On 5 November, at the 105th anniversary celebration of the 1917 October Revolution in Russia, CPGB-ML vice-chair Joti Brar spoke about the extraordinary importance of scientific socialism in both the success of the October Revolution and in our current-day work to bring about socialism in Britain.
Two key points about our scientific work today, the importance of which cannot be overstated are:
1. Communists must prioritise solid understanding of the key scientific principles and laws of Marxism over the fact-spaghetti of the day-to-day news stream from both mainstream and independent media, particularly the principles laid out in the classics by Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and VI Lenin.
2. Every communist must work to develop their understanding of these key principles as science is a collective effort and connections, inferences that one comrade misses, another may see. Even the brightest can make incorrect deductions, and collective self-criticism of such mistakes can only take place if there are enough adequately educated comrades so that one may raise the alarm.
The full text of Comrade Joti’s speech is below.
Thank you so much, comrades. It was amazing to listen to you all and very inspiring. One of the things that we love about our October Revolution meeting is having international guests to remind us of something so important that’s right at the heart or our movement: which is, we are an international movement. We have allies all over the world. We have brothers and sisters all over the world.
And it’s particularly important for us here in Britain, when for so long the communist movement has been in decline and communist activity has seemed like a marginal, odd sort of a thing to get engaged in, to remember not only to understand intellectually, ‘Oh yeah, we’re the future,’ but to know, in practice: we are the majority, we are with humanity. And believe me, when there’s a few of you leafleting a huge demonstration, it’s helpful to remember that!
So, now I’ve been asked not to forget to let you know some things about the party, so I’m going to do that first so that I don’t get to the end and get told off! I’m going to give a little plug first of all for our website. Please make sure comrades that you are regularly visiting thecommunists.org. It is the best place in Britain to get analysis of what’s really happening as opposed to what the mainstream media, and even a lot of the independent media, will tell you is happening
You can get – and I’ll talk a bit more about this later – you can get a lot of useful information from independent media, and you can get sucked into an endless stream of information from much better sources than the mainstream ones once you tap into them, but what they don’t give you is correct analysis of what’s behind it all.
They can give you a whole load of facts, and that’s very helpful, but they can’t orient you for the struggle. They can’t tell you what you ought to do about any of it. It can fill up your time and your head with stuff, but, in the end, it’s another vortex that you fall down if you’re not careful, and you can become as addicted to that as people are to, you know, the BBC or the Guardian, feeling like ‘I just need … if I get a bit more of this, I’ll somehow … I’ll, I’ll see what the answer is.’
You won’t get the answer from any of those places, so, as small as we are, we claim to have something that nobody else has, which is truth, which is analysis based on class interests, which is what’s missing from everything else.
Also, if you don’t already use it, I would strongly advise you to get onto Telegram. Our party has a Telegram channel. It’s the best way to make sure you’re keeping up with all our regular postings to the website, to our YouTube channel, to our podcasts, all the rest. All of our media goes on our Telegram channel so it’s the one-stop-shop if you like.
And, of course, I need to remind you that if you like what you hear here today, if it inspires you to think about what you can do for the cause of the working class, what you can do to help bring the future a little bit closer, the answer is to join us, to let us train you, to become a scientific socialist, a Marxist, a fighter for the future, a fighter for socialism, a fighter for the working class. All of the information you need about joining us is on our website, of course, because that’s how the world works now!
So I was thinking a little bit about the topics of tonight. We’re here celebrating the 105th anniversary of the October Revolution and we’re in a situation of deep, deepening, the deepest ever, overproduction crisis of the global capitalist system, and we’re facing this rampant, accelerating drive to war and how do we make sense of it all? How do we respond? How do we work out what our interests are? How do we know the answer to these things?
And the answer to all those questions is: scientific socialism. That, for me, is what ties together everything we’ve talked about here this evening, and the reason that we’ve come here.
What is scientific socialism?
The bourgeoisie talks about Marx: ‘He’s some old, dead, white European, nothing to do with you. Why would you? And he’s a man. To all you women, that’s half of you who don’t need to listen to him because he’s a man, and he’ll just ‘man-splain’ things to you. Everybody who’s not white … I don’t know what proportion of the globe isn’t white, probably about four-fifths, you shouldn’t listen to him, right? Some of you are young, you definitely shouldn’t listen, yes? And probably everyone alive, he died a long time ago, right? What has Marx got to do with you? Some old, dead, white European …’
But do physicists say that about Isaac Newton? ‘Well, why would I think about Isaac Newton? He died hundreds of years ago. He’s just some dead, white European guy. Surely everything he had to say is totally outdated!’
Do biologists say that about Charles Darwin? ‘Just some old, dead, white European guy. What’s he got to do with me? I shouldn’t listen to him.’ Do biologists in Nigeria have to make new biology because Darwin was a white guy and so we shouldn’t read him?
As soon as you ask yourself those questions, you can see it’s ridiculous. And yet bourgeois propaganda is so strong that we accept this nonsense when they say it about Marx.
Who was Karl Marx? He wasn’t just some old, dead, white European guy. He was the founder of a science. What does it mean? Why do we say socialism has become a science?
We say it because Marx discovered laws, objective laws that govern the behaviour of the capitalist system; objective laws that govern the development of history. These are phenomenal achievements. He founded a method that enables people for the first time to really analyse and make sense of things not as separate isolated phenomena but in their context and in their motion – to make sense of everything that exists, everything in history.
How phenomenal is that? Marxism applies to everything in the universe. Marxism is the highest achievement of human scientific endeavour to date, and Marxism is the ideology of the modern proletariat.
Why is this the case?
Marxism is the ideology of the modern proletariat because it explains the secret of capitalist exploitation and lays it bare. It doesn’t just show you how capitalism works but shows you the secret of how it is that the owners of capital get richer and richer and the people who produce all the wealth get poorer and poorer.
That is explained by the laws of the system of capitalism that Marx discovered. He didn’t invent them. They weren’t his idea. He showed how they operate. He revealed their existence, the same way that Newton revealed the existence of the law of gravity. He showed us how history develops; how and why societies change.
Why does that matter? It matters because it reveals the material role of the working class – not an idea, not a fantasy, not a dream. Objectively, the working class, the proletarians, under capitalism have a role, a historic role, to destroy the old society and build the new one. They are the ruling class in waiting.
So scientific socialism is a weapon for educating and mobilising the masses, for helping them come to class-consciousness and understanding that they’re part of the class that is going to smash this society and build the new one.
Scientific socialism is the weapon that enables the working class to fulfil its role and end the irrationality and the obscenities that are produced by the capitalist system.
Scientific socialism was what underpinned the achievements – all the achievements – of Lenin, Stalin, the Bolsheviks, and the Soviet people. It was the serious pursuit of scientific socialism that enabled them to understand their conditions, identify their objectives and find out who their allies were.
Every page of Lenin is stuffed full of discussion of who are our allies and how do we mobilise and lead them so that we can win. Lenin wasn’t messing around with glorious failures. He wasn’t some Trotskyite poseur. Lenin was a serious scientist who used the science of Marxism as the weapon it was meant to be, successfully, and showed us all the way in doing it, which is why he’s another dead, white European guy that we like to listen to.
Lenin used Marxism to determine the relationship of the working class and its party with the other classes in society; to develop the class-consciousness of Russian workers; and to weld them into a mighty army.
The Bolsheviks defeated feudalism. They defeated the tsarist autocracy. They defeated capitalist imperialism. They smashed the Russian empire. They didn’t just smash it; they harnessed the power of the masses to carry through the revolution, then to defend it against all the internal and external enemies, of whom there were many; and then to build the most mighty state the world had ever seen at that time, the Soviet Union, which took titanic strides, titanic strides in every single field: in culture, in the economy, in … name a field! In science, in education, in space.
October 1917 was the beginning of the end for the imperialist system in so many ways, because it set up the working class as the ruling class and showed that it could be done, and therefore it should be done; that it could be successful. The workers could hold on to power. They could govern themselves. They didn’t need the class of exploiters to do it for them. They showed that they could plan the economy to meet the needs of all the people and abolish all of the obscenities of capitalism that we are told are simply intractable and insoluble; that the different nations and ethnic groups could live together in harmony, in peace; that everybody could have a home and a job and security – meaningful work.
Imagine living in a world where every single job is a job that society needs, where you work for everyone and therefore for yourself, and where, as everyone is working, they’re seeing, around them, society improve as a result of their collective labours. Imagine that! Imagine how you’d feel to be part of that endeavour.
Imagine how your children would feel growing up knowing they had a future, and contrast that to the situation today in our moribund, decaying, declining world that has nothing to offer anybody except crisis, war, poverty, inequality, meaningless consumerism that fulfils nothing. Broken societies, mental and physical ailments that come from, not just poor nutrition and bad food, but from a total lack of meaning and social cohesion.
We are social animals and we’re being trained to believe that we should survive as atomised units, but we can’t. We actually can’t, comrades. Our comrades in south Korea who see the same problems in their society that we see in ours, the most decaying, decadent, horrific aspects of degenerating imperialist culture, they no longer talk about ‘mental illness’; they talk about ‘social disease’.
That’s actually what we’re seeing running rampant in the west today. We are afflicted with a social disease because capitalism has turned us into isolated broken-down individual units that can’t function properly, don’t know why and try to make up for the lack of meaning in our lives by aspiring to stuff. ‘If I can just get a big enough pile of stuff to sit on, my life is going to be all right.’ It’s never all right though, is it? This pile of stuff is never big enough. One piece of stuff is curiously unsatisfying, so go and get another one, but it didn’t work, so what now?
I went off on one. I was talking about the Soviet Union and what it achieved by a planned economy and collective endeavour, and what it showed to the world – what can be done when the forces of production, that humanity has created, which are so powerful, when that power is unleashed by the power of rational planning, instead of anarchic production for profit.
Every success of the Soviet Union, every one of them, rested in Lenin and Stalin and the Bolsheviks’ determined pursuit of scientific socialism, and every defeat our movement has suffered, in the Soviet Union and elsewhere, ever since those times, has been rooted in the distortion and abandonment of scientific socialism. And that comrades, is a lesson we really, really, really have to take to heart.
So here we are today in a situation of deepening crisis and a parallel, accelerating drive to war, and it’s only scientific socialism that can help us understand these things. It’s only scientific socialism that explains to us so clearly where all this chaos in the world market comes from, what’s at the root of all these problems that seem to follow one after another.
You can be a total news junkie; you can read every twist and turn of the story; you can read all the analysis in the Financial Times, and it will take you round and round in circles and explain to you nothing. But comrades, if you put all that down and pick up Capital, within a few chapters you’ll start to see the light.
Marx explained very clearly the laws that operate in the capitalist system of production for profit, and the contradictions that pull the system apart. And the contradiction right at the heart of this system is the crisis of overproduction – the fact that, on the one hand, the forces of production are expanding and, on the other hand, the amount of society’s wealth that goes to the working class is shrinking. The workers are producing and producing and producing more and more goods for sale, but their economic position in society means they can’t buy back all the goods they’ve produced.
The markets get glutted with goods that can’t be sold because the workers who made them are too poor to buy them back. That is capitalism in a nutshell, comrades. That is at the heart of all the irrationalities that we see. And that single fact, once you understand it, shows that this is not something you can legislate away. This is not something we can fix by pleas to the capitalists to be kinder; to be sensible. This is built into production for profit.
Production for profit means that you don’t pay the worker the full value of what he produces. That means wealth is being created in the form of products that can’t be sold, can’t be bought back again by the people who created them. It’s right at the heart of how the system works. It can’t be resolved under conditions of capitalism. It can’t be. We have to understand that. We have to understand that’s why it is that reformism takes us nowhere. Why the pleas to the capitalists to be kind will never work.
Then, of course, there’s the apparently senseless response of the imperialists to their crisis. The independent media, like I said, they scratch their heads over this one. You see quite often on some of these channels commentators who can see all the things that are happening and explain them to you, but when they start asking themselves why these things are happening, they’re totally stumped.
They can give you loads of great information, but the best they can come up with when they try to explain why what’s happening is happening is: ‘Our rulers are idiots.’ Well, Liz Truss would appear to bear that out right?
Interestingly, there is a phenomenon whereby capitalism in its decline – Marx pointed this out I think in Capital a hundred and fifty years ago – that now that capitalism has peaked and started to decline it produces no intellect amongst its leading exponents. There’s a good reason for that: the system has nothing to offer humanity anymore. There’s no more progress to come from capitalism, there’s only regression. There’s only retarding human progress.
Now, if Marx was able to point to, I think it was John Stuart Mill, a hundred and fifty years ago, and say this guy’s a pygmy intellectually, can you imagine what he’d have thought if he was presented with Liz Truss and Keir Starmer and all these, you know, vacuous blocks of wood in our parliament today? The empty careerists who serve monopoly capital for money, for a chance to be a bit famous, I don’t know, whatever they think they’re getting out of it? A good pension and some nice holidays, no doubt.
Scientific socialism allows us to understand that it’s the internal logic of capitalism that explains the behaviour of our rulers. The logic of capitalism is not the logic of the human being, and we have to understand that. When you’re a capitalist, your logic is the logic of your capital. Marx, again in Capital (you really should read it, anyone who hasn’t here, read it, it’s very accessible and there are some very poetic passages), there’s a point where Marx talks about the capitalist as being the ‘personification of his capital’. He describes how Capital whispers in the capitalists’ ear twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, three hundred and sixty-five days a year: ‘Go on, go on, go on, go on.’
What does Capital want in the capitalist system? It wants to get bigger. So the logic of the capitalist in the capitalist system is not a rational human logic, it’s the logic of his Capital. Otherwise, if he doesn’t follow that logic, he’ll lose the battle of competition and he will no longer be a capitalist. You can’t try to mix human logic and capitalist logic if you want to remain a capitalist. You have to retire from the field of capitalism and just go and live on an island somewhere with your ill-gotten gains. But, of course, they’ll run out soon enough.
So as a capitalist, your logic is the logic of capital, and that means pursuing profit. And not just a bit of profit, maximum profit! Because, again, the laws of competition demand it. If you’re not earning the maximum return on your capital someone else will be, and all the investors will go over there.
That is the logic of capital. Money must be turned into more money, must be turned into more money, must be turned into more money, must be turned into … It’s endless. It is endless, and this explains why it is that the capitalists can’t ‘see sense’, can’t ‘learn from history’, can’t …
We keep having crises. Shouldn’t we do something about it? Shouldn’t we look at the root cause of all these crises and do something about it? No, I don’t think so (answers the capitalist), because that’s the end of capitalism.
What about all these wars? We keep losing. Every time we go to war, we lose. Why do we keep going to war? The logic of capital demands war, demands war as the only way to escape the crisis while staying within capitalism. They don’t want to end capitalism so they’ll drive to war.
Why do they drive to war? They drive to war to conquer territory, to conquer markets, to conquer raw materials, to expand the scope of their looting and the size of their markets to sell goods into, to maximise profit. They also drive to war to destroy things that they can rebuild again afterwards. And there’s good money to be made out of war: it’s not the main motivation for war but it’s definitely a very good sideline, and huge profits are made.
If the war is big enough, not only the arms industries but the postwar construction industries are kicked into life, and that starts the next cycle. Then there’s a bit of a boom, lots of things to rebuild before the markets are glutted again and the crisis comes back.
That’s the endless story and cycle of capitalism. And since capitalism is now a world system with a global marketplace it’s a global crisis, a global drive to war, a global problem for workers and oppressed peoples everywhere.
Engels said, I think maybe in the Peasant War in Germany but I could have got that wrong, ‘Since socialism has become a science, it must be pursued as a science. That is, it must be studied.’
So who is it who needs to study this science? Professors? Students? It’s every worker who needs this science. It’s available to every single person who wants it. There’s no barrier to entry. All you need is a determination to master it and you will.
What should you study? Is it any old thing? Is it anything that claims to be Marxism? No, definitely not. It’s Marx. It’s Engels. It’s Lenin. It’s Stalin. In particular, it’s Marx, Engels and Lenin, the founders of our movement. The most profound deep scientist scientific thinkers who not only solved so many problems in a scientific way, but in doing so gave us on every page a lesson in how to apply the Marxist method to concrete conditions, to material reality. They are teaching us not only theories, definitely not dogmas. They’re teaching us, more than anything, their method. They didn’t live in exactly our conditions, but there are hundreds, thousands of parallels, and there’s a method.
We talk very often about the power of the collective and the importance of collective decision-making and collective leadership. It is really important. It’s our best defence against taking wrong steps, and our best weapon at correcting ourselves when we go wrong.
But a collective is only as strong as the parts that make it up. All of you who are party members, who are thinking about becoming party members, who want to serve the working class, must understand that as much as the working class needs a party, and as much as the party needs a leadership, it also needs members who are educated enough to make sure the debate in the party is strong, that the decision-making is informed and that the leadership can be held to account.
How do you know? If you leave the study to somebody else and they tell you what Marx said, how do you know it’s true? How do you know I’m not standing up here in front of you telling you a bunch of plausible lies?
How do you know I’m not slightly distorting something important? I could do it on purpose. I could do it by accident. How would you know? You need to know, comrades. The whole history of our movement says: Do not leave this task to other people!
Yes, we respect, we value, we cherish the experience of those of our comrades who’ve been doing this a long time but we also must emulate their example and make sure that they are not irreplaceable because our movement doesn’t need one Harpal Brar, one Ella Rule, it needs hundreds and thousands and millions of them.
So, we face a lot of challenges, comrades: challenges nationally, challenges internationally. In every aspect of our work. Recently, we’ve been facing big challenges: challenges in our party, challenges in understanding and responding to the national situation. I hope everybody has seen and read our new leaflet on the cost of living crisis that comrades were giving out at the demonstration today.
There’s a longer article on our website with some analysis. We’ve made some demands, short-term demands that we hope will help workers to think about what this system isn’t giving them and what they deserve; what they have a right to demand.
We have a right to demand that we workers don’t bear the burden of a crisis that we did not make. But we also have to recognise what this leaflet says at the end, that the market has proved itself to be totally unable to meet the needs of the people; that the capitalists have shown themselves to be entirely unable to run their own system for the benefit of society at large; and that ultimately it’s only socialist science that will enable us to understand the causes of the crisis and enable us to create a real working-class party to bring workers’ power to bear in creating a society that doesn’t just solve the problems that press on us so heavily right now, but actually offers us the prospect of a bright and fulfilling future.