The Science of Socialism and Socialism as a Science

Olga Pérez Soto
The debates on contemporary national and global social issues, in our realities, become very complex. At the same time, determinations of diverse paradigms coexist in the academic, political, governmental, institutional, militant, individual and collective spheres. It is vital in the debate to achieve a dialogue that allows us to advance in the essential interpretation of the phenomena, in order to arrive at structured proposals for transformation.

The worst thing is when we exhaust ourselves in a sterile way, inside and outside of each of our paradigms, without even managing to place our reasoning and that of the “other” in the place that corresponds within the reflection of the stubborn reality, which urgently needs to be transformed. This discursive, theoretical, practical and analytical dilemma does not have its origin and cause in the end in the professional competences of any of us who participate, but it does have the different expressions of the connections between science, ideology and society that implicitly and explicitly, consciously or innocently, each one of us subscribes to.

It is a matter of seeking the most essential through the processes of knowledge of reality and its forms of movement to approach the contents of social problems, and thus elaborate possible proposals for social transformation from the cause and not from its effects. To address the theoretical and practical challenges of the process of construction of socialism and the development of the science that sustains it in the process of rupture and overcoming as a development proposal to subvert the logic of capital, this article begins by analyzing the development of neoliberal capitalism as a process and project; the importance of the critical assimilation of its theoretical, methodological and ideological matrix to, through Marxism, advance and base the socialist social transformation.

Neoliberalism as a project of capital

The historical development of capitalism demanded practical results with utilitarian ends that would make possible the growing dominion of man over the environment to be transformed. This determines the practical sense of the development of the productive forces at the service of productivity, accumulation and enrichment. The interests of the system attract to itself the advances of science, which it itself has contributed to develop, by means of the demands that the new social relations of production and the new organization of society impose on scientific thought.

The demands of the capitalist system itself, in its phase of development of industrial society, directly and indirectly influence the construction of the fundamental concepts of positivism. Since the nineteenth century, the great scientific successes and their links with technology and production, which had increasingly become fundamental elements in the development of capitalist productive forces, demanded an epistemological legitimization that transcended the simple statements of the search for truth. The task of legitimizing its rules of the scientific game was undertaken in consonance with the need for its ideological justification. It was the institutionalization of science and the conversion of scientists and philosophers into “functionaries” of the State, for whom the critical perspective ceased to be of interest and in its place, the functions of vigilance over the legitimate uses of scientific thought would be assumed. From political and economic power emanated the new demands of surveillance and control, correction and standardization of scientific discourse, according to the visions given by natural laws. This institutionalization of science replaced revolutionary ideology with disciplinary knowledge, according to the new needs of the class in power.

Positivism assumed the normalizing functions over theory, which implied the construction of epistemological norms that would stop or disqualify any alternative theoretical project. Positivism develops its great legitimizing account of science where all theories that claim to be scientific are corrected and legitimized, according to their “rational” referents. It is a science divided into specialties and indifferent to the need for integration of knowledge. This was promoted by the university institution and the academies of science, which under the protection of the State and with the support of the hegemonic groups of capital, sustain and guide the intellectual formation and the work of researchers from their projection of neutral science. A scientific education plan was promoted with a sense of social reorganization, of normalizing the capitalist social order. Society and the State are conceptualized, according to the model of nature in accordance with parameters of control and technical domination. All encompassing criticism of the existing was eliminated, so that thought capitulated to the “given”, affirming the existing order. Scientific-technical rationality was extended to all spheres of social life. This scientific-technical reason only makes “judgments of fact”, ensures the coherence of the means to the ends, but without assessing the latter, since it does not make “value judgments”. It is limited to achieving predictions that facilitate technical controls, technique is transformed into technology and is in technocracy.

The globalization of the world economy appears as the expansion of capital as never before through market forces and the commodification of life. It supposes that society forgets any idea of orienting, dominating, controlling, directing economic forces. Competition is erected as the supreme law and the market attains absolute preponderance. All that can be done is to adapt to the global economy and society becomes a passive subject.

In essence, globalization is an objective process of adaptation and adjustment of the economic mechanism of contemporary capitalism, through which its essence develops. It is a new stage in the development of productive forces and capitalist social relations of production as a result of the system of economic laws that develop the form of competition. Economic globalization reproduces on an international scale the law of capitalist accumulation and deepens the gap between underdeveloped and developed countries.

The process of globalization is the objective process of adaptation and adjustment of the capitalist economic mechanism to the demands of a new level of internationalization of capitalist relations of production. What is globalized are the global capitalist social relations of production as a form of development of the global capitalist productive forces.

The process of globalization expresses the process of the capitalist world economy. The logic of capital contains not only an economic aspect, but also synthesizes the relations of political, institutional, military, juridical, environmental, etc. logic, which feed back on each other, having economic globalization as its axis. The international-transnationalization-globalization sequence is the expression of the development of the general law of capitalist accumulation at the international level.

Globalization encompasses a process and a project: the objective processes that develop on a national, regional or world basis with the process of globalization drive a project that is capable of stimulating the tendencies favorable to them. Globalization – as a process – requires and imposes the neoliberal strategy as a project.

This project contains an economic policy for the management of the economy -which means the adaptation and adjustment of the economic mechanism-, and also implies a specific growth model to develop the transnational accumulation mechanism. The neoliberal model of short-term management of the economy adjusts in a subordinate way to its other face, the peripheral pattern of accumulation, with new forms of hierarchical subjection and relations of dependent interdependencies.

Globalization and neoliberalism are consubstantial; highlighting different surnames for globalization does not alter its essential character, nor does it mean that it loses its neoliberal character. There is often an attempt to contrast different versions of “globalization” (“solidarity”, “with a human face”, “another globalization”) with neoliberal globalization, or to argue that there is no opposition to the process of globalization in general, but only to neoliberal globalization in an ambiguous, if not confusing use of the concept and language, which sometimes seems to be motivated by the need to legitimize and express that a humanist reform of globalization is feasible.

Neoliberalism, in concrete terms, has laid the foundations not only for a single way of thinking -and not thinking-, in economic policy at the level of governments and in the study of reality in universities and research centers. The deep offensive in the colonization of thought has caused part of the social scientists to share with naïve enthusiasm their limitations for the construction of the necessary frame of reference from the notion of totality, which prevented the understanding of globalization in an integral way.

It is also a social production, a way of producing human subjects and social orders of a certain type. It is not only the restructuring of the economy in correspondence with the demands of the new pattern of accumulation, but also the redefinition of the political legitimacy of the hegemonic discourse of a civilizing model based on the negation of all verticalized parceling of knowledge, and the proposals that derive from it.

Any analysis of hegemony and counter-hegemony is fundamental to refer to the context of power relations from the point of view of the activities that are essential for the reproduction of the capitalist system, the control of which implies the maintenance of economic leadership at the international level. Hegemony is a social construction whose general means of action are coercion and consensus. It is constituted by three main dimensions: the economic-financial, the ideocultural and the political-military. All of them oxygenate the global labor-capital relation.

Analyzing the capitalist system and its globalization process as a system of social organization and domination is an essential step to transcend the very epistemological and methodological foundations of dominant thought. Any division of the discourse from fundamentalist orthodoxies makes it impossible, due to its methodological incapacity, to fully understand the process of globalization itself. The issues of hegemony and counter-hegemony presuppose the inclusion of the qualitative aspects of the power conflict that underlies international capitalist economic relations.

Marxism as an ideology for socialist social transformation

The rupture with the concept of capitalist development must start from installing a type of development that contains a definition of economy different from the neoclassical perspective. It cannot be that in order to make a break we use the same narrow concept of efficient allocation of scarce resources, it is necessary to place at the center of economic science the subject carrying the process of social transformation, man as a social being. Economic science, as a non-neutral social science, is the science that efficiently distributes and allocates scarce resources according to the development of man in harmony with nature, and seeking a type of growth that guarantees structural transformation with new social relations of production.

When a biased and disjointed interpretation of Marx’s work is made, there is a lack of understanding of the communicating vessels and the necessary links between economic laws and class struggles in capitalism. Therefore, the critique of political economy is not reduced to a logical-theoretical modeling as “another economic discourse” in the same sense of the concept. On the contrary, this critique represents the formulation of a political class position that goes beyond the production of economic statements.

Marx goes beyond the scope of economic discourse by rejecting it as the discourse of an apparently autonomous science, whose analysis does not go beyond the appearances of pure scientific research: for him, political economy is the expression of the political class position of the capitalist bourgeoisie, i.e., the ideology of the state of capitalist society. In developing the relationship between economics and politics, between economics and the State, he transcends the conventional positivizing vision of economic science and economicism by analyzing its own forms, in order to consider its political implications.

Globalization is the concept that emerged to describe the process of internationalization of capital that reproduces the relation of alienation between capital and labor and guarantees its recomposition of spaces of valorization by means of the neoliberal strategy. For this, it substitutes much clearer concepts such as imperialism, domination, exploitation.

Contemporary economic science, being a social science, has also been heavily impregnated by the neoliberal paradigm in underhand and alienating ways. The single thought has “colonized” the social sciences, from which societies are managed – on occasions – as things and facts, with supposedly neutral theories but which in reality are true apologies of the market and the rules of the game of positivism. The need to use and develop the Marxist method as an instrument for the revolutionary transformation of society is an imperative for socialism.

Uncritical acceptance or rejection, such as ignorance of the epistemological aspects of economic theory, and of the methodologies underlying the different theoretical approaches, can only lead to opportunistic and superficial positions deformed from reality. The problems facing economic theory are indivisibly social and economic. It is possible to offer a “pure” analysis from the instrumental point of view of a given socio-economic phenomenon, but it is impossible to suggest purely economic solutions to real social problems.

The study of the evolution of economic science allows us to subscribe that the development of the logic of capital feeds on the law of capitalist accumulation, and that the need to think about social change is urgent. It may seem utopian, but it is important to differentiate between revolutionary utopia and the utopia of capital. Utopia is to think that with the logic of capital countries can develop, and that human beings can be emancipated. Imperialist accumulation makes the forms in which capital manifests itself more fetishistic, which has repercussions on the formation of consciousness and the organization for the struggle of resistance.

This is a global social transformation. Need for global resistance struggles to be grounded in concepts based on a new economic, social, environmental, ethical, political and ideological paradigm. Importance of theoretical struggle as a form of resistance struggle. Science must be at the service of a new social metabolism to advance without dogmas in the development of the alternative that explains and investigates the ways to achieve the rupture with the logic of capital. To build the thinking we need, transformations must be accompanied by the knowledge of science. Science as a function of transformation, Marxism as a science for social transformation must be able to think society. Socialism is science, ideology for social transformation.

It is important to combine the challenge between the necessary and possible alternative in each historical stretch of the project and the process. The socialist transition advances in each historical moment as a result of the present possible not contradicting the future necessary of the monumental project. The present possible cannot compromise the causal necessary, essential in the process of transformation.

From the abandonment of the dialectical treatment of the totality of Marx’s work, this “economistic” interpretation ignored the relations between Capital and other philosophical works of Marx. There is nothing strange in the fact that the original objectives of the critique of political economy were lost and have been replaced by the mechanical study of a particular science with its own laws.

The critique of political economy does not consist only in historicizing the categories of political economy, but in making its system part of the understanding of the social. The critique of the system is made through its scientific exposition. That is to say, this system makes a structure appear that can only be understood in the theory of the development of social formations. He understands all alienated and fetishistic forms as forms of appearance of the inner essence of the process.

But, in addition, his concept of science is indissolubly linked to the idea of the revolutionary transformation of the world, seeing in thought an instrument of change that is subordinated to a concrete effect to be achieved, since Marx does not accommodate science to a referent alien to itself, but to the very scientificity of its analysis. In fact, Marxist categories have not only a positive status, like those of Political Economy, but also a critical status, which makes possible the knowledge of the functioning of capitalism and its reproduction, and, at the same time, discovers the contradictions of the capitalist mode of production and, therefore, the epistemological limits of these categories and their ideological foundations.

Marx sees in the relation of inversion between scientific determination and phenomenal form a general law of scientificity. The importance of this inversion is fundamental for understanding the scientific scope of the critique of political economy. Its scientificity does not reside in the pretended coincidence of the theoretical with the real, since the movement of the capitalist real is reproduced through a systematic analysis that transcends the apparent form of the real to reach the internal nexus of the whole of the social relations of production.

The critique of the bourgeois categorical system through the exposition of the functioning of the system develops a discourse that will unfold in two orders. On the one hand, that of the exposition of theory, assuming the scientific positivity of the neoclassical discourse and maintaining the formal requirement of the process of ascension from the abstract to the concrete, and on the other hand, as a critical discourse from the plane of the negativity of the system, which considers the contradiction from the point of view of its possible historical solution, incapable of closing itself in an affirmative positivity that would limit itself to explain instead of transforming. This development of the contradictions of the system in its movement locates in the most abstract determinations the lines of the system.

There is a double aspect of Marxist discourse itself: the scientific and the critical. Both are indissolubly linked at all levels of the analysis of the critique of political economy; insofar as, by its very class nature, this requires an objective knowledge of capitalism itself, but not from the operative perspective of bourgeois affirmative positivity, but from its conditioning and historical transitoriness. Nevertheless, they have traditionally been considered by many Marxists in the manner of a false disjunction: scientific discourse or critical discourse.

Within the same conceptual body both aspects: that of critique and that of scientificity are based on the class point of view. The attempt to avoid the critical dimension independently of the dimension of science reduces Marx to a theorist of political economy, artificially separating his economic discourse from its critical and political scope.

And the fact is that with capitalism, for the first time in history, social life is determined, organized and reproduced on a system of forms of social connection, that is, of social relations of production, according to the needs of the valorization of capital. This form of organization of material production determined its own positive knowledge from the theoretical body of Political Economy, which developed from the position of the ruling class on material production. By means of abstract thought, it tried to grasp the capitalist real, through the construction of concepts, categories and laws placed in function of scientific positivity.

This is, therefore, a synthesis of the thought that emerges from the productive practice of the agents of capital, and is constituted through the development of their experiences and the advance of abstract thought, which fixes the commonality of this practice to the present day.

On the other hand, there is a fundamental difference between the transparent pre-capitalist exploitation where the domination of the extra-economic instance predominates, and the hidden appropriation of capitalist surplus labor, which produces a mercantile alienation where there is a direct domination of the economic base manifested through “economic laws” and its corresponding theoretical reflection through an economic science: Political Economy.

It is not about, then, the critique of a certain theory or school of economic thought, not even just the critique of all non-Marxist economic thought, but of Political Economy, that is, the critique of a science that deals with the social relations of production.

If we only make a quick review of the contemporary development of the social sciences, we find how they have renamed and reconceptualized their categorical system for any of the paradigms, provoking an intellectual flirtation between paradigms, forgetting that epistemes are stubborn and have different graduations for the same facts of reality.

Socialism as a development proposal different from the logic of capital

The logic of capital and its contemporary development give us the keys to understand the need for social change. How to build and base social change is part of the implications of the monumental historical socialist project, its conjugation with the life time of the individual, the trade off between what is possible and what is necessary, making a break with the logic of capital in each concrete historical moment.

The need for social change implies going deeper into how to make that social change. It is necessary to take into account, at least, some keys in the elaboration of a revolutionary theory that bases the struggles of resistance for social transformation. This transformation must be concretized in a new paradigm that contains: an episteme different from that of the logic of capital; that subscribes to a methodological shift as a proposal for social transformation and that proposes a model for development by opposition and overcoming of capital. In this scenario, the triple challenge of socialism is:

First challenge: Development of imperialism and its impacts. In the 19th century, Marx’s objective was to advance the critical theory of capitalism, to discover the fundamental law of capitalist accumulation in order to demonstrate the relations of exploitation and its polarizing tendencies. Marxism in the 20th century, in its first decades, had to face the challenge of capturing the changes contained in imperialist capitalism and the social structure that accompanied it. The advance of the twentieth century witnessed more than one adjustment of the imperialist pattern of accumulation. Since the late sixties, the transnationalized state monopoly regulation appears, consolidated and installed in the last decade of the twentieth century, with the pseudonym of globalization and neoliberal content developed in the twenty-first century as rentier, parasitic and neo-fascist.

Capitalism as a development proposal is a historical failure imposed on the great majority that translates into hunger, poverty, exploitation, alienation, alienation, migration, refugees, corruption, environmental damage, malnutrition, debt at birth and death, men without rights, war, terrorism and extermination. The profound transformations of the imperialist logic of capital have complexified the ways to subvert it.

Second challenge: Science of socialism. The experiences of socialist construction were required to resolve, in a few years, the inheritance of social, economic and human debt generated by capitalism throughout its existence. The present century inherits the social debt accumulated under the labels of different generations of “development objectives”, impossible to fulfill, as long as imperialist capitalism continues to advance as a global social relation of accumulation. This implies global social and environmental problems, destruction of productive forces, structural unemployment, precariousness of labor and human life, in the midst of profound damage to the environment and global contradictions of capital in the dispute for the recomposition of world geopolitics.

At the same time, during the 20th century and in the first decades of the 21st century, historical socialism has had the challenge of interpreting the deep and complex mutations of imperialism to articulate and interpret the conditions to subvert it, through the socialist transformation in underdeveloped capitalist countries and to concretize the revolutionary utopia. Cuba has the challenge of being a socialist experience that advances and coexists with the sharpening of imperialism and its geopolitics.

It has then a complex task in theory and practice: to continue explaining the need for social change of imperialist capitalism and, in parallel, to interpret and propose how to make the social change that implies the transformation from underdevelopment to the socialist imaginary. Criticism, as an analytical and ideological weapon in contemporaneity, contributes to the continuous development of socialist thought and, as a consequence, of the possible and necessary alternative, for the rupture and overcoming of contemporary imperialist capitalism.

Third challenge: To be a reference for the future. It is not a question of returning to socialism when capitalism is in crisis or denying it when socialism does not advance at the desired pace. Marxism contains the development of the critique of capitalism and of the new society. It is not only the critique of capitalist society, but it is also a project of a new society in constant critique and an interpretation of historical, political and social evolution. Marxism is a revolutionary and scientific utopia, a proposal for the future. Criticism for the essential interpretation of reality. But not as a theoretical exercise, but as a search for causes with a totality approach that expresses the articulation between knowledge, science and axiology to subvert it.

Thinking about the need for social change as a rupture and overcoming may seem a utopia, but it is more convincing than that of capital, because socialism is a scientific and revolutionary utopia.

Final reflections

Neoliberalism laid the foundations of a single way of thinking in economic policy at the level of governments and in the study of reality in universities and research centers. It constituted, in short, a global political and ideological offensive of colonization from the positions of direction and organization of the capitalist world order towards the conformation of a new consensus about what is “economically correct”. The profound offensive in the colonization of thought meant that a good part of economists shared with naïve enthusiasm its limitations for the construction of the necessary frame of reference from the notion of totality, which prevented the understanding of globalization in an integral manner without artificial analytical fragmentations.

This means that the economy is not only a mere material entity, as is evident in the limitations of the anti-neoliberal critique. It is also a social production, a way of producing human subjects and social orders of a certain type. It is not only the restructuring of the economy in correspondence with the demands of the new pattern of accumulation, but also the redefinition of the political legitimacy of the hegemonic discourse of a civilizing model based on the negation of all verticalized parceling of knowledge.

Any analysis of hegemony and counter-hegemony is fundamental to refer to the context of power relations from the point of view of activities that are essential for the reproduction of the capitalist system, the control of which implies the maintenance of economic leadership at the international level. Hegemony is a social construction whose general means of action are coercion and consensus. It is constituted by three main dimensions: the economic-financial, the ideo-cultural and the political-military.

The need for social change is the result of the development of the logic of capital, its contradictions and failures. How to make social change means how to build an essentially different society, placing man at the center of development; it means advancing in how to build socialism. In the debate on how to make social change, it is important to combine the challenge between the necessary and possible alternative in the process and in the project; so that the possible present does not contradict the necessary future of the historical project. The present possible must not compromise the necessary causal and essential of the monumental transformation process of the socialist imaginary.

Socialism is a development proposal that implies a rupture and overcoming of the logic of capital. The fracture contemplates all orders of society, from the patterns of production, distribution, exchange and consumption, to rights, democracy, institutions, culture, education, axiology, science and the human being. Socialism as a monumental historical project is not reform, it is revolution.

Socialism in Cuba has the challenge of continuing to consolidate the difference between the need for social change and how to make social change: it is necessary to delimit, in each debate, which issue is at the center of the socialist agenda, whether we are debating the need for social change or how to make that social change.

To continue betting on socialism as a revolutionary alternative means to reflect on socialism as a science and the science of socialism, remembering that, without revolutionary theory, there is no revolutionary practice. The theory of socialist transition is under construction. It is essential to continue rescuing all the debate, as well as all the experience of the so-called historical socialism, either by opposition and/or subscription from the Marxist critique. The research agenda of the science of socialism has many pending tasks. The construction of socialism must be based on the development of critical research of contemporary capitalist society and of the historical experiences of socialist transition.

In order to accept the diversity of forms of construction of socialism, starting from an essentiality, it is not necessary to resort to denominations and epithets. There is no socialism for centuries, nor socialism of centuries; there are experiences of socialist construction during the centuries that develop the socialist imaginary and express its essentiality as concrete expressions of the need and how to make social change in each historical moment and for each country. The case of Cuba, is no different.

Translation by Internationalist 360°