‘A to Z’ of Marxism and ‘Fate’ of capitalism (6)

By: Shreepal Singh

  1. We all are familiar with science. We are also aware that science stands on the rock foundation of mathematics. In numerous branches of mathematics, there are many established principles, which are represented in various mathematical equations. These principles / equations are discovered by great thinkers after doing much labor. Succeeding generations of thinkers of lesser merit make use of the hard work already done by such thinkers by simply accepting and utilizing those equations to solve their problems in hand. What they have to do is to simply feed the data in those equations and get solutions to their problems. However, these equations are confined to the material science and there are no such equations in social science. Let us assume that Karl Marx was such a great thinker and that for the first time he discovered certain principles / equations applicable to social science. These principles discovered by him are embodied in the form of equations known as the ‘Postulates of Dialectics’. It is only an analogy to make things easier to understand.

  2. We know that sometimes when we utilize an equation to find out the solution to some problem by feeding our data into an equation’s parts, we do not get the correct answers. This happens many times with many people. In the face of such failure, what do we do? We revisit the entire process of feeding the data and pin-point where we have made the mistake and correct our mistake. On such revisit, we find that this time we have got the correct answer. We find that it was not the equation that was wrong but it was we who fed the wrong data. This again is an analogy to make things easy to understand.

  3. As Marxists, we believe that we have an equation – dialectics – but when we feed our data into its parts to find a solution to our problem in hand, we find that we are stuck with a wrong answer. We are talking of our own times – ..the present times – and we are getting the wrong answers. What are these answers that we are finding as wrong? Let us be objective, like a scientist – a social scientist. The wrong answers we find are these.

  4. It is the capitalist society that must change – as per the dialectical principle of transformation from quantity to quality – into the socialist society. At the 1917 October Revolution, Russia was not a capitalist society. As per the demand of dialectical principles, capitalist society has to be ripened enough so that its ‘inter contradictions’ are able to accumulate in ‘quantity’ to a critical point when this society changes into ‘quality’ (socialist society). Though we know Lenin in his ‘April Thesis’ tried to explain how and why a feudal Russia could transform into a socialist society in two phases – February and October revolutions, still it was an anomaly in the dialectical process of transformation from quantity to quality. This is the first wrong answer. The second wrong answer is: since 1848, when Communist Manifesto was written, there have been in existence many capitalist societies/countries and none of them have been transformed into the next stage (of socialist society) in terms of the ‘quantity – quality’ principle. We get a wrong answer here also. The third wrong answer is: The Soviet Union – a socialist society – collapsed and went back to embrace capitalism. We very well know that capitalist society cannot go back to feudal society; a feudal society cannot go back to serfdom. Dialectics teaches us that social evolution cannot go backward simply because the old-social system of the bye-gone age remains no more viable in the new circumstances in view of the advancement made in the field of ‘mode of production’. The fourth wrong answer: China was a feudal society before the success of 1949 communist revolution, it was forced – or transformed – into a socialist society during a long communist rule and now China has embraced the path of private property. Such a course is not theoretically permissible under the rules of dialectics. Our equation – dialectics – is correct but our answers are wrong. Let us revisit our whole calculation. Let us feed the data to this equation correctly and get an answer. We should not be afraid of getting an answer that may not be to our liking. Like a scientist – a social scientist – one should be unbiased of his/her preconceived notions/results.

  5. Now, let us recapitulate the concept of dialectics and the its working mechanism. Marxian concept of dialectics in its abstract form may be summed up thus:

  • There is nothing in Nature that may be called an absolute truth; all human concepts about natural phenomena are relative in their contents.

  • Whole Nature is in motion; no part of it is static.

  • This motion is generated by a mechanism that is brought about by the inherent irreconcilable contradictions inherently present in every entity, or constituent, of Nature.

  • These contradictions give birth to conflicts that distort the harmonious structure of that entity. These conflicts accumulate in the quantitative form in that entity up to a certain limit. This limit is the critical point up to which these conflicts can be accommodated by that entity without changing its nature or quality. The moment these conflicts cross this critical limit, the quality of that entity changes or an upheaval takes place and the old entity becomes qualitatively different thing.

  • This process of change never stops in Nature, whether one likes it or not. This process is termed by Marx, and his friend F. Engles, ‘Negation of Negation’. Here, a thing comes into being or takes its birth by negating a  thing that was having a well-established place and this new thing, after enjoying a well- established place for certain time, is itself negated by a new thing. Over a period of time this pattern of change appears to human mind as spiral evolution. Fredrick .Engles says: “Outlines of the General Plan (for the application of dialectics to Nature): (1 ).. (2)…. (3) Dialectics as the science of universal inter-connection. Main laws: transformation of quantity and quality – mutual penetration of polar opposites and transformation into each other when carried to extremes – development through contradiction or negation of the negation – spiral form of development.” He further says: “And indeed they (laws of dialectics) can be reduced in the main to three: The law of the transformation of quantity into quality and vice versa; the law of the interpenetration of opposites; the law of the negation of the negation.”

  • These dialectical principles of change fall under three heads:

  • Firstly, there always exist universal and irreconcilable contradictions in every thing.

  • Secondly, these contradictions bring about a change in the thing concerned. This change at a critical point takes the shape of transformation of quantity into quality of the thing resulting into forward movement at a qualitatively higher step, or revolution.

  • Thirdly, the forward movement follows a spiral pattern where lower stages are repeated again and again at ever-higher levels. This dialectical process of forward movement may be understood as spiral evolution.

  • This dialectical process is an integral part of Nature’s function. Though the general principles of dialectics operate with mathematical accuracy, in their detailed applications they operate in very flexible manner, depending on so many factors; nonetheless, in overall contours they always operate with mathematical accuracy. This faithful accuracy of its basic principles and their universality in operation make it possible for dialectics to forecast and predict. These two philosopher revolutionaries devoted their entire life in applying these dialectical principles to physics, anthropology, society, economics and, even, military science. They created a brilliant philosophical edifice called Scientific Socialism or, better known as, Communism.

  1. This is the dialectical working mechanism of Nature, which when observed in its motion appears to follow a pattern of Thesis, Anti-Thesis and Synthesis. However, this description of the dialectical working of Nature is highly abstract. Its abstract enunciation is useless for us unless it is explained in its application to the real – material – Nature. Here an important question comes up before us: Idea or Matter, which one of these two is the primary in carrying out the dialectical motion of Nature? The answer is: It is the matter that is primary in the dialectical working of Nature and “Idea” is only a reflection of this “Matter” in human mind. It is “Materialism” and when the dialectical process of the working of Nature is explained in terms of the primacy of matter over idea, it is called “Dialectical Materialism”. Further, when we narrow down the scope of our observation from Nature to human history and apply these principles of dialectical materialism to history, it is called historical dialectical materialism. In other words, it is the interpretation of history in terms of dialectical materialism. In historical dialectical materialism, the material conditions in which they live in a society determine a people’s culture; in other words, their culture is the reflection of the material conditions under which they live. Let us recapitulate the concepts of historical dialectical materialism.

  2. Humans are animals except that they make tools. They make tools because they have to fight the odds of hostile Nature to survive and make their life easy. Whenever they feel necessity to overcome an odd of Nature that is confronting them in their way to survive and make life comfortable, they discover many secrets of Nature and invent many tools. This discovery is their science and their invention is technology. As the human life proceeds further generations after generations – that we call evolution – their science and technology also follows a pattern of an unceasing development. However, humans are social animals and they live in society. They live collectively and work against the odds of Nature collectively. As of necessity, they have to put in place certain human relations with each other within their society. These human relations are made not only at the individual level but also at the group level – relations as a class of humans. Since their primacy is to survive and win comforts against the hostile Nature and the tools made available in their hands by the development of science and technology are the predominant means of their struggle for survival and comforts, the relations of humans with each other in a society take a particular shape determined by the type of these tools. These tools are part of the ‘productive forces` and their relation with each other as a group are the `social relations`. Naturally, it is not easy for humans to make discoveries and invent tools; it takes long time. Therefore, in a society with their given type of tools, a particular type of social relations in the shape of a social-system get formed and frozen. A particular type of social system gets shape – so to say – only on the basis of an equilibrium achieved between the ‘state of productive forces and social relations’. Unfortunately, while this so-called ‘frozen’ social structure remains static – without any change – the discoveries and inventions go on progressing. With this progress of science and technology, ever newer type of tools come into existence. Over a period of time, the `productive forces` become incompatible with the static `social relations`. And, then at certain critical point the quantity (accumulated changes within a social-system) is transformed into quality (change of the social-system itself); a new social order on the force of its own mechanism comes into being. Let us recapitulate the concepts of social orders that the human history has gone through.

  3. Karl Marx in his Communist Manifesto says, “The history of all hitherto existing society† is the history of class struggles.” The note under ‘society’ says, “That is, all written history. In 1847, the pre-history of society, the social organization existing previous to recorded history, all but unknown. Since then, August von Haxthausen (1792-1866) discovered common ownership of land in Russia, Georg Ludwig von Maurer proved it to be the social foundation from which all Teutonic races started in history, and, by and by, village communities were found to be, or to have been, the primitive form of society everywhere from India to Ireland. The inner organization of this primitive communistic society was laid bare, in its typical form, by Lewis Henry Morgan’s (1818-1861) crowning discovery of the true nature of the gens and its relation to the tribe. With the dissolution of the primeval communities, society begins to be differentiated into separate and finally antagonistic classes. I have attempted to retrace this dissolution in The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State, second edition, Stuttgart, 1886. [Engels, 1888 English Edition and 1890 German Edition (with the last sentence omitted)].” This manifesto goes on to state, “Freeman and slave, patrician and plebeian, lord and serf, guild-master and journeyman, in a word, oppressor and oppressed, stood in constant opposition to one another, carried on an uninterrupted, now hidden, now open fight, a fight that each time ended, either in a revolutionary reconstitution of society at large, or in the common ruin of the contending classes. In the earlier epochs of history, we find almost everywhere a complicated arrangement of society into various orders, a manifold gradation of social rank. In ancient Rome we have patricians, knights, plebeians, slaves; in the Middle Ages, feudal lords, vassals, guild-masters, journeymen, apprentices, serfs; in almost all of these classes, again, subordinate gradations. The modern bourgeois society that has sprouted from the ruins of feudal society has not done away with class antagonisms. It has but established new classes, new conditions of oppression, new forms of struggle in place of the old ones”.

  4. Here we are not much concerned with the past but with the future, which always outgrows from the present.

  5. Thus, what we get from this history of society is that at the initial stage of human society (that is, society of those humans who had just emerged out of their animal living) what we had as a social-system was a ‘primitive communist society’.

  6. Now that we have sketched the basic concepts of dialectics, dialectical materialism, historical dialectical materialism, class struggle within society at every stage of its development (with the solitary exception of the primitive communist society), we are in the position to pose certain legitimate questions to the communist thinkers of the world. The questions that we raise today had also been raised by some during the life of Karl Marx and, then at that time, Marx had postponed their answers by saying that all such questions would be answered by those people who would be living in the new social order of ‘modern communist society’. With the high hopes in the air of a revolutionary transformation of capitalism into socialism, at that time it was a legitimate response at the part of Marx. But today, in view of the failures that we have indicated above and the failure of the international communist movement, these questions cannot be postponed to an uncertain future for being answered by the people in some uncertain modern communist society.

  7. So, let us pose these troublesome questions to the communist thinkers of the world for their answers.

  1. We know that the history of society has throughout been the history of struggle between two antagonistic classes, except the two societies, viz., the primitive and the modern communist societies. It is obvious that with the establishment of a modern communist society, the human society would be making a full circle. In terms of the dialectical principle of spiral evolution, how do we explain the next phase of social evolution?

  2. Human is a tool making animal. During the initial stage of humans on their transition from animals, that is, at the stage of primitive communist society, these tools were crude – saving minimal human labor. Today, at the ripe stage of capitalism, we find that these tools are highly sophisticated – automated robots running on artificial intelligence – saving complete human labor. It is a full circle of the tool-making capacity of humans and with this ends the essence of the statement, “Humans are animals except that they make tools.” In terms of dialectical principle of spiral evolution, how do we see the future of humans who do not need to work with tools to save their labor?

  3. We all know humans have evolved out of animals. Humans started their evolutionary journey with utilizing their labor to tame the hostile Nature and its forces around them. Today, with mastering the Bio, nano and Info technologies, humans have made Nature subservient to them. Scientists are already talking about a new kind of enhanced humans – ‘Trans-humans’, that is, enhanced humans engineered with improved genes, memory and capacity. It is coming of a full circle of human evolution. How do we foresee the future enhanced-humans?

  4. Capitalism’s signature tune is the ownership of private property, which is acquired through the route of exploitation of labor in the form of profit. Labor is exploited when more work is taken and less wages are paid for that work. With the automation technology now available to the capitalist, he does not need to take work from the labor and hence no exploitation of labor. It would result in ‘universal unemployment’. To meet this highly volatile human condition, capitalism is advocating the concept of ‘universal basic income’. Do we see now a new situation emerging where there is a higher level of ‘struggle between entire humanity on one side and a few global capital holders on the other side’?

  5. We know ‘mode of production’ is the production (of commodities) with a particular type of tools. These tools go on refining with the advance in science and technology. With the discovery of steam power and invention of steam engine, a new type of tools (machines) came into vogue and replaced the old type of tools, that is, production powered by horses, bulls etc. With the invention of steam engine and introduction of machines in the production process, the old feudal type of social order was replaced by the new capitalist social order. The capitalism based on this type of production powered by machines and operated by human hands has, since the invention of steam engine, traveled a long distance. Now at the close of the 20th century, we find on the horizon unfolding before our own eyes a completely new type of production. In this new type of production, there are robotic machines that are operated by artificial intelligence and do not need human hands to intervene in the process. Is it a new ‘mode of production’? A change in the ‘mode of production’ necessarily brings a new ‘social order’ in vogue so that this new social order and this new mode of production become compatible with each other and equilibrium in the society is established. Are we face to face with an oncoming global social upheaval that would be geared to bring in place that new ‘social order’?  If it be so, then, will this be the first and the only genuine ‘qualitative’ change in society as the next stage to capitalism? Were all the communist ‘revolutions’ of the past century ‘artificial and unnatural’ ones?
  6. With the onset of a higher class struggle of ‘humanity versus the holders of global capital’ do we see more prospects of a world revolution than the country-specific revolutions? Do we need a more sharp and clear ideology to explain these ideas and this new phenomenon? Do we need an international platform of the unemployed humanity and a practical program for them in the right revolutionary direction?

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