Communist Manifesto has been achieved...

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mk12
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Oct 3 2006 12:08
Communist Manifesto has been achieved...

the demands in the communist manifesto - centralization of things in the hands of the state - were achieved by the USSR, Communist China etc.

Yet ultra-leftists would say these regimes were a distortion of marx.

Do you ignore the communist manifesto and focus on the libertarian works of Marx? Or is what marx wrote in the communist manifesto interpreted incorrectly?

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 3 2006 12:12

the communist manifesto was written in 1848 for the 'communist league' as a paid job. it's hardly persuasive to dismiss marx on it's sub-50 pages, half of which are polemics against long-forgotten socialist tendencies

mk12
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Oct 3 2006 12:15

yes, that's fair enough. But in terms of what Marx proposed - centralization of railways in the hands of the state for example...how do people like Chattopahdey and anti-statist Marxists look on things like this?

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Joseph Kay
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Oct 3 2006 12:21

mk12: i dunno, thats why i think the word 'marxism' is dumb because he's not a source of divine truth, despite writing some very important theory. as i understand it marx's view of the state changed after the Paris Commune, and anti-state marxists have simply re-read him with the failiure of 'revolutionary states' as a real-world reference point. i'm not particularly up on marx though, so others might have more to say

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Khawaga
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Oct 3 2006 16:31

It is important to remember what the Manifesto was all about. A pamphlett to agitate/educate workers to rise up against capitalists. Most of the stuff there is pretty condensed theory and written as a polemic. It should also (as any work) be intepreted in the light of the context it was written and for what purpose it was written.

In any case, soviet union was not a distortion of Marx (though a lot of Lenin's, Plekhanov's etc theories were), but a distortion of the real movement of communism.

The body of thought known as Marxism is not just about Marx, there are a lot of other people that go under that category that include everything from stalinists to ultra-anarchists.

As Joseph K. writes though, Marx is not a source of divine truth, but is one source of (many) dialectics, analysis of capitalism etc. It's the method that he developed that is interesting for us today, not the specifics on what he wrote about the conditions at the time he was living.

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Alf
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Oct 4 2006 00:13

Is that your first post Khawaga? In any case welcome. I think you have the right approach. The Manifesto has to be understood in its historic context. Capitalism was still in a period of youthful vigour where the bourgeois state played a far less intrusive role in the economy than it does today, and had not yet become the monstrous, militaristic giant it is today. Although Marx's theoretical work contains all the basics needed for a critique of state capitalism, the communist movement of the day had not been through all the real, historic experience needed to show definitively that state capitalism is the negation of socialism and not a stage towards it. Confusions about the possibility of proceeding towards communism via centralised control over the economy under the existing state appear in the writings of both Marx and Engels. And these errors are still more prevalent in the work of the social democratic parties which Marx and Engels later helped to establish, despite deep reservations about their concessions to 'state socialism' (cf the Critique of the Gotha Progamme).

It also has to be remembered that the communists were partly addressing themselves to another perceived problem: how to develop capitalism in the most "progressive" way, in opposition to reactionary and outmoded forms of society, since the Manifesto contains contradictions about the perspective facing the capitalist system. On the one hand it argues that the periodic economic crises proved that "The productive forces at the disposal of society no longer tend to further the development of the conditions of bourgeois property; on the contrary, they have become too powerful for these conditions, by which they are fettered, and so soon as they overcome these fetters, they bring disorder into the whole of bourgeois society, endanger the existence of bourgeois property. The conditions of bourgeois society are too narrow to comprise the wealth created by them". In other words, that the conditions for a fully communist revolution had already been established.

And yet at the same time the text argues that capitalism was still spreading across the globe and that the proletariat has to support the bourgeois revolution against decaying feudalism. In this sense, the state capitalist measures in the Manifesto express an attempt to solve the dilemma of what should the proletariat do if it came to power at a time when bourgeois tasks were still on the agenda.

Things were to turn out differently, but the question was a valid one to pose at the time.

Aipotu
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Oct 4 2006 03:49

Hey all,
I'd just like to bring a little contribution for the discussion without going down on much theory:
In kropotkin's "anarchism and modern science" (at least that's how it was translated in portuguese) he points out that the communist manifesto is much of a copy of a blanquist(?) pamphlet.

And Daniel Guérin has a real good text in marx as a libertarian considering his Civil War in France (again, i'm based on the portuguese version for the title) wich made he, Marx, reconsider some elements on the Manifesto and see more clearly what would be the form of the proletariat state with the Paris commune experience.

Spikymike
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Jun 1 2017 10:02

There is also this very short useful text that puts the Communist Manifesto in it's relevant historical context what ever people (especially anarchists) might think was right or wrong about the political strategy adopted back then by communists.
www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/socialist-standard/2010s/2017/no-1354-june-2...

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Jun 1 2017 13:47

There are two, I think, ways to refute your claim.

The first is this; while the state in China or the USSR may have to a large extent centralized a lot of heavy industry into its hands including the railways, its clear to every historian and observer not mired in the very specific sway of Marxist Leninist or Maoist ideology that the state was *not* conquered by the working class. In both cases, a bureaucratic regime (an 'ectopic social formation' if you will) appears to have prevailed. This is because in both countries, economic development was not far along capitalist lines; that is, there was a general preponderance of petty producers; the peasantry, who are, strictly speaking, proto-petit bourgeois.

The second point, that others have picked up on here in some ways, is that the *demands* in the Manifesto fit into a vision of political action and an understanding of social classes, the state, and revolution, in Marx and Engels, that have been so thoroughly distorted and denuded of context by Marxist Leninist ideology.

On this count, the first point is that Marx and Engels *both* reflected on the League's participation in the '48 movements and agreed that *class political independence* was a necessary starting point for any viable communist movement - alliance with bourgeois democrats became a non-starter. Already this diverges sharply from the ideology and practice of contemporary Marxism Leninism. This happened primarily by way of Lenin's *correct* assessment that the *poor* or landless peasants could be allies with the proletariat in a revolutionary movement, but that they would have to be *led* by the working class for a variety of reasons. While this is a perfectly acceptable response to particular conditions, which doesn't involve unity with parties of bourgeois democrats, only a practical alliance with a chunk of the base those groups had been drawing from, the events of the Russian Revolution pushed the Bolshevik party into becoming a bureaucratic apparatus based socially on the peasantry.

"Marxism Leninism" was eventually formulated by Stalin as a crystallization of some following points;

1. The Bureaucratization of the Bolsheviks as a *good* thing (it wasn't).
2. A Vulgar understanding of Imperialism that slips between class and nation as revolutionary categories opportunistically (Nationalist movements against colonialism are liberal in general character, thanks primarily to the concrete problems of independent economic development in peasant dominated countries)
3. The use, then, of this obfuscation of nation and class to paint a vision of the world amenable to Soviet domestic and foreign policy (both of which were likely driven just as much if not more, by material exigencies); in this picture, The U.S. is the world hegemon or empire, and whatever the class in control of some country lower on the imperialist hierarchy it automatically deserves a measure of support in it's resistance to 'colonialism'. (Note; support for, say, Assad is not the same as opposition to U.S. intervention.)

To reiterate. There was a move from Marx and Engels long standing principles (And taken up by Kautsky, Luxemburg, Pannekoek, Lenin) of *class political independence*. This was somewhat modified by Lenin's argument that the working class in russia would have to lead the poor rural working class and peasants against Tsarism there. In the process of the Russian Revolution, socialism was recognized as being off the table, given the thoroughly peasant nature of the Russian economy. Stalin rebukes this, engages in the low-grade civil war that is collectivization and secures the state as a bureaucratic apparatus immune to working class influence to a large degree. Lenin and many others were pretty vehemently opposed to forced collectivization, hence the NEP.

The 20th century has essentially seen a great deal of nationalist, classically liberal, revolutions made with red flags and marxist/anarchist rhetoric. I think this has more to do with the process of economic development. Now with many of these feudal-cum-capitalist revolutions behind us, there is no alternative to a working class political revolution. Well, aside from continued inter-imperialist slaughter.

el psy congroo
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Jun 1 2017 19:43

I disagree with decent chunks of what Pennoid is asserting above. Marx, unlike many of the socialists of his time, was more clear than peers on a number of these issues. But that doesn't mean he was clear.

For one, he rejected Pennoid's idea that the peasants are strictly 'proto-petit bourgeois'. This should be made clear to anyone who's read his correspondence with Vera Zasulisch over the issue of Russian peasant communes. It's also the only place I've seen Marx use the word 'communize' explicitly. You can also check out Camatte's writings on the same subject which came nearly a century later.

What seems most important to me about Marx's later approach is that it seems it became clear to Marx there would be no 'quick victory' for communist revolutionaries. I'm intentionally putting aside all the issues over democracy which are of course all mucked up in this.

Here's something on the topics above from the anarchist library from a write-up called Beyond the Peasant International:

Quote:
Marx himself focused on the revolutionary potential of the rapidly growing, visible and struggling working class for a long time, but after the defeats of 1848 and 1871 had destroyed the hope for a quick victory, the center of his analysis shifted towards finding out what made capitalism ‘unstable and stable’ at the same time. Once more he had a close look at what was happening in the world. In the exchange of letters with Vera Zasulich he wrote about a ‘specific historical opportunity: When the crisis of the ‘Asiatic form of production in Russia coincides with the crisis of capitalism in the countries of western Europe there is a chance that the struggles of the workers come together with those of the rural population. As a result of this, something revolutionary and ‘new’ could develop. Marx had elaborated the ‘inherent dualism of the Russian village community: collective property and the private production. A revolution in Russia could be able to stop the demise of the village community, and once the collective moments in the given ‘historical surroundings (the crisis of the western capitalism) come together with the ‘workers’ revolution’ they might become the starting point of a new form of communisation [Vergemeinschaftung]. Usually these letters are taken as evidence that Marx did not have a ‘deterministic view of history’ after all or that he wanted to propagate the ‘direct leap’ out of the pre-capitalistic communities [Gemeinwesen]. However, more important is the way how Marx approached these concerns. Marx tackled the question through notions of ‘global recomposition’ — however, today we are able to, and must, debate this question in a different manner, e.g. today it will be less about ‘the coming together of the best of two different worlds’...

Getting back to Pennoid's comments directly, I gotta dispute the idea Lenin opposed forced collectivization. Isn't pretty clear from the repression of Left SRs and anarchists he was all for this kind of repressive authoritarianism?

Sure Lenin and co. were 'aware' of these issues, but it seems to me they came down on the wrong side of them, seeing it as basically impossible to promote the mir (peasant commune) as a social model of organization in the rural villages. As a comrade wrote me in April, 'It was easier to simply impose the imperatives of the city and proletarianise the mir peasantry, and they also needed to follow the imperatives of war communism in order to survive. Thus the mir peasants were accused of being semi-bourgeois kulaks and were finally exterminated...'

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Khawaga
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Jun 1 2017 20:12
el psy wrote:
For one, he rejected Pennoid's idea that the peasants are strictly 'proto-petit bourgeois'. This should be made clear to anyone who's read his correspondence with Vera Zasulisch over the issue of Russian peasant communes.

Hey, we finally agree on something!

To add to this, in a preface to the Russian 1882 edition of the Manifesto, Marx wrote, like he had to Vera Zasulisch and other Russian revolutionaries, that the Russian peasant communes as a possible preconditon for communism. If I understand Marx correctly on this, he was arguing that this precondition could be generalized and thus become the "result" of communist production (in order words, reproducing the conditions for communism which is logically similar to how capital reproduces commodities, money and capitalist social relations).

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Steven.
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Jun 2 2017 09:30

Side note: It's weird when 11-year-old threads get bumped and the discussion just continues. I wonder if that will keep happening in 40/50 years!

Spikymike
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Jun 2 2017 10:31

Not likely Steven as there are few examples of anything approaching the 'peasant commune' in today's world although this discussion still maybe has some relevance to other remnants of communal pre-capitalist formations still fighting a largely unsuccessful defence of some aspects of their lifestyle against the encroachment of state imposed commodity relations.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 2 2017 11:09

Mike, I came across a story a while ago about the parallel democracy in the indigenous regions of rural Mexico which i blogged.

http://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2014/08/world-socialism.htm...

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Jun 2 2017 13:19

This is a common and flawed reading of Marx's comments on the peasant communes in Russia. The essential thesis is actually refuted in what you quote, and in what Marx himself wrote;

First from your quote:

Quote:
Usually these letters are taken as evidence that Marx did not have a ‘deterministic view of history’ after all or that he wanted to propagate the ‘direct leap’ out of the pre-capitalistic communities [Gemeinwesen]. However, more important is the way how Marx approached these concerns. Marx tackled the question through notions of ‘global recomposition’ — however, today we are able to, and must, debate this question in a different manner, e.g. today it will be less about ‘the coming together of the best of two different worlds’...

This is not a rejection of historical materialism on Marx's part. 'Global recomposition' implies a globally planned project of development, arguably on the basis of poor peasant communes that could be integrated into the wider project of collectively planned production/distribution. *But it is on the basis of continental or global proletarian revolution* that the integration of the dying mir could have *possibly* occurred. Again, the argument is that the mir *could* be utilized, in the context of wider proletarian revolution directing capital goods to help developm Russian agriculture.

Marx in a draft to Vera Zasulich:

Quote:
Communal property and small-plot cultivation: this combination [which used to be a (fertilising) element of progress, the development of farming), useful in more distant times, becomes dangerous in our own epoch. On the one hand movable property, playing an ever more important role in agriculture itself, gradually differentiates the commune members in terms of wealth and gives rise to a conflict of interests, above all under state fiscal pressure; on the other hand, the economic superiority of communal property – as the basis of co-operative and combined labour- is lost, it should not be forgotten, however, that the Russian peasants already practise the collective mode in the cultivation of their joint meadows (prairies indivises); that their familiarity with the artel relationship could greatly facilitate their transition from small-plot to collective farming; that the physical configuration of the Russian land makes it suitable for large-scale and combined mechanical farming [with the aid of machines]; and finally, that Russian society, having for so long lived at the expense of the rural commune, owes it the initial funds required for such a change. What is involved, of course, is only a gradual change that would begin by creating normal conditions for the commune on its present basis.

Notice that he is highlighting the tension between collective agriculture and small-plot, independent peasant agriculture. Earlier he states the pessimistic reading of Russian development, and not dismissively:

Quote:
From a historical point of view, the only serious argument [that may be invoked] in favour of the inevitable dissolution of communal property in Russia is as follows: Communal property existed everywhere in Western Europe, and it everywhere disappeared with the progress of society; [why should its fate be different in Russia?] how, then, could it escape the same fate in Russia?

He gives some reasons why Russian agriculture *may not* proceed down the same path. And yet it more or less did.

However it was on the basis of this assessment and independent investigations(correct as it was, hewing to science, e.g. against rigid stageism, and toward an assessment of the relations on the ground), that Kautsky, Lenin, Trotsky, arrived at the various similar conclusions pertaining to revolution in Russia; the workers would unite with the poor peasants because the bourgeoisie was too weak to make the revolution. As Lenin formulated it, the workers would lead because their condition as a mostly urban class meant that their capacity for political activity was greatly facilitated. As the 20th century carried on, the process of peasant differentiation indeed took place.

Lenin was explicitly against forced collectivization which did not take place in War Communism, or at least not on the scale of Stalin's disasters. War communism was characterized primarily by grain requisition as a result of the need to fend off the international capitalist backlash and to secure food for the cities. Upon ending the war, the policies of War Communism were reversed and support for individual peasant agriculture was returned because it was understood that waging a war on the peasantry, who were key social allies in the Bolshevik formula "Democratic Dictatorship of the Proletariat and Peasantry", would lead back to civil war, back to starvation, and away from socialism. Hence the debates about internationalism, gradual 'socialist accumulation' and so on, as potential bases for the economic development of Russian agriculture

el psy congroo
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Jun 2 2017 19:49

Dude, Pennoid, promise you won't take this personally but I have no idea what Stalinist textbooks on Soviet history you've dredged these perspectives on those years in history up from. It's what it sounds like to me. The argument forming in this discussion is due to this widely separate interpretation of the history books, which as it happens are not always written by the winners.

You state that Lenin was 'explicitly against' forced communization, but what does that sound bite mean? It doesn't hold up up to what I've read of this period. Lenin and Trotsky and their minions and secret police were banishing, exiling or shooting anyone who opposed them starting in, what, 1918? Isn't this also the marxism you are upholding? Abe Lincoln was explicitly against slavery. And? Says nothing of the plight of the slaves, or the bloody war fought over those slaves which like workers are just capital and commodities that belong to the bourgeoisie.

el psy congroo
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Jun 2 2017 19:52

Also I would be infuriated if anyone published drafts I threw away and some leftists on the Internet used it to support arguments 150 yrs in the future

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jura
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Jun 2 2017 21:26
el psy congroo wrote:
You state that Lenin was 'explicitly against' forced communization, but what does that sound bite mean? It doesn't hold up up to what I've read of this period. Lenin and Trotsky and their minions and secret police were banishing, exiling or shooting anyone who opposed them starting in, what, 1918?

Unfortunately for your argument, this has sod all to do with the question of collectivization of agriculture.

el psy congroo
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Jun 3 2017 00:08

I disagree. As probsbly would Voline, Makhno, Camatte, Perlman...I mean the list goes on and on.

ajjohnstone
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Jun 3 2017 02:14
Quote:
Also I would be infuriated if anyone published drafts I threw away and some leftists on the Internet used it to support arguments 150 yrs in the future

Would that also apply to private correspondence not intended for publication, eg the Critique of the Gotha Programme?

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Zanthorus
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Jun 3 2017 07:16
el psy congroo wrote:
Also I would be infuriated if anyone published drafts I threw away and some leftists on the Internet used it to support arguments 150 yrs in the future

Marx is basically Jesus, so everything he said is like scripture to us blind, dogmatic Marxists. Stop trying to belittle my faith.

mn8
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Jun 3 2017 11:07

I guess most Marxist groups demand things which the Soviet Union went beyond..

Marx and Engels might have been slightly more radical. You're right that Soviet Union wasn't out of nowhere, as many anarchists also said...

Haust
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Jul 3 2017 13:09

marx and engels wrote in the foreword to the 1872 reissue of the manifesto that the "ten planks" were outdated due to the development of capitalism and the practical experiences of the paris commune.

Quote:
The practical application of the principles will depend, as the Manifesto itself states, everywhere and at all times, on the historical conditions for the time being existing, and, for that reason, no special stress is laid on the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II. That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today. In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated. One thing especially was proved by the Commune, viz., that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made state machinery, and wield it for its own purposes.”