Chapter 18: of The Open Society and Its Enemies by Karl Popper (1945) The Coming of Socialism
In this chapter and the two that follow, Popper tested the coherence of the chain of predictions that Marx made for the coming of socialism following the revolution. He identified three steps in the argument and his strategy was to start by accepting Marx’s assumptions regarding the first two steps and examine whether the third step followed – The socialist, classless utopia. In this chapter Popper concluded that other outcomes were more likely, as noted below.
In the first step of his argument Marx found that the capitalist system was becoming more productive and he decided that this must lead to the accumulation of more and more wealth in fewer and fewer hands. The workers become more miserable and exploited. This step will be treated in chapter 20 “Capitalism and its Fate”.
The second step of Marx’s argument goes on from there to make two conclusions: first, that all classes except a small ruling bourgeoisie and a large exploited working class are bound to disappear, or to become insignificant; secondly, that the increasing tension between these two classes must lead to a social revolution. This step will be analysed in the next chapter 19 on “The Social Revolution”.
The third step is the victory of the workers over the bourgeoisie to produce a society consisting of one class only, and, therefore, “a classless society, a society without exploitation; that is to say, socialism.”
In Popper’s view there was no assurance that the workers’ victory must lead to a classless society because whatever unity they might manage to achieve during a “class war” would be most unlikely to survive the end of the conflct with the “class enemy”.
The most likely development is, of course, that those actually in power at the moment of victory — those of the revolutionary leaders who have survived the struggle for power and the various purges, together with their staff—will form a New Class: the new ruling class of the new society, a kind of new aristocracy or bureaucracy; and it is most likely that they will attempt to hide this fact. This they can do, most conveniently, by retaining as much as possible of the revolutionary ideology.
And it seems likely enough that they will be able to make fullest use of the revolutionary ideology if at the same time they exploit the fear of counter-revolutionary developments. In this way, the revolutionary ideology will serve them for apologetic purposes: it will serve them both as a vindication of the use they make of their power, and as a means of stabilizing it; in short, as a new ‘opium for the people’.
More brutal than opium unfortunately.