Georg Lukács 1968
Democratisation Today and Tomorrow: Part II.
The Pure Alternative: Stalinism or Socialist Democracy
So far, we have attempted to clarify in outline just one group of consequences that evolved from the expropriation of private property in the means of production. This expropriation became the final basis of production, but we are not concerned with the way in which this confiscation was carried out in concrete terms. Naturally, it is out of the question to scientifically discuss this complex of issues intensively as well as extensively. We can only briefly point out some of the essential features of Soviet economic development. For the most part, there were two important stages during Stalin’s domination — according to the brilliant analysis of F. Jánossy — the period of economic reconstitution in the thirties and that after the Second Imperialist World War. That means that an inherent tendency exists in the dialectic of economic development not only to reattain the level of production of the period just prior to setbacks stemming from an economic crisis, but also to arrive at a level of production that would have normally’ been achieved without the intervention of a crisis. Therefore, the accumulations taking place under such a dialectical economic leap will decisively exceed the normal rate of economic development. (In the Federal Republic of Germany, one refers to this developmental advance as an “economic miracle”.) According to the same line of reasoning, the system of a centrally directed and planned economy demonstrates a vital advantage over a capitalist system of competition during such periods of economic reconstruction precisely because the calculation of the profitability of individual investments does not exist. A planned economy is able to develop these investments solely in terms of the optimal benefits to society.
Stalinism was incapable of understanding Marx’s actual ideas concerning the real presuppositions and driving forces of economic development. The manipulative style of Stalin prevented him from grasping these Marxist concepts, and even blinded him from noticing the consequences of his own praxis. In order to warrant Stalin’s authoritarian economic policy, the party apparatus created a justificatory ideology: the planned economy of socialism must necessarily develop at a faster rate than capitalist society. When the tempo of development slowed in the Soviet Union due to objective economic reasons, the Stalinist Soviet mind was perplexed. It could not explain the contradiction between the actual objective performance of the economy and the idealization of official Soviet ideology. Stalin’s mandated theory of the more rapid growth of socialism also served political needs. It was used to justify repressive measures, for those who were accused of retarding economic growth were considered to be enemies of the party. Nevertheless, it must be concluded that this overcoming of the nonclassical beginning of the Communist Revolution, which was called “original accumulation” in the 1920s, has neared its completion. In spite of Stalin’s ideological and methodological distortion, the Soviet economy before World War II reached its highest level of industrial development and even surpassed that level in the process of rebuilding after the defeat of Hitler. It is therefore self-evident why the process we have described here received the name of “original accumulation,” a process that Marx described in his time and whose deterministic laws he laid bare. If we refer to the Marxian categories we purposely do so in order to bring to light the fundamental differences between the capitalist and socialist transition from feudalism. In the developmental history of capitalism, a whole historic period was dominated by brutal and violent measures for the purpose of carrying out a redistribution of the population between agriculture and industry. Capitalism can only become the ruling social formation upon the completion of this demographic revolution. Marx desired “to unravel the eternal laws of the capitalist mode of production." It is only after this economic upheaval, that the normal capitalist process of production and reproduction can be instituted. From then on the worker can leave “the customary passage of things ... to the natural laws of production."
It does not require a detailed analysis to see that the so-called “original accumulation” in socialism is something qualitatively different than the above described capitalist pattern of growth. What confronts us here is the normal development of capitalism in its classical form. We accept as true Marx’s analysis of the history and necessity of the English development. It is also clear that in the building of socialism in an advanced capitalist country the Soviet course of historical transition would not have been chosen. The Russian pattern of development concerns itself with underdevelopment, with raising the economic level to the productive capacity of advanced capitalism so that the economic level can be suitable to function as the foundation of a socialist system. Thus, even force, whose crucial role in history cannot be denied, receives an essentially different function in this context: although it is often a vehicle for the destruction of primitive relations of production (collectivization), its central purpose, however, remains the acceleration of the march to advanced development, the effective construction of the objective-economic quantitative and qualitative conditions of production which make socialism a possibility. We have here — in contrast to genesis of capitalism — the use of force in which economic motives prevail. But — again in contrast to the capitalist process — after the completion of the economic foundation the specific quality of socialism must be consciously inserted so that this social formation assumes a socialist nature. These specific qualities of socialism are no longer purely economic. Capitalism is composed of a production process which is self-adjusting, whereas socialism means the conscious direction of new and complicated social tasks and possibilities.
In order to penetrate to the specific socialist character of a transition period, we emphasized some of the evolving moments in which the contrast between capitalism and socialism was given graphic expression. Let us add one other important factor. Even in technologically advanced capitalism, what we generally designate as culture is only an epiphenomenon of economic evolution and therefore must display a permanent asymmetry in relation to the economic base. This lack of symmetry manifests itself, in one case, as inadequate public education, even technical education lagging behind the objective needs of production. In recent years, this has been frequently discussed in most of the leading capitalist countries. In another case, the asymmetry becomes apparent in the fact that certain cultural phenomena have become fields for capitalist speculation and investment. Financially controlled by big capital, these cultural phenomena are manipulated and this is the culmination of the tendency to make culture a mere object of commodity exchange. Balzac and the Communist Manifesto already diagnosed this process. This development reached its epitome in this contemporary period. In contradiction to this capitalist development, socialist “original accumulation,” even in its Stalinist form, has for the most part adhered to the principle of the socialist (not only economically determined) organization of culture. As proof of this assertion, it suffices to point to such important phenomena as the increase in availability of high-quality scientific and artistic works to social groups at the low end of the economic and cultural scale. There are, however, many problems in socialist education, for example, its extreme specialization. But its successes outweigh its failures, and clearly show that neither the capitalist nor socialist forms of “original accumulation” may be compared with each other in any essential respect.
From a historical perspective, the development of capitalism and socialism demonstrated the revolutionary origins of both these social formations. The emergence of capitalism out of feudalism and the emergence of socialism out of capitalism were revolutionary leaps out of the past and atypical of the normal evolutionary paths of social development. This fact they share. But after their sudden appearance out of feudalism and capitalism, the further course of growth of capitalism and socialism took divergent paths. As we indicated with the support of Marx, the transition to a capitalist social formation resulted in the complete determinist hegemony of capitalist economics, the Kingdom of Necessity according to Marx’s words. A capitalist social formation is void of conscious teleological direction, and is totally dominated by necessary economic laws. With an inherent driving autonomism, pure economic laws prevail in capitalism and determine the conditions of its future and even produce the next historic social formation within itself. (Even the dominant socially accepted personality types are products of the inner dialectic of the economy.) In terms of human teleological design, socialism distinguishes itself from all previous social formations. The capitalist enslavement to economic determination is no longer valid for the transition of socialism to the higher stage of communism. We have earlier referred to the illusions of Stalin and Khrushchev who believed that every social formation was bound to the same dynamics of development. We have also alluded to the few, but methodologically and theoretically decisive, comments of Marx on this complex of questions.
We must now penetrate to the inner core of these overlapping questions. Marx recognizes the economic (the Kingdom of Necessity) as the indispensable basis for communism (the Kingdom of Freedom). He rejects every form of utopianism, and at the same time designates the Kingdom of Freedom as “the other world” of the Kingdom of Necessity. “The development of human powers, which is valid as an end in itself,” can never be considered as a mechanistic — inherent product of economic evolution. And even when Marx gives an account of the economic determinism of a social formation, he never neglects to also take into account the teleological praxis of men. For Marx, social evolution cannot be solely accounted for on the basis of the immanent dialectic of economic development. At the stage of the Kingdom of Freedom, we believe that the human species will labor under “conditions most worthy and adequate to its human nature."
Based upon a sound grasp of the social determination of the human labor process, Marx penetrates to a central problem of this history. But in order to approach this problem correctly, one must not be misled by superficial analogies. As the achievements of the human labor process advanced to higher and higher levels, this produced a corresponding increase in mankind’s self-pride regarding its own accomplishments. Even class societies experience growth in their self-esteem. This increased self-pride in the accomplishments of human species being, does not allow society to overlook the history of labor from the “instrumentum vocale” of slavery until the wage laborer, who must valorize his own labor power within the framework of the free market. The triumphs of human labor act to draw attention to the history of human labor. Contemporary capitalism has taken steps to improve the way people work, and these include the reduction of socially necessary labor time, the provision of hygienic working conditions and the practical application of industrial psychology to the factory system. But these are false analogies. Without exception these measures are intended to increase the profitability of work, are aimed at the easiest possible improvement in productivity, have purely economic motives and are not for the enhancement of the powers of man as an end in itself. For that reason, economic profit is always the primary goal and the working person must sacrifice himself to the demands of capitalism. At lower levels of economic development, this sacrifice of the worker was carried through by brute force. Naked power is no longer used today to make the worker adjust, and this has caused a false evaluation of certain capitalist measures. The means have changed, but the end result is still the same. In contemporary capitalism. the economic is still primary, and the worker must still, as in earlier times, sacrifice himself to the objective conditions of production. What Marx has in mind was completely different: not the control of the economic over the human species, but the adjustment of the process of production to the worthy and dignified qualities of human nature. The needs of the species must dictate to the objective. Such a goal and its realization in praxis requires placing the needs of humanity above the laws of economics, which does not alter the fact that in order to accomplish this a highly advanced economy is still a presupposition (a basis, as Marx put it).
This same question is dealt with from a slightly different perspective in the Critique of the Gotha Program. When Marx speaks here about the nature of a communist society, (“from each according to their abilities, to each according to their needs”), he describes the revolutionary transformation brought about by communism as the fact that “labor is no longer a means to life but itself becomes the first need of life." That is a transcendence of the horizon of the purely economic. Again, all capitalist analogies must be rejected. and its superficial “alleviations” and “acceptability” which are results of higher levels of productivity have nothing to do with the essential point. They still leave the economic in control of the species, whereas Marx wants to invert this process and allow human nature to dictate to the economic.
This is not an example of utopian thinking. Fourier expressed his ideas of the condition of the human species under socialism in a similar manner. that labor itself would be transformed into a kind of game. This dream of the future doubtlessly made a certain impression on Marx. But precisely his scientific study of economic laws allowed him to become aware of his own differences with Fourier’s conception, which he now called “very blatantly naive.” Marx amplifies his own thoughts on the nature of human labor by approaching this problem from every possible perspective. On the other hand, he defines labor generally as the highest accomplishment of the human species, and does not limit it to merely economic activity: “Really free labor. for example, musical composition is at the same time a cursed serious affair and a most strenuous effort.” And he broadens the definition in relation to the entire domain of labor in an outspoken polemic on Adam Smith with the following words: “To regard labor as a mere sacrifice, and because of that as value positing, as the price to be paid for things and which therefore establishes prices depending upon the amount of labor they cost, is a purely negative definition." And in another place in the same work this definition is more fully explained in the following manner: “The development of individuality, and therefore not the transformation of the reduction of necessary labor time into surplus labor, but the actual reduction of the necessary labor time of a society to a minimum so that it is possible to carry out the artistic and scientific education of each individual through the time that has been saved and become free for all." For that reason, the term “superfluous” when applied to labor can only have meaning in relation to the pure economic sphere. While there can be superfluous labor economically, there can be no superfluous labor when one speaks of the material self-reproduction of society and its constituent individuals. There is never enough labor when it comes to the enhancement of human powers and the improvement of societal productivity. Labor’s economic superfluousness in no way makes it superfluous in the societal sense, but on the contrary substantiates its general social utility and indispensability. Furthermore, the early Marx views the division of labor as a social condition to be overturned by communism with the result of liberating laboring humanity from this “slavish oppression.” But the later Marx, the Marx who makes a scientific study of economics, reverses himself and comes to look upon the division of labor as a vital presupposition of labor “as the first condition of life.” The mature Marx comes to see that the division of labor ultimately heightens human powers because it heightens human productivity which reduces necessary labor time and increases free labor time. But enslavement of work is in no way simply a survival of primitive conditions that the perfection of the modern economy can overturn. Quite the contrary: the continuation of this enslavement is precisely the product of a technologically advanced capitalist society which in various forms lays claim to subjugated labor for its own purposes. Gradually, the subjugation of labor will also extend to the domains of art and science. It is no accident that the greater part of the current capitalist criticism of alienation refers to subjugation of this kind, concerns itself with this kind of slavery, although without seeing the true connection between this form of suppression and an economy based on private property.
One can perceive two interrelated but at the same time contradictory tendencies in these suggestive comments of Marxism which are of enormous importance to our problem. Marx does not content himself with the purely economic. On the contrary, he wants to show that the social preconditions of communism (even of socialism as an economic formation) can only be realized if social structures for the emancipation of labor are established in a technologically advanced productive society. In order to achieve the emancipation of labor, the liberation of human praxis, it is necessary to restructure certain hitherto prevailing conditions of the economy. This reformation will be carried through by means which do not endanger the functioning of this productive totality, but in contract, by advancing it further. We have seen that Marx places special emphasis on two moments: making the most worthy and dignified aspects of human species being the criteria by which to measure the economic process, and what is closely interconnected with that, the transcendence of the enslaving character of the division of labor. It hardly needs to be mentioned that it is impossible in both cases to introduce such changes with a single edict. Changes of this magnitude must be results of a slow societal process in which gradual modifications are initiated. The economic substructure provides the material possibilities for both the subjective and objective development of such tendencies.
Such processes simultaneously transform the nature of man himself. These processes must be objectively extant and take hold of man’s active social being. The entire history of humanity shows that the idealistic striving for a mode of life embodying the real human being of men always bears results. The creation of a dream for the perfection of the species being of man, directed towards its goal by human praxis, is a powerful instrument for social advancement. Obviously there are exceptions, dead ends and failures in individual cases. In class societies objective economic laws still predominate over human teleology and thus hinder this upward advance. The common goal of the human species can be improved if the average life of the everyday (above all of labor, of economic praxis) is applied in an objective manner to the valorization of social being. This tendency to improve the condition of man is not to be denied or curtailed by various kinds of repression, as is and was the case in all previously existing social formations. While man through his own social activity creates the conditions which make him a truly human creature for the first time, this period will be designated — even the socialist social formation — as the precursor to that great decisive moment which Marx characterizes as the end of the prehistory of mankind.
Like Marx, we speak here of labor as the central question of the human being of man. It is, however, evident that the problems previously discussed relate to the totality of human praxis, of human life in general. One thinks — in order to take a position closely connected with the economic realm — about the principle of distribution in accordance with need that is to be consummated in a communist society. However, the principles of communism are unattainable as long as the satisfaction of need, exclusively belonging to the ruling classes in former times and in the modern world extended to the broad layers of the productive classes, becomes a consumerism of prestige. In the contemporary world, one does not primarily consume to gratify the basic needs of life, but rather as a means to achieve victory in the warfare of competition, in order to acquire social prestige and in order to climb up the social ladder. The huge growth of the consumer industry and the service sector has its economic justification exactly in this struggle for social status on the part of the consumer. Without a change in the fundamentals of commercial society, capitalism will be entrapped by increasing stagnation. It will be impossible to redirect the energies of commercial society toward an organized praxis leading to the enhancement of human life unless the economic is seen as the object of human teleological design. The force of individuality is limited, for the removal of the enslaving character of the division of labor cannot be overturned by an individual acting alone.
Up to this point, we have spoken continuously about the idea of the everyday life of man, but only in a cursory fashion. The discussion has been incomplete because we were unable to detail the entire spectrum of problems associated with this issue. However, the introduction of this concept enables us to make a more penetrating analysis of the meaning of socialist democracy. Earlier, we made the following statement: in contrast to the citizen — idealism of bourgeois democracy, an ideal which began during the highpoint of the bourgeois revolution, the subject of socialism is the material life of man in everyday existence. Bourgeois society dualistically divided the individual between homme, and citoyen and the socialist emphasis on the everyday is not intended as the canonization of the material homme, one part of that dualism. Socialist democracy has as its task the transcendence of this dualism in the Kingdom of Freedom.
This principle is not a mere speculative construction, and this is shown — as we have already mentioned — by the mass movements which have introduced and accomplished socialist revolutions. We mean, of course, the use of the Soviets in 1871, 1905 and 1917. We have already sketched how this movement aimed at building a social order which was efficient and which corresponded to the elementary class interests of the productive workers, stretching from the everyday real life questions of factory and housing issues to the great political problems of the entire society. After the victorious ending of the Civil War, these goals were replaced by a bureaucratic apparatus and Stalin practically demolished the entire Soviet system and fixed this bureaucratic control in its final form. (As represented in textbooks and in official propaganda publications, the ideological justification of this transformation has no interest at all for those of us who are concerned in the social character of reality). The productive masses lost the role of subjective agency in the evolution of society. They again became objects of an ever stronger and inclusive bureaucratic system that controlled all the problems of their actual lives.
For all practical purposes, the Stalinization of Russia blocked all possibilities for socialism to develop as the Kingdom of Freedom. As we have seen, Lenin never wavered in his opinion that the higher ideals of a socialist democracy always remained a heuristic guide to the immense struggle of Russia in the 1920s. Even while the young and very weak Soviet Republic struggled for self-preservation in the Civil War, Lenin maintained that the principles of the higher forms of socialist life should never be allowed to disappear from the platform of the practical, daily What Is To Be Done? He was convinced that Marx and Engels did not hand down a rigid blueprint for the development of socialism, but that its discovery, its correct implementation, was a new task for the present. However, he surmised that there must be an organic connection between activity oriented toward the future and the actual demands of the day. He understood that the future could only be realized through human praxis. This connection between teleological action and immediate need was a major characteristic of his thought and behavior, and the movement toward higher ends was never absent from his activity. This methodology of action was present in his continuous admonition to colleagues to concentrate on “the next link in the chain.” Nevertheless, there were historical constraints to his own ideas. His own thought processes were conditioned by the historical environment in which he lived. Lenin’s definition of habituation which we discussed earlier, did not relate to the complex of questions involved in the interrelationship between teleology and immediacy. His discussion of habituation was concerned with the preconditions necessary for the “withering away of the state.” It was not concerned with the linkage between objective and subjective forces that was decisive for the revolutionary transition from capitalism to socialism especially in its advanced stages. So his concept of Soviet democracy, his polemic against Trotsky in the debate over the trade unions, did not pass beyond the historical constraints in which he lived and most importantly the prevailing attitudes within the Bolshevik party.
Lenin has significance for us today in terms of his methodology of action. In his relation to the complex of questions regarding the transition from capitalism to socialism, he is the first to conceptualize a pure Marxist framework and provide a pure Marxist theoretical foundation for daily praxis. One finds the universal theoretical foundations for social analysis, and only this, in Marx. Lenin’s behavior cannot be used today as an unquestionable model — or as an unchallenged paradigm — for he acted in situations which were qualitatively different from the problems of today. One the one hand, Lenin’s statements must be interpreted from the context of the great upheaval of 1917 in which the spontaneously emergent Soviet movement achieved a central position. On the other hand, they must be seen in the context of the critical transition at the time of the introduction of NEP, during which he made the commitment to rescue the most significant democratic socialist accomplishment of the revolution from the threatening process of bureaucratization. Insofar as possible, he wished to transmit to a coming historical period the still-surviving residues of the Soviet movement.
We find ourselves today in a completely different situation than the period described above. After the decades long domination of Stalin, the factors that produced authoritarian socialism have practically fallen into total disuse. The historical factors that created Stalinism were both objective and subjective. Today a completely different set of both objective and subjective factors have led to the wide public knowledge and condemnation of the Stalin period. From the point of view of our problem regarding socialist democracy, it is most significant that under Stalin the self-activity of the masses was practically extinguished. Not only did this occur in the great questions of politics, but also in the control of their own daily lives. We emphasize the word practically, for even in the Stalin period, on the formal level, many questions were dealt with according to the procedures of formal democracy such as secret voting and universal suffrage. Nevertheless, Stalin’s bureaucratic manipulation and domination were so extensive and powerful that, in general, such voting gave little vent to the actual wishes, aversions and opinions of the masses. Since this is the case, the actual situation of 1917 must be looked upon as having been eradicated a long time ago.
The political and social deformation which Stalin imposed came to be looked upon as the normal condition of socialism. The idea that the class struggle continually intensified during the dictatorship of the proletariat was used by Stalin as the historical justification of his totalitarianism. This idea was often — although never fundamentally — criticized in Stalin’s time, but it nevertheless resulted in a reputed theoretic legitimation of his praxis of brutal hegemony. He created an atmosphere in which a mental civil war arose. The paranoid search for internal enemies became the standard method of behavior: everyone was a potential traitor even when the actual civil war had come to an end. One must remember that the first critiques of Stalin at the twentieth Party Congress proceeded from the point of view that the Great Purges of the 1930s were politically unnecessary, for the opposition had already been dispersed and rendered politically powerless. The opposition was not a real danger, and a civil war did not exist. Even though merely partial, this essentially correct critique of the Stalinist system, however, had no immediate political consequences. Without interruption, the dogma of the civil war was renewed in the internal policies of the Soviet government even after Khrushchev. Soviet governments after the twentieth Party Congress treated such critiques as overtly or covertly subversive statements which were to be suppressed because they were not in agreement with officially sanctioned views. Starting with the twentieth Party Congress, this promising objective assessment of the Stalinist system was halted by succeeding Kremlin rulers. Even though the twentieth Party Congress was restrained in its attacks on Stalin, successive Soviet administrations reverted back to Stalinism.
The positive accomplishments of the twentieth Party Congress rested in the fact that it started the critique of the Stalinist system. The weakness of the twentieth Party Congress grew out of the fact that its critique was only partial. Its attack centered on peripheral issues. It did not cut to the systemic core of Stalinism. The denunciation of the personality cult shows the insufficiency of such critiques and reveals why the consequences of the twentieth Party Congress were so limited. The refutation of the personality cult was not in itself incorrect, but only incomplete. This was equally true of the thesis that Stalin’s method of domination grew out of his destruction of the rule of law. Nothing false was stated in either case, but both theoretically and practically overlooked the essence of the decisive problems. The brutal manipulation of the masses based on dogmatic presuppositions is not only the product of a skillful, egomaniacal, tyrannical personality. History constantly gave and gives new illustrations in which totalitarian domination is also exercised through collective and persistent repressive practices. In addition, the destruction of the rule of law does not in itself result in totalitarianism. Every modern state possesses sophisticated juridical techniques which equip it to carry out legal manipulation. This is necessary in order to ensure social and political conformity. Just as the personality cult in Russia in open, cynical violation of legality labeled individual behavior in conformity with political dogma as socially normal, and individual behavior in violation of political dogma as socially abnormal so every state possesses the means of legal manipulation so it can dictate its political standards on the population. Stalinism was not reducible to personal totalitarianism or the uprooting of the rule of law.
The core of the Stalinist system rests in other causes. The Stalinist system was rooted in an economic problem, which had profound social consequences. It was the same economic problem that perplexed those who were involved in the struggle for power after Lenin’s death. The core question concerned the so-called “original accumulation.” Earlier, we tried to show how the positive aspects of the socialization of the means of production were capable of creating the conditions for an effective socialist state. Within the context of “original accumulation,” within the context of rapid industrialization, Stalin’s system of brutal hegemony had many successes. (Stalin could not see that the successes were based on specific socioeconomic conditions.) Indeed, the economic successes of Stalin increased during the two periods of “reconstruction.” However, when a specific level of production was reached, the problem facing the socialist state changed. The new question no longer concerned “original accumulation” but the quality of goods produced and the excellence of services delivered to the people. On the economic level, Stalinism was appropriate for the period of rapid industrialization, but lost its historic effectiveness when the Soviet economy advanced to a higher level.
The Stalinist system failed to adjust to the new socioeconomic order it created. Stalinism tried to govern this new post-World War II socioeconomic order with outmoded political methods. A disjuncture opened between the politics and society of the Soviet state, and Stalinism tried to govern a post-World War II society with the political structure of the 1920s. This can be seen in the case of the technical specialists. In the period of “original accumulation,” the new Soviet state inherited the social strata of technical specialists from pre-revolutionary capitalism and the Tzar. The majority of these people were either alienated from socialism or directly hostile to it. The situation today is totally different. These Tzarist technical specialists who were enemies of socialism either died out or retired during the decades’ long construction of the socialist base, so this hostile strata disappeared. More importantly, however, and we already mentioned this in other contexts, the socialist education system produced a technological intelligentsia loyal to the Soviet system. The numerous technological intelligentsia were not communist in the sense of adhering to a specific world view, but neither were they enemies or mere uncommitted spectators within the Soviet system. Produced by the educational system of socialism, they were Soviet men, who thought of their work in the process of production as their natural vocation and who, for that reason, justifiably wanted to be recognized and treated as genuine and dignified contributors to the system. This younger generation rebelled against the Stalinist system on objective social grounds. By this time, the methods through which the Stalinist political commissars controlled the technological specialists were already in place. However, the economic and political behavior of this new, indispensable strata of experts, the force for the further advance of the Soviet Union, demanded changed administrative methods in comparison to those practiced under Stalin.
This question of new administrative methods is ultimately connected with the control and purposes of production itself. Economically and politically, it has become increasingly impossible to concentrate the development of production almost exclusively on the construction of heavy industry, in insensitive disregard of consumer needs. In the best cases, and appeal to the masses to adapt an ascetic policy of consumption is only justifiable and defensible during periods of revolutionary idealism. The point is that those methods of bureaucratic concentration and centrally controlled planning that functioned successfully for the purposes of constructing a relatively advanced technological industrial apparatus during the 1930s, must be condemned as totally inefficient at present. The more rigid the centralized bureaucratic planning mechanisms, the more difficult it is to both quantitatively and qualitatively meet the needs of popular consumption. This deficiency already shows itself in the manufacture of the means of production devoted to the making of consumer goods. At this point, we do not consider the applicability of the model of a correctly functioning war economy, because it is impossible for the inflexible control of wartime production to be a criteria for civilian everyday life.
We believe that socioeconomic pressures in the communist world have brought about a period of reconstruction and simultaneously the time has arrived for a revival of speculations on renewed attempts to call socialist democracy into life. Two false alternatives, which we treated at the beginning of this book, step to the foreground within the communist world: the attempt at the partial improvement of this crisis through the preservation of the essentials of the Stalinist method, or the introduction of those methods that dominate in the West. The reasons for this conflict are easy to understand. On the one hand, the centralized planning bureaucracy does not want to renounce its absolute leading role, even though every close investigation shows how little its applied criteria, tasks, or means of control have succeeded in satisfying the genuine actual needs of men. The Old Guard proposes that the present apparatus be provided with cybernetic machines in order to carry through its calculations with more exactitude, as if a fundamentally flawed mechanism could really be improved through such means. From the side of the reformers, on the other hand, the model of western industrial organization is proposed. The reformers proceed from the false presupposition that the market competition practiced under capitalism (with its advantages and disadvantages) can only fulfill its dream in a socialist society, for without the existence of competing capitalists society can adjust perfectly to market forces. Reformers and Stalinists engage in preliminary experiments. But these are based upon inseparable and indecisive compromises that leave the still-powerful central planning mechanism unshatterable and intact.
It is not our purpose to enter upon an exhaustive discussion of these economic problems. It is more important to see the interconnection between the economic and the political. The fact that economic reform is on the agenda for socialist societies means that the question of socialist democracy has also become an immediate issue. We have again and again pointed to the Soviet movement as the historically specific, uniquely democratic form of socialist society. We must, however, acknowledge, if we are not to deal with the question of democratization in an abstract manner but in a relevant socially-historical form, that we face a radically new situation. Lenin faced such a situation when he theoretically struggled with this complex of problems at the time he introduced NEP. The basic question is: are the Soviets still relevant to the problems of democratization as it exists in socialist societies today? The Soviet movement, the pressure of the broad masses, was that social dynamism that immediately connected the everyday affairs of men with the great questions of high politics. This movement of mass initiative, appears to have been brought to a complete stop. As we have already indicated, when social institutions lose their validity and become atrophied, the masses develop a deep disinterest in them. When the political structure of a society is no longer legitimate, does not correspond to democratic interests, the masses slip into apathy. Today the people participate in meetings, discussions and votes since it meets their immediate self-interest not to appear to the official apparatus as members of an opposition. Nevertheless, they remain preponderantly passive or their participation limits itself to the routinized approval of official proposals. The participants are deeply convinced that taking part in such discussions has practically no significance for the issues themselves, or can frequently cause the participants personal harm. On the average, these facts are generally well-known, although the official reports paint a totally different picture and this becomes part of the public record. Political participation is reduced to mere automatonism.
On the other hand, vibrant and free public opinion exists, but in an underground and subterranean form. This covert “public opinion” does not express itself in an open or formal manner. Within Eastern European society, and dealing with all aspects of social life, this public opinion is primarily a matter of private conversation, of immediate and spontaneous discussions between two people. The real influence of such a secretive world is extraordinarily various. However, it would be wrong to underestimate it, or to judge it as completely ineffectual. I mention only in passing that it has been my personal experience for decades that success in the cultural areas is determined by this subterranean public opinion. Whether a work has artistic merit or is superficial, whether a novel has been successfully adapted into film, are questions decided upon more by this secretive world than by the published critics (above all, by the official writers).
It is much more difficult to assess the impact that this secretive world has in the economic field. One must never forget that this system of regulation, this manipulation of the entire social process from above, is much too alienated from reality to be able to fulfill its original purpose of stifling all free thought and action. There is less bureaucratic domination under capitalism than is the case under Stalinist socialism. For example, under capitalism there are still wild-cat railroad strikes which arise when workers spontaneously stop obeying their employers and consequently bring all commerce to a de facto standstill. Worker protest exists under capitalism and calls into being a compromise between capital and labor. These kinds of industrial adjustments, a compromise between capital and labor, normally occur by means of private negotiations between management and the proletariat. For the most part, these adjustments, in which both labor and capital gain, concern issues of the conditions of labor in factories and the means of transportation. In present-day socialism, there is more social alienation than under capitalism. Because Stalinist socialism is more abstract, mechanical, and bureaucratic then capitalism, the phenomena of labor strikes is just as frequent under socialism as in the world of private property. Labor unrest still exists in the world of the so-called workers’ paradise.
This mute, subterranean public opinion is the opening wedge to a democratization of existing socialism. It is a social force, and its mobilization into a systematic public — praxis appears to me to be the first step toward a socialist democracy. The democratization of socialism is impossible through the old methods. It cannot be achieved by a spontaneous revolutionary upheaval. It cannot be achieved by attempting to resurrect the Soviet movement, which was characterized by the extension of direct democracy in all areas of social life during the period of revolution. None of the objective or subjective conditions for such a return to the past exist. Anyone who dreams of a rebirth of a spontaneously generated Soviet movement condemns themselves to live in empty fantasy. Such illusions spring from private enthusiasm for and deep commitment to the heroism of the past, but it is hopeless to expect that a movement equal in breadth and intensity to that of the years 1871 or 1905 will ever occur again. The Stalinist period broke the continuity of this Soviet movement with authoritarian measures, at the same time that the movement itself was already internally dominated by reactionary tendencies. Just as it is impossible on the theoretical level to have an immediate, total, methodologically and substantively correct renaissance of Marxism, so it is impossible to have a direct renewal of this great tradition from the past. The Soviet movement was historically generated, it was the product of a decade of social development and this cannot be recreated by individual or party resolutions. To think that the Soviet movement can be brought back into existence voluntaristically, is to remain imprisoned in the dangerous closed circle of the bureaucratic priority of tactics. Bureaucratic tactics can indeed retard or slacken the course of history, or direct it on a wrong path. But bureaucratic tactics are incapable of mobilizing the masses, in the form in which they exist, for a radical and extended process of reform.
The awakening of this subterranean movement cannot imitate the passionate, spontaneous forms of the earlier Soviet movement. Learning from experience, the growth of this mute, covert tendency into a mode of relating to society as a self-conscious force of criticism cannot copy earlier institutional models. But this does not mean that a different kind of renewal is impossible. Indeed, we believe that the overturning of the mechanistic, centralized and hyperbureaucratic practice of the present system of planning cannot be carried through without an effective appeal to this subterranean popular force that has been suppressed into anonymity. Critics of centralized planning have already spoken out on the necessity of decentralization. Propaganda and deceit, the old methods of Stalinist parties, will not accomplish this debureaucratization. This redirection of a socialist economy must be experienced by the masses on a daily basis as a complete break with the Stalinist tradition. The masses must be re-educated, reactivated, and once again feel their potency. For that reason, it is insufficient to merely remove the psychological-social barriers to the free expression of individual opinion. In its fear of faction-building organizations, the Stalinist period had not only repressed individual opinion, but systematically persecuted and uprooted every type of worker association devoted to the critique and improvement of the system or to the elimination of specific dysfunctions. The destruction of the bureaucracy is impossible without the active involvement of the masses, without spontaneous, often ephemeral, temporary and frequently formless associations. Through the conscious mobilization of this subterranean movement, the masses must once again gain a sense of empowerment that they can improve their everyday lives.
The long duration of the Stalinist system had ruinous effects on the creativity of the masses. They lost faith in themselves, in the belief in the possibilities of their own personal-social praxis. Since it was appropriate under such circumstances, under the 1917 Revolution’s explosive and spontaneously developed Soviet movement, the masses accustomed themselves to participatory behavior in the conduct of public affairs. During the period of Stalin, not active but passive behavior became the rule, because this was appropriate under such authoritarian circumstances. Because it has a double meaning, emphasizing the significance of the concept of habituation in Lenin’s thought is both truthful and instructive. It contains two alternatives: it can signify radical change, however useful or harmful; or, according to its inherent quality, it can signify social accommodation. During the time of the Stalinist priority of tactics, when an entire society became inclusively and thoroughly manipulated by the bureaucracy, both the active participants and noncommitted passive individuals had to habituate themselves to the type of life they wished to adopt within such a system.
We shall speak now about the social formation of types of human praxis, about the social genesis of models of human personality. But the heroic days of the French and Russian revolutions are over, and rather than greatness we have the average. The contemporary world makes for the small, and we must be satisfied to be pale reflections of more noble prototypes from the past. Within the socialist world, there is the active-idealist type. Eastern European critics see the political activist as a contemporary caricature of the citoyen model. The political activist possesses idealism (in the sense of Marx), but with the important nuance that this contemporary type can neither be a self-sacrificing idealist organized into a revolutionary movement by a dominant personality, as in the time of the Jacobin movement, nor a formal, empty, superficial individual as represented in the present by bourgeois democrats. Socialist activists must limit themselves to the dedicated execution of party resolutions and believe that they are truly serving the cause of the proletarian revolution. (In order to prevent any misunderstanding, we wish to make clear that the point of this remark is not directed against discipline in general. The point is related to the important question of the social formation of a human type, or a mode of praxis. The decisive difference, the contrast, concerns the question of criticism and transcendence. There is a discipline that does not allow criticism and improvement, and this is only slavish obedience. But there is a discipline that incorporates participation, engagement, self-correction, and abolition, and this is indispensable for any political movement.)
In addition to the forms of human praxis already mentioned, there emerges a contrasting type which uses its social position in order to raise its personal standard of living. It does this with either acceptable, surreptitious, or even illegal means. Its psychology and morality are extremely proximate to that of the homme of bourgeois society, but it is still qualitatively distinct from bourgeois behavior because no human exploitation arises from this manipulative activity. Naturally, we do not mean that the increase of one’s own standard of living through one’s own work is an illegitimate form of behavior. What we question is a praxis that manipulates the law, legal loopholes, traditional and emerging patterns of habituation, for the egoistic end of its own self-aggrandizement. At this point a qualification must be introduced: there can be no comparison between socialist production, particularly in its massive, centralized, and bureaucratic forms, and bourgeois society. This is true because the whole structure of socialist society makes any accumulation derived from the exploitation of the work of other human beings impossible from the first. The kinds of jobs created by socialist society are non-exploitative. The overwhelming majority of laboring people in socialism are included in this category. They perform their work with more of less personal conscientiousness. However, there is a disparity between the laboring people’s aggressive desire to improve their standards of living and their political apathy. They are interested in economic advancement, but they surrender their right to make corrective critical interventions into the existing political structure.
These remarks are not intended to offer an exhaustive examination of the totality of human behavioral types under socialism and the problems arising from them. Accordingly, it is solely necessary to indicate those subjective societal tendencies that necessarily evolve out of the order of production initiated by Stalin. Our main purpose is to distinguish every form of socialist critique of the Stalinist system from every form of bourgeois criticism. Ever since the introduction of NEP, capitalist anticommunism has argued that socialist society would develop in a fashion similar to that of capitalism, or that a single industrial society would evolve on a global scale in which the differences between capitalism and socialism would disappear. On the contrary, and this has been alluded to many times in these pages, the economic being of all socialist states shows that the socialization of the means of production necessarily created objective relationships that must remain qualitatively different than in a class society. In addition, however, a penetrating and profound analysis of the presently existing socialist societies shows that it indeed objectively demolished and made impossible any exploitation of man by man, but developed in such an economic and social manner that its political structure was not capable — not yet — of calling socialist democracy into being. Socialist society has not politically empowered socialist man. The laboring masses do not have the means to transform themselves into active subjects. They do not know how to make the socialization of the means of production the basis from which they can emerge as free men in a communist social formation. The imputation that already existing socialism lacks an objective socialist character belongs to the armory of bourgeois slanders and demagoguery. On the contrary, the construction and extension of the subjective character of socialist society remains the great present and future task of all who sincerely affirm that socialism is the only worthwhile alternative to the contradictions of capitalism.
Considered from an objective standpoint, we are dealing with the fact that the economic and social order instituted by Stalin was capable of overcoming the immanent and inclusive economic underdevelopment of Russia, and coupled with the unexpectedly rapid growth of the forces of production did lay the basis for the Kingdom of Freedom. This statement does not relate to the question of socialist democracy, nor to the fact that socialism was unable to destroy the bountifulness of the capitalist economic formation. The Kingdom of Freedom was an adequate basis for the uniquely human self-creation of man. Paradoxically, the Stalinist system not only created the basis for human self-genesis, but also created objective and insurmountable barriers to the realization of this process of human becoming. We have already touched on this paradox in our analysis of bourgeois democracy. Marx tries to explain how in the fundamental constitutions of the French Revolution, which established the doctrine of human rights, men also placed limits on the freedom of men. He states: “However, human rights, freedom based not on the association of man with men, but much more on the separation of men from humanity. It is the right of separation, the right of limitation by limited individuals themselves.” Bourgeois society “allows every man to find in his fellow men not the realization but the barrier to his own freedom."
The texts that Marx interprets accurately depicts social reality, although their authors were infused with the heroic illusions of revolutionary transformation. If one wishes to gain a correct understanding of these texts, one must regard them as offering a true portrayal of the actual conditions of bourgeois society. Their great precursor is Hobbes, who describes the condition of man under capitalism as “a war of all against all.” The work of the Marquis de Sade also reflects the nature of the human condition under capitalism, and the contemporary bourgeoisie has newly discovered de Sade as a serious thinker. The sexual act becomes a mirror for human relationships under capitalism.
The Marquis de Sade does not describe the sexual act as a common activity shared by two people, as a partnership between two equals, but rather as an act in which the man exploits the woman as nothing but an object of lust, a dominated object whose participation, feelings, and reactions are of complete indifference to the male. By showing the extremes to which the idea of possession can be carried, Kant’s famous definition of marriage details the inherent social reality of capitalism. Kant fuses the cynical egoism of de Sade with the language of free commodity exchange of a capitalist social formation. Kant says: “Marriage is the agreement between two people of the opposite sexes to the life-long exclusive possession of each other’s sexual organs.”
As frequently happens today, this last statement should not shift the objective focus of our discussion from the sex act as a characterization of capitalist reality to sex in and for itself. It should only point out that Marx’s universal characterization of the fundamental structure of capitalist reality must also be true in the particular, must also accurately describe every type of human praxis under capitalism. Marx had already expressed this capitalist universal human relationship in the Communist Manifesto. The following sentences are contained in that work concerning the praxis of the bourgeoisie as the ruling class, behavior necessarily induced by a capitalist economy. “It has dissolved personal dignity in exchange-value ... it transformed the doctor, the jurist, the pastor, the poet, the man of science into its paid wage-workers." The question that is placed on the historical agenda concerns the process of the humanization of humanity. The socialist revolution concerns the transition of a lower social formation to a higher one, and the emergence of a new human social existence based on this higher social formation. Through the production of a new social environment, this new being of humanity, this socialist being, will be able to create new forms of human interdependence and cooperation by means of the spontaneous praxis of socialist humanity.
It is necessary to understand the distinctions between the transition from feudalism to capitalism and the transition from capitalism to socialism. History has witnessed many revolutionary transformations of society, but they each have their unique qualities. The transition from feudalism to capitalism was concerned with the rise of radical capitalist economic relationships. If one compares the division of labor in the period of manufacturers in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with that of the guilds in feudalism, this radical change in the relationship of each worker to his own labor process becomes immediately apparent. As a consequence of this transition, the attitude of the workers — they are compelled to adopt either an affirmative or negative attitude toward this new situation — will be dictated to the worker by the social division of labor.
The transition from capitalism to socialism has an extremely different nature. The transition from feudalism to capitalism concerned itself with the change from one exploitative class society to another, although an exploitation corresponding to a higher level of the unfolding of the productive forces. In the transition from capitalism to socialism, on the contrary, the process concerns the transcendence of exploitation sui generis. The transition from feudalism to capitalism brought forth radical alterations in all modes of material production. (It is sufficient to indicate, as we have already done, the differences in the division of labor under the guild system and capitalist manufacture.) Whereas changes in the mode of production and the elimination of exploitation are social changes, technological change is quite different. As distinct from social change, technological developments did not differentiate between capitalism and socialism, but have an independent inherent tendency of their own. (A factory built for capitalist production can also, for the most part and without great modifications, function under socialism and vice versa.) But the transition from capitalism to socialism or the socialization of the means of production, totally transforms society. The socialization of the means of production can reshape the mode of work and, because of that, the mode of activity in the everyday life of man. When the forces of production are governed by society in general, this brings about a radical transformation of man and his relation to his labor and to his fellow men. These are the exact social presuppositions that prepare the transition from socialism to communism. In his war essays, Lenin clearly stated that socialism was indeed founded on an economic basis, but the economic in no way formed the entire context of socialism. Some will doubt that man will be transformed through a transformation of social relationships. But this does not mean we must adopt the opposite view that man will be transformed solely through ideological transformations. Ideology, as a theoretic-practical moment of social development, as a means for the fighting out of social conflicts that are created by the process of material production, is indeed an important, even indispensable, component of every society’s superstructure. However, it is still only a reflection, an image by which men try to comprehend the objective transformation of production. Ideology must have a material foundation so that its practical influence as a force in society is not annulled. To be effective, ideology must be intensively and extensively grounded within the objective social existant.
Social change is always the result of objective and subjective forces. Historical transitions are pushed forward by both automatic-economic and conscious-ideological forces. Material production must bring forth — naturally not without the mediation of the ideological response — changes in men, their transformation into conscious agents who will teleologically plan the future social formation. The immanent, automatic functioning of the economy cannot bring such a human transformation into existence from its own spontaneous dialectic. The economy — as the basis of the coming-to-be — must be directed by human design. The objective must be structured by human intelligence so that it can create those social conditions that call forth in men the ability to engage in cooperative relationships with his fellow man. The objective must react on men so they become capable of realizing themselves as the genuine being of the species.
Our comparison of the transition to capitalism and socialism has shown us that the revolutionary change to socialism has no comparison in history. Because socialism is so unique, there are no parallel historical examples by which to judge it. For that reason, as one attempts to prognosticate the nature of a future socialist order, one must be circumspect and cautious about applying lessons drawn from previous historical social formations. Marx, in the Communist Manifesto, had good reason for calling capitalism the last social formation in history to rest on the means of exploitation. In so doing, he not only referred to economic exploitation but to all the consequences that such expropriation inserted in intersubjective relationships. Both Lassalle and Stalin put forth fallacious definitions of socialism, for they both reduced it to the mere economic. For Lassalle, socialism was synonymous with the right of “full compensation for labor.” Stalin also evaded the essential point when he also gave an economist’s definition of socialism by equating it with the abolition of surplus labor completely forgetting that surplus labor was indispensable for societal development. The new definition of socialism concerns the internal and external transformation of human life by means of surplus labor, which is simultaneously objectively economic and subjectively human. To repeat earlier statements: the bourgeoisie likes to refer to the humanization of human labor, which they claim is also taking place under capitalism. However, in capitalism, it is man, the subjective, who is compelled to adjust to the economic, the objective. Under capitalism, the so-called humanization of labor signifies the creation of means by which humans can be made to adapt to the existing or newly introduced modes of labor. The improvements of the conditions of labor are a means by which to improve productivity, and by increasing productivity to also increase the rate of exploitation of surplus labor. The humanization of labor has a completely different meaning under socialism. There it is the economic, the objective, that must bend and accommodate man, the subjective. Under socialism, the subjective rules the objective. Under socialism, the mode of human labor must correspond to the species being of man, and the being of man is made the criteria and guiding principle for the organization of the condition of labor.
With the elimination of the dominance of the economic, it is clear that the reshaping of the process of production can itself be a material force toward the socialist purpose of creating a higher humanity. It is readily clear that only a socialist-planned economy can have as its goal the production of a higher humanity. The socialization of the means of production is a necessary precondition for the bringing forth of a human teleological design for the achievement of the socialist ideal. However, it is just as clear that human teleological activity cannot in itself produce socialism. The subjective requires the objective. Human praxis can achieve a great deal, but the full emancipation and humanization of labor also requires the requisite economic-objective level of productivity.
One must speak of a reciprocal process between the subjective and the objective. The fulfillment of the species being of man must be brought into correspondence with the possibilities of production in order to be realizable in the practical world. But the humanization of labor cannot be totally derived from the sphere of production alone; it must be introduced, as Lenin took pains to say, from outside, from a source external to those who are involved in the immediate processes of production. It must be cosponsored by the political-subjective. That is exactly the specific function of socialist democracy. The specificity of socialist democracy is determined by this particular politicosocial task, to bring an external theoretic-humanizing perspective into the economic domain. This task also determines the specific difference between socialist democracy and every previous democratic formation resting on private possession, exploitation, and estrangement, especially in its capitalist mode. This political-societal task of socialist democracy, shaped by the socialist revolution of 1917, received a direct, mass expression in the repeatedly mentioned great, enthusiastic, spontaneous Soviet movement. We have no firm guidelines on how socialist democracy can be made an organic component of socialist society. The lessons of the present or past offer us no generalized blueprint. The revolutions of 1871 and 1905 were repressed before the problems of socialist democracy as an immediate social possibility could be addressed. In Lenin’s last years of life, the Soviet movement was overtaken by atrophy and fragmentation. We have commented on Lenin’s futile efforts to preserve the Soviets as the political content of socialism, as the living force of democracy struggling against the ever irresistible advance of bureaucracy.
We know that these endeavors were shattered. Today, the crucial question within the socialist world is: how can Marxism be reconstructed? What are the social forces from which a renaissance of Marxism will spring? Realistically, the attempt to resurrect the Soviet movement is impossible. There is no theoretic basis for any hope of Soviet reconstruction. In addition, the revolutionary conditions of 1917 which gave rise to their spontaneous growth cannot be recaptured, and no one desires to return to the period of their debility which started in the 1920s. The present task of Marxism, the revival of Marxism after its long petrification under Stalin, cannot be directly connected to any existing societal movement. This is also true for the mute, subterranean movement about which we have already spoken, for it is incapable of providing any theoretical foundation for such a rebirth. On the contrary, the attempt at renewal must be initiated on the basis of theory. A Marxist analysis of the contemporary crisis of socialism must be undertaken, for only when we understand the reasons for such a crisis can we begin to redefine socialism and establish the principle for a conscious renaissance of Marxism. Only on the basis of a reconstructed Marxist theory can we also set forth a tactic which corresponds to the actual conditions of the moment, a proper individual praxis. When one is involved in a theoretical reformulation, one is embarked upon a consciously inspired, consciously directed, extended, and contradictory process. One may never lose sight of the fertile dialectic involved in redefining socialism, the conflict between objective and subjective factors, which should be built into our understanding of this higher social order. On the one hand, there is human praxis, which is the direct opposite of the economic, which does not limit economic development but on the contrary organizes the purely economic to better satisfy social needs. On the other hand, the process of building a socialist democracy is an undertaking of long duration, and the precondition for its growth will be set when social praxis is brought into unison with pure economic necessity. Theoretic, learned insights into the content of socialist democracy grow in a continuous, uninterrupted manner from day to day, indicating that there must be harmony between the political and the deterministic objective. The fusion of the subjective and the objective is the future direction for a new Marxist analysis of socialist economics, and our speculations here are only intended as a sketch that merely seeks to discover the most general principles for such an enterprise. Therefore, it is impossible to attempt to enter into any more detailed analysis. For that reason, it is all the more important to create clarity over theoretic foundations. In his famous and correct distinction between spontaneity and consciousness (Marxist consciousness, pure class consciousness), Lenin said that “consciousness could only be brought to the worker ... that means from an area outside the economic fight ... a domain from which all this knowledge can be created." Lenin spoke of a matrix of forces, an interrelationship of all social forces, meaning the totality of society in its historic dynamic. Lenin, who made these remarks under the influence of the conditions of 1903 and who we believe was correct, did not merely relate to the realities of his own historical circumstances but referred to something more universal in principle. It is imperative to return to Lenin’s method, which is an exact continuation of the method of Marx. The renaissance of Marxism can only emerge out of a return to the method and theory of Marx, for a correct praxis in our contemporary situation is a direct result of a correct Marxist analysis of that contemporary situation.
Is it possible today to simply apply the ruling theories of the last decade? We have already indicated the theoretical axis of Stalin’s method: the inversion of the hierarchical relation between theory, method, and strategy. Stalin displaced the Marxist hierarchy, prioritized tactics, and deformed the entire method of Marx. This mutilation of Marxism has still not been overcome today, and if this crippling of Marxism is to be undone it will require specific studies of every particular case that was falsified due to Stalin’s deformed general method. For that reason, if we limit ourselves to the most specific types we can illustrate the essential issue with the following example: since Lenin’s Imperialism (1916), there has not been a scientific investigation into the specificity of the new characteristics of contemporary capitalism, nor have there been any investigations regarding the specific determinations of socialist development. Our knowledge of the present is inadequate because it is the result of outmoded methods that were even erroneous when they were created. We have, in other contexts, quickly glanced at Stalin’s economic speculations, and this discussion has shown that the theoretic domination of tactics led to a distortion of Marx’s method and results in this area as well. Another case of historical falsification was the deletion of the concept of the “Asiatic mode of production” from the Marxist interpretation of the evolution of social formations. This deletion was made in order to prove that a Chinese feudalism, which in fact did not exist, had occurred in China. This falsification of history was necessary in order for Stalin to substantiate his tactical decisions in relation to China in the 1920s and 1930s. The elimination of the concept of the “Asiatic mode of production” set back the Marxist scholarship of China for a decade, for without this interpretive paradigm it was impossible to carry out a true Marxist analysis of the genuine facts and their necessary interrelationship in this important area of the world. The idea that the class struggle intensified during the period of the dictatorship of the proletariat was another case of historical falsification. Indeed, this instance was perhaps the most striking illustration of how the methodological priority of tactics led to the distortion of the Marxist-Leninist method. Prioritizing the idea of the aggravation of the class struggle served to exclude every factual theoretical discussion over the true nature of the political situation under Stalin. Russia was considered to be in a state of permanent civil war, government decisions were made on purely tactical grounds, and those who did not give their agreement were branded as open or hidden enemies of the state. It was not sufficient to logically refute such enemies, but they had to be morally defamed and socially stigmatized as “detrimental.” The maintenance of the Stalinist system can easily lead to a renewal of the thesis of the aggravation of the class struggle and its attendant secret police state. If the powerful bureaucracy remains in place, and if this bureaucracy feels itself threatened, regardless of the falseness of the aggravation thesis, it can be renewed as a way of maintaining the power of the bureaucracy. The twentieth Party Congress rejected the aggravation thesis, but if the Stalinist structure of government remains intact it is possible that it can again be used.
These cases of the distortions of the Marxist-Leninist method can be extended limitlessly, but such an extended enumeration cannot be carried through in this context. Because it is so deeply connected with the question of socialist democracy, because it stands in such contrast to Stalinist tactical manipulation, we may allude at this point to Lenin’s idea of the self-determination of nations which was a direct continuation of Marx’s thoughts on the problem of nationalism. In 1917, Lenin demanded the unlimited right of every people to declare their independence and just as energetically rejected every attempt to make exceptions to this right. Even during the imperialist war, he called it a betrayal of socialism to want to deny this right of self-determination. There is no bureaucratic sophistry which can annul the central importance of this thesis for Marxism-Leninism. During the last days of his life, Lenin vehemently protested against its destruction. No tactical manipulation can overlook the fact that Lenin, just as Marx, looked upon the right of the self-determination of nations as a crucial, indispensable component of the proletarian revolution, of socialist construction.
The practical development of socialist democracy presupposes the reconstruction of Marx’s method. This is not intended as a mere abstract, philosophical statement. On the contrary. The reconstruction of Marxism is a question of the survival of the communist movement. The cleansing of the historical record will neither be immediate nor final, for it is impossible at this point to have a concrete grasp of all the problems and cases to be faced because so much of the present is still hidden in the unexamined Stalinist past. Because the past is still shrouded in darkness, it is impossible to have a correct grasp of the true problems of the present or to formulate an appropriate immediate praxis. The cleansing of history is never possible through a single, all-inclusive illumination. Decades of omissions, confusions, distortions can only be put aside through many years of investigative work, through factual discussions concerning fundamental issues of theory and history. Indeed, this cleansing of history will create its own distortions. Both the party apparatus and the independent critic speak of the need for a plurality of perspectives as a way of avoiding distortions. This is a deception. Pluralism can also be the foundation for a neo-positivist manipulation of thought. The priority of the Marxist method must be maintained over that of pluralism. Of course, the results of the Marxist method are not arrived at arbitrarily or voluntaristically. The results are the outcome of factual investigation, analysis, etcetera, and must be tested through critical discussions. Because the process of verification is so lengthy, it takes a long time before a truth can be scientifically legitimated. However, if the communist movement wants to have firm ground under its feet, it must choose the way of self-correction. Although it is a painful process, the renaissance of Marxism will arise out of this self-cleansing and self-criticism. But it is a course which must be chosen and embarked upon, because only by freeing itself from the errors of the past can Marxism regain its stature as a viable theoretic and political instrument.
The renaissance of Marxism requires the solution of all these problems. The awakening of socialist democracy will give this movement a spirited impetus. But when we approach the question of socialist democracy we find ourselves on new, totally unexplored terrain. What Lenin said upon the introduction of NEP is also thoroughly valid here; we have no guidelines to lead us into the future. The classical theoreticians of Marxism all died without providing us with a clear outline of the nature of socialist democracy. Even though we are sailing in uncharted waters, whatever we do know about socialist democracy indicates that in the present situation its spontaneous emergence is out of the question. On the contrary, difficult and purposeful efforts will be unconditionally necessary to bring about its reawakening, to place socialist democracy on the road to becoming. That is easily understandable to anyone who has taken seriously what we have already discussed regarding Lenin’s definition of political consciousness. According to Lenin’s expression, the movement toward the democratization of socialism is only capable of being stimulated from outside, for it is not capable of rising spontaneously in the consciousness of the population. Indeed, we have already emphasized earlier that the present, extremely widespread apathy of the laboring masses can only develop itself to such socialist democratic activity through goals provided it by an outside force. For a Marxist, it is clear from these few but also fundamental facts that the natural leader and driving force in the establishment of this goal orientation must be the Communist party. The problem touched upon here is that of mobilization, of taking the currently private, intersubjective, and subterranean movements and organizing them in practical life as emancipator, as goal-oriented behavior. The reawakening of Marxism requires a conscious commitment to the validity of the great, general social tasks which beckon. The Communist Manifesto already identifies the special mission of communists in the fact that they “represented the general interests of the entire proletariat” continuously represented the interests of the entire movement." A half century later, Lenin continues to execute and concretize these thoughts of Marx. With a correct definition of class consciousness, Lenin recognizes that the party possessed a clearer insight into the totality of social dynamics, that the party represents the cause of the great, enduring interests of the proletariat, critically if necessary, in the struggle to transcend the present. Lenin never doubts the leading role of the party, and today the party must make contact with and articulate the desires of this subterranean world of private culture.
During the practice of the Stalin period, the Communist party also succumbed to the bureaucracy of the tactical. On the question of the party, we can only in this brief space discuss the major points in relation to the tasks and possibilities that face us. Above all, the successful activity of the party, its continued life, is dependent upon the renaissance of Marxism. In terms of reinvigorating the party, one factor is exceptionally important: innerparty democracy. In the Eastern European world, there are some ideologies that seek the internal reform of existing socialism by means of a bourgeois multiparty system. We offered a criticism of bourgeois democracy at the beginning of this text. Without being able to enter more deeply into this complex issue, it need only be remarked that we mean an effective innerparty democracy within the socialist world. We are thoroughly aware that in the democratic multiparty system of capitalism no political party practices a real innerparty democracy.
From the standpoint of the problem of the party, the most critical task to be undertaken is a realistic division of labor between the state and the party. The great new task of socialist democracy is the practical purification of everyday life from the existing and operative survivals of class society. Existing socialist society still suffers with the residues of class society specifically in the form of prestige consumption. The normal improvements in the economy, not developments specifically aimed at socialism, will increase the standard of living and this will heighten the problem of prestige consumption. This blatant consumerism can neither be made extinct through bureaucratic command nor by new propaganda. At this point, socialist democracy must connect with Lenin’s profound definition of habituation. The practice of habituation can only become effective if men become accustomed to putting aside forms of behavior that fall below the dignity of species being, that often incorporate self-destructive and counter-human drives. Habituation must create a social being that discards any aggressive attitudes toward fellow human beings or their own lives (both are inherently inseparable). The creation of a being that is social in content is the end result of the gradual process of habituation. Such an inner transformation of man cannot be carried out without a restructuring of the external world of everyday life. Regardless of whether material production have developed itself to a high level, a communist society can never arise unless everyday life becomes not only an arena of political decision making but also the basis of social being.
In the last decades, much has been said about the survival of capitalism. People have criticized it, denounced it and even proclaimed its collapse. Considered from a sociological perspective, these condemnations of capitalism are overly simplistic. Every society is a composite of individual exceptions, precursors of the future, an amalgam of contradictory and asymmetrical forces moving in both positive and negative directions. Assuming great differentials in the gradations of importance, every man can overcome his estrangement from the being of humanity only by himself, only through the exertion of his own powers. In most cases, this process always starts from a critique or self-critique of a specific form of such estrangement. However, true human liberation can only begin from a change in social conditions in the objective surroundings on men. From this point of view of social being, which always originates in society, the typical attitude of men can be considered as actually transcended when new conditions of life develop which are capable of radically separating past ideas from present conscious behavior. (Cannibalism and vendettas are examples of how the social habituates human behavior.) In periods of great social transition, individual attempts at transformation on ideological or moral grounds naturally play a significant role. Regardless of the intent, these kinds of individual acts can never achieve a real societal universality in the above mentioned sense. To change man it is first necessary to change society. We are concerned here with a fundamental transformation of the entire man in all his manifestations of life, not merely with the transcendence of a specific, concrete, individual vice inside a particular, singular life condition. The author has no desire to undervalue this kind of individual transformation. On the contrary, he is deeply convinced that both individual and social protest in the past epochs of human history created the possibilities of social transcendence. If this individual or collective protest had not existed in the past, had not struggled against the inhumanity of its time, against the denial of human dignity, there would be no hope in history. Even though these struggles were fought with a false consciousness, even though they may have been pure utopian experiments, they helped create historical possibility and future.
The author also does not believe that it is possible to judge these attempts at transcending the human indignities of our existence solely in terms of their immediate, practico-social consequences. The prior history of human development — with profound logic Marx calls it the prehistory of humanity — provides only scattered, often contradictory claims in the formation of those subjective attitudes that contribute to these social transformations. All these attempts must be evaluated judiciously and man must learn from these examinations that the becoming of humanity is a result of its own activity, its own social activity. However, transcendence can never take place in a vacuum, but must always accord with the existent real possibilities and the objective process of social reproduction will always set the conditions and limits of such transformation. Socialist democracy is called upon to transcend the last, most highly developed form of anti-humanity (the other human being as limit, as mere object, as possible opponent or enemy to one’s own self-developing praxis). Socialist democracy is called upon to complete this task because it alone is capable of producing a social-human foundation for this decisive transformation.
The great Soviet movement of the immediate revolutionary past was filled with the instinctive tendency to place this complex of problems on the schedule of history. The real conditions of the emergence of the Soviets corresponded to the existent objective, concrete universal problems within Russia. In an inextinguishable fashion, the memory of the Soviets survives in the broad masses of the people. Falsely grounded in an idealist-utopian hope, these masses believe that the simple renewal of this movement can open a new horizon for humanity. They believe that the inherent tendencies of the Soviet movement are toward renewal and revitalization. But the Soviet movement cannot be the only force for the renewal of socialism in the post-Stalinist world. It is an imperative task of the present that all socialist states embark upon a fundamental restructuring of their economies. In this context, the Soviets appear as the only true alternative to both the Stalinist hyperbureaucratization of socialism and the positivist manipulation of bourgeois democracy. The Soviets have achieved a new historical potential at the beginning of a new epoch. From these facts one cannot draw the conclusion that the Soviets can again possess something of the electrifying spontaneity of the earlier, volcanic upheaval. One can only draw the conclusion that new forms of democratization must come forth from the social-historical. Although it is still not existent, the present world economy provides increasing signs of a coming crisis, and a Marxist interpretation of the crisis — unfortunately still inadequate — suggests a revival of the democratization process. For decades, both capitalist and socialist worlds have given an impression of unshatterable continuity. But they are filled with general contradictions, divisions, unsolvable conflicts and these are being pushed to the surface. Nevertheless, both capitalist and socialist worlds may continue in existence in their present forms through compromise, or through the continuance of routine manipulatory agreements. Bourgeois governments are experimenting with the tactics of co-option, since they are eager to incorporate the still chaotic spontaneous protest movement into the establishment and thereby pacify it.
A sociopolitical crisis of worldwide proportions is visible. The task of these sketchy observations cannot be to advance a detailed program of politico-economic renewal. From out of the crisis, a new epoch of Marxism has begun. Based on a renaissance of the methodology of Marx, the radical new task confronting Marxists is to discover new ways to fight against capitalist imperialism and to commence the inner rejuvenation of socialism. We cannot here discuss the relationship between the old and new, the dead Marxist past and the new epoch of the living Marxist future. There must be both continuity and discontinuity: the viable heritage of the Marxist past must be continued, while the deformation must be discontinued. Concerning the relationship between past and future, we can and must state that the reconstruction of socialist production is not merely an economic endeavor. It should be looked upon as laying the basis for the transformation of man, for his habituation to a dignified human existence in everyday life and the permeation of this dignity to all his manifestations of life. The practical application of these principles of economic development to the transformation of humanity is an extremely complicated matter. On the immediate level, the transformation is simply an economic reform aiming at the quantitative increase and qualitative improvement of the mechanism of production and distribution. The problems of the socialist economy, although its intimate connection to the increase of consumption has become a life and death question for it, are not capable of being solved by the simple introduction of the capitalist “model. “Those economic tasks that the market can accomplish under capitalism in an essentially spontaneous manner must be broadened under socialism to include multi-dimensional, pluralistic forms for the democratization of the process of production, from the planning stage up to its practical application. In the first instance, this is necessarily a pure economic problem. However, even at this level, the labor union question, for example, immediately emerges. This leads to a contemporary revival of the Leninist standpoint, and to the urgent driving out of the ideology of Trotskyism as it existed during the 1921 debate over the labor unions. The genuine activation of the masses, the surmounting of its apathy is impossible without a renaissance of the Leninist position. This process of economic reform will surely last a long time, and will call forth the creation of new economic forms, new modes of economic organization. As we have already indicated, at every stage of this process there will emerge pioneering experiments for the awakening and formation of the subjective attitudes necessary for a socialist society. Without wishing to indulge in a mechanistic division of labor, it is certain that the democratized institutions of the state and mass organizations (labor unions) will he called upon to play the leading role in the first stage of this social reconstruction. In the second stage, a democratically renewed Communist party carries an extremely important task within itself. By continuing the advances of the democratized state and labor unions, the party must perform the decisively important role of acting as a permanent critic of the policies of reconstruction. Naturally, we must never lose sight of the crucial, additional impetus to be given to this process of reform by the spontaneous direct initiative of the masses themselves. But it is impossible to predict beforehand how important and what kind of role the re-emergent and newly constituted Soviet movement will play. Our speculations can, indeed — maximally — only claim to raise highly speculative outlines of future possibilities.
From a superficial point of view, the world appears to be immobile. But this is a deception. The conjuncture of all present historical tendencies shows that the globe is driven forward by an unbreakable dynamic. Within a specific historical framework, reality is dominated by the inherent and continuous unfolding of social stages. There is a crisis in the capitalist system of manipulation, and the process of decolonization has opened new perspectives before mankind. These are important symptoms of the transformation currently under way. However, what for us is the most essential point, is the internal tendency of the communist movement toward a renaissance of Marxism, in which the renewal of its genuine, theoretic-practical leading role in the revolutionary renewal of society is coincident with the wishes of humanity. Any process of social rejuvenation is necessarily connected with unrest and uncertainty, and it is all too natural that the party will be frightened away from such a challenge and concentrate its efforts on preserving wherever possible in an unchanged form the seemingly static, narrow continuity of the last decades. From the perspective of the current historical crisis, these efforts at conservation appear, in the last analysis, to be futile. Regarding the general social-historical basis for periods of transition, Marx wrote: “Humanity only sets itself those tasks which it can solve, for exactly stated humanity will continuously find that the tasks themselves only arise where the material conditions for their situation are already present or at least in the process of becoming.” Any ideas of conserving the Stalinist order are just as hopeless as the illusion of a spectacular, in contemporary jargon, a happening, an immediate radical-revolutionary overthrow. Today, a considerable number of young people and the left intelligentsia feel a strong pull toward this kind of romantic revolutionism. In relating to this worldwide crisis, we are dealing with — in various modes in the various parts of the world — an extended, indeed internal as well as external conflict-ridden process of self-understanding over concrete perspectives and goals, over concrete means to further its inherent development.
Socialism is ripe for a break with the past. It is factually incorrect to have any anxiety over the radical severance of socialism from its Stalinist heritage. Lenin called for a “breathing space” only infrequently and only under great duress. He only did this when the Soviets faced a permanent threat to their existence. In the immediate past, the great political acts of socialism (the victory over Hitler, the achievement of nuclear parity) offered by far the most solid ground for a breathing space, which was devoted to domestic reconstruction. Naturally, the imperialists will remain imperialists. On the other hand, one cannot overlook the change that has taken place within the imperialist world. The social background of the imperialists, their restless and limitless drive for power, is different than it was in 1914 or in the immediate post-1945 period. The time is propitious for an internal reconstruction of socialism because the imperialist world is less a threat to socialism than in Lenin’s time. We must bear in mind that we live in a favorable moment in which to start the long process of internal reformation. The danger of armed intervention by the imperialist world was greater in Lenin’s time than it is today. In order to express an extremely unpleasant truth, we must simultaneously admit that the spontaneous sympathy of the masses and of the intelligentsia of the capitalist countries was far stronger in 1917 than they are today. The cause of this is easily found. In 1917 and in the years immediately following, many people in the capitalist world felt — from Anatole France to the simple working men and women — that everything happening in the Soviet Union contributed to their own human liberation, that everything that transpired in Russia was a struggle connected to their own affairs, connected to their own human salvation. Stalin’s passage to the absolute domination of tactics in all questions of theory and praxis was the knife that cut, to a great degree, this thread of connection between events in Russia and the western conscience. The events of the Moscow Trials of the 1930s naturally played an extremely important role in this estrangement of the western conscience from Russian communism. However. the impact of disgraceful individual acts was capable of being overcome were it not that a firm ideological line of separation arose between Russian communism and the West. The developmental patterns of the Soviet Union and the Western world diverged, for the mentality of capitalism drove people to a seemingly unquenchable desire for instant gratification and personal hedonism. Under capitalism, the general influence of the rise of the economic level and of the standard of living, and particular accomplishments in the fields of technology, with all the self-indulgence these successes created, prevented any return to the community of feeling that existed at the beginning in 1917. However, the possibility for such a recrudescence of good feelings is contained in every capitalist society. It is only in socialist society that the enticing drama of human becoming is potentially played out. With all the power of an insensitive propaganda apparatus, at the end of the war socialist society attempted to invent an image or slogan that had as much advertising attraction as the phrase the “American way of life.” However, the lack of a real human substance can also cause the most extensive, best-organized advertising apparatus to fail. Commitment to and respect for human species being cannot be acquired with financial investments. Only socialism is capable of participating in this drama of human becoming. The spirit of capitalism is opposed to this spiritual quest. Nevertheless, if socialism and capitalism were summoned to this purpose. a new eruption of the sympathies of 1917 is still possible.
Since the twentieth Party Congress. this is generally the situation throughout the entire world. Obviously, it must be repeated again and again that imperialism is imperialism and it will remain as such as long as it is not toppled by a revolution and its foundations radically destroyed. So long as it can breath, capitalism will obviously seek to bring about the collapse of socialism. But the attainment of nuclear parity has made a third world war, or an outright attack by capitalism on socialism extremely risky and potentially self-destructive. For that reason, as the real chances of a third world war being unleashed steadily decrease, so the international ideological struggle gains greater importance. Therefore, immediately after the twentieth Party Congress, the author of these lines characterized coexistence, a child of nuclear parity, as a new form of class struggle. ID. this new form of class struggle, in Lenin’s words the principle Who? against Whom? achieves validity. There are those who hope to retrieve the Stalinist system. There are those who seek only temporary, formal modifications, who want to slow down the process of reform, but these forces are not in the ascendent. Nevertheless, such hopes are still alive and the signs of crisis within the imperialist system of manipulation gives them an impetus. They wish to wait for the collapse of capitalism, feeling that such an upheaval will vindicate their conservatism. On the other hand, there exists in the present throughout the entire world new forces of progress and hope. Even though they are weak and still confused, these forces seek a re-approximation of Marxism. There is a dynamic toward the rebirth of Marxism. Objectively, such movements can only be allies of socialism. The Leninist tradition embodies the possibility of a unified fight against a common enemy and the prevention of the deformation of Marxism by means of precise logical distinctions and a critique based on principle. Stalinism is the mentality of the permanent revolution. It brands every dissenting viewpoint as an enemy of the people. Anyone who does not agree with the official, tactically determined party decisions is judged as a subversive, or the direct tool of the agents of imperialism. An effort is made to destroy them with the organized means of the government apparatus. That was the method of the Great Purge Trials. But the struggles between Leninism and Stalinism is today — without being concretely organized — the foundation of the official ideological struggle inside as well as outside the socialist world.
The preservation of Stalinism is the greatest barrier to the rise of socialist democratization inside the domains of socialism. It is equally the major barrier to international cooperation and the integrating of all people striving for a renaissance of the genuine method of Marx. Marxism offers enlightenment to all that transpires in the world today, and it can help all those who seek to overtake the future just as it did when it was most effective during the days of Marx, Engels and Lenin. In addition, the understanding of the transition to socialist democratization, to socialism as the way to communism, to the end of the prehistory of humanity, appears today as something different than it appeared during Marx’s lifetime. The Marxist picture was painted more than a hundred years ago and showed the different paths of development of the bourgeois and socialist revolutions. The foundation of these revolutions was the class struggle which moved them forward and these revolutions were the womb of future societal possibilities: “Bourgeois revolutions, like those of the eighteenth century, sweep on rapidly from success to success, surpassing one another in dramatic effects; men and things seem set in sparkling diamonds, ecstasy is the spirit of every day; but they are short-lived, soon reaching their climax, and a long hangover afflicts society until it learns soberly to assimilate the results of its periods of storm and of the nineteenth century, constantly criticize themselves, continually interrupt their own progress, return to what seemed completed in order to start all over again, make a terrible and total mock of the half-measures, weaknesses and meanness of their just attempts; they seem to overthrow their opponent only that he may drain new powers from the earth and rise up against them more gigantic than before, they recoil repeatedly from the indeterminate enormity of their own aims, till a situation is created from which retreat is impossible, and circumstances themselves cry: Hic Rhodus, Hic Salta. Here is the rose, dance here.”
Today, Rhodus still lies in a distant future. However, everything shows that only the way that Marx prescribes can lead us to that future. The degree to which that future is reached, rests on the insights and courage of the communist movement.