The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

Our "Democratic Rights"? August 27, 2004 by RedStar2000

The nominal topic of this thread concerned Nepal...but it quickly and sharply escalated into a controversy over the real nature of our "democratic rights" under the dictatorship of capital.

As is too often the case, I found self-styled "Marxists" defending the "lessons" they learned in high school..."we have our democratic rights, don't we?"




In spite of their declared aims, the Nepalese CPN-M leaders are providing the state with an excuse to strengthen its machinery of repression.

Anyone catch that? To me, it "jumped off the screen"!

Whatever the shortcomings of the Nepalese Maoists (and I'm sure there are many), that is the most piss poor excuse for a "criticism" that I've seen in a long time!

A reactionary state does not need "an excuse" to strengthen its "machinery of repression" does that regardless of the nature of those who struggle against it.

To attack political ideas that you think are wrong is necessary. To assert that someone else's struggles "are providing the state with an excuse to strengthen its machinery of repression" is to say to them, in effect, "stop struggling!"

What monumental arrogance!

Even if successful, the Nepalese Maoist revolution is unlikely to be more than a footnote to history; nevertheless their struggle is just as legitimate as any of the "great" bourgeois revolutions.

To condemn them because, in effect, they're not Trotskyists, is a good illustration of why Trotskyism has never amounted to much.

And probably never will.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 24, 2004


...excuses are very useful to a state seeking to impose greater repression. To pick an obvious example, al-Qaeda has greatly aided the U.S. ruling class in chipping away at democratic rights. The actions of ultralefts are also similarly useful at times, though usually not to the same degree.

What naivetι! If "excuses" are "needed", then they can be arranged -- e.g., the Reichstag fire.

To speak of "democratic rights" in the case of the United States is absurd on its face!

It's understandable that you may have overlooked the imprisonment of American Communist Party members in the late 1940s for the "crime" of being communists.

But how could you forget that American Trotskyists were imprisoned for the "crime" of being Trotskyists during World War II?


If you ignore this reality, and say the state is repressive "regardless" of circumstances, you must have a hard time explaining why capitalist states are not equally repressive in all places and times...

Nothing easier...they are repressive to the degree that they feel necessary and appropriate -- it has nothing to do with what we do or don't do, say or don't say, etc.

Nor does their repressive actions (or lack of same) need any rational justification. Neither American Trotskyists in 1942 nor American Stalinists in 1948 posed any credible threat to ruling class power whatsoever! The "subversive threat" consisted entirely of hot air.

Worse...your position leads directly to the trap of "we mustn't 'frighten' the ruling class with 'ultra-left' words or deeds or we will 'lose' our 'democratic rights'."

We don't have any "democratic rights"...pretending that we do is a bourgeois illusion.

From time to time, we may hire lawyers who will go into court and argue for "our democratic rights". But it's wacko to regard that as anything more than theater...or that the "law" is anything more than the caprice of the ruling class.

The only "democratic rights" that the working class has under the dictatorship of capital are the rights we choose to exercise regardless of the law.

The foremost of which is the right of resistance.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 25, 2004


so you're denying you have more democratic rights in a social democrat capitalist country such as Sweden than you do in Islamic Republic capitalist state of Iran or Turkey?

I am indeed!

The capitalist ruling class in Sweden and all other class societies may, at their whim, declare a partial or total "state of emergency" and you can wipe your arse with your "democratic rights"!

Because that's what they'll be worth.


Workers make gains from time to time...

Which have real existence only so long as workers continue to fight for them (and more).

In the law books, they mean nothing at any time the capitalist class says so (and can make that "stick").


Of course we have a big advantage in "democratic" countries. We can freely organise, demonstrate etc. In countries like Turkey or Iran, revolutionaries have to work underground with the threat of being shot or imprisoned hanging over their head everyday.

You think that "can't happen" in the U.S., the U.K., etc.?

You think it hasn't happened?

The British government routinely used torture and murder in Northern Ireland against the IRA...and are probably still doing it. The American government murdered some 21 leading members of the Black Panther Party.

I am telling you that your "democratic rights" are an illusion that will be shattered at any time the capitalist class wishes to do so.


Of course this can change...

At any moment! And, I repeat, without regard to anything we do or don't do, say or don't say.


...but for the bourgeoisie to blow their democratic cover in western countries the situation would have to change drastically; until then we should use every opportunity it provides us with.

Well, that's more complicated. By all means, communists should take advantage of every "legal" way to encourage resistance to the dictatorship of capital.

But we should avoid making any appeal on the basis of "democratic rights"...because that's a lie.

(Which rules out mucking about in the toxic waste dump of bourgeois "elections".)

Instead, we should be honest with our class: everything you have and everything you may possibly gain comes from fighting like hell against the ruling class, period!

There are no "permanent victories" in the class struggle until the capitalist class is overthrown...if then!

Your rights consist of what you are prepared to defend or assert regardless of the consequences.


...we should support all forms of struggle no matter if we don't agree?

Unless they are obviously reactionary, I would say, yes.

That does not mean that we should issue them a "certificate of communist authenticity".

And if they claim they're entitled to one (because they really like "Marxist" terminology and use "it" a lot), we are equally entitled to say no.

In my view, the movement in Nepal is an early stage of a bourgeois probably resembles the English civil war (Cromwell, etc.) more than anything else.

I have no problem "supporting" that; may the Nepalese Maoists remove the king's head!

They're not communists...but they are doing precisely what is needed for that small country in its present historical stage: clearing away the muck of feudalism and preparing to enter the modern capitalist world.

What's wrong with that?


As it is now in Nepal the so-called "people's war" has ended up in a dead-end, doing nothing more than getting some farmers, guerrillas or soldiers killed once in a while. It has split the communist movement in Nepal so the workers in the cities support the one communist party and the peasants the maoists. Is that really the way to go?

Maybe not.

But have you any idea how utterly nonsensical it is to talk about communism and Nepal in the same sentence?

Maybe in 2104 or, more likely, 2204...but now?

Do you imagine that people emerging from serfdom have anything but the vaguest notions of what communism would be like? If China itself is any guide, the Nepalese Maoists probably think "communism" is having "a really benevolent despot".


...of course we don't live in a democracy, but the point is there are shades of democracy, those fought for by the workers in the past.

You mean "shade" in the sense of ghost?

Because that's all it amounts to. The "pro-working class reforms" (such as they are) that are on the law books are indeed ghosts of past struggles. They have only such meaning in the present as workers are willing to fight for them in the present.

Otherwise, as we have seen for the past few decades in all of the advanced capitalist countries, they...fade away.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 25, 2004


As a result a ruling class cannot easily simply remove these rights.

How "easy" or "simple" it may be depends on many circumstances...most notably the reaction of the working class.

But that's not really the point of this exchange.

Should we, as communists, tell the working class that they have "rights" in bourgeois "democracy" that they should "defend"?

If you do that, then what you're really doing, like it or not, is conferring legitimacy on the dictatorship of capital. You are pretending that something is "real" when, in fact, it is not real.

To lawyers, the LAW is "real". To anyone with a Marxist understanding of class society, it is simply appearance.

And that is something that we must tell the working class!


You think the whole world revolves around your keyboard and mouse.

A shattering rejoinder! *laughs*

Here's what I'm actually starting to think: I'm starting to wonder if Trotskyism as a political tendency has not altogether sunk beneath the muck of social democracy.

Think about it. The parliamentary cretinism. The "respect" for bourgeois "legality". The fear and trembling in the face of "ultra-leftism". The enthusiastic support for "left-bourgeois" populists.

It makes you wonder.


If any progressive group is involved in a struggle, it is the duty of marxists to back the correct ideas and methods, but also to EXPOSE the failings.

If you "feel the itch" to advise the Nepalese Maoists on "the best way" to make a bourgeois revolution, be my guest.

But I rather doubt they will be interested in what you have to say...especially if you tell them to "stop struggling" because it's "frightening the old ruling class" into being more repressive.

That is really bad advice...and they should ignore you.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 25, 2004


why do you make everything so black and white?

That's a real good question and one that real communists are often asked.

You see, being a communist is not simply a matter of memorizing certain formulas and trotting them out on ritual occasions.

It's a matter of learning how to think like a communist; to look at contemporary social phenomena from a Marxist standpoint.

Why is communism "so black and white"? Because it analyzes social life from a class perspective.

We are "one-sided" -- we are for the working class and the oppressed masses all the way.

We see nothing legitimate or worthwhile in the dictatorship of capital (bourgeois "democracy"). And we see no reason to tell people anything different!

This is something that many who think of themselves as "communists" find difficult to grasp. They've learned some "Marxist lingo" and some "Marxist formulas"...but their thinking has not really changed -- their "mind-set" is still bourgeois.

They learned in high school that they have "democratic rights"...and they still, in the backs of their minds, really believe that. They still think in terms of "elections", "parliaments", and "laws" as if all that crap really meant something.

As if they all had some kind of "real existence" the law of gravity or something.

To see past appearances to actual social reality is still a real struggle for too many folks...especially Leninists.


Who gives a shit what you think, old man?

Beats me!

I tell the truth as best I can and leave it to others to decide if I've said anything useful or not.

I will continue to do so.
First posted at Che-Lives on August 26, 2004


When the only unions in Russia were STATE CONTROLLED unions controlled by the police, dogmatic fools such as yourself would shit out statements like "We see nothing legitimate or worthwhile in the dictatorship of capital (bourgeois "democracy"). However, Lenin decided this was a channel for agitation, and succeeded. He and the organisation managed to agitate so successfully the union controlled by internal affairs police, was forced to make strikes against its own state. This is where there is a divergence between nostalgic dreamers such as yourself who are quite happy to sit nice and snug and babble bollocks, and real revolutionaries.

Funny that you suggest that I'm a "nostalgic dreamer" (not to mention "dogmatic fool") when you dredge up an example more than 90 years old. Even older than me. *laughs*

Item: the Bolsheviks already had a base in the working class when the police-controlled unions were organized...participation was an "easy" step to take. But had that base not already existed, would it have been the sensible thing to do?

Item: the police-controlled unions did indeed, after a year or two, begin to strike against the wishes of its police-agent leadership. Was that due to Bolshevik agitation or did it simply reflect the on-going radicalization of the urban working class in extremely repressive conditions?

Item: the German communists (KPD) attempted to use the Nazi labor organization as a vehicle for organizing working class resistance to the Nazis...good idea?

Finally, I note that you have "cleverly" switched the focus of this controversy...from the political institutions of the bourgeois dictatorship to the arena of trade unions.

Today's unions are not "police-controlled"...though they are certainly dominated by bourgeois "labor aristocrats". It's not my place to develop a "general line" of how communists should participate in contemporary unions...except to remind you that nothing is ever gained by lying to people.

If you, consciously or unconsciously, fall into the trap of telling workers that "more militant leadership" (you?) is "all that's needed", you will have sunk into reformism again. If you suggest to them, even indirectly, that a "better contract" will "do the job", you are lying. The truth of the matter is that "signing a good contract" is the beginning of the struggle; without a willingness to take direct action to enforce the terms of that contract, it will be eroded away.

I repeat the general principle: what the bourgeoisie agree to "on paper" is meaningless unless the workers are prepared to fight like hell!


Move Over Old Man.

First posted at Che-Lives on August 26, 2004
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