Communism

1918: The programme of the German Communist Party

The ruling class cannot entirely bury the memory of the October 1917 revolution in Russia, where for the first time in history an exploited class took power at the level of an entire and immense country, Instead, as we have shown on numerous occasions in this International Review, it uses all the considerable means at its disposal to distort the meaning of this epochal event by conjuring up a great fog of lies and slanders. It is rather different with the German revolution of 1918-23. Here it has applied the policy of the historical blackout.

Lenin's State and Revolution: Striking Validation of Marxism

Given the ruling class’ frequent depiction of Lenin as a power-hungry dictator, it is all the more ironic that during the period from April to October his "socialist" adversaries accused him of anarchism. State and Revolution is Lenin’s answer, a profound reflection from a marxist standpoint on the nature of power in the revolution. Lenin began researching the book in 1916, and brought it to fruition in June 1917. In this work, we see the fertile encounter of marxist theory and the real practical experience of the workers’ soviets in Russia, first in 1905 then in 1917.

The transformation of work according to revolutionaries of the late 19th Century

In the previous article in this series, we showed how the authentic socialists of the end of the 19th century had envisaged the way that a future communist society would tackle some of mankind's most pressing social problems: the relationship between man and woman, and between humankind and the nature from which it has sprung. In this issue, we examine how the late 19th century revolutionaries foresaw the most crucial of all social transformations - the transformation of "useless toil" into "useful work" - in other words, the practical overcoming of alienated labour. In doing so, we will answer the charge that these visions represent a relapse into pre-marxist utopianism.

The Transformation of Social Relations

In the last article in this series we showed that, contrary to the doubt raised by many self-professed "communists", the fundamental aim of the socialist parties of the late 19th century was indeed socialism - a society without commodity relations, classes, or a state. In this sequel we will examine how the authentic socialists of that time envisaged the way that the future communist society would tackle some of mankind's most pressing social problems: in this case, the relationship between man and woman and between humankind and the nature from which it has sprung. Here, once again in defending the communists of the Second International, we offer a more general defence of marxism against some its more recent "critics", above all the petty bourgeois radicalism that lies at the origins of feminism and ecologism, which have now become fully-fledged instruments of the dominant ideology.

Anarchism or communism?

In the last article in this series we looked at the combat waged by the marxist tendency in the International Workingmen's Association against the reformist and "state socialist" ideologies in the workers' movement, particularly in the German party. And yet according to the anarchist or "anti-authoritarian" current led by Mikhail Bakunin, Marx and Engels typified and even inspired the state socialist tendency, were the foremost proponents of that "German socialism" which wanted to replace capitalism not with a free stateless society but with a terrible bureaucratic tyranny of which they themselves would be the guardians. To this day, Bakunin's criticisms of Marx are presented by anarchists and liberals alike as a profound insight into the real nature of marxism, a prophetic explanation of why the theories of Marx led inevitably to the practises of Stalin.

1871: The first proletarian dictatorship

According to the popular misconception, which is systematically upheld and disseminated by all the mouthpieces of bourgeois ideology from the tabloid press to the professors of academe, communism means a society where everything is run by the state. The whole identification between communism and the Stalinist regimes in the East rested on this assumption.

And yet it is a total falsehood, reality turned on its head. For Marx, for Engels, for all the revolutionaries who followed in their footsteps, communism means a society without a state, a society where human beings run their affairs without a coercive power standing over them, without governments, armies, prisons or national frontiers.

The overthrow of commodity fetishism

In the first part of this chapter (IR 75), we began to examine the historical context in which Marx dealt with capitalist society: as the last in a series of systems of exploitation and alienation, as a form of social organization no less transient than Roman slavery or mediaeval feudalism. We noted that, in this framework, the drama of human history could be considered in the light of the dialectic between the original social ties of humanity, and the growth of commodity relations which has both dissolved these ties and prepared the ground for a more advanced form of human community. In the section that follows we concentrate on the mature Marx's analysis of capital itself - of its inner nature, its insoluble contradictions, and of the communist society destined to supplant it.

The Revolutions of 1848: The Communist Perspective Becomes Clearer

Confident that huge social upheavals were about to take place, but aware that the nations of Europe were at various stages of historical development, the last section of the Communist Manifesto put forward certain tactical considerations for the intervention of the communist minority.

1848: Communism as a political program

The previous two articles in this series[1] have to a large extent focused on the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts of 1844 because they are a rich vein of material on the problem of alienated labor and on the ultimate goals of communism as envisaged by Marx when he first adhered to the proletarian movement. But although Marx had, as early as 1843, identified the modern proletariat as the agent of the communist transformation, the EPM are not yet precise about the practical social movement that will lead from the society of alienation to the authentic human community. This fundamental development in Marx's thinking was to come about through the convergence of two vital elements: the elaboration of the historical materialist method, and the overt politicization of the communist project.

Communism: the real beginning of human society

Having examined the various facets of man's alienation, the next task Marx took up in the Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts was to criticize the crude and inadequate conceptions of communism which predominated in the proletarian movement of his time. As we showed in the first article in this series, Marx rejected the conceptions inherited from Babeuf and still propagated by the followers of Blanqui because they tended to present communism as a general leveling-down, as a negation of culture in which "the category of worker is not abolished but extended to all men"

How the proletariat won Marx to communism

"The theoretical conclusions of the communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer. They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from a historical movement going on under our very eyes." (Communist Manifesto)

From Primitive Communism to Utopian Socialism

The first aim of the series of articles we are beginning here is to reaffirm the marxist position that communism is not a nice idea. As Marx put it in The German Ideology"Communism is not for us a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself.

We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The condition of this movement result from premises now in existence".

Problems of the Period of Transition (April 1975)

The seizure of power by the working class immediately posed a whole new series of problems: how, by what practical measures, could the workers begin to dismantle the whole apparatus of bourgeois power and to improve the material situation of the workers and labouring masses themselves?

Inevitably, the new proletarian power found itself in a contradictory situation: it was confronted with an all-out resistance by the defeated bourgeois class, ranging from military intervention to sabotage; it was necessary to maintain production and distribution on an immediate basis in order to feed the population; and at the same time to take whatever steps were possible towards the transformation of the whole basis of society.

This question was addressed right at the beginning of the ICC’s existence, as this article shows.

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