Encyclopedia of Anti-Revisionism On-Line

Fight for Full Democratic Rights

First Published: Unite!, Vol. 6, No. 10, June 1, 1980.
Transcription, Editing and Markup: Paul Saba
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The Founding Congress of the CPUSA/ML in December, 1978, adopted six tactical slogans to guide the day-to-day work of the Party. This is the second in a series of articles toward explaining each of these slogans.

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The Draft Party Program of the CPUSA/ML contains a broad series of immediate demands which reflect the fight for full democratic rights and consistent democracy. This minimum program of the proletariat ranges from the struggle to protect rights already won in struggle (such as the right to organize) and the struggle to secure consistent democracy, which enhances the fighting capacity of the working class and its allies.

Special attention is paid to the struggle for liberty, equality, and the voluntary unification of nations, which entails the right of self-determination for all oppressed nations, including the Black Nation and the Chicano Nation in the U.S. Self-determination for oppressed nations is a fundamental democratic right.

The struggle for full democratic rights is a major front of the struggle for political power by the proletariat. This is evident every day in the struggles against fascism and white supremacy, against police terror, for the right to equality of education and housing, the right to organize, the right to bear arms, the right to trial by one’s peers, and countless other struggles.

Democracy, Reforms, and Revolution

To wage the struggle for full democratic rights in a revolutionary manner, we must understand both the nature of bourgeois democracy in the United States, and the relationship between reforms and revolution.

Lenin often pointed out in The State and Revolution that: “a democratic republic is the best possible political shell for capitalism”. A good example of this lesson was offered by Engels when he addressed the question of universal suffrage. Clearly the struggle for the right to vote, by national minorities, women, and others, was a great advance for the working people. But universal suffrage, like so many democratic rights, is also an instrument of bourgeois rule. This is evident in the current election campaign, where no genuine choice exists for the working class except No Vote in November! To win this right is a gauge of the maturity of the working class, as Engels states, not of the existence of genuine democracy. Like the offering of individual stocks by a large corporation, the right to vote offers the illusion, not the reality of political power.

Therefore, in the struggle for full democratic rights we understand that reforms, in practice, must be tied to the struggle for political power. In this manner they become a step toward revolution. For example, we support the Equal Rights Amendment, not because it will bring consistent democracy for women, but because it can enhance the fighting capacity of women against capital, while at the same time point out the limitations of democracy under the dictatorship of the capitalist class.

The independence and revolutionary position of the working class in the struggle for full democratic rights can only be maintained if the struggle for democratic rights is subordinated to the struggle for political power, for the overthrow of the capitalist class, and the establishment of political power exercised by the working class. In this sense, we must devote greater attention to the tasks of tomorrow, and not yesterday.

Focus the Struggle for Democratic Rights on Fascism

The struggle for democratic rights takes on a particular focus in different periods of history. Over the history of the U.S., the focus has changed from the anti-slavery struggle, to the right of women to vote, to the right of workers to organize. The change reflects both the objective situation in the country at a given time as well as the level of consciousness and organization of the masses. Today, the focus of the democratic rights struggle must be centered on the anti-fascist struggle. This is a struggle which has direct bearing on the democratic rights of the working class and its allies. For as the fascist menace increases, the democratic rights of the working people are placed in greater jeopardy.

Today, the growth of fascism is a reality. Some of the signs are more evident than others. The KICK for example, is increasingly more active and bold about their activities. Both the KKK and the Nazis recently ran large election campaigns in North Carolina and in San Diego. State approval of the Klan is evidenced by the fact that out of the Greensboro, N.C. incident where 5 anti-Klan fighters were murdered by Klansmen, it was the anti-Klan forces who were indicted by the Federal Grand Jury.

The incredible growth of police brutality has reached such proportions that the FBI has been called in to make a show of investigating some of the suits that have been filed against police departments.

Unbridled economic and political nationalism is an integral part of preparing the ground for fascism. Issued like official proclamations from commercials on TV, from corporate offices, from government agencies and trade union officials comes the message of protectionism – crying “Stop Foreign Penetration of the U.S.”, “Protect Our Vital Interests Abroad”, and “Buy American”. Politically, this nationalism is launched under the central fascist slogan of “Make America Great Again” or “We Won’t Be Kicked Around Anymore”. This propaganda campaign is directly linked to efforts to legitimize a new imperialist war, reinstitute the draft, and increase the military budget.

On the cultural front, fascist reaction is waging a fierce battle against everything scientific. In school rooms across the country a major struggle is being waged over the teaching of evolution. And in many states already, religious views about the creation of man are taught side by side with Darwin’s scientific explanation of evolution. At the movies, horror and disaster films continue to be among the most heavily financed and promoted.

These and other aspects of fascist reaction threaten all democratic rights. The advent of fascism means the dictatorship of the most reactionary, most chauvinistic section of the capitalist class. It is a profound mistake to believe that fascism represents merely the subjective desire of a certain section of the capitalist class. Fascism is a question of necessity for state monopoly capitalism, it is the only means left to the capitalist class to try to maintain its rule. The fascization of the state is an escalating process, which is everywhere reflected in the loss of democratic rights. The importance of the anti-fascist struggle today is two-fold.

First, the struggle to defend democratic rights today, against police terror, Klan terror or for the right to organize, must be waged together and must be armed with a revolutionary understanding of the basis of the widespread erosion of democracy today. It is not simply that the rights of certain minorities or the rights of women are under attack, which is clearly true. It is that the democratic rights of the working class and its allies as a whole are in peril today. This does not neglect the harsh reality that the brunt of the attacks falls hardest against Black, Chicano, Puerto Rican, and other national minorities. But the defense of our basic democratic rights, the fight for consistent democracy as a component of the struggle for political power, must center on the most fundamental threat to the rights of all working people, which is fascism.

Second, it is a horrible mistake, as we learn from studying the history of fascism in Germany, to wait until fascism is knocking at the door to take up the anti-fascist struggle. The selection of Ronald Reagan as the Republican Presidential candidate the candidate of fascism in the U.S., is itself a sign of just how close the knock is already to the door.

The people’s front against fascism must be consciously built now, while there is still time. This front must organize all those forces for whom the question of democratic rights is apparent, and unite them around the central threat to the democratic rights of all working people, which is fascism. This must include the many struggles against national oppression and racism, the fight for the equality of women, the struggles against the fascization of the state apparatus in the courts and government agencies, the attacks against various working class organizations, etc. The people’s front against fascism will be built by many progressive organizations who unite to fight their common enemy. It must be lead by the working class, but it must avoid any sectarian tendencies to exclude potential allies.

The Party and the People’s Front

The CPUSA/ML, at the 5th Plenum of the Central Committee in May, recognized the necessity to work toward the building of the popular front on the basis of the united front of the working class.

Today, the struggle for full democratic rights stands in a defensive position, safeguarding long-won rights, guarding against future attacks, and working for the most consistent democracy. The outcome of this struggle day by day is a function of the concrete alignment of class forces, and the consciousness and organization of the working class. The CPUSA/ML rejected the sectarian views of the former faction who sought to isolate the Party from the day to day struggle for reforms and defense of our democratic rights. At the same time, our Party is combatting those views which would separate the struggle for reforms from the struggle for political power.

The correctness of the decisions of the Founding Congress of the Party has been vividly born out over the last period of time. The task at hand today is to give the tactical call of the Party concrete political and organizational form.

Fight for Full Democratic Rights!