Workers Democracy & Workers Power in a workers state (a reply to Ben Seattle)

Jose G. Perez jgperez at SPAMnetzero.net
Tue Jun 6 20:53:03 MDT 2000


Ben Seattle writes:

>>Jose brings up a valid point but I think he is a little confused.
Following a successful working class revolution--the workers'
government is faced with opposition from both the _internal_
bourgeoisie and the _external_ bourgeoisie (in the form of
imperialism).  In practice the internal and external enemies will
link up with one another--will leverage strength from one
another.  For some countries, in some situations, the threat may
be more external than internal.  Cuba comes to mind here and may
be the country that Jose had in mind (I will leave aside the
question of whether or not Cuba represents a genuine workers'
state).  For other situations the internal threat is the more
important one [1].  For example, a successful workers' revolution
in the United States would probably be threatened more by the
defeated US bourgeoisie than by other imperialist countries.<<

This is the real issue: what is meant by a "successful workers revolution"?

In my view, one cannot speak of a successful workers revolution in the FULL
sense of the world unless one is speaking about an international revolution
that has taken, at least, say, the G-7 countries, i.e., really broken the
back of the world imperialist system.

This is not some idealist construct, but a very practical matter. In State
and Revolution, writing before October, Lenin speaks of the survival of the
bourgeois state in the first stages of communism, insofar as bourgeois law
prevails, so does a bourgeois state. Those sharp characterizations (very
typical of Lenin), are immensely useful even though he was abstracting from
the international situation. Lenin was discussing the organization of
production and distribution. And in discussing the suppression of bourgeois
resistance in the first stage of communism (socialism) Lenin notes that this
does not require specialized bureaucratic-military organs of repression. We
know he believed the Russian revolution would be merely the prelude to a
revolution in more advances countries, and especially Germany.

As a result, nowhere does he stop to consider the issue of defense of the
workers state from outside economic, military, and political pressures.

But based on his insight about the "survival" of the bourgeois state in the
initial stages of socialism, I think we must recognize that all the workers
states that have existed so far, instead of being able to rely
overwhelmingly on state structures of a new type, a state which is no longer
a state properly speaking, because it is fused with the majority of the
population and is not an apparatus rising above society and lording it over
society, have had as their overriding priority self-defense against
*outside* aggression. They have been forced by the logic of their situation
to erect huge bureaucratic and military machines; to centralize political,
economic, and diplomatic dealings with the outside world through this
machine, etc.

I think we have now seen this same phenomenon enough times under quite
varied circumstances to conclude that this is "normal" when you get a
revolution of this type, a socialist revolution surrounded by a much more
powerful imperialist camp.

That's why I say your posing of the question about independent workers
organizations and so on is lost in space. The FIRST thing the revolution
needs to do is to guarantee ITS OWN survival against the initially much
stronger world capitalist system, and this cannot be done EXCEPT through the
setting up of a bureaucratic-military apparatus of the bourgeois type.

It is a dodge and a mistake to say that some countries may face their
primary threat from abroad, some from within. The world capitalist system is
ONE system, the threat is from the bourgeois forces AS A WHOLE. I do not
agree with you that an isolated, victorious socialist revolution in the U.S.
would face its primary threat from the defeated domestic bourgeoisie. To the
extent that Britain, France, etc., remain imperialist powers and nuclear
powers, they will represent a deadly threat to a socialist U.S. Moreover,
world capitalism will represent a deadly economic threat to the newly
socialized U.S. economy, necessitating some sort of state monopoly in
foreign trade, state control of foreign currency transactions, etc. That's
because, among other things, initially, one of the things we can anticipate
in a significant lowering in the productivity of labor, both through the
disorganization inherent in any revolution and due to the absence of
capitalist slave drivers.

Now, when looking at this new military-bureaucratic apparatus we have built,
we should be very clear that it is a bourgeois apparatus, and that by its
very nature it is subject to pressures that tend to make it act, not in the
interests of the working class, but in its OWN interests as a specific
social layer differentiated from society.

Lenin put his finger on the problem early on in the development of the USSR.
He said there were 5,000 good Communists who were supposed to be guiding the
work or the central state apparatus in Moscow, but he often wondered who was
leading who, whether the communists were leading the apparatus or the other
way around.

As we know, the apparatus in the USSR did achieve "independence", so to
speak, from the working class. The class was atomized, driven out of
politics, and in the fullness of time, the bureaucracy, absent a strong
countervailing pressure from a revolutionary working class, became quite
openly restorationist. And when that happened, the bureaucracy found an
ideal instrument "lying around" with which to carry out the restoration of
capitalism, namely the "bourgeois-type" bureaucratic-military apparatus
which had been sitting on top of the workers state all these years.

Thus when you raise the need to promote independent workers organizations
and so on, I think you've put the question upside down. What is needed isn't
so much the "independence" of the workers organizations from the
bureaucratic-military apparatus of the state, but the SUBORDINATION of the
bureaucratic apparatus of the workers state to the working class organized
as a ruling class.

Which brings me quite logically to Cuba. I believe the Cuban revolution
gives a good example of what SHOULD be done. The revolution arose, as
everyone knows, without democratically structured forms of workers power
such as the Russian Soviets or the Paris Commune. At a certain point it
became clear that the revolution could not continue advancing without such
forms, and they set out quite deliberately to CREATE them.

The Cuban's people's power is consciously and systematically based on the
commune and the conclusions Marx drew from it. The assemblies of peoples
power, first of all, are rooted in the most pervasive of the mass
organizations, the block-by-block Committees for the Defense of the
Revolution. (I do not know if such committees existed in the USSR, but if
you look at Lenin's description of how the working people through sheer
numbers and organization exercise their dictatorship over the remnants of
the defeated bourgeoisie, it is clear that such committees are the very
bedrock of the new proletarian state, of a state of a new type, which is no
longer properly a state because it is fused with the big majority of the
population.) They are not made up of professional politicians. Its members
are subject to recall at any time. The highest body of the Cuban State is
the National Assembly of People's Power. All other organs without exception
are subordinate to it.

Of course, it is ONE thing for a constitution to say everyone is subordinate
to an elected body, it is another for that to work out in real life. To make
it so requires the revolutionary mobilization of the working class and the
whole people around the actual concrete tasks and battles the revolution
faces. The revolution can never be "over," at least NOT until it is over on
a WORLD scale, it must be a *permanent* revolution.

And this is, of course, exactly what you've got in Cuba, as the struggle
waged around Elián González shows. The methods relied on in waging this
struggle were eminently political and revolutionary, an intense campaign of
political discussion accompanied by massive mobilizations where Cuba's
working people could discover and rediscover their own strength, their sense
of solidarity, of being part of a common movement.

Fidel has given the example by making THIS campaign his own overriding
priority. Every single day he attends the 2-3 hour round table discussions
broadcast by Cuban TV analyzing news about the case, the lies of the
bourgeois press, and the broader ramifications (such as the treatment of
children in the U.S. versus Cuba). He has spoken only a few times during
these broadcasts, mostly at the turning point in late march and early April
following the District Court ruling when Juan Miguel made his decision to
come to the U.S.

A couple of bourgeois reporters have noted Fidel's silent presence,
suggesting that he has finally gone completely off his rocker, focusing
monomaniacally on what is, after all, "just" a custody battle around one
little boy. I don't think so.

I think this represents his considered, mature political judgment, that as
the central leader of the Cuban revolution and the most experienced and most
prestigious Communist leader on the world stage today, the most important
thing he can do is make the political statement he is making by sitting and
listening to the round table discussions every single day.

These round tables do not, of course, include Cuba's enemies, but a constant
feature of them is the rebroadcast of TV imperialist propaganda and news
reports, as well as the reading and analysis of wire service dispatches. The
round table includes a spectrum of views within the pro-Elian camp,
including Cuban-American lawyers and journalists who sometimes have a
different take on the situation than people in Cuba do, as well as other
phone-in guests from the United States.

This represents a big step forward for the Cuban news media, bringing them
closer to mirroring Cuba's real political life. For, of course, in reality
Cubans have always had access to bourgeois points of view, since Miami AM
radio stations come booming into the island, and the kinds of discussions
and debates that are now being broadcast have been an everyday reality on
the street since 1959.

Cuba's coming victory in this campaign -- and the very evident cracks Cuba's
victory has led to in the economic blockade, with the Congressional proposal
to exempt foods and medicine, and what appears to be a very significant
relaxation of the travel ban -- suggests that Fidel judged the situation
correctly, and has done the right thing. Cuba has a ton of younger and very
competent leaders to attend to all sorts of issues and details of
administration and policy that Fidel would have been consumed by two or
three decades ago. He is now in his 70s, and for quite some time had been
delegating many of these day-to-day responsibilities anyways. If anything,
this situation may have helped move along the transition to younger leaders.

To go back to Ben:

>>In any event I think that Jose has missed the point.  The issue
is how the workers' state can defend the revolution _without_
"suppressing the independent organizations of workers that will
be essential for a healthy society".  This is the key question
and, unfortunately, Jose says absolutely nothing about it.<<

As I hope my discussion above makes clear, I think the issue that presents
itself if how the workers can keep control of "their" bourgeois-type state
apparatus, not how to stay "independent" of it. And the issue is not one of
formal bourgeois democratic rights, but rather or the revolutionary
mobilization of the working people around the political tasks of the defense
of the revolution, instead of leaving this to the diplomatic and other
specialists in the apparatus. I think it is a mistake to abstract and
isolate "workers democracy" and formal bourgeois-democratic rights from the
actual political tasks and battles working people face in making the
revolution.

José

----- Original Message -----
From: "Ben Seattle" <Left-Transparency at Leninism.org>
To: "Marxism (LP) List" <marxism at lists.panix.com>
Cc: <jgperez at netzero.net>; <hatchet.job at virgin.net>;
<gunnar.kreku at mailbox.swipnet.se>; <abu-nasr at usa.net>; "Macdonald Stainsby"
<mstainsby at tao.ca>
Sent: Tuesday, June 06, 2000 4:41 AM
Subject: Unwitting accomplices of Margaret Thatcher's T.I.N.A. (reply to
Jose G. Perez)


Hi everyone,

Jose G. Perez has expressed interest in this thread.

Ben Seattle--June 2:
> Before we have a classless society (and a self-organizing
> economy) however, there will be a period in which the
> working class holds power and uses this power to
> suppress the former bourgeoisie.  The questions that
> neither the amnesiacs nor lobotomists want to deal with--is
> how the workers' state will suppress the former bourgeoisie
> without also suppressing the independent organizations
> of workers that will be essential for a healthy society.

Jose replies:
> Your question shows just how hopelessly lost in space
> your speculations are.

My views on the nature of workers' rule often upset many people
and draw spirited opposition.  What counts however is the weight
of the arguments used.

Jose:
> The problem for the workers states has never been
> how to suppress the former bourgeoisie. The problem
> has been how to keep the REAL imperialist
> bourgeoisie from suppressing  the workers state.

The REAL bourgeosie ?
-------------------------

Jose brings up a valid point but I think he is a little confused.
Following a successful working class revolution--the workers'
government is faced with opposition from both the _internal_
bourgeoisie and the _external_ bourgeoisie (in the form of
imperialism).  In practice the internal and external enemies will
link up with one another--will leverage strength from one
another.  For some countries, in some situations, the threat may
be more external than internal.  Cuba comes to mind here and may
be the country that Jose had in mind (I will leave aside the
question of whether or not Cuba represents a genuine workers'
state).  For other situations the internal threat is the more
important one [1].  For example, a successful workers' revolution
in the United States would probably be threatened more by the
defeated US bourgeoisie than by other imperialist countries.

In any event I think that Jose has missed the point.  The issue
is how the workers' state can defend the revolution _without_
"suppressing the independent organizations of workers that will
be essential for a healthy society".  This is the key question
and, unfortunately, Jose says absolutely nothing about it.

My guess is that neither Jose nor most participants of this forum
want to talk about this question.

And that is unfortunate.

The bourgeoisie is not silent.  Why are we?
-------------------------------------------

The bourgeoisie talks about this all the time.  We hear that only
the bourgeoisie is capable of running a modern society with a
modern economy.  Every attempt to do away with bourgeois rule, we
are told, has led to regimes that were simply not capable of
organizing a complex economy.  Such regimes, we are told, end up
being afraid of their own people and find it necessary to
suppress groups of independent workers.

And while such explanations leave much out (attempts at workers
rule have generally begun in poor countries with economies
shattered by imperialist blockade and/or bombs) there is more
than a grain of truth to this--especially the part about a police
state that finds itself compelled to suppress all independent
politics and deny workers the right to have an independent
political life.

The bourgeoisie of the major imperialist countries is, of course,
also afraid of its own working class--but this is not at all
obvious to a great many people. Because of its enormous strength,
bourgeois rule in these countries only rarely finds it necessary
to set aside its own laws that allow workers to read whatever
they want, say whatever they want and associate with whomever
they want.

And, because of this, because of the strength and stability of
the imperialist countries, because bourgeois rule has proven its
ability to develop a complex economy and appears to be relatively
unthreatened by workers having political rights--most workers
(and even many progressive people) have concluded, essentially,
that bourgeois rule is eternal.

The interesting thing is this: from the viewpoint of scientific
theory workers' rule does not require a police state--but on the
contrary requires that workers have the most active political
life possible--of a kind that _requires_ a large number of
independent organizations.  More than this--the large number of
independent (and interdependent) organizations would unleash
unprecedented initiative from the masses and would be far more
capable than the bourgeoisie of developing a modern and complex
economy.

This fundamental truth about the nature of workers' rule is bound
to escape its present containment.  It is bound to capture the
imaginations of hundreds of thousands of activsts and,
eventually, hundreds of millions of workers.  This fundamental
truth about the nature of workers' rule is the most important
idea of our time--because it smashes up completely the idea that
there is something eternal about the present system of oppression
in which the bourgeoisie run society and the working class (and
the overwhelming majority of the population) is restricted to the
position of passive wage-slaves.

This fundamental truth will be taken to the working class by
revolutionary activists.  But, as to be expected, this will upset
a great many people--for a variety of reasons.  This fundamental
truth appears to have upset Carrol Cox and, now, Jose.  They (and
many others here) believe it would be counter-productive (or
wrong) to take this fundamental truth to workers as part of our
work to build all the oppositional movements in society.  They
don't believe this fundamental truth would strengthen the
oppositional movements.  They may not even agree that this
fundamental truth is really true at all.  But if they think it is
wrong--then they should then advance their arguments explaining
_why_ it may be wrong.  And it is unclear if they are willing or
able to do this.

Let's continue with Jose's argument:

> By the way you pose the question, you actually
> postulate away all the real problems. Implicit in your
> question is a trivial matter you don't discuss, which is,
> first you overthrow bourgeois rule in all the
> significant advanced capitalist countries (so that we
> can be left to deal with only the former
> bourgeoisie and not the world imperialist system).

The problem here is that no one can know in advance the timetable
or sequence of countries in which bourgeois rule will be
overthrown.  A workers' revolution in a modern country with a
modern economy may face a period in which it is faced with the
necessity of suppressing both internal and external enemies.  If
the workers' state is unable to do this without also suppressing
independent organizations of workers--it will be in very serious
trouble. However my investigation has convinced me that, in a
modern country with a modern economy, a genuine workers' state
_would_ be able to defeat its enemies without the need to
suppress independent workers' organizations.

And I see no valid reason that we should not talk about
this--because as we understand this better--it will strengthen
(in terms of militancy and ideology) all the oppositional
movements in society.  It will give activists a clearer strategic
vision--a better picture of what they are fighting for--an end to
bourgeois rule.

> I suggest that instead of focusing your energies on
> that happy problem, you focus more on how to get
> there.

Interestingly enough I addressed the question of how to get there
but Jose appears to have overlooked this.  I said we must build a
movement with this aim.  Such a movement does not exist at
present.  Further, Jose may believe that such a movement would
detract from or somehow weaken the numerous other oppositional
movements.  But this is not true.  A movement explicitly directed
at the end of bourgeois rule would strengthen all the other
popular movements--would help to break these movements from
bourgeois influence (which is considerable) and facilitate their
developing coordination and unity.

> The road is not through the drawing up of
> utopian plans and schemas;

Such accusations of utopianism are empty.  No one can back them
up.  Is it utopian to believe that workers can run society
without the need to suppress independent organizations of
workers?

The lobotomists believe that.  The lobotomists believe that a
workers' state in modern conditions would be forced to suppress
all independent political activity by self-organizing groups of
workers.  But the lobotomists are unable to defend their views in
an open, democratic forum.  The lobotomist view is bankrupt--is
only suited to those who agree to give themselves lobotomies.

> these belong really to the
> pre-history of the socialist movement.

Until we create a movement that is explicitly directed at ending
bourgeois rule--and which boldly tells workers that an
alternative does exist that is suited for people who do *not*
want lobotomies--there will be no socialist movement.  A
socialist movement existed in the past but no genuine socialist
movement exists at the present.  So, yes, we _are_ in the
pre-history of this movement.

> That utopianism is again getting some hearing
> is rather striking confirmation of the great
> quiescence in the U.S. class struggle over
> the past decades.

Such accusations of utopianism are usually made by people who are
unprepared and uncomfortable facing the bankruptcy of what
currently passes for "communist" theory.  Such bankrupt theory
has contributed mightily to an apolitical and passsive working
class.  The workers have not heard the truth about workers' rule
from the bourgeoisie--and they haven't heard it from us either.

After the debacles in the Soviet Union, China, etc. workers want
honest answers about the nature of workers' rule.  Is workers'
rule destined to resemble a mixture of feudalism and a police
state?  Many people here may think so and it is therefore no
wonder that they are quiet on this subject.

For a modern theory
of workers' rule !

Ben Seattle
----//-// 5.Jun.2000
www.Leninism.org


Notes:
-------

[1] It is only natural that I spoke of the necessity of
suppressing the internal enemy--because my theoretical focus is
on the conditions of a successful revolution in the imperialist
countries--such as the US--where I live.  I doubt that many
participants here think in terms of a successful revolution in
the imperialist countries.  That is unfortunate.  We should be
thinking about it because it is going to happen.  My study of
contemporary society has led me to the conclusion that successful
workers' revolutions will take place within the Western
imperialist countries sometime in this century--and probably
within the lifetime of many people living today.

Another reason I placed emphasis on the threat from the internal
enemy is that I have studied the conditions that made repression
necessary during Lenin's time.  The most severe repression during
Lenin's lifetime came _after_ the victory of the civil war.
Lenin was concerned about the internal enemy and the repression
(which extended to within the party in the form of the ban on
factions in March 1921) was necessary because of the _weakness_
of the revolutionary forces.

In any event all this is secondary.  The internal and external
enemies will team up, will coordinate their efforts, will attempt
to restore bourgeois rule.  The primary task of the workers'
state will be to defeat this internal/external enemy.  The
question that remains is how this can be done without
suppressing the independent organizations of workers that will
be essential for a healthy society?


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