Today, no-one in the rank and file of the empire of capitalism can claim that the global economic system will not collapse on the ‘day after tomorrow’. The case for the established Communists and Lefts is quite opposite. None of them, even at this situation, can imagine a society free from exploitation and proprietorship. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union 25 years back, majority of them have lost their faith in the “working class” and become unable to hope for any “Revolution”. However, our everyday experiences are compelling us in every way to accept the fact that the toiling masses are looking forward towards a transformative change of the present social order led by the organized working class. In fact, it is impossible for anyone to ignore the general strikes jointly called by the trade unions several countries including India in the recent years, which have projected the spontaneous participation of the working people in unforeseen large numbers.
In such a situation, in-depth analysis of the accomplishment of the world’s first successful proletarian revolution in Russia is of great importance. Especially when we know today that the revolution was not restricted to the seizure of power by the proletariat but instead marched towards the advancement of the entire exploited working people of the world from the foul, rotten garbage of capitalism; not only that, it gained unexpected success in its quest. Moreover such discussion has become essential because those who had declared, “Capitalism is the final chapter of history” after the 75 years of advancement came to standstill, are now compelled to acknowledge 25 years later that “Capitalism has not faced such crisis ever before”. Extensive discussion has been carried out in these 25 years about why the Soviet Union suffered a collapse; as many men, so many minds on the same issue, but the key point has been suppressed cautiously; wherever addressed, has been done in a fumbling undertone, and in most of the cases has been reversed. And the very point is that the confiscation of the proletarian class authority from state-administration resulted in the heinous outcome of the Soviet society. Its immense pressure has thus directly affected the entire proletarian class and the working people of the world in the name of the inexorable march of capitalism. But dumb fate! That pressure being concentrated has given rise to a cyclonic development over the entire horizon of capitalism. In order to conclude this developing storm swooping over the various countries of this obnoxious world towards a bright sunshine, we must look back at the course of historical struggle that took shape 100 years back and find out the fundamental elements of the objective conditions of the revolution.
It is a usually said that Marx and Engels predicted the world’s first socialist revolution to emerge in England-France-Germany, since the material conditions for socialism are generated only at a highly advanced and developed stage of capitalism; but Lenin revised such Marxist notion and organized the first socialist revolution in a comparatively downtrodden Russia. In fact, a two-fold attack is organized on Marxism by virtue of this apparently-Marxist statement. One of the folds campaigns that today, the entire Marxism-Leninism must be revised just like Lenin had revised Marxism in his time; and by placing such notion, they try to glue the various old, rotten, rejected theories with Marxism along with removing its basic revolutionary tenets and thereby create ‘Neo-Marxism’, in order to trail behind the proprietor classes with the mask of pro-worker stances. Such theories acknowledge the transitions of historical stages but deny ‘revolution’ as the process of these transitions and blunt ‘class struggle’, the key driving force behind them. The second fold of notion, on the other hand, directly denies the historical course of stages; “otherwise, how did revolution could take place in backward Russia?” this is their logic! And based on such logic, they are unwilling to consider feudalism, capitalism, socialism as various separate stages of the development of human civilization. To them, these are merely ‘policies’ adopted by the people among many other choices. Hence, by a ‘semi-feudal, semi- capitalist’ country, they do not understand it as a period of ‘transition’ but consider it a ‘formula’ for the conciliation between capitalism and feudalism; and the stage of civilization advances by slipping across their nose from feudalism towards capitalism, and then they regret that “Marxism fails”! In the same way, they regard ‘socialism’ as an alternative to capitalism instead of its succeeding historical stage, and the only goal of such alternative becomes only a “social control over capital”, not its “overthrow”. They considered ‘imperialism’ as an adopted policy instead of an advanced stage of capitalism and fell into the mud of chauvinism of patriotic war against those nations which ‘adopted’ it, but which indeed was an imperialist war; and, they began to tag on the bourgeoisie. Even today, it is this very line of thought that considers ‘neoliberalism’ as mere policy adopted by the governments, and not a developed stage of imperialism; and thus tries to find out its alternative from every nook and corner of the existing political sphere, only to find another ‘neoliberal’ government as its alternative. In the present era, they imagine, from their opportunist point of view, a capitalist society free from ‘neoliberalism’!
In fact, it is not at all anything like it is promoted, as if what Marx and Engels could not comprehend in their entire life by minutely studying the developments of global conditions till the end of the 19th century was suddenly understood by Lenin within a few years by some unknown magic, based on which he denounced all the ‘old theories’ to preach the inevitability of revolution in Russia. Marx and Engels had clearly stated in the preface of the 1882 second Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto:
“Russia and the United States of all places are missing here (Manifesto of the Communist Party, 1848). It was the time when Russia constituted the last great reserve of all European reaction, when the United States absorbed the surplus proletarian forces of Europe through emigration. Both countries supplied Europe with raw materials and were at the same time markets for its industrial products. At that time both were, therefore, in one way or another, pillars of the existing European order. How very different today! It was precisely European immigration that enabled North America to attain gigantic agricultural production, competition from which is shaking the very foundations of European landed property—large and small. Moreover, it enabled the United States to exploit its tremendous industrial resources with an energy and on a scale that must shortly break the prevailing industrial monopoly of Western Europe, and especially of England. …And now Russia! During the Revolution of 1848-49, not only the European princes, but the European bourgeois as well, found their only salvation from the proletariat, which was just beginning to awaken, in Russian intervention. The Tsar was proclaimed the chief of European reaction. Today he is a prisoner of war of the revolution, in Gatchina, and Russia forms the vanguard of revolutionary action in Europe”.
Later in 1875 and 1894, Engels wrote two articles on Russia. There, he not only claimed the possibility of revolution in Russia but also said,
“This much is certain: if a remnant o f this commune is to be preserved, the first condition is the fall of tsarist despotism—revolution in Russia. This will not only tear the great mass of the nation, the peasants, away from the isolation of their villages, which comprise their “mir”, their “world”, and lead them out onto the great stage, where they will get to know the outside world and thus themselves, their own situation and the means of salvation from their present distress; it will also give the labour movement of the West fresh impetus and create new, better conditions in which to carry on the struggle, thus hastening the victory of the modern industrial proletariat, without which present-day Russia can never achieve a socialist transformation…”.
It is preached many-a-times that Marx’s theory is based on the working classes but the theory of worker-peasant alliance is Lenin’s discovery. Don’t Engels words bear testament to Lenin’s theory? Besides, Marx had raised the question of workers’ unity with the peasants, artisans and the petty producers while staunchly criticizing Lassalle in the ‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’. Lenin’s distinguished work, in this context, was to find out the revolutionary element in a large section of the peasants becoming the reserved army of proletariat.
Lenin did not revise Marxism but developed it with the development of era, which was necessary for success of the revolution. This mostly comes to the forefront in the context of his explanation of ‘imperialism’. From his scientific outlook, Stalin had aptly defined that “Leninism is the Marxism the era of Imperialism”. The era of imperialism did not come about by revising the free competition based capitalism but in the course of its development; the same for its scientific theory too. The development of Marxism gave birth to Leninism, not its revision. It is noteworthy that Lenin identified imperialism as the age of monopoly and that too, not by denouncing Marx but from his teachings. He said, “Half a century ago, when Marx was writing Capital, free competition appeared to the overwhelming majority of economists to be a “natural law”. Official science tried by a conspiracy of silence, to kill the works of Marx, who by a theoretical and historical analysis of capitalism had proved that free competition gives rise to the concentration of production, which, in turn, at a certain stage of development leads to monopoly”.
Lenin showed that “Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed”. Lenin pointed towards two major contradictions of world capitalism by analyzing this age based on Marxist principles: (1) Conflict between the imperialist countries (2) Contradiction of labor of those countries where capitalism is less developed with the exported capital of the imperialist countries. The first contradiction is resulting to World War and the second one giving birth to the Revolution. Therefore, Lenin identified this era as the age of imperialist wars on one hand and the age of proletarian revolution on the other. Leninism taught the workers and peasants, sent as soldiers in the war for the apportionment of profit, to turn their rifles from the worker-peasant companions of other countries towards the proprietor classes of their own country. Lenin also showed that the contradiction of labor and capital in the advanced capitalist countries has been hidden by sharing with the workers a fraction of the ‘surplus profit’ appropriated from the less developed countries. Engels also had described the workers of England getting adapted with bourgeoisie culture. Lenin advanced the slogan in this advanced age, to say again, not a revision. Marx and Engels gave the call “Workmen of all lands unite”; Lenin gave the call “Workmen of all lands and oppressed nations unite’.
In the present era of neoliberalism, the nature of production has undergone a significant transformation. By capitalism, it is generally meant the production of huge numbers of cheaper commodities at a time at the large scale industries. But centralization of production has also caused the centralization of commerce, by virtue of which an elite consumer class has emerged in the society. This has led to the tendency of large capital to produce relatively smaller numbers of costly commodities repeatedly in newer forms. Producing ‘repeatedly in newer forms’ has transformed the economy into a futuristic mode. It is not at all a ‘planned economy’, as is not possible in the ambit of capitalism; instead the entire economy has turned itself towards the speculation market. Today, speculation on ‘derivatives’, based on the contracts which have not even been produced, has emerged out of the speculation over the real stocks. The dominance of real estate business, as predicted by Lenin 100 years back is one of the major factors of this present speculative stock market. It is worth mentioning that like the main clause behind the spread of production and commerce worldwide was the spread of railways depending on the interests of capital, the essential clause behind the present speculation market based on the futuristic production and business contracts in order to organize the worldwide loots and exploitation was to build up a corresponding system of transportation of information. ‘Communication Revolution’ did nothing but fulfilled this very clause. Today, it is advancing further towards constructing a ‘Digital World’ in the interests of speculation dominant finance capital.
“The state is retreating in this neoliberal era” – these words are frequently reiterated by the opportunist leftists. Their accuse that unlike the capitalist state in its previous phase provided from service to employment and adopted welfare policies, today, they are ceasing to perform in such manner. Be it leftists like Chomsky and quasi-Marxists like Harvey or the liberals like Stiglitz and quasi-conservatives like Piketty, all are uttering the same cry. Indeed, they all are disagreeing to consider the Keynesian or the ‘welfare’ state as a machinery of exploitation of the large corporates over the working class and the working people, instead they consider it to be a mediator between these classes, to be a formula of conciliation between labor and capital. In reality, however, this ‘welfare’ state had worked in the interests of large capital; in order to recover “the epidemic of over-production” by creating a market for the huge numbers of cheaper commodities produced by the large scale industries, it was essential to generate a proportionate employment and to provide service for a large number of people. It was thus not the generosity of ‘state’ but its compulsion. However, in the era of neoliberalism, the principal task of the capitalist state is to create a market for the smaller numbers of costly commodities repeatedly, and it is nothing but working on that only. As a consequence, its present goal is to create small numbers of employment with larger income levels instead of creating employment for large number of people, and ‘service-led- economy’ and ‘austerity’ indicates nothing but this only. This is how it has, in addition, given birth to an elite consumer class, and at the same time, enormous unemployment. This is not anyhow the retreat of the state but the historical development of state — from ‘welfare’ to ‘neoliberal’. To consider it a policy is to imagine the existence of a state independent of class, class struggle and class exploitation, and in practice, to grab the position of a true broker of the system of the capitalist state.
In the course of transition to neoliberalism, an important development has taken place in the context of the capital export of the imperialist countries. An increasing tendency of ‘capital inflow’, i.e. how much capital can be attracted in a country, has become an important feature of this era alongside the capital export. Marx showed in the third volume of ‘Capital’, with the development of capitalism, the surplus value of labour is not only appropriated from the production sector where a capital has been invested but the net surplus labour of the entire society is distributed among the individuals in proportion to their capital investment. While emphasizing on capital export in the explanation of imperialism, Lenin also said clearly that “The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism”. In this age of unrestricted movement of capital to any part of the world, in order to get a hold of the share of the global surplus labour, which can only be achieved “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, it is observed such increased tendency of ‘capital inflow’; wars are with such aims, though in a new form.
Several investigators think that the apportionment of the world is based on capital export and it is for this reason that the imperialist countries bring in wars; and that this was the analysis by Lenin. Therefore, war is not necessary for capitalism in the present age of dominance of the one and only international finance capital. They give the example that in the past 50 years, imperialism has existed without wars; instead there was a diplomatic-cultural cold war between the imperialists and the Soviet Union. In fact, it is nothing but an unholy attempt to shadow the instances of war in numerous undermined countries in the name of cold war. Such attempts of theoretically establishing peace under the banner of international syndicate system were aggressively criticized by Lenin as: “Theoretically, this opinion is absolutely absurd, while in practice it is sophistry and a dishonest defense of the worst opportunism”.
In fact, Lenin’s analysis on the imperialist war was completely different. It is actually the contradiction between the accumulation and circulation of capital. He showed, “The tribute levied by finance capital on the most profitable colonial and overseas enterprises is increasing. In the division of this “booty”, an exceptionally large part goes to countries which do not always stand at the top of the list in the rapidity of the development of their productive forces. …The question is: what means other than war could there be under capitalism to overcome the disparity between the development of productive forces and the accumulation of capital on the one side, and the division of colonies and spheres of influence for finance capital on the other?” Theoretically, it can be addressed as: “It is characteristic of capitalism in general that the ownership of capital (i.e. finance capital) is separated from the application of capital to production (i.e. productive capital), … Imperialism, … is that highest stage of capitalism in which this separation reaches vast proportions.”
War is the only outcome of this contradiction in this age of imperialism. This is why evasion of war intensifies the contradiction of capital and labor in these countries and increases the possibility of socialist revolution. On the contrary, this war brings in economic crisis in the countries where socialist constructions are carried out. This is why Lenin advised the socialist countries to adopt the tactics of going into “peaceful coexistence” with the capitalist countries. But in the middle of the previous century, the entire socialist bloc got divided on the question of what the central contradiction of the world be, – whether it is between socialist systems vs. capitalism, or it is the third world vs. imperialism (the 12 party – 81 party resolutions). Finally, the Soviet Union adopted, in practice, a two-fold line of ‘peaceful coexistence’ with the capitalist countries and supporting the struggle of the third world nations against imperialism. However, as a consequence, in the course of cold war, the US and European imperialism on one hand and the Soviet Union on the other, began to sponsor the war between the government and its opposition in the countries like Salvadore, Egypt, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Afghanistan. Practically, the war began to continue indirectly in a ‘third place’ in order to evade direct offence between the two camps. This is how the imperialist countries tried to relieve themselves from the crisis by trapping the socialist bloc indirectly through war.
In the present era of neoliberalism, the contradiction between accumulation of capital and its unrestricted movement must be understood with respect to that very alienation of the productive capital and finance capital, which has been augmented to an unprecedented degree by the futuristic production and the trading of ‘security’ regarding business contracts. Presently, the notional amount of the ‘derivative trading’ including Dollar-Euro-Pound-Yen equals a more than 500% of the total GDP of those currency zones; which within the time limit of its contract maturity, if cannot appropriate equal amount of share of the total surplus labour as their profit, “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, from the global production and sell, will inevitably cause extensive economic recession. But, while in 1990 the GDP share of USA, Britain, France, Germany and Japan was 58.6% of the net global production price and the labour expended was only 12.2% (a clear indication of how much surplus profit they appropriated!), after the 25 years of neoliberalism, even though their labour share decreased by 2.4%, the share of their production price has decreased by 17.7%. How else can such imbalances between price and labour be resolved without repartitioning the apportionment of world in the ambit of capitalism? And what else can be the way to such resolves at urgency other than wars?
However, in the current neoliberal era with extensively spread trans-national companies, especially when 72 of the world’s top 100 non-financial trans-national companies have a more than 50% assets in the foreign countries, the present strategy of the imperialist countries is to avoid ‘direct war’ amongst themselves. Rather, ‘indirect wars’ in the ‘third places’ is more preferable. And they are walking in that roadmap. Unfortunately China-India-Russia have joined USA-Britain-Germany-France-Japan in their heinous quest of repartitioning the world amongst themselves. Gradually, hundreds of other countries are participating in it. And numerous Afghan-Kurd-Somali-Iraqi-Mexican-Palestinian-Libyan-Syrian people are paying the cost at expense of their lives. Needless to say, numerous people of our country and Pakistan will also have to pay the same cost.
In general, it can be said that neoliberalism has opened the branches of imperialism in the countries and has literally ‘globalized’ it. The ‘monopoly capital, oligarchy of finance capital, and uneven development of capital’, which the age of imperialism exhibits globally, is being manifested in the present era of neoliberalism as such a ‘micro-lithography’ in each of the various corners of most of the countries. Today, even the cities of the developing countries in comparison to its surroundings seem to be the counterpart of the US or Europe. Therefore, the crisis of capitalism is indeed a global phenomenon. Along with capital, its crisis has also crossed the national borders. It is active in creating war situations in different countries, however, at the same time is also accelerating the possibility of proletarian revolution unwillingly. To this has been added the unprecedented crisis of natural environment. Repeated production in newer forms evidently means that, more swift the production, more swift is its ‘use and throw’ resulting in the depletion of natural ‘resources’ of production on the one hand and overflow of its ‘bin’ on the other. Alongside the unprecedented global warming and climate changes have brought in a serious crisis before the entire human civilization. In course of historical development of class struggle, we have reached a completely new turn. In this situation, whether socialist revolution will be successful, will entirely depend upon if the correct path is found out by scientific development of Marxism-Leninism by the actual revolutionary class — the working class.
Basudev Nag Chowdhury is associated with People’s Brigade.
Translation: Akhar Bandopadhyay, Sumit Ghosh