This exposition of basic Marxist ideas on trade unions, politics, workers' parties, and a workers' government, is adapted from 'The Fight for Socialism', published in 1946 by the Workers Party of the USA, and written by Max Shachtman
Organising the revolutionaries and the fight for a workers' government
To meet the capitalists on the economic field under more favourable conditions, the workers very wisely organised a special machine, the labour unions. To deal with the capitalist class on the political field, it is also necessary to organise a special machine, a working-class political party.
The class struggle is a political struggle. It cannot be fought successfully by the workers unless they have a political weapon. which means, their own political party. The capitalist class has its own political organisations. It sees to it that they remain committed to its basic interests: the maintenance of the capitalist system. It sees to it that they remain under its control. It provides them with a press. It provides them with funds. running into millions of dollars each year. In some places the capitalists are in direct control of these parties, in others, its agents and sworn friends are in direct control. Even if, under certain conditions, a "progressive" breaks through to a nomination and gets elected, the capitalist class still maintains control of the political machinery and is able to realise its aims in the end.
Why should not the workers have their own political party, which openly calls itself the party of the working class? The workers are the most numerous and most important class in society. They have the most representative and largest organisations in society, the labour unions, which outnumber by far the membership of all the capitalist and middle class organisations put together.
That is not all. Labour leaders and "friends of labour" try to discourage the workers from forming a party of their own with the argument that the workers, and especially the labour unions, by themselves, do not form the absolute majority of the population, and therefore could not win in the contest with the existing parties.
An utterly false and misleading argument! The capitalist parties represent a far tinier minority of the population than do the labour unions. That does not prevent the labour leaders and the "friends" from supporting these parties. A working-class party, with a correct program and leadership, could win the support of the overwhelming majority of the population. The main enemy of the working class is monopoly capitalism, represented by the big industrial and financial magnates. Why should not, why cannot, labour, in its fight against the monopolistic class, enlist the support of the poor farmers, of the lower middle classes, who are also under the heel of monopoly capitalism? Why cannot labour draw up and carry on a serious fight for such a political program as would attract to it the support of these other people, together with whom labour makes up far more than a simple majority of the population? On what ground should we believe that the political support of these people will always go to the leadership of capitalism, but never to the leadership of labour?
Those who argue against independent political action by the workers, against an independent workers' party, are tied in body and mind to the chariot of capitalist politics. They find no difficulty in believing that capitalism always can and should win the support of the middle class. But they have so little confidence in the working class in whose name they presume to speak, that they cannot conceive of it winning the support of the bulk of the people and acquiring the leadership of the nation. That a few thousand capitalists should run the country seems natural to them. That it should be run by millions of workers is inconceivable to them. In this way, as in all others, they show they are capitalistic labour leaders, not real working-class leaders.
The workers need a party of their own to issue the Declaration of Independence of the working class. It is the first big step in breaking from the capitalist parties and capitalist politics, and toward independent working-class political action.
However, it is only the first step. The formation of an independent workers' party acquires great significance only if it proclaims the objective of a Workers' Government.
What would be the program and purpose of a Workers' Government? Would it simply be to put the workers in the offices now occupied by capitalist politicians and bureaucrats? Would it simply be to take over the responsibility for managing the affairs of the capitalist class? In that case, it would be a Workers' Government only in name, and a capitalist government in reality. It would confuse the workers, and make it easy for capital to get back all its power.
This is not a mere assertion. It is a fact proved by experience. Labour and Social-Democratic governments have often held office. But in every one of these cases, the government failed to act in the interests of the working class. It left the power of the capitalists intact. It made no fundamental change. The position of the masses of the people was not sufficiently improved or not improved at all, because no bold steps were taken to remove the causes of the social evils produced by capitalism. The hopes of the people were disappointed. Their enthusiasm declined. The capitalist class thereupon found little difficulty in regaining all its political control by taking over the government directly. It either crushed the labour government by violence or simply dismissed it from office. In many cases, an outright reactionary or fascist government took control.
A Workers' Government is needed not to protect the power and interests of the capitalists, but the power and interests of the workers, and of all the "little people" as a whole. Political power - the government, the state - exists only to serve class interests. All the interests of the capitalist class are tied up with and based upon preserving their ownership and control of the means of production. Their whole power over society is based upon this ownership. It enables them to exploit and oppress the majority of the population. It results in growing social inequality, in unemployment, economic scarcity, insecurity and war. The maintenance of capitalist property is the basic principle of every capitalist government. To this principle, it subordinates everything else.
A Workers' Government must have a basically different principle if it is to discharge its great obligation to those who placed it in power. To the evils of capitalism, it must oppose social progress and human welfare. To the interests of a ruling minority, it must oppose the interests of all humanity. Its aim must be to assure society a high, continuous level of production which will permit the cultural development of all, and which will not be broken periodically by convulsive crises; to assure abundance to all and peace among all the nations and peoples, so that the nightmare of insecurity is dispelled; to assure everyone freedom from physical and intellectual enslavement of any kind. Are not these the things that all the people long for?
Capitalist class rule has demonstrated to the hilt that it cannot, by its very nature, achieve this aim. Yet its achievement is not only necessary, but it is quite possible. Now the question is: Once the workers have political power, once there is a Workers' Government, what can and should it do to make this aim a living reality?
Socialism, based upon the planned organisation of production for use by means of the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production, is the abolition of all classes and class differences.
"As an ideal, it would be a good thing to have socialism; but it is only an ideal which cannot be realised in practice." This is said by many people who have a poor understanding not only of socialism but of capitalism as well. Let us see. Is socialism merely a noble ideal, or is it more than that - a practical possibility and urgent necessity?
Without production, society cannot live. The first step that a genuine Workers' Government would take would be directed toward assuring continuous production so as to satisfy the needs of the people.
How could that be assured? There would be all sorts of difficulties in the way. Most of them would come from the big capitalists. If they saw that this government was really serious in applying its principle of serving the interests of society and not merely of serving the profit-lust of capitalism, they would set up all the obstacles they could. Their aim would be to throw monkey-wrenches into all the machinery of industry and administration, to weaken the government, to undermine its authority, to discredit it, and to overthrow it as soon as possible. When the capitalists feel that their property and profits are in any way endangered, there are no lengths to which they will not go to preserve them. The interests and welfare of the people are their very last concern.
What would they do? They would refuse to carry out the orders of the government, or carry them out in such a way as to nullify their purpose They would sabotage production in a thousand different ways, or shut down their plants on one pretext or another. They would conceal their real stocks and assets. By their control of the banking system, they would deny the government the funds required to carry out a progressive program. They would even create an artificial financial panic, as they have done on other occasions. They would use their great economic power to finance bands of thugs and reactionaries assigned to the job of creating turmoil, of impeding the smooth operation of the government, and eventually of overthrowing it by force or the threat of force. By their monopoly of the press and radio, they would keep up a running fire of misrepresentation, lies and slander against the government with the aim of undermining it, sabotaging its efforts, and confusing and misleading the people. They would soon show the Workers' Government what it means for them to have a monopoly of social power!
These are not mere predictions. They have already occurred in many countries. The capitalist class acted in exactly that way not only in Russia, when a revolutionary Workers' Government took political power, but also in other countries, where there were only conservative and timid Labour Governments or half-Labour Governments The only country in which this campaign was properly dealt with was in Russia, in the revolution of 1917. A genuine Workers' Government in any other country would have to deal with the capitalist class in fundamentally the same way - if only in simple self-defence.
A Workers' Government would, first of all, nationalise the key, basic industries, the means of transportation, and the banking system. These are the main strongholds of monopoly capitalism and the foundations of modern production. By nationalising and centralising them in the hands of the state, the Workers' Government accomplishes two objectives with one stroke. It is now in a position to organise production and distribution in a planful and systematic way, and it deprives the reactionary monopolists of the economic power to interfere with production and the functioning of the government.
In undertaking the nationalisation of industry and finance, several questions of first-rate importance immediately face the Workers' Government. Let us consider them one by one.
First: Will the property of the capitalists be confiscated without compensation?
The very word "confiscation," especially when the words 'without compensation" are added to it, raises shrieks of horror from the ranks of the capitalists. Outrageous! Inconceivable! Yet the whole system of capitalism is based on confiscation. The original accumulation of capital was accomplished for the most part by an elaborate system of confiscating (expropriating) the wealth and resources of small producers, independent peasants and farmers, and entire colonial peoples. Day-in and day-out capitalism exists only because it confiscates the surplus-value produced by the worker over and above the wages he receives for his labour. Capitalism has developed confiscation to a forcibly-maintained, scientific process of exploitation. If we understand the fact that the value of all the products of society has been produced by labour, it would be perfectly proper for labour to confiscate without further ado.
Nevertheless, confiscation of capitalist property without any compensation to its former owners is not an absolutely necessary step for the Workers' Government to take. If the capitalists reconcile themselves quietly to the new government and the social progress it undertakes to achieve, it might very well prove to be a wise step to compensate them for the property that has been nationalised. Or, compensation might be offered them in order to show that the new government is not interested merely in vengeance. Its primary concern is the organisation of economic life for the benefit of the whole of society. There is room in this organisation even for former capitalists who wish to cooperate and are ready to place at the disposal of society whatever technical and managerial skill they may possess. Under these conditions, compensation would be a cheap way of assuring a smooth and speedy reorganisation of economic and social life.
Naturally, even if compensation were decided on, it would certainly not be based on calculations arbitrarily made by the former capitalists, but on estimates made by the government. The capitalist would not be permitted to present the government with any claim he himself saw fit to make and to demand, "This is what my property is worth. Pay me off in full." In addition, whatever compensation he received would be for his personal wealth, but could not be used to acquire ownership of the means of production all over again so that the exploitation of labour might be resumed. Finally, all incomes would be subject to a progressive tax with a democratically-fixed schedule.
All experience indicates, however, that the capitalist class will not quietly submit to a Workers' Government. Wherever it seemed on the verge of coming into existence, the capitalists always organised all the armed forces at their disposal to crush it. Wherever it did take power, the capitalists fought tooth and nail to overturn it by the same armed force. In all likelihood, that is how they will act in every country where their immense power to rule society is threatened. It goes without saying that where the capitalist class or any part of it tries to overturn the Workers' Government, tries to impose the will of the minority upon the majority by force and violence, tries to throw the country into a bloody civil war, it would be treated like any traitor. These capitalists would be declared outlaws, they would be deprived of all civil rights and their property confiscated outright by the state.
In other words, the choice is really theirs. If they recognise that the day of their despotic domination over society have ended, and that they had best cooperate as useful citizens, then chaos and bloodshed will be averted, and smooth and speedy progress assured for all. If they do not reconcile themselves and seek to turn progress into reaction by sword and bomb, they can hardly complain about the inevitable consequences..
Second: Shall all private property be nationalised immediately? Certainly not! In the first place, we are concerned not with private property but with capitalist private property, that is, privately-owned means of production and exchange, that is, with capital, or wealth used for the creation of more wealth by exploiting the labour of others. We do not have in mind such things as clothing, the family home, radio or automobile, furniture, your own fishing boat or hobby equipment, and other items of purely personal property. If anything, the aim of the Workers' Government is to make such "property" available in larger quantities to millions who have never enjoyed them. The basic problem of society is related to such property as is represented by the means of production and exchange. It is these that mustbe nationalised, and forthwith.
Does this mean the Workers' Government will immediately take over every corner grocery, every shoe store and tailor shop, every little farm?
Certainly not! In the first place, it would be foolish for the Workers' Government to alienate the members of the middle classes and drive them into the arms of monopoly-capitalist reaction. In the second place, the evils of capitalist society do not grow out of the little farm or grocery store, but out of the big industrial monopolies that are linked with the big banking institutions. In the third place the Workers' Government can act with complete confidence in the superiority of the way it will organise and manage economic life. It can afford to let the evidence of this superiority convince the small farmer that it is far more economical and far less back-breaking to work collectively with other agriculturists on highly-mechanised, scientifically-exploited, efficiently-managed, socially-owned-and-operated big firms. It is wrong and quite unnecessary to try forcing the farmer to give up his farm for a collective farm.
Essentially the same attitude may well be adopted toward the small merchant and producer. The Workers' Government has no need or interest in forcing these small property-owners, producers and merchants into the machinery of state industry, state farming. It can fully rely on the persuasive power of example.
Third: Shall economic life be centrally organised and planned? Most decidedly! If not, what sense would there be to the nationalisation of the means of production? The government would have the responsibility for solving the economic problems of the country. It could not possibly discharge this weighty responsibility unless it had the power to do so. It cannot have this power unless it has the economic machinery in its hands and is in a position to gear all its wheels so that they operate smoothly. There are people who argue against a Workers' Government nationalising the means of production and exchange They say that it is not so much that they oppose the formation of a Workers' Government, but that they are against it having "too much economic power." As a "compromise," they propose that some industries be nationalised and others remain private property.
But if only part of the means of production were nationalised and centralised in the hands of the Workers' Government, it would not find it possible to organise and plan production on a national scale. It is not possible to plan the production and distribution of goods if part of the machinery is under one control and direction and the other part under different control. The whole purpose of the nationalisation of property would be defeated in advance.
The purpose of planning, long-term planning, is to assure the harmonious expansion of industry and the systematic raising of the standard of living. The raw materials, machinery, and labour power of the nation would be brought together into an integrated whole. The waste of capitalist competition and the stagnation of monopoly capitalism would be overcome. Production would not be organised on the basis of the blind push and pull of the capitalist market, but in accordance with the needs of the people. Production for profit would give way to production for use.
Fourth: Shall economic life be democratically managed and controlled? Absolutely! It is the maintenance of capitalist domination of society that demands, more and more, the abandonment of democracy. A Workers' Government would have to extend democracy continually, not merely because it is a desirable ideal, but because it is indispensable to the planning of production for use.
Capitalism produces bombs for the destruction of homes just as readily as it constructs homes, if not more readily. It produces barbed wire to tear the flesh of people just as readily as it produces clothing to cover them. It produces luxurious palaces while millions live in shacks. Its motive of production was, is, and always will be profit. It is not the needs of the people that dictate its production.
If, however, production were carried on for use, to satisfy the needs of the people, the question immediately arises: Who is to determine what is useful and what would satisfy these needs? Will that be decided exclusively by a small board of government planners? No matter how high-minded and wise they might be, they could not plan production for the need of the people. Production for use, by its very nature, demands constant consultation of the people, constant control and direction by the people. The democratically-adopted decision of the people would have to guide the course of production and distribution. Democratic control of the means of production and distribution would have to be exercised by the people to see to it that their decision is being carried out.
Otherwise, the government and its planning would undergo a complete perversion of its purpose. At best, we would have a benevolent regimentation of the people "for their own good". A government which declares itself to be "for" the workers, but is not a government of and by the workers, is a Workers' Government only in name. Instead of being regulated by the blind market, as under capitalism, production would be regulated by the autocratic, uncontrolled will of a bureaucracy. Economic distortions, social conflict, exploitation and oppression would inevitably result. Production for use, aimed at satisfying the needs of society and of freeing all the people from class rule, would be impossible.
Democratic control, the continual extension of democracy, is therefore indispensable under a Workers' Government. The idea of a Workers' Government is thus inseparably connected with the idea of nationalisation of the means of production and exchange, the centralised organisation and planning of production and distribution, and the continual extension of democracy and democratic control. No one of these can exist in the absence of any of the others. To have democratic control of industry, there must be planning of production. To plan production, the economic machinery of the country must be socially owned and centrally operated. To nationalise the means of production and exchange, a Workers' Government must be established with power to act. For it to be a Workers' Government, it must be democratically run and controlled by the workers. None of these is possible without having all.
Now, what must be emphasised at this point is this: The Workers' Government has taken the first important steps toward the achievement of socialism!
Socialism is not a utopian ideal, a blueprint for society that exists in the minds of some people. It is a social necessity, it is a practical necessity. It is the direction that the masses of the people must take in order to save society from disintegration, in order to satisfy their social needs. To be a socialist, merely means to be conscious of this necessity, to make others conscious of it, and to work in an organised manner for the realisation of the goal.
How is the goal of a socialist society to be realised? Is it really possible to realise it? In order to answer these questions, we must retrace our steps a little, and deal with two highly important matters. One is the way in which capitalism prepares the economic groundwork for socialism. The other is the way in which capitalism provides the social force capable of destroying capitalism and building up the new society.
The great superiority of capitalism over the societies that came before it lies in the fact that it has enormously developed the forces of production. Under slavery and feudalism, life, economic life in particular, barely moved along. For centuries, people used the same primitive tools. For centuries, people worked as individuals or, at most, in twos or threes or fours, on the farm and in tiny shops. Capitalism lifted society out of this stagnation and sent it off at a furious gallop. Machines replaced hand labour; big industries replaced small ones. Labour productivity was raised to astounding heights. With modern machinery and production methods, one person produces whatit took hundreds and thousands of people to produce a century or more ago. In addition, commodities are produced that our forebears never ever dreamed of seeing.
One of the results of this development is that production is already carried on socially. Labour has been socialised. The basis of production is no longer one person on a farm or a couple of people in a little shop. In some industries, tens of thousands of people work together under a single direction, under one roof, so to speak. Capital has become concentrated and centralised. The most important industries are owned and operated as monopolies.
In itself, this is highly desirable. One huge enterprise, which organises a great multitude of little gyrations under single direction, is far more productive, far more economical and efficient, than a thousand little enterprises each of which does one or two little operations independently of all the others, or each of which tries to compete with all the others The only important thing that has not been socialised is the ownership and the appropriation of the products of industry. They remain private. And therein lies the root of capitalist exploitation and oppression, of the anarchy of production, of crises and imperialist wars.
Social production, in large-scale mechanised industry, represents, however, the seeds of the socialist society growing right in the soil of capitalist society itself. Socialism could not possibly be built up on the basis of the tens of thousands of isolated, independent, competing little enterprises that existed generations ago. But it can be built on the basis of mode of production which is already carried on socially. And it must be built because private ownership, which is the basis of private appropriation, now stands in the way of the further development of the productive forces. The reason why it is now possible is that the only remaining step to be taken is the removal of this last obstacle to human progress - private ownership. Once this is done, the seeds of socialism, sown by capitalism itself, will blossom and flourish.
Capitalism also produces the force capable of reorganising society on a rational basis. That force is the modern working class, brought into existence and developed by capitalism itself. Capitalist production organises the workers as a class. The very way in which it is carried on assembles the workers for cooperative labour, so that they are accustomed to work together in a planful way by tens of thousands in the larger enterprises.
By monopolising the means of production and depriving the formerly independent worker of his or her tools, capitalism wipes out the basis for the workers' interest in maintaining private property. The workers are now propertyless workers, who no longer own the tools and machines with which they produce. At the same time, however, they have become the principal productive force. Of all the people in society, the workers suffer most intensely from the rule of capitalism. Their interests are diametrically opposed to those of the capitalists. Of all the conflicts in society, the struggle between working class and capitalist class is the sharpest and most irreconcilable.
The workers cannot rid themselves of their sufferings without abolishing the domination that the machine has over them. They can do this only if they gain control of the machine itself. In doing so, they must destroy capitalism and proceed with the complete reorganisation of society.
No other class is capable of doing this historic work. The middle classes are, it is true, ground under by monopoly capitalism. But they are incapable of leading the fight against it. They are isolated and dispersed. Their economic position in society does not make it possible for them to unite as an organised force. Under the rule of the working class, the small property interests of the middle classes cannot of course be assured forever. The working class can pledge itself - because it is to its interests to do so - not to deprive them of their little holdings by force, or arbitrary law. But more important than that, the working class can release the middle classes from the oppression and humiliation they endure at the hands of monopoly capitalism. The working class can release them from the murderous grubbing for existence which characterises the life of the middle classes - sun-up to sun-down toil on farm or in store; the constant feverish race to meet the notes of creditors and mortgagors; the virtual enslavement of wife and children on farm and in store in the attempt to keep head above water; the suffering, insecurity, misery and - in war time - the death which the middle classes share with all the other little people in society. The working class can offer them the prospect of useful citizenship, freedom and equality as. producers in a socialist society. The best interests of the middle classes therefore lie in joining the working class in its fight.
But the very nature of the situation dictates that it is the working class that must lead in this necessary alliance. It is the decisive class in production, and the only one that can reorganise it. It is the most numerous and the most socially-representative class. It is the best organised class, certainly better organised than the middle classes are or can be. But above all, it is the only consistently progressive class.
That is why we have spoken of a Workers' Government, and not, for example, of a "People's Government". At the same time, we have spoken of the Workers' Government basing itself upon and being supported by the masses of the people, and not by the working class alone. The reason for this should now be clear. The fight against capitalist anarchy and devastation can be led only by the working class, but it must draw into the fight all the people, middle classes of town and country included, who suffer under the domination of monopoly capital and find in it their common enemy. The words, Workers' Government, express the fact that the leadership in the reorganisation of society can be taken only by the working class. But in the very course of reorganising society, such a government must liberate not only the workers, but all the people. The workers take the leadership of the nation only in order to emancipate all humanity from exploitation, class distinctions, class privileges, class conflict, to establish social equality for all.
The working class is thus the bearer of socialism. Can it realise it? How would it work?
The abolition of private ownership would remove the last barrier to the development of production. Production would be organised, planfully carried on and expanded, and aimed at satisfying the needs of society. But this does not mean that all classes and class distinctions could be wiped out overnight.
There would still be classes and social differences, and heaps of material and mental rubbish inherited from generations of capitalist society. A considerable period would elapse between the overturn of the political power of the capitalist class and the establishment of the socialist society. Humanity did not step directly from the oxcart into the modern automobile. There was a transition between the two. So will there be a transitional period between capitalism and socialism.
It is precisely in this transitional period that a workers' state will be required. At this point, we recall that the state has always been an instrument of force and repression in the hands of the ruling class. Is that also the case with the workers' state? To reply with a simple "Yes'' or "No" would be misleading. It is better to deal with this question in more detail, so that we can see in what sense the workers' state will resemble the state we have known in the past, and in what sense it would differ from it.
First, the workers' state would be an instrument of force. It would have to be. It would have to have at its disposal armed people and prisons. Against whom? Against what? Well, it would not make any sense to set up a Workers' Government and then leave it so thoroughly disarmed from the first day of its existence that any group of capitalists could come along with its armed bands at home, or with armies provided by a foreign country still ruled by capitalism, to overthrow the new government by violence. The Workers' Government would have to have the organised strength - arms - with which to deal with such reactionary forces, and prisons in which to confine them and any other violent anti-social elements.
All modern experience shows that it is foolhardy to expect the whole capitalist class and all the reactionaries to give up their tremendous power and wealth without a bitter fight, even after the Workers' Government has taken control. If they resist so violently the demands of the workers for an extra bit in wages, how much more violently will they resist the efforts of the workers to take from them all their power to dominate society.
Second, the workers' state would tolerate inequality. This, also, it would have to do. The greatest heights of production yet reached by capitalism are low by the standards of socialism. Capitalism lays the economic groundwork for socialism, and provides the class that can bring socialism about, but neither the groundwork nor the class inherited from capitalism is what it will and must be in a truly socialist society.
For example, there are skilled workers and unskilled workers. There are those who work mainly with their hands and those who work mainly with their brain. There are day labourers and highly-skilled technicians, industrial organisers and managers. In so far as all of them contribute to the process of production, their labour can be reduced to so many and so many units of simple labour. But the number of units, so to speak, is different in the different categories of skill and occupation.
Could the Workers' Government say, on the first day of its formation, that everyone will receive exactly the same income, exactly the same share of the total national production? It seems obvious that it could not and would not make such a rule. The working class is not utopian, and neither are the socialists. Different categories would have to be established in the first period of the social reorganisation. No one would any longer receive special privileges and rights merely because of his or her ownership of capital. But the skilled worker or technician or industrial organiser, who is able to contribute more to production than the unskilled worker, would receive a correspondingly higher income. Whether he or she received it in the form of money or some other certificate entitling him or her to a given share of goods produced, is of secondary importance. The important point is that the more skilled person would have a larger income than the less skilled. In other words there would still be a form of inequality. The state would tolerate it and take it into account in organising the production and distribution of products, while working to eliminate this inequality, too.
These characteristics of the Workers' Government show its similarities with the preceding state. But it is in its fundamental differences with it that the workers' state shows, as the founders of scientific socialism have put it, that it is no longer a state in the classic sense of the word. A whole world of difference separates the two.
First, the force at the disposal of the workers' state would not reside in bodies of armed men separated from the people, as under capitalism or feudalism or slavery. The arms would be in the hands of the workers themselves. The government which could summon these arms into action would be in the hands of the workers themselves.
Second, the state power would no longer be the instrument of an exploiting minority for the domination of the exploited majority. For the first time in history, the state would be in the hands of the majority to be used whenever necessary against the reactionary or anti-social minority.
Third, the state power would no longer be governed by a special or professional bureaucracy. It would be ruled and controlled by the people. It would have no permanent officials, and all elected officers would be subject to immediate recall by their electors. By virtue of its system of democratic representation, every worker will participate directly in the affairs of government, from the humblest to the most prominent.
That is not all. The workers' state, which is compelled to tolerate inequality in the initial period of its existence, nevertheless aims consciously at the abolition of inequality.
Capitalism has already accomplished a great deal in eliminating the need for high skills by simplifying the operations in production. The workers' state would go much further, but in a radically different sense. With the constantly increasing national wealth at its disposal, education, specially higher education, would cease to be restricted to the few. The spread of education to all would gradually eliminate the difference between skilled and unskilled labour, between mental and physical labour. One or two generations of normal evolution, and everyone would not only be required to divide his contribution to society between physical and mental work, but would be able to do so.
Humanity would no longer be the slave of the machine. The machine would be the fertile slave of humanity. Every increase in productivity would bring with it two things: an increase in the things required for the need, comfort and even luxury of all; and an increase in everyone's leisure time, to devote to the free cultural and intellectual development of humankind. People will not live primarily to work; they will work primarily to live. A most practical perspective! Even today, with all the restrictions that capitalism places upon production, there are capitalist experts who declare that industry, properly organised, can produce the necessities of life for all in a working day of four hours or less. Organised on a socialist basis, even that figure could be cut down.
As the necessities and comforts of life become increasingly abundant, the need for tolerating even the last vestiges of inequality will disappear as a matter of course. This may seem incredible to a mind thoroughly poisoned with capitalist prejudices. But why should it be incredible?
Thirsty people will fight tooth and nail for a drink at a desert oasis. But if they are up to their hips in water they may have a thousand differences among themselves, but they will not even dream of fighting for a drink. A dozen people in a prison cell with only one tiny window may trample over each other in the fight to get to that tiny source of fresh air. But outside, who ever thinks of fighting for air to breathe, or for more air than the next person? Announce a shortage of bread, and immediately a long line will form, with everyone racing to get there first, and a policeman on hand to "keep order." But if everyone knew that there is an ample supply of bread today, and there will be just as large a supply tomorrow and the next day, there would be no line, no race, no conflict: nobody would try to hoard an extra loaf in order to make sure of eating the next day; and there would be no need of a policeman to back up his orders by force. If society could assure everyone of as ample and constant a supply of bread as there is of air, why would anyone need or want a greater right to buy bread than his neighbour? Bread is used here only as the simplest illustration. But the same applies to all other foods, to clothing, to shelter, to books, to means of transportation.
A planfully organised society, efficiently utilising our present productive equipment and the better equipment to come, could easily assure abundance to all. In return, society could confidently expect every citizen to contribute his or her best voluntarily.
In the initial period of development, a capitalist morality is still prevalent. Many of the people, even many workers, are still poisoned with the old spirit of greed, selfishness, cheating and other evils of a class society where only the few enjoy abundance and opportunity. One of the reasons for a workers' state is to enforce sternly the principle, "He who does not work shall not eat."
But in the midst of abundance for all and of the high cultural development that will accompany it. There is no reason to believe that special force will be needed to maintain this principle. Labour to the best of one's ability will be as natural an act as breathing, eating, clothing and sheltering oneself. Under those circumstances, let any strange creature try to be so capitalistically "old-fashioned" as to draw on the public stores without contributing his or her labour! The scorn of all around them would quickly make them a social outcast such as policemen and prisons could never make them under capitalism. They would not be long in coming to their senses and performing their social duty.
What happens to the workers' state? There is abundance for all. There is ample opportunity for the intellectual development of all. All perform their social duty as a matter of course. What need is there for compulsion, for a machinery of force? To prevent burglary? What will there be to steal in the midst of abundance? To prevent rape or murder? Such cases will be exceedingly rare, we may be sure, and in any case they will require medical attention or confinement for the guilty one, and not prison confinement. To regulate traffic? But for that and similar tasks there will be needed, not police, as we know them now, but ordinary citizens assigned to perform that social duty in about the same way that traffic dispatchers work on the railway.
The important thing is that there will be no need of a public coercive force to maintain the power of one class over another, to protect the property of one from the assaults of the other, to assure the continuation of oppression and exploitation. The workers' state itself will die out for lack of any social need or function. The transition from the class-society to socialism will be completed. There will be the simple administration of things, but no longer the rule of one person over another.
In this most important of all respects, the workers' state will be fundamentally different from the state we have known in all past history. Paradoxical though it may seem at first glance, it becomes clear upon reflection that the workers' state is imperatively needed precisely in order to carry society through the transition to socialism in which the state itself dies away.
Such a bold historical prospect, even though scientific and practical, may seem preposterous to a mind that capitalism has taken good care to keep in a dull and conservative condition. Abundance for all? Freedom for all? A society without a state? Impossible! Never had it in all history!
If they could have reasoned and talked, the common ancestors of humans and apes could easily have spoken the same way. "We tree-animals will always have to fight among ourselves and with other animals for food. Our fathers and forefathers had to do it before us, and so will our offspring after us. The idea of growing our own food is very attractive, but it is utopian and impractical. As for tails, those we shall always have with us. Our fathers and forefathers found tails indispensable for swinging from branch to branch, and for a third support when trying to stand on two legs. Our offspring will never be able to do without tails. That animal there, who just dropped to the ground and is trying to move on two legs alone, is sure to break his fool neck in no time at all. The idea of moving around without tails is very attractive, because in many ways they are a nuisance, but it will never work in practice. The idea of walking upright on two legs might be an interesting experiment for crackpots, but we know from experience that we need tails for balance and we shall always have them with us."
Humanity, as is known, has proved that these hypothetical tree-animals were somewhat conservative and wrong.
Humanity will also prove that class divisions, poverty and oppression are not unavoidable and the state not indispensable. In the socialist society we will show that abundance, freedom and equality are not only possible but the natural condition for the new history of the human race It has already been shown that the working class must constitute itself as an independent political force in order to advance its interests. But what is the general experience in history with labour parties based on the trade unions? Virtually all the official labour leaders are tied up with the capitalist system; they think along capitalistic lines; their aim is to keep labour within the confines of capitalism, which means within the confines of capitalist politics. Suppose the organised labour movement does form a party. The understanding of the need for it, and the demand that it be set up, grows so strong among the membership of the unions that they override the opposition of the leadership. That is a big step forward, but far from enough.
The chances are that the labour bureaucracy, seeing that the workers are heading for a break with capitalist politics, follows its usual course. It tries to head the movement in order to head it off. How? In two ways.
First, it tries to establish and consolidate its leadership of the Labour Party. If it succeeds, it follows the same policy it does in the labour unions. It restricts the democratic rights and the power of the rank-and-file membership. It stands in the way of a bold and aggressive fight against the capitalist class, its parties and its government. It takes the steel out of the organisation and replace it with putty.
Second, toward the same end, it tries to water down the aims of the party, to make them as harmless as possible so as not to offend the "good capitalists". It writes the program and platform of the party in such a way as to keep it within the framework of capitalism. It resists a program for struggle against capitalism and for workers' power, and restricts the aims of the party exclusively to a little reform here and another one there. It makes the party a mere bargaining agency for miserable deals with the capitalist parties, instead of a fighting instrument against them. It tries to do to the Labour Party what it has done to the labour unions - make it tame, keep it in a state of bureaucratic paralysis, prevent it from fighting vigorously and consistently for the interests of the working class.
When it succeeds, the very aim of independent working-class political action is defeated in the end. We have a party be incapable of giving a radical solution of the social problem that is imperatively required. It is a reformist party. That is, it tries to tinker with the broken-down social system instead of replacing it with a new one. It tries to save the bankrupt society of capitalism, when it can be saved only at the expense of the workers and the middle classes. Its timidity only makes the capitalist class bolder and more confident, and encourages it to take the most reactionary steps against the working class. The same timidity prevents the working class from resisting this reaction successfully. The capitalist reaction says: If the Party of the workers is so afraid of taking political power, and so concerned with keeping capitalism alive, we can do anything we want and worry about nothing. The workers are confused, disorganised and discouraged.
We have seen this happen in one country after another, especially in times of social crisis. The reformist workers' parties either came to the rescue of capitalism, at great cost to the workers; or else, when capitalism was in such a crisis that it could no longer afford democracy, it crushed these parties and all other labour movements with the bloody aid of fascism. In either case, the reformist parties defeated the very aim of independent working class political action which is to raise the working class to political power - and brought terrible suffering to the working class itself.
Does this mean that the working class cannot establish itself as an independent political force, or that, if it does, this force is doomed to defeat under the leadership of reformism, Yes, this is exactly what it does mean, unless there is an organised, conscious, disciplined, militant force capable of counteracting the ideas and policies and spokesmen of capitalism inside the working class. Without such a force, every forward step taken by the workers will sooner or later be cancelled out by a backward step and sometimes by two of them.
What is this force? It is the revolutionary socialist party. What kind of party is it, and why is it needed?
Capitalism, by its method of production, has brought isolated workers together and constituted them as a class in society. Capitalism has made the workers a class in themselves. That is, the workers are a distinct class in society, whether they recognise this fact or not. Historical development calls upon this class to reorganise society completely and establish socialism. To do this, the workers must become a class for themselves. They must acquire a clear understanding of their real position under capitalism, of the nature of capitalist society as a whole, and of their mission in history. They must act consciously for their class interests. They must become conscious of the fact that these class interests lead to a socialist society. When this takes place, the workers are a class for themselves, a class with socialist consciousness. How are the workers to acquire this consciousness - this clear, thoroughgoing understanding of capitalist society, their position in it, and the need to replace this society with socialism?
In the factory, the worker tries to get better wages and working conditions from the employer. If he or she cannot get them by a simple request, he or she soon learns the need of union organisation with which to enforce his or her requests and to defend himself or herself from attacks by the employer. He or she learns, too, that the workers must resort to political action in order to influence the government in their interests. Workers are forced by capitalism to engage in the class struggle.
But the fight of the working class up to this point is spontaneous, it is elementary. The thinking of the workers, which guides their fight, is based upon the ideas of the capitalist class, acquired directly from the capitalist press, schools and the like, or indirectly from the middle classes, the official leaders of the unions and the reformist parties of labour. What the workers still lack is a fundamental and thorough understanding of their real position in society and of their historic mission to establish socialism. This lack of a socialist consciousness reduces the effectiveness of their organisation, of their struggle, and prevents them from accomplishing their mission in society.
To imbue the workers with this rounded-out class consciousness, or socialist consciousness; to organise and lead the struggle for socialism - that is the specific function of the revolutionary socialist party. Such a party is therefore the vanguard of the working class, It is composed of those workers who already understand the nature of capitalism and the historical task of the working class. Their aim is to develop the same understanding among all the workers, so that they no longer fight blindly, or with only one eye open, but with a clear and scientific knowledge of what their class enemy is, of what the working class itself really is, and of what it can and must do in society. They and their party therefore have no interests separate from the interests of the working class as a whole. They merely represent its most advanced, most conscious, most militant section.
The revolutionary socialist party does not limit itself to preaching the great ideal of socialism. As an inseparable section of the working class, it takes an active part in every economic and political struggle of this class. It defends the working class from every capitalist attack. It supports every working class fight, even if the fight is led by conservative and anti-socialist labour leaders.
But the revolutionary socialist party also has a special function in every one of these working class struggles. It makes clear to the workers the full meaning of their fight. It shows how even the local struggles, against one capitalist, are really class struggles against capitalism; how the local struggles must be extended on a national and international scale if the workers are to win a lasting victory. It points out the political meaning of the economic struggle. It shows how the workers must organise as a class to take political power, and use it to inaugurate socialism. It combats the open and the insidious ideas of capitalism so that the working class as a whole may be better equipped to fight its enemy. It aims to improve the position of the working class, to strengthen it, to clarify it and supply it with the most effective weapons in the struggle, to lead it in every battle in order that it may most speedily and successfully win the final battle for socialism.
The revolutionary socialist party supports every step forward, no matter how small, that the working class can take. If the capitalist class and the capitalistic labour leaders resist the efforts of the workers to establish an Independent Labour Party, the revolutionary socialist party does all it can to help the progressive workers break this resistance. If a Labour Party is formed under a conservative leadership, the revolutionary socialist party works with the progressives for a militant leadership, just as it does in the labour unions themselves. If a Labour Party is formed with a reformist program that does not meet the requirements of the working class, the revolutionary socialist party works for the adoption of a program based on the class struggle. Against the ideas of capitalism and reformism in the working class, the revolutionary party works for the ideas of socialism.
To put it briefly, a revolutionary socialist party is needed to win the working class to the principles of socialism, to socialist methods of struggle against capitalist exploitation and oppression, and finally to the socialist victory itself. Socialism will never come by itself. It must be fought for. Without an organised, conscious, disciplined, active revolutionary socialist party, the triumph of socialism is impossible. There are several parties which proclaim the same socialist goal. This is often very confusing to a worker. He will say: "How am I to tell which party is the right one for me to join or support?" Or, "Why don't all those who are in favour of socialism unite into a single party?" Or, "If you cannot agree among yourselves, how do you expect me to agree with any of you?"
It should not be too hard to answer these questions. When a worker learns that a tool is useful and necessary, he does not throw up his hands in despair merely because there are many varieties of that tool offered to him. He reads carefully the claims made for each variety and the description given of what it can do, and he judges from experience which one really serves the purpose best.
If there is sickness in the family, he learns that there are all sorts of "schools" of healing. One insists that illness can be cured by the science of modern medicine; another emphasises adjustment of the bones; still another, pressure on nerve centres, a fourth, treatment by sun rays; a fifth, treatment by the faith of mind and heart; and there are the believers in cures by magic incantations and movements of the hand. He would not, because of all this, cry out: "Why don't they all get together on the question of cures?" Or, "How am I to tell which to choose?" Instead, he would examine to the best of his ability the methods and the results of each "school," making the most scientific possible test of which is most scientific.
It is not so very much different in politics. To judge the different parties, it is necessary to check on their words and their deeds. That is, to examine the programs of the different parties, what they are for and what they are against, and to see if what they do in practice corresponds to what they say in words. On that basis, it is easy to conclude which one best serves the interests of socialism.
We represent a long and rich tradition. We are proud of the fact that our principles and program are founded on the teachings of the greatest scientific thinkers and leaders of the international working class, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, V I Lenin and Leon Trotsky. Marx and Engels laid the foundations of the scientific socialist movement. Their analysis of capitalist society has never been successfully refuted. The principles they set forth for the working class struggle to achieve socialism have passed the most critical tests a hundred times over. Lenin and Trotsky applied the analysis of Marx and Engels to modern capitalism, strengthened the fundamental principles of scientific socialism, and successfully applied them in the great Russian Bolshevik Revolution.
We are called a Marxist, or Leninist, or Trotskyist, or Bolshevik party. These names are quite applicable. They merely signify that we stand firmly on the basic principles of the greatest teachers in the history of the working class. (The name "Bolshevik" is used by the capitalist press like the word "red" - to scare little children. In itself, "Bolshevik" is simply a Russian word meaning "a member of the majority". It was the name given to those who supported the majority in the split that took place in the Russian socialist movement in 1903. Politically, of course, it means a socialist who stands solidly for the principles of Karl Marx, and of Lenin, who was the leader of the majority in the split.)
We champion the idea of revolutionary workers' power as the road to socialism. The word "revolution" brings forth a storm of abuse from the capitalist class. Revolution? Why, that means violence, bloodshed, killing, destruction! No, anything you want in the world - but not revolution!
Its indignation at revolution and violence is the height of hypocrisy. In the first place, the capitalist class came to power in society and destroyed feudalism in a number of modern countries by means of a revolution, and not a very peaceful one. What its spokesmen mean, of course, is that a revolution that brought it to power was a good, progressive, respectable revolution; whereas a revolution that relieves it of its power is the very work of the devil. In the second place, the capitalist class could not exist for a minute without the violence that it exercises against the masses. Its exploitation of the masses is based on the forcible maintenance of its property by the armed state machinery. Its exploitation of millions of backward, colonial peoples is maintained by the most gruesome violence. And periodically, it plunges innocent millions all over the world into the most violent wars until the surface of the earth is covered with bloody and shattered corpses. A fine picture it presents, whining piously about revolution and violence.
What is a social revolution? It is the replacement of one ruling class by another. History is filled with such revolutions and in almost every case they made possible the progress of society. The socialist revolution is simply the overthrow of capitalist despotism and the establishment of workers' rule.
Will this overthrow, this revolution, be accomplished by violence or can it be achieved peaceably? Reform socialists say that socialism can be established by the workers gaining a majority of the votes for their candidates to public office. Once they have been elected in sufficient number, they will adopt laws introducing socialism little by little and painlessly. These are not genuine socialists, but utopian reformists. They create illusions that are fatal to the working class.
We hold a radically different point of view. We are of course in favour of the workers participating in elections to all public offices and trying to win the largest number of votes for the socialist program. But we know the nature of the capitalist class and its long, brutal history, some of which is known to every worker.
When the workers ask for a modest raise in wages, the capitalists fight against it as hard as they can. When workers strike for the most modest improvement in their conditions, the capitalists do not hesitate to use violence against them, in the form of the armed forces of their government or of hired thugs and strikebreakers.
If that is how the capitalists act when only a little fraction of their profits is at stake, how will they act if all their social power is in peril? It stands to reason, and bloody experiences in many countries confirm it, that the capitalists will not hold back from every conceivable form of violence against the working class when it is about to take power and even after it has taken it. They do not care about who has the majority. They are concerned only with the preservation of their profits and power. If the armed forces of the government are not enough to suppress the workers by violence, they will arm their private bands, the fascists, to do that job for them. They are the source from which violence and bloodshed are threatened.
We therefore say: If the violence and shedding of blood are to be averted or reduced to the tiniest proportions when the workers have the support of the people and are ready to take power, they must be so well trained, so well organised, so well equipped with a bold program and a bold, firm leadership, as to make the violent attacks of capitalist reaction hopeless from the very outset. If the workers realise in advance that the reactionaries will try to cheat them out of victory by force and violence and by suppressing democratic rights; and if the workers are determined in advance to defend these rights and to deal firmly with the reactionaries - violence will be reduced to zero, or next to zero.
But suppose the workers are completely unprepared for the violence of the capitalist reactionaries and fascists, because they are doped with illusions about how meekly they will submit to the will of the people. Suppose the workers believe that everything will be perfectly all right as soon as they show that they have fifty-one per cent of the votes, and that the capitalist beast of prey thinks more of democracy than he does of his loot and power. The beast would then catch them unawares. It would drown them in a sea of blood, as it did once in Finland. and again in Hungary, Italy, Germany, Austria, Spain, and Chile. It is the ideas of the reformists that lead the defenceless, unprepared workers to a blood bath and defeat.
The revolutionary socialists are not bloodthirsty maniacs as the capitalist slanderers would have workers believe. They analyse society and politics scientifically. They understand what the ruling class will try to do. They know that history proves that no privileged class has ever been removed from domination without the bitterest resistance. They therefore warn the workers and prepare them, so that when the time comes for the workers to take power, it will be done with a minimum of violence, a minimum of bloodshed, a minimum of disorder and destruction. A socialist would indeed have to be insane to want bloodshed and destruction when his aim is an orderly society!
We therefore differ from the other parties in our conception of the road to workers' power and socialism.
Our organisational structure corresponds to our political principles and its aim.
The fight for socialism is not a parlour game but the most serious struggle in history. A party that aims to lead this fight must be constructed accordingly. It must have firm and tested principles. It must have its army of militant adherents and a leadership, which work out the strategy and tactics of the fight. It must have discipline, so that everyone is not working at cross-purposes. It must have the fullest democracy, so that everyone contributes freely to working out the program and plan of action of the party and understands them intelligently. The socialist who is merely obedient and disciplined, and has no conscious understanding, cannot work to make non-socialist workers conscious of their task. The socialist who understands the principles, but does not work for them in a disciplined way, cannot hope to overcome the tremendous power of the class enemy.
We are a strictly disciplined organisation, but not a totalitarian organisation based on the unquestioning obedience of the parade-ground or the blind obedience of the membership to the Fuhrer. We are a democratic organisation, but not a loose collection of talkers who do nothing, or who act in the labour movement in any way they please.
As a militant part of the working class and an active participant in the class struggle, we require full responsibility and systematic activity of all our members. Reformist parties are constructed differently. Their members are not organised to work and fight in the labour movement for socialist principles, because these parties do not want to come into conflict with the conservative labour bureaucrats. Their members are not organised to participate militantly in the daily class struggle, because these parties are primarily election machines, which operate once a year to gather votes for their candidates. The rest of the year is devoted mostly to discussing the results of the last election and planning for the next one.
We favour active participation in election campaigns. We do not deceive people into believing that socialist freedom can be achieved by nothing more than a ballot. But we seek to utilise every election campaign to acquaint workers with our program, to mobilise them for class political action, and to elect the greatest number of workers' representatives who can use their office to work for labour's interests and to tell the truth to wider masses of people.
Election campaigns are not the only, or even the most important, form of political action. Meetings, delegations, public demonstrations, strikes and other methods of struggles are just as important, and often far more important, political activities for the working class.
We are therefore a self-disciplined, democratic organisation which requires of our members continual education, responsibility, and systematic, organised participation in the class struggle. By our day-to-day activity in the class struggle, by showing in practice our devotion to the interests of the working class, our militancy, our readiness to sacrifice, the superiority of our program, we seek to demonstrate that we deserve the confidence and support of the workers.
Our principal field of activity is in the labour unions. Every member who is qualified is obliged to join a union and to be active in it. Our aim in the unions is to win the workers to the principles of socialism and the conscious, militant waging of the class struggle. We are therefore active in building up the unions, in uniting those that are divided, and in organising those workers who are still unorganised. We support every progressive movement inside the unions aimed at strengthening them organisationally and politically. We work to eliminate from the union movement all capitalist ideas, capitalist methods, capitalist politics and capitalist politicians.
We are irreconcilable opponents of bureaucratism and bureaucrats in the labour movement, and supports every effort of the membership to establish democratic control over its organisations.
Socialism cannot be achieved, and the workers cannot effectively promote their interests, without class consciousness. Class consciousness means an understanding working class, a self-confident and self-reliant working class. Bureaucratism is a capitalistic substitute for the self-reliance of the working class and an obstacle to it. It relies on bureaucratic maneuvers at the top, on ordering the membership around "for its own good", in place of the conscious, mass action of the workers themselves. It seeks to preserve its special privileges by curbing and stifling the workers and preventing them from acting independently with their organised strength. The fight for democracy in the unions and against bureaucratism is regarded by us as an inseparable part of its fight for the interests of the working class and the victory of socialism.
We are not a sectarian organisation that stands aloof from the daily struggles for the daily needs of the working class and confines itself to the preaching of the socialist ideal. We not only participate actively in every daily struggle, but have a program of action to meet the requirements of the people while capitalism still prevails. This program of action is the "minimum program," containing our immediate demands. In many cases, the same demands are presented by other labour organisations and parties. Where this is the case, we are ready to join with all other organisations to achieve the demand they make in common.
However, there is an important difference between us and the other organisations even when they advocate the same immediate demand. We believe that even the most modest demand or reform put forward by the workers can be realised soonest, most thoroughly and most durably only by the method of independent class struggle. The reformist organisations seek to achieve such demands by the method of "class collaboration." Also, these organisations aim at reforms in order to convince the workers that capitalism is fundamentally sound, or that it can be made to work in the interests of the people by means of a series of reforms. To us, the fight for reforms is aimed at improving the position of the workers as a class, at heightening their class consciousness, confidence and militancy, at creating more favourable conditions for the continuation of the class struggle, which means more favourable conditions for continuing the struggle for socialism.
We are an internationalist party. Capitalism is a world system, and it can be thoroughly destroyed only on a world scale. We are internationalist because we consider national chauvinism reactionary and the sisterhood and brotherhood and equality of all peoples of the human race the highest social aim. We are internationalist because we consider that national frontiers have become a reactionary obstacle to further economic and social progress and a direct contributing source to imperialist conflicts and wars.
We are internationalist because we understand that the classless socialist society cannot be established within the framework of one country alone. The workers of one country can begin the work. They can lay the foundations of socialism. But socialism cannot be established on a lower plane than capitalism. If capitalism has developed a world market and become the dominant world order, socialism cannot conceivably be restricted to one country, no matter how big it is. Socialism is world socialism, or it is not socialism at all. Just as a socialist economy could not exist side by side with a capitalist economy in one country, so a socialist nation could not exist side by side with capitalist nations in one world. One or the other would have to win in the end.
That is why we endeavour to promote the international organisation, unity and solidarity of the working class. We are only one link of a world chain of similar parties and organisations that aim to establish an international union of revolutionary socialists.
Finally, it is well to emphasise once more that we do not limit ourselves to preaching the ideal of a socialist tomorrow. We support and take an active part in every daily and immediate struggle of the working class. We take part on the basis of our own principles and our own program. We endeavour at all times to widen the struggle and make it more clear-cut. Our activities are based on the knowledge that the class struggle, followed through logically and consistently, necessarily brings the workers to the establishment of their own government and to the inauguration of those economic and political measures that lead to socialism.
This is shown plainly in the position taken by us on the question of democracy and fascism and other forms of authoritarianism.
The revolutionary socialists are the staunchest and most consistent champions of democracy. They are opponents of capitalist democracy only because it is a class democracy, because, at its best, it is only political democracy which cloaks the economic dictatorship of monopoly capital. Genuine democracy is possible only upon the basis of economic democracy. But it does not follow that the revolutionary socialists are indifferent to democracy under capitalism. Nothing of the sort is true. The struggle for socialism can best be conducted under conditions that are most favourable to the working class. The most favourable conditions are those in which the working class has the widest possible democratic rights. Hence, it is to the interests of socialism and of the working class to fight for the unrestricted right to organise, the right of free speech, free press and free assembly, the right to strike and the right to vote, the right of representative government, and against every attempt to curb or abolish these rights.
The social position of the workers, and their class interests, make them the most democratic class in society. The revolutionary socialists, contrary to the malicious falsehoods and misrepresentations spread against them by capitalists and their dupes, are the most consistent and militant champions of democracy. It would be ridiculous and criminal if they were not. The more extensive and less restricted the democratic rights, the greater the opportunities for the revolutionary socialists to speak, to write, to meet, to organise. The same applies, of course, to the working class as a whole.
It is the capitalist class which is, by the very nature of its position in society, anti-democratic. Its monopoly of wealth and power denies the common people real equality in the exercise of the formal democratic rights that are written into the law and the constitution.
But that is not all. The more critical the position of capitalism and the sharper the class struggle, the more the capitalist class seeks to restrict even the formal democratic rights. In critical times, when its bankruptcy becomes clearer, it rightly fears the consequences of the workers being able to meet freely, speak and write freely, organise, vote and demonstrate freely. To keep itself safely in power, it is compelled to reveal its fundamentally dictatorial rule more openly by cutting down political democracy and resorting to naked force.
If the crisis and the social conflict become exceptionally sharp, it does not hesitate to wipe out democratic rights and institutions altogether. It brings into existence, encourages and finances reactionary mobs like the fascists. It is prepared to let these mobs take political power, even at a cost to itself, provided the fascists succeed in crushing every vestige of the labour movement and of capitalist democracy itself.
Totalitarian fascism always finds warm support in the capitalist class, but it is unable to sink its roots in the working class. This symbolises the reactionary, anti-democratic character of modern capitalism, and the progressive, democratic character of the working-class movement.
We therefore fight at all times for maintaining and extending democratic rights. As revolutionary socialists, we fight for these rights more consistently than anyone else, for it is under socialism that democracy is truly and fully realised. By the same token, we are uncompromising enemies of fascism, and all other forms of reactionary capitalist dictatorship. As in the case of all the immediate needs of labour, we call tirelessly upon all workers' organisations, economic and political, and regardless of their differences in program and opinion, to form a united front to smash the fascist bands before they seize power and become strong enough to smash the working class.
We are thus committed to the defence of democracy against fascism.
Naturally, we do not support one imperialist power in a war against another merely because one power is fascist and the other pretends that it is crusading for democracy. But, for example, in a civil war between fascism and democracy, where the main issue really is the preservation of democratic rights and the labour movement, and when the working class is not yet able or prepared to establish its own government, the revolutionary socialists do not hesitate for a moment to join the rest of the working class in defence of democracy - even capitalist democracy - and in crushing fascism.
As in other fundamental struggles, so in the struggle for democracy, the revolutionary socialists continue to remain true to their principles. If the rest of the workers do not engage in this struggle with the full, clear-cut socialist program, the revolutionists nevertheless put this program forward. As against those who use the wishy-washy methods of liberalism and reformism, the revolutionary socialists advocate the militant methods of the class struggle. As against those who want the "progressive capitalists" and other highly respectable people to lead the fight against fascism, the revolutionary socialists advocate the leadership of the working class. As against those who limit the fight to maintaining capitalist democracy, the revolutionary socialists advocate going beyond this limit to the goal of a Workers' Government. The same is true in the fight against Stalinist dictatorship.
To us, the struggles for immediate reforms, for democratic rights, against fascism are only part of the greater, liberating struggle for socialism.
In addition to the party of revolutionary socialism, there are other political groupings in the working class which speak in favour of socialism. Let us examine them briefly.
First, there are the Social-Democrats, or reformist socialists. They do not believe that capitalism and the capitalist state machine must be overthrown in order to establish socialism. They declare that capitalism and the capitalist government can be gradually reformed by progressive legislation to the point where socialism has been peacefully introduced. They want socialism, but not the class struggle, which is the only road to socialism. They want capitalist democracy as the basis for socialism, but they will not defend even democracy with the militant methods of the class struggle for fear of antagonising their partners, the "democratic capitalists". They fear the socialist revolution so much - because the Workers' Government would end all special privileges, theirs included - that they find themselves attacking it on the side of the capitalist reaction. In one country after another, their theories have so drugged and paralysed the working class that it proved incapable of militant and effective resistance to reactionary assaults upon it. It had to pay for these theories and practices in the form of fascist dictatorship and indescribable agonies. The Social Democrats did not gain socialism and they cannot gain it.
Neither did Stalinism. To understand Stalinism, it is necessary to examine what happened to the Russian revolution. The Russian Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 was undoubtedly the most important event in human history. For the first time, the working class took state power and began planfully to usher in the socialist society. The revolution was a living triumph of the principles of Marxian socialism and showed that the idea of a working-class government is not a utopian dream.
Regardless of what happened to this government in the end, the Russian Revolution revealed to the working class of the entire world the road it must travel to reach workers' democracy and socialism.
The heroic efforts of the Russian workers were sufficient to bring them to power in the country. But by themselves, they did not suffice to establish a socialist commonwealth. To attain that goal, they needed the aid of workers' governments in the other, more advanced, countries of Europe and America. They knew this, and the Bolsheviks, or Communists, who led the revolution and were thoroughgoing international socialists, repeated it a thousand times. Revolutionary situations developed in one country after another. The capitalist system was bankrupt and capitalist governments broke down one after the other.
To organise the workers to fight for power all the revolutionary socialists, inspired by the victory in Russia, broke away from the old Social-Democratic parties and began to build up the new Communist Parties.
These parties were united in the Communist, or Third, International. (The Social-Democratic parties had been united in the so-called Second International, which collapsed when the war of 1914 broke out and practically all the parties rushed to the support of their respective imperialist governments, betraying the principles and interests of socialism.)
Capitalism managed to survive throughout the world. It was not so much because of the strength and vigor of its economic system that it survived. It was saved by the Social-Democratic parties, which stood like a rock in the road to socialist revolution. The Communist Parties were too young and inexperienced or too weak to clear this rock out of the way.
The Russian Revolution was thus left in isolation and a state of terrible exhaustion. The Russian people had gone through three years of war that took a heavy toll. Then they had to go through two revolutions and a destructive civil war against the monarchists, bankers, industrial magnates and landlords who tried to overturn the Workers' Government by violence. In addition, they had to ward off the armed intervention of almost every capitalist government in the world.
When this was over, and the first big wave of revolutions in Europe subsided, a great weariness and reaction set in in Russia. Bureaucrats in the Bolshevik party and the Soviet government became the conservative voice of this weariness. Little by little they departed from the revolutionary principles on which the Soviet Government had been founded. They abandoned the idea of international revolution and replaced it with the nationalistic idea of "socialism in a single country."
The faithful revolutionists who opposed this desertion of revolutionary internationalist principles were led by Leon Trotsky. But they could not win, because the bureaucracy around Stalin had reactionary social winds in its sails. Little by little it crushed these revolutionists. It drove them out of the party, then exiled or imprisoned them, and finally wiped them out physically in a series of the most monstrous frame-ups in history. Every fragment of the old Communist Party which had made the revolution possible was ruthlessly wiped out. Every trace of the great workers' democracy which the revolution had established, was just as mercilessly wiped out.
The Workers' Government was completely destroyed. The reactionary rule of the bureaucracy was installed in its place. Not a vestige of democratic rights remained - not the right to organise, to strike, to free speech, free press or free assembly. The whole Soviet system was eliminated.
Elections were a farce, in which the people have the right to vote only for the candidates appointed by the bureaucratic dictators. The unions built up by the revolution were crushed. Their place was taken by organisations completely dominated by the government bureaucracy, and their only function was to help in the speed-up and exploitation of the workers. Everybody and everything was dominated by the most vicious police and spy system in the world, the GPU.
The Stalinist USSR was neither a workers' government nor a socialist society. It was a new, reactionary social order. There was no private ownership of industry, as under capitalism. The state owned all the means of production. But the autocratic bureaucracy had the state completely in its hand. The workers and peasants had not an iota of control over it. Industry and agriculture were planned and operated only in the interests of the bureaucracy, swelling its power and privileges. Like every ruling class, it reached out greedily for more power, for imperialist conquests wherever it could. It completely betrayed and crushed the great Russian socialist revolution, and established a new and monstrous totalitarian tyranny in its place.
The process which wrecked the Russian Revolution also wrecked the Communist International. Every genuine revolutionist was driven out of it. The condition for membership and above all for leadership, in the Communist Parties throughout the world became unquestioning obedience to the Stalinist bureaucracy in Russia. The parties were transformed from leaders of socialist revolution into instruments of totalitarian reaction. From champions of the interests of the working class in every country, these parties became the servile agents of the Russian bureaucracy and its foreign policy.
Neither Social-Democracy nor Stalinist totalitarianism leads to socialism.
The road to freedom is marked out by the principles and program of revolutionary socialism, and no other road exists.