Radical Chains #3

Partial contents of issue 3 of Radical Chains.

The hidden political economy of the left - Radical Chains

It is from Lenin's Imperialism and State and Revolution that the modern left derives much of its understanding. While stressing the strengths of these works, the authors indicate how acceptance of the various weaknesses obstructs the left in its attempt to comprehend the various forms of administrative practice that have been established in the name of the working class. Unable to understand the real basis of working class opposition to such forms, the left slides into various kinds of contempt for the working class. From Radical Chains no.3.

radical chains

The present disorder and change in world affairs - perhaps too easily labeled crisis - is in its nature marked by disorientation of the left. The left finds itself caught up in structures which it posited as transitional but which are now being revealed, through their disintegration, as the political conditions for, and dependent variables of, the continued existence of bourgeois society in its epoch of decay. Events in the Eastern Bloc and the impact of 'thatcherism', the end of a consensus social welfarism, have provoked a process of re-thinking for much of the left.

Our concern in this section is to examine from where much of this re-thinking begins and to suggest how this may limit the range of its conclusions. The danger, we feel, is that fundamental issues are ignored when the theoretical apparatus conducting the investigation is the same as that which led to the need for re-thinking. Half-hearted efforts only encourage the dissatisfied to compromise with various market orientated projects. This leaves a rump of dedicated revolutionaries unable to fully inhabit real events, reasserting canonical texts, and surviving through a vampiric dependence on the opportunists, renegades, and reformists that it so despises. In short the real fear is that re-thinking by the communist and marxist left will reinforce its present tendencies. Real events have by contrast made a practical demand for a thorough and merciless re- discovery of the fundamentals of working class struggle and movement within a world that has changed significantly since Marx and Lenin.

While many rightly object to the kind of questioning central to revisionism few seem to recognise that it is the stagnation of communist culture, its infertile splintering, and its defensive reiteration of the arguments of the past that encourages the rejection of Marxism. And we only speak of the best. For the worst the defensive posture becomes a hideously depersonalising organisational practice. The absence of a theoretical expression of real historical experience does not mean, however, that causes are not looked for. The problem is from where those explanations are sought. In one form or another the working class is blamed. Attention is diverted from the left. Miraculously it escapes the attention of its own historical materialist analysis. It is time to be critical of those, ourselves included, who have stuck by marxism or communism.

More positively, we hope to contribute to a deeper level of re-thinking. We are confident that the process can and will re-discover a communist perspective that much of the left had lost long before events in the Eastern Bloc. These events have revealed an already existing rottenness in the left. Even now it has not come to terms with the fact that it had needed to rethink well before it was caught out by changes in the USSR and elsewhere.

The left's various forms of complicity with types of administrative practice had already discredited it whilst allowing the success of dubious individuals and social groupings within this left who properly should have had no part in the movement. The continuing discredit of communism has unfortunately appeared to confirm the left in its view of the problem of working class consciousness. Once again the left's own theory manages to protect it from its own responsibilities by enabling it to attach blame elsewhere. Yet it is the left, social democratic and revolutionary, that has persistently championed regimes repugnant not only to commonsense but eventually even to the left itself. At this point it smugly congratulates itself - demands congratulation - for a discovery everyone else made long ago. We have witnessed a real gluttony for the 'gods that failed'. It is surely impossible to believe that the left has somehow avoided reproducing within itself aspects of the prevention of communism. Indeed the relative stability of this process would necessarily require involvement of much of the left. This makes all the more important the retrieval of the theoretical perspective of communism, as the real movement. Otherwise rethinking will amount only to a genetic replication of administrative solutions.

The crisis of the left has been particularly acute within those individuals and tendencies associated in one way or another with the bolshevik tradition. Some have come to reject bolshevism as being responsible for or even identical to stalinism; others have reasserted, with the grim determination of the damned, the abstract non-identity of the two. What is required, however, is serious analysis of the theoretical and historical bases of the tradition. We are less interested in those who have abandoned bolshevism for the market than with those who, critical of both the market and its apparent alternatives, have attempted to maintain the old critical perspectives. The former group, who once sang hymns of praise to Castro, Mao and Guevara, now appear as the ideological heralds of the new age of free enterprise. Our real interest is in those who have remained critical of the existing order. Their personal integrity and sincerity is not in question. The real question is whether the theoretical resources of bolshevism are adequate to the critique that is necessary. The fear is that theoretical ambiguities and confusions might lead to a dissipation of energy, to an abstract revolutionism of little relevance from the standpoint of the working class.

What is required, then, is a critique of this abstract revolutionism. The question is not whether stalinism is a consequence of bolshevism, but whether bolshevik theory forms a sufficiently strong basis for the critique of the prevention of communism. Our concern is that lack of theoretical clarity might obstruct practical opposition to the prevention of communism, leading to reluctant or unwitting support for what is despised ...

For the bolshevik tradition as a whole, there has been a tendency to follow Lenin in explaining opportunism by reference to the imperialist nature of the present epoch. In this article, W.Dixon and D.Gorman develop the basis of a critique of the underlying political economy, the hidden political economy of the left. It is from Lenin's Imperialism and State and Revolution, the authors argue, that the modern left derives much of its understanding of consciousness, transition and planning. While stressing the strengths of these works, Dixon and Gorman also draw attention to their limitations and ambiguities. In particular, they indicate how acceptance of the various weaknesses obstructs the left in its attempt to comprehend the various forms of administrative practice that have been established in different parts of the world in the name of the working class. Unable to understand the real basis of working class opposition to such forms, the left, the authors argue, seeks explanations in terms of a subjectivity abstracted from political economy and slides into various kinds of contempt for the working class ...

The left cannot, of course, be reduced to an intellectual history. Arguments and positions can be comprehended only within an analysis of the real process of the prevention of communism. (This analysis has been initiated within previous issues of this journal. See esp. Binns and Dixon in RC1). The prevention of communism issued form the real need on the part of bourgeois society purposely to intervene into the process of class formation. This itself was rarely more than half understood by its protagonists; requiring conspiratorial elements, it was never a conspiracy in the real sense. It was, rather, the practical outcome of recognition that the old class arrangements could no longer maintain the social order. The left, including the communist left, could not avoid being shaped by the circumstances of the prevention of communist. It is therefore important that we examine the intellectual apparatus by which the left was able, or failed, to confront the phenomena of the prevention of communism.

One thing that emerges clearly is that in so far as it failed to base itself on a concrete analysis of the fate of the law of value, the left was unable to properly comprehend the phenomena that confronted it. In this, the revolutionary left that had split form social democracy in the period from 1915 onwards displays greater continuity with those it castigated as "reneged" than is often acknowledged. Yet it is not even a matter of social democracy having had the "wrong" theory, for social democracy itself was formed in large part by the process of the prevention of communism and was thus deformed. In the present period, as the existing forms of the prevention of communism crumble, we are faced with making a decisive break with Second International orthodoxy in all its aspects. Our analysis of Lenin and of bolshevism is offered as a contribution to that project.

The hidden political economy of the left derives largely from the work of Lenin. To reveal this political economy, and to highlight its repercussions for the understanding of transition, the critique of opportunism and the ability of the left to differentiate itself from administrative structures, we have selected two of Lenin's principal works: Imperialism and The State and Revolution. We aim to demonstrate that the assumption of an essentially inert working class is carried through Lenin's understanding of transition and his conception of planning or communism. Once we have completed these tasks we illustrate, briefly, how the continuation of an unchallenged political economy has formed not just those who stand by Lenin but those who have apparently broken with him. In conclusion we allow ourselves to suggest how we understand what underlies the present period in world economy, in terms of the real historical tendency which we believe to be missing from Lenin's work. In addition we indicate that the limitations in Lenin's approach are the product of an earlier period in the formation of the working class.

The conclusion is where we would have liked to have begun but such are the problems of social consciousness that they are inextricable from the fate of the revolutionary left. There cannot be any immediate access to a pure objective reality. Necessarily, ideological forms are a part of that social reality. In the present epoch these have been dominated by the fate of marxism. The existence of marxist ideology is, moreover, an expression of the objective development of subjectivity within global political economy. To develop a critique of social reality we must also work through a critique of the existing forms of marxism. The revolution, from which these forms derive, was produced by the history in which it sought to intervene: it is not enough to say that it was betrayed, that it failed or that it was impractical. We have still to grasp what it is that is coming into being.

Lenin's Imperialism, despite having been written in 1916, is today a highly influential work shaping the political economic vision of much of the left. It forms the basis of the Transitional Programme, for example, but even those who are not specifically 'Leninist' are nevertheless influenced. One reason is that Lenin's Imperialism has not been followed by an alternative that has matched its explanatory power. Abstract rejection of certain aspects of his work actually assists the dissemination of its deeper assumptions. They remain unobserved, all the more powerful for being part of a smuggled conventional understanding. In particular, there are in Lenin's work conceptions of transition, planning, the imminence of revolution and the role of the working class that have formed the basis for how much of the left has perceived its role, or judged what should be considered to be a 'socialist experiment' or progress. In the present period when so many sections of the left have been forced to reorientate we believe it necessary to question the deeper assumptions.

This is not a period in which the left can gain from complacently taking its assumptions for granted. This is further emphasised by the effect of the Gulf war that seemed to confirm Lenin's relevance, despite the absence of an adequate analysis of existing conditions. Quotes from Lenin and Trotsky and reference to 'what Britain did in 1921' appear sufficient to make the effort of further understanding unnecessary. This extends beyond issues of imperialism. For many on the left nothing much of significance has been added since Trotsky's death and indeed did not need to be. For positions on bureaucracy Trotsky is resorted to, despite his opposition to bureaucracy never having lead to a critique; for guidance on political practice we can turn to Lenin who died in 1924.

It is true the influence of much of their work does rest on its real qualities. This is especially true of Lenin's Imperialism. People can turn to it to provide answers to the kind of questions denied in the liberal press. Whether a 'popular outline' or not it takes up observable developments and experiences within a unified and strong explanation. It demonstrates that war arises from the capitalist system itself. It follows, therefore, that it is impossible to oppose war without also taking up the struggle against the capitalist system itself. So Lenin provides the political economic basis for the demand for a revolutionary overthrow of the system. Capitalism has become moribund. Further development can only aggravate the tendency to war. Lenin's main political target is Kautsky, who he represents as holding a reformist vision of imperialism that is unable effectively to oppose the war. It should not be surprising that many still turn to Lenin. This is especially true when re-thinking has so often ended closer to reformist political conclusions than to revolutionary ones.

We will present Lenin's argument in order to show its strengths, before we identify the limitations of his political economy. The argument is clear; out of competition arises the gradual concentration of capitals. This concentration advances until eventually it can be said that monopolisation has occurred. Very large, dominating capitals, have emerged, and so the system enters the period of monopoly capital. This process is accelerated by two interrelated factors: firstly, depression incites further merging of capitals and secondly, finance capital itself becomes concentrated and through its overseeing role, as controller of credit, accelerates monopolisation. Out of free competition emerges monopoly that pushes out free competition but not competition itself. Competition is between large monopoly capitals, with each striving to gain necessary control of markets and secure supply of raw materials. This gives colonisation in the late nineteenth century a different content from that of previous periods, one specifically imparted by monopolisation. It requires the full division of the world as the whole world becomes either a potential supply or market for competitors. Given the inherent unevenness of capital's development the arrival of new economic powers and change in the balance of old ones must lead to struggle over the redivision of the world. The drive of capitalist development is to war - expression of the continuing private appropriation as need for the division of the world.

From the war comes universal ruin. This is central to Lenin's case because ruin forces recognition of the need to overthrow the system. Hence we have a catastrophist view of what, in Lenin's words, is the 'eve of social revolution.' The necessity for overthrowing the system is not identical with social revolution and nor does Lenin leave it there. The same process and development that is the dynamic to war is also one out of which comes the imminent possibility of socialism. Concentration out of free competition leads to monopolisation. Accelerated by the organising hand of finance capital there is an increasing interlocking of capitals. Individual is replaced by interlocking capital. The capitalist is dragged, against his will, into a new social form as the productive forces are increasingly socialised. This movement stands opposite the continuing private appropriation that takes on increasingly parasitic forms, 'coupon clipping'. The contrast of social productive forces and private appropriation becomes ever greater. The ability to control, to judge markets and supplies, and hence plan, emerges within the forms of private property. These developments would provide the worker's movement of that time with an important basis to the claim of a scientific socialism founded on the observation of real movements.

The movement towards socialism is not, however, its realisation. The question remains as to how the productive forces shall break out of their integument. Action of the working class is required. This is obstructed. Again we turn to the process of monopolisation for explanation. It allows the super-profits from which the bribery of sections of the working class is made possible. The working class is corrupted. Opportunism prevails. It is, then, the movement to universal ruin that forces recognition of the necessary task, the overthrow of capital.

Lenin provides a remarkably efficient analysis of the conditions of his period. He gives a simplifying explanation of war that ties it directly into the system. Yet from the same process comes the possibility of superseding that system. We should not be surprised that, in the absence of any similarly coherent and unifying explanation, Lenin's work still holds the power to convince for much of the left. How many others have been able to match his analysis? It could be said that other, better analyses, have been suppressed within and by the bolshevik tradition. True or not, this isn't relevant to our case since Lenin's work has been the available text for the left and can claim its place in the broad tradition.

As Marx came to the end of his life he could observe the first crisis to start outside of Britain. It marked the emergence of the modern period, of world economy with many national components. Marx recognised the importance of the new phenomena but died before he could finish his work on them. Lenin was able, it might be argued, to update Marx's work and to combine an explanation of opportunism with the condition of world economy. This gave it continuing relevance as a framework for political activity. Lenin's conclusion can be summarized in his own words '...the fight against imperialism is a sham and humbug unless it is inseparably bound up with the fight against opportunism.' This marks a real theoretical achievement that recognises the intertwining of capitalist development with that of the labour movement and derives its political practice from it.

It is true that not all his follower's have taken Lenin as far as he might have wished. He has been used to support a number of political positions that we may guess he would not himself have supported. This does not however mean that, necessarily, he must have been misinterpreted. There are in Lenin's Imperialism lines of analysis which point to other conclusions than the ones drawn by Lenin. The point we want to draw attention to is that aspects of his work take on a new significance when they are asked to provide explanation of the present period. The pamphlet holds a contradictory message that becomes more important in light of the subsequent development. On one side we have the possibility, imminence, or eve, of social revolution, yet on the other there is an essentially passive, effectively defeated working class. Central to this is that Lenin holds a conception of a working class that not only is bribed but which, more importantly, can be bribed.

The problem for today is that in the continuing absence of revolution the burden of explanation shifts onto the fate of the working class. Yet this is the least developed aspect of Lenin's pamphlet. The dynamic to war and the possibility of planning are both results of a movement derived entirely from a relation between capitals. The nature of the working class and its relation to capital is not established, but the implication is that significant development only arises from capital. It is not clear how the bribery is achieved. As far as the pamphlet goes one may assume that it is through higher wages. At its most extreme this interpretation was developed to present the working class as effectively exploiting the third world, benefiting from surplus value generated there. Since Lenin referred to a stratum of workers as workers-cum- bourgeois this interpretation was not so outlandish. What it did, though, was reveal a serious weakness in Lenin's work, the absence of any discussion of the law of value, and the movements of surplus value. It is this absence of any theoretical discussion of the law of value that is replicated unchallenged in the tradition that followed Lenin. What happens to the operation of the law of value if there is growing socialisation? How would this affect the condition of struggle of the working class? And perhaps most important, what relation to planning, to needs, does a working class have when it can be bought off? Does it have an impact on the operation of the law of value? Does it remain mediated by The value form? Hence what is the poverty composition of the class? Discussion of imperialism as a category has tended to take the form of competing interpretations of Lenin's text; real discussion of the category must recognise crucial omissions from that text and then grasp the consequence of these for a left tending more to need explanations for the lack of revolution in 'moribund capitalism'.

The real weakness of Lenin's work is the failure to develop any conception of the working class that can match his analysis of the relation between capitals. This acquires a special significance once explanation is sought for conditions since world war two; whether on the nature of the transition, planning, or the composition of the working class. The absence of any analysis of the social relation tends, by default, to allow the working class to appear as essentially passive, needing overhead objective conditions to mature or to be exposed before taking decisive action. The chronic expectation that distinct objective conditions will be exposed accompanies the militant and inadvertently exposes his undeveloped view of the nature of working class consciousness. As is argued elsewhere (see Gorman, Radical Chains 2) too much of left thinking is characterised by treating consciousness as separate from political economy and so as an ahistorical, asocial problem. It is then treated as a merely political phenomenon.

Lenin himself recognised the limitations of his purely 'economic analysis'. He later introduced the work by explaining that censorship in tsarist Russia had forced him to speak in a 'slavish tongue' on the socio-political roots of imperialism. There are two sections where he does deal with imperialism in the context of the class relation. Referring to imperialism's socio-political roots he goes on to quote Rhodes: 'My cherished idea is a solution for the social problem ... if you want to avoid civil war, you must become imperialists.' A few pages later Lenin again refers to the need to supplement economic with social causes of the 'modern colonial policy'. He then quotes Wahl: '...the energy which is being hurled out of the definite class channel must be given employment abroad in order to avert an explosion at home.' Apart from these references, the possible relation of a dynamic within the working class to the development of imperialism, is not taken up. Yet these quotes suggest the trajectory of the working class as posing a threat to the social order and that the need to counter this threat was itself a root of imperialism. This is not made clear, nor even developed, by Lenin. We do not have an adequate political economy of opportunism when all we are offered is an unspecified re-distribution of surplus value as response to an unclarified threat to the social order. We could argue that Lenin did not need one, when war and breakdown were imminent, but this should not lead us back to Lenin for the clarification we need today. The limitations of the text are historically different as we move from a period of imminent revolution into one when it has clearly receded.

As far as Lenin goes we are offered on one side a passive, essentially defeated working class, and on the other a movement of objective conditions, the relation between capitals, that will produce the revolutionary situation. On one side, a bourgeoisified proletariat; on the other the eve of social revolution. The co-existence of these two poles determine the limitations of the bolshevik tradition's search for understanding. No room is left for any real historical development. There is, instead, an endless procession of immediate situations. An essentially frozen political economy can only allow a range of judgements within a narrow political focus. We are bequeathed here the permanent possibility and impossibility of revolution. One moment encouraged by the former, the next we are braced for the latter. Either way, we lose in the thrall of political necessities the real perspective of communism. The left continues in radical opposition but has lost any distinctive vision of social supersession.

Even with Lenin's own disclaimer concerning his 'purely economic analysis', the left has failed to take a critical distance. Lenin's limits have been absorbed as the left's hidden assumptions. A contributing factor in this is the consistency between the view of the class implied by Lenin's economic analysis with that presented in his What is to be Done?. In that work the ahistorical view is put forward that the spontaneous struggles of the working class do not advance beyond trade union consciousness. This might provide a missing theoretical basis for understanding the bribery of the working class. It is also congruent with the enlightenment project developed later in The State and Revolution, in which the material conditions of existence of the working class have first to be transformed in order to permit the emergence of a genuine communist consciousness. Lenin's Imperialism fits neatly into a package of his work that accounts for the absence of the revolution in today's conditions. From it there is derived the particular role of the vanguard party. A genuine appraisal of the current epoch's political economy has been considered unnecessary. Instead there is the tendency to look to the 'crisis of leadership'. From there the path is short, down to a graveyard of cultural explanations dealing with consciousness without political economy. We have too often to endure a sort of contempt for the working class. Signs of improved living standards are taken as confirmation of its corruptness. The slide is accompanied by the meticulous fine tuning of sectarians, errors are discovered, evicted, and so on, and the essential quote marches to the rescue as the effort is made to protect the pure message from the surrounding corruption. The effort may be valiant but appears to have exhausted the capacity for original thought, not whimsy but the attempt to apply Marx's method to the difficult conditions since 1917. Lenin's focus on the relation between capitals and neglect of the social relation has implications for later views of transition and of planning. To explore these we will return to the central dynamic identified by Lenin. As already stated, the process of concentration, monopolisation and interlocking of capitals is also, for Lenin, the socialisation of the productive forces. Finance capital plays a vital role as organiser of the interlocking. The system tends towards centralisation. On this basis visible control becomes possible. Estimations of the size of markets and raw materials becomes possible and so, in principle, rational control of the productive forces.

What Lenin sees as the rational element in finance capital is bounded by the continuation of private appropriation and hence, competitive forces. Yet the tendency within the productive forces to rational planning is clear. In Lenin's account this is further emphasised by his conception of finance capital as the merging of finance and industrial capital. Lenin, it is true, also recognises the separatism and parasitism of finance capital, but this recognition, contradictory to the central drive of his argument, remains undeveloped in his work. This merging process is consistent with socialisation since it is so to speak the merging of mind and body. Still within the limit of private appropriation, however, it is therefore never fully realisable without shedding the old social form.

One problem with Lenin's interpretation has already been identified by Ticktin (Critique 16-17). Lenin's account, he argues, bases itself on Hilferding's work and so on Germany as the model of finance capital. In this case it was quite proper to perceive finance capital as the merging of finance and industrial capital. However as Ticktin points out this isn't simply wrong; it is rather the right conclusions drawn from the wrong example. Ticktin argues that for the essential development we should look to Britain as the earlier developer of capital. In those conditions we observe, not the merging of finance and industrial capital but their separation. It is this separation that Ticktin stresses in his account.

The first point that can be brought out from these different theoretical conceptions of finance capital is that Lenin's account tends to emphasise the role of finance capital as the organiser of the productive forces, the rational kernel leading to socialism. In Ticktin's work it is rather the role of finance capital as the overseer of the capital relation that is emphasised. The separation of finance capital is both a flight from the working class and an outflanking operation. Ticktin's theory evolves from a conception of the law of value and its fate. Finance capital is a further form of the universal equivalent, abstract capital. In particular phases of its circulation it is apparently free from the mundane task of surplus extraction, able to remove itself from any one site. Yet, as a whole, it still has to pass through the form of concrete labour if it is to accumulate further value. Capital can secure its control through flight but ultimately cannot escape the working class as a whole.

In contrast, Lenin's account allows an interpretation of the process of socialisation that is one-sided. The tendency and movement to communism is not located in the working class. Conceptually the dynamic appears to proceed over and above the working class. Its struggle is not linked to the possibility of planning. The struggle is not specified despite the threat to the social order it represented. In Lenin there is no reference to or even sense of the concrete struggles of the working class which were, in his own time, tending towards communism. He seems unaware of the evolving forms of working class struggle, the factory committees, shop stewards committees, and rent strikes, through which the workers were carrying out before his eyes their organisation as a class. As he does not specify the composition of the class, he is unable to comprehend in its struggles the movement towards communism and the material basis for planning.

We are instead trapped by this framework in a single political moment: the perpetual emergency of the immediate situation. What is absent is the specification of the relation of struggle to needs, its antagonism to a fundamental of bourgeois political economy -absolute poverty - and so the emergence of the potential for planning, positing abundance as its condition. The content of struggle that must change with the development of productivity is not considered. The corresponding, evolving, forms of prevention cannot be specified. We are left within the two dimensional world of the political focus sifting through a jumble of victories and defeats.

Along with the depiction of an essentially inert working class is an equally inert relation to planning. Its basis is seen formally in the objective socialisation of the productive forces. Within this focus it is scarcely surprising that the merging of finance with industrial capital tends to be emphasised over Lenin's own undeveloped views on its separation and parasitism. The theoretical emphasis is anyway, as we have tried to show here, already in Lenin's own work and is consistent with lack of development of concepts from the evolving struggle of the class.

The lack of any real comprehension of the working class in transition is all the more important when it appears to be carried over into a conception of planning. Lenin represents planning as emanating in the 'big enterprise', as the combination of production leads to an end to the anarchy of production. He quotes approvingly a German imperialist quoting Saint-Simon: 'A central committee of management, being able to survey the large field of social economy from a more elevated point of view, will regulate it for the benefit of the whole of society, will put the means of production into suitable hands, and will take care that there be constant harmony between production and consumption.' Lenin's theoretical ical work in this pamphlet offers no basis for an alternative to this rationalist conception of planning. The general will still appears to need a 'central committee' that will 'regulate' 'social economy' '...for the benefit of the whole society'. How needs are registered in this scheme of things is not at all clear. To explore these themes further we must now turn to The State and Revolution.


When Lenin's The State and Revolution first began to appear in Western Europe from 1919 onwards, it attracted the enthusiastic support of much of the revolutionary left, including many individuals and tendencies who were shortly to be denounced in 'Left-Wing' Communism - An Infantile Disorder (1920). In France the centrist socialist parties - the 'orthodox marxists' - denounced it as 'a mixture of anarchism and blanquism' while the revolutionary syndicalists and anarchists welcomed it (Alfred Rosmer, Lenin's Moscow, 1953; Bookmarks, 1987, p 54). hi Britain the anti-parliamentarist communist, Guy Aldred reviewed it, claiming that Lenin, 'in showing the revolutionary oneness of all that is essential in Marx with all that counts in Bakunin, has accomplished a wonderful work' (Worker, 13/12/19). Writing in The Spur in 1920 he was to add: 'no man can really and truly be an Anarchist without also becoming a Bolshevist... no man can be really and truly a Bolshevist without also standing on the Anarchist platform'. The State and Revolution was translated into Dutch by Herman Gorter while Karl Korsch,in 1922, described The State and Revolution as 'that classical work on the theory and practice of the Marxist conception of the state' (Marxism and Philosophy, NLB).

This enthusiasm is not surprising. In The State and Revolution Lenin identifies the state as an organ of class rule and insists that it must be smashed by violent revolution if the liberation of the oppressed classes is to be possible. In this process, Lenin argues, the proletariat must establish a new proletarian state with which to crush the resistance of the bourgeoisie. This state will itself begin to 'wither away' from the moment of its foundation. Lenin's commitment to proletarian democracy and self-organization is confirmed moreover by his endorsement of Engels' description of the Paris Commune as 'the dictatorship of the proletariat.' Lenin, indeed, demands control by a 'state of armed workers' and speaks of the probable suppression of the bourgeoisie by the self-organisation of the armed people without the need for an extensive state machine. For revolutionaries who had witnessed - and fought against- the evolution of the Second International, the contrast with Bernstein and Kautsky would have been both obvious and inspiring. The State and Revolution would have appealed to all the democratic and anti-bureaucratic sentiments of the European left. It should not be forgotten that in this work Lenin sided retrospectively with Pannekoek in his fight against Kautsky.

The State and Revolution still exercises an influence today. Marcel Liebman, for example, speaks of Lenin's 'democratic inspiration' when referring to this text (Leninism under Lenin, Merlin, 1971). Others have discerned in it, moreover, a profound contrast with the conception of a passive working class found in earlier works such as What is to be done? The State and Revolution appears then as a profoundly democratic polemic against bureaucracy and the alienation of power. Yet there are many ambiguities in Lenin's vision which require explanation. Questions must be raised about Lenin's conceptions of transition and planning and of the relation between the state and the working class. We shall argue that contrary to initial impressions The State and Revolution contains conceptions that echo the assumptions Lenin is supposed to have discarded when he distanced himself from What is to be done? Our point is not that Lenin's thought displays a striking unity throughout his work, but that, for lack of developing a real critique of political economy, his re-thinking tended to reproduce large elements of previous positions by default. We will show that the conception of planning, consistent with What is to be done?, that is implicit in Imperialism appears in The State and Revolution in more developed form.

The 'highest' stage of capitalism, Lenin argues, is in close proximity to the 'lowest' stage of communism. The existing postal service is, for instance, an example of a 'socialist economic system'. The postal service and the trusts in general are at present organised as state capitalist monopolies, but 'the mechanism of social management is here at hand'. The trusts constitute 'a splendidly equipped mechanism' that only needs to be 'freed from the hands of the "parasite"' - ie., finance capital. The construction - of communism is seen primarily as the generalisation to society as a whole of the rational organisation of production within the enterprise. Indeed: To organise the whole economy on the lines of the postal service so that technicians, engineers, foremen and accountants, as well as all officials, will receive a salary no higher than 'a workman's wage', all under the control and leadership of the advanced workers - this is our immediate aim. This is the state and this is the economic foundation we need'. The immediate task is therefore to transform 'the whole of society' into 'a single office and a single factory, with equality of pay'. The social factory is not 'our ideal, or our ultimate goal' but rather a 'necessary step', the basis for further progress.

State monopoly capitalism cannot, however, be identified with 'state socialism': The trusts, of course, never provided, do not now provide, and cannot provide complete planning. But however much they do plan, however much the capitalist magnates calculate in advance the volume of production on a national and even on an international scale, and however much they systematically regulate it, we still remain under capitalism - at a new stage, it is true, but still capitalism, without a doubt'. Despite the close proximity of state capitalism to state socialism, they remain separate worlds for the planning provided by the trusts cannot be complete. Yet to say this is only to say that the trusts can (and do) provide a limited or partial form of planning. Planning, in The State and Revolution as in Imperialism, becomes identified with a process of calculating in advance of production the volume of production and systematically regulating it on a national and international scale. A fully planned economy would be no more than an extension to the whole of society of what the trusts do already within the limits set by private appropriation.

Planning is presented as a technical problem and not a social relation. It appears merely as the rationalisation of tendencies inherent in the movement of capital from competition to concentration. Finance capital is not conceived of as having a role in the class struggle. It is the organiser of production and yet also a parasite and -as such fails to be fully or properly rational. The solution to this problem is stated in the April Theses (1917): The immediate amalgamation of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers Deputies'. The nationalisation of the banks is in Lenin's view 'absolutely indispensable in order to combat impending total economic disintegration and famine' (The Tasks of the Proletariat in our Revolution, 1917). The relation between planning and workers control remains unclear. Lenin wants, for example, to replace the bureaucracy with a state of armed workers 'in the control over production and distribution, in the work of keeping account of labour and products'. Workers control appears only as the supervision and implementation of technical decisions made outside the immediate process of production. It is reduced to 'supervising and recording' and 'issuing receipts'.

Antonio Carlo has suggested that in The State and Revolution the party is given 'no privileged political position' (Telos, 17, Fall 1973). It is true, the party is hardly mentioned in that text, but the omission is itself significant. Transition might be seen as the generalisation to society as a whole of the rationality of the individual capitalist enterprise. But this process must come up against a barrier in the form of bourgeois social relations. Finance capital, by its very nature, hastens the process of centralisation but thereby also prevents its realisation because it remains a form of private appropriation and so a divided and competitive form. Socialism might, moreover, be inherent in the process of socialisation but they are not identical. The transition from the one to the other will necessarily provoke the resistance of the bourgeoisie; it will come into conflict with the guardian of bourgeois society: the state. This must be smashed. But how?

As already pointed out, Lenin's Imperialism locates the dynamic of transition in relations between capitals but fails to develop any conception of the working class in transition. The concrete struggles of the working class, as we have already noted are not even mentioned. This understanding is carried over into The State and Revolution. The objective movement towards communism lacks any subjective awareness of itself. The rationality inherent in the capitalist production process remains to be grasped in consciousness but Lenin offers no explanation of how it is to be grasped. This omission opens up space for an enlightenment project of adjusting consciousness to the rationality inherent in objective reality. As there is no subjective movement towards communism on the part of the working class, communist values must be inculcated into it. This requires the intervention of a force external to the working class. In What is to be Done?, it was the party that served to bring consciousness to a passive working class; the conception of a passive working class lies also at the heart of both Imperialism and The State and Revolution. A working class such as the one Lenin envisages requires externally imposed discipline.

The subordination of labour to capital rests not only on the separation of labour from the means of life but also on the separation of individual workers from each other. The law of value presupposes atomisation. To obtain a subsistence, labour power must exchange with capital and the relation to capital is mediated individually by the wage. Workers create the means of life but are separated from them by money. From this alienation however, arises the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs through which workers combine against capital. In doing so they undermine the real need for exchange mediation and abolish their subordination to capital. In this process, individual labour comes to recognise itself as social, the fetish appearance of the law of value is dissolved and collectivity is formed around the direct satisfaction of needs.

Communism presupposes a working class which is capable of taking social production into its own hands. Lenin, by contrast, wants 'the socialist revolution with people as they are now, with people who cannot dispense with subordination, control and foremen and accountants"! This necessarily follows from a conception of transition in which the working class merely suffers - a conception which repeats the assumption of passivity found in What is to be Done? A working class which has passively accepted an opportunist leadership needs to be administered. From this follows Lenin's scepticism about the immediate abolition of bureaucracy: 'Abolishing bureaucracy at once, everywhere, and completely, is out of the question'. The old bureaucracy will be smashed and a new one, geared to serving proletarian needs, will be erected in its place. Like the state of armed workers, the proletarian bureaucracy will begin to wither away from the start. Lenin does not "'dream" of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination'. This was written in 1917, before the 'bureaucratic turn' of 1919.

Yet to build socialism with people who cannot dispense with subordination creates problems. Lenin, as has been shown, believes that communism presupposes 'not the present productivity of labour' but a vast expansion of the productive forces. In addition, communism, in Lenin's view, presupposes 'not the present ordinary run of people, who, like the seminary students in Pomyalovsky's Stories, are capable of damaging the stocks of public wealth 'just for fun' and of demanding the impossible' There is no conception here that the working class might revolutionise itself. Indeed, it is impossible to avoid noting the strong parallels between Lenin's vision of the ordinary run of people and that of the character in the saloon bar who warns of the dire consequences to follow the abolition of work, money, and the police. And we cannot avoid asking whether the state Lenin believes necessary to safeguard 'the common ownership of the means of production', will have to defend socialist property, not only from the bourgeoisie but also from the proletariat. The dictatorship of the proletariat separates itself from the proletariat as the dictatorship over the proletariat.

Even under communism, Lenin argues, inequality remains at first because 'we must not think that having overthrown capitalism people will at once learn to work for society without any rules of law'. There is of course no magical transition from capitalism to a pure communism. Lenin has touched a real problem. However, given his assumptions about the level of development of the working class, even on the eve of social revolution, we should be forewarned about his particular understanding of the problem and its resolution. In fact, what we have discerned so far in Lenin concerning the passivity of the working class is carried over into communism itself.

Even should we accept Lenin's understanding of the problem the question remains how the antagonism between individual and society be resolved. For Lenin, it is only in the higher phase of communism that the need 'for the subordination of one man to another, of one section of the population to another, will vanish altogether since people will become accustomed to observing the elementary rules of social life without violence and without subordination'. Indeed, Lenin speculates that it is possible that only future generations, brought up under the dictatorship of the proletariat will be able to observe these rules 'without force, without coercion, without subordination, without the special apparatus for coercion called the state'. For Lenin, even at the highest stage of communism the working class cannot generate its own needs or formulate its own desires. Instead even though it has overthrown capitalism, it becomes accustomed to observing externally imposed rules ... Lenin conceives of planning in terms of a well-oiled machine that matches production to consumption or supply to demand.

The 'elementary rules of social life', Lenin contends, 'have been known for centuries and repeated for thousands of years in all copybook maxims'. Only when people become accustomed to observing these eternal rules will they work for 'society' as a matter of course. What Lenin offers as a higher stage of communism is a harmony of self-policing and self-absorption. Here there is no self-emancipation but rather the adjustment of workers' consciousness to the rational laws of nature. Lenin's highest phase is a utopian realisation of the moralising of austerity and of love as self-sacrifice for others - maxims, disgraceful banalities rather, which are repeated today to encourage co-operation with the existing order. Here, 'society' is set up as an abstraction over against the individual. The individual is, as in bourgeois society, subordinated to collectivity. This necessarily follows from a project which seeks to induce people to work for society.

Much has been made of Lenin's study of Hegel's Science of Logic in the winter of 1914-15. This is supposed to have instilled in him a deeper understanding of dialectics. Imperialism and The State and Revolution are supposedly its products. In On the Question of Dialectics, written in 1915, Lenin notes: 'the individual exits only in the connection that leads to the universal. The universal exists only in the individual and through the individual'. Yet by 1917 Lenin had come to outline a project which involved subordinating the individual to the universal, violating the insight he had achieved in 1915.

But this subordination of the individual to the universal has its roots earlier, in the one-sided political economy of Imperialism (1916) in which transition results from the unfolding of objective laws independent of any human subjectivity. Imperialism is the product of Lenin's more profound appreciation of dialectics and yet it repeats the mechanical formulations of the earlier Karl Marx (1913) and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. (1909). Lenin, it would seem, taught himself dialectics but in the application of those dialectics proved to be so undialectical.

The State and Revolution embodies an enigma. A working class which overthrows bourgeois society cannot be expected voluntarily to submit to another regime of accumulation set up over and against it. Yet this is exactly what Lenin requires. The State and Revolution is the highest product of the French Enlightenment. In it Lenin outlines the conditions for the fullest realisation of the passivity attributed to the working class in Imperialism. The dictatorship of the proletariat represents the general interest of the working class as opposed to the particular interests of individual workers. From the self-interested workers who demand the impossible, the workers' state demands altruism, self- sacrifice. Until the 'higher' phase of communism is achieved, 'the strictest control by society and by the state over the measure of labour and the measure of consumption' will be necessary. This control 'must start with the expropriation of the capitalists, and with the establishment of workers' control over the capitalists, and must be exercised, not by a state of bureaucrats but by a state of armed workers'. If, however, there is to be subordination, how is this to be achieved if the workers are armed? Or is the state of armed workers actually separate from the rest of the working class? Finally, how clear can we be about the distinction between Lenin's lowest stage of communism and the prevention of communism? A notion of transition which puts the emphasis on the relation between capitals must be susceptible to a conception of progress blind to bourgeois society's determination to 'dress in red' when the situation requires it (See Shepherd, Radical Chains 2). This blindness is all the more serious when one social relation, that of administration is not distinguished from the qualitatively different social relation of planning.

Lenin's legacy has sustained much of the left over the last seventy years; it has enabled a combatitive attitude to opportunism. Unfortunately this legacy has also had other consequences. Its lack of an historically developed political economy has meant that it has had to seek explanation for the absence of revolution at the merely political or subjective levels. The left has splintered into a mosaic of revolutionary errors, deviations and betrayals. Different groups may then claim the title of Party but in reality the party of the working class has taken the form of these exclusive groupings. This fragmentation is an expression of the separation of the party from the class, itself a condition of the prevention of communism.

The range of subjective errors and betrayals are not a matter of bad faith but have an objective quality. They might, more humanely, be understood as inevitable consequences of intervention by bourgeois society in the formation of the class. This required modification of the class relation if struggle was to be diverted from its potential. Administrative categories grew from confrontation to the 'free market' of an antagonistic social power. Defence of the 'market' required the extension of bureaucratic structures. Needs were formally accepted, while preserving their atomisation in administrative practices, so as to pre-empt and divert their socialisation.

Success in the project to reform the formation of the class necessarily left the party of the working class fragmented. Essentially the struggle of the party has been a chronic oscillation between opportunism and sectarian purity. What has been referred to as the 'crisis of leadership' goes far deeper than 'leadership'. The political economy of capital has decayed into forms of the prevention of communism. To understand this phenomenon we need analysis at the level of the law of value to understand alterations in the terrain of struggle and in the spontaneous struggles of the working class. Capitalism may indeed remain an exploitative, crisis ridden system, but this should not be taken as meaning that objective conditions have remained unchanged.

To make such a claim is to naturalise bourgeois society and from that follows the tendency to seek political or subjective explanations, the pathway to sectarianism. While bourgeois society itself is recognised to be an historical phenomenon, the laws of capital are taken to be given and unalterable for the duration of the existence of capitalism as a social system. Since it is assumed that the class struggle does not impinge on these laws until the final act, they can only be understood to operate in exactly the same way until overthrown. To say that the class struggle impinges on the laws of capital does not imply the possibility of a gradual overturning of the existing property relations. The operation of the laws are altered but this is not a smooth, linear process leading to communism. Rather, new elements are introduced which contradict the system while preserving it. They do not form the basis for communism but are aspects of its prevention.

If, as the leninist tradition does, we begin with a static political economy of the class relation we are banished from any historical conception of class spontaneity. It is relegated to being, like the laws of capital, a 'natural' phenomenon, a given in the construction of explanation. In a previous article (Gorman, Radical Chains 2) it was shown how the typical understanding of commodity fetishism rests on an assumption of working class passivity at the level of the system. It entails reading Capital Vol.I., as if Marx's section on commodity fetishism were the explanation for events since the turn of the century. It is in this sense that the laws of capital become naturalised. Marx's Capital gets reduced to the level of excellent textbook for the paradigm.

The problem is not so much naturalisation but the fact that this process has gone on unobserved. Nobody has even had to defend it. Necessarily, theoretical corruption must follow. Theory becomes a mere reassertion of taken for granted categories, deployed without re-engagement with the existing social reality. This is not a matter of 'error' for the tendency of the epoch remains in place i.e., rejection of marxism, as inappropriate to current conditions, leading to opportunism, revisionism, rather than invigoration. This has its equal and opposite reaction, the reassertion of a sectarian purity, and hence the reinforcing of the tendency to naturalise the laws of capital. This tendency was inevitably strengthened by the disastrous effects of stalinism.

The current situation, especially the disintegration of stalinism and the success of what has been labelled 'thatcherism' has led to a period of disorientation and re-orientation on the left. It is common enough to find the need for re-thinking stated in previously more certain quarters. The destination of this re-thinking has been different for different sections of the left. For many, of course, perestroika has upset their previous confidence in the command system's ability to plan and this in turn has'pushed them, for reasons we will explain below, towards types of market socialism. For others, perestroika has helped undermine confidence in a critical orientation towards the claims of the command system and has induced, perhaps, a sense of nostalgia for what was rejected.

The first example we want to discuss is that of Robin Blackburn, who, in a lengthy article in New Left Review attempts to analyse the implications for socialists of the demise of stalinism. Blackburn was not alone in that journal in reaching the conclusions that he did. The limitation of this re-thinking is not where it ends up but in where it begins.

Arguing that'the anti-capitalist Left will have no credibility unless it can account for the dire experience of Communism since 1917' (NLR, 185), Blackburn, previously an uncritical admirer of Castro, now tries to distance himself from bolshevism as a whole. Neither Lenin nor Trotsky, he argues, 'can escape the charge of having themselves in some degree prepared the ground for Stalin by their often ruthless practice of party dictatorship'. He argues that 'central planning' cannot organize production efficiently or rationally and is inimical to the principle of consumer choice. He invokes the authority of Kautsky, Hayek, and von Mises and departs for the market. Market mechanisms, Blackburn argues, are necessary to balance production and consumption. Although this mechanism must be regulated by a form of 'planning' and 'socialization it must be one ' that builds upon and gives new direction to, the forms of economic co-ordination achieved by for example, the multinationals, the banks, the credit card agencies, and bodies like the EC.' (NLR, 185, Jan/Feb 1991). This conception is not only reminiscent of Lenin's texts we have dwelt on here but appears almost to fall out of the April Theses.

Blackburn appears thoroughly saturated with the tradition he seems to be re-thinking. It is at the fundamental level that nothing has changed. The hidden political economy, actually inimical to any communist potential, carries on its work. He cannot challenge the assumption found in Imperialism and The State and Revolution that planning must be done by people and institutions set apart from the direct producers. He rejects centralised command from above but he does so from a standpoint that assumes it really was planning. Its failure is seen from the perspective of the organisers of labour who need information about consumer demand. It is not located as a social relation but a technical problem of the centre and so he manages to conflate the problems of a hierarchical elite with problems that will confront the working class. In fact the elite, needing to secure its position, has set out to achieve the disconnection within the class that has guaranteed precisely the problems of co-ordination and information identified by Blackburn. In this case the real problem is that the elite's survival is directly antagonistic to the potential of planning.

Blackburn is prepared to endorse the manipulation of the 'consumer' through the intervention of the state into the market mechanism to promote preferred consumption patterns. This would be achieved through price fixing that would maintain the illusion of free choice. The working class, for Blackburn as for Lenin, has no historical existence and appears incapable of communicating its real needs. In Blackburn's account socialism appears more as a systematic denial of needs. He has ditched one type of the prevention of communism in favour of another but the shared assumptions of each obscure the fact that it is the actions of the working class that have forced him into this change.

A more serious, if less academic, attempt to confront the real crisis of the left has been made recently in Living Marxism (December 1990) by Frank Richards. Admitting that Traditional left-wing ideas and attitudes make little sense today', he accepts the 'need to set about developing a coherent critique of capitalism in its most contemporary forms'.

Richards argues that for the first time this century there is no real sense of a working class movement with a political identity anywhere in the world. Marxism and the collective solution have been discredited. Richards rejects explanation in terms of the objective reality of capitalism. The key difference between today and the past has little to do with the objective reality of capitalism; that is still a crisis ridden exploitative system. The difference has a lot to do with subjective political factors; primarily, the defeat of the working class'. Recent events have seen the destruction of organisations that gave the working class coherence and identity.

Richards' conclusions are somewhat curious when one admits his political history. He has opposed both stalinism and social democracy, yet, faced by their breakdown, he sees a breakdown of working class identity and coherence that he equates with the defeat of the working class. What kind of critique of stalinism assumes that it gave the working class coherence and identity? The problem is that he attempts understanding at the political level. It is because he starts from an assumption that outside this level the working class is unchanged that Richards has-to put so much stress on the political representation. It is only here that he can really seek out his explanation. He does not apprehend such forms as arising from modification of the operation of the law of value. He doesn't have a critique of stalinism, so much as a moral revulsion. Although, certainly, it is political, stalinism can not be reduced to politics if we want to understand it. In the Soviet Union as elsewhere stalinism has existed as the disorganisation of working class coherence. It has been the organisational disenfranchisement of the working class.

According to an analysis that has been attempted by some within Radical Chains, we should see present events as part of the crisis of forms of the prevention of communism, of which stalinism has been the typical form in the latter half of the twentieth century. The crisis of such forms should not be regarded as defeat of the working class but as the failure of forms of labour control. The events we are witnessing take place in social economy itself. Lack of distinct political representation does not translate as defeat in social economy. Attempts to change forms of labour control must have consequences for the nature of working class struggle. These will not magically translate into political representation. Nor does the irrelevance of old forms mean that the working class is defeated. To believe this is to assume that little can take place at the level of social economy and hence that the only form of the class that has any significance must be political. From this it would follow that defeat of a form of political representation is defeat of the working class. We would be closer to the mark if we recognised the pernicious effect of stalinism politically but that this form was defeated at a deeper level.

This is especially true in the Soviet Union where the elite has had to prevent collectivity i.e. prevent the class coming into being. (This analysis has been put forward excellently by H Ticktin in the journal Critique). Through administration the elite has ensured a direct atomisation of the class which entailed a sabotage of the product. This was not a 'choice' or, the part of the elite but one already by a previous level of struggle The result of the forms of prevention existing in the Soviet Union was a form of labour probably unique in history. Partaking of aspects of both abstract and concrete labour it was never adequately either. Instead there was a highly atomised yet very particular labour from which use values were never a reliable result. Workers exercised a very particular control over their own individual work process. The turn to the market is an attempt to retrieve an adequate control over labour, hence the surplus, and the elite have as little choice in this as they had in determining the previous system.

We are not inviting a fragmentary analysis of a national situation. A proper understanding of the Soviet Union must start theoretically at the level of the global system. From there we can then trace the fate of capitalism in the twentieth century. The survival of the system as a whole depended on the limitation of its direct operation. In many areas the universal equivalent ceased to apply. Regimes founded on administrative practices have often directly assisted the requirements of capital either by policing or by killing off radical working class movements. This has usually been done under a banner of progress.

Our purpose here is to give sufficient theoretical understanding fora contrast with Richards. His argument rests on a separation of objective and subjective conditions. We want to argue that it is not possible to identify merely 'objective' conditions. The operation of the law of value has been modified as a result of the subjective which in turn was objectively developed. We should be extremely careful to avoid assuming capital to be historical and yet treat its internal laws as effectively natural and given for the system. What is needed is analysis at the level of political economy and this can only proceed, we believe, from recognition that development of the productive forces, the power of combined labour, has forced bourgeois society to modify its political economy. It is time that marxists became accustomed to analysis that flows from the law of value and this cannot be done if we leave unexamined the left's hidden political economy. Otherwise the law of value seems to appear outside the social relation and then scarcely worth a sustained effort at understanding.

The USSR is a prime example. It illustrates clearly that there is not a controlled conspiracy on the part of any bourgeois section. The modified political economy is a resultant, intended or not. In the west there has been somewhat more deliberation but this doesn't change the principle that in the present period the consequent political economy is formed by the interpenetration of objective and subjective factors. It is a crucial aspect of decline that subjective factors take on increasing importance. This is as true for the bourgeoisie and yet this is in conflict with its narcissistic dream of itself as the end of history. The subjective has changing objective consequences as the system attempts to sustain its eternality in the face of a developing social alternative. The forms of labour can be significantly altered as we have argued for the case of the USSR. This in turn will act back on the spontaneity of the working class. This argument applies similarly for the West, although clearly the forms differ and crucially the repression in the East could he presented as the actually existing alternative, a prospect that has bolstered the West. We should not as Richards does paint the picture of a lack of alternative to capitalism whilst abstracting from the important role of so-called alternatives in keeping capital looking sweet. Again, Richards operating in a narrow political focus, ultimately only understands stalinism as the wrong leadership. If only it had been as simple as that.

The problem in both Richards's articles on 'Midnight in the Century' is that they do not and cannot offer any grounds for analysis of the period. He skips from political to political economic levels without noticing, or distinguishing the two. This lack of discrimination allows him to make contentious, yet analytically vague statements regarding the defeat of the working class. It is interesting that in his second article he does not mention the defeat of the working class again. Here the message is more upbeat. Indeed if one were to develop his argument one might conclude that the present period marks a victory for the working class. And indeed why not? Victory in this movement may have bloody or unpleasant consequences. The previous forms of labour control in the factory and broadly in the general reproduction of the class were made incompatible with accumulation. The previous forms did not and could not give the working class coherence but rather set out to de-activate it as bureaucratic object, as national, gender, race specific labour, and so on. An inability to distinguish the political from the political economic leads us to see today only a lack of political representation. This draws us into a dangerous flirtation with a nostalgia for previous 'coherence and identity'.

Is it not victory when so many intellectuals give up on marxism if that marxism insisted in different ways that the Soviet Union was progressive? Is it not better that they ply their trade elsewhere? Perhaps marxism can now breathe the fresh air of intellectual non-respectability; no longer having to defend aspects of officialdom, it can retrieve an understanding of the essential disrespect of the working class for bourgeois society.

Rather than lament, we should celebrate, the crisis of stalinist and social democratic paradigms of working class coherence and identity. These paradigms were never more than an expression of the fact that the working class had not yet broken decisively with the society of the bourgeoisie. The emergence of the proletariat, defining for itself its own needs and desires in opposition to capital, was accepted partially within limited political localities, and then channelled through extending administrative practices. The political economy of bourgeois society was able to bend with the wind of the new social power. There was a cost in terms of the operation of the system, in the mediation of needs outside the enterprise wage relation. Success in such a project for the bourgeoisie could only be gang according to the degree to which it contained the possibility of social consciousness. This necessarily implied new forms of representation arising from administrative containments. Since the project was essentially one of limiting consciousness the representations needed a relative autonomy; they had to represent the unity of the working class as existing outside of itself by marking real limits on political economy. The paradigms were necessary for capital in so far as it was not expedient to re-impose a respectable bourgeois paradigm of working class needs. The crisis of a socialist definition of the working class does not mean that the proletariat has been 'defeated'. On the contrary, it indicates the increasing impossibility of imposing such limiting definitions on the working class.

Socialism is dead or dying. At its best, however, it was never more than a secular asceticism: charity and poverty, celibacy and mortification of the flesh, self-denial and hard labour. Its historical project was the reconciliation of the proletariat with bourgeois society through the transformation of its material conditions of existence. In the interests of its own self-preservation, capital consented to being partially abolished through the extension of administrative control. Socialism was always an attempt to render superfluous the autonomous self-formation of the working class. Initiative would be intercepted by the intervention of social engineers armed with definite paradigms of the good life. Whether reformist or revolutionary in tendency depended on the concrete conditions that were required to be contained. The left's hidden political economy constructed around the assumption of the inert working class made it peculiarly incapable of an adequate critical confrontation to the new forms; it could never rid itself of the conceit that the working class needed external discipline. It has sustained an ambiguous relation to the prevention of communism.

Socialism in its contemporary forms is the outcome of developments in Europe and Russia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In that period, when productivity was less advanced than it is now, the bulk of the surplus had to be ploughed back into the expansion of the productive forces. From this crude material premise there arose in the misty realms of socialist ideology the demand for the rational organisation of necessary labour time. In this context, the socialisation of the productive forces, then proceeding under the domination of capital, came to serve as a paradigm for the alternative society. Socialism was thus conceived of in terms of 'planned' production (See G Kay, Critique 23, 1991). For social democracy, including both its reformist and revolutionary wings, planning was identified with the extension of the rationality of the capitalist labour process to the whole of society. The sign of socialism's origins in scarcity can be found in this tendency to identify the social project with the rationalisation of work rather than its abolition.

The old socialist paradigms have been undermined by the development of the productive forces for which they were the political condition. The rise of mass consumption, increased productivity, and, in particular, automation, have formed the basis for struggles around the refusal of work. If in the late 19th century, the alternative society could only have been conceived of in terms of the rational organisation of necessary labour time, this vision has been superseded today by the possibility of reducing necessary labour time to the point of the abolition of work. The possibility of communism as the conscious and democratic organisation of the conditions of free activity, of intellectually and emotionally engaged activity, is anticipated in the struggles of the working class against the imposition of work. In this struggle there is the real unity of intellect and passion that can only transform its conditions of existence. Socialism, in its various forms, stands opposed to this movement, asserting the dignity of labour and the right to work, so asserting as idea what capital itself cannot help but undermine as the basis of wealth.

The present crisis of the socialist project, in both its social democratic and stalinist forms, is in itself an indication that socialism is not adequate to the working class. What becomes clearer is the practical necessity for communism as activity that leaves behind external mediation within the self-formation of the universal class. Yet there can be no immediate transition. To repeat a point made elsewhere, proletarian consciousness is inevitably burdened with the fear that the socialist alternative is the only alternative and that therefore there is no alternative. The crisis of socialism must also be a crisis of proletarian consciousness. This cannot be resolved overnight. The fact that the working class is not organised around a coherent programme of social transformation, does not represent a victory for capital.

In the present period, then, we discern an unprecedented crisis of human social consciousness. The working class, disenchanted with the socialist project, has yet to embrace communism. At the same time, the left remains shackled to the old socialist paradigms in one form or another. It is able only to counterpose the museum of the glorious socialist past to the present consciousness of the proletariat which it contemptuously brands: 'false'. But if the working class has not yet grasped in consciousness the possibility of smashing the barriers of bourgeois society, neither has the left. For the most part the left counterposes to the present degraded mode of existence, the present degraded mode of existence under another name.

If the working class has not yet become communist this should not be cause for despair or talk of defeat. If there is for the working class one remaining gain of the great socialist experiment, it is a healthy distrust of all who offer to lead the way to the promised land. In light of the historical destinations arrived at in the earlier part of this century, this distrust is itself an indication of a more developed proletarian consciousness. Indeed, in the circumstances, if workers were displaying much enthusiasm for communism, this would give us real cause for concern. It would indicate that workers were indeed unable to learn anything from history. Administrative solutions can never again appear without invoking the horrors they have inspired in the past.

In the 19th century, Marx could counterpose the free activity of communist individuals to the present enslaving subordination to the division of labour. In the present epoch this is not so easy. In the intervening period there have come into being grotesque forms of social organisation, products of the socialist project, which associate themselves in some way with the name 'communism'. The very idea of communism has thus become compromised by the experience of socialism. Separating us from Capital and the Communist Manifesto, the First International and the Paris Commune, area history of forced labour, famine, police terror, chaos, and the historical presence of left parties that have systematically sided with reaction and silenced opposition, often brutally.

The problem is made all the more intractable by the historical failure of the communist opposition to develop a theoretical critique of these crimes. Founding their opposition on personal integrity and moral revulsion, they failed to rid themselves of many of the theoretical assumptions of their enemies. In particular, socialist conceptions of the working class, of consciousness, transition and planning, have been incorporated into the practice of the (fragmented) communist opposition. Such conceptions, largely derived in some form from the works of Lenin we have discussed here, still form an important centre to the ideological baggage of the left. This baggage must be discarded if communists are to leave the museum of the socialist past and participate in the movement of the working class towards communism. Failing to do this, the left will continue to find itself bewildered by events and, in its bewilderment, obstruct the process of self-emancipation.

Conditions are not yet ripe for the growth of a mass communist party. In the present circumstances, to invoke the communist project in opposition to socialism is essentially to protest against reality in the name of an abstract principle. The historically existing communist opposition remain trapped within the theoretical framework of socialism. This should not be surprising: there is as yet no conscious, organised movement of the working class. In the absence of such a movement it remains unclear exactly what we would be counterposing to present existence. Just as the working class remains sceptical of the existing left, ourselves included, we must remain constantly sceptical of our relevance to the working class.

The crisis of socialism does, however, assert the practical necessity for communism and, as such, constitutes a crisis for bourgeois society. Despite the real disorganisation in the historical consciousness of alternatives, there is no solution for capital. Only recently it appeared that the market had been reasserted as the historic destiny of humanity. This has not lasted long. The apparently' obvious solution of the market has broken down on the difficulties of imposing it, its social contradictions asserting themselves in advance. Also in the USA the market has to be supported by extensive state intervention in terms of bail-outs for banks, savings and loans, and more covertly through the defence industrial policy. The principal representative of capital accumulation has retreated from the free market. Indeed its huge budget deficits over the last decade have undoubtedly helped world economy through the recession of the early eighties. Furthermore difficulties in reviving its vigour at the spring of poverty have meant flight of capital from the organised and militant labour of the old 'rust belt' industries of the north eastern states, and its relocation within the 'sunrise' industries of the southern and western states and, in particular, Mexico, where labour is less organised, less militant. At the same time development was shifted towards the Pacific Tigers', such as Taiwan, and South Korea where a proletariat could still be formed out of agricultural conditions.

This flight leaves in its wake poverty and degradation. Opposite this also stands the growth of financial forms that have meant an explosion of personal, corporate, and sovereign debt from the seventies onwards. Accompanying this is the huge expansion of foreign exchange markets quite independent of the needs of trade. Money has a tendency to stand opposite exchange as antagonist. The crisis of social consciousness around the issue of social regulation has one concrete form in this mass of 'capital' in search of valorization.

Yet capital is unable to recompose poverty as a condition of accumulation. In the period from the 1860's through to the 1930's, especially in the U.S.A., capital was able to draw on a continuous flow of mass immigration. This constituted a vast reserve army of labour which could be used to smash the unions, disorganise the class, and assert the conditions of absolute poverty. The position is somewhat different today. We are living on the threshold of abundance. The development of mass consumption since the 1920's has made it more difficult to present poverty and work as natural necessities. This, in turn, has necessitated extension of welfare administration. When, however, capital attacks welfare in an attempt to recompose absolute poverty, it produces struggles against welfare cuts, as well as developing disenchantment with the usual political channels. This may only be apparent initially in reckless 'non-political activities'. The process of class formation knows no blueprint.

At the same time, the end of mass immigration abolishes the reserve army which was an essential condition of accumulation in the earlier period. Poverty is no longer a universal and productive discipline on the working class. The tendency is for absolute poverty, the necessity to labour for subsistence, to be supplanted by an abundance of useless poverty. It appears no longer as a natural necessity but rather as a socio-political imposition, an artificial rather than natural threat. It appears less as a condition of the advance of the productive forces, but rather as an expression of the decay of the law of value. However the case might appear today, socialism still remains a necessity for capital as an essential support of the system in decay: the problem is how it can be re-engineered as an ideology of progress without concessions, at the level of needs and the law of value, that will obstruct accumulation. It is necessary, in other words, for capital to offer the working class paradigms of hope; otherwise the proletariat will confront its conditions of existence with all the clarity of despair. Even if capital were to extend concessions, however, it is questionable whether these could ever mark the limit of working class struggle rather than the platform from which it begins.

The free market has been recognised as impractical even amongst its friends, without an alternative coherent programme being put forward. The hiatus in working class formation that underlies present conditions of consciousness will allow temporary space for policies of fudge and mudge. The space is not unlimited. The social power of the working class does not go away. This potential has been the presupposition both of the breakdown of social democracy as of the attempt to reverse it, as well as of the breakdown of stalinism. Resolution of the general crisis of social consciousness can only come through the self-consciousness of human creative forces. The infantile political problems related to the preservation of the minute horizons of the ruling groups will be superseded by the practical problems set by the deliberate, self-definition of needs. Ideologies founded on the rationalisation of poverty need to be revealed as limiting forces by the real science that starts from recognition of the abundance within the international productive forces: the uncontainability of the proletariat.

W.Dixon and D.Gorman

After Zimmerwald - Radical Chains

The modern left, bolshevism included, are all children of Zimmerwald. It was at the Zimmerwald conference in 1915 that the revolutionary left thrashed out the issues of its relation to the centrist and reformist wings of the movement and its orientation towards national self-determination... Lenin may have been well in advance of anyone in his call for revolutionary defeatism, but... Lenin's defence of the right of nations to self-determination was no more than a reiteration of orthodoxy and... in their assessment of the real consequences of support for nationalism the European left proved to be more perspicacious than Lenin.

While bolshevik historiography tends to present bolshevism, and within bolshevism, Lenin, as the vanguard of the assault on opportunism, B.Shepherd shows that the reality was more complex. Lenin may have been well in advance of anyone in his call for revolutionary defeatism, but he failed to break with Second International theoretical orthodoxy and remained isolated on most questions, even within his own organisation. Lenin's defence of the right of nations to self-determination was no more than a reiteration of orthodoxy and one that the European left was able to identify as a dangerous survival from a previous epoch. In their assessment of the real consequences of support for nationalism the European left proved to be more perspicacious than Lenin. In examining this moment in the formation of bolshevism, Shepherd helps to further undermine the myth of bolshevism as the only or most advanced opposition to opportunism and, crucially, calls into question some of the theoretical props of that opposition.

radical chains

On September 5, 1915 thirty-eight anti-war social democrats assembled in Zimmerwald, Switzerland. They came to draw up a program to inspire the working class to stop the war. Some also came to revive the Second International, some to bury it. Some of them managed to do both.

As we have said before, dating the history of proletarian revolution from 1917 has seriously misled the Bolshevik tradition, and cut it off from much of the material that it requires for the self-analysis that it is at last engaging in. Even a small step back in time from 1917 can be very revealing and open up serious questions for the tradition.

Recent events call for a re-evaluation of the left's attitude to war and what is called with ever more vagueness, imperialism. If history can teach us anything then it is to Zimmerwald, two years before 1917, that we should turn, from where much of current left ideology derives. The modern left are all the children of Zimmerwald. Lenin did not organise it, nor did he dominate it. He worked hard to coordinate the Zimmerwald left and then gratuitously threw away that coordination for the sake of orthodoxy.

All the major themes of modern leftism were debated in the Zimmerwald movement. The debate on schism from orthodox, and in the end, opportunist social democracy, the policy of 'defeatism', as it was labelled by its opponents, and support (or not) for the right of national self-determination that has now degraded into support for virtually anything that calls itself a national liberation movement. The first was a matter of debate on the left. The second united them. The third well nigh destroyed them.

It should always be remembered when considering these events that they took place in the midst of the greatest carnage the world had ever seen. Millions lay dead in the mud of the western front. Millions more on the eastern front. Chillingly the bourgeoisie were not only happy to slaughter the working classes of all nations (as they had already proved in the aftermath of the Paris Commune) but also the sons of the aristocracy and of the bourgeoisie themselves.

The Second International had always opposed war in abstract principle. As war became more likely the International gave more consideration to it in the concrete. The major debate at the 1907 Stuttgart Congress of the International was on 'Militarism and National Conflict'. The left managed to add its own paragraphs to the final text leaving the resolution 'committing all socialists to take action to prevent outbreak of war'. What this action might be remained unspecified. Lenin tried but failed to convene his own caucus of the left at this congress.

The next year Lenin wrote 'Bellicose Militarism and the Anti-Militarist Tactics of Social Democracy' (CW15), in the context of increased war fever and persecution of anti-militarists all over Europe. In this document Lenin relied on the Stüttgart congress resolution, quoting it heavily and relying on its formulations, especially for the origins of militarism in capitalism and the definition of imperialism. He analysed the various social democratic strategies proposed, spending equal space criticising the nationalist right and the voluntarist left - from the 'opportunist tendencies' to 'anarchist phrase-mongering'. This latter was represented by Hervé's demand for a 'military' strike on the outbreak of war. This would, according to Lenin lead to the bourgeoisie setting the agenda and 'the proletariat would . . . use up its fighting preparedness . . . in the struggle against the effect (war) and allow the cause (capitalism) to remain'. Lenin's position was essentially pragmatic, desiring the proletariat to attack when its consciousness was high, its organisation strong and the occasion appropriate. He also drew attention to local conditions at home and abroad that may influence proletarian activity.

The 1910 congress of the International met in Copenhagen. Kier Hardy and Valliant again raised the question of an anti-war general strike. This was defeated by strong opposition from the SPD. Ledebour argued that a general strike in these circumstances would damage the largest and best organised labour movements and hence on the international socialist movement as a whole. The congress agreed on the usual pious preventative measures; elimination of standing armies, international arbitration, abolition of secret diplomacy, general disarmament.

Fear of the spread of the Balkan war caused the International to call an extraordinary congress at' Basel on November 24th and 25th, 1912. Bebel proposed a motion outlining steps to be taken. An amendment by Luxemburg, Lenin and Martov committed parliamentary deputies and the International Socialist Bureau (ISB), 'to do all in their power to utilise the economic and political crisis caused by the war to rouse the peoples and thereby to hasten the abolition of capitalist class rule'. Lenin was, in the very near future, to refer to this resolution frequently to legitimise his revolutionary anti-war stance and present himself as the true heir of the International in the face of the betrayal by the leaders.

The first declaration of war by Austro-Hungary on Serbia, began the paralysis of the ISB, whereas by July 28 Lenin had already moved to the revolutionary anti-war policy he was to pursue for the rest of the war. Probably unaware that a general mobilisation had been ordered in Russia, his draft for a declaration 'War and Revolution' (CW41) contained in section iv the following notes; 'Militarism, imperialism - Guns go off themselves -Struggle against war - resolution of Juares vs. Guesde - experience of workers in Russia -Best war against war: revolution'. At the same time the Dutch leftist SDP (as opposed to the orthodox and official SDAP) issued a leaflet calling for 'war on war' and united with pacifists and anarcho-syndicalists in the 'United Labour Organisation'. On August 2 three Polish parties called for a general strike against conscription. Other acts of resistance were taking place in the difficult circumstances of the temporary hysterical jingoism that greeted the declarations of war. Germany invaded Belgium on August 4 and on the same day the German SDP parliamentary caucus block voted in favour of war credits in the Reichstag. That evening a small group met in Luxemburg's flat to oppose what became known as 'the policy of August the Fourth', the Burgfrieden (civil truce). They were able to send out 300 telegrams to supporters. Not in touch with Lenin, on August 8 the Bolshevik and Menshevik fractions refused to vote for war credits in the Duma and walked out in protest, never to return.

Caught by the outbreak of war on holiday in Poland, Lenin with some difficulties returned to Bern in neutral Switzerland. Zinoviev soon joined him there, to be followed by various Bolsheviks and others as the war spread and political activity became untenable for them. On September 6 Lenin presented his 'Theses on War' (Tasks of Revolutionary Social-Democracy in the European War, CW21) to a conference of Bolsheviks in Switzerland. The 'Theses' talked of betrayal by 'most leaders of the Second International' for 'ignoring the fundamental truth of socialism . .. that the workingmen have no country' and not 'recognising the need for a revolutionary war'. While flaying defencist postures in general it was only in Russia that '[F]rom the viewpoint of the working class and the toiling masses of all the peoples of Russia, the defeat of the tsarist monarchy and its army ... would be the lesser evil by far.' The 'Theses on War' obviously gained enough support at the Bern conference to circulate them, together with an article developed from them, around the rest of the Bolshevik movement, even into Russia. Support was not so easy to obtain without Lenin's presence however and grave reservations were expressed about the 'defeatist' slogan. Opposition came from major figures including Kamenev, Bukharin, Shliapnikov and Kollantai, not only because of the expression of the desire for the defeat of tsarism in Russia but because Lenin had extended the call for revolutionary civil war to western Europe. This call was well integrated into the text, and the full import is best expressed in an amendment not included; 'The only correct proletarian slogan is to transform the present imperialist war into a civil war. This transformation flows from all the objective conditions of the current military disaster, and only by systematically propagandising and agitating in that direction can the workers' parties fulfil the obligations they undertook at Basel. That is the only kind of tactics that will be truly revolutionary working-class tactics, corresponding to the conditions of the new historical epoch (CW41). Enough support was eventually won for 'The War and Russian Social-Democracy' to appear with the imprimatur of the Central Committee in Sotsial-Demokrat 33 on November 1, 1914. The Bolsheviks went to considerable lengths to circulate this document as a pamphlet, with copies sent to the ISB and the various fractional conferences that were beginning to take place, the Copenhagen conference of northern neutrals, the Conference of Socialists of the Allied countries in London (where Litvinov was denied the right to speak and ejected) and presumably the Conference of Socialists of the Central Powers. In Russia itself it was published in the first issue of Proletarskii Golos in Petersburg. Criticism now appeared in print from non-Bolshevik Russians, the Mensheviks Plekhanov and Martov, the Social Revolutionary Chernov. Even Radek, the European left radical, was critical. All opposed the 'defeatism' line, counterposing 'peace' demands. Lenin was no doubt grateful for the publicity if enraged at its content. Over the winter of 1914-15 he carried the Bolshevik organisation and went on a speaking tour. The final seal of approval was applied at a conference of Bolshevik Sections Abroad in Bern on February 27- March 5, 1915.

Not without considerable debate (all three critical resolutions counterposed 'peace' to 'defeatism') the essential element, turning the imperialist war into civil war was carried and adopted by all sections. Other aspects did not gain such acceptance. The slogan for a United States of Europe was dropped. Bukharin objected strongly to Lenin's use of the formulation 'democratic-republican' with respect to the policy for Russia when proletarian revolutionary socialism was on the agenda in Europe. This was to cover the, as Lenin thought, necessary 'smychka', the alliance between the workers and the peasantry, and the bourgeois phase of Russian development. The 'smychka' was to be a main plank of Bukharin's policy in years to come but at that time Bukharin was very much a European radical in a way that Lenin never was. Smoothed over at this conference, this debate was to erupt again before the end of the war and nearly wreck the European Bolshevik organisation. Lenin was evidently in a flexible frame of mind at this time for in fact the 'defeatist' formulation was hardly used in Bolshevik propaganda, Lenin apparently being satisfied with the 'civil war' formulation. Nonetheless his opposition to 'peace' slogans continued. It is easy to see why. A 'peace' line precluded civil war and revolution. The historical models he was relying on were the Franco-Prussian war of 1870-71 which led to the Paris Commune and the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-5 which led to the Petrograd soviet.

If it was not stressed in propaganda, Lenin continued to defend 'defeatism' against 'peace' demands. Trotsky earned his ire with an article in Nashe Slovo 105. In a reply; 'Defeat of One's Government in the Imperialist War' (Sotsial Demokrat 43 July 26, 1915, CW 21), Lenin mocks Trotsky's 'phrase-bandying', It seems to him that to desire Russia's defeat means desiring the victory of Germany ... the Bern resolution made it clear that in all imperialist countries the proletariat must now desire the defeat of its own government'. If anything important came out of Lenin's much vaunted philosophical readings which he began in September 1914 it was this. The decoupling of defeat from victory, of events at home from those abroad, within a nonetheless international perspective which involved turning your back on international events to concentrate on revolution at home. Here was the victory of dialectical logic at the service of a thinker whose project was revolution. The elegance of the writing of The War and Russian Social-Democracy, which totally lacks Lenin's usual expressions of personal rancour and his ugly constructions, illustrates that he,was completely comfortable with his formulations, utterly convinced that he was correct, and feeling that despite the horrors of the war history was going his way, towards proletarian revolution.

The Bolsheviks were not by any means the only people to oppose the war from a revolutionary perspective. The Serbian party voted against war credits. An anti-war faction of the Rumanian party was led by Christian Rakovski. The Bulgarian 'narrows' issued a strong anti-war manifesto on August 29th, demanding a new International and revolutionary mass action. In Greece the Socialist Workers Federation of Saloniki led the anti-war opposition and dominated a Panhellenic socialist conference in Athens in April 1915. The whole of the Balkan opposition convened an Inter-Balkan Socialist Conference in July 1915 and called for a revived International. A Balkan socialist federation was set up with a permanent executive in Bucharest. In the USA the left of the Socialist Party of America led by Debs took an active anti-war position as did the fWW and Daniel DeLeon's Socialist Labour Party of North America. In the other neutral countries opposition tended to be centred on the party youth leagues except in Italy, where the whole party resisted entry into the war apart from a 'revolutionary intervention' fraction around Mussolini (who had, in 1910, taken an opposition position on Italy's annexation of Libya, actually tearing up railway tracks and announcing, 'the proletariat has no fatherland, nor in truth has the bourgeoisie; in case of war we Socialists will not go to the front - we will raise insurrection within our own borders'). In western Europe the French party had capitulated with opposition only from Merrheim and his Federation of Metal Workers and a few isolated small groups. Likewise in Austria, a small group around Friedrich Adler in Vienna resisted and Bohemian, Slovakian and Italian sections railed against the defencism of the centre. In Germany resistance was not limited to the Internationale group round Luxemburg and Liebknecht, although the latter was to become 'the most popular man in the trenches' as Kautsky grudgingly recognised. Julian Borchardt's International Socialists of Germany published Lichtstrahlen from Berlin. In Stuttgart the party split in the autumn of 1914, in Hamburg Laufenburg and Wolffheim led an autonomous group and Bremen also went autonomous under the influence of Pannekoek and Radek. All these, and many other small groups, took a revolutionary position. Liebknecht's slogans were typical: 'war on war'; 'the main enemy is at home'; 'civil war not civil truce'.

Despite the obvious abandonment of Second International principles by the official sections, everybody tried to maintain a facade of internationalism. But not even the parties of the neutral states could cooperate. On September 27 delegations from the Italian PSI and the Swiss SPS met in Lugano, Switzerland. The northern neutrals, the Dutch and Scandinavians, convened on October 11 in Stockholm. A further conference, in Copenhagen on January 18, 1915 attempted to revive the pre-war strategy of the International; international arbitration, disarmament, abolition of secret diplomacy. Future activity was hampered by the decision that action outside ISB was inappropriate. The Swiss and Italians refused to attend due to a refusal to extend invitations to all neutrals. In February there was a Conference of Socialists of Allied Powers in London and in April a Conference of Socialists of Central Powers. Both defended their defencist stands. Between these two bleak comedies some real international progress was being achieved, if haltingly. The ISB continually played a deliberately obstructive role, bureacratically denying its ability to call an International conference without the approval of all parties which it would only have been possible to obtain at such a conference. Various individuals, mainly of the neutral nations and the peace faction, like the Italian Morgan and the Swiss Grimm engaged in desperate shuttle diplomacy. In the midst of the most unbelievable carnage the world had ever seen conferences were rejected on the grounds that they would be manipulated by the ultra-left, 'irresponsible elements' and 'intransigent extremists'. But progress was being made. An International Women's Conference took place in Bern on March 26-29. Thirty delegates attended. In April a Conference of the Socialist Youth International took place, also in Bern. On April 22 the SPS announced their intention of convening a conference of neutrals for 30 May in Zurich. On May 15-16 a special session of the PSI directorate approved sponsorship of a general conference urging participation of all 'socialist parties or party groups' opposed to the 'Burgfrieden'.

On May 22 Grimm put the PSI initiative to the SPS executive. They rejected it. But Grimm, using a procedural loophole, issued a schedule for an unofficial preliminary meeting in Bern on July 5. Matters were getting urgent for the neutrals. Italy entered the war on Entente side on May 24. On June 18 the SPS directorate declared its intention 'to continue work with those parties, or fragments of parties, which have remained faithful to the ideals of socialism, to relaunch international activity as soon as possible, and to initiate an extraordinary international conference, an energetic movement to secure peace in Europe.' Thus, despite previous 'respectable' fears, the left was presented with an opening. Only 7 delegates attended Grimm's preliminary meeting and of these only the Italians came from abroad, the rest being Swiss or exiles, mainly Russians and Poles. Zinoviev attended for the Bolsheviks and demanded commitment to revolutionary action. Having laid down this marker, he acted in a relatively flexible manner despite losing 5:1 with one abstention a vote on inviting the left groups that Lenin had been painstakingly coordinating. The meeting appears to have closed amicably with the expressed intention 'to begin a practical proletarian movement for peace and against the Burgfrieden'. Immediately after, Zinoviev circulated an open letter asking 'where were the truly lefts of the International?' Grimm worked hard to recruit delegates for the full meeting from the French SFIO and CGT, the British ILP and BSP Internationalists (delegates from both failed to get visas), as many German and Austrian groups as possible (Kautsky's group decided in the end not to attend and Adler's group arrived from Austria too late). Lenin and Zinoviev worked just as hard to produce a common programme for the left. They updated the party platform and Lenin produced 'Socialism and the War' which was circulated together with a draft manifesto for the meeting. Lenin insisted on the importance of a 'common ideological declaration' from the 'left Marxists. Bukharin published a list of those considered to be the basis for a new International: the ISD, the Internationale group, those around Merrheim, Monatte and Nicod in France, the British ILP and BSP Internationalists, the Swedish Youth League, the Bulgarian Narrows, the Dutch SDP and left fractions of the PSI and SPS. It did not all go smoothly. The Dutch Tribunists refused to attend any conference organised by the 'centrist' Grimm despite hard lobbying by Pannekoek. Lenin's attachment to the ISD group around Borchardt's journal Lichtstralen alienated the rest of the German opposition. This led to a falling out between Lenin and Radek who believed that this was becoming a barrier to building a mass base 'the opposition in Germany is a product of unrest amongst the masses, while Bolshevism is the orientation of a small group of revolutionaries'. Lenin fell back on a What is to be Done?-like formulation 'For the development of "unrest amongst the masses" a left declaration is necessary'. Behind all these upsets lay an unsettled difference on the left, schism. Was there to be a new International or an attempt to revamp the old? Therefore, logically, should groups split from their parent parties or remain inside? And, finally, how should the upcoming meeting be handled? Lenin's strategy was to work within and against the old order in one final effort to increase support for his positions before schism, but he had the comfort of a unified party behind him. Others were not so lucky. The Dutch, having had their revolutionary split long before were all for purity and non-contact, but in Germany, Luxemburg and the Internationale group resolutely refused schism (Luxemburg had, on the occasion of the split in Dutch social-democracy, told Henrietta Roland Holst that any workers party, no matter how bad, was better than no party), and wanted no new International. Radek, as his comment above shows, was willing to compromise for the sake of a mass party and remained sympathetic to Grimm. He produced his own draft resolution, more flexible than Lenin's despite the latter reducing his definition of the left to those who; unconditionally condemned opportunism and social chauvinism, had a revolutionary action programme regardless of whether it spoke of mass action or civil war (an earlier bone of contention), and stood against 'defence of the fatherland'.

On Sept 2 or 3 there was a caucus of Russian (Bolshevik) and Polish delegates in Bern, followed on the 4th by an open meeting at Zinoviev's residence. This was attended by Trotsky, most of the Germans, Merrheim, Bourderon, Berzin, Borchardt, Platten, Radek, Hogland, Neiman. Lenin's draft was abandoned in favour of an amended version of Radek's. On September 5, 1915 38 delegates assembled in Bern and took 4 hired coaches to the Beau Sejour rest home in Zimmerwald for a meeting of an 'ornithological society'.

The first two days of the conference were taken up with procedural wrangling enlivened by a letter from Karl Liebknecht, then in prison, again calling for 'civil war not civil peace'. The wrangling was important to the left, made up as it largely was by delegates from unofficial fractions of parties. Both as a means of limiting the influence of the left and to avoid a break with the ISB and hence the International itself the rest wished to limit voting rights to official parties. An executive was appointed. It reduced Borchardt to observer status and allocated 5 votes to each national section contrary to the left's desire for separate votes for separate sections of their parties. These decisions gave Grimm a dominant moderate bloc.

The first 'political' item on the agenda was taken on the 7th., 'Peace Action by the Proletariat'. This allowed Radek to make an immediate attack on the centre, 'a more dangerous enemy than the bourgeois apostles of imperialism'. Grimm was defensive, described the sentiment as 'unsuitable' and asked, 'do we want a manifesto for party comrades or for the broad masses of the workers?'. Lebedour introduced his resolution with the words 'we have come together here to fulfil the duty that the ISB has failed to fulfil, and not in order to found a third International'. No common agreement could be reached and Trotsky and Roland-Hoist were deputed to produce a compromise. Their version endorsed revolutionary goals but stressed the desire for peace.

On the 7th the majority fought back. So far as Lebedour was concerned the sole purpose of the conference was to 'restore the International and to work for peace'. Lassari pointed out that they were all minorities within minority parties, Radek's tone was described as 'pretentious'. Radek would not compromise; the peace slogan was an 'illusion'. After three sessions and late in the night the resolution on tactics was abandoned. A drafting commission was set up to produce instead a general manifesto. Composed of Lenin, Lebedour, Trotsky, Grimm, Merrheim, Modigliani and Rakowski this merely localised the general differences. The differences were wide. Lebedour would not even agree to a demand for voting against war credits (at a peace conference!) and threatened withdrawal of the German delegation. With no agreement in prospect Trotsky was mandated to produce a final text.

On the 8th the war credits issue re-surfaced with the same results. Trotsky's manifesto was adopted eventually. It was nowhere near Lenin's desired statement of principles being a brilliantly written but basically emotional appeal aimed at the masses and their desire for peace.

Lenin had at last inserted himself into the European left and convinced most of them of the importance of concerted action. Many divisions remained. The most obvious was the question of schism but time and events would take care of that (it rumbled on until the founding of the Third International). But something much more theoretically fundamental separated Lenin from the left. This was the question of the right of national self-determination. Lenin considered this so important that he was prepared to isolate himself again from the Europeans.

Lenin's position on national self-determination was impeccable Second International orthodoxy. National self-determination was endorsed as 'a right' by the 1896 London congress when it passed, although not without dissension, a resolution from George Lansbury which combined this support for autonomy with a call for all 'class-conscious workers of the world to organise for the overthrow of international capitalism'. This position was never challenged at any later congress. Two years later the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP) included national self-determination in its founding manifesto. In 1903 the RSDLP adopted the full Lansbury line, the 'right of self-determination for all nations entering into the composition of the state', this procedure to be approved by a popular referendum. This 'right' applied to Russia and was not deemed to be necessarily desirable in any particular case. As Lenin said at the time, 'It is not the business of the proletariat to preach federalism and national autonomy; it is not the business of the proletariat to advance such demands, which inevitably amount to a demand for the establishment of an autonomous class state' (CW6). Lenin wrote several articles on the subject around this time using as a source Kautsky's Finis Poloniae. This was a response to an article of Luxemburg's that Kautsky had published in Die Neue Zeit. In this article Luxemburg used a class analysis of Poland to demonstrate the reactionary nature of demands for national self-determination. It was this line of argument that the European left developed. Lenin followed Kautsky's 'progressive' support for self-determination.

Colonialism was debated more frequently at the International congresses. Anti-colonialism was not self-evident to social-democracy. There was considerable belief in the 'civilising' mission of western domination of the colonies across the spectrum of the International. There was also considerable opposition. But the anti-colonialists, which included most of those considered to be on the left, were generally content to wait until the inhabitants of the colonies themselves began to agitate against their status.

Matters came to a head in 1907. In Germany the government called an election based on all the questions on which social-democracy challenged the existing order. The government's right to rule without interference from the parties, ie the parliament, was the first question, followed by the governments expressed desire to become an international power rather than a merely national one in Europe, ie was the government to be mandated to pursue an active colonialist and imperialist policy? Also involved was, of course, the role and status of the army. The issues had been well chosen and the SPD took a beating at the polls and they lost half their seats in the Reichstag. That year's congress of the International at Stuttgart debated all the major issues. The colonial commission report presented by van Kol and Vandervelde came out in favour of a pro-colonial policy but the congress accepted a minority report against, presented by Kautsky. Kautsky went on to write two important articles that year, Socialism and Colonial Policy, a polemic against future social-democratic administration of colonies, and Patriotism and Social Democracy where he introduced his theory of 'ultra-imperialism' (that the imperialist nations, although bound for at least one war and possibly two, would in the end devise a peaceful means of dividing the world between them). In that year also, Luxemburg updated her anti-self-determination analysis in The National Question and Autonomy. It was to the criticism of this article that Lenin turned when he was temporarily living in Austrian Poland in 1912 and commissioned Stalin to answer it in The National Question and Social-Democracy. Lenin's last writings on the matter before the outbreak of the war The Rights of Nations to Self-Determination (CW20) represented his final version of orthodoxy on the subject; 'the formation of independent, national states is a tendency of all bourgeois-democratic revolutions' which the proletariat should support and the denial by ruling nations of the right of self-determination was a flouting of the principle of equality among nations to which the proletariat must not be an accomplice. He also reiterated the get-out clause, that recognition of the right to agitate for self-determination was different to actual support for it in any specific situation. This was the position that Lenin took to Zimmerwald.

The Zimmerwald manifesto prepared by Trotsky included the standard Second International formulation of recognition of the right of self-determination. It is unclear how much, if any, discussion there was of this at Zimmerwald. Radek, an originator with Luxemburg of the SDKPiI position which had become the accepted European left analysis, reacted with speed and on an impressively broad front. On the 28th and 29th of October, the Berner Tagwacht (Grimm's newspaper) carried his two part article Annexione and Sozialdemokratie, a condensation of the SDKPiL theses presented at Zimmerwald against the right of national self- determination, under the pseudonym Parabellum. The article insisted on the importance of economic over ethnic considerations in fixing national boundaries, noting that redrawing them on'national' lines would lead to economic dislocation: 'It cannot be to the interest of the proletariat to turn back the wheel of history and thus to limit the economy which has outgrown these national borders. It is to the interest of the proletariat that the productive power shall develop as fully as possible, that the whole world become one economic organisation. But if this is to be accomplished ... it must be made clear that the proletariat cannot set as its goal the resurrection of the fatherland intact (in its former boundaries) ... as this can only be done at the expense of someone else's fatherland.' Lenin wrote a response ('The Revolutionary Proletariat and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination CW21) but never published it. In it Lenin accused Parabellum of ignoring national struggles in Asia and Africa. This was not the subject of Radek's article which he had taken pains to make clear concerned Europe. On December 5th Radek published a further article in Borchardt's Lichtstrahlen. This must have infuriated Lenin as it was he who had championed Borchardt's group against Radek's strong recommendation to widen his net in Germany. This article quoted Luxemburg's repudiation of national self-determination, a 'petty-bourgeois formula that has nothing in common with Marxism'. It continued; 'We do not reject the slogan of self-determination merely because it is historically false. From a practical viewpoint, it can also mislead the proletariat. It encourages the proletariat to believe that it possesses the right of self-determination ... and that it is the duty of Social Democrats to support every struggle for independence'.

Worse yet, the new Bolshevik journal Kommunist edited by the Stockholm section of Bukharin, Piatnikov and Bosh appeared in September carrying not only Lenin's call for schism and a new International The Collapse of the Second International but also yet another article by Radek. Lenin objected, refused to participate further and demanded that Kommunist be abolished. In November the Stockholm group communicated with the central committee in Switzerland their position on self-determination and attacking Lenin. So far as they were concerned the slogan of self-determination was 'first of all utopian (it cannot be realised within the limits of capitalism) and harmful as a slogan which disseminates illusions'. Far from fostering nationalist illusions the correct tactic was to 'revolutionise the consciousness of the proletariat' by 'continually tossing the proletariat into the arena of world struggle, by placing constantly before it questions of world policy'. The influence of the European left is evident. Under Lenin's influence the central committee deprived the Stockholm group of the right to communicate directly with Russia. They responded by dissolving themselves as a bolshevik section. The political stakes were evidently high. The controversy continued into 1916 with the young European bolsheviks saying they were 'outraged' at Lenin's attitudes and pointing out 'all extreme Lefts who have a well-thought-out theory' were against the self-determination slogan, 'are they all "traitors" they asked. Lenin's response was to claim their views had 'nothing in common with Marxism or revolutionary social democracy', which drew from Bukharin the accusation that 'in regard to the slogan of self-determination, you stand on the viewpoint of the "past century"'.

In October 1915 Radek had appealed to Henrietta Roland-Holst for support in publishing a journal of the international left. He told her that Lenin, Borchardt and Pannekoek would support it, although possibly not Lenin if Trotsky was to be involved. Pannekoek, meanwhile, contacted the Tribunist, van Ravenstijn in an attempt to bring at least some of the Dutch SDP over to a Zinimerwaldist position. While sympathetic to the Zimmerwald Left, the SDP leader David Wijnkoop, having refused to attend, described the meeting as a 'historical farce' and its results as 'compromised' due to the leading role of Grimm 'the centrist'. According to Pannekoek the new journal was to have himself and Roland-Holst as editors-in-chief with Lenin, Radek, Trotsky and van Ravenstijn himself as co-editors with potential contributors in Mehring, Borchardt, Merrheim, Grimm, Zetkin, Fraina (USA), 'an Englishman and a Swede'. By October 26th van Ravenstijn was convinced and broke with Wijnkoop. This all took place in the context of a major realignment in Dutch social-democracy as the left of the SDAP, organised as the Revolutionary Socialist League (RSV), joined up with the majority of the left radical SDP including the Tribunists'. The resulting organisation was to affiliate with the Zimmerwald Left. Roland-Holst was one of those who moved left so that although Lenin does not appear to have balked at the inclusion of Trotsky, Trotsky withdrew in January 1916 after the editorial board described the new journal as 'representing the view of the Zimmerwald Left'. He had already described the Zimmerwald Left around Lenin as 'extremist and sectarian' and rejected schism in an article in the November issue of Nashe Slovo.

The strife over the right of national self-determination question opened a wide rift between Radek and Lenin just as the new journal, to be called Vorbote, was becoming a reality. The Zimmerwald Left coordinating bureau met in Bern on January 15th, 1916. Lenin tried to insist that the journal must be under tight editorial control as a party journal. Radek wanted a looser structure to represent the whole of the international left. Lenin's demand could not but have upset the Dutch and given that the Europeans rejected his self-determination position it is not surprising that Pannekoek informed Lenin within a few days that the editorial board was dissolved with only Pannekoek himself and Roland-Hoist remaining as editors-in-chief. The coordinating bureau met again on January 25th. Vorbote issue one was to contain an article by Radek attacking Lenin over the national question. Lenin protested the dissolution of the editorial board and demanded again that Vorbote be an organ of the Zimmerwald Left. With this attitude it is surprising, and a tribute to the openness of the Dutch that issue 2 of Vorbote contained not only Radek's Theses on Imperialism and National Self-Determination as presented at Zimmerwald but also Lenin's response Socialist Revolution and the Right of Nations to Self-Determination (CW22).

Only two issues of Vorbote were published. The reorganisation of the Dutch left led to increased activity at home which led up to a mass anti-war demonstration in Amsterdam on June 21st. The argument over editorial control led the Bolsheviks to publish a new Russian-language party journal to replace the closed Kommunist and as propaganda for the Zimmerwald Left. It was hardly a replacement for the truly international German language Vorbote. Lenin wrote to Radek that 'our common struggle in Russian and Polish affairs is finished.

In July 1916 Lenin refused to publish Bukharin's article Towards a Theory of The Imperialist State (it was not finally published until 1925 and then without its conclusion), because it was 'decidedly incorrect'. Only in 1917 did Lenin discover, to his evident surprise, while researching The State and Revolution that he had 'reached conclusions much sharper against Kautsky than against Bukharin ... Bukharin is much better than Kautsky'. What Bukharin had done was to start by 'rescuing' Marx and Engels' original understanding of the state: 'The state is nothing but the most general organisation of the ruling classes, the basic function of which is the maintenance and extension of the exploitation of the suppressed classes'. 'Rescuing' it, that is, from the Second International and especially the SPD's understanding which Lenin apparently clung to. Despite Lenin's stated position that opportunism had a material class basis, he appeared still to believe that the International's and especially Kautsky's betrayal was some kind of personal failing and deviation from previously held sound theoretical positions rather than a
consequence of those positions.

Lenin made no re-evaluation of the right of self-determination. The European left, independently, although it must have been beginning to look like a conspiracy to Lenin, continued to publicise its beliefs. On the first of January 1916 the Internationale Group reformed themselves as the Spartacus League and adopted a preliminary program written by Luxemburg. It included the analysis that in the age of imperialism 'national wars can no longer exist' and ergo the right of self-determination was a dead issue. The publication of the Junius pamphlet soon followed. Lenin responded late, writing in July 1916 an article not published until October. His ignorance of the identity of Junius lent a patronising air to what was meant, for once, to be a comradely argument.

The Polish theses set out in Vorbote 2 are carefully set in the concrete conditions of the time. Imperialism 'represents the tendency of finance capital to outgrow the limits of nation states'. It leads to the seizure of 'transoceanic' sources of raw materials and food supplies together with spheres for investment and markets. In Europe the tendency is to 'combine' adjacent territories which are economically complementary regardless of the nationality of the inhabitants. Military reasons also contribute to this as the need for defence and offence increase.

The consequent national oppression is against the interest of the working class (all judgements in the theses are based on the needs of the class and proletarian revolution). The imperialist bureaucracy uses all the means it has learned against the oppressed peoples against its own proletariat. In the oppressed nations, not only does the working class have its struggle checked by having its freedom to organise removed but it develops feelings of solidarity with its national bourgeoisie. It is in danger of becoming 'a helpless object of exploitation' and 'a dangerous rival', as a wage-cutter and strikebreaker, of the proletariat of the oppressing nation. Seizure of territory leads to further war as the loser will always try to restore the status quo. The grievance covers the loser's own imperialist policy.

Social-democracy must therefore energetically fight annexations and national oppression. It denies the claim that colonies are necessary for further development of capitalism. The oppressing nations of Europe and the United States are already ripe for transformation to socialism. The transformation would not adversely affect the development of countries currently colonised as all aid and assistance would be forthcoming from a socialist regime. Annexation divides the working class which should be united against the working class to fulfil its historic task of overcoming capital.

The starting point for policy is the renunciation of any 'defence of the fatherland' which is only a defence of the Tight of one's own bourgeoisie to oppress and plunder foreign peoples. This involves denouncing national oppression and demanding all democratic rights for the oppressed. While this would give the freedom to agitate for separation 'Social Democracy does not advocate either an erection of new boundary posts in Europe or the re-erection of those which have been torn down by imperialism'. Social democracy has to educate the masses of both the oppressed and the oppressor nations for a united struggle to lead mankind 'beyond imperialism toward socialism'. That is the only way to abolish national oppression and economic exploitation.

The defeat of imperialism involves not a return to old forms but clearing the road for socialism, for which conditions are ripe. Socialism would take up the cry 'away with boundaries' and 'away with colonies'. In the colonised nations national bourgeoisie are developing so, to hasten socialism, Social democracy 'will support the proletarian struggles in the colonial countries against European and native capital'. This also involves workers of the oppressed nations showing solidarity with those of the oppressor nation.

National oppression is inherent in imperialism and the struggle should be against the cause not the effect. This is achieved by social revolutionary methods, the abolition of capitalist private property, the root cause. This is not a postponement of the lifting of national oppression, for the social revolution 'in which the proletariat will break all chains' is imminent.

The 'formula' of the right of national self-determination is an inheritance from the Second International. It had a dual content; firstly, the legitimate one of opposing national oppression and subjugation and secondly, the 'defence of the fatherland'. The formulation avoided analysing each situation concretely. The war has shown its counter-revolutionary nature. While its revolutionary aims are supportable the slogan cannot be accepted as correct. First of all self-determination is impracticable in capitalist society which is ruled by the bourgeoisie who determine 'national' policy. This is regardless of any democratic forms, for the bourgeoisie control all the institutions that condition the thinking of people such as the churches, schools and the press. The only reason that they use force in oppressed nations is because not sufficient time has passed for these institutions to have their full effect. If self-determination is to be decided by plebiscite (orthodox social-democratic policy), the bourgeoisie would determine the outcome. Even if that were not so, a decision would be made by a minority that would be binding on the majority, a possibility that might lead to war at worst.

If self-determination is an impracticable demand under capitalism, under socialism it is inapplicable. Socialism abolishes all national oppression by abolishing the class conditions that give rise to it. There is no reason to believe that a nation in socialist society would take on the nature of an economic-political unit. The latter would be the basis of the requirement for all citizens to participate in any decisions on sub-division. To apply the 'right of self-determination' to socialist society is to completely misunderstand the character of a socialist community.

The consequence of trying to apply the formula is that, being utopian, it will mislead the proletariat into believing that, a) it is possible and b) would solve their problems without abolishing capitalism itself. Like war, national oppression is inherent to capitalism. The tendency would be to encourage national reformist views as opposed to social revolutionary ones. The consequent nationalism contradicts the necessary internationalism of the proletariat. Ina period of transition, when the conditions are ripe but social revolutionary struggles have not yet begun it is tactically necessary to
propagandise for socialism and revolution.

The theses end with the resolution of the Polish social democrats on Poland itself. Before that they draw attention to Marx. His precise political positions are not of the 'slightest value' now. They were concrete analyses of his own time. 'Marx's position shows exactly that it is not the task of Marxism to formulate an attitude toward concrete questions in terms of abstract rights'.

Lenin had the advantage of writing his theses after and in full knowledge of the Polish offering. He had also been working on the materials that were to go into his 'Imperialism - the Highest Stage of Capitalism'. Lenin's definition of imperialism is significantly different from that in the Polish theses. Rather than finance capital he concentrates on fractions of capital and monopoly replacing competition. He agrees that the proletarian revolution is on the agenda in western Europe and the United States, the reasons being that the conditions of the masses have been worsened economically by the 'trusts' and an increased cost of living and politically by militarism, war and general reaction with the 'intensification and expansion of national oppression and colonial plunder'.

Socialism would 'necessarily' establish full democracy which means also the full equality of nations and the right to self-determination. It is a mistake to see a struggle for democracy as a diversion from socialist revolution and as an aspect of democracy it would equally be a mistake to remove national self-determination from the 'democratic programme' on the grounds of it being 'impracticable' or 'illusory' under imperialism.

Theoretically self-determination is not 'impracticable' in the sense that, for instance, labour money is impracticable. Lenin uses the example of Norway's secession from Sweden in 1905.

He draws a sharp distinction between the 'political' and the 'economic'. Admitting that 'finance capital' can bribe or buy any democratic government and in itself cannot be abolished politically he nonetheless holds that 'political democracy' is a 'freer, wider and clearer form of class oppression and class struggle'. Not only self-determination but 'all the fundamental demands of political democracy' are only partially practicable under the current system.

The demand for the liberation of the colonies must be put in a revolutionary, not a reformist way, ie not within the limits of bourgeois legality but by all means of mass struggle for there is no prescribed or preordained immediate cause for the start of socialist revolution, it might not only be through 'some big strike, street demonstration or hunger riot or a military insurrection or colonial revolt,' but may also be a result of 'a political crisis such as the Dreyfus case ... or in connection with a referendum on the secession of an oppressed nation, etc.'. Social democracy should use the conflicts that arise from increasing national oppression under imperialism as grounds for mass action and revolutionary attacks on the bourgeoisie.

As in the past Lenin attempts to make a clear distinction between independence in the political sense, which is the right to 'agitate for' secession and a referendum and the 'demand for separation, fragmentation and the formation of small states'. It is unlikely, he thinks, that the latter would happen as big states offer 'indisputable advantages' and as the freedom to agitate is attained separation becomes less tempting (for the bourgeoisie?).

Just as there would be a transition period of the dictatorship of the oppressed class, there would also be a transition period of complete emancipation of all the oppressed nations expressed in their freedom to secede.

It is true that the petty-bourgeoisie put forward all points of the democratic minimum programme in a 'utopian' manner, utopian because they ignore class struggle. Nevertheless the programme of the social democrats 'must postulate the division of nations into oppressor and oppressed as basic, significant and inevitable under imperialism'. Thus the proletariat must struggle for the 'freedom of political separation for the colonies and nations oppressed by "their own" nation'. On the other side, socialists of the oppressed nations must 'defend and implement' unity, including organisational unity, between the workers of the oppressed and oppressing nations.

Lenin notes that 'the bourgeoisie of the oppressed nations persistently utilise the slogans of national liberation to deceive the workers' and also that rival great powers may use self-determination struggles for their own ends.

In a footnote he says it is ridiculous to reject the right of self-determination on the grounds of rejection of 'defence of the fatherland'. It must be a matter of concrete analysis not a 'general principle'. There is also a confused note about the difference between national and imperialist wars.

'Marx' says Lenin, 'regarded every democratic demand without exception not as an absolute, but as a historic expression of the struggle of the masses of the people, led by the bourgeoisie, against feudalism' and they had all been used to deceive the workers. The right of self-determination is no different. On the other hand Marx's support for economic and political concentration as progressive did not still hold in the imperialist era.

Lenin divided the world into three types of countries. Firstly the advanced capitalist countries of western Europe and the United States where progressive bourgeois national movements came to an end long ago. They all oppress other nations both in the colonies and within their own borders. To forget the latter is a form of independent 'small nation narrow-mindedness' he accuses in a footnote attack on Gorter for 'incorrectly' rejecting 'self-determination' while 'correctly' applying it in a demand for the immediate 'political and national independence' of the Dutch East Indies. Secondly, eastern Europe, Austria, the Balkans and especially Russia. Here the twentieth century has seen the rise of bourgeois-democratic movements and the intensification of national struggles. The task of the proletariat in these countries is to complete the bourgeois-democratic reforms and render assistance to socialist revolutions in other countries. Thirdly, semi-colonial (eg China, Persia and Turkey) and colonial countries. Bourgeois-democratic movements have hardly begun here. Socialists should demand the liberation of the colonies and 'render determined support to the more revolutionary elements in the bourgeois democratic movements for national liberation ... and assist their uprising - or revolutionary war, in the event of one - against the imperial powers that oppress them.

'The socialist revolution may begin in the very near future. In this case the proletariat will be faced with the immediate task of winning power, expropriating the banks and effecting other dictatorial measures'. The bourgeoisie and intellectuals of the Fabian and Kautskyite tendency will attempt to limit revolution by foisting limited, democratic aims on it. If the revolution does not come for some time (Lenin talks of five, ten or more years), then there will be time for social democratic education of the masses especially for the right of self-determination. Those who do not support it act 'as chauvinists and lackeys of bloodstained and filthy imperialist monarchies and the imperialist bourgeoisie.'

Given Lenin's determination to break with the 2nd International and his moves towards the European left, we have to ask why he clung to the orthodox position on self-determination to the extent of destroying the coordination for which he had worked so hard. His thesis gives some clues. The stage theory is most obvious, allied with the separation of the political from the economic. Thus he requires the proletariat to pass through a bourgeois-democratic stage defined by political democracy. This is a strange and idealist construct. Whether the working class becomes strong enough to exert its needs through dictatorship is after all not a question of political forms of the rule of the ruling class. It is a question of political economy, of the growth and formation of the class itself within and against capital.

Lenin's position would be easy fora political emigre Russian of the time to adopt, initially impressed, no doubt, with the German SPD parliamentary activity, and coming to accept it as normal while in Russia a mad, unwashed, peasant, prophet-monk determined national policy by hypnotising the tsarina (imagine the effect on Lenin's blood pressure of reading that kind of news). Political democracy must have looked tempting. On the other hand it had not prevented, indeed it had led to, the betrayal of August 4. Nevertheless Lenin sticks to the necessity of the proletariats' long march through the ideal stages. His internationalism must be viewed in this light. The Polish theses, speaking for the European left, support decolonisation no less than Lenin but offer their support to the colonised proletariat against capital, native or European, and desire to split it from the national bourgeoisie. Lenin on the other hand, adamant that there must be a bourgeois-democratic stage, neglects any possibility of an autonomous working class with its own, autonomous struggle. But this is not enough to explain his obsession with national self-determination. For that we have to look to Russia.

Russo-centrism was Lenin's besetting sin. When Gorter returned from Moscow after pleading the case of the European left at the third International in 1920 he is reported to have said that when he went he expected to find in Lenin a man who thought himself the commissar of the world revolution; instead he had found a Russian. Lenin had been in western Europe since 1900. For most of that time he had acted as a correspondent for Bolshevik newspapers distributed in Russia. An examination of the Collected Works covering that period shows Lenin's contributions to have been almost entirely polemics against political positions held by others (mainly the Mensheviks) or commentary on events in Russia. Reading Lenin you would have no idea that by 1914 many people in western Europe were expecting a revolution. Not because of the power of the parties of the 2nd International but because, increasingly, neither those parties nor the trades unions could hold the working class in check. Bourgeois society, not without considerable internal dispute, had begun to come to terms with the demands of social democracy and to recuperate its position within those demands. But the prevention of communism was missing its target. From about 1902 strikes had been getting larger and more frequent in every country in Europe. This explains the relatively muted reaction to Russia's 1905; it was seen as merely an extreme version of a general trend. Lenin, unlike the European left, took no part in this and wrote very little. Long after the European left he notices the integration of the SPD into the state and appears to assume that the working class had been similarly integrated. Instead the working class had been breaking free of officialdom. Strikes in Germany went from 1468 involving 321,000 workers in 1900, to 3228 involving 681,000 in 1910, to 2834 involving 1,031,000 in 1912. Many of these strikes were against the express wishes of both unions and the party. Similar stories can be told for all the countries of western Europe. It was even happening in Britain. George Askwith, the Board of Trade's senior arbitrator was confidently expecting an all-out general strike at best and a revolution at worst (from his point of view) by mid-1914 after four years of less and less controllable industrial unrest. None of this did Lenin relay to Russia.

Lenin knew that war led to revolution in the current epoch; the French communes in 1871, Russia in 1905. Oppression and privation would see to that. So his revolutionary response converged with that of the European left. But Russia was the 'prison house of the nations'. Where the European empires, Germany and Austro-Hungary, were relatively homogeneously developed with class unity possible across 'national' boundaries, Russia was in comparison seriously underdeveloped and, worse, extremely unevenly developed. If post-revolutionary Russia was to be held together its disparities had to be recognised. Lenin's answer was national self-determination. With a political viewpoint he then elided the Russian with the European empires and the liberation of the colonies - the right of self-determination for all. But also unintentionally holding back everything to the pace of development of events in Russia. The Polish theses see further division, or even support for it, as a backward step. The empires were capitalist phenomena and their internationalisation was a progressive aspect of capital. The spread of industry, the economic development of the continent was no longer confined within national boundaries. Re-imposition of those boundaries would be a serious threat to working-class control and management of production. The class had no nation. Lenin on the other hand seemed to wish to teach the class that it had.

Lenin cannot be held fully responsible for the use to which his words have since been put, but his relatively sophisticated differentiation between the right of self-determination and the actual event (or is it mere sophistry?), and his demand that socialists should support elements of 'revolutionary' bourgeois nationalist movements have been cheapened and coarsened. The left has all too frequently assumed that it is leftist to support national struggles per se, no matter what brutality they might mete out to the working class, no matter what check they are on the formation of that class, and no matter what ludicrously economically inadequate piece of territory they claim. There is no real historical excuse; even before the First World War, Anton Pannekoek pointed out that bourgeois nationalists in the colonies were injecting their own interests into socialist ideology due to the bankruptcy of bourgeois ideology. This process has continued until now it is accepted wisdom that support for national bourgeois regimes is inherent in socialism. And so it may be to socialism, the outdated ideology of the Second International. But it has little or nothing to do with proletarian revolution.

B.Shepherd From Radical Chains no.3


Horace B Davies Nationalism and Socialism, Marxist and Labor Theories of Nationalism to 1917, Monthly Review Press 1967.
O.H.Gankin and H.H.Fisher, The Bolsheviks and The World War, The Origins of the Third International, Stanford 1940.
R.Craig Nation,War on War Lenin, the Zimmerwald Left, and the Origin of Communist Internationalism, Duke University Press 1989.
Lenin's Struggle for a Revolutionary International, Pathfinder Press.

Franz Jakubowski: consciousness and the critique of political economy - Radical Chains

This article examines the attempt by Franz Jakubowski, a trotskyist leader of the 1930s, to confront those conceptions of consciousness that were dominant within the Second and Third Internationals... Unable to comprehend the impact of the prevention of communism on working class consciousness, Jakubowski is able only to reassert an abstract dichotomy of "false" and "correct" consciousness. This critique of Jakubowski has ramifications that go beyond the bolshevik tradition itself. From Radical Chains no.3

radical chains

The question of consciousness has been the Achilles heel of marxism throughout the present epoch. Failure in the revolutionary project has been explained away by invoking the supposed "false" consciousness of the working class. This is true of the left as a whole and is more obvious within bolshevism perhaps only because of heavy reliance on crude formulations from Lenin's What is to be Done? Other currents, often more academic in orientation, have tended to disguise crudity of conception behind a veil of language sophisticated to the point of impenetrability.

Bolshevism is not, however, monolithic. In this article D.Gorman examines the attempt by Franz Jakubowski, a trotskyist leader of the 1930s, to confront those conceptions of consciousness that were dominant within the Second and Third Internationals. Arguing that Jakubowski ultimately fails to go beyond the positions of those, like Lenin, who he criticises, Gorman traces this failure to Jakubowski's attempt to develop a critique of consciousness in abstraction from any consideration of the concrete, historically developing, political economy of his time. Unable to comprehend the impact of the prevention of communism on working class consciousness, Jakubowski is able only to reassert an abstract dichotomy of "false" and "correct" consciousness. This critique of Jakubowski has ramifications that go beyond the bolshevik tradition itself.

In the present epoch the left has been crippled by its compromise with various forms of administrative control. Appearing as the basis of transition to the alternative society, such forms have in fact blocked the process, thus preserving the existing order. In so far as the left has been unable to properly apprehend this tendency, it has found itself trapped in an apparent dichotomy between the maturity of the objective conditions for communism and the immaturity of the necessary subjective awareness. The left has thus had to explain away as 'false' consciousness the refusal of the working class to endorse the socialist future as it appeared in the USSR and similar social formations. The disintegration of stalinism, under the pressure of the working class, tends to undermine this appearance and opens up space for critical thought about consciousness. Such thought can best develop by confronting the ideological legacy of the past.

The destruction of the October revolution virtually destroyed the left, scattering and isolating opposition. Little space was left for criticism within existing left milieux and in particular those compromised in some way by the defence of the USSR. Criticism did, however, take place and one of the most interesting examples from within the bolshevik tradition is Franz Jakubowski's recently reprinted Ideology and Superstructure in Historical Materialism (second English edition, Pluto Press, 1990; introduction by Frank Furedi). First published in Danzig in 1936 this book attempts to confront the conceptions of the relations between consciousness and being that were dominant in the Second and Third internationals at the time.

Jakubowski was born in Poznan in Poland in 1912 and brought up in Danzig. Although he had become attracted to marxism in 1930, he spent the period up to 1933 studying law at various universities across Europe. However, when Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, Jakubowski, then studying at Wroclaw, joined the trotskyist Socialist Workers Party. He went on to study politics at Basle, where he met Fritz Belleville - a leader of the trotskyist movement in Germany, friend and disciple of Karl Korsch and member of the Frankfurt school. At Basle, Jakubowski and Belleville were active in a group of revolutionary socialist students but in 1936 Jakubowski returned to the 'free city' of Danzig, where a Nazi administration had just come to power. There he became a leader of the Spartacus League, a trotskyist organisation whose activities included working with dockers to obstruct the shipment of arms to Franco in Spain. Arrested by the Nazis along with sixty members of this organisation in December 1936 he and nine others were sentenced to three years imprisonment. His trial, which Jakubowski himself compared to the Moscow show trials, won him the support of Trotsky who defended him in the pages of Lutte Ouvriere. His release was secured by his parents on the technical grounds that he was a German citizen and not a citizen of Danzig. On his release he became, like many others in that period a political refugee. He travelled via Denmark and Cuba to America where he changed his name to Frank Fisher.

Little is known about Jakubowski's life beyond this point, beyond the fact that he became a founder of the Alexander Herzen Foundation. His choice of America rather than Russia as a place of refuge was natural given the show trials and the Comintern's denunciation of all communist oppositionists as Gestapo agents. This choice not only saved his life but spared him suspicion of implication in stalinism associated with those who, like Lukacs and Brecht, went east. Yet American exile, for Jakubowski as for many others - for example, Horkheimer, Reich, and Rosdolsky -must have spelled isolation, both linguistic and cultural. Such isolation would have been reinforced by the general political confusion within emigre circles and by the Cold War and Jakubowski seems to have lost contact with the workers movement. He died in 1970.

The main interest in Jakubowski lies 'in the fact that his book constitutes an attempt by a leader of the trotskyist movement to develop a critique of Lenin's understanding of consciousness and the party as the 'bearer' of consciousness. This is significant, first, because it goes against the evolution of Trotsky himself, who in his later years was to repudiate his earlier criticisms of What is to be Done? But, in addition, in so far as Jakubowski undertakes this critique, he begins to converge on positions adopted by the left communists - indeed, Jakubowski's critique owes much to the influence of Korsch. That he did not take this critique further is partly a function of his acceptance of Trotsky's analysis of the USSR.

Ideology and Superstructure is interesting also because it tends ultimately to reproduce, if in a more sophisticated form, the position it sets out to criticise. It contains a compelling critique of Lenin, enshrined within a theoretical framework which shares many of the deeper assumptions of What is to be Done? The failure to actually go beyond Lenin is a common feature of anti-leninism and important to the survival of leninism. The phenomenon is not limited to Jakubowski. In so far, however, as it appears in a particularly clear form in Ideology and Superstructure, it thus permits the kind of detailed examination of the problem not often afforded by other works. Jakubowski can thus be taken as a prime example of the failure of anti-leninism from Paul Mattick through to Herbert Marcuse. It is possible to discern in it the mechanisms through which the process of 're-thinking' goes astray.

Ideology and Superstructure - the product of Jakubowski's doctoral dissertation - stands out as a critical, scholarly work, and is in many ways a model that it worthy of emulation. It is clearly and economically written, its argument unfolding organically, each part leading up to and supporting the next - a virtue which makes it relatively easy to trace the sources of its problems. In the course of his argument, Jakubowski polemicises against such thinkers as Lenin, Kautsky, Plekhanov, Hilferding, Weber, Mannheim and Kelsen. No comment will be made about his appropriation of their work -except that of Lenin - beyond noting the non-sectarian nature of that appropriation. Jakubowski examines the logic of opponents' arguments rather than indulging in invective or neutralisation through the attachment of labels - practices which in some quarters are still identified with historical materialist analysis.

One problem for the contemporary reader is Jakubowski's language. Ideology and Superstructure is replete with phrases such as 'base and superstructure', 'theory and practice', and 'metaphysical materialism' -even the title itself will be enough to put some people off. Today such language is unfortunately redolent of the official language of the Soviet elite. Categories which had once been a means of critical analysis have become, through their petrification, a means of pre-empting criticism; language which was in an earlier period the means of subversive communication has become recuperated by bureaucracy as the prevention of communication. This is a real problem, and a common obstacle to the critical appropriation of marxist texts from the '20s and '30s. To engage with it, moreover, is to risk being drawn into its reproduction. Nonetheless, whatever the connotations of such terminology now, for Jakubowski it had a different - real - meaning. The attempt will be made to re-state the real core of Jakubowski's argument in language that is more accessible to the modern reader.


The following discussion focuses on Jakubowski's critique of Lenin. The aim is not, however, to develop a narrow, textual analysis of Jakubowski, but rather to use Jakubowski in order to raise general questions about consciousness and being, the nature of ideology in bourgeois society, and the place of philosophy within communist theory. It begins by outlining Jakubowski's conception of conscious being and pays particular attention to his criticisms of Lenin's account. This is followed by an analysis of Jakubowski's alternative which draws upon previous work (see Gorman, Radical Chains 2). It is argued that Jakubowski's alternative tends ultimately to reproduce the standpoint to which it is opposed. This has its roots in Jakubowski's marginalisation of the significance of political economy within marxism and his tendency to regard the critique of political economy as being finished. This in turn results in an incomplete and even ambiguous understanding of commodity fetishism and a dichotomised conception of consciousness. It leads also to an inadequate understanding of the nature of class, and a lack of sensitivity to the complex determination of consciousness in the 20th century. This results in an abstract problem of consciousness, separated from the question of needs. It is this false problematic of consciousness that has dominated the marxism of the last one hundred years or so.

The central theme of Ideology and Superstructure is 'the relation between consciousness and being in historical materialism' (pl3). This relation, Jakubowski argues, is one of 'dialectical unity'. Being, for Jakubowski, must be understood in terms of the historically developing social relations of humanity and consciousness as an expression of social being. Consciousness, in this conception, does not merely 'reflect' being, but is an integral part of social reality. Although he accepts the 'base-superstructure' distinction, Jakubowski takes care to stress that this distinction is not equivalent to that between consciousness and being. The 'base' is defined in terms of 'the economic structure of society' (p33) and the 'superstructure' in terms of political and legal relations as well as ideology. The political and legal superstructures are, in Jakubowski's view, just as much aspects of social being as is the 'economy'. The ideological superstructure, moreover, contains not only economic ideas but political and legal ones too, as well as the general 'intellectual structure' of society (p53).

From this conception of the unity of consciousness and being, Jakubowski argues, it follows that it is not enough to change ideas alone. On the contrary, if bourgeois ideas are to be removed, it is necessary to abolish in practice the material conditions of those ideas, bourgeois society itself. On the other hand, such practical abolition must itself be conscious. That is to say, the struggle against the reified ideas of bourgeois society requires a conscious struggle against the material condition of reification. The unity of the subject and object of knowledge and the unity of consciousness and being achieve expression in the unity of theory and practice and the association of marxism with the workers' movement' (p60).


From this basis Jakubowski develops a persuasive critique of the conceptions of consciousness and being of the dominant strands of Second and Third International marxism. Whatever the differences between the representatives of the different tendencies, he argues, all tended to 'abandon Marx's dialectic and consequently fail to understand the humanist character of his theory' (p68). Failing to comprehend marxism as a doctrine of human liberation, all tended to separate consciousness from its object and theory from practice. Jakubowski develops these points through critiques of Kautsky, Lenin and Adler, but the focus here will be on his discussion of the most important of the three: Lenin.

Jakubowski's critique centres on Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1909) and What is to be Done? (1902) and it is worth briefly outlining the central propositions of those documents before examining Jakubowski's critique. Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was written in 1909 as a response to the attempts by Bogdanov and others to incorporate the work of Avenarius and Mach into marxism. What is of interest here is not so much Lenin's negative criticisms of Mach and Avenarius as his positive statement of his own understanding of materialism, which can be illustrated by means of quotes other than those supplied by Jakubowski.

In Materialism and Empirio-Criticism Lenin is concerned to defend 'dialectical materialism' against its 'idealist' critics. For Lenin, 'the fundamental distinction between the materialist and the adherent of idealist philosophy, consists in the fact that the materialist regards sensation, perception, idea, and the mind of man generally as an image of objective reality' (MAEC, p320). Lenin wants to defend 'dialectical materialism' rather than its 'metaphysical' variants, yet, despite his repeated assertion of a distinction between the two kinds of materialism, it never emerges what, for Lenin, the distinction actually is. For the most part, Lenin restricts himself to a defence of the materialism of the natural sciences. Thus, for example, Lenin upholds the notions of absolute time and space and of the real existence of atoms as the fundamental stuff of the universe. The influence of the natural sciences carries over into Lenin's discussion of social being.

The result is that Lenin separates consciousness from being. Thus, for example, Lenin speaks of the objective logic or laws of historical change, defining 'objective ... in the sense that social being is independent of the social consciousness of men'(MAEC, p393). From this abstract conception of social being necessarily follows the residual character of consciousness. And from the residual character of consciousness derives the centrality of consciousness to Lenin's political project, in abstraction from social being. Thus: The highest task of humanity is to comprehend the objective logic of economic evolution (the evolution of social life) in its general and fundamental features, so that it may be possible to adapt to it one's social consciousness and the consciousness of the advanced classes in all the capitalist countries in as definite, clear and critical a fashion as possible' (MAEC, p393-4). There are clear parallels between this philosophical conception of consciousness and the political project of What is to be Done? according to which consciousness must be brought to the workers. Although What is to be Done? is the earlier work, it clearly presupposes the kind of philosophical position stated later in Materialism and Empirio-Criticism.

The central focus of What is to be Done? concerns the question of consciousness and ideology and the relation of the party to the working class. Lenin was, in this work, responding to the 'economist' doctrine, associated with Bernstein and others, according to which the working class will spontaneously develop a 'social democratic' consciousness through the struggle for higher wages and better conditions of work. In so far as this doctrine ignores the questions of the social totality and the ideological forms of bourgeois society, Lenin was certainly right to oppose it. Yet in doing so he accepts the validity of the economist notion of a spontaneous 'economic' or 'trade union' struggle separate from the 'political' struggle against the totality of bourgeois society. This economic struggle, to which the working class is confined, has, for Lenin, no impact on the laws of capital or its ideological forms. It follows, then, that bourgeois ideology can be dissolved only by forces external to the proletariat and from this derives the need for the party as the bearer of consciousness.

Jakubowski's critique of Lenin clearly owes much to the influence of Korsch's The Present State of the Problem of 'Marxism and Philosophy' (1930) and broaches themes developed in greater detail by Pannekoek in Lenin as Philosopher (1938). Jakubowski's main point is that Lenin defines being in terms of an 'abstract', 'metaphysical' conception of matter, as a result of which 'consciousness loses its reality and becomes an attribute of matter which alone is real: consciousness becomes the mere duplicated reflection of matter (p71). This 'metaphysical materialism' entails an absolute separation of consciousness from being' (p71). In so far as Lenin distinguishes, moreover, between 'consciousness' and 'social consciousness', in Jakubowski's view he introduces a distinction between human consciousness' and a kind of hegelian 'suprahuman consciousness'. Although he does not spell it out-and it is not clear why he does not do so - there is in Jakubowski a clearly implied link between Lenin's philosophy and his politics. Lenin's project in What is to be Done? of bringing consciousness to the workers 'rupture[s] the marxist unity of theory and practice' (p119).

Jakubowski's critique of Lenin is generally quite compelling although not without problems. As acknowledged earlier, Jakubowski's language can be quite alienating to the contemporary reader and the terminology used in his critique of Lenin is a prime example. Essentially, Jakubowski is criticising atomistic or reductive forms of materialism which tend to take reality as static or given, existing independently of conscious human practice. Such conceptions could be regarded as a mere inversion of idealism and could be contrasted with the 'dialectical' conception which analyses the development of consciousness and being as integrally related aspects of the same dynamic totality. Understood in these terms it is could be argued that Materialism and Empirio-Criticism does embody a 'metaphysical' conception of materialism.

The result is, as Jakubowski argues, that Lenin separates consciousness from being. But to make this point it is not necessary to argue, as Jakubowski does, that Lenin uses the concept 'social consciousness' in contrast to Marx's 'social being' (p72). It is quite clear that Lenin uses the concept of social being, and, indeed, Jakubowski even quotes Lenin's use of it, for example Lenin's claim that 'social consciousness reflects social being'(MAEC, p391; quoted in Jakubowski, p71-2). This said, it remains that Lenin's use of the term social being is abstract, presupposing the separation of being and consciousness to which Jakubowski refers.

There is much that is of value in Jakubowski's critique of Lenin and it is unfortunate that Frank Furedi, in his introduction to Jakubowski, should have avoided responding to the substance of Jakubowski's arguments. Furedi prefaces his discussion of Jakubowski's critique with the warning: 'Jakubowski's critical attitude to Lenin should be understood in the context of the isolation and defeat of the Russian Revolution in the 1920s'. Furedi briefly notes these criticisms and proceeds to restate, unproblematically, the main theses of What is to be Done?. For Furedi, it is not so much that there is no need for any further thought on the subject; the need is rather that there should be no such further thought: The existing state of society imposes sharp limits on how far it is possible to clarify the problem of class consciousness without mystifying it further'. Furedi makes no effort to refute Jakubowski; to do so, given the many shared assumptions, would involve him also in refuting Lenin.

However, it is possible to accept this critique yet argue that it misses its target. A common claim is that Lenin later rejected those formulations in What is to be Done? that had been criticised by his opponents and that through his reading of Hegel he developed a more dialectical approach to philosophical questions (Leibman, Leninism Under Lenin, Merlin, 1971; Lowy, Critique 6, 1976). Thus in the opinion of Furedi, for example, Jakubowski's interpretation of Lenin 'was perhaps understandable if his 1909 polemical pamphlet Materialism and Empirio-Criticism was taken as Lenin's major statement on the method of dialectical materialism'. However, Furedi adds, Lenin's later philosophical writings 'reveal a remarkably clear appreciation of the dialectical unity of theory and practice', one which 'was in fact quite consistent with Jakubowski's approach'. To ignore this, it might be argued, is to distort Lenin and miss what is of real value in his work., Against this argument, two lines of defence are possible.

First, it is necessary to place Jakubowski's work in its historical context. Jakubowski, it might be conceded, was not responding to the real, historical Lenin, but to the Lenin' constructed by the Comintern. His understanding of Lenin would have been derived from those works canonised by the Comintern and prominent amongst these were What is to be Done? and Materialism and Empirio-Criticism. A greatly impoverished Lenin this might have been but it was the only one on offer and Jakubowski had to criticise it. Furedi himself notes that the Philosophical Notebooks in which Lenin is supposed to have developed a more dialectical understanding of consciousness and being, was 'a work that was probably not available to Jakubowski'. To understand Jakubowski's critique of Lenin it is necessary to apply to it the standards of historical materialist analysis.

But, secondly, it is possible to question the extent to which Lenin did reject the formulations which Jakubowski criticises. Many commentators have found in Lenin's post-What is to be Done? writings a more sophisticated account of the relation between class and party and between consciousness and spontaneity. Indeed, by 1907 Lenin had begun to distance himself from What is to be done? Referring to 'particular expressions which I had not quite adroitly or precisely formulated', Lenin warns his critics not to elevate certain formulations contained in this text 'to "programmatic" level, constituting special principles' ('Preface to the Collection Twelve Years', Collected Works, Vol 13, p107). Yet his own later formulations remain at best ambiguous. Even his most libertarian' work, The State and Revolution, presupposes a conception of the party similar to that contained in What is to be Done? (See Dixon and Gorman, Radical Chains, this issue).Much the same can be said of Lenin's philosophical break with mechanistic materialism. Although there is some evidence of such a break in the Philosophical Notebooks, especially around the years 1914-1915, it did not last. In his preface to the second edition of Materialism and Empirio-Criticism (1920), Lenin expresses his belief that the book 'will prove useful as an aid to an acquaintance with the philosophy of Marxism, dialectical materialism' (MAEC, p8).


While Jakubowski's negative critique of Lenin points in the right direction, his own account of consciousness and ideology, for all its philosophical sophistication, nevertheless fails to challenge the deeper assumptions of Lenin's thought, and thus tends to reproduce them.

Jakubowski's account of consciousness is derived from the lukacsian problematic of reification. In bourgeois society, Jakubowski argues, conditions of alienated labour give rise to the fetishism of commodities. Social relations, in Jakubowski's words, 'appear to be relations between things' (p89). The fetishism of commodities is the basis of the reified ideology of bourgeois society which prevents individuals developing a 'correct' consciousness of their conditions of existence. This 'false' consciousness must be changed if revolution is to be possible. But ideology 'is not a mere subjective fantasy but a 'conscious' expression of the objective appearance assumed by capitalist reality. As conscious being it is therefore an essential and necessary part of this reality' (pl03-4). Its removal is possible only from the standpoint of a class - the proletariat - whose conditions of existence force it to overthrow capitalist society.

The worker, however, 'can only become conscious of his social being by becoming conscious of himself as a commodity' (p114). Under capitalism workers are forced to sell their labour power for a wage; in doing so they thus sell themselves as commodities. At the same time, however, workers are human. From this tension between commodity object and human subject arises the possibility of a 'correct' consciousness. Because the worker experiences the labour relation 'both as subject and object, he is in a position to see through the fetish appearance of the commodity labour power' (p115).

Potentiality is not actuality: To state that the proletariat's position in society allows it a correct, non-ideological consciousness, a non-reified knowledge of reality in its concrete totality, does not mean that the proletariat actually has such a consciousness (pll6).' Indeed, this potentiality might amount to little more than logical possibility: This developed proletarian class consciousness is therefore not an actual consciousness but an imputed (zugerechnet) one, one that the proletariat would have if it were fully capable of comprehending its situation' (pll6). Finally it transpires that: The humanist, dialectical materialist theory represents non-reified knowledge. It anticipates what the proletariat as a whole can only know after its liberation' (p117). If however, class consciousness can be acquired by the proletariat as a whole only after it has been liberated is questionable to what extent it is possible to speak of self-emancipation. Indeed, this is a term that Jakubowski never uses.

Jakubowski is aware that this argument might seem to imply acceptance of the assumption - implicit in both Kautsky and Lenin -that 'the working class movement and marxist theory develop independently of each other and only connect externally' (p118). To avoid this conclusion Jakubowski uses two related arguments. First, he attacks Lenin's understanding of working class spontaneity. In limiting working class spontaneity to a reformist or trades union consciousness, Lenin, Jakubowski argues, 'overlooks the other ideology which is spontaneously produced by the proletariat: the ideology which aims at the revolutionary liberation of the working class at times when revolutionary action cannot be brought into line with objective conditions' (p119). This 'utopian, subjective consciousness', Jakubowski calls anarchism. The two spontaneous ideologies, he argues, are produced by the contradictory social existence of the proletariat. For Jakubowski, 'trade union consciousness' expresses the fact that the working class is 'a constituent part of capitalism', while anarchism is an expression of the fact that the proletariat is also its negation. Marxism, he claims, 'is the synthesis of both conceptions' (p120). It is because of this contradictory social being and consciousness of the proletariat that 'part' of the working class is able to adopt marxist theory on the basis of experience alone before 'the actual removal of reification'. As 'the revolutionary party' this section of the class is able to orient the rest of the class towards its goal (p120-121).

Against this argument, flawed as it may be, it is not enough merely to restate Lenin as Furedi does: 'Lenin argued that trade union consciousness was the spontaneous reaction of wage labourers in struggle, just as anarchism was the instinctive outlook of the angry petit-bourgeois'. All this can show is that Lenin and Jakubowski had different understandings of the nature of working class spontaneity and of the class nature of anarchism; it can give no reason to prefer Lenin's account to that of Jakubowski (unless it has already been decided that Lenin must be right). The real problem about Jakubowski's argument does not lie in its difference from Lenin's, ie., its more complex understanding of working class spontaneity, but in what it shares with it. What it shares with Lenin is a static account of spontaneity. In Jakubowski's account, spontaneity is complex but it is always the same complexity. As with Lenin, it leaves no room for the historically changing nature of spontaneity - workers' councils, for example, are the product of a very different kind of proletarian spontaneity than that which produced food riots. To appeal to this contradictory nature of spontaneity, moreover, does not explain what it is supposed to explain: why some workers (but not others) are able to adopt marxist theory on the basis of experience before the 'removal of reification'. Finally, to reduce marxism to a 'synthesis' of trade unionist and anarchist ideology, although it may (or may not) have been politically expedient, is to empty that theory of its specificity: the theoretical analysis of forms of surplus extraction and labour process control from the standpoint of communism.

Jakubowski's second argument contends that 'theory is not introduced into the workers' movement arbitrary' (p120). There are, according to Jakubowski, 'revolutionary' and 'reformist' phases or periods in the class struggle. The initial development of marxism, he argues, coincided with a period 'when a revolutionary situation was already posing the task of the seizure of power to the young working class movement' (pl21). Only in revolutionary periods can the working class adopt marxist theory. In non-revolutionary periods, as from, eg., 1850 to the turn of the century, the workers' movement either fails to adopt marxism at all or adopts only a garbled version of it which corresponds to its non-revolutionary orientation. It is not necessary to accept Jakubowski's periodisation - contradicted by the example of 1871 - to see his point. The real isolation of marxism from a revolutionary workers movement leads to its degeneration ; it collapses into, one the one hand, eclectic abandonment of central categories and, on the other, rigidly held lines which define the self-identity of the group but which have no critical purchase on reality.

Again, there are valuable insights in this argument but they are not consolidated. Jakubowski describes Lenin as 'a practical revolutionary' who 'tried to raise the practice of the workers' movement to the same level as that the theory had achieved with its founders' (p124-5). Such a strategy, Jakubowski argues, 'cannot succeed at any point in time, regardless of the objective situation. Until 1917 the separation of theory and practice continued to exist; this much was evident from Lenin's theory itself in that period as we have already seen' (p125). This, however, seems arbitrary. Jakubowski asserts that observed alternations between reform and revolution are the necessary outcome of changes in the objective situation, but he does not argue his case. Lacking any such argument, Jakubowski is open to the criticism that such alternations are subjective in origin and therefore amenable to alteration by the presence of the appropriate organisational forms. To preserve Jakubowski's insight, and prevent its recuperation into the notion of a crisis of leadership, it is necessary to go beyond the parameters of his theory.


When Ideology and Superstructure first appeared in English in 1976, Jakubowski was described as 'a Marxist who, during the dark night of the Third International and the rise of Fascism, remained in contact with authentic Marxist theory and practice' and his book as 'a record of the existence of that authentic Marxism, and as such is an important landmark in the development of contemporary Western Marxism' (David- Hillel Ruben, Critique 8, Summer 1977). Such an assessment is over-eulogistic for Jakubowski fails to advance beyond the standpoint he rejects. But it would be wrong to dismiss it as a book that is primarily concerned with 'the 'correct' exposition of the texts of Marx and Engels' and therefore one whose interest 'must surely be mainly historical - an' even in that respect limited' in so far as it fails to 'deal with the specific historical events of its time (Kate Soper, Wait for the Workers', Radical Philosophy, 17, Summer 1977).

Ideology and Superstructure is an important book and much can be learned from its failings. It is both the product of its period and of a struggle against the barriers apparent in that epoch. Its failure is not an individual failing but the product of the historical destruction of the workers' movement in the 1920s and '30s through which the transition to communism was blocked. In many ways it embodies the ideological legacy of that defeat, one which has not yet been overcome. By examining Jakubowski's work carefully it is possible to obtain a deeper understanding of that legacy. Ideology and Superstructure, for all its limitations, or, perhaps, because of them, deserves more than the uncritical eulogy it received from David-Hillel Ruben or the uncomprehending dismissal it received at the hands of Kate Soper when it first appeared in English.

The roots of the problem lie in Jakubowski's marginalisation of the contribution of the critique of political economy to the development of the historical materialist method. Arguing that any new theory can only develop through a critical confrontation with the intellectual milieu within which it arose, Jakubowski outlines the relation, as he sees it, of marxism to the idealist and materialist theories which preceded it. According to Jakubowski: 'Marx's problematic springs from this dispute with Hegel and Feuerbach, who he sees as the typical representatives of the idealist and materialist philosophies' (pl4). It is not necessary to agree with the account expressed in Lenin's The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913), for example - which describes marxism as the successor of 'German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism' - to recognise that Jakubowski has specified only part of the total intellectual milieu which Marx confronted.

Marx's method developed not only from the critique of preceding philosophical doctrines, but also, and crucially, through the critique of political economy. The critique of political economy is not merely the 'application' to . a particular sphere of knowledge of a completed 'dialectical materialist method'. If it were, it would be possible to obtain an adequate understanding of bourgeois consciousness without developing a concrete political economy of bourgeois society. Consciousness could be regarded as a 'philosophical' problem to be studied independently of any knowledge of the marxist theory of 'economics', which deals with the objective development of bourgeois society independently of consciousness. By contrast, Marx's understanding of consciousness developed as much through the critique of political economy as through the critiques of Hegel and Feuerbach. The theory of commodity fetishism, the necessary starting point for an adequate understanding of bourgeois ideology, is premised on an understanding of the value form and so could not have arisen from the critique of bourgeois philosophy alone.

To say that Jakubowski marginalises the importance of the critique of political economy within marxism is not to deny that the categories of this critique do appear in his work. However, to the extent that they do appear, they do so only as inert supports fora philosophical discourse on 'false' and 'correct' consciousness. Categories such as abstract labour, fetishism, value, and surplus value, for example, do no more than provide a context for this discourse. The categories of the critique of political economy serve merely as a means to another end, apparently unconnected to that critique. They act as place markers within a theoretical grid but in themselves they do no work.

For Jakubowski, the point about the fetish character of commodity production is that 'it makes what are social relations between persons appear to be relations between things'(p89). This is vague and ambiguous but carries the implication of a gap between illusion and reality or a discrepancy between consciousness and its (hidden) object - the classic puzzle of western philosophy. Thus Jakubowski characterises ideology as 'first of all, a false consciousness which is not in accord with reality, which neither discovers nor expresses reality in an adequate manner' (p98). Having defined ideology as 'false' consciousness, it becomes necessary to 'examine each individual position in society to see how far it permits a correct, total view, and how far it leads to ideology' (p104-105). The task is to foster in the revolutionary subject a 'correct' consciousness of an unchanging, external, object.

For Jakubowski the objective conditions for communism exist - all that is lacking is the necessary consciousness: The lack of a developed proletarian class consciousness is thus vital to the existence of the capitalist state. If the state apparatus is to maintain the class rule of the bourgeoisie in a period when the objective economic conditions for its defeat are already a reality, then to have monopoly over the ownership of weapons is not enough. The maintenance of bourgeois rule requires also that the proletariat and the other oppressed classes have no clear socialist consciousness. If the proletariat had this consciousness it would not only be able to see the class struggle, it would also be able to recognise capitalism as a merely historical stage of development, situated at a particular level of productive forces' (p52).

From this it follows that the critique of political economy is finished. If the objective conditions necessary for communism exist, and the problem is merely a lack of a 'correct' consciousness of those conditions, there is no need to develop the critique of political economy further. There is, in other words, no need to develop new categories of political economy through the concrete analysis of existing social reality. To gain a comprehensive understanding of the social determinants of consciousness it is enough to study Capital; indeed Capital becomes an a priori model of bourgeois society. All that can be known about the political economy of bourgeois society is, in this analysis, already known. For practical purposes it can even be ignored.

Although Jakubowski tries to develop a dynamic understanding of conscious being, his conception of social being remains static, exhausted for the most part by the first three chapters of Capital, supplemented by the writings of Pashukanis and Trotsky. Social being is restricted to the economic structure of commodity production, the legal form of contract, and a diversity of bourgeois state forms (bonapartist, fascist, and so on).

One consequence of the assumption of a finished political economy is the tendency to detach consciousness form the rest of social reality. Jakubowski defines bourgeois ideology as the 'false' consciousness characterised by the reification inherent in the fetish character of commodity production. As such, bourgeois ideology is, in Jakubowski's account, the ever present obstacle to the appearance of a 'correct' consciousness. Bourgeois society is treated as being eternally the same until such time as it is overthrown. Politics and philosophy, for example, are abstracted from political economy as if they constituted separate, hermetically sealed spheres. Class struggle is discussed as if it took place at a distinct political level and had no ramifications in terms of the law of value. The problem of consciousness can thus be isolated from any concrete analysis of bourgeois society; such an analysis could shed no further light on the problem and cannot impinge upon it. It becomes a problem of logic amenable to illumination by the light of reason alone.

This, however, renders Jakubowski unable to theorise real changes that had been developing within social being since the late 19th century and in particular in the period following the October revolution. It leaves him unable to comprehend the complex determination of proletarian consciousness in the 20th century. In particular, lacking a political economy of his epoch, Jakubowski is unable to develop a critique of the administrative forms through which the working class has been contained. This is indicated primarily in Jakubowski's acceptance of the characterisation of the USSR as a workers' state: 'In the USSR, which in spite of the extent of bureaucratisation, can still be referred to as an example of a proletarian state, the economy is above all a state economy, and the state an economic state' (p45). It is also suggested by his contention that the real unity of marxist theory with the workers' movement in the period 1917-1923 'appears at its clearest in Lenin's The State and Revolution'(pl25). Jakubowski emphasises Lenin's renewal of Marx's 'theory of the conquest and exercise of power by the proletariat' but The State and Revolution is also characterised by a conception of planning which effectively marginalises the possibilities of workers control. (see Dixon and Gorman in this issue of Radical Chains).

This lack of clarity about the nature of the USSR, for example, necessarily colours his understanding of proletarian consciousness. When Jakubowski argues that if the workers had a developed class consciousness they would be able to 'see' the class struggle, it is difficult to avoid concluding that what he means is that they would support or identify with the USSR and so defend it. This is implied by his claim that such consciousness 'does not currently prevail among the proletariat or even a major part of it in any country, apart from the Soviet Union' (p116). For Jakubowski, the question of the development of class consciousness is ultimately a question of adapting the consciousness of the proletariat to the defence of the USSR. The tragedy is that this intervention into the consciousness of the proletariat necessarily becomes an aspect of the containment of the proletariat within the existing order.


This again is a general problem and not one specific to Jakubowski. The left as a whole has failed to come to terms with the historical refusal of the working class to endorse stalinism. For many on the left, it is a sign of purity for the left to criticize stalinism, but the practical criticism of stalinism by the working class must be ascribed to 'false' consciousness. This is a serious problem. It is, moreover, insurmountable so long as the left holds the kind of understanding of ideology and consciousness that is particularly evident in Jakubowski. Such a conception supposes fetishism to be, within bourgeois society, a permanent, unchanging, and impenetrable obstacle to proletarian consciousness. As such, this conception precludes the very possibility of their being other, historically specific determinants of consciousness. In particular, it rules out serious examination of the real and traumatic impact of stalinism on the proletariat.

Such an approach to consciousness and ideology, it has been argued, is the necessary result of the marginalisation of the critique of political economy. If the limitations of such an approach are to be avoided, it is necessary to analyse consciousness in its real relation to the concrete and changing political economy of bourgeois society. In particular, the impact of the self-formation of the process of the working class and the real changes that have occurred in the operation of the law of value in the present epoch must be analyzed. It is possible to sketch out only the outlines of such a political economy here. This sketch, however, which draws heavily on previous work (See Radical Chains 2), is necessary in order to take the critique of Jakubowski further.

Jakubowski emphasises atomization and its mediation by exchange, rather than the conditions of that mediation. He is therefore unable to integrate into his account the self formation of the working class through the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs. Indeed, the category of needs is entirely absent from Ideology and Superstructure. Needs do not appear even as a negative determination, as 'false' needs, as they do in Marcuse's One Dimensional Man. The problem of consciousness, liberated from the question of needs, becomes a problem of consciousness alone. It can have no dynamic and necessarily collapses into an attempt to judge - condemn - the consciousness of the proletariat according to some abstract yardstick visible only to those suspended outside history and society.

Bourgeois society, as has been argued elsewhere, presupposes and reproduces abstract labour and absolute poverty. Separated by force from the means of production labour confronts capital as an alien force. Characterised by its total exclusion from objective wealth, labour power can obtain its subsistence only through exchange with capital. Its subordination to capital is, however, mediated individually by the wage. Separation of the direct producers from the means of production requires - entails - their separation from each other. The full operation of the law of value requires therefore the existence of a class of direct producers which is not a class. Its members must, in other words, be forced to be on hostile terms to each other as competitors. This requirement creates the real need for external mediation.

The social basis of exchange, abstract labour, does not appear directly, despite its being an essential presupposition of exchange. The universal takes the form of the particular - abstract labour, the basis of collectivity appears as concrete, particular, individual labour. This form of appearance of abstract labour is a real appearance and not a mere illusion hiding a deeper reality. In so far as value appears in the use value of the equivalent form, and so ultimately in money as the universal equivalent, it thus expresses its own inadequacy and its consequent need for mediation. The form is not a mere appearance but the expressed reality of the socially imposed need for external mediation and for external discipline.

Access to objects of need is mediated by money as universal equivalent. Money separates workers from the objects of need that they themselves create and from this alienation derives the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs. This struggle is the basis of the process of the self-formation of labour power into a class, through which the conditions of existence of fetishism are abolished. The direct producers overcome their separation from the means of life by overcoming their separation from each other. By combining against the mediation of needs by the value form, workers undermine the operation of the law of value. In proportion as the satisfaction of needs becomes direct, so too do relations between individuals - direct relations between individuals itself becomes a need. In this process, material relations between persons on the one hand and social relations between things on the other give way to direct relations between individuals founded on the direct satisfaction of needs. This transition is simultaneously a move from scarcity to abundance.

This is not a question of workers attaining a 'correct' consciousness of their alienation as atomised commodities. Rather, they develop an awareness of their power as combined labour to engage in the conscious determination of needs. Jakubowski's account presupposes that class struggle takes place at a distinct political level and does not impinge on the political economy of capitalism. This is assumed to remain forever the same until bourgeois society is overthrown. Class struggle, however, must be understood as an aspect of class formation, and as such is inseparable from the developing political economy of bourgeois society. The process of class formation is organically connected to the fate of the law of value, tending to suspend the latter and so to dissolve its corresponding ideological forms.

The real need for exchange mediation derives from the transformation of material necessity into social necessity, although this transformation, in turn, ultimately creates the conditions for its own supersession. Through the developing division of labour and the emergence of combined labour, scarcity gives way to abundance. This tendency is itself mediated by the long process whereby labour power comes to constitute itself as a collectivity, thus abolishing itself as labour power separated from the conditions of life. The move from atomization to collectivity - from scarcity to abundance - hinges on the struggle for the direct satisfaction of needs through which the real need for exchange mediation is eliminated.

This process is not a smooth or immediate transformation of a class in itself into a class for itself. As argued elsewhere, the process is necessarily interrupted and rupturous, a consideration which permits an understanding of the rational core of Jakubowski's distinction between 'revolutionary' and 'reformist' phases in the class struggle. Although Jakubowski says such alternations have an objective basis he does not actually identify this basis and so opens the door to the kind of political project he rejects. The periods that Jakubowski identifies politically as 'non-revolutionary' are, in fact, ones in which the threat of proletarian self-formation has been contained and the movement to collectivity undermined by real changes in the operation of the law of value. New barriers to proletarian self-formation emerge which have to be broken down (See Shepherd in Radical Chains 2).. This is not a problem of 'false' consciousness but rather of the composition of the working class at a particular stage in its self-formation.

Such a perspective can also help elucidate the real changes in the social determination of consciousness that have occurred in the present period. These changes, as argued elsewhere (see previous issues of Radical Chains), involve primarily, partial suspensions of the law of value. Class formation tends to suspend the law of value but this is acknowledged by capital and is institutionalised in the growing administration of needs. This process, which became evident in the late 19th century, became even more pronounced in the period after 1917. The present epoch is characterized primarily by the decline of the law of value through the emergence of forms which preserve it only by limiting it. The extension of the administrative prevention of communism is thus an expression of and an intensification of the decline of the law of value. On the one hand, expansion of value itself is subordinated to the process of circulation through the move to finance capital. On the other, expansion takes place through non- value forms such as the welfare state. This process entails the emergence of forms -nationalisation, full employment, central economic administration - which are neither value forms nor forms of planning. The product is therefore both value and non-value (Ticktin, Critique 21-22, 1988).

Jakubowski identifies reification as the dominant characteristic of bourgeois ideology. Reification, however, has its roots in the production of commodities and so in the law of value. To the extent that the law of value declines into bureaucratic administration, however, social relations become more transparent and less reified. For Jakubowski, who identifies ideology as 'false' consciousness, the problem is to develop a 'correct' consciousness of an unchanging - external - object. The 'object' itself has, however, become changed. Recognition of this fact opens the way to a more complex understanding of the relation between - or unity of - consciousness and being.

It is not merely that, in addition to commodity fetishism, there are now the parallel ideological forms of stalinism and social democracy. What is involved are real changes within social being. The working class is faced today with real obstacles which are the outcomes of previous struggles and in which the left still manages to implicate itself. The clearest example is the USSR, the mere existence of which is an obstacle to class formation. The early destruction of the October Revolution led ultimately to the emergence of a form of society which stands as a warning to the proletariat not to take the revolutionary road again. Regulated neither by the law of value nor consciously by the collectivity of the direct producers, the soviet economy is characterised chiefly by the phenomenon of waste. The labour process is controlled neither by the elite nor by the workers and the result is the production of use values whose major quality is their uselessness. The workforce is atomised primarily through state terror and the general interference of the state in all aspects of society. Terror exists, not to make workers work, but to stop them uniting. To improve the quality of the product would require the elite establishing control over the labour process by moving in the direction of abstract labour and exchange mediation, as Gorbachev is currently trying to do, but this in turn creates the real danger, for the elite, of the formation of collectivity (see Ticktin in Critique; and Bob Arnot - Controlling Soviet Labour: Experimental Change From Brezhnev to Gorbachev, MacMillan, 1988).

If the USSR is an example of what happens when the law of value is overthrown, it is not surprising that workers have tended to fight against capital within bourgeois society. This cannot be put down to 'false' consciousness as many have argued. On the contrary, workers have seen that if the USSR is communism then communism is not in their interest. The question of needs is of central importance: the working class, unlike the bourgeoisie, does not need the USSR. The bourgeoisie, which has been forced to recognise the existence of the working class as a collective subject, colludes with the left in offering to the workers as the only alternative to the rule of capital,the USSR and similar entities. It is not that the bourgeoisie cannot become conscious as Jakubowski argues but that in becoming conscious it changes its objective conditions of existence. In face of such complexity, the dichotomy of 'false' and 'correct' consciousness collapses.


It might be objected that the foregoing criticisms amount to an ahistorical and therefore sectarian attack on Jakubowski. Thus, for example, it could be argued that to criticise Jakubowski for failing to develop a concrete political economy of his times misses the point. For one thing, the tendencies which might be clear now would not have been so clear in Jakubowski's day and the criticisms outlined above unreasonably assume the knowledge of hindsight. In addition, it might be argued, it should be remembered that Ideology and Superstructure was the outcome of Jakubowski's doctoral dissertation, published when he was 24, and probably completed earlier. Perhaps the above criticisms betray unreasonably high
expectations on the part of the critic.

The point, however, has not been to attack Jakubowski but to indicate real limitations in his work which must be acknowledged if his critical appropriation is to be possible now. The central problem is his dichotomised conception of consciousness which implies the existence of some abstract yardstick by which to judge the consciousness of the proletariat. Such a conception is not so much useless as dangerous. The only position from which it is possible to judge the consciousness of the proletariat as 'false', is from the standpoint of some pure marxism, itself miraculously immune to the ravages of history. To explain the continued existence of bourgeois society by reference to the 'false' consciousness of the proletariat is to perpetuate the myth that there is nothing much wrong with the existing left and to deny history. Yet the left as a whole has much re-thinking to do and the concept of 'false' consciousness, by preserving the illusion of a pristine correctness, is an obstacle to the necessary theoretical regeneration.

That such regeneration is necessary cannot be seriously denied. This point will be obvious to anyone who has observed the destruction of thought that has taken place within the small groups which, despite their chronic isolation from the working class, have persisted in regarding themselves as the revolutionary vanguard. But degeneration has also occurred among those who, aware of the irrelevance of revolutionary theory to a non-revolutionary working class, have retreated into academia and worse, and a self-justifying discourse on the irrelevance of the working class to revolutionary theory, thereby making their peace with the existing order.

Marxist theory has become fragmented. In place of Marx's attempt to comprehend the totality of bourgeois society through the critique of political economy, stands a plethora of tenuously related discourses: the 'marxist' theory of art, of politics, ideology, history, and religion; 'marxist' economics, 'marxist' philosophy, etc. This fragmentation is, in part, testimony to the success of the attack on marxism through the creation of the social sciences. The problem is not particular to Jakubowski but has affected marxism as a whole from the Second International onwards. Indeed, it is one of Jakubowski's strengths that he recognises the problem even if he does not solve it.

It is another of Jakubowski's strengths that he does not regard such fragmentation as a purely intellectual problem but to a large extent as an historical one. Thus he links the degeneration of marxism to the isolation of marxism from the working class in periods in which the working class has no need for revolutionary theory. He was, moreover, aware of the increasing isolation of marxism in his own day: The tendency towards the unity of the theory of marxism with the workers' movement, and with it the restoration of the real sense of marxist theory, only became a reality in the 1917-23 period in spite of the isolated individual attempts which had been taking place since the beginning of the century. The ebbing of the revolutionary movement since then has deepened the rift between theory and practice once again, and this has had distorting effects on the theory. (p126). Indeed, it had distorting effects on Jakubowski's own development of marxist theory as will be apparent. More importantly, it seems to have fostered a formal acknowledgement of the unity of consciousness and being within an overall theoretical structure which actually confirms their separation.

If an adequate understanding of the social determinants of consciousness in the present epoch is to be developed, it is necessary to try to re-integrate the critique of consciousness into the critique of political economy; a purely political or philosophical approach is not enough. Such a project contributes to the theoretical regeneration that is needed. Theoretical regeneration is, however, not an abstract intellectual process, but part of a wider social process and therefore subject to real material constraints. The obstacles to proletarian self-emancipation - in particular Stalinism and social democracy - are crumbling, but this cannot translate into immediate communist victory. The overthrow of bourgeois society will come only as the result of the historical process through which labour power re-constitutes itself as a class. Theoretical regeneration can develop only as part of that process.

This is not to advocate immediate immersion in frenetic activism or the formation of the Party. The point is that theory can only be derived from the actual social processes going on in the world and not from a priori schema. This means attempting to comprehend the class relation at the present stage in the self-formation of the working class. Revolutionary theory, separated from the working class, does not represent the 'correct' consciousness of the working class. In so far as it persuades itself of this fallacy it sets itself up in opposition to the working class.


Joseph Dietzgen - Radical Chains

The historic split between anarchism and socialism has had a debilitating effect on the workers movement, and Joseph Dietzgen was one of those individuals who sought to lessen the opposition of these tendencies. What he promoted was not an abstract reconciliation which failed to recognise real differences, although he held that these were in any case exaggerated, but a real reconciliation based on the transcending of opposition through the transformation and supersession of existing standpoints. From Radical Chains no.3

radical chains

Joseph Dietzgen died in mid-sentence. It was a pleasant Sunday afternoon, June 15, 1888, and after sharing a bottle of wine and a good dinner, Dietzgen was vivaciously expounding his views on the labour movement and the imminent collapse of capitalism to an acquaintance of his son. To the end, Dietzgen remained a class-conscious communist, an opponent of all conventional understandings, whose appeal for currents and tendencies of the workers movement that rebelled against orthodoxy will be readily understood.

It was Dietzgen and not Plekhanov who coined the term 'dialectical materialism', first using it in his articles for the socialist press in the 1870s, several years before Plekhanov had identified publicly as a marxist. This is the man who Marx introduced to the 1872 conference of the IWMA at the Hague as 'our philosopher' and who Engels accredited with having discovered dialectics 'in a remarkable manner and utterly independent of us and even of Hegel'. Yet, in the 1920s and 1930s he was systematically written out of the history of the working class movement.

Dietzgen was born in Blankenberg, near Cologne on December 9, 1828, the eldest son of a well-to-do master tanner. Having taught himself to speak and read fluent French at an early age, he became attracted to socialism by a study of the French economists. On reading the Communist Manifesto in 1851, however, his socialism acquired a class basis. During the 1848 revolutions he had already played the role of agitator, addressing peasants from a chair standing in the main street of his village, but in 1849 political reaction drove him to emigrate to America. He stayed there for two years working as a journeyman tanner, a painter, a teacher, and just tramping across America, acquiring the English language as he went.

By 1851, however, he had returned to work in his father's shop in Uckerath and in 1853 he married a devout Roman Catholic. Over the next three decades he lived and worked in Germany, America and Russia and despite his success in business devoted only half of each day to material gain, spending the rest in diligent study. From 1869 to 1881 Dietzgen was active in the socialist movement in Germany, contributing a large number of articles to the social democratic press in that country and elsewhere. His son, Eugen, emigrated to America in 1880 and Joseph followed in June 1884, settling there permanently.

This move might have been at least partially influenced by the same considerations that had led Marx to move the headquarters of the International to New York in 1872 as is indicated by a passage from a letter Joseph wrote to his son in 1881: The United States will in my opinion remain the land of the future, within bourgeois society. By means of the competition of the New World, the oppressive atmosphere of Europe will be cleared'. Shortly after his arrival in America, Dietzgen accepted editorship of Der Sozialist, the organ of the Socialist Labour Party in New York, but in 1886 moved to Chicago. From Chicago Dietzgen was to write reports on the local situation for Der Sozialist in New York.

1886 marked the high point of the struggle for the eight hour day in America and the struggle was particularly intense in Chicago. May 1 1886 was set as the date on which the eight hour day would be imposed and on that and following days there took place large workers' demonstrations which, in Chicago, were particularly impressive. On May 4 a bomb was thrown at police officers in Haymarket Square, Chicago, and this was used as a pretext for mass arrests. Amongst others the editors of the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung, were arrested, charged with instigating riot and throwing the bomb, condemned to death and hanged.

Responding to these events, the National Committee of the American Socialist Labour Party repudiated all connection with anarchism and anarchists. Joseph Dietzgen, however, immediately offered his services to the anarchists and even began to identify publicly as an anarchist, although, not without important qualification. The Administration Board of the Socialist Publishing Society accepted his offer and he was unanimously elected chief editor of its three papers - the Arbeiterzeitung, Fackel, and Vorbote. When his report on the Haymarket events was rejected by Der Sozialist because it contradicted the official line of the National Committee of the SLP, Dietzgen attacked both in a number of articles in the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung. His position as chief editor, was only temporary but he continued to contribute to the Arbeiterzeitung until his death in 1888. Fittingly, he was buried in the same grave as the Haymarket martyrs.

The historic split between anarchism and socialism has had a debilitating effect on the workers movement, and Joseph Dietzgen was one of those individuals who sought to lessen the opposition of these tendencies. What he promoted was not an abstract reconciliation which failed to recognise real differences, although he held that these were in any case exaggerated, but a real reconciliation based on the transcending of opposition through the transformation and supersession of existing standpoints. This is hinted at in a letter he wrote to a friend on April 20, 1886: 'For my part, I lay very little weight on the distinction, whether a man is an anarchist or a socialist, because it seems to me that too much is made of this difference. If the anarchists have mad and brainless individuals in their ranks, the socialists are blessed with cowards. For this reason I care as much for the one as for the other. The majority in both camps are still in great need of education, which will of itself bring about a reconciliation'.

This approach flowed from Dietzgen's understanding of transition as a discontinuous process and was rooted in his particular conception of dialectics. According to Dietzgen: 'we shall not arrive at the new society without serious struggles. I even think that we shall not get along without disorderly uproar, without "anarchy". I believe in "anarchy" as a stage in transition. Dyed in the wool anarchists pretend that anarchism is the final stage of society. To that extent they are madcaps, who think they are the most radical people. But we are the real radicals who work for the communist order. The final aim is socialist order, not anarchist disorder' (Letter, June 9, 1886).

Dietzgen's politics flowed from his conception of dialectics. Here we will look only at some of those aspects of his thought that exerted an influence over the development of proletarian theory. Our principle concern here is Dietzgen's insistence on the real and material nature of ideas and his recognition of the need for the proletariat to formulate its own autonomous understandings.

To properly understand Dietzgen's philosophy it is necessary to consider the social and ideological context to which it was a response. This was significantly different from the one from which communist theory originally emerged. In the 1840s Marx had, in the context of the revolutionary movement of the young European proletariat, confronted a particular ideological milieu, of which post-hegelian idealism and classical political economy were the dominant intellectual expressions. To the extent that Marx dealt overtly with philosophy, therefore, he tended to concentrate his fire on idealism and said little of his differences with 18th century materialism. In the period after 1850 the revolutionary initiative of the proletariat had subsided. The proletariat appeared to be passive, subjugated by its material conditions of existence. At the same time, the enormous development of the natural sciences, and especially of evolutionary theory, had led to a resurgence of reductive materialism as the basis of bourgeois ideology. Conditions were ripe for the penetration of bourgeois materialism into communist theory.

Marx's critique of idealism was appropriated in a one-sided fashion, and his stress on the material basis of thought appropriated in such a way as to relegate ideas and consciousness to the status of mere epiphenomena. The apparent domination of the proletariat by its conditions of existence explained the absence of revolution. It also formed the basis for the domination of intellectuals within the movement and the reproduction of the division of mental and manual labour.

Against this background, the importance of Dietzgen's philosophy to certain sections of the labour movement can be readily understood. For Dietzgen, ideas and thoughts were every bit as real and material as physical matter. As he put it in The Nature of Human Brainwork (1969): 'We make the distinction between thinking and being. We distinguish between the object of sense perception and its mental image. Nevertheless the intangible object is also material and real'. As Anton Pannekoek noted in his 'Introduction' to the 1902 edition of The Positive Outcome of Philosophy, Dietzgen had extended the concept of matter to include 'everything that exists and furnishes material for thought, including thoughts and imaginations'.

What Pannekoek and others derived from Dietzgen was an appreciation of the material nature of ideology and the importance of theoretical struggle, not conceived abstractly, but as an integral part of the transition process (B.Shepherd, Radical Chains 2). Pannekoek's appropriation of Dietzgen thus supported a conception of transition as an interrupted process in which conscious struggle overthrows ideological encumbrances as part of a developing totality of class confrontation and class formation. The appropriation of Dietzgen by Pannekoek and others exerted a strong influence over the development of communist theory in Holland. What the Dutch marxists found in Dietzgen was an essential corrective to the mechanical materialism that dominated the socialist movement of the time and a way to recover the original spirit of the historical materialist method. It not only permitted a critical orientation towards Kautsky in the period before 1914, but underwrote the opposition of sections of the communist left, in particular the German KAPD, to the Comintern in the '20s and '30s.

Partly as a result of a popularisation campaign in which Pannekoek played an important role, Dietzgens philosophy came to be appropriated by working class activists in 'several countries in the period before the First World War. This process of dissemination was furthered by the publication in English of a large portion of Dietzgen's work in two volumes - The Positive Outcome of Philosophy and Philosophical Essays - by Charles Kerr & Co of Chicago in 1906.

In America, the appropriation of Dietzgen was associated specifically with the IWW, while in Britain it became part of the long tradition of independent proletarian self-education. Sometimes dogmatic in character, and in some respects also elitist, this current, with its clear recognition of the organic connection of knowledge and power, was a militant response to the bourgeois appropriation of thought. Indeed, in Dietzgen, the working class militant found an injunction 'not to acquiesce in this appropriation any longer, not to submit any more to the harangues of public opinion, but to resume thinking for ourselves. (TNOHB). Workers who aspired to class knowledge and class power could only be inspired by Dietzgen's assault on the division of intellectual and manual labour.

It should be no surprise that Dietzgen's works constituted the principal texts for courses in philosophy at the autonomous labour colleges that emerged from the split of the Plebs League from Ruskin College and the WEA in 1909 (See Binns and Officer in Radical Chains 1). Dietzgen's works had a wide readership. Maurice Dobb, reminiscing on his experiences as a labour college lecturer, was later to observe in his patronising way: 'if one stayed overnight ... in a South Wales miner's household, there were his works ... in a prominent place and treated with reverence as a sacred text' (MacIntyre, A Proletarian Science, Cambridge University Press, 1981).

In his important study of British marxism in the period after the October Revolution, Stuart MacIntyre has tried to explain the popularity of Dietzgen's work in terms of what he calls 'the absence of any more authoritative alternative based on the writings of Marx and Engels'. Dietzgen was not, however, superseded in any natural and inevitable way by the appearance of the early philosophical writings of Marx or even those of Engels. Rather, dietzgenism was purposely destroyed by the intervention of bright young university men into the labour college movement under the new conditions of consciousness imposed by the October Revolution and by the stalinisation of the CPGB in the aftermath of its failure. We see here not a natural progression to a higher truth but the conscious suppression of proletarian self-education.

The entry of bourgeois intellectuals like Dobb, Postgate and Phillips Price into the Plebs League brought with it an assault on dialectics in general and Dietzgen in particular. Like Pannekoek, but from a different class perspective, Dobb and others recognised in Dietzgen a firm basis for resistance to the penetration of middle class materialism into proletarian theory. Hence their opposition. Thus in 1923 Dobb was to -urge students to 'get away from mid-19th century philosophy and academic dissertations about the absolute, and get just a few clear and essential notions about the scientific method and modem science'. In this he was supported by Postgate who suggested that 'we abandon Dietzgen teaching altogether and respectfully, but firmly, put old Joseph on the shelf (MacIntyre).

Within the CPGB, the publication in English of Lenin's Materialism and Empirio-Criticism in 1927 also fuelled an attack upon dietzgenism. In this text Lenin had taken issue with some of Dietzgen's arguments which he believed had led Dietzgen to find favour with such 'reactionary philosophers' as Mach and Avenarius. Although not entirely hostile to the totality of Dietzgen's thought, Lenin thought that Dietzgen's insistence on the real and material existence of ideas was 'a muddle' and, worse, an idealistic deviation. To the extent that Lenin's views on materialism became CPGB orthodoxy, so dietzgenism became regarded as heresy. Partly due to Lenin's own ambivalence towards Dietzgen, the attack did not lead to the wholesale vilification of Dietzgen himself, but despite some audacious fence-sitting in relation to Dietzgen's views, his followers were hounded. These included Fred Casey, a lecturer at the Manchester Labour College, and author of Beginning with the Beginner, (Plebs, 1920; reprinted in Capital and Class 7) and Thinking (1922). In his Dialectics (1936), for example, T A Jackson attacked the 'idealistic bemuddlement' of Fred Casey whom he termed the 'High Priest of neo-Dietzgenism'. Some of Casey's ideas may have been eccentric, but no more so than those of his detractors. If his intellectual and personal eccentricities increased over the years, this is in large part due to his isolation and the refusal of dialogue imposed by the CPGB, and in this respect Casey's life parallels that of another self-educated worker radical of the period, Guy Aldred..

What prompted the resistance of the dietzgenites to the imposition of 'soviet marxism' was not what Stuart MacIntyre describes as a reluctance of 'disciples' to 'accept their master's relegation to a relatively minor role in the Marxist pantheon'. It flowed, rather, from a healthy aversion to the reimposition of the division of intellectual and manual labour through subordination to orthodoxy, a process whose consequences for the workers movement have been unambiguously disastrous.