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The Period of Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Introduction (1981) 

The state and slavery are inseparable.” (Marx, The German Ideology)

What are we fighting for? What is the mean­ing of socialism? [1] What happens the day after the revolution? How do we prevent the revolution from degenerating into totalitarianism as it did in Russia? Revolutionaries and all workers in struggle have to face these questions. Although there are no simple, fool­proof answers, there are the guidelines offered by marxist theory based on the study of the history of the class struggle.

  The goal we are fighting for - an end to exploi­tation and the creation of a classless commun­ist society - has been part of the aspirations of mankind for millennia, since the beginning of class society. This longing for an egali­tarian community has, in its religious or various other mystified forms, been an impulse behind most of the creative genius of the ages. A society without classes, without exploitation, where blind economic laws born of scarcity will no longer dictate our daily lives; where there will be no money, no market relations, no wages; a society where all of humanity will be “freely—associated producers” deciding what is to be produced, when and how. A world without want, a world of abundance for ALL where other human beings will cease to be “others” but a part of a collective community; a world united into one all over the planet where “the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all” (Marx, The Communist Manifesto).

   In the higher phase of communist society when the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and with it the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished, when labour is no longer merely a means of life but has become life’s principal need; when the productive forces have also increased with the all—round development of the individual, and all the wellsprings of cooperative wealth flow more abundantly—-only then will it be possible completely to transcend the narrow outlook of bour­geois right, and then only will society be able to inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs!” (Marx, Critique of the Gotha Programme) [2]

  In such terms did Marx and Engels try to define communism.

  But they also warned against the futility of trying to draw up exact blueprints for the future society and against giving “recipes for tomorrow’s cooks”. The marxist method is inoperative to explain what exact motiva­tions will dominate humanity once the class struggle has ceased to be the motor-force of history. All we can say is mostly in the negative, that mankind will finish with the “pre—history” of class society and its goals will no longer be motivated by economic sla­very. We are too far away from this point to have anything more than a glimpse of this future because our vision is deformed by our own historical limits. Nevertheless history will not end with communism. “Communism is the necessary form and the active principle of the immediate future but communism is not itself the aim of human development or the final form of human society.” (Marx, Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts).

  Although the knowledge of where we aim to go cannot be exact in all details, a general un­derstanding of the movement is essential. Without it we cannot measure what means are necessary and appropriate to reach this goal. This is particularly vital in view of the monstrous lies Stalinism has inflicted on whole generations of the working class.

  Today we must not merely reconstitute the meaning of communism but we must realise that in our period of the decadence of capitalism, this goal is no longer a mere utopia. For the first time in history it is a historical possi­bility and necessity. We are the heirs of the workers of the Paris Commune, of Russia, Germany, Hungary and elsewhere, who shook the foundations of capitalism and tried to create the beginnings of a new society. We must succeed where they failed. The explosive contradictions of the capitalist system today in crisis make it imperative to react to the breakdown of the old society by taking con­crete steps towards destroying it and crea­ting the conditions for a new one. This massive process of change will not come of its own accord nor can it result from a pacifistic ‘conversion’ of the exploiters. It can only be brought about by the conscious intervention of a revolutionary class, by the proletarian revolution.

  The working class, an exploited class created by capitalism, is the only revolutionary class because its interests to fight against and eventually free itself from exploitation correspond to the historical necessity in decadent capitalism to free the productive forces from the fetters of profit relations and from the terrifying cycle of crisis-war-reconstruction—crisis to which decadent capitalism is condemned. The workers, the wage slaves of capitalism, are the grave—diggers of all slavery because they have no new exploitive system to set up to their advantage. The proletariat has no economy, no nation, no race, no privileges, nor any ownership of the means of production to defend [3]. The workers’ class interest in freeing themselves can only be realised by eliminating every vestige of the economic laws of capitalism and all privilege. The proletariat is the only class under capital­ism which has an interest in destroying pri­vate property [4] of the means of production. Moreover by its collective, associated labour it alone is capable of pointing to the society of the future. “In freeing itself the proletariat will free all mankind”. The proletariat will transform the vestiges of class society into collective labour, inte­grating all producers through freely asso­ciated labour, until the proletariat itself disappears as a separate class and with it, all class society.

  It is not each individual worker who is con­scious of carrying this spark or even realises as yet the potential of the present class struggle. It is the collective power of the whole international working class, united in solidarity, forged into a fighting, class-conscious unit through the experience of class struggle and driven by self—preservation to fight against exploitation that will make the international revolution against capit­alism.

  For marxists, the working class is the bearer of the international communist revolution. But communism cannot simply be decreed the day after the revolution. Society as it emerges from the shackles of the past cannot be immediately transformed into classless harmony unless we believe in the illusions of religious conver­sion, as though communism were a question of good or bad “human nature”. Human thought and action is shaped by and shapes the material conditions of man’s existence and it is these material conditions that first can and must be radically transformed by the working class.

  Thus there will inevitably be a period of transition from capitalism to communism, from the rule of capitalist productive relations to the moment when an integrated classless society has been reached. This period of transition describes by definition an un­stable society, one of constant change where all the vestiges of economic compulsion are being eliminated. The period of transition is not a stable mode of production in itself since the proletariat carries with it no “economy”; it is the bearer of the extinction of all “economy”, that is, of the management of scarcity. The period of transition is an era of constant upheaval and revolutionising in the practice and consciousness of man; it will be an essentially dynamic period of movement; if it doesn’t go forward it will degenerate.

  History has, of course, seen other “periods of transition”: from primitive communism to slave society, from slave society to feudalism and from feudalism to capitalism for example. But all previous societies were ruled by an exploiting class which was overthrown by another exploiting class. The bourgeoisie, for example, developed its economic power under the domination of feudal exploiters and its political revolution was merely the crowning point of its pre—existing economic power. The bourgeois revolution proceeded country by country, with a greater or lesser degree of success.

  The proletariat, however, is the first revolutionary class [5] which is not an exploiting class. It cannot develop any power base within the old society. The taking of poli­tical power by the proletariat is not, as it was for the bourgeoisie, the last act of a process of gradual economic domination. It is simply a jumping off point for the prole­tariat so that it can begin to transform the process of social production. The victorious insurrection of the proletariat is thus the first stage and not the last of its social transformation. And this transformation cannot be accomplished country by country with gaps lasting for decades, but only on a world scale. The communist revolution can only be an international revolution with a relatively simultaneous extension.

  Thus, unlike the bourgeoisie which could deve­lop under feudalism and allow for a certain backsliding and fragmentation in its long road from the ‘Third Estate’ of feudalism to the modern capitalist class, the period of tran­sition over which the proletariat will pre­side must first break the political framework of the old society, before it can develop. Furthermore any backsliding after the revolu­tion could indeed be fatal for the proletariat. The proletarian revolution must therefore begin by smashing the bourgeois state and its strangle­hold over society. But it cannot stop there.

  What will society be like just after a victor­ious political revolution? One enormous obsta­cle will have been eliminated by the dismantling of the bourgeois state, the defeat of the poli­tical power of the exploiters, the suppression of any political expression for the capitalist class and the expropriation of its main eco­nomic concentrations by the victorious revo­lutionary class. But at this stage, the working class will not be the only component of the new society. There will also be various non—exploiting classes and strata: peasants, artisans, petty bourgeois, the “middle classes” of the cities, the poor masses of the under­developed world who could not be proletarianised by decadent capitalism. These non—exploi­ting strata represent a majority of humanity who must be fed and integrated into a new community. But there is a long road to be travelled before this can be totally accom­plished. [6]

  These non—exploiting strata will not be politi­cally on the side of big capital. On the con­trary these heterogeneous social formations, considering the material and spiritual misery to which they will be reduced by the crisis of capitalism, will on the whole (although by no means uniformly or even actively) identify with the anti—capitalist revolution. Neverthe­less they have no class interests which push them further than this point. Their relation to the productive forces insofar as it exists is one of individual, largely unassociated, labour. For some, the meagre privileges they enjoy or think they enjoy, on the land, as artisans, or otherwise can lead to resistance to socialisation or an inaptitude in the older generation. The proletariat must seek to convince these strata that only the proletarian way forward can provide the fulfilment of their needs materially and otherwise. Only by progressively associating labour particularly in the difficult sphere of agriculture (and through the steady—pressure of the agricul­tural proletariat) can progress be made towards the elimination of all private property.

  The fight to prevent any counter—revolution of the capitalist class, the struggle to extirpate the vestiges of the law of value, to socialise agriculture, to change the conditions and goals of social production, to fulfil human needs and develop the productive forces while raising the standard of living of the producers, of welding society into the relations of solidarity and collective work which only the proletariat as yet represents — this is the task of the prole­tariat in the period of transition.

  It certainly will not be easy. You cannot merely exhort people to change, you must pro­vide the conditions for them to change. Un­fortunately, abundance and full production of everything needed to change petty producers into a collective whole and eliminate all exchange and market relations will not be ready the day after the revolution. Capitalism does not create abundance but only a potential for the development of the productive forces once they are freed from capital’s fetters. This potential will have to be gradually rea­lised. Although much suffering can be relie­ved relatively rapidly in the areas of concen­trated proletarian strength, capitalism will leave us a world in shambles. A new social reality will have to be created — it will not be handed to us.

  Thus we have the organised proletariat in the midst of a world society demanding a gigantic transformation. Eliminating wages, socialising production and distribution, transcending the dichotomy between city and country, mental and manual labour, all the elements of this social revolution remain to be done. How?

  The key to this question lies in the economic policy of the proletariat. There is nothing else; no blind economic laws left to themselves can make the transformation. On the contrary, any subsistence of “economic laws” is a danger since it means the subsistence of market relations and the ever-present danger of degen­eration back into capitalism. The society of transition will not be capitalist, nor will the proletariat be exploited by another class. Still, until the last vestiges of any exchange between different strata or different methods of pro­duction is eliminated (meaning that different social strata have been absorbed) socialism will not yet be a reality. Only the economic policy of the proletariat, which it will decide as appropriate to its class interests, can do this job. The working class remains the motor—force of society after as well as during the insurrectional phase of the revolu­tion and it has only the consciousness of its goal and its organised strength to guide’ it.

  The working class can only implement its econo­mic policy if it has the political power to make it happen, to impose it against resistance if necessary. Although the taking of political power by the proletariat is not enough in it­self to assure the victory of communism, it is nonetheless the indispensable, crucial precon­dition for any future positive social evolution. Without the political power of the proletariat firmly established there will be no one and nothing to orient this post—insurrectional society to socialism.

  What is the dynamic of socialised production? How can we tell if it is winning out over remaining aspects of the law of value? How can we avoid the fatal trap of “production for accumulation”, which would transform the prole­tariat once again into an exploited class? Are there economic measures which can be taken almost right away which would lead in the right direction? These and other questions are raised in this pamphlet, although their further exploration must be left to future studies.

Other groups (like “Revolutionary Perspectives” in their text published in the International Review, no.1) accuse us of ignoring these other aspects of the period of transition, but this is not true [7]. But the major thrust of the ICC’s discussion at this point has been to investigate the crucial question of the politi­cal power of the working class first. We are convinced that not seeing this crucial methodo­logical point is to reduce all discussion on the period of transition to idle speculation.

  This central issue of the primacy of the poli­tical power of the working class has often been referred to as the “dictatorship of the prole­tariat”. As with so many marxist terms, the Stalinist counter—revolution and leftist caricatures have so distorted their meaning that, they sound rotten to today’s ear. We are so used to the open or hidden dictatorship of capital in all its terrifyingly brutal forms that it is difficult to use such a term without conjuring up a nightmare vision of a world yet worse than the present one. In fact the dictatorship of the proletariat does imply violence, only because the oppressors and exploiters will inevitably use violence against the suppression of their privileges. We must be resolved to firmly quell all those who take up arms against the revolution [8]. Socialism will be brought to birth in a violent overthrow of capitalism because the capitalist class will oppose us tooth—and—nail in a civil war. Thus the term dictatorship of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie expresses a historical reality within which our choices are limited.

  After the revolution, once the victory against the capitalist class is decisively obtained, the situation changes. The proletariat must turn to guiding and directing society so as to extirpate root and branch the foundations of classes—and class violence. Here it is a question of reducing violence to the strict minimum needed to assure. against any regroup­ment of bourgeois forces and, if necessary, to settle armed resistance to measures of socialisation. Non—exploiting strata will never be brought to socialism at gunpoint. In this phase, “the dictatorship” should be taken to mean the leadership of the proletariat as a whole within the social transformation using violence only if other strata pose armed resistance.

  Dictatorship will not mean the dictates of a party over the proletariat. Only the proletariat as a whole organised in its workers’ councils will take political power. Nor can dictatorship mean any violence against the proletariat by any part of itself. Only the most flourishing proletarian democracy within the workers’ councils, with the greatest free­dom of the press and assembly and collective decision—making, can provide the insight and strength necessary to implement a communist programme. Workers must convince each other of the road to follow - any violence within the working class is excluded because it paralyses and destroys the very links of solidar­ity and collective decision—making which are the key to socialism. No one can create so­cialism without the self—activity of the entire working class and no one can hand it to the workers on a platter. Only the col­lective practice and consciousness of the class, never divided against itself, can correct any errors.

   The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin—Trotsky theory of the dictator­ship is this: that the socialist trans­formation is something for which a ready—made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is, unfortunately - or perhaps fortunately - not the case. (...) The proletariat should and must at once undertake socialist measures in the most ener­getic, unyielding and unhesitant fashion, in other words, exercise a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or of a clique — dictatorship of the class, that means in the broadest public form on the basis of the most active, unlimited participation of the mass of the people, of unlimited democracy. (...) Yes, dictatorship! But this dictatorship consists in the manner of applying democracy, not in its elimination (...). But this dictator­ship must be the work of the class and not of a little leading minority in the name of the class——that is, it must proceed step by step out of the active participation of the masses; it must be under their direct in­fluence (...). But socialist democracy is not something which begins only in the promised land after the foundations of socialist economy are created; it does not come as some sort of Christmas present for the worthy people who, in the interim’, have loyally supported a handful of socialist dictators.” (Rosa Luxemburg, ‘The Russian Revolu­tion’ in Rosa Luxemburg Speaks, Pathfinder, pp. 394-5)

  How does a proletarian dictatorship exist and react within the context of this democracy? Democracy for whom? Certainly not for the capitalist class which will be excluded from political rights and expression. For the proletariat? Definitely. But what about the non—exploiting strata? They cannot be willed away into a corner for the duration of the period of transition. The proletariat rejects the logic of capitalism in its Stalinist or fascist or hypocritically bourgeois democratic forms — a logic which proceeds by burning, shooting, drowning and slaughtering all those who oppose such policies of suppre­ssion. In the period of transition the non—exploiting strata must be associated into the process of social transformation while the material basis for the existence of classes is being eliminated. In fact, the integra­tion of these individuals into a new collec­tive consciousness is an integral part of eliminating classes. The new society cannot be built on the passivity and silence of millions.

  But these non—exploiting classes must not regroup as classes or distinct social strata because, as such, they have no class interest in socialism. They may indeed perceive the anti—capitalist status quo as more or less advantageous to them and thus they will have a distinct class interest in trying to main­tain this status quo and thus preserve their existence as classes. But the working class must know and say that any permanent ‘stabilisation’ of’ any status quo in the period of transition will halt the march towards soci­alism and condemn the entire society to re­gression. Thus it cannot be these strata and other classes organised as such which will participate in the democracy of the period of transition; if they did so then the democracy of the period of transition would become a grab—bag of different classes taking a ‘vote’ on socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat would be doomed in advance.

  How then will society be organised so that these strata can be fragmented as social classes and yet gradually integrated as indi­viduals into society? This question leads directly to the main subject of this pamphlet: the state in the period of transition.

  First of all why will there be a state and what state will exist? Although the proletariat will destroy the bourgeois state, it can­not make classes disappear immediately and so it cannot prevent a new state, modified in form and content, from appearing. A divided and conflicting social reality will inevitably find expression in a political superstructure. Politics will only die with economics because “political power is precisely the official expression of antagonisms in civil society” (Marx, Poverty of Philosophy). This new state form is not part of the communist programme as such; if there were only proletarians in the world there would be no need for a state; if there were only one class in the world, there would be no more classes any more. If we still have to suffer yet another “govern­ment of persons”, it is not of the proletariat’s choosing but of historical necessity.

  Because it is historically inevitable, this state form must be used by the workers if the working class is to orient society in its direction. The state must be used by the proletariat to protect the revolution from its opponents and to assure the cohesion of the society of transition.

  Just as the proletariat must control, lead and direct the whole society from within it, it must do the same with the state. Just as the proletariat cannot dissolve itself by decree into the rest of society in a dissolution of its class strength, so it cannot dissolve it­self into the state but must control and dom­inate it from within. The working class cannot do without the state because it will not be alone in society and cannot immediately realise its full programme. Yet it cannot forget right from the beginning of its dictatorship that the fulfillment of its programme is the elimination of all states.

   Taken in its grammatical sense a free state is one where the state is free in relation to its citizens and is there­fore a state with a despotic government. This whole talk about the state should be dropped especially since the Paris Commune which was no longer a state in the proper sense of the word. The “people’s state” has been thrown in our faces by the anarchists too long, although Marx’s book against Proudhon (Poverty of Philosophy) and later the Communist Manifesto directly declare that with the introduction of a socialist order of society the state will of itself dissolve and disappear. As, therefore, “the state is only a transitional insti­tution which is used in the struggle, in the revolution, in order to hold down one’s adversaries by force, it is pure nonsense to talk of a “free people’s state”; so long as the proletariat still uses the state, it does not use it in the interests of’ freedom but to hold down it adversaries and as soon as it becomes possible to speak of’ freedom the state as such ceases to exist”. (Letter from Engels to Bebel, 1875, quoted by Lenin in State and Revolution and commented on in his notebook, Marxism and the State)

  What is meant by “no longer a state in the proper sense of the word”? The state in the period of transition will be “a state with its worst sides lopped off”, a “semi—state”. To the extent that the ruling class is a non-exploiting class, the working class will attenuate the pernicious effects of the state as far as possible as it did in the Paris Commune: workers’ delegates and all state officials revocable at any time; destruction of any armed force separate from the control of the working class; permanent control over the state’s functioning; officials and dele­gates to be paid no more than a workers’ wage, etc.

  But if the idea that the state can be abolished by decree the day after the revolution is a figment of anarchist sentimentalism, warnings about the state, even the semi—state of the period of transition can be found throughout Marx and Engels’ writings:

   At best it is an evil inherited proletariat after its victorious for class supremacy, whose worst victorious proletariat will have as speedily as possible, just as the Commune had to, until a generation reared in new, free social conditions is able to discard the entire lumber of the state”. (Engels, Preface to The Civil War in France)

  We can only say with Lenin as he tries to rediscover and interpret the marxist position on the state up to his day in State_and_Revolution: “What a howl about ‘anarchism’ would be raised by the leading lights of present-day ‘marxism’ which has been falsified for the convenience of the opportunists, if such an amendment to the programme were suggested to them [to substitute the word Gemeinweisen/Commune for the word state].” If marxism has rejected the anarchist formulation of the ‘abolition of the state’, it is not to sing the praises of the state in the period of transition, but to defend the idea of the “withering away” of the state, of the “semi— state” which already expresses this dynamic.

  But in the complex situation of the society of the period of transition how is the proletariat to push this dynamic to its fruition, towards the disappearance of the state?

  In dealing with this question there is not much historical experience to go on. There has been the Paris Commune in one city and the Russian revolution, victorious but isolated in one country, in 1917. There are, however, important lessons to be drawn.

  Marx and Engels drew an essential lesson from the Paris Commune and modified the Manifesto accordingly: the bourgeois state cannot be “taken over” or conquered by the proletarian revolution, it must be smashed. But the Paris Commune was essentially made up of workers [9]. The Commune did not have to deal with the problem of the relationship between the working class and the countryside for obvious reasons. Therefore, no contradiction was seen between the proletarian dictatorship and democracy, full participation of all non—exploiters in the state.

  Thus in 1918 Luxemburg, writing in the Russian Revolution, could mistake democracy for the Constituent Assembly! Lenin, writing on the future state and basing his analysis on the Commune, the Russian experience of 1905, and a defence of marxism against anarchism and Kautskyism referred indiscriminately to “the state of armed workers”, the “organisation of armed people (?)”, “the state of the immense majority of people”, and a “proletarian dic­tatorship shared with no one”. He, too, saw no potential contradiction between the dictatorship of the proletariat and the “widest pos­sible democracy”. There is no inkling in State and Revolution that any opposition could develop between the proletariat and “its state”. Only later, faced with the reality of the new state, did he admit the need for the workers to defend themselves to some extent against the “bureaucratically deformed” state (Cf. Trade Union Debates in the Bolshevik Party, 1920—21).

  The limits of marxism are the limits of the historical experience of the working class struggle. The limits of the Commune and 1905 in time and geographical terms meant that the problems of the proletarian dictatorship could not be seen in their full depth. The contra­dictions of the society of the period of tran­sition were not fully perceived and therefore could not be completely answered in theory. In practice, after the victorious October insurrection, Lenin and marxists of that period certainly came right up against these contradictions — and with tragic consequences.

  Lenin referred to the state in that period as a “workers and peasants’ state” — a formulation and a reality which negated the dictatorship of the proletariat. For the Bolsheviks, the dictatorship was expressed and defended mainly, if not solely, by the proletarian political party which became a state-party. Through its party, the proletariat dissolved itself into the state. But if an evil inherited from the past was destined to wither away, the only expressions that “withered away”, or more precisely were undermined by Bolshevik policy, were the workers’ councils! The state, far from having its worst sides lopped off, was strengthened not through any democracy but through a gradual absorption of civil society. It became, with Russia’s isolation, the stronghold of the state capitalist counter-revolution.

  The Bolsheviks feared coming from the White direct expressions of the counter—revolution Armies and other the bourgeoisie and defended the revolution against these dangers. They feared the return of private property through the persistence of small— scale production, particularly that of the peasantry, and they held no illusions about having eliminated the law of value. In fact, they went much too far and embraced state capitalism as a step towards socialism. But the danger of the counter-revolution did not come from “kulaks” or from the horribly massacred workers of Kronstadt and the “White plots” the Bolsheviks thought they saw behind this uprising. The counter—revolution won over the corpses of the German proletariat defeated in 1919 and it took its hold in Russia through what was supposed to be the “semi—state” of the proletariat. In a revolution isolated in one country or even on one continent for very long, the dominant mode of production in the rest of the world will inevitably assert itself.

  That an isolated revolution will be defeated is a lesson now seared into the minds of the working class. The internationalisation of the struggle is its very life’s blood. But the other new lesson which cannot be ignored, and was not foreseen, was that the counter-­revolution can come not only directly from the troops of Versailles as it did in the Paris Commune, but from the state which was supposed to represent the dictatorship of the proletariat.

   In a period of proletarian political power, a period of extreme upheaval when the prole­tariat does not have the material means to impose its programme, to keep power, because the revolution has not generalised enough internationally, the state will merely form and reform an even more alienated social cohesion on the only basis permitted by the dominant reality in the rest of the world. It is not so much the “why” that is difficult to explain, but the how. The proletariat’s experience with the state in the period of transition is so limited that this possibility was never seriously raised even theoretically before the Russian revolution. The specific Russian experience will probably never be repeated again since history does not operate on the level of endless identical repetitions. But the insights on the relationship between the proletariat and the state can only be ignored at our peril. To refuse to try to grapple with this problem is to ignore the central issue that marxism has not yet completely elucidated. Whatever other speci­fic conclusions are to be drawn from the Russian experience, the least that can be said on this question of the state is that it did not resolve the issue favourably. The proletariat was bloodily confronted with contradictions that marxist theory had not entirely foreseen.

   How is the dictatorship of the proletariat to be expressed through a new ‘democracy’? How can we avoid the state getting out of the con­trol of the workers’ councils as it did in Russia to become the embodiment of state capi­talism and the counter—revolution? How are we to impose a dictatorship of the proletariat over the state and assure against a dictator­ship of the state over the proletariat? What is the role of the workers’ councils in rela­tion to the state form and within it? Is the “semi—state” a “workers’ state”? How can the workers’ councils limit the negative effects of this “necessary evil”? There are the questions this pamphlet attempts to explore.

[1] In this pamphlet, the terms socialism and communism are used interchangeably for the period of classless society, what Marx in the Critique of the Gotha Programme called “the higher stage of communism”. Preceding this period and going from the first successful proletarian revolution anywhere in the world up to the world—wide creation of a communist society is the period of transition.

[2] From the bourgeois point of view it is easy to declare that such a social order is “sheer utopia”, and to sneer at the socialists for promising everyone the right to receive

from society without any control over the labour of the individual citizen, any quantity of truffles, cars, pianos, etc. Even to this day most bourgeois “savants” confine themselves to sneering in this way, thereby betraying both their ignorance and their selfish defense of capitalism.

Ignorance - for it has never entered the head of any socialist to “promise” that - the higher phase of the development of communism will arrive; as for the great socialists’ forecast that it will arrive, it presupposes not the present productivity of labour and not the present ordinary run of people, who, like the seminary students in Pomyalovsky’s stories, are capable of damaging the stocks of public wealth “just for fun”, and of demanding the impossible”. (Lenin, The State and Revolution, Chapter V, no.4, ‘The Higher Phase of Commun­ist Society’)

[3] “In this the proletariat, according to Marx, would differ from other classes in history which on attaining victory, still depended on the continuing existence of their opposite and complementary classes. The feudal baron needed a villain in order to be a baron; a bourgeois needs a proletariat in order to be a bourgeois - only the proletariat as a true ‘universal class’ does not need its opposite to ensure its existence”. (Avineri, Social and Political Thought of Karl Marx)

[4] By private property is meant that the material conditions of production are in the hands of non—workers in the form of property in capital and land. This private property can be either individual ownership or the collective ownership of the capitalist state (state capitalism) in varying degrees.

[5] There have certainly been other exploited classes in history, but they were not the revolutionary class of their time because they were not and could not have been (given the limited development of the productive forces) the bearers of a new form of social organisation. The slaves under Roman rule revolted with Spartacus against their oppression, but the need to develop agriculture and production generally imposed the beginnings of what would become feudal relations. Similarly, serfs rebelled but whether they did or did not couldn’t have changed the fact that the nascent bourgeois merchant class of the cities developing outside feudal bonds (what­ever their sociological origins in the first place) was destined to revolutionise society, because it was this class which was the bearer and agent of a new mode of production. Thus it is essentially because of the degree of development reached by the productive forces today - that the exploited class can and must be the revolutionary class today, the antithesis of capital bearing its negation and transcendence of all economic restraint.

[6] We have often encountered a misunder­standing on this question. Many people looking at their own country, England or Germany for example, doubt the fact that integrating other strata will be a “problem”. After all there are no peasants in England! Or so few as “not to count”. But the basic point is that the period of transition must be seen on a world scale. There is no “communism in one country” or even on one continent. The period of tran­sition must be understood in terms of the planet and all of humanity, two—thirds of which are starving today. Even assuming that property relations will not be very difficult to break down, there is a whole process of social integration of those social strata capitalism has left to misery which must be undertaken. Furthermore, there are all the ideological vestiges of a millennia of class rule which weigh on the minds of men. This force of inertia must be broken and here no ‘continent’ can consider itself above the fray. All the divisions of humanity: racial, religious, sexual must be bridged and trans­cended along with all the psychological de­formations of class society. And all this ‘as we go along’, as we work to change mater­ial reality. Whoever claims that we can leap head first into communism because he sees himself on an island has not even begun to grasp the issue.

[7] “Revolutionary Perspectives”, today The Communist Workers Organisation, publishes a review Revolutionary Perspectives and a news­paper Workers’ Voice in Great Britain.


[8] It is important to note, however, that the class violence of the proletariat is not like that of the bourgeoisie in certain important respects. It is not aimed at creating a society of terror because it has no exploited class to keep down. Its violence is essentially defensive and not on the model of the Terror installed by bourgeois revolutions. Despite Trotsky’s praise of the ‘Red Terror’ in Terrorism and Communism, one cannot say that this experience, culminating in the recreation of a secret police and the massive strengthening of the Tcheka, is a positive example for the future. Similarly, because of the aims of the proletarian revolu­tion, certain means cannot be useful (the bourgeois terror of concentration camps, tor­ture and genocide) nor ever used. For a fuller study of this question see “Terror, Terrorism and Class Violence” in the Inter­national Review, no.3.


[9] “In 1866, five years before the revolt of the Paris Commune, out of 1,799,980 inhabitants in Paris, 51% earned their living from industrial labour. The number of those earning a workers’ wage was 729,548 or more than 40% of the population of Paris. Thus the popula­tion of Paris in 1866 was marked by a majority of workers in relation to other social classes” (Kazim Radjavi, La dictature du proletariat et le dépérissement de l’Etat de Marx a Lenine, Editions Anthropos).