The Working Class Carries Forward the Banner of Democracy
March 9, 2016
Below we outline 9 initial theses or conclusions in order to provide readers with some background information on the development and present-day features of the capitalist state and of the struggles of the working masses for democratic liberties and equality.
1) The American War of Independence against British colonialism was indeed a great democratic, revolutionary movement through which the people gained national independence, overthrew various feudal relations and established a secular state guaranteeing various democratic liberties. But even at this time, the political leadership of the revolution, remaining in the hands of merchant and industrial capitalists as well as the Southern slavocracy, fought to secure the state power for themselves precisely in order to guarantee their property rights. The Constitution of 1789 not only sanctioned slavery and declared permanent war on the Native Indians but also completely disenfranchised women; in addition, even the bourgeois democratic liberties of small farmers, artisans and workers were severely restricted.
Most fundamentally the Constitution of 1789 was a constitution guaranteeing the rights of private property in the means of production and concentrating all state power in the hands of the big merchants, industrialists. and slaveowners. The principal function of the new state power was to maintain the “natural division” of society between “property-holders” and the great mass of the property-less population and to use force and state violence to protect the rights of the capitalist property owners.
2) The existence of slavery in the South retarded the development of capitalism and meant that the bourgeois democratic revolution remained uncompleted. Between 1787 and the Civil War, a dominant feature of American political life was the struggle between the two competing social systems – the capitalist system of the North and the slave system in the South. The northern capitalists were compelled both by the pressure of the slave revolts and the democratic movements of the workers as well as by the economic demands of capitalism to wage the Civil War. But the whole course of events preceding, during and after the Civil War showed that the capitalists fought solely to insure the domination of their system and not for the genuine freedom and emancipation to which the slaves aspired. As soon as the power of the slavocracy was broken, as soon as the northern industrialists and bankers were guaranteed complete control over the state apparatus and the was way cleared for the unfettered development of capitalism, the capitalists resurrected the overthrown slaveowners, created a counter-revolutionary alliance with them and through armed force ruthlessly crushed the democratic movement of the black masses and imposed a semi-feudal and inhuman apartheid system on them.
Furthermore, by this time the capitalist state had also waged the Mexican-American war, annexed huge parts of Mexico and reduced the Mexican and Indian population in the Southwest to status of a conquered peoples.
Thus, the oppression of nationalities is one of the pillars upon which capitalism and the capitalist state in the U.S. grew up. Subsequent history has shown that the democratic aspirations and demands of the black people, the Mexican Americans, the Native Indians and others remain unfulfilled and that even to achieve minor reforms on these questions the oppressed national minorities and the working class have had to wage unremitting, revolutionary struggles against the capitalist class and the capitalist state.
3) With the entire continent opened for the unfettered development of capitalism, with the state power completely in the hands of the northern industrialists, the capitalist state turned its attention to genocidal wars against Indians and the usurpation of their lands and hereditary rights, to enriching the big capitalists through unprecedented land give-aways and governmental swindles and to suppressing the rising working class movement.
The real face of the capitalist state is fully revealed in its struggle to protect the rights of the capitalist property-owners against the working class and its struggles for genuine (economic and social) equality. From the first emergence of the working class movement the capitalists used the entire force of the state machine to suppress even the most elementary economic struggles of the workers – struggles for higher wages and better working conditions, struggles to organize trade unions, etc. The state militias and the standing army were built up, especially in the latter half of the 19th century, to suppress the economic movements of the workers; martial law was and remains a frequent weapon used by the capitalist state against the workers' strike struggles and trade union movement.
The capitalist state has resorted to even more brutal measures in its attacks against the political movement of the workers and especially in trying to prevent the working class from organizing and building its own political party. Special measures outlawing the working class political party have been imposed many times as in the “anti-socialist and sedition laws” during WWI or the all-out anti-communist crusade after WW II. Tens of thousands of working class political activists have been subjected to imprisonment, torture, deportation, murder, etc. An extensive political police operates through the state machine trying to infiltrate and prevent the political organization of the workers through any and every means including secret assassinations. Many laws have been put on the books and applied in practice, making it a crime to espouse the independent program and ideology of the working class. The capitalist state has tried to outlaw the propagation of socialism and Marxism-Leninism.
4) As a result of the rapid concentration and centralization of capital, American capitalism reached the stage of monopoly and imperialism even before the turn of the 20th century. And, as Lenin has correctly shown, politics follows economics; the emergence and domination of monopoly capital in the economic life of the country has led to an ever-greater reliance on reaction and violence by the capitalist state. With the rise of monopoly capital and imperialism, the capitalist state became an instrument for wars and colonization. This aggressive foreign policy was accompanied by an unrestrained chauvinism and increased repression at home, in order to maintain a “quiet rear” for U.S. imperialism. World War I, during which U.S. imperialism tried to hide its program of colonial expansion under the signboard of “making the world safe for democracy,” was accompanied by wholesale repression against the working class movement and against the socialist and communist parties in the U.S.. A ferocious propaganda campaign was initiated at that time trying to equate Americanism and patriotism with capitalism and attempting to outlaw and force underground the working class and revolutionary movement.
By the end of WW II, U.S. imperialism had stepped into the shoes of Hitler, appointed itself the savior of world capitalism and become the biggest colonial and neo-colonial power. U.S. imperialism declared open and permanent war on the national liberation movements, socialism and the working class movement throughout the world. Since that time, the U.S. state has carried out nearly 100 wars of aggression, established its military bases in dozens of countries and on all the oceans and continents and tried to blackmail and dominate the entire world with its huge arsenal of nuclear and conventional weapons.
Similarly, McCarthyism was the declaration of war against the working class and communist movement at home. The Communist Party and Marxism-Leninism were made illegal. Any and every working class organization came under attack and a huge repressive apparatus was established for suppressing the working class and popular struggles. Today the U.S. capitalist state maintains some 5 million men under arms and continues to carry out an all-around process of fascistization. Militarization has become a permanent feature of the economy and the entire life of society.
5) A characteristic feature of present-day capitalist politics in the U.S. is that while the capitalists do create unofficial paramilitary, “ultra right” and openly fascist groups, they rely principally on the state machine and the 2 big capitalist parties – the Republicans and Democrats – to carry forward the all around fascistization of the capitalist state. Both at home and abroad, U.S. imperialism's program of fascism and war has been carried out in the name of “freedom and democracy,” as well as in the name of “stopping the spread of communism;” “fighting international terrorism,” etc., etc.
6) The whole historical development of the capitalist state in the U.S. as well as the centuries-long struggle of the people for democratic liberties and genuine equality shows that the capitalist class in the U.S. today is completely reactionary, hell-bent on denying the masses even elementary democratic rights and liberties.
History also shows that the working class alone is the true defender and representative of democracy and democratic liberties. Today it is imperative that the working class carries forward the democratic struggles to win full equality for the downtrodden and oppressed national minorities, the struggle for full equality for women, the popular movement against imperialist war and militarism and the struggle against growing fascism and in defense of democratic liberties.
History shows that democratic rights and liberties can only be won against the will and power of the capitalist state, through the independent political movement of the working class and popular masses. This has been confirmed countless times in the historic battles of the workers to improve their wages and living conditions and to band together into trade unions, as well as by the revolutionary struggles of the black and other oppressed minorities for full democratic rights, by the anti-imperialist struggles, etc., etc.
7) The working class not only places itself in the forefront of the general democratic movement but it also struggles to turn the promise of democracy – which is the promise of real social and economic equality – into reality by advancing its own proletarian democratic demands. These demands challenge the rights and prerogatives of capital. The movement for the 8-hour day was such a movement as were the mass struggles which aimed at winning social insurance, pensions and other vital needs. Today, the demand that the government fulfill its responsibility to fund social programs embodies the minimum democratic program of the workers which aims at winning their elementary economic rights, including the right to a secure job or livelihood commensurate with our country's high degree of development.
The democratic aspirations and movement of the workers can only achieve final victory through the proletarian socialist revolution which overthrows the capitalist state and replaces it with a state of the workers, of the laboring class which constitutes the overwhelming majority of the society. Winning the battle for democracy means winning the state power. Through the new proletarian state the working class will be able to abolish private capitalist property in the means of production and carry through the all-around socialist transformation of society based on the social ownership of the means of production. (to be continued...)