June 14, 2024

International Consequences of the Democratic Road to Socialism

What historical and modern examples support our view on the democratic road to socialism? The degradation of the communist parties, as traced in the prior historical overview, gave rise to the Eurocommunist trend. Drawing heavily from Bernstein, this trend argued for communists to transform the state in a pro-people direction through the parliamentary road and the expansion of democracy. Many of these forces today, including those still identifying as communist, have rallied under the European Party of the Left, which claims to defend the perspective of democratic socialism, along with numerous examples from Latin America and the parties within the Sao Paulo Forum. Below, we outline a few examples of the modern and historical failures of these social democratic parties that have attempted some form of a democratic road to socialism.

Spain

Some forces still operate under the communist label but foster illusions that there are pro-people forms of managing the system. In practice, they support the social-democratic form of management. For example, the Communist Party of Spain (PCE) participated in the national coalition government, Unidas Podemos. What results did the workers and people experience? There was a complete commitment to the needs of the Spanish bourgeoisie within the framework of the inter-imperialist dispute. On December 28, the Council of Ministers, including PCE members, endorsed the National Security Strategy 2021, which placed Spain at the center of the conflict. They facilitated direct aid for consumption during the first phase of the 2020 crisis to stimulate demand and ensure the survival of companies. Once this phase concluded, they withdrew aid to the vulnerable while maintaining incentives for companies. How did this “democratized” government “aid” the people and the working class? By increasing the rate of exploitation of workers, renewing constant capital, and promoting the growth of exports and the opening of new markets.

Greece

The old forces of social democracy, which joined hands with “communist” parties or the “new” social democratic forces rooted in opportunism that split from communist parties, also operate within the ranks of the ELP in their attempts to trap the people in various management formulas. Take, for example, SYRIZA in Greece. SYRIZA includes forces influenced by the Eurocommunist current that split from the KKE in 1968 and those that split from the KKE in 1991 under the influence of Gorbachev’s “New Thinking.” This party later merged with elements from the social-democratic PASOK.

SYRIZA catapulted to victory, riding on widespread popular anger that peaked due to the severe crisis affecting Greece after 2009. Over approximately four years, Greece saw seven different governments from across the political spectrum. Capital needed a new force to cultivate illusions, and SYRIZA fit the bill. For years, SYRIZA misled the people about the nature of the crises, blaming only the “bad foreign lenders” and claiming it could solve all problems overnight. This narrative hid the real culprit, exonerated the Greek bourgeoisie, and prevented the people from drawing proper conclusions. When SYRIZA came into power (2015-2019), it signed new, even harsher deals with the European Union and creditors (the so-called 3rd Memorandum), passing measures that had previously met resistance and co-governing with far-right forces to secure a majority. It cooperated with the United States by deepening Greece’s involvement in NATO’s plans and expanding US bases. SYRIZA ruled alongside the far-right “Independent Greeks (ANEL)” party, and after ANEL’s political disappearance, part of it joined SYRIZA, which then rebranded as “SYRIZA-Progressive Alliance (SYRIZA-PS).”

The US ambassador to Greece even stated that SYRIZA was the government with which he had worked best in all previous years. The government introduced more flexible labor relations and eliminated collective bargaining for the minimum wage, which was to be set by ministerial decision, emphasizing “competitiveness” and “productivity” to prioritize the interests of capital. Additionally, the government enacted legislation reducing insurance rights and restricting the right to strike, making it more challenging for unions to engage in strike actions—all under the banner of a “democratic socialist” government.

Latin America

This experience is not limited to Europe; we observe similar patterns on most continents. Social democratic forces won elections with high hopes from the popular strata in their countries, but their tenures revealed these hopes to be false and completely misguided. Not only did they defy the expectations of the masses who supported them, but their policies generally aligned with the demands of the monopolies. This phenomenon has happened repeatedly in recent decades in Latin American countries.

Consider the case of Ecuador’s social-democratic President Rafael Correa, who served from 2007 to 2017. Initially celebrated internationally as a radical progressive, Correa went on to privatize strategic sectors of the economy and launched attacks against the country’s labor unions. He is now hiding in Belgium, his wife’s country of origin, to avoid an eight-year prison sentence in Ecuador for corruption and misappropriation of public funds.

In Venezuela, the anti-communist government of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), led by Nicolas Maduro, has used the court and mercenaries to co-opt the identity of the Communist Party of Venezuela to illegalize it. The PSUV has been responsible for corruption cases tied to losses of up to $20 billion and protecting corrupt leaders within the state oil company PDVSA. As a supposed “exit” to the crisis of capitalism, the government introduced a neoliberal adjustment package that placed the entire weight of the crisis on the working people, destroying wages, dismantling rights to collective agreements, freedom of association, and striking. This package included the dollarization of the economy and liberalization of prices and profits, leading to speculation and employer abuses, all in favor of the interests of the capitalists and mafia elites, condemning working people to misery. This anti-worker and anti-popular policy includes harassment, persecution, criminalization, and judicialization of workers who fight for their rights or denounce irregularities and corruption. Such is the case of Aryenis Torrealba, Alfredo Chirinos, and Johana González. Torrealba and Chirinos are free today due to their firmness and through national and international solidarity, though González remains imprisoned despite receiving a release order in April 2022. The PSUV has also detained workers from the Orinoco Steel Company (Sidor) using the General Directorate of Military Counterintelligence to neutralize massive protests for decent wages.

The case of Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government in Chile is a significant lesson for revolutionary forces today. Although the government was democratically elected, the institutions of the bourgeois state were left intact, leaving the possibility of a counteroffensive by the bourgeoisie. The most repressive mechanisms of the state, the police and army, were not under the control of the elected government, leaving the working class vulnerable to repression and paving the way for the 1973 coup. This outcome illustrates the mistake of thinking the working class can conquer power through bourgeois institutions by acquiring a parliamentary majority or compromising with such institutions.

These are all only a few examples. Each, in some form and with similar content, proposed the democratization and reform of the bourgeois state while leaving intact the repressive mechanisms that continue the exploitation of man by man. Social-democratic theories have roots in early anti-communist socialism and have consistently failed in practice. Examples from Europe and Latin America show that attempts at democratic socialism lead to increased exploitation while failing to bring genuine revolutionary change. The belief in a peaceful transition to socialism denies the need for revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist state.

The DSA and Its Road

We have already examined various instances of the democratic path to socialism proposed or attempted by different parties in various capitalist states. These examples are just a few among the many groups involved in the Party of the European Left or the Socialist International (SI), which offer platforms similar to the DSA. Additionally, there are those in the Sao Paulo Forum, which the DSA has considered joining. We should note that the current president of the SI is Pedro Sanchez, the Prime Minister of Spain and a member of the Spanish Socialist Workers’ Party. Sanchez exemplifies the new social democracy, leading a social democratic coalition government that serves as a crisis management tool for capital. Under this coalition, there has been an intensification of exploitation rates and a reduction of public debt through increased productivity, wage containment, and flexibility. It has also created new profitability niches for capital (such as the digital transition and “green capitalism”) while progressively withdrawing consumer aid.

We must also highlight important ideological aspects. For socialism, the working class requires a new state, supplanting the old one with its destruction and building on its ashes. Historical experience in the class struggle shows that the only solution for democratic conquest is the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist revolution. Absolutizing parliaments and bourgeois democracy contradicts the scientific laws of socialist construction and renounces the principle of proletarian internationalism. The DSA’s political platform distances itself from socialist construction by presenting itself as a manager of the capitalist economy: policies of tax regulation, wealth redistribution, social subsidies, nationalizations under a capitalist state, and a mixed economy system with state (capitalist) and private participation, which prefigures what several CPs call “market socialism.” No true socialist would ever participate in the management of capitalism.

The core theoretical error of the “democratic road to socialism” is that it negates the general laws of the revolution. Once imperialism develops, it affirms a generality: all countries with capitalist development join the imperialist pyramid. Regardless of each country’s specific capitalist development or its place in the imperialist pyramid, the communist strategy worldwide assumes socialism as the immediate task without intermediate stages. This assumption stems from the fact that capitalism worldwide is already in its parasitic stage, providing the objective conditions for the transition to socialism. National pathways to socialism that preach reformism, gradual transformation, and progressive conquest of state institutions deny the essence of the state as an apparatus for the domination of one class over another.

Denying the class character of the state as a generality leads to another theoretical error: denying the need for violence as a midwife in history, which implies denying the revolutionary way to take power. Once socialism involves the seizure of power, other aspects of Marxist-Leninist theory, such as the need for democratic centralism and the Communist Party, can be denied. Denial of the class character of the state also denies the need for the dictatorship of the proletariat.

With leaders like Lula or Bachelet, Tsipras, Obrador, Sánchez, and Maduro, there is no step toward the revolutionary process, only confusion and the prevalence of class collaboration. Such is the DSA’s road to socialism.

As communists, we must reject these mistaken positions of previous decades that led revolutionary forces to political disarmament and ineffectiveness. We counter these ideas by demonstrating that only the communist movement—those who believe in the visions and struggle of the October Revolution and Marxism-Leninism—can put the compromised supporters of social democracy and opportunism in their place. We must also bolster the ideological front as a crucial component to establish a clear line of separation between opportunism and the bourgeois class. Addressing the significant dangers posed by the rise of social democracy and opportunism requires confronting the expansion and proliferation of the ideological concepts promoted by the DSA. Social democracy, in all its forms, fortifies the state as an expression of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Whatever mask it attempts to wear, we must confront it.

The Communist Road to Socialism

In contrast to theories advocating a peaceful transition to socialism, communists assert that our current epoch necessitates a socialist revolution. This revolution cannot occur within the framework of capitalism or through peaceful means within the bourgeois state. The epoch of imperialism and monopoly capitalism intensifies contradictions between exploiters and the exploited, with the capitalist state serving the interests of capital accumulation. As the interests of the capitalist class sharply oppose those of the majority, the bourgeoisie must conceal the class nature of its state, which serves as a tool of class domination. The state acts as a “collective capitalist,” harmonizing policies to maximize the profits of capital in general. The ruling parties implement these policies through the main management models of capitalism: liberal-conservative (dominant in the US) or social democratic (prevalent in Latin America and the EU).

Advocates of social democratic models are the perfect tools for the bourgeoisie to mask its intentions. Alongside proponents of the “democratic road to socialism,” they argue that the state should work in favor of the people’s interests, dismissing it as an instrument of monopoly domination. This belief undermines the class discourse that calls for the destruction of the ruling class’s state, which represses the masses through its police, army, courts, prisons, border camps (such as those in the USA), and other means of coercion. It overlooks that reform cannot eliminate the bourgeoisie’s ideological influence through the capitalist press, telecommunications, cinema, science, art, and the church. Therefore, communists reject the reformist notion that the state is neutral or can reconcile class interests; instead, we advocate for its overthrow to establish a workers’ state. Communists do not believe that the state can favor the workers while ignoring the reactionary nature of the bourgeoisie, often expressed through their means of ideological influence. We reject the idea that actions against workers result from a lack of democracy or that we can remedy this by implementing greater democracy as a lever for moving toward socialism. Such a transformation of the state is impossible, and its advocates only to exalt bourgeois democracy, renouncing the need to dismantle the machinery of the bourgeois state and establish a workers’ state.

When the argument arises that the expropriation and nationalization of industries equate to the socialization of wealth, communists respond: the state, as previously mentioned, acts as the capitalist, managing the development of industries to accelerate capital concentration. While overseeing the wealth of expropriated companies, the state remains bourgeois, serving the bourgeoisie to establish its class dictatorship. If the state belongs to the bourgeoisie, the wealth generated by nationalized industries only strengthens the bourgeoisie and its control over the workers. Without overthrowing the bourgeois state, we cannot transform the capitalist economic base. All expropriation within the boundaries of capitalism ultimately reinforces the capitalist economic base and monopolistic development. That is why companies, once developed into large monopolies, return to bourgeois hands—this is the “privatization of the public sector.” The privatization of services reflects the bourgeoisie’s interest in achieving ever-greater profits. Even when services are state-managed, they are not free. The workers pay for them with their taxes. When the state undertakes public works with workers’ taxes, it is not with the workers’ interests in mind but those of the capitalists. For example, with the construction of each new highway or public thoroughfare, the state has only the distribution of goods or the displacement of labor required by industrialists in mind.

Today’s crises of overproduction and increasing misery underscore the inadequacy of bourgeois democracy. Those who advocate for reforming rather than dismantling the oppressive state align themselves with the old order. The agendas and debates of bourgeois parties offer no solutions to the fundamental problems faced by workers and the populace. Capitalists represent a dying social order, clinging to outdated class divisions, and they cannot reconcile their interests with the future interests of the proletariat. The socialist revolution, led by the communist party with the working class at its core, is the only path to abolishing exploitation and social classes, resolving historical contradictions by concentrating political power in the hands of the majority.

Conclusions

All opportunist ideological constructs on new economic relations are nothing more than reheated proposals of utopian socialists designed to mislead workers into believing that a social revolution is unnecessary for overthrowing capitalism. As Lenin correctly stated, our opponents feel the need to dress themselves in “Marxist clothing.”

The highest form of political democracy is socialist democracy, based on the social ownership of the means of production. Socialist democracy has nothing in common with so-called “democratic socialism,” a reformist theory that advocates replacing capitalism with socialism through democratic reforms, promoting “class cooperation” and “social peace” as supposed paths to socialism. In essence, “democratic socialism” expresses the anti-communist tendencies of right-wing opportunism and revisionism, evolving from social democracy. The term “democratic socialism” is not scientific, as it projects bourgeois democracy onto socialism and implies that non-democratic situations can exist in socialism.

Bourgeois parties, despite their differences, can adapt to the needs of the capitalist system. Therefore, we must continually confront all forms of social democracy that emerge during the reorganization of the communist party with the ideological and political advancement of the communist struggle against their proponents. The “democratic road to socialism” is a ploy used by social democracy and opportunists to conceal their complete compliance with the bourgeois system and submission to bourgeois “democracy,” ultimately serving the dictatorship of capital.