From Karl Marx to Marxism: Class struggle, two-line struggle and mass line (Part IV)

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Note from the AND Editor: We publish now the fourth part of the document “From Karl Marx to Marxism”, of the. Nucleus for Studies of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism in Brasil. The authors describe the political importance of the publication of Marx’s great work, The Capital, which discerned areas between the scientific socialism and the utopian socialism besides all aspects of the reactionary socialism and unmask and defeat especially Proudhon’s and Lassalle’s followers. Further on, that work has also played an important role in the struggle against Bakunin, in Russia, and was the ground preparation so that in that country it would appear a vigorous communist movement, from where outstood Lenin.

Friedrich Engels e Karl Marx discutindo, pintura de G. Goron, sécul

‘The Capital’ and the two-line struggle in the First International

The Capital was a decisive oeuvre in the two-line struggle against the petty-bourgeois socialism. If Misery of Philosophy represented the decisive blow in Proudhon’s opportunist line, providing for transforming the League of the Justes into the League of the Communists, The Capital will be the key in the transformation of the First International from a proletarian organization into a socialist organization, in 1868, and later on, in 1871, into a communista organization, although it still had links with anarchists.

Marx thought, that far, had not obtained the final ideological defeat of the petit-bourgeois socialism, After 1848. Proudhon’s stances in France, the followers to Owen’s utopian ideas, in England, Lassalle’s, in Germany, populists, in Russia, all those as expressions of the petty-bourgeois socialism continued influencing most of the European trends. As well as anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist movements within the growing and large proletariat in the United States. Besides these stances, there were reformist trends of the English unionism, deriving from the Cartist working movement in England, in the years of 1830, and the bourgeois stances (democratic-republican) that in fight against the European monarchies have also disputed the European proletarian leadership. That trend was represented by Blanqui’s currents, in France, and Mazzini’s, in Italy.

In the midst of this group of positions and lines in fight against opportunism, against the petty-bourgeois influence and bourgeois in the working and communist movements, marx-thought was imposing as a true one and developing itself. The foundation of the First International was the result of Marx’s great handling of the masses line, the two-line struggle and combat to sectarism. It was necessary to gather the most possible of the trends of the working movement around the more advanced trends and fight the most backward ones. It was this movement that Marx starts in 1864 with the foundation of the First International and his election for the General Council, hosted in London.

Within the General Council it was created a Permanent Committee which functionned as a Red Fraction led by Marx at the First International. In general lines, the petty-bourgeois stances were characterized by expressing the spontaneous protest of the urban artisan worker against capitalism and not the emerging industrial proletariat with its antagonistic contradiction with bourgeoisie. Both Proudhon’s line as Lassalle’s defended that the working movement should not fight neither for political flags nor for economic demands as the improvement of salaries or the reduction of the working hours. Those positions have preserved the utopian ideas that defended the need for the workers to organize themselves in autonomous cooperatives on a peaceful struggle against the bourgeois economic domain. From the economic point of view they were, therefore, against the idea of revolutionary ownership of the means of production and, under the political point of view, they were against the dictatorship of proletariat, against the building of a centralized New State, the only one able to accomplish this socialization. Proudhon and Lasalle died before the foundation of the First International but their ideas continued having important influence in the European working movement.

On the other hand, the bourgeois stances, as Blanqui’s and Mazzini’s, did not have any contradiction with the political struggle. Unlike, they defended the priority of this fight but also underestimated the economic struggle of the proletariat since it contradicted their class interests as bourgeois representatives. As to the tatics, the blanquists who represented the hegemonic position in the Commune of Paris defended a militarily line that a small group could cope with the conquer of power and build a new regime.  The English reformists, in turn, defended the syndical struggle but underestimated it and in general they were either against the political fight or had a backward position on these questions.

This was the picture of the First International during its foundation in 1864. In Europe as a whole, Marx’s stances were minority but in the General Council, beginning with the Permanent Committee, Marx was able to defeat the petty-bourgeois positions. During this process of overthrowing and enforcement of the scientific socialism, the quality leap represented by the thought of Marx, with the publication of The Capital, was paramount. As the first and most important two-line struggle in the International, against the oportunist positions, Marx chose, exactly, the question of the salary struggle as part of the fight against capital. This point struck in full all the petty-bourgeois and bourgeois socialist concept and, on the other hand, tried to raise the awareness of the stances of the English unionists on the limits of this form of struggle.

Struggle against the Utopians

In 1865, at the meetings on June 20th  and 27th of the General Council of the First International, Marx presented a report that would later be published under the title of Salary, Price and Profit. Marx’s essay has very important and advanced aspects of the conclusions of The Capital. This work is a fight against Weston’s positions, another member of the General Council who defended that, following up Owen’s utopian stances,  the salary struggle was harmful to the working class, insofar as the salary increased, the prices of the products consumed by the working class also increased, therefore it would lead to a worsening of their life conditions. That line was quite similar to the so-called “bronze law” defended by Lassalle in the German working movement that stated that inevitably the workers’ salaries would be constrained to a minimun against which it would be hopeless any resistance struggle.

proKarl Marx retratado em pintura de Nikolay Feshin, 1918

When Marx, in 1865, presented the Report to the General Council, his plus-value theory was fully developed. In 1847, in Misery of the Philosophy, it was clear for Marx the  antagonistic contradiction between the wage labour and the capital, as well as the importance of the salary struggle for the revolutionary working movement. However, he had not developped yet his plus-value theory, although his economic analysis already pointed in that direction. In 1865, from the deepening of his studies and the practical knowledge of the working struggle, Marx concludes that in the process of the wage labour exploitation by capital, what the worker sells is not his work, but his labour force and the capitalist right to exploit it for a determined quantity of hours. The price of the labour force as well as the one of any merchandise, according the the value law, was established by the time of work socially necessary to its production; in the case of the labour force it would correspond to the products consumed by the worker so that he could have conditions to work the next day. Marx proved, therefore, that the salary and the profit dispute the same product, the plus-values, created by the wage-earner who is exploited by the capital. Finally, Weston’s utopian stance was defeated by Marxism and the First International starts having, in a complete way, the scientific foundation that the struggle for the reduction workday, defended in the Manifest, and the struggle for salary improvement were both an integral part of the proletariat struggle against capitalism.

The impact of the publication of The Capital, in 1867, was immediate. Marx’s oeuvre was applauded publicly in several congresses and by several working associations. Evidently, however, the idiom barrier and the complexity of the work represented a difficulty for the complete assimilation of Marxism. That is why the initial deeper impact in the working movement with the publication of The Capital will happen in the German working movement.

The opportunist leadership of the General Association of the German Workers, founded by Lassalle, in 1863, and that after his death continued defending his points of view, had a hard defeat with The Capital which worked out an overwhelming refutation to the “Bronze Law” used as a justification for not organizing the working struggle in Germany. An important process of division occurs in the Association led by Liebknecht and Backer. On the other hand, led by Bebel, several groups of the Cultural Association Union of the German Workers, also founded in 1863, broke with the bourgeois reformist leadership. In 1869, the trends of Liebknecht and Bebel merge into the Eisenach Congress and found the first Social-Democratic Working Party that on its first programme takes over the First International theses. The foundation of this Party is a great deceit of Marxism, Karl Marx’s leadership in MCI and direct result of The Capital publication.

‘The Capital’ in Russian and the fight against Bakunin

At the First International Brussels Conference, in 1868, a resolution was approved which recommended to the organiztion members the sudy of The Capital, as well as its trnslation into other languages. In the same year, the Russian populist revolutionary, Nikolai Danielson, proposes to Marx the translation which effectively starts because of the efforts of the revolutionary, Lapatine. However, Lopatine was arrested and sent to Siberia and the translation was concluded by Danielson. In 1872, the Russian version was published with a circulation of 3 thousand copies.

The efforts of the Russian revolutionaries to translate the great marxist oeuvre expressed the closeness of the most advanced members of populism – a socialist petty-bourgeois trend –to the thesis of the First International and, particularly, of Marx’s  proletarian and communist leadership. This interest was reciprocal and, in 1869, Marx started his studies of Russian that he learned very fast, and began an intense correspondence with revolutionaries of that country. Marx’s interest besides political was scientific as well. The study of the development process of capitalism in Russia was fundamental for the formulation of the marxist theory on the rent for the land presented in the Book III of The Capital.

In 1870 the Russian Section of the First International, in Switzerland, was created. Those revolutionary Russian predecessors asked Marx to take over at the General Council the position of the Section correspondent. It was a very important decision of the two-line struggle against Bakunin’s annarchist and oportunist positions. Bakunin was Russian and came from the opportunist movement. The Russian populists had a steady stance beside Marx against Bakunin’s anarchism denouncing it publicly.

Since that period, Marx will be engaged in a very important two-struggle line against the backward stances of the Russian populists, trying to rely on the more advanced conclusions of the founder of that trend, the revolutionary democrat Tchernicheviski. He defended that the Russian peasant communities and their community forms of the land ownership represented the development road of socialism in Russia. Marx studied persistently the work of that revolutionary and, in fact, he considered the possibility that the socialist building in the countryside could get support from those community forms of property. He emphasized, however, Tchernicheviski’s mistake considering that the development of the great undustry would represent a backwardness for the socialist revolution. The two-line struggle with the Russian populists has been very important for the appearance of a strong marxist movement in Russia, from where it has been distinguished – among many intellectuals and proletarian militants – the comrade Lenin.

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