The present epoch is characterised by the revolutionary transition from capitalism to communism. The main contradiction is between a malfunctioning capitalism and an overdue communism.
Capitalism creates the abundant material wealth necessary for universal human freedom. Capitalism also creates its gravedigger, the working class. As imperialism, finance and monopoly capital superseded the period of mature capitalism in the late 19th century, it showed that the capitalist system was in decline and attempting to put off socialism by one means or the other.
The October 1917 revolution in Russia marked the beginning of the present epoch. Socialism was transformed from the realm of theory to that of practice. However, the workers’ state in backward Russia was left in asphyxiating isolation. Social democracy betrayed the goal of socialism for the sake of gaining substantive reforms within capitalism. A whole raft of reforms were in fact conceded. The capitalist class was determined that there should be no more Octobers.
Meanwhile, imperialism sponsored civil war, armies of intervention and economic boycott to strangle socialism in its cradle. In besieged Russia, society could not find its way out of poverty towards abundance. Soviet society had to be militarised if it was to survive. Workers could not exercise democratic control over society. Indeed as a collectivity the working class decomposed. Under such conditions bureaucratic deformation was bound to occur. In the mid-20s, this isolation was theorised as ‘socialism in one country’, which became official policy in the Soviet Union. The symbolic link with the world revolution was broken. In the late 1920s Stalin oversaw a counterrevolution within the revolution. The re-enslaving of workers, the re-enserfing of peasants, monocracy, terror, the gulag and social madness followed.
Any lingering possibility of corrective reform closed. The eventual collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the fate of similar regimes definitively confirms that there is no national road to communism.
1.1. Global economy
The world capitalist economy is an organic hierarchy based on exploitation and force. Depending on where they stand in the pecking order, countries play different roles in the imperialist system.
Though they remain viciously exploited, the under- and medium-developed countries now occupy a significant place in the world division of labour. And not only as suppliers of raw materials and agricultural products. Such countries now produce a wide range of manufactured goods. As a result the working class is now the majority class globally and has the self-interest to become a consciously international class.
A prerequisite for the final victory of the working class is winning power in the advanced countries. Only here has capitalism fully proletarianised the bulk of the population and accumulated the wealth needed for communism. The working class can come to power in backward or medium-developed countries. But such salients will prove short-lived unless revolution follows in advanced capitalist countries.
Capitalism develops through a series of booms and slumps. Government intervention reduces the depth and duration of slumps. However, simultaneously essential laws decline. Value, production for profit, private ownership and money are propped up by government intervention and bureaucratic organisation. The structural defects of capital lead the system to malfunction. The working class is faced with an historic choice: either take power and replace the market with the plan or suffer the ruinous consequences of capitalist decline and social disintegration.
1.2. Capitalist development
The world economy and capitalist development make the existence of countries and national borders increasingly anachronistic.
The continuous accumulation of capital means the social nature of production grows ever greater. Ownership and control is either taken into the hands of the state or becomes more and more international, institutionalised and concentrated.
Capitalist accumulation in no way implies the development of a rational system. Production is for the sake of production. Capital never rests, driven as it is by the unquenchable, vampire-like thirst for surplus value. It is a system of chronic overproduction that knows no intrinsic limits to exploitation. It is a system where dead labour turns against living labour, where money and profit are primary and need is incidental. It is a system of extreme alienation that dehumanises every human relationship.
Despite the abundance of its commodities and the wonders of modern technology, capitalism does not allow human beings to fulfil themselves as human beings. Work is often a dehumanising torture, not life’s prime want. Much hyped though it is, leisure time is no more human.
Workers suffer relative pauperisation. Compared with capital, wages tend to shrink. As the world of things becomes ever greater, the world of people correspondingly becomes ever more insecure and atomised.
During periods of stagnation and crisis, through unemployment, wage cuts, intensification of labour, longer hours, temporary contracts, etc, capitalism assaults the existing cultural level of the masses – meagre and impoverished though it is. Hard-won wage rates, trade union rights and legal restrictions imposed on exploitation are damned as heresy by the high representatives of the dollar, euro, pound and yen. Hence capitalism threatens the workers even as a slave class.
Distorted by relations of exploitation and the lust for profit, national economies become not only anachronistic, but grossly lopsided. In the imperialist metropoles huge numbers are engaged in unproductive labour, such as banking, the stock market, insurance, advertising and marketing. In backward and medium-developed countries capitalism’s destruction of peasant agriculture leaves hundreds of millions destitute and eking out a precarious existence in sprawling slums and shanty towns.
Thus capitalism advances the productive forces in a grossly inefficient, wasteful and inhuman way. The full development of humanity’s powers requires the social control of production and planning, not only on a national, but an international scale.
1.3. The danger of war
War is the continuation of politics by other, violent, means. War is a sustained conflict on an extended scale. War is the product of class society. War, and the potential for war, will only end with the ending of class society itself.
Capitalism goes hand in hand with uneven development. Hence the constant pressure for a redivision of spoils. Rising ‘have not’ powers challenge the existing imperialist hierarchy and seek to offset their own problems at the expense of foreign rivals. When diplomacy and trade wars fail, military force decides. Trade blocs become military blocs. So imperialism means preparation for war. Peace is only a period of ceasefire. It is only the freezing of the division of spoils arrived at through war.
After 1945 imperialism normalised high levels of production of the means of destruction. Popular support for military Keynesianism was garnered through anti-communism and competition with the Soviet Union. The cold war became a system of social control east and west.
Capitalism now possesses weapons capable of destroying human life across the whole planet. The struggle to end the danger of war by the working class is therefore a struggle for the survival of the human species.
Under communism the word ‘war’ will become redundant. So will the word ‘peace’. The absence of war will gradually render obsolete its opposite, as humanity leaves behind its pre-history.
Nature is accorded no value by capital, which has but one interest – self-expansion. Capital has no intrinsic concern either for the worker or nature. Nature and the human being are nothing for capital except objects of exploitation.
Over the last 100 years, and increasingly so, the exploitation of nature has resulted in unprecedented destruction. Countless species of plants and animals have been driven to extinction. Many more are endangered. Deforestation, erosion of top soil, spread of deserts, overfishing of seas and oceans and anthropogenic air and water pollution have grown apace. In third-world cities that means deadly smogs, chronic bronchitis, emphysema and asthma. Huge numbers have no proper sanitation facilities and no ready access to clean drinking water.
Instead of cherishing the resources of nature there is plunder, waste, depletion and irresponsibility. Oil is criminally squandered through the car economy, huge areas of land are given over for growing biofuels, air travel booms, while public transport is typically neglected, and nuclear power is presented as the solution to global warming and the danger of runaway climate change.
Communists reject the claim that workers create all wealth under capitalism. There is also the wealth that comes from the labour of peasants, the petty bourgeoisie and middle class strata. Above that there is nature too.
Working class power presents the only viable alternative to the destructive reproduction of capital. To begin with as a countervailing force within capitalism that pulls against the logic of capital. The political economy of the working class brings with it not only higher wages and shorter hours. It brings health services, social security systems, pensions, universal primary and secondary education … and measures that protect the environment.
As well as being of capitalism, the working class is uniquely opposed to capitalism. The political economy of the working class more than challenges capital. It points beyond: to the total reorganisation of society and with that the ending of humanity’s strained, brutalised and crisis-ridden relationship with nature.
1.5. The struggle against opportunism
Capitalism is objectively approaching communism. Yet achieving communism must be the conscious self-liberation of the working class. Communism needs the truth. Therefore the struggle against opportunism – that is, elevation of short-term or sectional interests over the general interest – is fundamental to the supersession of capitalism. The part must be subordinated to the whole, not the other way round. No country, no party, no trade union, no leader, no section of the working class takes precedence over the world revolution.
Because the communist revolution begins as a political act by an oppressed class its inevitability in no way implies that the negation of exploitation, alienation and unfreedom is mechanically assured.
Though, for example, the capitalist class is tiny, it possesses immense power – and not only in the form of wealth and the state machine. As the ruling class, its ideas are the ruling ideas. Capitalist ideas are spontaneously generated and in the battle for hearts and minds are carefully cultivated by a paid army of permanent persuaders – the media, education, the arts, religion, establishment parties, etc.
In contrast, numerically the working class is a giant. It can, like any slave class, economically and politically fight to better its conditions within the existing system. Yet to realise itself as a class for itself, a class with an historic mission to free humanity, it must acquire a scientific, a rational, a rounded world outlook. That cannot be gained except through an open struggle against wrong ideas. This must encompass the struggle against manifestations of opportunism within our own, national and international, communist ranks.
1.6. World revolution
World revolution is the fight to liberate humanity. It is a process whereby capitalism is replaced by communism.
The victory of socialist revolution in one or more country is only partial until the balance of forces has tilted decisively against capitalism. That means the socialist revolution must triumph in a tranche of advanced countries if it is not to suffer deformation and counterrevolution in one form or another. National revolutions are therefore best coordinated and where possible synchronised.