March 12, 2015

What separates the Marxist movement from bourgeois democracy / bourgeois radicalism? A response by Andy Taylor. 12 03 15

I had begun an online conversation on the idea of Revolution in Marxism some ten days ago by posting as follows:

"The appeal of Marxism is to the rational mind ~ in it we find the riddles of history and its development resolved in a mentally satisfying dialectical science. The worker's wage and the bosses' fortune are understood; history's strange tragedies and reversals are clarified.
But to win the whole person Marxism must always and for ever remain a cause, a cause that presents the precious gift and promise of Revolution. Revolution! This is the heart of Marxism! Without the unexpected unforeseen novum of Revolution, without this redemption of all the crimes of class societies when the people win, Marxism becomes mundane, the Communist becomes a former-Communist and the Party a Debating-club."

Various friends and comrades replied making contributions within this conversation about the nature and necessity of Revolution. However it was a reflection offered by a respected friend from the Communist party USA that prompted this exercise.

He had written as follows:

"I have lived my life as a committed Marxist. I join with those struggling for reforms, especially radical reforms, believing that the contradictions of monopoly capitalism cannot be resolved with reforms. Yet I see in today's struggles the promise that a "revolutionary situation" will come when the class consciousness of tens of millions in that movement sees that our only real option is revolution. The idea of revolution was not invented by Karl Marx, Fredrick Engels, Rosa Luxembourg, or V.I. Lenin. Thomas Paine was a revolutionary. So was Thomas Jefferson. So was Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, and Abraham Lincoln. And Martin Luther King Jr. Revolutionary change is any transformation that fundamentally alters property relations. Ending the institution of chattel slavery, the ownership of human beings, is a fundamental change in property relations."

My Reply:

I also agree with the struggle for reforms especially radical reforms, and I also count not only Marx and Marxists but also Sojourner Truth, Paine, Riel, William Lyon Mackenzie, the Patriote rebels, my own Suffragette grandmother, and many others in that cohort. However I see no evidence in theory or observation that the class consciousness of tens of millions is in the process of effecting socialist revolution or could effect socialist revolution without the necessity of open confrontations of the worker-revolutionaries with the owning class.

Will the bourgeoisie hand everything over to the people?
Not bloody likely!

It is true as you say that "Revolutionary change is any transformation that fundamentally alters property relations" but the abolition of slavery while certainly revolutionary did not usher in a socialist stage of revolution. It certainly deepened and expanded the promise of the American revolution - closing that initial significant epoch prior to the counter-revolution of the southern state governments. that defeated radical Reconstruction.

But as Marx wrote in ch 2 of The Manifesto "The French Revolution, for example, abolished feudal property in favour of bourgeois property"; "The distinguishing feature of Communism is not the abolition of property generally, but the abolition of bourgeois property" and that "...the theory of the Communists may be summed up in the single sentence: Abolition of private property."

According to the theory of Marx expressed in Marx to Dr Kugelmann Concerning The Paris Commune , in The Eighteenth Brumaire; as in Engels' Anti-Dühring, and Lenin in The State And Revolution, ~ this particular revolutionary change will come as the result of  titanic violent transformative struggles . Both Engels and Lenin were emphatic on the point that the bourgeois state does not "wither away" in history but is "smashed" and "abolished" by the proletariat in the course of the socialist revolution.

You mentioned Martin Luther King as a revolutionary but not Malcolm X. This was a telling if commonplace omission since Martin receives his rightful due from the State and the Press while Malcolm  receives short shrift.  I read King and Malcolm together and take lessons from both in understanding the complexity of the creation and destruction of the racial and class structure in America, noting not only the inseparable link between social reform and social revolution, but rejecting any sort of arbitrary schematic antithesis between them. An online Glossary of Marxist terms expresses the difference between the revolutionary struggle for reforms versus mere reformism: "Revolution only comes about when the possibility for reforms is exhausted, but revolution is only possible if the working class is sufficiently well-organised and educated to overthrow the bourgeois and take intellectual and practical leadership of the whole of society."

As we see in the events in Venezuela in the last years up to today the imperialists have not slowed or faltered in their subversive craft. In fact, without a forceful advance against Capital by the Venezuelan revolutionary masses to Socialism their substantial victories could soon be reversed by the concealed intrigue and open violence of Reaction led within by the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and externally by the United States, the centre of global imperialism.

In summing up, I continue to think that the final socialist end and goal of Revolution and the violent clash of powers entailed in that break is a most decisive aspect distinguishing the theory of the Marxist revolutionary movement from that of bourgeois democracy and bourgeois radicalism. Is the owning class "withering away" or losing it's hostility toward a people's agenda and fundamental change? Sadly, not ~ by no means!

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