Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Perspective … 2

Communist Experience … I

“We shall now proceed to construct the socialist order.” This was the opening of Lenin’s speech to the congress of soviets in October 1917 (November in Gregorian calendar) [History of the Russian Revolution, Leon Trotsky, Haymarket Books p 854].  Lenin was out of his hiding putting his final touches to the Bolsheviks seizure of power.  Lenin and his party did not participate in the Kerensky’s government which included the rest of the political spectrum of the February 1917 revolution. 

Kerensky’s provisional government was the result of the February revolution that overthrew the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II.  Bolsheviks overthrow of the Kerensky’s government in October of the same year elevated the ideological contention between the proponents of communism and capitalism to the struggle between states.
Many books and articles have been written about the details of this tumultuous event but not enough attention has been paid to the correlation of this event and its aftermath with its ideological compass.  What is the significance of what Lenin said?  He was not a man of gestures; Lenin said what he believed in.  His records are clear, he was not a Machiavellian.  Lenin was convinced that his proposal to “construct” socialist order were in line with what Marx introduced into the European socialist movement as the “scientific” socialism.   Marx had drawn a contrast between his version of socialism against the utopian socialists’.  The later attempted to create socialism by example, through cooperatives.  Marx believed that cooperatives or communes within the context of a capitalist state will fail.  He claimed that the capitalist states are nothing but the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie (the capitalists); he believed that the capitalists will sabotage these examples and will suppress them.  There is not much evidence for Marx’s claim.  It is true that socialist cooperatives or communes do not have much of a track record and they have generally failed, but their failures are entirely for different reasons than what Marx was promoting.  I will return to this matter later in subsequent posts.
Marx’s goal was to overthrow the capitalist state and replace the “dictatorship of bourgeoisie” with the “dictatorship of proletariat”.   To him this was the first requirement for the construction of socialism.  The rest would follow.  He believed that the capitalists and their platoon of managers are not adding any value.  According to Marx, capitalists and their cohorts are only leeches that suck the blood of workers by extracting the surplus value which is only created by workers on the production line.  He claimed that this value as part of the exchange value is embedded in material commodities produced on the production lines.  Everything else bought and sold in the capitalist society is merely commoditization (or corruption) of “human” relationships.  Marx had concluded, when workers establish their dictatorship and take control of the production, they will throw out the capitalists and their lackeys and the path to socialism will open.  He claimed that the workers do not need the capitalists and their managers.

For Marx the plethora of capitalist contradictions is so overwhelming that during a socialist revolution even some sections of the bourgeoisie will switch to the workers' side.  To him the working class was the only revolutionary class and when it would march toward a socialist order other classes would fall behind its action.  For Marx all this emanated from the inevitability of the socialist revolution, the capitalists were only digging their own graves and all proletariat had to do was to put the final few pails of dirt over their graves walk over it and open up a new chapter in history.  That is how Marx painted the “objective” reality of capitalist societies.

Lenin in his attempt “to construct the socialist order” collided with Marx’s vision from day one.
More on the next post…

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