January 5, 2018

Readings İn Leninism - 1 - What is Leninism

This volume is one of a series of "Readings in Leninism." Each book consists of a collection of articles and extracts-taken almost exclusively from the works of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin-dealing with a basic question of Leninist theory. 

The key passages included in these volumes are not designed to serve as a substitute for reading the fundamental works of Marxism-Leninism in their entirety. The purpose of the series is to assemble, within the covers of a single book, pertinent excerpts dealing with a specific problem of primary impor-tance, such as the theory of the, proletarian revolution, the dic-tatorship of the proletariat, strategy and tactics of the pro-letarian revolution, the national and agrarian questions, etc. 

Systematically compiled and arranged by V. Bystryansky and M. Mishin, this material should be extremely helpful as a guide to individual or group study of the fundamental prin-ciples of Leninism. 

The present volume is the first in the series and serves to introduce the reader to the meaning of Leninism, its historical roots, its method and theoretical foundations, and its develop-ment by Stalin. 

MARXISM IN THE EPOCH OF IMPERIALISM AND OF THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION

I. DEFINITION OF LENINISM AND THE CORE OF LENINISM 

1. Stalin on Leninism

The foundations of Leninism is a big subject. In order to exhaust it a whole volume is required. More than that, a whole series of volumes is necessary. Naturally, therefore, my lectures cannot serve as an exhaustive exposition of Leninism; at best they can be but a concise synopsis of the foundations of Leninism. Nevertheless, I consider it useful to give this synopsis in order to lay down some of the basic points of departure, which are necessary for the successful study of Lenin-ism. 

But expounding the foundations of Leninism does not yet mean expounding the foundations of Lenin's conception of the world. Lenin's conception of the world and the foundations of Leninism are not co-extensive. Lenin was a Marxist and Marx-ism is naturally the foundation of his conception of the world. But it does not follow from this in the least that an exposition of Leninism· ought to begin with an exposition of the founda:. tions of Marxism. To expound Leninism means to expound ' that which is distinctive and new in the work of Lenin, which • he contributed to the general treasury of Marxism and which is naturally conne ted with his name. It is only in this sense that I shall speak of the foundations of Leninism in my lec-tures. 

And So What is Leninism?

According to some it is the application of Marxism to the peculiar conditions prevailing in Russia. This definition con-tains a grain of truth, but not the whole truth by any means. Lenin, indeed, applied Marxism to Russian reality and applied it masterfully. But if Leninism were only the application of Marxism to the peculiar situation in Russia it would be a purely national, and only a national, a purely Russian, and only a Russian, phenomenon. We know, however, that Lenin-ism is an international phenomenon, having its roots in in-ternational development as a whole, and not only Russian. That is why in my opinion this definition suffers from being one-sided. 

Others declare that Leninism is the revival of the revolutionary elements of Marxism of the forties of the nineteenth century, in contradistinction to the Marxism of subsequent years, when it allegedly became moderate and non-revolutionary. If we ignore this stupid and banal subdivision of the teachings of Marx into two parts, revolutionary and moderate, we must admit that even this inadequate and unsatisfactory definition contains a particle of truth. That particle consists in the fact that Lenin indeed revived the revolutionary con-tent of Marxism, which had been entombed by the opportunists of the Second International. Yet it remains but a particle of the truth. The whole truth about Leninism is that Leninism has not only revived Marxism, but has also taken a step for-ward in developing it further under the new conditions of capitalism and of the class struggle of the proletariat. 

What, then, is Leninism in the last analysis?

Leninism is Marxism in the epoch of imperialism and of the pr letarian revolution. Or, to b more exact, Leninism_is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general, the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular. Marx and Engels lived and worked in the pre-revolutionary epoch (we have the proletarian revolution in mind) when developed imperialism did not yet exist, in the period of· the preparation of the proletarians for the revolu-tion, when the proletarian revolution was not yet a direct, practical inevitability. Lenin, the disciple of Marx and Engels, lived and worked in the epoch of developed imperialism, in the epoch of the developing proletarian revolution, the epoch when the proletarian revolution has triumphed in one country, smashed bourgeois democracy and ushered in the era of proletarian democracy, the era of the soviets. 

That is why Leninism is the further development of Marxism. 

Usually, the exceptionally militant and exceptionally revo-lutionary character of Leninism is emphasized, and rightly so. But this peculiarity of Leninism arises from two causes: first of all, because Leninism has sprung from the proletarian revo-lution, the imprint of which it could not fail to retain; secondly, because it grew and became strong in · the clashes with the opportunism of the Second International, a struggle which was and remains an essential condition precedent to the success of the struggle against capitalism. It should not be forgotten that a whole period of undivided domination by the oppor-tunism of the Second International lies between Marx and Engels on the one hand and Lenin on the other. Relentless struggle against this opportunism could not but become one of the most important tasks of Leninism.1 
Joseph Stalin, Introduction to Foundations of Leninism, pp. 7-9. 

(1 Editor's Note: Trotsky, by defining Leninism as "Marxism in action" or by stating that the interrelation between Marxism and Leninism consists in the fact that "Marx is the prophet with the table of commandments while Lenin is the testamentary executor," refuses, like all the revisionists, to recognize in Lenin the great theoretician and in Marx the great political fighter. By tearing asunder, in the spirit of the bourgeois liberals, the unity of revolutionary theory and revolu-tionary practice, counter-revolutionary Trotskyism vulgarizes and dis-torts the role of Lenin and the role of Marx. By thus denying the de-velopment of Marxism by Lenin, by denying the ideological foundations of Bolshevism, Trotsky was preparing the transition to the developed struggle against the Party from the position of the vanguard of the counter-revolutionary bourgeoisie. )

2. Unity of Marxism-Leninism

First of all, a few remarks concerning Marxism and Leninism. As the question is formulated one might think that Marxism is one thing and Leninism is another, that one can be a Leninist without being a Marxist. But such an idea cannot be regarded as correct. Leninism is not Leninist doctrine minus Marxism. Leninism is Marxism of the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. In o h;r words, Le in-ism includes all that Marx taught, plus Lenin s new contribution to the treasury of Marxism, which necessarily follows from all that Marx taught ( the doctrine of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the peasant question, the national question the Party, the question of the social roots of reformism, the 'question of the most important deviations from communism, etc.). It would be better therefore, o formulate he question in such a way as to speak of Marxism or of Leninism (the two being fundamentally one and the same), and not to speak of Marxism and Leninism. (Joseph Stalin, "Tasks of the Young Communist League," Leninism,Vol. I, pp. 255-256.)

3. Historical Destiny of the Teaching of Karl Marx

The main thing in the teaching of Marx is the elucidation of the world-wide historical role of the proletariat as t e builder of a socialist society. Has the progress of events m the world confirmed this teaching since it was expounded by Marx? 

It was first put forward by Marx in 1844. Already the Manifesto of Marx and Engels, which appeared in 1848, Communist gave a consistent, systematic exposition of this teaching, which exposition still remains th ?st e:en now. Wor:d history, since that time, is clearly divisible mto. three mam periods: (1) From the 1848 Revolution to the Paris ommune (1871) ; (2) From the Paris Commune to th Russian Revo-lution (1905) · (3) Since the Russian Revolution. 

Let us cast a glance on the fate of the teaching of Marx in each of these periods 


In the beginning of the first period Marx's teaching does not by any means dominate. It is only one of very many fractions or streams in socialism. The forms of socialism which dominate are those which, in the main, are akin to our N arodniks; 1 the lack of understanding of the materialist basis of the historical movement, the inability to assign the role and significance of each class in capitalist society, the mask-ing of the bourgeois essence of democratic reorganization by various, ostensibly socialist, phrases about "the people," "justice," "right," etc. 

The 1848 Revolution struck a fatal blow at all these vociferous, multi-colored and noisy varieties of pre-Marxian socialism. In all countries the Revolution showed the various classes of society in action. The shooting of the workers by the republican bourgeoisie in the June Days in Paris, in 1848, finally established that the proletariat alone was of a socialist nature. The liberal bourgeoisie feared the independence of this class a hundred times more than any kind of reaction. Cowardly liberalism grovels before the latter. The peasantry is satisfied with the abolition of the remnants of feudalism and passes over to the side of order and only from time to time wavers between labor democracy and bourgeois liberalism. All doctrines of class-less socialism and class-less politics turn out to. be sheer nonsense.

The Commune of Paris (1871) completes this development of bourgeois reforms; it was only the heroism of the proletariat that brought about the consolidation of the republic, i.e., the form of state organization in which the class relations appear in their most naked form.

In all other European countries a more confused and less finished development leads to the same formation of a bour-geois society. By the end of the first period ( 1848-71 )-a period of storm and revolution-pre-Marxian socialism dies. Inde-pendent proletarian parties are born: the First International and the German Social-Democracy. 
Narodniks (Populists): A term first applied to a social movement of ;jj{petty-bourgeois democratic character in the Russia of the sixties and seventees 

II 
The second period (1872-1904) is distinguished from the first by its "peaceful" character, by the absence of revolu-tions. The West has finished with bourgeois revolutions. The East has not yet grown ripe for them. 

The West enters into a phase of "peaceful" preparation for the epoch of future transformations. Socialist parties, prole-tarian in essence, are formed everywhere, parties which learn to use bourgeois parliamentarisID;, to establish their own daily press, their educational institutions, their trade unions and their cooperatives. The teaching of Marx gains a complete victory and expands in breadth. The process of selection and gathering of the forces of the proletariat and its preparation for the battles ahead proceed slowly but steadily. 

The dialectics of history is such that the theoretical victory of Marxism forces its enemies to disguise themselves as Marxists. Liberalism, rotten to the core, tries to revive itself in the form of socialist opportunism. The period of preparation of the forces for great battles is interpreted by them as the renuncia-tion of these battles. Improvements in the position of the slaves enabling them to carry on a fight against wage-slavery is explained by them in the sense that the slaves are selling their right to freedom for a penny. In a cowardly manner they preach "social peace" ( i.e., peace with slave-ownership), renunciation of the class struggle, etc. They have many ad-herents among socialist parliamentarians, the various offi-cials in the labor movement and the "sympathizing" intellectuals. 

The opportunists hardly had time to finish their hymns of praise to "social peace" and the eedlessness of storms under "democracy,'' when a new source of the greatest of world storms opened in Asia. The Russian Revolution was followed by the Turkish, the Persian and the Chinese. We are now living in the very epoch of these storms and their "reperrepercussion" on Europe. Whatever fate may befall the gre a t Chinese republic against which various "civilized" hyenas are now sharpening their teeth, no power in the world will reestablish serfdom. in Asia, or wipe out the heroic democracy of the masses of the people in Asiatic and semi-Asiatic countries.

For the Continuation