Socialism is Communism in Marx,  A   Note

 Paresth Chattopadhyay

There is a widespread notion that socialism and communism are two different , successive, societies, that socialism is the transition to communism, and precedes communism. However, for Marx (and Engels) socialism is neither the lower phase of nor the transition to communism. Socialism IS communism. In fact Marx calls capitalism itself the ‘simple transitional point ‘ or ‘transitional phase’ ( to the higher form of society (in Grundrisse,Notebook 5;Notebook 18 of the 1861-63 Notebooks). For Marx socialism and communism are simply equivalent and alternative terms for the same society that he envisages for the post-capitalist epoch which he calls, in different texts, equivalently: communism, socialism, Republic of Labour, society of free and associated producers or simply Association, Cooperative Society, (Re)union of free individuals based on the Associated Mode of Production, as opposed to the Capitalist Mode pf Production. Hence what Marx says in one of his famous texts – Critique of the Gotha Programme – about the two stages of communism could as well identically apply to socialism undergoing the same two stages.

To drive home our point that socialism and communism in Marx mean the same social formation, and thereby to refute the uncritically accepted idea – a sequel to the Bolshevik tradition shared by all the Party-State régimes and their partisans following the 1917 Bolshevik seizure of political power – of socialism as the first stage and being only the transition to communism, we can mention at least four of Marx’s texts where, referring to the future society after capital, Marx speaks exclusively of ‘socialism’ and does not mention ‘communism.’

"Generally a revolution – overthrow of the existing power and the dissolution of the old relations – is a political act. Without revolution socialism cannot be viable. It needs this political act to the extent that it needs destruction and dissolution. However, where its organizing activity begins, where its aim and soul stand out, socialism throws away its political cover”(in his 1844 polemic with Ruge).

The second and the third texts are almost identical, appearing respectively in one of his 1861-63 notebooks (second notebook of the 23 notebooks) and in the so-called ‘main manuscript’ for Capital III. Here is the 1861-63 text, in Marx’s own English:

Capitalist production…is a greater spendthrift than any other mode of production of man, of living labour, spendthrift not only of flesh and blood and muscles, but of brains and nerves. It is, in fact, at [the cost of] the greatest waste of individual development that the development of general men [general development of human beings]is secured in those epochs of history which prelude to [which presage]a socialist constitution of mankind. ( our bracketed insertions)[1]

This text is repeated almost word for word in the ‘main manuscript’ of volume 3 of ‘Capital’.(MEGA II.4.2, pp.124-6.). Finally, in the course of correcting and improving the text of a book by a worker (Johann Most), meant for popularizing Capital, Marx inserted: "The capitalist mode of production is really a transitional form which by its own organism must lead to a higher, to a co-operative mode of production, to socialism”.(in MEGA II.8.p.783).

 [1] Marx 1976b,pp,324-25