Scientific Communism

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Scientific Communism


of the three components of Marxism-Leninism, the one concerned with the disclosure of the general laws, methods, and forms of the class struggle of the proletariat, of socialist revolution, and of socialist and communist construction. The term “scientific communism” (or “scientific socialism”) is also used in a broader sense to refer to Marxism-Leninism as a whole.

Scientific communism is organically linked with the other components of Marxism-Leninism—Marxist philosophy and political economy. As Engels observed, the transformation of socialism from Utopia to science was determined primarily by two great discoveries—the materialist conception of history and the theory of surplus value. The theoretical basis for the rise of scientific communism in the 1840’s was the disclosure by historical materialism of the objective foundations of the existence of human society and the general tendencies of its development, as well as by the analysis by political economy of economic relations. Of particular importance was the analysis of the economic foundations of the contradictions of capitalism and the inevitability of socialist revolution.

Scientific communism was formulated by Marx and Engels and was developed further, under new historical conditions, by V. I. Lenin and his disciples and followers.

The general outlines of communism were sketched by Marx as early as 1843–44. In The German Ideology (1845), Marx and Engels advanced an important point: “Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be established, an ideal to which reality will have to adjust itself. We call communism the real movement which abolishes the present state of things” (Soch., 2nd ed., vol. 3, p. 34).

The first programmatic document of scientific communism was the Communist Manifesto (1848), in which Marx and Engels demonstrated that the capitalist system contains irreconcilable contradictions that can only be resolved by a socialist revolution, which will abolish the rule of the bourgeoisie and establish the power of the working class. They showed that the social force whose calling it is to abolish capitalism and establish the socialist system is the working class, whose allies are the other strata of the toiling masses. Marx and Engels performed a great service by demonstrating that it is necessary for the proletariat to form its own independent political party.

Scientific communism underwent further creative development as a result of Marx’ and Engels’ generalizations on the experience of the revolutions of 1848–49 and of the Paris Commune (1871), as well as through their struggle against many kinds of non-Marxist currents, both right-wing and left-wing (The Class Struggles in France, 1848 to 1850, The Civil War in France, Das Kapital, Critique of the Gotha Program, Anti-Dühring, and The Origin of the Family, Private Property, and the State). Marx and Engels created the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, developed the thesis that a transitional period from capitalism to socialism is inevitable, and made the concept of the communist socioeconomic formation more concrete, showing that it includes two phases, socialism and communism. A general description of the two phases was provided by Marx and Engels.

The name of V. I. Lenin is associated with a new stage in the development of the theory of scientific communism. Lenin creatively enriched the theory of socialist revolution and the theory of the construction of socialist and communist society. He armed the Russian working-class movement and the entire international working-class movement with scientifically based strategy and tactics, and he led the struggle to put the ideals of scientific communism into practice. Lenin demonstrated that capitalism had entered the imperialist stage of its development, which is the eve of socialist revolution. He came to the conclusion that the victory of the socialist revolution is possible initially in a few or even in one capitalist country. Lenin made the Marxist theory of the hegemony of the proletariat more specific, showing the need for the working class to lead the struggle of all the toiling masses in the new historical era, not only in the socialist revolution but also in any people’s revolution, as well as during socialist and communist construction. Developing the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Lenin revealed a new type of proletarian state, which, in Russia, was later embodied in the Soviets. He developed the Marxist doctrine of the party of the working class, revealed the connection between the struggle for democracy and the struggle for socialism, and pointed out the relationship between the national and colonial questions and the socialist revolution. With his teachings on socialist industrialization, cooperative peasant farming, and the cultural revolution, he enriched the theory of how the new society would be built. He revealed the general laws of socialist construction, and he advanced the idea of the developed socialist society. The Leninist stage in the development of scientific communism has been continued in the theoretical work of the CPSU and other Communist and workers’ parties.

The most important historical event in the development and practical realization of the theory of scientific communism was the victory of the Great October Socialist Revolution in Russia, which was followed by the victory of socialist revolutions in a number of other countries and the transformation of socialism into a world system. With the rise of the communist formation, scientific communism became an empirically tested science of socialist construction and acquired a new object of theoretical investigation. The CPSU, together with the other Communist parties, has worked out important new theoretical problems of scientific communism. The present epoch has been defined from the standpoint of Marxism-Leninism. The Leninist thesis on the unity of general laws and the variety of particular forms in the transition of different countries from capitalism to socialism has been made more concrete. The role of people’s democracy as a new, historically concrete form of the dictatorship of the proletariat has been revealed, and the problem of how the state evolves from a dictatorship of the proletariat into a state of the whole people under the conditions of victorious, consolidated socialism has been solved.

Developed socialism has been characterized by the CPSU and other Communist parties as a stage of socialist society, and the laws of the evolution of socialism into communism have been further clarified, especially the means of establishing the material and technical basis for communism, the formation of communist social relations, and the molding of the new man. The particular features of the development of the world socialist system, as well as its laws, have been disclosed, and the forms through which it influences the world revolutionary process have been revealed. The Leninist principle of peaceful coexistence between states with different social systems has undergone further creative development, and the conclusion has been drawn that it is possible to prevent aggressive imperialist wars in the contemporary era.

The subject matter of study. Although the process of the rise, consolidation, and evolution of communist society is studied by all the components of Marxist-Leninist doctrine (Marxist philosophy, political economy, and scientific communism), each of them has its own particular object of investigation, and each has specific methods of carrying out the overall task.

Dialectical and historical materialism discloses the philosophical foundations and principles underlying the transformation of society along communist lines, and political economy analyzes the economic processes that lead to communism and that are characteristic of it. The function of scientific communism is to give an integrated picture of socialist and communist society; to show that the movement toward communism is the inevitable result of the struggle of the working class and the product of interrelated changes in the productive forces, the economic basis, the social structure, and the ideology of society; and to indicate the paths of struggle for the new social system. Scientific communism gives the social and political reasons for the downfall of capitalism and the triumph of communism. The logical and consistent culmination of philosophical materialism and Marxist political economy is found in scientific communism. However, scientific communism cannot be effective without its philosophical and economic foundations.

Many problems fall within the scope of scientific communism, which establishes the historical inevitability of the downfall of capitalism and the triumph of communism and analyzes the historical prerequisites and conditions for the revolutionary transformation of capitalism into communism. In addition, scientific communism explains the world historical role of the working class and the toiling masses led by it in the battle for communism. Scientific communism studies the class struggle of the proletariat and the socialist revolution, as well as other revolutionary and liberation movements. It analyzes the laws and methods of building socialism and communism and seeks to clarify the basic features of the transitional period from capitalism to socialism and of the socialist and communist phases in the development of society. Furthermore, it determines the basic principles in the strategy and tactics of the Marxist-Leninist parties at different historical stages, and it studies the scientific methods of organizing society at all stages of socialist and communist construction.

Scientific communism points out ways of using objective laws in the struggle for communism, which is especially important under conditions in which all aspects of public life are consciously organized. It also investigates the specific role and importance of the subjective factor in carrying out the revolutionary transformation of capitalist society and in building the new social order.

A special characteristic of scientific communism is its strong tradition of studying the development of the communist formation as a whole from the point of view of the most general laws of its origin, its consolidation, and its development.

Laws and categories of scientific communism. A particular feature of the laws of the communist formation is their universal character—that is, they are manifested in one form or another in all spheres of social life and in all countries that choose the path of socialist and communist construction. These laws may be in effect throughout the development of the communist formation, but they may also take particular forms at certain stages of that development.

In the period of the socialist revolution and the building of socialism a number of laws are applicable, including the alliance of the working class with the masses of the peasantry, the dictatorship of the proletariat, the transformation of economic and social relations along socialist lines, and the cultural revolution. Also applicable are the laws of the establishment of equality and fraternal friendship among peoples, proletarian internationalism, and the defense of socialist gains against foreign and domestic enemies.

Under victorious socialism and a developed socialist society a number of laws of the preceding stage of development continue to operate, but they are enriched and modified under new historical circumstances. At the same time, some laws cease to operate, owing to the disappearance of the conditions that gave rise to them. Similarly, new laws come into operation with the rise of new conditions (for example, with the rise of the world socialist system).

Scientific communism studies the general laws of the rise of the communist formation and the laws of the contemporary world revolutionary process, including the objective necessity for the socialist revolution to take on a worldwide character and be carried out by the domestic forces in each country, as long as the objective and subjective prerequisites are present. It studies the leadership of the working class, headed by a Marxist-Leninist party, as the necessary condition for deepening and extending the world revolutionary process. The alliance of the international working class with the peasantry and other strata of the toiling masses in particular countries is studied by scientific communism, as is the alliance between the international working class and the national liberation movements. Scientific communism also studies the broadening of the social base of the world liberation movement in particular countries and on a world scale, as well as the unevenness in the development of the world revolutionary process and the different times at which the socialist revolution is victorious in different countries. It also examines peaceful coexistence between states with differing social systems as a particular form of the class struggle.

A number of very general laws are specifically associated with the communist formation, including the conscious character of social transformations and the scientific character of the management of social processes, under the leadership of the working class and a Marxist-Leninist party. Also among the general laws of the communist formation is the harmonious, balanced, and planned development of social processes and of all aspects of social life, which replaces the anarchy and competition of capitalism, the antagonisms between town and country and between mental and physical labor, and class inequality. Another general law of the communist formation is the emergence among people free from exploitation of genuine collective practices, mutual aid, and cooperation based on public ownership. The law of the emergence of social homogeneity with the comprehensive development of the individual is also associated with the communist formation, as are the increased independence, initiative, and activity of the masses. Also linked with the communist formation is the law that social evolution takes place without political revolution.

The laws and categories of scientific communism are distinguished from those of dialectical and historical materialism in that they are linked with the rise, consolidation, and development of a single socioeconomic formation—the communist formation. Unlike the categories of other sciences that study communist society, those of scientific communism reflect the general processes of development of the communist formation, as well as the particular forms in which these processes are manifested. Thus, the laws and categories of scientific communism have a methodological function in relation to the particular sciences that study socialism and communism. The most general category of scientific communism is the communist socioeconomic formation, after which come such categories as the epoch of transition from capitalism to communism, the socialist revolution, the dictatorship of the proletariat, and the transitional period from capitalism to socialism and from socialism to communism.

Like Marxism-Leninism as a whole, scientific communism is inherently international. It is the product of generalization on the experience of the world working-class and communist movement, as well as on that of the revolutionary movement in particular countries. It lays bare the general laws and the specific features of socialist and communist construction in all countries making the transition to communism.

At different stages of social development, depending on the specific historical circumstances, particular aspects or problems of scientific communism come to the fore. In countries that are carrying out socialist transformations, the chief objects of study are the problems of the transitional period from capitalism to socialism. Where the socialist revolution has not yet been carried out, scientific communism focuses on the problems of the struggle to establish the political power of the working class in alliance with all the toilers.

The diversity of the problems considered at a particular stage does not mean that each country requires its own form of scientific communism. Just as there are no separate, national varieties of mathematics, physics, or chemistry, there are not and cannot be different varieties of scientific communism corresponding to different geographic, national, or other factors. Allowance for the specific features of each country’s development is part of the content of the unitary scientific communist theory. Only the combination of the international and national tasks of the working people in the struggle for the triumph of socialism and communism can invariably create the conditions for the success of the international revolutionary movement.

Under contemporary historical conditions, the need for the further creative development of the science of communism has been given very high priority, because scientific communism is responsible for providing theoretical generalization on new phenomena, for making practical recommendations on carrying out the tasks of communist construction, and for engaging in ideological struggle against bourgeois and revisionist theories.

The most important trends in the development of the theory of scientific communism under contemporary conditions are expressed in the resolutions of congresses of the CPSU and other fraternal parties. In the resolution of the Central Committee of the CPSU On Measures for Further Developing the Social Sciences and Enhancing Their Role in Communist Construction (1967), the tasks of scientific communism are enumerated: “to elaborate the Leninist theory of socialist revolution as it applies to the present epoch; to disclose the laws of development of the world revolutionary process and analyze the class struggle of the international proletariat and the problems of the national liberation movement and of the anti-imperialist struggle; to work out the theoretical problems of the international communist movement in the present epoch; to study the problems of war and peace; to make a profound, thorough disclosure of the antagonistic contradictions between socialism and capitalism; to make a comprehensive study of the social and political problems in the development of socialism and in its evolution into communism; to elucidate the social results of the scientific and technological revolution; to investigate the ways and means of eliminating the divergence in the conditions of labor, everyday life, and cultural development in town and country and of organically merging physical and mental labor in productive activities; to work out the problems of development in national relations; to elaborate scientific methods of managing social processes; to analyze form and content in the work of communist upbringing and the ways and means of overcoming private-property attitudes, religious superstitions, and other survivals of the past in the consciousness and habits of the working people; to investigate the processes and problems of perfecting the system of government and socialist democracy and of educating the people in the spirit of patriotism and internationalism; and to study the experience of building socialism in other countries” (KPSS v rezoliutsiiakh. . . , 8th ed., vol. 9, 1972, pp. 349–50).

At the present stage it is very important to analyze developed socialist society comprehensively, to study its special criteria and its historical place in the development of the communist formation, to investigate the laws underlying the transition from socialism to communism, and to clarify the motive forces in this transition and the real contradictions and difficulties in building the new society. A matter of considerable importance is the strengthening of the leading role of the working class and the Communist Party in developed socialist society. The clarification of the essence of the new historical community, the Soviet people, is also a pressing concern. An important aspect of scientific communism is the study of the laws of the rise and development of culture in socialist society and the ways and means of molding the new man. The scientific elaboration of the problems of managing social processes and the means of integrating the achievements of the scientific and technological revolution with the advantages of socialism is becoming exceptionally important.

Scientific communism has been taught as a scholarly discipline in the higher educational institutions of the USSR since 1963.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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