Back Table of Contents This Author Return to Homepage

The Inevitability
of Communism (13)


In the article already mentioned, [8] Hook has flatly dismissed the conception of the inevitability of communism and the conception of spontaneity which goes with it. According to Hook, the "dogma" that communism is inevitable is to be rejected because "it makes unintelligible any activity in behalf of communism" ( Page 153 ). Granting that this were so ( though in our opinion it is not ), this argument, as well as the further arguments which Hook employs, offers nothing to disprove the conception of the necessity of social advance, which can be seen only in communism. Hook's argument, rejecting the idea of necessity is just as impossible to accept as the denial that water is wet, merely on the ground that wetness is unpleasant. That this so-called dogma "denies that thinking makes any difference to the ultimate outcome" ( page 153 ) is an argument invented by Hook : those who hold to this alleged dogma do not question what Hook is pleased to take for granted. In fact, this "dogmatism" has no need whatever to dispute the determining role of thought, among other factors; it merely refuses to see in thinking the decisive role. But the idea of necessity has to be rejected by Hook, since he takes as his starting point the assumption that it is "absurd ( to believe ) that the working class by its own unaided power can achieve victory" ( page 146 ). To Hook, accordingly, it is "the task of the communists to educate them ( the workers to proper class consciousness and to lead them" ( page 146 ). On this same ground, as we have already seen, the theory of value had for Hook no predictive power. The movement of capital on the basis of value is, however, nothing else than the dialectical movement of society itself, and the knowledge of the dialectical method is here only the knowledge of this movement. If one rejects the predictive power of the theory of value, one rejects at the same time the dialectical method. If one follows the movement of capital while at the same time holding fast to the dialectical method, it is seen that the alleged dogma with which we are here concerned is nothing other than the realistic recognition of the real movement of capital.

In an article which appeared recently in the Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung ( 1933, No. 3 ), Max Horkheimer has taken up the problem of prediction in the social sciences, coming to conclusions which we share and which we cannot refrain from opposing to those of Hook.

"The objection" ( that the social sciences preclude predictions ) writes Horkheimer, "applies only to special cases and not to the principle . . . There are broad fields of knowledge in which we are not limited to the statement : 'in case these conditions are fulfilled, that will happen' but in which we may say : 'these conditions are now fulfilled, and therefore that expected event will occur without any intervention of our will' . . . It is certainly incorrect to say that prediction is only possible when the occurrence of the necessary conditions depends on the person who predicts, but the prediction will nevertheless be the more plausible as the conditioning relations depend more on the human will, that is, the degree in which the predicted effect is not the product of blind nature but the result of reasonable decisions. The manner in which capitalist society maintains and renews its life has more resemblance to the course of a natural mechanism than to an action directed toward a goal . . . It may be stated as law, that with increasing change of the structure ( of present society ) in the direction of unified organization and planning, predictions also will win a higher degree of certainty. To the degree 'in which social life loses the character of a blind process of nature and society takes on forms in which it constitutes itself as a reasoning subject, the more definitely can the social process be predicted. Hence the possibility of prediction does not depend exclusively on the refinement of methods and on the sensitivity of the sociologists, but equally upon the development of their object, on the structural changes in society itself . . . So that the sociologist's concern with arriving at more exact predictions is converted into the political striving for the realization of a reasonable society."

The Marxian abstraction which first left the real market problem completely out of consideration and which had recourse only to the distribution of the conditions of production between capital and labor ( means of production and labor power ), thus neglecting the character of a blind natural process which social life possesses under capitalism and holding strictly to the theory of value, led to the recognition that the capitalist system must collapse. In this way it was also possible, on the basis of the situation necessarily created by capitalism in the course of its development, to come to a conclusion regarding the character of the revolution and its results. Capitalist society has furthered the forces of production in such measure that their complete socialization is unavoidable, that they can no longer truly function except under communist relations of production. If, to Marx, the collapse was unavoidable, so also at the same time was communism inevitable. If the present movement is only possible on the basis of the previous one, then we may judge from the present one as to the nature of the future movement. As to how far, that depends on the level which the present movement has attained, but this consideration always remains limited. As to what will come from communist society, that cannot be said before such a society exists : but what will come from capitalist society is revealed by its own material conditions. The more capitalist society develops, and thus at the same time goes to pieces, the clearer become the features of communist society. While Marx, who hated nothing so much as utopians, could go no further than the collapse of capitalism, it is possible today, in the midst of the collapse, to sketch the laws of movement of the communist society with some degree of definiteness. An analysis of capitalist society, which implies looking into its own inner laws of development, permits no other conclusion, on a scientific basis and with the acceptance of the theory of value, than that communism is inevitable. Anyone who takes a hostile attitude to this "dogma" only illustrates the weakness of his understanding of economics, and he has actually nothing left to do but close up inside himself, his will, his intelligence; in short, he must stick fast in the ideological world of the bourgeoisie, and his consciousness must necessarily be clouded. And precisely for that reason his assaults on "dogmatism," on "mysticism," must become ever more savage, the more he succumbs to the capitalistic magic.

It goes without saying that the rejection of the concept that communism is inevitable involves also the rejection of the spontaneity theory. And in fact we find that to Hook "the doctrine of 'spontaneity', which teaches that the daily experiences of the working class spontaneously generates political class consciousness" is patent nonsense. To him, as we have already seen, it is rather the "education" provided by the communists which takes care of the "proper" class consciousness. Education is here set over against experience, as if the one were not conditioned by the other, as if both were not two sides of the same process. 'These arguments too, like those which Hook employs against inevitability, are gratuitous. But even if one were to accept them on inevitable grounds, what would they amount to in view of the fact that in spite of these arguments all real revolutionary movements, as even the self-sufficiency of a Trotsky is often forced to admit, had a spontaneous character. Rosa Luxemburg, in her writings against the Social Democracy as well as against the Bolsheviks, has already proved this with sufficient force, so that it is here superfluous to recount once more the history of the contemporary revolutionary movement. It seems more important to us to dispose in advance of an argument which is frequently advanced against the concept of spontaneity, namely, that even from the standpoint of spontaneity the masses have often shown their inadequacy.

Why was it, these critics like to remark ironically, that the masses failed, for example, to prevent the setting up of the Hitler dictatorship ? It is the same sort of question which is opposed to the theory of collapse : why, then, has capitalism never yet collapsed ? In both cases, we are merely confronted with a misunderstanding of the theories in question. The so frequently mentioned dialectical formula of the conversion of quantity into quality, which are necessarily separated by the process of development, also furnishes the explanation of our standpoint, that of those who accept the doctrines of spontaneity and collapse. In both cases, the question is one as to the moment of the conversion. It is, in fact, a conversion which is repeated again and again on a more extensive scale, so that, to employ an expression of Henryk Grossmann's "every crisis is a phenomenon of collapse and the final collapse is nothing but an insoluble crisis." The theory of collapse does not rest upon any automatic process, nor does the concept of spontaneity assume on any mystical ground that the masses sometime or other will break out in revolt. Collapse and spontaneity, both are to be regarded only from the standpoint of the conversion of quantity into quality.

Why is it that, although each crisis is a collapse in miniature, the system is able to pull out of it ? Simply because the tendencies directed against the collapse -- tendencies arising through the realities of the situation -- are not yet exhausted. If they are exhausted with reference to the further needs of accumulation, the crisis can no longer be overcome and must necessarily turn into collapse. It is the same way with the mass movement bound up with this process. So long as the counter-tendencies against revolution are strong enough, the spontaneous movement of the masses will not be able to assert itself. In fact, it will reveal such weakness as to give the impression that it could never be more important than at present and that therefore, by the side of itself ( for of course no one denies the spontaneity factor altogether ), has need of the party to parcel out and direct this spontaneous factor, like all the other factors, in the interest of the revolution. It is only because the economic-political tendencies directed against the spontaneous action of the masses were so strong that the actual deeds could appear to be consciously aroused. The few real revolutionary movements which Germany, for example, could point to came into action against the will of the various parties, even against the will of the Communist Party. ( Consider, as a classic example, the March movement of 1921 ). "While the Communist Party participated in those actions, that was only because it had nothing left to do; in no case did they arise from that party's initiative -- the initiative was constantly furnished by the masses themselves. It was not until the size of the party was such as to be decisive that it could refuse to follow the compulsion of the mass initiative, that it could prevent the movements of the proletariat -- and it did prevent them, though in so doing it had necessarily to collapse as a party.

It was only after an enormous amount of party "education" that the masses could be decisively defeated for years. In what other way is to be explained that the class consciousness of the masses continually retrogressed with the growth of the parties and their influence ? How is it otherwise to be explained that even in Russia, where the revolutionary party "could be loaded onto a hay wagon," the workers and peasants accomplished their revolution without having been "educated" to it ? In fact, that they carried the revolution through with greater thoroughness where the "educators" were completely lacking. The masses, who took steps to expropriate the factories against the will of the Bolsheviks, first compelled Lenin to give the word for nationalization. No one can deny this without falsifying history. It was not the demagogue Hitler who destroyed the German Communist Party and the Social Democracy, but the masses themselves, in part actively and in part through inactivity. For these parties had got into an untenable position : they did not represent the interest of the workers, and they did not conform with the interests of the bourgeoisie. This latter who could not bind up its imperialistic ambitions with those of Moscow, and its militaristic drive, had to be put through in such proportions and at such a tempo as could not be assured by the tradition-bound "labor movement." The rôle of these parties was simply the role which the bourgeoisie permitted them. The fact that the spontaneous movements are often unable to assert themselves is no proof of their non-existence. The flood can, to be sure, be held up by a dam, but the dam cannot do away with it. As to how long the flood can be dammed, that depends on the means at the disposal of the dam builders. The limitations of these means under capitalism are well known. The flood of the spontaneous mass uprising will wash away all dams.

Hook's idea that the doctrine of spontaneity can be and is used as "a justification for the policy of split and schismatic fission" ( page 154 ) is incomprehensible. As if the splits sprang from the will of the splatters and not rather from the nature of the organizations within capitalist society. But leaving this factor to one side, what, according to Hook's conception, will become of the proletarian revolution when it is quite impossible any longer to build up strong, influential parties which are "decisive" in the class struggle ? What will become of the revolution when the ruling class has succeeded in destroying all the "giants" -- leaders, parties, communist education, etc. -- and in depriving them permanently of the possibility of exercising their functions ? From Hook's standpoint, the only answer is that then there simply can be no revolution. The revolution, accordingly, in the last analysis -- however humorous it may sound -- is dependent on the democratic lenience of the bourgeoisie. Just as to Mr. G. D. H. Cole, for example, the prospects of socialism have declined as a result of the capitalist crisis, and who regards socialism as developing much better out of capitalist prosperity, so to Hook, even though not admittedly, the existence of democracy is the presupposition for the proletarian revolution. ( It goes without saying that the illegal labor movement can not be embraced in the Hookian concept of the party ). In both cases, for Hook as well as for Cole, it is the intellect-consciousness which succeeds in convincing the world, or at least a preponderant percentage of the workers, of the blessings of socialism or of the beauty of the revolution, and thereupon both are "desired." This schoolmasterly attitude may fit in with the course of political instruction, but with respect to the revolution it can only produce a comic effect.

Marx's analysis of the capitalist laws of accumulation ends up in the proletarian revolution. It goes without saying that to Marx there was no purely economic problem. Long before the capitalist development has reached the economic end-point fixed by theoretical considerations the masses will already have put an end to the system. The cyclical crisis is converted into the permanent crisis, a condition in which capitalism is able still to exist only through the continuing and absolute impoverishment of the proletariat. This period, a whole historical phase, compels the bourgeoisie to permanent terrorism against the working population, since under such conditions any decrease of profit by way of the class struggle brings into question more and more the system itself. The process of concentration has also made the basis for the rule of the bourgeoisie so narrow that a relatively frictionless social practice is still possible only through open dictatorship. The end of democracy has come. With it there disappear also the labor organizations bound up with democracy, freedom of speech and of the press, etc. The longer capitalism lives, the deeper the crisis and the sharper the terrorism. This capitalist necessity cannot be avoided by way of democracy. The very safeguarding of "formal democracy" compels the fall of capitalism, so that naturally capitalist democracy becomes a thing of the past. The end of democracy involves the end of the labor movement in the Hookian sense; he has nothing left to do but turn away disillusioned from the workers who failed to listen to him soon enough. World history stands still because the workers did not let themselves be "educated." But the concept of spontaneity will also be adequate to this situation. The permanent crisis sharpens the class struggle in the same measure as it suppresses that struggle. Czarism explained not only the lateness of the Russian Revolution but at the same time its marvelous and fearful power when it broke out, in spite of the absence of "educators" and of preponderant organizations. The action was at the same time the organization, the active fighters were their own leaders. Who was it that "brought over" into the masses the thought of the soviets ? Was it not rather born from the relations themselves ? From the masses and their needs ? It was only after they had been formed that the soviets began to be discussed by the "educators." The class struggle is the movement of class society. Organizations can be destroyed, leaders murdered, education transformed into barbarism; but the class struggle cannot be disposed of, except by the setting aside of classes. The very destruction of the legal labor organization is a better indication than anything else of the deepening of the class struggle, though this is not to proclaim the revolutionary quality of the parties destroyed.

There is, however, no fixed point of time for the revolution. Even though one holds the revolution to be inevitable, nothing has thereby been said regarding its time of arrival. And any argument to the effect that the Fascist State is inevitable is nonsense, serving merely to conceal the betrayal perpetrated by the Third International. In 1918, for example, it had become possible for the Social Democracy to suppress the council movement in the blood of the workers. The opposite might equally well have been the case, and it was only later that it became clear why the former occurred rather than the latter. The factor of "accident," of "leadership," etc. is undeniable and shall not be denied, but one must also recognize its limits and its changing role in the historical process. Just as it was possible in 1923 for the Communist Party of Germany to hold the masses off from the revolutionary uprising, it might equally well have failed in that endeavor. The revolution was postponed, but merely postponed. It can also break out prematurely, and in this way complicate its own course. But premature or overdue, the revolution -- the locomotive of history -- and with it the communist society, of necessity asserts itself, and is carried through by the workers themselves, for the previous course of history has created a condition which permits of no other solution, because that solution is identical with the present life necessities of the majority of mankind. And the proletarian revolution, while it changes the world, will not neglect to educate the astonished "educators."


[8] "Communism without Dogmas." The page numbers in parenthesis have reference to this article in The Modern Monthly.

Back Table of Contents This Author Return to Homepage