May 5, 1818 is the day on which Karl Heinrich Marx, the pioneer of Marxism and the leader of the world proletariat, was born. In the coming May 5, 2019 it is going to complete 200 years. Marx and his comradein arms Frederick Engels invented the doctrine of liberation of the proletariat i.e. Marxism. Even after this long period, the relevance of Marxism has not lessened but has increased further. The revolutionary parties, entire proletariat, working class people and the oppressed masses have been joyfully celebrating Marx’s bicentenary with various programmes all through this year. Our party also is observing this bicentenary in various ways. This article too is a part of this celebration. This short article prepared in this context will attempt to touch on the questions like what Marxism is, how a genuine communist should grasp it, what are the challenges the international communist movement is facing now and how one should contend with these challenges etc.
First of all, let us begin with what Marxism is. There are eleven points in the “Theses on Feuerbach” that Marx and Engels have included in their famous work, “The German ideology” prepared in 1845. The eleventh point writes, “The philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways, the point however is to change it.” Based on this proposition, they developed dialectical and historical materialism, the philosophy of liberation of the proletariat. This is the first point.
According to Marx, the value of a commodity is the value of the entire labour necessary to produce it. But while producing a commodity, the capitalist puts a part of labour value in his pocket and gives other part to the worker. The part of labour value the capitalist puts in his pocket is known as surplus value. The essence of capitalism is the exploitation of labour by very surplus value. This is the second point.
The Communist Manifesto drafted by Marx and Engels and published by the Communist League in 1848 writes, “The first step in the revolution by the working class is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class to win the battle of democracy.” The inner content of this excerpt is that the proletariat cannot exercise democracy without attaining power and without imposing their dictatorship upon the oppressor class. In other word, the goats are not free if no tigers are contained. This is the third point.
Marx and Engels have said that the proletariat is an internationalist class and they should fight in unison against capitalism all over the world. Right on this basis, they coined a slogan “Workers of all countries, unite!” and placed it in Communist Manifesto. It is based on the principle of proletarian internationalism. This is the fourth point.
Marx, in a letter written to Wedmeyer in 1852, writes, “The existence of classes is only bound up with the particular, historical phases in the development of production, the class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat and this dictatorship itself only constitutes the transition to the abolition of all classes and to a classless society.” It clarifies that the class, class struggle, party and the state power are not perpetual things; they have emerged at a certain condition and eventually they will wither away. This is the fifth point.
After the defeat of the proletariat in Paris Commune, Marx in his letter to Kugelman writes, “I say that the next attempt of the French Revolution will be no longer, as before, to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it and this is the precondition for every real people’s revolution.” What it clearly means is that the proletariat cannot exercise democracy without establishing a state power with its own armed machinery after the reactionary state power sustained by the bureaucratic military machine has been destroyed. This is the sixth point.
The totality of the questions that have been concisely presented in the aforesaid six points is Marxism and it is universally applicable. It is the liberating ideology of the proletariat and the theory that transforms the world. Any minor change in the content of either one of the aforesaid six points, which make Marxism, leads towards deviation from Marxism itself and it becomes the first step towards revisionism. In no condition can a genuine communist compromise in it.
How one should understand Marxism is another important question. Marxism is a unified doctrine of the dialectical materialist philosophy, political economy and scientific socialism that are concisely presented in the aforesaid six points. In order to liberate country and the people from every sort of oppressions, a communist party, a vanguard detachment of the proletariat, decides a general line of revolution on the basis of objective analysis of socio-economic condition, basic contradictions, principal contradiction and power balance of the political forces of the given country and creatively applies it in practice by means of armed people’s revolution. The proletarian revolution is such a process that translates the dialectical materialist philosophy and political economy into the practice of scientific socialism. On the other, the trend that interprets Marxism in line with its interest and attempts to fit it in its own line is revisionism. One must resolutely and uninterruptedly struggle against revisionism.
The second point, party’s general political programme is related mainly with socio-economic condition or the objective condition of the given society and the military strategy and plans to accomplish revolution are mainly related with the subjective aspect of the revolutionary class. The politico-military line of one country does not fully agree with that of other, because the objective and subjective factors are different. We can see it in the proletarian revolutions accomplished in Russia and China. The political lines were different, the stages of revolutions were different and the military lines to attain them were different as well. But, it did not happen so because Russia’s Marxism was one and China’s Marxism was another. It happened so because Marxism was creatively applied in agreement with their respective objective and subjective conditions prevailing in those countries. Right for this reason, Lenin has said, “Marxism is not a dogma but a guide to action.”
The third point, Marxism is a science. It demands its application. Without applying in practice Marxism cannot be defended. Only he is a genuine revolutionary, who creatively implements Marxism to fit in its particular condition. Marxism does not develop as per someone’s wish. But, it develops in the course of its correct implementation in practice. Lenin creatively applied Marxism in the particularity of Russia and the socialist revolution triumphed there. Right in this course, Marxism developed to Marxism-Leninism. Likewise, Mao creatively applied Marxism-Leninism in the particular condition of China and in so doing new democratic revolution succeeded there. In addition, he waged Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution against those revisionist leaders who had attained higher posts in party and the government. In this course, not only was the revolution defended and developed but it developed Marxist principle as well. As a result, the world proletariat acquired Marxism-Leninism-Maoism as their ideological weapon. However, one must not make it a general principle that every successful revolution necessarily develops our theory to a qualitatively higher stage. The success of every revolution undoubtedly contributes to quantitative development of Marxism but does not necessarily develop it qualitatively. It is equally true for the days ahead as well. This is the process of defence, application and development of Marxism.
Now let us see where we should concentrate at. There was counter-revolution in China after Mao died in 1976. No communist parties remain in power after this event and no revolution has succeeded then. All of the triumphant revolutions of the past have suffered counter-revolution. Some of the on-going revolutions have suffered serious setbacks; some of them are continuing but they have not developed well either. It is a bitter reality today. The cause of counter-revolution is revisionism; there is no ambiguity in it. However, what made the revolutionaries fail to identify revisionism in time and what made them reluctant to defeat revisionism when it was known? Why did not the proletarian revolution advance even in the favourably developing objective condition? These questions demand in-depth assessment. Merely by cursing the revisionists does not solve the problem. Every genuine communist must grasp the fact that the ideological struggle against revisionism should starts from oneself.
As a result of the development of comprador and bureaucratic capitalism and the extensive urbanisation, the social class structure has undergone some changes in the oppressed countries as well. In addition, the network of communication centres brought in by the development of science and technology has spread not only to the notch and corner of the metropolitan cities but also to the remote villages of the under-developed countries. No matter the country is developed or underdeveloped; none of them are similar to the erstwhile Russia and China. Evidently, the minimum political programme for the developed countries is scientific socialism and that for the underdeveloped countries is new democracy. Regardless of this, the military line to accomplish those revolutions, in the present context, cannot be very set of armed people’s insurrection or the protracted people’s war. The development of military line is necessary so as to address the new contradictions that have emerged in the new situation.
Nowadays, a debate has come about on military line in the international communist movement. Some of the communist parties working in the developed countries have concluded that the military strategy of protracted people’s war is universal. Stepping at the logic that the military line of armed insurrection of Russian model has entangled the communist movement in the repetitive circle of organisation, struggle and suppression and the so-called revolutionary utilisation of parliamentary election has drowned the movement deep into parliamentarianism, then the pursuit of a correct military line aimed at liberating the communist movement from the rightist legacy of the past is very much inspiring. Notwithstanding this, the protracted people’s war too, if not updated in agreement with the changes taken place in the social structures and the development of science and technology, cannot push the revolution ahead. No genuine communist can escape from this question.
The backbone of protracted people’s war is base area. The task of establishing base areas and sustaining them with a small militant force is almost impossible in the present epoch of information and technology. How will the protracted people’s war without base area be? If people’s war is waged without developing a military strategy that answers this question then a danger of the people’s war getting locked in to roving rebel guerrillaism and ultimately the whole revolution getting ambushed cannot be ruled out. It is equally true for both the developed and oppressed countries. One must not turn deaf ear to it.
On the other, science and technology has undergone an unprecedented development now. As a result of artificial intelligence and automation, the things that were beyond imagination yesterday have become objective reality today. It is in fact the development of productive forces, which is now confronting with the prevailing capitalist relations of production. The capitalism develops and uses technology to amass super profit out of it, but does not and cannot regulate it. Hence, in the days ahead, it is clear that the crowds of underemployed and unemployed youths is sure to grow all over the world and as a result the contradiction between capital and labour will head towards explosion. It will bring about economic crisis all over the world and ‘illicit’ migration will accelerate. The days ahead will be the days of rebellion in different forms and essence. Its signals can be noticed already on the horizon.
The US imperialism, which has lagged behind in the global competition, is now attempting to re-establish monopoly with a slogan, “Make America great again”. The particularity of the present situation is that the countries like the US and UK, the pioneers of neo-liberalism, have stood in favour of protectionism and China, the follower of state-controlled economy, has become one of the main defenders of neoliberalism. It means, the inter-imperialist contradiction is getting tense from a new axis and the polarisation is rapid. Some political analysts have started saying that this contradiction can ultimately lead to a disastrous Third World War based on nuclear arms. In addition, the contradiction between imperialism and the oppressed nations and people, which is the principal contradiction of the world at present, is also intensifying.
The solution to the world situation portrayed before is the world proletarian revolution and the objective condition is getting favourable for this. Also, the process of getting the Maoist parties organised, though in a sporadic way, is in the rise. It is good for revolution. But, the subjective strength of revolutionaries is very much weak. The ideological unity among the presently existing Maoist parties is not strong enough. They seem to be facing four different directions. It is a big challenge for the revolution to advance.
Second point, the objective condition is becoming favourable to enhance the revolutionary class struggle almost all over the world. Not only this, a small spark of revolutionary class struggle in any country is likely to expand to a wider range soon and then become a prairie fire to challenge imperialism and its running dogs. People are in pursuit of alternative political system, when capitalism, parliamentary system and neo-liberalism have all failed practically. Not the left only, but the bourgeois intellectuals also have been writing this. It is of course an opportune time to create a strong wave of revolutionary struggle all across the world. It demands hard work on the part of genuine revolutionaries.
We are celebrating Marx’s bicentenary this year. The responsibility of a revolutionary is not fulfilled by placing a garland in Marx’s portrait and paying homage of one minute silence in his reverence. So, in the given situation, the responsibility of a revolutionary communist has become to strive for building Maoist parties where they don’t exist, engage in revolutionary class struggle where they exist, prepare to build an international unity among Maoist revolutionaries on the basis of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and work hard to create a front of anti-imperialist struggle all over the world. This and only this will be an actual celebration of Marx’s bicentenary and a high regard towards him.
(The writer is the political-bureau member of Communist Party of Nepal (Revolutionary Maoist)).