National Sections of the L5I:

A government of the workers and poor peasants

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Economic crises and wars create no shortage of revolutionary opportunities for the working class. But these crises do not wait for the working class first to get its house in order. Often the question “who will take the power?” is posed before the workers have organised a mass revolutionary party of their own.

In these situations, the working class inevitably looks to its existing leaderships to serve its interests in government. Either by elections or by direct action, workers try to bring “their” parties to power. Revolutionaries know that in government the reformist leaders will serve the capitalist class by demobilising the struggle. Revolutionaries must always say what is. They must tell this unwelcome truth without equivocation.

But to leave things at this would be to abandon the whole method of our transitional programme. This programme is not an ultimatum to the masses. It does not demand of workers that they must first abandon their organisations before they can fight for our demands and slogans. Our programme is based on the interests of the working class – and, therefore, we want workers to demand that all workers’ organisations should take them up.

For this reason, revolutionaries raise the slogan for a workers’ government. We call on the existing workers’ leaders – their unions as well as parties – to break with the capitalists and take concrete steps to solve the crisis in the interests of the working class.

The agitation for this, vigorously carried out amongst the mass base of the labour movement, can greatly increase the influence of revolutionaries. It can help in changing the attitude of the membership of the reformist organisations from passive reliance on whatever their leaders propose, to making demands for concrete actions themselves. It can expose the unwillingness of the leaders to stop servicing the capitalists even in the direst situation.

So long as the reformist leaders refuse to break from the bourgeoisie, so long as they use the state forces against the workers’ struggles, we say that this is no workers’ government but a government of the capitalists that has to be fought like any other.

But it is possible – even probable – that, in a deep and prolonged revolutionary crisis, a change will occur within the reformist parties and in their relation to the working class. Under pressure from their mass base, they may shift strongly to the left: this certainly happened in Spain in the 1930s, and in Chile and Britain in the 1970s. They may adopt radical proposals for reform, even measures of taxation, nationalisation and state control that really hurt and enrage the capitalists.

Were a government of such parties to materialise then, even if left-reformists, or even self-styled “revolutionaries”, were to dominate it, it would remain a bourgeois government if it still rested on the armed forces and institutions of the capitalist state. Revolutionaries could never join such a government. We would defend it from the capitalists’ attempts to depose it while stepping up agitation for it to break with the bourgeoisie.

The danger of such a government is that, faced with the economic sabotage of the capitalists and the resistance or outright revolt of their state forces, it would break up, retreat or surrender, opening the road to the forces of counterrevolution. Then the revenge of the capitalists would be a bloody one.

Revolutionaries would call for decisive economic measures against capitalist sabotage – expropriation of their industries and workers’ control. But we would not stop there. To prevent the threat of a coup, we would demand the building and arming of a workers’ militia and the breaking of the control of the officer caste over the rank and file of the army. Only if the regime took these steps and based themselves on mass organisations of the armed working class would it truly be a workers’ government.

The fight for a workers’ government can be a bridge to the taking of power by the working class and the establishment of a revolutionary regime. But it is not an inevitable stage or schema. If the masses break free from their bureaucratic leaders, if the most militant workers build a revolutionary party and workers’ councils before such governments come into existence, then the slogan for a workers’ government will simply be a call for the workers’ councils to take power.