On the Thread of Time – Dance of Puppets: From Consciousness to Culture

The Batrachomyomachia”, “The Croaking about Practice” and “Dance of Puppets: From Consciousness to Culture” should be read as one text.

PDF-Version: On the Thread of Time – Dance of Puppets: From Consciousness to Culture

Estate and Class

In this “Filo” we also deal with the French group Socialisme ou Barbarie, which is only relevant to us to the extent that it gives us the opportunity to clarify certain questions. The historically huge blunder of identifying bureaucracy (in Russia or wherever) as a new class is to be seen in connection with the obvious confusion surrounding the terms estate and class.

Even if the word class already existed earlier and describes the same in all modern languages – Latin, German, Slavic – it is Marxism that introduced the concept as a historical social magnitude and made it its own. Originally it was a Latin word, but for the Romans “classis” was the navy; the concept means: unity in which different parts work together, go in the same direction, face the same enemy. The core of the concept is therefore the movement, the struggle, not the classification (as it fits the completely bureaucratic language), which later also was pressed into a rigid form. Linné classified the plant and animal species metaphysically into fixed groups, Darwin then showed the evolutionary origin of the species, de Vries finally provided the proof that at certain turning points sudden mutations, and not Darwin’s continuous variations, determine development.

Anyone who understands Marxism only as an analysis in which society is catalogued according to economic interests is in a rather strange position as a modern supplementer of Marxism, insofar as he has not even assimilated its first indispensable statement. Marx would have only “begun” the analysis of modern society and merely would have laid the foundations of a socialist programme; and these gentlemen have taken upon themselves the “continuation of this analysis”, “with an infinitely much richer material accumulated in a century of historical development and allowing to go far beyond Marx in the new elaboration of the socialist programme.” To dismiss such revilement, you don’t have to resort to dialectics – “Go to hell” is enough.

Even if these things are not to be taken seriously, we still find it useful to tread our path further and rebuild the organic representation of Marxism, a building that stands from the cellar to the roof, so that we do not need new material from anyone. These merely social analyses remind us – why, we wonder? – of a French caricature that remained in our minds from our school days. A simple soldier reads the writing above the toilet doors: troops, corporals, non-commissioned officers, officers: “Ces messieurs-là doivent faire du materiel d’une qualité bien supérieure.[1]

Class does not mean to be registered in a certain tax bracket; class is an expression of the historical movement, the struggle, the historical programme. That the class still has to find its programme is a sentence without meaning or reason. The programme itself determines the class.


Pre-Bourgeois Society

A society divided into estates, on the other hand, would be preserved as it is and be protected against revolutions. The social divisions that have occurred so far have led to the outbreak of class struggles to very different degrees – Marx explains why Asian societies are so persistently resisting change: The local and often still “communist” mode of production does not create a contrast between the productive forces and the forms of society. Hence the great importance of class antagonism now breaking out in Persia, India, Indochina, China. At a certain point, however, the estates of medieval society no longer had anything to oppose their transformation into classes – a feat achieved by shipping, trade, manufacture, discoveries of mechanical nature.

In French, as we recalled in the last “Filo”, estate is called “état” – the same word as for the political central state, which basically already becomes visible in late feudalism and consists in the court nobility of the emperor or king. When the capitalist forces of production fully developed under the absolute monarchy and Louis XIV said: “L’État c’est moi”, the state is me, the talk was of the political state. The feudal order had three estates. The first estate, premier état, was the nobility, which was hereditary and closed itself off in family dynasties with their respective coats of arms on the outside. The second estate, deuxième état, was the clergy, according to the organisational hierarchy of the Catholic Church. The third estate, troisième état, was the term used for the bourgeoisie, which at that time consisted of merchants, financiers, civil servants, and although it was represented in the “general estates”, i.e. in the corporative assembly (which had no legislative, certainly no executive, but merely advisory, function of the king and his government), it did not participate in power. Parlement in France at that time was the court of justice – with its various chambers in the provinces – which enjoyed a certain, at least theoretical autonomy in the service of the king, which capitalism then took away.

These remarks, still known to us from school, appear in a new light in the Marxist building. When the humble third estate, which did not look like much, rose to the powerful and revolutionary capitalist class, it was said: What’s the third estate? Nothing. What does it demand? Everything!

But since, together with the capitalists, a new class, the workers of the manufactories, entered the scene (it will not be wrong to note that the free craftsmen did not form an estate; rather, they were organised in guilds, and only the tradesmen had their place in the third estate), at that time, which can be regarded as the romantic one of the workers’ movement, one did not like to speak so much of a new revolutionary class in bourgeois society, but rather of a new estate, the fourth estate.

No constitution has ever recognised such an estate; the feudal constitutions did not include the adscript peasants and day labourers as members of estates, and the bourgeois constitutions loudly abolished all estates, they only knew – by right – equal citizens.

Many well-known deviations from Marxism, whose thorough, documented autopsy reports are in our hands, go back to the confusion of class and estate; just think of the grim Marx, when Lassalle made the working class into a working estate. Better safe than sorry.

The gentlemen who received their doctorate in “materials” one century after Marx do not even realise that their “rich” historical data has not even reached the storming of the Bastille. Not analyse de la misère, but misère de l’analyse[2].

Labour Aristocracy

At the beginning of the 20th century, Georges Sorel, the vivacious and shining founder of revolutionary syndicalism, launched the expression of the labour aristocracy among his many followers. As such, especially since Lenin’s criticism (on the basis of the lines indicated by Marx and Engels, especially for English industry), our school describes the better-off and best paid workers, the sought-after and courted skilled workers – and the educated, who were easily seduced by conformist ideologies and became the prey and support of opportunist leaders. But for the Sorelian syndicalists it is not the better-off part of the working class, they see the whole proletariat, the class of wage workers in the whole society, as a labour aristocracy, which reverses the primacy and leadership of the opposing capitalist class and – until that point they are also right – their parliamentary democracy, the bluff of equality before the state, is ridiculed.

Syndicalism was, of course, ahead of reformism, which was spreading within the framework of legality in the quiet and idyllic period of progressive and flourishing capitalism. The syndicalists denounced the serious dangers of parliamentary activity for the workers, which replaced the “arbitraire” of jurisdiction in the clash of economic interests in labor disputes, and they denounced the trade union leaders who forbade workers to use force in disputes with the factory owners and disapproved of the general strike. At one point (in France and Italy between 1900 and 1919) it seemed that the whole question of the workers’ struggle was limited to a dispute between the reformists and the Sorelian syndicalists; the radical Marxists reacted only peu à peu to this serious derailment.

Sorel did not understand the question of power raised by Marxism, the centralism of the class; he rejected the role of the political workers’ party and understood the revolution as a direct clash between the red trade unions and the bourgeois state; in his opinion, the local, professional and industrial struggles were enough – the main thing being to get rid of the poison of class collaboration so that it would lead to the overthrow of bourgeois power and the expropriation of the factory owners. In this “myth” of the general strike as expropriator there was no talk of the necessary social transition phases, and the conquest of society remained merely the conquest of the factory. Moreover, and above all, it was not seen that if the plague of class collaboration keeps recurring, it is precisely because the struggles confined within local, national and company borders cannot be elevated to the level of the closed political struggle of the world proletariat, of which the communist world party is the organ.

Sorel reduces dialectical determinism to a heroic will to fight, from place to place and group to group; in terms of interests, consciousness, and will, he does not set up different stages either in the fighting individual or in the respective groups. To be flawless proletarians, wage workers, standing side by side, that’s all it takes for him to awaken their fighting spirit and make them aware of the aim. Basically, the struggle is merely an end in itself, and a distant historical aim, the direction of which is to be taken, is unnecessary. Thus he in turn falls back into a pre-Marxist philosophy and, like his later modern successors, makes use of Marx’s phrase: “Every step of actual movement is more important than a dozen programmes”, which was expressed when Marx scourged the authors (Lassalleans) of the draft programme (Gotha Programme) who pursued day-to-day political successes and secondary goals within the existing order.


Historically, Sorel’s and his followers’ error became apparent when in 1914 these ardent and rebellious left-wing revisionists – just like the right-wing revisionists – together with their leaders and most prominent trade union associations defected to the cause of war (just think of Gustave Hervé and Filippo Corridoni). A mistake that can be attributed precisely to seeing the revolutionary proletariat not as a class in the mighty meaning of Marx, but as an estate. The society today called “post-capitalist” by certain contemporaries would be characterised by the following: Instead of living under the democratic lie of a bourgeois aristocracy with its workers’ vassals, there would be a labour aristocracy. The fourth estate would be the first. That’s it.

The serious theoretical and organisational questions of the movement, which were completely resolved right at the beginning in Marxism – so that the one who touched this completeness thus destroys it, as Lenin and all other orthodox followers of our doctrine have constantly repeated – are getting lost dully in the concept of the aristocratic estate. He who is a nobleman by origin needs no upbringing, no education and culture, no classification and no organisation, for since his birth and from the first cry on he carries all this in himself; he has the consciousness of belonging to the chosen estate in his blood, he will always keep a distance to the lower estates and their human material and be hostile towards them. Whether alone or in community, ignorant or wise, he is made of one piece by his own will and automatic consciousness – he is a nobleman. And that is precisely why his revenue cannot be confiscated – like the salary of the official-bureaucrat.

The modern bourgeoisie would therefore be an order disguised as an abolished order, and all that remains is to lead it to the hangman: As the middle class, the third estate, has swept away the estates of the nobility and clergy, so too would the fourth estate sweep away that of the factory owner.

Where only this recipe remains, it is as if all the flaming pages were torn out in which our teacher describes the epos of the bourgeoisie, which over the course of 10 centuries proved to be a class and did not overthrow certain estates but the system of estates; as well as those pages of Marx’s main work in which this social force enters the scene: capital, no longer characterised by groups of people and personal dependencies as the former social forces did; bourgeoisie does not sound like an estate, but like a risk. Apparently the barbarists are not in a position to understand what in Marx and Engels constitutes the difference between the serfdom belonging to the Middle Ages and the labour power belonging to modernity, the difference between the rule over the person and power of the slave and over the commodity.

These radical, revolutionary transitions between different modes of production and forms of society are flattened to the point that it seems as if it were just the turn of a different group to exploit people every time. But the focus is only on exploitation for those who are doomed to think like a bourgeois to the blessed end: namely spoiled; the relationship between people is nothing but a business, and a bad business is the relationship between classes!

Therefore, if the revolution is reduced to fighting for an aristocracy, to conquer power for an estate, one also understands where the famous discovery comes from, according to which the estate of the factory owners was replaced by the estate of officials and functionaries and the bureaucracy is the contemporary aristocracy: turn the workers into aristocrats, then the revolution is back on the right track! Their necessarily revolutionary consciousness will be the salvation. For just as the aristocrat is born with all his social behaviour in his cradle, so the one who lives in the factory and receives a wage packet already knows everything about the revolution, since he experiences exploitation at first hand.

So it is of no use to be in possession of the programme of society without classes and without ruling class, and certainly without aristocracy, and it is quite clear that the party, as Sorel said, is of no use either. Just as little as history, which showed how in the stormy years after the storming of the Bastille, so many of the aristocrats dressed in fine twine forgot “the call of their blood” and awoke from the inertia of personal exploitation in order to dedicate themselves to the great class task: to be citizens of France, capitalists of the world.

Internally applied Democracy

An old story is that of “workers’ democracy” as a reaction of Trotskyist oppositionists to Stalinist pressure. The criticism of democracy, according to the various Trotskyist groups, is to conceal the existence of two, or more, socially antagonistic classes and to be a fraud, because since the workers constitute the majority, the electoral process would have to be in their favour. In fact, however, this criticism would be untenable even if one were to admit that the proletariat in capitalism could attain a complete class “consciousness”. Whatever the case, the criticism of “bourgeois” democracy and democracy “in general” is followed not only by the claim to allow “democracy within the class”, but even to demand it. The whole Stalinist degeneration, it is said, lies in not having established a procedure of parliamentary type electoral authorisation and representation, i.e. allowing votes, controls, working class majority decisions on the policies of the state.

All of this is sheer insanity. Democracy is the historical form of society that corresponds to the politics of the capitalist class at the stage when it comes to light from the womb of the feudal world, and it consists in bodies representing all citizens without exception, in which the ruling ideology sees the basis for the actual power of the state. Just as capitalist production is a necessary stage of economic development, the complete legal development of democratic forms in certain “spaces” and at certain times is a necessary historical phase. When Marx and Engels asserted this for the Europe of the years 1848-1871 and Lenin and Trotsky for the Russia of the years 1902-1917, as it could be said today, that is 1953, for Asia, there was no talk of democracy in general, and certainly not of the hybrid of a proletarian democracy, but of precisely bourgeois democracy. That is, a political movement and form that (insofar as it was still necessary, or is necessary) is adequate for the development of revolutionary bourgeois forms of society, and was supported by the proletariat – as a prejudicial step before that which goes beyond it.

The political form of the specifically proletarian revolution is dictatorship – not a personal dictatorship, of course, but a class dictatorship that forms its own original and specific organs; in the phases of armed struggle these are organs of direction of state power. However, while the dictatorship of an estate may well be identical to “democracy within the estate”, the dictatorship of a revolutionary class is a much less banal and formalistic matter and is not subject to the fluctuations of a stupid counting of votes. It is determined by a force and the direction of that force. It is wrong to say that it establishes socialism if it is the right dictatorship; it is rather to say that it is the true proletarian dictatorship when it moves towards communism.

There are many democracies within the estate in history – but before capitalism, because it was the bourgeoisie that first theorised democracy for all and on paper, in the constitution, also actualised it. Democracies within the estate were Roman and Greek democracy, for the free citizens were equal, while the masses of slaves and Helots were without any sovereignty. The Germanic feudal constitution was a democracy that was internally applied by the estate: the nobles or princes elected the king, and the barons in turn elected the prince. And so too in the Italian and Flemish oligarchic and aristocratic republics. According to the same principle, even the clerical estate elected the Pope, and formerly also the bishops.

A posthumous mimicry of these countless antiquated systems is workers’ parliamentarism, which is supposed to “freely” control the machinery of the dictatorship in the state established after the workers’ revolution. If there are still private proprietors and factory owners in this state, they will, as is generally accepted, have no political rights (not only to insert ballots, but to have organisations, parties, offices, newspapers, rostrums etc., and to have a say in schools, art, theatre etc.).

The barbarists are in a big dilemma in this respect, as are almost all analysts of the Russian riddle. Since there would no longer be any proprietors and factory owners in Russia, the dictatorship would have to be thrown into the trash here and the free election of all offices would once again have come to honour. But out of fear of finding themselves with the pure social democrats or having to admit to being close relatives, they say that the dictatorship consists in not letting functionaries vote. So it is the non-functionaries who elect the functionaries to then… put everything in their hands. This fiction running into the void is therefore not the creation of a new doctrine, but of involution: From the concept of the revolutionary class back to that of the aristocracy – no longer manicured nails but calloused hands – with an internal parliamentary procedure, in order to vote for whoever and for whatever purpose.

What productive forces are involved? What are the relations of production? What transition from one social mode of production to another is it about? How does all this determine the clash of the different classes? And what reflects and supports the existing state power? These questions don’t even occur to them in their dreams.

Madame Consciousness

In any case, this whole hypothetical and unreal control and selection procedure only works if it is assumed – even if one relies on only one class – that everyone has a political and, what is more, the same consciousness: Otherwise this copy of the bourgeois electoral fraud could not even be explained. Only under such a premise can it be assumed that the correct historical course is the one that determines the numerical majority of the workers at certain turning points. And then it is enough to lose a pack of paper snippets on the way to turn back on the revolutionary way! It is even worse when – in the midst of the full development of power of capitalism – the same recipe is to be used to find the way back to the revolutionary path by feeling the pulse of all workers and evaluating it statistically, so to speak.

Let us look at how easily the meaning of Marxist theses can be turned upside down in this matter, too, if one reads something upside down, e.g. with Trotsky what is wrongly approved (in this silly work of review and criticism, and by people one would expect to have a go at him properly), as well as in other cases what is – also wrongly – condemned.

Those who draw up highly ominous “documents” in which everything – in the name of freedom of criticism: we are not yet beyond Luther the chief Holy Joe – is subject to the examination and evaluation of their pathetic minds, approve of Trotsky’s statement that socialism, unlike capitalism, is consciously established. But shortly thereafter they strongly denounce other statements by the same author. These poor devils do not see that they would need a ton more brains to get to eye level with Trotsky, with which one need not fear that theses will be formulated which are unrelated and wander around without a uniform and organic direction.

And how do they paraphrase Trotsky’s statement? They put something completely different in his mouth, so that, while Trotsky’s formulation is strict and precise, each of his words is interpreted differently by his (this time graciously minded) “critics”, and above all contains vulgarly bourgeois ulterior motives: the conscious activity of the masses is the essential prerequisite for socialist development. This foolish thesis, which not only every right-wing socialist, but also every bourgeois would sign without reservation, is certainly not worthy of Trotsky; it perhaps fits in with a simpleton who, after being given the grace to choose the tree from which he is to be hanged, chooses a strawberry plant. Well, no capitalist would have anything against socialism if it were linked to the essential (!) condition of the preceding conscious activity of the masses.

This whole palinode serves to remedy the alleged shortcomings of Marx, who even with regard to the socialist programme would have worked only “empirically”, as the thesis would make clear according to which only the capitalist class and its state would have to be smashed up for socialism to come of its own accord. Marx is said to have had this ambiguous idea about the programmatic characteristics of socialist society and to have been able to help himself with nationalisation and planning of production. These documentarians now provide him with a clear idea of socialism, which amounts to the following nonsense: Abolition of exploitation! Or of inequality! Dühring was accused of “megalomania” for far less stupid statements.

It may suffice here to point out that we can read the description of socialism in every section of Marx. Utopianism, on the other hand, whose guts Marx hated to death, describes socialist society as it wants it to be, while Marx writes as it will be. And he gives such important and sharply drawn characteristics for all areas that the later, hollow, not “unequivocal”, but clearly anti-revolutionary belief in equality and justice of his “repairers” is only warmed-up cabbage of ancient doléances.

Let’s return to Trotsky. Before capitalism there was no awareness of its social characteristics, before socialism there is. This concept determination has nothing to do with the purely idealistic perception of a “conscious activity” of the masses; this could also amount to just a conscious activity of individuals, which is indeed raised to a prerequisite, that is, to the motivation of historical events.

Ideology of Revolutions

In the last Thread of Time we came back to the classical passage, according to which the periods of transformation cannot be judged from the consciousness that they have of themselves. The fight against the slave economy, the actual content of this historical transition, was given the form of a doctrine by the leaders and driving forces of the slave uprising, which had as its object the liberation of the spirit from flesh and the goal of a supernatural life as the driving force of all action. The masses were not conscious of their activity, they were not fighting for paradise, nor did they know that a new bondage was waiting for them in place of slavery. The consciousness of transition was found neither in the slave masses nor in a school or doctrine or group. It was only afterwards that it became clear.

It was similar with the capitalist revolution against feudalism. It was a transition to a mode of production based on wage labour, but the demands made by an equally powerful philosophical and political school sounded quite different: freedom of man, or of the citizen … victory of reason.

In these and many other transitions after the fall of the old ruling class a new one arose. In the socialist revolution that will abolish classes, on the other hand, there is already a fairly definite and clear knowledge of its aims. Where and by whom? That’s what this is about. It is crazy to impute to Trotsky the thesis that the preceding knowledge of the revolutionary process must be acquired by anyone who has joined the struggle for revolution and against the obstacles that are choking it. For us Marxists, the fact that knowledge is there before the revolutionary process is enough – not in the general public, not in the mass or majority (a word without any deterministic meaning) of the class, but in a perhaps very small minority of them at the given time, or even – may the activists be outraged – in a currently forgotten text. But through groups, schools, movements, writings, theses, a continuity emerges over a long period of time that can only become real as the party – organic, impersonal as it is, it is the only one who knows in advance how the development towards revolution must proceed. Such a phenomenon, such a process, does not exist in capitalism. This is what Trotsky says, and nothing else.

To show, as usual, that Trotsky was not one of those clowns who bring new documents to the people, but that he formulated theses that represent our common wealth beyond the borders of peoples and generations, we want to go back to Marx’s central thesis that social revolutions emerge from the contradictions of material life and generally have a false consciousness of themselves. The right one comes long after the clashes, the fight and the victory. Now throw overboard the crap about the nationalisation and planning of a commodity, wage and money economy and listen once more. Do not write documents and refrain from the practice of wanting to prove the ability to criticise freely. Do what everyone can: open your ears, because now we leave the word to our energetic Engels:

“With the seizing of the means of production by society commodity production is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears. Then for the first time man, in a certain sense, is finally marked off from the rest of the animal kingdom, and emerges from mere animal conditions of existence into really human ones. […] The laws of his own social action, hitherto standing face to face with man as laws of nature foreign to, and dominating him, will then be used with full understanding, and so mastered by him. Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history — only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is the humanity’s leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.

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 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.”

What other documents do you want? Stop making such pathetic constructions with your “so much richer” material.

The time described in this substantial passage by Engels is the time after the seizure of the means of production, after the end of economic competition and commodity production – i.e. a long time after the conquest of political power. Only then will man, the human community, be aware of its own activity. Only then, that is, when there are no more classes.

Consciousness is therefore not a prerequisite for us in any activity of the class, and certainly not an essential one; it is rather not there at all, for it will appear for the first time, not as class consciousness, but as consciousness of the human community, which will finally determine its own development process, instead of being determined by it, as it is the case as long as there are oppressed classes.

Revolution is the historical mission of the class called to action by material forces, which is not conscious of these very forces for the time being. The consciousness of the revolutionary solution is not found in the masses, but only in the specific organ that carries the class doctrine, the party. Revolution, dictatorship and party, are inseparable processes; and whoever seeks the way by making them independent from each other is nothing more than a defeatist.


Dear Miss Culture

In the field of “class” culture – we will soon see what lame class theory it is about – there are harsh accusations against Trotsky. But in the passages quoted, he only says what they themselves had first taken up triumphantly, in order then to make the story of conscious activity. But Trotsky has not conceived the theses or applied for a patent for them; they are by Marx, by Engels, by Lenin, yes, by a hundred or a thousand agitators of the Marxist school and, as the hardworking Greek comrades have said: all the “ancient” Marxists. Updaters, you must be joking!

It wasn’t enough to throw, no, not a club, but a roof beam between the legs of the revolution, a second one comes right after it: The appropriation of culture by the proletariat would be the precondition for the establishment of communism, which would not only mean assimilating the bourgeois culture, but also creating the first elements of communist culture. Great. All this just makes sense to make one believe this: If one wants well-being, one needs power, if one wants power, one needs the will to fight, for the will to fight one needs consciousness, for consciousness one needs culture, culture is not the expression of a class, but eternal “absolute capacity of thinking”. It is therefore not material forces that lead to action and produce ideologies, no, it is the spiritual activity that determines the historical struggle. Only those who have such things in mind but do not make them open or do not know what they are saying can write like this.

Therefore, Trotsky, who puts things in order, is then properly “repaired”. He had the boldness to say that the proletariat could only absorb bourgeois culture. And further, as long as the proletariat exists, the proletariat can only accept bourgeois culture, and if it creates a new culture, it will not be proletarian, because then the proletariat no longer exists. Trotsky’s position of course arouses indignation, but it is not worth reproducing the silliness with which he is considered. In any case, he formulates the core of Marxist determinism. In the field of schools, the press, propaganda, the church, etc., as long as the working class is exploited, the spread of bourgeois ideology always has all the advantages on its side. Of course, if the revolution does not want to lose its part, it must be able to count on strong fighting masses, but without assuming in the least that they are free of bourgeois economic and cultural influences. Rather, it is the opposition of the material productive forces, which inevitably pushes them to fight, that has not yet come to the consciousness of the fighters – and there can be even less talk of scientific culture!

The purely idealistic background of the anti-barbaric group, however, is revealed in the fact that they present the clash between two cultures as a perspective. And very quickly all that remains is the struggle for a culture, the culture par excellence.

Before it can free itself from unjust exploitation, before it has the right to rebellion, the proletariat, which has assimilated existing cultures after all, is to build the foundations of a new culture on this basis. Does this mean that the class must first develop its own ideology in order to be able to fight? Worse! A culture would never be an ideology or orientation, but an organic whole (?), a series of ideologies and currents (organic? or eclectic?). What the hell is that supposed to mean? This is explained by the conclusions they draw from this: The diversity of tendencies that would form a culture would imply that the creative appropriation of culture by the proletariat had freedom of opinion as an essential prerequisite. So that’s it: And what the hell is this freedom of opinion supposed to be? We’ll know in a minute. Insofar as they merely expressed themselves in ideological terms (?!), the reactionary ideological currents, which would of course also appear in the transitional society, would have to be fought with ideological weapons and not with material means restricting freedom of opinion.

So that is the purpose of the communist class culture to which the proletariat is to be committed before it takes power! And if it then holds power, it should respect all possible cultures and exercise its dictatorship in such a way that a bourgeois cannot throw sand, or bombs, into the gears, but can very well propagate reactionary ideology and philosophy, whereby one has committed oneself to confront it only with ideological, and not, Lord help us, material means. Material means would be e.g. a few blows to the head or the confiscation of the printing machine. But no, on the contrary, he should be asked to write or speak in the communist newspapers or at communist meetings, whereupon he is only met with reverence and by means of ideological weapons with a philosophical “rebuttal”!

He who has Iron has Knowledge

This conclusion of an alleged study on the “socialist programme”, which is intended to replace the “empirical” and “ambiguous” idea of Marx, needs nothing further added to establish that we are dealing here with real idealism and bourgeois democratism, which reeks of at least 300 years old decay. Freedom of opinion! What is it about this new addition to Marxism that enlighteners and reformers would not have said, whose teachings Marx crushed without anything to defend them could have been brought forth?

This is apparently not just about pushing Lenin and Marx back, but even playing down and devaluing the fervent passion of the first communist, Babeuf, who, stepping onto the stage of political struggle, wanted to confront the battle against the power of ideologies with physical violence.

Even the old Blanqui, who said: “He who has iron has bread”, had understood that it is the brute force that fulfils economic demands at turning points in history. Is it necessary to discuss the culture of the opponent for that? And to grant him freedom of opinion in order to recover the lost thing – the iron or sword in the hand? With everything else but rich material, both Babeuf and Blanqui have found out that whoever has iron also has knowledge.

One wants to teach the dictatorship to cowardly set itself limits. But it is precisely this lame demand that shows the abyss that opens up between Marxism and these people, these various groups that make pilgrimages and repent for the shame that the revolution – even if only the Stalinist one – has inflicted on the suprahistorical inviolability of freedom of opinion. It only takes adherents of “conscious activity” to claim the nonsense: No to the freedom of action, yes to the freedom of opinion!

That is precisely why the role of the party as the carrier of dictatorship must be insisted on – the forms of state capitalist dictatorship that apply in Russia can be confidently ignored. Attempts to sabotage and conspiracies against the workers’ power are one thing, but what is at stake here is much more, namely to maintain and protect the strict theoretical unity of the communist movement, which excludes all other currents.

What good is it to tackle the bourgeoisie, or more precisely, the impersonal, pervasive monster of capital with fingernails and claws, and then to respect its verbal apology? A nebulous workers’ estate could be ready for this suicide, but the workers’ revolution will then and insofar win, as its theoretical organ, the party, muzzles those tenacious traditional ideologies and cultures belonging to the overthrown classes instead of propagating freedom of opinion.

These ultra-modern studies on the dictatorship of the proletariat and the socialist programme only completely undermine one or the other in order to return to a hypocritical competition of ideas that is no different in anything from that which the most evil bourgeois propaganda of the West has so highly praised.

The circle closes as it had to: to advocate freedom and democracy “within the class” only has the result of plunging back into the middle of the only freedom and democracy that is historically possible before the end of the communistically transformed society, namely bourgeois freedom and democracy – which is only another name for the bourgeois dictatorship. And while freedom and democracy merely produce the croaking of chatterers, in the revolutionary organisation, in primis et ante omnia, it is precisely the freedom of opinion that is destroyed.

Today’s epoch is against the proletarian class, the revolution, the revolutionary party. But when the time comes, all three will rise again together. For the time being, even in our small movement, it is urgently necessary to put an end to the request and desire for this all-destroying freedom of gossip.

Source: “Il Programma Comunista”, N. 12, 1953

[1] Roughly: These gentlemen have to make material of a much higher quality.

[2] Analysis of poverty, poverty of analysis. Reference to Proudhon’s Philosophy of Poverty, respectively Marx’s Poverty of Philosophy.