Here’s something interesting. Popper was right about some of his criticisms of Marxism. For example, he criticized Marx because he had said that the industrial working class of the advanced nations would lead the revolution, they would be the ones do the revolution and spread it. As we can see from history, that never happened. In fact the opposite happened on two levels. Firstly, the advanced industrialized nation of Germany went towards fascism. Second, the revolutions came from the most underdeveloped and oppressed countries: Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, Cuba. Marx was proven wrong in his theory in this regard. (Jason Unruhe, Was Karl Popper Right about Karl Marx? Yes and No)
It is enough to look at Marx’s and Engels’ biographies on Wikipedia to see that Marx and Engels foresaw a socialist revolution in Russia (an underdeveloped semi-feudal country at that time). Marx and Engels even recommended measures for a more direct transition to socialism in Russia. I’m not surprised that Popper didn’t notice this, but it’s really amazing that Jason Unruhe didn’t see this. (Even Stalin, by repealing Lenin’s mediating New Economic Policy and by introducing centralized economic planning and collectivization of the country (although in the last matter Stalin failed and ignored Marx’s warnings about the reactionary strength of rural classes) proved that Marx was right in advocating a more direct transition to socialism in underdeveloped semi-feudal Russia.) The following is a quote from Wikipedia:
One of the ideas that Engels and Marx contemplated was the possibility and character of a potential revolution in the Russias. As early as April 1853, Engels and Marx anticipated an “aristocratic-bourgeois revolution in Russia which would begin in “St. Petersburg with a resulting civil war in the interior.” The model for this type of aristocratic-bourgeois revolution in Russia against the autocratic czarist government in favour of a constitutional government had been provided by the Decembrist Revolt of 1825. Although an unsuccessful revolt against the czarist government in favour of a constitutional government, both Engels and Marx anticipated a bourgeois revolution in Russia would occur which would bring about a bourgeois stage in Russian development to precede a communist stage. By 1881, both Marx and Engels began to contemplate a course of development in Russia that would lead directly to the communist stage without the intervening bourgeois stage. This analysis was based on what Marx and Engels saw as the exceptional characteristics of the Russian village commune or obshchina. Although doubt was cast on this theory by Georgi Plekhanov, Plekhanov’s reasoning was based on the first edition of Das Kapital (1867), which predated Marx’s interest in Russian peasant communes by two years. Later editions of the text demonstrate Marx’s sympathy for the argument of Nikolay Chernyshevsky, that it should be possible to establish socialism in Russia without an intermediary bourgeois stage provided that the peasant commune were used as the basis for the transition.
In a letter to Vera Zasulich dated 8 March 1881, Marx contemplated the possibility of Russia’s bypassing the capitalist stage of development and building communism on the basis of the common ownership of land characteristic of the village mir. While admitting that Russia’s rural “commune is the fulcrum of social regeneration in Russia”, Marx also warned that in order for the mir to operate as a means for moving straight to the socialist stage without a preceding capitalist stage it “would first be necessary to eliminate the deleterious influences which are assailing it (the rural commune) from all sides”. Given the elimination of these pernicious influences, Marx allowed that “normal conditions of spontaneous development” of the rural commune could exist.
For more on Marx’s letter to Vera Zasulich where “he argues that a socialism in Russia was possible through an alternative pathway” see Daniel Little’s blog “Marx on Russia”. According to Little this “letter is interesting in several respects. First, it explicitly rejects the notion that Marx’s economic and historical theories are suited to the task of identifying the necessary or inevitable course of historical development. It summarily dismisses the idea of a necessary sequence of modes of production. Instead, Marx shows himself to recognize the contingency that exists in historical development, as well as the degree to which history creates new conditions in its course that influence future developments…”
Dishonest Lenin insults Marx and Engels
“No Marx and no Marxists could have predicted … that the proletariat would gain power in one of the most underdeveloped countries,” which is not true. (Ленин, Дела, том 35, стр. 217)
Yes, it is now “least developed”, and when the public had to be convinced that capitalism had to be overthrown, Lenin could write the study “The Development of Capitalism in Russia”, which proves the devastating consequences of capitalist development and the need for it to be knocked down. And now, how can we trust Lenin? Which Lenin should we trust, the pre-revolutionary or the post-revolutionary?
In his response to the defamatory investigations of him by Pyotr Tkachev, Engels stated this for the “social relations in Russia”:
“Russia undoubtedly is on the eve of a revolution. … Here all the conditions of a revolution are combined, of a revolution that, started by the upper classes of the capital, perhaps even by the government itself… a revolution that will be of the greatest importance for the whole of Europe, if only because it will destroy at one blow the last, so far intact, reserve of the entire European reaction. This revolution is surely approaching. Only two events could still delay it: a successful war against Turkey or Austria, for which money and firm alliances are necessary, or — a premature attempt at insurrection, which would drive the possessing classes back into the arms of the government.” (Engels, On Social Relations in Russia, chapter 5)
When the working class won the power in one of the most underdeveloped countries, all the creative potential of the nation is mobilized, many measures are applied by the arsenal of scientific socialism, and not that the nation should return to capitalism with a naive claim “it is not dangerous” (Lenin). And “there is nothing to be afraid of,” (Lenin)
In violently resolving antagonisms, it does not matter whether there is a revolution in a developed or backward country. The victory in a developed country puts before the winner the task of redirecting the entire ruling population and various non-productive structures of the population (army, police, judiciary, administration, social intellectuals, clergy, lumpen proletarians, merchants, bankers, etc.) until yesterday into productive and socially useful work places; to change the structure of production by redirecting certain production capacities to socially useful purposes (military industry, production of luxury and other unnecessary production, which existed at the time of the old social division of labor). And this task cannot be performed all that easy.
The victory in a backward country, in front of the winner, sets the task of organizing the creative potentials of the population and achieving the volume of production according to the needs as soon as possible. There is less resistance here than in developed countries. The winner has the massive support of the population. However, if he does not know scientific socialism, if he follows the path of political economy in the transformation of society, even if he has renamed it “socialist”, there will be nothing from socialism, from revolutionary transformation. This is exactly what happened in all “socialist” countries.
Underdeveloped countries have a certain advantage over the developed countries because they have the “experience of the developed” and their development can go faster. Marx proves this with a concrete example: “Did Russia, in order to use machines, steamships, railways, etc., have to go through a long period of birth of the machinery industry as in the case of the West? …How did they manage to introduce in home all the exchange mechanism (banks, credit institutions, etc.) in a short period of time, which took several centuries to be created in the West?,” wrote Marx in a letter to Vera Zasulich.
In both cases, developed or underdeveloped country, the old social division of labor is abolished, which should be the goal of revolutionary change. At the same time, it must be paid an attention not only to rename the categories and notions from the old social division of labor, and as a result of this their essence remains classic.
8 (EIGHT) proofs that Marx and Engels predicted socialistic revolutions in the under-developed capitalist or semi-feudal countries
- Marx “predicted” also victory for the working class “in one of the most underdeveloped countries.” And this precisely in Russia. And exactly in the order in which the revolutions took place: Russia, Germany, Austria … And not once have Marx and Engels said that, but many times. “Russia is a precursor to the revolution in Europe,” Marx and Engels said in a preface to the second Russian edition of the Communist Party Manifesto. And this even in 1882. If Popper and Jason Unruhe need a “prediction”, here is the first one!
- As early as 1850, Marx wrote in The Class Struggles in France: “Violent outbreaks naturally erupt sooner at the extremities of the bourgeois body than in its heart, because in the latter the possibilities of accommodation are greater than in the former.” (p. 71) Although his thought is expressed in “medical language,” the words “extremities of the bourgeois body” clearly indicate “society.” At a time when Lenin was preparing the Russian working class to launch a revolutionary uprising, Russia is still the “extremities of the bourgeois body.” And Lenin, having written the study “Development of Capitalism in Russia” in the period 1896-1899, could then see that Russia was a “extremities of the bourgeois body” until 1917. “The possibilities of accommodation” in Russia, eaten away by class antagonisms, depleted by war, underdeveloped and even with remnants of the time of primitive communism (Russian common land ownership), were certainly smaller than in Germany, France or England, where the capitalist class had a greater chance of preventing any revolutionary movement. And why was Lenin then blaming Marx, when he failed to understand Marx even where he was quite clear? Moreover, Marx told Lenin quite clearly back in 1847: “He who builds the ideological building of a system on the base of the categories of political economy…” will make cas merdeux, and Lenin when he was in power and when he had all the state machinery in his own hands, did the work upside down, contrary to what Marx suggested. And then, in Lenin’s opinion, it was Marx’s fault.
- In an interview for the New York Tribune on December 18, 1878, Marx said: “You don’t have to be a socialist to predict that a bloody revolution will take place in Russia, Germany, Austria, and perhaps Italy (if Italy continues on its current path).” For Lenin, even this is not a “precise quote and irrefutable instruction.” He needs a script. Really, what a professional revolutionary Lenin was! When Marx says this, Lenin is eight years old. However, when he asked for a “precise quote and irrefutable instructions”, he was 52 years old, with vast life experience, great knowledge of philosophy and desperately weak in economics, so that we cannot just overlook and forgive him for his infantile shout against Marx. A man who undertook a responsibility to be the leader of the first proletarian revolution, however, had to study Marxism more thoroughly. But Lenin seems to have understood Marxism only as a “philosophy” for the sake of outwitting. This can be deduced from his statements against various distorters of Marxism or various other intellectuals, who took it upon themselves to attack Marxism without reading anything from it. However, in the difficult situation, Lenin reveals that he is worse than them. I do not believe that what some people advised to Kerensky would not have happened to Lenin: “Give power to the Bolsheviks, and after a while they will fail.” If Kerensky had acted accordingly, he would have saved the world a revolution and saved countless lives, not only in Russia but all over the world. Lenin, armed with his “Marxism”, would not have pushed it as far as he pushed it with the armed revolution.
- Engels in “European Workers, 1877” said: “The Russian government could not escape that revolution, even if it managed to delay its outbreak for a year or two.” So Engels, analyzing the labor movement in Europe, “predicts” a revolution in Russia. He is, of course, very optimistic about the expectation of a tumultuous revolution, but it cannot be disputed that he accurately predicted that “the Russian revolution does not only mean a change of government in Russia,” although Lenin did otherwise. Engels goes on to say: “It means the disappearance of a great, albeit clumsy … military force.” Lenin could see from this that not only Marx but also Engels had predicted a victory for the working class in Russia.
- Again Engels. In January 1878 he said: “Finally we have all the elements of a Russian 1789, followed by 1793 … The Russian Revolution is at the door.”
- And for the third time, Engels. In 1879 he wrote: “I would like to draw the attention of European socialists to the situation in Russia, in which a decisive movement is being prepared…” For the statements under points 5 and 6 it can be said that these thoughts of Engels are perfection, because Lenin’s October Revolution was nothing more than a caricature of the French 1789. The French Revolution completely destroyed feudalism and prevented any return to it. Admittedly, the French Revolution did not achieve the proclaimed “freedom, equality and fraternity”, but that does not tarnish it as Lenin’s New Economic Policy stained the October revolution.
- Marx in a letter to Adolph Sorge from September 27, 1877, writes: “Russia has long been on the verge of a turnaround; all the elements are ready for that.” And Marx has been writing this since studying Russian situation from original sources, official and unofficial ones.
- Towards the end of his life, Engels, with an exceptional foresight, foresaw the revolutionary upheavals in Russia: “And here we come to the very core of things. Russia’s internal development since 1856, supported by the government itself, has completed its work. The social revolution has made great strides. Russia is becoming increasingly occidental day by day; modern manufactures, steam-еngines, railways, the transformation of all types of payments into cash payments, and thus the crushing of the old foundations of society, are developing at an ever-increasing rate. But the evolution of the despotic kingdom’s incompetence for a new society on the course of formation is at the same degree. Opposition parties, constitutional and revolutionary, are being formed, which the government can subdue by increasing its brutality. Russian diplomacy also sees the horror when the voice of the Russian people is to be heard and when due to the placement of the interior matters there won’t be time or desire to take care of such infantile affairs as the conquest of Constantinople, India and world rule. The 1848 revolution that ended on the Polish border is now knocking on Russia’s door, and now there are many allies inside who are waiting for the right moment to open its doors.”
Jason Unruhe claims that because “the advanced industrialized nation of Germany went towards fascism” this proved Marx wrong and Popper right in his critique of Marx. But many years before Germany went towards fascism, in April 1919 the Bavarian Soviet Republic was established after the demise of Kurt Eisner’s People’s State of Bavaria and sought to establish a socialist soviet republic in Bavaria. Its collapse helped the Nazi party in its subsequent rise to power. We already have given a proof numbered under 1 in favor of Marx’s prediction of revolution in Germany. It’s ridicule to claim its collapse was Marx’s fault. Bavarian Soviet revolutionaries have received the blessings of Lenin – who at the annual May Day celebration in Red Square said “The liberated working class is celebrating its anniversary not only in Soviet Russia but in … Soviet Bavaria.” Unfortunately, Soviet Russia was too busy in suppressing the White Guard uprising and therefore Soviet Bavaria could not rely onto the help from Soviet Russia.
As further Jason Unruhe tells us Popper rightly “criticized Marx because he had said that the industrial working class of the advanced nations would lead the revolution, they would be the ones do the revolution and spread it. As we can see from history, that never happened.” Yet, this is historically untrue, especially after the Second World War.
Within 25 years of Marx’s death, the continental European socialist parties, which recognized Marx’s influence on their politics, each won between 15 and 47 percent of the vote in those countries in the Democratic primary. In the 1940s, Labor in Britain was committed to economic transformation, which had certain characteristics in common:
- The key industries were taken over by the state.
- Education and healthcare have become free public services.
- The construction of public residential buildings was the dominant form of construction.
- Attempts have been made, through confiscation or taxation of inheritance, to abolish large properties of land.
- The state has tried to pursue a policy of full employment.
Since the mid-1950s, the British Labor Party has been more socially democratic than the then German Social Democratic Party (GSDP). Of course, the process of nationalization of the industry did not go so far in Britain as in Eastern Europe, but even there in the late 1970s state-owned, among other things, were:
- Power generation and supply system: coal, oil, gas, nuclear power and hydro-power;
- Much of the transportation system: roads, railways, buses, airlines, airports, ports;
- Communication system: radio, television, mail, telephony;
- Much of the housing stock and
- Very heavy industries: steel, shipyards, aircraft and car manufacturing industry.
Undoubtedly, Marx’s specter of communism was haunting Europe. We are accustomed to seeing social democracy and communism as very different, but the original distinguishing feature of communism that it seeks to seize power through an armed uprising has long been abandoned by most communist political parties. This original communist principle was retained only by the Maoist parties in Asia and South America, while all other left-wing parties in this respect are social democratic.
Again we stress that it wasn’t fault of Marx that the revolutions in the Western and Eastern Europe failed, but it was fault of their vanguards who didn’t take in account Marx’s warning against the organization of socialism on the basis of commodity production: “To the same extent that commodity production, in accordance with its domestic laws, develops into capitalist production, to the same extent the property laws inherent in commodity production are transformed into laws of capitalist appropriation.”
Tomislav Zahov – Lazar Gogov