The ruling class uses its own decomposition against the workers

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In mid-January 2024, the ruling class in Germany launched a cunning campaign to defend democracy. This campaign shows all the deviousness of the German bourgeoisie in the way it is able to exploit the vile evidence of the decomposition of its system, and especially in its ability to use this against the working class.

 

A secret meeting over deportation plans - nothing but a trap in defence of democracy

In November 2023, various forces from the AfD, right-wing members of the Werteunion (Union of Values), which was part of the CDU[1] at the time, and other people met ‘secretly’ in Potsdam to discuss drastic measures to take against foreigners and immigrants. In their completely irrational plans, fuelled by hatred and nationalism, which generally contradict the interests of German capital, they apparently intend to carry out millions of mass deportations. The meeting was observed by reporters from Correctiv (and presumably also by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution). The event was made public in mid-January - and shortly afterwards the largest state mobilisation in years was underway against the right-wing and in particular against the AfD, all in defence of democracy.

This happened after intensive campaigning by all the bourgeois parties against there being "too many refugees" and in support of "mass deportations", and after more coercive measures for deportations etc ("asylum reform") had finally been agreed at the European level. This was not by fanatical and hate-filled xenophobic elements from the right-wing camp but made democratically legitimate by the German state itself taking the matter into its own hands and using repressive police measures. CDU politicians, following in the footsteps of the British Conservative government, also want to deport illegal immigrants to Rwanda. It would be naïve to think that the November meeting was just a lucky break for the ruling class.

Such meetings and the right-wing deportation fantasies of the AfD are too obviously playing into the hands of the state, as one of the biggest campaigns, promoted at the highest level, has now been launched - allegedly to protect those affected and, above all, in the defence of democracy. The aim is to distract attention from the Fortress Europe policy that has been in operation for years, under which countless people lose their lives every year in their desperate attempts to reach Europe or, once they have arrived, end up in refugee camps or have to find some other alternative. But it is about more than the hypocrisy of those in power, who want to cover up their own daily and more widely planned violent measures by denouncing the right-wing deportation plans. In reality, this is a political manoeuvre. The government has called upon the trade unions and all of "civil society" organisations, and hundreds of thousands are now gathering in almost every city, mainly at weekends, to protest against the right and in support of democracy. The state and the forces working in its favour could not have done a better job of rallying the population behind them. The trap of the defence of democracy has proved effective![2]

 

The real worsening of decomposition does not leave the ruling class helpless

All over the world those in power have a huge problem with the fact that all the parliamentary parties are losing credibility, with more and more people staying away from elections, and more and more people doubting the promises and pledges of the ruling class. People worldwide are deeply concerned about the future of the planet and the spiral of destruction triggered by capitalism with all its wars and the worsening economic crisis. At the same time, they do not have a clear understanding of where the solution lies, and many have been driven into the arms of protest parties by this lack of perspective. Consequently, the membership of the established parties is shrinking and there are more and more of the smaller "fringe parties" on both the extreme right and the left.

In many countries, the growth of populist and right-wing parties is causing major headaches for the traditional bourgeois parties, as it is further undermining the stability of governments and the cohesion of society. But the ruling class would not be a ruling class if it did not seek to exploit this underlying putrefaction of the fabric of capitalist society to its own advantage. The ploy of exploiting the schemes of populists and the extreme right - even dreams of pogromism - is about mobilising the population in support of the campaign for the defence of democracy. At the same time, the population is called on to unite behind the state to defend its preparedness for war and that is why this call for the defence of democracy is also a means of rallying the population behind the state.

 

Exploitation of growing discontent within the population as a whole

In recent weeks there have been major protests by farmers, taxi drivers, hauliers and other tradespeople against the cuts in various subsidies and in protest at the wave of austerity packages that the government has adopted to a considerable extent as a result of the war in Ukraine. These protests, supported by farmers and other small self-employed people, are a consequence of the global worsening of the economic crisis and the consequences of the war. But because of their disruptive effects on transport, these protests attract a great deal of attention and are given much publicity without them in any way putting pressure on the ruling class. The message is being spread that isolated and radical "blockades" are the main means of resistance. But these road blocks offer no perspective of unity as such against the state and its pro-war policies.

While these protests are indeed fuelled by the anger of those affected by the deterioration of their situation as a result of the effects of the crisis, they also serve as smokescreens of ideological confusion. They are not an expression of the contradictions between the two main classes of capitalism, the bourgeoisie and the working class. They only express the fear and anger of the intermediate strata, the self-employed, employees and managers of small businesses and farms who cannot formulate a perspective beyond and against capitalist exploitation. It is no coincidence that the first frontal attack, namely the social attacks dubbed "austerity measures", was aimed at the intermediate strata.  These angry protests with no real political perspectives are intended to hold back the working class from struggling on its own terrain or even lead it into the trap of interclassist struggles.

 

The defence of democracy is a tool used against workers' struggle

Another important aim of the state in initiating the campaign for the defence of democracy and the broadest possible alliance around the state is also to weaken the working class's growing capacity to fight against the narcotic of democracy.

Last autumn, the unions, in particular the public service union Verdi, where the state is the employer, had to front up several 'warning' strikes to channel the pressure of the workers. As a result of the inflation exacerbated by the war and the years of deteriorating working conditions (work intensification, staff cuts, etc.), Verdi was forced to make greater wage demands, especially at the lower end of the pay scale. These wage negotiations were ultimately all concluded in autumn 2023 - before the train drivers' union GdL came up with its demands in the winter. Of course, the GdL had waited until its rival union EVG and the other transport workers at Verdi had their wage agreements in the bag.

 

After the train drivers' strike from 24 to 29 January had been announced, and ended on 28 January, healthcare workers were called out on Tuesday, 30 January, airport workers on Thursday, 1 February, and public transport workers in many cities on Friday, 2 February, for warning strikes or protests. They were strictly separated from each other so that nobody would get the idea that there were any shared interests between the workers and to obstruct any possible feelings of solidarity, let alone any sense of the need for, and possibility of any joint actions.

At the same time, workers were denied the possibility of holding any large protest demos which, while they would of course have also been organised and controlled by the unions, would at least have enabled workers to raise common demands against their mutual employer (often the state). In other words, within a week there was resistance and anger by workers in almost all federal states against the worsening of their conditions, but they were all divided and separated from each other! It meant the unions were able to manage the situation with their timetable of neatly separated 'warning' strikes.

Against this background, there has been non-stop propaganda since January in favour of the building of a popular movement of those who are courageous and prepared to defend democracy and so on. Even if there is no "danger of explosion" of the class struggle at the moment, the state-organised protests in defence of democracy serve above all to obscure the class divide between the interests of the working class and the state machine which serves the interests of capital.

While the ruling class tries to use the putrefaction of its own society against the working class and to use sophisticated campaigns to manufacture national unity behind the state in defence of democracy and ultimately in the drive to go to war, the working class must not allow itself to be rallied behind these campaigns. Real class resistance can only be developed by throwing off the shackles of the unions and reaching a conscious understanding of the conflict of interests between capital and labour, and acknowledging the total impasse which the capitalist system has reached.

 

Wg, 05.02.2024

 

The history of the workers' movement - what revolutionaries have said about democracy

 

Democracy is still an effective means of deception, as Lenin and Bordiga wrote more than 100 years ago:

“The division of society into classes distinguished by economic privilege clearly removes all value from majority decision-making. Our critique refutes the deceitful theory that the democratic and parliamentary state machine which arose from modern liberal constitutions is an organisation of all citizens in the interests of all citizens. From the moment that opposing interests and class conflicts exist, there can be no unity of organisation, and in spite of the outward appearance of popular sovereignty, the state remains the organ of the economically dominant class and the instrument of defence of its interests. In spite of the application of the democratic system to political representation, bourgeois society appears as a complex network of unitary bodies. Many of these, which spring from the privileged layers and tend to preserve the present social apparatus, gather around the powerful centralised organism of the political state. Others may be neutral or may have a changing attitude towards the state. Finally, others arise within the economically oppressed and exploited layers and are directed against the class state. Communism demonstrates that the formal juridical and political application of the democratic and majority principle to all citizens while society is divided into opposed classes in relation to the economy, is incapable of making the state an organisational unit of the whole society or the whole nation. Officially that is what political democracy claims to be, whereas in reality it is the form suited to the power of the capitalist class, to the dictatorship of this particular class, for the purpose of preserving its privileges.”  (Bordiga, The Democratic Principle)

 

“Even in the most democratic bourgeois state the oppressed people at every step encounter the crying contradiction between the formal equality proclaimed by the ‘democracy’ of the capitalists and the thousands of real limitations and subterfuges which turn the proletarians into wage-slaves.” (Lenin, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, “Bourgeois and Proletarian Democracy”)

 

[1] AfD: Alternative für Deutschland, right wing populist party; CDU: Christian Democratic Party, “centre-right” party

[2] As usual, leftist capitalist groups of all stripes welcome and participate in this mobilisation "against the extreme right". For reasons of space, we will not go into this in detail here.

Rubric: 

Germany