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THEORY INDEX

Lenin's gOwn Wordsh
(Part Six: Class Struggle and the Proletarian Vanguard Party)

19. The Party and Communist Activity


Breadth of Party Composition

gIf [Trotsky] had asked himself that question [does Leninfs formulation gnarrow or expand the concept of a partyh], he would easily have seen that my formulation narrows this concept, while Martov's expands it, for (to use Martov's own correct expression) what distinguishes his concept is its eelasticity.f And in the period of Party life that we are now passing through it is just this eelasticityf that undoubtedly opens the door to all elements of confusion, vacillation, and opportunism. To refute this simple and obvious conclusion it has to be proved that there are no such elements; but it has not even occurred to Comrade Trotsky to do that. Nor can that be proved, for everyone knows that such elements exist in plenty, and that they are to be found in the working class too. The need to safeguard the firmness of the Partyfs line and the purity of its principles has now become particularly urgent, for, with the restoration of its unity, the Party will recruit into its ranks a great many unstable elements, whose number will increase with the growth of the PartycHe forgot that the Party must be only the vanguard, the leader of the vast masses of the working class, the whole (or nearly the whole) of which works eunder the control and directionf of the Party organizations, but the whole of which does not and should not belong to a eparty.fh (gSecond Congress of the R.S.D.L.P.h Collected Works vol. 8. p. 502)

This was Leninfs response to Martov and Trotsky in the debate at the Second Congress of the Russian Social-Democratic Party (the de facto founding congress) over the first article of the rules concerning qualifications for party members. This was the debate that provided the stimulus for the formation of the Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. At first glance the proposals of Lenin and Martov concerning the qualifications of party members do not seem all that different. However, this was a manifestation of an essential difference between the two men and therefore between the future Bolshevik and Menshevik factions. Whereas Lenin attempted to limit the party to those class-conscious elements that were carrying out party activities and directly belonged to a party organization, Martov said that those elements that cooperated or provided support to a party organization could be party members. In this way, Martov widely opened the party to intellectuals and others. Martovfs proposal was the gorganizational theoryh of all of the workers parties in Europe, whereas Leninfs proposal was an organizational theory that inherited the organizational theory of the Russian revolutionary movement. Of course, however, Leninfs theory was not simply related to the particular situation in Russia. Leninfs theory, as can be seen from the passage above, stemmed from a profound realism regarding the workers movement. The Mensheviks and Trotsky, who fell into the worship of the proletariat, said that since the party is based on a trust in the class-consciousness and capacities of the workers there is no need to construct a narrow organization of conspirators. Lenin countered this by saying that even within the working class those elements with firm class-consciousness were a minority and that within the spontaneous workers movement there was vacillation and opportunism, so the party must have some means of defense against this. If the door to the party were open wide, the party would come under the influence of opportunism among the workers and petty-bourgeois intellectuals and would not be able to respond to this (consider the example of the German Social-Democratic Party!), and would not be able to carry out its vanguard role. In gOne Step Foreword, Two Steps Back,h Lenin provided the following perfectly justified overview: gIt was not champions of a broad proletarian struggle who, in the controversy over Paragraph 1, took the field against champions of a radically conspiratorial organization, as Comrades Martynov and Axelrod thought, but the supporters of bourgeois-intellectual individualism who clashed with the supporters of proletarian organization and discipline.h (Collected Works vol. 7, p. 269) Trotsky, who attacked Lenin as a sort of Robespierreh for advocating a conspiratorial organization ruled by intellectuals rather than a workers party, could be said to have fallen under the sway of the romanticism of so-called gworkerismh common to radical intellectuals. It could certainly be considered the girony of history,h or its dialectic, that the Bolsheviks, who were criticized for trying to create a party ruled by intellectuals, were the ones to actually emerge as the revolutionary proletarian party in 1917, whereas the Mensheviks and followers of Trotsky who tended towards gworkerism, could amount to nothing more than a grouping of intellectuals and petty-bourgeois trade-unionists.

On Economism

gEconomismh was an opportunist trend in Russian Social-Democracy. Its political essence was summed up in the program: gfor the workers?the economic struggle; for he liberals?the political struggle.h Its chief theoretical prop was so-called glegal Marxismh or gStruveism,h which grecognizedh a gMarxismh that was completely purged of every scrap of revolutionary spirit and was adapted to the requirements of the liberal bourgeoisie. On the plea that the masses of the workers in Russia were immature, and wishing to gmarch with the masses,h the gEconomistsh restricted the tasks and scope of the working-class movement to the economic struggle and political support for liberalism, and did not set themselves independent political or any revolutionary tasks. (Socialism and War, p. 48; Foreign Languages Press: Peking 1970)

This is Leninfs look back at the struggle against the geconomistsh more than ten years later. What were the so-called geconomistsh? In a word, they limited the tasks of the working class to the struggle to gradual improve the standard of living by means of economic struggles, and thus rejected the independent revolutionary political struggles of the working class. Russia at the time was ruled by the czarist autocracy. For the working class in Russia to wage a direct struggle for socialism, it was necessary to first of all overthrow the autocratic government and achieve political democracy. If the working class were to seriously consider their own emancipation and the conditions of emancipation, the revolutionary political struggle against the autocracy was an unavoidable question. The economists, however, offered the sophistry that the interests of the workers were geconomich in nature -- this can be called sophistry because the interests of the workers are not simply economic but also political (e.g. obtaining political democracy), and the fundamental geconomic interestsh of the workers (of course this expression is not appropriate) could only be realized through a political revolution that replaced the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie with the dictatorship of the proletariat. The economists rejected opposition to czarism and the political struggle waged for socialism on the part of the workers, saying that the political struggle would be waged by the liberal bourgeoisie and that it would be sufficient for the workers to simply support this struggle. Thus, the economists also had a political stance -- i.e., the bourgeois politics of supporting the liberal bourgeoisie. The economists (social reformists) became Mensheviks, and the Mensheviks in turn became a tool to maintian the rule of the bourgeoisie, playing the role of complementing their rule. The economists rejected the independent revolutionary politics of the proletariat, but in the end secretly replaced this with bourgeois politics, which was later presented openly. There was no middle way possible.

So-called "Theory of Infusion from the Outside"

gThe economic struggle merely gimpelsh the workers to realize the governmentfs attitude towards the working class. Consequently, however much we may try to elend the economic struggle itself a political characterf, we shall never be able to develop the political consciousness of the workers (to the level of Social-Democratic political consciousness) by keeping within the framework of the economic struggle, for that framework is too narrowcClass political consciousness can be brought to the workers only from without, that is, only from outside the economic struggle, from outside the sphere of relations between workers and employers. The sphere from which alone it is possible to obtain this knowledge is the sphere of relationships of all classes and strata to the state and the government, the sphere of the interrelations between all classes.h (What is to be Done?, pp. 78-79. International Publishers)

Since Lenin insisted that workers do not spontaneously have socialist/communist consciousness and that this must be gbrought to them from the outside.h Recently some under the influence of Trotsky and Luxemburgfs though have ridiculed this as the theory of the ginfusion [of class consciousness] from the outsideh, saying that such a theory is patronizing towards the working class. These tendencies contrast Marxfs statement about the gemancipation of the workers must be the task of the working class itselfh with Leninfs theory of ginfusion from the outside.h However, Lenin never insisted that communist consciousness existed goutside of the working class. He only said that this exists outside of the economic struggle and outside of the relation between workers and bosses. The objective conditions for the emergence of communist consciousness, of course, ultimately come down to the economic and political position that the workers face. Still, this consciousness does not directly emerge from individual economic struggles. This is what Lenin is emphasizing. If a worker goes no further than the relation between workers and bosses, criticism will not be directed against the class relations of society as a whole and the state apparatus, and the worker will not be able to overcome gtrade-union consciousness,h and such consciousness is bourgeois. Therefore, the worship of the spontaneous workers movement is something that pulls the workers movement in a bourgeois direction. (See chapter 18)

Importance of Revolutionary Theory

gIf you must unite, Marx wrote to the party leaders, then enter into agreements to satisfy the practical aims of the movement, but do not allow any bargaining over principles, do not make theoretical econcessionsf. This was Marxfs idea, and yet there are people among us who seek?in his name -- to belittle the significance of theory!

gWithout revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This idea cannot be insisted on too strongly at a time when the fashionable preaching of opportunism goes hand in hand with an infatuation for the narrowest forms of practical activity.h(What is to be Done? p. 25)

It may appear that there is a contradiction between Leninfs materialist view that the revolutionary movement has its basis in the dissatisfaction, criticism and revolt of the masses against capitalism, and the view that gwithout revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement.h However, the former is the question of the objective conditions for revolution while the later involves the subjective conditions. Given the objective conditions alone a revolution cannot be victorious. For the success of the revolution, it is also imperative that there exists a strong will for change among the masses and to prepare these subjective conditions of the masses. No matter how strongly Marxists may desire it, they are unable to create the objective conditions. What Marxists can do is prepare the subjective conditions for revolution among the masses, develop the will for change among the masses, and provide this with a deep, solid organizational expression. Therefore, more than anything the efforts of Marxists should be focused in this direction. Lenin emphasized the element of consciousness, along with the spontaneous elements of the movement of the masses, and the reason for stressing the significance of revolutionary theory was not due to conceit or an overemphasis on intellectuals, but rather in order to develop overall the revolutionary political consciousness of the workers, and that this was precisely the task of Marxist communists. Marxists, because they stand up firmly against gobjectivism,h are able to profoundly and correctly evaluate the significance of human beingsf subjective revolutionary movement of people, and consistently struggle to develop the consciousness of the masses. Opportunists and trade-unionists, as well as radicals, claim that an emphasis on revolutionary theory amounts to an affinity for intellectuals and that this weakens the spontaneity and subjectivity of the masses. By taking this position, however, they end up forcing the masses to tail after and be subordinate to bourgeois ideology, which in fact weaken the revolutionary spontaneity and subjectivity of the masses to oppose capitalism, turning this into something half-baked. This is why Lenin fought resolutely against even the smallest theoretical effort to greviseh Marxism or distort and interpret it in an opportunistic way. He felt that the grevisionh of Marxism to make it compatible with bourgeois ideology, no matter how seemingly trivial, brought damage to the revolutionary subjectivity of the masses.

The Ideal for a Revolutionary

gLet us take the type of Social-Democratic study circle that has become most widespread in the past few years and examine its work. It has econtact with the workersf and rests content with this, issuing leaflets in which abuses in the factories, the governmentfs partiality towards the capitalists, and the tyranny of the police are strongly condemnedcIn a word, every trade-union secretary conducts and helps to conduct the eeconomic struggle against the employers and the government.f It cannot be strongly maintained that this is still not Social-Democracy, that the Social-Democrats ideal should not be the trade-union secretary, but the tribune of the people, who is able to react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no matter where it appears, no matter what stratum or class of the people it affects; who is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take advantage of every event, however small, in order to set before all his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for the emancipation of the proletariat.h (What is to be Done?, pp. 79-80. International Publishers)

The representative geconomisth of the time, Martynov, compared Robert Knight (English trade-unionist) to William Liebknecht. He said that Knight engaged in gcalling the masses to certain concrete actions,h gformulated the immediate demands of the proletariat and indicated the means by which they can be achieved,h was able gto submit to the government concrete demands promising certain palpable results,h emphasized the gforward march of the drab, everyday struggleh and gworked for the cause of the working class in close organic contact with the proletarian struggle.h In contrast to this, Martynov said that Liebknecht engaged in gthe revolutionary elucidation of the whole of the present system or partial manifestations of it,h emphasized the gpropaganda of brilliant and finished ideas,h created his newspaper into gan organ of revolutionary oppositionh and gsimultaneously [guided] the activities of various opposition strata.h Lenin saw the ideal for a communist revolutionary in the activities of William Liebknecht.

Organization of Workers and Organization of Revolutionaries

gThe political struggle of Social-Democracy is far more extensive and complex than the economic struggle of the workers against the employers and the government. Similarly (indeed for that reason), the organization of the revolutionary Social-Democratic Party must inevitably be of a kind different from the organization of the workers designed for this struggle. The workersf organization must in the first place be a trade-union organization; secondly, it must be as broad as possible; and thirdly, it must be as public as conditions will allow (here, and further on, of course, I refer only to absolutist Russia). On the other hand, the organization of the revolutionaries must consist first and foremost of people who make revolutionary activity their profession (for which reason I speak of the organization of revolutionaries, meaning revolutionary Social-Democrats). In view of this common characteristic of the members of such an organization, all distinction as between workers and intellectuals, not to speak of distinctions of trade and profession in both categories, must be effaced.h (What is to Be Done, p. 109)

Lenin distinguished between an organization of workers (labor union, etc.) and an organization of revolutionaries. This was not, however, the notorious question of a gdivision of laborh advanced by the Socialist Party and trade unionists, who argue that a trade union carries out the economic struggle while the political party carries out the political struggle. Insofar as the struggle of the labor union rallies as many and broad a range of workers as possible, it cannot escape certain opportunism, certain limitations and a certain narrowness. For this very reason, Lenin argued that there is a need for a political party that will be distinguished from a mass organization such as a labor union, rally the most advanced and conscious elements from among the workers of the nation, and fight resolutely, not for partial or temporary interests, but for the general, ultimate interests, against the bourgeoisie and its government. He said that this revolutionary organization necessarily cannot be too broad and must be secret. The proletarian party in its highest form (which is of a higher dimension than the labor union form) is class solidarity. Lenin emphasized that within this organization the distinction between worker and intellectual is dissolved.

The Party and a Political Newspaper

[Why the Social-Democrats must declare determined and relentless war on the Socialist-Revolutionaries.] Because the Socialist-Revolutionaries, by including terrorism in their program and advocating it in its present-day form as a means of political struggle, are thereby doing the most serious harm to the movement, destroying the indissoluble ties between socialist work and the mass of the revolutionary class. No verbal assurances and vows can disprove the unquestionable fact that present-day terrorism, as practiced and advocated by the Socialist-Revolutionaries, is not connected in any way with work among the masses, for the masses, or together with the masses; that the organization of terroristic acts by the Party distracts our very scanty organizational forces from their difficult and by no means completed task of organizing a revolutionary workersf party; that in practice the terrorism of the Socialist-Revolutionaries is nothing else than single combat, a method that has been wholly condemned by the experience of history. Even foreign socialists are beginning to become embarrassed by the noisy advocacy of terrorism advanced today by our Socialist-Revolutionaries. Among the masses of the Russian workers this advocacy simply sows harmful illusions, such as the idea that terrorism gcompels people to think politically, even against their will,h or that gmore effectively than months of verbal propaganda it is capable of changing the viewscof thousands of people with regard to the revolutionaries and the meaning [!!] of their activity,h or that it is capable of ginfusing new strength into the waverers, those discouraged and shocked by the sad outcome of many demonstrations,h and so on. These harmful illusions can only bring about early disappointment and weaken the work of preparing the masses for the onslaught upon the autocracy. (gWhy the Social-Democrats Must Declare a Determined and Relentless War on the Socialist-Revolutionariesh Collected Works Vol. 6)

In the article gBasic Theses Against Socialist-Revolutionariesh in which Lenin evaluates the Socialist-Revolutionary Party (read: Japanese New Left), he says that gthe entire trend of the Socialist-Revolutionaries, and their party as a whole, is nothing but an attempt by the petty-bourgeois intelligentsia at escamotage of our working-class movement, and, consequently, the whole of the socialist and the whole of the revolutionary movement in Russia.h [Escamotage is defined by Lenin as gdeception, fraudulent appropriation of the results of the labour of others and thus rendering this labour useless, trickery, swindling, etc.h] Lenin asks rhetorically: gWould not the results of the best-intended activity based on this stand prove to be (even though unconsciously and against the will of those who conduct it) eescamotagef of the working-class movement, diverting it from the correct course, decoying it into an impasse, etc.?h(Collected Works Vol. 6, p. 273)

Like the New Left in Japan, the Social-Revolutionaries Party was a superficially-minded political tendency that rejected the future revolutionary struggles of the masses, saying that git is easy to write and speakh of this gas a matter of the vague and distant future,h gbut up till now all this talk has been merely of a theoretical nature,h (gRevolutionary Adventurismh Collected Works Vol. 6, p. 194) and became engrossed in terrorism. Lenin said that, gtheir adventurism stems from their lack of principleh (Ibid.), adding: gThey confuse immediately tangible and sensational results with practicalness. To them the demand to adhere steadfastly to the class standpoint and to maintain the mass nature of the movement is evaguef etheorizing.fh In What is to Be Done? Lenin discusses terrorists in the following way: gThe terrorists bow to the spontaneity of the passionate indignation of intellectuals, who lack the ability or opportunity to link up the revolutionary struggle with the working-class movement, to form an integral whole. It is difficult indeed for those who have lost their belief, or who have never believed that this is possible, to find some outlet for their indignation and revolutionary energy other than terror.h (What is to Be Done? Foreign Language Press, p. 93)

Of course, Marxists do not negate terrorism in general. Marxists would support the class-based terrorism of the proletariat against capitalism. Marxist are, however, firmly opposed to the terrorism of individuals or groups of intellectuals, which are embellished with exaggerated, empty phrases. In geLeft-Wingf Communism, An Infantile Disorder,h Lenin lists three characteristics of petty-bourgeois radicalism [Socialist-Revolutionaries]. First of all, in carrying out the political struggle, they fail to objectively consider the class forces and their interrelations; secondly, they consider themselves grevolutionaryh in terms of recognizing terrorism, and thirdly they sneer at comparatively insignificant opportunism while tailing after and imitating opportunists in fundamental matters! The terrorist strategy of the Socialist-Revolutionary Party is being revived today in the violent tactics of the New Left sects in Japan.

On Communist Activity

gDay-by-day propaganda and agitation must be genuinely communist in character. All press organs belonging to the parties must be edited by reliable Communists who have given proof of their devotion to the cause of the proletarian revolution. The dictatorship of the proletariat should not be discussed merely as a stock phrase to be learned by rote; it should be popularized in such a way that the practical facts systematically dealt with in our press day by day will drive home to every rank-and-file working man and working woman, every soldier and peasant, that it is indispensable to them. Third International supporters should use all media to which they have access?the press, public meetings, trade unions, and co-operative societies?to expose systematically and relentlessly, not only the bourgeoisie but also its accomplices?the reformists of every shade. (The Terms of Admission into the Communist International, Collected Works vol. 31, p. 207)

In 1919 the Communist International (Third International) was formed and, with the prestige of the Russian Revolution, its influence spread among people in Europe and the entire world who were suffering from war and oppression. In place of the petty-bourgeois reformists in the Second International, this marked the emergence of proletarian revolutionary parties and a communist political tendency. The Third International soon gained acceptance while the influence of the Second International collapsed because of its past acts of betrayal. For this reason, it often happened that those parties and groups that had belonged to the Second International attempted to fool the masses by posing as leftists and even applied to enter the Third International. The danger thus arose that by accepting the vacillating, opportunistic organizations from the Second International, the Third International would become corrupted and would lose its authority. For this reason, Lenin set twenty gterms of admissionh related to communistic activities for those groups seeking to enter the Third International. These articles included: truly carrying out genuinely communist agitation and propaganda (i.e. the sprit of struggling resolutely against the bourgeoisie and its government), the necessity of the dictatorship of the proletariat should be explained in a concrete reality to the masses, all reformists should be ruthlessly exposed, illegal organizations should be created, activities should be carried out within the army, all pacifism should be opposed, make a complete and absolute break with reformist and gCentristh (Kautsyist) policy (any thought of a gunited fronth was out of the question), struggling to expose the imperialists in onefs own country, parliamentary groups must be subordinated to the party and their activities must be subordinated to the interests of truly revolutionary agitation and propaganda, the name of parties must be changed to the Communist Party and organized on the basis of democratic centralism.

Those groups vacillating between the Second and Third Internationals criticized these terms of admission, but these terms were necessary for the Third International to be a revolutionary organization. The terms of admission were the action program of the Third International. For the present-day Communist parties this practical program is treated as some sort of ancient document that belongs in a museum and its content has been completely forgotten. Since it is too revolutionary, these parties do not like to talk about it. But for those workers who grasp the need to fight against capitalism today, these terms of admission still have great significance.

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