The Fight for Democracy

 

Just as Socialism cannot be victorious unless it introduces complete democracy, so the proletariat will be unable to prepare for victory over the bourgeoisie unless it wages a many-sided and revolutionary struggle for democracy.

V.I. Lenin

 

Below we reprint several pieces dealing with issues and problems of New Democracy as a transitional form of government in the working class' revolutionary struggle for Socialism. As presented in the draft program as well as several articles, Scientific Socialist advocates a multi-stage development towards achieving Socialism in the US, including a stage or phase of New Democracy. And this we view from the Leninist perspective, as part of the “many-sided and revolutionary struggle” for a real democracy, where the working class and popular masses' rights and interests are truly represented in a “new type of state organization of popular power”"(1).

Many in the previous US Marxist-Leninist Movement rejected the possibility of New Democracy in the US for a number of reasons. One was based on the theory of revolutionary goals outlined by the International Communist Movement. The United States, as an advanced capitalist country, was deemed to have the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the building of Socialism as its immediate goal, requiring no intermediate stage. Another argument contended that the external and internal circumstances for the US hardly resembled the specific circumstances faced by the countries in Eastern Europe and Asia after World War II where New Democracies were established, not in the least of which was one particular factor considered a prerequisite for a transitional form of revolutionary government - the existence and support of the Soviet Union. Additionally, there was the belief that because the US was a bourgeois democracy, New Democracy – the form of rule specifically used in the anti-fascist struggle – was not applicable here. Lastly, there was the (correct) idea that the working class must be the leading class in any revolutionary struggle, but in a United or Popular Front form of government it would be compelled to surrender that leading role in an alliance with a so-called progressive or anti-fascist section of the bourgeoisie.

Scientific Socialist denies the validity of these arguments, assessing them as a reflection of the previous American Marxist-Leninists' dogmatic tendencies as well as their inability to apply Marxism creatively to concrete conditions. But the Scientific Socialist current emerged later and the issue of New Democracy in the US was not sorted out by the Marxist-Leninist Movement before its dissolution began in the late 80s. Today, the small and scattered Marxist-Leninist forces pay no attention to the question or the prospect of an intermediate stage of revolution in the US with the exception of the RCP (M-L) "(2).To be sure, these forces ignore the prospect of a democratic revolution of any sort in the US. On the one hand, they make general calls for Socialism presumably as the immediate task. On the other, they issue reformist pro-democracy, anti-imperialist slogans, a number of which are indistinguishable from those issued by other lefts and progressives. Nevertheless, a few Marxist-Leninist organizations advance some pro-democratic slogans that come close to having a programmatic content. One of these is the call for “democratic renewal,” but this appears to mean little more than restoring formal bourgeois liberties of some bygone era.

We believe that Marxist-Leninists should take the fight for democracy in the US very seriously and return to and review the theory and experience of the International Communist Movement on this question.   It is important to note that after World War II the ICM engaged in much discussion, detailing how the working class was to advance on a progressive course towards Socialism. Here too in the United States the issue was addressed, and the Communist Party took it into consideration in charting a revolutionary path forward. This was clearly illustrated in William Z. Foster's History of the Communist Party of the United States , published in 1952, where he briefly outlined “the American Road to Socialism.”"(3).

In this section, he raises one principal point that was universally accepted by the ICM despite differences of opinions on other aspects of the problem. It was Lenin himself who emphasized the thesis quoted by Foster and also cited by the Soviet Marxist A. Sobolev in the excerpt from an article reprinted below:

All nations will come to socialism, this is inevitable, but they will come to it in not quite the same way; each will contribute original features to this or that form of democracy, to this or that variant of the proletarian dictatorship, to this or that tempo of the socialist transformation of various aspects of social life "(4).

This Leninist thesis had already been applied concretely by the ICM in the fight against fascism and imperialist war. During the Comintern's 7th Congress in 1935 Dimitroff raised the possibility and necessity of the proletariat utilizing different forms and transitional phases of struggle and rule in its strategy and tactics for organizing the resistance against fascism and the revolutionary battle for Socialism. These forms and transitional phases included the Popular and Democratic Fronts. In this regard, Foster had the following to say:

American conditions and world socialist experience make it realistic, however, to suppose that, in their march to socialism, the American people, as many others are doing, will take their path through the successive phases of the people's front and the people's democracy. But in so doing, they will doubtless reflect specific American conditions. That is, just as there have been in this country special adaptations of the people's front slogan (examples, the farmer-labor party, the democratic front, the Roosevelt coalitions, and now the peace coalition), so there will be also almost certainly develop special American forms and applications of the people's democracy and its slogans (emphasis added) "(5).

Defining the social conditions is absolutely necessary to formulate the program, strategy, and tactics for the American proletariat's revolutionary class struggle. As Stalin emphasized:

…in order not to err in policy, in order not to find itself in the position of idle dreamers, the party of the proletariat must not base its activities on abstract “principles of human reason,” but on the concrete conditions of the material life of society, as the determining force of social development; not on the good wishes of “great men,” but on the real needs of development of the material life of society (emphasis added)"(6).

A vital part of defining the social conditions relevant to formulating the revolutionary line of march was an explication of the nature of the state. As Lenin pointed out in a lecture on this topic:

…this question of the state has acquired the greatest importance and has become, one might say, the most burning one, the focus of all political questions and of all political disputes of the present day "(7).

However, coming to grips with the nature of the state so as to correctly determine revolutionary policy was a very difficult and complicated task both in Foster's day as well as today. Lenin could not emphasize enough that  

…you will scarcely find another question which has been so confused, both deliberately and not, by representatives of bourgeois science, philosophy, jurisprudence, political economy, and journalism, as the question of the state"(8).

Nevertheless, the issue could not be ignored or downplayed because

…it is the most basic, …fundamental question of all politics…everyday, in one connection or another, you will be returning to this question: what is the state, what is its nature, what is its significance and what is the attitude of our party, the Party that is fighting for the overthrow of capitalism, the Communist Party – what is its attitude toward the state?"(9).

A Party's attitude toward the state will in large part determine the program, strategy and tactics for social revolution, including any transition periods, such as New Democracy, that will effect the goal of Socialism. Within this context, crucial questions related to the class struggle come to the fore. For example, was it feasible for Foster to propose the possibility of a “peaceful transition to Socialism” through the demands and means of a democratic revolution? Is a peaceful road of revolution possible today? One can't even begin to answer these questions without a clear and concise knowledge of the existing state in the US – state monopoly capitalism – and the state that might replace it, viz., a form of New Democracy.

It is hoped that the articles below may shed some light on issues which will help us tackle these questions creatively based on the Marxist-Leninist science and better understand New Democracy as a viable form of social revolution in the US. We will return to this topic with further articles and offer our own viewpoints on these questions as well as arguments posed by the previous Marxist-Leninist Movement. And, of course, we encourage readers of our site to offer their own views, questions, comments, and criticisms to galvanize this discussion, preparing the groundwork for Marxist-Leninist political unity on one important field of struggle that will eventually be consolidated in key organizational forms.

ENDNOTES

(1) Sobolev , A. “People's Democracy as a Form of Political Organization of Society.” The Bolshevik , 1951.

(2)The Maoist Revolutionary Communist Party (Marxist-Leninist) has advocated a united front policy over the years, but while it makes some generally correct statements about the policy, it has yet to clearly articulate the specific class, organizational, etc. composition of this front and how it figures into a definite stage, form, method in the revolutionary struggle for Socialism.

(3)The CPUSA generally dealt with United Front tactics as a possibility "to check and defeat Wall Street's drive toward war and fascism" at its 14th National Convention in 1948. However, neither the Convention Report that we have seen nor subsequent Party activities indicate that any specific United Front tactics were decided on and implemented as a means to a transitional stage of New Democratic revolution. See Dennis, Eugene. "For Democracy and Peace" reprinted in Ideas They Cannot Jail. New York: International Publishers, 1950.

(4) Lenin, V.I.   “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism .” Collected Works . Moscow:   Progress Publishers, 1964. Volume 23.

(5)Foster, William, Z. History of the Communist Party of the United States . New York: International Publishers, 1952.

(6)Stalin, J.V. Dialectical and Historical Materialism . Tirana: The “8 Nentori ” Publishing House, 1979.

(7)Lenin, V.I. The State. Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1975.

(8)Lenin, V.I. The State. Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1975.

(9) Lenin, V.I. The State. Peking: Foreign Language Press, 1975.

 

 

 

People's Democracy as a Form of

Political Organization of Society

 By

 A. Sobolev

 Excerpt from The Bolshevik   [1951]

 

           Marxism-Leninism is a creative science. It develops, perfects itself, enriches itself with new experience, new formulas and deductions. V.I. Lenin and J.V. Stalin repeatedly stressed the need of applying Marxism creatively in resolving the concrete problems of the working class; they vigorously opposed dogmatism and rote in theory and trite methods in politics.

           An exceedingly great role in the struggle of the working class for its emancipation is played by the Marxist-Leninist tenet concerning the richness and variety of the forms of the transition from capitalism to socialism. “Marx,” wrote Stalin, “did not commit himself -- or the future leaders of the socialist revolution -- as regards the forms, methods and ways of bringing about the revolution; for he understood perfectly well what a vast number of new problems would arise, how the whole situation would change in the course of the revolution, and how often and considerably it would change in the course of the revolution"(1).

           Lenin and Stalin have shown that the forms, methods, means and tempo of the transition from capitalism to socialism might and would vary under different concrete historical conditions. Lenin states outright:“All nations will arrive at socialism — this is inevitable, but all will do so in not exactly the same way, each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the varying rate of socialist transformations in the different aspects of social life(2).

           The revolutionary creativeness of the working class of our country brought into existence the Soviets as the state form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Lenin and Stalin have disclosed the great international significance of the Soviets, the advantages of this, the highest, most perfect form of the dictatorship of the proletariat as against any other form of revolutionary power. At the same time Lenin and Stalin pointed out that there could be also other state forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat. “The Soviets,” Stalin declared at the sixth congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Labor Party (B), “are the most expedient form of the organization of the working class struggle for power, but the Soviets are not the only type of revolutionary organization"(3).

           The regime of People's Democracy in the countries of Central and Southeastern Europe is a new type of state organization of popular power. The example of the countries of People's Democracy confirms the correctness of the theoretical position of Lenin and Stalin regarding the international significance of the dictatorship of the proletariat as the essence of different political forms in the period of the transition from capitalism to socialism. Comrade Stalin teaches that the regime of People's Democracy in the countries of Central and Southeastern Europe exercises the functions of the dictatorship of the proletariat and that the People's Democracy states constitute one of the forms of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

           People's Democracy as a new form of the political organization of society could and did arise in the concrete historical situation, first of all in view of the might Soviet Union, in the conditions of the further accentuation of general crisis of capitalism, the sharpening of all the contradictions of imperialism, the growth of the labor movement in the capitalist countries and the intensification of the national liberation struggle of the peoples in the colonial and dependent countries, and with the relation of forces on the international arena radically altered in favor of socialism.

 

ENDNOTES

(1)Stalin, J.V. Reply to the Discussion on the Report on “The Social Democratic Deviation in our Party.” On the Opposition. Peking : Foreign Language Press, 1974.   Note: in the original article, Sobolev incorrectly attributes this quote to Lenin.

(2)Lenin, V.I. “A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism .” Collected Works. Volume 23.

(3) Stalin, J.V. Works, Vol. 3. Moscow : Foreign Language Publishing House, 1953.

 

 

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Democracy of a New Type

 By

 Eugene Varga

 From The Labour Monthly , Volume XXIX, August-September, 1947.

 

           One of the most important political results of the Second World War is the emergence of democratic states of a new type: Yugoslavia , Bulgaria , Poland , and Czechoslovakia and, also, Albania . We understand by a “democracy of a new type” a state of affairs in a country where feudal remnants – large scale landownership – have been eliminated, where the system of private ownership of the means of production still exists but large enterprises in the spheres of industry, transport and credit are in state hands, while the State itself and its apparatus of coercion serve not the interests of the monopolistic bourgeoisie but the interests of the working people in town and countryside.

           The social structure of these States differ from all those hitherto known to us; it is something totally new in the history of mankind. It is neither a bourgeois dictatorship nor a proletarian dictatorship. The old State apparatus has not been smashed, as in the Soviet Union , but re-organized by means of a continuous inclusion in it of the supporters of the new regime. They are not capitalist States in the ordinary sense of the word. Neither, however, are they Socialist states. The basis for their transition to Socialism is given by the nationalization of the most important means of production and by the essential character of the State. They may, with the maintenance of the present State apparatus, gradually pass over to Socialism, developing to an ever-increasing extent the socialist sector which already exists side by side with the simple commodity sector (peasant and artisan) and the capitalist sector, which has lost its dominant position.

           The general historical pre-requisite, applying in all cases, for the emergence of thee states of democracy of a new type is the general crisis of capitalism, which has very considerably intensified in consequence of the Second World War.

           The historical conditions specific to these countries are:

           * The discrediting of the ruling classes and their political parties in the eyes of the broad masses of the people, as a result of their policy of collaboration with Hitler fascism before and during the war, which led to the occupation of these countries by German troops and the fierce suppression and impoverishment of the working masses.

          *  The leading role of the Communist parties in the resistance movement, as a result of which unity of the working class was achieved and a people's front formed in the struggle against fascism, large-scale landownership and big capital – the economic basis of fascism.

          * The moral, diplomatic and economic support which these countries find in the Soviet Union . Without this support the states of democracy of a new type would be hard put to withstand the attacks of reaction, both external and internal. Very edifying in this respect is the fate of Greece .

           The following features are characteristic of the economy of the states of democracy of a new type:

          *  Private ownership of the means of production continues to exist; the peasant is the owner of his land, the artisan his workshop, the trader his shop, the small capitalist his factory. Big enterprises, however, in mining, industry, transport and banking are nationalized and are under state management. . .

           We would like, here, to stress the decisive significance of the special character of the State for the development of the economies of these countries. Where the State is controlled by monopoly capital and serves its interests it can own a very considerable part of the means of production without in the slightest degree altering the character of the social system. In Hitler Germany the railways, Imperial Bank, Discount Bank, Prussian State Bank, large industrial enterprises (e.g. Hermann Goering-Werke ), power stations, agricultural and forest areas, etc., were the property of the Reich, individual lands or municipalities. The existence of such considerable public property, however, did not at all alter the fact that the economy of Hitler Germany remained a monopolistic economy and the social order a bourgeois one. The change in the character of the State – its transformation from a weapon of domination in the hands of the propertied classes into the state of the working people – this is what determines the real significance of the transfer of a decisive part of the means of production into the hands of the State in the countries of a democracy of a new type.

           The change in the character of the State explains also why the influence of nationalization on the distribution of the national revenue is totally different in the democratic States of a new type from that in the bourgeois-democratic countries such as Great Britain .

           Nationalization in the new democratic States signifies a special sort of economic revolution. The property of traitors to the country, of fascist capitalists, was confiscated without compensation. Other big capitalists received compensation, but their income after compensation was only a small part of the surplus value which they previously appropriated.

           The contradictions between the social character of production and the private character of appropriation have sharpened to such a degree as the result of the deepening of the general crisis of capitalism that in the post-war period the wave of nationalization has embraced almost all countries with fully-developed capitalist relations, with the exception of the USA . Nationalization in these countries is an attempt to solve the contradictions between the social character of production and the private character of appropriation within the framework of the bourgeois social system. It is precisely this which explains the introduction of nationalization with full compensation for the capitalists.   Thus in Britain, for example, the share-holders of electricity companies were given compensation to the amount of 450,000,000 sterling. This sum was calculated on the basis of the Stock Exchange value of the shares before nationalization. Similarly, compensation amounting to 1,035,000,000 was fixed for owners of transport enterprises due to be nationalized. This means that the shareholders were not harmed. This distribution of the national income remains almost unchange"(4).

           These various methods of carrying out nationalization show the difference between a bourgeois democracy and a democracy of a new type . . .

           The second important feature of the economies of the countries of democracy of a new type is the complete and final elimination of large-scale landlordism, of this feudal survival inside the capitalist system of economy. The social and political power of the big landowners, dating back a thousand years, has been destroyed. The big landed properties were confiscated by the State and distributed among peasants having little land and landless agricultural laborers. The number of peasant households (i.e. private owners of land) increased very considerably in these countries.

           The division of the lands among many hundreds of thousands of peasants who had little or no land has converted the overwhelming majority of these peasants into loyal supporters of the new regime. The mistake made by the Hungarian Communists in 1919, when they wanted to leap over the essential historical state by converting the confiscated large landed properties into state farms, instead of dividing them up among the peasants and so satisfying land hunger, has nowhere been repeated.

           The cultivation of land by the peasants using their own resources and giving them the opportunity of selling their produce on the market (in some countries only after fulfilling tax payments and deliveries to the State) make possible the preservation or re-emergence of commodity capitalist relations in the economy of the country. As Lenin pointed out, “small-scale production engenders capitalism and the bourgeoisie continuously, daily, hourly, spontaneously and on a mass scale”"(5).

           Thus, the social order in the States of democracy of a new type is not a socialist order, but a peculiar, new, transitional form. The contradiction between the productive forces and relations of production becomes mitigated in proportion as the relative weight of the socialist sector increases . . .

           It is quite clear that the class of big landowners by no means intends to accept these changes peacefully but is resisting the new regime in every way. Nationalization of the land does not mean that the big landowners immediately lose their political influence.

           Here the general rule that changes in the economic basis do not immediately evoke corresponding changes in politics continues to operate. Deprived of their economic power, the landlords together with the expropriated and un-expropriated capitalists their adherents fight with every means at their disposal against the new democratic regime, organize oppositional political parties and through priests, teachers and notaries already debouched by them conduct agitation among the new peasants (who often lack the necessary means of production) for giving back land to the landlords. They frighten the peasants by telling them they will be hanged in the event of the old system being restored, because they “stole” the land. They organize plots against the government, arm bandits, etc. They seek and find active support in reactionary circles abroad . . .

           In a word, it is by no means a peaceful idyll that reigns in the countries of new democracy but, on the contrary, a sharp, extremely fierce class struggle that is in progress, just as in the old capitalist countries.

           As regards the class struggle, however, there exists a difference in principle between the States of democracy of a new type and the old bourgeois countries. In the old bourgeois countries the State is a weapon of domination in the hands of the propertied classes. The entire State apparatus – officials, judges, police and as a last resort, the standing army – is on the side of the propertied classes(6).

           The opposite is to be seen in the countries of new democracy. Here the State protects the interests of the working people against those who live by appropriating surplus value. When conflicts arise, the armed forces of the State are to be found, not on the side of the capitalists, but on the side of the workers. It is wholly inconceivable that the armies of these States should be used against the working people. State officials and judges serve the interests of the working people . . .

           Although the same social order exists in all the countries of democracy of a new type, there are differences of no little importance, conditioned historically in both economy and policy . . .

           All the states of democracy of a new type are People's Republics: the working people determine the policy of the government. The form which the political rule of the workers takes, is not, however, the same in each case. Czechoslovakia, Poland and Bulgaria are parliamentary republics with universal, equal and secret electoral rights. The governments of these countries are made up of coalition parties forming a majority and are responsible to parliament. Their electoral rights differ from the suffrage in the old bourgeois democracies, in that fascist parties are not allowed to operate and fascist traitors have no electoral rights. At the same time Yugoslavia is a federative republic, its Constitution being similar in many ways to that of the Soviet Union.

           In this connection an important theoretical question arises: the idea was widely held in the Communist parties that the political domination of the working people, as in the case of the Soviet Union , could only be realized in the form of Soviet power. This is not correct, nor is it an expression of Lenin's opinion …

           The rise of the states of new democracy shows clearly that it is possible to have political rule by the working people even while the outward forms of parliamentary democracy are still maintained.

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           The foreign policy of the States of new democracy is determined by the transitional character of their social order, It is owing to their social order that the capitalist states, primarily the United States of America and Britain, do everything in their power not only to hinder the progressive social development of these countries but to throw them back and once more convert them into ordinary capitalist States. This effort becomes all the stronger on account of the fact that the present State system of those countries excludes the possibility of their once more becoming economically dependent countries as they were before the war in relation to Germany. It is this which explains facts in the daily press which are all too well known to the reader: the repeated attempts at interference in the internal affairs of these countries, the hullabaloo about the absence of democracy because reactionary plotting is severely dealt with, attempts to discredit the elections, support of every display of opposition, i.e. of all reactionary (in the present historical situation) and objectively counter-revolutionary parties and politicians, etc. . . . One of the chief tasks of the foreign policy of these countries, therefore, is to protect their political conquests at home and their new social system from all these attacks.

           It can be understood from these circumstances why the States mentioned maintain the closest friendly relations among themselves and render each other economic and political aid. Of the States mentioned, Yugoslavia and Bulgaria, on the one hand, and Czechoslovakia and Poland on the other, have common frontiers which facilitate their economic ties. (There are two countries – Hungary and Rumania – between these two groups of states, which, although at the present time not belonging to the countries of democracy of a new type, are clearly developing in this direction.)

           It is equally understandable that these countries maintain close, friendly relations with the Soviet Union . This is so not only because it was precisely the victorious troops of the Soviet Union that liberated their countries (Yugoslavia being, in part, an exception) from German occupation, and not only because they are all Slav states, but primarily because their present social order brings them close to the Soviet Union, because of all the great powers the Soviet Union alone is interested in the maintenance and further progressive development of the social order and political regime existing in these countries and can afford them diplomatic support against the reactionary offensive from outside.

           The Soviet Union is at the same time interested in the maintenance by these countries of the existing regime and their further development in a progressive direction. The present regime in these countries provides the guarantee that they will not, in the future, again voluntarily serve as a place d'armes for any power which tries to attack the Soviet Union. For this reason the Soviet Union is interested in these States being as strong as possible in the economic, political and military sense, in order that they may defend themselves against foreign attack at least until such time as the Soviet armies can come to their aid and so avert their forcible conversion into a military place d' armes against the Soviet Union, as happened during the Second World War.

           This situation signifies that the States of democracy of the new type are the junction of the post-war struggle of two systems. It was not for nothing during the war Churchill frequently called for the opening of a Second Front in the Balkans instead of a genuine Second Front in the West, in order that, by the end of the war, British armed forces would be on the spot to safeguard the old order. But these proposals were rejected by Roosevelt and Stalin as being incorrect from the military viewpoint.

           All this points to the extremely close interweaving of home and foreign policy at the present state of the general crisis of capitalism.

 

ENDNOTES

(4)Nevertheless, bourgeois nationalization also signifies progress in the direction of the new type of democracy.

(5)Lenin, V.I. Selected Works, Volume 10, p. 60.

(6)This does not, of course, prevent the organs of the bourgeois State in certain cases settling wage disputes between capitalists and workers in favor of the latter. This, however, never happens should it threaten the foundations of the bourgeois social system – private ownership of the means of production. The passage of social legislation – the shorter working day, health insurance, unemployment benefits – can be explained by the well-understood interests of the bourgeoisie.