7. The Democratic Program for Permanent Revolution in the Imperialist Countries

Let us now more concretely discuss the most important democratic demands as part of the program for permanent revolution in the imperialist countries. It is self-evident that a number of democratic demands are valid for all imperialist countries whether advanced or backward; in fact, they are valid for all countries throughout the world. Among these for example are demands for local self-government and against state bureaucracy (eligibility of state functionaries, etc.). The same is true for equal rights for women and youth as well as minimum economic demands. Below – as we have outlined them in the RCIT program – we will discuss which demands of the democratic program are particularly relevant for the imperialist countries. [1]

We re-emphasize that the democratic program, as a whole and in its essential parts, cannot be realized under capitalism but only after a socialist revolution when the working class has established its dictatorship. Likewise we reiterate that the struggle for democratic demands must be led by the working class in order to win. Socialists must fight inside mass movement which are led by bourgeois or petty-bourgeois forces and strive for the working class to become independent of the latter. In this context it is crucial to advocate the formation of fighting organs of the masses – councils of action, self-defense units, soviets, etc. – in order to prepare the independence of the working class. Furthermore, socialists have to combine the struggle for immediate and democratic demands with systematic propaganda for key transitional slogans like the expropriation of the large enterprises under workers’ control, the arming of the workers as well as the creation of a workers’ government.

Finally, a successful implementation of these steps as well as of the entire democratic program of permanent revolution presupposes the formation of a revolutionary workers’ party which can gain the leadership of the working class in such struggles. Such a party must be characterized by strict proletarian internationalism so that it understands that solidarity with the working class and the oppressed in the South, in words and deeds, is a primary duty of workers in the imperialist metropolises. In order that such internationalism does not remain platonic lip service, such a party has to be part of the new (fifth) Workers’ International based on a revolutionary program.


The Democratic Program in the “Backward” Emerging Imperialist Powers: China and Russia


As we have elaborated in our theoretical literature, the RCIT considers China and Russia as “backward” emerging imperialist powers. This means that these countries have a lower level of labor productivity on the average and have only become imperialist powers – in contrast to Northern America, Western Europe, and Japan – relatively recently.

In general, this backwardness means that the ruling class has fewer material resources to bribe a sizeable middle class and labor aristocracy. As a result, the regimes of these countries are founded on less stable social conditions and hence are forced to rule with fewer or no formal democratic mechanisms and with more openly bonapartist and dictatorial means.

This is particularly the case in China where the Stalinist-capitalist ruling class managed a seamless transformation from a degenerated workers’ state to a capitalist one and thereby succeeded in retaining the entire state apparatus. China therefore remains a bourgeois dictatorship with no freedom of the press, no right of assembly, and no right to form other parties, trade unions, or to organize strikes, etc.

Therefore the revolution in China will probably start as a democratic uprising of the popular masses against the tyranny and corruption of the state apparatus. Socialists have to fully support the desire of the working class and the poor for democratic rights. They should raise demands for free assembly, free elections, a free press, the right to strike, the right to form independent trade unions as well as new parties, for the right of self-determination of oppressed nationalities, etc. Likewise, socialists should demand the release of all political prisoners, including incarcerated persons who were involved in protest activities.

A particularly important democratic issue is the right of people to move around freely within the country. As we have shown in our study on China, currently the so-called hukou-system does not allow people to move from one province to another without permission of the authorities. As a result there hundreds of millions of people – characteristically called “migrants” – who have moved from the rural regions to the cities in order to find work, but who are living in their new place of residence illegally, and they therefore have no legal access to housing, employment, education, medical services, or social security. Thus, a particularly important slogan for socialists is the abolition of the hukou-system, the right to move around freely inside the country and equal access for all to social and health services.

Faced with increasing inequality, low wages, and the worsening condition of social and health services, socialists must support the economic demands of the working class and poor: No to lay-offs; for higher wages; for adequate social and health insurance; shortening of the work week; for better housing etc. These demands should be combined with that calling for the nationalization all large enterprises under workers’ control as well as for the implementation of an extensive public works program financed by massively taxing the rich.

Another important issue is the struggle against oppression of women. In addition to the more general valid demands of the program for women’s liberation (equal wages, against domestic violence, socialization of housework, etc.), socialists must fight against the reactionary one-child per family policy which places sanctions on families which have more than a single child. In addition to the blatantly undemocratic aspect of this policy, one of its terrible consequences is incidents of infanticide of girl babies. As a result of this scourge, the sex ratio of live births has skewed dramatically:

In China the imbalance between the sexes was 108 boys to 100 girls for the generation born in the late 1980s; for the generation of the early 2000s, it was 124 to 100. In some Chinese provinces the ratio is an unprecedented 130 to 100[2]

Equally, socialists support the struggle of the oppressed nations in China for national self-determination including the right to form their own nation state. The most prominent oppressed nations are the people of Tibet as well as the Muslim people in East Turkmenistan (called Xinjang by the Han-Chinese).

A key issue related to permanent revolution in China is the need to smash the tremendously overblown repressive state apparatus with the Stalinist-capitalist ruling party at its top. This apparatus is the main tool of the regime in suppressing the increasing number of strikes and mass protests. Hence, the struggle for the abolition of the various militias, secret services, etc., as well as for the formation of self-defense units for protesting workers and peasants – which later could be transformed into workers’ and popular militias – will be an important part of the democratic program for a Chinese revolution.

Given the crucial importance of democracy for a working class which has been faced with a dictatorship for many decades, socialists in China should raise the slogan of a Revolutionary Constituent Assembly. Its deputies should be elected as members of local assemblies, they should be recallable at any time by their constituents, and they should receive a payment for their role the salary of a skilled worker. In such an assembly revolutionary deputies will raise a program for socialist transformation.

Socialists in China should also oppose the monstrous chauvinism propagated by the ruling class. They should raise the Leninist slogan of “The main enemy is at home!” and oppose the defense of the imperialist fatherland in any conflict. They should also oppose China’s increasing militarism and the Beijing regime’s claims to the whole of the South Chinese Sea (opposed by all neighboring Asian countries) as well as its claims against South Korea and Japan in the East China Sea. It goes without saying that socialists in the US and Japan must equally oppose the militarism of “their” own imperialist ruling class. [3]

In contrast to China, Russia does not have an all out dictatorship but rather a Bonapartist regime with elements of bourgeois democracy. This situation is the result of the different road to capitalist restoration which Russia took, combined with the rupture of the regime and the failure of the dictatorial option for capitalist restoration in August 1991 when the Yanayev coup was defeated.

Consequently, Russia’s working class possesses a limited number of democratic rights like that of assembly, the right to strike, to form trade unions, parties, etc. However, these rights are often violated by the repressive state apparatus. The best known examples for this have been the arrest of critical musicians (e.g., Pussy Riots), the murder of dozens if not hundreds of critical journalists (the most prominent having been Anna Politkovskaya), as well as of the assassination of opposition politicians (like Boris Nemtsov).

Basically, the struggle for the full implementation of democratic rights that we enumerated in the case of China – unrestricted right of assembly, the right to form parties and trade unions, freedom of the press, etc. – remain in full force for Russia too.

Here we shall add only a few specifics of the democratic program for permanent revolution in Russia.

In contrast to China, Russia is home to a significant number of migrants from abroad – at least 1/10 of the workers, not taking into account illegal migrants – who are nationally oppressed and super-exploited. Thus, the Bolshevik-Communist program on migration applies fully to Russia: full legal rights for all migrants, equal rights to use their native language, equal wages, etc. Likewise, the struggle against the threat of fascism is an urgent priority.

In addition, more than 19% of the total population of Russia belongs to national and ethnic minorities who are systematically discriminated against. Most prominent are the Chechen people who have struggled for independence for a long period of time and against whom the Russian state has waged two wars of occupation in the past two decades. In these two barbaric wars – the first in 1994-96 and the second since the end of 1999 – the Russian army and the secret service FSB have massacred about 150,000 Chechens (in a country with a Chechen population of only 1,2 million!).

Again, as it is always the duty of socialists to take the side of oppressed nations, the RCIT and its predecessor organization have consistently called for the victory of the Chechen resistance and the end of the Russian occupation. We equally support the right of national self-determination for all other national minorities in Russia. [4]

In addition socialists should oppose Russia’s militarism, its intervention in the Ukraine, and its attempts to build its empire via the so-called Eurasian Union. Again, socialists in the Western countries have to equally oppose “their” own imperialist ruling classes.

As part of its ruling ideology, the Putin regime cultivates homophobia. As an historical curiosity we note that Putin’s campaign against homosexuals has impelled the Western imperialist states, in which open oppression of homosexuals existed until recently, to now become “pioneers” in the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people! In contrast to this essentially bourgeois position, socialists call for full equality for all sexual minorities.

As mentioned above, Russia is characterized by a dominant Bonapartist presidential regime whose undisputed leader since 1999 has been Vladimir Putin. While Bolshevik-Communists fight for a workers’ government and a socialist revolution, they support all steps which make the existing system more democratic. Therefore socialists should advocate the abolition of the presidential system and the shortening of the period of parliamentary terms to two years. Deputies should be elected as members of local assemblies, be recallable at any time by their constituents, and receive as pay for their role the salary of a skilled worker.

Furthermore, socialists in Russia should integrate – as in China – the slogan for a Revolutionary Constituent Assemblyinto their programmatic arsenal.


The Democratic Program in the Old, Decaying Imperialist Powers: Northern America, EU and Japan


The situation is different in the old, decaying imperialist powers in Northern America, the EU, and Japan. The higher labor productivity and accumulated wealth in these countries gives their ruling classes sufficient economic strength. This, in addition to the ability of the working class to fight for its rights, forces (or enables) the monopoly capitalists to allow a considerable degree of bourgeois democracy in these countries.

In all three of these regions, the ruling classes have managed to considerably extend the repressive statue apparatus in the name of “War against Terror.” It is now common knowledge that the imperialist states and in particular their secret services have tremendously expanded the police, security agencies, etc. as well as their overall powers in the course of this campaign. These states now restrict the liberty of their citizens (and more so their non-citizen residents) and spy everywhere including against each other. This increased surveillance has become an important element of public awareness and has resulted in popular mistrust of the ruling class. Consequently, opposition to this surveillance and other police state measures has already become an important element of the consciousness of politically advanced sectors of the working class.

Therefore the struggle against the expansion of the powers of police and courts, and for the abolition of the secret services and other “anti-terrorist” institutions like the Department of Homeland Security in the US, etc. has become extremely important. Other recent examples for this are e.g. the arrests of critiques of the racist journal Charlie Hebdo in France or the ban of pro-Palestinian public rallies during the Gaza war in the summer of 2014. Socialists must also defend the right of migrants to actively participate in political life. Down with increased censorship and the repression of free speech!

Another example for the increasingly authoritarian rule of the bourgeoisie is the recently introduced Citizens Security Law, also known as the Gag Law, in Spain. This law includes fines of up to €600,000 for demonstrations not previously notified to the authorities, or anyone reporting on them, re-tweeting or posting a “like” on Facebook. Anyone videotaping the police during demonstrations faces a fine of up to €30,000.

The systematic killing of Afro-Americans demonstrates the racist, murderous character of the police in the US. Thus, the workers and black movement should demand the disarmament of the police. Likewise socialists should oppose the presence of armed police at demonstrations and strikes. Naturally, socialists would be naïve to expect the bourgeois state implement such measures. It is therefore crucial to build self-defense units to protect the working class at demonstrations, in the neighborhoods, and against the states’ ubiquitous surveillance.

Equally, the workers’ movement should fight all laws which limit the right of workers to strike and to organize in trade unions. (e.g., the anti-union laws instituted in Britain and various attempts to limit the right to strike in the public sector in various countries.)

As we have pointed out above, migrants form a crucial sector of the lower strata of the working class in Northern America, Western Europe, Australia and Israel. Socialists must mobilize the workers’ movement to fight for full equality for migrants (equal wages, abolition of the state language with equality for all languages of migrants, universal suffrage, etc.). This includes in particular full equality for Muslim migrants who face the full force of racist Islamophobia and whose religious rights are regularly violated (e.g., prohibition of Muslim women to wear a hijab). Socialists demand equal rights for Muslim migrants!

Similarly, socialists must raise the slogan of Open Borders for migrants and refugees. They should also call the workers’ movement to organize support for refugees and to assist those who are living in their countries without any legal status.

Likewise socialists should support the right of oppressed and discriminated national minorities for self-determination. For example they should support the desire of the Catalan and the Basque people to secede from the Spanish state and combine this with the perspective for an independent workers’ republic. Socialist should also call for the expulsion of the British occupation forces from Northern Ireland and for the unification of Ireland as a 32-county socialist republic. Socialists should also defend the national rights of minorities like the Zainichi Koreans in Japan.

A crucial aspect of the revolutionary-democratic struggle in the US as well as Canada and Australia is the demand for full equality for Afro-Americans, Latinos, Asians, Indigenous Natives, and other national and racial minorities. Such a program includes granting of equality for the use of native languages for non-English speaking minorities, equal wages and equal share in public jobs, local self-government for districts with a high proportion of nationally and racially oppressed minorities, etc.

In the context of the “War against Terror” referred to above, the ruling classes in the imperialist states are waging a war against the working class and the oppressed both domestically as well as abroad. It is the utmost duty of all socialists to defend victims of imperialist terrorism – Muslim migrants and progressive activists at home, and all oppressed people in the South. Faced with the imperialist aggression in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Mali, etc. as well as Israel’s continuous aggression against the Palestinian people, socialists have to continue calling for the defeat of the imperialist aggressors and for the military victory of the oppressed people in these countries.

Socialists have to take a revolutionary defeatist position against NATO’s imperialist interference in the Ukraine and its aggression against Russia. No less, they should fight against Japan’s aggressive stand against China in the East Chinese Sea.

Socialists in the Western imperialist countries also have to fight against the increasing super-exploitation of the semi-colonial world. Therefore, they should oppose “their” imperialists’ desire to force countries of the South to accept the so-called “free-trade-agreements” which are so disadvantageous to the semi-colonial countries.

The European Union is confronted with increasing inner tensions and conflicts. These are based on the EU’s specific political configuration as an imperialist proto-state Empire dominated by a few great powers (in particular Germany and France). At the same time there are a number of smaller countries (in Eastern Europe together with Greece, Cyprus, Portugal, Ireland, etc.) which together constitute 24% of the EU’s total population and which continually oppressed and super-exploited by foreign monopoly capitalists.

Socialists call for the revolutionary destruction of the imperialist European Union and fight for the perspective of United Socialist States of Europe. We stand for a joint internationalist struggle of the European working class – inside and outside the EU – against the bosses’ attacks and imperialist aggression. Bolshevik-Communists living in imperialist EU countries should take a defeatist position in referenda about membership in the EU, since we give no preference either to the imperialist EU or to the individual imperialist nation states. Hence, when such referenda are held, the RCIT declares “Neither the imperialist EU nor imperialist Britain/France/Germany, etc.!” This defeatist attitude is also valid in cases of conflict between the EU and smaller imperialist states like Belgium, Netherlands, Sweden, Austria, etc. [5] At the same time, Bolshevik-Communists advocate the exit of semi-colonial countries from membership in the EU because this Empire intensifies the political and economic subordination of these countries. [6] Faced with the endless debates about the political physiognomy and the constitution of the European Union, socialists advocate the election of a Constituent Assembly.

Israel is a special case since it is an imperialist state characterized by its history as a colonial settler state since having come into existence by mostly expelling and continually oppressing the indigenous Arab population. In each and every confrontation between the Apartheid State of Israel and the Palestinian people and/or Arab states, socialists stand for the unconditional support for the Arab people and for the defeat of Israel. Socialists in Israel therefore fight against the continued existence of Israel as a Jewish state, for the right of all Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and property, and for their compensation in full by the Zionists. Our perspective is a single democratic, multi-national Palestinian workers and fallahin republic from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. In parallel, socialists must strive to break sectors of the Jewish working class away from Zionism and to win them over for international solidarity with the oppressed. [7]

As “consistent democrats,” revolutionaries should fight for the abolition of reactionary remnants of the feudal epoch like those existing in the monarchies in Japan and Western Europe. For the expropriation of all aristocrats without compensation and the abolition of all monarchies!

Equally socialists fight for the abolition of Bonapartist institutions such as a presidency with extraordinary powers (like in France and the US), various powerful military councils or national security councils, etc.

Against the tendency of the ruling class to increasingly diminish bourgeois democracy – by extending terms of office for parliamentary legislators as well as for presidencies – socialists advocate the reduction of these terms. Socialists also raise revolutionary-democratic demands like the election of deputies on the basis of local assemblies, the ability of their constituencies to recall them at any time, and their receipt of a salary only on the level of a skilled worker.

In periods of political crisis when central issues of the country’s political system are the focus of the class struggle, Bolshevik-Communists must raise the slogan of the Revolutionary Constituent Assembly.

The struggle against increasing unemployment and impoverishment of growing sectors of the working class as well as the capitalists’ attacks on wages and social- and health-security for nearly all workers and the lower middle class is a key task for socialists. Therefore, must fight for higher wages, for adequate social and health insurance, for shortening of the working week, and against lay-offs, etc. Here too, socialists should combine these demands with the slogan of nationalization of the large enterprises under workers’ control as well as the institution of a public works program financed by massive taxation of the rich.

[1] See RCIT: The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (2012), Chapter V, http://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/the-program-of-the-revolution/

[2] The Economist: Gendercide. The war on baby girls, 4.3.2010, http://www.economist.com/node/15606229

[3] See on this Michael Pröbsting: No to chauvinist war-mongering by Japanese and Chinese imperialism! Chinese and Japanese workers: Your main enemy is at home! Stop the conflict on the Senkaku/Diaoyu-islands in the East China Sea! 23.9.2012,in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/asia/no-war-between-china-and-japan/

[4] See on this e.g; Michael Pröbsting: Russia as a Great Imperialist Power. The formation of Russian Monopoly Capital and its Empire – A Reply to our Critics, 18 March 2014, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 21, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/imperialist-russia/

LRCI-FT: Russian Troops Out! Self-determination for Chechnya! 30.06.1996, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/freedom-for-chechnya/

[5] See on this RCIT: Boycott Cameron’s Trap: Neither Brussels, nor Downing Street! For Abstention in Britain’s EU-Referendum! For international Unity and Struggle of the Workers and Oppressed! Fight against both British as well as European Imperialism! Forward to the United Socialist States of Europe, 2 August 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/eu-referendum-in-uk/; Michael Pröbsting: The British Left and the EU-Referendum: The Many Faces of pro-UK or pro-EU Social-Imperialism. An analysis of the left’s failure to fight for an independent, internationalist and socialist stance both against British as well as European imperialism, August 2015, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/british-left-and-eu-referendum/

[6] See on this e.g. RKOB: The European Union and the issue of the accession of semi-colonial countries, 14.10.2012, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 6, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/eu-and-semi-colonies/

[7] For an overview of the Trotskyist strategy for Israel / Occupied Palestine we refer readers to the RCIT’s section program: Summary of the Program of the Internationalist Socialist League , February 2014, http://www.the-isleague.com/our-platform/

Yossi Schwartz: Israel's War of 1948 and the Degeneration of the Fourth International, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1948-1

Yossi Schwartz: Israel’s Six-Day War of 1967. On the Character of the War, the Marxist Analysis and the Position of the Israeli Left, in: Revolutionary Communism No. 12, July/August 2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/israel-s-war-of-1967/

Michael Pröbsting: On some Questions of the Zionist Oppression and the Permanent Revolution in Palestine, in: Revolutionary Communism, Special Issue on Palestine, No. 10, June 2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/africa-and-middle-east/permanent-revolution-in-palestine