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Lamenting Lenin is a regular ritual of a section of scholars donning, on occasions, a red apron. These scholars, a few of them pose as an ardent disciple of Marx, accuse Lenin of practicing autocracy as they point to measures the Soviet Power had to take during its early days.

The rant

The condemnation-business is transcontinental, beginning from Russia to US to India. And, Lenin-lamenting is more than a century years-old business. This has been geared up in recent time.

Lenin had to face condemnations since he began formulating strategy and tactics of the revolution in which he was taking part. Narodniks, legal “Marxists” and Martovites were joined by, at different stages, Plekhanov, Cadets, Right Social Revolutionaries, bourgeois/imperialist scholars, politicians and military leaders, bishops, monarchists, anti-communist warriors, conservatives, and rightist ideologues voicing left slogans.

Lenin was dismissed as “evil genius”, “void of moral standards” and “heartless individual”. He was described as “champion of mass violence”, “admirer of anti-semitic thugs”, “obsessed with the disastrous experiment he had helped to initiate”, had a “reactionary mind”, had “fatal flaws”. Lenin was depicted as a person who “disdainfully disregarded the human cost”, treated “his vast realm like a princely estate,” was “financed by German funds that helped Lenin to create a party press and network of Russian cells in Russia, as well as his private army (the Red Guards)”, established “totalitarianism founded on terror”, introduced “genocide as state policy”. They “found” that “a frustrated Lenin later developed the ‘un-Marxist’ and ‘Blanquist’ theory of ‘revolution from above’ by intellectuals that” later guided Bolshevik practice.

Claims were made that Lenin committed “crimes against humanity”. Lenin was blamed for execution of the Tsar and his family, and for deportation of counter-revolutionaries.

In the “noble” task of Lenin-cursing, the sages descend down to questioning the necessity of organizing the October Revolution as they “analyze”: “Russia and the world would have been better served had the February Revolution not been followed by Red October”; and, they say: “the October Revolution was not valid”, “the Bolshevik Revolution [is] an enormous tragedy for Russia and the rest of the world”, “the Duma should have been allowed to get along with its business”, and the Soviet Union was “the most dangerous and dehumanizing force in the second half of the twentieth century”.

The execrations go by schools.

“When considering the October Revolution the Liberal school […] see it as the result of a determined and ruthless group taking advantage of the unusual circumstances that occurred in October 1917. To the Liberal historian[,] there was nothing inevitable about this revolution. It was the force of Lenin’s personality and his political skill[,] which enabled the Bolsheviks to make use of the chaos brought about by the impact of the First World War. Liberal historians see the Bolsheviks as a minority group who seized power by force because of their superior organization and not because of mass support from the people. Growing support in the soviets for the Bolsheviks is dismissed, being seen as the result of manipulation and infiltration. Where support is evident it is viewed as largely due to the political backwardness of the peasants and workers. What gave the Bolsheviks the advantage was the chaotic situation of 1917 and Lenin’s skilful opportunism.” (Steve Phillips, Lenin and the Russian Revolution, Heinemann Educational Publishers, Oxford, Great Britain, 2000)

There’s still rife the Menshevik theory: “Marxist doctrine necessitated a flourishing capitalist economy, which Russia did not represent in 1917, for socialist foundations successfully to be laid.”

“There is also the view of other socialist commentators who saw the Revolution as occurring too early, as a result of a rushed attempt to move towards socialism against the principles of Marx. This view has been put forward by Menshevik leaders V Chernov in The Great Russian Revolution (1936) and T Dan in The Origins of Bolshevism (1965), a viewpoint stemming from the ideological differences between the Bolsheviks and Mensheviks.” (ibid.)

To these scholars, Bolshevik are villains while heroes are Nicholas II, Kornilov, Denikin and their class-brothers. They equate the “regime of Lenin” with those of “Mussolini, and Hitler”. Richard Pipes, a Harvard scholar, describes the Romanovs as “guilty of nothing, desiring only to be allowed to live in peace”.

Leonard Schapiro in The Origin of the Communist Autocracy (1955) presented the October Revolution as a military operation with little popular involvement, which resulted imposition of a dictatorship on the Russian people.

There’s Dmitri Antonovich Volkogonov, the Soviet colonel-general turned historian repudiating Marxism-Leninism turned liberal parliamentarian in Gorbachev-age turned special adviser to the president Yeltsin, the king of corruption. The Yeltsin adviser “firmly committed himself to the view that Russia’s only hope in 1917 lay in the liberal and social democratic coalition that emerged in the February Revolution.” (Volkogonov, Lenin, A New Biography, “Editor’s Preface”, The Free Press, New York, 1994)

During the August 1991 coup attempt in Moscow, Volkogonov was in a London hospital. From his hospital bed Volkogonov broadcast an appeal on BBC, a faithful broad-telecaster, to the army to not obey orders of the coup leaders. (Independent, December 7, 1995, “Obituary: General Dmitri Volkogonov”) This Volkogonov wrote: “Lenin always looked like a tired old man.” (Lenin, a New Biography) Volkogonov has more tirades against Lenin also.

There are books by Harold Shukman, Oxford academic, historian and one of the most anti-Soviet Sovietologists: Lenin, Life and Legacy (Harper Collins, 1995), Lenin and the Russian Revolution (Putnam, 1967). Shukman and Volkogonov were friends.

The Unknown Lenin: From the Secret Archive (Richard Pipes, (ed.), Yale University Press, 1999, in the Annals of Communism series), “reveals” Lenin’s purpose in invading Poland in 1920 was not merely to Sovietize Poland, but to use the country as a springboard for invasion of Germany and England. [Lenin was so “void” of knowledge that he “planned” invasion of Germany and England during that time!]

Other works by Pipes including A Concise History of the Russian Revolution, Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime and The Three “Whys” of the Russian Revolution perform the same job: Decry Lenin and the Bolsheviks.

Pipes claims: (1) The Bolshevik ideology as nothing more than a thin cover for power-hungry people, (2) the April and June demonstrations were attempted Bolshevik putsches, (3) the Bolsheviks deliberately initiated the civil war, and (4) the Red terror was more violent than the White terror.

The list is much longer as there are more products by these megalomania-minds submerged in shallow bourgeois ideology and politics, which leads them to forget basic elements of politics including the questions of class and class struggle.

Free-market ideologues, journalists and commentators claiming as veteran, Harvard and Oxford scholars, so-called liberal-democrats and anti-Soviet Sovietologists are in these exercises.

A few recent condemnations, cited below, carry the same meaning and do the same nice job – unmask class character of the accusers:

The Moscow Times, reported:

“Religious leaders have denounced Russia’s 1917 communist revolution as a ‘Western plot’ to destroy the country.

“The Russian Orthodox Church Outside of Russia (ROCOR), an autonomous branch of the Russian Orthodox Church, claimed that Russian elites brain-washed by ‘Westernism’ plunged Russia into political turmoil.

“‘[Western-educated elites] pushed Russia into the abyss with suicidal persistence,’ the ROCOR bishops’ synod said in a statement. ‘They persuaded the Russian people to renounce their faith, their king and their homeland.’

“The church also called for the body of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin to be removed from Moscow’s Red Square as ‘a symbol of reconciliation’ to mark 100 years since the revolution.

“It said Moscow should be ‘liberated’ from the body of ‘the greatest persecutor and tormentor of the twentieth century.’” (“Religious Leaders Condemn Russia’s 1917 Revolution as ‘Western Plot’”, March 13, 2017)

Anna Nemtsova wrote in Daily Beast:

“On a misty night 100 years ago this week, a short bald man, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, the Bolshevik leader better known as Lenin, ordered a blank shot fired from the cruiser Aurora to signal the beginning of a coup, and of hellish violence, that changed Russia and the world forever.” (“Forget Lenin. 100 Years After the Revolution, The Royals and Rasputin Are The Stars”, October 28, 2017)

Anna added:

“Lenin’s deranged revolution opened the door for endless bloody killings in Russia, known as Vladimir Lenin’s Red Terror — estimates of executions ranged from 12,733 to 1.7 million […] Bolsheviks blew up churches, killing thousands of priests across the country. [… M]illions lost homes, died of hunger, went to prisons, and escaped abroad. The revolution was followed by a civil war that killed more than 300,000 people.”

There are more such findings.

One latest example

The stream of condemnations flows down to a Third World country, India. Sankar Ray, a veteran journalist and commentator, in a two-part article cites Gramsci from Avanti [Forward], newspaper of the Italian Socialist Party, December 24, 1917: “It’s a revolution against Karl Marx’s Das Capital. In Russia, Capital was the book of the bourgeoisie, more than of the book of the proletariat. [….] The Bolsheviks renounce Karl Marx.” (“Revolution or Coup”, parts I and II, The Statesman, December 1 and 2, 2017)

Sankar Ray cites a number of scholars and adds his suggestion: “It is time to consider why one should consider the ‘Great October Socialist Revolution’ as really a socialist revolution [….] In fact, the GOSR was ‘neither initiated nor led by the proletariat’.”

Therefore, Mr. Ray should write: “The Indian National Congress is a political party of the poor masses as hundreds of thousands of the Indian poor followed the Congress”, or, “the Congress is not a political party of the Indian comprador-bourgeoisie as most of the central leadership was not that much rich”, or, “The Muslim League in pre-partition-Bengal was a party of the Moslem poor Bengal peasantry as the party was overwhelmingly supported by that part of the Bengal society”, or, “The bourgeois revolutions in countries were not bourgeois as the commoners joined those; so, those were commoners’ revolution”, or, “the American Independence War was not a war of the bourgeoisie; rather, that was a war of slave owners as a number of leaders in that war were slave owners.”

Mr. Ray will be delighted to write these “historic”, unique also, “findings” based on his argument about the October Revolution although he needs lesson on the way a revolution is defined. Mr. Ray does neither understand leadership nor participation nor participation of a class although he embarks on the job of identifying a revolution. It’s not a level of knowledge in a primitive society, it’s a level of knowledge of a veteran journalist in an independent country rich with its knowledge-base! Or, it’s part of propaganda to denounce struggle of the working classes in Russia.

Mr. Ray cites a few authorities including Marc Jansen, Alexander Rabinowitch, Paresh Chattopadhyay, John Spargo, and states: “The Bolsheviks were not elected”, “Lenin had trampled upon internal democracy”, “Bolshevik rule was […] totalitarian”, Lenin brazenly deviated “from Marx’s fundamental emphasis on the society itself”, “[u]nder Bolshevik rule, no attempt was made to replace the capitalist mode of production”, etc.

Mr. Ray is a gentleman enough as he has not cited more such authorities, historians, politicians, economists, which include Kerensky, Milyukov, Lloyd George. Those would have bolstered his “arguments, claims and findings”; but, would have exposed illogic within his claims.

 

Facts ignored & methodological question

The scholarships condemning Lenin, as cited above, ignore the following facts/processes, and adopt a faulty methodology that nullifies their findings/conclusions:

  1. A historical process is considered as dependent on individual(s); and thus role(s) of class(es) is(are) ignored. This method of evaluating political struggles, a manifestation of class struggle, doesn’t take into consideration (1.1) the role of revolution and of force in revolution in human society; and (1.2) historical lessons from revolutions.
  2. Individual(s)/incident(s)/measure(s)/statement(s) is(are) (2.1) described partly with sporadically picked up isolated facts while preceding and following facts and connections are ignored, and measure(s) are not seen as part of a continual process; and (2.2) interpreted mechanically.
  3. Perspective, circumstances/compulsions within reality that include (3.1) historical limitations and historically inherited burdens, (3.2) exigencies, experiences, condition/capacity/capability of contending classes, and (3.3) class-equation are ignored. Are not these essential parts for analyzing/evaluating the actions/measures taken in class war? And, should anyone deny that the revolution that the Bolsheviks led was a class war as were other revolutions by other classes? Do political acts/moves/measures and ideology ever move beyond or stay behind class interest? No political actor can transcend class interest – a reality within all class-based societies.
  4. Facts related to the pre-revolution society-wide exploitation, repression and violence, deaths due to the imperialist World War, White Terror at mass level, imperialist and counter-revolutionary conspiracies, sabotages and assassinations/assassination attempts are ignored. The situation being faced by the Soviet was, borrowing from Robespierre, “[…] people’s representatives placed upon the inexhaustible volcano of conspiracies […]” (“On the Enemies of the Nation”, speech delivered from the tribune of the Convention, May 26, 1794) Do the scholars deny: Woodrow Wilson, US president, sent millions of dollars to agents to install a “military dictatorship” in Russia? Robert Lansing, US secretary of state, “dreamed” that that planned dictatorship would be amenable to US interests. Publicly Wilson was standing for “democracy”. David Foglesong’s America’s Secret War Against Bolshevism, 1917–1920 (University of North Carolina, 1995) provides related information.

What’s the scholars’ advice to face this reality with imperialist intervention? They turn “recluses”! On these questions, theirs is altum silentium, profound silence. Is the silence a show of their sense of “shame”, a “scholar”-like “honesty”? But, hirelings never feel shame.

Lloyd George lays bare a fact:

“There was throughout the Allied countries, especially amongst the propertied classes, an implacable hatred, born of a real fear, of Bolshevism”. (The Truth about the Peace Treaties, vol. I, Victor Gollancz Ltd., London, 1938)

Shall the scholars explain: Why the propertied classes were not scared of the tsarist rule, the bourgeoisie, the bankers, the Kornilovs, the Denikins, the Kolchaks, the imperialists, and the scholars denouncing Lenin, and why those classes were scared of the Bolsheviks? Shall the Bolshevikophobic scholarship make the scholars honest enough and courageous enough to come up with logical answers, even if the answers are in a clumsily composed article, to the questions?

Shall ever the scholars condemning Lenin consider the above arguments, and, taking it as a challenge, attend to the requirements for an objective evaluation of Lenin, the Bolsheviks and the Great October Revolution? They will never take the challenge. Then, shouldn’t they be condemned for fudging history of the exploited?

Moreover, the scholars look at developments from a bourgeois world view and rely on bourgeois standard to evaluate. Their scholarship with history is so wide and deep that they decline citing the ways dominating classes in feudal and capitalist societies followed while those classes were taking over political power. They feel shy to cite the rules/laws these classes formulated/enacted while consolidating political power, dominating opponent classes, securing self-class-interests.

With a glee, these scholars pass judgment on political actions by the proletariat in the Great October Revolution while the scholars don’t recognize the class conflict-ridden political map of Russia. To them, revolution is a middle class sentiment-filled political juggling. But, “[a] revolution is not a dinner party, or writing an essay, or painting a picture, or doing embroidery; it cannot be so refined, so leisurely and gentle, so temperate, kind, courteous, restrained and magnanimous. A revolution is an insurrection, an act of violence by which one class overthrows another.” (Mao, Report on an Investigation of the Peasant Movement in Hunan)

And, they forget the injustices, tyrannical power and violent oppression the overthrown ruling system perpetrated for generations, and the forceful efforts it was making to restore that system.  These scholars should listen to Robespierre: “To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty. The severity of tyrants has barbarity for its principle; that of a republican government is founded on beneficence.” (“On the Principles of Political Morality”, Report upon the Principles of Political Morality Which Are to Form the Basis of the Administration of the Interior Concerns of the Republic, first published: Philadelphia, 1794)

The group of scholars that includes a few former far-left-for a shorter period and a few veteran journalists, “wisely” dries inkpots for condemning Lenin’s acts but turn wiser not to “waste” a drop of that ink to point out the astonishing advancements of causes of humanity the proletariat made in the very early days of the Soviet power within a reality handed down by history. These scholars’ love for exploiters is ad infinitum, to infinity.

In this environment of Lenin-bashing, an editor from India writes in a letter: “[T]hose […] condemning Marx and Lenin day in and out are actually indulging in an exercise of escapism. Condemning Marx or Lenin cannot produce an alternative they are talking about.”

The requirement of the time, according to the editor, is “to develop an alternative struggling path for the emancipation of the oppressed in the changed context of globalization and financialization.”

These scholars’ “punditry” cease there: Formulate an alternative theory, more logical than Lenin’s. They fail.

With “ingenuity” failing to pass rationality, and scholarship malformed by rightist ideology, they “write” history and “form” theory. But, despite the rancor against Lenin by this legion of scholars Lenin keeps cropping up in lands, among peoples.

 

Note:

  1. Originally published in Frontier, autumn issue, vol. 51, no. 14 – 17, October 7 – November 3, 2018, Kolkata.
  2. The issue covered in this article has also been discussed in “Condemnation and Class Interest”, part II, in the series The Great October Revolution, (Frontier on-line edition, November 12, 2017, and Countercurrents.org, October 25, 2017).

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka.

10 Comments

  1. Lenin’s views on revolution were fundamentally different from Marx’s and when Leninist revolutionary theory is put into practice the result has been not socialism but state capitalism as happened in Russia.

    It is not too well known that in all his revolutionary activity up to April 1917 Lenin was advocating, not a socialist revolution for Russia, but a bourgeois revolution which would establish a capitalist republic. Correctly applying Marx’s materialist conception of history to the Russian situation, Lenin rejected the possibility of an immediate transition to socialism, because of the lack of economic development and the insufficient degree of socialist consciousness among the workers. Since he considered that the Russian capitalists were too weak to smash Tsarism and its fetters on capitalist development themselves, Lenin advocated that the Bolsheviks should take power, establish a bourgeois republic with political democracy, and then become a revolutionary opposition within that republic, building up support for socialism.

    However in April 1917 Lenin declared himself to be in favour of the viewpoint which he had previously scornfully rejected – adopting Trotsky’s “permanent revolution” theory, he urged that the Bolsheviks prepare to seize power with the aim of immediately taking socialist measures. Again, Lenin was rejecting the Marxist position. As he had himself argued earlier, the degree of economic development and socialist consciousness needed for socialist revolution did not exist. In advocating socialist revolution for backward Russia Lenin was adopting the policy of the 19th century insurrectionists whom Marx and Engels had strongly criticised.

    At the same time as he took up the permanent revolution theory Lenin introduced a distinction between socialism and communism. He stated that the coming revolution would establish not communism, but socialist society, a system which would persist into the foreseeable future, and in which there would still be the state, the wages system, and production for sale. This was of course a further distortion of Marx who had used the terms socialism. and communism interchangeably. It was an ideological camouflage while maintaining a semblance of Marxian terminology.

    When Lenin did take power, and did so proclaiming that they were establishing socialism, he became a prisoner of Russia’s backwardness and could do no more than develop capitalism, as he had earlier advocated. However, Lenin and the Bolsheviks did not relinquish power. Justifying their rule on the grounds that it was the dictatorship of the proletariat, another distortion of a phrase used by Marx, the Bolsheviks have retained power, and over the years their leaders became a new ruling class, collectively controlling and thus in effect owning the means of production, and performing the same role as the private capitalists in the West.

    Examples of Lenin’s false quotations which aren’t innocuous typos but purposeful misquotes

    Lenin quotes Marx’s The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte and emphasises a passage which reads “All revolutions perfected THIS machine instead of smashing it” (my emphasis), clearly a reference to a particular State apparatus; in this case the centralised French State.

    But see what Lenin makes Marx say in State and Revolution

    “. . . all the revolutions which have occurred up to now perfected THE state machine, whereas it must be broken, smashed.” ( my emphasis).

    Another example occurs in Chapter III where Lenin quotes from one of Marx’s letters (to Kugelmann, 12 April 1871). In it Marx is saying that the passage from The Eighteenth Brumaire just discussed means that it was essential for “every real people’s revolution on the Continent” not “to transfer the bureaucratic-military machine from one hand to another, but to smash it”.

     Lenin inserts the word “state” into Marx’s “the bureaucratic-military machine” and uses the phrase “bureaucratic-military state machine” in the rest of the Chapter as if this is what Marx had written.

     Again, Lenin quotes Marx’s statement that “the working class cannot simply lay hold of the ready-made machinery and wield it for its own purposes” and says:

    “Marx’s idea is that the working class must break up, smash the ‘ready-made state machinery’, and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it”.

    Taken quite literally, this is true. Marx did advocate that parts of the old State should be broken up. The real question, however, is when he advocated this should be done: Was it before or after the working class had won State power?

     Lenin argues that Marx meant “before”. Engels, on the other hand, made it quite clear that Marx meant “after”. Engels was specifically asked about this passage from Marx and replied:

    “It is simply a question of showing that the victorious proletariat must first refashion the old bureaucratic, administratively centralised state power before it can use it for its own purposes”. (Letter to Bernstein, 1 Jan. 1884 ).

    In fact, Lenin later (Chapter IV) himself quotes passages from Engels’ Introduction to Marx Civil War in France which show that Marx was talking about what the workers should do after, rather than before, they had won power:

    “From the very outset the Commune was compelled to recognise that the working class, ONCE COME TO POWER , could not go on managing with the old state machine; that . . . this working class must … do away with all the old repressive machinery previously used against it itself …” ( my emphasis).

    and,

    “. . . the state is nothing but a machine for the suppression of one class by another . . . and at best an evil inherited by the proletariat after its VICTORIOUS STRUGGLE for class supremacy, whose worst sides the victorious proletariat, just like the Commune, cannot avoid having to lop off at once as much as possible …” (my emphasis).

    In Chapter VI Lenin, on three occasions, formulates Marx’s views so as to mean that the bureaucratic-military parts of the State must be smashed after the workers have won power. This is all the more confusing in that only a few pages away Lenin had accused Kautsky of admitting “the possibility of power BEING SEIZED without destroying the state machine” (my emphasis). Lenin confused the two separate issues of breaking up the old bureaucratic state machine and how the working class could come to win control of that machine. It suggests that Lenin, when he makes statements like:

    “Marx meant that the working class must smash, break, shatter … the whole state machine” .

    and.

    “From 1852 to 1891, for forty years. Marx and Engels taught the proletariat that it must smash the state machine” .

    He intends his readers to think Marx’s view to be that the State must be smashed by the working class while seizing power. This would mean that Marx thought a peaceful capture of State power impossible. Quite apart from Engels’ clear explanation, the fact that Marx did not rule out this possibility is in itself sufficient to disprove Lenin’s distortion.

    In Socialism, Utopian and Scientific, Engels in the course of describing the establishment of Socialism wrote:

    “The proletariat seizes political power and turns the means of production in the first instance into state property. But in doing this, it … abolishes . . . the state as state.”

     Despite the fact that Engels goes on to explain this (that the State, as a means of class oppression, becomes unnecessary when it has become the representative of the whole community as it would after thus ending class property), Lenin makes the claim that “Engels speaks here of the proletarian revolution ‘abolishing’ the bourgeois state . . .”

     Lenin describes as “this panegyric on violent revolution” another passage from Anti-Dühring where Engels writes about the role of “force” in history. Here Lenin disguises the fact that Marx and Engels understood by “force” not necessarily and exclusively “violent insurrection” but also the mere exercise of State power, whether accompanied by violence or not.

    Lenin quotes from an article in an Italian journal without making it clear that the passage he reproduces is not really Marx’s own words, but Marx’s summary in heavily sarcastic terms of the arguments that might be used to refute a pacifist anarchist.

     Again, Lenin quotes a passage from Engels’ criticism of the German Social Democrats’ 1891 programme where he says that “the democratic republic … is even the SPECIFI FORM for the dictatorship of the proletariat”, (my emphasis). This did not fit in with Lenin’s views so he argues that Engels only meant that the democratic republic was “THE NEAREST APPROACH to the dictatorship of the proletariat” (my emphasis).

    For Lenin the dictatorship of the proletariat was ‘the very essence of Marx’s teaching’ (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918) yet notice, however, that Lenin’s Three Sources article contains no mention of the phrase.

     Finally, in Chapter V Lenin makes a false distinction between Socialism and Communism in a bid to prove that, according to Marx, the State would not finally disappear till “Communism” and so would still exist under “Socialism”. Marx and Engels in fact made no distinction between Socialism and Communism; they were terms they used interchangeably to refer to future classless, Stateless society based on social or common ownership. Marx in the Gotha Programme describes a “period between the seizure of power by the working-class and the epoch of full Communism.” Lenin, actually quotes from Marx’s passage in which Marx referred to such a period, but did not use the term socialism to describe it. The passage Lenin quoted from Marx begins with the words: “But these defects are unavoidable in the first phase of Communist society …” It is Lenin, not Marx, who then interposed the words “generally called Socialism.”

    Perhaps it is useful to cite Stalin in Socialism or Anarchism in which he summed up the Marxian view of socialism:

    “Future society will be socialist society. This means, primarily, that there will be no classes in that society… this also means that with the ending of exploitation, commodity production and buying and selling will also be abolished…”

    Lenin’s theory of imperialism pits the working class of undeveloped countries against that of the developed ones and led to upholding national interest against class interest. Lenin’s position was not a mistake. The “labour aristocracy” theory had the political purpose of enabling the Bolsheviks to argue for the workers in the colonies to form united fronts with their local ruling classes against imperialism. This divided the working class internationally and turning it into cannon fodder for capitalist war. Lenin’s expanded theory made the struggle in the world not one between a worldwide working class and a global capitalist class, but between imperialist and anti—imperialist states. The international class struggle which socialism preached was replaced by a doctrine which preached an international struggle between nation-states.

    It is time to bury Lenin, not deify him

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Dear friend alanjjohnstone, with our contradictory positions, which we already know, shall it be possible to reduce our difference of opinion by resuming the old debate, especially when both of us know each other’s arguments and counter-arguments? Moreover, the arguments you have presented are old as old are its counter-arguments, which both of us know well. The same arguments/references you have presented have been presented by many others on earlier occasions in the same distorted style, and those have been nullified also. You know well that a few are misrepresentations. I hope, you have noticed use of soft words (example, “misrepresentation”) by me. So, I am not entering into the old debate.

      I’ll make a simple request: let’s be authentic, avoid irrationality, try to be consistent, and don’t miss perspective. I’m trying not to enter into old debate that goes to nowhere as regularly, I’m sorry I have to refer from your comment, irrational arguments are presented as you write: “Lenin’s theory of imperialism pits the working class of undeveloped countries against that of the developed ones and led to upholding national interest against class interest. Lenin’s position was not a mistake.” Do you think these two sentences logical, factual, authentic even if you don’t check with facts? Even, these two sentences nullify each other. Please, check with the first sentence (“Lenin’s theory … class interests.”). Does it make any meaning? I am restraining myself from making exact reply as that may hurt you. Similar examples along with misrepresentation, many in number, can be cited from your comment. Sorry, dear, I am unwilling to use exact term to describe your practice. Readers will, I hope, identify your practice. Sorry, my reply has already turned long. Thanks, alanjjohnstone, my friend.

  2. Apologies for continuing.

    Just where was the Bolshevik leadership during the February revolution? In prison or exile. Who made the revolution? Workers, tempered by years of struggle, mass strikes, the 1905 revolution, etc. How was the February revolution sparked? By female textile workers, going against the directives of party leaderships. The peasantry was organized in the army, was tired of the war, tired of the landowners and kulaks. The revolution overwhelmed the police, and what happened when the army, the peasantry, was called in to suppress the revolution? They turned their guns on their masters and joined the workers, and they immediately formed soviets. This was a self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interests of the immense majority. And while they were mopping up the streets and creating soviets, enter the Bolsheviks.

    As the Communist Manifesto proclaimed:
    “All previous historical movements were movements of minorities, or in the interest of minorities. The proletarian movement is the self-conscious, independent movement of the immense majority, in the interest of the immense majority”

    Whereas Lenin’s speech at the First All-Russia Congress Of Workers In Education and Socialist Culture July 31, 1919, explains:
    “When we are reproached with having established a dictatorship of one party and, as you have heard, a united socialist front is proposed, we say, “Yes, it is a dictatorship of one party! This is what we stand for and we shall not shift from that position because it is the party that has won.”

    Contrast with Luxemburg’s idea of a socialist party:
    ” …the understanding by the mass of its tasks and instruments is an indispensable condition for socialist revolutionary action – just as formerly the ignorance of the mass was an indispensable condition for the revolutionary action of the ruling classes. As a result, the difference between “leaders” and the “majority trotting along behind” is abolished (in the socialist movement). The relation between the mass and the leaders is destroyed. The only function left to the supposed “guides” of the social-democracy is that of explaining to the mass the historic mission of the latter…Nevertheless such is and such will be the dominant tendency of the socialist movement: the abolition of the relation of “leaders” and “led” …”

    Once the vanguard had seized power it was this vanguard alone which should govern, not the wider working class in whose name it had seized power. The only way in which the Bolshevik revolution could be described as a socialist revolution is by radically redefining what is meant by socialism and that is precisely what Lenin did.

    In “The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It” (1917) he now argued that “socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly”.

    This is no isolated admission from Lenin.

    “there is no evidence of any understanding of the fact that we recognise and will continue to recognise only state capitalism, and it is we — we conscious workers, we Communists — who are the state. That is why we should brand as good-for-nothing Communists those who have failed to understand their task of restricting, curbing, checking and catching red-handed and inflicting exemplary chastisement on any kind of capitalism that goes beyond the framework of state capitalism in our meaning of the concept and tasks of the state.”

    http://marxists.anu.edu.au/archive/lenin/works/1922/feb/20c.htm

    That Lenin should have adopted a similar ideology to that of the rising bourgeoisie of Western Europe at an earlier period was to be explained, said Pannekoek, by the essentially similar task that confronted them: to carry out the equivalent of a bourgeois revolution in Russia which would sweep away the obstacles, institutional and ideological, to the development of modern industry there. Pannekoek saw Leninism as the ideology of a new ruling class whose historical task was to industrialise Russia on the basis of state capitalism, with militant physical-science materialism as its ideology. This materialism, though is falsely called ‘dialectical’

    Lenin’s pretence that his state-capitalist society with its secret police, labour camps, purges and Communist Party elite was ‘Marxist’ has blackened the name of genuine socialism/ communism forever — a bonus that the apologists for capitalism will be forever grateful for.

    I await your response to the two comments with interest

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      I have already replied (ref. your earlier comment).

      I am just citing a single example from your comment (second comment to which I am now making reply) Please, think over your argument as you write in the 1st para: “Just where … enter the Bolsheviks.” How far logical, rational and factual it is? Even, please, check with bourgeois-imperialist sources, a few of which I have cited. Sorry, dear, you are making claims as if you are the source, as if you were present although sources, even bourgeois, imperialist, even tsarist sources, present completely different description of the scene. Please, check with Menshevik sources, SR sources, on which you rely. I am sorry, whatever I have already said questions your credibility and position.

      There are many similar examples in your second comment. Please, check with the sources I have cited if you fail to find bourgeois sources.

      Moreover, you have not made any comment on the methodological issues I have raised, although that is the argument I have built up. So, I understand you agree with that argument (methodological issue), which I have presented.

      Do you, dear friend, imagine that readers will miss your effort to escape my arguments? Yours are, I am sorry to say, crude, rustic efforts to confuse readers. Why this effort to pull down any debate to such rustic, childish level? I am sorry to say: I decline to join such childish effort/debate. Thanks, dear.

  3. What i have done, Farooque, has been to try to direct the exchange to whether Lenin can be legitimately called a Marxist, very different from challenging the validity of the Russian Revolution of our previous debate

    I note you do not question the veracity of my quotations which reflects Lenin’s intention to make Marx say what he wants him to say and not what Marx actually intended to convey.

    As for imperialism, Lenin’s theory was one of many among Marxists and not the only one even within the Bolshevik Party. The context of it must be appreciated. I will clarify for you. It was not a mistake because Lenin’s “labour aristocracy” theory had the political purpose of enabling the Bolsheviks to argue for the workers in the colonies to form united fronts with their local ruling classes against imperialism. This divided the working class internationally and turning it into cannon fodder for capitalist war. Lenin’s expanded theory made the struggle in the world not one between a worldwide working class and a global capitalist class, but between imperialist and anti—imperialist states. The international class struggle which socialism preached was replaced by a doctrine which preached an international struggle between nation-states. It was a foreign policy strategy for the Bolshevik state.

    Lenin realised that this was a card he could play to try to save his regime and it meant appealing to the “toiling masses” of Asia not to establish socialism but to carry out their own anti-imperialist revolutions. The ‘super-exploited” countries were to be encouraged to seek independence as this would weaken the imperialist states, who were putting pressure on Bolshevik Russia. This strategy was presented to the workers’ movement in the West as a way of provoking the socialist revolution in their countries. Deprived of their super-profits, the ruling class in the imperialist countries would no longer be able to bribe their workers with social reforms and higher wages; the workers would, therefore, turn away from reformism and embrace the revolution.

    This strategy of building up an “anti-imperialist” front against the West was continued because it taught that all the people in colonial dominated countries had a common interest in obtaining independence, i.e. a state of their own, which was very attractive to nationalist politicians in these countries. They called on all the inhabitants of the country they sought to rule to unite behind them in a common struggle to achieve independence. As a result, in these countries “socialism” became associated with nationalism rather than with the working-class internationalism it had originally been. The political struggle there came to be seen as a struggle, not between the working class and the capitalist class, but as a struggle of all patriotic elements— workers, peasants, and capitalists together—against traitorous, unpatriotic elements who had sold out to foreign imperialists.

    You may believe such an approach is justified for the survival of the Bolshevik regime in Russia – But it is not marxist nor a step towards socialism.

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Thanks, friend alanjjohnstone, that now you are not “challenging the validity of the Russian Revolution”.

      I appreciate your effort — searching answer to the question, as it appears in your comment — “whether Lenin can be legitimately called a Marxist”. It’s a scientific attitude — question, question, question all and everything; and that’s the reason I appreciate your effort.

      My requests to you:
      1. Please, follow scientific methodology to search the answer to the question, which grows out of a scientific attitude.
      2. Please, try to be consistent, and practical.
      3. Please, try to make ideas/arguments/explanations, whatever you form or construct, rational, realistic, so that these form a coherent idea, so that one doesn’t stand against other, so that one doesn’t goes with the bourgeoisie and another sounds proletarian — a difficult job; and in this way avoid 3.1 incoherence and 3.2 serving the bourgeoisie. For example, while you don’t go for challenging the validity, as you write, of the Russian Revolution, although it’s not been mentioned which revolution — the February or the October, you have already reached some conclusions whether you like those or not, and those conclusions go against your position. Think over, dear. I’m not pushing you to a difficult corner, but, it’s you who is dragging you to a corner-difficult. I think this example is enough for you to understand the argument I’m trying to present or enough to cancel a few of your quests.

      Wish you success in your quest, dear friend.

  4. I’m sorry but you have written articles that i have criticised and whether you acknowledge it or not, provided evidence to support those criticisms.

    I note that you have consistently failed to address those but level charges against my method of argument ie quotations from varied sources plus empirical facts. Those have not been refuted by your good self. Instead your response has been a generalised accusation that i misrepresent, that i misinterpret and that i quote out of context, implying that i am being ahistorical. Although i apply the materialist conception of history to comprehend events.

    But you fail to back these up and i am given a professor-like lecture to one of his students, thus avoiding engaging in actual debate when challenged on your own understanding of events.

    Our disagreement if you recall began with your attack on the CA suggesting that the Bolsheviks preferred the democracy of the Soviets. I disputed that analysis citing how the Bolsheviks subsumed the independence of the Soviets to their party rule.

     When Lenin issued his proclamation taking power in the name of the Soviets he was also astute enough to remove from the draft of the text any mention of the constitution of power based on the Soviets. Indeed, the government’ (Soviet of Commissars of the People) was appointed prior to the Congress of Soviets. It emerged in the absence of any consultation with the Soviets themselves and resulted from a list drawn up by a small group within the Central Committee of the Communist Party; henceforth the source of all power in Russia. Delegates to the Soviets would subsequently be vetted to suit the government and where ever the Bolshevik party lost its dominance, those Soviets were dissolved.

    Lenin in spite of his Marxist language and occasional idealistic phrases served as a spokesman of a new ruling class in Russia, a class itself the outcome of the very economic tendencies existing in Russia, the tendencies towards state capitalism. Just as in earlier epochs intrigue and plotting for realising political ambitions was conducted under religious garb, in Russia the Intelligensia used the ideological disguises of Marxism as the means.

    But in one thing i agree with you, accepted narratives should be questioned.
    Marx himself said “Doubt Everything”

    But more importantly Joseph Dietzgen, who you will know from Marx’s description, “he is our philosopher” explained, “If a worker wants to take part in the self-emancipation of his class, the basic requirement is that he should cease allowing others to teach him and should set about teaching himself.” 

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Yes, I agree that, as you write in the above comment, “criticised” my articles.

      But, how far criticisms were those other than making subjective comments? Have you criticized/presented counter-arguments to my arguments/facts/sources/methodology/conclusions? Even, you have passed indefinite comments on issues which have been presented in the article but you have not countered the arguments I have presented in the article on the same issue. I’ll request, please, check my points/arguments/sources one by one. As for example, please, check my position on class, and the analysis/argument I made/presented based on class, and consequently, the conclusion I have drawn. You have to counter class, to begin with, if you like to counter my argument/analysis/conclusion. While doing this, you have to question the sources/information/facts based on which I argued. Should not the approach be followed? Or, you, please, propose another approach. Please, again look into your comments. None of your comments has followed the approach, none of the comments questioned the sources/information/facts I have cited, none of your comments has questioned/nullified the premise(s) I presented or built up. Instead of these, you have sporadically/haphazardly passed comments, and the sole target was none but Lenin, in the same way the bourgeoisie target and talk. Have you checked class/class position/class interest? Have not you cited incident in isolated fashion? Please, check; I’ll request, please, don’t accept my argument, but check your comments. Please, I’ll request, the class basis your comments stand on, the class interest your comments try to safeguard. I’ll again request, please, check my arguments, etc. which i have told a few lines above, and nullify those one by one in a factual, consistent, coherent, rational way, and upholding class interest of the exploited, not of the exploiters. Thanks, dear alanjihnstone.

  5. 1)We look at the things people say, 2) we see what is done and why 3) and from that we learn what their words really meant.

    That with my limited education is Marxist scholarship rather than the sophistry that you seem attracted to

    Farooque, i fear steps 2) and 3) have been missing from your articles.

    eg

    1) Bolsheviks say all power to the soviets 2) they remove power from the soviets 3) the intent was all power to the Party
    1) Bolsheviks say call the CA 2) they dissolve the CA when they lose 3) the intent was all power to the Party

    But let me end with a Marxist making an appeal to Lenin.

    https://libcom.org/library/open-letter-lenin-sylvia-pankhurst

    “…What have you done, O one-time trumpet of revolution? In your impatience of the slow awakening of far multitudes, you have turned your face from the world’s lowly and enslaved. You have dabbled in the juggleries of Capitalist diplomacy; you have bartered and bargained with the destinies of the Russian proletariat; and broadcasted the message of your own desertion of Communism, wrapped up in tortuous and misleading casuistry, to the Communist movement throughout the world. By your subtle and specious arguments, and by the glamour of the Russian Revolution, through which you were regarded, you have diverted from the quest of Communism many who had been aroused by the call of Soviet Russia. Therefore we find those who lately set out bearing the standard of Communism, now working to place in power a Party which openly declares its opposition to Communism…”

    Like Gorters Open Letter to Comrade Lenin

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/gorter/1920/open-letter/index.htm

    (and i have my own reservations upon that)

    Pankhurst credits Lenin with sincerity. But then with a betrayal and U-turn. Gorter accuses Lenin of imposing Russian tactics upon Western Europe

    My analysis suggests that Lenin when faced with the realities of the material conditions surrounding the take-over obliged Lenin to bend and it was events outside his control originally stemming from his initial miscalculations that make him his own victim of circumstances. I think that is a generous judgement on my behalf.

    I fully expect you to post further sympathetic articles on Lenin and the Bolsheviks. When i notice them i will comment to ensure readers are offered an alternative account to choose from

    • Farooque Chowdhury says:

      Thanks, alanjjohnstone, for your nice comment.

      I request, first of all, to decide whether we like to continue this debate in an organized way, which can lead us to a conclusion or not. We can have endless debate or its opposite. An organized debate will move to a conclusion while unorganized debate, sporadically picking up one point from here and another from there will help us nothing, and will continue endlessly. Let’s decide. Your response to this will help decide to continue the debate.

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