Welcome to the second issue of the Nordic Communist Review. Within you will find contributions on the topic of “the European Union and the national question”.
The Nordic Communist Review is a biannual online publication founded in 2019.
Welcome to the second issue of the Nordic Communist Review. Within you will find contributions on the topic of “the European Union and the national question”.
The Nordic Communist Review is a biannual online publication founded in 2019.
The majority of Norway’s population appreciates national liberty, sovereignty, safe social welfare rights, worldwide cooperation and good conditions for free development. The European Union (EU) represents the opposite. Therefore, the people has voted against EU membership in two referendi (1972 and 1994), and for 15 consecutive years in polls (per April 2020).
EU’s goal is supernational government. The EU accommodates profit maximation for major European transnational monopolies and financial capital. This makes the EU the greatest oppressor, and the 27 member nations the weak oppressors of imperialism. The former colonial power of the United Kingdom no longer accepted being governed by the EU, and made their Brexit. The Communist Party of Norway (NKP) hopes that more nations will follow suit.
Imperialism means that Capitalism has surpassed the boundaries of the national state. Lenin demonstrated that the essence of imperialism is the division of nations into oppressed and oppressor nations. Imperialism is a world system of oppression of peoples, and must be met with a common front of revolutionary movements and oppressed people of all countries, both on a national and international level.
Communists are socialist patriots and proletarian internationalists. We fight for the interests of the working class in a national context, while fighting in cooperation with the working class across borders. In Communism, there is no contradiction between national struggle and class struggle. Both are possible. NKP is part of the political popular movement No to EU, which has more than 20 000 members.
The bourgeoisie can promise neither national or social liberation. The working class and the people must fight for the ownership of the means of production in order to control production, in order to cover the people’s priority needs. The reactionary bourgeoisie is unable to solve the national question.
Through the EEC agreement, Norway is bound to the four liberties of the EU: Free movement of goods, services, capital and people, being the foundation of the EU’s market liberal project. Therefore, more than 12 000 EU directives and regulations have been imposed on Norway and its laws.
Brussels makes an increasing amount of decisions for Norway. Political power has been moved from the Norwegian parliament to the EU’s supernational, undemocratic institutions. Despite a theoretical right to reject EU resolutions, Norway has made more changes to national laws than any other EU country.
“Voluntary” and forced municipal and regional mergers have been made in Norway in recent years, in a regional reform ordered by the EU. In practice, these mergers lead to fewer publicly elected politicians, and therefore less democracy. While the communists want more public influence on democracy, the EU disguises their intentions with the illusion of self-governance in the EEC and member states.
A part of the national bourgeoisie is not a stranger to compromise with foreign capital. Bourgeois propaganda is therefore trying to convince people that Norway needs the EU, and persistently claim that Norway will not be able to sell their produced goods without EU membership.
The truth is that Norway is a lucrative market, and that the EU wants Norwegian goods. The majority of Norwegian exports to the EU are raw materials and semi-finished products. Shutting out Norwegian oil, gas, metals and fish would be damaging to the EU’s economy, and so would imposing taxes. Besides, the world is larger than the EU. Norway must be able to trade – and is trading – with all countries that have normal, voluntary trade connections, at the benefit of both parties. This will never harm the public interest of any country, only that of monopoly capital and their profits. The EU causes more limitations than benefits. We know that the EU’s goal of free flow of capital, heavy competition, overproduction and eternal economic growth do not combine with effective climatic measures. This is better solved by the nations themselves, who know their own nature. Through the EEC agreement, Norway is connected to the EU’s energy union and the EU-bureau ACER. NKP is of the opinion that Norwegian energy policies must be controlled from Norway. This will ensure the protection of employment, industry and the environment.
The idea that imports in the free EU market will always provide necessary goods, has been seriously challenged during the pandemic. The current capitalist crisis combined with the Corona virus showed us once again that in times of crisis, a bourgeois country only helps itself. Less than two months before Europe became the epicenter of the Corona pandemic, the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) wrote that European countries had the necessary capacity to prevent and control an outbreak. The death toll shows us the truth of the matter. Dismantlement and privatization of healthcare, defunding of welfare and a high unemployment, despite a lack of medical personnel, has negative consequences. The EU could not accommodate the Italian request for help. They instead received help from Cuba and China.
In Norway, emergency medical infrastructure had been all but dismantled because of the EU. Before joining the EEC, Norway had a state medicinal depot, whose task was to ensure the supply of medicine and medical equipment in case of a crisis. This was considered to contradict the EEC agreement, so the medical stocks were privatized, and the emergency infrastructure was dismantled.
To the dismay of the EU-commission, EU member states are introducing efforts to promote their own agricultural products at the cost of imports. The commission is threatening to punish member states that prevent the free flow of trade across borders. The EU does not exist for the advantage of the working class. Imperialism has major fundamental contradictions. The ambitions that the EU inner market, in union with internal solidarity, can be combined with the free flow of goods, where countries happily share their surplus with others, do not fit reality. This is because the governments of the member states are simultaneously serving two masters: Their own population and the supernational institutions of the EU. In times of crisis, this task becomes more impossible than it already is. In order not to lose legitimacy among their population, state leaders are forced to prioritize the immediate needs of their nations.
The nations need emergency stockpiles. From 2011, Norwegian grain stockpiles were no longer maintained. Norway is only covered with 3% of arable land, with 1.3% being able to support grain. Sweden has double this, while Denmark has 56% of their area available for food production. Finland is an example of a country with major stockpiles, despite EU membership. This is because Finnish law was established before EU membership. As opposed to Finland, Sweden and Norway have accepted the EU rationale. Sweden stopped keeping their stockpiles as a consequence of EU membership. It is argued that major stockpiles of produce contradicts the principles for a well functioning market, as this can lead to price fluctuations and affect delivery of goods.
While the EU were forced to loosen their rules for economical support and national debt as a consequence of the Corona crisis, they strongly maintain the rules for free flow of labour across borders.
Capitalists will not accept to lose, and will do everything they can to prevent communists from progressing. The result is anticommunism and the rewriting of history in the EU. An EU resolution from 2019 claims that the non-aggression pact resulted in the outbreak of World War II. We know the truth about how the Soviet union, led by Stalin, attempted several times to create a front along with Great Britain and France against Germany.
The EEC was a horse-trade between the social democrats and the lords of the EU at the time it was signed, at the people’s expense. Many rights that have been fought for, have become goods and services in a liberal market with free flow of capital and labour.
Norwegian companies are being acquired or cooperate with major international monopolies and financial capital. The communists fight against imperialism, and against national and international monopoly- and financial capital. The lack of ability to solve the national question clearly shows the reactionary character and decay of capitalism.
The era of imperialism is the greatest oppressor of nations. Now, more than 25 years after we were absorbed into the European Union through the EEC agreement, more and more Norwegians are realizing how this weakened our national immune defense. It is impossible to create a real people’s democracy under imperialism, as some petty bourgeois idealists are hoping to do.
Communists want a revolution towards a new system of society; Socialism-Communism. As such, the communists fight against social injustice and any form of oppression, and for a better standard of work and life for all people, along with the principles of national equal rights, the full freedom of nations, sovereignty, mutual respect, cooperation and the common struggle for peace and the final victory of socialism.
Communists have always been the most active supporters of national independence. Communists have also recognized the progressive and revolutionary significance of wars of national liberation. When the Soviet Union and the whole global socialist system were at their strongest, the state of imperialism was weaker. This era opened new possibilities for oppressed nations in the pursuit of independence.
National Independence in Europe
Europe has changed significantly since the weakening of the socialist system: The European Union was formed, of which Finland is a member. As the foundation of its functions the EU has a list of basic freedoms, which includes the free movement of capital, goods, labour force, and services, between the member states of the EU. These basic freedoms guarantee the preservation of the power of capital.
What, then, could threaten the existence of the EU? A war between imperialistic cores, with EU on one side? More than anything, the bourgeoisie of the EU is afraid of two things: the struggle of nations for freedom, which would tear down the EU, and the endeavor of the working class to found socialistic countries. They are so afraid of the latter that they want to prohibit communist symbols and parties. Some EU-countries have already done so through legislation. The saying ”no nation can be free if it oppresses other nations” is actualized in the EU.
National Independence as a Part of Class Struggle
The Communist Workers’ Party has consistently opposed Finland’s membership in the EU. The party has objected against Finns conforming and accepting the EU membership by not nominating its members to European Parliament elections. Instead, the party has urged people to boycott the elections. In order to reclaim national independence, KTP has created the campaign ”Suomi irti EU:sta” (Finland out of the EU). The campaign calls on people to protect the country’s independence, as the campaign’s logo portrays the demand to release Finland from the shackles of the EU.
Within the party, the objective of communists has been seen as the aim to seize political power within the country in which each separate party operates, not within the EU as a whole. Naturally, the goal of the communists is the foundation of a socialist country. A goal that the working class with its allies will reach. In the pursuit of this goal is unified the communists’ centennial work as advocates for national independence. The ideal of national independence lives on in the midst of the working class on the journey towards founding a socialist state, as well as within that socialist state.
Occasionally it is argued that because, as a class, the working class exists as one, across all borders, the question of national independence can be bypassed. Such a way of thinking is evident in attempts in forming, for example, a socialist Europe instead of forming separate socialist countries. The working class is, of course, one, but there sometimes can be significant societal differences between different countries. This affects the methods that fit each country within a given point in time. It is essential to preserve the principle of national independence everywhere. This doesn’t rule out the internationalism and solidarity integral to the struggle of the working class. Rather, it includes them, as well as attempting to reach as wide a consensus as possible in the fight against capitalism.
Communists Recognize the Power of Internationalism
In their discussions, the delegates of communist parties have brought up the formation of a new international central organization (Comintern). It is evident that there is a need for directing the working class in unified and simultaneous struggle, as well as for studying theory. However, the preconditions for a new comintern don’t yet exist. KTP considers an international central organization to be necessary. The party also deems that the relations between communist parties cannot be based on democratic centralism. This position makes it possible to take national independence into consideration.
Soviet Union as an Example
There is always an ongoing discussion in communist parties about what, exactly, is the socialism we propose to build and what are the paths that lead to that goal. It is difficult to present a detailed picture, today, but the main principles can be articulated. The picture becomes clearer on the way to socialism, as do the forms of collaboration between socialist countries.
Soviet Union gives one example of building national independence between socialist countries. The constitution of the Soviet Union put this into practice by giving each union republic the right to secede from the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. This article was used when the Soviet Union dissolved in the beginning of the 1990s.
Each union republic also had a land border with countries other than other union republics. If one was to secede, it wouldn’t have become completely surrounded by other union republics, but rather would have had its own distinct, independent territory.
Member of the Political committee, vice-chairman of the Communist Worker’s Party of Finland
What is the European Union?
Fundamentally, the European Union is an expression of capitalism at its current stage of imperialism. The union is an expression of the needs of capital of western Europe, mainly, at this time and age. It is an imperialist union that primarily has three purposes:
Like all imperialist unions, the EU is a temporary one. In his pamphlet ”On the Slogan for a United States of Europe” Lenin argues that any inter-imperialist alliance must be temporary by nature. Apart from mutual interests, participating capital also has contradictory such, which could be seen clearly with the advent of Brexit. However, this does not preclude an extent of cooperation in dividing the world. As a result of the eastern expansion, the former socialist countries have been split between the imperialists of western Europe, where primarily German and French capital has had the opportunity to expand, but where also Swedish capital has been able to tap into and subsume the Baltic states, which would not have been possible without the EU and the coordinated actions to repel Russian capital.
Waging wars for new markets, resources and their transport routes has been and is an ongoing activity of all member states to the benefit of their own monopolies, with Iraq, Libya, Syria and the Ukraine as recent examples. While officially a so called peace project, the EU is being increasingly militarized through recent initiatives like PESCO. In this respect, tensions between emerging inter-imperialist alliances sharpen on all fronts as well as within.
Mechanisms that support anti-people measures in support of EU capital are being increasingly implemented, giving it new privileges in terms of tax subsidies and exemptions in the international competition with the US, China and Russia. Taking all this and the increasing military expenditures into consideration, the EU is a driving force, not for peace, but for escalated tensions and for greater risk of generalized military conflict.
This is what the European Union is today. An imperialist alliance, the purpose of which is to benefit participating monopolies. As such, we are opponents of the European Union in the same way we are opponents of any imperialist alliance.
Leaving the European Union
The view of the Communist Party of Sweden is that the peoples must have the right to decide their own path, which also includes the right to leave the European Union.
At the same time it must be noted that the imperialist system is subject to fundamental laws of development that cannot be avoided. These laws exist within the framework of the entire system, both within and outside the European Union. To stay competitive, capital of each country needs to act accordingly, notwithstanding membership or non-membership of any imperialist alliance. In times of sharpening inter-imperialist competition, each capitalist needs to improve their competitiveness, which naturally also implies worsening conditions for the workers of their respective countries. In order to survive, at any given moment, capital forms the alliances it requires. The dynamics and the conditions the working class faces will be the same no matter if our exploiters are a formal part of the European Union or not.
For that reason, we want to make it clear that a secession to the benefit of the working class cannot be made without emancipating the working class at the same time. Within the current system, as ruling class, capital will simply realign itself according to what configuration that momentarily benefits it the most, whether as part of the European Union or not. In the same way that the struggle for peace, against racism or against fascism cannot be made separate from the question of battling capitalism itself, the struggle against the European Union or any imperialist alliance cannot be made separate from the struggle against the ruling class and for socialism.
The only alternative to the EU and all imperialist alliances, therefore, is to organize society in a completely different manner, where monopoly capital is replaced by people’s power. It requires the abolition of the institutions of capitalism, including the state, and the foundation of a workers’ state. Only this way, the dynamics of capitalism can be replaced, and genuine international cooperation on equal terms, and in peace, can be fostered. Only this way, the inherent mass unemployment of capitalism can be eradicated and good living conditions for all working people established. For this reason, the struggle for leaving the European Union must at the same time be a struggle for socialism. Leaving the European Union without socialism is not a step toward socialism, but simply a step sideways to another configuration of capitalism.
The European Union and Sweden
In Sweden there are parties and organizations on the left and on the right who claim that if Sweden just withdrew from the EU then everything would be better. This is false. We note that Brexit, above all else, was a struggle between factions of British capital, where some positioned themselves toward a withdrawal while others did the opposite, and engaged themselves for continued membership in the union. From these two fundamental positions the campaigns for and against were organized. This also meant that the two standpoints were limited to continued participation in the imperialist system, but by different means. Thus, taking side for either, meant taking sides for both.
Slogans such as “Let’s take back control”, “We want our country back!” and “Believe in Britain” clearly show the ideological utilization of nationalism that characterized the leave-campaign. All seemingly classless slogans in one way or another aimed at strengthening the ”own nation”, which under capitalism by necessity becomes the strengthening of the existing capitalist nation. Thus, the nationalist slogans promote illusions. What control do the workers have in capitalist Britain, whether within or outside of the EU? The meaning of their ”independence” remains the same in either configuration, because their oppressors and the purpose of the oppression remain the same.
In fact, for the entire duration, Britain retained its independence as a voluntary member of the EU. A status which was not changed, but further validated by the Brexit process. In this context, the nations of Britain were never subject to the oppression of any new or external nations, only its own capital, which still remains the case. The same applies to Sweden, which is why the Communist Party of Sweden rejects any opposition to the EU founded in nationalism or the national question.
We find the same problem with a withdrawal from the “left”, the purpose of which would be to advance the peoples’ and workers’ positions in a capitalist Sweden outside of the EU. The rhetoric and the promises remain false.
The “left” that advocate an unconditional withdrawal create illusions about imperialism and about the possibilities that are at hand for the workers outside of the union. They mean that a withdrawal will improve the situation of working class in the individual country, as if the capitalists existed outside the context of imperialism, and were subject to a different set of rules outside the union than within. It is a dangerous game, because in the end the hopes will turn out to be the illusions they always were and all the promises that were given will turn out to be false.
Therefore it is crucial that the communists do not let themselves be used as tools for one capitalist faction or the other. It is of crucial importance that communists clearly present the only possible alternative to capitalism, the EU, and to all other imperialist congregations, which is socialism.
No to the EU and to capitalism, yes to socialism!
Welcome to the first issue of the Nordic Communist Review. The materials within were presented at a conference in Stockholm hosted by the Communist Party of Sweden between 31/8-1/9 2019, on the subject of what socialism will look like.
The Nordic Communist Review is a biannual online publication founded in 2019.
How may socialism look? Thoughts and ideas around our goal.
Our political theory only makes sense when it is based on real and not ideal conditions; that is with regard to significant rather than insignificant issues.
In other words, it is not the task of the Communist Party to predict how socialism will look in Norway, Scandinavia or the rest of the world. No-one knows the conditions in which the working class will take over.
The road to socialism can not be determined in advance. It is determined by the intensity of class struggle in the situation in which the question is raised. Perhaps Norway has been nearly obliterated? In that case, the tasks will be difficult. Perhaps the revolution – the transition from capitalism to socialism – has been practically bloodless, when the bourgeoisie has realised that the struggle is lost? Will we take over while owning capital in the petroleum fund? Perhaps EU, the Euro and NATO have been dissolved? This would make things easier. How is power in society distributed in other countries?
What we do know is that all historical experience has shown us that the workers’ revolution can only take place once the national bourgeoisie is unable to run society. And as long as capitalism exists somewhere in the world and there is a danger of military aggression, the state must persist.
Having said that, we as communists know that the workers must liberate themselves through conscious socialist class struggle. The working class can only take power when our ideas of scientific socialism are accepted by the majority of the population, and the working class is aware of its position and significance. We know this will happen, because this majority have common interests. The communists want those who produce wealth to control wealth in a more just society – socialism. Social authority or great wealth may not be inherited. The injustice of capitalism has led to a world where 26 people own resources and wealth equivalent to that of half of the poorest population. We will change this. The earth is owned by all.
Socialism is also a class society. The transition from capitalism to socialism is still different from other social transformations, in that it abolishes the exploiting class and the ruling class is represented by the majority.
In socialism, the bourgeois bureaucratic state is dismantled and replaced by instances that serve socialism. The first and most important task is to establish a socialist constitution, and make sure that the means of production are not in the hands of the bourgeoisie. The working class must work determinedly to cover their basic material and cultural needs. The principle will still be ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their work’. At the same time, the working class will gradually and decisively reduce the influence and privilege of the bourgeoisie. A massive effort must be made to rescue the diversity of nature and reduce the plunder of non-renewable resources.
In socialism, the means of production or productivity of labour does not adequately secure a surplus of material wealth. In socialism, there is still state and collective ownership. In socialism, there is still the production and circulation of products. In socialism, the contradictions between cities and rural land – between mental and physical labour – are defeated, but there are still differences between them. Under socialism, labour still hasn’t become one of the fundamental human needs. The reckless attitude towards labour in some members of society are not defeated, and there is still a need for strict control of social consumption.
Socialist victory may only be considered final when the danger of intervention and restoration of capitalism is eliminated. Victory for socialism will only happen when a workers’ state is secured and all industry is completely and securely organized by the principles of collective enterprise using the most modern technology.
When the social structure of Norway is changed from the ground up, when the Communist Party has united socialist principles with the workers’ movement, work on establishing the necessary military and police departments begins, and troops are brought home. Norway leaves all imperialistic organizations, and the working class takes control over the banks and credit authorities. Social control is also established in data and telecommunications, transport, energy supply and production, seaports, healthcare, food production and distribution, and education. The property of imperialist forces is expropriated. In socialism we will remove militarization, fascism and war, poverty, unemployment, anti-communism and the destruction of natural resources and the environment, in the union of theory and practice.
But the communists want to go further; our final goal is communism, where the means of production have reached a level allowing for the principle ‘from each according to their ability, to each according to their need’. The transition to this society doesn’t need to be sudden. This phase is reached when society owns the means of production. In this society, the community lays the foundation for a dynamic balance with nature. People have the opportunity to develop their abilities and needs freely on the basis of the common unity of social and individual interests, rules and culture. Since all people have the same social position, there will be no classes or contradictions. The most important task for the communist education of working people in the transition to communism is to educate people to work for the sake of enjoyment and for a bigger picture. Communism therefore requires a high degree of consciousness from all members of society.
Setting goals for production in socialism and communism secures the maximal achievement of constantly growing material and cultural needs in society.
The Communist Party of China and foregin media is convinced that Scandinavia is already socialist/communist. We know that this is not true, but the reason may be that the workers’ movement in our country has been historically strong.
Since Norway is a highly developed capitalist country, the Communist Party of Norway believe that socialism in Norway will develop further than in former socialist countries, and the attempts made around the world today.
NKP is of the opinion that capitalism can end for good, and that socialism – a more just society – is not just possible, but a dire necessity.
WHAT KIND OF SOCIALISM ARE WE BUILDING?
As stated in our speech at the Stockholm meeting of nordic communists, we are not fortune tellers and can’t predict with complete certainty what the future socialist society will look like. We have to be careful in this regard and not build utopias in our minds. Our plan for building socialism must be based in the material conditions of our revolution, and will take shape during the revolutionary process and working class struggle. There are some things we can say with relative certainty about our future socialist society.
Finland is a fairly technologically advanced country. Building socialism here today would be economically and technologically easier then in Russia a century ago. It would still mark a tremendous economic undertaking. Finland would begin to separate itself from the Western imperialist world order and stop exploiting cheap labor and resources in poor third world countries. Therefore Finland would have to re-industrialize itself to an extent. Finland would have to strive for greater self-sufficiency and self-reliance. This is important firstly because the imperialists are known to impose sanctions, blockades etc. on countries that try to pursue a policy free from imperialist control. We have to prepare for it. Secondly, ecological concerns say we ought to produce locally what we can. There is no need to transport goods from accross the globe if we have can produce them here for ourselves. We also aim for full employment, so the factories closed down by the capitalists should be re-opened and the unemployed workers put back to work.
DEFENSE OF THE REVOLUTION
As stated in our speech in Stockholm, communists wish to create a society without armies, intelligence agencies or instruments with which one class oppresses another — that is our aim. However, the revolution also must be able to protect itself. Lenin originally argued in The State and Revolution that the standing army could be abolished. However, developments like the Russian civil war and foreign intervention by a dozen or so capitalist countries, forced the bolsheviks to create a Red Army and develop its defensive capacity. This was necessary. Similarly, our party argues that Finland doesn’t need a military. Our military right now is only being used in the imperialist encirclement and provocation against Russia. It is not used for any justifiable defensive purpose. However in the future we can’t assume the imperialists wouldn’t try to attack a socialist Finland or fund counter-revolutionary terrorism here like they’ve done in countless other places.
How militarized a future socialist society will be, depends entirely on the level of threat by foreign imperialists and Finnish counter-revolutionaries backed by them. Same applies to all surveillance, counter-espionage etc. Marxism advocates peace but does what is necessary to defend the working class from attack. We can’t have lasting peace as long as imperialism exists.
PROSPECTS FOR DEMOCRACY
Finland is a fairly advanced country in terms of bourgeois democracy. Already in 1905 as a result of the workers’ struggle and nationwide general strike, Finland got its own parliament where women also had the right to vote. Near the end of the second world war the fascist elements of the Finnish capitalist class were defeated, and communists were able to work legally. At least since then Finland has cultivated a tradition of bourgeois democracy. Bourgeois democracy has gotten people used to the notion of democracy but it is still only a notion. If the corrupting influence of money was removed from elections, and if the media and education were taken into the hands of the working people, we could achieve real democracy, not just bourgeois sham “democracy”. Electronic voting presents certain new possibilities. We can learn from the example of socialist countries: they involved everyday people in economic planning and management of society through mass organizations like trade-unions and local soviets. We should do the same.
In his book Poverty of Philosophy, Marx states that
“The hand-mill gives you society with the feudal lord; (and) the steam-mill society with the industrial capitalist.”
To know what socialism must look like, we have to identify the defining features of capitalism and how it produces its inherent and unavoidable contradictions, since socialism is their implied and only possible logical resolution, and contrast the differences.
In capitalism the vital need for profit maximization requires capitalists to constantly pursue greater efficiency in production. Mechanization and automation have increased industrial output, while increasing the share of constant capital (c) and reducing the need of human labor within their businesses, reducing the socially necessary labor time and thus the value of the products. A breakthrough in technology that reduces the human element initially provides a competitive advantage, but as other surviving producers adopt new or equivalent methods, the profit levels fall. The fraction of variable capital (v) diminishes throughout the production process, and thus the amount of labor available for exploitation falls, while simultaneously lowering purchasing power in society as a whole. With the tendency toward full automation, at which point no surplus value and thus no profits can be generated, capitalism gradually undermines itself. The prospect of further automation, e.g. through robots and new software that controls them, poses a challenge to the capitalist system, causes the average rate of profit to fall (r= m/(c+v)), and provides a seed for and an increasingly stronger material case for socialism.
Furthermore, the nature of information, as patterns in spacetime, is such that it can be easily copied and distributed with insignificant marginal cost, unlike matter itself. Innovation toward optimization of production to temporarily gain competitive advantages has grown increasingly important for the realization of profits and is reflected in the advent of patents and intellectual property that limit the spread of knowledge. Monopolization, or private appropriation, of information is the only measure that can keep its value from approaching zero. It is a clear example of how capitalist legislation through artificial means has come at odds with the progress of technology itself by attempting to limit it.
Marx famously wrote ”At a certain stage of development, the material productive forces of society come into conflict with the existing relations of production or – this merely expresses the same thing in legal terms – with the property relations within the framework of which they have operated hitherto. From forms of development of the productive forces these relations turn into their fetters. Then begins an era of social revolution.”
Technology can and must be designed and applied to further the interests of the working class, and not be monopolized to benefit the interests of a minority of capitalists. Given the increased productivity and stagnating real wages in large parts of the capitalist world, reducing daily work hours, lowering retirement ages while maintaining a high or higher standard of living is a real possibility of automation, if done at the expense of the evermore concentrating and accumulating profits of the current economic system. It can all become, and will become, a reality, in a socialist system, but remains an impossibility under capitalism. Waging wars for new markets is another defining activity of imperialism, that will be made redundant by socialism for the same reasons.
The difference between the liberating potential of the new technologies and its actual subjugating appliance under capitalism widens. Despite all advances in productivity, automation forces capitalist governments all over the world to constantly attempt to increase the rate of exploitation by e.g. increasing retirement ages and loosening legislation concerning working hours in an attempt to gain new or additional labor to exploit, that is momentarily cheaper than applying new labor saving technologies. So, while new technologies and automation have brought higher standards of living, class struggle remains the engine of prosperity, without which it would make less sense to employ new labor saving technologies such as machinery and automation in the first place.
Socialism, on the other hand, allows the economy and technology to be geared to channel resources to cover any priority of the working class. Furthermore, economic planning is the only viable and only organized resolution to the ”tragedy of the commons”-problem, i.e. the social and environmental crises of capitalism that have grown to threaten the conditions of life itself.
However, the viability of socialism in an imperialist world ultimately relies on it being able to advance technology and increase living standards in a more efficient way than the crisis ridden capitalist world does. And not only to withstand economic warfare and pressure by threats of military interventions, but also to simultaneously provide a rate of improving standards of living for its people that surpass that of the imperialist world. The specific planned economy of the USSR demonstrated that this was possible in practice, but ultimately was not enough. The current state of planned economies is likely not good enough for long term isolated survival of any kind of socialism in existing socialist style countries like Cuba. While the tendency to encourage private economic incentives may be an attractive short term solution to patch economic underdevelopment or shortages, relying on such solutions pose a great risk of reintroducing and strengthening petit bourgeois forces and plants the seed for the gradual material undoing of socialism. Market reforms that at some point reintroduce the profit maximization dynamics into the economy, simultaneously reintroduce the forces and the survival dynamics that presuppose participation in the imperialist system. They contribute to bringing back the inherent class struggle of capitalism, but this time with new private property relations protected by a supposed workers’ state diluted into a so called people’s state.
Any lingering market mechanics in early socialism, or reintroduction of short term market reforms, for whatever reason, should be compensated with advances in optimizing the planned economy itself, that make said market reforms redundant in the long term.
Experiments with planned control systems like Cybersyn, in Chile, were already carried out in the 70ies, but were cut short by forces of reaction. On a recent trip to China, while visiting the Alibaba company, foreign delegations were introduced to a map where all economic flows, down to the level of an individual, were displayed and could be monitored in real time. Modern technology, especially in terms of computing power and communications technology allows for dynamic planning that could widely surpass that of the USSR, and gather live feedback and adapt to changes in production and consumption alike.
The crucial task of our time is producing a socialism that is irreversible through consolidating the fundamental technological and economic incentives of its agents, at the base, that make it immune to capitalist rollbacks and counter-revolutionary tendencies, much like capitalism today no longer can be reversed to feudalism. Such an economy consolidates the genuine support of the working class, by letting the working class have a direct stake in the survival of socialism. For this to become a reality there has to be an existing framework for a planned economy that in all aspects, and on all time scales, is clearly superior to our current dangerous economic system.
All in all, socialism will imply that all currently available technology will be used to liberate and realize the full potential of man rather than to limit or ensnare it to serve a few. All super structures of socialism will reflect the newly attained and endless possibilities that science and technology brings.
In Grundrisse ”The Fragment on Machines” (p 692) Marx states:
“Once adopted into the production process of capital, the means of labour passes through different metamorphoses, whose culmination is the… automatic system of machinery… set in motion by an automaton, a moving power that moves itself; this automaton consisting of numerous mechanical and intellectual organs, so that the workers themselves are cast merely as its conscious linkages.”
And in Capital vol 1. Ch 15: Machinery and Modern Industry Marx delves further into robotics
”An organised system of machines, to which motion is communicated by the transmitting mechanism from a central automaton, is the most developed form of production by machinery. Here we have, in the place of the isolated machine, a mechanical monster whose body fills whole factories, and whose demon power, at first veiled under the slow and measured motions of his giant limbs, at length breaks out into the fast and furious whirl of his countless working organs. ”
Just like the hand mill gave society with the feudal lord, and just like the steam mill unlocked capitalism, it looks like Marx’ automaton will be the key that fits the lock of developed socialism.