Red Theory: Socialism and the Bourgeois Right


The task of socialism is to move from capitalist society to communist society, from a society ruled by and for the rich, based on exploitation and oppression, to a classless society without exploitation and oppression. When the working class takes power and expropriates the wealth and power of the capitalist class, the dictatorship of the proletariat will have to eliminate the contradictions inherited from capitalist society in a planned, thorough and step-by-step manner. One of the most important tasks of the socialist state is the elimination of what Marx called the “bourgeois right”. We already touched on the bourgeois right in our previous article, “What is socialism? but it is a very important subject which must be clearly understood.

In his Critique of the Gotha program, Marx said that there are two stages in communist society, a lower stage and a higher stage. To clarify matters, Marxism-Leninism came to refer to the lower stage as socialism and the higher stage as communism. In the lower stage, socialism, the guiding principle is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his work”. In the higher stage, communism, the guiding principle is “from each according to his ability, to each according to his need”. The goal of socialism is to move to communism – to move from a society where distribution is based on labor to one where distribution is based on need.

In capitalist society, “bourgeois law” refers to legal property rights and the social and political power that the capitalist derives from the possession of capital. Thus, in capitalist society, bourgeois law forms the basis of capitalist relations of production, allowing the capitalist to privately accumulate wealth from the exploitation of labor in the social process of production.

The socialist revolution intends to expropriate the expropriators – to suppress private ownership of the means of production, and thus to suppress the private accumulation of wealth. However, as Marx said, socialism was born out of capitalism and carries with it the birthmarks of capitalism. One of these birthmarks is the bourgeois right. But bourgeois law is qualitatively different under socialism than under capitalism, since private ownership of the means of production has been abolished. So what is left of the bourgeois right?

Lenin explains it very well in his book State and Revolution:

“In the first phase of communist society (generally called socialism), ‘bourgeois right’ is not abolished in its entirety, but only in part, only in proportion to the economic revolution hitherto achieved, that is that is, only with regard to the means of production. “Bourgeois law” recognizes them as the private property of individuals. Socialism converts them into common property. bourgeois” disappears.

“However, he continues to exist with respect to his other part; it continues to exist as a regulator (determining factor) of the distribution of products and the distribution of labor among the members of society. The socialist principle: “He who does not work must not eat” is already realized; the other socialist principle: “An equal quantity of products for an equal quantity of labor,” is also already realized. But it is not yet communism, and it does not yet abolish “bourgeois right”, which gives unequal individuals, in exchange for unequal (really unequal) quantities of labor, equal quantities of products.

“It is a ‘defect’, says Marx, but it is inevitable in the first phase of communism [Socialism]; because if we do not want to indulge in utopianism, we must not think that after overthrowing capitalism, people will immediately learn to work for society without any legal standards; and indeed the abolition of capitalism does not immediately create the economic premises for such a change.

“And there is no other norm than that of ‘bourgeois law’. To this extent, therefore, there still remains a need for a State which, while safeguarding public ownership of the means of production, would safeguard equality in labor and equality in the distribution of products.

In other words, if the distribution of what is produced is measured by labor, then the problem is that the labor input is unequal. Some people are fitter or stronger. Some have dependent children and other responsibilities while others do not. Some workers may suffer from health problems, others may not. Some may live further away from their workplace. Some may have better access to tools and machinery, some may work on more or less suitable land. Likewise, some may have an easier time learning and are thus able to achieve higher levels of education. For some, networking and bonding can come naturally or result from old family ties. All of these fundamental inequalities allow for unequal accumulation of wealth, and all of these fundamental inequalities require solutions.

Opponents of Marxism often present this fundamental inequality between individuals as a refutation of socialism, as if Marx did not understand or address it. On the contrary, this fundamental inequality between individuals is one of the most pressing problems that socialism can and must solve. Marxism-Leninism understands very well that the bourgeois right represents a danger, because it functions as a brake on socialist development. If the bourgeois right under socialism is left unchecked, then this unequal accumulation of wealth, power and privilege can lead to corruption, deepening class antagonism and a material basis for ideology. bourgeois and the revisionist degeneration of the proletarian dictatorship. The uncontrolled bourgeois right functions as the material basis for the restoration of capitalism.

A fundamental task of the socialist state must be to fight and uproot the bourgeois right. How is this accomplished? Lenin points out two factors in the quote above. First, people must learn to work for society without the bourgeois right to equal pay for equal work, and second, the material basis that would allow for distribution based on need rather than labor must be in place.

Transforming the way people think about work and society is a long-term project, based on education and persuasion rooted in practical experience. This means dismantling the influence of bourgeois ideology and educating the popular masses in the ideology of the working class, the science of Marxism-Leninism. The experience of socialist countries has shown that this is possible and that it takes time. Revolutionizing the productive forces to create a society where everyone can have what they need without resorting to a labor-based distribution system is also possible. This requires the elimination of rarity and, therefore, also takes time.

Ultimately, the transition from socialism to communism depends on resolving the contradictions that persist in socialist society, both antagonistic and non-antagonistic. The class struggle continues under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The socialist state must resolve the contradictions that constrain the development of the productive forces, the contradiction between town and country, the contradiction between intellectual and manual labor, the contradictions rooted in the national question and patriarchy, and the contradiction between leaders and the led. . The correct handling of these and other contradictions is what keeps the dictatorship of the proletariat on the path to the goal of communism.

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