Saturday, December 02, 2006

What is Socialism?


What is Socialism?

So far this column has been dealing mainly with what Marxism has to say about capitalism and how it can be overthrown. But, of course, Marxism is not only against capitalism, it is also for socialism and now seems a good point to say something about the kind of society Marxists aim for and struggle to bring into being.

Interestingly, Marx wrote relatively little about the future socialist society ( though what he did say was profound and important). There are no detailed plans or instructions as to how the government should be organized, or how much people should be paid, or what forms of transport should be adopted or anything like that. But there is a good reason for this.

For Marx socialism was not a blueprint for an ideal society which he had dreamt up, it was the form of society which would necessarily emerge from the victory of the working class in the struggle against capitalism. From this it follows that the precise features of socialism cannot be foreseen, first because they will depend on the specific circumstances in which that working class victory takes place, which cannot be known in advance, and second, because these matters will, precisely, be decided by the workers of the future themselves. Moreover the workers of the socialist future will be very different from the workers – or any of us – today because they will have been profoundly changed by the process of overthrowing capitalism.

Just saying this, however, points to the fundamental feature of socialism as understood by Marx which differentiates it completely from the fake socialism of the Soviet bloc, China, North Korea etc., namely that it is a society really run by working people themselves. When Marx spoke of ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ as the transitional phase between capitalism and socialism he meant not a dictatorship over the proletariat or a dictatorship in the name of the proletariat by an individual, party or elite, well meaning or otherwise, but the rule of society by the working class as a whole, real collective workers’ power.

To rule society the working class has to create its own, new state apparatus. Marx understood this very clearly because he saw it done in practice in the Paris Commune of 1871, and today we know better than Marx what this will probably look like, not because we are cleverer than him, but because we have the additional historical experience of the early years of the Russian Revolution, and of a number of near revolutions in Germany (1918-23), Italy (1919-20), Spain (1936-37), Hungary (1956), Chile (1972) and elsewhere.

From this experience we know that it means the creation of a network of representative bodies or councils (called ‘soviets’ in the Russian Revolution ) based on the working class in struggle, above all in its workplaces, but also (depending on circumstances) reflecting the army, the community and so on. And that these workers’ councils become the core of the new state, to which the government, military forces, ministries etc. are responsible and accountable.

If the working class is really to run society this new apparatus has to genuinely reflect the collective interests and will of the working class. This means operating on highly democratic principles and again we know some of these from the experience of The Commune and the Russian Soviets, e.g. that council delegates should be immediately recallable by the bodies (mainly workplace meetings) that elected them, and that they should be paid no more than a skilled worker’s wage.

It is also clear that to sustain itself workers’ political power must rest on a firm foundation of workers’ economic power (all political power rests ultimately on economic power). To this end the working class will use its state to establish collective ownership of the major means of production, distribution and exchange which will need to be managed by the workers themselves, through democratically elected committees.

It should be noted that in this view of socialism it is workers’ power that is the basic principle from which follows the need for state ownership, not state ownership as such. State ownership by itself, without workers’ power and workers’ control, is state capitalism not socialism. We also know, both from Marxist theory and from what happened in Russia, that although workers’ power may be established first in one country it must spread internationally if it is to survive.

Achieving this will doubtless involve great struggle, but if we allow ourselves the luxury of thinking about an internationally united socialist society run by working people themselves, then certain things will necessarily follow. Production will be democratically planned to meet human need. And if the immense productive forces already developed by capitalism are made to serve people’s needs it will be possible to abolish the poverty, malnutrition and deprivation that have for so long afflicted the majority of the world’s population. No one will have four mansions, five cars and two private jets but everyone will have the necessities required for a decent life.

Indeed they will have more than just a decent life for such a society will also provide the education, leisure and, above all, the stimulating work to unleash a massive development in the intellectual life and human personality of hitherto ordinary people which in turn will feed into the further development of society.

Such a socialist society will be a society of peace because the root causes of war in the past – the struggle between lords, dynasties, corporations and states for land, resources and profits – will have disappeared.

It will also, once the remnants of the old class system fade away, become a truly classless society – like the classless societies of the hunter gatherers but with modern technology and international – because with production owned and controlled by the associated producers the very basis of class, exploitation of one group by another, will have been eliminated. This in turn will pave the way for the disappearance of the state i.e. of any special apparatus of coercive power standing over society. Real human freedom will be realized.

This still doesn’t tell us whether the people of the future will choose to live in houses that hug the ground or reach for the sky, will travel by bus, bicycle or invention as yet unknown, or will eat peaches and cream or strawberries and yogurt but it does tell us why socialism is a goal worth fighting for.

John Molyneux
November 14, 2006

Friday, November 10, 2006

Of Art and Revolution - biographical statement for exhibition of my work at Eldon Building, University of Portsmouth, November 1 - 23, 2006

Of Art and Revolution

This an attempt to do something relatively new, at least I have not seen it done before, namely take a body of writing and make it the theme of a visual display, an art show. And before I say anything else I want to express my extreme gratitude to my colleagues, Jacqui Mair and Lynsey Plockyn, who have both done an immense amount of work, with great skill and flair, to put this show on and to whom is due the principal credit for the design and facture of the display. What follows is a brief comment on the relation of the writing to my life.

Art came first. I was introduced to art as a young child by my mother. My early efforts were greatly encouraged, with everything pinned up in the kitchen till one whole wall was covered from top to bottom. We also had a ‘real’ artist – Sheila Fell –living and working in our house in Belsize Park. She had a room and a studio on the top floor and was visited by her patron, L.S. Lowry, and other artists and critics. Then I got taken by my mother to The National Gallery and exhibitions – Van Gogh etc. At school I was ‘persuaded’ to give up art for Greek – big mistake – but in the 6th form they let me give up games for art and since my school was in Victoria, half way between the National and the Tate, I spent most Wednesday afternoons visiting these great galleries. Thus was born a lifelong love.

Next came rebellion, against school, the world, the system – at first fairly romantic, unfocused and nihilistic (I guess I was an ‘anarchist’). This phase, from about fifteen to nineteen, included a short walk on the wild side as a professional poker player which is recorded in the piece in Players.

Then came revolution. I became a Marxist and revolutionary socialist in 1968 on the streets of New York, London and Paris. New York showed me the extremes of wealth and poverty, London the violence of the state (at Grosvenor Square), and the wonderful May Events the possibility of revolution. In June 68 I joined the International Socialists (now SWP) and began a life of political activism.

For awhile activism swept everything else aside, apart from love and children.. Political writing started with the publication of a much edited (by Tony Cliff) version of my PhD as Marxism and the Party (1978) and continued with Leon Trotsky’s Theory of Revolution (1982) and What is the Real Marxist Tradition?(1983). Then I got asked to write a weekly column on Marxist and socialist ideas for Socialist Worker which lasted for fourteen years till I was taken very ill – many of these columns appear in Arguments for Revolutionary Socialism and The Future Socialist Society. This led to translations into different languages and various commissions from round the world.

My love of art remained, albeit in the background, and after working here in the School of Art, Design & Media for a few years I started to write about it. About modern and contemporary art, which I thought needed explaining and defending, including to many fellow socialists, and about my old love Rembrandt.

For me writing about politics and about art are distinct but not separate activities. Firstly, a lot of art is highly political, though this is often obscured in mainstream art history. Secondly I write about art as a historical materialist who respects and cares for art as art. Finally, like Marx, Trotsky and Picasso, I regard both politics and art as aspects of the struggle for human liberation.

John Molyneux
October 2006

How They Rule Us


How They Rule Us

Capitalism, as we have seen, is a class divided society based on exploitation. Under capitalism a tiny highly privileged minority rules over the large majority and lives off their labour. How do they get away with it ?

The answer, as the Italian Marxist, Antonio Gramsci pointed out, is by a combination of force and consent. In reality force and consent are very closely intertwined and mutually reinforce each other, but for the moment I shall discuss them separately.

The element of force is primarily exercised by the state, that network of interlocking institutions – armed forces, police, judiciary, prisons, government bureaucracies etc – which stands over society and claims general authority, including a monopoly of legitimate force.

This state apparatus claims, at every level of its operation, to represent society as a whole – the so-called national or public interest. Hence the perennial assertion by police, judges, generals and so on that they are politically neutral. But the idea of a common national or public interest is a myth. The nation consists of classes, exploiters and exploited with opposed interests, and the society which the state represents is not society as such but specifically capitalist society, based on capitalist property relations and capitalist relations of production. The first duty of the state is to secure the preservation of this capitalist order. and since this order embodies the supremacy of the capitalist class, the state is, in the words of Marx ‘ but a committee for managing the common affairs of the whole bourgeoisie’.

The class character of the state is reflected in its composition. The upper ranks of the military, the police, the judiciary and the civil service are drawn overwhelmingly from the bourgeoisie and retain economic, family and social ties with that class. But the intrusion into this milieu of the occasional individual from the lower orders changes nothing. On the one hand the actual class position of such an individual is changed by the fact of their promotion and their outlook will tend to change accordingly. On the other hand acceptance of the capitalist mode of operation of the state is the condition of such promotion.

The consequence of the capitalist nature of the state is that force, or the threat of force, underpins almost every aspect of daily life. Consider some examples: a worker goes to work and makes some products. At the end of the day he or she tries to take all or some of them home. The worker will, of course, be forcibly arrested and forcibly detained in a police cell. Or the workers at a factory decide to go on strike, but only ninety per cent of them come out while ten per cent try to continue working. The law, in the shape of a substantial number of police, will immediately arrive at the factory to ensure the scabs’ ‘right to work’. But if the factory bosses decide to close down and make all the workforce redundant, the police will also arrive, this time to ensure that everyone goes home and no amount of appeals to the ‘right to work’ will move them in the slightest.

In all these cases the police will say they are ‘only doing their job’, but that is the point – their job is the enforcement of capitalist exploitation. The examples I have given may seem slightly strange precisely because they are so obvious, so taken for granted, but that is also the point. Capitalist exploitation would not last five minutes without state law, backed by state force, to sustain it.

Most of the time state force remains as far as possible low key and in the background but it comes to the fore the moment there is a real challenge to the interests of the capitalist class. If the challenge comes from abroad this takes the form of war; if the challenge is internal it is met with repression. If the challenge comes from an elected government it can take the form of organizing a military or fascist coup, as happened, for example, with General Pinochet in Chile in 1973 or as has been attempted recently against the Chavez government in Venezuela.

This last point – the potential use of state power on behalf of the bourgeoisie and against the government of the day – is very important. First it completely undermines the official constitutional view (and the view promulgated by political science and taught in the education system) that the state apparatus is subordinate to the elected government. Secondly it raises a key issue in Marxist theory which was ignored or distorted by most supposedly socialist or Marxist parties in the twentieth century.

The strategy of these organizations, beginning with German Social Democracy before the First World War, was to win ‘power’ by means of parliamentary elections, thus acquiring control of the state apparatus which would then be used to construct socialism. But Marx, on the basis of the experience of the Paris commune, had argued that it was not possible for the working class to take over the existing state machine and use it for its own purposes. The existing state was organically tied to the bourgeoisie and could not be used for socialism; rather it had to be broken up – smashed – and replaced by a new state apparatus created by the working class.

Marx’s genuine theory of the state was rediscovered and vigorously reasserted by Lenin in his great book, The State and Revolution. More than that it was put into practice in the Russian Revolution by means of soviet power, i.e. the power of workers’ councils. Later, however, the international communist movement, under the direction of Stalinism reverted to the idea of a parliamentary road to socialism and taking over the existing state apparatus.

But, the objection is often raised, the modern state, with its armies, tanks, bombs, planes etc is too powerful to be smashed, even by the largest mass movement of the working class. This, however, leaves out of the equation the crucial weakness of the state and of all the power of the ruling class which is the fact that for all its operations it depends on the collaboration of a section of the working class. Every gun needs a soldier to carry it, every tank a driver, every plane a team of mechanics. Almost the entire apparatus of the state is staffed, at its lower levels by workers and what happens in a mass revolution is that the pressure of the working leads to many or most of these workers breaking from their officers and joining the people. This is how the state is broken.

What this makes clear however is that the final analysis the rule of the bourgeoisie depends not just on force but also on consent. How that consent is maintained and how it is lost will be the subject of the next column.

John Molyneux
13 October 2006

This column was written for the Korean Socialist newspaper COUNTERFIRE.

The role of Ideology


The Role of Ideology

As we have seen the dominance of the ruling class rests fundamentally on force, exercised first and foremost through the state. However, if it rested on force alone it would be highly vulnerable to overthrow by the working class who constitute the large majority of society. The power of the capitalist class and its state is greatly strengthened by the fact that most of the time it is able to secure consent to its rule from the majority of the very people it oppresses and exploits.

It is the role of ideology to obtain and maintain this consent. Every society has a dominant ideology – a set of ideas, a worldview, which serves to explain, justify and sustain the existing social order and its institutions. It is part of the strength of the dominant ideology in modern capitalist society that, generally speaking , it does not name itself or even acknowledge its own existence . It does not say to people this is ‘capitalist ideology’ and you must believe it all. Rather it presents itself as a series of individual ‘common sense’ propositions which are supposed to be either self- evident or definitively proved by history, like: ‘ Management and workers should work together for the benefit of all’, or ‘ Nobody is above the law,’ or ‘ Obviously, firms have to make a profit’ or ‘There will never be complete equality, it’s against human nature.’

In reality these are not separate ideas but parts of a systematic ideology which, like the state apparatus, serves the interests of the capitalist class. Its basic principle is to depict capitalist relations of production as eternal and unchangeable, and every challenge to capitalism as hopelessly unrealistic and/or downright wicked. But why do those who are disadvantaged by these ideas, namely working people, frequently accept them, at least in part ?

Marx gave a clear answer to this question:

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force in society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it. ( The German Ideology)

The means of mental production – the schools, universities, publishers, press and media generally – are today enormously expanded (mass education, TV, radio, film etc) compared to Marx’s day, but they remain almost entirely in the hands of the capitalist class and its state. This means that for the large majority of people almost every item of news, almost all their knowledge of history, of economics, of science, and most of the teaching they receive on morality and religion is brought to them within the framework of capitalist ideology. This cannot fail to have a massive effect on their thinking.

In addition to this bourgeois ideology has the advantage of long tradition and of often appearing , at least on the surface, to reflect reality. For example, firms that fail to make a profit do go out of business and their workers do lose their jobs. And, crucially, just as capitalist ideology legitimizes the state, so the physical force of the state backs up the ideology. As I stated in the last column force and consent interact and reinforce each other.

Put this way the real question becomes not why do so many working people accept bourgeois ideas but how can the hold of these ideas be broken?

The great weakness of capitalist ideology is that it fails to correspond to workers’ experience – their experience of exploitation, poverty, unemployment, injustice etc. As a consequence the grip of the ruling ideas is never total. Most working people develop what Gramsci called ‘contradictory consciousness’; they reject some parts of the dominant ideology while continuing to accept other parts of it. For example a worker may display a clear understanding of the class struggle in the workplace but hold reactionary attitudes towards women or migrant workers. At the same time there will be a small minority who break with capitalist ideology as a whole and adopt a coherent socialist and Marxist outlook.

This minority is extremely important because in certain circumstances it can win the leadership of many or even the majority of workers whose consciousness remains mixed.

What are these circumstances? First, when the objective conflict of interest between the classes turns into an open struggle such as a strike, especially a mass strike. Second, in conditions of serious economic and/or political crisis, such as a major slump or disastrous war, when the gap between the dominant ideology and reality becomes so wide that its hegemony starts to disintegrate. But above all when these two sets of circumstances coincide. Then it becomes possible for the coherent minority not only to lead the majority of the workers in struggle – on the basis of the progressive side of their consciousness – but also to start to transform the consciousness of the majority into all out opposition to the system.

The element of mass struggle is crucial because the level of workers’ consciousness is closely related to their confidence. The less confidence workers have in their ability to challenge and change the system the more they are likely to accept the dominant ideology, especially those aspects of it , such as racism, xenophobia, sexism, homophobia etc, which divert their anger and bitterness onto scapegoats. The higher their confidence, the more their horizons widen and they become open to new ideas. In mass struggle they get a sense of their collective power and the advantages of solidarity prove themselves in practice.

Then what becomes decisive is the size, influence and organization of the coherent minority and its ability to give a clear political focus to the anger and aspirations of the masses.

It is this combination of circumstances, ideas and action that break both the hold of capitalist ideology and the power of the capitalist state.

John Molyneux

Lih's Lenin - a review of Lars T. Lih, 'Lenin Rediscovered'


Lars T. Lih, Lenin Rediscovered – What Is To Be Done? in Context, Leiden, Brill 2006

Lenin matters. I don’t mean he mattered in Russian history or in the history of the twentieth century – that’s obvious. I mean he still matters, matters to the bourgeoisie and matters for socialist practice today.

The single most serious challenge to the world capitalist order in its whole history was that posed by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the international revolutionary wave that followed in its wake. For a few short years the survival of the system literally hung by a thread and if we were to identify a single moment on which the fate of humanity hinged and when history turned, it would be the failure of the German Revolution in 1923. Obviously there can be no certainty in such matters, but if the German Revolution had succeeded there is an excellent chance that there would have been no Stalin, no Hitler and a fair chance that today we would be living in a socialist society.

Lenin symbolizes the Russian Revolution and that historical moment. More than that , it was Lenin’s politics and organization that led the Russian Revolution to victory – to this day the only genuine and sustained seizure of state power by the working class ( apart from the seventy two days of the Paris Commune). At the time everyone who was politically conscious ( on their side and on ours) recognized this, which is why millions of socialists, anarchists, intellectuals and working people world wide rallied to Lenin’s banner and made, in the shape of the Communist International, the most formidable international revolutionary force that has yet existed. A strong argument can be made, and has been made (1) , that it was the failure of western communists to assimilate, with sufficient speed and thoroughness, Leninist politics and Bolshevik practice that led to the defeat of the European revolution – I will not press this point here. Enough has been said to indicate why the bourgeoisie has always regarded Lenin as a prime ideological enemy.

Bourgeois ideology functions partly to give coherence to the ruling class itself, partly to give leadership to the middle classes and partly to secure the acquiescence of the exploited and oppressed in their exploitation and oppression. To this latter end it seeks to impose on working people its values and its view of the world and, as we all know, it has a good deal of success in this. However people’s lived experience under capitalism is such that this success can never be more than partial. People being bombed are highly unlikely to think this is a good thing because it is all in aid of ‘democracy’; the poor and hungry are hard to convince that massive inequality is justified because it provides incentives for the rich; threatened with mass unemployment working people are not persuaded that this is ‘a price worth paying’ on the say so of Adam Smith or Milton Friedman. Bourgeois ideology, therefore, has another equally important function which is to block the road to any coherent ideological alternative. It does this by a combination of exclusion and denigration.

Take for example the bourgeois press. In Britain the left-leaning papers, like The Guardian, The Independent, and the Daily Mirror, are quite happy to print criticisms of most aspects of government policy, so as to reflect the sentiments of their readers – they even make use of avowed socialists and Marxists for this purpose. At the same time they maintain almost complete silence about the numerous large demonstrations organized by the Stop the War Coalition. I remember Paul Foot, when he worked for The Mirror, explaining how his contract allowed him to attack and expose who or what he liked ( except Robert Maxwell, of course) but not to make propaganda for socialism. One remembers also the savage press campaigns waged against Benn, Scargill and even Livingstone in the days when they looked like they provided a serious challenge.

Academia, of course, works differently – it is more subtle, more polite – but not that differently, and the exclusion can be just as deadly and complete. Compare the academic reception and reputations of Louis Althusser and Tony Cliff or Walter Benjamin and Leon Trotsky. Lenin, however, because of the Russian Revolution (2), was too big to exclude or ignore and he was worse even than Marx precisely because he pointed so relentlessly to ‘what is to be done’. Therefore there was no alternative but wholesale denigration.

A line of argument was evolved. With minor variations, it went like this. Stalinism was not just the chronological successor to Leninism but its logical and necessary consequence. All the principal horrific features of the Stalinist regime – the mass murder, the gulag, the police terror, the totalitarian state and party, the intellectual and cultural tyranny - were either initiated by Lenin or, at least, present in embryo in Bolshevik practice and in Leninist ideology from the beginning. If the pre- revolutionary Lenin did not openly espouse or advocate a totalitarian vision of the future, this was either deception or self deception, for incipient totalitarianism was deeply lodged in his ideas, personality and psychology. The fundamental characteristics of Lenin and Leninism were always an utterly unscrupulous ruthlessness as to methods and a fanatical pursuit of absolute power for his party and himself.

In this indictment the key piece of evidence for the prosecution, the ‘smoking gun’ was held to be a pamphlet that Lenin wrote in 1901, when the Russian Social Democratic and Labour Party barely existed and before the Bolshevik faction or party had even been dreamt of, called Chto delat? or What is to be Done? The avowed purpose of the pamphlet was to rally the then scattered forces of Russian Social Democracy into a single national party organized around a national newspaper and focused on the struggle against the Tsarist autocracy and for democracy and political freedom. To win the argument for this plan Lenin also declared that it was necessary to combat the conception of the struggle known as ‘economism’- the idea that the working class, and socialist agitation in the working class, should concentrate on economic demands, leaving the political struggle against Tsarism to the middle class liberals and intelligentsia.

The case against What is to be Done? was that in it Lenin had maintained that the working class would not develop socialist consciousness if left to its own devices; that the spontaneous tendency of the working class was only towards trade unionism (which , because it concentrated on bargaining over the price of labour power within the system, was a variation on bourgeois consciousness) and that socialism would , therefore, have to be introduced into the working class ‘from the outside’. This showed, so the argument ran, that really Lenin, behind the rhetoric, despised the working class and thought that socialism would have to be imposed on it from above. The real plan, from the beginning, was not working class power or self emancipation, but a party dictatorship over the working class. Once this was established the rest of the history of Bolshevism and the Revolution was read in this light; every quarrel, dispute, faction fight and split in the history of The Russian Social and Democratic Labour Party (especially the split at the 2nd Congress in 1903, which produced the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions) was presented as emanating from Lenin’s obsessive drive for power.

Veritable legions of academics – historians, political scientists, Sovietologists, Kremlinologists, etc – were put into the field to argue or assert this view. As in other matters, the Americans led the way and the British followed in their wake. Émigrés from the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe played a prominent role. Before too long an almost unchallengeable orthodoxy, the ‘textbook interpretation’ as Lih calls it, was firmly in place.

Let me be clear, there is no conspiracy theory involved here (3) , nor allegation of deliberate bad faith on the part of the academics. It’s simply how the system works. Those with money, power and patronage at their disposal naturally encourage, fund and promote those with ideas they like the sound of. Aspiring academics see which way the wind is blowing and adopt, doubtless sincerely, views and projects that will further there careers. A range of additional political factors favoured the anti- Lenin consensus. It was put in place mainly during the early Cold War when it fitted the needs of cold warriors like a glove and when very few in US public or academic life were going to go to the stake in defense of Lenin. Besides anti- Leninism appeals not just to the hard right but meets ideological needs all the way across the political spectrum to left social democracy and even anarchism. Orthodox communists were also very badly placed to challenge the textbook account as they accepted the underlying premise of continuity between Leninism and Stalinism. Of course, there were a number of outstanding communist historians (Christopher Hill, Eric Hobsbawm, Edward Thompson etc)well able to take on the argument, but they stayed away from the twentieth century so as to preserve their integrity and not clash with the party line. Nor was it an issue likely to be taken up by wave of Althusserians, cultural theorists and postmodernists who swept through academic life from the seventies to the nineties and who tended to share the view of the working class attributed to Lenin. This left virtually only the Trotskyists as dissenters and they were easily dismissed because they were very few in number, and because, well, they were Trotskyists. Consequently the consensus has remained more or less intact to the present day. Hence it was made use of just recently by George Bush when he compared Osama bin Laden to Lenin and Hitler, and referred specifically to What is to be Done? (4).

It is against this background that we must view Lars Lih’s extraordinary and extraordinarily welcome book. Lih tells us that it was written ‘without institutional support’. That the institutions were unwilling to support it is unsurprising, but it makes his achievement in writing it all the more remarkable. For Lih simply demolishes the orthodox view and does so by an accumulation of overwhelming evidence.
Lih takes as his starting point Lenin’s own 1907 statement that:

The basic mistake made by people who polemicise with What Is to Be Done? at the present time is that they tear this production completely out of a specific historical context, out of a specific and by now long past period in the development of our party.

From this cue Lih sets about investigating and recreating this ‘specific historical context‘
with an intensity and scholarship that is truly staggering. Amongst other things he appears to have read the entire literature of the Russian socialist movement of the period, supporters and opponents of Lenin alike, plus most or much of the German socialist literature of the time. I may be wrong but I very much doubt that any of the previous commentators on Lenin read more than a small fraction of this vast output.(5)

On this basis Lih argues: 1) that What Is To Be Done? was a relatively ephemeral document written in haste and not a considered programmatic or theoretical text from which major generalizations and conclusions about the essence of Leninism can legitimately be drawn; 2) that what Lenin advocated was not any new, distinct or special model of party organization, but merely the translation onto Russian soil of the practice of contemporary German Social Democracy ( which Lih calls Erfurtianism, after the
Erfurt Congress at which the SPD adopted a Marxist programme – the Erfurt Programme); 3) that far from being an incipient totalitarian Lenin’s overriding political commitment at the time was to the struggle for political freedom and democracy, which Lenin, following Marx, Engels and German Social Democracy, regarded as the essential prerequisite for the development of the socialist workers’ movement; 4) that, of all the activists and theorists around at the time, Lenin was not the most skeptical, but the most enthusiastic, about the spontaneous struggles of Russian working class and their future potential and that his fear was that they would be let down by the intellectuals.

Now I think it is fair to say that each of these points could be, and actually was, adduced from Lenin’s writings without Lih’s massive scholarly apparatus (with the possible exception of the comparative degree of Lenin’s enthusiasm about the workers’ struggles) Nevertheless what Lih achieves is not just a reasoned argument for each point but as close to meticulous proof as is possible in such matters. If there was justice in the world, or in academia, which of course there is not, the textbooks would have to be rewritten and numerous ‘experts’ would have to revise their whole view of Lenin. If Lih had been available at the time I wrote Marxism and the Party (thirty years ago) it would not have changed the basic line of argument but it would certainly altered and strengthened the presentation of Lenin’s 1901-04 positions and I think the same goes for Tony Cliff.(6)

Despite all this, however, I am obliged to dissent from some of the criticisms Lih makes of what he calls ‘the activist interpretation advanced by Cliff, Molyneux, Le Blanc and others’ ( Lih, p.18). This is not all to defend every line of my book Marxism and the Party – it was my first substantial work, written a long time ago, and doubtless contains many errors and weaknesses ( including, as acknowledged in the second edition, an overestimation of the contribution of Gramsci) – or indeed every line of Cliff, but because I think there is here an issue of political and theoretical substance.

According to Lih, ‘Tony Cliff is a great admirer of Lenin and yet his picture of Lenin from 1895 to 1905 is not an attractive one.’(p.25) This is because it shows Lenin changing his mind, or at least his formulations, on the relationship between political consciousness and economic struggle and thus makes Lenin ‘look like a rather incompetent and incoherent leader’.(p.25) I disagree. What Cliff shows is a developing leader, whose fundamental commitment to Marxism, socialism and revolution remains unshakeable, but who responds to events and learns in and from the struggle. This not a weakness either in Lenin, or in Cliff’s presentation of Lenin. On the contrary for a revolutionary leader it is an essential attribute.

What is unique about Cliff’s portrait of Lenin, especially Volume 1:Building the Party, is not the quantity of research (though that was considerable) and certainly not Cliff’s linguistic facility, but the fact that Cliff was engaged, albeit in very different circumstances, in the same activity as Lenin, namely trying to build a revolutionary party rooted in the working class.(7) Of course this element of identification carries the danger of subjective factors distorting the historical perspective, but it also generates numerous insights unavailable to the academic historian or theorist.

The concept of ‘bending - the - stick’, of which Cliff made much and to which Lih takes exception, is a case in point. Lih devotes a large number of words to unpicking the possible meanings of this phrase, but misses the main point. Cliff had learned from experience that shifting an organization of several thousand members ( as opposed to winning an academic or historical debate) from one strategic orientation and one way of working to another to meet the challenge of changed circumstances, required an almighty great tug on the relevant levers and, sometimes, a certain exaggeration. For Cliff achieving the desired end was more important than terminological exactitude or consistency and he rather thought, as do I, that Lenin felt the same way.

The question of learning in and from the struggle – learning from the working class – lies at the root of my second disagreement with Lih which relates to the issue of bringing socialism to the working class ‘from without’, one of the so-called ‘scandalous passages’ discussed at length in Annotations Part Two. Lih is absolutely correct in saying that this passage does not mean that Lenin thought the working class could not achieve socialist consciousness. If it did it would have made nonsense of his entire political project. He is also right in insisting that Lenin, here, is doing no more than asserting Social Democratic (Kautskyan) orthodoxy. Nevertheless I believe there are two statements in the passage which need to be challenged.

The first is that, ‘The history of all countries shows that the working class exclusively by its own effort is able to develop only trade-union consciousness’.(Cited in Lih p.702). This is not, and was not, true – witness the Paris Commune - and Lenin saw with his own eyes that it was not true in 1905, hence his statement then that ‘The working class is spontaneously social democratic’. The second is Lenin’s claim that:

The doctrine of socialism grew out of those philosophic, historical and economic theories that were worked out by the educated representatives of the propertied
classes, the intelligentsia. The founders of modern scientific socialism, Marx and
Engels, belonged themselves, according to their social origin, to the bourgeois
Intelligentsia. (Lih p.702)

The problematic nature of this passage is compounded by the quotation from Kautsky used by Lenin to support it:

…Naturally, socialism as a doctrine is as deeply rooted in modern economic relations as is the class struggle of the proletariat, just as both of them flow from the struggle against the poverty and desperation of the masses generated by capitalism. Nevertheless, socialism and the class struggle emerge side by side and not one from the other – they arise with different preconditions. Modern socialist awareness can emerge only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge. In fact, modern economic science is as much a condition of socialist production as modern, say, technology. The modern proletariat, even if it wanted to, cannot create either the one or the other: both emerge from the modern social process.

The carrier of science is not the proletariat, but the bourgeois intelligentsia (Kautsky’s emphasis): modern socialism emerges in the in the heads of individual members of this stratum and then is communicated by them to proletarians who stand out due to their mental development, who in turn bring it into the class struggle of the proletariat where conditions allow. In this way, socialist awareness is something brought into the class struggle of the proletariat from without … and not something that emerges from the class struggle in stikhiinyi fashion.
(cited Lih pp.709-10)

The theoretical issue here is that raised by Marx in his critique of mechanical materialism in the Theses on Feuerbach: who educates the educators, or where does Marxist theory come from? According to Kautsky and Lenin (in 1901) the educators educate themselves through the study of political economy and observation of social conditions independently of the class struggle. This is false both historically and analytically. Marxist theory was developed by Marx and Engels, and continued to be developed by others, including Lenin, through involvement in, and interaction with, the struggle of the working class, i.e. through revolutionary practice (8). Marxism is, first and foremost, the world historical generalization of the experience of the working class in struggle. The Kautsky formulation is symptomatic of the underlying positivist, mechanical materialist philosophical position dominant in the Second International, in which Lenin was trained, but from which he broke, at first instinctively and politically(9) and then philosophically, through his re-study of Hegel after the betrayal of 1914.

Interestingly, there is also an issue of context here. Lih has immersed himself in the context of 1901 but I doubt that he has considered the context of the left in Britain in the 1970s in which Cliff and I were writing. At that time the revolutionary left had grown substantially (from the microscopic to the marginally significant) out of the student revolt of the late sixties/early seventies. A key question was how to relate this newly radicalized layer of students to the then powerfully developing industrial struggles of the working class. This issue was much debated and the principal rivals on the far left of Tony Cliff’s International Socialists - Gerry Healy’s Socialist Labour League and Ernest Mandel’s International Marxist Group – both used the authority of What Is To Be Done? (and in particular Lih’s ‘scandalous passages’) to justify what we believed to be an arrogant, top-down attitude to the working class. At the same time in the academic world we were beginning to see the rise of Althusserianism which also inflated theory and severed its roots in, and dependence on, working class struggle and revolutionary practice. All this made the correction of Lenin’s Kautskyan formulations a matter of practical political importance.

On the fact that there was something in need of correction I will quote a final witness who had the advantage of knowing the context as well as Lih and who also firmly recognized the importance and fundamental correctness of Lenin’s theory of the party, namely Trotsky, writing in 1939 in his unfinished biography of Stalin:

In August 1905 Stalin restated that chapter of Lenin’s book, “What To Do?”, which attempted to explain the correlation of the elemental labour movement and socialist class- consciousness… This is not the place for a criticism of that concept, which in its entirety belongs in a biography of Lenin rather than of Stalin. The author of “What To Do?” himself subsequently acknowledged the biased nature, and therewith the erroneousness, of his theory, which he had parenthetically interjected as a battery in the battle against “Economism”. (10)

One further point. Lih comments:

The activist writers also talk as if they knew Lenin’s beliefs better than he did himself. John Molyneux writes, for example, that ‘Lenin at this stage [1904] was not aware that he diverged in any fundamental way from social democratic orthodoxy’ and therefore incorrectly identified himself with SPD luminaries such as Karl Kautsky and August Bebel. We are left with the following picture. There was probably no one in Russia who had read in Kautsky’s voluminous writings so attentively, extensively and admiringly as Lenin, yet he remained completely unaware that he diverged in fundamental ways from Kautsky. I am not sure whether we are supposed to explain this by Kautsky’s deceitfulness, Lenin’s inability to understand what he read, or Lenin’s unawareness of his own beliefs. (Lih p.25)

The answer is, of course, none of the above and certainly not that I think I’m cleverer than Lenin (chance would be a fine thing!). But I do not think that Lih, because of his exclusive focus on 1901-04, understands the problem. The problem is that the early Lenin, as Lih demonstrates, was a sincere and enthusiastic ‘Erfurtian’ but that the later Lenin broke completely with the Second International and became the implacable opponent of Kautsky. How did this happen ? Clearly Kautsky changed but so did Lenin and equally clearly the turning point was the SPD’s support for imperialist war in August 1914. But how was it that the vast majority of the SPD and of the parties of the Second International collapsed into social chauvinism (and thence into outright opposition to revolution) whereas the Bolshevik Party, almost unanimously and almost alone of the parties of the International, opposed the war?

My argument, then and now, is that, in the period 1903–14, there developed a fundamental difference between the (reformist) practice and nature of the Social Democratic Parties and the (revolutionary) practice and nature of Bolshevik Party. This is explained, in the main, by three factors:1) differences in the objective social and political conditions between Russia and Western Europe, including the non-emergence in Russia of a trade union and party bureaucracy; 2) differences in the level and intensity of struggle, especially in 1905 and 1912-14; 3) Lenin’s concrete, sometimes ad hoc, empirical (‘instinctive’) political responses to these circumstances. Here, as elsewhere in the history of our movement (the Paris Commune, the role of Soviets in 1905 and 1917) practice ran ahead of theory. In 1914 the scales fell from Lenin’s eyes regarding Kautsky, Bebel and the rest and theory caught up with a vengeance (see Imperialism- the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Imperialism and the Split in Socialism, the Philosophical Notebooks, Marxism on the State, The State and Revolution and much else besides).

This argument rests not all on some capacity to second guess Lenin, but exclusively on the enormous advantage of hindsight. It does,however, highlight again the role of practice in the development of theory. Lih refers to Cliff, Le Blanc and myself as ‘the activists’ and I am pleased to accept the label. Indeed the wider justification for this detailed response to Lih’s relatively minor criticisms in his generally excellent book is to defend the standpoint of ‘activism’, of revolutionary practice, as the point of departure for Marxist theory.

This review has been a mixture of praise and dissent. The explanation of dissent inevitably takes more space than the bestowal of praise, but I want to close by saying that in the wider scheme of things the praise is more important than the dissent, and Lih’s vindication of Lenin, and especially of his commitment to political freedom and his enthusiasm for worker’s struggles, is more important than our points of difference.


1. By Trotsky in Lessons of October and in Tony Cliff Lenin Vol. 4: The Bolsheviks and World Communism, London 1979, Chapters 4,5 and 10.

2. Failed revolutions, like the german Revolution of 1923 and the Portuguese
Revolution of 1974-75, disappear almost without trace from all but the most
specialist academic histories.
3. Of course there could well have a been specific conspiracy on this question. The CIA engaged in all sorts of academic and cultural interventions at the time ranging from funding Encounter magazine and the British National Union of Students to promoting abstract expressionist painting. But it doesn’t matter – there didn’t need to be one.
4. ‘Underestimating the words of evil and ambitious men is a terrible mistake. In the early 1900s,an exiled lawyer in Europe published a pamphlet called What is to be done? in which he laid out his plan to launch a communist revolution in Russia. The world did not heed Lenin’s word’s and paid a terrible price.’ George Bush in a speech to the Military Officers Association of America, (05.09.06) transcribed from BBC News on the internet.
Presumably if Bush had been around at the time he would he would have kept a close eye on the internal literature of the Russian underground and had Lenin whisked off to Guantanamo Bay and the history of the twentieth century would have been alright. Alternatively, he could he have bombed St. Petersburg or perhaps London, where Lenin was at the time.
5. Personally I , who make no claims to be a scholar of the period, read only Lenin, Trotsky and Luxemburg in the original, otherwise relying on secondary sources.

6. Obviously I can’t speak for Cliff but we worked together quite closely at the time – he
edited Marxism and the Party and I, with others, contributed editorial advice on his
biography of Trotsky.

7. With Cliff it was the IS/SWP in Britain in the seventies, and it should be said that
although this project was not as successful as he, or the rest of us, hoped , he achieved
substantially more than anyone else around at the time.

8. This was the standpoint from which I criticized Lenin on this point in Marxism and the
Party and for which I argued more extensively in relation to the development of
Marxism as a whole in What is the Real Marxist Tradition? in International Socialism
20, (1983)

9. In Marxism and the Party I suggest that the 1903 Bolshevik/Menshevik split and the
debates it generated (see Lenin’s One Step Forwards, Two Steps Back)
was a significant ‘ moment’ in this instinctive break.

10. Leon Trotsky, Stalin, London 1968 p.58.

John Molyneux
November 2006

Monday, October 02, 2006

Picasso and African Art

Picasso and African Art

In debates about racism and multiculturalism questions of civilization and the development of “culture” are never slow to surface.

Underpinning much racist ideology is the notion that the development of civilization was basically a European or western phenomenon. In reality, civilization – living in cities, literacy, law etc. – developed first in three main areas, none of them in Europe: the middle eastern fertile crescent (Iraq to Egypt), northwestern India and southeast China. Moreover Europe in the middle ages remained pitifully backward compared to China or the Islamic civilization in the middle east and north Africa.

But even those who accept these basic historical facts often still cling to the idea that “modern culture” and “modernism” are a uniquely European (and thus “white”) creation.

Then again in the anti-racist camp there are those who see different cultures as equal or “equally valid” but still think of them as separate and inherently linked to distinct ethnic or racial groups. Therefore they talk of preserving different cultures and maintaining their authenticity, resisting their contamination by external influences (for example by opposing mixed race adoptions).

A striking challenge to all these views of how culture develops is provided by the work and career of the greatest of all modern artists, Pablo Picasso.

At the beginning of the 20th century Picasso was already a rising star of the art world on the basis of the works of his so-called “Blue” and “Rose” periods, mainly powerful, if sentimental, depictions of the poor and the marginalized. Then in 1907 Picasso painted Les Demoiselles d’Avignon depicting five prostitutes in a Spanish brothel displaying themselves to their prospective clients and staring implacably out of the canvass at the viewer. This painting opened the door to the development of cubism and the whole of modernist art. At the time it was deeply shocking not only to the establishment but also to all Picasso’s avant garde artist friends like Braque and Matisse. Among its many shocking features was the fact that two of the women’s heads were painted to resemble African masks while the other three were based on images from ancient Iberian culture.

The art critic John Berger describes Les Demoiselles d’Avignon as “a raging frontal attack against life as Picasso found it” (The Success and Failure of Picasso, p72) and the African mask images are part of this. But if we look at how Picasso’s work develops we find that his use of African art also has a deeper significance.

What Picasso found in African art was the key, or one of the keys, to a new way of seeing and representing the world and a profoundly new conception of art, which broke more decisively than ever before – the break had been building for decades - with the dominant European art tradition.

Since the 15th century, that is in the era of the rise of capitalism, European painting and sculpture had focused on achieving a naturalistic representation of the physical world. In other words it tried to make more or less accurate copies of things, people and scenes, especially the possessions, land and appearance of the rich and powerful.

The African sculptures that influenced Picasso were products of pre-capitalist society where the role of art was quite different. It was not made to hang in palaces or museums but for use in daily life, particularly rituals, and its aim was not naturalistic imitation of status or property but the expression of “spiritual” (emotional-psychological) power. This is what made it such a useful source for the bohemian artists like Picasso who were rebelling against all the traditions of the bourgeois and aristocratic art academy.

If it were just the case of influencing one major modernist painting this could be dismissed as accidental, but it was not. The African influence on Picasso and Braque’s cubism as a whole and on Picasso’s later work is manifest. Paintings like the famous Three Dancers and even Guernica would have been impossible without the breakthrough achieved in Les Desmoiselles. And there were many other artists also directly influenced by African art: Brancusi, the pioneer of modernist sculpture; Matisse and Modigliani; the German expressionists, and the sculptor Giacometti ..

This was part of an even wider turn toward non-european sources of inspiration which ranged from the enthusiasm for Japanese prints of the Impressionists and Van Gogh, Gauguin’s physical migration first to Brittany and then to Tahiti, Henri Rousseau’s “primitivist” evocations of jungle scenes, Henry Moore’s inspiration by Mayan sculpture to Jackson Pollock’s influence by Native American (Navajo) sand pouring in his “drip” paintings.

Art versus War

Art versus War

Art and war represent opposite poles of history and society: the creative versus the destructive, the human versus the inhuman, yet throughout the history of so-called ‘civilisation’ art ahas been dominated by society’s rulers (“The class that controls the means of material production control also the means of mental production” – Karl Marx) and consequently has been used since the pharohs and the ancient greeks to glorify war and it’s victors. Occasionally this tradition has produced a masterpiece such as Paulo Ucelo’s The Battle of San Romano (c. 1450), which celebrates Florance’s triumph over it’s nearby rival Sienna. But what distinguishes this painting is it’s superb combination of form and colour and it’s pioneering development of perspective, not it’s depiction of war.

In the main, however the glorification of war has resulted in an abundance of mediocre hackwork: countless kings on horseback pretending to be about to fight; innumerable ‘heroic’ commanders dying nobly. Victorian Britain specialised in imperialist art – spectacular cavalry charges mowing down the natives and such like – most of it painted badly.

In the 20th century the pattern changes and art, serious art at least, develops much more as a critic and opponant of war. But before discussing this we must go back to the early 19th century to the first, and perhaops still the greatest, of all anti-war artists, Francisco Goya.

Goya’s great painting The Third of May 1808, shows the execution of Spanish peasant insurgents by the occupying French army. The firing squad, whose shoulders are hunched and faces obscured, appear anonymous and ruthless. The central peasant figure, is bathed in light and flings out his arms in a christ-like gesture. All the sympathy of the painting is with the peasant victims.

Even more powerful are his series of private etchings The Disasters of War, which depict scenes of hand to hand fighting and atrocities from the ensuing peasant guerilla war, some of which Goya probably witnessed personally. With almost unbearable honesty Goya shows us the hanged and garroted, the castrated, mutilated and impaled – the true horror of war, observed close-up – as never before or since.

Goya’s anti-war art remained an isolated case for a hundred years. War was not a central theme in the major art of the 19th century, but a relavent and important development did take place. From about 1848 onwards the best artists (Corbet, Manet, Cezanne etc) detached themselves from state and aristocratic patronage and turned to what might be called radical avantgardism – Impressionism, Symbolism, Experssionism, Cubism, Futurism and so on.

This prepared the ground for the real turning point in art’s relationship to war, namely World War One. Several factors combined to produce a wave of anti-war art across Europe. First there was the sheer scale of the slaughter. Mass conscription and the appaling death toll of up to 16 million meant that the war touched the lives of everyone in society in a way that was historically unoprecedented. One consequence of this was that numerous artists and poets were called up and so experienced the war at first hand with a number of them being killed in the conflict e.g the French poet Apollinaire, the Italian painter Boccione, and the English poets Rupert Brooke and Wilfred Owen.

The perculiarly dreadful nature of trench warfare with thousands of lives sacrificed for a few yards of wasteland meant that any halfway realistic depiction of the war looked like anti-war propaganda. A good example of this is Henry Tonks’ Studies in Facial Wounds. (1916). Tonks, an art school professor, made a series of pastel drawings of soldiers with facial wounds for medical purposes. The portraits are so horrific as to by themselves constitute an indictment of the war. Finally there was the fact that there existed a determined opposition to the war armed with a fierce and cohearant politcal critique of the whole enterprise. This opposition – Lenin, Luxomburg, Liebknicht, Maclean etc – was tiny and isolated at first but rapidly gained support as the war dragged on and this could not fail to influence the artists.

The result was such a rich legacy of anti-war art that no justice can be done to it in a short article. The sorrow of war widows, the grimness of the trenches, the terror of bombardment and the suffering of the gassed and maimed were all dramatically depicted by artists as varied as Kathe Kolwitz, Willy Jaekel, Max Beckmann, Otto Dix, George Grosz, Christopher Nevinson, John and Paul Nash, John Singer Sargent and many others. Some of the most powerful work appeared in the aftermath of the war. I will mention just three examples. Without showing a single corpse or casualty Paul Nash encapsulates all the horror of the war in the multilated trees and tortured earth of his ironically entitled landscape We Are Making a New World (1918). Otto Dix’s Scat Players (1920) shows in close up three ex-serviceman playing cards – a soldier, sailor and airman – each hideously maimed and scarred. George Grosz invokes not only pity but also rage and directs it at the capitalist class responsible for the war in his savage satire These War Invalids are Getting to Be a Posivive Pest.

Of course it was the revolt of ordinary soldiers and workers, above all in Russia, that led the struggle against the war but there is no doubt that these artworks together with the war poetry of Wilfred Owen and others, played a significant role in imprinting a negative view of the war in the public imagination.

World War One also produced a revolt by anti-war artists which took a completely different form. In neutral Zurich, near where Lenin was at the time, were a small group of extreme avant-gardists – Tristan Tzara, Hugo Ball, Kurt Schwitters, Richard Huelsenbeck and others. Disgusted an enraged by the disaster engulfing Europe they turned against the “culture” and “civilisation” which they believed had produced the catastrophe. They endevoured to produce an art that was “anti-art” and “anti-culture”, that would provoke, mock and undermine the bourgois cultural establishment. They gave it the nonsense name “Dada”. Dadaism was a glorious failure. It could not have been otherwise. The bougoisie was shocked but not shaken and the war machine continued remorselessly, no more deflected from it’s path than a charging elephant by the bite of a gnat. Nevertheless dada did have an important long term influence on the development of art, paving the way for Surrealism and feeding into the work of Marcel Duchamp. It is also interesting to note that this period saw the production of the one great painting of the 20th century that could be described as enthusiastically pro-war – but of course it was a very different war. El Lissitsky’s Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge was in support of the red army’s defence of the Russian revolution. This is one of the outstanding works of the great flowering of revolutionary culture in Russia before it was strangled by the death hand of the stalinist dictatorship. In the inter-war period, European culture, like European society, tended to polarise between far right and far left. The majority of visual artists tended to support the left and anti-war art merged with anti-fascist art. There are two outstanding figures: John Heartfield and Pablo Picasso. Heartfield was german artist who adopted an english name during the first world war as a protest against anti-english propaganda. He was a communist who did much of his work for AIZ (Worker’s Illustrated Gazette). His major contribution was the development of the technique of photo-montage, the combining of several photographic images to produce a new art image. This technique is clearly particularly useful for art with a direct political message and has often been used subsequently (see below). Heartfield’s principal target was Hitler and he produced devastating posters such as Hither Swallows Gold and Spouts Junk and Million Stand Behind Me.

However he also created two especially powerful works which though certainly anti-fascist have a much more universal anti-war resonance. The first is the famous image of a dove of peace impaled on a bayonet. The second depicts five war planes high in the sky; from their tails flow five smoke trails which form five boned fingers and then merge into the palm of a skeletal hand. On the ground below lie the bodies of the dead and beneath them the caption Das Is Das Heil, Das Sie Bringen.

Picasso, of course, made Guernica, the most celebrated anti-war painting in history and probably the most famous painting of any kind in the 20th century. Provoked by the distruction of the basque town of Guernica by the Luftwaffe in the spanish civil war (the first instance of arial bombing of civillians) it is a symbolic response rather than a naturalistic representation of the event. This led to some debate at the time as to whether a social-realist rendering would have been more accessible to the masses, but this question seems to have been settled by history: no realist painting has reached half the people that Guernica has. The symbols deployed by Picasso – the bull, the mother with the dead child in her arms, the screaming horse, the fallen soldier with his broken sword – have a universal character. They make the painting not only an immensely powerful protest about a specific war crime but a protest against the horror of war and man’s inhumanity to man in general. Considerable use was made of Guernica in the recent campain against the Iraq war: “No To War” badges were made of the mother and dead child image and a british socialist newspaper reproduced Guernica across it’s front page in response to the destruction of Fallujah.

In contrast to World War One, World War Two produced little war or anti-war art of quality. One reason for this was simply that there was no artistic freedom either in stalinist Russia or in Nazi occupied Europe. Many of Europe’s leading artists fled to America but in Britan and the USA most artists supported the war, because of the nature of the Nazi enemy, and this inhibited them from depicting it’s awful reality. After 1945 the tradition of anti-war art was at least partially revived. Picasso’s association with the communist led peace movement led him to produce many variations on his theme of the dove as symbol of peace, images which are still used by today’s peace campaigners, and a major painting Massacre in Korea which echoed the hunched firing squad of Goya’s Third of May.

WHAMM! (1963) By the american pop artist, Roy Lichtenstein, was a huge blow-up of a comicbook image of a US fighter blasting an enemy plane. It was politically ambigious but was at least open to the interpretation that it was an ironic expose of debased gung-ho american attitudes to war, and was adapted to make this point by campaigners against the first gulf war. Also Andy Warhol made a frightening image of an A-bomb mushroom cloud with devil’s horns. In Britain in the 70s and 80s Peter Kennard revived Heartfield’s photo-montage technique to produce powerful images in the cause of peace and nuclear disarmament, most memorably through the incorporation of cruise missiles into John Constable’s famous landscape The Haywain. Both the painters appointed as Britain’s official war artists for the Gulf and Balkan wars, John Keane and Peter Hausen respectively adopted a critical stance (though personally, I dislike Hausen’s work). The current war in Iraq has generated an upsurge in grass roots anti-war art in Britain (the only country I have detailed information about) in forms ranging from the conceptual (a tank of mixed blood and oil) to sculptural charicatures of Bush and Blair. Even Tracy Emin, whose normal themes are autobiographical and sexual, has made some anti-war pieces. And, again in the tradition of John Heartfield, Leon Kuhn working closely with the anti-war movement has used photomontage to pillory Bush and Blair. His most telling image depicts Bush as a dog flying through the air like a B52, with Blair dragged behind clasping his leash and the caption “Mad Dogs and Englishmen…” (from the famous english song “Mad Dogs and Englishmen Go Out in the Midday Sun”).

For the best part of a hundred years the struggle against imperialist war has been absolutely central to the international struggle for a better world. What this brief, and massively incomplete, survey shows is that visual art along with all other art forms has a small but significan role to play in this struggle. Art has the power to move, to inspire, to educate, to win hearts and minds, to express pain and focus anger. Of course, by itself, the greatest art is far from enough, or Heartfield and Picasso would have defeated Hitler and Franco. But every political movement needs it’s artistic wing with politics and art feeding into each other to their mutual benefit.


Francisco Goya, The Third of May 1808 (1813)

Francisco Goya This is Worse from Disasters of War (1812-13)

Paul Nash We are Building a New World (1918)

Otto Dix The Skatplayers (1920)

George Grosz These War Invalids are Becoming a Positive Pest (1920)

El Lissitsky Beat the Whites with the Red Wedge (1920)

John Heartfield This is the Salvation, Which They Bring (1934)

Pablo Picasso Guernica (1937)

Pablo Picasso Massacre in Korea (1952)

Roy Lichtenstein WHAAM! (1963)

Peter Kennard “The Haywain”

Leon Kuhn Mad Dogs and Englishmen (2003)

How Workers are Exploited


How Workers are Exploited

In my last column I showed how for Marx classes and class struggle are created and shaped by exploitation. This reverses the way the matter is usually seen – that first classes exist and then, every now and again, one class exploits the other. It is also the case that Marx’s concept of exploitation differs fundamentally from what it is the dominant conception in our society.

According to the dominant conception exploitation is either mainly a thing of the past – eg child labour was exploited in the Industrial Revolution – or exists today only by way of exception , practiced by rogue employers who pay especially low wages. For Marx, however, exploitation is the norm not the exception. Even relatively well paid workers employed by so-called ‘good’, even ‘generous’ employers are, nevertheless , exploited. Exploitation is inherent in the capitalist wage labour relation.

‘How can this be?’ cry the employers and their supporters with one voice. ‘When we employ workers it is a fair exchange, wages for work, and a voluntary contract freely entered into by both parties. Indeed they should be grateful to us for providing them with work and if they don’t like it, let them go and work somewhere else.’

In reality this argument is false from beginning to end. Capitalists do not ‘provide work’ or ‘create jobs’. There was work before capitalism and there will be work after capitalism. Jobs, i.e. tasks that require performing, arise from human needs, and with 6 billion people on the planet, who all need feeding, clothing, housing, educating etc. etc. there is absolutely no shortage of work for those 6 billion to do. What the capitalists actually do, through their ownership and control of the means of production, is make it impossible for most people to work except by working for them. Nor, of course, do they employ people out of charity or civic duty, but in order to make a profit i.e. expand the value of their capital.

But how is this profit made? Where does it come from? Obviously by not paying the workers enough. But how are the capitalists able to get away with this daylight robbery, day after day, year after year, decade after decade and why does it all look so fair on the surface? It was one of Marx’s greatest intellectual achievements to answer all these questions and to demonstrate that beneath the façade of a ‘fair exchange’ lay the systematic extraction of unpaid labour from the workers.

The starting point of Marx’s answer is that under capitalism workers’ ability to work, their labour power, is sold as a commodity like every other commodity. The value of a commodity ( value is not the same as price but is the underlying point around which actual prices oscillate) is determined, Marx says, by the amount of socially necessary labour time required to produce it. The reason a loaf of bread sells for $1, while a shirt sells for $20 and a car for $10,000 is, in the final analysis, that it takes 10,000 times as many hours of labour (with current levels of technology) to make a car, and 20 times as many to make a shirt, as it does to make a loaf of bread.

Not surprisingly, bourgeois economists deny this ‘labour theory of value’, but in practice all capitalists know it, if only by instinct. Consider a capitalist who consistently sold his products below their value – he would run at a loss and soon go out of business. Now consider one who tried to sell his products above their value – sooner or later a rival capitalist would be able to undersell him and he would again go out of business. Competition, therefore, forces capitalists to sell their products at prices which fluctuate around their value measured in labour time.

Now apply this to the commodity of labour power and it follows that the value of labour power – its wages- is determined by the amount of labour time socially necessary to produce it, i.e. to rear, feed, clothe, train etc. the worker so that s/he is able to work. But if labour power is bought and sold like any other commodity, there is one vital respect in which it differs from all other commodities: it is creative – in action it produces more value than was required to produce it. The difference, this surplus value as Marx called it, is pocketed by the capitalist and is the ultimate source of all profit.

What it means is that the worker who works 8 hours a day, 40 hours a week, and is paid $40 dollars a day, $200 dollars a week, produces goods or services equal to their wages in say, 5 hours a day, 25 hours a week and in reality works 3 hours a day, 15 hours a week, unpaid. Unpaid labour – exploitation in its strictest sense – is, therefore, alive and well under capitalism today, just as much as it was under slavery or feudalism or in the early Industrial Revolution.

Marx’s theory of surplus value is of immense significance. It exposes the ideological, self – serving nature of the capitalist view of wage labour and opens the door to the scientific analysis of the laws of motion of the capitalist economy. But it does something else as well: it shows that at the heart of capitalist production lies a direct and irreconcilable conflict of interest. The longer the working day the greater the proportion of unpaid labour and of surplus value for the capitalist. The shorter the working day the lower the proportion of unpaid labour. The lower the level of wages, the higher the level of profit. The higher the wages, the lower the profits. Wages and profits, therefore :

…stand in inverse ratio to each other. Capital’s exchange value, profit, rises in the same proportion as labour’s share, wages, falls, and vice versa. Profit rises to the extent that wages fall; it falls to the extent that wages rise… the interests of capital and the interests of wage labour are diametrically opposed . (Karl Marx, Wage Labour and Capital)

This is how Marx’s theory of exploitation underpins his theory of class and class struggle.

John Molyneux

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Review of 'Marxism and the History of Art'


Andrew Hemingway (ed), Marxism and the History of Art, Pluto Press, London 2006.

As a discipline art history has long been characterized by snobbery and elitism. For the ruling class it has been seen as a soft (harmless?) option for its less able sons and daughters. In this it has mirrored the elitism of the art world generally, which an ‘anti- philistine’ section of the bourgeoisie has made it its business to hegemonise, partly through big money (Rockefeller, Guggenheim, Saatchi etc) and partly through a small detachment of genuine ‘experts’ or ‘ connoisseurs’ ( Bernard Berenson, Kenneth Clark, Brian Sewell, even Anthony Blunt in his way).

Despite this the twentieth century saw a number of highly sophisticated Marxist scholars make a major contribution to the development of the subject. Inevitably they tended to be marginalized and neglected, frequently having to work in very difficult circumstances , both East and West. The radicalization of academia in the sixties and seventies brought the emergence and reemergence of some of them to a temporary prominence, but the swing to the right in the eighties and after, with the collapse of communism and the turn to postmodernism , has sidelined them once again.

With this book, and a series of other initiatives, Andrew Hemingway ( working in concert with other contemporary Marxist art historians) is seeking to ensure that this rich legacy is not thrown on the scrap heap but survives to contribute to the debates of today an tomorrow.

The book is a collection of essays, all written by people at least very sympathetic to Marxism, on such figures as Lifshits, Antal, Klingender, Raphael, Lukacs, Hauser, Schapiro, Lefebvre, Benjamin, Adorno and others. Most of the essays present their subject by means of a combination of biographical material with an overview of their main ideas. Some, such as John Roberts’ discussion of ‘the ideal spectator’ and Hemingway’s account of ‘New Left Art History’ are more thematic in approach.

The central issue covered, from a variety of angles, is the debate, which ran through Marxist art history as through the wider society, over modernism – modernism versus classicism, versus bourgeois or social realism, and versus socialist realism. On balance the book comes down – just about, I think – on the side of modernism. Particularly interesting in this context are Stanley Mitchell’s contributions on the ‘Marxist conservative’ Mikhail Lifshits and the humanist, somewhat mystical, Max Raphael.

Slightly out of kilter with the rest of the collection, but very welcome (to me), is Caroline Arscott’s chapter on William Morris which discusses his engagement with so-called ‘primitive’ art. Morris is not usually considered in such company, but I consider that his ideas on art, especially his notion of ‘pleasure in labour’ as the fount of art, are one of the most valuable elements in his multi-faceted work and deserve more attention.

One of the stated aims of this book is to ‘plug a gap’ by providing, in a single volume, an overview of the Marxist art history tradition for students who wish to study it and lecturers who wish to teach it. Overall it succeeds in its aim and will undoubtedly prove useful to its intended readers. Nevertheless I have some reservations.

First, the general reader should be warned that the focus is heavily methodological ( though the language is not too obscure) and one learns relatively little about art as such. Second , there are some surprising omissions – for example, no account of John Berger, and T.J. Clark discussed only in passing – perhaps the result of the exaggerated academic prestige in some quarters of the continental Europeans. Third, there is a tendency to an attitude of ‘beleaguered pessimism’ which is reflective of the milieu of the contributors more than the state of the movement and resistance in the wider world.

Finally I was left with the conclusion that artists influenced by Marxism and socialism – there have been many – have generally been considerably ahead of the Marxist art historians. But perhaps that is as it should be.

John Molyneux
September 2006

The Meaning of Class

As we saw in the last of these columns the concept of class struggle played a crucial role in Marx’s theory of history. For Marx class struggle was the main driving force in history and the means by which one mode of production is transformed into another, for example feudalism into capitalism or capitalism into socialism. But what is meant by class?

In modern capitalist society this question has become very confused, and not accidentally so. On the one hand the term is very widely used – in the media, in literature and in daily life – because the existence of layers of people with very unequal amounts of wealth, and widely differing life styles and opportunities is so obvious that it cannot be denied. On the other hand our rulers have a massive interest in ensuring that people, especially working people, do not develop a clear understanding of it, do not, in other words, develop class consciousness.

Consequently, for more than a century, the ruling class has been happy to fund academics (particularly sociologists) and pundits to come up with a variety of theories and concepts of class. They have not minded very much about the content of these theories on one condition – that they disputed and ‘refuted’ the Marxist theory of class, the only one they really feared.

The principal strategy in this ideological mystification has been to treat class as essentially a subjective matter, a question of how people see their own and others’ position in the social structure and how they define their own class identity. Max Weber, the early 20th century sociologist who is the key intellectual figure in much of this debate, focused primarily on ‘status’ and ‘status groups’, rather than economic class, as being the main factors in social action, with status defined as prestige in the eyes of others.

Even when class is defined by occupation, as is the case in many governmental and sociological statistics, which appears to be an objective criterion, the ranking of the occupations – for example teachers as middle class, mechanics as working class – is done on the subjective basis of presumed status.

Treating class as subjective makes the concept highly unstable, varying from year to year, decade to decade, country to country, and also opens the door to regular claims that class divisions have disappeared or are no longer important, and that viewing politics in class terms is out of date.

By contrast Marxism, though obviously concerned with class consciousness, insists that class divisions are objective – they exist in the structure of society independently of people’s awareness or conception of them. For Marx, class divisions derive from and are based on the relations of production in society. Often this is expressed in the phrase ‘class is defined by relationship to the means of production’, usually with the rider that ‘it is a question of ownership or non- ownership’. But, although it points in the right direction, this formulation is inadequate and can be misleading. Slave owners, feudal lords and capitalists are all owners of the means of production but they are three different classes. Similarly, in modern society, neither a middle manager in Samsung nor a shop floor worker are owners of the means of production but they are not both members of the same class.

A fuller understanding of the Marxist theory of class requires a grasp of three points. First, that the relations of production of society form a totality, a definite system of production, and classes are defined by the roles they play in the system as a whole. It is necessary to start from the system as a whole, not from individual cases.

Second, that classes are a matter not only of relations between people and things (means of production – land, machines, factories etc.) but also of social relations between people; classes are formed in conflict with one another.

Third, that what drives the conflict is not envy or different life styles or even just inequality, but exploitative relations of production, that is the systematic extraction of a surplus (profit) by one group of people from the labour of another group. Class struggle derives from exploitation in the process of production and from there extends to every aspect of social life.

It is the concept of exploitation ( to be explained further in my next column) which differentiates the Marxist theory of class and which is absent from all the bourgeois, liberal and sociological accounts. Exploitation creates an objective conflict of interests – first over pay, hours of work, conditions etc. and then over housing, health, education, law and order, foreign policy (warfare versus welfare) and so on.

Apply this analysis to modern capitalist society and, with some important local variations, we find essentially the same class structure in all developed countries.

At the top, stands the ruling or capitalist class, which owns or controls the major means of production, and lives on the profits it makes from the employment of wage labour. Not every member of the ruling class, e.g .some top politicians and state officials, is personally involved in the employment and profit making, but they are all tied into it and depend on it.

In opposition to them stands the majority, the working class, who live by the sale of their labour power and are exploited by the capitalist class. The working class includes both manual and white collar workers – nurses and teachers as well as dockers and car workers. If people live primarily by the sale of their labour power they are part of the working class whether they work in mines and factories or call centers and colleges.

Between these two main classes stand various intermediate strata, commonly called the middle class, who shade into the ruling class at their upper levels and the working class at their lower levels. There are two strands in the middle class, both hierarchically organized. On the one hand, small business owners, the petty bourgeoisie, who are either self employed or employ a few workers. On the other, managers. Managers may appear to be working class in that they do not own the means of production and are paid wages or salaries, but in fact they are not paid to work as such and are not exploited, they are paid to manage and enforce the exploitation of the workers under their control. Such managers exist not only in private companies, but also in schools, hospitals, and the state bureaucracy.

It is the struggle between the capitalist class and the working class that shapes the basic political terrain in modern society. The middle classes play an important role – the ruling class cannot run society without them – but politically they tend to vacillate between the two main classes according to which is exerting the stronger ‘gravitational pull’.

In many less developed countries there is another large class, the peasantry, which plays a significant role in production and politics, but even where the peasantry are still a majority, it is usually the battle between capitalists and workers which is decisive. And on a world scale it is absolutely clear that it is the struggle between the international bourgeoisie and the international proletariat that will determine the fate of humanity,

John Molyneux
September 13, 2006

How Society Changes

As I explained in the last column Marx’s theory of history centred on production. The way a society organizes the production of the necessities of life constitutes its mode of production, the economic base which shapes its superstructure- its law, politics, religion, philosophy, morality, art etc.

But how does one mode of production change into another? For Marx, himself, and for us today, for everyone who is anti-capitalist, i.e. wants to get rid of the capitalist mode of production, this is the crucial question.

To answer it we must go back to the fact that Marx distinguished two aspects of production: the forces and relations of production. It is the interaction and conflict between these which lays the basis for fundamental social change.

The forces of production are the capacity of a society to produce goods: its resources, labour, knowledge and technology. Examples include: the spears and bows and arrows of stone age hunters; the ox or horse drawn ploughs of the medieval farmer; the textile mills, spinning jennies and steam trains of the industrial revolution; the production lines, power stations and computers of modern industry.

The relations of production are the social relation people enter into in the process of producing. They range from the primitive communist clan of hunters and gatherers, to slave owners and slaves of Ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome, to landlords and serfs or peasants, to capitalist employers and wage workers today.

Marx argues that it is the level of development of the forces of production that shapes the relations of production. ‘ The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; the steam mill society with the industrial capitalist’. The forces of production, however, tend to grow, by no means evenly or at a uniform rate, but over time they tend to advance as human beings discover ways to produce more effectively. At a certain stage in their development the forces of production come into conflict with the existing relations of production (which are also society’s property relations). While at first these relations had assisted the growth of the productive forces, they now become an obstacle, a ‘ fetter’ on their further development. Then , says Marx, ‘ there begins an epoch of social revolution’.

When this contradiction sets in the whole of society is thrown into prolonged crisis. The old ways of doing things no longer work. The old ideas and established institutions start to lose their authority. New critical and revolutionary ideas start to emerge. The crisis is only resolved when a new mode of production with new relations of production is established and society is able to move forward.

This, in essence, was what happened in the transition from feudalism to capitalism in Europe and is what lies behind the general crisis of capitalism today, now operating on a world scale. It is why, despite the existence of productive forces easily capable of supplying everyone on the planet with a decent living, thousands of millions suffer poverty, malnutrition and homelessness. It is why we are beset with endless conflict and wars and why we are threatened with environmental catastrophe. It is a crisis that will be ended only with the establishment of a new mode of production – socialism.

Put just like this ( and, for various reasons, Marx did sometimes put it this way) the whole process can sound mechanical and automatic – economically determined and independent of human action. But nothing could be further from the truth and nothing further from Marx’s real meaning. This is because the conflict between the forces and relations of production is also a conflict between social classes.

Ever since the end of primitive communist hunter-gatherer society, the relations of production have been, at the same time, class relations, relations of exploitation and oppression in which one class ( the class which owns and controls the main means of production) is the dominant or ruling class – in Ancient Society the slave owners, in feudalism the landed aristocracy, in capitalism the bourgeoisie. This class has a vested interest in the existing order which is the basis of its power and privileges. Faced with a challenge from developing productive forces it does not at all say ‘ Our time is up. Let us vacate the stage gracefully’. On the contrary it fights bitterly to defend the status quo - ‘ our way of life’ or ‘ civilisation as we know it’, as they say.

The developing forces of production are also linked to and produce a definite class – under feudalism the growth of manufacture and trade gave rise to the bourgeoisie, under capitalism modern industry gives birth to the working class or proletariat. The resolution of the crisis, and the fate of humanity, depends on the outcome of the struggle between the old ruling class and the new rising class.

This is anything but pre-determined.. In Europe the failure of the bourgeois revolution in Italy and Germany in the 16th century set those countries back three hundred years – they did not even achieve national unification until the 19th century. In China ( and by extension Korea) the old imperial order was able to suppress the development of capitalism with the consequence that they entered the 20th century as deeply impoverished, perennial victims of imperialism. The defeat of the workers’ revolution in Germany in 1918-23 led to the rise of Stalin and Hitler and was paid for in blood by more than 70 million people.

The ruling class has much on its side, wealth, tradition, ideology and in particular state power, which has been fashioned specifically for the purpose of holding down the oppressed classes. The struggle of the revolutionary class has to be both an economic and a political struggle, a struggle for state power. Victory in the struggle depends on political consciousness, mobilization and organization. A significant part of that is what we, as activists, do now.

John Molyneux
19 August 2006

Their History and Ours

In the first five of these columns I have set out some of Marx’s key political ideas on the working class, capitalism, revolution and internationalism. Although these ideas are important in themselves, they also form part of a wider system of thought, Marx’s theory of history which is usually called ‘historical materialism’.

Historical materialism is the backbone of Marxism as a whole. It provides an overview of the whole of human history from the Old Stone Age to the modern era and it is the method used by Marxists to analyse not only past events like the French Revolution and the Second World War, but also current developments such as the rise of China and the Lebanon War. And its not just a theory but also a guide to action.

Some people will say why bother with a theory of history at all, why not just stick to the facts. But this is an illusion. In history, indeed on any day in history, there are an infinite number of ‘facts’, of things that happen. ANY account of history, whether it admits or not, depends on a general theory in order to decide which facts are important for human development and which are not and what are the likely relations between these facts.

Mainstream history, the kind that dominates in the media and in school, is mainly based on the ‘theory’ that what shapes history is, first and foremost, the actions of powerful individuals – emperors, kings, politicians, generals and the like – particularly the battles they fought, the policies they pursued and the laws they passed. This theory, fairly obviously, expresses the standpoint of the ruling classes who naturally assume that it is they who make history.

An alternative theory, popular with intellectuals, is that history is shaped primarily by ideas – either the ideas of great philosophers like Plato, Aristotle , Confucius etc. or disembodied ideas like ‘order’, ‘nationalism’, ‘democracy’, ‘economic growth’ which mysteriously capture society at various times and express the ‘spirit of the age’. The great weakness of this approach is that it fails to explain where these ideas come from or why they arise when they do.

Then there is an approach which appeals especially to academics. It denies that history is driven by any single factor. Rather it says that history is shaped by various different ‘factors’ – a bit of economics, a bit of politics, an element of class, an element of religion and so on. In recent years ‘race’ and ‘gender’ are often added to the list. This method, sometimes called ‘pluralism’, sometimes ‘postmodernism’, suits those who do not want to make up their minds or take sides, but want to present their ideas as unbiased, sophisticated and profound. Its defect is that it explains neither how the different ‘factors’ arise nor how they interact – it simultaneously explains everything and nothing.

What unites all these approaches is that they tend to view society and history from the top down. Marx’s theory of history is quite different: it is history from below, from the standpoint of the working class, and openly acknowledges itself to be so. It does not deny that the deeds and ideas of powerful individuals play a role in history but it does not begin with them. It begins with the everyday actions, the work, of the many millions of ordinary working people struggling to make a life for themselves.
Historical materialism is not only more radical than the various mainstream, i.e. bourgeois, theories, it is also more coherent and more scientific. This is because it starts where history has to start, with real human individuals and their needs and what they do to meet those needs. ‘ The first premise of all history’, writes Marx, ‘ is that men must be in a position to live in order to “make history”. But life involves before anything else eating, drinking, clothing, a habitation and many other things.’ Of course animals also have material needs but the difference is that humans produce their means of subsistence through social labour.

Historical materialism, therefore, focuses first on production: on the technical means through which it is achieved, which Marx calls the forces of production, and the social relations between which it involves, which Marx calls the relations of production. Together the forces and relations of production form definite modes of production or economic systems, such as ancient slave society, feudalism and capitalism.

The mode of production, Marx argues, constitutes the ‘real foundation’ or economic base of society ‘on which arises a legal and political superstructure’ and which ‘conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness’.

Marx’s insight here turns upside down the way these things are usually put. To give some examples: we do not live in a capitalist society because people believe in capitalist ideas, people believe in capitalism because we live in a capitalist society (which began to develop spontaneously out of the soil of feudalism long before it was conceptualized by anyone); the Atlantic slave trade and western imperialism were not caused by racism, rather racism was caused by the slave trade and imperialism, which were part of the expansion of capitalism. Or, to be absolutely contemporary, Islamophobia is not the cause but the consequence of US imperialism’s desire to control Middle Eastern and Central Asian energy supplies.

It is important to point out that Marx was able to have these insights – so invaluable for understanding both past history and current politics – because he had already grasped the revolutionary potential of the working class. How he developed them into a full blown theory of social change and revolution will be discussed in the next column.

John Molyneux