What is Social-Democracy?
A “social-democrat” or “democratic socialist” is a person who seeks a supposed “third way” between capitalism and socialism, or else someone who wishes to establish socialism through peaceful means. We use terms like “socialism” loosely in this case, since most of the time what is advocated is not socialism at all, but state-capitalism or capitalism with a large welfare state, such as what exists in most of Europe at the present time.
Social-democrats hold onto bourgeois and capitalist ideals, such as the idea of “pure democracy,” of “human rights,” “equality under the law” and other non-existent concepts. Of course, social-democracy is a liberal ideology that vacillates from the left, to the right, and back again, as is the case with many European politicians and social-democratic parties. Nevertheless, there are many threads common to all trends.
In a word, social-democrats are capitalists who imagine themselves socialist or want to reform the worst elements of capitalism. They desire what is essentially the status quo with significantly less inequality and poverty. As well, they believe this can be done peacefully through the ballot box, with no revolution being necessary. Human rights campaigners and charitable organizations are an example. Some of them may harbor anti-capitalist, anti-imperialist and otherwise progressive views, but the fact is that social-democracy remains firmly planted in the camp of imperialism. Social-democrats fail to look at the real relationship between boss and worker and between oppressed and oppressor.
One of the chief ideals of social-democrats is the belief in the absolute power and existence of “democracy for all.” Usually these people hold Marxism and Leninism as being anti-democratic and uphold the process of elections in imperialist countries.
If “democracy,” as these gentlemen imagine it, is only possible with respect for individual (property) rights, then democracy is not possible for most of the population of the world, and certainly not for the poorer classes in any given country. Everyone, not just Marxists or Leninists, knows that the state is not a class-neutral instrument. To see an example of this, one only has to look at proletarian rebellions in any given country to see that the force of the state is closely bound with the interests of the landlords and capitalists.
Capitalism may mean a “democracy” built for, and among, the privileged few but it certainly cannot provide “democracy for all.” Even if what exists in countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Israel, New Zealand, Sweden, etc., were real democracy rather than the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, it would only exist because it benefits from the lack of such democracy for the exploited classes.
In addition, the social-democrats make the mistake of comparing abstract ideals with reality—that is idealism and liberalism. The concept of “democracy” as they imagine it does not exist. Dictatorship and rule by violence or the threat thereof is the only choice offered for any ruling class in power, be it the bourgeoisie or the proletariat. The “democracies” that exist in the world today are all capitalist-imperialist countries ruled by the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. The results of an election in these countries depend entirely on who holds political power and who possesses the most capital to be able to hold power. Almost always it is someone born into wealth, and if rare exceptions exist, it is those who act in the wealthy classes’ interests. It has nothing to do with a majority.
One wonders, what do they consider fair conditions to have an election? Can they honestly look at over 1 billion people starving or malnourished worldwide each year and the number of people dying from preventable diseases due to a lack of capital and expect us to believe that elections occur under fair conditions?
How can there ever be a fair election when there are haves and have-nots? How can there be one when only a tiny percentage can becomes the rulers of the state? How can there be one when everyone knows that voting for leftist or even progressive nationalist leaders might result in a military coup orchestrated by the CIA, as was the case in Chile and most of Latin America? How do these gentlemen expect voters to even know what is going on when all media and education are controlled by the bourgeoisie?
“What is wrong with having high ideals?” they ask. We reply, nothing, except when ideals lead to idealism, which means to be detached from reality. The important question is what will work, not what sounds good. In order for “pure” democracy-for-all to work, there would have to be no classes. To get to a point where such a world exists and there is no coercion of this kind can only be achieved by reaching socialism and then advanced communism. In order to reach that, we need a proletarian revolution.
Uses of Armed Struggle & Revolution
Another social-democratic value is their liberal perception of armed struggle, violence and revolution. Social-democrats are universally opposed to revolution, even by oppressed peoples on pacifist grounds. As we shall show, this amounts to supporting the violence of those already in power. Usually they have with them two or three ready-made examples of a group or a people achieving progressive goals without using force, not realizing they are simply a very few cases vastly outnumbered by the rest of history.
These gentlemen do not realize that the successes of their social-democratic European countries are due to massive force far surpassing anything ever perpetrated by socialism. It is worth remembering that until a few decades ago over half of the surface of the planet earth, including the whole of Africa, was once enslaved by those countries. France, England, Portugal and Belgium in particular still owe their successes to colonialism and neo-colonialism to this day. Social-democrats also hold the reactionary opinion that violence by the oppressed is just as bad as violence by the oppressors. Do they really mean to tell us that the Vietnamese people were wrong to use force against U.S. imperialism? If Chileans had risen in greater numbers against Pinochet’s fascist dictatorship, that would have been as wrong as his death squad’s violence itself? Do they expect the starving and the war-torn to accept their conditions?
Social-democrats would do well to look at the abolition of slavery. In the end, it had to be accomplished by violence, but the world is much better for it. Even the most radically pacifist social-democrat will not debate this point. How then, can they say that all violence is the same? After the Civil War, the rights of former slaveowners to hold political power were restricted by Abraham Lincoln to prevent the restoration of slavery, much like the rights of the bourgeoisie will be restricted under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Democracy for everyone is not the solution when it comes to ruling classes and class interests. Either we overthrow the ruling classes by force, or they will continue to rule. Socialism will be the closest one can get to “democracy” in this time, and will be far more democratic than what we experience, even in the social-democratic countries. In light of this, the American Party of Labor calls on those with social-democratic ideals to study the science of Marxism-Leninism and join in the movement for a proletarian revolution.