TANIT Discussions:

Transition from Capitalism 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.

How Socialism comes out of womb of capitalism?

Karl Marx in “Critique of the Gotha Programme” (section IV). May 1875 writes the following point to explain the transformation to socialism:

“…Between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat…”

What Marx tries to show here is the OBJECTIVE necessity of this transformation and the nature of the future state. He does not deal with HOW to achieve the socialism and “revolutionary dictatorship of proletariat”. In other word he does not deal with SUBJECTIVE factors, because at that period, the “actuality” of the proletariat revolution was not posed yet. Bourgeoisie was still reforming the society and the “proletariat” was not organisationally and politically ready for that transformation.

This SUBJECTIVE factor (readiness of the proletariat to lead a revolution) came about during the Russian Revolution. In order to answer the above question one has to draw the lessons of the Russian Revolution. In brief, there are three main lessons: Firstly, the possibility of implementing in practices the theories of the Communist Manifesto, Critique of the Gotha Programme and lessons of Paris Commune 1871 by Karl Marx. That is, the struggle of the organised proletariat to topple the state machinery of the bourgeoisie. Secondly, the idea that “the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself”, by creation of Soviets and staging a revolution. Thirdly the importance and decisive role of the vanguard party to prepare and stage the workers revolution (I shall produce some material on the lessons of the Russian Revolution and its relevance today, shortly).

Reform or Revolution?

Comrade Alex, you have questioned, the central contradiction of capitalist system (contradiction between productive forces and relationship of production), which objectively brings the form of private property into conflict with the need of the masses for utilising the technological development bettering the condition of living, and make the following statement that it is: “deterministic and linear view of Historical Materialism.”

Firstly, the quote is not mine; it is the central argument of Karl Marx to explain the Revolution, in many of his writings. For example, in his preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy” written in 1859, Karl Marx argues that; “At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production….with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.”

Secondly, this argument (as mentioned above) only shows the OBJECTIVE situation of capitalist crisis in resolving the basic problems of the masses. This has nothing to do with “deterministic and linear view of Historical Materialism.”

Thirdly, this analysis requires SUBJECTIVE factor (readiness of the leadership of the proletariat) to be implemented in practice.

However, your rejection of this analysis and not seeing its relevance today, will not lead you to a “new” idea, but only lead you to the position of reformism (even if you do not intend to be in this camp). For your information the rejection of the concept revolution by Karl Marx, is as old as Marxism itself, and contrary to what you have come to believe is not a “new” approach.

Karl Marx in opposition to these “new” ideas , by those who called themselves ‘Marxist’ in France, once said to Lafargue: ‘Ce qu’il y a de certain c’est que moi, je ne suis pas Marxiste.’ [If anything is certain, it is that I myself am not a Marxist] (Engels, Letter to Eduard Bernstein -1882).

The same line of “new” arguments, was presented by Mensheviks against Bolsheviks, during and after the Russian Revolution. In 1930 s same “new” ideas, opposed the revolutionary vanguard. Below is how Leon Trotsky’s analysed this trend:

“Reactionary epochs like ours not only disintegrate and weaken the working class and isolate its vanguard but also lower the general ideological level of the movement and throw political thinking back to stages long since passed through. In these conditions the task of the vanguard is, above all, not to let itself be carried along by the backward flow: it must swim against the current. If an unfavourable relation of forces prevents it from holding political positions it has won, it must at least retain its ideological positions, because in them is expressed the dearly paid experience of the past. Fools will consider this policy “sectarian”. Actually it is the only means of preparing for a new tremendous surge forward with the coming historical tide.

Great political defeats provoke a reconsideration of values, generally occurring in two directions. On the one hand the true vanguard, enriched by the experience of defeat, defends with tooth and nail the heritage of revolutionary thought and on this basis strives to educate new cadres for the mass struggle to come. On the other hand the routinists, centrists and dilettantes, frightened by defeat, do their best to destroy the authority of the revolutionary tradition and go backwards in their search for a ‘New World’.(Stalinism and Bolshevism. 29th August 1937, my emphasis).

Then, the same “new” ideas were presented by social democracy, followed by Stalinists after downfall of Soviet Union and by “Modernists”, “Post “Modernists”, and “School of Frankfurt” internationally. These “new” ideas ALL ended up in the camp of bourgeoisie. Because, there is no “new” idea between the camp of the “revolution” and “reform”. One is either for REVOLUTION to topple the state machinery of the bourgeoisie (as Karl Marx indicated, and the Russian Revolution showed in practice), or for the REFORM of the present capitalism. The third “new” road to Socialism is a myth!

Revolution means that the state power of bourgeoisie can only be brought down by the organised proletariat. The proletariat can only organise itself in the form of a party which is built separated from mass reformist parties. The advanced workers and can not survive and prepare for a workers revolution without having vanguard party.

In particular, in situations of relative stability, of counter-revolutionary dynamics means that the victorious struggle for the seizure of power requires, over and above a vanguard party that is oriented towards that end, a working class that has been strengthened by sufficient experience of self-activity and self-organisation, within which this party can become hegemonic. This experience can only be acquired during non-revolutionary periods.

The practice of the workers’ movement that is advocated by revolutionary Marxists does of course combine strikes for immediate gains, the strengthening to this end of trade unions and other mass organisations, participation in elections, the utilisation of elected assemblies, the fight for social legislation.

On the question of reforms and democratic rights, Marx fought systematically for the legal reduction of the working day. He resolutely combated the super-exploitation of women workers and fought against child labour. Engels sought to extend to all countries the struggle for the 8-hour day and for universal suffrage, simple and equal for all citizens. In the particular conditions of Tsarist Russia, Lenin followed a similar line, even more emphatically.

These combats were based on the conviction that a working class that was in a wretched state, incapable of fighting for its physical and moral integrity, would also be incapable of fighting for a breakthrough towards a classless society. History has confirmed this diagnosis. Nowhere have bread riots led to a systematic anti-capitalist struggle, to a struggle for a better world. The path traced by Marx and the Marxists has on the other hand led to millions of the exploited becoming conscious of the necessity for such a struggle.

What however opposes revolutionary Marxism to social-democratic reformism is the attitude taken towards the economic and political class power of Capital. It is by the same token a fundamentally different attitude towards the bourgeois state. Thus it is impossible to work as radical socialists within mass reformist parties (which are supporter of the state) and fight at the same time for its downfall. The preparation for an alternative state and workers state, has to be done separately. While intervention within reformist parties has to done based on daily activities and transitional programme.

Reformism is the illusion that a gradual dismantling of the power of Capital is possible. Reformism is essentially gradualist. Consequently, the real theoretician of reformism was Eduard Bernstein, with his celebrated formula: “the movement is everything, the end is nothing”. Today European social democracy goes one better: drop by drop, we will dissolve the rock. We go from human history to the history of geological formations. How many thousand years does it take for a rock to dissolve? (or achieve socialism)

Revolutionary Marxism is the rejection of gradualist illusions. Experience confirms that nowhere, in any country, has the bourgeoisie lost its economic and political power by the gradualist path. Reforms can weaken this power. They cannot abolish it.

If the working class does not succeed in building its own centralised power, the bourgeois state will maintain itself or be rebuilt. That is the principal lesson of all the revolutions of the 20th century. That is the positive balance sheet of the October Revolution. It is the negative balance sheet of the German Revolution

The debate between reformists and “new” ideas, and revolutionary Marxists is therefore finally based on their different opinions concerning the future of capitalism. Bernstein claimed that the contradictions inherent in bourgeois society were steadily decreasing. There would be fewer and fewer wars, fewer and fewer repressive practices on the part of the state, fewer and fewer explosive social conflicts. Kautsky added, in his book “Terrorism and Communism” that the bourgeoisie had become more and more benevolent, nice, peace-loving, taking as his model the US President Wilson. Today some so called“left” tendencies, who wish to achieve socialism with “new” ideas, argue the same way about Scandinavian countries!

Rosa Luxemburg counter-posed to Bernstein’s diagnosis one that was diametrically opposed. There would be more and more wars, more and more social explosions, in comparison with the period 1871-1900.

The history of the 20th and 21st century has confirmed Rosa Luxemburg’s diagnosis and not Bernstein’s. Similarly, reformist politics, gradualist politics, have hardly been credible during the phases of acute crises that have marked our century, in particular between 1914 and 1923, during the 1930s and the 1940s and from before May 1968 until the Portuguese Revolution of 1974-75 and after the downfall of Soviet Union, up to today.

They have also been less credible since the beginning of the “long depressive wave” that we are in at present, and of the general offensive of Capital against Wage Labour and the peoples of the Third World that is accompanying it.

But the aggravation of the internal contradictions of capitalism is not linear and constant. It is interrupted by phases of temporary relative stabilisation: the main ones were 1924-1929 and 1949-1968. The period of prolonged economic recovery after the recession of 1980-82 produced some analogous symptoms. During these phases, social-democratic reformism can regain a certain credibility in a series of countries, profiting moreover from particular situations, such as in the Scandinavian countries. This credibility is expressed by an easier acceptance by the broad masses of everyday reformist political practice.

But, for revolutionary Marxists, the priority is accorded to mass extra-parliamentary action, to the mass strike, to the mass political strike, to the development of forms of self-organisation and direct rank-and-file democracy: elected strike committees; democratic mass meetings of strikers; neighbourhood and “housewives” committees; initiatives of workers’ and popular control, etc. It was Rosa Luxemburg who most systematically defended this strategy before 1914.

The reformists radically refused these priorities. The leaders of the German trade unions before 1914 proclaimed: “Generalstreik ist Generalunsinn” – the general strike is generalised nonsense (or stupidity). On this point too, historical experience has shown that Rosa Luxemburg was right and the reformists were wrong. There have been very many mass strikes, indeed general strikes, from 1905 onwards, in many countries.

The general conclusion is that these workers actions (such as strike), cannot possibly be organised and be successful in open within the mass parties who oppose it. The reformist organisations only agree with strikes and anti capitalist activities, under the condition that it is under their control and use it as bargaining cheap to make deals with capitalist state. Only a vanguard party can organise these activities and plan successful action programmes without the control of traditional workers leadership.

Working class only through their independent action can gain self confidence to prepare the future revolution.

Relevance of Revolutionary Marxism today

Besides above points, the advocates of “new” ideas and those who call Revolutionary Marxism as “leftovers of last 60 years”, should explain the following points.

If there is no need for revolution and a revolutionary (vanguard) party, WHY, when two years ago we had a very deep economic crisis of the world banks and deep economic crisis of the capitalism on the world scale, suddenly the interest in reading the Communist Manifesto and and Capital of Karl Marx went up by millions of people all over the world! The reason is simple. Most (even ordinary people) saw that what Karl Marx wrote and advocated about hundred and fifty years ago, was relevant to the present economic situation. If there is no need for revolution, WHY the capitalism has not resolved the basic problems of the societies, why the situation in many parts is as bad (if not worse) than hundred years ago? WHY we are witnessing the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and in many other countries? WHY there is hunger and devastation in Africa? And crisis in most underdeveloped countries from Latin American to Middle East? Explain what sort of changes has happened in Capitalist economy that outdates the basic Marxist theories and there is a need for “new” theories? And most importantly explain WHAT are these “new” theories which supposedly will lead us to “Socialism” from existing Capitalism?

Comrade Alex, I thank you for being “blunt” and writing about your views. Please permit me to be blunt as well. I think my “old” ideas on revolution and socialism and your “new” approach towards them, shows the importance of having a vanguard organisation in which we can discuss and plan our interventions in the mass/labour movement. If you and I who both claim to be “Socialist” and “Marxist” and have both being in same organisation like IMT for few years, still have such divergence in basic ideas of Marxism, it will be much more difficult “entering” into mass reformist parties without an independent organisation, and try to work towards “Socialism”, amongst non- Marxists and reformists.

Socialism and Communism

The radical and international definition of a communist society given by Marx and Engels inevitably leads to the perspective of a transition (transition period) between capitalism and communism. Marx and Engels first, notably in their writings about the Paris Commune – The Civil War in France – and in their Critique of the Gotha Programme (of the German social-democratic party), Lenin later – especially in his book State and Revolution – tried to give at least a general sketch of what that transition would be like. It centers around the following ideas:

1- The proletariat, as the only social class radically opposed to private ownership of the means of production, and likewise as the only class which has potentially the power to paralyse and overthrow bourgeois society, as well as the inclination to collective co-operation and solidarity which are the motive forces of the building of communism, conquers political (state) power. It uses that power (’the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat’) to make more and more inroads into the realm of private property and private production, substituting for them collectively and consciously (planned) organised output, increasingly turned towards direct satisfaction of needs. This implies a gradual withering away of market economy.

2- The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat, however, being the instrument of the majority to hold down a minority, does not need a heavy apparatus of full-time functionaries, and certainly no heavy apparatus of repression. It is a state which starts to wither away from its inception, i.e. it starts to devolve more and more of the traditional state functions to self-administrating bodies of citizens, to society in its totality. This withering away of the state goes hand in hand with the indicated withering away of commodity production and of money, accompanying a general withering away of social classes and social stratification, i.e. of the division of society between administrators and administrated, between ’bosses’ and ’bossed over’ people.

That vision of transition towards communism as an essentially evolutionary process obviously has preconditions: that the countries engaged on that road already enjoy a relatively high level of development (industrialisation, modernisation, material wealth, stock of infrastructure, level of skill and culture of the people, etc.), created by capitalism itself; that the building of the new society is supported by the majority of the population (i.e. that the wage-earners already represent the great majority of the producers and that they have passed the threshold of a necessary level of socialist political class consciousness); that the process encompasses the major countries of the world.

Marx, Engels, Lenin and their main disciples and co-thinkers like Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky, Gramsci, Otto Bauer, Rudolf Hilferding, Bukharin, distinguished successive stages of the communist society: the lower stage, generally called ‘SOCIALISM’, in which there would be neither commodity production nor classes, but in which the individual’s access to the consumption fund would still be strictly measured by his quantitative labour input, evaluated in hours of labour; and a higher stage, generally called ‘COMMUNISM’, in which the principle of satisfaction of needs for everyone would apply, independently of any exact measurement of work performed.

Marx established that basic difference between the two stages of communism in hisCritique of the Gotha Programme, (together with so much else). It was also elaborated at length in Lenin’s State and Revolution.

How socialism can develop from capitalism?

If we agree that the crisis of capitalism is persisting since Karl Marx analysis of modern capitalism. If we agree that the proletariat, as the only exploited class in capitalist society is the major driving force to push capitalists out of power. If we agree that for taking power, the proletariate needs to gain socialist consciousness. Then, in the light of the Russian Revolution experience (positive and negative), we can sum up economically how this transformation from capitalism to socialism can take place (for political and organisational preparation to struggle against capitalism, refer to discussions in topic of Organisation Culture):

General theoretical understandings

1- Every socio-economic formation is characterized by a particular set of relations of production. This applies not only to the great historical periods of human history, called modes of production (primitive communism, slave-owning society, the ancient Asiatic mode of production, feudalism, capitalism, communism), but to each particular social formation, in each phase of its development. To deny that a particular social formation has production relations specific to it would be to deny a basic principle of historical materialism.

In the famous passage of the Preface to the Critique of Political Economy in which Karl Marx gives the basic definition of historical materialism, he does not say that it is only in each mode of production that men enter into particular relations of production. He says, on the contrary, that “in the social production of their life men enter into definite relations that are indispensable and independent of their will, relations of production which correspond to a definite stage of development of their material productive forces”. From the point of view of historical materialism there can be no society without specific relations of production. That would amount to a society without social production. Thus, from the standpoint of historical materialism, the first step in understanding any social formation, including a transitional society, and, therefore, including also the society transitional between capitalism and socialism, is to reach an analysis of the relations of production which prevail in it and determine it.

2- The problem of the society transitional between capitalism and socialism must be treated according to the method presented by Karl Marx for other formations (see section below). The collapse of bourgeois class society (and of the bourgeois state), and the setting up of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat, create only the possibility of constructing a socialist and then a communist society. They do not ensure this automatically. Consciousness plays a considerably greater part in the socialist revolution, and in the process of constructing a socialist social order, than it did in the development of any earlier historical mode of production.

Nevertheless, even here analysis cannot simply abstract from the existing production relations. It cannot regard them as immaterial, as insignificant for the further development of the society, or as secondary in comparison with the factors. To do this is to retreat from historical materialism into historical idealism, and turn Marxism upon its head into a hypothesis based on the assumption that social consciousness determines social being and not vice versa.

3- At present, we are unable to analyse the production relations specific to the society transitional from capitalism to socialism in an exact way, because we as yet lack the decisive historical material. At this point, we are faced with a similar difficulty as if we were trying to explain simple commodity production on the basis of the economic relations of the cities of Venice or Florence in the 14th century, or the economy of the capitalist mode of production on the basis of the manufacture production in the Low Countries in the 16th century.

Issues with transition from capitalism to socialism

1- After the abolition of private ownership of the means of production and the transition to a socialized, planned economy, and given a certain level in the development of the productive forces, the spontaneous distribution of economic resources among the various branches of production through the law of value (i.e. by deviations from the average rate of profit and by subsequent corrections through inflow and outflow of capital, or economic resources, into and out of these branches) can be superseded. Conscious distribution of economic resources through the plan is now the decisive characteristic of the new production relations. On the other hand, however, exchange value cannot be fully suppressed all at once. The commodity – money relationships survive in the first place because the distribution of the producers’ share in the given consumption fund by means of a general equivalent remains indispensable. This then makes the consumer goods retain the form of commodities with all the corresponding consequences.

2- This commodity form of consumer goods reacts in its turn both economically and socially on the production relations. The economic order of the society transitional between capitalism and socialism is therefore governed by the conflict of two antagonistic economic logics: the logic of the plan and the logic of the market (distribution of the economic resources according to priorities consciously set by the society, or distribution of these resources according to objective market laws which hold sway behind the backs of the producers). The two sets of laws evidently correspond to two class interests which are in the broadest historical sense antagonistic: the first, the interest of the proletariat, and the second the interests of the bourgeoisie and of the classes and strata working on the basis of private enterprise and private profit.

3- The main driving force tending to put through the planning principle (which in the last analysis can only fully conquer under the democratic rule of associated producers, as Marx formulated it) is the proletariat’s interest in a maximum economy of the work effort, with a simultaneous increase of self-realisation of its human needs. The main driving forces tending to the triumph of the law of value are the insufficient level of development of the productive forces (i.e. widespread shortage), the pressure of the capitalist world market, the reactions of the commodity-money relationships on the total organisation of the economy, the consequences of the social inequality connected therewith for the consciousness of the proletariat on the one hand, and the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia and the bureaucracy on the other hand, etc. The production relations specific to the transitional society are thus a combination of essentially non-capitalist economic planning and the elements of commodity production (with their drive towards private appropriation and private enrichment) which arise from the basically still bourgeois distribution relations. This combination is specific to this social formation and can be reduced neither to regulation of the economy by the law of value (capitalism) nor to regulation of the economy by associated producers under conditions of a withering away of commodity-money relations (socialism). It marks the historical transition from the first social formation to the second, the result of the suppression of capitalism before socialism can fully mature.

4- Laws of the society transitional between capitalism and socialism can be summarized by stating that, in the last analysis, it is a matter of creating the necessary economic, political, social and cultural preconditions for the withering away of commodity production, of money, of classes, and of the state, i.e. the construction of a classless society.

Historical elements of transitional societies

1- The decisive difference between one of the historically progressive modes of production, and a transitional society, lies in the different degree of structural stability, or fixity, of the existing relations of production. The difference does not lie in a mode of production having specific relations of production and a transitional society lacking them. The same applies to the transitional society between capitalism and socialism as it formerly applied to the transitional epoch between the slave-owning regime and feudalism (the 4th to 7th centuries in Western and Southern Europe), and to the transitional society between feudalism and capitalism (15th to 17th centuries in the Low Countries, the North Italian cities, and England). All these are cases of not yet fully “established social systems”. To return to the old system remains just as possible as the advance to the new one. The victory of the new, higher mode of production is not yet economically safeguarded. It is only politically and socially facilitated.

2- This becomes especially clear if one looks at the development of the capitalist mode of production. The first great bourgeois revolutions of the 16th and 17th centuries broke the political and social class power of the feudal nobility, which was the chief hindrance to the appearance and growth of capitalism. They did not, however, ensure direct exercise of power by the bourgeoisie. Far less did they ensure the final and definitive breakthrough of the capitalist mode of production as a predominant one. That did not take place until the industrial revolution unfolded all its results. In order to have prevented the victory of the capitalist mode of production, the power of the feudal nobility would have had to have been restored. But to ensure the final establishment of the capitalist mode of production, it was necessary but not sufficient to smash this class power. The reason for this is that the prevailing relations of production in that transitional period were not those of capitalism (i.e. the relations of capital and wage labour in the production process), nor those of feudalism (serf labour, feudal rent, guilds), but those of simple commodity production, as a transition from feudalism to capitalism.

3- The transitional society is characterised by specific relations of production. These are not simply a combination of the old mode of production which is to be overcome and the new one which is gradually developing. Thus the production relations characterising the society transitional from feudalism to capitalism were not a “combination” of feudal and capitalist modes of production, but the relations peculiar to this epoch: relations of simple commodity production. The mass of producers consisted neither of villeins nor of wage labourers, but of free farmers and free manual workers, producing with their own means of production. Such production relations are different from both those of feudalism and those of capitalism. They are a result of the dissolution of feudalism before capitalism could fully develop in the sphere of production (capital “rules”, but in areas outside production, such as banking and merchant capital).

4- One could make a similar analysis for the transitional epoch from slave-owning society to feudalism, say from Diocletian’s reforms to the final subjection of the formerly free German settlers and colonists in the western Roman area of rule. This is not the place to work out the parallel in detail. But there is an analogy to be found in the specific development of that transitional society. The political and social power of the slave-owning class is broken. Slave labour is on the decline in the production process. But between prevalent slave labour and prevalent serf labour there intervenes an intermediate phase of semi-free and free peasant labour linked with the emancipation of slaves, which exists while slave production is dissolving to make possible the full development of feudalism.

The example of Soviet Union

The historical possibility, or justification, of the socialist October revolution 1917 can only be correctly estimated on an international scale. That revolution was historically necessary because the world had been “ripe” for socialist revolution since the height of the imperialist age, and because the continuance of the rule of the possessing classes in Russia would have meant the continuance of its integration into the international imperialist system (with all the consequences of that as we know them from the cases of Turkey, Persia, Greece, Spain, Portugal, Brazil and India). However, the forces of production in Russia were not sufficiently developed at the national level to make possible the development of a “mature” transitional society between capitalism and socialism, i.e. one in which production is controlled by the associated producers. The isolation of the October revolution in an economically underdeveloped country (with the resulting compulsion to “primitive socialist accumulation”) thereby produced a whole series of distortions from a more mature model of transitional society which were enormously increased by the peculiar development of the subjective factor (the self-identification of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union with the Soviet bureaucracy, the bureaucratization of the party, Stalinism, etc.).

Models of transitional societies up to now

All the “models” that we have of the society transitional between capitalism and socialism are characterised by the relative immaturity of their production relations, as are the historical comparative cases of simple commodity production and of capitalism mentioned above. The history of the social sciences has emphatically confirmed Marx’s assertion that only when the abstraction from the concrete form of labour extended into practice, could economic theory develop a “pure” labour theory of value. Only when we have had actual experience of a mature transitional society between capitalism and socialism will a “pure” socio-economic theory of such a society be possible. What we have experienced hitherto – from the USSR through Yugoslavia to China and Cuba in 20th century – are transitional societies in conditions of socio-economic underdevelopment (with an insufficient degree of development of the productive forces), which therefore show, in various ways, severe or extreme forms of bureaucratic deformation and degeneration, which has led or lead these societies back to capitalism.

Transition “from capitalism to socialism” in China

In your last post, you have for the first time, tried to give an alternative (however sketchy) to the discussion (which is most welcomed). So, in order to continue the discussion on the topic of this forum (transition to Socialism), I concentrate on your alternative ideas to achieve socialism. Your other comments and questions on “crisis of capitalism” or “socialist consciousness” can be taken up in other forums (“nature of epoch” and ‘organisational culture”). I skip all polemical issues. Other points will be responded according to its importance in future posts.

Apparently, your “new” alternative to the transition “from capitalism to socialism” (economically) is highlighted in your comment. I extract some part of it below:

“I would like to describe some ideas and possible directions of discussion and development I have towards that question: We have to address the problem of expropriation of the banking system and the commanding heights of the economy as the first step. We have to develop more concrete ideas how that can be done and combined with democratic control over these economic entities by the people. Please note that this first step does not allow to “plan the production” in an economy. It only allows to plan and direct the flow of investment on a large scale in the economy. With that the macro-economic direction can be planned. In the sphere of small scale exchange of commodities and consumption the law of value keeps to work (i.e. there is a market). In such an economy it is also very difficult to directly intervene in small scale economic fluctuations, say by the fixing of prices, without creating economic disturbances. I believe that we see an example of an economy that works like this to a large extend today in China, although combined with commanding, bureaucratic planning instead of real democracy. this can be done with the control over the commanding heights and the banks. We should investigate how it can be done, technically and politically. And we should explain that this is what a transitional society is about. Making the economic and political system ready for a comprehensive democratically planned system. It is a system indeed TRANSITIONAL. It has a starting point (capitalism) and an end point (socialism) in between that it is constantly changing.”

Here is my brief comments about your proposal

Your are in fact advocating a ‘market socialism’. I do not believe that Chinese society is in any meaningful sense socialist (or transitional to socialism). Nor do I believe that socialism, as defined by Marx, is around the corner in this country. The logical conclusion of this line is to argue that ‘Marxist socialism’, as classically defined, is not on the agenda anywhere in the world and was a utopian (or was correct in its time but is outdated today). In other words your argument relates not only to the period of transition, with its specific economic problems, but to the very nature of socialism. The question should be asked: are not the particular problems of Chinese-type economies today partly due to immature conditions for generalising socialisation?

By contrast, I believe that it can be shown that there are objective tendencies in the most advanced countries today which indicate the presence of the material, technical and human resources needed for planning; and at the same time these advanced societies also show the heavy cost that is paid for the absence of planning.

Surely any realistic programme for tackling mass unemployment, the super-exploitation of women workers or ethnic minorities, or the vast problems created by the ecological irresponsibility of corporations and governments, will have to be based on the establishment of quite new social priorities by means of genuine socialisation and democratic planning. Marx himself did not reject commodity production (‘market economy’) for socialism just for reasons of economic efficiency—or out of blind faith in the proletariat. It would be quite wrong to dismiss the formidable experience of socialist tradition which culminates in his writings.

To follow up the discussion on the “transition from capitalism to socialism“, and in the light of the “new” proposals of comrade Alex (sited in the last post), indicating the model of China (or according to some comrades “deformed” workers state), as a good example for transition from capitalism to socialism, I suggest we should discuss, and come to some common understanding on:

1- The law of value under capitalism

2- The nature of the state, that is going to direct this transition to socialism. Should it be as suggested by Karl Marx, “revolutionary dictatorship of proletariat”, or anything else? Can “bureaucratic deformed state”? manage to guarantee this transformation?

In this post I briefly touch upon the first issue. The latter topic will be followed in future posts.

Some observations on “The Law of Value” in the Economy During the Epoch of Transition

The question of the application of the “theory of value” in the planned and socialised economy of the epoch of transition has been subjected to severe debate amongst Marxists, after the Russian revolution. it is true that after the fall of capitalist economy as the result of the socialist revolution, commodity production survives, and exchange is thereby objectively governed by the law of value. The latter cannot disappear until commodity production withers away; that is, with the production of an abundance of goods and services.

The fundamental discussion on this topic, begun in 1924-25 between Preobrazhensky and Bukharin which has continued to develop, with ups, among Marxist economists and theoreticians specially after Stalinist era and up to now: to what exact degree and in what sphere does the law of value apply in the economy during the epoch of transition? In here, we have to distinguish between developed and under developed countries and deal with them separately.

Lets start from developed capitalist economy first. In developed capitalist economy, the law of value determines production through the play of the rate of profit. Capital flows toward the sectors where the rate of profit is above the average and production increases there. Capital recedes from the sectors where the rate of profit is below the average, and production decreases there (at least relatively). After the revolution, when the means of production are nationalised, so that there is neither a market for capital nor its free entry and withdrawal, nor even the formation of an average rate of profit with which the rate of each particular branch can be compared, clearly there is no longer a possibility for the “law of value” to be directly the “regulator of production.”

But, in an underdeveloped country, which has carried out its socialist revolution (like China), the “law of value” were to regulate investments, there would flow preferentially toward the sectors where profitability is the highest in relation to prices on the world market. But it is precisely because these prices determine a concentration of investments in the production of raw materials that these countries are underdeveloped. To escape from underdevelopment, to industrialize the country, means to deliberately orient investments toward the sectors that are least “profitable” for the time-being according to the criterion of the long-term economic and social development of the country as a whole. When it is said that the monopoly of foreign trade is indispensable for industrialising the under-developed countries, this means precisely that it cannot be accomplished until these countries are able to free themselves from “the law of value”. If this process is not seen anymore, and normal capitalist “law of value” is at work, then we have to question the transition from capitalism to socialism and consider possibility of return to capitalist market economy.

However, in an underdeveloped countries, and precisely because of its underdevelopment, agriculture tends from the beginning to be more “profitable” than industry, handicrafts and small industry more “profitable” than big industry, light industry more “profitable” than heavy industry, the private sector more “profitable” than the nationalized sector. To channel investments according to the “law of value,” that is, according to the law of supply and demand of commodities produced by different branches of the economy, would imply developing “monoculture” for the export trade by priority; it would imply preferential construction of small shops for the local market rather than steel plants for the national market. The construction of comfortable lodgings for the petty-bourgeois or bureaucratic layers (an investment corresponding to “effective demand”) would have priority over the construction of low-cost homes for the people which clearly must be subsidised. In short, all the economic and social evils of underdevelopment would be reproduced despite the victory of the revolution.

In reality, the decisive meaning of this victory, of the nationalisation of the means of industrial production, of credit, of the transportation system and foreign trade, is precisely to create the conditions for a process of industrialisation that escapes from the logic of the law of value. Economic, social and political priorities, consciously and democratically chosen, take the lead over the law of value in order to lay out the successive stages of industrialization. Priority is placed not on immediate maximum returns, but on the suppression of rural unemployment, the reduction of technological backwardness, the suppression of the foreign grip on the national economy, the guarantee of the rapid social and cultural rise of the masses of workers and poor peasants, the rapid suppression of epidemics and endemic diseases, etc.

That is why the industrialisation of the workers states follows a different road from that of the capitalist countries where industries are built beginning with the sectors that will most easily satisfy “effective demand.” To violate the law of value is one thing; to disregard it is something else again. The economy of a “workers state” can disregard the law of value only at the price of losses to the economy which could be avoided, of useless sacrifices imposed on the masses (as was seen in Soviet Union and other so called socialist countries).

What does this mean? In the first place, that the whole economy must be carried on within the framework of a strict calculation of the real costs of production. These costs will not determine investments; these will not automatically go toward “the least costly” projects. But to know the costs means to know the exact amount of subsidies which the collectivity grants the sectors which it has decided to develop by priority. In the second place, that it is necessary to have a stable yardstick for these calculations; without stable money, no rigorous planning. In the third place, that all sectors where economic or social priorities do not dictate any preference are to be actually guided by the “law of value”. In the fourth place, so longs as the means of consumption remain commodities, and aside from the commodities and services deliberately subsidised or distributed free by the state (pharmaceutical products, school and training materials, books, etc.), the preferences of the consumers will freely operate on the market the law of supply and demand will affect prices, and the plan will adapt its projected investments to these oscillations.

The society of the epoch of the transition to capitalism to socialism is not homogeneous. In conducting an appropriate policy of investments, of prices, wages, foreign trade, etc., the workers state can act in such a way that the social benefits of priority investments (numerical reinforcement of the working class; elevation of its standard of living, skill, culture and consciousness; reinforcement of its leading role in the state and economy; accentuation of its participation in political life, etc., etc.) are paid economically by other social classes; the residue of the former owning classes; imperialism; the small commercial entrepreneurs and independent peasants.

Notes on the nature of the “State” in transition from capitalism to socialism

To follow up responding to the points raised by comrade Alex, in here I would like to discuss the importance of the concept of “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” during transition from capitalism to socialism. The understanding of this concept will be doubly important, when we want to search for “models” for the future socialist societies (as “new” ideas proposed by comrade Alex).

By presenting this discussion, I would like to stress the fact that the nature of the state which carries out a revolution and after, is more important than so called “the economic miracle”! From revolutionary Marxists’ point of view, the transition to socialism cannot take place successfully, by any state other than “the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”, which is the most democratic state that the modern history has ever seen and experienced.

The concept of the dictatorship of the proletariat, which is a basic part of the Marxist theory of the state, of the proletarian revolution, and of the process toward building a classless society. The word “dictatorship” has a concrete meaning in that context: it is a mechanism for the disarmament and expropriation of the bourgeois class and the exercise of state power by the working class, a mechanism to prevent any reestablishment of bourgeois state power or of private property in the means of production, and thus any re-introduction of the exploitation of wage-earners by capitalists.

But it in no way means dictatorial rule over the vast majority of people. Such a state is only a state, in the traditional sense of the word, during the period when it is necessary to “violently repress the resistance of the class that has lost political power.” That is the period in which Marxist tradition has called the state dictatorship of the proletariat. “From its inception, the regime of the dictatorship of the proletariat ceases therefore to be that of a state in the old meaning of the word that is a machine made to keep the majority of the people subservient. Along with weapons, material force passes directly, immediately, into the hands of workers organisations such as the soviets.” And this state, “a bureaucratic apparatus, begins to wither away from the first day of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Thus speaks the programme, unchanged to this day” Trotsky wrote in “Revolution Betrayed”.

It is very clear that such state does not exist in China today. Therefore “the economic miracle” of that society cannot be a “model” for other societies, which enter transition to socialism.

Proposed thesis of “revolutionary dictatorship of proletariat”:

For revolutionary Marxists who believe on the conquest of state power, the need for a socialist revolution and the nature of the proletarian state, the meaning of the dictatorship of the proletariat consists of:

a) The recognition by revolutionary Marxists of the class nature of all states and of the state apparatus as an instrument of maintaining class rule. In that sense, all states are dictatorships. Bourgeois democracy is also the dictatorship of a class.

b) The illusion propagated by the reformists and many centrists that “democracy” or “democratic state institutions” stand above classes and the class struggle, and the rejection of that illusion by revolutionary Marxists.

c) The recognition by revolutionary Marxists that the state institutions of even the most democratic bourgeois states serve to uphold the power and the rule of the capitalist class (and, in addition, in the imperialist countries, the exploitation of the people of the semi-colonial countries), and therefore cannot be instruments with which to overthrow that rule and transfer power from the capitalist class to the working class.

d) The recognition by revolutionary Marxists that the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus, in the first place destruction of its military/police repressive apparatus, is a necessary prerequisite for the conquest of political power by the working class.

e) The recognition by revolutionary Marxists of the necessity for the development of the consciousness and mass organisation of the workers in order to carry through the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and consolidate the dictatorship of the proletariat.

The necessary conclusion drawn by revolutionary Marxists as a consequence: that the working class by itself can exercise state power directly only within the framework of state institutions of a type different from those of the bourgeois state, state institutions arising out of sovereign and democratically elected and centralised workers councils (soviets)- the election of all functionaries, judges, commanders of the workers or workers and peasants militias, and all delegates representing the toilers in state institutions; rotation of elected officials; restriction of their income to that of skilled workers; the right to recall them at all times; simultaneous exercise of legislative and executive power by soviet-type institutions; drastic reduction of the number of permanent functionaries and greater and greater transfer of administrative functions to bodies run by the mass of the concerned toilers themselves. In other words, a soviet type representative democracy, as opposed to the parliamentary type, with increasingly wide-ranging forms of direct democracy.

Following up responses to some points raised by Alex on transitional period

I more or less accept about Alex’s analysis about the present unfavourable situation of “left” (which I call the question of credibility of socialism). I also agree we have to develop “new” theories (which I call development of relevant theories to the present situation). However my concern before presenting “new” theories, is to recognise our present status and need as few comrades in TANIT Forum.

Once again, I strongly recommend (to all comrades including myself) to read, study, learn, discuss and write about the classics of Marxist theories on socialism before jumping to develop “new” theories.

I asked a question from JC in my last post. I hope you are not offended if ask the same question from you. Have you in the last 11 years being a member of IMT been educated by the “leadership” on the basic ideas of communism, socialism, Marxism? Have you had study groups say for reading and discussing the “Capital” of Karl Marx? Have you had written discussions, as we are having in this thread of Forum? Do you know exactly what Marx have said about the “socialism” and “communism” and ‘transition from capitalism to socialism” and the role of the state in this transition?

Erik responded to this question: “I do not agree that we have discussed communism at length in IMT. In fact, I can hardly remember any discussion in Sweden or internationally which was focused on communism as opposed to the dictatorship of the proletariat/workers democracy.

Comrade Alex, I would very much like to know your response?

If you have, (or know any of the past or present “theoreticians” of IMT or ex IMT who have had this basic educations on classical Marxism on transition to socialism), please show me the articles and books on this issue. So that we can learn from them and skip this stage of our discussion (and do not “insult the intellects” of some learned comrades). When you question the fundamental questions on Marxism in my two page condensed transcription of an interview which I had with Labour Fight (the first post in this threat), and ask about the difference between “socialism” and “communism” (as if it is the first time after 11 years membership in IMT have heard about it), please do not be upset and annoyed when I try to explain these fundamental issues (to best of my knowledge).

If you have not done so (which is normal coming from a bureaucratic organisation like IMT), and all past learning have been limited to AW “boring” lectures and writings on generalities and rigid formulas, then this is a good opportunity that we do these basics together here in this Forum. In this Forum we are only few comrades who are participating in this discussion. We are not giving instructions to masses who have antipathy towards “trotskyism” and “socialism”. Here we are exchanging views to achieve common grounds on basic issues, internally, so that we develop our tactics on these basis to relate to masses in future. So do not worry yet about what masses out of this Forum will react to the term of “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat”. We will call this term as “the state of flowers and happiness”! (if need be). In this Forum just worry about having a common understanding of the basic Marxist ideas of socialism.

Besides, do you really thing Lenin developed theory of Imperialism without reading Capital and all economic analysis of Marx

Some concrete points on transition from capitalism to socialism

The “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” in its complete form, ( or best called “workers’ democracy”), means the exercise of “state power” by democratically elected soviets (workers’ councils). Marx’s whole critique of the limitations of bourgeois democracy is based on the fact that private property and capitalist exploitation (i.e., social and economic inequality), coupled with the specific class structure of bourgeois society (alienation of the working class, defense of private property, function of the repressive apparatus, etc.) result in the violent restriction of the practical application of democratic rights and the practical enjoyment of democratic freedoms by the big majority of the toiling masses, even in the most democratic bourgeois regimes.

The logical conclusion flowing from this critique is that “workers’ democracy” must be superior to bourgeois democracy, not only in the economic and social sphere – such as the right to work, a secure existence, free education, leisure time, etc. – but also because it increases the democratic rights enjoyed by the workers and all layers of toilers in the political and social sphere. Therefore, an extension of democratic rights for the toilers beyond those already enjoyed under conditions of advanced bourgeois democracy is incompatible with the restriction of the right to form political groupings, tendencies, or parties on programmatic or ideological grounds (these fundamental issues have either be denied by Stalinists or ignored by so called Trotskyists in the past).

Moreover, self-activity and self administration by the toiling masses under the “revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat” will take on many new facets and extend the concepts of “political activity”, “political parties”, “political programmes”, and “democratic rights” far beyond anything characteristic of political life under bourgeois democracy. This applies not only to the combined flowering of more advanced forms of council democracy (congress of councils, with growing manifestations of direct democracy, with political instruments like referendums on specific questions being used to enable the mass of the toilers to decide directly on a whole number of key questions of policy. It applies also and especially to the very content of “politics”.

Under capitalism and even beyond it, under pre-capitalist forms of commodity production, it is the law of value, i.e., objective economic laws operating independently of the will of men and women, which basically regulates economic life. The socialist revolution implies the possibility of a giant leap forward towards a conscious regulation of humanity’s economic and social destiny instead of a blind anarchic one. While this process can only come to full and harmonious completion in a worldwide socialist society, it starts with conscious planning of the socialised economy during the transition period between capitalism and socialism, in the epoch of the dictatorship of the proletariat. While the influence of the law of value cannot be completely eliminated during that period, its domination must be overcome or the economy cannot be planned.

What does economic “planning’ in transition period mean?

Planning means allocation of economic resources according to socially established priorities instead of according to blind market forces and the rule of profit. Who will establish these priorities, which involve the well-being of tens and hundreds of millions of human beings and whose implications, consequences, and results in turn influence the behaviour of the mass of the producers and the toilers?

Basically, there are only two mechanisms which can be substituted for the rule of the law of value: either bureaucratic choices imposed upon the mass of the producers/consumers from the top (whatever their origin and character may be, from technocratic paternalism to extreme arbitrary despotism of Stalin’s type), or choices made by the mass of the producers themselves, through the mechanism of democratically centralised workers’ power.

Experience has shown that the first mechanism is extremely wasteful and inefficient. This is true not only because of direct waste of material resources and productive capacities and great dislocations in the plan, but also and especially because of the systematic stifling of the creative and productive potential of the working class. Theoretical and empirical analysis concurs in the conclusion that the second mechanism can and will greatly reduce these shortcomings. In any case, it is the only one permitting a gradual transition to that which is the goal of the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat: a classless socialist community of self-administering producers and consumers.

Experience has, however, also shown that this mechanism of democratically centralised workers’ power through a system of workers’ councils cannot master all the social and economic contradictions of the building of socialism without the existence of instruments independent of the soviet state apparatus which act as a counterweight. Independent trade unions and a labour law guaranteeing the right to strike are essential in this sense to guarantee a defence of the needs of the workers and their standard of living against any decision taken by workers’ councils, particularly against any arbitrary and bureaucratic move of the management bodies. Although in principle revolutionary Marxists recommend the organisation of the working class in a single democratic trade union, the right to trade union pluralism must not be challenged.

Other relevant planning in transitional period

Building a classless socialist society also involves a gigantic process of remoulding all aspects of social life. It involves constant change in the relations of production, in the mode of distribution, in the labour process, in the forms of administration of the economy and society, and in the customs, habits, and ways of thinking of the great majority of people. It involves the fundamental reconstruction of all living conditions: reconstruction of cities, complete revolution in the education system, restoration and protection of the ecological equilibrium, technological innovations to conserve scarce natural resources, etc.

Previously the highest acquisitions of culture have been the property of the ruling class, with special prerogatives and privileges accruing to the intelligentsia. Members of this special grouping function as transmitters and developers of science, art, and the professions for the ruling class.

That intelligentsia will gradually disappear as the masses progressively appropriate for themselves the full cultural heritage of the past and begin to create the culture of the classless society. In this way the distinction between “manual” and “intellectual” labour will disappear, each individual being able to develop their own capacities and talents.

All these endeavours, will give rise to momentous ideological and political debates and struggles. Different platforms on these issues will play a very important role. Any restriction of these debates and movements, under the pretext that this or that platform “objectively” reflects bourgeois or petty-bourgeois pressure and interests and “if logically carried out to the end”, could “lead to the restoration of capitalism”, can only hinder the emergence of a consensus around the most effective solutions from the point of view of building socialism,

Importance of Political Freedom in transitional period

Political freedom under socialist democracy therefore also implies freedom of organisation and action for independent women’s liberation, national liberation, and youth movements, The revolutionary party will be able to win political leadership in these movements and to ideologically defeat various reactionary ideological currents not through administrative or repressive measures but, on the contrary, only by promoting the broadest possible mass democracy and by uncompromisingly upholding the right of all tendencies to defend their opinions and platforms before society as a whole.The oppression of women, the oppression of national and racial minorities, the oppression and alienation of youth, and discrimination against homosexuals, should all disappear

Furthermore it should be recognised that the specific form of the workers state implies a unique dialectical combination of centralisation and decentralisation. The withering away of the state, to be initiated from the inception of the dictatorship of the proletariat, expresses itself through a process of gradual devolution of the right of administration in broad sectors of social activity (health system, educational system, postal-railway-telecommunications systems, etc.) internationally, nationally, regionally, and locally (communes) to organs of self-management. The central congress of workers’ councils, i.e. the proletariat as a class, will only decide, by majority vote, what share of society’s overall material and human resources should be allocated to each of these sectors. This implies forms of debate and political struggle that cannot be reduced to simplistic and mechanical “class struggle criteria”.

Finally, in the building of a classless society, the participation of millions of people not only in a more or less passive way through their votes, but also in the actual administration of various levels, cannot be reduced to a workerist concept of considering only workers “at the point of production” or in the factories as such. The vast majority of the population would participate directly in the exercise of “state functions.” This means that the soviets on which the dictatorship of the proletariat will be based are not only factory councils, but bodies of self-organisation of the masses in many spheres of social life, including factories, commercial units, hospitals, schools, transport and telecommunication centres, and neighbourhoods. This is indispensable in order to integrate into the conscious and active proletariat it’s most dispersed and often poorest and most oppressed layers, such as women, oppressed nationalities, youth, workers in small shops, old-age pensioners, etc. It is also indispensable to cementing the alliance between the working-class and the toiling petty bourgeoisie. This alliance is decisive in winning and holding state power and in reducing the social costs both of a victorious revolution and of the building of socialism.

One of the institutional guarantees of the development of socialist democracy is the establishment of correct relations between the organs of this democracy and the apparatuses of the state administration, at all levels and in all fields: political, cultural, educational, military, etc. Administrative officers should be selected on the basis of technical competence and professional experience criteria.

These are some brief overall view of our future society (the period in transition from capitalism to socialism).

Question of “State” in transition from Capitalism to Socialism

comrade Len asks: “…where does the state fit into this? What is your theory of the state as far as you can outline it and what should our approach be towards it ?”

The question of “state” in general is a extensive and important issue that we may have to deal with it in a separate thread in the Forum. However the question of state in the transition from capitalism to socialism, will be directly relevant to our discussion. Following from previous posts on description of “revolutionary dictatorship of proletariate”, the question has to be answered is, what will happen to state after the fall of capitalism? Is there going to be one at all? If so, what shape and form (or structure) it should take? In opposition to some anarchists, Marxists believe that the state should remain after the fall of capitalism. In short, as long as there is a “social conflict” in the society there is a need for state.

However, when we say that the state remains in existence up to and including the transitional society between capitalism and socialism, the question arises whether the working class still needs a state when it takes power. Could not the working class, as soon as it takes power, abolish the state overnight? History has already answered this question. Certainly, on paper, the working class could do away with the state. However, this would be only a formal act to the extent that the workers had not seized power in a society already so rich and with such an abundance of material goods and services that social conflicts .

To the extent that the working class takes power in a country in which there is still a partial scarcity of goods, or in which a certain amount of poverty exists, it takes power at a time when the society cannot as yet function without a state. A mass of social conflicts remain. As long as social conflicts remain, there is a real need for people to regulate these conflicts. It is impossible for people, collectively, to regulate conflicts in a situation of real inequality and of real incapacity to satisfy the needs of everyone. There is a need for state.

The working class, by its special position in society, is obliged to maintain a state. But in order to preserve the power of that state, the latter has to be radically different from the state which in the past upheld the power of the bourgeoisie. The proletarian state is, at one and the same time, a state and not a state. It becomes less and less a state. It is a state that begins to wither away at the very moment it is born, as Marx correctly said. In developing the theory of the proletarian state (the dictatorship of the proletariat), Marx indicated that it is a state that withers away, using the several characteristics, examples of which were found in the Paris Commune of 1871. There are three essential characteristics for the future state:

1- No distinct separation between the executive and legislative powers. We need bodies which enact laws and at the same time enforce them. This is the best way of reducing as much as possible the cleavage or separation between real power. The power on the one hand, concentrated in the hands of permanent bodies, and on the other hand, the fictitious power that is left to deliberative assemblies. This cleavage is the characteristic of bourgeois parliamentarism. It is not enough to replace one deliberative assembly with another, if nothing is essentially changed regarding this cleavage. The deliberative assemblies must have real executive power at their disposal.

2- Public offices to be elective, to the greatest extent. It is not only members of the deliberative assemblies who should be elected. Judges, high-level functionaries, officers of the militia, supervisors of education, managers of public works, should also be elected. Thus, permanent and extensive control by the people over those exercising state functions must be made possible, and the separation between those who exercise state power and those in whose name it is exercised must be as small as possible. That is why it is necessary to assure a constant changing of elected officials, to prevent people from remaining in office permanently. The functions of the state must, on an ever wider scale, be exercised in turn by the masses as a whole.

3- No excessive salaries. No official, no member of representative and legislative bodies, no individual exercising a state power, should receive a salary higher than that of a skilled worker. That is the only method of preventing career-hunters from seeking public office as a way of getting better life and financial rewards.

Together these three rules well express the thinking of Marx concerning the proletarian state. This state no longer resembles any of its predecessors, because it is the first state that begins to wither away at the very moment of its appearance; because it is a state whose apparatus is composed of people no longer privileged in relation to the mass of society; because it is a state whose functions are more and more exercised by members of the society as a whole who keep taking each other’s place; because it is a state that is no longer identical with a group of people who are detached from the masses and exercise functions separate and apart from the masses, but which, on the contrary, is indistinguishable from the people, from the working masses; because it is a state that withers away with the withering away of social classes, social conflicts, money economy, market production, commodities, money, etc.

This withering away of the state should be conceived of as self-management and self-government of producers and citizens which expands more and more until, under conditions of material abundance and a high cultural level of the entire society, the latter becomes structured into self-governing producer-consumer communities.

from: Some notes on the Concept of Socialism


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