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communism

When describing our political positions, Socialist Workers Party members and other international socialists often use the term ‘revolutionary socialist’. It is a useful term as it distinguishes us from left-reformists. By why is ‘communism’ so avoided? Why are we not a more openly ‘communist party’? We agree with Lenin’s understanding of the state, and so socialism is not an end goal for us, but a transitional period: “So long as the state exists there is no freedom. When there is freedom, there will be no state.”

Richard Seymour, in a TV interview on his book Unhitched, said that he calls himself a revolutionary socialist only to disassociate himself from the negative aspects and failures of the Soviet Union. I am a bit more optimistic: eventually, as more people accept that there is alternative to capitalism’s inevitable exploitation and crises, it will become more and more necessary to talk about communism and reclaim the word. So why wait?

One of the many groups that set up a stall outside Marxism 2013 was the Communist Party Imageof Great Britain, from whom I got some great badges. I explained to them this problem and told them that I admired them for using the word openly. On the argument that it is so strongly tied to Stalinism, one member said, “So is socialism. So is Marxism. But we can’t explain what we’re about without them.”

Another group I talked to and took some material from was the International Bolshevik Tendency, often known as ‘orthodox Trotskyists’ for their theory of the USSR as a workers degenerated state, as opposed to the theory of State Capitalism. They describe themselves as Marxists and I asked an IBT activist whether or not his organisation is Marxist-Leninist. He said no, as this term is used mainly by Stalinists. Later in the conversation we talked positively about the application of Lenin’s theories. Like the majority of the SWP, here was a Marxist and a Leninist who couldn’t call himself a Marxist-Leninist! If the experience of Stalinism has proven one thing, and maybe it has only proven one thing, it’s how easy it is to change the meaning or connotation of a word, so I suggest comrades start saying ‘communist’ in more of their political arguments.

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I’m looking to write some rebuttals to the publications by the London-based Stalin Society, with the aim of being “With Lenin Against Stalin“. By Friday or Saturday, I should have a response up to the GPGB(M-L)’s leaflet, ‘Trotskyism is a tool of the capitalists…‘, but for the much longer texts of the Stalin Society, I’d much prefer to work with someone else, preferably with a good knowledge of Soviet history. It won’t be necessary to defend every Trotskyist organisation, every stupid statement made by the Socialist Worker, or everything Trotsky wrote: just some of the more serious false accusations about his theories and life.

This isn’t an urgent matter I’ll admit, but if the Stalin Society or the CPGBML or the New Communist Party gain any popularity then it will be necessary to win the argument, so let’s be prepared.

If you are interested let me know in the comments, giving me a way to contact you.

The Principles of Communism was written the year before the much more widely disseminated Manifesto of the Communist ImageParty in conditions that would be hard to recognise today, lacking much of the terminology that Marxist theory now takes for granted. So why is it still of any usefulness or interest?

Engels answers 25 questions, starting with “What is communism?” and ending with a description of communists’ perspectives on other political parties.

After defining communism as simply, “the doctrine of the conditions of the liberation of the proletariat”, Engels explains what it means to be a proletarian and how the proletariat originated. He argues that this class is the child of the industrial revolution of the last half of the eighteenth century. The orthodoxy now is that this revolution was hugely beneficial for all involved. Engels instead says that the development of capitalist technology, with all its liberating potential, renders the workers’ means of production useless (the example of the loom is given). This gave rise to a much more unequal and polarised society, in which the class of “big capitalists” owns the vast majority of the means for subsistence and production, for example factories.

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