T. A. Jackson

What Communism Means

Part VI

Source: The Communist, May 13, 1922.
Publisher: Communist Party of Great Britain
Transcription/Markup: Brian Reid
Proofreader: David Tate
Public Domain: Marxists Internet Archive (2007). You may freely copy, distribute, display and perform this work; as well as make derivative and commercial works. Please credit “Marxists Internet Archive” as your source.

[This is the concluding instalment of a series designed to introduce the beginner to the study of Communism. The work to which this series is intended to serve as a preliminary survey—“The A.B.C of Communism,” by Buharin and Preobrashensky—is now on sale (price 3s. stiff paper, 5s. cloth). It is a large work of 420 pages, well printed and in clear type, and forms a survey of the whole question so complete and detailed that it is quite indispensable to any one, propagandist or inquirer, desiring a reliable guide to a complete knowledge of the subject.

To prevent confusion it is necessary to say that this is the complete work—a previous publication with the same time being a translation of an abridged edition of the first and smaller part only.

Our readers who have followed this series should now take their opportunity to pass on to the study at Buharin and Preobrashensky’s great work—Ed. The Communist]

FOR as long as there have been class divisions within human society—and they been as far back as when the institution of private property in flocks, herds, tillage fields and slaves had begotten inequalities of possessions and antagonisms of interest—as long as there have been class divisions there have been struggles for social mastery.

Law and Authority

There is thus a two-fold aspect to that State Power and authority which newspaper writers have sanctified into an idol with the name of “Law and Order” and similarly a twofold aspect to those concerted movements of revolt which the same writers denounce mechanically as “anarchistic” and “criminal” attempts to “overthrow society.”

* * *

On the basis of a given system of wealth production a political system becomes established. The laws and the moral codes with which it begins are all such as are calculated to secure the best results from that economic system, and the central authority such as expresses most clearly the will and interest of the class primarily concerned with that production process as controllers and exploiting gainers. Moreover, at the beginning, such an economic system seems so useful and so inescapable that even the subject masses look for advantage to come from its full and satisfactory working. On that side, and so far, Law and Authority are indispensable to the development and operation of the economic processes which give the lifeblood of human society. But simultaneously with this operates the fact that no private-property-based system can for long be any but an exploiting system. And as the system develops, the more complete and more onerous become its exactions and the less endurable the life it offers to its indispensable toilers. As, too, each economic system grows at the expense of some older system whose relics are progressively annihilated as it grows. And since also, as it grows, each economic system undergoes radical transformation until it has created the possibility of a new system, the State, Law, and Authority, proper to any given system of production, must as that system develops, grow more and more into an Authority defending and protecting an intensifying exploitation—repressing the complaint of its victims protecting those most the objects of the righteous wrath of the suffering and degraded, and advancing the claims and interests of a system that every day brings nearer to the point of being intolerable, life-destroying and obsolete.

Just as it is true that “he who kills a king and he who dies for him are alike idolators,” so it is true that Law and Authority are the indispensable to existence and totally destructive of human life sad happiness.

The Revolutionist is the Savior of Society—just because he is its Destroyer. He saves the essential inter-relations of men for production—and the rational enjoyment of that which is produced—by destroying those creeds, codes, laws and institutions which by lingering after they have become superseded would destroy humanity to save a particular form of society.

* * *

Communism in its earliest theoretical forms appeared as a dream picture in the brains of men of contemplative leisure. Philosophers and monastic visionaries each of them constructed imaginary descriptions of a perfect state of society in which disease, crime, anger, ill-will, war and civil commotion were all obviated. And with astonishing unanimity they insisted that none of these things could be until private property in the common essentials of existence had been suppressed.

But how was this to be achieved? Here the speculators left the earth and soared into the realms of fancy. In the absence of any proper knowledge of the history of primitive society—nay, worse, with a totally false notion imposed as an article of theological faith—their guesses took all sorts of forms from that of a semi-divine Conqueror, of a dramatic religious revival, to that of a quasi-scientific miracle worked by emanations from a comet.

All agreed that some sort of Communism would obviate the evils of class division, subjection, and exploitation. All agreed that some powerful authority meeting with general acceptance could alone bring it into being. And all agreed that the possibility of the creation of such an authority was barely, if at all, imaginable.

The Science of Revolution

It was here that Karl Marx made history. He it was who saw in the struggles of the wage worker the operation of a force which was bound sooner or later to become so developed, so transformed by development, so inter-related and organised, so powerful, and so universal as to supply at once the Authority necessary for the establishment of Communism and the general approval which would make that Authority stable and effective. In the class-consciousness of the toiling mass, and in its potentialities for alike offence and defence, destruction and construction, Revolution and Conservation, Marx saw the Force sufficient to effect the transformation which the Utopians had believed impossible.

And in seeing it Marx made Communism a thing of scientific force and precision. By the union of the speculative theories of the Utopians, with the passion and will of the workers’ struggle for betterment—he made possible the Communist and Socialist Movements which have on an ever increasing scale forced the attention of the rulers and exploiters of the whole world.

Alternately derided as a dream and hated as a nightmare—denounced as a sophistry and guarded against as an insanity—once played with as a toy by the aristocracy piqued at the success of the despised bourgeoisie and now persecuted with bullet, bomb, bludgeon, gallows and gaol by that same bourgeoisie in a frenzy of fear, Communism has survived every error until now it is the burning topic in every place where two or three working men meet together to consider grievances or where statesmen and financiers debate upon the means for safeguarding what they have gained.

* * *

Looked at closely it will be seen that Communism arises always as an outcome of experience in class strife. That it is nothing more and nothing less than the will of the working class to be Masters of the World grown articulate and finding expression. That the fight against Communism is always most bitter when there is most need to hold large masses of workers down in completest subjection to Capitalist rule and authority.

Those who have not grasped this fact make it a charge against Communists that they avow their aim to be the “Dictatorship of the Proletariat.” Those who have grasped it see in that avowal a simple statement of an elementary need.

The Democrat, the Parliamentarian, the Reformer, the Patriot, Progressive—all those types which are more filled with a sense of the justice of the workers’ claims than of the historic causes of their appearance, or the inveterate class-habits and illusions of their exploiters—all these in one form or another would have the workers wait until the exploiting class is willing to surrender.

They have a little hatred for the capitalist system in the abstract but have none of the burning anger and disgust which is battered into the souls of the toilers by every successive calamity which comes to the workers as a matter of course. The timid worker, over full of a sense of the power of the Boss Class, the tired worker who has lost even if he ever had any faith in the power of his own class, the ignorant worker who can conceive no alternative to capitalism, and the demoralised worker who thinks in his greed he can gain more by sycophantic adulation of the powers that be than he can ever hope to get from a manly struggle against them, all these with those in the various stages of illusion left behind by the boss class managed system of education, form the following of the anti-Communist, “Socialist” and “Labour” parties.

Sooner or later, however, the healthy elements among this following are driven by their experience to realise the folly and worse than folly of this policy of waiting for the Boss to give in. The instinct to struggle is developed in the very marrow of the working mass. So much so that the history of the workers’ struggle is more one of the holding-in-check of the rank and file than one of goading them into action. Sooner or later—and sooner rather than later—the mass of the workers will be (even if they are not at this moment) ripe for casting off the authority of the Boss Class and setting up their own authority in its place.

And when they have reached this mental stage it will want but one extra squeeze of economic crisis or one extra exasperation from the capitalist dictators to set the workers in motion all along the line.

* * *

How it will come no man can say—except that it will be unexpected. When it does come the explosion will be so vast and far-reaching that the workers will need as never men needed a coordinating and directing force to enable the dynamic impulses of the explosion to be directed in such a way is to produce the maximum of harm to things which it is necessary to destroy and the minimum of harm to the things it is necessary to preserve.

Here will arise the need for a body of men trained to act together as are and do the Communist Party. A body of men and women who have championed the workers’ wrongs, who have affirmed the right to emancipation and to establish such rule as will involve emancipation, who have preached Communism as an ideal and urged it upon the workers as an alternative to the existing devilish system—such a body in such a crisis will be turned to by the workers on all hands for guidance and direction. The better its personal quality, the richer its experience, the more efficiently it will be able to carry through its work.

If it has the proper relations with the workers organised in industry it will be able to secure the carrying on of productive work almost without a hitch.

If it has the proper hold upon the workingman it will be able to overcome the inevitable pro-slavery rebellion of the middle and upper classes with a minimum of effort, bloodshed and suffering.

If it has not the proper hold the struggle will be violent, prolonged, bloody, and devastating.

The Communist Party

The British Government, speaking through the mouth of Mr. Shortt, and the British Middle and Upper Classes speaking through the mouths of Mr. Horatio Bottomley and the Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery, respectively, profess to see in the Communist Party nothing but a secret conspiracy to effect a violent overturning of the Sacred British Constitution.

Those who have troubled to read these brief outlines will see the stupidity of such romantics. The Communist Party is not secret, it is not a conspiracy, it will only be violent when forced to in self-defence, and it can and will only be so forced by the very friends of these gentlemen. And the British Constitution is sacred only to that Capitalist Imperialism which is fast making life an intolerable misery for the majority of the toiling millions under its sway.

The Communist Party is a serious endeavour to gather, recruit and organise a force making for the complete co-ordination of the working class struggle, nationally and internationally.

The Communist Party did not create that struggle. It existed before any living Communist was born; it raged when Marx and Engels were infants in their cradles and when the parents of Lenin and Trotsky were children at school. It would still go on and all the more bitterly because robbed of intelligent leadership and the hope thereby engendered, if every single Communist were hanged tonight.

It is an endeavour to establish by precept and practice such a psychology and such an authority as will enable the working class to carry society successfully over the period of crisis which the rule of the class whose spokesmen are named above is making inevitable.

It is a call to every worker who has heart enough to feel a hatred for the wrongs and agonies of the Capitalist system and head enough to realise the possibility of an alternative to join in the work of preparation necessary to enable humanity to meet the crisis towards which it is rushing and from which the only road of emergence is by way of the Dictatorship of the Toiling Masses, which in turn can be expressed and exercised only through the medium such an organised, trained, experienced and disciplined Party.

The Communist Party, is indeed, and from this point of view a religious confraternity, in that it is inspired by a faith in the possibility of and a will to spend life, health, and strength in the attainment of a state of things not unworthy the name of a Heaven upon Earth.

He who would not willingly live and rot with the tame and satisfied sheep will be found rejoicing in the pride of a manly defiance under the banner of the Communist Party.