Marxism and other Marxisms

Translation by:  Bassil Othman

First :

About Cyclic Tendencies and Dispersion in Marxism

It is continuously referred to different “Marxisms” whenever one studies the history of Marxism itself.There is no doubt that Marxism has branched (or divided ) into “Marxisms”. In various nations where Marxism was spread, Marxists came into conflicts. And each of these took a special perspective that is in contrast or even in contradiction with others. The essence of the dispute was related to the project posed by each of them, on the basis of Marxism; although the result was a victory of a trend on the other, in countries where they came into conflict.

For this, we will notice the presence of Kautsky and Bernstein, Lenin and Plekhanov, Trotsky and Stalin. Each of these duets grappled, in defense of “Marxism”, and for a community project. We can even touch the existence of this conflict through the fissures in the Marxist movement. For example, the split in the Second International and establishment of the Third International and the Socialist International, the split of the Third International and the emergence of the Fourth International.

But we can see that the branches, which originated in the first half of the twentieth century, are still the existing division nowadays. “Soviet Marxism”, that possessed its legitimacy from the Soviet state and power, was spread in different regions of the world. But it didn’t seek a real change, thus it didn’t obtain victory. Trotskyism was formed in contradiction with this “Soviet Marxism”, and worked on the criticism of socialist experiment on one hand, and on the achievement of the socialist revolution globally, on the other hand without achieving something practical, despite the rich theoretical contributions it has made.Also, Maoism appeared as a Stalinism, but with a special, different and opposite taste. That’s why it kept defending Stalin, when seeking to achieve the national democratic revolution, which was against the view of Stalin presented by the “Soviet Marxism”.

Thus we can recognize three major Marxist currents in the twentieth century. Perhaps there were other currents that did not dominate, despite their important roles, such as the Vietnamese Marxism, or the Cuban Marxism of Castro, and other marginal currents, such as the Marxism represented by “Anouar Khojja”, and the Marxism represented by Tito. But all of them were cracked also into other branches, due to the internal contradictions that were at the same level as the contradictions among these currents. And therefore we are about a wide spectrum of contradicting currents.

Even after the fall of the Soviet Union, Soviet Marxism is still present in the consciousness of many communists, and in many parties. It is even controls the consciousness of many of those who have switched from it. Despite the fact that China is turning quietly to capitalism, Maoism did not fall yet, and some of its parties are obtaining victory in countries of dominant rural towns, such as Nepal, Peru, and some regions of India.

This branching turns into “independent” Marxisms. In the sense that each of them claims to be the “Marxist” while claiming that others distort Marxism, and that they converted out of Marxism. Therefore we are now standing towards more than one “Marx” and more than one “Marxism”.

But which one is the “Right” one? What is the difference between these currents?

First, what is the relationship between these divisions of Marxism, and “Marxism”? Are they Marxist? And thus, what is Marxism?

 The situation experienced by the Marxist movement in the Arab world raise these questions. It seems that the communist movement that was based on “Soviet Marxism” is fading, cracking, crumbling, and getting lost behind politics that just help it fading away. Despite the attempts made to rebuild the Marxist movement again, those are being related again to the aforementioned currents, with same contradictions and divisions. This keeps it weak and disabled, grappling about the same issues of their “origins” and around problems of the past time.

Is the Arab reality producing these contradictions, or is the “transfer” or “projection” bringing originally conflicting “Marxist sects” or conflicting “Marxisms” due to problems that are not really related to our present time and conditions?

We can see many attempts of Trotskyists, from different Trotskyist currents, to build parties. In addition, there are many Maoist attempts to build Maoist parties, and some remnants of currents that are still following the “Soviet Marxism” or Stalinism, and perhaps the “Guevarian”currents. Moreover, some concepts of the “Bolivarian Revolution”, Hikmatism (referring to the Iranian communist Mansur Hikmat), Gramscism (referring to Antonio Gramsci) and Anarchism, are spreading. Thus, the spectrum of “Marxist Parties” that are contradicting from the beginning, has been formed, conflicting about problems of the past, and accusing others of betraying Marxism.

Are the conditions of the Arab World now  enforcing these divisions? Perhaps yes, but only in one sense, which is the disintegration of the petty bourgeois. This tendency of the petty bourgeois to grab dreams and ideas is the expression of the real disintegration that it is living. “Marxism” is therefore subjected to the effects of petty bourgeois disintegration and did not become “the ideology of the working class “. This is because the “Marxists” have not analyzed the actual conditions of the reality before taking positions and before touching the differences between them.

What did these currents establish, in the context of the historical development in the countries where they originated? Was their formation due to a methodological disagreement in Marxism?

Basically, what is their difference with the original Marxism, the Marxism of Marx / Engels and perhaps Lenin?

The change of a branch into an origin is supposed to be the product of an evolution that allows a “cut off” with the stem. Did these currents cut off with Marx?

All of them refer to Marx, and to Marxism-Leninism, but each of them considers itself a new higher “category” that includes all the previous fundamental elements. Then, why did it become Trotskyist, Maoist, and Guevarian ….etc.? Perhaps it is due to a tendency to attach with a charismatic personality?

 These currents have been formed as a result of profound differences in understanding the circumstances in the nations they emerged in, in a specific time. But why are these differences transferred into another reality before studying its conditions, and before these “Marxist” currents engage in dialogue, and thus before they come into conflict?

If we start from the question about their relationship with Marxism, we will find that they consider Marxism and Leninism as their reference. So, differences arose from each seeing the side of reality that was experienced in its country. But is their approach to the situations there the same one that should be dealt with in the Arab world?

Trotsky didn’t agree with Stalin about the process of achieving socialism. Before that, he also disagreed with Lenin about the nature of the revolution, whether it should be democratic or socialist, or more accurately, whether we should raise the slogan of the democratic revolutionary dictatorship of workers and peasants, or the dictatorship of the proletariat? And Mao Zedong didn’t agree with the “Stalinists” of his party about the role of the communists in the Democratic Revolution. The question was that whether we should integrate with the bourgeois to achieve this revolution (of bourgeois character), or we should achieve it by ourselves. And, on the basis of Lenin’s view, he didn’t agree with Trotsky who directly wanted to achieve the socialist revolution. The raising Stalinism dedicated a role of the communists attached to the bourgeois that were assumed to achieve the democratic revolution. These are the differences that affected the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party in its early years. The presence of communists in retarded communities imposed the existence of the argument about the nature of their role, and the program that governs it.

These differences have arisen in other nations. Did we analyze our conditions and our reality before discussing whether the revolution is a bourgeois democratic one, or a democratic revolution achieved by the Communists, or a socialist revolution? Maybe we get into one of these choices. Communists must specify their correct goal and struggle to achieve it. But it is really problematic to transfer and project a view before analyzing the reality, because this indicates that the faith in Marxism is not based on awareness and logic, but rather based on the desirability of a position or a slogan of this trend or that, or an attraction to a certain Marxist thinker or another. This transfer of texts and ideas is their basis, without any need for them to understand the reality, and identify the way to deal with it. We are here facing the question whether we should establish our  Marxist concepts and logic before we study the reality  to build our view that we must base our work on, or we should take the logic produced by a different reality with different conditions. That is, should we produce our own awareness of our reality before we get to conclusions, or take ready answers and conclusions from one thinker or another, to establish a superficial “Formal Logic” based on products of others?

Thus each current tends to form its “group” based on the general ideas that it poses, considering that it matches the existing reality. This prevents the formation of a united Marxist practice. Antagonism seems to be the basis of the relationship, and with pre-determined dissensions, because the view posed by each current is in prior contradiction with the view of other currents. This is stored in a huge charge of conflict that existed all over the twentieth century, and this shifts the study of the reality that aims to interpret and understand it, into a repetition of global conflicts of the past that has been already expired. And thus it repeats the dispute in the form of a sharp opposition. This does not offer any benefit in terms of thought, because it repeats the same ideas in a fixed way, and shows what is already shown, and makes our conflicts as conflicts of Trench wars, and therefore results in hassling only. Isn’t this a feature of the petty bourgeois? The worse is that it turns into “tribal” conflicts that make the possibilities of dialogue and compatibility fail; where each side tries to impose its perspective, including the terms and words used. This makes any agreement between those who agree about the fundamentals something impossible. Thus, the conflict becomes a “literal” one, which is a feature of the petty bourgeois, a tribal conflict of the medieval ages. It appears that the link to these ideas in each of these currents is a personal link.

What is the difference between each of these currents, and Marxism?

As we said, each current believes that it represents Marxism and that other trends are distortions of Marxism. And therefore each current confirms its affiliation to Marxism, and Marxism-Leninism. This raises the question about the cause that makes it a branch, a “special” Marxism with “followers”, and makes a “cut off” with the original Marxism or a qualitative shift in it?

In this situation we must point to all what was added by the founders of these trends establishing a branch, or a qualitative shift. But the problem here is that each formulates Marxism according to his perspective, and emphasizes that others distort Marxism. Therefore we should start from the essence of Marxism, which is the “Materialistic Dialectical Logic” that went beyond the “Formal Logic” which prevailed for centuries before. It is the basis on which Marx formulated his thought, and led him to discover the general laws of historical and economic development and reflected the tendency to formulate the perspective of the working class, and the struggle to achieve socialism.

Do these currents differ in answering these questions? Absolutely no.

Did their thinkers add something to these answers? No, despite their additions in other aspects. So why did these become more than one “Marxism”? We conclude that the dispute is due to  different perspectives in seeing reality; which don’t allow them to become special “Marxisms”, separate from the original Marxism, but  only a diverseness related to a specific time and place. Who studies the nature of conflicts between these currents notices this. We know that Lenin’s dispute with Trotsky before the revolution in February 1917 was about the nature of the revolution in Russia, and the class nature of leadership of this revolution, and its objective. The conflict between Trotsky and Mao was about the same issue. The disagreement between Mao and Stalin was similar to that between the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks previously, which was about the role of the Communist Party of the Democratic Revolution. Did the analysis of those Marxists change into laws that can be added to Marxism, to add names of “leaders” to the list, Marx, Engels, Lenin, … And so on? Did they develop the way of thinking established by Marx, producing “post-Marxisms”, called Trotskyist or Maoist?

Perhaps they had important analysis and perceptions and ideas, some of which became in the core of Marxism, but all this should not divide Marxists into “sects” (or branches). Marxism is a way of thinking, which is the materialist dialectic that we need in order to understand our reality, and to identify perceptions to change it. And thus our basis is actually included in the materialist dialectic itself. Through it, we seek to understand our reality, and approach thinkers from these currents, and we can reach new conclusions. We can benefit from an idea of Trotsky or Mao, or even of Kautsky or Plekhanov, and of many Marxists who came after this generation, but we must start from the way of thinking first, the materialist dialectic, in an attempt to understand the reality.

Thus we should note that ideas posed by these currents express an understanding of a certain reality in a specific time, and represent an ideological perspective of a specific working class in a particular country. So, Marxism is an ideological theory expressing the working class interests in struggling to change, in a certain reality and a specific time. This imposes it to be relative, to be specific expression, which makes it impossible to become a general law. When we make these specific expressions general laws, then we will be inverting “Marx” upside-down, after he had made Hegel standing on his feet. Because in this case we are starting from previously formed ideas to be applied into a reality that we didn’t study before, and did not understand its contradictions. In this case, we start from thought and ideas, not from reality and facts. This inversion of Marxism makes it an idealistic philosophy which is says that ideas are prior to reality.

The problem in these currents (Soviet and Trotskyist and Maoist, etc.), is that they do not distinguish between the way of thinking and the conclusions that were reached in a particular circumstance in a specific time and country. By this, conclusions reached by Mao in China and on which he built his strategy, was projected into our reality and Maoists based their strategy on it. Although Mao Zedong had presented methodically important works in his book “Four Philosophical Articles ” (especially in the pamphlet about contradiction), but Maoists disregarded this important methodical aspect, and considered conclusions as laws, and built on it, in the light of China’s conditions in the first half of the twentieth century. Thus, these conclusions by Mao were considered the “law” that governs the “revolutionary process” in the Arab world. Despite this, there are fundamental aspects in Maoism that we can benefit from, especially the methodical way through which Mao dealt with reality to reach valid conclusions.

Also, Trotskyism was summarized in three essential “Laws”: The dictatorship of proletariat and the socialist revolution, the permanent revolution, and internationalist party. These laws are considered country-specific and general as well. Can we summarize Trotsky himself in these “laws”? Of course not, he is much wider and more important than this. There is no doubt that his criticism of the socialist experiment since its beginning is his most important works. Trotsky is much more important than embalming him in the three icons, that opened the doors on antagonism and conflicts which disintegrated the fourth international into many Trotskyist groups, and that did not prove any practical effectiveness all over the twentieth century. What is the difference between these groups? Their position concerning real issues. So we must look to the reality, only by using the materialist dialectic.

Stalinism, during its peak of realization, was a repetition of the Menshevik Heritage (specifically Plekhanov’s perspective). That is why it leads the working class into illusions. Their belief that the bourgeois are the revolutionary elements in retarded countries and that the passage through Capitalism there is inevitable and necessary (according to the Formal logic perspective regarding evolution of societies).Thus Stalinist parties there did not really seek power eagerly. Even though they were important political power in many countries, they “betrayed the revolution” in these countries. The twentieth century did not prove that the bourgeois are interested in the realization of capitalism (in retarded countries ) before Communists take power . But also it is not possible to neglect Stalin and consider him a demon, despite all what he had committed. Russia has become a modern industrial state. Despite his shallow thought, one can benefit from many of the issues that he presented.

Thus, we can benefit from all these efforts and works through a methodical way, but then we are just going back to Marx. This is what we need, because all other scenarios are analysis of a specific reality, and policies related to its facts on the basis of Marx’s methodology. Nevertheless, our analysis may intersect with a perception or another of these perceptions, because different realities still have many common things.

Perhaps Soviet Marxism is the most obvious in its superficiality, and in converting Marxism into “a journal report” or into sacred text written by “Comrade Stalin,” or by the “Soviet scientists”. But also with an ideological shape, since the modification of dialectical materialism, made by Stalin, when he removed the law of “negation of negation”, and framed the philosophical level in Marxism (which is dialectical material) outside any analytical act, keeping it away from being a way of thinking. But this superficiality is found also in all currents of Marxism, because transferring concepts is just adopting ideas far from the reality, while considering it to belong to this reality. Because the methodology of Marxism was not essential to all these currents, it is no longer the basis of its analytical act. Thus “formal logic” prevailed in all these.

From all that, we can get to the basic problem in all these currents, which is that it brought a complete picture from outside the reality, and did not establish its view according to an analysis of this reality. It brought an ideology formulated in a different situation, to make it the “theory of revolution” in the Arab world. While it is not possible to formulate an ideology representing the working class without a profound analysis of the concrete reality, and determining its goals from the perspective of the working class, and thus draw a strategy according to the possibilities of change in this reality. All this needs, surely, and necessarily, a deep knowledge of materialist dialectic first. Here we can benefit from all the Marxist works of these Marxists.

(Lenin, Trotsky, Mao and Gramsci and Lukacs and others, after Marx and Engels) regarding materialist dialectic, not just for understanding it, but also to ingest and assimilate it, so that it becomes our mechanism of thinking that we follow and approach the reality by. We may benefit from them in other issues. One can “love” this Marxist leader or that, tending to “mimic” him, but we must always start from the beginning, which is the knowledge of dialectical materialism as the motivator of our mind that allows us to know the reality and know the appropriate mechanisms to change it.

In this case, we are Marxists, and only Marxists. An expression that does not only go back to Marx, as what the name tells us, but also goes back to all the Marxist heritage with its variety and its various thinkers and leaders, but before anything, restricting Marxism primarily in its methodology, the way of thinking, the materialist dialectic, and after that all the laws and ideas that were formulated on this basis. Thus the term Marxist is not similar, in use, to the expression Maoist or Trotskyist, because it is the wider and the original term, representing a complete ideology. This term should be the term used continuously because other terms had been “contaminated” by their users. This contamination of “names” imposed Marx and Engels previously to name the manifesto, the Communist Manifesto, and not the socialist manifesto (they didn’t use the term “socialist”), although the essence of their idea was: socialism. Despite that the term “Socialism” was popular after that as an expression of Marxism, and thereafter the word “Communist” was the general term used.

Thus, Marxism refers to the methodology, the way of thinking: essentially the materialist dialectic and here we will find only Marxism.

This poses the following question: to what extent do Marxists, and especially those who are forming branches in Marxism, represent the Marxist methodology?

Who follows up the writings of Lenin can notice the importance of evaluating others on the basis of this issue, because it is the basis of our correct knowledge of the reality, and our correct awareness of mechanisms of change. Thus if these have assimilated the Marxist methodology, the basic benefit from them will be determined in some laws and perceptions they found through their analysis of their reality, which can be elevated to the rank of law or perspective.

But here we stay within the framework of Marxism without the need for branching into sects and the formation of other “Marxisms”. Where we can benefit from an idea of Mao or a perception of Trotsky without this being a base for a split and without the need for pre-formed divisions, although that later dialogues, but this time on the basis of analysis of reality, and in the light of determining policies.

So, there is one “Marxism” and there are quantitative additions by many Marxists. There is one “Marxism” which is the materialist dialectic, and there is a Marxist heritage, which is the product of all the Marxists, regardless of its current value.


Does this mean that we ignore the historical conflicts between these currents, and that they still exist in fact?

What I wanted first to refer to, is that the formation of Marxist currents in the Arab world is based on the adoption of ideas and previously formed systems in different conditions and in the past time, and therefore the transfer of a system of ideas considering it corresponding to our reality. This is opposite to materialistic dialectic, and it is a sign of prevalence of the “Formal Logic”, and perhaps a “Theological Logic” that starts from the sacred texts before it actually touches the reality by analysis, considering it the logic representing the working class. Here, the materialistic dialectic was replaced by “formal logic”, and thus, these currents were formed in closed structures (sects), because formal logic is a product of closed structures.

Thus, in this logic, the reality is absent, or at most it is “passive”. The methodology is formal, not Marxist. And therefore all the conflicts between these Marxist currents will be external conflicts because they have no basis in the reality, but are brought with the adopted pre-formed perceptions. These differences revolve around a number of issues, which are in essence the same issues of conflict in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party.

The base of this argument was the determination of the nature of the revolution: Is it a bourgeois democratic revolution or a democratic revolution led by the working class or a socialist revolution? And the division here is clear, between Soviet Marxism which poses that the revolution is of bourgeois democratic nature, and must be achieved by the bourgeois. And Maoism, which poses that it is a democratic revolution but by the leadership of the working class, and Trotskyism which is still considering that the revolution is a socialist revolution. But the dispute involved also the national question, which was ignored by Soviet Marxism, and adopted by the Maoist. The position of Trotskyists regarding this varied between those who adopted it and those who rejected it on the basis of a loyalty to “internationalism” similar to cosmopolitan (as in the case of Soviet Marxism). Also, the dispute involves the position and the role of the Communist Party in alliances: following the Bourgeois and its leadership, or refusing alliance. And also between non-revolution (Soviet Marxism) and revolution (Maoist) and the permanent revolution (Trotskyism). Or determining the progressive classes focusing on the bourgeoisie (Soviet Marxism) or the peasants (Maoist) or the working class (Trotskyism). As well as between the struggle for democracy (Soviet Marxism) and the armed revolution and people’s war (Maoist) and the people’s uprising (Trotskyist).Many other variations can be noticed.

But the main question is: What is the relationship between this argument and our reality? There is no doubt that it is necessary to determine the nature of the revolution and the role of classes in it, and the role that should be played by the Communist Party, and how to reach power. Also, a position must be taken regarding the national question because it is already a posed question, in fact, and cannot be ignored. Therefore, we must determine the status of classes. These are preliminary issues in forming the view that expresses the Marxists.

And also one can understand the focusing on “socialism” in a situation

 Where the communist movement, which was a dominant force, was defending the victory of the bourgeois, and employing all its efforts for this victory. Also, one can understand the focusing on peasants in agriculture societies where the communist movement and Trotskyists were focusing on the working class. And therefore one can understand also the focusing on the role of the party in a situation where the communist movement was dissolved in alliances that it was affiliated in.

But the problem is much further than this. It seems that all this conflict is “external” that can be discussed by anyone and anywhere, in the sense that it is not specific to the conditions and the reality being studied. But this will not lead to an agreement, and it is not the possible way to abolish the formation of “enclosed circles” of Marxist currents. This has no benefit in the evolution of the theory because it does not add anything important to what was written from decades. Testing the validity of any of these ideas is the reality itself, which may dominate a point of view over another through analysis that is based on the materialist dialectic in specific, and not in returning to the ideas of Trotsky or Lenin or Mao or even Marx. For example, these are the three options for achieving development, but which one of these should be taken in the Arab world, in the light of the situation and balance of forces between classes and the goals we seek to achieve development? Which goals are posed by the reality as a step in the path of evolution? This requires a “concrete analysis of the concrete reality” as Lenin points clearly. We will not benefit here from any perceptions reached by Marx, which was focusing on achieving the socialist revolution, and that Lenin overpassed in order to achieve victory. Likewise, neither the perceptions of Lenin, nor these of Trotsky or Mao, can be the solution, by themselves. These perceptions were based on specific situations that are no longer valid. We can just benefit from points in all these perceptions, only through the analysis of reality, using the materialist dialectic.

So, in Marxism the beginning is from the Marxism itself, and not from any other political-intellectual formation. This means to begin from the knowledge of Marxism as a methodology which is the materialist dialectic, and therefore the analysis of reality on this basis, to reach correct conclusions and perceptions and programs and views. These may agree with one current or another, or even adopt the perception of one Marxist thinker or another, or be entirely new as a result of differing circumstances of the reality, or can be compatible with any of them and new at the same time.

This beginning does not distinguish between a Leninist, Trotskyist or Maosit or Stalinist and Gramcist … etc… Because it is based on the core of Marxism. The one who does not capture this fact will not be able to be a Marxist. Thus through analysis of the reality, currents may be formed, and contradictions may be shown, but only through this analysis.

Trotskyists had many attempts to frame their program and their views, for many decades, but they remained on the margins of the communist movement, criticizing it through the general ideas that were discussed by Trotsky. Maoism also attempted this since the sixties of the twentieth century, but it didn’t come into being except in some countries, and between scholars mostly, despite the great interest in Mao and Trotsky in the Arab world. Why? Were the reasons of this failure studied? A “ready” formula cannot establish a realistic movement. The grace of communists was that they raised the issues of the working class demands, and fought for these issues (prior to becoming a part of many systems!). But Trotskyists and Maoists have focused also on issues that have no value in the present reality (i.e., regarding the present time and not regarding its historical importance). The Worse was that they did not produce thought, and all Arab Marxist thinkers were out of all these currents, and even in disagreement with them. The essential point of contention with them was how to deal with Marxism: Is it previously ready texts, or a methodology that we must assimilate to analyze our reality? Perhaps most of them, like Yassin Al-Hafith, Elias Morqus, Mahdi Amel, Ibrahim Kobbi, and others           ( Except Samir Amin who was a Maoist in a certain stage ), were only Marxists.Also, in the Communist movement we have Salim Khayata, Raif Khoury, Fahd and Abdel-Khaleq Mahjub who were only Marxists.

And therefore Trotskyism and Maoism were only forms of objection on the essential movement, which is the “communist” ( Soviet ) movement, without being able to be its alternative, as did Mao in the twenties, or Castro in the fifties.

Although anyone of us may “love” a Marxist leader or another, the basic issue here is to be Marxists, and only Marxists. And we must begin from the knowledge of our reality, to form our perceptions, policies and mechanisms that are based on the possibilities of the reality. But this launch will not exempt us from the debate about many issues that were raised in the history of the Marxist movement, and define our position regarding these issues, and maybe disagree about these. But the most important is the dialogue about important issues related to our reality, which can be determined by a number of problems, including, the position regarding the national question in the Arab world, and whether we should care about the national issue or not. The dominant nationality and minor nationalities? The nature of the revolution that we should pass through? And on what bases should we define this? The Marxist party and its relationship with the working class and poor peasants? Should this party struggle alone, or through alliances to develop the movement of this class? Is the conflict a superficial “political” one or a class conflict? The Palestinian question and its position in this conflict? The position that we should take regarding the ruling classes? The question of alliances? Our position from the fundamentalist movements? And many other issues, but perhaps these are the essential ones, and the questions that define our view, and not only the goals/program.

But first, we have to start from the question: What is the Marxism? How do we form the materialist dialectic, and how can we assimilate it, in order to analyze the reality through it?

This is the necessary shift in the logic for a person to become Marxist, and for a dialogue on all the above-mentioned issues to become possible, and useful, so that it leads to either an agreement or a divergence, or both at the same time, and establish a Marxist work that can become a real force. The “import” of ready intellectual systems does not allow it to become a real force. We must start from the “concrete analysis of the concrete reality” by the materialist dialectic. “Importing” is an expression of a static, “Formal Logic”, and therefore is opposite to Marxism  and in antagonism with its “spirit” and its methodology, although it may adopt some concepts and perceptions raised by a Marxist thinker or another, or Marx himself, even if those who have this “Formal Logic” claim to be Marxists. The basic cut off made by Marx was the “cognitive cut off” that allowed access to all his perceptions and conclusions, laws and systems.

The omission of this fundamental issue keeps the “Marxist” under control of the “Formal Logic”, and thus keeps him outside the Marxism itself, even if he struggles for socialism, or defends the working class, or sacrifices his life for revolution. All these are necessary, but only on the basis of achieving the cognitive cut off with formal logic, and the assimilation of materialist dialectical logic only.

And because this cut off was not acquired, their analysis was far from studying the reality and its possibilities. Petty bourgeois tendencies dominated here, the enclosed circles, formal groups, wrangling. This necessitates the fact that the Marxist movement was really far from the class that it claims to defend: The working class. Thus, this movement was limited to a group of scholars and students and “intellectuals” and professionals. Despite that the existence of this group is necessary as a “core”, for achieving awareness of both, Marxism and reality, and thus transferring knowledge to the working class in order to activate its movement, and determine its slogans, and acquire knowledge of correct tactics and organization and mechanisms necessary to achieve change, and not to turn into circles for “gossip” and empty discussions and wrangling that raise extremist slogans which are very far from the possibilities of the reality. Thus, these trends become “closed communities”, “sects”, and “families”, inevitably taking a marginal position with respect to the working class, restricting its activity in a shallow political level.

In conclusion, we must start from the knowledge of Marxism by assimilating its methodology: the materialistic dialectic, in order to have a correct knowledge of the reality and identify the mechanisms to change it. This should open complex theoretical- philosophical, socio-economic, and practical-political dialogues. A dialogue  for the awareness of both, Marxism and reality together, and thus the awareness of mechanisms to change the reality by identifying the role, the activity, and the power of the working class and poor peasants, and all the popular classes.

We should begin from the class perspective that Marxism defined for itself, the  working class and the poor peasants. The mission of Marxism (and thus Marxists) is to form a view that expresses this class, the view of its conditions and the conditions of the reality in general, and to determine its interests and the way to achieve them, and the mechanisms to reach these goals. We must see the reality from the perspective of the working class and poor peasants, and select our program on this basis. Here, the conflicts between Marxists are not anymore a product of enclosed cyclic tendencies, but rather a result of differences in views about problems related to reality, and this enriches the dialogue and establishes a deeper awareness of reality. A Marxist is able to look at the reality from the perspective of Marxism and the working class together, and not from any other perspective.

Can we start from here, away from all various “Marxisms”, which were not more than ideological formations at specific times and places? Can we begin to study the present reality in order to understand it, and understand the appropriate mechanisms to change it?

Second : 

Against Marxism-Leninism, With Marx and With Lenin

Adopting the ideas of Marx and Engels was facing the name that was given to this current that was established for changing the world. Engels suggested naming it : Scientific Socialism. The term that was generalized – maybe spontaneously – was the term “Marxism”, although that Marx said, according to Engels, that he is not “Marxist”, because the ideas that were discussed by those who called themselves Marxists were out of his intention, and “distort” what he had aimed. They used to understand his thought as corny superficial economical ideas.

Despite this “Objection”, the term “Marxism” became the common term used. Social parties tended to adopt the ideas of Marx, when these ideas became the dominant thought in the general socialist current. This specification characterized it from the general current, and was an appreciation of the man who opened this broad horizon.

Lenin was from those who had conviction in Marxism. This term, that became a coherent term especially after the death of Marx, was what he pointed to, and what he used to believe in. Just like Marx, he rejected the use of the term “Leninism” and rejected the linking of this term with Marxism, because Marx built the basics, and others will just add to his works quantitatively. This is because he understood Marxism as the methodology of Marx, which was the “Materialist Dialectic”, and many other laws that he discovered, or integrated it in his theory. Thus, Lenin used to see that the following accumulation is a quantitative accumulation in the intellectual structure, on the basis of this methodology. That is to say that Marx reached the “qualitative change” that led to the formation of Marxism, but we can now accumulate quantitatively, and build on the background that was established by Marx, without that causing a quantitative shift (maybe this could happen after a long period). Thus we cannot talk here about a “higher phase in Marxism”, or consider that the following additions are wider ideas that include the previous works.

The problem in the “Marxism” before Lenin was that a broad current of Marxists believed that Marxism is the laws and ideas of Marx and Engels, and did not see the method itself, that formed the core of Marxism. Thus, this current started from the belief that “Marx’s Theory” was a completely formulated and absolutely correct “theory”. So, it started to “summarize” the ideas of Marx and Engels, and to simplify it, and to frame it in an integrated intellectual system. By this, it turned the whole ideas of Marx and Engels into laws and basics and principles, and it took the responsibility of practice in the light of this intellectual system. From this perspective, there would be no necessity to understand the present reality, and its changes, but the necessity was to practice these principles and laws in that reality. So, the mechanism that characterizes this current was the projection of these ideas into the reality, and taking a position according to this projection, and summarizing the reality into separated events, and political work and positions of political forces and classes. This reconstitutes the old formal methodology in the place of materialist dialectic. This current dealt with Marxism as “sacred texts” that the “Marxist” should seek for its application in his reality that he understands through these “laws” (i.e. neglecting that laws are the product of specific moments and conditions).

For example one can see how this formal logic dealt with the text saying that the transition to socialism is supposed to happen when capitalism could not anymore interpret its existence.

It was understood that Capitalism must reach the level of exhaustion and ruin, for the Socialism to obtain victory. This idea means that the negation of Capitalism will not be achieved through conflict, but through the “death” of Capitalism. Because reality has not reached this level (without accurately defining what is meant by exhaustion), this logic opened the doors to accommodate with the presence of capitalism in the industrialized nations, waiting it to rot. This causes the prevalence of spontaneity, and a tactic based on pressure, protest and demand only.

Another example is when this “Formal Logic” approaches retarded countries in a superficial mechanical way. It considers Capitalism as a necessary condition for achieving socialism in these countries, while the previously developed Capitalism in Europe imposed the continuous re-production of retardation in there, and the maintenance of the traditional feudal structures, which are compatible with the predominance of the European Capital. On the basis of this superficial logic, “communists” in these underdeveloped countries work to “achieve Capitalism” by supporting a class that does not actually exist in reality, or that is weak in these countries, which is the class that carries the project of building a modern industrial society. In the light of this analysis, “signs” from Marx’s writings were enough for them to say that the rising of Capitalism in these countries is inevitable, before the communists discuss the possibility of socialist project there. This is the cause of spontaneity, and the tendency to rely only on political pressure and protests, and to adapt with this situation and accept it.

This policy was built on Marx’s hints about the evolution of human societies on the basis of his perception about the mode of production, and to which he pointed in many texts. He pointed to the evolution of human societies from the communal society, to slavery, to Feudalism, then to Capitalism, and finally to the realization of the Socialist system. So, this hint that was not based on a profound study of the global history was considered a law that all nations should obey. There are many other issues that were considered as strict laws even though they were not based on a methodological study of the reality, but only because Marx pointed to them in his texts.

By this, we see how Marxism became without its “spirit”, how Marxism lost its “spirit” that is represented in its dialectical materialistic methodology, and where the materiality means “concrete analysis of the concrete reality” (according to Lenin) on the basis of the laws of dialectic. This actually imposes the study of the continuously changing reality (in its change) regardless of the positions of Marx, Engels or Lenin, in order to reach specific conclusions for each moment, without relying on previous conclusions, although that we may reach the same result (or a different one as well).

And Marxism was considered to be a system of ideas and laws that Marx believed to be correct. This puts it in a methodological framework earlier to Marx and Marxism, and prior to Hegel, which is precisely the formal logic. In this context, researches in economy expanded quantitatively as a field separated from the Marxist methodology, or through bound mechanically with this theory, and imposing it to previous conclusions that were considered as “laws”.

Lenin broke this Logic, by going back to the Dialectic. He referred to Hegel and Marx, and studied their dialectical methodology. Thus, he differentiated between laws that interpret the reality ( which are laws of dialectic ), and the results that we may reach, and also between results that may become laws and principles, and others that the changing reality overpassed and are now considered as conditional analysis of  certain situations that are not existing anymore.

Lenin’s understanding of Marxism allowed him to overpass a group of “classical” principles in Marxism, and put him in dispute with all “classical” Marxists. He didn’t see that the evolution in a retarded country like Russia will inevitably lead to the rise of Capitalism there. On the contrary, he saw that the growing Capitalism, was in harmony and a firm relationship with Feudalism and with the Cesarean regime, and was not concerned in the achievement of the “Democratic Revolution” that was adopted in Europe. That’s why the question “Who will achieve the Democratic Revolution?” was asked. Lenin, through the “concrete analysis of the concrete reality” concluded that worker’s and poor peasants are those on who Marxism should base its project and act, and that Marxism, specifically by its “party”, should lead the class struggle for this aim.

From this perspective, Lenin opened the wide horizon of Marxism. Maybe he was not touching all its details, but later events proved his right analysis, imposing a new spectrum of perceptions and laws and new principles, different from those that Marx concluded. One of these new principles is the concept “Imperialism”, the concept of Marxist party, the role of Marxism itself, and many other profound and important ideas. The recession of the role of Marxism in Capitalist nations (especially in Europe) was accompanied by the spread of it in the retarded nations. This indicated that the Marxist movement was related with the different levels of class conflict globally. Class struggle was recessing in Europe, but was exacerbating in the retarded nations. Perhaps Lenin’s analysis helps us to understand this subject that became clearer thereafter. This analysis “cancelled” Marx’s and Engels’ conception about the Socialist Revolution, and established a new understanding that is based on the “final” positioning of Capitalism in the end of the nineteenth century (after the death of Marx).

From this point of view, Lenin had a crucial position in the process of structuring Marxism. But we have to notice that all his additions were based on referring back to the materialistic dialectic, and relying upon it in understanding the new reality. Then it was the “spirit” of Marx that was analyzing the new reality, through Lenin. This is what I call the quantitative accumulation on the ground of Marx’s works, which had previously made a quantitative leap when he structured the materialistic dialectic, and re-established the knowledge of reality on it.

Now, what is Marxism-Leninism?

This term did not appear during Lenin’s life. Perhaps it was posed in a shy way in some mediums; this is because Lenin refused this “personalization”. This term appeared mainly during the conflict in the Bolshevik Party after Lenin’s death, as a term that came from the contradictions of this party. Although all parties appreciated Lenin, it is not possible to separate the formation of this term, and its publication, from these conflicts that followed the death of Lenin.

It seemed that the heritage of Lenin became a way to devote the legitimacy of one party or another, or to devote the belief that one party as the closest to this heritage, and it is the most careful about this heritage. This imposed the appearance and spread of the term Marxism-Leninism. Both Stalin and Trotsky, the essential parties of the conflict, strived to launch the use of this term, each in order to enhance its legitimacy and ensure the support of the majority of the party. This is the situation that has arisen the term “Marxism-Leninism” that prevailed on the original term “Marxism”, and that was clearly indicating to the current established by Marx, which is the materialistic dialectic.

Then, the idea that Marxism is a theory or an ideology, formulated and framed in “complete laws”, and “clear” simplified bases and principles, was published.

So, we must relate the term “Marxism-Leninism” with this process that established two contradictory currents that were generalized globally. Both Stalin (in his book “Foundations of Leninism”, and especially in “The principles of Leninism” ), and Trotsky (in his book “The Permanent Revolution” in particular) referred to Lenin each in his own way , tried to configure Lenin each according to his way, and held the term “Marxism-Leninism”. Therefore, the way of each of them, that was carrying just some ideas of Lenin, which have been twisted to make it compatible with each of them. So, the Marxism-Leninism is actually: either Stalinist or Trotskyist, and carrying either the “logic” of Stalin or the “logic” of Trotsky. They are therefore not “faithful” to Lenin in both cases.

The most important here is that the basis for the formulation of Stalin’s or Trotsky’s perception was “summarizing” Marxism in an “integrated theory”, or in a system of laws and bases and principles, just similar to what the Marxism passed through after the death of Marx. It is not surprising to see that the methodological basis that governed them was the same basis that governed the “classical Marxism” after Marx. And we will see that this link was more obvious in the case of Stalin, who seems to be assimilating Plekhanov more than Lenin (whether in the methodology he had in the context of evolution, or the economistic methodology, or in the “law” of “progress” of communities …) … in a sense that the “spirit” of Marxism was sacrificed again, and “Marxism” became an integrated theory that “governs” the reality.

From this moment on, we must deal with Marxism-Leninism, as ideas of Stalin or Trotsky, and each of the two currents, that were formed on the basis of their ideas.

Thus Marxism-Leninism became Stalinism or Trotskyism, in their contradiction, and their ongoing conflict, and in the accumulation that each of them passed in. Despite the relationship with Marx and Lenin in many ideas, the important issue is that each of them formulated a “theory”, which became the basis of its study of the reality, and the basis of its activity. That is to mean that they formed laws and tactics controlling the “Marxist activity”, despite their reference to dialectic, which they deprived it from its role, because the “theory” has already answered questions of the reality, and they just have to do the process that imposes specific measures that we may notice (structurally) on the reality. Neither Stalin nor Trotsky formulated a new dialectical method, but a “theory”  characterized its fixed texts, ignoring the materialistic dialectical methodology. Thus, Marxism-Leninism became, for both, sacred texts, mummificated ideas considered as laws that governs the reality, like the “imperative passage through Capitalism” (for Stalinism, and with Plekhanov previously), and the “Permanent Revolution”, and the “Socialist Revolution” (for Trotskyism), and many other issues that could be criticized.

Stalin neglected Lenin’s understanding of the role of Marxism in retarded nations and re-produced the “classical” perception that dominated in the second international, which was only the perception of Plekhanov and Mensheviks. This perception has previously decided the inevitable passing from Feudalism to Capitalism, before reaching the Socialist society, which was considered by the “Classical Marxism” to be in the core of Marxism. We will see that all communists that obtained victory in their countries, were in contradiction with Stalin about this perception, and were referring to Lenin, like the Chinese Communist Party, the Vietnamese Communist Party, Castro … etc.

 and all those who adhered to it failed and were smashed, and this is the situation that dominated in the Arab communist movement, but also the Communist Party of Cuba before the victory of the Cuban revolution, and in Indonesia, and in many retarded nations which were affiliated to Moscow. In the sense that Stalin here had referred to “pre-Lenin” perception, to the perception of the Second International, at the same time that he was raising Lenin’s name and establishing the Marxism-Leninism. This perception was accompanied by a methodological change that neglected the materialistic dialectic, and re-dedicated the formal logic. This made the dialectic closer to be an evolutionary logic as formulated by Plekhanov, where it was based mainly on the law of quantitative accumulation and qualitative change, and where contradiction is considered again as antagonism according to the formal logic, and materialism became economism. By this, as well, there was a fall back from Lenin to Plekhanov and to the mechanical evolutionary logic.

On the other side, we will see that Trotsky repeated the perception that he previously formulated in 1905 about the revolution, and especially his concept about the Socialist Revolution and the Permanent Revolution, about which he was in dispute with Lenin since that time. But he re-formulated them later on the basis of Lenin himself. Perhaps these two concepts characterized Trotskyism, and remained the core of its activity.

Thus, Marxism-Leninism, as formulated by the two contradicting sides, was based on neglecting the materialistic dialectic in the interest of a formal logic, based on texts, and an “integrated theory” that governs the vision of reality. This is most important, and most serious, because it actually means neglecting the basis of the findings of Marx, and neglecting what was the basis for the establishment of Marxism. It was constructed as an idealistic formal theory, and formulated perceptions that either re-produced the heritage of the Second International and the Mensheviks (in a worn-out form), or posed the opposite out most extravagant side, which was “abstract” and irrational. This analysis of the Marxism-Leninism does not mean that it did not present many ideas that we can benefit from, and cannot refuse that it touched some problems of the reality in a correct way sometimes, but it does mean that the basis it was built on suffered from a real defect that made it neglect not only Leninism, but the basis of Marxism initially..



Maoism as Marxism-Leninism

Against Maoism and with Mao

We can notice two stages of Maoism. The first is that stage which led to the victory of the Chinese revolution, where Mao Zedong proceeded with the logic of Lenin, reaching the same conclusion, namely, that the role of Marxism is the leadership of the Democratic Revolution. Despite his alliance with Stalin, there was a disagreement with him about this issue, and has rejected the call to merge with the Comintern with the excuse of refusing the bourgeois leadership of the Democratic Revolution. Maoism, that adopted the term Marxism-Leninism from the beginning, but referring to Lenin, and not to the version formulated in the Soviet Union after him (and also in contrast with Trotskyism, compatible with Stalin). This “Marxism-Leninism” succeeded, precisely because it started from the Marxist methodology (Mao’s writings on Practice and Contradiction reflect a profound understanding of this issue.)

The second stage was different. Again, an “integrated theory” was formulated, under the name of Marxism-Leninism, which later was known as Maoism. The perceptions of Mao about the Chinese situation, and the nature of revolution (being a national democratic revolution), the concept of the united front, the revolutionary war, and the role of peasants, were considered a part of a theory that “governs” the reality. And thus, the importance of materialistic dialectic, including the philosophical heritage of Mao, faded again. Ideas were considered as “laws” that governs the movement of history, despite the different conditions and time. By this, it reconstructed Marxism-Leninism, in the same way that Stalinism and Trotskyism did, despite the big difference between these, according to a formal logic that was going far in its “idealism”, and was summarized in some “laws” that identifies the course of the changing reality.

Therefore, standing against Marxism-Leninism means standing against the different formulations of Marxisms (Stalinist, Trotskyist, and Maoist) projected to our reality, because these are not Marxist anymore. These formulations have lost the “essence” of Marxism, and became theories that are considered to “govern” the reality, and this is an extreme form of idealism.

Isn’t this in antagonism with Marxism?!

Source: Bassil Osman

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