The Vulgarisation of Marxism by the Opportunists: The State and Revolution

by Vladimir Lenin

The question of the relation of the state to the social revolution, and of the social revolution to the state, like the question of revolution generally, was given very little attention by the leading theoreticians and publicists of the Second International (1889-1914). But the most characteristic thing about the process of the gradual growth of opportunism that led to the collapse of the Second International in 1914 is the fact that even when these people were squarely faced with this question they tried to evade it or ignored it.

In general, it may be said that evasiveness over the question of the relation of the proletarian revolution to the state–an evasiveness which benefited and fostered opportunism–resulted in the distortion of Marxism and in its complete vulgarization.

To characterize this lamentable process, if only briefly, we shall take the most prominent theoreticians of Marxism: Plekhanov and Kautsky.

1. Plekhanov’ s Controversy with the Anarchists

Plekhanov wrote a special pamphlet on the relation of anarchism to socialism, entitled Anarchism and Socialism, which was published in German in 1894.

Georgi Plekhanov

In treating this subject, Plekhanov contrived completely to evade the most urgent, burning, and most politically essential issue in the struggle against anarchism, namely, the relation of the revolution to the state, and the question of the state in general! Continue reading

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What is really going on in Hungary? Information for the communist and workers’ parties of the world

Presidium, Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party

On the 1st of January 2012 a new constitution came into force in Hungary. In connection with it the Western press has published many materials saying that what is happening now in Hungary, “leads to impoverishment of people” and ”threatens democracy and tightens the government’s grip on the media and the judiciary despite criticism from Europe and the United States”.

On the 2nd of January a large demonstration took place at the Opera house in Budapest. The official organiser of the demonstration, the newly formed Solidarity movement, has a couple of dozen members. Its leader is the former president of the trade union of army and police servicemen, he himself is a former army officer trained among others in one of the US military institutes.

Behind the demonstration one can find the Hungarian Socialist Party and liberal forces and also the „civil” organisations, formed by them. In this demonstration did not take part any civil organisation which really struggle against poverty, to protect families, against eviction, etc., or for example traditional student organisations? Neither the movements of agricultural workers, nor trade-unions were present. Among the slogans of that demonstration you can find nothing about a new labour code, no protest against the IMF pressure and intervention. The reaction of western media to these events results from the same sources which earlier have supported the former social-liberal government and their austerity policy.

But what is really going on in Hungary?

1. In April 2010 the conservative Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union won the parliamentary elections and replaced the former government of socialist-liberal forces led by the Hungarian Socialist Party (MSZP).

The parliamentary parties consider the elections of 2010 as a turning point in Hungarian history. The Fidesz declares that it was the „beginning of a new revolution”. The socialists and its allies consider it as the „beginning of autocracy and dictatorship”.

2. The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party has the opinion that the real historic change took place not in 2010 but in 1989-1990 when socialism was destroyed in Hungary. It was a capitalist counterrevolution. The power of the working class was replaced by the power of capitalist forces. State owned industrial factories and banks, agricultural collective farms were privatized. Hungary joined the NATO in 1999 and entered the EU in 2004. The capitalist system based on private economy and bourgeois democracy was stabilized.

It was the change from socialism to capitalism that lead to the general impoverishment of the Hungarian people. Hungary has a population of 10 million. 1, 5 million Hungarians live under the poverty line which means that they live of an income less than 200 euros a month. Almost 4 million live of an income of 250 euros per month. The official number of unemployed is 0, 5, in reality there are about 1 million people without any chance to get a job.

The limitation of democracy began not in 2010 but in 1989-1990. Political forces fighting against capitalist system, first of all the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party do not have access to public media. Red star, hammer and sickle – ”as symbols of tyranny” – were banned in 1993. In 2007 the whole leadership of the HCWP was accused of “libel made in public”. Anti-communist campaigns have taken place regardless of which bourgeois party is at the power.

3. The Hungarian capitalist class has different parties to express their interests. On one hand it is the Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Union which expresses the interests of conservative, nationally minded part of the capitalist class. It is traditionally orientated on Germany.

On the other hand there are the Hungarian Socialist Party and the Party „Politics Can Be Different” which represent the liberal and social democratic part of capitalist class. They are closer to the United States and Israel.

The fight between the two parts of Hungarian capitalist class has deep historical roots. Before 1989 there were two main streams of the anti-socialist oppositional movement, the nationally minded conservative line and the liberal tendency. In 1990 the first capitalist government was formed by the conservatives. At the same time the liberals agreed about a long-term cooperation with the Hungarian Socialist Party, a rightwing social democratic party. Many of the leaders of this party are coming from the former socialist period but they fully changed their position and many of them became rich capitalists.

After destroying the socialist system the capitalist forces created a new political structure which existed untill 2010. It was based on the following principles:

– The nationally minded conservative forces and the liberals together with the socialists will rotate in the power.

– None of them can have absolute power.

– They prevent any anti-capitalist forces from entering the parliament.

– All of them will respect obligations in connection with NATO and EU and there will be no discussions on foreign political issues.

All the parliamentary elections between 1990 and 2006 demonstrated a clear equilibrium between the two groups of parties. The situation changed dramatically after 2006. It became clear that the Hungarian capitalism is in deep crisis. It had three main reasons. First, the Hungarian economy fully depends on foreign capital. Second, the Hungarian people are poor, they have exhausted their reserves. Third, corruption became a serious problem, paralyzing the normal functioning of state.

By 2010 the capitalist forces realised that the socialist-liberal forces cannot guarantee the internal stability of capitalism, are not able to prevent social explosions. That’s why they decided to change the socialist-liberal coalition and to open the way before the Fidesz.

The main task of the conservative Fidesz, and its government headed by Viktor Orban was to prevent any developments similar to the events in Greece. The Fidesz won the elections with social slogans (full employment, social security etc.). The majority of the people were deeply unsatisfied with the socialist-liberal government. The Fidesz could easily manipulate them and to get a two-third majority in the new parliament.

4. The conservative government has been realising changes in different directions:

They strengthened their own class-basis. The Fidesz put its people on all positions in the political life, media, and culture. They declared their idea to create a new middle-class.

They satisfied the nationalist forces in Hungary by introducing double-citizenship for people of Hungarian nationality living abroad, introducing new memorial events connected with the Trianon peace-treaty of 1920.

They took a clear turn to conservative and nationalist tradition in politics, culture, and education.

They decided to prevent a social explosion by different means. First, they introduced a new Labour Code which gives very wide rights to the capitalist owners and turns workers practically into slaves. Second, they divided the working masses by giving serious money to railway-workers and raising the minimal salary. Third, they concluded an agreement with the leading confederations of trade unions. They could save their privileges and at the same time gave up real class-struggle.

The new government launched a general anti-communist campaign. In 2010 the Penal Code was changed. They declared that communism and fascism are the same and those who reject the „crimes of communism and fascism” can be sentenced up to 3 years of imprisonment. (Until now there have not been any legal sentences.)

In the last days of 2011 a new law was accepted regulating the process of transition to the new constitution. Among other it declares that the period of socialism (1948-1990) was illegitimate, full of crimes. Leading personalities of the socialist period can be accused and sentenced. Their pensions can be reduced. The law contains a general statement: the contemporary Hungarian Socialist Party as legal successor of the ruling party of the socialist period has responsibility for all what had happened at that time. It is not clear yet what consequences it can lead to.

5. The socialist-liberal forces have launched recently serious counterattack against the government.

The Socialist Party took over many social slogans and demands of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party. They began to use red colour which the traditional colour of communists.

The socialists and the liberals began to create new civil organizations and movements. In October 2011 the Solidarity movement was created with clear pro-socialist orientation.

They introduced a new demand: down with the Orban-government! Their program is to create a new socialist-liberal government.

6. The United States of America has openly interfered into the internal affairs of Hungary. The US ambassador in Budapest criticises openly the official government and supports the position of the socialist-liberal forces. Secretary of State Clinton made the same in her letter on 23 December 2011. The letter was published by the liberal press.

7. The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party considers:

Hungarian capitalism is in crisis. The general crisis of capitalism in Europe makes the Hungarian situation even worse and unpredictable.

The Hungarian capitalist class understands that if the euro system or the EU itself collapses, it will lead to social explosions even more dramatic than in Greece. They understand that people are unsatisfied and many of them consider that socialism was better that the actual capitalism.

Both the conservative and the socialist-liberal groups of capitalist class want to prevent any social explosion. They are different not in their main efforts but in the methods they want to use.

What is now going on in Hungary, it is on one hand a common fight of the capitalist class against the working masses, on the other hand, a struggle between two groups of the capitalist class. Even more it is a struggle between the leading capitalist powers, the US and Germany for European dominancy.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support any of the Bourgeois parties. We declare that the main problems of working people are unemployment, low salaries, high prices, exploitation, and uncertain future. These problems are the consequences of capitalism. The capitalist governments cannot and do not want to solve them.

The only solution of the problems of working people is consequent struggle against capitalism and fight for socialist perspective.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support the mass-demonstrations of the socialist and liberal forces. Their aim is not to change capitalism. Their aim is to change the conservative capitalist government with a socialist-liberal capitalist government.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party does not support the Fidesz either. Their aim is not to create socialist society but to reform and strengthen capitalism.

The Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party considers its obligation to explain people that there is only one way to solve their problem. We should fight against capitalism.

We want to be present everywhere there are working people. We want to help them in small things in order to get their confidence in great things.

We will unveil all efforts of revisionist and opportunist forces which want to manipulate working people and to win them for the social democracy.

There is not any revolutionary situation in Hungary. But things can turn worse in Europe and in Hungary. That’s why we prepare the party, our members and units for more radical class struggle which can happen at any time.

We are convinced that it corresponds to our common position agreed on the 13th International Meeting of Communist and Workers’ Parties.


*note: This document, and many others, are available here on the English version of the Hungarian Communist Workers’ Party website.

On Authority

by Friedrich Engels

A number of Socialists have latterly launched a regular crusade against what they call the principle of authority. It suffices to tell them that this or that act is authoritarian for it to be condemned. This summary mode of procedure is being abused to such an extent that it has become necessary to look into the matter somewhat more closely.

Authority, in the sense in which the word is used here, means: the imposition of the will of another upon ours; on the other hand, authority presupposes subordination. Now, since these two words sound bad, and the relationship which they represent is disagreeable to the subordinated party, the question is to ascertain whether there is any way of dispensing with it, whether — given the conditions of present-day society — we could not create another social system, in which this authority would be given no scope any longer, and would consequently have to disappear.

On examining the economic, industrial and agricultural conditions which form the basis of present-day bourgeois society, we find that they tend more and more to replace isolated action by combined action of individuals. Modern industry, with its big factories and mills, where hundreds of workers supervise complicated machines driven by steam, has superseded the small workshops of the separate producers; the carriages and wagons of the highways have become substituted by railway trains, just as the small schooners and sailing feluccas have been by steam-boats. Even agriculture falls increasingly under the dominion of the machine and of steam, which slowly but relentlessly put in the place of the small proprietors big capitalists, who with the aid of hired workers cultivate vast stretches of land.

Everywhere combined action, the complication of processes dependent upon each other, displaces independent action by individuals. But whoever mentions combined action speaks of organisation; now, is it possible to have organisation without authority?

Supposing a social revolution dethroned the capitalists, who now exercise their authority over the production and circulation of wealth. Supposing, to adopt entirely the point of view of the anti-authoritarians, that the land and the instruments of labour had become the collective property of the workers who use them. Will authority have disappeared, or will it only have changed its form? Let us see.

Let us take by way if example a cotton spinning mill. The cotton must pass through at least six successive operations before it is reduced to the state of thread, and these operations take place for the most part in different rooms. Furthermore, keeping the machines going requires an engineer to look after the steam engine, mechanics to make the current repairs, and many other labourers whose business it is to transfer the products from one room to another, and so forth. All these workers, men, women and children, are obliged to begin and finish their work at the hours fixed by the authority of the steam, which cares nothing for individual autonomy. The workers must, therefore, first come to an understanding on the hours of work; and these hours, once they are fixed, must be observed by all, without any exception. Thereafter particular questions arise in each room and at every moment concerning the mode of production, distribution of material, etc., which must be settled by decision of a delegate placed at the head of each branch of labour or, if possible, by a majority vote, the will of the single individual will always have to subordinate itself, which means that questions are settled in an authoritarian way. The automatic machinery of the big factory is much more despotic than the small capitalists who employ workers ever have been. At least with regard to the hours of work one may write upon the portals of these factories: Lasciate ogni autonomia, voi che entrate! [Leave, ye that enter in, all autonomy behind!]

If man, by dint of his knowledge and inventive genius, has subdued the forces of nature, the latter avenge themselves upon him by subjecting him, in so far as he employs them, to a veritable despotism independent of all social organisation. Wanting to abolish authority in large-scale industry is tantamount to wanting to abolish industry itself, to destroy the power loom in order to return to the spinning wheel.

Let us take another example — the railway. Here too the co-operation of an infinite number of individuals is absolutely necessary, and this co-operation must be practised during precisely fixed hours so that no accidents may happen. Here, too, the first condition of the job is a dominant will that settles all subordinate questions, whether this will is represented by a single delegate or a committee charged with the execution of the resolutions of the majority of persona interested. In either case there is a very pronounced authority. Moreover, what would happen to the first train dispatched if the authority of the railway employees over the Hon. passengers were abolished?

But the necessity of authority, and of imperious authority at that, will nowhere be found more evident than on board a ship on the high seas. There, in time of danger, the lives of all depend on the instantaneous and absolute obedience of all to the will of one.

When I submitted arguments like these to the most rabid anti-authoritarians, the only answer they were able to give me was the following: Yes, that’s true, but there it is not the case of authority which we confer on our delegates, but of a commission entrusted! These gentlemen think that when they have changed the names of things they have changed the things themselves. This is how these profound thinkers mock at the whole world.

We have thus seen that, on the one hand, a certain authority, no matter how delegated, and, on the other hand, a certain subordination, are things which, independently of all social organisation, are imposed upon us together with the material conditions under which we produce and make products circulate.

We have seen, besides, that the material conditions of production and circulation inevitably develop with large-scale industry and large-scale agriculture, and increasingly tend to enlarge the scope of this authority. Hence it is absurd to speak of the principle of authority as being absolutely evil, and of the principle of autonomy as being absolutely good. Authority and autonomy are relative things whose spheres vary with the various phases of the development of society. If the autonomists confined themselves to saying that the social organisation of the future would restrict authority solely to the limits within which the conditions of production render it inevitable, we could understand each other; but they are blind to all facts that make the thing necessary and they passionately fight the world.

Why do the anti-authoritarians not confine themselves to crying out against political authority, the state? All Socialists are agreed that the political state, and with it political authority, will disappear as a result of the coming social revolution, that is, that public functions will lose their political character and will be transformed into the simple administrative functions of watching over the true interests of society. But the anti-authoritarians demand that the political state be abolished at one stroke, even before the social conditions that gave birth to it have been destroyed. They demand that the first act of the social revolution shall be the abolition of authority. Have these gentlemen ever seen a revolution? A revolution is certainly the most authoritarian thing there is; it is the act whereby one part of the population imposes its will upon the other part by means of rifles, bayonets and cannon — authoritarian means, if such there be at all; and if the victorious party does not want to have fought in vain, it must maintain this rule by means of the terror which its arms inspire in the reactionists. Would the Paris Commune have lasted a single day if it had not made use of this authority of the armed people against the bourgeois? Should we not, on the contrary, reproach it for not having used it freely enough?

Therefore, either one of two things: either the anti-authoritarians don’t know what they’re talking about, in which case they are creating nothing but confusion; or they do know, and in that case they are betraying the movement of the proletariat. In either case they serve the reaction.

Ontario Should Change Farm Worker Laws: International Labour Organization

Organization concurs with human rights complaint, calls on province to change

Canadian Labour Reporter

The UN agency responsible for formulating international labour standards, including labour rights, agrees with a Canadian union that Ontario’s farm worker legislation should be amended.

The International Labour Organization (ILO) concluded on March 28 that Ontario’s Agricultural Employees Protection Act (AEPA), “is insufficient to ensure the collective bargaining rights of agricultural workers under the principles of freedom of association.”

The ILO ruling is the result of a 2009 complaint filed by the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union of Canada that the AEPA violated human and labour rights of Ontario agriculture workers under ILO Convention 87 – Freedom of association and protection of the right to organize (1948); and ILO Convention 98 – The right to organize and bargaining collectively (1949).

“The ILO’s conclusion is consistent with our position that the AEPA provides no teeth for Ontario farm workers to exercise their fundamental workplace right to meaningful representation,” says UFCW Canada president Wayne Hanley. “Unless the AEPA is amended, agriculture workers in Ontario will continue to be some of the most vulnerable and exploited workers in the province, and excluded from the rights and protections that other workers in the province have the freedom to exercise.”

Under the AEPA — brought in by the Mike Harris/Ernie Eves government in 2002 — agricultural employees can join or form associations but are prohibited from joining unions. They can make representations to their employer, but the employer is not obliged to act.

In 2008, in the wake of the UFCW’s challenge based on the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Ontario Court of Appeal ruled the AEPA violated the freedom of association rights of Ontario farm workers under Section 2(d) of the Charter.

In April 2011, however, the Supreme Court of Canada reversed the appeal ruling in the Fraser decision. The AEPA provided freedom of association — given the assumption the employer would act “in good faith,” the court said.

But according to the ILO’s most recent decision, “good faith” might not cut it:

“Collective bargaining implies an ongoing engagement in a give-and-take process, recognizing the voluntary nature of collective bargaining and the autonomy of the parties. In the Committee’s view, the duty to consider employee representations in good faith, which merely obliges employers to give a reasonable opportunity for representations and listen or read them — even if done in good faith, does not guarantee such a process,” the ruling reads. “The Committee therefore concludes that the AEPA would need to be amended to ensure respect of these principles.”

Only the federal government has the authority to ratify ILO conventions into Canadian law, but the implementation of many conventions falls under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions, given the division of powers under the Canadian Constitution. Canada says its long-standing practice with respect to ILO conventions dealing with matters under federal, provincial and territorial jurisdictions has been to ratify ILO conventions only if all jurisdictions consent with ratification and agree to implement the conventions without reservation in their respective jurisdictions.

Unless Ontario farm worker legislation is amended, basic human rights will continue to be violated, the UFCW says.

“As for good faith, the record on the AEPA speaks for itself, as every day farm workers are fired, threatened, or shipped out if they raise a concern about their safety or treatment,” says Hanley. “We agree with the ILO that it is time for the Ontario government to step up to the plate and do the right thing (…) We invite the government to sit down and consult to amend the legislation and right a situation that currently is wrong.”

*note: © Copyright Canadian HR Reporter, Thomson Reuters Canada Limited. All rights reserved. Original article here.