Towards building an International Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency (Part 2)

The Necessity of Marxists’ Convergence

Towards building an International Revolutionary Marxists’ Tendency (Part 2)

Pre-conditions for Reviving Marxism

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?What are the pre-conditions for reviving Marxism

:For Marxists to re-define Marxism in the 21st Century, there are two pre-conditions that they need to consider and carry out collectively and generally

First, to review and examine the roots of Marxism (avoiding biased and one-sided methods, or what Marx clearly called “ideological” analysis). To look into the opinions of the socialists before Marx and jointly to research and study, in order to define and clarify the reason why Marx had to break away from the socialists who came before him. Also, to look into his break with the pre-existing philosophies and to discover his method of analysis of social issues. These pre-conditions are of course the minimum key points and obviously not enough. These measures must be taken collectively and generally among the Marxists tendencies.

Second, to review and to learn lessons from socialism in practice during the last century. This means to analyse the Russian socialism and Chinese socialism revolutions and claims to build socialism (and Cuban, Venezuelan, guerrilla warfare, and so on). This review and process of learning lessons must also take place collectively and generally and without bias and taking sides.

The main gains of Marxism since Marx are represented by the Bolsheviks and the workers’ state before the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR, the first four congresses of the Comintern and the early years of the Fourth International (particularly the Transitional Programme). We must reclaim this heritage critically, recognising mistakes and shortcomings with a view to using this legacy for bigger gains and victories in the near future.

It is with this background that Marxists hold the responsibility of their traditional duty which is to re-define Marxism for the 21st Century.

However, for the re-defining of Marxism, it is not enough to master and arm ourselves with the knowledge of the historical roots and to draw positive and negative lessons from the 20th century’s revolutionary experiences only. According to Marx, the Marxists must also be involved in the critical-revolutionary practices of today’s current working class struggles at the international level and intervene along the path of changing the present situation. The interventions of Marxists in the working class’s current movement can only take place if the critical-revolutionary-practical method (conscious activity) is applied. For this to be realised, it must rely on a socialist programme. A socialist programme not only includes the theory, the historical and international experiences of the communist movement, but also mainly conscious activity, which is the same as the conscious actions of the workers themselves in their class struggles today. It has been said that without revolutionary theory the revolution will not be victorious. Namely, revolutionary theory without a socialist programme cannot guarantee the revolution’s victory. However, this theory itself has two parts: first, a historical and international part and also, the practical essence of the proletariat’s conscious activity. These two parts of the theory which make up the socialist programme are absolutely vital, because the socialist programme cannot remain suspended, for it will not last without an organisational framework, and gradually under the relentless pressure of ideology of the ruling class will be crushed. In fact, a socialist organisation is the highest expression of the transition of the socialist programme into the working class’s current struggles. What kind of organisational form must it have? Karl Marx explains in his Communist Manifesto:

“The communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement.”

“The immediate aim of the communists is the same as that of all other proletarian parties: formation of the proletariat into a class, overthrow of the bourgeois supremacy, conquest of political power by the proletariat.” [3]

The organisational form that is meant here by Karl Marx, was best formulated in the twentieth century by Lenin as the “workers’ vanguard party”.

Thus, the highest form of Marxists’ convergence is to organise themselves within a workers’ political party with a socialist programme stemming from the science of Marxism. It ought to be stressed here that in their everyday struggles, the masses will reach elements of socialist consciousness and will realise the necessity of the socialist revolution and the need to overthrow the capitalist state. Following Marx’s ideas, Lenin updated the organisational concepts necessary for the workers’ vanguard – “the most determined” according to Marx – to be organised in a party that can not only lead the daily and tactical struggles but to connect them as links that the prepare the proletariat for overthrowing the entire capitalist system; basing itself on a socialist programme that raises their consciousness as an independent class within capitalism and also the consciousness that is necessary for the future revolutionary transformation of society and building a social formation based on satisfying human needs. The members of this party do not converge on the basis of “Marxism”, because Marxism is a science. Marxism is the theoretical foundation of the cognition and change of capitalist society. Marxism’s validity, as with any other science, is evaluated based on the experience of current struggles. Marxism, as with any other science, is able to change and evolve based on new data. Therefore, Marxist activists will join an organisation with a socialist and a practical programme.

However, the present conditions are not ready for establishing such an organisational body today. As a result of the crisis in the credibility of socialism, Marxism’s crisis and the labour movement’s lack of vanguard workers, today the conditions are not favourable for direct intervention in the workers’ movement with the perspective of the socialist revolution. But at the present time it is possible to create a bridge between the present situation and the final aim. Marxists Convergence is our proposal for creating the bridge that can take us from where we are to reach where we want to be. In order for all of us to co-operate in this unity, we would need a number of components. Like Marx’s idea, these components must be based upon repudiating elitism on the one hand, and utopianism (that is socialism from above) on the other, in the socialist movement. (as well as newer deviations that became prevalent during the twentieth century, like tail-ending the masses or sinking within the mass in the hope of building a base). The general outline of these components has been presented below. We believe, the acceptance of these components helps the start of the process of convergence among Marxists for the final objective, which is unity on the basis of a socialist programme.

On the one hand the four components are based on Karl Marx’s repudiation of the socialists of his own time, and on the other hand, they represent the practical experiences of the labour movement of his time. (We obviously have to develop these in light of the world revolution becoming an actuality and the bourgeoisie’s solutions to this mortal danger: reformism, Stalinism, Fascism and other movements that have smashed the workers’ movement). The first three components (socialism as a science, a socialism “from below” and a socialism that is democratic) exhibit his repudiation of the “top-down” socialists (such as Babeuf, Saint-Simon and the utopian socialists), and the first component (to reject the concept of ideology) is mainly Marx’s conclusion in regard to his past and the young Hegelians (such as Bruno Bauer and Ludwig Feuerbach). The fourth component (socialism’s radicalism) consists of the experiences of workers’ struggles within the spontaneous labour organisations, such as the trade unions, and the role of the communists in organising the socialist revolution and the battle against the capitalist state, specifically regarding the experience of the Paris Commune in 1871 and the soviets and the vanguard party in the Russian revolutions.

We will try to present the historical roots of these components, before concluding.

?What were the historical roots of Marx’s repudiation of elitism and utopianism

The workers’ political movement has on one hand emerged from petty-bourgeois radicalism and on the other hand from unionised spontaneous organisations. If we suppose that the mother of this infant is the trade union, the father is petty-bourgeois radicalism. The child, however, on the day of its birth separated itself from both its mother and father.

The reason for this is the fact that although the spontaneous movement of the working class in the 18th and 19th centuries had a decisive role in the advancement of labour struggles, they limited the workers’ resistance merely to economist consciousness. The unionised and economic struggles of the working class never resulted in their class liberation, but eventually suffered under the influence of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie. As a result, the political movement of the working class was compelled to split completely and firmly from this mother forever.

The political movement of the working class, on the other hand, has been the historical product of petty-bourgeois democracy. Amongst the left-wing of the Jacobins, there emerged a group which stood against the supporters of the bourgeois revolution, and disclosed the bourgeois deception of the masses by “equality” and “fraternity”. The very first political ideas of the working class were formed by Babeuf and his followers in the Great French Revolution. In the beginning Marx and Engels, themselves co-operated with the press, and appeared in the movement, of the ultra-left democratic petty-bourgeoisie. Splitting from the radical democratic forces of “populism”, Lassalle and Wilhelm Liebknecht established the first social democratic organisations in Germany. Plekhanov, the father of “Russian Marxism” and the founder of the Russian workers’ political movement, in the beginning was a member of the populist Land and Freedom organisation. In England, the founders of the workers’ political movement often came from within petty-bourgeois radicalism.

While syndicalism set limitations on the labour movement, petty-bourgeois radicalism ultimately served the interests of the small independent producers. The radical petty-bourgeois ideas of the 19th century ultimately inhibited the continuous struggle of the working class for its own specific interests.

After rejecting the ideas of the reactionary, feudal, bourgeois and other socialists in the Communist Manifesto, Marx specifically had criticisms of the radical socialists, who were involved in workers’ struggles (Marx himself had earlier been influenced by some of the ideas of the radical socialists). Marx scrutinised the radical socialist ideas with a critical-revolutionary view. At first, he criticised the socialists who had a radical petty-bourgeois past, who were from those groups mainly involved in the Great French Revolution and had supported Babeuf (the left-wing of the Jacobins) and years later were followed by the Blanquists. These were radical socialists after the defeat of the French revolution, the Jacobin’s left-wing headed by Babeuf came to a series of ideas. They reasoned that basically the working class, in the general definition of the word, would not be capable of going through another revolution because it had actually been defeated during the French Revolution. The right-wing of the Jacobins used the working class, but could not bring the working class to victory, therefore a new method was needed. Thus, Babeuf believed that the solution for the communists was in the hands of a number of elitists and experts in socialist affairs. These socialist elitists in many different ways and with different means, such as using terrorist or radical methods would reach the capability of toppling the capitalist state and then only themselves (without the working class) would move on to building a “temporary dictatorship” or an “educational dictatorship”. In other words, these socialist elitists who are communist and socialist activists would then take over power.

One of Karl Marx’s first criticisms was directed at this theory. He criticised this tendency very harshly and ruthlessly and explained that through plotting coups and operations dependent on a number of elitists, we would not be able to realise a socialist revolution. This would in fact defeat the purpose. We communists basically rely on the mass of workers. If the workers do not join to carry out the revolution, then obviously an elitist cannot do that for them (as Marx put it: the liberation of the working class must take place by the workers themselves). Marx made a ruthless critique of these positions of elitism.

Thus, having repudiated the socialism of these elitists, Karl Marx took the first step towards forming Marxist socialism.

The next step was to deal with the utopian socialists. These socialists, such as Saint-Simon, who unlike the petty-bourgeois socialists, believed that revolution is basically useless; that revolution only brings about chaos and bloodshed. He reasoned that there is no need for using such extreme methods and that we must find ways to avoid having revolutions. The ways that Saint-Simon had in mind were, for a number of people with goodwill, a number of well-to-do socialists make an ideal world (a utopia) and then through peaceful negotiations from above and through forming social welfare by the elites who run the country, socialism will be established step-by-step and stage-by-stage. In other words, through peaceful actions and modernism, the intellectuals gather together and reach socialism reasonably and without a revolution and chaos and massacre.

Marx opposed this idea too; he not only opposed this theory, but also all the other similar theories that were presented by Robert Owen from the Great Britain – even though these utopian socialists perhaps did make some positive changes. For example, in Lanark, Scotland, Robert Owen who was a capitalist himself, had a factory in which the workers did not sell their labour power, but in exchange for their needs they voluntarily worked there. In other words, they were not exploited and had a relatively higher income, and the level of production was rather good too. However, in these communities there was no place for the individual creativity of the workers. Everybody had to wear a uniform and look the same way and accept the same culture. This was exactly the problem that Marx opposed and called this method reactionary. He basically stood against these utopian socialists and rejected them.

All of the petty-bourgeois utopian socialists also had one similarity, and that was the fact that they had a completely undemocratic approach to the building of their ideal socialism. In fact, they were elitists who wanted to assume power in place of the working class, or they did not in fact recognise the creativity of the working class. They presumed that the working class should fit in the specific moulds and patterns which these elites had in mind in order to reach socialism. Thus, they were named “utopian socialists” by Marx.

Therefore, the history of Marxist socialism is synonymous with the repudiation of the petty-bourgeois ideas, elitist ideas, utopian ideas, and the modernist ideas of a number of intellectuals. Based on the components of socialism, Marx discussed and opposed this method of building of socialism with his revolutionary-critical method many times throughout his life.

Marx and Engels were among the first communists who separated their organisation from petty-bourgeois radicalism on the theoretical and political levels. They wrote the following on petty-bourgeois radicalism in 1850:

“At the moment, while the democratic petty bourgeois are everywhere oppressed, they preach to the proletariat general unity and reconciliation; they extend the hand of friendship, and seek to found a great opposition party which will embrace all shades of democratic opinion; that is, they seek to ensnare the workers in a party organisation in which general social-democratic phrases prevail while their particular interests are kept hidden behind, and in which, for the sake of preserving the peace, the specific demands of the proletariat may not be presented. Such a unity would be to their advantage alone and to the complete disadvantage of the proletariat.” [4]

“While this utopian doctrinaire socialism, which subordinates the total movement to one of its stages, which puts in place of common social production the brainwork of individual pedants and, above all, in fantasy does away with the revolutionary struggle of the classes and its requirements by small conjurers’ tricks or great sentimentality, while this doctrinaire socialism, which at bottom only idealizes present society, takes a picture of it without shadows, and wants to achieve its ideal athwart the realities of present society; while the proletariat surrenders this socialism to the petty bourgeoisie; while the struggle of the different socialist leaders among themselves sets forth each of the so-called systems as a pretentious adherence to one of the transit points of the social revolution as against another – the proletariat rallies more and more around revolutionary socialism, around communism, for which the bourgeoisie has itself invented the name of Blanqui. This socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionizing of all the ideas that result from these social relations.” [5]




September 2021

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