‘Twentieth Century Socialism: A Minority Rule’. By Paresh Chattopadhyay. (Economic and Political Weekly, Mumbai). 14 May, 2016.
Although ‘Dedicated to the memory of the great libertarian George Orwell,’ in much of this article Paresh Chattopadhyay is spot on, carefully recounting some of the heinous misdemeanours perpetrated by Lenin, Trotsky and their Bolshevik coterie in Russia and upholding instead some pertinent positions and principles of Marx and Engels that are in opposition to them. However, he concludes this long interesting and informative criticism and citations with the Kronstadt revolt and massacre, wherein he affirms ‘The Kronstadt sailors and toilers called this incident the “Third Revolution,” after February and October.’ This he just cites without any comment presumably because of a ‘libertarian’ perspective. But Libertarianism, be what it may, is not Marxism. As world socialists we evaluate situations from a Marxist point of view. For argument’s sake, even if the Kronstadters happened to be victorious, it was not going to be a socialist revolution anyway. You cannot achieve socialism without an exclusively clear-cut socialist goal and class-wide revolutionary organization within a matured revolutionary situation. The Kronstadters had no socialist agenda and organization and circumstances were non-socialist. They were asking for some liberal democratic rights only.
He says nothing about what we socialists have to do today to end the rule of capital.
‘Twentieth Century Socialism’ is the name he gives to Leninism-Bolshevism as the most prominent form of ‘socialism’ in the last century. This term is ill-conceived as it suggests that not only was Leninism-Bolshevism a form of socialism but that all who worked under the same name ‘socialism’ during the twentieth century, whether to educate or mislead, to organize or disarrange the working class, were as well. This use of the term ‘socialist’ is one-sided and misleading and has to be contested, as no doubt it would by Marx and Engels were they alive today.
It ignores the fact that, in opposition to all the sundry ‘socialists’, there were, and till today are, the genuine socialists in the same sense as Marx and Engels – the Socialist Party of Great Britain (ever since 1904) and the other Companion Parties of the World Socialist Movement, of which Professor Chattopadhyay is quite aware, being personally acquainted with the World Socialist Party (India) and familiar with our Movement’s relentless presence in the socialist milieu.
He creates an amalgam ‘party-state’, and equates this with the Leninist construct and frame. This is to confuse these two very different but transient institutions. True, the Leninist ‘party-state’ was a form of ruthless state capitalist dictatorship. But that doesn’t necessarily lead to the conclusion that party and state are of no use for the working class. Both are necessary and useful during the ‘political transition’ (Marx) from capitalism to socialism, though certainly not in their present-day capitalistic forms. These organs will have to be revolutionized, transformed and converted from their present repressive forms into a participatory democratic form – as agents of emancipation in the hands of the victorious working class. Marx and Engels were neither against nor for the state and the party in the abstract. As scientists of the working class they analyzed their dynamics – their origin, evolution, and eventual ultimate demise.
To accomplish the revolutionary historical task of replacing capitalism by the ‘free and equal association of the producers’ (Engels, Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State) the workers possess only two effective weapons at their disposal – universal knowledge of history and a class-wide revolutionary organization i.e. a participatory democratic party and movement. This is indispensable. Without such a party and movement the workers are nothing but defenceless, wretched, competitive, alienated and mutually hostile wage slaves. When workers unite for higher wages and reforms they are merely a class-in-itself. They become a class-for-itself when permeated with socialist knowledge about their common radical cause and by uniting themselves politically ‘to win the battle of democracy’ (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto) by unseating the bureaucratic ruling elites everywhere.
The working class will have to get this done by applying their franchise in elections state-wise and world-wide more or less simultaneously to seize the reins of states, and get them transformed to use to dispossess the capitalist class. This is done by lopping off their repressive organs, dismantling the bureaucratic-military structure, and by democratizing and absorbing the state’s useful organs into the new socio-economic formations of production for use in place of production for profit – rearranging administration of affairs of life on local, regional and global organizational scales. This will usher in, as Marx put it, a new era of equality and freedom replacing the pre-history of humanity with history proper.