Recalling the invincibility of Marxism as a science and beacon of emancipation from the yoke of exploitation
When great Karl Marx, for the first time in human history, enunciated the epoch-making scientific philosophy of Dialectical Materialism by correlating, integrating and generalizing the particular truths about the material world discovered by the different branches of science as well as those culled by social sciences, when he showed inevitable doom of capitalism and declared communism as inexorable destiny of mankind, it stirred the whole world and sent chill down the spine of the capitalist rulers. Later, when the historic Russian revolution heralded its victory on 17 November, 1917 under the legendary leadership of great Lenin, its architect and worthy disciple of Marx, the toiling people round the globe realized that road to emancipation from oppression and repression forever lies in grasping and correctly applying Marxist philosophy. Soviet revolution reaffirmed the truth that Marx emphatically stated as the essential point of his whole view of the world: “The philosophers, hitherto, have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point, however, is to change it.” [Theses On Feuerbach: Thesis 11 (1845)] By discovering the laws of development of the material word as well as social development, Marx developed the comprehensive scientific world outlook based on experimented truths not only to correctly interpret the material world and history but also to show, for the first time, the scientific, materialistic and historically determined course of changing the world. In other words, it is a philosophy whose outlook is universal for the mankind and which treads the entire world. That is why, Marxism is not an academic science but the comprehensive knowledge that can be used by conscious man in changing the world. It is not a dogma but guide to action, the science of all sciences. Assimilating the essence of Marxism as a scientific outlook, Lenin conducted the struggle to apply it in the changing world situation to ferret out the truth of the time, adopted it as a guide to study the various operational social laws and co-relation of forces, concretized it on the soil of Russia, used it to identify the conditions to be fulfilled for bringing about the desired revolutionary change by overthrowing the exploitative capitalist system and thereby forcing open the path of progress of civilization and in the process accelerating the inexorable course of history. Thus Marxism has been the beacon to human history. The temporary setback of the glorious onward march of international communist movement following dismantling of Soviet Union, China and the world socialist camp has been because the revisionists-reformists whom Lenin had correctly called agents of the oppressive bourgeoisie in the working class movement, had given up Marxism and its correct interpretation in the era of imperialism and proletarian revolution as provided by Lenin and worked overtime to restore capitalism. So, there is no scope for despondency in this unfortunate setback. Rather, this setback reiterates that any deviation from the science of Marxism-Leninism would prove disastrous, a warning time and again given by all Marxist stalwarts. Now when the despotic imperialist-capitalist rulers are going berserk in a unipolar world and the wretched suffering humanity is craving for emancipation from this yoke of exploitation of man by man for good, there is an imperative need to recall and imbibe the basic postulates and essential teachings of Marxism to revive with renewed vigour and courage the international communist movement and spell doom to imperialism-capitalism, the root of all evils.
Emergence of Marxism
Marx’s emergence was no accident but historically conditioned. Marxism emerged when the social conditions necessary for its appearance had ripened, being the requisite development of science, growth of capitalism, appearance of the proletariat. Three path-breaking discoveries in science like Darwin’s theory of evolution, Maxwell’s formulation of electro-magnetism and Schleiden’s discovery of organic cell as unit of life that unfolded new laws governing nature and thereby provided the ground for Marxism to unravel the generalized scientific laws governing the material world. Prior to Marx, German philosopher Hegel first enunciated the main features of dialectics as key to governance, change and development of the material world. It was Hegel who first spoke of dialectical methodology, showed that everything in the world exists in contradiction between two opposites, thesis and anti-thesis, which ultimately leads to synthesis and stated that material world develops by following the dialectics of change. But then he got stuck in deducing what is thought and idea. So, to come out of the riddle, he presumed that idea is absolute and matter is dialectical expression of an absolute idea. Failing to grasp the nature of relationship between matter and idea and assuming the material world as an image or expression of absolute idea, he reduced his formulation to dialectical idealism. Feuerbach, a student of Hegel and popularly known to the ‘Left’ Hegelian group who tried to correct Hegelian dialectics by proposing to drop the very theory of ‘absolute idea’. But he too could not give correct insight into origin of thought and correct relationship between matter and idea. So, he also thought that essential human elements like ethics and morality were static and immutable. Thus, he also failed to transgress the precincts of idealist philosophy which hold idea or consciousness as prior and material world secondary. Marx finally ‘solved the riddle’ brilliantly by showing that idea or thought originate in the human mind through its dialectical interaction with the material world and hence is product of a material process. Matter or material world is prior, not idea. This truth he unravelled by applying scientific methodology of analysis when scientists were yet to discover it through experimentation. Later, the scientists confirmed Marx’s prognosis as experimentally verified irrefutable truth. Marx further showed that as the material world undergoes changes and develops through these changes, ideas and thoughts also undergo change and are subject to the general principles governing the changes in the external world. “My dialectic method,” said Marx, “is not only different from the Hegelian, but is its direct opposite. To Hegel, . . . the process of thinking, which, under the name of ‘the Idea,’ he even transforms into an independent subject, is the demiurges (creator) of the real world, and the real world is only the external, phenomenal form of ‘the Idea.’ With me, on the contrary, the ideal is nothing else than the material world reflected by the human mind, and translated into forms of thought.” (Marx, Afterword to the Second German Edition of Volume I of Capital.) He said allegorically, “Reason has always existed, but not always in a reasonable form.” (Letter from the Deutsch-Französische Jahrbücher to Ruge ,1843) Engels, the life-long revolutionary compatriot who, besides enriching and developing Marxism, jointly authored with Marx some of the classics of Marxism and in the process, emerged as a giant authority of Marxism, declared more than once that “in spite of” the materialist “foundation,” Feuerbach “remained … bound by the traditional idealist fetters,” and that “the real idealism of Feuerbach becomes evident as soon as we come to his philosophy of religion and ethics.” (Marx and Engels, Vol. XIV, pp. 652-54.) Explaining further, Stalin, a giant Marxist authority observed that “Marx and Engels took from the Hegelian dialectics only its “rational kernel,” casting aside its Hegelian idealistic shell, and developed dialectics further so as to lend it a modern scientific form… (and) took from Feuerbach’s materialism its “inner kernel,” developed it into a scientific philosophical theory of materialism and cast aside its idealistic and religious-ethical encumbrances.’’ (Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Problems of Leninism, p.836)
Marx’s life struggle
Karl Marx was the product of a life-long struggle, not struggle of an individual in the bourgeois sense but the conscious struggle to articulate the social urge and fulfil the basic social need. Marx was born at Tier in the Rhine province of Prussia on 5 May, 1818. His was a time when the penury and misery of the proletariat under capitalism began to prompt petty-bourgeois thinkers like Saint Simon, Charles Fourier, Robert Own, Proudhon, etc., to promote thoughts of socialism. But such thoughts were utopian based on subjective views and not scientific. On the other hand, Hegel had put forth his theory of dialectics and Feuerbach was discarding that theory as metaphysical idealism. Beginning as a radical democrat influenced by Hegel, Marx, deeply moved by the way the proletariat was oppressed and repressed under capitalist rule, was seized with inquisitiveness to unearth what was causing the various economic-political problems. In course of that, he could find that Hegel’s theory was not providing any decisive insight into the root of the problems nor was it able to provide any concrete philosophical guideline to end the growing strife between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat. Through ceaseless struggle to sharpen and develop his ideas and reasoning based on methodology of science, he could soon find not only the futility of Hegelian philosophy but the inadequacy of Feuerbach’s proposition. He started publishing his views in many a writings, where he ruthlessly criticized and refuted all shades of idealism on the anvil of logic and reason. He even brought out a journal to bring to the fore his radical views. In course of that, he declared emphatically in 1843, “…the weapon of criticism cannot, of course, replace the criticism of weapon; material force must be overthrown by material force. But, theory, too, becomes a material force as soon as it grips the masses…And just as philosophy finds its material weapon in the proletariat, the proletariat finds its spiritual weapon in philosophy. And as soon as the lightning of thought has struck deep into the virgin soil of the people, they will emancipate themselves and become men….” (Contribution to the Critique of the Hegel’s ‘Philosophy of Rights’) As he was passing through extreme poverty and hardship, he turned to writing and journalism to support himself. In 1842 he became editor of the liberal Cologne newspaper Rheinische Zeitung, but the Berlin government prohibited it from being published the following year. In January 1845 Marx was expelled from France “at the instigation [order] of the Prussian government”. He then moved to Brussels, Belgium, where he founded the German Workers’ Party and was active in the Communist League. Expelled by the Belgian government, Marx moved back to Cologne, where he became editor of the Neue Rheinische Zeitung in June 1848. Less than a year later, the Prussian government banned the paper, and Marx was forced to leave Cologne. He went to Paris, but the French government expelled him again. Marx finally settled in London, England, where he lived as a stateless exile for the rest of his life. Britain denied him citizenship and Prussia refused to take him back as a citizen. His life as a political exile was a very hard one, as the correspondence between Marx and Engels clearly reveals. Poverty weighed heavily on Marx and his family. His personal life was also equally tormented and painful. His wife died of cancer. Four of his seven children died in infancy or childhood. The prevailing doctrines and trends of petty-bourgeois socialism and of non-proletarian socialism in general, forced Marx to wage a continuous and merciless struggle and sometimes to repel the most savage and monstrous personal attacks. But Marx was unfazed, unperturbed. Disdaining acute poverty and hardship, he carried out struggle to unfold the futility and hollowness of all idealist philosophical schools, delineate the roadmap of freeing the humanity from all kinds of economic-political-social-cultural oppression and at the same time engaged in practical task of building up struggling working class organizations. But Marx’s health was undermined by his strenuous work in developing working class organizations and his still more strenuous theoretical occupations. Ill-health prevented him even from completing The Capital, his magnum opus. On March 14, 1883, Marx passed away peacefully in his armchair.
After demise of Marx on 14 March, 1883, the mantle of leadership of the proletarian movement devolved upon Engels who devoted the remainder of his life in pursuit of the scientific and political work of Marx as his continuator, completed the unfinished works of Marx including The Capital II and III, and contributed a number of theoretical works, rightly considered among the classics of Marxism, to confirm Marxism and enrich the treasure house of Marxist literature. Yet Engels all along maintained that “Marx stood higher, saw further, and took a wider and quicker view than all of us. Marx was a genius; we others were at best talented. Without him the theory would not be by far what it is today. It, therefore, bears his name.”
Historic meeting of Marx and Engels
Though Marx had met Engels at Cologne in 1842, the historic meeting between the two took place in 1844 in Paris. Engels had just made a painstaking in-depth study of the living conditions of the British proletariat in his article titled “The Condition of the Working Class in England”. They found they had complete identity of view and arrived at the same conclusion working independently. Since then the two friends took upon themselves the task of together propounding the doctrine of emancipation of mankind. Engels had taken on himself the responsibility of ensuring that Marx could overcome all odds including pecuniary difficulties and carry out his revolutionary activities. Had it not been for Engels’ constant and selfless financial aid, Marx would not only have been unable to write The Capital but would have inevitably have been crushed by want.
Both of them joined active politics and founded a German Workers’ Society in Brussels in early 1846 to pave the way for a revolutionary organization of the proletariat and to evolve identity of views among different revolutionaries from different countries. Then in 1847 they joined the secret organization “League of the Just” which subsequently came to be known as Communist League. Engels attended the first Congress of the League in 1847 and made a detailed exposition of Marx’s views, obtained approval of the delegates on a number of important questions and trounced many sectarian views on principles of organization. The Congress conferred on them to draft a Manifesto outlining the communist ideology. Later this draft provided the basis of the historic ‘Manifesto of the Communist party’. At the second Congress of the League in late 1847, Marx expounded his new proletarian revolutionary theory at length. It found wider acceptance. The old motto of the League “All men are brothers” was replaced by the new slogan, “Working men of all countries, Unite”. Later both Marx in association with Engels made all arduous effort to strengthen working class movements in different parts of Europe and alongside went on publishing various write-ups and essays on philosophy and working class struggles. He alongwith Engels also took active initiative in building ‘The International Workingmen’s Association’, often called the First International, in 1864. Marx gave an illumining speech at its first conference.
Later, in the wake of France’s defeat in the Franco-German War and the collapse of Napoleon III’s Second Empire (1852–70), occurred the historic insurrection of working class of Paris against the French government from 18 March to May 28, 1871, known as Paris Commune. For two odd months, the Paris proletariat held power. But then the ruling French bourgeoisie bared their tooth and claw, mounted savage attack on the commune and ultimately caused its collapse. Marx, in The Civil War in France (1871), written during the Commune, praised the Commune’s achievements, and described it as the prototype for a revolutionary government of the future, “the form at last discovered” for the emancipation of the proletariat. Marx wrote that, “Working men’s Paris, with its Commune, will be forever celebrated as the glorious harbinger of a new society. Its martyrs are enshrined in the great heart of the working class. Its exterminators, history has already nailed to that eternal pillory from which all of the prayers of their priest will not avail to redeem them.” Lessons drawn from the collapse of Paris Commune were that unless bourgeois state machine is smashed, the working class establishes its own state under the dictatorship of the proletariat and passes through a transitory phase of socialism, ultimate reaching to classless communist society is not possible.
Following the downfall of the Paris Commune in 1871—of which a profound, clear-cut, brilliant effective and revolutionary analysis was provided by Marx in his pamphlet, ‘The Civil War in France’ — and dominance of Bakuninism (A trend called after its leader Mikhail Bakunin, an ideologist of anarchism and enemy of Marxism and scientific socialism), the First international was split in two over conflicts between socialist and anarchist factions and finally dissolved in 1876. It was later after Marx’s demise that Engels based on Marx’s guidelines took initiative to build the Second International in 1889.
Contribution of Engels in developing Marxism
As we have said, Marxism is a general theory of the world in which we live, and of human society as a part of that world. Karl Marx (1818-1883), in association with Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), his closest revolutionary comrade–in-arms, worked out the theory during the middle and latter part of 19th century. They set out to discover why human society is what it is, why it changes, and what further changes are in store for mankind. Their studies led them to the conclusion that these changes – like the changes in external nature – are not accidental, but follow certain definite deterministic laws. This fact makes it possible to work out a scientific theory of society, based on the actual experience of men, as opposed to the vague notions about society which used to be and still are put forward – notions associated with religious beliefs, race and hero-worship, personal inclinations or utopian dreams. During the long decades of association between them and their joint struggles, the life, work and struggles of Engels became inseparably linked up with that of Marx to form one indivisible whole. Marx received significant help and contribution from Engels in drafting the Communist Manifesto.
Marx’s repudiation of all idealist philosophies
Fearlessly and forcefully with impeccable logic, Marx repudiated all anti-Marxist idealist philosophies like Anarchism—Mutualism of Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the faulty concept of socialist state of Lassalle and Bakunin’s anarchist theory. When Proudhon’s booklet “Philosophy of Poverty” came out in 1847 criticizing his theory, Marx showed extra-ordinary acumen in tearing the confused idealist, philistine-reformist ideas of Proudhon to shreds on the anvil of sharp reasoning and firmly established his correct, scientific, materialist philosophy. In a letter to Russian journalist Annenkov, he rebutted Proudhon’s views in the following language, “Is man free to choose this or that form of society? By no means. If you assume a given state of development of man’s productive faculties, you will have a corresponding form of commerce and consumption. If you assume given stages of development in production, commerce or consumption, you will have a corresponding form of social constitution, a corresponding organisation, whether of the family, of the estates or of the classes—in a word, a corresponding civil society.” (Marx Engels Collected Works Vol. 38, p. 95) As Proudhon sought to deride Marx with the title of his book, Marx showed his wit based on profound revolutionary wisdom by captioning his rejoinder as “Poverty of Philosophy”. There, he with his objective analysis and strong power of argument showed that “…(What) Proudhon… has not understood is that these definite social relations are just as much produced by men as linen, flax, etc. Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist. The same men, who establish their social relations in conformity with the material productivity, produce also principles, ideas, and categories, in conformity with their social relations. Thus the ideas, these categories, are as little eternal as the relations they express. They are historical and transitory products.”
Marx against reformism
Marx had to fight all through his life , relentlessly and most resolutely against the reformist detractors stemming out of petty bourgeois opportunism, both within and outside the proletarian movement, particularly against such sections of the German and French Party leaderships. He warned again and again against the bourgeois and petty bourgeois elements, as the ‘adulterating elements’, worming inside the proletarian party bringing with them non-proletarian, bourgeois or petty bourgeois outlook, approach etc., to dilute the proletarian character of the party.
The phenomenon of bourgeois or petty bourgeois infiltration within the workers’ parties—especially in two big parties, the German and the French, worried him very much. Because, with the bourgeois rulers granting universal voting rights, these two parties tasted electoral successes. This gave birth to two distinct trends among the leadership of these parties. First was the proneness towards parliamentarian-ism-reformism attempting to attract bourgeois philanthropists and petty-bourgeois intellectuals within the party. The second one was accommodating economic-political-social interests or demands of a section of the bourgeoisie. Pointing at the French Party under the spell of this compromising trend, Marx, deploring very much the ‘rotten spirit’ prevailing in the German party after its capitulationist attitude to the Lasseleans on vital ideological issues, revealed in the infamous Gotha Programme, wrote to F. A. Sorge, a German communist leader, on 19 October, 1877: “whole gang of half-mature students and super-wise doctors who want to give socialism a ‘higher ideal orientalism’ replacing its materialistic basis by modern mythology with its goddesses of Justice, Freedom, Equality and Fraternity.” Later Engels based on Marx’s teachings wrote to Eduard Bernstein, a German social democratic political theorist and politician, on 28 November, 1882: “These people are anything but a workers’ party. …And in my opinion the workers’ leaders who lend themselves to the production of a herd of working class voting cattle of this sort are guilty of direct treachery”.
In all these comments, observations and warnings both of Marx and Engels lay hidden in germs, the essential ingredients for the formation, retention of speciality of the character of a proletarian party—its ethics and principles as also its attitude to parliamentary battle. Lenin gave a concrete shape of these ideas, the structure as also the speciality of the proletarian party. Stalin elaborated them. And finally Comrade Shibdas Ghosh developed and enriched these concepts further.
Marx also held that Marxism being a higher philosophy, it is premised on a higher proletarian culture and exhorted the workers, historically poised to lead the anti-capitalist revolution and emancipation of humanity from exploitation, to change themselves first by coming out of the shackles of bourgeois outlook and culture and embracing the new proletarian culture. So he exhorted that if the workers want to change the world, they must first change themselves.
Essence of Marxist philosophy
The essence of Marxist philosophy or Dialectical Materialism can be summarised as follows. Anything or any phenomenon in nature is not static but perpetually in motion existing with contradiction of two opposites within it. It is the contradiction between the two opposites, the thesis and anti-thesis, that generates, the motion, that is the development and change. When the contradiction within a being develops to reach a nodal point, then the two opposites within can no longer remain in unity. A new being comes about, the synthesis, through negation of the old being. But negation of this negation lies inherent in it because the new being , that is the negation of the old being, carries within it a new contradiction between a new thesis and a new anti-thesis which would eventually generate a new synthesis, that is , its own negation. This process goes on. This objective truth having emerged from the analysis, coordination and integration of the established scientific laws provided by the different branches of science in Marx’s time are summarised in the three principles of Dialectical Materialism. These principles are as (i) unity of opposites, (ii) from quantitative change to qualitative change and vice versa and (iii) negation of the negation. Thus we can see that Dialectical Materialism is not something that stands above reality, not an arbitrarily invented outlook into which the world must fit. On the contrary, it is the most accurate representation of the world. Elucidating how Marxism refutes idealism and metaphysics, Stalin said, “Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics does not regard nature as an accidental agglomeration of things, of phenomena, unconnected with, isolated from, and independent of, each other, but as a connected and integral whole, in which things, phenomena are organically connected with, dependent on, and determined by, each other… dialectics holds that nature is not a state of rest and immobility, stagnation and immutability, but a state of continuous movement and change, of continuous renewal and development, where something is always arising and developing, and something always disintegrating and dying away….Contrary to idealism, which regards the world as the embodiment of an “absolute idea,” a “universal spirit,” “consciousness,” Marx’s philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multi-fold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdepen-dence of phenomena, as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a “universal spirit.” (Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Problems of Leninism, p. 837 and 844)
The discoveries of science are more and more confirming this scientific philosophy. Scientists who approach nature and the material world in an unbiased way, critically and objectively, inevitably come closer and closer to the dialectical viewpoint and Marxist methodology of analyses to find that newer discoveries of science do conform to its basic principles, confirm and reconfirm its correctness. Engels explained this in the following language: “Nature is the test of dialectics. And it must be said for modern natural science that it has furnished extremely rich and daily increasing materials for this test, and has thus proved that in the last analysis nature’s process is dialectical and not metaphysical, that it does not move in an eternally uniform and constantly repeated circle but passes through a real history. Here prime mention should be made of Darwin, who dealt a severe blow to the metaphysical conception of nature by proving that the organic world of today, plants and animals, and consequently man too, is all a product of a process of development that has been in progress for millions of years.” (Dialectics of Nature, p. 23.) He further said, “Dialectics constitutes the most important form of thinking for present-day natural science, for it alone offers the analogue for, and thereby the method of explaining, the evolutionary processes occurring in nature, inter-connections in general, and transitions from one field of investigation to another.” [On Dialectics (1878)]It is for this reason that Lenin once remarked that “Modern Physics is in travail; it is giving birth to Dialectical Materialism.” (The Essence and Significance of “Physical” Idealism, Materialism and Empirio-criticism, chapter V)
Application of Dialectical Materialism in unravelling laws governing social transformation
It was Marx who first extended the principles of Dialectical Materialism to the study of social life, society and of its history in order to trace the natural laws which run through all human history. Marx held that “Natural science will in time incorporate into itself the science of man, just as the science of man will incorporate into itself natural science: there will be one science….Natural science has invaded and transformed human life… The nature which develops in human history — the genesis of human society — is man’s real nature… true anthropological nature”. [Private Property and Communism (1844)] By scientifi-cally analysing the course of development of human civilization, Marx revealed the laws of development of human society to give birth to a coordinated and comprehensive scientific study of society, to be known as Historical Materialism.
It shows how primitive classless society became class divided between exploiters and exploited once there was establishment of private ownership on the means of production, thereby advent of private property in the wake of coming into being of stable means of production following discovery of agriculture and animal husbandry. This class-division transformed primitive clan-communist society into slave-master society. Subsequently slave-master society changed into feudal society with ownership of the means of production passing on to the feudal lords and the slaves turning into serfs. Again from within the womb of feudalism emerged modern capitalist society. New developments of science like Newtonian mechanics helped in bringing about industrialization, accelerating capitalist mode of production and multiplied manifold productive forces. Marx showed that with spurt in industrialization and ownership of both the industries and agriculture coming into the hands of capitalists, and the people, dominantly the serfs becoming wage-earning toiling masses, rising capitalism did mark an advancement of civilization and mankind. But, inherent in it also was exploitation of man by man as private ownership over means of production was not abolished. Hence, class-division was not abolished nor was class struggle.
Marx also deduced that as the contradiction between the production relation (i.e. slave-slave master, serf-feudal lord, capital and labour) becomes irreconcilable hindering the natural process of development of production and hence also social progress, there is an urge within the society to dismantle the existing outmoded social system and replace it with a new system following the general principles of thesis-anti-thesis-synthesis. In Communist Manifesto, it was stated that “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles’’. Class struggles, Marx showed, arise out of a form of production system which divides society into two classes, exploited and exploiter— one of which carries out the actual process of production (slave, serf, wage-worker), while the other (slave-owner, feudal lord, capitalist employer) enjoys a part of the product without having to work to produce it. The struggle between the classes helps man forward to a higher stage of production. When a successful revolution takes place, the higher form of production is brought in or widely extended. Commenting on this, Marx said, “And now as to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economists, the economic economy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove: (1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, (2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, (3) that this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” (Marx’s letter to J. Weydemeyer, March 5, 1852, marxist.org)
As Stalin explained lucidly, “Marxist philosophical materialism holds that the world and its laws are fully knowable, that our knowledge of the laws of nature, tested by experiment and practice, is authentic knowledge having the validity of objective truth, and that there are no things in the world which are unknowable, but only things which are as yet not known, but which will be disclosed and made known by the efforts of science and practice…. since the material world is knowable and this knowledge of the laws of development of nature is authentic knowledge, having the validity of objective truth, it follows that social life, the development of society, is also knowable, and that the data of science regarding the laws of development of society are authentic data having the validity of objective truths. …Hence, social life, the history of society, ceases to be an agglomeration of ‘accidents’, for the history of society becomes a development of society according to regular laws, and the study of the history of society becomes a science. …Hence, the science of the history of society, despite all the complexity of the phenomena of social life, can become as precise a science as, let us say, biology, and capable of making use of the laws of development of society for practical purposes.” (Dialectical and Historical Materialism, Problems of Leninism, p.847 and 857) The social ideas, theories and political institutions have all arisen based on the need on the development of the material life of society and the social beings. Hence, in different periods of the history of society different social ideas, theories, views and political institutions emerge and govern. New social ideas and theories arise only when the existing ideas, theories and views and political institutions become inadequate and there is an urge within the society to change them and the development of the material life of society set new tasks before the society. To quote Stalin again, “Once they have arisen they become a most potent force which facilitates the carrying out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, a force which facilitates the progress of society. It is precisely here that the tremendous organizing, mobilizing and transforming value of new ideas, new theories, new political views and new political institutions manifest themselves. New social ideas and theories arise precisely because they are necessary to society, because it is impossible to carry out the urgent tasks of development of the material life of society without their organizing, mobilizing and transforming action. Arising out of the new tasks set by the development of the material life of society, the new social ideas and theories force their way through, become the possession of the masses, mobilize and organize them against the moribund forces of society, and thus facilitate the overthrow of these forces, which hamper the development of the material life of society.” (ibid, p.852)
This is the genesis of social development and every conscious human being need to imbibe this truth and then act in the process of truth to change the society as well as the conditions of material life of a society; the ideas, theories, political views and political institutions of that society. The conscious social beings then react upon the material life of society to create better conditions for further development of the society and social beings. That is why, Marx taught that “It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.” (“Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, SW, Vol. I, p. 269.) He further made a historic comment: “Theory becomes a material force as soon as it has gripped the masses.” (“Introduction to A Criticism of the Hegelian Philosophy of Right”, Marx and Engels, SW. Vol. I, p. 406.)
Marx further explained that, “A social order never perishes before all the productive forces for which it is broadly sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the womb of the old society. Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it can solve, since closer examination will always show that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the process of formation… The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production — antagonistic not in the sense of an individual antagonism but of an antagonism growing out of the social conditions of existence of individuals; but the productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society simultaneously create the material conditions”—(Preface to the Critique of Political Economy, p 4)
This is how Marx showed that like nature, society and history too are dialectically governed. This scientific approach endowed by Marxism makes clear that the general laws which govern the movement of society are of the same pattern as the laws of the external world. This knowledge derived from this scientific study of society can be used to change the society, just as all scientific knowledge can be used to change the external world. In the words of great Lenin, “The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defence of bourgeois oppression…..there is nothing resembling “sectarianism” in Marxism, in the sense of its being a hidebound, petrified doctrine, a doctrine which arose away from the high road of the development of world civilisation. On the contrary, the genius of Marx consists precisely in his having furnished answers to questions already raised by the foremost minds of mankind. His doctrine emerged as the direct and immediate continuation of the teachings of the greatest representatives of philosophy, political economy and socialism.” (‘The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism’, CW, vol. 19, p. 21-28)
Formulation of Marxist Political Economy
Classical political economy, before Marx, evolved in England, the then most developed of the capitalist countries. Adam Smith and David Ricardo, by their investigations of the economic system, laid the foundations of the ‘labour theory of value’. Marx continued their work and in the process not only developed it but provided concrete objective basis by showing that the value of every commodity, every produce, is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time spent on its production. By Political Economy, we understand now the Marxist viewpoint of it only. Marx in collaboration with Engels developed the basic postulates of Political Economy as science of the development of the social-productive, i.e., economic, relations between men. It elucidates the laws which regulate the production and distribution of material wealth in human society at the different stages of its development. Marxist Political Economy is built up by applying the fundamental propositions of Dialectical and Historical Materialism to the study of the economic structure of society, investigate the special laws of each separate stage in the evolution of production and exchange and thereby deduce general laws which hold good for production and exchange as a whole. Thus, it provides the fundamental features of each system of social economy. Subsequently, Lenin pointed out that Political Economy must be expounded in the form of the characterization of the successive periods of economic development.
Essence of Political Economy
According to Marxist Political Economy, man, in order to live, must have food, clothing and other material means of life. In order to have these, men must produce them. To produce the material means of life, men must carry on their struggle with nature, not as isolated individuals but together, in groups and societies. Consequently, production is always and under all circumstances social production. So, we see that man must produce to exist and production is always social.
Secondly, there are two kinds of production—material and spiritual or mental. In the process of producing material wealth, the human brain also interacts with the material world to produce thoughts or ideas which are categorized as mental or spiritual production. As explained by Marx, “In the social production which men carry on they enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will; these relations of production correspond to a definite stage of development of their material powers of production. The sum total of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society — the real foundation, on which rise legal and political superstructures and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production in material life determines the general character of the social, political, and spiritual processes of life.’’ (Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy p.269)
But what is the process of producing a commodity or material wealth? As shown by Marx, labour is a purposive activity of men in the process of which they transform and adapt natural objects so as to satisfy their own requirements. Hence, labour is a natural necessity, an indispensable condition for man’s existence. Marx further explained that the process presupposes three factors: (i) human labour; (ii) the subject of labour; and (iii) the means of labour. “Productive activity,” Marx said, “if we leave out of sight its special form, viz., the useful character of the labour, is nothing but the expenditure of human labour-power. Tailoring and weaving, though qualitatively different productive activities, are each a productive expenditure of human brains, nerves, and muscles, and in this sense are human labour” (The Capital,Vol. I, p. 44). To clarify the aspect further, he showed that a commodity has two values. One is ‘use-value’ and the other ‘exchange value’. Marx underlined the distinction between the use-value and the exchange value in his celebrated work, The Capital: A Critique of Political Economy. Vol.1. He showed that ‘use-value’ is inextricably tied to “the physical properties of the commodity” (ibid) which determine the material uses to which the object can actually be put, the human needs it fulfills. In the exchange of goods on the market, however, ‘exchange-value’ dominates: two commodities can be exchanged in the open market because they are always being compared to a third term that functions as their “universal equivalent,” a function that is eventually taken over by money. The ‘exchange value’ of a commodity is, as explained by Marx, not identical to its price, but represents rather what (quantity of) other commodities it will exchange for, if traded. So, he emphasized that ‘exchange-value’ must always be distinguished from ‘use-value’, because “the exchange relation of commodities is characterized precisely by its abstraction from their use-values” (ibid). In other words, ‘use-value’ forms the material substance of wealth, whatever its social form may be. In a commodity economy, ‘use-value’ is the depository of the ‘exchange-value’ of a commodity. It is expended human labour power which creates these values. Marx clarified that, “If then we leave out of consideration the use-value of commodities, they have only one common property left, that of being products of labour … All that these things now tell us is, that human labour power has been expended in their production, that human labour is embodied in them. When looked at as crystals of this social substance, common to them all, they are – values.” (The Capital Vol. I) Marx also clarified that in a commodity is embodied two aspects of the labour— abstract and concrete labour. In his words, “On the one hand, all labour is, speaking physiologically, an expenditure of human labour-power and in its character of identical abstract human labour; it creates and forms the value of commodities. On the other hand, all labour is the expenditure of human labour-power in a special form and with a definite aim, and in this, its character of concrete useful labour, it produces use-values.” (ibid p. 54.) The relation of labour-power to the actual labour of a single individual is analogous to the relation of ‘exchange-value’ to ‘use-value’.
To put it simply, labour which creates a commodity possesses a dual character. ‘Abstract labour’ is the expenditure of human labour power in general; it creates the value of a commodity. ‘Concrete labour’ is labour expended in a definite form; it creates the ‘use-value’ of a commodity. Marx also said that “…insofar as man from the beginning behaves toward nature, the primary source of all instruments and subjects of labour, as an owner, treats her as belonging to him, his labour becomes the source of use-values, therefore also of wealth. … Since labour is the source of all wealth, no one in society can appropriate wealth except as the product of labour. Therefore, if he himself does not work, he lives by the labour of others and also acquires his culture at the expense of the labour of others.” (Critique of the Gotha Programme,) Here he has provided insight into how the exploiting rulers—the capitalist owners in capitalism — expropriate labour of others in building wealth or live as parasites. We shall revisit this concept of labour power in the context of capitalism later.
Next is ‘subject of labour’. Everything to which man’s labour is directed is a ‘subject of labour’. It may either be provided by nature like wood or subjected to the action of labour (e.g., ore in a metal works, cotton in a spinning mill and yarn in a weaving mill). The latter is called raw materials. Finally, ‘means of labour’ consist of all those things with the aid of which man acts upon the subject of his labour and transforms it. The determining role among the means of labour is played by the instruments of production which comprise various kinds of tools beginning with the crude stone implements of primitive man and ending with modern machinery. With the development of the instruments of production man’s ability to work, his skill, habits of work, and production experience also develop. The level of development of the instruments of production provides the criterion of society’s mastery over nature, the criterion of the development of production. Thus, the subjects of labour and the means of labour constitute the ‘means of production’. But the ‘means of production’ in themselves without being associated with labour power can produce nothing. For the labour process, the process of producing material wealth, labour power which is defined as man’s ability to work, the sum total of the physical and spiritual forces of man, by dint of which he is able to produce material wealth, is the key. Economic epochs are distinguished from one another not by what is produced but by how material wealth is produced, with what instruments of production. The instruments of production and the people who innovated and set these instruments in motion and accomplish the production of material values constitute the ‘productive forces of society’. To put it differently, ‘produc-tive forces’ include human labour power and available knowledge given the level of technology in the means of production (e.g. tools, equipment, buildings and technologies, materials, and improved land). The working masses are the basic productive force of human society in all stages of its development. The ‘productive forces’ reflect the relationship of men to the objects and forces of nature used for the production of material wealth.
Production Relation as Explained in Marxist Political Economy
Next important aspect that Marx brought to the fore is that relationships among men in the society are all ‘production relations’. As shown by Marx, method of procuring the means of life necessary for human existence is called mode of production of material values (food, clothing, instruments of production etc.). The instruments of production and the people who use these instruments for producing material values jointly constitute the productive forces. An important aspect of mode of production is the relations of men to each other in the process of production. That is called relations of production. In his words, “In production, men not only act on nature but also on one another. They produce only by co-operating in a certain way and mutually exchanging their activities. In order to produce, they enter into definite connections and relations with one another and only within these social connections and relations does their action on nature, does production, take place.” (Wage, Labour and Capital, CW, Vol. V, p. 429.) He further explained that, “In the social production of their life, men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces.” (“Preface to A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, CW, Vol. I, p. 269.) And then, “Social relations are closely bound up with productive forces. In acquiring new productive forces men change their mode of production; and in changing their mode of production, in changing the way of earning their living, they change all their social relations. The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam-mill, society with the industrial capitalist.” (“Poverty of Philosophy,” CW, Vol. V, p. 364.)
The sum total of the “relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which rises a legal and political superstructure and to which’ correspond definite forms of social consciousness.” (Marx, “Preface to a Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy,” SW, Vol. I, p. 329). So, as summarized by Stalin, “Political economy is the science of the development of the relations of social production, i.e. the economic relations between people… explains the laws governing the production and distribution of the necessary means of consumption for both individual and production purposes”. (Discussion with Soviet Economists on 29 January 1941 on issues of Political Economy.)
Base and Superstructure
Another fundamental concept of Marxism is of ‘Base and Superstructure’. While economic system or laws governing the material production is the base, the superstructure which develops based on that economic system, is the domain of spiritual production—the ideological, political, cultural, educational, and juridical concepts. Engels in his letter dated 25 January, 1894 to Hans Starkenburg explained that, “Political, juridical, philosophical, religious, literary, artistic, etc., development is based on economic development. But these all react on one another and also upon the economic basis. It is not that the economic situation is cause, solely active, while everything else is only passive effect. There is rather interaction on the basis of economic necessity which ultimately always asserts itself. …”. But, it is also clarified in Marxism that though superstructure develops based on the economic system, it also has relative independence and acts back on the system. The relation between the two is not mechanical but dialectical. Engels pointed out in his letter dated 21 January, 1890 to J. Bloch that, “The economic situation is the basis, but the various elements of the superstructure – political forms of the class struggle and its results, to wit…etc., juridical forms and even the reflexes of these actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical theories, religious views …also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles and in many cases preponderate in determining their form …There is an interaction of all these elements in which, amid all the endless host of accidents, the economic element finally asserts itself as necessary.” Marx also explained : “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as ideas.” (The German Ideology).
Marx’s Exposition of Capitalist Economic Laws
Based on the general truths of Marxist Political economy, Marx, in his work of genius, The Capital, revealed the laws of the rise, development and downfall of capitalism and showed the economic grounds for the inevitability of socialist revolution and the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat. In The Capital Vol. I, Marx laid bare the character of capitalist production and capitalist economy in all their manifestations, discovered the basic law of capitalist economy and proved historical destiny towards which capitalist economy must inexorably move in accordance with its inherent laws. Marx in association with Engels also worked out in general terms the theory of moving from capitalism to communism through transitory stage of socialism.
While enunciating the basic laws and characteristics of capitalism, Marx had provided definitions of certain elementary terms like value, surplus labour, profit, capital, etc. Let us turn to those briefly and avoiding details for brevity’s sake. First, we focus on what is meant by “value”. We have already discussed earlier what ‘exchange value’ of a commodity is. Exchange value is measured in terms of money; an article or commodity or product is ‘worth’ a certain amount of money determined in terms of buying and selling. Marx pointed out that things can only be compared in this way if there is something common to all of them, of which some have more and some less, so that a comparison is possible. This common factor is not obviously weight or colour or any other physical property; nor is it ‘use value’ for human life or any other abstraction. There is only one factor common to all products – they are produced by human labour. A thing has greater exchange value if more human labour has been put into its production (necessary foods have far less exchange value than motor cars). ‘Exchange value’ is determined by the ‘labour-time’ spent on producing each commodity, article or product. The term ‘exchange value’ has been used, because this is the basis of the whole analysis. But in actual life things hardly ever sell at precisely their ‘exchange value’. In capitalism, whether it is material products or human labour power, both are bought and sold on the market at a price, which may be either above or below the correct ‘exchange value’. There may be a surplus of the particular product on the market, and the price that day may be far below the correct exchange value; or, if there is a shortage, the price may rise above the value. A steamship is more valuable than a rowing boat because more human labour has gone to the making of the steamship. The whole process of training the skilled worker, besides the higher standard of living which is essential for the maintenance of his skill, involves more labour-time and hence more ‘value’. Marx further added that “Labour-time will always remain, even when exchange value has disappeared, the creative essence of wealth and standard of the cost required to produce it.” (Theories of Surplus Value, CW, Vol. III) Marx also explained that the instrument or machine is also created by human labour and hence it is nothing but “congealed labour”.
Concept of Surplus-value
Next is the concept of ‘surplus value’ which is central in Karl Marx’s theory. As proved by Marx, ‘surplus value’ is equal to the new value created by workers in excess of their own labour-cost, which is exropriated by the capitalist as profit when products are sold. So, profit is ‘expropriation of surplus value’. Engels commented that in course of investigating the processes by which money is transformed into capital, Marx found “first, that the form in which money circulates as capital is the inversion of the form in which it circulates as the general equivalent of commodities. The simple owner of commodities sells in order to buy; he sells what he does not need, and with the money thus procured he buys what he does need. The incipient capitalist starts by buying what he does not need himself; he buys in order to sell, and to sell at a higher price, in order to get back the value of the money originally thrown into the transaction, augmented by an increment in money; and Marx calls this increment ‘surplus-value’.’’ (Anti-Duhring, Chapter VIII, Capital and Surplus Value.) Elucidating Marx’s concept, Engels showed that, “the worker in the service of the capitalist not only reproduces the value of his labour power, for which he receives pay, but over and above that he also produces a ‘surplus value’ which, appropriated in the first place by the capitalist, is in its further course divided according to definite economic laws among the whole capitalist class and forms the basic stock from which arise ground rent, profit, accumulation of capital, in short, all the wealth consumed or accumulated by the non-labouring classes. This, however, proved that the acquisition of riches by the present-day capitalists consists just as much in the appropriation of the unpaid labour of others as that of the slave-owner or the feudal lord exploiting serf labour, and that all these forms of exploitation are only to be distinguished by the difference in manner and method by which the unpaid labour is appropriated. This, however, also removed the last justification for all the hypocritical phrases of the possessing classes to the effect that in the present social order right and justice, equality of rights and duties and a general harmony of interests prevail, and exposed present-day bourgeois society, no less than its predecessors, as a grandiose institution for the exploitation of the huge majority of the people by a small, ever-diminishing minority. (On Marx, Written in mid-June 1877,p.14-5) Thus, ‘surplus value’ is the result of the worker’s unpaid labour. “Production of surplus-value”, wrote Marx, “is, the absolute law of this mode of production.” (The Capital, Vol.1,p.678)
What is capital? Capital, first of all, is accumulation of money and cannot make its appearance in history until the circulation of commodities has given rise to the money relation. But there is a distinction between money and capital. Money which is acquired in order to buy something is just money, facilitating the exchange of commodities. Marx expressed this as C-M-C (Commodity-Money-Commodity). But, capital, Marx showed, is money used to buy something only in order to sell it again. Marx represented this as M – C – M (Money-Commodity-Money). Next is that money assumes the character of capital if it buys a good whose consumption brings about an increase in the value of the commodity. How does this increase happen? It happens when increased value is realized by selling it for a ‘profit’ or M – C – M´ where M’ represents the increased capital (original capital plus profit). So, capital is value which brings in ‘surplus value’ by exploiting wage-workers. There are two types of capital, constant and variable. ‘Constant capital’ is that part of capital which is spent on means of production. This part of capital does not create new value and does not change its magnitude. ‘Variable capital’ is that part of capital which is spent on the purchase of labour-power and this part of capital grows as a result of the creation by the workers of ‘surplus value’ which is appropriated by the capitalists.
Marx also clarified that capital did not invent ‘surplus labour’. Wherever society consists of exploiters and exploited, the ruling class extracts surplus labour out of the exploited classes. In the slave-society and feudalism, slave-owner and the feudal lords and landlords, used the greater part of the product of the surplus labour of the slaves and serf-peasants for direct satisfaction of their individual needs and whims. But the capitalist transforms the whole of what his wage-workers produce into money. Part of this money the capitalist spends on buying consumer goods and luxury articles, the rest he invests again, as additional capital, to bring him in further ‘surplus value’.
Thus, by showing how ‘surplus value’ arises, how ‘surplus value’ can arise under the domination of the laws regulating the exchange of commodities and how surplus value is appropriated by the capitalist owners as profit to augment capital, Marx exposed the mechanism of the existing capitalist mode of production and of the mode of appropriation based on it. He pointed out that capital embodies the social relationship between the capitalist class and the working class. This is why, Marx in chapter 10 of The Capital commented that capital displays “wolf-like hunger for surplus labour” and “Capital is “dead labour, that vampire-like, only lives by sucking living labour, and lives the more, the more labour it sucks.” (The Capital, Vol. 1, p. 257)
Basic Contradiction in Capitalism
Finally, based on his deduction of the genesis of capitalism, Marx concluded that in capitalism, the character of production is social but the ownership of the means of production (i.e. instrument, machine or land) is private. The motive force of production is not to satisfy social need but to earn profit. Because of the inherent antagonism of labour and capital in the economic system, the class interests of the capitalists and the proletariat are irreconcilable. The contradiction between the capitalists (bourgeoisie) and the proletariat or between labour and capital is the main class contradiction of capitalist society. This special feature that the production and labour power have become social in character whereas ownership remains individual in character — is the root cause of both the basic inconsistency and all unjust acts and injustices.
Lenin Provided Marxist Analysis of Capitalist Laws at the Stage of Imperialism
As regards gradual development of monopoly in course of the journey of capitalism, Marx had stated that, “The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. Thus integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated.” (ibid) He did not live to see the stage of full-grown monopoly and imperialism. But he left the teaching that “There is no royal road to science, and only those who do not dread the fatiguing climb of its steep paths have a chance of gaining its luminous summits.” (The Capital, Vol. I: A Critical Analysis of Capitalist Production)
Following that teaching, the first Marxist analysis of capitalist laws at the stage of imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, was made by Lenin, Marx’s worthy disciple. Based on Marist methodology and approach, Lenin showed how capitalism in course of its development has given rise to monopoly, attained its highest stage, that is imperialism, and thus turned utter reactionary and posed hindrance before socio-economic development. “Imperialism,” showed Lenin, “is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.” (Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism, p.106) Lenin explained that in this stage of moribund decadent capitalism, the motive force of production is not just to earn profit but maximum profit. Maximum profit means maximum exploitation and deprivation. Lenin also explained how the imperialists-capitalists in their frantic attempt to stave off crisis of capitalist economy is tilting more and more towards militarization and generating war for grabbing markets.
This, in brief, is how Lenin enriched Marxist economic science by generalizing the new experience of historical development, propoun-ded the Marxist teaching on imperia-lism and revealed the economic and political nature of imperialism.
Marx’s Enunciation of Communism as Historical Destiny of Mankind
Engels had pointed out that, “Marx sharply stresses the bad sides of capitalist production but with equal emphasis clearly proves that this social form was necessary to develop the productive forces of society to a level …. Capitalist production is the first to create the wealth and the productive forces necessary for this, but at the same time it also creates, in the numerous and oppressed workers, the social class which is compelled more and more to claim the utilization of this wealth and these productive forces for the whole of society—instead of their being utilized, as they are today, for a monopolist class.” (The review of Volume 1 of The Capital) The concrete process of moving towards the next higher social formation from capitalism (i.e. communism via transitory stage of socialism) is laid down in Marx’s historic conclusion, “The capitalist mode of appropriation, the result of the capitalist mode of production, produces capitalist private property. This is the first negation of individual private property, as founded on the labour of the proprietor. But capitalist production begets, with the inexorability of a law of Nature, its own negation. It is the negation of negation. This does not re-establish private property for the producer, but gives him individual property based on the acquisition of the capitalist era: i.e., on co-operation and the possession in common of the land and of the means of production.” (The Capital, Vol. I, Abstract of Chapter 26: Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation)
Clarifying the political aspect, Marx had clearly shown that history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle which is the contradiction inherent in the society. Society moves forward through resolution of the contradiction between two opposites within it. A new socio-economic formation arises through negation of the earlier one and so on and so forth. Marx deeply and painstakingly investigated and analyzed capitalism—its economy, its politics, its social laws and its cultural foundation – and showed in the light of scientific reasoning that its inherent contradiction is irreconcilable. Therefore, a new social order, communism, would arise on the ashes of capitalism by negating it. Capitalism is historically doomed. In the socio-political plane, the principal contradiction within capitalism is between labour and capital. Society can move forward from here only by resolving the contradiction through accomplishment of anti-capitalist revolution led by the proletariat. Socialism would be an intermediate stage of transition from capitalism to classless communist society. He emphatically mentioned that “Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. (Critique of the Gotha Programme, p.27-28) He further showed that, “Communism as the positive abolition of private property as human self-alienation, means the real appropriation of human entity by and for man; thus the complete, conscious return – accomplished inside all the riches of the past development – of man for himself qua social, that is, as a human being. This Communism is, as perfect Naturalism, identical with Humanism, and as perfect Humanism identical with Naturalism; it is the real solution of the antagonism between man and nature, between man and man; the genuine solution of the conflict between existence and essence, between objectivisation and self-affirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the individual and the species. It is history’s solved riddle and is conscious of being the solution. (Economic and Political Manuscripts) So he affirmed that “the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property.” (Communist Manifesto, p.48). Later he showed that communism is humanism minus private property.
The living strength of the economic-political-social theory of Marxism is that it arms the working class and the working masses with knowledge of the laws of the economic development of society, providing them with clear prospects and confidence in the ultimate victory of Communism.
The Communist Manifesto
Ensconced in the historic ‘Communist Manifesto’ released in 1848 is the essence of this confidence and determination premised on scientific truth. It was a unique comprehensive document which briefly but firmly established the ideological-economic-political viewpoints of communism and put together a concise, integrated and lucid exposition of Marxist world view, revolutionary theory and practice. It traced the course of social development, pointed to the historical inevitability of doom of capitalism, and its replacement by a classless society through revolution led by the proletariat. Alongside, it rebutted all bourgeois slanders against communism, presented short but pointed critique of all erroneous idealist theories of socialism, outlined the essence of communist revolution, the measures to be taken after revolution as well as the future communist society and set out communist approach and tactics vis-à-vis other political forces. The world was startled at the way this momentous work was permeated with revolutionary vigour and enthusiasm, full of wide-ranging analyses and deep insight into the historical process and above all irrefutable penetrating reasoning. Thus, this became the ideological weapon of the proletariat and at the same time delineation of the roadmap to emancipation. ‘The Manifesto’ stated firmly that, “The immediate aim of the Communists is the same as that of all the other proletarian parties: constitution of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of bourgeois rule, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” It ended with a historic declaration and clarion call: “The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communistic revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. WORKING MEN OF ALL COUNTRIES, UNITE!”
Invincibility of Marxism
Proletarian movement since the days of Marx and Engels has not only spread all over the globe but the victorious revolutions, first in Russia under the leadership of great Lenin and then in China under great Mao Zedong as also in other parts of the globe have given fitting rebuff to the bourgeoisie and its servitors who scoffed at the idea of a working class state, tried to ridicule the communist ideology by calling it a fantasy, a never-to-be-attained object. The working people of these countries, following the correct revolutionary line vindicated the cause Marx fought for and envisioned—the cause of emancipation, the cause of World Revolution. He handed down the scientific methodology to determine the concrete truth of a concrete situation or phenomenon and exhorted to traverse the path of truth to take civilization forward by abolishing exploitation of man for ever and unshackling human labour from the grip of the exploiters. Engels in a letter to F A Sorge dated 29 November, 1886, stated emphatically that Marxism “is not a dogma but guide to action”. Quoting that Lenin taught, “Marx and Engels always said, rightly ridiculing the mere memorising and repetition of “formulas”, that (these) at best are capable only of marking out general tasks, which are necessarily modifiable by the concrete economic and political conditions of each particular period of the historical process.” (Letters on Tactics, CW, Vol. 23, p.43) All Marxist authorities in post-Lenin period, Stalin, Mao Zedong and Comrade Shibdas Ghosh have upheld this basic teaching. Through their creative application of Marxian science and correct pursuit of Marxist methodology they have further developed Marxism-Leninism keeping pace with the changing objective condition and brought its understanding to a new height.
Setback of World Communist Movement
It is true that following revisionist conspiracy aided and abetted by world imperialism-capitalism, socialism in Soviet Union and then in China has been dismantled, world socialist camp as a bulwark of world peace and deterrent against all evil machinations of imperialist-capitalist has ceased to exist and world communist movement has suffered a temporary setback. But setback is not of Marxism but inevitable fallout of discarding Marxism, Marxist methodology of analysis. Marx clearly pointed out that “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.” (Critique of the Gotha Programme, p.85) So, unless there is a conscious struggle to wipe out the hangovers and fads of the old capitalist society in socialism which is a transitory stage between capitalism and communism, there is every possibility of socialism being endangered and capitalism brought back. All Marxist stalwarts had repeatedly warned that if Marxian science is not developed in keeping with the newer problems arising in the world, if Marxist methodology of approach and analysis are abandoned in the name of pragmatism, then in socialism, defeated bourgeoisie might reconsolidate and bring down counter-revolutionary attack to demolish socialism. For, in a revolutionary movement, like of which there is no parallel in history, and which, in reality did overthrow the reactionary regimes, temporary reverses or setbacks, trials and tribulations, twists and turns cannot simply be wished away. Such things happened in the past again and again, but the movement instead of losing, rather gained in strength. Viewed from another angle, these reverses and setbacks can be regarded as new materials, as they do now, not for the repudiation of the theory but for its enrichment and further development. For example, the murky face of revisionism has been unmasked, which enjoins the task upon the revolutionary working class movement to free itself from its clutches. Marxism is thus on a much solid footing. If the capitalists-imperialists throughout the world think that Marxism has been proved wrong, why are they on a spree to vilify Marxism and malign the Marxist authorities? It clearly shows that they are trembling in fear that the evolutionary working class armed with the invincible weapon of Marxism might overthrow them any moment. Rightly observed Lenin: “The progress of Marxism— the fact that its ideas are spreading and taking firm hold among the working class— inevitably increases the frequency and intensity of these bourgeois attacks on Marxism, which becomes stronger, more hardened and more vigorous every time it is “annihilated” by official science.” (Marxism and Revisionism, p.31)
Imbibe the Truth of Marxism and Bring it Back to its Glory
Let the oppressive bourgeoisie, the enemies of revolution and social progress bask in the illusion of invalidation of Marxism. Ignorant as they are, they do not know that history has proved beyond doubt about Marxism having provided mankind with an invincible instrument—thousand times more powerful than guns and artilleries —that has developed as a science, as the ‘science of all sciences’ and can give a comprehensive knowledge of all branches of epistemology, can reflect truth and help understand the laws of social development. Modern development in science and human knowledge has further confirmed this truth, as clearly shown by the Marxist authorities. The temporary reverses and setbacks of socialism which we are pained at, are due to wrong understanding and wrong application of science born out of inadequate ideological, cultural and ethical standard. The remedy lies not in cynicism or escapism, which even a section of admirers of communism is sometimes tempted to sink into, but in boldly facing the challenge of the situation with revolutionary audacity and undaunted courage of conviction that a true communist must be capable of. With the escalated aggravation of capitalist-imperialist oppression, people are often bursting forth in agitation throughout the world, seeking correct revolutionary leadership, craving for emancipation. It shows that objective condition is ripe for revolution. But what is needed to get the subjective condition fulfilled by way of imbibing the essence of Marxism, establishing ideological-organizational leadership of genuine communist parties on the people’s movements, give those movements proper direction and lead to logical culmination. It is imperative that the genuine communists release ardent struggle to change themselves culturally, ideologically and ethically, attain higher communist character, learn from the past mistakes, isolate the revisionists-reformists from the working class movement, bring back the glory of international communist movement and lead the masses in their struggle for realizing the cherished dream of emancipation.
On this solemn occasion of two hun1dred years of Marx being born, what better tribute can be given to the great visionary, to the great thinker, to the great revolutionary leader, teacher and guide of the proletariat other than reaffirming the courage of conviction in the invincibility of the revolutionary proletarian movement based on the illumining philosophy of Marxism? What can be the pledge of the revolutionary proletariats of the world other than holding aloft the banner of Marxism, the banner of revolution?
LONG LIVE MARXISM!