Editorial Notes

What Is Socialism?

(June 1931)

Written: June 1931.
First Published: The Militant, Vol. IV No. 11, 1 June 1931, p. 2.
Transcription/HTML Markup: Einde O’Callaghan for the Marxists’ Internet Archive.
Public Domain: This work is in the under the Creative Commons Common Deed. You can freely copy, distribute and display this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit the Marxists’ Internet Archive as your source, include the URL to this work, and note any of the transcribers, editors & proofreaders above.

The doctrine of socialism in one country has been the platform of a revisionist war against Marxism since its promulgation in 1924. So far is Socialism in one country from the conceptions of the great teachers, that its exponents had to begin with a different definition of the word, a definition which robs socialism of the contents which the great teachers prescribed and makes fun of the revolutionary struggle to attain that goal. Stalin’s well-known declaration that the Russian workers under the Nep had already attained “nine-tenths of Socialism” is a monstrous example of this perversion of ideas. And now we encounter the same brand of “socialism” in the Stalinist press of America.

The Daily Worker of May 16 calls for “the establishment of a socialist society under a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government!” Since this astounding slogan appears in the leading editorial is it not in place to ask these people to explain what they mean by Socialism? If the Communist Manifesto is not out of date, Socialism – [according to] Engels, – signifies the disappearance of the political state which is conceivable only as a class instrument, “the organized power of one class for oppressing another”. How, then, is it possible to speak of a “workers’ and farmers’ government” in a Socialist society? Such an idea can establish kinship with reformist advocates of State Socialism, but it has nothing in common with Marxism.

Perhaps it may be explained that the editorial meant to speak, not of the Socialist society but of the transition period to it. But Socialism and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat are entirely different social orders and cannot be used interchangeably by anyone who understands the difference between them. The workers’ state is only a stage on the road to Socialism; it cannot [line missing]

To make confusion worse confounded, in the characteristic manner of Stalinist revisionism, the editorial demands Socialism “under a Workers’ and Farmers’ Government!” But Socialism – again according to Marx and Engels – will abolish “the distinction between town and country”. Agriculture will be conducted by cooperative social labor. The petty bourgeois basis of agriculture will be abolished – and with the farmers as a class (petty bourgeois) – before we reach the Socialist society and as a prerequisite for it. How, then, can we have a Socialist society under a workers’ and farmers’ government?

In the literature of Marxism such formulae are nowhere to be found. They belong exclusively to the school of Stalin.

Last updated on: 31.12.2012