The Communist Club (1840-1920) was essentially a political social club, primarily for German émigrés, which, under a variety of names, operated out of various central London premises during the mid to late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Most Left personages of the era had some association with the Club, but the most important was Karl Marx.
In this day and age the idea of Black Rod solemnly knocking on the door of the House of Commons so that the Queen can go in and read a speech that has been written for her by the government is a piece of nonsense that accords well with the rest of bourgeois tradition.
It may be interesting to examine these three men, not as individuals, but as standpoints, because in the eyes of many people who try to understand something in our time, they represent three different situations and analyses.
If state capitalism is not socialism, what is? In other words, if state ownership and management of production does not amount to the abolition of capitalism but only to a change in the institutional framework within which it operates, what would be the essential features of a society in which capitalism had been abolished?
Marx has been badly served by disciples who have succeeded neither in assessing the limits of his theory nor in determining its standards and field of application and has ended up by taking on the role of some mythical giant, a symbol of the omniscience and omnipotence of homo faber, maker of his own destiny.
The history of the School remains to be written, but at least we know how it came into being: Marxism, as the codification of a misunderstood and misinterpreted body of thought, was born and developed at a time when Marx’s work was not yet available in its entirely and when important parts of it remained unpublished. Thus, the triumph of Marxism as a State doctrine and Party ideology preceded by several decades the publication of the writings where Marx set out most clearly and completely the scientific basis and ethical purpose of his social theory. That great upheavals took place which invoked a body of thought whose major principles were unknown to the protagonists in the drama of history should have been enough to show that Marxism was the greatest, if not the most tragic, misunderstanding of the century. But at the same time this allows us to appreciate the significance of the theory held by Marx that it is not revolutionary ideas or moral principles which bring about changes in society, but rather human and material forces; that ideas and ideologies very often serve only to disguise the interest of the class in whose interests the upheavals take place. Political Marxism cannot appeal to Marx’s science and at the same time escape the critical analysis which that science uses to unmask the ideologies of power and exploitation.
In this pamphlet we shall identify the essential features of capitalism and then go on to discuss state capitalism and the nature of the capitalist class. We shall be describing in Marxian terms, concisely but thoroughly, the economic mechanism and set of social relationships that constitute capitalism. We believe Marx’s analysis to be in general still valid even if, the institutional forms of capitalism have changed from those of Britain in the nineteenth century which Marx studied.
I HOPE I am not succumbing to the fashion of supposing a golden age in the past, but I cannot help thinking that the nature and functions of deposit banking were much better understood forty years ago than they are now. We had not then become convinced that nothing in economics can be both simple and true, and the young were taught that the theory of deposit banking was very simple.