The Crisis: Make the bosses pay! - Manifesto of the International Marxist Tendency – Part Two

How to combat unemployment

The only answer to factory closures is factory occupations: a factory closed is a factory occupied! Photo by orianomada on Flickr.During the boom, when fantastic profits were being made, the majority of working people did not see a real rise in wages. They were subjected to increased pressure for ever-higher productivity and longer hours. But now, as the crisis begins to bite, they are threatened not just with drastic cuts in living standards and conditions but also with the loss of their jobs. Factory closures and rising unemployment are on the order of the day. This in turn signifies a deepening of the crisis and a further deterioration in the living standards of the people. On a world scale, millions are faced with the danger of being cast into the pit of pauperism.

For ten years the Spanish economy was presented as the motor of job creation in the euro-area. Now the ranks of the jobless in Spain have been swollen by more than 800,000 in the past year. The collapse of the decade-long construction boom has pushed Spain’s unemployment rate to 11.3 percent, the highest rate in the European Union. “It’s going to get worse; this has just started,” said Daniele Antonucci, an economist at Merrill Lynch International in London. He forecasts Spain’s unemployment rate will rise to 13 percent next year, while European joblessness will swell to 8.1 percent from 7.5 percent by the end of 2008. In reality, the figures for unemployment are far worse, but governments resort to all kinds of tricks to reduce them. The same situation exists, to a greater or lesser degree, in all countries.

The workers must defend their living standards, if they cannot increase or better it. Unemployment threatens society with disintegration. The working class cannot permit the development of mass chronic unemployment. The right to work is a fundamental right. What sort of society condemns millions of able-bodied men and women to a life of enforced inactivity, when their labour and skills are required to satisfy the needs of the population? Do we not need more schools and hospitals? Do we not need good roads and houses? Are the infrastructure and transport systems not in need of repair and improvement?

The answer to all these questions is well known to everybody. But the reply of the ruling class is always the same: we cannot afford these things. Now everybody knows that this answer is false. We now know that governments can produce extraordinary sums of money when it suits the interests of the wealthy minority who own and control the banks and industries. It is only when the majority of working people request that their needs are attended to that governments argue that the cupboard is bare.

What does this prove? It proves that in the system in which we live the profits of the few are more important than the needs of the many. It proves that the whole productive system is based on one thing and one thing only: the profit motive, or, put plainly, greed. When workers go on strike, the press (which is also owned and controlled by a handful of billionaires) pillories them as “greedy”. But their “greed” is only the struggle to make ends meet: to pay the rent or mortgage, to pay the food and fuel bills that are increasing steeply month by month, to provide for their children and families.

On the other hand, the greed of the bankers and capitalist is the greed to accumulate vast fortunes from the labour of others (for they themselves produce nothing). With this money they spend money on works of art, not for enjoyment but only as yet another profitable investment, on lavish lifestyle and extravagance, or to indulge in further speculation that always ends in economic collapse and misery – not for themselves, but for the majority upon whose productive labour society rests.

In the past the employers argued that new technology would lighten the burden of labour, but the opposite has been the case. The EU has just passed a law that increases the maximum working week to sixty hours! This is in the first decade of the 21st century, when the miraculous advances of modern science and technology have produced more labour-saving devices than in all previous history. What sense is there in this? What sense is there in having a large number of unemployed people being paid for doing nothing, while in the workplaces other workers are being forced to work long hours of compulsory overtime?

During the boom, the employers force the workers to work long hours of overtime, in order to squeeze the last ounce of surplus value from their labour. But when the recession starts and they no longer have a market for their goods, they do not hesitate to close their factories, as if they were so many matchboxes, and throw their workforce onto the streets, while exploiting the rest to their very limit. The impasse of capitalism is such that unemployment will no longer have a “conjunctural” character but will be increasingly organic or “structural”. A man or woman who is over 40 or 50 may never work again in their lifetime, while many qualified people who lose their employment will be forced to take unqualified and low-paid jobs in order to survive.

This is the economics of the madhouse! From a capitalist point of view it is quite logical. But we reject the crazy logic of capitalism! Against the menace of unemployment we advance the slogan of public works and work sharing without loss of pay. Society needs schools, hospitals, roads and houses. The unemployed must be put to work on a major programme of public works!

Trade unions must ensure that the unemployed are closely linked to the workers, bound together in the solidarity of mutual responsibility. It is necessary to share out the available work without loss of pay! All the available work must be divided among the workforce in accordance with how the extent of the working week is defined. The average wage of every worker remains the same as it was under the old working week. Wages, under a strictly guaranteed minimum, would follow the movement of prices. This is the only programme that can protect the workers in a time of economic crisis.

When they are making huge profits the property owners jealously guard their business secrets. Now that there is a crisis, they will point to their account ledgers as “proof” that they cannot afford the workers’ demands. This is especially the case with the smaller capitalists. But whether our demands are “realistic” or not from the standpoint of the employers is not the point. We have a duty to protect the vital interests of the working class and to protect it from the worst effects of the crisis. The bosses will complain that this will reduce their profits and have a negative effect on their incentive to invest. But what incentive do the majority of people have under a system based on private profit? If the vital interests of the majority are incompatible with the demands of the present system, then to hell with the system!

Is it really logical that the lives and destinies of millions of people are determined by the blind play of market forces? Is it fair that the economic life of the planet is decided as if it were a gigantic casino? Can it be justified that the greed for profit is the sole motor force that decides whether men and women will have a job or a roof over their heads? Those who own the means of production and control our destinies will answer in the affirmative because it is in their interest to do so. But the majority of society who are the innocent victims of this cannibalistic system will have a very different opinion.

A movement of occupied factories developed around Inveval in Venezuela in 2005 and it is gaining strengthBy fighting to defend themselves against the attempts to make them pay for the crisis, the workers will come to understand the need for a root-and-branch change in society. The only answer to factory closures is factory occupations: “a factory closed is a factory occupied!” That is the only effective slogan for combating closures. Factory occupations must necessarily lead to workers’ control. By means of workers’ control the workers acquire experience in bookkeeping and the administration of the enterprise that will permit them later to run the whole of society.

This has been the experience of the most advanced workers’ struggles in recent years, especially in Latin America. In Brazil (CIPLA/Interfibras, Flasko and other factories), Argentina (Brukman, Zanon and many others) and Venezuela, where the giant oil company PDVSA was restarted and run by the workers for months during the bosses’ lockout in 2002-2003, and where a movement of occupied factories developed around Inveval in 2005 and is gaining strength.

In all these cases and in many more, workers have attempted successfully against all the odds to run their factories under their own control and management. But workers’ control cannot be an end in itself. It poses the question of ownership. It raises the question: who is the master of the house? Either workers’ control will lead to nationalization, or else it will merely be an ephemeral episode. The only real solution to unemployment is a socialist planned economy, based on the nationalization of the banks and major industries under democratic workers’ control and management.

We demand:

  1. No to unemployment! Work or full maintenance for all!
  2. Down with business secrets! Open the books! Let the workers have access to information about all the swindles, speculation, tax dodges, shady deals and excessive profits and bonuses. Let the people see how they have been swindled and who is responsible for the present mess!
  3. No to factory closures! A factory that closes is a factory occupied!
  4. Nationalization under workers’ control and management of factories that threaten to close!
  5. For a wide-ranging programme of public works: for a crash building programme of affordable social housing, schools, hospitals and roads to give employment to the jobless.
  6. For the immediate introduction of a 32-hour week without loss of pay!
  7. For a socialist planned economy, in which unemployment will be abolished and society will inscribe on its banner: THE UNIVERSAL RIGHT TO WORK.

Fight to defend living standards!

While the bankers and employers made fabulous profits, in real terms the wages of the majority either stagnated or declined. The gulf between rich and poor has never been greater than it is today. Record profit levels were accompanied by record inequality. The Economist (hardly a left wing journal) pointed out: “The one truly continuous trend over the past 25 years has been towards greater concentration of income at the very top”. (The Economist, June 17, 2006.) A tiny minority became obscenely rich, while the share of the workers in the national income is constantly reduced and the poorest sections sink into ever-deeper poverty. Hurricane Katrina revealed to the whole world the existence of a subclass of deprived citizens living in Third World conditions in the richest country in the world.

In the USA millions are threatened with losing their jobs and homes, while profiteering continues apace. At the same time that Bush announced his $700 bailout plan, US utility companies reported a record rise in the number of customers defaulting on their gas and electricity bills. The largest increase in power cut-offs was in the states of Michigan (22 percent) and New York (17 percent), although rises were also reported in Pennsylvania, Florida and California.

The workers of the USA produce 30 percent more now than ten years ago. Yet wages have hardly increased. The social fabric is increasingly strained. There is an enormous increase in tensions in society, even in the richest country in the world. This is preparing the ground for an even greater explosion of the class struggle. This is not only the case in the USA. Around the world, the boom was accompanied by high unemployment. Reforms and concessions were being taken back even at the peak of the boom. But the crisis of capitalism does not only mean that the ruling class cannot tolerate new reforms. They cannot even permit the continued existence of those reforms and concessions that the workers have won in the past.

Working people derived no real benefit from the boom but are now being presented with the bill for the recession. Everywhere there are attacks on living standards. In order to defend the profits of the bosses and bankers, wages must be reduced, the hours and intensity of work increased and spending on schools, housing and hospitals slashed. This means that even the semi-civilized conditions of life that were achieved in the past are under threat. In present-day conditions no meaningful reform can be achieved without a serious struggle. The idea that it is possible to do this by agreement with the bosses and bankers is false to the core.

The idea of “national unity” to combat the crisis is a cruel deception of the people. What unity of interest can there be between the millions of ordinary working people and the super-rich exploiters? Only the unity of the horse and the rider who digs his spurs into its sides. The leaders of the Socialist, Labour and left Parties who vote for “crisis measures” involving lavish bail-outs for the bankers and cuts and austerity for the majority of society are betraying the interests of the people who elected them. Those trade union leaders who argue that in a crisis “we must all pull together” and imagine that it is possible to secure concessions by moderating wage demands and agreeing to the conditions imposed by the employers will achieve the opposite of what they intend. Weakness invites aggression! For every step back we take, the bosses will demand three more. Along the road of class collaboration and so-called New Realism there lies only new defeats, factory closures and cuts in living standards.

While unemployment inexorably rises, the cost of living also increases. Fuel, gas, electricity, food – all have increased, while wages are frozen and the profits of the big energy companies soar. In the past period the bourgeois economists argued that they had “tamed inflation”. How ridiculous these arguments sound today! Families who yesterday lived on two wages now have to live on one – or none. The struggle for life now assumes an ever-harsher meaning for millions. Inflation and austerity are merely two faces of the same coin. Neither can serve the interests of the working class. We completely reject all attempts to place the burden of the crisis, the disorganization of the banking system and all other consequences of the crisis of the profit system on the shoulders of ordinary working people. We demand employment and decent living conditions for all.

The only solution to the galloping rise in prices is a sliding scale of wages. This means that collective agreements should assure an automatic rise in wages in relation to the increase in price of consumer goods. The bankers and their political representatives tell the masses: we cannot afford higher wages because this will cause inflation. But everybody knows that it is wages that are trying to catch up with prices, and not the contrary. The answer is a sliding scale of wages, whereby wages are automatically linked to increases in the cost of living. However, even this is not sufficient. The official indexes of inflation are rigged in order to underestimate the real amount of inflation and then workers are ordered not to ask for increases in excess of these false figures. It is therefore necessary for the trade unions to work out the real rate of inflation, based on the price of basic necessities (including rents and other housing costs) and to keep this under constant review. All wage claims should be based on this.

We demand:

  1. A living wage and pension for all!
  2. A sliding scale of wages, linking all increases to the increases in the cost of living.
  3. The trade unions, co-operatives and consumer associations must work out the real index of the cost of living in place of the “official” index, which does not reflect the real state of affairs.
  4. Set up committees of workers, housewives, small shopkeepers and unemployed to control price increases.
  5. Abolition of all indirect taxation and the introduction of a heavily progressive system of direct taxation. Abolish all taxation for the poor and let the rich pay!
  6. An end to fuel poverty and a drastic reduction of fuel bills! This can only be achieved through nationalisation of the energy companies, which will enable us to impose price controls on the consumer price of gas and electricity. No more profiteering at the public’s expense!

The trade unions

The radicalisation of the rank and file will enter into conflict with the conservatism of the leadership. Photo by Han Soete.In the present period, the workers more than ever before need their mass organizations, above all trade unions. The trade union is the basic unit of organization. It will not be possible to fight to defend wages and living standards without powerful trade unions. That is why the bosses and their governments are always seeking to undermine the unions and restrict their scope of action through anti-union legislation.

The long period of boom has affected the union leaders, who have embraced the policies of class collaboration and “service unions”, precisely when the conditions for such things have vanished. The right wing trade union leaders are the most conservative force in society. They tell the workers that “we are all in the same boat” and must all make sacrifices to solve the crisis, that the bosses are not the enemy and class struggle is “old fashioned”.

They preach a bargain between wage labour and Capital, which they regard as “new realism”. In reality it is the worst kind of utopianism. It is impossible to reconcile mutually exclusive interests. In the present conditions the only way to obtain reforms and wage increases is through struggle. In fact, it will be necessary to struggle to defend the gains of the past, which are everywhere under threat. This is in direct contradiction to the class collaboration policies of the leaders, which reflect the past, not the present or the future.

In their efforts to neuter the unions and turn them into instruments to control the workers, the ruling class does all in its power to corrupt the tops of the unions and entangle them with the state. We oppose all such attempts and stand for the strengthening and democratisation of trade union organization at all levels. The unions must be independent of the state and must control their leaders and oblige them to fight consistently for the interests of the workers.

The reformist union leaders, who like to think of themselves as practical and realistic, in reality are completely blind and obtuse. They have not the slightest idea of the catastrophe that is being prepared by the crisis of capitalism. They imagine that it is possible to muddle through, accepting cuts and other impositions in the hope that everything will be all right in the end. They cling to the “good relations” with the capitalists that they imagine their conduct will achieve. On the contrary! All history shows that weakness invites aggression. For every step back they make, the bosses will demand three more.

Even when they are forced by pressure from below to call strikes and general strikes, they do everything in their power to limit such actions to mere gestures, limited in time and scope. When they are obliged to call mass demonstrations, they turn them into shows and carnivals with balloons and bands, with no militant class content. For the leaders, this is only a means of blowing off steam. For serious trade unionists, on the contrary, strikes and demonstrations are a means of getting the workers to understand their power and prepare the ground for a fundamental change in society.

Even in the previous period there was an undercurrent of discontent as a result of the attacks on workers’ rights and anti-trade union legislation. This will now come to the surface and find an expression in the mass organizations of the working class, starting with the unions. The radicalisation of the rank and file will enter into conflict with the conservatism of the leadership. The workers will demand a complete transformation of the unions from top to bottom, and will strive to turn them into real fighting organizations.

We stand for the building of mass, democratic and militant trade unions, which will be capable of organizing the majority of the working class, educating and preparing them practically, not just for a radical transformation of society, but for actually running the economy in a future democratic socialist society.

We demand:

  1. Complete independence of the unions from the state.
  2. An end to compulsory arbitration, no-strike deals, and other measures to restrict the scope of action of the unions.
  3. Democratise the unions and place control firmly in the hands of the members!
  4. Abolition of election for life! Election of all union officials with right of recall.
  5. Against bureaucracy and careerism! No official to receive a higher wage than a skilled worker. All expenses to be available for the inspection of the membership.
  6. No class collaboration! For a militant programme to mobilise the workers in defence of jobs and living standards.
  7. For trade union unity on the basis of the above demands.
  8. For rank and file control, including the strengthening of the shop stewards committees and the creation of ad hoc strike committees during strikes and other conflicts as a means of ensuring the fullest participation of the widest number of workers.
  9. For the nationalization of the commanding heights of the economy and the creation of an industrial democracy in which the unions would play a key role in the administration and control of every workplace. Trade unionism is not an end in itself, but only a means to an end, which is the socialist transformation of society.

The youth

The fight for socialism means the fight for culture in its broadest sense, to raise the aspirations of young people, to give them an aim in life that is more than the struggle to survive on a level hardly higher than that of animals. Alain Bachellier on Flickr.The crisis of capitalism has particularly negative effects in the case of the young generation, which represents the key to the future of the human race. The senile decay of capitalism threatens to undermine culture and demoralize the youth. Whole layers of young people, seeing no way out of the impasse, become prey to alcoholism, drug addiction, petty crime and violence. When young people are murdered for a pair of trainers we must ask ourselves what kind of society we are living in. Society encourages young people to aspire to consume products that they cannot afford, and then throws up its hands in horror at the results.

Margaret Thatcher, that high priestess of market economics, once said there is no such thing as society. This noxious philosophy has had the most devastating results since it was put into practice thirty years ago. This crude individualism has contributed powerfully to creating a spirit of egotism, greed and indifference to the sufferings of others that has seeped like a poison into the body of society. It is the real essence of market economics.

The true measure of the level of civilization in society is how we take care of the old and the young. By this measure, we do not qualify as a civilized society, but rather a society that is teetering on the edge of barbarism. Even in the period of boom there were already symptoms of barbarism in society, with a wave of crime and violence, and the spread of anti-social and nihilistic moods among a layer of young people. But these moods are a faithful reflection of the morality of capitalism.

The reactionaries protest loudly about this but, since they cannot admit that such things are the consequences of the social system that they defend, they are powerless to propose any solution. Their only response is to fill the prison cells with young people, who learn how to be real criminals instead of mere amateurs. And so we enter into a vicious circle of social alienation, drug addiction, degradation and crime.  

The “answer” of the Establishment is to criminalize young people, to blame them for the problems generated by society itself, to increase repressive policing, to build more prisons and hand out heavier sentences. Instead of solving the problem, such measures only serve to aggravate it and to create a vicious circle of crime and alienation. This is the logical result of capitalism and market economics, which treats people as mere “factors of production” and subjects everything to the profit motive. Our answer is for the youth to organize and join the working class in the struggle against capitalism and for socialism!

The crisis of capitalism means more unemployment and a further deterioration of the infrastructure, education, health and housing. This decay of civilized standards brings with it the risk of further social disintegration. It will mean an increase in crime, vandalism, anti-social behaviour and violence.

It is necessary to take urgent measures to prevent new layers of youth sinking into the morass of demoralization. The fight for socialism means the fight for culture in its broadest sense, to raise the aspirations of young people, to give them an aim in life that is more than the struggle to survive on a level hardly higher than that of animals. If you treat people like animals, they will behave as animals. If you treat people like human beings, they will react accordingly.

Cuts in education at all levels, the abolition of student grants and the imposition of fees and student loans mean that working class youth are excluded from higher education. Instead of being properly trained to serve the needs of society, and given access to culture, the majority of young people are condemned to a life of drudgery in low-paid unskilled jobs. At the same time private companies are allowed to interfere in education, which is increasingly being treated as a yet another market for making profit.

We demand:

  1. A decent education for all young people. A massive programme of school building and a genuinely free system of education at all levels.
  2. The immediate abolition of student fees and the introduction of a living grant to all students who qualify for higher education.
  3. A guaranteed job for every school-leaver with a living wage.
  4. An end to the domination and exploitation of education by big business. Drive private enterprise out of education!
  5. The provision of well-equipped youth clubs, libraries, sports centres, cinemas, swimming pools and other recreational centres for young people.
  6. A programme of affordable public housing for students and young couples.

“Practicability”

The crisis of capitalism means that everywhere the bankers and capitalists wish to place the entire burden of the crisis onto the shoulders of the people who can least afford to pay: the workers, the middle class, the unemployed, the old and sick. The argument is constantly repeated that, because there is a crisis, we cannot afford to improve or even maintain living standards.

The argument that there is no money to pay for reforms is a blatant falsehood. There is plenty of money for arms and to pay for the criminal wars of aggression in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is no money for schools and hospitals. There is plenty of money to subsidize the rich, as we saw with Bush’s little gift of $700 billion to the bankers. But there is no money for pensions, hospitals or schools.

The argument about “practicability” therefore falls to the ground. A given reform is “practical” or not, depending on whether it is in the interests of a given class or not. In the last analysis, whether it is practical (that is to say, whether it will be carried into practice) depends on the class struggle and the real balance of forces. When the ruling class is threatened with losing everything, it will always be prepared to make concessions that it “cannot afford”. That was shown in May 1968 in France, when the French ruling class conceded huge increases in wages and important improvements in conditions and hours in order to bring the general strike to an end and get the workers to leave the factories they had occupied.

The onset of crisis may at first produce a shock, but this will soon turn to anger when people realize that they are being asked to pay the price of the crisis. There will be sudden changes in consciousness, which can be transformed in the space of 24 hours. A big movement in just one major country can provoke a rapid change in the whole situation, as happened in 1968. The only reason that this has not yet happened is because the leadership of the mass workers’ organizations is lagging behind events and failing to present a real alternative. However, there are already signs of a change.

In the recent period there have been general strikes and mass demonstrations all over Europe. In Greece there have been nine general strikes since the right wing New Democracy party took office in 2004. In the first six months of 2008 Belgium witnessed a wave of wildcat strikes reminiscent of the 1970s. The movement spread spontaneously from one sector to another. In March 2008 the Berlin Transport Company (BVG) was paralysed by a long and militant strike of the drivers and the maintenance and administration workers. After years of concessions and backsliding by the unions the workers have said they have had enough. Thousands of students took to the streets in Spain on Wednesday 22nd October to protest against plans to privatise university education and also opposing any plans to make workers pay for the capitalist crisis through cuts in education, health and other public services.

In Italy the students are mobilising. Hundreds of thousands of school and university students, together with teachers, professors and parents are mobilising all over Italy against Berlusconi’s attempt to further privatise education. This has led to occupations of schools and universities. The response of the government has been to threaten the use of armed police against the students. On Saturday, October 11, 300,000 workers and youth demonstrated in Rome in a demonstration called by Rifondazione Comunista.

All this shows that the workers will not remain with arms folded while their living standards are destroyed. The stage is set for a big upswing in the class struggle. The workers are not interested in the logic of the profit system. Our duty is to defend the interests of our class, preserve living standards and raise the conditions of the workers to levels that approximate a civilized standard of living. If there is money for the bankers, then there is money to finance the kind of reforms we need to make society a fit place to live in!

Defend democratic rights!

In conditions of heightened class struggle, the ruling class will begin to move in the direction of reaction. Photo by Alain Bachellier on Flickr.For more than half a century, the workers of Western Europe and North America believed that democracy was fixed for all time. But this is an illusion. Democracy is a very fragile construction, and one that is only possible in rich countries where the ruling class can make certain concessions to the masses in order to mitigate the class struggle. But when conditions change the ruling class in the “democratic” countries can pass over to dictatorship with the same ease as a man passing from one compartment of a train to another.

In conditions of heightened class struggle, the ruling class will begin to move in the direction of reaction. They will complain that there are too many strikes and demonstrations and demand “Order”. Recently, Cossiga, who was Christian Democrat Minister of the Interior in Italy in the 1970s, later President of the Republic, and now life Senator, was asked what should be done about students’ demonstrations. He answered:

“Let them get on with it for a while. Withdraw the police from the streets and campuses, infiltrate the movement with agents provocateurs who are ready for anything, and leave the demonstrators for about ten days as they devastate shops, burn cars and turn the cities upside down. After that, having gained the support of the population – making sure that the noise of the ambulance sirens is louder than those of the police and carabinieri – the forces of order should ruthlessly attack the students and send them to hospital. Don’t arrest them, as the judges will only release them immediately; just beat them up and also the professors who foment the movement.”

This is a warning of what we can expect in the coming period of heightened class struggle in Italy and other countries. In the future, because of the weakness of the reformist leaders it is possible that they may succeed in establishing some kind of Bonapartist (military-police) dictatorship in one European country or another. But under modern conditions such a regime would be very unstable and probably not long lasting.

In the past in Italy, Germany and Spain there was a large peasantry and petty-bourgeoisie, which formed a mass base for reaction. This has disappeared. In the past most students were from rich families and supported the fascists. Now most students are left wing. The social reserves of reaction are quite limited. The fascist organizations are small, although they can be extremely violent, which reflects weakness, not strength. Moreover, after the experience of Hitler, the bourgeoisie has no intention of handing power to the mad dogs. They prefer to base themselves on the “respectable” army officers, using the fascist thugs as auxiliaries.

Already in the recent period democratic rights have come under attack everywhere. Using the excuse of anti-terrorist legislation, the ruling class is introducing new laws to restrict democratic rights. After the 11the September terrorist attacks, Bush rushed through the Homeland Security Act (HSA). The Bush administration is attempting to destroy the basis of democratic regime established by the American Revolution and move towards a form of rule freed from the constraints of law. Similar laws have been passed in Britain and other countries.

We will fight to defend all the democratic rights that have been conquered by the working class in the past. Above all we will defend the right to strike and demonstrate and oppose all legal restrictions on trade unions. Everyone must have the right to join a trade union and combine with other workers to defend his or her rights. Very often the defenders of capitalism contrast socialism with democracy. But the same people who dare to accuse socialists of being anti-democratic and put themselves forward as the defenders of democracy have always been the most ferocious enemies of democracy. They conveniently forget that such democratic rights that we possess today were conquered by the working class in long and bitter struggle against the rich and powerful who consistently opposed every democratic demand.

The working class is interested in democracy because it provides us with the most favourable conditions for developing the struggle for socialism. But we understand that under capitalism democracy must necessarily have a restricted, one-sided and fictitious character. What use is freedom of the press when all the big newspapers, journals and television companies, meeting halls and theatres are in the hands of the rich? As long as the land, the banks and the big monopolies remain in the hands of a few, all the really important decisions affecting our lives will be taken, not by parliaments and elected governments but behind locked doors in the boards of directors of the banks and big companies. The present crisis has exposed this fact for all to see.

Socialism is democratic or it is nothing. We stand for a genuine democracy in which the people would take the running of industry, society and the state into their own hands. That would be a genuine democracy, as opposed to the caricature we now have, in which anyone can say (more or less) what they want, as long as the most important decisions affecting our lives are taken behind locked doors by small, unelected groups on the boards of directors of the banks and big monopolies.

We demand:

  1. The immediate abolition of all anti-trade union laws.
  2. The right of all workers to join a union, strike, picket and demonstrate.
  3. The right to free speech and assembly.
  4. No to restrictions of democratic rights under the pretext of so-called anti-terrorist laws!
  5. The workers’ organizations must reject the false idea of “national unity” with capitalist governments and parties under the pretext of the crisis. The latter are responsible for the crisis and want to present the bill to the working class.