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~ii RaJtIUi'llZ Ou,U1Jali lnJoWllWtt .l!.edute - 6

LENIN AND MARX'S THEORY OF HISTORY

25th February 1999 Ramachandrapuram

East Godavari (Dt.) Andhra Pradesh.

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Hobsbaum, the British historian recalls in a recent book on century, that a London Times correspondent - a hard--- watcher as he describes ~ - claimed, in the 1950's, that would be DO communism left in the 21st century, exceptin China, where

would survive as national ideology. And the claim was shocking to those

heard it, including the historian, who was, at that time, a member of the Histmians Group of the Commmrist Party of Great Britain.> It was not only the avowedly Marxists and the near - Marxists but many who did not subscribe to Marxism or even antithetic to it, could not forsee the collapse of the Soviet Union, which acquired so great a strength in a so short a time and emerged as a formidable challenge to the liberal capitalist society, particularly on the continental Ew:oPe. The prestige of the Soviet Union was enormous after the Second World War in view of the decisive role it played in the victory ofthe Allies. A dozen countries broke free from the capitalist world system to come directly under the rule of communist parties and over a hundred countries -

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big and small, many of them wi~ direct and indirect help from the Soviet

Union and its allies - became independent of the colonial rule of the West. Slowly, the West recovered and the capitalist imperialism, though it lost much ground politically, managed to regain its strength economically and militarily on the basis of the great strides it made in science and technology, while the Soviet block got weakened, thanks to the ideological splits and differences. Even then, no one expected the sudden collapse and the

*which consisted of a fonnidable array of marxists such as Christopher Hill, Victor Kiernan, Rodney Hilton, Eric Hobsbaum George Thomson. Roydon Harisson, Ralph Samuel, Edward Thomson, Dorothy Thomson, L. Morton, George Rude'. They were and continue to be great

names, particularly in marxist theory and historical scholarship.

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1MMiJM,Il8t 'eCOnomies of the Soviet Union and other ._ oouDtne8 in Europe.

1,0';,'11 __ - debacle for communism not only in the Soviet Union and in :;.lhl_em Europe but all over the world. In Asia, Mongolia rejected .... _18111. Tho comnnmist regimes in China and Vietnam have embarked OIl a course of orderly retreat from socialism, though the Chinese

1 4«8 still claim that they are building socialism with "Chinese chIracteristics". The nature of North Korean regime after the death of Kimul-Sung has become enigmatic as the dead leader, if news reports are to be believed, was declared, after three years of cogitation, as President for Eternity and as no person could hold that office, his son could inherit only the post of Chairman of the military council which also his father held before his death. In Combodia, the Pol Pot, regime notorious for the killing of millions of its citizens was overthrown with assistance from the neighbouring Vietnam and no stable regime, is yet in sight. In Cuba, Fidel Cas~o continues to rule in the name of communist party though doubts are expressed whether the party's rule will survive the aging leader. The so called "socialist - oriented"

governments in Angola, Mozambique, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, South Yemen, Afghanistan and others disappeared as soon as the Soviet Union started collapsing.

The significance of events mentioned above lies for us not in the fan of the governments of the day nor in the brake-up of some countries into smaller units but in the collapse and retreat on a world scale of "actually existing socialism" , claiming to be at different stages of development in different countries of the socialist block, which as per the claims of communist leadership, was determining, in alliance with the progressive forces in other countries, the direction of the historical process towards a new higher social

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what Marx said on how and under what conditions 'a broUaht about. I quote from the 'Preface' • to his book" A Critique of Political Economy".

ocrtain stage of their development, the material productive forces

is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property relations within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of the p:oductive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an epoch of social revolution .... No social formation ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation.... The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic fonn of the social process of production .... The productive forces developing in the womb of bourgeois society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. "

All the key concepts in the 'Preface' have been subjected to intense scrutiny and criticism including the criticism that many of them have not been defmed or have been defined inadequately resulting in divergent interpretations being put on them. For our purpose, it is not necessary to go • The 'Preface' written in 1859 contains the shortest and most conscise and the most diss~t~d statement of Marx's conception of society, its structure and its evaJution from a materialist stand point A fuller text of the statement is gi yen as an Appendix.

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II1II114.". because Lenin, through he might have read his own __ fill ...,1jP- of them and these can be noted as we go along - accepted

_ .... _ of Marx as could be seen from his characterisation of the ". integral formulation of the fundamental principles of __ dtSllll as aPPlied to human society and its history".

is apparent that the most important pre-requisite for 'a social revolution

occur is that the production relations ( economic structure) should be inoompetible and come into conflict with the productive forces at the level they bave already reached by failing to use them to the full and also by preventing the formation of new productive forces. Marx reinforces this point by saying that II no social formation ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed" . He also indicates another criterion by which one could recognise that the objective conditions for a social revolution, or transformation do exist. He says that" new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself". The above pre-requisites laid down by Marx are all objective and are deceptively simple. One category of such pre-requisites are material in nature, the rates of growth of productive forces and the changes in the social productivity levels; the level of utilization of the productive forces mainly the man power and the means of production; the extent of the use of new discoveries and inventions, all of them serving as indicators of the relationship obtaining at a given time between the productive forces and the production relations. A second category of the objective prerequisites for a socialrevolution bear a social character and vary with the type of economic formation being studied. Here one should look for new phenomena or features in the "historically created relation of individuals to .... one another" such as a new division of labour or method of co-operation in production;

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ftrIIl1lClm; DeW forma of organisation and struggle of like.

IWIIftti_cthlrepre-mquisites and premises for a social revolution _1Y1i1lP1e. A politician or a party attempting to apply them

.111 1I1IIIt1iCl· 11 might be "Iring gn:atrisks that might prove dangerous society. The reason is obvious. No precise parameters b::~."1Iib1e for ddamining at what level exactly the production relations c;eIKid to be a form of development of productive forces and turned into ~._I, .,,,m;DI that 1be classes interested in the overthrow of the existing

,JaJdUCltiOD n:1atioDs are subjectively prepared and are ready to do the act difficult it was to apply these tests to a real situation is illustrated by the

caae of the 1848 revolution in Paris when the proletariat fought and won the battle apinst the bourgeoisie but lost power after a few months. his 'IDIroductiOll' written in 1895 to Karl Marx's "Class Struggles in France," Engels says; "History bas proved us, and all who thought like us, wrong. It bas made it clear that the state of economic development on the Contin t at the time was not, by a long way, ripe for the elimination of capitalist production; it bas proved this by the economic revolution which, since 1848, has seized the whole of the Continent, and has caused big ind to take real root in France, Austria, Hungary, Poland and recently, in R sia, while it bas made Germany positively an industrial country of the first k - all on a capitalist basis, which in the year 1848, still had great capacity for expansion". Engels also says of the failure of the Paris Commun of 1 "71 that "it once again proved how impossible even then, twenty years late . this rule of the working class still was".

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"",rIab" cooceptioq of history commonly known as 'historical

....... «be most fundamental of all the propositions of Marxism. Marx

_IV his historical theory to specifically to the capitalist economic ~,. __ in GRIer to find "the law of motion of the modem society". No

.. _iii". had ever paid a greater tribute to capitalism than Karl Marx. I ... imn the Communist Manifesto, 1948. "The bourgeoisie, historically,

played a mostrevolutioruuy part .... it bas put an end to all feudal, patriarchal idyllic relations .... The bourgeoisie cannot exist without constantly teVOlutioning the instruments of production and thereby the relations of production .... it bas through its exploitation of world markets given a cosmopolitan character .... The bourgeoisie by the immensely facilitated mr.ans of communications draws all, even the most barbarian nations into civilisation .... it compels all nations, on pain of extention, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production .... it creates a world after its own image .... The bourgeoisie, durmg its rule of scarce one 'hundred years, has created more massive and more colossal productive forces than have all the preceding

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generations together. Subjection of Nature's forces to man, machinery,

application of chemistry to industry and agriculture, steam - navigation, railways, electric telegraphs, clearing whole continents for cultivation, canalisation of rivers - what earlier century had even a presentiment that such productive forces slumbered in the lap of social labour?"

But all this is already a thing of the past. The Manifesto continues:

"The modem bourgeois society ..... is like a sorcerer, who is no longer able to .control the powers ... he has called up by his spells ... for many a decade past the history of industry and commerce is but the history of the revolt of modem productive forces against modem conditions of production, against the property

____ ooaditioDs of ~ for the bourgeoisie and of its __ .. criaes that by tbeirperiodical return put on its trail each

.: .. y, the existence of the entire bourgeois society.... e

.... ,_, fOrces at the disposal of society no longer terid to further the

IWiDDllaeat of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they f.-,rne become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered ... proportion as the bourgeoisie i.e, capital, is developed, in the same poportion is the proletariat, the modern working class ... What the bourgeoisie, dlerd"ore, produces above all are its own grave diggers. Its fall and the victory 8Ie equally inevitable".

I must apologise for quoting so extensively from a 150 year old

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document In my view the basic propositions it contains still hold; the great

productive achievements of capitalist society; the concentration of capital and wealth; the destruction of pre-capitalist modes of economy and the irresistible process of modernisation; the unification of people into nations and states as well as the destruction it wrought on the non-European peoples; its subjugation and exploitation of the working class and the poor which is particularly reminiscent of the descriptions given in the Manifesto. My purpose, however,

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is to draw attention to the fact that the founders of Marxism thought that,

early as 1848, the capitalism had already started fettering the productiv forces and its fall was if not imminent, at least in sight, if only the proletariat was ready to fight. That this expectation was an error on their part was admitted by Engels in 1895 for the reason that capitalism's "great capacity for expansion" was underestimated by them.

After the failure of the 1848~50 revolutions on the Continent of Europe, Marx settled down in London and devoted most of his time and energy to an intense and through study of capitalism and its "laws of motion". The

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him resulted in a massive and the most detailed the emaFJ1CC of the capitalist mode of production, .,-._ .. and tendencies and its evolution, though "he did not wiD or the academic peace to straighten out" all the material .,.1ItCI and the results he obtained. Marx repeatly asserted that ...... _ of the productive forces of social labour is the historical task

_DIlC.tion of capital. This is the way it unconsciously creates the ".e:llMmts ofa higher mode of production" . To explain why and how this is by capitalism was both the object and the result ofbis life-long study. He tbOIlIdl1 that capitalism itself arises only when the productive forces had developed to a level where a large part of the surplus could be "applied to the production of new means of production". Second, in the pre-capitalist economic formations such as feudalism where "the use-value of the product predominates, surplus labour will be limited by a given set of wants which may be greater or less.· In these forms of economy, the class which appropriates the producers' smplus would be interested only in use-values, a quantity of useful products for consumption, luxuries, wars etc., for which there will ordinarily be limits. Hence, there will be little incentive to improve production methods and invent new techniques. Under cap~talism the driving force behind capital is profit obtained through the realisation of exchange value in money form. Capital can be accumulated practically without limits of satiation which spurs the growth of productive forces in several ways. Accumulation will sooner or later accelerate contradictions within the capitalist system leading to such tendencies as the declining the rate of profit, the increasing severity of periodic economic crises, centralization and concentration of capital and the growth of monopolies wastage of resource growing unemployment and the like. As Engels summed up, the development of capitalist relations involves at the same time the development of the elements of a socialist revolution namely the

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~R~pM~~llie~ the proletariat and 011 the other of the __ •• 'lllGb. having grown beyond the frame-work, must

bDI.e-work. And Lenin, the ablest of the Marxist ...... dedac.=c:a himself to that task with a determination rarely _,~:iID. .lDOIli the best of the revolutionaries.

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Lenin was a rare combination of a

..... rwv and revolutionary politics. He made a pioneering study of the developlnent of capitalism in Russia, argued that in order to make a mvolution, a party of professional revolutionaries was essential, he saw that the Russian proletariat would have to playa leading role in the dt-mocla1ic revolution, and many other theoretical works politicizing against other political groups from a marxist point of view. Till the out break of World War I, he was mainly concerned with the revolution in Russia.

He was always quick to see the potentialities of a situation and he saw that the world war made Russian revolution' acquire a strong international perspective. His studies during the war, including the highly influential and significantly titled "Imperialism, Highest stage of Capitalism" brought out certain important propositions about the international situation. They included :

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(i) capitalism has ceased to be competitive and has become monopoly

capitalism

,(ii) the development of capitalism had been uneven in different capitalist countries and the changing power relationships between the capitalist

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• .... ,.backing them lead to wars of re-ctivision IMbIlIeSO(investment of capital; for raw materials

_gg ... which is a necessary out-growth of monopoly capitalism

• • world-wide system of oppression, wars, parasitism etc.,

_lOPOly capitalism has a tendency generally to stagnate and decay Id back technical progress and slow down the pace of innovations.

(i) the uneven development of capitalism ipso facto, will generally lead to the UDeWIl development of the objective conditions for socialist revolution.

Lenin was too seasoned a practitioner in the analysis of concrete situations to absolutise any proposition. At a very general level it can be said that the above propositions broadly formed the basis for strategies he worked out, particularly for an alliance of the socialist forces and the forces of national liberation in the semi-colonies and colonies.

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The destruction, suffering and the extreme conditions that the people

were subjected to during the long years of war of 1914-18 and in the years immediately thereafter as also the economic crash and the subsequent great depression of the thirties which continued till the outbreak: of the World War n, theriseoffasci~ the holocaust of the 1939-45 war and the decisive role played by the Soviet Union there in and breaking away of many countries from the orbit of capitalism and colonialism all lent credence to the economic and political analysis made by Lenin about capitalism being in decay and imperialism being the eve of socialist revolutions. The events describe in

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.... 1 tial arowth of productive forces in the capitalist

.,' ,.,.aphical expansion of capitalism call for a serious

principle thesis of Lenin that capitalism was in decay ...... aUlD .. it existed during the time of Lenin. In this may recall the sentence in the Preface which appears

social formation ever perishes before all the productive forcer . ch there is room in it have developed .. "

In view of the growth of productive forces in capitalist countries and the geographical expansion of capitalism, the obvious conclusion that could be drawn is that the above statement of Marx was correct and that is why capitalism has survived despite all the adverse developments held against it. But how does that explain the collapse of the "actually existing socialism?" one may ask. If capitalism does not perish as a world system, socialism as a succeeding social formation cannot arise and it follows that, due to some conjuncture of circumstances if socialism' is set up it will be deemed premature.

No socialist revolution will succeed, according to Karl Marx, until

"capitalist production has already developed the productive forces to a sufficiently high level". Premature attempts at revolution, whatever their immediate outcome, will eventuate in a restoration of capitalism. Without the absolutely necessary premise of massive productivity" want would merely be generalised".

The subject of the talk, I now find is much vaster than I ini ally thought and I am fully conscious that I have not been able to do j tice either to the subject or to the Trust that gave me this opportunity or t L1.e august audience that assembled here.

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APPENDIX

... 1 __ pcodDctioD of their life, men enter into definite relations that are .... _ ... ~ aDd ilwfepeadeDt of their wiI1, relations of production, which correspond _IIdINIP of development of their matmial productive forces. The sum total ............ ofpoductioD CODStitutes the economic structure of society, the real wIaich riles • lelal and political superstructure, and to which correspond IeIlIIIlIile forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life c:.1IIi&i ... the social, political and intellectual life process in general .: It is not the

C*l1ICiC_lCIS of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social .tenDines their consciousness. At a certain stage of their development, die iiIItIIrial productive forces of society come in conflict with the existing relations ofpl8ductioD, or - what is but a legal expression for the same thing - with the property NIIIioDs within which they have been at work hitherto. From forms of development of tile pmcIuctive fon:es these relations tum into their fetters. Then begins an epoch ofsocia1revolution. Wi1h the change of the economic foundation the entire immense supastmcture is more or less :rapidly transformed. In considering such transformations, a distinction should always be made between the material transformation of the economic conditiollS of production, which can be determined with the precision of D8tural science, and the legal, political, religious, aesthetic or philosophic- in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of ~ conflict and fight it out Just as our opinion of an individual is not based on what he thinks of himself, so can we not judge of such a period of transformation by its own consciousness; on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained rather from the contradictions of material life, from the existing conflict between the social productive fo~ and the relations of production.

No social formation ever perishes before all the productive forces for which there is room in it have developed; and new, higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society itself. Therefore mankind always sets itself only such tasks as it can solve; since, looking at the matter more closely, it will always be found that the task itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution already exist or are at least in the process of formation. In broad outlines Asiatic, ancient, feudal, and modem bourgeois modes of production can be designated as progressive epochs in the economic formation of society. The bourgeois relations of production are the last antagonistic form of the social process of production - antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism, but of one arising from the social conditions of life of the individuals; at the same time the productive forces developing in the womb ofboUIg~is society create the material conditions for the solution of that antagonism. The SOCial formation brings, therefore, the prehistory of human society to a close.

dhakrishnadas was born in 1924 in

~"'.Ihng Dt. He took his B.A. (Hon's) in Economics from Andhra University in1947. He worked in various departments of Government of India as also in central public sector and private sector in New Delhi, Bombay and Calcutta. After retirement in

1989 ~ he is devoting himself to social work. He was the President of Social Sciences Trust, Vijayawada.

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