This is a slightly edited version of a talk given during the“What Road to Socialism?” webinar held by Workers World Party on May 16.
The U.S. claims to be a democracy, but this claim is totally divorced from the reality of class struggle. The wealthy ruling class, which owns most of our economy through the stock market and banking system, also has complete ownership of our electoral process. The politicians we elect are the servants of capitalists, who will never do anything to harm the interests of their masters.
This is not a democracy; it is a dictatorship of the rich. True democracy would reflect the popular will of the masses, the bulk of whom belong to the working class. Socialist revolutions aim to take control of the means of production — the levers which control our economy — and establish rule by the working class. That’s why workers’ assemblies are so important, because they can become an engine of workers’ democracy and workers’ control over the economy.
The history of socialist revolutions is the history of political base-building. Before the October Revolution of 1917, workers organized into political bodies to control their political and economic lives. This went beyond unionizing. Workers’ councils, even without the sanction of the government, decided the most important political questions of the time. They were the government of a state unto themselves, a workers’ state that fought for the interests of their class.
Just as in 1917, the problems we face today can only be solved by a united working class. We need workers’ assemblies to take control of our economy. We need health care and housing to fall under the control of workers’ assemblies. If a business decides its workers are essential, then it’s essential that workers’ assemblies control that business. This is what we mean when we say, “All power to the workers’ assemblies.”
Comrades in Workers World Party’s Durham branch have already taken the lead in building workers’ assemblies. There, workers are banding together and vowing to organize the South. And that movement is spreading.
The movement is spreading because workers understand that if we don’t organize, we won’t win. Workers understand that if we turn away from building a mass base, we are conceding victory to the ruling class. And workers understand that, in this moment in history, we can’t accept defeat. We have to demand victory.
We have to do this now. Nonunion workers must be unionized, and unionized workers must be radicalized. Tenants, apartment blocks and entire neighborhoods must be brought together to fight landlords, developers and police oppression. Socialists must seed ourselves throughout the working class to provide political agitation, education and organization.
This is our moral duty — to unite the working class, to build a workers’ democracy, to use all our energy to defy the capitalist ruling class.
Motema (he/him) is a contributing editor of Workers World Newspaper and a member of Workers World Party’s New York City branch.