Excerpts from the Classics: The Socialist and Communist Stage of Social Development

November 9, 2002

3. The Socialist and Communist Stage of Social Development

Marx and Engels discuss why capitalism leads to socialism and how socialism resolves the contradictions of capitalism. They also distinguish between utopian and scientific socialism and discuss the distinction between the first socialist transitional phase and the communist phase itself. Marx, Engels and Lenin discuss the “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the transitional phase to communism proper. Lenin notes the universal and the particular in socialism in each country and he also discusses the relationship of radical democratization to socialism. Lenin also discusses concessions by the new socialist state to domestic and foreign capitalists. In the final articles before his death, his “last testament”, Lenin discusses the importance of cooperatives. The Communist Manifesto. 1848, Marx & Engels (Excerpts) “The theoretical conclusions of the Communists are in no way based on ideas or principles that have been invented, or discovered, by this or that would-be universal reformer.

“They merely express, in general terms, actual relations springing from an existing class struggle, from historical movement going on under our eyes.

“The distinguishing feature of communism is not the abolition of property generally but the abolition of bourgeois property.

(p.23 IP Ed; MESW, p.46-47; MECW, p.498)

“…the first step in the revolution by the working class, is to raise the proletariat to the position of ruling class, to establish democracy.

“The proletariat will use its political supremacy to wrest, by degrees, all capital from the bourgeoisie, to centralize all instruments of production in the hands of the state, i.e., of the proletariat organized as the ruling class, and to increase the total of productive forces as rapidly as possible.

p.30 IP Ed; MESW, p.52; MECW, p.504)

“When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so-called, is merely the organized power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organize itself as a class; if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and , as such sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms, and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.

“In place of the old bourgeois society, with its classes and class antagonism, we shall have an association, in which the free development of each is the condition for the free development of all.”

(p.31 IP Ed; MESW, p.53; MECW, pp.505-06) Communist Manifesto. 1848, Marx & Engels, Chapter II, IP Ed; MESW; MECW, Vol.6 Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx 1875, Forward by Engels (Excerpts)

“What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society, which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth mark of the old society from whose womb it emerges (p.323) “In spite of this advance, this equal right is still constantly stigmatized by a bourgeois limitation. The right of the producers is proportional to the labour they supply; the equality consists in the fact that measurement is made with an equal standard, labour. But one man is superior to another physically or mentally and so supplies more labour in the same time… It recognizes no class differences, because everyone is only a worker like everyone else; but it tacitly recognizes unequal individual endowment and this productive capacity as natural privileges. It is, therefore, a right of inequality, in its content, like every right…

“But these defects are inevitable in the first phase of communist society as it is when it has just emerged after prolonged birth pangs from capitalist society. Right can never be higher than the economic structure of society and its cultural development conditioned thereby.

“In a higher phase of communist society, after the enslaving subordination of the individual to the division of labour and therewith also the antithesis between mental and physical labor has vanished; after labour has become not only a means of life but life’s prize want; after the productive forces have also increased with the all-round development of the individual and all the springs of co-operative wealth flow more abundantly – only then can the narrow horizon of bourgeois right be crossed in its entirety and society inscribe on its banners: From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs.” (p..324) “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. Corresponding to this is also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.”

Critique of the Gotha Programme, Marx 1875, Forward by Engels, MESW, p.323, 331; MECW, Vol.24, p.85-6
Engels, Socialism: Utopian & Scientific (Intro. written 1892; originally a chapter from Anti-Duhring 1875) (Excerpts)

“To the crude conditions of capitalistic production and the crude class conditions, corresponded crude theories. The solution of the social problems, which as yet lay hidden in undeveloped economic conditions, the utopians attempted to evolve out of the human brain. Society presented nothing but wrongs; to remove these was the task of reason. It was necessary, then, to discover a new and more perfect system of social order and to impose this upon society from without by propaganda, and, wherever it was possible,, by the example of model experiments. These new social systems were foredoomed as utopian; the more completely they were worked out in detail, the more they could not avoid drifting off into pure phantasies.

(p.36 IP Ed; MESW, p.403; MECW, p.290)

“To all these, socialism is the expression of absolute truth, reason and justice, and has only to be discovered to conquer all the worldly virtue of its own power.”

p.43 IP Ed; MESW, p.409; MECW, p.297

“From that time forward socialism was no longer an accidental discovery of this or that ingenious brain, but the necessary outcome of the struggle between two historically developed classes – the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Its task was no longer to manufacture a system of society as perfect as possible, but to examine the historico-economic succession of events from which these classes and their antagonisms had of necessity sprung, and to discover in the economic conditions thus created the means of ending the conflict. But the socialism of earlier days was as incompatible with this materialistic conception as the conception of nature of the French materialists was with dialectics and modern natural science. The socialism of earlier days certainly criticized the existing capitalistic mode of production and its consequences. But it could not explain them, and, therefore, could not get the mastery of them. It could only simply reject them as bad. The more strongly this earlier socialism denounced the exploitation of the working class, inevitable under capitalism, the less able was it clearly to show in what this exploitation consisted and how it arose. But for this it was necessary – 1) to present the capitalistic method of production in its historical connection and its inevitableness during a particular historical period, and therefore, also, to present its inevitable downfall; and 2) to lay bare its essential character, which was still a secret. This was done by the discovery of surplus value. It was shown that the appropriation of unpaid labour is the basis of the capitalist mode of production and of the exploitation of the worker that occurs under it; that even if the capitalist buys the labour power of his laborer at its full value as a commodity on the market, he yet extracts more value from it than he paid for; and that in the ultimate analysis this surplus value forms those sums of value from which are heaped up the constantly increasing masses of capital in the hands of the possessing classes. The genesis of capitalist production and the production of capital were both explained.

“These two great discoveries, the materialistic conception of history and the revelation of the secret of capitalistic production through surplus value, we owe to Marx. With these discoveries socialism became a science. The next thing was to work out all its details and relations.

(p.52-53 IP Ed; MESW, p.416; MECW, p.304-05) (Engels ends the 3 sections with an outline.)

“III. Proletarian Revolution – Solution of the contradictions. The proletariat seizes the public power, and by means of this transforms the socialized means of production, slipping from the hands of the bourgeoisie, into public property. By this act, the proletariat frees the means of production from the character of capital they have thus far borne, and gives their socialized character complete freedom to work itself out. Socialized production upon a predetermined plan becomes henceforth possible. The development of production makes the existence of different classes of society thenceforth an anachronism. In proportion as anarchy in social production vanishes, the political authority of the state dies out. Man, at last the master of his own form of social organization, becomes at the same time the lord over nature, his own master – free.

“To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed proletarian class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.”

(P.74-75 IP Ed; MESW, p.434; MECW, p.325)

Engels, Socialism: Utopian & Scientific (Intro. written 1892; originally a chapter from Anti-Duhring 1875), IP Ed, MESW; MECW, Vol.24

“Only he is a Marxist who extends the recognition of the class struggle to the recognition of the dictatorship of the proletariat. This is what constitutes the most profound distinction between the Marxist and the ordinary petty (as well as big) bourgeois.”

p.287) Lenin, State & Revolution Aug.-Sept. 1917, SW, p.287, CW, Vol.25,p.412 Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe & How To Combat It, Sept. 10-14, 1917 (Excerpts)

“The basic contradiction in the policy of our government is that, in order not to quarrel with the bourgeoisie, not to destroy the ‘coalition’ with them, the government has to introduce reactionary- bureaucratic control, which it calls ‘revolutionary democratic’ control, deceiving the people at every step and irritating and angering the masses who have just overthrown tsarism. “Yet only revolutionary-democratic measures, only the organization of the oppressed classes, the workers and peasants, the masses, into unions would make it possible to establish a most affective control over the rich and wage a most successful fight against the concealment of incomes. (P.354)

“This requires a revolutionary dictatorship of the democracy, headed by the revolutionary proletariat; that is, it requires that the democracy should become revolutionary in fact. That is the crux of the matter. But that is just what is not wanted by our Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, who are deceiving the people by displaying the flag of ‘revolutionary democracy’ while they are in fact supporting the reactionary-bureaucratic policy of the bourgeoisie, who, as always, are guided by the rule: – after us the deluge! (p.355)

“Now try to substitute for the Junker-capitalist state, for the landowner-capitalist state, a revolutionary-democratic state, i.e., a state which in a revolutionary way abolishes all privileges and does not fear to introduce the fullest democracy in a revolutionary way. You will find that, given a really revolutionary-democratic state, state monopoly capitalism inevitably and unavoidably implies a step, and more than one step, towards socialism!

“Either in the interest of the landowners and capitalists, in which case we have not a revolutionary-democratic, but a reactionary- bureaucratic state, an imperialist republic.

“Or in the interest of revolutionary democracy – and then it is a step toward socialism.

“For socialism is merely the next step forward from state- capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly.

“There is no middle course here. The objective process of development is such that it is impossible to advance from monopolies (and the war has magnified their number, role and importance tenfold) without advancing towards socialism. (p.358) “But take the same institution and think over its significance in a revolutionary-democratic state. Universal labour conscription, introduced, regulated and directed by the Soviets of Workers’, Soldiers’ and Peasants’ Deputies, will still not be socialism, but it will no longer be capitalism. It will be a tremendous step towards socialism, a step from which, if complete democracy is preserved, there can no longer be any retreat back to capitalism, without unparalleled violence being committed against the masses. (p.360)

“The more complete the fiasco of the alliance of the bourgeoisie and the Socialist-Revolutionaries and Mensheviks, the sooner the people will learn their lesson and the more easily they will find the correct way out, namely, the alliance of the peasant poor, i.e., the majority of the peasants, and the proletariat.”

p.365) Lenin, The Impending Catastrophe & How To Combat It, Sept. 10-14, 1917, CW, Vol.25

“The key question of every revolution is undoubtedly the question of state power. Which class holds power decides everything. “A courageous and resolute government steering a firm course is nothing but the dictatorship of the proletariat and the poor peasants.”

Lenin, One of the Fundamental Questions of the Revolution, Sept.27, 1917, CW, Vol.25, p.372

“The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle – sanguinary and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative – against the forces and traditions of the old society.”

Lenin, Left-Wing Communism, 1920, LLL Ed, p.29, CW, Vol.31, p.44

“All nations will arrive at socialism – this is inevitable, but all will do so in not exactly the same way. Each will contribute something of its own to some form of democracy, to some variety of the dictatorship of the proletariat, to the varying rate of socialist transformation in the different aspects of social life.”

Lenin, A Caricature of Marxism & Imperialist Economism Aug.-Oct. 1916, CW, Vol.23, p.69

“The granting of concessions under reasonable terms is also desirable for us during the period of the coexistence side by side of socialist and capitalist states…”

Lenin, Letter to American Workers, Sept. 23, 1919, CW, Vol.30, p.39

“Indeed, since political power is in the hands of the working class, since this political power owns all the means of production, the only task, indeed, that remains for us is to organize the population in co-operative societies. With most of the population organized in co-operatives, the socialism which was in the past legitimately treated with ridicule, scorn and contempt by those who were rightly convinced that it was necessary to wage the class struggle, the struggle for political power, etc., will achieve its aim automatically. But not all comrades realize how vastly, how infinitely important it is now to organize the population of Russia in co-operative societies.

“…we must find what form of ‘bonus’ to give for joining the co- operatives (and the terms on which we should give it), the form of bonus by which we shall assist the co-operatives sufficiently, the form of bonus that will produce the civilized co-operator. And given social ownership of the means of production, given the class system of the proletariat over the bourgeoisie, the system of civilized co-operators is the system of socialism.”

Lenin, On Cooperation, Jan.4, 1923,CW, Vol 33, p.467-71 Lenin, On Cooperation II, Jan.6, 1923 (Excerpts)

“Under our present system, cooperative enterprises differ from private capitalist enterprises because they are collective enterprises, but do not differ from socialist enterprises if the land on which they are situated and the means of production belong to the state, i.e., the working class. (p.473)

“Our second task [winning political power was the first, DR] is educational work among the peasants. And the economic object of this educational work among the peasants is to organize the latter in co-operative societies. (p.474)

“Why were the plans of the old co-operators, from Robert Owen onwards, fantastic? Because they dreamed of peacefully remodelling contemporary society into socialism without taking into account of such fundamental questions as the class struggle, the capture of political power by the working class, the overthrow of the rule of the exploiting class. That is why we are right in regarding as entirely fantastic this ‘co-operative’ socialism, and as romantic, and even banal, the dream of transforming class enemies into class collaborators and class war into class peace (so-called class truce) by merely organizing the population into co-operative societies.” (p.473)

Lenin, On Cooperation II, Jan.6, 1923, CW, Vol. 33, p.472-75

back to top

back to content page



Related Party Information

For democracy. For equality. For socialism. For a sustainable future and a world that puts people before profits. Join the Communist Party USA today.

Join Now

We are a political party of the working class, for the working class, with no corporate sponsors or billionaire backers. Join the generations of workers whose generosity and solidarity sustains the fight for justice.

Donate Now

CPUSA Mailbag

If you have any questions related to CPUSA, you can ask our experts
  • QHow does the CPUSA feel about the current American foreign...
  • AThanks for a great question, Conlan.  CPUSA stands for peace and international solidarity, and has a long history of involvement...
Read More
Ask a question
See all Answer