Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Democratic Socialism is Capitalism Part 7

The following is my translation of Part Seven of Wu Bing's polemic against the revisionist views of Xie Tao, according to which China should accelerate the restoration of capitalism through the adoption of a social democratic system. Earlier instalments will be found throughout this blog.


Shamelessly tampering with and distorting the fundamentals of Marxist theory.

Writing off the differences between Marxism and revisionism is one of the established tricks of old and new revisionism. This is the case with Xie Tao’s “Preface”. The “Preface” suggests that “Isn’t the major theoretical fault since the policy of opening and reform that we haven’t clearly distinguished what is Marxism? What is revisionism? Where exactly is the legitimacy of Marxism?” What, then, is revisionism? He answers himself thus: “Lenin, Stalin and Mao Zedong are the biggest revisionists”, Bernstein is not revisionism, so “we must restore the reputation of (Bernstein’s) revisionism.” And what, then, is Marxism? He says: “Marx and Engels in their later years were democratic socialists, they were the originators of the ‘peaceful transition to socialism’, and democratic socialism is legitimate Marxism”, and besides, we have “the explanation of persuasive historical textual research”. That is, democratic socialism and revisionism are “legitimate” Marxism! Mr Xie Tao is really cracking a very big international joke!

In relation to Mr Xie Tao’s so-called “explanation of persuasive historical textual research”, in addition to the several distortions already discussed by me, and his tampering with the basic theories of Marx and Engels, he has also engaged in underhanded methods in the following couple of places:

(1) Mr Xie Tao’s article says: “In the Third Volume of Capital, Marx points out that ‘In stock companies the function (of management – Trans.) is divorced from capital ownership; hence also labour is also entirely divorced from ownership of means of production and surplus-labour’….in this way, capitalism has completed the peaceful transition to socialism. The third volume of Capital has overthrown the conclusions of the first volume of Capital, and there is no longer any need to “blow up” the “shell” of capitalism. In Marx’s mind, Manchester capitalism (primitive capitalism) had been destroyed. After that, capitalism under a pounding from Capital becomes socialised. The third volume of Capital is the final conclusion by Marx and Engels of several dozens of years of research into capitalism, and ten years of editing and revision by Engels, and was published the year before Engels’ death in June 1894. After Marx passed away in 1883, Engels continued to lead the international working class movement for a period of 12 years, and founded the Second International in 1889. Engels specifically instructed the German Social Democratic Party to wage a legal struggle, and emphasised the significance to the international working class movement of the German Social Democratic Party gaining success in the elections: ‘One can conceive that the old society may develop peacefully into the new one in countries where the representatives of the people concentrate all power in their hands, where, if one has the support of the majority of the people, one can do as one sees fit in a constitutional way: in democratic republics such as France and the U.S.A., in monarchies such as Britain’ (Complete Works of Marx and Engels Vol 22 p. 273).”

In this short passage of Mr Xie Tao’s, it is obvious that he tampers with and distorts the original works of Marx and Engels (see right). We will analyse the specifics of this below.

(One) In the twelve years between the death of Marx and his own passing, did Engels, besides “editing and revising” Capital and “establishing the Second International”, only “specifically instruct the German Social Democratic Party to wage a legal struggle, and emphasised the significance to the international working class movement of the German Social Democratic Party gaining success in the elections”? Obviously this is to disparage and distort Engels. The actual situation is that in the twelve years since the death of Marx, whilst at the same time as completing Capital and other scientific works, he invested an enormous amount of energy in continuing to lead the working classes of various countries to carry out the revolutionary struggle for the overthrow of capitalism; in the process of founding the Second International, he waged an uncompromising struggle against every form of opportunism, and particularly the right opportunism that advocated “peaceful transition”. As for the “instruction” on “legal struggle” and “emphasising” parliamentary “success in the elections”, this is only one form of the proletarian revolutionary struggle advocated by Engels, and its objective is not “peaceful evolution” but the destruction of the old state apparatus and the gaining of the final victory of the revolution. At this precise time, (after 1871 capitalism entered a so-called peaceful period), Engels led the working class and the communists to use this form of parliamentary “legal struggle” to expose the enemy, educate the people and prepare their strength. This was correct and also brought about great results. However, Engels never “emphasised” any “legal struggle” or “peaceful evolution” as the main method or means of struggle for the liberation of the working class, and his consistent emphasis was still on violent revolution. This is completely borne out in the writings and correspondence of Engels during the twelve years after the death of Marx. For example, on Dec 8, 1889, Engels wrote to Gerson Trier that “If the proletariat did not undertake violent revolution, then it would be impossible for it to win its own political rule, and that is the only door to the new society” (Selected Works of Marx and Engels Vol 4, 1995 ed., p. 685).

(Two) Mr Xie Tao distorts the quotation he has used from Engels to mean that he “abandoned” violent revolution and advocated “peaceful transition to socialism”, but he has cut off the beginning and the end of the quote and taken it out of context so that it is subjective conjecture. This passage of Engels’ is from Vol 3 of Capital, called “A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891” (also known as the “Social Democratic Party Erfurt Program”) Part 2, “Political Demands”. In order to have a thorough understanding and grasp of Engels’ passage, we may as well complete this passage by including what Mr Xie Tao has left out, as follows:

“It is an obvious absurdity to wish ‘to transform all the instruments of labour into common property’ on the basis of this constitution and the system of small states sanctioned by it, on the basis of the ‘union’ between Prussia and Reuss-Greiz-Schleiz-Lobenstein, in which one has as many square miles as the other has square inches.

“To touch on that is dangerous, however. Nevertheless, somehow or other, the thing has to be attacked. How necessary this is shown precisely at the present time by opportunism, which is gaining ground in a large section of the Social-Democratic press. Fearing a renewal of the Anti-Socialist Law, or recalling all manner of over-hasty pronouncements made during the reign of that law, they now want the party to find the present legal order in Germany adequate for putting through all party demands by peaceful means. These are attempts to convince oneself and the party that ‘present-day society is developing towards socialism’ without asking oneself whether it does not thereby just as necessarily outgrow the old social order and whether it will not have to burst this old shell by force, as a crab breaks its shell, and also whether in Germany, in addition, it will not have to smash the fetters of the still semi-absolutist, and moreover indescribably confused political order. One can conceive that the old society may develop peacefully into the new one in countries where the representatives of the people concentrate all power in their hands, where, if one has the support of the majority of the people, one can do as one sees fit in a constitutional way: in democratic republics such as France and the U.S.A., in monarchies such as Britain, where the imminent abdication of the dynasty in return for financial compensation is discussed in the press daily and where this dynasty is powerless against the people. But in Germany where the government is almost omnipotent and the Reichstag and all other representative bodies have no real power, to advocate such a thing in Germany, when, moreover, there is no need to do so, means removing the fig-leaf from absolutism and becoming oneself a screen for its nakedness.”

In the section that follows this, Engels points out: “But the fact that in Germany it is not permitted to advance even a republican party programme openly, proves how totally mistaken is the belief that a republic, and not only a republic, but also communist society, can be established in a cosy, peaceful way.”

I believe that these passages of Engels’ certainly do not mean the “retention of the capitalist mode of production”, and that even less do they mean he has gone against the shared ideas he advocated with Marx about the universal law of the proletarian revolution smashing the old state machinery by going through a violent revolution and the consistent implementation of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Nor can Mr Xie Tao be helped out by grasping the straw of the phrase that “the old society may develop peacefully into the new one… in democratic republics such as France and the U.S.A., in monarchies such as Britain”. This passage is just one way in which Engels engages in indirect refutation. I believe that this sentence of Engels is a kind of assumption, and its premise is “concentrate all power in their hands” and “the support of the majority of the people”. My understanding of this premise is firstly, the basic question of the revolution is that of political power; secondly, this political power can only be obtained through violent revolution; thirdly, it is impossible for “peaceful transition to socialism” in Germany which does not possess the conditions in the US and France, which are already “democratic republics”.

Then, can the “democratic republics” of the US and France undergo “peaceful transition to socialism” or not? They cannot either. We can find this answer in a letter by Engels. On the same day, June 29 1891, that he completed “A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891”, he wrote to Kautsky (right) fiercely criticising the Draft. We can see from the letter that, owing to the restrictions of time, Engels has only responded roughly to some of the provisions. Engels said: “I mean at first to try rewriting the preamble in rather more succinct form but want of time prevented my doing so, besides which I thought it more important to point out the shortcomings, some avoidable, others not, of the political part, as this would provide me with an opportunity to lash out at the conciliatory opportunism of the Vorw√§rts and the clean-devout-joyous-free ‘ingrowing’ of the old canker ‘into socialist society’. I have since heard of your proposal that there should be a new preamble; so much the better.” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 38, p. 119; Vol 22 p. 698, footnote 230). According to the way it is put in this letter, and precisely this part, Engels was impelled to fiercely attack this promotion of the theory of “peaceful ‘transition’ to socialism”. This proves beyond doubt that Mr Xie Tao is deliberately distorting the ideology of Engels.

(Three) An additional point. About the content of the “Political demands” section of the article “A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891”. Engels provided an exposition of three problems: (1) on republics; (2) national questions and questions of state structure; (3) the issue of local self-government. In relation to republics. Engels pointed out that the program does not dare demand the establishment of a democratic republic, that it fears the renewal of the “Anti-Socialist Law”. Therefore “It lacks precisely what should have been said” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 22 p. 272) and the servants of the German Social Democratic Party do not understand the great significance of the establishment of a democratic republic to the class struggle of the proletariat and to the struggle for obtaining socialism. According to them, under the conditions of the German monarchy the proletariat can achieve its own aims, but this is obviously a fantasy. Engels said: “If one thing is certain it is that our party and the working class can only come to power under the form of a democratic republic” (ibid. p. 272). Engels believed that if the leaders of the German Social Democratic Party did not dare raise the demand for a republic, in an attempt to curry favour with the Junker landlord class, and did not even dare put in the wild fantasy of “republicanism” to their program under the conditions of Germany, but advocated “peaceful change” to socialism, then this is just deceptive talk. Only then does Engels raise the pointed criticism: “They strive hard to make the party believe…” Avoiding the basic demand for the dictatorship of the proletariat is another major flaw of the Draft Program. This shows that the German Party leaders only sought temporary successes and gave up the long-term interests of the proletariat. Engels severely criticised them, saying: “This forgetting of the great, the principal considerations for the momentary interests of the day, this struggling and striving for the success of the moment regardless of later consequences, this sacrifice of the future of the movement for its present, may be ‘honestly’ meant, but it is and remains opportunism, and ‘honest’ opportunism is perhaps the most dangerous of all!” (ibid. p. 274).

(Four) Another additional point. In the year before his death, on March 6, 1894, Engels wrote to Paul LaFargue (right), with this important question in mind: “From the point of view of the proletariat, the difference between the republic and the monarchy resides merely in that the republic is a ready made political form for the future implementation of proletarian political power” (Selected Works of Marx and Engels Vol 4, p. 734, 1995 ed.). See also Engels’ letter of the same year on January 25 to Borgius in which he earnestly warned him in relation to Marx’s “The 18th Brumaire” and his own “Anti-Duhring” and “Ludwig Feuerbach and the End of Classical German Philosophy”, “Please do not weigh each word in the above too carefully, but keep the connection in mind” (Selected Works of Marx and Engels Vol 4, p. 734).

(Five) In “A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891”, we can see that Engels’ thinking on violent revolution had not changed in the slightest. The situation at that time was as follows: With the deepening of the German domestic class struggle, and the development of contradictions within the ruling class, a majority in the German parliament overturned the 12 year old “Emergency Decree”. In the parliamentary elections of February 20, 1894 the Social Democratic Party won 35 seats. On March 20 Bismarck was voted out. His reactionary policy of high-handedly suppressing the labour movement was totally bankrupt. This was a tremendous victory for the heroic struggle, for more than 10 years, of the German working class under the leadership of Marx and Engels. After the repeal of the “Emergency Decree”, the ruling class implemented some improvements to the law as a concession to the working class so as to deceive the eyes and ears of the workers, to divide the army of the proletariat, and to shore up their own political status by means of easing class contradictions. In this situation, the German Party gave rise to two erroneous tendencies. One was the “Youth Guard” which, under the rhetoric of the ‘left’, advocated a semi-anarchistic strategic viewpoint of opposing parliamentary struggle and opposing the use of its legal status to carry out agitation and propaganda and to organise the work. The “Youth Guard” crudely distorted the strategic principles of Marxism, rejected any legal struggle and carried out anarchistic activities which risked being divorced from the masses and put forward nonsense about the principles of their activity being the same as Engels’. In relation to this, Engels severely condemned “this shameful behaviour” of the “Youth Guard”, pointing out that their theory was certainly not “Marxism”, and that their strategy was to undermine the entire strategic cause of the Party. Another erroneous tendency of the German Party, and its most dangerous and most serious tendency, was the rampant right opportunism of Vollmar and Auer. They thought that the abolition of the “Emergency Decree” is “genuine friendship towards the workers”. They advocate the Junker bourgeois government’s ability to act in accordance with the best interests of all the people, and that so long as socialism conducts education campaigns for more votes and more seats, then they can “peacefully” implement socialism. They assert that society’s future is the result of “consistently peaceful development”. Not only have these right opportunist views within the German Party not been responded to nor criticised, on the contrary, they even have the support of the leadership of the Party, and even W. Liebknecht in public discussion has often talked about peace. In order to guard the Marxist proletarian revolution and the revolutionary principle of the dictatorship of the proletariat, in order to support the revolutionary direction of the international workers movement, Engels waged a sharp struggle against the German Party’s inner-Party opportunism, and during 1891 launched three big “bombs” against Right opportunism: (1) In January, despite the obstruction of the leaders of the German Party, Engels published Marx’s “Critique of the Gotha program” that had lain buried for six years. This gave the whole party an understanding of Marx’s criticism throughout the ‘70s of the essence and significance of the theories of Lassalle and ensured knowledge of Marxist violent revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat and the basic theories and viewpoints of socialism and communism. (2) In March, Engels wrote the preface to “The Civil War in France”, summarising the lessons and experience of the Paris Commune, and once again expounded on the need for the proletariat to seize power through violence and destroy the old state apparatus, establish the revolutionary path of the dictatorship of the proletariat and profoundly criticised the opportunist viewpoint of the superstition of capitalist parliamentary democracy. In the preface, Engels emphasized: “Of late, the Social-Democratic philistine has once more been filled with wholesale terror at the words: Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Well and good, gentlemen, do you want to know what this dictatorship looks like? Look at the Paris Commune. That was the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” (3) In June, Engels wrote “A Critique of the Draft Social Democratic Programme of 1891”. From this political background, we can fully conclude that the so-called “peaceful transition to socialism” is a shameless distortion of Engels by old and new opportunism.

(Six) Listening to Lenin’s exposition on this question will also help us to distinguish between right and wrong. In Part 4 of Chapter One of “The State and Revolution” published by Lenin in 1918 (see p. 1 in Lenin's handwriting, right), entitled “The ‘Withering Away’ of the State and Violent Revolution”, he provided a penetrating elaboration on the question of “republics” in the Britain, the US and other countries. Lenin continued: “The words, ‘to smash the bureaucratic-military machine,’ briefly express the principal lesson of Marxism regarding the tasks of the proletariat during a revolution in relation to the state. And it is precisely this lesson that has been not only completely forgotten, but positively distorted by the prevailing, Kautskyite, ‘interpretation’ of Marxism! As for Marx’s reference to The Eighteenth Brumaire, we have quoted the corresponding passage in full above. It is interesting to note, in particular, two points in the above-quoted argument of Marx. First, he confines his conclusion to the continent. This was understandable in 1871, when England was still a model of a purely capitalist country, but without a militarist clique and, to a considerable degree, without a bureaucracy. Hence, Marx excluded England, where a revolution, even a people’s revolution, then seemed possible, and indeed was possible, without the preliminary condition of destroying the ‘ready-made state machinery’. Today, in 1917, in the epoch of the first great imperialist war, this qualification made by Marx is no longer valid. Both England and America, the biggest and the last representatives – in the whole world – of Anglo-Saxon ‘liberty’, in the sense that they had no militarist cliques and bureaucracy, have today completely sunk into the all-European filth, bloody morass of bureaucratic-military institutions which subordinate everything to themselves and trample everything underfoot. Today, in England and America, too, ‘the preliminary condition for every real people’s revolution’ is the smashing, the destruction of the ‘ready-made state machinery’ (perfected in those countries between 1914 and 1917, up to the ‘European’, general imperialist standard).” (State and Revolution, Chinese ed. p. 34-35)

If we study conscientiously and deeply understand the original works of Marx and Engels, and pay attention to their core ideology and “general connections”, we will conclude that class struggle, violent revolution and the proletarian dictatorship are all foundations of the complete theory of Marx and Engels. Thus, Marxism has long waged a struggle against every shade of opportunism on this matter of principle and has provided us with a thorough appreciation that the victory of Marxist theory has left the enemy with no choice but to disguise themselves as Marxists. However, these anti-Marxists, no matter how they try to disguise themselves, can never get away with it. Under the “sunlight” of the classic works of Marxism these anti-Marxist clowns fail one after another. Mr Xie Tao, who would like to follow in the negative historical footsteps of these characters, will probably also be unable to escape defeat of this kind.

(2) Mr Xie Tao also makes an “insinuation” about Engels’ “Introduction to The Class Struggles in France”. He says that this article by Engels is his “final revision and reconsideration of Marx’s entire theoretical system”, at the same time quoting several sections of speeches by Engels: “But
we, too, have been shown to be wrong by history, which has revealed our point of view of that time to have been an illusion. It has done even more: it has not merely destroyed our error of that time, it had also completely transformed the conditions under which the proletariat has to fight. The mode of struggle of 1848 (Mr Xie Tao notes that this refers to the violent revolution spoken of in the Communist Manifesto) is today obsolete from every point of view, and this is a point which deserves closer examination on this occasion…. (History) has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the removal of capitalist production; … once and for all how impossible it was, in 1848, to win social reconstruction by a simple surprise attack…For here, too, the conditions of the struggle had essentially changed. Rebellion in the old style, the street fight with barricades, which up to 1848 gave everywhere the final decision, was to a considerable extent obsolete. If we say that the conditions for carrying out struggles between nations have already changed, then so have the conditions for carrying out the class struggle also, in the same way, changed. The era of carrying out sudden attacks via the conscious minority leading the unconscious majority in revolution has already passed. With this successful utilization of universal suffrage, an entirely new mode of proletarian struggle came into force, and this quickly developed further. It was found that the state institutions, in which the rule of the bourgeoisie is organized, offer still further opportunities for the working class to fight these very state institutions. They took part in elections to individual diets, to municipal councils and to industrial courts; they contested every post against the bourgeoisie in the occupation of which a sufficient part of the proletariat had its say. And so it happened that the bourgeoisie and the government came to be much more afraid of the legal than of the illegal action of the workers' party, of the results of elections than of those of rebellion… In the Latin countries, also, it is being more and more recognized that the old tactics must be revised. Everywhere [the unprepared onslaught has gone into the background, everywhere] the German example of utilizing the suffrage, of winning all posts accessible to us, has been imitated.” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 22, pp 595-7, 603, 607).

He thinks the phrase used by Engels, “we, too, have been shown to be wrong by history”, is pointing out that the violent revolution spoken of in the Communist Manifesto is also wrong. This is another example of a drowning man clutching at straws!

(One) We know that the 1848 revolution erupted just after the publication of the Communist Manifesto (see right). This revolution was the first great test of Marxism. Marx and Engels gave it their enthusiastic support and highly praised it for “causing the first major struggle between the two opposing classes of contemporary society.” After the defeat of this French revolution, Marx and Engels thoroughly summarised the experiences of this violent revolution, and published a series of works including the “Introduction” of which Mr Xie Tao speaks. In these works, Marx and Engels mercilessly counter-attacked the reactionary clique’s slanders, criticised the reformism of the bourgeoisie and petty-bourgeoisie, and emphatically expounded the theories of the proletarian revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Mr Xie Tao quotes this section from page 597 of Vol 22 of the Complete Works of Marx and Engels: “(History) has made it clear that the state of economic development on the Continent at that time was not, by a long way, ripe for the removal of capitalist production; … once and for all how impossible it was, in 1848, to win social reconstruction by a simple surprise attack…For here, too, the conditions of the struggle had essentially changed. Rebellion in the old style, the street fight with barricades, which up to 1848 gave everywhere the final decision, was to a considerable extent obsolete.” But this is incomplete. Before this, Engels said: “They appeared applicable, also, to the struggles of the proletariat for its emancipation; all the more applicable, since in 1848 there were few people who had any idea at all of the direction in which this emancipation was to be sought. The proletarian masses themselves, even in Paris, after the victory, were still absolutely in the dark as to the path to be taken. And yet the movement was there, instinctive, spontaneous, irrepressible. Was not this just the situation in which a revolution had to succeed, led certainly by a minority, but this time not in the interests of the minority, but in the real interests of the majority?” After the passage quoted by Mr Xie Tao, Engels added “It was believed that the militant proletariat had been finally buried with the Paris Commune. But, completely to the contrary, it dates its most powerful advance from the Commune and the Franco-German war” (ibid. p. 600).

Mr Xie Tao quotes p. 607 of Vol 22 of the Complete Works of Marx and Engels: “If we say that the conditions for carrying out struggles between nations have already changed, then so have the conditions for carrying out the class struggle also, in the same way, changed.” After this passage, Engels also says: “Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organization, the masses themselves must also be in it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are going in for [with body and soul]. The history of the last fifty years has taught us that.”

When we read the complete article, we can come to completely the opposite conclusion to that of Mr Xie Tao, exactly the same as that of Engels, erased by Mr Xie Tao, namely that “the militant proletariat… dates its most powerful advance from the Commune and the Franco-German war.”

If there is no understanding of the necessity for violent revolution there will be no understanding of “the direction” and “the path to be taken”, “in which this emancipation was to be sought”, and this “direction” and “path” – this is Engels’ real “final words”!

What also reveals a plot here is that, in order to achieve his mean goal of deceiving the people, Mr Xie Tao unexpectedly uses passages with different meanings from different pages, like putting together some hors d’oeuvres, and in this way making a new combination, completely tampering with the continuity and the intension of the original article. However, this is also good, bad things can also turn into good things. This performance of Mr Xie Tao can allow people to even better understand his deceitful tricks and countenance.

(Two) Mr Xie Tao is particularly interested in the remark by Engels that “we, too, have been shown to be wrong by history”, however, this remark in no way negates the 1848 revolution, even less does it negate the violent revolution of the proletariat, rather it was a new understanding and summary by Engels of the character of the revolution of this bourgeois democratic revolution. On this point, prior to the “we, too, have been shown to be wrong by history” comment he wrote, there is a large discussion: “When the February Revolution broke out, we all of us, as far as our conception of the conditions and the course of revolutionary movements was concerned, were under the spell of previous historical experience, namely, that of France. It was, indeed, the latter which had dominated the whole of European history since 1789, and from which now once again the signal had gone forth for general revolutionary change. It was therefore natural and unavoidable that our conceptions of the nature and the path of the "social" revolution proclaimed in Paris in February 1848, of the revolution of the proletariat, were strongly colored by memories of the models of 1789-1830. Moreover, when the Paris upheaval found its echo in the victorious insurrections in Vienna, Milan and Berlin; when the whole of Europe right up to the Russian frontier was swept into the movement; when in Paris the first great battle for power between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie was joined; when the very victory of their class so shook the bourgeoisie of all countries that they fled back into the arms of the monarchist-feudal reaction which had just been overthrown—for us under the circumstances of the time, there could be no doubt that the great decisive struggle had broken out, that it would have to be fought out in a single, long and changeful period of revolution, but that it could only end with the final victory of the proletariat.”

“After the defeats of 1849 we in no way shared the illusions of the vulgar democracy grouped around the would-be provisional governments in partibus. This vulgar democracy reckoned on a speedy and finally decisive victory of the "people" over the "usurpers"; we looked to a long struggle, after the removal of the "usurpers," between the antagonistic elements concealed within this "people" itself. Vulgar democracy expected a renewed outbreak from day to day; we declared as early as autumn 1850 that at least the first chapter of the revolutionary period was closed and that nothing further was to be expected until the outbreak of a new world crisis. For this reason we were excommunicated; as traitors to the revolution, by the very people who later, almost without exception, have made their peace with Bismarck—so far as Bismarck found them worth the trouble.” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 22, pp. 594-595)

My understanding of the core meaning of this passage by Engels is that, on the one hand, it affirmed the tremendous contribution and profound significance of the 1849 revolution, whilst on the other hand, it reconsidered this revolution as not preparing the proletariat for the seizure of political power and the eradication of the conditions of capitalism, and that at the same time, this was a quite optimistic estimation.

This theory of Engels was certainly not only put forward in the Introduction, it can also be seen in the preceding years 1890-1893, in the couple of “Introductions” that Engels wrote for the Communist Manifesto. In order to correctly understand this “shown to be wrong” phrase, we might as well review them. On May 1, 1890 Engels said in the Introduction to the German edition, “Thus, to a certain extent, the history of the Manifesto reflects the history of the modern working-class movement since 1848. At present, it is doubtless the most widely circulated, the most international product of all socialist literature, the common programme of many millions of workers of all countries from Siberia to California.” On February 10, 1892, in the Preface to the Polish edition, Engels said “The Revolution of 1848, which under the banner of the proletariat, after all, merely let the proletarian fighters do the work of the bourgeoisie, also secured the independence of Italy, Germany and Hungary…” On February 1, 1893, in the Preface to the Italian edition, Engels said “…as Karl Marx used to say, because the men who suppressed the Revolution of 1848 were, nevertheless, its testamentary executors in spite of themselves. Everywhere that revolution was the work of the working class; it was the latter that built the barricades and paid with its lifeblood. Only the Paris workers, in overthrowing the government, had the very definite intention of overthrowing the bourgeois regime. But conscious though they were of the fatal antagonism existing between their own class and the bourgeoisie, still, neither the economic progress of the country nor the intellectual development of the mass of French workers had as yet reached the stage which would have made a social reconstruction possible. In the final analysis, therefore, the fruits of the revolution were reaped by the capitalist class. In the other countries, in Italy, in Germany, in Austria, the workers, from the very outset, did nothing but raise the bourgeoisie to power. But in any country the rule of the bourgeoisie is impossible without national independence Therefore, the Revolution of 1848 had to bring in its train the unity and autonomy of the nations that had lacked them up to then: Italy, Germany, Hungary, Poland will follow in turn. Thus, if the Revolution of 1848 was not a socialist revolution, it paved the way, prepared the ground for the latter. Through the impetus given to large-scaled industry in all countries, the bourgeois regime during the last forty-five years has everywhere created a numerous, concentrated and powerful proletariat. It has thus raised, to use the language of the Manifesto, its own grave-diggers… Just imagine joint international action by the Italian, Hungarian, German, Polish and Russian workers under the political conditions preceding 1848! The battles fought in 1848 were thus not fought in vain. Nor have the forty-five years separating us from that revolutionary epoch passed to no purpose. The fruits are ripening, and all I wish is that the publication of this Italian translation may augur as well for the victory of the Italian proletariat as the publication of the original did for the international revolution.”

I have quoted from the Prefaces to the different language editions of the Manifesto written by Engels in his later years to show that the core thought on the violent revolution, and the basic principles established in the Communist Manifesto did not undergo any change. Mr Xie Tao’s claim that these Prefaces by Engels “were a final revision of the complete theory of Marxism” etc, is just complete rubbish!

(Three) From Engels’ letter to Richard Fischer (March 8, 1895) we can understand the background and the situation of the struggle at the time this introduction was written. We may be able to deepen our understanding of the essence of the spirit of this introduction through this letter.

This introduction was written between February 14 1895 and March 6 1895. It was only two days after completing this draft, on March 8, 1895, that Engels wrote the letter to Richard Fischer. This letter is basically clear on the differences between certain leaders of the German Party and the intentions behind the preface written by Engels.

When this introduction was published, the executive committee of the German Social Democratic Party firmly requested that Engels water down the tone of excessive revolution, to make it more discrete; the reason advanced by Fischer at that time: the Imperial Congress was discussing the prevention of the draft of the political reform, and the internal situation was very tense. At the insistence of the Executive Committee, Engels had to make several deletions from the Introduction and change some of its formulations, and in his view the Introduction “suffered some injury” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol. 38, p. 766, note 508). In relation to this, Engels wrote in the letter: “I’ve considered your concerns as far as possible, and although I completely understand, nevertheless I still cannot understand – until at least half-way through your discussion – where your concerns come from. However, I cannot tolerate you swearing loyalty to absolute observance of the law, even to those laws that have already been illegally drawn up, in short, however, in the end it’s the policy of the right side of the face having been slapped, then delivering one to the left side. (I’m not sure I’ve got that last bit right – Trans.) That’s good, in Vorwarts sometimes people who in the past enthusiastically propagated revolution deny it, and moreover will possibly propagate it again in the future. But I don’t believe we can imitate this matter. I believe that there is definitely no advantage if you propagate absolute renunciation of violent behaviour. No-one would believe this, nor is there any political party in any nation that has gone this far, to renounce the right to take up arms against illegal actions. I must also conclude, that I am definitely unable to ruin my reputation in front of the foreign readers – the French, English, Swiss, Austrian, Italians and so on – of my writings. Therefore, I accept your suggestions for revision with the exception of the following points: 1, on p. 9 of the galley proofs where it is currently written in relation to the populace: ‘They should understand what the actions that they take are.’ (In Engels’ draft manuscript this section is written like this: “Where it is a question of a complete transformation of the social organisation, the masses themselves must also be in on it, must themselves already have grasped what is at stake, what they are fighting for, body and soul.” – see The Complete Works of Marx and Engels Vol. 22 p. 607, editor’s note). 2, Completely erase the words about the attack. (The Executive Committee members suggested altering the sentence as follows: “…everywhere the unprepared launching of an attack has been relegated to the background.” –see The Complete Works of Marx and Engels Vol. 22 p. 607, editor’s note). Their suggestion (the Executive Committee members suggested altering the sentence as follows: “…everywhere the call for the unprepared launching of an attack has been relegated to the background.” - see The Complete Works of Marx and Engels Vol. 22 p. 607, editor’s note) is in fact mistaken. The French, the Italians and others utilise the call for an attack, only not very earnestly, that’s all. 3, On p. 10 of the galley proofs: ‘The Social Democratic Party’s change, it’s destiny now decided by…’ you want to remove the word “now”, and this is also a tactic to make a temporary change permanent and to make a relative significance into an absolute significance. I cannot do this, in order to spare myself eternal humiliation. Therefore I refuse to write anything to the contrary….” (The Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 39, p. 401).

From this letter, we can see how firm Engels was on the principle of violent revolution.

(Four) Speaking nonsense, Mr Xie Tao declares: “The Third Volume of Capital has overthrown the First Volume”, Marx and Engels’ summary of the lessons of revolutionary experience, acknowledgement of the aftermath of the mistakes of 1848, retention of the capitalist mode of production, and their peaceful transition to capitalism really is the greatest achievement of Capital, is the real subject of Marxism, and really is legitimate Marxism. This legitimacy is called democratic socialism.”

From the facts and the analysis above, we see that the ideology of “force as the midwife of every old society pregnant with a new one” runs through from Vol 1 of Capital to Vol 4. Xie Tao’s words are absolutely groundless nonsense!

Tampering with, fabricating, twisting and revising Marxist theory is the age-old method of old and new opportunism. In The State and Revolution, Lenin (right) exposed opportunism when it despicably distorted Engels on “the ‘withering away’ of the State” and “violent revolution”, and indignantly denounced them: “Engel's words regarding the ‘withering away’ of the state are so widely known, they are often quoted, and so clearly reveal the essence of the customary adaptation of Marxism to opportunism…” Lenin pointed out: “It is safe to say that of this argument of Engels', which is so remarkably rich in ideas, only one point has become an integral part of socialist thought among modern socialist parties, namely, that according to Marx that state ‘withers away’ — as distinct from the anarchist doctrine of the ‘abolition’ of the state. To prune Marxism to such an extent means reducing it to opportunism, for this ‘interpretation’ only leaves a vague notion of a slow, even, gradual change, of absence of leaps and storms, of absence of revolution. The current, widespread, popular, if one may say so, conception of the ‘withering away’ of the state undoubtedly means obscuring, if not repudiating, revolution.” “Such an ‘interpretation’, however, is the crudest distortion of Marxism, advantageous only to the bourgeoisie. In point of theory, it is based on disregard for the most important circumstances and considerations indicated in, say, Engels' ‘summary’ argument we have just quoted in full.” “How can this panegyric on violent revolution, which Engels insistently brought to the attention of the German Social-Democrats between 1878 and 1894, i.e., right up to the time of his death, be combined with the theory of the ‘withering away’ of the state to form a single theory?” (Lenin, The State and Revolution, pp. 15-16, 19, 53.)

(3) At the same time as he twists and slanders Engels, Mr Xie Tao dissolutely twists and slanders the ideals of communism. Talking nonsense, he says “In his later years, Engels gave up the so-called ‘highest ideals’ of communism”, “had no great goal of ‘communism’ whatever, this was something put forward by the founders of Marxism in their early years but abandoned in their later years.”. He said: “Engels said ‘Why, we have no final goal. We are evolutionaries, we have no intention of dictating definitive laws to mankind. Prejudices instead of detailed organisation of the society of the future? You will find no trace of that amongst us.’” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels Vol 22, pp. 628-629). Talking rubbish, he says this is Engels denying the design for “the pattern of a future society”, namely communism, written when he was young in “Principles of Communism”. Mr Xie Tao quotes these words of Engels, words spoken in an interview with a reporter from the French newspaper Le Figaro, when the German Social Democratic Party was taking part in the elections. From this discussion between Engels and the reporter, I cannot see any “abandonment” of the ideals of communism by Engels. We can look at this from three different sides. (1) These sentences of Engels are passages in a probing by Engels and the reporter of questions related to the probability of success by members of the German Social Democratic Party’s participation in the parliamentary elections, and in the preface to this discussion and in other questions use three isolated symbols to force them apart. The reporter asked: "Will the socialist party have candidates in all the constituencies?" Engels: "Yes, we shall have candidates in all 400 constituencies. It is important to us that we should muster our forces.” The reporter asked: "And what is your final goal as German socialists?" Thereupon, Engels spoke those words. In this way, the two things link up, and it’s very obvious, no matter whether asking a question or answering, it is the “final goal” of this election that is being discussed, and not the so-called “ultimate” goal of “abandoning communism” by Engels as understood by Mr Xie Tao. (2) In addition, following straight on from this writing to which Mr Xie Tao directs us, Engels says: “We shall be satisfied when we have placed the means of production in the hands of the community, and we fully realise that this is quite impossible with the present monarchist and federalist government." Straight after Engels finished his explanation, the reporter continued: “I permit myself to observe that the day when the German socialists will be in a position to put their theories into practice still seems a long way off to me.” This was refuted by Engels: “‘Not as far as you think,’ replied Mr. Engels. ‘For me the time is approaching when our party will be called upon to take over the government. Towards the end of the century you may perhaps see this event come about.’” Here, the meaning of Engels’ two sentences “when we have placed the means of production in the hands of the community” and “when our party will be called upon to take over the government” is very clear, namely, to change the system of private ownership to public ownership, and change the state of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie into the state of the dictatorship of the proletariat; however, these kinds of changes under the conditions of the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie “are impossible”. Public ownership is one of the main characteristics of socialism, and socialism is recognised as the initial stage of communism. In these two sentences Engels had already cleverly told the reporter interviewing him of the ultimate goal of the proletarian revolution and the realisation of communism. (3) There is also one kind of situation here that needs analysis, namely, the question of the degree of accuracy of the notes taken by the reporter from Le Figaro. In the seven days following this “discussion” (on May 11, 1893) and the four days after its publication in Le Figaro (May 13, 1893), that is, May 17, 1893, in “A Letter to Friedrich Adolphus Sorge” talking about the German parliamentary elections and the interview published in Le Figaro, Engels said “You can see my views in relation to the German situation from the “Interview” enclosed with this letter. Just like any interview, some methods of expression get distorted, and the general narrative has some flaws, but the general idea is correctly conveyed.” (Complete Works of Marx and Engels, Vol 39, p. 71 and Vol 22 p. 771 note 530). Said like this, might not the reported words of Engels that “we have no ultimate goal” be just such a “distortion”? Should we not just take the “general idea” of Engels’ interview alone as being correct? I believe we should.

In addition to distorting these quotes by Engels, Mr Xie Tao also borrows a few words from the old signboard of revisionism. For example, he said: Brezhnev once said to his own younger brother “Any communism is just empty talk for the masses.” Mr Xie Tao also said that the ultimate goal of communism has “evolved” from the idea of the Christian heaven, and is its “modern version”, “communism has become the banner of utopianism”. “When Bernstein advocated making solid improvements to society, seeking practical improvements in the welfare of the workers and when he proposed that ‘the ultimate goal is not worth mentioning, the movement is everything’, he definitely became the enemy of Lenin who held high the banner of communism.” He attacks and slanders the socialist system as “comforting the people by using the happy lifestyle of a future communist paradise and calling on them to endure hunger, poverty and misery, a fantasy of socialism used to deceive the people. This should all stop.”

Is it communism that “fools the people” or is it the trumpeting of democratic socialism by Mr Xie Tao that “fools the people”? As we often say, one speaks according to one’s social class! Just like Jiao Da of the Jia household in Hong Lou Meng (A Dream of Red Mansions is a classic Chinese novel and Jiao Da was a servant who fell in love with one of the ‘ladies’ of the household – Trans.) who could not love Miss Lin, and nor could she him, neither can the Chinese working class and labouring people love that democratic socialism of his, and by the same token, neither can the capitalist class and imperialism love socialism.

As for Mr Xie Tao wanting socialism to “stop”, this is however just wanting capitalism to “take the stage”, that’s all. Whether or not capitalism can “take” the “stage” depends on the situation of the struggle between two social classes. However, there is one point that I firmly believe, that even if the bourgeoisie prevails for a while in our country it won’t last long, and that no matter how much people like Xie Tao distort and slander the Marxist ideology of violent revolution, or how deeply it takes roots in people’s minds, if this capitalist class of yours really does take the “stage”, then it will never silence the principles of the Paris Commune nor will the iron fist of the proletarian revolution turn to vegetarianism! Because wherever there is oppression, wherever there is exploitation, there will be struggle. It was that way in the past, it’s like that now, and it will remain so in the future.


nickglais said...

Thaks for translating this It is much appreciated.

Have a merry Xmas

Anonymous said...

I say the same.