What is our overall goal as socialists? How do we reach this goal from the point of departure we are at today? What policies, activities and forms of organisation should we employ and how do we take the next step?
Both SAP and its forerunners and our international have formulated answers to these questions but since SAP’s founding conference in 1980 we have not tried to formulate, discuss or draw conclusions about the interrelation between these conclusions.
This is the aim of this text, focusing especially on the interrelation between theory, our actual activities and the next step.
Making all the necessary allowances for the time-scales in the political struggle one can say that we are charting a course for SAP’s work in the next 5 years while demonstrating how this course conforms to our goal.
The text consists of:
I. The goal and the means to the goal: socialism, revolution and organised mobilisation.
II. Capitalism today: the neo-liberal offensive, the crisis in the worker’s movement, global resistance, and reactionary tendencies opposing these.
III. How we prioritise our work and our tasks now.
IV. Enhedslisten*: “More class, more struggle and more party.”
V. SAP’s contribution
* Enhedslisten means “Unity List” and is the name of the party in Danish. The party calls itself the Red Green Alliance outside Denmark.
I. The goal and the means to the goal: socialism, revolution and organised mobilisation.
The abolition of capitalism
The main goal of our efforts as socialists is to abolish exploitation, oppression and alienation. This means we have to abolish capitalism and replace that social system, transitionally, with socialism, where the working class and its allies have taken over power.
Socialism will give us the possibility to democratically solve society’s problems and develop human resources and technological advances for the benefit of the vast majority of humanity instead of them being controlled by a rich and powerful elite and the anarchy of the market.
This would create the basis for a permanent social revolution towards a classless society.
Socialism can not be introduced gradually – there are at least two reasons for this:
* Firstly society functions in such a way that if capital’s control of society and capitalist market relations are challenged, weakened or undermined it would lead to a social crisis which could only be resolved in two ways: either the working class would take power and begin to build a fundamentally different organisation of production and the economy – a democratically organised planned economy or capitalism would re-establish itself and re-cement it’s domination of society.
* Secondly the capitalist class has such enormous material and social privileges and has such a base of social power through the state apparatus that it could and would use all these powers and all means necessary to defend capitalism.
It is therefore necessary that there is an organised and decisive break with the capitalist class and the bourgeois state. This would mean, amongst other things, nationalisation of the most important parts of the economy- the banks, transport, communications and other large concerns and the establishment of alternative organs of people’s power. This is what we call a revolution.
The preconditions for a revolution
Many preconditions must be in fulfilled, before it will be possible to make a revolution, that can abolish capitalism and begin building socialism
Four of the central preconditions are:
1. That the working class and oppressed are active and well organised in a co-ordinated mass movement that will not be intimidated by the resistance of the ruling class and consciously takes the necessary steps to abolish capitalism.
2. That this mass movement contains a well organised and established socialist organisation which is able to give a Marxist analysis of the situation and draw on previous revolutionary experiences to give practical leadership to this movement- pointing out the next step and appropriate method to use.
3. That the socialist movement has, already before a revolutionary situation, established the broadest possible level of organisational democracy, including that of the vision of socialism as a positive alternative to capitalism – e.g. a clear demarcation from other tendencies that would in practice introduce other forms of oppression and/or a modified form of capitalism.
4. That a democratic and revolutionary International exists, which is able to continue and deepen the struggle as well as preventing national isolation of the revolutionary forces.
II. Capitalism today: the neo-liberal offensive, the crisis in the worker’s movement, global resistance and reactionary tendencies
Where do we stand now?
Throughout SAP’s and the FI’s history we have several times had to assess how we best should use our resources to achieve our long-term strategic goals – starting from our goal, the socialist revolution lead by the working class and other exploited and oppressed groups.
Rebuild the workers’ movement
From the establishment of the Fourth International in 1938 until a few years ago we accepted that the primary task of a socialist organisation, the revolutionary party or the core of a future revolutionary party, was to struggle against other political tendencies over the political direction the established workers’ movement should take: in other words that the crisis in the labour movement could be reduced to the question of political leadership.
Our tasks today are much broader. We have to conclude that the reformist and bureaucratic leadership of the workers’ movement has been in place so long that it has weakened the movement so much that there is no longer a movement we can simply offer a new and better leadership to.
Revolutionary socialists therefore have to actively take part in rebuilding the movement and through this process prove that we have the necessary program and perspectives for the workers’ movement while at the same time re-establishing socialist perspectives amongst the working class, and exploited and oppressed groups.
Global neo-liberalism and global resistance
The capitalist class and its political servants have for many decades had a strategy of introducing neo-liberalism, i.e. the maximum freedom for capitalist concerns. This perspective is meeting increasing resistance both concretely in the form of mobilisations against the results of neo-liberalism and in the form of a political critique and support for oppositional ideologies.
Active resistance is diffuse as yet and is rarely strong enough to win important victories: also in many countries such as Denmark it is yet to make serious headway in the working class.
In most places resistance manifests itself in the form of political radicalisation, especially amongst the young- globally we saw this in the anti-war movement and in Europe the Dutch and French campaigns against the EU constitution were examples. In Denmark it is reflected in the growth of Enhedslisten. On the whole we see growth of what is sometimes described as the “movement of movements”.
The development of a world-wide movement against neo-liberalism and globalisation has put international organisation back on the agenda after decades where only the 4th International has had that perspective. This has manifested itself, amongst other things, in the growth of Social Fora nationally, regionally and globally in the form of the World Social Forum. At the same time we have also experienced other new initiatives in international socialist organisation such as EACL and the European Left Party.
This dynamic makes it possible and relevant to raise the perspective of a new, 5th, International. This is a question which SAP and the FI should set on the agenda.
Not all types of opposition to neo-liberalism have answers to the crisis or leads to a break with capitalism.
The new balance of power means amongst other things that Social Democrats are making progress in a number of European countries because of their rejection of naked liberalism and because they offer a some kind of defence of welfare and public service. But they basically only offer an alternative version of capitalism – a more regulated form of capitalism which hesitates to seriously limit capitalism’s freedom of operation and is therefore more a kind of social liberalism.
Many other political currents to the left of social democracy also hesitate to fully draw out the conclusions of their positions and break in practice with capitalism. They consciously seek solutions which avoid confronting capitalism and move towards governmental and budgetary responsibility.
There are also national-conservative parties and groupings which are simultaneously nationalist, xenophobic and opposed to immigration whilst supporting the free market for goods and capital.
Finally other movements have appeared which combine a a critic of capitalism and imperialism with a out rightly reactionary social program- radical and religious fundamentalists as well as extremist and racist nationalism. To a great extent it is unfortunately the socially marginalised (or those who regard themselves as their representatives) who support these anti-democratic ideologies instead of a more progressive and credible alternative.
III. What are our tasks and how do we prioritise our work?
SAP is a revolutionary Marxist organisation which works for a democratic socialist alternative to the governing capitalist world order. It is for that reason we are members of the Fourth International (FI), an international organisation of revolutionaries which has since the 1930’s fought against all forms of oppression and reactionary ideologies- especially when they manifest themselves amongst the oppressed. Historically our tradition has also been in the vanguard of the struggle for women’s liberation, equality and acceptance for gays and lesbians and in the struggle to defend the environment.
Since the defeat of the Eastern Bloc in 1989 we have been enthusiastic partisans for the rebuilding and regrouping of the left and have been active in making that a reality- in Denmark mostly through working in Enhedslisten but also through our work in other social movements.
When we as socialists today decide how we work, prioritise and organise and which political program demands we should advance we have to do it from a certain perspective
How do get from the situation we are in today to a situation where progressive forces can be radically strengthened and have developed much clearer ideas about the necessity and the content of a break with capitalism, i.e. a socialist revolution?
How do we create a consciousness in the working class about the necessity of this break?
How do we develop struggles that can strengthen the working class towards this goal?
How can we help create the kind of working class organisation which can carry through this task and which can also afterwards be the basis for the organisation of a new society?
How can we build a socialist organisation which is schooled in Marxism, democratic, organised for activity and struggle and with a political program that can generate mobilisation towards and through a revolutionary situation?
Concrete tasks for 2006
If we try to concretise the above to tasks in 2006 and likely situation in the coming few years socialists have to:
Contribute to the working class’s and other oppressed groups’ independent activities and struggles against exploitation and oppression and other negative consequences of capitalism
Help build organised movements around these mobilisations and orientate these towards the organised working class movement.
Formulate demands which we can begin fighting for now to defend our rights and which will point in the direction of socialism and bring these demands, methods of struggle and organisation together in a program which can be a socialist and anti-capitalist political alternative to neo-liberalism and social democratic social-liberalism.
Organise the political struggle – not least against political currents which have influence among the working class and the oppressed but which serve as a brake on militancy and make these movements conform to the system.
We cannot resolve these tasks as individuals. Just like the revolution itself and the steps towards it there is a need for socialist organisation. Here and now is a need for a socialist party which will take up these tasks in the class struggle and which can attract the maximum numbers of socialists and involve them in this work. We must show that this is necessary, if we want to gather the strength to actually change thing and to move beyond good intentions and good deeds.
IV. Enhedslisten – more class, more struggle, more party!
Enhedslisten and the socialist party
Enhedslisten has the potential to be the socialist party we need – for plenty of reasons:
It has electoral support from most voters to the left of SF and SD
It’s membership covers the vast majority of the politically active to the left of SF and SD
The party and members regard themselves as socialists
It has adopted an anti-capitalist, extra-parliamentary and socialist program
The party and members have a perspective of extra-parliamentary and democratic mobilisation
The party has an open and pluralistic internal debate which gives the possibility to develop new political understanding and perspectives
And the party is already seen by many in society as a socialist alternative, even if only a minority sympathise with that alternative as yet.
Enhedslisten can therefore be the necessary organised socialist force in today’s struggles, in tomorrow’s struggles and in the socialist revolution – the organisation that can meet the tasks we have described in this text.
This is that we wish to build Enhedslisten as; this is what we want Enhedslisten become, this what we need!
However, Enhedslisten is not such a party yet. It has political and organisational weaknesses. These are partially a result of Enhedslisten being a young organisation but also are a result of the fact that Enhedslisten has never had a fundamental discussion about and tried to establish what its tasks are and how we build a party which can resolve these.
More class- more struggle- more party
SAP believes that Enhedslisten should especially develop with regard to the following slogans:. “More class- more struggle- more party!”
By “more class” we mean that Enhedslisten needs to understand better the centrality of the working class in the struggle for socialism.
This means that the defence of the interests of the working class must be the starting point of policy development, even if many other factors are also involved. And that the development of working class organisation and struggles should have a higher priority.
Reasons for this weakness are to a great extent that the working class struggle in Denmark is at a low level and that movements and radicalisation, unlike for example France, do not emanate from the working class movement.
A socialist party however needs to be able to rise above the day-to-day appearance of things and be able to analyse social tendencies and act proactively to these, not merely react to the visible and obvious. It is essential to strengthen working class organisation that workers and employees are independent – in their actions, organisations and parties from the parties and organisations of the ruling class and especially the state.
By “more struggle” we mean that Enhedslisten should give a higher priority to involvement in and – wherever possible – take initiatives in extra-parliamentary actions.
Today elections, referenda and parliamentary work dominate a lot of our work from branch level up to the national leadership- this is not least a result of the lack of spontaneous demonstrations, strikes and protest movements- but this makes it even more important that Enhedslisten’s members, branches and leadership are prepared to support and contribute to these kinds of mobilisations when they emerge.
By “more party” we mean that Enhedslisten should to a greater degree appear as a total political alternative which isn’t only a reflection of the parliamentary group but is built through democratic debate and which is therefore the property of the party as a whole and which every member feels responsible for. At the same time the party and members should work collectively to a greater degree. This applies to all areas of work:
Around central political priorities in national campaigns
In branches around locally agreed tasks
And in movements and broad organisations (for example the anti-war movement, trade unions, student and other educational organisational organisations) where Enhedslisten’s members should co-ordinate their work and policy development with regard to the strengthening and development of that organisation.
If Enhedslisten has hesitated in it’s first more than 15 years of existence to function as an organised force- as a party- that is a result of it’s pre-history and birth. It was formed, amongst other things, as a reaction to the left’s often sectarian view of one another, often based on irrelevant differences. Also there is no lack of examples of left organisations functioning in a dominating and manipulative fashion in broad movements. But this pre-history should not stand in the way of Enhedslisten taking responsibility for the tasks which a socialist party needs to take up if we are ever going to reach socialism.
Many of these weaknesses are a symptom that Enhedslisten is a young organisation which hasn’t had time to absorb so many experiences or develop policy and organisation from these. Also Enhedslisten is marked by the fact, that it’s early life has been fairly peaceful – there haven’t been the big social confrontations which would have accelerated the party’s political and organisational self-understanding.
This doesn’t mean however that we can assume that Enhedslisten will automatically “grow into the job” along with the tasks it faces and will necessarily draw the correct conclusions from it’s experiences or that it will necessarily do so fast enough. It is also no secret that there are members and groups of members in Enhedslisten who are not agreed with SAP on what constitutes a strength or a weakness and are likely to oppose the proposals that SAP are making in this text and will defend the status quo.
The differences which exist within the party are however far from crystallised in clear disagreements, tendencies or wings of the party. Some members are afraid of the old spectre of factionalism while others will perhaps not wish to unnecessarily to expose fundamental disagreements. But as a condition for an open and honest debate and for clear conclusions and political development it is necessary to call things by their right names.
In a democratic and pluralistic party disagreement will and should flower with out necessarily setting an ideological “stamp” on every political difference. But now and again issues are raised in debates where it is clear that disagreements are based on fundamental difference or more or less clearly understood differences in our understanding of society. For example the issue of budgetary responsibility comes up now and again or the opinion that the greatest contradiction in society is between the two thirds who are “well-off” versus the one third who are poor instead of between labour and capital. In these debates there is an important dividing line between those that seek to unite the working class, and those who actually creates division inside the working class.
Another example is when the oppressed’ right to self-organisation is opposed by patriarchal views or substitutionist party dogma.
Such different theoretically based tendencies are more clearly established and better organised in some of the Enhedslisten-type unity parties in other European countries. Enhedslisten will not be weakened in our opinion by setting these ideologically and a theoretically-based differences up for open debate so long as this process doesn’t happen under pressure for ideological unanimity.
It is therefore necessary that we consciously work to build and strengthen Enhedslisten and to point it in the direction we have chosen to call “More class, more struggle, more party!” SAP has some special qualifications it can contribute to that task.
V. SAP’s contribution
These are qualifications that can be called SAP’s political and organisational capital. It is built upon SAP’s and its predecessors’ historical experience and that of the 4th International. It is collected in SAP’s and the FI’s “program”, most recently formulated in “This is what SAP stands for” from SAP’s 18th conference in 2001 and in the introduction to the statutes of the FI and the FI’s role and tasks which were adopted by the World Congress in 2003. Amongst the most important elements of this with direct relevance for Enhedslisten are:
The Marxist method to analyse global and domestic developments
Our understanding of society as a class society and of the role of classes in the struggle for socialism; not least the necessity for workers and the oppressed to organise themselves independently from the ruling class and the state
Our understanding of the role that working class struggle and other popular mobilisations can play both in getting temporary gains, in developing working class consciousness and in the complete break with capitalism – and our ability to intervene in such struggles.
Our understanding of the revolutionary potential inherent in the struggles of all oppressed groups and the dialectical relationship between the defence of the rights of the oppressed and the real rights they have.
Our understanding of the limitations of capitalism and the need for a revolutionary break with it.
Our internationalist approach to analysing the world, to the struggles of classes and movements and to revolutionary organisation.
Our understanding of the necessity of organising conscious revolutionary and socialist forces in a party and an International and our concrete experience of such.
Our uncompromising defence of democratic rights and human rights as an integral part of the struggle for socialism
Our consistent opposition to double-standards, where there is one set of standards for “our friends” and another for “our enemies”:
Our understanding of the “method of the united front”, which in every concrete situation seeks to establish the broadest and most favourable unity in struggle without submitting to bourgeois ideology.
This political and organisational capital doesn’t mean we have the answer to every problem and our political program and organisational practices have to be updated all the time in the light of social developments and new experiences. But our political and organisational capital makes us well qualified to contribute to building Enhedslisten.
SAP – an organised revolutionary tendency
We would not be so well placed if members of SAP only contributed as individuals. A political tradition and program cannot exist in a vacuum. They need some kind of organisation and a way of jointly assessing experiences – otherwise the whole tradition cannot grow or renew itself and will be lost.
It is for this reason that SAP has always insisted on having a collective debate in its own ranks and a real organisation, nationally and internationally. We have always insisted that collective decisions, collectively put into practice lead both to a more real collective evaluation but are also a precondition for any revolutionary organisation’s ability to act effectively. This will continue to be a goal for SAP.
For the same reasons SAP will continue to be the Danish section of the FI.
A revolutionary driving force in Enhedslisten
An organised group of Enhedslisten members who share the experiences and opinions of SAP’s program could have an important role in Enhedslisten if for example:
If Enhedslisten grows dramatically. – On the way from the existing situation until we have built a mass party there will be periods when thousands of new members join. That might often be because of a loose and vague sympathy for Enhedslisten’s causes but without a clear socialist understanding of society or the party’s tasks.
If large groups from other parties join Enhedslisten collectively. – It is impossible to imagine that Enhedslisten can become a mass party without groups or factions breaking from other parties and moving leftwards to join or fuse. The relative strength Enhedslisten has because it unites broad left forces makes it likely that it could attract such groups moving to the left.
If Enhedslisten comes under parliamentary pressure from the right. – We will not be able to avoid situations where Enhedslisten comes under pressure to, for example, accept cuts or vote for strengthening of the state if it felt it had to defend a centre-left or even social-liberal regime “to avoid something much worse”. In some situations Enhedslisten’s membership, supporters or voters may even be a part of that pressure because they could fall for a “lesser-evil” logic.
In all of these situations there will be tendencies to give up the political and organisational gains Enhedslisten has made. Important principles would come under pressure and political discussions and struggles would break out. Such situations at the same time create crisis and great opportunities for Enhedslisten. If these are not to end in a move to the right and disorientation it is important there are forces with a solid revolutionary, socialist and Marxist basis which are organised and able to intervene in the political debate.
Enhedslisten’s ability to succeed are therefore strengthened if we work as an organised group based on this platform to build and strengthen Enhedslisten. We will unite with all the others who see the possibilities in giving Enhedslisten “more class, more struggle and more party” and a part of this work is to convince as many as possible that this is the way forward.
Together we can find new answers
Even if globalisation and the collapse of Stalinism haven’t fundamentally changed the class struggle there are plenty of things we need to formulate in a new context. The task of building the global movement for social justice and rebuilding the workers’ movement in the broadest sense is a job which has a need for many hands, many heads and many experiences. Seen in this light it is SAP’s and the FI’s conviction that the building of socialist and anti-capitalist pluralistic mass parties is a condition for progress. We don’t have all the answers but a party which is large, dynamic and focused enough can find new answers. This requires a well functioning collectively working party which in fact sees itself as a force able to change society. It is also dependent on that the leadership is given and takes upon itself a more active and more responsible role in ensuring that goals are reached, that policies are developed, that organisation is done and that the political gains are harvested.
In this text we haven’t given all the answers to how Enhedslisten should be built, and SAP doesn’t have all the answers. They need to be discussed and collectively developed by Enhedslisten and in that way move towards a form of democratic centralism that will enable the party to deal with the tasks it has set itself. It is not certain that it will look like in previous successful revolutions. But we will work to find ways to strengthen the party’s united power of action so the fight can be waged 100% when necessary.
Immediately this means that we will increasingly in the future:
Focus SAP’s activities on developing Enhedslisten
Collectivise our work to strengthen Enhedslisten
Openly formulate and present our platform and proposals for the development of Enhedslisten to the rest of the party.
It is not necessarily about scrapping existing political or organisational structure in SAP but about thinking about them in relationship to this project: – when we publish our magazine Socialistisk Information or meet at our conference or branch meeting we should address the questions:
How do we use this opportunity to build Enhedslisten into a socialist mass party?
And how do we strengthen the organised tendency fighting for this?
We want every member of Enhedslisten to know what our proposals are for a stronger and more combative Enhedslisten and that we are loyal members who will be fully involved in this. We have much to offer.
The future is ours
When SAP defines its main task as building Enhedslisten as the party we need, it is the result of one of our greatest successes: the establishment and building of Enhedslisten up to now with the possibility of it becoming a mass, pluralistic socialist party with a good enough political level, leadership and will that it make the vital difference between success and failure for the revolutionary project. If this project is to be successful then it is obviously necessary that more people support it, both as sympathisers of ad-hoc initiatives such as the International Youth Camp but also as active members in the daily work of SAP.
Neither SAP or the FI have ever been goals in themselves – our tendency’s organisation is a tool for us – which we build as best we can to contribute to the socialist liberation of humanity. In the broad parties we see today our international tendency can contribute with much and assist with the necessary building and program development. In the future, or in any case as far forward as we can see, our tendency will be one of many theoretically based platforms which through discussion and action can help the party forward.
SAP and the FI are a necessary part of this struggle we are committed to win, and it is an organisation that we are proud of.