Introduction to Political Theory

(Marvins-Underground-K-12) #1
Party states more democratic were resisted by the Soviet leadership in 1968 and
today only North Korea, Cuba, China and Vietnam remain as CP states. Former
CPs changed their names – usually to include democracy in their title – and they
invariably describe themselves as socialist rather than communist. What relationship
exists between the hapless fate of these states, and the theory of scientific socialism?
It is worth giving this question some thought.

The inevitability argument

In Part I of the Communist Manifesto, the victory of the proletariat is described as
‘inevitable’, as in the famous comment that ‘what the bourgeoisie... produces,
above all, is its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are
equally inevitable’ (Marx and Engels, 1967: 94). This has become a central theme
of Marxism in general, and Engels was to argue that revolutions are ‘the necessary
outcome of circumstances, quite independent of the will or guide of particular
parties’ (Hoffman, 1995: 135). Marxism is ‘scientific’ because it arises from the real
movement of history that compels people to do things whether they like it or not.
Revolution is (in some sense of the term) a ‘natural’ process, driven by the
antagonistic conflict between the forces and relations of production at the heart of
society. It is therefore unavoidable. There are a number of problems with the
‘inevitability argument’.

What happens when revolutions are ‘bourgeois’
in character?

In the Communist ManifestoMarx and Engels declare that ‘Communists every
where support every revolutionary movement against the existing order of things’
(1967: 120). Contrary to the utopians who support socialism rather than capitalism,
Marxists will support a ‘bourgeois revolution’ in countries where liberal
constitutionalism has yet to prevail: in Germany, as the Communist Manifesto
points out, communists will fight with the bourgeoisie where the latter are acting
in a revolutionary way. This notion is of the utmost importance, for it explains the
attraction of Marxism in colonial countries or autocratic regimes of a feudal or
semi-feudal kind. But what has a liberal revolution to do with communism?
One of the most contentious aspects of the Communist Manifestoderives from
the argument that once the old absolutist regime has fallen, ‘the fight against the
bourgeoisie itself may immediately begin’. The argument here focuses on Germany
in 1848. Given the much more advanced conditions of European civilisation and
‘a much more developed proletariat’, ‘the bourgeois revolution in Germany will be
but the prelude to an immediately following proletarian revolution’ (Marx and
Engels, 1967: 120). This sentence was seen by the Bolsheviks as giving the October
Revolution its classical Marxist credentials, since Russia of 1917 was deemed
analogous to Germany of 1848, because of the combination of material
backwardness and heightened political consciousness. The destruction of Tsarism

  • the bourgeois revolution – could then be ‘the prelude to an immediately following
    proletarian revolution’.

220 Part 2 Classical ideologies

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