Thursday 22 April 2021

Commemorating Comrade Lenin on his birth anniversary

April is a significant month for all Marxist-Leninists. Firstly, because Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, popularly known as Comrade Lenin, was born this month in 1870. And secondly, because his April Theses were published this month.

Marx and Engels, of course, played a vital role in creating the international workers’ movement. They were the greatest theoreticians of the world socialist movement. But Lenin, along with his intellect, was also a dedicated builder of the revolutionary party. It was Lenin, after all, who made a socialist revolution possible in Russia.

Lenin in 1917 (Source: Marxists Internet Archive)

A Socialist Revolutionary

In early 1917, while a majority of the Bolshevik leaders, in Lenin’s words, “the Old Bolsheviks”, were in favour of the provisional government led by Kerensky, Lenin’s appeal was to overthrow it. Although Russia was at that time a backward country, it was never Lenin’s opinion that the revolution had to be led by the bourgeoisie. Following Marx and Engels, Lenin recognised the proletariat as the genuinely revolutionary class. He appealed to the people of Russia and the Bolsheviks several times to overthrow this Provisional Government. He expressed his ideas in his Letters from Afar. Out of the five letters written by him, only the first was published by Pravda. The second, third and fourth were not published. And the fifth letter was left unfinished by Lenin himself. The basic ideas that Lenin wanted to express through these letters were later written in his Letters on Tactics, April Theses and The Tasks of the Proletariat in Our Revolution.

What Lenin talked about in these letters was that another revolution was needed to overthrow the Provisional Government enthroned by the February Revolution. And the revolution that Lenin and Trotsky were planning now was a socialist one. This contrasts with the Menshevik idea of a two-stage revolution, which was later adopted by Stalin.

Lenin writes in his The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky:
“Things have turned out just as we said they would. The course taken by the revolution has confirmed the correctness of our reasoning. First, with the “whole” of the peasantry against the monarchy, against the landlords, against the medieval regime (and to that extent, the revolution remains bourgeois, bourgeois-democratic). Then, with the poor peasants, with the semi-proletarians, with all the exploited, against capitalism, including the rural rich, the kulaks, the profiteers, and to that extent the revolution becomes a socialist one. To attempt to raise an artificial Chinese Wall between the first and second, to separate them by anything else than the degree of preparedness of the proletariat and the degree of its unity with the poor peasants, means monstrously to distort Marxism, to vulgarize it, to substitute liberalism in its place.”

Lenin’s words are strictly in opposition to the two-stage theory that was later adopted by the Third International after Lenin and under Stalin. The two-stage theory, contrary to Leninism, says that at first there has to be a bourgeois revolution in alliance with the bourgeoisie, and then, a socialist revolution (if possible). The Stalinist two-stage theory thus brings a “Chinese Wall” between the bourgeois and socialist revolutions which Lenin had warned us against. But revolutionary Leninism says that the unfinished tasks of the bourgeois revolution must be completed by the socialist revolution alone.

Lenin in November 1918 (Source: Marxists Internet Archive)

The Significance of his April Theses

It was Lenin’s April Theses that changed the course of the Russian Revolution. Initially, the Bolsheviks were in support of the Provisional Government. However, after Lenin arrived in Russia from exile and his announcement of his April Theses, the Bolsheviks were forced to withdraw their support from the government. In his Theses, Lenin raised 10 points:

1. That “without overthrowing capital it is impossible to end the war [World War I] by a truly democratic peace”. Lenin had said the same thing in his lecture War and Revolution: “Until there is a workers’ revolution in several countries the war cannot be stopped, because the people who want that war are still in power.”

2. That Russia is “passing from the first stage of the revolution—which, owing to the insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat, placed power in the hands of the bourgeoisie—to its second stage, which must place power in the hands of the proletariat and the poorest sections of the peasants.” Here, Lenin emphasises the point that the first stage of the revolution, i.e. placing the power in the hands of the bourgeoisie, was only a result of “insufficient class-consciousness and organisation of the proletariat”, and hence, not a compulsory stage of the revolution.

3. “No support for the Provisional Government.”

4. That instead of tailing the bourgeois Provisional Government, the Bolsheviks, being in the minority, should “carry on the work of criticising and exposing errors” of the government, and “preach the necessity of transferring the entire state power to the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies”.

5. That the Bolsheviks should fight for “a republic of Soviets of Workers’, Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies throughout the country”, and that “to return to a parliamentary republic from the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies would be a retrograde step”. Lenin also called for the abolition of the police, the army and the bureaucracy, and demanded that the salaries of all officials should not exceed the average wage of a competent worker. At the same time, he also mentioned that these officials are elective and displaceable at any time.

6. “Nationalisation of all lands in the country, the land to be disposed of by the local Soviets of Agricultural Labourers’ and Peasants’ Deputies.”

7. “The immediate union of all banks in the country into a single national bank, and the institution of control over it by the Soviet of Workers’ Deputies.”

8. That socialism could not be introduced immediately, but social production and the distribution of products should be brought under the control of the Soviets of Workers’ Deputies.

9. Then he emphasises some of the party tasks: (A) Immediate convocation of a Party congress; (B) Alteration of the Party Programme, mainly: (i) On the question of imperialism and the imperialist war, (ii) On the attitude towards the state and the demand for a “commune state”; (iii) Amendment of our out-of-date minimum programme; (C) Change of the Party’s name, resulting in the change of the party name from “Russian Social Democratic Labour Party (Bolsheviks)” to “Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks)” in 1918.

10. A new International. This led to the foundation of the Communist International in March 1919, which was disbanded by Stalin in 1943 to impress his bourgeois allies.

Lenin in August 1922 (Source: Marxists Internet Archive)

A World-Socialist Revolutionary: An Avowed Internationalist

Never could Lenin imagine that socialism can be built or survive in one country. Several times did he emphasise the need for a world socialist revolution to strengthen the socialist revolution of Russia. The October Revolution was nothing but the beginning of the world socialist revolution, according to Lenin.

On  July 23, 1918, Lenin said: “Aware of the isolation of its revolution, the Russian proletariat clearly realises that an essential condition and prime requisite for its victory is the united action of the workers of the whole world, or of several capitalistically advanced countries.” (Report Delivered at a Moscow Gubernia Conference of Factory Committees, July 23, 1918)

On November 8, 1918, he said: “The complete victory of the socialist revolution in one country alone is inconceivable and demands the most active co-operation of at least several advanced countries, which do not include Russia.” (Speech On The International Situation at the Extraordinary Sixth All-Russia Congress Of Soviets Of Workers’, Peasants’, Cossacks’and Red Army Deputies, November 6-9, 1918)

In late February 1922, Lenin wrote: “[W]e have always urged and reiterated the elementary truth of Marxism—that the joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism.” (Notes of a Publicist)

Lenin could never recognise the possibility of the socialist revolution in Russia without the joint efforts of the workers of the advanced countries. This is why he emphasised the world socialist revolution several times. Socialism is something that cannot be confined to one single country, particularly in a country like Russia.

Of course, Marxism is nothing without internationalism. Marx and Engels urged the workers of the world—not those of some selected countries—to unite. Lenin, therefore, could not give up the idea of emancipation of the workers of the world. This is why he founded the Third International or the Communist International. By founding the new international, he wanted to spread the revolution of Russia throughout the world. He said on the foundation of the new International: “[T]he world revolution is beginning and growing in intensity everywhere.”

Just because Lenin had recognised the need for the internationalisation of the socialist revolution, he was expecting a revolution in Germany. Emphasising the importance of a socialist revolution in Germany, Lenin said in March 1918, “[W]ithout a German revolution we are doomed. ... [I]f the German revolution does not come, we are doomed.” It was of course not Lenin’s underestimation of the proletariat of Russia, but a practical outlook to safeguard the socialist revolution in Russia. Such was Lenin’s internationalism. He never had high expectations from the country where he made a revolution. Rather he analysed the situation dialectically.

He had previously talked about sacrificing even the revolution of Russia for the German revolution: “If we believe that the German movement can develop immediately, in the event of an interruption of the peace negotiations, then we must sacrifice ourselves, for the German revolution will have a force much greater than ours.” Such was the internationalism of Comrade Lenin.

On this 151st birth anniversary of Comrade V.I. Lenin, we, the revolutionary communists, commemorate his revolutionary legacy. May his revolutionary ideas inspire the people to revolutionise the world.

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