WHAT IS MARXISM - Alik Chakraborty
It is important to become familiar with a basic knowledge of Marxism-Leninism-Mao-Tse-Tung Thought for every class conscious worker and especially for party members and activists. In our party documents we clearly state that our Ideological basis is Marxism-Leninism-Mao thought. Let us start with Marxism.
What is Marxism?
As stated by Emile Burns in his book “What is Marxism” in 1939 :
Marxism is a general theory of the world in which we live, and of human society as a part of that world. It takes its name from Karl Marx (1818-1883), who, together with Friedrich Engels (1820-1895), worked out the theory during the middle and latter part of last century.
They set out to discover why human society is what it is, why it changes, and what further changes are in store for mankind. Their studies led them to the conclusion that these changes – like the changes in external nature – are not accidental, but follow certain laws. This fact makes it possible to work out a scientific theory of society, based on the actual experience of men, as opposed to the vague notions about society which used to be (and still are) put forward – notions associated with religious beliefs, race and hero-worship, personal inclinations or utopian dreams.
Marx applied this general idea to the society in which he lived – mainly capitalist Britain – and worked out the economic theory of capitalism by which he is most widely known. But he always insisted that his economic theories could not be separated from his historical and social theories. Profits and wages can be studied up to a certain point as purely economic problems; but the student who sets out to study real life and not abstractions soon realises that profits and wages can only be fully understood when employers and workers are brought into the picture; and these in turn lead on to a study of the historical stage in which they live.
The scientific approach to the development of society is based, like all science, on experience, on the facts of history and of the world around us. Therefore Marxism is not a completed, finished theory. As history unfolds, as man gathers more experience, Marxism is constantly being developed and applied to the new facts that have come to light. The most out standing of these developments, since the death of Marx and Engels, have been made by V. I. Lenin (1870-1924), and by Joseph Stalin, who has continued Lenin’s work in building up the new socialist society in Russia.
We may add that subsequently, Mao Dze Dong, the leader of the Chinese revolution also made similar outstanding developments of Marxism. There are three component parts of Marxism. The first is the philosophy. This is materialism in general and dialectical materialism in particular. The main departure of Marxism from all the previous materialist schools is dialectical materialism and historical materialism. The ideas of Marx and Engels on materialism are best expounded in Engels’ Ludwig Fuerbach and Anti-Duhring. As Stalin wrote in his leaflet “Dialectical and Historical Materialism”
Dialectical materialism is the world outlook of the Marxist-Leninist party. It is called dialectical materialism because its approach to the phenomena of nature, its method of studying and apprehending them, is dialectical, while its interpretation of the phenomena of nature, its conception of these phenomena, its theory, is materialistic.
Historical materialism is the extension of the principles of dialectical materialism to the study of social life, an application of the principles of dialectical materialism to the phenomena of the life of society, to the study of society and of its history.
And further in the same leaflet,
Contrary to idealism, which regards the world as the embodiment of an “absolute idea,” a “universal spirit,” “consciousness,” Marx’s philosophical materialism holds that the world is by its very nature material, that the multifold phenomena of the world constitute different forms of matter in motion, that interconnection and interdependence of phenomena as established by the dialectical method, are a law of the development of moving matter, and that the world develops in accordance with the laws of movement of matter and stands in no need of a “universal spirit.”
“The materialistic outlook on nature,” says Engels, “means no more than simply conceiving nature just as it exists, without any foreign admixture.” (Marx and Engels, Vol. XIV, p. 651.)
Speaking of the materialist views of the ancient philosopher Heraclitus, who held that “the world, the all in one, was not created by any god or any man, but was, is and ever will be a living flame, systematically flaring up and systematically dying down”’ Lenin comments: “A very good exposition of the rudiments of dialectical materialism.” (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p. 318.)
And again in the same leaflet
Contrary to metaphysics, dialectics holds that internal contradictions are inherent in all things and phenomena of nature, for they all have their negative and positive sides, a past and a future, something dying away and something developing; and that the struggle between these opposites, the struggle between the old and the new, between that which is dying away and that which is being born, between that which is disappearing and that which is developing, constitutes the internal content of the process of development, the internal content of the transformation of quantitative changes into qualitative changes.
The dialectical method therefore holds that the process of development from the lower to the higher takes place not as a harmonious unfolding of phenomena, but as a disclosure of the contradictions inherent in things and phenomena, as a “struggle” of opposite tendencies which operate on the basis of these contradictions.
“In its proper meaning,” Lenin says, “dialectics is the study of the contradiction within the very essence of things.” (Lenin, Philosophical Notebooks, p. 265.)
“Development is the ‘struggle’ of opposites.” (Lenin, Vol. XIII, p. 301.)
Such, in brief, are the principal features of the Marxist dialectical method.
The second component of Marxism is Marxist political economy . As Lenin put it in The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism’
Classical political economy, before Marx, evolved in England, the most developed of the capitalist countries. Adam Smith and David Ricardo, by their investigations of the economic system, laid the foundations of the labour theory of value. Marx continued their work; he provided a proof of the theory and developed it consistently. He showed that the value of every commodity is determined by the quantity of socially necessary labour time spent on its production.
Where the bourgeois economists saw a relation between things (the exchange of one commodity for another) Marx revealed a relation between people. The exchange of commodities expresses the connection between individual producers through the market. Money signifies that the connection is becoming closer and closer, inseparably uniting the entire economic life of the individual producers into one whole. Capital signifies a further development of this connection: man’s labour-power becomes a commodity. The wage-worker sells his labour-power to the owner of land, factories and instruments of labour. The worker spends one part of the day covering the cost of maintaining himself and his family (wages), while the other part of the day he works without remuneration, creating for the capitalist surplus-value, the source of profit, the source of the wealth of the capitalist class.
The doctrine of surplus-value is the corner-stone of Marx’s economic theory.
The third is the doctrine of the class struggle leading to socialism. Other utopian socialists like Saint Simon, Fourier and Robert Owen, had damned capitalist society, had dreamed of its destruction and had preached to the rich of the immorality of their exploitation. However, Marx and Engels, for the first time proposed, as they said in The Communist Manifesto “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”. In this they analysed the rise of capitalism and the need for its destruction to advance human society. As Engels has explained in Socialism : Utopian and Scientific Marx liberated the theory of socialism from its utopian origins and placed it firmly on a scientific basis.
To expound further on the each of the three component parts
Laws of Dialectics
Engels, in Dialectics of Nature has put forward the laws of dialectics as follows
It is, therefore, from the history of nature and human society that the laws of dialectics are abstracted. For they are nothing but the most general laws of these two aspects of historical development, as well as of thought itself. And indeed they can be reduced in the main to three:
The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa;
The law of the interpenetration of opposites;
The law of the negation of the negation.
Every phenomenon, whether natural or social has two opposite aspects within itself (the thesis and the antithesis – as Hegel called them). These aspects are also constantly changing, increasing or decreasing in quantity. At a certain stage, the increase or decrease in quantity leads to a change in the most fundamental characteristics of the phenomenon – and leads to the synthesis.
The world, it is now proved, was formed from the “Big Bang”, the growth of contradictions in a “singularity”. Chemicals themselves “synthesised” from the most common and basic atoms to more and more complex molecules, leading to the formation of DNA – or life. Life struggled in hostile environments and through the principle of “survival of the fittest” developed into higher and higher forms till the formation of humankind. “Survival of the fittest” itself consists of mutation and adaptation which is nothing but a concrete manifestation of the principles of dialectics. Therefore, the findings and theories of Darwin gave a great fillip to the philosophy of dialectical materialism. Many modern discoveries like De Broglie’s showing that waves and particles are basically two aspects of the same phenomenon, Einstein’s showing that matter and energy are nothing but two aspects of the same phenomenon and even the recent discovery of the Higg’s Boson (mischievously called the God particle) which is the particle which signifies the wave field which gives mass to any matter, are clear justifications of the principles of dialectics. As dialecticians we are scientists, we study science not only to find justification of dialectics but also to further enrich and develop the principles of dialectics through science and scientific observations.
Marx and Engels applied the laws of dialectics to human society also. In “Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State” basing on the recent findings of Morgan and others, who had done much honest observation to advance anthropology, Engels shows clearly how it was the struggle to survive that moulded human society. He showed how the first fight of humankind was with nature and how, when man was able achieve a degree of control over nature, he started being able to create surplus production, which lead to classes, family, private property, the state and slavery. They therefore said, as mentioned above, that the hitherto history of human society was the history of class struggle. They looked upon history not as a series of dates for births and deaths of Kings and for wars but instead concentrated on the underlying reasons for the wars and for why the kings ruled as they did. They were able to show that there is a clear progression in different parts of the world from primitive communism to slavery to the feudal system to capitalism, though the particular characteristics of any of the modes of production may have differed in different regions due to historical and geographical particularities. Even before them, historians like Giambattista Vico, etc had put forward the materialist conception of history that history was not formed by Kings and great people but that it was the struggle between different sections that led to the unfolding of history. However, for the first time, they were able to put this materialist conception of history on a firm scientific basis As Marx wrote in the Preface to “A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy”
“In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or — this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms — with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure. In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic — in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production.”
Marxist Political Economy
Marx was not the first to postulate the “labour theory of value”. He was not the first to say that all value is created by human labour. He can be seen as having taken the “labour theory of value” that all value is created by labour from the “classical” economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo. Adam Smith and Ricardo had developed the labour theory of value to point out how the market under “free” conditions would regulate the production in society with a self-correcting mechanism which Adam Smith called the “Hidden hand”.
However, before Marx’s time, many economists, calling themselves the “neo-classical” school, like Marshall and Senior had put forward the theory that it was not labour alone which created value. It was a combination of the labour of the worker and the “sacrifice” of the capitalist that created value. The worker received the worth of his labour as wages and the capitalist received profits for his sacrifice!
Marx debunked this theory and reaffirmed the “labour theory of value”. He refined and developed it by innovations like the concept of “socially necessary labour time” to measure labour. But the main contribution of Marx in Political Economy was to show the difference between “labour” and “labour power”.
Marx showed that the value created by the labour of the factory worker was much greater than the amount paid to him as wages. He explained this by postulating that under capitalism, even labour power became a commodity to be bought in the market. The worker or the proletariat had nothing to sell but his labour power. He sold it to the capitalist, at a price, as any other commodity in capitalism, which approximated its cost of production. This was the workers wage. Thus the wage was the cost of production of the workers labour power, ie the cost of his food, shelter, clothing, medicines, etc (as was socially necessary).
On the other hand, what the worker produced with his labour was the property of the capitalist. This was much greater than the cost of production of labour power. The difference between the value of the labour of the worker and the value of his labour-power was called surplus value. This gave rise to profits.
He also showed that in capitalism, capital also became a commodity and one could buy capital (which was nothing but dead congealed labour), in the market. Thus if a particular profit was offering a lesser rate of profit, it would be replaced by another capital which was offering better profit.
From this analysis, Marx showed that profits and wages come from the same pool. If one is to increase, the other has to decrease. He also showed that the worker works only a fraction of the day for his wages (in terms of socially necessary labour) and for the rest of the day for the capitalist. This ratio of how much time he works for himself as opposed to how much time he works for the capitalist is called the rate of exploitation.
One word of caution, “price” only approximates to value. Price fluctuates around the value of any commodity as per demand and supply.
From such an analysis, Marx showed that economics is not a relationship between objects but a relationship between people. He therefore began his analysis from the concept of a commodity, ie an object for sale. It only signifies a relationship between the buyer and the seller. From this he analysed that money, which substitutes this commodity, signifies that the relationship between the buyer and seller is becoming closer and closer and is standardised across society. He saw that the circulation of money and commodities signified the relationships between who owned the means of production and who worked them.
Another important point is his understanding that not only must the labour of the worker produce surplus value – not only must capital produce the relationship of worker and capitalist, but this relationship must be constantly reproduced in society. Social forms come into being, such as the form of family, form of caste, form of race, which all help to reproduce this relationship. In other words, capitalism takes the older social forms and moulds them such as to reproduce the capitalist relationship. As Marx observed in “The Communist Manifesto”, capitalism constantly reproduces the world in its own image.
He saw the worker being progressively alienated from his product which was no more his property and therefore being alienated from capitalist society. He saw the contradiction between the social form of production under advanced capitalism and the individual form of appropriation of the profit. Applying the methof of historical materialism mentioned above, he said that the relations of production under capitalism have now become fetters on the further growth of productive forces and therefore society was ripe for revolution.
Marx however exposed that the nature of the working of capitalism itself would lead inevitably to crisis. He showed how capitalists in their desperate urge to earn more and more profits went on madly increasing production. However at the same time every capitalist tried to maintain a higher rate of profit by cutting the wage rates of his workers and throwing them into poverty. The working class composes the largest section in society and the poverty of the working class automatically means the reduction of their capacity to buy the goods available in the market.
On the one hand the capitalist class goes on increasing the production of goods being supplied to the market, whereas on the other hand it goes on reducing the buying capacity of a large section of the buyers in the very same market. This naturally leads to a severe contradiction between the expansion of production on one hand and the contraction of the market on the other hand. The result is a crisis of overproduction where the market is flooded with unsold goods. Numerous capitalists are thrown into bankruptcy. Lakhs of workers are thrown out of their jobs and forced into starvation at the same as the shops are filled with goods that remained unused because there is no one to buy them.
Marx further concluded that the anarchy of these crises of capitalism could only be resolved by resolving the fundamental contradiction of capitalism between the social character of production and the private character of ownership. This could only be done by overthrowing the capitalist system and establishing socialism and communism, giving a social character to the ownership of the means of production. Marx showed that this social force of this revolution had been created by capitalism itself; it was the proletariat class. It was the proletariat alone who had no interest in continuing the present system of exploitation and private ownership. It had the capacity to establish socialism.
Marx analysed how every crisis intensified the contradictions of the capitalist system. He described the process with each crisis of centralisation of capital into the hands of a smaller and smaller handful of capitalists. This proceeded alongside the immense growth in the misery and discontent of the vast mass of workers. As the contradictions of capitalism sharpened, the revolutionary upheavals of the proletariat grew in strength, finally resulting in revolution, the confiscation of the capital of the capitalists and the building of a socialist society with a social character of ownership suited to the social character of production.
In this way, Marx, starting from the economy’s most basic unit – the commodity – brings out the nature of the economic laws governing capitalism. He thus exposes the scientific economic basis for the socialist revolution and the road to communism.
The genius of Marx lies in his having been the first to deduce from this the lesson world history teaches and to apply that lesson consistently. The deduction he made is the doctrine of the class struggle. — Lenin
As Marx put it in “The Communist Manifesto”
The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles. Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes.
In his letter to Wedemeyer in 1852 Marx clarified that he had neither discovered the existence of classes nor of the class struggle. He put his own contribution thus,
Now as for myself, I do not claim to have discovered either the existence of classes in modern society or the struggle between them. Long before me, bourgeois historians had described the historical development of this struggle between the classes, as had bourgeois economists their economic anatomy. My own contribution was
- to show that the existence of classes is merely bound up with certain historical phases in the development of production;
- that the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat;
- that this dictatorship itself constitutes no more than a transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.
Thus we can say that the Dialectical materialism, theory of surplus value and the doctrine of class struggle leading to socialism are three component parts of Marxism.
Lenin concluded, in “The three Sources and three Component Parts of Marxism”
“Marx’s philosophical materialism alone has shown the proletariat the way out of the spiritual slavery in which all oppressed classes have hitherto languished. Marx’s economic theory alone has explained the true position of the proletariat in the general system of capitalism.”
What is Leninism?
Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. It developed around the turn of the century during the course of the Russian revolution and in the course of fighting the opportunism of the Second International and advancing the international communist movement through the Third International.
Leninism, while defending and developing Marxism, made the following significant contributions: the discovery of the laws of motion of capitalism under imperialism and how they would inevitably lead the imperialist powers to war; the qualitative development of the theory and practice of proletarian revolution during the stage of bourgeois democratic revolution as well as the socialist revolution; a clear understanding regarding the dictatorship of the proletariat (or proletarian democracy), as well as the regarding socialist construction; providing the theory and direction for the nationality movements and the movements in the colonies and linking the national liberation movements to the World Socialist Revolution; and the development of the organisational principles of the Leninist party – the party of the new type. Stalin — defending and developing Leninism – has given more clarity concerning the principles and laws governing the period particularly in the phase of socialist construction.
Thus Stalin categorically elucidated in his famous book Foundations of Leninism:
“Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To be more exact, Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. Marx and Engels pursued their activities in the pre-revolutionary period (we have the proletarian revolution in mind), when developed imperialism did not yet exist, in the period of the proletarians’ preparation for revolution, in the period when the proletarian revolution was not yet an immediate practical inevitability. But Lenin, the disciple of Marx and Engels, pursued his activities in the period of developed imperialism, in the period of the unfolding proletarian revolution, when the proletarian revolution had already triumphed in one country, had smashed bourgeois democracy and had ushered in the era of proletarian democracy, the era of the Soviets.”
During the course of the Russian Revolution Lenin developed a scientific method to build a revolutionary party. It was a concept for a new type of a party. As to the structure and composition of the party itself, Lenin considered that it should consist of two parts: a) a close circle of regular cadres of leading party workers, chiefly professional revolutionaries, that is, party workers free from all occupation except party work and possessing the necessary minimum of theoretical knowledge, political experience, organisational practice and the art of facing and fighting the tsarist police; and b) a broad network of local party organisations and a large number of party members enjoying the sympathy and support of hundreds of thousands of working people. As the process of building such a party was proceeding through the help of Iskra, Lenin gave direction to this process through his articles and books. Of particular significance were Where To Begin?, What Is To Be Done? and A Letter to a Comrade on our Organisational Tasks. In these works he laid down the ideological and organisational basis of the proletarian party.
Another major battle waged by Lenin was the fight against the Economists, who wanted, in Lenin’s words “the workers should confine themselves to the economic struggle, leaving the political struggle to the liberals”. They had grown in strength in Russia during Lenin’s period in exile and Lenin realised that Economism had to be ideologically defeated before the convening of the Party Congress. He launched a direct attack on them particularly through his book What Is To Be Done? Lenin exposed how the Economists’ views meant bowing to the spontaneity of the working class movement and neglecting the role of consciousness and leading role of the party. Lenin’s book, which was widely distributed in Russia, succeeded in decisively defeating Economism. It thus laid down the principles which later became the ideological foundation of the Bolshevik party.
In this premise Lenin developed a new concept of party which was not so clear at the time of Marx and Engels. This type of party is not only a working class party, but a vanguard detachment of the proletariat, a Marxist detachment of the proletariat capable to lead revolution and face the twists and turns in leading the working class to revolution.
In 1905 there was a major turning point in history. Imperialist crisis (as Lenin termed it later) broke out in various psrts of the world. The age of imperialism had dawned and the new imperialist powers started fighting for capturing and expanding colonies. They entered into a number of regional wars. This conflict spread from Europe to Asia. Japan also took part in this war. An important war among these was the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05. The great Russian Empire was first defeated by Japan. At that time the pressing question in the whole revolutionary movement was what would be the task of the proletariat in belligerent countries? The Bolsheviks took a firm stand to oppose this war and termed this war as an unjust war.
Simultaneously revolutionary movements also spread over from Europe to Asia. This period was a period of a new upsurge of revolutions. The first of these revolutions was the Russian revolution of 1905, which was followed by the Turkish, the Persian and the Chinese bourgeois revolutions. The most important of these revolutions, from the point of the role of the proletariat and the development of Marxist revolutionary tactics, was the 1905 Russian revolution. Its starting point was the Russo-Japanese war.
Though the 1905 Revolution was defeated it gave some important lesson to the proletarian movement like Paris Commune. It proved that the Bolsheviks were correct of their revolutionary understanding regarding the strategy and tactics of the proletariat. It was in the course of this revolution that the Bolshevik understanding regarding the friends and enemies of the revolution and the forms of struggle and forms of organisation got firmly established. In the course of this revolution Lenin had developed the tactics of the proletariat in democratic revolution. In his book “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution” he expounded the strategy and tactics of democratic revolution.
In that situation Lenin developed the previous analysis of capitalism by Marx and Engels. By the beginning of the 20th century the character of capitalism had changed. In the place of the earlier capitalism based upon free competition, monopoly capitalism has evolved into a world system. There was no revolutionary role for capitalism even in those countries where capitalistic development has not taken place. It took the form of moribund capitalism. Capitalism had reached its highest stage viz. Imperialism. He formulated the basic features of imperialism as follows :
“1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
Lenin had formulated this after the first imperialist war. This was a qualitative development of Marxism. On that basis of concrete analysis of concrete situation the communist movement had been rejuvenated on a world scale. The leaders of Second International like Kautsky and others stood with their own ruling class and called for a patriotic war to save the fatherland. The Bolshevik party and all other communist revolutionaries of other countries gave a clarion call to transform imperialist war – war for annexation – into a civil war. In Russia imperialist war was really transformed into a civil war and the proletariat were successful in snatching state power from the ruling class. In the following lines Lenin stated on imperialism and its characteristics.
“…… in its economic essence imperialism is monopoly capitalism. This in itself determines its place in history, for monopoly that grows out of the soil of free competition, and precisely out of free competition, is the transition from the capitalist system to a higher socio-economic order. “
He has formulated four characteristics of monopoly capitalism. Those are as Lenin stated:
“Firstly, monopoly arose out of the concentration of production at a very high stage. This refers to the monopolist capitalist associations, cartels, syndicates, and trusts.
Secondly, monopolies have stimulated the seizure of the most important sources of raw materials, especially for the basic and most highly cartelised industries in capitalist society: the coal and iron industries. The monopoly of the most important sources of raw materials has enormously increased the power of big capital, and has sharpened the antagonism between cartelised and non-cartelised industry.
Thirdly, monopoly has sprung from the banks. The banks have developed from modest middleman enterprises into the monopolists of finance capital. Some three to five of the biggest banks in each of the foremost capitalist countries have achieved the “personal link-up” between industrial and bank capital, and have concentrated in their hands the control of thousands upon thousands of millions which form the greater part of the capital and income of entire countries.
Fourthly, monopoly has grown out of colonial policy.” (Imperialism The highest Stage of Capitalism)
On that basis there was certain change of formulation and task has taken place in the international communist movement.
On the question of revolution and socialist construction in Russia at that time, we can state about his formulation in the following:
- a) The proletariat should full use of the favourable conditions to seize power. Waiting will only mean that capitalism will go ahead and ruin millions of small and medium individual producers.
- b) The means of production in industry should be confiscated and converted into public property.
- c) The small and medium individual producers should gradually be united in producers’ co-operatives, i.e., in large agricultural enterprises, collective farms.
- d) Industry should be developed to the utmost and the collective farms should be placed on the modern technical basis of large-scale production. The property of the collective farm should not confiscated, but on the contrary they should be generously supplied with first-class tractors and other machines;
- e) Exchange through purchase and sale, i.e. commodity production should be preserved for a certain period, because the peasants would not accept any other form of economic tie between town and country. However trade should only be through Soviet trade—between the state, co-operative, and collective farm. This should be developed to the full and the capitalists of all types and descriptions should be ousted from trading activity.
After Lenin’s death it was Stalin who boldly went forward for building socialism in Russia overcoming all the opportunist and capitulationist trends. He boldly put forward the theorization of socialism in one country and developed Lenin’s concept within the concrete situation in Russia. On the question of revolution there were many misunderstandings in revolutionary movement at that time. The opportunist opposition advocated at that time that revolution would not be possible in a single country. Lenin established that revolution can take place in a country. He postulated in “Left-wing Communism : An Infantile Disorder” : Only when the “lower classes “ do not want the old way, and when the “upper classes” cannot carry on in the old way — only then can revolution triumph”. In such a situation, he theorized tha revolution could take place in the weakest link of the imperialist chain.
Lenin supposed that world revolution could come in near future but after 1924 the possibility of immediate world revolution was over. The question of building socialism in one country had come forward in a serious manner. Stalin made some formulations basing on Lenin’s view. He divided the course of building socialism into some phases and made a clear understanding on a transitory phase. He stated that socialism is a transitory phase and we can achieve socialism in our country in the main. He correctly fought out Trotsky’s concept of permanent revolution.
To quote Stalin :
‘’To proceed. Formerly, the victory of the revolution in one country was considered impossible, on the assumption that it would require the combined action of the proletarians of all or at least of a majority of the advanced countries to achieve victory over the bourgeoisie. Now this point of view no longer fits in with the facts. Now we must proceed from the possibility of such a victory, for the uneven and spasmodic character of the development of the various capitalist countries under the conditions of imperialism, the development within imperialism of catastrophic contradictions leading to inevitable wars, the growth of the revolutionary movement in all countries of the world-all this leads, not only to the possibility, but also to the necessity of the victory of the proletariat in individual countries. The history of the revolution in Russia is direct proof of this. At the same time, however, it must be borne in mind, that the overthrow of the bourgeoisie can be successfully accomplished only when certain absolutely necessary conditions exist, in the absence of which there can be even no question of the proletariat taking power. ......
But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and establishment of the power of the proletariat in one country does not yet mean that the complete victory of socialism has been ensured. After consolidating its power and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of the victorious country can and must build a socialist society. But does this mean that it will thereby achieve the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e., does it mean that with the forces of only one country it can finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee that country against intervention and, consequently, also against restoration? No, it does not. For this the victory of the revolution in at least several countries is needed. Therefore, the development and support of the revolution in other countries is an essential task of the victorious revolution. Therefore, the revolution which has been victorious in one country must regard itself not as a self-sufficient entity, but as an aid, as a means for hastening the victory of the proletariat in other countries.’’ (Foundation of Leninism)
Thus we can conclude that Lenin has developed Marxism in a higher phase regarding the strategy and tactics of revolution as e.g. on the national and colonial question, democratic revolution and relation between working class and peasantry, on the question of dictatorship of proletariat, on the construction of socialism etc. **
Mao Tse-tung Thought is an extension and development of Marxism-Leninism
It was developed by Mao during the course of the Chinese Revolution, in the process of socialist construction, in the fight against modern revisionism and particularly during the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution. Actually Mao Tse-tung has given Marxism-Leninism more clarity in every field of work in general and in particular he has developed it in certain field where precision was lacking. So Mao Thought’s contributions include particularly: on the question contradictions, the development of the theory of knowledge and the formulation of the mass line of ‘from the masses, to the masses’; the role of proletariat and it’s party in the phase of democratic revolution particularly in the colonial, semi colonial and neo colonial countries and it’s relation with other classes. It has brought more clarity of people’s democratic revolution explained as new democratic revolution. Mao has explained with more clarity the political economy of socialism on the basis of the Soviet and Chinese experience and the dialectical understanding of the process of socialist construction as the correct handling of contradictions in the process of transition to socialism; and finally and most importantly, the theory of continuing revolution under the dictatorship of the proletariat to consolidate socialism through the concept of the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.
Mao on Philosophy
Mao’s writings on philosophy are directed to educating the Party cadre and masses in Marxism-Leninism so as to change the mode of thinking and practice. Mao has contributed certain field of Marxist philosophical approach with more clarity. Those are following:
The Theory of Knowledge
Of prime importance was Mao’s teaching on the theory of knowledge. An important work was his essay On Practice – On the Relation Between Knowledge and Practice, Between Knowing and Doing. True knowledge, or correct ideas, come from three kinds of social practice – the struggle for production, the class struggle and scientific experiment.
Theory depends on practice. It is unthinkable, said Mao, that it should not be measured and checked by practice. In turn, theory changes practice, changes our method of work and thinking. Through this is brought about the transformation and gaining of more knowledge. No one is born wise, or born stupid. Knowledge cannot come before material experience; nobody can become an expert before practically doing a thing.
The other important contribution of Mao to Marxist philosophy was in dialectics and particularly relating to the understanding and application of contradictions. The understanding and use of contradictions appears at various points and almost throughout Mao’s analysis and writings. His main work is On Contradictions, which is an essay on philosophy written in August 1937 by Mao after his essay “On Practice” and with the same object of overcoming the serious error of dogmatist thinking to be found in the Party at the time.
Mao’s work was in a sense the continuation of work by Lenin who particularly made a deep study of contradictions. Lenin called contradiction ‘the salt of dialectics’ and stated that ‘the division of the One and the knowledge of its contradictory parts is the essence of dialectics.’ Lenin further in his Philosophical Notebooks asserted, “In brief, dialectics can be defined as the doctrine of the unity of opposites. This embodies the essence of dialectics, but it requires explanations and development.”
These ‘explanations and development’ was done some twenty years later by Mao. Mao work was a leap in the understanding of contradictions. He examined the question of contradictions in great detail and clarified them in such a manner as to make them easily understandable and easily useable by anybody.
Firstly he asserted that the law of the unity of opposites, is the fundamental law of nature and of society and therefore also the fundamental law of thought.
Following from this he explained the principle of the universality and absoluteness of contradiction. According to this principle, contradiction is present in all processes of every object and of every thought and exists in all these processes from beginning to end.
Next he gives the principle of the particularity and relativity of contradiction. According to this principle, each contradiction and each of its aspects have their respective characteristics.
A very important concept given by Mao in this respect is regarding the unity and struggle between the opposites in a contradiction. Mao points out the unity or identity of opposites is conditional; it is thus always temporary and relative. On the other hand the struggle of opposites is unending; it is universal and absolute.
Another important principle, which Mao gave and uses very often in his analysis, was the understanding of the fundamental contradiction and on that basis he developed the method to find out the principal contradiction in any process and the principal aspect of a contradiction.
Mao has pointed out,
“The fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process determined by this fundamental contradiction will not disappear until the process is completed; but in a lengthy process the conditions usually differ at each stage. The reason is that, although the nature of the fundamental contradiction in the process of development of a thing and the essence of the process remain unchanged, the fundamental contradiction becomes more and more intensified as it passes from one stage to another in the lengthy process. In addition, among the numerous major and minor contradictions which are determined or influenced by the fundamental contradiction, some become intensified, some are temporarily or partially resolved or mitigated, and some new ones emerge; hence the process is marked by stages. If people do not pay attention to the stages in the process of development of a thing, they cannot deal with its contradictions properly.’’ (On Contradiction)
According to this principle, there are many contradictions in the process of development of a complex thing, and one of them is necessarily the principal contradiction whose existence and development determines or influences the existence and development of the other contradictions. Hence, if in any process there are a number of contradictions, one of them must be the principal contradiction playing the leading and decisive role, while the rest occupy a secondary and subordinate position. Therefore, in studying any complex process in which there are two or more contradictions, we must devote every effort to finding its principal contradiction. Once this principal contradiction is grasped, all problems can be readily solved.
Similarly, in any contradiction the development of the contradictory aspects is uneven. Sometimes they seem to be in equilibrium, which is however only temporary and relative, while unevenness is basic. Of the two contradictory aspects, one must be principal and the other secondary. The principal aspect is the one playing the leading role in the contradiction. The nature of a thing is determined mainly by the principal aspect of a contradiction, the aspect that has gained the dominant position.
Mao always emphasized on understanding the principal contradiction in his analysis. Thus in his analysis of Chinese society he always analysed the principal contradiction. This was an advance over earlier Marxist-Leninist analysis, which did not particularly go into an analysis of the principal contradiction in a country or revolution. Mao however asserted that unless we examine two aspects – the principal and the non-principal contradictions in a process, and the principal and the non-principal aspects of a contradiction – we shall get bogged down in abstractions, be unable to understand contradiction concretely and consequently be unable to find the correct method of resolving it. The importance of understanding the principal contradiction and the principal aspect of a contradiction was because they represented the unevenness of the forces that are in contradiction. Nothing in this world develops absolutely evenly and therefore it was necessary to understand the change in the position of the principal and non-principal contradictions and the principal and non-principal aspects of a contradiction. It is only by understanding the various stages of unevenness in the contradictions and the process of change in these contradictions that a revolutionary party can decide on its strategy and tactics.
Mao clarified regarding the question of antagonism in a contradiction. According to Mao antagonism is one form, but not the only form, of the struggle of opposites; the formula of antagonism therefore cannot be arbitrarily applied everywhere. Some contradictions are characterised by open antagonism, others are not. In accordance with the concrete development of things, some contradictions, which were originally non-antagonistic, develop into antagonistic ones, while others which were originally antagonistic develop into non-antagonistic ones. Forms of struggle differ according to the differences in the nature of the contradictions.
On this respect he clearly stated that in the process of development new contradictions emerged and in that case the character of the fundamental contradiction, principal contradiction and the principal aspect of the contradiction are also changed and the position of antagonistic contradictions and non-antagonistic contradictions are also changed.
Mao applied this method not only during the period of new democratic revolution but also in the period of socialist construction and during the Cultural Revolution. He stressed that despite the victory of the revolution it was wrong to think that contradictions no longer existed in Chinese society. He showed that there were two different types of contradictions still existing – the contradictions with the enemy and the contradictions among the people. The contradictions with the enemy are antagonistic and had to be dealt with by suppression. On the other hand the contradictions among the people which are non-antagonistic had to be dealt with in such a way that they did not become antagonistic. Mao always stressed the need for the correct handling of contradictions. He pointed out that if contradictions were not understood and handled correctly there was always the danger of restoration of capitalism.
Mao on Political Economy
During the period of Chinese Revolution Mao has developed Marxist-Leninist principle with more clarity. Through the class analysis in China he has set an example and also a method of analysis of the society and state particularly in neo, semi and Colonial countries. And at the same time he developed the comintern theorization of People’s Democratic Revolution. He brought more clarity in the Leninist concept of democratic revolution and the basis of workers and peasant alliance in the phase of democratic revolution. Through the coinage of democratic revolution in a new type or New Democratic revolution he formulated with more clarity of the nature of democratic revolution.
Mao on Party
From the time that Mao took over the leadership of the CPC he made all efforts to develop the Party on true Leninist lines. The following points are main contribution on party which has extended Leninist concept on party.
1) Democratic Centralism: Mao’s attempt to correct sectarian and bureaucratic deviations is seen in his explanation regarding democratic centralism. Mao’s understanding of democratic centralism is clearly ‘first democracy, then centralism’. He explained this in many ways – ‘if there is no democracy there won’t be any centralism’, ‘centralism is centralism built on the foundation of democracy. Proletarian centralism with a broad democratic base’.
2) Two Lines Struggle : This is an another aspect of party organisational principles, regarding which Mao developed Marxist understanding and theory. Mao’s approach, based on dialectical materialism was to see incorrect opinions within the Communist Party as the reflection of alien classes in society. Thus as long as the class struggle continued in society there was bound to be its reflection in the ideological struggle within the Party. His approach towards these contradictions too was different. He saw them as non-antagonistic contradictions initially which through ‘serious struggle’ we should try to rectify. We should give ample opportunity to rectify and only if the people committing errors ‘persist’ or ‘aggravate them’, then there was the possibility of the contradiction becoming antagonistic.
3) Mass-Line : Mass line is the essential theorization of Mao. Starting from the basic Marxist-Leninist understanding of the party maintaining the closest possible links with the masses, Mao developed the concept of mass-line to a qualitatively new level. At the philosophical level he showed how it was an essential aspect of the Marxist theory of knowledge. At the political and organisational levels, he showed how it was the basis of a correct political line and also how it was the essential organisational line of inner-party relations.
In short the above mentioned aspects mainly are universal teachings of Mao. It is an extension of Marxism Leninism. Though Mao had contributed many basic aspects for the development of Marxism-Leninism but it is not Maoism because those are not fundamental contribution and there was no departure from Marx and Lenin’s concept. Those are the basically extension of every field of Marxism Leninism.
In short These are the basic understanding of Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought and Marx-Engels-Lenin-Stalin and Mao are universal Teacher of us. That does not mean that all of their theorization and practice were correct and ideal. If we think so then it will be a dogma. Dialectical Materialism teaches us that there is no ultimate. Everything changes. So The scope of development of Marxism-Leninism is infinite. Every real Marxist has the duty to develop Marxism according to the concrete analysis of the concrete situation basing on the basic principles of Marxism. Now after the defeat of previous historic revolutions there is need to establish Marxism-Leninism-Mao Thought more vigourously. There obviously are shortcomings. History has laid this responsibility on our shoulder to unleash revolutionary movements towards victory by overcoming all shortcomings. n
Minimum Essential Reading
1) Communist Manifesto (Marx and Engels)
2) Condition of Working Class of England (Engels)
3) Wage Labour and Capital (Marx)
4) Preface and introduction to Contribution to Critique of Political Economy (Marx)
5) Synopsis of Capital (Engels)
6) Critique of Gotha Programme (Marx and Engels)
7) Thesis on Feuerbach (Marx)
8) Feuerbach and end of the Classical German Philosophy* (Engels)
9) The Origin of Family, Private Property and the state*. (Engels)
10) Letter to Yoseph Blokh on Historical Materialism (Engels)
11) What is to be Done? (Lenin)
12) The State and Revolution (Lenin)
13) Two Tactics of Social Democracy in Democratic Revolution (Lenin)
14) Imperialism: The highest Stage of Capitalism(Lenin)
15) Three Sources and the three Component Parts of Marxism (Lenin)
16) Karl Marx (Lenin)
17) Left Wing Communism an infantile disorder (Lenin)
18) Against Boycott (Lenin)
19) National and Colonial Thesis (Lenin)
20) Marxism and the problem of Nation (Stalin)
21) Foundation of Leninism (Stalin)
22) Class analysis in China (Mao)
23) Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party (Mao)
24) On New Democracy(Mao)
25) On Contradiction(Mao)
26) On the Ten Major Relationship (Mao)
27) On the Correct Handling of the Contradiction among the People (Mao)