Introduction to the Critique of the Gotha Programme

Korsch, Karl

Year Published:  1922  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX8007

Next to the Communist Manifesto of 1847-8 and the 'General Introduction' to the Critique of Political Economy of 1857, the Critique of the Gotha Programme of 1875 is, of all Karl Marx's shorter works, the most complete, lucid and forceful expression of the bases and consequences of his economic and social theory.

Marx, in the Critique of the Gotha Programme, sets out the total contradiction between the ideological state socialism of Lassalle and his own materialist communism. As he never tires of saying, the Lassalleans do not have communist society as their final aim, but only a dreary middle position. It is true that the latter will have overcome private ownership of the means of production and related "inequalities" and "injustices" in the distribution of goods. But in every other respect - economically, ethically and spiritually - it will still bear the stamp of the old capitalist society of today. Specifically, bourgeois Law and the bourgeois State will not have been totally superseded as the forgotten ideas of a barbarous prehistory. Marx himself, of course, was fully conscious of the fact that the establishment of a dictatorship of the proletariat, and the abolition of private capitalist ownership of the means of production, would not in itself suffice to create a mature communist society "freely" developing to unimagined heights by virtue of its inherent laws. Indeed, he consciously demonstrated this "materialist insight" in his letter on the Gotha Programme. For, "...between capitalist and communist society there lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of one into the other." The communal socio-economic order created after the establishment of the dictatorship of the proletariat will be, "...a communist society not as it has developed on its own foundations, but on the contrary as it has emerged from capitalist society." Consequently, for a long time thereafter it still remains subject to the natural laws of capitalist society, which are alien and contrary to its novel character and limit and hinder its free development.

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