Socialism is not utopian but a necessity

We publish a resolution, written by the editor of Alan Woods, which was defended by Celia Hart in the seminar entitled "The Utopia We Need", held in Havana on Friday September 10, 2004. The conference took place in the Hispano-American Centre in Malecón.

We publish below a resolution, written by the editor of Alan Woods, which was defended by Celia Hart in the workshop entitled "The Utopia we need "organised by the" Cátedra Bolívar Martí" and the José Martí Cultural Society held in Havana on Friday September 10, 2004. The conference took place in the Hispano-American Centre in Malecón. It has been translated from Spanish.

A little more than a decade has passed since the collapse of the USSR. Then the bourgeoisie of the entire world was euphoric. They spoke of the end of socialism, the end of Communism, and the end of Marxism. One of the strategists of the bourgeoisie, Francis Fukuyama, even spoke of the end of history.

Ten or twenty years in the life of a human being is a long period, but in history it is nothing. Historically speaking, it is a very short period. But in this short period we have seen a very fundamental transformation. The entire world order has been turned upside down. At first it seems that Capitalism has prevailed decisively. But this is very far from the truth.

Celia Hart

In order to understand the nature of the present period it is not necessary to be a Marxist. It is not even necessary to be a very intelligent person. It is only necessary to switch on the television to see the crude reality of the world today. Ten years ago the bourgeoisie promised us a world of peace and prosperity - thanks to the miracles of the "free market” system, and, of course, "Democracy".

Now all these dreams have turned to ashes. Not one stone upon another remains of the perspective of the strategists of Capital. In its place we see a nightmare everywhere. The economic recovery about which they speak so much is enormously fragile and can collapse at any time as a result of any accident, such as an increase of the price of oil.

Wherever we look we see wars, terrorism, chaos and instability. So when we speak of "utopias", what utopias we are speaking about? If one is to speak of utopian ideas, then we must speak of all the ideas, schemes and perspectives put forward by the defenders of capitalism after the collapse of the USSR. These are utopian in the literal sense of the word (with apologies to Thomas More).

According to the defenders of Capitalism, Marx was mistaken when he predicted the inevitable concentration of capital in fewer and fewer hands. "Small is beautiful", they said. But the statistics demonstrate precisely the opposite: in the whole of history the concentration of capital has never been more intense than now.

At the present time 200 great companies control one quarter of the economic activities worldwide. This is just what Marx predicted in the Communist Manifesto – that most modern of books - and Lenin in his book Imperialism.

Another idea of Marx that was rejected by our bourgeois critics is the idea of the increasing pauperisation of the masses under capitalism. Now it is not necessary to point out that for Marx the concept of the standard of living always had a relative and not an absolute character. And in relative terms there has been a colossal increase of the differences between the rich and poor even in the richest countries of the planet, beginning with the U.S.A.

The degree of monopolization has reached undreamed of extremes. Recently the well-known writer and progressive journalist John Pilger published the following very revealing data concerning the present situation on a world scale. General Motors is now bigger than the economy of Denmark, while Ford is bigger than the economy of South Africa. There are many more examples of this kind.

This means that the difference between rich and poor is increasing at a vertiginous rate. Just to give one example: Tiger Woods, the American golf player, earns more than the wages of all the employees of Nike in Indonesia. Goldman Sachs, a company of investments with only 167 partners, earns $2,200 million every year – the same as Tanzania, a country of 25 million inhabitants.

The gap between rich and poor is not only an increase of inequality on a global scale but it also means an increase of the difference between rich and poor within the developed capitalist countries. Everywhere insecurity is growing and with it a questioning of the system. We have seen the biggest demonstrations in history in countries like Great Britain and Spain against the war in Iraq.

In the case of Spain popular discontent led directly to the fall of the government of Aznar. In India not long ago we saw a similar phenomenon. In the U.S.A. there is an increasing discontent with the Bush government and the beginning of big demonstrations.

Do we have the right to draw the conclusion that capitalism has solved the problems of the world, that it is not necessary to look for another different system, and that, therefore, history has finished? Such a conclusion not only flies in the face logic but also goes against the evidence of our senses.

It is quite amusing to read today what the defenders of capitalism wrote ten years ago about globalisation – a concept, by the way, which was explained by Marx and Engels in the pages of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, 150 years before its "discovery" by the economists of the Chicago school. Marx and Engels explained that the capitalist system necessarily develops as a worldwide system. At the present time this brilliant prediction of the founders of scientific socialism has been completely vindicated in practice.

The overwhelming domination of the world market is a verifiable fact. This is the most decisive phenomenon of our time. It is the objective base for a future socialist world, something that logically renders nationalist narrow-mindedness impossible. But unfortunately, as Hegel explained long ago, it is not Reason that determines human history but material interests.

The owners of the great trans-national companies are not much concerned about the logic of history. They fight – and they will always fight ferociously - against the forces of progress in defence of their power, wealth and privileges. We see this right now in Venezuela, where the Venezuelan oligarchy, supported by Yankee imperialism, is trying by every means to overthrow the government of President Hugo Chávez.

There are some who assure to us that, after the referendum, everything is solved, that the Revolution is irreversible, that the oligarchy is already defeated etc., etc. In politics as in war, it is very dangerous to underestimate the enemy and to shout victory too early.

The truth is that imperialism and the oligarchy (which are two faces of the same coin) will never be reconciled with the Bolivarian Revolution, for the same reason that they will never be reconciled with the Cuban Revolution. Because these Revolutions set a dangerous example for the oppressed masses of all Latin America where there is not a single stable bourgeois regime from Tierra del Fuego to the Rio Grande.

There are people (who for reasons I do not understand call themselves "realists") who insist that the Venezuelan Revolution cannot expropriate the oligarchy because this "would provoke the imperialists". Any sensible person knows that it is necessary to avoid provocations, but this argument simply makes no sense. The criminal gang of George Bush does not need any provocations to act against the government of Hugo Chávez. They have been doing it for years (Didn't we notice this?).

The truth is that for these gentlemen the mere existence of the Venezuelan (or Cuban) Revolution is a provocation. They will be never satisfied until these Revolutions are destroyed. To close our eyes to this fact would be an act of criminal irresponsibility.

Other people use a subtler (or rather a sophist) argument: since the Venezuelan Revolution is not socialist, but national-democratic, we cannot expropriate the oligarchy, because the national-democratic revolution must respect private property. Really? But in the American Revolution of the 18th century, the national-democratic revolutionaries did not hesitate to confiscate the property of all the supporters of the English Crown. And in the Second American Revolution (the Civil War) Abraham Lincoln expropriated the property of the Southern slave-owners, without paying a cent in compensation.

History demonstrates that the national-democratic revolution - if it is consistent - cannot stop, hypnotized by the "rights" of the private property. If the Cuban Revolution had done that in 1960, it would have been defeated without the slightest doubt. And have we forgotten that the Russian Revolution was objectively, in its beginnings, a national-democratic revolution, but necessarily had to pass from the national-democratic tasks to the expropriation of the Russian bourgeoisie?

Let us remember that also there were certain leaders of the Bolsheviks who opposed the idea of a socialist revolution in Russia (Kamenev, Zinoviev, and initially Stalin) and denounced Lenin as a "leftist", alleging the supposed national-democratic character of the Russian revolution? By the way, this idea was the basis of the policy of the Mensheviks. They argued that the working class had to subordinate its interests to those of the "progressive bourgeoisie" - an idea that Lenin always fought tooth and nail against.

The Bolivarian Revolution has achieved some great triumphs, but all these triumphs can still be liquidated. As long as the oligarchy continues to control key points of the economy, the Revolution always will be in danger. It is necessary to recognize this fact and to act accordingly.

Let us speak clearly. At the present time the two great obstacles that are preventing the advance of humanity and civilization are: in the first place private property of the production forces, and secondly that relic of barbarism, the nation state. Here we have the central contradiction: on the one hand, the productive forces on a world scale have reached a level of development that, under a system of harmonious and rational planning, would allow the humanity to solve all its problems and to advance to a higher level of civilization and culture. On the other hand, we see a world tormented by hunger, disease, violence and wars.

These phenomena are only the symptoms of a incurable disease, of a socio-economic system that has already lost its reason to exist, that is no longer able to advance the productive forces and culture as it did in the past, and therefore has entered a phase of senile degeneration that has ominous consequences for the whole planet, and which constitutes a serious threat for the future of humanity.

Everywhere we see unprecedented and increasing instability at all levels: economic, financial, monetary, social, political, diplomatic and military. The total dominion of the U.S.A., far from producing a stable situation, is destabilizing everything. During the last three centuries there were always at least three or four great powers in the world. Now there is only one. This situation really does not have historical parallels. There has never been a period when a single country dominated the world so completely. Compared with the power of the U.S.A. the power of imperial Rome was a children's game.

A century ago, the British empire had a policy that dictated that its navy always had to be greater than the combined navies of the following two great powers (for example France and Germany.) But today the U.S.A., which spends 300,000 million dollars in armaments every year, has a military might equivalent to that of Russia, China, Japan, Great Britain, France, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Italy, India and South Korea together.

This is an incredible power and it is without precedent. Many people draw pessimistic conclusions from this, affirming that "we cannot move, for fear of provoking the U.S.A." But such a conclusion would be a serious error. True, the power of American imperialism is tremendous, but it has its limits, as demonstrated by the situation in Iraq. Despite all the armaments, the satellites, the missiles, the money which they have at their disposal, they are not able to hold down the Iraqi nation in chains.

The U.S.A. has an enormous budget deficit (450,000 million dollars) but it is forced to increase arms expenditure continuously to unbearable levels. At the same time they are reducing the taxes of the rich and cutting expenditure on things like pensions and health (Medicare). The effects of this situation will be seen after the presidential elections, whoever wins.

The continuation of the war in Iraq supposes a permanent drain that is costing around six billion dollars every month, without speaking of the constant loss of life. This situation is unbearable even for the richest country of the world. The prolongation of this situation inevitably will lead to a crisis in the U.S.A. with dimensions similar to the crisis over the Vietnam War - perhaps even greater.

Before World War II, in a brilliant prediction, a great Marxist predicted that the U.S.A. was going to dominate the entire world, but it would have dynamite built into its foundations. Now we see the total correctness of these words. The worldwide crisis of capitalism will sooner or later have an echo within the U.S.A., creating one explosive situation after another.

For a long time many people in the U.S.A. believed the propaganda of the so-called American dream. But now attitudes are changing. The future is less and less certain, more and more worrisome. The catastrophe of the 11th of September served to fortify the most reactionary tendency for a time, but this effect is now wearing off and this is preparing an abrupt turn in the opposite direction.

Although they speak of an economic recovery in the U.S.A., the standard of living of the great majority does not increase. As a proportion of the Gross Domestic Product, wages in the U.S.A. are at their lowest level for decades. Unemployment continues at a high level. The period of unemployment, in fact, continues to increase. On the other hand, the price of oil is rising and the government announces cuts in pensions and social security. Nowadays to be ill in the U.S.A. is a luxury.

Classical physics says that every action causes an equal and opposite reaction. Something similar applies in politics. After a drinking party comes a hangover and the bigger the party the worse the headache. Already there are clear symptoms of a ferment in the U.S.A. We see it in the fact that Michael Moore's film, Fahrenheit 9/11, immediately broke all box-office records when it was shown in the USA. There are many other symptoms, such as the gigantic demonstrations against the attempts to restrict the right of abortion and against the war, and the massive protests against Bush in front of the Republican Convention.

We have passed through a period of ten or twenty years in which the pendulum internationally swung abruptly to the right - first with Reagan and Thatcher, later with Bush and Blair. But the effects of the collapse of the USSR have already more or less passed into history. Everywhere there are attacks against the standard of living and the welfare state. These attacks are preparing an enormous swing to the left.

It is ironic, then, that precisely at this moment there is a growing chorus everywhere demanding that we abandon "the old fashioned" ideas of Marxism (or "classic" Marxism – who cares?).

Once upon a time Josef Goebbels, Hitler's minister of propaganda, said: "if you are going to tell a lie, do not tell a small lie; it is necessary to say a great lie. And if you repeat it and repeat it over and over again, people will end up believing it." There is some truth in this, unfortunately.

The defenders of declining Capitalism have enormous means of propaganda at their disposal. And they use these to attack Communism and Marxism. They say that Marxism is dead. But then, they have spent the last 150 years saying the same thing. The fact that they continue, in itself demonstrates the enormous vitality and viability of Marxism. The ruling class would hardly spend so much time, so much money and so much effort attacking a dead idea. On the contrary, they only attack ideas that are not only not dead but that are dangerous for them and their system.

The most worrying thing is not that there are ignorant or backward people who accept this anti-Marxist propaganda of the bourgeoisie as good coin. The most worrying thing is that there are people (and not a few) who call themselves Communists who also do this. In practice (whether they know it or not) those who demand the revision of the fundamental ideas of the Marxism are echoing the ideas, and reflecting the pressures, of the bourgeoisie. This is thousand times more harmful than all the black propaganda of the CIA.

Some people have deserted Communism like rats jumping off a sinking ship. They have passed with arms and baggage to the ranks of the counterrevolution and the bourgeoisie - like most of the old leaders of the so-called Communist Party of the USSR. They now defend capitalism and dedicate themselves to getting rich like a gang of thieves, helping themselves to state property through privatisation (i.e., robbery). Compared with this, the treason of the Social-Democratic leaders in 1914 was child's play.

Others, it is true, remain, but they are so demoralized that they obsessively prate on about the necessity of a "revision" of Marxism. Calling things by their right name, this means the total abandonment of Marxism as a revolutionary idea and programme, transforming it into something totally innocuous and inoffensive - a decaffeinated, Marxism fit only for social gatherings, when, armed with a cup of coffee, one gets together with friends to speak of the good old times. With "friends" like these we really do not need enemies!

Those that speak of socialism as something "utopian" have not understood anything of the present world situation. They have lost their way completely, and are immersed in a pessimistic state that has led them to the swamp of scepticism and even cynicism. But pessimism, scepticism and cynicism do not lead to anything positive in life, and even less so in politics. They have no place in the ranks of the revolutionary movement!

Marxism is based on the philosophy of dialectical materialism, that teaches us that everything changes and that things can be transformed into their opposite. The collapse of the USSR has already passed into history. It is necessary to recognize that what collapsed at that time was not socialism, as our enemies allege, but a bureaucratic and totalitarian caricature of socialism, that ended up undermining the basis of the nationalized and planned economy established by the Great October Revolution.

But the period after the collapse of the USSR has already provided us with enough data to answer all the arguments of the defenders of capitalism, beginning with Russia. Is the situation in Russia today, after only one decade of "free market economics", better than before? No, for the overwhelming majority it is a thousand times worse. This is the reality of the "capitalist utopia"! In the first six years of the "capitalist reform" the biggest economic collapse in all history took place in Russia. There is no parallel for this - except for a catastrophic defeat in a war.

Although many do not know it, and some do not want to know it, all these events were predicted beforehand by one of the most important Marxist theoreticians of the 20th century, Leon Trotsky, who as early as 1936 had already explained that the Stalinist bureaucracy would not be satisfied with its privileged situation, but that they would end up transforming themselves into capitalists, and privatising the productive forces. He also explained the consequences:

"the fall of the present bureaucratic dictatorship, if it is not replaced by a new socialist power, would signify the return to the capitalist system with a catastrophic decline of the economy and culture." These lines, which seem to be have been written yesterday, are from The Revolution Betrayed, written in 1936.

Comrades! It is necessary and urgent to end the confusion, the disorientation and the dispersion of the communist movement. Today more than never it is necessary to unite our ranks against the common enemy - imperialism and capitalism. It is necessary that all we all unite in defence of the Cuban Revolution and its great conquests: the nationalization and planning of the productive forces. It is necessary to defeat the offensive of North American imperialism against Cuba and Venezuela.

But the best way to defend these revolutions is the strengthening of the communist vanguard, to fight to defend the authenticate ideas, program and method of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party. It is necessary to open an in depth debate about the future of Communism, a debate without exclusions that is open to all the tendencies that fight for Communism, against capitalism and imperialism. Only in this way can we advance towards a regroupment of the world-wide communist movement that all we desire.

In this debate the contribution of the Cuban comrades will have without any doubt a great importance. But if we say that we are going to fight for the unity of all Communists, one cannot ignore those Communists who, without abandoning for a moment the defence of the ideas and conquests of Bolshevism and the October Revolution, fought against Stalinism.

We believe that any discussion of the future of Communism would be incomplete without a very serious consideration of the ideas of the man who, side by side with Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, led the October Revolution and created the Red Army – Lev Davidovich Trotsky.

We have always defended the Cuban Revolution against its enemies - imperialism and the forces of the capitalist counterrevolution. This defence is unconditional. The only thing that we ask is that our ideas be taken into account. They are communist ideas, firmly based on the ideas of Marx, Engels and Lenin.

To sum up: The real utopians are the reformists who think that the humanity can survive and prosper within the suffocating limits of the capitalist system. This idea is negated at every step by experience. The continuation of this rotten system is creating new nightmares every day. It threatens the very future of culture and humanity. Either we put an end to the dictatorship of Capital, or it will put an end to us. No "third way” exists.

Lenin once said: Marxism is all-powerful - because it is true. In spite of all the lies and calumnies of the enemies of socialism, Marxism is more relevant today than ever. The new generation of fighters, that is being forged in the struggle, needs these ideas more than ever.

The only solution for the problems of humanity is world socialism. That is why socialism is not a utopia but a necessity. In the words of Karl Marx, there are only two alternatives for humanity: Socialism or Barbarism.

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