The vision of Communism is a society without class differences and class conflict, where all people can contribute to society “according to their abilities” and receive from society “according to their needs”. Communist society is not about uniformity, but rather the recognition of different human capabilities and needs.
In the day to day struggles of the working people against war, oppression and exploitation, Communists pay careful attention to the strategies, tactics and policies best suited to complex and varied stages of struggle.
If the correct strategies, tactics and policies are applied they can win support and mobilise the people around demands for change and achieve, sometimes, even a measure of success.
But the real measure of success for Communists is in the raising of political consciousness. In this sense, there are lessons in the losses and the stalemates as well as the victories.
What is meant by “raising political consciousness”?
For Communists it means taking people beyond recognition of the need for better and fairer conditions in society to the recognition that the most far-reaching and fundamental change is necessary, revolutionary change that empowers the working people and disempowers the ruling class of exploiters and oppressors.
Communists uphold the leading role of the working class in the ideological and political struggles of the exploited and oppressed against their exploiters and oppressors. The history of socialist revolutions tells us that the importance of this leading role is equally critical after the overthrow of the old system and for the construction and consolidation of socialism.
Yet the irony, the contradiction, lies in the fact that as socialism is further consolidated, the more class differences are progressively reduced and the more the working class state becomes superfluous and can ‘wither away’ as the vision of a classless society becomes reality.
Transition to a classless society
Marx recognised that it was not possible to establish communist society in one hit, and that a fairly long transition period would be necessary to create not only the material conditions but also to develop the social outlook necessary.
This first stage of communism, the stage of transition, has been called Socialism. “This socialism is the declaration of the permanence of the revolution, the class dictatorship of the proletariat as the necessary transit point to the abolition of class distinctions generally, to the abolition of all the relations of production on which they rest, to the abolition of all the social relations that correspond to these relations of production, to the revolutionising of all the ideas that result from these social relations.” (K. Marx The Class Struggles in France, 1850)
The revolutionary smashing of the old state power by the working class is only the beginning of the much greater, more complex and difficult task of building a new society. “What we have to deal with here is a communist society, not as it has developed on its own foundations, but, on the contrary, just as it emerges from capitalist society; which is thus in every respect, economically, morally and intellectually, still stamped with the birth marks of the old society from whose womb it emerges.” (K. Marx Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875)
Therefore, Marx and Engels saw the necessity to establish planned and regulated production to overcome the random anarchy of capitalist production, and to produce goods and services to meet the real needs of the people rather than just for profit. This controlled economic development would also avoid the boom-bust cycles characteristic of capitalism.
The working class state - dictatorship of the proletariat
“Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (K. Marx Critique of the Gotha Programme, 1875)
The task of the working class state involves not only economic re-organisation of society in the interests of the workers and other working people, but also the critical tasks of preserving and consolidating the gains of socialism, to move forward the whole of society in the direction of communism.
This means gradually introducing new ways of thinking based on the common good rather than the old, selfish values of capitalism.
It means using the state apparatus of the working class (i.e., the people’s armed forces, police, courts, prisons, etc) to prevent attempts by the defeated classes and their international supporters to overthrow or side-track the revolutionary power of the workers.
The broad scope of these critical tasks means that the period of socialist transformation is necessarily prolonged, and does not always proceed in a straight line.
“The dictatorship of the proletariat is a persistent struggle – bloody and bloodless, violent and peaceful, military and economic, educational and administrative – against the forces and traditions of the old society. The force of habit of millions and tens of millions is a terrible force. Without an iron party tempered in struggle, without a party enjoying the confidence of all that is honest in the given class, without a party capable of watching and influencing the mood of the masses, it is impossible to conduct such a struggle.” (V.I Lenin Left-Wing Communism, 1920)
Towards a classless society
Dictatorship of the proletariat is class rule by the working class. It replaces the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, i.e., the capitalists as a class. Unlike the rule of the rich, who seek only to perpetuate their rule, the working class state acts in the interests of the majority of the people, and struggles to empower the working people in such a way that it will eventually “wither away”.
Communists have a vision of a future society that has no need for hierarchies or weapons. “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.” (F. Engels Socialism: Utopian and Scientific, 1877)
“Only in communist society, when the resistance of the capitalists has been completely crushed, when the capitalists have disappeared, when there are no classes (i.e., when there is no distinction between the members of society as regards their relation to the social means of production), only then “the state ... ceases to exist,” and “it becomes possible to speak of freedom.”
“The state will be able to wither away completely when society adopts the rule: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” i.e., when people have become so accustomed to observing the fundamental rules of social intercourse and when their labour has become so productive that they will voluntarily work according to their ability.”
(V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution,1917)
In Australia, our immediate struggle is against imperialist domination; our program is revolutionary national independence continuing on to build socialism. At all stages, despite difficulties and set-backs, we should not lose sight of the goal - society without class.