Communism


- While this concept has become less popular over the past several years with the dramatic changes that have been undertaken in the former Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc, and indeed throughout the entire communist world, I believe that it is still a concept that is very relevant as it has shaped much of the history of this century. This provided the ideological component of the cold war and the containment of communism was the driving factor behind post war American foreign policy for over 40 years.
- Yet, it is not only relevant due to its historical value. One look at the problems that the former Soviet Union is undergoing, and the thinly veiled nostalgia for the days of Stalin (by some) provide ample evidence that this idea is not ready for the ash heap of history just yet.
- It is also relevant in the sense that the remaining true believers would argue that the system was not given a chance to truly succeed. That people who sought to use Marx for their own interests ended up distorting him and that the system has yet to be applied in a country that is suited for it. Sort of like judging capitalism by the Philippines.
- Anyway, we will be discussing the theories of Marx and Lenin, as well as some of their third world counterparts as well as the way in which communism came to life in the Soviet Union as well as the fall of the Soviet empire.

The Background

- The concept of communism is an ancient one, it simply refers to communal (public) ownership, work and consumption. This means that the collectivity, or tribe, would labor commonly, with the results being divided equitably among the members of the community. Ownership of land would be held jointly and publicly, and rather than work for the enrichment of an individual, the people would labor for the common good of all. The community would decide on the production and allocation of goods and services.
- Very prevalent in ancient times, destroyed by the creation of private property, where individuals would labor for themselves and would find people to work for the enrichment of individuals rather than the community as a whole.
- In ancient times this did not mean a national political system, rather it refered to a local communal relationship among a small group of people - the community or the tribe.
- The idea of people working for the good of the community rather than personal enrichment has always been rather appealing, yet until the 19th century, this became an ideal which was posited as some utopian end rather than as a practical political system.
- Karl Marx and his associate Friederich Engels changed all of this with the publication of the Communist Manifesto in 1848. This work sought to systemize the ancient ideal and to illustrate how it could come to exist in modern forms.
- Marx, unlike the utopians, saw this as not only being possible but also being inevitable. That communism was the coming stage of history. He did not reject capitalism because he saw it as being necessarily evil as a concept, rather he believed that it was destined to fail because it contained the seeds of its own destruction.

- Marx also saw capitalism as being somewhat of a positive force in that it allowed for the emergence of communism, it was simply a stage in the evolution of history. This was a stage that allowed for the emergence of communism in two technical ways: (1) that the increased production and output made it seem possible to eliminate poverty and hunger if the allocation of this production was altered; and (2) the improvements in technology and communication made it possible to organize a national economy so that the goods and services could be produced, allocated and consumed collectively. In short, it made it possible to update the ancient ideal of communal ownership beyond the tribe and the village to the state, and eventually to the world.

Marx (1818-1883)
- Marx himself was a journalist and scholar who lived largely due to the generosity of Engels. Spent most of his time in the British museum studying and ruminating about history, mention that he was a German living in England. While he did some odd work as a reporter for various publications, this did not provide a sufficient income and so Engels, the son of a manufacurer became his benefactor.
- At the time of his work, there were three main historical conditions that were serving to influence his writings
1. The Scientific Quest - At the time confidence in science was very high. It had revealed secrets of human existence that were previously considered to be mysteries. The superstitions of the middle ages were being eradicated by scientific thought. At the time there was a general belief that humankind was on the verge of understanding all of the secrets of the universe. Marx believed that he had made a breakthrough of enormous significance, and that he had discovered the economic laws that governed human behavior. As Engels said "As Darwin had discovered the law of development of organic nature, so Marx had discovered the developmental law of human history." Marx saw himself as being in the same category as the great scientists of the enlightenment, and that while they had discoverd laws that govern the natural universe, so he had discovered the principles behind human existence.

2. The Concert of Europe - In 1815, Napoleon had been vanquished for the second time, and the rulers of the victorious states met in Vienna to decide the future course of Europe. While they were principally interested in preserving international order, they were also concerned with domestic developments - the French revolution had inspired imitations in other parts of Europe and they had to determine whether or not to seek to promote the re-establishment of the traditional monarchies with limited concessions made to democracy for the wealthy and the middle class and ignore the interests of the workers, or to follow the French model and increase democratization for all segments of society. Almost universally, the former course was chosen, which led to protests across Europe. Increasingly, these protests were repressed violently and it seemed as though the continuation of this cycle was inevitable. This led Marx to believe that the only way in which the workers could assume power was through violent means, as the rulers of the time would not countenance reform by other means.
3. The Industrial Revolution - As mentioned earlier Marx believed that the surpluses that were produced by the technological advances enabled the realization of communism. Yet it also shaped his theories due to the miseries which the working classes were enduring. The working and living conditions of the time led Marx to believe that the workers would realize their plight and reach their historical destiny by rebelling against the system.

1. Economic Determinism
- Fundamental of Marx, serves as the building block for the rest of his theory. He believed that the primary human motivation was economic, and that who we are and what we do is determined entirely by our economic circumstances.
- Not only are our individual actions determined by economics, but the social and political systems of countries are shaped entirely by economic forces. That the owners of the means of production will shape society to reflect their own interests.
- Show diagram of the superstructure

- In this diagram, the means of production are the resources and technology available in a given society, their inter-relationship determines the type of economic system which will exist. The relations of production - who owns the means of production will determine the superstructure.
- All of our culture, religions, law, educations, literature, the state, values are derived from the superstructure and reflect the interests of the capitalists in producing a system which will keep the proletariat (the workers) in line to promote the interests of the capitalists. Generally, this serves as a subtle means of coercion - Gramsci and Cultural hegemony. While most of the coercion is subtle, the state serves as the exception as it is the only part of the superstructure that can use force against the workers, therefore it is necessary to use force to remove this part of the superstructure.
- Marx assumed that the workers had no values of their own other than those imposed by the capitalists, this was how the system was able to function. The workers assimilated the values supplied by the capitalists. The revolution could only occur when the workers realized their historical destiny and sought to create their own values and to shape a state around these values, as the industrialists had done when capitalism was created.
2. Historical Theory - Marx shared Hegel's idea that history was produced by conflict, that for every movement that emerges, an opposing movement will be created, and the clash of these two groups will produce a new group, which will produce its own opposite ad infinitum. Hegel was certainly no communist, he saw history as being a grand plan designed by God, but he did advance the idea of the dialectic, of which Marx adopted the form but suggested that this was determined by economics as the driving force of history.

Thesis --------------- Antithesis
Synthesis

- Marx presumed that history was predetermined and that economic conditions caused the emergence of new groups, which clashed with the existing dominant group to produce a new society, in which the new economic conditions would produce a new challenger and the process would begin anew. Marx saw history as having been divided into five stages - Primitive Communism, Empire, Feudalism, Capitalism, and Communism. In the latter there would be a half step of socialism, but the change would be without acrimony.
- Idea of private property was born during primitive communism and led to its demise as a system, led to the creation of slavery as people sought to expand the amount of their property, and to the creation of empires (Greco/Roman). Concept of slavery created the idea of leisure for the slave owning class - left them free to pursue artistic and intellectual endeavors - creation of Greco-Roman society. According to Marx, private property, the state, and the ruling class all came into being at the same time. With the ruling class using the state to control their hold on their property (the superstructure).
- The empires came into contact with the barbarians in the lands that they ruled and eventually were toppled by them, example of the germanic, french, tribes in Europe ending the rule of the Roman empire.
- This led to the Age of Feudalism, where the barbarian kings rewarded their loyal knights by granting them titled land, and the control over the people living within these lands. In this system. labor was captured in a more humane manner - serfdom. In this system, the serf has certain guarantees as well as obligations, the Lord of the manor had to feed, house, and protect him. Also, in most countries the serfs could not be detached from the land; i.e. they could not be sold without the land.

- Under this era, the middle class began to expand with the increasing demands of the gentry for manufactured and trade goods.
This led to the era of capitalism as the industrialists and tradesmen sought to increase their influence in the economy and in society. As mentioned earlier in the course, the Industrial, French, and American revolutions were the key steps in this process.

3. Economic Theory
- Marx saw work as the key means in which people expressed their
creativity, it was an act of self creation with a part of the individual being held in every product. It was this in which people defined themselves. Craftsman, Farmer.
- Yet, with increasing mechanization, deteriorating working conditions and the fact that the worker was toiling for the benefits of another, the worker came to resent the work and the product - to be alienated from the process - this ultimately led to self-alienation. This alienation was a part of the system which would go along with the economic conditions in raising the consciousness of the worker toward revolution.
- He presumed that the value of the product could be determined absolutely, and that this value was determined by the amount of labour which went into the construction of the product. He believed that such things as raw materials & machinery are constant values, they cannot add any value to the product beyond their own worth. I.E. what they cost in terms of investment and operating expenses. Only labor is a variable because it produces something of a greater worth.
- Marx believed therefore, that it was labor which produced the profits for the capitalist. This led to his theory of surplus value, which is encapsulated in the first six principles of Marx as given by Macridis.

Fifteen Principles of Marx
1. Only Labor Creates Value

2. Machines and other factors of production do not create new value, they only pass along a value fixed at their costs and depreciation. (Labor Theory of Value - Use Example of a Wool hat)
3. The workers are only paid a subsistence wage
4. The worker produces a value greater than what he receives in wages (2X)
5. The difference is between what the worker is paid and what he produces is surplus value - Theory of Surplus Value
6. This surplus value forms the basis of the profits which are pocketed by the capitalist
- The next seven conditions deal with the process by which capitalism will destroy itself.
7. In the market, the fierce competition demands that each capitalist will try to produce and sell more to bring added income
8. This spurs modernization, which increases mechanization.
9. This results in increased unemployment
10. Prices can be lowered by reducing the prices per unit
11. The firms which do not modernize will have more workers and therefore be forced to pay out more in wages and therefore cannot compete with the modernizing firms.
12. These laggards will be driven out of business, and capital becomes concentrated into fewer and fewer hands
13. It will reach a point where a small number of firms are producing goods efficiently and cheaply, yet the number of potential buyers has diminished dramatically
14. Profit and private property have thus become obstacles to the production of goods
15. This creates a conflict between the legal forms of capitalism (private property and profit) and the means of production (efficiency and high productivity).

- In essence, capitalism is seen as creating the material conditions for satisfying human wants, yet, the profit motive, which was so important to early growth leads to the eventual demise of the system. This would occur as the process became more involved and the number of capitalists decreased due to the fierce competition which is the essences of the system. Those which remained in operation would see their profits decrease as they would become increasingly mechanized in an effort to cut costs, yet as it is only labor which can produce surplus they would see their own profits decline. During this time, not only would the number of workers also decrease, but those who were still employed would find their conditions deteriorating even further as the capitalists would cut wages due to the number of unemployed workers desparate for any sort of work. This would lead to a general pauperization of society, it is at this point that the workers would become so alienated by the system that they would ignore the superstructure and realize their destiny by creating a revolution. They would realize that they were a class separate from the capitalists, with their own identity and that the norms and mores established by society were only means that the capitalists used to ensure peaceful compliance. They would achieve class consciousness.

4. The Revolution - Marx saw the revolution as not only necessary, but inevitable. He did not believe that the capitalists would allow the workers to attain power peacefully. This revolution would be brought about by the industrial workers (the proletariat), they would be the ones who had suffered the most at the hands of capitalism and would therefore by the ones who would most clearly perceive the need for change. Marx had little faith in the revolutionary capacity of the peasants, he did not see them as having either the experience or the capacity for such undertakings, rather interesting in that in each communist revolution it has been the peasantry which has provided the foot soldiers.

- He also believed that the revolution would occur in the countries which were the most advanced in terms of capitalism and therefore the workers had a greater chance of achieving class consciousness -England, Germany. This would eventually spread to all countries, as the workers would heed the example of their brethren. It would become an international revolution.
- As he saw the revolution as inevitable, he saw the role which the intellectuals would play to be a minor one, they would serve as educators rather than revolutionaries - this role was left to the proletariat.
- Interesting in that almost none of these things came to be; when revolution occured, it was in industrially backward countries, with a large role played by the peasantry, and the leading role played by intellectuals, these revolutions were contrived rather than spontaneous. There were also components of nationalism; in every case but the Soviet Union, there were foreign powers which were involved in the society that served as a galvanizing force for the society - Yugoslavia, China, Cuba, Vietnam.
- While in his later years Marx did begin to ponder the possibility of a peasant revolt in Russia and also began to learn Russian, he primarily believed that it would be useful in inspiring both revolution in Western Europe as well as encouraging the states in Western Europe to adopt more stringent measures to suppress this rebellion - thereby intensifying the forces for revolution.

5. The Communist State - In this area, Marx was less specific than his critiques of capitalism. He did not provide any real detail as to how the state would function. What he did provide was a series of broad outlines as to what would follow the takeover by the workers. Firstly, he presumed that before the state could leap to communism, there would have to be a half step of socialism. In the socialist stage, the dictatorship of the proletariat would emerge. The workers would take over the state and use its instruments of coercion to destroy the resistance of the capitalists. This would be the dictatorship of the majority, where the state becomes the instrument of the many to be used against the few.
- The means of production would then be socialized. This would remove the idea of classes, as without private property there could be no more classes. And with the absence of classes, there will no longer be any need for coercion and this element of the state would therefore wither away.
- All communist nations would have said that they were still in the stage of socialism, none would have presumed that they had yet made the leap to communism, though some would have said that they were closer than others to this transition (mention how pissed the soviets were with the Chinese after they announced the GLF).
- Secondly, under communism, the state would be reduced to simply being an administrator of things, and would be greatly reduced in size and unlike any of its previous incarnations. Neutral body under which goods would simply be transferred.
- Thirdly, the life of the worker will improve dramatically - build furniture in the morning, paint a picture in the afternoon. And the workers will toil more happily, as they are working for the gain of all rather than the benefit of a few, productivity will also be increased, and the surpluses will no longer be squandered on vases, they will go to the community. "From each according to his ability to each according to his needs".
- Question of who will take out the trash was never really addressed.
- Utopian vision which is seen as a inevitable development.
- Sum up Marx

- Inevitability - Scientific Socialism
- Economic Determinism and Superstructure
- Historical Theory and the dialectic

- Economic Theory and capitalism providing its own demise
- Limited Role for intelligentsia in revolution
- Dictatorship of Proles & withering of state
- Problem is that Marx believed that the revolution was imminent, and when it did not occur, questions began to emerge as to why not; answers - Bernstein & Lenin.