Lenin creates controversy as the Bolshevik leader stands against exploiters; and consequently, theoreticians defending exploiters don’t spare any opportunity to condemn Lenin.
Immediately after the Great October Revolution, Lenin had to encounter a reality, which was beyond perception of theoreticians busy with bourgeois ideas strengthened by petty-bourgeois imagination.
In the situation immediately after initiating the Revolution, Lenin describes “the incredible difficulties under which [they] had to work.” (“Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat”, Collected Works, henceforth CW, vol. 30, Progress Publishers, henceforth PP, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1965) To explain the situation, Lenin cites figures on the production and consumption of grain. The data from the Central Statistical Board of Soviet Russia was “not for the whole of Soviet Russia, but only for twenty-six gubernias.” The data elucidate the situation:
“[A]pproximately half the amount of grain supplied to the cities is provided by the Commissariat of Food and the other half by profiteers. This same proportion is revealed by a careful survey, made in 1918, of the food consumed by city workers. It should be borne in mind that for bread supplied by the state the worker pays one-ninth of what he pays the profiteer. The profiteering price for bread is ten times greater than the state price; this is revealed by a detailed study of workers’ budgets.” (ibid. emphasis in the original, henceforth eo)
This was the situation the proletariat in Soviet Russia had to begin with; this was the reality Lenin was to move with only to be condemned as autocrat by a group of theoreticians unwilling to take into account existing reality.
It’s not that the bright theoreticians don’t understand the power, economic and political, of profiteering. It’s beyond capacity of many of these theoreticians to organize and operate a grocer shop, a little magazine on a regular basis, and a cultural circle at community level although they get busy with the task of condemning Lenin for his “failures” with democracy while they dismiss class character of democracy, and don’t take into consideration the reality within which the proletariat was organizing and consolidating its political power. These theoreticians know the way profiteers distort democracy in its, at imaginary level, class-“neutral” form. They also know the exact requirement to fight out profiteers, and the result of failure in fighting out the profiteers. Yet, they denounce Lenin. This is their honest intellectual practice!
The democracy the theoreticians dream of is essentially bourgeois in character although to them, that’s the “pure” democracy, and that is the weapon with which they declare: Lenin imposed “autocracy”.
Emancipation of the working people in Soviet Russia was a “step in the direction of real freedom and real equality, a step which for its extent, dimensions and rapidity is without parallel in the world, is ignored by the supporters of the bourgeoisie (including the petty-bourgeois democrats), who, when they talk of freedom and equality, mean parliamentary bourgeois democracy, which they falsely declare to be ‘democracy’ in general, or ‘pure democracy’ […]”. (ibid.)
These theoreticians don’t find the bourgeois taste in the democracy of the working people. This failure leads them to go against Lenin. They feel shy to admit that they don’t recognize class character of democracy.
“[T]he working people are concerned only with real equality and real freedom […]
“In this peasant country it was the peasantry as a whole who were the first to gain, who gained most, and gained immediately from the dictatorship of the proletariat. The peasant in Russia starved under the landowners and capitalists. Throughout the long centuries of our history, the peasant never had an opportunity to work for himself: he starved while handing over hundreds of millions of poods of grain to the capitalists, for the cities and for export. Under the dictatorship of the proletariat the peasant for the first time has been working for himself and feeding better than the city dweller. For the first time the peasant has seen real freedom — freedom to eat his bread, freedom from starvation. In the distribution of the land, […] the maximum equality has been established; in the vast majority of cases the peasants are dividing the land according to the number of ‘mouths to feed’.” (ibid., eo)
The democracy of the working people in Soviet Russia had to ensure rights of this peasantry, their access to equality, and to freedom from the clutches of hunger. Can these theoreticians cite a single example from anywhere of the bourgeois world where the exploiters have taken no-measures or half-measures, which could have jeopardized the exploiters’ rule and could have allowed enslaved and starved poor peasantry to access freedom from enslavement and hunger? It can be hoped that the great accusers indicting Lenin would come up with facts.
The task of abolishing classes, Lenin writes, “cannot be done all at once. This task is incomparably more difficult and will of necessity take a long time. It is not a problem that can be solved by overthrowing a class. It can be solved only by the organisational reconstruction of the whole social economy, by a transition from individual, disunited, petty commodity production to large-scale social production. This transition must of necessity be extremely protracted.” (ibid.)
And, for accomplishing this task “[t]he proletariat must separate, demarcate the working peasant from the peasant owner, the peasant worker from the peasant huckster, the peasant who labours from the peasant who profiteers.” (ibid.) And, “[i]n this demarcation lies the whole essence of socialism.” (ibid., eo)
Do they theoreticians suggest to not separating the peasant worker from the peasant profiteer? And, do they have any practical suggestion other than howling at Lenin and his Bolshevik comrades? Is not it clear that who is hurt with the measures adopted by the Bolsheviks led by Lenin? This clear understanding helps discern the meaning of the howling.
This task of carrying on demarcation, cited above, is “an extremely difficult one [….]”. (ibid.)
Along with other practical problems within the society with remnants and vestiges of the overthrown classes/interests/rule there are “the conditions of commodity production”, which “inevitably turn the peasant (not always, but in the vast majority of cases) into a huckster and profiteer.” (ibid.)
The following data, cited by Lenin, tells about profiteers’ power:
During 1918-’19, the peasants “delivered to the hungry workers […] 40,000,000 poods of grain at fixed state prices,” and the peasant profiteer “clandestinely sold 40,000,000 poods of grain at ten times the state price”. (ibid.) The profiteer took “advantage of […] hunger of the city worker, [deceived] the state, and everywhere [increased] and [created] deceit, robbery and fraud […]” (ibid.) And, “whoever possesses a surplus of grain and profiteers in that grain is an exploiter of the hungry worker.” (ibid.)
The proletariat power in Soviet Russia had to deal with this problem. And, dealing with this problem required measures – economic and political, legislative and administrative. In all these areas, there’s an element: force, which takes different forms depending on situation/circumstance, requirement, obstacle encountered, form, type and level of organization, capacities of opposing forces – the enemy and self, etc. These aspects/questions are to be considered before condemning Lenin for all the measures he had to take.
The accusations hurled by today’s group of intellectuals are old. Lenin had to listen to the same during his days:
“You are violators of freedom, equality, and democracy — they shout at us on all sides, pointing to the inequality of the worker and the peasant under our Constitution, to the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly, to the forcible confiscation of surplus grain, and so forth.” (ibid.)
And, Lenin replies:
“[N]ever in the world has there been a state which has done so much to remove the actual inequality, the actual lack of freedom from which the working peasant has been suffering for centuries. But we shall never recognise equality with the peasant profiteer, just as we do not recognise ‘equality’ between the exploiter and the exploited, between the sated and the hungry, nor the ‘freedom’ for the former to rob the latter. And those educated people who refuse to recognise this difference we shall treat as whiteguards, even though they may call themselves democrats, socialists, internationalists, Kautskys, Chernovs, or Martovs.” (ibid.)
The group of intellectuals posing as sages while dealing political questions including the question of democracy love to “recognise ‘equality’ between the exploiter and the exploited, between the sated and the hungry”, love to recognize “the ‘freedom’ for the former to rob the latter.” This inspires them to denounce Lenin for his, according to the sages, “autocracy”. These bourgeois-sages are not ashamed for their love for the exploiters. This is their class position. So, they find friends among followers of backward ideologies, extreme-rightist, worst of the worst of the reactionaries, that don’t recognize the exploited-exploiter divide. It’s the class question; and ideologies with different colors and origins, but defending the exploiters, don’t recognize the class question. Here’s the difference between Lenin and those political-sages and adherents of backward ideologies.
“Socialism means the abolition of classes. [….] But classes cannot be abolished at one stroke.
“And classes still remain and will remain in the era of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The dictatorship will become unnecessary when classes disappear. Without the dictatorship of the proletariat they will not disappear.
“[….] The class struggle does not disappear under the dictatorship of the proletariat; it merely assumes different forms.
“[….] Having overthrown the bourgeoisie and conquered political power, the proletariat has become the ruling class; it wields state power, it exercises control over means of production already socialised; it guides the wavering and intermediary elements and classes; it crushes the increasingly stubborn resistance of the exploiters. All these are specific tasks of the class struggle, tasks which the proletariat formerly did not and could not have set itself.
“The class of exploiters, the landowners and capitalists, has not disappeared and cannot disappear all at once under the dictatorship of the proletariat. The exploiters have been smashed, but not destroyed. They still have an international base in the form of international capital, of which they are a branch. They still retain certain means of production in part, they still have money, they still have vast social connections. Because they have been defeated, the energy of their resistance has increased a hundred and a thousand fold. The ‘art’ of state, military and economic administration gives them a superiority, and a very great superiority, so that their importance is incomparably greater than their numerical proportion of the population. The class struggle waged by the overthrown exploiters against the victorious vanguard of the exploited, i.e., the proletariat, has become incomparably more bitter. [….]
“Lastly, the peasants, like the petty bourgeoisie in general, occupy a half-way, intermediate position even under the dictatorship of the proletariat: on the one hand, they are a fairly large (and in backward Russia, a vast) mass of working people, united by the common interest of all working people to emancipate themselves from the landowner and the capitalist; on the other hand, they are disunited small proprietors, property-owners and traders. Such an economic position inevitably causes them to vacillate between the proletariat and the bourgeoisie. [….]” (ibid.)
It is hoped that the theoreticians would take into consideration the complex reality while passing comments on Soviet Russia and Lenin.
Lenin, in the article, raises the fundamental question:
“[T]he prejudice inherited from the bourgeoisie that ‘democracy’ is something absolute and above classes. [….]
“General talk about freedom, equality and democracy is in fact but a blind repetition of concepts shaped by the relations of commodity production.” (ibid.)
The communist leader furthers his claims with the following argument:
“From the point of view of the proletariat, the question can be put only in the following way: freedom from oppression by which class? equality of which class with which? democracy based on private property, or on a struggle for the abolition of private property? — and so forth.” (ibid.)
The theoreticians deny answering the questions although they continue claiming this and that, and all of their claims are on the basis of bourgeois class-view. They deny looking at the question of transferring of power from one class to another.
The Great October Revolution in Russia “is possible and feasible only provided we manage to the transfer of power to the new class, provided the bourgeoisie, the capitalist slave-owners, the bourgeois intellectuals, the representatives of all the owners and property holders are replaced by the new class in all spheres of government, in all state affairs, in the entire business of running the new life, from top to bottom.” (Lenin, “Report at Second All-Russian Trade Union Congress”, CW, vol. 28, PP, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972)
What happens in the US, a matured bourgeois democracy, after a new administration assumes office through a presidential election? It’s a political party, one wing of the same ruling class, which assumes power from another political party, another wing of the same class. Are not there wide changes in offices? And, these changes are completed after thorough scrutiny by legislative branch of the state, and by media and intelligence offices. It’s a change of office within the same class, a change without moving away from fundamental principles and policies, a change between two political parties having the same class interest, a change without any change in property relations. In many states run by under-developed classes/segments, exploiters and plunderers, this change in offices is much crude, brutal, and sometimes, there are acts of cutting throats: one faction of a ruling class bloodies its class-brother. Can the theoreticians refute these facts? What happens while one imperialist power engages into action to grab market from another imperialist power? None of these imperialist powers go for changing property relations, but none of them misses any opportunity to let blood of people flow. The invaders and occupiers organize massacres and genocides. Let temporarily keep aside the “beautiful, mesmerizing magic” named brutal-bloody appropriation of surplus labor. What happened when regimes in advanced bourgeois democracies went for (1) privatizing coal mines, (2) imposing programs for brutal exploitation and expropriation of public properties and rights of people in the names of structural adjustment and austerity? Were those touches with rose petals? Were there no letting of bloods, no suffering of the people in those societies? None of those actions aimed at transferring of properties from the exploiters. Rather, those were aimed at maximizing profit, consolidating hold on properties, transferring burden of loss on the working classes, boosting up capital and weakening labor. The theoreticians don’t need any lesson of history of and political developments in those states – developed or under-developed, in Latin America, Africa, Asia and Europe. So, answers to the questions raised above are known to these theoreticians. If they like to have a deeper look, they can move back to the further past – during the rise and consolidation of bourgeois power in countries.
Is it rational to expect that a class new on the seat of power will move with a ruling machine of old class while the class assuming power plans to change the property relation of the old class? What happens within the machine? Is there any contradiction? What type of contradiction, if any? How to solve that contradiction? It is expected that the theoreticians will come up with answers to the questions point by point.
The situation the proletariat in Soviet Russia facing was:
“The bourgeoisie […] has been conquered, but it has not yet been uprooted, not yet destroyed, and not even utterly broken.” (Lenin, “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government, CW, vol. 27, PPs, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1972)
This situation led the proletariat to “a new and higher form of struggle against the bourgeoisie”, a “transition from the very simple task of further expropriating the capitalists to the much more complicated and difficult task of creating conditions in which it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie to exist, or for a new bourgeoisie to arise.” (ibid.)
Do the theoreticians suggest not “creating conditions in which it will be impossible for the bourgeoisie to exist”? They should suggest some practical measures in case they make that suggestion.
The proletariat had the aim of abolishing classes completely. “[I]n order to abolish classes completely, it is not enough to overthrow the exploiters, the landlords and capitalists, not enough to abolish their rights of ownership; it is necessary also to abolish all private ownership of the means of production, [and other measures concerning town-country and manual workers-brain workers distinctions requiring] a very long period of time.” (Lenin, “A Great Beginning”, CW, vol. 29, PP, Moscow, erstwhile USSR, 1974, eo)
Do the theoreticians condemning Lenin suggest “something” opposite?
A few theoreticians labor a lot to show that Lenin’s stand was opposite to Marx’s. They cite Lenin’s stand with dictatorship of the proletariat. But they forget that Marx said: “[…] class struggle necessarily leads to the dictatorship of the proletariat […]” (Marx to J. Weydemeyer, March 5, 1852) In “Critique of the Gotha Programme”, Marx also said: “Between capitalist and communist society lies the period of the revolutionary transformation of the one into the other. There corresponds to this also a political transition period in which the state can be nothing but the revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat.” (April-early May 1875, eo)
This dictatorship is democracy of the working people, and dictatorship over the exploiters; and these need no elaboration here as the issues have been explained a lot of times. The proletariat in Soviet Union initiated the process since the Great October Revolution, which is vehemently opposed by the exploiting classes. And, Lenin is condemned by these theoreticians as Lenin was the leader of the proletariat. So, the theoreticians spew hatred against Lenin. And, thus, they disclose their class position.
There is another claim: “[W]hat Lenin meant and what Marx intended are very different.” (A comment on the 1st section of this article in Countercurrents.org, April 22, 2018) The comment refers to an article “The Myth of the Transitional Society” by Adam Buick (Critique 5, 1975, henceforth “The Myth”). Proponents of the claim say:
“Since 1900, the working class has still, it is true, needed to organise itself to capture political power in all the various states of the world, and, in this sense, a ‘political transition period’ during which the working class uses state power to establish the common ownership of the means of production, is [sic.] still necessary. However, since this period would be so short as to be negligible, the concept of a transition period has become outdated.
“Similarly, though in the first few years of socialism, as the mess left by capitalism is cleared up, some restrictions on full free consumption may still be necessary, world socialist society could now move rapidly (i.e. in well under a decade at the most) to implementing free access to consumer goods and services according to individual need as the principle of distribution. To sum up, the concept of a ‘transition period’, lasting some years, between capitalism and socialism is today an obsolete 19th century concept […]” (“The Myth”, bold added)
As answer, in short, to the claims made are:
- How long is negligible and “so short” (“well under a decade at the most”, “lasting some years”)? Is it equal in all cases, in developed capitalist economies, in semi-colonial, semi-feudal economies like pre-1949-China, in Chad, Ghana, Libya and Nigeria, in Japan, in India and Nepal, in Venezuela and Honduras, in the most advanced bourgeois democracies now over-active in nullifying many rights bourgeois democracies once promised and accommodated to some extent? Do all of these economies have the same historical background? Are same measures to be taken and the same length of time required in imperialist economies, in former colonies and in neo-colonies? Today, in the perspective of villainous actions by all powerful imperialism, TNCs, multinational lending organizations, and with their almost complete grip on world markets, what happens in countries? It’s not only loot and destruction of these countries, but also having a faithful band of ferocious lackeys there. Shall not these hirelings have any power to subvert the new political power of the downtrodden? What is the experience with the “famous” Contras in Nicaragua, theoretician-friends? What’s the experience in Venezuela today, learned-theoretician friends? Should the length of time be measured in cases of societies in mechanical way: short, short, short? Is it possible to measure time in mechanical way in cases of societies? How rapid is “rapid”, as has been claimed? Well, it’s understood that the theoreticians are suggesting a measure, which is straight and simple within complex socio-economic realities. These are, actually, funny, childish imaginations and dangerous, which sound sweet, but have no footing in reality. And, actually, the prescription proposed is suicidal for the proletariat.
- What’s the experience in the post-revolutionary societies in the East and Central Europe, if “transition period has become outdated”, as has been claimed? Does it mean that no transition period is required? Is it possible in Venezuela? And, with this claim, who is different from Marx: Lenin or the theoretician making the above claim: “outdated”?
- Does it now sound contradictory as the theoretician suggests: “may still be necessary” and “obsolete”? To the theoretician, there’s necessity, it appears from his claim, of an obsolete tool. Should it be heavy and sharp? Or, light and blunt? Or, should it be heavy and blunt? Who is different from Marx: Lenin or the “inventor” of the 1975-article posted a few years ago in a blog, who felt that it’s “necessary” to have an “obsolete” tool in a society that strives to move forward?
- The cited article (“The Myth”) labors a lot to “prove” that Marx kept his transition-idea limited within politics. Do politics, political measures dangle from sky? Don’t these have any base? Then, where does economy stand? Readers have to “accept” the theoretician’s idea: “keep” dictatorship limited within politics even if it’s not possible. Where the dictatorship shall be applied? Who shall apply it? Who will get benefit from it and who shall be harmed? Doesn’t dictatorship have economic base? Does dictatorship sprout independently, a mere wish? At least, elementary knowledge about dictatorship is required before making claims on dictatorship, and on issues concerning classes and actions by classes.
It is hoped that more accusations against and condemnations of Lenin will follow; because Lenin stood against the exploiters, imperialism; and those “friends” of “freedom”, etc. know their class enemy: Lenin. The accusations and condemnations will be spawned by theoreticians wearing grabs of red color, posing as the most faithful follower of Marx, but having no idea of reality – the “Marxists” without Marx.
This is the 2nd section of part 8 of a series commemorating the Great October Revolution Centenary. The 1st section, “Economics and politics in early-Soviet Russia and Lenin on his birthday – April 22”, appeared in Countercurrents.org on April 22, 2018. Parts 1-6 of the series originally appeared in Countercurrents.org and Frontier.
Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, and he operates neither any e-social media account including facebook nor any blog/web site.