannot confine itself to take the place of the bourgeoisie at the level of state power, but it has also radically to transform (to “smash”) the apparatuses of the bourgeois state and replace them by a proletarian state apparatus. 15Nicos Poulantzas, Classes in Contemporary Capitalism (London: New Left Books, 1975), 26.
Capital’s Crystallized Dominance or Site of Struggle?
In both the historical and contemporary debates on the capitalist state and socialist strategy, some comrades have sought a “middle ground” between the classic reformist and revolutionary strategies. Many today look to the writing of Karl Kautsky to envision a transition to socialism that combines, as equally important, winning “power” in the capitalist state through democratic elections and building organs of popular power in workplaces and neighborhoods to support a socialist government’s anticapitalist policies.16See Blanc, “Why Kautsky Was Right.” Both Ralph Milliband and Poultanzas, despite their sharp theoretical differences on the capitalist state, embraced a similar strategy in the late 1970s and early 1980s.17Nicos Poulantzas, “Toward a Democratic Socialism,” in State, Power, Socialism; Ralph Miliband, Marxism and Politics (London: Oxford University Press, 1979)
More recently, Michael McCarthy18Michael A. McCarthy, “Seven Theses on the Capitalist Democratic State,” Verso blog, https://www.versobooks.com/blogs/4308-seven-theses-on-the-capitalist-democratic-state. attempted to elaborate and update Poultanzas’s argument in his analysis of the democratic capitalist state. In this version of the theory, the institutions of the democratic capitalist state are neither simple instruments to be wielded by either capital or labor, nor a “monolith” that is “impenetrable” by working people. Instead, the democratic capitalist state is presented as a “set of loosely interconnected institutions that are sites of struggle,” whose relative autonomy from “any specific class or class fraction”19McCarthy, “Seven Theses.” can allow it to be turned against its capitalist masters as working-class struggle sharpens the contradictions between the state’s functions in guaranteeing accumulation and ensuring legitimacy. While recognizing the advantages capital has in its relationship to the institutions of the democratic capitalist state, workers can force through policies that strengthen their position in relation to capital through both electoral victories and mass organizing that can lead, in particular historical conjunctures, to a transition to socialism.
I believe that this strategy is actually incompatible with the notion of the capitalist state institutions, including democratic ones, as the materialization of capitalist class relations. Instead, it ultimately reverts back to an implicit instrumentalism where the working classes can in fact use segments of the democratic capitalist state apparatus to affect pro–working class reforms and initiate a transition to socialism. In both the conclusion to Poulantzas’s last work, State, Power, Socialism and McCarthy’s recent contribution there is a subtle conceptual shift. The understanding of the democratic capitalist state as one form of the institutionalization of the capital-labor social relation is recast—the democratic form of the capitalist state becomes a site of struggle between social classes. In the original formulation, the capitalist state institutions’ bureaucratic and hierarchal form facilitates the reproduction of capital’s domination over labor by organizing capital and disorganizing labor. In the later formulations, the state institutions become a relatively level playing field where the working classes, through their own electoral political party and mass organizations like unions, can seize parts of the state apparatus to ensure durable reforms and initiate socialism.
The notion of the capitalist state institutions as a site of struggle confuses the struggle for democratic rights and pro–working class reform with defense of democratic capitalist state institutions. Clearly, the relationship of forces in a society will shape the form of the capitalist state. There is no doubt that workers’ struggles take place on a very different, and more advantageous terrain, when there are democratic freedoms (free speech, right to organize, etc.) than under various forms of capitalist dictatorship. It is also absolutely the case that working-class struggles can compel capitalists and the state to grant reforms that improve the lives of workers and enhance their capacity for struggle.20Leon Trotsky, “What Next?: Vital Questions for the German Proletariat,” in The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany (New York: Pathfinder Press, 1970).
However, both democratic rights and substantive pro–working class reforms are rarely if ever won through the existing capitalist state institutions. Instead, they were won and defended by mass, disruptive social movements—mass strikes, occupations of workplaces and public spaces, street demonstrations—outside of the rules of the game of the capitalist state. The struggles in the United States that won union recognition, ended legalized segregation, and created and expanded social welfare programs all required law-breaking on a massive scale.21Frances Fox Piven and Richard A. Cloward, Poor People’s Movements: Why They Succeed, How They Fail (New York: Vintage Books, 1977); M. Goldfield, “Worker Insurgency, Radical Organization, and New Deal Labor Legislation,” American Political Science Review vol. 83, no. 4 (December 1989).
The Historical Record
The twentieth century presents a history where the working class and oppressed stopped engaging in mass disruption and sought to advance their goals through the capitalist state institutions—through electing people with the right ideas, lobbying, participation in state agencies, and state-sanctioned collective bargaining. Through these means alone they were unable to either win or defend substantive reforms.
This dynamic of demobilization and retreat is not accidental, but flows from the capitalist state’s institutionalization of capital’s dominance over labor. The price of admission to a place within the institutions of the capitalist state for the responsible representatives of working class and oppressed people is accepting the rules of the game of the existing political institutions. Even while there are important ways these representatives can amplify working-class struggles, the rules of the game also involve a willingness to abide by the law, which usually restricts the ability of working people to organize disruptive struggles.
This can be seen very clearly even in a nonrevolutionary period—the United States during the Second World War, when the US labor movement was offered a place at the table in the capitalist state apparatus.22Nelson Lichtenstein, Labor’s War at Home: The CIO in World War II (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982). Both the AFL and CIO were given representation on a variety of wartime boards charged with everything from the allocation of labor to various war industries (Office of Production Management) to the regulation of wages, hours, and working conditions (War Labor Board). The ticket to this dance was renouncing the workers’ most powerful weapon—the right to strike. The labor officialdom hoped that their participation in state administration of the war economy would initiate a process of the social-democratization of the US economy, where unions would have a permanent role in administering the economy and the state would protect workers through universal social programs. Instead, labor’s wartime participation in these state agencies hot-housed the bureaucratization of the new industrial unions, as a system of industrial jurisprudence based on the grievance procedure displaced strike action over workplace issues.
As shop-floor activism, the cellular basis of workers’ power, was stifled, the labor movement as a whole was weakened. Rather than labor winning a public role in production, capital regained untrammeled private investment and control of the labor process and substantially weakened the legal rights of unions through the Taft-Hartley Act. Instead of universal single-payer health care, social security pensions that could provide all retirees with an adequate income and a massive program of public housing, US labor was reduced to negotiating private welfare states where workers’ health care and pensions were subject to the profitability of the employers, and accepting a racially segregated program of federally sponsored individual home ownership. When the postwar boom came to an end in the late 1960s, this labor movement proved incapable of defending the gains of the 1930s. The string of defeats that began in the 1970s and 1980s, the direct result of labor’s reliance on participation in capitalist state institutions across the world, has deepened working-class passivity and cynicism (the enduring basis of capitalist legitimacy) and opened the road to the populist far right.
Revolution and the State
If attempts that rely upon a struggle within the democratic capitalist state institutions are a dead-end strategy for winning and defending reforms under capitalism, it is even less effective as a strategy for socialism. The failure of both classic reformist strategies and the attempts to find a third way between reform and revolution are rooted, ultimately, in the utopian character of a strategy based on capturing all or part of the capitalist state apparatus for working people. The very structure of the capitalist state—its relative autonomy from accumulation and its bureaucratic hierarchical structure—make it the institutionalization of capital’s dominance over labor, and thus, ultimately an obstacle to the goals and aspirations of the working class.
A consistent advocate of the imagined middle road between reform and revolution might argue that organs of popular power in workplaces and working-class neighborhoods could, in a revolutionary situation, check capitalist resistance from the unelected civil service and military, without a frontal assault on these institutions. In reality, however, the organs of popular and working-class power would have to actually act as a substitute state to effectively block resistance from the bureaucracy and military. Workers’ and community councils, including those representing public sector workers, would have to displace (and possibly arrest) the permanent civil service; while councils of soldiers would have to defy the authority of their officers. Put simply, the organs of popular power would have to frontally assault the core institutions of the existing capitalist state and replace them with a workers’ state based on the highest forms of working-class self-organization—workers councils. If such a radical socialist government did not pursue these tactics—which would require an armed confrontation with the existing capitalist state—they would be reduced to administering capitalism and austerity as social-democrats have for generations. The refusal of Salvador Allende and the leadership of the Socialist Party and the Communist Party to face this reality left Chilean workers unprepared for the coup of September 11, 1973.
We are clearly not in a revolutionary situation today anywhere in the advanced capitalist world—although the legitimacy of democratic capitalist political institutions is not as stable as some have claimed. It is also the case that we have seen very few full-scale revolutionary crises in the advanced capitalist world—the most important being in Germany from 1918 to 1923, Spain, 1936–37, and Portugal, 1974–1975. Today the task of the socialist left is rebuilding a militant minority of working people capable of promoting independent struggles and political action that will again make socialism the common sense of a significant layer of working people. In this task, those of us who advocate a revolutionary socialist strategy will find much practical common ground with our comrades who are seeking a third way between reform and revolution. Whether that is building rank-and-file workers organizations in existing unions and unorganized workplaces, organizing militant demonstrations against the internment of migrants in concentration camps, or defending abortion rights, we can work together to resist reformist pressures to limit activity to electing good people and respecting the limits of capitalist legality.
However, our different understandings of capitalism, the class struggle, and the capitalist state can impact how we approach these struggles. In particular, we will need to decide whether or not to seek long-term alliances with the forces of official reformism (the labor and NGO bureaucracy, so-called progressive Democrats), who rely on the existing state, in the day to day struggles. Will we commit ourselves to the permanent, independent organization of rank-and-file activists capable of taking action independent of, and, if necessary, in opposition to the forces of official reform? Will we prioritize electoral campaigns whose main goal is limited to winning office? Or will we seek to organize election campaigns that promote ongoing social struggles, which will require independent political organization? These are the burning questions we face today—and the answers we give to them will be shaped by our theoretical and strategic vision of the road to socialism.