|Battle at Soufflot Barricades, 24 June 1848
by Horace Vernet
In the terminology of Marx and Engels the words communism and socialism are synonymous. They are alternately applied without any distinction between them. The same was true for the practice of all Marxian groups and sects until 1917. The political parties of Marxism which considered the Communist Manifesto as the unalterable gospel of their doctrine called themselves socialist parties. The most influential and most numerous of these parties, the German party, adopted the name Social Democratic Party. In Italy, in France and in all other countries in which Marxian parties already played a role in political life before 1917, the term socialist likewise superseded the term communist. No Marxian ever ventured, before 1917, to distinguish between communism and socialism.
In 1875, in his Criticism of the Gotha Programme of the German Social Democratic Party, Marx distinguished between a lower (earlier) and a higher (later) phase of the future communist society. But he did not reserve the name of communism to the higher phase, and did not call the lower phase socialism as differentiated from communism.
One of the fundamental dogmas of Marx is that socialism is bound to come "with the inexorability of a law of nature." Capitalist production begets its own negation and establishes the socialist system of public ownership of the means of production. This process "executes itself through the operation of the inherent laws of capitalist production." It is independent of the wills of people. It is impossible for men to accelerate it, to delay it or to hinder it. For "no social system ever disappears before all the productive forces are developed for the development of which it is broad enough, and new higher methods of production never appear before the material conditions of their existence have been hatched out in the womb of previous society."
This doctrine is, of course, irreconcilable with Marx's own political activities and with the teachings he advanced for the justification of these activities. Marx tried to organize a political party which by means of revolution and civil war should accomplish the transition from capitalism to socialism. The characteristic feature of their parties was, in the eyes of Marx and all Marxian doctrinaires, that they were revolutionary parties invariably committed to the idea of violent action. Their aim was to rise in rebellion, to establish the dictatorship of the proletarians and to exterminate mercilessly all bourgeois. The deeds of the Paris Communards in 1871 were considered as the perfect model of such a civil war. The Paris revolt, of course, had lamentably failed. But later uprisings were expected to succeed.
This is an excerpt from Planned Chaos by Ludwig von Mises. Read or download the full book at the Anti-Marxists Internet Archive.
Book file at the AMIA e-library is courteously hosted by the Ludwig von Mises Institute. The Vernet painting is in the public domain.