Enver Hoxha – On the Intellectuals

Vilson Kilica - In the studio

Vilson Kilica – In the studio

More on Albania …..

Introduction

I came upon these theses of Enver Hoxha‘s (which I first read many years ago), when I was researching and considering the points to discuss in the post on the ‘Evolution of the Albanian lapidars‘. Although during a Socialist ‘Cultural Revolution’ it is the workers and peasants who should be leading things the role of the intellectuals (both ‘old’ and ‘new’) also gets pushed to the front.

(In this introduction I will refer principally to the situation and experiences of sculptors as being the representatives of the ‘intellectuals’ as this relates directly to the post on the evolution of the lapidars.)

‘Intellectuals’; who they are; what role they have in a Socialist society; how they should be ‘moulded’ as well as how they should ‘mould’; what levels of freedom they should, or shouldn’t, have and their relationship to the State and the workers and peasants, have been a bone of contention since the first days after the success of the October Revolution in Russia – even before the future of the new Socialist state was secure (ish) after success in the War of Intervention (Civil War) of 1917-1922.

The problem starts with the ‘old’ intellectuals – not necessarily by age but those who had been educated in a pre-Socialist society – bringing with them the baggage of that old society and often that can affect their thinking when it comes to adapting the the new social, political and economic environment.

As an example of this I would point to the some of the work of the sculptor Odhise Paskali, and especially his sculpture ‘Shokët – Comrades‘ in the Permët Martyrs’ Cemetery. The comparisons with Christian imagery are obvious as soon as you see the sculpture. This was one of the very earliest sculptural lapidars (1964) and I don’t think it would have been used if it had been created four or five years later.

Obviously, it’s not just the ‘intellectuals’ that being with them the baggage of the past – all those born and who have lived under capitalism cannot but carry some of the negative and self-interested traits of that social system. However, unlike the workers and peasants who have been living the harsh reality of capitalism ‘intellectuals’ were often insulated from the extremes of capitalist rule – artists starving in a garret notwithstanding.

But matters aren’t straightforward with the ‘new’ intellectuals’, i.e., those who had been fully brought up in a Socialist system, either. In the very early days of Socialist Albania, when there was a huge level of illiteracy amongst the adult population, it would mean that those who first went into higher education and the University system would have been those who had come from relatively privileged backgrounds.

That doesn’t mean that these were necessarily and consciously people who were working against the Socialist system. What it did mean, and this is one of the issues that Enver highlights in this piece, is that they should spend a great deal of time living with, working with and understanding the lives of the workers and peasants if they were then to produce works of art that would have any meaning to the vast majority of the population.

The other aspect of the lives of ‘intellectuals’ is that they have, in a Socialist society, a relatively easy time. They don’t have to get to a place of work at a particular time every day, they are not governed by the clock and the nature of their work is not as repetitive as it is for those who work in a factory or in agriculture. Physically it can also be less demanding.

Again, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The aim of Socialism is to eventually improve the conditions of labour so that there is some evening out of the work load throughout society. But that cannot happen on day one. There will be differentials and the life of workers can be hard, even more so in the early days after the Socialist Revolution when, normally, there’s a great deal of rebuilding needed to get to a situation that had existed some years before – historically revolutions occur in societies after wars and those bring with them untold destruction in terms of population as well as material and infrastructure loss.

The issue that then arises in such a situation is that there has been a tendency, historically in all countries which attempted to construct Socialism, for the ‘intellectuals’, both the ‘old’ and the ‘new’, to see themselves as a group apart, as being special and better than the rest of the population. That is why, in any Socialist Cultural Revolution, it is not just a question of instilling within the workers and peasants a desire to work for a new society it is also a time to remind ‘intellectuals’ of their role in society and, in a sense, their ‘place’ in that society.

This criticism and self-criticism of ‘intellectuals’ – in all spheres of live – was taken to its highest point during the Chinese Great Socialist Cultural Revolution. Here it wasn’t only the writers and artists who were asked to examine their own ideas but also those within the Party, the government and in the management of public and state enterprises.

This happened to a lesser extent in Albania, perhaps that was a mistake.

I intend to post other contributions on the role of writers and artists in a Socialist society, written by Enver Hoxha, at a later date.

 

ON THE INTELLECTUALS¹

[March] 1958

The early forms of division of labour in Greek Antiquity:

Plato and his ideal ‘Republic’².

Manual work and mental activity.

Mental activity – the privilege of the archons, the ruling classes.

Placing the question of society on such a basis must lead to idealism, which creates the idea of the independence of thought, that thought ‘predominates’ over material and practical reality, that thought is prior to matter.

The feudal regime preserved the philosophical idealist concepts and consolidated the division of mental labour from manual labour.

The nobles, the men of the sword, commanders, leaders. The clerks, the intelligentsia of that time, the representatives of philosophical and scientific thought.

Serfs and artisans, manual workers.

The capitalist regime caused the intellectuals to form a more homogeneous stratum, and the functions of the intellectual began to expand.

Various categories of intellectuals in the service of capital, like technicians, engineers, economists, judges, teachers, professors, and others, develop along with capital, not only because needs for them increase but because the capitalists, to make life easier for themselves, drop their technical functions.

The greater the number of intellectuals the more they become dependent on the capitalist economy.

From the economic standpoint, the intellectuals can be grouped into these categories: functionaries, salary earners in capitalist enterprises, judges, officers, and others of this kind; teachers, professors, and philosophers, whom the capitalists utilize to spread bourgeois ideology, but:

1) the decadence of the bourgeoisie;

2) Malthus’s economic theory³ which characterizes decadence;

3) the critical spirit of the latter category of intellectuals, which makes the bourgeoisie sacrifice culture to the interests of the army, the police, aggravate the situation of the intellectual, causing him to reject the capitalist yoke, and the bourgeois state to violate the traditions of alleged ‘university freedoms’.

The decadent bourgeoisie and its ideology reject rationalism, and trample the national honour underfoot. This makes the conscientious intellectual understand more clearly that the bourgeoisie can no longer be the sole leader of the nation and its culture.

The characteristics of the engineers and technicians:

The bourgeoisie leaves in their hands the management of equipment and the management of cadres, that is, direction and command of part of the workers. Although they enjoy better material conditions, spiritually they are close to the workers, living nearly the same way as they do.

The technicians of medium training live under poorer material conditions, they are in daily contact with the proletariat at work, hence they are in still closer spiritual contact with them.

The allegedly independent work of the artisan intellectuals, artists, and others, brings them closer to the bourgeoisie, but the sale of their works, which is subject to speculation, turns them towards the working class.

What is typical about the doctors is that they do not owe their existence to capitalist development. They try to maintain their traditional status quo, their individual character. This turns them into a closed caste, reluctant to admit elements from the proletariat into their ranks. But contact with the deplorable conditions of the working class makes them gradually aware of the actual situation of the decadence of the bourgeoisie and brings them closer to the working class.

Hence the intellectuals, who until yesterday were with the bourgeoisie and were used as its tools, begin to gain a better understanding of things.

Certain subjective considerations prevent the intellectual from becoming conscious quickly:

1) The vacillations which are typical of the middle and petty-bourgeois classes from which he comes.

2) Certain special illusions.

The abstraction, the division of mental from manual work means that he is not in conctact with things but with their symbols. This brings about idealist illusions.

His position between the classes makes him think that he is not prompted by any class interest and that everything is subject only to his judgement and knowledge. That is why he thinks that the ‘ideas’ that set the intellectual in motion are independent of the class relationships. He thinks he stands above the classes, and represents a morality independent of the economic forces and class antagonisms.

This idea, detached from manual work, from life, makes him think that he is the supreme power of the world order. This takes the intellectual out of the sphere of reality and makes him think that all the contradictions should be solved not by violence but by intellectual conciliation, by peaceful evolution.

These views predispose him to opportunism.

Herein lies the source of his reluctance to accept communism, because the concept of morality independent of class relationships and the abstract objectivity are diametrically opposed to historical materialism, and that conciliatory opportunism is in flagrant contradiction to the revolutionary concept of the class struggle and the dictatorship of the proletariat.

Another illusion is his individualism. The intellectual is not opposed to the proletariat. He is not a capitalist. He has no work implements like the medium bourgeois or handicraftsman. He is obliged to sell the product of his labour, and therefore, capitalist exploitation weighs heavy on him. But with regard to his living conditions he is nearer to the bourgeoisie than the proletariat.

The intellectual does not fight with physical force but with arguments. His means of production are his personal knowledge, his personal convictions, and he cannot create a position for himself except through his personal qualities. Therefore, he thinks he can achieve his ends only by expressing his individuality.

He does not accept discipline for himself but only for the masses. He places himself among the ‘elite’, ‘above the common man’, Nietzsche’s theory⁴.

Lenin says that the stratum of intellectuals is characterized by its individualism, by its inability to organize itself, and by instability. The proletariat should take them by the hand, and teach them the dangers of anarchic individualism, because individualism makes them hesitate, vacillate, and so on.

It is necessary for the intellectuals to shake off bourgeois ideology and become imbued with Marxist-Leninist ideology.

When a worker becomes a communist, he feels that something that had been latent in him is now flourishing, he discovers a culture which enlightens him on what he had been dimly aware of, he finds in Marxism the clear assertion of himself, becoming aware of what had existed in his subconscience. Hence when a worker becomes a communist, he builds and consolidates himself.

When an intellectual becomes a communist, events do not develop as in the former case. At every step of the triumph of socialist consciousness, the intellectual is compelled to destroy something from his past. Thus, he destroys and builds, and in the first steps he takes he has the impression not of creating but of a struggle against himself.

When the worker becomes a communist, he knows that he will fight, that he will go on strike, come into conflict with capitalism, and may even be killed, but he has only one enemy and this enemy is an external one, capitalism, while the intellectual must wage a battle on two fronts, against himself, that is, against his petty-bourgeois hangovers and against the external enemy, capitalism.

For an intellectual to acquire socialist consciousness he must be guided, tempered in practical work, re-educated and imbued with Marxist-Leninist theory. This constant work with him will be done by the working class and its Party.

Our National Liberation War and the struggle to build socialism have brought about a major transformation among our old intellectuals and have created a new intelligentsia, from the working class and the working peasantry, loyal to the working class and to socialism. We have created, kept up, and developed this process. We are successfully developing it even further.

But it would be mistaken self-satisfaction for us to say that our old and new intelligentsia have escaped from, or have been cleansed of, all the petty-bourgeois survivals, views which hinder them from linking themselves completely with, or from finding, the road to the complete formation of socialist consciousness.

First of all, our intelligentsia escaped from the capitalist yoke, escaped from exploitation. Our country won its freedom, independence, sovereignty and national dignity, and is guided by the progressive class, the working class. Entirely favourable conditions have been created for the development and flowering of culture, education, and so on, in the service of the working people. Thus, all the basic objective conditions have been created for the education of our intelligentsia along correct lines and for the elimination of the petty-bourgeois survivals from their consciousness.

This is the aim of the Marxist-Leninist education of our Party.

The capitalist countries are ruled by capital, the capitalists, the bourgeoisie; the state is in the hands of .he bourgeoisie, whereas in our country the dictatorship of people’s democracy, the dictatorship of the proletariat, has been established, the state is led by the Party of Labour, state power is in the hands of the working people, in the hands of the majority. In our country there are the state, the weapons of the dictatorship, the friendly classes of workers and peasants, there are officials, engineers, technicians, teachers, professors, artists, students, there are limited strata of medium and petty-bourgeoisie in the cities, new and old intellectuals, there are kulaks and remnants of the reactionary bourgeoisie, as well as elements of the expropriated feudal class.

But our new state is quite different from the state of the capitalists and the bourgeoisie, and the economic, moral, and political situation of all these strata has radically changed. Our duty is to educate the intellectuals, not only to grasp how this revolution has been effected, but also to feel for it and fight to strengthen it.

But we must pose the question: has the raising of people’s consciousness and the purge of petty-bourgeois remnants kept pace with the major reforms made in our country? Of course, the answer must be, no! But the changes are immense as compared with the countries dominated by capitalism, especially among the intellectuals and the petty-bourgeoisie. The changes are very positive in the uplift of socialist consciousness, first and foremost, among the working class, which is being tempered day by day, because it becomes conscious more rapidly than the other classes and strata, and it influences and immeasurably assists the other strata through its leading role in the state. On the other hand, it is true that in our country there has never really been the influence, in the true sense of the word, of an organized bourgeoisie, with its roots deep among the people, which would have systematically created an extensive caste of intellectuals to serve it efficiently in all directions, as has occurred in the capitalist countries. In our country the existing semi-intelligentsia, in certain given directions, had just taken the first steps in life, and these in daily struggle against the survivals of feudalism and semi-feudalism. Most of the officials of the old regimes were either without schooling or trained in the old Turkish schools, and very few of them in western bourgeois schools. Cadres had just begun to come from the western bourgeois schools, specialized in a few professions, especially in law and medicine, and very few in industry (for there was no industry and not even the prospect of it). Agriculture, of course, was considered a sector of slave workers by the feudal regime and despised by our commercial and intellectual bourgeoisie. Very rarely were boys of the bourgeoisie sent to higher agricultural or technical schools. Cadres trained for studies in natural or social sciences could be counted on the fingers of one hand. Hence these few intellectuals of higher training were destined to serve the regimes as state officials. Many of the doctors, sons of the bourgeoisie, formed, so to say, a caste of speculators. The teachers and professors formed a good group of intellectuals who, to a certain extent, served the requirements of the old regime. With the exception of a certain number of old professors, the teachers lived very much closer to the people, and their living conditions, although not very low, still left a lot to be desired. As to artists, they were very few, and I am speaking about painters; as to professional actors and musicians, they were either non-existent or extremely few, and they had become school teachers, so that there can be no talk of their free profession. As you see, this was the intelligentsia we inherited from the past, and such was their economic and social standing.

Our people’s revolution changed the form and substance of the regime and undertook the great task of developing the national economy on a new basis, it began building socialism. Parallel with this the cultural revolution also began. We started and will continue to work in two directions, namely, to train new cadres for all sectors, and to educate the old cadres in the socialist spirit and socialist consciousness. The formation of the young cadres of the socialist intelligentsia is going ahead at a rapid and satisfactory rate in all the fields of human activity, and the re-education of old cadres is not doing badly either.

But we must always keep in mind that neither the new people’s intelligentsia nor the old are immune from the old bourgeois and petty-bourgeois survivals, or from the influence of the propaganda of the bourgeoisie and bourgeois ideology. These survivals show up in the life and work of both the new cadres and the cadres of the old intelligentsia. They appear, first and foremost, in their method and style of work, in their way of family life, in their attitude towards common socialist property, in collective work, in their lack of proletarian discipline and morality, in individualism, self-importance and haughtiness, in arrogance and pseudo-independence, in stereotyped work, in their lack of perspective and creativeness, and in many other manifestations.

Hence, while recognizing such a situation, knowing these difficulties of growth and of training, it is impermissible for us to underestimate or belittle them, either to be content with what we have achieved so far, or to become alarmed, but we should build such a program of work and education for our people’s intelligentsia which will always bring up young and sound cadres, and will cure the others, too, as well as to continually purge young and old of bourgeois vestiges.

He who should be considered a good educator, a good propagandist, is not the one who is satisfied to deliver a theoretical lecture on Marxism-Leninism, copying phrases from the texts of the classics and reading them to the listeners, but the one who makes his lecture on Marxism-Leninism alive and concrete, who gives it vitality, choosing words and examples suitable to the different categories of the people of his audience. To deliver dry Marxist lectures is of little use, and it is a fact that few people come to listen, not because they do not want to, but because they fail to understand them. But to me, he who delivers such lectures is an ignoramus, a semi-intellectual divorced from practical life. He does nothing but repeat phrases from the classics of Marxism which, after all, the listeners can read for themselves. The main thing which our propagandist of Marxism-Leninism is ignorant of, and without which he cannot give a stimulating lecture, is that he doesn’t know the make-up of his audience, what sort of people they are, where they work, what they think about, what outlooks they have in their heads, what they have grasped clearly, dimly, or wrongly. Both sides are afraid of each others’ questions, and of free discussion. One fears lest he cannot answer, the other that his question may be taken amiss.

Thus, both parties work automatically. The listener often abandons the course because he fails to find in it what he wants, while the educator or propagandist thinks and pretends that he is in order, because he has his lecture prepared, as we have already said, in his pocket, goes to read it, but the course fails.

For cultured people the study of Marxist-Leninist theory may be easier, it may also be hard, and it may even become incomprehensible.

We must strive to have our propagandists cultured, or to have them acquire culture. Those who are cultured should weed out whatever is rotten in their old culture, that is, they should apply the thermometer of Marxism-Leninism to everything they have learned and when they see their temperature rise, when they have fevers, so to speak, about certain views, they should cure them. There are some who cure them, and Marxism-Leninism becomes a real guide. They are not easily misled and know how to teach this unerring method to other people. Those who do not act in this way, who have rubbish left in their heads, pose as if they understand Marxism, deliver stereotyped lectures, and often, although they speak about Marxism, they themselves do not accept it. Of course, in this case they are dangerous or harmful.

But not all our propagandists are cultured people. We are far from what is required. Then what is to be done, should we have fewer courses of education? No! but we must train propagandists, we must teach them the fundamental principles of Marxist philosophy, linking them closely with life, with practice. They themselves should realize that these principles of philosophy are not ‘bogies’ but things that can be learned. Who will make these principles clear to these propagandists? First and foremost, life, struggle and their daily work.

Along with the courses of Marxist-Leninist education, a large number of lectures and discussions are conducted dealing with politics, technological problems, ethics, and so on. These are conducted wherever people work, create, strive. Though these lectures and conferences are a bit watery, it is here that the Marxist-Leninist education of the people and the intellectuals should begin. It is here we should link the process of daily work, of teaching at school, operating on a patient, diagnosing his ailment, rationalization, norms, pay, playing a role on the stage, and so on and so forth, with the principles of our Marxist-Leninist philosophy. If we link these problems properly, then the education courses will be much easier for the audience as well as for the lecturer. But the Party fails to attach the necessary importance to this problem. The party cabinets stand quite aloof from these problems, thinking that the education courses will solve everything, and finally they issue a statistical report. Likewise, the propagandists are not as interested as they should be in this preliminary and fundamental kind of education, and are not interested to test in life, in the practice of socialist construction, the Marxist formulae they have managed to remember. This is extremely serious. People say that these meetings become boring, and this may well be so. Hence, their nature must be changed. From boring they must become interesting. Who will do this? Of course, the Party. Not only those of little or no culture, but also the cultured ones will find it hard at first to grasp the Marxist-Leninist philosophy. But if theory is linked with practice, with life, then this is not difficult. There are very few among us who have a thorough knowledge of Marxism-Leninism and of the formulae as Marx, Engels, Lenin, Stalin and others stated them, but there are many who work, apply, create and do not make mistakes because they are guided by Marxism-Leninism. What does this mean? This means that the Party has taught the cadres Marxism-Leninism, that it has made it their sole means, their glorious weapon for leadership and action. This means that these hundreds and thousands of people in Albania are no strangers to Marxism-Leninism. They know it, they are guided by it in whatever they do, they cannot live, build or create without it. It is a fact that colossal things have been done, that we have a strong, a very strong Marxist-Leninist Party of the new type, that we have a Party that had a correct line and which stands loyal to Marxism-Leninism. The Party is made up of people, of vanguard people who are no strangers to Marxism-Leninism. Thus, the Marxist-Leninist education of our cadres, of our intelligentsia, must be strengthened even more, and we must not have a narrow view of this, that is, reducing it to the party courses, because if we think of it like this, we would be forgetting life, the struggle, the realization of our aim, and deal only with its theoretical aspect. This must be well understood by those who are engaged in agitation and propaganda in the Party, by the leaders of the Party in factories, cooperatives, schools, and hospitals; this must be well understood by the leaders of youth wherever people work, strive, and create. It is there that theory will be tested, it is there that the greatest aid will be given to the cadres to arm themselves with Marxist-Leninist theory.

There is a great possibility that neither the doctor nor the professor, both cultured persons, will understand a theoretical lecture on dialectical and historical materialism. Speak to them first about their own practice, about their own science, link certain fundamental principles of materialism with this practice, and they will understand very quickly. Then deliver a purely theoretical lecture, and they will certainly understand it this time.

This is also the case with the factory worker who is well aware of wages, prices, norms, and so on and so forth, with which and for which he wages a daily struggle and fights along Marxist lines. When you give a lecture about these things, don’t forget to link certain principles of Marxist philosophy with these problems, and they will understand it better. Then, speak to them later on the theory of surplus value, and you can be certain that this time they will understand, and understand so well that one might even say better than the agitator or propagandist. And this holds for all things and in all sectors.

We have comrades who, when theoretical matters are mentioned, hold up their hands and never fail to say, ‘These are difficult matters, political economy is difficult, this and the other are difficult!’ But in reality this is not so. These are comrades of great seniority in leadership, they have colossal experience in economic problems. They know political economy in life and practice better than in books, and can even leave the teacher behind. But they are scared by both the book and the teacher; or better, they are scared of phrases. Elegant phrases overwhelm them. It is enough for the Party that the people know the essence, to know how to use it correctly and well in life. Let the teacher keep his phrases. Let him keep well in mind the sequence of things, as he should, for that is his business, but he must not forget that it is also his business to make the theory understandable, simple, related to life, to practice, and not frighten people off with heavy philosophical phrases. I do not say that philosophy is an easy thing but neither is it a ‘bogey’. For us communists everything is understandable, but efforts are called for in this as in everything else.

[Enver Hoxha, Selected Works, Volume 2, pp725-738]

Notes:

1 Theses drafted for discussion at the meeting of the Bureau of the Party Committee for the city of Tirana which, on March 21, 1958, was to take up for consideration the report ‘On the work for the education of intellectuals’. Comrade Enver Hoxha did not deal exhaustively with all these theses at that meeting.

2 In his treatise ‘The Republic’, Plato described an ‘ideal state’ based on the division of work among castes of free citizens: 1) leaders (philosophers), 2) fighters, 3) artisans and farmers. Each caste, according to Plato, should carry out only its specific tasks without interferring with those of the others; the fighters were denied the right of private ownership and of creating a family so that they might deal exclusively with the defence of the state.

3 According to the anti-scientific and reactionary theory developed by Malthus (1766-1834), the impoverishment of the workers does not result from their oppression and exploitation by the rich classes, but is allegedly the consequence of the permanent disproportion between the arithmetical progress of the growth of the means of subsistence and the geometrical progress of the growth of the population.

4 From F. Nietzsche (1844-1900), bourgeois reactionary theoretician of the transitory stage from capitalism to imperialism, on which fascism was founded. According to this theory, will is the determining factor in society because the development of history depends on the will of the individual aspiring to power, while the masses are only ‘serfs’, the ‘mob’, destined to obey and submit to the ruling classes for ever.

More on Albania …..

‘The Currency of Communism’ and the role of money under Socialism

Albania 3 Lek - 1964

Albania 3 Lek – 1964

The British Museum is currently hosting a small exhibition under the title ‘The Currency of Communism’ – which is running until the 18th March 2018. It’s hardly a huge exhibition, barely more than a half a dozen (small) display cabinets in a room where you can swing a cat – but only just.

In such a tiny space you’re not going to get a lot but what is there is quite interesting in the sense that many of the notes are from countries where the construction of Socialist is no longer in vigour. But it does give the visitor a chance to see some of the images that have been used on coins and notes in the last hundred years – since the Great October Revolution in Russia in November 2017.

Although I haven’t mentioned coinage or notes in my discussions about Socialist Realist Art they are another area where the different socialist societies sought to present the values of collectivity and to promote labour as something to celebrate and honour.

As it mentions in this exhibition the images on the notes were part of the propaganda battle that all socialist societies have to wage against the insidiousness of the capitalist past in a particular country and the capitalist present in a hostile world.

But when the word ‘propaganda’ is used in most circumstances in Britain it’s always in a negative context. THEY, i.e., the enemy, use propaganda WE, the good guys in all this (although the country is constantly invading other countries and killing people in their millions) don’t stoop to such perfidy.

For some reason in Britain it is not accepted that having the head of a Saxe-Coburg and Gotha on all British coins and notes has nothing to do with the promotion of a monarchy. That having the face of a bloated, drunken, racist and class warrior for his class – the aristocracy – doesn’t also promote the values that he believed in to his core and carried out with total disregard to the harm he might cause to ordinary people both in this country and abroad. The values of the monarchy and Churchill are those of the perpetuation and promotion of a society of oppression and exploitation.

But then, as they don’t get challenged by enough people they can get away with their lies. That’s OK, they fight for their class the problem is that too few of us fight for our class. And, what’s worse in some respects, don’t even know their own history to be able to challenge the idea that the aristocracy are parasites on the body politic and their destruction is necessary for our freedom.

Back to the currency.

There were a few things of interest in the handful (literally) of notes and coins on display.

One was the innovative manner in the manner in which all kinds of materials were used as a stop-gap when the old currency became useless after a revolution. You can’t allow the old currency to remain in circulation as the old rich will be able to remain rich. One example following the February Revolution in Russia was of a small sheet of postage stamps over printed with the declaration of the abdication of the Tsar. Other examples were simple printed pieces of paper that gained their value from the trust that people placed in them or the over stamping of coins with a hammer and sickle – which soon became the symbol of Soviet Communism and an integral part of the coat of arms of the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics.

When financial stability had been achieved the new states started to produce notes as are recognised throughout the world. Now they used the skill of proletarian artists and engravers to reproduce the story of the building of Socialism as was seen in art galleries throughout the socialist world as well as in that most extensive of all Socialist Realist Art galleries – the Metro systems, primarily Moscow but also Leningrad and other major cities, in the Soviet Union.

But what grated with this exhibition was the ignorance of the curator/s and their total lack of understanding of what Communism is all about. Obviously they haven’t read any Mao Tse-tung as they write (giving the impression of authority – after all it’s the British Museum) about something they know absolutely nothing.

Not only do they not know anything about the ideology of Marxism-Leninism (the overriding theory that has been behind all the socialist revolutions of the last hundred years and will be the ideology of those revolutions to happen in the future) they know nothing of history.

The curators state: ‘Communism proposes that money has no role in a utopian society. To date though, no communist state has successfully removed money from its economy.’ Here they create a false premise just so that they can then attack it and add to the propaganda battle of capitalism against those who aim to construct a better society free from oppression and exploitation.

The existence of a Communist Party as the ruling party in any particular country doesn’t mean that the country has achieved the ultimate aim of the establishment of Communism.

No Marxist-Leninist of the 20th century ever argued that Communism had been established in any country. Socialism had been established, the first and necessary stage of Communism, but that would exist for an indeterminate time until the conditions for the establishment of Communism arose. And they were unlikely to arise when so much of the world was still under the yoke of capitalism and imperialism.

In the limited ‘explanation’ given in the text in this small room there was constant reference to the fact that many things that are paid for by money in capitalist societies (such as health, education, housing, leisure, transport and social services) are included as part of a worker’s social wage. However, this does not mean that ALL that people need in their daily existence in a Socialist society is there for people to take without some sort of cash transaction taking place.

It is true that the vestiges of the old order, that are demonstrated by the existence of money, means there are opportunities for the unscrupulous and corrupt to take advantage of that ‘weakness’ in Socialism and attempt to use that weakness for their personal benefit. Realising that the taking of State power was only the first act along the road to Communism and that all could be sabotaged by such rotten elements Stalin declared: ‘The Party becomes strong by purging itself of opportunist elements.’ For it was in the ruling party that such opportunists saw their best chance of success.

No Socialist society has existed for more than 46 years (in Albania) so even the best of Communists is more than likely to be tainted by the venom that has been bred into people’s attitudes over the millennia of various systems of exploitation and class differentiation. The construction of Socialism, aiming for Communism, is both a struggle to create the material level to satisfy the needs of the whole of the population but it is also a struggle of ideas to temper their desires to a level that the is sustainable for the whole of society.

Save for the Future

Save for the Future

‘Consumerism’ that developed, principally after 1945, in the capitalist countries was a serious problem for the war damaged Socialist countries. An increasing number of ordinary working people were seen as being able to surround themselves by ‘luxuries’, a term used in the past for items that are now considered the norm. But this consumerism is, and has always been, fed by debt. It started out with Hire Purchase and is reaching its nadir at the moment with credit card debt where people are buying things they don’t need with money they don’t have and, in many cases, won’t ever have.

Perhaps the people in socialist societies were asked for too much of a sacrifice, working for the future without getting something over and above the necessities today. This idea is represented in the exhibition by the reproductions of posters which encouraged workers and collective peasants to save rather spend all they earned on goods for the present. This is one of the many aspects of the first period of Socialist construction that will need to be considered during the start of the second.

The opposite is the case in capitalist countries where all the State and capitalist propaganda is geared to encourage workers to live only for the now, only for consumerism. How else is it possible to explain the inane concept of ‘retail therapy’? All the debt is being pushed into the future, for later generations to deal with – which will almost certainly lead to a military conflict – as has been the solution so many times in the past.

Because money under capitalism leads to regular economic crisis. It creates the conditions for the innumerable ‘bubbles’ that have plagued capitalism from the start and which are growing in various aspects of present day society. Even staunch supporters of the capitalist system talk of ‘when’, not ‘if’, the crisis will occur when referring to the future.

Capitalism concerns itself only for gratification now and to maintain its control of society does all that it can to instil such a narrow-minded, short-term attitude in their populations. This can be seen in the manner that the system has cut a swathe through cultures, nature and the lives of countless millions of working people. They are prepared to destroy the world if it means they can accumulate more and more wealth, more ‘money’.

This is why all past Socialist societies have argued for the gradual diminution of the importance of money and its eventual abolition – but only when the conditions are right.

In the village of Nanjiecun, in central China, a small community of a few thousand have been able to reduce the amount of cash transactions but not all. But it’s a small, isolated community, an oasis in a vast ocean of capitalism, in China itself as well as the rest of the world. In such a situation it will never be anything more than an aberration, however admirable the effort might be.

Under conditions of Socialism the slogan is: from each according to his ability; to each according to his work. Money will cease to exist when the slogan, under conditions of Communism, is: from each according to his ability; to each according to his needs. (‘Critique of the Gotha Programme’, Karl Marx, 1875.)

When that time arrives ‘intellectuals’ will work for the betterment of society in general and won’t be the self-important, self-congratulatory, self-aggrandising bunch of self-serving sycophants they are now. Is it a surprise they had a hard time in the past in those countries where the construction of Socialism was taking place?

This is probably the smallest exhibition the British Museum has ever presented but brings up some of the biggest questions.