Thursday, June 30, 2016

Make the Socialist Party

In today’s topsy-turvy world one never knows what lies in store for ourselves. It’s a world of fear and insecurity. Each new day brings more tragic news. With such threats in the world, it’s time to admit you need peace of mind which you and your loved ones deserve.

The socialist revolution is the most radical break with oppression and exploitation in history and it will be won and built by the working class. The aim is to replace the world capitalist system with world socialism. The establishment of a socialist, planned economy, based on the needs of the people, will mean the end to the chaos of capitalist production with its lack of planning, and repeated crises.  Exploitation, oppression, and degradation will not exist in a socialist society. Commodity production, that is, production for sale or exchange on the market, will not exist. The system of wage labour will be abolished and the guiding principle of labour will be “from each according to ability, to each according to need.” The means of production will be held communally and private property will be eliminated. Socialism would change our way of life.

Opponents of socialism must exclude the idea that revolutionary change is necessary if mankind is to extricate itself from the overwhelming conditions of conflict and start on the road towards human development. The supporters of capitalism have nothing to offer mankind beyond the continuous existence of a system of society which totters on under the weight of crises inherent in that very system. Socialism will be possible only when the workers, those who meet the needs of society, decide that they are determined to lay the living conditions of mankind on a new foundation. The whole future of humanity rests on the emergence of a socialist conscious working class.

To have the necessity for socialism recognised without having explained the meaning is to have votes passed on words that have been emptied of their meaning. For communists, to speak of socialism without unmasking the fraudulent way this word is used by the Left.

Many unattached radicals who have been looking for a new political home have been disappointed by the failure of Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn to build an independent revolutionary movement. The construction of a new socialist party would have required a clear conception of the kind of party that the workers need and of the objectives it would serve. Whatever miracles they expected – or others expected of them – did not materialise. And neither has any new party formation.

Socialism or barbarism, these are the alternatives before us. The capitalist system is destroying civilisation before our very eyes. Its wars have destroyed continents, massacred millions, left other millions to starve. Industry can no longer be perverted to serve interests of a tiny privileged class without forcing all mankind back to a new "Dark Age." We must go forward to a socialist society under which the productive capacity of modern technology will be used to raise the level of culture and to satisfy the needs of the people, and to establish a society without class privilege.

For those who are not content to be outside the organised movement for socialist objectives, the Socialist Party offers a principled vehicle for participating in the working class struggle for a socialism.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

What level playing field?

By accidents of birth most children have reduced chances of fulfilling their natural potential and Scotland. Private schools have for centuries been used as the breeding ground for the ruling. It creates a divide between us, the plebs, and they, the masters.

The Sutton Report states the poor from Scotland are 4 times less likely to go to University than those from wealthy backgrounds. In England this figure is only 2.4 times.

MSPs are now five times more likely than the average Scot to be educated at a fee-paying school. Around four per cent of Scots have had the purchased privileges of an education at one of these facilities, yet fully 20 per cent of our elected representatives attended one.

A head teacher of a Glasgow secondary school which serves some of this city’s most disadvantaged neighbourhoods pointed to the “invisible discriminators” which diminished the chances of his brightest pupils fulfilling their potential. These ranged from being denied internships at big city private practices to large fees for CAT exams to universities routinely deploying artificially high entry qualification levels as a means of filtering out pupils from deprived backgrounds.

Beyond Tomorrow

In these days of bloodshed and strife, we, the Socialist Party, reaffirm our belief in world socialism and in the principles of human brotherhood as the only great force in the world that can bring order out of this chaos and prevent catastrophe. Never has the need been greater than now for socialists to conduct a campaign for their own objectives and in their own name against the political machinations of capitalism. We have witnessed a worldwide wave of mass demonstrations, strikes and revolutionary uprisings aimed at a whole string of despotic regimes. The rational system of socialism would mean more things to eat, to wear, to enjoy – and at the same time more leisure for farm and factory workers. Under capitalism, however, this splendid technological improvement turns into a great social disaster – fewer jobs, more unemployed, more worry, more hunger, more starvation. Capitalism means only a small section of the population controls production and is not answerable to the rest of the community

The Socialist Party stand for lasting and democratic prosperity and peace; Against race hatred; For freedom of speech, freedom of press, and freedom of assembly; For the common ownership of the means of production and distribution; For the principle of collectivism; For the principle of cooperation. Join hands with us for the removal of the cause as the only way to alter the effect, and that in place of the present struggle for a miserable existence we may so alter the conditions of that existence that everyone shall work, and in return shall get all that he or she can require, not only food, clothes and shelter, but leisure and means of enjoyment This can be done by associated effort only – call it communism, socialism, anarchism what you will. With this outlook we have every reason to send a message of encouragement to our comrades throughout the world.

The Socialist Party is the only party that stands in elections and point out that there is no alternative for the working class other than socialism. To go and try to get fellow workers to support our party merely because we promise them some immediate reforms is to enter into competition with all the pro-capitalist parties on their own ground for there is no sound reason why fellow workers should prefer our wish-list of reforms to those of the other parties. We can offer the working class no more and no better reforms than can any other party and the workers would be entirely correct if, on the basis of an appeal for reforms, they would turn their backs to us and vote for the more “pragmatic” parties with more “practical” policies. To distinguish ourselves fundamentally from all reformist groups by carrying on a campaign for only socialism is not only correct but common sense. We do not to claim that such a campaign would result in a large vote but we recognise that if we don’t conduct such a campaign there is no use having one at all. A huge vote can be piled up by a reformist party more easily than by a revolutionary party under non-revolutionary conditions. And to be disappointed or disheartened by a comparatively small vote is not to understand the nature of a socialist election campaign. Votes obtained by a campaign conducted solely on revolutionary lines mean that those persons who voted can be counted upon whereas votes obtained by offering all kinds of promises are votes of those who will vote socialist today and swing to some other party the next election. If the people who vote for a socialist do not do so because he or she is a Socialist but because they do not know that he or she is a Socialist, of what earthly use can that be for achieving the Socialist goal? The answer is “none whatever.” The view that we should, first be elected and then teach socialism to the masses is so utterly absurd that It should not even be suggested. An election campaign must serve as an educational campaign. If our campaign is one of education for socialism, then it follows that we must show why every other party is wrong and cannot solve the problems of the working class. We must distance ourselves from those parties that claim to represent the interests of the working class as well as those parties that are openly against the idea of socialism. Our political position is unique and we make no compromises with any other group. The attitude that we must get results no matter how we get them is self-defeating.

The Socialist Party primarily concern itself with analysing the capitalist system, pointing out its defects and advocating the replacing of the capitalist system by the common ownership and democratic administration of the means of production and distribution. The success of the socialist movement and the rapidity of its progress will depend very largely upon the method of education. The political aspirations of the Socialist Party is essentially constructive – to develop socialist ideas and build socialism. There is little place in the workers’ movement for the palace revolutions, midnight insurrections or cataclysmic conditions. Socialism does not advance necessarily in response to or because of great industrial distress. Economic crises may point out the fact that something is wrong, but the suggestion of the remedy and the cure for these ills is quite a different problem. Socialism cannot be introduced without a well-organised public opinion supporting the socialist idea. Whether that support is won at the ballot box or through trade union action is not so important as that it be won. One thing seems evident. If we cannot get people to vote for ourselves, there is little hope of getting them to man the barricades on behalf of our cause. It may be too early to decide definitely what course we shall finally have to pursue to gain the socialist commonwealth but there certainly can be no harm in getting as many votes at the ballot box as possible. As long as the ballot can be used, even under difficulties as it is today, it should be used.  It is not correct to say that the Socialist Party is a political party only to the extent that it succeeds in winning votes. The Socialist Party is and must be a political party throughout the year, and not only during election campaigns. While we are in favour of strikes or anything else which will advance the cause of our fellow workers and many of us busy ourselves, taking part in the class struggle through trade union activity and community action, the mistake that many make is in thinking that by engaging in the day-to-day struggles on the economic field that the workers will follow them on the political arena. We will gain the socialist commonwealth by the best means at our disposal.

Scottish rich get richer

Scotland’s richest 10 per cent saw the largest increases in income over 2014/15, while the proportion of working households entering into poverty levels has increased, according to the latest figures from the Scottish Government. The proportion of people in absolute poverty – lacking basic human needs like food and shelter – remained unchanged, though decreased slightly if housing costs were factored in.

The top 10 per cent saw incomes rise by 15 per cent more than the bottom 40 per cent combined, the report says. In 2013/14, the same group saw incomes rise by 12 per cent more.

The report says a move into part-time work has seen those in lower income brackets fall behind the trend for wage rises in the middle and the richest households. The report says: “The proportion of people in poverty in working households increased in the latest year. The move into employment was largely into part-time work, especially for women, meaning that while people were in employment, they remained in poverty.”

Jamie Livingstone, head of Oxfam Scotland, told The Independent: “It is clear that not enough progress is being made on tackling poverty in Scotland. There are still over 940,000 people living in relative poverty after housing costs (AHC), the same number as 2013/14. Worryingly, the proportion of people experiencing in-work poverty is on the rise. In 2014/15, 58 per cent of working age adults in poverty (AHC) were living in working households, as were 66 per cent of children.”

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Who are the outsiders?

The answer to people fleeing conflict, deprivation and brutal regimes is to remove the root causes of such misery—minority ownership and control of productive resources which generates rivalry. Not only does this global minority ownership and control of productive assets cause people to flee and seek better lives elsewhere, it also influences where such migrants try to reach. Politicians and the media accuse asylum seekers for not staying in the “first safe country” they reach, alleging them of seeing Britain as a “soft touch”. Those travelling long distances through fear or desperation are people no different to ourselves. Multimillionaires and billionaires, thanks to exploitation of the working class, re able to fly first-class anywhere in the world at a whim and are the real migrant “spongers” who need to be kicked out.

Xenophobia flourishes with new-comers subjected to racism and abusive languages by the host nation's population as "bloody foreigners", "parasites", "aliens", "refugees" and "patriotic” citizens are quick to assert, nationalistically, that the "outsiders" have come to take their jobs, their houses and what have you. However, though the grievances of the masses may be related to economic factors, it is unreasonable to blame it on their fellow poor workers. It is often objected that migrants move from one country to another in order to claim benefits and live off the backs of ‘indigenous’ people. But there is no reason to think this is true in the vast majority of cases. Benefits are low, and most migrants are not entitled to them anyway. The migration journey can be expensive and hard, often indeed fatal, with many dying at sea on leaky boats or while trying to cross a frontier. Migrants are rarely well off in the country they move to, forming an underclass with little if any security of employment or housing.  In order to ward off unrest various tactics are employed by governments. One of them is creating divisions among the poor workers by, for instance blaming foreigners and whipping up nationalistic feelings. In response to the official propaganda, the masses who are hungry and illiterate are taken in by the government policy. Since anger is emotional it often overpowers reason. Many workers will be misled by those squawking about the need to defend British jobs, by politicians bleating about defending Britain from being swamped by scroungers; but local workers will be no better off for siding with British capital against their fellow workers. As soon as the going gets tough, the capitalists will without hesitation pull up their money and send it elsewhere to make better profits without the slightest regards for the workers who would be swamped by the resulting unemployment. Migrant workers are a convenient scapegoat, and can be blamed for everything from unemployment to inner-city riots. Politicians therefore find it all too easy to play the immigrant (usually, race) card and claim to defend the national way of life. The truth is that it is not fellow workers who cause poverty and unemployment, but capitalism and its unyielding drive for profits.

In its quest for profits, capitalism is prepared to look anywhere for cheap labour power. One consequence has been the massive growth in numbers of migrant workers, who travel, (legally or illegally) to another country for the sake of employment. Capitalism relies on immigrant labour, despite all the anti-immigrant noises its political representatives make. Migration is part and parcel of the global economic order. Nationalist, protectionist and anti-foreigner views flourish when people, who already mistakenly consider themselves to be a nation, feel economically insecure. They tend to turn to the ‘nation-state’ to protect them from world market pressures and the competition of other states. It is all too easy to blame immigrants for causing or at least aggravating problems such as unemployment, bad housing or crime. Whether it is a matter of people from Eastern Europe or South Asia in Britain, or Hispanics in the United States, or Germans in Switzerland, a finger can always be pointed at ‘them’ for making things worse for ‘us’. People are right to protest about their situation, but they need to be more discerning and choose the right target. It’s not migrants who are to blame for their plight. It’s the world-wide capitalist system of production for profit. That’s what they should target.

Capitalism cannot work in the workers' interests. Its creed is profit. Capitalism is a society of haves and have-nots, of winners and losers. The working class should not side with any of our class enemies. It should stand for its own interests—freedom from wage slavery and exploitation; socialism: a society of production for use and free access, where all will contribute according to their abilities. We're compassionate; our capacity to empathise with others is nothing short of amazing and is surely the key to our unity and social order. Why would we do things to others that we wouldn't want done to us? If we rediscovered our empathy, imagine the impact on the treatment of refugees. The task confronting us is to build up a union of the working class, organised to put an end to the property system that divides and oppresses us. Working people, whether migrants or not, face a common enemy, the world capitalist class and their system. Instead, to free ourselves we need the World Commonwealth of Humanity. 

Monday, June 27, 2016

The same old slavery

In the slave system, it was considered “natural” for one group of people, the slaveowners, to own other people, the slaves. In our capitalist society, this idea is regarded as criminal and absurd, because the bourgeoisie has no need for slaves as private property (at least not in its own country). But it has every need for wage-slaves, proletarians. So it presents as “natural” the kind of society where a small group, the capitalists, own the means of production and on that basis force the great majority of society to work to enrich them. The slaveowners and the capitalists have one fundamental thing in common–they are both exploiters, and they both regard it as the correct and perfect order of things for a small group of parasites to live off the majority of laboring people. They differ only in the form in which they exploit and therefore in their view of how society should be organized to ensure this exploitation. As humanity advances towards socialism, society as a whole will consciously reject the idea that any one group should privately own the means of production. Then wage-slavery, based on the ownership of capital as private property, will be seen as just as criminal and absurd as ancient slavery, based on the ownership of other people as private property. The working class, by its own nature as a class, has no interest in promoting private gain at the expense of others and every interest in promoting cooperation. Only in this way can workers emancipate themselves and all of humanity.

The capitalists have exercised their dictatorship over the working class for hundreds of years, and they believe they should go on doing so, however much they cover this up with talk about “democracy.” The capitalists cannot eliminate the working class - and, certainly, cannot convert the working class into capitalists–for then whose labor would the capitalists live off! The working class, on the other hand, can run production and all of society much better without any capitalists at all. When all of society has been transformed and the community of associated workers has been established, then there will no longer be the need for the state since there will no longer be any class to suppress, and the state will be replaced with common administration by all of society. Socialism eliminates the anarchy of capitalism and its crises, by collective ownership of the means of production and collective planning of the economy. The nature of work itself will change completely because the labor of the workers will no longer go to enrich capital to further enslave the working class, but to improve life today, while providing for the future, according to the conscious plan of the working class itself. The pride that workers have in their work will be unhindered by any sense that they are working themselves, or someone else, out of a job, or that they are being driven to produce for the private benefit of some blood-sucking employer, under the scrutiny of his overseers and the constant threat of being fired. The organization of work will be the province of the working class itself. All this will unleash the stored-up knowledge of the working class, based on its direct experience in production, and inspire workers to make new breakthroughs in improving production. Work itself will become a joy and enrichment of the worker’s life, instead of a miserable means to sustain existence, as it is under capitalism. Machinery will no longer be weapons in the hands of the capitalists to grind down the working class, and workers will no longer be a mere extension of the machine as they are under capitalism. Instead, technology will become tools in the hands of the working class in its own struggle to revolutionise society. The working class will have a variety of organisations and agencies to involve the masses of people in the process of ruling and remaking society. Nothing can save capitalism in the long run, because it has long since become a barrier to progress and long since prepared the conditions for its own destruction.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

What we want

Human society has been propelled forward by the struggle for freedom. Today the rich and powerful,  try to claim the banner of freedom for themselves.  For the rulers, freedom means the freedom to structure everything in society to serve their own interests. Meanwhile, for the great majority, the freedom preached by the rich means only the freedom to choose between a rock and a hard place, between selling our laboUr to them to enrich them further and starving to death. But The Socialist Party has a different vision of freedom. The great majority women and men want freedom from misery, from exploitation, from the jackboot of the authoritarian state, from living our whole lives in alienation and insecurity. We want our freedom to become fully human, to develop all our talents and abilities. And millions of us sense that this cannot be done by each of us as individuals, but only by the pooling our collective strength and sharing our wisdom.

Freedom is not a thing that can be won for a few. If any are in chains, no one is truly free. Nor can freedom be given as a gift. It must be taken by the many because only in doing so can we learn to use and expand it. The rich hate the thought of socialism so much that they call socialist any reform in the system that cuts into their wealth in the slightest—from free higher education and a rise in taxes to environmental regulations and a universal healthcare system today. Such reforms, however, needed they might be, are not socialism. Real freedom requires the destruction of the whole current social order based on the rights of the wealthy to keep everything they have and constantly grab for more. Real freedom, socialism, will mean organising society and the economy on a totally different basis, where the wealth created by the labour of the many goes to serve the people and not to enrich a tiny handful of parasites. It will mean that people will have the opportunity and resources they need to develop their potential as human beings and to increase their contributions to the wellbeing of all. The working people will rule, learning to become the masters of society. The wealth of society, produced by the labor of millions, will go to benefit the many, not to fatten the few. Because the highest law of capitalism is “expand or die,” enormous waste, suffering, and environmental destruction are built into the system we live under. In place of this dog-eat-dog madness, we need cooperation, collectivity, and planning. We, the working people, make all of society run, each and every day. Why shouldn’t we run all of society?

After we have overthrown the capitalists we will establish socialism which will mean the rule of the majority. It will put an end to the exploitation of man by man. It will bring freedom to all those oppressed by capital and open up a new period of history. Workers will participate directly in running the economy and society from top to bottom. Gone will be the anarchy of capitalist production. Gone, too, its resultant economic crises which today bring so much misery to workers. Socialism is the future of humanity, a radically new society where classes and the state will have been completely eliminated. It is possible to do away with classes and the state since these only exist during a specific period of society’s development. Humanity has not always been divided into classes. In the primitive communal societies, all the members cooperated together to assure their survival. The state is simply an instrument by which one class dominates another. It became a necessity when society split into classes. Just as the ancient slave state served the slave owners to suppress the countless slave rebellions, so too the modern capitalist state is a tool of the bourgeoisie to maintain its dictatorship over the working class. There will be no rich and no poor, and all members of society will contribute to the common good. The immense advance of the productive forces and the tremendous abundance of social wealth will allow for the application of the principle: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” Each person will contribute to society according to his or her capacities, while society in turn provides for his or her needs. The differences between workers and farmers, town and country, and manual and intellectual work will have disappeared.

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Where's there life, there is hope

Socialism is not yet dead for the good reason that it is not yet born. The struggle against the capitalist class is a struggle against a parasite class who live off the labour of others, and against all exploitation. It can only end by the transferal of all land, instruments, factories, machines and mines to the whole of society for the organisation of social production under which all that is produced by the workers and all improvements of production must benefit the working people themselves. The working class movement is the gravedigger of capitalism. The struggle of the working class for its emancipation is a political struggle. The emancipation of the working class is the revolutionary act of self-emancipation.

There is growing fear, anger, despair among people about the future of our planet. Some of it is undoubtedly misplaced and expressed in violent and destructive ways as religious fundamentalism and a nationalistic xenophobia hatred towards others. There is no such thing as revolutionary nationalism. All nationalism is reactionary. Nationalism has been used by native ruling classes and the removal of the foreign ruler through national struggle has never really changed the oppression suffered by the mass of the people. Nationalism is a weapon in the hands of the ruling class in order to mislead the people. Still, there are also thousands of organisations and people all around the world engaged in positive nonviolent and collective action. There is a long history of social critics and progressive thinkers offering critiques of human society. Among those who are better known is Karl Marx. He repeatedly exposed the way people fell victims of deceit and self-deceit in politics until they learned to discover the interests of some class behind the moral, religious, political and social phrases, declarations and promises.

The course of history is taking a turn towards world socialism. To blaze a trail which will lead to the constitution of a real Marxist party is our main task. We approach this problem with confidence and humility. We need both. Our confidence is born of the knowledge that we are equipped with the principles of Marxism. Our adherence to principle is openly admitted by the whole membership of our party.  We have been able to resist all attempts on the part of those on the Left to have us renounce those principles who have accused us of being dogmatists and sectarians. This charge is our badge of political honesty and sincerity. It’s a declaration of acknowledgement of our persistence and perseverance. These are precious attributes and we shall strive to keep them. But we need more than that. We require the understanding and cooperation of our fellow workers and we are humble enough to admit that we are lacking in this particular support.

What is basically wrong with capitalism? You will get a number of different answers from socialists which will depend on their vision of what socialism might be like and on their ideas as to what political action is all about. Members of the Socialist Party see these things very differently from the Left with their crude vision of mankind. All would be well, they say or imply, if as a result of their capture of state power. Capitalism is completely incapable of solving the problems of the world. The task of the Socialist Party is not to lead the workers nor to concoct utopian schemes but to enlighten and organise fellow workers. Humanity is not so vile as to tolerate the foulness of capitalist "civilisation" indefinitely. Capitalism has been found wanting. The handwriting is on the wall. Life under capitalism is a struggle for a better existence for all living creatures in the future society—the industrial commonwealth of labour. Class power is the essential condition for far-reaching social change. The object of the Socialist Party must, therefore, aim to consolidate that power, and put an end to the political, economic and social power of the capitalist class. We can transform Parliament into the effective instrument of the people’s will. Our ambition in the Socialist Party is to help our fellow workers to achieve socialism for the whole of mankind. It is a hard and difficult job.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Lenin 6/6

After the overthrow of the Tsar in March 1917, capitalism had to develop in Russia in one form or another. That it took the form of state capitalism under a brutal one-party dictatorship was the result of the Bolsheviks' seizing power in November on Lenin's programme of State Capitalism for Russia. Lenin and the Bolsheviks did completely uproot and destroy semi-feudal Tsarism. Which can't have been a bad thing. A bit like Cromwell here. Nothing to do with socialism, either of them, of course, but with clearing the way for the progress of capitalism.

Many people assume that Marx believed the working class would only be able to come to power by smashing the State in a violent uprising. They do not realise that this was Lenin's view and one which he tried to pass off as Marx's in his dishonest pamphlet The State and Revolution.

Marx's theory of the State is quite clear. When the early communist communities under which mankind originally lived broke up into class societies, a new social institution to protect the interests of the dominant class was needed. This institution was the State, which is essentially an armed centre of social control. The class that controls the State is thereby able to control also society, in the end by force of arms; it is the ruling class. In the course of history, the State has been controlled by various classes — Ancient slave-owners, feudal barons and, now, modern capitalists. Today's subject class, the workers, can only achieve its freedom by itself winning control of the State and using it to abolish class society by establishing the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production. With the end of classes the need for a State, as the special social organ of coercion, also disappears. The classless society of Socialism has no State, but simply a democratic administrative centre for settling social affairs.

Throughout his political life, Marx insisted that the working class must capture the State before trying to establish Socialism and that Socialism would be a society without a State.

In the early days, Marx expected that the workers would only be able to win power in a violent insurrection. In the 1840's this was not an unreasonable proposition. Universal suffrage existed hardly anywhere and the insurrection — barricades, street-fighting, the seizure of public buildings — was a method used even by capitalist politicians. Marx later realised that universal suffrage was an alternative method the workers might be able to use in their struggle to win State power. In 1872 in a speech at the Hague, where the congress of the First International was being held, Marx commented that he thought the workers might be able to achieve power peacefully in America, Britain and perhaps Holland—countries where they made up a majority of the voters. In 1880 a French Workers' Party was founded. Its manifesto had been drafted, in Marx's study and spoke of turning universal suffrage from a fraud into "an agent of emancipation". Engels in his Introduction to Marx's Class Struggles in France (an account of French politics from 1848 to 1850) explains how he and Marx came to regard the insurrection behind barricades as an obsolete weapon for the working class and goes on to show how universal suffrage could be much more effective.

Marx, then, left open the question of how the working class would win State power and did not rule out the possibility of their winning control of the State by peaceful means. As to what the working class should do with the State once they had won control of it, Marx always insisted that they should immediately establish a democratic republic. After the Paris Commune of 1871, he declared that the workers would have to make other, more radical changes in the structure of the State before they could use it to establish Socialism.
Marx views can be summarised:

1. The working class must first, either peacefully or violently, win control of the State.
2. Then they must make it completely democratic, and,
3. Use it to dispossess the capitalists and establish the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.
4. This done, there would no longer be any need for the State, which consequently would cease to exist in Socialism.

Marx's views were distorted in two opposing ways. First, by some Social Democrats who made him stand for a gradual, peaceful transition to Socialism by means of social reform measures passed by parliament.
Secondly, by Lenin:

When Lenin returned to Russia in April 1917 after the overthrow of the Tsar he began to advocate that his party, the Bolsheviks, should aim to seize power in the near future. He knew that they could only do this in a violent uprising. Forced into hiding in August and September he wrote this pamphlet The State and Revolution in which he distorted Marx's views so as to justify in Marxist terms the Bolsheviks' planned insurrection.

Lenin's basic distortion is to take Marx's statements about the need to break up Napoleon's bureaucratic State machine after the workers had won power and to argue that he was referring to the State generally. This made Marx appear to say that the State should be smashed by the working class before they could win, or while they were winning power.

Lenin quotes Marx's The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and emphasises a passage which reads "All revolutions perfected this machine instead of smashing it" (our emphasis), clearly a reference to a particular State apparatus; in this case the centralised French State. But see what Lenin makes Marx say:

“. . . all the revolutions which have occurred up to now perfected the state machine, whereas it must be broken, smashed.” (p.45, our emphasis).

Another example occurs in Chapter III where Lenin quotes from one of Marx's letters (to Kugelmann, 12 April 1871). In it Marx is saying that the passage from The Eighteenth Brumaire just discussed means that it was essential for "every real people's revolution on the Continent" not "to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it".

Lenin inserts the word "state" into Marx's "the bureaucratic-military machine" and uses the phrase "bureaucratic-military state machine" in the rest of the Chapter as if this is what Marx had written.

Again, Lenin quotes Marx's statement that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made machinery and wield it for its own purposes" and says:

“Marx's idea is that the working class must break up, smash the 'ready-made state machinery', and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it”. (p. 59).

Taken quite literally, this is true. Marx did advocate that parts of the old State should be broken up. The real question, however, is when he advocated this should be done: Was it before or after the working class had won State power?

Lenin argues that Marx meant "before". Engels, on the other hand, made it quite clear that Marx meant "after". Engels was specifically asked about this passage from Marx and replied:

“It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes”. (Letter to Bernstein, 1 Jan. 1884).

In fact, Lenin later (Chapter IV) himself quotes passages from Engels' Introduction to Marx Civil War in France which show that Marx was talking about what the workers should do after, rather than before, they had won power:

“From the very outset the Commune was compelled to recognise that the working class, once come to power, could not go on managing with the old state machine; that . . . this working class must ... do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself …” (p. 123).  


“. . . the state is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another . . . and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its victorious struggle for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible …” (p.127).

Oddly enough, in Chapter VI Lenin, on three occasions, formulates Marx's views so as to mean that the bureaucratic-military parts of the State must be smashed after the workers have won power. This is all the more confusing in that only a few pages away Lenin had accused Kautsky of admitting "the possibility of power being seized without destroying the state machine" (p.171). Lenin confused the two separate issues of breaking up the old bureaucratic state machine and how the working class could come to win control of that machine. It suggests that Lenin, when he makes statements like:

“Marx meant that the working class must smash, break, shatter ... the whole state machine” (p.169).


“From 1852 to 1891, for forty years, Marx and Engels taught the proletariat that it must smash the state machine” (p.170).

He means his readers to think Marx's view to be that the State must be smashed by the working class while seizing power. This would mean that Marx thought a peaceful capture of State power impossible. Quite apart from Engels' clear explanation, the fact that Marx did not rule out this possibility is in itself sufficient to disprove Lenin's distortion. Marx would have seen no contradiction between the working class winning power peacefully and then later smashing the bureaucratic-military machine.

There are a number of other distortions in Lenin's pamphlet which we will briefly record.

In that part of Anti-Dühring later published as Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Engels in the course of describing the establishment of Socialism wrote:

“The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But in doing this, it ... abolishes . . . the state as state.”

Despite the fact that Engels goes on to explain this (that the State, as a means of class oppression, becomes unnecessary when it has become the representative of the whole community as it would after thus ending class property), Lenin makes the absurd claim that "Engels speaks here of the proletarian revolution 'abolishing' the bourgeois state . . ." (p.28)

Lenin describes as "this panegyric on violent revolution" (p.33) another passage from Anti-Dühring where Engels writes about the role of "force" in history. Here Lenin disguises the fact that Marx and Engels understood by "force" not necessarily and exclusively "violent insurrection" but also the mere exercise of State power, whether accompanied by violence or not.

Lenin quotes (p.96) from an article in an Italian journal without making it clear that the passage he reproduces is not really Marx's own words, but Marx's summary in heavily sarcastic terms of the arguments that might be used to refute a pacifist anarchist.

Again, Lenin quotes (p.113) a passage from Engels' criticism of the German Social Democrats' 1891 programme where he says that "the democratic republic ... is even the specific form for the dictatorship of the proletariat", (our emphasis). This did not fit in with Lenin's views so he argues that Engels only meant that the democratic republic was "the nearest approach to the dictatorship of the proletariat" (our emphasis).

Finally, in Chapter V Lenin makes a false distinction between Socialism and Communism in a bid to prove that, according to Marx, the State would not finally disappear till "Communism" and so would still exist under "Socialism". Marx and Engels, in fact, made no distinction between Socialism and Communism; they were terms they used interchangeably to refer to future classless, Stateless society based on social or common ownership.

Lenin's The State and Revolution is not, as it claims, a re-statement of Marx's theory of the State but a gross distortion of it.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Lenin 5/6

When the Bolshevik Lenin first appeared on the Russian political scene he accepted the views of people like Plekhanov – whose acknowledged pupil he was – Axelrod, Deutsch and others. Lenin's first important work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, published 1899, put forward the view that Capitalism was developing in Russia and nothing could stop its continuance. This development he argued was historically progressive in relation to the then existing semi-feudal economy of Russia. While one could not oppose this development he said, nevertheless workers should organise to resist its evils and steps should be taken to prepare for its eventual supersession. Lenin's book was part of an ideological campaign which the Russian Social Democratic Party were waging against the Narodniki (Populists) who maintained that Russia had a social development which was peculiar to itself and therefore did not have to pass through a normal and full capitalist development which other countries had experienced. In fact, they averred that Capitalism was a kind of Western disease against which the people of Russia could and should he inoculated. Let us, they said, get rid of the tyranny of Tsarism and we can, on the basis of our rural collectivism (the Mir), establish Socialism, i.e. free peasant communes and cooperatives of workers.

It was Lenin who after the meagre achievements of “War Communism” re-introduced the idea of a homegrown Russian Socialism when he announced his “New Economic Policy.” It was the “Marxist” Lenin who proclaimed the myth that State Capitalism although a step backwards from the earlier Bolshevik aims had in it, nevertheless, socialist implications. It was Lenin who repeatedly put forward the view that a Soviet State could be both the means and guarantee for realising Socialism in one country, and the further myth shared by both Stalin and Trotsky that what was taking place in Russia then was different from anywhere else in the world. Lenin's own views on Marxism had through the years undergone a considerable change from his earlier standpoint. How much so could be seen in the attitude he adopted in the closing years of the 1914-18 war. Lenin had come to believe more and more that Capitalism was doomed. that it would be unable to finish the war it had started. Peace was to come by a victorious proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. For that reason, the traditional difference between bourgeois and proletarian revolutions had for him lost significance. Given the right leadership in Russia, a socialist revolution not a bourgeois one would be the order of the day. At the first All-Russian Congress of Soviets, of which his party was only a small minority, he declared their willingness to take over immediately. In the August of that year, he flatly asserted that “majority rule was an institutional illusion.” Lenin's predictions of what was going to happen to capitalism were falsified by the actual events. The capitalists did finish the war and no proletarian revolution took place. So Lenin's main justification for a socialist revolution went by the board.

It is true the Bolsheviks did come to power in Russia. But it was neither with the acclamation nor assent of the Russian people. It was in the quiet of the early hours of the morning of November 7th that Bolshevik military cars occupied the centres of business and communication in Petrograd. This sealed the fate of Kerensky Provisional Government and assured the Bolsheviks of political power. Thus did the population of Petrograd discover when they woke a few hours later that their “Proletarian dictatorship” was an accomplished fact.

That the Bolsheviks concluded peace with Germany, dispossessed the private capitalist and against their own judgment gave the land to the peasants is a matter of history. They were successful because in war-weary, exhausted Russia they conceded to the inevitable. Behind the facade of their concession they planned, however, a new discipline and developed the latent forces for a new social order – new to Russia – but, in its exploitation based on wage labour. as old as capitalism itself.

Nor was the undemocratic seizure of power by the Bolsheviks merely the fortuitous result of filling the vacuum caused by the indecision and incompetence of Kerensky's Government. Such action by the Bolsheviks was in keeping with their political ideas which the circumstances arising from the collapse of Tsarist Russia enabled them to exploit.

The Bolsheviks, mainly recruited from the Russian bourgeois intelligentsia, had long regarded themselves as the born leaders of the Russian people, an illusion they shared with the Fabians and other reformist parties. By identifying themselves with the aims and aspirations of the non-socialist mass and securing their confidence the Bolsheviks believed that, with such backing, they could ride to political power at an opportune moment. Because they believed themselves to be the commanding officers of the politically less conscious majority it is easy to see why the spreading of socialist ideas was subordinated to the preoccupation of tactics, unity of command and the strict discipline of party organisation. Within such a party it was obvious that freedom of individual action and opinion were gravely limited. Ideas for them were not something to be accepted because of their integral and logical structure but as an ideal means for successfully waging political struggles. Theory for the Bolsheviks, as it became later for the various Communist Parties meant a creed a dogma to be inflexibly held against all comers.

The Bolsheviks themselves, however, became the victims of their own anti-democratic pressures. From “all power to the Soviets” it passed to “all power to the Communist Party.” The checks and balances of ordinary democratic procedure were absent. The struggle of rival groups had to be carried on within the Communist Party. Intrigue and plotting under ideological disguises became the effective means for realising political ambitions.

Among the first to describe the Russian economy under the Bolshevik government as "state capitalism", was Lenin himself in 1918. By this term, he meant state control of capitalist-owned industries. He had been impressed by the system of industrial control which the German government had built up during the war. If the Kaiser and the Prussian Junkers could control capitalist industry for their purposes why, thought Lenin, could not the Bolshevik Party control capitalist industry for the benefit of the workers and poor peasants of Russia?

After seizing power in November 1917 the Bolsheviks did not go on to nationalise all industry; they merely exercised state control over it. In some instances, this brought them into conflict with workers who under the syndicalist slogan of "workers' control" had taken over the factories in which they worked. A number of Bolsheviks denounced as "state capitalism" the policy of subjecting these factories to state control and to speed-up, one-man management and factory discipline.

Lenin's reaction was extraordinarily honest. He admitted that his government was pursuing a policy of state capitalism, but argued:

“State capitalism would be a step forward as compared with the present state of affairs in our Soviet Republic.” (Left-Wing' Childishness and the Petty-Bourgeois Mentality)

In admitting this he was admitting that Russia lacked the large-scale production on which alone Socialism can be based.

The civil war and foreign intervention forced the Bolsheviks to take a number of emergency measures — like nationalising factories whose owners had fled, requisitioning grain from the peasants, causing inflation by an over-issue of paper currency. Some Bolsheviks regarded these as measures to set up a moneyless economy in Russia, but this was absurd. As soon as the Civil War was over in 1921 they were abandoned and Lenin again advocated a policy of state capitalism. The New Economic Policy (NEP), introduced that year, was described as a policy of developing capitalism in Russia under the control of the Bolshevik government.

In calling their policy "state capitalism" the Bolsheviks were being unusually honest. But this was not to be expected to last in view of the political advantages to be gained from using the word "socialist". Lenin himself often used this word merely for its propaganda effect even though he knew that strictly speaking he was not using it properly. Stalin took over this opportunist technique and used it to great effect.

What to do today in the EU referendum

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Choose post-capitalism and people power

Socialism has never existed anywhere, regardless of the labels political opportunists claimed for themselves, as it is a post-capitalist society. Many are referring to top-down state capitalist efforts, in many cases to establish capitalist production methods, with its concomitants of waged enslaved conditions of production, poverty (absolute or relative) and war.

'Left wing' thinking is irrelevant to socialism, as in the main the Left attempt to manage capitalism and retain the features of it such as waged labour, governments and apparatus of state control. (Meet the new boss same as the old boss)

Socialism is not some Left variant of capitalism, but the antithesis of it, with production for use, utilising the advanced technology of capitalism to create the superabundance of necessities which will be required for free access. It will be a fully democratic society, locally, regionally, globally, with recallable delegates where necessary on world bodies such as WHO as an example where we need specialised expertise.

Most people fall into a trap of addressing the question from a perspective which has been shaped by a society with rationed access as a norm and attributing human behaviours arising out of the social conditioned normative responses of the present day, as general principles, a 'human nature' even. War as 'business by other means' is not a natural event but a social one arising out of competition..

Socialism will come about as the conscious political act of the immense majority acting in their class interest and will become seen, as in the interest of all humanity ultimately, ending war over resources, and artificially created scarcity, poverty absolute and relative, created by the production of commodities for markets in conditions of waged slavery, rather than production of useful utilities for human needs, so it will not have the same resistance, when it is seen to be in everyone’s ultimate self-interest to manage the planet and resources for all rather than depleting it for a minority parasitic owning class.

The capitalist economic argument is of accumulation, accumulation, of ever more profits for the capitalist parasite class is the driver of the destruction of harmonious use of resources. This senseless, in a sane society, competition between rival capitalists, the duplication of which leads to economic crises, leads to war and destruction of the natural environment.

It is quite possible to produce a superabundance of all the necessities, food, clothing, shelter etc. in ways which ensure the satisfaction of human needs without wasteful overproduction.

The end of the market system will end, sales, armies, government, banking, insurance and all of the attendant paraphernalia associated with the waged rationed economy. The problem is competitive production for profit, while initially building up the technology and resources, squanders those ultimately as it does not satisfy human needs, but satisfies market led demands and the needs of industry and commerce and thus wastes resources, in the interests of a minority class rather than rationalising the use of production and distribution resources to satisfy all human needs. The planet will become, already has in some places a wasteland if a commonly owned, democratically controlled solution is not sought, won and implemented without elite minority dominance.

The real world, of production for the profit of a minority parasite class, with the essential concomitant of waged slavery impoverishment for the many, war through competition over raw materials, trade routes and geopolitical interests of the hegemonic entities spawned by the business interests of the leech class, is well past its previously useful stage of building up the means of production.

Time to abolish class ownership and dissolve the politicians with their government over us. It is not real democracy when the elected representative is 'over' us. He or she is a representative of a dominant economic, parasitic elite then elected to control social discontent and arbitrate over the affairs of the powerful in a production for profit for the minority and waged slavery for the majority.

A true democracy can only arise out of common ownership and democratic control, of all the means of producing and distributing wealth, with production for use, which has recallable delegates, in effect, when we dissolve governments and their politicians and elect ourselves to run a post-capitalist, free access, society.

The EU referendum will be successful capitalist outcome regardless of how the proles vote. It provides the illusion that we have exercised some control over events. Utter nonsense.

Workers have no country and a world to win, to make and shape in the interests of us all, with production for use, in a post-capitalist future of common ownership, democratic control and price-free, free access to the common wealth.

The conventional political parties – Conservative, Labour, LibDem, the Greens, UKIP, the Nationalists – strive to persuade us that they have the ability and the intention to wipe out the current problems in society. To this end they produce policies relating to problems such as health, housing, crime, poverty, education, transport, along with less prominent issues such as planning, art and culture.

This is often effective in persuading enough people that they should take serious notice of their pronouncements, however transparently populist. But for people to do this entails them ignoring the fact that these parties have promised many times before to solve these problems, so that at times the remedies being put forward clash with those in the past. It also entails ignoring the vital – indeed crucial – fact that, as these problems are engendered by the capitalist system itself, they cannot be solved within its framework of minority ownership and production for profit, a system which all these parties uphold in one form or another.

Capitalism cannot be reformed and must be replaced. The referendum choice being presented to you is, do you want to be f**ked over in or out of the E.U.

It is a capitalist argument. Dissolve all governments 'over' you and elect yourselves to administer a commonly owned world.

The world for the workers.

Wee Matt

Lenin 4/6

Marx’s theory of socialist revolution is grounded on the fundamental principle that “the emancipation of the working class must be the work of the working class itself”. Marx held to this view throughout his political activity. Marx saw that the very social position of the working class within capitalist society as a non-owning, exploited, wealth-producing class forced it to struggle against its capitalist conditions of existence. This “movement” of the working class could be said to be implicitly socialist since the struggle was ultimately over who should control the means of production: the minority capitalist class or the working class (i.e. society as a whole). At first the movement of the working class would be, Marx believed, unconscious and unorganised but in time, as the workers gained more experience of the class struggle and the workings of capitalism, it would become more consciously socialist and democratically organised by the workers themselves.

The emergence of socialist understanding out of the experience of the workers could thus be said to be “spontaneous” in the sense that it would require no intervention by people outside the working class to bring it about (not that such people could not take part in this process, but their participation was not essential or crucial). Socialist propaganda and agitation would indeed be necessary but would come to be carried out by workers themselves whose socialist ideas would have been derived from an interpretation of their class experience of capitalism. The end result would be an independent movement of the socialist-minded and democratically organised working class aimed at winning control of political power in order to abolish capitalism. As Marx and Engels put it in The Communist Manifesto, “the proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”. This in fact was Marx’s conception of “the workers’ party”. He did not see the party of the working class as a self-appointed elite of professional revolutionaries, as did the Blanquists, but as the mass democratic movement of the working class with a view to establishing Socialism, the common ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

Lenin in his pamphlet “What Is To Be Done?”, on the other hand, declared:
“The history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness, i.e., the conviction that it is necessary to combine in unions, fight the employers and strive to compel the government to pass necessary labour legislation, etc. The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories that were elaborated by the educated representatives of the propertied classes, the intellectuals”
“Class political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside of the economic struggle, from outside of the sphere of relations between workers and employers” (Lenin’s emphasis)
“The spontaneous working class movement by itself is able to create (and inevitably creates) only trade unionism, and working class trade unionist politics are precisely working class bourgeois politics”

Lenin went on to argue that the Russian Social Democratic Party should be such an “organisation of professional revolutionaries”, acting as the vanguard of the working class. The task of this vanguard party to be composed of professional revolutionaries under strict central control was to “lead” the working class, offering them slogans to follow and struggle for.

It is the very antithesis of Marx’s theory of working class self-emancipation.

The implication of Marx’s theory of working class self-emancipation is that the immense majority of the working class must be consciously involved in the socialist revolution against capitalism. “The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority in the interest of the immense majority”.

The Bolshevik coup in November, 1917, was carried out under the guise of protecting the rights of the Congress of Soviets, did not enjoy conscious majority support, at least not for socialism, though their slogan “Peace, Bread and Land” was widely popular. For instance, elections to the Constituent Assembly, held after the Bolshevik coup and so under Bolshevik government, gave them only about 25 per cent of the votes. John Reed, a sympathetic American journalist, whose famous account of the Bolshevik coup, “Ten Days That Shook The World”, was commended in a foreword by Lenin, quotes Lenin as replying to this kind of criticism in a speech he made to the Congress of Peasants’ Soviets on 27 November, 1917:
If Socialism can only be realized when the intellectual development of all the people permits it, then we shall not see Socialism for at least five hundred years...The Socialist political party - this is the vanguard of the working class; it must not allow itself to be halted by the lack of education of the mass average, but it must lead the masses, using the Soviets as organs of revolutionary initiative…” (Reed’s emphasis and omissions)

Having seized power before the working class (and, even less, the 80 per cent peasant majority of the population) had prepared themselves for Socialism, all the Bolshevik government could do, as Lenin himself openly admitted, was to establish state capitalism in Russia. Which is what they did, while at the same time imposing their own dictatorship over the working class. Contempt for the intellectual abilities of the working class led to the claim that the vanguard party should rule on their behalf, even against their will. Lenin’s theory of the vanguard party became enshrined as a principle of government (“the leading role of the Party”) which has served to justify what has proved to be the world’s longest-lasting political dictatorship.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Lenin 3/6

The Bolshevik seizure of power in Russia put the clock back in the sense that before the First World War the radical wing of the international Social Democratic movement was making progress towards positions similar to those of the Socialist Party in Britain but, after 1917, most of those involved were side-tracked into supporting the Bolsheviks. The Leninists appropriated Marx for the cause of state capitalism. For many this was only a temporary dalliance, but the damage had been done. The Leninist regimes in Eastern Europe have fallen. The reformism of the Western Labour and Social Democratic Parties is in retreat. Many people wonder if genuine socialism will ever be achieved.

For years, the Communist Party members had been telling the workers that Socialism was being made in Russia. This was false. The workers in that country were producing commodities for sale and being exploited as in every other capitalist country. Capitalism, not Socialism, developed in Russia. The social relations of wage-labour and capital were the order of the day in Russia, developing under the name of the Five Year Plan, which was merely a step taken in the industrialization  of Russia,—at the expense of the worker. The majority of the population of Russia were peasants, with the peasant individualistic outlook, and largely illiterate. It was difficult enough to get the workers of western capitalist countries to understand Socialism (where all the conditions were favourable and reflected this idea) but how much more difficult would it be in such a backward country as Russia? Russia held out no example to the workers of Britain or any other capitalist country of how to establish Socialism. On the contrary, as Marx had pointed out many years ago in the preface to his work “ Capital,” the more highly developed country held out to the lesser developed the image of its own future. Russia, at the time of the revolution, was mainly an agrarian country where the industrial working class constituted a small part of the population. In these conditions, the Bolsheviks were forced to embark on a course of rapid industrialisation. The Bolsheviks and their supporters look to the earlier works of Marx and Engels, which optimistically predict an immediate revolution as justification for the Russian Revolution being a genuine workers' revolution. They overlook the later and more mature works of Marx that argue that capitalism must be fully developed before a socialist revolution can be successful. Thus, Leninist ideas on capturing the state through the vanguard party and organising society on state capitalist lines became the orthodox interpretation of Marxism.

The position of the Socialist Party was that Socialism could only come about by the intelligent action of an enlightened working class, organised in a Revolutionary Socialist organisation to get control of the State machine for that purpose. No reforms or palliative measures could be advocated by such a Party to side-track the workers, therefore, we would ask the workers present to support such a policy and reject the reformist and muddled policy of the Communist Party. The Socialist Party has a clear line on what socialism is, and how it will be achieved.

Socialism will be a society in which all the means by which wealth is produced and distributed will be under the common ownership and democratic control of the whole community. Of necessity, it will be a worldwide system because the means of production and distribution are worldwide. There will be no wage or price system as things will be produced solely for use and not for sale. People will work to the best of their ability and take according to their needs. The nature of Socialism shows that it can only be achieved by the conscious and independent action of a clear majority. It is the job of Socialists to help build that majority. We do not deprecate the struggles of workers but we insist that they must understand the class basis of those struggles. Without that consciousness, all their efforts will eventually be futile. Once Socialists are in the majority they will have to get hold of the state machinery to prevent it being used against them. Socialist delegates elected to the various assemblies of the capitalist nation-states by a Socialist working class would have this control, and would leave any recalcitrant capitalists in a virtually helpless position. The capitalist class only maintain their order with the active support or acquiescence of the workers. Once they lose this and are faced with an organized, uncompromising working class it will be plain to all what they are—a socially useless, parasitic minority living off the backs of the workers.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Lenin 2/6

The collapse of the Second International in the First World War cleared the way for Lenin and the Bolsheviks to carry the flag of socialist revolution. It might have been possible to rescue something out of the confusion, and spread sound Socialist understanding, after the 1914-1918 war. Particularly as workers everywhere, feeling that they had been betrayed, were in a ferment of discontent. But the Bolsheviks, by corruption, distortion, betrayal and mud-slinging, destroyed this possibility, setting out by lies, trickery and distortion to politically, and sometimes physically, destroy all the parties and individuals who were not prepared to be abject tools of the Bolshevik dictatorship. In the first flush of Bolshevik victory, radical parties all over the world acclaimed the victory and gave them generous support, even where they had doubts on some of the methods adopted. It soon became evident that Russia was not embarked upon even a democratic society. The secret police and the concentration camp were on the way. The mass of the Russian people knew nothing about Socialism; most of them could not even read. The peasants, who formed the bulk of the population, wanted land, and all wanted peace and bread. Hard as the road to Socialism always was, the Russians have made it harder, and have destroyed, or driven to despair, many genuine fighters for the workers' freedom from Capitalism, even if some of these have been mistaken in their methods.

You can't have a revolution unless you make it for yourself. Marx's conclusion in 1881 as that of workers struggles should be “pursued by all the means which the proletariat has at its disposal, including universal suffrage, thus transformed from the instrument of trickery which it has been up till now into an instrument of emancipation”. There is no reason why parliamentary institutions could not be used by a class-conscious socialist majority to win power for the socialist revolution. The main, but by no means only distortion, by Lenin concerns the vanguard party. Lenin argued that workers were incapable of self-emancipation and instead must be freed from above by professional revolutionaries who have the workers' best interests at heart. (similar to Kautsky's position.) But Marx and Engels profoundly disagreed , as they made clear in a circular in 1879:
“At the founding of the International we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working class must be achieved by the working class itself. Hence we cannot co-operate with men who say openly that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves, and must first be emancipated from above by philanthropic members of the upper and lower middle classes”.

Alexander Rabinowitch’s research points, in particular, to the fact that the Bolshevik Party in 1917 was not a monolithic bloc under Lenin’s thumb. He shows how in fact Lenin’s views were often ignored by other Bolshevik leaders in closer touch with the feelings of soldiers and factory workers. Lenin favoured a naked seizure of power by the Bolshevik Party; most of the other Bolshevik leaders were more circumspect; they realised, as Rabinowitch documents, that while most of the workers and soldiers wanted “peace, land and bread” and, by November 1917, were in favour of the overthrow of the Provisional Government under Kerensky because it sought to continue the war, they wanted to see it replaced by a government made up of all the “socialist” parties of Russia, i.e. of the Mensheviks and Social-Revolutionaries as well as the Bolsheviks, that would emanate from the Congress of Soviets and which would take Russia out of the war. The Bolsheviks, therefore, followed the more subtle approach of disguising the seizure of power advocated by Lenin as an assumption of power by the Congress of Soviets. Thus, the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917 looked to be a “Soviet” revolution, with power appearing to pass into the hands of these makeshift representative institutions (the Russian word “soviet” means simply “council”) that soldiers and workers had formed to give expression to their political views. In fact, power had passed into the hands of the minority Bolshevik Party which was determined to hold on to it, alone, come what may.

Sharp differences existed between Luxemburg and Lenin, particularly on the question of leadership, where Luxemburg, the social-democrat, opposed the essentially "Jacobin" revolutionary, Lenin. The true interest of the people was represented by the Jacobins, if only the people were enlightened enough to recognise it. For "the people", Lenin substituted "the proletariat", which was hardly appropriate since 90 per cent of Russians were peasants. However, this did not worry Lenin since he decided the working class was incapable of progressing beyond a trade-union consciousness and that the revolution would have to be carried out in its name by an élite of professional revolutionaries, the "vanguard party". Once this had been accepted, there was nothing left of Marx's statement that "the emancipation of the working class itself". The words "dictatorship of the proletariat" meant little more than the dictatorship of the Bolshevik Party. When, in January 1918, an election was held for a Constituent Assembly, the Bolsheviks found themselves in a minority and reacted by using troops to disperse the Assembly. When workers showed their hostility to the régime, the Bolsheviks had no hesitation in using the utmost brutality to suppress them, as at Kronstadt in 1921. Lenin's "proletarian dictatorship" meant rule by a clique of Party members.

Lenin is rightly known for having stood for a centralised hierarchical vanguard party to lead the masses. A case can be made out for saying that up until WWI Lenin was a left-wing Social Democrat who argued that, under the autocratic political conditions of Tsarism, Social Democrats there had to organise as a hierarchical centralised party in order to overthrow the Tsarist regime, and that for Western Europe he accepted the German party's model of an open, democratic party pursuing a maximum programme (of socialism) and a minimum programme of reforms of capitalism, contesting elections, etc. The trouble is that he changed his position after 1917. He now said that the organisational form and tactics that he had advocated for the overthrow of Tsarism (which was not in fact how Tsarism ended as it collapsed more or less of its own accord; his tactics only worked to overthrow the weak government that emerged following this) should also be applied in Western Europe for the overthrow of capitalism. This is when he would have ceased to be a Social Democrat and became a Leninist.

In “What is to be done?” Lenin proposed that the Russian social democrat party must be a tight-knit, exclusive organisation, acting as the vanguard of the working class and turning workers into revolutionaries. Party members must be disciplined in organisation and loyal in doctrine. The party must be highly centralised. This was hugely controversial and Lenin’s divisive activity cause a split at the 1903 Second Party Congress between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks. Later in “Two Tactics of Social Democracy” Lenin posits that the bourgeoisie cannot be the natural leaders of a Russian anti-Tsarist revolution They will betray the revolution and seek compromise with the ruling class. They can’t be trusted to establish political democracy. There must be a ‘provisional revolutionary democratic dictatorship of the proletariat and the peasantry.’ Terror is to be used in order to achieve this. Many Mensheviks denounce his proposals as having nothing in common with genuinely socialist politics. Lenin was warned that it would lead to a permanent dictatorship. “April Thesis” published amidst the events of the Russia  Revolution calls on the Bolshevik party to build up majorities in the soviets and other mass organisations and then to expedite the transfer of power solely to them. The Provisional Government is to be overthrown; the transition to socialism to be inaugurated instantly. The Bourgeois and Socialist revolutions to be merged into one under the aegis of the Bolsheviks. Many Bolsheviks members are stunned. Even they had popularly presumed that Russia would require an epoch of capitalist development. No one had suggested that socialism could be ‘leapt to’. But it became accepted policy after much debate and threat of resignation as the leader from Lenin by Bolsheviks at the end of April. The “State and Revolution” was written to clarify key points and as a piece of “libertarian” propaganda. The passage from capitalism to communism requires an intermediate stage called the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’. The construction of socialism will thus begin. Mass political participation to be facilitated. An unprecedentedly high level of social and material welfare to be provided. Once the resistance of the former ruling classes has been broken, the need for repressive agencies will disappear. Dictatorship will become obsolete and the state will wither away. Then a further phase – communism – will be inaugurated. Society to be run according to the principle: from each according to his ability, to each according to his need. Under communism, there would be no political or national oppression, no economic exploitation. Humanity will have reached its ultimate stage of development.

  Once in power, the Bolsheviks established what they misnamed the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. In fact, it was nothing of the kind. It was not even the dictatorship of the Bolshevik party (which again they misnamed the Communist Party), but the dictatorship of a small inner group with Lenin as the guiding star. They established a system of treachery and terrorism, first against opposing elements and eventually internally against those who would not abjectly submit to the dictates of the inner circle. In the end, this led to members of the inner circle trying to destroy each other. First Trotsky, then Kamenev, Zinoviev Bukharin, and Radek fell victims to the terrorism they had built up. Fortunately for him, Lenin died before he could become a victim of the system in which he was the leading actor.

Hard as the road to Socialism always was, the Russians have made it harder, and have destroyed, or driven to despair, many genuine fighters for the workers' freedom from Capitalism, even if some of these have been mistaken in their methods. The lesson to be drawn from the Russian experience is the impossibility of a small group of leaders, with a mass of blind supporters, ushering in anything other than some form of dictatorship; certainly not Socialism, The supreme need of the workers is an understanding of Socialism, what it is and what it implies, and organising together for the sole purpose of achieving it. Finally, that Socialism is an international system which cannot be achieved in one country alone, but requires the understanding and harmonious co-operation of all the workers of the world.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Lenin 1/6

“Soviet Socialist Democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person” Lenin

Many on the Left have canonised Lenin as a saint to be venerated. Leninism today deserves the hostility of workers everywhere. Lenin seriously distorted Marxism and thereby severely damaged the development of the socialist movement. Indeed, Leninism still continues to pose a real obstacle to the achievement of socialism.

Lenin’s claims to Marxist 'orthodoxy' are bogus. Lenin could not accept the Marxian view that commodity production was an identifying feature of capitalism. Following the Bolshevik seizure of power, the production of wealth in the form of commodities was the only option open to the misnamed Communist Party. Commodity production continued and was an accepted feature of life in "communist" Russia. Lenin stood for state capitalism and argued that socialist democracy is in no way inconsistent with the rule and dictatorship of one person. There is a wide chasm between the views of Marx and those of Lenin in their understanding of the nature of socialism, of how it would be achieved and of the manner of its administration. Marx sees socialism as the abolition of ownership (implied in the term "common ownership"). His vision is a state-free, class-free and money-free society which, by its nature, could only come to fruition when a conscious majority wanted it and wherein the affairs of the human family would be democratically administered. A form of social organisation in which people would voluntarily contribute their skills and abilities in exchange for the freedom of living in a society that guarantees their needs and wherein the poverty, repression and violence of capitalism would have no place. Lenin's definition of socialism is "Socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the whole people". Lenin knew that he was introducing a new definition of socialism which was not to be found in Marx but claimed that there were two stages after capitalism: socialism (his new definition) and communism (what Marxists had always understood by socialism)

The terms socialism and communism have had a checkered history, but it can be said with certainty that it is not correct that Marxists have always used the term socialism to mean a "period between the seizure of power by the working-class and the epoch of full Communism." Marx did not, neither did Engels, and Lenin knew this. Lenin, in "The State and Revolution", actually quotes Marx from a passage in the Critique of the Gotha Programme where Marx begins with the words: "But these defects are unavoidable in the first phase of Communist society . . .” Lenin then interposes the words "generally called Socialism." Marx and Engels used the terms communism and socialism to mean precisely the same thing. They used "communism" in the early years up to about 1875, and after that date mainly used the term "socialism" There was a reason for this. In the early days, about 1847-1850, Marx and Engels chose the name "communism" in order to distinguish their ideas from Utopian, reactionary or disreputable movements then in existence, which called themselves "Socialist" Later on, when these movements disappeared or went into obscurity, and when, from 1870 onwards, parties were being formed in many countries under the name Social-Democratic Party or Socialist Party, Marx and Engels reverted to the words socialist and socialism. Thus when Marx in 1875  wanted to make the distinction he spoke of the "first phase of communist society" and "a higher phase of communist society" Engels, writing in the same year, used the term socialism, not communism, and habitually did so afterwards. It will be noticed that one of the most widely circulated works of Engels was called by him "Socialism, Utopian and Scientific" not "Communism, Utopian and Scientific." So Marx more or less used sometimes the one, sometimes the other, without any distinction of meaning.

In his criticism of the Gotha programme in 1875, Marx  pointed out that "the co-operative commonwealth based upon common ownership of the means of production" (i.e., Socialism, or, as he then called it, Communism) would have a "first phase" in which it would be "afflicted with the congenital defects of the society from which it has sprung." In this first phase the individual "receives from society a voucher showing that he has done so-and-so much work. . . . On presentation of this voucher he withdraws from the communal storehouse of articles of consumption as much as this quantum of work is worth."

In this first phase, there would, Marx says, be mal-adaptations. Thus if each individual were required "to do an equal quantum of work, and all to receive an equal share from the social fund of articles of consumption," the man with dependents to keep would be worse off than the single man, while the stronger and more clever individuals would be able to do the required amount of work with less effort than the weak. Marx added that "such mal-adaptations are inevitable in the first phase of Communist society because it is born out of capitalist society."

In due course the first phase would go, giving place to a higher phase: -
 "In a higher phase of communist society, when the slavish subordination of the individual to the yoke of the division of labour has disappeared, and when concomitantly the distinction between mental and physical work has ceased to exist; when labour is no longer the means to live, but is in itself the first of vital needs; when the productive forces of society have expanded proportionately with the multi- form development of the individuals of whom society is made up—then will the narrow bourgeois outlook be utterly transcended, and then will society inscribe upon its banners, "From everyone according to his capacities, to everyone according to his needs!"
(It may be mentioned that Louis Blanc and others had also preceded Marx in stating that this last principle would not be applicable until after a "transition" period.)

 Leninism (in whatever of its versions or mutations) was and remains, by virtue of its assumptions and ethos, an elitist and totalitarian doctrine, capable of creating, whatever its subjective intentions, only elitist and totalitarian societies, in which the proletariat either becomes or remains a politically repressed and economically exploited class. Lenin persistently rejected the view that the working class was capable of achieving socialism without leaders. He argued that trade union consciousness represented the peak of working class consciousness. Socialism, he affirmed, would be achieved by a band of revolutionaries at the head of a discontented but non-socialist-conscious working class. Leninism constitutes a monumental and tragic hoax perpetrated on countless millions of oppressed and exploited human beings, not only in Russia but throughout the world. The situation in Russia left the Bolsheviks no alternative to the development of capitalism under the agency of the state. The concept of state capitalism is wholly consistent with Lenin's misunderstanding of the nature of socialism. State capitalism was erroneously exported via Comintern as being consistent with the views of Marx.

The contrast between Marx and Lenin is demonstrated most strikingly in Lenin's view of the nature and role of the state. Whereas Marx saw the state as a feature of class society that would be used by a politically-conscious working class to bring about the transfer of power and then be abolished, Lenin saw the state as a permanent and vital part of what he perceived as socialism, relegating Marx's abolition of the state to the dim and distant future in “communism” while in the meantime the state had to be strengthened – the again mis-defined “dictatorship of the proletariat. The Russian state and its coercive arms became a huge, brutal dictatorship under Lenin, who set the scene for Stalin.

The Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917 was not a "working class soviet (workers' council) revolution" but a military coup engineered by Lenin, Trotsky and the Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party. The Bolshevik "revolution" was a classic example of Leninist thinking; in fact, it was a coup d'état carried out by professional revolutionaries and based on the populist slogan, "Peace, Land and Bread". Socialism was not on offer, nor could it have been. It is true that Lenin wrongly thought their Russian coup would spark off similar revolts in Western Europe and, especially, in Germany. Not only was this a monumental political error, but it was based on Lenin's erroneous perception of socialism and his belief that his distorted conceptions could be imposed on the working class of Western Europe which was, generally, better politically organised and more sophisticated than the people of Russia.

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