Communists and the so called “Socialism of the 21st century”

The world counterrevolution of the end of the 20th century gave impetus in the ideological field to the thesis of "the End of History," a campaign aimed at affirming capitalism to be eternal. The campaign centered on questioning the validity of Marxism-Leninism. It aimed to disarm the working class and the oppressed peoples in their struggle for emancipation.

Also known as "de-ideologization," this pretension designed by thinkers in service to imperialism, had as its premise the  discrediting of  the theory of Communism and the practice of socialist construction, using the effect of the crisis that led to the temporary retrogression of the working class in the USSR and other countries of the socialist camp in Europe, Asia and Africa.

At the same time, taking advantage of momentary confusion in the workers' movement and in the Communist parties – several of which renounced their identity and goals in order to transform themselves into social democratic parties – it cultivated the surge of new forms of dominant ideology, such as "postmodernism" and other variants,  to influence not only universities and centers of schooling, culture and art, but to permeate trade unions, popular movements and organizations, left political forces, progressive intellectuals and also to impact negatively the Communist and workers parties.

The general objective of imperialist strategy was not achieved, since reality cannot be held to a straight jacket, and class struggle did not stop for a single second, regardless of the fact that counterrevolution, triumphant at that moment, presented historical events with proppaganda distorted in its favor.

Today – two decades after the Berlin Wall and that whole volley of irrationality – capitalism in crisis has the working class and the Communist and anti-imperialist movements confronting it on all continents

Nevertheless, in a secondary way, this period of confusion served as breeding ground for a series of approaches that,  today,  can become constraints on carrying the struggle to new favorable levels for the international working class and the peoples of the world. 

These various approaches converge in the so called "Socialism of the 21st Century."

The so called "Socialism of the 21st century" cannot be identified with the theoretical elaboration of only one political and ideological current, since it is the coming together of diverse currents identified by their hostility to Marxism-Leninism and to the international Communist movement: for example various Trotskyist groups; heirs of the New Left; "Latin Americanist" Marxists; supporters of "Movementism" and Neo-anarchism; intellectuals who consider their contribution produced in an academic framework as indispensable and essential for social processes. 

The paternity of such concept cannot be attributed to a single current, or to a single author, although its authors all have sought as a platform the actual processes in Latin America, particularly in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador, but without renouncing the claim to be considered as universal, and disqualifying as unfeasible everything that cannot be grouped under its approaches. 

Another element of their positioning is that they insist on the "new," “innovative,” "novel" character of their proposal. Compared to it, they consider both the 20th century workers' movement and the ideas of Marxism-Leninism as old and outdated.

In class struggle, ever since the conditions of social development made possible the creation of the materialist conception of history, it is not the first time that Communists have been confronted by currents that, in the name of socialism, present the positions of the petite bourgeoisie.  It is not the first time that reform or revolution are placed face to face.

In The German ideology and in The Manifesto of the Communist Party, citing just two works of Karl Marx and Friederich Engels, comparisons are made with "true socialism", "reactionary socialism" ("feudal", "petite bourgeois"), with "reactionary or bourgeois socialism" and with  "critical-utopian communism and socialism." 

In another work, the result of the polemic of Marx and Engels with Düring (although the work, as was customary in the division of tasks between the proletariat's teachers, carried only the signature of one of them) the following is affirmed:  "Since the capitalist mode of production has appeared in the arena of history there have been individuals and entire sects who projected,  more or less vaguely, as a future ideal, the appropriation of all means of production by society.  However, so that this could be practical, so that it became a historical necessity, the objective conditions for its execution needed to be created first.[1]”

A synthesis of the criticisms of Marx and Engels shows us that not everything that is presented in the name of socialism has to do with the historical role of the proletariat and of the Communists.

The Denial of Socialism Built in the 20th Century.
Among the promoters of so called "Socialism of the 21st century" there is a fundamental overlap: the demarcation and rejection of the experience of socialist construction in the USSR and in other countries of Europe and Asia. 

Some of them go further, blaming the October Revolution itself and taking up the old ideas of Kautsky and the opportunists of the Second International, on the immaturity of the conditions for the conquest of political power by the working class and the impossibility of socialism because what was required was to develop capitalism, deriving from this idea an explanation of the basis for the alleged separation between "democracy" and "Communism." 

Twentieth century socialism was all condemned to failure, from the first.  However, in general, although they vindicate October 1917, the developers of "Socialism of the 21st century" in fundamental matters take the view of Trotskyist critics of socialist construction, of the role of the Bolshevik Party in particular, and of Marxism-Leninism in general. We are going to examine this further ahead. 

In this,  they cannot be differentiated from, for example, the theses assumed by the opportunistic group of Bertinotti for the Fifth Congress of the Refoundation Communist Party of Italy in the year 2002, which planted a "radical interruption with regard to the experience of socialism as it was carried out," something to which they also refer as a "radical break with Stalinism."

Some of those – really reactionary – ideas preached as characteristics of so called "socialism of the 21st century", it is argued, are not criticized in the name of tactics, in order not to torpedo the processes in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador in the center of the anti-imperialist struggle of Latin America. There are even Communist parties that integrate such concepts into their routine vocabulary, propaganda, and program.

On setting forth our divergent and critical point of view – we do not belive we lack respect for those processes, which we support, of which we are supportive.  These processes were not born under the flag of "socialism of the 21st century" and they have advanced a lot with relation to their initial programs. But is necessary to add that they are not consolidated processes and that the ideological confusion that is promoted with the "socialism of the 21st century" can carry them to defeat. 

With Marx we say that a step of the real movement is worth more than a thousand programs, adding that an erroneous program as north of the movement can conduct it off the cliff.  It is a duty of the communists to place scientific socialism as the road of the working class and of all the peoples, defending Marxist-Leninist theory and the praxis of socialist construction in the USSR and in other socialist countries.

A serious, scientific study of experience is necessary to extract lessons for overthrowing capitalism. But the historical experience of the working class is condemned [by these forces] based on premises elaborated by reaction or by opportunism, reformism and revisionism. 

Communists reaffirm that in the same way in which the little more than 70 days of the Paris Commune provided extraordinary teachings that enriched the revolutionary theory of the proletariat, the experience of socialist construction that started with the Great Socialist Revolution of October constitutes a valuable patrimony for the heritage of the proletariat in its fight for socialism and communism. It constitutes a serious error to reject or avoid it. 

We are at one with what is expressed in the document of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Greece on the 90th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution. "One of the main tasks of Communist ideological front is to restore to the eyes of the working class the truth about socialism in the 20th century, without idealizations, objectively, free of petty bourgeois slanders.  The defense of the laws of development of socialism and, at the same time, the defense of the contribution of socialism in the 20th century, presuppose an answer to the opportunistic theories that speak of "models" of socialism adapted to "national" pecularities. They also respond to the defeatist discussion about errors.[2]”

"Emerging Subjects" Versus Working Class

The developers of "Socialism of the 21st century" all share the idea that the revolutionary role of the working class today is occupied by other "subjects", calling them "inclusive to the construction of new social agents."  They resort to arguments of the New Left, of Herbert Marcuse in the 1960s and 1970s, on the "gentrification" of the working class, on its fragmentation, on the "end of work."  They call for rethinking the concept of "worker" and, without performing that exercise , they move on to claim "social movements," "the indigenous," the "multitude" to be the center of the transformation.

A very important aspect of Marxism-Leninism is the clarification of the role of the proletariat.  Lenin express it thus:  "The fundamental thing in the doctrine of Marx is that it emphasizes the historical international role of the proletariat as the builder of socialist society" and further on the same work he expresses:  "All doctrines of socialism that have not a class character and politics that are not class politics, are shown to be simply absurd[3]”.

There have been changes, that is true, but in no way do they destroy the contradiction in capitalism, that is, the one existing between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat; in no way do they destroy the fact that the proletariat is the only consistently revolutionary class carrying to the very end not only the overthrow of bourgeois order, but the emancipation of the whole human race.  They do not take into account that the role of a class is determined by its place in production, by its objective role in economy. The proletariat, the working class, the workers, in the course of  of acquiring class consciousness "for themselves" not only emancipate themselves, but all human kind.

Nobody will deny that in political struggle the working class needs and should forge alliances with the oppressed mass of the peoples. But there is a difference between that, and the affirmations of those who search for "new social actors," assigning them a liberating role above class conflict, when reality shows how transient such movements are.

Socialism Without Revolution and… without Party

"Socialism of the 21st Century" claims that neither the conquest of power or destruction of the State is necessary, but with the conquest of government it is possible to initiate a new road. Because of it, all its developers do not speak of overthrowing, of breaking, of Revolution, but jumping that vital need, they present post capitalism and they devise already programs to transit to a new society. 

Because of it in the speech of this political-ideological nonsense not the most minimum strategic approach exists that conducts to the destruction of the State.  Consequently neither any worry regarding the construction of a revolutionary party of the working class exists, a party of vanguard, a communist party.  What for? if it does not claim the working class as the interested in burying the exploiters?, If Revolution is not claimed as the moment in which the working class overthrows capitalism?, If the possibility of undertaking post capitalist transformations is claimed in the framework of the old bourgeois State?

Let us take into account that besides planting that "in the Socialism of the 21st century" private and social property are able to and should coexist, inclusive the praise of a socialist market is done.

When the programmatic approaches of "Socialism of the 21st century" are observed,  one cannot stop from noting the similarity with what was the bourgeois democratic Revolution of 1910 in Mexico and the period of greater radicalism in the developments that happened during the government of Lazaro Cardenas in 1934-1940. 

During that six-year period it was established that in schools, social organizations and in state administrations along with the national anthem, The Marseillaise and The Internationale were sung. An impressive distribution of lands was carried out, a true agrarian reform. Oil, up till then in the hands of the American and English monopolies, was nationalized and in general a politics of nationalizations was opened that conducted to the result that in the 1980’s 70% of the Mexican economy was nationalized. Even big aid to the Spanish Republic was given. 

From this, under the influence exercised  by Browderism illusions on the Mexican Revolution as way to socialism grew. Just like the followers of today’s "Socialism of the 21st century," then they spoke of a State placed above classes and of class struggle, as a lever for development. 

For Marxists-Leninists the State is not a referee above the warring classes. It is the apparatus of domination, of repression, in the case of capitalism, of the class that has the property of the means of production and of change, the bourgeoisie.  Nationalizations are not by themselves socialist, therefore in the case of Mexico they showed to be a mechanism for centralization and concentration of capitalism.

Instead of contradiction among capital and labor: it was North against South, center against periphery.

Another notion sustained by "Socialism of the 21st century" notes as a fundamental problem to resolve the contradiction between the rich North and the poor South, parting from deceitful statistics and above all leaving sideways that both in the north and the south of the Planet class struggle exists; the same thing is the harmful idea of the center versus periphery that intends to ignore that we live in the monopolist phase of capitalism, the higher phase of capitalism which is imperialism and that all the countries are immersed in it, as well as with relations of interdependency.

It is not a matter of minor differences but of different roads.

There are those who sustain that in reality such proposal has come to bring up to date the debate on the alternative against capitalism today in crisis; that that is its value and relevance and that besides its a critical  focus that with a similar ideological base than ours helps to surpass the errors of socialist construction bringing fresh air.

We try to show here some questions in which the followers of "Socialism of the 21st century" converge, however it is necessary to affirm that we face a proposal that is not structured, but that results from a mixture of positions, in some cases based on aspects of marxism, of christianity, of the ideas of bolivarianism; eclecticism dominates.

They express that participatory democracy, cooperatives and self-management will come to give answer to the "authoritarianism" of the Dictatorship of the proletariat.  And in short they throw incoherent concepts with the purpose of torpedoing communist theory; but without arguments; nowadays a position, tomorrow another; full confusion as the calling to the construction of a "V International" with enemies of the workers like the Institutional Revolutionary Party of Mexico.

Contemporary struggle requires to advance firmly grouped around the red flag of communism, for the transformation of the material conditions of life, for the abolition of bourgeois relations of production by the only possible way, the revolutionary way. Confusion helps In nothing, the maelstrom of incoherent approaches that are raised with the debated concept and that in last instance only are presented to retouch capitalism trying the unrealizable operation of "humanizing it".  For the working class, and not only in Latin America, for the class-conscious forces and revolutionary forces the duty is to fortify the communist parties that inscribe in their principles and program, in their action the historic experience of the workers of the world to overthrow capitalism and to build socialism, from the Paris Comune to the October Revolution.

It is nevertheless necessary to conclude that “Socialism of the 21st century” is an alien position and even opposed to Marxism-Leninism and to the international communist movement in not only questions of politics but ideological matters.  It corresponds to the communist parties to raise the red flag for the development of class conscience, the organization in class of the proletariat and the assembly of exploited and opressed workers, the construction of the necessary alliances with all interested in overthrowing capitalism with an objective that since 1917 has full force and validity, Socialist Revolution. Its a task of the epoch that we live at, that of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, and there is no space left for "compromises" neither for confusion.

Pável Blanco Cabrera is a member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of México

 

In memory of Vladimir Ilich Lenin, on the occassion of the 140th anniversary of his birth.

Bibliography
Marx, K.; Engels, F.; Collected Works in two Tomes; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1971
Marx, K.; Engels, F.; The German ideology; Ediciones de Cultura Popular; México; 1979
Lenin, V.I.; Collected works in three tomes; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1977.

Endnotes

[1] Engels, F.; From Utopian to Scientific Socialism; in Collected Works by Marx & Engels in two Tomes; Tome II; Progress Editorial; Moscow; 1971; Pg. 149
[2] Communist Party of Greece; On the 90th Anniversary of the Great Socialist Revolution of October; in Propuesta Comunista number 51; Ediciones del Partido Comunista de los Pueblos de España; 2007; Pg. 48.
[3] Lenin, Vladimir Ilich; Historical destiny of K. Marx’s doctrine; in Marx, Engels, Marxism; Foreign Languages Editions; Moscow; 1950; Pág. 77 y 78.

From Issue #2, International Communist Review. May 2011

http://www.iccr.gr/site/en/issue2/communist-and-the-so-called-socialism-of-the-21st-century.html

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