Labour Party (EMEP)

Historical meaning of international communism

Communism is not a design or a project of a genius. For Marx and Engels communism is “the real movement”. It is not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. “What we call communism is the real movement which abolishes the present state of things. The conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence.”1 Later, in On the History of the Communist League, Engels summarizes what communism meant with the advent of Marxism: “And Communism now no longer meant the concoction, by means of the imagination, of an ideal society as perfect as possible, but insight into the nature, the conditions and the consequent general aims of the struggle waged by the proletariat.”2

<> Understanding communism as a real movement is also very important for its being a scientific movement. Engels, for instance, highlighting the differences with Proudhon, draws attention to this fact:

“We describe (...) economic relationships as they are and as they are developing, and we provide the proof, strictly economically, that their development is at the same time the development of the elements of a social revolution, (...) Proudhon, on the contrary, demands from present-day society that it shall transform itself not according to the laws of its own economic development, but according to the prescriptions of justice (...). Where we prove, Proudhon (...) preaches and laments.”3

<> This means that communism and socialism as its first stage are not a divine design which manifested itself to a genius but a historical task created by the existing material relations. For this reason, it is the concrete solution to the contradictions capitalism cannot overcome. Communism is not any negation of capitalism, it is a certain negation of capitalism. It is not an abstract necessity; on the contrary, it is a historical necessity because there exists the material premises for its realisation.

As communism is not a doctrine based on an abstract theory, it is the course of the historical tendency of social production. On the manifestations of communism in material life Engels draws attention to the following:

“Communism has followed from large-scale industry and its consequences, from the establishment of the world market, of the concomitant uninhibited competition, ever more violent and more universal trade crises, which have already become fully fledged crises of the world market, from the creation of the proletariat and the concentration of capital, from the ensuing class struggle between proletariat and bourgeoisie. Communism, insofar as it is a theory, is the theoretical expression of the position of the proletariat in this struggle and the theoretical summation of the conditions for the liberation of the proletariat.”4

In short, the “social transformation” aimed at by the working class is “the historical and inevitable product of the existing system” (Marx). For that reason its basis and inevitability cannot be reversed by its first big historical defeat, as the capitalist mode of production continues to exist and be pregnant with a new one. Socialism, for this reason, continues to be on the agenda so long as capitalism exists.

Dialectics of victory

The bourgeoisie develops its adverse class, the proletariat, on a world scale while itself developing on the basis of big industry, the world market and world trade. A direct social product of the industrial revolution, the working class develops on a world scale, increases in numbers, and gets united and grows stronger.

“The working class is an international class not only in the sense that it exists in every country but also because its existence in individual countries depends on the world market and this makes its fate a universal one. The proletariat can thus only exist world-historically, just as communism, its activity, can only have a ‘world-historical’ existence.”5

A world market exists with the peoples’ interdependence, the requirements of the instruments of transport and communication, and the paramount development of the modern productive forces (especially the working class itself and science), etc. All these relationships and phenomena created by the capitalist motive to obtain the maximum profit constitute also the fundamental elements of the material premises of communism. These are, in Marx’s own words, the main “historical achievements” of the peoples in a decaying world, achievements that they would lean on while establishing a new world for themselves.

In what direction, then, has the capitalist world moved in terms of the material premises of communism since the defeat of the working class in the late 1950s, a defeat that became politically obvious in the 1989-91 period? In this respect, it is useful to remember the propaganda of “globalisation” by the spokespersons of international capital with cries of victory. In fact, it was not only propaganda: with “globalisation” came the materialisation of social attacks against the working class and peoples, economic and political decisions applied in accordance with these attacks, implementations of structural adjustment programmes in national economies, etc... But what happened in the end? Is it not that the “globalisation fever” that came to being with a temporary victory has helped even the most backward capitalist countries to take one step closer to socialism? Is it not that, as a result of rapidly spreading capitalist relations, our present world is much more ready for socialism today than ever before? During the October Revolution it was only the advanced countries of Western Europe and North America that were mature enough for socialism.

As for today, for the first time in history the great majority of the working class is outside Western Europe and North America. Due to the developing and expanding capitalist relations of exploitation in many regions of the world, especially in Asia, the ranks of the working class have grown rapidly. They have also a more international and universal position since the victory of the bourgeoisie. The material relations that unite a South Korean worker with a South African one, a Brazilian worker with a Turkish one as well as the workers in these countries with those of the imperialist countries in terms of the work culture, lifestyles and living conditions and their view of the world have reached an extraordinarily advanced level, especially in the past 20-25 years. The imperialist-capitalist expansion that followed the victory has also clarified the ranks by interlinking even more and homologising the relations of exploitation of the workers of the world.

On the other hand, as is known, with the formation of the world market, the capitalist economy has become a world economy. Based on this fact, the general line of development for capitalist economies (being individual chains of one world economy) is determined: on the basis of an international division of labour, capitalist production becomes increasingly intertwined. Inter-imperialist fights for hegemony and the world wars, the class struggles between the working class and the bourgeoisie, and the struggle between capitalism and socialism, can have, depending on the situation, an accelerating or inhibiting effect on the general course of development of the capitalist economies, but they cannot change the general direction of development inherent in it. In other words, the present world economy consists of capitalist economies which are unprecedentedly intertwined. This process of interconnection has gained such rapidity with the progress of the productive forces, especially in the scientific and technological areas and with the wave of “globalisation” which was triggered after the Second World War (against the socialist camp) in general and following the “victory over communism” in particular.

In the past two decades, another phenomenon on the rise was the free trade areas and agreements. Under the conditions of an intertwined world economy, the cartelisation is going much further than companies towards national economies... Under “open market” conditions, protectionism is being promoted through economic standards... This level of interconnection, the rival imperialist powers using these forms for their positioning are not new in terms of their reasons (rival powers setting up alliances). Nevertheless, the forms they take, starting with the direct connection of separate rival powers with each other and making them interdependent, manifest a new level of centralisation in the relations of international capital. It is obvious that this level is not a result particularly aimed at by finance capital; on the contrary, it is a result of the instruments and relations developed by it in pursuit of maximising its profit and consolidating its world domination. Finance capital, thus, (by eliminating the material conditions for the countries’ fight for hegemony) unavoidably develops the material premises of communism which can itself exist as a world system whose international principle is peace.

In short, just like the fact that the historical defeat of the working class has not eliminated the historical bases of communism, the victory of the bourgeoisie some time ago did not prevent the capitalist world from further maturing for communism. Undoubtedly, this or that imperialist country, especially the ruling class or financial group has benefitted fully from this process. Independence of economies have been eradicated, the exploitation of the peoples and the plunder of natural resources have increased at full speed. Nevertheless, because of this intense process the material premises for the emancipation of the working class have developed even further.

The social character of the productive forces, especially of labour, has already imposed itself in the capitalist countries in their imperialist stage: colossal companies with shares, monopolies and trusts, an inflated credit system and banks that are “too big to fail” and the rentier financial system they create, the magnitude of social production, etc. Productive forces demand the recognition of their social character and that the yoke of capital be lifted.

As was proven in October 1917, “imperialism is the eve of the social revolution of the proletariat” (Lenin). The defeat suffered by the proletariat is a temporary one. It is obvious that if communism is a real movement, the material premises of communism, which are created under capitalism, cannot be considered as meaningless or as a consolation.

Specific historical situation

It is a known fact that those within the Second International, primarily Bernstein revisionism that materialised within German social-democracy, used the natural occurrence – within capitalist production – of material premises which were required for the liberation of the working class as a cover for the opportunist interpretation of the Marxist theory of class struggle. The historical necessity of communism, due to irreconcilable contradictions and dilemmas in the nature of capitalist production, had been separated from the class struggle and turned into an absolute necessity that is above history. History was now linked solely to its own path, as if on auto-pilot rather than to the class struggle! Neo-Kantianism has then presented the philosophy for this distortion: socialism was now an ethical problem and a conscientious responsibility that received its inspiration from Kant’s absolute command!

However, for Marxist-Leninists the fact that material premises for communism occur and develop within capitalism is a call for action, not for inaction. “What really matters is to change the world” – undoubtedly compelled by the concrete conditions and fundamental contradictions, as if in line with the demands of the productive forces. Only a revolutionary class can accomplish this historical change. This is the working class, the only class whose interests completely overlap with the elimination of the private ownership of the means of production and the production relations of the capitalist system in general.

While the situation demands this action, what is the situation of our action? We could point to many problems on this issue. The situation that encompasses all these problems and that reflects the historical framework of current class struggles is “conditions of inverse proportion between the relative subjective conscience and the developed material premises”.6 Obviously this asymmetry is not an imbalance created by the labour aristocracy that has been bought off by crumbs in countries where objective conditions are relatively more mature. The issue at hand is a specific one that is added to and also deepening that asymmetry. In short, it is an asymmetry caused by the international defeat of the working class.

Current struggles take place in these specific historical conditions. This specific situation brings Marxist-Leninists face to face with various problems that require an answer. Just to mention a few:

* Of course, the masses of workers present a class in opposition to capital. However, the political nature of the class struggle means that the working class cannot succeed unless it becomes a class for itself. Besides, the struggle against capital is exactly where it needs to become a class for itself. The historical defeat has weakened the conditions for the working class to organise and act as an independent social force, to be a class for itself. The result is such that the majority of workers are struggling today without the political consciousness and programmes that express their class interests as well as the need for this. The mass struggles triggered by the crisis of 2007-2009 have shown that workers are fighting but not yet as a class, equipped with their own class consciousness and weapons. Therefore, in most cases they do not go beyond protests against capital...

* The asymmetry caused by the historical defeat also brings about the fact that current class struggles take more indirect forms compared to others in recent history. In fact, millions of people can be mobilised by the corruption, speculation, the destruction of the environment and natural resources, urban renewal projects, etc. all of which are in fact some kind of manifestations of the maturation of the said material premises of monopoly capitalism. However, because they have not become a class for itself the working class cannot take the lead in these struggles. Therefore, the problems that emerge as a result of the contradictions between labour and capital or because of the capitalist character of production relations become the subject of struggles, being imprisoned in those indirect forms that emerge. As they are caught between these indirect forms they are perceived as a struggle between sub-classes or become a form of the struggles of these sub-classes. This situation is used by the petty-bourgeois theoreticians to negate both the class struggle and the working class itself.

* The latest economic crisis shook the economic positions of almost all classes and strata of society outside of the monopolies. They, especially the workers, are made to shoulder the burden of the crisis. Hence, discontent and anger among these classes and strata have increased. During this period, both the conditions and the need for organisation and a united struggle against capital, or at least against the bourgeois governments’ policies against the public workers, have increased. Broad alliances and even a front organised by the working class and its parties have become a practical necessity. The question is that the working class had to gravitate towards such alliances at a time when it is historically at its weakest. As the front (or alliances) became a practical necessity and the workers’ movement had not yet achieved a revolutionary character, this made it incredibly hard to wrestle with the dialectics of the nature of such alliances, the working class taking the lead in this front with its own character and politics and also protecting its own independent character and politics within the front. Due to the reflection of the asymmetry caused by the defeat of class struggle, the working class has fallen behind and has not utilised its potential in its tendency towards such alliances.

Of course, regardless of the conditions for our activity, the duties to clarify the nature of their own actions and consequently help the working masses reach the correct consciousness regarding themselves and their actions are today as true as ever and indispensable for communist activity. One condition to truly accomplish these duties – not just as a formality – is to keep the specific historical conditions in which we find ourselves in sight. This should not be reduced to a theoretical consideration. It is clear that a more developed theoretical understanding and tactical flexibility is necessary, especially on issues that seem to be in conflict (i.e. revolution vs. reform, alliances vs. independent politics, theory vs. practice, the question of women vs. the question of class, etc. etc.). Otherwise, it will be impossible to avoid or to rid ourselves of right and left tendencies...

Internationalism and the working class

Internationalism is not an attribute to be acquired; it is a building block of communism. Communism is international because the system it negates is an international system. In creating the modern world market, capitalist big industry has in reality created a world history. Thus, the conditions of industry and commerce in each country are now determined by that country’s relationship with the world market. In this context, the difference between the working class and bourgeoisie is that the bourgeoisie, due to its nature, defends its own “national” (class) interests while the interests of the working class are the same in each country. The call “Workers of the world, unite!” raised in the Communist Manifesto is inspired by precisely this reality. The internationalism of the working class is a prerequisite of its universal character.

It is evident that communism, which can only exist as a world system, requires the international organisation and struggle of the world proletariat. The collaboration of the workers of the world is the primary condition for their liberation. Therefore, Internationals are their most advanced form of organisation. That is why the Constitution of the First International highlighted that “the liberation of the working class is neither a local nor a national issue but a social issue that encompasses all countries of the modern world and its solution is based on the practical and theoretical collaboration of the most advanced countries.” The First, Second and Third Internationals were the expression and results of this approach.

Internationalism could seem to be something very ordinary to today’s generation of workers brought up in the “age of the internet”. It should be remembered, however, that the working class raised the flag of internationalism at a time when the feeling of being a nation was very fresh, nation states were fairly new and nationalism was on the rise. This means that the working class is the most modern class, in other words, the only class that can internalise the most advanced forms that productive forces bring about through their developments.

The fact that the level of internationalisation of capital and production, especially the tremendous developments in transport and communication technologies, are used to spur on competition amongst the workers of the world and to harm the commonness of their class interests should not confuse anyone. Once the balance between labour and capital has changed, the supremacy of capital will be reversed. Because the ground it creates while stoking up competition is also the ground that will once again unite the workers and make them into a whole. Those that are not related to each other cannot compete with each other anyway.

From this perspective, the historical meaning of international communism is that the most advanced step that monopoly capitalism can achieve in terms of social advancement or the last word in the means of production can only be the first steps, the first words in communism; that despite all the interruptions, it continues to be relevant; that its historical meaning is that it is not confined to history; that it is the most advanced historical duty facing humanity.

The class to undertake this historical duty is the working class whose liberation is linked to the liberation of humanity. The liberation of the working class can only be achieved through its own action. The working class can seize power at the weakest links, can start the process of building socialism but can only achieve absolute victory by defeating the bourgeoisie on the world stage. For this reason, the liberation of the working class needs to be international. The direction of development of the productive forces and the global concepts and contradictions of capitalism leave the working class with no other rational choice.

“In other words, the reason is that both the productive forces created by the modern capitalist mode of production and the system of distribution of goods established by it have come into crying contradiction with that mode of production itself, and in fact to such a degree that, if the whole of modern society is not to perish, a revolution in the mode of production and distribution must take place, a revolution which will put an end to all class distinctions. On this tangible, material fact, which is impressing itself in a more or less clear form, but with insuperable necessity, on the minds of the exploited proletarians – on this fact, and not on the conceptions of justice and injustice held by any armchair philosopher, is modern socialism’s confidence in victory founded.”7 (Engels)

Labour Party (EMEP), Turkey March 2014


  1. Marx-Engels, The German Ideology
  2. Marx-Engels, Selected Works, Volume 3, “On the History of the Communist League”
  3. Marx-Engels, Selected Works, Volume 2, “The Housing Question”, Part 3
  4. Marx-Engels, Collected Works, Volume 6, “The Communists and Karl Heinzen”
  5. Marx-Engels, The German Ideology.
  6. No doubt the two never coincide with each other. Thus, the ones mentioned are not there with the assumption that they coincide in part.
  7. Engels, F. Anti-Dühring, “Subject Matter and Method”.
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