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Smash the state! Socialism and Social Democracy

By: 
Bradley Hughes

January 22, 2020

There are all kinds of people and parties that fall under the label of socialist. The biggest difference is whether they understand that socialism will require a revolution, or whether they believe that capitalism can be reformed within its own institutions. The reformist approach is to try to get the best we can, in the circumstances that we find our selves. The revolutionary approach is to determine how do we change the circumstances, so that we can get what we need.

Since we live in a world dominated by profit the reformist approach almost always means looking after the 99% after we accommodate the desires of the 1%. The state is not a neutral institution that can be run in any way we like. Parliamentary democracy is there is to camouflage the dictatorship of capital. It is only by eliminating the Canadian state and it’s institutions that we can be free.

This is especially clear when it comes to the need for a just transition away from fossil fuels. The wildfires in Australia show that our ruling class is willing to allow the world to burn rather than relinquish their profits.

In 2018, global oil reserves were worth around $100 trillion. In Canada fossil fuel companies hold over $550 billion in assets. To survive as a species we need an end to fossil fuels which means all of that wealth becomes worthless. Neither the banks or the oil companies will allow this just because they lose a vote.

This isn’t just speculation, as a result of implementing much smaller scale reforms Allende in Chile in 1972 and more recently Bolivia's Morales were deposed by military coups. This was the response of their own local capitalists along with their allies in the nations of the global north. Canada, of course, frequently resorts to violence against Indigenous people when they try to defend their rights. As we saw in Oka and Gustafsen lake. And more recently when the RCMP were prepared to shoot to kill the Wet'suwet'en who were peacefully refusing to allow gas pipeline companies onto their land.

We can’t vote a planned democratic economy into existence, and we can’t survive as a species without one, so what do we do? Fortunately, there are historical examples to go by. First of all most, human history has been in classless societies like the Indigenous peoples of Turtle Island before the colonial invasion. And there are examples of workers, briefly, creating alternatives to capitalism.

Workers councils

Many uprising and strikes throughout the 20th century and into the 21st have lead to the creation of workers councils. This went furthest in the Russian Revolution of 1917 and during the failed Spanish Revolution of 1936. The workers’ state in Russia was destroyed first by civil war, and then by Stalinism.

In Russia, workers were trying to end the slaughter of the first world war, end the centuries long rule of the Czars and free the peasants from the landlords. In coordinating the strikes and mutinies to do this, they came together in democratic councils in their workplaces, in the army and in the countryside. These councils, or Soviets, destroyed the capitalist distinction between politics and economics, allowing the people who made decision to implement them. Workplace councils elected delegates to regional councils and so on to a national governing body that was immediately answerable to those who elected it. When the majority of councils elected delegates from the parties that stood for the revolutionary overthrow of capitalism, the revolution was launched and the workers’ councils became the new government.

How can we shut down the tar sands and the massive fracking operations without the help of the workers in those industries? How can we devise programs to put their skills to work in a just and democratic economy unless they decide what that new work should look like? It is only by organizing new democratic institutions in workplaces and communities that we can possibly build a better world.

It goes beyond just decision making methods and whether we should be ruled by ourselves or ruled by the need to increase profits for the few. All of our institutions in capitalist society are about separating us and driving us apart. We are trained to compete with each other and respect authority in school to start with, and then every day on the job. Our teachers, cabinet ministers, managers, CEOs and on and on, could be replaced by cooperative collaborative ways of organizing ourselves.

Revolution

We need to be free to build the solidarity necessary to build a better world. That means revolution.

The organization of the working class to stand up for itself and to democratically decide on its own priorities is only possible in a revolutionary situation. But more than that, it is only possible if the class has its own party of working class militants. This needs to be a party that only allows the most resolute and class conscious individuals to join. The party members must be examples to all those around them of unwavering dedication to progressive ideals and to the method of mass organizing to get them. In the day to day struggle for reforms they can win others to the task of organizing for revolution.

The revolutionary party

A party that limits itself to only contesting elections, will never be able to overthrow capitalism, because our only real power is organizing ourselves, not in parliament. There are in between parties, that argue for socialism through elections, while acknowledge that the movements outside parliament will be decisive in passing legislation and getting it implemented. A good example is Québec solidaire which describes itself as “a party of the ballot box, and a party of the street.” But these parties will only become for the revolution when millions have already reached that conclusion, which means that organized revolutionaries should be inside these parties, pushing to the left and pushing for more connections to the working class.

We live in an era of wars and revolutions. Our capitalist ruling class is determined to hold onto their profits and pursue their wars no matter what the cost in lives and environmental destruction. It’s going to be us or them. We need to build a party of revolutionaries that can offer solidarity and socialism in response to their oppression and destruction. Join us!

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