Saturday, February 04, 2017

What kind of revolution: Marx or Lenin? (1)

 Reformist political parties have failed abysmally to remove inequality or solve social problems such as pollution, unemployment,war, etc., etc. This reinforces the view that there is a need for a fundamental revolutionary change in society. But what is this revolutionary change to involve? The Socialist Party has a basically Marxist view on the nature of revolution. This is not because look on Marx as some sort of god but because we consider his analysis to be generally correct

Socialist Revolution and historical development

 The central feature of the Marx's concept of socialist revolution is that it is seen in the context of the whole historical development of humanity. Marx contended that the basis of all societies was the means of producing wealth and the relations into which people enter in order to produce this wealth. Society is revolutionised by means of class struggles when the means of production come into conflict with the relations of production. Socialism is not just a “good idea” which could be put into practice at any time in history. Marx attacked the views of revolutionaries such as Bakunin and the 19th century Russian insurrectionists who thought that socialist revolution was most likely in industrially backward countries.

 Marxists insist that socialism is only possible after a capitalist society has been established and developed modern industry and technology. This, of course, has long since taken place and now an abundance for all is possible; but the capitalist relations of production hold back the productive forces and prevent potential abundance becoming a reality. Private property and production for profit have to be abolished for humanity to progress.

Who makes the revolution?

For Marx, the only force capable of carrying out this task are the working class – all those who, owning no substantial amount of property, have to sell their mental and physical energies to an employer in order to live. Developments within capitalism lead to an increasing working class revolutionary consciousness. The class structure becomes more and more simplified and polarised into the two great opposing classes of capitalists and workers; peasants are driven off the land and into the towns to become wage labourers; small businessmen go bankrupt and are hurled into the ranks of the working class; the “professional classes” are turned into white-collar workers and increasingly realise this. Working conditions become more oppressive as work is intensified and, with increasing mechanisation and division of labour, made monotonous and devoid of any creative interest. Capital becomes concentrated in the hands of a small minority of the population, and even though workers' absolute standards of living may rise, relative to the capitalists' wealth their social position declines.

 In addition to these factors, workers' class consciousness is also increased by their experiences and struggles in capitalism. First, trade unions are formed to defend and. improve living standards, and then workers increasingly realise that this is not enough,and that a complete change in society is needed to solve the problems they face. Accordingly a workers political party is formed with the aim of capturing political power to establish socialism. Marx always stressed that the working class have to free themselves by their own self-conscious action – they cannot be freed from above by some “revolutionary elite”. Thus the workers' political party must be open and democratically organised. Marx put his principles into practice in his revolutionary activity in the Communist League and the First International, insisting on their open democratic organisation.

Peaceful or violent revolution?

 In his early days as a revolutionary Marx thought that the only road to socialism was a violent armed insurrection. However later, when workers won the right to vote, he advocated that, where it was possible, the working class revolutionary party should contest elections and try and win political power by that means. If this was done, there was a possibility that the revolution could be largely peaceful.

 Having captured political power the working class should use the state machine to dispossess the capitalists and establish a system based on the common ownership of wealth. However, the bureaucratic capitalist state is not at all a suitable instrument for this task, First, therefore,the working class have to make the state organisation thoroughly democratic, with all officials being directly elected and re-callable, and being in no way privileged as compared to other workers.

The aim of revolution

 Socialism will be a world-wide classless society based on the common ownership and democratic control of the means for producing and distributing wealth. Thus, once it has been established, there will be no need for the state – the armed forces, police, judiciary,etc. – since this exists only to protect the private property of the rich minority. The government over people will be replaced by a democratic “administration of things”. Socialist production will be consciously planned, aiming purely at meeting peoples' needs. Thus there will be no buying and selling, exchange, prices, money, wages, or profits. Marx thought that in the first phase of communism there would have to be some restrictions on the consumption of consumer goods – perhaps by labour-time vouchers – before industry could be developed to the extent where it would be possible to distribute goods and provide services free.

 With the tremendous growth in human's productive ability since Marx's time we consider this first phase of communism could be gone through very quickly, and free access operated soon after the establishment of socialism. For Marx a central feature of socialism is that work would no longer be monotonous drudgery, in which the producers control neither the labour process nor the products of their work. Instead, with the ending of capitalism's extreme division of labour and the automation of unpleasant jobs, work would be a creative activity in which people would find a means of self-expression.

 Marx advocated a world revolution aiming at the establishment of a system based on common ownership and production for use, to be consciously carried out by the working class as a whole, democratically organised in a revolutionary socialist party. So do we. But Lenin didn't and Leninists don't, as we will see.