Thread: Leninism: Theory or Improvisation?

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  1. #1
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    Default Leninism: Theory or Improvisation?

    I'm wondering what the M-L's think about Lenin and his contributions to Marxist theory. Personally, I found "Leninism" as less of a Marxist tendency and more of a collection of tactics Lenin developed to deal with the specific problems of post-revolutionary Russia. I'm just wondering what the M-L's (or anyone else, really) thought about Leninism and its relationship to Marxist theory.
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    Several of Lenin's most famous works: 'Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism'; 'What is to be Done?'; 'The April Theses'; and 'State and Revolution'* were written prior to the October Revolution so I would say it would be incorrect to say that Lenin's only contribution to Marxist theory were his tactics devised from his experiences post-revolution. All Marxist theory, ultimately, is of a philosophy of action, it's theory that should be attempted to be put into practice - hence Marx's 'philosophers have thus far... etc'. So Lenin is unique when compared to many Marxists in that he could test his theories in the face of the practical material conditions of revolutionary Russia. I don't think anyone should take the actions of the Bolsheviks and the theories of Lenin as some blueprint to be followed without criticism, or whatever, but you can't deny their importance in revealing some of the struggles of revolution and the problems that could arise in certain conditions - so basically I would say, if you want to understand revolution, read Lenin.

    [*] one of my favourite aspects of State and Revolution is his postscript: "This pamphlet was written in August and September 1917. I had already drawn up the plan for the next, the seventh chapter, "The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917". Apart from the title, however, I had no time to write a single line of the chapter; I was "interrupted" by a political crisis--the eve of the October revolution of 1917. Such an "interruption" can only be welcomed; but the writing of the second part of this pamphlet ("The Experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917") will probably have to be put off for a long time. It is more pleasant and useful to go through the "experience of revolution" than to write about it".
    Modern democracy is nothing but the freedom to preach whatever is to the advantage of the bourgeoisie - Lenin

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    However, what exactly do we refer to, when we speak of Leninism? What we can broadly identify as Leninist tendencies today are in general Trotskyism and Stalinism, both of which adhere to a formalization of Marxism and, in our present context, amount to nothing but a mimicry of Lenin - at best. In order to discover the treasures of Lenin's heritage, to understand his legacy and why he is relevant today, one has to approach him dialectically. The valuable meaning of Leninism does not formally encapsulate his particular stances on certain matters, political or otherwise. Even to repeat the platitude that these strictly relate to the historical conditions of Russia would not be enough because the Lenin we remember is not reducible to early 20th century Russia. What is significant about him is his accomplishment of reviving Marxism when it was vulgarized, distorted by philistine eclecticism, intellectual weakness and opportunistic phrase-mongering. He understood what it meant to be a Communist, what it meant to stay true to Marx and Engels beyond imitating them. I always like to quote the words of Lukacs in these contexts:

    "It is therefore completely justifiable to speak of Leninism as a new phase in the development of the materialist dialectic. Lenin not only re-established the purity of Marxist doctrine after decades of decline and distortion by vulgar Marxism, but he developed, concretized, and matured the method itself. If it is now the task of Communists to continue in Lenin’s footsteps, this can only be fruitful if they attempt to establish the same active relation to him as he had to Marx. The nature and content of this activity are determined by the problems and tasks with which history confronts Marxism. Its success is determined by the degree of proletarian class-consciousness in the party which leads the working class. Leninism means that the theory of historical materialism has moved still nearer the daily battles of the proletariat, that it has become more practical than it could be at the time of Marx. The Leninist tradition can therefore only mean the undistorted and flexible preservation of this living and enlivening, growing and creative function of historical materialism. That is why – we repeat -Lenin must be studied by Communists in the same spirit as he studied Marx. He must be studied in order to learn how to apply the dialectic; to learn how to discover, by concrete analysis of concrete situations, the specific in the general and the general in the specific; to see in the novelty of a situation what connects it with former developments; to observe the perpetually new phenomena constantly produced under the laws of historical development; to detect the part in the whole and the whole in the part; to find in historical necessity the moment of activity and in activity the connection with historical necessity.

    Leninism represents a hitherto unprecedented degree of concrete, unschematic, unmechanistic, purely praxis-oriented thought. To preserve this is the task of the Leninist. But, in the historical process, only what develops in living fashion can be preserved. Such a preservation of the Leninist tradition is today the noblest duty of all serious believers in the dialectic as a weapon in the class struggle of the proletariat."

    https://www.marxists.org/archive/luk...lenin/ch06.htm

    If the radical Left is supposed to have any future, Lenin's spirit must live on in our hearts because he was indeed a great revolutionary, more than that, he was a genuine Marxist. There is a lot to learn from him, and again, by that I don't mean that we should adopt his positions but rather that we understand what defending his positions meant in his historical and intellectual context so that we discern what it means to defend a Marxist position in ours. Learning from Lenin does not amount to approving and rejecting his various ideas based on what we think how relevant they are today. The point is that we have to be in our predicament what Lenin was in his predicament, we have to ask the question: What would Lenin do if he were faced with the controversies of the present? Just as he asked what Marx would have done, if he had been in his position.

    The reason why Marxism always has to be redeveloped and revolutionized is that capitalism itself is incessantly moving. It goes without saying that Lenin does not provide us a "blueprint" or whatever you want to subject the present order to critique. But the same holds true for Marx and Engels themselves. Given our intellectual and historical context, we have to radically rethink the theory of Marxism in its entirety. However, this does not imply a revision of Marxism, quite the opposite, because the irreconcilability of classical Marxism with present conditions are not due to any actual shortcomings of Marx himself. Rather, we start to appreciate the wealth of Marx's positions after we have "updated" them in accordance with present controversies. How we do this is what we can learn from Lenin.
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    I'm wondering what the M-L's think about Lenin and his contributions to Marxist theory. Personally, I found "Leninism" as less of a Marxist tendency and more of a collection of tactics Lenin developed to deal with the specific problems of post-revolutionary Russia. I'm just wondering what the M-L's (or anyone else, really) thought about Leninism and its relationship to Marxist theory.
    Lenin's theory is the cornerstone of modern day Marxism. He has correctly evolved 19th century Marxism to the realities of the 20th and even 21st century. Doing so, he has deepened Marxist theory, tactics and strategy on all fronts. Mao evolved Lenin's stances and thus Mao's theory and practice built upon and extended Lenin's contributions to the theory and practice of Marxism.

    Lenin concretely detailed how the line and organization of revolutionary socialism should be independent of the liberal bourgeoisie's ideology, tactics and strategy. He explained in detail how the state serves the interest of one class or another and how the socialist movement should oppose the bourgeois state to smash it. And how after seizing power the socialist movement should manage and utilize the state in the context of socialist movement's overall dictatorship of socialist society in order to move to communism - the abolition of classes and all exploitation and oppression.

    Lenin laid out the scientific reasons why a party of professional revolutionaries is required to build for and succeed at making revolution. Lenin laid out how carrying out all around strictly Marxist agitation and propaganda toward all strata and classes of society should be the fundamental activity of the party of professional revolutionaries. He did these two things especially in the book "What Is To Be Done?". A must read for all who call themselves Marxist revolutionaries and in particular Marxist-Leninist, or Marxist-Leninist-Maoist revolutionaries.
    Last edited by Tim Redd; 23rd May 2017 at 03:21.
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