By Michael Pröbsting, 6.3.2013
Developments in the last days have confirmed our assessment of the pre-revolutionary situation which is developing in Bulgaria. (1) Since several weeks mass demonstrations take place against the high electricity prices as well as against the corrupt political establishment itself. The mass protests already had a success by forcing the conservative government of Boiko Borissov to resign. In addition, the government had to cut electricity prices by an average of 7 percent and is revoking the license of Czech utility CEZ. CEZ, together with Energo-Pro and the Austrian multinational EVN, are the three foreign monopolies who are responsible for drastic rises of electricity prices recently which caused a number of deaths during the cold winter of people who couldn’t pay the bill.
The capitalist system of private property of enterprises has allowed the multinational corporations to plunder the Bulgarian people. As a result of the latest increase of the retail price of electricity in Bulgaria on July 1st 2012, the Bulgarian households have paid the three foreign monopolies a total of three billion levs, which means that the increase has cost the people about 200 million levs (which is about 100 million Euro). (2)
The spontaneous mass movement – which according to polls has the support of 85% of the population – has shown an impressive perseverance. It is continuing its protests even after the resignation of the Borissov government and the announcement of new election which should take place on May 12 2013.
Three protestors have even set themselves on fire in protest at high fuel prices and low standards of living. Two of them died.
Popular Demands for Councils
Certainly the movement lacks a clear program and amongst its public leaders are figures like Angel Slavchev, a former member of the Bulgarian Left Party, ordinary activists like Lyudmila Manova, an unemployed woman from Blagoevrad, but also people like Anton Sirakov, a former member of the fascist Ataka and other dubious figures. (3)
Despite its obvious confusion and immaturity which allows various adventurists to gain influence, the movement demonstrates also a remarkable political learning process. The Bulgarian paper Standart News reports about the movements‘activists demand:
“The Bulgarian MPs should be nominated not by political parties, but by the people - this is what the protesters will the president today, during the sitting of the so-called Public Council, including representatives of protesters, the business and the trade unions. The protesters suggest that each Bulgarian town or city should be able to nominate its representatives in Plenary Hall. The nominees for MPs must not have any political affiliations and must not join any party parliamentary group once they become MPs. (…) The protesters hope that President Plevneliev will prod the MPs to pass amendments to the election code before the Parliament disbands. The idea is that the Public Council gathers weekly to check if the caretaker government observes the demands of the people, while the council's work will be discussed in the social networks. If the President refuses to cooperate with the representatives of the protesters, they will leave the sitting of the council.” (4)
These demands prove once more the Marxist position that authentic revolutionary mass movements tend to look for forms of democracy which are above the bourgeois parliamentary democracy. In his famous pamphlet The State and Revolution, Lenin emphasized the superiority of the soviet-type democracy compared with bourgeois democracy. Soviets – the Russian word for Councils – emerged during the Russian Revolution 1905 and in 1917 and since then they are a regular feature of revolutionary mass uprisings. Such Councils or Soviets are mass assemblies in enterprises and neighborhoods which meet regularly. They discuss the most important issues and elect delegates which are accountable to the assembly and recallable by it in case the people don’t feel represented anymore by them. The delegates receive an average wage of a skilled worker.
The description from the Bulgarian Standart News shows that the masses do not already call for real Councils/Soviets. However, their demands for parliamentary candidates to be elected by mass assemblies and to punish them if they do not implement their elector’s wishes are first steps in the right direction. They reflect a deep and fully justified mistrust of the workers towards the thoroughly corrupt bourgeois democracy.
Monitoring the Government?
The protesters demand of a Public Council which checks the government underlines the contradictory progress of the masses consciousness. As such the demand is completely insufficient. A similar demand emerged amongst the fighting masses in Egypt during the revolutionary events in spring 2011. As we explained at that time in our analysis of the Arab Revolution the demand for monitoring of a bourgeois government is a complete illusion or “pure nonsense” as Lenin put it in 1917. (5) Political and economic power remains in the hand of the ruling capitalist class. During the Arab Revolution various reformists and centrists – like the Hoxhaite PCOT and the Mandelite Fourth International in Tunisia as well as the NPA of France – wrongly supported this demand.
However, while demands for Public Councils to control the government are a bankrupt policy, it reflects a progressive desire when it emerges from the mass movement. It shows that they don’t trust the ruling power and that they consider it necessary to leave power not alone in the hands of the ruling politicians. As such the developments in Bulgaria reflect a step forward of the mass movement.
In addition revolutionaries have to warn the masses against the latest initiative of Bulgaria’s President Plevneliev. He appointed recently a “Public Council” which is composed of various people who are supposed to represent the movement albeit they haven’t been elected by anybody. Such a Public Council is nothing but a distraction to give the masses the illusion that they can control the government.
As Lenin explained in 1917, the task must not be to advice or control the capitalist’s government but to overthrow it by a workers revolution in order to move forward to socialism:
“We, however, shall break with the opportunists; and the entire class-conscious proletariat will be with us in the fight—not to “shift the balance of forces”, but to overthrow the bourgeoisie, to destroy bourgeois parliamentarism, for a democratic republic after the type of the Commune, or a republic of Soviets of Workers’ and Soldiers’ Deputies, for the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (6)
Build Councils of the Workers and Poor!
The task of the hour is to hold mass assemblies everywhere and to build real Councils/Soviets. They should discuss the most burning issues and elect delegates which are accountable and can be recalled. There should be a congress of such delegates representing the Councils all over the country.
Such Councils should lead the movement in order to check and remove any adventurists. Revolutionaries should intervene in the movement and argue for the councils to take power. They should call for the councils to form the basis for a Workers Government which is protected by armed workers militias and which takes up the task of expropriating the bourgeoisie.
The RCIT explained in its program – The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto – the urgent necessity of a strategy for the working class to build councils and to take power:
“We Bolshevik-Communists say that the spontaneous tendencies of many revolutions are great achievements. It is essential that such developments be expanded and organised. From sporadic rank and file committees we must build links and create a nationwide centralised coordination of the enterprise and districts-based councils. Only in this way can the basis be laid for a struggle, controlled by the working class itself towards an armed uprising against the ruling class and eventually the establishment of the power of the working class (the dictatorship of the proletariat).
Such a “Soviet” strategy (the term “Soviet” ‘means “Council” in Russian) – i.e. a strategy for the establishment and development of councils as a central pillar of the orientation – must be an integral part of the revolutionary programme of liberating the working class. It is an indispensable means of the working class and the oppressed to control the fight and the social transformation and to resist against the inevitable attempts of domination and oppression by the bureaucracy.” (7)
In order to fight for such a strategy activists must join together and build a revolutionary party – as part of the Fifth Workers International – on the basis of a Marxist program. The RCIT is eager to discuss with activists in Bulgaria about such a perspective.
Long live the struggle of the Bulgarian Workers and Poor! Victory to the Bulgarian Revolution!
(1) See Bulgaria: All Power to the Working Class! Down with the Imperialism of Austria, the EU and Russia! For the Permanent Revolution in Bulgaria, on the Balkans and in Eastern Europe! Resolution of the Revolutionary Communist Organization for Liberation (RKOB), 25.2.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/europe/bulgaria-all-power-to-the-workers
(2) Kristian Kosturkov: Electric Utilities Rob Bulgarians of BGN 200 M. The retail price of electricity drops further as of July 1st, 6.3.2013, http://paper.standartnews.com/en/article.php?d=2013-03-06&article=41892
(3) See Clive Leviev-Sawyer: Bulgaria’s protesters in profile, March 5 2013, http://sofiaglobe.com/2013/03/05/bulgarias-protesters-in-profile
(4) Bulgarian President Gathers Protesters, Businessmen and Trade Union Representatives at a Round Table. The protesters are ready to nominate MPs from their ranks, 1.3.2013, http://paper.standartnews.com/en/article.php?d=2013-03-01&article=41816
(5) Michael Pröbsting: The reformist illusion of democratic control of bourgeois governments (2011). This text is the English-language translation of an excerpt from a German language book on the Arab Revolution (“The Half Revolution. Lessons and Perspectives of the Arab Uprising”), http://www.thecommunists.net/theory/arab-revolution-and-reformist-illusion
(6) V. I. Lenin: The State and Revolution. The Marxist Theory of the State and the Tasks of the Proletariat in the Revolution (1917); in: Lenin Collected Works Vol. 25, p. 495
(7) RCIT: The Revolutionary Communist Manifesto (2011), p. 31, http://www.thecommunists.net/rcit-manifesto/action-comitee-factory-comitees-councils