If we look into history we shall find that Marxism, as an idea which acquired consciousness of the masses, was active only for a rather short time period - that is about half a century in Europe (70s of the XIX century - 20s of the XX century) and the same span in Asia and Latin America (20s - 70s of the XX century). Thus, Marxism met mature stage of the industrialization process in the West and the initial stage of that one in the East.
What's up to nowadays?
Marxism is still the idea to which many oppressed and exploited people resort in their searches of the exit from a world of oppression and exploitation. But becoming a member of some Marxist organization one can find a set of postulates and dogmas rather than explanation of a real world. Because of ways to the ultimate goal - communist society are completely unclear, this goal appears as an abstract, divorced from reality dogma. In western countries Marxists are dealing with particular issues, they think primarily about election results. In some developing countries Marxists enjoy more support. Some of them (for example Indian Maoists) even conduct armed struggle with their governments. But they also faced the same problems. What would be expected if Maoists would have won and started to implement their stiff dogmas? Nothing but just another incarnation of Soviet or China’s model of so-called “socialism”.
Though, as Nepal, where Maoists voluntarily refused from power and radical changes, has shown - even such course of events is unreal in modern world.
There is a common habit in academic environment to talk about death of Marxism. But in reality, however, this thesis is worth not more than Lenin's assertion that "Marx's doctrine is all-powerful because it is truth". We, the oppressed and exploited, faced nowadays the questions that we ought to answer - is Marxism still an actual, effective theory or is it completely belongs to the Past? Or could we use Marxism only partially in order for our Liberation? And, if so, to what extent? And, finally, what is the theory of Liberation appropriate for the modern world? To answer these questions we must understand where the failure occurred, what led to the position where Marxism appears to be now.
It appears that the main problem of Marxism is its pretension to be the first and exclusive scientific system which grounds possibility, necessity and inevitability of socialism. And Marxism considers itself as the only system which indicates the scientifically grounded ways to the new society. In the special writing dedicated to the issue - "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific", which was approvingly characterized by Marx as "introduction to the scientific socialism", Friedrich Engels emphasizes scientific nature of Marxism and opposes it against "pre-scientific, utopian socialism". Also, in implicit form Engels opposes Marxism to the rival socialist tendencies of these times - Proudhonism, Anarchism and others (1).
However, socialist movement, until it has won, exists in the framework of old social system. The ideas of this movement about new society and ways of transition from the old society to new one inevitably have the nature of hypothesis, though they are scientific hypotheses. Socialist movement has the goal - achieving a new society. According to this goal the ways and means should be found in real world. The aspect of teleologism, which is subjectivistic by nature, already causes inevitability that any socialist doctrine must fall into two pieces - more or less scientific views and social-political creed (utopia, in absolutely neutral sense of the word). Socialist social-political creed, "image of the bright Future" mobilizes the masses. But, on the other hand, it implies the possibility of supplementing (or even substitution) the teaching's truly scientific elements with subjectivistic and pragmatic aspirations. Science if it is really science should be free from subjectivistic and value judgments. Therefore, the scientific element in a certain socialist teaching is only so far as there is unlimited freedom of scientific criticism.
Engels completely missed this necessary distinction between the theory and creed. And this led to the very negative consequences for Marxism. It turned out that the creed part got the status of inviolable scientific knowledge. Marxism had been ushered as truth of science and became to be considered as scientific system and world view. But due to the fact that Marxism, from the very beginning, developed in close connection with the activity of Marxist political parties and movements, the creed became entirely prevailed over theory. Subjectivity and political pragmatism prevailed over science. At the same time the creed (in one version or another) considered and positioned itself as a science. Apotheosis of that process became that one of the most monstrous and inhuman regimes in human history - Stalinism stressed that it was legitimate socialism and development of the Marxist science on a new stage.
Finally, all that led to the immersion of Marxism in separated from the reality dogmatics regarding which marginal Trotskyist, Leninist, Maoist etc. sects are performing meaningless disputes between and amidst them.
To realize malignancy of uncritical belief in Marxism as a science let's investigate one very important issue in the same Engels's work "Socialism: Utopian and Scientific". Pointing out that historical development forced bourgeoisie to seek alleviation of contradiction between socialized production and private form of appropriation, Engels enumerates various forms of such alleviation, namely - joint-stock companies, trusts, nationalization. He concludes: "But, the transformation — either into joint-stock companies and trusts, or into State-ownership — does not do away with the capitalistic nature of the productive forces. In the joint-stock companies and trusts, this is obvious. And the modern State, again, is only the organization that bourgeois society takes on in order to support the external conditions of the capitalist mode of production against the encroachments as well of the workers as of individual capitalists. The modern state, no matter what its form, is essentially a capitalist machine — the state of the capitalists, the ideal personification of the total national capital. The more it proceeds to the taking over of productive forces, the more does it actually become the national capitalist, the more citizens does it exploit. The workers remain wage-workers — proletarians. The capitalist relation is not done away with. It is, rather, brought to a head. But, brought to a head, it topples over. State-ownership of the productive forces is not the solution of the conflict, but concealed within it are the technical conditions that form the elements of that solution".
It is excellent remark about a state as "ideal personification of the total national capital'. But what does result from this statement? Reading further: "The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production into State property… When, at last, it becomes the real representative of the whole of society, it renders itself unnecessary. As soon as there is no longer any social class to be held in subjection; as soon as class rule, and the individual struggle for existence based upon our present anarchy in production, with the collisions and excesses arising from these, are removed, nothing more remains to be repressed, and a special repressive force, a State, is no longer necessary. The first act by virtue of which the State really constitutes itself the representative of the whole of society — the taking possession of the means of production in the name of society — this is, at the same time, its last independent act as a State. State interference in social relations becomes, in one domain after another, superfluous, and then dies out of itself; the government of persons is replaced by the administration of things, and by the conduct of processes of production. The State is not "abolished". It dies out".
Thus, what do we see in the last fragment? From the scientific point of view that is hypothesis, assumption, and guess. That is all rightfully belongs to the scientifically unverified social-political creed. But Marxism already had been positioned as a science and this founder’s guess got a status of scientific thesis. When this thesis had been implemented to the practice of "socialist development" in Leninist-Stalinist Russia we saw quite different thing - the State in no way dies out but it becoming terribly repressive totalitarian state, which was never seen before! It seems that all has been done according to the science, according to Marx and Engels. And, as a twist of fate, totalitarian state propagandistic machine tells to the oppressed and exploited people, with the same words as Engels, that it gradually "dies out".
Marx and Engels really made outstanding discoveries in social science and they realized that fact. That is quite clear logically why they, and especially their followers, wanted to give to the teaching a shape of certain scientific system. If Socialism is a conscious development of new society then it requires science. But only one scientific theory can be true.
But in what sense does the movement to the new society need in science? Marx himself showed that this movement arises and develops before, besides, and independently from any science since it caused by the contradictions in reality. The science can only give greater degree of self-knowledge. This is very important but it isn't necessary condition neither for the existence nor for the victory of the movement. However, there is one necessary condition without which any social movement in human history did not operate - social-political creed (ideology in Marxist sense of the word). Function and benefit of science, while the movement didn't achieve final victory yet, consists in the reviewing of the creed. At that the fundamental principles of science such as unlimited freedom of criticism, and reflection turned to the very process of production of scientific knowledge, must be kept. If Marxism would have chosen this way of necessary self-restraint and identified itself as critical socialism, as it was suggested by the first Italian Marxist Antonio Labriola, - then many tragical historical events might have been avoided.
As concerns the issue of what will be an image of new society - there, at the point where we are now, the science in the true sense of the word becomes silent. Some scientific truths such as that the socialized production should correspond to socialized appropriation tell us nothing about concrete implementation of that in concrete historical circumstances. But exactly after the decisive victory of the movement the significance of the science, which enriches the living creativity of the masses, will increase immensely. It's important to guarantee that it will be science indeed, not the substitution of the science for the creed as it was in so-called "socialist states".
The claim to the exclusiveness, caused by the monopolization of scientific knowledge, emerges in Marxism from the very beginning. One can read in Communist Manifesto: "In what relation do the Communists stand to the proletarians as a whole? The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement”. It is a perfect statement! But what does follow after it? Reading further: "The Communists, therefore, are on the one hand, practically, the most advanced and resolute section of the working-class parties of every country, that section which pushes forward all others; on the other hand, theoretically, they have over the great mass of the proletariat the advantage of clearly understanding the line of march, the conditions, and the ultimate general results of the proletarian movement".
However let's take a glimpse at least to the decisive points in the history of socialist movement. The year of 1871, Paris Commune did mainly without participation of Marxists. The year of 1905, during first Russian revolution the workers created first workers councils, that new form confounded some Marxists. The year of 1917, Marxists-Bolsheviks seized the power in Russia. During two or three years the activity of any non-Bolshevik parties and movements had been forbidden. The suppression of the workers democracy had been increasing constantly and finally it was reduced to nothing (modern Trotskyists interpret it as a temporary and enforced phenomenon but this "temporary phenomenon" lasted for more than 70 years, until the collapse of USSR). At the same time in Europe one part of Marxists supported shaken bourgeois order while the other attacked it using the tactics of putschism and Bolsheviks' experience. The year of 1968, the French revolution, growing as a snowball, was betrayed and aborted by the Communists who acted as puppets in geopolitical games of Kremlin's "Marxists".
It is paradoxical but Marx and Engels, to whom, more than anyone else, the oppressed classes owed clarification of their social position and general conditions of their struggle, actually benefited the bourgeois class probably not less than the proletariat. Due to their science, which sprang from bourgeois sources and was formed with the bourgeois components (2) and therefore was clear to the bourgeois, the bourgeois, because of their actual superiority in resources, educational level, etc. could be able, as far as it is possible under the capitalism, prevent conflicts, smooth over contradictions, govern and manipulate masses. The easiness with which countless Marxists, from Millerand to Barroso and so on, convert to capitalism's camp, permanent betrayal of parties, social-democrats at first, than communists, totalitarian quasi-socialist regimes that willingly ready to any deal with bourgeois world - all of that leads to suggestion that there is some intimate likeness between Marxism and bourgeois way of thinking.
Aforesaid shouldn't be interpreted in the sense that Marxism has no really scientific componentry. Simply two things should be understood: 1) Marxism is nothing more than one of the ways of theoretical substantiation aims and claims for transition to new, fair and free society; 2) as a social-political creed (utopia) Marxism is not at an advantage over any socialist teaching in the past and present.
Only such self-identification of Marxism, its denial of claims to be an all-embracing and total scientific system, world view, could lead to its real revival as a tool of liberation of the oppressed and exploited.
To be continued...