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A journey from 'what Is To Be Done?' to What ought not be done
Published by SEARCH in January, 2000
Note to the Readers
Readers are requested to treat this study as essentially an 'interaction' version. This plea of the author stems not from any lack of confidence in his propositions, but from his wish to invite active intervention and critical comments from the advanced section of workers and interested intellectuals within the broad socialist camp. This presentation is the consequence of two decades of study on the role of the working class and class-party relationship and the development and failure of the socialist revolution particularly in the light of the Russian and Chinese experiences. Although the author bears full responsibility of all the opinions advanced in this study, he is indebted to all his fellow mates who had contributed to developing his vision on the subject through supporting as well as opposing the initial proposition. Hope to publish the final version with all your valuable comments taken into consideration. Calcutta 30 January 2000
Though this study begins with a critical assessment of What is to be done?, it is neither a comprehensive study of What is to be done?, nor an attempt to evaluate Lenin’s conception on party as a whole and should, in no way, be treated as such. The scope of the present study is very limited and well-defined. This is only an humble effort to re-evaluate the party-class and theory-revolution relationship as enunciated in What is to be done? through the classical Marxist conception of the self-emancipation of the working class. What and how much is the relevance of re-evaluation of a book written about a century ago, that too in the background of specific Russian conditions? While searching an answer to the pertinent question one has to first realise the following facts: one, Lenin himself had presented an opposing view of What is to be done? several times and drawn attention to its one-sidedness; two, the classical Marxist teachings had categorically rejected the substitutionist conception presented in What is to be done?; and last but not the least, history has vindicated time and again, before and after writing of the aforesaid famous book, just the opposite lessons. Yet, the dominant communist current, known to be Marxists, not only in this country, but throughout the world, have inherited those lessons as the last word regarding the theory-revolution and the party-class relationships. Not only that, this book has been treated as the Bible and any attempt to reexamine the content of the book has been outright rejected with contempt. But in the meantime, the substitutionist current found its own base through the so-called success of socialism, in one after another country. The Communist Party power had substituted the working class power in practice and the lessons of substitutionism had been reinforced repeatedly. Socialism was established through ‘decrees’ and ‘sermons’ from above. And What is to be done? found its newer relevance, to some as a strong positive weapon to fulfill their cause; and to some as a lesson : What ought not to be done. I hope, the following re-appraisal of What is to be done? will establish the relevance more relevantly. Let us begin from the beginning.
A brief re-visit The present writer is aware of the historical perspective of the emergence of What is to be done?, Young Lenin had been engaged on the problem of organisation facing Russian Social Democracy and his thought on this question culminated in the writing of What is to be done? in 1902. According to Lenin, ‘‘its main theme was .........‘the three questions...’ — the character and main content of our political agitation; our organisational tasks; and the plan for building .simultaneously, and from various sides, a militant, allRussian organisation.’’ We will analyse only a part of this book, which is relevant to our framework of study. One may raise one’s eyebrow and accuse me for choosing the subject deliberately. I shall not contest him or her, rather simply state that it is the writer’s prerogative. We are also deliberately avoiding any discussion on the merits and demerits of Lenin’s opinion in What is to be done? on different other subjects he had discussed. While commenting that ‘the working class exclusively by its own effort’, cannot attain socialist consciousness, Lenin tried to explain the birth and emergence of theory of socialism: The theory of socialism, however, grew out of the philosophic, historical and economic theories elaborated by educated representatives of the propertied classes, by intellectuals. By their social status, the founders of modern scientific socialism Marx and Engels, themselves belonged to the bourgeois intelligentsia. In defence of his opinion, Lenin quoted a long passage from Kautsky, from which a portion is being quoted below: But socialism and the class struggle arise side by side and not one out of another; each arises under different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. Indeed, modern economic science is as much a condition for socialist production as, say, modern technology, and the proletariat can create neither the one nor the other, no matter how much it may desire to do so; both arises out of the modern social process. The vehicle of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia [K. K’s italics]; it was in the minds of individual members of this stratum that modern socialism originated, and it was they who
communicated it to the more intellectually developed proletariat who, in their turn, introduce it into the proletarian class struggle where conditions allow that to be done. Thus socialist consciousness is something introduced into the proletarian class struggle from without (Emphasise ours) and not something that arose within it spontaneously.* In this connection, the present writer draws the attention of the readers to the fact that Lenin could not quote a single line from the writings of Marx and Engels in support of his formulations, because, anything of that sort simply does not exist. We would examine the above statement of Lenin and Kautsky regarding the origin and vehicle of theory of scientific socialism both through the history of emergence of Marxism and the great teachings of Marx and Engels on the very subject. On the one hand Marxism, and on the other, the working class struggle, criticism and attempt to transcend capitalism — which precedes what, is not a hen-and-egg paradox. Any student of history or political science knows it very well that it was not Marx who first raised the demand for abolition of the classes.** In this connection, we may recollect the attempts and contribution of the earlier socialists, specially the three great Utopians — Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen. In his first work, Lettre d’un habitant de geneva (popularly known as Geneva Letters) Saint-Simon pointed out the existence of classes as subject of history. Later he raised the question of the origin of classes and made great contribution to the development of this concept. In 1808, Fourier published his first large work, Theorie des quatra movements, et dos dentinees generales expounding his teaching on the passions, the free development of which must, in his opinion, become the foundation of new system. Robert Owen evolved his Utopian system towards the 1820s. As an impassionate opponent of private property Owen viewed it as a factor which preserved and intensified the moral degradation of all classes of society and was the cause of hostility and wars among nations. According to Owen, since private property was in principle inconsistent with justice and irrational in practice, it would not be allowed to exist in a rationally organised society. In 1824, Owen made a bold attempt to implement his notion in an ideal colony —New Harmony. Saint Simon and his followers put their formula defining the principle of socialism: “From each according to his ability to each according to his work”. Fourier demanded that “top priority should be given to right to work, without which all the rights are meaningless”. One thing is common to all three. Pervaded with sentiments of compassion and resentment, the idea of social justice became the core around which they formed their systems. For obvious reasons, the implementation of their Utopia depended on pious wishes and attempts from above because for them, there was no vehicle to hold and carry out their vision of justice. But, this limitation was none of their fault or shortcomings. It was historic, because on the one hand, the bourgeois had already exhausted its role as an universal class and representative of the suffering humanity; and capitalism began to expose itself as the roots of all evils, and on the other, the proletariat was still in its infancy. To Saint-Simon, Fourier and Owen as Marx and Engels wrote,
This is a part of the criticism Kautsky made against the draft programme of the poor Australian Social-Democratic Party. The then Pope of Marxism had to take trouble of defending Marxism when the draft programme dares to state, “The more capitalist development increases the numbers of the proletariat, the more the proletariat is compelled and becomes fit to fight against capitalism The proletariat becomes conscious of the posibility and of the necessity for socialism”. Kautsky alleged them that they believed that “Marx asserted that economic development and the class struggle create, not only the conditions for socialist production, but also, and directly, the consciousness of its necessity.’’ Our subsequent discussion will show with whom Marx tends to agree.
'A communism; ascetic, denouncing all the pleasure of life, spartan, was the first form' .
The proletariat offers the spectacle of a class without any historical initiative. And not one of them appears as a representative of the interests of that proletariat which historical development had, in the meantime, produced. Therefore, in spite of their historical limitations they will be remembered with high esteem, whenever the emergence of socialism will be discussed. Not only that, Marx even pointed out that “prior to its appearance Scientific Socialism had existed in embryo in the socialism of the great Utopians”. We are discussing here the historical contribution of the great Utopians not as an epitaph, but to locate and establish the line differentiation of Scientific socialism with Utopian one. How Scientific Socialism came into existence and replaced Utopian Socialism — to know the detailed account of it, one has to read Engels’s book ( Socialism — Utopian and Scientific) on it. Yet, in this review we will quote some selected portions to emphasise the differentiating line just mentioned. Engels explained the cause of compatibility of the limitation and scope of the theory of utopian Socialism with the contemporary situation. To the crude conditions of capitalist production and the crude class conditions corresponded crude theories. The solution of the social problems, which as yet lay hidden in underdeveloped economic conditions, the Utopians attempted to evolve out of the human brain. Society presented nothing but wrongs; then, to discover a new and more perfect system of social order and to impose this upon society from without by propaganda, and whenever it was possible, by the example of model experiments. These new social systems were foredoomed as Utopians; the more completely they were worked out in detail, the more they could not avoid drifting off into pure fantasies. Marx explained similarly: Since social relations were not yet developed enough at the time for the working class to constitute itself as a political party, the first socialists (Foureier, Owen, Saint-Simon, etc) had to confine themselves to dreams of a future model society and to ensure all such attempts as stek conditions and political actions undertaken by the workers to somewhat improve their situation. Though we have no more right to disavow these patriarchs of socialism than the modern chemists to have to disavow their forerunner, the alchemists, we must beware of making the same mistakes as they for it would be unforgivable on our part. Thanks to the development of capitalism, there grew the contradiction between social production and private appropriation, and simultaneously grew the contradiction and antagonism between the bourgeois and the proletariat. This antagonism expressed itself in the form of class struggle and thereby appeared the independent political movement of the working class. The class struggle in due course, manifested the inherent tendencies of the historical mission of the working class. Thus socialism found favourable ground for getting rid of its Utopian phase and with the able formulation of Marx it had attained its new phase — Scientific Socialism “To make a science of socialism it had first to be placed upon a real basis”*.
Hal Draper studied the term and tried to explain the connotation involved: The counterposition of ‘utopian’ socialism’ to ‘scientific socialism’ has been associated with a widespread misconception. The special difficulty here is that term ‘scientific socialism’ is often taken askew, especially in English. In Modern English, more than in the Continental languages, the word ‘science’ and its derivatives have tended to become specialized as references to the natural sciences...... It is a question of what the term wissenschaftlicher Sozialismus (scientific socialism) meant to Marx, as well as to his contemporary world. The German word Wissenschaft means knowledge, hence the learning and scholarship that accumulate knowledge. It includes the idea of science and it tends to get translated as ‘science’. But it is by no means limited to the natural sciences; it embraces any body of knowledge that a scholar or researcher might investigate, much more loosely than English writers tend to tolerate....... Everywhere in German literature, Wissenschaft and its cognates are used without strain for any study adding to the sum total of knowledge; any subject of (scholarly) study. This is illustrated in Engels’ remark that “socialism, since it has become a 'science', demands that it be pursued as a science, ........... Well then, it is the broad meaning of science as Wissensschaft that became attached to the efforts of socialists to base their programme not on dreams, visions, or sentiments, but on a knowledgeable analysis of the real forces operating in society.
The first outburst of the antagonism between the bourgeois and the proletariat found its expression in England for obvious reasons. It was burglary through which workers expressed their wrath spontaneously. Engels in his analytical book, Condition of working class in England showed how crime in England increased proportionately with the rise of cotton production. Of course, the workers soon realized the futility of this sort of protest and started organised onslaught through breaking machines and machineries — which eventually became famous as Luddite movement. Anyway, when the workers found through their experience that it was a blind attack; they soon developed an effective form of resistance — the Trade Union movement. In 1831, the first worker’s insurrection took place in Leon. Gradually, the organised workers’ struggle spread to Brusels, Paris, Manchester... In the meantime, the independent working class movement were developing throughout the period 1832-38 on the basis of the workers' charter of demands which culminated in forming an independent worker’s party — the Chartist Party in 1838. This was the background when the young Hegelian Marx was in the process of becoming the ‘Marxist’ Marx. For Marx, decisive break took place in the year 1844. Marx was busy in studying political economy and taking notes on now famous ‘Economic and Philosophical Manuscripts’ .The first German workers uprising against the exploitation took place which was immediately controlled by the state’s armed force. It was the revolt of Silesian weaver.* The revolt had to be calmed down through firing, killing and imprisonment. Marx’s former co-editor Ruge published an article in the Paris German Language organ Vorwarts under the pseudo-name of ‘A Prusrian’ and undermined the significance of the movement. In retrospect, it may be said that Marx took the occasion to reply in the same paper and made an open political break with Ruge with his Critical notes on the king of Prussia and social Reform. Marx made a crushing reply to the weak weaver argument placed by Ruge and remarked with his typical witty tone. In a country where passive obedience is the order of the day, in such a country was not the compulsion to use armed force against weak weavers an event, indeed a terror -inspiring event; And the weak weavers won out in the first encounter. They were surprised by a subsequent troop reinforcement.... Let our clever Prussian [Ruge] compare the Silesian weavers’ uprising with English workers uprisings,** and the Silesian weavers will look like strong weavers to him. Marx became enthusiastic of the developing consciousness of the workers: To begin with, let us remember the weavers’ song, those bold watchwords of struggle in which home, factory, and district are not mentioned once, but rather the proletariat directly roars out its antagonism against the society of private property in a striking, sharp, ruthless, powerful way. It was the same 1844 when Marx first met Engels and discussed on the contemporary problems. Engels, in the mean time, while staying in Manchester was studying the development of capitalism and working class movement. (Subsequently he authored a book titled Condition of the working class in England). This meeting of two great scholars not only evolved a lasting friendship, but also helped each other in contributing towards the development and enrichment of the theory of socialism. While Marx was studying
Marx's note on this said that ...........“Scientific socialism” has been used only in opposition to utopian socialism, which would like to saddle the people with new chimerical fancies, instead of reserving its science for the comprehension of the social movement created by the people themselves; see my book against Proudhon [Poverty of Philosophy] This comment, that the idea of a wissenschaftlicher socialism should be understood in the context of a critique of utopian socialism, helps to illuminate both sides of the comparison. It is a question of scientific method, which concerns itself with the real forces and facts of social development and not with mere fantasies and feelings.
These weavers were not yet proletariat,in the modern sense of the term. They were no longer peasant too, but were domesticindustry workers-in June 1844. ** Here, the ‘English workers uprisings’ refers to the outcome of the general strike movement of August 1842 in the English factory districts.
the tendencies of the ongoing working class movement, he had been simultaneously engaged in theoretical study and breaking intellectually with Hegel philosophically and politically. Eventually the great synthesis took place — on the one hand, developing independent working class movement showing anti-capitalist tendencies and glimpses of communist aspiration; on the other, the new theoretical movement emerging out of the criticism of Hegelian philosophy which gave birth to Scientific Socialism. In this context, we must re-assert, (of course, without in any way undermining the contribution of Marx) that Marx did not invent any ideal social system through his brain-storming or genius; he neither searched nor found any model which is to be implanted into the society. Rather, there lies the genius of Marx that he studied meticulously the contradiction of the capitalist society and located the socialist tendencies coming out of the working class movement, and formulated them in a coherent manner. In other words, Marx had given conscious expression to the unconscious process of the spontaneous working class movement, asserted the inevitability of the emergence of the socialist tendencies and the ultimate establishment of socialism through the development of the class struggle. We may here refer to Marx’s letter to J. Weydemeyer, where he explicitly stated: And now to myself, no credit is due to me for discovering the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this class struggle and bourgeois economics the economic anatomy of the classes. What I did that was new was to prove : 1) that the existence of classes is only bound up with particular historical phases in the development of production, 2) that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat, 3) that this dictatorship itself only constituted the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society. [Italics in original) Thus, if we trace the locus of the development of Marx in the making, we will find that Marx became matured, broke with his past as a radical nationalist or critical humanist both due to the impact of the working class struggle and his daring thrust for knowledge. Finally, he found the basis for socialism as a historical mission of the proletariat. Engels further explained the basis of differentiation of Scientific socialism with Utopian: The class struggle between proletariat and bourgeois came to the front in the history of the most advanced countries of the Europe, in proportion to the development, upon the one hand, of modern industry, upon the other, of the newly acquired political supremacy of the bourgeois. Facts more and more strenuously gave the lie to the teaching of bourgeois economy as to the universal harmony and universal prosperity that would be the consequence of unbridled competition. The new facts made imperative a new examination of all past history. From that time forward socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes the proletariat and the bourgeois. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historic-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonism had of necessity strong, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict is [Emphasis added] He explained further: This conflict between productive forces and modes of production is not a conflict engendered in the mind of man, like that between original sin and divine justice. It exists, in fact, objectively, outside us, independently of the will and actions even of the men that have brought it on. Modern socialism is nothing but the reflex in thought of this conflict in fact; its ideal reflection in the minds, first, of the class suffering under it, the working class. The adherents of the teachings of What is to be done? may still insist that the working class, on its own, can never go beyond trade-union consciousness and attain socialist consciousness but neither the history of
the emergence of the socialist theory nor the understanding of Marx and Engels will ever justify their claim. For their quick reference, here are some more quotations from Marx and Engels.* Just as the economists are the scientific representative of the bourgeois class, so the socialists and the communists are the theoreticians of the proletarian class. So long as the proletariat is not yet sufficiently developed to constitute itself as a class, and consequently so long as the struggle itself of the proletariat with the bourgeois has not assumed a political character, and the productive forces are not yet sufficiently developed in the bosom of the bourgeois itself to be enable us to catch a glimpses of the material conditions necessary for the emancipation of the proletariat and for the formation of a new society, these theoreticians are merely Utopians who, to meet the wants of the oppressed classes, improvise systems and go in search of a regenerating science. But in the measures that history moves forward and with the struggle of the proletariat assumes clearer outlines, they no longer need to take note of what is happening before their eyes and to become its mouthpiece [ Marx]. Communism is not a doctrine, but a movement. It is based not on principle, but on the facts. The communists took as their point of departure all past history, especially the actual contemporary results in the civilized countries, and not this or that philosophy. Communism stems from big industry and its consequence, from the emergence of the world market and the resultant unrestricted competition, from the ever more violent and universal commercial crisis that have already developed into the world market crises, from the inception of the proletariat and the concentration of capital, and from the resultant class struggle between the proletariat and the bourgeois. As a theory, communism is the expression of the position of the proletariat in this struggle and summation of the conditions necessary for the emancipation of the proletariat. [Engels, Emphasise added] So, these are the lessons of history as summed up by the founder of Scientific socialism. I am requesting my learned opponents to note that I do not invent those lessons, I am only unearthing the lessons of Marx and Engels which were knowingly or unknowingly buried by the theoreticians and historians of the victorious rulers of ‘socialism’. However, for Marx, socialism was and had been always a class socialism — a product of the working class from below. His theory of socialism was based on the principle that, without being educated by the bourgeois intellectual from outside, without being nurtured under the guardianship of any enlightened section of the society, even without being led by a Marxist Party, the working class has the ability or will acquire the ability to change the surrounding and oneself — and thereby will accomplish the socialist revolution which will emancipate the working class and the society as a whole simultaneously. So, when Marx took the responsibility of formulating the Rules of the First International he wrote the aphoristic formulation of the principle into the first clause: CONSIDERING, that the emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working class themselves. It was actually embodiment of a long-standing, widely used and accepted idea among the then advanced section of the working class. Later on, Engels rightly predated the conception to the very beginning before it had been adopted in the International: “Our notion, from the very beginning was that the emancipation of the working class must be the act of the working class itself”, wrote in a preface to the Communist Manifesto. While contrasting with the Utopian socialism, Communist Manifesto further developed that the proletarian movement is “the selfconscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority”.
The use of such long quotations of Marx and Engels, though not desirable, is unavoiadable because,i) the bearer of substitutionist tendency claim themselves to be Marxist; all their attempts to educate the workers and mould their consciousness go by the name of Marx and Engels.ii) the present writer admits his inability to express the same explanation in a better way iii) our opponent friends may note that the present writer never suggests that they should abandon their right to follow the teachings of ‘What is to be done? as because those are non-Marxist or, anti-Marxist: but only humbly request them that they may go ahead with their lessons only after declaring the same.
Attitude towards spontaneous movement The spontaneous development of the working class movement leads to subordination to bourgeois ideology ..... for the spontaneous working class movement is trade-unionism and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeois. Hence our task, the task of social democracy is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working class movement from this spontaneous, trade unionist striving to come under the wing of the revolutionary social democracy. Not only here, everywhere in the book What is to be done? the spontaneous working class movement is treated in a perjurative sense. And so Lenin assigned socialists the duty of combating and diverting spontaneity. We have just seen that the attitude of Marx and Engels towards the spontaneous movement of the working class was so different. They not only based their theory on the spontaneous movement of the working class, but envisaged the process of maturity of the working class and the ultimate success of the socialist revolution on the same basis. We are fortunate that we can quote some lines which directly used the same term. While advancing their scientific version of socialism in lieu of Utopian one they wrote in the Communist Manifesto : Social action is yield to their [the Utopians] personal inventive emancipation historically created conditions of emancipation to fantastic ones, and the gradual organisation of the proletariat to an organisation of society specially contrived by these inventors. Though the message between the lines was obvious, in the 1888 edition, the passage was altered (by Engels*) to render even more explicit meaning. The gradual spontaneous class organisation of the proletariat [is to yield] to an organisation of society specially contrived by these investors.[ Emphasis added] For those, who may argue that a single instance proves nothing or very little, we are presenting Marx on a very different occasion. It is well known that Marx was very much active in the International Working Men’s Association (later known as First international) since its very inception. Marx addressed in the Fourth (1868) annual report of the I. W. A general council: [The] Association has not been hatched by a sect or a theory. It is the spontaneous growth of the proletarian movement, which itself is the offspring of the natural and irrepressible tendencies of modern society. [Emphasis added] A similar conception of organisation is conveyed in another document, where Marx advised that it was "the business of the I.W.A to combine and generalise the spontaneous movements of the working class, but not to dictate or impose any doctrinaire system whatsoever”. [Emphasis added] The idea that the spontaneous working class movement leads to bourgeois consciousness and bourgeois consciousness only, so it is the duty of the socialists to combat it, divert it was very much alien to Marx and Engels, the founder of Scientific socialism. Rather it is the spontaneous working class movement and the self activity of the working class which form the basis of the Scientific socialism. The Manifesto addressed the question in a very unambiguous way. The section 'Proletariat and Communists' begins by asking in what relation do the Communist stand to the proletariat as a whole? And the obvious answer was: “They do not set up any sectarian principle of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement.” [Emphasis added] Marx advised on another occasion that it is necessary to base and advance the struggle of the working class ‘solely [on] demands that actually have spontaneously arisen out of the labour movement itself.' Of course, attitude of Marx and Engels towards the spontaneous movement should not be extended to the absurd idea that therefore, they rejected or undermined the role of knowledge and theoretical struggle
Though, he, together with its co-author, Marx earlier insisted that they had no longer any right to alter the wordings of the Manifesto.
for the advancement of the working class movement. What they insisted was that the irresistible tendency and thrust of the spontaneous working class struggle is towards the overthrow of the rule of capital and the eventual establishment of socialist society. To Marx ‘spontaneously’ did not imply ‘erroneously’ which is to be rectified, but ‘naturally’ which is to be recognised and pushed forward. So, he never proposed to divert or combat’ spontaneous movement, by imposing any socialist theory on it. Marx explained uneqivocally ‘The socialists have no movement, but merely tell the workmen what its character and its ends will be.” This very idea was conveyed by Marx, later in his life, in an interview with a correspondent of the Chikago Tribune. “The working class moved spontaneously without knowing what the ends of the movement will be.” [Emphasis added] We hope that we have already established two salient features regarding the inter-relation between the emergence of socialist theory and the working class movement — i) the theory of socialism did not develop independently without a fair development of capitalism and sufficient maturity of the working class; ii) this theory in itself is based on the proposition that the development of class struggle leads to socialist consciousness of the working class. Marx, not only owed the working class movement and its manifested tendencies for the emergence of his theory, he tested and enriched his theory through the same throughout his life and thereby developed it. In other words, the self-activity of the working class had become his life-culture. Following are some of the highlights. It is well-known that in 1846 Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto at the behest of the Communist League. It is also evident that the Manifesto was the product of the synthesis of their study of the internal contradiction of capitalism and their observation of the inherent tendencies of the working class movement. Yet it is interesting to note that they had a series of discussion with the members of the German Workers’ Educational Association and rectified their version several times. In 1848-49 revolution when it became clear (at least to Marx) that the working class was not yet ready to cope, still some of the Marx’s comrades in the Communist League insisted that the revolution had to be continued anyway. They broke with Marx at the time on the ground that one either made a revolution right away, or went to sleep. In a speech in the concluding debate of the League Executive Committee, Marx expressed his idea very clearly: In place of the critical outlook the minority substitutes a dogmatic one; in place of the materialist, an idealist one. Instead of the actual condition, pure will become the drive-wheel of the revolution for them. Whereas we tell the workers, “You have fifteen, twenty, fifty years of civil wars and people’s struggle to go through not only to change the condition but in order to change yourselves and make yourselves fit for political rule,” You say on the contrary : We must come to power right away or else we might as well go to sleep. [Emphasis in original] If the socialist consciousness merely depends on the ability of the socialists to imbue the consciousness from outside, or the strength and will power of them, then why the revolution should wait for so many years? According to Marx, the principle on how the proletariat becomes conscious also makes the socialists fit for waiting and working through periods of non-revolutionary phase. In other words, class-maturation and class-consciousness is a process which depends on the development of class struggle and the lessons learned through it. One cannot skip the process simply through socialist education. It may be noted here even in his earlier Address to the Communist League of March 1850 written while he still thought the international revolutionary situation was continuing, he had warned that, “ the German workers are not able to attain power and achieve their class interests without completely going through a lengthy revolutionary development.” Marx, through the revolutionary rehearsal of 1848, reasserted the great lesson “ the most important component of the revolution is the revolution itself.” In 1871 when Paris Commune was established, Marx came forward to congratulate and express his opinion; and with his characteristic modestly rectified and developed his vision. In the preface to the German edition of Communist Manifesto (1872), the following lines were added: One thing specially proved by the Commune, viz, that "the working class cannot simply lay hold of the readymade State machinary, and wield it for its own purposes."
Contemporary Marxist Criticism
Circumstantial evidences indicate that there had been a number of criticism of the views enunciated in What is to be done?. Yet except those of Luxemburg and Trotsky, full text of no other Marxist critics are readily available. So, we have to be satisfied with the polemics made by them only to show even during the Kautskian era all the Marxists did not agree with Kautsky-Lenin formulation.
Luxemburg Rosa Luxemburg was a Polish revolutionary who spent the most important years of her life as a theoretical leader of the left of the German Social Democracy. Being disturbed by the 1903 split and growing influence of the substitutionist tendency in the Russian Social Democracy, she started polemicising against Lenin’s view both on theory-revolution and party-class relationship. She developed her points in her pamphlets: Organisation question of Russian Social Democracy, The Mass Strike, The Party and the Trade Unions through 1904-06. In opposition to Lenin’s dictum that the ‘revolutionary social democrat’ is nothing other than a ‘Jacobin joined to the organisation of the proletariat, which has become conscious of its class interests’, Luxemburg writes “The fact is that the social democracy is not joined to the organisation of the proletariat. It is itself the proletariat. (Emphasise in original) She was vehement in her opposition to Lenin’s conception of the introduction of socialism into the working class from without: The unconscious comes before the conscious. The logic of the historic process comes before the subjective logic of the human beings who participate in the historic process. She relied more on ‘spontaneity’ than the conscious intervention [let me quote in length] : What has been the experience of the Russian socialist movement up to now? The most important and most fruitful changes in its tactical policy during the last ten years have not been the inventions of several leaders and even less so of any central organisational organs. They have always seen the spontaneous product of the movement in ferment... Our cause made great going in these events. However, the initiative and conscious leadership of the social democratic organisation played an insignificant role in this development — in general, the tactical policy of the social democracy is not something that may be ‘invented’. It is the product of a series of great creative acts of the often spontaneous class struggle seeking its way forward. [Emphasis added] Elsewhere she wrote: The ‘socialists’ may imagine that the masses of the working people must be trained under their orders for the armed struggles, but, in reality, in every revolution it is the masses themselves who find the means of struggle best suited to the given condition. Luxemburg’s view on substitutionism may be summed up in her own words: Let us speak plainly. Historically the errors committed by a truly revolutionary movement are infinitely more fruitful than the infallibility of the cleverest Central Committee. In reference to the above quotations, one should not conclude that Luxemburg stood against the formation of the Communist Party and any intervention into the working class movement on its behalf. Trotsky In August 1904 Trotsky published a pamphlet: Our Political Tasks which was to a large extent a polemic against Lenin’s existing view. In the pamphlet, he criticised the substitutionist tendency in very clear terms. The proletarian theory of political development cannot substitute for a politically developed proletariat...
If the “economists” are disarmed in the face of the enormity of their task, contenting themselves with the humble role of marching at the tail-end of history, the politicos on the other hand have resolved the problem by trying to transform history into their own will. [Emphasis in original] According to Trotsky, the self-activity of the working class would raise its consciousness to fulfil its historical tasks: Marxism teaches that the interests of the proletariat are determined by the objective conditions of its existence. These interests are so powerful and so inseparable that they finally oblige the proletariat to allow them into the realm of its consciousness that is, to make the attainment of its objective interests its subjective concern. The answer to substitutionism, he said, is spontaneity: .....the development of bourgeois society leads the proletariat spontaneously to take shape politically; the objective tendencies of this process become clearest in revolutionary, that is Marxist, socialism. Trotsky had been proved to be far-sighted when he had thought how reliance on political substitutionism would affect the internal regime of the party: In the internal politics of the party these methods lead to the party organisation ‘substituting’ itself for the party, the central committee substituting itself for the party organisation and finally the dictator substituting himself for the central committee. Finally, Trotsky raised the battle-cry : Long live the self-activity of the proletariat! Down with political substitutionism!* The other Lenin We will soon see how the substitutionist tendency was reinforced through flesh and blood when in Russia the nascent working class power was substituted by the Communist power. We will also witness how Lenin defended the party power and provided theoretical justification for it. Anyway here we want to draw the attention of the readers to the misunderstanding of both the staunch loyalists and die-hard opponents of the so-called Leninism. Though their conclusions are opposite, both try to prove continuity of Lenin’s view on the theory-revolution and party-class question from 1902 to the post-revolutionary period in Russia. While the loyalist camp claim the success of the Russian revolution was due to the application of Lenin’s consistent view on the party and revolution — the opponent camp wants to prove that the ultimate failure of the Russian revolution and the evolution of Stalinism as an anti-working class current was due to the continuation of the Lenin’s conception of party from the very beginning. The present writer is of the opinion that though the substitutionist tendency will be found both before 1905 revolution and after 1917 revolution it will be misleading to conclude from this superfluous observation that Lenin had been adhering to the same view throughout his life. Let us trace the other Lenin.** Though the ghost of substitutionism was still chasing Lenin, in November 1905, he wrote in The Reorganisation of the Party that 'the working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social Democratic'. Obviously, this statement stands against the idea that the working class could spontaneously achieve only trade union consciousness and the socialist consciousness could only be brought from the outside. A few years later in an article commemorating the 1905 revolution, Lenin went even further in expressing the view that capitalism itself inoculates a socialist consciousness in the working class:
One will be surprised to find the exactly opposite opinion of Trotsky on the same subject when the proletarian socialist fort was dispossessed from within. ** This attempt is not made to save or defend Lenin or Leninism. This task of searching and locating the other Lenin will help us to understand and realise how Lenin changed his position through the thick and thin of the 1905 revolution and again, how Lenin succumbed to the pressure of discontinuity of the socialist revolution
The very conditions of their lives make the workers capable of struggle and impels them to struggle. Capital collects the workers in great masses in big cities uniting them, teaching them to act in unison. At every skew they come face to face with their enemy the capitalist class. In combat with this enemy the workers becomes a socialist, comes to realise the necessity of a complete abolition of all poverty and all oppression. [Italics in original] The concept of socialism from without gone with the wind of the revolution! Lenin summed up the experience of the emergence of Soviet of 1905 and its role in the revolution; It was not some theory, not speeches on the part of someone, tactics invented by someone, not party doctrine, but the force of circumstances that led these non-party mass organs to realise the seed for an uprising and transformed them into organs of uprising....* Still for those, who are still unsatisfied to admit change in Lenin’s attitude, here are some direct references of Lenin regarding What is to be done? When Lenin was voted out (and even booed) in the Third Congress of the Party in the spring of 1905 on the question of opening the party to the workers, then the unfortunate Lenin tried to persuade the Bolsheviks to oppose the line proposed in What is to be done?. He denied that he had at the second congress ... any intentions of elevating my own programmatic level constituting special principles. On the contrary, the expression I used and it has since been frequently quoted — was that the economists had gone to one extreme, What is to be done?, I said, straighten out what had been twisted by the ‘economists’ because we were so vigorously straightening out whatever had been twisted; our line of action would always be straightest. The meaning of these words is clear enough : What is to be done? is “a controversial correction of economist distortion and it would he wrong to regard the pamphlet in any other light.” Though one may not agree with Lenin’s justification of ‘bending the stick’ other side, the reading between the lines of the above passage is really very clear. Lenin could no longer defend his position of What is to be done?. Now we will present and discuss Lenin’s opinion on the same subject just on the eve of, during, and immediately after the October Revolution. Before coming to the point, let us recapitulate the relevant historical facts of the said period. Firstly, it should be categorically noted that immediately after the October revolution, it was not the party-dictatorship, but the Soviet democracy that was established. Not only that, the working class was asserting its power through Factory Committees and even trade unions. Secondly, that fraction or platform etc. within the party had not been prohibited; differences of opinion within the Party had been allowed to make public during the whole period of the development of the revolution or on the eve of the revolution. Still there were two successive revolutions where the Russian Social Democratic Party took an active part. The founder of the so-called Leninist principle of Party, Lenin himself, was a prominent member of the Central Committee of that party without expressing any disagreement with the said practice. To show how far Lenin deviated himself from the Lenin of What is to be done?, one or two examples are sufficient. Let us first recollect that the substitutionist and elitist conception of the party-class relationship or any reference of educating or imbuing the working class from without are categorically absent in the State and Revolution written on the eve of the Russian revolution. Not only that, in this book, Paris Commune was referred to as an ideal form of the dictatorship of the proletariat. There may be a variety of criticism of the Commune from various sides; there may be many weaknesses and limitations of the Paris Commune but one thing is very evident. There was no scope or probability of establishing Party dictatorship in the Commune.
Dear friends —both in the camp of the loyalists and the opponents of Leninism— Are you listening to Lenin, matured through the revolution? Do you realise how he started changing his outlook towards the spontaneous working class movment?
We may now proceed further to relocate Lenin’s view on the party-class relationship with respect to continuation of the socialist revolution. “We must be guided by experience; we must allow complete freedom to the creative faculties of the masses”, Lenin declared to the Second Congress of the Soviets the day after the October revolution. “Creative activity at the grassroots is the basic factor of the new public life ...... living, creative socialism is the product of the masses themselves.” One should not worry at all about mistakes. The mistakes of the masses were in themselves creative. Let there be mistakes — they could be the mistakes of a new class creating a new way of life — there was not and could not be a definite plan for the organisation of economic life. Nobody could provide one. But it could be done from below, by the masses through their experience.”* Lenin declared at the Third congress of Soviets that the building of a new society..... will entail many difficulties, sacrifices and mistakes; it is something new, unprecedented in history and cannot be studied from books. It goes without saying that this is the greatest and most difficult transition that has ever occurred in history. Those who believe and claim that throughout his political life, Lenin stood for the single party dictatorship, following may be an illuminating reference for them: There must be no government in Russia other than the Soviet government. Soviet power has been won in Russia, and the transfer of government from one Soviet party to another is guaranteed without any revolution, simply by new elections of deputies to the Soviets. That Lenin’s opinion was not an exception, rather it expressed the then dominating view of the Russia Communist Party may easily be proved through the party and soviet documents. To strengthen our claim we are quoting only Trotsky. Trotsky, on being elected President of the Petrograd Soviet said in September 1917: We are all party people and we shall have to cross swords more than once. But we shall guide the work of the Petersburg Soviet in a sprit of justice and complete independence for all fractions; the hand of the Presidium will never oppress the minority. We will soon explore how both Lenin and Trotsky made a volte-face and stood firmly for the dictatorship of the Communist Party.
How the Substitutionism was reinforced The following is the brief but tragic episode of how the Russian revolution was defeated and how the defeat was transformed to victory by the magic touch of the victorious leadership! Though the October insurrection was initiated by the Bolshevik Party, the October revolution both in its content and form, both regarding participation in and leadership of it, was essentially a proletarian revolution. When the working class attained the power through the revolution, it faced a historical task to be accomplished: to reorganise the soviet economy according to its own class interests i.e. to continue the socialist revolution to its culmination. The success and victory of this socialist revolution did not depend only on the achievements within the country, it also depended on the expansion and success of the international socialist revolution. Now, we will traverse the tortuous path which the Russian revolution had to go to surmount the odds and difficulties faced by the revolution and locate its imprint on the ongoing revolutionary process. The October revolution immediately faced the civil war imposed upon it, On the one hand, there had been a series of counter revolutionary onslaught ( Krasnov, Kornilov, Kalidin, Denikin .. one after another) upon the revolutionary power; on the other, on behalf of the international capital the armies of sixteen countries including Britain and USA invaded Russia and supported morally and materially the attempts of counter-revolution from within.
Does this resemble like Lenin of ‘What is to be done?’ or Luxemburg in her polemics against Lenin’s notion of substitutionism?
As a consequence, the new-born revolutionary power was compelled to introduce war-communism which meant compulsory military discipline, austerity programme and reorganisation of economy for the sake of defence. Though there is no question of supporting uncritically every step in this period, it is evident that neither the war-communism nor the eventual ‘red terror’ was a programme of the socialist revolution, rather they were imposed upon it through the force of circumstances. As a matter of fact the resistance movement got priority over the drive of socialist reconstruction. The then economic condition was also leading to catastrophe. The international sanction and the civil war made the situation worse. War-damaged industry continued to run. Inflation was running high, ‘the bony hand of hunger' with which the enthusiastic capitalists had threatened the revolution gripped the whole population in the spring 1918. Bread riots were widespread throughout the country. Industry was in a state of complete collapse. Not only was there any food to feed the factory workers, even there was no raw material or fuel for industry. The oil-fields and the coal fields came to a standstill. The collapse of industry brought unemployment. Famine followed. The exodus towards countryside instead of alleviating, aggravated the problem. At last, the revolutionary rule won the battle on both the fronts : the civil war and the economic breakdown but it won in lieu of a great historical cost. In the mean time the substitutionist element began to develop within the revolution. We will now discuss the process of emergence, development and consolidation of this substitutionism. We have discussed earlier, in the beginning that the soviet power was not a party power. The October revolution did not endow authority or power to the Communist Party but to the Soviet. The Petrograd insurrection took place on the 25th October and the second all-Russian congress of the Soviet began on the 26th October. Though the Bolsheriks were majority in this congress they were not alone; the representatives of other parties were very much present in the congress. The central Ministry which was formed and ratified through this Congress was pre-dominatly Bolshevik; so henceforth the government was and had been popularly known as Bolshevik government. Why the overwhelming majority of the members of the Ministry were Bolshevik and how the party-to-party relation developed to bitterness and antagonism and how one after another Soviet parties either resigned or were excluded — all these questions are beyond the scope of our discussion.* But one thing is clear. It as neither a product of any conspiracy or pusch nor a correct or a copy book application of What is to be done?; Interestingly, at this juncture we should note another development. Though the Bolsheviks were predominant in the Central Soviet to make Soviet a Bolshevik government, yet the monopolisation of Bolshevik power was not yet established. This conclusion is drawn not only due to the presence of left S.\R and other parties who had still been collaborating with the Bolshevik but more due to the assertion of the working class through Soviets, Factory Committees, Trade Unions and even the party and their ability to assert their presence on the government policy formulation, this or that way. It may be concluded in retrospect that unless and until the workers lost its vigour and initiative in all their economic, social and political forum, the working class power could not be formally and practically replaced by the Communist Party power. Now we will mention the salient features of the problems of continuing the Russian Revolution — One, side by side with the seizure of political power, the working class began to attempt to put its control over production centres. Of course, differences of opinions arose regarding how and in which form, it would develop. While some tried to enforce workers control through Factory Committees (here also there had been disagreement on the extension, dimension and dynamic of this control. Not only that, new questions arose on the relationship among the factory committees and the relation between Factory Committee system and the Soviet system), some tried to enforce workers control through trade union which brought forth controversies and debates. Two, The working class had been exhausted, through the revolution, the imperialist onslaught, the civil war, hunger and famine and a great majority of the most advanced section of the class had been physically
For detail history one has to read Ten days that shook the World by J. Reed; Memories of a Revolutionary by V. Serge and Russia: How the Revolution was lost by A. Gibbons
liquidated. As a result, the working class lost its previous initiative and energy. So, the debates related to the socialist path were gradually limited to a relatively small section of the working class, both within and outside the party. And eventually, the socialist revolution was deprived of its most basic and elementary factor: the active intervention and the creativity of millions of workers. Three, Russia was a backward capitalist country predominated by the peasantry and other small and petty producers. So, though the working class was concentrated and organised, and at a particular juncture of the stress and strain of the combined and uneven development of capitalism, a socialist revolution began — for all practical purposes, the socialist elements within the country were weak. On the contrary, there developed great impediments and backward thrust with respect to the continuation and development of the socialist revolution. The leadership of the Russian revolution consistently believed that even if a socialist revolution began in a backward country, like Russia, its development and success will largely depend on the spread of the revolution in the international arena, specially on the development of socialist revolution throughout Europe. At the same time, they also apprehended if the Russian revolution is left in isolation i.e. it failed to get support from the developing international socialist revolution, it was foredoomed to failure. Though in the initial period there were glimpses of socialist revolution in the countries of Europe — they did not mature. And ultimately, the Russian revolution failed to get the necessary support. The weakness and impediments from within dominated and decided the fate of the future course. The fort was seized from within. In this situation, an unique solution was projected on behalf of the Bolshevik Party to solve the complex problems faced by the revolution. We have deliberately presented a somewhat brief description of the course and nature of the problem of the revolution only to show that the extreme substitutionism that followed was not the product of the lessons of What is to be done? in the development of the Russian revolution. Rather it developed at a particular moment in a particular context as a particular solution of a particular problem. This was really an unique solution, not borrowed from any sacred text, The solution was something like this: let the worker’s power be substituted by the Party power as a temporary measure. This solution, on the one hand, will solve the contradiction of Factory Committee, Trade Union and other forums of the working class on the question of workers control over production by placing it under the control of the Communist Party, the advanced section of the working class, and on the other, the absence of the initiative and vigour of the masses of the workers will be managed by the small detachment of the determined revolutionaries who would resist the onslaught of counter revolution, if not, continue the revolution. Not only that, it will solve the problem of introducing and continuing democracy in a peasant dominating country through denying democracy to both the workers and peasantry, by putting the dictatorship of the Communist Party over the soviet. Of course, in the initial days, this party power tried to project itself as a Jacobin dictatorship, a dictatorship for the class instead of the dictatorship of the class. This step had been frequently mentioned as a necessary compromise or temporary retreat. The leaders expressed or pretended that the workers would be soon educated to take the responsibility in their hand and till then this unique concept and practice have to be accepted. But the process of the ‘substitutionism’ once initiated gained its own momentum and in its own turn put aside all the pious wishes. There had been some resistance from the workers here and there. There had been notes of dissents from some leaders in the working class camp — but in the mean time, the assimilation of the Party and the state had taken place and the party-in-power, the Bolshevik party and specially its leadership had taken the responsibility to defend the socialist state, not only from the bourgeois, but also from the rank-and-file workers. Thus, the retreat had to be termed as success, the temporary solution became permanent, and thus the theory and practice of socialist revolution got its own dimension. The ‘working class’ began to getting demoted from its status as a subject to that of an object of the socialist revolution, and obviously the Communist Party became nothing other than the application of party theory and programme on the class and society. So, soon all the discussions regarding the economic transformation, class-to-class relation, foreign policy — everything became the debatable subject only within the ruling party. This process eventually put these questions to be decided gradually by the central committee, the Politbureu, and finally by the great Helsman, the Supreme Authority of the Party. Thus, the dictatorship of the class was elevated
to the dictatorship over the class. As a result, the dictatorship of the Communist Party had to be formalised in the constitution; all other parties had to be banned, even the right to form any faction or platform within the party was forfeited. At first, the reality was factualy accepted. Lenin told the Eighth congress of the Party in March 1919: The soviet which by virtue of their programme are organs of government by the working people are in fact organs of government for the working people by the advanced section of the proletariat but not by the working people as a whole.” This process of substitution could not stop itself in the realm of practice; it soon snatched its theoretical sanction. The Bolshevik leadership came forward to theorise the new course of development of the socialist revolution in clear terms. Lenin mocked those who treated ‘the dictatorship of one party as a bugbear’ and added, “The dictatorship of the working class is being implemented by the Bolsheviks Party, the party which as far back as 1905 and even earlier merged with the entire revolutionary proletariat.” In a letter of 20 February 1922 to the People’s Commissar of Justice, he wrote, “we conscious workers, we communists - who are the state”. Of course, this view was not an exception. It was the dominating view of the then leadership of the Bolshevik party. At the Twelfth party congress in April 1923, Zinoviev proceeded to develop the doctrine of the dictatorship of the party as a dictatorship of the Central Committee: We need a single strong, powerful Central Committee which is leader of everything. The Central Committe is the Central Committe because it is the same Central Committe for the Soviets, and for the trade unions and for the co-operatives, and for the provincial executive committees and for the whole working class. In this consists the role of leadership, in this is expressed the dictatorship of the party. The Congress resolution declared that ‘the dictatorship of the working class cannot be assured otherwise than in the form of dictatorship of its leading vanguard i.e the Communist Party”. Kamenev told the Ninth Party Congress in 1920: “The Communist Party is the government of Russia, the country is ruled by the 600,000 party members.” In March 1921, arguing against the Workers’ Opposition. Trotsky defended the rights of the party leadership against the demands for democracy of the working class: The Workers’ Opposition came out with the dangerous slogans, making a fetish of the principles of democracy They seem to have placed the workers’ right to elect their representatives above the party, as though the party did not have the right to defend its dictatorship even if that dictatoship were to clash for a time with the passing moods of the workers’ democracy........ What is indispensable is the awareness, so to speak, of the revolutionary historical birthright of the party, which is obliged to maintain its dictatoship, in spite of the temporary wavering in the spontaneous moods of the masses, in spite of the temporary vacillation even in the working classes. Hence the wavering and the passing mood of the working class was taken care of, and guarded by the formal guardianship of the Communist Party — but the more fundamental question which remained unaddressed: who would take care of the ‘wavering and passing mood’ of the Communist Party? This bold declaration obviously leads to the infallibility of the Communist Party, specially its great teacher, the authority, and the negation of democratic principles and practice in the public life. The same point was emphasised again by Trotsky in a speech to the Second congress of the Comintern in July 1920: Today we have received a proposal from the Polish government to conclude peace. Who decides such question? We have the Councils of People’s Commissars but it too must be subject to certain control. Whose control? The control of the working class as a formless, chaotic mass? [Why?, did not he witness the working class organised in Soviet or Factory committees?] No. The Central
Committe of the Party is convened in order to discuss the proposal and to decide whether it ought to be answered.” Trotsky, in the mean time, had overcome his earlier concern on the danger of substitutionism: We have more than once been accused of having substituted for the dictatoship of the Soviets the dictatoship of the party. Yet it can be said with complete justice that the dictatoship of the Soviet became possible only by means of the dictatoship of the party. He declared elsewhere: We are the only party in the country, and in the period of the dictatoship it could not be otherwise ... the Communist Party is obliged to monopolise political life. ( Emphasis added) He rode on the back of the horse of substitution so decisively that he asserted: If there is one question which basically not only does not require revision but does not even admit the thought of revision, it is the question of the dictatorship of the party. But, finally he had to revise. It is a long and tragic history of a revolutionary who fought against the socalled party bureaucracy without fighting the fundamental aberration of the party dictatorship itself. Trotsky occasionaly withdrew himself even from this limited fight. He also showed vacillation in his fight. Even in exile, he fought within the limits of the legitimacy of the Communist Party power. It may be fairly commented in retrospect that Trotsky fought not against the root, but against the manifestation of the bureaucracy strangling party life. Finally, he had to negate the concept of the dictatorship of the Communist Party. Though for Trotsky as a person, it was too late; but for us, better late than never! In Revolution Betrayed written in 1939 Trotsky related how ‘the opposition parties were forbidden one after the other’. It was a measure `obviously in conflict with the spirit of Soviet democracy’. I cannot resist my temptation of referring Nicolai Bukharin who once professed that, Russia might have two parties but only on the condition that one must be the ruling party and the other must be in prison. How prophetic his statement found to be proved! Let us conclude this chapter through a summary of Victor Serge: With the disappearance of political debates between parties representing different social interests through the various shades of their opinion, Soviet institutions, beginning with the local Soviets and ending with the VTsIK and the Council of People's Commissars, manned solely by communists, now function in a vacuum; since all the decisions are taken by the party, all they can do is give them the official rubber-stamp. Therefore, it has been genuinely proved that i) The view expressed in What is to be done? had not been held by Lenin throughout his life. He had examined his position self-critically, specially through the impact of the 1905 Revolution; ii) Neither immediately before, nor during or immediately after the October revolution, Lenin advocated the concept of single-party state. On the contrary, in the historical juncture of the Russian revolution, Lenin stood for the soviet democracy and the dictatoship of the proletariat as a class. iii) Trotsky in his early revolutionary life fought a principled fight against the substitutionist view expressed in what is to be done? There is no evidence that before or immaculately after the October revolution Trotsky changed his stand. iv) When the Russian revolution failed to continue as a proletarian revolution and the proletarian revolutionary power degenerated as the rule of the Communist Party, Trotsky and Lenin, along with other Bolshevik leaders stood firmly for the Party power substituting the working class power. v) To a superficial reader of history, Lenin’s view seems to be consistent and Trotsky’s crucial change of view seems to be unnoticed.
So, we may conclude from the above observation that the claims of both Leninsts and anti-Leninists that the theory elaborated in What is to be done? was applied in the Russian revolution is a great myth.
The Resurgence of What is to be done?
The ‘dictatorship of the Party’ gradually consolidated itself, the opposition party was outlawed, faction within the Party was banned and the revolution from above was ruthlessly carried out. The dictatorship over the working class was enforced; the regular army in its full form was introduced and reinforced. Stalin proved himself to be a most effective leader in implementing the programme of the day suppressing all shades and forms of dissension. With the final victory of the slogan of 'socialism in one country' and consolidation of Stalin’s sway over both the party and the state, all the vacillations towards developing socialist revolution for the first time in the world ended. Lenin’s note of caution on the future of neo-Jacobin dictatorship and dilemma on the direction or steps of socialist construction were not heard any more; the repeated pronouncement on the international character of the socialist revolution was no more pronounced; Trotsky’s anxiety or apprehension about the growing bureucratisation of the party and state was no more allowed to be expressed. There was an end to all doubts and queries — the socialism was built step by step according to the sermons of the wisest leader of the party. Thus the socialist revolution attained an unique connotation. The definition and meaning of socialism was thus altered upside down to suit the new path of socialism. Socialism was no longer defined as the social control over means of production and distribution. It was rather defined as the ownership of production and distribution by the state. Socialism no longer meant abolition of classes and thereby abolition of state. The goal of socialism which was set was not revolutionising the production relation, but to compete with America in terms of the capacity and volume of products. The main drive of production was not human interests, rather it was the same old ‘mantra’ — accumulation, accumulation and accumulation. Accumulation for the sake of accumulation. The attainment of this sort of socialism need not require creativity of the masses of the proletariat, it required a welldefined blueprint, implementation of which further required an iron-discipline and suppression of differences of opinion and debates. So, democracy was considered to be a luxury. Though the property relation was changed, so far production relation was concerned, nothing changed essentially. The producers that is the workers were, as before, being deprived of any control over production. ‘What, how and for which purpose’ this main theme of production still remained in the hands of a few. In other words, instead of the creator of the history, the working class remained at the receiving end, that too as a wage-slave to obey the orders from above and receive wage in return. Thus, when through the above process almost all the production and distribution system was concentrated in the form of state ownership to constitute itself as state bureaucratic capitalism, the workers remained proletariat as usual; and the state, instead of withering away, was strengthened in its full bloom, there came the historical declaration —The complete victory of socialism has come to a reality and the communism is knocking at the door. The cue followed The eventual success of the ruling elite of soviet Russia to transform the failure to a success of the revolution and to introduce and popularise its state capitalist system as socialism was taken as a cue to be followed in the revolution of Eastern Europe. The meaning of socialist revolution, the connotation of the dictatorship of the proletaniat and socialism — all had not only gone through a sea-change but had been accepted and ratified by the then Communist International and the major communist parties of the world. The dictatorship of the Communist Party had become synonymous to the dictatorship of the proletariat; the nationalisation on behalf of that state had been termed as steps of socialist transformation of the production relations and finally socialism was made equivalent to state ownership of all the means of production. All the protest, all notes of dissents had been termed as acts of 'Fifth columnist’ or capitalist-roaders. The opposition had been silenced — they were jailed, murdered or sent to concentration camps. Now only strong applause after the speeches of the great
teacher — the unconditional obedience to the error-less leadership, and hurrarh for the leader of the leaders! So, the so-called Communist Parties were indoctrinated with completely new version of communism — the old guards who could not cope were either expelled or made to disappear; and the new ones joined with the new conviction: if the Party-power of the Soviet Union is necessary and sufficient condition for the success of socialist revolution, then why should one strive for the development of the class struggle and attainment of the dictatorship of the working class and then develop (sic!) it to the dictatorship of the party? What is the necessity for fighting for the attainment of workers' democracy through Commune, Soviet, or any other platform of workers' power? Why unnecessary wastage of time and energy? One may, rather should go directly for the rule of the Communist Party (of course, in the name of and on behalf of the working class) and attain socialism directly and smoothly. Thus socialism was established in the countries of the Eastern Europe one by one and then in China with the neo-tool and ideology. There had been peculiarities in the development of the revolution in the said countries; the targets and the nomenclature of those revolutions may vary; but all the Parties followed the same path of introducing socialism 'from above’ through the dictatorship of the Party without the active and leading role of the working class. Nothing succeeds like success. And through this newly achieved success of the world socialist revolution and firm establishment of the new definition of socialist revolution and socialism, the lessons of What is to be done? which had been rejected practically and repudiated theoretically regained its new youth. Consistent with almost unanimous approval of this new version of socialism, What is to be done? has been recognised as the ‘Bible’ of the socialist revolution. Of course, for complete reversal of the course and theory of socialist revolution, the above process, though necessary and important, not sufficient. There had been another phenomenon in the other parts of the society. The national bourgeois in the colonial countries and the petty bourgeois feeling oppressed by the big capital found a suitable ideology in this new version of Marxism and took refuge under the umbrella of these Communist Parties. The downturn of the revolutionary working class struggle and the relative capacity of the world capitalism to cope with the new situation gave strength to the process. All these had their own effects on the working class in their own turn. The working class, in general and its advanced section, in particular, had been more and more alienated from the Marxism and the Communist Party, which stengthened the national and bourgeois character of the Party. Resultant of all these actions and reactions provide further strength and momentum to the substitutionist current, and hence, the lessons of What is to be done? The new generation of the communists have been born and brought up in this substitutionist culture and milieu and have provided consistent base for it. Now, the edifice of socialism has broken down; many settled questions have been unsettled for reexamination. It may be hoped at least a section of the working class will not be satisfied with the distorted version of Marxism by the official communist parties regarding the downfall of socialism. We may further expect that they will initiate and join the quest for the answer to the question: from ‘How did the socialism die?‘ to the question 'Was socialism ever achieved in any part of this planet?'. And last but not the least, we are waiting for the moment when a new upward turn of the revolutionary working class movement will sweep away the degenerated and elitist version of socialism and Marxism from within the workers' and communist camp.
Note of dissents
We are fortunate. Though our voice of protest may be weak, it is not the beginning. These voices may be suppressed through the beating of drums by the victorious socialist side, but they have been alive through the dissenting current. The dissenting notes of Luxemburg and the Workers' Opposition and Alexandra Kollontai during the inception and consolidation of the substitutionism in the initial days after the October Revolution have been and are still very much inspiring for the searching communists of today. In this context we owe to two great leading personalities of the communist movement, one from within the Communist Party of Soviet Russia, and the other from outside.
Excerpts from The Workers' Opposition (Alexandra Kollontai) Production, its organisation — this is the essence of communism. To debar the workers from the organisation of industry, to deprive them, that is, their individual organisations, of the opportunity to develop their powers in creating new forms of production in industry through their unions, to deny these expressions of the class organisation of the proletariat, while placing full reliance on the "skill" of specialists trained and taught to carry on production under a quite different system of production — is to jump off the rails of scientific Marxist thought. That is, however, just the thing that is being done by the leaders of our party at present. Taking into consideration the utter collapse of our industries while still clinging to the capitalist mode of production (payment for labour in money, variations in wages received according to the work done) our party leaders, in a fit of distrust in the creative abilities of workers’ collectives are seeking salvation from the industrial chaos. Where? In the hands of scions of the bourgeois-capitalist past. In businessmen and technicians, whose creative abilities in the sphere of industry are subject to the routine, habits and methods of the capitalist system of production and economy. They are the ones who introduce the ridiculously naive belief that it is possible to bring about communism by bureaucratic means. They 'decree’ where it is now necessary to create and carry on research.......... The more the military front recedes before the economic front, the keener becomes our crying need, the more pronounced the influence of that group which is not only inherently foreign to communism, but absolutely unable to develop the right qualities for introducing new forms of organising the work, of new motives for increasing production, of new approaches to production and distribution. All these technicians, practical men, men of business experience who just now appear on the surface of Soviet life, bring pressure to bear upon the leaders of our party through and within the Soviet institutions by exerting their influence on economic policy.......... Heartily approving the centralist tendencies of the Soviet government in the sphere of economics, well realising all the benefits of trustification and regulation of production (this, by the way, is being carried on by capital in all advanced industrial countries), they are striving for just one thing - they want this regulation to be carried on, not through the labour organisations ( the industrial unions), but by themselves — acting now under the guise of Soviet economic institutions — the central industrial committees, industrial centres of the supreme council of National Economy, where they are already firmly rooted............ Distrust of the workers by the leaders is steadily growing. The more sober these leaders get, the more clever statesmen they become with their policy of sliding over the blade of a sharp knife between communism and compromise with the bourgeois past, the deeper becomes the abyss between the “ups” and the “downs” the less understanding there is, and the more and inevitable becomes the crises within the party itself....................
The workers, through their Workers’ Opposition ask: Who are we? Are we really the prop of the class dictatorship? Or, are we just an obedient flock that serves as a support for those who, having severed all ties with the masses, carry out their own policy and build up industry without any regard to our opinions and creative abilities under the reliable cover of the party label?............. The whole controversy boils down to one basic question: who shall build the communist economy, and how shall it be built? This is, moreover, the essence of our programme; this is its heart. This question is just as important as the question of seizure of political power by the proletariat............ "The basis of the controversy", the report continues, "revolves around the question: by what means during this period of transformation can our communist party carry out its economic policy — shall it be by means of the workers organised into their class union, or over their heads — by bureaucratic means through canonised functionaries of the state”. The basis of the controversy is therefore, this: shall we achieve communism through the workers or over their heads by the hands of Soviet officials ? And let us, comrades, ponder whether it is possible to attain and build a communist economy by the hands and creative abilities of the scions of the other class, who are imbued with their routine of the past?..................... To all of them — Lenin, Trotsky, Zinoviev, and Bukharin — it seems that production is such a delicate thing that it is impossible to get along without the assistance of "directors” First of all we shall “bring up” the workers, “teach them” and only when they have grown up shall we remove from them all the teachers of the Supreme Council of the National Economy and let the industrial unions take control over production. It is, after all, significant that all the theses written by the party leaders coincide in one essential feature: for the present, we shall not give control over production to the trade unions : for the present, “we shall wait.” It is doubtless true that Trotsky, Lenin, Zinoviev and Bukharin differ in their reasons as to why the workers should not be entrusted with running the industries just at present. But they unanimously agree that just the present time, the management of production must be carried on over the workers’ heads by means of a bureaucratic system inherited from the past............. Distrust towards the working class (not in the sphere of politics; but in the sphere of economic creative abilities) is the whole essence of the theses signed by our party leaders. They do not believe that by the rough hands of workers, untrained technically, can be created those foundations of the economic forms which, in the course of time, shall develop into a harmonious system of communist production.......... Moreover, this is not the task of the party. The party task is to create the conditions — that is, give freedom to the working masses united by common economic industrial aims - so that workers can become worker-creators; find new impulses for work, work out a new system to utilise labour power, and discover how to distribute workers in order to reconstruct society , and thus to create a new economic order of things founded on a communist basis. Only workers can generate in their minds new methods of organising labour as well as running industry................. This consideration, which should be very simple and clear to every practical man is lost sight of by our party leaders; it is impossible to decree communism. It can be treated only in the process of practical research, through mistakes, perhaps, but only by the creative powers of the working class itself.......... Is it to be bureaucracy or self-activity of the masses? This is the second point of the controversy.............. The essence is this: what system of administration in a workers' republic during the period of creation of the economic basis for communism secures more freedom for the class creative power? Is it a bureaucratic state system or a system of wide practical self-activity of the working masses?...
Excerpts from The Russian Revolution (Rosa Luxemburg) Fear of criticism and of freedom of thought, by combining together with bureaucracy, often produce ridiculous results. There can be no self-activity without freedom of thought and opinion, for self-activity manifests itself not only in initiative, action and work, but in independent thought as well. We give no freedom to class activity, we are afraid of criticism, we have ceased to rely on the masses : hence we have bureaucracy with us...............
Freedom only for the supporters of the government only for the members of one party — however numerous they may be — is no freedom at all. Freedom is always and exclusively freedom for the one who thinks differently. Not because of any fanatical concept of "Justice” but because all that is instructive, wholesome and purifying in political freedom depends on this essential characteristic and its effectiveness vanishes when “freedom” becomes a special privilege.......... The tacit assumption underlying the Lenin -Trotsky theory of the dictatorship is this : that the socialist transformation is something for which a ready-made formula lies completed in the pocket of the revolutionary party, which needs only to be carried out energetically in practice. This is unfortunately — or perhaps fortunately — not the case. Far from being a sum of ready-made prescriptions which have only to be applied the practical realisation of socialism as an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future . What we possess in our programme is nothing but a few main signposts which indicate the general direction in which to look for the necessary measures, and the indications are mainly negative in character at that. Thus we know more or less what we must eliminate at the outset in order to free the road for a socialist economy. But when it comes to the nature of the thousand concrete, practical measures, large and small, necessary to introduce socialist principles into economy, law and all social relationship, there is no key in any socialist party programme or textbook. That is not a shortcoming but rather the very thing that makes scientific socialism superior to the utopian varieties............ The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, a historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realisation, as a result of the developments of living history, which — just like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part — has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution. However if such is the case, then it is clear that socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase [proclamation]........... But with the repression of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Along them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously — at bottom, then, a clique affair, a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, however, but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins.
The present writing might have ended here, but for the reason beyond my control, it has to be continued. Whenever I have tried to re-assert the Marxist teaching that ‘the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class themselves’,( either in verbal or written form), I have faced two common questions : Do you want to mean that there is no role of the Marxist theory in the working class movement? Or, is there no necessity of the Communist Party in the movement for the emancipation of the working class? Majority of the questioners go further to allege that I have thoroughly flouted the role of the Socialist theory and the Communist Party in the Communist movement. I apprehend that some readers, after reading upto this part have already started alleging on the same issues. I, therefore do feel it imperative to address the question. And following is a preemptive answer and explanation. Let me first decline firmly that in my presentation, I have negated or denied the role of the Socialist theory and the Party in the context of the development or accomplishment of the Socialist revolution. It should also be carefully noted that the objective of the present essay is not to assess whether there is any role of the Socialist theory and the Party in the development of socialist revolution. Rather it may be claimed quite fairly that my polemics may prepare the base on which the proper role of the Socialist theory and Party may be discussed and duly placed. An attentive reader may easily find that the main content of the essay is: a) Whether without a revolutionary theory there can be a revolutionary struggle (lest a
revolution) or not; b) whether the working class can attain socialist consciousness without being educated by the bourgeois intelligentsia, or not? and c) whether the spontaneous movement of the working class leads to bourgeois consciousness or socialist consciousness? (Of course, all the three questions may be treated as complementary to each other.) But, when instead of getting into the aforesaid questions, and without trying to understand the objective of the essay, someone jumps to the conclusion that the essay has thoroughly neglected the role of Marxism and Communist Party, then I have no option but to comment only that they are being imbued with the partyist ideology so much that they fail to study the relevant subject in a scientific and truth-searching manner. Or, they* have become so ego-centric that they do not and cannot believe that without them, there can be any revolutionary struggle or revolution. They are the saviours, the educators and liberators! Or, (the most benign explanation may be) if there can be a revolution without them — then let it happen — and in that case, they will be inactive and passers-by in the whole revolutionary process. And therefore to make themselves active, they have to believe in the other way around. Anyway, I shall again request my criticfriends to participate calmly and squarely in the present polemics. In this chapter, I shall deal with the corollary questions of my fundamental position — What is the role of Marxism and the Communist Party in the development of socialist revolution through the perspective of the notion of the self-emancipation of the working class? Before entering into this subject I shall recapitulate the propositions forwarded in my polemics and then ask my friends politely, where are your valued objections? The positive lessons which were highlighted: 1) The working class, class struggle and the independent movement of the working class — all grew long before the emergence of Marxism. As a theory, the scientific socialism is nothing but 'the summation of the conditions necessary for the emancipation of the workers'. 2) To engage in class struggle, it is not necessary to believe in class struggle or to fight for communism, it is not necessary to accept any theory of communism any more than it is necessary to believe in Newton in order to fall from an aeroplane. 3) The working class moves towards class struggle in so far as capitalism fails to satisfy its economic and social needs and aspirations, not in so far as it is told about struggle by Marxists 4) The working class becomes class consciousness, turns to class ‘for itself’ from class ‘in itself’ through class struggle and class struggle only. 5) The working class has a definite historical mission i.e. overthrow of the rule of capital and establishment of socialism. It is not manifested always through the behaviours of the workers, it is the historical tendency. Only in this sense, it is said that ‘the working class is instinctly, spontaneously socialist.’ The negative lessons which were criticised: 1) The working class, on its own, cannot go beyond trade union consciousness. 2) The socialist consciousness in the working class can be brought only from without and that too by the bourgeois intelligentsia
We may remind our critics that they are divided into different sub-school and sects. Each and every group believes that they are ‘true’ and ‘full-fledged’ Marxists and others are either ‘false’ or ‘poor’ Marxists. Not only that, majority of the members of these sects honestly term the others as ‘revisionists’ or ‘enemy within the camp’. In other words, when they say that without Marxism ..... .... etc, they rely on ‘their’ Marxism. This realisation then leads to a single orientation. Each and every group of our critics earnestly believe that unless and until, the working class (not only within this country, but on the international basis) will accept the leadership of their Marxist sect, there cannot be any revolution. If this is true, the future of socialist revolution is really alarming! At the same time, this proposition, in its turn, will provide ground for the allegation of the bourgeois that the working class, on its own, is not interested in revolution and the revolution is the product of instigation by the Communists.
3) The working class power can be achieved only through the dictatorship of the Communist Party, Party power is the ‘historical birthright’ of the Communist Party. 4) Socialism can be achieved only through the dictatorship of the Communist Party; and under its socialist regime all other parties, fractions within the party or any independent ( independent from the ruling Communist Party) forum of the workers should be banned. Now, we will discuss the role of the socialist theory (especially Marxism) and the Communist Party in the course of socialist revolution and try to locate and place them in their due position. Let us begin with the relevant section of the Communist Manifesto. Marx and Engels addressed this problem entitled ‘Proletarians and Communists’: In what relations do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The communists do not form a separate party opposed to other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. The communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1. In the national struggle of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2. In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeois has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole. 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 general orientation of the above declaration is unequivocal and clear. There is no scope for any proposition that the working class has to be trained under the able guardianship of the Communist Party or the working class is to be substituted by any permanent detachment of working class the Communist Party. The tasks of the Communists may become more subtle and complex due to the development of the modern civil society and emergence of powerful reformism within the working class movement. But that does not provide any excuse to modify the general guideline of the party-class relationship. It is true that the Communist Manifesto does not deal with the organisation forms to be adopted by the communists. It is also true that the concept of party has steadily changed since the Communist Manifesto had been written and there may be further changes. Incidentally, it may be noted that Marx himself used the term ‘party’ in different senses. (Montly Johnstone has identified at least five major ‘models’) Not only that, he, remaining firm on the principle, displayed exemplary flexibility during the formative period of International Working Men’s Association. Even when he was proceeding towards building a party based on more consolidated programme after disassociating first with Bakunin and then with Lassalian current, then also he never showed any leniency in his fight against ‘sectarian mentality’ or elitist thought of ‘revolution from above’ or the ‘substitutionism’. But, in the name of coping with the change of circumstances, the basic points (which have differentiated Scientific socialism with petty bourgeois, Utopian and other types of Socialism) of the class-party relationships have been stood on its head. To repeat — they may be summarised as: 1) one has to keep confidence on the historical potentiality and mission of the working class that they can conquer their emancipation themselves; they will be class conscious without being educated ‘from without’). ii) The conspiratorial or voluntarist view of the Communist revolution (that a small band of adventurers will emancipate the class, on behalf of but apart from the class) should outrightly be rejected. iii) There is no scope to treat the working class as object and the Party as the subject of history and iv) A wise and never-to-fault leadership will direct the Communist Party, and the party, in its turn, will educate the masses of the workers — this benevolent line of revolution ‘from above’ has to be completely rejected. Anyway, to identify the proper role of the revolutionary theory and the Communist Party in our scheme of the self-emancipation of the working class, we have to understand the complexity of the capitalist society
and the dynamics of the consciousness. In the previous section of this writing, I have explained how the working class spontaneously drifts towards socialism, and become conscious of its historical mission. Now the question is, if all these are true (they are obviously so) then even one hundred fifty years after the emergence of the modern working class, and the gigantic development of capitalism and even after going through the long journey of class struggle, why could not the working class establish socialism. Why do they even not always express class-consciousness in its developed form? Why are they often imbued with caste-community or national prejudices and compete among themselves in such lines? In a nutshell, the reply to these questions is; the capitalist society not only produces conductive forces in favour of socialism, but also adverse forces against it. We may note them, in brief, as: firstly, the proletariat comes into the world in an already bourgeoisfied milieu and they are brought up there. As the dominant ideology of the society happens to be the ideology of the ruling class- the natural ideology of each and every person, including an atomised worker, is nothing but bourgeois. Secondly, the term working class, as it has been used in our earlier proposition, may sound nice to read or hear, but in real life they are not only atomised, but divided into different strata, caste, religion, nationality and country. That means the class is not homogeneous and often does not behave like the working class. On the contrary, there are divisions, discrimination, even competition within the class. Thirdly, the society is not a laboratory where there are only two sides black and white — on the one side, there is capitalism and bourgeoise class as exploiters and on the other, the working class. There are theoreticians and intellectuals in favour and defence of status-quo and bourgeoisie class. They also have powerful media in their control through which they have been constantly trying to distort and deviate the growing consciousness of the working class. In other words, in a capitalist society, though it is true that socialist tendencies are generating and regenerating every moment; the countervailing tendencies have been active too. There have ben constant fight between those two tendencies at any particular moment. The outcome i.e., the degree of maturity or immaturity depends on the resultant. If only the former tendency was active (and there was no existence of the later one), then the revolution would be so simple and smooth. If only the later tendency was true (and there was no existence of the former), then the revolution would have been an imaginary and impossible hypotheses. The reality is: both are true and the existence of these two contradictory tendencies does not lie in any one’s hand, it lies in the objectivity of the society. The problem of revolution is to solve this contradiction in favour of the former. And here lies the all-important role of Marxism and a Communist network* Actually, for like-minded or converging minded tendencies, it is natural for the communists to unite in a single organisation on the basis of common orientation and programme. They cannot defer their activity till the formation of a Party, rather they will strive to comply with his/her historical role collectively as quick and as much as possible. Let us discuss the problem in more detail. We have just discussed that there have been constant strife between the favourable and counter tendencies (with respect to socialism) in the capitalist society. Since Marxism is the conscious expression of the unconscious process of working class struggle and is a summation of the tendencies and conditions for its emancipation, therefore, its active role will always influence the resultant positively. It is natural that the effect will be more profound and effective when this is made through a collective organisation of the Communists based on Marxism than through single or isolated Marxists. It may be placed other way around. The Marxists and Communists do have a far-reaching role to play to help the working class in building their consciousness and organisation, in combating the attempts to divert the consciousness arising out of spontaneous working class movement, and towards the free and unrestricted development of the class struggle and to propagate and put an imprint of the present and future interests on the working class as a whole, in every partial struggle. We may expand our proposition in the following manner taking any particular point as a starting point. Let us assume that a profound and widespread class struggle has developed, and it has stirred the whole society (e.g. the strike of Indian Railways in ’74, the textile movement of ‘8os, the Polish Solidarity movement, or the miners’ strike of Britain, or, the world-shaking struggle of France ’68) and let different tendencies (the reformist, the anarchist, the terrorist and even the 'petty-bourgeois’ or 'bourgeois’ conservative etc.) be active within the struggle; let us also assume that the one of the tendency declares itself as Marxist, though in reality they are overwhelmingly a ‘parliamentarist’ tendency. Now in this situation, the presence and active role (or the absence) of a Marxist tendency (as a
The term ‘network’ is deliberately used. Admittedly, if conditions permit, it may be a Party, but one should be flexible to acccept other different forms of communist network depending on the objective condition and preparedness of the communists. It may be correspondence network, it may be group or co-ordination or a loose platform like First-International etc. etc.
revolutionary working class tendency) will, of course, influence and change the resultant more favourably.* Obviously, a Marxist, who possesses a strong theoretical weapon, cannot sit idle because he believes in the self-emancipation of the working class. Rather, being inspired by the great teaching that 'the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself’ he/she would fight utmost against each and every manifestations of substitutionism, because he/she places himself/herself as a part of the class and believes earnestly that his/her active intervention could play a great positive role at that particular historical juncture. It is also natural that more effectively and perfectly this intervention is done, more favourable would be the result; i.e., the force of his/her own side will be strengthened, that of the enemy side will be weakened. If we expand this example, we may conclude that if it is true for a particular moment, it is also true for the whole period of the development of the class struggle, In this connection, we may review how Lenin looked at the problem when he wrote ‘What is to be done?’ Lenin wrote, “The working class spontaneously gravitates towards socialism,”, but in the same breath, he continued, “nevertheless, most widespread (and continuously and diversely revived) bourgeoisie ideology spontaneously imposes itself upon the working class to a still greater degree.' (Emphasise added). In other words, Lenin had held that the socialist tendency is always defeated in the fight between the two tendencies,** and so he considered that the working class, on its own, cannot go beyond trade-union consciousness, bourgeois consciousness, and hence he put the great responsibility to the Marxists, who would educate, guide, and lead the working class to attain the socialist consciousness ‘from outside’. In the present essay, there is no scope to discuss the nature of the content of the programme of the Communist Party or the organisation principle and form of the Communist Party. But in the light of the orientation of the self emancipation of the working class, we may highlight the general orientation. There must be a fusion of socialist theory and class intuition of the advanced section of the working class, which is always reproducing and enriching itself through the experience of the struggle of the masses of the working class. It must be noted that in the process of programme building, the role of the intellectual in the working class camp is as important as the role of the active participation of the advanced section of the working class. But one thing must be remembered. In many cases and in the last analysis, the experience and the guidance acquired through the practical movement are much more important and illuminating than any lesson of the most learned Marxist. While deciding on and developing the organisational form of the communist party it should be noted that: i) the form must be compatible with ensure the constant living character of the party as a proletarian organisation, a ceaseless flow of the advance section of the proletariat and a healthy and democratic culture of criticism and self-criticism be ensured. ii) as the aim of the proposed communist party is to assist and develop the class struggle of the working class so that working class consciousness grows sufficiently to initiate the socialist revolutioin by seizing power by and for itself, the organisational form of this Party would be radically different from that of the CP's who attempt to seize the power by itself on behalf of (sic!) the working class. The scope of this presentation does not permit us to elaborate the point further. I may only add that the structure of this Party would embody the spirit of proletarian democracy it fights for.
For a Marxist (who sees Marxism and its historical role from within), Marxism is the paradigm that is most proximate to the wouldbe socialist consciousness of the working class and she therefore tries to relate class and class struggle through a Marxist paradigm. For one who looks at the subject from the "elevated position of a long term perspective" the truer the theory the more helpful would it be to the working class in its struggle for emancipation. ** How Lenin came to this conclusion is anybody’s guess. It may be the case that Lenin was then more a Kautskvan than a Marxist, or was too young to look into the interreletionship of theory and revolution, spontancity and consciousness independently. Anyway, we have already shown how Lenin rectified his stand on the relevant subject.
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