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A paradigm of time perception methodology

(LLCT) - In the Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels applied the dialectical materialism methodology to make a condensed description of the establishment, development and inevitable perdition of capitalism. Applying that perceptional methodology in today’s context is  necessary for the Party so that the appropriate policies can be outlined on that basis.

1. Paradigm of dialectical materialism thought of capitalism

The Communist Manifesto was a new developmental stage and clear expression of the dialectical materialism of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. Before this prominent work, they had introduced some valuable and well-known philosophical works such as the Holy Family, German Ideology, etc. especially, a typical work entitled Principles of Communism that was written by Engels in 1847. In Principles of Communism, by the form of questions and answers, Engels presented the issues related to the capitalist era with its typical classes of bourgeoisie and proletariat in a very similar way to the Communist Manifesto.

As for the methodological value of the Communist Manifesto, Lenin argued: “This work presented a new worldview very clear and brilliance, consistent materialism - which also embraces the realm of social life; dialectics, as the most comprehensive and profound doctrine of development; the theory of the class struggle and of the world-historic revolutionary role of the proletariat - the creator of a new, communist society)”(1).

In the Manifesto, Marx and Engels did not explain their methodology as they had done in the philosophical works, otherwise they expressed specifically that methodology in the clear, condensed form about the historical birth and movement of capitalist society at that time. Through their presentation, it was easy to see the laws of unity of opposites, transformation of quantity into quality, and negation of negation. The principles of common relationship, constant movement, change, and development of the world can also be seen clearly. Those are specifically shown in the establishment and development of a particular society - capitalism (a period in the development of human society from the misty age to the more and more civilized one). This capitalist society is popular in various countries with different degrees of maturity, not in a particular one. Therefore, it can be considered the condensed, natural description of capitalist time.

Marx and Engels filtered, and abstracted a great number of the diverse, complicated phenomena and relations of contemporary society which might cause confusion, inability for researchers to identify what are the reason, result, phenomenon, nature, temporary and fugitive, long-term and inevitable tendency. Before Marx, a lot of thinkers had encountered this situation and felt puzzled in interpreting the existing society. Even Hegel and Feuerbach failed to provide the convincing answer to the current social movement tendency and finally got back to idealism, considering that existing things had their own reasons, or delving into religion.

Unlike previous thinkers, Marx and Engels saw the link between economics and politics, between culture, religion and the material life of the capitalist society. All were based on material production, specifically the development level of productive forces and the appropriate production relation type. The era of capitalism is based on a fundamental and major production mode so different from before. That is, the production mode considers exploitation of surplus value of the working class (the proletariat) as the goal and motive to develop production and uses continuous improvement of machines to achieve that goal. Only by improving the production tools continuously can they achieve better productivity and surplus value under the condition that goods production has become more and more competitive among capitalists. Thus, in the view of the productive forces of the era, that is the domination (or decision) of industrial machines with an increasing number of hired workers. In the view of the production relations (the relationship between people), that is the relation of the bourgeoisie with the proletariat in the legal, public form of labour purchase. The bond between the two opposing classes is very tight and interdependent. In other words, despite contrast, they are unified and inseparable. All these make up the basic production mode of the capitalist society, being the material foundation for the capitalist era.

Marx and Engels saw the formation and existence of the capitalist society in a process of development and change from the strongly opposing relations within it. In terms of society, that is the movement of the relationship between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, which was initially unified and interdependent, then contradictory and conflicting. For the mode of production, it is the movement of productive forces and private production relations of capitalism which was initially unified then contradictory and conflicting when the private ownership production relation is no longer in the sufficient scope for the productive force to develop in the more and more civilized direction.

From evidence of the redundancy crisis of capitalist production and the clashes between the proletariat and bourgeoisie about salary and jobs, etc. in various countries, they predicted the collapse of this mode of production and the birth of the other (more accurately the birth of a new production relation) public ownership relation, in which all the people, including the proletariat, become the master of the internationalized industrial productive forces. Then there will be no capitalist and proletariat in the world and production will not be for the surplus value aim of the capitalist but the need, benefit of all the people in society.

As the negation of public ownership, which existed thousands of years ago, by private ownership system (of which capitalist private ownership is the highest and most complete form) was effected as a result of the development of man’s productive capacity, then the negation by the communist public ownership system will negate this negation as a result of the development of man’s productive capacity in the capitalist period.

In the view of Marx and Engels, the social force associated with that negation is the proletariat - a component of the modern productive forces of capitalism. The uprising of the proletariat is that of the productive forces against the production relations represented by the bourgeoisie. In terms of socio-politics, that uprising is the proletarian war led by the working class to build a socialist society which, in principle, is completely opposite to the existing capitalism, in which people would be free to develop their human nature without being exploited and corrupted together with capitalism. The Manifesto concludes: “Thus, together with the development of large scale industry, the very base on which the bourgeoisie produced and possessed its products is demolished at the foot of the bourgeoisie. First of all, it is the bourgeoisie who creates its end. The collapse of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the proletariat are unavoidable”.

2. Contribution of methodological value to perception of the era today

It is an asserted fact that the background of the Communist Manifesto is very different to what it was in the past. Indeed, when Marx and Engels wrote the Communist Manifesto, except for England where the production mode of capitalism had become popular, capitalism was still in an early stage of development in other countries, including the United States. In this period, the northern states of the United States developed industry with evident capitalist production relations, but the southern ones still maintained the agricultural production system with the maintenance of slavery production relations. After the South-North war with the victory of the northern states, the capitalist production mode was developed throughout the United States, and slavery was abolished. Meanwhile, in France and Germany, they were still in a period of struggle between feudalism and bourgeoisie. The production mode of capitalism and the bourgeoisie were not completely prevailing yet. In the United States and Europe, capitalism became popular and complete in both economics and politics after about 50 years since the introduction of the Communist Manifesto. In 1872, in the preface to the German version of the Manifesto, Marx and Engels wrote: “In view of the gigantic strides of Modern Industry since 1848, and of the accompanying improved and extended organization of the working class, in view of the practical experience gained, first in the February Revolution, and then, still more, in the Paris Commune, where the proletariat for the first time held political power for two whole months, this programme has in some details been antiquated”. As for the revolutionary measures proposed at the end of Section II, they wrote: “That passage would, in many respects, be very differently worded today”(2).

In the late 19th and early 20th century, there were two attitudes in the communist movement toward the Manifesto. Some believed that the time of the proletarian revolution had not come yet, that the capitalist mode of production was still vital and innovating itself, and that the proletariat had not been able to become the master of the new mode of production yet. It was the answer of those who reviewed Marxism such as Bernstein who did not dare to conduct the revolutionary measures although there were very deep political and social conflicts in the capitalist society.

The others, loyal to the Communist Manifesto, affirmed that the era of the proletarian revolution had come, because both the bourgeoisie (the rulers) and the proletariat (the ruled) could not live in the same condition anymore. Capitalism had already reached its final stage - imperialism. The conflict between the two classes was so severe that it could not be reconciled. It was time to lead the proletariat to seize power, to carry out the political revolution, and to use organized political power to reform and build socialism. It was the attitude of the Leninists towards the great October Revolution in Russia that laid the foundations for realistic socialism in the next seven decades.

Today, the questions about era content and mission of capitalism are set in the following context: the realistic socialist paradigm in the 20th century no longer exists and the capitalist mode of production still lives on and is developing on a new level. A great deal of issues related to politics, society, people, and environment, have been settled better and better not only in social democratic countries but also those following the path of Neo-liberalism (such as the United States and Britain). Globally, regional or international mechanisms have been established to overcome (and actually overcome) a lot of shortcomings and deficiencies which were considered unable to overcome capitalism such as redundant periodic crisis, impoverishment of the working class, wars between countries to appropriate resources and scramble for the market. If the Great Recession in 1929-1933 caused terrible losses to European and American economies, the 2008 financial crisis which originated in the United States was checked from spreading and pushed back quickly without a serious chain reaction.

Truly, in the early decades of the 21st century, it is rare to see strikes, demonstrations for wage increases and improvements of working conditions as it was in previous centuries in the most advanced capitalist countries. The growing roles of the United Nations and international and regional financial institutions, political forums, formal and informal societies, etc. in settling and regulating the clashes and conflicts between nations and economic groups mean the risks of wars and clashes in the world are less likely to happen. On a national and international level, development and natural exploitation are less spontaneous, and destruction and wastefulness are considerably limited. Despite a great number of conflicts, the World Conference on Climate Change has adopted the Kyoto Protocol. Thus, despite difficulties, human beings have undertaken realistic actions towards sustainable development. The industrial revolution 4.0 has started to change the lives and mode of production of people in the way that Marx and Engels could never have imagined.

The human world has changed and evolved so much that it is no longer like it was in the in 20th century as well as 170 years ago. Nevertheless, the world today is not socialist, and it is not as good as it could be. The goal of capitalists today is still basically seen as seeking for benefit from surplus value of employees. Capital accumulation and concentration are still taking place fiercely every day but in new methods and forms which cause less barbarity, “blood and tears” to workers than before. Competition and monopoly have been taking place in more sophisticated forms, which are regulated more by the states, societies, and international economic institutions. There still exists a great gap between the rich and the poor as well as the backward, especially in Africa. In spite of the settlement and intervention, local conflicts still occur in a separate nation and among nations all over the world.

It can be seen that what Marx and Engels said about the continuous revolutionizing law of productive forces and continuous internationalization of capitalism has been true up to now. The time lapse between industrial revolutions has never been this short. Capitalism has never developed so fast on a scale as large as today. It originated from the needs of the modern production mode, which created the vitality for capitalism, which the realistic socialist paradigm of the 20th century could not create.

The rapid advances of science, technology, and the strong development of production forces have made changes to the structures of manufacturing and labour in many countries. Over the past decades, the proportion of industrial workers has declined, and with the industrial revolution 4.0 in the future, more industrial and manual workers in different service sectors will be replaced by robots.

Although the number and status of industrial workers in the most developed and advanced countries is not like before, there still exists a working class in various forms with different natures, including intellectuals, technology engineers and white collar workers, as well as managers (CEOs). The common economic relationship today remains the relationship between employer and employee. The surplus value from the workers operating machines and assembling products is of smaller proportion, while the surplus value from intelligence of technology engineers and CEOs is becoming greater, which is hard to calculate accurately. Whether we desire it or not, profit or surplus value remains the main driving force for economic activities in our time. It is one of the most important and undeniable motivations for scientific and technological creations by people.

It could be affirmed that in spite of ownership relation diversity, including state ownership existing in many countries, the private ownership production relation is still the fundamental basis of the current mode of production. The main mode of production today is still based on a relationship between the two aspects of struggle and creation of development conditions to become the modern production force in the trend of internationalization and the private ownership production relation. On the basis of that production mode, the struggle and interdependence relation between capitalists and hired workers is still one of the basic social relations in every country.

With such basic social and economic relations, the world is caught in a movement with two conflicting sides: globalization and deglobalization, internationalization and nationalization, humanization and individualization. It is notable that the conflicting movement does not only exist among economies and nations but also within every country, including the most advanced capitalist ones. Brexit in England and the decision to withdraw from the TPP by President D. Trump are the latest examples. They show that although internationalization (of which globalization is the highest level) is the law of the past and current capitalist mode of production, it is not a one-sided, simple movement. It creates not only risk but also opportunities for many countries, including the developed and developing ones. It can cause difficulty, even regression, for the developed countries, but it may also be the opportunity for the backward countries to develop quickly, shortening the gap between them and the rich, civilized ones. Moreover, the developing countries may even become the holders of the latest scientific and technological advances in some areas.

With the movement in such conflicts, although the law and tendency can be seen through various phenomena, the “flat world” is still relative. Differences in levels of development, poverty among countries, regions in the world, even in a separate country, are undeniable truths. Although the United Nations, NGOs, and other international organizations have been working hard, they are still unable to wipe out this gap.

Admitting the above two-sided objective reality is the necessary attitude of a communist, and it is the application of dialectical materialistic methodology to the analysis of human society today. It is the basis for the communist party to set out suitable policies.

According to the international proletarian spirit of Marx and Engels, the proper policies of the communist parties (the parties of the working class and labours in general) today must be in favour of globalization and humanization. However, this must be set in the harmonious relationship with nationalization and deglobalization. In other words, in certain time, when the human race and the working class are taken into account, it is necessary to consider the interests of the people and the nation in the necessary harmony, avoiding the one-sidedness of the past. It is important to make globalization and humanization bring prosperity, equality, and justice everywhere and for everyone, not just for the minority. It is a struggle and cooperation process which requires goodwill, kind-heartedness and brings practical benefits.

Likewise, when we look forward to public ownership of socialism as the foundation of a good and ideal society (of which public ownership of socialism is the low level), it is required to make the best use of private ownership and promote it for the purpose of developing the nation, people and mankind, avoiding metaphysical discrimination and haste as well as ignoring objective laws and skipping stages.

Vietnam and other countries led by Marxist - Leninist communist parties have been looking for a way to build a new paradigm of socialism. What the structure of socialism in the 21st century may be is still unknown, but it certainly must be different from the paradigm of socialism in the 20th century at the point of not denying the market economy, not rejecting the law of profit and competition, and not absolutizing the role of the state in planning and operating the production and distribution relations, or exchange like before, etc.

In this trend, low economic level countries (like Vietnam) admit and actively integrate into the global market economy to develop with the desire to quickly catch up with the advanced and prosperous countries in the world and become the new “tiger” of the regional and international economy. Higher level countries with huge economic potential (China) not only integrate but also take initiatives and actions to create new “playing fields,” and “regulations” towards the world economic order. This has never happened in the history of communist and socialist movements in the world that may signal a new era in human history.

Surely, this is a complicated process because it is the struggle between the new political and economic forces with the old ones in the world which affect not only the short-term but also long-term interests, honour and even the fate of each country. On the other hand, human society has developed unevenly and will do so for a very long time. Humans have very complicated, multi-dimensional, multi-layered, multi-direction thinking and psychology which cannot be treated or suppressed easily with finance and material. Hence, the repulse or resistance nation or community, even extreme somewhere, will be a great barrier to the efforts to change mankind, though it may be of more progression.

Therefore, whatever the new regulations and playing field are, an initiator, beside national interest, is required to consider whether it provides interest and advance for the world and mankind in general or not. In addition to economic aspect, it must include political one (i.e. creating a “democracy of human race), transforming globalization into a process created by collective will and action of every people and nation.

Time will provide evidence of this and then humanity can have the hope for a new age - the real transitional age from capitalism to socialism all over the world under the leadership of the genuine communists representing mankind’s advanced mode of production.


(1) V.I.Lenin: Complete Works, Progress Publishers, Moscow 1980, Vol. 26, p.57.

(2) Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels: Complete Works, Vol. 18, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, p.128.


Assoc. Prof., Dr. Vu Hoang Cong

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics



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