The need for the working class to organise a revolutionary party to overthrow capitalism and create a socialist society is the most important conclusion of Marxism. If dialectical materialism and its tools of dialectical thought allow us to answer the question of ‘why?’ things are the way they are, this conclusion, drawn from the experience of working class struggle, answers ‘how?’ we will change society. The revolutionary theory of Marxism gives us the firmest foundation for this task. We can make predictions about future developments based on a scientific examination of the past and present. In other words we can develop political perspectives to base our political programme and strategy and tactics for the class struggle on.
By arming us with an understanding of the objective basis for the struggle for socialism Marxism helps to protect us from being swept away by the inevitable ups and downs of the class struggle. For example, a temporary demoralisation of the working class in the face of a defeat. Whilst working class consciousness is a crucial factor in the struggle for socialism, ultimately the struggle is not based on subjective ‘points of view’ but on the objective contradictions of capitalism. These contradictions cannot help but find an expression in the consciousness of the working class. By acting as the working class’s historical memory it is the task of the revolutionary party to help speed-up the drawing of revolutionary conclusions and point out in the clearest way the tasks necessary to change society.
If humans are “nature made conscious”, as Hegel said, then Marxism allows us to develop that consciousness to its fullest. We often refer to the revolutionary party as “the subjective factor” in history. But it is not subjective in the unconscious sense that we looked at in Part I. The revolutionary party is fully able to objectively explain and understand its role in changing society. On the basis of that understanding, our subjective ‘points of view’ and the actions that flow from them acquire a new power and take on a revolutionary character. In The Communist Manifesto, Marx explained that, “All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority.” It is Marxism that allows this movement of the “immense majority” to be truly “self-conscious”.
“The tragic defeats suffered by the world proletariat over a long period of years doomed the official organizations to yet greater conservatism and simultaneously sent disillusioned petty bourgeois “revolutionists” in pursuit of “new ways.” As always during epochs of reaction and decay, quacks and charlatans appear on all sides, desirous of revising the whole course of revolutionary thought. Instead of learning from the past, they “reject” it. Some discover the inconsistency of Marxism, others announce the downfall of Bolshevism. There are those who put responsibility upon revolutionary doctrine for the mistakes and crimes of those who betrayed it; others who curse the medicine because it does not guarantee an instantaneous and miraculous cure. The more daring promise to discover a panacea and, in anticipation, recommend the halting of the class struggle. A good many prophets of “new morals” are preparing to regenerate the labour movement with the help of ethical homeopathy. The majority of these apostles have succeeded in becoming themselves moral invalids before arriving on the field of battle. Thus, under the aspect of “new ways,” old recipes, long since buried in the archives of pre-Marxian socialism, are offered to the proletariat.”
Leon Trotsky, The Transitional Programme, 1938