An answer to a question of ” Occupy Wall Street”

What is the alternative to capitalism?

 

We must be grateful to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement. This movement started following three years of demonstrations, protests and strikes of millions of employed and unemployed wage slaves, from Athens to Tunis and from Rome to Madrid, against practical consequences of the ongoing capitalist crisis and the rapid and rabid onslaught of the bourgeoisie on the working and living conditions of billions of proletarians world over.

This movement cried out loud and world wide some very essential questions that bourgeiosie and its mainstream mass media had declared “old” and classified. This movement started from New York and challenged the alleged practicality and imortality of the liberal capitalism in its heartland: USA! One must recognise this movement as one of the milestones of two hundred years of ongoing struggle of the working class in the world. As such it is impossible to underestimate the importance of its achievments,  shy  away from answering its questions, and make these answers the spring board of next wave of the struggle of employed and unemployed workers, wage salves henceforth, world over. This social and worldwide movement reopened such questions and challenges about capitalism that was impossible to do, so voicefully and selfrighteously , attracts to  writting hundreds of relevant books! This movement raised the most important questions about how to get rid of capitalism and wage slavery; and presented them as it’s own impending questions to the public in the world. Following the millions strong and numerous protests of wage slaves, from Athens to London, and from Berlin to Tunis, this movement raised some very important questions and made assertive statements.  Some of these questions and assertions can be summed up as follows:

1. We do not want capitalism!

It became clear that theories and statements of theorists like Fukuyama, as well as politicians like Reagan, Thatcher, Bush and Obama about desriability and inevitability of capitalism are absurd and not accepted by the majority of the world population; especially in the heartlands of liberal capitalism. Many sceptics accepted that humanes in the year 2011 were faced, and their livelyhood and security threatened, not by alleged post-modern or post-industrial social systems; but by the very capitalist sytem of production for profit.

2. We are the 99%!

With this self-presentation and identification, participants of this movement made it clear that overwhelming majority of the world’s population are suffering from the crisis of capitalism and are opposed to this system. The story of “dissatisfaction of the middle classes against excesses of banks and stuck markets ” was shelved as a bourgeois sweet dream. It became clear that majority of the people, not least in the so called metropoles of capital and liberal democracy, were against miseries of capitalism. It is clear that the social base of capitalism is more than 1% of world’s population. What the 99% movement meant and achieved was to proclaim that a clear majority of them, especially in the “metropoles” of capitalism , were against the in-built anarchy of capitalism.

3. This movement was born, lived, fought and suppressed in the main squares and streets of the major cities like New York, Washington and Frankfort. None of the initiaters and participants of this movement did wait for the next parlimentary elections, session of the  leadership of the political parties or trade unions. They tried to take matters in their own hands. This movement showed that the majority of the wage slaves of the world have given up hope in the discussions, laws and regulations of capitalism and its various functionaries within capitalist establishment; be it existing political parties, trade Unions, NGOs and the different religious establishments. The “direct action” of masses of  wage slaves, at a social level, became the alternative and challenge of the “Occupy Wall Street” movement to the legality  and legitimicy of democracy (better called capitalcracy) and its established order and institutions.

4. The traditional left and liberal political parties and trade unions did not take part in the initiation and organisation of this movement. In fact some of them, whilst giving formal and verbal support, tried to practically sabotage and derail the movement. It seemed that issues like unemployment, hunger, homelessness, lack of medical care for billions of humanes in this world had nothing to do with such left parties and trade unions. Once more it became clear that political parties in one hand and the trade unions on the other are not suitable organisations for the united action of millions of wage slaves to fight capitalism. Participants and initiators of this movement did not divide their demands, as well as organisation, to “economic” (which are supposed to be unions’ domain of activity) and “political” (apparently political paties’ sphere of action) ones. The movement in its totality declared all its, clear or immature, demands against capitalism and fought for them.

5. Since 90s the anti-globalisation movement that started in Seattle, USA, and the World Social Forum, which started in Proto Alegre of Brasil, as an alternative to the yearly international gathering of bourgeiosie in Davos in Switzerland, had tried to fight for some reforms and moderation in the function of world capitalism. These attempts have given no substantial results. The international “Occupy Wall Street” movement clearly distanced itself radically from such wishfull and futile demands and movements.

This movement had its own practical and theoretical limitations and ambiguities and, after a while, was attacked by the bourgeiosie and suppressed. They not only confiscated occupiers’ tents, but also declared the very public parks and fields of movement’s camps as “private”! But this movement is not dead and shall continue in the form of coming demonstrations, occupations and strikes of hundreds of millions of wage slaves world over. It can not be declared “finished” because capitalism and its onslaught on the wage slaves continues and intensifies every day.

All the questions and problems of the world proletarians must be addressed and investigated, but one must be especially gratefull to the “Occupy Wall Street” movement because it brought forward two very fundamental questions of the humanity in the 21st century:

1-      What is the concrete alternative to capitalism, production for profit and wage slavery?

2-      What sort of organisation can embody and be the vheicle of the united action of wage slaves in order to get rid of capitalism?

This article is an attempt to address the first question in the light of two hundred years of world’s proletarian movement.

After the downfall of Soviet Union and its corresponding state capitalism, the pure and rabid liberalism of likes of Reagan and Thatcher became the standard bearers of capitalism, apparently with no meaningfull rival. For almost two decade questions like “is it possible to get rid of capitalism?” and “what is the alternative to capitalism?” were considered out of date and irrelevant.

It seemed that such questions lacked any validity and, at best, were preoccupations of some old left activists who had not grasped the essence of the post-Soviet epoch!  However the gravity of the world capitalism’s structural crisis since 2008, and the impending huge protests from Greece to Iceland and USA washed away this self satisfying presupposition of the bourgeoisie. Crisis of capitalism and mass protests of wage slaves reversed and redefined the political and economic discourses in the world.

Even some capitalists and their politicians and economists began to talk about the dead end of capitalism.The Theorists of “post-modernism”, “post-industrialism” and so called “Computerists” became silent. Liberal newspapers and even some supporters of Bush began to wonder if, after all,  Karl Marx was right! All the liberal economists and capitalists of the world sought sanctuary in the holy temple of good old “ state interventionist” John Maynard Keynes.

“What is the alternative to capitalist system and wage slavery?” once again became a very live and burning discourse among the economists and the anti-capitalist activists. Soviet and Chinese model of socialism, in fact and rightly called “state capitalism”, do not have much credibility and following among the young generation of the anti-capitalist activists. The Soviet model has disappeared and the Chinese one has managed to organise the most brutal exploitation of the wage slaves under the name of “market socialism”. In the present world no serious person can claim that the solution to the problems of workers and unemployed in New York, London and Athens is to convert these societies into something like Moscow at the time of Brezhenev!

Another classical solution is to convert the present system of capitalism into small federally linked cooperativs, whilst concepts of wages and production for sale and profit remain in some form. The most famous advocate of this model was Robert Owen, the nineteenth century British factory owner and philantropist, who tried to convert his own factory to such a cooperative. His project failed in competition with the big industries and, at his later years, he became a labour activist. Presently some economists in the left, including professor Richard Wolff of MIT, are advocating some version of this alternative. One must once again reinvestigate this model and shed some light on its practicality in the present world.

The most known, and reffered to, theory and vision of an alternative social system to capitalism is , still,  Karl Marx’s explanations and views in the historical document “Critique of Ghotha Progam”. Marx’s views in this document has, for more than 140 years, been, though with variations, the basis of the program of almost all left, socialist and communist parties; in opposition or in power.

The rest of my present contribution to this discussion is an abridged form of an article that I wrote 14 years ago in an attempt to provide some theoritical and practical alternative to capitalism and wage slavery. In this article, Marx’s “Critique of Ghotha Program” has been analysed, some of its historical limitations and considerations have been declared irrelevant to the present time, and his most fundamental views about possibility of getting rid  of production for the sake of profit, based on wage slavery, have been defended. The good old comrade has still the last word in deducting the possibility, desirability and practicality of organisng the society  and production on the basis of meeting humanity’s  and nature’s needs whilst asking for each according to her/his ability and for each according to her/needs

* * * * *

Anti-capitalist movement in 21st century and Marx's legacy

The current struggle of mankind to liberate itself from the plight of crisis must be an all sided critique of the wage slavery that underpins capitalism. As such, this critique must involve a thorough examination of all aspects of this inhumane socio-economic system and provide a comprehensive alternative to it based on a fair, egalitarian and cooperative society.

This new society can only be the result of the abolition of the private ownership of means of production, distribution and communication; abolition of wage slavery; organisation of free and voluntary social labour; and finally guaranteed fulfilment of all the material and mental needs of all the citizens of global society without any kind of constraints based on measuring the time and intensity of their work. Dissolution and withering away of the bourgeois political state and establishment of a communal self–organisation of the society by all its members are the other essential pillars of the future society.

Often it is asked whether this sort of organisation of the society is immediately possible to establish. If so, then why did Karl Marx in his seminal writing “Critique of the Gotha program” envisage an initial, or transitional, phase before society could organise itself on the afore-mentioned basis?

It is true that this vision of Marx about the future society can be traced in few of his writings on the subject. It is also true that almost all of his major disciples have made such distinction up till now. But it is high time that one asked oneself whether this sort of dividing the alternative society to two distinguishable phases was necessary and valid anymore.

In order to elucidate the matter, one must examine more closely this seminal work by Marx. It is important to mention at the beginning that Marx referred in this work to the lower phase of the future society as the first or initial phase of communism. This phase was later renamed by Lenin and other Marxist communists as socialism and, as such it was distinguished from the higher phase of communism, in which the share of citizens from social production shall be according to their needs and not in proportion to the amount of their work for the society.

Here in this brief review, I shall also use the phrase socialism as the name for Marx’s initial or transitional phase of communism. But one must note that use of the words socialism and communism in the later literature of the Left has not, necessarily, been identical with what Marx had in mind when he referred to the initial and final stages of communism in “Critique of the Gotha Program”.

I should also like to add that many Left-wing writers and activists have also used socialism and communism as synonymous and interchangeable.

I. "Critique of the Gotha Programme"

In 1875, Marx sent his now famous work “Marginal notes on the program of the German Workers’ Party”, to Wilhelm Bracke and asked him to forward it to Geib, Auer, Bebel and Liebknecht as an internal document. It was a few months before the congress of the party were to start. In 1891, when the discussions about the party’s program once again surfaced, Engels published Marx' critique posthumously. This work, together with few letters from Marx and Engels to some German communists, was then published as a pamphlet entitled “Critique of the Gotha Program”.

In this interesting work, after explaining many aspects of  workers’ concrete alternatives to capitalism, Marx divides the process of transformation of the society from capitalism to communism into two distinguishable phases. He referred to the first stage as the “initial” phase of communism.

After accounting in details for the share of total social production that must be set aside to maintain children, elderly and handicaps and social production, Marx then tries to define how the production and distribution of society should be organised in order to meet the needs of every one else in the first phase of communism. He writes:What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally, and intellectually, still stamped with the birthmarks of the old society from whose womb it emerges. Accordingly, the individual producer receives back from society -- after the deductions have been made -- exactly what he gives to it. What he has given to it is his individual quantum of labour. For example, the social working day consists of the sum of the individual hours of work; the individual labour time of the individual producer is the part of the social working day contributed by him, his share in it. He receives a certificate from society that he has furnished such-and-such an amount of labour ((after deducting his labour for the common funds and social production)); and with this certificate, he draws from the social stock of ((means of consumption)) as much as the same amount of labour cost. The same amount of labour which he has given to society in one form, he receives back in another. Here, obviously, the same principle prevails as that which regulates the exchange of commodities, as far as this is exchange of equal values. (http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm - double brackets are mine)

In other words: Firstly, in the initial phase of communism (or socialism) all those capable of working must work in order to receive products  to consume such as food, clothing etc; secondly, their work is measured somehow, and thirdly the producers can take from the socially produced goods in proportion to what they themselves have produced individually. Marx concedes that to observe such form of distribution of consumption is still tantamount to recognising rights of individuals, which are still bourgeois in nature as they are based on individualistic rather than communal nature of production and consumption, and hence by default, due to differences in physical and intellectual abilities of the individual producers, such rights for enjoying a share of the total social production would be unequal.

He then goes on to define those conditions which can render meaningless such measurement of the individuals’ labour in the society, as well as allocating certain amount of consumption products to them as follows:But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby. In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour, and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labour, has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life's prime want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-around development of the individual, and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly -- only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: ((From each according to her/his ability, to each according to her/his needs!))

(http://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1875/gotha/ch01.htm- double brackets are mine)

Marx here clearly names those factors which necessitate an “initial phase” between capitalism and communism. These factors are:

1-       Enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour,

2-       Antithesis between mental and physical labour,

3-       Labour has not become life's prime want and still is only a means of life,

4-       Productive forces have not grown enough and social production is not abundant enough.

 

II. The conditional and historical character of Marx’s considerations in envisaging a “first phase of Communism”

Marx understood the above factors as developing phenomena and as historically transient whose relevance to the separation of the two phases of communist society would depend on the continuous progress of science, technology, human consciousness and civilisation. Indeed, any fixated and ahistorical understanding of these factors could only result in an unending opportunism in the struggle against capitalism which bounds to postpone the abolition of capitalism and wage slavery to an indefinite future.

It is such perception of communism that never led anyone to understand when and how should wage slavery have ended in the old Soviet Union and replaced with the society of free humans, as envisaged by Marx -- no matter how vast and resourceful that country was. Trotsky’s “transitional program” was another version of this programmatic dead lock.

One must not forget that what was eventually realised in the Soviet Union even lacked some of the important socio-economic features that were envisaged by Marx for the “first phase” of communism. Features like doing away with money, as a midium of accumulating capital and wealth, as well as changing the wage payment to a different mechanism for distribution in the society so that every worker could receive all the proceeds of her/his work in other forms barred for the part set aside for social needs social production.

That is why it is ever more important that today one must pay more attention to Marx’s definition of the above four mentioned factors and appreciate the difference in their magnitude and importance between 1875 and 2012, and their historical characters which have changed during such a long time in the human society. So, let's go through these one at a time:

1. Enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour:

The division of labour between so called blue and white collar workers as well as the division between male and female labour have changed fundamentally since 1875. Today women are not excluded from any branch of science and technology. The most physically demanding jobs like construction, as well as most complicated scientific and technological research works are done by women too. The difference between the rate of employment of women and men in some branches today is not due to some natural or gender characteristics, but completely organised by capitalism in order to intensify the competition between the wage slaves. It is a political problem and can be swept aside by a decree of anti-capitalist revolution. In a society in which in some branches of production, the role of humans has been transformed to that of monitoring the production process, one must not postpone the realisation of a really free human society because of such invalid excuses.

Here it is important to take the issue of “differences between city and village”. Division of labour in this sense has also lost its meaning as an excuse for postponing communism. Today, in most societies, villages are in constant and interdependent contact with cities. They are totally incorporated into the capitalist society. Electricity, TV, telephone, Internet, railways, cars, motorcycles and other rapid means of transport make this contact regular, fast and problem free. The agricultural production has vastly become mechanised. The “self sufficient” and isolated village is almost becoming a rare phenomenon that attracts tourists and money(!) to the village. Rapid and active communication increases the “concentration” of population in the human society. Marx was also aware of this fact and fully understood the importance of rapid communication in connecting and concentrating the human societies. Alas! He did not live enough to use electricity, chat with Engels on the Skype and order his wine on Internet!  

2. The antagonism between physical and intellectual work:

This factor has also undergone deep and qualitative changes since Marx’s time. Today,  construction workers  in most of the societies are literate and skilled persons who have studied at least a further two years after finishing their high school in order to be qualified to use the complicated machinery and equipments in this industry. Likewise, today any machine operator, autoworker, and computer operator must be well educated in order to be “employable”. Ever more in even most mundane tasks, workers are expected to use computerised and robotised machinery to lead the production process.

It goes without saying that even in a fully fledged free and communal society one needs to do some manual labour on the side of intellectual activities. But humans are no longer enslaved due to the backwardness of the means of production or the antagonism between manual and mental labour. However, if there are issues in this regard, it is very much to do with socio-political conditions and as such the matter could be settled by expropriating the capitalists and getting rid of wage slavery. That is why it is now possible to organise a society in which all the social production, which is needed, is done by volunteers who produce through 4 hours of daily work. Not only would they be able to produce what is more than enough for social consumption, they still have time to carry out activities that would enrich their life experiences: activities that could be artistic, recreational or research-centred.

3. Human’s crave for labour as one of her prime needs:

This factor has undergone tremendous changes in the last 150 years. Today, most areas of agricultural, industrial, service and even scientific production are automated, or can be automated immediately. Where the use of manual labour instead of automated labour is prevalent, it is largely to do with the existence of hundreds of millions of very cheap wage slaves in the world, and not the scarcity of machinery. In such circumstance it is not profitable for capitalists to invest in machines and automation and thus increase the organic composition of their capital.

On the other hand there are tens of millions of unemployed youth in Europe whose desperation for finding a job does not stem from their need to feed themselves or rent a shelter or buy clothes. Compared with 1875, the situation has changed significantly. Now, food, accommodation, clothing, basic education, basic health care, though not necessarily with good quality, are provided to the people in Europe and many other developed countries as a minimum standard of living. Thus, it is not these prime needs that drive millions to seek job in such countries.

One major reason why millions of youth seek employment is because work itself has become a prime need of human beings. A permanent theme in publications which reflect on the social consequences of unemployment is the danger of increasing rate of suicide, drug and alcohol addiction and mental illnesses among the unemployed because of loneliness, feeling of uselessness, idleness and being perceived as parasites or lazy. They are not committig suicide because of hunger in Europe, they do so because they do not have an opportunity to work and contribute to society. Millions of youngsters and even middle aged people in Europe receive such low wages after tax deductions that their disposable income would not be much more than what they would have received through unemployment benefit or social security allowances. But still they prefer to work, and actually beg for it. Work has already become a prime need for a considerable part of humanity. 

4. Development of the productive forces and production with abundance:

One does not need to pause much on this point. The big difference between the level of productive forces and amount of produced goods in today's world and that of Marx’s time is all too evident. The present level of productive forces and production poses only one question for the labour and anti-capitalist activists: “If this amount of production and enormous potentials to produce even more is not enough for having a really free society without capitalism, profit and wage slavery, then how much more is needed to get rid of capitalism and all its criminality and anti-nature and anti-human violence?”

The contemporary humans are in a situation that can elevate their roles in production to that of observers, controllers and programmers of production. In such circumstances referring to “insufficient development of the productive forces” is clearly a conscious attempt by various bourgeois elements to postpone the radical transformation of the capitalist system.

On the other hand, the production level has now reached to such a height, and there is so much over-production that the bourgeoisie no longer knows what to do with it. In 1996, the United Nations organised an international conference in Italy on the subject of food. According to the experts of UN the amount of food produced in that year was adequate to feed sufficiently all the existing inhabitants of the Earth and three billions more! In Sweden the capitalist government pays a substantial part of the tax payers’ money to the farmers in order not to produce and add to the existing mountains of food. The same experts with their usual official jargons confessed that the problem of hunger of hundreds of millions of people in the world was not due to the shortage in food production but some problems in “distribution”! In another words, to put it simply, the problem is socio-political and stems from the very nature of a system which produces in order to sell and earn profit rather than meeting the human needs.

Over-production can be seen in other areas too. Every year millions of tonnes of steel are melted again in steel factories because they cannot be sold in the market for sufficient profit. The same applies to the production of medicine, housing, computers, cameras etc. Evidently humanity has acquired such a productive capacity that it can produce enough to give everybody on the planet Earth according to their needs. The problem is that the control of these productive forces is totally in the hands of the bourgeoisie and its establishment including police, army, clergy, mass media, existing political parties and trade unions. It is high time to get rid of this violent system and its political structure and give to each according to their needs.

Here, it is essential that one understand the historical and relative concepts of abundance and shortage. If one does not take into consideration this relativity in Marx’s approach to the need for abundance in production, then one can arrive at very dangerous and harmful conclusions for the workers’ and anti-capitalist movement. Firstly, from a historical perspective, abundance can only be contrasted with what would be shortage in a given period. Historically, one cannot exist without the other. Secondly, existences of shortage in all periods of human civilisation have been indicative of the need and capacity of society to further develop itself. In Marx’s time there were shortage in food and other basic necessities of life. Twenty years ago there was shortage in production of portable computers. Today we have shortage in production of three dimensional audiovisual devices and in 50 years there shall be long queues to orbit the earth. In this historical meaning, shortage is a phenomenon that would always be with humanity. It is a sign of human civilisation to develop itself physically and intellectually.

To condition the possibility of building a communal society, free of wage slavery, to total withering away of all shortages shall be tantamount to declaring impossibility of getting rid of capitalism and building a really free society for human beings by human beings. In my view Marx’s reference to shortage and abundance has had a very historical and concrete character. Marx in this respect conditioned the possibility of building communism in its totality to the existence of abundance in production of the basic and elementary needs of human beings; things like food, shelter, education, service to the elderly and so on. All of which are now potentially in abundance thanks to enormous development of technology and science in today's world. Hence, the conditions that Marx had set, have long been resolved by the humanity. Though, the socio-political constraints that shackle the ability of the humans to enjoy such potential abundance to fulfil their needs are also too evident due to the prevalence of a global capitalist system of wage-slavery.

Many years before writing “Critique of the Gotha Program” Marx wrote in “The German Ideology” that those people who are not able to produce food, shelter and clothing in enough quantity and quality cannot be free. If he were able to foresee the current state of human capacity to produce, he would have no hesitation to state that there is no reason why humans should no longer be free!

 III. Who shall maintain for those who do not work

In the last fifty years, in most of the European countries, the bourgeoisie has been forced under the pressure from the workers’ struggles to maintain the livelihood of the unemployed. Millions of unemployed workers and refugees, who do not work, receive food, accommodation, clothing, basic education and health care in the name of unemployment benefit or social security. In these societies, it is not yet expected that such unfortunate individuals should rely on food donations from the Church, or from their employed siblings or in-laws.

Human civilisation, even under the capitalist system, has reached such a degree of development and production that it is able to receive persecuted or fleeing refugees and provide them with shelter and food and basic social amenities and care. The human society has reached such levels of productive forces, consciousness and capabilities that it is now possible to maintain millions of people who do not have jobs.

Of course, it goes without saying that such provisions are still elementary and negligible and their recipients are often treated with considerable contempt and intimidation. It is more than evident that following the down fall of the Soviet bloc and the end of the Cold War, and now under the pretext of the deepening crisis of capitalism, the bourgeoisie even in Europe is trying to seriously undermine the welfare system. Despite all these setbacks, we must not forget that the level of productive forces and civilisation, even under capitalism, has now reached such a state that the basic minimum maintenance of millions of people is no longer dependent on their own employment or wealth or that of their parents, siblings and relatives.

Equally it is important to mention that still the main defenders of the welfare state in these societies, to varying degrees and with many compromises, are workers and their organisations.

These achievements of the human society are not comparable with the situation in Marx’s time in the same countries. If all these have been possible for several decades in capitalist societies, then why they cannot be possible much better and with greater equity in a humane and communal society? Recalling Marx’s remaks in “the Critique of Gotha program”, one can say that today the productive forces of many countries, and the corresponding social culture, has reached such levels that a workers’ or communal government, after consolidating itself, shall be able to meet every citizen's needs without any recourse to measuring the amount of labour that they have contributed to society either by their own efforts or their parents. Given this situation, is it not the high time to raise the banner for organising such a society in all the struggles and protests of wage salves in the world?

Evidently a concrete and historical comparison between now and Marx’s time shows that those limitations and shortages that necessitated a separation of the initial and higher phase for communism do not apply to today. At present, organising a fully fledged communist society in most capitalist societies is possible, and the only obstacle is the political and state power of the bourgeoisie and not shortages and scarcity of the products necessary to maintain human beings.

 IV. Workers’ rule and revolution

Here it is important to address briefly the question of the workers’ rule and the possibility of communism after a workers’ revolution against wage slavery. I think in all the present capitalist societies (not only in places like Europe, USA, Japan, Australia and Russia, but also in countries like China, India, South Korea, Iran, South Africa, Malaysia, Egypt and such likes) organising a communal volunteer labour society is possible, desirable and necessary. The actual question is that after how much destruction and carnage the bourgeoisie would leave the power to the absolute majority of the society to carry out their anti-capitalist revolution.

A revolution of wage slaves shall confiscate all the means of production, distribution and information and make their ownership really democratic and communal. It shall also abolish the wage slavery system, and decree that all members of society shall have equal rights to benefit from the total social production according to their needs.

Such a revolution against capitalism shall be, at the first step, a political, and unfortunately but predictably, a military one. Most obviously the bourgeoisie and capitalist class shall not render organisation of the society to the majority by parliamentary elections or referenda.

The workers’ revolution in Russia in 1917, and the immediate war that was imposed on it by the Russian and European bourgeoisie, with their so-called “democratic” and parliamentary factions and governments, is the latest historical example of the bourgeoisie’s brutality and internationalism when their property rights and establishment are questioned. The orchestrated attack of the German and French bourgeois armies on Paris Commune, less than half of century before the socialist revolution in Russia, is yet another example. 

At the immediate aftermath of the revolution of wage slaves (in one country, part of a country or several ones), the majority of the society must be prepared to defend their revolution and society against such attacks by the world bourgeoisie. The gigantic endeavours of the revolutionary Red Army, and the following “War communism” and “New Economic Policy” in Russia before 1922 were precisely such military and social tactics to defend the new-born revolution.

Bearing in mind the much more destructive capacity of the bourgeoisie in 2012 (its atom and hydrogen bombs, pilotless missile-firing drones and the gigantic information databases they have set up about any individual), any emerging workers’ rule in any society must organise a sort of self-defence organisation to guarantee the continuation of the founding of a society which produces for human needs and not for profit. This means that in the immediate aftermath of a workers’ revolution, political and military self-defence shall form the preconditions to organise the society and production on a wage-less basis.

This politico-military necessity is not, in itself, a goal of the anti-capitalist revolution, but an inhumane burden which would be imposed by the domestic and international bourgeoisie on such an anti-capitalist revolution.

After successful passage from such a political and military period and the establishment of a communal rule, the re-organisation of the production system based on voluntary work and the distribution of goods and services according to one’s needs shall be the priority of such society. The single goal of an anti-capitalist revolution in the 21st century can only be the abolition of production for profit based on wage slavery.

If the bourgeoisie yields in to the aspirations of the wage slaves, then the impending work of transforming the socio-economic system shall not be immensely difficult. However, if the bourgeoisie resorts to violence and destruction before conceding to the communal rule, then some transitional phase shall be needed to rebuild the cities, infrastructure, production, distribution and other preliminary requirements of a society evolving to a superior socio-economic system. In such circumstances, Marx’s observations about the necessity of a phase to build the prerequisites for restructuring the capitalist socio-economic system shall be valid even in the 21st century.

It is possible that in the beginning, one cannot make the nature of work voluntary in all branches of production, communication and services. It might be necessary to develop a system of rota to make some social duties like maintaining the hygiene in the community compulsory, say 6 months for every citizen under the age of 50. There can be shortages for certain skills in some branches, and the communal society might even be forced to pay, for a short time, for such skills until adequate people are trained to do such tasks. Such compulsory and practical solutions to the immediate problems arising from a radical change in the social system can be envisaged even now in the 21st century.

On the other hand, it is impossible to forecast the duration of civil war and the impending revolutionary measures to quell the attacks of the confiscated, angry and violent bourgeoisie. This complicated issue shall be conditioned by the internal and global balance of class forces, the degree of unity, organisation and power of the world proletariat, the cultural and moral values of the society under revolt and some other factors. The exact impact of such factors shall be determined at the event of any anti-capitalist revolution and one cannot prescribe ready-made “remedies” for all eventualities in future.  

But, today, it is absolutely imperative to clearly state the pricipal and concrete content and duty of an anti-capitalist and communal revolution. The workers’ and anti-capitalist movement has suffered enough in the last 70 years from assertions like “the time is not ripe, the socialist phase is not complete, and the productive forces have not developed enough” etc. To comit itself to openly declare the desirability and possibility of abolishing the wage slavery as its immediate goal and task. One must openly and unreservedly encourage billions of employed and unemployed, young and old for such a revolution and explain to them the very possibility of it today! To give a very practical vision of a free society is in itself one of the most essential preconditions for the resurgence and empowerment of the anti-capitalist alternative and forces. People must clearly understand why they take part in an anti-capitalist revolution, and after enduring some initial burdens of undertaking such task, what they could expect for themselves and their children from it.

The experience of the Soviet Union on building “socialism” is a total opposite to what should have been in this respect. 70 years after the revolution, when that society was enormously advanced in terms of science and technology and was considered one of the two big powers in the world, the bourgeoisie still used the excuse of continuing with building the first phase of socialism in order to guarantee the permanence of wage slavery in a state capitalist system. The state capitalist bourgeoisie in that country alienated the workers from voluntary work and social activity. Finally, the Soviet state because of its own internal contradictions, as well as the weaker position that it had compared to the liberal western capitalism in the world market, collapsed all together. The experience of the Soviet Union has some very important lessons for the humanity and working classes, and among them is that the working class must not be deceived by any bourgeoisie which seeks to keep them in a wage slavery system under the pretext that there is no radical alternative to such system because the society's productive forces are not yet ready for it!

To sum it up, I have tried in this article to firstly, emphasise the desirability and possibility of organising the society on communal and volunteer basis at present. Secondly, I have tried to evaluate Marx’s brilliant work on the subject, the “Critique of Gotha Program”, in the context of its historical conditions, and thus tried to explain that why it is totally damaging if one continues to split the organisation of a really free and communal society into two very different phases more than a century after Marx wrote that work.   

Farhad Besharat

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April 2012

 

PS: The main ideas of this article were developed and written at the beginning of 1990s in Farsi. One version was published under the title “Wage Slavery: the Basis of Capitalist Savagery” in 1997. Another version was published in the Farsi socio-political journal “Negah” in early 2000 entitled “Future of Humanity at dawn of the 21st Century”.