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The New International, February 1946


Revolutionary Communist Party of Belgium

The Importance and Scope of Democratic Slogans



From New International, Vol. XII No. 5, May 1946, pp. 152–153.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


(Resolution adopted by the Revolutionary Communist Party of Belgium, Section of the Fourth International, 1945)

1. Ever since “liberation,” the situation in every country of Western Europe, has been objectively pre-revolutionary. Successive political crises, the well-known incapacity of the bourgeoisie to restore these countries from their ruins and to stabilize its state power in the slightest degree, could have given a tremendous impulse to the revolutionary crisis. This impulse has been delayed and continues so because of the lack of political maturity of the masses and the extreme weakness of the revolutionary vanguard. The failure of a German revolution to take place following the long years of occupation has had the following consequences:

  1. the overwhelming majority of the toiling masses still follow the reformist and Stalinist parties,
  2. they are still filled with democratic illusions once more infused with life by the occupation and they see unclearly the solution to a series of vital problems which are posed to them through a new democratic parliamentary experience, and
  3. they are not yet thinking of the passage to the open revolutionary struggle for POLITICAL power (creation of soviets, overthrow of the state).

2. The bourgeois democratic regime has lost all its material bases in Western Europe. In these countries the bourgeoisie cannot hope for the slightest “restoration” of its shattered economy or for the reconquest of its share of the world market except by throwing the whole burden of the war, the destruction, etc., on the back of the working class. The main perspective of the European bourgeoisie is to set up “strong” regimes, more or less bonapartist in character resting primarily on the most reactionary forces and apparatus available: the monarchy (Greece, Jugoslavia, Rumania, Belgium, Italy, Spain), the army (France, Spain, Italy, Greece), the Church (Spain, France, Belgium, Italy). This tendency is counteracted or neutralized by the pressure of the WORKERS who are defending what they consider to be the most important gain from the “liberation”: the restoration of democracy. This conflict may result in open or latent civil war, the former as in Greece, the latter as in Jugoslavia, or in a series of violent political crises as in France, Italy. But one thing is clear: “The bourgeois democratic” regime unlike the period of 1918 is no longer imposed by the bourgeoisie on the proletariat struggling for soviets. On the contrary, it is the pressure of the working class which is now imposing the ((bourgeois democratic” regime on the bourgeoisie which requires a dictatorship. Of course democratic phraseology still is a means whereby the bourgeoisie tries to “canalize” the revolutionary tendencies of the proletariat. But the struggle for democratic objectives assumes a clearly revolutionary character, and carried to its conclusion, destroys the bases of the bourgeois regime.

3. Two factors, the revolutionary temper of the masses and the absence of the material bases of bourgeois “democracy” give exceptional importance to democratic slogans in the present situation. These slogans, in one form or another, are the principal or in any case, one of the principal points of departure for the agitation of the revolutionary parties. The immediate goal of this agitation must be to lead the working class to break with the reformist-Stalinist parties.

Linked to SP-CP Government

This break can pass to another stage only through the experiences of the masses with a government composed solely of representatives of these parties. The slogan, break the coalition, socialist-communist government, is now the central slogan in most countries of Europe. Now it is an agitational slogan, which must be advocated in a concrete way daily, on all questions that stir the masses. What are the possible points of departure for advocating this slogan? First of all, it goes without saying, every burning economic and social question. But that is not enough. The primary task of the revolutionary party is clearly to politicalize the demands and actions of the masses. Can we demand of the reformist and Stalinist leaders that they break the coalition with a bourgeois party in order to build soviets and proclaim the proletarian republic? Surely not. It is clear that the masses of socialist and communist militants, can consider the question of the “proletarian republic” only as a purely propagandistic question, concealed in the fog of the future. If this were not so they would not follow parties, up to their neck in “ministerial collaboration;” But on the basis of democratic slogans we can and must demand of the reformist and Stalinist leaders that they break the coalition with the bourgeois parties. This is possible because the masses, of their own will, attach tremendous importance to these slogans; because they are able to send their masses into action; because they are in fundamental opposition to bourgeois politics and attack the most important pillars of the bourgeois state already deeply undermined (the monarchy, army and church). The SP and CP have inscribed in their program “Republicanism.” They have practically denounced all the rottenness of the monarchy. The masses which still follow these parties can immediately grasp the meaning of the slogan: Break the Coalition. They can also understand that if their parties are really against the King, then they must break the coalition with the royalist parties. That is especially true for Italy, but nonetheless for Belgium, Greece, etc.

4. While advocating the slogans “Republic” and “Constituent Assembly” we do not assign goals but only points of departure for the action of the masses. These slogans are algebraic formulas. They can acquire entirely different meaning and contradictory content according to the concrete situation arising out of the fight for these objectives. At the present stage we are deliberately leaving open the question what kind of a republic or constituent assembly do we want? To proclaim the slogan “Proletarian Republic” is to isolate oneself from the action of the masses. No part, not even the smallest is ready, ready now, to struggle for this objective. Not to advocate the slogan, from a constitutional point of view, signifies abstaining in practice from participation in the struggle of the masses. By advocating the slogan of republic our intent is to facilitate a break from the leaders of the SP and CP and to set the masses in to action. At a later stage when for example, the leaders of the SP-CP should proclaim al bourgeois republic we would denounce the reactionary character of this act, to which we would oppose the program of these parties.

5. For the democratic slogans really to be motive forces of the mass movement, they must be advocated under the following conditions:

  1. Not isolated but in connection with the principal transitional slogans and even this not in the sense that conquest of the republic and constituent assembly could guarantee in any form whatever the sliding scale of wages or workers control of production; but only in the following sense: breaking with the bourgeois parties over the question of a republic. The Socialist and Communist government must be forced by mass action to carry out the sliding scale and worker’s control.
  2. While advocating democratic slogans the party must always be careful to put the masses on guard against any illusion that their lot can be improved. We must always clearly state that only the action of the masses can change the situation, and that a bourgeois republic would not be essentially different from a bourgeois monarchy. But we are very well aware that when the masses are mobilized for the slogan of a republic and when they see they cannot gain this objective, they will not stop at that point but will forge ahead.

6. It is false to oppose democratic slogans to class or revolutionary action. The masses are by no means confronted with the alternative: either struggle for the republic or for the revolution. The real alternative with which they are confronted is the following: passively to sit by while a more or less camouflaged bourgeois dictatorship is set up because of the capitulation of their leaders and be enticed by the ritualistic proclamations of the ultra lefts for socialism; or to undertake revolutionary action – any broad action of the masses directed against a bastion of the state or capitalistic property necessarily assumes this character in the present crisis – taking as a point of departure, the struggle for an objective they understand fully, the republic. The democratic slogans are not “derivative” of the action of the masses, but only the contrary, objectively as well as subjectively its point of departure.

Its Point of Departure

7. It is just as false to oppose the slogan of soviets to democratic slogans. The soviets or other organs of political power of the working class (for example, the committees of militia in Spain) always spring up on the basis of a struggle for immediate democratic objectives. In the beginning they are organs of the united front of the different working class parties for a common struggle-abolition of czarism, struggle against fascism, etc. It is precisely out of a mass action for democratic slogans, an action into which other working class parties can be drawn under the pressure of the masses, that soviets can and must be born. (For instance, L. D. Trotsky’s position toward “the committees of the Popular Front” in France: drive out the heads of the radical party, brings into them delegates from the factories and neighborhoods, and you will have soviets. The Revolutionary Communist Party had an identical policy toward the “Committees of Vigilance” and the “Committees of Democratic Alliance.”)

8. In his book The Third International After Lenin and in very many of his writings since, Leon D. Trotsky relentlessly combatted the narrow and mechanistic theory of Stalin-Bukharin that certain slogans could “only” have value for fixed categories of countries, that certain countries might be “ripe” for one slogan and other countries for another. This theory has now been taken over by the document of “Against the Stream.” It maintains that democratic slogans cannot be advocated in countries where the bourgeois democratic revolution “has been achieved.” This constitutes a complete revision of traditional Bolshevik-Leninist conceptions. In fact, L.D. Trotsky in the past defended the application of democratic slogans:

  1. In 1930–31 before and after the beginning of the revolution in Spain (The Spanish Revolution in Danger).
  2. For Italy (The Spanish Revolution in Danger) – a polemic with the Bordighists (Transitional Program).
  3. For Belgium where he advocated the slogan of the republic in 1934–36.

What is more, there is a document published by the International Communist League in 1934 “after the vote granting full powers,” the organization in which the leader of “Against the Stream” took part and a document which he in all likelihood wrote himself.

In the same way Rosa Luxemburg in 1919, at the Congress of Spartacus. defended the slogan of Constituent Assembly against the ultra left wing which unfortunately controlled the organization. All these countries where the slogans of republic and constituent assembly were applied are countries where the bourgeois democratic revolution has long since been “achieved.” The choice of slogans must not be determined by some “historic nature” of the country but by the objective conditions which prevail there and by the temper of the masses. These are the points we have tried to emphasize in the preceding.

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