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The Inevitability
of Communism (12)


An orthodox Marxist has to reject the "orthodoxism" of the Kautskyan and Leninist schools. Hook opposes the dogmatism of these schools, [6] but without realizing that that "dogmatism" can be combatted only from the orthodox standpoint. The pseudo-orthodoxism of the Social Democracy and of the Bolsheviks has nothing to do with orthodox Marxism. Once the Kautskyan "orthodoxism" was opposed with the slogan : "With Lenin back to Marx." Today, one is compelled to turn against Lenin with the orthodox slogan : "Back to Marx." Neither Kautsky or Lenin saw in the dialectical method anything more than a serviceable tool. They disputed about the way to handle it. Their differences are therefore of an exclusively tactical nature ( disregarding the arbitrary confusion of tactical questions with questions of principles ) : there is no difference of principle between the two. With this weapon of dialectic, both wanted to make history for the proletariat. That they themselves could only play the part of a weapon was accordingly a thought which remained completely foreign to them; they identified themselves, as "giants of dialectic," with the dialectical social movement itself and were necessarily obliged to hinder the real revolutionary movement to the same extent in which they strengthened their own positions. The more they did for themselves, the less they accomplished for the revolution, for the magnitude of their influence depended for them on the withering away of the initiative of the masses. These latter were to be brought under control, so that they might be led. If, to Kautsky, the Church was unconfessedly the model of organization, so to Lenin that model was by his own confession the factory. By unity of theory and practice they understood nothing more than the mere unification of "leader and mass"; organization from the top downward, orders and obedience, general staff and army. The bourgeois principle of organization was also to serve for proletarian aims.

But the unity of theory and practice is brought about only through revolutionary action itself; it can be attained, under capitalistic relations, only along revolutionary, eruptive channels, not through a "shrewd policy" which guarantees a harmony between leaders and led. But such action can only be furthered or hindered; it can not be made or prevented, since it depends on the economic movements, and these are not yet subject to human will and human intelligence. The old labor movement understood by class consciousness nothing more than its own insight into the historical process. The party was everything, the movement only perceptible by way of the party. In this way there arose from the class struggle between capital and labor -- in so far as that struggle was subordinated to the party -- the struggle of different groups for mastery over the workers.

There is no better proof of the correctness of the Marxian method than the emasculation which Marxism itself has undergone. Epigonity serves to illustrate capitalist development, and inversely this development furnishes the explanation of epigonism. In other words, the various schools of epigonism, or revisionism, can be traced back to the various stages of capitalist development. The "original" Marxism has survived its degenerate children, and today the revolutionary movement is compelled, in the name of that original Marxism, to a new orientation on the basis of orthodox adherence to the Marxist method. The "misunderstanding" of the dialectical method at the hands of the pseudo-Marxian was nowhere expressed more clearly than in the abandonment of the Marxist theory of accumulation and collapse. The revisionists boasted of the rejection of that theory, and the "orthodox" Marxists of the time did not venture to defend it. The "misunderstanding" was further expressed in the separation of the Marxian philosophy from the economics. There were and are "Marxists" who "specialize" in one or the other, who fail to understand that the economic laws are dialectical. Anyone who, for example, abandons the Marxist theory of collapse can not at the same time hold to the dialectical method; and anyone who accepts dialectical materialism "philosophically" has no choice but to regard the dialectical movement of present-day society as a movement of collapse.

The world crisis of capitalism had first to become an actuality before the problem of collapse could again be brought into the center of discussion and hence also before the struggle for the Marxian dialectic could be revived. It is not so much theory but rather reality itself which now serves for the further development of Marxism. But this further development is today in reality, only the reconstruction of the original Marxism, which is being cleansed of the filth of epigonity. It has become clear that the Marxian "abstractions" were more real than the "realistic" attempts which the epigoni made to supplement them, in wishing to give them "flesh and blood," in trying to "complete" the "torso," etc. Meanwhile, Kautsky has completely rejected the Marxian dialectic, and Lenin recommended, shortly before his death, that the study of Hegel and of the dialectical problem in general be taken up anew. Fifty years of "Marxist theory" offered as its result the most hopeless confusion. It has not furthered Marxism but thrown it back even prior to its starting point. Any real orthodoxism is a hundred times superior to the Marxian "successor." Marxism as a revolutionary theory stood in contradiction to the labor movement which was developing in the upgrade period of capitalism, and it was therefore modified by that movement in accordance with its own needs and this modification was then confused with the essence.

One is not justified in regarding himself as holding an advanced position merely because he is not in agreement with epigonity, or because he has different opinions on this or that question. One must completely reject both, Social Democracy and Bolshevism, as well as all of its offshoots, in order to place himself on a Marxist basis. But while Hook wants to renew Marxism by means of overcoming various "dogmas," he has not, in the struggle against dogmatism, combatted the emasculations of Marxism but in his zeal has abandoned Marxism itself. What he attacks as "dogmatism" has not been attacked for the first time; the cry of "dogmatism" has always been used as a political argument against radical currents in the labor movement. The same arguments which Hook now directs against the "dogmatism" of the "official" communist movement were once hurled by Lenin against the left-communist council movement, which was unwilling to sacrifice the world revolution to Russian state capitalism. And still earlier, the Social Democracy directed these same arguments against Lenin and the communist movement in general. The struggle against dogmatism, as it has hitherto been conducted, was limited to a struggle against the radical tendencies in the labor movement, tendencies which threatened to become dangerous to the already established organizations and their owners. The pre-war debates within the Social Democracy, directed against the revolutionary opposition, the argument of the Social Democracy against the Bolsheviks, Lenin's exhortations against the council communists, and now Hook's struggle against "dogmatism" are quite undistinguishable. All were accused of dogmatism : the Social Democracy, so long as it had a revolutionary character; the Bolsheviks, so long as they were revolutionary; and the council movement, because it directed itself against the self-sufficiency of the parties. All the ideological positions ( including that of Hook ) directed against the radical movement were taken under the pretext of combatting dogmatism. The social democrat Curt Geyer has given the best expression of their common characteristics, and his arguments resemble those of Hook to a hair. Geyer writes [7]  :

"The radical communist fell into the error of confusing probability with necessity, of seeing in the economic and historical tendencies established by themselves, laws in the sense of the natural laws of the earlier natural sciences, laws which are given a priori and govern the world like a blind providence . . . Their philosophy of history reveals a highly mechanistic trait. The role of the proletariat as an active factor in the historical development, in general the role of man in history, went far into the background . . . This mechanism rested in part on the derivation of all historical development from an economy, which was thought of as self-moving and in part on a teleological conception of the function of the mass in history. Radicalism ascribes to the mass the capacity of getting a proper grasp of a determinate historical situation and of its function in the general development, not intellectually, to be sure, but instinctively, and hence the capability of taking action instinctively in the direction of social progress. This capability is traced back to a mystical class-consciousness which guides the attitude of the mass and hence the course of history, -- a class consciousness which arises automatically, as through a necessity of nature, through the class position of the masses, as effect from cause. This class consciousness is not viewed by radicalism as the intellectual insight of the individual into his social situation and the conception of that situation from the point of view of a determinate social philosophy, but as a mystical something which may exist outside the content of consciousness of the class member and does not enter consciousness except ( and here we have the theological phase of this conception ) under determinate conditions, that is, when the social advance requires it. And so, to radicalism, the action of the mass always lies in the direction of social advance . . ."

Geyer's charge of confusing probability with necessity is an empty phrase. Probability presupposes the possibility of decision; according to Geyer, and also according to Hook, one can decide in such or such manner at will. When and for what does not, according to them, depend directly on man, but whether does. This conception presupposes for the social movement the existence of a social will, a thing which, however, is not present in capitalistic society. Consequently, this conception relates social movement to the uncertainty of the individual, which is naturally nonsense. But it is precisely this nonsense which explains the lugging in of the charge of mysticism directed against radicalism ( or "dogmatism" ), since it is obviously impossible for persons holding such a view to conceive of any other than the "intellect-consciousness," or at best to still grant the validity of anything other than "instincts." Geyer's criticism of radicalism, as above exemplified, leaves radicalism quite unscathed; it merely reveals the weakness of the "critic," who failed to realize that in capitalism it is not the "will" but the will-less market which determines the destinies of mankind. It is not man who determines in capitalism -- and it is only under these conditions that it is possible to speak of probability -- but the will of mankind, as well as the life of society, are completely subjected to the market, their actions are necessary ones, compelled by the market relation. If they do not conform to this market compulsion, they cease to exist, in which case, naturally, so far as they are concerned, every problem vanishes. The disorganization of this market relation, which is actually being disorganized by the increasing forces of production, and without the supplementary addition of will on the part of mankind, is not conditioned but necessary, because it has nothing to do with the will. If the revolution were dependent upon the party, the leader or the intellect-consciousness, then it would not be necessary but conditional. And it is only this will of the party and of the leader which Geyer has in mind when he speaks of the active role of man in history. The role of the proletariat as an active factor in the historical development comes out in much sharper relief precisely with the acceptance of the concept of necessity.

Social advance is identical with the abolition of wage labor. Accordingly the proletariat, as soon as it acts for itself, can not act falsely and must of necessity act in accordance with social advance. To characterize this as teleology presupposes a complete misunderstanding of the laws of economic movement. The struggle of the proletariat for its existence -- not the ideological struggle of the revolutionists among the proletariat, but the struggle of the proletariat as it is -- must lead to the abolition of wage labor and thus assures the release of the productive forces restricted by capitalism. The very circumstance that the workers come out in behalf of their specifically material interests makes them revolutionists and enables there to act in accordance with general social progress. This conception has no need whatsoever of any mystical class-consciousness, regardless of its source. Geyer's arguments, which Hook must certainly share, show that in the struggle against dogmatism it is always only the radical movement which is taken as a target. This movement is necessarily self-sufficient, and it can not yield to the demands of the various individuals or groups, but takes literally the idea that the liberation of the workers can only be the result of their own actions.

It might further be noted that the "dogmatism" which Hook ascribes to the "official" communist party movement is still carried on there, at best, as a traditional manner of speech. In reality, the only principle of the communist party movement -- to use a phrase of Rosa Luxemburg's with reference to opportunism in general -- is "the lack of principles." If the Communist Party were as "dogmatic" as Hook likes to believe, it might perhaps still be regarded as a revolutionary movement; for the "dogmatism" with which it is charged but which is not present would be nothing else than the first beginnings of revolutionary Marxism. But the old labor-movement -- from Noske to Trotsky -- has no connection with Marxism, and hence it can also not be accused of dogmatism. Never were organizations more undogmatic, more unprincipled, more unorthodox, more venal, more opportune than the two great currents of the "labor movement" and of its various branches which are now past. To reproach them with dogmatism is to confuse the phrase with reality. If one appraises these organizations, not by what they say but by what they do, no trace of dogmatism is to be found.


[6] Compare, in addition to Hook's book, also his article in the April ( 1934 ) number of The Modern Monthly : "Communism Without Dogmas."

[7] Der Radikalism us in der deutschen Irbeiterbewegung ( Jena 1923 ).

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