Louis C. Fraina

Revolutionary Socialism

Fundamentals of Socialism

THE class struggle is the dynamic, unifying synthesis of Socialist theory and practice. History is a history ofclass struggles. A particular class is the carrier of a particular social system; this class is overthrown by a rising class representing a new social system. Society develops in accord with economic conditions; these conditions develop a ruling and a subject class, consequently economic, political and moral antagonisms; the dynamic expression of these antagonisms is their unity in the class struggle. The issues involved in the rivalry of interests is decided by the struggle of class against class, which is not a struggle for particular mercenary interests, but the struggle of social system against social system, the mechanics of social development. The economic development of capitalist society has produced the subject class of the proletariat, providing the material conditions of waging the class struggle for the overthrow of Capitalism, and the proletariat is the carrier of this class struggle.

The proletariat, in the Marxian sense, consists of average or unskilled labor, the form of labor typical of modern Capitalism [1]; it alone is clasg, as it alone represents the dominant factor in industry and is the carrier of the new social system of communist Socialism; all other classes or social groups are reactionary, decay, disappear, or become absorbed in the general reactionary mass of ruling class interests, in the measure that the process of Big Capital. The antagonisms of interest between labor and capital assume a more general character, and develop into the class struggle of the revolutionary proletariat for the overthrow of Capitalism. This class strugle alone is fundamental; it alone functions dynamically in the process of bringing the Social Revolution and Socialism; and there can be no Socialism that is not firmly based upon the class struggle.

The class struggle implies and makes mandatory the active, aggressive struggle against Capitalism and for Socialism; it negates the process of a gradual, pacific penetration of Capitalism by Socialism, a “growing into” the Socialist community. The class struggle and Socialism are made of sterner stuff. All temporary action and achievements are to arouse the independence and virility of the proletariat; the dominant factor is that the proletariat should acquire moral, intellectual and class consciousness, develop its action and class power. The process and means of achievement become of equal importance with the achievement itself. The proletariat must continually express itself in its own class action against Capitalism, and the class struggle becomes more aggressive, more intensive and more general in scope and purposes. And this is the function of Socialism, as the intellectual expression and advance guard of the proletariat, that it absorb, and become itself absorbed in, the class struggle of the proletariat, directing it to the Social Revolution.

In this process, the consciousness of the proletariat is the determining consideration. The development of Capitalism, in itself, whether in the form of industrial concentration or the introduction of collectivistic social and political institutions, will not bring Socialism. This development is indispensable as providing the objective, material conditions for Socialism, and important in its influence upon the consciousness of the proletariat. True enough, in its historical aspects, the two developments are phases of one tendency, each equally the product of the conditions of Capitalism. The Socialist movement, however, is directly and particularly concerned with the moral, intellectual and class consciousness of the proletariat, of furthering its aggressive action, and of developing in its ideology and action the concept of the Social Revolution. This subjective development supplements the objective conditions, and it alone can bring Socialism.

The material and dynamic factors in this revolutionary process of the proletarian revolution have been described by Marx in brilliant and imperishable words [2]:

“As soon as the laborers are turned into proletarians, their means of labor into capital; as soon as the capitalist mode of production stands on its own feet; then the further socialization of labor and further transformation of the land and other means of production also socially exploited and, therefore, common means of production, as well as the further expropriation of private proprietors, take a new form. That which is now to be expropriated is no longer the laborer working for himself, but the capitalist exploiting many laborers. This expropriation is accomplished by the action of the immanent laws of capitalistic production itself, by the centralization of capital. One capitalist always kills many. Hand in hand with this centralization, or this expropriation of many capitalists by few, develop, on an ever extending scale, the co-operative form of the labor process, the conscious technical application of science, the methodical cultivation of the soil, the transformation of the instruments of labor into instruments of labor usable only in common, the economizing of all means of production by their use as the means of production of combined, socialized labor, the entanglement of all peoples in the net of the world-market, and with this, the international character of the capitalistic regime. Along with the constantly diminishing number of the magnates of capital, who usurp and monopolize all advantages of this process of transformation, grows the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation [3]; but with this too grows the revolt of the working class, a class always increasing in numbers, and disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself. The monopoly of capital becomes a fetter upon the mode of production, which has sprung up and flourished along with, and under it. Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The knell of capitalist private property sounds. The expropriators are expropriated ... The transformation of scattered private property, arising from individual labor, into capitalist private property is, naturally, a process incomparably more protracted, violent and difficult than the transformation of capitalistic private property, already practically resting on socialized production, into socialized property. In the former case we had the expropriation of the mass of the people by a few usurpers; in the latter we have the expropriation of a few usurpers by the mass of the people.”

There is no indication in this passage, nor anywhere else in Marx, of a Socialist “penetration” of the capitalist system, nor of state and social collectivism as a phase of Socialism in the process of revolutionizing the capitalist order. The material factor of industrial development operates jointly with the dynamic factor of proletarian action. “Centralization of the means of production and socialization of labor at last reach a point where they become incompatible with their capitalist integument. This integument is burst asunder. The expropriators are expropriated” by the proletariat “disciplined, united, organized by the very mechanism of the process of capitalist production itself.” It is by and through industry that the proletariat expresses itself, awakens to consciousness of class and power, and acquires the physical and moral reserves for the revolutionary “dictatorship of the proletariat” that will function temporarily as the prelude to the abolition of all class divisions and tyranny, consequent upon the establishment of the full and free democracy of Socialism. All the activity of the proletariat, industrial, political, social, functions for the purpose of developing a partial control of industry that will in the final stage of the revolution i become a complete communistic control of industry by the proletariat, – industrial self-government of the workers.

As capitalist production is internationalized, the class struggle becomes international. The maturity of Socialism is measured by the strength of its ideals of international solidarity in action. The nation becomes a fetter upon production, and equally a fetter upon the emancipation of the proletariat. The bourgeoisie breaks the fetters of the nation, through Imperialism, in the interest of its own class purposes, as a national entity; the proletariat must break the fetters of the nation, of national consciousness and action, in the interest of its own local and international class purposes. The Social Revolution is an international revolution.

Socialism, accordingly, is exclusively the expression of the interests of the proletariat. Socialism is not the conquest of the state by a political party: it is the conquest of society by the proletariat through industrial and political action. Socialism is not collectivism; it disrupts the collectivism of State Capitalism, which is simply a means of protecting and promoting capitalist interests and more easily oppressing the proletariat, and establishes the communism of industrial self-government.

Socialism is not government ownership or control of industry, two things that are purely a capitalist expression. Socialism struggles for the transformation of the state, not the enlarging of its functions. At first the proletariat is seduced by the idea of state beneficence; it sees in parliamentary struggles and legislation the supreme means of expressing its class interests. As it acquires maturity, the realization is impressed upon its consciousness and action that the state increasingly multiplies the powers for shackling the proletariat; as the facts of its industrial power are recognized, the proletariat becomes contemptuous of the state. Then it appreciates in its action the fundamental concept of Socialism, the class struggle, as expressed in revolutionary Socialism, is a struggle to place the management and control of industry directly in the workers through the overthrow of Capitalism and its governmental expression in the state. Socialism, in the words of Engels, is not the government of persons, but the administration of things. The state, and its authority masking itself as democracy, disappears; in its place rises the communism of the initiative centralized in the administrative process of determining the facts of production and distribution, and organizing them in general way for international purposes.


1. In proportion as the bourgeoisie, i.e., capital, is developed, in the same proportion is the proletariat, the modern working class, developed; a class of laborers, who live only so long as they find work, only so long as their labor increases capital. These laborers, who must sell themselves piece-meal, arc a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all vicissitudes of competition, to all fluctuations of the market. Owing to the extensive use of machinery and the division of labor, the work of the proletarians has lost all individual character, and, consequently, all charm for the workman. He becomes an appendage of the machine, and it is the most simple, most monotonous, and most easily acquired knack, that is required of him ... The proletariat, the lowest stratum of our present society, cannot stir, cannot raise itself up, without the whole super-incumbent strata of official society being sprung into the air. – Communist Manifesto.

2. Karl Marx, Capital, Vol.1, chapter XXXII, Historical Tendency of Capitalist Accumulation.

3. Many a vulgar bourgeois economist, and here and there a Socialist, has maintained that the “theory of increasing misery” was an essential doctrine of Marxian Socialism. It is not. In the passage quoted above, this is described as a tendency of Capitalism, along with another tendency, the inevitable and growing revolt of the workers. The increasing poverty of the proletariat is not in any sense a necessary condition for the Social Revolution. Moreover, there is not any sufficiency of material to decide whether poverty is lessening or not; the caste of skilled labor may be more “prosperous,” but surely not the mass of unskilled workers. Who will deny, however, that a society which produces such a holocaust as the war, does, even should it better conditions of living, intensify “the mass of misery, oppression, slavery, degradation, exploitation”? On the general problem, L.B. Boudin’s The Theoretical System of Karl Marx has an interesting passage:

Marx does not speak of the growth of the poverty of the working class. The omission of any reference to poverty is very significant in so careful a writer as Marx. This alone would be sufficient warrant for us in assuming that Marx did not consider the growing poverty of the working class a necessary result of the evolution of Capitalism ... The lot of the laborer, his general condition as a member of society, must grow worse with the accumulation of capital, no matter whether his wages are high or low. His poverty, in the ordinary sense of that word, depends upon the amount of wages he gets, but not his social condition. And for two reasons. In the first place, because the social condition of any man or class can only be determined by a comparison with the rest of the members or classes of that society. It is not an absolute but a relative quantity. Even the question of poverty is a relative one, and changes from time to time with the change of circumstances. But the question of social condition can never be determined except by a reference to the other classes of society. This is decided not by the absolute amount of worldly goods which they receive in all the worldly goods possessed by society. Thus considered it will be found that the gulf between the capitalist and the working man is constantly growing wider. This is admitted by all as an empirical fact.”


Last updated on 14.10.2007