Communism and Socialism are are some of the most misused terms in existence. Anyone from Stalin to Bernie Sanders to Castro to Hillary Clinton to Ron Paul have at some time been called, or called themselves, either a Communist or Socialist. The definition of both terms has also been varied. Anything from state control of businesses, to welfare, to taxes, to public education, etc, have been called either or. It cannot be all of these combined. In fact, it is none of these combined.
Communism and Socialism, in the Marxist sense, are the same thing. In all of the works by Marx and Engels, the terms have been used interchangeably. The distinction was attributed to Lenin, however, he argued against this:
“ A society in which the class distinction between workers and peasants still exists is neither a communist society nor a socialist society. True, if the word socialism is interpreted in a certain sense, it might be called a socialist society, but that would be mere sophistry, an argument about words. Socialism is the first stage of communism; but it is not worth while arguing about words. One thing is clear, and that is, that as long as the class distinction between workers and peasants exists, it is no use talking about equality, unless we want to bring grist to the mill of the bourgeoisie.” -Vladimir Lenin, First All-Russia Congress on Adult Education, May 6-19, 1919
The origin from this false distinction can be attributed to two sources: Stalin, in 1924, with his concept of “Socialism in One Country”, and the post-WWI Labour Party in Britain as it labeled itself Socialist. So what is Communism?
“Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.” -Karl Marx, The German Ideology, 1846
You do not establish Communism, you abolish Capitalism with the revolutionary fervor of the proletariat (working class), the present state of things. The present state of things, are things that are in place in a Capitalist society:
The State: a tool of violence and oppression to ensure the continued existence of classes, capital, and serves to protect private property. Examples of this are the police, which its stated goal is to protect communities, but in actual, have been used to break strikes, prevent unrest, and quash protests.
Class: in the Marxist sense, there are no upper, middle, or lower classes. There are two major ones: the bourgeoisie: those who own capital and extract surplus value from the proletariat: who are the working class, who work for wages to survive and are exploited. There is a sort of in between class, petite-bourgeoisie: which are those who own small capital (small businesses), and are part of the system that exploits workers, but they are not in the position to do so effectively, and are in part, exploited by the bourgeoisie.
-Capital: factories, businesses, farms, anything that can produce in a state of wage labor. Capital is meant to be abolished.
-Private property: There is a distinction between private and personal property. Private property is capital, which is owned by an individual or group of people. The end of private property is the end of one or more people owning it, having everyone own it, thereby negating the ownership of it, and the existence of it.
-Surplus value: when the working class produce, they produce more than they consume, which is taken by the bourgeoisie, and usually reinvested into production of more capital.
-Value: Value is an abstract applied to material goods: a product made has two types of value, which translates to a market price. How much time it needs to make the product, or socially necessary labor time. Then there is use value, how much the product could be used and how it could be used. Together this creates a market price. The reason to end this, is the fact that things are not produced to be used. They are accumulated and/or made artificially scarce to drive up market price (i.e diamonds, which are far more abundant and easy to acquire than their market price would make them appear). There is also value in terms of how two products relate to one each other. The law of supply and demand makes it so that a product made to be as good as it has to be, not to its best. The supply is not also fully used, as the fact that there are more houses in America then there are homeless people, or more food than there is to be used by all those billions malnourished. The process of making value is not entirely arbitrary, however, the way value is used is arbitrary to accumulate the most things for one class, off the work of the other.
Money: Money is inseparable from value, though value can exist without money, such as with bartering. The reason to end it is the fact that it facilitates exchange. Money cannot be consumed, rather, it is an object that is exchanged for something that can. It restricts the flow of goods made in common, and makes common good uncommon. The existence of money is a limiting factor in all aspects of life. Wage labor is another logical conclusion of money:
“Wages are determined by the fierce struggle between capitalist and worker. The capitalist inevitably wins. The capitalist can live longer without the worker than the worker can without him. Combination among capitalists is habitual and effective, while combination among the workers is forbidden and has painful consequences for them” – Karl Marx, Economic and Political Manuscripts, 1844.
The worker does not earn their worth in time and energy. It is not to say that doing so is not possible, rather, the worth of the worker is a dehumanizing method to have the most worth be taken by those having the worker work. Paying workers fairly cuts into the profit margin, as does doing most “decent” things. The profit is then used to make more capital, more workers. A seeming benefit of expanse of opportunity is an expanse of a dehumanizing plague. This is key to massive wealth inequality. Those who have more wealth will gain even more wealth, from those with less. Workers are herded into a life in which, as supposed by law in the US, 8 hours. If ⅓ of a day is spent working, and another ⅓ spent sleeping, there is ⅓ left for the self. In the ideal. It is not, as many workers work overtime to meet ends meet. There is the question of commuting to work, subtracting another hour or more from the already subtracted. There are of course weekends and holidays, but average total days worked is around 250. So on average, we have less than 33% of our lives to ourselves. If we live to be 65, and we do not start being fully aware until around age 4, we only truly live around 21 years. If after 65 we retire, we have “free time”. In the sense that our desires and wants are harder to achieve at that age. In the sense that many of us are riddled in ailments and illnesses that would take up another chunk of our remaining days. And, in the sense, that we truly retire at 65, to live off economically unsustainable Social Security. The economy, in the traditional sense, is a turbulent farce to create the illusion of potential. Potential for success is one in which one will work oneself to health instability for a chance, one that is unlikely, for a stable life. Potential for general improvement, as accumulation of wealth is seen as the ideal goal, to enjoy life, an unnecessary middleman, and to share opportunity is seen as sharing the essence of one’s life, and since greed is now good, sharing is inopportune. Potential for a happy life, when what one produces for society, is not consumed by those who need it, and one starts to feel alienation. Attempts to change it are quashed by the state with violence, as so evident with the police and national guard crushing strikes and protests. Reform attempts are an illusion of change the core problem persists. No amount of taxes and regulation can sustain the onslaught of greed and self benefit over the common good. It is a tool to pacify your anger, as things are slightly better than before. When that change, which cuts into the profit margins, is reverted, usually through some fear of foreigners or minorities, or people committing moral misdeeds, it is up to the working class again to fight. Fight for little change, accept compromise, go on about their exploitation, have it reversed, and fight for it again. Stability, success, worth, and all such other fantasies are illusions created by a system in which a class will have illusions become real, and reality become an illusion by a class exploited for the continuation of the real.
Capitalist Social Relations and Alienation: In the current mode of production, what one produces, instead of being the want, will, and ability of the individual, becomes a separate entity, made inseparable from the disconnected produced. From a farmer, to a factory worker, from a teacher, to healthcare professionals, to anyone that provides a service or product, they are alienated. They do not see their work as something to be proud of, they see it as something to be done to survive. Passion is the best motivator. A teacher teaching for the sheer passion of wanting to teach does better than one who teaches for the summer vacation and pay. In this system, the teacher is a wage worker. Their students are no longer fellow humans to be enriched, now a thing to be informed to meet a quota to get a salary to get necessities. The human nature fades. The organic spread of knowledge is mechanized to meet standards. A student most complete a certain amount of material, so they can be versatile in the job market, to enrich someone else. Students are not the children of society. Learning, education, and knowledge, abstracts existing before capitalism, are now a method for profit. Students are future workers.
Healthcare professionals no longer see their patients as just those needing help. There are quotas to be met. A certain amount of patients must be seen. A certain amount of procedures and surgeries completed. A certain amount of drugs and treatments prescribed as per the request of “medical” companies. The patient can be a means of large profit, as they can, and sometimes are, given things unneeded to provide a profit unneeded. It is not to say that doctors cannot help their patients, but there are influences, inside and outside the field of medicine, dictating how much they can help their fellow human. What is produced becomes the subject of our lives, not from the subject of our humanity. You are not a person, you are what you work as. You are more, we all are, but it is not profitable to be more. To do the minimum is to meet the market price of supply and demand. That is true of the product and the producer. Why do more? It will not provide me with anything. There is a reason that mental illness is on the rise, the environment we are in is ill.
There is a desire for more material goods. The ones in power and the wealthy obviously have absurd amounts of material goods. It is flaunted about as the ultimate, or near ultimate state of being. This is a wasteful notion. It leads to an abundance of products being produced, with little use-value, and an artificial scarcity of similar products, with too little use-value. When we produce more than can be supplied, and there are people under-supplied, we have failed as a society. When the pursuit of wealth threatens to kill us as a society, we have failed. The oil companies knew. The coal companies knew. The timber companies knew. The lobbyist knew. The ones leading the climate change denial charge know. We are poisoning the planet we live on. They were told so. There are other fuel sources, ways to reduce the impact of their environment. They knew. They also knew, that if they were to do a “decent” thing, to not potentially end our existence as species, would cut into their profit margins. Only with the existence of money, and the pursuit of it, and the pursuit of value, can create a condition to end our condition.
Yet, even in this system, most of us defy this trend. It is draining to defy, as it is draining to defy anything, yet it persists. The act of defying the present is communism. There is an alternative, and it will come with the end of how things are in the present. There is nothing to establish, everything to abolish.
The Role of the Communist Party: There are different opinions from the left on the role of the party, there being two main ones. The Marxist-Leninist vanguard and the Bordigist brain. Marx and Engels both asserted that the working class, being the revolutionary class, shall liberate themselves. The party vanguard was Lenin’s attempt to bring form to the Russian Revolution. He did not intend for it to be an elite force to drag the proletariat towards a revolution. It became so, as Lenin is a tragic character, having good intentions, but making too many mistakes. Lenin’s successors and the rest of the Bolshevik party became increasingly opportunistic, while the revolution is inherently authoritarian, having one class assert its will upon the other, the Bolshevik authoritarianism cracked down on the expressions of the working class, largely before Lenin was dead, in contrast to the Trotskyist interpretation. Trotskyism is the ideology which asserts that Stalin betrayed the revolution and turn the Soviet Union into a deformed workers state, with capitalism resurging. This is false, Lenin’s Soviet union, and all thereafter, was state capitalist, with the state control capital and maintaining the present state of things. The Soviet Union could not be Communist, as Communism is a worldwide phenomenon; so long as capitalism exist, the workers are exploited; so long as exchange occurs, there cannot be peaceful coexistence with capitalism.
The Bordigist brain is an organization formalized by Communist Amadeo Bordiga. The party is not an external force from the working class, and does not drag it along. Activism, the spread of ideas, is not the way to revolution. The proletariat do not need to be enlightened by a Communist Utopia; which is why Marx was a Scientific Socialist. The establishment of ideas recreates capitalism and is ineffective. It allows for the state to target Communists openly, suppress them, and further the accepted norm that capitalism, despite all its inherent contradictions and the destruction of the human soul and human world, is the best possible of all worlds. Any alternative is worse. The working class knows that their situation and their world is need to be ridden of, how is not the issue. The Russian Revolution started over bread shortages, not Communists preaching a utopia. The brain is meant to guide the revolution, providing form and structure, education and vigor. Whatever world is established by the working class can be theorized, but it is pointless and contradictory: whatever world established by the working class can only be theorized to be abolished capitalism and a human world, planning it in depth is idealism, which falls into the same issue. There is also councilism, coined by Antonie Pannekoek, in which the working class should organize themselves into local councils to decide upon issues, and those councils will cooperate with each other to form the basis of government. Communism in any sense is decentralized to a point.
There is also to note the nature of coops, and wanting to establish them. Cooperative ownership of capital and businesses is not socialism, the working class instead are directly controlling their exploitation.
“The hell of capitalism is the firm, not the fact that the firm has a boss.” – Amadeo Bordiga.
It is not to say no one will do anything. The best way to think of it is to abolish the restaurant, establish the kitchen. Your kitchen at home has no expectation of value being exchanged, what is there is provided, what is needed is taken care of. The expectation of reward for doing a service or good for another person, negates the very purpose of doing that good or service.
With all this said, Communism has never existed, nor is it something tried. The movement exists right now, any strike, any employee pretending to work, any expression of disgust at the system, any rejection of one’s condition is the real movement. So-called socialist states, an oxymoron at that, were the apex of capitalism: a full state controlling markets to profit a few individuals, with the working class fighting directly against themselves, draped in red. The revolution will occur, increasing inequality, instability of the economy, the destruction of the environment, and failure of democracy (a popularity contest existing to play the working class against itself), will have a spontaneous uprising of the working class and the international revolution will happen. It will be an act of desperation, or an act of the conditions being optimal for revolution, but it will happen. Its success is not as determined, but the message is simple: There is an alternative to capitalism, everything in existence right now is not the only way to live, and it is not the way to live.
“Workers of the world unite; you have nothing to lose but your chains.”-Karl Marx, The Communist Manifesto, 1848.