Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Historic Mission of the Working Class

Otto Kuusinen, a stellar Communist, wrote eloquently in the book Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism:

"A deep analysis of the economic structure of capitalism led Marx and Engels to the conclusion that this social system contained the seeds of its own collapse and that a new system--socialism--would replace it. But the founders of Marxism not only disclosed the main direction of further development; they also discovered that the proletariat, the working class, was the leading social force destined to bring about the great social transformation, i.e., to destroy capitalism and build socialism.

"Marx and Engels formulated this discovery and fully substantiated it in the Communist Manifesto published in Germany in 1848. It states 'Not only has the bourgeoisie forged the weapons that bring death to itself; it has also called into existence the men who are to wield those weapons--the modern working class--the proletarians.' 'The development of Modern Industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces, above all, are its own gravediggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.'(Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto,1848)" (Otto Kuusinen, et al., Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)

(Lenin said that "the main thing in the doctrine of Marx is that it brings out the historic role of the proletariat as the builder of a socialist society.")

The Working Class is the Liberator of the Working People.

Kuusinen continues: "On what did Marx and Engels base their conception of the historic mission of the working class?

"In the first place, being the most exploited class in capitalist society, the working class--owing to the very conditions of its life--becomes the most consistent and irreconcilable opponent of the capitalist order. The vital class interests of the workers impel them to an implacable struggle against capitalism. Marx and Engels emphasised that 'of all the classes that stand face to face with the bourgeoisie today, the proletariat alone is a really revolutionary class.' (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848)

"Secondly, Marx and Engels based their conception on the fact that the workers by their very position in production are connected not with its past but with its future and, consequently, with the future of the whole of society.

"What does this mean?

"It means, in the first place, that the development of the material basis of capitalism--large-scale industry--does not threaten the existence of the proletariat as a class, does not undermine its positions in society, but, on the contrary, leads to an increase in the numbers of workers and enhances their role in the life of society.

"It means, furthermore, that the interests and aspirations of the working class coincide with the main trend in the development of the productive forces. The level of development of these forces attained under capitalism requires the abolition of private ownership of the means of production. And it is the working class that is destined to carry out this task. It is objectively interested not only in overthrowing capitalism but also in replacing it with socialism, the system which, having superseded capitalism, gives full scope for a tremendous development of the productive forces of society.

"As Marx and Engels put it, the proletariat executes the sentence which private ownership passes on itself by engendering the proletariat. As a matter of fact, the working class is the only class that has no part in the ownership of the means of production and theerfore does not have to attach any value to it. Moreover, since private ownership of the means of production forms the basis of the exploitation of the worker by the capitalist, its abolition and replacement by social ownership is the only way to liberate the working class.

"In concluding that it was the working class that was destined to destroy capitalism and build socialism, Marx and Engels also based themselves on the fact that it was the only class possessing the fighting qualities needed to accomplish so great an historical objective.

"What are these qualities?

"First of all, the working class has the advantage of mass. It is one of the most numerous and at the same time rapidly growing classes in capitalist society.

"But this is not the only thing. By virtue of the very conditions of its life and labor the working class is capable of the highest degree of organization. The work at a large enterprise daily instills in the workers such qualities as the spirit of collectivism, capacity for strict discipline, and mutual aid and support. These qualities are invaluable not only in labor but also in struggle. By gathering thousands of workers under the roof of plants and factories which are, as a rule, located in large cities, the capitalists themselves help the workers overcome the disunion and isolation that was the curse of the other mass movements of the working people, especially the peasant movement. That is why the workers lend themselves to organisation and union more readily than any other class.

"Of all the oppressed classes the working class is also the most capable of developing its political consciousness and of adopting an advanced, scientific world outlook. Large-scale industry requires more highly educated workers than do the other forms of economy, while the conditions of the class struggle in the capitalist epoch require much higher political consciousness. The proletariat acquires political consciousness not only and not so much from books as from its experience in labor and struggle. In addition, the best minds of the intelligentsia come over to the side of the working class and help it elaborate and gain a scientific, revolutionary world outlook which, by becoming the property of millions of workers, grows into a prodigious force.

"At the same time the working class is the most militant and revolutionary class of society.

"All this gives the working class the mission of abolishing capitalism and replacing it with socialism.

"It is no mere chance that this mission of the working class is called a historic mission.

"In the course of history various classes--slave-owners, fuedal lords, capitalists--found themselves at the head of society. By reshaping society according to their own needs and interests, each of these classes helped to establish a more advanced mode of production. But social injustice and inequality was invariably retained. Each time society was headed by a handful of oppressors and each new step along the path of progress was made at the price of incredible suffering of the working masses, who always constituted the vast majority of society.

"When the working class comes to head society, it puts an end to this injustice forever. By liberating itself it simultaneously liberates all of humanity. By reshaping society according to its own needs and interests it creates a new society in which all people will find true happiness. It is the mission of the working class once and for all to abolish the prime basis of social injustice, the private ownership of the means of production which caused the division of society into rich and poor, exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed. Fulfillment of this task is the only way to free society from poverty and from a situation in which the masses are deprived of their rights, and to put an end to political and national oppression, militarism and wars.

"In the Communist Manifesto Marx and Engels wrote: 'All previous historical movements were movements of minorities or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.' (Marx and Engels, Communist Manifesto, 1848)

"The doctrine of the historic mission of the working class constitutes a highly important part of the Marxist world outlook. It was the first to show a feasible way of realising the aspirations of the oppressed and exploited masses for freedom and justice. Many outstanding people and social movements landed in an impasse only because they did not see the social force that could give the peoples freedom, well-being and happiness. Some appealed to the wisdom of monarchs, others hoped society would be saved by the creative genius of scientists and engineers, still others expected a feat from 'critically thinking personalities,' and others again set their hopes on a revival of the patriarchal peasant ways of life and the order of things that had prevailed in the medieval handicraft guilds.

"But all these hopes and expectations only entailed a useless waste of effort and not infrequently the loss of human lives. Socialism, humanity's splendid age-old dream, ceased to be an incorporeal utopia only from the moment that the social force capable of carrying this dream into life appeared and was scientifically established, that the historic mission of the working class became manifest to the workers themselves and to the progressive representatives of the other oppressed classes in capitalist society.

"This is why, in appraising the historical services rendered by the founders of Marxism, Lenin wrote: 'The main thing in the doctrine of Marx is that it brings out the historic role of the proletariat as the builder of a socialist society.'(Lenin, "Collected Works", Vol. 18)" (Otto Kuusinen, et al., Fundamentals of Marxism-Leninism, Foreign Languages Publishing House, Moscow)