Lenin and socialism/communism

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zugzwang
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Mar 12 2019 04:23
Lenin and socialism/communism

So when Lenin wrote:

Quote:
And so, in the first phase of Communist society (generally called Socialism) "bourgeois right" is not abolished in its entirety ...

Who exactly is the 'generally' referring to? To my understanding Marx and Engels never differentiated between those words, and the Marx passage Lenin quotes in fact shows him talking about the 'lower phase of Communism'. I was just reading S&R and was geninuely curious about this.

slothjabber
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Mar 12 2019 09:03

I've never found out. My reading of Marx & Engels is that they used them as synonyms and I don't know who said anything different.

Mike Harman
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Mar 12 2019 12:11

This goes into it in depth: https://libcom.org/library/contra-state-and-revolution

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spacious
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Mar 12 2019 13:17
Mike Harman wrote:
This goes into it in depth: https://libcom.org/library/contra-state-and-revolution

That's good, also this one (and more stuff by Chattopadhyay):
http://libcom.org/library/economic-content-socialism-lenin-it-same-marx

zugzwang
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Mar 16 2019 19:33

Interesting articles there. I would really like to know who the "usually/generally" is referring to rather than saying Lenin pulled that out of thin air, unless that's what he did.

Also not entirely sure of the relevance but Lenin used "right" instead of "law" in my copy, which is why I used "right" above:

Quote:
Clearly, Lenin still sees the first phase of communism as one of subordination because he can only conceive of it in terms of capturing state power and statification of private property. As such, Lenin goes on to say that
Lenin wrote:
...in the first phase of communist society (usually called socialism) "bourgeois law" is not abolished in its entirety, but only in part, only in proportion to the economic revolution so far attained, i.e., only in respect of the means of production. "Bourgeois law" recognizes them as the private property of individuals. Socialism converts them into common property. To that extent - and to that extent alone - "bourgeois law" disappears.

The socialist principle, "He who does not work shall not eat", is already realized; the other socialist principle, "An equal amount of products for an equal amount of labor", is also already realized. But this is not yet communism, and it does not yet abolish "bourgeois law", which gives unequal individuals, in return for unequal (really unequal) amounts of labor, equal amounts of products.

(CW, Vol. 25, p. 472)

This utterly contradicts Marx. Marx says bourgeois right, not law, which would assume the state. Lenin focuses on the 'economic revolution' solely from the technical side, from the 'means of production', unlike Marx who focuses on the relations of production, the separator of the producer from the means of production.

It's a shame how so many people mis-attribute things said by Lenin to Marx. I personally had some academic tell me Marx advocated labor vouchers in a system called Socialism as a transitional phase toward Communism, which I think contains a lesson about blindly trusting or revering academics. He did mention labor vouchers, but (as touched on in this WSR issue for example) never defined that period coming out of Capitalism as "Socialism", and it's unlikely such measures would even be necessary today.

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LeninistGirl
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Mar 16 2019 19:44

I think most translations outside of the English ones say "right" instead of "law".

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It's a shame how so many people mis-attribute things said by Lenin to Marx. I personally had some academic tell me Marx advocated labor vouchers in a system called Socialism as a transitional phase toward Communism, which I think contains a lesson about blindly trusting or revering academics. He did mention labor vouchers, but (as touched on in this WSR issue for example) never defined that period coming out of Capitalism as "Socialism", and it's unlikely such measures would even be necessary today.

While I mostly agree I think there is a lot more context to this debate then just reading the gothakritik. Engels for example described the state withering away with the "introduction of the socialist order of society".

slothjabber
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Mar 16 2019 20:36

But neither Marx nor Engels thought that 'socialism' and 'communism' were different things (either different forms of society or different phases of a single form of society). So equally Engels could have described the state withering away with the "introduction of the communist order of society".

ajjohnstone
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Mar 16 2019 22:55

I think the slippery slope of differentiation began with those who described those advocating something different from socialism/communism i.e. nationalisation and municipalisation as "state socialists" such as William Morris and many others, rather than sate-capitalists.

Engels had to disavow "state socialism" as promoting similar ideas as Bismarck. Lenin himself was a great admirer of Germany's state-capitalism especial its wartime command economy, as well as America's Fordism assembly lines.

slothjabber
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Mar 16 2019 23:09

Interesting. The earliest use of 'state capitalism' I've been able to find was Wilhelm Liebknecht, though as the quote I know is 'no-one has done more than me to show that "state socialism" is nothing more than state capitalism' in 1895, 'state socialism' must have existed as a term before then. I seem to remember Bakunin uses it as a description.

Wasn't aware that Morris was guilty of 'state socialism'. Or have I misunderstood?

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Mar 17 2019 05:10
Quote:
But neither Marx nor Engels thought that 'socialism' and 'communism' were different things (either different forms of society or different phases of a single form of society). So equally Engels could have described the state withering away with the "introduction of the communist order of society".

I think just getting hung up on the two terms is only going to do yourself a disservice, the question regarding "law" versus "right" is a question about if the state has fully withered away or not under "socialism"/"lower-phase communism", not just about "socialism" and "communism".

Though of course to some extent you are correct, in Marx' economic and philosophical manuscripts he uses socialism to mean a society free of alienation that has passed through the revolutionary transformation.But if this was true for the rest of Marx' and Engels' thinking is debatable.

Quote:
I think the slippery slope of differentiation began with those who described those advocating something different from socialism/communism i.e. nationalisation and municipalisation as "state socialists" such as William Morris and many others, rather than sate-capitalists.

I think this is trying to find easy answers when the actual movements were much more back and forth. Karl Kautsky is often attributed to being the one who started the differentiation between communism and socialism as phases and he to disavowed "State Socialism" as early as 1888 in his book Class Struggle.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 17 2019 05:04

https://www.marxists.org/archive/morris/works/1887/policy.htm

Not saying that Morris was advocating it but that he drew attention to the existence of that school of thought and describes that there were sections of "socialists" in his time who differentiated the terms, long before Lenin.

Hyndman also refers to this in a 1905 article "State Socialists and Social-Democrats"

https://www.marxists.org/archive/hyndman/1905/07/state.htm

I'm not saying Lenin took his lead from this current. He had his own reasons and motives to re-define the terms. I don't think he is referring to the "usually/generally"

Bax even earlier discusses the existence of state socialists

https://www.marxists.org/archive/bax/1892/10/polsocdem.htm

Perhaps Lenin's link is more with the German movement as Pannekoek also talks of state socialists

https://www.marxists.org/archive/pannekoe/1917/after-war-ends.htm

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spacious
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Mar 17 2019 09:19

I think the only "phase" distinction that Marx made was between 1) communist society "as it emerges from capitalist society" and 2) communist society "as it develops on its own foundations".

If you assume that a revolutionary transition is the process of establishing those "foundations", and actively undoing the foundations of capitalism (such as the separation that it maintains between workers and the means of life and production), I don't think the two phases can be neatly distinguished at all.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 17 2019 09:54

ALB's lengthy article on 'The Myth of the Transitional Society' which is useful reading

https://socialismoryourmoneyback.blogspot.com/2010/02/myth-of-transitional-society.html

We'll have to also take into consideration Marx's usage and Lenin's application of the phrase "Dictatorship of the Proletariat."

Marx used the phrase to mean the domination of society by one class through its control over the state machine. He referred to Britain as a "dictatorship of the bourgeoisie".

Lenin used the term dictatorship to mean the denial of basic democratic freedoms, the maintenance of rule by force and the ruthless suppression of political opponents.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 17 2019 10:02

Leninistgirl,

The German SPD can be seen as a root of the problem of definition.

The Gotha Programme, the Erfurt Programme

But again the timing of Lenin's re-writing of Marx and then the re-naming of his Party reflect the need to justify his situation which were not the same reasons for earlier re-definitions in Europe.

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Mar 18 2019 05:55
Quote:
Lenin used the term dictatorship to mean the denial of basic democratic freedoms, the maintenance of rule by force and the ruthless suppression of political opponents.

Where? Marx and Engels in the manifesto also wrote that politics in its purest form is just the organized violence of a class.

ajjohnstone wrote:
The German SPD can be seen as a root of the problem of definition.

The Gotha Programme, the Erfurt Programme

But again the timing of Lenin's re-writing of Marx and then the re-naming of his Party reflect the need to justify his situation which were not the same reasons for earlier re-definitions in Europe.

You have to remember that the German social democratic party was very large, and that the Gotha Program was not even of it's own making. The main reason Marx critiqued it was to defend the social democrats from the Lassalian General German Workers' Association. Furthermore, Kautsky was not all of the SPD, the party leadership even forced him to write that his views don't corresponds with that of the party in the preface of Road To Power.

If you want to know what Kautsky thought I would recommend reading Kautsky, not the programs that were the results of years of internal-debates and struggles(and even merges with other large organisations as with the Gotha Program).

ajjohnstone
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Mar 18 2019 07:03

As the topic was about the rise of the distinction between the meaning of communism and socialism, I think such positional platforms that emphasizes minimum and maximum programmes to have a bearing on this, evolving to equate minimum = socialism and maximum = communism.

Hal Draper does an adequate job of analysing the usage of the term "dictatorship of the proletariat" regards Marx here
https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/hal-draper/article2.htm

Lenin's conception of "the dictatorship of the proletariat" is not based on Marx's.
Lenin said,

"Dictatorship is based directly upon force and unrestricted by any laws. The revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat is rule won and maintained by the use of violence by the proletariat against the bourgeoisie." (Collected Works, Vol. 28, p.236).
.
I offered the comparison as another example of how Lenin would attach different meaning to Marx to explain the reality of Bolshevik rule.

Trotsky too would seize upon an expression of Marx for his own ends, using the phrase "permanent revolution" from the "Holy Family" and the 1850 Address to the Communist League. Marx advocated 'permanent revolution' as a strategy of maintaining organisational independence along class lines, and a consistently militant series of political demands and tactics. Not to argue that it is possible for a country to pass directly from the dominance of the semi-feudal aristocrats to the dominance of the working class, without an interceding period of dominance by the bourgeois.

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LeninistGirl
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Mar 18 2019 07:19

When Marx and Engels wrote "Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another" in the manifesto, what do you think that would entail in practice when the working-class had established it's own class dictatorship? Lenin is not disagreeing or diverging from Marx, he is simply stating what it would mean in practice.

In reality it means, as Marx said after the failed 1848 revolutions, "We have no compassion and we ask no compassion from you. When our turn comes, we shall not make excuses for the terror."

Quote:
Trotsky too would seize upon an expression of Marx for his own ends, using the phrase "permanent revolution" from the "Holy Family" and the 1850 Address to the Communist League. Marx advocated 'permanent revolution' as a strategy of maintaining organisational independence along class lines, and a consistently militant series of political demands and tactics. Not to argue that it is possible for a country to pass directly from the dominance of the semi-feudal aristocrats to the dominance of the working class, without an interceding period of dominance by the bourgeois.

Not that I agree with Trotsky but that is to very heavily reduce what Trotsky defined permanent revolution as. The very point of Trotsky's theory was that the working-class does need to organize independently, it can not be led by peasants or be on the same level as peasants. Therefore he opposed the slogan of a "workers and peasants democratic dictatorship"(even more Radek's "peasants and workers democratic dictatorship") in favor of a workers state supported by the peasants.

ajjohnstone
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Mar 18 2019 08:38

One of the reasons that the SPGB advocate the capture of the State machinery is because of the possibility of as Marx put it a “slaveholders revolt” once the working class began to use the political power to legally dispossess the capitalists and landlords. Marx’s view was that, the working class would have to use the full power of the state machine, including actual physical force, against a recalcitrant capitalist minority, in order to establish socialism.

Is this what "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" means as alternatively expressed in the CM "the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to win the battle for democracy" [my emphasis]