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Workers Vanguard No. 1176

29 May 2020

From 1938 Founding Principles of Trotskyist SWP

"World Socialism Is the Only Solution"

From the Archives of Marxism

We reprint below four sections from the “Declaration of Principles” adopted at the 1938 founding conference of the Socialist Workers Party (SWP), the Trotskyist organization in the U.S. at the time. Later that year, the Fourth International was founded under Leon Trotsky’s leadership, with the SWP as its U.S. section. In the early 1960s, the Revolutionary Tendency (RT), forebears of the Spartacist League, fought within the SWP to maintain its Trotskyist principles. The RT was bureaucratically expelled in 1963-64 as the SWP leadership increasingly abandoned the struggle to build revolutionary workers parties, giving political support to non-proletarian forces such as the petty-bourgeois Castro regime in Cuba and black liberals and nationalists in the U.S. The SWP soon after became a reformist party, and in the early 1980s officially renounced Trotskyism.

On the rights of oppositional formations addressed in the section on the workers state, soviet democracy (workers councils) would encompass those parties, chosen by the workers and their petty-bourgeois allies, that defend the socialist overturn of capitalism. All groupings that do not actively work for the overthrow of the proletarian dictatorship would have freedom of expression, which is not the same as the right to form soviet parties.

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The Capitalist State

In any society, the real power is held by those who own and control the means whereby that society lives, the instruments of production, distribution and communication. In capitalist society, such ownership and control is held and exercised by the big bourgeoisie, by the bankers and industrialists. Through its hold on the major natural resources, the factories, mines, banks, railroads, ships, airplanes, telegraph, radio and press, the big bourgeoisie effectively dominates capitalist society, runs society in such a manner as to secure and maintain its own interest and privilege, and upholds the system of the exploitation of the great majority. The state or government, far from representing the general interests of society as a whole, is in the last analysis simply the political instrument through which the owning class exercises and maintains its power, enforces the property relations which guarantee its privileges, and suppresses the working class. In these essential functions all of the organs and institutions of the state power co-operate—the bureaucracy, the courts, police, prisons, and the armed forces. The particular political forms of capitalist society (monarchy, democracy, military dictatorship, fascism) in no way affect the basic social dictatorship of the controlling minority, and are only the different means through which that dictatorship expresses itself. The belief that in such a country as the United States we live in a free, democratic society in which fundamental economic change can be effected by persuasion, by education, by legal and purely parliamentary methods, is an illusion. In the United States, as in all capitalist nations, we live in actuality under a capitalist dictatorship; and the possibilities for purely legal and constitutional change are therefore limited to those which fall within the framework of capitalist property and social relations, which latter are severely curtailed by the circumstances of the decline of capitalism and in the long run, if the capitalist dictatorship continues, involve fascism for the United States as elsewhere. Genuine freedom can be realized only in a society based upon the economic and social equality of all individuals composing it, and such equality can be achieved only when the basic means of production, distribution and communication are owned and controlled, not by any special class or group, but by society as a whole.

The Conquest of Power

Since the capitalist state is the political instrument of capitalist dictatorship, and since the workers can carry out socialization only through the conquest and maintenance of political power, the workers must, as the necessary political phase of the change of ownership and control of the productive mechanism, take control of state power through the overthrow of the capitalist state and the transfer of sovereignty from it to their own Workers’ State—the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.

Opportunities for the workers to take power have come and will come in the course of the disintegration of material life and of culture under capitalist dictatorship. The masses find themselves faced with growing hunger, impoverishment, curtailment of social services, and the threat or actuality of fascism and war. When the profound social discontent generated by the crisis of capitalism extends to a decisive majority of the working class and of the productive sections of the population generally, and when these have been won to the perspective of revolutionary change, the workers will be in a position to take power and to put an end to the destructive course of capitalist dictatorship.

The fundamental instruments of the workers’ struggle for power cannot be the existing institutions of the governmental apparatus, since these represent basically the interests only of the capitalist minority. They must, on the contrary, be class organs, arising out of the class struggle, forged in the course of united actions of the workers and their allies, and representing genuinely and democratically the interests of the great majority, of the workers and their allies. Such organs the Russian workers found in the Soviets or Councils of the workers, soldiers and peasants. The exact form which the Workers’ Councils, or Soviets, will take in any given nation cannot of course be predicted in advance, since this will depend in part upon the special experiences and traditions of the class struggle within the given nation—in the United States, for example, the Councils could conceivably be a development from General Strike Committees. Nevertheless, it can be certain in advance that it will be through these Councils, alone democratically representing the interests of the workers and of the great majority, that the workers will overthrow the capitalist class, and through a transfer of sovereignty from the existing governmental apparatus to the Councils, will take state power. The workers will destroy the whole machinery of the capitalist state in order to render it incapable of counter-revolutionary activity and because it cannot serve as the instrumentality for establishing the new social order. Its place will be taken by a workers’ state, based upon the Workers’ Councils.

The Workers’ State

The Workers’ State is a temporary political instrument making possible the transition to the classless, socialist society. Its task is to defend the workers’ revolution against its enemies, both within and without, and to lay the foundations for socialism and the final elimination of all classes and class rule. Like every other state, therefore, the Workers’ State is under one aspect a dictatorship. Unlike every other state in history, however, it is a dictatorship exercised by the great majority against the counter-revolutionary minority. And, equally unlike every other state, its aim is not the perpetuation of its rule, but on the contrary, through the provision of material plenty for all and through education, to abolish the remains of class division in society and thus to eliminate the necessity for state coercion, that is, to do away with itself, with any form of state whatever. In an industrially advanced nation, the Workers’ State will be able from the outset to assure and continually extend far more genuine and substantial democratic rights to the masses than ever accorded to them under capitalism. Through the Councils, the masses will exercise free and democratic control over all the policies of the Workers’ State, not merely in political questions but in the vital plans for socialist construction, will freely elect all officials and maintain the permanent right of recall. Salaries of officials will have the level of a skilled worker as their maximum. Through factory and other types of industrial and agricultural committees, the workers will participate in the fullest possible degree in social and economic administration. The Workers’ State will not have a professional army, but will depend upon a mass workers’ militia, in which distinctions other than those required for technical efficiency will be abolished and democratic control over officers will be exercised by the ranks. While the Workers’ State will necessarily reserve to itself the indispensable right to take all requisite measure to deal with violence and armed attacks against the revolutionary regime, it will at the same time assure adequate civil rights to opposition individuals, groups, and political parties, and will guarantee the opportunity for the expression of opposition through the allotment of press, radio, and assembly facilities in accordance with the real strength among the people of the opposition groups or parties.

The most important of the socioeconomic measures to be taken by the Workers’ State in its initial period is the expropriation and socialization, without compensation, of all monopolies in industry and land; all mines, factories and shipping; all public utilities, railroads, airplane systems and other organized means of communication; all banks, credit agencies, gold stores; and all other supplies and services that the revolutionary government finds it necessary to take over in order to lay the foundations of a socialist society. This socialization of the means of production and exchange will injure only the small handful of financiers, landlords and industrialists whose private control of the resources of the country is the source of hunger, unemployment and insecurity for the bulk of the people. The policy of socialization pursued by the Workers’ State will make possible the guarantee to every willing worker of a well-paid job, security against unemployment, insurance against industrial risks, old age, and sickness; and will further provide adequate educational, recreational, and cultural opportunities for the entire population. There will be no need for the Workers’ State to impose arbitrary, premature, and oppressive measures upon small individual proprietors, craftsmen, and small-scale farmers. The example of the social and personal advantages of the socialist organization of production, and assistance from the workers’ government, can be trusted to lead them to voluntary collectivization. Socialism will release the productive forces to serve the needs of men, and will enable production to be planned rationally in terms of actual social requirements. It will allow the utilization of every technical improvement. The leisure and educational opportunities which will accompany these material advantages, together with the removal of the deadweight of the perverted capitalist culture, will offer every individual possibilities for the fullest creative development.

The Socialist Society

With the provision of material abundance through planned socialist production, and the great educational and cultural advances thereby made possible, the socially useless and parasitic classes, as well as the remnants of capitalist ideology, will be eliminated. The entire population will be transformed into a community of free producers owning and controlling the total productive wealth and resources of society, and freely and consciously working out their own destiny. The need for the coercion and repression of socially alien classes will disappear with the disappearance of these classes, and together with them, of all classes. With it will vanish the need for a state machinery—even for the Workers’ State. The state as an institution for the domination, repression and coercion of men will be replaced by a purely technical administration for the handling of the general business of society. The noblest objective of the human race—communism, the classless socialist society—inaugurating a new era for all of mankind, will be realized.

The working class can build a complete socialist society only on the basis of a world division of labor and resources, and world cooperation. The revolutionary party in this country does not aim merely to lead the working class of the United States in revolution, but to unite with the workers of all other countries in the international revolution and the establishment of world socialism. Modern forces of production have compelled capitalism itself to transcend national boundaries; and the conflict between the world economy of capitalism and the outlived, constricting national political boundaries is a major source of the disastrous evils which confront the modern world. Capitalist imperialism cannot, however, achieve a harmonious society. World socialism is the only solution for the conflicts and disorders of the modern world, as well as for the major conflicts within a single nation. A socialist society will rationally and scientifically utilize the natural resources and productive machinery of the earth in the interests of the people of the earth, and will solve the conflict between the efficient development of productive forces and the artificial restrictions of national boundaries. It will grant the rights of free cultural self-determination and self-development to all nations. In these ways, world-socialism will remove the causes of international wars, which under capitalism now seriously threaten to send mankind back into barbarism or complete destruction.

 

Workers Vanguard No. 1176

WV 1176

29 May 2020

·

Greek Trotskyists Say:

Down With the War on Refugees!

Full Citizenship Rights for All Who Have Made It to Greece!

·

From 1938 Founding Principles of Trotskyist SWP

"World Socialism Is the Only Solution"

From the Archives of Marxism