Friday, May 15, 2015

Re-Learning Socialist Ideas

Mushrooms are valued as food and some types are considered delicacies. Many species of mushrooms are edible, but proper identification is essential to avoid illness and even death by consuming toxic toadstools. These look the same, they taste the same, but they can kill you. We’re all familiar with the fear-mongering that goes on when it comes to socialism and socialists deemed outside the “mainstream” politics. Usually politicians use the term socialism as a synonym to "dictatorship" and "totalitarianism". "Socialism" usually means "state control of the economy". But today there many countries in which there are some socialist features used and they are nor dictatorships nor totalitarian and do not have too much state control of the economy. Some on the libertarian right would say that the US has become socialist because workers in this country have 40-hour work week and a minimum wage. Most of the workers have some medical and dental benefits paid by their companies or business owners. Also all workers are guaranteed to have Social Security retirement income. The main question is still remains "How you can separate real socialism from pseudo-socialism?” The World Socialist Movement disagrees with anybody who can say that socialism has failed at the end of the 20th century. How something what never existed can ever fail? Pseudo-socialism (Bolshevism) did fail but it is very important to know the difference between capitalism, pseudo-socialism and genuine socialism in the 21st century. There is a lot of misapprehension about socialism in the public mind, many of which are lingering relics from the past.

Socialism is the idea that each individual should have the means to live a life of dignity, without exception. Socialists think each person should have the means to develop to their full potential. It means a society focused on restoring ecosystems and promoting sustainable human development. It means a society based on ongoing, participatory democracy. It means people-power. Socialism means workers' democracy: workers make the decisions about what to produce and how to produce it. Liberated from the constraints of the profit system, creativity and innovation will explode. Nothing's too good for people.

For Marx, socialism is neither the transition to communism, nor the lower phase of communism. It is just communism, simple as that. In fact, Marx calls capitalism itself the ‘transitional point’ or ‘transitional phase’ to communism. For him socialism and communism are simply equivalent and alternative terms for the same society that he envisages for the post-capitalist epoch which he calls, in different texts, equivalently: communism, socialism, Republic of Labour, society of free and associated producers or simply Association, Cooperative Society, or (re)union of free individuals. Hence, what Marx says in one of his famous texts – Critique of the Gotha Programme – about the two stages of communism could as well apply to socialism undergoing the same two stages. To drive home our point that socialism and communism in Marx mean the same, and thereby to refute the uncritically accepted Bolshevik tradition of socialism being only the transition to communism, we can cite at least four of Marx’s texts where, referring to the future society after capital: Marx speaks exclusively of ‘socialism’ and does not mention ‘communism.’

It must be stressed that capitalist relations are not revolutionised within capitalism automatically even with all the requisite material conditions prepared by capital itself. It is the working class which is the active agent for eliminating capital and building the socialist society; the proletarian revolution is thus an act of self-emancipation: “The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves”.  Marx and Engels equally underline that “consciousness of the necessity of a profound revolution arises from the working class itself”. The starting point of the proletarian revolution is the conquest of political power by the proletariat – the rule of the “immense majority in the interest of the immense majority,” the “conquest of democracy”. This so-called ‘seizure of power’ by the proletariat does not immediately signify the victory of the revolution; it is only the “first step in the worker revolution”, which continues through a prolonged “period of revolutionary transformation” required for superseding the bourgeois social order.

Until capital totally disappears, the workers remain proletarians and the revolution continues, victorious though they are politically. “The superseding of the economical conditions of the slavery of labour by the conditions of free and associated labour can only be the progressive work of time,” and the “working class will have to pass through long struggles, through a series of historic processes transforming circumstances and men,” wrote Marx with reference to the victory of the  1871 Commune . Later he reminded Bakunin that even with the installation of proletarian rule “the classes and the old organization of society still do not disappear”. At the end of the process, with the disappearance of capital, the proletariat along with its “dictatorship” also disappears, leaving individuals as simple producers, and wage labour naturally vanishes. Classes disappear along with the state in its last form as proletarian power, and the society of free and associated producers – socialism – is inaugurated.

The outcome of the workers’ self-emancipatory revolution is the socialist society, an “associationof free individuals” – individuals neither personally dependent as in pre-capitalism nor objectively dependent as in capitalism – and there arises, for the first time, the “true” community where universally developed individuals dominate their own social relations. Correspondingly, the capitalist mode of production (CMP) yields place to the “associated mode of production” (AMP). With the disappearance of classes, there is also no state and hence no political power in the new society. We cited Marx above holding that with the victory of the proletarian revolution politics ceases to exist and socialism throws away its political cover.

Similarly, with the transformation of society’s production relations, its exchange relations – with nature as well as among individuals – are also transformed. Capital, driven by the logic of accumulation, seriously damages the environment and undermines the natural powers of the earth together with those of the human producer, the “twin fountains of all wealth”. In contrast, in the new society, freed from the mad drive for accumulation and with the unique goal of satisfying human needs, individuals rationally regulate their material exchanges with nature with the “least expenditure of force and carry on these exchanges in the conditions most worthy of and in fullest conformity with their human nature”  As regards the exchange relations among individuals, here the directly social character of production is presupposed and hence the commodity form of the products of labour and, therewith, exchange value ceases to exist. “Community” here is “posited before production”.  From the very inception of the new society as it has just come out of the womb of capital – Marx’s first phase of socialism – “producers do not exchange their products and as little does labour employed on these products appear as value”.

Capitalism continues to exist in the advanced capitalist countries through all its ups and downs, and “socialism” arose in societies marked by the dominance of pre-capitalism or backward capitalism therefore according to many writers Marx’s vision has simply proved to be wrong. Now, we have argued that this “socialism”  has nothing in common with the socialism as envisaged by Marx, that is, a society of free and associated individuals. There is a simple answer here based on Marx’s materialist conception of history (often inexactly called ‘historical materialism’): the absence of the material and the subjective conditions for the advent of a society of free and associated individuals. As regards the relatively backward regions, socially and economically, this should be clear. As to the societies of advanced capitalism, it seems, it has not yet exhausted all the possibilities of its creative potential. Particularly — and this is the most important consideration — the ‘greatest productive force’ — to use Marx’s term for the working class — has not yet come to a point where its great majority can no longer accept the system confronting them and are prepared to revolt, though the necessary process might be on the way.


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