Since communism is not a utopia, or an abstract ideal, its roots lie in the preceding society. The possibility of and objective conditions for communism derive both-from the internal contradictions of capitalism, and the political capacity of the revolutionary class to overthrow capitalist society. It is both the degree of the development of the productive forces and the nature of the social relations embodied in the proletariat that are the nutrients for the growth of the future society. It is only when the development of the productive forces has reached a certain level, when there is no further possibility of development for the preceding society, owing to the development of the contradiction between the capitalist relations of production and the further development of the productive forces, that communism and the proletarian revolution become objective necessities.
The seizure of control of all the means of production by society “becomes possible, becomes an historic necessity, when the material conditions exist for this to happen. Like every other social advance, it becomes practicable not through the acquisition of the understanding that the existence of classes contradicts ideals of justice and equality etc, nor through the mere will to abolish these classes, but through certain new economic conditions.” (Engels, Anti-Duhring, 1894)
These new objective conditions clearly demonstrate that the only social relations that will permit the progressive development of the productive forces, that will respond to the present needs of humanity, are those which abolish the distinction between capital and labour; which abolish capital and the wages system, commodity production, and all national and class divisions.
This allows us to state the following:
- Communism must be a society without classes, without exploitation of man by man, and without any kind of individual or collective property. The only possible culmination of the socialisation of production by capitalism is the social expropriation, by the whole of society, of the means of production. Only the abolition of class privileges and individual expropriation can resolve the existing contradiction between the social nature of production and the capitalist nature of social relations.
This social expropriation of all the productive forces and the means of production can only be undertaken by the proletariat: an exploited class, with no economic property, and functioning as a productive collectivity.
- Communist society is thus based on the abolition of scarcity and on production for human needs. Communism is a society of abundance, which will permit the satisfaction of all the diverse needs of humanity. The level of development of the productive forces, of human science, technology and knowledge, will permit the liberation of man from the domination of blind economic forces.
For the first time in history, human beings, by consciously attaining mastery over conditions determining their own life and reproduction, will pass “from the reign of necessity to the reign of liberty.”
This production for human needs, the liberation of humanity, can evidently only be realised on a global scale, and through a revolution of all aspects of economic and social life. Thus, communism abolishes the law of value. Communist production, socialised and planned at all levels by all human beings, is based exclusively on the production of use value, whose socialised and direct distribution excludes exchange, markets, and money.
- From a society of exploitation of man-by-man, of economic competition and economic anarchy, and thus of conflict and competition between individuals and classes, under communism humanity enters a society dominated by the human community.
In this community all forms of political power (governments, state, police…), which maintain the domination of one class over another, will disappear at the same time as exploitation and class divisions. The existence of governments, of all ways of oppressing humanity and human creativity, will give way to a simple administration of things, to an “association of free producers”.
These characteristics of communism are the minimum points that can be outlined. Beyond this (bearing in mind what we have said above) any further description is necessarily limited to broad generalisations. Moreover, this brief description has not dealt with the consequences of the new way of life for human relationships. Nor of the implications of the abolition of divisions and segregations within society, of alienation, of relations of force between men…
However, even this broad outline shows the immense gulf that separates the world of the future from capitalist society and all previous societies.
A society without exploitation! Where we live according to our needs and desires! Where there is no separation between intellectual and manual labour! Where liberty means more than the freedom to sell one’s labour power!… Inconceivable!
Even if we cannot conceive in any detail of this immense leap that humanity will have to make, one thing is clear: never before in the history of humanity has there been the necessity for a qualitative leap of this kind.
This statement clearly has a double—edged significance. For it is clear that a leap of this kind can only be accomplished by a social class fully conscious of its historic mission. But the class capable of attaining this level of consciousness, the working class, is precisely time class subjected to the most extreme deprivation, the most ferocious exploitation, and the persistent pressure of bourgeois ideology.
Thus all the qualities of communism, which make it a far higher level of humanity than all previous societies, are themselves dependent on the weakness, the deprivation, and the inhumanity of the existence of the proletariat. Because “the whole inhumanity of social existence is present in the conditions of existence of the proletariat in a concentrated form”, the working class “cannot liberate itself without suppressing all the inhuman aspects of present day society which are concentrated in its own situation.” (Marx, Engels The Holy Family 1844). It is the position of the proletariat as an exploited class which forces it to liberate the whole of society, to create a society without classes or exploitation.
-- The proletariat, denied all economic power within society, exploited at the point of production, can only look to itself for its own liberation. It can oppose capitalism only with its own solidarity and its own consciousness: two weapons which themselves embody the principle characteristic of the future society.
-- But this fact also means that proletarian opposition to bourgeois society is very weak and fragile. Having no economic privileges upon which to base its confrontation with bourgeois society, the proletariat is extremely vulnerable to the constant pressure of bourgeois ideology, whose aim is to deflect the proletariat from the path towards its final struggle for emancipation.
THIS IS WHY THE PATH TOWARDS COMMUNISM IS NOT AN INEVITABILITY. COMMUNISM IS THE FRUIT OF A LONG AND PAINFUL STRUGGLE. THIS IS WHY, despite the extraordinary revolutionary potential of the proletariat, which has nothing to lose but its chains, and has a world to win, THERE IS NO ABSOLUTE GUARANTEE OF THE VICTORY OF THE REVOLUTION, NOR CAN THERE BE ANY DETERMINISTIC VISION OF ITS DEVELOPMENT. BUT IF THIS NEW HISTORICAL EPOCH IS NOT ATTAINED, THEN HUMANITY WILL DESCEND INTO A NAMELESS BARBARISM, PERHAPS EVEN ITS FINAL DESTRUCTION.Thus the path towards communism, the class struggle, appears as a series of victories and defeats; of set—backs followed by renewed surges forward. It takes the form of a tension between will and consciousness, of constant re—appraisal and self-criticism.