Ninety years after the Bolshevik revolution the influence of that event on Marxist political doctrine has virtually waned. The two words socialism and communism have a chequered history. The word communism can be traced to Karl Marx and Engels who used it broadly in their Communist Manifesto, because of the discredit that utopian fantasy had impinged upon the term socialism. Lenin revived the term communism after the collapse of the Second International. He inconsistently amplified the theoretical dictums of Marx's Critique of the Gotha Programme in order to create his celebrated dogma of two stages of post-revolutionary society—with full communism as the second or final phase.
The WSM disassociates itself from many things which the Labour movement have called socialism. The WSM has always been familiar with the distinctions made and the lines of division drawn by the Communist Parties. So we must look to see what sort of disagreement that marked the pre-War Socialist movement and then contrast them with the great delusion that followed the dawn of the Bolshevik revolution. The divisions within socialism that were to make impact and dated back to a central ambiguity of Marx's own political thought. Marx had favoured recourse to political action by socialists as against the anarchists, mutualists, co-operatives and utopian strains in socialism.
But what is apparent is the fact that from Marxism may be deduced contradictory and incompatible policies, that one may find in it almost as one selects a minimum or maximum programme. That explained the great success of Marxism as the ideological dogma from which are derived all revolutionary trappings from Marx's death onwards. When Bernstein revealed the two contrasting elements in Marxism, the one utopian and the other conspiratorial, Kautsky replied that Marx had reconciled these two contraries in a higher unity. Disagreement about socialist policies—revolution or parliamentarian—raged for a quarter of a century before 1919 with the general drift in Europe towards parliamentarianism.
Briefly Lenin answered that the socialist revolution was to be advanced neither by a party wedded to parliamentary or conspiratorial force, but by a new party controlled by dedicated revolutionaries. This new party was expected to practise discipline of a sort the socialist parties had never seen nor for that matter military forces, since the iron chain of command was to extend beyond national borders to a central international command. The "Dictatorship of the Proletariat" seems to be a purely Russian product, different from Blanquist and Jacobin traditions. The professional revolutionary has proved to be a striking literary success in the West—but this his material political influence there is short lived. But it is when he becomes a terrorist when his impact is felt.
Better few but better!
The Leninist conception of political purity as it was put into practice both within the Russian Communist Party and abroad was original. It put loyalty to a changing party line above the traditional socialist loyalty to a class. The notion of ideological purity was nothing new to socialists at the time.. Marx and Engels conceived political purity as a duty to keep a political point of view alive at a time of reflux —when there was no revolutionary opportunity.
Perhaps the Hungarian professor George Lukacs is a better guide to Lenin’s opinions when he says: "The enrichment that Marxism owes to Lenin consists simply in the more meaningful linking up of isolated actions with the general destiny. The revolutionary destiny of the working class."
He adds that the linking up means "Treating each particular day problem in concrete connection with the historico-social totality. Considering it as a component in the emancipation of the proletariat".
The cumbersome language of the Hungarian philosopher conceals indeed the kernel of Lenin’s supposed science. Each even is part of a process that is not yet complete but of which Lenin knows the end.
Communism’s failure to develop new thinking on social and economic matters to replace the specifically socialist ideas it sacrificed to securing state power was part of the general euthanasia of socialist theory after the death of Lenin and Trotsky, the imprisonment of Gramsci and the first recantation of Lukacs.
Basic to any understanding of "Communism" is an acquaintance with Marxism, the basic ideology from which Communist theory as it exists today has developed. Anyone with even an elementary understanding of Marxism must wince at the misunderstanding and misrepresentation of that doctrine so prevalent in our national life, in the speeches and writings of politicians, academicians, journalists and others who should know better—but too often they don’t, The vast volume of polemical anti-Marxist writings in the Western world is implicit evidence of the importance of Marxist ideas and of the urgency with which many seek to refute them.
Marxism as the doctrine espoused by the Soviet Union has been looked upon with fear and loathing. In Africa, Asia and Latin America Marxist ideas still play a major role in shaping the views of the intellectual elites from which are drawn the leaders and policy makers of today and tomorrow. If Marx and Engels had been merely conventional academic philosophers and theoreticians their ideas must have been of interest to the historians of ideas. Their achievement was rather to formulate a philosophical system that provided justification and ammunition for all who were dissatisfied with bourgeois society. Their doctrines have the power to move men to action and the Bolshevik revolution is a good testament to the great force of ideas.
Marxism is a philosophy: it is not merely a theory of economics or sociology or history. The key to this philosophy is the concept of dialectical materialism. Marxist economy theory is essentially the application of dialectical materialism to different areas of human experience and activity. And it was this philosophical claim to the discovery of the laws of history that caused Marx and Engels to label their economic doctrine "Scientific Socialism" as against the "Utopian Socialism" of other nineteenth-century thinkers. History has already shown that no amount of refutation on purely logical or factual bases is capable of destroying Marxism’s influence. The reason is that Marxism has now become an effective weapon against Western political and economic domination in Africa and Latin America.
The dilemma of economic growth and greenhouse emissions is at the centre of attention of modern orthodox economics. It must be granted that Marx and Engels early realised this problem. As usually the future is hidden from us by an impenetrable veil—but it is obvious that the workers and peasants may achieve a lot if only they can organise themselves into a formidable political party that is democratically organised.
The Socialist Party is an organisation of equals. There is no leader and there are no followers,. We advocate socialism on an international basis—without regard to race or tribe (nationality).
KEPHAS MULENGA, Zambia