There are various definitions and assertions as to what constituted the transition period. According to Marx, the transition period was a time when the means of production was brought into common ownership by the working class using the power of the state. In other words, it was a period when the working class had taken over the state power from the capitalist class (Lange, 1971, p.39). Rather the transition period is the political period between the capture of political power by the working class within the capitalist society and the eventual establishment of socialism in an epoch during which the working class had replaced the capitalist class as the ruling class or as the controller of the state power. The period ends with the establishment of the classless society that is founded on the common ownership as well as the democratic control by the society at large (Oittinen, 2010, p.190). In addition, the era concludes with the subsequent vanishing of coercive state and the system that supported working for wages. To Marx, the transition period was that time when the political power had been captured by the working class and before the establishment of the common ownership of the means of production.
The evolution period was similarly perceived as that period up to the time when the universal ownership of the economic production was established. Consistent with Marx claims, this period was to take a longer time (Lenin, 1918, p.390). The proletarian revolution was alleged to change society later and gradually abolish private property, which was an eminent characteristic of the capitalists only when the economic means were accessible in adequate quantity. In other words, social change will ultimately come about when the economic means are sufficient to support that change. Indeed, the state of economic development is an essential component in bringing about socialism. During Marx time, this was not possible as the economic development at that time could not support that huge change. In fact, in relation to Marx quotation, that was the reason why many attempts to bring social change in some places failed (Martov, 1977, p.50).
Socialism is based on the core value of economic equality, which not only materializes between the individuals but also amongst the nations. Put differently, the broader socialism ideology contains numerous core values whereby the most significant appears to be equality in economic activities (Marquit, 2005, p.501). In socialism the economic equality is a precondition for all other aspects of society such as politics hence, such equality is considered a requirement for the attainment of political equality and social balance that specifically appertains to individual liberty.
To socialists, the limited access to economic resources by the working class or the proletariat is the reason for their inability for political participation, limited opportunities as well as restricted freedoms. Socialists hold the belief that it is only in an equal society where self-centered values could be replaced with collective or societal values. Socialists assert that individuals are not naturally self-centered, but they are shaped by society since they were brought up in the surrounding where there are competition, inequality, and self-interest people (Mars, 1984, p.91). Thus, the ultimate goal of socialism was to create a relatively equal and meritocratic society that is totally freed, prosperous, and all-inclusive. However, the means by which this goal may be achieved or the ultimate socialism end is still being contested.
Marxist emphasizes that for socialism to be effected successfully, capitalism must first be abolished through revolutions where the proletariat claims the state power over the capitalists. Marx nonetheless argues that in capitalist countries where universal suffrage is the norm, parliamentary road to socialism could be easily achieved (Matthews, 1986, p.27). In line with Marxist theory, the capitalist system is inherently unequal, unjust, and exploitative. Furthermore, to Marxists, the rise in severe economic crisis leads to extreme poverty and the continual gap between the capitalists and the working class. The inequality created by the economic crisis will result in a class conflict between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. Similarly, the class consciousness will increase with the working class transforming from being a class in itself to a class for itself. Based on Lange (1971) assertions, this will eventually make them succeed in overthrowing the capitalists system, the ultimate source or inequality as well as exploitation and take control of the state power (p.40).
Marxists argue that attaining socialism through parliamentary means is untenable since leaders of the parliamentary socialist parties can rather humanize than abolish capitalism. Alternatively, they can adopt more moderate policies so as to attract more electoral support. Another reason could be that the state institutions, which in most cases are not neutral, may discourage the accomplishment of radical socialists’ policies. Moreover, the continued application of capitalists’ ideas within the social system will, by extension, continue to inhibit the extent through which socialists reforms could be undertaken by the parliament (Lenin, 1918, p.391).
Marxists affirm that after the proletarian revolution, several stages had to be followed before the eventual achievement of communist classless within the society. The first stage out of all feasible stages is the proletarian dictatorship, where the leaders of the proletariat will concentrate power to avoid counter-revolution or consequently, where the power is restricted from the opponents. The socialist phase is when the private property is totally abolished, and the state resources become distributed to the working class according to everyone’s ability to work. In other words, the economic incentive will still be needed to distribute state resources (Lange, 1971, p.41). The gradual change from socialism to communism soon follow where the state resources would be distributed not derived from an individual’s ability to work but according to the people’s needs. This presents a high level of economic equality and outcome, which persists to be the ultimate goal of socialism.
In the Marxists theme, the abolition of the private property means a scheme to do away with the capitalists’ class and establish classlessness. As a result, the state which was previously under capitalists’ instruments will finally fade away though there would be the need for some forms of administrative tools to help in organizing the society at the national level (Martov, 1977, p.54). Thus, as the Marxists proclaim, ultimately, the revolution will create classlessness, prosperity, equality, and corporation among members of society.
Lenin (1918) maintains that the controversy is between radical revolutionary socialism and moderate evolutionary socialism (p.390). The dispute is on the way through which socialism can be achieved and its ultimate end. The radical revolutionary socialists support the total abolition of the capitalists system that entails the abolition of the private property, social class, private profit as well as the capitalists’ state. According to the radical socialists, this was necessary since the final goal of socialism is to end the class exploitation. For instance, this will put in place the production process and efficiently allocate all the available economic resources according to the people’s social needs instead of the dictations of the capitalists profit scheme (Matthews, 1986, p.29). Radical socialists view the new society as more economically equal. In essence, economic equality would ultimately bring greater liberty, equal opportunities and increase political participation.
Moderate evolutionary socialists on the other hand have opted to humanize the capitalists system instead of completely replace it in order to retain the liberal democracy institutions. According to the evolutionary socialists the eventual economic end of socialism is the increased economic opportunity which results in the rising living standard especially with respect to the poor in society (Oittinen, 2010, p.191). To the evolutionary socialists, this can be achieved through a combination of socialism and capitalism policies which in one way or the other gives rise to an egalitarian economic and social policy. The moderate socialists argue that some sort of inequalities is necessary to support the financial incentives though it should not be large enough to unfavorably affect the living conditions of the poor. Additionally, the state should not be seen as a capitalist or the socialist but as a neutral state that could be utilized to increase the goals of the socialists. Generally, the liberal socialists stresses that the liberal democratic political institutions are very essential in safeguarding civil liberties which in effect are deemed imperative components of socialism (Lowy, 1986, p.267).
Practically radical socialism later failed to materialize as those countries that later adopted the system gradually developed into anarchy. The development of the radical socialist movement into anarchy was predicted by some anarchist socialists who argued that several evolutionary front line parties would lead to the repressive one party state and to the impossibility of libertarian socialism which is regarded as the preferred anarchist variant of socialism (Marquit, 2005, p.502).
Socialism and communism picked momentum after the events and social conditions of the late 18th century and early 19th century. This period was marked by the Industrial revolution that swept across Western Europe (FitzGerald, 1985, p.9). The industrial revolution led to rapid growth in industries through coordinated mass production. In fact, the industrial expansion in Europe led to disastrous results as industries competed for markets without regulation and exploited the ever-growing number of industrial workers. Due to this exploitation, the living conditions of the social workers deteriorated seriously leading to extreme poverty and further degradation. In return, Callinicos (2010) states that socialism which was widely perceived as a form of economic planning emerged where the government controlled all means of revenue production and is involved in its allocation to the other sectors of the government, mostly based on priority (p.8).
Socialism was created to provide a solution to capitalism that was seen as the contributing factor to the uneven societal life. Socialist ideology and ideas were articulated by Karl Marx although they had earlier been put to practice by Lenin and Stalin in the communist USSR. It was centered on the fact that profit seeking, market competition and labor exploitation was leading the society to poverty (Stiglitz, 2001, p.169). Socialists argued that it was more productive to engage the society in production rather than let them scramble for it. Those who advocated for it only tool into consideration the notion of ideal society without understanding how it worked.
Marx criticized utopian socialism which was a fantasy of socialism. Harman (2010) claims that Marx called for action and not an imagination of how socialism would work without it being instituted (3). The main argument was that socialism could not establish or adjust itself without movement. To aptly support the point brought forward, Marx stated that communism was areal movement that acted to abolish capitalism. Instead of fantasy, Marx instituted and advocated for scientific socialism. Marx avoided the socialism in dreams by stating that, socialism could only be functional if it was composed of action. Utopian socialists differed in ideology with true and active socialism. They differed with socialists who argued that socialism could be realized without class struggle (Martin, 2009). Marx argued that socialism was meant to excite the poor to act violently against the rich governments. Furthermore, this socialist pointed out that the social relations of capitalism were characterized by social hierarchy and private ownership of property that could not function within socialism. Marx not only differed with utopian socialists on their ideologies but on how they described history and society. He cited that utopian socialists made reflective reason and voluntarism the developments motives of history (Marx, 1973, p.26).
Scientific socialism as articulated by Marx called for a scientific upheaval that could open people from economic oppression by setting allowing them the means of creation and taking away the abilities of the governing class and government. This was the only way that could provide every society affiliate the admission to means of mass production, adequate needs and free advance of physical and mental abilities. Scientific socialism according to Marx was the only means that the end of capitalism and politics will be abolished. Marx further predicted that the uncontrolled competition among the capitalists would grow so tight that at the end some capitalists will run out of business due to bankruptcy (FitzGerald, 1985, p.12). This would leave few capitalists who monopolized the means of production in business. Such a decisive notion formed the main point which would bring an end to capitalism.
Raines (2002) also supports the Marx maintained that competition in capitalism led to production of goods, inaccessible to workers and in the long run produced monopoly which was an essential means of exploiting the working class (p.5). He observed that there was a continuous struggle in capitalism among bourgeoisie, those who owned the means of production and the proletariat, the working class. According to Marx, the increasing number of laborers produced huge amounts of goods that they could not access, disturbing the equilibrium of supply and demand, making the market economy prone to economic and financial crises. Increasing proletariats would finally takeover the few continuing capitalists and set a system of socialist production and distribution. The complete capitalist arrangement with its reserved possessions, money, market system, profit maximization and labor exploitation must be eliminated and substituted with a fully organized, self-run economic organization that would bring a whole and absolute end to manipulation and isolation. A socialist insurgency according to Marx was unavoidable (Stiglitz, 2001, p.169). This would mark the realization of active communism and the start of a new era of socialism.
Further, Marx contended that the materialist outset of history started from the suggestion that the creation of the ways to sustain social life and following the invention, the trade of commodities produced was the foundation of all societal organization. This implied that in each society that has existed, the way in which treasure is circulated and community separated into classes is reliant on what is made, how it is made, and how the commodities are traded (Raines, 2002, p.5). From this proposition, the ultimatum reason of all communal variations and governmental upheavals are to be pursued in the economics of every particular period. The proletariat rule in France after the revolutions of 1848 and 1871 left no doubt that the end of capitalism was not a heresy but could happen. Although, it happened differently from what Marx had earlier predicted or theorized, communism was becoming inevitable in the capitalist societies. Not only did Marx conclude that socialist revolution was inevitable but he also recognized that, the proletariat needed to understand the dynamics of economy for them to run it better (Saul, 1986, p.215).
Marx saw the government as aiding the bourgeoisie in maintaining their monopoly over the means of production and the continued exploitation of workers. He emphasized on the need of maturity of capitalism before its take over, but before then, the revolution would only be a development of the bourgeoisie development (Stiglitz, 2001, p.167). Communism would commence an era of societal representation in all sectors of economy and life. This would mean that, the ruling class would have no dominant power over the means of production that led to formation of social classes, political classes and exploitation of workers would be abolished.
Evidently, the ideas of Marx were clearly laid and though of though, communism faced difficulties in the countries that it was practiced. Marx socialist ideology succeeded in influencing some nations to adopt them. For example, in Russia, the renowned leaders adopted the communist ideas proposed by Marx. This was adopted after the democratic movements led the country to anarchy. Its leader dubbed as Lenin incorporated the working poor to undermine the democratic governments. Under the socialist move, the government took control of all the revenue production means (Saul, 1986, p.222). Nonetheless, through terror both Lenin and Stalin succeeded in turning the Soviet Union into a communist republic. Communism was also adopted by other countries like Cuba, China and North Korea. It is however worth noting that communism failed to provide viable answers to capitalism demise. This argument by Marx immensely accrued due to the misunderstanding in allocation of produced commodities. For example, in the Soviet Union some social amenities lacked capital while other unimportant sectors were awarded. Marx ideas on socialism were realistic in the sense that if they could be well applied, countries could realize economic growth and adequate societal life (Raines, 2002, p.6). The failure of socialism was not on the ideology but it was apparently due to the difference in wealth distribution.
The Soviet Union became the first country in the world to adopt socialism as advocated by Marx as a way of life and production. It is believed that Marx rather loosely assembled theory of communism and its ideologies are largely responsible for the formation and the fall of the Soviet authoritarianism (Callinicos, 2010, p.8). Leninism in the Soviet Union was a kind of a faith, campaigning on the need of class rivalry, the authoritarianism of the proletariat and the meditation of absolute power in a firmly organized party that is allegedly the precursor of the radical multitudes. Communism under Lenin was assertive in its resolve to eliminate isolated property and nationalize the ways of manufacture as the initial steps to attaining its eventual aim, the egalitarian society. Marx communist ideas stemmed from the view that scientists should render their services to creation of an egalitarian society that was an advancement of the socialist movements that has started in Europe (Paolucci, 2004, p.619).
Marx communist ideology criticized utopian thought which was the perceived creation of a blueprint in a society and stated that it was a wrong approach to communism and socialism (Stiglitz, 2001, p.169). Indeed, Marx communist vision enshrined political scuffle, suppleness, firmness and modification. The communist ideology according to Marx was four-phased. The first phase according to Marx was the revolution epitomized by class struggle. The phase was flexible and was dependent on historical occurrences. The revolution was to be initiated and won by the working class. The onset of communism in USSR was as a result of the elite creation and not the working class that differed sharply with the Marxism theory. On the other hand, the revolution was to be progressive following a trail left by the capitalists’ demise. Marx emphasized on waiting for the ripe time to seize and destroy the state by the proletariat. He viewed capitalism as an important ingredient for socialism to take over (Paolucci, 2004, p.624).
Marx argued that it was not right to destroy the existing state mechanisms as they were important in redistribution and in defense against the bourgeoisie. The proletariat needed to convince the population to prevent counter revolution by the bourgeoisie and the middle-class. Marx stated that socialism led to realization of full communism that was first based on the established frameworks of the capitalism and contained high levels of freedom than capitalism (Saul, 1986, p.215). It is evident that the USSR communist leaders violated the Marxist laws and created a rigid and an oppressive dictatorship in the bogus form of communism. In its formation, the Soviet socialism abolished the existing capitalist system that was to provide a historical platform that communism would be based on. In addition, the Soviet proletariat dictatorship remained largely in force (Paolucci, 1989, p.647). Soviet Union remained largely hostile to market economy, private accumulation of wealth, undeserved income, profit making and exploitation of citizens. The Soviet socialism paid great attention to culture as a way of human action and was largely prevented from contamination by western influence. Further, socialism remained opposed to democracy as it was viewed it as a way of human exploitation by the wealthy that used money to coerce voters to vote for them (Lovell, 1989, p.12).
Communism needed time for the prerequisite knowledge to be transformed to action. The Soviet communism not only defied the historical perspective adopted by Marx but also the time frame that was crucial to the formation of a successful communist state. Under Lenin, USSR used the poor agrarian communities to undermine the democratic government that existed. In his quest for power, Lenin brain washed the proletariat into action by using the Marxist ideology. The revolution towards socialism and its development were based on three factors. First, the soviets had an anticipation of a strong redistributive method and communal justice. They did not put into consideration the beneficiaries of the redistributive programme (Lovell, 1989, p.12). Secondly, the soviets had a worldview that the Soviet Union was a super power having delivered the world from the committed by the Nazis and World War II. The third factor was the commitment the nation gave to issues of development and modernization. All these issue and others served as a scape goat to the failing system of communism under Lenin.
In the development of socialism towards communism, Lenin ignored the principle targets of history of the country as precursors towards attaining fully fledged communism (Saul, 1986, p.219). It is rather ironical that, Lenin also ignored the need for capitalism structures as the stepping stoned towards communism. Lenin violated the common features of communists like flexibility, freedom and redistribution based on need to create a dictatorial communist regime flagged by mass killings, oppression and faulty redistributive system. In the postwar periods, classes of various and intricate beneficiaries sprouted as the soviets became enlightened on matters of housing, annuities and holidays among others (Stiglitz, 2001, p.156). Fresh from realizing an economic boom, the leaders mismanaged and run the country through infliction of fear as a way of keeping democracy at bay. The leadership of the Soviet Union under Lenin was characterized by a hierarchical form of a structure with the peal being the leader down to the peasants.
In contrast, the leaders were directly answerable to the hierarchy and not responsible to the people. This created a void in the representation of the people. In other cases, the access to some products was dictated by the status in the hierarchy, denying some soviets some goods. Since money was not such useful, leaders became wealthy by hoarding goods. The Soviet Union was notorious for its human rights violation. It possessed a group of highly trained secretive society called the KGB, which was tasked with suppressing the uprisings of the proletariat created by the regime. The arrival of Brezhnev system at the end of the 1960s, an era called the era of stagnation fashioned a hostile environment to acute and inventive discerning and steered to strengthening of philosophical regulation of society (Paolucci, 2004, p.627).
In conclusion, it is important to note that debates pertaining to the transition to socialism as well as those that address communism have been witnessed over centuries. Most of these debate critically analyze and equally embrace these facets given that they either directly or indirect affect the level of economic, political and environmental activities and the existence of societal members. For instance, democratic coexistence, class struggle, political affiliations and resource distribution materialize to be decisive elements in Marxists assertions. In fact, transition to socialism is perceived and still persists to be a pertinent reality in nations indulged in socialism construction. Therefore, the generalization which might be evidently drawn from these uncertain efforts seems to be at preeminent knowledgeable reflection alongside informed comments as opposed to firm conclusions and defensible affirmations.
Important to note is that the instrumental fundamental framework which Engel and Marx developed could be applied in broad social, political and economic contexts than anyone could ever imagine. The ensuing debates rather assists in expounding and making relevant the understanding of the prevailing conditions and problems within the society that urgently calls for the application of these well-articulated theories.
Callinicos, A. 2010. The Manifesto and the Crisis Today. The Communist Manifesto. Bloomsbury, London: Bookmarks.
FitzGerald, E. V. 1985. The problem of balance in the peripheral socialist economy: A conceptual note. World Development, vol. 13(1), pp.5-13.
Harman, C. 2010. The Manifesto and the World of 1848: The Communist Manifesto. Bloomsbury, London: Bookmarks.
Lange, O. 1971. On the policy of transition. Monthly Review, Vol. 22(January), pp.38-44.
Lenin, V. 1918. The state and revolution. The economic basis of the withering away of the state. Collected Works, Vol. 25, p. 381-492. Web.
Lovell, S. 2006. Destination in Doubt: Russia since 198911-16. London, UK: Zed Books
Lowy, M. 1986. Mass organization, party, and state: Democracy in the transition to socialism. New York, NY: Monthly Review, pp.264-279.
Marquit, E. 2005. Marxist Forum. Nature, Society & Thought, vol.18 (4), pp.501-502.
Mars, P. 1984. Destabilization and socialist orientation in the English-speaking Caribbean. Latin American Perspectives, vol.42 (summer), pp.83-110.
Martin, S. 2009. Artistic communism – A Sketch. Web.
Martov, J. 1977. Marx and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat. The State and the Socialist revolution, pp. 49-56.
Marx, K. 1973. Critique of the Gotha Programme. Selected Works, Vol. 3, pp. 26.
Matthews, R. 1986. Sowing dragon’s teeth: The U.S. war against Nicaragua. NACLA Report on the Americas, vol.20 (July-August), pp.13-38.
Oittinen, V. 2010. Marx in Russia. Socialism and Democracy, vol.24 (3), pp.187-192.
Paolucci, P. 2004. The Discursive Transformation of Marx’s Communism in to Soviet Diamat. Critical Sociology, vol.30 (3), pp.617-667.
Raines, J. 2002. Introduction. Marx on Religion. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
Saul, J. 1986. The role of ideology in the transition to socialism. Transition and development: Problems of world socialism, pp.212-230.
Stiglitz, J. 2001. Whither Reform?–Ten Years of the Transition. In Joseph Stiglitz and the World Bank: The Rebel Within. Ha-Joon Chang Ed. London: Anthem Press: 127-171.