Transition from Capitalism to Socialism

Posted: April 6, 2011 in TANIT-Forum

TANIT Discussions:

2- Transition to Socialism


Some notes on the Concept of Socialism

Socialism can be described as being about justice, equality, a better life. While this is generally true, these are the final outcomes of socialism and therefore it is not an accurate description of the Marxist concept of socialism. Marx was very specific when defining his concept of socialism. We should therefore start by saying what it is not.

Socialism is sometimes described as being an ideology. This is also inaccurate. For Marx, socialism is a mode of production that comes out of the womb of capitalism. It is an objective necessity arising from the contradiction between the relations of production and the productive forces. That is, a conflict that develops in order to free the progress and growth of the productive forces and make them compatible with the relations of production. This conflict exists under capitalism just as it did under other modes of production (slavery, feudalism). The development of technology is impeded by capitalism. The productive forces have been developed under the constraints of the division of labour which prevents their use to the fullest scale. Therefore in Marx’s time, as now, the conditions are ripe for socialism.

The final stage – the aim of socialism- is communism. This is how society will develop if capitalism does not lead to generalised barbarism. Socialism will come about through the development of consciousness and other factors. There will be no state, no repression and exploitation. Economic development will be on the basis of abundance but this must develop on a world scale. Capitalism has inflicted great harm, so socialism will take a long time to develop. Socialism is phase one of the new society created through working class revolution. The lack of development of the productive forces under capitalism has restricted people by allocating to them tasks according to the needs of that system. Socialism would free the worker from the straitjacket of the profit system. The aim of socialism is a classless society, i.e. communism. That is when work is done according to one’s ability and one can receive from society according to one’s needs.

Marx explained the transitional period between capitalism and socialism in the Grundrisse and the Critique of the Gotha Programme. The downfall of capitalism cannot immediately bring about socialism. This is due to the four main elements, i.e., the modes of production, distribution, exchange and consumption. These cannot be changed overnight. Certain elements will remain bourgeois in character, due to the legacy of capitalism.

For Marx, a specific type of state is needed to oversee the transitional period. That is the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. This is not a permanent type of state. It is simply to observe and implement the smooth and democratic transition to socialism. Its economic task is to rid society of the old mode of production in order to concentrate on the needs of society as a whole. That is to get consciously rid of the division between manual and intellectual labour. There will be a long process of education and preparation for workers’ management of the economy. Technocrats will remain in place to assist this process but the next generation of workers will be developed to run society. The defeat of the bourgeoisie must be guaranteed as they have shown themselves to be incapable of developing society further due to the exploitation of the working class. This is the task of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat. It will dissolve the instruments of oppression used by the bourgeois class.

This new type of state would be the most democratic state ever seen, ensuring the rights for all, even people from the bourgeois class. The propaganda against the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ has been helped by the Stalinist systems. Whereas the true dictatorship of the proletariat is based on developing society to develop all of humanity to its full potential.

This can only come about through struggle. As 90% of the world’s wealth is owned by 10% they will resist the development of revolution to protect this using the police force, army and their ideology via the churches and schools. This is why it is necessary to prepare for the pre-revolutionary period. The creation of a vanguard party, independent of the mass parties of reformism is needed as these parties are under the influence of the bourgeoisie. All the workers’ institutions are to a greater or lesser extent used by the bourgeoisie to impose the dominant ideology on the working class in order to impede revolution. Therefore the vanguard workers must create their own party, a party that is not isolated from the mass of workers but has organisational independence. A revolutionary programme is needed to influence the working class, to neutralise bourgeois ideology. The vanguard party must be thoroughly democratic in order to act as the leadership as recognised by the working class. It is during political upheavals and crises that the vanguard party is forged and in which it will develop into a mass party of the working class. Without a vanguard party, socialist revolution is impossible.

Capitalists are unified as a class internationally. So an international organisation is needed to unify the revolutionary working class internationally. The Comintern is the best historical example of this. Without an international development of revolutions, they will become isolated and defeated, such as the 1917 Russian revolution which eventually degenerated. Therefore our aim is to build an international organisation like the Comintern. The Comintern was built on the basis of a new revolutionary generation emerging from the impact of 1917. There was a quick separation from the mass social democratic parties on the basis of decisive events in the international workers’ movement.

Due to the defeats of the working class during the past decades, the situation on a world scale has seen a turn towards imperialism and a change in the relationship of forces. This has had an impact on the Trotskyist groups which have come under the influence of opportunism. These organisations have become undemocratic in practice and do not respect the rights of minorities. Small matters of difference quickly lead to splits and expulsions. There is a political crisis in the left that has to be overcome. This cannot be done through talking and negotiating. With the deepening crisis of capitalism the only hope of regroupment is to approach the young workers who have no affiliation to the mass parties. The crisis will lead to new struggles. Reformist parties will at best act as pressure groups aiming at extracting concessions from the system, when it really needs to be overthrown.

The left groups do not and will not attract the young vanguard workers as they are not practically active in the working class movement. The fight of these workers will continue despite the left groups as the crisis of capitalism leads to the development of socialist consciousness, not due to the writings of theoreticians. This consciousness develops on the streets, in the factories, in trade unions and in the day- to-day fight against capitalism. The orientation at this stage must be towards a new generation of workers. These workers will not be attracted by the myriad of ‘revolutionary’ groups who, at best, are an irrelevance to them, and, at worst, will act as obstacles to revolution. The undemocratic attitude within these groups actually harms Marxism and can have a negative impact on its development. This is why the approach of Marxists to democratic centralism and the issue of the party’s internal regime must be scrupulous and thorough.

Maziar Razi

March 2011

transcription of an interview by Labour Fight

Audio:  What is Socialism ? Part 1 What is Socialism ? Part 2 What is Socialism ? Part 3

Further READING:

Transition from Capitalism to Socialism


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