Speech by Jerónimo de Sousa, General Secretary of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) at the opening of the conference "Bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx- Legacy, Intervention, Struggle, Transform the World" which was held in Lisbon on February 24th 2018.
With this conference, we begin the commemorations of the bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx, which will take place throughout 2018, under the theme «Legacy, Intervention, Struggle. Transform the World».
In this conference, we will approach current topics in economics, social organization, politics and philosophy, using and enriching the conceptual legacy of Karl Marx. Over these two days, we will give expression to the new economic and social realities of the 19th century —the development of capitalism and big industry, the entrance of the working class onto the stage of History— which based on the more advanced thinking of his time —in (German) philosophy, in (English) political economy and in the (French) socialist movement — Marx, in close collaboration with Engels, elaborated a new conception of the world, materialist and dialectic, oriented towards the effective liberation of Humanity from all forms of exploitation and oppression.
For a Party of the working class and all workers, for a marxist Party, to commemorate the bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx is to underline the nature, significance, development, and contribution of the works of the founder of scientific socialism towards the transformation of the world.
To renew our commitment as a patriotic and internationalist Party with a revolutionary project of building a new society, free from exploitation of man by man, towards the realization to which Marx gave a unmatched contribution.
Is mobilize all our capabilities and energies to accomplish the tasks of the struggle in defense of the interests of workers.
Despite his adversaries’ attempts to hide it, Marx’s ideas are more current than ever. Marxisms is not a doctrine to be revealed, but a theory intrinsically tied to practice, which develops and is enriched as a function of new realities and the progress of scientific knowledge.
By affirming itself upon the stage of history as an independente social force, with its own demands contesting its exploitation, the working class made clear that a new social organization should replace the capitalist society.
Marx, in collaboration with his friend and comrade in arms, Friedrich Engels, committed himself to the task of providing a basis for the need of this replacement and indicated the objective conditions that, through its contradictions, would make it possible.
This implied a revolution in the philosophical conception of Nature and History, where the former ceased to be, as it had been until then, considered as given, finished and eternally repeated, and the latter as a product of ideas and actions of great men.
In contrast, for the new philosophical thought, which we owe to Marx and Engels, the natural and social reality was to be apprehended through its objective historical development, as a result of its internal contradictions and the transformative practice of humans acting upon Nature to satisfy their needs.
It is in this socially constrained interaction with Nature that the production and reproduction of living conditions are based, which ultimately determines its history.
Marxism never stated that the economic factor is the only determinant factor, contrary to what its critics or declared enemies, grateful and obedient to capital, would have one believe, thereby reducing marxism, to better fight against it, to an economic determinism.
The pursuit of human life until now, with the exception of primitive communities, has occurred within societies divided into social classes in struggle for their antagonic interests; a historic development masterfully evoked by Marx and Engels in their Manifesto of the Communist Party.
A struggle that was continuing to develop and deepen under their eyes and in which they were intervening actors, participating directly in the revolutionary fights of their time, namely the revolutions of 1848/1849.
But they were also their faithfull spokespersons and interpreters, discerning and clarifying the vanguard role of the working class and working masses in the struggle against capitalist exploitation; the social force that given its objective conditions of existence has the historic mission of ending the domination of the bourgeoisie, destroying the instrument of that domination —the bourgeois State apparatus— and instituting a proletarian State that will vanish as its objective of building a society without classes becomes reality and, therefore, the possibility of eliminating exploitation of man by man.
Marx and Engels also demonstrated that, in the liberation from capital, the working class needs to organize itself into an autonomous Party, with its own class program —the Communist Party— because, as they wrote, «the communists are, in practice, the most determined sector, a constant impulse, of the working parties of all countries» and «in theory, they have, over the remaining mass of the proletariat, the advantage of understanding the conditions, the course and general results of the proletarian movement».
The proletariat, although constituting the great mass of the population, will only have conditions to undertake its historical role by elevating its organization. In Marx’s own words: «their numbers only weigh upon the balance if united and guided by knowledge». It was this conviction that led to the foundation of the International Workingmen's Association, the first international organization of the proletarian masses, of which Marx and Engels were the main leaders.
These and other teachings extracted from the analysis of the objective historic reality gave a concrete content to Marx’s statement, where «men make their own history, but not according to their free will in circumstances chosen by them, but in the circumstances immediately found, given and transmitted.»
The teleologism attributed to marxism by certain theoreticians, an accusation that is not innocent, has no grounds. History is not pre-established, it is the realization by transformative practice of the possibilities opened by existing contradictions in the concrete reality, which men confront.
Dialectic materialism designated the new mode of conceiving Nature and History, which Marx and Engels elaborated, around 1848, in works such as «German Ideology» and «Theses on Feuerbach», and that is the basis for the first action program of communists, organized in the Communist League, namely the Manifesto of the Communist Party, presented in 1848 «openly to the whole world». As Marx said, the «merit» of the dialectic materialist conception of the world, as the new mode of conceiving Nature and History, consisted «not in wanting to dogmatically anticipate the world, but in finding the new world, by criticizing the old world».
By rejecting the artificial «construction of the future and the indication [of plans] for all times», by the utopian socialists, and at the same time by demystifying the capitalist apologetics presenting capitalism as the «end of history» —a type of life raft the ideologues of capitalism always cling to when the crises inherent to the system call it into question— Marx joined «criticism without contemplations of all that exists» with the revolutionary practice of overcoming capitalist society with the strategic objective of building a communist society, which in «Capital» Marx defines as «an association of free men who work with communitarian means of production and consciously expend their many individual work forces as a social work force.»
A society, therefore, that resolves the fundamental contradiction that characterizes capitalism: the contradiction between social production and the private appropriation of its product, given that capitalists own the means of production.
A society where wage-earning slavery is ended, wherein the capitalist society condemns workers because they have nothing other than their workforce, and that allows capitalists who purchase this workforce, in an apparently equitative contractual relation, to have it produce for free a value above that given in exchange in the form of a wage. This only corresponds the minimum necessary to replenish the workforce of the workers, not the value they create.
Capitalist appropriates this extra labor in the form of surplus value, and this appropriation is the essence of capitalist production, characteristic of it alone. Lenin said with reason that Marx’s theory of surplus value was the crux of his economic theory.
A society where the aim of social production is satisfying social needs and not maximizing profit, as the latter, by fostering anarchic competition among capitalists, leads them to invest more in means of production to increase their production, thereby increasing the reserve army of labour. Consequently the ability to consume, namely personal consumption mostly by the working masses, doesn’t accompany the growth in goods produced, which become «surplus» in the market but «scarce» to ensure a dignified life for all.
A society that, as Marx warned, has to be configured «not as it developed from its own base, but on the contrary precisely as it emerged from the capitalist society; [a communist society] therefore, which under all aspects —economic, costumes, spiritual — is still marked by the old society, from which it came».
Paving the path of the future, it is essential to read and study the classics of marxism-leninism, in particular the magnum opus of Marx, «Capital», whose relevance for the present does not rest in providing ready-made recipes for new phenomena and contradictions that the development of capitalism manifests and confronts us with, but lies in the concepts and methods of analysis developed by Marx and present in «Capital», capable of accounting for the current configurations of capitalism, of understanding its contradictions and dynamics. This implies simultaneously a creative enrichment of these concepts and method, in its concrete confrontation with what is new, and the appraisal of results obtained by transformative practical action, by the revolutionary action they inspire.
The theoretical heritage in the prodigious scientific and revolutionary action of Marx gave Humanity is not, as Marx repeatedly underlined, eternal and finished, but a starting point for further developments in knowledge and answer to realities of a system based on capitalist exploitation, a world of constant change.
A heritage so solid and true that it not only resisted the erosion of time but, adopted by the workers’ movement and the broader movement of the popular masses, has affirmed itself as the most powerful weapon of social emancipatory change.
A heritage that, accompanying the prodigious progress of science, has been enriched and developed with the struggle of the global communist and revolutionary movement and the experiences of numerous struggles of liberation by workers in capitalist countries, in liberation movements of colonized peoples, in socialist countries, and of board democratic, anti-imperialist and peace movements.
In the passage of capitalism to its monopolist phase, towards the end of the 19th century, there were a number of theoretical and practical questions whose understanding and solution Lenin gave a remarkable contribution, namely with the analysis of imperialism, the conception of a proletarian party of a “new type”, the question of the State, the tactics and strategy of the working class to achieve political power and build socialism. Works such as «What is to be done?», «Imperialism, the Highest State of Capitalism» or «The State and Revolution», written in the heat of the struggle and based on the study of new realities, testify that “marxism is not a dogma, but a guide towards action” and that “the concrete analysis of the concrete situation is the soul of marxism”. With Lenin, marxism reached such a remarkable development that his name became justly associated with that of Marx in the concept of marxism-leninism, in a relation so profound it defeats recurrent revisionist attacks attempting to oppose Lenin to Marx.
The October Revolution, with the conquest of power by the working class and the commitment to building a new socialist society, confirmed the transitory character of capitalism and the fundamental theses of Marx regarding the historic role of the working class, the role of the masses and the major subject of social transformation, the State and the superiority of socialist democracy, the demand for socialization of the means of production, among others.
Simultaneously, the October Revolution and the construction of socialism in the Soviet Union and other countries brought new experiences and provided, and provide, new developments to marxist thought in the time we live in, of transition from capitalism to socialism.
Those who, given the tragic defeats of socialism towards the end of the 20th century, attempt to discredit marxism-leninism and Marx himself should know that marxist thought was always developed by learning from the positive and negative experiences of the workers’ movement, the victories and defeats of the emancipatory struggle of workers and peoples.
Communists are not afraid of the truth, however hard it may be. Marxism is a theory that withers if withdrawn from social reality and disconnected from the masses. Those who look upon the classics as a catalogue of answers ready to be used in the concrete problems of the revolutionary struggle are mistaken, for answers can only be found in the analysis of the concrete reality of each country.
This is how our Party finds its path of struggle at the service of the workers, people and country, reasons for pride in its contribution towards disseminating, confirming and enriching the fundamental theses of marxist thought.
Attentive to the general laws of social development, but elaborating its political line and developing its action based on the concrete reality of the country, PCP contributed with valuable experiences for the international communist movement, in particular the elaboration of a Program, the Program for a Democratic and National Revolution, which had the the historic merit of being confirmed, in general terms, by the April Revolution, a revolution that in itself is also a valuable contribution towards the enrichment of the marxist experience and theory.
We live and act in the 21st century. Profound transformation took place in the world since Marx, including in capitalism itself, whose development led to new and unforeseen phenomena demanding permanent and deeper analyses.
But capitalism did not change its nature, nor did the currentness and operative ability of the analysis and understanding of reality by Marx’s original theoretic body. Rather, its capacity was widened, with the contributions of generations of thinkers and revolutionaries and the experiences of struggle in the international communist and workers movement.
In our Conference this will become evident, I’m sure, showing that the great majority of laws discovered by Marx operate throughout the full history of capitalism. Throughout the history of this destructive system, as Marx stated, and the present confirms, with the refinement of its exploitative, oppressive, aggressive and predatory nature.
Refinement one can clearly see in the development of the last major cyclic crisis of the capitalist system, initiated in 2007/8 and extending towards the present. A crisis that translated into a heavy burden of adjustment programs upon the backs of workers and the poor, in worsening the conditions of exploitation of labor, while offering gigantic resources to big capital, particularly the financial system. The resources offered exceed the total revenue from all the privatizations performed to date, while the budget of the rescue programs could end world hunger during the next 50 years.
A gigantic operation of expropriation of workers and peoples, where the State of the liberal-bourgeois political system, transformed into a Regulator State by the dominant neoliberal ideology, played a more open and less dissimulated central role, either legitimating the usurpation, refining the mechanisms of exploitation of labor under the excuse of the crisis, or guaranteeing the reproduction of economic and social domination by capital, thereby confirming the class nature of the State that Marx identified and explained.
Given the deepening of its structural crisis, capitalism increasingly assumes its character destructive of lives and resources. Unable to surpass its incurable contradictions inherent to its «genetic code», insaciable in its greed for appropriation and limitless accumulation of capital, capitalism combines its oppressive nature with new and more complex modes of exploitation of labor and planetary predation, aggravated with the processes of capitalist globalization and financialization of the economy, linked as they are to the response to the falling tendency of the average rate of profit to fall.
Processes that prosper and affirm themselves politically in the shadow of strategic cooperation between the most reactionary and conservative forces and social-democracy, with the State assuming the function of promoting private capital, commodifying all domains and sectors of economic and social life.
Capital attempts to contradict the effects of the structural crisis through low wages, redefining labor in the productive system and eliminating economic, social and cultural rights.
Capitalist globalization and its processes of global liberalization of markets and free circulation of capitals, under the dominion of the dictatorship of large transnational corporations, also deepen the process of concentration and centralization of capital. Today, 1500 large multinational companies control more than 60% of the economy. Processes that Marx shrewdly anticipated, connected to the incessant search for production and appropriation of surplus-value, and when only in its embryonic state.
Its consequences are the worsening of exploitation, unemployment, precariousness, an increase in social injustice and inequalities, attacks upon social and labor rights, the denial of democratic freedoms and rights, but also war, which increasingly appears as an answer of the crisis by a system of exploitation and oppression.
The development of the crisis of capitalism confirms the fundamental theses of Marx, but also Lenin, about the laws that rule capitalism in its imperialist phase. They laid bare the law of the falling tendency of the rate of profit, elaborated by Marx; the tendency towards the financialization of the economy, which drives capital towards speculation in detriment of productive investment; the law of relative pauperization; the law of unequal development; the tendency towards stagnation, translated in lower GDP growth in the main capitalist countries.
The inability of capitalism to surpass its own contradictions is very clear in its present evolution from its crisis, in particular the contradiction between capital and labor, and the permanent struggle around the rate of surplus-value. But also the fundamental contradiction that characterizes capitalism: the increasing contradiction between the social character of production and its private appropriation.
Capitalism is not the «end of History». As all preceding systems, capitalism is a transitory mode of production. Overcoming its incurable contradictions through revolution is a demand of social development.
In permanent confrontation with the needs, interests, and aspirations of workers and peoples, overcoming capitalism, through different paths and stages, increasingly becomes the objective of the struggle of workers and peoples, as a perspective and condition for a future inseparable from the full human liberation and realization.
Overcoming capitalism demands the conscientious participation of workers and peoples, their unity, organization and struggle in the process of social transformation and, particularly, the historic role of the working class and its allies in attaining of a new society, free from exploitation.
It demands valuing the role of the mass struggle, a determining and decisive factor towards ensuring the success of any project of progressive social transformation that serves the workers and peoples, in full consciousness of the role of class struggle as the motor of history, which Marx and Engels so remarkable revealed.
It needs a strong and permanently reinforced Communist Party, assuming its vanguard role in close ties with the working class, workers and people.
A Party armed with the theoretic instruments of marxism-leninism. A Party that acts and struggles permanently and daily in defense of the interests of workers and people.
Marx had the merit of unveiling the historic mission of the working class and, with Engels, founding the vanguard revolutionary party of the proletariat, and elaborating the first communist program. Since then the communist movement has become a major revolutionary force, inseparable from the major liberating advances achieved since then.
It was in this global process of disseminating marxism that, in 1921, the Portuguese Communist Party was founded. A Communist Party that won’t abdicate its nature, conscious and proud of its role, firm in its ideal and the affirmation of its transformative and revolutionary project of struggle for the construction of socialism and communism.
Certain that from this Conference, with which PCP begins its commemoration of the Bicentennial of the birth of Karl Marx, there will be fruitful contributions towards the analysis and transformative intervention of the reality of capitalism we face, we wish you all two profitable and enjoyable days of work.
With the deep conviction that will Marx we learn what is necessary to explain the world in order to transform it, we reaffirm that in this fight you can always count on the Portuguese Communist Party.