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The timeliness of Marxism

London, 13th June 2003

Speech delivered by the general secretary of KKE at the Communist University of London

Dear Comrades,

It is a joy for me to be here with you for the opening of the Communist University 2003.

I understand that very topical subjects of theory and practice of concern to the broader communist and labour movement are to be discussed. It is not, in any case, by chance that the topic of this year’s International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties that we are hosting in Athens on 19th –20th June 2003 will be “The movements against wr and capitalist globalisation and the communists”.

Allow me to thank the comrades from the CP of Britain for their kind invitation extended to me to open your sessions with this talk on the contemporary relevance of Marxism.

Marx on the limited time and historically transient capitalist mode of production

The contemporary social processes we are experiencing, capitalist barbarity and imperialist warfare, intra-imperialist rivalries and the establishment of the international and regional interstate capitalist associations cannot be explained without recourse to Marx and to Marxism. Lenin’s analysis of the growth of capitalism in Russia and the basic features of imperialism as well as Marxist research today confirm both the vitality of Marxism and its openness to further development and enrichment based on evolving conditions.

The timeliness of Marxism as regards the class struggle today is highlighted through the dialectic relation between economy and politics and the internal relation between the political economy of capitalism and the theory of social revolution. Marx demonstrated the historically ephemeral nature of capitalism, starting with the study of its economic laws and arriving at the discovery of the law of surplus value.

Not only have Marxist-Leninist teachings on revolution been left intact by the reversal of socialism in Europe, they are, what’s more, confirmed by it. Marx could not escape the historical confines of his time to elaborate a detailed plan to build a communist society. He could not predict what could be done and what could be avoided by socialist proletarian authority when carrying out the work of socialist construction. He could, therefore, not foresee the victory of the counter-revolution of regression to capitalism after a relatively long period of time.

Marx provided very general guidelines further worked out by Lenin on the basis of initial experience in building socialism. More specifically, Lenin referred very clearly to the difference between the prevailing of revolution in one or more countries and the irreversible victory of socialism worldwide. His analysis encourages bold revolutionary initiative and the utilization of conditions in the “weak link” in the imperialist chain. This has nothing to do with the view that there will be socialist revolution either everywhere or nowhere at all. This idea of “anticipation” is convenient for those wishing to shirk revolutionary duty on a national basis. The power struggle will exist for as long as imperialism maintains the strength to attempt to regain ground, for as long as it makes good use of mistakes and difficulties, for as long as imperialist intervention, oppression and war exist.

The limits of bourgeois policy show the limits of capitalism in the final analysis

With scientific method and precision, Marx demonstrated that capitalism’s limits are not infinite. The growth of productivity brings about a drop in the average rate of profit. That which spurs capitalist production, that is, the rate of profit, is threatened by the development of production forces. Here lies the proof of the historically fleeting nature of the capitalist mode of production and the inevitability that it will be overturned. The class struggle can do away with the exploitation and tendencies of capitalism only by abolishing the system itself.

The fall in the average rate of profit expresses the antagonistic contradictions of capitalism.

Exchange value imposes limits on the production of use values. The further capitalism develops, the more it constitutes a hindrance to production and consumption.

Marx studied the nature of the economic capitalist crisis in depth. He may have initially overestimated the possibility that the economic crisis of his time would directly evolve into a revolutionary situation, but he did proceed to make the highly significant assessment that crisis is a process by which all the contradictions in bourgeois society are concentrated and forcefully settled. Lenin’s work “Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism” provided this Marxist position with continuity and completion, designating imperialism the ‘eve’ of socialism.

The anarchy of capitalist production and its consequences force capitalists to strive for regulation constantly both nationally and internationally through interstate associations. Such regulation cannot, however, impose collective, long-term control. Lenin further developed the question of asymmetric growth under conditions of imperialism, the existence and exacerbation of unequal relations in the framework of the imperialist system and the nature of intra-capitalist rivalry on both national and international levels.

Every factor countering the repetition of crisis or controlling its severity is effective only temporarily, as it contains within it the seed of future crisis.

Marx showed in depth that socio-economic and political inequalities are more closely connected to the mechanism of capitalist exploitation and the reaping of surplus value than they are to the distribution and exchange system. He demonstrated capital’s tendency to increase the employed population but also to turn part of it into surplus. He showed that the issue is, in essence, related to the use of the labor force as a commodity, and that pay increases are not to blame for the price of merchandise.

One of Marx’s most brilliant theses is his analysis of the joint-stock company, in which the individual capitalist is no longer the owner and production manager. There is, rather, a collective ownership that remains capitalist. The joint-stock enterprise is the result of the socialization of production, constituting evidence of the objective ripeness of conditions for the transition to a higher mode of production, the communist mode. The modern monopoly is nothing but a large accumulation of the capital of joint-stock companies or groups of companies, enterprises with a large share of the market.

Marx studied the important issues of the absolute and relative pauperization of the working class as an integral part of capitalist accumulation, the tendency of the cost of the labor force to be compressed downwards and the fact that the working class has common interests with the other strata of working people.

Marx highlighted the determination of the political superstructure as well by production relations, and the impact of the mode of production on social consciousness.

Marxist teachings on the internationalization of the working class

At the center of Marx’s attention and studies lies the need for the communality of interests to be expressed on the international level in the fight against capitalism. Marx does not confine himself to the ethical dimension of solidarity. He bases himself on his position regarding the existence of the capitalist market and the full interdependence of nations.

The term “globalisation” that is used to indicate something new and unprecedented represents only the essence of the expansion of capitalist production to the external market in the form of the exportation of capital and goods. It reflects and expresses the way in which national economies have become interwoven. Of course, compared to Marx’s time, capitalist internationalization is highly dynamic today. Speed in information technology and electronic telecommunications has made possible the extremely rapid growth of the exportation of monetary capital, the expansion and gaining of relative autonomy in the buying and selling of shares, bonds and all types of securities. These, however, are finally determined by their capitalist nature and by the laws of the capitalist system.

The further capitalist internationalization proceeds and deepens, the more imperative grows the need for the working class to unite its efforts in a single front, not only in the trade union movement, not just in the social movement, but also in the struggle for the transition to socialism, regardless of the level of capitalist development in each country and of its position in the international imperialist system.

We consider that the ideological struggle needs to be stepped up, with stress placed on views regarding the domination of governments and the bourgeois state by enterprises and that supposedly “the supranational state” and the “supranational bodies” abolish, marginalize and downgrade the bourgeois state.

The internationalized struggle will not acquire scope if it is not based on unity of action taken by the world communist movement, which has not yet overcome its crisis and its ideological differences. The point is not to attain some form of coordination but rather to achieve the level of conscious unified action on the basis of a single revolutionary strategy.

Marx, steadfast opponent of the reformism of his time, demonstrated the limits and capacities but finally the inadequacy of reforms within the framework of capitalism.

Marx scientifically refuted Proudhon’s theories that with the reform of monetary circulation and banks the antagonistic contradictions of capitalism could be wiped out and an advance to socialism made possible. He fiercely lashed out at his reformist contempories’ views that with the given production relations there could be just redistribution and exchange. He likewise rejected the theories, which explain the problems of capitalism starting not with the sphere of production but rather with that of circulation.

Marx showed that it is impossible to humanize capitalism through the perpetuation of bourgeois society rid of its defects.

Today it is unthinkable for one to be a Marxist and to believe that social problems can be addressed and the crisis itself ended through the intervention of the bourgeois state. What can be achieved under capitalism, even with the class struggle on the rise and the ideological fight against reformism and opportunism being stepped up, is the winning of certain gains concerning the terms of remuneration, retirement and living conditions of the working class.

The capitalist restructuring promoted by the EU constitutes the strategic response given, with the internal logic of capitalist interests and from their point of view, to the antitheses and the contradictions produced by the capitalist system in order to survive.

Today, regardless of the unfavorable correlation of forces, everything points to the need for socialism as the most timely response to contemporary problems from the point of view of the working class and its allies. Socialism means the socialization of the concentrated means of production, with central planning of the distribution of the labour force and the joining of the two. This is the basis for the distribution of the goods produced.

The utopia of the quest for the solution in Keynesian or Neokeynesian economics

Economists -but also politicians and parties- move within this context, trying to discover new ways of management to supposedly make capitalism more human. Beneath this lies repugnance towards and even fear of social revolution.

Some have, indeed, even rediscovered Keynes and propose a broadening of state regulation and investment. They forget, however, that the Keynesian formula was extensively applied when Europe had suffered tremendous destruction from the Second World War and with the state in need of a way to handle transactions within Europe and imported US capital.

Today, though even if Neokeynesians, bourgeois and reformist opportunists do invoke this type of state intervention and regulation, they envisage it only within the framework of full market liberalisation, under Maastricht principles and always as a complement to the choices made by private capitalist ownership. They thus end up making proposals that are both groundless and hypocritical, since they emphasise the management of poverty through programs to offer support but certainly not to abolish poverty.

In the final analysis, the regulations proposed or tried out in practice come up against the contradiction between the social terms of production and private capitalist power, with appropriation guarded by bourgeois authority.

With clarity and scientific analysis Marx stresses that this contradiction can be overcome only through socialist revolution.

Marx experienced the outbreak and short-lived workers’ revolution of the Commune, which proved to be premature, though useful for the progress of revolutionary Marxist thought. The twentieth century knew not just the socialist revolution but also the effort to build socialism for the first time.

Once we have acquired collective communist experience, after serious scientific effort, as regards the basic causes that led to the reversals, we shall manage to broadly demonstrate to the peoples the timeliness of Marxism, the theory of scientific socialism as formulated by its founders and then by Lenin.

We consider it a principal duty of communists today to study the causes that led to the victory of the counter-revolution. This process will surely give impetus to contemporary Marxist research and revolutionary thought. It will mean substantial progress in the development of our scientific theory, without which concrete action cannot lead to a transition to socialism, to the construction of a communist society.

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