The Path of Socialist Revolution
The Mass Struggle for Power
In building up its strength, in welding an alliance of all working people and in taking power, the fundamental method of struggle that the working class must use is mass political organisation.Whatever the tactics adopted at any particular time, whether it be strike action, demonstrations, delegations, petitions or the election of members of parliament, the working class must rely on its vast numbers and its ability to organise. The working class does not have all the financial and institutional resources available to the capitalists. It does not control the courts, the bureaucracy, police or armed forces.
Mass action on its own can create pressure to win concessions from the capitalists and strengthen the fighting position of the working class - as in 1968 over the Nil Wage Order or in 1980 over Kinleith. Mass action is also the best way to show people the realities of the capitalist system - people can experience the character of the state and the bosses in a direct and immediate manner. Mass action also shows workers that they are a class with the ability to act in a united and powerful way.
In generating mass action the importance of theoretical work to combat capitalist ideology must be recognised. The working class in Aotearoa has high literacy and the media is well developed. Constant theoretical work must be done among the masses and among communists to combat the corrosives of capitalist ideology.
In the course of mass action against the capitalists, the working class and their allies must create economic, social and cultural institutions that express and meet the needs of the people and support their organisational capacity. They must also create new representative bodies capable of expressing their will and leading the struggle. In a revolutionary situation the working class will create its own popular assemblies of a much broader character than the present capitalist parliament. These institutions will be the nucleus of socialism.Democracy under CapitalismIn its struggle for socialism the working class is greatly assisted by the existence of bourgeois democracy.
Although the capitalists rule, they do not do so through open violence and terror. Working people in Aotearoa enjoy a wide range of democratic rights - we can vote in regular elections, we can organise in trade unions and political parties, we can set up pressure groups, publish newspapers and leaflets, go on strike, hold meetings and demonstrations, and travel freely around the country. If we get arrested for anything, we are not held in detention without trial and we have the right to legal defence.These rights are vital for the working class to defence and promote its interests. Without the rights to form trade unions and to strike we would be at the absolute mercy of every whim of the employers.
But these rights have not always existed. Nor were they generously granted by the employing class. They have been fought for with great effort and sacrifice by many generations of working people in a struggle that goes back to Peterloo, Chartism and the Reform agitation in Britain, the formation of trade unions and the winning of women's right to vote in Aotearoa. Many people from Aotearoa fought fascism in Spain and World War II.Neither are these rights in any sense guaranteed under capitalism. Bourgeois legality was cost aside in the great land grab from the Maori last century. Whenever a crisis develops in capitalism the employers attack democracy in order to limit the fighting ability of the workers. The 1932 Public Safety Conservation Act and the Emergency Regulations of 1951 were passed to suspend all normal civil liberties and protect the security of private property. Under the 1951 regulations it was illegal to demonstrate or publish any newspaper or leaflet supporting the locked-out watersiders, and a person could be prosecuted even for giving food to the children of a worker involved in the dispute.
Since the outbreak of the present economic crisis, the rights of trade unions have been progressively curtailed by a series of laws, the rights of police to arrest and detain have been strengthened and the powers of the SIS increased.
Despite the importance of the democratic rights that we have won over the years, the working class can never achieve complete political freedom under capitalism. In this society only the capitalists have the money, time, knowledge and influence to use capitalist democracy to the full.
We can publish newspapers, but the best printing works are controlled by the capitalists and funded by advertising. We can say what we like, but the rich can buy time on TV and radio, and the journalists listen to them because they are powerful. We can form unions, but the government can deregister them at any time. We can buy all the property we want, except that capitalist have far more wealth than us. We can vote for a change of government, except that all the major political parties support capitalism .
In all these ways, the formal equality that exists for all citizens is undermined and restricted by the power of capital. Until the working class gains control of the means of production, democracy can never be more than a partial achievement.
The government of Aotearoa today serves the interests of the ruling capitalist class. No matter which party is in power, the state apparatus - parliament, government departments, the courts, prisons, police and armed forces - protects capitalist private property and administers the capitalist economy. In every major industrial dispute in Aotearoa's history, the state has taken sides with the bosses against the workers.
The state dampens down class struggle by diverting it into complex legal channels and promoting class collaboration between employers and trade union leaders. The state organises infrastructure - roads, airports, communications, ports - funds research and development and manages economic conditions inflation, interest rates, exchange rates - to promote capitalist accumulation, "the economy". From TV programming to the education system, the state spreads an ideology of respect for private property, individualism and the law, that the rich are entitled to their wealth and that the government should be left to govern.
The foundation of the state, however, is the armed forces. From the earliest colonial settlement, settlers established armed militias. The land was seized from Maori by military conquest in the 1860s. In 1913 gunboats, field guns and troops were deployed against the general strike while armed special police on horseback ("Massey's Cossacks") attacked strikers. In 1912 Frederick Evans, a striking gold miner was killed at Waihi in a police-led attack by scabs on a union hall. In the 1930s armed troops patrolled the streets to prevent looting by the unemployed. In 1951 the army loaded ships while Watersiders were locked out. In 1978 the army helped police to clear Bastion Point of land protesters. In 1979 the army was readied to staff the Lyttleton Road tunnel during a strike and during the 1981 Springbok Tour, the army backed up police operations.
The Capitalists Will Not Give Up Power Voluntarily
Despite the rationality, efficiency of socialism and the desire of the vast majority that a revolutionary alliance for socialism would demonstrate, the capitalists will not give up their control of Aotearoa without a bloody fight. No ruling class has ever stepped down voluntarily to abandon its power and wealth to the masses. From Spain in the 1930s to Chile in the 1970s, attempts to elect socialist governments have been ended by military onslaught.
The struggle for socialism will mainly be a protracted legal one, but the working class cannot chain itself to the rules established by the ruling class. The working class must make preparations to defend itself from attack and be able to adopt different tactics in the case of fascism or war. The working class must also prepare for the eventual seizure of power from the capitalists. In the final analysis, the capitalists will not relinquish power peacefully.
The final seizure of power from the capitalists in Aotearoa will consist of a mass uprising. It will be an insurrection with tens of thousands of workers in the forefront, supported by the vast majority of working people, coupled with uprisings in Maori communities. Because of the developed nature of the capitalist economy in Aotearoa and the concentration of the population in the major cities, we can expect the outcome of the revolution to be decided very quickly - in a matter of weeks or even days. We will not see a protracted people's war along the lines of the Chinese revolution. Instead we will see a rapid mass uprising in the cities, similar to the Bolshevik seizure of power in 1917.The transition to socialism in Aotearoa will be difficult since the capitalist class is powerful. But the capitalists have created the factors that will bring its own downfall. The revolution will involve both domestic and international forces. At home, the working class, Maori and people in general will increasingly struggle. At the same time the dependence of the capitalists on foreign sales and supplies will make it vulnerable to international economic crisis. At some stage these forces will converge into a mighty current that will weaken and then topple the capitalist class.
The Communist Party
The revolutionary united front and mass political action are two important weapons of the working class. The third - the Communist Party - is the key one. Only a working class party can lead the mass movement of the workers and the revolutionary united front to socialism.While spontaneous outbursts of anger and revolt against the system do occur, the conscious organisation that is absolutely necessary for carrying out a revolution can never be achieved spontaneously. Nor can it be achieved by organisations such as trade unions which are limited to carrying out work amongst particular sections of the working class and do not embrace the entire revolutionary united front.
Communists work for a broad and diverse movement. They may use many different tactics, make alliances and negotiate with various forces, but the independence, solidarity and security of the party must never be compromised. Never for a moment should it be thought that the socialist revolution will be possible without this leadership.
The Communist Party is the organisation that can orient the struggle of the entire class, by educating, organising and mobilising the working class. It can bring an overall perspective to each part of the workers' movement and unite all the isolated battles into one powerful storm. It can raise the spontaneous anger of the workers to the level of conscious political struggle to end this ruthless system.
Only with a determined leadership embracing all sections of the working class and its allies can the revolutionary united front be built and the capitalist class be overthrown. Providing this political leadership and central organisation are the tasks of a Communist Party.
Excerpt from 'Towards A Socialist Peoples Republic of Aotearoa', Programme of the Communist Party of Aotearoa (NZ)