Skip to main content

Socialism = Communism


The Socialist Party repudiates any differentiation between socialism and communism. Socialism is communism, and vice versa. The words socialism and communism have the same meaning. Both entail the total abolition of money, buying and selling, and the wages system, a complete breach, both in practice and in ideas, with capitalism. They indicate a condition of society in which the wealth of the community: the land and the means of production and distribution are held in common, production being for use and not for profit. The community will ascertain what are the requirements of the people in food, clothing, housing, transport, educational and cultural facilities. Food, clothing, housing, transport, sanitation — these come first. Then will follow the luxuries.


It means the community must set itself the task of providing rather more than the people can use of all the things that the people need and desire, and of supplying these when and as the people require them. Socialism shall satisfy material needs without stint or measure from the common storehouse, according to individual and social desires. Private property, beyond that which is in actual personal use, will disappear. Everyone will be able to have what he or she desires in food, in clothing, education and travel. The abundant technology now possible removes any need for rationing or limiting of consumption. None will desire to hoard commodities not in use, since a fresh supply may be obtained at will.
In socialism, people will be free to co-operate, producing, inventing, studying, not under the compulsion of law, or poverty, or the incentive of individual gain, but from deliberate choice and with a zest for achievement. Socialism will provide the material and spiritual conditions which will make voluntary co-operative labour possible.


Engels, in his introduction to the 1888 English edition of The Manifesto, wrote: "We could not have called it a socialist manifesto." He went on to describe socialists as "adherents of various utopian systems" and as "the most multifarious social quacks." He described socialism as "a middle-class movement," contrasted to communism which he defined as "a working-class movement." And he added: "As our notion, from the very beginning, was that 'the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself,' there could be no doubt as to which of the names we must take." In other words, “socialists” were like missionaries to the working class, whereas communists empowered the working class. The programme of the Manifesto advanced far beyond the previous “socialist” ones, since it called for rule by the workers as a class and the elimination of capitalism instead of merely called for a popular government, based on a parliamentary majority led by a “workers' Party”, which would nationalise the privately owned means of production which would mean the government, and not the workers themselves, would control the means of production. The Manifesto called for direct political rule by workers as follows:
“. . . The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle of democracy. The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the State, i.e., of the proletariat organized as ruling class . . .”

This is incompatible with rule by a Party. The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting the capitalist. It can only be realised by the workers themselves being master over production.

Both Marx and Engels left no doubt as to their opposition to the concept of Party rule. Marx, in a speech to a delegation of German workers in 1869, declared: ” . . Trade unions ought never to be attached to a political association or place themselves under its tutelage; to do so would be to deal themselves a mortal blow . . . . Any political party, whatever its nature and without exception, can only hold the enthusiasm of the workers for a short time; unions, on the other hand, lay hold on the masses in a more enduring way; they alone re capable of representing a true working-class party. “

Marx's and Engels definitions of socialism and communism differed greatly from Lenin's and his followers. Lenin departed fundamentally from the Marxist description of the relationship between socialism and communism. In The State and Revolution, Lenin merged socialism with the first phase of communism by selective quotes from Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program and incorrectly claiming that what Marx called the first phase of communism" was "usually called socialism." Lenin reduced Marx's first phase of communism to three principles: 1. “common” ownership of the means of production; 2. "from each according to his ability, and to each according to his labour"; 3. "the distribution of products" has not yet been made equal.

All three concepts differ from counterparts in Marx's Critique of the Gotha Program. Marx specified that the means of production must be owned by "the association of producers," not as in Lenin’s state ownership which was something that Marx and Engels rejected out of hand.

Marx's formulation is "from each according to his ability, and to each according to his labour power." This is quite different from Lenin's "to each according to his labour": Marx's "labour power" is measured solely by the length and intensity of labour, whereas Lenin's "labour" is measured by the value of the commodities it produces. According to Marx, payment for labour is the hallmark of capitalism, whereas payment for labour power is the hallmark of the early phase of communism and remunerated in labour-time vouchers. Therefore the "socialist" society Lenin described has a basic capitalist feature because it pays wages for labour.

Marx was critical of the idea, repeated by Lenin, that distribution of products is central. Marx's view was that conditions of production are more essential, and it is incorrect to "make a fuss" about distribution: “The distribution of the means of consumption at any time is only a consequence of the distribution of the conditions of production themselves. The latter distribution, however, is a feature of the mode of production itself. . . . If the material conditions of production are the co-operative property of the workers themselves, then this . . . results in a different distribution of the means of production . . ." Put another way, the most important thing is the direct control of the means and conditions of production by the producers themselves, rather than by the State or by the Party.

"Marxism-Leninism" is an artificial and false term, originally invented by Stalin to serve as an ideological cover for his one-man dictatorship. However, its origins lie in Lenin's departures from Marxist principles; Stalin merely magnified these departures.

It was obvious to Lenin that the conditions of backward Russia precluded any possibility of making the transition to Marx's first phase of communism. Its requirements of 1) political rule by workers as a class, rather than through a workers' party, and 2) the payment of all workers for their labor power by labor time vouchers instead of money, rather than for the value of their labor (that is, everyone would have to be paid strictly according to the time and intensity of their labor, rather than according to the value of what they produce) was not possible.

Consequently, Lenin developed a new, non-Marxist theory for a transition from private capitalism under a Tsarist neo feudal autocracy to a social order he considered achievable under the social conditions of Russia in 1917-1918. Lenin himself described this system as state capitalism under a Communist Party dictatorship. From this he proposed to advance via "what is commonly called socialism" to Marx's actual first phase of communism by gradually transferring power from the Party to the workers. The workers themselves would gradually take over control of the means of production. Lenin acted on his mistaken belief that what is called socialism could be imposed by a temporary Party dictatorship. Tragically, the Party dictatorship became a one-man dictatorship, and state capitalism became permanent under the name of "socialism in one country." It was complete failure.
With the benefit of hindsight, we can now see that the only viable option which could have been pursued successfully in the 1917 Revolution was a democratic left-of-centre capitalist republic, which at the time was the Martov’s Left Mensheviks position. History has demonstrated that any attempt to circumvent or shorten the process of establishing social democracy (or "democratic socialism") as the indispensable prerequisite for the communist revolution always leads to failure. Martov saw his role as providing the working class with the tools and organisation to more effectively engage in the class war rather than emasculating them, in the name of  a ficticious "dictatorship of the proletariat" as Lenin and Trotsky sought to do.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

What do we mean by no leaders

"Where are the leaders and what are their demands?" will be the question puzzled professional politicians and media pundits will be asking when the Revolution comes. They will find it inconceivable that a socialist movement could survive without an elite at the top. This view will be shared by some at the bottom. Lenin and his Bolshevik cohorts argued that we couldn't expect the masses to become effective revolutionaries spontaneously, all on their own. To achieve liberation they needed the guidance of a "vanguard party" comprised of an expert political leadership with a clear programme. The Trotskyist/Leninist Left may remix the song over and over again all they want but the tune remains the same: leaders and the cadres of the vanguard can find the answer; the mass movements of the people cannot liberate themselves. The case for leadership is simple. Most working-class people are too busy to have opinions or engage in political action. There’s a need for some…

Lenin and the Myth of 1917

A myth pervades that 1917 was a 'socialist' revolution rather it was the continuation of the capitalist one. What justification is there, then, for terming the upheaval in Russia a Socialist Revolution? None whatever beyond the fact that the leaders in the November movement claim to be Marxian Socialists. M. Litvinoff practically admits this when he says:In seizing the reigns of power the Bolsheviks were obviously playing a game with high stake. Petrograd had shown itself entirely on their side. To what extent would the masses of the proletariat and the peasant army in the rest of the country support them?”This is a clear confession that the Bolsheviks themselves did not know the views of the mass when they took control. At a subsequent congress of the soviets the Bolsheviks had 390 out of a total of 676. It is worthy of note that none of the capitalist papers gave any description of the method of electing either the Soviets or the delegates to the Congress. And still more cu…

No More Propertyless

Socialism is the name given to that form of society in which there is no such thing as a propertyless class, but in which the whole community has become a working community owning the means of production—the land, factories, mills, mines, transport and all the means whereby wealth is created and distributed to the community. The first condition of success for Socialism is that its adherents should explain its aim and its essential characteristics clearly, so that they can be understood by every one. This has always been the primary purpose of the Socialist Party's promotion of its case for socialism. The idea of socialism is simple. Socialists believe that society is divided into two great classes that one of these classes, the wage-earning, the proletariat, is property-less the other, the capitalist, possesses the wealth of society and the proletariat in order to be able to live at all and exercise its faculties to any degree, must hire out their ability to work to the capitalis…