Red, young and programmed
Ties van den Bogaard introduces Rood (Red), its struggle against an anti-socialist witch-hunt and its recently adopted programme
We are Rood, the biggest (revolutionary) socialist youth organisation in the Netherlands. We used to be the official youth organisation of the Socialist Party (SP), but because of organisational and ideological differences, which will be explained later in this letter, we are no longer.
Rood stands for a world that is fundamentally different from the one we currently live in. A world where workers are in power, a world where capital does not control the means of production. The current political system and its status quo is no place for leftwing politics. Instead we must build up the workers’ movement with the emancipation of all people as the goal.
Since late November 2020 we as Rood have been in conflict with the SP, of which we were the official youth wing until last summer. The SP took a number of very undemocratic actions in late 2020, including expelling members who started internal discussions on a party course. As Rood’s general assembly refused to support the expulsions and even elected a few of the expelled members to our board, the relationship between Rood and the SP started to get very strained.
This led to Rood becoming more independent and eventually being removed as the official youth wing of the SP. While this was a very impactful development in our organisation, we have not given up our fight. As well as our activism we also drew up a programme, in which we describe our principles as a socialist organisation, on which we base our activities. Below is an English translation of the programme.
Rood believes that international cooperation with other leftists is of the utmost importance. We believe that in order to strengthen the workers’ movement - not only nationally, but also internationally - we must maintain strong relations with other left groups. The struggle against capitalism - an inherently international system - cannot be fought separately in different nations, so we should unite our struggle across state borders. Capitalism by its very nature is an international system and efforts to overthrow this system will ultimately have to be international as well.
The first step in strengthening the workers’ movement on an international level is by getting to know other organisations. This is the main purpose of this letter. As we have recently formed our international affairs committee, we decided it would be a good idea to send this letter to other socialist organisations to introduce ourselves. If you are curious and want to learn more about Rood, our board is always willing to talk about our organisation and how we could possibly help each other.
An example of how we might help each other is by exchanging speakers, who can inspire us by discussing the situation of the workers’ movement in each other’s countries. Another option is to stand in solidarity with each other’s activism and to provide each other with interesting perspectives taken from our experiences on the national level.
Capitalism and contradictions
Our era is characterised by insecurity, crisis and the exploitation of mankind and nature. These problems are the result of the relations between the economic classes. In our time - the capitalist era of history - this is the relation between the proletariat (the working class) and the bourgeoisie (the possessing class).
Everyone who depends directly or indirectly on the wage fund is part of the working class. Not only workers, but pensioners, the unemployed and people who depend on the income of others are also part of this class.
The possessing class consists of those who own the means of production, which consist of all that is necessary for the production of commodities and services. In our system it is the possessing class, a small minority, that has the power. Their interest is generating as much profit as possible at the cost of humanity and nature. Their interests are opposed to ours.
This is most obvious in the workplace, where working people struggle for a higher wage and better working conditions, while capital wants the opposite. But also other forms of oppression, such as racism, sexism and oppression of LGBT people, are amplified by capitalism. If you have little money and are at risk of losing your job at any moment, you will think twice before you speak out against oppressive systems.
Another example of these opposite interests is the climate crisis. Because capitalists only produce for profit they are destroying this planet. The disastrous consequences end up on the plates of those who are most oppressed. Individual action is not enough: it is the system that counts.
Democracy and the state
Although we have won many democratic rights in the Netherlands, such as universal suffrage, our system is still not democratic. The economy and production are in the hands of the capitalists. On top of this their lobbies have a lot of influence on our legislature.
Employees have almost no say in how the means of production are used. Nor is the state apparatus on our side: it is their task to ensure that capitalism continues to function and they will protect the private property of the capitalists. On the other hand, capital is able to circumvent the law or ignore it without serious consequences.
The current political establishment, including ‘left’ parties, cannot offer an answer to the exploitation and crises of capitalism. It does not solve the contradiction between the working class and the possessing classes.
Although the fight for reforms within capitalism is very important, we also acknowledge its limitations. As long as the capitalist system exists, these reforms will be permanently under pressure. Neither do social reforms, such as the implementation of social security or a minimum wage, solve the contradictions between classes. Only a socialist system can ultimately and fully emancipate humanity.
On the other hand, there have been historic attempts at breaking with capitalism and implementing socialism, such as in the Soviet Union. These did not bring the radical change we are looking for and they mostly degenerated into bureaucratic dictatorships. We should learn from this history and avoid making the same mistakes.
Imperialism and war
Capitalism is an international system. There exists an international hierarchy of nations based on oppression and violence. As long as this system exists, and the producers of arms have an interest in war, there will be no peace.
Our struggle is the struggle for the emancipation of humanity as a whole. This does not just mean the fight against discrimination in our current societal context, but also the liberation of all of humanity from oppression by ending class society. We aim for a society in which everybody contributes according to their abilities and receives according to their needs. Where the economy is organised in a transparent and democratic manner, without money or private property. Where labour is not a necessity for survival, but a desire of every human being. Where the state has withered away. In short, a society where humanity can develop free from oppression.
Aside from the struggle to end class society, we also want to contribute to the daily struggle. Under capitalism we fight for social, political and democratic rights, such as better services for students or more control over your workplace. Our point of departure is the youth, but we also fight for the interests of our class as a whole.
III. The road
The working class will have to organise itself for its interests, because it does not have access to power nor the means of production. The contradictions of the system ensure that it will have to keep doing so. Ultimately it is in the interest of the working class to break with capitalism and to implement socialism. That is why we want to merge the struggle of the labour movement with the struggle for socialism.
The struggle for socialism cannot be fought in parliament alone. The institutions of the state are not on our side. That is why we need to win the support of a majority of the population, so we might overthrow the capitalist state and found a democratic republic under the rule of the working class. This seizure of power, in which the working class takes over the institutions of the current system, breaks them down and replaces them, is the revolution we fight for.
This is not possible in just one country. Capitalism is an international system and the capitalists also wage the class struggle internationally. A seizure of power in one or a few countries will be hindered by economic isolation and embargos. That is why we have to organise internationally.
To obtain our goal we have to strive for an independent socialist party that fights for the interests of the working class and is closely associated with unions and social movements; a party independent from capital and the state. This party has to be internally democratic as well. If we want to democratise society we have to start with ourselves. The party has to fight for freedom of expression, publication and information and all its representatives have to be elected and revocable. There need not be a unity in theory, but acceptance of key ideas and unity in action.
As Rood we are not this party. However, as a youth organisation that fights for a new society, we do see the necessity of such a party. To accomplish this we have to orientate ourselves to the existing labour movement. Through activism, agitation and education we attempt to politicise the youth and to organise it against capitalism. We have to strengthen social movements and spread our ideas and analyses.
It is our duty as a socialist youth organisation to train young people into becoming political leaders of the working class. This way we can contribute to the movement which will form the basis for the seizure of power by the working class and which will eventually lead to the emancipation of humanity as a whole.