Workers Vanguard No. 1025
3 1 May 2013
In the selection below, Friedrich Engels makes plain how proletarian revolution opens the road to an emancipated future in which the productive powers of humanity are unleashed for the benefit of all mankind.
Their political and intellectual bankruptcy is scarcely any longer a secret to the bourgeoisie themselves. Their economic bankruptcy recurs regularly every ten years. In every crisis, society is suffocated beneath the weight of its own productive forces and products, which it cannot use, and stands helpless face to face with the absurd contradiction that the producers have nothing to consume, because consumers are wanting. The expansive force of the means of production bursts the bonds that the capitalist mode of production had imposed upon them.
Their deliverance from these bonds is the one precondition for an unbroken, constantly accelerated development of the productive forces, and therewith for a practically unlimited increase of production itself....
With the seizing of the means of production by society, production of commodities is done away with, and, simultaneously, the mastery of the product over the producer. Anarchy in social production is replaced by systematic, definite organisation. The struggle for individual existence disappears.... Man’s own social organisation, hitherto confronting him as a necessity imposed by nature and history, now becomes the result of his own free action. The extraneous objective forces that have hitherto governed history pass under the control of man himself. Only from that time will man himself, with full consciousness, make his own history—only from that time will the social causes set in movement by him have, in the main and in a constantly growing measure, the results intended by him. It is humanity’s leap from the kingdom of necessity to the kingdom of freedom.
To accomplish this act of universal emancipation is the historical mission of the modern proletariat. To thoroughly comprehend the historical conditions and thus the very nature of this act, to impart to the now oppressed class a full knowledge of the conditions and of the meaning of the momentous act it is called upon to accomplish, this is the task of the theoretical expression of the proletarian movement, scientific socialism.
—Friedrich Engels, Anti-Dühring (1878)
“We do not maintain that socialism is going to solve all predicaments of the human race. We are struggling in the first instance with the predicaments that are of man’s making and that man can resolve. May I remind you that Trotsky, for instance, speaks of three basic tragedies—hunger, sex and death—besetting man. Hunger is the enemy that Marxism and the modern labour movement have taken on.... Yes, socialist man will still be pursued by sex and death; but we are convinced that he will be better equipped than we are to cope even with these.”
Emblazon on our red banner-Labor and the oppressed must rule!
Here is good reason why:
So they had time for remembrances back to the days in the early 1970s when they had first met and had caught the tail-end of the big splash 1960s political and social explosion that stirred significant elements of their generation, “the generation of ’68” so-called by Sam’s friend from New York City Fritz Jasper although neither of them had been involved in any of the cataclysmic events that had occurred in America (and the world) that year. Occasionally Ralph would come to Boston on trips and Sam would return the favor by going out to Albany (or more frequently to Saratoga Springs where he, they could see who from the old days, the old folk minute of the early 1960s that Sam had been very interested in when he started to hang around Cambridge later in the decade, was still alive enough to be playing at the famous coffeehouse still going from the 1960s, the Café Lena, minus Lena for quite a while now).
Maybe it was the booze, maybe it was growing older and more reflective, maybe Ralph’s comments had stirred up some sense of guilt for losing the hard edge of their youthful dreams but that night Sam wanted to press the issue of what that socialist prospective meant, what they thought it was all about (both agreed in passing, almost as an afterthought that what happened, what passed for socialism in the Soviet Union and elsewhere was NOT what they were dreaming of although they gave "Third World" liberation struggles against imperialism like in Vietnam and Cuba dependent on Soviet aid plenty of wiggle room to make mistakes and still retain their support).
Both men during the course of their conversation commented on the fact that no way, no way in hell, if it had not been for the explosive events of the 1960s, of the war and later a bunch of social issues, mainly third world liberation struggles internationally and the black liberation struggles at home they would not even be having the conversation they were having (both also chuckling a little at using the old time terms, especially the use of “struggle” and “question,” for example the black, gay, women question since lately they had noticed that younger activist no longer spoke in such terms but the more ephemeral “white privilege,” “patriarchy,” “gender” reflecting the identity politics that have been in fashion for a long time now, since the ebb flow of the 1960s and which partially caused that ebbing).
No, nothing in the sweet young lives of Samuel Eaton to the Carver cranberry bog capital of world (then) working-class born (his father a bogger himself when they needed extra help) and Ralph Morris, Junior to the Troy General Electric plants-dominated working class born would have in say 1967, maybe later, projected that almost fifty years later they would be fitfully and regretfully speaking about their visions of socialism and it demise as a world driving force for social change.
Ralph and Sam had imbibed all the standard identifiable working-class prejudices against reds, some more widespread among the general population of the times, you know, like the big red scare Cold War “your mommy is a commie, turn her in,” the Russians are coming get under the desk and hold onto your head, anybody to the left of Grandpa Ike, maybe even him, communist dupes of Joe Stalin and his progeny who pulled the strings from Moscow and made everybody jumpy; against blacks (Ralph had stood there right next to his father, Ralph, Sr., when he led the physical opposition to blacks moving into the Tappan Street section of town and had nothing, along with him and his corner boys at Van Patten’s Drugstore, but the “n” word to call black people sometimes to their faces and Sam’s father was not much better, a southerner from hillbilly country down in Appalachia who had been stationed in Hingham at the end of World War II and stayed, who never could until his dying breathe call blacks anything but the “n” word); against gays and lesbians (Ralph and his boys mercilessly fag and dyke baiting them whenever the guys and he went to Saratoga Springs where those creeps spent their summers doing whatever nasty things they did to each other and Sam likewise down in Provincetown with his boys, he helping, beating up some poor guy in a back alley after one of them had made a false pass at the guy, Jesus; against uppity women, servile, domestic child-producing women like his good old mother and wanna-bes were okay as were “easy” girls ready to toot their whistles, which they had only gotten beaten out of them when they ran into their respective wives who had both been influenced by the women’s liberation movement although truth to tell those wives were not especially political, but rather artistic. Native Americans didn’t even rate a nod since they were not on the radar, were written off in any case as fodder for cowboys and soldiers in blue. But mainly they had been red, white and blue American patriotic guys who really did have ice picks for anybody who thought they would like to tread on old Uncle Sam (who had been “invented” around Ralph’s hometown way).