Class Struggle: Who Wins?
Pavel B. Ivanov
Troitsk Institute for Innovation and Fusion Research (TRINITI)
Written: 16 February 1996
The Marxist theory of class struggle is critically revised on
the basis of its own logic, dialectical materialism. The
differences in the understanding of class struggle in Marxism
and Leninism are discussed. The conception of the dictatorship
of proletariat is found to be logically inconsistent, and
an alternative is suggested. The hierarchical nature of human
activity is considered as a source of the universal non-uniformity
of social development, which is reflected in the essentially diverse
organisation of any society, as well as in the development of
subjectivity in general.
The conception of class struggle is the pivot of the social
theory of Marxism. Consequently, any extension of Marxism
would require analysis of classes. The collapse of the socialist
experiment in the USSR indicates that the Marxist approach
should have some inherent inconsistencies, and therefore needs
a critical revision. The natural starting point would be the
Marxist theory of class struggle.
There are two possible ways of criticising. One may either
reject something without too much consideration, or try to
find the faults of the theory following its intrinsic logic.
Unfortunately, Marxism was mostly criticised in the first way,
and many of its valuable discoveries were lost. In this
article, I try to find the weak places in the Marxist
understanding of class struggle, using the own logic of Marxism,
dialectical materialism. I do not discuss the validity of
materialistic philosophy, or regard the possibilities of
implementing the theoretical conclusions in the actual life.
For more logical purity, I consider the theory of class
struggle as it appears in the works of Karl Marx, Friedrich
Engels and Vladimir Ulyanov (Lenin). No other interpretations
have been involved. Since I analyse the general ideas only,
I intentionally avoid complete citations. However, the
references are given where my description of Marxist views
is textually (and stylistically) close to the originals. The
references to the Collected Works of K. Marx and F. Engels are
given by the second Russian edition. The references to the
Complete Works of V. I. Lenin are given by the fifth Russian edition.
The original conception
Karl Marx was not the first to discover the class structure of
the capitalist society. He just related the class structure of
society to the specific phases of economical development, and
suggested that the class struggle in the capitalist society
would lead to the elimination of classes as such .
In a few words, the Marxist understanding of class struggle may
be stated as follows.
Capitalism is one of the antagonistic economical formations.
This means that, among all the social groups that can be observed
in a capitalist society, there are two main classes, which
represent the essence of the capitalist economy, the opposition
of the capital and the labour. The class of capitalists owns
the means of production, while the working class has to sell its
productive power to get the ability to work and to gain the means
of existence, thus becoming proletariat.
The main classes of the capitalist society are
"logically" opposite, and they cannot co-exist otherwise
than in the state of the permanent struggle. In this struggle,
the proletarians represent the interests of all the oppressed
and exploited masses, while the bourgeoisie consolidates all
the anti-revolutionary forces.
Finally, the class struggle should end with the complete
victory of the working class, which would seize the political
power in a socialist revolution. The transition from the capitalist
economical formation to the new, communist society will require
the temporary dictatorship of the proletariat, when the attempts
of capitalist restoration will be suppressed using any means, not
excluding the severe repressions.
In the course of the communist reorganisation of economy, the
society will become more uniform, and the class differences will
The Marxist understanding of classes is essentially related to
economy. The existence of a definite social group completely
depends on the existence of a definite field of human activity,
which is relatively separated from other activities due to the
historically established division of labour. This means that
any economy based on the division of labour will necessarily
manifest some social non-uniformity, and finally a class structure.
Economical development implies the development of the division of
labour, and the stages of this development correspond to the
distinct economical formations. Thus, the feudal economy grows
from the division of labour different from that characteristic
of the ancient economy, and capitalism is characterised by the
universal division of labour, when any kind of activity may
become a separate profession. One may suggest that the primitive
economy was mostly syncretic, and no classes would exist in the
primitive society. The antagonistic formations should then be
considered as a dialectical negation of the primitive society,
and the negation of negation should restore the classless state,
at a higher level. This formal conclusion supports the idea of
communism as a necessary stage of human development coming to
The early stages of human development went all the way from the
primitive hordes to the highly organised tribal communities.
The late phases of this development, preceding the state organisation
(civilisation), may be considered a separate economical formation,
the primitive communal system. At this stage, the division of
labour was not developed enough to bring forth the opposition of classes.
However, the first traces of slavery could already be found in the
communal system. The tribes within a tribe union were rarely equal,
and the stronger tribes subdued their weaker neighbours, thus
transforming the external opposition of independent tribes into
the opposition of different groups within the same society.
The origin of class antagonism might, to some extent, be attributed
to this primary violence.
Many activities might be shared by all the members of a primitive
commune, or transferred from one social group to another in a
regular way. Also, the difference in the economical position did
not necessarily imply significant social differences, and the
relation between some distinct social groups seemed to be partnership
rather than opposition. As the mass of the oppressed social groups
grew, their social position became much less mobile, and their
relations with those controlling the economical situation acquired
the features of a social prescription, and finally the law. Thus codified
social and economical positions of the different social groups made
them classes, and the form of the dominance of one class over another
was the state.
Three economical formations are usually distinguished in the history
of civilisation. The ancient formation was based on slavery, and
a labourer belonged to the slave-owner along with the conditions
and means of production. The feudal society replaced slave possession
with bondage, and a serf could own the means of production, though
the land still belonged to the landlord, with all the people working
on it. However, the own household made a serf equal to a feudal
in that they both were proprietors, albeit at most different levels.
The third of the three antagonistical formations, capitalism,
is characterised with much more equality between different people,
so that any one of them may own anything, remaining personally free.
The relation of possession becomes universal, regulating all the
areas of social life. This means that the more one owns, the more
possibilities one has to own more, and to oppress those who do not
have much. The class differences grow enormously, and the class
of wage labourers deprived of any property at all has no other
alternative as to fight with the class of capitalists, the
bourgeoisie, until the inequality of possessions will be eliminated.
So, the history of civilisation was the history of class struggle .
Each antagonistic economical formation assumes its own opposition
of the two main classes, as well as a wide spectrum of accessory
classes, which oscillate between the main classes, temporarily
supporting either one or another. Class struggle is the mechanism
of social development, since it reflects the principal contradiction
of the economy based on the division of labour, the discord between
the process of production and the distribution of the products.
Class struggle is held at the economical, political and ideological
levels, and finally resolves in a social revolution, which breaks
the forms of economical and social organisation that became
inadequate at the current level of technological development,
replacing them with the new progressive forms.
Since the capitalist economy assumes the highest possible level
of the division of labour, it should be the last antagonistic
formation, and the next stage in the social development should make
any activity allowed for every person, and thus replace the division
of labour with the distribution of labour. The struggle for the
individual life will come to an end. And then the humanity will
eventually distinguish itself from the animal world and pass from
the feral conditions of existence to the conditions human indeed.
This will be the jump of humanity from the reign of necessity to the
reign of freedom .
However, the possibility of such social transformation is closely
linked to a rather high level technological development, when the
difference between the industrial and agricultural labour,
as well as between the physical and intellectual labour, becomes
negligible. This technological stage implies a highly developed
co-operation, up to the essential integrity of economy on the world scale.
That is why communism cannot be confined in a single country,
or a group of countries, and should necessarily involve the whole
world into its orbit. Meanwhile, the relations between different
countries reflect the general trends in the class struggle, and
are related to the social processes inside each country . The
main classes of the capitalist society are never bound to nationality,
and the international capital stands against the international
proletariat. This requires the elimination of capitalism all over
the world, with the joint efforts of the workers of all countries.
Marxism and Leninism
As capitalism acquired the international dominance, its
"classical" phase came to an end, and the new stage
of capitalist development began, which V. I. Lenin called
imperialism. The major Lenin's contribution into
the Marxist social theory was the idea of the internal development
of economical formations through an objectively necessary sequence
of sub-formations. This conception differs from the notes of
K. Marx and F. Engels on the two stages of the communist formation,
or the three stages in the development of the primitive humanity.
The original Marxism focused on the integral formations within
some super-formation. Thus, slavery, feudalism and capitalism
were treated as the historical forms of the same antagonistic
formation, in contrast with the communist formation as a whole,
or with the primitive societies in general. Lenin's approach
added one more level of hierarchy, and, logically, one can consider
sub-formations in the ancient or feudal formation, analogous to
the stages of capitalism.
Imperialism as a definite historical phase is based on the global
integrity of the world economy, with the international division
of labour. The non-uniformity of global economical development
places some countries into more favourable conditions, so that
the relations between the countries replicate the class organisation
of the capitalist society. Each country may represent some social
force, depending on its place in the international division of labour.
Groups of countries may form political blocks as long as they
represent the common class interests. Economical sanctions, local
conflicts, and even large-scale wars may essentially be a manifestation
of class struggle.
The most evident form of the international class structure is
colonialism. The exploitation of one country with another is very
like the exploitation of one class with another, and the fight for
national independence reminds the rebellions of the oppressed.
One can easily observe that colonialism actually went through
the stages analogous to all the three antagonistic formations, and
the elimination of the explicit control of one country over another
after the World War II resulted in the neo-colonialist relations
between the countries, reproducing the typically capitalist combination
of the formal freedom with the strong economical dependence.
The natural consequence of the non-uniform economical development
is that the elements of different economical formations may be
combined within the same society. This diversity of economy
enormously complicates the social organisation, and requires much
more effort to trace the streamline of class struggle in the
variety of social conflicts. Accordingly, the formation of
class consciousness becomes rather complicated, and the oppressed
masses need a strong political guidance to prevent their deviation
from the true way.
Here is an important difference between the original Marxism and
Leninism. Marx and Engels spoke of the gradual growth of class
consciousness in the proletarian mass, in parallel with the
development of its economical weight. Proletariat comes to the
communist ideas because it is bound to realise its historical
mission as a creator of the new society. On the contrary, Lenin
does not believe in the natural socialism of the working class.
He writes that the spontaneous development of the working movement
results in its submission to the bourgeois ideology, because the
spontaneous working movement is trade-unionism, and trade-unionism
means just the ideological enthralment of the workers by the
bourgeoisie. Therefore, the task of Social Democrats, is to
fight the spontaneity, to draw the working movement away from
its spontaneous bourgeois development to the ways of the
revolutionary Social Democracy . Lenin says that Social
Democracy is the junction of the working movement with socialism;
its task is not the passive attendance to the working movement at every
specific stage of it, but rather representing the interests of the
movement as a whole, indicating the movement its final goal, its
political tasks, defending its political and ideological independence.
Detached from Social Democracy, the working movement degenerates
and is sure to fall into the bourgeois ideology, the working class
loosing its political independence and becoming the follower of
the other parties . The worker is filled with "the weaknesses
of capitalism", and much of the traditional psychology of the
bourgeois society remains in him .
Such an attitude grew in the specific social conditions in the
Russian Empire of those times. The country was mostly agrarian,
with many survivals of the communal system. The fast industrial
development was entangled in feudal forms. And, like in the early
development of the European working class, proletariat, just
beginning to stand out against the whole mass of the poor as a germ of
a new class, incapable yet of an independent political action, seemed
only an oppressed, suffering estate, which could at best be helped,
being incapable to help itself, from outside, from above .
However, there also were the objective grounds for the new treatment
of the relation between the working class and socialism. Lenin's
attitude reflected the actual social processes on the edge of
the XX century. Economy became more complex, and the working class
lost its relative uniformity, characteristic of the early stage
of capitalism. Marx and Engels could speak of a wage labourer, a
capitalist, or a peasant as the representatives of the class, as
far as the social conditions for the labourers, capitalists and
peasants could be considered almost the same in any given society.
With the end of the "classical" capitalism, and the
birth of imperialism, the equality of social conditions utterly
disappeared, and the non-uniformity of development became the general rule.
Here one may find one more principal difference of Leninism from
Marxism. For Marx and Engels, classes were general categories
rather than actual social groups. Any individual, or any social
group, could represent some class, but this representation
could never be complete, and the class evaluation of any actual
social phenomenon implied both the demonstration of its class roots
and the specification of its accessory aspects, its historical
peculiarity. Thus, the capital is a social, rather than personal,
force , and individuals form a class so far as they have to carry
the common struggle against some other class . The materialistic
treatment was preserved, since classes were not considered abstract
ideas existing before the individuals, but rather a combined
result of the individual activities. However, in the course of
historical development, the class itself becomes somewhat
self-dependent, and the individuals find the conditions of their
life pre-established: the class defines their life position, and
their personal fate, subdues them .
The classical Lenin's definition of classes, which all the students
in the former Soviet Union had to learn by heart, started with:
Classes are the large groups of people, differing by their
position in a historically formed system of public production,
by their relation (mostly codified) to the means of production,
by their role in the social organisation of labour, and therefore
by the ways of obtaining and the volume of the part of the national
wealth they possess .
So, classes were treated as if they were actual communities, with
a kind of "membership", when an individual may either
belong to some class, or be entirely outside it. Class struggle
then appeared the struggle of one part of the people against the
other . Such understanding was popular enough and well-suited
for revolutionary propaganda among the poorly educated people.
Still, it allowed an over-simplified approach, with the people sorted
by the rigid criteria and prescribed the fixed social positions,
just like the feudal estates. In a significant degree, the downfall
of socialism in the USSR might be due to the rigid estate structure
grown from the feudal rudiments on the soil of the suppressed capitalism.
The discovery of the non-uniform nature of social and economical
development in the imperialist stage of capitalism lead Lenin to the
suggestion that the socialist revolution might first win in a single
country, which could build the socialist society in the capitalist
environment. The co-existence of the states with different social
systems was put forward as a necessary stage in establishing
communism all over the world. In particular, this means that some
countries may represent the international working class, while other
countries become the representatives of the international bourgeoisie.
This apparently disagrees with the ideas of Marx and Engels, which
insisted that the socialist revolution might win only on the world
scale, in many countries simultaneously. They argued that the
integrity of the world economy could not embrace the two entirely
different economical formations, capitalism and communism. The
struggle between the two systems would lead to the military
conflicts, and one of the fighting formations would perish.
To some extent, the history of the USSR supports this conclusion.
The universal non-uniformity
Modern society manifests a great number of social groups, and many
of them are rather stable. In principle, one may study social
organisation from any angle, and describe the specific hierarchical
structures observed in this way. Any such description will be valid,
provided the criteria of classification are used consistently.
The problem is why some social structures could be considered more
fundamental than the other, and why the difference in economical
position may sometimes lead to social antagonism. Marxism postulates
the decisive role of economy in the social development, which is
associated with the philosophical materialism. The mode of production
assumes a historically developed level of specialisation, and the
social conservation of these economical differences leads to the
opposition of classes.
The difficulty is that no society is known as far, which would be
completely free from the division of labour, and no clear indications
of the existence of such societies can be found in the primeval
history. Of course, the division of labour in the tribal communities
differs from that of the developed capitalism. Still, some groups
of people usually do things that are forbidden to other groups,
and vice versa. Mere physiological differences may lead to a complex
There are activities that remain divided among different social
groups from the earliest stages of human development up to the
modern times. For example, there were few attempts to detach babies
from their mothers, on a considerable scale. One could expect
that such persistent division of labour should be somehow reflected
in the social organisation.
It may be suggested that the "natural" division of labour,
when the activity cannot be transferred to another group of people,
does not lead to class antagonisms. In other words, one should be
able to have something to be deprived of it. This suggestion has
rather important implications. Thus, the non-uniformity of
economical development becomes a universal law of human
history, for any economical formations, including communism.
Lenin's extension of the original Marxism appears to be the first
step in this direction. Every economy implies the co-existence
of quite different modes of production, though only one of them
may represent the essence of the current economical formation,
and all the other modes of production are hierarchically ordered,
depending on their "proximity" to the top of the hierarchy.
Economical development means the growth of this hierarchy, the
inclusion of the new elements, which results in a number of
transitory processes of restructurisation. On the other side,
the local conditions may make some elements of the hierarchy
relatively more important, and the same economical basis may,
due to the infinitely diverse empirical circumstances, natural
conditions, racial relations, the external historical influences
etc., manifest the infinite variations and gradations, which can
only be understood through the analysis of these empirically given
The diversity of the capitalist economy has already been noticed
in the earliest stages of capitalism. However, the founders of
Marxism thought that it was just a temporary situation, and that
the different modes of production were to be absorbed by the
large-scale industry in the process of industrial concentration
and collectivisation. Even V.I.Lenin, admitting the essentially
non-uniform economical development of imperialism, saw the major
task of the transition period, after the victory of socialist
revolution, in overcoming the diversity of economy inherited
from capitalism. The suggestion of the universal non-uniformity
and the economical hierarchy makes the things look differently.
The diversity of economy within every economical formation is
the objective necessity, since no stage of development can be
lost without any trace in the human culture, and once a scheme
of activity has been discovered, it will be kept in the arsenal
of social creativity for ever. It is this accumulation of
experience that enormously enhances the humanity's ability to
survive. Feudal economy is much more flexible than the ancient
slavery, and the capitalist organisation makes the society even
more stable. Therefore, the replacement of capitalism with some
other economical and social system would require a general
industrial crisis that could not be overcome in the formerly
found ways. This conclusion extends the Marxist statement that
social revolutions result from economical development: the
internal development of economy in a relatively stable environment is
not enough, and there should be some external pressure that makes
the existence of the old social organisation impossible. This
external factor acts as an objective force, though the drastic
environmental changes may be caused by the human activity itself.
Since any economy may combine many modes of production, the process
of one economical formation changing another becomes more smooth.
There is no unbridgeable gulf between the two successive formations,
and the sprouts of a new economical organisation are logically allowed
to grow within the old society. However, if one believes that the
communist formation implies no class antagonism, the different modes
of production would co-exist within communism in an essentially
different way than in the capitalist economy. This problem
requires a special consideration. Here, I may only suggest that
the solution lies in the partial transformation of the real activities
into a kind of instructive games. For example, children may play
the roles of extreme enemies in some game, remaining the friends
in the real life; more of that, they have to be friends
to play together.
The process of economical development may alter the character
of a specific activity, so that the "natural" division
of labour becomes the social discrimination. In the modern world,
there are many examples of how the functions that seem purely
physiological are detached from an individual and become independent
of a particular realisation. Thus, woman's milk is not absolutely
necessary for baby nutrition, and the process of impregnation does
not require a sexual intercourse. Therefore, the division of
labour in such activities is no longer a natural phenomenon, but
rather a social establishment, which may come into contradiction
with the general economical organisation and incite social antagonism.
The hierarchy of subjectivity
As it has already been noted, Marxism originally treated classes
as general categories, rather than actual groups of people. However,
the Marxist theory of class struggle implies that a class can
also be a subject, with many features that are usually attributed
to a person, including the class consciousness. But how can an
abstract category be a subject of activity? Are there such things as
class consciousness, class interests, or class will?
The problem has many aspects. Thus, one may consider the development
of an individual subjectivity as a long historical process, which
is somehow represented in the process of child's socialisation .
At the biological level, the physiological abilities of an individual
are the only means of production, and no subjectivity can arise.
Consciousness implies the social reflection, when individual activity
is mediated by communication with other individuals. It is only
after a long way of development that an individual becomes able
to communicate with his or her self as if it were another person.
Therefore, in the primitive societies, an individual was hardly
separated from the community as a whole, and could not be a distinct
subject of activity. The first conscious thought probably was
the awareness of belonging to a definite community. Thus the
collective subjectivity dominates at the stages of human development,
and the universal division of labour characteristic of the capitalist
society may be considered as an objective mechanism of the formation
of a true individual consciousness, the last phase of the transition
from the primitive horde to the human society proper.
Another aspect is the way of the summation of individual wills in
the class will, and the independent actions of many individuals in
the class action. I suppose, this effect can be explained quite
materialistically. Thus, one may recall the concept of the residual
force in the Newtonian mechanics. A material body may interact
with many other bodies, and the effect of this interaction is
equivalent to the interaction with some fictitious body, which
does not exist for a side observer, while being quite real for
the body it acts upon. Each real body then may be characterised
with the contribution it makes into the residual force, and every
body may contribute to different residual forces, as it is
participating in many interactions. Physics knows many such
collective phenomena, including phonons in solids, holes
in semiconductors, solitons in hydrodynamics, autoionising states
in atoms. For example, a positron may be treated as a hole in the
electrodynamical vacuum, the absence of electron; however, the
rest of the vacuum moves as if there were a material particle
similar to electron, but with the opposite charge. This treatment
may be extended to consider all physical events as
collective effects. The distinction of the material and the
ideal thus becomes relative, as it should be in a consistently
Now, class struggle in the modern society may be thought of as
a residual force causing the changes in the social development.
Any relation between different social groups may contribute to
this force with either positive or negative sign, and thus be
evaluated from the class viewpoint. Consequently, each person's
activity can be evaluated in a more realistic way, independently
of the formal "membership" in one or another social
group. The same holds for the social groups themselves.
Of course, the existence of a "non-zero" residual
force assumes that the humanity is not in an equilibrium state,
and that it develops in an objective way. The idea of the objective
nature of the development of human society was the one of the basic
principles in the Marxist treatment of history.
Continuing the mechanical analogies, I can suggest that a class
is much like the centre of mass in a system of material bodies.
The whole system moves as if it were a real body placed in the point
of centre of mass. The interaction between any two systems of
material bodies, if they are distant enough, can generally be
reduced to the force acting between their centres of mass.
This analogy may be traced further, considering the deviations
from the point interaction between the two systems as the
internal strains within either of them. This accounts for
the splitting of classes observed in the actual class
struggle, the internal hierarchy of each class. The bourgeois
differ, as well as proletarians. The very principles of the
communist ideology have been formulated by the descendants from
the class of bourgeoisie, and this became possible due to the
strong interaction of classes causing the changes in their
In terms of this mechanical analogy, the Marxist theory of class
struggle reduces the problem of the description of a system of
many interacting bodies to the problem of two bodies. Naturally,
this reduction is only possible when the rest of interactions
within the system can be treated as a minor correction.
A special study should define the conditions of the applicability
of such approach.
Assuming a definite class structure well formed, the relations
between people, or social groups, may be divided into two separate
groups. One of them includes the relations within a class, and the
other includes the interclass relations. The internal relations
define the hierarchy of the class, which may unfold itself in
different hierarchical structures. Generally, there is a
core of the class, a social group that most clearly
represents the class interests and class consciousness. This
is the top of hierarchy. The lower levels may be naturally
ordered by their proximity to the core.
In the similar way, it is possible to consider a hierarchy
of subjects, from individuals to the humanity as a whole.
Therefore, the class organisation of the modern society may
assume different forms, depending on the level of consideration.
Thus, at the international level, countries may represent
antagonistic classes. On the other side, the class hierarchies
are reflected within every single person, and everyone could
find both a bourgeois and a proletarian inside one's soul.
The evident consequence is the possibility of internal
personality conflicts induced by the class organisation of the
society on a large scale.
Class struggle and class co-operation
The relations of a class with other classes depend on their
economical positions. The classical Marxism usually speaks
of two main classes (like bourgeoisie and proletarians in the
capitalist society), and the wide spectrum of secondary classes,
less important for the definition of the economical formation.
The relation between the main classes is called the class struggle,
and the other classes oscillate between the two main classes,
supporting either one or another.
This picture reflects the principal trends in interclass relations
and may be useful in developing the tactics of a communist party.
However, it violates the logical basis of Marxism, dialectics.
According to the dialectical logic, the two opposites constituting
the principal internal contradiction of an object should be closely
intertwined, penetrate each other, or, using Hegel's terms, be
reflected in each other. They are the two sides of the whole,
and they just cannot exist without each other. Therefore, the
relations between the main classes of an antagonistical society
cannot be limited to the class struggle only. The opposite
classes co-operate in supporting the existing order of
things, and their interests, although opposite, quite agree with
the existing economical organisation. That is why the working
movement in the relatively stable phases of capitalist development
easily fits into the narrow limits of the bourgeois democracy,
class struggle transforming into political games.
Thus, Lenin's remarks of the non-communist nature of the
spontaneous working movement reflect an essential feature of
the class society, rather than a local or temporary phenomenon.
The own demands of the working class never go beyond a single
redistribution of the national wealth, and this is not a mere
vestige of capitalism, the lack of class consciousness. It
seems more likely that the working class is not that unaware
of its true interests as it was thought of. A worker is no less
adherent to the idea of property than a bourgeois, and if the
workers behave in an "opportunistic" manner, they just
do what they should do, since their ideology needs no communism
This co-operation of the opposite classes can be illustrated
by the analogous co-operation in competitive games. The chess
players, or hockey teams, act within the same set of rules, though
trying to bend the luck to each own side. Both sides would blame
any cheating, or violation of the rules. The same phenomena can
be observed in the psychological games, as described in the
transactional analysis .
In the "mechanical" language, action equals counter-action,
and the system of two interacting bodies does not change the state
of its combined motion, as long as there is no other force, acting
on the both sides. Applied to the social development, this means
that the struggle of two antagonistical classes does not change
the social organisation in general, and some other social force
is required to break the balance and enhance the social progress.
Of course, the formation of such force is impossible without a
considerable technological progress, requiring the drastic changes
in the organisation of labour.
One may conclude that any class struggle has essentially economical
nature. Political struggle is just the form of economical
struggle, since no redistribution of the national wealth can be
done on the purely economical basis. In the capitalist society,
political struggle assumes the form of the bourgeois democracy,
with its formal collision of political parties obeying the same
rules, partially codified, but mostly adopted as a silent convention.
The dialectical inference is that the synthesis of economical and
political struggle may be considered as a separate kind of class
struggle, which is easily identified with the third component of
class struggle distinguished in Marxism, ideological struggle.
However, the same dialectical logic says that neither of the two
poles of a dialectical contradiction may represent their synthesis,
the resolved contradiction.
What is ideological struggle? The inherent ideology of the working
class (which Lenin called trade-unionism) is identical to the
ideology of bourgeoisie, with the only change of sign. Both the
bourgeois and proletarians cannot accept the idea of communism,
and strongly object when it is put too bold. However, there is
a difference. Bourgeoisie is much more resolute in opposing the
communist ideology, while proletarians may block with communists
in their common fight against the social dominance of the capital.
Similarly, petty bourgeoisie may become an ally of communists,
"seduced" by the possibility to avoid the economical
pressure of the big capital. Here, ideological struggle is the
controversy of different kinds of proprietary ideology, rather
than the formation of the new world outlook.
Indeed, since the proletariat represents the same economical
organisation as the bourgeoisie, its consciousness should be
as restricted by the realities of the capitalist society.
Why should proletarians have more developed ideas? Rather,
the oppressed classes would be even farther from the progressive
ideology than the ruling classes they oppose. All a proletarian
can dream of is to get some property, and the maximum of
proletarian's desires is to start one's own business, that is,
to become a bourgeois. The only progressive feature in the
proletarian consciousness is the objective hostility to capitalists,
which makes the working class a force capable of breaking the
existing social organisation. However, proletarians never want
to change the economical organisation too.
Marx and Engels inferred the revolutionary nature of the working
class from the assumption that proletarians are deprived of any
property al all, and therefore cannot be infected with proprietary
psychology. This was a mistake. Actually, the very idea of
capitalism implies that a wage labourer enters the market as an
owner of his or her productive power and creative abilities.
A worker sells his or her time to a capitalist, albeit
by the dumping price. Thus the relations between the labour
and the capital never go beyond the trade, and the psychology
of the working class is quite pragmatic: to give less, to get
more. This is why the working class may be easily corrupted.
In particular, if the living standards of the workers are much
higher in some country than in the other countries, these
workers will rather support the national bourgeoisie, and not
the international proletariat. The recent example is the
attitude of Russian working class to the anti-Communist
reforms. As long as the worker's wage is several times higher
than an average income, the bourgeois reformers may be sure
of the workers' support.
Communism, socialism and the dictatorship of the proletariat
Both Marxism and Leninism spoke about the necessity of a victorious
socialist revolution, when the working class breaks the economical
and social organisation of capitalism, starting the process of
building the communist society. The transition period between
the revolution and the final establishment of the communist
economical formation was named the dictatorship of the proletariat,
since the resistance of the bourgeoisie has to be resolutely
suppressed by force during this period. However, the character
of this violence is assumed to be different from the class
oppression in the capitalist society. The new social system
is to be built in the interests of the absolute majority of the
population, while the capitalist state served the small group
of capitalists to keep the majority of population in obeisance.
In the light of the considerations discussed in the previous
sections, these statements do not look very convincing. Logically,
the struggle of the two main classes of the capitalist society should
resolve in the dominance of some other force, different from the
both sides of conflict. This conclusion is supported by the
history of class society. Thus, the elimination of slavery was not a
victory of slaves in their fight with the slave-owners. The feudal
economy eliminated the both main classes of the ancient civilisation,
building its own class hierarchy. Similarly, the transition from the
feudal society to capitalism has made both landlords and serfs the
relics of the past, the new social groups coming to the power.
The replacement of one economical formation with another means
the drastic change of social structure, rather than swapping the
positions of classes within the same economy. When it comes to
revolution, the economical and social premises of the new formation
should already be mature enough for the structural changes to be
successful. This implies the wide spreading of the progressive
ideology, as well as the existence of a social group that might
control the society's development in the new direction.
The new ideology is born within the old economical formation;
then it gradually penetrates the minds of many people, up to
the moment when it becomes able to control their acts. Class struggle
helps to mask the sprouts of new ideas before they gain strength,
and fertilises the social soil, since many people seek for new
solutions when they find no help in the past experience. This implicit
formation of the ideological base for future change of social
organisation may be called the true ideological struggle, and
it can be much more dramatic than strikes, rebellions, or revolutions.
Still, the economical necessity supports the progressive ideas
and revives them every time they perish in the ideological war.
The communist revolution will never bring the proletariat to
the power. The transition from the capitalist economy to the
non-class society should be directed by the people representing the
communist ideas, which are alien both to the bourgeois and to
proletarians. This implies much more severe dictatorship, than
the mere dominance of proletarian interests would infer.
Overcoming the bourgeois consciousness would require the
internal ideological struggle within every person, and
everyone would fight the proprietary psychology in everybody.
The only way to insure the ideological victory of communism is
to place the people into economical environment hostile to any
trace of the old modes of production. If some aspects of the
economical or social life are regulated by the proprietary
traditions, they will produce capitalism every hour. Therefore,
the conception of the socialist stage of the communist formation,
when the plan-regulated production would co-exist with the
market relations in the sphere of distribution, is utterly
inadequate. Such co-existence would inevitably result in the
restoration of capitalism, as it occurred in the former USSR.
One of the principal misconceptions in Marxism was that the
transition from capitalism to the communist society would mean
just the replacement of private possessions with the communal form
of appropriation. Marx and Engels did not consider the elimination
of any property at all, they thought that only the social character
of the property would change, so that it would loose its class
character . Logically, no possessions of any kind should
be present in the communist economy. And, according to the
logic of historical materialism, the social force that could
lead the society to communism should be associated with the
means of production that could not be divorced from the
people and made the property of anybody else. But is there
anything that cannot be made a private property? Yes, there is.
Let us consider an idea. The very essence of an idea
is to penetrate the minds of many people, to become a common
wealth. Ideas just cannot be detached from the people, and
if you give somebody an idea of something, you will still have
it yourself. If somebody tries to forbid an idea, it will
inevitably appear in some other place, as soon as its time came.
So, if the ideas will somehow become the actual creative force,
they will break the capitalist economical order and demand a
new social organisation. However, the possibility of such
social transformation is closely related to a very high level
of technological development, when the organisation of labour
will permit any person to contribute to the total industrial
outcome without a direct co-operation with other people.
1. K. Marx, "Letter to Weidemeier",
Collected Works, v.28, p.427.
2. K. Marx and F. Engels, "Manifest of the communist party",
Collected Works, v.4, p.424.
3. F. Engels, "Anti-During",
Collected Works, v.20, pp.294295.
4. K. Marx and F. Engels, "German ideology",
Collected Works, v.3, p.20.
5. V. I. Lenin, "What to do?",
Complete Works, v.6, p.40.
6. V. I. Lenin, "The urgent tasks of our movement",
Complete Works, v.4, p.373.
7. V. I. Lenin, "The Report at the II All-Russian Congress
of trade unions (Jan 20, 1919)", Complete Works, v.37, p.449.
8. F. Engels, "Anti-During",
Collected Works, v.20, p.269.
9. K. Marx and F. Engels, "Manifest of the communist party",
Collected Works, v.4, p.439.
10. K. Marx and F. Engels, "German Ideology",
Collected Works, v.3, p.54.
11. K. Marx and F. Engels, "German ideology",
Collected Works, v.3, p.54.
12. V. I. Lenin, "The great initiative",
Complete Works, v.39, p.15.
13. V. I. Lenin, "To the village poor",
Complete Works, v.7, p.193.
14. K. Marx, "The Capital. Vol. III",
Collected Works, v.25 (part II), p.354.
15. L. Vygotsky, Thought and language
(Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1986).
16. Eric Berne, Games people play (N.Y.: Penguin, 1964).
17. K. Marx and F. Engels, "Manifest of the communist party",
Collected Works, v.4, p.439.