A Better World: General Perspectives of the Communist Workers Party USA
A. The Social and Intellectual Basis of Proletarian Communism
A Better World
To change the world and to create a better one has always been a profound aspiration of people throughout human history. It is true that even the present-day so-called modern world is dominated by fatalistic ideas, religious as well as non-religious, which portray the present plight of humanity as somehow given and inevitable. Nevertheless, the actual lives and actions of working people themselves reveal a deep-seated belief in the possibility and even the certainty of a better future. The hope that tomorrow’s world can be free of today’s inequalities, hardships and deprivations — the understanding that proletarians can collectively influence the shape of the world to come — is a deep-rooted and powerful outlook in society that guides the lives and actions of vast masses of working people.
Proletarian communism, first and foremost, belongs here, to the unshakable belief of countless millions of working people and their successive generations for whom building a better world and a better future by their own hands is both necessary and possible.
Freedom, Justice and Prosperity
Clearly, everyone’s image of an ideal world is not one and the same. However, throughout human history, certain ideas have always come to the fore as the measures of human happiness and social progress, so much so that they are today part and parcel of the political vocabulary worldwide as sacred principles. Freedom, justice and prosperity are the first among them.
Precisely these ideals, born of past revolutionary movements and continuing to shape the consciousness of society today, form the intellectual starting point of proletarian communism. Proletarian communism is a movement for changing the world and setting up a free, human and prosperous society — a society of generalized freedom, where the abolition of classes and class antagonisms make it possible for humanity and prosperity to fully develop.
Class Struggle: Proletariat, Petty Bourgeoisie and Bourgeoisie
However, proletarian communists are not a bunch of utopian reformers and heroic saviors of humanity. Communist society is not a fantastic design or recipe conceived by well-wishing know-it-alls. Proletarian communism is a social movement arising from within modern capitalist society itself, a movement that reflects the vision, ideals and protest of a vast section of this same society.
The history of all societies to date has been a history of class struggle. An uninterrupted, now open and now hidden, struggle has been going on between exploiting and exploited, oppressor and oppressed classes in different epochs and societies. This class struggle is the chief source of social change and transformation.
Earlier societies were built on a complex hierarchy of classes and strata. Modern capitalist society, however, has greatly simplified class divisions. For all the variety of occupations and the extensive division of labor in it, the present society as a whole is organized around three main opposing classes: workers, administrators and owners; proletariat, petty bourgeoisie and bourgeoisie.
The opposition of these three classes is, at the most fundamental level, the source of all the multiplicity of economic, political, intellectual and cultural conflicts going on in the existing society. Not only society’s political and economic life, but also the cultural, intellectual and scientific life of humanity today — areas which appear to be independent domains standing above and independent of classes — bear the imprint of this central alignment in the modern capitalist society.
The proletariat, the working class, for all the variety of thoughts, ideals, tendencies and parties in it, represents the ability to change the system in favor of the exploited, the oppressed and the poor. The bourgeoisie, again for all its various strands of thought, political parties, thinkers and leaders, stands for the preservation of the status quo and the protection of the capitalist system and the economic and political power and privileges of the bourgeoisie, in the face of workers’ drive for freedom.
Positioned between the two, the petty bourgeoisie, finally, for all its various strands of thought, political parties, thinkers and leaders, stands for the preservation of the control of the “bailiffs, overlookers and shopmen” (Communist Manifesto), whether under the banner of capitalist democracy, “democratic socialism” or even fascism, as well as a desire to displace the bourgeoisie as the leading ruling class.
In the imperialist epoch — the epoch of capitalist decay and decline; the epoch of war and revolution — the petty bourgeoisie, along with the bourgeoisie itself, is one great reactionary mass, aligning all of its forces as a class against the revolutionary proletariat.
Proletarian communism emerges out of this class struggle. It belongs to the camp of the proletariat. Proletarian communism is the revolutionary movement of the working class for overthrowing the capitalist system and creating a new society without classes and exploitation.
Superexploitation and Superoppression
At the same time, proletarian communists are not, as V.I. Lenin put it, “economists,” when it comes to the many facets of the class struggle. That is, we do not see only class exploitation and ignore all other forms of exploitation and oppression utilized by capitalism to maintain its rule. We agree that the proletarian communist party must be a tribune of the exploited and oppressed, exposing all of the crimes committed by the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie, including those that are not taking place in the economic arena.
We oppose the division of the proletariat along lines of race, nationality, sex, gender, sexuality, age and ability, whether through superexploitation — i.e., the institutionalizing of inequality and discrimination at the workplace through the assigning different peoples to different jobs (e.g., racial minorities to the most dangerous tasks), differences in the wage scale, lack of proper accommodations, etc. — or through superoppression — i.e., institutional discrimination and bigotry in society, ghettoization, police violence, social inequality in access to education, housing, public services, health care, and so on.
At the same time, proletarian communists reject and oppose the differing political agendas that emerge from the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie in order to maintain control of superexploited and superoppressed communities: nationalism, religious sectarianism, feminism, exclusionary movements, etc. We see these agendas as, at best (e.g., feminism), wholly inadequate to the tasks before them; at worst (e.g., sectarianism; exclusionary movements), they represent a danger to the superexploited and superoppressed proletariat within those communities.
Proletarian communism recognizes the struggles of the superexploited and superoppressed as integral to the class struggle. Only the proletarian communist program offers a comprehensive and direct path to emancipation and liberation from what Karl Marx called “capitalism’s greatest secret … and greatest weapon.”
However, not only freedom and justice, but even the ideal of abolishing classes and exploitation, are not unique to proletarian communism. These goals have been the watchword of other movements and other oppressed classes in earlier societies too. What distinguishes proletarian communism as a movement is the fact that it emerges in opposition to capitalism, i.e., the latest and most modern class system.
Proletarian communism is the social movement of the proletariat, a class that is itself a product of capitalist social relations and modern industrial production, and the main exploited class in this system. It is a class that lives by the sale of its labor-power and has no other means of making a living but its labor-power. The proletariat is not a slave, not a serf, not an artisan; it is neither owned by anyone, nor do they own its means of production. It is both free and forced to sell its labor-power in the market to capital.
The principles and social basis of proletarian communism derive from a criticism of the economic, social and intellectual foundations of capitalism. This is a criticism from the standpoint of the wage-earning working class in this society, and thereby thorough and revolutionary. The working people’s conception of freedom, justice and human happiness is, and has always been in previous societies, inevitably a reflection of the existing social relations and of their own position vis-à-vis production and property. The slave’s conception of freedom did not go much beyond abolition of slavery, and the serf’s and urban artisan’s conception of equality could not be anything more than equality in property rights.
But with the rise of the proletariat, as the great mass of producers free from any form of ownership of means of production, a class whose economic bondage and exploitation is precisely based on its legal freedom, the concept of freedom and equality changed fundamentally. The proletariat cannot set itself free without society as such being set free from class divisions and private ownership of means of production. Justice is not just a juridical notion, but also, and fundamentally, an economic and social one.
With the theories of Marx, the proletarian criticism of capitalism, and the proletarian communist movement and social outlook, which had emerged with the Industrial Revolution, attained immense coherence clarity and theoretical vigor. The proletarian communist movement has since been inseparably linked with Marx and the Marxian communist critique of political economy of the capitalist society.
Proletarian communism is a social movement that came into existence with the rise of capitalism and the wage-earning working class, and represents the deepest and most universal working-class criticism of capitalism and its ills. The objectives and practical program of this movement are based on the Marxian critique of the foundations of contemporary capitalism, i.e., the last, most modern and most advanced form of class society.
Proletarian communism is not a movement separate from the working class. It has no interests apart from those of the working class as a whole. What distinguishes this movement from the other workers’ movements and parties is that, firstly, in the class struggles in various countries it champions the unity and common interests of the workers of the entire world, and, secondly, in the various stages and fronts of workers’ struggles it represents the interests of the working class as a whole. Thus, proletarian communism is the movement of the most advanced section of the working class which understands the ultimate goal and the conditions and prerequisites of victory, and tries to rally the various sections of the working class.
A Balance Sheet
The capitalist system is behind all the ills that burden humanity today. Poverty, deprivation, discrimination, inequality, political repression, ignorance, bigotry, cultural backwardness, unemployment, homelessness, economic and political insecurity, corruption, and crime are all inevitable products of this system. No doubt bourgeois apologists would rush to tell us that these have not been invented by capitalism, but have all existed before capitalism, that exploitation, repression, discrimination, women’s oppression, ignorance and prejudice, religion and prostitution are more or less as old as human society itself.
What is being covered up here is the fact that, firstly, all these problems have found a new meaning in this society, corresponding to the needs of capitalism. These are being constantly reproduced as integral parts of the modern capitalist system. The source of poverty, starvation, unemployment, homelessness and economic insecurity at the end of the 19th century is the same economic system in place at the end of the 20th century.
The brutal dictatorships, wars, genocides and repressions that define the life of hundreds of millions of people today draw their rationale from the needs of the system that rules the world today and serve specific interests in this world. Women’s oppression today is not the result of medieval economy and morality, but a product of the present society’s economic and social system and moral values.
Secondly, it is the bourgeoisie and the capitalist system itself that continually and relentlessly resists people’s effort to eradicate and overcome these ills. The obstacle to workers’ struggle to improve living conditions and civil rights is none other than the bourgeoisie and its governments, parties and apologists. Wherever people rise in the poorer regions to take charge of their lives, the first barrier they face is the armed force of the local and international bourgeoisie.
It is the ruling classes’ state, its enormous media and propaganda machinery, institution of religion, traditions, moralities and educational system which shape the backward and prejudiced mentalities among successive generations. There is no doubt that it is capitalism, the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie who stand in the way of the attempt by millions of people, driven to the edges and more or less clear about the outlines of a society worthy of human beings, to change the system.
Today, at the beginning of the 21st century, at the height of capitalism’s globalization and in the midst of the greatest technological revolutions, humanity finds itself in one of the most critical periods of its history. Bare physical survival has become the main challenge for millions of people, from the impoverished countries of Africa and Asia to capital cities of the West. For the countries of the Global South, the hope of economic development has now been totally shattered. The dream of economic growth has given way to the permanent nightmare of famine, starvation and disease.
In the advanced Europe and the USA, following years of recession, the miserable promise of “growth without employment” holds the same nightmarish prospect for tens of millions of working-class families. Around the world, war and genocide are wreaking havoc. Massive intellectual and cultural U-turns are in progress: from the resurgence of religious fanaticism, male-chauvinism, racism, tribalism and fascism to the collapse of the individual’s rights and status in society, to the abandoning of the life and livelihood of millions, old and young, at the mercy of the free market.
In most countries, organized crime has become a permanent fact of life and an integral part of society’s economic and political functioning. Drug addiction and the growing power of criminal networks engaged in the production and trafficking of drugs is now a major unsolvable international problem. The capitalist system and the primacy of profit have exposed the environment to serious dangers and irreparable damages. Bourgeois thinkers and analysts do not even claim to have an answer to these problems. This is the reality of capitalism today, boding a horrifying future for the entire people of the world.
Foundations of Capitalism
Present society is no doubt complex and sophisticated. Billions of people are in continuous interaction in elaborate arrays of economic, social and political relations. Technology and production have acquired gigantic dimensions. Humanity’s intellectual and cultural life, just as with its problems and difficulties, are broad and diverse. But these complexities only keep out of sight simple and comprehensible realities that make up the economic and social fabric of the capitalist world.
Like any other class system, capitalism is based on the exploitation of direct producers — the appropriation of a part of the product of their labor by the ruling classes. The specific character of every social system in different historical epochs lies in the particular way in which this exploitation in each system takes place.
Under slavery not only the slave’s product but the slave himself belonged to the slaveowner. He worked for the slave-owner, and in return was kept alive by him. In the feudal system, the peasants either handed over part of their produce to the feudal lord, or performed certain hours of forced and unpaid labor. Under capitalism, however, exploitation has quite different bases.
Here, the main producers, i.e., the workers, are free; they don’t belong to anyone, are not appendages of any estate, they are not in bondage to any lord. They own and control their own body and ability to work (their labor-power). But workers are also “free” in yet another sense: they are “free” from the ownership of means of production, and so in order to live, they have to sell their labor-power for a certain length of time, in exchange for wages, to the capitalist class — i.e., a small minority that owns and monopolizes the means of production.
The workers have to then buy their means of subsistence, the goods they themselves have produced, in the market from the capitalists and their petty-bourgeois small business owners. The essence of capitalism and the basis of exploitation in this system is the fact that, on the one hand labor-power is a commodity, and, on the other hand the means of production are the private property of the capitalist class.
Without living human labor-power that sets the instruments of labor (means of production) to work and creates new products, the existence of human society, the very survival of human beings and satisfaction of their needs, is inconceivable. This is true of any system. But under capitalism, labor-power and means of production are shut off from each other by the wall of private property; they are commodities and their owners must meet in a market.
On the face of it, the owners of these commodities enter into a free and equal transaction: the worker sells his/her labor-power for certain periods, in exchange for wages, to the capitalist, i.e., the owner of the means of production; the capitalist employs this labor-power, uses it up and makes new products. These commodities are then sold in the market and the revenue begins the production cycle anew, as capital.
However, behind the apparently equal exchange between labor and capital lies a fundamental inequality; an inequality which defines the lot of humanity today and without whose elimination society will never be free. With wages, workers only get back what they have sold, i.e., the ability to work and to show up in the market once again. By its daily work the working class only ensures its continued existence as worker, its survival as the daily seller of labor-power. But capital in this process grows and accumulates.
Labor-power is a creative power; it generates new values for its buyer. The value of the commodities and services produced by the worker at any cycle of the production process is greater than the worker’s total share and that portion of the products which goes into restoring the used up materials and wear and tear. This surplus value, taking the form of an immense stock of commodities, belongs automatically to the capitalist class, and increases the mass of its capital, by virtue of the capitalist class’s ownership of the means of production. Labor-power in its exchange with capital only reproduces itself, while capital in its exchange with labor-power grows.
The creative capacity of labor-power and the working class’s productive activity reflects itself as the birth of new capital for the capitalist class. The more and the better the working class produces, the more power capital acquires. The gigantic power of capital in the world today and its ever-expanding domination of the economic, political and intellectual life of the billions of inhabitants of the earth is nothing but the inverted image of the creative power of work and of working humanity.
Thus, exploitation in capitalist society takes place without yokes and shackles on the shoulders and feet of the producers, through the medium of the market and free and equal exchange of commodities. This is the fundamental feature of capitalism which distinguishes it in essence from all earlier systems.
The surplus value obtained from the exploitation of the working class is divided out among the various sections of the capitalist class essentially through the market mechanism and also through state fiscal and monetary policies. Profit, interest and rent are the major forms in which the different capitals share in the fruits of this class exploitation. The competition of capitals in the market determines the share of each capitalist branch, unit and enterprise.
But this is not all. This surplus pays whole cost of the capitalist state machinery, army and administration, of its ideological and cultural institutions, and the upkeep of all those who, through these institutions, defend and uphold the power of the exploiting classes.
By and through its labor-power, the working class pays the cost of the ruling classes, the ever-increasing accumulation of capital, and the exploiters’ political, cultural and intellectual domination over the working class and all of society.
With the accumulation of capital, the mass of commodities that makes up the wealth of bourgeois society grows. An inevitable result of the accumulation process is the continual and accelerating technological progress, and a rise in the mass and capacity of the means of production that the working class sets in motion in every new cycle of the production process. But compared to the growth in society’s wealth and productive powers, the working class continually gets relatively poorer. Despite the gradual and limited increase, in absolute terms, in the workers’ standard of living, the share of social wealth possessed by the working class declines rapidly, and the gap between the living conditions of the working class and the higher living standards already made possible by its own work widens. The richer the society becomes, the more that impoverished sections of the working class develop within it.
Technological progress and the rise in labor productivity mean that living, human labor-power is increasingly replaced by machines and automatic systems. In a free and human society, this should mean more free time and leisure for all. But in capitalist society, where labor-power and the means of production are merely so many commodities which capital employs to make profits, the substitution of humans by machines manifests itself as a permanent unemployment of a section of the working class that is denied the possibility of making a living.
The appearance of a reserve army of workers who do not even have the possibility of selling their labor-power is an inevitable result of the process of accumulation of capital, and at the same time a condition of capitalist production. The existence of this reserve army of unemployed, which the ruling classes regard as “surplus population,” supported essentially by the employed section of the working class itself, heightens the competition in the ranks of the working class and keeps wages at their lowest socially possible level. This reserve army also allows capital to more easily modify the size of its employed work force in proportion to the needs of the market. Massive unemployment is not a side-effect of the market, or a result of the bad policies of some government. It is an inherent part of the workings of capitalism and the process of accumulation of capital.
Periodic economic crises with catastrophic economic and social consequences are also an inherent, inevitable feature of the capitalist system. These crises spring essentially from a fundamental contradiction within the accumulation process itself: while labor-power is the source of surplus value and profit, the accumulation process and the inevitable technological progress constantly diminish the ratio of labor-power to means of production. The surplus value that is produced, even if it grows in absolute terms, cannot normally keep pace with the growth in the capital advanced.
By the material laws of the accumulation process itself, therefore, the rate of profit has an inevitable tendency to fall. The ceaseless activity to offset this tendency and maintain the rate of profit, especially through intensifying exploitation and reducing the share of the working class from the social wealth — paid in the form of wages, public services, etc. — is the daily business of the capitalist class, its various governments, and the large corps of bourgeois economists, managers and experts worldwide.
Nevertheless, the inner contradictions of capital and the tendency of the rate of profit to fall, assert themselves periodically and throw the whole economic system into a deep crisis. Periods of stagnation and crisis are not only signs and symptoms of the intensification of capital’s internal contradictions, but also the practical mechanism for their alleviation and the reconstruction of capital. Competition among different sections of capital grows and many are driven to bankruptcy. The weaker elements of the exploiting and oppressing classes are knocked out, improving the conditions of profitability for those who remain. On the other hand, the capitalist class and its states embark on a wide-scale offensive on workers’ living standards. The ranks of the unemployed swell and the exploitation of the whole working class intensifies.
Capital emerges from every crisis more centralized. Thus, the next crisis takes on wider and deeper dimensions, and gives rise to a more savage competition and conflict in the capitalist class. Each new crisis makes an ever more comprehensive reconstruction of capital necessary. Equally, the prospects for society each time grow darker and more terrifying.
The consequences of the capitalist system’s contradictions and crises are not confined to the economic sphere. Devastating global and regional wars, militarism and military aggressions, autocratic and police states, stripping people, and especially workers, of their civil and political rights, rise of state terrorism, resurgence of extreme and radical reaction, and of religious, nationalist, racist and anti-woman groups and trends — these are the realities of contemporary capitalism especially in periods of crisis.
The State and Its Political Faces
Bourgeois and petty-bourgeois analysts portray the state as a necessary institution for the administration of society in the common interest of all — an institution supposedly embodying the collective will of the people and enforcing their combined power. We are told that the existing laws are a collection of self-evident natural principles, accepted by all, which the state guarantees and puts into force. Representing the state as an autonomous body standing above antagonistic class interests is a cornerstone of bourgeois (and petty-bourgeois) ideology. This idea is more entrenched among people in the Great Power countries of Europe and North America, which have had more stable political systems.
But even in the countries of the Global South, despite the existence of autocratic and police states and the public’s distrust of the existing states, the idea of the necessity of the state is not questioned, and viewing the state as an institution responsible for the management of society is just as deeply rooted. The expansion of the economic role of states, and, particularly, state intervention in the domain of public services and economic management and control over the past few decades, has greatly strengthened these illusions.
The fact is that the state is the most important instrument of the ruling classes to hold the exploited masses in subjugation; it is the very linchpin of class rule. Historically, the emergence of the state took place alongside the appearance of exploitation and division of society into classes — exploiters and exploited. For all the seeming complexity in the structure of present-day states, the state, as before, is an apparatus of coercion, with the army, police/sheriffs, courts and prisons making up its foundations. The state is the organized coercive power of the ruling classes; it acts as the armed enforcer of the exploiting classes’ vision of “law and order.” Any state, regardless of its political form and outward appearance — monarchy or republic, democratic or despotic, social-democratic or fascist — is the instrument of dictatorship of the ruling classes.
In all systems, even the most brutal slave societies of ancient times where the class character of the state was unconcealed, the ruling class has always needed to give some form of legitimacy to its state. Monarchy and dynastic rule, the reign of aristocracy, divine rule and theocracy, are all forms in which such legitimacy has been sought. In capitalist society, a society based on the market, and where worker, administrator and capitalist are portrayed as “free” agents entering into voluntary and equal contracts, the right to vote, the legislature and the electoral system are the chief forms of gaining legitimacy for the class rule of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie.
On the surface, the state is an instrument of political rule, which is formed by all the people through their own direct vote. Certainly, from an historical viewpoint, the right to vote and elected legislatures were important gains in the struggle of the working people to promote their civil rights. But this historical merit cannot be turned into an eternal principle It is also clear that life in a liberal capitalist system is far more tolerable than life under a military or autocratic regime. But these forms cannot conceal the class nature of the modern state.
Even in the most advanced, stable and “free” democratic systems, working people have very little (if any) chance of influencing state policies and actions. The legislative (parliamentary) system employs relatively less open and brutal violence and lets government positions alternate among different sections of the ruling classes through periodic general elections. It has thus managed to ensure the unquestionable rule of the whole of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie over society’s political and economic life. Parliamentary democracy is not a mechanism for people’s participation in political power. It is a means of legitimizing the rule and dictatorship of the exploiting and oppressing classes.
Culture, Ideology, Morality
Flagrant exploitation, discrimination and disenfranchisement of people on such monstrous scales, could obviously not last without the victims themselves submitting to it and rationalizing it in their minds. To paint this state of affairs as legitimate, natural and eternal, and to intimidate people into submission is the task of the intellectual, cultural and moral superstructure in this society.
The cultural and intellectual arsenal of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie against freedom and liberation is enormous. In part this is a legacy of antiquity, now polished up and adapted to the needs of capitalist society. All shades of religions, prejudices, tribalism, racism and male-chauvinism (sexism) have throughout history served as so many intellectual and cultural weapons in the hands of ruling classes to hold down and silence the proletariat. And in our day all of these, in new forms and capacities, are summoned to protect private property and capitalist rule from the menace of proletarian awareness and consciousness.
But capitalist society’s own additions to this collection of intellectual and cultural artillery are much more extensive and efficient. In this society, self-interest and competition, i.e., the rationale behind the capitalist’s behavior in the market, are portrayed as human nature as such and sanctified as exalted human values. Here, the relations among people are a reflection and an extension of the relations among commodities. People’s worth and status are measured by their relation to ownership. The bourgeoisie broke up the local and narrow arrangement of the old society and organized nation-states. Tribalism and parochialism gave way to modern bourgeois and petty-bourgeois nationalism, and patriotism, as the heaviest ideological yoke ever put on the shoulders of the proletariat.
The ruling ideas in every society are the ideas of ruling class or classes. But the extent of intellectual, cultural and moral domination and control of the bourgeoisie over the life of society today is unprecedented in history. The scientific, technical and industrial revolutions of the past couple of centuries and the powerful mechanism of the market, which transcends all national, tribal, political and cultural barriers, have provided the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie with enormous possibilities for safeguarding its ideological rule and spreading it on a world scale.
Just as in the sphere of production of goods, so in the sphere of production of ideas, humanity’s creative power has turned into a weapon against itself. The many innovations and advances of the 20th and 21st century, which have revolutionized literary and artistic forms and means of mass communication and opened up new fields of cultural activity, have above all paved the way for a constant bombardment of millions of people with bourgeois ideas in more elaborate, subtle and effective forms.
The information technology (computers and Internet) and satellite television networks introduced over the past decades, which have greatly facilitated the task of information gathering and transfer across the globe, have in the hands of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie turned into a monstrous machinery of misinformation, indoctrination and provocation.
The mass media and show business, in themselves among the most profitable sectors for capital, have taken over a large part of the traditional role of family, religion and even the repressive organs of the state, and play an increasing role in preserving the existing ideological balance in society, spreading the ideas and values of the ruling classes, indoctrinating and controlling minds, intimidating and atomizing people and countering critical ideas and tendencies in society. These institutions and the modern forms of thought-control are pillars of political stability in capitalist society, particularly in times of crisis, uncertainty and popular unrest.
The struggle against the dominant reactionary ideas has always been a permanent component of the class struggle of workers and a crucial task of the proletarian communist movement.
C. Social Revolution and Communism
The Free Communist Society
It is easy to see how the capitalist world is a world that is upside down. The relations among commodities form the basis of the relations among people. The daily work of billions of people to build the world manifests itself as the growing domination of capital over their lives.
The motivating aim of economic activity is not satisfaction of people’s needs, but profitability of capital. Scientific and technological progress, which are the key to human welfare and well-being, translate in this system into even more unemployment and impoverishment for hundreds of millions of workers.
In a world that has been built through cooperation and collective action, it is competition that reigns. The economic freedom of the individual is merely a guise hiding his inescapable compulsion to appear in the labor market each and every day. The political freedom of the individual is a cover for his actual rightlessness and lack of political influence, and a means of legitimizing the political rule and the state of the capitalist class.
Law is the will and interest of the ruling classes made into rules binding for all. From love and compassion to right and justice, from art and creativity to science and truth, there is no concept in this capitalist world that does not bear the imprint of this invertedness.
This inverted world must be put right side up. This is the task of proletarian communism. It is the aim of workers’ communist revolution.
The essence of communist revolution is abolition of private ownership of the means of production and their conversion into common ownership of the whole society. Communist revolution puts an end to the class division of society and abolishes the wage-labor system. Thus, the market, the exchange of commodities and money disappear. Production for profit is replaced by production to meet people’s needs and to bring about greater prosperity for all.
Work, which for the overwhelming majority in capitalist society is an involuntary, mechanical and strenuous activity to earn a living, gives way to voluntary, creative and conscious activity to enrich human life. Everyone, by virtue of being a human being and being born into human society will be equally entitled to all of life’s resources and the products of collective effort. From everyone according to their ability, to everyone according to their need — this is a basic principle of communist society.
Not only class divisions but also the division of people according to occupation will disappear. All fields of creative activity will be opened up to all. The development of each person will be the condition of development of the society. Communist society is a global society. National boundaries and divisions will disappear and give way to a universal human identity. Communist society is a society free of religion, superstitious beliefs and ideology, and archaic traditions and moralities that strangle free thought.
The disappearance of classes and class antagonisms makes the state superfluous. In communist society, the state withers away. Communist society is a society without a state. The administrative affairs of the society will be managed through the cooperation, consensus and collective decision-making of all of its members.
Thus it is in the communist society that the ideals of human freedom and equality are truly realized for the first time. Freedom not only from political oppression, but also from economic compulsion and subjugation, and from intellectual enslavement. Freedom to enjoy and experience life in its diverse dimensions. Equality not only before the law but in the enjoyment of society’s material and intellectual wealth. Equality in worth and dignity for everyone in society.
Communist society is not a dream or utopia. All the conditions for the formation of such a society have already been created within the capitalist world itself. The scientific, technological and productive powers of humanity have already grown so enormously that founding a society committed to the well-being of all is perfectly feasible. The spectacular advances in communication and information technology during the last generation have meant that the organization of a world community with collective participation in the design, planning and execution of society’s diverse functions is possible more than ever before.
A large part of these resources is now either wasted in different ways or is even deliberately used to hinder efforts to improve society and satisfy human needs. But for all the immensity of society’s material resources, the backbone of communist society is the creative and living power of billions of men and women beings freed from class bondage, wage-slavery, intellectual slavery, alienation and degradation. The free human being is the guarantee for the realization of communist society.
Communist society is not a utopia. It is the goal and result of the struggle of an immense social class against capitalism; a living, real and ongoing struggle that is as old as bourgeois society itself. Capitalism itself has created the great social force that can materialize this liberating prospect. The staggering power of capital on a global scale is a reflection of the power of a world working class.
Unlike other oppressed classes in the history of human society, the working class cannot set itself free without freeing the whole of humanity. Communist society is the product of workers’ revolution to put an end to the system of wage-slavery — a social revolution which inevitably transforms the entire foundation of the production relations.
Proletarian Revolution and Workers’ Republic
The exponents and ideologues of the bourgeoisie accuse proletarian, Marxian communism of advocating force and violence to achieve their social objectives. The truth, however, is that it is the capitalist system itself that is founded on organized violence — violence against people, against their bodies and minds, against their thoughts and emotions, against their hopes and aspirations and against their struggle to improve their lives and the world they live in.
The wage-labor system, that is the daily compulsion of the great majority of people to sell their physical and intellectual abilities to others in order to make a living, is the source and essence of the violence which is inherent of this system. This naked violence has many direct victims: Women, workers, children, the aged, people of the poorer regions of the world, anyone who asks for their rights and stands up to any oppression, and anyone who has been branded as belonging to this or that “minority.”
In this system, thanks essentially to the rivalry of capitals and economic blocs, war and genocide have assumed staggering proportions. The technology of war and mass destruction is far more advanced than the technology used in the production of goods. Capital’s global arsenal can annihilate the world several times over. This is the system that has actually used horrendous nuclear and chemical weapons against people. Capitalist society can also take pride in its remarkable advances in turning crimes like murder, abuse and rape into routine facts of life in this system … and turning accommodations to these crimes into lucrative economic and intellectual industries.
Can such a system be swept out of the way of human liberation and a permanent end to violence without the working people resorting to force? Nowhere in communist theory is use of force viewed as a necessary component of workers’ revolution. But anyone with even the slightest grasp of the realities of this society would admit that the ruling class will never peacefully stand aside and bow to the will of the overwhelming majority to change the system.
If protection of the day-to-day business and interest of the bourgeoisie is the job of the state, defending the existence of capitalism and bourgeois property is its very essence. If demands for higher wages and free speech incur the wrath of the state, police and the military, one can imagine the kind of resistance that will be put up to the attempt to expropriate the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie politically and economically. Violence by the capitalist state against workers’ revolution, against the will of the overwhelming majority of people who, as an organized and conscious working class, rise to set up a new society is practically inevitable.
Workers’ revolution must bring down the bourgeois state. Bourgeois resistance against the revolution, and particularly against the attempt to turn the means of production into common ownership, will continue even after bourgeois state power has been dismantled. Therefore, it is crucial to establish a workers’ state — a workers’ republic — that could break this resistance and enforce the will of the revolution.
Like any other state, the workers’ state does not stand above society and classes. It is a form of class rule. But this state, which accordingly in Marxian communist theory has been called a dictatorship of the proletariat, is the rule of the exploited majority to dictate to the exploiting classes the decree of human freedom and equality, and defeat their attempts and intrigues. In its form, workers’ state is an anti-state, akin to an anti-hero in literature that possesses the role of the protagonist but none of its inherent, institutional qualities, which organizes ad hoc, based on the direct decisions and will of the masses of the workers themselves. By its nature, a workers’ state is a transient state that withers away as soon as the aims of the revolution have been realized.
The Party and the Proletarian Communist International
A critical requirement for the progress and victory of workers’ communist revolution is the formation of proletarian communist parties that put such a perspective before the working class and mobilize and lead the forces of the class in this struggle.
These parties should be formed in different countries, as organizations uniting above all the most conscious and active leaders of workers’ struggles. They should be parties in name and in fact. A party are not based on numbers, but on its program and its ability to consistently carry out its work on that basis. Proletarian communists reject the concept of the “party” as a pressure group, which pleads with this or that political movement of the ruling classes to substitute themselves for the proletarian communist party.
Capitalism is a world system, the proletariat is a world class, workers’ conflict with the bourgeoisie is a daily struggle on a global scale, and communism is an alternative that the working class presents to the whole of humanity. The proletarian communist movement must also be organized on a global scale.
The building of a Proletarian Communist International, as the body uniting and leading the workers’ global struggle for communism, is an urgent task of the various sections of the proletarian communist movement and proletarian communist parties around the world.
Proletarian Communism, and Bourgeois and Petty-Bourgeois Socialism
For much of the 20th century, the idea of Marxian communism enjoyed an enormous prestige within different protest and reform movements worldwide. The universality and depth of Marx’s critical thinking, Marxism’s profound humanity and egalitarianism, and the proletarian communist movement’s practical influence — particularly as a result of the workers’ revolution in Russia in 1917, which turned communism into the hope of hundreds of millions of workers throughout the world — had the result that many non-proletarian and even non-socialist movements during the twentieth century began labeling themselves as communist and Marxist. Most of these movements had very little in common with the basic principles of Marxian communism, and, in reality, only desired certain reforms and moderations within the framework of the capitalist system.
Communism was the name adopted by the wholly revolutionary proletarian socialist movement in the 19th century to distinguish itself from the other forces of proletarian socialism, and from the non-revolutionary, reactionary and even counterrevolutionary (feudal), socialism of the other classes.
Even when the Marxian communists established mass parties along with radical social democrats (non-proletarian socialists), they sought to preserve their role through education and political development. However, in this effort, they failed; at best, a hybrid form of non-proletarian socialism that borrowed from Marx (among others) was created, and at worst, the Marxists capitulated and allowed themselves to be effectively marginalized within the movement.
But in the 20th century, even this name, communism, was abused by other movements and classes, to the extent that it almost lost its distinctive meaning.
Under the general name of communism, there emerged all shades of social tendencies which neither in their outlook, nor in their program, nor in their social and class origins, were related to proletarian communism and Marxism. Offshoots of this non-proletarian socialism masquerading as communism, and foremost among them the bourgeois socialists of the Soviet bloc, practically turned into the official mainstream of communism throughout much of the 20th century. Proletarian communism was driven to the margins.
The most important bourgeois-socialist “communist” tendency in the 20th century emerged in the Soviet Union following the derailment and final defeat of the workers’ revolution. With the October 1917 revolution, the proletarian communist movement, embodied in the Bolsheviks, succeeded to smash the state power of the ruling classes, set up workers’ rule and even defeated the outright military efforts of the defeated reaction to restore its lost power.
But despite this political victory, the Russian working class ultimately failed to transform the production relations, i.e., abolish the wage-labor system and turn the means of production into common ownership, due in no small part to the Bolshevik leadership’s belief in social-democratic “state socialism.” In the 1920s, against a backdrop of severe economic strains following the war and revolution, and having suppressed any clear perspective for the communist transformation of political, economic and social relations, petty-bourgeois nationalism and conservatism came to dominate the politics and economic program of the Russian Communist Party and its movement.
What took place in the Stalin era was not the construction of the transition to communism but the reconstruction of the capitalist national economy according to a state-managed model. Instead of the ideal of common and collective ownership, state ownership of the means of production was established. Wages, money and the wage-labor system all remained. The failure to revolutionize the economic relations led to the defeat of the workers’ revolution as a whole. The workers’ state was replaced by a state dominated by the “bureaucratic socialist” petty bourgeoisie through a massive bureaucracy and military apparatus, and based on a state-monopoly capitalist economy.
This state model became the economic blueprint of a so-called “socialist bloc,” entering the world stage following the derailment of the October workers’ revolution. The whole of bourgeois socialism in the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc “people’s democracies” consisted of economic statism, replacement of the market mechanism by planning and administrative decisions, redistribution of wealth and a minimum level of public welfare and social services.
But the Soviet Union was not the only source of bourgeois socialism in this century. In Western Europe, offshoots of non-proletarian socialism sprang into existence which, while sharing fundamental elements with the economic outlook of the socialism of the Eastern bloc, namely substitution of state socialism for the revolutionary workers’ republic and preservation of the wage-labor system, criticized the Soviet experience and held their distance from it from democratic, nationalist, humanist and modernist standpoints.
Western Marxism, Eurocommunism, the New Left and the different branches of Trotskyism were among the prominent tendencies of non-proletarian socialism in Western Europe and the Americas. In the semi-colonies of the Global South, nationalism and anti-colonial leanings of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, and in some cases peasant movements, formed the stuff of a new kind of “Third World” socialism.
The content of this socialism was economic independence, industrialization, rapid development of the national economy according to a state-driven and planned model, an end to the open political domination of imperialist powers, and at times even the revival of archaic local traditions and cultural legacies in opposition to modernism and Western culture. The archetype of Third-Worldist socialism was Chinese Stalinism, Maoism, which deeply influenced the views and politics of self-described communist groups in the less developed countries.
A consequence of the rise of the different strands of non-proletarian socialism in the 20th century was the serious isolation and setback of proletarian, Marxian communism. Firstly, the basic ideas of proletarian communism and different aspects of Marxian theory were seriously revised and misinterpreted to fit the anti-communist and anti-worker nature of these movements themselves, and this distorted picture was presented and perceived on a global scale as Marxism and communism.
Secondly, the social and class base of 20th century socialism was shifted from the working class into a wide spectrum of non-proletarian social layers. In Western Europe and industrialized countries, intellectuals, students, academics and the reformist sections of the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie themselves made up the main social milieus for the growth and political action of the communist forces. In the so-called Third World countries, besides these groups, poor peasants and most of all a nationalist bourgeoisie yearning for national economic development and industrialization made up the social basis of non-proletarian socialism.
In the absence of an influential proletarian communist tradition, the working class for decades lacked a strong independent political presence internationally. In Western Europe and the USA, and in some countries of Latin America, workers wound up in the hands of pro-capitalist unionism and parties of the left wing of the ruling class itself, particularly social democracy, to such an extent that these came to be perceived by the general public and a large section of the workers themselves as the natural and self-evident organizations of the labor movement.
In the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc, for small concessions at the workplace, the working class was atomized and stripped of political rights. In the majority of the more backward countries, even the mere idea of building workers’ parties and associations remained a suppressed hope.
The main strands of bourgeois socialism reached a dead-end, one after the other, in the last few decades. The last episode was the spectacular disintegration of the Soviet Union and the Eastern bloc at the end of the 1980s and in the early 1990s — something the bourgeoisie euphorically called the “death of communism.”
But despite the anti-communist climate and the ruling classes’ deafening cries of the “death of communism,” and despite the enormous hardship that descended on hundreds of millions of people throughout the world following the collapse of the Eastern bloc, current trends point to an opening for proletarian communism to retake the political center-stage, particularly in the industrially advanced, Great Power states.
A basic requirement for such a development is a vigorous political and theoretical confrontation with the various trends of bourgeois and petty-bourgeois socialism, which will re-emerge in different forms with the progress of the workers’ movement and growing influence of proletarian Marxian communism.
Revolution and Reform
The immediate aim of the proletarian communist party is to organize the social revolution of the working class. A revolution that overthrows the entire exploitative capitalist relations and puts an end to all exploitations and hardships. Our program is for the establishment of a communist society; a society without classes, without private ownership of the means of production, without wage labor and without a state; a free human society in which all share in the social wealth and collectively decide the society’s direction and future. Communist society is possible this very day.
But the great workers’ communist revolution that must bring about this free society does not happen just upon the will of the proletarian communist party. This is a vast social and class movement that has to be organized in different aspects and forms. All kinds of barriers must be swept out of its way.
This work is the raison d’étre and the very substance of the daily activity of the proletarian communist party. But while the struggle for the organization of workers’ revolution is going on, everyday billions of people are struggling to eke out a living under capitalism. The revolutionary struggle to build a new world is inseparable from the daily effort to improve the living conditions of the working humanity in this same world.
Proletarian communism does not find organizing a revolution against this system incompatible with the struggle to demand or defend the most far-reaching reforms. On the contrary, it sees its presence in both fronts as the vital condition of final victory. Workers’ revolution is not a revolution out of desperation or poverty. It is a revolution relying on the consciousness and material and moral readiness of the working class.
The wider the extent of political freedoms, economic security and social dignity of the working class and people in general and the more progressive the political, welfare and civil standards that have been imposed on bourgeois society by workers’ and progressive struggles, the more prepared will be the conditions for workers’ revolution, and the more decisive and sweeping the victory of this revolution. Thus, the proletarian communist movement stands in the forefront of every struggle to improve the social conditions and standards in favor of the proletariat.
What distinguishes proletarian communism in the struggle for reforms from reformist movements and organizations — both working-class and non-working class — is above all that, firstly, proletarian communists always stress the fact that complete freedom and equality cannot be achieved through reforms. Even the most profound economic and political reforms, by definition, leave the hateful foundations of the existing system, namely private property, class divisions and the wage-labor system, untouched. Besides, as the whole history of capitalism and actual experience in different countries show, the bourgeoisie in most cases violently resists any attempt to push through even the slightest reforms. Also, what is won is always temporary, vulnerable and capable of being rolled back. While fighting for reforms, proletarian communism insists on the necessity of social revolution as the only really viable and liberating working-class alternative.
Secondly, while defending even the smallest improvements in working people’s economic, political and cultural life, proletarian communism calls for the widest and most revolutionary transformation of political, civil and welfare rights. In the struggle for reforms, our movement does not restrict itself to demanding what the capitalist class regards as affordable. The profit and loss accounts of businesses or the so-called interests of the “national economy” and so on do not condition or restrict our demands. Indeed, such demands not only have no place in our program, but also have no place in an immediate action platform.
Our starting point is the indisputable rights of working people in our times. If such rights as the right to health care, education, economic security, the right to strike, direct and constant participation of people in political life, equal rights for women, freedom from religious encroachments, etc., are inconsistent with business profitability and the interests of capitalism, then this only goes to prove the need to overthrow this whole system.
This is the fundamental truth that our movement brings home to the working class and society as a whole in the fight for reforms. Our purpose in this struggle is not the creation of a reformed capitalism, a capitalism “with a human face,” or a “caring” capitalism. Our aim is to demonstrate that capitalism is incompatible with the unquestionable rights of the working people. The rights and demands which the bourgeoisie and petty bourgeoisie find incompatible with their survival, the working class is prepared to enforce this very day and in the most comprehensive way.