For Communist Economics and Communist Power Under the Proletarian Dictatorship

17 August 2023 390 hits

For Communist

Three questions seem to define the essence of Road to Revolution IV. It is not surprising that those three questions have been the most controversial.

  • Can we move to communist economic relations immediately following the seizure of power by the working class? By communist economic relations I mean "from each according to his ability, to each according to need."
  • Will the Party be the ultimate holder of power during the dictatorship of the proletariat? What do we mean be "democratic centralism?"

Should such a system of communist economic relations, while still maintaining a dictatorship of the proletariat, a state with law, armies, etc., be called "socialist" or "communist" or something else?


. The main argument against moving immediately to communist economic relations is that we supposedly could not win enough members of the working class to support such a system. The argument has been raised that it is idealist and anti-materialist to assume that workers will support communist relations when it has not yet been proved to them, by virtue of having a long period of state ownership of the means of production with differences in living standards still being maintained within the society.

An important point to remember is that giving more to one group of people necessarily means that another group of people will get less. The policy of "to each according to work" would mean that those who are unable to work would not enjoy as high a standard of living as those who are able to work harder. Handicapped people would presumably not have the same standard of living as engineers. Racial minorities generally have worse health under capitalism and would continue to suffer the effects of that capitalist oppression after a revolution. Adopting a policy of "to each according to work" would end up maintaining racial discrimination. It would also discriminate in favor of the physically strong and those who, for one reason or another, are able to contribute what others, at least at that point, might not be able to.

Some people might say that we are destroying the aspirations of those who want to "better themselves" by working a little harder and getting a little more. But that is just a new, revisionist version of the same old capitalist argument against communism -- that it doesn't allow the individual to express himself or herself. This argument poses as pro-human, pro-people, but in fact it is reactionary garbage. After a revolution, do any of us want to look some section of the working class directly in the face and explain why they are living at a lower standard of living than another group within the society?

Besides, for some time after a revolution we would concentrate our efforts on destroying the capitalists all over the rest of the world. We want to win the working class of the U.S. to ally with the working class of the rest of the world. We do not want to win the working class of the U .S. to an attitude of "we got ours" or to the idea, that immediate material gains are what revolution is all about. Pushing that idea is just pushing nationalism, and that will inevitably take the form of some kind of racism against other workers. We must win U.S. workers to see that it is in their interest to help other workers overthrow their bosses, and that, otherwise, workers' rule in the U .S. will be overthrown. To permit inequality violates internationalism.

Many people might agree with the goal of equality, but still say that the rest of the working class can't be won to it, that it is idealist to think that people can be won by "moral" arguments.

There is a false debate going on, using the terms "material" incentives, versus "moral or political" incentives. The correct way to discuss this is "communist, collective, material, moral and political incentives" versus "capitalist, selfish, individualistic material incentives." We are not against improving the material lives of the working class. We are not pushing some nonsense religion. Those who argue that our appeal for communist incentives and against selfish-material incentives is an idealist, anti-materialist demand should know that they are making a phony argument. We are simply saying that it is wrong, it is deceptive, and it reinforces capitalism, to promise all kinds of immediate goodies to people.

We know that the power of the working class can create a world far more incredible, fantastic, magnificent, than all the science-fiction writers in the world could dream up together. This world will unlock the vast power of the human brain to create a world where the lifespan will be increased and other material changes will take place. But that is very different from promising people a color TV, or even steak, shortly after the revolution. Besides, capitalism breeds war, disease, etc. Eliminating those horrors on the way to a new world is, unquestionably, a very strong material incentive.

We are for communism because it works better. This is a very materialist argument. We will have better human relations, we will have a better material life, a better science, etc. under a communist system. We understand this materialist argument. Why do some people persist in thinking that other people cannot be won to this materialist argument?

This brings up a whole series of questions relating to the question "How are people won to communism?" and, in a broader sense, "What causes social change?" There is clearly a contradiction within Marx's and Engels' writing on this question.

Lenin had a contradictory line on nationalism, and we in PLP made the decision to adopt the "internationalist/dictatorship of the proletariat" side of the contradiction, rather than the "sometimes nationalist struggles can weaken imperialism" side. We feel that the side we have chosen is more consistent with the essence of Marx's and Engels' writings, but in any case that it is the principled position to take. Those revisionists who take Lenin's writings as the Bible, to be quoted word for word, were angry with us -- it was funny to watch them go through mental gymnastics trying to deal with the obvious contradictions within Lenin's line.

Well, Marx had contradictions within his work, too. It is thoroughly "Marxist" -- that is to say, scientific -- to acknowledge that Marx had contradictions. Road to Revolution IV does make a clean break with an aspect of Marx's line. There is no way to soft-pedal this difference. We are saying flat out that we disagree with some of Marx's writings.

One contradiction in Marx's writings centers on the question of how consciousness develops, the relationship of productive forces to consciousness. This has been discussed at length in several Party bulletins and issues of PL Magazine, but it is still a fundamental question that ties directly into Road to Revolution IV. One side of the contradiction says that "communism will win because it works better; it is the best system for organizing human society, and people can be won to that understanding.

The other side' of the contradiction emphasizes the stages, of human society, and implies that each succeeding stage inevitably had to follow the previous stage of history. Each later stage of history was able to unlock more productive forces and the subordinate class was able to ally itself with the kind of system that would allow the productive forces to develop and produce more things for people, Consistent with this second side of the contradiction is the notion, very common in radical theory that "socialism will produce so many good things for so many people that the working class, and indeed, all of society, will see that collectivism works better than private ownership for producing things, and therefore there will be no reason to steal or to exploit because everyone will have everything that they need and there would be no reason to restore capitalism."

Each revolutionary class throughout history was, supposedly, won to its revolutionary position by seeing how the revolution could produce more things, a better world, for itself than the previous system. In this view, this is true for the working class as well, in its drive for communism.


The second argument, which I'll call the "abundance" argument, has a certain amount of truth to it, but if taken too narrowly, it is simply wrong. Each successive system may have worked better than the system it replaced, but communism works better than any of them! The abundance argument has at least two basic problems:

  • Who is to say what "abundance" really is? Many working-class people in the U.8. probably live at a higher standard of living than Marx might have predicted -- better health care, longer life span, shorter workday, indoor plumbing, electricity, cars: etc. Of course, a nuclear war can erase all that, but even if nuclear war were not imminent we would say that the U.8. working class needs a communist revolution. All of those material things constitute "abundance" on one level, yet we know that it is not enough, because we know of the potential for a better world. We also know that most of the world doesn't even have a fraction of what many U.S. workers have. But even if the whole world lived at this relatively "abundant" level, we would still be fighting to smash the system. The "abundance" by itself does not, and cannot, eliminate selfishness and class divisions.
  • The other side of the coin is that there is always the possibility for more, and for better lives. There will always be some surplus to fight over if people believe that fighting for themselves selfishly is the key to success. In an immediate sense there are always limits. Even if technology produced a world where most people lived to be 200 years old with little illness, we would fight to overthrow that system if there were a group within that society exploiting and suppressing the productive, creative potential of another class within that world. There will never be "enough." There is always better and always more that can be achieved.

So the idea that achieving a certain high material level of society will automatically eliminate class antagonisms and contradictions is simply not true. Relative deprivation, not deprivation alone, is the driving force in the class struggle. Seeing the difference between the potential and the immediate will inspire humankind to try to better control nature for centuries after communism is achieved. The way that selfishness stands in the way of this is what wins people to accept communism. Some vaguely defined notion of "abundance" to be achieved by a rearrangement of society is not sufficient. No matter how high the level of society, some people will continue to steal from other people unless the communist way of life is understood by the members of society to be the best way, and fought for and ingrained in the culture and daily lives of that society. Goodies won't eliminate greed.

In fact, even the scenarios of "abundance" are incorrect projections of the possibilities under capitalism, because capitalists must seek maximum profits, which means the maximum level of exploitation of the working class that they can get away with. Therefore, the whole idea of a capitalist society where "everyone has enough" (whether by the standards of Marx's time or of today) but some people have more than enough is impossible.

People will be won to communism, then, not by the promise of a specific set of personal material gains, but rather by an understanding that capitalism always breeds horrors such as war, and that communism holds the potential for a future of better physical, mental, and emotional health, a future of unlimited scientific development for the betterment of all people -- including, probably, most people alive today. But even if it takes longer, we'll fight because we know that we will win someday; the alterative is to be a part of this filth or a helpless victim of it.

Communism, as broadly defined by Marx, is the best way to organize the world, and has always been the best way to organize the world.

This is not saying that the world could have moved to Marxist communism in 800 A.D. The ideology, the scientific understanding that this was the best way to run the world, had not been developed among enough people, But even then it would have been the best way to run the world if it could have been done. Are we saying that the world could have moved from what Marx called "primitive communism" to the kind of world communism that we want? No, because consciousness had not developed sufficiently. Each successive political-economic system --  slavery, feudalism, capitalism -- unlocked more and more science, enabling more and more people to see the contradiction between the way that society was being run and the way society could be run.

The great progressive historical function of capitalism was to make it possible for enough people to finally understand the scientific truth that communism works best. In particular, capitalism was especially useful in weakening the hold of religion,

Communism is the best way to organize the world. It has always been the best way to organize the world.

superstition and fatalism as an anti-scientific set of ideology that prevented people from seeing the scientific truth that communism works best. But it was not the level of productive forces in themselves that created the social change.

Consider the following case. If a group of teenagers were dropped off on an uninhabited island with nothing but stone tools, what would be the best, most humane, most productive political-economic system to: set up? The answer is communism! Would anyone say that they should first go through a period of slavery, then small farms and nomadic wandering and then later feudalism, and then capitalism and monopoly capitalism before they could realize that a system of "from each according to ability, to each according to need" is the system that would give the best life to the group members and allow the society to move forward? Of course not! Communism would obviously be the best system to set up.

Primitive communism was not Marxist communism. It was saturated with unscientific perceptions about how the world worked. It was not the "low level of the material life" that made primitive communism unable to develop directly into Marxist communism -- it was the lack of consciousness, There was gravity before scientists gave it a name; there was fire before people learned how to make fire; and two people working together could produce more and better goods for both of them even before they understood it. And communism is, and was, the best, most humane, most efficient, most productive way to set up the world -- whether or not enough people understood that, and were willing to fight for it to make it come true.

Is this a denial of Marx's basic notion that capitalism was once historically progressive? No. It is true that capitalism was historically progressive because it smashed feudalism, especially the feudal myths and superstitions that were believed by many, and which stood in the way of seeing the raw exploitation that was going on, or of seeing the tremendous power of socially-organized labor. Capitalism, especially industrial capitalism, used the collective talents of the laboring classes in a qualitatively more profound and obvious way than any previous system, hence revealing the truth about collective approaches to production better and to more people. But even in a world without electricity, railroads, automobiles and large factories, communism would still be the best system to set up. The key question is one of consciousness -- "what would it take for people to understand this truth'?"

It is not even certain that capitalism was even "historically progressive" after 1848. The Communist Manifesto smashed through the lies and myths and laid the basis for the massive workers' movements that followed. Since then, and even today, probably 80 to 90 percent of all the people in the world have been grappling with the concepts of socialism and communism in a generally favorable way: trying to understand if it can work, and how, etc. Even in our daily lives, we see many examples of "to each according to need" being practiced by working-class people. When someone holds the door open for you, they don't usually say, "Well, you owe me one." Soldiers fight and die, workers go off to work and ruin their health at miserable jobs for their families, parents work their butts off trying to raise their kids properly, neighbors babysit in a crisis --  all this, not expecting to be paid back, but rather for some notion that people working together produces a better world. Sure, there are many counter-examples, but the fact is that a communist way of living is not so totally unnatural or against the grain of everyday life as the cynics argue.

Well, if it is true that communism would be best, we should say it! Period. Why settle for inequality, which absolutely will open the door to first just differences and then real classes, and eventually war, etc.? After a cancer is cut out of a body, would the doctor decide to reimplant just a bit of cancer on the theory that the body might have gotten used to the cancer and would not be prepared for the shock of a cancer-free life? Capitalism is that cancer.

In summary, moving directly to communist economic relations is allied with one aspect of Marx's theory, but is in clear contradiction to another part. We are holding to the line of communism, but we are rejecting the notion, which Marx sometimes stated, that "abundance" would somehow create a world where stealing would cease to be because everyone would have all they need. Hell, the rich capitalists have the most abundance, and they are the biggest crooks of all --  they never get enough!

The key to holding onto the egalitarian communist society is to win enough people to understand and be willing to fight for the principle that our lives would be much worse if society were based on inequality. This will mean that we will have to make fantastic changes in the area of culture, as well as economics. Capitalist culture screws people up. A man might not like to wash dishes, but enjoy cleaning and sharpening tools, for example. An autoworker might hate the job, but enjoy working on his or her own car. A student might hate writing a paper for school, but enjoy writing a letter to Challenge! What makes us like what we like and hate what we hate is only partly based on physical/material issues. Nobody likes pain, but most people actually enjoy activity that can be physically strenuous -- if we are not alienated from that labor. Alienation does not have to do with something being unpleasant; it has to do with thinking that our effort, our activity, is not going for something that we feel is worthwhile. It might seem useless, or worse yet, it might seem that someone is taking our labor or time away from us and we, or people we love and care about are getting no benefit from it. Sometimes we wrongly feel alienated from something we should put more effort into, such as thinking that a certain political activity is "not really worth it" because "nothing will come of it" when really that activity, especially building strong personal-political ties with fellow workers, students and neighbors, is extremely important in the long run.

Capitalism defines us mainly as workers, but capitalism would like us to see ourselves mainly as consumers, in competition with other workers for goods. We are supposed to feel pride, self-esteem, in what we own and how much we consume -- to feel good if we have a newer car or bigger house than our neighbor. We are supposed to look at other workers as a means, as objects to manipulate in order to get what we want. Taken to the extreme, this produces thieves, rapists and killers who feel good about hurting other people. All capitalists, big and small, say they are against this, but they foster these basic cultural and philosophical ideas that lay the basis for these extremes. All of them do the same thing -- use workers as means, as objects to exploit for profit.

We have to reject all this garbage, and we have to win the working class to look upon all this as total garbage. Of course we want a better material life for people. But why feel pride if the bosses sucker you into wanting to own, or consume or look or act according to phony standards they set up precisely to blind us? A person with a very expensive car is not "freer;" running around with many women does not make a man "free" -- they are both prisoners, compulsively trying to overcome their insecurity, alienation, by trying to be "in." Who needs this crap? ,

We can, and will, win ourselves, and the working class, to a communist line. This line would not look with envy on someone

Inequality will open the door first to differences, and then classes, and finally to defeat.

who gets a luxury of some sort. On the contrary, just as in war-ravaged China and Russia, people would way, "who the hell is he or she to have all this extra when others are suffering?" The section of the working class that would not be the beneficiaries of inequality would be the source of power to prevent any group from getting more than the rest. We will rely on that section of the working class to prevent inequality from taking hold.

Eliminating the wage system will be very important. It would be impossible to create the system described above, especially the culture, if a wage system were maintained. A wage system would still necessarily have to maintain inequality. Furthermore, while it would still be possible to steal and exploit under a non-money system, the existence of money makes it much easier to steal, exploit, charge interest, etc., and it makes it much easier to hide this robbery .All living creatures are consumers; what makes us human is our productivity. People want to be productive in a non-alienated way. Communism will offer this to the human race, and I believe that the human race can, and will, choose this over the false promises inequality and selfishness offer, which always lead to exploitation, war and misery for the overwhelming majority.


The second major point that some people raised in opposition to Road to Revolution (lV) had to do with what form the dictatorship of the proletariat will take. Road to Revolution IV asserts boldly that the Party would be the ultimate organizational expression of working class power, in addition to its primary role as political and ideological leader. This worried some people who felt that power concentrated in the hands of the party would automatically create a situation such as happened in the USSR, where the party became a new ruling class. Question\ included:

  • How will the party deal with dissent?
  • Will the party allow "freedom of expression" for people who disagree with the party?
  • How will the working class protect itself from the party if the party becomes corrupt? .
  • If the party commands a standing army, will it be easier for a corrupt party to suppress the working class?
  • Who will have the final say?

The heart of the question is whether the party should make the basic decisions that run society, or whether some other group should make those decisions. To clear away the smoke, the real issue is the issue of "democratic centralism:" How do we guarantee that we can have centralism --  the will of the working class being carried out by all members -- while preventing a corrupt group from using centralism in an anti-working class way? Will a group of non-party people be allowed to have ultimate power over the decisions of the party if there is a disagreement? If there is no disagreement, then this issue is never going to come to a head. But if there is disagreement, should the party be allowed to use the threat of force in order to have its decisions carried out?

There is a false argument often used in discussing the role of centralism. Some people argue that the value of centralism is in its efficiency, but that this efficiency must be balanced off against some form of protection for the majority -- hence "democratic" centralism. "Democratic centralism" is seen as a "unity of opposites" – a combination of democracy and centralism where each of them is used to prevent the other from going to the extreme. "Too much democracy would not be efficient, but too much centralism would lead to suppression of the rights of the people." This whole line of thinking is completely wrong!

It pretends to be dialectical, but is actually, in Lenin's words, "eclectic" -- another way of saying that it tries to solve a basic problem of struggle not by seeing how different forces interact and transform each other but rather by simply borrowing a little from one, a little from the other, and coming up with something that is not really accurate at all. Let us break down the two words -- "democratic" and "centralism" --  and see what is meant, or should be, by those terms.

The word "democratic" used in the context of "democratic centralism" is used in different ways. One meaning is that there should be full discussion of a proposal before a decision is made. Another meaning is that decisions should be made in the interests of the working class, and in a way that not only will benefit the working class, but also train more and more working-class people to contribute to the running of the society. A third meaning sometimes given to "democratic" is that there should be some sort of formal institutionalized process, usually some sort of voting, that should be done before a decision is finally made.

The word "centralist" means that after a decision is made, everyone should work to carry it out, whether or not they agreed with the decision. Furthermore, within the context of the party, it means that discussion and disagreement are allowed, but that it must be done in an open way, not in a secret way. Members cannot form private groups that hold private, closed meetings to discuss how to undermine a decision. Disagreements should be discussed only in the context .of party meetings. Otherwise, the member is saying that his highest loyalty is not to the party, but to a small group of associates.

I personally do not like the term democratic" here. I think that it means too many things to too many different people. I prefer the term "communist centralism" because that gives a political-economic content to centralism -- it means that all centralism is for the purpose of building a society free of privilege and exploitation, based on "from each according to his ability, to each according to need." and developing the consciousness of the people to be able to implement that. In any case, the first definition of "democratic" given above doesn't help clear the air at all. Everybody should agree with the idea that there should be full discussion as much as possible before a decision is made, so the first definition does not reveal the differences that people have on democratic centralism and how society should be run.

The second meaning is the one that I prefer. Decisions should be made that are to the benefit of the working class of the world, and that will encourage and develop greater and greater numbers of workers to take more of an active interest and participation in helping make the decisions. However, everybody who claims to be a communist, certainly all party members, would probably agree with this as well, so this definition also does not help reveal the differences.

The third meaning, that there should be some sort of voting process that is absolutely binding, and that has the final say, is where the controversy comes forward the sharpest. Road to Revolution IV says explicitly that the leadership, the party, wants to encourage direct working-class transformation of the society and direct working-class leadership of the society, but that, when push comes to shove, in an ultimate sense, the power of the society should rest in the hands of the party, rather than in the hands of a non-party group, or some sort of coalition between the party and non-communist forces.

Those who disagreed with the Road to Revolution IV formulation said that democracy is supposed to give the most freedom to the greatest number, and that the party would be going against democracy if the party carried out some policy without a vote of the masses or against the will of a vote of the masses. Other give a second, related, argument, that says the masses will need some sort of official institutional protection against the party, some sort of institutional system of checks and balances against the party becoming corrupt, since corrupt parties are what rule the USSR, etc., today, and that voting-type procedures are a way to keep a small group of people from using power in a corrupt way.


The issue really boils down to: "What if there is a contradiction between the second definition of democracy (decisions made to further communism -- to each according to need, etc.) and the third definition of democracy (some sort of shared power arrangement)?" Some people have said that in that case, the party should back down, give people the opportunity to learn, to make their own mistakes if necessary, even if it might harm themselves somewhat, because the "democratic procedure" is more important than the actual outcome or decision." This sounds very nice, but what if the supposed will of those people involved in that shared power-type situation will result in serious damage to some other sections of the working class? Is the party supposed to abide by some sort of decision that might result in the oppression of some other group of workers?

A fundamental problem with these "shared power/voting, etc." formulations is that they allow for very undemocratic, anti-communist or anti-working-class oppression against some segment of the working-class, and they provide a "democratic" cover to justify it. Specifically, if the students on a campus vote to allow the CIA to recruit on campus, would that be democratic? Of course not! The oppressed working classes of El Salvador, Iran, Africa, etc. didn't get to vote! Suppose the working class, under a dictatorship of the proletariat, decides to support the oppression of workers in another country, or to disagree with a party decision to put off raising the standard of living at home in order to help the working class in another country, based on selfish or nationalist ideas. Would it be "democratic" for the party to go along with that nationalist-selfish wish? Who gets to vote? Would we let religious nuts vote -- people who may not have committed a crime like the KKK, but are clearly wrong, and thinking in a dangerous way? Would KKKers vote? If not, then who makes the decision? If the party decides who will vote, then it still boils down to the same thing.

The heart of the question: Should the Party make the basic decisions, or should some other group make them?

How will the masses understand the issues? Through the media? Who will run the media? Would these people really have the most power, and could they become a corrupt group if they have the power to describe and define the issues and/or the "candidates?" Who would you trust? Who could you trust?

The problem with "shared power/democratic procedures, etc." as the guarantee against small group power-corruption is that it is no guarantee against that sort of corruption. The main problem with anti-centralism is not that it is "inefficient, but democratic." The problem with it is that it is not particularly democratic. If the party does not assert power, and control power for the purpose of building a society based on "from each according to ability, to each according to need," communism, an end to oppression, war, and privilege, which will result in the most freedom (and the most "things") for virtually everyone, then some other group will assert power for some other purpose, namely special privilege, capitalist oppression, etc. All class society is a dictatorship. If communists, fighting for communism and all that that means, do not hold power in an ultimate sense, after all the steps are taken to ensure mass discussion, then some other group will seize power! They will certainly not play by those formalistic "fake-democratic" rules, or they will distort those rules. In any case, the class struggle will still rage, and there is no reason for the communists to refrain from fighting to win.

"Centralism" is not the opposite of "democracy" (used in the second sense of pro-communism, most freedom for the working class, etc.) One does not "balance" the other. On the contrary, without centralism, there is no such thing as "democracy! "Would it be democratic to let one town hold up the water supply to another, if the voters agree to? Of course not! The working class of the world, not some small fraction, should be the decider; and yes, the party should make those decisions in

The real contradiction in democratic centralism is between individualism and collectivism.

the interests of the working class of the world. Otherwise, the other so-called democratic procedures simply allow some small group to assert their will over the need of all. There's nothing democratic about that!

The real contradiction in democratic centralism is not between democracy and centralism. It is between individualism, or special-group loyalty, and collectivism, or what is good for the working class as a whole.

The job of the communist party -- PLP -- is to grasp what is good for the working class as a whole and then to make certain that it is carried out. The party can only do that by winning millions of workers to communist ideas. If the party fails to do this, in the long run it will not understand what is in the interest of the world's working class. It will become a "special group" itself. But during the process of winning the world's workers to communism, the party's duty is to make sure no policies are put into effect which go against the interests of the working class no matter what kind of pseudo-democratic procedures were used to arrive at those policies.

This brings up the question "Well, who appointed the PLP to speak for the working class of the world? How do you know that you are right?" Well, we're certainly going to make some mistakes, but what's the alternative? To go around thinking that we're wrong? To run slowly towards the exit of a burning building because we are not quite sure that it is the right exit? To encourage what Lenin called "spontaneity," which means just letting people do "what comes naturally?" As Lenin pointed out, virtually nothing comes "naturally" except breathing; the idea of letting people "do what comes naturally" simply means letting all the other influences in their lives, developed by capitalism and capitalist culture, make up their minds. Some people who worry about "cramming communism down people's throats" don't realize that the bosses are cramming capitalism down people's throats. Our only hope is to win masses to fight voluntarily for communism. Doing that would be a prerequisite for revolution, anyhow. But should those who oppose it be allowed to exercise a dictatorship over those who are pro-communist? There's nothing wrong with those who understand the necessity for communism banding together, forming an organization to fight, with their lives, for communism. Certainly, there is a danger in claiming to speak for the working class of the world -- but that danger is not avoided by refusing to give strong leadership. In fact, the danger is compounded.


There are such things as anti-communist forms of centralism, of course. All forms of centralism that do not aim at carrying out a policy in the interest of the world's working class are really capitalist. But all of the authoritarian relations in capitalist society are centralist. In fact, only in the Party do we experience real democracy, though small groups of workers often act in democratic ways among themselves.

It is true that proclaiming ourselves "spokespeople or leaders of the world working-class movement" can be used to justify special privileges. That is why the first part of this essay emphasized that the mass, public commitment to communism is the best guarantee against this sort of corruption taking place. We must be on absolute guard against corruption in the party; we must win the party rank and file, and the working class in general, to be super-sensitive and vigorous in fighting this danger of corruption. Also, we must win the most dedicated and committed workers by the millions to be the members and leaders of the party. But weakening the party is not the way to do this.

Centralism is the expression of the most freedom for the most people, if you believe that communism is the hope of the future, and freedom is defined by the quality and quantity of social relations. Using that definition of democracy, centralism is the best, the only, expression of democracy. Opposing communist centralism will simply lead to capitalist centralism. The choice is not chaos or centralism -- it is communist centralism or capitalist centralism.

There is nothing "humanistic" about asserting individual freedom in contrast to communism, or to centralism. Marx correctly pointed out that we all will have the most freedom, and live the best lives, if we dare to interlock our lives with those of other people. People are not a burden; they are a source for finding better and better solutions to the world's problems. Functioning in a collective way, accepting the discipline of the party that is fighting for communism, fighting for and practicing centralism -- these are not denials of our freedom. Our humanity comes from our ability to shape and control our destinies, and this we can best do by functioning collectively. This is what communism brings, and this is what centralism -- which is thoroughly consistent with communism -- means.

If we are fighting in the interests of the working class of the world, then centralism -- communist centralism -- is the organizational expression of the best form of human relations, and is the best organizational form for the party and for society. If the party is not fighting in the interests of the working class of the world, then this question is not important; then the important question is how to either straighten out the party or to smash it. Weak control is no protector against corruption.

So why should we lie and pretend that we are for some sort of shared power, when we, as everyone else, would resort to violence if we thought that enemies might come to power? Let's say it loud and clear: Centralism is not a "necessary evil;" it is the best expression of the most freedom for the working class of the world, and it is the best form of human relations -- making an agreement and sticking: to it.


This ties into questions that have been raised about the idea of a standing army after the revolution. A professional army has been an important tool for revisionists to control and then to use against the working class. The only ultimate protection against this is the political understanding of the masses, including the masses of soldiers. Until capitalism is destroyed throughout the world, the working class, living under the dictatorship of the proletariat, must be armed (except, of course, for right-wingers and known enemies) and organized into local militias. We will also need a professional army, people who are trained fighters, who can handle sophisticated weaponry, and are prepared to go to the assistance of the militias or to the aid of workers elsewhere. The bosses and: their agents will attempt comebacks, and workers will still be fighting for revolution in other areas. With the Red Army, as with every other aspect of post-revolutionary life, the best check against corruption is ideological training and commitment. Additionally, we might consider not having the forts out on prairies and in the woods the way the U.S. bosses do, to try to isolate the soldiers from the rest of the working class. But to say that we should not have some people whose job it is to be well-trained professional soldiers in a world where capitalists will be trying to destroy our struggle for communism would be to set ourselves up for defeat.

How long will the dictatorship of the proletariat last before it finally "withers away?" I don't know. Perhaps more than 200 years and less than a million. No one knows, and no one can really even begin to imagine what life will be like after a hundred, a thousand, ten thousand years of communist economic relations. We need to avoid predictions where we have no basis for them; all we can say is that it will be a long period.




Wages system; wages given ‘according to work’; inequality accepted although this will supposedly disappear with ‘abundance’ for all Dictatorship of proletariat led by party; still need laws, armies, jails, to prevent capitalists from rebuilding capitalism


Wage system abolished and replaced by communist distribution – ‘From each according to ability, to each according to need’ – egalitarianism

No more state; all human relations voluntary. All disagreements settled without having to use force because everyone wants to preserve communism as the best way of life.


During the discussion of Road to Revolution IV among the party and friends, many raised the question of whether communism was the right name for the system we want to set up right after the revolution, because it's not quite the same as what Marx meant by the word. On the other hand, it is also not what was usually meant by socialism. In classical Marxist- Leninist writing, the terms "socialism" and "communism" usually had the meanings shown in the chart above.

Road to Revolution IV says that we want to build a society based on a combination of the two elements shown in heavier type above. Those who wanted to call it "socialism" to describe this point out that if we call it "communism" that would not be accurate because we would still have "a dictatorship of the proletariat; supposedly this definition would be contrary to what Marx and Lenin meant and would lead to confusion.

On the other hand, those who favored using the word "communism" pointed out that what we are talking about is qualitatively different from what has "been called "socialism." We are making a sharp, clear break with a basic aspect of Marxist-Leninist practice, and much of Marxist-Leninist writing, although, as we pointed out earlier, there is much in Lenin, and especially in Marx, that is consistent with what we are saying in Road to Revolution IV.

The reason for using a particular term is to have a certain effect on the world, and not because sound has any intrinsic meaning. We should use words in order to convey the clearest meaning. Use of the word "socialist" would not be as clear as "communist" in making it understood that we want to set up communist economic relations based on need. When you want to make a point very sharply, especially a break from an established way of thinking, it can certainly be useful to use different terms.

Actually, Engels wrote that when he and Marx were writing the Manifesto, they explicitly chose to use the word "communist" rather than call it the "Socialist Manifesto" because even though they were talking about replacing capitalism with socialism, the word "socialist" was being used by so many phonies and nuts that it was important to find some way to clearly differentiate their line from those of the others who were calling themselves "socialists." The Bolsheviks changed the name of their party from "social-democratic" to communist in 1918 for the same reason.

As far as mixing people up because of the other definition of "communism" as being the society after the need for violence, jails, laws, etc. is over, I believe that those who read  will understand pretty clearly that we are not making the idealist-anarchist mistake of believing that such a society could be set up immediately, The role of the dictatorship of the proletariat and the Party in maintaining the system is unmistakable in our Manifesto.

Incidentally, there are many times when Marx, Engels, and Lenin used the term "communist" to describe a system that still had a dictatorship of the proletariat, although that was not their most common usage. One example is in The State and Revolution, one of the basic classics, that discusses the transformation of capitalism into dictatorship of the proletariat and the eventual "withering away of the state." Lenin has a whole section using the word "communism" interchangeably with a society that still has dictatorship of the proletariat. So, if Lenin was not so totally rigid in his use of the word "communism," I don't think it would be a mortal sin against dialectical materialism if we were to use the term communism as meaning a society with communist economic relations.

I favor the use of the word "communism." I think it is very important for us to convey the sharpness of our break with the old movement on the question of establishing communist economic relations immediately after seizing power. "Communism" may not be the most accurate term, but for our purposes it is far more accurate and clear than "socialism."

Of course, the most important questions now become "How do we live our lives now? What are the implications of Road to Revolution IV? And, How do we turn the potential of a new life for all workers into a reality?"