Leon Trotsky

Results and Prospects

VII. The Pre-Requisites of Socialism

Transcribed and HTML markup for the Trotsky Internet Archive, a subarchive of the Marxists’ Internet Archive, by Sally Ryan in 1996.

Marxism converted socialism into a science, but this does not prevent some ‘Marxists’ from converting Marxism into a Utopia.

Rozhkov, arguing against the programme of socialization and co-operation, presents the ‘necessary pre-requisites of the future society, firmly laid down by Marx’, in the following way: ‘Are there already present,’ asks Rozhkov, ‘the material objective pre-requisites, consisting of such a development of technique as would reduce the motive of personal gain and concern for cash [?], personal effort, enterprise and risk, to a minimum, and which would thereby make social production a front-rank question? Such a level of technique is most closely connected with the almost complete [!] domination of large-scale production in all [!] branches of the economy. Has such a stage been reached? Even the subjective, psychological pre-requisites are lacking, such as the growth of class-consciousness among the proletariat, developed to such a level as to achieve the spiritual unity of the overwhelming mass of the people. We know,’ continues Rozhkov, ‘of producer associations such as the well-known French glassworks at Albi, and several agricultural associations, also in France, and yet the experience of France shows, as nothing else can, that even the conditions of so advanced a country are not sufficiently developed to permit the dominance of co-operation. These enterprises are of only the average size, their technical level is not higher than ordinary capitalist undertakings, they are not at the head of industrial development, do not lead it, but approach a modest average level.

‘Only when the experience of individual productive associations points to their leading role in economic life can we say that we approaching a new system, only then can we be sure that the necessary conditions for its existence have been established.’ [1]

While respecting the good intentions of Comrade Rozhkov, we regretfully have to confess that rarely even in bourgeois literature have we met such confusion as he betrays with regard to what are known as the pre-requisites of socialism. It will be worthwhile dwelling to some extent on this confusion, if not for the sake of Rozhkov, at least for the sake of the question.

Rozhkov declares that we have not yet reached ‘such a stage of technical development as would reduce the motive of personal gain and concern for cash [?], personal effort, enterprise and risk, to a minimum, and which would make social production a front-rank question’.

It is rather difficult to find the meaning of this passage. Apparently Rozhkov wishes to say, in the first place, that modern technique has not yet sufficiently ousted human labour-power from industry and, secondly, that to secure this elimination would require the ‘almost’ complete domination of large state enterprises in all branches of the economy, and therefore the ‘almost’ complete proletarianization of the whole population of the country. These are the two prerequisites to socialism alleged to have been ‘firmly laid down by Marx’.

Let us try and imagine the setting of capitalist relations which, according to Rozhkov, socialism will encounter when it arrives. ‘The almost complete domination of large-scale enterprise in all branches of industry’, under capitalism, means, as has been said, the proletarianization of all small and medium producers in agriculture and industry, that is to say, the conversion of the whole of the population into proletarians. But the complete domination of machine technique in these large undertakings would lead to the reduction of the employment of human labour-power to a minimum, and therefore the overwhelming majority of the population of the country – say, 90 per cent – would be converted into a reserve army of labour living at the expense of the State in workhouses. We said 90 per cent of the population, but there is nothing to prevent us from being logical and imagining a state of affairs in which the whole of production consists of a single automatic mechanism, belonging to a single syndicate and requiring as living labour only a single trained orang-outang. As we know, this is the brilliantly consistent theory of Professor Tugan-Baranovsky. Under such conditions ‘social production’ not only occupies ‘front rank’ but commands the whole field. Under these circumstances, moreover, consumption would naturally also become socialized in view of the fact that the whole of the nation, except the 10 per cent who own the trust, will be living at the public expense in workhouses. Thus, behind Rozhkov we see smiling the familiar face of Tugan-Baranovsky. Socialism can now come on the scene. The population emerges from the workhouses and expropriates the group of expropriators. No revolution or dictatorship of the proletariat is of course necessary.

The second economic sign of the ripeness of a country for socialism, according to Rozhkov, is the possibility of the domination of co-operative production within it. Even in France the co-operative glassworks at Albi is not on a higher level than any other capitalist undertaking. Socialist production becomes possible only when the co-operatives are in the forefront of industrial development, as the leading enterprises.

The entire argument from beginning to end is turned inside out. The co-operatives cannot take the lead in industrial progress, not because economic development has not gone far enough, but because it has gone too far ahead. Undoubtedly, economic development creates the basis for co-operation, but for what kind of co-operation? For capitalist co-operation, based on wage-labour – every factory shows us a picture of such capitalist co-operation. With the development of technique the importance of such co-operation grows also. But in what manner can the development of capitalism place the co-operative societies ‘in the front rank of industry’? On what does Rozhkov base his hopes that the co-operative societies can squeeze out the syndicates and trusts and take their place in the forefront of industrial development? It is evident that if this took place the co-operative societies would then simply have automatically to expropriate all capitalist undertakings, after which it would remain for them to reduce the working day sufficiently to provide work for all citizens and to regulate the amount of production in the various branches in order to avoid crises. In this manner the main features of socialism would be established. Again it is clear that no revolution and no dictatorship of the working class would be at all necessary.

The third pre-requisite is a psychological one: the need for ‘the class-consciousness of the proletariat to have reached such a stage as to unite spiritually the overwhelming majority of the people’. As ‘spiritual unity’, in this instance, must evidently be regarded as meaning conscious socialist solidarity, it follows therefore that Comrade Rozhkov considers that a psychological pre-requisite of socialism is the organization of the ‘overwhelming majority of the population’ within the Social-Democratic Party. Rozhkov evidently assumes therefore that capitalism, throwing the small producers into the ranks of the proletariat, and the mass of the proletarians into the ranks of the reserve army of labour, will create the possibility for Social Democracy spiritually to unite and enlighten the overwhelming majority (90 per cent?) of the people.

This is as impossible of realization in the world of capitalist barbarism as the domination of co-operatives in the realm of capitalist competition. But if this were realizable, then of course, the consciously and spiritually united ‘overwhelming majority’ of the nation would crush without any difficulty the few magnates of capital and organize socialist economy without revolution or dictatorship.

But here the following question arises. Rozhkov regards Marx as his teacher. Yet Marx, having outlined the ‘essential prerequisites for socialism’ in his Communist Manifesto, regarded the revolution of 1848 as the immediate prologue to the socialist revolution. Of course one does not require much penetration after 60 years to see that Marx was mistaken, because the capitalist world still exists. But how could Marx have made this error? Did he not perceive that large-scale undertakings did not yet dominate in all branches of industry; that producers’ co-operatives did not yet stand at the head of the large-scale enterprises; that the overwhelming majority of the people were not yet united on the basis of the ideas set out in the Communist Manifesto? If we do not see these things even now, how is it then that Marx did not perceive that nothing of the kind existed in 1848? Apparently, Marx in 1848 was a Utopian youth in comparison with many of the present-day infallible automata of Marxism!

We thus see that although Comrade Rozhkov by no means belongs among the critics of Marx, nevertheless he completely discards the proletarian revolution as an essential pre-requisite of socialism. As Rozhkov has only too consistently expressed the views shared by a considerable number of Marxists in both trends of our party, it is necessary to dwell on the bases in principle and method of the errors he has made.

One must observe in passing that Rozhkov’s argument concerning the destiny of the co-operatives is his very own. We have never and nowhere met socialists who both believed in such a simple irresistible progress of the concentration of production and proletarianization of the people and at the same time believed in the dominating role of producers’ co-operative societies prior to the proletarian revolution. To unite these two pre-requisites is much more difficult in economic evolution than in one’s head; although even the latter had always seemed to us impossible.

But we will deal with two other ‘pre-requisites’ which constitute more typical prejudices. Undoubtedly, the concentration of production, the development of technique and the growth of consciousness among the masses are essential pre-requisites for socialism. But these processes take place simultaneously, and not only give an impetus to each other, but also retard and limit each other. Each of these processes at a higher level demands a certain development of another process at a lower level. But the complete development of each of them is incompatible with the complete development of the others.

The development of technique undoubtedly finds its ideal limit in a single automatic mechanism which takes raw materials from the womb of nature and throws them at the feet of man in the form of finished articles of consumption. If the existence of the capitalist system were not limited by class relations and the revolutionary struggle that arises from them, we should have some grounds for supposing that technique, approaching the ideal of a single automatic mechanism within the framework of the capitalist system, would thereby automatically abolish capitalism.

The concentration of production arising from the laws of competition inherently tends towards proletarianizing the whole population. Isolating this tendency, we should be right in supposing that capitalism would carry out its work to the end, if the process of proletarianization were not interrupted by a revolution; but this is inevitable, given a certain relationship of forces, long before capitalism has converted the majority of the nation into a reserve army, confined to prison-like barracks.

Further – consciousness, thanks to the experience of the everyday struggle and the conscious efforts of the socialist parties, undoubtedly grows progressively, and, isolating this process, we could in imagination follow this growth until the majority of the people were included in the trade unions and political organizations, united by a spirit of solidarity and singleness of aim. If this process could really increase quantitatively without being affected qualitatively, socialism could be realized peaceably by a unanimous, conscious ‘civil act’ some time in the 21st or the 22nd century.

But the whole point lies in the fact that the processes which are historically pre-requisite for socialism do not develop in isolation, but limit each other, and, reaching a certain stage, determined by numerous circumstances – which, however, is far removed from the mathematical limit of these processes – they undergo a qualitative change, and in their complex combination bring about what we understand by the name of social revolution.

We will begin with the last-mentioned process – the growth of consciousness. This takes place, as we know, not in academies, in which it might be possible artificially to detain the proletariat for fifty, a hundred or five hundred years, but in the course of all-round life in capitalist society, on the basis of unceasing class struggle. The growth of the consciousness of the proletariat transforms this class struggle, gives it a deeper and more purposeful character, which in its turn calls out a corresponding reaction on the part of the dominant class. The struggle of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie will reach its denouement long before large-scale enterprises begin to dominate in all branches of industry.

Further, it is of course true that the growth of political consciousness depends upon the growth of the numbers of the proletariat, and proletarian dictatorship presupposes that the numbers of the proletariat will be sufficiently large to overcome the resistance of the bourgeois counter-revolution. But this does not at all mean that the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the population must be proletarians and the ‘overwhelming majority’ of the proletariat conscious socialists. It is clear, of course, that the conscious revolutionary army of the proletariat must be stronger than the counter-revolutionary army of capital, while the intermediate, doubtful or indifferent strata of the population must be in such a position that the regime of proletarian dictatorship will attract them to the side of the revolution and not repel them to the side of its enemies. Naturally, proletarian policy must consciously take this into consideration.

All this in its turn presupposes the hegemony of industry over agriculture and the domination of town over country.

We will now endeavour to examine the pre-requisites of socialism in diminishing order of generality and increasing order of complexity.

1. Socialism is not merely a question of equal distribution but also a question of planned production. Socialism, that is, co-operative production on a large scale, is possible only when the development of productive forces has reached the stage at which large enterprises are more productive than small ones. The more the large enterprises outweigh the smaller, i.e., the more developed technique has become, the more advantageous economically does socialized production become, and, consequently, the higher must the cultural level of the whole population be as a result of equal distribution based upon planned production.

This first objective pre-requisite of socialism has been in existence a long time – ever since the time when social division of labour led to the division of labour in manufacture. It has existed to an even greater extent since the time when manufacture was replaced by factory, machine production. Large undertakings became more and more advantageous, which also meant that the socialization of these large undertakings would have made society more and more wealthy. It is clear that the transition of all the handicraft workshops to the common ownership of all the handicraftsmen would not have made the latter one whit richer, whereas the transfer of manufactures to the common ownership of their detail-workers, or the transfer of the factories into the hands of the workers employed in them – or, it would be better to say, the transfer of all the means of large factory production into the hands of the whole population – would undoubtedly raise the people’s material level; and the higher the stage reached by large-scale production, the higher would be this level.

In socialist literature the instance is often quoted of the English Member of Parliament, Bellers [2] who, in 1696, i.e., a century before the conspiracy of Babeuf, submitted to Parliament a project for establishing co-operative societies which should independently supply all their own requirements. According to this measure, these producers’ co-operatives were to consist of from two to three hundred persons. We cannot here test his argument, nor is it necessary for our purpose; what is important is that collective economy, even if it was conceived only in terms of groups of 100, 200, 300 or 500 persons, was regarded as advantageous from the standpoint of production already at the end of the 17th century.

At the beginning of the 19th century Fourier drew up his schemes for producer-consumer associations, ‘phalansteries’, each consisting of from 2,000 to 3,000 persons. Fourier’s calculations were never distinguished by their exactness; but at all events, the development of manufacture by that time suggested to him a field for economic collectives incomparably wider than in the example quoted above. It is clear, however, that both the associations of John Bellers and the ‘phalansteries’ of Fourier are much nearer in their character to the free economic communes of which the Anarchists dream, the utopianism of which consists not in their ‘impossibility’ or in their being ‘against nature’ – the communist communes in America proved that they were possible – but in that they have lagged 100 to 200 years behind the progress of economic development.

The development of the social division of labour, on the one hand, and machine production on the other, has led to the position that nowadays the only co-operative body which could utilize the advantages of collective production on a wide scale is the State. More than that, socialist production, for both economic and political reasons, could not be confined within the restricting limits of individual states.

Atlanticus [3], a German Socialist who did not adopt the Marxist point of view, calculated at the end of last century the economic advantages that would accrue from applying socialist economy in a unit such as Germany. Atlanticus was not at all distinguished by flights of fancy. His ideas generally moved within the circle of the economic routine of capitalism. He based his arguments on the writings of authoritative modern agronomists and engineers. This does not weaken his arguments, rather is it his strong side, because it preserves him from undue optimism. In any case, Atlanticus comes to the conclusion that, with proper organization of socialist economy, with employment of the technical resources of the mid-nineties of the 19th century, the income of the workers could be doubled or trebled, and that the working day could be halved.

One should not imagine, however, that Atlanticus was the first to show the economic advantages of socialism. The greater productivity of labour in large undertakings, on the one hand, and, on the other, the necessity for the planning of production, as proved by the economic crises, has been much more convincing evidence for the necessity of socialism than Atlanticus’s socialistic book-keeping. His service consists only in that he expressed these advantages in approximate figures.

From what has been said we are justified in arriving at the conclusion that the further growth of the technical power of man will render socialism more and more advantageous; that sufficient technical pre-requisites for collective production have already existed for a hundred or two hundred years, and that at the present moment socialism is technically advantageous not only on a national but to an enormous extent also on a world scale.

The mere technical advantages of socialism were not at all sufficient for it to be realized. During the 18th and 19th centuries the advantages of large-scale production showed themselves not in a socialist but in a capitalist form. Neither the schemes of Bellers nor those of Fourier were carried out. Why not? Because there were no social forces existent at that time ready and able to carry them out.

2. We now pass from the productive-technical pre-requisites of socialism to the social-economic ones. If we had to deal here not with a society split up by class antagonism, but with a homogeneous community which consciously selects its form of economy, the calculations of Atlanticus would undoubtedly be quite sufficient for socialist construction to be begun. Atlanticus himself, being a socialist of a very vulgar type, thus, indeed, regarded his own work. Such a point of view at the present day could be applied only within the limits of the private business of a single person or of a company. One is always justified in assuming that any scheme of economic reform, such as the introduction of new machinery, new raw materials, a new form of management of labour, or new systems of remuneration, will always be accepted by the owners if only these schemes can be shown to offer a commercial advantage. But in so far as we have to do here with the economy of society, that is not sufficient. Here, opposing interests are in conflict. What is advantageous for one is disadvantageous for another. The egoism of one class acts not only against the egoism of another, but also to the disadvantage of the whole community. Therefore, in order to realize socialism it is necessary that among the antagonistic classes of capitalist society there should be a social force which is interested, by virtue of its objective position, in the realization of socialism, and which is powerful enough to be able to overcome hostile interests and resistances in order to realize it.

One of the fundamental services rendered by scientific socialism consists in that it theoretically discovered such a social force in the proletariat, and showed that this class, inevitably growing along with capitalism, can find its salvation only in socialism, that the entire position of the proletariat drives it towards socialism and that the doctrine of socialism cannot but become in the long run the ideology of the proletariat.

It is easy to understand therefore what a tremendous step backwards Atlanticus takes when he asserts that, once it is proved that, ‘by transferring the means of production into the hands of the State, not only can the general well being be secured, but the working-day also reduced, then it is a matter of indifference whether the theory of the concentration of capital and the disappearance of the intermediate classes of society is confirmed or not’.

According to Atlanticus, immediately the advantages of socialism have been proved, ‘it is useless resting one’s hopes on the fetish of economic development, one should make extensive investigations and start [!] a comprehensive and thorough preparation for the transition from private to state or “social” production’. [4]

In objecting to the purely oppositional tactics of the Social Democrats and suggesting an immediate ‘start’ in preparing the transition to socialism, Atlanticus forgets that the Social Democrats still lack the power needed for this, and that Wilhelm II, Bülow and the majority in the German Reichstag, although they have power in their hands, have not the slightest intention of introducing socialism. The socialist schemes of Atlanticus are no more convincing to the Hohenzollerns than the schemes of Fourier were to the restored Bourbons, notwithstanding the fact that the latter based his political utopianism on passionate fantasies in the field of economic theory, whereas Atlanticus, in his not less utopian politics, based himself on convincing, philistinely-sober book-keeping.

What level must social differentiation have attained in order that the second pre-requisite for socialism may be realized? In other words, what must be the relative numerical weight of the proletariat? Must it make up a half, two-thirds or nine-tenths of the population? It would be an absolutely hopeless undertaking to try to define the bare arithmetical limits of this second prerequisite for socialism. In the first place, in such a schematic effort, we should have to decide the question of who is to be included in the category ‘proletariat’. Should we include the large class of semi-proletarian semi-peasants? Should we include the reserve masses of the urban proletariat – who on the one hand merge into the parasitical proletariat of beggars and thieves, and on the other fill the city streets as small traders playing a parasitical role in relation to the economic system as a whole? This question is not at all a simple one.

The importance of the proletariat depends entirely on the role it plays in large-scale production. The bourgeoisie relies, in its struggle for political domination, upon its economic power. Before it manages to secure political power, it concentrates the country’s means of production in its own hands. This is what determines its specific weight in society. The proletariat, however, in spite of all co-operative phantasmagoria, will be deprived of the means of production right up to the actual socialist revolution. Its social power comes from the fact that the means of production which are in the hands of the bourgeoisie can be set in motion only by the proletariat. From the point of view of the bourgeoisie, the proletariat is also one of the means of production, constituting, in conjunction with the others, a single unified mechanism. The proletariat, however, is the only non-automatic part of this mechanism, and in spite of all efforts it cannot be reduced to the condition of an automaton. This position gives the proletariat the power to hold up at will, partially or wholly, the proper functioning of the economy of society, through partial or general strikes. From this it is clear that the importance of a proletariat – given identical numbers – increases in proportion to the amount of productive forces which it sets in motion. That is to say, a proletarian in a large factory is, all other things being equal, a greater social magnitude than a handicraft worker, and an urban worker a greater magnitude than a country worker. In other words, the political role of the proletariat is the more important in proportion as large-scale production dominates small production, industry dominates agriculture and the town dominates the country. If we take the history of Germany or of England in the period when the proletariat of these countries formed the same proportion of the nation as the proletariat now forms in Russia, we shall see that they not only did not play, but by their objective importance could not play, such a role as the Russian proletariat plays today.

The same thing, as we have seen, applies to the role of the towns. When, in Germany, the population of the towns was only 15 per cent of the whole population of the country, as it is in Russia today, there could be no thought of the German towns playing that role in the economic and political life of the country which the Russian towns play today. The concentration of large industrial and commercial institutions in the towns, and the linking of the towns and the provinces by means of a system of railways, has given our towns an importance far exceeding the mere number of their inhabitants; the growth of their importance has greatly exceeded the growth of their population, while the growth of the population of the towns in its turn has exceeded the natural increase of the population of the country as a whole ... In Italy in 1848 the number of handicraftsmen – not only proletarians but also independent masters – amounted to about 15 per cent of the population, i.e., not less than the proportion of handicraftsmen and proletarians in Russia at the present day. But the role played by them was incomparably less than that played by the modern Russian industrial proletariat.

From what has been said it should be clear that the attempt to define in advance what proportion of the whole population must be proletarian at the moment of the conquest of political power is a fruitless task. Instead of that, we will offer a few rough figures showing the relative numerical strength of the proletariat in the advanced countries at the present time. The occupied population of Germany in 1895 was 20,500,000 (not including the army, state officials and persons without a definite occupation). Out of this number there were 12,500,000 proletarians (including wage-workers in agriculture, industry, commerce and also domestic service); the number of agricultural and workers being 10,750,000. Many of the remaining 8,000,000 are really also proletarians, such as workers in domestic industries, working members of the family, etc. The number of wage-workers in agriculture taken separately was 5,750,000. The agricultural population composed 36 per cent of the entire population of the country. These figures, we repeat, refer to 1895. The eleven years that have passed since then have unquestionably produced a tremendous change – in the direction of an increase in the proportion of the urban to the agricultural population (in 1882 the agricultural population was 42 per cent of the whole), an increase in the proportion of the industrial proletariat to the agricultural proletariat, and, finally, an increase in the amount of productive capital per industrial worker as compared with 1895. But even the 1895 figures show that the German proletariat already long ago constituted the dominant productive force in the country.

Belgium, with its 7,000,000 population, is a purely industrial country. Out of every hundred persons engaged in some occupation, 41 are in industry in the strict sense of the word and only 21 are employed in agriculture. Out of the 3,000,000-odd gainfully employed, nearly 1,800,000, i.e., 60 per cent, are proletarians. This figure would become much more expressive if we added to the sharply differentiated proletariat the social elements related to it – the so-called ‘independent’ producers who are independent only in form but are actually enslaved to capital, the lower officials, the soldiers, etc.

But first place as regards industrialization of the economy and proletarianization of the population must undoubtedly be accorded to Britain. In 1901 the number of persons employed in agriculture, forestry and fisheries was 2,300,000, while the number in industry, commerce and transport was 12,500,000. We see, therefore, that in the chief European countries the population of the towns predominates numerically over the population of the countryside. But the great predominance of the urban population lies not only in the mass of productive forces that it constitutes, but also in its qualitative personal composition. The town attracts the most energetic, able and intelligent elements of the countryside. To prove this statistically is difficult, although the comparative age composition of the population of town and country provides indirect evidence of it. The latter fact has a significance of its own. In Germany in 1896 there were calculated to be 8,000,000 persons employed in agriculture and 8,000,000 in industry. But if we divide the population according to age-groups, we see that agriculture has 1,000,000 able-bodied persons between the ages of 14 and 40—less than in industry. This shows that it is ‘the old and the young’ who pre-eminently remain in the country.

All this leads us to the conclusion that economic evolution – the growth of industry, the growth of large enterprises, the growth of the towns, and the growth of the proletariat in general and the industrial proletariat in particular – has already prepared the arena not only for the struggle of the proletariat for political power but for the conquest of this power.

3. Now we come to the third pre-requisite of socialism, the dictatorship of the proletariat. Politics is the plane upon which the objective pre-requisites of socialism are intersected by the subjective ones. Under certain definite social-economic conditions, a class consciously sets itself a certain aim – the conquest of political power; it unites its forces, weighs up the strength of the enemy and estimates the situation. Even in this third sphere, however, the proletariat is not absolutely free. Besides the subjective factors – consciousness, preparedness and initiative, the development of which also have their own logic – the proletariat in carrying out its policy comes up against a number of objective factors such as the policy of the ruling classes and the existing State institutions (such as the army, the class schools, the State church), international relations, etc.

We will deal first of all with the subjective conditions: the preparedness of the proletariat for a socialist revolution. It is, of course, not sufficient that the standard of technique has rendered socialist economy advantageous from the point of view of the productivity of social labour. It is not sufficient, either, that the social differentiation based on this technique has created a proletariat which is the main class by virtue of its numbers and its economic role, and which is objectively interested in socialism. It is further necessary that this class should be conscious of its objective interests; it is necessary that it should understand that there is no way out for it except through socialism; it is necessary that it should combine in an army sufficiently powerful to conquer political power in open battle.

It would be stupid at the present time to deny the necessity for the proletariat to be prepared in this manner. Only old-fashioned Blanquists can hope for salvation from the initiative of conspiratorial organizations which have taken shape independently of the masses; or their antipodes, the anarchists, might hope for a spontaneous, elemental outburst of the masses, the end of which no one can tell. Social-Democrats speak of the conquest of power as the conscious action of a revolutionary class.

But many socialist ideologues (ideologues in the bad sense of the word – those who stand everything on its head) speak of preparing the proletariat for socialism in the sense of its being morally regenerated. The proletariat, and even ‘humanity’ in general, must first of all cast out its old egoistical nature, and altruism must become predominant in social life, etc. As we are as yet far from such a state of affairs, and ‘human nature’ changes very slowly, socialism is put off for several centuries. Such a point of view probably seems very realistic and evolutionary, and so forth, but as a matter of fact it is really nothing but shallow moralizing.

It is assumed that a socialist psychology must be developed before the coming of socialism, in other words that it is possible for the masses to acquire a socialist psychology under capitalism. One must not confuse here the conscious striving towards socialism with socialist psychology. The latter presupposes the absence of egotistical motives in economic life; whereas the striving towards socialism and the struggle for it arise from the class psychology of the proletariat. However many points of contact there may be between the class psychology of the proletariat and classless socialist psychology, nevertheless a deep chasm divides them.

The joint struggle against exploitation engenders splendid shoots of idealism, comradely solidarity and self-sacrifice, but at the same time the individual struggle for existence, the ever-yawning abyss of poverty, the differentiation in the ranks of the workers themselves, the pressure of the ignorant masses from below, and the corrupting influence of the bourgeois parties do not permit these splendid shoots to develop fully. For all that, in spite of his remaining philistinely egoistic, and without his exceeding in ‘human’ worth the average representative of the bourgeois classes, the average worker knows from experience that his simplest requirements and natural desires can be satisfied only on the ruins of the capitalist system.

The idealists picture the distant future generation which shall have become worthy of socialism exactly as Christians picture the members of the first Christian communes.

Whatever the psychology of the first proselytes of Christianity may have been – we know from the Acts of the Apostles of cases of embezzlement of communal property – in any case, as it became more widespread, Christianity not only failed to regenerate the souls of all the people, but itself degenerated, became materialistic and bureaucratic; from the practice of fraternal teaching one of another it changed into papalism, from wandering beggary into monastic parasitism; in short, not only did Christianity fail to subject to itself the social conditions of the milieu in which it spread, but it was itself subjected by them. This did not result from the lack of ability or the greed of the fathers and teachers of Christianity, but as a consequence of the inexorable laws of the dependence of human psychology upon the conditions of social life and labour, and the fathers and teachers of Christianity showed this dependence in their own persons.

If socialism aimed at creating a new human nature within the limits of the old society it would be nothing more than a new edition of the moralistic utopias. Socialism does not aim at creating a socialist psychology as a pre-requisite to socialism but at creating socialist conditions of life as a pre-requisite to socialist psychology. 


1. N. Rozhkov, On the Agrarian Question, pp.21 and 22. – L.T.

2. John Bellers was not an MP, but a Quaker landowner, who published his plan in the form of an address to parliament.

3. G. Jaegkh

4. Atlanticus, The State of the Future, published by Dyelo, St. Petersburg 1906, pp.22 and 23. – L.T.

Last Chapter    |    Results & Prospects Index Page    |    Next Chapter

return return return return return

Last updated on: 3.3.2007