Adjustah over at BravoZulu.bm, who has kindly advertised my blog on his site, has described me as a self-described communist, and Christian Dunleavy over at Politics.bm in January referred to me as Bermuda’s resident Marxist. Personally, I don’t have any problems with these descriptions, I would call myself both a Marxist and a communist. But what exactly do these labels mean? There are after all certain preconceived notions that many people hold about these terms – to be blunt most people think of the Soviet Union, the People’s Republic of China, North Korea and Cuba when these terms are bandied about. Personally, I do not consider these states to be either Marxist or Communist States in anything other than name and rhetoric.
So, what do I mean by Marxism, or Communism? What exactly do I advocate if I don’t consider the aforementioned countries communist/Marxist?
Both the so called ‘communist’ countries and their enemies had good reason to use the term communist. The ‘communist’ countries often came into existence through legitimate workers revolution, with the ideology of Marxism being a key expression of the revolutionary workers. That the resulting bureaucratic totalitarian state was not communist or bore any relation other than superficialities to the Marxist conceptions of communism, led the new ‘leaders’ of these regimes to fear a libertarian revolution against their bureaucratic regime. It was useful for these leaders to cloak their own anti-Marxist existence with the rhetoric of communism, of Marxism – essentially to ‘pull the wool over the eyes’ of those they could, to shore up international support for their States (often from legitimate Marxists, communists and socialists, who had they been in these authoritarian states would have been ‘disappeared’ with accusations of Left Communism, Anarchists or Counter-Revolutionaries), and the indoctrination of the new generations who did not remember pre-communist times or the revolution itself. The enemies of these states benefited in calling the self-proclaimed communist states ‘communist’ in that they could essentially smear or distort the ideology of Marxism as one of dictatorship, of authoritarianism. Those who could clearly see that the USSR or the PRC were ruthless regimes became confused and largely resigned themselves into apathy.
Names are forever used to fool the masses; it is much easier to accept pigeonholed labels that communism equals State socialism, propaganda, purges and dictatorship. Only in name under State socialism (which may arguably be called State capitalism) did the workers rule, were the workers the masters of their labour, the masters of the ‘peoples’ State. Socialism/Communism does not mean the nationalisation of production and nothing more; it does not mean ‘more goulash for everyone’ as Khrushchev so famously vulgarised Marxism. Yes, ensuring that production increases, that people are freed from want, this is all part of what socialism/communism calls for. But with the economic revolution (nationalisation and rationalisation of production) one must also call for a political and social revolution. Under State socialism, the workers were not free, they were ruled by an Party elite which formed the bureaucratic apparatus, with managers appointed from above due to Party connections as opposed to technical skill. This conception of society, of ‘socialism from above’ developed right out of the Leninist model of organisation with its concept of the vanguard, that the workers themselves could not rule, that the Party must rule in the name and interests of the workers. Under State socialism the basic underlying fabric of capitalism, of capitalist mentality, continued with leaders and led, with managers and exploited workers. As von Hayek wrote, it was a new serfdom.
Socialism/Communism cannot be realised by decree, or by an elite Party working in the name of the workers. It can only be achieved from below, by the workers themselves. All ‘leaders’ must be mandated delegates subject to the right of recall. All information must be transparent and readily available for scrutiny. No ‘leader’ must receive wages greater than the average wage of a skilled worker. Socialism/communism is above all about freedom and the ability of humans to realise their full potential. This is not obtainable under capitalism, and it certainly isn’t obtainable under State socialism. Only with full freedom of expression, with total democratic control of both the economic and political structures of society, along with a continuous assault against those social traditions that contain an inherent germ of authoritarianism (sexism, racism, sectarianism) can one even begin to achieve socialism. The subtitle of this site is ‘for workers power’ which means I stand for workers self-control of the economy and society.
So, am I communist, a Marxist? Yes. But am I a supporter of State socialism? No. If one must use labels, then call me a Marxist-Luxemburgist, or a libertarian socialist. But names are just names, rhetoric is just rhetoric. What counts is whether ones actions are in line with what one says one believes in. That is the key.