Communism Misunderstood in America
A Perfect Democracy Though Utopian
Communism the Ultimate Objective (Part IV)
Marx’s theoretical work along with his empirical inquiries led him to the discovery of “scientific laws of development” illuminating stages beyond capitalism. His theory relied on the concept of historical materialism involving the analysis of the past as well as future developments. His findings toward the future indicated that as industrialization advances, continually better educated and more conscious working class will rise and eliminate the capitalist class structure replacing it by a mono-class society of proletariat. Further advancement in technology and means of production will bring an abundance of goods which would be equitably distributed based on individual needs. After all remnants of capitalism are eliminated by the ruling proletariat, this working class will also disappear, since there will be no need for government, and humanity will reach its ultimate stage of freedom and democracy — a stateless and classless namely a communist society.
For Marx, communism differed from all previous movements because it overturns the basis of all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously treats all natural premises as the creatures of men, strips them all of their natural character and subjugates them to the power of individuals united. Its organization is, therefore, essentially economic, the material production of the conditions of this unity, it turns existing conditions into conditions of unity. The reality which communism is creating is precisely the real basis for rendering it impossible that anything should exist independently of individuals, is so far as things are only a product of the preceding intercourse of individuals themselves.
Only in community with others has each individual the means of cultivating his gifts in all directions: only in community, therefore, is personal freedom possible. In previous substitutes for the community, such as the state or government, personal freedom has existed only for the individuals who developed within the relationships of the ruling class. The illusory community, in which individuals up to now have been combined, always took on an independent existence in relation to them, and was at the same time, since it was the combination of one class never against another, not only completely illusory community, but a new fetter as well. In the real community the individuals obtain their freedom in and through their association.
Marx visualized that communism will not materialized immediately after the proletarian revolution because of defects of the capitalist society with its inequalities and injustices which will persist for a while. He understood that these defects would be inevitable in the first phase of communist society. Right can never be higher than economic structure of society and its cultural development thereby. In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labor, and therewith also the antitheses between mental and physical labor has vanished, labor has become a means of life as well as life’s prime want with full commitment to the principle of “from each according his ability, to each according his needs.”
Regarding the ultimate disappearance of the state and government, Marx vision was that in the course of development, class distinctions will disappear, and all production will be concentrated in the hands of vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class, and as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production then it will, along with those conditions, sweeps away the conditions for the existence of class antagonism and of classes generally, and will thereby abolish its own supremacy as a class.
As it has been noticed by now, Marx’s theory of communism, including its start with the proletarian revolution, is possible only in a highly advanced industrial capitalist society. This is the very outcome of his theory of dialectical-historical materialism. Accordingly, Marx’s proletarian revolution could not have occurred in any society except in that advanced technological capitalism. Certainly, then, it could not have happened in an underdeveloped feudalistic society such as that of Tsarist Russia.
The Concept of Marxism-Leninism
The Russian revolution was not proletarian but something more like that of French Revolution of the late eighteenth century. The difference was that the system was taken over by a group of Marxists headed by Lenin through organized uprisings of the workers and peasants.
Vladimir Ilv ich Ulianov, known later as Nikolai Lenin (1870-1924), was born in the small town of Simbirsk located in the central Volga Basin.His father was the regional superintendent of schools. Among his five brothers and sisters, Lenin was particularly fund of his oldest brother, Alexander, who was arrested as a revolutionary by the Tsar’s secret police, tried and executed in 1887. Profoundly affected by this tragic event, Lenin turned into a dedicated activist.
After graduating from high school, he was admitted to the University of Kazan from which he was soon expelled because of becoming increasingly involved in radical activities. However, he continued to study law and political science on his own, and in 1892 he took and passed the law examinations at the University of St. Petersburg. He continued his revolutionary activities which caused him to be arrested in 1895. He Was imprisoned for fourteen months and then exiled to a Siberian village on the Lena river. While in exile he encountered and married Nadezhda Krupskaya, a fellow radical in exile.
As a radical from the upper class noble intelligentsia, Lenin was not subjected to the savagery and harsh torture used on the exiled revolutionaries and other offenders from the lower class. Like other aristocratic intelligentsia in exile, with a great deal of leisure time, Lenin asked and received books to read. From 1897 to 1900 in exile, Lenin devoted his time to an excessive study of Marxism as well as developing his own revolutionary thoughts. It was during this period that Lenin prepared himself for the future years and produced his first important work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia.
In!900 Lenin left Siberia and went to Switzerland to join other Russian Marxists including Georgi Plekhanov (1857-1918) known as the father of Russian Marxism. Ideological debates between these two most brilliant Marxists polarized the followers, leading to the Balshevic-Menshevik split. Mensheviks followed Plekhanov’s Two-Stage Theory and insisted that the dialectic had to run its course. This meant that the socialist revolution could not occur in Russia until Russia passed from the feudal stage to the bourgeois stage which could only cause the development and bring it to power. The Bolsheviks challenged this view arguing that under certain circumstances the working class and peasant forces could be brought together to take control of the system and transform it into socialism. Thus the former view required the final revolution to be one of the masses involving the whole society. The latter suggested an elitist coup to seize power by organizing the labor and peasant forces together.
Unlike Marx who devoted most of his time and energy to analyzing capitalism, Lenin attempted to develop a revolutionary doctrine by applying Marxism to a real situation. Accordingly Lenin, in the first place, restored the revolutionary spirit of the early Marx; then modified the theory significantly, attempting to answer question arising from realm situations which contradicted Marx’s theories; and amended Marxism to apply to developing countries; and finally, adjusted it in a way that it would be practical in its application in a real situation. Thus, in reality, by these substantial changes, Lenin transformed Marx’s original theories into a new ideology known as Marxist-Leninism.
Also unlike Marx, who thought that revolution would erupt automatically after the working class had developed consciousness, ending the bourgeois state, Lenin believed that violent revolution was the only action that would bring about transformation. Rejecting Marx’s conviction he argued that the proletariat could not develop class consciousness without the help of a revolutionary group which would stimulate revolution.
Thus, for Lenin it was the test of the vanguard revolutionary group to overthrow the regime and establish a socialist state even before the working class’s self-consciousness. Here lies the significant disparity between Marx and Lenin. Marx had concluded that proletariat should rise only after it was clearly aware of itself as a class when it had become an overwhelming majority in society. On this ground, he believed that the dictatorship of proletariat would be for a brief period needed primarily to re=educate or eliminate the small group of non-proletarians necessary for the establishment of a classless society.
Contrary to this theory, Lenin argued that a small intellectual revolutionary group would bring about a revolution long before the self-awareness of the working class and then would impose a socialistic system which would embark in proletarianization of the masses. Accordingly, the dictatorship of this elite may last for quite a long time.
Lenin described the required characteristic of this group as small, highly disciplined, and totally dedicated to the cause of revolution. From this viewpoint, Lenin’s elitist approach was substantially different from Marx’s more democratic approach. The outcome of this strict approach was the victory of 1917 and the collective dictatorship of the Bolsheviks in Russia since then until its disintegration in late 1980s. After nearly seven decades of dictatorship there was no indication as to when the Soviet society would be prepared to enter the utopian stage of Marx’s theory — a classless and stateless democratic and communistic society.
Lenin specifically prescribed the governing procedures for this small Bolshevik elite group which he named the Communist Party. He called the system “democratic centralism” based on three functional processes. Two of them were to be democratic and the third centrist. First, the election of the party leadership had to be carried out by membership from the bottom up; second, issues requiring a decision were to be placed before the membership and subject to open debate; third, after viewpoints of the membership were clarified during the debate, the policy decision for the party had to be made by the leadership alone and be accepted and executed by the membership without question. Even though democratic centralism did not work in practice as it was intended, it was applied with certain integrity under Lenin’s leadership. Its democratic aspects for all practical purposes disappeared under Stalin. The Idea continued to be an important part of the operational concept in the Soviet Union until the concepts of Perestroika and Glasnost were put into operation in the late 1980s under the leadership of President Gorbachev.
Communism: The Dominant Societal Ideology Today
Marxist Communism continually receives devoted followers every day in most countries of the world. It is already the dominant ideological force affecting all aspects of daily life — Economic, social, political, and cultural. Outstanding Marxist scientist have been working on different version of it for years all tending to make it applicable to real situations of life through democratic process and cultural compatibility. It has been an arduous and painful effort to give a new life to this marvelous ideology of individual freedom, equality and true democracy. Some from many Marxist scientists capable of causing change in their society are: Victorio Codovilla (1894-1970) an Italian-Argentinian, a member of Italian Socialist Party and Argentine Communist Party, caused Marxist influence in Italy, Spain, and Argentine through political process. Alfredo Palacios, first socialist elected to the legislative body in Latin America working hard, seven days a week for realizing his Marxist aims. Salvador Allende (1908-1973),a physician and politician, helped the founding of Chilean Socialist Party and the first democratically elected communist president of Chile; Fidel Castro, a lawyer, (1926- ) promoter of many theories supportive of development of Marxist theories under new circumstances known as Castroism. Ernesto ( Che ) Guevara (1927-1967) a physician well known through his activities and scientific writings in Marxism and humanity.
Communism and a communistic society as developed and visualized by Marx is the basic goal of these Marxist scientists and the nations in the process of transition toward that goal; Within these nations generally there is a total public ownership of the means of production controlled by the government on behalf of the people. It is aimed to develop self-consciousness in population toward realizing people’s power and by leading and preparing them for taking over the ystem for forming and sustaining a democratic Marxist society. The process by which they intend to reach this goal is not Marxism but takes its roots from the concepts developed by Lenin though labeled differently in nearly all socialist systems prevailing over one-thirds of world population and substantially influencing the rest of the Third World.