The inevitability of socialism
Scientific philosophic basis of analysis
What enables us to be confident of the inevitability of socialism (assuming that the development of human society is not brought to an abrupt halt by some disaster which brings it to a premature end) is the science on which Marxism-Leninism is based, i.e., dialectical and historical materialism.
Armed with this philosophical outlook, humanity has for the first time been able to understand the laws of development of human society.
What then are the principles of this scientific philosophy that gives humanity the ability to understand its own development as though it were an outside observer?
The essence is explained by Mao Zedong in On Contradiction, ” As opposed to the metaphysical world outlook, the world outlook of materialist dialectics holds that in order to understand the development of a thing we should study it internally and in its relations with other things; in other words, the development of things should be seen as their internal and necessary self-movement, while each thing in its movement is interrelated with and interacts on the things around it. The fundamental cause of the development of a thing is not external but internal; it lies in the contradictoriness within the thing. There is internal contradiction in every single thing, hence its motion and development. Contradictoriness within a thing is the fundamental cause of its development, while its interrelations and interactions with other things are secondary causes. …”
“Every single thing” includes human society:
What, then, is the principal contradiction that propels society forward? Marx and Engels discovered that it was the contradiction between the forces of production and the relations of production; in other words, the need for society to reorganise itself each time that the sophistication of productive forces reaches such a high stage that they cannot be effectively deployed without such reorganisation.
According to Marxism, ” The materialist conception of history starts from the proposition that the production and, next to production, the exchange of things produced, is the basis of all social structure; that in every society that has appeared in history, the manner in which wealth is distributed and society divided into classes or estates is dependent upon what is produced, how it is produced, and how the products are exchanged. From this point of view the final causes of all social changes and political revolutions are to be sought, not in men’s brains, not in man’s better insight into eternal truth and justice, but in changes in the modes of production and exchange. They are to be sought, not in the philosophy , but in the economics of each particular epoch. The growing perception that existing social institutions are unreasonable and unjust, that reason has become unreason, and right wrong, is only proof that in the modes of production and exchange changes have silently taken place with which the social order, adapted to earlier economic conditions, is no longer in keeping. From this it also follows that the means of getting rid of the incongruities that have been brought to light must also be present, in a more or less developed condition, within the changed modes of production themselves. These means are not to be invented , spun out of the head, but discovered with the aid of the head in the existing material facts of production .” (Engels, Anti-Dühring, Part III, Chapter II).
Historical proof of the correctness of dialectical and historical materialism
Marxist philosophy fully explains how human beings were able to develop over the millennia from a species of ape living in kinship packs on whatever nature had to offer, entirely helpless in the face of natural phenomena over which they had little control, into the people of today organised into states, with the ability to manage their food supplies to a considerable extent, and having a very advanced ability understanding of the laws of nature which enable them to perform such miracles of technology as those that have been used to bring us all together today in Beijing – telephones, computers, aeroplanes, high-rise buildings, etc., etc.
It was only by a dialectical process that this change could take place. This is summarised very well by Stalin in Dialectical and Historical Materialism:
” In conformity with the change and development of the productive forces of society in the course of history, men’s relations of production, their economic relations also changed and developed . …
“Five main types of relations of production are known to history: primitive communal, slave, feudal, capitalist and socialist.
” The basis of the relations of production under the primitive communal system is that the means of production are socially owned. This in the main corresponds to the character of the productive forces of that period. Stone tools, and, later, the bow and arrow, precluded the possibility of men individually combating the forces of nature and beasts of prey. In order to gather the fruits of the forest, to catch fish, to build some sort of habitation, men were obliged to work in common if they did not want to die of starvation, or fall victim to beasts of prey or to neighbouring societies. Labour in common led to the common ownership of the means of production, as well as of the fruits of production. Here the conception of private ownership of the means of production did not yet exist, except for the personal ownership of certain implements of production which were at the same time means of defence against beasts of prey. Here there was no exploitation, no classes.
“The basis of the relations of production under the slave system is that the slave-owner owns the means of production, he also owns the worker in production – the slave, whom he can sell, purchase, or kill as though he were an animal. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period. Instead of stone tools, men now have metal tools at their command; instead of the wretched and primitive husbandry of the hunter, who knew neither pasturage nor tillage, there now appear pasturage tillage, handicrafts, and a division of labour between these branches of production. There appears the possibility of the exchange of products between individuals and between societies, of the accumulation of wealth in the hands of a few, the actual accumulation of the means of production in the hands of a minority, and the possibility of subjugation of the majority by a minority and the conversion of the majority into slaves. Here we no longer find the common and free labour of all members of society in the production process – here there prevails the forced labour of slaves, who are exploited by the non-labouring slave-owners. Here, therefore, there is no common ownership of the means of production or of the fruits of production. It is replaced by private ownership. Here the slave owner appears as the prime and principal property owner in the full sense of the term.
“Rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, people with full rights and people with no rights, and a fierce class struggle between them – such is the picture of the slave system.
“The basis of the relations of production under the feudal system is that the feudal lord owns the means of production and does not fully own the worker in production – the serf, whom the feudal lord can no longer kill, but whom he can buy and sell. Alongside of feudal ownership there exists individual ownership by the peasant and the handicraftsman of his implements of production and his private enterprise based on his personal labour. Such relations of production in the main correspond to the state of the productive forces of that period. Further improvements in the smelting and working of iron; the spread of the iron plough and the loom; the further development of agriculture, horticulture, viniculture and dairying; the appearance of manufactories alongside of the handicraft workshops – such are the characteristic features of the state of the productive forces.
“The new productive forces demand that the labourer shall display some kind of initiative in production and an inclination for work, an interest in work. The feudal lord therefore discards the slave, as a labourer who has no interest in work and is entirely without initiative, and prefers to deal with the serf, who has his own husbandry, implements of production, and a certain interest in work essential for the cultivation of the land and for the payment in kind of a part of his harvest to the feudal lord.
“Here private ownership is further developed. Exploitation is nearly as severe as it was under slavery – it is only slightly mitigated. A class struggle between exploiters and exploited is the principal feature of the feudal system.
“The basis of the relations of production under the capitalist system is that the capitalist owns the means of production, but not the workers in production – the wage labourers, whom the capitalist can neither kill nor sell because they are personally free, but who are deprived of means of production and) in order not to die of hunger, are obliged to sell their labour power to the capitalist and to bear the yoke of exploitation. Alongside of capitalist property in the means of production, we find, at first on a wide scale, private property of the peasants and handicraftsmen in the means of production, these peasants and handicraftsmen no longer being serfs, and their private property being based on personal labour. In place of the handicraft workshops and manufactories there appear huge mills and factories equipped with machinery. In place of the manorial estates tilled by the primitive implements of production of the peasant, there now appear large capitalist farms run on scientific lines and supplied with agricultural machinery
“The new productive forces require that the workers in production shall be better educated and more intelligent than the downtrodden and ignorant serfs, that they be able to understand machinery and operate it properly. Therefore, the capitalists prefer to deal with wage-workers, who are free from the bonds of serfdom and who are educated enough to be able properly to operate machinery.
“But having developed productive forces to a tremendous extent, capitalism has become enmeshed in contradictions which it is unable to solve. By producing larger and larger quantities of commodities, and reducing their prices, capitalism intensifies competition, ruins the mass of small and medium private owners, converts them into proletarians and reduces their purchasing power, with the result that it becomes impossible to dispose of the commodities produced. On the other hand, by expanding production and concentrating millions of workers in huge mills and factories, capitalism lends the process of production a social character and thus undermines its own foundation, inasmuch as the social character of the process of production demands the social ownership of the means of production; yet the means of production remain private capitalist property, which is incompatible with the social character of the process of production.
“These irreconcilable contradictions between the character of the productive forces and the relations of production make themselves felt in periodical crises of over-production, when the capitalists, finding no effective demand for their goods owing to the ruin of the mass of the population which they themselves have brought about, are compelled to burn products, destroy manufactured goods, suspend production, and destroy productive forces at a time when millions of people are forced to suffer unemployment and starvation, not because there are not enough goods, but because there is an overproduction of goods.
“This means that the capitalist relations of production have ceased to correspond to the state of productive forces of society and have come into irreconcilable contradiction with them .”
Nobody has explained this process so beautifully as Marx himself, in Volume I of Capital:
” Private property, as the antithesis to social, collective property, exists only where the means of labour and the external conditions of labour belong to private individuals. But according as these private individuals are labourers or not labourers, private property has a different character. The numberless shades, that it at first sight presents, correspond to the intermediate stages lying between these two extremes. The private property of the labourer in his means of production is the foundation of petty industry, whether agricultural, manufacturing, or both; petty industry, again, is an essential condition for the development of social production and of the free individuality of the labourer himself. Of course, this petty mode of production exists also under slavery, serfdom, and other states of dependence. But it flourishes, it lets loose its whole energy, it attains its adequate classical form, only where the labourer is the private owner of his own means of labour set in action by himself: the peasant of the land which he cultivates, the artisan of the tool which he handles as a virtuoso. This mode of production presupposes parcelling of the soil and scattering of the other means of production. As it excludes the concentration of these means of production, so also it excludes cooperation, division of labour within each separate process of production, the control over, and the productive application of the forces of Nature by society, and the free development of the social productive powers. It is compatible only with a system of production, and a society, moving within narrow and more or less primitive bounds. … At a certain stage of development, it brings forth the material agencies for its own dissolution. From that moment new forces and new passions spring up in the bosom of society; but the old social organisation fetters them and keeps them down. It must be annihilated; it is annihilated. Its annihilation, the transformation of the individualised and scattered means of production into socially concentrated ones, of the pigmy property of the many into the huge property of the few, the expropriation of the great mass of the people from the soil, from the means of subsistence, and from the means of labour, this fearful and painful expropriation of the mass of the people forms the prelude to the history of capital. It comprises a series of forcible methods, of which we have passed in review only those that have been epoch-making as methods of the primitive accumulation of capital. The expropriation of the immediate producers was accomplished with merciless Vandalism, and under the stimulus of passions the most infamous, the most sordid, the pettiest, the most meanly odious. Self-earned private property, that is based, so to say, on the fusing together of the isolated, independent labouring individual with the conditions of his labour, is supplanted by capitalistic private property, which rests on exploitation of the nominally free labour of others, i.e., on wage labour.
“As soon as this process of transformation has sufficiently decomposed the old society from top to bottom, as soon as the labourers are turned into proletarians, their means of labour into capital, as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet, then the further socialisation of labour and further transformation of the land and other means of production into socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, takes a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the labourer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many labourers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralisation of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralisation, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever-extending scale, the cooperative form of the labour process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labour into instruments of labour only usable in common, the economising of all means of production by their use as means of production of combined, socialised labour, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world market, and with this, the international character of the capitalistic regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolise all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralisation of the means of production and socialisation of labour at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated .” (p.761).
Has capitalism had its day?
Those who have a comfortable life under capitalism do not feel the need to replace it, but it has been obvious for more than a century that the capitalist system of production is dangerously decadent and outmoded.
Engels described the economic cycle that is a necessary part of capitalism, which is only aggravated with every attempt by bourgeois economic gurus to introduce measures that they intend should put an end to it:
” As a matter of fact, since 1825, when the first general crisis broke out, the whole industrial and commercial world, production and exchange among all civilised peoples and their more or less barbaric hangers-on, are thrown out of joint about once every ten years. Commerce is at a standstill, the markets are glutted, products accumulate, as multitudinous as they are unsaleable, hard cash disappears, credit vanishes, factories are closed, the mass of the workers are in want of the means of subsistence, because they have produced too much of the means of subsistence; bankruptcy follows upon bankruptcy, execution upon execution. The stagnation lasts for years; productive forces and products are wasted and destroyed wholesale, until the accumulated mass of commodities finally filters off, more or less depreciated in value, until production and exchange gradually begin to move again. Little by little the pace quickens. It becomes a trot. The industrial trot breaks into a canter, the canter in turn grows into the headlong gallop of a perfect steeplechase of industry, commercial credit, and speculation, which finally, after break-neck leaps, ends where it began – in the ditch of a crisis. And so over and over again …
” In these crises, the contradiction between socialised production and capitalist appropriation ends in a violent explosion. The circulation of commodities is, for the time being, stopped. Money, the means of circulation, becomes a hindrance to circulation. All the laws of production and circulation of commodities are turned upside down. The economic collision has reached its apogee . The mode of production is in rebellion against the mode of exchange , the productive forces are in rebellion against the mode of production which they have outgrown.
” The fact that the socialised organisation of production within the factory has developed so far that it has become incompatible with the anarchy of production in society, which exists side by side with and dominates it, is brought home to the capitalists themselves by the violent concentration of capital that occurs during crises, through the ruin of many large, and a still greater number of small, capitalists. The whole mechanism of the capitalist mode of production breaks down under the pressure of the productive forces, its own creations. It is no longer able to turn all this mass of means of production into capital. They lie fallow, and for that very reason the industrial reserve army must also lie fallow. Means of production, means of subsistence, available labourers, all the elements of production and of general wealth, are present in abundance. But ‘abundance becomes the source of distress and want’ (Fourier), because it is the very thing that prevents the transformation of the means of production and subsistence into capital. For in capitalistic society the means of production can only function when they have undergone a preliminary transformation into capital, into the means of exploiting human labour-power. The necessity of this transformation into capital of the means of production and subsistence stands like a ghost between these and the workers. It alone prevents the coming together of the material and personal levers of production; it alone forbids the means of production to function, the workers to work and live. On the one hand, therefore, the capitalistic mode of production stands convicted of its own incapacity to further direct these productive forces. On the other, these productive forces themselves, with increasing energy, press forward to the removal of the existing contradiction, to the abolition of their quality as capital , to the practical recognition of their character as social productive forces.
” The enormous expansive force of modern industry, compared with which that of gases is mere child’s play, appears to us now as a necessity for expansion, both qualitative and quantitative, that laughs at all resistance. Such resistance is offered by consumption, by sales, by the markets for the products of modern industry. But the capacity for extension, extensive and intensive, of the markets is primarily governed by quite different laws that work much less energetically. The extension of the markets cannot keep pace with the extension of production. The collision becomes inevitable, and as this cannot produce any real solution so long as it does not break in pieces the capitalist mode of production, the collisions become periodic “. (Engels, Anti-Dühring).
Besides the misery imposed on the masses of the people throughout the increasingly long years of downturns in the economic cycle, capitalism is imposing three great threats on humanity that demand action on the part of humanity to bring to an end at long last the disparity between the ownership of the means of production and the forces of production. The three great threats are:
In addition the labour power of millions of potential workers is wasted through unemployment, under-employment, employment in parasitic roles in the service of the bourgeoisie, and through under-education and lack of opportunity for developing higher skills.
The combination of this waste of resources with the waste and devastation brought about by war must surely be the ultimate proof that capitalism has run its course and now presents a hideous danger to the very future of humanity.
Only socialism can replace capitalism
What needs to happen after capitalism, therefore, is for the means of production to become social, in correspondence with the forces of production. This enables the anarchy of production that necessarily reigns under capitalism to be replaced by the rational planning and disposition of resources to provide for the needs of all with increasingly less human effort.
Marx in Capital contrasts the anarchy of production under capitalism to the situation when capitalist wage slavery is ended: ” Let us now picture to ourselves, by way of change, a community of free individuals, carrying on their work with the means of production in common, in which the labour-power of all the different individuals is consciously applied as the combined labour-power of the community. All the characteristics of [an individual worker working on his own account]… are here repeated, but with this difference, that they are social, instead of individual. Everything produced by [the individual worker working on his own account] was exclusively the result of his own personal labour, and therefore simply an object of use for himself. The total product of our community is a social product. One portion serves as fresh means of production and remains social. But another portion is consumed by the members as means of subsistence. A distribution of this portion amongst them is consequently necessary. The mode of this distribution will vary with the productive organisation of the community, and the degree of historical development attained by the producers. We will assume, but merely for the sake of a parallel with the production of commodities, that the share of each individual producer in the means of subsistence is determined by his labour-time. Labour-time would, in that case, play a double part. Its apportionment in accordance with a definite social plan maintains the proper proportion between the different kinds of work to be done and the various wants of the community. On the other hand, it also serves as a measure of the portion of the common labour borne by each individual, and of his share in the part of the total product destined for individual consumption. The social relations of the individual producers, with regard both to their labour and to its products, are in this case perfectly simple and intelligible, and that with regard not only to production but also to distribution .” (Marx Capital Vol 1 page 78-9, my emphasis).
Who will usher in the socialist era?
It is obvious that the reorganisation of society to maximise the benefits of the revolutionary new means of production developed under capitalism must be effected by human beings. It is also obvious that the 1% of society that constitutes the ruling class of the imperialist countries will not voluntarily abandon the system that brings them such infinite power and wealth that they regard as their due as superior beings. On the contrary these leeches will fight tooth and nail, with all the massive resources at their disposal, to hang on to their paradise. They will wage war, they will perpetrate genocide, they will mount massive deceptive anti-communist propaganda campaigns in the media, through the education system and through their agents in the working-class movement, they will buy themselves elections and ‘colour revolutions’ – anything to maintain their system of exploitation. The Chinese people in making their revolution know only too well the horrors that the dying class visits on those who seek to overthrow it. In the end, however, the 1% cannot defeat the 99% who shall be led by the proletariat, the class of wage labourers created by the bourgeoisie destined to become its gravediggers.
” The socialisation of labour … forms the chief material foundation for the inevitable coming of socialism. The intellectual and moral driving force and the physical executant of this transformation is the proletariat, which is trained by capitalism itself. The struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, which manifests itself in various and, as to its content, increasingly multifarious forms, inevitably becomes a political struggle aiming at the conquest of political power by the proletariat (‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’). The socialisation of production is bound to lead to the conversion of the means of production into the property of society, to the ‘expropriation of the expropriators .'” (Lenin on Marx, p.35-6)
Is socialism ‘only a theory’?
It is frequently argued by apologists for capitalism that Marxist theory is Utopian nonsense that doesn’t work in practice. However, the experience of the socialist countries, the USSR and China in particular, prove that with the overthrow of capitalism and the socialisation of the means of production (despite all the concessions that need to be made to the peasantry in order to maintain their support in countries where the peasantry constitute the overwhelming majority of the population at the time of revolution), productive forces liberated from their capitalist trammels advance by leaps and bounds.
Thus in the 1930s, when the capitalist world was in the grip of its last major economic crisis, the socialist Soviet Union was going from strength to strength, as Stalin was able to report:
Volume of Industrial Output
(Per cent of 1929)
“As you see, this table speaks for itself.
“While industry in the principal capitalist countries declined from year to year, compared with 1929, and began to recover somewhat only in 1933-although still far from reaching the level of 1929-industry in the U.S.S.R. grew from year to year, experiencing an uninterrupted rise.
“While industry in the principal capitalist countries at the end of 1933 shows on the average a reduction of 25 per cent and more in volume of output compared with 1929, industrial output in the U.S.S.R. has more than doubled during this period, i.e., it has increased more than 100 per cent.” (Stalin Report to the Seventeenth Party Congress on the Work of the Central Committee of the C.P.S.U.(B.) January 26, 1934 Works, Vol. 13, Publisher: Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow, 1954).
Thanks to the experience of the socialist countries, especially, although certainly not exclusively, the large ones which have access within their own borders to the natural resources necessary for modern industry, it has now been proved that Marxist theory is correct. Furthermore, as my comrade Harpal Brar will demonstrate in the course of his presentation, it was the reintroduction of capitalist norms in the Soviet Union that brought to an end that country’s miraculous economic growth, and the restoration of capitalism in the Soviet Union which has brought with it all the human misery, poverty, destitution, declining levels of education and medical care for the masses, waste of resources, that capitalism necessarily implies.