Franz J.T. Lee, August, 2005
Venezuela: What is Marxist Socialist Revolution?
In recent publications, we have described the scientific and philosophic quintessence of the original Marxist conception of socialist revolution. Because of the current topicality of a "new socialism of the 21st century," it is imperative to summarize the main revolutionary tenets of real, true Marxism.
Talking about Socialism without having studied Marx is like a Christian who never read and studied the New Testament, who never heard about Jesus Christ.
Already in 1970, in my Ph.D. dissertation, with reference to the South African Revolution, I underlined the following historical social realities, that I will now comment in more detail here.
Concerning the theory of socialist revolution
Firstly, like Simon Bolivar and Francisco de Miranda, Marx and Engels were social products of their epoch, of the French Revolution, of the dawn of bourgeois, capitalist, democratic society. Both came from a class of radical democrats that demanded the continuation of the French social revolution.
Having studied Hegelian objectivist, idealist philosophy, British national economy and the French, British and German utopian socialists and communists, Marx evolved his theory of social and socialist revolution in the years 1840-1844.
We should note that it was intended to be a program for the bourgeois-democratic revolution, then overdue in Germany. According to Marx and Engels, who edited the Communist Manifesto in 1848, Germany’s historical time lag as compared with her Western-bourgeois neighbors (England, France) offered the German revolution a unique historical chance not only to make up for the 'political emancipation' that had been brought about by the Jacobine revolution in France, but even to surpass it in a 'human emancipation' which would go so far as to overcome the contradiction between citoyen and bourgeois.
For the Bolivarian Revolution, in its social dynamics of extending itself across the American continent and the globe, this Marxist explanation, this historical, transitional development from the Jacobine, bourgeois, political revolution to global "human emancipation" is vital. Definitely, today still, any conscientious study could reveal the logical emancipatory consequences of the contemporary, fascist, imperialist, asymmetric, genocidal wars of mass destruction.
In reality, serious domestic scientific studies would certainly reveal the profound, social contradictions, that are being generated by the world market, by the "market economy," by equal, unequal and combined, dialectical processes, which heavily clash upon each other as explosive, global class struggles and coming emancipatory, revolutions.
As such, the attempted political coup and sabotage acts of the oil industry in Venezuela in 2002 can be seen,
Present in all social revolutions, including the Bolivarian Revolution, Marx explained to us the subjective factor of the then expected German emancipatory movement. Surely, this is not a sui generis issue, not a mathematical calculation of equivalents, not face-lifting of the "market economy" or even of computer socialism, it is the courageous, collective, conscious act of crossing the Rubicon.
For Marx it was crossing the line, not only from radical bourgeois-ideologist to theoretician of the socialist revolution, but also from utopian to scientific socialism, which alone is susceptible of designing the bridge of praxis that must of necessity link the criticism of the present with the utopia of the future, and of actuating the 'alliance of thinking and suffering wo/men' that will liberate human society from the shackles of the bourgeois mode of production, and hence from the class system on a world scale.
This was the historical context in which Socialism was born; ab ovo, it was scientific, philosophic, humanist, emancipatory, permanent, was a global class struggle.
Any "old or obsolete", "real or existent", "orthodox or dogmatic", "social democratic or real democratic", any new or original Socialism of any century, at first, as point of honor, of departure, must pass before the critical eyes of Marx and Engels, of Lenin and Trotsky, must know the living Marxist conception of Socialism.
Developing the praxis and theory of permanent, global revolution, Marx stated that 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 over with it, 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).
For us, this Marxian postulation of permanency for the proletarian revolution is decisive. Already then, it was the common platform of the League of Communists and the Blanquists, and it contained the following criteria of a socialist revolution in Germany and Europe:
a) Achievement of the hegemony of the proletariat, by means of its party or parties, in the historically retarded bourgeois revolution;
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 production;
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 new classes, and the setting up of a machinery of repression vis-a-vis the majority of the people.
Of significance for us, at the beginning of the 20th century Bolsheviks and left-wing German Social Democrats discovered once more the "topicality of the revolution" that informs the Marxian writings of about 1848.
For us, for the Bolivarian Revolution, the trans-historic question remains: what is the character of our, of any social revolution?
Precisely, 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 Different Options for the Russian Revolution
a) the Menshevik,
b) the Bolshevik,
c) that of the inspirer of the first Petersburg council of workers’ deputies, Leon Trotsky.
The Marxist discussions with reference to the 1905 Revolution, and the February and October Revolutions of 1917 in Russia, definitely are significant for the current revolutionary debates in Venezuela.
What is the social character, the historic task of the Bolivarian Revolution? In the Third Millennium, is it still anti-colonial, pro-bourgeois, democratic, capitalist? Does it have traces of socialist development? Is it "Reform or Revolution" (Rosa Luxemburg)? Reform and Revolution ... none of the two? Exodus, Emancipation?
At the turn of the 20th century, according to Menshevik theory, the task of the Russian 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.
Hence the Mensheviki, as future "opposition", leaning heavily on the revisionist renegades, on Kautsky and Bernstein, on bourgeois "social democracy" ... that is, in sharp contradistinction to the Marxist materialist conception of history, of dialectics, of the class struggle ... propagated reformism, intra-systemic defense of worker's rights, reconciliation, dialogue, gentlemen agreements.
Under present, global, corporate, fascist conditions, such a counter-revolutionary Menshevik, Kautskian strategy, such a betrayal of workers' aspirations, of innovative, scientific and philosophic socialism, would play right into the hands of Yankee imperialism, would be fatal for Venezuela, for Latin America.
A century ago, abusing "orthodox" Marxism, in the ideological opinion of the reformists, a socialist revolution in Russia would not be feasible, given its uneven development, since a highly developed capitalism would be the necessary pre-condition for any socialist revolution. This "Leninism without Lenin" the Bolsheviks condemned categorically.
Lenin’s algebraic formula for the Russian Revolution up to the World War I was that of the "democratic dictatorship of the workers and peasants." His interest was mainly directed to the classes known to be incubating the revolution, hence its most likely protagonists.
Lenin's Russian revolutionary subject was formed by 100 million landless peasants that would break out of their semi-serfdom and fight for the distribution of land; also, by 5 million urban workers that would support the peasant war by using their strike weapon in the cities, of course, with the socialist objectives in mind.
According to him, 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.
In reality, the peasantry, under the leadership of the politically conscious vanguard of the proletariat, would take over the historic role of the weak Russian bourgeoisie, and, at first , carry through bourgeois democratic tasks. This was definitely a "revision" of the original Marxian revolutionary theory; however, another thing is to "revise" Marxism ideologically beyond emancipatory recognition. Lenin and Trotsky claimed that this transitional revolutionary process occurred during the February Revolution of 1917.
Lenin explained that this Russian bourgeois democratic, capitalist 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 class struggle adopted.
What Lenin emphasized within the context of the October Revolution of 1917, is quintessential for the Bolivarian Revolution, for the establishment of a "New Socialism of the 21st Century". He stressed that the Russian revolution would be the signal for the 'purely' proletarian revolution in Western Europe to erupt. He concluded, if this could not happen soon, then the very Russian Revolution would be doomed to failure.
Similarly, the Bolivarian Revolution cannot realize itself in a village, in a single state, on an island, in any region ... in Globalization it can only triumph on a world scale. Hence, its revolutionary praxis and theory, its programs, its projects, its missions, its tactics and strategy, its emancipatory objectives out of necessity have to be launched locally, nationally, continentally and globally.
Trotsky went a step further, predicting 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-bourgeois class, the peasants, scattered and traditionally incapable of organization as it was, would be bound to come under the leadership of the urban proletariat. 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."
Is something similar currently happening in Venezuela? Does it increase class friction, between the middle classes, the workers and peasants?
Trotsky was of the opinion that the Russian workers would come into conflict with the class interests of the petty-bourgeois class of relatively wealthy land-owners and of some sectors of the upper peasantry.
Also he, like Marx, Engels and Lenin, underlined the global, permanent character of the socialist revolution, and warned that without support from the proletarian revolution in the most highly developed capitalist countries, the proletarian revolution would not be able to hold its own in backward Russia. He insisted that the fate of the Russian workers’ revolution would be decided by social struggles on an international scale.
This is also valid for the Bolivarian Revolution, the current trans-historic locomotive of socialist revolution in Venezuela and America.
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 1917 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. What happened thereafter is history, does not concern us directly here.
For the sake of clarity, concerning the meaning of socialist revolution, let us conclude with the theoretical gist of the Marxian explanation of social revolution, that is, of the dialectical, qualitative jump from an obsolete mode into a new mode of production.
Marxian Revolution and Socialism
A socialism that cannot revise, renovate or innovate itself is not Marxism, is not scientific, is not philosophic. In this germinating, creative sense the following is to be enjoyed:
Marx was the first political and economic scientist and philosopher who explained the quintessence of social revolution as being the inexorable social contradiction between workers and capitalists, between Labor and Capital. between those who only possess their labor force to sell and those who buy it, that is, those who at the same time possess the major means of social production and communication as private property.
He explained that at a certain stage of historical development the material forces of production come into severe conflict with the existing relations of production, that is, with the property relations, under which they have developed themselves until now. Originally these relations have allowed the forces of production to evolve freely, now they have become chains that brake their development. The result is that an epoch of social revolution is ushered in, in our case, the current socialist revolution of the 21st century.
Categorically Marx stated that a new mode of production, that a socialist revolution, cannot be on the order of the day, unless all the capitalist forces of production of the old mode, of the old world order, are not fully developed, or have not become obsolete already.
Worse even, a new mode of production, a new socialism, a socialist revolution, cannot be born, cannot develop itself, cannot triumph globally, unless, at least in embryonic form, the material and spiritual conditions for its coming into being are not already present in the old, dying mode of production. Of course, this is dictated by internal systemic revolutionary dialectics, that does not allow extra-systemic processes.
The social revolution is characterized as a process, as an epoch. Precisely as such the Bolivarian revolution sees itself. Furthermore, all social revolutions are subjective, are desired, are willed by the respective revolutionary classes.
Although Marx pointed out that revolutionary force must be used to crack the egg-shell, to liberate the new born, and also knew that no ruling class will ever step down peacefully from its Croesusian throne ... see the Venezuelan "opposition" ... yet he did not discard the possibility of a peaceful development towards socialism, provided that the socialist revolution firstly would take place in metropolitan countries and then would spread globally. Marx and Engels even hoped for a peaceful transition to socialism in their own lifetime.
They explained, that apart from the common factors of all social revolutions, individual ones will have their own particularities, that there are no revolutionary paradigms or even "classic" revolutions, and underlined that no revolution can be exported or imported.
At any event, all social revolutions, especially the current socialist one, have one factor in common: for the exploited slaves of all categories the global living conditions have become so unbearable that they have nothing more to lose except their very productive chains.
To state that currently under globalization no objective (and even subjective) conditions exist for the realization of scientific and philosophic socialism, of authentic Marxism, is tantamount to affirm capitalism eternally as a mode of production, including all its exploitative institutions, its dominant "democratic" superstructures, the supernatural State, private property of the means of production and communication, the "market economy, blatant racism, bloody militarism, "real democracy", bourgeois democracy, labor alienation, etc.
In a nutshell, according to Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin, such arguments form part and parcel of the ideological essence of counter-revolutionary pipe-dreams of any Kautskyian renegade or revisionist, who has betrayed his/her daydreams of youth, who has lost all faith in socialist revolution and in Citizen Power and who desires to perform some reformist face-lifting of capitalism and imperialism, who wants to make labor pain in world fascism more bearable.
Such an arrogant, metropolitan, dictatorial, authoritarian attitude surely will do more harm to the Bolivarian Revolution than the 15 CIA organizations together. It will certainly confound its revolutionary vanguard in the making, its very socialist cadres in process. It will be a total capitulation vis-a-vis capitalist, imperialist, corporate, world fascism alias Globalization.
According to our personal opinion, mutatis mutandis, anybody that affirms everything on planet earth ... capitalism, world wars, democratic desarrollismo, alliances of capital and labor, oligopolic corporatism, participative class democracy, imperialist world hegemony, equal, unequal or equivalent "free" market economy, patriot acts, apartheid systems and laws, concentration camps, torture, terrorism, violent class structures, bare-faced racism, etc. ... all, except socialism; who underlines the impossibility of its realization across the centuries and millennia, definitely does not reflect the deepest, sacred aspirations of the pauperized masses living in the "Third World," can not be a real, true friend of the Bolivarian Revolution, of the emancipatory sighs of the most exploited billions of impoverished American, African, Asian, Caribbean or Oceanic peoples.
Finally, scientifically and philosophically, all of, by and for ourselves, everywhere, anytime, we, the workers of this god forlorn world, the "wretched of the earth", "les miserables", the future creators of emancipation, have to do, make and think our own socialist revolution.