The Rebel Road…

I know you’ve come to kill me. Shoot, coward, you’re only going to kill a man. – Ernesto Che Guevara

Marxism in our times.

with 5 comments

History is not simply something that ‘happens’ to us; it is not a series of random accidents. The fact of the matter is, regardless of the noises created by most fatalists and Mullahs (essentially the same thing in deeds if not in words) that all things are pre-destined, that history is only that which man has done in the past. Therefore, if history turns out to be something unacceptable to us then only we, as mankind, are responsible for that unacceptable condition.

It is only now that we have truly begun to understand the magnitude of our own folly; our unyielding support of Imperialist forces in their ‘Jihad’ against the USSR and the USSR’s subsequent and entirely unfortunate fall has finally come back to haunt us in the form of a rise in militant fundamentalism in Pakistan. One must thus admit – history is not without a sense of irony.

Yet what was it about the USSR that its absence has created a void which has not been filled in the last 16 years? Was the rest of the world only a bystander in what was, essentially, only a power-struggle between two monolithic giants bent on capturing the world for their own selfish ends? Was the USSR such a big and evil entity and thus a relevant target for Pakistan, as most Right-Wing Conservatives such as Gen. Hameed Gul suggest? Is there any credence to such accounts or are these merely castles in the sand?

For an analysis of this one must first understand the basic principles upon which the Soviet Socialist Union was created i.e Marxism. Marxism is a science which deals with analyzing society according to the material conditions that that society faces and the historical conditions that necessitate those material conditions. This is referred to as Historical Materialism.

Historical Materialism, inevitably, leads us to the first major challenge that man faces i.e survival. Since this is a common challenge it would not be incorrect to say that society, as a whole, needs to survive; not just survive but society’s essential function is to grow. Faced with such a challenge man must do the one thing which does, indeed, give him a chance to survive i.e produce. Primitive man, armed with a rudimentary intellect and the power of their own muscles, first started real production by domesticating animals and initiating agriculture. The productive process itself has been refined over subsequent millennia to what we, today, recognize as Capitalist Production.

The process of production does create two by-products i.e Property and Labor. Property is necessary to ascertain the ownership of the produced commodity. Labor is important because it forms the lifeblood of all processes of production. Here, however, it is important to distinguish between the different forms of property. Common or Communal property refers to any property which is owned by all members of society equally. State property is one form of Communal Property in which the State is the custodian of the Common property.

Private Property is that property which is owned by individuals and used for the creation of Profit. In the context of a Capitalist economy Engels, in his book Anti-Duhring, explains Marx’s definition of surplus value i.e Profit. He says, “The incipient capitalist starts by buying what he does not need himself; he buys in order to sell, and to sell at a higher price, in order to get back the value of the money originally thrown into the transaction, augmented by an increment in money; and Marx calls this increment surplus-value.”

Personal Property is that property which is used only for consumption and is not used for the creation of surplus value. Therefore, a factory will be ‘Private Property’ whereas one’s toothbrush will be ‘Personal Property’. Marxism upholds that all private property should be abolished and placed under the supervision of the State as Communal Property which serves the interests of everyone rather than a select elite.

The process of production also leads to the emergence of classes i.e a difference between those who owns the productive means and those who work there as laborers. In our times this dichotomy exists between the Capitalists, who own factories, mills, industries, mines, agricultural lands etc., and those who own nothing but sell the newly-commodified version of their potential to work i.e the Laborers.

However, as a result of the dynamics of the productive process i.e by virtue of who owns what and how much, soon a clash of interests develops between those who own the means of production and those who contribute their labor to the productive process. Since Surplus-value, as proven by Marx, is nothing more than the appropriated and unpaid-for labor, that the Capitalist adds to his vaults, a general clash is bound to occur between the laborers and the Capitalists, as classes. Although the capitalist, by dint of this financial acumen and his control of the State delays this bloody clash by instilling fear in the laborers or buying some of them off but the clash, in the long run, remains unavoidable. Indeed clashes like these have been the primary source of social progression throughout history. Marx himself writes in the Communist Manifesto that, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles.

Marx explains this dichotomy further and expounds the parasitic relationship that exists between the Capitalist and the Laborer in his book Das Capital. He says, “The capitalist who produces surplus-value—i.e., who extracts unpaid labour directly from the labourers, and fixes it in commodities, is, indeed, the first appropriator, but by no means the ultimate owner, of this surplus-value. He has to share it with capitalists, with landowners, etc., who fulfil other functions in the complex of social production. Surplus-value, therefore, splits up into various parts. Its fragments fall to various categories of persons, and take various forms, independent the one of the other, such as profit, interest, merchants’ profit, rent, etc.”

As we can see, the science of Marxism aims to elevate the position of the laborer to his deserved stature. It aims to do justice to all the wrongs committed by the Capitalists and Feudals against Laborers and Serfs, respectively. It is on this basis that the USSR was formed and on this basis that it continued to protect and uphold revolutionary and liberation movements all over the world ranging from Cuba and China to Iran and Palestine. It was the USSR which offered help to native Africans in the Apartheid movement. It was the USSR, under Stalin, that gave the lives of its sons and daughters fighting Nazi Germany. It was the USSR, under Stalin, that broke the back of Hitler’s military expansionism in the Battle of Kiev in December 1943 obliterating the German heavy armor in the process.

The best reply to those who would call Marxism an obsolete ‘theory’ and the USSR an evil empire comes, not from the Socialist camp but, from the words of the second American President John Adams (circa 1797-1801) when he said, “Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

A socialist defending socialism by using the words of a person who can be regarded as one of the fathers of an Imperialist Nation – as I said earlier, history is not without a sense of irony.

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5 Responses

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  1. Hi im debating a topic “Functional dictatorship is better than democracy”, im for the proposition, if possible please give me some valid points

    Aseem Naphade

    September 7, 2007 at 10:33 am

  2. Greetings Mr. Aseem.

    I would have loved to help you out in your debate, however, I disagree with the proposition. A dictatorship is not just an abstract phenomenon. It has depth and details that are not apparent at first glance.

    The most pertinent question to ask is: Which class-interests does the dictatorship uphold and safeguard? Are these the class-interests of the Majority? Or the minority?

    I do not mean to say that a dictatorship is good if the dictator is benevolent. In the case of a dictator who safeguards and upholds minority interests – it is a given that such a dictatorship will be absolutist and will, necessarily, impinge on the human rights of the citizens.

    It is a necessity because without such measures the dictator cannot hope to stay in power.

    What is the result of such a dictatorship?

    The result is a general disenfranchising of citizens from all spheres of national and political life. Such a dictatorial regime will stifle freedom of thought and action – it will create social anomie. However, it will also sow the seeds of its own, ultimate, demise.

    Such a regime also hurts the progressive ‘spirit’ of the working class and, in doing so, results in lower production etc. This makes such minority-oriented dictatorships highly reactionary as well.

    The example of such dictatorial regimes can be found all over the globe. Let us look at Pakistan’s current situation.

    For the first 4-5 years of Musharraf’s regime the citizens of Pakistan were systematically dis empowered both politically and socially. However, the seeds of dissent were also sown in this era – seeds which came to bear fruit in recent protests linked to the Chief justice issue etc.

    Furthermore, if we were to analyze history we would find that Cuba underwent a similar condition with the dictatorship of General Batista. It is interesting to note that both Musharraf and Batista relied upon Imperialist backing (US- backing) to prolong their regimes.

    However with the introduction of a majority-oriented leadership i.e with the introduction of leadership with upholds the class-interests of the majority of society Batista’s regime was ousted. Comrade Fidel Castro and the Communist party of Cuba led a successful revolution and ousted General Batista and brought his bloody rule to an end.

    The next question we must answer is: What constitutes a relevant majority?

    The answer is very simple. We must look at society and analyze society’s primary function.

    Society’s primary function is to sustain its members and grow. This is referred to as ‘Progress’. Hence to formalize, society’s function is to progress.

    Any majority that is directly linked to furthering that cause i.e any majority that is PROGRESSIVE is RELEVANT.

    In today’s Capitalist society only the Proletariat (a.k.a Working class comprising of Urban and Rural proletariat) is the most progressive majority. According to conservative estimates the Proletariat constitutes nearly 85-90 percent of Pakistani Society.

    THIS is the class whose interests must be safeguarded and upheld.

    Only a democracy geared towards these interests can be ‘functional’ – other systems of governance being poor or reactionary substitutes at best.

    It is my assertion that only a Communist party i.e the Revolutionary vanguard of the Working class can bring about a truly functional and progressive change in society today.

    I hope this clarifies my stance on the matter. Please do not hesitate to post any further inquiries you may have on this question.

    In Solidarity,
    Mobeen Chughtai.

    redtribution

    September 14, 2007 at 12:32 am

  3. Im so sorry, i had wrongly framed the topic, It was ” A functional dictatorship is better than a dysfunctional democracy”, i forgot to stress on the dysfunctional part!!!!

    Aseem Naphade

    September 16, 2007 at 2:54 pm

  4. I was going through some of the theories of Marx, like his concept of dictatorship of the proletariat. Don’t you think Marx spoke more about a Utopian world? His idea of a class less society also seems to be Utopian. Marx in all his theories actually addressed the proletariat and prescribed methods on how they can improve their standard of living. But at the same time I feel Marxism is something which is read and analyzed only by the intellectuals, I have never found any members of the working class discussing Marxism which was originally targeted towards them. Marx and Engel end their book “Communist manifesto” saying “Unite workers of the world” My question is, has this message in so many years even reached the workers of the world??

    Aseem Naphade

    September 16, 2007 at 3:07 pm

  5. Thank you for replying again, Mr. Aseem. I will deal with both messages separately for your ease.

    Statement 1) Im so sorry, i had wrongly framed the topic, It was ” A functional dictatorship is better than a dysfunctional democracy”, i forgot to stress on the dysfunctional part!!!!

    My Response: It does not matter whether a democracy is functional or dysfunctional – it will always have a greater measure of public opinion or influence involved than a dictatorship. The reason is that even a sham democracy involves political agents who are part of that society (though they definitely represent the interests of their own classes) and therefore has some measure of accountability involved.

    A dictatorship, however, revolves around one person or institution which is cut off from public accountability and therefore has no reason for ‘softening’ its impact on the lives of the people.

    As a Marxist, however, i must state that any democracy which is not a socialist democracy is, by definition, dysfunctional though to varying degrees. The reason, as I explained to you earlier, is that the will of the Majority i.e the Proletariat, is not taken into account as commensurate with their numbers in society.

    I hope this explains my thoughts on this particular account.

    Statement 2) I was going through some of the theories of Marx, like his concept of dictatorship of the proletariat. Don’t you think Marx spoke more about a Utopian world? His idea of a class less society also seems to be Utopian. Marx in all his theories actually addressed the proletariat and prescribed methods on how they can improve their standard of living. But at the same time I feel Marxism is something which is read and analyzed only by the intellectuals, I have never found any members of the working class discussing Marxism which was originally targeted towards them. Marx and Engel end their book “Communist manifesto” saying “Unite workers of the world” My question is, has this message in so many years even reached the workers of the world??

    My Response: Mr. Aseem, I would like to bring your attention towards the fact that, as Marx described, society is indeed made up of different classes. I will not go into the definition of a ‘class’ since you have already read the Communist Manifesto.

    What i will do, however, is to explain to you WHY Marx’s ideas are not utopian.

    First you must familiarize with the concept of what society is and how it has come to its current form.

    You can do this by reading an excellent book, written by Engels, called ‘Origins of the Family, Private Property and the State’. Once you have read this book you will realize the simultaneous evolution of Patriarchy, Monogamy, Private Property and the State.

    To summarize, there was a time when Private property or classes or even the State did not exist. This is the most primitive stage of society and is referred to as the stage of “Primitive Communism” by Marxists.

    Then society outgrew this stage due to societal evolution and the new stage of ‘Slave owning societies’ came into being. It was in this stage that Private Property came into its more defined form. In order to keep the Slaves in line the State also emerged as a loose confederation of Slave Owners.

    Then a revolution occurred and society transcended into “feudal society”. In this society slave-owning was, more or less, abolished and now serfdom was propagated.

    Following this was the modern Capitalist society where a new revolution brought the Bourgeoisie and the Proletariat as the two most relevant segments of society. This is the society we find ourselves in as regards to Pakistan today.

    Marx merely outlines the logical next stage of society i.e Socialist Society. This society has been seen in many parts of the world such as the former USSR, Cuba, China, Laos, Algeria, Latin America etc. Private property does not exist in a socialist society.

    Therefore, no it is not a Utopian concept at all that socialist society will come into being.

    The stage immediately after a socialist society is one of a Communist Society where everyone becomes a wage-earning member of society and where Private Property, even as a concept, does not exist anymore.

    Since we have seen from ‘Origins of the Family, Private Property and The State’ that the State came into being to safeguard the class-interests of the dominant class – the nullification of Private Property will, consequently, lead to a condition where the State is not needed anymore.

    If you want details regarding this you can read a beautiful book called ‘The State and Revolution’ By V. I. Lenin.

    The reason we have not seen the rise of the Proletariat in the Sub-continent is because, until very recently, the Sub-continent was a very backward society which was primarily feudal in nature. Therefore since Capitalism, and by extension large scale industry, did not exist – the Proletariat i.e Industrial workers, could not exist either.

    Now we are in a society where the Proletariat DOES exist.

    Therefore to say that the idea of the Proletaritat not rising up is utopian is incorrect since you are obviously overlooking a wider dynamic.

    I would suggest you read all the aforementioned books for your better understanding of the involved concepts.

    If i can be of any further help please do not hesitate to contact me.

    Online copies of these books are available at http://www.marxists.org

    In Solidarity,
    Mobeen Chughtai.

    redtribution

    September 16, 2007 at 8:56 pm


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