PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM
A STUDY COURSE
By W.B. Bland.
CLASS ONE : THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIETY
1. WHAT IS ECONOMICS?
The science of the ways in which people satisfy their
material needs (for food, clothing, shelter, etc.).
2. WHAT IS POLITICS?
The science of the ways in which people organise
themselves in society.
(NOTE: It is broader than 'the science of government'.
Primitive peoples, without state or government, yet have political
3. WHAT IS PRODUCTION?
The transformation of raw materials into things which
people can use, i.e. into products.
(NOTE: The product of one productive process, such as
iron, may form the raw material of another productive process, such as
4. WHAT ARE MEANS OF PRODUCTION?
The tools which people use to carry on production -- from
stone axe to automated plant.
5. WHAT ARE THE PRINCIPAL SOCIAL SYSTEMS KNOWN TO
1. Primitive communism, as in African tribal society;
2. Slavery, as in the Roman Empire;
3. Feudalism, as in mediaeval Europe;
4. Capitalism, as in contemporary Britain;
5. Socialism, as formerly existed in the Soviet Union in
the time of Lenin and Stalin.
6. WHAT IS EXPLOITATION?
The act of living, partly or wholly, on the work of
7. WHAT IS A SOCIAL CLASS?
A social group which has distinct property relations to
means of production. The members of a class
1. own means of production and live by exploiting a class
that does not;
2. own means of production and live by means of their own
3. own no means of production and live by selling their
capacity to work to members of a class that does.
A class in category 1 is an exploiting class, while a
class in category 3 is an exploited class.
8. WHAT ARE THE BASIC SOCIAL CLASSES IN BRITAIN TODAY?
1. the capitalist class or bourgeoisie, which owns means
of production and lives by exploiting the social class which does not;
2. the middle class or petty bourgeoisie, which owns
small means of production and lives primarily by its own work; and
3. the working class or proletariat, which owns no means
of production and lives by selling its capacity to work to the capitalist
9. WHICH OF THE SOCIAL SYSTEMS KNOWN TO HISTORY ARE BASED
1. slavery (in which the slave class is exploited by the
2. feudalism (in which the serf class is exploited by the
3. capitalism (in which the working class is exploited by
the capitalist class).
10. WHAT IS THE BASIC CAUSE OF HISTORICAL CHANGE FROM ONE
SOCIAL SYSTEM TO ANOTHER?
The development of tools and techniques.
This process occurs within a particular social system
until the point is reached where these new tools and techniques can no
longer be developed -- or even used -- to the full within that particular
social system. The frustrations resulting from this give rise to a political
movement, the function of which is to change this social system to a new
one. Eventually this change is brought about, allowing the new tools and
techniques to be developed further within the new social system.
The first stage of human society was one in which tools
and techniques were so primitive, and production in consequence so low, that
it was possible for someone to produce only barely sufficient to keep
himself and his dependents alive. There was, therefore, no surplus which
anyone could take.
Consequently, exploitation was impossible, means of
production were communally owned, and the social system was one of primitive
However, within primitive communism tools and techniques
continued to be developed, until the point was reached where it was possible
for someone to produce more than was necessary to keep himself and his
dependents alive. Until this point prisoners- of-war had generally been
eaten; now, however, cannibalism came to be regarded by society as immoral,
because it was no longer economically sensible: by turning a prisoner-of-war
into a slave it was possible to obtain from him, not one good meal, but a
lifetime of meals from his slave labour.
Thus, as a result of the development of tools and
techniques, primitive communism gave way to slavery. society became divided
into two social classes: a class of exploiting slave-owners and a class of
But within slavery tools and techniques continued to be
developed until the point was reached where the purely forced labour of the
slave (who worked only to avoid punishment) ceased to be capable of using
and developing these new tools and techniques adequately. In consequence,
the slave-owners themselves gradually transformed the basis of their
exploitation into a new form in which the exploited peasants were given an
interest in the use and development of the new tools and techniques -- the
slaves were transformed into serfs. In feudal society the serfs, although
legally tied to their lord's estate, were permitted to work part-time on
their own strips of land. They had, however, to work also on their lord's
estate and to hand over to him a proportion of the produce from their own
But within feudalism tools and techniques were further
developed, a new class of merchants and artisans appeared in the towns. The
serfs, in alliance with the rising merchant class, succeeded in gaining
their freedom from serfdom, in commuting their labour service into a new
system of money rents.
With the commutation of labour service, the lords found
themselves unable to obtain labour for their own private estates. In order
to obtain this (as well as for other secondary reasons) they proceeded to
'enclose' the peasants' own land, that is, to drive them from it so that
they were compelled to seek employment as wage-labourers in order to live.
Great numbers of these dispossessed peasants migrated to
the towns to seek employment with the merchants and artisans. The working
class was born. Within the framework of feudal society, a new economic
system -- capitalism -- began to develop.
But the merchant capitalists found their efforts to
develop the capitalist system (on which their economic advancement depended)
frustrated by the opposition of the ruling landed aristocracy. This
frustration gave rise to a political movement to change the social system.
Eventually the political power of the aristocracy was overthrown in a
bourgeois revolution, and the capitalist class became the ruling class.
Within the framework of capitalist society, tools and
techniques were developed at an unprecedented rate. In the 20th century the
point was reached where the full use and development of these new tools and
techniques was being held back by the continued existence of a social system
which had outlived its usefulness to the mass of the people. This became the
basis of a crisis within the capitalist system, and it brought into
existence a movement to change (again) the social system to a new one: the
During the 20th century the working class over a quarter
of the world succeeded in abolishing the capitalist system and in laying the
foundations of a socialist system. However, for reasons which will be
analysed later in this course, a temporary reversion to capitalism took
The establishment of a socialist society in Britain, as
part of a world revolutionary process, is the historic task which faces the
British working people.
11. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM 'PROGRESSIVE'?
That which helps forward the development of society.
12, WHAT IS MEANT BY THE TERM 'REACTIONARY'?
That which tends to hold back or turn back, the
development of society.
13. WHAT IS THE STATE?
A machinery of force by which one social class rules over
the rest of the people.
In primitive communism, a classless society, there was no
state machinery. The state came into existence with the establishment of a
class-divided society, since the slave-owning minority found it necessary to
hold down the exploited slave majority by force.
In slave society, the state was the machinery of rule of
the slave-owning class. In feudal society, the state was the machinery of
rule of the landed aristorcacy. In capitalist society, the state is the
machinery of rule of the capitalist class.
As we shall see, the working class (although it is not
and will not be an exploiting class) also needs its own machinery of force,
its own state, a socialist state, in order to maintain socialist society and
prevent its overthrow by the capitalist class which has lost its wealth and
power. Thus, in a socialist society the state is the machinery of rule of
the working class.
14. WHAT IS A REVOLUTION?
The forcible replacement of the rule of one class by the
rule of a more progressive class.
15. WHICH OF THE SOCIAL SYSTEMS KNOWN TO HISTORY WERE
ESTABLISHED BY MEANS OF A REVOLUTION?
1. The capitalist system, established as a result of the
revolutionary overthrow of the political power of the feudal aristocracy in
a bourgeois revolution.
2. The socialist system, establshed as a result of the
revolutionary overthrow of the political power of the capitalist class in a
socialist or proletarian revolution.
16. WHAT IS A COUNTER-REVOLUTION?
The forcible overthrow of the rule of one class by that
of a more reactionary class.
17. WHAT SOCIAL CLASS WAS PLACED IN POWER BY :-
1. THE ENGLISH REVOLUTION OF THE 17TH CENTURY?
The English capitalist class.
2. THE FRENCH REVOLUTION OF THE 18TH CENTURY?
The French capitalist class.
3, THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION OF MARCH 1917?
The Russian capitalist class.
4. THE RUSSIAN REVOLUTION OF NOVEMBER 1917?
The Russian working class.