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“Socialists in Kingston,” Kingston Daily Standard. July 24, 1912. Page 04.

To the Editor of The Standard:
Sir, – The meeting held on the market square Monday evening was addressed by Mr. Milton Wayman, who was sent here by the Executive Committee of the Social-Democratic party, with head office at Berlin, Ont., for the express purpose of organizing a local branch of that party. This is a second time that an avowed Socialist has addressed a Kingston audience, the first being made by a provincial S. D. organizer two years ago while passing through here on his way from Peterboro to Brockville, where the party has a real live organization. At half-past seven Monday evening, Mr. Wayman started at Barrie street and walked down Princess street, announcing his meeting through a megaphone. He was followed to the market square by many people, curious to know what was going to happen. A crowd of four or five hundred listened for an hour and a half to Mr. Wayman’s forceful indictment of the present capitalistic form of social production and distribution of the necessaries and comforts of life, and, judging by the frequent applause and the number of people who expressed their willingness to become members of the party. Kingston is ready and waiting for the Socialistic message. The object and purpose of this organization will be to carry on a continual campaign of education by a systematic distribution of Socialistic literature, and by holding street-meetings, lectures and debates on social and economic questions. When deemed advisable, the local branch will run candidates at the municipal provincial and Dominion elections.

Respectfully yours,

Local Organizer of the Social-Democratic Party.
Kingston, July 24, 1912.

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“Our programme does not contain anything about change, reform or transformation, but rather the smashing of these three foundations of civilization: family, property, state.

This civilization whose dawn we have shown must experience its apocalypse before us. Socialism and communism come after and stand above civilization, just as civilization followed barbarism and stood above it. Socialism and communism are not a new form of civilization:

“Since civilization is founded on the exploitation of one class by another class, its whole development proceeds in a constant contradiction.”

If, therefore, Truman, Stalin and Churchill find themselves under the same anti-barbaric roof, and Chaulieu and some other relics want to have their place there as well – we remaining ones prefer to stay out with Marx, Engels and Lenin.

It may be confusing that communism has not yet emerged from a downfall of civilization; but it is completely ridiculous to confuse the satisfaction of capital about this fact with a threat of barbarism.

So it is an utterly banal and pathetic mistake to try to explain the stagnation of class antagonism and anti-capitalist revolution with the help of volitional factors and malevolent police gangs.

However, a cardinal mistake is to try to plant on us, after the level of capitalist civilization that we proclaimed as the last and worst level, a new, unforeseen class civilization. It is nonsense to search for a third class in order to then place this state as the state of this ruling class – which is not identical to the bourgeoisie – where it itself is supposed to be only the staff of the state, a staff that is not a new figure. We have understood and analysed this through all class struggles and successive forms of state.

Another mistake, as we have seen and will see, is the following stepladder: private capitalism – state capitalism – socialism. If this trio were to dominate the stage, the conclusion of the French left’s “bulletin” would be unavoidable: No condemnation and shame, but rather an alliance or support for the second stage – so that state capitalism, whether the Prime Minister is a Hitler or a Stalin, can face us alone as soon as possible.

Already immediately after the First World War, at the first appearance of fascism in Italy in 1919, we solved the historical and strategic question: No joining a liberal-democratic bloc against fascism – and just as little any bloc forming with fascism against the liberal bourgeoisie. We also immediately said why: Because they are not two social classes, but one and the same.

To have practiced the bloc strategy, even in both directions, is enough for us to explain the retreat of our revolution.

The hollowest construction is the one that wants to confront this infamous world (whose potential, however, is exceptionally high) of capitalist civilization  (and also the majority of the proletarians, who are now being used as a result of major historical mistakes) with the alternative of the “spectre of barbarism”: “Even if there is no revolution that gives birth to a new world and it may be suffocated, is the disintegration crisis of today’s society still occurring, so that we cannot come to socialism, but fall back from civilization into barbarism?” From pure brain caliber this threat does not frighten any bourgeois and does not encourage any proletarian to fight. No society disintegrates because of its internal laws, its internal necessity, if these laws and this necessity do not lead to the uprising of a human mass organized with the weapons in hand – something we know and expect. There is no death without trauma for any “class civilization”, no matter how corrupt and disgusting it may be.

As far as the barbarism is concerned, which is supposed to arise spontaneously after the death of capitalism as a result of its disintegration: If we regard its disappearance as a necessary condition for further development, which then had to lead inevitably through the swamp of the subsequent civilization, then there is nothing so terrible about its characteristics as a human form of coexistence that an unexpected return could frighten us.

How against Rome the wild hordes were needed – so that so many and so great useful contributions to the organization of people and things will not be lost – which were unconscious contributors to a much bigger revolution still far away in time, we want the gates of this bourgeois world of profiteers, oppressors and butchers to be struck by a powerful barbaric wave capable of burying this world among itself.

But just as there are borders, walls and curtains in this world, all forces, even though they compete against each other, are gathering around the tradition of this very civilization.

When the revolutionary movement of the working class becomes strong again, organizes and arms itself, and when formations emerge that do not adhere to the civilization of an Acheson or Malik, then these will be the barbaric forces that will not disdain the ripe fruit of modern industrial potential, but will snatch it from the throat of the exploiters by breaking their still sharp teeth.

Socialism will therefore welcome a new and fruitful barbarism, such as the one that came down the Alps and rejuvenated Europe; It had not destroyed but honoured the centuries-old fruit of knowledge and arts preserved in the womb of a vast realm.”

– International Communist Party, Forward, Barbarians!

1951

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“The Socialistic bourgeois want all the advantages of modern social conditions without the struggles and dangers necessarily resulting therefrom. They desire the existing state of society, minus its revolutionary and disintegrating elements. They wish for a bourgeoisie without a proletariat. The bourgeoisie naturally conceives the world in which it is supreme to be the best; and bourgeois Socialism develops this comfortable conception into various more or less complete systems. In requiring the proletariat to carry out such a system, and thereby to march straightway into the social New Jerusalem, it but requires in reality, that the proletariat should remain within the bounds of existing society, but should cast away all its hateful ideas concerning the bourgeoisie.

A second, and more practical, but less systematic, form of this Socialism sought to depreciate every revolutionary movement in the eyes of the working class by showing that no mere political reform, but only a change in the material conditions of existence, in economical relations, could be of any advantage to them. By changes in the material conditions of existence, this form of Socialism, however, by no means understands abolition of the bourgeois relations of production, an abolition that can be affected only by a revolution, but administrative reforms, based on the continued existence of these relations; reforms, therefore, that in no respect affect the relations between capital and labour, but, at the best, lessen the cost, and simplify the administrative work, of bourgeois government.

Bourgeois Socialism attains adequate expression when, and only when, it becomes a mere figure of speech. 

Free trade: for the benefit of the working class. Protective duties: for the benefit of the working class. Prison Reform: for the benefit of the working class. This is the last word and the only seriously meant word of bourgeois socialism. It is summed up in the phrase: the bourgeois is a bourgeois — for the benefit of the working class.”

– Karl Marx and

Fredrick Engels, “Socialist and Communist Literature.The Manifesto of the Communist Party. 1848.    

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“To speak of literal music for a moment more, it has been a very long time since insurgents worldwide shared a moral equivalent of “The Internationale,” the anthem adopted by the (second) Socialist International in the late nineteenth century and subject to the contesting claims of socialists and communists ever since. International solidarity and the putative brotherhood of workers crashed and burned in 1914, when the German Social Democrats voted war credits to the Kaiser so that Germany could slaughter its ostensible class allies, and left-wing parties across Europe split over whether to support their respective nation-state or oppose an “imperialist war.”

In 1917, Lenin’s Bolshevik heresy was able to capitalize on antiwar sentiment in Russia to seize power. A few years later, the Soviet Union was promoting a version of “internationalism” that conveniently withered into a defense of the Kremlin’s foreign policy interests of the moment. As Vaclav Havel wrote in his great 1978 essay, “The Power of the Powerless,” universalist slogans like “Workers of the world, unite!” shriveled into loyalty cheers lacking any concrete meaning.

All these years later, the left is still tuneless. Missing from social democracy is a galvanizing cross-border spirit, a sense of historical destiny, and yes, a literal song. In the twenty-first century, attachment to the identity tribe is fiercer, more binding, than any attachment to a common purpose. Today’s most prominent left-wing chant, “The people united will never be defeated,” is a tautology. When it originated, in Allende-era Chile, it meant something topical. Today, it is strictly sentimental. Trump supporters could cheerfully sign on to their version of what it means to be “the people united”—designating immigrants and Muslims, not the bourgeoisie, as the excludables.”

– Todd Gitlin, “The Missing Music of the Left.” New York Review of Books blog, May 28, 2018.

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“It is of course true that Marx and Engels acknowledged the obvious, namely, that the overthrow of capitalism demands the overthrow of its state. For them, the political aspect of the proletarian revolution exhausts itself in overwhelming the capitalist state apparatus with all the means required to this end. The victorious working class would neither institute a new state nor seize control of the existing state, but exercise its dictatorship so as to be able to realize its real goal, the appropriation of the means of production and their irrevocable transformation into social means of production in the most literal sense, that is, as under the control of the association of free and equal producers. Although assuming functions previously associated with those of the state, this dictatorship is not to become a new state, but a means to the elimination of all suppressive measures through the ending of class relations. There is no room for a “socialist state” in socialism

though there is the need for a central direction of the socialized economy, which, however, is itself a part of the organization of
the associated producers and not an independent entity set against
them. 

Of course, for reasons not as yet discernible, this might be altogether
utopian, as thus would be a socialist society in the Marxian
sense. It has to be tried in a revolutionary situation if a serious
effort is to be made to reach the classless society. It may be forced
upon the workers by objective conditions, quite aside from whether
or not they understand all its implications. But it may also fail, if
the proletariat abdicates its own dictatorship to a separately organized
new state machine that usurps control over society. It is
also not possible to foresee under what particular concrete social
conditions the revolutionary process might unfold, and whether or
not the mere extension and intensification of dictatorial rule will
degenerate into a new state assuming independent powers. Whatever
the case may be, it is not through the state that socialism can
be realized, as this would exclude the self-determination of the
working class, which is the essence of socialism. State rule perpetuates
the divorce of the workers from the means of production, on
which their dependence and exploitation rests, and thus also perpetuates
social class relations. 

However, it was precisely the attempt to overcome the apparently
utopian elements of Marxian doctrine which induced the
theoreticians of the Second International to insist upon the state
as the instrument for the realization of socialism. Although they
were divided on the question of how to achieve control of the
state, they were united in their conviction that the organization of
the new society is the state’s responsibility. It was their sense of
reality that made them question Marx’s abstract concepts of the
revolution and the construction of socialism, bringing these ideas
down to earth and in closer relation to the concretely given possibilities. 

Indeed, the construction of a socialist system is no doubt a
most formidable undertaking. Even to think about it is already
of a bewildering complexity defying easy or convincing solutions.
It certainly seems to be out of reach for the relatively uneducated
working class. It would require the greatest expertise in the understanding
and management of social phenomena and the most careful
approach to all reorganizational problems, if it is not to end
in dismal failure. It demands an over-all view of social needs, as well as special qualifications for those attending to them, and thus
institutions designed to assure the social reproduction process.
Such institutions must have enough authority to withstand all irrational
objections and thus must have the support of government
which, by sanctioning these decisions, makes them its own. Most
of all, the even flow of production must not be interfered with
and all unnecessary experimentation must be avoided, so that it
would be best to continue with proven methods of production and
the production relations on which they were based.

– Paul Mattick, Marxism: Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie?  Armonk, New York: M. E. SHARPE, 1983. pp. 160-162.

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“All these deformations and a row of other less important ones were inflicted on Marxism by its epigones in the second phase of its development, and they can be summarised in one all-inclusive formulation: a unified general theory of social revolution was changed into criticisms of the bourgeois economic order, of the bourgeois State, of the bourgeois system of education, of bourgeois religion, art, science and culture. These criticisms no longer necessarily develop by their very nature into revolutionary practices they can equally well develop, into all kinds of attempts at reform, which fundamentally remain within the limits of bourgeois society and the bourgeois State, and in actual practice usually did so. This distortion of the revolutionary doctrine of Marxism itself – into a purely theoretical critique that no longer leads to practical revolutionary action, or does so only haphazardly – is very clear if one compares the Communist Manifesto or even the 1864 Statutes of the First International drawn up by Marx, to the programmes of the Socialist Parties of Central and Western Europe in the second half of the nineteenth century, and especially to that of the German Social Democratic Party.

Revisionism appears as an attempt to express in the form of a coherent theory the reformist character acquired by the economic struggles of the trade unions and the political struggles of the working class parties, under the influence of altered historical conditions. The so-called orthodox Marxism of this period (now a mere vulgar-Marxism) appears largely as an attempt by theoreticians, weighed down by tradition, to maintain the theory of social revolution which formed the first version of Marxism, in the shape of pure-theory. This theory was wholly abstract and had no practical consequences – it merely sought to reject the new reformist theories, in which the real character of the historical movement was then expressed as un-Marxist.    This is precisely why, in a new revolutionary period, it was the orthodox Marxists of the Second International who were inevitably the least able to cope with such questions as the relation between the State and proletarian revolution. The revisionists at least possessed a theory of the relationship of the ‘working people’ to the State, although this theory was in no way a Marxist one. Their theory and practice had long since substituted political, social and cultural reforms within the bourgeois State for a social revolution that would seize, smash and replace it by the dictatorship of the proletariat. The orthodox Marxists were content to reject this solution to the problems of the transitional period as a violation of the principles of Marxism. Yet with all their orthodox obsession with the abstract letter of Marxist theory they were unable to preserve its original revolutionary character. Their scientific socialism itself had inevitably ceased to be a theory of social revolution. Over a long period, when Marxism was slowly spreading throughout Europe, it had in fact no practical revolutionary task to accomplish. Therefore problems of revolution had ceased, even in theory, to exist as problems of the real world for the great majority of Marxists, orthodox as well as revisionist. As far as the reformists were concerned these problems had disappeared completely. But even for the orthodox Marxists they had wholly lost the immediacy with which the authors of the Manifesto had confronted them, and receded into a distant and eventually quite transcendental future. In this period people became used to pursuing here and now policies of which revisionism may be seen as the theoretical expression. Officially condemned by party congresses, this revisionism was in the end accepted no less officially by the trade unions. At the beginning of the century, a new period of development put the question of social revolution back on the agenda as a realistic and terrestrial question in all its vital dimensions. Therewith purely theoretical orthodox Marxism – till the outbreak of the World War the officially established version of Marxism in the Second International – collapsed completely and disintegrated. This was, of course, an inevitable result of its long internal decay. It is in this epoch that we can see in many countries the beginnings of third period of development, above all represented by Russian Marxists, and often described by its major representatives as a ‘restoration’ of Marxism.

 

This dialectical conception of the relationship of economics to politics became such an unalterable part of Marxist theory that even the vulgar-Marxists of the Second International were unable to deny that the problem of the revolutionary transition existed, at least in theory, although they ignored the problem in practice. No orthodox Marxist could even in principle have claimed that a theoretical and practical concern with politics was unnecessary for Marxism. This was left to the syndicalists, some of whom invoke Marx, but none of whom have ever claimed to be orthodox Marxists. However, many good Marxists did adopt a theoretical and practical position on the reality of ideology which was identical to that of the syndicalists. These materialists are with Marx in condemning the syndicalist refusal of political action and in declaring that the social movement must include the political movement. They often argue against anarchists that even after the victorious proletarian revolution, and in spite of all the changes undergone by the bourgeois State, politics will long continue to be a reality. Yet these very people fall straight into the anarcho-syndicalist ‘transcendental underestimation’ of ideology when they are told that intellectual struggle in the ideological field cannot be replaced or eliminated by the social movement of proletariat alone, or by its social and political movements combined. Even today most Marxist theoreticians conceive of the efficacy of so-called intellectual phenomena in a purely negative, abstract and undialectical sense, when they should analyse this domain of social reality with the materialist and scientific method moulded by Marx and Engels. Intellectual life should be conceived in union with social and political life, and social being and becoming (in the widest sense, as economics, politics or law) should be studied in union with social consciousness in its many different manifestations, as a real yet also ideal (or ‘ideological’) component of the historical process in general.”

– Karl Korsch, Marxism and Philosophy. 1923. English translation: Monthly Review Press, 1970, reproduced in its entirety

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Pierre Gaudard,

May 1, Montreal, Quebec. Gelatin silver print photograph, 1970. Canadian Photography Institute, National Gallery of Canada.

Purchased 1971. Accession number:

71-2165.  

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