November 25, 2018

CONCERNING QUESTIONS OF LENINISM

Foundation and Concerning Questions of Leninism 

Dedicated to the Leningrad Organization of the C.P.S.U. (B.) 

J. S T A L I N

I. THE DEFINITION OF LENINISM

The pamphlet The Foundations of Leninism contains a definition of Leninism which seems to have received general recognition. It runs as follows:

"Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. To be 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."*

Is this definition correct?

I think it is correct. It is correct, firstly, because it correctly indicates the historical roots of Leninism, characterizing it as Marxism of the era of imperialism, as against certain critics of Lenin who wrongly think that Leninism originated after the imperialist war. It is correct, secondly, because it correctly notes the international character of Leninism, as against Social-Democracy, which considers that Leninism is applicable only to Russian national conditions. It is correct, thirdly, because it correctly notes the organic connection between Leninism and the teachings of Marx, characterizing Leninism as Marxism of the era of imperialism, as against certain critics of Leninism who consider it not a further development of Marxism, but merely the restoration of Marxism and its application to Russian conditions.

All that, one would think, needs no special comment.

Nevertheless, it appears that there are people in our Party who consider it necessary to define Leninism somewhat differently. Zinoviev, for example, thinks that:

"Leninism is Marxism of the era of imperialist wars and of the world revolution which began directly in a country where the peasantry predominates."

What can be the meaning of the words underlined by Zinoviev? What does introducing the backwardness of Russia, its peasant character, into the definition of Leninism mean?

It means transforming Leninism from an international proletarian doctrine into a product of specifically Russian conditions.

It means playing into the hands of Bauer and Kautsky, who deny that Leninism is suitable for other countries, for countries in which capitalism is more developed.

It goes without saying that the peasant question is of very great importance for Russia, that our country is a peasant country. But what significance can this fact have in characterizing the foundations of Leninism? Was Leninism elaborated only on Russian soil, for Russia alone, and not on the soil of imperialism, and for the imperialist countries generally? Do such works of Lenin as Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, The State and Revolution, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, "Left-Wing" Communism, an Infantile Disorder, etc., apply only to Russia, and not to all imperialist countries in general? Is not Leninism the generalization of the experience of the revolutionary movement of all countries? Are not the fundamentals of the theory and tactics of Leninism suitable, are they not obligatory, for the proletarian parties of all countries? Was not Lenin right when he said that "Bolshevism can serve as a model of tactics for all "? (See Vol. XXIII, p. 386.)[1] Was not Lenin right when he spoke about the "international significance  of Soviet power and of the fundamentals of Bolshevik theory and tactics"? (See Vol. XXV, pp. I7I-72.)[2] Are not, for example, the following words of Lenin correct?

"In Russia, the dictatorship of the proletariat must inevitably differ in certain specific features from that in the advanced countries, owing to the very great backwardness and petty-bourgeois character of our country. But the basic forces -- and the basic forms of social economy -- are the same in Russia as in any capitalist country, so that these specific features can relate only to what is not most important."* (See Vol. XXIV, p. 508.)[3]

But if all that is true, does it not follow that Zinoviev's definition of Leninism cannot be regarded as correct?

How can this nationally restricted definition of Leninism be reconciled with internationalism? * My italics. -- J. St.
[1] "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky," October November 1918.
[2] "'Left-Wing' Communism, an Infantile Disorder," April-May 1920.
[3] "Economics and Politics in the Era of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat," October 1919.


II. THE MAIN THING IN LENINISM

In the pamphlet The Foundations of Leninism, it is stated:

"Some think that the fundamental thing in Leninism is the peasant question, that the point of departure of Leninism is the question of the peasantry, of its role, its relative importance. This is absolutely wrong. The fundamental question of Leninism, its point of departure, is not the peasant question, but the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, of the conditions under which it can be achieved, of the conditions under which it can be consolidated. The peasant question, as the question of the ally of the proletariat in its struggle for power, is a derivative question."[#]

Is this thesis correct?

I think it is correct. This thesis follows entirely from the definition of Leninism. Indeed, if Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution, and the basic content of the proletarian revolution is the dictatorship of the proletariat, then it is clear that the main thing in Leninism is the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the elaboration of this question, the substantiation and concretization of this question.

Nevertheless, Zinoviev evidently does not agree with this thesis. In his article "In Memory of Lenin," he says:

"As I have already said, the question of the role of the peasantry is the fundamental question* of Bolshevism, of Leninism."

As you see, Zinoviev's thesis follows entirely from his wrong definition of Leninism. It is therefore as wrong as his definition of Leninism.

Is Lenin's thesis that the dictatorship of the proletariat is the "root content of the proletarian revolution" correct? (See Vol. XXIII, p 337)[1] It is unquestionably correct. Is the thesis that Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution correct? I think it is correct. But what follows from this? From this it follows that the fundamental question of Leninism, its point of departure, its foundation, is the question of the dictatorship of the proletariat.

 * My italics. -- J. St.
[#] See this volume, p. 52. --Ed.
[1] "The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky."

Is it not true that the question of imperialism, the question of the spasmodic character of the development of imperialism, the question of the victory of socialism in one country, the question of the proletarian state, the question of the Soviet form of this state, the question of the role of the Party in the system of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the question of the paths of building socialism -- that all these questions were elaborated precisely by Lenin? Is it not true that it is precisely these questions that constitute the basis, the foundation of the idea of the dictatorship of the proletariat? Is it not true that without the elaboration of these fundamental questions, the elaboration of the peasant question from the standpoint of the dictatorship of the proletariat would be inconceivable?

It goes without saying that Lenin was an expert on the peasant question. It goes without saying that the peasant question as the question of the ally of the proletariat is of the greatest significance for the proletariat and forms a constituent part of the fundamental question of the dictatorship of the proletariat. But is it not clear that if Leninism had not been faced with the fundamental question of the dictatorship of the proletariat, the derivative question of the ally of the proletariat, the question of the peasantry, would not have arisen either? Is it not clear that if Leninism had not been faced with the practical question of the conquest of power by the proletariat, the question of an alliance with the peasantry would not have arisen either?

Lenin would not have been the great ideological leader of the proletariat that he unquestionably is -- he would have been a simple "peasant philosopher," as foreign literary philistines often depict him -- had he elaborated the peasant question, not on the basis of the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat, but independently of this basis, apart from this basis.

One or the other:

Either the peasant question is the main thing in Leninism, and in that case Leninism is not suitable, not obligatory, for capitalistically developed countries, for those which are not peasant countries.

Or the main thing in Leninism is the dictatorship of the proletariat, and in that case Leninism is the international doctrine of the proletarians of all lands, suitable and obligatory for all countries without exception, including the capitalistically developed countries.

Here one must choose.


III. THE QUESTION OF "PERMANENT" REVOLUTION

In the pamphlet The Foundations of Leninism, the "theory of permanent revolution" is appraised as a "theory" which underestimates the role of the peasantry. There it is stated:

"Consequently, Lenin fought the adherents of 'permanent' revolution' not over the question of uninterruptedness, for Lenin himself maintained the point of view of uninterrupted revolution, but because they underestimated the role of the peasantry, which is an enormous reserve of the proletariat. . . ."* * See this volume, p. 34. --Ed.

This characterization of the Russian "permanentists" was considered as generally accepted until recently. Nevertheless, although in general correct, it cannot be regarded as exhaustive The discussion of 1924, on the one hand, and a careful anaiysis of the works of Lenin, on the other hand, have shown that the mistake of the Russian "permanentists" lay not only in their underestimation of the role of the peasantry, but also in their underestimation of the strength of the proletariat and its capacity to lead the peasantry, in their disbelief in the idea of the hegemony of the proletariat.

That is why, in my pamphlet The October Revolution and the Tactics of the Russian Communists (December 1924), I broadened this characterization and replaced it by another, more complete one. Here is what is stated in that pamphlet:

"Hitherto only one aspect of the theory of 'permanent revolution' has usually been noted -- lack of faith in the revolutionary potentialities of the peasant movement. Now, in fairness, this must be supplemented by another aspect -- lack of faith in the strength and capacity of the proletariat in Russia."[*]  * See this volume, pp. 136-37. --Ed.

This does not mean, of course, that Leninism has been or is opposed to the idea of permanent revolution, without quotation marks, which was proclaimed by Marx in the forties of the last century.On the contrary, Lenin was the only Marxist who correctly understood and developed the idea of permanent revolution. What distinguishes Lenin from the "permanentists" on this question is that the "permanentists" distorted Marx's idea of permanent revolution and transformed it into lifeless, bookish wisdom, whereas Lenin took it in its pure form and made it one of the foundations of his own theory of revolution. It should be borne in mind that the idea of the growing over of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution, propounded by Lenin as long ago as 1905, is one of the forms of the embodiment of Marx's theory of permanent revolution. Here is what Lenin wrote about this as far back as 1905:

"From the democratic revolution we shall at once, and just in accordance with the measure of our strength, the strength of the class-conscious and organized proletariat, begin to pass to the socialist revolution. We stand for uninterrupted revolution.* We shall not stop halfway. . . . 
"Without succumbing to adventurism or going against our scientific conscience, without striving for cheap popularity, we can and do say only one thing: we shall put every effort into assisting the entire peasantry to carry out the democratic revolution in order thereby to make it easier for us, the party of the proletariat, to pass on, as quickly as possible, to the new and higher task -- the socialist revolution." (See Vol. VIII, pp. 186-87)[1][1] "The Attitude of Social-Democracy Towards the Peasant Movement," September 1905.

And here is what Lenin wrote on this subject 16 years later, after the conquest of power by the proletariat:

"The Kautskys, Hilferdings, Martovs, Chernovs, Hillquits, Longuets MacDonalds, Turatis, and other heroes of 'Two-and-a-Half' Marxism were incapable of understanding . . . the relation between the bourgeois-democratic and the proletarian-socialist revolutions. The first grows over into the second.* The second, in passing, solves the questions of the first. The second consolidates the work of the first. Struggle, and struggle alone, decides how far the second succeeds in outgrowing the first." (See Vol. XXVII, p. 26.)[2][2] "Fourth Anniversary of the October Revolution," October 1921.

I draw special attention to the first of the above quotations taken from Lenin's article entitled "The Attitude of Social Democracy Towards the Peasant Movement," published on September 1, 1905. I emphasize this for the information of those who still continue to assert that Lenin arrived at the idea of the growing over of the bourgeois-democratic revolution into the socialist revolution, that is to say, the idea of permanent revolution, after the imperialist war. This quotation leaves no doubt that these people are profoundly mistaken.

IV. THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION AND THE DICTATORSHIP OF THE PROLETARIAT