Franz J.T. Lee, August, 2007
Venezuela's Bolivarian Socialism: The Historic Birth of Marxism
Any social act, human theory or natural event of transcendental significance has to be placed in its real transhistoric context. If two millennia ago, Jesus Christ really had lived in human history, then, like any one of us, he was born in a specific age, where he could address the 'philistines,' 'pharisees' and the "generation of vipers' of his time.
Definitely he could not call them 'golpistas,' 'escualidos' or 'CIA paramilitary troops.'
Similarly, Marx and Engels were born in a specific time and place, could not present a 'Sermon on the Mount' to the workers who participated in the 1848 revolutions in Europe; also, in 1819 Simon Bolivar could not have addressed a congress in Ciudad Bolivar, but in Angostura.
Furthermore, in 2007, Chavez has no possibility to discuss constitutional reform in Angostura. All this also applies to the Communist Manifesto, to concepts and their social meanings. In other places and times, terms like 'metaphysics,' 'speculation,' 'praxis,' 'ideology,' 'social democracy,' 'national socialism' or 'revolution' have different meaning, even contradictory connotations. Jesus Christ and Karl Marx could utter the sane sentence and mean two things totally distinct. Hence we should be very careful. Words do not, cannot think for us; thinking we have to do all for ourselves.
Thus, we do not think in words, in a collection of letters or phrases, they are just miserable tools. As revolutionaries, as philosophers, we reflect, conceptualize and theorize our reality; in other words, we think of, by and for ourselves. Till now we have not found a creative substitute for human thinking and thought. We have many Pavlov dogs, parrots and zombies in the Venezuelan 'opposition,' but, alas, among ourselves we have very few praxical thinkers and thoughtful theoreticians.
In a previous VHeadline article of August 27, 2007, we promised that "in future commentaries we will elaborate the important themes with reference to the Communist Manifesto and Bolivarian socialism as delineated above."
Keeping our revolutionary word, we will now spotlight the transhistorical situation in Europe at the beginning of the 19th century, by focusing on events that have a direct relation to the Bolivarian Revolution today.
Many historic tasks of the French Revolution are till this day still outstanding in Venezuela, especially in our "ideological" superstructure. Also the process of separating the Church and State is still incomplete, it even is a source of counter-revolution. Hence, let us begin with the "Holy Alliance" at the time of the Napoleonic wars in Europe.
It was formed in 1815, by a group of 'Christian princes' ruling by gottesgnadentum, that is, by monarchies by the grace of God, all invited by the then Czar of Russia, under the auspices of Austria and Prussia. As stated in the Communist Manifesto, then, practically all absolutist monarchs of Europe joined this counter-revolutionary feudal "Holy Club," that was aimed against bourgeois democracy, but also against utopian socialists and communists. The parallel to the current global, fascist 'Bush Family' and its allies everywhere against the Bolivarian Revolution is obvious: different ages but revolutionary similarities.
Inspired by the famous Austrian diplomat, Count von Metternich, what really happened at the Congress of Vienna, 1814-15?
The answer is very simple: it was an anti-liberal-capitalist 'Scramble For Europe,' a counter-revolutionary attempt to restore the clerical, aristocratic, feudal 'ancien regime.' This type of conspiracy threatens us everyday.
In reality, the map of Europe had to be redrawn, a precondition for the epoch of monopoly capitalism, for the pro-imperialist, capitalist "Scramble For Africa" (1884-85). We need not tarry, giving data, who cheated who in Vienna, who robbed what and who got the 'lion's share.' In reality, it was the preparation for British industrialization and world hegemony; It all ended up with an alliance of "Christian States," with the "Quadruple Alliance" (Russia, Prussia, Austria and Great Britain).
Here we can see the important role of Christianity in defense of the ruling class status quo. Precisely in the superstructure, across Hegel, Feuerbach and Marx, religious criticism and critique of Christian religion were necessary to introduce a new proletarian science and philosophy, an earthly praxis and theory, a Communist Manifesto. This reflected itself in the famous workers' song of Marxist and non-Marxist socialists, the 'Internationale':
"No savior from on high delivers No trust we have in prince or peer Our own right hand the chains must shiver Chains of hatred, greed and fear. Ere the thieves will out with their booty And to all give a happier lot. Each at his forge must do his duty And strike the iron while its hot."
The Spanish version:
"Ni en dioses, reyes ni tribunos, está el supremo salvador. Nosotros mismos realicemos el esfuerzo redentor.
Para hacer que el tirano caiga y el mundo siervo liberar, soplemos la potente fragua que el hombre libre ha de forjar."
At that time, part of a very popular German song, still sung today, already expressed the revolutionary heart-beat of the Communist Manifesto, namely, the philosophic trend towards Marxist dialectical materialism as follows:
"Die irdische Trinität, Gott nachgeschaffen, So wie der Mensch sich widerholt im Affen." (The Trinity on earth, God imitated, just as man in monkey is recreated.)
In one of his latest addresses to the nation, President Hugo Rafael Chavez Frias revealed his personal opinion about Christian religion, as taught by the Church hierarchy which supports military coups against his democratic, legitimate government. Firstly, he revealed that he does not pray, secondly, that he does not believe in a heavenly structure above the earth in the sky, or in a hellish structure below the ground. He said, if this would have been true, then long ago already the astronauts and the drilling workers of PDVSA would have discovered them. Finally, he referred to the religious fallacy that after death one day we will see our beloved family members again.
However, in the spirit of Jesus Christ's sermon on the mount, he defended Bolivarian socialism but underlined that after death all of us will return to dust, to cosmic dust.
In the last analysis, this is precisely what the Communist Manifesto and the Internationale desired to convey, and which is a social contribution of the French Revolution towards human enlightenment and consciousness, towards the birth of Marxism, of scientific and philosophic socialism.
However, let us continue to illustrate the main traits of the revolutionary epoch of upsurging communism, of the negation of capitalism in Europe. Especially in England, between 1815 and 1830, the onslaught of upcoming capitalist forces of production progressively destroyed most of the vestiges of feudal, absolutist modes of production and ushered in the 'Industrial Revolution.' Immediately England took the lead, new factory towns like Manchester emerged.
In the glory of Adam Smith's 'good capitalism' the British manufacturers were fascinated by the Liberte to exploit poor workers, for the accumulation of capital generated by the French Revolution. On the other hand, as described in his work, 'The Condition of the Working Class in England in 1844,' Friedrich Engels described the coming misery and poverty of all future capitalist wage slaves, especially in the colonial and future neocolonial world.
The new upcoming liberal-democratic bourgeoisie defended 'liberte' with all its might, for its own class this meant 'free competition,' 'free trade,' in few words: laissez-faire, laissez passer.
Around 1830, continental Europe, mainly France, Belgium and parts of Germany, was still in feudal slumber, was basically rural and agricultural. In the following decade progressively it began to develop its own factory system, based on the age-old "working houses," originally invented in northern Italy centuries before.
On the political plane, the power struggle was reflected in the revolutionary and rebellious waves that shook Europe around 1830.
For us in Venezuela, it is important to note that a social revolution is not a single Sunday afternoon window-shopping spree, it takes decades, is violent, is bloody, is a gigantic power struggle, is class struggle. Within this heavy continental class struggle the theory of proletarian class struggle, the Communist Manifesto was born. Currently, the emancipatory praxis and theory of the Bolivarian Revolution are also being born in a most contradictory global situation.
Even in Europe the French Revolution had to display a very tough battle to conquer bourgeois, capitalist, political power. Its local and foreign 'opposition,' the European 'Holy Sovereigns' and their 'think tank' Metternich were not impressed at all by the revolutionary novelties; by liberty, equality and fraternity; they preferred 'escualite.'
Like the current Venezuelan 'opposition,' they resisted with all sorts of State Power at their disposal; they accused the bourgeois leaders of being followers of 'terrorists,' of Robespierre, of being "communists" -- sans-culottes.
Precisely this is happening here in Venezuela to Chavez and the Bolivarians.
With all might the counter-revolutionary forces launched a galaxy of oppressive measures, unraveling basic functions of the future State: censorship, police surveillance, Spitzel, mouchards. All these things are still brand new today, and all this happened while Marx and Engels were still small boys, playing 'cops and crooks.' Hence, what a novelty must be the Communist Manifesto, Marxism today.
Just like in contemporary Latin America, spies, laws, imprisonment and executions attacked the vanguard of the bourgeois, democratic, capitalist revolution.
As political reaction against police and army terror, radical bourgeois democrats, workers and laborers and other defendants of the capitalist revolution united and organized themselves in secret societies, like the Carbonari, the coal-burners. In Germany, burschenschaften, fraternities came into existence. In France, the Bourbons, who never learned anything, and who never forgot anything, were replaced. The reactionary Charles X fled, and he was replaced by a 'bourgeois king,' by Louis Philippe of Orleans.
Between 1789 and 1848, the French Revolution was penetrating all the capillaries and atoms of feudal Europe, it challenged all previous modes of production, it struggled for total hegemony, for bourgeois, democratic, capitalist, global power. To topple it today, we have to do it much better.
Only after the victory against the 'Holy Alliance,' the wealthy French bourgeoisie could take over. Francois Guizot portrayed the 'esprit' of the new wealthy class of bankers, speculators and industrialists with the following slogan: Enrichissez vous! This was not "Know Thyself!," but "Enrich Thyself!"
All this at the cost of others, of laborers and workers, who always have to pull the chestnuts out of the fire for their capitalist masters.
This counter-revolutionary trend should not happen here in Venezuela.
In South Africa the 'sell-out' to imperialism happened within a decade and generated the coming into existence of a new rich black middle class. The millions of poor black workers are as miserable as ever.
Long before the birth of the Communist Manifesto, before the 1848 revolutions, the European workers, exploited by upsurging capitalism, revolted and began to organize and defend themselves as a pariah working class. In England, for example, after the Luddite revolts of 1811-12 and the smashing of factory machines, the British workers began to organize themselves against vile capitalist exploitation and to form independent workers' associations and trade unions.
From the onset bourgeois democratic capitalism had no mercy with laborers who interfered in the accumulation of capital, wealth, privileges and power. The Bolivarian Revolution experienced these violent merciless attacks in 2002 during the military coup and oil sabotage campaigns. Already in 1819 the British workers had their 'Caracazo,' the 'Massacre of Peterloo.'
In Manchester, during a meeting of 60 000 protesting workers, police brutally intervened and suffocated the rebellion. Percy B. Shelley portrayed this event as follows:
"Rise, like lions after slumber, In unvanquishable number, Shake your chains to earth like dew Which in sleep has fallen on you. Ye are many, they are few!"
("Mask Of Anarchy")
Nevertheless, the British workers' struggle continued; it culminated in a frustrating 'Reform Act of 1832' and in the 'People's Charter' of 1838. A Chartist labor movement came into existence, which had a membership of over 40 000 workers in 1847. This happened while Engels was already writing the first version of the Communist Manifesto, revised by Marx.
On the continent, in 1834, the silk weavers of Lyons, the canuts, rebelled and took to the streets, followed by revolts in other cities. All workers' uprisings were brutally suppressed. Especially cruel was the "Massacre of Paris Rue Transnonain," perpetuated in the famous "Song Of The Weavers":
"Mais quand notre règne arrive Quand votre règne finira Alors nous tisserons le linceul du vieux monde Par on entend déjà la revolte qui gronde. --"
"When our reign arrives When your reign shall end Then we shall weave the shroud of the old world For hear! revolt is rumbling -- "
All these historic realities have produced scientific and philosophic socialism, Marxism, have created the Communist Manifesto.
As we can see, Marxism did not fall from the blue heavens, it is a transhistoric reality of capitalist society, it is its total dialectical negation.
In Germany, in the homeland of Marx and Engels, where one first, makes the revolution in the head, the Silesian Weavers launched their famous rebellion in 1844. Like everywhere, the watch-dog of capitalism, the bourgeois State authorities reacted with the usual authoritarian brutality. Let's listen to the German "Weaver's Song":
"Hier im Ort ist ein Gericht Viel schlimmer als die Fehmen,* Wo man nicht mehr ein Urteil spricht das Leben schnell zu nehmen."
"In this place there is a court Much worse than all the Fehmen Where no one needs a court and judge To quickly kill a person."
* medieval kangaroo courts.
This weavers' revolt became the central topic of Gerhard Hauptmann's famous play: Die Weber (1892).
Let's conclude this exposition of the historic context of the 'Communist Manifesto' with the excellent poem of Heinrich Heine, who gave us further details about this scandalous massacre:
"Im duestern Auge keine Träne, Sie sitzen am Webstuhl und fletschen dieZähne: (Des Leidens und Hungers ist genug); 'Deutschland, wir weben dein Leichentuch, Wir weben hinein den dreifachen Fluch -- Wir weben, wir weben.'"
"Without a tear in their grim eyes, They sit at the loom, the rage of despair on their faces: We have suffered and hunger'd long enough; 'Old Germany, we are weaving a shroud for thee And weaving it with a triple curse. We are weaving, weaving.'"
For further information, see the excellent work, Dirk J. Struik, BIRTH OF THE COMMUNIST MANIFESTO, International Publishers, New York, 1975.