By a commentator for Tjen Folket Media. Translator’s note: Rødt has been translated as the “Red Party”.
A conflict at the national congress of the Red Party (May 9-12) has arisen around the word “communism”. Two of the delegates met for a debate on the question on NRK’s May 9 issue.
Two very sympathetic Red Party representatives met for a polite debate, or perhaps more accurately, a conversation. One wished to strike the word “communism” from the program because it often gets in the way of dialogue with people who might agree with the program’s contents, but associate the concept with dictatorship. The other defended the concept, because she claimed that the party builds on Marxism and will continue to do so.
When socialism in the Soviet Union and China were attacked, nobody defended it. When the debate host asked about “armed revolution”, something that the Red Party has for several years heard in this context, the answer was a long time had past since they had supported anything like it.
It is easy to agree with both of the participants in the debate. Fears that striking such words and references can lead the party to the right are legitimate. On the other hand, that one wishes to strike the word “communism” when one is not a communist at all is more understandable.
When many in the Red Party wish to maintain the word, it is with the argument that “in the distant future”, the goal is a classless society. And that it is a way to honor Karl Marx and the movement’s historical origin. But the party is not for communism in any Marxist meaning of the word.
Karl Marx was not a democrat that wished for a utopia. The Communist Manifesto and the entirety of Marx’s life work can be viewed as a rejection and departure of this understanding. This is a utopian socialism that Marx and Engels understood as a primitive counter-reaction against capitalism’s injustice, but which the working class must break with in order to succeed in fighting capitalism. The scientific socialism of Marx, Marxism, lives and dies with dialectic materialism and Marx’s observation that capitalism must be abolished by historical necessity, that it must be abolished via revolution and the proletariat’s revolutionary dictatorship on the way towards a communist society of collective ownership. Marx was a vocal supporter of the revolutionary war and class dictatorship.
If one is against Marx in this decisive point, a point which the entirety of Marxism revolves around, then one is simply not a Marxist. There are enough old non-Marxists, with and without beards, that the Red Party could associate with instead. What about parliamentarianism’s and anarchism’s father, Proudhon? There are more similarities between Proudhon’s economic policies and the Red Party. Or perhaps Lasalle, whose theories Marx breaks down in the Critique of the Gotha Program. Or the Red Party could do what it always does: simply pretend that they are the ones who invented the wheel, “democratic socialism” or “socialistic democracy”.
If one reads the Communist Manifesto, one finds that entire portions of it are dedicated to a departure from bourgeois, petit bourgeois, and reactionary socialism. Marx and Engels don’t use scare quotes. They consequentially call themselves communists, and they are not gracious in their criticism of socialists. They reveal its class character, and if one reads what they write, it is hits the nail on the head in describing what the Red Party is.
It is easy to abuse the name of a dead man. But even if the Red Party uses his name or call their utopia “communism”, it doesn’t mean it’s Marxist. Marx’s works stand in strong opposition to the Red Party’s program and praxis.
This is nothing new. For centuries and in almost every country in the world, we have seen parties and politicians who use Marx against Marx. Social democracy, liberalism, and fascism alike have all been dressed in “communism’s” garments. False communism is a useful and necessary tool for the bourgeoisie.
It makes no difference whether or not the word “communism” appears in the Red Party’s program. Not for capitalism. And not for communists. But it would be far more honest to strike it, and all other references to Marx and Marxism while they’re at it…