Socialism on the Periphery of Global Capitalism

Image: Hamilton Grimaldi


As long as there is a socialist perspective, whether in poor Bolivia or in giant China, the possibility of humanity leaving its prehistory is always real.

The path to overcoming the capitalist mode of production was indicated by the founders of modern socialism, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Path that is built in the political practice of the struggle between social classes, which has particularities in each country and which, therefore, is not a finished model to be implemented. A path that must be guided by a theoretical framework that does not consist of mere abstract lucubration, but rather in a dialectical relationship between the real concrete and the concrete thought. In this sense, we find in Marxian thought the bases of the critical theory of the functioning of capitalism and elements for its overcoming. Three of these are worth mentioning: 1) the resolution of the contradiction between productive forces and relations of production; 2) the conquest of political power for the socialist transition; and 3) the disappearance of social classes and the State as we know them today, that is, the advent of a communist society or mode of production.

We find the first element in the Communist Party Manifesto. Marx and Engels (2009) put on the agenda the change in production relations and the type of State, that is, the revolutionary transformation of society. The friends of letters and struggles present the establishment of the contradiction between the development of the productive forces and the current relations of production as the generating element of a systemic imbalance that would be up to the class struggle to resolve. The era of social revolution is one in which the development of the productive forces is truncated, and no longer stimulated, by the existing relations of production and the social classes, as organized and struggling collectives, represent, on the one hand, the “expired” relations of production, fighting for the preservation of the current social structure (the bourgeoisie) and, on the other hand, another class represents the productive forces on the rise, fighting for historical change (the proletariat) – in this case from capitalism to socialism. It is not, therefore, a question of any economic or political conflict, but of a particular confrontation in a well-defined phase of the historical process, a period of revolution.

The second element is found in civil war in france. When analyzing the experience of the Paris commune of 1971, Marx (2013) indicates that the seizure of political power, of the State, is the unavoidable beginning of the process of socialist transition. Exercising a barrier to private control of the means of production, a new form of political organization (new non-capitalist state) is characterized by a popular mass democracy, a socialization of political power, capable of initiating the process of socialization of the means of production: unified democratic planning at the center and workers' management in base production. The suppression of private property and the direct producer's collective control over the means of production boost the development of productive forces, placed by the new State at the service of collective well-being and not private profit.

The third element is in Gotha program critique. Marx (2012) distinguishes two phases of communist society. The first, the socialist transition, immediately follows capitalism, but bears marks of its origin, such as bourgeois ideas and values ​​and forms of labor exploitation. In this, the proletariat conquers state power and becomes the new ruling class, establishing the dictatorship of the proletariat (on the one hand, the use of state force against the bourgeoisie and the counterrevolution, on the other, mass popular democracy) to protect itself. from its enemies, to build a new society with another form of political organization and a new economy based on the development of productive forces freed from the shackles of capitalist property. Society then enters a higher phase, communism, in which the class antagonism between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat completely disappears and the State, no longer necessary to protect property and the exploitation of workers, languishes and gives way to another form of political organization never seen in human history (this goes for the experiences of the XNUMXth and XNUMXst centuries)

These elements were present in a latent, manifest and/or programmatic way in the political forces that fought for a socialist transition in the 2013th century, given the worldwide expansion and uneven and combined development of capitalism. According to the study by Visentini et. al. (1910), it can be said that these socialist experiences, varied and with their peculiarities, were initiated by the Mexican Revolution of 1905 or even by the Russian Revolution of 1917, although redirected or defeated in a short period of time. Indeed, it was the Russian Revolution of 1917 that provided the revolutionary wave of the century: in the countries that came to form the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics shortly after the revolution in Russia in October 1970; in Eastern Europe between the First and Second World War, forming the People's Democracies; in China and North Korea after World War II; in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos in the 1970s; in Angola, Mozambique and Ethiopia also in the 1959s; in Cuba in 1979 and in Nicaragua in 1967; in Yemen in 1978 and Afghanistan in XNUMX; between others. Unlike the indications of theorists of socialism, the revolutions did not occur in the central countries of capitalism, where the productive forces are more developed, the relations of production are based on salaried work, the political system consists of bourgeois democracy and the proletariat would be more politically organized to the point of boosting the transition. They took place on the periphery of the international system and then assumed different characters and consequences to overcome capitalism: democratic, popular-democratic, national liberation, anti-imperialist and anti-feudal (almost always combining more than one of these characters).

However, these experiences had common characteristics such as: central economic planning to the detriment of the free market, with nationalization of large companies and collective ownership of the means of production (this was how Soviet Russia ceased to be a semi-feudal social formation and reached the position of economic and military power in the first half of the 1928th century, a period in which there was only peace between 1941 and XNUMX); state policies for the gradual elimination of inequalities and the universalization of public services such as health, education, transportation, housing, leisure and other social objectives that the liberal West set out to achieve, but did not and will not do so under the aegis of the neoliberal program that governs the capitalist countries; political centralization, whose command sought to defend the achievements of the revolution against the attacks of internal and foreign counterrevolutionary forces and organized a system distinct from bourgeois democracy, with other forms of participation and opposition; and at the international level, the various types of interventions and sanctions suffered by these countries, mainly from Washington (the CIA specialized in this) with the aim of defeating them, obstructing their experiences and/or isolating them, which led them to into the orbit of Soviet Russia, as it was the state that could best face such attacks, providing military supply, legitimacy, political and economic support.

The USSR in particular played an important role in building socialism both in its territory and in progressive processes around the world, such as the welfare state in Europe and national-developmentalism in Latin America. The Russian Revolution mainly and the socialist experiences threatened capitalism, made it more civilized (or less barbaric) and carried out and influenced a series of measures: universalization of political rights, generalization of political systems with the incorporation of “minorities” and liquidation census vote; valuing women and gender equality; creating social security systems and valuing work with the right to organize workers to carry out and defend achievements; smoothing the greed of the bourgeoisies and the possibility of building welfare societies; adoption of a central economic planning mechanism, favoring industrialization and technological development with the incorporation of the popular mass and the right to fruition; defeat or attack on cultural supremacy and Eurocentric racism and critique of colonialism and imperialism; defeated fascism, changed the rules of the game in international relations, fostered national liberation movements and anti-colonial revolutions, and thus proposed equality among peoples and international cooperation; between others. In the USSR there were mistaken economic calculations for the construction of socialism, periods of political intolerance and deleterious participation in various arenas of international capitalist competition. However, in fact it was defeated by the capitalist forces that attacked it daily, internally and externally. It was its successes mentioned above, and not its failure, that gave rise to economic, political and ideological aggressions and thus led it to end the first cycle of socialist experiences and leave open the way for the socialist transition.

Despite the defeat of the USSR and the end of the first cycle, China took a different path from the Soviets, was not defeated by the West and seems to open a second cycle. Chinese Marxists such as Jiang Hui (2017, 2019) indicate that socialism with Chinese characteristics has become the banner of world socialist transition and that the XNUMXst century is a historical period of competition between global capitalism led by the US and world socialism led by a country that was then peripheral and harassed in the international system and that today is a world power. After a period of state capitalism and enormous development of the productive forces, China seems to be in a primary stage of the socialist transition, in which – as Marx points out – elements of capitalism remain and the struggle to overcome them is even more intense, internal and externally. However, the tendency for a socialist country to occupy the top spot in the world economy for the first time in history has become concrete. In this sense, other trends in China have characterized its experience in building world socialism – which, according to the Chinese themselves, can only be global or it will not be. They propose development and independence from the action of socialist forces (currently weak and dispersed) in all countries to chart their own path together with the formation of coordination and regional or international integration to unify actions, basic theoretical understandings and objectives of socialism, but without the rigid command model of the Third International. World socialism then dialectically combines national characteristics in the form of the nation-state with cosmopolitanism as the content. In other words, they reinvent proletarian internationalism and World history (World History) by Marx and Engels. In this way, the attacks of international capitalist/fascist forces can even be resisted. They support the connection of socialist forces around the world with progressive social movements, such as anti-globalization, for democratic rights, pacifist, ecological, feminist, black, lgbtqia+, etc. In order to establish large anti-capitalist forces to demolish the existing social order and build a new one. They highlight a socialist movement that takes into account economic and social development with ecological responsibility, following the notes of the founders of modern socialism, as in The capital (Marx 2008) about the environmental destruction caused by capitalist accumulation.

The Chinese are convinced that the socialist path is multifaceted by national experiences, consists of advances and setbacks and victories and defeats, is a process whose worldwide reach is vital for its existence and, above all, is arduous and slow. In addition, according to Xi Jinping (2016), China has a key role in this, since socialism with Chinese characteristics allowed scientific socialism to show renewed vigor in the XNUMXst century, in addition to following a highly realistic, viable and correct path that captivates the world with its conquests.

In short, first Marx and Engels theoretically and scientifically paved the way for socialism and fought for it. Afterwards, the USSR inaugurated it in practice and closed a first cycle that left a legacy for future generations. China, survivor of the first cycle, is learning from the mistakes of the past to move towards world socialism. It is necessary to emphasize that the idea of ​​cycles is just a didactic way of looking at the development of world socialism. So, not necessarily in cycles, as long as there is a socialist perspective, whether in poor Bolivia or in giant China, the possibility of humanity leaving its prehistory is always real.

* Caio Bugiato Professor of Political Science and International Relations at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro (UFFRJ).

Originally published on the website E-International Relations.



Hui, Jiang (2017) World Socialism in the Twenty-First Century: New Structure, New Features and New Trends, International Critical Thought, 7: 2, 159-170.

Hui, Jiang (2019): We Are Still in the Historical Era Specified by Marxism, International Critical Thought,22 Aug 2019, 1-17.

Jinping, Xi. (2016). Speech at the Celebration of the 95th Anniversary of the Communist Party of China. beijing. English Edition of Qiushi Journal, October-December, Vol.8, No.4, Issue No.29.

Marx, Karl (2008) Capital: critique of political economy. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization.

Marx, Karl and Engels, Friedrich. (2009). communist manifesto. Havana: Social Sciences.

Marx, Carl. (2012). Gotha program critique. Sao Paulo: Boitempo.

Marx, Carl. (2013). The Civil War in France. Sao Paulo: Boitempo.

Visentini PG, Pereira AD, Martins JM, Ribeiro LD and Grohmann LG (2013). Marxist revolutions and regimes: ruptures, experiences and international impact. Porto Alegre: Reading XXI/Nerint/UFRGS.

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