I would like to discuss the issue of “the necessity for capitalism to have been achieved for socialism to occur” (“Desai on Marx”, Socialist Standard, November 2002).
Desai suggests that Russian Communism was wrong to use the principles of Marx being as Russia was a backward country. Then he goes on to suggest that Russian Communism developed a capitalist economic model as it developed the Russian economy and industries. What could be wrong about the development of a backward country under socialist principles? What would socialism look like if it only ever occurred in capitalist countries?
Desai appears to suggest that only an economically wealthy country, developed through capitalism can support a socialist system. Does he mean to say that socialism, should it succeed, should stagnate and decay as it devours the capitalist system of economics of its predecessors. A progressive, organised socialist party should enable economic growth to sustain socialism within one country but also to develop new industry and technology under its guiding principles. How is it possible to totally eradicate capitalist consciousness when socialism is developed that relies heavily on its economic principles for stability?
Socialist policies should inform the new methods of economics and seek to build a set of new socialist methods of production, in short a socialist economy based on Marx. This is not merely a question of graduated taxes, but a fairer system with a socialist aim, and cultural and aesthetic values that reflect the working class and encapsulates socialism.
Marx states that socialism should occur out of a capitalist economy because he thought that the working class were the intrinsic factor in a communist revolution; and the working class were common to developed countries under capitalism.
If socialism is to succeed, the party must win the support of the working class who desire to see an end to the current ideology of world capitalism.
In order to eradicate capitalism completely the Socialist Party must have a firm vision fixed in its mind, that by adhering to its principles, must revolutionise the consciousness of the people in areas of politics such as: economics, the environment, foreign policy and culture; in order to achieve power, not for a bureaucratic system (the fault of Russian Communism) but to achieve equality and fraternity among the working class.
G. CUBBAGE, Bolton, Lancs
We define socialism as a society without private property, money, wages, nation states, where production is for use, not profit. In order for socialism to be successfully established, capitalism would need to develop industry to the point where a society of common ownership would be possible. Along with this, a modern working class would need to emerge that understands and desires socialism. It is clear that neither was the case in Russia in 1917. It was a predominantly agrarian country where the industrial working class were in a minority of the population.
It is true that Marx and Engels in the introduction of the 1882 Russian edition of the Communist Manifesto raised the possibility that Russia could, through an old system of common ownership of land maintained by the peasantry known as the Obshchina that existed in Russia at that time, could pass directly to socialism, without the necessity of developing the capitalist mode of production. However this could only be possible if the Russian revolution ignited a revolution in the West. This did not happen in 1917. Although working class uprisings did occur in the West, such as in Germany, they were more expressions of discontent arising from the First World War than a conscious desire to bring about socialism.
The Bolsheviks did not rise to power on a programme of genuine socialism, but to provide relief to a war-weary population and distribute land away from the large landowners to the peasantry. In fact, Lenin admitted that only state capitalism could be established in Russia at that time. As he wrote in The Chief Tasks of Our Times: “Reality says that State Capitalism would be a step forward for us; if we were able to bring about State Capitalism in a short time it would be a victory for us”. We also believe that the Leninist theories of the Bolshevik Party are prescriptions for state capitalism: the belief that socialism can only be brought about by a party of professional revolutionaries leading the working class and the establishment of a centralised state under the theory of so-called democratic centralism. We insist that the establishment of Socialism require the political actions of a socialist conscious working class without leaders.
Therefore, we agree with Lord Desai that only state capitalism could have emerged from the Russian Revolution. However, we part company with him when he insists that we need many more years of private capitalism to raise the level of society’s productive forces. We maintain that globally the size of society’s productive forces today would allow for the establishment of socialism.
Our definition of socialism above implies that it can only be established on a world-wide basis. Clearly a society where there is common ownership, money has been abolished and production is for human use cannot co-exist with countries where there is still private property, buying and selling and production for profit. Many of the measures that Marx and Engels outlined in the Communist Manifesto, including the call for graduated taxes, were based on the assumption that the working class would take power in Marx and Engels lifetimes. They would be necessary to develop the means of production to levels required for the establishment of socialism. However, since then, capitalism has done the job for us and there is no longer any need for these measures.
We can only agree with the last two paragraphs of your letter. If you study our object and declaration of principles, we hope that you agree that the Socialist Party fits the bill–Editors.
Here we are, having finished the twentieth century which saw many advances in science and technology. Yet despite the potential to satisfy world-wide human need, there are still millions of people suffering from hunger and human misery. Unhappily our social organization has not changed in a way that would enable the human race to reap the full benefits of the useful advances—and abandon the harmful ones. Instead science and technology are commodities produced for sale and profit—they serve the needs of the market system. Presently the only access to the means of life is through money and for the majority this means employment of some kind. However, jobs only come when there is the prospect of profit. Also the standard by which men and women are judged is their material possessions. In every country a minority win out at the expense of the majority. Oh how apparent is the most urgent need for the Earth to belong to its entire people! Then, freed from the shackles which sale and profit places on human endeavour, there will be sufficient resources for everyone to have a satisfying way of life.
JUSTUS WEIJAGYE, Kabale, UGANDA
It was June last year when Castle Breweries Kenya Limited ceased its operations in the country. The company had been in operation in Kenya for only five years. A total of 1015 employees were affected by the closure. They, their children, families and relatives were left without any means of earning their daily what is famously called “bread”.
What led to the closure of the company is perhaps illustrative of how capitalism works. Castle Breweries had only one competitor—Kenya Breweries Limited. The South African company thus found it easy going at first but not so during the subsequent years.
Barley, an important ingredient in the manufacture of bee, is grown by a clique of farmers who are contracted by Kenya Breweries for their beer. Most of these farmers are either relatives or associates of senior officials of Kenya Breweries Limited. And thus any other person, or brewer for that matter, had to buy the barley at a higher cost. The only alternative is to import the barley. And this is what Castle Breweries used to do.
Since in its inception in Kenya, their idea or main motive was for profit making, Castle Breweries found it uneconomical to brew and sell its beer at the same price as the competitor, so the company vigorously campaigned for a tax waiver from the authorities.
Kenya Breweries, who had enjoyed monopoly for more than 70 years, found their existence being threatened and thus had to bribe the then President, Daniel Arap Moi. There was to be no tax waiver and in fact in his budget speech, the then Finance Minister Chris Obure increased the taxes on beer from 25 percent to 30 percent.
And thus Kenya Castle Breweries closed its brewing factory at Thika in June 2002 and went ahead at the same time to open others in the USA. The whole thing is Castle Breweries Limited had no intention of remaining in Kenya as long as there were no profits to be made. The welfare of the company’s 1015 employees was far from the concern of Castle’s ‘Bosses’.
The world will continue to witness cases of such nature as long as the so-called investors have only one goal when they are establishing their investments—profits. They go to any lengths to maximise profits and leave the conditions of those making the profits to be the same—Judas wages and salaries and slavery conditions of work.
We, the workers of the world, need to understand that no matter how much money you are paid, you’ll not be able to make ends meet because the wages or salaries are never commensurate to the profits made by the company, organisation or group you are working for. We need to know that the amount of time spent working for profits could be utilised elsewhere working for the welfare of the whole society. Our unity is vital and the capitalist way of doing things will end once we organise and work for the good of all. This will entail us going for political power and make it easy for capitalism to be replaced. Let’s unite to establish the system that caters for the needs of all the members of the society—Socialism.
PATRICK W NDEGE, Nairobi, KENYA