Tuesday, June 25, 2013

International Communist Seminar Statement

22nd International Communist Seminar
Brussels, May 31 – June 2, 2013
www.icseminar.org – info@icseminar.org

The attacks on the democratic rights and freedoms in the world capitalist crisis.
Strategies and actions in response.
General conclusions 
A. The importance of the struggle for democratic rights and freedoms
  1. Marx, Engels and Lenin dealt with « democracy » on the basis of class criteria, distinguishing bourgeois democracy and working class democracy. They maintained that the struggle for democratic rights and freedoms was necessary in order to clearly show the contradiction of interests between the working class and the bourgeoisie and to create more favorable conditions for the full development of the political struggle of the working class. Communists put themselves at the helm of the struggle for democratic rights.
  2. The workers' democratic aspirations cannot be realized in a complete and sustainable manner under capitalism, where only the bourgeois class holds power. The democratic gains wrested from the bourgeoisie remain limited and insufficient, and can be restricted or withdrawn at any time, especially in periods of crisis of the capitalist system.
  3. 3. For this reason, communists place their actions for democratic rights in the broader strategic perspective of fighting against capitalism and for socialism, as the only way that leads to an authentic democracy for the toiling masses, who exercise power under socialism. This power « implies and presents to the toiling classes, i.e., the vast majority of the population, greater practical opportunities for enjoying democratic rights and liberties than ever existed before, even approximately, in the best and the most democratic bourgeois republics »[1]. 
B. The character and role of the bourgeois State
  1. The State has become a necessity at a certain stage of economic development, when society got divided into classes, into exploiters and exploited.
  2. The State does not constitute a neutral organ encompassing society, but an organ of class dominance, for the oppression of one class by another. The core function of the bourgeois State is to force the oppressed classes to respect private property and class domination, prevent sharp class conflicts and, if necessary, repress them violently in order to prevent them going beyond the framework of bourgeois legality and risk to overthrow bourgeois power. To this end, it has at its disposal open and secret police services, a justice system and armed forces. The State is also a corps of higher civil servants who manage the « continuity » of the State, independent of changes in the political majority.
  3. Oppression is a necessary concomitant of class exploitation. The intensification of repression and the escalation of the attacks on democratic and trade union rights and freedoms on the part of the bourgeois class in the entire capitalist world, is the other side of the intensification of exploitation and the concentration and centralization of capital. It is in the nature of the bourgeoisie in power to carry out attacks on the democratic rights and freedoms of the working class and the people in order to preserve the system of exploitation.
  4. The regime of class domination does not only use repression but also ideology : the class that owns the material means of production also owns the cultural means of production. The ruling ideas in every society and era are the ideas of the ruling class. The major mass media, education and other means and forms of culture and information, both public and private, are instruments in the hands of the ruling class to maintain its positions, at the expense of the mass of workers. The bourgeoisie also tries to impose its ideology by its influence and control over certain NGOs, trade unions and other associations.
  5. Finally, the bourgeois State plays an important international role : it conquers new markets or defends existing ones for its capitalists, by arms if necessary. To this end, it is using an administration of foreign affairs, embassies, export services and above all offensive armed forces, integrated in international capitalist alliances (such as NATO).
  6. Compared to the feudal State, the bourgeois State constitutes a significant progress. In the capitalist system, the State may take on several forms. But even in its most developed form, the democratic republic, it remains within the framework of capitalist exploitation. The real power resides in the capitalists' dominance over wage labor. Early on, since the very overthrow of the old regimes, the bourgeoisie restricts the exercise of democracy and excludes the « inferior classes » from it. The rights of the immense majority are limited, mutilated or even totally absent. The bourgeois State also uses emergency laws that can be used to overrule democratic rights if « need » be.
10. In the democratic republic, the bourgeoisie exerts its power in an indirect way. As Lenin writes : « In a democratic republic, Engels continues, “wealth exercises its power indirectly, but all the more surely", first, by means of the “direct corruption of officials”; secondly, by means of an “alliance of the government and the Stock Exchange”. (...) A democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism, and, therefore, once capital has gained possession of this very best shell, it establishes its power so securely, so firmly, that no change of persons, institutions or parties in the bourgeois-democratic republic can shake it. »[2] The decisions taken by the bourgeois governments are aligned to the priorities of major companies, banks and speculation funds, and imperialist institutions like the IMF, the World Bank, the ECB and the like.
C. Brief historical overview
11.  Since the 19th century, the working class is confronted with the contradiction between the proclamation of human rights and their non-application in practice. The workers movement takes upon itself the fight for the extension of democratic rights, with the transition from census suffrage to universal suffrage, the right to organize in trade unions and workers parties, etc.
12.  The appearance of the workers movement and of universal suffrage pushes the bourgeoisie to strengthen the executive branch of government, while parliament has more and more become a mere voting machine, ratifying anti-people decisions that have already been made elsewhere.
13.  While the democratic republic is the form of State the bourgeoisie prefers, in the stage of imperialism the State tends to adopt ever more authoritarian traits. Lenin writes : « Finance capital strives for domination, not freedom. Political reaction all along the line is a characteristic feature of imperialism. »[3] The State tends to increasingly limit workers' rights, attack trade unions rights and communist parties. It enhances its authoritarian, repressive and militarist character. It spreads a chauvinist, religious fundamentalist and racist ideology and propagates corporatism.
14.  Since October 1917, socialist countries have installed or broadened democratic rights and freedoms, often in adverse economic conditions. One of socialism's undeniable innovations, on the basis of new relations of production, is to have enlarged the concept of fundamental rights from individual freedoms to social rights, such as the right to work, shelter, social security and free education, and to have transformed the principles of peace and social justice in universal human rights. Especially socialism's historical achievement concerning women's rights remains unparalleled to this day.
15.  In the capitalist countries, the working class has also demanded the application of these collective fundamental rights, that are in contradiction with the very nature of capitalism. Forced by the influence of the October Revolution and the victory of the USSR in the Second World War, out of fear of the « communist threat », and thanks to the persistent struggle of the working class, the bourgeoisie in Western Europe had to concede the proclamation of certain social and economic rights, and partly also their realization : the social security system, the recognition of trade union rights, the reduction of the working hours, better working conditions, paid holidays, a certain democratization of education and culture, etc.
16.  Influenced by the socialist countries and the anticolonial struggles, at the international level the individual (civil and political) rights and the collective (social, economic and cultural) rights were complemented by the people's rights (self-determination, sovereignty, peace, development, environmental protection, etc.).
17.  From the very beginning, the bourgeoisie has done everything to limit the scope of these concessions. In periods of acute crisis, and potentially threatened by the workers movement, the bourgeois State can pass from the democratic republic (or the constitutional monarchy) to fascism, which is the open dictatorship, the form of domination of the most aggressive and reactionary fraction of monopoly capital. Often the bourgeoisie uses intermediate forms of domination, where appearances of formal democracy go hand in hand with fascist policies and measures.
18.  Since 1973, world capitalism finds itself in a crisis of overproduction and overaccumulation of capital. On the economic level, the world bourgeoisie launches an all-out offensive, starting in the 1980s, submitting the workers and the peoples even more to the dictatorship of the transnational corporations, with the help  of the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO and other imperialist instruments such as the European Union. The strategic objective is to raise the rate of profit (through cheaper labor power, restructurings, privatizations, etc.) and counter the tendency of the average rate of profit to fall, while adapting to contemporary conditions of the intensified internationalization of the capitalist economy and of the labour market. On the political level, this offensive is accompanied by more severe attacks on democratic rights. It is the workers and the peoples of the underdeveloped countries who suffer the most from the conditions of global depression and oppression.
19.  For many years, the Soviet Union and all socialist countries were the only forces that formed a counterweight to the omnipotence of capitalism and imperialism. The overthrow of socialism in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries constitutes a qualitative step backward in the worldwide correlation of forces. From the 1990s onwards, the bourgeoisie has its hands free to reinforce its policies and broaden its attacks, at home and abroad.
20.  The capitalist State proceeds to take away economic and social rights from the workers. Governments abandon numerous rules and legislations that guaranteed correct working conditions or protected workers in case of illness or dismissal. The rights to social security (unemployment benefits, pensions, sickness benefits) are under threat, restricted or abolished.
21.  The bourgeoisie is constantly preparing itself to confront people's revolts that could put its power over society into question. The legislative and material apparatuses for repression are being considerably strengthened. The fight against the « external enemy » is compounded with the fight against the « enemy within » : wars abroad serve to attack democratic rights at home. After 9/11 this development was reinforced significantly by the « war on terror ».
22. Bourgeois « democracy » shows its real antidemocratic face in the politics of world dominance applied by US imperialism and the other imperialist powers, through militarization, interventions, wars and dictatorships they install or support. The US, the EU and NATO use State terrorism throughout the world and launch wars of aggression, even trampling the international legality they invoke under their feet, often and cynically under the guise of « protecting human rights » or « promoting democracy », as in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria.
  1. The current attacks against democratic rights and freedoms
23.  With the new phase of the economic crisis of world capitalism since 2008, the attacks on democratic rights are once more intensifying. It is a general offensive against the working class, with as its central objective enhancing the competitiveness of capital in each country, at the expense of the workers. To this end, monopoly capital aims to diminish the cost of labor and extract more surplus value from the workers, thus increasing the transfer of wealth from the working class to the bourgeoisie. In the workplace, every capitalist imposes a real dictatorship and his own laws and rules on the workers.
24.  The first fundamental right that is threatened, restricted or outright eliminated is the right to work. The unemployment rate, especially among the youth, rises to the highest levels, putting in danger not only the means of living and the dignity of millions of workers and their families, but also the future generations.
25.  The gains of the working class in labor relations are being dismantled. Capital turns to massive lay-offs and wage decreases. Everywhere in the capitalist world, we see the broadening of attacks on the right to strike, on trade unions, the destruction of collective bargaining agreements, the deterioration of working conditions, the repression of workers struggles and demonstrations, the requisition of workers in case of a strike, the eviction of families from their homes, and so on. In several countries, trade union militants, communists, human rights and other activists are assassinated, kidnapped, harassed or threatened. To make room for transnational corporations and big landowners, millions of peasants are violently evicted. The forces of repression responsible for these violations and crimes generally enjoy impunity.
26.  The capitalist State also aims to “discipline” and control the population, even more so in times of crisis. Protest and solidarity actions on a broad range of issues (e.g. social justice, democracy, peace, ecology, equal rights) are threatened, forbidden, criminalized, repressed or subjected to exorbitant fines. There is a generalized control of the population. Personal freedom – privacy and personal data – is no longer respected. Workers are disciplined by policies of activation of the unemployed (with obligatory measures to accept whatever job, under threat of sanctions or exclusion) and of pensioners (with measures imposing a longer career), and laws easing restrictions on lay-offs. But there is also a will to “blame the victims”, to “punish” the poor, who are accused of being responsible for, instead of victims of their condition. Agitation regarding “antisocial behavior” and “incivilities” is used to discipline the population and more particularly the youth. This forms part of the bourgeoisie's over-all ideological offensive.
27.  The capitalist State further restricts the already minimal rights of refugees and undocumented people, and intensifies repression against them, by repressive laws, their exclusion from social services and their deportation. Yet, it is the cruel exploitation by transnational corporations and the imperialist interventions by NATO, the US and the EU that cause the waves of refugees in the Middle-East, Africa, Asia and Europe. It is these very imperialist states that massacre populations, force them into misery and exile, and multiply concentration camps for refugees and undocumented people.
28.  There is a close connection between the capitalist crisis and rising popular resistance on the one hand, and the rise of reactionary ideology and forces on the other. The bourgeoisie develops, uses and promotes chauvinist, religious fundamentalist, communalist, ethnicist, racist and fascist currents to divert the masses' attention from the origins of the crisis, to divide the workers and to stop them from choosing the road of resistance and revolution.
29.  Provocation mechanisms are launched and developed by the State apparatus to denigrate the labor movement and justify repression. The ascent of parties of the Far Right is part of this operation. At several occasions, their thugs are used to break up strikes, terrorize immigrants, and so on. Additionally, the objective of their violence is to scare workers into abandoning their struggle.
30.  Anticommunism is used to denigrate any reference to alternatives offered by the communist party and the socialist perspective. In order to repress them, the international bourgeoisie associates and even assimilates communism, revolutionary movements and militant trade unions with terrorism. The false theory of “both Right and Left extremism” is used to attack the labor movement and the communists. In numerous countries of Eastern Europe, anticommunist campaigns have served and continue to serve as a spearhead to impose antidemocratic and repressive measures and to prohibit and exclude communist parties and their symbols.
31.  In order to obtain cheap labor force, control natural resources, trade routes and the world market, imperialism becomes ever more aggressive. The main function of NATO and particularly of the US armed forces is to guarantee capitalist reproduction on a global scale. The US military is present in 130 countries. Imperialism has thrown overboard the body of international law born out of the Second World War. Countries opposing imperialist domination face threats, sanctions and economic blockades by the major imperialist powers. The latter use their entire array of meddling, terrorist actions by groups they create, train, finance and arm, low-intensity conflicts, proxy wars, direct intervention, bombing and full-scale wars. Wherever possible, they create puppet regimes, completely subservient to their economic and geostrategic interests. In certain countries, they push for separatism to the sole benefit of imperialism.
32. Even rights and freedoms which are considered fundamental to bourgeois law are being abolished under the pretext of the “war on terrorism”. In the US, the Bush administration had legitimized torture and the illegal kidnapping and imprisonment without trial of supposed “terrorists”. President Obama has held these prisoners in jail and arrogated himself the right to kill, anywhere in the world and without any form of trial, by secretly deciding, every week, on extra-judicial killings implemented through UAVs (drones) in countries such as Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. 
E. Actions and strategies in response
33.  With the intensification of the crisis of capitalism, the world is experiencing mass demonstrations, mobilizations, strikes and uprisings, social unrest, political turmoil and all forms of resistance, as the workers and the peoples refuse to pay for the crisis of capitalism. Communists look with optimism at the development of workers’ and peoples’ rights struggles. They make conditions more favorable for the resurgence and strengthening of the working class movement against capitalism and for socialism. Correctly assessing the political program and class character of these movements and struggles, communists actively intervene in them in order to steer them away from bourgeois influence and towards a working class and socialist perspective.
34.  The workers’ movement is in the front line of the fight for the conquest, strengthening and restoration of democratic rights and liberties. The workers demand measures to serve their immediate needs for employment, decent income, better working and living conditions and social services..
35.  The communists support the workers movement in its immediate demands for democratic rights and liberties, but they place them in the necessary framework of the struggle against capitalism - in its highest stage, imperialism - the major obstacle to their complete and lasting realization - and for socialism - the only guarantee for a genuine popular democracy.
36.  To the extent that it is deeply rooted in the broad masses, the communist party is capable of winning their support and to reinforce itself, thus augmenting its capacity to lead the popular struggles for democratic rights. This broad mass base is at the same time the first line of defense and the best protection against any anticommunist attack and against any attack against the existence and the functioning of the communist party.
37.  Communists stimulate and try to lead the front work in various fields, including the field of democratic rights and freedoms. They endeavor to bring together the popular forces in alliances that regroup the workers and other layers of the population hit by the systemic crisis of capitalism. They act, first of all, together with and inside trade unions and other organizations of the popular masses. Secondly, they may associate with them certain organizations and initiatives of other layers of the population that are mobilized for democratic rights
38.  The communists, the workers and the peoples develop internationalism and solidarity against any chauvinist, religious fundamentalist, communalist, ethnicist, racist and fascist tendency.
39.  They advance the fight against imperialist interventions, wars and militarization in all their forms.
40. In countries under imperialist domination, where the issues of political independence, national sovereignty and basic democratic rights are not yet resolved, the communists unite and lead the people, linking their struggle for national liberation and democracy with the fight for socialism.  
F. Democratic rights and freedoms under socialism
41.  Democratic rights and freedoms can never be fully developed by and for the workers unless in the framework of complete social liberation, in the framework of a socialist society, based on the collective ownership of the major means of production and on a planned economy.
42.  There is no continuity between capitalist democracy and socialist democracy. The working class must develop its own democracy, the rule of the working class, the direct government by the people. The basic task and essence of socialist democracy is the construction, establishment, defense and development of the new socialist relations of production. The working class must create and govern the State that will build and defend its fundamental rights and liberties all the way, and imbue society with new socialist values.
43.  The participation of the masses is maintained by the development of democracy, primarily through the organs of the people's power and secondarily through mass organizations such as trade unions, youth and women's organizations. This means that the workers, as masters of the socialist State and society, decide about all essential aspects of organizing society, on every level: workplace, neighborhood, region, country. They participate in the planning of the economy, in the solution of contradictions and social inequalities, in the control and management of the production units, in the social and administrative services, in all organs of power, in the organizing of education, science and technology. They discuss the big questions of society: the creation or modification of the constitution, budgetary choices, the organization of health-care, the protection of the environment, ethical questions...
44.  In a socialist vision the individual, collective and people's rights cannot be viewed separately: they are indivisible. Only socialism can provide the basis to realize the entire set of these rights.
45.  The democratic rights and freedoms under socialism are, among others:
  • the right to democratic participation in the governing of the State and the economy, on all levels (from the local level to the national level; from the enterprise to the national planning);
  • the right to life; the prohibition of slavery, of torture and of the violation of one's physical integrity;
  • the right to employment, to education, to housing and health-care; the right to rest and leisure; the right to sport; the right to culture;
  • the right to freedom of expression, of press, of assembly and association, of thought and conscience, in the framework of socialist legality;
  • the equality of civil, political, social, economic and cultural rights for the entire population, independent of nationality, sex, skin color, religious or philosophical conviction, and so on;
  • the right to peace;
  • the right to struggle for the transition to communism and to build a society without exploitation from man by man with the abolition of private ownership of the means of production, of the contradiction between town and countryside, and between manual and intellectual labor.
46.  The socialist State is also necessary to prevent the bourgeoisie – the domestic bourgeoisie, in connivance with the international bourgeoisie - from reclaiming power, dismantling fundamental rights and restoring capitalism.
47.  The democracy of the socialist State is linked to the internal democracy of the communist party. The party must correctly apply democratic centralism, maintain a style of hard work and simple living, in the service of the people, and keep a revolutionary line and spirit. It must commit itself to developing socialist democracy; building socialist justice system and helping the mass organizations play their specific role.

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