We shall express our views on building up a Communist Party today keeping in consideration the theoretical questions that have been raised regarding the formation and role of the Communist Party in this period of deep crisis of the International Communist Movement. We shall also discuss the responsibility of the Communist Revolutionaries of India in this respect in the concrete condition of India. In view of this, what is necessary is to discuss the questions as regards the theory of socialism and the Communist Party that have been very forcefully advanced as well as the theoretical basis of the concept of the Communist Party, its emergence, development and its significance at the present times, in the struggle for the transformation of the society.
Although the thought of creating a post-capitalist society started developing right from the time of appearance of capitalism, since 1840s when the theory of Marx and Engels on this very question began developing, it occupied the central position and remains so still today. The success of Russian Revolution under the leadership of Lenin in 1917 and the successful Chinese Revolution led by Mao in 1949 rendered the theory of Marx and Engels almost unquestionable. But in the subsequent period the ruin of the Communist Movement in Russia and China has seriously put the validity of this theory to question. We do not think that those who have raised and are still raising this question are the enemies of humanity or the friends of the capitalists. We are, therefore, ready to re-evaluate many of the questions raised. Nor are we hesitant to question the thoughts universally accepted in the World Communist Movement, if it becomes very pressing in to-day’s context. We are intent on endeavouring this re-evaluation to shield ourselves from dogmatism, to address the needs of the present times very seriously and to present anew to our interested friends the problem of social change in to-day’s conditions.
The objection against the concept of the Communist Party and its activities that has cast a spell of confusion and misgivings on a large section of the thinking people of the world is that historical materialism and the concept of the Communist Party are nothing but some assertions of mechanical and rigid formulas. As a result the Communist Movement imposes the will and the programme of a handful of people on the entire civilization in the process of comprehending an ideal society and its realization through the medium of an organisation called a Communist Party. The Communists try to implement the will and decisions of the central committee of the Communist Party in the name of dictatorship of the proletariat.
Eastman, formerly a Communist, turned a virulent anti-communist later on writes:
“That is the most obvious thing, I think, that psychology has to say to the socialist. The ideal society must be adapted to the unideal man. It must have regard to native average human traits, and not confuse these with subtle attitudes that specially bred or educated types have sometimes managed to maintain. And among these traits a gut for giving battle will be found quite as native as that gregarious kindliness of which socialists have made so much.”
The question is: Who are the class conscious people, how will they be born, how much are such people necessary for the inception and development of socialism, and what is most important is if such people can at all come into being. After the debacle of socialism in Russia and China, we cannot set aside the question how will the socialist man/woman be at all created, just as calumny spread by the anti communists. This is as well a burning question of millions of communists. It has turned out to be an extremely important question if a determined struggle for the destruction of the capitalist system, if the aspiration of the broad masses of the proletariat for building up a new social system can make them into socialist men/women and if it does not, which means has to be adopted to create new men/women . Eastman is in great doubt if man/woman will at all strive for building a new society stepping out of the capitalist society. It appears to him that communism is not meant to meet the basic needs of man, rather it is a hypothesis that can never be translated into reality. We are intent on understanding the reason of the pessimistic views of Eastman –ie. if it is generated by the defeat of Communist Movements or something else.
Antonio Gramsci has expressed his views on whether the revoluti-onary process should be called proletarian or communists :
“We have therefore maintained: 1. that the revolution is not necessarily proletarian and communist if it proposes and obtains the overthrow of the bourgeois state; 2. nor is it proletarian and communist if it proposes and obtains the destruction of the representative institutions and administrative machine through which the central government exercises the political power of the bourgeoisie; 3. it is not proletarian and communist even if the wave of popular insurrection places power in the hands of men who call themselves (and sincerely are) communists. The revolution is proletarian and communist only insofar as it liberates proletarian and communist forces of production, forces that have been developing within the society ruled by the capital class. It is proletarian and communist insofar as it advances and promotes the growth and systematisation of proletarian and communist forces that can begin the patient, methodical work necessary for the construction of a new order in the relations of production and distribution.”
We may not agree with Gramsci, but we are keen to understand the reason of these doubts about the character of progress and its source. Most important is Gramsci’s third observation: it is not proletarian and communist even if the wave of popular insurrection places power in the hands of men who call themselves (and sincerely are) communists.
Jean Paul Sartre was sometime a communist. Later on he became an adherent of existentialist philosophy. He had taken to such activities on various occasions that directly injured the communist movement. Still we will try to discover the root of his questions and confusions. He writes :
“Just as complex is the hypothesis of an “open” relation between a unifying political organization of the class, i.e. the party, and the self-government of the masses in councils or soviets. We must not forget that when this was attempted, in post-revolutionary Russia, the unitary organizations of the masses rapidly disappeared, and only the party remained.”
It is obvious that Sartre is apprehensive about the very interrelation between the party and the power of the class. To him, it is the party that holds the core of the problem. He has expressed his doubts about the institutionalization of democratic centralism.
“Let me give you another classic example, namely the question of democratic centralism. As long as democratic centralism operated in a dynamic situation, for instance during clandestinity and the organization of the struggle in Russia, that is precisely at the time when Lenin elaborated its theory, it remained a living thing. There was a moment of centralism, because it was necessary, and a moment of real democracy, because people could argue and decisions were taken in common. As soon as it was institutionalized, as was the case in all Communist countries, centralism took precedence over democracy, and democracy itself became an “institution”, subjected to its own inertia : there exists, for instance, a right to speak, but the fact alone that it should be a right-and only that–empties it so much of its substance that, in reality, it becomes a non-right.”
The most important responsibility that the party can assume is to determine how it will develop its perception from the people’s movement and how will it generalize the lessons drawn from them.
“The real question is therefore to know how to overcome the contradiction which is inherent in the very nature of the party, so that (not only in its relations with opponents and in its tasks as a fighting organization, but also in relation to the class which it represents) the party may constitute an active mediation between serialized and massified elements for the purpose of their unification; in other words, how the party may be able to receive the impulses which emanate from movements and, rather than claim to direct them, may be able to generalize experience for the movement and for itself.”
In conclusion Sartre has expressed his doubts about the party in the following manner:
“While I recognize the need of an organization, I must confess that I don’t see how the problems which confront any stabilized structure could be resolved.”
When the communists of today stand face to face with these questions and misgivings, the writings of Lenin, an architect of a successful revolution, expressing what a situation he had to face when the Soviet Union was advancing toward socialism, throw much light on the subject. In 1919 when Lenin started to realize that the lack of socialist consciousness of the workers had thrown a great challenge to the progress of socialism, he wrote :
“The workers were never separated by a Great Wall of China from the old society. And they have preserved a good deal of the traditional mentality of capitalist society. The workers are building a new society without themselves having become new people, or cleansed of the filth of the old world; they are still standing up to their knees in that filth.”
The question where the proletarian class consciousness will come from, has created much confusion and is becoming more and more relevant and stronger in the Communist Movement. Mao thought since in the pre-revolutionary China modern industry and trade union had not developed to such an extent as to create gross opportunism in the working class movements, the workers had been endowed with great revolutionary quality. He writes,
“First, the Chinese proletariat is more resolute and thoroughgoing in revolutionary struggle than any other class because it is subjected to a threefold oppression (imperialist, bourgeois and feudal) which is marked by a severity and cruelty seldom found in other countries. Since there is no economic basis for social reformism in colonial and semi-colonial China as there is in Europe, the whole proletariat, with the exception of a few scabs, is most revolutionary.”
Now all of us know to our great anguish how subsequently the capitalist outlook has overwhelmed the workers in every field of life in China. Karl Marx wrote :
“You will have to go through fifteen, twenty or fifty years of civil wars and international conflicts, not only to change existing conditions, but also to change yourselves and to make yourselves and to make yourselves capable of wielding political power.”
We have brought forward even the questions and opinions of some non communists, too. But now we are passing through a time when even the communists also are raising various questions. Despite recognising the repeated fore-warnings given by Marx, Lenin and Mao, many questions have created uneasiness, embarrassment and misgivings among countless communist activists and organizers across the globe. Some of those questions are like the following: (a) How and why even after the creation of the dictatorship of the proletariat in a country the most advanced and the strongest organisation of the proletariat turns into a bourgeois organisation in its journey towards socialism. (b) Why in the post-World War II period the major communist organisations of almost all the countries of the world slipped into degeneration almost simultaneously. Why even after the passage of 60 years since the dissolution of the Third International no international organisation could be built up. (c) How much the failure of socialism to assume a stable form can be attributed to the role of the Communist Party (its principles and implementation) and how much to the strength of the world capitalist system, to the stage of development of the production system (in the countries where revolutions were successful), or to the problem of the material basis of the development of proletarian consciousness in a given society?
As regards the third proposition, we are not going to deal with it in this article. But we will try and find out the answers of the first and the second questions.
The Communist Movement and Reflections on the Party at the time of Marx and Engels
If we accept the Communist League (1847) as the first communist organisation directed towards achieving scientific communism, the age of the Communist Party turns out to be 166 years. Since its birth the theory and formation of the Communist Party have undergone a process of transformation.
In the decade of 1840s, when Marx and Engels had been formulating dialectical materialist philosophy and materialist concept of history, they undertook to organise the working class. At the outset they started their activities in close collaboration with an organisation called League Of Just. A worker (tailor) named Wilhelm Weitling was the founder of this organisation. Although a tailor by profession he developed this organisation into an international one having a membership of 1300, belonging to Germany, France, Switzerland, Hungary and Scandinavia. He was one of the signatories of the statements of the First International in its early period. He was a utopian socialist. He got entangled in a debate with Marx in 1846 on the question of taking to direct arm struggles based on the model by first Christmas of the ‘New Testament’, with the objective of uprooting the state for the realization of communism. The debate was occasioned by the making of a draft programme for the organization. Marx differed with Weitling on the type of organisation that the latter proposed to build. In 1847 Marx and Engels separately founded the Communist League. In a meeting of the League, the ‘Programme’ drafted by them was adopted, which was published in 1848 in the name“The Manifesto of the Communist Party”.
The prime leader of the organization which Marx and Engels came in close contact with was a propagator of the Bible and Communism. The principal reason why they chose to become intimate with this organization was their passion for establishing contact with the workers. So the programme or constitution of that organization does not help us understand their ideas about the party. It was the Communist League that for the first time clearly expressed their thinking regarding the society and the party.
The Communist League was an international organization, centrally led, not a co-ordination of organizations of different countries. The aim that the Constitution of this organization declared was the abolition of the bourgeois system, to achieve the rule of the Proletariat and to establish classless society devoid of private property. Although led centrally, its centralism (in today’s sense) was weak.
In the rules of this organization the Congress has been designated as the legislative authority of the entire League. The executive organ of this organization was the central authority which was responsible to the Congress. But it was not a body elected by the Congress. “It consists of at least five members and is elected by the circle authority of the place in which the Congress has located the seat (Article 22)” This means that the Congress would not have been elected as the representative body of the entire League. In reality it served only as a link. “The central authority is incorrespondence with the leading circles. Once every three months it gives a report on the state of the whole league.”(Article 23).The Congress of the League used to be held every year in the month of August (Article 33). In case of emergency the Congress as the central authority could convene a special Congress.
The members of the central authority used to be elected for one year. The electors (i.e., the members of the circle authority) could recall them any time and elect new members (Article 25). It naturally follows from this that not only the central authority was not the highest representative body of the whole organization, but also their post was not stable in between the two Congresses. In this sense, the Circle Authority, representing the place where the last Congress was held was the most powerful body for a year in respect of the entire organization. It is, therefore, evident that no committee of the League enjoyed the power of exercising the centralized leadership.
Marx and Engels played the leading role to free this organisation from Weitling’s semi-conspiratorial mode of operation.
“In the summer of 1847, the first league congress took place in London, at which W. Wolff represented the Brussels and I the Paris communities. At this congress the reorganization of the League was carried through first of all. Whatever remained of the old mystical names dating back to the conspiratorial period, was abolished; League now consisted of communities, circles, leading circles, a central committee and a congress, and henceforth called itself the Communist League.
….. The organization was thoroughly democratic, with elective and always removable boards. This alone barred all hankering after conspiracy, which requires dictatorship, and the League was converted- for ordinary peace times at least- into a pure propaganda society. (Ref. 2)” (The emphasis is ours)
From the description that Engels gave above we can realise that Marx and Engels conceived the League as mainly a propagandist body in the peaceful times. Marx’ and Engels’ idea about the formation and working style of the party in generally peaceful times becomes clear to us from their concept of elected body at all levels and the provision of recall of its members.
The main objective of Marx and Engels behind building up the Communist League as an organisation of peaceful times was to convey the communist consciousness to the broad masses of the people or to uplift their consciousness. But times refused to remain peaceful. Immediately after the birth of Communist League, an era of workers awakening and the state repression to suppress it started. Engels writes :
“The February Revolution broke out. The London Central Committee functioning hitherto immediately transferred its powers to the Brussels leading circle. But this decision came at a time when an actual state of siege assembles anywhere. We were all of us just on the point of going to Paris, and the new Central Committee decided likewise to dissolve, to hand over all its powers to Marx and empower him immediately to constitute a new Central Committee in Paris. Hardly had the five persons who adopted this decision (March 3, 1948) separated, before police forced their way into Marx’s house, arrested him and compelled him to leave for France the following day, which was just where he was wanting to go.” (Ref. 3)
The League came into being at a time when workers’ agitation and uprisings in France and Germany very often assumed the character of political struggles. But to Marx and Engels it was clear that unless the proletariat distinctly visualised their destination, the ongoing political struggles could not reach any definite goal. Therefore, to prepare a correct programme and to convey it to the international proletariat and progressive people of the world was of primary importance. For this purpose, such an organisation was needed as would enable its members to exchange their views and opinions much freely and openly. It was from this necessity that conferences used to be held every year and the leadership was subject to recall at any time. At the time of its very inception, to put forward the programme of the League as a living document of the ongoing workers’ movement was the objective of the League. In 1847, the programme submitted by Marx and Engels was approved by the League Congress. In 1848, it was published in the name “The Manifesto of the Communist Party”. In 1848-49 the industrial crisis and the resultant revolutionary storm that was created in favour of the proletariat began to change with the passing of the crisis. Meanwhile, although it was true that the League members of different localities of different countries exercised leadership over actually existing class struggles facing all odds as front runners, at the same time the organisational leadership of the League gradually weakened. In 1850, Marx and Engels wrote (ref. 4) that the strong organisation of former years has been debilitated. The local organisations in the course of weakening their relation with the Central Committee had at least been inactive. To rebuild this organisation Marx and Engels wrote:
“This reorganization can only be achieved by an emissary, and the Central Committee considers it most important to dispatch the emissary at this very moment, when a new revolution is imminent, that is, when the workers’ party must go into battle with themaximum degree of organization, unity and independence, so that it is not exploited and taken in tow by the bourgeoisie as in 1848.” (The emphasis is ours)
In the perspective of the impending (that was then expected by Marx and Engels) change (in the sense of seizing of power by the proletariat), it was said,
“At the soonest possible after the overthrow of the present governments, the central committee will come to Germany and will immediately convene a Congress, submitting to it the necessary proposals for the Centralization of the workers’ clubs under a directorateestablished at the movement’s centre of operation.” (The bold is ours)
It was proposed that the workers’ clubs would be centralized at the centres of the movement (the workers’ clubs were then the mainstay of socio-political activities) under a directorate. In the context of intensification of the proletarian movement, Marx and Engels contemplated of increased intervention of the Central Committee, decided to hold the Congress of the League in Germany, so that in accordance with the constitution of the League, in the activities of the next Central Committee (the central committee referred to here was an international centre) the League members of Germany could play a decisive role. The actual class struggle and an adopted programme made the centralization of the communist activities and the organisation an imperative task. It also necessitated a secret and strong organisational structure. Especially the situation of Germany called for a new type of organisation.
“As the immediate after-effects of our defects gradually passed, it became clear that the revolutionary party needed a strong secret organization throughout Germany.”(7)(The bold is ours)
The organization that was in an ordinary non-revolutionary period of time a “Pure Propaganda Society” was to be, in the opinion of Marx and Engels a thoroughly secret organisation in the period of revolutionary storm. What was built up at some time as a “Thoroughly democratic, with elective and always removable boards,” was proposed to be reorganised on the basis of “Maximum degree of organisation, unity and independence at some other time.”
The principal point of emphasis of Marx and Engels in respect of leading the organization in the first phase was to create a definite vision about the historic destination of the proletarian class movement in the consciousness of the general workers. To achieve this it was necessary to spread the influence of the League to the general workers’ agitation very fast. But it was difficult for a secret organisation to do this. Therefore, to increase the political influence even over the workers outside the League it was proposed that activities should be carried on in different political formations like workers’ club, workers’ education societies, workers’ councils etc. or to form such organizations anew. But how to save the really existing class struggles, the advanced section of the proletariat, their organisation and its unity and independence in the phase of the onslaughts of the enemy classes and their parties, could not be solved by the Communist League. But it was extremely necessary for the uplift of the proletarian class consciousness and a more developed and widespread political activities. That the League failed to solve the problem is borne out by the fact that in spite of the proletariat’s intense political activism in 1848-49 period and the corresponding political activities of the League members in various countries, the League could not act as an effective centre.
Although two written statements of the Central Committee of the League in 1850 gave a call to organise the League anew, the League could not be reorganized. The League was formally abolished in the year 1852. In the two subsequent decades, the industry of Germany as well as the whole of Europe underwent a fast growth and development. In this period the communist organisations together with the workers’ organisations became weak.
Analyzing the Communist activities from 1847 to 1852 we shall find:
The idea of Communism was not born from within the workers’ movement. It was born in the arena of theoretical activities, carried on along with the workers’ movement. But it did not emerge irrespective of the birth of the working class or the actual conflict between the bourgeoisie and the working class. On the contrary they immensely influenced the theoretical exercise of the period.
Right from the inception of the communist theory, its authors tried to build up a living relation with the struggles of the working class. The two major architects of this theory, Marx and Engels, in the phase when their concepts of the Communist Party, proletarian dictatorship and communism kept developing, established the connection with the League of Just, a truly workers’ organisation. The theory of scientific communism created in the world of theoretical exercise, gave birth to a separate theoretical movement, which merging with the ongoing working class movements created The Communist League. The concept of socialism that was born in the working class movement prior to this was utopian and devoid of any scientific basis.
The Communist League was born on the eve of awakening of the working class. It was only through the participation in the direct struggle in the period of that awakening that Marx and Engels were able to bring forward a more developed idea of The Communist Party and its brief outline before the International Communist Movement.
The Communist League aimed at increasing the political activities of the broad masses of the workers and educating the workers with the concept of scientific communism.
Although an international organization, its main activities were conducted in Germany. It had a bit more than 300 members. The membership of this organisation was not open to general workers. Only the chosen few advanced workers would get membership.
The Communist League was not such a well-structured organisation as we find in the Communist Party of the 20th Century. On the basis of the review of practice of Communist League during 1847-50, the necessity of building up a secret and strong organisation was strongly felt by Marx and Engels. They did not formulate or theorise how the organisation characterised by “Secret”, “Maximum degree of organisation, unity and independence” would unleash the political initiative of the broad masses of the workers and educate them with the idea of Scientific Communism (that was why they built up the League as a sort of Propaganda Society).
The organization that took shape in 1847 had a constitution (or rules) with a distinct preponderance of democracy. Though the term ‘Centralism’ was then not in use, the power of the highest committee was very limited. It was not even a permanent body for a stipulated period (the electors could remove its members at any time and could elect some other person/persons instead).
The activism of the workers in the period of 1847-48 was directly connected with the industrial crisis of that time. In the period following 1850, industrial capital got rid of crisis and entered into a phase of unhindered growth and the movements of the working class subsided.
After the industrial crisis and workers’ awakening of 1848 till 1860 there was no sign of upswing of the workers’ movement. At that time Marx and Engels regularly attended various conferences or important meetings of the workers. From their point of view, they considered independent formulation of their theoretical understanding as their main contribution to the movements of international proletariat. In the decade of 1860s when the workers again woke up, they took up afresh the organizational initiative.
The Uprising of Workers’ Movements in the Decade of 1860s : The First International and Paris Commune
After the revolutionary deluge of 1848 came to an end, a period of reaction started in France, Germany, England especially in the regions of political activeness of the workers of Europe. The crisis in industry blew over and an acceleration of growth was visible. There were new employments. In 1859, once again industrial crisis appeared and the industrialists tried to shift the onus of this crisis to the workers. In 1859-60, innumerable workers’ strikes took place in the newly founded industries. Under the circumstances the workers’ unions took initiative to forge unity on a bigger scale. In 1861 London Trade Council was formed. In the decade of 1860s intensity of workers’ movement kept on increasing throughout Europe.
In this period two major ideological trends dominated the French Workers’ Movements, viz. Proudhon’s and Blanqui’s thought. After the defeat of 1848, a large section of revolutionaries became followers of Proudhon. Proudhon was opposed to political struggles and strikes. He advocated for struggles of the working class that were practical and realizable. The essence of Blanquism was to bring about revolutionary transformation of the society through a conspiratorial uprising.
In Germany during that very decade Lassalle emerged as the most influential leader of the working class movements. It was under his leadership that in 1869 “German Social Democratic Workers’ Party” (known in Germany as adav) was founded. Before this “Union of German Workers” was established in 1863, the principal two slogans of which were: (1) Struggle for a greater right to vote by peaceful, legal means, (2) State subsidies for workers’ production co-operatives. Separately from the Lassalleans, “Federation of German Workers’ Clubs” was set up in Frankfurt of Germany. Bebel and Dosmessler were the leaders of this organisation. Formerly an adav leader, Liebknecht joined this new Federation in 1865.
Even after taking some joint initiatives with the Lessalleans Marx was compelled to dissociate himself from them. Marx wrote to a leader of Lessalleans regarding the activities of Lassalle among the workers :
“D’abord, as regards the Lassallean Association, it is formed in a period of reaction. After fifteen years of slumber, Lassalle – and this remains his immortal service- reawakened the workers’ movement in Germany. But he made great mistakes. He allowed himself to be influenced too much by the immediate circumstances of the time. He made the minor starting point, his opposition to the dwarf-like Schulze-Delitzsch, the central point of his agitation- state aid versus self-help.”
From the writings of Marx of this period two observations clearly come into view : (1) There is a profound relation between political awakening of the workers and the political essence of the trade union activities. Naturally, therefore, the connection, initiative and the role of the political consciousness, of the workers (the level of consciousness to which the Communists want to raise it) in respect of the trade union movements and over and above, keeping conformity with the changing times, the necessary changes of slogans and character of the trade union movements are a very important matter. (2) The Communists carry on their activities in the trade unions not only to help the workers in their struggles for economic demands, but also try to introduce a method of work that would help the workers to think and to take initiative and decisions independently.
In course of his observations on the forms and method of work of the trade union organizations in the above mentioned letter, Marx writes that the type of work that a centralist organization can perform in the secret society and sect movement cannot be carried out by trade unions. Even if it is possible, says Marx, it is not advisable. It is because the workers here grow up and live in a bureaucratic and authoritarian milieu and therefore,
“Here, where the worker is regulated bureaucratically from childhood onwards, where he believes in authority, in those set over him, the main thing is to teach him to walk by himself.”
As regards the role of the executives of the trade unions, Marx has very meticulously analysed it. Marx has expressed his views that to educate the general masses of the proletariat for the revolutionary change the most backward workers also have to be drawn into the fold of political and cultural stirrings.
In 1875 Lessalleans were united with other communist organizers led by Bebel and Liebknecht into a conference. Marx called the programme adopted at the conference as an opportunist compromise of the communist organizers with the wrong thinkings of Lassalle and wrote “The Critique of Gotha Programme”. Marx showed that the active leaders of the working class movement cannot achieve unity on any condition or basis whatsoever and if it is done that way it would cause immense harm to the entire working class movement. As a result of the increased activities of the workers of Europe in the decade of 1860’s, “International Working Men’s Association” came into being in 1864. Its first congress was held in Geneva in 1866. At the time of inception, worker leaders of various opinions and trends assembled in it e.g. French Mutualists, Italian Republicans, Blanquists, English Owenists, American Anarchists, Mazzinists and socialists of various lineages. Obviously it was not a Communist organization on any standard. As for its aim, it was founded as a “Mutual Aid Society”, so that the strikers and other workers engaged in others struggles could achieve solidarity with one another. All types of workers’ organizations were included in this body–trade unions, workers’ political organizations and secret socialist and Communist groups. Naturally in respect of criteria of membership, it was a very lax type of organization. Its membership rose to 60-80 lakh in the whole of the world.
In this period of the rise of the working class movement, on 19th July, 1870, France declared war with Prussia. At different phases of the war France had to face severe defeats. On 19th September, Prussia lay siege to the city of Paris. On 2nd January, 1871 France sent a proposal for conciliation to Prussia and asked for the permission to hold the internal election in the country before any agreement is reached. After having the consent of Prussia, the election was held. On 26th February, the new government signed the agreement with Prussia. It was decided in the agreement that France would give Alsace and Lorraine to Germany, a territory of 15 lakh of population, 500 square miles of area and economically most vital. The other condition of the agreement was that on 1st March, 1871 the German army would occupy Paris. But the toiling people of Paris and the Paris National Guard (a part of French Army) refused to give up arms and resisted the German army from entering Paris. The French government sent them some proposals which they rejected and seized the city. On 19th March the Paris citizens started voting for constituting the Commune. The Paris Commune, the first government of workers was formed. The Commune adopted a programme of various democratic reforms. On 6 April, 1871 the French army attacked the Commune. The Communards valiantly fought back, until the French army entered Paris. The battle was finished on 28th May.
From 1847 to the end of the First international was a period when Marx and Engels considered their theory relevant to the prevailing crisis of capitalism. Through profound analysis of the history of civilization they reached the conclusion that capitalism was going to face an inevitable crisis and there was no way out. The unavoidable consequence of this was endless suffering of human civilization. They organized the activities of the Communist Party with a view to channelize the discontent and agitation of the workers oppressed by the crisis of capitalist system into their logical finality.
From the brief outline that we gave of the First International and Paris Commune it becomes evident that there was little role of scientific communist consciousness in the two great historic events of the international proletarian movement. They were more of a spontaneous awaking of the working class born of the crisis of capitalist system. Although Marx was active in the period of building up the First International and its development (to the extent that it developed) the opinion of Marx and Engels had no decisive role to play. In the workers’ uprising of the Paris Commune, Blanqui’s influence was the greater and he was an anarchist in his political persuasion. This outline of history definitely upholds the truth that the struggle against capital waged by the workers contains a tendency of overstepping the boundary of the capitalist system. The working class carries with it this bent of mind unconsciously. This tendency of the workers is rooted in the capitalist production system itself and in its political-social formation. It is entrenched in the contradiction between the development of productive force and production relation. This contradiction shakes the very foundation of the capitalist system again and again, manifested in the influence and widespread conflict of the working class with the bourgeoisie. Now the question arises that when the working class wakes up from its slumber spontaneously and even when proceeds towards building new order smashing the capitalist system, does it require to have the communist consciousness? If the answer is in the positive, the question remains — why does the class require it and how can it acquire this quality?
First, it has been found in history that at a higher stage of political awakening, the working class becomes spontaneously eager to explore the alternative possibilities that may follow the abolition of the capitalist system. The theory of scientific communism does not provide us with any such formulation that at the moment of the most intense class struggle, the spontaneity of the working class will reject the thought of Blanqui or Bakunin and proceed towards scientific socialism on its own. According to the concept of Marx, the working class cannot, in its unconscious state, decide on its tasks and take steps accordingly for achieving “scientific communism” at different phases of the class struggle. To take up this task, that is, to lead the class towards its historic destination, it is necessary to consciously realize the class interest, to rid the movement of the influence of the alien ideology and to be aware of the danger of restoration of capitalism, its basis and character and the form and essence of the struggle against it. It is for carrying out this task that Marx and Engels wrote“The Communist Manifesto”, founded “The Communist League”, and actively participated in the “First International” and thereby tried to make the international proletariat conscious about their historic destination and responsibility. If by the term “emancipation” we do not mean only the rebellion against the system, if it has to be firmly entrenched in the proletarian state, it is a task that only the class conscious proletariat can take upon themselves. Therefore, only the class conscious working class alone will bring about its own emancipation. This consciousness is one about the historical dynamics of the society and one about historical goal and responsibility of the working class. Before we enter into the discussion on the development and practice of the Communist Party as the next theoretical part on the question of the Party, we shall just have a look at the fundamental framework of Marx’s and Engels’ thinking about it.
Dialectical Materialism and the Communist Party
We are setting about dealing with this matter keeping in mind the theoretical critiques that have been made for about the last one hundred years, on this subject. If one asks the question — is there any causal relation or is it an ‘accidental’ phenomenon that a society with a specific socio-economic system (feudalism, capitalism etc) transforms into some different system(that happened without any intervention of the Communists), what will be the answer? In its extension we may ask — could any other type of society replace feudalism than capitalist, in various countries? Or, could any other type of socio-economic system be born instead of the world capitalist system that has been dominating throughout the globe? According to the judgement of historical materialism, the answer is ‘no’. Could some other situation or characteristic be born within the Capitalist system? The answer is ‘yes’, according to historical materialism. The world has witnessed innumerable wars and their definite effects on the society. Those wars could have been different from what they actually were and their effects, too, could have been different. Various natural phenomena, the speciality of a particular historical period, the role of an individual, the state or leadership etc. could have influenced to some extent what became inevitable by the laws of socio-economic development. The policies and slogans forwarded by the bourgeois parties could have been different from what exactly they were. But they could not reach a destination that is opposite or distinctly different, by violating the fundamental laws of socio-economic development. Going to explain the laws of social development Marx and Engels have shown why and how one socio-economic system changes into a different system and discovered the causal relation of this phenomenon. According to Marx the contradiction between the development of productive forces with the backward production relation is the root cause of the crisis of economic base and the tendency of the society for change. Many modern thinkers have denounced this method of viewing the development of society as economic determinism or progress in a straight line. But we find in the works of Marx and Engels that they were opposed to any kind of determinism. Not only in the sphere of the laws of development of society, but also in the sphere of nature or scientific experimentations, they were opposed to this outlook and developed their theory by opposing it. Marxism has explained by a very original and logical view-point the interrelation between necessity and chance in nature. Engels writes:
“Another opposition in which metaphysics is entangled is that of chance and necessity. What can be more sharply contradictory than these two thought determinations? How is it possible that both are identical, that the accidental is necessary, and the necessary is also accidental? Common sense, and with it the majority of natural scientists, treats necessity and chance as determinations that exclude each other once for all. A thing, a circumstance, a process is either accidental or necessary, but not both. Hence both exist side by side in nature; nature contains all sorts of objects and processes, of which some are accidental, the others necessary, and it is only a matter of not confusing the two sorts with each other.”
Engels has described here a particular type of metaphysical outlook on “necessity” and “chance”. In the post Marx-Engels era a modified form of this tendency in natural science and social science has been prevailing afresh in the domain of knowledge. In particular by explaining some discoveries in physics from an erroneous philosophical angle, “chance” has been presented as decisive in the laws of social progress. “Determinism” is an exactly opposite outlook of the viewpoint which sees the natural phenomena as two separate and fully independent categories. Engels writes:
“ In opposition to this view there is determinism, which passed from French materialism into natural science, and which tries to dispose of chance by denying it altogether. According to this conception only simple, direct necessity prevails in nature.”
According to this view, that a tail of a particular dog is just 5 inches long, neither more nor less, or that a flower plant puts forth 22 flowers, neither 21, nor 23, is predetermined from even before the creation of the world as a result of causal relation. Since behind each real happening there must have some cause or other; no happenings can take place accidentally. Although many of them appear to be accidental giving the impression that something else could have happened, it is not true. Only what was destined to happen has happened. This theory is called “determinism”. Engels has called it a wrong outlook.
On the other hand, there is another category of knowledge where ‘chance’ has been defined as eternal. Engels writes:
“With this kind of necessity we likewise do not get away from the theological conception of nature…
Hence chance is not here explained by necessity, but rather necessity is degraded to the production of what is merely accidental. If the fact that a particular pea-pod contains six peas, and not five or seven, is of the same order as the law of motion of the solar system, or the law of the transformation of energy, then as a matter of fact chance is not elevated into necessity, but rather necessity degraded into chance.”
In the above quotation, Engels has described the outlook according to which nothing happens as determined by necessity, logic or cause. This outlook interprets — what is called “accidental” does not carry any fundamental difference with the laws of motion of the solar system or transformation of energy. That the planets and satellites of the solar system abide by some definite laws is quite accidental. Why they do not abide by some other laws cannot be explained by any logical sequence.
We have seen that dialectical materialism has become “dialectical” by rejecting different tendencies of metaphysics. But the question remains — if the outlook to view social science turns out to be deterministic even after confronting with determinism? First we should admit that there is ample possibility of its being so. But here we are not discussing who and when somebody in the Communist Parties of different countries fell victim to deterministic thought in 160 years of the Communist Movement. We are only examining if the fundamental theories of Marx and Engels that proclaim the necessity of the Communist Party for the progress of society is deterministic in any sense. To go into this problem we have to understand Marx’ explanation of “materialist concept of history” and its philosophical basis.
The thought of Marx and Engels was much enriched by the struggles Hegel waged against different trends of metaphysics before them. Let us have a look at Hegel’s opinion on this matter before we analyse the points of difference between Hegel and Marx-Engels. Engels writes:
“In contrast to both conceptions, Hegel came forward with the hitherto unheard-of propositions that the accidental has a cause because it is accidental, and just as much also has no cause because it is accidental; that the accidental is necessary, that necessity determines itself as chance, and on the other hand, this chance is rather absolute necessity.[Logik ,II,BookIII,2: Reality]”
A very important element of “materialist concept of history” propounded by Marx and Engels is consciousness of human being and the role of conscious human being. In this respect their philosophical outlook is basically different from their predecessors. When we try to assess the definitive role of the Communists in social progress in this article, we should before that understand this particular formulation from philosophical and sociological point of view.
To clarify their concept it is necessary to pay attention to the departure that Marx and Engels had made with Hegel and Feuerbach.
Human Being, The Maker of History:
Hegel, Feuerbach and Marx
In 1843, Marx wrote a critique of Hegel’s “Philosophy of Right” named “Critique on Hegel’s Philosophy of Right”. This article helps us comprehend human being’s role as the maker of history and the difference between Marx and Hegel. One of the main contents of Hegel’s writings is how the changes in society are brought about and what human being’s role in it is. Marx has discussed “Philosophy of Right” paragraph by paragraph. It starts with Hegel’s conception of the emergence of capitalism through industrial revolution, after demolishing the feudal system. Hegel’s aforementioned book was written in 1820 which is a developed version of the ideas expressed in “Encyclopedia of the Philosophical science” written in 1817.
The book begins with the idea of “free will”. According to Hegel “free will” realizes itself through a complex relation with property rights and relations, contracts, moral commitments, family, economy, legal system and politics. In the first part of the book Hegel has discussed three spheres of versions of ‘right’. First comes “abstract right”, followed by “morality” and “ethical life”. In comparison with the first and in comparison with the second, the second and third respectively embody “right” in fuller form. In the third sphere of ‘right’, ie, in “ethical life”, Hegel elaborately explained his conception of the development of “family”, “civil society” and “the state”.
His study on “Civil Society” and “The State” has explored the emergence of the modern state as connected with the industrial revolution of England and France in the late 18th century and early 19th century.
Hegel has described how the former estate-centric state, as a result of taking part in the Civil Society in a particular manner, has been transformed into the modern state. The paragraph no 308 of the book is given below.
“The second section of the Estates comprises the fluctuating element in civil society. This element can enter politics only through its deputies; the multiplicity of its members is an external reason for this, but the essential reason is the specific character of this element and its activity. Since these deputies are the deputies of civil society, it follows as a direct consequence that their appointment is made by the society as a society. That is to say, in making the appointment, society is not dispersed into atomic units, collected to perform only a single and temporary act, and kept together for a moment and no longer. On the contrary, it makes the appointment as a society, articulated into associations, communities, and Corporations, which although constituted already for other purposes, acquire in this way a connection with politics. The existence of the Estates and their assembly finds a constitutional guarantee of its own in the fact that this class is entitled to send deputies at the summons of the crown, while members of the former class are entitled to present themselves in person in the Estates (see § 307).”
Marx says that Hegel has discussed the matter keeping in mind the change that England had undergone. Hegel writes that the transformed “Estate” system (which to Hegel, is a form of modern state) contains two elements, one of which is variable (election of the deputies by the civil society) and the other is constant (the direct presence of the Estate owners). As a result of the participation of the civil society, the element that comes into being in the “Estate” system is the variable element of the Estate. The civil society, on the other hand, elects or nominates some deputies. These deputies represent the system of “Estate” as a class. The variable element of the civil society can enter into politics only through these deputies. Marx argues that Hegel calls this element variable, but while explaining how they are appointed, the manner in which he describes “the associations”, the communities etc. makes it obvious that he has turned the variable element into constant elements. According to the description of Hegel, the owners of the said Estates are the legislators. It is they who are the constant elements of the Estate System. They engage themselves in legislating being present in person. The deputies, the second element of the Estate are elected or nominated by the civil society. Hegel has put forward two reasons why this element (variable) enters into the political Estate only through the deputies. The first is the heterogeneity of its members, i.e. thinking and activities of each individual of the civil society is different from one another. So their whole activity (the sum total of each individual’s activities) cannot take the shape of a political act of the civil society. But this reason, according to Hegel, is external. The main reason is that the civil society is in reality a non-political society. Its own character and activities do not correspond with any political idea. The election and nominations of the deputies is a political act. But the civil society performs this act which is absolutely different from its own character and activities, only in exceptional cases. Therefore the activities associated with the election of the deputies are the only means by which the civil society can enter into the political state. The society elects the deputies as the society. In the process they do not get isolated and divided into atoms. On the contrary, they do this as the society which has taken the form of associations, communities and corporations much before.
In the opinion of Marx the way Hegel has described the position of the deputies is self-contradictory. On the one hand, it is said that the deputies are the second element of the “Estate System”. It is variable. It is an element which comes from the civil society. On the other hand it is stated that this has no role to play, since it is non-political. The elected representatives of the civil society only get the touch of politics. Marx contends that it is not possible. If the position of the deputies is worth mentioning as an element of the estate system, it carries some meaning. But if they are deprived of such a position or right, they cannot be any element in the “Estate System”. If on the contrary, they gain such a position, the deputies not only get the touch of politics, but also develop a political relation with the “Estate”. According to Marx the two chambers, one represented by the estate owners who are legislators too, and the other represented by the deputies are ‘not’ two different elements of the same principle. On the contrary they have been evolved by different principles and social positions. This means that the civil society contains two separate principles and positions. The two chambers exist in the society as representatives of the different principles. The chamber of deputies is in the modern sense, the form of the civil society (called by Hegel the variable element of the Estate System) and the Chamber of Estate owners (Pears) (designated by Hegel as the constant form of the Estate System) is the political form of the Civil Society in the sense of Estate. The changing state of the civil society contains the political representation of the old system as well as the representation of modern political principle and thinking that is being born anew. The real social and political expression of Estate related principle and nature of the Civil Society is the actual existence of the Estate, and its continuing as the Estate System till then. In this way the medieval representation of the Civil Society can be found in the “chamber of Estate Owners “and the representation of the political (modern) existence in the “Chamber of Deputies”.
While Hegel observes that through the sending of deputies of the corporations, associations etc. the existence of the Estate has gained a constitutional guarantee, Marx explains how on this question Hegel has reverted to a medieval position and has rejected the political state and its existence as a really existing state. Instead of presenting the state as the highest form of social existence as the still existing reality of the older times, Hegel has shown the state as dependent upon something else. While deliberating on this matter Marx has dealt with the change that took place in France. The Constitution of France has advanced a step further than England. There the “Chamber of Peers”(Estate Owners) has been totally eliminated. It has just turned into an ornament. The Ex-Peers have been allowed to remain in the vicinity of power in their life-time but their successors are not to inherit power.
In the next paragraph (No.309) Hegel writes,
“Since deputies are elected to deliberate and decide on public affairs, the point about their election is that it is a choice of individuals on the strength of confidence felt in them, i.e. a choice of such individuals as have a better understanding of these affairs than their electors have and such also as essentially vindicate the universal interest, not the particular interest of a society or a Corporation in preference to that interest. Hence their relation to their electors is not that of agents with a commission or specific instructions. A further bar to their being so is the fact that their assembly is meant to be a living body in which all members deliberate in common and reciprocally instruct and convince each other.”
To simplify what Hegel says is like this: Since the task of the deputies is to take decisions regarding public affairs and to work, the voters while voting do not take their corporations or societies into consideration. They take into account the universal interest and vote for such people who have a better understanding and on whom faith or trust can be placed. Marx writes that this means that the corporation gets separated from its own being and casts votes negating its existence as corporation. From this it follows that the corporation becomes so identified with universal interest that it does not take care of its own interest, as Hegel has put it “not the particular interest of a society”. Judged from this angle, it can be said that the deputies are not the representatives of the electors although their being is considered as their representatives.
Marx explains that to Hegel the state is merely a formality. To him the actual material principle is the “Idea”. To him the abstract subject is the “Idea”, which is considered by Hegel as consciousness.
“In contrast to the abstraction of this Idea the determinations of the actual, empirical state formalism appear as content; and hence the actual content (here actual man, actual society, etc..) appear as formless inorganic matter. ”
Hegel’s state is conceived in full conformity with his concept of “Universal Idea”.
“He does not allow society to become the actually determining thing, because for that an actual subject is required, and he has only an abstract, imaginary subject.”
In his description and explanation of the change of society, we find a subject, who thinks. That thinking remains operative in the whole society and pushes the society forward. But that subject is not any real and active human being. This subject is abstract and imaginary. The passive human being continues to act in accordance with that “consciousness”. The human being then acts as he/she should act, as if human actions are dictated by someone, but no “dictator“ is to be found anywhere. The builder of the state of Hegel is such “consciousness”. To grasp the thought of Hegel on the matter, a portion of Marx’s writing will be much relevant. Marx writes:
“For Hegel the human being – man – equals self-consciousness. All estrangement of the human being is therefore nothing but estrangement of self-consciousness. The estrangement of self-consciousness is not regarded as an expression – reflected in the realm of knowledge and thought – of the real estrangement of the human being. Instead, the actual estrangement – that which appears real – is according to its innermost, hidden nature (which is only brought to light by philosophy) nothing but the manifestation of the estrangement of the real human essence, of self-consciousness. The science which comprehends this is therefore called phenomenology. All re-appropriation of the estranged objective essence appears therefore, as incorporation into self-consciousness: The man who takes hold of his essential being is merely the self-consciousness which takes hold of objective essences. Return of the object into the self is therefore the re-appropriation of the object.”
When we say that at a definite period of history (when the capitalist Society and its organization of production become mature for a revolutionary change) “human consciousness” becomes the decisive motive force, its exact characterization becomes an urgent task. When the inevitability of social change is stated, its detailed study goes on to explain that this inevitability is a result of the internal contradiction in economy, its consequence being the collapse of the capitalist system. Then a new phase of history sets forth leading towards communism. If we fail to clearly define the role of “consciousness” in human civilization’s journey towards the communist society, the Hegelian interpretation of the role of “consciousness” may prevail upon us. Even if we do not consciously accept Hegel’s concept of “Idea”, we may visualize the phenomenon of social change after the Hegelian concept.
In that case the necessity of a proper construction of ideas in human mind as regards tasks of the conscious human beings in reality gets reduced (or disappears altogether). What is the role of “consciousness” of man and of conscious man in the development of civilization is a philosophical question of great significances.
We have seen in Hegel’s thought on the state that he considers civil society as non-political on the one hand, while the voters of this non-political society cast their votes, not in the interest of their society or corporation ,but in the universal interest, at the time of electing the deputies, on the other. How would they realize the universal interest if they do not become political and “conscious”? This problem remains unresolved in Hegel’s frame-work of thinking. When the communists talk of changing the society, the role of consciousness help the people of the society (those who are consciously driving towards a new civilization)to achieve a process in respect of their actual consciousness by which they participate in the function of the state or exercise hegemony and make the real revolutionary transformation possible. Just at this point appears the second important question, i.e. the question of the conscious role of millions of the proletariat or the semi-proletariat. If as a result of the advanced thinking being consolidated in some people’s brains and the rest of the people become just recipients of the bounties proffered by the changed society, the picture of a particular type of society appears before us. Such a state is in perfect harmony with Hegel’s conception of the state, or with the role of consciousness as envisaged by Hegel. If such a conception indicates that without the active role of millions of proletariat, consistent with their conscious position in society, they can proclaim their hegemony, then it bears no resemblance with the concept of Marxist “human consciousness“ and the state. In the communist movement of the 20th Century and the communist movement of the present day for that matter, there is a strong influence of such an idea. This should be a subject of urgent deliberation in to-day’s Communist movement.
On the other hand, we get another picture of social revolution if the revolutionary transformation of millions of the toiling people and the consolidation of ideas of social revolution in the brains of millions of people with advanced thought is considered an indispensable condition for social change. In social change as conceived by Feuerbach there is no need for “consciousness“ in “that sense”. In case of Hegel, some consciousness, you may as well call it an “idea“ acts as a motive force which is not at all necessary for Feuerbach. In the latter’s case it is the social environment that brings about the change on its own and “the sensuous man”, like other changing objects acts in harmony with that change. Marx writes in “Thesis on Feuerbach”:
“The main defect of all hitherto-existing materialism— that of Feuerbach included— is that the Object [der Gegenstand], actuality, sensuousness, are conceived only in the form of the object [Objekts], or of contemplation [Anschauung], but not as human sensuous activity, practice [Praxis], not subjectively. Hence it happened that the active side, in opposition to materialism, was developed by idealism — but only abstractly, since, of course, idealism does not know real, sensuous activity as such. Feuerbach wants sensuous objects [Objekte], differentiated from thought-objects, but he does not conceive human activity itself as objective [gegenständliche] activity.”
Feuerbach’s sensuousness allows man to absorb sensuousness to enjoy, to receive happiness or sadness – but all this as object. Man’s active side, his creativity, his ability to “construct”, to think, to translate his ideas into reality remain ignored. He does scant justice to man’s living, vibrant and sensuous activities. Hegel’s man is led by a “consciousness” which is imaginary, not a “consciousness” that guides the real activities, born of real and conscious man’s activities.
Materialism of all varieties admits that man is the product of circumstances. Only this lesson very often leads us to the conclusion that social environment will keep changing man by its own laws. This means that the material world (means of production, geographical factors, social structure) keeps changing and in harmony with it, man/woman, too, changes without his/her conscious efforts. This theory is called “determinism” which is strongly opposed by Marx and Engels.According to this theory, the role of man in social change is acceptable only in the sense that human brains objectively respond to fulfil the needs of social environment. This “man” is Feuerbach’s “man” who has all the sensory organs and brain, too. But never can she/he sit on the driver’s seat. Going to emphasise on the spontaneity of the proletariat this trend has again and again been manifested in the International Communist Movement. The practical, scientific process of proletariat’s growing up as class-conscious has been undermined or belittled by this trend.
“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice.” (Emphasis is ours)
That conscious man alone is the driving force of change has been very forcefully put forward by Marx. Not only that, when he says that “educator must himself be educated” he means that (for the post-capitalist society) the section of the proletariat and semi-proletariat that will being about the revolutionary change must be educated to raise their level of consciousness. In other words only the proletariat who are educated with scientific class-consciousness will act as the drivers to carry forward civilization to the post-capitalist society. This education can be imbibed only through revolutionary practice.
The people of the civil society, on the other hand, elect such people by vote who have a better understanding of the well-being or otherwise, of the society and whom the voters place their trust on. If such a society is built up after the revolutionary transformation, what is the harm? If we suppose that class-consciousness of the proletariat has not developed and in that situation they elect such people as their representatives who are class-conscious and advanced, in that case, in reality who are called their representatives are not any body’s representatives, for those elected by them cannot represent their aspiration and needs. On the contrary, they are representing only some people of advanced consciousness and their aspiration. Under the circumstances, whatever be in their mind when they elect, their representatives will adopt policies and take decisions that can by no means be consistent with their aspiration. This is because even if the voters do not have real proletarian consciousness they cannot be deemed as devoid of any consciousness. In such a situation their consciousness will be dominated by bourgeois or even by various other backward consciousness. As a result, either the voters get locked in intense conflict with the elected representatives and the voters become completely isolated from the process of social development, or the representatives, by realizing this problem, will start changing the class-character of their activities, or in essence their own class character. They will set about acting in conformity with the aspiration of the common citizens (in this case, the proletariat). Now they will become the real representatives of the voters. In course of time their consciousness also will be transformed into the consciousness (qualitatively) of the voters. So, when Marx writes “The standpoint of the old materialism is “civil” society; the standpoint of the new is human society, or socialized humanity”, he means to say that new materialism (dialectical materialism) is negating the manner in which old materialism views human being only as sensuous object. New materialism visualizes the members of the entire human society (those who will build up the new society) as conscious, active and creative when considering their role as individual members. In the human society as envisaged by new materialism, the citizens or the members of the society take upon themselves the conscious task of building their own present and future life.
Sometimes, Marx’s writings are used in a manner that may give rise to erroneous ideas. Marx writes:
“The mode of production of material life conditions the social, political and intellectual life process in general. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their being, but, on the contrary, their social being that determines their consciousness.”
If men’s social being determines their consciousness, what then, is the decisive role of consciousness of men? It is the answer of the familiar question: where does human consciousness come from? Human brain is literally a matter (in the sense of physics). No consciousness or thought can be born by its absolutely own function. But when it comes into contact with various types of matter or social incidents, concepts regarding the interrelation of various objects or incidents are born in mind. In Marx’s words :
“The production of ideas, of conceptions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life. Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the direct efflux of their material behaviour. The same applies to mental production as expressed in the language of politics, laws, morality, religion, metaphysics, etc., of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, etc. – real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their productive forces and of the intercourse corresponding to these, up to its furthest forms. Consciousness can never be anything else than conscious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process. If in all ideology men and their circumstances appear upside-down as in a camera obscure, this phenomenon arises just as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the retina does from their physical life-process.”
Marx has explained how consciousness takes shape. What is important for us to know is what will be the task of the communists in the development of consciousness. At a given period of the time, the objective development of society and its internal contradiction give birth to a definite political consciousness in the contemporary people of the society. This consciousness may be bourgeois or even more backward. If the society objectively gets entangled in crisis, an anti-establishment consciousness, even an aspiration for a new social system (where there will not exist exploitation and deprivation) may develop spontaneously in the oppressed people. But the political consciousness born of the objective condition of a definite period of time, may at most, be an embryonic form of proletarian consciousness. Even the most intense class-struggle cannot wrest it from its embryonic condition. Developed proletarian consciousness or the concept of scientific communism that stands on a strong scientific basis has been born of a specially developed stage of class movement and it keeps developing continuously. This consciousness is instilled into the communist movement only by the communist elements. The men and women coming from the revolutionary intelligentsia having a background of cultivation of higher knowledge and who have really abandoned their old class position by consciously taking the position of the proletariat, convey historically the concept of scientific socialism to the communist forces. At any phase of the class movement the communists try their utmost to educate the toiling people, the progressive intellectuals and especially the highest possible number of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat with the lessons of scientific socialism. How they will do this job will vary according to the differences of the countries, periods of time and the stages of the class movements. When an awakening against the system spontaneously takes place, the possibility of imbibing the consciousness of scientific communism or being educated with this, increases. But whether that will happen at all, depends to a large extent on the organizational strength of the communist forces present in the society, the strategy and tactics adopted by them and the presence of an able communist leadership before the stirred up people of the whole country, who can put forward effective programme and the interrelation between the strategy and the tactics in a correct and appropriate manner. Despite all this, the communists may fail for various reasons. But the task of presenting an able leadership and the correct strategy and tactics at the time of awakening cannot be possible only by promptness shown at that moment. This is why at the non-revolutionary period, too, the communists need untiring and professional activists and organizers. The competent communist leadership will grow up from the sincere communist activists who have gone through many ups and downs of the class movements. In the sense that the strategy and tactics are dependent on the particularity and different degrees of development of various countries, only indirect knowledge does not help evolve them properly. What is required is the direct knowledge about the uniqueness and stage of development of a country which can be acquired by taking part deeply in the struggles for survival of the different sections of the toiling masses. At the same time, it has to be kept in mind that the communists cannot by dint of these efforts bring about social changes as per their own liking or desire.
“Men make their own history, but they do not make it as they please; they do not make it under self-selected circumstances, but under circumstances existing already, given and transmitted from the past.”
According to Hegel’s thought, the existing condition of the objective world, its crisis etc. are not any factor needed for the change. The fundamental proposition is the “idea” as to what the civilization has to be like. All changes are parts of the endless and uninterrupted journey towards the ultimate truth. The momentum required for the journey is not born of the material world. It is born of the being of the ultimate truth. There is great possibility that the communists may be influenced by this thought of Hegel. If historical materialism poses communism as a “civilization” that is a fragment of the “ultimate truth” and if every process of change becomes an inevitable one travelling towards that reality, we must discard Marx’s idea about human mind. Marxism presents before us the theory that millions of human minds will not strive to proceed to communism for the reason that it is inevitable, rather because man will try to solve his/her real problems and going to do that in the context of the contemporary world, he/she will engage himself/herself consciously in building a civilization that is thought to be the most logical, necessary and favourable.
When Marx and Engels writes about the “real emancipation of man”, they mean the emancipation from the shackles of bourgeois customs and principles, rules and exploitation as well as from the fetters of the capitalist wage-labour. The society that does not transcend the feudal production relation can give rise to revolutionary struggles for the transformation of the society, but the success of this revolution cannot advance towards socialism by any simple law of progress. Without the proper maturing of the organization of production, the society cannot move towards socialism in the true sense of the term. Marx writes:
“We shall, of course, not take the trouble to enlighten our wise philosophers by explaining to them that the “liberation” of man is not advanced a single step by reducing philosophy, theology, substance and all the trash to “self-consciousness” and by liberating man from the domination of these phrases, which have never held him in thrall. Nor will we explain to them that it is only possible to achieve real liberation in the real world and by employing real means, that slavery cannot be abolished without the steam-engine and the mule and spinning-jenny, serfdom cannot be abolished without improved agriculture, and that, in general, people cannot be liberated as long as they are unable to obtain food and drink, housing and clothing in adequate quality and quantity. “Liberation” is an historical and not a mental act, and it is brought about by historical conditions, the development of industry, commerce, agriculture, the conditions of intercourse…[There is here a gap in the manuscript]”
Marx has warned us time and again that if the objective condition does not mature and a multitude of revolutionary people are not “born”, no competent Communist Party can pull off a revolution whatever preparations they may have taken and however much it is deep and wide. However, society cannot be separated from its day to day objective mundaneness and transported permanently to a superior society. Marx writes:
“These conditions of life, which different generations find in existence, decide also whether or not the periodically recurring revolutionary convulsion will be strong enough to overthrow the basis of the entire existing system. And if these material elements of a complete revolution are not present (namely, on the one hand the existing productive forces, on the other the formation of a revolutionary mass, which revolts not only against separate conditions of society up till then, but against the very “production of life” till then, the “total activity” on which it was based), then, as far as practical development is concerned, it is absolutely immaterial whether the idea of this revolution has been expressed a hundred times already, as the history of communism proves.”
Till now we have been discussing about what a “revolution” is, according to the concept of Marx and Engels and how it is brought about. In the preceding sections, we have tried to understand from initiatives of Communist Party-building taken by Marx and Engels, about their notion of the tasks in the context of the situation prevailing at their time. In fact, their theories unfold before us various aspects of their thought that developed in different conditions.
The Birth of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party and Lenin’s Concept of Party:
After the fall of the First International, as an initiative to unite the communists and socialists of the world, an international conference was held in the city of Chur in Belgium in 1881. The communists and socialists of Belgium, Germany, France and Switzerland took the main initiative. Only the communist and socialist parties of various countries took part in the conference. But the conference failed to reunite them. From 1886 to 1900, six international conferences were held. In Zurich conference, in 1893, Engels was elected as honorary president of the International Socialist Congress. In 1895 Engels died. In the Paris conference of 1900, a permanent Bureau of the International was set up. 28 representatives of Russia, including Plekhanov and Lenin attended the conference.
In the period of 1901 to 1905, in the writings of Lenin, theory relating to the party took a new form. Leninist concept of the party of that time lies scattered in many books and articles. Of the many debates that took place in the international communist movement of the period, the debate between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg was one of the major ones. After the success of the Russian socialist revolution in 1917, some important changes were made in the Constitution of the Bolshevik party under the leadership of Lenin. After some time, in 1921, under the guidance of Lenin general principles of the Communist Party was adopted in the Third International, which is till today, the most acceptable one to conduct a Communist Party, throughout the world.
In 1898, the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party was built in Russia. Lenin wrote “What is to be Done” in 1902. The Second Congress of the rsdlp was held in 1903. In this Congress, there were debates from various aspects regarding the concept of a party. These debates continued even after the Congress and are still relevant. In that Congress an important debate took place regarding the membership in the party. Lenin’s proposal was rejected in the vote. Lenin writes:
“Paragraph 1 of the Rules defines a Party member. The definition given in my draft was: “A member of the Russian Social-Democratic Labour Party is one who accepts its programme and who supports the Party both financially and by personal participation in one of the Party organisations.“ In place of the words I have underlined, Martov proposed: “work under the control and direction of one of the Party organisations.”
Plekhanov supported Lenin. The essence of Lenin’s contention was that the basic criterion of the strong party was first and foremost the building of an organization consisting of such members, who remaining within the organizational structure in a very disciplined manner, would carry on their task of bringing about the revolutionary change. The other opinion was that those who would only abide by the control and direction of the party deserved to be party members. As for the reason of the second proposition Lenin writes: “Martov stood for broadening the Party and spoke of a broad class movement needing a broad—i.e., diffuse— organisation, and so forth.” We have to keep in mind that the debate is being waged in a country where after the conferences of various workers’ groups, the police arrested the entire participants at a time and detained them for long periods thereafter. All the representatives of the rsdlp were rounded up by the police immediately after the conclusion of the First Congress. According to Lenin,
“‘Under the control and direction’, I said, would in practice mean nothing more nor less than without any control or direction. Martov won: his formulation was adopted (by about twenty-eight votes to twenty-three, or something like that—I cannot recall exactly), thanks to the Bund, which, of course, at once sensed a loophole and brought all its five votes to bear to secure the adoption of “the worse alternative” (that is precisely how aRabocheye Dyelo delegate explained his motive for voting for Martov!)..”
Apart from the question of membership of the party, we can have a glimpse of Lenin’s ideas of the party from the writings of his critics. Trotsky writes:
“The basic principles – that’s a different matter … For example the division of labour – conspiratorial action – discipline – centralism in general, so that the Central Committee can have control; and yes, what is called an organisation of professional revolutionaries … against democratism – these are the principles.’ (Trotsky Part III: Organisational Questions, Our Political Task, 1904)”
To get Lenin’s ideas about the party, we shall pay attention to some of his most important writings on the subject, e.g.: “The Urgent Tasks of the Movement” (1900), “Where to Begin” (1901), “What is to be Done” (1902), “A letter to a Comrade on our Organizational Task” (1902), “One Step Forward, Two Steps Back” (1904). We have to see how much of his writings regarding the party despite the tremendous intensity with which they are put, are connected with the contemporary situation of his times, and how much they have universal applicability. Lenin, in his article “The Urgent Tasks of our Movement” (1900) published in the first issue of the Iskra, raised the important problems and questions regarding the building up of a real Communist Party. He writes:
“…. We must frankly admit this defect and exert all our efforts to devise methods of greater secrecy in our work, to propagate systematically the proper methods of work, the proper methods of deluding the gendarmes and of evading the snares of the police. We must train people who will devote the whole of their lives, not only their spare evenings, to the revolution; we must build up an organisation large enough to permit the introduction of a strict division of labour in the various forms of our work.”
He put forward the questions of building a secret party, developing a group of professional revolutionaries, a suitable and large organization for the distinct division of responsibility of jobs, building a strong party capable of adopting effective tactics that would bring in the highest results etc.. At the period of awakening of the worker’s movement, when state repression was getting harsher and harsher, Lenin concentrated his attention to the practical solution of the organizational problems of that time. This is very well reflected in his article (1901), “Where to Begin”. He writes:
“The lesson of the February and March events has been so impressive that no disagreement in principle with this conclusion is now likely to be encountered. What we need at the present moment, however, is not a solution of the problem in principle but a practical solution. We should not only be clear on the nature of the organisation that is needed and its precise purpose, but we must elaborate a definite plan for an organisation, so that its formation may be undertaken from all aspects. In view of the pressing importance of the question, we, on our part, take the liberty of submitting to the comrades a skeleton plan to be developed in greater detail in a pamphlet now in preparation for print (In context of “What is to be Done”).”
This indicates that Lenin strongly felt the urge for delineating a plan to solve the practical needs of the organization more than his concern for the basic principles of the party. In 1902, his much studied book “What is to be Done” was published.
Lenin’s “What is to be Done” and the Question of the Professional Revolutionary
“What is to be Done” by Lenin still occupies the core in the discussions on his concept of the Communist Party. The spontaneous upsurge of the working class movement in Russia witnessed since the decade of 1890’s, made it urgent for the communist organization to determine the proper role of the communists and also the structure of organization and the method of work. The first Congress of the rsdlp could not give any concrete guidelines in the matter. It was Lenin’s plan that he would concentrate in his “What is to be Done” on the solution of the three questions referred to in “Where to Begin”. These questions are: 1. “The character and main content of our political agitation”, 2. Our organizational tasks” and 3. “The plan for building simultaneously and from various sides, a militant all-Russian organization”. In a situation where in various parts of Russia working class areas the local influence and organizations of the communists were gradually increasing, to prepare a concrete outline for raising to a higher stage the conscious class movement of the working class, Lenin assessed the situation of Russia at that time in great detail. He writes:
“In the previous chapter we pointed out how universally absorbed the educated youth of Russia was in the theories of Marxism in the middle of the nineties. In the same period the strikes that followed the famous St. Petersburg industrial war of 1896 assumed a similar general character. Their spread over the whole of Russia clearly showed the depth of the newly awakening popular movement, and if we are to speak of the “spontaneous element” then, of course, it is this strike movement which, first and foremost, must be regarded as spontaneous. But there is spontaneity and spontaneity. Strikes occurred in Russia in the seventies and sixties (and even in the first half of the nineteenth century), and they were accompanied by the “spontaneous” destruction of machinery, etc.. Compared with these “revolts”, the strikes of the nineties might even be described as “conscious”, to such an extent do they mark the progress which the working-class movement made in that period. This shows that the “spontaneous element”, in essence, represents nothing more nor less than consciousness in an embryonic form. Even the primitive revolts expressed the awakening of consciousness to a certain extent…
The strikes of the nineties revealed far greater flashes of consciousness; definite demands were advanced, the strike was carefully timed, known cases and instances in other places were discussed, etc.. The revolts were simply the resistance of the oppressed, whereas the systematic strikes represented the class struggle in embryo, but only in embryo. Taken by themselves, these strikes were simply trade union struggles, not yet Social Democratic struggles. They marked the awakening antagonisms between workers and employers; but the workers, were not, and could not be, conscious of the irreconcilable antagonism of their interests to the whole of the modern political and social system, i.e., theirs was not yet Social-Democratic consciousness. In this sense, the strikes of the nineties, despite the enormous progress they represented as compared with the “revolts’, remained a purely spontaneous movement.”
Here Lenin even after admitting that the spontaneity of the working class movement of 1890’s was of higher order than that of the 1860s and 1870s, has identified it as a “purely spontaneous movement”. Lenin’s opinion expressed in his book about how far the working class movements, without any role played by the socialists or communists, can develop on their own, has been much debated and is still being debated in the communist movement. We can pay attention to one or two issues. The first one is that in this very writing of Lenin we find that the degree of consciousness can vary even in the spontaneity of what Lenin calls “purely spontaneous movement”. What is the law of development of this consciousness is a matter of our special interest. It has become a serious subject of deliberation in today’s communist movement to assess how much the consciousness of individual assimilates elements pertaining to their own objective world and experience of their own life and how much on the other hand, from the general cultivation of knowledge and rationality prevailing in the society. Communist ideology and consciousness are the product of a very developed stage of the cultivation of knowledge. The communist consciousness is instilled into the working class movement by the organizers and leaders endowed with that quality. No opposition to this idea has appeared in the International Communist Movement with any strong counter argument. But how does the development of the consciousness (of degree and quality) of the broad masses of general workers come about has been a question of much debate and it still continues. It is very necessary too. For the broad mass of the working class who have neither practice nor training in the cultivation of knowledge, it is not possible to visualize the reality of their times by the light of dialectical and historical materialism or to properly realize what is the historical responsibility of the working class of that period. But as we know, the progress of civilization cannot take place depending only on some advanced members of the working class (although at some definite process of development it plays a decisive role). In the forward march of civilization what is the role of the consciousness of the broad masses of the working class and how does it come into being is a very crucial subject of study.
When Lenin writes “Hence, we had both the spontaneous awakening of the working masses, their awakening to conscious life and conscious struggle, and a revolutionary youth, armed with Social-Democratic theory and straining towards the workers.”; it becomes clear that in the awakening of the broad masses of the workers into a conscious life and conscious struggle, their surrounding subjective world has played the decisive role. Revolutionary youth endowed with communist theory (“social democratic theory” was the term used then) convey communist consciousness to the working class. The question is: what does the working class aspire for? A portion of the broad masses of the working class awakened into the conscious life and struggle will definitely be raised to the level of communist consciousness and be a part of the communist movement. But what will happen to the development of consciousness of those who will not be raised to that level? Obviously their number is much greater. The questions of this nature has become the subjects of serious study of today’s communist movement.
“Since there can be no talk of an independent ideology formulated by the working masses themselves in the process of their movement, the only choice is – either bourgeois or socialist ideology. There is no middle course (for mankind has not created a “third” ideology, and, moreover, in a society torn by class antagonisms there can never be a non-class or an above-class ideology). Hence, to belittle the socialist ideology in any way, to turn aside from it in the slightest degree means to strengthen bourgeois ideology. There is much talk of spontaneity. But the spontaneous development of the working-class movement leads to its subordination to bourgeois ideology, to its development along the lines of the Credo programme; for the spontaneous working-class movement is trade-unionism, is Nur-Gewerkschaftlerei, and trade unionism means the ideological enslavement of the workers by the bourgeoisie. Hence, our task, the task of Social-Democracy, is to combat spontaneity, to divert the working-class movement from this spontaneous, trade-unionist striving to come under the wing of the bourgeoisie, and to bring it under the wing of revolutionary Social Democracy.”
An important question of contemporary communist movement is: Does not the working class engage itself in the anti-capitalist struggles without the role of the communists? As it has been aptly vindicated by history that when the working class is in search of an alternative to the capitalist system (without any communist consciousness) on its own, it cannot completely negate the capitalist system because of the backwardness of its frame of mind born of conventional thinking. This class has been seen to be striving for a humanist or “socialist” social system of utopian type instead, at most for an alternative that is to be achieved through anarchist politics. Even if we consider the Paris Commune or the endeavour to consolidate by the First International as examples of spontaneous attempts by the working class for its united action, they do not provide for us any distinct outline for how the hegemony of the working class may be established by smashing the domination of the bourgeoisie state machine. Still, it appears to us that though labouring under the influence of bourgeoisie ideology, there is a tendency in the spontaneous working class movement to negate the capitalist system, although it is true at the same time, that unless it imbibes the class consciousness of the conscious proletarian class, the working class never establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat.
How, during the large scale repression, the party can keep close contact with the innumerable toiling people, has been dealt with by Lenin in “A letter to a comrade on our organizational tasks”, written in September 1902. He writes:
“ ‘Conferences’ will be held in the committee and in each district, in each factory, propagandist, trade (weavers, mechanics, tanners, etc..), student, literary, etc.., circle. Why should conferences be made a special institution? Further. You quite justifiably demand that the opportunity to write to Iskra directly should be given to “every one who wants it.” Only “directly” should not be understood to mean that “everyone who wants it” should be given access to the editorial office or its address, but that it should be obligatory to hand over (or forward) to the editors letters from all who so desire. The addresses should, of course, be made known to a fairly wide circle; however, they should not be given to everyone who wants them, but only to revolutionaries who are reliable and known for their ability to observe the conditions of secrecy — perhaps even not to one person in each district, as you suggest, but to several. It is also necessary that all who take part in our work, each and every circle, should have the right to bring their decisions, desires and requests to the attention of the committee, as well as of the C.O. and C.C. If we ensure this, then all conferences of Party functionaries will have the benefit of full information, without instituting anything so cumbersome and contrary to the rules of secrecy as “discussion meetings.” Of course, we should also endeavour to arrange personal conferences of the greatest possible number of all and sundry functionaries — but then here everything hinges on the observance of secrecy. General meetings and gatherings are possible in Russia only rarely and by way of exception, and it is necessary to be doubly wary about allowing the “best revolutionaries” to attend these meetings, since it is easier in general for agents provocateurs to get into them and for spies to trail some participant of the meeting. I think that perhaps it would be better to do as follows: when it is possible to organise a big (say, 30 to 100 people) general meeting (for instance, in the summer-time in the woods, or in a secret apartment that has been specially secured for this purpose), the committee should send one or two of the “best revolutionaries” and make sure that the meeting is attended by the proper people, i.e., for example, that invitations should be extended to as many as possible of the reliable members of the factory circles, etc..”
From the various quotations from the aforementioned books and articles, we have tried to get at Lenin’s ideas of the party. In the writings of Lenin, it has been definitely emphasized that conscious class struggles should be waged basing on the background of the spontaneous awakening of the working class. Lenin has explained in detail how the party will maintain living contact with the broad masses of the workers. He has given the guideline regarding what type of discipline and centralization has to be exercised by the party on the eve of an impending revolution. The excessive emphasis that Lenin laid on this matter in “What is to be Done” while fighting the economists has given rise to much misunderstanding. To dispel this, we can have a look at Lenin’s own interpretation given some time later:
“As to the direct references to my pamphlet, What Is to Be Done?, it will be quite easy for me to show that they have been wrenched from the context. It is claimed that Lenin says nothing about any conflicting trends, but categorically affirms that the working-class movement invariably “tends” to succumb to bourgeois ideology. Is that so? Have I not said that the working-class movement is drawn towards the bourgeois outlook with the benevolent assistance of the Schulze-Delitzsches and others like them? And who is meant here by “others like them”? None other than the “economists,” none other than those who, for example, used to say then that bourgeois democracy in Russia is a phantom. Today it is easy to talk so cheaply about bourgeois radicalism and liberalism, when examples of them are to be found right before us. But was that the case previously?
Lenin takes no account whatever of the fact that the workers, too, have a share in the formation of an ideology. Is that so? Have I not said time and again that the shortage of fully class-conscious workers, worker-leaders, and worker-revolutionaries is, in fact, the greatest deficiency in our movement? Have I not said there that the training of such worker-revolutionaries must be our immediate task? Is there no mention there of the importance of developing a trade-union movement and creating a special trade-union literature? Is not a desperate struggle waged there against every attempt to lower the level of the advanced workers to that of the masses, or of the average workers?
To conclude. We all now know that the “economists” have gone to one extreme. To straighten matters out some body had to pull in the other direction—and that is what I have done. I am convinced that Russian Social-Democracy will always vigorously straighten out whatever has been twisted by opportunism of any kind, and that therefore our line of action will always be the straightest and the fittest for action.” (Emphasis ours)
A criticism of Lenin that comes back again and again is that he wanted to build a party only consisting of professional revolutionaries and put excessive emphasis on them. First, Lenin at no phase of the party building decided that only professional revolutionaries would remain within the party. Still it is true that at the time of writing “What is to be done?” Lenin particularly stressed on the necessity and role of the professional revolutionaries. This cannot be applied for any period of class movement with the same degree of emphasis. Let us have a glance at what Lenin said on this matter in some later period. He writes,
“To maintain today that Iskra exaggerated (in 1901 and 1902) the idea of an organisation of professional revolutionaries, is like reproaching the Japanese, after the Russo-Japanese War, for having exaggerated the strength of Russia’s armed forces, for having prior to the war exaggerated the need to prepare for fighting these forces. To win victory the Japanese had to marshal all their forces against the probable maximum of Russian forces. Unfortunately, many of those who judge our Party are outsiders, who do not know the subject, who do not realise thattoday the idea of an organisation of professional revolutionaries has already scored a complete victory. That victory would have been impossible if this idea had not been pushed to the forefront at the time, if we had not “exaggerated” so as to drive it home to people who were trying to prevent it from being realised.
“What Is To Be Done?” is a summary of Iskra tactics and Iskra organis-ational policy in 1901 and 1902. Precisely a “summary”, no more and no less. That will be clear to anyone who takes the trouble to go through the file of Iskra for 1901 and 1902. But to pass judgement on that summary without knowing Iskra’s struggle against the then dominant trend of Economism, without understanding that struggle, is sheer idle talk. Iskra fought for an organisation of professional revolutionaries. It fought with especial vigour in 1901 and 1902, vanquished Economism, the then dominant trend, and finally created this organisation in 1903. It preserved it in face of the subsequent split in the Iskraist ranks and all the convulsions of the period of storm and stress; it preserved it throughout the Russian revolution; it preserved it intact from 1901-02 to 1907.
And now, when the fight for this organisation has long been won, when the seed has ripened, and the harvest gathered, people come along and tell us: You exaggerated the idea of an organisation of professional revolutionaries! Is this not ridiculous?
The question arises, who accomplished, who brought into being this superior unity, solidarity, and stability of our Party? It was accomplished by the organisation of professional revolutionaries, to the building of which Iskra made the greatest contribution. Anyone who knows our Party’s history well, anyone who has had a hand in building the Party, has but to glance at the delegate list of any of the groups at, say, the London Congress, in order to he convinced of this and notice at once that it is a list of the old membership, the central core that had worked hardest of all to build up the Party and make it what it is. Basically, of course, their success was due to the fact that the working class, whose best representatives built the Social-Democratic Party, for objective economic reasons possesses a greater capacity for organisation than any other class in capitalist society. Without this condition an organisation of professional revolutionaries would be nothing more than a plaything, an adventure, a mere signboard. What Is To Be Done? repeatedly emphasises this, pointing out that the organisation it advocates has no meaning apart from its connection with the “genuine revolutionary class that is spontaneously rising to struggle”. But the objective maximum ability of the proletariat to unite in a class is realised through living people, and only through definite forms of organisation. In the historical conditions that prevailed in Russia in 1900-05,no organisation other than Iskra could have created the Social-Democratic Labour Party we now have. The professional revolutionary has played his part in the history of Russian proletarian socialism. No power on earth can now undo this work, which has outgrown the narrow framework of the “circles” of 1902-05. Nor can the significance of the gains already won be shaken by belated complaints that the militant tasks of the movement were exaggerated by those who at that time had to fight to ensure the correct way of accomplishing these tasks.”
There is a lot of debate around Lenin’s opinion regarding the role of the professional revolutionaries in the Communist Party. Still the debate remains living. In Lenin’s view the strong organisation needed to make the revolution successful was not possible without the role of the professional revolutionaries. The question that has been raised against it is if such an important role given to the professional revolutionaries would undermine the role of the non-professional revolutionary members of the party and the broad masses of the proletariat as well as the development of their class consciousness. Doubt remains as to how much able a strong Communist Party based on professional revolutionaries will be to fulfil its historical responsibility. Today it is not the question if the role of the professional revolutionaries can build a very strong party, but if such a powerful party harm the independent role of the proletariat in its struggle for emancipation. To put it differently, if the professional revolutionaries can play a decisive role in making the revolutionary class, already awakened to spontaneous struggles, fully class-conscious and its becoming competent to be the ruler of the new society. Lenin’s writing almost gives rise to an apprehension that the professional revolutionaries help the party to make it more centralised and more skilful, adroit and expert to implement the policies of the party in society. If the role of the professional revolutionaries remains confined to converting the “circles” of 1902-1905 into an all-Russian organisation, their role in the main comes to an end as soon as the all-Russian Communist Party is born. Or, is it true that to continue that party in the proper direction, the professional revolutionaries will enjoy the same importance? Or, is it that in such a situation, some other role of the professional revolutionaries become the principal and they keep on playing an effective role as the backbone of the party? Did Lenin bring the concept of the professional revolutionaries only to execute a special type of job? Does the need for professional revolutionaries, in reality, come to end with the successful execution of the job? A feeling of uncertainty still lingers in the International Communist Movement on the question whether Lenin considered the concept of the professional revolutionaries as an inalienable part of the Communist Party.
The Role Played by the Intellectuals in the Creation of the Theory of Communism
Much debate has taken place in the Communist movement as regards the role of the working class in the creation of the theory of Communism. At the very core of this debate lie the role of the bourgeois intellectuals in the birth of Communist theory. As we have seen, the role of the bourgeois intellectuals in the emergence and development of Communist theory can be attributed to the origin of their birth. The real source of the birth of proletarian ideology in the realm of knowledge is the contradiction of capital and labour in the capitalist organization of production that is continually manifested in the society in various manners. Human mind comes into contact with this contradiction of the material world. The human mind we refer to is the mental world of all, i.e., of workers, intellectuals etc.. This contact serves as the basis of human mind in its exercising of independent role. As a section of the intellectuals becomes the spokespersons of the bourgeoisie on the question of ideology, some others, belonging to the petty-bourgeois or bourgeois class by birth or by profession take the position on the opposite side. The concrete class struggles continue to bring these intellectuals closer to the class interest of the proletariat and to transform them. They become the theoretical leaders of the working class. In the ideology of any class, the present forges a connection with the future. The highest application of the human mind for this elicits the essence of knowledge from the history of human civilisation of thousands of years and formulates theories for their respective class interests. This exercise takes place on a great height of the cultivation of knowledge which demands practice, training and creativity in the sphere of knowledge. That is why the discussion on the role of the intellectuals becomes pertinent again and again. But Marxist philosophy does not in any period of history approve of the birth and development of proletarian ideology by the genius or efficiency of one or more than one intellectuals divorced from concrete struggles of the working class and their taking part in them.
Lenin-Rosa Debate on the Question of the Party
We are now entering into the debate between Rosa Luxemburg and Lenin, not because it is very famous in history, but because, to us, it will take an important place in the discussion on proletarian dictatorship and the Communist Party, not only today, but even in the future. Various other lessons can be learnt from this debate. The immortal martyr of the proletariat, Rosa Luxemburg has in different twist and turns of the communist movement, brought forward fundamental Marxist teachings regarding proletarian class interest and the role of the communists. We think, that despite many errors in her thinking, her contribution has immensely enriched the Marxist literature.
Much debate has taken place on the excessive stress laid by Lenin on the concept of “Centralism” in the party. Rosa Luxemburg in her “Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy” has given her opinion on this matter in detail. She wrote about a definite book of Lenin, ‘One Step Forward Two Steps Back’:
“Generally speaking it is undeniable that a strong tendency toward centralization is inherent in the Social Democratic movement. This tendency springs from the economic makeup of capitalism which is essentially a centralizing factor. The Social Democratic movement carries on its activity inside the large bourgeois city. Its mission is to represent, within the boundaries of the national state, the class interests of the proletariat, and to oppose those common interests to all local and group interests.
Therefore, the Social Democracy is, as a rule, hostile to any manifestation of localism or federalism. It strives to unite all workers and all worker organizations in a single party, no matter what national, religious, or occupational differences may exist among them. The Social Democracy abandons this principle and gives way to federalism only under exceptional conditions, as in the case of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
It is clear that the Russian Social Democracy should not organize itself as a federative conglomerate of many national groups. It must rather become a single party for the entire empire. However, that is not really the question considered here. What we are considering is the degree of centralization necessary inside the unified, single Russian party in view of the peculiar conditions under which it has to function.”
Rosa contends that because of economic structure of capitalism, a tendency to concentrate struggles against it will come about. Rosa questions the degree of centralism. Now let us see how, according to her, the degree of centralism should be determined. Rosa says that in case of any type of party the degree of centralism increases the strength of the party. But it is not true of ‘Social Democracy’ because in this case the influence of historic conditions plays a more important role in the revolutionary transformation. For the first time in class society the direct initiative of the people and their activities act as the motive force of change. Therefore, she writes,
“…the Social Democracy creates an organizational type that is entirely different from those common to earlier revolutionary movements, such as those of the Jacobins and the adherents of Blanqui.”
To bring out the problem of centralism of Leninist type, Rosa writes ,
“Now the two principle on which Lenin’s centralism rests are precisely these:
The blind subordination, in the smallest detail, of all party organs to the party centre which alone thinks, guides, and decides for all.
The rigorous separation of the organized nucleus of revolutionaries from its social-revolutionary surroundings.”
Rosa raises the question of the degree of centralism. The crux of Rosa’s contention is that Lenin wants to centralize the entire power in Party centre. He wants to apply centralism of a very intense or high level, to the party. Together with this, he wants to completely separate the organized centre of the revolutionaries from their social-revolutionary surroundings. There is no provision of a consummate scheme to be made by the Communist Party in his portrayal of the revolution. The Communist Party will educate the working class about the historic passage to its destination, about the inevitability of Socialism and Communism, but the motive force of the revolution is the spontaneous initiative of the masses of the people. The Communists aspire for such a revolution. This is the way by which the class-consciousness of the proletariat achieves its full flowering and they will become the administrators and leaders of the society. The high defence of centralism of the party and an elaborate planning for organizing a revolution negate the role of spontaneity of the people.
Before we express our view on this critique made by Rosa, we will cite some other observations made by Engels on centralism or centralization in this context.
Right from the beginning of the Communist Party, many questions were raised from different quarters on the very necessity of centralism. The term “centralism” was not in use at that time. It used to be called “authority”. In 1872, Engels wrote an article named “On Authority”, where he gave answers to the questions on this raised by his contemporaries. At the very outset he wrote :
“A number of Socialists have latterly launched a regular crusade against what they call the principle of authority. It suffices to tell them that this or that act is authoritarian for it to be condemned. This summary mode of procedure is being abused to such an extent that it has become necessary to look into the matter somewhat more closely.”
Here Engels explains why many people make a fuss about authority and how to get rid of it. He writes:
“Authority, in the sense in which the word is used here, means: the imposition of the will of another upon ours; on the other hand, authority presupposes subordination. Now, since these two words sound bad, and the relationship which they represent is disagreeable to the subordinated party, the question is to ascertain whether there is any way of dispensing with it, whether — given the conditions of present-day society — we could not create another social system, in which this authority would be given no scope any longer, and would consequently have to disappear.”
True, whenever the will of someone is imposed on another, we like it or not, the independent initiative, creativity, desire and ability to think freely become restricted. If all basic plannings and decisions emanate from a certain centre , nothing more is required from the rest of the members than just the minimum thinking ability and only the originality necessary for implementing them in a disciplined manner.
Before we speak a few words on the nature of the objective condition in which we tell about creativity and original thinking, let us see how Engels visualized the problem. He writes:
“Let us take another example — the railway. Here too the co-operation of an infinite number of individuals is absolutely necessary, and this co-operation must be practised during precisely fixed hours so that no accidents may happen. Here, too, the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions, whether this will is represented by a single delegate or a committee charged with the execution of the resolutions of the majority of persona interested. In either case there is a very pronounced authority. Moreover, what would happen to the first train dispatched if the authority of the railway employees over the Hon. passengers were abolished?”
Citing examples from the day to day experience, Engels has tried to make us understand how the power of taking decisions has to be vested on a very few people for achieving a general unified objective. How at the time of crisis all powers are surrendered to just one person has been exemplified by him :
“But the necessity of authority, and of imperious authority at that, will nowhere be found more evident than on board a ship on the high seas. There, in time of danger, the lives of all depend on the instantaneous and absolute obedience of all to the will of one.”
But is the centralization of power (“authority” in Engels’ language) necessary in case of political struggles? Engels writes:
“A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?”
We have already noticed what Rosa thinks about it. Our opinion is that at the time of any war, the main authority will be vested on the chief of the generals. All of us can realize what will happen if a soldier wants to show off his own valour, intelligence and creativity in the war-field. All of us want that all wars should disappear from the world. But until this happens, we have to take part in the wars, independent of our will. Even in the course of the journey towards communism, when the people’s army will be created and the standing army will be disbanded, will it be possible to put a stop to the centralization of power? To the Marxists, the revolution is the wresting of power by the toiling classes, which is, in essence, a war. Here too, the toiling people have to defeat the exploiting class/classes waging a war with the entire armed forces. What is most important is the fact that those who defeat the huge armed forces are not at all trained in conventional warfare. The necessity of being trained and centralized does not end on the part of the most advanced section of people to win the battles, only because that the people are overwhelmingly greater in number and that they have become desperate. If the proletariat has to move forward until achieving a stable victory, even after the seizure of power, for retaining the power, they have to continue in a difficult war (civil war), for old state- machine is of no use to them at that time.
In the decisive phases of the revolutionary war if the degree of centralism is lowered and the commanders of different areas are inspired to develop their initiative and creativity, even the common sense will suggest that the more the degree of centralism will decline, the more the possibility of defeat in the war will increase. Still there remains one word to say. That is that a revolution can take place in such a situation that the powerful and fully trained armed forces are being trounced by the masses of the people who are without any planning, training and centralism. If the situation becomes really so favourable , why should a Communist Party hesitate to vest the entire responsibility on the proletarian masses? But the question remains: who will take the decision on behalf of the party? Will it to be allowed that the various differing opinions of the party be circulated in the society? If we admit that even that too, is possible, even then, some particular committee has to take the decision to that end. It follows from all this that to keep a sharp vigil on the entire situation, to play the necessary role accordingly, to comprehend the complexities of the post-revolutionary situation and take prompt steps to solve them,the necessity of the centralized activities of the Communist Party will remain. The Communist Party will concentrate all its efforts to fulfil its fundamental aim, i.e., to promote the full activeness of the broad masses of the proletariat and keep developing this initiative and creative power all the time. The party maintains its centralism only to meet the demands of the situation. The party can never belittle the question of the development of the initiative of the people or the party-ranks to whichever strata they belong. On the contrary , the main task of communist consciousness is to properly understand the dynamics of the development of spontaneity and consciousness in different sections of the people and in the perspective of it, to determine the appropriate role of the communists.
Since according to Lenin the professional revolutionaries will carry on their activities through a network of secret structure of an organization, Rosa views them as being completely separated from the social-revolutionary milieu. But we have already seen that Lenin has unfolded before us a distinct picture of how the best revolutionaries will keep contact with the struggling masses even at the time of extreme repression. Rosa’s leaning, on the other hand, is obviously towards the independent initiative and power of the working class. From Lenin’s thinking on the party, Rosa infers that if followed, it will be an impediment to the development of the dynamism, creativeness and confidence in the independent ability of the toiling masses. But how these qualities would grow is beyond Rosa’s comprehension. Rosa strongly criticizes Lenin when he says that workers learn discipline from their field of production, They need not have to learn it separately in the party and that it has to be taught to the members coming from the middle class intellectuals. We can understand Rosa’s contention about this matter when she says that the discipline that workers learn in the sphere of production is a part of capitalist production, which one-sidedly depends on commandism. The beginning of workers’ class consciousness is hidden in its ability to think independently, work independently and take initiative independently. Communist discipline is qualitatively different from the capitalist discipline. But we can not realize what kind of a Communist Party Rosa wants to recommend to us when she opposes the differentiation between the masses of the proletariat and the communist organization. Does she want a party having a very loose membership ? In that case what will happen to the secrecy of the party? How will the party survive in the face of extreme repression? Or, does she believe that the party need not have much activeness? Rather the party should maintain more and more deep relation with the proletarian masses by relaxing the criteria of membership? She wants us to realize that since the motive force of revolutionary transformation is only the workers, the communists have nothing to do except waiting for their political awakening. Since the emancipation of the workers is their own task, the communists need not show any eagerness in this matter, and naturally, therefore, there is no necessity of any separation from the revolutionary masses. In that case, the question arises; what is the role of Communist Party for the emancipation of the working class?
Rosa has nothing categorical to say about how the communist consciousness will reach the working class. There is a strong deterministic trend in this view. There is a definite philosophical source of the excessive stress on spontaneity. The communists also may fall victim to this error unwittingly. The philosophical basis of this trend is a materialism of Feuerbachian type. If anyone believes that human mind is a matter in Feuerbachian sense, it keeps on acting in various ways under the influence of materials, actions and reactions of its surroundings. There remains no role of consciousness in the Marxist sense of the term. Marx discarded this opinion. The working class will bring about their own emancipation but it cannot achieve this without any advanced consciousness, without having clear understanding about what type of a society it wants to build and what is its ultimate destination. For its emancipation scientific knowledge and the existence of an advanced detachment is essential. How the huge section of the proletariat will acquire this knowledge is a very important question. Rosa has not entered into this problem. The communist consciousness can, by no means, reach the working class except by the Communist Party. Rosa’s opinion on whether Lenin’s party could accomplish this task properly and adequately does not become clear to us from her writings. Rosa has not stated what kind of plannings have to be adopted to educate the entire class with class consciousness and to raise it to a level where it can become enterprising, able to take decisions and unite in a developed self-discipline. But this, too, is true that although by her excessive emphasis on spontaneity she reveals a tendency of wrong philosophical understanding, she at the same time gives us an important Marxist lesson that if the independent initiative and dynamism of the working class does not properly grow, the very primary basis of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in its true sense, cannot be created.
Rosa believes that the high degree of centralism in the Communist Party means, at any time, the negation of the people’s role. She thinks that taking decisions on every detail in the Central Committee necessarily means the destruction of the creativity of the rest of the members. Theoretically, the lacuna of Rosa’s view is that from her writings we cannot understand why, despite its having reached the height of centralism, the highest centre of the party will not take into account the degree of spontaneity and initiative of the proletariat, or will not adopt the appropriate method for their development. The meaning of conscious planning in Marxism is the logical and dialectical evaluation of the highest order, of the possible dynamics of the spontaneity of the proletariat. On the basis of that evaluation, the party will play the proper and complementary role to push forward the dictatorship, victory, progress and initiative of the proletariat. Rosa has not explained theoretically why the party that declares that the basis of its whole activity is the development of the initiative of the proletariat, even in its highest centralised condition, will ignore such an important problem. It will not be logical to reach any generalization regarding the general theorization of the party only basing on the practice of Russia at some particular period of time, for in a certain situation under some specific compulsion of the time, a party can deviate from a proper practice, or a party can take a completely wrong decision in this matter.
After the success of the Russian revolution in 1917, in 1918, Rosa wrote an article named “The Russian Revolution”, where she writes:
“The party of Lenin was the only one which grasped the mandate and duty of a truly revolutionary party and which, by the slogan – “All power in the hands of the proletariat and peasantry” – insured the continued development of the revolution.
Thereby the Bolsheviks solved the famous problem of “winning a majority of the people,” which problem has ever weighed on the German Social-Democracy like a nightmare. As bred-in-the-bone disciples of parliamentary cretinism, these German Social-Democrats have sought to apply to revolutions the home-made wisdom of the parliamentary nursery: in order to carry anything, you must first have a majority. The same, they say, applies to a revolution: first let’s become a “majority.” The true dialectic of revolutions, however, stands this wisdom of parliamentary moles on its head: not through a majority, but through revolutionary tactics to a majority – that’s the way the road runs.”
The manner the Bolsevik party led by Lenin has successfully dealt with the question of the majority in the society, fusing it with the revolutionary tactics, has been regarded by Rosa as an important lesson of the dialectics of revolution. But immediately after, Rosa writes: “Freedom only … to the Europe can varietis“.
The demand that Rosa raised as regards freedom amounts to providing Mensheviks and Socialists Revolutionaries with democracy. Rosa was of the opinion that the proletariat should gain power through the free election of the constituent assembly. The proletarian dictatorship through the soviets was not after Rosa’s liking. We do not agree to this view of Rosa. How the victorious revolutionary proletariat will retain power will take various means in various countries depending upon the concrete condition of the class struggle. We do not believe that the exercise of formal democracy will solve the problem. It does not become clear from Rosa’s deliberations how the exercise of full democracy was possible for the proletariat, just come to power, in spite of the anti-revolution role of the Mensheviks and the Socialists Revolutionaries.
The opinion that Rosa has expressed in the above quoted paragraphs regarding the thinking by Lenin or the Bolshevik Party led by him, has the possibility of being one-sided. Whenever someone puts forward his/her opinion very strongly, it may appear to be a formula prepared much before. But it may become necessary to express, or to implement an idea very forcefully when confronted by intense opposition from all quarters. We want to set aside the portion of Rosa’s comment from the above quoted paragraphs that she has made about Lenin or the Bolshevik Party. We want to do this because after the elimination of that portion, this view of Rosa should be made a compulsory text for the communist activists and organisers of any part of the world, for the socialist reconstruction. Rosa writes:
“The socialist system of society should only be, and can only be, an historical product, born out of the school of its own experiences, born in the course of its realization, as a result of the developments of living history, which – just like organic nature of which, in the last analysis, it forms a part – has the fine habit of always producing along with any real social need the means to its satisfaction, along with the task simultaneously the solution. However, if such is the case, then it is clear that socialism by its very nature cannot be decreed or introduced by ukase. It has as its prerequisite a number of measures of force – against property, etc.. The negative, the tearing down, can be decreed; the building up, the positive, cannot. New Territory. A thousand problems. Only experience is capable of correcting and opening new ways. Only unobstructed, effervescing life falls into a thousand new forms and improvisations, brings to light creative new force, itself corrects all mistaken attempts….
Public control is indispensably necessary. Otherwise the exchange of experiences remains only with the closed circle of the officials of the new regime. Corruption becomes inevitable. (Lenin’s words, Bulletin No.29) Socialism in life demands a complete spiritual transformation in the masses degraded by centuries of bourgeois rule. Social instincts in place of egotistical ones, mass initiative in place of inertia, idealism which conquers all suffering, etc., etc.. No one knows this better, describes it more penetratingly; repeats it more stubbornly than Lenin. But he is completely mistaken in the means he employs. Decree, dictatorial force of the factory overseer, draconian penalties, rule by terror – all these things are but palliatives. The only way to a rebirth is the school of public life itself, the most unlimited, the broadest democracy and public opinion. It is rule by terror which demoralizes.
When all this is eliminated, what really remains? In place of the representative bodies created by general, popular elections, Lenin and Trotsky have laid down the soviets as the only true representation of political life in the land as a whole, life in the soviets must also become more and more crippled. Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep, a few dozen party leaders of inexhaustible energy and boundless experience direct and rule. Among them, in reality only a dozen outstanding heads do the leading and an elite of the working class is invited from time to time to meetings where they are to applaud the speeches of the leaders, and to approve proposed resolutions unanimously – at bottom, then, a clique affair – a dictatorship, to be sure, not the dictatorship of the proletariat but only the dictatorship of a handful of politicians, that is a dictatorship in the bourgeois sense, in the sense of the rule of the Jacobins (the postponement of the Soviet Congress from three-month periods to six-month periods!) Yes, we can go even further: such conditions must inevitably cause a brutalization of public life: attempted assassinations, shooting of hostages, etc.. (Lenin’s speech on discipline and corruption). ”
Rosa speaks about public control. But what she does not talk about is how in the concrete condition of Russia it was possible to create the broadest democracy and public opinion the most unlimited. Unless it is resolved that under what circumstances Lenin was compelled to tread a different track and in such a situation what other means could have been adopted to solve the problem, Rosa’s classical Marxist schema can be branded as unrealistic in the then prevailing Russian condition. If the class consciousness of the broad masses of the proletariat does not attain some minimum level, will the practice of unlimited democracy itself keep generating class consciousness? If Rosa thinks so, its theoretical explanation becomes very urgent. We feel that Lenin encountered that very crisis. That is why he had to write :
“The workers are building a new society without themselves having become new people, or cleansed of the filth of the old world; they are still standing up to their knees in that filth.”
The reason of the discontinuation of the soviet system is not that the exercise of broad democracy was forbidden. While trying to exercise the broad democracy through the soviets, it was found that the masses of the proletariat were so backward in their thinking and consciousness, that it became impossible for them to play a conscious role necessary for the progress of the society and the economy. This means that the consciousness of the working class did not develop into such an extent where it would have been possible to exercise the proletarian democracy. In such a situation what possible measures could have been taken to save the soviet system is a different question. We have already observed that in Rosa’s thinking there was a leaning that made her believe that the crisis of capitalist system would give birth to the proletarian class consciousness in the broad masses of the working class on its own. The task of the Communists is to help create a favourable atmosphere for the proletarian masses in their exercise of democracy and independent initiative. We on our part think what Rosa aspired for is a very urgent and an indispensable task, which unfortunately became weaker and weaker in Russia. But the development of the class consciousness among the broad masses of the proletariat can not take place on its own, as Rosa would have us believe. We notice a tendency in Rosa which makes her forget the truth that :
“The materialist doctrine that men are products of circumstances and upbringing, and that, therefore, changed men are products of changed circumstances and changed upbringing, forgets that it is men who change circumstances and that the educator must himself be educated. Hence this doctrine is bound to divide society into two parts, one of which is superior to society. The coincidence of the changing of circumstances and of human activity or self-change can be conceived and rationally understood only as revolutionary practice”.
We cannot properly comprehended what Rosa exactly means by “revolutionary practice” while Marx has viewed the conscious endeavour to coincide “human activity” or “self change” with “the changing of circumstance” as “revolutionary practice” which, to Marx, was the means and agent of bringing about an organised and unified change of society. We are in agreement with Rosa that the way undertaken by Lenin was “palliative” in nature. We think that Lenin took this step being a sort of helpless. But Rosa too, failed to provide us with a concrete analysis regarding how the proletarian class consciousness could have developed and wherein lay the limitation of the party and where exactly was it weak or wrong. Lenin writes:
“As the dictatorship of the overwhelming majority, the new authority maintained itself and could maintain itself solely because it enjoyed the confidence of the vast masses, solely because it, in the freest, widest, and most resolute manner, enlisted all the masses in the task of government. It concealed nothing, it had no secrets, no regulations, no formalities. It said, in effect: are you a working man? Do you want to fight to rid Russia of the gang of police bullies? You are our comrade. Elect your deputy. Elect him at once, immediately, whichever way you think best. We will willingly and gladly accept him as a full member of our Soviet of Workers’ Deputies, Peasant Committee, Soviet of Soldiers’ Deputies, and so forth. It was an authority open to all, it carried out. all its functions before the eyes of the masses, was accessible to the masses, sprang directly from the masses; and was a direct and immediate instrument of the popular masses, of their will. Such was the new authority, or, to be exact, its embryo, for the victory of the old authority trampled down the shoots of this young plant very soon.”
From what Lenin wrote we can understand the exercise of what type of democracy was desirable to him.
Rosa writes :
“Everything that happens in Russia is comprehensible and represents an inevitable chain of causes and effects, the starting point and end term of which are: the failure of the German proletariat and the occupation of Russia by German imperialism. It would be demanding something superhuman from Lenin and his comrades if we should expect of them that under such circumstances they should conjure forth the finest democracy, the most exemplary dictatorship of the proletariat and a flourishing socialist economy. By their determined revolutionary stand, their exemplary strength in action, and their unbreakable loyalty to international socialism, they have contributed whatever could possibly be contributed under such devilishly hard conditions. The danger begins only when they make a virtue of necessity and want to freeze into a complete theoretical system all the tactics forced upon them by these fatal circumstances, and want to recommend them to the international proletariat as a model of socialist tactics. When they get in there own light in this way, and hide their genuine, unquestionable historical service under the bushel of false steps forced on them by necessity, they render a poor service to international socialism for the sake of which they have fought and suffered; for they want to place in its storehouse as new discoveries all the distortions prescribed in Russia by necessity and compulsion – in the last analysis only by-products of the bankruptcy of international socialism in the present world war.” (Emphasis ours)
Here we agree with Rosa (Soviet socialism fell into a deep crisis and as a result Lenin and the Bolshevik Party had to take many steps that are not generally considered desirable). At the same time we are not ready to admit that even in 1919-20 Lenin should have declared that what he did he had to do in the face of a danger. This is extremely an important matter to ponder on how it was possible to represent the problem before the International Communist Movement when Russia was encircled by the enemies from all quarters.
Although we consider Lenin’s theory on the Communist Party as an invaluable contribution to the Marxist literature, we do not hesitate to add that the practice of the last one hundred years has garnered for the communists such food for thought (from both success and failure) and has put forward so many new problems that it has become urgent to further develop Lenin’s theory of vanguard party and practice conforming to it. Rosa has not been able to present before us any full fledged theory of building a Communist Party. Still, in spite of many faults, the contribution of Rosa Luxemburg will play an important role in the days to come, in the development of Leninist theory of party.
The Tasks to-day for the Struggle to
Build up a Communist Party in India
In the present article we have tried to understand the necessity and role of the Communist Party in the struggle for Socialism from a Marxist point of view, especially we tried to explain from that angle the debate between Lenin and Rosa Luxemburg centring around the structure and activities of the Bolshevik Party in the perspective of the Russian Revolution. We are engaged in this study from our urge to join in the struggle for building up an advanced type of Communist Party (including its formation). The society in its own course of progress gives birth to the objective conditions that are necessary for the creation of a Communist Party. What remains is the fulfilment of the subjective condition, a large part of which is determined by the level of development of human consciousness as well as nature and degree of conscious initiative of man/woman. For the sake of building an advanced Party, a measure of superiority becomes necessary which is achieved at a historical juncture by repeatedly summing up the past history. We are now at such a cross-roads. History has offered to the Communists of the present times the responsibility of fulfilling that crucial task. How will the Communists of today accept that task and try to fulfil it, is being expressed by various ideological positions and practices through the various organizations of the Communists in the present times.
The Communist movement in India has a long and remarkable history. It has many twists and turns and requires the repeated summing up of its experience. We have no scope of dealing with it in our present article. But we think without doing it, the struggle for building up a Communist Party cannot be effectively initiated. In the present article we tried to raise the question how, in the perspective of 150 years of International Communist Movement and the development of its theory and practice, the fundamental questions that have come up very strongly regarding the building up a Communist Party in this period, will be resolved.
We think if any group of revolutionaries wants to declare itself as a Party in to-day’s India, it must see to it that some minimum conditions are fulfilled, viz. (1) A tendency of awakening of the working class (urban and rural, in industry, service sector and agriculture) is distinctly noticeable and the communist revolutionary group maintains a living and organic relation with it. (2) As regarded the question of the international and national tasks of the communists, it has some clearly developed and advanced positions or formulations at its disposal. (3) A large majority of the communist revolutionaries of the country are rallying behind that particular organization.
Even a formal declaration of a party at a time prior to the aforementioned situation is harmful for the development of the communist movement. The declaration that a Communist Party has been born means that the new-born party has taken upon itself the task of building it up as a more developed party and to set about considering the question of organizing the revolution as an immediate and urgent task. At various phases of class movements, the class society puts forward before the communists some definite tasks and responsibilities. During that period to perform those tasks with utmost seriousness serves as a necessary preparation and basis for the execution of the tasks of the subsequent period. To consider the tasks of tomorrow as the principal task of to-day will harm the preparation for and laying the foundation of the tasks of tomorrow. This will lead to a wrong planning that will impose the subjective desire of the Communists on the consciousness and real life of the proletariat and other toiling masses. In today’s India the aforementioned conditions are existing at such a low level, that if any group, however much efficient, professional or large it may be, its initiative and programme will definitely prove to be impractical in course of time. This will, in the final judgement, be harmful to the communist movement.
We have to make it clear what is meant by the struggle for building up a Communist Party and what are its immediate objectives and responsibilities.
That there is no Communist Party in India does not mean that at present all the Communist minded activists, organizers and groups have been ruined. In spite of the fact that for the last two decades a process of decaying has been persisting in the entire revolutionary camp, at various areas of our country new forces, activists and organizers have been born and developed. Judged by quality, it has great importance. The elements of the future Communist Party lie scattered in the small, medium or big communist revolutionary groups, even in innumerable communist-minded individuals who do not belong to the discipline of any particular organization, at the present moment. In our opinion those who have closeness among them in summing up of the lessons derived from the International Communist Movement, or in the fundamental questions regarding what type of Communist Party is required, what relationship the party will build up with the masses of the proletariat, what will be the method of exercising leadership over them etc.. may start exchange of opinion on the tasks of the communists in the concrete condition of India. It is this very process which, we think, is the feasible means to carry forward the struggle for party-building in our country to-day.
We like to bring to notice some issues that will enable an organization or a group to deeply put into practice, in the organizational life, the propositions that are now an integral part of the struggle for building up a Communist Party. In this deliberation our concept of a future superior type of Communist Party has come in time and again, in an embryonic form which, of course, will leave an ample scope for continuing debates. We think such debates and studies will help to adopt a really superior political position.
(A) The Question of Communist Elements in
the Communist Party: Communist Morality
Our repeated assertion about the decisive role of “Consciousness” in the struggle for establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat and emancipation of the proletariat and for socialism and communism may give rise to a grave misunderstanding and that is that by the decisive role of consciousness we mean the dominating role of the Communist Party. We clearly state that we do not mean it. To us, the decisive role of “Consciousness” means the role of “Consciousness” of the broad masses of the proletariat or, in other words, the decisive role of their “conscious political activities”. Certainly, without the leading role of the Communist Party, there is no reason or possibility that in the struggle for socialism this “conscious political activities” of the broad masses belonging to proletarian ranks will be led with a correct orientation. But we do not consider these two things as synonymous. This means that the able leadership of the Communist Party and “the conscious political activities” of the broad masses of the proletariat have their own different existence and will remain in future. On the other hand, their unity alone is the road to socialism. In the present article we are going to discuss what we mean by the able leadership of the Communist Party.
The only difference between the Communist Party and other parties of the proletariat is that the Communist Party creates the future within the present. “To envisage the future in the present” is universally interpreted as the acceptance of the proletarian ideology, that is, to adopt or recognize dialectical materialism, historical materialism and the leadership of the Communist Party that sets about the task of sowing the seeds of the future within the womb of the present. Now we should discuss when the communist theory enters into rational thinking of some individuals, what organizational structure is required so that it will exercise influence upon that structure and the individuals and also how will it be possible. Only the verbal recognition of the proletarian ideology is not synonymous with its acceptance in real life. We have already seen how a pure bourgeois party can become a propagator of proletarian dictatorship to procure some strategic advantage in the field of class struggle. It can be said on the contrary that if one becomes a real bearer of proletarian ideology, the ideology itself will bring about a qualitative change in the character of the bearer. This “new element”, according to us, is the communist element. This element is called in the classical Marxist literature “Communist morality”. When communist thinking transforms itself into the day-to-day affairs of man’s living, i.e. in his/her needs, aspirations, human development – then it helps him/her in developing the thought process with a new vigour. As communist morality is born of communist ideology, this morality enriches communist ideology by the reality of its being placed at an elevated stage of development of human life. It provides communist ideology with new strength and prepares the human resources necessary for further development. Only the existence of ideology cannot create the superior human resources on its own (man enriched with communist morality). By the active and conscious intervention of human mind, communist ideology gives birth to new habits, culture, likes and dislikes, satisfaction and creativity in real life of the individual and thereby a new morality is born. Lenin’s concept of party allows the membership of the party only to those who are carefully chosen advanced elements and ready to live an organizational life of strict discipline. Now the question is: What is the process by which we can guarantee the development as communist for those who have already become the party members? We do not think that such a question can be an open one in a Communist Party. The question has to be dealt with as a part of the compulsory discipline of a developed Communist Party. This is a question of life of a party. If there is no guarantee of enrichment of an overwhelming majority of members with new morality, born of a conscious effort by the party, how can such a party claim to be the source of trust and confidence as the dependable representative of proletarian class interest? This element creates new morality, organization and a new style of living in the life of an individual. The struggle for communism takes a unified form of the struggle for the ultimate destination of civilization (communism) and a struggle for a style of living (communist living). Much has been said about the communist style of living in classical Marxist literature. Now it is necessary to carry it forward. At the period of building up of socialism a thorough discussion and study on the theoretical basis of its necessity and utility is very urgent. The reality that confronts us is that at the time of revolutionary storm, the austerity that the leadership and the ranks maintains, or the way of life that they are compelled to live if they are in grave economic crisis – all this is not any part or result of a disciplined and superior way of living. Economic ease, freedom to enter into the continuing process of consumption and luxury, even a limited scope of open activities has proved again and again the living of the preceding period (revolutionary or pre-revolutionary) as having fallen victim to repression. On the one hand, as a result of the deepest tie with the capitalist world, each stratum of the communists is affected dangerously by the various symptoms of bourgeois politics of power on the question of “relation with labour”. Add to this the inexorable attraction for capitalist consumerism. The leaders and activists are, or try to be, used to a sort of politics of sacrifice. In the post–revolutionary society, be it in Soviet Union or China, a large section of the communists became, by dint of their post, the most privileged class of the society, e.g. factory managers or officials of the administration. A failed revolution or a frustration about the future of revolution very silently ruins the revolutionary process of transformation that prevailed in the preceding period in the life of the communists. The style of living characterised by the sacrifice of comforts for the sake of the people cannot be viewed as any ideal of sacrifice. At most it can act as an inspiration for entering into a new life. Until it is recognized as a mode of life of a superior civilization, it cannot be accepted as a communist element of an organization. What are the indispensable elements of this new morality will be comprehensible only by a deep study. To initiate a discussion at a very primary level, we like to put four points. The communist organization has to determine (for its members) its relation with the following four, in the perspective of the contemporary times and to internalise them as natural characteristics of the life process. The four are : (a) relation to labour, (b) relation to consumption, (c) relation to political power (in respect of both proletarian and bourgeois) and (d) relation to private property. The meaning of the relation with labour is (1) natural aptitude for participation in labour as a representative of the future society, (2) showing respect for collective labour and a natural inclination to take part in it, (3) to eliminate the difference between the physical and mental labour existing in the society, an uninterrupted ideological struggle and real and effective endeavour to that end. The eagerness for giving physical labour is a very important indicator of the attitude of an individual communist towards manual labour.
In the general understanding of the communists the following points naturally come up for discussion – (1) a genuine disinterestedness in capitalist consumerism, (2) an effort to build a scientific conception of “necessity” and “consumerism” for the future superior society (however much it is partial), (3) a collective consciousness about the distribution of consumer goods produced in any society and a distinct notion about the necessities of the general toiling masses and the condition of the available consumer items in the contemporary society. The understanding of the communist activists and organizers regarding consumption.
On the question of political power: proper concept on the significance of the following : (1) the power of the class and the proper realization of the theoretical formulation regarding the role of the Party in this matter. (2) collective power and not an incessant accumulation of power at the hands of the individual. (3) to be alert against the tendency of “personality cult”. (4) recognition of heterogeneity of the character of the individuals and a thorough idea about the collective life, collective struggles and collective leadership. A complete abolition of all interest in and all relation with private ownership of the means of production or individual control.
Along with the correct political line and participation in political struggle in a correct manner, the superior Communist Party of the future, in respect of measuring its strength, will consider its communist element as the embryo of the future society. We wish to elaborate on this matter some time in future.
(B) The Question of Forging a Deep Relation with
the Life and Struggles of the Working Class
The formation of the Communist Party is the recognition of a special phase characterized by the awakening of the proletarian class, the development of the conscious communist activities and the synthesis of these two. When we are dealing with the building of a superior type of Communist Party, we, in fact, are discussing the form, character and structure of the party at a more developed phase. We do not consider this as some advance deliberation on our future task. Since we are carrying on our study with a view to building a superior type of party, in every sphere of Communist activities this thinking will assume on extra-ordinary importance.
The present times of workers’ movement in India is passing through a period when there is no spontaneous upsurge. In the absence of spontaneous working class movement, we have to determine the objectives and basic responsibilities of conscious communist activities. We have to assess the possibility and nature of spontaneous workers’ upsurge in India and its influence on conscious activities leading to the birth of a Communist Party.
Workers’ movement to-day and the role of the communist revolutionary vis-a-vis it are now a burning question of the communist movement. We do not address this question only within the framework of theory. We want to view it in the concrete reality of workers’ life and struggles.
The extraordinary heterogeneity of the formation of the Indian working class will exercise its influence on the nature of workers’ awakening. There will be noticed a direct relation between the intensity and character of crisis of capital, both international and national on the one hand and the awakening of working class in spontaneous struggle, on the other, so far as the section of the working class directly related with the industries controlled by the national and foreign monopoly capital is concerned. The nature of awakening is naturally different in case of the overwhelming majority of industrial workers of our country, viz. the section of the unorganized workers who are not directly influenced by the international and national movement, motion or crisis of big capital and the large majority of workers and agricultural labourers of the informal sector.
Till now the crisis of international capital that started in 2007 has not given rise to spontaneous workers unrest. In the spontaneous trade union movement of the last two decades, greater initiative has been shown by the workers of automobile industries. The workers’ movement of this industry has not been born of any crisis of industry at national and international level. Rather the workers have been resisting at the trade union level the design of the capitalists of this industry to wrest labour from the workers at a low wage. Although the capitalists are up to various schemes in this matter, they have been compelled to retreat to some extent (in case of wages of the permanent workers). On the other hand, there could be found no spontaneous protest among the workers of garment industry, though several lakhs of workers have lost their job in last two years in this industry directly controlled by foreign capital. In spite of the fact that they are subjected to inhuman labour at a very low wage and have no job security, the garment workers are not showing even an effort to set up trade unions at their independent initiative. But it is being revealed from various sources that the situation there is terribly explosive. The capitalists and the state led by them are treading very cautiously in respect of making the permanent and “contract” workers toil away at a low wage. The capitalists have taken the horrible standard of living of the workers into account. On the one hand, some measures have been taken in Government legislation for their security, on the other the NGOs (and the trade unions controlled by them) aided by the financial assistance of international capital are very active in various unorganized industries including garments, textile, construction etc.. Millions of workers are under the influence of these organizations. Workers of these industries have shown such signs of spontaneity and protests that it becomes clear that although they do not show any initiative to build trade unions on their own, in the days to come their participation may become significant in the workers’ movement of the country. (We should recall in this context that in the workers’ strike of 20-21 February 2013, the workers of this category very militantly took part in Delhi and its adjoining areas.) Internationally the character of the mass movements and workers’ agitation of the last two decades have shown that the control and influence of the NGOs aided by the financial assistance of various countries and their capital have been dangerously intensified. A very few of the communist revolutionaries of our country keep contact with them.
An important part of the conscious activities of the communists today is to establish the centre of gravity of their revolutionary activities among the working class of India (both urban and rural). To create nerve centres of the revolutionary activities within various parts of the industrial proletariat ( and in such areas of agricultural and service sectors where there is direct supervision of national and foreign big capital) is the most vital part of this work. Besides this, there remains the task of expanding revolutionary consciousness among the proletariat and semi-proletariat of the small or big ‘closed’ or sick industries as well as the proletariat of other various types, of the rural or urban areas. With a view to developing conscious struggles among the workers this role will help the communist revolutionaries to be able to exert themselves in the period of awakening of the working class in spontaneous struggle. A clear notion of general problems of the working class movements and the historical progression of class movement having with the workers, stirred by the struggles raging in the country, cannot be derived only from the theoretical understanding of Marxism. What is necessary for this is the ability of the party to generalise its own experience of the life of the workers and their struggles.
If there is the absence of a democratic atmosphere in the society, spontaneous workers’ movement does not come to fruition even if the objective factor for full awakening of the workers of various categories is ripe. As a result, in the societies where political freedom is meagre and discriminatory and oppressive social rules and customs are strong, spontaneous protest and resistance as natural manifestations of grievance are found to be either absent or negligible. Political freedom in India is limited and distorted. Although belonging to the same constitutional framework, democratic atmosphere exists differently in different states. This atmosphere varies even in different districts of same state. In such a society many political struggles have to be waged to realise the right to holding meetings and to building organizations, i.e. to realising the rights given by our Constitution. Under the circumstances, we have to adopt special methods to understand the character and stage of spontaneity while we take up the task of organizing the struggles of the working class. There are occasions when no external manifestations percolate from the repressed spontaneity. In such a situation, if the revolutionaries come to believe that there is no spontaneity among the workers and therefore nothing has to be done by them, it will be a blunder. There will be a great possibility of committing this error in the Indian society. The responsibility of the revolutionary forces is, together with the various democratic forces of the society, to carry on struggles against all repressive, undemocratic and discriminatory activities of the state. Along with this they will help the workers to create such workers’ movements and organizations that will lead the repressed spontaneity of the workers to its manifestation and development. The repercussion that is created when the domineering monopoly capital falls into deep crisis in its totality, gives rise to an unbearable situations in the sphere of workplace and living condition of the workers. In this situation the workers’ agitation of one area spreads to other areas. A workers’ strike of one state instils courage, inspiration and initiative into the innumerable workers’ strikes throughout the country. Without a proper political realization of the massive difference that exists in the character and features of the different sections of the working class, no section of the working class will be able to play the leading role. The difference of character among the various sections of the workers are not only the result of difference in their position in the production process. The dominating and decadent culture and politics and division and enmity born of it, exercise an influence on the country that throws a challenge to the unity of the working class. Apart from the difference in the participation in production process, the caste differentiation, discrimination and violence related to gender, and the differentiation created by nationality and communalism pose a big impediment to the unity of the working class. Keeping in mind the particularities of the Indian Society, the task of building an effective mass movement against the discrimination and oppression on the question of gender, caste, religion and nationality in this country, is an integral part of the process by which the working class will emerge as a unified political power.
To determine the forms of the struggles and organizations is dependent on the evaluation of the present situation. The changes in the arrangement of production organizations and labour laws brought about by the capitalists internationally and the unity that has been achieved by the capitalist countries in their outlook, have effected a great change in the concrete condition of the workers’ movements. The massive changes that have taken place will give birth to the new forms of movements and incipient forms of organizations through a new social churning and thinking. A united endeavour of the workers suffused with revolutionary consciousness derived from various rights/trade union movements of the initial phase and the revolutionary activists drawn from other classes and class positions as a result of multifarious social conflicts and contradictions, will evolve. In consequence, new realization will develop on question of new forms of movements and organizations in the sphere of resistance struggles of the workers of the present day. To break the natural and spontaneous movements of the workers, the capitalists are exerting conscious efforts. The advanced workers and revolutionary activists of the world are resisting this both spontaneously and consciously.
If the establishment of hegemony of the workers is the aim of the communists, the question of development of conscious initiative of the workers becomes one of central importance. It is true that the question is not equally applicable to all types of workers’ movements. At different twists and turns of the movement there will be progresses and retreats. If only through the discipline taught to the workers by the capitalists by command from above, the development of initiative, discipline and consciousness, required for establishing the hegemony of the workers in society does not take place, those aspiring for a new civilization will deal with the question of development of initiative, discipline and consciousness of the members of the class, the motive force of the future society, as being an inseparable part of the form of movements and organizations at various phase of resistance movement. Throughout the world there is difference of opinion and that will continue to remain for a long period, on this question among the communist revolutionaries. How is this question connected with the day-to-day movements, and how it will be resolved is related with the method and style of implementing a definite thought.
In the course of awakening of the working class, the industrial proletariat will have a special role to play. In our contemporary times, since the oppression on the “contract”, casual, “badli”, the permanent workers of low wage, and the workers of unorganized industries is more acute, the material basis for their being attracted to revolutionary activities is stronger. But innumerable are instances in history that at the period of crisis of capital, the people who have tasted of “rights” (those who get better wages and enjoy various social securities) come to the forefront at the moment of an upsurge. Taking into account the fact that awakening of different sections of the workers into spontaneous struggles depends on their material basis, the communists will have to carry on their propaganda work among the various sections of the workers. The capitalists of different countries have again and again developed a section of workers with high wages against the interest of the working class. This problem exists in our country, too, which in the future times will appear as a new danger before the working class movement.
The most urgent questions vis-a-vis the working class movement is one of organizing the workers politically at the present phase. An upsurge of the working class movement has not yet started. Still, judged by the entire situation both national and international, a process of awakening of the working class may set off any time. A small section of the working class, even in this phase, under the influence of various economic, social and political stirrings are showing a tendency of moving away from the bourgeois political parties in the social and political polarisation. To unify them at mass political level, to help them in appearing as a political force, making for a different pole is a special communist task of our times. In our understanding, this political task is urgent not only for the period of awakening, it will help the members of the working class to prepare themselves as the leaders of future civilization (post capitalist). It will also help to lay the foundation of thinking and reflection with a view to grasping and solving the related problems. We have, therefore, to be full of initiative to develop an awareness of class politics in different sections of the workers and to realize their limitations as well as their strength. Mass political organizational structures of revolutionary workers will have to be built up in all the quarters of the workers. Complete dedication of the communist revolutionaries in this work is an imperative. As a part of building up of a superior Communist Party in India, to successfully forge lively contact with the workers of organized and unorganized industries of different states of our country, is definitely a proper beginning for the communist revolutionaries in their journey. But a living connection with the specific question of building a superior Communist Party will be established only when in the spontaneous trade union struggles and in the process of appearing as a conscious political force, the role of the communists in the entire nation will take shape as an expression of a definite and well considered thinking. Some of the stages of this process is like the following: (a) When a distinct trend of taking part in the communist process in the whole country will be noticeable among the members of different sections of the working class, however much small their number may be. (b) A considerably big section of the representatives who have joined the communist movement from the working class origin will be able to understand the character and gravity of the present crisis of international communist movement and the problem of development of Marxist theory. In this perspective, they will be able to comprehend the complexities and the necessity of building a Communist Party in our times and be able to take part in this task. (c) The revolutionary representatives coming from the working class will start to take responsibility of organizing the toiling people from outside the working class (those who may be the ally forces of working class in Indian revolution). They will view the struggle against gender, caste, community and nationality–based discrimination and oppression as the part of political struggle for the emancipation of the working class. They will take active part in conveying this thought to the broad masses of the working class for transforming it into actual struggle. (d) Even before or after the representatives of working class origin begin taking part in the above mentioned tasks, the other revolutionary activists involved in the process will be definitely engaged in this task as the communist activists. But only when the representatives coming from different sections of the working class of the country will be taking part in this work very clearly and distinctly, then it will be considered as an important step towards the struggle of building up the Communist Party. Much before the birth of a Communist Party in the 21st century India, it is possible to reach such a stage of development of the communist movement. (e) As the advanced section of the working class and its representatives, how the communists will play their role in the arena of political struggle in Indian reality, is still hidden in the womb of future. The character and features of the presence of the Indian working class in the spontaneous struggle in the 21st century will take a significant role in determining the conscious task of the communists. In what role the Communist Party/centre will appear in this century in the struggle of the working class for the revolutionary transformation, will determine, to some extent, the character of the Indian Communist Party of the future (if it is a matter of immediate future). Whatever the utility or necessity of building a superior Communist Party, the immediate task of the communists is inextricably bound up with the actual necessity of the struggle of the working class. When the integration of the communists with the struggle of the working class will reach a definite breadth and depth and when in the specific reality of the country, the dynamics and limitations (considered as an inseparable part of the process of its birth and development) of the development of the working class’s participation in political struggles and activities will be clear, it will be possible to take important decision on the building up the Communist Party/centre (particularly on its immediate character in India’s context).
(C) On the Question of Ideology
It is from the most developed ideological position of the contemporary times that a Communist Party is born. But in to-day’s world the most basic problem that haunts a large section of the communists is that they do not view the question of ideology as a living one, but they have turned it into a matter of unshakable and unquestionable faith. Although for the last 80-90 years hundreds of questions have been raised centring around the theoretical interpretation and practice regarding philosophy, political economy and socialism and although the students, teachers and the progressive people of the whole world have been stirred up by these issues, the principal trend of the communists have been to turn back from these problems, at most they have been reiterating their old faith. In the present article we are trying to express our view on this in the context of the Party. We have already written our viewpoint about other aspects of ideology in the other issues of this journal. We think that a serious responsibility of the struggle for building the Communist Party to-day is to focus on the study of the most relevant and urgent issues on the questions of ideology that are causing much confusion and misgivings. Also imperative is to initiate more developed ideological exchanges on the already existing points of difference on this matter and to lead the communist movement towards adopting a superior position.
The communists pay attention to the question of ideology because they embody the future (the future as they aspire for) in the present and nurture it. They do not stop only with the study and churning of ideology. Rather what is more important is that they fortify the future through their struggle for the present (in its forms, methods, slogans and essence) for example, when the communists go to the workers for taking part in trade-union struggles, they do not concentrate only on the issues that are important to realize their demands. They also try to determine their task and outlook on the method of organizing trade unions by which the workers will become more competent to express their opinion and to play the role of the leaders of the future society. Naturally, therefore, the question of hegemony of the workers in the society no longer remains one of unalloyed (fully) future. The character and nature of the participation in the workers’ movement of to-day by a communist organization depends, at least partly, on how it views the question of hegemony of the working class in the society. Because of the intensity of doubt, apprehension and complexities prevailing in our times, the struggle for building up a Communist Party cannot be organized setting aside the question of ideology.
On the other hand, the question of ideology is not anything unwavering or unshakable. In the history of the communist movement, many communists parties/centres/internationals have been set up keeping many questions of ideology unresolved. But for the qualitative advancement of the national and international communist movements of the contemporary times, the important ideological questions were not certainly kept outside the purview of resolution. But the main trend of to-day’s communist movement is to identify the ideology in the name of the great communist leaders, for example, Marxism-Leninism, Marxism-Leninism-Maoism or Marxism-Leninism-Mao Tse Tung thought etc.. Here the essence of ideology did not remain very important, rather the ideas held by the names took the position of greater importance. The result is thatcpi(m), cpc (Chinese Communist Party) etc. are familiar in the international sphere (in the mind of the left people) as communists.cpi(m) proclaims Marxism-Leninism as its ideology. On the other hand the cpc declares that it abides by the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, Mao Tse Tung and Teng Hsiao Ping. The cpc believes that the theory of Teng should be considered the continuity of Mao Tse Tung thought. The ucpn(m) of Nepal led by Prachanda declares as its ideology Marxism-Leninism-Maoism. That these parties have turned into or are turning into bourgeois parties admits of no debate in the international communist revolutionary fraternity. So in the backdrop of the crisis and complexity of international communist movement, that the problem will not be solved only by identifying the ideology in the names of the great leaders, and that this practice cannot represent even any primary unanimity, is not recognized by the communist revolutionaries. The majority of them believe that only after the unity of ideology is achieved by the unity of the ideas identified by the names, the real unity of the essence has to be examined. If unity is not achieved in the thoughts identified by nomenclature, it is not possible that any unity in essence may exist. The unity of the communists is primarily a unity of ideology. Therefore if ideological unity is forged by both the means, it can be claimed that unity exists among the communist revolutionaries. The palpable result of this mode of thinking is the increase of difference of opinion, division and distance among the communist revolutionaries. If the desired unity for the building of communist revolution and organization is not viewed from the needs of the class struggles and from the aspect of achieving the highest possible unity of the communist revolutionary forces, if instead by repeatedly asserting their own concepts and beliefs on the question of ideology are expressed, it will convert the question of ideology in the communist movement into a closed issue. Under the circumstances, in our view, the primary responsibility of the communist revolutionaries is to turn the issues connected with the important ideological questions into a living and “developing topic” of study and debate. But this does never mean that the actual existence of various thoughts of the countless communist groups on the question of ideology is the real material basis for their continuing as different organizations. If we begin to view the unity on the question of ideology from the aspect of creating a momentum in the working class movement and a need of the comprehensive development of the communist movement in the days to come, the ideological churning on the question of unity of the communists will enter into a new period of progress.
The major points of attention to the ideological issues of to-day are: “The nature of dialectical materialism and its relevance to the various branches of knowledge in to-day’s world’’, “The nature of the materialist concept of history in the 21st century”, “The nature of communism, socialism and dictatorship of the proletariat and the contribution of the entire proletariat class and the role of the Communist Party in its fullest development”, “The character of the world capitalist economy of to-day”, “A brief review of 150 years of the communist movement and its general lessons”, “The difference and commonness in the building of the party in accordance with variations in the stages of class movements and features of a given country”, and “The necessity of building a Communist Party with a superior quality, its possibilities and conditions”, etc. To-day, these serious questions and confusions that have appeared at an international scale cry for a deep study and creative exploration. It is an imperative task for the development of the communist movement as a whole.
(D) Interrelation between centralism and democracy
When we are concentrating on building in India a Communist Party with a superior quality, we should try and develop a point of view among the communist revolutionaries regarding the interrelation between democracy and centralism at the phase of the birth and development of the future Communist Party. This will play an important role in determining the appropriate degree of centralization in the communist activities within a communist organization. There is, perhaps, no scope of debate in the communist revolutionary camp that in the struggle against the centralized state power led by the enemy class, centralization is indispensable in the activities of the Communist Party for achieving victory of the working class. The debate is centred round its degree and the interrelation between democracy and centralism. In the voluntary self-discipline that is created by the communists, the development and increase of the centralization evolve through a conscious process, especially when the party enters into the phase of big changes.
The concept of democratic centralism is a synthesis of proletarian democracy and centralism. This principle becomes necessary and urgent in a communist organization for the centralization of the aspiration, thinking and activities of all the members of the Party. This centralization has to be developed on the basis of the intense application of the proletarian democracy in the organizational process. The more developed stages of centralization emerge through the thorough implementation of this democracy. In the light of philosophical materialism this principle of conducting the organization is a unity of “freedom” and “necessity” in the organizational life. Here proletarian democracy is the free and explicit expression of all proletarian thinking and activities and centralism is the disciplined and centralized process for the fulfilment of the necessity born of proletarian democracy. So in a proper process of democratic centralism, the transformation of democracy into centralism and the vice versa continues in a living manner. To properly appreciate this process and to play the necessary role in its dialectical transformation is a major responsibility of the members of a communist organization.
Although the above mentioned internal transformation process of democratic centralism is expressed as a subjective feature of the thought process of the members of a Communist Party, it is in reality a part of a social process. Since the development of the class movement is connected with the changes of the economic base and superstructure, the emergence of an advanced theorization, analysis of concrete condition and the decisions in a Communist Party or an organization as well as the emergence of a competent centralized leadership do not depend only upon properly organizing internal discussions, debates or a democratic process within the party. At some definite phase of the class-struggle, the distinctive form of democratic centralism and its transformation has to be handled keeping in consideration that the interrelation and transformation process of democracy and centralism are deeply related with the transformation of social history as a whole.
The birth (transformation as well) of centralism and centralized leadership within a Communist organization is not a product of any formal declaration or practice. Until a clear political line or thinking necessary for the revolution of a certain country is born, until the definite political task for a given period of time is determined and a competent leadership is born to properly implement it, until a general and clear realization among the large majority of the communists comes about regarding this, the preponderant role of proletarian democracy in the rules of the organization will continue to exist. At such a period the degree of centralism remains low, taking a secondary position in the life of the organization. Even in such a situation centralism remains in respect of the implementation of the adopted decisions and plannings. Even when it remains “secondary” at some particular times on the question of putting some definite and special decisions into practice, organizational exercise must be firm, disciplined and centralized.
(E) The Professional Revolutionaries of To-day
The idea of “professional revolutionary” was first expressed in a most clear-cut manner in Lenin’s concept of the party. Lenin was of the opinion that the role of the Communist Party as the most resolute and disciplined detachment of the proletariat for a successful revolution cannot be played without a number of competent professional revolutionaries. According to Lenin’s concept these revolutionaries are absolutely dependent upon the party in respect of financial and other necessities and controlled by the party, fully dedicated, skilful and expert in propagating and disseminating the communist consciousness among the broad masses of the proletariat, eluding all types of state repression and prohibition. They are also committed to conveying the attitude of the communists regarding the specific steps to be taken in the arena of existing class struggle. These revolutionaries are the backbone to carry the ideas and decisions of the party to the broad masses of the proletariat and the semi-proletariat and to communicate to the party the thinking, initiative and dynamism of the masses. Although the pillar of the Leninist party is the professional revolutionaries, as we have already noticed, at different phases of development of class movements and communist movements, the responsibility and role of the professional revolutionaries vary.
Now the question is, though Lenin has clearly described the tasks and responsibilities of the professional revolutionaries at the period of revolutionary storm, what will be their job when the awakening of the proletariat has not yet started and the revolutionary striving is at a low ebb in the society?
The very term “professionalism” hints at having some skill in fulfilling needs and realization of the aims and objectives that have been fixed, as well as owning responsibilities to that end. Of the revolutionaries belonging to any period of time, only those are “professional” who strive for advancing the tasks of a given period with competence, sincerity and commitment, discipline, eagerness for knowledge, resoluteness and profundity and flexibility of mind to understand the situation. To comprehend the problem of the development of Marxist theory, a thorough and deep study has become a compulsory task of each revolutionary of today. In a non-revolutionary period, to grasp the complexity of the Indian society demands a keen, patient and industrious makeup of mind. On the other hand, to understand the relation of the ripening crisis of capitalist economy and civilization with Indian economics and politics has appeared before us as an immediate and urgent task. We have to take upon ourselves this task, integrating ourselves with the life and struggles of the proletariat and semi-proletariat. Those who are able to perform these tasks with professionalism are to-day’s “professional revolutionaries”.
Naturally in the life of such responsible activists, their family and other bondages will be secondary to political responsibilities. In demand of the revolutionary activities, such activists will always remain ready to be deployed at any area, any state of the country.
If any communist organization, however much weak or insignificant it may be, is really committed to reorganizing the communist movement in today’s difficult times, a group of professional revolutionaries has to play the role of the back-bone of the organization. We have to properly assess from which section of the society in today’s context, the elements fit for becoming the professional revolutionaries will come and how for the new and young activists an atmosphere can be built up for developing professional revolutionaries committed to ideology. This is a very important measure for judging the success of political and organizational line and practice of a communist organization.
(F) Efficiency, Division of Labour and the Communist Party :
There has been plenty of discussion on the origination of classes from division of labour. Marx has discussed about the division of labour in domestic work and focussed on the slavish subjugation of women. We would like to put forward a few words on efficiency and division of labour in a communist organization and movement.
To play an effective role and to increase efficiency, Lenin adopted the policy of division of labour. That efficiency is necessary admits of no further elaboration. Nor is there any scope of debate on the fact that to increase efficiency for work, division of labour is essential. The question is – what is the effect of this division of labour in a communist organization.
Let us first of all see what is meant by “labour” in a communist organization. It is neither a commercial nor an industrial establishment. Here no commodity is produced, no service or commodity is sold. What, then, is the role of labour here? The Communist Party is a professional and organized force for bringing about social change. This force stands by the working class in the struggle against all kinds of repression and exploitation perpetrated on this class in the period of domination and oppression in the capitalist society and devote all their energy and strength for this purpose. In the post-revolutionary society, they remain deeply concerned with all the activities related to production and distribution and actively intervene in every effort of the proletariat to maintain their dictatorship. The communist organization tries to turn into a consolidated force of a large number of professional activists who depend upon only the party for their maintenance. Since such an organization requires various types of “jobs”, Lenin insisted on division of labour, for many of the “jobs“, do not belong to simple labour. They require efficiency. As the objective of all the jobs, as the inclination internal to it, it adopts the task of conducting (in the sense “leading”) the organization of production for the future society. A large majority of members and supporters of this organization remain involved in the capitalist production in the capitalist society. This organization views the relation between labour and man as the condition for man’s progress as a specie. The principal measure of social objective of this organization is to effect changes in the relation of man with labour. It needs hardly any mention that such an organization cannot afford to be less attentive to scanning the status and role of “labour” within its own organization.
To raise the efficiency of work to its desired height, an integral part of Lenin’s concept of the “advanced party” is the division of labour within the communist organization. These principles of “the division of labour” propounded by Lenin have assumed a permanent form within Communist Parties of the subsequent period (according to the declared position of the 3rd International). If the jobs of various types are arranged in accordance with different strata in the communist organization, we will find that the jobs of the upper strata are dominated by mental labour and those of the lower by physical labour. The communist organizations’ declared position, in general, is to give equal respect to all types of jobs, where each communist is always ready to do any kind of job. But in reality, the fundamental proposition that taking part in labour is the condition of existence of human specie,is not taken into consideration with seriousness. Especially, the relation of the members of the upper strata of the Communist Party with physical labour gradually evaporates. Since no work within the Communist Party is considered as “labour”, the distinct division between doing some particular “jobs” and not doing many other “jobs” is not given proper importance. As a result, the indifference and distance that is generally created regarding “labour” in individual communists, plays a significant role in his/her development of personality. Such members and leaders determine the planning of the organization, distribution of jobs and responsibilities etc. This method of work has projected an impression, both inside and outside the party, that does not conform with the principles and ideal of the party. A division of labour has come into being among the activists and leaders which has been, in a word, modelled after the bourgeois production. In an undeclared manner, a permanent division of labour has been entrenched within the communist organizations which is able to augment efficiency of work (in respect of an isolated job), but at the same time able also to generate evil propensities in an individual’s development as a communist man. Historical materialism has taught us that it has from the division of labour in the field of production that different classes have been born. Division of labour is most meticulously practised in the capitalist system. It is this system of production where the alienation of the worker with the labour process is the highest. In communism, to do away with the difference between the rural and urban areas and that between physical and mental labour has been acknowledged as a fundamental task. The aim of communism is that the same man will be engaged at different times of the day/month/year in various kinds of jobs. Communism will bring the division of labour of capitalist type to an end. In a Communist Party, therefore, a permanent type of division of labour among the leadership and the cadres, mainly on the basis of mental and physical labour will create adverse effect on the development of communist qualities of the members of the higher strata in the party. Such a division between the leadership and the activists resemble more to the stratification of bourgeois management of the capitalist production.
It is taken for granted that since those carrying on their shoulders the responsibilities of leadership has to bear the complexities of jobs and the resultant pressure to a large extent, it is not possible for them to do other jobs that demand more of physical labour or jobs of lesser importance (the same argument is applicable to the persons engaged in jobs of bourgeois management, too). Thus a division of labour between the leadership and the cadres has been accepted, almost axiomatically in all the communist organizations. The general picture is that in the communist organizations some of the jobs have been earmarked as the jobs of the general members or activists. In large communist organizations there are large number of activists and organizers who tirelessly carry on their activities for the cause of/in service of, the toiling people. On the other hand, those who can put forward their definite views on various matters and are well informed about the happenings of the world and their countries, whatever be their standard as communists, when judged in totality, make the entire organization gradually dependent upon them. They become the “real back-bone” of the organization and gain importance as the leadership of the future. At the centre of attention and activities, those members emerge from among these cadres who are efficient in such jobs as are identified as the jobs of the leadership, in the organization or generally in the communist organizations. Included in this are theoretical studies, submission of plans at different meetings, giving speech in the meetings of the organization, in case of the mass leaders, to make speeches in big gatherings, to carry out united programmes with other organizations, to maintain diplomatic relations with other organizations, to bring the new and potential cadres round to the political line of the organization etc. These members remain so busy with their work that none in the whole organization expects them to do the jobs assigned for the general activists.
Division of labour is felt to be necessary for raising the efficiency of a man/woman engaged in a particular job to the desired height, and to implement a comprehensive planning in a proper manner. But the division of labour for the communists should be of qualitatively different nature. The communist organization has the responsibility for the total development of those men and women who belong either to the core or to the periphery of the organization (whether they be the members of the organization, or not.) Division of labour does not only increase efficiency in work, it can give rise to mental alienation from the labour process. Division of labour within the communist organization, too, in the same manner, can give birth to alienation from communist activities. Division of labour is not only a medium of effecting change of the external world by the giver of labour, the process of giving labour changes the giver of labour also. Taking this aspect into account, a dynamic and changing principle of job division has to be adopted vis-a-vis the professional revolutionaries and other activists. The natural relation of mental and physical labour is essential for the development of individual man. If the relation of the giver of labour with these two types of labour remains uninterrupted, a favourable environment for the birth of a superior man is possible.
Therefore, dynamic and changing division of labour should gain currency among the professional revolutionaries of the present times. If we believe that it is they who are the leadership of the future, the character and nature of the communist organization in the days to come will depend upon their development. We want such a division of labour that will call for a specific division of labour in the entire organization for some period of time, but everybody in the organization from the leadership to the last of the members will be ready to do all types of urgent (what has become a part of day-to-day life of the organization) work (labour) in reality (not theoretically) in need of and under the planning of the organization and will attain the critical minimum efficiency to this end.
(G) Some other Urgent Questions:
The struggle for building a Communist Party in India cannot advance without the deepening of the understanding of the character and specificities of Indian revolution. The question of class analysis of Indian revolution, the specific features of Indian society and determining the stage of Indian revolution are crucial subjects of study for the building up of a party. The theoretical resolution of the questions, such as which parts of the peasants will take part in Indian revolution, how will they participate and also how to be engaged in making these issues clear in the actual field of activities etc.– is an important condition for the consolidation of the communist revolutionaries of India. An inseparable part of the struggle for building the party to-day is to create a fresh atmosphere for study and exchange on this matter among the communist revolutionary forces and the creation of an inclination to resolving the problems and achieving a unanimity among the majority of them.
Another important question is the organizational life of the Indian communist revolutionaries, a question of communist life style and style of work as well as acquiring a superior cultural standard. A devastating erosion and deviation has come about on this issue in the entire revolutionary camp. Another indispensable element of the struggle for party-building is a thorough review of and defining our task, regarding the present situation (the atmosphere influenced by the communist organizations) for rebuilding the proletarian cultural ambience.
It seems to us after the primary review of the International Communist Movement that in this period of ours, a far more developed, superior and stronger Communist Party is required than those of the past, considering the fact that as the organization of the advanced detachment of the proletariat, the party had to deal with tremendously difficult and complex problems in the practice of socialism of the last phase, particularly in the post-revolutionary periods. The superiority and strength of the party will not be created by the implementation of iron discipline. It will come from a disciplined alignment of a far more developed, collectivized human resources. As on the one hand the desired level of class consciousness of the broad masses of the proletariat has been found missing, the advanced role of the various levels of party members and activists also could not come into full play because of their preoccupation with the handling the complexities of the situations. There is no unanimity in the communist movement on this matter to-day. But without an adequate answer to this question, the International Communist Movement will not move even a step forward.
In the post-World War II period, that almost all the major Communist Parties of the world fell into complete degradation at almost the same time, points to the fact that the advanced theoretical position of these parties had gradually disappeared long time ago. But what is regrettable is that the communist organizations of our times are not showing any inclination for summing up the causes of this erosion. We think the fundamental theoretical questions that have been raised by international practice of the communist movement have to be properly reviewed and summed up, without which the communist movement will not proceed further.
To-day there is no favourable situation for building a Communist Party. In such a situation, how the communists will thoroughly participate in the struggle for developing a Communist Party has been discussed by us. The birth of a unified Communist Party is by no means a spontaneous act. If the communist groups/organizations fulfil their tasks of to-day, they will be able to bear the responsibilities of the communist movements of tomorrow. If this happens it will leave a positive influence on the advanced workers, which will be a starting point of solutions of more important problems of the communist movement and an overall progress.
We have tried to re-evaluate the current concept and form of the party, basing on the theory of communism of Marx and Engels and the theory of party as developed by Lenin, together with the history of its birth and development.
We shall consider our effort worthwhile if the countless communist activists-organisers, progressive social workers and thinkers take part in the process of evaluation, re-evaluation and debates.
- Max Eastman, Reflections on the FAILURE of SOCIALISM (THE DEVIN-ADAIR COMPANY NEW YORK, 1955)
- Antonio Gramsci, Soviets in Italy, London 1969
- J. P. Sartre [ MASSES, SPONTANEITY, PARTY (This conversation with Manifesto was recorded on August 27, 1969, in Rome)]
- V. I. Lenin, Report at the 2nd All-Russia Trade Union Congress, January 20, 1919
- The Chinese Revolution and the Chinese Communist Party, December 1939
- K. Marx and F. Engels, Works, Vol. VIII, p. 506, quoted from The Foundations of Leninism, Joseph Stalin
- Rules of the Communist League, December 1847; MECW Volume 6, p. 633
- Frederick Engels, On The History of the Communist League, 1885, Marx and Engels Selected Works, Volume 3, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1970
- Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League, London, March 1850
- Marx-Engels Correspondence 1868, Marx To Johann Baptist von Schweitzer In Berlin
- Frederick Engels, Dialectics of Nature,1883
- G W F Hegel, Philosophy of Right
- Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right, Karl Marx, 1843
- Karl Marx, Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy in General.
- Karl Marx, Theses on Feuerbach, 1845
- Karl Marx 1859, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Source: Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1977
- Karl Marx, The German Ideology,1845
- Karl Marx,The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,1852
- Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1845
- V. I. Lenin, Account of the Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P, September, 1903
- Leon Trotsky, Our Political Task, 1904
- Lenin, The Urgent Tasks of Our Movement’, 1900
- Lenin, Where to Begin, 1901
- V. I. Lenin, What Is To Be Done, 1901
- V. I. Lenin, A LETTER TO A COMRADE ON OUR ORGANISATIONAL TASKS, 1902
- (V. I. Lenin, Second Congress of the R.S.D.L.P., Jul 17 (30)-Aug 10 (23), 1903 ,14. Speech on the Party Programme)
- V. I. Lenin, Preface to the Collection Twelve Years, 1907
- Rosa Luxemburg, Organizational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy, 1904
- F. Engels, On Authority, 1872
- Rosa Luxemburg, The Russiam Revolution, 1918
- V. I. Lenin, Report at the Second, All-Russia Trade Union Congress, Jan 20, 1919
- K. Marx, Theses on Feuerbach
- A Contribution To The History Of The Question Of The Dictatorship, 1920 (Lenin’s Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Vol 31, pages 340-361)
- Rosa, The Russian Revolution, 1918
COPYRIGHT © marxist-intellection.org. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.