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Asian Development and the Strategy-Party

Marx and Engels’ Manifesto of the Communist Party is a text for the strategy-party. The socio-economic and political-state recurrences of capitalist development are set out in it, in their contradictory dynamic which can be grasped by the revolutionary party. This text anticipates the notion of consciousness brought from without, which would become the heart of the Leninist conception of the party. The Manifesto is already a text of international strategy Arrigo Cervetto would write in his study on the ‘genetic’ formation of strategy in Marx and Engels. And Marx and Engels, together with the English Chartists and the groups of the German and French labour movements, would attempt to repeat the experience of the Communist League: to give them a strategy, precisely to give the Manifesto to an existing workers’ party.

Their starting point was the revolutionary role of the bourgeoisie in overcoming and subverting the previous orders of feudal society and in creating the world market. From the serfs of the Middle Ages sprang the chartered burghers of the earliest towns. From these burgesses the first elements of the bourgeoisie were developed, wrote Marx and Engels. These were the first steps in capitalist development, which had its specific forms and a particularly precocious beginning during the 14th century in Northern Italy, where a network of urban concentrations handed down from the Roman epoch already existed.

The discovery of America, the rounding of the Cape, opened up fresh ground for the rising bourgeoisie. The East-Indian and Chinese markets, the colonisation of America, trade with the colonies, the increase in the means of exchange and in commodities generally, gave to commerce, to navigation, to industry, an impulse never before known, and thereby, to the revolutionary element in the tottering feudal society, a rapid development.

This is the description of a phase in capitalist development which gained strength from the 17th century on, when the centre of that development passed from the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean and, in competition with the French and Spanish powers, the English power began to establish itself. It should be observed that the prospect of the world market already included Asia: China and India, as well as America, were already in its sights. In embryo, this was the first connection between Asian development and the strategy-party.

The feudal system of industry, in which industrial production was monopolised by closed guilds, now no longer sufficed for the growing wants of the new markets. The manufacturing system took its place. The guild-masters were pushed on one side by the manufacturing middle class; division of labour between the different corporate guilds vanished in the face of division of labour in each single workshop. Meantime the markets kept ever growing, the demand ever rising. Even manufacture no longer sufficed. Thereupon, steam and machinery revolutionised industrial production. The place of manufacture was taken by the giant, Modern Industry; the place of the industrial middle class by industrial millionaires, the leaders of the whole industrial armies, the modern bourgeois.

The progress of bourgeois development and the expansion of the market to become a world market influenced each other: Modern industry has established the world market, for which the discovery of America paved the way. This market has given an immense development to commerce, to navigation, to communication by land. This development has, in its turn, reacted on the extension of industry; and in proportion as industry, commerce, navigation, railways extended, in the same proportion the bourgeoisie developed, increased its capital, and pushed into the background every class handed down from the Middle Ages.

Marx and Engels identified three laws of movement. First, we have an international law: the bourgeoisie has the creation of the world market as its historic mission. Second, capitalist development has its social recurrences, i.e., its consequences on the transformation and development of the classes. However — and this is the third law — this development implies laws of movement also at a political level; the bourgeoisie established itself as the revolutionary class in opposition to the old feudal, aristocratic regime.

Each step in the development of the bourgeoisie — wrote Marx and Engels — was accompanied by a corresponding political advance of that class.

Sviluppo Asiatico e partito strategia. Lotta Comunista, , p. 1