Marxism Made Easy — Part 6: Building Socialism
“The new social system has only just been established and requires time for its consolidation. It must not be assumed that the new system can be completely consolidated the moment it is established, for that is impossible. It has to be consolidated systematically. To achieve its ultimate consolidation, it is necessary not only to bring about the socialist industrialization of the country and persevere in the socialist revolution on the economic front, but also to carry on constant and arduous socialist revolutionary struggles and socialist education on the political and ideological fronts. Moreover, various contributory international factors are required.” -Mao Tse-Tung, 1957
In the previous article we discussed the nature and difficulty of socialist revolution. Now, we will take on the issue of applying socialist principles after a socialist revolution. For this we will start by looking at what lessons the past can teach us while also remembering that the shape socialism takes will be highly dependent on the conditions where it is implemented.
Let’s say theoretically that we went ahead and had a socialist revolution in one nation and succeeded, the workers control the businesses, the capitalists have been dispossessed, time to implement a moneyless, stateless, classless, society right? Full communism for everyone!
Wrong. Dead wrong.
This has been tried before in Catalonia in the 1930s and the Ukraine before that. The results were disastrous. These “anarchist” revolutionary territories almost immediately fell back into having borders, money, and class. All the trappings of the state they hated so much, even to the point of employing forced conscription and forced labor camps. Why? Because they had not gotten rid of the conditions that lead to state formation. They were surrounded on all sides by enemies, thus requiring a coordinated military to defend the territory along with all the administration that requires. They did not eliminate resource scarcity which allows the rise of class via competition which then required anarchist organizations to step in and regulate things leading to a central government. They attempted to implement this society amongst a group of people who had literally no experience with everything an anarchist society would entail and instead with a lifetime of experience in class based society. This was not a recipe for success. Sadly right up until the end, these anarchists proclaimed that they had achieved anarchism and all of their trappings of a state simply didn’t count as a state. Clearly, this utopianism was not the correct path to take.
So Marx is correct, if we are to achieve the classless, moneyless, stateless society that is full communism we can’t transition to it immediately, we have to first destroy the old ways of doing things, then prepare the groundwork upon which the new society will be based. So we need a socialist state, we need worker control, but centralized worker control, a workers state that can defend itself, put down capitalist attempts to regain power, that can get the people accustomed to new ways of doing things. We know that revolution is the only way to do this, but revolution, as utterly difficult as it is, is the easy part. Actually building socialism, this will be monumentally harder.
So we build ourselves a socialist state, with a strong working class in control, organized into a party, in control of the state. Cool? Yes, but with the nation in its infancy, and threats everywhere, the nation state, in the long term, for revolution to succeed, in the long term, must transition into a global event. However, what happens if the conditions for global revolution are neither present nor available to be made present in the future? The answer is to consolidate our gains in the socialist state, and attempt to the best of our ability to build, defend, and promote socialism wherever possible. This is also highly dangerous as the Soviet Union found out as they ended up in a position of siege, forced to expend huge resources on military spending to maintain security against advanced and unscrupulous capitalist nations.
Many questions a new socialist state has to answer are specific to the conditions of a given area. For example: how does one implement socialism in a nation still under mostly feudal conditions, where peasants still exist and with nobility only recently deposed? How do you implement socialism in a formerly exploited colony? How would this happen in what is now the United States? Conditions in the US are very different, the US is highly developed industrially, it has no peasants and no former nobility to worry about; instead, it is dominated by at a routine conflict between races, which requires confronting and resolution of historical of colonial settlerism, as well as, American imperialism. Addressing this would require respecting the Native and African American nation’s right’s to self determination including the right to form their own nations on formerly US land. It would also require returning all the wealth to the exploited from the various nations who sent their slaves or settlers to this former forced work house.
These are just a few of the questions facing a would be socialist state and they are discussed here mostly to give an idea of just how huge and difficult the task of building socialism is, let alone transitioning to communism. Individual communists will answer these questions differently but it is the masses that will ultimately decide these questions, right or wrong, as it is the masses that decide history, not individuals. And that is the note we will end this brief series on Marxism on: the emphasis on the masses, the working classes. It’s up to us together to take on the challenge. A hard sell for sure, but a necessary one if we truly believe in progress.