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Where the previous stage is negated, this does not represent its total elimination. It does not wipe out completely the stage that it supplants. But capitalist production begets with the inevitableness of a natural process its own negation. It is the negation of the negation," remarked Marx in volume one of Capital. Engels explains a whole series of examples to illustrate the negation of the negation in his book Anti-Duhring. Millions of such grains of barley are milled, boiled and brewed and then consumed. But if such a grain of barley meets with conditions which for it are normal, if it falls on suitable soil, then under the influence of heat and moisture a specific change takes place, it germinates; the grain as such ceases to exist, it is negated, and in its place appears the plant which has arisen from it, the negation of the grain.

But what is the normal life-process of this plant? It grows, flowers, is fertilised and finally once more produces grains of barley, and, as soon as these have ripened, the stalk dies, is in its turn negated. As a result of this negation of the negation we have once again the original grain of barley, but not as a single unit, but ten, twenty or thirty fold. The barley lives and evolves by means of returning to its starting point - but at a higher level. One seed has produced many.

Also over time, plants have evolved qualitatively as well as quantitatively. Successive generations have shown variations, and become more adapted to their environment. Engels gives a further example from the insect world. Hegel, who had a giant intellect, illuminated a great many things. It was a debt that Marx repeatedly recognised. Nevertheless, Hegel's philosophical system was a huge miscarriage. It suffered from an incurable internal contradiction.

Hegel's conception of history is an evolutionary one, where there is nothing final or eternal. However, his system laid claim to being the absolute truth, in complete contradiction to the laws of dialectical thought. While Hegel defended the status quo in Germany, the dialectic embraced a revolutionary view of constant change. For Hegel, all that was real was rational. But using the Hegelian dialectic, all that is real will become irrational. All that exists deserves to perish. In this lay the revolutionary significance of the Hegelian philosophy.

The solution of this contradiction led back to materialism, but not the old mechanical materialism, but one based upon the new sciences and advances. The most important of these acquisitions was the dialectical method, the examination of phenomena in their development, in their origin and destruction. The genius who represented this new direction of thought was Karl Marx," writes Plekhanov. Spurred on by revolutionary developments in Europe in , the Hegelian School split into left, right and centre.

The most prominent representative of the Hegelian Left was Ludwig Feuerbach who challenged the old orthodoxy, especially religion, and placed materialism at the centre of things again. Everything in it is in mutual interaction, everything at once effect and cause, everything in it is all-sided and reciprocal…" writes Feuerbach, adding that there is no place there for God. For them, the new philosophy was not an abstract philosophy, but directly linked to practice.

Neither Marx nor Engels left behind them a comprehensive book on dialectics as such. Marx was preoccupied with Capital. Engels intended to write such a book, but was overtaken by the need to complete Capital after Marx's death. Lenin commentated, "If Marx did not leave behind him a 'Logic' with a capital letter , he did leave the logic of Capital, and this ought to be utilised to the full.

In Capital, Marx applied to a single science logic, dialectics and the theory of knowledge of materialism three words are not needed: it is one and the same thing which has taken everything valuable in Hegel and developed it further. Today, a small number of scientists, mainly from the natural sciences, have become conscious of the dialectic, which has opened their eyes to problems in their specialised fields. This relationship between science and dialectical materialism has been fully discussed in the book by Alan Woods and Ted Grant Reason in Revolt.

They showed, along with Engels, that nature is completely dialectical. Apart from Stephen J. Gould and Niles Eldredge, Richard Levins and Richard Lewontin, who regard themselves as dialectical materialists, have also written about the application of the dialectic to the field of biology in their book The Dialectical Biologist:. Constants become variables, causes become effects, and systems develop, destroying the conditions that gave rise to them. Even elements that appear to be stable are in a dynamic equilibrium of forces that can suddenly become unbalanced, as when a dull grey lump of metal of a critical size becomes a fireball brighter than a thousand suns.

Yet the motion is not unconstrained and uniform. Organisms develop and differentiate, then die and disintegrate. Species arise but inevitably become extinct. Even in the simple physical world we know of no uniform motion. Even the earth rotating on its axis has slowed down in geological time. The development of systems through time, then, seems to be the consequence of opposing forces and opposing motions. For some, contradiction is an epistemic principle only. It describes how we come to understand the world by a history of antithetical theories that, in contradiction to each other and in contradiction to observed phenomena, lead to a new view of nature.

Kuhn's theory of scientific revolution has some of this flavour of continual contradiction and resolution, giving way to new contradiction. For others, contradiction becomes an ontological property at least of human social existence. For us, contradiction is not only epistemic and political, but also ontological in the broadest sense. Contradictions between forces are everywhere in nature, not only in human social institutions.

This tradition of dialectics goes back to Engels who wrote, in Dialectics of Nature, that 'to me there could be no question of building the laws of dialectics of nature, but of discovering them in it and evolving them from it. Marxists have always stressed the unity of theory and practice. All truth is concrete. We have to look at things as they exist, with a view to understanding their underlying contradictory development.

This has very important conclusions, especially for those fighting to change society. Unlike the Utopian socialists who viewed socialism as a wonderful idea, Marxists see the development of socialism as arising out of the contradictions of capitalism. Capitalist society has prepared the material basis for a classless society with its highly developed productive forces and its world division of labour. It has brought into being the working class, whose very life existence brings it into conflict with capitalism. On the basis of experience, it will become fully conscious of its position in society and it will be transformed, in the words of Marx, from a "class in-itself" to a "class for-itself".

Dialectics bases itself on determinism, but this has nothing in common with fatalism which denies the existence of accident in nature, society and thought. Dialectical determinism asserts the unity of necessity and accident, and explains that necessity expresses itself through accident. All events have causes, necessary events and accidental ones alike. If there were no causal laws in nature everything would be in a state of utter chaos.

It would be an impossible position where nothing could exist. So everything is dependent upon everything else, as in a continuous chain of cause and effect. Particular events always have a chance or accidental character, but these arise only as the result of a deeper necessity. In fact, necessity manifests itself through a series of accidents.

Without doubt, accidents have their place, but the essential thing is to discover what laws determine this deeper necessity. From the point of view of superficial observation, everything may appear to be accidental or open to chance. This can appear especially so when we have no knowledge of the laws that govern change and their interconnections.

In nature, the evolution of matter follows a certain path, although how, when, and in what form this is realised, depends upon accidental circumstances. For example, whether life was created or not on earth depended on a whole series of accidental factors, such as the presence of water, different chemical elements, the earth's distance from the sun, an atmosphere, etc. Superficial historians have written that the First World War was "caused" by the assassination of a Crown Prince at Sarajevo.

To a Marxist this event was an historical accident, in the sense that this chance event served as the pretext, or catalyst, for the world conflict which had already been made inevitable by the economic, political and military contradictions of imperialism. If the assassin had missed, or if the Crown Prince had never been born, the war would still have taken place, on some other diplomatic pretext or other. Necessity would have expressed itself through a different "accident". In the words of Hegel, everything which exists, exists of necessity.

But, equally, everything which exists is doomed to perish, to be transformed into something else. Thus what is "necessary" in one time and place becomes "unnecessary" in another. Everything begets its opposite, which is destined to overcome and negate it. This is true of individual living things as much as societies and nature generally.

Every type of human society exists because it is necessary at the given time when it arises: "No social order ever disappears before all the productive forces for which there is room in it, have been developed: and new higher relations of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have matured in the womb of the old society.

Therefore mankind always takes up only such problems as it can solve, since, looking at the matter more closely, we will always find that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions necessary for its solution already exist or at least are in the process of formation. Slavery, in its day, represented an enormous leap forward over barbarism.

It was a necessary stage in the development of productive forces, culture and human society. As Hegel brilliantly explained it: "It is not so much from slavery as through slavery that man becomes free. Similarly capitalism was originally a necessary and progressive stage in human society. However, like primitive communism, slavery, and feudalism, capitalism has long since ceased to represent a necessary and progressive social system.

It has foundered upon the deep contradictions inherent in it, and is doomed to be overcome by the rising forces of the new society within the old, represented by the modem proletariat. Private ownership of the means of production and the nation state, the basic features of capitalist society, which originally marked a great step forward, now serve only to fetter and undermine the productive forces and threaten all the gains made in centuries of human development.

Capitalism is now a thoroughly degenerate social system, which must be overthrown and replaced by its opposite, socialism, if human culture is to survive.

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Marxism is determinist, but not fatalist. Men and women make history. The transformation of society can only be achieved by men and women consciously striving for their own emancipation. This struggle of the classes is not pre-determined. Who succeeds depends on many factors, and a rising, progressive class has many advantages over the old, decrepit force of reaction.

But ultimately, the result must depend upon which side has the stronger will, the greater organisation and the most skilful and resolute leadership. The victory of socialism will mark a new and qualitatively different stage of human history. To be more accurate it will mark the end of the prehistory of the human race, and start a real history. However on the other hand, socialism marks a return to the earliest form of human society - tribal communism - but on a much higher level, which stands upon all the enormous gains of thousands of years of class society.

The negation of primitive communism by class society is in turn negated by socialism. The economy of superabundance will be made possible by the application of conscious planning to the industry, science and technique established by capitalism, on a world scale. This in turn will once and for all make redundant the division of labour, the difference between mental and manual labour, between town and countryside, and the wasteful and barbaric class struggle and enable the human race at last to set its resources to the conquest of nature: to use Engels' famous phrase, "the leap of man from the realm of necessity to the realm of freedom".

The dialectic is neither fiction nor mysticism, but a science of the forms of our thinking insofar as it is not limited to the daily problems of life but attempts to arrive at an understanding of more complicated and drawn-out processes.

Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife

I will here attempt to sketch the substance of the problem in a very concise form. The Aristotelian logic of the simple syllogism starts from the proposition that A is equal to A. This postulate is accepted as an axiom for a multitude of practical human actions and elementary generalisations. But in reality A is not equal to A.

This is easy to prove if we observe these two letters under a lens - they are quite different from each other. But, one can object, the question is not of the size or the form of the letters, since they are only symbols for equal quantities: for instance, a pound of sugar. The objection is beside the point; in reality a pound of sugar is never equal to a pound of sugar - a more delicate scale always discloses a difference.

Again one can object: but a pound of sugar is equal to itself. Neither is this true - all bodies change uninterruptedly in size, weight, colour, etc. They are never equal to themselves. A sophist will respond that a pound of sugar is equal to itself "at a given moment. How should we conceive the word 'moment'? If it is an infinitesimal interval of time, then a pound of sugar is subjected during the course of that 'moment' to inevitable changes.

Or is the 'moment' a purely mathematical abstraction, that is, a zero of time? But everything exists in time; and existence itself is an uninterrupted process of transformation; time is consequently a fundamental element of existence. Thus the axiom A is equal to A signifies that a thing is equal to itself if it does not change, that is, if it does not exist. At first glance it could seem that these "subtleties" are useless. In reality they are of decisive significance. The axiom A is equal to A appears on one hand to be the point of departure for all our knowledge, on the other hand the point of departure for all the errors in our knowledge.

To make use of the axiom A is equal to A with impunity is possible only within certain limits. When quantitative changes in A are negligible for the task at hand, then we can presume A is equal to A. This is, for example, the manner in which a buyer and a seller consider a pound of sugar. We consider the temperature of the sun likewise. Until recently we considered the buying power of the dollar in the same way. But quantitative changes beyond certain limits become converted into qualitative. A pound of sugar subjected to the action of water or kerosene ceases to be a pound of sugar.

A dollar in the embrace of a president ceases to be a dollar. To determine at the right moment the critical point where quantity changes into quality is one of the most important and difficult tasks in all the spheres of knowledge, including sociology. Every worker knows that it is impossible to make two completely equal objects. In the elaboration of bearing-brass into cone bearings, a certain deviation is allowed for the cones which should not, however, go beyond certain limits this is called tolerance.

By observing the norms of tolerance, the cones are considered as being equal A is equal to A. When the tolerance is exceeded, the quantity goes over into quality; in other words, the cone bearings become inferior or completely worthless. Our scientific thinking is only a part of our general practice, including techniques. For concepts there also exists "tolerance" which is established not by formal logic issuing from the axiom A is equal to A but by dialectical logic issuing from the axiom that everything is always changing.

Vulgar thought operates with such concepts as capitalism, morals, freedom, workers' state, etc. Dialectical thinking analyses all things and phenomena in their continuous change, while determining in the material conditions of those changes that critical limit beyond which A ceases to be A, a workers' state ceases to be a workers' state.

The fundamental flaw of vulgar thought lies in the fact that it wishes to content itself with motionless imprints of reality, which consists of eternal motion. Dialectical thinking gives to concepts, by means of closer approximations, corrections, concretisations, a richness of content and flexibility, I would even say a succulence, which to a certain extent brings them close to living phenomena.

Not capitalism in general but a given capitalism at a given stage of development. Not a workers' state in general, but a given workers' state in a backward country in an Imperialist encirclement etc. Dialectical thinking is related to vulgar thinking in the same way that a motion picture is related to a still photograph. The motion picture does not outlaw the still photograph but combines a series of them according to the laws of motion. Dialectics does not deny the syllogism, but teaches us to combine syllogisms in such a way as to bring our understanding closer to the eternally changing reality.

Hegel in his Logic established a series of laws: change of quantity into quality, development through contradictions, conflict of content and form, interruption of continuity, change of possibility into inevitability, etc. Hegel wrote before Darwin and before Marx. Thanks to the powerful impulse given to thought by the French Revolution, Hegel anticipated the general movement of science. But because it was only an anticipation, although by a genius, it received from Hegel an idealistic character. Hegel operated with ideological shadows as the ultimate reality.

Marx demonstrated that the movement of these ideological shadows reflected nothing but the movement of material bodies. We call our dialectic materialist since its roots are neither in heaven nor in the depths of our "free will" but in objective reality, in nature. Consciousness grew out of the unconscious, psychology out of physiology, the organic world out of the inorganic, the solar system out of nebula. On all the rungs of this ladder of development the quantitative changes were transformed into qualitative.

Our thought including dialectical thought is only one of the forms of the expression of changing matter. There is place within this system for neither God, nor Devil, nor immortal soul nor eternal norms of laws and morals. The dialectic of thinking, having grown out of the dialectic of nature, possesses consequently a thoroughly materialist character. Darwinism, which explained the evolution of species through quantitative transformations passing into qualitative, was the highest triumph of the dialectic in the whole field of organic matter.

Another great triumph was the discovery of the table of atomic weights of chemical elements and further the transformation of one element into another. With these transformations species, elements, etc. Linnaeus's system eighteenth century , utilizing as its starting point the immutability of species, was limited to the description and classification of plants according to their external characteristics.

The infantile period of botany is analogous to the infantile period of logic, since the forms of our thought develop like everything that lives. Only decisive repudiation of the idea of fixed species, only the study of the history of the evolution of plants and their anatomy prepared the basis for a really scientific classification. Marx, who in distinction from Darwin was a conscious dialectician, discovered a basis for the scientific classification of human societies in the development of their productive forces and the structure of the relations of ownership, which constitute the anatomy of society.

Marxism substituted for the vulgar descriptive classification of societies and states, which even up to now still flourishes in the universities, a materialistic dialectical classification. Only through using the method of Marx is it possible correctly to determine both the concept of a workers' state and the moment of its downfall.

All this, as we see, contains nothing "metaphysical" or "scholastic," as conceited ignorance affirms. Dialectical logic expresses the laws of motion in contemporary scientific thought. The struggle against materialist dialectics on the contrary expresses a distant past conservatism of the petty bourgeoisie, the self-conceit of university routinists and. Out of the dissolution of the Hegelian school, however, there developed still another tendency, the only one which has borne real fruit. And this tendency is essentially connected with the name of Marx. The separation from Hegelian philosophy was here also the result of a return to the materialist standpoint.

That means it was resolved to comprehend the real world - nature and history - just as it presents itself to everyone who approaches it free from preconceived idealist crotchets. It was decided mercilessly to sacrifice every idealist which could not be brought into harmony with the facts conceived in their own and not in a fantastic interconnection.

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And materialism means nothing more than this. But here the materialistic world outlook was taken really seriously for the first time and was carried through consistently - at least in its basic features - in all domains of knowledge concerned. Hegel was not simply put aside. On the contrary, a start was made from his revolutionary side, described above, from the dialectical method. But in its Hegelian form, this method was unusable. According to Hegel, dialectics is the self-development of the concept.

The absolute concept does not only exist - unknown where - from eternity, it is also the actual living soul of the whole existing world. It develops into itself through all the preliminary stages which are treated at length in the Logic and which are all included in it.

Then it "alienates" itself by changing into nature, where, unconscious of itself, disguised as a natural necessity, it goes through a new development and finally returns as man's consciousness of himself. This self-consciousness then elaborates itself again in history in the crude form until finally the absolute concept again comes to itself completely in the Hegelian philosophy.

On the Use and Abuse of Marxism

According to Hegel, therefore, the dialectical development apparent in nature and history - that is, the causal interconnection of the progressive movement from the lower to the higher, which asserts itself through all zigzag movements and temporary retrogression - is only a copy [Abklatsch] of the self-movement of the concept going on from eternity, no one knows where, but at all events independently of any thinking human brain.

This ideological perversion had to be done away with. We again took a materialistic view of the thoughts in our heads, regarding them as images [Abbilder] of real things instead of regarding real things as images of this or that stage of the absolute concept. Thus dialectics reduced itself to the science of the general laws of motion, both of the external world and of human thought - two sets of laws which are identical in substance, but differ in their expression in so far as the human mind can apply them consciously, while in nature and also up to now for the most part in human history, these laws assert themselves unconsciously, in the form of external necessity, in the midst of an endless series of seeming accidents.

Thereby the dialectic of concepts itself became merely the conscious reflex of the dialectical motion of the real world and thus the dialectic of Hegel was turned over; or rather, turned off its head, on which it was standing, and placed upon its feet. And this materialist dialectic, which for years has been our best working tool and our sharpest weapon, was, remarkably enough, discovered not only by us but also, independently of us and even of Hegel, by a German worker, Joseph Dietzgen.

In this way, however, the revolutionary side of Hegelian philosophy was again taken up and at the same time freed from the idealist trimmings which with Hegel had prevented its consistent execution. The great basic thought that the world is not to be comprehended as a complex of readymade things, but as a complex of processes, in which the things apparently stable no less than their mind images in our heads, the concepts, go through an uninterrupted change of coming into being and passing away, in which, in spite of all seeming accidentally and of all temporary retrogression, a progressive development asserts itself in the end - this great fundamental thought has, especially since the time of Hegel, so thoroughly permeated ordinary consciousness that in this generality it is now scarcely ever contradicted.

But to acknowledge this fundamental thought in words and to apply it in reality in detail to each domain of investigation are two different things. The Third World movements of national and social liberation would become not only political agents of social change but also the depositories of an accumulating wisdom with respect to social dynamics. Charismatic leaders with exceptional gifts would study the received intellectual and moral tradition and would creatively apply it to a new historical and social context, thus developing it further.

The development of the university as a counterrevolutionary ideological structure and bureaucratized social system undermined the possibility for the popular appreciation of the role of Lenin and other revolutionary leaders in the formulation of a knowledge of social dynamics necessary for human emancipation. To the extent that the peoples of the North were disconnected from the Third World movement of national and social liberation, it was difficult for them to see the profoundly counterrevolutionary character of the structures and epistemological assumptions of the Western university.

Fidel has said that revolution in our time is above all a battle of ideas, and the central idea that we of the Left must grasp and teach to our people is that we have been denied our human right to knowledge and cultural formation, as a consequence of ideological distortions and the bureaucratization of education and society. To break with this ideological enslavement, the fundamental first step is personal encounter with the social movements of the Third World, where the spirit of Marx and Lenin is alive.

As the universities were turning to the structural marginalization of Marx, Lenin developed Marxist knowledge further, on the basis of his observation of popular struggles. Observing the capacity of workers and peasants to form soviets or popular councils , he discerned that the key to the struggle of the workers against capitalists and of peasants against landlords was the taking of political power by the workers and peasants through the formation of soviets and the substitution of soviet power for parliamentary power.

And observing the resistance of the oppressed nationalities of the Russian Empire, he discerned the importance of the self-determination of peoples. When he discerned that the revolutions in the West were not going to triumph, which he considered necessary for the survival of the Russian Revolution, he anticipated that the center for the global socialist revolution would pass from the Western proletariat to the oppressed and colonized peoples of the world Lenin , , , The prediction of Lenin came to pass.

The Bolshevik revolution fell, and the Third World revolutions of national liberation would arrive to take central stage in the world arena. The global powers were able to channel many of these revolutions to reform, using a variety of amoral means, including alliances with the opportunist accommodationist politicians. But there are a number of cases in which a popular revolution has taken power, and the leadership of the revolution in power has defended the people and the nation, putting into practice revolutionary values and ideals.

The charismatic leaders of the Third World revolutions that sought both national sovereignty and social transformation are most clearly exemplified by Ho Chi Minh and Fidel. With exceptional mastery of the art of politics, they would lead their peoples in the taking of power, and they would forge new nations on a basis of revolutionary values and ideals.

Their revolutionary projects continue to exist to this day, defending the dignity and the sovereignty of the nation and the rights of the people, and participating with other Third World nations in an international effort to construct a more just, democratic and sustainable world-system. These Third World projects are the true heirs of Lenin, not Stalinist Russia, even though we must be aware that the Soviet Union after Lenin, until its fall in , continued to have important dimensions that were a consequence of the legacy of Lenin Grant And the Third World project of national and social liberation is the true heir of Marx, further developing knowledge of history and social dynamics on the basis of insights developed by social movements that seek human emancipation see posts on the Third World project of national and social liberation.

We of the Left must appreciate the legacy that has been Left to us by our historic leaders. The speeches and writings of Lenin form part of the body of sacred texts that are the intellectual and moral heritage of the Left.


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They also pertain to the cultural heritage of humanity, for they are part of the evolution of knowledge of social dynamics, developed by the peoples in movement and by the charismatic leaders that they have lifted up. We should study these sacred texts, always seeking to creatively apply their insights to our social and historical context. Lenin taught that it is necessary to form a vanguard political party that leads the people in the taking of political power.

We have alternative values, but we cannot implement them if we eschew the necessary dynamics of human social organization. It is idealist to hope that persons of good will in the United States could contribute to the development of a more just, democratic and sustainable world-system without forming an alternative political party that is directed by visionary and committed leaders and that is characterized by the discipline of its members. Without such a party, good work can be done in local communities; but such efforts will not be enough, as long as the national government remains in the hands of those who are committed to the defense of the short-term interests of the financiers and the large corporations.

We have the duty to develop a political structure that ultimately will be able to take power, confident that, if it is formed in accordance with universal human values, it will fulfill its historic duty to the people, the nation, humanity, and the earth. We must form an alternative political party, look for leaders with exceptional gifts and with high moral commitment, lift them up, follow their lead, accept their direction, and defend them when they come under attack by the powers-that-be, all the while calling upon others to become a part of the process, which they can do if they have the discipline to study, to learn, to teach and to organize.

We cannot refuse to do this in the name of an idealist purity, accepting the material comforts that the neocolonial world-system unavoidably confers, and leaving the weak without defense before the barbarity of the global powers. Lenin taught that a revolution succeeds when the people have rejected the established order and when the rulers are unable to govern in the old way, and it is stimulated by a crisis that affects all, exploiters and exploited alike These are precisely the conditions in which we live today.

The mission of an alternative political party of the Left, a popular democratic socialist party, is to establish such consciousness and sacrificial dedication among significant numbers of the people, through a commitment to popular education and to acquiring mastery of the art of politics. That it can be done is the fundamental and most important teaching of Fidel. Katznelson, Ira. New York: The New Press. Lenin, V. State and Revolution. New York: International Publishers.

Moscow: Foreign Languages Publishing House. Speeches at Congresses of the Communist International. Moscow: Progress Publishers. New York: Pathfinder Press. Trotsky, Leon. History of the Russian Revolution. Translated by Max Eastman. Chicago: Haymarket Books. McKelvey, Charles.

Wallerstein, Immanuel. The Modern World System , Vol. Minneapolis and London: University of Minnesota Press. The Uncertainties of Knowledge. Philadelphia: Temple University Press. Berkeley: University of California Press. Wallerstein, Immanuel, et al. Stanford: Stanford University Press. What is revolutionary socialism? Revolutionary socialist movements are in essence struggles formed by the people that seek to take power from the bourgeoisie and its political representatives. They are not defined by the method through which they arrive to power, which is dependent on particular conditions.

When socialist revolutions arrived to power, they did so through the leadership of exceptional persons who mastered the art of politics, and thus discerned the road to power. In the cases of the Russian, Chinese and Cuban revolutions, the armed struggles took three different forms. The Russian Revolution was not exactly an armed struggle, but rather a movement for the formation of soviets councils of workers, peasants and soldiers , accompanied by the formation of popular militias and the placing of some government military barracks under the authority of the soviets.

The Chinese Revolution involved a long guerrilla war in the countryside. The Cuban Revolution was a short guerrilla struggle that was able to move from the mountains and the countryside to the city. In all three cases, the charismatic leaders adopted intelligent strategies that were appropriate and necessary in the context of the particular conditions. Political conditions following the triumph of the three revolutions were sufficiently favorable to enable the revolutionary governments to effect a fundamental reconstruction of political, military and cultural institutions.

Nevertheless, the power to which they had arrived was partial. They confronted powerful internal and international enemies, and the obstacles to economic transformation were enormous. Seeking to construct socialism in a global context shaped by a capitalist world-economy, they were compelled to promote the interests and needs of the people on a step-by-step basis, limited to the possible. In the case of Russia, the contradictions were such that with the death of Lenin, the revolution fell to a bureaucratic counterrevolution, and it subsequently developed in a distorted form.

In the case of Cuba, the revolution at the moment of its triumph enjoyed significant political possibilities. The military dictatorship was totally discredited, as a result of its alliance with US imperialism and its oppression of the people. Representative democracy also was lacking in legitimacy, as a result of its service of US imperialist interests during the neocolonial republic. Moreover, the national bourgeoisie emigrated rather than remaining in the country to defend its particular interests. These factors enabled the Cuban Revolution to develop structures of popular democracy, institutionalized in the Constitution of But the Cuban Revolution confronted major obstacles.

It was an underdeveloped nation, dependent on the exportation of raw materials to the United States and on the importation of US manufactured goods. And its proposal for independent development and true sovereignty provoked the hostility of the United States, which considered the island to be its possession. As the Cuban Revolution sought to construct socialism under these difficult conditions, it took decisive and necessary steps, according to what was possible, and it took further steps and adjustments as the revolution evolved.

Many of the measures are understood generally to be socialist: nationalization of agricultural plantations, industry, education and the mass media. Other measures in health, education, housing, transportation, tourism and international relations are reformist, involving steps that any progressive government should take, including joint ventures with foreign capital. But such reformist incrementalism was tied to decisive revolutionary steps, and it was part of a national development plan directed by popular power.

It was very different from reform from above, which involves concessions by the elite to popular sectors in order to pacify them. Cuban reformist incrementalism was reform from below, constrained only by limitations in real possibilities. All political decisions have been made by delegates of the people and not by representatives of the bourgeoisie, national or international. Concessions of the Cuban revolutionary government are made not to powerful classes but to the people and to the possible. The relatively favorable conditions for the taking of power through a guerrilla struggle and the reconstruction of political, military and cultural institutions, which existed in Cuba in the period to , did not exist in the Latin America of , a region defined at that time by representative democracy, neoliberalism, and corporate control of the media.

In these conditions, fundamentally different from Cuba of , an armed struggle would not have been an effective strategy. In Latin America in , the people were confused by the collapse of a progressive agenda and the imposition of neoliberalism, but they knew enough to know that they were excluded and abandoned. They began to protest over particular aspects of their situation, such as the high cost of water. In this context, leaders emerged to direct the people toward a more comprehensive rejection of the neoliberal project, a discrediting of the political representatives that had participated in the implementation of neoliberalism, and the formulation of a more dignified project of national independence.

In this changed Latin American political reality at the dawn of the twenty-first century, three charismatic leaders emerged in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. They formed alternative political parties that took partial political power and led the people in the development of new constitutions, which were more progressive than those of bourgeois democracy, inasmuch as they included protection of the social and economic rights of the people, the sovereignty of the nation and the ecological balance of nature.

However, political conditions have not permitted the establishment of popular democracy as against representative democracy, nor have they permitted structural economic transformations of a kind that would break the neocolonial relation with the United States or destroy the political power of the national bourgeoisie, which remains politically active as a class, cooperating with imperialist interests in projects of political destabilization and the restoration of the Right.

In addition, the media remains for the most part in the hands of private capital. What interpretations can we make of the revolutions in Latin American today that have proclaimed themselves to be socialist revolutions for the twenty-first century? In addressing this question, we should not overlook the context in which they emerged in the s. It was a time in which the unipolar power had proclaimed the end of history and ideological debates, and that only one model was possible, that of liberal democracy.

It was a time in which the Left was weak, divided and demoralized, and some prominent members of the Left jumped ship. At that time, no one predicted that in the next fifteen years the politics of Latin America would be completely transformed, with the emergence of self-proclaimed socialist governments in three nations, the electoral victories of progressive governments in other nations, the formation of regional associations that seek to break the neocolonial relation, and the solidarity of the region with socialist Cuba. The three charismatic leaders played a leading role in this stunning and unanticipated process of change.

They therefore should be appreciated as exceptional persons whose gifts include mastery of the art of politics. Their leadership has included the formulation of the idea that in the epoch of neoliberal globalization, socialism has been born again, a socialism with different characteristics from before, a socialism that discerns a different road to power and a different vision of the characteristics of the socialist society, but which sees itself as carrying forward the banner of socialism hoisted by socialist revolutions of the past, for like its forebears, it is convinced that the capitalist world-economy is unsustainable.

Thus, the Latin American revolutions of today signify an evolution in the meaning of revolution and of socialism. They have followed the example of the socialist revolutions of Russia, China and Cuba, but they have not imitated them. Practicing the art of politics, they have discerned a road to power adapted to the present epoch of neoliberal globalization and global crisis, in which the world-system is increasingly demonstrating its unsustainability. In the three socialist revolutions in Latin America today, we can see in outline form the characteristics of a socialist revolution in the United States: the formation of an alternative party that proclaims the intention to construct socialism and that unites the various popular sectors; the formulation of specific proposals that respond to the concrete needs of the people; the formulation of constitutional amendments that project the goals of the socialist revolution; and the use of the structures of representative democracy in order to take control of the executive and legislative branches of the federal government, and to struggle from that position to take control of the judiciary, the military and the mass media, and to establish structures of participatory and popular democracy.

Rather than analyzing the popular revolution in Latin America today from a perspective shaped by the socialist practice of an earlier epoch, we should appreciate the revolutionary spirit alive today in Latin America and join in the construction of socialism, redefined for the present historic moment, but with understanding of its historic roots. Posts reflecting on the meaning of revolution can be found in the category Revolution. Who defines socialism? The Cuban Revolution, he maintains, has achieved national independence, but it is not a socialist revolution, inasmuch as its economic system is based on the exploitation of wage labor.

Having not liberated the working class, Cuba is incapable of attaining full liberation with respect to race and gender, he maintains. He notes that societies that have called themselves socialist are not in reality socialist, and he refers specifically in this regard to the former Soviet Union and the former nations of the socialist bloc of Eastern Europe as well as China and Cuba. But the recent triumph of self-designated socialist revolutions in Latin America provides empirical basis for a reformulation of the meaning and characteristics of socialism. In this situation, I maintain that all of us who carry the banner of socialism should permit the triumphant revolutions calling themselves socialist to define in practice the characteristics of socialism.

These include the triumphant revolutions in Russia , Vietnam , China , Cuba , Chile , Venezuela , Bolivia , and Ecuador Studying the characteristics of these socialist projects, we can discern that they all involved the taking of political power by an alternative political formation led by a charismatic leader and supported by various popular sectors.

In these cases, the working class was not in the majority, and it was not in the vanguard. The leaders in the revolutionary processes came overwhelmingly from the radical wing of the petty bourgeoisie; and the popular sectors included peasants, students, workers and women. Once in power, the triumphant revolutions confronted enormous challenges with respect to the production and distribution of necessary goods and services. Of necessity, their orientation was not so much toward the emancipation of the worker but the marshalling of labor to provide for the needs of the people.

They relied heavily on nationalization, but they sanctioned various forms of property in addition to state property, including cooperatives, small scale private property, and joint ventures with foreign capital. They all believed that the state should be the author of a national development project and that the state should be a major actor in the economy. As socialism evolved in practice, it assumed characteristics that were different from what was projected by Marx, Engels, Lenin and Trotsky.

But the formulators of classic Marxism-Leninism understood that their theoretical formulations were tied to observations of particular conditions and social movements, and that revolutionary theory would continue to evolve, connected to practice. The Party must be built as a vehicle capable of initiating and leading revolutionary warfare. He emphasised that the central task of revolution is the seizure of political power by revolutionary violence.


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Mao Tsetung's theory of People's War is universally applicable in all countries, although this must be applied to the concrete conditions in each country and, in particular, take into account the revolutionary paths in the two general types of countries - imperialist countries and oppressed countries - that exist in the world today. Mao solved the problem of how to make revolution in a country dominated by imperialism. The basic path he charted for the revolution in China represents an inestimable contribution to the theory and practice of revolution and is the guide for achieving liberation in the countries oppressed by imperialism.

This means protracted People's War, surrounding the cities from the countryside, with armed struggle as the main form of struggle and the army led by the Party as the main form of organisation of the masses, mobilising the peasantry, principally the poor peasants, carrying out the agrarian revolution, building a united front under the leadership of the Communist Party to carry out the New Democratic Revolution against imperialism, feudalism and bureaucrat capitalism and establishing the joint dictatorship of the revolutionary classes led by the proletariat as the necessary prelude to the socialist revolution which must immediately follow the victory of the first stage of the revolution.

Mao put forward the thesis of the "three magic weapons" - the Party, the Army and the United Front - the indispensable instruments for making revolution in every country in accordance with its specific conditions and path of revolution. Mao Tsetung greatly developed the proletarian philosophy, dialectical materialism. In particular, he stressed that the law of contradiction, the unity and struggle of opposites, is the fundamental law governing nature and society. He pointed out that the unity and identity of all things is temporary and relative, while the struggle between opposites is ceaseless and absolute, and this gives rise to radical ruptures and revolutionary leaps.

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He masterfully applied this understanding to the analysis of the relationship between theory and practice, stressing that practice is both the sole source and ultimate criterion of the truth and emphasising the leap from theory to revolutionary practice. In so doing Mao further developed the proletarian theory of knowledge.

He led in taking philosophy to the masses in their millions, popularising, for example, that "one divides into two" in opposition to the revisionist thesis that "two combines into one". Mao Tsetung further developed the understanding that the "people and the people alone are the motive force in the making of world history".

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He developed the understanding of the mass line: "take the ideas of the masses scattered and unsystematic ideas and concentrate them through study turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas , then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and translate them into action, and test the correctness of these ideas in such action".

Mao stressed the profound truth that matter can be transformed into consciousness and consciousness into matter, further developing the understanding of the conscious dynamic role of man in every field of human endeavour. Mao Tsetung led the international struggle against modern revisionism led by the Khrushchevite revisionists.

He defended the communist ideological and political line against the modern revisionists and called upon the genuine proletarian revolutionaries to break with them and forge parties based on Marxist-Leninist-Maoist principles. Mao Tsetung undertook a penetrating analysis of the lessons of the restoration of capitalism in the USSR and the shortcomings as well as the positive achievements of the construction of socialism in that country. While Mao defended the great contributions of Stalin, he also summed up Stalin's errors. He summed up the experience of the socialist revolution in China and the repeated two-line struggles against revisionist headquarters within the Communist Party of China.

He masterfully applied materialist dialectics to the analysis of the contradictions of socialist society. Mao taught that the Party must play the vanguard role - before, during and after the seizure of power - in leading the proletariat in the historic struggle for communism. He developed the understanding of how to preserve the proletarian revolutionary character of the Party through waging an active ideological struggle against bourgeois and petit bourgeois influences in its ranks, the ideological remoulding of the Party members, criticism and self-criticism and waging two-line struggle against opportunist and revisionist lines in the Party.

Mao taught that once the proletariat seizes power and the Party becomes the leading force within the socialist state, the contradiction between the Party and the masses becomes a concentrated expression of the contradictions marking socialist society as a transition between capitalism and communism. Mao Tsetung developed the proletariat's understanding of political economy, of the contradictory and dynamic role of production itself and of its interrelationship with the political and ideological superstructure of society.

Mao taught that the system of ownership is decisive in the relations of production but that, under socialism, attention must be paid that public ownership is socialist in content as well as in form. He stressed the interaction between the system of socialist ownership and the other two aspects of the relations of production, the relations between people in production and the system of distribution.

Mao developed the Leninist thesis that politics is the concentrated expression of economics, showing that under socialist society the correctness of the ideological and political line determines whether the proletariat actually owns the means of production. Conversely, he pointed out that the rise of revisionism means the rise of the bourgeoisie, that given the contradictory nature of the socialist economic base it would be easy for capitalist roaders to rig up the capitalist system if they come to power.

He profoundly criticised the revisionist theory of the productive forces and concluded that the superstructure, consciousness, can transform the base and with political power develop the productive forces. Mao Tsetung initiated and led the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution which represented a great leap forward in the experience of exercising the dictatorship of the proletariat. Hundreds of millions of people rose up to overthrow the capitalist roaders who had emerged from within the socialist society and who were especially concentrated in the leadership of the Party itself such as Liu Shao-chi, Lin Piao and Deng Xiao-ping.

Mao led the proletariat and masses in challenging the capitalist roaders and imposing the interests, outlook and will of the great majority in every sphere that, even in socialist society, had remained the private reserve of the exploiting classes and their way of thinking. The great victories won in the Cultural Revolution prevented the capitalist restoration in China for a decade and led to great socialist transformations in the economic base as well as in education, literature and art, scientific research and other parts of the superstructure.

Under Mao's leadership the masses dug away at the soil which engenders capitalism - such as bourgeois right and the three great differences between town and country, between worker and peasant, and between mental and manual labour. In the course of fierce ideological and political struggle, millions of workers and other revolutionary masses greatly deepened their class consciousness and mastery of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism and strengthened their capacity to wield political power. The Cultural Revolution was waged as part of the international struggle of the proletariat and was a training ground in proletarian internationalism.

Mao grasped the dialectical relationship between the necessity of revolutionary leadership and the need to arouse and rely on the revolutionary masses from below to implement proletarian dictatorship.

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Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual
Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual
Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual
Fundamentals of marxism leninism manual

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