4) The theory of the productive forces and stages

The Congress Documents state that: "...there are wrong concepts, in handling the materialist dialectic, history of societies, that defend and bring to a pre-socialism capitalist society by proposing that 'by going through four absolute stages that societies" can arrive at socialism." (p. 125) And below that they draw the following conclusion: "In that sense, by stating that in poor countries such as China it would be 'easier to get to' the revolution and socialism, comrade Mao had raised an important flag against the Eurocentric theoreticians of mechanical productive forces. The traditional view, however, claims that it is not possible to advance towards socialism in backward countries and that it is necessary first to advance towards capitalism."(p. 125)

Dressed in the costume of "Maoism", ascribing "Eurocentric" point of view to Marxism and subsequently "lead to" revisionism via the thesis of "production forces" is another embarrassing denial of Marxism by the MKP. Let us discuss this topic a little further.

Firstly, let us ask whether indeed in traditional Marxism or in the classics there is a thesis that prescribes that "societies must absolutely go through four stages"? Or is there a formulation that says it is first necessary to advance towards capitalism? Here is Lenin's answer: "The question was posed as follows: are we to consider as correct the assertion that the capitalist stage of economic development is inevitable for backward nations now on the road to emancipation and among whom a certain advance towards progress is to be seen since the war? We replied in the negative. (...) [I]t will be mistaken to assume that the backward peoples must inevitably go through the capitalist stage of development. [T]he Communist International should advance the proposition, with the appropriate theoretical grounding, that with the aid of the proletariat of the advanced countries, backward countries can go over to the Soviet system and, through certain stages of development, to communism, without having to pass through the capitalist stage." (Selected Works, Volume10, p. 266-267) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/x03.htm] Lenin's answer is sharp and decisive. And it clearly exposes the fact the MKP's thesis is another distortion of Marxism.

The MKP, with an entirely inappropriate method, seeps into the cracks caused by certain mistakes that the International Communist Movement (ICM) at times has fallen into throughout its history and launches attacks from these cracks. When the MKP's 3rd   Congress Documents are carefully examined, it can be seen that a major portion of its criticisms in regards to the proletarian dictatorship, the party, the organization, the discipline, the leadership, etc. are based on the liberal interpretation of Marxism, which was put forth by the MKP's First Congress Documents, titled "Ideology: Marxism-Leninism-Maoism". Now let us return to the topic at hand. What is the theory of productive forces?

This theory is a theory often used like a worn-out weapon by the likes of Bernstein, Kautsky, Lui Shao-Shi, Lin Biao, and the Soviet modern revisionists opposing the cause of revolution and socialism. It is an international revisionist theory that worships spontaneism. Briefly put, this theory reduces the role of the productive forces to technology and the production means and in that framework it exaggerates the role of the production forces (here we should recall the polemics of Stalin with Yaroshenko and Notker) and sees the social development greatly dependent on the role of productive forces - to such extend that the existence and importance of the human element within the context of production forces are entirely abnegated. According to this theory, a next stage can be spontaneously reached only when the productive forces are sufficiently developed. Otherwise, if they are not sufficiently developed, it is a futile effort for the proletariat to embrace the cause of revolution and socialism.

This theory, on the theoretical ground, favours peace between classes, as opposed to class struggle, and on the philosophical ground it favours crude evolutionism as opposed to dialectic. Therefore, it is fundamentally opposed to the proletarian revolution and theory. Bernstein, the notorious revisionist of the Second International, for example, had preached that once the productive forces reach a high enough level of development, capitalism will peacefully turn into socialism. Therefore, he argued, a revolution based on violence is pointless. This was his way of turning back on the revolution. Subsequently Kautsky claimed that the universal welfare shall be possible with the extensive development of productive forces and that socialism will come about this way. And this was Kautsky's way of getting off Marxism's path. In fact, Kautsky and his followers had opposed the Soviet revolution, arguing that "the productive forces in Russia have not yet reached a level that would make socialism possible."

So, in summary, it is a revisionist theory that negates the revolution, exaggerates the role of the productive forces, and claims that with the widespread and high development of productive forces, socialism will be reached spontaneously and peacefully, and so on. What is the MKP's method? The MKP installs the "theory of the productive forces" on the "Eurocentric" point of view and places it in Marxism's hands and then starts criticizing Marxism for the thing it placed in its hands.

Let's go to the last point under this heading: In which countries it is easier carry out and maintain the revolution?

In this regard, Lenin said that: "... it is more difficult for Western Europe to start a socialist revolution than it was for us." (Selected Works, p. 121) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/lwc/ch07.htm]

A few years after the October Revolution, along the same line, he was to state the following: "we have seen for ourselves that the revolution’s development in more advanced countries has proved to be considerably slower, considerably more difficult, considerably more complicated. This should not surprise us for it was naturally easier for a country such as Russia to start a socialist revolution than it is for the advanced countries." (Selected Works, Volume 8, p. 88) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/dec/05.htm]

At another occasion, he expressed the same theory with the following words: "Anyone who has given careful thought to the economic prerequisites of the socialist revolution in Europe must be clear on the point that in Europe it will be immeasurably more difficult to start, whereas it was immeasurably more easy for us to start; but it will be more difficult for us to continue the revolution than it will be over there."(Selected Works, Volume 7, p. 303)

Lenin explains the reasons for the difficulty of starting a revolution in Western Europe as follows: "It is more difficult to start a revolution in West-European countries because there the revolutionary proletariat is opposed by the higher thinking that comes with culture, and the working class is in a state of cultural slavery." (Selected Works, Volume 7, p. 415) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/jun/28.htm]

As for the challenges of sustaining the revolution, he writes: "I have had occasion more than once to say that it was easier for the Russians than for the advanced countries to begin the great proletarian revolution, but that it will be more difficult for them to continue it and carry it to final victory, in the sense of the complete organisation of a socialist society." (Selected Works, Volume 10, p. 51; see also p. 121) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1919/apr/15.htm]

It should be noted that, in a long passage that takes place right after the quote above, Lenin lists 6 reasons why it was easier for the revolution to start in Russia. Mao says largely the same things on this matter. The only difference between Lenin and Mao is that Lenin says that it is easier to start a revolution in backward countries, compared to the West, but that it would be more difficult to sustain it. Mao, however, says that both to start and sustain a revolution in backward countries would be easier than the developed countries. So, Lenin and Mao share the same denominator in terms of relative easiness of starting a revolution in backward countries and more difficult in advanced countries, mainly due to the imperialist cultural slavery and ideology, bourgeois lifestyle, and the severe effects of bourgeois control mechanisms. So far, history has confirmed this conclusion. What is left are the different approaches in terms of sustaining the revolution. Therefore the question is: Where would it be easier to sustain the revolution - in backward countries or in countries that are equipped with modern technology?

Mao had first argued that it would be also easier to sustain the revolution in backward countries. However, experiences of the modern history proved this view wrong. In fact, in his Critique of the Soviet Economics, Mao was to write: "In a country such as ours bringing the building of socialism to its conclusion is a tremendously difficult task." (Selected Works, Volume VI, p. 182) [https://www.marxists.org/reference/archive/mao/selected-works/volume-8/mswv8_64.htm]

The MKP, strangely, interprets this as a supportive material for the theory of the productive forces. According to the MKP's logic, claiming that the revolutionary transition is easier in countries where there is high degree of mechanization and a concentration of capitalist productivity and proletariat means an exaggeration of the role of productive forces. Therefore it corresponds to the "Eurocentric" point of view. So, let us ask: Is there any similarity between the reasons that the MKP ascribes to Lenin as to the difficulty of sustaining the revolution in backward countries and the reasons that Lenin explains in his own works?

So what's the problem? The problem is that the MKP seems to have engaged in an open showdown with Marx's concept of materialist history concept via this theory. As we have pointed above, by the time he wrote the Critique of Soviet Economics, Mao too came to share Lenin's opinion on this matter. This means that Mao too could not break away from the theory of the productive forces. The main problem here is that MKP seems to have an issue with Marx's materialist history concept, namely with the passage below, which gives a complete definition of historical materialism:

"In the social production of their existence, men inevitably enter into definite relations, which are independent of their will, namely relations of production appropriate to a given stage in the development of their material forces of production. The totality of these relations of production constitutes the economic structure of society, the real foundation, on which arises a legal and political superstructure and to which correspond definite forms of social consciousness. The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life. It is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness. 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. The changes in the economic foundation lead sooner or later to the transformation of the whole immense superstructure.

In studying such transformations it is always necessary to distinguish between the material transformation of the economic conditions of production, which can be determined with the precision of natural science, and the legal, political, religious, artistic or philosophic – in short, ideological forms in which men become conscious of this conflict and fight it out. Just as one does not judge an individual by what he thinks about himself, so one cannot judge such a period of transformation by its consciousness, but, on the contrary, this consciousness must be explained from the contradictions of material life, from the conflict existing between the social forces of production and the relations of production. No social order is ever destroyed before all the productive forces for which it is sufficient have been developed, and new superior relations of production never replace older ones before the material conditions for their existence have matured within the framework of the old society.

Mankind thus inevitably sets itself only such tasks as it is able to solve, since closer examination will always show that the problem itself arises only when the material conditions for its solution are already present or at least in the course of formation. In broad outline, the Asiatic, ancient,[A] feudal and modern bourgeois modes of production may be designated as epochs marking progress in the economic development of society. The bourgeois mode of production is the last antagonistic form of the social process of production – antagonistic not in the sense of individual antagonism but of an antagonism that emanates from the individuals' social conditions of existence – but the productive forces developing within bourgeois society create also the material conditions for a solution of this antagonism." (Marx, A Contribution to the Critique of Political Economy, Preface, p. 25) [https://www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1859/critique-pol-economy/preface.htm]

We can essentially summarize the passage above with this sentence: "The mode of production of material life conditions the general process of social, political and intellectual life."

Thus, the MKP appears to have tripped on by Marx's thesis and gotten caught!



For open discussion of topics (including other topics of interest not necessarily related to any one article or the view of a specific author), a separate moderated discussion forum is being made available here that will allow threaded discussion and submission of views of our readers.


All articles published on the red-path.net website are the sole views and opinions of the authors and thus each author is responsible for their own views. However, if you wish to discuss the points raised in any published article you may leave your views, comments or criticisms for public view and study, at the bottom of each article page. Please see our notes on "comments rules".

We reserve the right to moderate these comments and remove any that may be deemed to be abusive and harmful to a healthy and constructive discussion, irrespective of the views presented in such comments.