The communist worldview is one of constant struggle, and it is the byproduct of an inverted Hegelianism (Tucker 1965, 6-7). In the words of Marx and Engels (1975), “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles” (73). The struggles discussed by Marx and Engels, and Lenin for that matter, are dialectic in nature and mankind is at the center of these revolutionary struggles. Furthermore, the Marxian philosophy emphasizes the development of human beings from primitive beings to more advanced ones under advanced communism.
Despite history being the byproduct of class struggles, the current epoch, that of capitalism or the bourgeoisie, possesses a distinctive feature (474). According to Marx and Engels, the so-called epoch of the bourgeoisie “has simplified the class antagonisms: Society as a whole is more and more splitting up into two great hostile camps, into two great classes directly facing each other: Bourgeoisie and Proletariat” (474). Furthermore, the current epoch discussed by Marx and Engels is one in which intercourse between nations has become the norm; moreover, there is a growing sense of a world-market (474-75, 476-77). In other words, “[i]n place of old local and national seclusion and self-sufficiency, we have intercourse in every direction, universal inter-dependence of nations” (476). Further, the bourgeois epoch makes a world in its own image:
The cheap price of its commodities are the heavy artillery with which it batters down all Chinese walls, with which it forces the barbarians’ intensely obstinate hatred of foreigners to capitulate. It compels all nations, on pain of extinction, to adopt the bourgeois mode of production; it compels them to introduce what it calls civilisation into their midst, i.e., to become bourgeois themselves.
The bourgeoisie epoch is also characterized by political centralization (477). Marx and Engels also note that the bourgeoisie epoch is characterized by constant revolution (I.e., through revamping production modes) and the constant upheaval or crisis due to overproduction (478). Bourgeois crises are dealt with in a number of revolutionary ways: “On the one hand by enforced destruction of mass productive forces; on the other, by the conquest of new markets and by the more thorough exploitation of old ones” (478).
Marx and Engels both saw capitalism as part of a long line of human evolution. Therefore, communists, according to Marx and Engels, were not there to hurry along the evolution to communism. Instead, they were there to represent the interests of the chosen party, the Proletariat. This means the communists, those who represent the interests of the Proletariat, must work together with conservative even somewhat reactionary forces in society in order to pursue the interests of the Proletariat (499-500).
Lenin, on the other hand, did not appreciate the long-term approach taken up by the Communist Manifesto. Instead, Lenin appears to believe that capitalism is far too adaptive to be waited out. Lenin might be alluding to the use of imperialism by capitalist nations, which allowed for the expansion of markets, making it harder and harder for capitalism to fall apart at the seams. Therefore, the capitalists must be expropriated right away in order to make way for the Proletariat’s interests. Moreover, Lenin appears to suggest that social democracy, an idea used to counter radical interests in society, is not truly equal. Instead, as Lenin remarks in The State and Revolution, that only a democracy of the working class can truly succeed. However, Lenin’s use of democracy here is problematic, as he does not mean a true democracy, as democracy only offers “formal equality.” In other words, Lenin appears to be saying that a nondemocratic regime run by the workers is the only way to ensure that the Proletariat’s interests are protected. Thus, Lenin is breaking away from the Marxian tradition and pushing it into a new era. Under Lenin, the Marxist-Leninist model became more adaptive to situations outside of truly developed nations—such as Russia, China, etc. Moreover, it marks are stark break with tradition. Waiting is no longer necessary, as the Proletariat’s interests can be safeguarded by a state built for them and controlled by them.
I find the Marxist-Leninist approach interesting. There is an attempt to protect the interests of the Proletariat from the adaptive nature of capitalism. Moreover, there appears to be a concession that capitalism may not be as easily defeated as Marx and Engels once thought. I find that quite interesting, as it shows that Marx and Engels did not foresee the adaptive nature of capitalism in the twentieth-century, and beyond. Instead, it was Lenin who saw that the capitalist mode of production was quite adaptive and would be much harder to overcome than previous Marxian philosophers suggested. I am also attracted to the Marxist-Leninist model for other reasons. There is something about its own adaptability that is quite fascinating. It made Marxian philosophy relevant to a number of national contexts--something Marx failed to do.
Lenin, Vladimir Iliyich. 1917. The State and Revolution.
Marx, Karl, and Frederick Engels. 1848. Manifesto of the Communist Party.
Tucker, Robert. 1965. The Marxian Revolutionary Idea. New York: Norton.
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