July 02, 2014

Ten theses of Marxist-Leninist theory by Hans Heinz Holz 2 July 14

Source: Hans Heinz Holz : Downfall and Future of Socialism
(MEP Publications, Minneapolis, MN, 1992, pp. 32–40. Reprinted in
Nature, Society and Thought, vol, 5, no. 3 [1992])

1. Communists distinguish themselves from other supporters of socialism in that their
conceptions of the future social order and the path leading to it are based upon a theory
of history, historical materialism, the essence of which was worked out by Marx, Engels,
and Lenin. The theoretical content of Marxism- Leninism is determined and enriched by
practical political experience. The theory still retains the experiences of the workers’
movement in the period of its formulation in the mid- nineteenth century. It reflects these
struggles as they developed historically, including the controversies and contradictions.
The truth content of the theory arises from the fact that consistent positions have been
drawn from these struggles. Even wrong positions, later corrected, had not been adopted
without reason; one must learn from them, just as one learns from all mistakes.

2. As a theory of history (drawing upon a comprehensive understanding of processes
of nature and the relationship between nature and history, upon dialectics of nature and
dialectical materialism), Marxism-Leninism, by its very essence cannot be a dogma but
a theory that assimilates history. Where it became mere dogma it very quickly lost touch
with reality. Loss of creative theoretical development led to errors in the development of
its practice and false conclusions. The communist movement has experienced such errors
in its theoretical development even while its creative development continued.

3. That a theory is capable of development does not mean that it can be changed in any
arbitrary way. Marxism-Leninism would no longer be itself if it were to discard the
recognition that all history is a history of class struggles. The basis of its scientific analysis
of historical processes is the insight that the decisive driving force in history is the
development of productive forces and their corresponding production relations, and that
the development of productive forces proceeds  in ever-present contradiction with the
institutionalized stable form of production relations. Analysis of an existing social (and
that includes political) situation and development of an appropriate political strategy
depend on this insight and are based on the understanding of the general foundations and
structural essence of the social formation, including its numerous particular operational
mechanisms and contradictions. Indispensable to Marxism- Leninism is  also dialectics,
in its twofold aspect as a universal principle of the interconnectedness of the
contradictory forms of motion and as a method of representing these contradictory forms
of motion. This means that reality is a multifaceted unity: it is continually changing; its
motion results from the mutual interaction of contradictions on each other; and in this
motion the qualitatively new arises from the accumulation of quantitative changes.  A
basic understanding of Marxist-Leninist theory is that social consciousness is
determined by social being. The contradictions of social being express themselves in
social consciousness so that human beings confronted by the contradictions of  social
being arrive at their various individual positions on the basis of their interests, traditions,
experiences, and under- standing. Finally, basic contradictions manifest themselves in
class positions.

4. Human beings are not the helpless objects of a fatalistic historical process, but
are always the active subjects of history.Nonetheless human behavior, when guided
exclusively or primarily by private interests and personal motivations, can have
unanticipated results. Opaque social structures change intended outcomes, as it were
behind the backs of the individuals. Good will alone, therefore, does not suffice to make
the world better; mere morality is not a political principle (no more than charity can
remove the source of poverty); a theoretical understanding of the relation between
individual and society is necessary. A politicalmovement to change the world to reach a
specific goal cannot succeed if it derives its strategy and actions simply from the desired
outcome or a cross-section of average individual opinions. This would be to reproduce the
errors of bourgeois conceptions of democracy. The desired change in society, whether
through planned reforms with the final goal of revolutionary transformation or through a
revolution, requires a theoretically guided organization, that is, a political party sustained
by the collective will of its supporters. In order for the will of all to become a common
will capable of being translated  into action, individual members must subordinate
themselves to the organizational form, reining in their individual particularities of course
not without prior participation in forming that common will; this principle of discipline is
a simple condition of survival and effectiveness for all revolutionary parties.

5. The basic contradiction of all class societies is the private appropriation of social
wealth whatever the form of the relations of  production. In  previous historical stages,
each change in the relations of production shifted only the structures of appropriation,
and shifted the responsibility for the use of the social wealth from one class to another.
With these shifts, the mechanisms of exploitation became ever more abstract and
opaque. This abstraction has reached, under capitalism and especially in its highly
developed, state-monopolistic, and transnationally organized form, this abstraction has
reached a level in which the overwhelming part of humanity is excluded from the
appropriation of surplus value and decisions about its use, and in which the mechanisms
of the accumulation of capital, the creation and reinvestment of surplus value, have also
become independent of the decision makers. The class interest of that class at whose
expense and against whose self-interest social wealth is created lies in the alteration of
property relations and, because it is the only class that is opposed to these structures of
appropriation, the establishment  of a new social order is its historical mission, which it
has the possibility of achieving. The opposition between capital and labor establishes the
identity of the working class (regardless of the differences in the character of the work
performed by its members) as the class thatis in a position to abolish the capitalist
relations of production. To materialize itself in activity as a class (and not just a sum of
individuals) and thereby become the subject of this historical mission it must acquire
consciousness of the situation in which human beings in general and members of the
working class in particular find themselves, that is, a class consciousness. Various levels
of class consciousness  will  obviously  arise  from  different  experiences and not at all
solely through theory; but class consciousness must always be grounded on the theory of
class society and class struggle.

6. A new qualitative element in the development of the productive forces emerges in
connection with the scientific and technological revolution. On the one hand, science and
technology can today guarantee a generally highmaterial standard of living if a just
system of appropriation and distribution were institutionalized. On the other hand, science
and technology also make possible the destruction of the human species and large parts of
nature. Indeed, the humanity of the human species is threatened by genetic or
psychophysical manipulation. The capitalist form of production relations, which makes the
accumulation of capital and its private control and appropriation the law of motion of
social life, cannot solve this contradiction. Rather, the contradiction is intensified many
times in mass misery (as in the Third World), in the continually growing danger of war,
and in mental impoverishment and the distortion of the free unfolding of the personality.
Only a socialist society provides the perspective of a human future worthy of humanity.

7. The perspective of communism connects the objective laws of history, which are the
laws of reproduction of human conditions of life, with the subjective striving of each
person toward self-realization and happiness.  Self-realization,  however, is not
conceivable without reference to and consideration of fellow human beings; self
realization is not the right of the fist of the individual at the expense of others but has its
foundation in the insight that the individual can only be himself or herself in solidarity
with others. Solidarity and consciousness of the social nature of human beings, that is, a
socialist morality, underlie the program of the Communist Manifesto, that “the free
development of each is the condition for the free development of all” (Marx and Engels,
in vol. 6 of MECW,506). In capitalist societies the new attitude toward life is formed in
the struggle for socialism, in socialist societies, in the struggle for the construction of
socialism. This struggle requires an organizational form: the theoretical understanding
of the social and political processes of the present and the proposal of goals for the future
must be worked out collectively by the members of an organization, mediated by them,
and translated into political action. A communist party is the organization in  which this
occurs (including the errors that always occur in real-life decisions); as the “place” where
the conception of a socialist future is proposed and where the present strategy is worked
out with this conception in mind, it is the revolutionary vanguard of the working class
(even in a nonrevolutionary period).

8. The historical mission of the working class and the task of the communist party
therefore have two aspects: first, the abolition of private ownership of the means of
production and thereby of the private appropriation of surplus value brings about the
changes in the relations of production  that have become necessary because the
development of the forces of production in the scientific and technological revolution can
no longer be sensibly controlled  by private interests; a comprehensive plan for the entire
society is required. Second, the working class in its struggle for  self-determination against
exploitation, oppression, and injustice brings about the goal of establishing a society in
which free and equal citizens can develop their talents in full; only such a society, a
communist society, can guarantee human rights.

9. The construction of socialism, with communism emerging from it, will be a long
and contradictory process even after the abolition of the capitalist property relations.
Presocialist forms of consciousness and behavior last long after the institutional changes,
some for several generations. Class positions do not disappear in one fell swoop; that is,
the class struggle also continues, most of all the struggle over the new socialist
worldview; accordingly, theoretical work and ideological clarity acquire great importance.
This is the more so, as the path to socialism does not run parallel and simultaneously in
the world as a whole, but rather must betraversed by some socialist countries under
conditions of competing systems in which the metropolitan centers of capitalism will still
be economically stronger. Thus the construction of socialism essentially depends upon the
communist party giving leadership to the social development and providing guidance to
other social forces in the socialist countries. This leading role must not be permitted to
solidify into bureaucratic mechanisms (a danger to which it is subject at all times), but
must be achieved and maintained with political power.

10. It is well to remember the insight of Karl Marx that “no social formation is ever
destroyed before all the productive forces  for which it is sufficient have been
developed”  (Marx, in vol. 29 of MECW, 263). Capitalism today, in the development of its
productive forces, begets external contradictionsto the point of threatening the extinction
of humanity in this respect it prepares in itswomb the transition to socialism. However,
capitalism is still capable of organizing within its own framework the continued
development of the forces of production, even though with increasing deterioration of the
quality of life. For this reason, the struggle against capitalism is still the main task of
communists throughout the world. 

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