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Socialism and the workers' movement: comments on Lars Lih on the narrative of their merger

Lars Lih.

By Jonathan Strauss

[This is an edited text of a presentation made on June 9, 2013, at the “Organising for 21st century socialism” seminar, held in Sydney. Strauss is a member of the Socialist Alliance in Cairns.]

Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal -- Today, I want to consider the significance of some recent research and writing by Lars Lih about Lenin’s party-building perspective. In particular, I refer to Lenin Rediscovered: What is to Be Done in Context,[1] his biography of Lenin[2] and a few of his other articles and talks.

To do this I will deploy two foils: Paul Le Blanc’s book Lenin and the Revolutionary Party[3] and parts of his contributions to recent debates between him and Lars about elements of the history of Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (RSDLP), in particular its Bolshevik faction and that faction’s activity around the party’s 1905 and 1912 congresses; and Sandra Bloodworth’s article, “Lenin vs Leninism”[4] from a recent Marxist Left Review.

I also want to offer some criticism of Lih’s thesis of the continuity (in one article title, he calls it the “aggressive unoriginality”[5]) of Lenin’s views.

Why should what I will discuss be relevant for political action today? I agree with what Bloodworth had to say about this:

Can we learn from the practice of an organisation in such different circumstances from those faced by the left a hundred years later? The revolutionary left in many countries today confronts similar issues to those which Lenin had to deal with: how to establish an organisation when the class struggle is not always favourable, how to make the transition from small, isolated groups to mass influence …

[And again, in her conclusion.] While capitalism is constantly restructuring the world system, the fundamentals do not change. It remains a system of exploitation and crisis, and so the need for and the possibility of revolution link our times to those of the Bolsheviks.[6]

Typically, we read, or re-read, Lenin with preconceived notions. These notions are based on commentaries about Lenin we have already encountered and our past political experiences. We understand Lenin in our own contexts.

Lih’s works attempt to present the contemporaneous context for the writings of Lenin they discuss and to integrate that into a new understanding of Lenin (not bleached, as in the normal translations of the Russian vocabulary, of heroism and emotional colour):

Lenin’s scenario can be compressed into a single sentence … The Russian proletariat carries out its world historical mission by becoming the vozhd [leader] of the narod [people], leading a revolution that overthrows the tsar and institutes political freedom, thus preparing the ground for an eventual proletarian vlast [power] that will bring about socialism.[7]

According to Lih, Lenin’s scenario combined a narrative in which the working class would be exalted through “the merger of socialism and the worker movement”, and the scientific concept of “the hegemonic proletariat” (Grigorii Zinoviev’s phrase).[8] In the late 19th century Lenin observed this merger narrative in, as he frequently put it, the “history of all countries” (in fact, there was an exception: Australia). Especially important to him was the experience of the German Social Democrats, the most advanced example of building a revolutionary party in the late 19th century.

Lih has spoken about the “echoes” of the themes of the first decade of Lenin’s career, drawn together in 1902 in What Is to Be Done?, in his later work.[9] This holds for the merger formula as well. In Left-Wing Communism: an Infantile Disorder, which Lenin wrote in 1920, he discussed how the revolutionary party’s “ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and—if you wish—merge, in certain measure with the broadest masses of the working people” is one of three factors by which “the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party” is “maintained … tested … [and] reinforced”.[10] (In a 2012 article, Lih referred to What Is to Be Done? and Left-Wing Communism as the “bookends” of Lenin’s work.[11])

Lih wrote that, at the turn of the 20th century, Lenin “became a passionate Social Democrat” and adhered to its political “strategy of party-led class leadership”.[12] Lenin wanted the Russian Social Democratic Workers Party that he was helping to form to follow the German example.

Lenin’s aim required a “two-front polemical war against those who refuse[d] the great Marxian synthesis”.[13] At this time, Lih explains, Social Democrats generally reacted with “horror” against revisionism, summarised in the German Social Democrat Eduard Bernstein’s epigram, “the movement is everything, the final goal is nothing”. The revisionist trend had abandoned the socialist half of the merger narrative, and with that the inspiring final goal that brought strength to the party.[14] Equally, Lenin castigated those who thought the workers’ movement could not be part of the struggle for socialism. His writings at this time exude confidence in the upsurge of the workers’ movement. Workers needed and would heed the socialist message.[15] He reserved his criticism for party work that was ineffective or needlessly limited in getting that message out. He considered such party work as failing to provide to the workers’ movement its maximum scope for development.

Lih’s English retranslation of What Is to Be Done? shows that in the terms Lenin used in that book his language conformed to political strategy that he had decided on. For example, Lih proposed “worker movement” in contrast to “working class”. This captures Lenin’s perception of that movement as an active participant in the pursuit of the proletariat’s historic mission.[16] Also, Lih translated the “conscious worker” — that is, a worker who is aware of the teaching of scientific socialism — of previous translations as “purposive worker” (or “advanced worker”). This suggests a lower initial political development for a worker to take part in the merger of socialism and the workers’ movement. As well, Lih leaves untranslated the Russian word stikhiinyi, which in the past has been translated as spontaneous, spontaneity and so on, because stikhiinyi’s natural translation is “elemental”, but other English forms of this word are not available.[17]

Lih considered his commentary on What Is to Be Done? had rediscovered interpretation of the book in its contexts. These contexts include: Lenin’s perspective at this time, as this is found in his writings as a whole; the shared assumptions of Russian Social Democracy’s participants; the revolutionary upsurge in Russia that had started at the turn of the century which encouraged him; and his inherited outlook of international social democracy. Lih argued that an alternative interpretation of What Is to Be Done?, which he called “textbook”, focussed instead on readings of certain “scandalous passages” of the book.

One set of these readings developed in academic circles after the Second World War. These readings consider Lenin’s key perspective was “worry about workers”. They assert Lenin held elitist and anti-democratic views: intellectuals would comprise the party, rather than workers; Marxist theory would need to be brought to workers “from without” – that is, imposed on them – because for them reformism was natural; and conspiracy, rather than merely survival in a political underground, and hypercentralism were key to Lenin’s thinking, in contrast to Western European parties that gained confidence from determinist views of the progress of the workers’ movement. Thus, this interpretation believes Lenin was innovative – as the source for Stalinism.

Also, some of the activist readings of What Is to Be Done? that have been offered since the 1970s Lih considered to have “enough overlap in their interpretation of WITBD to justify including the activists among the advocates of the textbook interpretation”, regardless of the activists’ overall disagreement with academics. These readings reject linking Lenin to Stalinism, argue the determinism of Western European social democracy was fatalistic, and think what they suppose was Lenin’s innovation of a “vanguard party” was unconscious, but agree that the premise of What Is to Be Done? is “worry about workers”. For them, only the experience of the 1905 revolution changed Lenin’s mind.[18]

In support of the view that in 1905 Lenin changed his mind and stopped worrying about workers, many cite a sentence he wrote that year: “The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic, and more than ten years of work put in by Social-Democracy has done a great deal to transform this spontaneity into consciousness.”[19] (LCW, 10:32) But here Lenin had not changed his mind about workers. Instead, he marked that he thought party work had now had some success.

Le Blanc’s book refers to the same quote and, indeed, Lih tars Le Blanc with the brush of “worry about workers”. I believe this is wrong. Le Blanc offers a particular critique of “Leninism” similar to that is now also developing from the rejection, expressed by Bloodworth, of part of the political tradition of the International Socialist Tendency. Le Blanc noted the confidence Lenin had in workers, and concluded:

Lenin was convinced that a coming-together of socialist ideas and the working class was possible and necessary, that it would transform each and create a force capable of bringing revolutionary change, but that a serious, democratic, and cohesive organization guided by a critical-minded and revolutionary Marxism was necessary to accomplish this.[20]

Given that Lih wrote in similar terms last year about the relationship between socialist ideas, the workers’ movement and the revolutionary party, the idea that a convergence of opinion has occurred among Le Blanc, Lih and other like-minded persons is tempting. Bloodworth, for example, has read Le Blanc’s comments at the end of his debate with Lih as a view that the two “had arrived at a new convergence of opinion” on the Prague RSDLP January 1912 conference.[21] Le Blanc himself was more circumspect, referring to “fruitful convergences” arising from the debate. With regard to the 1912 conference, he noted on the one hand that Lih accepted that in practice a Bolshevik party emerged from the conference. Le Blanc himself accepted Lih’s proposition that “Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades were not propagating a ‘new type of party’, as later Stalinist historians had it”.[22]

Lih’s comment that Le Blanc referred to, however, is discussing not What Is to Be Done? in 1902, nor the 1912 conference, but Lenin’s arguments in 1920 in the Communist International, as these are represented in Left-Wing Communism. Even then, Lih wrote, Lenin rejected the social-democratic parties only because they had not been sufficiently inspired by the party ideal they claimed to have, now replaced the SPD with the Bolsheviks as the “exemplary incarnation” of “the party principle”, and wanted the Comintern, including the anarchic leftists who had adhered to it, to preserve that “old party ideal … the party-organised permanent campaign”.[23]

This is a touch point for the differences on party-building that remain among us. Le Blanc is again circumspect in how he presents this: “New experiences – a horrific global war, a powerful surge of revolution, and a desperate civil war – would open new pathways of thought and practice … there was no thought of a ‘party of a new type’ in 1912” (http://links.org.au/node/2832). But Lih would presumably respond that Lenin also had no such thought at the end of his political life in 1920.

Bloodworth’s article, which also upholds the picture of Lenin’s confidence in the workers and rejects the view that Lenin’s perspective was transformed by the events of 1905, makes the idea that Lenin later changed what he had to say the framework of her argument. According to her:

Lenin articulated elements of a theory of the party which is more clearly counterposed to the parties of social democracy – the reformist parties … after 1914, but it was inherent in his practice from the 1890s … Even though Lenin saw himself as operating within the framework of the social democratic parties of the West – most importantly the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) – the kind of party he built was in practice radically different … Lenin’s view of the party was not passive, its role was not simply to “educate” workers. While most of the party’s work for most of the time was making propaganda, it was a form of intervention into the struggles of the working class … The aim was to build a party capable of organising the most advanced workers so they would be capable of shaping events, maximising the possibility of working class victories.[24]

All the counterpositions that might be found between her and Lih are laid out clearly here. What are these?

First, Lih argued that:

[In] the task of rediscovering Lenin’s actual outlook, the terms “party of a new type” and “vanguard party” are actually helpful – but only if they are applied to the SPD as well as the Bolsheviks. The SPD was a vanguard party, first because it defined its own mission as “filling up” the proletariat with the awareness and skills needed to fulfil its own world-historical mission, and second because the SPD developed an innovative panopoly of methods for spreading enlightenment and “combination”.[25]

According to Lih, the SPD’s views about the “natural necessity” of socialism were not fatalistic. They were the basis for its confidence in constituting itself as an active force to transform “the worker movement by expanding awareness”. From that starting point, the party “acted as the people’s tribune”. Its methods included: an apparatus of agitators, starting with its parliamentarians; party publications (first newspapers, but also pamphlets, leaflets, and so on); workers’ institutions – unions, educational associations and clubs of all sorts – that the party was to ensure worked toward raising proletarian awareness; and, ultimately, “a truly nation-wide party”, working well beyond the existing scope of the party’s effective influence.[26]

A second argument of Lih’s is more fundamental:

Ultimately, the vanguard outlook derives from the key Marxist assumption that “the emancipation of the working classes must be the work of the working classes themselves”. Sometimes this dictum is viewed as the opposite of the vanguard outlook, but, in actuality, it makes vanguardism almost inevitable. If the proletariat is the only agent capable of introducing socialism, then it must go through some process that will prepare it to carry out that great deed.[27]

A passage from What Is to Be Done? suggests what that process might involve. Lenin opens with a description of the views of L. Nadezhdin that “the crowd is not all ours” and that their “stikhiinyi destructive force … might overwhelm and sweep aside those ‘regular troops’ for whom we were intending to bring in a highly systematic organisation but never managed in time to do so”. Lenin responds:

It is precisely because the crowd might overwhelm and crush our regular troops that we must manage in time to keep pace with the stikhiinyi upsurge by means of our work in “bringing in a highly systematic organisation” to the regular troops, since the more we “manage in time” to bring in this level of organisation, the more likely that the regular troops will not be overwhelmed by the crowd, but will take their place in front, at the head of crowd.

Nadezhdin gets confused because he imagines that these systematically organised troops are involved in something that cuts them off from the crowd, when, in actual fact, they are involved exclusively in all-sided and all-embracing political agitation, that is, precisely work that brings closer and merges into one the crowd with its stikhiinyi destructive force and the organisation of revolutionaries with its purposive destructive force. [28]

I believe Lenin’s concept of the revolutionary party is expressed neither by BIoodworth’s term “interventionist party” nor by her idea that a revolutionary party should be “capable of convincing workers of what is necessary to win victory”.[29] Yes, he wanted the vanguard’s political leadership, strategy and tactics to be correct, but, as he discussed in Left-Wing Communism, that could not be a factor in the discipline of the party until “the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that the[se] are correct”.[30] If I were to suggest a term and an idea as a starting point for formulating this aspect of Lenin’s perspective, it would be “involved”, in the workers’ movement, although I recognise these do not also capture, in the same moment, that this must be done as a revolutionary practice.

A third argument I think can be drawn from Lih’s work is that Lenin’s organisational concerns were always framed by his aim of achieving of the merger of socialism and the workers’ movement. For example, in the passage of What Is to Be Done? referred to above, Lenin continued:

We arrive in this way at the final consideration that compels us to give special insistence to the plan of an organisation … by means of joint work for a common newspaper. Only this kind of organisation will guarantee the flexibility needed by a Social-Democratic fighting organisation — that is, the ability to adapt itself immediately to the most varied and swiftly changing conditions of struggle …

And the revolution itself must not be conceived as a single act (as the Nadezdhins seem to imagine), but as several rapid shifts between more or less profound explosions and more or less profound periods of quiet. Therefore, the basic content of the activity of our party organisation, the focus of this activity, should be the type of work that is possible and necessary both in the period of the most powerful explosion as well as in the period of the complete quiet, namely: the work of political agitation that is unified across all of Russia, that illuminates all sides of life, and that is directed at the broadest possible masses.[31]

Thus, Lenin’s focus in party-building appears to have been on the development of the relationship between the party and the broad masses: “correct revolutionary theory … assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement”.[32] In contrast, Le Blanc has stressed the democratic functioning of the Bolsheviks, while Bloodworth’s formulation emphasises organising the most advanced workers. The different emphases of the two commentators are not surprising. They reflect more immediate concerns we as revolutionary activists have had in resolving our relationship with “Leninism”. However, these revolutionaries have made their arguments without orienting them within the bigger aim Lenin maintained.

None of these arguments tell us about what to do next, although they might inform us when we try to answer questions about that. The immediate reason I have presented these arguments is to help explain why I support Lih’s interpretation of Lenin’s thinking about and activity in building a revolutionary party.

First, Lih’s interpretation matches the evidence at least as well as other interpretations.

Second, Lih’s interpretation allows Lenin self-awareness and fundamental consistency and helps explain the favourable response of other revolutionaries at the time. Without that element in our interpretation, Bloodworth explained what is required to proceed: “in order to learn from the Bolshevik experience, what actually happened would seem more important than what Lenin intended”.[33] This seems methodologically problematic: Lenin’s thinking is part and parcel of the Bolshevik experience. Also, an argument that does not rely on some contradiction between Lenin’s thinking and his action seems to be simpler than one that does claim such contradictions — and in analysis a simpler argument trumps a more complex one.

I mentioned earlier that Lih has argued that Lenin’s thinking was overwhelmingly characterised by continuity. Lih upheld this thesis even when he wrote that, when war came in 1914 and Lenin went to neutral Switzerland, “one Lenin got on the train in Krakow and another Lenin got off in Bern”. The difference Lih identified is that Lenin’s scope of activity grew from largely Russian to fully international, but what he did there was again pick up the banner of revolutionary socialism. According to Lih, “Lenin presented himself not as a bold innovator … but as someone faithful to the old verities.” Even the book Imperialism: the Highest Stage of Capitalism “was a defence of Kautsky-then against the apostasy of Kautsky-now”.[34]

Within the framework of Lih’s work, I believe he is correct. Yet I must also disagree with Lih. Between 1914 and 1917, Lenin himself identified new elements in his thinking at this time. That awareness, and Lenin’s arguments that are involved with that, must also be accounted for.

Lenin asked “the fundamental question of modern socialism”:

Is there any connection between imperialism [that is, monopoly capitalism, which had emerged at the end of the 19th century] and the monstrous and disgusting victory opportunism … has gained over the labour movement in Europe? … [while capitalism lives at the expense of the worker] imperialism somewhat changes the situation. A privileged upper stratum of the proletariat in the imperialist countries lives partly at the expense of the rest of the oppressed … the desertion of a stratum of the labour aristocracy [the relatively privileged workers] to the bourgeosie has matured and become an accomplished fact … Now, a ‘bourgeois labour party’ is inevitable and typical in all imperialist countries.

Lenin argued that “the old theory that opportunism is a ‘legitimate shade’ in a single party that knows no ‘extremes’ has now turned into … a tremendous hindrance to the working-class movement” because any opportunist trend in the revolutionary party prevented the party using capitalist crises to work to overturn capitalism. Thus, he concluded, opportunism must be excluded from the revolutionary party.[35]

According to Lih, Lenin’s exclusion of the opportunists from the revolutionary party was “based on the old model of a party with a programmatic commitment to a particular message” and comparable to the earlier exclusion of anarchists.[36] That comparison, however, is misleading. Anarchists were excluded from the revolutionary party from the beginning because of their opposition to “the party principle”. The exclusion of opportunists from the revolutionary party only came at a certain point, when irreconcilable differences over political goals emerged.

In terms of Lenin’s political biography, we can ask what prepared him, a product of revolutionary Social-Democracy, to arrive at these views and hence to stand at the head of the international revolutionary movement. After 1907, tsarist oppression compelled an increasing separation between the revolutionary Bolsheviks in the RSDLP and the RSDLP members “who rejected the need to maintain and build an illegal party”, the “liquidationists” who proposed to organise a legal “labour congress” instead. Thus, by 1912 to 1914 the Russian party already had practical experience in excluding opportunists. This is the kernel of truth that sustains the theory that Lenin came to “new pathways of thought and practice". Remember, however, that we eat the flesh of an apricot, not its stone. Bloodworth pointed out that the Bolsheviks were confident about the separation of the currents in the RSDLP, because, according to Lenin’s benchmark, which was influence in the workers’ movement, the Bolsheviks had great success.[37] But Lenin’s choice of benchmark confirms Lih’s view that the merger narrative is central to Lenin’s perspective.

I want to clarify the political significance of Lenin’s innovations. Lenin did not argue that any specific section of better-off workers necessarily would be opportunist: “This will be revealed only by the struggle, it will be definitely decided only by the socialist revolution.” What he did argue was that the opportunists “represent only a minority”. He considered that reference to the opportunists’ “mass organisations” should not deter revolutionaries from confronting opportunism and instead:

Go[ing] down lower and deeper, to the real masses; this is the whole meaning and the whole [purpose] of the struggle against opportunism … [which will] teach the masses to appreciate their true political interests, to fight for socialism and for the revolution through all the long and painful vicissitudes.[38]

Lenin’s assumed narrative of the merger of socialism and the workers’ movements and his confidence that the workers’ movement will take part in this remains. Only where that workers’ movement will be found has changed. Thus, Lenin’s arguments about imperialism, the labour aristocracy and the need for the exclusion of opportunism from the revolutionary party were innovations, but were not a proposal for a “party of a new type”.

Lih has pointed out that in Left-Wing Communism, Lenin did not try “to impress on the foreign comrades of the importance of purging the opportunists and moving from factional to party status”. Arguably many of the international supporters were only too ready to do this: for example, at the start of 1921 the Italian Communists split with barely a third of the support from the existing social-democratic party, despite the much broader sympathy for the Third International there. Instead, the book reaffirmed “the party principle”, in an attempt to win to it the anarchic leftists who might contribute to the Communist Party’s growth if they agreed. And that reason for that principle is told in the narrative of the merger of socialism and the workers’ movement.[39]

The parties Lenin envisaged would be revolutionary leaders of the masses. Clearly these parties were not to be as broad as the old social-democratic parties, but certainly they would not be narrow either. “Lefts” would be included if they would be part of a party, and “centrists” so long as they would cut their links to the opportunists. I wonder if “broad party” and “narrow party” are poorly formulated concepts for our debates. They express a problem of party-building tactics in organisational, not in political, terms. Lenin seems only to have thought of the revolutionary party. According to him, whatever specific forms of the revolutionary party are possible at a given moment, the party must be oriented to achieving the merger of socialism with the workers and their allies in motion.

Notes

[1] Lars T. Lih, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? in Context, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2008, pp. 14-15, 18-20.

[2] Lars T. Lih, Lenin, Reaktion Books, London, 2011.

[3] Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, Humanities Press, Atlantic Highlands, 1990.

[5] Lars T Lih, “Lenin’s Aggressive Unoriginality, 1914-1916”, Socialist Studies, vol. 5, no. 2, Fall 2009.

[6] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“.

[7] Lars T. Lih, Lenin, p. 192.

[8] Ibid., pp. 192-93, 196.

[9] Lars T Lih, “‘We must dream!’ Echoes of `What Is to Be Done?’ in Lenin’s later career”, Links, accessed on 16 May 2013 http://links.org.au/node/1980.

[10] V.I. Lenin, “Left-wing Communism”, in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 31, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1920, pp. 24-25.

[11] Lars T Lih, “Bolshevism and Revolutionary Social Democracy”, Weekly Worker, no. 917, 7 June 2012, accessed on 13 May 2013, http://www.cpgb.org.uk/home/weekly-worker/917/bolshevism-and-revolutionary-social-democracy. Republished in Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal: http://links.org.au/node/2905.

[12] Lars T. Lih, Lenin, p. 194.

[13] Lars T. Lih, Lenin Rediscovered, p. 102.

[14] Ibid., pp. 92-93.

[15] Ibid., p. 22.

[16] Ibid., pp. 68-70.

[17] Ibid., pp. 35-36, 338-46.

[18] Ibid., pp. 13-33, 529-30.

[19] V.I. Lenin, “The Reorganisation of the Party”, in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 10, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1978 [1905], p. 32.

[20] Paul Le Blanc, Lenin and the Revolutionary Party, pp. 357-58.

[21] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“.

[22] Paul Le Blanc, “Paul Le Blanc Responds to Lars Lih: Bolshevism and Party Building – Convergence and Questions”, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, accessed on 17 May 2013, http://links.org.au/node/2852, Paul Le Blanc, “Paul Le Blanc: The Great Lenin Debate - History and Politics”, Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal, accessed on 17 May 2013, http://links.org.au/node/3011.

[23] Lars T Lih, “Bolshevism and Revolutionary Social Democracy”.

[24] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“.

[25] Lars T. Lih, Lenin Rediscovered, p. 556.

[26] Ibid., pp. 66-82.

[27] Ibid., p. 556.

[28] N. [V.I.] Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?”, in Lars T Lih, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? in Context, Haymarket Books, Chicago, 2008 [1902], pp. 830-32.

[29] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“. Emphasis added.

[30] V.I. Lenin, “Left-wing Communism”, p. 25.

[31] N. [V.I.] Lenin, “What Is to Be Done?”, pp. 833-34.

[32] V.I. Lenin, “Left-wing Communism”, p. 25.

[33] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“.

[34] Lars T. Lih, Lenin, pp. 123-29.

[35] V.I. Lenin, “The Collapse of the Second International”, in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 21, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1980 [1915], V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, in V.I. Lenin, Collected Works, vol. 23, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1981 [1916].

[36] Lars T Lih, “Bolshevism and Revolutionary Social Democracy”.

[37] Sandra Bloodworth, “Lenin vs 'Leninism'“.

[38] V.I. Lenin, “Imperialism and the Split in Socialism”, pp. 118-120.

[39] Lars T Lih, “Bolshevism and Revolutionary Social Democracy”.

Comments

Leninology

And..?

This comes over to me like theology - What Did Jesus Really Say? Or What Did Jesus Really Mean? Except that at least Liberation Theologists asked what Jesus signified for contemporary Christians.

Living under a Complex, Globalised, Networked Capitalism, I really cannot imagine from this exchange the significance of Lenin for Australian socialists - at least for those living under the actually-existing capitalist world rather than, say, that of 1905 or even 1955.

What, in a Leninist scenario, would be the role of women, youth, gays, lesbians, indigenous peoples, the precariat, of human-beings as a species? Or they all subsumed into the People, being led by the Proletariat, inspired by...err...Leninists disputing Leninism?

For the record, I was something of aa Leninist until I read him on 'The Alliance of the Working Class and the Peasantry' (Progress Publishers, Moscow, 19??) and noted the multiple quite distinct national and international relations this alliance covered.

And later realised that every major work of Lenin was a polemic - not the best mode for discovery rather than squashing 'renegades'.

PeterW

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