| by Shelton A. Gunaratne
Professor of mass communications emeritus
Minnesota State University Moorhead
(November 21, Washington DC, Sri Lanka Guardian) The capitalists poo-pooh Marx and Engels’ dialectical materialism theory, which asserts that every economic order grows to a state ofmaximum efficiency, while at the same time developing internal contradictions or weaknesses that contribute to its decay.
Although rarely acknowledged by Western scholars, the dialectical method attributed to Hegel, Marx and Engels owes much to Buddhist and Chinese philosophy, which assert:
that the universe is an integrated whole wherein everything is interdependent, interrelated and interactive (in effect, the law of dependent co-origination in Buddhism) that everything in the universe is in a constant state of flux (in effect, the law of anicca – change or impermanence—in Buddhism) that everything in the universe has an opposite; and that everything is composed of successive layers of synthesis resulting from the interaction of the two opposites (in effect, the yin-yang principle in Daoism).
Karl Marx (1818-1883) used the dialectical method, a version of the yin-yang principle traceable to the Yin Dynasty (about 1400-1100 BCE) and the Western Zhou Dynasty (1100-771 BCE), to develop a revolutionary sociological theory of change.
Marx’ theory of history saw five successive stages of development in Western Europe: primitive communism, slave society, feudalism, capitalism, and socialism/communism. Each stage, except the last, created a new class or invention that would lead to its own demise. Marx surmised that the final oppressive class would cease to exist after the stage of socialism/communism. Socialism would advance itself into communism under the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Thus communism, as implied by Marxist theory, is classless perfection—analogous to Buddhist nirvana, which marks the end of the cycle of becoming and rebirth (samsara)—the final transition from socialism signifying “a classless, moneyless, revolutionary, and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production” (Wikipedia). Marx’ dialectical materialism ends with communism.
An array of other ‘isms—Leninism, Stalinism, Trotskyism, Maoism, and so on—emerged to reflect the ideological differences related to the process of transition from capitalism to socialism/communism. While Marxism theorized a spontaneous transition from capitalism to socialism, which turned into communism—the perfect classless state, alternative views emerged to revise the Marxist theory to conform to the events surrounding the October 1917 Revolution in Russia.
Now, instead of arguing inabstractions, let us precisely define the two ends of the capitalism-socialism nexus:
Capitalism is an economic system wherein the means of production are privately owned, operated for profit (endless capital accumulation) from investment, and in competitive markets (laissez faire) free of state interference. Because perfect competition is a myth hatched in Adam Smith’s imagination, pure capitalism is only a theoretical construct that has neverexisted or will exist anywhere.
Socialism is an economic system wherein the working class (the proletariat) that produces the profits, the wealth, and the material goods own the means of production and run things collectively and democratically for the benefit of the majority.
Communism, on the other hand, is both an economic and political system situated in a classless society bereft of exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed, and so on. Communism seeks to manage both the economy and the society by ensuring that property is owned collectively, and that control over the distribution of property is centralized in order to achieve both classlessness and statelessness.
Both socialism and communism are based on the principle that the goods and services produced in an economy should be owned publicly, and controlled and planned by a centralized organization. Socialism says that the distribution should take place according to the amount of an individual’s production efforts, whilstcommunism asserts that goods and services should be distributed among the populace according to individuals’ needs.
Pure socialism (or communism) is alsonothing but a mere theoretical construct hatched in Karl Marx’ imagination because a pure classless society has never existed or will exist anywhere. For an array of ‘isms revised the Marxist theory of the transition to socialism.
· Leninism is the revisionist doctrine of Vladimir Lenin (1870-1924), the leader of the Bolsheviks who led the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, that socialism will not arise spontaneously through the natural decay of capitalism without theguidance of a vanguard party that can create a socialist state to direct social development and defend against counterrevolutionary insurrection.
· Stalinism, the style of government that Joseph Stalin (1878-1953), who succeeded Lenin as the general secretary of the Communist Party, adopted in the Soviet Union and its satellites that reflected Stalin’s own interpretation of Marxism-Leninism.
· Trotskyism, the permanent revolution and world revolution doctrine of Leon Trotsky (1879-1940), whom Stalin exiled in 1929 for leading the Left Opposition against Stalin’s bureaucratic rule. Communism split into two branches, Marxism-Leninism and Trotskyism, and Trotsky founded the Fourth International as a rival to the mainstream Comintern in 1938.
· Maoism, Marxism-Leninism as revised by Mao Zedong to suit Chinese characteristics. Maoists denounced the Communist Party of USSR and its supporters as revisionist “capitalist roaders.”
Marx used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably although for other political pundits communism as a social, political and economic ideology did not mean the same. Titoism (Yugoslavia), Hoxhaism (Albania), Castroism (Cuba), PrachandaPath (Nepal) and other ‘isms, as well as the ideological clashes between China and the former Soviet Union clearly indicate that the so-called communist bloc never attained the Marxist nirvana of communism—the purest form of socialism.
In reality, what exists is a capitalism-socialism continuum spanned with varying syntheses of the two theoretical opposites—some heavy on capitalist traits (e.g., the United States, Switzerland), and some on socialist traits (e.g., Cuba, North Korea).
The Cold War (1946-1991) marked the intense competition between the capitalist-leaning bloc (led by the U.S.) and the communist-leaning bloc (led by the former USSR) for world domination. Capitalism won a pyrrhic victory with the fall of the Soviet empire. But, two decades later, the failures of capitalism have resurfaced with the hallmarks of a New Depression forcing the world to look for the ideal synthesis (Middle Path) between the extremes of capitalism and socialism/communism.
Gunadasa Amarasekera, a Sri Lankan author and thinker par excellence, provides an impressive point of view on the causal process heading toward the death of global capitalism. The American mass media fail to provide the insight necessary to understand the magnitude of the crisis, which is most likely to dismantle American and European supremacy over the world-system. Amarasekera in several of his works has shown that the cultural consciousness of a people—a factor ignored by both Adam Smith and Karl Marx—will determine the multi-dimensional “third way” or “middle path” that will replace the capitalist world economy.