Wednesday, November 23, 2011



Davide Ferri
1, November 2011
Delhi, India
Lastly modified: 28 February 2012

What is stagism?
Stagism (or two-stage theory) is that political doctrine arguing that a developing country with feudal or semi-feudal elements must first pass through a stage of bourgeois democracy before moving to an early Communist stage. Hence, stagism sees the achievement of Communism as a gradualist political process.

The aim of this article/pamphlet is to prove that unlike what most of Stagist Marxists maintain, it is absolutely necessary to take "with a pinch of salt" a gradualist praxis based on Marx's theory of history, which was in its turn based — as Marx more than once repeated — on the particular dialectical development of Western Capitalism. 
It is not Correspondence [the organisation for which I initially wrote this article] to hold it; it is Karl Marx's doctrine itself to logically discourage Stagism, as proved by Marx's teachings.

Today, we live in a Capitalist world where the feudal mode of production has practically disappeared. On the other hand, we still find stagist Marxists, such as Maoists, Leninists, members of the Communist Party of India (Marxist), CPI(ML), CPI, "legal Marxists" etc. arguing for the necessity of Stagism in countries with semi-feudal characteristics. This article will not indulge in attacking the validity of the concept of semi-feudalism, though it may sound extremely ambiguous for a Marxist, especially in the South Asian context. 
I will take the validity of semi-feudalism for granted so as to show that, even by assuming the correctness of it, a two-stage theory definitely remains an illogical concept.

It is sufficient to ponder upon dialectical materialism and Marx's Labour Theory of Value to logically realise how Marxism itself categorically falsifies the false consciousness and risky adventurism in the name of a Two-stage theory, still supported, for instance, by several Leninist and Maoist factions. 
The problems of a support for Stagism are 2: philological/epistemological and logical.
The philological problem is a minor one, though it reflects a misreading of Marx's political economy and philosophical works which, if carefully analysed, conceptually falsify Stagism. The epistemological fallacy arises whenever one regards Stagist Leninism as a "a continuation of Marxism".
Again, a minor problem.

The logical problem — the major one — arise from a vulgarisation of the logical implications of dialectical materialism and Marx's Labour theory of Value. In my article Marxism-"Marxism" and Marxism-Leninism, among other things, I emphasised some of the economic problems of Stagism:

The War Communism scarcity, allegedly compelling Lenin to carry out the New Economic Policy (NEP) to give relief to impoverished peasants and to the economy in general, was not a negligible factor.
It is important to point out that the historical "necessity" of going through the phrase of Capitalism so as to boost the productive forces for Communism is nowhere advocated by Marx; who like Mr Preobrazhensky[2] (a victim of anti-bolshevik purges), reckoned that the development of productive forces in general was possible in Socialism only through Socialist praxis. It should be remembered that Socialism — though carrying the burden of the ghosts of the past — would a more economical and more equitable system vis-à-vis commodity production.
I shall return on the matter with an apposite article on the economic planning, which will outline possible methods for the achievement of little social waste and high social utility.
According to dialectical materialism as designated by Marx and Engels, it is a higher human product, in terms of development of superstructureproductive forces, consciousness and therefore income distribution. Building Communism with "State Capitalism" bears the huge opportunity cost of not building it with Socialism.
By the way, in regard to the concept of cost, the capitalist entrepreneur carries out a reduction of cost per commodity (through production mechanisation e.g.) once the value of total capital has been written-off. In Socialism, a cost per commodity reduction would occur whenever it is socially desirable, insofar as private profit is not there.

Capitalism, in general, has a very high social cost. In commodity production, whether in the form of "State commodity production", "Monopoly Capitalism" or "libertarian Capitalism", the private initiative and the private profit are the engine behind the social good.
Hence — within the narrow limits of the private sphere; where production for profit (and not needs realisation) rules — the economic potential opportunities of one society are lost, at least in terms of full employment, "planned" regulation of pollution, more equitable income distribution (therefore fair prices), lack of inflation and so on. The maximum production curve attainable in Capitalism e.g. does not reflect the maximum production attainable by human society, insofar as profit motive and private initiative hinder this goal, though it is socially desirable.
"Pure" Capitalism or State Capitalism, brings along a huge social waste. Commodities embodying use-values are stored in warehouses until the Capitalist does not realise a profit on them. Whenever sales realisation does not occur, for whatever reasons (say, falling rate of profit as a result of growing constant capital) part or the whole of these use-values goes to the devil.
Also, a Capitalist knowing that s/he is going to be displaced by a Socialist State or Communist community within few years or decades would operate in a unfriendly environment under the constant threat of seeing the usefulness of his/her investment fading away. This scenario would not compel him to produce efficiently.
Hence, as a Marxist I do not see Lenin's "historically necessary" State Capitalism as a gigantic step forward (just to recall his own words).

As a Lenin admittedly said, State Capitalism was a "gigantic step forward". Lenin, however, is conceptually wrong

If, as Marxists, we have come to the logical conclusion, in political economy terms, that Socialised production — therefore Communism — is a superior mode of production compared to Commodity production, then invoking the need of supporting a Capitalist praxis will be an idealistic humbug.
Similarly, if we have come to the conclusion that a rational economic distributional planning is superior as compared to the non-rational Capitalist Market, then invoking the need of supporting a Capitalist praxis will be, again, an idealistic humbug.

Capitalism, with its anarchy of production, is definitely an inferior system and can achieve a lower development of productive forces compared to Communism, for all the political economy reasons graspable through a Labour Theory of Value.
Wouldn't such a capitalist stage create more contradictions and be less workable than socialised production? Wouldn't the defence of private property — entailing bureaucratic counterattacks against angry workers property detractors — be a huge pro-bureaucracy contradiction

at the detriment of the coming of Communism?
I am convinced of the fact that — though a post-revolutionary area may find itself with elements deriving from an old pre-revolutionary social structures — Communistic practices such as collectivisation and, more generally, socialisation of production, should be implemented unconditionally; without a dialectically contradictory gradualist pro-Capitalist praxis, entailing all the negative consequences I will discuss in this article. Communists should start immediately working for Communism and the wage-labourers, rather than pro-Capitalist Gradualism and perhaps for the sake of bourgeois members in the Communist party. Reformism, of course, is more likely to be directly or indirectly asked by wage-labourers in the pre-revolutionary people.
Even a kid knows that wage-labourers' popular will is directed towards the complete renovation of a social structure in the post-revolutionary period. Any attempt to repress this "popular will" is to be historically categorisable as reactionary and dialectically contradictory; t
he party should not elevate itself over the vast majority people, that is to say, the wage-labourers; unless it wants to feed dialectical contradictions working against the coming of Communism, perhaps for the sake of a pro-Capitalist share of its membership.
I shall return on the matter later.

Marx's works, undoubtedly, help us shining a light on the logical humbug of Stagism, explicitly in logical terms and implicitly in epistemological terms.
The epistemological question, I repeat, is a minor question as previously discussed; insofar as we care about the logical Marxist truth and not about the Marxist "defence" of the person of Marx, or about "Marx the prophet".

However, this article — for the sake of philology too — aims at proving that Stagism can be falsified both in a logical and epistemological way.

If at this point of the article you are not interested to understand the philological critique of Stagism, you may conveniently skip the remaining part I and the whole part II; having a look at the question of Frontism/Trotskyism, the politico-economic problems of Marxism-Leninism and Maoism (or Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism-Maoism) and the concluding remarks.

In epistemological/philological terms, a misunderstanding of Marx’s works leading to the wretched theory of Stagism was nothing new to Marx as well.  In part I of this article I will post three excerpts from Marx's work that try to epistemologically and, more importantly, logically falsify the two-Stage theory.
The first is about the generalisation of Marx's theory of history. 
Marx, in a Russian journal, tries to logically correct the misunderstandings of Marxists.

Now what application to Russia can my critic make of this historical sketch? Only this: If Russia is tending to become a capitalist nation after the example of the Western European countries, and during the last years she has been taking a lot of trouble in this direction--she will not succeed without having first transformed a good part of her peasants into proletarians; and after that, once taken to the bosom of the capitalist regime, she will experience its pitiless laws like other profane peoples. That is all. But that is not enough for my critic. He feels himself obliged to metamorphose my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into an historico-philosophic theory of the marche generale [general path] imposed by fate upon every people [bold added], whatever the historic circumstances in which it finds itself, in order that it may ultimately arrive at the form of economy which will ensure, together with the greatest expansion of the productive powers of social labour, the most complete development of man. But I beg his pardon. (He is both honouring and shaming me too much.) [bold added] [1]

The second excerpt shows that Marx insisted on falsifying the general vulgarisation of his own work. Marx attacks his critics who exploited this matter to categorise Marx’s praxis as inconsistent and quasi-fatalist:

My critic ... absolutely insists on transforming my historical sketch of the genesis of capitalism in Western Europe into a historico-philosophical theory of the general course fatally imposed on all peoples [bold added], whatever the historical circumstances in which they find themselves placed, in order to arrive at this economic formation which assures the greatest expansion of the productive forces of social labour . . . But success will never come with the master-key of a general historico-philosophical theory, whose supreme virtue consists in being supra-historical. [bold added] [2]

The third excerpt from Marx's works is regarding the specific dialectical development of Tsarist Russia. Both Marx and Engels argue in favour of the Russian form of socio-economic organisation and bluntly point out:

Now the question is: can the Russian obshchina, though greatly undermined, yet a form of primitive common ownership of land, pass directly to the higher form of Communist common ownership? Or, on the contrary, must it first pass through the same process of dissolution such as constitutes the historical evolution of the West? The only answer to that possible today is this: If the Russian Revolution becomes the signal for a proletarian revolution in the West, so that both complement each other, the present Russian common ownership of land may serve as the starting point for a communist development. [bold added] [3]

This excerpts were for the lovers of philological Marxism. I shall soon replace a philological/epistemological critique with a more important logical critique of Stagism, as approached by Maoism and Leninism.


In broad terms, Maoism in the East India expresses e.g. the material scarcity of India's system of reproduction and accumulation of Capital; which is an objective reality, whether we see it with 'pure' Marxism or with Marxism with tons of dashes and attributes ahead.
The Maoists surely have their ideological limits, especially those related to the two-stage theory, the boss-friendly principle of new democracy, and a praxis which focuses on the 'form'; all concepts which are definitely debatable not only within the framework of 'philological Marxism' but also within the framework of the Labour theory of Value. I shall return later on the matter.
On the other hand, it must also be said that they represent a base to start a broader Marxist movement — insofar as they incorporate both bourgeois and working class elements.  A democratic Marxist movement might also include certain genuine and non-dogmatic strata of the Maoist movement, with a late intellectual confrontation on Marxism, insofar as true Marxism is only one. Marxism is a 'whole': contradiction-less science for a contradiction-less system.
At present, a 'Marxist' fetishism towards an endless all-out anti-Maoist critique, leaving no space for an evaluation of its "proletarian" (tactical) potential, is not going to be either communicatively or 'historically' efficient. A Facebook-friendly Trotskyist rhetoric e.g. of 'wiping out the Maoists' excluding any collaboration, a praxis of 'no tactical compromise with pro-bureaucracy ideologies' and so on and so forth..are not going to take the genuine Marxist ideas to the Asian masses. Also, pre-made critiques of the likes of:
"We'll have our small vanguardist Trotskyist or Leninist party, we'll candidate ourselves with genuine ideas, then the masses will see we're the best and all will follow us" 
are definitely 'airy-fairy', out of context and anti-dialectical. Paresh Chandra — as a dear friend and as a real Marxist — rightly reminds me all the time that 'the right thing said at the wrong time to the wrong people may no longer be the right thing', I fully agree with such a statement: it is definitely an aspect of a dialectical 'theory of truth'.It goes without saying that there must be an inter-marxist collaboration, with tactical compromises and principled rigour.

The October Revolution e.g. didn't drop from the sky, Vladimir Lenin did alliances in 1914 in a purely Marxist spirit of tactical compromises and principled rigour. On the other hand, I shall return later on how Lenin vulgarised the Marxist theory of praxis and how Leninists mistake in categorising Leninism as fully “Marxist”.

It is important to premise that Karl Marx — unlike what many leftists believe — explicitly advised to carry out tactical compromises, which may even sound as social democratic, in order to help the working class to rise above its condition of marginalisation, in case the conditions for a revolution are not mature. Marx suggested that the working class can and must ask for concession — even through parliamentary politics — whilst getting ready for a revolution e.g. by compelling petty-bourgeois governments to tax the surplus, to reduce corporate profitability and to sharpen the dialectical contradictions in favour of the working class revolution.[4] The reduction of corporate profitability in general should be a tactical goal for all the real Marxists, as also Lebowitz points out in his interesting philological work “The Socialist Alternative” [5]. On the other hand, this tactical approach should not serve as an apology for the wretched "marxist" policy of pro-capitalist Stagism, whereby Communists should fight for the achievement of State Capitalism as an introductory phase for Communism; a phase necessary to develop the production relations and the productive forces allegedly in a more workable way as compared to socialised production, according to Leninists. 
I shall point out later that whatever we may evince from a philological analysis of Marx's works is that Communism can certainly grow "within Socialism and through Socialism", therefore through Socialist accumulation, without the need of making one historical step back to Capitalism. This can be evinced — and I shall discuss it later— from a logical critique of Stagism.
I will also discuss later how Marx called for a Socialist revolution in a "semi-feudal" Europe, without emphasising the need of achieving "first" the historical phase of Capitalism, of commodity production.

The letter to Marx by Vera Zasulich — a Bakunian Russian Anarchist converted to Marxism — is an importart testimony on how, even during Marx's times, philological misunderstandings of Marx's works represented a growing trend in Russia. The problem is that these philological misunderstanding fostered illogical conclusions.For the lovers of philology only, I will cite Vera Zasulich's letter to Marx regarding the philological understanding problems of the XIX century Russian Marksists to then post Marx's reply; so as to shine a light on the ever-growing ideological humbug on the matter too:

16 Feb. 1881, 
Rue de Lausanne, no. 49,
L’imprimerie polonaise. 

Honoured Citizen, 

You are not unaware that your Capital enjoys great popularity in Russia. 
Although the edition has been confiscated, the few remaining copies are read and re-read by the mass of more or less educated people in our country; serious men are studying it. What you probably do not realise is the role which your Capital plays in our discussions on the agrarian question in Russia and our rural commune. You know better than anyone how urgent this question is in Russia. You know what  Chernyshevskii  thought  of  it.  Our  progressive  literature— Otechestvennye Zapiski, for example—continues to develop his ideas. But in my view, it is a life-and-death question above all for our socialist party. In one way or another, even the personal fate of our revolutionary socialists depends upon your answer to the question. For there are only two possibilities. Either the rural commune, freed of exorbitant tax demands, payment to the nobility and arbitrary administration, is capable of developing in a socialist direction, that is, gradually organising its production and distribution on a collectivist basis. In that case, the revolutionary socialist  must  devote all  his  strength to the liberation and development of the commune. If,  however,  the commune is destined to perish,  all that remains for the socialist,  as such,  is more or less ill-founded calculations as to how many decades it will take for the Russian peasant’s land to pass into the hands of the bourgeoisie, and how many centuries it will take for capitalism in Russia to reach something like the level of development already attained in Western Europe. [bold added] Their task will then be to conduct propaganda solely among the urban workers, while these workers will be continually drowned in the peasant mass which, following the dissolution of the commune, will be thrown on to the streets of the large towns in search of a wage. Nowadays, we often hear it said that the rural commune is an archaic form condemned to perish by history, scientific socialism and, in short, everything above debate. Those who preach such a view call themselves your disciples par excellence: ‘Marksists’. 
Their strongest argument is often: ‘Marx said so.’ 
But how do you derive that from Capital?’ others object. 
He does not discuss the agrarian question, and says nothing about Russia.’ [bold added] ‘He would have said as much if he had discussed our country,’ your disciples retort with perhaps a little too much temerity. So you will understand, Citizen, how interested we are in Your opinion. You would be doing us a very great favour if you were to set forth Your ideas on the possible fate of our rural commune, and on the theory that it is historically necessary for every country in the world to pass through all the phases of capitalist production. 
In the name of my friends, I take the liberty to ask You, Citizen, to do us this favour.  If time does not allow you to set forth Your ideas in a fairly detailed manner, then at least be so kind as to do this in the form of a letter that you would allow us to translate and publish in Russia. 
With respectful greetings, 
Vera Zassoulich 

This excerpts is very important because it emphasises a very common fashion among leftists, that of saying "Marx said so" without venturing into a logical critique of an issue or even a serious philological critique (which, I repeat, is less important than a logical one).
Again, for the lovers of philology only, I will keep dealing with the philological issue by posting hereby Marx's reply.
Karl Marx then replied to Vera Zasulich with the following letter:

8 March 1881 
41, Maitland Park Road, London N.W. 
Dear Citizen, 

A nervous complaint which has periodically affected me for the last ten years has prevented me from answering sooner your letter of 16 February. I regret that I am unable to give you a concise account for publication of the question which you did me the honour of raising. Some months ago, I already promised a text on the same subject  to the St.  Petersburg Committee [of  the People’s Will organisation]. Still, I hope that a few lines will suffice to leave you in no doubt about the way in which my so-called theory has been misunderstood. 
In analysing the genesis of capitalist production, I said: 
At the heart of the capitalist system is a complete separation of…the 
producer from the  means of  production…the  expropriation of the 
agricultural producers as the basis of the whole process. Only in England has it been accomplished in a radical manner…But all the other countries of Western Europe are following the same course. (Capital, French edition, p. 315.) The ‘historical inevitability’ of this course is therefore expressly restricted to the countries of Western Europe (bold added). The reason for this restriction is indicated in Ch. 
XXXII: ‘Private property,  founded upon personal labour…is supplanted by capitalist private property, which rests on exploitation of the labour of others, on wage-labour.’ (Loc. cit., p. 340.) 
In the Western case, then, one form of private property is transformed into another form of private property. In the case of the Russian peasants, however, their communal property would have to be transformed into private property. The analysis in Capital therefore provides no reasons either for or against the vitality of the Russian commune [bold added]. But the special study I have made of it, including a search for original  source material,  has convinced me that  the commune is the fulcrum for social regeneration in Russia. But in order that it might function as such, the harmful influences assailing it on all sides must first be eliminated, and it must then be assured the normal conditions for spontaneous development. 
I have the honour, dear Citizen, to remain 
Yours sincerely, 
Karl Marx [6]

Marx, as his works prove, was clearly a Communist revolutionary opposed to the Stage Theory; a policy advocated by non-orthodox Marxists today whose long-run political consequences might even end up giving reality to Capitalist reaction, the necessary bureaucratisation to balance the interests of Capital and Wage-Labour and growing party institutionalisation
The need of defending "Marx" from a two-stage-theory-based vulgar revisionism is not comparable to the need of dogmatically defending a deity. It is not about Marx the "person", the "guide", the "father of Scientific Socialism" it is merely about the fact that Marx's words makes sense. It is not for the sake of philology but for the sake of logic, on which Marx excels. 
Communism can and must be achieved through Socialist policies according to Marxism, without the need of a risky adventurism within the vortex of Commodity Production, unless the historical conditions for a Socialist revolution are so desperate that is more advisable to postpone a revolutionary attempt to prevent a revolution's future from degenerating, with all probability, into Commodity production. If Socialism for itself is a higher historical phase as compared to all the modes of production that took place in human society — at least in qualitative and quantitative production and superstructure terms, as Marxist dialectics is supposed to prove — then “Capitalist praxis within Socialism” will be not only ridiculously dangerous but also inferior and inefficient for the achievement of Communism. I shall return later to the character of “pro-Communist” State Capitalism and some of its risks.

As remarked earlier, in case the workers' socioeconomic situation is too precarious or can be improved to have am efficient and sustainable praxis against Commodity production, a "revolution in permanence within Capitalism" [7] — recalling's Marx's concept and not Trotsky's — would certainly suffice to raise enough the standards of the proletariat. Life of Capital must be rendered impossible, even by asking perpetual concessions from petty-bourgeois governments that can damage big Capital.
This was the spirit of tactical Marxism.
Maoists and Leninists e.g. argue that a Communist gradualist revolution, passing by the historical vortex of Capitalism is necessary whenever an economy is supposed to be feudal or even "semi-feudal". This is a stance that strongly differs from that of Marx, though the ideas of Lenin and Mao are regarded by their followers as generally Marxist, "completely Marxist" and/or as a "continuation of Marxism". I won't go, due to the scope of this article, deep into analysing the inconsistency of their analysis and the entirety of the historical problems of Leninism and Maoism.
It is just important to recall for the moment that these people, whilst claiming to be "Marxists" or followers of a doctrine representing "the continuation of Marxism", neglect one important philological analysis of what all Marx pointed out in his "1850 address": the question of frontism/common front in general.


A common front is a form of struggle based on a tactical alliance between different groups in pursuit of a fight against a common enemy. Basically, its tactical motto is "the enemy of my enemy is my friend". 
A commont front can be a "united front" and a "popular front".
A united front contains only proletarian elements, coming from different parties. The COMINTERN said on the matter, at its fourth congress:

The united front tactic is simply an initiative whereby the Communists propose to join with all workers belonging to other parties and groups and all unaligned workers in a common struggle to defend the immediate, basic interests of the working class against the bourgeoisie. Every action, for even the most trivial everyday demand, can lead to revolutionary awareness and revolutionary education; it is the experience of struggle that will convince workers of the inevitability of revolution and the historic importance of Communism.
It is particularly important when using the united front tactic to achieve not just agitational but also organisational results [bold added]. Every opportunity must be used to establish organisational footholds among the working masses themselves (factory committees, supervisory commissions made up of workers from all the different parties and unaligned workers, action committees, etc.).
The main aim of the united front tactic is to unify the working masses through agitation and organisation. The real success of the united front tactic depends on a movement “from below”, from the rank-and-file of the working masses. Nevertheless, there are circumstances in which Communists must not refuse to have talks with the leaders of the hostile workers’ parties, providing the masses are always kept fully informed of the course of these talks [bold added]. During negotiations with these leaders the independence of the Communist Party and its agitation must not be circumscribed.[8]

A popular front, conversely, is a broad coalition containing both bourgeois and proletarian elements, coming from different parties. Trotsky e.g. spoke against a popular front, whilst advocating the necessity of a united front in case of a growing Fascist threat. This is the famous ending of  Trotksy's "For a workers' united front against Fascism":

Worker-Communists, you are hundreds of thousands, millions; you cannot leave for anyplace; there are not enough passports for you. Should fascism come to power, it will ride over your skulls and spines like a terrific tank. Your salvation lies in merciless struggle. And only a fighting unity with the Social Democratic workers can bring victory. [bold added] Make haste, worker-Communists, you have very little time left! [9]

It is not surprising that nowadays Trotskyists keep boringly repeating the necessity of not coming to compromises, both before and after a revolution, in line with the indication of Trotsky, who was categorically against a popular front. Their revolutionary spirit fails to be Marxist with this uncompromising political approach, before a revolution.
Fascism is a determined particular mode of production, where — in very broad terms — monopoly Capital can achieve a primary role in the economy thanks to a neighbourly totalitarian bourgeois dictatorship, offering State credit and other privileges to the bourgeoisie. In the case e.g. of Nazi Germany, the pro-monopoly policy of preisfinanzierung allowed national Capitalists to make a fortune, at the cost of small Capital, of course.
Trotsky, on this particular tactics-related matter, could be attacked on the ground that at present a Liberal Capitalist society doesn’t need the bludgeon anymore to prove to the Marxists and to the masses that it has incorporated “Fascist” political elements within, from media brainwashing, to routine repressions of demonstrations, attempts of bribing trade unions, pro-monopoly laws and so on and so forth.  Liberal Capitalist societies of West Europe and North America e.g. cannot be categorised as fascist but can incorporate certain fascist elements, at least in political terms. Hence, a Liberal society could be, in broad terms, a semi-fascist society.
Shouldn’t a united front come into existence against fascist elements in a virtually democratic bourgeois society?

This is, as far as I could verify so far, a question to which Trotskyists haven’t answered in a satisfactory way.

Now, what is necessary to discuss for the relevance of this article is not the contextual framework that may require the necessity of one of these two fronts (united or popular) but the temporal framework of their implementation.
Marx in fact, advocated the necessity of an interclass political collaboration in pursuit of political concessions in favour of the non-ruling working class. BEFORE the revolution. Trotskyism, by categorically refusing a popular front and repeating the only option of a united front (against pure Fascism), goes against the Marxist principle of pre-revolutionary interclass collaboration apt to achieve a better political environment.
Marx, who was neither a Social democrat nor a utopian socialist, says on the matter:

The relationship of the revolutionary workers’ party to the petty-bourgeois democrats is this:  it cooperates with them against the party, which they aim to overthrow; it opposes them wherever they wish to secure their own position. The democratic petty bourgeois, far from wanting to transform the whole society in the interests of the revolutionary proletarians, only aspire to a change in social conditions, which will make the existing society as tolerable and comfortable for themselves as possible [bold added]. [10]

According to Marx’s words, the working class e.g. could collaborate for short-run benefit with ex-proletarian parties like the Communist Party of India (Marxist), the CPI(M), which now has Social Democratic/petty bourgeois elements within; as the pro-negotiation role of its huge trade union — the Centre of Indian Trade Unions (CITU) —proved, e.g. in the recent class struggle in Manesar, in the industrial peripheries of Delhi.
Trotskyists haven’t showed much willingness to collaborate with the embourgeoisement of the ex-Marxist-Leninist CPI (M), even if such collaboration would have been possible and desirable for the achievement of political concessions in favour of the working class. It should be emphasised that the CPI (M) — a party with both bourgeois and proletarian elements — has circa 867000 members (as of 2004) and has achieved 88,174,229 votes in 2009 India’s elections, that is to say, 21.15% of all the votes, an important result that has no equal in the developing capitalist world. The CPI(M), with all its reactionary limits and aftermaths of Leninist goals, could grant important political concessions against big capital to the Indian non-ruling working class in its whole; while a praxis preparing the proletarians to the revolution could be carried out, e.g. by non-CPI(M) parties, groups and trade unions. 
The CPI(M) could represent an important tactical weapon for the working class of South Asia.
Yet, Indian intra-Communist movement split hinders such an environment of important political concessions for the working class. 

It should be pointed out that, as of 2005, India had circa 100 Leftist parties! [11] Pseudo-Trotskyist ideologies are not helping too, in this scenario.
Their general anti-peasant rhetoric doesn’t help too.  
Trotskyists, on other hand, are right when they attack the two-stage theory for its non-dialectical character, citing Marx’s words on the question (though contradicting themselves with their theoretical support to Stagist Leninism). What the Trotskyists don’t grasp is the temporal relevance of their suggestions.

Before the revolution, an interclass collaboration in pursuit of important political concessions for the working class should be a goal for the Marxists.
After the revolution, Communism can be achieved within and through Socialism.


Marxist-Leninists and Maoists often call for the necessity of achieving State-Capitalism as an historical phase introducing Communism, instead of supporting a progressive mechanisation of agriculture through immediate collectivisation. This a stance that greatly differs from that of Marx.
Marx, in his Address of The Central Committee to the Communist League, gives very important pieces of advice on what is to be done for a revolution before, during and after the proletarian struggle.
In this regard, it is important to point out that first of all Marx makes it clear that Feudal/semi-Feudal countries like France, Germany could carry out Communist practices in a determined sector without calling for a Capitalist management of the sector in question. For the lovers of philology, it is important to point out that Marx, with this phrase, suggests the possibility of Socialist confiscation of feudal property and stresses the necessity of Communist productive relations:

They must demand that the confiscated feudal property remain 
state property and be used for workers’ colonies, 
cultivated collectively by the rural proletariat with all 
the advantages of large-scale farming and where the 
principle of common property will immediately 
achieve a sound basis in the midst of the shaky 
system of bourgeois property relations. Just as the 
democrats ally themselves with the peasants, the workers must  ally themselves with the rural proletariat [12]

At the same time Marx advised that workers — when not in praxis and having NOT conquered political power — to engage themselves in tactical "petty-bourgeois" politics and not to remain idle, waiting for Communism. [13]
This does NOT mean that a Communist Party, once in power, must go ahead towards State Capitalism with of an interclass impossible harmony for the sake, say, of the development of productive forces; which is, of course, necessary to achieve Communism. This is not Marxism, though such a praxis has been that of Marxist-Leninist parties, in the USSR too. 
Paul Mattick brilliantly said in 1935 on the matter:

It is interesting to recall that the first decree of the Bolshevik government was directed against the wild, unauthorised expropriations of factories through the workers' councils. But these soviets were still stronger than the party apparatus) and they compelled Lenin to issue the decree for the nationalisation of all industrial enterprises. It was only under the pressure brought to bear by the workers that the Bolsheviks consented to this change in their own plans. Gradually, through the extension of state power, the influence of the soviets became weakened, until today they no longer serve more than decorative purposes.[14]

I am not going to start pinpointing all the political errors of Lenin’s regime, but I'd like to point out that I find very surprising and worth being noticed the attitude of Leninism towards the workers’ post-revolutionary enthusiasm. Despite the historical necessity of Communism was deeply felt in post-tsar Russia by the masses, Lenin tried to repress any Communist attempts on the part of the workers to chuck out the managers. It should be emphasised that Soviet Workers merely "controlled [15] production without really owning the means of production; something that Marxism had never prescribed for a Socialist Country. Marx never talked about mere workers’ “supervision” of factories in which we still find managers and owners.
Under Lenin’s regime, workers’ attempts to take over private management have been suppressed under the pretext that private management was needed to boost the productive forces. I will cite at length Maurice Herbert Dobb’s words on the matter:

On February 14th 1918, an official announcement was issued that enterprises could not be taken over from their previous owners except by joint degree of Vesenkha and the Council of People’s Commissars (Sovnarkom). Again, on April 27th, local bodies were reminded that no confiscation of industrial plants was permissible without the authority of Vesenkha [The Supreme Soviet of the National Economy, ed.]; the reminder being issued “in view of the fact that local Soviets continue confiscation of enterprises without notifying Vesenkha”. But the instructions continued to be disobeyed; and efforts made by Vesenkha in the direction of centralisation met with considerable resistance. The case of a group of factories in the Urals, which the central authorities had decided to leave in private hands, was not untypical. The local factory committee, declaring that the attitude of the owners was provocative, announced their intention of taking over the factory. The Central Council of Trade Unions, sent a delegation from Moscow to dissuade them but without avail; and followed this by telegraphing instructions forbidding any action to be taken by the factory committee. To this telegram the only reply was a laconic report announcing the date on which the factory had been taken over on the authority of the local Soviet. Of individual firms that had been nationalised prior to July 1918 only about 100 were nationalised by decree of the centre, while over 400 had been nationalised on the initiative of local organisations.[16]

Despite the workers’ enthusiasm, Lenin’s regime did all to prevent this natural dialectical development from coming into existence, even before the official NEP policy of State Capitalism. This shines a veil of ambiguity on the efficacy of Leninism to which, in my opinion, Leninists haven’t answered in a satisfactory way.
This insistence on the maintenance of private property created no few problems for the USSR, wherein workers found themselves perpetually set out against Capitalists and vice versa, for the sake of a non-Marxist theory of development of productive forces.

While Lenin spoke of State Capitalism as a gigantic step forward [17], Marx suggested that Socialism itself can and should develop the productive forces after a revolution, though it may find itself with certain "elements" deriving from commodity production[18]. In philological terms, this doesn’t imply that Socialism must carry “the contradictions of Capital and Wage-Labour”.
Unlike Lenin, Karl Marx — though very disposed to tactical compromises in the pre-revolutionary period for the sake of a Capitalist overthrow — never spoke in favour of State Capitalism in the post-revolutionary period, and never explicitly suggested a stagist approach in any of his writing. Marx merely urged the working class to ask for tactical "concessions", within the framework of a revolutionary preparation for a Communist revolution. Marx advocated that even in the first phase of Communism, what is commonly called Socialism, ownership must be in the hands of the proletarians.[19]
This stance strongly differs from that of Leninism.
Furthermore, Marxism speaks in favour of revolutionary fervour, which is a dialectical force. Marx recommended:

They must work to ensure that the immediate revolutionary excitement is not suddenly suppressed after the victory. On the contrary, it must be sustained as long as possible. Far from opposing the so-called excesses – instances of popular vengeance against hated individuals or against  public buildings  with which hateful memories are associated – the workers’ party must not only tolerate these actions but must even give them direction. During and after the struggle the workers must at every opportunity put forward their own demands against those of the bourgeois democrats. They must demand guarantees for the workers as soon as the democratic bourgeoisie sets about taking over the government. They must achieve these guarantees by force if necessary, and generally make sure that the new rulers commit themselves to all possible concessions and promises – the surest means of compromising them [bold added].[20]
Marx, hereby too, clearly appears as an anti-Leninist, as a real anti-capitalist revolutionary.
Briefly returning to the tactical question, it must be said that e.g. a Preobrazhensky-style policy of an all out non-support for peasantry, whether tactical or not, may not be desirable in the short-term for the contextual achievement of Communism in a country with a large majority of peasants. Though large peasants should be marginalised in the post-revolutionary period — as they represent a threat towards the middle and small peasantry as well as the urban proletariat that must no be underestimated — middle and small peasantry could be gradually admitted in the ranks of the rural proletariat, therefore in the collectivised farms, centralised farms. This, however, must be seen in the light of the contextual factors in a post-revolutionary situation.

As for Marxism-Leninism-Stalinism-Maoism (or simply Maoism), it must be said that it also calls for the a-priori approach of State Capitalism, the praxis given by New Democracy, wherein Socialism is supposed to be achieved by Capitalists and Proletarians hand at hand; by means e.g. of the constitution of joint stock companies, the protection of private initiative in general etc. etc.
The risk of State Capitalism — where managers have a strong economic role and bureaucracy serves as a dialectically necessary balancing force between frustrated/disappointed Workers and Capitalists — is mainly that of bureaucratic degeneration, loss of revolutionary fervour and decline of soviet power. Leninism implicitly legitimised this dialectical degeneration, which is something, by the way, that Marx, intelligently, did not envision for a Communist society.
In Soviet Russia, State Capitalism contributed substantially to the increasing (and underestimated) power of kulaks, who Stalin decided to liquidate once the strikes and claims endangered the very survival of the Soviet Union. Stalin, who took power through the legal soviet framework, was the mere historical wretched product of a Leninist system, which — for whatever reasons we may pick up beyond the above-mentioned ones— contributed no little to promote dialectical economic and political contradictions, at least in the long run. Stalinism and its refusal to promote Soviet internationalisation would contribute no little to the growth of bureaucracy in the Soviet Union
Stalin's regime was, in a way, a direct dialectical continuation of Leninism. Whenever the Trotskyists easily attack Stalin's regime by labelling it as a "betrayal" of Leninism they should engage into an articulated political and economic explanation both on how Stalin could take power in a perfectly legal Leninist way and on which alternative could Stalin adopt in front of the rising power of striking kulaks. It must be remembered that, as I ponted out in my article on Marxism-"Marxism" and Marxism-Leninism, "Stalinism" is often a misused and overused term, both by Liberals and Communists.

For instance, whenever many Trotskyists categorise the entire history of the USSR as "Stalinist" they end up neglecting entire precious economic and political analysis not only on Leninism — which directly generated all this — but also on the different economic character of all those Soviet regimes from the rise to power of Kruscev to that of Gorbacev.
Kruscev e.g. emphasised profit more heavily than Stalin and the same time promoted the production principle, whereby bureaucrats could enrich themselves proportionally to the revenue of the decentralised region, which they were entitled to administer. This contributed no little to promote the rise of the new Russian Capitalist class, which would easily take power in a the 1990's. Returning to Maoism, Xue Muqiao bluntly says on the matter:

Could we start a socialist revolution immediately following victory in the democratic revolution? The answer wasn’t clear at the beginning. Half of the country had only just been liberated, and it would take two or three years to complete the agrarian reform, a task of the democratic revolution, in this vast region. When we did complete the agrarian reform, the peasants generally showed enthusiasm in expanding their individual economy while many poor peasants preferred to take the road of socialism. But we had no experience in organising the peasants on the basis of a Socialist collective economy. On the Marxist principle that socialism can only be built on the basis of large-scale socialised production, some people held that mechanisation must come before collectivisation in China’s agriculture. This view did not seem to apply to the conditions in China’s rural areas, where the cultivated land averaged three mu [1/15 of a hectare, Ed.] per capita and about a dozen mu per household, which were often divided into several patches. The small peasant economy showed a low labour productivity and was incapable of accumulating large funds. Without managing agriculture on a co-operative basis it was difficult to lay out large tracts of farmland or accumulate sufficient funds for mechanisation. [21]

Says Mao, whilst endorsing State Capitalism:

The present-day capitalist economy in China is a capitalist economy which for the most part is under the control of the People's Government and which is linked with the state-owned socialist economy in various forms and supervised [bold added] by the workers. It is not an ordinary but a particular kind of capitalist economy, namely, a state-capitalist economy of a new type. It exists not chiefly to make profits for the capitalists but to meet the needs of the people and the state. True, a share of the profits produced by the workers goes to the capitalists, but that is only a small part, about one quarter, of the total. The remaining three quarters are produced for the workers (in the form of the welfare fund), for the state (in the form of income tax) and for expanding productive capacity (a small part of which produces profits for the capitalists). Therefore, this state-capitalist economy of a new type takes on a socialist character to a very great extent and benefits the workers and the state. [Mao, On State Capitalism 1953]

The scope of this article, of course, doesn’t allow discussing in depth the general validity of the methods of Leninism and Maoism.
Was Stalinism a direct produce of Leninism? Why Trotsky, Lenin, nay, the Leninist regime in general remained passive and proved itself as non-internationalist and “peace promoting” in front of the growing threat of fascism in Europe?[22]
Was it a consequence of Lenin’s State Capitalism that required “peace” and coexistence with an outside world?

These are questions that will remain "specifically" unanswered, at least for the moment.

All these doctrines  — Trotskyism, Leninism, Maoism (Stalinism too) — do not represent a continuation of Marxism.
As previously discussed, human history has by no means witnessed Communism as intended by Marx, therefore with Socialist accumulation, grassroots democracy, efforts for an early collectivisation and for the immediate mechanisation of agriculture and so on and so forth.
At least in philological terms, we commit a mistake in regarding Lenin, Trotsky and Mao's opinions on the matter as a "continuation" of the Marxist concept of praxis; though this a minor question, relative to the vulgarisations of Marx's ideas and their communicative consequences.
It should be emphasised that in epistemological terms a continuation of Marxism must be a further development based on Marxist general premises regarded as true, and not a doctrine contradicting with the original premises.
Within this framework, a Marxist could paradoxically call him or herself "a Ricardian-Marxist" only because Marxism incorporates many elements of Ricardianism!
Leninism and Maoism e.g. by incorporating this non-Marxist stagist approach in their respective doctrines — on the ground of a philological misunderstanding of Marx's works — end up legitimising the contradictions of Capital and Wage-Labour; with all its anti-human consequences and extremely risky dialectical products (from the growth of bureaucracy to final capitalist overthrow).

Returning to the political problem of the Marxists today — which is the core of this article — it should be emphasised that nothing concrete e.g. can come out of tens of separate small Trotskyist factions that beyond boringly repeating the same anti-Stalinist/anti-Fascist mantras seldom take real actions through a real praxis, across the world. Nothing can be done with "living room liberal and non-liberal Marxists" too. Similarly, history is not going to advance of a single step by couching our arguments on the mere fear that Maoism might create a bureaucratic degenerated regime like the political horror of a Capitalism-producing Stalinism; a fear that anyway is certainly legitimate, no doubt about it.
In regard to the urban question, nothing can be done without a (genuine) Marxist reunification of the existing dialectically productive communist forces — through a popular or united front, with its historical limits — for the realisation of a (pure) Marxist Communist force, which may focus on the organisation and centralisation of workers' clubs for a pure Marxist post-Capitalist phase.
This process may require a movement to be constituted with tactical compromises, so as to involve the highest possible number of coscientised and non-coscientised workers and allow agitational and organisational preparation of the workers. This may entail an alliance between (pure) Marxists, Marxists Leninists, "Stalinists", Trotskyists and not only.

Recalling Marx's 1850 'Address' — a very relevant, blunt and important internationalist work — it must be pointed out that a participative revolution shall be carried out by the workers, who — 'organised and centralised' — will 'unify' the Marxist factions after accepting the best programme offered at the right historical moment, with the aim of internationalising the movement.
It goes without saying that without rural and urban proletariat's involvement in the political and economic praxis, what we risk is e.g. Castroism and Stalinism (on this I may certainly agree with some Trotskyist à la Bill Van Auken); doctrines that in general lacked a broad proletarian popular support. Once the workers' consciousness is ready and able to 'grasp' who is the real reactionary, the proletariat will be historically able to take the ultimate action against the mode of production; and reaction will be marginalised, in an environment with, of course, a lesser number of contradictions. 

The relevance of this topic comes from the fact that at present, especially in the Indian urban centres, workers are extremely confuse on the idea of Socialism, also because of the CPI(M) and Communist Part of India (CPI) liberal humbug. Indian workers are currently abandoned to themselves, in the darkness created by the lack of a clear Communist programme, which may give them a direction for the most genuine Marxist praxis. Davide Ferri
B.A.Economics (Honours)
SRCC, Delhi University

Delhi, November 23, 2011


[1]  Karl Marx, Letter to the editor of the Russian paper Otetchestvennye Zapisky, 1877
[2] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Manifesto of the Communist Party, Preface to Russia edition, 1882.
[3] From the second edition of Capital, cited from "Marx at the Millennium, Cyril Smith, ch.2, 1995"
[4] Karl Marx - Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
[5] Michael Lebowitz - The Socialist Alternative: Real human development
[6] Teodor Shanin (ed.), Late Marx and the Russian Road: Marx and ‘the Peripheries of Capitalism’ (London, Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983),, pp. 98–9. taken from R. Sakwa, 1999, ch. 1

[7] As defined by Marx in the Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
[8] 4th Congress of the Communist International, Theses on Comintern Tactics, 5 December 1922, retrieved from
[9] Leon Trotsky, "For a workers' united front against Fascism", December 1931.
[10] Karl Marx — The address of the Central Committee to the Communist League
[11] Retrieved from
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid. Marx says:
We have seen how the next upsurge will bring the
democrats to power and how they will be forced to 
propose more or less socialistic measures. it will be 
asked what measures the workers are to propose in 
reply. At the beginning, of course, the workers 
cannot propose any directly communist measures. 
But the following courses of action are possible: 
1. They can force the democrats to make inroads 
into as many areas of the existing social order as 
possible, so as to disturb its regular functioning and 
so that the petty-bourgeois democrats compromise 
themselves; furthermore, the workers can force the 
concentration of as many productive forces as 
possible – means of transport, factories, railways, etc. 
– in the hands of the state. 
2. They must drive the proposals of the democrats to 
their logical extreme (the democrats will in any case 
act in a reformist and not a revolutionary manner) 
and transform these proposals into direct attacks on 
private property.  If,  for  instance,  the petty 
bourgeoisie propose the purchase of the railways 
and factories, the workers must demand that these 
railways and factories simply be confiscated by the 
state without compensation as the property of 
reactionaries.  If  the  democrats  propose  a 
proportional tax, then the workers must demand a 
progressive tax; if the democrats themselves propose 
a moderate progressive tax, then the workers must 
insist on a tax whose rates rise so steeply that big 
capital is ruined by it; if the democrats demand the 
regulation of the state debt, then the workers must 
demand national bankruptcy. The demands of the 
workers will thus have to be adjusted according to 
the measures and concessions of the democrats.

[14] Paul Mattick — The Lenin Legend, 1935
[15] V. Lenin — Draft Regulation on workers’ control (1917), retrieved from
[16] Maurice H. Dobb, Soviet Economic Development since 1917, page 90
[17] Ibid. page 91
[18] Karl Marx — Critique of the Gotha Programme
[19] Ibid.
[20] Karl Marx — The Address of The Central Committee to the Communist League
[21] Xue Muqiao — China’s socialist economy, page 3-4
[22]  Paul Mattick says on the matter:

Lenin and Trotsky took pains to stem
the revolutionary forces of Europe. Peace throughout the world was
required in order to assure the building of state capitalism in Russia
under the auspices of the Bolsheviks. It was inadvisable to have this
peace disturbed either by way of war or new revolutions, for in
either case a country like Russia was sure to be drawn in.
Accordingly, Lenin imposed, through splitting and intrigue, a neo-
reformist course upon the labour movement of Western Europe, a
course which led to its total dissolution. It was with sharp words
indeed that Trotsky, with the approval of Lenin, turned on the
uprising in Central Germany (1921): "We must flatly say to the
German workers that we regard this philosophy of the offensive as
the greatest danger and in its practical application as the greatest
political crime."! And in another revolutionary situation, in 1923,
Trotsky declared to the correspondent of the Manchester Guardian,
again with the approval of Lenin: "We are of course interested in
the victory of the working classes, but it is not at all to our interest
to have the revolution break out in a Europe which is bled and
exhausted and to have the proletariat receive from the hands of the
bourgeoisie nothing but ruins. We are interested in the
maintenance of peace."! And ten years later, when Hitler seized
power, the Communist International did not move a finger to
prevent him. Trotsky is not only in error, but reveals a failure of
memory resulting no doubt from the loss of his uniform, when
today he characterises Stalin's failure to help the German
communists as a betrayal of the principles of Leninism. This
betrayal was constantly practised by Lenin, and by Trotsky himself.
But according to a dictum of Trotsky's, the important thing is of
course not what is done, but who does it.

[Paul Mattick — Lenin the legend, 1935]

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