Table of contents
PAUL MATTICK : A BIOGRAPHY 5
Council communism 10
Otto Ruhle and the German Labour Movement 30
Rosa Luxemburg in retrospect 71
The Barricades Must Be Torn Down --Moscow-Fascism in Spain— 103
The Inevitability of Communism 112
The Masses & The Vanguard 193
Paul Mattick : a biography
Born in Pomerania in 1904 and raised in Berlin by class conscious parents, Mattick was already at the age of 14 a member of the Spartacists' Freie Sozialistiche Jugend. In 1918 he started to learn as a toolmaker at Siemens, where he was also elected as the apprentices' delegate on the workers' council of the company during the german revolution.
Implicated in many actions during the revolution, arrested several times and threatened with death, Mattick radicalized along the left and oppositional trend of the german communists. After the ‘Heidelberg’split of the KPD(Spartacus) and the formation for the KAPD in the spring of 1920, he entered the KAPD and worked in the youth organization Rote Jugend, writing for its journal.
In 1921 - at the age of 17 - Mattick moved to Cologne to find work with Klockner for a while, until strikes, insurrections and a new arrest destroyed every prospect of employment. He was active as an organizer and agitator in the KAPD and the AAU in the Cologne region, where he got to know Jan Appel among others. Contacts were also established with intellectuals, writers and artists working in the AAUE founded by Otto Ruhle.
With the continuing decline of radical mass struggle and revolutionary hopes - especially after 1923 - and having been unemployed for a number of years, Mattick emigrated to the United States in 1926, whilst still maintaining contacts with the KAPD and the AAU in Germany.
In the USA Mattick carried through a more systematic theoretical study, above all of Karl Marx. In addition, the publication of Henryk Grossmann's principal work, Das Akkumulations - and Zusammenbruchsgesetz des Kapitalistischen Systems (1929), played a fundamental role for Mattick, as Grossmann brought Marx's theory of accumulation, which had been completely forgotten, back to the centre of debate in the workers' movement. To Mattick Marx’s ‘critique of political economy’ became not a purely theoretical matter but rather directly connected to his own revolutionary practice. From this time Mattick focused on Marx’s theory of capitalist development and its inner logic of contradictions inevitably growing to crisis as the foundation of all political thoughts with the workers’ movement.
Towards the end of the 20’ies Mattick had moved to Chicago, where he first tried to unite the different German workers' orgainizations. In 1931 he tried to revive the Chicagoer Arbeiterzeitung, a newspaper steeped in tradition and at one time edited by August Spies and Joseph Dietzgen, but without success. For a period he joined the Industrial Workers of the World, who were the only revolutionary union organization existing in America which, in spite of national or sectoral differences, assembled all workers in One Big Union, so as to prepare the general strike to bring down capitalism. However, the golden age of the Wobblies' militant strikes had already passed by the beginning of the `thirties, and only the emerging unemployed movement again gave the IWW a brief regional development. In 1933 Paul Mattick drafted a programe for the IWW trying to give the Wooblies a more solid ‘marxist’ foundation based on Grossman’s theory, although it did not improve the organization's condition.
After some unsuccessful attempts to exercise an influence from the outside on the leninist United Workers Party, Mattick finally founded a council communist group in 1934 with some friends who were originally from the IWW as well as with some expelled members of the UWP. The group kept close contacts with the remaining small groups of the german/dutch left communism in Europe and published the journal International Council Correspondence, which up though the 30’ies became a anglo-ameriacn parallel to the Rätekorrespondenz from the dutch GIC(H). Articles and debates from Europe were translated along with economic analysis and critical political comments of current issues in the US and elsewhere in the world.
Apart from his own factory work, Mattick organized not only most of the review's technical work but was also the author of the greater part of the contributions which appeared in it. Among the few willing to offer regular contributions was Karl Korsch, with whom Mattick had come into contact in 1935 and who remained a personal friend for many years from the time of his emigration to the United States at the end of 1936.
As the european ‘council communism’ went underground and formally ‘dissapeared’ in the second halt of the 30’ies Mattick let the ‘Correspondence’ change name - from 1938 to Living Marxism, and from 1942 to New Essays.
Through Karl Korsch and Henryk Grossman Mattick also had some contact to Horkheimer's Institut fur Sozialforschung (the later ‘Frankfurter School’). In 1936 he wrote a major sociological study on the American unemployed movement for the Institue, althought it remained in the Institute's files, to be published only in 1969 by the SDS publishing house Neue Kritik.
After the United States' entry into the Second World War and the consequent persecution campaign directed against the entire critical intelligentsia, the left in America was liquidated by Macarthyism. Mattick retired, at the beginning of the 50’ies, to the countryside, where he managed to survive through occasional jobs and his activity as a writer. In the postwar development Mattick - like others - made only small and occassional political activities, making small articles for various periodicals from time to time.
From the 40’ies and up thorugh the 50’ies Mattick went through a study of Keynes, and compiled a series of critical notes and articles against keynesian theory and practice. In this work he developed Marx’s and Grossmans theory of capitalist development further to meet the new phenomenons and appearences of the modern capitalism critically.
With the generel changes of the political scenes and the re-emergence of more radical thoughts in the 60’ies Paul Mattick made som more elaborated and important contributions. One main work was ‘Marx and Keynes. The Limits of Mixed Economy’ from 1969, which was translated into several languages and had quite an influence in the post-68-studentmovement. Another important work was ‘Critique of Herbert Marcuse - The one-dimensional man in class society’, in which Mattick forcefully rejected the thesis according to which the "proletariat", as Marx understood it had become a "mythological concept" in advanced capitalist society. Although he agreed with Marcuse's critical analysis of the ruling ideology, Mattick demonstrated that the theory of one dimensionality itself existed only as ideology. Marcuse subsequentially affirmed that Mattick's critique was the only serious one to which his book was subjected.
Up through the 70’ies a lot of old and new articles were published i different languages for various publications. In the academic year 1974-75 Mattick was engaged as ‘visiting professor’ at the ‘red’ University-Center of Roskilde in Denmark. Here he held lectures on Marx’ critique of political economy, on the history of the workers movement and served as critical co-referent at seminars with other guests such as Maximilian Rubel, Ernest Mandel, Joan Robinson a.o. In 1977 he completed his last important lecture tour of the University of Mexico City. He spoke in West Germany only twice: in 1971 at Berlin and in 1975 at Hanover.
In his last years Paul Mattick thus succeeded in getting some audience within new generations for his views. In 1978 a major collection of articles from over 40 years appeared as ‘Anti-Bolshevik Communism’.
Paul Mattick died in February 1981 leaving an almost finished manuscript for another book, which was laler edited and published by his son, Paul Mattick Jr., as ‘Marxism – Last Refuge of the Bourgeoisie ?’
There can be no doubt that those social forces generally known as the 'labour movement' which rose during the last hundred years and, quantitatively, reached their widest expansion shortly before and after the world war, are now definitely on the decline. Though this situation is either happily or reluctantly acknowledged by people concerned with labour questions, realistic explanations of this phenomenon are scarce. Where the labour movement was destroyed by outside forces there remains the problem of how it was eliminated despite the apparent strength that it had acquired in its long period of development. Where it disintegrated of its own accord there remains the question why a new labour movement did not appear, since the social conditions that produce such movements still exist.
Most of the explanations offered fail to convince, because they are offered solely with the purpose of serving the specific, immediate interests of the partisans involved in labour problems, not to mention their limitations in theoretical and empirical knowledge. But worse than a false or inadequate position on the question of responsibility for the present impasse of the labour movement is the resulting inability to formulate courses leading to new independent working class action. There is no dearth of proposals as to how to revive the labour movement; however, the serious investigator cannot help noticing that all such proposals for a 'new beginning' are in reality but the restatement and rediscovery of ideas and forms of activity developed with much greater clarity and consistency during the beginnings of the modern labour movement. In refuting the idea of successful application of these rediscovered and - in comparison with later developments - radical principles, it must be considered nor only that these principles must be inadequate, since they were necessarily bound to a quite different stage of development of capitalist society, but that they no longer fit, and can no longer be made to fit, a labour movement which has based its philosophy, forms of organisation and activities for too long a time, and with too much success, on aspirations quite contrary to the content of these earlier principles.
A revival of the old labour movement is not to be expected; that workers' movement which may be considered new will have to destroy the very features of the old labour movement that were considered its strength. It must avoid its successes, and it cannot aspire merely to a 'better-than-before' organisational expression; it must understand all the implications of the present stage of capitalistic development and organise accordingly; it must base its forms of action not on traditional ideas, but on the given possibilities and necessities. To return to the ideals of the past, under the present general social conditions, would only mean an earlier death for the labour movement. Not merely the cowardice of the masters of labour organisations and the labour bureaucracy attached to them brought about the many defeats suffered in recent conflicts with the ruling classes, and determined the outcome of the 'general' strike in France, but, more so, a clear or instinctive recognition that the present labour movement cannot operate against capitalistic needs, can in one way or another only serve specific and historically determined capitalistic interests.
Disregarding those organisations and officials who from the beginning conceived their function to be no more than their participation in the distribution of the wealth created by the workers, either by open racketeering or by organising the labour market, this much is obvious: today the leaders of labour as well as the workers themselves are more or less conscious of their inability to operate against capitalism, and the cynicism displayed by so many labour leaders in such practical policies as are still possible, i.e. to 'sell out', may be regarded also as the most realistic attitude, derived from a full recognition of a changed situation. The sense of futility predominant in the labour movement of today cannot be dispelled by a more lavish use of radical phraseology, nor by a complete subordination to the ruling classes, as is attempted in many countries where labour leaders clamour for 'national planning" and a solution of the social problem within the present conditions of production. On such a basis of action, the old labour movement cannot help copying from the vague proposals of fascistic movements, and as imitators they will have even less success than the originators. Fascism, and the abolition of the present labour movement connected therewith, cannot be arrested with fascistic methods and the adoption of fascistic goals by the labour movement itself.
Though often attempted, it is impossible to explain the present miserable status of the Labour movement as the result of the many 'betrayals' at the hands of 'renegades', or to the 'lack of insight' into the real needs of the working class on the part of its leaders. Nor is it possible to blame specific forms of organisations, or certain philosophical trends, for the many defeats that have occurred. Nor is it possible to explain the decline of the movement by attributing it to 'national characteristics' or 'psychological peculiarities'. The decline of the labour movement is a general decline; all organisations, regardless of their specific forms and attitudes, are thereby affected; and no country and no people have been able to escape this downward trend. No country, watching the destruction of the labour movement in other lands, has been able 'to draw lessons from their defeats'; no organisation, seeing others collapse, was able 'to learn to avoid this fate'. The emasculation of all workers' power in Russia in 1920 was easily copied in Turkey, in Italy, in China, in Germany, in Austria, in Czechoslovakia, in Spain, and now in France, and soon in England. It is true that in each country, because of peculiarities of economic and social development, the destruction of labour organisations capable of functioning as such varied from case to case; however, none can deny that in all these countries the independence of the labour movement was abolished. What still exists there under the name of labour organisation has nothing in common with the labour movement that developed historically, or that, in the more backward countries, was in the process of development, and that was founded to maintain an insuperable opposition to a society divided into powerless workers and exploiters controlling all the economic and the consequent political power. What still exists there in the form of parties, trade and industrial unions, labour fronts and other organisations is so completely integrated within the existing societal form that it is unable to function other than as an instrument of that society.
It is, furthermore, not possible to blame the most important theoretical expression thus far developed in the labour movement Marxism - for the many shortcomings of the labour movement and for its present destruction. That labour movement which is now passing had very little to do with Marxism. Such a criticism of Marxism can arise only from a lack of all knowledge as to its contents. Nor was Marxism misunderstood; it was rejected by both the labour movement and its critics, and was never taken for what it is: "an undogmatic guide for scientific research and revolutionary action" (2) In both cases, by those who adopted it as a meaningless phrase and by those who fought even this meaningless phrase, it was utilised rather as an instrument to conceal a practice which, on the one hand, confirmed the scientific soundness of Marxian social science, and, on the other hand, was strongly opposed to the corresponding and disturbing reality.
Although developed under the influence of Marxism this declining labour movement now has completely repudiated its revolutionary beginnings, even where its adherence has been merely nominal, and operates on entirely bourgeois grounds. As soon as this fact is recognised, there is no need to look for the reasons of the decline of the labour movement in some vaguely constucted and actually disregarded philosophy; instead, this decline becomes a quite obvious parallel to the decline of capitalism. Bound to an expanding capitalism, totally integrated into the whole of the social fabric, the old labour movement can only stagnate with stagnating capitalism and decline with declining capitalism. It cannot divorce itself from capitalist society, unless it breaks completely with its own past, which is possible only by breaking up the old organisations, as far as they still exist. This possibility, however, is precluded because of the vested interests developed in those organisations. A rebirth of the labour movement is conceivable only as a rebellion of the masses against 'their' organisations. just as the relations of production, to speak in Marxian terms, prevent the further unfolding of the productive forces of society, and are responsible for the present capitalistic decline, so the labour organisations of today prevent the full unfolding of the new proletarian class forces and their attempts at new actions serving the class interests of the workers. These conflicting tendencies between working class interests and the predominant labour organisations were most clearly revealed in Europe, where the capitalist expansion process was arrested and the economic contraction was felt more severely, resulting in fascist forms of control over the population. But in America as well, where the forces of capitalist economy have been less exhausted than in Europe, the old labour leaders are joined by those of the newer, apparently more progressive, labour organisations in supporting a struggling capitalist class to maintain its system even after its social and historical basis has vanished.
It is a paradox only to the superficial observer that the decline of the European labour movement was accompanied by a new spurt in labour organisations in the United States. This situation indicates only the tremendous strength and reserve that capitalism in America still possesses. However, it is also an expression of weakness in American capitalism as compared with that of the more centralised capitalism of European countries. Being both an advantage and a disadvantage, the present American labour situation illustrates merely the attempts to utilise the advantage to help eliminate the disadvantage. The centralisation of all possible economic and political powers in the hands of the State (which, due to the declining economy is impelled to participate in larger internal and external struggles) is still opposed in the United States by powerfully individualistic capitalistic interests rightly fearing they will be victimised by this very process. So arises another paradox, that it is precisely the persisting strength of private capital, capable of counteracting state-capitalist trends and of fighting against the organisation of labour, that is largely responsible for the continued existence of these labour organisations. For the indirect but very forceful support the labour movement has found in those governmental policies which are directed against anarchic, individual, capitalistic procedures in an effort to safeguard the present society, will inevitably serve only the State. The State will then have made profitable use of the labour organisation, not the organisation of the State. The more government fosters the interests of labour, the more labour interests disappear, the more these labour organisations make themselves superfluous. The rise in the American labour movement experienced recently is but a veiled symptom of its decline. As was indicated in the first CIO convention held recently, the organised workers are completely subordinated to the most efficient and centralised union leadership. From this complete emasculation of workers' initiative within their own organisation to the complete subordination of the whole organisation to the State is only a step. Not only capital, as Marx said, is its own grave digger, but also the labour organisations(ins, where they are not destroyed from without, destroy themselves. They destroy themselves in the very attempt to become powerful forces within the capitalist system, They adopt the methods necessary under capitalistic conditions to grow in importance, and thereby in turn continuously strengthen those forces which will eventually 'take them over'. There is, therefore, no chance to profit from their efforts, for, in the last analysis, the real powers in society decide what shall remain and what shall be eliminated.
Nor is there any hope that, in recognition of the services given to the exploitative society, the labour organisers and their followers will find their proper reward in a completely state-controlled economic system; for all social changes in the present antagonistic society occur by way of struggle. A harmonising of interests between two different kinds of bureaucracies is possible only in exceptional cases, as in the case of war breaking out before the totalitarian system is completed; otherwise the taking over of the old labour movement by the state system leaves the old leaden in the streets, or brings them to the concentration camps, as was so aptly demonstrated in Germany. Nor could the recognition that such a future is probable cause labour leaders to avoid preparing it, as there is given to the present nonrevolutionary labour movement no possibility but to pave the way toward it. The only alternative, revolutionary activity, would exclude all those aspects of labour activity which are hailed as the painfully won victories of a long struggle, and would mean the sacrifice of all those values and activities which today make it worth while to work in labour organisations, and which induce workers to enter them.
If the recent development of so-called 'economically' organised labour in America is itself an indication of the general decline of the labour movement of the world, and is tellingly illustrated by John L. Lewis's recent declaration that his organisation stands ready "to support a war of defence against Germany", or, in other words, that he and his organisation are ready to fight for the interests of American capitalism, there is not even the necessity of proving the decline of the old labour movement in the United States' political field. Since specific historical and social factors excluded the growth of a political labour movement of any consequence in America, an American political labour movement cannot decline, since it does not exist. With the exception of a number of spontaneous movements that disappeared as quickly as they arose, what hitherto was experienced in the form of a political labour movement in this country was of no significance. The total absence of class consciousness in the 'economic' movements here is so well recognised that it is superfluous to mention this fact again. With the exception of the Industrial Workers of the World (I.W.W.), the labour organisations in recent history were always considered as complementary to capitalism - as one of its assets. The objective observer must admit that all the organised and unorganised working masses are still under the sway of capitalism, because there developed with expanding capitalism not a labour movement, but a capitalist movement of labourers
From the negative position developed here it can easily be seen that the future activity of the working class cannot be denoted as a 'new beginning', but merely as a beginning. The century of class fight behind us "developed invaluable theoretical knowledge; it found gallant revolutionary words in defiance of the capitalist claim of being a final social system; it awakened the workers from the hopelessness of misery. But its actual fight was within the confines of capitalism; it was action through the medium of leaders and sought only to place easy masters in the place of hard ones." (3) The previous history of the labour movement must be regarded only as a prelude to future action. Although there can be no doubt that this prelude has already forecast some of the implications of the coming struggle, nevertheless, it remained only an introduction, not a summary, of what is to follow.
The European labour movement disappeared with so little struggle because its organisation had no forward perspective; they knew or felt that there was no room for them in a socialistic system, and their fear that the class society would disappear was no less than that of other privileged groups. Capable of functioning only under capitalistic conditions, they contemplated with disfavour the end of capitalism; a choice between two ways of dying has never enlivened anyone. The fact that such labour organisations can function only in capitalism explains also their rather curious concepts as to what would constitute a socialist society. Their 'socialism' was and is a 'socialism' that resembled capitalism; they are 'progressive' capitalists rather than socialists. All their theories, from that of the 'Marxian' revisionist, Bernstein, to those of a 'market socialism' in vogue today are only methods of achieving acquiescence in capitalism.
Therefore it is not surprising that such a clearly discernible state-capitalist system as exists in Russia is generally accepted by them as a completed socialistic system, or as a transitory stage to socialism. Criticism directed against the Russian system considers only the lack of democracy, or an alleged malice or stupidity of its bureaucracy, and concerns itself little or not at all with the fact that the relations of production now existing in Russia do not essentially differ from those of other capitalistic countries, or the fact that the Russian workers have no voice whatever in the productive and social affairs of their country, but are subjected politically and economically to exploitative conditions and individuals like the workers of any other nation. Though the large majority of the Russian workers no longer face individual entrepreneurs in their struggle for existence and better living conditions, their present authorities show that even the old aspiration of the ]about movement, the replacement of hard masters with benevolent ones, has not been fulfilled there.
They show also that the disappearance of the individual capitalist alone does not end the capitalist form of exploitation. His transformation into a state official, or his replacement by state officers, still leaves intact the system of exploitation which is peculiar to capitalism. The separation of the workers from the means of production and, with this, class rule, are continued in Russia, with the addition of a highly centralised, single-minded exploitative apparatus that now makes more difficult the struggle of the workers for their objectives, so that Russia reveals itself only as a modified capitalistic development expressed in a new terminology. Attempts at a greater national sufficiency, forced upon Russia, as it has been forced upon all other capitalistic countries, is now celebrated as 'the building up of socialism in one country'. The disruption of world economy, which explains and allows the forced development of state capitalism in Russia, is now described s 'a side-by-side existence of two fundamentally different social systems'. However, the optimism of the ]about movement seems to increase with each defeat it suffers. The greater progress class differentiation makes in Russia, the more the new ruling class succeeds in suppressing opposition to a, increasing and highly celebrated exploitation, the more Russia participates in the capitalist world economy and becomes an imperialistic power among the others, the more socialism is deemed to be fully realised in that country. just as the labour movement has been able to see socialism marching in capitalist accumulation, it celebrate, now the march toward barbarism as so many steps toward the new society.
However divided the old labour movement may be by disagreements on various topics, on the question of socialism it stands united. Hilferding's abstract 'General-Cartel' , Lenin's admiration for the German war socialism and the German postal service, Kautsky's eternalisation of the value-price-money economy (desiring to do consciously what in capitalism is performed by blind market laws), Trotsky's war communism equipped with supply and demand features, and Stalin's institutional economics - all these concepts have at their base the continuation of the existing conditions of production. As a matter of fact, they are mere reflections of what is actually going on in capitalist society. Indeed, such 'socialism' is discussed today by famous bourgeois economists like Pigou, Hayek, Robbins, Keynes, to mention only a few, and has created a considerable literature to which the socialists now turn for their material. Furthermore, bourgeois economists from Marshall to Mitchell, from the neo-classicists to the modern institutionalists, have concerned themselves with the question of how to bring order into the disorderly capitalist system, the trend of their thought paralleling the trend of an ever greater intrusion of the State into competitive society, a process resulting in 'New Deals', 'National-Socialism', and 'Bolshevism', the various names for the different degrees and variations of the centralisation and concentration process of the capitalist system.
It has recently become almost a fad to describe the inconsistencies of the labour movement as a tragic contradiction between means and ends. However, such an inconsistency does not exist. Socialism has not been the desired 'end' of the old labour movement; it was merely a term employed to hide an entirely different objective, which was political power within a society based on rulers and ruled for a share in the created surplus value. This was the end that determined the means.
The means-and-ends problem is that of ideology and reality based on class relations in society. However, the problem is artificial because it cannot be solved without dissolving the class relations. It is also meaningless, as it exists only in thought; no such contradiction exists in actuality. The actions of classes and groups may be explained at any time on the basis of the productive relations existing in society. When actions do not correspond to proclaimed ends, it is only because those ends really are not fought for, these apparent ends, instead, reflect a dissatisfaction unable to turn to action, or a desire to conceal the real ends. No class really can act incorrectly, i.e., act in any way at variance with determinant social forces, though it has unlimited possibilities to think incorrectly. Within capitalism's social production each class depends upon the other; their antagonism is their identity of interests; and so long as this society exists, there can be no choice of action. Only by breaking through the confines of this society is it possible to co-ordinate means and ends deliberately, to establish true unity of theory and practice.
In capitalist society there is only an apparent contradiction between means and ends, the disparity being only a weapon to serve an actual practice not at all out of harmony with the desires involved. One need only to discover the actual end behind the ideological end to smooth out the apparent inconsistency. To use a practical example: if one believes that trade unions are interested in strikes as a method of minimalising profits and increasing wages, as they contend, he will be surprised to discover that when trade unions were apparently most powerful and when the need to increase wages was the greatest, trade unions were more reluctant than ever to use the strike medium in the interest of their goal. The unions turned to means less appropriate to the end aspired to, such as arbitration and governmental regulations. The fact is that wage increase under all conditions is no longer the end of trade unions; they are no longer what they were at their start; their true end is now the maintenance of the organisational apparatus under all conditions; the new means are those tactics most appropriate to this goal. But to disclose their changed character would be to alienate the workers from the organisation. Thus, the mere ideological end becomes a weapon for securing the real end, becomes only an instrument in a quite realistic and well-integrated activity.
Nevertheless, the ends-and-means problem excited the old labour movement considerably and explains in part why the real character of that movement was recognised so slowly and why illusions flourished as to the possibilities of reforming it. The most important attempt to revolutionise the old labour movement was made when the Russian revolution of 1905 had interrupted the everyday business in which the labour movement was then engaged and the question of an actual social change came to the fore again. But even here, in its apparent opposition, the old labour movement revealed its innate capitalistic character. Lenin's serious attempts to solve the problem of power led him straight back into the camp of the bourgeois revolutionists. This resulted not only from the backward Russian conditions, but also from the theoretical development of Western socialism, which had only further emphasised the bourgeois character it had inherited from earlier revolutions. The capitalist nature of the labour movement also -appeared in its economic theory, which, following the trend in bourgeois economics, viewed the problems of society more and more as a question of distribution, as a market problem. Even the revolutionary onslaught of Rosa Luxemburg in her Akkumulation des Kapitals against the 'revisionists' was still an argument on the level established by her antagonists. She, too, deduced the limitations of the capitalist society mainly from its inability, because of limited markets, to realise the surplus value. Not the sphere of production, but the sphere of circulation seemed of predominant importance, determining the life and death of capitalism.
However, from the pre-war left (which included Luxemburg, Liebknecht, Pannekoek and Gorter), coupled with the actual struggles of workers in mass strikes in the East as well as the West, there arose a movement during the war which continued for a few years as a truly anti-capitalistic trend and found its organisational expression in various anti-parliamentarian and anti-trade union groups in a number of countries. In its beginnings and despite all its inconsistencies, this movement was from the outset strictly opposed to the whole of capitalism, as well as to the whole of the labour movement that was a part of the system. Recognising that the assumption of power by a party meant only a change of exploiters, it proclaimed that society must be controlled directly by the workers themselves. The old slogans of abolition of the classes, abolition of the wage system, abolition of capital production, ceased to be slogans and became the immediate ends of the new organisations. Not a new ruling group in society, willing to act 'for the workers' and, with this power, able to act against them, was their aim, but the direct control by the workers over the means of production through an organisation of production securing this control . These groups (4) refused to distinguish between the different parties and trade unions, but saw in them remains of a past stage of struggles within the capitalist society. They were no longer interested in bringing new life to the old organisations, but in making known the need for organisations not only of entirely different character - class organisation capable of changing society, but capable also of organising the new society in such manner as to make exploitation impossible.
What remains of this movement, as far as it found permanent organisational expression, exists today under the name of Groups of Council Communists. They consider themselves Marxist and with that, internationalists. Recognising that all problems of today are international problems, they refuse to think in nationalistic terms, contending that all special national considerations serve only capitalistic competitive needs. In their own interests the workers must develop the forces of production further, a condition which presupposes a consequent internationalism. However, this position does not overlook national peculiarities and therefore does not lead to attempts to pursue identical policies in different countries. Each national group must base its activities on an understanding of its surroundings, without interference from any other group, though the exchange of experiences is expected to lead to co-ordinated activities wherever possible. These groups are Marxist because there has not as yet developed a social science superior to that originated by Marx, and because the Marxian principles of scientific research still are the most realistic and allow incorporation of new experiences growing out of continuing capitalistic development. Marxism is not conceived as a closed system, but as the present state of a growing social science capable of serving as a theory of the practical class struggle of the workers.
So far the main functions of these organisations consisted of critique. However, this critique is no longer directed against the capitalism that existed at the time of Marx. It includes a critique of that transformation of capitalism which appears under the name of 'socialism'. Critique and propaganda are the only practical activities possible today, and their apparent fruitlessness only reflects an apparent non-revolutionary situation. The decline of the old labour movement, involving the difficulty and even impossibility of bringing forth a new one, is a lamentable prospect only for the old labour movement; it is neither hailed nor bewailed by the Groups of Council Communists, but simply recognised as a fact. The latter recognise also that the disappearance of the organised labour movement changes nothing of the social class structure; that the class struggle must continue, and will be forced to operate on the basis of given possibilities. "A class in which the revolutionary interests of society are concentrated, so soon as it has risen up, finds directly in its own situation the content and the material of its revolutionary activity: foes to be laid low; measures (dictated by the needs of the struggle) to be taken; the consequences of its own deeds to drive it on. It makes no theoretical inquiries into its own task." (5) Even a fascist society cannot end class struggles - the fascist workers will be forced to change the relations of production. However, there is actually no such thing as a fascist society just as there is no such thing as a democratic society. Both are only different stages of the same society, neither higher nor lower, but simply different, as a result of shifts of class forces within the capitalist society which have their basis in a number of economic contradictions.
The Groups of Council Communists recognise also that no real social change is possible under present conditions unless the anti-capitalistic forces grow stronger than the pro-capitalist forces, and that it is impossible to organise anti-capitalistic forces of such a strength within capitalistic relations. From the analysis of present-day society and from a study of previous class struggles it concludes that spontaneous actions of dissatisfied masses will, in the process of their rebellion, create their own organisations, and that these organisations, arising out of the social conditions, alone can end the present social arrangement. The question of organisation as discussed today is regarded as a superfluous question, as the enterprises, public works, relief stations, armies in the coming war, are sufficient organisations to allow for mass action-organisations which cannot be eliminated regardless of what character capitalist society may assume.
As an organisational frame for the new society is proposed a council organisation based on industry and the productive process, and the adoption of the social average labour time as a measurement for production, reproduction and distribution in so far as measurements are necessary to secure economic equality despite the existing division of labour. This society, it is believed, will be able to plan its production according to the needs and the enjoyment desired by the people.
The Groups further realise, as already stated, that such a society can function only with the direct participation of the workers in all decisions necessary; its concept of socialism is unrealisable on the basis of a separation between workers and organisers. The Groups do not claim to be acting for the workers, but consider themselves as those members of the working class who have, for one reason or another, recognised evolutionary trends towards capitalism's downfall, and who attempt to co-ordinate the present activities of the workers to that end. They know that they are no more than propaganda groups, able only to suggest necessary courses of action, but unable to perform them in the 'interest of the class'. 'This the class has to do itself. The present functions of the Groups, though related to the perspectives of the future, attempt to base themselves entirely on the present needs of the workers. On all occasions, they try to foster self-initiative and self-action of the workers. The Groups participate wherever possible in any action of the working population, not proposing a separate programme, but adopting the programme of those workers and endeavouring to increase the direct participation of those workers, in all decisions. They demonstrate in word and deed that the labour movement must foster its own interests exclusively; that society as a whole cannot truly exist until classes are abolished; that the workers, considering nothing but their specific, most immediate interests, must and do attack all the other classes and interests of the exploitative society; that they can do no wrong as long as they do what helps them economically and socially; that this is possible only as long as they do this themselves; that they must begin to solve their affairs today and so prepare themselves to solve the even more urgent problems of the morrow.
1. See Economic Planning and Labour Plans (Paris: International Federation of Trade Unions, 1936).
2. See Karl Marx by Karl Korsch. A re-statement of the most important principles and contents of Marx's social science. (New York, John Wiley, 1938.)
3. J. Harper, "General Remarks on the Question of Organisation", Living Marxism, November, 1938, p 153.
4. 'Left', or workers' communist organisations, trace their earliest beginnings to the left opposition developing in the Socialist and Communist parties before, during and shortly after the war, Their concepts of direct workers' control assumed real significance with the coming of 'soviets' in the Russian Revolution, the shop stewards in England during the war, and the workers' factory delegates in Germany during the war, and the workers' and soldiers' councils after the war. These groups were expelled from the Communist International in 1920. Lenin's pamphlet, Left Wing Communism An Infantile Disorder (1920), was written to destroy the influence of these groups in western Europe. These groups considered the Bolshevik policies counter-revolutionary as regards the class interests of the international working class, and it was defeated by this counter-revolution which combined with the reformist movement and the capitalist class proper to destroy the first beginnings of a radical movement directed against all forms of capitalism. What still remains of this movement today are small groups in America, Germany, Holland, France and Belgium unable to do more than propaganda work influencing extremely small groups of workers.
5. Karl Marx, The Class Struggles in France, 1848-50.
OTTO RÜHLE AND THE GERMAN LABOUR MOVEMENT
Otto Rühle's activity in the German Labour Movement was related to the work of small and restricted minorities within and outside of the official labour organisations. The groups which he directly adhered to were at no time of real significance. And even within these groups he held a peculiar position; he could never completely identify himself with any organisation. He never lost sight of the general interests of the working class, no matter what specific political strategy he was advocating at any particular time. He could not regard organisations as an end in themselves, but merely as mediums for the establishment of real social relations and for the fuller development of the individual. Because of this broad view of life he was at times suspected of apostasy, yet he died as he lived - a Socialist in the true sense of the word.
Today every programme and designation has lost its meaning; socialists speak in capitalistic terms, capitalists in socialistic terms and everybody believes anything and nothing. This situation is merely the climax of a long development which has been initiated by the labour movement itself. It is now quite clear that only those in the traditional labour movement who opposed its undemocratic organisations and their tactics can properly be called socialists. The labour leaders of yesterday and today did not and do not represent a workers' movement but only a capitalist movement of workers. Only by standing outside the labour movement has it been possible to work towards decisive social changes. The fact that even within the dominant labour organisations Rühle remained an outsider attests to his sincerity and integrity. His whole thinking was, however, determined by the movement which he opposed and it is necessary to analyse its characteristics in order to understand the man himself.
The official labour movement functioned neither in accordance with its original ideology nor with its real immediate interests. For a time it served as a control instrument of the ruling classes. First losing its independence , it was soon to lose its very existence. Vested interests under capitalism can be maintained only by the accumulation of power. The process of the concentration of capital and political power forces any socially important movement to attempt either to destroy capitalism or to serve it consistently. The old labour movement could not do the latter and was neither willing nor able to do the former. Content to be one monopoly among others it was swept aside by the capitalistic development toward the monopolistic control of monopolies.
Essentially the history of the old labour movement is the history of the capitalist market approached from a 'proletarian' point of view. The so-called market laws were to be utilised in favour of the commodity, labour power. Collective actions should lead to the highest possible wages. 'Economic power' gained in this manner was to be secured by way of social reform. To get the highest profits possible, the capitalists increased the organised control over the market. But this opposition between capital and labour also expressed an identity of interests. Both sides fostered the monopolistic re-organisation of capitalist society, though, to be sure, behind their consciously-directed activities there was finally nothing but the expansive need of capital itself. Their policies and aspirations, however much based on real considerations of facts and special needs, were still determined by the fetishistic character of their system of production.
Aside from commodity-fetishism, whatever meaning the market laws may have with regard to special fortunes and losses, and however they may be manipulated by one or another interest group, under no circumstances can they be used in favour of the working class as a whole. It is not the market which controls the people and determines the prevailing social relations but rather the fact that a separate group in society either owns or controls both the means of production and the instruments of suppression. Market situations, whatever they may be, always favour capital. And if they do not do so they will be altered, set aside or supplemented with more direct, more forceful and more basic powers inherent in the ownership or control of the means of production.
To overcome capitalism, actions outside the labour-capital-market relations are necessary, actions that do away with both the market and with class relations. Restricted to actions within the framework of capitalism, the old labour movement fought from the very beginning on unequal terms. It was bound to destroy itself or to be destroyed from without. It was destined either to be broken up internally by its own revolutionary opposition, which would give rise to new organisations, or doomed to be destroyed by the capitalistic change from a market to a controlled-market economy and the accompanying political alterations. Actually, the latter happened, for the revolutionary opposition within the labour movement failed to grow. It had a voice but no power and no immediate future, as the working class had just spent half a century entrenching its capitalistic enemy and building a huge prison for itself in the form of the labour movement. It is, therefore, still necessary to single out men like Otto Rühle in order to describe the modern revolutionary opposition, although such singling out is quite contrary to his own point of view and to the needs of the workers who must learn to think in terms of classes rather than in terms of revolutionary personalities.
The first world war and the positive reaction of the labour movement to the slaughter surprised only those who did not understand capitalist society and the successful labour movement within its confines. But only a few actually understood. Just as the pre-war opposition within the labour movement can be brought into focus by mentioning the literary and scientific products of a few individuals among whom Rühle must be counted, so the 'workers' opposition' to the war may also be expressed in names like Liebknecht, Luxemburg, Mehring, Rühle and others. It is quite revealing that the anti-war attitude, in order to be effective at all, had first to find parliamentary permission. It had to be dramatised on the stage of a bourgeois institution, thus indicating its limitations from the very beginning. In fact, it served only as a forerunner of the bourgeois-liberal peace movement that finally succeeded in ending the war without disturbing the capitalistic status quo. If, in the beginning, most of the workers were behind the war-majority, they were no less behind the anti-war activity of their bourgeoisie which ended in the Weimar Republic. The anti-war slogans, although raised by revolutionists, merely served a particular brand of bourgeois politics and ended up where they started - in the bourgeois democratic parliament.
The real opposition to war and imperialism came to the fore in desertions from army and factory and in the slowly growing recognition on the part of many workers that their struggle against war and exploitation must include the fight against the old labour movement and all its concepts- it speaks in Rühle's favour that his own name disappeared quickly from the honour roll of the war opposition. It is clear, of course, that Liebknecht and Luxemburg were celebrated up to the beginning of the second world war only because they died long before the warring world had been restored to 'normalcy' and was again in need of dead labour heroes to support the living labour leaders who carried out a 'realistic' policy of reforms or served the foreign policy of bolshevik Russia.
The first world war revealed more than anything else that the labour movement was part and parcel of bourgeois society. The various organisations in every nation proved that they had neither - the intention nor the means to fight capitalism, that they were interested only in securing their own existence within the capitalistic structure. In Germany this was especially obvious because within the international movement the German organisations were the largest and most unified. To hold on to what had been built up since Bismarck's anti-socialist laws, the minority opposition within the socialist party displayed a self restraint to an extent unknown in other countries. But, then, the exiled Russian opposition had less to lose; it had, furthermore, split away from the reformists and class-collaborationists a decade before the outbreak of the war. And it is quite difficult to see in the meek pacifist arguments of the Independent Labour Party any real opposition to the social patriotism that had saturated the British labour movement. But more had been expected of the German left-wing than of any other group within the International, and its behaviour at the outbreak of the war was therefore particularly disappointing. Apart from the psychological conditions of individuals, this behaviour was the product of the organisation-fetishism prevailing in the movement.
This fetishism demanded discipline and strict adherence to democratic formulae - the minority must submit to the will of the majority. And although it is clear that under capitalistic conditions these democratic formulae merely hide facts to the contrary, the opposition failed to perceive that democracy within the labour movement did not differ from bourgeois democracy in general. A minority owned and controlled the organisations just as the capitalist minority owns and controls the means of production and the state apparatus. In both cases, the minorities by virtue of this control determine the behaviour of the majorities. But by force of traditional procedures, in the name of discipline and unity, uneasy and against its better knowledge, the anti-war minority supported social-democratic chauvinism. There was just one man in the German Reichstag of August 1914 - Fritz Kunert -who was not able to vote for war credits but who was also not able to vote against them and thus, to satisfy his conscience, abstained from voting altogether.
In the spring of 1915 Liebknecht and Rühle were the first to vote against the granting of war credits to the government. They remained alone for quite some time and found new companions only to the degree that the chances of a victorious peace disappeared in the military stalemate. After 1916 the radical anti-war attitude was supported and soon swallowed up by a bourgeois movement in search of a negotiated peace, a movement which, finally, was to inherit the bankrupt stock of German imperialism.
As violators of discipline Liebknecht and Rühle were expelled from the social-democratic Reichstag faction. Together with Rosa Luxemburg, Franz Mehring and others, more or less forgotten by now, they organised the group, Internationale, publishing a magazine of the same title in order to uphold the idea of internationalism in the warring world. In 1916 they organised the Spartakusbund which cooperated with other left-wing formations such as the Internationale Sozialist with Julian Borchardt as their spokesman, and the group around Johann Knief and the radical Bremen paper, Arbeiterpolitik. In retrospect it seems that the last-named group was the most advanced, that is, advanced away from social-democratic traditions and toward a new approach to the proletarian class struggle. How much the Spartakusbund still adhered to the organisation and unity fetish that ruled the German labour movement came to light in their vacillating attitude toward the first attempts at re-orienting the international socialist movement in Zimmerwald and Kienthal. The Spartacists were not in favour of a clean break with the old labour movement in the direction of the earlier bolshevik example. They still hoped to win the party over to their own position and carefully avoided irreconcilable policies. In April 1917 the Spartakusbund merged with the Independent Socialists [Unabhèngige Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands] which formed the centre in the old labour movement but was no longer willing to cover up the chauvinism of the conservative majority-wing of the social-democratic party. Relatively independent, yet still within the Independent Socialist Party, the Spartakusbund left this organisation only at the end of the year 1918.
Within the Spartakusbund Otto Rühle shared Liebknecht's and Rosa Luxemburg's position which had been attacked by the Bolsheviks as inconsistent. And inconsistent it was but for pertinent reasons. At first glance, the main reason seemed to be based on the illusion that the Social Democratic Party could be reformed. With changing circumstances, it was hoped, the masses would cease to follow their conservative leaders and support the left-wing of the party. And although such illusions did exist, first with regard to the old party and later with regard to the Independent Socialists, they do not altogether explain the hesitancy on the part of the Spartacist leaders to adopt the ways of Bolshevism. Actually, the Spartacists faced a dilemma no matter in what direction they looked. By not trying -- at the right time - to break resolutely with social-democracy, they forfeited their chance to form a strong organisation capable of playing a decisive role in the expected social upheavals. Yet, in view of the real situation in Germany, in view of the history of the German labour movement, it was quite difficult to believe in the possibility of quickly forming a counter-party to the dominant labour organisations. Of course, it might have been possible to form a party in the Leninist manner, a party of professional revolutionists, willing to usurp power, if necessary, against the will of the majority of the working class. But this was precisely what the people around Rosa Luxemburg did not aspire to. Throughout the years of their opposition to reformism and revisionism, they had never narrowed their distance from the Russian 'left', from Lenin's concept of organisation and revolution. In sharp controversies, Rosa Luxemburg had pointed out that Lenin's concepts were of a Jacobin nature and inapplicable in Western Europe where not a bourgeois but a proletarian revolution was the order of the day. Although she, too, spoke of the dictatorship of the proletariat, it meant for her, in distinction to Lenin, "the manner in which democracy is employed, not in its abolition - it was to be the work of the class, and not of a small minority in the name of the class".
Enthusiastically as Liebknecht, Luxemburg and Rühle greeted the overthrow of Czarism, they did not lose their critical capacities, nor did they forget the character of the bolshevik party, nor the historical limitations of the Russian Revolution. But regardless of the immediate realities and the final outcome of this revolution, it had to be supported as a first break in the imperialistic phalanx and as the forerunner of the expected German revolution. Of the latter many signs had appeared in strikes, hunger riots, mutinies and all kinds of passive resistances. But the growing opposition to the war and to Ludendorff's dictatorship did not find organisational expression to any significant extent. Instead of going to the left, the masses followed their old organisations, which lined up with the liberal bourgeoisie. The upheavals in the German Navy and finally the November rebellion were carried on in the spirit of social-democracy, that is, in the spirit of the defeated German bourgeoisie.
The German revolution appeared to be more significant than it really was. The spontaneous enthusiasm of the workers was more for ending the war than for changing existing social relations. Their demands, expressed through workers' and soldiers' councils, did not transcend the possibilities of bourgeois society. Even the revolutionary minority, and here particularly the Spartakusbund, failed to develop a consistent revolutionary programme. Its political and economic demands were of a twofold nature; they were constructed to serve as demands to be agreed upon by the bourgeoisie and its social-democratic allies, and as slogans of a revolution which was to do away with bourgeois society and its supporters.
Of course, within the ocean of mediocrity that was the German revolution there were revolutionary streams which warmed the hearts of the radicals and induced them to undertake actions historically quite out of place. Partial successes, due to the temporary stunning of the ruling classes and the general passivity of the broad masses - exhausted as they were by four years of hunger and war - nourished the hope that the revolution might end in a socialist society. Only no one really knew what the socialist society would be like, what steps ought to be taken to usher it into existence. 'All power to the workers' and soldiers' councils,' however attractive as a slogan, still left all essential questions open. The revolutionary struggles that followed November 1918 were thus not determined by the consciously concocted plans of the revolutionary minority but were thrust upon it by the slowly developing counter-revolution which was backed by the majority of the people. The fact was that the broad German masses inside and outside the labour movement did not look forward to the establishment of a new society, but backwards to the restoration of liberal capitalism without its bad aspects, its political inequalities, its militarism and imperialism. They merely desired the completion of the reforms started before the war which were designed to lead into a benevolent capitalistic system.
The ambiguity which characterised the policy of the Spartakusbund was largely the result of the conservatism of the masses. The Spartacist leaders were ready, on the one hand, to follow the clear revolutionary course desired by the so-called 'ultra-left' and on the other hand they felt sure that such a policy could not be successful in view of the prevailing mass attitude and the international situation.
The effect of the Russian Revolution upon Germany had hardly been noticeable. Nor was there any reason to expect that a radical turn in Germany would have any repercussions in France, England and America. If it had been difficult for the Allies to interfere decisively in Russia, they would face lesser difficulties in crushing a German communist uprising. Emerging from the war victorious, the capitalism of these nations had been enormously strengthened; there was no real indication that their patriotic masses would refuse to fight against a weaker revolutionary Germany. At any rate, aside from such considerations, there was little reason to believe that the German masses, engaged in getting rid of their arms, would resume the war against foreign capitalism in order to get rid of their own. The policy which was apparently the most 'realistic' for dealing with the international situation and which was soon to be proposed by Wolfheim and Lauffenberg under the name of National-Bolshevism was still unrealistic in view of the real power relations after the war. The plan to resume the war with Russia's help against Allied capitalism failed to consider that the bolsheviks were neither ready nor able to participate in such a venture. Of course, the bolsheviks were not averse to Germany or any other nation making difficulties for the victorious imperialists, yet they did not encourage the idea of a new large-scale war to carry on the 'world-revolution'. They desired support for their own regime, whose permanency was still questioned by the bolsheviks themselves, but they were not interested in supporting revolutions in other countries by military means. Both to follow a nationalistic course, independent of the question of alliances, and to unite Germany once more for a war of 'liberation' from foreign oppression was out of the question for the reason that these social layers which the 'national revolutionists' would have to win over to their cause were precisely the people who ended the war before the complete defeat of the German armies in order to prevent a further spreading of 'bolshevism'. Unable to become the masters of international capitalism, they had preferred to maintain themselves as its best servants. Yet, there was no way of dealing with internal German questions which did not involve a definite foreign policy. The radical German revolution was thus defeated even before it could arise both by its own and by world capitalism.
The need to consider seriously international relations never arose, however, for the German Left. Perhaps this was the clearest indication of its insignificance. Neither was the question as to what to do with political power, once it was captured, raised concretely. No one seemed to believe that these questions would have to be answered. Liebknecht and Luxemburg felt sure that a long period of class struggles was facing the German proletariat with no sign of an early victory. They wanted to make the best of it, suggesting a return to parliament and to trade union work. However, in their previous activities they had already overstepped the boundaries of bourgeois politics; they could no longer return to the prisons of tradition. They had rallied around themselves the most radical element of the German proletariat which was determined to consider any fight the final struggle against capital. These workers interpreted the Russian revolution in accordance their own needs and their own mentality; they cared less for the difficulties lurking in the future than about destroying as soon possible of the forces of the past. There were only two ways open to the revolutionists: either to go down with the forces whose cause is lost in advance, or to return to the fold of bourgeois democracy and perform social work for the ruling classes. For the real revolutionist there was, of course, only one way: to go down with the fighting workers. This is why Eugen Levine spoke of the revolutionist as 'a dead person on furlough', and why Rosa Luxemburg ant Liebknecht went to their death almost somnambulistically. It is a mere accident that Otto Rühle and many others of the determined Left remained alive .
The fact that the international bourgeoisie could conclude its war with no more than the temporary loss of Russian business determined whole post-war history down to the second world war. In retrospect, the struggles of the German proletariat from 1919 to 1923 appear minor frictions that accompanied the capitalistic re-organisation process which followed the war crisis. But there has always been a tendency consider the by-products of violent changes in the capitalist structure as expressions of the revolutionary will of the proletariat. The radical optimists, however, were merely whistling in the dark. The darkness is real, to be sure, and the noise is encouraging, yet at this late hour there is no need to take it too seriously. As impressive as Otto Rühle's record as a practical revolutionist may be, as exciting as it is to recall the proletarian actions in Dresden, in Saxonia, in Germany - the meetings, demonstrations, strikes, street-fights, the heated discussions: the hopes, fears and disappointments, the bitterness of defeat and the pain of prison and death - yet no lessons but negative ones can be drawn from all these undertakings. All the energy and all the enthusiasm were not enough to bring about a social change nor to alter the contemporary mind. The lesson learned was how not to proceed. How to realise the revolutionary needs of the proletariat was not discovered.
The emotional upheavals provided a never ending incentive for research. Revolution, which for so long had been mere theory and a vague hope, had appeared for a moment as a practical possibility. The chance had been missed, no doubt, but it would return to be better utilised next time. If not the people, at least the 'times' were revolutionary and the prevailing crisis conditions would sooner or later revolutionise the minds of the workers. If actions had been brought to an end by the firing-squads of the social-democratic police, if the workers' initiative was once more destroyed through the emasculation of their councils by way of legalisation, if their leaders were again acting not with the class but 'on behalf of the class' in the various capitalistic institutions - nevertheless the war had revealed that the fundamental capitalistic contradictions could not be solved and that crisis conditions were now the normal conditions of capitalism. New revolutionary actions were probable and would find the revolutionists better prepared.
Although the revolutions in Germany, Austria and Hungary had failed, there was still the Russian Revolution to remind the world of the reality of the proletarian claims. All discussions circled around this revolution, and rightly so, for this revolution was to determine the future course of the German Left. In December 1918 the Communist Party of Germany was formed. After the murder of Liebknecht and Luxemburg it was led by Paul Levi and Karl Radek. This new leadership was at once attacked by a left opposition within the party to which Rühle belonged, because of its tendency to advocate a return to parliamentary activities. At the foundation of the party its radical elements had succeeded in giving it an anti-parliamentarian character and a wide democratic control in distinction to the Leninist type of organisation. An anti-trade union policy had also been adopted. Liebknecht and Luxemburg subordinated their own divergent views to those of the radical majority. Not so Levi and Radek. Already in the summer of 1919 they made it clear that they would split the party in order to participate in parliamentary elections. Simultaneously they began to propagandise for a return to trade-union work despite the fact that the party was already engaged in the formation of new organisations no longer based on trades or even industries, but on factories. These factory organisations were combined into one class organisation, the General Labour Union (Allgemeine Arbeiter Union Deutschlands). At the Heidelberg convention in October 1919 all the delegates who disagreed with the new central committee and maintained the position taken at the founding of the Communist Party were expelled. The following February the central committee decided to get rid of all districts controlled by the left opposition. The 'opposition' had the Amsterdam bureau of the Communist International on its side which led to the dissolution of that bureau by the International in order to support the Levi-Radek combination And finally in April 1920 the left wing founded the Communist Workers' Party (Kommunistische Arbeiter Partei Deutschlands). Throughout this period Otto Rühle was on the side of the left opposition.
The Communist Workers' Party did not as yet realise that its struggle against the groups around Levi and Radek was the resumption of the old fight of the German Left against bolshevism, and in a larger sense against the new structure of world capitalism which was slowly taking shape. It was decided to enter the Communist International. It seemed to be more bolshevik than the bolsheviks. Of all the revolutionary groups, for exampe, it was the most insistent upon direct help for the bolsheviks during the Russian-Polish war. But the Communist International did not need to decide anew against the 'ultra-left'; its leaders had made their decision twenty years before. Nevertheless, the executive committee of the Communist International still tried to keep in contact with the Communist Workers' Party not only because it still contained the majority of the old Communist Party, but also because both Levi and Radek, although doing the work of the bolsheviks in Germany, had been the closest disciples not of Lenin but of Rosa Luxemburg. At the second world congress of the Third International in 1920 the Russian bolsheviks were already in a position to dictate the policy of the International. Otto Rühle, attending the congress, recognised the impossibility of altering this situation and the immediate need of fighting the bolshevik International in the interest of the proletarian revolution.
The Communist Workers' Party sent a new delegation to Moscow only to return with the same results. These were summed up in Herman Gorter's Open Letter to Lenin, which answered Lenin's Left Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder. The actions of the International against the 'ultra-left' were the first open attempts to interfere with and control ail the various national sections. The pressure upon the Communist Workers' Party to return to parliamentarianism and trade unionism was constantly increased, but the Communist Workers' Party withdrew from the International after its third congress.
At the Second World Congress the bolshevik leaders, in order to secure control over the International proposed twenty-one conditions of admission to the Communist International. Since they controlled the congress they had no difficulty in getting these conditions adopted. Thereupon the struggle on questions of organisation which, twenty years previously, had caused controversies between Luxemburg and Lenin were openly resumed. Behind the debated organisational questions were, of course, the fundamental differences between the bolshevik revolution and the needs of the Western proletariat.
For Otto Rühle these twenty-one conditions were enough to destroy his last illusions about the bolshevik regime. These conditions endowed the executive of the International, that is, the leaders of the Russian party, with complete control and authority over all national sections. In Lenin's opinion, it was not possible to realise dictatorship on an international scale "without a strictly centralised, disciplined party, capable of leading and managing every branch, every sphere, every variety of political and cultural work". To Rühle it seemed at first that behind Lenin's autocratic attitude there was merely the arrogance of the victor trying to thrust upon the world the methods of struggle and the type of organisation that had brought power to the bolsheviks. This attitude - which insisted on applying the Russian experience to Western Europe where entirely different conditions prevailed appeared as an error, a political mistake, a lack of understanding of the peculiarities of Western capitalism and the result of Lenin's fanatical pre-occupation with Russian problems. Lenin's policy seemed to be determined by the backwardness of the Russian capitalistic development, and though it had to be fought in Western Europe since it tended to support the capitalist restoration, it could not be called an out-right counter-revolutionary force. This benevolent view towards the bolshevik revolution was soon to be destroyed by the further activities of the bolsheviks themselves.
The bolsheviks went from small 'mistakes' to always greater 'mistakes'. Although the German communist party which was affiliated with the Third International grew steadily, particularly after its unification with the Independent Socialists, the proletarian class, already on the defensive, lost one position after another to the forces of capitalist reaction. Competing with the social-democratic party, which represented parts of the middle-class and the so-called trade-unionist labour aristocracy, the Communist Party could not help growing as these social layers became pauperised in the permanent depression in which German capitalism found itself. With the steady growth of unemployment, dissatisfaction with the status quo and its staunchest supporters, the German social-democrats, also increased.
Only the heroic side of the Russian Revolution was popularised, the real every day character of the bolshevik regime was hidden by both its friends and foes. For, at this time, the state capitalism that was unfolding in Russia was still as foreign to the bourgeoisie, indoctrinated with laissez-faire ideology, as was socialism proper. And socialism was conceived by most socialists as a kind of state control of industry and natural resources. The Russian Revolution became a powerful and skilfully fostered myth, accepted by the impoverished sections of the German proletariat to compensate for their increasing misery. The myth was bolstered by the reactionaries to increase their followers' hatred for the German workers and for all revolutionary tendencies generally.
Against the myth, against the powerful propaganda apparatus of the Communist International that built up the myth, which was accompanied and supported by a general onslaught of capital against labour all over the world - against all this, reason could not prevail. All radical groups to the left of the Communist Party went from stagnation to disintegration. It did not help that these groups had the right policy and the Communist Party the 'wrong' policy, for no questions of revolutionary strategy were here involved. What was taking place was that world capitalism was going through a stabilisation process and ridding itself of the disturbing proletarian elements which under the crisis conditions of war and military collapse had tried to assert themselves politically.
Russia, which of all nations was most in need of stabilisation, was the first country to destroy its labour movement by way of the bolshevik party dictatorship. Under conditions of imperialism, however, internal stabilisation is possible only by external power politics. The character of Russia's foreign policy under the bolsheviks was determined by the peculiarities of the European post-war situation. Modern imperialism is no longer content with merely asserting itself by means of military pressure and actual warfare The 'fifth column' is the recognised weapon of all nations. Yet the imperialist virtue of today was still a sheer necessity for the bolsheviks who were trying to hold their own in a world of imperialist competition. There was nothing contradictory in the bolshevik policy of taking all power from the Russian workers and, at the same time, attempting to build up strong labour organisations in other nations. Just as these organisations had to be flexible in order to move in accordance with Russia's changing political needs, so their control from above had to be rigid.
Of course, the bolsheviks did not regard the various sections of their International as mere foreign legions in the service of the 'workers' fatherland'. They believed, that what helped Russia was also serving progress elsewhere. They believed, and rightly so, that the Russian Revolution had initiated a general and world-wide movement from monopoly capitalism to state capitalism, and they held that this new state of affairs was a step in the direction of socialism. In other words, if not in their tactics, then in their theory they were still social democrats and from their point of view the social-democratic leaders were really traitors to their own cause when they helped preserve the laissez faire capitalism of yesterday. Against social-democracy they felt themselves to be true revolutionists; against the 'ultra-left' they felt they were realists, the true representatives of scientific socialism.
But what they thought of themselves and what they really were are different things. In so far as they continued to misunderstand their historical mission, they were continuously defeating their own cause; in so far as they were forced to live up to the objective needs of their revolution, they became the greatest counter-revolutionary force of modem capitalism By fighting as true social-democrats for predominance in the socialist world movement, by identifying the narrow nationalistic interests of state-capitalistic Russia with the interests of the world proletariat, and by attempting to maintain at all cost the power position they had won in 1917, they were merely preparing their own downfall, which was dramatised in numerous factional struggles, reached its climax in the Moscow trials, and ended in the Stalinist Russia of today - one imperialist nation among others.
In view of this development, what was more important than Otto Rühle's relentless criticism of the actual policies of the bolsheviks in Germany and the world at large was his early recognition of the real historical importance of the bolshevik movement, that is, of militant social-democracy. What a conservative social-democratic movement was capable of doing and nor doing, the parties in Germany, France and England had revealed only too clearly. The bolsheviks showed what they would have done had they still been a subversive movement. They would have attempted to organise unorganised capitalism and to replace individual entrepreneurs by bureaucrats. - they had no other plans and even these were only extensions of the process of cartellisation, trustification and centralisation which was going on all over the capitalist world. In Western Europe, however, the socialist parties could no longer act bolshevistically, for their bourgeoisie was already instituting this kind of 'socialisation' of their own accord. All that the socialists could do was to lend them a hand, that is, to grow slowly into the emerging 'socialist society'.
The meaning of bolshevism was completely revealed only with the emergence of fascism. To fight the latter, it was necessary, in Otto Rühle's words, to recognise that "the struggle against fascism begins with the struggle against bolshevism". In the light of the present, the 'ultra-left' groups in Germany and Holland must be considered the first anti-fascist organisations, anticipating in their struggle against the communist parties the future need of the working class to fight the fascist form of capitalism. The first theorists of anti-fascism are to be found among the spokesmen of the radical sects: Gorter and Pannekoek in Holland; Rühle, Pfempfert, Broh and Fraenkel in Germany ; and they can be considered as such by reason of their struggle against the concept of party-rule and state-control, by their attempts to actualise the concepts of the council movement towards the direct determination of its destiny, and by their upholding the struggle of the German Left against both social-democracy and its Leninistic branch.
Not long before his death, Rühle, in summing up his findings with regard to bolshevism, did not hesitate to place Russia first among the totalitarian stares. "It has served as the model for other capitalistic dictatorships. Ideological divergences do not really differentiate socioeconomic systems. The abolition of private property in the means of production (combined with) the control of workers over the products of their labour and the end of the wages system." Both these conditions, however, are unfulfilled in Russia as well as in the fascist states.
To make clear the fascist character of the Russian system, Rühle turned once more to Lenin's Left Wing Communism - An Infantile Disorder, for "of all programmatic declarations of bolshevism it was the most revealing of its real character". When in 1933 Hitler suppressed all socialist literature in Germany, Rühle related, Lenin's pamphlet was allowed publication and distribution. In this work Lenin insists that the party must be a sort of war academy of professional revolutionists. Its chief requirements were unconditional leader authority, rigid centralism, iron discipline, conformity, militancy, and the sacrifice of personality for party interests - And Lenin actually developed an elite of intellectuals, a centre which, when thrown into the revolution, was to capture leadership and assume power. "There is no use trying," Rühle said, "to determine logically and abstractly if this kind of preparation for revolution is wrong or right . . . Other questions must be raised first; what kind of revolution was in preparation? And what was the goal of the revolution?" He answered by showing that Lenin's party worked within the belated bourgeois revolution in Russia to overthrow the feudal regime of Czarism. What may be regarded as a solution for revolutionary problems in a bourgeois revolution cannot, however, at the same time be regarded as a solution for the proletarian revolution. The decisive structural differences between capitalist and socialist society exclude such an attitude. According to Lenin's revolutionary method, the leaders appear as the head of the masses. "This distinction between head and body," Rühle pointed out, "between intellectuals and workers, officers and privates, corresponds to the duality of class society. One class is educated to rule; the other to be ruled. Lenin's organisation is only a replica of bourgeois society. His revolution is objectively determined by the forces that create a social order incorporating these class relations, regardless of the subjective goals accompanying this process."
To be sure, whoever wants to have a bourgeois order will find in the divorce of leader and masses, the advance guard and the working class, the right strategical preparation for revolution. In aspiring to lead the bourgeois revolution in Russia, Lenin's party was highly appropriate. When, however, the Russian Revolution showed its proletarian features, Lenin's tactical and strategical methods ceased to be of value. His success was due not to his advance guard, but to the soviet movement which had not at all been incorporated in his revolutionary plans. And when Lenin, after the successful revolution had been made by the soviets, dispensed with this movement, all that had been proletarian in the revolution was also dispensed with. The bourgeois character of the revolution came to the fore again and eventually found its 'natural' completion in Stalinism.
Lenin, Rühle has said, thought in rigid, mechanical rules, despite all his pre-occupation with Marxian dialectics. There was only one party for him - his own; only one revolution - the Russian; only one method - the bolshevik. "The monotonous application of a once discovered formula moved in an egocentric circle undisturbed by time and circumstances, developmental degrees, cultural standards, ideas and men. In Lenin there came to light with great clarity the rule of the machine age in politics; he was the 'technician', the 'inventor' of the revolution. All the fundamental characteristics of fascism were in his doctrine, his strategy, his 'social planning' and his art of dealing with men . . . He never learned to know the prerequisites for the freeing of the workers; he was not bothered by the false consciousness of the masses and their human self-alienation. The whole problem to him was nothing more or less than a problem of power."Bolshevism as representing a militant power policy, does not differ from traditional bourgeois forms of rule. The rule serves as the great example of organisation. Bolshevism is a dictatorship, a nationalistic doctrine, an authoritarian system with a capitalistic social structure. Its 'planning' concerns technical-organisational not socio economic questions. It is revolutionary only within the framework of capitalistic development, establishing not socialism but state-capitalism. It represents the present stage of capitalism and not a first step towards a new society.
The Russian soviets and the German workers' and soldiers' councils represented the proletarian element in both the Russian and the German revolution. In both nations these movements were soon suppressed by military and judicial means. What remained of the Russian soviets after the firm entrenchment of the bolshevik party dictatorship was merely the Russian version of the later Nazi labour front. The legalised German council movement turned into an appendage of trade-unionism and soon into a capitalistic instrument of control. Even the spontaneously formed councils of 1918 were - the majority of them - far from being revolutionary. Their form of organisation, based on class needs and not on the various special interests resulting from the capitalistic division of labour was all that was radical about them. But whatever their shortcomings, it must be said that there was nothing else on which to base revolutionary hopes. Although they frequently turned against the Left, still it was expected that the objective needs of this movement would bring it inevitably into conflict with the traditional powers. This form of organisation was to be preserved in its original character and built up in preparation for coming struggles.
Thinking in terms of a continued German revolution, the 'ultra-left' was committed to a fight to the finish against trade-unions and against the existing parliamentary parties; in brief, against all forms of opportunism and compromise. Thinking in terms of the probability of a side-by-side existence with the old capitalist powers, the Russian bolsheviks could not conceive a policy without compromises. Lenin's arguments in defence of the bolshevik position in relation to trade unions, parliamentarianism and opportunism in general elevated the particular needs of bolshevism into false revolutionary principles. Yet it would not do to show the illogical character of the bolshevik arguments, for as illogical as the arguments were from a revolutionary point of view, they emanated logically from the peculiar role of the bolsheviks within the Russian capitalistic emancipation and from the bolshevik international policy which supported Russia's national interests.
That Lenin's principles were false from a proletarian point of view in both Russia and in Western Europe, Otto Rühle demonstrated in various pamphlets and in numerous articles in the press of the General Labour Union and in Franz Pfempert's left-wing magazine, Die Aktion.He exposed the expedient trickery involved in giving these principles a logical appearance, trickery which consisted in citing a specific experience at a given period under particular circumstances in order to draw from it conclusions of immediate and general application. Because trade unions had once been of some value, because parliament had once served revolutionary propaganda needs, because occasionally opportunism had resulted in certain gains for workers, they remained for Lenin the most important mediums of proletarian policy for all times and under all circumstances. And as if all this would not convince the adversary, Lenin was fond of pointing out that whether or not these policies and organisations were the right ones, it was still a fact that the workers adhered to them and that the revolutionist must always be where the masses are.
This strategy flowed from Lenin's capitalistic approach to politics. It never seemed to enter his mind that the masses were also in factories and that revolutionary factory organisations could not lose contact with the masses even if they tried. It never seemed to occur to him that with the same logic that was to hold the revolutionists in the reactionary organisations, he could demand their presence in the church, in fascist organisations, or wherever masses could be found. The latter, to be sure, would have occurred to him had the need arisen to unite openly with the forces of reaction as happened at a later day under the Stalinist regime.
lt was clear to Lenin that for the purposes of bolshevism, council organisations were the least suitable. Not only is there small room in factory organisations for professional revolutionists, but the Russian experience had shown how difficult it was to 'manage' a soviet movement. At any rate, the bolsheviks did not intend to wait for chances of revolutionary interference in political processes; they were actively engaged in everyday politics and concerned with immediate results in their favour. In order to influence the Western labour movement with a view to eventually controlling it, it was far easier for them to enter into, and to deal with, existing organisations. In the competitive struggles waged between and within these organisations, they saw a chance to gain a foothold quickly. To build up entirely new organisations opposed to all the existing ones would be to attempt what could have only belated results - if any at all. Being in power in Russia, the bolsheviks could no longer indulge in long-view politics; in order to maintain their power they had to march up all the avenues of politics, not only the revolutionary ones. It must be said, however, that aside from their being forced to do so, the bolsheviks were more than willing to participate in the many political games that accompany the capitalistic exploitation process. To be able to participate they needed trade unions and parliaments and parties and also capitalistic supporters, which made opportunism both a necessity and a pleasure.
There is no longer any need to point to the many 'misdeeds' of bolshevism in Germany and in the world at large. In theory and in practice the Stalinist regime declares itself a capitalistic, imperialistic power, opposing nor only the proletarian revolution, but even the fascist reforms of capitalism. And it actually does favour the maintenance of bourgeois democracy in order to utilise more fully its own fascistic structure. Just as Germany was very little interested in spreading fascism over her borders and the borders of her allies since she had no intention of strengthening her imperialistic competitors, so Russia concerns herself with safeguarding democracy everywhere save within her own territory. Her friendship with bourgeois-democracy is a true friendship; fascism is no article for export, for it ceases to be an advantage as soon as it is generalised. Despite the Stalin-Hitler pact, there are no greater 'anti-fascists' than the bolsheviks on behalf of their own native fascism. Only so far as their imperialistic expansion, if any, will reach, will they be guilty of consciously supporting the general fascistic trend.
This general fascistic trend does not stem from bolshevism but incorporates it. It stems from the peculiar developmental laws of capitalist economy. If Russia finally becomes a 'decent' member of the capitalist family of nations, the 'indecencies' of her fascistic youth will in some quarters still be mistaken for a revolutionary past. The opposition to Stalinism, however, unless it includes opposition to Leninism and to the bolshevism of 1917, is no opposition but just a quarrel among political competitors. In so far as the myth of bolshevism is still defended against the Stalinist reality, Otto Rühle's work in showing that the Stalinism of today is merely the Leninism of yesterday, is still of contemporary importance, the more so as attempts might be made to recapture the bolshevik past in the social upheavals of the future.
The whole history of bolshevism could be anticipated by Rühle and the 'ultra-left' movement because of their early recognition of the real content of the bolshevik revolution and the real character of the old social-democratic movement. After 1920 all activities of bolshevism could be only harmful to the workers of the world. No common actions with its various organisations were any longer possible and none were attempted.
Together with 'ultra-left' groups in Dresden, Frankfurt am Main and other places, Otto Rühle went one step beyond the anti-bolshevism of the Communist Workers' Party and its adherents in the General Labour Union. He thought that the history of the social-democratic parties and the practices of the bolshevik parties proved sufficiently that it was futile to attempt to replace reactionary parries with revolutionary parties for the reason that the party-form of organisation itself had become useless and even dangerous. As early as 1920 he proclaimed that 'the revolution is not a party affair' but demands the destruction of all parties in favour of the council movement. Working chiefly within the General Labour Union, he agitated against the need of a special political party until this organisation was split in two. One section (Allgemeine Arbeiter Union - Einheitsorganisation) shared Rühle's views, the other remained as the 'economic organisation' of the Communist Party. The organisation represented by Rühle leaned toward the syndicalist and anarchist movements without, however, giving up its Marxian Weltanschauung. The other considered itself the heir to all that had been revolutionary in the Marxian movement of the past. It attempted to bring about a Fourth International but succeeded only in effecting a closer cooperation with similar groups in a few European countries.
In Rühle's opinion a proletarian revolution was possible only with the conscious and active participation of the broad proletarian masses. This again presupposed a form of organisation that could not be controlled from above, but was determined by the will of its members. The factory organisation and the structure of the General Labour Union would, he thought, prevent a divorce between organisational and class interests; it would prevent the emergence of a powerful bureaucracy served by the organisation instead of serving it. It would, finally, prepare the workers to take over the industries and manage them according to their own needs and thus prevent the arising of new states of exploitation.
The Communist Workers' Party shared these general ideas and its own factory organisations were hardly distinguishable from those that agreed with Rühle. But the party maintained that at this stage of development factory organisation alone could not guarantee a clear-cut revolutionary policy. All kinds of people would enter these organisations, there would be no method of proper selection, and politically undeveloped workers might determine the character of the organisations, which thus might not be able to live up to revolutionary requirements of the day. This point was well demonstrated by the relatively backward character of the council movement of 1918. The Communist Workers Party held that class-consciousness, Marxian trained revolutionists, although belonging to factory organisations should, at the same time, be combined in a separate party in order to safeguard and develop revolutionary theory and, so to speak, watch over the factory organisations to prevent them from going astray.
The Communist Workers' Party saw in Rühle's position a kind of disappointment seeking refuge in a new form of utopianism. It maintained that Rühle merely generalised the experiences of the old parties and it insisted that the revolutionary character of its organisation was the result of its own party form. It rejected the centralistic principles of Leninism but insisted upon keeping the party small so that it should be free of all opportunism. There were other arguments supporting the party idea. Some referred to international problems, some were concerned with the questions of illegality, but all arguments failed to convince Rühle and his followers. They saw in the party the perpetuation of the leader-mass principle, the contradiction between party and class, and feared a repetition of bolshevism in the German Left.
Neither of the two groups could prove its theory. History by-passed them both; they were arguing in a vacuum. Neither the Communist Workers' Party nor the two General Labour Unions overcame their status of being 'ultra-left' sects. Their internal problems became quite artificial, for there was actually no difference between the Communist Workers' Party and the General Labour Union. Despite their theories, Rühle's followers did not function in the factories either. Both unions indulged in the same activities. Hence all theoretical divergencies had no practical meaning.
These organisations - remnants of the proletarian attempt to play a role in the upheavals of 1918 - attempted to apply their experiences within a development which was consistently moving in the opposite direction from that in which these experiences originated. The Communist Party alone, by virtue of Russian control, could really grow within this trend towards fascism. But by representing Russian, not German fascism, it too, had to succumb to the emerging Nazi movement which, recognising and accepting prevailing capitalist tendencies, finally inherited the old German labour movement it its entirety.
After 1923 the German 'ultra-left' movement ceased to be a serious political factor in the German labour movement. Its last attempt to force the trend of development in its direction was dissipated in the short-lived activity in March 1921 under the popular leadership of Max Hoelz. Its most militant members, being forced into illegality , introduced methods of conspiracy and expropriation into the movement, thereby hastening its disintegration. Although organisationally the 'ultra-left' groups continued to exist up to the beginning of Hitler's dictatorship, their functions were restricted to that of discussion clubs trying to understand their own failures and that of the German revolution.
The decline of the 'ultra-left' movement, the changes in Russia and in the composition of the bolshevik parties, the rise of fascism in Italy and Germany restored the old relationship between economics and politics that had been disturbed during and shortly after the first world war. All over the world capitalism was now sufficiently stabilised to determine the main political trend. Fascism and bolshevism, products of crisis conditions were - like the crisis itself - also mediums for a new prosperity, a new expansion of capital and the resumption of the imperialistic competitive struggles. But just as any major crisis appears as the final crisis to those who suffer most, so the accompanying political changes appeared as expressions of the breakdown of capitalism. But the wide gap between appearance and reality sooner or later changes an exaggerated optimism into an exaggerated pessimism with regard to revolutionary possibilities. Two ways, then, remain open for the revolutionist: he can capitulate to the dominant political processes, or he can retire into a life of contemplation and wait for the turn of events.
Until the final collapse of the German labour movement, the retreat of the 'ultra-left' appeared to be a return to theoretical work. The organisations existed in the form of weekly and monthly publications, pamphlets and books. The publications secured the organisations, the organisations the publications. While mass-organisations served small capitalistic minorities, the mass of the workers were represented by individuals. The contradiction between the theories of the 'ultra-left' and the prevailing conditions became unbearable. The more one thought in collective terms the more isolated one became. Capitalism, in its fascistic form, appeared as the only real collectivism, anti-fascism as a return to an early bourgeois individualism. The mediocrity of capitalist man, and therefore the revolutionist under capitalist conditions, became painfully obvious within the small stagnating organisations. More and more people, starting from the premise that the objective conditions' were ripe for revolution, explained its absence with such 'subjective factors' as lack of class consciousness and lack of understanding and character on the part of the workers. These lacks themselves, however, had again to be explained by 'objective conditions', for the shortcomings of the proletariat undoubtedly resulted from their special position within the social relations of capitalism. The necessity of restricting activity to educational work became a virtue: developing the class-consciousness of the workers was regarded as the most essential of all revolutionary tasks. But the old social-democratic belief that 'knowledge is power' was no longer convincing for there is no direct connection between knowledge and its application.
The breakdown of laissez faire capitalism and the increasing centralist control over always greater masses through capitalistic production and war increased intellectual interest in the previously neglected fields of psychology and sociology. These branches of bourgeois 'science' served to explain the bewilderment of that part of the bourgeoisie which had been displaced by more powerful competitors and of that part of the petty-bourgeoisie reduced to proletarian levels of existence during the depression. In its early stages the capitalistic concentration process of wealth and power had been accompanied by the absolute growth of the bourgeois layers of society. After the war the situation changed; the European depression hit both bourgeoisie and proletariat and generally destroyed confidence in the system and in the individuals themselves. Psychology and sociology, however, were not only expressions of bourgeois bewilderment and insecurity but, simultaneously, served the need for a more direct determination of mass behaviour and ideological control than has been necessary under less centralistic conditions. Those who lost power in the political struggles which accompanied the concentration of capital as well as those who gained power offered psychological and sociological explanations for their full failures or successes. What to one was the 'rape of the masses' to the other was a newly-won insight - to be systematised and incorporated in the science of exploitation and control - into the social processes.
Under the capitalistic division of labour the maintenance and extension of prevailing ideologies is the job of the intellectual layers of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie. This division of labour is of course, determined more by existing class conditions than by the productive needs of the complex society. What we know we know by way of a capitalist production of knowledge. But as there is no other, the proletarian approach to all that is brought forth by bourgeois science and pseudo-science must always be a critical one. To make this knowledge serve other than capitalistic purposes means to cleanse it of all the elements entering it which are related to the capitalistic class structure. It would be as false as it would be impossible to reject wholesale all that is produced by bourgeois science. Yet it can only be approached skeptically. The proletarian critique - again on account of the capitalistic division of labour - is quite limited. It is of real importance only where bourgeois knowledge deals with social relationships. Here its theories can be tested as to their validity and their meaning for the various classes and for society as a whole. There arose, then, with the vogue of psychology and sociology, the need to examine the new findings in these fields from the critical point of view of the suppressed classes.
It was unavoidable that the vogue for psychology should penetrate the labour movement. But the whole decay of this movement was once more revealed by its attempt to use the new theories of bourgeois psychology and sociology for a critical investigation of its own theories instead of using the Marxian theory to criticise the new bourgeois pseudo-science. Behind this attitude was the growing distrust of Marxism due to the failures of the German and Russian revolutions. Behind it also was the inability to go beyond Marx in a Marxian sense, an inability clearly brought to light by the fact that all that appeared new in bourgeois sociology had been taken from Marx in the first place. Unfortunately, from our point of view, Otto Rühle was one of the first to clothe the more popular ideas of Marx in the new language of bourgeois sociology and psychology. In his hands the materialistic conception of history now became 'sociology' in so far as it dealt with society ; in so far as it dealt with the individual, it was now 'psychology'. The principles of this theory were to serve both the analysis of society and the analysis of the psychological complexities of its individuals. In his biography of Marx, Rühle applied his new psycho-sociological concept of Marxism which could only help to support the tendency toward incorporating an emasculated Marxism into capitalistic ideology. This kind of 'historical materialism', which searched for reasons of 'inferiority and superiority complexes' in the endless domains of biology, anthropology, sociology, economics and so forth in order to discover a kind of 'balance-of-power of complexes by way of compensations' which could be considered the proper adjustment between individual and society, this kind of Marxism was not able to serve any of the practical needs of the workers, nor could it help in their education. This part of Rühle's activity, whether one evaluates it positively or negatively, has little if anything, to do with the problems that beset the German proletariat. It is, therefore, unnecessary to deal here with Rühle+s psychological work. We mention it nevertheless, for the double reason that it may serve as an additional illustration of the general despair of the revolutionist in the period of counter-revolution and as a further manifestation of the sincerity of the revolutionist, Rühle, within the conditions of despair. For in this phase of his literary activity, as in every other that dealt with pedagogical-psychological, historical-cultural, or economic-political questions, he also speaks out against the inhuman conditions of capitalism, against possible new forms of physical and mental slavery, and for a society befitting a free humanity.
The triumph of German fascism ended the long period of revolutionary discouragement, disillusionment and despair. Everything became at once more extremely clear; the immediate future was outlined in all its brutality. The labour movement proved for the last time that the criticism directed against it by the revolutionist was more than justified. The fight of the 'ultra-left' against the official labour movement proved to have been the only consistent struggle against capitalism that had this far been waged.
The triumph of German fascism, which was not an isolated phenomenon but was closely connected with the previous development of the whole capitalist world, did not cause but merely helped to initiate the new world conflict of the imperialistic powers. The days of 1914 had returned. But not for Germany. The German labour leaders were deprived of the 'moving experience' of declaring themselves once more the truest sons of the fatherland. To organise for war meant to institute totalitarianism, and that meant that many special interests had to be eliminated. Under the conditions of the Weimar Republic and within the framework of world imperialism, this was possible only by way of internal struggles. The 'resistance' of the German labour movement to fascism, half hearted in the first place, must not, however, be mistaken for a resistance to war. In the case of social-democracy and the trade unions it was not a resistance but merely an abdication accompanied by verbal protests to save face. And even this came only in the wake of Hitler's refusal to incorporate these institutions, in their traditional form and with their 'experienced' leaders, into the fascist scheme of things. Neither was the 'resistance[ on the part of the Communist Party a resistance to war and fascism as such but only in so far as they were directed against Russia. If the official labour organisations in Germany were prevented from siding with their bourgeoisie, in all other nations they did so without deliberation and without struggle.
A second time in his life, the exiled Otto Rühle had to decide which side to take in the new world-wide struggle. This time it seemed somewhat more difficult because Hitler's consistent totalitarianism was designed to prevent a repetition of the vacillating days of liberalism during the last world war. This situation allowed the second world war to masquerade as a struggle between democracy and fascism and provided the social chauvinists with better excuses. The exiled labour leaders, in step with the labour organisations in their adopted countries, could still point to the political differences between the two forms of the capitalistic system although they were unable to deny the capitalistic nature of their new fatherlands. The theory of the lesser evil served to make plausible the reason why the democracies should be defended against the further spreading of fascism. Rühle, however, maintained his old position of 1914. For him the 'enemy was still at home', in the democracies as well as in the fascist states. The proletariat could not, or rather should not, side with any of them but oppose both with equal vehemence. Rühle pointed out that all the political, ideological, racial and psychological arguments offered in defence of a pro-war position could not really cover up the capitalistic reason for war: the struggle for profits among the imperialist competitors. In letters and articles he reiterated all the implications of the laws of capitalist development as established by Marx in order to combat the nonsense of popular 'anti-fascism' which could only hasten the fascisation process of world capitalism.
For Rühle fascism and state-capitalism were not the inventions of vicious politicians but the outcome of the capitalist process of concentration and centralisation in which the accumulation of capital manifests itself. The class relationship in capitalist production is beset by many insoluble contradictions. The main contradiction, Rühle saw, lies in the fact that capital accumulation means also a tendency toward a falling rate of profit This tendency can be combated only by a more rapid capital accumulation - which implies an increase of exploitation. But in spite of the fact that exploitation is increased in relation to the rate of accumulation necessary to avoid crises and depressions, profits continue to show a tendency to fall. During depressions capital is re-organised to allow for a new period of capital expansion. If nationally a crisis implies the destruction of weaker capital and capital concentration by ordinary business means, internationally re-organisation finally demands war. This means the destruction of the weaker capitalist nations in favour of the victorious imperialisms in order to bring about a new capital expansion and its further concentration and centralisation. Every capitalist crisis - at this stage of capital accumulation - involves the world; likewise every war is at once a world-wide war. Not particular nations but the whole of the world capitalism is responsible for war and crisis. This, Rühle saw, is the enemy and he is everywhere.
To be sure Rühle had no doubt that totalitarianism was worse for the workers than bourgeois democracy. He had fought against Russian totalitarianism since its inception. He was fighting German fascism, but he could not fight in the name of bourgeois democracy because he knew that the peculiar developmental laws of capitalist production would change bourgeois democracy sooner or later into fascism and state-capitalism. To fight totalitarianism meant to oppose capitalism in all its forms. "Private Capitalism," he wrote, "and with it democracy, which is trying to save it, are obsolete and going the way of all mortal things. State-Capitalism - and with it fascism, which paves the way for it are growing and seizing power. The old is gone forever and no exorcism works against the new. No matter how hard we may try to revive democracy, all efforts will be futile. All hopes for a victory of democracy over fascism are the crassest illusions, all belief in the return of democracy as a form of capitalist government has only the value of cunning betrayal and cowardly self-delusion . . . It is the misfortune of the proletariat that its obsolete organisations based upon an opportunistic tactic make it defenceless against the onslaught of fascism. It has thus lost its own political position in the body politic at the present time. It has ceased to be a history-making factor at the present epoch. It has been swept upon the dungheap of history and will rot on the side of democracy as well as on the side of fascism, for the democracy of today will be the fascism of tomorrow.
Although Otto Rühle faced the second world war as uncompromisingly as he had faced the first, his attitude with regard to the labour movement was different from that of 1914. This time he could not help being certain that "no hope could spring from the miserable remnants of the old movement in the still-democratic nations for the final uprising of the proletariat and its historical deliverance. Still less could hope spring from the shabby fragments of those party traditions that were scattered and spilled in the emigration of the world, nor from the stereotyped notions of past revolutions, regardless of whether one believes in the blessings of violence or in peaceful transition." Yet he did not look hopelessly into the future. He felt sure that new urges and new impulses will animate the masses and force them to make their own history.
The reasons for this confidence were the same as those that convinced Rühle of the inevitability of the capitalist development toward fascism and state-capitalism. They were based on the insoluble contradictions inherent in the capitalist system of production. Just as the re-organisation of capital during the crisis is simultaneously a preparation for greater crises, so war can breed only bigger and more devastating wars. Capitalistic anarchy can become only more chaotic, no matter how much its supporters may try to bring order into it. Always greater parts of the capitalist world will be destroyed so that the stronger capitalistic groups can keep on accumulating. The miseries of the masses of the world will mount until a breaking point is reached and new social upsurges will destroy the murderous system of capitalist production.
Rühle was as little able as anybody else at this time to state by what specific means fascism would be overcome. But he felt certain that the mechanics and dynamics of revolution will undergo fundamental changes. In the self-expropriation and proletarianisation of the bourgeoisie by the second world war, in the surmounting of nationalism by the abolition of small states, in the state-capitalistic world politic based on state federations he saw not only the immediately negative side but also the positive aspects of providing new starting-points for anti-capitalist actions. To the day of his death he was certain that the class concept was bound to spread until it would foster a majority interest in socialism. He looked for the class struggle to be transformed from an abstract-ideological category into a practical-positive-economic category. And he envisioned the rise of factory councils within the unfolding of labour democracy as a reaction to bureaucratic terror. For him the labour movement was not dead but was still to be born in the social struggles of the future.
If Rühle, finally , had nothing more to offer than the 'hope' that the future will solve the problems which the old labour movement failed to solve, this hope did not spring from faith but from knowledge, knowledge which consisted in recognising actual social trends. It did not contain a clue as to how to achieve the necessary social transformation. It demanded, however, dissociation from futile activities and hopeless organisations. It demanded recognition of the reasons that led to the disintegration of the old labour movement and a search for the elements that point to the limitations of the prevailing totalitarian systems. It demanded a sharper distinction between ideology and reality in order to discover in the latter the factors that escape the control of the totalitarian organisers.How little or how much is needed to transform society is always discovered only after that fact. But the balance-scale of society is delicate, and is particularly sensitive at the present time. The most powerful controls over men are really weak when compared with the tremendous contradictions that rend the world today. Otto Rühle was right in pointing out that the activities which will finally tip the scale of society in favour of socialism will not be discovered by means and methods related to previous activities and traditional organisations. They must be discovered within the changing social relationships which are still determined by the contradiction between the capitalist relations of production and the direction in which the productive forces of society are moving. To discover those relationships, that is, to recognise the coming revolution in the realities of today, will be the job of those who carry on in the spirit of Otto Rühle.
ROSA LUXEMBURG IN RETROSPECT
It will soon be sixty years since the mercenaries of the German social-democratic leadership murdered Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg. . Although they are mentioned in the same breath, as they both symbolized the radical element within the German political revolution of 1918, Rosa Luxemburg's name carries greater weight because her theoretical work was of greater seminal power. In fact, it can be said that: she was the outstanding personality in the international labor movement after Marx and Engels; and that her work has not lost its political relevance despite the changes the capitalist system and the labor movement have undergone since her death.
Just the same, like everyone else, Rosa Luxemburg was a child of her time and can only be understood in the context of the phase of the social-democratic movement of which she was a part. Whereas Marx's critique of bourgeois society evolved in a period of rapid capitalistic development, Rosa Luxemburg was active in a time of increasing instability for capitalism, wherein the abstractly formulated contradictions of capital production showed themselves in the concrete forms of imperialistic competition and in intensified class struggles. While the actual proletarian critique of political economy, according to Marx, consisted at first in the workers' fight for better working conditions and higher living standards, which would prepare the future struggles for the abolition of capitalism, in Rosa Luxemburg's view this 'final' struggle could no longer be relegated to a distant future but was already present in the extending class struggles. The daily fight for social reforms was inseparably connected with the historical necessity of the proletarian revolution.
Without entering into Rosa Luxemburg's biography,(1) it should be said, that she came from a middle-class background and that she entered the socialist movement at an early age. Like others, she was forced to leave Russian Poland and went to Switzerland to study. Her main interest, as behooved a socialist influenced by Marxism, was political economy. Her early work in this field is now only of historical interest. There was her inaugural-dissertation, The Industrial Development of Poland (1898), which did for Poland, though in a less extensive manner, what Lenin's The Development of Capitalism in Russia, did for Czarist Russia a year later. And there were her popular lectures at the Social-Democratic Party School, posthumously published by Paul Levi (1925) under the title Introduction of National Economy. In the latter work, it should be noted, Rosa Luxemburg declared that the validity of political economy is specific to capitalism, and will cease to exist with the demise of this system. In her dissertation, she came to the conclusion that the development of the Polish economy would proceed in conjunction with that of Russia, would end in complete integration, and therewith would end the nationalist aspirations of the Polish bourgeoisie. But this development would also unify the Russian and Polish proletariat and lead to the eventual destruction of Polish-Russian capitalism. The main contradiction of capitalist production was seen by her as one between the capacity to produce and the limited capacity to consume within the capitalist relations of production. This contradiction leads to recurrent economic crises and the increasing misery of the working class and therewith, in the long run, to social revolution.
It was only with her work on The Accumulation of Capital (1912) that Rosa Luxemburg's economic theories became controversial. Although she claimed that this book grow out of complications arising in the course of her popular lectures on National Economy, namely, her inability. to relate the total capitalist reproduction process to the postulated objective limits of capital production, it in clear from the work itself that it was also a reaction to the emasculation of Marxian theory initiated by the "Revisionism' that swept the socialist movement around the turn of the century. Revisionism operated on two levels: the primitive empirical level personified by Eduard Bernstein, (2) who merely compared the actual capitalist development with that deducible from Marxian theory, and the more sophisticated theoretical turnabout of academic marxism, culminating in Tugan-Baranowsky's (3) Marx-interpretation and those of his various disciples.
Only the first volume of Capital was published during Marxs' lifetime, and the second and third were prepared by Friedrich Engels from unrevised papers left to his care, although they had been written prior to the publication of the first volume. Whereas the first volume deals with the capitalist process of production, the second concerns itself with the circulation process. The third volume, finally, deals with the capitalist system as a whole in its phenomenal form, as determined by its underlying value relations. Because the reproduction process necessarily controls the production process, Marx thought it useful to display this fact by means of some abstract reproduction diagrams in the second volume of Capital. The diagrams divide total social production into two sections: one producing means of production, the other means of consumption. The transactions between these two departments are imagined to be such as to enable the reproduction of the total social capital to proceed either on the same or on an enlarged scale. But what is a presupposition for the reproduction diagrams, namely, an allocation of the social labor as required for the reproduction process, must in reality first be brought about blindly, through the uncoordinated activities of the many individual capitals in their competitive pursuit of surplus-value.
The reproduction diagrams do not distinguish between values and prices; that is, they treat values as if they were prices. For the purpose they were intended to serve, namely, to draw attention to the need for a certain proportionality between the different spheres of production, the diagrams fulfill their pedagogical function. They do not depict the real world, but are instrumental in aiding in its under- standing. Restricted in this sense, it does not matter whether the interrelations of production and exchange are dressed in value or price terms. because the price form of value, taken up in the third volume of Capital, refers to the actual capitalist production and exchange process, the imaginary equilibrium conditions of Marx's reproduction diagrams do not refer to the real capitalist world. Still, Marx found it quite necessary to view the process of reproduction in its fundamental simplicity, in order to get rid of all obscuring interferences and dispose of the false subterfuges, which assume the semblance of scientific analysis, but which cannot be removed so long as the process of social reproduction is immediately analyzed in its concrete and complicated form.(4)
Actually, according to Marx, the reproduction process under capitalistic conditions pre cludes any kind of equilibrium and implies, instead, "the possibility of crises, since a balance is accidental under the conditions of this production... (5)Tugan-Baranowsky, however, read the reproduction diagrams differently because of their superficial resemblance to bourgeois equilibrium theory, the main tool of bourgeois price theory. He came to the conclusion that as long as the system develops proportionately with respect to its reproduction requirements, it does not have objective limits. Crises are caused by disproportionalities arising between the different spheres of production but can always be overcome through the restoration of that proportionality which assures the accumulation of capital. This was a disturbing idea, as far as Rosa Luxemburg was concerned, and this the more so as she could not deny the equilibrating implications of Marx's reproduction diagrams. If Tugan-Baranowsky interpreted them correctly, then Marx was wrong, because this interpretation denied the inevitable end of capitalism.
The discussion around Marx's abstract reproduction diagrams was particularly vehement in Russia because of earlier differences between the Marxists and the Populists with regard to Russia's future in face of her backwardness and her peculiar socio-economic institutions. Whereas the Populists asserted that for Russia it was already too late to enter into world competition with the established capitalist powers, and that, furthermore, it was quite possible to construct a socialist society on the basis of the not yet dissolved collectivity of peasant production, the Marxists maintained that development on the Western pattern was inescapable and that this development itself would produce the markets it required within Russia and in the world at large. The Marxists emphasized that it is the production of capital, not the satisfaction of consumption, that determines capitalist production. There is, therefore, no reason to assume that a restriction of consumption would retard the accumulation of capital; on the contrary, the less there is consumed, the faster capital would grow.
This "production for the sake of production" made no sense to Rosa Luxemburg--not because she was unaware of the profit motive of capitalist production, which constantly strives to reduce the workers' share of social production, but because she could not see how the extracted surplus-value could be realized in money form in a market composed only of labor and capital, such as is depicted in the reproduction diagrams. Production has to go through the circulation process. It starts with money, invested in means of production and labor-power, and it ends with a greater amount of money in the hands of the capitalists, to be re-invested in another production cycle. Where would this additional money come from? In Rosa Luxemburg's view, it could not possibly come from the capitalists; for if it did, they would not be recipients of surplus-value but would pay with their own money for its commodity equivalent. Neither could it come from the purchases of the workers, who only receive the value of their labor power, leaving the surplus-value in its commodity form to the capitalists. To make the system workable, there must be a "third market,' apart from the exchange relations of labor and capital, in which the produced surplus-value could be transformed into additional money.
This aspect of the matter Rosa Luxemburg found missing in Marx. She intended to close the gap and therewith substantiate Marx's conviction of capitalism's necessary collapse. Although The Accumulation of Capital approaches the realization problem historically--starting with classical economy and ending with Tugan-Baranowsky and his many imitators--so as to show that this problem has always been the Achilles heel of political economy, her own solution of the problem comprises, in essence, no more than a misunderstanding of the relation between money and capital and a misreading of the Marxian text. As she presents matters, however, everything seemingly falls in its proper place: the dialectical nature of the capital-expansion process, as one merging out of the destruction of pre-capitalist economies; the necessary extension of this process to the world at large, as illustrated by the creation of the world market and rampant imperialism in search of markets for the realization of surplus-value; the resulting transformation of the world economy into a system resembling Marx's closed system of the reproduction diagram; and therewith, finally, the inevitable collapse of capitalism for lack of opportunities to realize its surplus-value.
Rosa Luxemburg was carried away by the logic of her own construction to the point of revising Marx more thoroughly than had been done by the Revisionists in their concept of a theoretically possible harmonious capital development, which, for them, turned socialism into a purely ethical problem and into one of social reform by political means. On the other hand, the Marxian reproduction diagrams, if read as a version of Say's Law of the identity of supply and demand, had to be rejected. Like her adversaries, Rosa Luxemburg failed to see that these diagrams have no connection at all with the question of the viability of the capitalist system, but are merely a methodologically determined, intermediary step in the analysis of the laws of motion of the capitalist system as a whole, which derives its dynamic from the production of surplus-value. Although capitalism is indeed afflicted with difficulties in the sphere of circulation and therewith in the realization of surplus-value, it is not here that Marx looked for, or found, the key to the understanding of capitalism's susceptibility to crises and to its inevitable end. Even on the assumption that there exists no problem at all with regard to the realization of surplus-value, capitalism finds its objective limits in those of the production of surplus-value.
According to Marx, capitalism's basic contradiction, from which spring all its other difficulties, is to be found in the value and surplus-value relations of capital production. It is the production of exchange-value in its monetary form, derived from the use-value form of labor-power, which produces, besides its own exchange-value equivalent, a surplus-value for the capitalists. The drive for exchange-value turns into the accumulation of capital, which manifests itself in a growth of capital invented in means of production relatively faster than that invested in labor-power. While this process expands the capitalist system, through the increasing productivity of labor associated with it, it also tends to reduce the rate of profit on capital, as that part of capital invested in labor-power--which is the only source of surplus-value--diminishes relative to the total social capital. This long and complicated process cannot be dealt with satisfactorily in this short article, but must at least be mentioned in order to differentiate Marx's theory of accumulation from that Rosa Luxemburg. In Marx's abstract model of capital development, capitalist crises, as well as the inevitable end of the system, find their source in the temporary or, finally, total breakdown in the accumulation process due to a lack of surplus-value or profit.
For Marx, then, the objective limits of capitalism are given by the social production relations as value relations, while for Rosa Luxemburg capitalism cannot exist at all, except through the absorption of its surplus-value by pro-capitalist economies. This implies the absurdity that these backward nations have a surplus in monetary form large enough to accommodate the surplus-value of the capitalistically advanced countries. But as already mentioned, this wrong idea was the unreflected consequence of Rosa Luxemburg's false notion that the whole of the surplus-value, earmarked for accumulation, must yield an equivalent in money form, in order to be realized as capital. Actually, of course, capital takes on the form of money at times and at other times that of commodities of all descriptions - all being expressed in money terms without simultaneously assuming the money form. Only a small and decreasing part of the capitalist wealth has to be in money form; the larger part,, although expressed in terms of money, remains in its commodity form and as such allows for the realization of surplus-value an additional capital.
Rosa Luxemburg's theory was quite generally regarded as an aberration and an unjustified criticism of Marx. Yet her critics were just as far removed from Marx's position as was Rosa Luxemburg herself. Most of theme critics adhered either to a crude underconsumption theory, a theory of disproportionality, or a combination of them. Lenin, for example--not to speak of the Revisionists--saw the cause for crises in the disproportionalities due to the anarchic character of capitalist production, and merely added to Tagan-Baranowsky's arguments that of the underconsumption of the workers. But in any case he did not believe that capitalism was bound to collapse because of its immanent contradictions. It was only with the first world war and the revolutionary upheavals in its wake that Rosa Luxemburg's theory found a wider response in the radical section of the socialist movement. Not so much, however, because of her particular analysis of capital accumulation, as because of her insistence upon the objective limits of capitalism. The imperialistic war gave her theory some plausibility and the end of capitalism seemed indeed actually at hand. The collapse of capitalism became the revolutionary ideology of the time and supported the abortive attempts to turn the political upheavals into social revolutions.
Of course, Rosa Luxemburg's theory was no less abstract than that of Marx. Marx's hypothesis of a tendency of the rate of profit to fall could not reveal at what particular point in time it would no longer be possible to compensate for this fall by an increasing exploitation of the relatively diminishing number of workers, which would increase the mass of surplus-value sufficiently to maintain a rate of profit assuring the further expansion of capital. Similarly, Rosa Luxemburg could not say at what time the completion of the capitalization of the world would exclude the realization of its surplus-value. The outward extension of capital was also only a tendency, implying a progressively more devastating imperialist competition for the diminishing territories in which surplus-value could be realized. The fact of imperialism showed the precariousness of the system, which could lead to revolutionary situations long before its objective limits were reached. For all practical purposes, then, both theories assumed the possibility of revolutionary actions, not because of the logical outcome of their abstract models of development, but because these theories pointed unmistakably to the increasing difficulties of the capitalist system, which could in any severe crisis transform the class struggle into a fight for the abolition of capitalism.
Although undoubtedly erroneous, Rosa Luxemburg's theory retained a revolutionary character because, like that of Marx, it led to the conclusion of the historical untenability of capitalism. Although with dubious arguments, she nonetheless restored--against Revisionism, Reformism, and Opportunism--the lost Marxian proposition that capitalism is doomed to disappear because of its own unbridgeable contradiction and that this end, though objectively determined, will be brought about by the revolutionary actions of the working class.
The overthrow of capitalism would make all theories of its development redundant. But while the system lasts, the realism of a theory may be judged by its own particular history. Whereas Marx's theory, despite attempts made in this direction, cannot be integrated into the body of bourgeois economic thought, Rosa Luxemburg's theory has found some recognition in bourgeois theory, albeit in a very distorted form. With the rejection by bourgeois economy itself of the conception of the market as an equilibrium mechanism, Rosa Luxemburg's theory found a kind of acceptance as a precursor of Keynesian economics. Her work has been interpreted, by Michael Kalecki (6) and Joan Robinson, (7) for example, as a theory of 'effective demand,' the lack of which presumably explains the recurrent capitalistic difficulties. Rosa Luxemburg imagined that imperialism, militarism, and preparation for war aided in the realization of surplus-value, via the transfer of purchasing power from the population at large to the hands of the state; just as modern Keynesianism attempted to reach full employment by way of deficit-financing and monetary manipulations. However, while it in no doubt possible, for a time, to achieve full employment in this fashion, it is not possible to maintain this state of bliss, as the laws of motion of capital production demand not a different distribution of the surplus-value but its constant increase. The lack of effective demand is only another term for the lack of accumulation, as the demand required for prosperous conditions is brought forth by nothing other than the expansion of capital. At any rate, the actual bankruptcy of Keynesianism makes it unnecessary to kill this theory theoretically. It suffices to say that its absurdity shows itself in the present-day unrelieved growth of both unemployment and inflation.
While Rosa Luxemburg did not fare well with her theory of accumulation, she was more successful in her consistent Internationalism, which was, of course, connected with her concept of accumulation as the global extension of the capitalist mode of production. In her view, imperialist competition was rapidly transforming the world into a capitalist world and thereby developing the unhampered confrontation of labor and capital. Whereas the rise of the bourgeoisie coincided with the formation of the modern nation-state, creating the ideology of nationalism, the maturity and decline of capitalism implied the imperialistic 'internationalism' of the bourgeoisie and therewith also the internationalism of the working classes, if they were to make their class struggles effective. The reformist integration of proletarian aspirations into the capitalist system led to social-imperialism, as the other side of the nationalistic coin. Objectively, there was nothing behind the frantically growing nationalism but the imperialist imperative. To oppose imperialism demanded, then a total rejection of all forms of nationalism, even that of the victims of imperialist aggression. Nationalism and imperialism were inseparable and had to fought with equal fervor.
In view of the at first covert but soon overt social-patriotism of the official labor movement, Rosa Luxemburg's internationalism represented the leftwing of this movement--but not completely. In a way, it was a generalization of her specific experiences in the Polish socialist movement, which had been split on the question of national self-determination. As we already know from her work on the industrial development in Poland, Rosa Luxemburg expected a full integration of the Russian and Polish capitalism and a consequent unification of their respective socialist organizations, both as a practical and as a principled matter. She could not conceive of nationally oriented socialist movements and even less of a nationally restricted socialism. What was true for Russia and Poland also held for the world at large; national fissions had to be ended in the unity of international socialism.
The Bolshevik section of the Russian Social-Democratic Party did not share Rosa Luxemburg's strict internationalism. For Lenin, the subjugation of nationalities by stronger capitalist countries brought additional cleavages into the basic social frictions, which could, perhaps, be turned against the dominating powers. It is quite beside the point, to consider whether Lenin's advocacy of the self-determination of nations reflected a subjective conviction, or democratic attitude, with regard to special national needs and cultural peculiarities, or was simply a revulsion against all forms of oppression. Lenin was, first of all, a practical politician, even though he could fulfill this role only at a late hour. As a practical politician, he realized that the different nationalities within the Russian empire presented a steady threat to the Czarist regime.
To be sure, Lenin was also an internationalist and saw the socialist revolution in terms of the world revolution. But this revolution had to begin somewhere and he assumed that it would first break the weakest link in the chain of competing imperialist powers. In the Russian context, supporting the self-determination of nations, up to the point of secession, suggested the winning of "allies" in any attempt to overthrow Czarism. This strategy was supported by the hope that, once free, the different nationalities would elect to remain within the new Russian commonwealth, either out of self-interest, or through the urgings of their own socialist organizations.
Until the Russian Revolution, however, this whole discussion around the national question remained purely academic. Even after the revolution, the granting of self-determination to the various nationalities within Russia was not very meaningful, for most of the territories involved were occupied by foreign powers. Still, the Bolshevik regime continued to press for self-determination in order to weaken other imperialist nations, particularly England, in an attempt to foster colonial revolutions against Western capitalism, which threatened to destroy the Bolshevik state.
The Russian Revolution found Rosa Luxemburg in a German prison, where she remained until the overthrow of the German monarchy. But she was able to follow the progress of the Russian Revolution. Though delighted by the Bolshevik seizure of power, she could not accept Lenin's policies towards the peasants and with respect to the national minorities. In both cases she worried needlessly. Although her prediction that the granting of self-determination to the various nationalities within Russia would merely surround the new state with a cordon of reactionary counter-revolutionary countries, turned out to be correct, this was so only for the short run. Rosa Luxemburg failed to see that it was the principle of self-determination which dictated Bolshevik policy with regard to the Russian nationalities, than the force of circumstances over which the Bolsheviks had no control. At the first opportunity they began whittling away at the self-determination of nations, to end by incorporating all the new independent nations in a restored Russian empire, and, in addition, by forging for themselves spheres of interest in extra-Russian territories.
On the strength of her own theory of nationalism and imperialism, Rosa Luxemburg should have realized that Lenin's theory could not be actualized, in a world of competing imperialist powers and would, most probably, not need to be put into practice should capitalist be brought down by an international revolution. The disintegration of the Russian empire was not due to or aided by the principle of self-determination, but was effected through the loss of the war; as it was the winning of another war, which led to the recovery of previously lost territory and to a revival of Russian imperialism. Capitalism is an expansive system and therefore necessarily imperialistic. It is the capitalistic way of overcoming national limitations to capital production and its centralization--of gaining, or securing, privileged or dominating positions within the world economy. It in thus also a defense against this general trend; but in all cases, it is the inescapable result of capital accumulation.
As Rosa Luxemburg pointed out, the contradictory capitalist 'integration' of the world economy cannot alter the domination of weaker by stronger nations through the latter's control of the world market. This situation makes real national independence illusory. what political independence can accomplish, at best, is no more than the subjugation of the workers under native instead of international control. Of course, proletarian internationalism cannot prevent, nor has it reason to prevent, movements for national self-determination within the colonial and imperialistic context. These movements are part of capitalist society just an imperialism is. But to 'utilize' these movements for socialism can only mean to try to deprive them of their nationalist character through a consistent internationalism on the part of the socialist movement. Although oppressed people have the sympathy of the socialists, it does not relate to their emergent nationalism but to their particular plight as twice-oppressed people, suffering from both native and foreign exploitation. The socialist task in the ending of capitalism, which includes the support of anti-imperialist forces; not, however, to create new capitalistic nation-states, but to make their emergence more difficult, or impossible, through proletarian revolutions in the advanced capitalist countries.
The Bolshevik regime declared itself socialistic and by that token was to end all discrimination of national minorities. Under such conditions, national self-determination was, in Rosa Luxemburg's eyes, not only senseless but an invitation to revive, via the ideology of nationalism, the conditions for a capitalist restoration. In her view, Lenin and Trotsky mistakenly sacrificed the principle of internationalism for momentary tactical advantage. While perhaps unavoidable, it should not be elevated into a socialist virtue. Rosa Luxemburg was right, of course, in not questioning the Bolshevik's subjective sincerity as regards the establishment of socialism in Russia and the furthering of the world revolution. She herself thought it possible, by way of a westward extension of the revolution, to defy the objective unripeness of Russia for a socialist transformation. She blamed the West European socialists, and in particular the Germans, for the difficulties the Bolsheviks encountered, which forced them into concessions, compromises, and opportunist actions. And she assumed that the internationalization of the revolution would do away with Lenin's nationalistic demands and resurrect the principle of internationalism in the revolutionary movement.
As the world revolution did not materialize, the nation-state remained the field of operation for economic development as well as for the class struggle. The "internationalism" of the Third International, under Russian dominance, served strictly Russian state interests, covered up by the idea that the defense of the first socialist state was a prerequisite for international socialism. Like national self-determination, this type of "internationalism" was designed to weaken the adversaries of the new Russian state. After 1920, however, the Bolsheviks no longer expected a resumption of the world-revolutionary process, and settled down for the consolidation of their own regime. Their 'internationalism' expressed now their own nationalism, just as the economic internationalism of the bourgeoisie serves no other end than the enrichment of nationally-organized capital entities.
The result of the second world war and its aftermath ended the colonialism of the European powers and led to the formation of numerous 'independent' nations; while, at the same time, two great power blocs emerged, dominated by the victorious nations Russia and the United States. Within each bloc there was no real national independence but rather the subordination of the nominally self-determined countries to the imperialistic requirements of the leading powers. This subordination was enforced by both economic and political means and by the general necessity to adapt the economies and therewith the political life of the satellite nations to the realities of the capitalist world market.
For the former colonies this implied a new form of subjugation and dependence, which found its expression in the term neo-colonialism; for the reborn, capitalistically more-advanced nations it implied the direct control of their political structure through the proven methods of military occupation and puppet governments. This situation led, of course, to new "liberation movements" not only in the capitalist but also in the so-called socialist camp, providing the proof that there is no such thing as national self-determination, either in the market-controlled or the state-controlled economies.
That nationalism is really a vehicle upholding the ruling class was soon made evident in all liberated nations, as it provided political parvenus with an instrument for their own emergence as new ruling classes, in collaboration with the ruling classes of the dominating countries. Whether these now ruling classes adhere to the 'free world' or to the authoritarian part of the world, in either case the national form, on which their rule in based, precludes any stop towards a socialist society. Wherever possible, their nationalism implies a fervent, even if miniature, imperialism, which sets 'socialist nations' against other nations, including other 'socialist nations.' Thus we have the sorry spectacle of a threatening war between the great 'socialist countries' Russia and China, and, on a smaller scale, the open warfare between 'Marxist' Ethiopia and "Marxist' Somalia for the control of Ogaden.
With some variations, this story can be prolonged almost endlessly, characterizing the present state of world politics, in which small nations act as proxies for the great imperialist powers, or fight on their own behalf, only to fall victim to one or another power bloc. All this substantiates Rosa Luxemburg's contention that all forms of nationalism are detrimental to socialism and that only a consistent internationalism can aid the emancipation of the working class. This unwavering internationalism is one of her greatest contributions to revolutionary theory and practice and sets her far apart from both the social-imperialism of Social Democracy and the Bolshevik opportunist concept of world revolution as advocated by its. great 'statesman' Lenin.
Like Lenin, Rosa Luxemburg looked upon the October Revolution as a proletarian revolution which, however, depended fully upon international events. At the time this view was shared by all revolutionaries whether Marxist or not. After all, as she said, by seizing power the Bolsheviks had "for the first time proclaimed the final aim of socialism as the direct program of practical policies" (8) They had solved the "famous problem of winning a majority of the people, by revolutionary tactics that led to a majority, instead of waiting for the latter to evolve a revolutionary tactic." (9) In her view, Lenin's party had grasped the true interests of the urban masses by demanding all power for the Soviets in order to secure the revolution. Still, the agrarian question was the axis of the revolution and here the Bolsheviks showed themselves as opportunistic in their policies as with regard to the national minorities.
In pre-revolutionary Russia the Bolsheviks had shared with Rosa Luxemburg the Marxist position that the land must be nationalized as a prerequisite for the organization of large-scale agricultural production in conformity with the socialization of industry. In order to gain the support of the peasants, Lenin abandoned the Marxist agricultural program in favor of that of the Social-Revolutionaries--the heirs of the old Populist movement. Although Rosa Luxemburg recognized this turnabout as an 'excellent tactic,' for her it had nothing to do with the quest for socialism. Property rights must be turned over to the nation, or the state, for only then is it possible to organize agricultural production on a socialistic base. The Bolshevik slogan "immediate seizure and distribution of the land by the peasants" was not a socialist measure, but one which, by creating a new form of private property, cut off the way to such measures. "The Leninist agrarian reform," she wrote, "has created a now and powerful layer of popular enemies of socialism in the countryside, enemies whose resistance will be much more dangerous and stubborn than that of the noble large landowners." (10)
This proved to be a fact, hampering both the restoration of the Russian economy and the socialization of industry. But, as in the case of national self-determination, here too the situation was determined not by the Bolsheviks' policy but by circumstances beyond their control. The Bolsheviks were prisoners of the peasant movement; they could not hold power except with its passive support, and they could not proceed towards socialism because of the peasants. Moreover, their sly opportunism did not initiate the peasants' seizure of the land, but merely ratified an accomplished fact, independent of their own attitude. While other parties hesitated to legalize the expropriation of land, the Bolsheviks favored it, in order to win the support of the peasants and thus to consolidate the power they had won by a coup d'etat in the urban centers. They hoped to maintain this support by a policy of low taxation, while the peasants required a government which would prevent a return of the landlords by way of counter-revolution.
As far as the peasants were concerned, the revolution involved the extension of property rights and was, in this sense, a bourgeois revolution. It could only lead to a market-economy and the enhanced capitalization of Russia. For the industrial workers, as for Lenin and Luxemburg, it was a proletarian revolution even at this early stage of capitalist development. But as the industrial working class formed only a minuscule part of the population, it seemed clear that sooner or later the bourgeois element within the revolution would gain the upper hand. Bolshevik state-power could only be hold by arbitrating between these contrary interests but success in this endeavor would negate both the socialist and the bourgeois aspirations within the revolution.
This was a situation not foreseen by the Marxist movement and not predictable in terms of Marxian theory, which held that the proletarian revolution presupposes a high capitalistic development in which the working class finds itself in the majority and thus able to determine the course of events. While Lenin was not interested in a bourgeois revolution, except as a preliminary to a socialist revolution, he was a bourgeois in that he was convinced that it was possible to change society by purely political means, that is, by the will of a political party. This idealistic reversal of Marxism, with consciousness determining the material development instead of being produced by it, implied in practice no more than a copying of the Czarist regime itself, in which the autocracy had ruled over the whole of society. In fact, Lenin insisted that if the Czar could govern Russia with the aid of a bureaucracy of a few hundred thousand men, the Bolsheviks should be able to do likewise and better with a Party exceeding this number. In any case, once in power the Bolsheviks had no choice but to try to maintain it in order to defend their sheer existence. In the course of time there emerged a state apparatus which took upon itself the authoritarian control not only of the population but also of economic development, by turning private property into state property without changing the social relations of production--that is, by maintaining the capital-labor relations that allow for the exploitation of the working class. This new type of capitalism--properly called state-capitalism--persists to the present day in the ideological dress of 'socialism."
In 1918, Rosa Luxemburg could not envision this development, as it lay outside of all Marxist assumptions. For her, the Bolsheviks were making various mistakes, which might endanger their socialist goal. And if these mistakes were unavoidable within the context of the isolated Russian Revolution, they should not be generalized into a revolutionary tactic for times to come and for all nations to follow. However helplessly, she opposed the Russian reality with Marxian principles, so as at least to save the Marxian theory. Bat it was all in vain, for it turned out that private-party capitalism is not necessarily followed by a socialist regime, but could be transformed into a state-controlled capitalism, wherein the old bourgeoisie was replaced by a new ruling class, whose power is based on its collective control of the state and the means of production. She knew as little as Lenin how to go about building a socialist society, but while the latter proceeded pragmatically from the experiences of wartime state-controls of capitalist nations and envisioned socialism as the state-monopoly over all economic activity, Rosa Luxemburg persisted in proclaiming that such a state of affairs could not emancipate the working class. She could not imagine that the emerging Bolshevik society represented a historically new social formation, but saw in it no more than a false application of socialist principles. And thus she feared a possible restoration of capitalism by way of the agrarian reforms of Bolshevism.
As it turned out, the agrarian question agitated the Bolshevik state unceasingly, finally leading to the compulsory collectivization of the peasantry as an in-between solution between private-property relations on the land and the nationalization of agriculture. This was no real repudiation of Lenin's peasant policies, which had been based on necessity, not on conviction. Except on paper, Lenin simply did not dare to nationalize the land, and Stalin did not dare more than the forced collectivizations of the peasants, in order to increase their production and exploitation, without depriving them of all private initiative. Even so, this was a frightful undertaking which almost destroyed, the Bolshevik regime. If Rosa Luxemburg was right against Lenin with respect to the peasant question, her arguments were nonetheless beside the point, for it was just a question of time, and of the strength of the state apparatus before the peasants would lose their newly-won relative independence and fall once more under the control of an authoritarian regime.
It should have been evident from Lenin's concept of the party and its role in the revolutionary process that, once in power, this party could only function in a dictatorial way. Quite apart from the specific Russian conditions, the idea of the party as the consciousness of the socialist revolution clearly relegated all decision-making power into the hands of the Bolshevik state apparatus. This general assumption found an even sharper accentuation in the Russian Revolution, divided, as it was, in its bourgeois and proletarian aspirations. If the proletariat was not able, according to Lenin, to develop more than a trade-union consciousness (that is, to fight for its interests within the capitalist system) it would certainly be even more unable to realize socialism, which presupposes an ideological break with all its previous experience. Echoing Karl Kautsky, Lenin was convinced that socialist consciousness had to be brought to the proletariat from the outside, through the knowledge of the educated middle class. The party was the organization of the socialist intelligentsia, representing revolutionary consciousness for the proletariat, even though it might also include a sprinkling of intelligent workers in its ranks. It was necessary that these specialists in revolutionary politics become the masters of the socialist state, if only to prevent the defeat of the working class through its own ignorance. And as the party was to lead the proletariat, so the leadership of the party was to lead its members by way of a semi-militaristic centralization.
It was this arrogant attitude of Lenin, pressed upon HIS party, which made Rosa Luxemburg quite wary about the possible outcome of the Bolsheviks' seizure of power. Already in 1904 she had attacked the Bolshevik party concept for both its artificial separation of a revolutionary vanguard from the mass of the workers and for its ultra-centralization in general, as well as in party affairs in particular. "Nothing will more surely enslave a young labor movement to an intellectual elite hungry for power," she wrote, than this bureaucratic strait-jacket, which will immobilize the movement and turn it into an automaton manipulated Central Committee. (11) By denying the revolutionary character of Lenin's party concept, Rosa Luxemburg prefigured the actual course of Bolshevik rule down to the present day. To be sure, her indictment of Lenin's organizational ideas was based on their confrontation with the organizational structure of the Social Democratic Party, which, though highly centralized, aspired to a broad mass basis for its evolutionary work. This party did not think in terms of seizing power, but was satisfied with its electoral successes and the spreading of the socialist ideology as a basis for its: growth. In any case, Rosa Luxemburg not believe that any type of party could bring about a socialist revolution. The party could only be an aid to revolution, which remained the privilege and required the activities of the whole working class. She did not see the socialist party as an independent organizer of the proletariat, but as part of it, with no functions or interests differing from those of the working class.
With this conviction, Rosa Luxemburg was only true to herself and to Marxism when she raised her voice against the dictatorial policies of the Bolshevik party. Although this party reached its dominating position via the demagogic demand for the sole rule of the Soviets, it had no intention of delegating any power to the Soviets, except, perhaps, where they were composed of Bolsheviks. It is true that the Bolsheviks in Petrograd and a few other cities held a majority of the Soviets, but this situation might change again and return the party to the minority position it had held during the first months after the February Revolution. The Bolsheviks did not look upon the soviets as organs of an emerging socialist society, but saw in them no more than a vehicle for the formation of a Bolshevik government. Already in 1905, which saw-the first rise of the Soviets, Lenin recognized their revolutionary potential, which, however, gave him only one more reason to strengthen his own party and prepare it for the reins of government. To Lenin, the latent revolutionary power of the Soviet form of organization did not change its spontaneous nature, which implied the danger of the dissipation of this power in fruitless activities. Although a part of social reality, spontaneous movements could, in Lenin's view, at best support but never supplant a goal-directed party. In October 1917, the question for the Bolsheviks was not one of choosing between Soviet- and party-rule, but between the latter and the Constituent Assembly. As there was no chance of winning a majority in the Assembly and thus gaining the it was necessary to dispense with realize the party dictatorship in the proletariat.
Although Rosa Luxemburg held that in one fashion or another the whole mass of people must take part in the construction of socialism, she did not recognize the soviets as typifying the organizational form which would make this possible. Impressed as she was in 1905 by the great mass-strikes taking place in Russia, she paid little attention to their soviet form of organization. In her eyes, the soviets were merely strike committees in the absence of other more permanent labor organizations. Even after the 1917 Revolution she felt that "the practical realization of socialism and an economic, social and juridical system is something which lies completely hidden in the mists of the future." (12) Only the general direction in which to move was known, not the detailed concrete steps that had to be taken to consolidate and develop the new society. Socialism could not be derived from ready-made plans and realized by governmental decree. There must be the widest participation on the part of the workers, that is, a real democracy, and it was precisely this democracy which alone could be designated as the dictatorship of the proletariat. A party-dictatorship was for her no more than "a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense,, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins." (13)
All this is undoubtedly true, on the general level, but the bourgeois character of Bolshevik rule reflected--ideologically as well as practically--the objectively non-socialistic nature of this particular revolution, which simply could not proceed from the quasi-feudal conditions of Czarism to a socialist society. It was a sort of 'bourgeois revolution' without the bourgeoisie, as it was a proletarian revolution without a sufficiently large proletariat: a revolution in which the historical functions of the bourgeoisie were taken up by an apparently anti-bourgeois party by means of its assumption of political power. Under these conditions, the revolutionary content of Western marxism was not applicable, not even in a modified form. This may explain the vacuity of Rosa Luxemburg's arguments against the Bolsheviks, her complaints about their disrespect for the Constituent Assembly and their terroristic acts against all opposition whether from the right or the left. Her own suggestions as how to go about with the building of socialism, however correct and praiseworthy, would not fit in with a Constituent Assembly, which is itself a bourgeois institution. Her tolerance towards all points of view and their wishes to express themselves in order to influence the course of events, cannot be realized under civil-war conditions. The construction of socialism cannot be left to a leisurely trial-and-error method by which the future may be discerned in the 'mists' of the present, but is dictated by current necessities that call for definite actions.
Rosa Luxemburg's lack of realism with regard to Bolshevism and the Russian Revolution may be traced to ambiguities of her own. On the one hand she was a social democrat and on the other a revolutionary, at a time when both positions had fallen apart. She looked upon Russia with social-democratic eyes and upon Social Democracy with revolutionary eyes; what she desired was a revolutionary-Social Democracy. Already in her famous debate with Eduard Bernstein, (14) she refused to choose between reform and revolution but endeavored to combine both activities in dialectical fashion in one and the same policy. In her view, it was possible to wage the class struggle in both the parliament and in the streets, not only through the party and the trade-unions but with the unorganized as well. The legal foothold gained within bourgeois democracy was to be secured by the direct actions of the masses in their everyday wage struggles. It was the masses' actions, however, which were most important, as they increased the masses' awareness of their class position and thereby their revolutionary consciousness. The direct struggle of the workers against the capitalists was the real 'school of socialism.' In the spreading of mass-strikes, in which the workers acted as a class, she saw the necessary precondition for the coming revolution, which would topple the bourgeoisie and install governments supported and controlled by the mature class--conscious proletariat."
Until the outbreak of the first world war, Rosa Luxemburg did not fully comprehend the true nature of Social Democracy. There was a right wing, a center, and a left wing, Liebknecht and Luxemburg representing the latter. There was an ideological struggle between these tendencies, tolerated by the party bureaucracy because it remained purely ideological. The practice of the party was reformist and opportunistic, untouched by the left-wing rhetoric, if not indirectly aided by it. But there was the illusion that the party could be changed and restored to the revolutionary character of its origins. Suggestions to split the party were rejected by Rosa Luxemburg, who feared to lose contact with the bulk of the socialist workers. Her confidence in these workers was not affected by her lack of confidence in their leaders. She was thus more than surprised that the social-chauvinism displayed in 1914 united leaders and led against the party's left. Even so, she was not ready to leave the party until its split in 1917 on the issue of war aims, which led to the formation of the Independent Socialist Party (USPD), in which the Spartacus League, composed of a circle of people around Liebknecht, Luxemburg, Mehring, and Jogiches, formed a small faction. In so far as this faction engaged in independent activities, these were a matter of propaganda against the war and the class-collaborationist policies of the old party. Only near the end of 1918 did Rosa Luxemburg recognize the need for a new revolutionary party and a new International.
The German Revolution of 1918 was not the product of any left-wing organization, though members of all organizations played various parts in it. It was a strictly political upheaval to end the war and to remove the monarchy held responsible for it. It occurred as a consequence of the German military defeat and was not seriously opposed by the bourgeoisie and the military, for it allowed them to place the onus of the defeat upon the socialist movement. This revolution brought Social Democracy into the government, which then proceeded to ally itself with the military, in order to crush any attempt to turn the political into a social revolution. Still under the away of tradition and the old reformist ideology, the majority of the spontaneously-arising workers' and soldiers' councils supported the social-democratic government and declared their readiness to abdicate in favor of a National Assembly within the frame of bourgeois democracy. This revolution, it has been aptly said, "was a Social Democratic revolution, suppressed by the Social Democratic leaders: a process hardly paralleled in the history of the world." (16) There was also a revolutionary minority, to be sure, advocating and fighting for the formation of a social system of workers' councils as a permanent institution; but this was soon systematically subdued by the military forces arrayed against it. To organize this revolutionary minority for sustained actions, the Spartacus League, in collaboration with other revolutionary groups, transformed itself into the Communist Party of Germany. Its program was written by Rosa Luxemburg.
Already at its founding congress, it became clear that the new party was internally split. Even at this late hour Rosa Luxemburg was not able to break totally with social-democratic traditions. Although she declared that the time for a minimum program short of socialism had passed, she still adhered to the politics of the double perspective, that in, to the view that the uncertainty of an early proletarian revolution demanded the consideration of policies defined within the given, social institutions and organizations. In practice this meant participation in the National Assembly and in trade unions. However, the majority of the congress voted in favor of anti-parliamentarism and for a struggle against the trade unions. Although reluctantly, Rosa Luxemburg bowed to this decision and wrote and acted in its spirit. As she was murdered only two weeks later, it is not possible to say whether or not she would have stuck to this position. In any cage, encouraged by Lenin, via his eminary Radek, her disciples soon split the new party and merged its parliamentary section with a part of the Independent Socialists to form a "truly Bolshevik Party;" this time, however, as a mass-organization in the social-democratic sense, competing with the old Social Democratic Party for the allegiance of the workers, in order to forge an instrument for the defense of Bolshevik Russia.
But all this is history. The failed revolutions in Central Europe, and the state-capitalistic development in Russia, overcame the political crisis of capitalism that followed the first world war. Its economic difficulties were not so overcome, and led-to a now world-wide crisis and the second world war. Because the ruling classes--old and now--remembered the revolutionary repercussions in the wake of the first world war, they defeated their possible recurrence in advance by the direct means of military occupation. The enormous destruction of capital and its further centralization by way of war, an well as the raising of the productivity of labor, allowed for a great upswing of capital production after the second war. This implied an almost total eclipse of revolutionary aspirations, save those of a strictly nationalist and state-capitalist character.
This effect was strengthened by the development of the 'mixed economy,' nationally as well as internationally, wherein governments influenced economic activities. Like all things of the past, Marxism became an academic discipline--an indication of its decline as a theory of social change. Social Democracy ceased to see itself as a working class organization, but rather as a people's party, ready to fulfill governmental functions for capitalist society. Communist organizations took over the classic role of Social Democracy--and also its readiness to form, or to partake in, governments upholding the capitalist system. The labor movement-divided into Bolshevism and Social Democracy, which had been Rosa Luxemburg's concern--ceased to exist.
Still, capitalism remains susceptible to crises and collapse. In view of present methods of destruction, it may destroy itself in another conflagration. But it may also be overcome by way of class struggles leading to its socialist transformation. The alternative enunciated by Rosa Luxemburg--socialism or barbarism--retains its validity. The current state of the labor movement, which lacks any revolutionary inclinations, makes it clear that a socialist future depends more on spontaneous actions of the working class as a whole, than on ideological anticipations of such a future which may find expression in newly-arising revolutionary organizations. In this situation, there is not much to be learned from previous experiences, except the negative lesson that neither Social Democracy nor Bolshevism had any bearing on the problems of the proletarian revolution. By opposing both, however, inconsistently, Rosa Luxemburg opened up another road towards the socialist revolution. Despite some false notions, with respect to theory and some illusions regarding socialist practice, her revolutionary impulse yielded the essential elements required for a socialist revolution: an unwavering internationalism and the principle of the self-determination of the working class within its organizations and within society. By taking seriously the dictum that the emancipation of the proletariat can only be its, own work, she bridged the revolutionary past with the revolutionary future. Her ideas thus remain as alive as the idea of revolution itself, while all her adversaries in the old labor movement have become part and parcel of the decaying capitalist society.
1. For biographical information, see John P. Nettl, "Rosa Luxemburg", 2 vols. (London: Oxford University Press, 1966).
2. Eduard Bernstein, "Die Voraussetzungen des Sozialismas und die Aufgaben der Sozialdemokratie", translated as "Evolutionary Socialism" (1899; NY: Schocken, 1961)
3. Mikhail I. Tugan-Baranowsky, "Die Theoretischen Grundlagen des Marxismus" [The Theoretical Foundations of Marxism] (Leipzig: Duncker and Humblot, 1905).
4. Karl Marx, Capital, vol. 2, "The Process of Circulation of Capital" (1885; Chicago: Charles Kerr, 1926), p. 532.
5. ibid., p. 578.
6. Michael Kalecki, 'The Problem of Effective Demand with Tagan-Baranowsky and Rosa Luxemburg.'
7. Joan Robinson, Introduction to Rosa Luxemburg, "The Accumulation of Capital" (1913; London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1951).
8. Luxemburg, "The Russian Revolution" (1922), in "The Russian Revolution and Leninism or Marxism?" (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1961), p. 39.
11. Luxemburg, "Organizational Questions of Russian Social Democracy" (1904), Ibid., p. 102.
12. Luxemburg, "The Russian Revolution," Ibid.# p. 69.
13. Ibid., p. 72
14. Luxemburg, "Social Reform or Revolution" (1899; NY: Pathfinder, 1973).
15. Luxemburg, "The Mass Strike, the Political Party, and the Trade Unions" (1906; NY: Harper and Row, 1971).
16. Sebastian Haffner, "Failure of a Revolution" (NY: Library Press, 1972), p. 12.
The Barricades Must Be Torn Down --Moscow-Fascism in Spain—
On May 7, 1937, the CNT-FAl of Barcelona broadcast the following order: "The barricades must be torn down! The hours of crisis have passed. Calm must be established. But rumors are circulating throughout the city, contradicting the reports of a return to normality such as we are now issuing. The barricades are a contributing factor to this confusion. We don't need the barricades now that fighting has stopped, The barricades serve no purpose now, and their continued existence might give the impression that we wish to return to the previous state of affairs - and that is not true, Comrades, let us cooperate for the reestablishment of a completely normal civil life. Everything that hinders such a return must disappear."
And then began the normal life, that is, the terror of the Moscow-Fascists. Murder and imprisonment of revolutionary workers. The disarming of the revolutionary forces, the silencing of their papers, their radio stations, the elimination of all positions they had previously attained. Counter-Revolution triumphed in Catalonia, where, as we were so often assured by the anarchist leaders and these of the POUM they were already on the March towards socialism. The counter-revolutionary forces of the People's Front were welcomed by the anarchist leaders. The victims were supposed to hail their butchers. "When an attempt was made to find a solution and reestablish order in Barcelona", we read in a CNT bulletin, "the CNT and FAI were the first to offer their collaboration ; they were the first to put forward the demand to stop the shooting and try to pacify Barcelona. When the Central government took over public order, the CNT was among the first to put at the disposal of the representative of public order all the forces under its control. When the Central government decided to send armed force to Barcelona, in order to control the political forces which would not obey the public authorities, the CNT was once more the one to order all the districts to facilitate the passage of these forces, that they might reach Barcelona and establish order".
Yes, the CNT has done the utmost to help to carry the Valencia Counter-revolution into Barcelona. The imprisoned workers may thank their anarchist leaders for their confinement, which ends before the firing sounds of the Moscow-Fascists. The dead workers are removed together with their barricades; they were silenced so that their leaders might continue to talk. What excitement on the part of the neo-Bolsheviks : "Moscow has murdered revolutionary workers", they shout. For the first time in its history, the Third International is shooting from the other side of the barricades. Before this time it had only betrayed the cause, but now openly fighting against communism." And what did these angry shouters expect from state capitalist Russia and its Foreign Legion? Help for the Spanish workers? Capitalism in all forms has only one answer for workers opposed to exploitation: murder. A united front with the socialists or with the party-"communists", is a united front with capitalism, which can only be a united front for capitalism. Where is no use in scolding Moscow, there is no sense in criticizing the socialists: both must be fought to the end. But now, the revolutionary workers must recognize that also the anarchist leaders, that also the "apparatchiks" of the CNT and FAI oppose the interests of the workers, belong to the enemy camp. United with capitalism they had to serve capitalism; and where phrases were powerless, betrayal became the order of the day. Tomorrow they may be shooting against rebelling workers just as the "communist" butchers of the "Karl Marx Barracks" shoot today. The counter-revolution extents all the way from Franco to Santillan.
Once more, and so often before, the disappointed revolutionary workers denounce their cowardly leadership, and then they look around for new and better leaders, for improved organization. The "Friends of Durrutti" split away from the corrupted leaders of the CNT and FAI in order to restore original anarchism, to safeguard the ideal, to maintain the revolutionary tradition. They have learned a few things, but they have not learned enough. The workers of the POUM are deeply disappointed in Gorkin, Nin and Company. These Leninists were not leninistic enough, and the party members look around for better Lenins. Whey have learned, but so little. The tradition of the past hangs like a stone around their neck. A change of men and a revival of the organization is not enough. A communist revolution is not made by leaders and organizations; it is made by the workers, by the class. Once more the workers are hoping for changes in the "People's Front", which might after all bring about a revolutionary turn. Caballero, discarded by Moscow, might come back on the shoulders of the UGT-members, who have learned and seen the light. Moscow, disappointed in not finding the proper help from the democratic nations, might become radical again. All this is non-sense! The forces of the "People's Front", Caballero and Moscow, are unable, even if they wanted, to defeat capitalism in Spain. Capitalistic forces can not have socialistic policies. The People's Front is not a lesser evil for the workers. It is only another form of capitalist dictatorship in addition to Fascism. The struggle must be against capitalism.
The present attitude of the CNT is not new. A few months ago the Catalan president Companys said that the CNT "has not thought of impairing the democratic regime in Spain, but stands for legality and order". Like all other anti-fascist organizations in Spain, the CNT, notwithstanding its radical phraseology, has restricted its struggle to the war against Franco. The program of collectivization, partly realized as a war necessity, did not impair capitalist principles or capitalism as such. Insofar as the CNT has spoken of a final goal, it suggested some modified form of state capitalism, in which the trade union bureaucracy and its philosophical anarchist friends would have the power. But even this goal was only for the distant future. Not one real step in this direction was undertaken, for one real step towards even a state capitalist system would have meant the end of the People's Front", would have meant barricades in Catalonia and a civil war within the civil war. The contradiction between its "theory' and its 'practice' was explained by the anarchists in the manner of all fakers, that 'theory is one thing and practice another, that the second is never so harmonious as the first". The CNT realized that it had no real plan for the reconstruction of society; it realized further, that it did not have the masses of Spain behind itself, but only a part of the workers in one part of the country, it realized its weakness, national as well as international, and its radical phrases were only designed to conceal the utter weakness of the movement in the conditions created by the civil war.
There are many possible excuses for the position the anarchists have taken, but there is none for their program of falsification which beclouded the whole labor movement and worked to the advance of the Moscow-Fascists. Trying to make believe that socialism was on the march in Catalonia and that this was possible without a break with the People's Front Government meant the strengthening of the People's Front forces till they were able to dictate also to the Spanish anarchist workers. Anarchism in Spain accepted one form of fascism, disguised as a democratic movement to help to crush Franco-Fascism. It is not true, as the anarchist today try to make their followers believe that there was no other alternative, and hence that all criticism directed against the CNT is unjustified. The anarchists could have tried, after July 19, l936, to establish worker's power in Catalonia, they could also have tried to crush the Government forces in Barcelona in May 1937. They could have marched against both the Franco-Fascists and the Moscow-Fascists. Most probably they would have been defeated; possibly Franco would have won and. smashed the anarchists as well as his competitors of the "People's Front". Open capitalist intervention might have set in at once. But there was also another possibility, though much less likely. The French workers might have gone farther than to a mere stay-in strike; open intervention might have led to a war in which all the powers would have been involved. The struggle would have at once have turned on clear issues, between Capitalism and Communism. Whatever might have happened, one thing is sure: the chaotic condition of world capitalism would have been made still more chaotic. Without catastrophes no change of society is possible. Any real attack on the capitalist system might have hastened reaction, but reaction will set in anyhow, even if somewhat delayed. This delay will cost more workers' lives than would any premature attempt to crush the system of exploitation. But a real attack on capitalism might have created a condition more favorable to international action on the: part of the working class, or it might have brought about a situation which would have sharpened all capitalist contradictions and so hastened historical development toward the breakdown of capitalism. In the beginning is the deed. But the CNT, we are told, felt so much responsibility for the lives of the workers. It wanted to avoid unnecessary bloodshed. What cynicism! More than a million people, have already died in the civil war. If one has to die anyway, he might as well die for a worthy cause.
The struggle against the whole of capitalism - that struggle which the CNT wanted to avoid - can not be avoided. The workers' revolution must be radical from the very outset, or it will be lost. There was required the complete expropriation of the possessing classes, the elimination of all power other than that of the armed workers, and the struggle against all elements opposing such a course. Not doing this, the May days of Barcelona, and the elimination of the revolutionary elements in Spain were inevitable. The CNT never approached the question of revolution from the viewpoint of the working class, but has always been concerned first of all with the organization. It was acting for the workers and with the aid of the workers, but was not interested in the self-initiative and action of the workers independent of organizational interests. What counted here was not the revolution but the CNT. And from the point of view of the interests of the CNT the anarchists had to distinguish between Fascism and Capitalism, between War and Peace. From this point of view, it was forced to participate in capitalist-nationalist policies and it had to toll tell the workers to cooperate with one enemy in order to crush another, in order later to be crushed by the first. The radical phrases of the anarchists were not to be followed; the only served, as an instrument in the control of the workers by the apparatus of the CNT, "without the CNT", they wrote proudly, "anti-fascist Spain cannot be governed". They wanted to participate in governing the workers and ordering them around. They only asked for their proper share of the spoils, for they recognized that they could not very well have the whole for themselves. Like the 'Bolsheviks", they identified their own organizational needs with the needs and interests of the working class. What they decided was good, there was no need for the workers to think and decide for themselves, as this would only hinder the struggle and create confusion; the workers simply had to follow their savers. Not a single attempt to organize and consolidate real working class power. The CNT spoke anarchistically and acted bolshevistically, that is, capitalistically. In order to rule, or participate in the rule, it had to oppose all self-initiative on the part of the workers and so it had to stand for legality and order and government.
But there were more organizations in the field, and there is no identity of interests among those organizations. Each one is struggling against all others for supremacy, for the sole rule over the workers. The sharing of power by a number of organizations does not do away with the struggle between them. At times all organizations are forced to cooperate, but this is only a postponement of the final reckoning. One group must control. At the same time that the anarchists were proceeding from "one success to the other", their position was continuously being undermined and weakness. The CNT's assertion that it would not dictate to other organizations, or work against them, was in reality only a plea not to be attacked by others - a recognition of its own weakness. Being engaged in capitalist policy with its allies of the People's Front, it left the broad masses with the possibility of choosing their favorite from among the bourgeois elements. The one who offered the most had the best chance. Moscow fascism came into vogue even in Catalonia. For the masses saw in the support of Moscow the strength necessary for doing away with Franco and the war, Moscow and its People Front government meant international capitalist support. Moscow gained in influence, for the broad masses of Spain were still in favor of the continuation of the exploitation society. And they were strengthened in this attitude by the fact that the anarchists did nothing to clarify the situation, that is, to show that help from Moscow meant nothing more than the fight for a capitalism which pleases a few imperialist powers, even though it may disappoint others.
The anarchists became propagandists for the Moscow brand of fascism, the servants of those capitalist interests which oppose the present Franco plans in Spain. The revolution became a play ground of imperialist rivals. The masses had to die without knowing for whom or for what. The whole affair ceased to be the affair of the workers. And now it has also ceased to be the affair of the CNT. The war may be ended at any time by a compromise agreement between the imperialist powers. It may be ended with a defeat or with a success of Franco. Franco may drop Italy and Germany and turn to England and France. Or the former countries may cease to pay further attention to Franco. The situation in Spain might be decisively altered by the war brewing in the Far East. There is still a number of possibilities in addition to the most likely one, that is, victory for Franco-Fascism. But whatever happens, unless the workers throw up new barricades against the Loyalists also, unless the workers really attack capitalism, than whatever may be the outcome of the struggle in Spain it will have no real meaning to the working class, which will still be exploited and suppressed. A change in the military situation in Spain might force Moscow-Fascism once more to don the revolutionary garb. But from the viewpoint of the interests of the Spanish workers, as well as of the workers of the world, there is no difference between Franco-Fascism and Moscow Fascism, however much difference there may be between Franco and Moscow. The barricades, if again erected, should not be torn down. The revolutionary watchword for Spain is: Down with the Fascist s and also down with the Loyalists. However futile, in view of the present world situation, might be the attempt to fight for communism, still this is the only course for workers to adopt. "Better the sense of futility than the morbid energy that expends itself on false roads. We will preserve our sense of truth, of reason at all cost, even at the cost of futility."
The Inevitability of Communism
The Inevitability of Communism was published in 1936 in New York by Polemic Publishers appearing as Polemic Pamphlet No. 3), edited by S.L.Solon
The text was copied from the site "Left Wing" Communism - An Infantile Disorder ?
This e-version was made by Kurasje http://kurasje.tripod.com/
The publication of Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx by Sidney Hook in January 1933 served as the signal for the release of a virtual flood of controversial and interpretative literature on Marxism. Hailed and denounced, respected and suspected in different radical quarters, Hook's book sharply posed the question : Who are the Marxists? Sentiment both for and against the validity of his interpretation was rapidly crystallized and the key-note was sounded for discussions that were to become heated and prolonged. That the controversies revolving around Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx have often bordered on bitterness and personalisms speaks emphatically for the relevant character and challenging brilliance of Hook's work. Few heads have been broken or egos aroused by the appearance of a new book on Etruscan pottery. Whatever else has been said of Hook's book, its vividness and pertinence have not been brought into question.
The Inevitability of Communism by Paul Mattick is a criticism of Hook's interpretation from what Mattick regards as the position of the orthodox dialectic materialist. The pamphlet, in effect, proposes to serve a dual purpose. First, it attempts to disprove Hook's right to the title : dialectic materialist. It attempts to show that Hook's interpretation of Marx is the viewpoint of latter nineteenth century revisionism in present-day fashionable philosophic clothing. To remove the principles of inevitability and spontaneity from Marxism, says Mattick, is to emasculate the teachings of Marx. It is to deny the concept of the universal operation of dialectic materialism and to ascribe to human consciousness a vastly over-rated role. Second, Mattick's essay serves as a positive presentation of the position of dialectic materialism as he interprets it. He takes issue with what he regards as the errors of Leninism, the viewpoint of which, he holds, does not differ in essence from the stand of social democracy. To him, social democracy and Bolshevism ( "revolutionary social democracy" ) issue from the same seed : Both-regard the highly centralized political party whose efficacy in the last analysis must depend on the activity of "great men," as an absolute prerequisite for the freedom of the working class. From this position, says Mattick, flow the evils of organizational bureaucratism with the possibilities of betrayal, misleadership and counter-revolutionary activity when it is necessary for the party to so behave in order to retain power and affluence.
The centralized "revolutionary" party, states Mattick, will be - if anything - only an insignificant instrument of the revolution. It will not be the prime mover of the revolution nor will the success of the struggle depend on its existence.
The workers gathered together in their industrial units, the factories, shops, offices, etc., will be increasingly exploited by a capitalism which in its death throes will try desperately to keep the rate of profit at a workable level. Finally, there will be only one way out for the proletariat which Mattick regards as "the actualization of revolutionary consciousness." Hungry, they will seek food; naked, they will seek clothing; shelterless, they will repossess living quarters. At that time, says Mattick, preceded by a "training period" of riots, local clashes with the ruling class and terror, will come the revolution. At the helm will stand not the centralized party but the "spontaneously" organized Workers' Councils created in the factories and shops.
The role of "great men" and their conscious ideologies plays its part only within narrow limits. Precisely how much they can accelerate or hinder the revolution can be determined not generally but only by reference to the specific, concrete situation.
At least to one observer Sidney Hook's answer to certain of the criticisms leveled against him will be awaited with no small measure of interest. Coming after the publication of various reviews of his interpretation, his reply will serve to complete the controversial balance sheet. It will then be possible, if we are permitted to extend the metaphor, to take account of the debits and credits of his position.
A word in conclusion : In the heat of controversy both participants and readers are often inclined to ascribe excessive significance to what may be called the vocabulary barrage. It is thus well to bear in mind what Mattick implies throughout his essay and what Marx succinctly stated in Die Deutsche Ideologie "Not criticism, but revolution, is the motive force of history". S. L. SOLON.
The viewpoint of totality in the materialist dialectic is something different from the longing of the economically distracted bourgeoisie for harmony, for a self-contained system, for eternal truths and an all-embracing philosophy of the Whole ending up in the Absolute. To Marxism, there is nothing closed off. All concepts, all knowledge is the recognition that in the material interaction between man and nature social man is an active factor, that historical development is conditioned not only by objective relations arising through nature but quite as much so by the subjective, social moments. Precisely by reason of the fact that the materialist dialectic regards the economic relations as the foundation of historical development, it becomes impossible to accept a bourgeois and necessarily metaphysical philosophy of eternity. Society, which aids in determining the being and consciousness of man, changes perpetually and hence admits of no absolute solutions. The dialectical process of development recognizes no constant factors, either biological or social; in it these factors, themselves, vary continuously, so that one is never in a position really to separate them and must deny them any sort of constancy. The dialectical, comprehensive view, the consideration of the Whole is accordingly to be understood in the sense that here every separation between the objective and subjective historical factors is rejected, since these are always influencing each other and thus are themselves always changing. The one cannot be understood without the other. For science, that means that its concepts are not only objectively given but are also dependent upon the subjective factors, and these in turn aid in determining scientific methods and their goals.
To the interpretation of the Marxian dialectic Hook devotes the larger part of his book. (1) On the totality factor and dialectical interaction he bestows the utmost attention in order that the active role of man, the revolutionary consciousness in the historical process may stand out in stronger relief. To his frequently happy and also frequently unhappy formulations, so far as they deal with the totality factor, we shall devote little attention in the following pages, because his work is almost exclusively designed to refute theoretically, the many mechanistic and idealistic emasculations of Marxist thought at the hands of the epigones, and here we agree on the whole with what he has to say. If in what follows we adopt a standpoint which is opposed to that of Hook, we wish at the same time to emphasize that we fully accept in detail many of his ideas. If we neglect to bring out these common points, it is because of lack of space. We wish further to state that this review cannot be exhaustive; the aim is merely to draw attention to those factors which in our opinion must be placed in the center of the discussion in order to make it really fruitful.
In the introductory remarks to his book (page 6) Hook states that "science" cannot be identified with "Marxism," since the two deal with different things. The one with nature, the other with society. Marx distinguished between development in nature and that of human society and he saw in human consciousness the differentiating factor (page 85). Marxism presupposes class goals; hence it is a subjective, a class science; science itself, however, stands above classes, it is objective. Hook sees in Marx's philosophy a synthesis of the objective and subjective moments of truth. As an instrument of the class struggle the Marxian theory can function only in so far as it is objectively correct. Yet as an objective truth it can function effectively only within the framework of the subjective class purposes of the proletariat. If these class purposes are also socially and historically conditioned, still this is not true of the will and the specific act by which they are realized. Consequently, quite as much value must be ascribed to the subjective as to the objective historical moments. The human-active element is subjective, however, only in relation to the socio-economic situation; to the participants in the class struggle it is thoroughly objective. With this distinction in mind, it would be impossible to speak of Marxism as an "objective science" without at the same time taking away its revolutionary character (pages 7-8).
At first sight, there is nothing to be objected to in these formulations of Hook. Apart from the fact that with the acceptance of the Marxian synthesis such concepts for example, as "objective science" and "biologically constant" (thesis) and "variable social nature of man" as well as "subjective class willing" (antithesis), as Hook puts it later, can still have validity only as methodological abstractions and no longer correspond to reality; apart from the fact that with the acceptance of the Marxian dialectic any one-sided overemphasis on the objective or subjective, historical factors, without the most precise searching of the actual situation, is a blunder, it being quite possible that in certain situations the subjective factor plays a smaller and in others a greater role; and apart from the many defects in the Hook formulation, one can fully accept Marxism offhand as a synthesis of objective science and of subjective class science. But if Hook sets objective, matter-of-fact science, "science proper," above classes, he has not shown the rational kernel concealed behind the concept. If one is unable to materialize science, if it remains a mere matter of concepts, then the concept "objective science" can only confuse and becomes unserviceable for the real explanation of the dialectical content of Marxism, since all scientific methods, regardless of the material with which they deal, are in part subjectively conditioned.
When Hook says with Marx that we are not concerned with explaining but with changing, he implies that it is only the proletariat which can realize Marxism. But through this realization Marxism would then become "objective science." If we take as our starting point the Marxian synthesis, then this synthesis alone is still capable of passing as "objective science." But this theoretical synthesis is at first only the theoretical method for grasping the connection of historical reality. Historical reality is nothing but ... historical reality; it is not a science. Only as human beings comprehend and conceptually employ this reality with a view to determining within it their own actions, only that produces the content of science, the objectivity of which at any particular time must be demonstrated in practice.
The materialist dialectic is today the only method which confirms itself in practice. It is applicable and is demonstrated experimentally. Hence this dialectic is "objective science"; it, too, stands above classes, as further seen from Hook's admission that it would continue to operate in a communist society. It is otherwise, however, with the three leading principles of the Marxian doctrine. These are bound up only with the proletariat, so long as it is a proletariat; they are historically conditioned. Historical materialism, the theory of the class struggle and the theory of surplus value are only conceivable and practically applicable in bourgeois society (pages 97-98). They are the theoretical weapons of the strongest force of production ... the proletariat. They help in the full development and realization of this greatest force of production and are thus, in a materialistic sense, themselves nothing more than productive elements. However, even what Hook denotes by the concept "objective science" is, rationally considered, nothing but an expression of the increasing forces of production. Behind science are concealed the social forces of production; if these latter develop, so also science, and likewise, in dialectical interaction, the reverse process is accomplished. Hook will no doubt grant us that science must be reckoned among the human forces of production, but his cloudy definition of science and other factors which we shall take up later on prove that his mind is not clear regarding the close connection between science and the forces of production. Yet if one has recognized science as a force of production, one sees also that even "science as such" stands as little above classes and is exactly as historically conditioned as the historical factors of Marxism, which are valid only for the society of class struggle. Or, inversely, that the historical elements of Marxism, as social forces of production, only add new ones to the available productive forces, or to "objective science," and so are a part of science. If commodity fetishism was one form in which the social forces of production developed, then Marxism is a higher form of the development of the productive forces.
If one wants to illustrate the development of the Marxian dialectic, one can without doubt take the road followed by Hook and draw a distinction between objective and subjective science. But on the basis of the dialectic which flatly rejects such a distinction, one can no longer appeal to that distinction except at the risk of introducing confusion into the ranks of Marxism. The divorce between "science" and Marxism is itself historical and only another expression for the separation of the workers from the means of production.
In his essay The Part Played by Labor in the Ape's Evolution to Man (1876) Friedrich Engels wrote in brief the following "Labor first, and in close step with it, speech . . . those are the two essential stimuli under the influence of which the brain of an ape passed over gradually into that of a man. With the cultivation of the brain went hand in hand the cultivation of the sense organs .... The reactive effect of the development of the brain and its subject sense of consciousness growing clearer and clearer, of the capacity for abstraction and forming conclusion, upon labor and speech ... all of this served continually to induce the further development of these two forces; a development which never came to a close and which, on the one hand, was powerfully promoted and, on the other, swung in a more definite direction by the new element added on with the appearance of the finished man ... namely, society."
Thus, in this opinion, consciousness and science has its basis in the development of labor, or the growth of the human-social forces of production. It is first the labor of man applied to the world existing independently of man which fashions the contradiction between being and consciousness, a contradiction, moreover, which cannot be done away with except through the elimination of labor. Through the growth of the productive forces, bringing with it a change in the forms in which the material interaction between man and nature is accomplished, nature, society and consciousness, mutually interacting, also change. It is only because of the fact that man alters external nature by means of labor that his own nature and the whole complex of his life and interests are altered, and these having been changed, they change again the external world. If the human-active element is at first only the most primitive, corporeal activity, yet in connection with that activity arises intelligence, which by reaction transforms the simple activity into the more complicated.
From this point of view, "science" stands above classes only in that, like labor, it progressively develops with the forces of production in all forms of social life; for the necessity of labor remains intact in any form of society. But the more the productive forces develop, the more does the social elements condition the total process of development. Marx pointed out, for example, the fact that "in all forms of society where property in land prevails, the natural relation is still predominant; but in those where capital prevails, the social element outweighs." The closeness of the connection between the labor process and consciousness is clearly revealed by Marx in the Feuerbach section of Die Deutsche Ideologie, where he says:
The division of labor really becomes a division only from the moment when a division enters between material and intellectual labor. From that moment, consciousness can really fancy itself as something other than the consciousness of existing practice." With the accelerated growth of the productive forces under capitalism, their theoretical expression, "science," also underwent such a development that its own influence upon the total process grew more and more significant. And as formerly labor developed new moments ... the senses and consciousness ... so later science also developed new tendencies peculiar to itself, which, however, leave untouched the basic fact that science is conditioned by the social needs, which in turn depend on the stage of development of the productive forces. Nothing perhaps shows this dependence more clearly than the present general crisis of bourgeois science, which runs parallel with the general economic crisis of capital. If capitalism restricts the further unfolding of the productive forces, it also restricts the extension of science. Neither the one nor the other can throw off its fetters except through the proletarian revolution; which is to say that only this revolution can still be regarded as "objective science." The further development of the rational elements immanent in science, that is, of the social forces of production, is the historical mission of the working class, which accordingly is to be identified with science. The scientists themselves become revolutionists, or else they cease to be scientists.
The reformist identification of "science" with "Marxism," which Hook regards (page 25) as one of the reasons for the turning away of the old labor movement from true Marxism, has its origin not in "misunderstanding" or in the false interpretation of Marxism, but in the actual fact of the increasing capitalization of the old labor movement. It is really not a question here of an identification, but of the acceptance of bourgeois science, together with the acceptance of the bourgeois relations in which one fought with other groups for one's share of the surplus value. Marxism was not converted into a science but, first practically and then also theoretically, completely abandoned. Since capital released the forces of production and also developed science, and at the same time made life, in so far as "Official Marxism" was concerned, a continual feast, reformism identified itself with this development. The capitalist world was also the world of reformism, which saw in the development of this capitalist world and of its science the developing "absolute consciousness" which one day would usher in socialism through the mere change of place between private capital and the bureaucratic state, and which saw in historical development nothing but the adaptation of the true relation through the spirit. This ideology was historically bound up with the upgrade period of capitalism and was only the intellectual expression of the economic counter-tendencies which delayed the rapid collapse of the capitalist system.
In the capitalist crisis, the identification of Marxism with science is not only the subjective class expression of the proletariat but actually, really the only science, for only Marxism admits any longer of a progressive social practice. Whether a thing is "true," (not for eternity, but for the time-conditioned process of material interaction between man and nature, a process whose form is continually changing), is revealed only by practice. So long as science furthered the forces of production and these in turn promoted science, this (bourgeois) science was objective and "true," since it enabled a practice and was at the same time a result of this practice. Even though change occurred with false consciousness, since class society sets ideology in place of consciousness, change occurred. And if reality was changed, so necessarily also consciousness, which expresses itself in the weakening of capitalist ideology. The level of the productive forces in capitalism, the capitalistic relation of production, bourgeois science in all its aspects, that was "objective" science: science proper. It is faced by the proletariat as its antithesis. For the proletariat in the advancing stage of capitalism, there was no science at all, the proletariat still had no practice of its own. The "class struggle," which was held in leash by reformism, lent vigor only to bourgeois science, because that struggle too served as an incentive to the further development of the productive forces under capitalism. If the wages of the workers increased, the exploitation increased faster. This practice, too, was a thoroughly bourgeois practice. But this practice was necessary in order to develop the capitalistic productive forces quantitatively to such an extent that the productive relations are obliged to assume other forms. And first at the point which marks the limit of capitalist development of the productive forces, only then is the class struggle divorced from bourgeois practice and hence, because the class struggle through this divorce does away with every bourgeois practice, it becomes the only practice: the class struggle becomes science. And at this point, nothing outside of this struggle is science any longer. The negation of the negation determines, with the disappearance of bourgeoisie and proletariat and their conversion to human beings, also the disappearance of "objective" and "subjective" concepts of science and their conversion to "science," the rational elements of which then form its natural and obvious content.
If the means of production in capitalism appear in the form of capital, if labor power appears as capital, so no less does science. The task of the proletariat consists in throwing off the capital relation. Even in their fetishistic, their capitalistic integument the forces of production, and hence also science, are thorough going realities, the fetishism being of course only the objectified relation between persons who make no difference in the material character of the actual elements of life. The proletariat opposes nothing to these realities, but merely releases them from their fetishistic integuments. "Its own social movement," says Marx, speaking of capitalist society, "seems to it to possess the form of a movement of things by which it is controlled instead of controlling them." Communism, the proletariat, abolishes this fetishism, which, in fact, was capable of developing the productive forces only for an historical period and which, through the accumulation of this process, is converted into its opposite, into a hindrance to the further development of the productive forces.
Bourgeois science meant a progressive social practice; in so far as it helped to develop the social forces of production, it stood "above classes." It was a stage in the process of general development, and so long as it did not practically restrain the process, the attained stage of science. Marx opposed to the science of the bourgeoisie not that of the proletariat but the revolution. Likewise he opposed to Hegel's dialectic not a dialectic of the proletariat, but the proletariat was to him the actualization of the dialectical process of development of capitalist society. From the realm of the concept he transplanted dialectics into the realm of reality, just as he did not set over against the bourgeois theory of value the theory of value of the proletariat, but by uncovering the fetishism of commodities he revealed the actual content of value.
Bourgeois philosophy could not go beyond Hegel; commodity fetishism forbids the materializing of dialectic, just as the idealist dialectic, economically expressed, is nothing but the fetishism of commodities. Only the existence of the proletariat enabled the materialization of dialectic, made Marxism possible. The period of the class struggle necessarily still contains bourgeois elements and will continue to do so until it is ended. But the growth of the class struggle is already the process of actualization of the new society. The victorious revolution ends with the complete destruction of bourgeois science, for then the proletariat which ceases to be proletariat, has completely taken up into itself the rational elements of that science.
By way of summary, one night say that for Marxism, science, in the last analysis, is accumulated human labor. A certain quantity of human-social labor alters, that is, enlarges, increases, the social forces of production. This necessitates a change in the relations of production, and this in turn the change of the whole intellectual superstructure. The productive relations, by reaction, again condition the labor process and lead to ever new, progressive outer forms.
If Marx never tired, as Hook insists (page 85), of distinguishing between the natural processes of development and those of man in society, it was because Marx's materialistic dialectic consists in pointing out the manner in which, throughout all forms of society, the process of interaction between man and nature develops the productive forces. This process is illustrated in the development of the forms of production, that is, how and with what instruments and methods production is carried on. The determining contradiction is the one between man and nature, between being and consciousness, and this contradiction developed out of labor. Within this process new contradictions develop, which by reaction again drive the general process farther forward. In this process the conscious factors become developed to such an extent, especially through the social division of labor, that there is no longer any sense in distinguishing between cause and effect; any separation between being and consciousness has become impossible ... they are always fusing. The thing taken as a base has nothing to do any more with our end results, and these end results are always forming new starting points, so that to be continually distinguishing between cause and effect becomes impossible. And yet in this dialectical process the final basis continues to be the human necessities of life; it remains material, actual. What holds for the past holds also for the present, which permitted Marx, in Capital, to say for the future also:
"The realm of freedom begins, in reality, only there where that labor, which is determined through need and outer purposiveness no longer exists; hence it lies, from the nature of things, beyond the sphere of real material production . . . Freedom here can only consist in the fact that socialized man, the associated producers, rationally regulate this interaction between themselves and nature, bring it under their communal control, instead of being ruled by it as by a blind power; accomplish it with the least expenditure of energy and under condition most worthy of and adequate of their human nature. But this always remains a realm of necessity. Beyond it begins that development of human force which serves as its own end . . . the true realm of freedom, which, however, can flourish only upon that realm of necessity as its base."
In the preface to his book, Hook (page x) has taken pains to anticipate the reproach of smuggling idealistic factors into Marxism. But his dialectic, which fails to take a rational view of science and which is a purely conceptual one, is bogged in idealism none the less. He doesn't know, for instance, what to look for behind the category value or behind political economy. In his distinction between "science" and "Marxism" on a purely scientific basis, he has actually got no further than Hegel. The theoretical science of the proletariat is either practice or is not science. The Marxian dialectic is not a special, "subjective" science; it is the practice of the proletarian revolution, and theoretical only insofar as this theory is concrete, actual practice.
That Hook is far from being clear on this point is proved by the fact that although he is willing to have a distinction made between science and Marxism, he rejects the application of this distinction in regards to economy. From our standpoint, there is no distinction to be made between science and Marxism, and hence also none between economics and political economy. But the refusal of this distinction for economics, while allowing it to science, is, on the basis of the Hook argumentation, a sign of complete confusion and a throwback into idealist dialectics. When, for example, Hook reproaches Engels with lending support to reformism, which made Marxism a science, through his monistic tendency, which comes to light most clearly in his preface to the second and third volumes of Capital, Hook illustrates only his own incomplete grasp of the real nature of Marxism. He writes (pages 29-30):
"But more important still, in bringing to completion and publishing the second and third volumes of Das Kapital Engels gave final currency to the notion that the economic theories of Marx constituted a hypothetic-deductive system of the type exemplified by scientific theories überhaupt, instead of being an illustration of a method of revolutionary criticism. In so doing Engels failed to develop the important sociological and practical implications of Marx's doctrine of the "fetishism of commodities." He devoted himself to the task of explaining how the law of the falling rate of profit could be squared both with the empirical fact that the rate of profit was the same irrespective of the organic composition of capital, and with the labor-power definition of exchange value ...
Nowhere, so far as I know, does Engels properly comment on Marx's own words in the preface to the second edition of the first volume, 'that political economy can remain a science only so long as the class struggle is latent or manifests itself only in isolated or sporadic phenomena.' It cannot be too strongly insisted upon that Marx did not conceive Das Kapital to be a deductive exposition of an objective natural system of political economy, but a critical analysis - sociological and historical - of a system which regarded itself as objective. Its sub-title is Kritik der Politischen Ökonomie. Criticism demands a standpoint, a position. Marx's standpoint was the standpoint of the classconscious proletariat of Western Europe. His position implied that a system of economics at basis always is a class economics."
Later, Hook goes on to assert, Engels perceived his error; and Hook produces in the appendix of his book a series of Engel's letters designed to confirm this statement. But it is impossible, even for Hook himself, to get more out of these letters than that Engels here laments the fact that Marx and himself, in the press of work, had devoted too little attention to the subjective moments of history. There is not a word of revision of the standpoint represented by him in the preface to Capital, which was regarded there not only as a critique of political economy but the analysis of the laws of social movement in general.
According to Hook, Das Kapital consisted only in a critique of political economy, which revealed from the standpoint of the proletariat the purely historical character of capital. But how does this critique reveal the transitory character of capitalist production? Why is criticism able to uncover this? "Because the proletariat wants to change society," Hook in effect asserts later, "therefore the will discovers in the mode of economic production the decisive factor in social life." (page 181). To Marx, however, it is not the will but the existence of the proletariat, not the relations of production, but the development of the productive forces, (which determines the willing as it determines the social relations), which is the starting point for his historical survey. Das Kapital reveals the broader contradiction between man and nature as a contradiction which all social orders have conditioned and which compelled the development of the productive forces. It indicates too the narrower contradictions arising within this process by which relations of production are formed and again destroyed. If bourgeois science to Hook is not the only science, science uberhaupt, then he has no right to regard bourgeois political economy as economics uberhaupt. But whereas in the former case, following Hook, science stands above classes, one is not justified, again according to Hook, in setting economics above classes. To us, however, political economy, like bourgeois science is an attained level of general human development, objective and true insofar as it is progressive. To recognize it as an historical level presupposes a knowledge of the character, the general traits, of the laws of social change. This recognition was hindered through class rule; it was first the existence of the proletariat as a class which abolishes all classes, which enabled awareness of the laws of social change, an awareness which, however, must first become practical to enable living in accordance with those laws.
Political economy is not an eternal category, for the reason that it is only the verdinglichte, objectified (exchange)-relation between human beings who overshadow the real content of economics. The economic categories with which Marx operated were objectively given; they belong to bourgeois society. Marx's critique consisted in the fact that he illumined them with the correct consciousness, that of the proletariat, not with the necessarily false one of the bourgeoisie. The fetishistic, false consciousness conditioned by the level of the productive forces, and which had to stop with Hegel, Ricardo, and Adam Smith, could not, like Marx, who saw in the proletariat the antithesis of bourgeois society, theoretically see the synthesis which first disclosed the feature common to all societies. Marx pointed out, for example, how manufacture developed out of the social division of labor, out of manufacture the modern factory system, which in turn presses on to become monopoly capital. The dynamicist, Marx, directed himself to such a "senseless" matter as simple reproduction merely to prove the impossibility of the thing. In all of which Marx wished to show that the productive forces are the basis of all relations of production. In communism too, the productive forces, "economics," will be further developed. If the increasing productive forces bring about the bourgeois relations of production and further develop the productive forces, so these latter in turn determine the tempo of their further development, and at a certain point of their development are restrained by the relations of production. Since no equilibrium (Statik) exists, these relations must be changed. In this general process of necessity, in this material process, "political economy" merely represents a certain level, but a significant level in that it is the preliminary condition for a period of human history which works with correct consciousness and therefore controls matters instead of being determined by them. Already in the introduction to the Critique of Political Economy Marx makes this connection clear; which proves to us that the criticism of bourgeois society was at the same time the uncovering of the laws of economic movement in general. He says: "Bourgeois society is the most highly developed and the most complicated historical organization of production. The categories in which its relations are expressed, the understanding of their structure, at the same time furnish insight into the structure and productive relations of all the bygone forms of society, on the ruins and elements of which it has been built up. Of these societies there drag along in it, side by side, still unsubdued remnants as well as mere hints which have developed into perfected meanings. The anatomy of man is a key to the anatomy of the ape."
So in laying bare the laws of capitalist movement Marx has laid bare the laws of social movement in general. Engels was therefore right when he saw in Das Kapital more than Hook has seen, to whom it is merely a critique. And when Engels, to Hook's regret, instead of concerning himself with the fetishism of commodities, engaged with the problems of the average rate of profit, the theory of value, etc., in order to show that all capitalist phenomena can be traced back to the law of value, he was doing nothing other than what in Hook's opinion he failed to do: he was revealing the fetishist character of commodities. This fetishism conceals the actual process, but does not change it. Only a false consciousness, caught in the net of commodity fetishism, puzzles itself with market and price problems and fails to realize that all movements of capital are governed by the law of value as by an inner law. That Marx held the same view and, as Engels asserted, intended more than a critique, is shown by the following passage from a letter written by Marx in 1886 with reference to a critic of his concept of value:
"The poor fellow fails to see that even if my book contained not a single chapter on value, the analysis I give of the real relations would contain the proof and the demonstration of the real relations of value. The twaddle about the necessity of proving the concept of value rests only upon the most complete ignorance both of the matter in question and of the methods of science. That any nation which ceases to work, I will not say for a year, but for a few weeks, would die of hunger, is known to every child. He also knows that the masses of products corresponding to the different needs demand different and quantitatively determinate masses of the total social labor. That this necessity for the division of social labor in determinate proportions can absolutely not be abolished by reason of the determinate form of social production but can only change its manner of appearance, is obvious. Natural laws cannot be abolished at all. What can be changed in historically different conditions is only the form in which these laws operate. And the form in which this proportional division of labor operates, in a state of society in which the connection of social labor asserts itself as private exchange of the individual products of labor, is nothing other than the exchange-value of these products."
And so Das Kapital is constructed upon a two fold view of development: On the one hand, it observes development as a natural process and on the other, Marx treats it according to the historical-social form it assumes at any particular time. In the chapter on the fetishist character of commodities Marx shows what exchange value really is. It is not something natural, but a social relationship by which society is determined as by an actual thing. Exchange value, value production, is just an expression of social backwardness, and has its source in the still insufficient development of the forces of production. It is therefore an historical category, which is overcome by the increasing forces of production. So that the fetishism of commodities merely shows that man is not yet in a position to master production, and consequently production governs man.
In the Robinson Crusoe example, which Marx employs in discussing communism, he shows what is back of exchange value, and then in the third volume of Capital he says: "however prices may be regulated, it is seen that the law of value governs their movement." According to Hook, in the so much less important excursions of Engels in his preface to the second and third volumes of Capital, Engels merely emphasizes this phrase of Marx, which is nothing but an illustration of the fetishistic character of commodities, a character which does not admit the socially necessary labor time as the measure of value, though in reality it operates in spite of all modifications. So that political economy is the expression of the social form in which, at a certain plane of history, natural laws operate. And on this capitalistic plane, value cannot be comprehended by the false consciousness of the bourgeoisie. If bourgeois economy is interested in the way the market price was determined, if accordingly it was satisfied with the law of supply and demand, then Marx inquired about the origin of price and found it in the law of value. He thus uncovered the fetishism of commodities as the social "consciousness" under capitalism, in which the workers are separated from the means of production. It is not until this separation of producers and means of production is abolished that commodity society, with the false consciousness that is necessarily a part of it, can be brought to an end. And it is only on the basis of this fetishism that the distinction between "science" and "Marxism" is possible. The abolition of the one is bound up with the abolition of the other. Theoretically, this is already presupposed in Marxism, for man constructs in his head before he acts. Marx was able to actualize the Hegelian dialectic, Marxism can be actualized only through the Revolution. Or, as Marx put it : "It is not enough that thought presses on to become actuality, actuality must itself press on to become thought."
Since Hook does not see in Das Kapital the uncovering of the laws of social movement but only the critique (conditioned by the will of the proletariat) of bourgeois economics, so Das Kapital is not to him the theoretical actualization of materialist dialectics but "the application of historical materialism to the 'mysteries' of value, price, and profit (page 187)." In other words, since, according to Hook, the relations of production determine the thinking and actions of human beings, Marx developed from the standpoint of the proletariat his critique of bourgeois economics, which is simply criticism and nothing else. If the proletariat wins, then as a consequence Marx's Capital remains merely as an historical document, filled with the thoughts of a class which suffered under the rule of capitalism. Historical materialism here is not a part of the dialectical development but divorced from it; not a productive element, but a view of life (Weltanschauung). "Yet," as Marx wrote concerning his Russian critic in the preface to the first volume of Capital, "what else is he describing but the dialectical method?"' But to Hook, Das Kapital is only an ideology, and from this point of view he says (page 181):
"What justifies Marx and Engels in holding that the mode of economic production is the decisive factorin social life is the revolutionary will of the proletariat which is prepared to act upon that assumption . . . It is only because we want to change the economic structure of society that we look for evidence of the fact that in the past, economic change has had a profound effect upon all social and cultural life. Because we want to change the economic structure of society, we assert that this evidence from the past together with our revolutionary act in the present constitutes a sufficient cause for believing that the general proposition 'in the last instance the mode of economic production determines the general character of social life', will be true in the near future.
Even though he follows this up with the statement that what we want and when we want it cannot be derived from an independent, absolute desire to action, but are historically conditioned, still in his interpretation the will remains divorced from consciousness. There is here no interaction and no dialectical whole. In spite of all materialistic concessions and idealistic inconsistencies, the viewpoint still is that we see the determining factor in the mode of economic production merely because we want to change the economic relations. The willing, however much it may be conditioned, remains for Hook at bottom decisive. The seriousness with which he accepts this view is seen in his description of the way in which social change arises. He writes (page 84):
"From objective conditions, social and natural (thesis), there arises human needs and purposes which, in recognizing the objective possibilities in the given situation (antithesis) set up a course of action (synthesis) designed to actualize these possibilities."
Action, to Hook, which is identical with willing, forms the synthesis. To Marx, however, the synthesis is something different; here the proletariat, as the antithesis of bourgeois society, already contains what forms the content of the Hook synthesis. The Marxian synthesis presupposes successful action; it lies behind willing. It is the result of the negation of the negation, it is the communist society. The growth of the proletariat itself is not only the growth of proletarian misery but also of class-consciousness and of action. This whole process turns off, at a certain level of development, into the revolution. "Was der Mensch will, das muss er wollen." Willing is inseparable from the proletariat; the existence of the proletariat as a material force of production is at the same time the existence of willing. Every setting apart and over-emphasis of the will should be eschewed. We may rather say with Engels : "A revolution is a pure phenomenon of nature, conducted more in accordance with physical laws than according to the rules which in ordinary times condition the development of society. Or rather, these rules assume in the course of a revolution a much more physical character, the material power of necessity comes out more forcefully." The material power is identical with will as well as with consciousness. In ordinary times (Reformism) these faculties are necessarily ascribed more value than they possess, so that they again become idealistic and false. In revolutionary times no matter how much will and consciousness exist, these factors always remain far behind the actual material power of the revolution.
The actual revolutionary process is much more closely related to the processes of nature than we are capable of conceiving in an unrevolutionary period; the "human" (ideological) factor in the development becomes more insignificant. Ten thousand starving human beings with the clearest consciousness and the strongest willing mean nothing in certain circumstances; ten million starving under the same circumstances, without consciousness and the specific human willing, may mean... revolution. Men die of hunger with and without consciousness and will, but in either case they do not die of hunger in sight of food. And when Hook in the course of his exposition refers to the millions of human beings who perished from the lack of class consciousness, he is after all merely pointing out the fact that even the presence of class-consciousness could not have prevented starvation. In the other hand, he produces no instance in which millions of human beings went hungry in sight of food. For in such a case they would not have starved, but would have gained possession of the food and in so doing become . . . class conscious.
This overestimation, or rather wrong estimation of the role of consciousness leads Hook also to overestimate the rot e of the party and, in the narrower sense, of the role of the individual in the historical process; a role which he does not conceive historically, but quite absolutely. In order to get at the rote of the genius, he asks, for example (page 169):
"Would the Russian Revolution have taken place in October, 1917, if Lenin had died an exile in Switzerland? And if the Russian Revolution had not taken place when it did, would subsequent events in Russia have taken the same course?"
The same game is continued with other statesmen and scientists, and then Hook turns sharply against Engels, Plekhanov and others who held the view that every period which needs great men also creates them. Hook replies (pp. 171-172):
"With all due respect, this position seems to me to be arrant nonsense.... To argue that if Napoleon had not lived, someone else and not he would have been Napoleon (i.e. would have performed Napoleon's work) and then to offer as evidence the fact that whenever a great man was necessary he has always been found, is logically infantile ... Where was the great leader hiding when Italy was objectively ready for revolution in 1921 and Germany in 1923? . . There are no musts in history; there are only probabilities."
To answer on the same plane, we may say, first, as Hook has stated in another place, that only practice shows whether a truth is true, hence also whether a great man is really such. And this practice is social practice. If, for example, society had not presupposed (mechanism in manufacture), actualized (division of labor) and applied Newton's knowledge, Newton's genius would have died with him. If the capitalization process had not given France such power in offense and defense, the genius Napoleon would perhaps have died as a lieutenant still more lonely than on St. Helena. Society determines what is genius. The Russian Revolution is independent of Lenin, and even its time of occurrence was not in the least conditioned by him but by an endless series of interweaving factors in which the genius Lenin is swallowed up, and without which he cannot be understood. The fact that the Bolsheviks succeeded in seizing political power in a revolution over which they had no control stands, of course, in part in direct relation to the Bolsheviks and also in part to the personality of Lenin. But the idea that without Lenin the course of Russian history would have been decidedly different is beneath the level of Marxist inquiry, which constantly traces history back to the needs of social life. The Russian Revolution did not adapt itself to Lenin, but Lenin adapted himself to the Russian Revolution. It was only because he accepted the revolutionary movement that he won influence over it, that he became an executive organ for it. The great degree to which Lenin was conditioned by the actual course of the revolution and how little he himself determined its development is shown by the way he revised his work after the revolution. This is very clearly expressed in a speech he delivered in October 1921, when he said:
"The democratic-bourgeois revolution has been carried through to the end by us as by no one else . . . We had not calculated sufficiently in connection with our design of putting into operation socialized production and the communist mode of distribution of the products among the small peasants, by direct order of the proletarian state. Life has shown us our errors. A series of transitional stages -state capitalism and socialism - was required in order to prepare the way for communism. This will involve labor extending over a great number of years. Not directly by way of enthusiasm, but with the aid of personal interests, of personal interestedness, with the aid of economic calculation, you must first build a substantial bridge which, in the land of the small peasants, leads through state capitalism to socialism; in no other way can you arrive at communism. This was revealed to us by the objective process of development of the Revolution ... The proletarian state must become a provident, careful and skilful proprietor, the future wholesale dealer; in no other way can the land of the small peasants be raised to a high economic level. A wholesale dealer; that appears to be an economic type just as far removed from communism as heaven is from earth. But that is simply one of the contradictions which in actual life lead from the farming enterprise of the small peasants through state capitalism to socialism. Personal interestedness raises production. Wholesale trade serves to unite millions of small peasants economically, arouses their interest, leads them to the next stage: the various forms of connection, of union in production itself."
The course of the Revolution rejected, first, all the old Bolshevist ideas which were still closely connected with the state capitalism of Hilferding, and forced the adoption of war communism as the new doctrine; and then the actual course of developments rejected also this new "construction" and took a purer turn to state capitalism. So that the Russian Revolution is a classic example of the fact that the course of development is determined not by the ideas of great men but by the socially necessary practice. Whether the Russian Revolution without Lenin would have taken any other course than the state-capitalist one is perhaps not worth discussing, for Lenin himself held that capitalism, not only in Western Europe but also in Russia, was sufficiently advanced that the next phase could only turn into socialism. Lenin regarded imperialism as "capitalism in its transitional form, parasitic or stagnating capitalism." Imperialism led, according to Lenin, simply to the universal socializing of production: "It drags the capitalist, against his will, into a social order which offers a transition from complete freedom of competition to complete socialization." The war, according to Lenin, had transformed monopoly capitalism into the "state-monopolist" form; the "state-militarymonopolist capitalism" is, however, a "thorough-going material preparation for socialism, the entrance gate to it." With the conquest of state power and the taking over of the banks, he thought that state capitalism could be very quickly transformed into socialism. The carrying out of state-capitalist economy in Russia was therefore, in Lenin's view, only the anticipation of the real movement of capital. What was accomplished was the necessary capitalist consequence of advancing monopolization. The Party accelerated what would necessarily come about, finally, even without this acceleration.
That this capitalistic course was modified through the influence of the Bolsheviks is incontestable, but it remained capitalistic, and furthermore, the modification was limited to veiling the real nature of the reversion to capitalism, or of the forming of a new false consciousness. So we find Bukharin, at a government conference toward the end of 1925, expressing himself as follows: "If we confess that the enterprises taken over by the State are state capitalist enterprises, if we say this openly, how can we then conduct a campaign for a greater output? In factories which are not purely socialistic, the workers will not increase the productivity of their labor."
The Russian practice is not directed according to communist principles, but follows the laws of capitalist accumulation. What other laws would it follow if Lenin and the Bolsheviks had not won? We have in Russia also, even though in modified form, a surplus-value production under the ideological camouflage of "socialist construction." The wage relation is identical with that of capitalist production, forming also in Russia the basis for the existence of a growing bureaucracy with mounting privileges, a bureaucracy which, by the side of the private capitalist elements which are still present, is strictly to be appraised as a new class appropriating to itself surplus labor and surplus value. The very fact of the existence of the wage relation signifies that the means of production are not controlled by the producers but stand over against them in the form of capital, and this circumstance further compels a reproduction process in the form of capital accumulation. This latter, on the basis of the Marxian law of value, with which the Russian situation also must be illuminated, leads necessarily to crisis and final collapse. The law of accumulation is at the same time the accumulation of impoverishment, and hence also the Russian workers are actually growing poorer at the same rate as capital accumulates. The productivity of the Russian workers increases faster than their wages; of the increasing social product they receive a relatively ever-smaller share. To Marx, this relative pauperization of the working population in the course of accumulation is only a phase of the absolute pauperization; it is only another expression for the increasing exploitation of the workers, and there can hardly be any doubt that even without Lenin and the Russian Revolution nothing but increasing exploitation could have occurred in Russia. Only one who, like Hook, mistakes the content of the Russian Revolution can raise the question as to whether Russian history without Lenin would have taken any other course than it actually did. It would, to be sure, have proceeded with different ideologies, different banners, different leaders, and with a different tempo, but for the living proletariat these differences are entirely insignificant. And since the revolution we are talking about is proletarian in name, one can only ask: what has been changed, as a result of the Revolution and the existence of the genius Lenin, as regards the situation of the Russian workers? Nothing essential! For the proletariat, Lenin was no more than Kerensky, no more than any bourgeois revolutionary, who does not abolish exploitation but only changes its forms.
There are not two kinds of wage labor, one capitalistic and the other bolshevistic: wage labor is the form in which, under capitalist production, the surplus value is appropriated by the ruling class or element. To be sure, the means of production have here passed from the hands of the private entrepreneurs into those of the State; as regards the producers, however, nothing has changed. Just as before, their only means of livelihood is the sale of their labor power. The only difference is that they are no longer required to deal with the individual capitalist but with the general capitalist, the State, as the purchaser of labor power. The economic relationship between producer and product still corresponds here to the capitalistic one. The means of production are only further centralized; which is not the end of a communist economy, but only a means to the end. The influence of Lenin, the policy of the Bolsheviks, stand revealed as a great capacity for adapting itself to the necessary course of development, in order, as the Bolshevist Party or as genius, to stay in power, which can only be the power of necessity. Had Lenin attempted to carry through a communist policy, his greatness would have been reduced - or elevated, as one likes, - to that of a tipsy Utopian. Where were the great leaders of Italy in 1921 and of Germany in 1923 (and again in 1933)? If an answer must absolutely be made, one may point no doubt to Mussolini and the leadership of the Third International, Zinoviev at the time. Mussolini, who accelerated the objectively necessary process of concentration of capital in Italy; the leadership of the Third International, which maintained the "status quo," in Europe in the interest of the Russian Bolshevist regime by preventing the German revolution. Thus Radek declared (by order of Zinoviev) before the thirteenth conference of the Russian Communist Party on February 16, 1924: "The central committee of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union as well as the executive committee of the Comintern unequivocally recognizes that the Communist Party of Germany acted correctly when, in view of the superior armed-force of the enemy and the division within the ranks of the working class, it avoided an armed conflict." (This was repeated in 1933-34). But this question can also be approached dialectically, and we shall then recognize that the problem of great men is itself a quite historical one. Particularly in capitalist society, in which the symbol is more "real" than reality, the problem of leadership acquires such importance that ideologically it becomes the problem of history. The market-price problem is the obverse side of the leader problem. Hegel stopping short with the Prussian State, the money form of commodities, the leader-mass problem, are all one and the same expression for the level of the social forces of production in their capitalist integument. The real working class movement knows no leader "problem." In it the decisions are made by the soviets, who carry on the action as also later the economic life.
But this change in the role of the personality can be recognized not only in the political domain; it holds also for science. The specialization of science goes hand in hand with its development. The social division of labor is not being restricted but extended. Each invention and discovery necessarily bears a more and more collective character. This socialization leads to ever more socializing. In the beginnings of capitalist society there were inventors, today there are invention shops. Inventions are produced almost in the same manner as automobile tires. In modern capitalism the individual counts less, all innovations come from the laboratories of work in common.
The fact that this does not become politically visible is due to the necessity of the bourgeoisie of becoming ideological ever more reactionary in the same measure as it drives forward the actual relations. If the bourgeoisie once required a Napoleon, today the stupidity of Hitler serves as the symbolic glueing together of its centrifugal tendencies. And yet for the German bourgeoisie Hitler looms as an over-towering personality; for if Napoleon assisted the development of capitalist society, Hitler assists in staving off its collapse. But even without Napoleon capitalism would have taken up its victorious march, and it will collapse in spite of Hitler. The two of them can contribute a small part to determining the tempo, while the upgrade or the collapsing tendency operates, but the general tendency is beyond their power to alter. Through all temporary modifications the march of history, the development of the human forces of production makes its way. But even within these modifications the real significance of "great men" is not inherent in themselves but only theirs in connection with all other social circumstances. It is only because history under capitalism works with a false consciousness that the actual movement lies concealed behind the leader fetishism. When this movement takes place with a correct consciousness, it will put even the genius in his proper place.
Throughout his disquisition upon the role of the leader and that of chance in the broader sense, Hook has forgotten his own starting point, which demands that every problem be regarded as an historical one. The alternative presented by the Communist Manifesto - communism or barbarism - points not to the determining role of human will but to its limitations. Since there is no equilibrium, a tarrying human race will necessarily perish if objective necessities are not carried through. But the tarrying itself is a temporary one. Barbarism is not the end of each development, but only an interruption which is dearly paid for. Barbarism is not the return to the ox-cart and into the primitive, but the barbarous condition of self-laceration in the death crisis and wars of a rotting capitalism. There is only one way out . . . the way which leads forward, salvation through communism.
The starting point of the communist mode of production is the elevation already attained by the productive forces of capitalism. If the youthful capitalism needed Napoleon and the expiring one required Hitler, if capitalism always needed fancies - since reality, which had no common interests, also permitted no common struggle - the communist revolution needs only itself, that is, the action of the masses. It has no need of fetishism, of fancy, in order to carry on in reality, for it knows only common interests and permits a genuine common struggle.
To the eminent personage, as also to the role of chance in history generally, no more can be ascribed than Marx ascribed to them in a letter to Kugelmann quoted by Hook. But the content of this letter does not support but opposes Hook's absolute, idealistic, unhistorical conception of the leader problem. (2) "These 'accidents' themselves," says Marx, "naturally fall within the general path of development and are compensated by other 'accidents'. But acceleration and retardation are very much influenced by such 'accidents', among which must be reckoned also the 'accidental' character of the people who first stand at the head of the movement." The significance of these "accidents" must be grasped historically. The question as to how far they still have importance today is not resolved from theory but from practice. Here also "the investigation of the real situation", as this was conceived by Lenin, "forms the true essence and the living soul of Marxism".
Since, to Hook, Das Kapital is only a critique of political economy, so also the Marxian theory of value, to Hook, can indicate nothing more than is already known. He writes (page 220) : "Yet neither the labor theory of value nor any other theory of value can predict anything which is not already known in advance. War and crisis, centralization and unemployment, were already quite familiar phenomena when Marx formulated the theory of value." It is a mistake to assume, Hook goes on to say, that one can predict anything specific with the labor theory of value. Now, after all, capitalism is still far from having collapsed, and yet the Marxian law of accumulation, on the basis of value, is the law of collapse of the capitalist system. That is already shown in the first volume of Capital, as "the general law of capitalist accumulation." However, this law of collapse does not operate "purely" but, like any other law, is more or less modified in reality. These modifications are set forth in more detail in the third volume, especially in the section dealing with the law of the falling rate of profit. Just as the law of gravity operates in reality only in a modified form, so also the law of capitalist collapse, which is nothing more than capitalist accumulation on the basis of exchange value. When Hook takes away from the Marxian law of value its predictive power, he has completely renounced Marx. And when he further states that "one may accept the Marxist evolutionary metaphysic and not forthwith be committed to its theory of the social revolution (page 251)," the statement is false for the very reason that, in the first place, Marxism has no evolutionary metaphysics, secondly, we cannot really be committed to a theory of social revolution without practicing it. If Liebknecht in the scientific sense was a worse Marxist than Hilferding (page 249), and yet in practice a better one, as Hook asserts, the comparison is still quite uncalled for. For Marx himself "was no Marxist" but he identified Marxism with the acting proletariat, which can act Marxistically and not otherwise. Marxism is simply not an ideology, but the practice of the class struggle! The revolution is made by the masses who may know nothing about Marx: the revolution makes them Marxist!
As regards theory, however, it is impossible to reject the economic doctrine of Marx and at the same time expect to be a Marxist in all other matters, as the reverse also is impossible. With the rejection of the predictive power of the theory of value, that is, the rejection of the Marxian theory of crisis and collapse, Hook, even though against his will, rejects Marxism not partially but completely. The rejection of the real content of the theory of value, by Hook, explains at the same time the idealistic content of his dialectic, as the latter in turn is the explanation of the first.
Hook's weakness in the economic theory is illustrated in the very fact that only twentytwo pages of his book are devoted to the Marxian economics. In this connection it is also interesting to refer to the passage in which he deals with the difference between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin.
The dispute between these two turned on the question of the realization of surplus value. Regarding Luxemburg, Hook writes (page 61) : "In her Akkumulation des Kapitals she contended that, with the exhaustion of the home market, capitalism must stride from one colonial country to another and that capitalism could only survive so long as such countries were available. As soon as the world would be partitioned among the imperialist powers and industrialized, the international revolution would of necessity break out, since capitalism cannot expand its productive forces and continue the process of accumulation indefinitely in any relatively isolated commodity-producing society, no matter how large."
Lenin, he goes on to state, denied that capitalism would ever collapse in any such mechanical fashion. And he then quotes with great approval from a speech of Lenin's dating from 1920 a passage which has no connection whatever with the debate about the realization of surplus value in non-capitalistic countries - a debate which had been waged eight years previously. Capitalism needs a non-capitalist market: that had been the position of Rosa Luxemburg. Lenin maintained that it creates its own market. But both held to the basic thought of Das Kapital, namely, that the capitalist mode of production has an absolute economic limit. While Luxemburg looked for this limit within the sphere of circulation, Lenin already glimpsed it correctly in the sphere of production. In so doing both of them, in the knowledge that the process of accumulation on the basis of value is the process of collapse of capitalism, which is identical with the revolution, attacked the whole reformist position, for which Hilferding in a speech as late as 1927 said: "I have always rejected any theory of economic collapse. The overthrow of the capitalist system will not come about from any inner laws of this system, but must be the conscious act of the will of the working class."
If in the heat of debate that phrase of Lenin's which has been quoted ad nauseam that, "no position exists for capitalism from which there is absolutely no way out," possessed a certain political justification in a determinate situation, namely the "death crisis epidemic" arising in 1920, it nevertheless lends no comfort to reformism, which had always denied to the theory of value any predictive power and which was pleased to reject the theory of economic collapse. The whole economic-theoretical work of Lenin, which only consciously repeated Marx, is opposed to such assertion. To Lenin, the law of value is the law of collapse.
One is surprised, however, when Hook, after having "with Lenin" rejected Rosa Luxemburg's "mechanical" theory of collapse presents, in his own economic exposition, nothing but a repetition of Luxemburg's position. After outlining the theories of value and surplus value, of the capital relation in production, the fall of the rate of profit with the increase in the productivity of labor, the value-price relation, accumulation and crisis, he then sums up (pp. 204-209):
"With the increase in the organic composition of capital the rate of profit falls even when the rate of exploitation, or surplus value, remains the same. The desire to sustain the rate of profit leads to improvement of the plant and the increase in the intensity and productivity of labor. As a result ever larger and larger stocks of commodities are thrown on the market. The workers cannot consume these goods since the purchasing power of their wages is necessarily less than the values of the commodities they have produced. The capitalists cannot consume these goods because (1) they and their immediate retainers have use for only a part of the immediate wealth produced, and (2) the value of the remainder must first be turned into money before it can again be invested. Unless production is to suffer permanent breakdown, an outlet must be found for the surplus of supplied commodities ... Since the limits to which the home market may be stretched are given by the purchasing power of wages ... resort must be had to export."
He then further shows how in the course of development the importing countries themselves become exporting countries. At this point Hook has reached the limit set by Luxemburg; but while she came out with it, Hook does not, for of course he rejects with Lenin the "mechanical nature" of this idea of collapse. Instead, he merely repeats once more his starting point (page 207):
This process is accompanied by periodic crises of over-production. They become progressively worse both in local industries and in industry as a whole. The social relations under which production is carried on, and which make it impossible for wageworkers to buy back at any given moment what they have produced, leads to a heavier investment of capital in industries which turn out production goods than in industries which produce consumption goods. This disproportion between investment in production goods and investment in consumption goods is permanent under capitalism. But since finished production goods must ultimately make their way into plants which manufacture consumption goods, the quantities of commodities thrown on the market, and for which no purchaser can be found, mounts still higher. At the time the crisis breaks, and in the period immediately preceding it, the wageworker may be earning more and consuming more than usual. It is not, therefore, underconsumption of what the worker needs which causes the crisis, . . . but his underconsumption in relation to what he produces. Consequently, an increase in the absolute standard of living under capitalism.... would not eliminate the possibility of crises."
All the factors involved in the Luxemburg interpretation are here repeated in a more primitive form. The difference is that Hook doesn't share with her the conclusion she drew. We have here in Hook the disproportion between the two great departments of social production, the overproduction of commodities, the impossibility of realizing surplus value in the absence of fresh markets in non-capitalist countries. In short, as with Luxemburg, so with Hook, the capitalist world stifles under its superfluity of surplus value which cannot be turned into money (realized). The only difference between the two formulations is that where Luxemburg speaks of collapse, with Hook the process stops at crisis. But all of these crisis factors have their points of support in the process of circulation, and hence are not imbedded in the essence of capitalism.
We know, however, that Marx developed his theory of accumulation first upon the basis of the total capital; in this, no circulation problems exist, there being neither an overproduction nor an absolute or even relative "underconsumption," and where the workers constantly receive the value of their labor power. Even in this "pure" capitalism pictured by Marx, though all the crisis factors given by Hook are absent, Marx still proves that even such an ideal capitalism must collapse, and on no other ground than that of the contradiction contained in value production. When Engels, in the passage Hook quotes from the Anti-Dühring (page 213), says that "in the value form of the commodity there is already concealed in embryo the whole form of capitalist production, the opposition between capital and labor, the industrial reserve army, the crisis," it goes without saying that the grounds of crisis are to be sought in the sphere of production, not of circulation. Hook himself says (page 213):
"Similarly, in the interest of analysis, he (Marx) was compelled to assume, at the outset, that the exchange of commodities took place under a system of "pure" capitalism in which there were no vestiges of feudal privilege and no beginnings of monopoly; that the whole commercial world could be regarded as one nation; that the capitalist mode of production dominates every industry; that supply and demand were constantly in equilibrium: that having abstracted from the incommensurable use-values of commodities, the only relevant and measurable quality left to determine the values at which commodities were exchanged, was the amount of socially necessary labor-power spent upon them."
Why was it, may we ask, that Marx first demonstrated the working of the law of value upon a "pure" capitalism? We find an excellent answer in the posthumous papers of Lenin: " By proceeding from the concrete to the abstract, thought . . . provided it is correct ... does not depart from truth but comes closer to it. The abstraction of matter, of natural law, the abstraction of value, etc ... in short, all scientific abstractions mirror nature more profoundly, more completely. From vivid contemplation to abstract thinking and from this to practice ... that is the dialectical road to the knowledge of truth."
The law of value revealed what concrete reality, the superficial world of appearance concealed; the fact that the capitalist system, as through the necessity of a natural law, must collapse. Marx first abstracted all the secondary contradictions of that system in order to show the effect exercised by the law of value as an "inner law" of capitalism, in order later, with the modifications introduced by concrete reality, to point out the purely temporary character of the tendencies arising from the modifications and working against the collapse-tendencies which confirm the law of value as the determining factor in the last instance. The law of value explains the fall of the rate of profit-an index of the relative fall of the mass of-profit. It is only for a time that the growth of the profit mass can compensate the fall of the rate of profit. If the mass of profit first fell relatively to the total capital and to the demands of further accumulation, at a later stage it falls absolutely.
It is not what Hook adduces as a crisis factor which can be regarded as the principal one; on the contrary, the matter must be understood exactly the other way round. Hook may quote Marx to support his contention that the cause of crisis is the contradiction between production and consumption. For as a matter of fact, according to Marx, "the final basis of all real crises is the poverty and limited consumption of the masses as against the urge of capitalist production so to develop the productive forces as if their only limit were the absolute consuming capacity of society." . . . "But there could be nothing more senseless," writes Lenin (The Marxian Theory of Realization), "than to deduce from this passage of Capital that Marx had contested the impossibility of realizing surplus value in capitalist society or had explained crisis as being the result of insufficient consumption." An overproduction or underconsumption (which finally amounts to the same thing) is necessarily bound up with the physical form of production and consumption. But in capitalist society the material character of production and consumption plays no part which could explain prosperity or crisis. However much the thing may offend "logic," capital does in fact accumulate for the sake of accumulation. Material production, as well as consumption, is left in capitalism to the individuals; the social character of their labors and of their consumption is not directly regulated by society but indirectly by way of the market. Capital does not produce things, but (exchange) values. But even though it is not, on the basis of value production, in a position to adapt its production and consumption to the social needs, these real needs must nevertheless be taken into account if the population is not to perish. If the market is no longer in a position adequately to satisfy these needs, then production for the market, value production, will be set aside by the revolution, in order to make room for a form of production which is not socially regulated by the roundabout way of the market but has a directly social character and can therefore be planned and is capable of being directed according to the needs of human beings. From the standpoint of use value, the contradiction between production and consumption in capitalist society is insanity, but such a standpoint does not hold for capitalist production. From the standpoint of value, this contradiction is the secret of capitalist advance, and the greater this contradiction the better does capital develop. But for this very reason, the accumulation of this contradiction must finally arrive at a point which leads to its abolition, since the real conditions of life and production are after all stronger than objectified social relations. So that the final basis of all real crises is still the limitation of mass consumption as against the urge for so developing the forces of production as if the consuming capacity were unlimited. In capitalist value production, the appropriation of surplus value is limited by the possibility of exploitation. The workers' consumption cannot be reduced to zero; and it is only for that reason that there is an absolute economic limit, for value production can only tend nearer and nearer to this zero point. The capitalist contradictions arise from the contradiction between use values and exchange value. This contradiction turns the accumulation of capital into accumulation of impoverishment. If capital develops on the value side, it also at the same time, and in like measure, destroys its own basis, in that it continually diminishes the shares of their own products which fall to the producers. This share cannot absolutely be done away with, since the natural instinct of self-preservation on the part of the masses is stronger than a social relation, and also because capital can be capital only so long as it exploits workers and dead workers cannot be exploited.
To take for a moment the impossible position adopted by Hook, one could much rather say that the crisis comes about because this relative and later absolute "underconsumption" on the part of the workers is not great enough, because it cannot sufficiently increase, because too little "underconsumption" is present. It is not the underconsumption, whether relative or absolute, which produces unemployment; but the insufficient underconsumption, or the unsatisfactory mass of profit, the impossibility of increasing the exploitation in the necessary proportion, the loss of prospects for further profitable accumulation, produces crisis and unemployment.
It is not because too much surplus value is present that it cannot be turned into money; but because it does not suffice to meet the needs of further accumulation on the basis of profit production it is not reinvested. Because too little capital was produced, it can no longer function as capital and we speak of the over-accumulation of capital. So long as the mass of surplus value could be increased correspondingly to suffice for further accumulation, we proceeded from crisis to crisis, interrupted by periods of prosperity. So long as it was possible at the danger points of the crisis to increase the appropriation of surplus value through the sharpening of exploitation and through the expansion process, it was possible to overcome the crisis only to have it reproduced on a higher plane of development. At the point where the tendencies working against collapse are eliminated, or have lost their effectiveness as opposed to the needs of accumulation, the law of collapse asserts itself. The Marxian abstraction of "pure" capitalism, the law of value, turn out to be inner laws of capitalist reality; laws which in the last instance determine its necessary development. (3)
We have already pointed out the close connection between Hook's peculiar attitude to the Marxian theory of value in particular and to Marx's economic doctrines in general and his idealistic deviation from the Marxian dialectic. All these factors proceed to exercise their pernicious influence upon Hook's theory of revolution. In the chapter entitled The Class Struggle and Social Psychology he says (page 228): "The division of the surplus social product is never an automatic affair but depends upon the political struggles between the different classes engaged in production." The struggle for division of the surplus value is, however, a quite limited one: a fact which must be referred to because it is precisely this limitation which shows what true class-consciousness is. Marx pointed out, for example, how the worker's wage cannot exceed a certain level for any great length of time nor in the long run sink below a certain level. The law of value is finally decisive. And even independently of these variations the collapse of capitalism is manifest from the theory of value alone. Furthermore, the class struggle does not determine in the last instance the share of the surplus value which goes to the middle strata, but this share determines their struggle. The process of concentration is stronger than the defensive tactics of the middle classes. That these classes nevertheless exist, is due to the fact that capital, while destroying the middle class elements on the one hand, continues to recreate them on the other. Certainly, the division of the surplus value is not an automatic process, certainly the class struggle in the whole dialectical process contributes to determining this share, but out of the struggle for the distribution of the surplus value arises in the course of development a struggle for the abolition of the profit system, whether we will or not.
For years now the workers throughout the world have been paid less than their value, and this fact is only another indication of the permanence of the present crisis. In the death crisis of capitalism the working population can only grow more poverty stricken; if it fights for a larger share of the surplus value, then practically it is already fighting for the abolition of surplus value production, even without being conscious of this fact and of its consequences.
The class opposition inherent in the relations of production determines the nature of the class struggle. Political parties are formed, since portions of the workers become conscious of the necessity of the class struggle more quickly than the great mass. If the party can, on the one hand, accelerate the general development and shorten the birth
throes of the new society, it may also inversely delay the development and act as an obstacle in the way. Accordingly, when one speaks, as Hook does, of the necessity of the party and further commits oneself with him to the idea that without a party a successful revolution is out of the question, then in the first place he is talking about an abstraction and, secondly, he identifies the party with the revolution or class consciousness; with the Marxian ideology. As a matter of fact, whether revolutionary class consciousness, which in the party takes the form of an ideology, is obliged to manifest itself in the party.... that is a question which cannot be settled in the abstract but only in the practical sense. It is not only in the specific form of the party that classconsciousness which has become an ideology needs to express itself. That consciousness may also assume other forms, for example, the form of factory cells, and these would be what the party still is today. The assertion that without class consciousness crystallized into a ideology a revolution is out of the question is not debatable, if only for the reason that Marxism, which does not separate being from consciousness, presupposes that in a revolutionary period the conscious elements, too, are present as a matter of course. The stronger these are, the better; but however weak they may be, class-consciousness to Marxism is not an ideology but the material life needs of the masses, without regard to their ideological position. Hook's idea of the revolution as a party matter belongs to a period which is already surpassed, - the period of reformism, for which Marxism had frozen into an ideology and whose position Hook, in spite of all his criticism, after all now approves.
Whether in the present situation the party is still to be regarded as a center for the crystallization of class-consciousness can be determined, as already stated, only from the present day practice. And here, if Hook were obliged to furnish proof of the necessity of the party he would dismally fail. Today the party is nothing more than a hindrance to the unfolding of real class consciousness. Wherever real classconsciousness has been expressed, in the last thirty years, it has assumed the form of committees of action and workers councils. And in this organizational form of class consciousness expressing itself in action all parties have seen a hostile power which they combated. European revolutionary history of the 20th century will be searched in vain for a single instance in which the party, in a revolutionary situation, had the leadership of the movement; on every occasion that movement was in the hands of the spontaneously formed committees of action, the councils. Wherever parties put themselves at the head of a movement, or identified themselves with it, it was only in order to blunt its edge. Examples: the Russian - and German revolutions.
Neither the Social Democracy nor the Bolsheviks were or are able to conceive a movement which they don't control. The Bolsheviks have never been anything more than radical social democrats. In the struggle over the form of organization of the working class movement so relentlessly waged between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg, history has finally decided in favor of Luxemburg. The recognition of this historical fact may no doubt be delayed by the Potemkin (4) Russian "socialism," but history itself now rises in the place of Rosa Luxemburg and with the most disgraceful defeats on record pounds it into the heads of the workers that the revolution is not a party matter but the affair of the class. Lenin's conception of the party, to which Hook is committed, is a specifically Russian one, completely meaningless for industrial Europe and America.
If the dictatorship of the party - which necessarily leads to bureaucracy - was a necessity for Russia, where, due to the country's backwardness the soviet system can be admitted merely as a phrase and not as a reality nevertheless the genuine soviets constitute the only form in which the proletarian dictatorship can express itself in developed countries. No longer upon the party, but upon the masses themselves must be laid the weight of the revolutionary decision. The reform party ended with the social treason of the Second International in the World War. The "revolutionary Social Democracy," the party of Lenin, the Third International, went to its ignominious end in the collision with fascism. The acts of capitalism unmasked the pseudo-struggle carried on by these organizations. The end of the Third International could be seen as early as 1920, when the revolutionists were expelled in order not to lose contact with the mongrel U.S.P.D. (independent socialists) and the other half reformist mass parties. The struggle against parliamentary cretinism waged with such a show of bitterness by "revolutionary parliamentarism," ended in "revolutionary parliamentary cretinism" which in its eagerness to ward off action inscribed on its banner (1933): "Not Hitler, - Thalmann will give you food and work! Answer fascism on March 5! Elect communists!,, What party does Hook mean when he speaks of the party as a necessity? Does he have in mind the clownicalities of the Trotskyists, who in the same breath demand the permanent revolution and long term credits for Russia, or the political joke of the Brandlerites, who once believed that the dictatorship of the proletariat was possible within the framework of the Weimar Constitution? To be sure, Hook speaks (in his book) of the party in the abstract, but nevertheless he always means the party of Lenin, which contains and develops everything which led to the dissolution of the labor movement as it has hitherto existed without for that reason leading to a real labor movement.
The party has still to do anything but hinder the development of mass initiative. It has not revealed itself as an instrument of revolution, but has imposed its will upon the movement. Identification of the party with the revolution has led to mass organization at any price, for the party now had to take the place of the mass movement. At best, however, the party is nothing more than an instrument of the revolution, not the revolution itself.
The mechanical conception of dialectical materialism held by Lenin, which Hook takes up in the most varied connections throughout his book, a conception which saw in consciousness nothing but the reflection of the external world; - necessarily led also to underestimating the role of spontaneity in history. If Hook discards Lenin's mechanism, he does now eschew the errors to which this mechanism gives rise - as, for example, the rejection of spontaneity. Lenin shared with Kautsky the idea that "not the proletariat but the bourgeois intelligentsia must be regarded as the exponents of science." To Kautsky, the socialist consciousness is not identical with the proletariat but is brought to the workers from the outside. This is the task of the party in the Kautskyan sense. To Marx, however, the class struggle is identical with class-consciousness. Neither Kautsky nor his pupil Lenin could grasp this. In his pamphlet What Is To Be Done? Lenin writes: "There can be no thought of a separate ideology matured through the working masses themselves in the course of their development . . . The history of all countries bears witness that the working class, of itself, is only capable of developing a trade unionist consciousness ... that is, the conviction of the necessity of joining together in unions, of conducting a struggle against the employer, of demanding from the Government this or that legislative measure in the interest of the workers, etc. The socialist doctrine, however, has proceeded from the philosophical, historical, and economic theories which originated with educated representatives of the owning classes the intellectuals."
The whole labor movement up to this time has taken consciousness as identical with socialist ideology. Hence if the organization, regarded as the organized ideology, was growing, that meant that class-consciousness was increasing. The party expressed the strength of class-consciousness. The tempo of the revolution was the tempo of the party's success. Of course the relations were conditioned by the willingness with which the masses accepted the party's propaganda, but the masses themselves, without the propaganda, were unfit for conducting a genuine movement. The revolution depended on the correct propaganda. This in turn depended on party leadership, and this on the genius of the leader. And so, if only in a roundabout way, history was after all, in the last analysis, the work of "great men."
The extent to which the working class movement is still dominated by this bourgeois conception of "history making" is shown by the impudence of the party-communist defeat strategists, whose only answer to revolutionary criticism today is the assertion that the defeat of the German proletariat in 1933 is nothing less than a masterly move on the part of the professional revolutionists. Thus the party-communist organ Gegenangriff writes, under date of August 15, (1933) from its exile in Prague: "There are unintelligent dogs which run after the train and fancy that they are pursuing it. Meanwhile the thesis constructors sit at their tables and calculate the speed of the train in connection with its coal supply, in order to determine the precise moment at which it can most surely be derailed." No criticism, please, only patience; the central committee will do the job. Today it is still calculating, but tomorrow - ah, tomorrow ... ! Meanwhile the great strategists assure each other of their greatness and the working class movement is being swallowed up in the sea of party-communist stupidity, whose greatest wisdom has been well expressed in the simple words of comrade Kaganovich: "The leader of world communism, Comrade Stalin, the best pupil of Lenin, is the greatest materialist dialectician of our age." . . . That is the level of the present day labor movement, which sees in the party the revolution itself and in so doing has degenerated into the strongest bulwark of counter-revolution.
To name Marx and Lenin together as Hook does when he says: "Marx and Lenin realized that left to itself the working class would never develop a socialist philosophy," is perhaps just to Lenin, but never to Marx. For Marx, the proletariat is the actualization of philosophy; the proletariat's existence, its life needs, its struggle, without regard to the ideological triflers ... that is the living Marxism!
However much Hook may insist that "class antagonism can develop into revolutionary consciousness only under the leadership of a revolutionary political party," thinking that in so doing he has rendered justice to the role of class consciousness in history; if he thinks he has thereby tagged the spontaneity theory with the mechanistic label, than he has done so with the mechanism of Kautsky and Lenin and shares their undialectical view of Marxism - a view which is best illustrated as undialectical precisely in the rejection of the spontaneity factor.
In the same undialectical and absolute manner with which Hook approaches the party question, so he approaches all other questions having to do with consciousness. Merely by way of example, let us take parliamentarism. Hook writes (page 302): "Everywhere a struggle must be waged for universal suffrage ... not because this changes the nature of the dictatorship of capital, but because it eliminates confusing issues and permits the property question to come clearly to the fore." In reality, however, parliamentarism in a certain historical epoch eliminates not only many confusing issues, but also creates new illusions, which in other historical settings turn completely against the proletariat. If universal suffrage was once a political rallying cry of the proletariat, at the present time this demand may have - and has - become completely meaningless. If the struggle for the vote was once a political struggle, it is now becoming a pseudo-struggle which merely distracts attention from the real one. If the old labor movement already went down in parliamentary cretinism, the present-day demand for parliamentary activity is a crime. For the need of today is the quickening of mass initiative and the development of the direct action of the workers - a need which is being diverted into innocuous channels through parliamentary activity. Parliamentarism - inclusive of the "revolutionary brand" - is class betrayal. And we need not be directed to Marx: Marxism would not be Marxism if the proper task of the labor movement in the time of Marx and Engels were still in detail its proper task today.
Summing up, we may say of Hook's book that in comparison with the hitherto embryonic Marxism in the United States, it is without doubt to be regarded as an advance. It is thoroughly adapted to serve as the point of departure for a new and very much needed discussion in order to build the content of the new labor movement now in process of formation. As opposed to the "orthodoxism" of the Kautskyan school, Hook rightly brings out the active as the essential element of Marxism. But as to what the revolutionary consciousness, to which the whole book is devoted, really is . . . Hook can explain it only in Kautskyan fashion. To Hook also, class consciousness in spite of all his endeavors to the contrary, remains absolutely nothing but ideology. In Marx, however, the existence of the proletariat is at the same time the existence of the proletarian revolutionary class consciousness for from its social needs the proletariat can only act and must act in accordance with Marxism, but for Hook this consciousness already become ideology, the party, is the central point of his conception of revolution. He thus abandons his own starting point, that of the dialectical whole, and even though against his will, falls back into idealism. To be sure, Hook takes the step with Lenin from the "orthodoxism" of the Kautskyan school, but only to stop short with the new edition of "orthodoxism". The need, however, is to complete the half step made by Lenin. To that end there was first required the political collapse of the Third International. But to have recourse anew, as Hook does, to the already historically surpassed position of Lenin, means to stop halfway. After all, as Karl Korsch has so admirably expressed it in his book Marxism and Philosophy: "In the fundamental discussions regarding the whole position of present-day Marxism, in all great and decisive questions the old Marxian orthodoxy of Karl Kautsky and the new orthodoxy of the Russian or Leninist Marxism, in spite of all the secondary and passing petty quarrels, will stand together on the one side, and all the critical and progressive tendencies in the theory of the present working class movement will stand on the other."
Orthodox Marxism," writes Georg Lukacs in his book Geschichte and Klassenbewusstsein (and we think he is right), "does not mean an uncritical acceptance of the results of Marx's investigations, does not mean a 'belief' in this or that thesis, nor the exegesis of a 'sacred book.' Orthodoxy in questions of Marxism relates rather exclusively to the method. It is the scientific conviction that it is only in the sense of its founder that this method can be expanded, extended and deepened. And this conviction rests on the observation that all attempts to overcome or 'improve' that method have led, and necessarily so, only to triteness, platitudinizing and eclecticism . . ." But though the results obtained by means of the Marxist method can be quite differently appraised, most of the interpreters rely almost exclusively, as they themselves assert, upon dialectical materialism. The method is often subordinated to the interpretations, just as a tool can be differently employed by different persons for different ends. And thus arises an actual propensity, as illustrated by Herman Simpson, (5) to denote the dialectical method as "a tool for giants," which can be handled better by one person and worse by another, and this circumstances is taken to indicate its revolutionary greatness. But this "respectful" attitude quite overlooks the fact that the dialectical method is only the real, concrete movement taken up into and partially determined by consciousness. The process going on has been comprehended, and one intervenes in the process as a result of that comprehension.
With the advance of general human development, the role of consciousness increases. At a high point of the development, however, as the capitalistic relations of production hinder the further unfolding of the productive forces, so do they also hinder the full application of the conscious factors in the social process. And nevertheless consciousness must finally assert itself and, under such conditions, it can do so only by growing concrete. People do from necessity what they would do of their own will under relations of freedom. In the same way that the productive forces (if restricted by the productive relations) assert themselves eruptively, along revolutionary channels, so also does consciousness. Dialectical materialism does not set evolution and revolution over against each other, without at the same time perceiving their unity. Any evolution turns into revolution, and all revolutions have evolutionary phases. That consciousness may manifest itself in various manners is therefore to Marxism quite a matter of course. What is denoted as consciousness in periods of peaceful development has nothing to do with the class consciousness by which the masses are filled in revolutionary times, although the one conditions the other and although we can not separate the two without at the same time perceiving their unity.
Just as the exchange relations in capitalism, though only a relationship between persons and not a palpable thing, fulfills quite concrete functions, objectifies itself, so now in the revolutionary situation the alternative (a quite realistic one for the great mass of human beings) Communism or Barbarism becomes an active practice, as if this activity sprang directly from consciousness. If relations can become objectified (verdinglicht) and take on palpable form, so also, inversely, things can be transformed into relations. The realistic situation becomes a revolutionary relation, which as such fills and impels the masses, though the whole connection of events is not comprehended by them intellectually. It is only for this reason that that other saying is justified: "Im Anfang war die Tat !" (In the beginning was the deed). The mass uprising, without which a revolutionary overthrow is impossible, can not be developed out of the "intellectconsciousness": the capitalist relations of life preclude this possibility, for consciousness is finally, after all, only the consciousness of existing practice. The masses can not be "educated" to become conscious revolutionists; and yet the material necessity of their existence compels them to act as if they had actually received a revolutionary education: they become "act-conscious". Their life needs must resort to the revolutionary possibility of expression, and here, to use an expression of Engel's, one day of revolution has more weight than twenty years of political education.
This is no secret to anyone who has directly participated in a revolutionary uprising. In the fields of struggle, the workers who are ideologically the most backward often become the revolutionists who fight the most bitterly, not because they have ideologically changed over night but because there was nothing else left for them to do, for otherwise they would have been mowed down merely because of the fact that they were workers. They have to defend themselves, not because they desire to fight but because they "want to live". In the case of the struggling workers of the red army of the Ruhr district, for example, it was impossible to tell from inspection which of them was a strict Catholic and which a conscious Communist. The uprising abolished these distinctions. And this is true not only of the Ruhr district. A story of revolution without the nameless mass as its "hero" is not a story of revolution.
But if the real class struggle itself takes over the function of consciousness, this is not to say that consciousness is not capable also of expressing itself as consciousness (thought). Quite the contrary. It grows concrete in order to be able to function as consciousness, just as, on the other hand, the real relations of life under capitalism assert themselves, to be sure, by way of the market, and yet also in their actuality. The roundabout way, conditioned through value production, explains the malfunctions of the economic mechanism and the necessity of revolution. It is only for this reason that people make their history, as Marx says, not out of whole cloth; the relations, here the capitalistic ones, compel them to actions which are devoted to the overcoming of this compulsion.
Reference must be made in this connection to the further fact that the movement of the masses is something different from what the individual is capable of comprehending as such, since his understanding is partially determined by his individual conditions. The movement of a group is likewise not the same as that of the mass. Each group, if only by reason of its size, has different laws of self-movement and reacts differently to external influence. The will and the consciousness of the individual, like those of the group, are incapable of adequately recognizing and judging the movement of the mass. The individual or the group can no more be identified with the revolutionary movement than the ocean can be compared with a glass of water. The "leader" and the "party," precisely because they are such, can grasp and seek to determine the revolutionary movement only with reference to themselves, but nevertheless this movement follows its own laws. To win influence in the movement is possible to the individual or the group only when they subject themselves to those laws. It is only when they follow, not when they strive for a following, that they can be regarded as furthering the movement. This is not to say (to use an expression of Lenin's to denote a tendency which he combated) that the party is to form the "tail-end" of the revolution, but that it shall seek to operate from the standpoint of the revolution, not from that of the party, standpoints which are necessarily different. It can not, of course, succeed in doing so completely, but the extent to which it is able to approach the standpoint of the revolution can serve as a measure of its revolutionary value. If the party does not take itself as the starting point, this already implies a recognition of the fact that the dialectical method, as deduced from reality, is only the theoretical image of reality, and that it can be applied only because the person applying it is subject to it. But the most backward worker is subject to the dialectical movement in exactly the same way as Mr. Simpson's "giant"; the former has to do what the other not only has to do but also wants to do. Since the dialectical movement of the revolution is a social one, it is only the must of the many, not the will of the individuals which can be regarded as real consciousness. In fact, the present-day relations quite preclude the possibility of a social will. The social expression of will is only arrived at through the social must. So that a misconception of the dialectical method is a misconception of the real movement itself, though the movement is not at all changed thereby. It also becomes clear, however, that the Simpson "giant" may in certain circumstances serve to further the movement, but he is not decisive in it.
An orthodox Marxist has to reject the "orthodoxism" of the Kautskyan and Leninist schools. Hook opposes the dogmatism of these schools, (6) but without realizing that that "dogmatism" can be combated only from the orthodox standpoint. The pseudoorthodoxism of the Social Democracy and of the Bolsheviks has nothing to do with orthodox Marxism. Once the Kautskyan "orthodoxism" was opposed with the slogan "With Lenin back to Marx." Today, one is compelled to turn against Lenin with the orthodox slogan: "Back to Marx." Neither Kautsky or Lenin saw in the dialectical method anything more than a serviceable tool. They disputed about the way to handle it. Their differences are therefore of an exclusively tactical nature (disregarding the arbitrary confusion of tactical questions with questions of principles): there is no difference of principle between the two. With this weapon of dialectic, both wanted to make history for the proletariat. That they themselves could only play the part of a weapon was accordingly a thought which remained completely foreign to them; they identified themselves, as "giants of dialectic," with the dialectical social movement itself and were necessarily obliged to hinder the real revolutionary movement to the same extent in which they strengthened their own positions. The more they did for themselves, the less they accomplished for the revolution, for the magnitude of their influence depended for them on the withering away of the initiative of the masses. These latter were to be brought under control, so that they might be led. If, to Kautsky, the Church was unconfessedly the model of organization, so to Lenin that model was by his own confession the factory. By unity of theory and practice they understood nothing more than the mere unification of "leader and mass"; organization from the top downward, orders and obedience, general staff and army. The bourgeois principle of organization was also to serve for proletarian aims.
But the unity of theory and practice is brought about only through revolutionary action itself; it can be attained, under capitalistic relations, only along revolutionary, eruptive channels, not through a "shrewd policy" which guarantees a harmony between leaders and led. But such action can only be furthered or hindered; it can not be made or prevented, since it depends on the economic movements, and these are not yet subject to human will and human intelligence. The old labor movement understood by classconsciousness nothing more than its own insight into the historical process. The party was everything, the movement only perceptible by way of the party. In this way there arose from the class struggle between capital and labor - in so far as that struggle was subordinated to the party - the struggle of different groups for mastery over the workers. There is no better proof of the correctness of the Marxian method than the emasculation which Marxism itself has undergone. Epigonity serves to illustrate capitalist development, and inversely this development furnishes the explanation of epigonism. In other words, the various schools of epigonism, or revisionism, can be traced back to the various stages of capitalist development. The "original" Marxism has survived its degenerate children, and today the revolutionary movement is compelled, in the name of that original Marxism, to a new orientation on the basis of orthodox adherence to the Marxist method. The "misunderstanding" of the dialectical method at the hands of the pseudo-Marxian was nowhere expressed more clearly than in the abandonment of the Marxist theory of accumulation and collapse. The revisionists boasted of the rejection of that theory, and the "orthodox" Marxists of the time did not venture to defend it. The "misunderstanding" was further expressed in the separation of the Marxian philosophy from the economics. There were and are "Marxists" who "specialize" in one or the other, who fail to understand that the economic laws are dialectical. Anyone who, for example, abandons the Marxist theory of collapse can not at the same time hold to the dialectical method; and anyone who accepts dialectical materialism "philosophically" has no choice but to regard the dialectical movement of present-day society as a movement of collapse.
The world crisis of capitalism had first to become an actuality before the problem of collapse could again be brought into the center of discussion and hence also before the struggle for the Marxian dialectic could be revived. It is not so much theory but rather reality itself which now serves for the further development of Marxism. But this further development is today in reality, only the reconstruction of the original Marxism, which is being cleansed of the filth of epigonity. It has become clear that the Marxian "abstractions" were more real than the "realistic" attempts which the epigoni made to supplement them, in wishing to give them "flesh and blood," in trying to "complete" the "torso," etc. Meanwhile, Kautsky has completely rejected the Marxian dialectic, and Lenin recommended, shortly before his death, that the study of Hegel and of the dialectical problem in general be taken up anew. Fifty years of "Marxist theory" offered as its result the most hopeless confusion. It has not furthered Marxism but thrown it back even prior to its starting point. Any real orthodoxism is a hundred times superior to the Marxian "successor." Marxism as a revolutionary theory stood in contradiction to the labor movement which was developing in the upgrade period of capitalism, and it was therefore modified by that movement in accordance with its own needs and this modification was then confused with the essence.
One is not justified in regarding himself as holding an advanced position merely because he is not in agreement with epigonity, or because he has different opinions on this or that question. One must completely reject both, Social Democracy and Bolshevism, as well as all of its offshoots, in order to place himself on a Marxist basis. But while Hook wants to renew Marxism by means of overcoming various "dogmas," he has not, in the struggle against dogmatism, combated the emasculation of Marxism but in his zeal has abandoned Marxism itself. What he attacks as "dogmatism" has not been attacked for the first time; the cry of "dogmatism" has always been used as a political argument against radical currents in the labor movement. The same arguments which Hook now directs against the "dogmatism" of the "official" communist movement were once hurled by Lenin against the left-communist council movement, which was unwilling to sacrifice the world revolution to Russian state capitalism. And still earlier, the Social Democracy directed these same arguments against Lenin and the communist movement in general. The struggle against dogmatism, as it has hitherto been conducted, was limited to a struggle against the radical tendencies in the labor movement, tendencies which threatened to become dangerous to the already established organizations and their owners. The pre-war debates within the Social Democracy, directed against the revolutionary opposition, the argument of the Social Democracy against the Bolsheviks, Lenin's exhortations against the council communists, and now Hook's struggle against "dogmatism" are quite undistinguishable. All were accused of dogmatism: the Social Democracy, so long as it had a revolutionary character; the Bolsheviks, so long as they were revolutionary; and the council movement, because it directed itself against the self-sufficiency of the parties. All the ideological positions (including that of Hook) directed against the radical movement were taken under the pretext of combating dogmatism. The social democrat Curt Geyer has given the best expression of their common characteristics, and his arguments resemble those of Hook to a hair. Geyer writes (7):
The radical communist fell into the error of confusing probability with necessity, of seeing in the economic and historical tendencies established by themselves, laws in the sense of the natural laws of the earlier natural sciences, laws which are given a priori and govern the world like a blind providence . . . Their philosophy of history reveals a highly mechanistic trait. The role of the proletariat as an active factor in the historical development, in general the role of man in history, went far into the background ... This mechanism rested in part on the derivation of all historical development from an economy, which was thought of as self-moving and in part on a teleological conception of the function of the mass in history. Radicalism ascribes to the mass the capacity of getting a proper grasp of a determinate historical situation and of its function in the general development, not intellectually, to be sure, but instinctively, and hence the capability of taking action instinctively in the direction of social progress. This capability is traced back to a mystical class-consciousness which guides the attitude of the mass and hence the course of history, - a class-consciousness which arises automatically, as through a necessity of nature, through the class position of the masses, as effect from cause. This class consciousness is not viewed by radicalism as the intellectual insight of the individual into his social situation and the conception of that situation from the point of view of a determinate social philosophy, but as a mystical something which may exist outside the content of consciousness of the class member and does not enter consciousness except (and here we have the theological phase of this conception) under determinate conditions, that is, when the social advance requires it. And so, to radicalism, the action of the mass always lies in the direction of social advance . . ."
Geyer's charge of confusing probability with necessity is an empty phrase. Probability presupposes the possibility of decision; according to Geyer, and also according to Hook, one can decide in such or such manner at will. When and for what does not, according to them, depend directly on man, but whether does. This conception presupposes for the social movement the existence of a social will, a thing which, however, is not present in capitalistic society. Consequently, this conception relates social movement to the uncertainty of the individual, which is naturally nonsense. But it is precisely this nonsense which explains the lugging in of the charge of mysticism directed against radicalism (or "dogmatism"), since it is obviously impossible for persons holding such a view to conceive of any other than the "intellect-consciousness," or at best to still grant the validity of anything other than "instincts." Geyer's criticism of radicalism, as above exemplified, leaves radicalism quite unscathed; it merely reveals the weakness of the "critic," who failed to realize that in capitalism it is not the "will" but the will-less market which determines the destinies of mankind. It is not man who determines in capitalism - and it is only under these conditions that it is possible to speak of probability - but the will of mankind, as well as the life of society, are completely subjected to the market, their actions are necessary ones, compelled by the market relation. If they do not conform to this market compulsion, they cease to exist, in which case, naturally, so far as they are concerned, every problem vanishes. The disorganization of this market relation, which is actually being disorganized by the increasing forces of production, and without the supplementary addition of will on the part of mankind, is not conditioned but necessary, because it has nothing to do with the will. If the revolution were dependent upon the party, the leader or the intellectconsciousness, then it would not be necessary but conditional. And it is only this will of the party and of the leader which Geyer has in mind when he speaks of the active role of man in history. The role of the proletariat as an active factor in the historical development comes out in much sharper relief precisely with the acceptance of the concept of necessity.
Social advance is identical with the abolition of wage labor. Accordingly the proletariat, as soon as it acts for itself, can not act falsely and must of necessity act in accordance with social advance. To characterize this as teleology presupposes a complete misunderstanding of the laws of economic movement. The struggle of the proletariat for its existence - not the ideological struggle of the revolutionists among the proletariat, but the struggle of the proletariat as it is - must lead to the abolition of wage labor and thus assures the release of the productive forces restricted by capitalism. The very circumstance that the workers come out in behalf of their specifically material interests makes them revolutionists and enables there to act in accordance with general social progress. This conception has no need whatsoever of any mystical classconsciousness, regardless of its source. Geyer's arguments, which Hook must certainly share, show that in the struggle against dogmatism it is always only the radical movement which is taken as a target. This movement is necessarily self-sufficient, and it can not yield to the demands of the various individuals or groups, but takes literally the idea that the liberation of the workers can only be the result of their own actions.
It might further be noted that the "dogmatism" which Hook ascribes to the "official" communist party movement is still carried on there, at best, as a traditional manner of speech. In reality, the only principle of the communist party movement - to use a phrase of Rosa Luxemburg's with reference to opportunism in general - is "the lack of principles." If the Communist Party were as "dogmatic" as Hook likes to believe, it might perhaps still be regarded as a revolutionary movement; for the "dogmatism" with which it is charged but which is not present would be nothing else than the first beginnings of revolutionary Marxism. But the old labor-movement - from Noske to Trotsky - has no connection with Marxism, and hence it can also not be accused of dogmatism. Never were organizations more undogmatic, more unprincipled, more unorthodox, more venal, more opportune than the two great currents of the "labor movement" and of its various branches which are now past. To reproach them with dogmatism is to confuse the phrase with reality. If one appraises these organizations, not by what they say but by what they do, no trace of dogmatism is to be found.
In the article already mentioned, (8) Hook has flatly dismissed the conception of the inevitability of communism and the conception of spontaneity which goes with it. According to Hook, the "dogma" that communism is inevitable is to be rejected because "it makes unintelligible any activity in behalf of communism" (Page 153). Granting that this were so (though in our opinion it is not), this argument, as well as the further arguments which Hook employs, offers nothing to disprove the conception of the necessity of social advance, which can be seen only in communism. Hook's argument, rejecting the idea of necessity is just as impossible to accept as the denial that water is wet, merely on the ground that wetness is unpleasant. That this so-called dogma "denies that thinking makes any difference to the ultimate outcome" (page 153) is an argument invented by Hook : those who hold to this alleged dogma do not question what Hook is pleased to take for granted. In fact, this "dogmatism" has no need whatever to dispute the determining role of thought, among other factors; it merely refuses to see in thinking the decisive role. But the idea of necessity has to be rejected by Hook, since he takes as his starting point the assumption that it is "absurd (to believe) that the working class by its own unaided power can achieve victory" (page 146). To Hook, accordingly, it is "the task of the communists to educate them (the workers to proper class-consciousness and to lead them" (page 146). On this same ground, as we have already seen, the theory of value had for Hook no predictive power. The movement of capital on the basis of value is, however, nothing else than the dialectical movement of society itself, and the knowledge of the dialectical method is here only the knowledge of this movement. If one rejects the predictive power of the theory of value, one rejects at the same time the dialectical method. If one follows the movement of capital while at the same time holding fast to the dialectical method, it is seen that the alleged dogma with which we are here concerned is nothing other than the realistic recognition of the real movement of capital.
In an article which appeared recently in the Zeitschrift fur Sozialforschung (1933, No. 3), Max Horkheimer has taken up the problem of prediction in the social sciences, coming to conclusions which we share and which we cannot refrain from opposing to those of Hook.
The objection" (that the social sciences preclude predictions) writes Horkheimer, "applies only to special cases and not to the principle . . . There are broad fields of knowledge in which we are not limited to the statement: 'in case these conditions are fulfilled, that will happen' but in which we may say: 'these conditions are now fulfilled, and therefore that expected event will occur without any intervention of our will' . . . It is certainly incorrect to say that prediction is only possible when the occurrence of the necessary conditions depends on the person who predicts, but the prediction will nevertheless be the more plausible as the conditioning relations depend more on the human will, that is, the degree in which the predicted effect is not the product of blind nature but the result of reasonable decisions. The manner in which capitalist society maintains and renews its life has more resemblance to the course of a natural mechanism than to an action directed toward a goal . . . It may be stated as law, that with increasing change of the structure (of present society) in the direction of unified organization and planning, predictions also will win a higher degree of certainty. To the degree 'in which social life loses the character of a blind process of nature and society takes on forms in which it constitutes itself as a reasoning subject, the more definitely can the social process be predicted. Hence the possibility of prediction does not depend exclusively on the refinement of methods and on the sensitivity of the sociologists, but equally upon the development of their object, on the structural changes in society itself . . . So that the sociologist's concern with arriving at more exact predictions is converted into the political striving for the realization of a reasonable society.
The Marxian abstraction which first left the real market problem completely out of consideration and which had recourse only to the distribution of the conditions of production between capital and labor (means of production and labor power), thus neglecting the character of a blind natural process which social life possesses under capitalism and holding strictly to the theory of value, led to the recognition that the capitalist system must collapse. In this way it was also possible, on the basis of the situation necessarily created by capitalism in the course of its development, to come to a conclusion regarding the character of the revolution and its results. Capitalist society has furthered the forces of production in such measure that their complete socialization is unavoidable, that they can no longer truly function except under communist relations of production. If, to Marx, the collapse was unavoidable, so also at the same time was communism inevitable. If the present movement is only possible on the basis of the previous one, then we may judge from the present one as to the nature of the future movement. As to how far, that depends on the level which the present movement has attained, but this consideration always remains limited. As to what will come from communist society, that cannot be said before such a society exists: but what will come from capitalist society is revealed by its own material conditions. The more capitalist society develops, and thus at the same time goes to pieces, the clearer become the features of communist society. While Marx, who hated nothing so much as utopians, could go no further than the collapse of capitalism, it is possible today, in the midst of the collapse, to sketch the laws of movement of the communist society with some degree of definiteness. An analysis of capitalist society, which implies looking into its own inner laws of development, permits no other conclusion, on a scientific basis and with the acceptance of the theory of value, than that communism is inevitable. Anyone who takes a hostile attitude to this "dogma" only illustrates the weakness of his understanding of economics, and he has actually nothing left to do but close up inside himself, his will, his intelligence; in short, he must stick fast in the ideological world of the bourgeoisie, and his consciousness must necessarily be clouded. And precisely for that reason his assaults on "dogmatism," on "mysticism," must become ever more savage, the more he succumbs to the capitalistic magic.
It goes without saying that the rejection of the concept that communism is inevitable involves also the rejection of the spontaneity theory. And in fact we find that to Hook "the doctrine of 'spontaneity', which teaches that the daily experiences of the working class spontaneously generates political class-consciousness" is patent nonsense. To him, as we have already seen, it is rather the "education" provided by the communists which takes care of the "proper" class-consciousness. Education is here set over against experience, as if the one were not conditioned by the other, as if both were not two sides of the same process. 'These arguments too, like those which Hook employs against inevitability, are gratuitous. But even if one were to accept them on inevitable grounds, what would they amount to in view of the fact that in spite of these arguments all real revolutionary movements, as even the self-sufficiency of a Trotsky is often forced to admit, had a spontaneous character. Rosa Luxemburg, in her writings against the Social Democracy as well as against the Bolsheviks, has already proved this with sufficient force, so that it is here superfluous to recount once more the history of the contemporary revolutionary movement. It seems more important to us to dispose in advance of an argument which is frequently advanced against the concept of spontaneity, namely, that even from the standpoint of spontaneity the masses have often shown their inadequacy.
Why was it, these critics like to remark ironically, that the masses failed, for example, to prevent the setting up of the Hitler dictatorship? It is the same sort of question which is opposed to the theory of collapse: why, then, has capitalism never yet collapsed? In both cases, we are merely confronted with a misunderstanding of the theories in question. The so frequently mentioned dialectical formula of the conversion of quantity into quality, which are necessarily separated by the process of development, also furnishes the explanation of our standpoint, that of those who accept the doctrines of spontaneity and collapse. In both cases, the question is one as to the moment of the conversion. It is, in fact, a conversion which is repeated again and again on a more extensive scale, so that, to employ an expression of Henryk Grossmann's "every crisis is a phenomenon of collapse and the final collapse is nothing but an insoluble crisis." The theory of collapse does not rest upon any automatic process, nor does the concept of spontaneity assume on any mystical ground that the masses sometime or other will break out in revolt. Collapse and spontaneity, both are to be regarded only from the standpoint of the conversion of quantity into quality.
Why is it that, although each crisis is a collapse in miniature, the system is able to pull out of it? Simply because the tendencies directed against the collapse - tendencies arising through the realities of the situation - are not yet exhausted. If they are exhausted with reference to the further needs of accumulation, the crisis can no longer be overcome and must necessarily turn into collapse. It is the same way with the mass movement bound up with this process. So long as the counter-tendencies against revolution are strong enough, the spontaneous movement of the masses will not be able to assert itself. In fact, it will reveal such weakness as to give the impression that it could never be more important than at present and that therefore, by the side of itself (for of course no one denies the spontaneity factor altogether), has need of the party to parcel out and direct this spontaneous factor, like all the other factors, in the interest of the revolution. It is only because the economic-political tendencies directed against the spontaneous action of the masses were so strong that the actual deeds could appearto be consciously aroused. The few real revolutionary movements which Germany, for example, could point to came into action against the will of the various parties, even against the will of the Communist Party. (Consider, as a classic example, the March movement of 1921). "While the Communist Party participated in those actions, that was only because it had nothing left to do; in no case did they arise from that party's initiative - the initiative was constantly furnished by the masses themselves. It was not until the size of the party was such as to be decisive that it could refuse to follow the compulsion of the mass initiative, that it could prevent the movements of the proletariat - and it did prevent them, though in so doing it had necessarily to collapse as a party.
It was only after an enormous amount of party "education" that the masses could be decisively defeated for years. In what other way is to be explained that the classconsciousness of the masses continually retrogressed with the growth of the parties and their influence? How is it otherwise to be explained that even in Russia, where the revolutionary party "could be loaded onto a hay wagon," the workers and peasants accomplished their revolution without having been "educated" to it? In fact, that they carried the revolution through with greater thoroughness where the "educators" were completely lacking. The masses, who took steps to expropriate the factories against the will of the Bolsheviks, first compelled Lenin to give the word for nationalization. No one can deny this without falsifying history. It was not the demagogue Hitler who destroyed the German Communist Party and the Social Democracy, but the masses themselves, in part actively and in part through inactivity. For these parties had got into an untenable position: they did not represent the interest of the workers, and they did not conform with the interests of the bourgeoisie. This latter who could not bind up its imperialistic ambitions with those of Moscow, and its militaristic drive, had to be put through in such proportions and at such a tempo as could not be assured by the tradition-bound "labor movement." The role of these parties was simply the role which the bourgeoisie permitted them. The fact that the spontaneous movements are often unable to assert themselves is no proof of their non-existence. The flood can, to be sure, be held up by a dam, but the dam cannot do away with it. As to how long the flood can be dammed, that depends on the means at the disposal of the dam builders. The limitations of these means under capitalism are well known. The flood of the spontaneous mass uprising will wash away all dams.
Hook's idea that the doctrine of spontaneity can be and is used as "a justification for the policy of split and schismatic fission" (page 154) is incomprehensible. As if the splits sprang from the will of the splatters and not rather from the nature of the organizations within capitalist society. But leaving this factor to one side, what, according to Hook's conception, will become of the proletarian revolution when it is quite impossible any longer to build up strong, influential parties which are "decisive" in the class struggle? What will become of the revolution when the ruling class has succeeded in destroying all the "giants" - leaders, parties, communist education, etc. - and in depriving them permanently of the possibility of exercising their functions? From Hook's standpoint, the only answer is that then there simply can be no revolution. The revolution, accordingly, in the last analysis - however humorous it may sound - is dependent on the democratic lenience of the bourgeoisie. Just as to Mr. G. D. H. Cole, for example, the prospects of socialism have declined as a result of the capitalist crisis, and who regards socialism as developing much better out of capitalist prosperity, so to Hook, even though not admittedly, the existence of democracy is the presupposition for the proletarian revolution. (It goes without saying that the illegal labor movement can not be embraced in the Hookian concept of the party). In both cases, for Hook as well as for Cole, it is the intellect-consciousness which succeeds in convincing the world, or at least a preponderant percentage of the workers, of the blessings of socialism or of the beauty of the revolution, and thereupon both are "desired." This schoolmasterly attitude may fit in with the course of political instruction, but with respect to the revolution it can only produce a comic effect.
Marx's analysis of the capitalist laws of accumulation ends up in the proletarian revolution. It goes without saying that to Marx there was no purely economic problem. Long before the capitalist development has reached the economic end-point fixed by theoretical considerations the masses will already have put an end to the system. The cyclical crisis is converted into the permanent crisis, a condition in which capitalism is able still to exist only through the continuing and absolute impoverishment of the proletariat. This period, a whole historical phase, compels the bourgeoisie to permanent terrorism against the working population, since under such conditions any decrease of profit by way of the class struggle brings into question more and more the system itself. The process of concentration has also made the basis for the rule of the bourgeoisie so narrow that a relatively frictionless social practice is still possible only through open dictatorship. The end of democracy has come. With it there disappear also the labor organizations bound up with democracy, freedom of speech and of the press, etc. The longer capitalism lives, the deeper the crisis and the sharper the terrorism. This capitalist necessity cannot be avoided by way of democracy. The very safeguarding of "formal democracy" compels the fall of capitalism, so that naturally capitalist democracy becomes a thing of the past. The end of democracy involves the end of the labor movement in the Hookian sense; he has nothing left to do but turn away disillusioned from the workers who failed to listen to him soon enough. World history stands still because the workers did not let themselves be "educated." But the concept of spontaneity will also be adequate to this situation. The permanent crisis sharpens the class struggle in the same measure as it suppresses that struggle. Czarism explained not only the lateness of the Russian Revolution but at the same time its marvelous and fearful power when it broke out, in spite of the absence of "educators" and of preponderant organizations. The action was at the same time the organization, the active fighters were their own leaders. Who was it that "brought over" into the masses the thought of the soviets? Was it not rather born from the relations themselves? From the masses and their needs? It was only after they had been formed that the soviets began to be discussed by the "educators." The class struggle is the movement of class society. Organizations can be destroyed, leaders murdered, education transformed into barbarism; but the class struggle cannot be disposed of, except by the setting aside of classes. The very destruction of the legal labor organization is a better indication than anything else of the deepening of the class struggle, though this is not to proclaim the revolutionary quality of the parties destroyed.
There is, however, no fixed point of time for the revolution. Even though one holds the revolution to be inevitable, nothing has thereby been said regarding its time of arrival. And any argument to the effect that the Fascist State is inevitable is nonsense, serving merely to conceal the betrayal perpetrated by the Third International. In 1918, for example, it had become possible for the Social Democracy to suppress the council movement in the blood of the workers. The opposite might equally well have been the case, and it was only later that it became clear why the former occurred rather than the latter. The factor of "accident," of "leadership," etc. is undeniable and shall not be denied, but one must also recognize its limits and its changing role in the historical process. Just as it was possible in 1923 for the Communist Party of Germany to hold the masses off from the revolutionary uprising, it might equally well have failed in that endeavor. The revolution was postponed, but merely postponed. It can also break out prematurely, and in this way complicate its own course. But premature or overdue, the revolution - the locomotive of history - and with it the communist society, of necessity asserts itself, and is carried through by the workers themselves, for the previous course of history has created a condition which permits of no other solution, because that solution is identical with the present life necessities of the majority of mankind. And the proletarian revolution, while it changes the world, will not neglect to educate the astonished "educators."
(1) Sidney Hook: Towards the Understanding of Karl Marx. (John Day Company. New York, 1933).
(2) The quotation marks in which Marx encloses his "accidents" show the restricted sense in which he wishes to have them taken. The word first (zuerst) toward the end of the passage emphasizes this still more. (The word is omitted in Hook's text). The italics are mine.
(3) It would lead us too far at present to develop more fully the Marxian theory of accumulation and collapse. This subject will be treated at length elsewhere.
(4) Potemkin was the leading minister under Catherine of Russia. When the Czarina took a trip through the provinces, Potemkin had artificial village-fronts constructed along her course to make her believe that all was milk and honey in her domains. The name of the minister has in consequence become a synonym for "spurious."
(5) The New Republic, Feb. 28, 1934.
(6) Compare, in addition to Hook's book, also his article in the April (1934) number of The Modern Monthly: "Communism Without Dogmas."
(7) Der Radikalismus in der deutschen Arbeiterbewegung (Jena 1923).
(8) "Communism without Dogmas." The page numbers in parenthesis have reference to this article in The Modern Monthly.
The Masses & The Vanguard
Economic and political changes proceed with bewildering rapidity since the close of the world war. The old conceptions in the labour movement have become faulty and inadequate and the working class organizations present a scene of indecision and confusion.
In view of the changing economic and political situation it seems that thorough reappraisement of the task of the working class becomes necessary in order to find the forms of struggle and organization most needful and effective.
The relation of "the party", "organization" or "vanguard" to the masses plays a large part in contemporary working class discussion. That the importance and indispensability of the vanguard or party is overemphasized in working class circles is not surprising, since the whole history and tradition of the movement tends in that direction.
The labour movement today is the fruit of economic and political developments that found first expression in the Chartist movement in England (1838-1848), the subsequent development of trade unions from the fifties onward, and in the Lasallean movement in Germany in the sixties. Corresponding to the degree of capitalist development trade unions and political parties developed in the other countries of Europe and America.
The overthrow of feudalism and the needs of capitalist industry in themselves necessitated the marshaling of the proletariat and the granting of certain democratic privileges by the capitalists. The latter had been reorganizing society in line with their needs. The political structure of feudalism was replaced by capitalist parliamentarianism. The capitalist state, the instrument for administering the joint affairs of the capitalist class, was established and adjusted to the needs of the new class.
The bothersome proletariat whose assistance against the feudal forces had been necessary now had to be reckoned with. Once called into action it could not be entirely eliminated as a political factor. But it could be coordinated. And this was done - partly consciously with cunning and partly by the very dynamics of capitalist economy - as the working class adjusted itself and submitted to the new order. It organized unions whose limited objectives (better wages and conditions) could be realized in an expanding capitalist economy. It played the game of capitalist politics within the capitalist state (the practices and forms of which were determined primarily by capitalist needs) and within these limitations, achieved apparent successes.
But thereby the proletariat adopted capitalist forms of organization and capitalist ideologies. The parties of the workers, like those of the capitalists became limited corporations, the elemental needs of the class were subordinated to political expediency. Revolutionary objectives were displaced by horse-trading and manipulations for political positions. The party became all-important, its immediate objectives superseded those of the class. Where revolutionary situations set into motion the class, whose tendency is to fight for the realization of the revolutionary objective, the parties of the workers "represented" the working class and were themselves "represented" by parliamentarians whose very position in parliament constituted resignation to their status as bargainers within a capitalist order whose supremacy was no longer challenged.
The general coordination of workers' organizations to capitalism saw the adoption of the same specialization in union and party activities that challenged the hierarchy of industries. Managers, superintendent and foremen saw their counterparts in presidents, organizers and secretaries of labour organizations. Boards of directors, executive committees, etc. The mass of organized workers like the mass of wage slaves in industry left the work of direction and control to their betters.
This emasculation of worker's initiatives proceeded rapidly as capitalism extended its sway. Until the world war put an end to further peaceful and "orderly" capitalist expansion.
The risings in Russia, Hungary and Germany found a resurgence of mass action and initiative. The social necessities compelled action by the masses. But the traditions of the old labour movement in western Europe and the economic backwardness of eastern Europe frustrated fulfillment of labour's historic mission. Western Europe saw the masses defeated and the rise of fascism a la Mussolini and Hitler, while Russia's backward economy developed the "communism" in which the differentiation between class and vanguard, the specialization of functions and the regimentation of labour reached its highest point.
The leadership principle, the idea of the vanguard that must assume responsibility for the proletarian revolution is based on the pre-war conception of the labour movement, is unsound. The tasks of the revolutionary and the communist reorganization of society cannot be realized without the widest and fullest action of the masses themselves. Theirs is the task and the solution thereof.
The decline of capitalist economy, the progressive paralysis, the instability, the mass unemployment, the wage cuts and intensive pauperization of the workers - all of these compel action, in spite of fascism a la Hitler or the disguised fascism of the AF of L.
The old organizations are either destroyed or voluntarily reduced to impotence. Real action now is possible only outside the old organizations. In Italy, Germany and Russia the White and Red fascisms have already destroyed all old organizations and placed the workers directly before the problem of finding the new forms of struggle. In England, France and America the old organizations still maintain a degree of illusion among workers, but their successive surrender to the forces of reaction is undermining them rapidly.
The principles of independent struggle, solidarity and communism are being forced upon them in the actual class struggle. With this powerful trend toward mass consolidation and mass action the theory of regrouping and realigning the militant organizations seems to be outdated. True regroupment is essential, but it cannot be a mere merger of the existing organizations. In the new conditions a revision of fighting forms is necessary. "First clarity - then unity." Even small groups recognizing and urging the principles of independent mass movement are far more significant than large groups that deprecate the power of the masses.
There are groups that perceive the defects and weaknesses of parties. They often furnish sound criticism of the popular front combination and the unions. But their criticism is limited. They lack a comprehensive understanding of the new society. The tasks of the proletariat are not completed with seizure of the means of production and the abolition of private property. The questions of social reorganization must be put and answered. Shall state socialism be rejected? What shall be the basis of a society without wage slavery? What shall determine the economic relations between factories? What shall determine the relations between producers and their total product?
These questions and their answers are essential for an understanding of the forms of struggle and organization today. Here the conflict between the leadership principle and the principle of independent mass action becomes apparent. For, a thorough understanding of these questions leads to the realization that the widest, all-embracing, direct activity of the proletariat as a class is necessary to realize communism.
Of first importance is the abolition of the wage system. The will and good wishes of men are not potent enough to retain this system after revolution (as in Russia) without eventually surrendering to the dynamics engendered by it. It is not enough to seize the means of production and abolish private property. It is necessary to abolish the basic condition of modern exploitation, wage slavery, and that act brings on the succeeding measures of reorganization that would never be invoked without the first step. Groups that do not put these questions, no matter how sound their criticism otherwise, lack the most important elements in the formation of sound revolutionary policy. The abolition of the wages system must be carefully investigated in its relation to politics and economics. We will here take up some of the political implications
First is the question of the seizure of power by the workers. The principle of the masses (not party or vanguard) retaining power must be emphasized. Communism cannot be introduced or realized by a party. Only the proletariat as a whole can do that. Communism means that the workers have taken their destiny into their own hands; that they have abolished wages; that they have, with the suppression of the bureaucratic apparatus, combined the legislative and executive powers. The unity of the workers lies not in the sacrosanct merger of parties or trade unions, but in the similarity of their needs and in the expression of needs in mass action. All the problems of the workers must therefore be viewed in relation to the developing self-action of the masses.
To say that the non-combative spirit of the political parties is due to the malice or reformism of the leaders is wrong. The political parties are impotent. They will do nothing, because they can do nothing. Because of its economic weakness, capitalism has organized for suppression and terror and is at present politically very strong, for it is forced to exert all its effort to maintain itself. The accumulation of capital, enormous throughout the world, has shrunk the yield of profit, - a fact which, in the external policies, manifests itself through the contradictions between nations; and in internal policies, through "devaluation" and the attendant partial expropriation of the middle class and the lowering of the subsistence level of the workers; and in general by the centralization of the power of big capital units in the hands of the state. Against this centralized power little movements can to nothing.
The masses alone can combat it, for only they can destroy the power of the state and become a political force. For that reason the fight based on the craft
organizations becomes objectively obsolete, and the large mass movements, unrestricted by the limitations of such organizations, must necessarily replace them.
Such is the new situation facing workers. But from it springs an actual weakness. Since the old method of struggle by means of elections and limited trade union activity has become quite futile, a new method, it is true, has instinctively developed, but that method has not yet been conscientiously, and therefore not effectively, applied. Where their parties and unions are impotent, the masses already begin to express their militancy through wildcat strikes. In America, England, France, Belgium, Holland, Spain, Poland - wildcat strikes develop, and through them the masses present ample proof that their old organizations are no longer fit for struggle. The wildcat strikes are not, however, disorganized, as the name implies. They are denounced as such by union bureaucrats, because they are strikes formed outside the official organizations. The strikers themselves organize the strike, for it is an old truth that only as an organized mass can workers struggle and conquer. They form picket lines, provide for the repulsion of strike-breakers, organize strike relief, create relations with other factories . . . In a word, they themselves assume the leadership of their own strike, and they organize it on a factory basis.
It is in these very movements that the strikers find their unity of struggle. It is then that they take their destiny into their own hands and unite "the legislative and executive power" by eliminating unions and parties, as illustrated by several strikes in Belgium and Holland.
But independent class action is still weak. That the strikers, instead of continuing their independent action toward widening their movement, call upon the unions to join them, is an indication that under existing conditions their movement cannot grow larger, and for that reason cannot yet become a political force capable of fighting concentrated capital. But it is a beginning.
Occasionally though, the independent struggle takes a big leap forward, as with the Asturian miners' strikes in 1934, the Belgium miners in 1935, the strikes in France, Belgium and America in 1936, and the Catalonian revolution in 1936. These outbreaks are evidence that a new social force is surging among the workers, is finding workers' leadership, is subjecting social institutions to the masses, and is already on the march.
Strikes are no longer mere interruptions in profit-making or simple economic disturbances. The independent strike derives its significance from the action of workers as an organized class. With a system of factory committees and workers' councils extending over wide areas the proletariat creates the organs which regulate production, distribution, and all the other functions of social life. In other words, the civil administrative apparatus is deprived of all power, and the proletarian dictatorship establishes itself. Thus, class organization in the very struggle for power is at the same time organization, control, and management of the productive forces of the entire society. It is the basis of the association of free and equal producers, and consumers. This, then, is the danger that the independent class movement presents to the capitalist society. Wildcat strikes, though apparently of little importance whether on a small or large scale, are embryonic communism. A small wildcat strike, directed as it is by workers and in the interest of workers, illustrates on a small scale the character of the future proletarian power.
A regrouping of militants must be actuated by the knowledge that the conditions of struggle make it necessary to unite the "legislative and executive powers" in the hands of the factory workers. They must not compromise on this position: All power to the committees of action and the workers' councils. This is the class front. This is the road to communism. To render workers conscious of the unity of organizational forms of struggle, of class dictatorship, and of the economic frame of communism, with its abolition of wages - is the task of the militants.
The militants who call themselves the "Vanguard" have today the same weakness that characterizes the masses at present. They still believe that the unions or the one or the other party must direct the class struggle, though with revolutionary methods. But if it be true that decisive struggles are nearing, it is not enough to state that the labour leaders are traitors. It is necessary, especially for today, to formulate a plan for the formation of the class front and the forms of its organizations. To this end the control of parties and unions must be unconditionally fought. This is the crucial point in the struggle for power.