Background: Terms that tend to mean one thing in ordinary English usage had particular meanings under Marxism-Leninism. This page includes translations of terms like “capitalism,” “freedom,” “republic,” and “war.” The definition of freedom is particularly interesting. Rather than relatively unrestricted individual freedom, it essentially meant doing what the laws of history and society demanded. As such, it has interesting similarities with the notion of “Christian freedom,” which maintains that to be truly free is to act according to God’s will. This is part of a developing set of pages on the GDR and religion, on which Calvin student Kevin Wuest is working with me.
The source: Kleines politisches Wörterbuch (Berlin: Dietz Verlag, 1967).
Definitions of Capitalism, Community, Freedom, Justice, Republic, War
Capitalism: Economic form of society that is founded on private ownership of the means of production, the private appropriation of the results of production, and the exploitation of laborers; historically, the last exploitative society. The two classes of capitalism – both in opposition to each other – are the bourgeoisie (capitalists) who own the means of production and control politics and the economy, and the working class (proletariat), who are legally free, but since they do not own the means of production, they must sell their labor to the capitalists. There are also other classes and social strata (farmers, craftsmen, intelligentsia). The development of capitalism not only leads to the increase of antagonistic class differences between the bourgeoisie and proletariat, but also to the exploitation and subversion of the other classes and strata. The fundamental law of capitalism is the law of surplus value; the goal of capitalist production is profit. Capitalism’s fundamental contraction is contradiction between the social nature of production and private capitalistic appropriation of the fruits of labor. Capitalism finds its expression in the anarchy of production and competition, which leads to greater concentration and centralization of capital on the one hand, and the worsening of the working class’s situation on the other. Periodically, economic crises, wars, and bitter class struggles result. The bourgeoisie exerts its political rule with the help of the middle-class state. Historically, capitalism superseded feudalism. It developed in the womb of feudalism, under which the way it accumulated wealth is of decisive importance. The first stage of capitalism’s development, early capitalism, is marked by the formation of co-operatives and manufacturing. The second stage, open competition, is characterized by the Industrial Revolution and the development of capitalist factory system. The third stage and final stage, imperialism, is monopolistic capitalism, in which the general crisis of capitalism emerges. At this developmental stage, monopolistic capitalism evolves into state-monopolistic capitalism. Capitalism creates greater productive capacity than all former systems of production, significantly increasing labor productivity, and developing modern science. The contradiction between the social forces of production and the conditions intensifies into imperialism, the last stage of capitalism, which forces its dissolution. Capitalism is inevitably superseded by socialism. This is the historic mission of the working class. In the class struggle against the bourgeoisie, the worker classes steeled themselves and built class organizations, above all the Marxist-Leninist party, which scientifically leads the political, economic, and ideological struggle of the working class. The working class will be the leader of all oppressed and exploited peoples, strata, and democratic powers as social life is transformed.
Community (Gemeinschaft): Historically determined, relatively constant form of human organization. Every community is rooted in specific material and social conditions, which produce common interests, goals, and outlooks, and therefore form strong communal bonds. Historically seen, community and society were essentially identical in primitive societies; the rise of private ownership of the means of production resulted in social class divisions, the oppression and exploitation of people by other people, and the elimination of social equality; community and society therefore separated in antagonistic class society. Community develops primarily from individual class membership and has a clear class character, which does not preclude community developed across classes when established communities share fundamental commonalities in their material living conditions, such as in national communities. The transition to socialism, which means the elimination of private ownership of the means of production and of all forms of exploitation, results in the equality of all people and makes it possible to unify society and community once more, but on a higher level. As socialist society and strengthens, socialist community forms from the free and conscious unification of equal members of the socialist society, who under the leadership of the Marxist-Leninist party together determine the process of social life. In bourgeoisie philosophy and sociology, community is understood as a social psychological or merely intellectual phenomenon, in any case something independent of the material basis of social life (production), and in contract to society.
Freedom: The relationship of humanity to the objective laws of nature and society, especially in understanding and mastering them in productive ways. Freedom means understanding objective necessity, and the resulting ability to use one’s knowledge of natural laws; freedom also includes the economic, political, legal, and ideological conditions that must be considered. The Marxist-Leninist concept of freedom sees the relation of necessity and freedom as a dialectical relationship, and freedom as recognition of objective necessity and as the application and full use of the recognized necessity in social practice. Although necessity encompasses all areas of objective reality, freedom is a specific social category that cannot be extended to other areas. The concept of freedom as a societal category includes the problem of personal freedom. However, freedom is a concrete historical category; there is no such thing as absolute freedom. The Marxist concept of freedom holds the various aspects of the category of freedom (e.g., economic, political, artistic and moral freedom) together in the philosophical definition, and denies splitting of the conceptual content into separate areas. In the dialectical relationship between necessity and freedom, necessity is always the prerequisite for our freedom. If humanity does not recognize it, it nonetheless breaks through spontaneously. Insofar as we recognize and intentionally apply necessity, as we want objective necessity and act accordingly, necessity ceases to work spontaneously and is elevated and transformed into freedom in this sense, without ceasing to remain necessity. “Necessity does not disappear by becoming freedom.” (Lenin) “Freedom does not lie in the imagined independence from natural laws, but instead in the recognition of these laws and in allowing them work toward specific purposes.” (Engels) Freedom as a social condition (rule of freedom) assumes freedom as a process. The transformation of the rule of necessity into the rule of freedom can only succeed when humanity recognizes not only the laws of nature, but also the laws of society, and plans social life accordingly in a systematic and conscious manner. In the previous history of socialism, social necessity manifested itself in conflict between individual wills, and appeared as “senseless and purposeless force.” (Engels) To a growing degree under socialism, social necessity is in agreement with the individual wills of workers, and the larger common will is a combination of the individual wills of socialist people, which corresponds to social necessity. Social necessity becomes a recognized and deliberate power, and is transformed into social freedom. This process is only possible by eliminating human exploitation. As the working class built its political power, eliminated capitalist conditions of production, and replaced them with socialism, it destroyed the foundation of capitalist oppression: wage slavery. The socialization of the means of production eliminated the oppression of people by other people in the production process and in social life, establishing relationships of people working together, the collective; work ceases to be painful or a necessary evil, and begins to be a need. Personal freedom is always tied to social requirements, which determine the concrete boundaries and content of the freedom of the individual. The ideology of the imperialist bourgeoisie seeks to rob the concept of freedom of all concrete historical content, and change it to a blank slate upon which they can inscribe imperialistic content. Abstract propaganda for freedom and the spread of illusions about freedom are among the most important instruments of the state monopoly power. After the elimination of exploitation under socialism, a community of people arises for the first time in which the personal freedom of the individual can fully unfold. Personal freedom is not independent of society, nor is it an anarchistic lack of boundaries, but rather it is the real possibility to freely develop and use one’s individual abilities and needs in a way consistent with the fundamental interests of society. Under socialism, the overcoming of the remnants of material and intellectual slavery means that people can progress according to known laws, and that we can define the social order of socialism and communism as the rule of freedom, over against previous human history. Under socialism and communism, freedom remains a process that is continually transformed and deepened.
Justice: Ethical and legal category that refers to social equality of humanity, which is only possible only with the common ownership of the means of production, and which enables real equality in a legal sense. Justice as a standard of social relationships is not a timeless, universal, or unchanging concept. Middle-class society can claim only the formal legal equality of civil law as its highest principle of justice, because the primary purpose of justice – the protection of capitalist property – is the basis for the perpetuation of societal inequalities. Historical materialism discovered the class nature of justice and proved that the working class’s pursuit of justice requires the abolition of exploitation, social inequality, bureaucratic despotism, and imperialistic war, which means the elimination of capitalism and the establishing the common ownership of the means of production under socialism. The Marxist-Leninist concept of justice contains fundamentally includes equal social possibilities for all people to develop their personal abilities on the basis of inviolable legal and moral principles. By justice, we understand that the power of imperialism and militarism will finally be broken, the peaceful endeavors of the people will be protected, and every imperialistic attempt to misuse humanity for aggressive purposes will be ruthlessly eliminated; that socialist accomplishments are inviolable, that all citizens will be equally entitled to take part in socialist construction and through their work create a better life for all; that there will be no privileged classes that exploit and oppress the people, that the socialist principle “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need” will be realized; and that those citizen who accomplishes best results for society will enjoy the highest appreciation be honor.
Republic: Form of government in which the highest organ of the state is an elected body. (Parliament, House of Representatives, Volkskammer) The way in which the highest organ is elected, its powers, and its relationship with government, the legal system, and other areas may vary, but are always determined by the class nature of the state. For example, the republic of slave owners could be either an aristocratic republic, in which only a small number of the privileged could vote, or a democratic republic in which all except slaves could vote, but both were dictatorships of the slave holders. Under capitalism, a republic can take form in which the government is dependent on the support of the parliament, or a presidential republic, in which the government depends not upon a parliament, but instead upon a president. Both are forms of the exercise of power by the ruling bourgeoisie. Where bourgeois democratic freedoms such as the freedoms of the press, assembly, and formation of coalitions exist in a republic, it is called a bourgeois democratic republic. This is also a form of bourgeoisie rule; the democratic rights and freedoms are limited, not guaranteed, and will be eliminated as soon as bourgeoisie rule is threatened by the class struggle of the working class and other laboring classes. The imperialist bourgeoisie strives especially hard toward restricting and eliminating these rights and freedoms. The working class in capitalist states must wage a constant battle to ensure their preservation. Socialist republics are forms of rule of the working class in federation with all working peoples, and differ fundamentally from exploitive societies. In Soviet republics, in the form of people’s democratic republics, national democratic republics, and the other forms that have been, and are still being created by the liberation struggles of the working classes and oppressed colonial peoples, the masses take societal development into their own hands.
War: Violent continuation of politics, organized armed combat between classes, states, or nations, which is undertaken for the economic interests or political and military goals of specific classes. Historically, war is the result of the division of community into antagonistic classes. It is rooted in the production relationships of exploitive society, today represented by imperialism. Only when that social system is overthrown in every country will the socioeconomic grounds for war will disappear. With the growth of the socialist world system, the national liberation movements, the international workers’ movement, and new nation states that act against war, along with the growing strength of peace-loving forces in the world, the opportunity for the prevention of world war arises. The Marxist-Leninists “have always condemned wars between the peoples as barbaric and bestial.” (Lenin). They distinguish, however, between just and unjust wars. A just war serves the interests of the majority of the people, and advances social progress. They are wars by oppressed progressive classes, or by progressive classes threatened with oppression, or by peoples threatened by oppression, against the oppressor. People’s uprisings, such as national liberation struggles or wars to resist imperialist aggression, are just wars. Unjust wars are wars that are intended to smother revolutionary movements, or to conquer, exploit, or destroy foreign lands and peoples. All wars by reactionary powers are unjust, particularly the world war that was caused and unleashed by German imperialism’s efforts to become a world power.
As resolutely as they support just wars, Marxist-Leninist parties and socialist states reject unjust war and fight against it with all peace-loving peoples. They condemn war as a means of resolving international disputes, and see the prevention of thermonuclear world war as the most critical burning problem for humanity, and its primary task. War can be prevented when the socialist states increase their economic, political, and military might, when all peace-motivated social forces throughout the world unite, and achieve peaceful coexistence and step-by-step total disarmament between states with different social systems. The struggle to prevent war is currently taking on special significance in the face of growing imperialist aggression. Imperialist aggression is the result of its economic and political nature. Today, imperialist aggression is growing as a result of its reactionary attempts to resist changes in the international balance of power in favor of peace, democracy, national independence, and socialism, and to maintain its power by violently suppressing progressive, democratic, revolutionary, and national liberation movements. This is part of a global strategy that includes the “covert warfare” and “limited war,” which increase the danger of a nuclear world war. In order to prevent the outbreak of such a war on European soil, the communist and workers parties, and the socialist states of Europe, advocate the creation of a European security system.
[Translation by Kevin Wuest and Randall Bytwerk. Page copyright © 2008 by Randall Bytwerk. No unauthorized reproduction. My e-mail address is available on the FAQ page.
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