Concept of Program

Posted: May 4, 2016 in Political Views

One aspect that shows the necessity of having a revolutionary programme is what is happening on the streets in Europe today, particularly in Britain. 20 to 30,000 students are reacting to the proposals on the right wing government in Britain to increase tuition fees and put further pressure on the poorest layers of students. We are seeing similar attacks all over Europe and seeing workers and students coming to the streets.

However, despite the reaction of the students to the cuts we don’t see any leadership on the part of the revolutionary organisations. One would expect organisations with 30 or 40 years of experience in Britain and militants affiliated to the hundreds of groups large and small would have some plan in advance, given the nature of the ConDems, to participate and lead activities in the direction where it would be possible to reverse the measures.  These few weeks have shown that none of the so called revolutionary groups had a programme to anticipate the coming upsurge and prepare to take leadership of the movement.

The second aspect is that many groups have come to the conclusion that there is a need for regroupment of a left that has suffered from mistakes, splits and expulsions. They see the necessity for uniting in a revolutionary international organization. This unity has to be based on a programme. Talking about theoretical or historical issues is not enough, seeking unity on this basis will lead to further crisis. Theory is not the basis for unity, due to the need for it’s ongoing development. Questions such as the class nature of China or Globalization are open to debate and can be developed. The programme is the unifying force and is based on the objective analysis of the development of Capitalism today. It has to be based around the central demands of the situation, subject to ongoing review, not on a common historical basis or relationships.

The third aspect is that while all Trade Unions and political parties have what they would call a ‘programme’, the revolutionary programme is different. It is based on the proposition of Marx that the struggle against Capitalism is a political struggle. It is for the taking of state power. Based on the experience of the past and of the current situation we prepare the vanguard and working class for revolution. We don’t have this programme otherwise we would not see the absence of a revolutionary organization. At most, the left adopt a ‘copy-paste’ method to the question of programme, failing to develop it, instead carrying out routine activities without real reference to it and are then surprised by events. Their slogans and analysis do not measure up to the situation. To take the recent example of the British students, despite the energy and inventiveness of the movement, if it is not allied to a clear programme with a leadership, then there will be reactions that do not benefit the movement as a whole. Eventually demoralisation will result and the state will emerge strengthened.

What is the Programme ?

In the most simple terms, for revolutionary Socialists, the programme is a ‘road map’ to prepare for revolution. To use the analogy of building a house, the programme is the scaffolding, an organizer, that sees the future of the finished building, where to put the windows, doors, panels and plumbing. The programme is the scaffolding of the building of Socialism. Taking historical gains of the past, analysis of the concrete situation and developing a political line for future events this lays the groundwork for developing society following revolution.

The Programme is developed around 2 aspect, firstly the historical, international and theoretical. Secondly and most importantly, by the action and experience of the movement of the working class and oppressed. A Political line is tested in action on the ground and the experience gained helps to form a new line. This is turn develops the programme further. This is because the programme is not static, it is not a document kept in the library, not based on routine or instruction from leaders. It must be based on the movement of the masses.

A new organisation at this time alongside the movement would have been enriched and the programme that emerged from this would have been richer. This would have in turn prolonged the movement and in turn enhanced the development of a mass party.

How is a Revolutionary Programme Defined ?

Historically speaking the structure of a Revolutionary Socialist programme was developed starting with Marx, though incomplete with the Erfurt Programme. Erfurt served as a starting point for developing a programme for the future. This was developed by Marx and Engels in the splits with the reformists in the 1870s following the Critique of Gotha Programme. Engels and then Lenin built on the Erfurt Programme further developing the concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat (working class in control of the state). This need for a programme has been central to the working class movement over the last 200 years.

Generally speaking the revolutionary socialist programme has four parts. Firstly the explanation of the contradictions of Capitalism, the class nature of bourgeoisie (ruling class). Secondly,an analysis of the struggles of the working class and it’s leadership. Thirdly and most centrally, it outlines the demands that step by step are to be fought for in the movement. Fourthly, the principles and aims are set out, outlining the concept of Socialism, Revolution, party regime and Imperialism (world capitalism).

Turning to the most central aspect, of demands, the Erfurt Programme contained three parts.However it is important to note that when written that the working class were struggling for reforms within the system and such revolution was not on the order of the day. The three parts are a starting point that was developed further by the Bolsheviks and later by Trotsky in particular. Firstly, democratic demands, such free elections, representatives in parliament, elections every few years, equality under the law and so on. These are not a small part. Revolutionary Socialists must be the holders of the flag of democracy. This remains the case today ! However, while democratic demands are fought for by the working class at great sacrifice they are achievable within the capitalist system. They will be accepted by the state dependent on the balance of forces. These will therefore be taken back, as they are today in Britain.

The other 2 parts are referred to as the Minimum and Maximum Programmes. Minimum demands such as the 8 hour day, rest periods, equal wages and the right to strike were again fought for a won by workers prepared to make great sacrifice but like democratic demands were conceded by Capitalism on their ability to maneuver. However the fight and achievement of these demands move workers closer to the aim of changing society. Maximum demands however,, such as the nationalization of international commerce were designed for after the revolution, to be achieved at some distant point in the future.

The Transitional Programme

The Comintern signaled a new development- that of transitional demands which were developed during the Russian Revolution. Marx had begun to develop these in the Communist Manifesto. Indeed the struggle for democracy was seen by Marx as inseparable from the struggle for Socialism.  Transitional demands if implemented will put state power in question by bringing about a deep conflict between the classes. As such they are fundamentally different from other demands. They start from the present consciousness of the masses showing the next step by creating a bridge between the present situation and the final aim, socialist revolution.

Trotsky developed this in the 1938 document known as the Transitional Programme. The Transitional Programme is the programme that bridges minimum and maximum demands. It informs the slogans needed to prepare for the final taking of power. The demands raised in the course of the 1917 revolution and since are still relevant today. One of the most important examples being that of ‘workers’ control’, raised in both developed and underdeveloped countries alike. Without prior knowledge this has been posed by workers and developed by them. Workers at a certain point can call into question the reasons for unemployment. When the factories are shut, because they are ‘not profitable’, the workers’ may question the reasons given by the bosses. They raise the demand that they will run the production, take control of the distribution of products and so on. On this basis class conflict will come to the forefront as the bosses cannot accept the working class, even on an isolated or sectional basis, running production and thus proving that the rule of the bosses is not necessary. This would after all bring the whole Capitalist system into question. Other demands such as the sliding scale of wages, linking wage increases to prices and the sliding scale of hours, which also exposes the real reasons for unemployment- as an instrument of capitalism’s profitability – are again unacceptable to capitalism.

The demand on the Capitalist class to ‘open the books’ is as relevant today as ever, as Wikileaks has shown. With mass unemployment being forced on the working class it is for the ruling class to provide proof for the reasons for the crisis in the economy, for the losses and cuts. How much as the bosses getting paid ? And so on. There should be no secrets ! What Wikileaks has exposed is the role of diplomatic relationships. The slogan of the revolutionary socialists should be ‘no commercial, economic or diplomatic secrets!’. The working class should demand that they see all the information relating to decisions and actions of the ruling class which effects their lives. Wikileaks has also shown the lack of a programme on the left with no clear, consistent line having been put forward.  The lack of leadership is due in the final analysis to not having a genuine revolutionary programme.

There is also a need for short term demands, ‘action demands’, calling for specific actions around issues. These may be very short-term, specific or partial but are the basis to form united fronts with wider layers.

Summary- Structure of the Revolutionary Programme:

On this basis we can move forward towards unifying in a new organization, this should be the ultimate aim of Revolutionary Socialists. Otherwise we will create further obstacles.

– Explanation of the contradictions of capitalism, nature of the regime and the state.

– Analysis of the struggle, of tendencies and groups.

– Slogans, minimum, maximum, democratic, transitional and action demands.

– Principles and aims- Concept of Socialism, Revolution, Party regime and democratic centralism and Imperialism.

based on an audio interview by Labour Fight, December 2010

The Revolutionary Programme Part 1

The Revolutionary Programme Part 2

The Revolutionary Programme Part 3

The Revolutionary Programme Part 4

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