The working class and the struggle for democracy

The working class and the struggle for democracy


This piece is a contribution to the Pre-Convention Discussion for our 32nd National Convention. During Pre-Convention Discussion, all aspects of the party’s program, strategy, and tactics are up for consideration and debate. The ideas presented here are those of the author or authors alone, and do not necessarily reflect the positions of the Communist Party USA, its membership, or their elected leadership bodies. — Editors

Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich, that is the democracy of capitalist society. –V.I. Lenin

The working-class has enormous stakes in the struggle for democracy. In fact, it was Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels who wrote in the Communist Manifesto that the first step in the revolution would be to win the battle for democracy. The battle over democracy and who it serves has been a consistent feature of our bourgeois republic. From the early abolitionist movements, to the radical Reconstruction period after the Civil War, to the struggles for suffrage, trade union rights, civil rights, and struggles for peace, the working class has been the essential factor in all social progress of this country. The struggles of the working class against exploitation and oppression represent both class and democratic struggles.

In order for the working class to win the battle of democracy, advanced levels of working class organization, mobilization, and engagement must be built. Additionally, it requires that the working class comes to know itself as a class, and understand its historic role in society. Unity must be built around the fundamental interests of its segments: wage-workers, salaried-workers, the unemployed and underemployed, and all workers who face special oppressions on the lines of race, nationality, gender, age, etc. To win the battle for democracy, the working class needs to consciously struggle for the interlocking interests of all segments of the class as a whole.

As Lenin said, “Whoever wants to reach socialism by any other path than that of political democracy will inevitably arrive at conclusions that are absurd and reactionary both in the economic and the political sense.” Thus, for the revolutionary proletariat and its party, the Communist Party, engagement in the democratic struggles and political life of our country is mandatory. The class character and contradictions of bourgeois democracy must be highlighted, and working class democracy must be fought for.

The main battles of the day focus on democratic struggles with a strong working class character; the working class must be the leading force in these struggles for greater democracy, as opposed to bourgeois politicians and their ilk. The stronger the working class organizes behind these struggles, the more progressive the shifts in the balance of forces become. Without workers united, organized, and radicalized around the issues of the democratic struggle, we would have no revolutionary movement on which to build in our fight for socialism.

Democratic struggles today include, but are not limited to, the fight for community control of the police departments — to determine the hiring, firing, budgets, and policies of these reactionary institutions under capitalism; to establish and win tenants unions, housing associations, and block clubs that can serve as alternate institutions that fight back against monopoly real estate; the struggle to pass the PRO (Protecting the Right to Organize) Act and rid our trade unions of the disastrous and reactionary policy of Taft-Hartley; the fight for public ownership of major utilities and infrastructure; public control of banks; the fight for civil rights and affirmative action; women’s control of their reproductive rights; upholding the right of oppressed peoples to self-determination; expanding and promoting voting rights for all, whether they are documented or undocumented workers; the right of youth to secure a meaningful life on a healthy planet; and so on.

Working class democracy must be struggled for both within the structures of existing institutions as well as outside of them. By its character, our struggle extends far beyond the ballot box. It’s a dynamic, everyday force in our workplaces, our neighborhoods, schools, and our institutions. Yes, the political terrain on which we fight is riddled with contradictions; it is a bourgeois democratic system, after all. Nonetheless, as Marx, Engels, and Lenin painstakingly elaborated, the working class and the struggle for democracy is paramount if we are to succeed in overthrowing the bourgeois class and instituting a society based on socialism.

It is now under the conditions of the fascist offensive in our country, the increasing abandonment of the ruling class of bourgeois democratic norms, instituting anti-labor, anti-women, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-immigrant, and anti-people policies to secure the rights for the monopolies and imperialists to exploit our people and the entire world over, that our struggle for democracy takes on special importance.

Palmiro Togliatti, a leader in the Communist Party of Italy during the height of fascism in Europe, exclaimed that “democracy was the best weapon against fascism.” The struggle against fascism and for democracy, led by the working class and the Communist Party, and allied with other social strata and classes opposed to fascist dictatorship, would thereby overthrow fascism (or prevent its advancement) and usher in a society based on a new form of democracy: anti-monopoly democracy.

This advanced democracy would thereby have to be, according to Togliatti, a “consistent anti-fascist democracy, a strong regime, founded on a wide network of mass organizations, trade unions, co-operatives, and anti-fascist political parties. It has to guarantee all popular freedoms: of speech and of the press, of assembly and association, of commercial freedom, of religion and political propaganda, and to intervene forcefully against any reactionary attempt to shrink or annihilate these freedoms.”

For our working class and Party, we must continue to educate and collectively understand the strategic importance of an anti-monopoly democracy, a minimum program “aimed at curbing the power of the monopolies through a series of radical democratic reforms, such as the nationalization of the banks and major industries.”

The stakes for the working class in the fight for democracy cannot be higher. In order to combat the reactionary offensive of the ruling class in general, and the fascists in particular, a widely cast, mass coalition for advanced democracy led by the working class, and united by the Communist Party, is of great importance. The working class’s fight to win the battle of democracy, raise itself to the position of ruling class, and institute a new society based on peace, equality, democracy, and socialism, requires the proclamation of these democratic goals, the training of the masses in the spirit of this struggle, and the successful alliance of working people and progressive forces.

This pre-convention discussion submission was produced as part of the Education Commission Working Class Think Tank project


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