MARXIST INTERNET ARCHIVE  |  PRINCIPLES OF MARXISM-LENINISM

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 organisation).

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 engineering).

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 HISTORY?

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 others.

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 work; or

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 class.

9. WHICH OF THE SOCIAL SYSTEMS KNOWN TO HISTORY ARE BASED ON EXPLOITATION?

1. slavery (in which the slave class is exploited by the slave-owning class);

2. feudalism (in which the serf class is exploited by the aristocracy; and

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 communism.

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 exploited slaves.

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 strips.

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 socialist movement.

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 place.

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.

     CLASS ONE : THE DEVELOPMENT OF SOCIETY

General Definitions.

     CLASS TWO : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part One)

The Commodity; Money; Labour Power...

     CLASS THREE : HOW CAPITALISM WORKS (Part Two)

The accumulation of Capital; Capital and Labour; Imperialism...

     CLASS FOUR : THE STATE AND THE ROAD TO SOCIALISM

The State; Parties; Socialism; fascism...

     CLASS FIVE : THE PARTY OF THE WORKING CLASS

Reformism; Class interests; Revisionism...

     CLASS SIX : THE NATIONAL QUESTION

Nations; Proletarian Internationalism...

     CLASS SEVEN : WAR

Civil wars; just and unjust wars; wars of national liberation...

     CLASS EIGHT : HOW  SOCIALISM  WORKS

What is Socialism; its class character...