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May 21, 2008 4:24 PM   Subscribe

Marxism Filter: Sure, Socialism was the phase before Communism (state monopoly of the means of production right before the proles took over the same). But where in Marx's writings does he talk about this?

(looking for the specific books or essays, and if you're an expert, chapter names ;)

Was it in Capital? Was it really Marx who talks about this (this relationship between the Socialist phase and the Communist phase) or was it really Engels or others who came after?

I havent gotten to Capital yet, but in the anthologies I've read so far (Tucker etc) I havent yet come across Marx talking explicitly about the stage theories and transitions and what differentiates the different stages exactly. WHere is all that in his writing? Or was it developed by others later?
posted by jak68 to Religion & Philosophy (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
There's the Manifesto which describes the dictatorship of the proletariat preceding the attainment of Communism:
When, in the course of development, class distinctions have disappeared, and all production has been concentrated in the hands of a vast association of the whole nation, the public power will lose its political character. Political power, properly so called, is merely the organised power of one class for oppressing another. If the proletariat during its contest with the bourgeoisie is compelled, by the force of circumstances, to organise itself as a class, if, by means of a revolution, it makes itself the ruling class, and, as such, sweeps away by force the old conditions of production, then it will, along with these conditions, have swept away the conditions for the existence of class antagonisms and of classes generally, and will thereby have abolished its own supremacy as a class.
I'm not sure if this is as explicit as what you're after. Do you need a specific use of the word "socialism" to describe this?
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 4:49 PM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: hi fiasco,
thanks for the manifesto quote, thats useful. I guess I'm after a more protracted discussion by marx though, preferably chapter or essay length, in which he theorizes about the stages and transitions. I imagine it must exist because of how important those ideas became for later revolutionaries.
posted by jak68 at 4:54 PM on May 21, 2008

I suspect you might be better off looking through Lenin for theorisation about stages, in that case. Perhaps Ch5 of The State And Revolution is your answer.
I should add also that IANYD (I am not your dialectician).
posted by Fiasco da Gama at 5:09 PM on May 21, 2008

I don't recall, but check the secondary sources. The absolute best secondary source on historical materialism is G.A. Cohen, Karl Marx's Theory of History: A Defense. Also look at Allen Wood's book on Marx. One'a those two will direct you to what you need.
posted by paultopia at 5:20 PM on May 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I think you're looking for the Critique of the Gotha Program.
posted by tonci at 5:28 PM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: tonci, I think that might be it. Critique of the Gotha Program.

(apparently also their "Civil War in France" has some thoughts about it since marx/engels saw the paris commune of 1871 as a historical example of what the transition (and the dictatorship of the proletariat) might look like).

Apparently other than these two, there is not much to go on. Lenin in "state and revolution" apparently relied heavily on the Paris Commune as a model and read the Russian "soviets" as "little paris communes".

Unless anyone knows of anything else, I guess thats about it. thanks.
posted by jak68 at 5:42 PM on May 21, 2008

Response by poster: thanks for the secondary sources paultopia
posted by jak68 at 5:43 PM on May 21, 2008


I don't think Marx and Engels wrote all that much outside of what's been referred (Gotha Program and Civil War in France) on transitions to other forms of society, primarily because of the period in which they were writing. A lot of the forces that they were really going up against (polemics abound, the most famous being in the Communist Manifesto, Poverty of Philosophy, and Socialism: Utopian and Scientific) were crackpots and/or idealists who had their own "plans" for a socialist or communist society. You may wish to read Socialism: Utopian and Scientific if you're trying to get a grasp on why they weren't more thorough in their prescriptions for a socialist society.
posted by graymouser at 7:01 PM on May 21, 2008

You may have some trouble finding exactly what you want because the precise socialism->communism stage progression is in many ways a creature of the Bolsheviks. In the USSR, officially it went transitional stage (under Lenin) -> socialism (Stalin) -> Developed Socialism (Khruschev/Brezhnev). In other words, that progression was used to justify the Soviet Union's existence and explain why communism hadn't been built yet, even though the difference between the socialist and communist stage isn't incredibly well spelled out in Marx's work (socialism is the period between the seizure of the means of production and the withering away of the state, I guess).
posted by nasreddin at 11:04 PM on May 21, 2008

This is a hotly debated point in marxist and labor organizing circles, but I think it's a bit clearer among scholars of Marx. There are good reasons that most scholars resist ascribing the teleological view you've laid out to Marx and instead attribute it to Russian interpreters like Lenin. If you haven't already, take a look at the German Ideology, especially the first part on Feuerbach and the materialist conception of history.

Treating history in terms of stages or epochs, rather than as the simple succession of generations who each try to do their best with the resources and forms of production available to them, is a kind of idealist heresy for Marx. Look especially closely at the passages that compare Marx's view to the post-Hegelian 'spiritual' historiography that emphasizes 'world-historical' events. If you can get your head around the distinction, you'll see that the Gotha letters are more prospective than predictive: the question isn't "what will happen?" it's "what should we work towards?" or "what should our goals be?"
posted by anotherpanacea at 5:27 AM on June 17, 2008

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