We are fundamentally unhappy with the society we live in. We want to change it.
By and large, we realize that what we have to do is get rid of all the negative aspects that frustrate us – the threat of unemployment, the growing numbers of working poor that are barely able to make ends meet, the sheer arbitrariness of employers who can easily throw out any hired worker whenever they please, the corruption of government, the helplessness of common people in capitalist courts, the police brutality, drug trafficking and prostitution, the progressing degradation of the masses, etc.
Fair enough. Millions of laborers must not starve while a tiny minority parasitize off of them and spend the equivalent of several yearly salaries of common workers on a random lunch meal.
But what exactly has to be done to get rid of all the above-mentioned things? How can we change our society so that those negative aspects can no longer exist?
First and foremost, we have to understand, what kind of society we live in.
How can we understand our society?
Only by taking a materialistic standpoint.
Example: Human beings, adapting themselves to nature, have always acted like materialists. If they acted in any other way, they wouldn’t have made it on this planet. When they would hear the sound of thunder, then of course they would fantasize, make up gods and supernatural creatures and claim that those were the ones making all that noise in the sky. So, in this case they would act like idealists. But when they were fishing, they knew that without line and hook, without net and skill, you can’t catch a single fish. You can plead with the gods all you want, but the fish won’t jump out of the water and into your hand and won’t appear on the table. To feed and clothe themselves, to protect themselves from cold and heat, humans had to be materialists. Only by doing so, they managed to successfully adapt to wild nature and survive on Earth for thousands of years.
Likewise, we also have to abandon idealism, stop looking for answers from a god, stop inventing those answers in our heads, but become materialists – to understand where we are and how to overcome this unfortunate position. As long as we remain idealists, we shall not be able to understand anything.
Because we will end up in the same situation as the prehistoric man – no matter how much we daydream or plead with gods, no matter how long we invent reality, but “the fish” still “won’t jump on our table”. Whether we want it or not, but if we really want to change the world which we live in, we have to carefully study the objective surrounding reality.
Think about it:
Do small-bourgeois lefties with their Che Guevara t-shirts and so forth answer the question of how to change our society? No.
Does Social-Darwinism, which claims that humans are always vicious, because they are animals, answer the question of how to change our society? No.
Maybe objectivists, who allegedly try to use an “objective” approach in analyzing the society, while ignoring the fact that there are different population groups which have different economic interests – maybe they tell us how to change our society? No.
Maybe liberalism with its utopian tales about “social state” and “cooperation between classes”, between the poor and the rich – maybe it offers us various ways of changing our society? No.
Well, then, religion must know the answer to our question?!
All social theories and concepts about societal change that are being offered to us today are false. They were not created in order for us to understand our society, much less to change it, but to confuse us, so that we wouldn’t figure out how things really work at the present time and would understand as little as possible about what is happening in our country and around the world, and as a result wouldn’t be able to change anything. Meaning that the goal of all social theories that are being offered to us right now by the current power-that-be is to cement the social-economic relations existing in our society.
What is the basis of all idealistic bourgeois theories?
It’s the fact that they all offer us the opinions of their creators, philosophers – instead of knowledge. Opinions are many, but there’s only one TRUTH. Only one opinion can be true – and it’s the opinion which reflects KNOWLEDGE (see “Which opinion is true? How to tell a lie from the truth?”).
Therefore, the philosophical basis of all bourgeois sociological theories that try to explain how modern society works – idealism – is completely unsuitable for us. It gives us no answers. It leads us down a blind alley. It only benefits those who currently rule us.
But if we stand firmly on the position of materialism, a lot will become clear to us, including the way we should go to change our society.
How can we take a stand on materialism?
Only by turning to economics. Economics is the basis of our existence. It is it that gives us all the vital goods without which we cannot survive. It is the economy that fills store shelves, shapes their prices, gives us jobs for which we can earn a wage and buy everything we need to live.
Only by examining the economic reality of our society can we understand how it really works and why this relationship between people exists and not any other. This would be materialism as applied to sociology, the science of society.
Economics clearly shows us that what we have in our country is none other but capitalism. The fact that someone disagrees with this conclusion is irrelevant, for it is merely their private opinion, not knowledge. An opinion that is not supported by knowledge, as we now know, is a false and erroneous one. And we are not interested in this at all. We are only interested in the truth.
Why do we have capitalism?
Because capitalism is a social order (socio-economic formation or socio-economic system) which is characterized by 3 characteristics:
– the commodity mode of public production,
– private ownership of the means of production,
– hired labor.
Let us consider each of these signs in more detail in order to find out what they are and whether all these signs take place in any given country.
The first feature – “the commodity mode of public production”.
Here we have two key concepts that need to be disassembled – public production and commodity.
Humans are biological beings. Made of flesh and blood. In order to survive, we need to provide ourselves with everything necessary for the existence of our biological organism – food, drink, clothing, protection from rain and snow (i.e., a roof over our heads), medical treatment in case of illness; we need to combat natural disasters, if they occur, etc. Unlike animals, which satisfy their needs with what is given to them by nature, humans produce everything they need by themselves. Humans cannot produce individually; they work together, using this or that form of production relations (relations established in the process of producing what they need to survive). It would take only a few hunters to chase and kill a buffalo, but that would provide food for the entire tribe – wives, elders, and children. And it would also be extremely difficult to build a bridge across the river all by yourself, but a whole village would complete the task with relative ease.
Therefore, the production of material goods is always a collective process. It is the basis for the existence of any human society.
Public production is a process of active transformation of nature by people to create the necessary material conditions for their existence.
The production of anything requires three elements:
– The object of nature from which it can be made (the object of labor);
– the means of labor, with the help of which this production is carried out,
– and the purposeful activity of humans, i.e. their labor.
The objects and the means of labor, taken together, constitute the means of production:
Means of production = objects of labor + means of labor
The result of production is the product of labor, which in its natural form and role in public production can be either the means of production (i.e., such a product which cannot be directly consumed, but can be used to produce other products which are already consumed by humans) or the object of personal consumption.
All social relations, i.e. the relations of people in society, are a reflection of the interaction of people in the process of social production. That is, a person is tightly bound to the material, to the economy, because one cannot get satisfy one’s biological needs such as hunger with ideas and fantasies. It is the material that is the basis of the spiritual: consciousness is a reflection of being.
What does “consciousness is a reflection of existence” mean?
This means that the ideas in people’s heads do not appear out of nowhere, they are only a reflection in human consciousness of the conditions of their material existence, even if they aren’t aware of this. And without people, these ideas do not exist.
Industrial relations do not appear by themselves either; they are firmly connected with the level of development of the productive forces of society.
What are the productive forces of society?
It’a everything that society possesses – the means of production (buildings, machines, equipment, land, subsoil, etc.), objects of consumption, and people themselves – participants in public production – the workers, the working masses. People are the main productive force of society. Each stage of development of productive forces corresponds to certain production relations. The productive forces and relations of production together constitute the mode of production.
(to be continued)
A commodity is a product of labor produced specifically for exchange (sale). The production of products of labor specifically for exchange (sale) is commodity production.
Commodity production can be of two kinds – simple and capitalist.
Simple commodity production is when the producer himself produces goods for sale, using the means of production he owns.
An example of simple commodity production: peasants who own a piece of land and means of labor that enable them to work it (horse, plow, etc.) while not using other people’s labor.
Capitalist commodity production is the production of goods using hired labor.
An example of capitalist commodity production: Capitalists who own factories and plants in which wage laborers work. Or farmers who own a piece of land and the means to work it, hiring farm laborers or laborers to work it.
That is, capitalist commodity production cannot exist without hired labor.
But where can we find so many workers who would be willing to work for the capitalist for money?
Separating the means of production and an independent producer is the necessary condition for all capitalist production.
The second key feature of capitalism is private ownership of the means of production.
Here we must understand what property is, since we already know what the means of production are.
Property is a historically defined social form of appropriation of material goods, expressing the relation of people to each other in the process of public production. Ownership is connected with objects and things, but it is not a person’s relation to things, it is only a form through which people’s relation to each other is expressed, and this form depends on how the processes of production and distribution of material goods are organized in society.
Production is impossible without this or that form of ownership. Appearing with the emergence of human society, property in each particular historical epoch has its own specific character and appears in a particular form peculiar only to that epoch.
Bourgeois science denies this fact; it presents capitalist private property as eternal, existing almost from the moment of the emergence of mankind itself. That’s false. Property is a historical, transitory category.
Capitalist private property is the totality of social relations existing today, and it cannot exist outside of these relations.
What is the right of ownership?
It is the will of the ruling class, turned into law. This definition was given by the classics of Marxism, K. Marx and F. Engels in the “Manifesto of the Communist Party” and best reflects the essence of the right.
The right of ownership consists of three rights (the so-called triad of rights) – the right of possession, the right of use, the right of disposal.
The right of ownership. Bourgeois sources define this right as “the legally enshrined right to own property, a thing, and the right to keep it in one’s possession. The last bit (“the right to keep it”) already implies a forceful defense of this right.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (GSE), which reflects the Marxist, i.e. scientific point of view, defines “possession” as the actual possession of a thing, emphasizing that this right is always protected by law.
As we can see, there is no particular distinction between the two definitions, but the GSE gives a better understanding of the essence of the right of possession.
The actual possession of a thing, especially if that thing is the means of production, besides moral satisfaction, gives its owner something else, something much more serious: the right to appropriate the products produced by those means of production.
Example: In the USSR, when all the means of production were owned by the Soviet people, they themselves appropriated all that was produced in the country. Now in today’s Russia, only those few owning the means of production are the masters of everything which is being produced in the country. This is why we have the rich and the poor.
It is precisely this right of ownership which allows the owners of factories and plants (capitalists) to profit from them. After all, the capitalists themselves do not work in these factories (i.e. do not use them) and do not exercise their right of disposal (i.e. do not sell them or alienate them in any other way). They only own the factories, and this is enough to make them fabulously rich.
The right to use. Here it is simple and straightforward; it is the ability to use something to satisfy one’s needs. You can have the right to use something not only because you own it, but also because it has been given to you by others.
Example: Rent. Living in an apartment is using the apartment, whether it is yours or someone else’s. To drive a car is to use it, again, whether it is yours or someone else’s.
The right to dispose of. This is the ability to make transactions with property belonging to you – sell, donate, exchange, bequeath, rent, etc.
In the USSR, the right to own all the means of production in the country, as mentioned in the example above, belonged to the entire Soviet people. And this was legally enshrined in the Constitution of the USSR. And the Soviet people actually had the right to use all the national wealth – they worked at the plants belonging to them and used the subsoil and natural resources available in the country for their own purposes. Similarly with the right to dispose of – only the Soviet people had the right to alienate something from the means of production, and they did so, for example, selling abroad some means of production (machine tools, equipment, etc.)
Ownership of the means of production determines:
– the nature of society – whether it is class or classless,
– which class reigns in society.
Ownership of the means of production is private (individual or collective) and public (national).
Private property is property belonging to a part of society, i.e. to one (individual) or several (collective) persons.
Nationwide property (or public property) is property that belongs to society as a whole.
State property is the property of the class that dominates society. Under conditions of national ownership, state ownership is the property of the public, of all society. Under conditions of capitalist society, it is the property of the bourgeoisie class, i.e., it is a kind of collective private property.
The third characteristic of capitalism is hired labor.
Hired labor is labor for hire, that is, for money. Hired labor exists only in a capitalist society, when the market becomes universal, covering all spheres of human activity. The source of hired labor is the commodity called “work force” which is sold and bought on the labor market. This commodity is offered by people deprived of the means of production, who cannot exist and survive otherwise unless they sell their ability to work.
Work force is a special commodity; it is bought by the capitalist only because it is capable of making a profit. How and why this happens will be explained in the next lesson.
We have looked at all three attributes of capitalism.
Looking at the reality of our life in Russia, we can see that all of these attributes are present in our country. We produce only those products which can be then sold on the market (commodities), private property rules the ball in the economy and any other sphere of life, and people can survive only if they sell their labor.
Which means that we have real, “proper” capitalism in our country.
But where did it come from? After all, we remember from history that there was socialism in the USSR?
Capitalism was restored during the bourgeois counter-revolution in the USSR, carried out in Perestroika. This was done between 1987 and 1990. (For more details, see “When and how all of the Soviet people’s wealth was taken away from them.”).
Therefore, to change society, we need to study capitalism, to understand how it works, to find out the laws that drive it and understand how to fight it. This is what we will be doing throughout our course of study.
The only science that has studied capitalism is MARXISM – LENINISM. Marxism revealed the laws of capitalism and proved that it will inevitably be replaced by communism.
The bourgeois ideologues seek to prove to us that capitalism is eternal. But they lie. It is mortal. Capitalism did not arise from the very birth of mankind. It has a clear date of birth: the 16th-17th century. This means that it must die one day. It will be replaced by another socio-economic system. But only capitalism itself, or more precisely the laws of its development, can tell us when this will happen. That is why it is vital for us to study Marxism.
Why is Marxism a science, while all other bourgeois theories are anti-science?
Because the basis of Marxism is dialectical materialism. It is the only scientific method of investigation, first applied by Marx to the study of social relations. Marx’s method is based on facts and reality, not fantasy, i.e., it has a solid materialistic basis, and considers all phenomena and events not in isolation from each other, but in their entirety and interrelation with other phenomena and events, i.e., it approaches the study of society dialectically.
This is exactly the way how any real natural scientist and even any professional in the field of natural sciences – physicist, chemist, biologist, engineer, physician, etc. – approach the study of the laws of nature. When discussing human society, these people can be idealists, but in their professional field they can only be materialist-dialecticians, because otherwise they will be unable to discover, create, construct, or cure anything. A doctor must carefully investigate the real manifestations of disease in a patient, not make them up in his head, otherwise he will never help the sick person to recover.
And with respect to human society, we must do the same thing – rely upon objective reality, not upon our idea of it (idealism), i.e., we have to be dialectical materialists.
Dialectical materialism is not the idealistic musings of Hegel, as late Soviet philosophy has begun to portray it. Many former Soviet social scientists still do the same, dancing around the categories of dialectics and trying to understand reality with their help, thus substituting Marx’s dialectics for Hegel’s dialectics. Diamat (dialectical materialism) is based on the reality of existance, it’s a reflection of material existance in all its fullness and diversity. Diamat is completely opposite to Hegel’s dialectics, which Marx repeatedly stated, but which Soviet Marxist scientists of the post-Stalin era seem to have forgotten. That was the result of the advancing bourgeois counterrevolution in the USSR. The only good thing that Hegel did was to discover the laws of dialectics, but he did not understand at all what to do with them. The classics of Marxism themselves repeatedly mentioned this.
What we need to clearly understand is that it is IMPOSSIBLE to use the laws of dialectics as mathematical formulas for studying reality. We must act in a fundamentally different way – to investigate the real processes of reality in their fullness and diversity, and if the result of such an investigation shows that this or that law of dialectics works in this particular case, then so be it. If no law of dialectics reveals itself, it means that either the process in reality is not yet complete, or the research was not broad enough.
We must never forget Marx’s requirements for sociological theory – it must accurately depict an actual process, and nothing more. (See Lenin, “What Are the ‘Friends of the People’ and How Do They Fight Against the Social-Democrats,” PSS, vol. 1). And since each of us will have to apply dialectics in one way or another in practice, solving this or that task of the communist movement, we must pay special attention to this work of Lenin.
Marx showed that economic laws are different in different formations. Capitalism has its own laws, and so do feudalism and communism. There are no uniform economic laws.
The economic laws of capitalism discovered by Marx prove that capitalism is DEAD, that it will inevitably reach a stage where it will destroy itself. It will be replaced by communism. And we must study Marx’s teachings to understand how we can HELP this process.
Why help it? Won’t it happen by itself?
No, it won’t. Human history does not move on its own, although it is governed by the objective laws of social development. History is made by the masses, by millions of people, not by individuals. Individuals only express the interests of the masses. This is the materialistic standpoint in the study of historical reality.
Example: Putin does not act on his own, he expresses the will of the Russian ruling class – the bourgeoisie. Just as Nicholas II and other Russian tsars expressed the will of the ruling class of feudal lords (landlords and aristocrats) in the Russian Empire.
Human society can be class and classless.
A classless society is a society where the economic interests of all members of society are the same.
A class society is a society where there are different groups of people whose economic interests are opposed to each other.
The character of society depends on the level of development of the productive forces.
When the productive forces of human society at the dawn of its development were still negligible, there was a classless primitive society.
With the growth of productive forces, but as long as they have not developed enough to satisfy all the material interests of each member of society, we have class societies:
– Slave-owning (the slave-owning class and the slave class),
– feudal (feudal class and peasant class),
– capitalist (class of bourgeoisie and class of proletarians).
It is only when capitalism, by virtue of its inherent economic laws, so highly develops the productive forces of society that another kind of classless society, communist society, can exist. Communism is a society in which there are no classes, no division into poor and rich, into exploiters and exploited.
Why? Because the level of development of the productive forces of society is so high that it is capable of materially satisfying absolutely everyone. Under communism, everyone has everything they need to live.
So what are the CLASSES?
The most complete and most precise definition of classes was given by Vladimir Lenin in his article “The Great Cause”: “Classes are large groups of people who differ in their place in a historically determined system of social production, in their relation (for the most part fixed and formalized in laws) to the means of production, in their role in the social organization of labor and, consequently, in the methods of obtaining and the extent of the share of social wealth which they possess. Classes are such groups of people, of which one can appropriate the labor of the other, due to the difference in their place in a certain order of social economy.”
How do classes arise?
Social classes arise with the division of labor.
The first division of labor in human history was the separation of cattle breeding from agriculture. Much more food started being produced than before. There appeared a surplus of products, and so there appeared an exchange between tribes engaged in different economic activities. On the one hand, the surplus had to belong to someone, someone had to dispose of it, and, on the other hand, special people were needed whose function was to manage society and all its economic activities in order to better organize the process of production. So private property arose and classes emerged – people who owned property and people who did not own it (slave-owners and slaves). The owners of property, who were a tiny minority, needed to protect it – the state came into existence. This process is well described by Engels in The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State.
When the second division of labor occurred – crafts separated from cattle breeding and agriculture, a new socio-economic system emerged – feudalism. In those days, manual labor was used everywhere.
When man invented machines – a loom and a steam engine – capitalism was born.
In all class societies, a small part of the people who own the means of production live rich and well-fed, while the much larger part of the people who work for those who have the means of production are poor and hungry.
Examples: In feudal society, the feudal lord (landowner) himself did not work, his land was worked by peasants who grew everything and gave him virtually everything they grew.
Today, under Russian capitalism, bourgeois Prokhorov, who owns NorNickel, can stay idle and party in luxury resorts, paying two million rubles for his lunch alone, while tens of thousands of NorNickel workers provide him with this heavenly life through their labor.
So how can the classes be destroyed? Could they have been destroyed before, under the slave-holding system or the feudal system?
No. Only capitalism prepares all the conditions for the complete destruction of classes.
Because in those days the productivity of labor was too low, everywhere manual labor prevailed. But capitalism uses automated machine labor, enormously increasing the productive forces of society and freeing huge masses of people from the sphere of material production. Thanks to the advances of the technological revolution, labor productivity under capitalism has reached unprecedented heights in the history of human society.
Example: Now 2% of the world’s population can provide the entire world with agricultural products, completely solving the problem of hunger on our planet. It is only because of capitalism that more than half of the world’s population still go hungry!
Why are they starving? Because capitalism, having created the highest productive forces – the most modern technology and equipment, has become a brake on the further development of society. Its age is over, it must go. But it will not go away by itself. It has to be assisted.
This has always been the case in history – no former social system has ever left by itself. It was always deliberately destroyed by the oppressed classes whose development it hindered.
The change of one system to another has always been through revolutions, i.e., radical changes in all spheres of society. The main cause of revolutions is the irreconcilable contradiction between the developing productive forces and the old production relations that hinder their development.
Example: Bourgeois revolutions in European countries took place more than once. In France alone there were three – 1793, 1830, 1848. In between there were periods of counter-revolution, when the old feudal, absolutist power temporarily returned.
Consequently, the counterrevolution in the USSR and the countries of socialism is not a unique phenomenon in history. This suggests that new socialist revolutions await us, which will take into account the mistakes and shortcomings of the former socialist revolutions and continue the movement toward communism. The main thing is that these are the objective laws of social development, from which there is no escape or hiding. History is on the side of the proletariat and the socialist forces.
L. Sokolsky, MLLM “Work Way”