Franz J.T. Lee, December, 2008
Marxism ... Concerning modern theory and praxis of global socialist revolution
More than four decades ago, in his Message to the Peoples of the World, Fidel Castro pointed out the core of Marxist revolutionary praxis and theory; today it is more than ever valid for the Americas and elsewhere:
".. It is the duty of the revolutionaries to make the revolution."
We have to remember that Karl Marx evolved his theory of revolution in the years 1840-1844, when he himself was developing towards scientific and philosophic socialism. It was intended to be a program for the bourgeois-democratic capitalist revolution, then overdue in Germany. Germany's historical time lag as compared with her Western-bourgeois neighbors (England and France) offered the possible German revolution a unique historical chance not only to make up for the "political revolution" that had been brought about by the Jacobine revolution in France, but even to surpass it in "human emancipation" (Marx) which would go so far as to overcome the contradiction between citoyen and bourgeois, slave and master.
Already in 2005, in my book dedicated to President Hugo Chavez Frias, and titled "Venezuela: De la Revolucion Bolivariana a la Emancipacion Humana," I indicated this emancipatory possibility of departure from the "democratic revolution"
towards socialist emancipation in Venezuela.
In clarifying the question of the subject of such a revolution Marx not only crossed the line from a radical bourgeois-ideologist to theoretician of the socialist revolution but also from mere normative, moral, utopian to scientific and philosophic socialism. Certainly, as proved by historic events, the latter alone is susceptible of designing the bridge of praxis that must of necessity link the criticism of the present with the concrete, proletarian utopia of the future, and of actuating the "alliance of thinking and suffering men" (Marx) that will liberate human society from the shackles of the mortal bourgeois mode of production, and hence by means of class struggle from the class system on a world scale. Now, in December 2008, President Chavez of Venezuela also has become conscious of this historical process. Venezuela is again under attack, the immediate future is lit up with severe class struggles.
With reference to a short class alliance at the beginning of the epoch of social revolution, according to Marx, in general, but not necessarily as a rule, at least two parties are bound to find themselves in a temporary alliance prompted by the revolution, although they differ in their basic attitude towards that revolution: a petty-bourgeois one that aims at getting it done and ever with, and a proletarian one that keeps pushing it forward "until all more or less propertied classes have been squeezed out of authority, executive power has been wrested from them by the proletariat, and the associations of proletarians not only in one country but in all leading countries of the world are so far advanced (...) that at least the decisive forces of production will be concentrated in the hands of the proletariat" (Marx/Engels, "Address of the Central Authority to the League," March 1850).
is more easily said than done. Chavez's political addresses all go in
this direction, he talks about "the class struggle·,
about how the exploiting "propertied classes" have to be
"squeezed out of authority", and to give executive power to
the people. Precisely this was in Germany the common political
platform of the then League of Communists and the Blanquists, who had
then around 1850 formulated the following criteria of a
a) Achievement of the hegemony of the proletariat, by
means of its party or parties, in the historically
retarded bourgeois revolution in Germany;
b) Establishment of a proletarian dictatorship, i.e.
seizing control of executive power with a view to the
expropriation and reorganization of the means of
c) Internationalization of the revolution to bring about
co-operation among the proletarian dominated, most
highly developed ("dominant") societies in order to prevent "communism" from merely becoming a generalized form of indigence and want which would invariably entail new types of inequality, the formation of classes, and the setting up of a machinery of repression vis-á-vis the majority of the people.
Concerning the point (a), this is the current task of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV). Concerning (b) and (c), if we want to deepen the revolution, want to accelerate the class struggle, then it is valid to acknowledge: so much to do, so little done!
Apart from the discussions and conflicts in the First and Second Internationals, especially between reformists and revolutionaries, essentially towards the end of the 19th century, Marxist revolutionary theory did not undergo radical revision and dialectical enrichment.
As we know, at the beginning of the 20th century Bolsheviks and left-wing German Social Democrats discovered once more the topicality of the "socialist revolution" that informed the Marxian writings of around 1848. Comrades remembered the first theory of globalization, of the transhistoric "democratic" (French) Revolution which inexorably, according to the tendential economic laws as explained in "Das Kapital", was realizing itself in our modern critical and depressive times of global recession.
The Russian revolution of 1905 raised the problem of the character of this revolution not only for the Russian Social Democrats but also for the Second International in its entirety.
Three options were developed:
a) the Menshevik one,
b) the Bolshevik one,
c) that of the inspirer of the first Petersburg council
of workers’ deputies, Lev Trotsky.
According to Menshevik pro-capitalist ideology , the task of the "revolution" was restricted to toppling the tsarist regime and establishing a bourgeois-democratic republic, in the framework of which Russian capitalism would then expand freely, while Russian social democracy would by means of its opposition and powerful organization protect the Russian workers from the worst forms of exploitation.
Well, here in Venezuela about this kind of Menshevik counter-revolutionary, pro-capitalist reformism we have seen a lot over the last decade. In the opinion of the then Russian lackeys of European imperialism, applying Marxism willy-nilly, a socialist revolution would not have been feasible in Russia, given its uneven development, since a highly developed capitalism would be the necessary pre-condition for any socialist revolution.
Lenin’s theory for the Russian revolution up to World War I was that of the "democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants". By the latter was meant the negation of the bourgeois dictatorship of the few over the many, and to replace it with the rule and power of the many in defense of real popular democracy, in defense of the socialist revolution, that is, to prevent that the capitalists would never ever return.
Originally Lenin's interest was mainly directed to the classes known to be incubating the revolution, hence its most likely protagonists. 100 million landless peasants would break out of their semi-serfdom and fight for the distribution of land; less than 10 million urban workers would support the peasant war by using the strike weapon in the cities, with the socialist objectives in mind.
The result would be a revolutionary coalition between workers’ and peasants’ parties since the Russian bourgeoisie, in consequence of the special characteristics of Russian development, would be unable to play an independent political role. The bourgeois revolution, being consummated by peasants and workers would henceforth take on a proletarian character, at least in the cities, by virtue of the forms of struggle adopted. Besides, the Russian revolution would be the signal for the "purely" proletarian revolution in Western Europe to erupt.
However, Leon Trotsky, seeing the social pot-holes of class alliances, went a step further, he predicting already in 1905/1906 that the coalition assumed by Lenin would of necessity quickly be followed by the hegemony of the urban proletariat since in view of the inherent weakness of the Russian bourgeoisie, the petty-bourgeoisie class, many peasants, scattered and traditionally incapable of organization as it was, would be bound to come under the leadership of the urban proletariat.
He argued further, that, on the other hand, once they had seized control, the urban workers, mindful of where their class interests lay, would have no option but to crack open the horizon of bourgeois-capitalist institutions, economic as well as political, and "to put collectivism on the agenda".
This would bring them into conflict with the interests of the petty-bourgeois oriented class of peasants. However, then already Trotsky warned that without the social support from the proletarian revolution in the "most highly developed" countries, the proletarian revolution would not be able to hold its own in backward Russia. The fate of the Russian workers’ revolution would be decided by social struggles on an international scale.
Precisely this is relevant for the Bolivarian Revolution. We are not living in the epoch of religious crusades or Christian "socialist" revolution, we live in imperialist globalization, in the era of final permanent world revolution.
Finally, during the time of World War I Lenin drew closer to Trotsky’s position and upon his return from exile propagated the second, proletarian-socialist revolution ("April theses").
The events of 1917 in Russia fully confirmed Trotsky’s prognosis made in 1905. The Bolshevik seizure of power in October/November was doubtlessly informed by the expectation that the socialist revolution would not fail to spread internationally within a short time, as evidenced by the manifestos and debates of both the first Comintern congresses and the party congresses of the Russian Communist Party (RCP) as well as the writings of revolutionary leaders.
Already before the political victory of the October Revolution, both Lenin and Trotsky knew that the socialist revolution, the negation of world capitalism, has to be a permanent global revolution. Hence, comrades, stop the political factional vendettas, instead of eternal critique of the Bolivarian Revolution, as Fidel said long ago, please make it your duty everywhere to make the world socialist revolution.
Precisely, the factional struggles within the Russian Communist Party (RCP) and the Third International from 1923 to 1929 basically centered upon the question as to how the first isolated workers’ state should "correctly" conduct its internal and external policies in the interest of both the Russian and the international proletariat.
This is another urgent task for the PSUV. In what was a clear breach of the Bolshevik tradition of 1917-1923 Stalin in 1924 inaugurated a new version of a nationally restricted communism.
Beware, there is no such thing like real scientific socialism on an island, in one country, in a bloc. Like world capitalism, socialism is its global negation.
Thus, the Third International had been created as an instrument for spreading the socialist revolution. The question open for debate among the factions was that of the policy of alliances in highly as well as underdeveloped countries. It would seem that Stalin comparatively early considered the chance of spreading the international revolution quite minimal (cf. his letter of August 1923 to Zinoviev on the chances of the Communist revolution in Germany, in which he counsels "soft-pedalling").
Later Stalin elevated the old formula of the "democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants", to which he had subscribed as editor of Pravda as late as in spring 1917, to the status of a program for the Communist International. This resulted in defeats for the revolutionary classes and the parties representing them. Lenin’s reproach of "Menshevism" here applies, at least with regard to the concept that a revolution in backward countries has to be conducted "in stages".
Just at the beginning of the 20th century Bolshevism and Menshevism had confronted each other, so later Stalinism and Trotskyism emerged as the enemy brothers of the late "Twenties and ‘Thirties". In total opposition to the whole Marxist tradition Stalin, in defending his internal policy in autumn 1924, proclaimed the thesis of the possibility of achieving Socialism in a single Country (Russia). By postulating that even if no further revolution were forthcoming Russia would be able to achieve Socialism/Communism under its own steam, Stalin thus made a national communist virtue out of an imposed autarchic necessity. As early as 1928 Trotsky called this a "theory of empty promises", an "opiate for the people".
History verified that Lenin and Trotsky correctly have criticized all the revisionist, reformist and counter-revolutionary ideologies and practices. We surely have to learn a lot from Marxist praxis and theory, and we could enrich it with our own peculiar emancipatory endeavors.
Within the framework of Marxist theory Socialism in fact means surplus production (creation and creativity) and overcoming the scarcity of foodstuffs by international co-operation among the planned economies of all countries. Only in such a context is there any sense in speaking of the "withering away" of the State, the abolition of inequality, and the disappearance of social classes.
There is no recipe, map or blue print for socialist praxis and theory, for the Bolivarian Revolution. The counter-revolution is in full force to topple President Chavez in 2009. With the praxical and theoretical historical aid of living Marxism, with the authentic new, with genuine socialism we have to pave our serpentine road towards human emancipation.
Marxism has the current gigantic task of transcending the globalized capitalist democratic French Revolution and to usher in the era of global, creating, creative Human Emancipation.