Leadership is knowing what to do next.
Figuring out what to do begins with understanding the situation and the trends toward the next situation.
For most Americans alive now, our opinions were formed at a time when America had a firm grip on world imperialism. The organized sector of the working class (mostly unions) did very little about it, and the population in general was not interested in change. That situation came from the U.S. economic domination after World War II, when virtually all their competitors were bombed flat. Since the 1970s, the economic rivals of the U.S. have grown in strength and now challenge the U.S. economically. Short of an unthinkable new world war, we are not going back to that situation ever. It's almost amusing to hear politicians yell that they will "bring America back" when it is an economic impossibility.
Today, the U.S. domination of the world is no longer based on economic supremacy. Even their military might is not as supreme as it was. In Libya, for example, French or English interests are more likely to capitalize on the new situation than is the U.S.. Imperialism is hesitating over Syria and other Mid-East countries when, in the past, they would have immediately run to aid their puppet allies! The U.S. may soon beat an ignoble retreat from Iraq!
The capitalist countries are competing with one another today through austerity programs. In Greece, for example, they have squeezed their people to the point of open revolt. In the U.S., austerity measures take the form of budget cuts and virulent anti-union campaigns.
Most recently, the "Occupy Wall Street" movement based on tent colonies in urban public spaces, has inspired and mobilized the most people. Even organizations not associated with the tent colonies are benefitting from larger crowds and enlivened participation. Like the OWS participants, most of us are not operating with a clear program that will actually lead to solutions. We act on disparate parts of a general reform agenda. Many people still think they can "Bring America Back" to the prosperity of the 1945-1979 period.
Thinking people must keep our eyes on the prize, and we must know what the prize is. We should make it clear to all that the immediate problems we face today are a necessary and inseparable part of capitalism. These are ironclad facts: only socialism can replace capitalism and only the working class and its allies can bring socialism.
All tactics are good in the right time and place. Carrying out protests from tent colonies has been a tremendously successful tactic this Fall, but it is not likely to endure to a successful conclusion. The support that the tent colonists have received from the working class, both organized and unorganized, is the most important feature of this development. Let us build on these successful mobilizations by participating, by spreading their influence, and by explaining, where appropriate, how a real solution can come about.
The only way to organize thinking people on a correct program is with a communist party. In the flurry of activity, we are likely to lose sight of that, but it cannot and will not disappear. We must coordinate our work with our comrades, train ourselves, and build our strength, primarily by recruiting more members.
--Jim Lane in Dallas