On the Road Toward Finalization of the Party Programme! During World Historic Times--We Need World Historic Answers
Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org
May Day 2001 the RCP released its Draft Programme with the slogan "Looking For A Plan To Change The World?...It's Here!" Since the release of the Draft Programme, or DP, the RCP has learned from the sentiments, thoughts and opinions of thousands of people checking it out. All the while RCP has been popularizing its revolutionary strategy and vision.
Over the past few years a new generation has stepped forward to oppose imperialist globalization. Since 9/11, literally millions more have come into political life and struggle against the juggernaut of war and repression. Mao Tsetung teaches us the fundamental law that "people fight back, then they seek philosophy." Many are asking why things are this way--and do they have to be this way, is another world possible.
Over the next several months the RW/OR will be putting a spotlight on the DP, highlighting important parts of the Draft Programme. Along with this the RW will publish selected comments, criticisms, and suggestions from people studying the DP--including comments from Party supporters, debates from the 2changetheworld web site, and letters from prisoners.
Readers of the RW are encouraged to contribute to the debate by sending in comments. Comments can be sent to "Draft Programme Debate" c/o RCP Publications, PO Box 3486 Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654. They can also be given to your local RW distributor.
The RW will not be able to publish all the comments sent in. However all such commentary from the debate will aid in the finalization of the DP. So don't hold back--join the debate!
This series began in issue #1200. This week we are publishing some comments and criticisms on the DP appendix "Proletarian Dictatorship, Democracy and the Rights of the People."
The following comments are from an RCP comrade :
On page 24 of the Draft Programme it says: "The masses will have the right to criticize leaders on any level, to hold meetings, organize demonstrations, go on strike , put up posters, pass out leaflets, and so on." And on page 83 in the section, "Supervising Leadership and Actively Engaging in Political Life," it says: "And more generally the masses will have the right to hold meetings, organize demonstrations, put up posters, go on strike , pass out leaflets, and so on -- again, with the exception of actual attempts to promote and organize the counter- revolutionary overthrow of the rule of the proletariat." (my emphasis)
I agree with the overall approach in terms of encouraging criticism, but I think a distinction needs to be made between things which simply represent the airing of criticism and actions that aim at stopping the functioning of the socialist economic system. And some clarification needs to be spelled out about the dramatic difference that things like going on strike will represent within a society no longer characterized by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie and instead are happening in the midst of continuing and further developing the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
By and large strikes and the threat to go on strike have long been associated in this country with trade unions and battles around improving wages and working conditions at the workplace. These battles over economic issues have the potential of being important "schools of war, contributing to the development of the masses' fighting capacity and sense of organization, stiffening their determination in the face of the enemy's attempts to crush them, and helping them to see the need to build resistance as part of a revolutionary movement..." (DP, p. 48) Further, in some cases, they draw attention to the important strategic role that different sections of the working class play -- in the current functioning of the capitalist economy and the role they can play in aiding a future armed insurrection and building the new society. The recent contract battle of the NYC transit workers, for example, raised the specter that a strike in that sector could, to a significant degree, bring to a halt the normal functioning of the financial capital for U.S. imperialism for a period of time.
At the same time, the prevailing (and spontaneously held) and long-practiced tendency is to have such strikes and threats of strikes be simply a "pressure tactic" to force concessions within very narrowly defined parameters for a specific group of workers framed by a legally binding contract. The basic framework of exploitation and control is never challenged.
While clearly not the intent of this passage in the DP, because of the prevailing meaning that most people in the U.S. have of what "going on strike" involves, it could be interpreted by some as continuing the practice of "collective bargaining" over wages and working conditions under socialism. The overall thrust and vision of the DP is quite different -- looking forward to when, in fact for the first time with the seizure of power by the proletariat, actual control over all of society is now in its hands.
As Dolly Veale says in her post on the 2changetheworld.info website (2002-04-05), "The RCP's Draft Programme proceeds from the most basic `right of the workers'--the right to seize power, form its own independent state and build a new society without exploitation or oppression." Tendencies to have working people focus their attention solely on their own workplace, etc.--and not on fighting to command the direction of society overall, developing the 3-in-1 committees and other means to actually run the factories, etc.--would need to be consciously criticized as the conservative and "backward- looking" thinking that they would be.
The DP correctly identifies three major sections of the working class within the U.S. One section it describes (p. 66) as "...consists of relatively privileged `bourgeoisified' workers. These workers are concentrated in large-scale industries--like auto and steel, heavy machinery, utilities, the postal service--and particularly where there have been strong unions." It is among this section of the working class that the tendency to continue a narrow focus on wages and working conditions in their own workplace will be the strongest and where a most determined effort must be made, over and over again, to focus people's attention on raising the level for everyone and using their strategic position, knowledge and experience in large-scale industry to advance the overall revolution and not to serve narrow ends.
Attempts to extract special privileges for already more privileged sections of the working class may arise in the new society, especially in the immediate aftermath of the revolution, and it will be a real challenge to approach and handle these non-antagonistically. In this regard, one experience of two-line struggle in the Russian Revolution may prove instructive. In the darkest days of the civil war, when the newly born revolution faced reactionaries backed by the joint efforts of all the imperialist powers, a contradiction arose with the railroad workers. These workers were generally far better off than other workers in pre-revolutionary Russia, and initially support for the revolution was weak among them. As a result, forces opposed to the revolution were initially successful in organizing work stoppages among them, preventing needed supplies from reaching the revolutionary forces and people in key areas in the midst of their warfare with the White (reactionary) army forces.
It seemed a desperate situation. And--in a display of the kind of "capitalist roader" that Trotsky would have become if allowed to obtain overall control of the Russian revolution--Trotsky (then head of the Red Army) declared that the solution was to simply draft the railroad workers into the army and make them work, or be shot if they refused!... Lenin and others correctly opposed this view, declaring that persuasion was at the heart of this [situation], that no matter how difficult this should be handled non- antagonistically, and [that Trotsky's plan] would undermine the proletariat in fact (and not in name only) ruling society.
Added to the importance of this issue is the fact that in the struggle to continue the revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat, even where overall power is in the hands of the proletariat and people, power in particular areas or sections of society may be usurped by capitalist roaders, and the most energetic struggle would need to be waged to unmask and oppose them. And within that, strikes may be a necessary weapon.
It is significant, in this regard, to note that in the 4th National People's Congress of the People's Republic of China held in 1975 (in efforts to sum up and consolidate on the gains of the Cultural Revolution in the midst of what Raymond Lotta described as "Mao's Last Great Battle" against the forces of capitalist restoration that were gaining strength as Mao was on his death bed), the right to strike was officially added for the first time to their Constitution. And it was the only time the right to strike has been included in the constitution of any socialist country. Whether in the specific conditions here in the U.S. this should be exactly duplicated, in terms of specifically mentioning the right to strike, I think should be examined. But the overall lessons from the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution of encouraging and unleashing the masses to criticize and present dissenting views are quite correct.
Because of its potential to harm the collective process of the building of socialism, I think if the right to strike is specifically mentioned, it needs to be indicated in the DP that going on strike would not and should not be viewed as a continuation of economist struggle from the old society--and that going on strike under socialism needs to be recognized as a very serious step, that this can be a much "heavier" step than holding meetings, organizing demonstrations, putting up posters, etc. To use the words of one of the posts on the 2changetheworld website around a related matter, [a strike] would occur "because there is a great injustice being done and all other attempts to correct it have failed."
The following is an excerpt of a longer exchange on the 2changetheworld.info website between Dolly Veale (spokesperson, RCP S.F. Bay Area branch) and Ben Seattle. RW readers are encouraged to read the debate in its entirety at rwor.org/margorp/debate- e.htm. The full exchange can also be seen at ( http://2changetheworld.info/disc/index.php?bn=changetheworld_newsociet).
My opinion is that the revolutionary movement has done a very poor job in terms of dealing with the question of the kinds of democratic rights workers will have after the overthrow of bourgeois rule in the context of a modern stable society with a working class majority (i.e., like the U.S., where most of the people on this forum live).
My conclusion is that workers will have the right to:
(a) create independent political organizations and
(b) fight to influence the consciousness of the masses and mobilize mass support for their views.
The objection (or qualification) to the above that often comes up (from many who consider themselves to be Marxist-Leninists) is that the workers' state will not allow the former bourgeoisie (or those aspiring to be a new bourgeoisie) to organize itself, to openly promote its wrong and poisonous views, etc.
The problem is that in practice there will be no practical way to distinguish between
(c) workers who are promoting their own independent views, and
(d) people who are acting as pawns of bourgeois forces
Furthermore, the internet itself throws this contradiction into bold relief. The complete elimination of the promotion of bourgeois views and ideology would require crippling the growth and development of the internet, which a society run by the working class will, on the contrary, need in order to develop the economy and increase the productivity of labor at the maximum possible rate.
My conclusion is that in the context of a stable, modern society (i.e., after any period of martial law that might exist during the conclusion of the successful effort of many millions to overthrow bourgeois rule), workers will have the fundamental democratic rights (a) and (b) that I outlined above. Workers will need these rights in order to criticize the inevitable incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption which will manifest itself in various people and policies of their own workers' state. Workers will need these rights in order to prevent an open or disguised form of bourgeois restoration. Workers will need these rights, and will have them, even if this means that, inevitably, these same rights will be used by some to promote poisonous bourgeois ideology.
How then will the promotion of bourgeois ideology be successfully opposed?
My conclusion is that bourgeois ideologues will be:
1. Cut down to size by the principle of separation of speech and property (i.e., they will not be allowed to use hired labor or commercial resources to amplify their voice) and then
2. Drowned out by the combined anger, determination and class consciousness reflected in the innumerable voices of the masses....
For those who are interested in this topic, I have created a web site (http://struggle. net/proletarian- democracy) and email list (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/proldem-open ) that are completely focused on how politics and economics will work when a modern, stable society is ruling by the working class.
I hope that progress can be made on these theoretical questions. Theory is a front of revolutionary struggle just like any other front. It is a front of struggle that requires assistance from the mass of activists. And, in my view, there can never be a mass movement for the overthrow of bourgeois rule until revolutionary theory comes to terms with the period in which Marxism was captured by its enemies and was turned into a state religion. And coming to terms with this period requires that we address the question of democratic rights under workers' rule. Until the revolutionary movement deals with this question we will not be deserving of the attention and respect of the majority of the working class.
I made a post to this forum on March 27 titled: "proletarian democracy requires democratic rights for workers." I believe that my post implicitly points to a weakness in your draft program: you say very little that is concrete about the rights that workers, within the context of their own dictatorship, will have to create independent political organizations (i.e., without permission from anybody) to criticize the inevitable incompetence, hypocrisy and corruption that will manifest itself in their own government.
Unless your draft program addresses this question in a clear and concrete way I believe that it will indicate that your trend is not yet prepared to consider how workers' rule will function in the conditions of a modern society.
I would like to see a reply to my statement of March 27.
Sincerely and revolutionary regards,Ben Seattle
In Democracy, Can't We Do Better Than That? Chairman Avakian points out that ALL brands of social reformers have one thing in common: they think the proletariat and oppressed should have the right to everything under the sun (e.g. better wages, conditions, treatment, etc.) EXCEPT state power.
Strange as it may appear, this is actually the shared reformist essence of the many garden-variety revisionists (i.e. phony communists) and Trotskyites. They confuse socialism with capitalism and, despite "socialist" and "Marxist-Leninist" labels/phrases, are conservative/non- revolutionary trends.
Marxist-Leninist-Maoists base ourselves on the fact that "without state power, all is illusion" but WITH state power in the hands of the proletariat and oppressed, a great deal becomes possible. The RCP's Draft Programme proceeds from the most basic "right of the workers" -- the right to seize power, form their own independent state and build a new society without exploitation or oppression.
The section of the DP on "The dictatorship of the proletariat: how the proletariat will transform all of society" concretely proposes to
*develop new organs of political power
*build a new socialist economy by taking charge of the means and organization of production, banning exploitation
*apply internationalism as the cornerstone of international relations
*uproot national oppression and white supremacy
*abolish discrimination against immigrants
*uproot women's oppression
*unleash youth as a force for revolution
*transform all institutions in society (education, health care, art and culture, mass media, science and research)
It's elaborated in the appendix "Proletarian dictatorship, democracy, and the rights of the people":
"First of all, the most basic right of the masses in the new society, which they can never exercise under capitalism, will be the right to be masters of society, in every sphere, and to transform it in their interests. On a basic level, for the first time ever, the masses will have the right to collectively join together to wipe out starvation, do away with discrimination, reorganize production to meet human needs rather than profit, and to make many other urgently needed and profound changes. This won't be because of some law or resolution on paper but because the masses will have state power, backed by guns, and because the economic system will no longer be organized on the basis of private profit.
"The masses will have the right, for the first time ever, to directly participate in struggle over the key political questions confronting society and in the actual administration of the state. They'll have the right, for the first time ever, to exercise dictatorship over -- to subdue and suppress -- the forces who want to resurrect exploitation, who want to reverse the uprooting of white and male supremacy, who want to restore a situation where a relative handful control the economic and political power, who want to revive the plunder of other peoples and nations."
It goes on to discuss the right to dissent/debate, select/supervise leadership, engage in political activities, bear arms in the new society, legal and religious rights, etc. These are all "democratic rights of the workers" and the broader masses of people, in a sweeping and concrete sense.
Who are "the workers"?
The workers in the U.S. are part of an international class and consist of many nationalities, men and women, youth and adults, immigrants and native born. To bring about a world free of exploitation and oppression (i.e. communism) means throughout the socialist transition, we have to recognize and overcome previous lack of rights by many peoples.
For example, African American proletarians suffer dual oppression -- as proletarians and as members of an oppressed nation inside the U.S. Recognizing the democratic rights of Black workers includes recognizing the right of self-determination of the Black nation -- to secede and form an independent nation.
Or the example of immigrants, the majority of whom are proletarians here. Their democratic rights include the equality of languages and cultures, and the right to be free of abuse as "foreigners" and non-citizens (so viciously expressed in the current juggernaut of imperialist war and repression).
And in an imperialist country like the U.S., the rights of even the most oppressed proletarian shouldn't be pitted against or elevated above the rights of our sisters and brothers in other countries (i.e. red, white, and blue supremacy). Such social chauvinism is also a common characteristic shared by all Trotskyites and revisionists, sowing poison in the workers movement.
Editors Note: RCP Chairman Bob Avakian has contributed much theoretical thinking to the questions of dictatorship of the proletariat, democracy, and dissent. The following are some key works by Bob Avakian on these issues:
Democracy: Can't We Do Better Than That? Banner Press, 1986
"Democracy: More Than Ever We Can and Must Do Better Than That," A World To Win magazine, 1992/17
"Reaching for the Heights and Flying without a Safety Net," series in the Revolutionary Worker #1195-#1210, also available online at rwor.org
"Grasp Revolution, Promote Production--Questions of Outlook and Method, Some Points on the New Situation: Valuing Dissent. Why? The Sham of Democracy and the Reality of Dictatorship," Revolutionary Worker #1064, July 30, 2000
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