Socialism and democracy

Phil Kent reports on recent discussions amongst CPGB members on our draft programme

The September 21 London Communist Forum discussed section 5.2 of the CPGB’s Draft programme, ‘Socialism and democracy’, as part of the continuing redrafting debate.

Democracy is the political mode of socialism - not only is it a crucial part of the minimum programme of the Communist Party in the struggle for power: it is also the only method by which it can govern. The organs of working class power are democratic, as is its seizure of power. The new working class state is democratic in its pursuit of working class interests. The state’s aim is the achievement of communism, which can only be done over a period of time.

Section 5.2 highlights two essential concerns which need to be addressed from the beginning “to prevent the new state turning against the people”.

Firstly, it is inevitable that administration will initially be in the hands of specialists - and specialists tend to follow their own interests, not the interests of the masses. The masses need to aim for control of these jobs.

Secondly, to make it possible for workers to take control of the administration without becoming specialists themselves the “necessary working day” has to be “radically shortened”. That will ensure everyone has the time to become administrators for a period before returning to some other job, thus abolishing the division of labour between the administrators and the administrated.

Comrade Stan Keable, who introduced the discussion, raised a question regarding the current wording, which specifies that, following the revolution, workers will need democracy in the organisation of the state apparatus, the political system and the economy, as well as in international relations.

Don’t we need democracy in the workers’ movement too? But in my view the state is the workers’ movement under socialism and it is democratic - but it urgently needs to tackle the domination of specialists in the above areas if it is to remain so.

Comrade Keable also noted that this section does not mention the right to form parties - only “platforms and oppositions for the presentation of different views”. That right is, however, specified in section 4.2, ‘The socialist constitution’. John Bridge said that, although the working class should not need more than one party, the right to form them must be guaranteed.

I brought up the fact that there is no call for a constituent assembly in our programme - yet the organs that seize power are not necessarily the best to run the state. But comrade Bridge argued that it was impossible to predict whether a constituent assembly would be necessary, which is why it should not be included in the Draft programme.

Finally, comrade Mary Godwin raised the question of local autonomy and centralisation, which is not mentioned in this section. Comrade Bridge defended the view that decisions should be made as locally as possible. He gave the example of Stalin's party deciding in Moscow which variety of wheat to plant in the Ukraine. Wouldn’t it have been better to leave it to the farmers?

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