Showing newest posts with label Lenin. Show older posts
Showing newest posts with label Lenin. Show older posts

Saturday, September 20, 2008

SENTANDO LOS FUNDAMENTOS

Trabajadores en contra de Lenin. La protesta de los obreros, y la Dictadura de los Bolcheviques, 1920-22. Aves de Jonathan. IB Taurus.


Un tal llamado Estado Obrero que oprime a los trabajadores no fue una cuestión que ocurrió solamente durante el periodo de Stalin. También aconteció durante el liderazgo de Vladimir Lenin y León Trotsky, de hecho, ellos fueron los que sentaron las bases para que la dictadura Estalinista se reforzara más tarde.


En el 1920 la Guerra Civil había terminado, y las potencias occidentales habían levantado el embargo que habían impuesto en contra de Rusia. Los trabajadores habían sufrido terriblemente la escasez de alimentos y de combustibles, y habían vivido la férrea disciplina impuesta en los centros de trabajo, y esperaban que después de este periodo sus condiciones iban a mejorar. El gobierno bolchevique, sin embargo, no creo medidas inmediatas para satisfacer las aspiraciones de los trabajadores en ese sentido. El resultado motivo una enorme ola de descontento entre los trabajadores que duraron hasta el 1922, y es basado en estos acontecimientos que Jonathan Aves analiza en detalle su libro, tomando como base los informes de la prensa y materiales de archivo.


Al llegar el periodo de paz se dio un debate en el Partido bolchevique en cómo bregar con los obreros. Trotsky, rebosante de sus éxitos como comandante en jefe y comisario del Ejército Rojo, fue el que más se destaco en irse a favor de la militarización de los obrero, lo cual significaba que el que se ausentaba de los centros de trabajo sería considerado como acto de deserción, y las huelgas serian consideradas como motines, y los transgresores serian castigados de acuerdo con los términos de el código de disciplina militar. Lenin que era más flexible; quería mantener la dictadura bolchevique a toda costa, y estaba dispuesto a hacer algunas concesiones a los trabajadores para lograr su objetivo. Otro grupo, conocido como los "trabajadores" de oposición ", compuesto en gran parte de los sindicalistas bolcheviques, fueron más favorables a las demandas de los trabajadores.


Los trabajadores rusos en ese momento tenían muchas quejas. Ellos se opusieron a que no se les dieran tiempo libre para buscar alimentos y madera en el campo. Ellos se opusieron a tener que trabajar horas extraordinarias no remuneradas obligatorias en fiestas tradicionales, incluso en el día primero de mayo. Ellos se opusieron a que los sindicatos fueran tomados por los Bolcheviques, y fueran convertidas en órganos de gestión o de control administrado por el partido, se opusieron a la disciplina en los centros de trabajo, y obligarlos a acelerar la producción. En una serie de lugares se declararon en huelga y eligieron a sus representantes, lo cuales no eran Bolcheviques, pero eran anti-zarista, como los Mencheviques y los anarquistas.


Lenin no estaba satisfecho. Las huelgas fueron reprimidas. Muchos de los huelguistas fueron enviados a campos de trabajo forzados. Algunos fueron fusilados. Algunas concesiones no fueron finalmente hechas hasta el 1921 cuando Lenin anunció en el decimo Congreso del partido Bolchevique un nuevo plan económico, que entre otras cosas, permitía a los campesinos operar de nuevos sus mercados locales, lugares donde tradicionalmente los trabajadores compraban sus alimentos con anterioridad.


Pero había un precio - la represión de los pocos vestigios del sindicalismo independiente que habían logrado sobrevivir a los primeros años de la dictadura bolchevique. Los sindicatos fueron incorporados bajo el control del estado, de hecho, dejaron de ser sindicatos, se convirtieron en órganos estatales, similares a los Frente Laborales de Hitler que fueron más tarde establecidos en Alemania. Todas estas cuestiones que se han señalado, ocurrieron durante el tiempo de Lenin y Trotsky, y no fueron el producto posterior del "estalinismo". Los dirigentes Menchevique se vieron obligados a exiliarse. Los "trabajadores" de oposición "- y todos los demás" grupos "- dentro del partido bolchevique fueron prohibidos, por lo que se estableció el principio de" la unidad monolítica " y la próxima víctima iba a ser uno de sus principales arquitectos. León. Trotsky.


Desde el punto de vista socialista los bolcheviques habían llegado a situarse ellos mismos en una posición imposible. Habiendo tomado el poder como una minoría, en un país donde el socialismo no era posible ser establecido por muchas razones (el atraso económico, el aislamiento del resto del mundo, la falta de una voluntad mayoritaria por el socialismo), no tenían otra alternativa que hacer la única cuestión posible: continuar desarrollando el capitalismo.


Los bolcheviques se encontraron ellos mismos en la posición de tener que presidir y de organizar - la acumulación original de capitales. Pero, como acumulación capitalista es el producto de la plusvalía, o el excedente obtenido mediante la explotación del trabajo asalariado -, esto coloco a los Bolcheviques en conflictos con los mismos trabajadores, los cuales por igual e inevitablemente, trataron de evitar ser explotados. Los bolcheviques se opusieron y reprimieron las luchas de los trabajadores justificando sus acciones basándose en la excusa de que ellos (los bolcheviques) representaban a largo plazo los intereses de los trabajadores. Pero ¿en realidad, era cierto?


Ciertamente, alegaban que actuaban para promover la causa del socialismo, pero cuando Marx formulo su concepción materialista de la historia, había señalado que no se debe juzgar un movimiento histórico por lo que dice – sino por lo que hace, y por lo que objetivamente hizo. Y objetivamente los bolcheviques lo que hicieron fue desarrollar el capitalismo en Rusia de la misma manera que el propio Lenin en sus momentos más honesto había llamado capitalismo de Estado.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Estableciendo los fundamentos para la dictadura de los Bolcheviques

Laying the foundations




Workers Against Lenin. Labour Protest and the Bolshevik Dictatorship 1920-22. By Jonathan Aves. IB Taurus.




A so-called Workers' State that oppressed the workers was not just a feature of Russia under Stalin. It also existed under Lenin and Trotsky; in fact, it was they who laid the foundations for the reinforced dictatorship Stalin later built up.




In 1920 the Civil War ended and the Western powers' blockade of Russia was lifted. The workers, who had suffered terribly from food and fuel shortages and from harsh labour discipline, expected improvements in their conditions. The Bolshevik government, however, made no immediate steps in this direction. The result was a wave of labour discontent which lasted until 1922 and which Jonathan Aves here analyses in detail on the basis of contemporary Russian press reports and other archive material.




The coming of peace led to a debate in the Bolshevik Party as to how to deal with the working class. Trotsky, fresh from his military success as commander-in-chief of the Red Army, notoriously favoured the militarisation of labour; which would have meant that absenteeism would be treated as desertion and strikes as mutinies, to be punished in accordance with the terms of the military code of discipline. Lenin was more flexible; he wanted to maintain the Bolshevik dictatorship at all costs and was prepared to make some concessions to the workers to achieve this. Another group, known as the "Workers' Opposition", composed largely of Bolshevik trade unionists, was more favourable to the demands of the workers.




Russian workers at this time had many grievances. They objected to not being allowed time off to search for food and wood in the countryside. They objected to having to work compulsory unpaid overtime on traditional holidays, even on May Day. They objected to their unions being taken over by the Bolsheviks and turned into organs of managerial control, labour discipline and speed-up. In a number of places they went on strike and elected as their representatives members of the non-Bolshevik anti-Tsarist parties such as the Mensheviks and the anarchists.




Lenin was not amused. The strikes were suppressed. Many of the strikers were sent to labour camps. Some were shot. Some concessions were finally made but not until 1921 when Lenin announced to the 10th Congress of the Bolshevik Party a "new economic policy" which, among other things, allowed local peasant markets, where the workers had traditionally bought their food but which the Bolsheviks had suppressed, to operate again.




But there was a price --the suppression of the few remaining vestiges of independent trade unionism that had managed to survive the first years of the Bolshevik dictatorship. The unions became incorporated into the state; in fact, ceased to be unions, becoming instead organs of the state similar to the Labour Front Hitler later set up in Germany. This, let it be noted, was done under Lenin and Trotsky and was not a product of a later "Stalinism". The Menshevik leaders were forced into exile. The "Workers' Opposition" --and all other "factions"-- within the Bolshevik Party was banned, so establishing the principle of "monolithic unity" of which the next victim was to be one of its main architects . . . Trotsky.




From a socialist point of view the Bolsheviks had got themselves into an impossible position. Having seized power as a minority in a country where socialism was not possible for all sorts of reasons (economic backwardness, isolation from the rest of the world, lack of a majority will for socialism), they had no alternative but to do the only thing that was possible: to continue to develop capitalism.




The Bolsheviks found themselves in the position of having to preside over --and, in fact, to organise-- the accumulation of capital. But, as capital is accumulated out of surplus value and surplus value is obtained by exploiting wage-labour, this inevitably brought them into conflict with the workers who, equally inevitably, sought to limit their exploitation. The Bolsheviks justified opposing and suppressing these workers' struggles on the ground that they (the Bolsheviks) represented the longer-term interests of the workers. But did they?




Certainly, they claimed to be acting to further the cause of socialism, but Marx when formulating his materialist conception of history had already pointed out that you shouldn't judge a historical movement by what it said --and genuinely thought- it was doing but on what, objectively, it did. And objectively what the Bolsheviks did was to develop capitalism in Russia in the form of what Lenin himself in his more honest moments called state capitalism.




(December 1996)

Desde Lenin hacia Stalin

From Lenin to Stalin


Fifty years ago this month the dictator of Russia, Stalin, died. As our contribution to the discussion of this anniversary we republish the article that appeared in our April 1953 issue, which is just as relevant today as it was then.






Although Stalin is dead there still lingers about him a larger than life aspect, This is hardly surprising when we consider his antithetical role of an angel of light and prince of darkness. While such a black and white study might serve as a popular form of entertainment it reveals nothing about Stalin as a man and politician. For our part we are prepared to remain on ground level and try to evaluate Stalin by examining the social and economic soil from which he grew and – if we may use the word – flourished.

One cannot, however, begin to understand Stalin without bringing in Lenin and the Bolsheviks who for many years formed a section of the Russian Social Democratic Party. Indeed that body of dogma, eclecticism, opportunism, and self-contradictory ideas which goes under the name of Stalinism is in essence a more explicit form of what was always implicit in the theories and tactics of Lenin and his Bolshevik Party. While Stalin in his self-appointed role of Philosopher-Statesman sought to extend and amplify Leninism – the alleged Marxism of the 20th century – he never attempted to infringe his master's copyright on the subject.

Stalin himself was an old Bolshevik and not one of the least that Lenin led and inspired. He formed with Lenin a vital link in a chain of political ideas whose first phase culminated in the 1917 Russian Revolution. Certainly Stalin was more attuned to the intellectual and political atmosphere of the disciplined and conspiratorial Bolshevik Party than ever Trotsky was, a fact no doubt of crucial value in his struggle for power with the latter. Leninism as a political creed was itself born out of the leadership notions and essentially undemocratic ideas of the early Bolsheviks. Stalinism was its inevitable and tragic fulfillment.

Yet when the Bolshevik Lenin first appeared on the Russian political scene he accepted the views of people like Plekhanov – whose acknowledged pupil he was – Axelrod, Deutsch and others. Lenin's first important work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia, published 1899, put forward the view that Capitalism was developing in Russia and nothing could stop its continuance. This development he argued was historically progressive in relation to the then existing semi-feudal economy of Russia. While one could not oppose this development he said, nevertheless workers should organise to resist its evils and steps should be taken to prepare for its eventual supercession.

Lenin's book was part of an ideological campaign which the Russian Social Democratic Party were waging against the Narodniki (Populists) who maintained that Russia had a social development which was peculiar to itself and therefore did not have to pass through a normal and full capitalist development which other countries had experienced. In fact they averred that Capitalism was a kind of Western disease against which the people of Russia could and should he inoculated. Let us, they said, get rid of the tyranny of Csarism and we can, on the basis of our rural collectivism (the Mir), establish Socialism, i.e. free peasant communes and cooperatives of workers.

“Socialism in one Country” has then a much longer history than the Stalinist formulation of it. It is an ironical footnote on the earlier activities of Lenin and Stalin that the very theory they sought to combat was the one which in the end they made their own.

In fact it was Lenin who after the meagre achievements of “War Communism” re-introduced the idea of a homegrown Russian Socialism when he announced his “New Economic Policy.” It was the “Marxist” Lenin who proclaimed the myth that State Capitalism although a step backward from the earlier Bolshevik aims had in it, nevertheless, socialist implications. It was Lenin who repeatedly put forward the view that a Soviet State could be both the means and guarantee for realising Socialism in one country, and the further myth shared by both Stalin and Trotsky that what was taking place in Russia then was different from anywhere else in the world.

Lenin's own views on Marxism had through the years undergone considerable change from his earlier standpoint. How much so could be seen in the attitude he adopted in the closing years of the 1914-18 war. Lenin had come to believe more and more that Capitalism was doomed. that it would be unable to finish the war it had started. Peace was to come by a victorious proletarian revolution in the advanced capitalist countries. For that reason the traditional difference between bourgeois and proletarian revolutions had for him lost significance. Given the right leadership in Russia a socialist revolution not a bourgeois one would be the order of the day. At the first All Russian Congress of Soviets, of which his party was only a small minority, he declared their willingness to take over immediately. In the August of that year he flatly asserted that “majority rule was a institutional illusion.”

Lenin's predictions of what was going to happen to capitalism were falsified by the actual events. The capitalists did finish the war and no proletarian revolution took place. So Lenin's main justification for a socialist revolution went by the board.

It is true the Bolsheviks did come to power in Russia. But it was neither with the acclamation nor assent of the Russian people. It was in the quiet of the early hours of the morning of November 7th that Bolshevik military cars occupied the centres of business and communication in Petrograd. This sealed the fate of Kerensky Provisional Government and assured the Bolsheviks of political power. Thus did the population of Petrograd discover when they woke a few hours later that their “Proletarian dictatorship” was an accomplished fact.

That the Bolsheviks concluded peace with Germany, dispossessed the private capitalist and against their own judgment gave the land to the peasants is a matter of history. They were successful because in war-weary, exhausted Russia they conceded to the inevitable. Behind the facade of their concession they planned however a new discipline and developed the latent forces for a new social order – new to Russia – but, in its exploitation based on wage labour. as old as capitalism itself.

Nor was the undemocratic seizure of power by the Bolsheviks merely the fortuitous result of filling the vacuum caused by the indecision and incompetence of Kerensky's Government. Such action by the Bolsheviks was in keeping with their political ideas which the circumstances arising from the collapse of Csarist Russia enabled them to exploit.

The Bolsheviks, mainly recruited from the Russian bourgeois intelligentsia, had long regarded themselves as the born leaders of the Russian people, an illusion they shared with the Fabians and other reformist parties. By identifying themselves with the aims and aspirations of the non-socialist mass and securing their confidence the Bolsheviks believed that, with such backing, they could ride to political power at an opportune moment.

Because they believed themselves to be the commanding officers of the politically less conscious majority it is easy to see why the spreading of socialist ideas was subordinated to the preoccupation of tactics, unity of command and the strict discipline of party organisation. Within such a party it was obvious that freedom of individual action and opinion were gravely limited. Ideas for them were not something to be accepted because of their integral and logical structure but as an ideal means for successfully waging political struggles. Theory for the Bolsheviks, as it became later for the various Communist Parties meant a creed a dogma to be inflexibly held against all comers.

That the Bolsheviks adopted Marxism not only saved them the trouble of formulating theories of their own but as a well-established doctrine, it provided an admirable ideological basis to which changes and shifts in policy could be ultimately referred and by which they could be justified. This is the true significance of Lenin's oft repeated phrase, echoed and re-echoed by Stalin, “Theory is a guide to practice.” For the Bolsheviks these dogmas set the limit to and decided the nature of freedom of discussion. Whatever differences may exist between Roman Catholicism and “Communism” there is at least this much in common.

It is from the mental and political outlook of the Bolsheviks we can trace the evolution of that pernicious scholasticism by which Stalin and his party not only conducted their purges but sought to hide from the world and perhaps themselves what was really taking place in “Socialist Russia.”

It would also account for the reason why men like Lenin and Stalin were at one and the same time, rigid doctrinaires and flexible, opportunistic politicians. Perhaps for dictators there is an emotional need for dogma. Many tyrants have justified their evil work on the assumption that it was ultimately for the good of mankind. Even Stalin explaining that Soviet Russia is not exempt from economic laws indulged in turgid Marxist phraseology and quotes from Engels who it appears plays a similar role in Soviet theology to that once
played by Aristotle in the Catholic Church.

In such an organisation as the Bolsheviks it is not surprising that the dictum, the end justifies the means, was raised to a ruling principle. Long before the revolution they held that any means were permissible against political opponents; after the revolution it was but logical step to ensure that all means were justifiable.

The Bolsheviks themselves however became the victims of their own anti-democratic pressures. From “all power to the Soviets” it passed to “all power to the Communist Party.” The checks and balances of ordinary democratic procedure were absent. The struggle of rival groups had to be carried on within the Communist Party. Intrigue and plotting under ideological disguises became the effective means for realising political ambitions. Because of years of unbridled power the Communist Party was mentally and politically incapable of resolving the struggle by democratic means. Maintenance of power at any price became for them a matter of life and death. On a chequer board of political tactics the old Bolshevik “moved, mated and slayed” until the assumption of power rested in one man – Stalin; which compelled the fashioning of a mighty repressive machine to ensure his own preservation and that of the ruling faction which he represented.

While Stalin was prepared to make concessions to the Russian people and even grant a “New Constitution” he was incapable of granting them political freedom. Whatever may have been Stalin's claims for what he achieved in Russia he was never prepared to submit them to normal political competition. For Stalin that would have been the end of Stalinism.

It was Stalin who completed the work begun by Lenin, the turning of Marxism, a revolutionary doctrine into its opposite an authoritative ideology of State Capitalism on a par and at times competing with other state ideologies, i.e. Hitler's National Socialism and Mussolini's Corporate State.

The Bolsheviks in spite of their Marxist language and at times idealistic phrases were never socialists. They served instead as spokesmen of a new ruling class in Russia, a class itself the outcome of the very economic tendencies existing in Russia, the tendencies towards State Capitalism. In the furnace of the Russian Revolution the Bolsheviks were themselves forged into an instrument of class domination. In that sense was Joseph Djugashvili a man of steel.

Lenin: Un analisis socialista

Lenin: a socialist analysis



Lenin dictating to the proletariat


When Vladimir Ilich Ulyanov was sixteen his brother was hanged for complicity in a plot to assassinate the Tsar. Later, he himself got involved in anti-Tsarist revolutionary activity, was arrested and spent three years in prison in Siberia. In 1900 he was exiled, eventually settling in Switzerland and adopting the pseudonym “Lenin”. He founded and was the leader of the Bolshevik wing of the Russian Social Democratic Labour Party in 1903. After the revolution of February 1917 Lenin returned to Russia and in October he led the Bolsheviks to power in a coup. When he died in January 1924, most of the main feudal obstacles to capitalist development had been removed, together with all effective political opposition.

The socialist analysis of Lenin and his legacy is different from the Cold War propaganda which can still be found in books such as Orlando Figes' A People's Tragedy: The Russian Revolution 1891-1924, published in 1996, which depicts Lenin and the Bolsheviks as forerunners of Hitler and the Nazis. The socialist argument against Lenin is based on the evidence that he distorted what Marx claimed and thereby damaged socialist theory, pursued political action that was against the interests of the working class and dragged the name of socialism through the mud.

Starting with What Is To Be Done? (1902) Lenin said: “the history of all countries shows that the working class, exclusively by its own efforts, is able to develop only trade union consciousness.” Lenin argued that socialist consciousness had to be brought to the working class by professional revolutionaries rather than a parliamentary party, drawn mainly from the petty-bourgeoisie, and organised as a vanguard party. But in 1879 Marx and Engels issued a circular in which they declared the opposite:

“When the International was formed we expressly formulated the battle cry: The emancipation of the working classes must be conquered by the working classes themselves. We cannot, therefore, co-operate with people who openly state that the workers are too uneducated to emancipate themselves and must be freed from above by philanthropic big bourgeois and petty bourgeois” (www.marxists.org/archive/marx/works/1879/09/18.htm).

It must be noted however that Lenin's elitism was consistent with the outlook of the Second International. As Hal Draper has written: “The fact is that Lenin had just read this theory in the most prestigious theoretical organ of Marxism of the whole international socialist movement, the Neue Zeit. It had been put forward in an important article by the leading Marxist authority of the International, Karl Kautsky.” (The Myth of Lenin's Concept of The Party, www.marxists.org/archive/draper/works/1990/myth/index.htm). The difference between Kautsky and Lenin here was over who was to lead the workers beyond “trade-union consciousness”, though historically Lenin's interpretation that this should be a vanguard party of professional revolutionaries has been more influential. By contrast, when the Socialist Party of Great Britain was formed in 1904 it repudiated leadership as a political principle and insisted that the emancipation of the working class really had to be the work of the working class itself.

False distinction
Lenin was not the first to describe socialism as a transitional society, but through his followers, he turned out to be the most influential. In Lenin's Political Thought (1981), Neil Harding claims that in 1917 Lenin made “no clear delineation” between socialism and communism. But in fact Lenin did write in State and Revolution (1917) of a “scientific distinction” between socialism and communism:

“What is usually called socialism was termed by Marx the 'first', or lower, phase of communist society. Insofar as the means of production become common property, the word 'communism' is also applicable here, providing we do not forget that this is not complete communism” (www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/staterev/ch05.htm#s1).

The first sentence of this quote is simply untrue and Lenin must have known this. Marx and Engels used the terms socialism and communism interchangeably to refer to the post-revolutionary society of common ownership of the means of production. It is true that in his Critique of the Gotha Programme (1875) Marx wrote of a transition between a lower phase of communism and a higher phase of communism. Marx held that, because of the low level of economic development (in 1875), individual consumption would have to be rationed, possibly by the use of labour-time vouchers (similar to those advocated by Robert Owen). But in the higher phase of communism, when the forces of production had developed sufficiently, consumption would be according to need. It is important to realise, however, that in both phases of socialism/communism there would be no state or money economy. Lenin, on the other hand, said that socialism (or the first phase of communism) is a transitional society between capitalism and full communism, in which there is both a state and money economy. According to Lenin:

“It follows that under communism there remains for a time not only bourgeois right, but even the bourgeois state, without the bourgeoisie!… For the state to wither away completely, complete communism is necessary.”

But Lenin failed to see what this would involve. In effect, the theory of “socialism” as a transitional society was to become an apology for state capitalism.

In terms of its impact on world politics, Lenin's State and Revolution was probably his most important work. This was derived from the theoretical analysis contained in his earlier work, Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism (1916). Lenin's theory of imperialism demonstrated to his satisfaction that the whole administrative structure of “socialism” had been developed during the epoch of finance or monopoly capitalism. Under the impact of the First World War, so the argument ran, capitalism had been transformed into state-monopoly capitalism. On that basis, Lenin claimed, the democratisation of state-monopoly capitalism was socialism. As Lenin pointed out in The Impending Catastrophe and How to Combat It (1917):

“For socialism is merely the next step forward from state-capitalist monopoly. Or, in other words, socialism is merely state-capitalist monopoly which is made to serve the interests of the whole people and has to that extent ceased to be capitalist monopoly” (original emphasis, www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1917/ichtci/11.htm).

In State and Revolution Lenin claimed that according to Marx work and wages would be guided by the “socialist principle” (though in fact it comes from the christian saint, Paul): “He who does not work shall not eat.” This was eventually adopted in the USSR Constitution of 1936 and amended to read: “to each according to his work.” as a “principle of socialism.” Marx and Engels used no such “principle” and they made no such distinction concerning socialism. Lenin in fact did not “re-establish what Marx really taught on the subject of the state”, as he claimed, but substantially distorted it to suit the situation in which the Bolsheviks found themselves. When Stalin announced the doctrine of “socialism in one country” in 1936 (i.e. the establishment of state capitalism in Russia) he was drawing on an idea implicit in Lenin's writings.

Dictatorship
In State and Revolution, Lenin gave special emphasis to the concept of the “dictatorship of the proletariat”. This phrase was sometimes used by Marx and Engels and meant working class conquest of power, which (unlike Lenin) they did not confuse with a socialist society. Engels had cited the Paris Commune of 1871 as an example of the dictatorship of the proletariat. The Commune impressed Marx and Engels for its ultra-democratic features, which involved a non-hierarchical structure and the use of revocable delegates. Lenin, on the other hand, tended to identify the term with a state ruled by a vanguard party. When the Bolsheviks actually gained power they centralised political power more and more in the hands of the Communist Party. Modern-day Leninists claim that the rise of Stalin was due to the ravages of civil war and Russian isolation, but the fact remains that “democratic centralism” can allow dictators to rise to power and all openly pro-capitalist political parties have a similar structure which can allow the leadership to act undemocratically.

Lenin's short article The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism (1913) is a concise explanation of the basics of Marxism (www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1913/mar/x01.htm). But by 1918 the dictatorship of the proletariat had become for Lenin “the very essence of Marx's teaching” (The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky, 1918, www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1918/prrk/index.htm). It is noticeable however that Lenin's Three Sources article contained no mention of the phrase or Lenin's particular conception of the dictatorship of the proletariat. Harding alleges that Lenin was the most “doctrinaire” of all Marxists at this time, but here again we see that Lenin was only too willing to distort Marx's arguments in order to fit into the reality of Russia's capitalist revolution. That is, the further development of wage labour, capital, commodity production and the state, which resulted in the exploitation of the working class by the party bureaucracy as the exploiting class.

Lenin's greatest positive achievement was getting Russia out of the bloody futility of World War One, something that the Socialist Party acknowledged at the time. The Socialist Party was the only British organisation to publish the Bolsheviks' anti-war declaration during the war. The trouble really started when claims about the “socialist” nature of Russia began to be aired, first within Russia then in the Communist parties being formed around the world. (See www.worldsocialism.org/spgb/archive/revolution(1918).pdf) The false claims about Russian “socialism” are largely derived from Lenin's opportunism as he distorted Marxism – working class socialist theory. In this country, the Socialist Party always denied that socialism existed in Russia (or anywhere else) or that Russia was on a transition towards socialism.

For its anti-democratic elitism and its advocacy of an irrelevant transitional society misnamed “socialism”, in theory and in practice, Leninism today deserves the hostility of workers everywhere. Lenin seriously distorted Marxism and thereby severely damaged the development of the socialist movement. Indeed, Leninism still continues to pose a real obstacle to the achievement of socialism.