Taking state power and defeating counter-revolution
Previous experience of social-democratic governments in Britain, notably in the 1960s and 1970s, indicates that a real left government must expect attempts at economic and financial sabotage. An investment strike, the flight of capital, an attack on Britain’s currency, trade sanctions and a boycott of government bills and bonds should all be anticipated.
This is why the left government must take steps to control the movement of capital, close all tax havens under British jurisdiction and use the requisite powers to control and liquidate British-owned economic and financial assets abroad. There may also be tactical value in prioritising the public ownership of sectors or enterprises according to the economic or political threat that they pose to the left government and socialist revolution at any given point.
In order to counteract anti-revolutionary propaganda, the grip of a small number of monopoly conglomerates on the capitalist mass media would have to be decisively broken. A more diverse pattern of ownership and control in the print, broadcasting, film, telecommunications and web-based media would reflect the wide range of legitimate interests and aspirations in a modern, democratic and tolerant society.
Efforts to publicise and implement even the mildest LWP policies will meet with resistance inside the civil service and associated public bodies, including regulatory agencies, the Bank of England and the state broadcasting system.
A left government does not mean that the apparatus and forces of the state are now on the side of a fundamental transformation of society. They are not, nor have they ever have been, neutral on the question of which socio-economic system should exist.
Key parts of the state apparatus will endeavour to continue operating in the interests of the system for which they were designed, as will many of their top personnel who have been selected, trained and promoted to operate it.
Therefore, the state itself will quickly become a focal point for heightened class struggle. To what extent will the monopoly capitalists and their supporters be able to use the state machine to obstruct the LWP? Will the working class and its allies be able to take control of the administrative and political apparatus, restructure and then replace it with one designed to dismantle capitalism and construct a system that serves the interests of society as a whole?
From the outset, the left government will have to introduce extensive changes in recruitment, staffing and management policies within the civil and diplomatic services, the judiciary, the police, the secret services and armed forces in order to replace key personnel with supporters of the revolutionary process.
The police, secret services and armed forces will have to be made fully and openly answerable to elected representatives of the people at national and British levels. Their functions and priorities will need to be reviewed and in some respects altered fundamentally. The introduction of wide-ranging trade union rights and civic education programmes will also help to break down oppressive and reactionary ideas and practices. Substantial improvements in the terms and conditions of employment of uniformed as well as civilian public servants will show them that the left government upholds the interests of all workers.
The state’s corps of military reservists would have to be expanded and linked with large workplaces and local working class communities. The trade union movement could be involved in its recruitment, education and administration. Over time, reflecting the adoption of an independent foreign policy based on peaceful coexistence, the balance of resources will tilt away from a full-time selective professional army towards popular military reservists with specialised professional units.
Throughout this process, the positive involvement of public sector trade unions will be essential. It will also be vital to secure the widest possible public support. This is more likely to be forthcoming if the left government’s policies regularly receive democratic endorsement by the people in elections and referendums, and all parliamentary means are tried in order to implement the government’s programme.
New bodies of working class and popular power are likely to be necessary to monitor or take over state functions and ensure implementation of the LWP.
The drive to implement key LWP policies relating to the state, capital controls, mass media ownership and membership of the EU and NATO will almost certainly meet the most determined resistance from monopoly capital and its forces within and outside the state apparatus.
Enormous confrontations will signify that the revolutionary process has entered its third, most crucial stage, following those in which the left government has taken office and then, with the mass movement, fought to enact the LWP. These new confrontations will decide whether the monopoly finance capitalists retain state power or have it taken from them by the working class and its allies.
It is also at this point that different and even contradictory interests within the popular democratic anti-monopoly alliance might come most sharply to the fore, encouraged and exploited from within the ruling class. In such circumstances, the left government and the labour movement will have to make enormous efforts to maintain the unity of the alliance through the best prioritisation of policies and choice of tactics, short of undermining or abandoning the revolutionary process itself. In particular, new forms and ways of cooperating together will have to develop to ensure that unity is maintained and cemented between the forces in the alliance and the new left government.
If progress in implementing key policies of the LWP has been obstructed to a significant extent, then the revolutionary movement and its left government, facing an unfavourable balance of forces, might have to pursue other policies in the LWP, rather than proceed immediately with those likely to spark decisive confrontations of state power.
If, on the other hand, substantial inroads have already been made into the wealth and power of the finance capitalists, the conditions will be all the more favourable for taking the advanced measures necessary to remove political power from their hands, decisively and completely.
The ruling class will battle for its very survival and can be expected to use every weapon at its disposal against the revolutionary movement and the left government.
For example, as in the 1970s, private armies might form under the direction of ex-military chiefs, supported by big business leaders and sections of the mass media. This possibility will be reduced by the measures already proposed to democratise and unionise the armed forces and to break monopoly power, not least in the mass media.
Direct foreign military intervention against a left government in Britain with mass support is unlikely. Nevertheless, there is the possibility that US and NATO military bases in Britain might become centres of intrigue and subversion. Once again, this underlines the need for an elected left government to move swiftly to close all foreign military bases in Britain and withdraw from NATO and EU armed forces.
The key factor in this decisive, third stage of the revolutionary process will be the balance of forces outside parliament and in society as a whole. In particular, it will be vital to mobilise the popular anti-monopoly alliance – led by the organised working class – to uphold popular sovereignty and help the elected government to enforce its policies.
The extent to which this process involves physical or military violence will depend upon the revolutionary movement having the best strategy to minimise the capacity for resistance of the capitalist class. As the working class invariably bears the brunt of counter-revolutionary violence, it is the duty of all serious revolutionaries to devise such a strategy, rather than propose simplistic notions of violent insurrection and armed struggle.
In any event, there can be no question: the democratically elected left government will use all the official and popular forces at its disposal to crush each and every attempt at military subversion, rebellion or invasion.
Popular sovereignty means the sovereignty of the people and their elected representatives in parliaments, governments and mass movements. This requires the abolition of all powers and institutions relating to the monarchy, including such posts as head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces, together with the royal prerogative, the Privy Council and similarly unaccountable offices of state. Such measures, for which mass support would have to be won, will themselves reduce the scope for counter-revolutionary violence against the people and their elected authorities.
Sweeping measures of reform, restructuring and democratisation will aim to replace the capitalist state apparatus with one that represents the interests of the working class and the whole population. This would establish what Marx and Lenin called ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’, by which they meant simply the rule of the working class – in Britain the vast majority of the population. This would displace the present unelected rule – or dictatorship – of a tiny capitalist class.