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Lenin. Lars T. Lih. Review: a ‘Heroic Scenario’.

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A ‘Heroic Scenario’. Lenin. Lars T. Lih. Reaktion Books. 2011.

“Revolutionary centralism is a harsh, imperative and exacting principle. It often takes the guise of absolute ruthlessness in its relation to individual members, to whole groups of former associates. It is not without significance that the words ‘irreconcilable’ and ‘relentless’ are among Lenin’s favourites. It is only the most impassioned, revolutionary striving for a definite end – a striving that is utterly free from anything base or personal – that can justify such a personal ruthlessness.”

Leon Trotsky (1)

The collected works of Lenin, Lars Lih observes, that line his study, make up an “intellectual mausoleum comparable to the corporeal mausoleum that still stands in Moscow.” (Page 7) If Lenin’s 55 tomes are read thoroughly, it is normally by people with a focused ideological or academic mission. Some continue to treat the writings as an encyclopaedia of Marxist knowledge; others as evidence for the prosecution against Communism. More often Lenin is cited without much fore or afterthought. The “leading political philosophers of the left” in The Idea of Communism (2010) pick from his corpus to embellish their heterodox communism. Slavoj Žižek uses Lenin’s “climbing simile”, no doubt to describe his long march through the media and academy. Bruno Bosteels ponders Lenin’s “clinical-pedagogical” attacks on “leftism”. It is fashionable to refer the ‘Leninist Party’ in terms of Alain Badiou’s critique of ‘Party-State’ form and his conception of the pure ‘Communist hypothesis’. Elsewhere John Holloway has rapidly dispatched Lenin and “the theory of the vanguard party” as the “logical conclusion” of “Engels’” view of scientific socialism. This “consciousness” has to be brought by “those who have this knowledge” into the working class. (2) More direct discussion of Lenin’s far more complex stand on the relationship between Marxism, the party, and the working class, has until recently, been largely moribund.

By contrast, Lih’s portrait of Lenin, Lenin Rediscovered: What Is to Be Done? in Context (2006) account of Lenin, is, even critics agree, at the very least, thorough. It is widely considered a landmark. Lih has shown himself less concerned to support his view by Lenin than to develop a contextual view of Lenin. For those of us unwilling or unable to pay Brill’s steep price for that book and have not ploughed through its dense argument, Lenin Rediscovered’s influence is nevertheless felt. Lih’s demolition of the ‘textbook’ view of Lenin, (reproduced by John Holloway) that those “in the know”, should bear Marxist knowledge to the ignorant working class, has become a reference point. Lih’s Lenin was supremely confident that the proletariat was ready for Marxism, that there would be no division between teachers and taught, and that socialism and the working class would ‘merge’. His presentation of the “broader historical data” about Lenin, Kautsky and 2nd International ‘Erfurtian’ Marxism, has an importance for any assessment of the Bolshevik’s relationship to other forms of socialism. This interpretation has also gained support from sections of the organised left. A large audience is now aware of its outline. (3)

Now, the lucid Lenin, a “biographical essay”, has appeared and introduces Lih’s (un-italiced) Lenin directly to a wider public. Despite Lih’s claim that its portrait of Lenin is not “particularly original”, he develops out of his earlier research much more than a conventional life of a “leading cultural figure” in the Critical Lives series. It is in many respects highly novel. Lenin offers a picture of a “romantic” Lenin, a “stubborn dreamer” as Lih cites Pisarev. He held to a “heroic scenario” of how socialists will overthrow the bourgeoisie. It is not just Lenin’s relationship to Kautsky, but also Lenin’s bond to an emotional and visionary self which makes up the Life.

But what came afterwards? How did Lenin, emotionally wedded to the importance of political freedom for socialism during most of his life, come, under his leadership of the Soviet Government, to deny political and social liberty? Lih considers that Lenin had an instrumental attitude towards democracy – that it is a means towards socialism. But here the difficulties begin. Lih compares the pre-great War Russian Social Democratic Party’s (RSDLP) division into two principal factions – Bolsheviks and Mensheviks – to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer   in Season Five. The plot there revolved around Ben, a human, coexisting in the same body with Glorificus, a demon goddess (Page 111). As the RSDLP could be seen as containing two clashing persons, many consider that within Lenin there is a similar conflict within his frame: between the humane, if, as Trotsky indicated, “harsh” and “relentless”, supporter of workers’ democratic power, and the demiurge willing to create socialism at any anti-democratic cost. The post 1912 formalisation of the split in Russian socialism led eventually to the death of the Mensheviks; in Buffy both incarnations die. How did Lenin’s “dream”, invested in this organisation, contribute to a conquering political structure that singularly failed to build democratic socialism? The triumphant faction of the Russian socialist movement was consigned, as is often the case for monsters in Buffy, to Hell, that is to Stalin. What role did the tool used to achieve the victory of the Bolshevik Party, contribute to the eventual triumph of the bureaucratic autocrat?

Althusser once asserted that Lenin never offered a full theoretical account of his political practice. His texts were for “direct political use.” (4) Yet Lenin’s works (writings and acts), as presented by Lih, offer in a practical state material that suggests a real difficulty with democracy, and the nature of his ‘heroic’ projections, at the core of his politics. Trotsky flagged up Lenin’s “revolutionary centralism” as if it had purely personal results; it had effects on the Bolshevik political practice in government about which we still shudder. This essay will deal largely with these topics with a present-day bearing, and not cover the already burgeoning disputes over the historical details of Lih’s writings, which would require a much greater familiarity with the material than is available here. The ‘worry about democracy’ is, for left political activists, as will be seen, the most important issue that Lenin raises, and only begins to respond to.

Biographical Narratives.

“The aim of the present biographical essay is to keep the focus on both Ulyanov the flesh-and-blood personage and his rhetorical creation, N. Lenin.” (Page 13) Lenin’s chapters are laid out as if Lenin’s actions were part of an “enacted narrative.” That is, Lenin is understood through a “dramatic structure”. These are set out in ‘episodes’, ‘banner sentences’ and “central projects.” In the order of time, flags are waved, as Lenin moves from creating the social democratic party, fights for a democratic anti-Tsarist revolutionary movement to lead the peasantry, by-pass the liberal bourgeoisie, and establishes “a proletarian vlast (power) (Page 198) Behind everything there is a picture of Lenin’s vision of a “heroic scenario of inspiring leadership” which is outlined in “both its complexity and its thematic unity” (Pages 17, 15). This was, for Lenin, not only a theory: it was the shaping force of his being (“emotional glue”) and his performance (a word that could be used to describe his sense of ‘acting’ on the world-historical stage). Therefore, the ‘creation’, the discursive figure, Lenin, is intimately connected to the feeling person.

Lenin, Lih argues, based himself on the European, above all German, Social Democratic strategy of “party-led class leadership”. “Lenin became a passionate Social Democrat because he thought that this Western European movement showed the way forward for the Russian revolutionaries” (Page 194) The projected sequence of events, the “other way” from Narodism to worker-led socialism, as Russian capitalism was producing European conditions, was, Lih argues, at the centre of his existence. This was, to repeat, an emotionally coloured choice, the root of his political commitment, part of pattern that played a “changing role” in his career. Such a heavy and enduring affective bond to this socialist project “made Lenin want to base it on the most solid authority possible.” (Page 194) That is, on the writings of Marx and Engels.

As will become apparent, this is a very radical premise. The scientific (objective) policies of a party and the Bolshevik vlast (power) are worked out in relation to an imaginative picture of how socialism would be created in Western Europe and in Russia. External conditions, War, the Civil War and inner party disputes – not part of any self-designed dramatic plan – had, nevertheless, more than just a constraining effect. They altered the role the heroic imagery that inspired him played. Lih points this out by his division of Lenin’s life into different ‘episodes’ – corresponding to the formation of the RSDLP (1894 – 1904), the ‘Leninist/Bolshevik’ period (1904 – 1914), and the ‘Communist’ (1914 – 1924).

The greatest difficulty with presenting Lenin, the rhetorician, is that Lih cannot, whatever his intentions, just offer a forensic account of the man, his theories and actions. He has to present someone who produced deliberative statements about capitalism and the socialist and communist future with a display of argument for his ‘Leninist’ position. These are wrapped in a creative appeal (or its contrary), and are formed not just by reference to his inner life, but, as rhetoric is, by his anticipated and actual reception. Lenin’s ‘rhetorical creation’ cannot stand on its own. It is not only the influence of European Social Democracy that is in play here, but his Russian allies and opponents. Lenin’s “exalted sense of historical events”, intersects with his contemporaries’ feelings and opinions. What Lenin fabricated out of himself, as a political agent, equally has a modern presence, as many of his views are so entrenched in left thinking that they ‘stand in’ for the opinions of Marxists today. It is, as we will see, not always useful to bracket these further contextual layers out.

Lenin’s Heroic Scenario.

What then was the ‘heroic scenario’ for socialist inspired leadership? Lenin offers three arresting images, which inflect the entire study. Lenin, Lih emphasises, was not just “in love” with Marx and Engels, he was deeply devoted to a sweeping historical epic. Lenin the scientific materialist and political operator had simultaneously in mind a number of socialist tableaux vivants. The ‘icons’ of socialism, such as banners with a “militant message”, were Lih asserts, metaphors “that focused his conception of revolutionary politics” and infused it with “emotional warmth.”(Page 45) Lih claims that one can see the “emotional content” of Lenin’s political drama, through the socialist imagery of his time. Lenin illustrates two of them by Walter Crane designs. They bear all the hallmarks of Pre-Raphaelite ideals, infused with Gothic horror, maudlin sacrifice and valour. The third is a Soviet poster, of a worker with only a slightly less anachronistic blacksmith’s hammer – a warrior pulsating with manly heroism. Whether these are verifiably close to Lenin’s inner-life or not, these drawings are arresting, and in respects unnerving.

In Lih’s bold suggestion, Lenin’s tissue of exhaled feeling is first embodied in the Walter Crane’s The Capitalist Vampire (1885). A vampire is labelled, in this Russian version, 1902, Bureaucracy, Church, Capital, and Autocracy. The beast is devouring a prostrate worker. An angel blows a trumpet to waken him and to join the fight for socialism. To Lih, this symbolises, Act One; “the creation of a Russian version of a Social Democratic party that is genuinely and effectively engaged in bringing what Marx called ‘knowledge and combination’ to the workers, despite being forced underground by tsarist repression.”(Page 48) It is perhaps unfortunate that “inspiring class leadership” should appear to come through divine providence.

Act Two, The Democratic Revolution, is illuminated, Lih states, by another Crane picture. A worker has woken up, filed through his chains, and confronts the eagle of Tsarism. He waves a banner, ‘Down with Autocracy! Long live freedom and Socialism!” “the struggle to bring political freedom to Russia by revolutionary overthrow of the Tsar.”(P 48) Less entranced observers may note a close resemblance to the heavy-handed Punch political cartoons of the period, where nothing ambiguous is left to stand.

In Act Three, the Social Revolution, the Russian proletariat appears in a 1920 Soviet Poster. Produced during the celebrations of the 3rd anniversary of the October Revolution, it points to “the world socialist revolution”. The spectators, a crowd of workers, are assembled in front of crudely drawn modernist buildings, a forerunner of Brutalism, overshadowed by the heroic blacksmith. His banner (in full) bears the initials of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic. The spectators carry the slogans, “Workers of the world, unite!” For Lih this is “not unlike the banner carried by the angel of socialism, the banner of the awakened Russian worker, the banner of the European proletariat on the march. The dramatic and ambitious narrative on that banner was Lenin’s story – and he stuck to it.”(Page 51)

Walter Crane was inspired by William Morris’s mission to bring art into the lives and homes of the workers. Here they show Lenin’s mental furniture to be very time-bound. Lih’s illustrations lost their appeal, except as curiosities, a long time ago. The dramatic symbolism in them did not inspire universal emotional attachment, as some of the period’s lampoons of Pre-Raphaelite art’s damsels, dragons and knights indicate. The 1920 imprint raises its own difficulties. Its traces of modernist architecture could be seen to prefigure the Stalinist fairy-tale simulacra of capitalist urbanism and industrialisation, that hid a reality that resembled the worst side of Victorian life as described in Francis Spufford’s Red Plenty (2010). It’s equally hard not to recall the concrete ruins of this Brutalism, photographed by Guy Tilim in his Patrice Lumumba Avenue series.

Angels, Walter Benjamin and Terry Eagleton notwithstanding, have disappeared from the left’s mental stock, regimes no longer take animal form, the last smiths in any number are farriers for the small minority of horse lovers, and we would not wish to live or work in Patrice Lumumba Avenue. Lih shows that the illustration of Lenin’s ‘heroic scenario’, transported out of its original context is, over time, a dream that has emptied of contact with what we aspire for our lives. More positively, by contrast, these images show that Lenin’s hero worship did not resemble Thomas Carlyle’s Hero-archy. There is no incipient cult of the personality. Carlyle would be annoyed to see that Lenin admired a “level immensity of small men” (On Heroes, Hero Worship and the Heroic in History. 1841).

Changing taste is, like fashions in dress, a whirligig. But Lih perhaps indicates more than he imagines by portraying Lenin in this way. He asserts that “..the emotions that Lenin invested in his scenario can only be described by such words as enthusiastic, exalted, romantic. The flip side of emotions such as these is his hatred of ‘philistinism’, that is, everyone and anyone who could not lift themselves up to the grand vistas of his scenario.”(Page 195) In effect then, Lenin would not just disagree with people over the political issue at hand, but was overwhelmed by passionate feelings not just about the revolution (understandable) but about a particular aesthetic of revolutionary politics. If you don’t like heroism, of the mass variety, then you will get loathed. In other words, Lenin was not inclined to accept the maxim that to everyone her or his own taste.

Lenin’s dislike of ‘philistinism’ is famous. It is cited in a Wikipedia link on the term. But what exactly was ‘philistinism’? Sensitive to translation difficulties from Russian Lih offers no help here. The German origin of 19th century European usage suggests a contrast between the open-minded, ‘spiritual’ and educated, and the Beidermeier petty bourgeoisie, steeped in materialist, money-making, values. Mathew Arnold, who first discussed the word in his essay Heinrich Heine (1863), quotes the German poet’s dislike of “ächtbrittische Beschränktheit” – genuine British narrowness. Arnold contrasted the “enthusiast for the idea, for reason”, who values them for their own sake, with those who regard the possession of “practical conveniences as something sufficient in themselves.” They prefer comfort to ideals, or, in aesthetes’ terms, use to beauty. In a similar vein, to German socialists, admired by Lenin, philistines were those who regarded socialist proposals as impractical “castles in the air”.

Lenin titled What is To Be Done? after the Russian writer, Chernyshevsky’s novel of the same name. Lih writes, “Lenin felt that Chernyshevsky had a ‘pitch-perfect’ sense of what was truly revolutionary and what was ‘philistine’ compromise and conformism.”(Page 33) Chernyshevsky’s most celebrated character, Rakhmetov, is a utilitarian revolutionary and, as is often noted, one of the most repulsive prigs in the history of literature. Lenin, Lih asserts, was more of a ‘dreamer’ than the man who slept on a bed of nails, never drank wine, and engaged in an impromptu lecture on how the emotion of jealousy (a plot pivot) was the product of the existing order of things. Chernyshevsky’s materialism owed less to the poetry and tolerance of Enlightenment thinkers like Diderot than to compulsory social reform based on a populist-socialist Bentham. He was enraptured with the Idea, but reason itself makes his “new men” the slaves of Progress, marked by “cold-blooded practicality, regular and calculating activity, active calculation”. For all his inklings of the sublime, for Lenin, his urge towards Great Ideas that spill over the boundaries of conventional social harmony, then, the moral standards of this didactic romancer were the gold standard.

One cannot, therefore, but help think that Lenin had something of the philistine himself. There is more evidence for this impression. In Lenin’s politics a central role was assigned to the ideal activist, one of the praktiki, the purposive worker who was not only militant, but was also determined to be ‘rational and cultured’. “He or she wanted to think well, to behave well, to dress well, to use proper grammar and to avoid strong drink.”(Page 58) Social legislation in the early Soviet state was intended to propagate this ideal throughout Russia, imposing a programme of clean-living on all. Fortunately one cannot reduce Lenin’s attitude to conformist fussiness or correct behaviour, literacy and basic skills (a general Slavic signification of the word kultura ‘culture’ not special to Lenin). As part of this approach Lenin also held the eminently sensible view, similar to that of Saint Augustine, that the new faith must not reject the best of the old. As Christianity took over what was valuable in the pagan arts, so would Bolshevism “appropriate and assimilate” bourgeois cultural achievements. But Lenin’s attachment to Marxism’s improving effect on mores and manners, part of his emotional ‘glue’, often stands muster with the 19th century British labour aristocracy’s ideal of self-improvement.

Lenin, Epics, Myths and Ideology.

Here we come to the heart of the matter. Lenin was not principally interested in ethical self-improvement. This only one part of Lenin’s mental picture. His life was illuminated by an all-embracing vision, of “Heroic class leadership.” That is, “an epic national struggle in which the urban workers will lead the newly galvanised narod.”(P 40) The cultured praktiki has a more important role to play than keeping their nails cut or studying. “Lenin was driven by a highly optimistic, indeed romantic, scenario of inspiring class leadership that had strong roots in European Social Democracy.” (Page 17) They would be players in this drama.

The complex debates in Russian Social Democracy on the role the peasantry, the bourgeoisie and the working class would play in this projection of the unfolding of the socialist revolution were, for Lenin, built on this foundation. It would be the activists who, merged with the masses, would carry out the revolution. On one point Lenin firmly asserted his Marxism – the peasantry would not be principals in the decisive struggle, “These rural workers may not have been able to play the role of class leaders, but they could step into the essential role of class followers.”(Page 35) But while Lenin urged at every point his political differences with the strategies of the Russian populists, narodnicks, and terrorists, they served as ideals of self-sacrifice. The praktiki should be inspired to emulate the militant sacrifice of their forerunners. To cite a representative text, (he refers to Herzen) the earlier generation of revolution demonstrated that, “selfless devotion to the revolution and revolutionary propaganda among the people are not wasted even if long decades divide the sowing from the harvest.” The Revolutionary heroic scenario needed utterly dedicated actors, though, as the metaphor of the stage leaves unclear how far they would write its lines, or simply speak them, is a matter of contention. (5)

Lenin then, always operated with “an assertively ‘scientific’ terminology and a romantic narrative.”(Page 193) But what of the latter? Lih’s description of his mental framework can be clarified by comparison with what he contrarian leftist Georges Sorel (1857 – 1922) called “poésie sociale” and ‘myth’. Mass movements, such as socialism, to Sorel, were propelled by a fusion of images, hopes, interests and wishes from all these sides, in a grand ideological construction. In human activity, he argued, the past, the present and the future are totally mixed up, in the sense that mentally images of each co-exist, events are recalled, and intentions are formulated. A true ‘myth’ however meant absolute certainty of will. So, “les hommes qui participent aux grands mouvements sociaux, se représentent leur action prochaine sous forme d’images de batailles assurant le triomphe de leur cause. Je proposais de nommer mythes ces constructions.’ (6)

Myths, projected as inevitable future events, if we follow Sorel, therefore form a causal foundation for action in the present. Historically one can see such myths have played this role. Millennialism, with its belief that the Second Coming is about to arrive, determined the actions of believers in the present moment. The General Strike of early 20th century syndicalism that would bring about socialism was Sorel considered, another myth, which brook no rational opposition. It was not scientifically or empirically proved but served all the more to throw workers into revolt. Lih’s triology of Lenin’s dramatic acts, and their illustration, are such ‘images of battles’ present in the consciousness as if they were already real. Life would imitate romance.

In this specialised sense there is a good case to argue that Lenin was animated by the Marxist ‘myth’ ‘ révolution en bloc, comme un tout indivisé’. Sorel earlier described Marx ‘s ‘apocalyptic’ phrase of the ‘negation of the negation’ in Volume 1 of Capital, not as scientific but as an artistic image. That it is not impossible for there to be two dimensions, side-by-side, science and feeling, the general weal and the individual interest, rational discourse and appeals to the heart, should be obvious to the politically active, though perhaps not to those who cling to the idea that Lenin escaped the furrows of normal human existence.

There is one reservation : Lenin was not swept away by mythical intoxication. A better expression to clarify the meaning of Sorel’s ‘myth’ (which ‘bends the stick’ as far as possible) would be to place it within the category of ideology. That is, in the Althussrian tradition, a ‘lived relation’ to our conditions of existence, in which the ‘practico-social’ predominates over scientifically established knowledge. Ideology is the ‘rapport imaginaire’ of individuals to their real conditons, it is addressed to people by state apparatuses, and political parties, has an ‘existence matériale’. This gives ideology a passive colour. By contrast, Sorelian myths are a particular kind of ideology. They are not ways of reconciling ourselves to the world, nor ‘misprepresenations’ produced by fetishist appearances, but oppositional reactions that strive for alternatives to it. They are also the springs of action with a degree of what Rosa Luxemburg considered ‘unconsciousness’. Sorel leaves open whether his myths would animate class subjects, only Marxism can root such movements there. Marxist politics bind myths and class together, in what is usually, in Lenin’s terms, called ‘class consciousness’. (7)

Lenin was, if we accept this reading, prepared to storm capitalism with confidence because he believed that his dream, which held the poetry of a social myth, was not individual but was shared, had rational Marxist support, and as an ideology of Good News, could be spread wider. Above all it could cause people to act. It was an integrated image of the future, a projection, towards which present action is co-ordinated. It led people to the destruction of the existing order of things. These images are, to Sorel, ‘au fond, identique aux convictions d’un groupe, qu’il est l’expression de ces convictions en langage de mouvement’. He was, in short, convinced that his scenario could be communicated to the people he wished to offer heroic leadership to. That was his means to ‘agir sur le présent’ – to act on the present. Regardless of well founded these feelings and opinions were, or how scientific they could be justified, the force that pushed Lenin forward can be considered in terms of this profound ideological foundation. (8)

Lenin’s ‘mythic’ emotional side coexisted with Marxism, or rather a particular take on Marxism (free of all ‘opportunism’). The intermingling of the two in his representation of ‘Social democratic consciousness’ had, in his view, to be accepted by the whole of the working class. But the mechanism, the Bolshevik Party, designed to impart a conscious blend of fervour and reason, that did away with “organisational looseness”, should fuse this socialism with the workers’ movement, acting only initially “from the outside”. It could never at ease with other versions of Marxism, or with dealing with the ‘unconscious’ spontaneous elements that throw up different mythical aspiration, These, the meat of democracy inside the masses and political revolts the way that ideologies are constantly in motion, posed a particular problem.

Christopher Read (Lenin 2005) puts this point simply. In What is to be Done? consciousness is frequently discussed, but “there was very little on exactly what ‘Marxist’ ‘proletarian’ or ‘revolutionary’ consciousness consisted of. What was permitted, what was not? What were the precise features of ‘advanced’ consciousness among Party members?”(Page 59) Put another way, there was the assumption that hegemony over the class alliance that would overthrow Tsarism was built from the “vanguard of the revolutionary forces” that already carried a developed awareness of the development of capitalist society as a whole. Defining the boundaries of the vanguard, and deciding on what was ‘backward’ or hostile to it, has remained a difficult issue for the left. Today some tend to include everything in ‘movement’ in it, in terms of ‘opposition’ to capitalism, to imperialism, to the existing order. Others note that the practical power of a movement does not mean dropping the rationalist Marxist principle that ideology is always open to criticism and change. Islamist revolts against ‘Imperialism’ have contained a bigoted hatred of Christian ‘Crusaders’, Jews, Atheists and Communists, for all their oppositional force.

But Lih makes one point clear: Lenin did not consider the Party to act as the Teacher and Guardian of recalcitrant workers. He comments, “The party inspires the workers with a sense of their great mission to lead the narod, and the proletariat then carries out this mission by inspiring the narod to join the workers in their crusade to overthrow Tsarism, thereby opening up the road that ultimately leads to socialism – this is Lenin’s scenario.”(Page 15) This renders a lot of discussion on Lenin’s ‘problem with workers’ redundant. If Lenin did not have any dilemmas about workers’ heroism it was because he thought they would not be too difficult to rouse and lead towards his scientifically backed up aspirations. If some of them might be too ‘corrupted’ to listen, he had faith in the weight of ‘advanced workers’ to overcome their reluctance. This take, we have just signalled, does not, however, stifle another, deeper, concern: how could workers, in the framework of socialist democracy, disagree with the direction Lenin’s route map laid down?

The Threads Strategy,

Lenin set out a detailed organisational and political strategy in What is to be Done? (1902) and developed these views most famously in One Step Forwards Two Steps Back (190$0. In the first instance the “inspiration in What is to be Done? is the mighty German Social Democratic party…”(Page 79) Lih’s observation that Lenin’s plans for the Russian Social Democrats rested on professional revolutionaries, each a “revolutionary by trade”, meaning primarily “the trade of skilled worker.” The could be imbued with “the poetry of daring and self-sacrifice vs. the prose of competence and self-discipline.”(Page 69) Neither Lenin nor Kautsky considered the “unity and autonomy” of the working class a given fact of experience. As he put it, the socialist conscious exercise of will to make the working class aware of its “effective strength” is required that heightens the “spirit of conflict”. “It is the mission of the Socialist movement to bring all these various activities of the proletariat against its exploitation into one conscious and unified movement, that will find its climax in the great final battle for the conquest of political power (The Road to Power 1909). Lenin then, in this way, simply ‘professionalised’ the affair, making it the full-time business of his operatives. (9)

Lih suggests that these activists (praktiki) would develop the former on the basis of the latter. They were the agents that would accomplish the ‘merger’ between socialism and the workers, they fought against ‘spontaneity’ (in the sense of directionless diversions from socialism), limited trade unionism, Economism, restricting the struggle to economic issues and ignoring the proletariat’s role in leading the democratic revolution. Activists were needed to create this and be the spur of purposive revolutionary activity. They would become, in revolutionary times, creative historical agents. Lih hammers home, as he has done in more specialised discussion, that the ‘textbook interpretation’ of Lenin, that he regard socialism as something to be ‘injected’ from the outside into the working class consciousness, is false The fil conducteur of his whole approach was the praktiki, the organiser-agitator-propagandist, and intellectual participant in developing advanced theory grounded on real social conditions. There would be no ‘merger’ of socialism and the exploited without their active intervention.

To Lenin the ‘threads strategy’ (from M.Liadov) meant introducing socialism to a working class that had yet to reach the German stage. For this the underground needed “to expand as much a s possible the framework of a secret organisation, and whole preserving intact the konspiratsiia character of the [party] staff, connect it with a whole series of threads to the masses.”(Page 66 – 67). Konspiratsiia, Lih underlines, had a Russian signification that differs from “conspirators”, It referred to “all the practical rules of conduct needed to elude the police, even while preserving the threads connecting the organisation to a wider community, Konspiratsiia can be defined as ‘the fine art of not getting arrested’. In contrast to a conspiracy, konspiratsiia was only a means towards an end, namely, keeping the underground organisational and its threads in existence.”(Page 67) Tying the organisation together was a centralised system, in which “the role of the vanguard” is “guided by the most advanced theory” (What is to be Done?).

Here we run up against some powerful counter-narratives. Plekhanov in 1904 described Lenin’s party-vision as that of “Persian Shah”, Rosa Luxemburg’s charged it with ‘blind subordination’ to a Party centre – Blanquism, Trotsky accused Lenin of Jacobinism, and ‘substitutionism’. (10) Lih’s plausible argument is that Lenin was adapting German Social Democratic organisational principles to Russian conditions. It would seem that centralism was something of an easily tossed around accusation between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks, both of whom in reality had to take decisions through their central organs in the absence – enforced by Tsarist absolutism – of means to consult their supporters. The Mensheviks tended to rely on the traditional deference to intellectuals to push their decisions through, while Lenin formalised a centralised structure through the institutions around the paper, Iskra. Their real disputes concerned their differing attitude to alliances with liberal bourgeois or peasant forces in the fight against the autocracy.

Lenin, for all his trust in the praktiki and, ultimately, the workers, promoted a political division of labour¸ none so great as, Lih acknowledges, between the “audience” and the inspiring leader – whether proletarian or from the intelligentsia (Page 185). As Trotsky noted in Our Political Tasks (1904) this was an existential problem for a workers’ party. “If the division of labour can be considered as an organisational principle, it can only be in a factory, but never in a political party of any kind, still less in ours – is it not obvious to us that the “principle” of the division of labour is in not way characteristic of the organisation which has made it its task to develop the class consciousness of the proletariat?” Between the directors of the political trade, the skilled operatives, and the masses, however many ‘threads’ could be woven, there was a distinction with serious political consequences. (11)

‘Primitive democracy’ – that is the rejection of any form of representative election, or full-time officials – was hardly possible, or desirable, Lenin noted in What is to be Done? It had been shown, he observed, to be a stage of trade unionism in England that had long been superseded. The Webbs described in their History of Trade Unionism (1894) how workers gradually understood the “necessity for representative institutions” and full-timers. This, and other experiences, showed that democratic mechanisms such as voting was essential, but had to be balanced with the need to be effective. Russian repressive conditions presented a constraint of its own. Without free communications, the priority in this period was to build an organisation of permanently active Konspiratsiia. This, with all the benefit of hindsight, was a reasonable stand. As were efforts in the latter part of the decade to avoid ‘liquidating’ this underground. In good times (the 1905 Revolution) and bad (its aftermath when pressure was on to dissolve into the remaining liberal spaces of opposition to Tsarism) this was “the one place where the Social Democratic message could be proclaimed boldly” (Page 107). Yet it is equally difficult not to see more than a glimmer of later Official Communist practice in a system based on top-down appointments and a vertical flow of information.

In One Step Forwards Lenin railed against opportunism, philistinism, critics of Jacobin centralisation, charges that he wanted to make the party into a ‘factory’, the ‘party circle’ mentality, attempts to ‘broaden’ membership to anyone who choose to identify with it, and ‘tailism’ – following whatever moved the masses politically. We are left in no doubt that to Lenin his opponents lacked the willingness to build a serious party structure.

Critics of the oligarchical tendencies could point to the growing evidence that Lenin’s model German Social Democracy was riddled with anti-democratic practices with a sociological base in the conservative trade union apparatus, paid employees and elected representatives. Central discipline was often held to hinder revolutionary, left, currents, precisely by making intellectuals and any trouble-maker responsible to the Party – the very means Lenin claimed in Russia would submit unreliable waverers and tailists to the rule of principled Marxism. It is of enduring interest that Lenin never wrote a substantial critique of Robert Michel’s famous Political Parties (1911), based on close study of the German SPD. This proposed an ‘iron law’, that every political party would become an “oligarchical power grounded upon a democratic basis” in which the leadership developed “special interests” of its own in conflict with those of the collectivity. It is a well-known paradox that the Third International initially attracted those who, for this very reason, least admired the German party model which Lih asserts formed the template for the Bolshevik organisation. (12).

Lenin ambitiously held that the “party of a class”, threatened by the “rule of anarchic competition” disunited and forced down to the “lower depths”, should use its only “weapon …organisation” to bring about “ideological unification on the principles of Marxism” and “material unity” and become an “army of the working class.” Such battle-ready force, we learn, faced with the “tinsel and fuss of intellectual anarchism” will “more and more firmly close its ranks.” This perhaps would not be a prospect designed to please SPD dissident Rosa Luxemburg, an opponent of militarism in every form.

This opposition between bourgeois and working class organisations is a hasty one. Organisational paradigms, from the factory, or from military institutions, circulate throughout capitalist societies. If Lenin’s organisational principles have been compared to Walter Crane’s designs, they were far from the illustrator’s ideals. William Morris’s unity of the arts, or the influence of Ruskin’s belief in the priority of “useful and pleasurable things” over the profit-priorities of Political Economy do not influence Lenin’s views on organisation. Trotsky’s comparison with the command structure in manufacturing has some truth. In Lenin’s polemics the art of political leadership and the activists’ life are separated, their roles are specialised, and the rank-and-file operates to create political capital for the party. Contrary to the one, once influential critique of Lenin, the ‘threads strategy’ attempted to deny a “clear separation between the leaders and the led”. But it did so only by creating an infinitely complex series of graduations between them. (13)

Lenin’s Democracy.

Lenin always operated with what he imagined was a class conception of democracy. His socialist scenario was strongly linked to it. For him “political freedom was necessary in order to prepare for a socialist revolution based on the masses, but political freedom itself was impossible to achieve without a mass movement. But what if a mighty, irresistible force was even now at work, vastly increasing the potential for a mass movement despite tsarist repression? If so, even a relatively feeble and persecuted Social Democratic party could have a tremendous effect, if a way could be found to tap into this vast potential.”(Page 34) Liberty was both a goal, and a means to another goal. The hint is already there that what “prepares” a further stage of socialist advance trumps any particular form of freedom – or more exactly, it’s the “mass movement” that counts, not democratic institutions.

Kautsky’s prophecy in the Road to Power that “war means revolution” was fulfilled in 1917. The Bolsheviks won hegemony over the Russian democratic uprising. What form of democracy would it establish? Lih has recently explained, that Lenin had two aims in mind when he talked of ‘smashing’ the state: immediately overturning all the repressive means that could be used to crush the revolution, and, more ambiguously, ending the separation between the administrative apparatus and the people, turning it over to their management (as outlined in State and Revolution 1917) “the democratisation and the ‘art of revolution’ scenarios – although he did not always take sufficient care to separate these two meanings.” (Weekly Worker. 28.5.2011) In practice and not only in Lenin’s writings, the two were telescoped. Lenin considered that the instruments of power, now held by Lenin’s party, were transformed by the take-over of repressive power into a very particular form of democracy.

The message in 1917 had been “Take the power!” This would ‘smash’ the existing state through the victory of the insurrectionary ‘dual power’. With the might of the workers and peasants’ apparatus on their side, the Bolsheviks moved to establish the Soviets as the sole basis of “sovereign authority”, “the ultimate source of legitimacy and decision-making.”(Page 135) The key question “was the identity of the vlast”. The Bolsheviks considered that the nature of the class that “holds” the ‘vlast’ was determinate. “Lenin argued that a proletarian vlast was necessary for a strong and effective state.”(Page 136) He did not intend to devolve all distraction to the people’s autonomous self-organisation the Cook had to be educated, acquire kultura to do this. The immediate tasks of the soviets were, Lenin meant that the “bourgeois state apparatus is smashed when (a) it cannot be used to repress the revolution and (b) is thoroughly democratised. The proletarian state is not smashed – rather, it gradually dies out as society is transformed.”(Page 136)

Soviet power/democracy was the foundation of the Workers’ State. No other institution mattered. “Although the Bolsheviks were committed to holding elections for a Constituent Assembly they accorded no legitimacy to anything by a vlast based directly on the soviets.”(Page 141) To Kautsky the dissolution of the Assembly, the limited occupation-based franchise of the Soviets, and the suppression of public dissent in the name of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ signified that the Bolsheviks has created a dictatorship tout court. Lenin defended the soviets’ democracy as the pillar of the Dictatorship of the Proletariat as the “direct organisation of the working and exploited people themselves, which helps them to organise and administer ther own state in very possible way.” Rosa Luxemburg noted the constraints on the Bolsheviks, faced with civil war, but stated that Dictatorship is a “particular manner of applying democracy and not in doing away with it, in energetic and determined encroachments on the well-entrenched rights and economic relations of bourgeois society…” Luxemburg agreed that against capitalist resistance, socialist measures should be applied in the “most unyielding, and the most ruthless way”. “In other words it must create a dictatorship, but a dictatorship of the class, not of a party or a clique-and dictatorship of the class means: in full view of the broadest public, with the most active, uninhibited participation of the popular masses in an unlimited democracy.” That is a democracy that rested on the very political pluralism and freedom of thought that the Bolsheviks severely limited when it was not purely and simply suppressed. Trotsky denounced the ‘metaphysics’ of democracy, defended the Red Terror, the suppression of political and press freedom, and militarisation of labour, in the name of the Russian Soviet Government. But, as Hal Draper has observed, in contrast to Luxemburg, and flying in the face of Lenin’s claims for soviet democracy, the Bolsheviks increasingly came into the open to defend one-party rule, their party, “The ‘dictatorship of the party’ was ever more candidly advocated as the reality behind the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.” The debate in the international socialist movement on the Soviet government has not ceased yet. (14)

Did Lenin’s ‘heroic scenario’ play a part in the dictatorship aspect of proletarian vlast’? What role did the Lenin’s conception of how the proletariat as the vozhd (leader) of the people play? Lih muses that Lenin was “only a part of Bolshevism, which in turn is only a part of the Russian revolution, which is in turn is only a part of the whole period of social upheaval from 1914 to 1921…”(Page 199) Lih makes a succinct response to the ‘worry about democracy’: “The purpose of political freedom was to allow the Social Democrats to spread the word, particularly in the form of the party-led agitation campaigns that the German Social Democrats had developed to a fine art. How much more effective would these campaigns be if the party could use the state to eliminate all rivals and to monopolise channels of communication. The Bolsheviks consciously adopted this strategy of state monopoly campaignism.”(Page 202) It was not the workers who were to be the vozhd. The party, with its ‘advanced theory” was the boss.

In other words, the new Russian Communist organisation would create the socialist culture, that was a premise of…socialist culture. Lih comments, “In Marxist terms, the idea of the proletarian vlast creating the cultural basis for its own successful existence bears a resemblance to the way Baron Munchausen pulled himself out of the mire by his own bootstraps.”(Page 184) Other instruments were at hand, “Lenin wanted to smash the bourgeois state apparatus, but he had a very different view of the bourgeois economic apparatus. This apparatus, perfected and given vast powers by the wartime state, must be carefully preserved and used as a ready-made tool by the revolutionary class.”(Page 137) Workers’ control was quickly reduced to a right to “inspection”, the trade unions were brought under party direction, and Lenin’s celebrated endorsement of Taylorism and ‘one-man management’ ruled the ‘general intellect’ of production. (15)

It is unlikely that such a strategic direction in the grain of Lenin’s life-long conceptions of leadership was caused by the failure of the revolution to spread beyond Russia. Lenin held that he possessed ‘advanced’ Marxist theory, in which a limited circle of Bolsheviks working in the same area participated to enrich and develop the details. The economy, the state, military policy, day-to-day politics were guided by a Theory which, in principle, was constantly being tested through confrontation with reality, and by communication through the transformed ‘threads’ that led from the Party’s directing committees to the masses. But Marxist orthodoxy remained elusive, as mobile as quicksilver.

Lenin had produced a number of deliberative claims. He assumed the right to define what was Marxist and what was not in areas where he had little competence – notoriously exercised in Materialism and Empirco-Criticism (1908). Truth, we learn, for Marxists, is a correspondence to objective reality – matter. This discovery has earned him praise from a few admirers of Thomas Aquinas, though they might quibble on the exact provenance of matter’s dialectical self-development. Lenin’s Philosophical Notebooks (1915 – 16) reveal the interesting belief that he alone amongst contemporary Marxists had truly understood Hegelian dialectics. Little of Lenin’s philosophical legacy has endured, despite Althusser’s use of him as a prop to advocate ‘class struggle’ in Theory. Lenin’s ethical stance (a ‘bootstrap’ morality in itself) infused his heroic scenario not just with emotional warmth, but also with imperatives that have meet with a similar lack of universal acceptance. In short, were a Workers’ State to be influenced by these sides of Lenin’s ‘rhetorical’ personality it would find that its kultura and education would be very firmly led in one direction, with one version of Marxism as a Worker’s Inspector to supervise it.

In reality Lenin never enforced philosophical or moral conformity. The brief flowering of the Russian avant-garde (under watchful eyes and with severe limits), a much greater degree of sexual freedom, and experimental approaches to education, co-operative living and production were tried. Lenin considered many of these affairs ‘indifferent’ to core Marxist principles, or perhaps was not prepared to give them attention when he was preoccupied elsewhere. However, the tendency to arbitrate on what is socialist in every domain began from the beginnings of Soviet Power. The Young Communists were mobilised to inspect people’s living arrangements. There was a push beyond repressing violent opposition, or even active dissent.

The sharp clashes between different organisational plans and assessments of the “concrete analysis of the concrete conjuncture” in political parties alter in character when one side can settle the outcome by its administrative power. Blunt  authority is even less justified  when it’s applied to decisions about people’s personal lives. The ‘class’ programme of the Party assigned people merit on their class background quasi-racial label bequeathed by hereditary. Not was disagreement tolerated when it became effective. The Bolsheviks were determined to stamp out the very source of stasis, the spirit of contradiction, the springs of action (welded into heroic myths) that upset the political order that had brought them to power. From the ban on factions inside the Party at its Second Congress (1922), to the insidious generalisation of the score-settling mechanism of ‘self-criticism’ and purges in party-cells all political life tended towards what Stalin would soon call “monolithic’ unity. Inside the Soviet vlast stasis in Aristotle’s sense of factionalising subversion, was replaced by stasis in its medical usage – the desire to introduce a state of conflict-free equilibrium.

After the Civil War, in 1922, Lenin authorised the deportation of 120 conservative and religious intellectuals. The Philosophy Steamer carried away ideological opponents selected on the basis of their hostile religious and conservative opinions, or recalcitrant faced with the new order. This sad failure to accept contradiction, had Lesley Chamberlain observes, deep roots. “Lenin’s sense of ‘man’s’ potentialities rested on the boundless application of human will to the problems of society and resources of nature. There was no sense in Lenin’s world of listening as reality as an ‘Other’ whose existence might be respected as a limitation.” Or indeed of accepting that something truly Other could exist in a society determined to build communism. (16)

Conclusion: Lenin’s Laugh.

Lenin is a brilliant, illuminating, study. Lenin’s life and legacy, is closely linked to the ‘narratives’ of the present-day left. A problem with the ‘heroic scenario’ that forms the centrepiece of the essay is that hero-worship is far from dead. Alain Badiou’s The Communist Hypothesis (2010) puts Lenin in a pantheon of revolutionary supermen. That “in the guise of an individual, or a pure singularity of body and thought”, the “simple, powerful symbol of a proper name” in which are “involved in the operation of an Idea, that is the “elements of the Idea of communism at its various stages”. (17)

Lenin’s own view of his role, as Lih expounds it, was less metaphysically exalted, but still played out within a heroic narrative. It was propelled with force through the political instrument of the Bolshevik, then Communist, Party. It did not accommodate objections easily; it was the inspiration for a Cultural Revolution that rode roughshod over popular democracy and individuals. It was ill-adapted to deal with the class struggles that continued after the Revolution; conflicts against the linear sequence Lenin dreamt of and kept emotionally close. It was indeed shared. The impact of the heroic scenario on Soviet culture, its own “tremendous emphasis on the heroic” in the “world-historical mission of the Soviet Union,” “propagated at all levels” was enormous. It may well have inspired subversive resistance in the form of the Soviet joke, the anekdot. “(Page 200) But to say, as Lih does, that both “stem” from the same origin, is to give to those who aspire for democracy the old saw that nobody is a hero to his valet. Lenin was, on Lih’s evidence, not very welcoming towards more public critics.

Badiou, and others who admire Lenin the “powerful symbol”, will be less than interested in Lih’s portrait of Lenin the Character. This Lenin had a combination of “breadth and narrowness”. He used abuse in political polemic to try to “destroy” people, and who had an “instrumental attitude to the people around him.”(Page 210) He had a characteristic laugh. Some found it charming. But a perceptive visitor, Bertrand Russell, who never became a “travelling salesman of the Revolution’, did not, “at first his laugh seems merely friendly and jolly, but gradually I came to feel it rather grim..”(Page 212) For all Lenin’s brilliance, and his genuine, if contentious, Marxist politics, there is a lot grimness left around from the Soviet Union.

  1. Page 167 My Life. Leon Trotsky. An Attempt at an Autobiography. Penguin 1975.

  2. Page 176. For Marx. Louis Althusser. Allen Lane. 1971.

  1. The Idea of Communism. Edited by Costas Doulzinas & Slavoy Žižek. Pages 130 – 131. Change the World Without Taking Power. John Holloway. 2nd Edition. 2005. Engels’ much more open-ended conception of Scientific socialism and its relation to the continuous progress of scientific enquiry is discussed in The Frock-Coated Revolutionary. Tristan Hunt. Penguin. 2010.

  2. Notably, The Symposium on Lars Lih’s ‘Lenin Rediscovered’. Historical Materialism. Vol. 18 Issue 3. 2010. On Lih’s influence see The Weekly Worker passim. Also see Paul le Blanc of Platypus,on Lenin’s Marxism and Lih  – here.  An obvious forerunner is Hal Draper’s. The Myth of Lenin’s ‘Concept of the Party. 1990. Marxist Internet Archive. Draper attacks the view that Lenin “saw the party as consisting mainly of “intellectuals,” on the basis of a theory according to which workers cannot themselves develop to socialist consciousness; rather, the socialist idea is always and inevitably imported into the movement by bourgeois intellectuals; posited that the party is simply a band of “professional revolutionaries” as distinct from a broad working-class party; repudiated any element of spontaneity or spontaneous movement, in favour of engineered revolution only; required that the party be organized not democratically but as a bureaucratic or semi-military hierarchy.”

  3. Althusser declared, “the practice of the class struggle has not been reflected in the theoretical form of method or Theory when we seem to have ten decisive studies by Lenin, the most famous of which is What is to be Done? But while this last text, for example, may define the theoretical and historical bases for Russian Communist practice, and prepare the way for a programme of action it does not constitute a theoretical reflection on political practice as such.” Page 176. For Marx. Louis Althusser. Allen Lane. 1971

  4. In Memory of Herzen. Lenin. Selected Works. Vol 1. Progress Books. 1977.

  5. Réflexions sur la violence. Georges Sorel. 1908. (from hereMatérieux d’une théorie du proletariat Georges Sorel. 1918. Sorel Internet Archive.The L’Illusion du politique. Shlmo Sand. La Découverte. 1984. is an important study. Sand notably points out that Sorel became, after the October Revolution, an admirer of Lenin (no doubt for the qualities we have discussed) , and squashes the legend of his flirtation with the far-right, and, notably, Mussolini.

  6. Idéologie et appareils idéologiques d’État. In Positions. Louis Althusser. Éditions Sociales. 1982. For Luxemburg it is argued that “unconscious action preceded conscious action; the logic of objective historical process preceded the subjective logic of those bearing it. She made the significant observation that in this process the organisational leadership naturally tended to play a strongly conservative role.” Page 85. Rosa Luxemburg. Paul Frölich. Translator Johanna Hoornweg. Haymarket Books. 2010 (1940).

  7. Sorel 1908 Op cit.

  8. Karl Kautsky. The Road to Power. 1908. Marxist Internet Archive.

  9. Between Marx and Lenin: Georges Plekhanov. Samuel Baron. In Revisionism. Edited by Leopold Labedz. George Allen & Unwin. 1962. Organisational Questions of the Russian Social Democracy. Rosa Luxemburg. 1904. Marxist Internet Archive. Luxemburg’s less well-known criticisms of the Mensheviks’ ‘liquidation’ of party structures and policies are published in Selected Political and Literary Writings. Rosa Luxemburg. Revolutionary History. Vol. 10. No 1. Merlin Press. 2010. The Origins of Bolshevism. Theodora Dan. Secker and Warburg. 1964. Our Political Tasks. Leon Trotsky. 1904 Marxist Internet Archive.

  10. Trotsky 1904. Op cit.

  11. Page 365, 353. Political Parties. Robert Michels. The Free Press. 1962 (1915)

  12. Our Political Tasks. Leon Trotsky. Marxist Internet Archive. Trotsky’s later view was that centralism was not an issue in itself, “Of course there are “dangers of one kind or another in the very process of stringently picking and choosing persons of advanced views and welding them into a tightly centralised organisation. But the roots of such dangers will never be found in the so-called ‘principle’ of centralisation; rather they should be sought in the lack of homogeneity and the backwardness of the toilers – that is, in the general social conditions which make imperative that very centripetal leadership of the class by its vanguard, the key to the dynamic problem of leadership is in the actual interrelationships between the political machine and its party, between the vanguard and its class, between centralism and democracy,. The interrelationships cannot, of their nature, be established a priori and remain immutable. They are dependent on concrete historical conditions; their mobile balance is regulated by the vital struggle of tendencies, which, as represented by their extreme wings, oscillate between the despotism of the political machine and the impotence of phrase mongering.” Page 62. Stalin. Leon Trotsky. Harper & Brothers 1941. The “vital struggle of tendencies” is of course the very thing that was abolished by Lenin in the 1922 2nd Communist Party Congress – not by Stalin. The critique of Lenin’s concept of hegemony and a division between leaders and led is in Hegemony and Socialist Strategy. Ernesto Laclau & Chantal Mouffe. Verso. 1985.

  13. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Karl Kautsky. Ann Arbor 1964. The Dictatorship of the Proletariat from Marx to Lenin. Hal Draper. Monthly Review Press. 1987. The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky Lenin Selected Works Vol. 3. Progress Publisher. 1976. The Russian revolution. Rosa Luxemburg. 1918. Marxist Internet Archive. Terrorism and Communism. Leon Trotsky New Park. 1975.

  14. If Trotsky and other early critics of Lenin compared Lenin’s plan for the party to a ’factory’ it would be precisely Lenin’s ‘communist’ factory-system in its Taylorist form that served as the basis for an alternative anti-Leninist theory of workers’ councils and the ‘mass worker’ as the basis for communism movements that aimed to overturn it. See The Labour Process and Class Strategies. Conference of Socialist Economists. Stage 1. 1978.

  15. Page 274 The Philosophy Steamer. Lenin and the Exile of the Intellectuals. Lesley Chamberlain Atlantic Books. 2006.

  16. Page 250 The Communist Hypothesis Alain Badiou Verso 2010.


Written by Andrew Coates

May 28, 2011 at 11:37 am

6 Responses

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  1. to a Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.
    “episode”, I think. The most respected of feminist SF writers, Joanna Russ, died recently, and a couple of people reminisced that all she’d wanted to talk about in recent years was Buffy.

    I saw Lih speak at Marxism several years ago, and John Molyneux introducing him made the points that he was academically respected and in return respected the Leninist tradition and Cliff in particular.

    Incidentally, I would visit here more often, but it sometimes has the effect of messing up computers.

    Anyway, back to the rest of the post.


    May 28, 2011 at 12:53 pm

  2. Skid – you forget your Marxist classics. Though so did I.

    Glory and Ben figure in the fifth Season of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in more than one episode.

    In a spirit of instant self-criticism I have corrected this snivelling revisionism.

    Btw: I find also that a growing number of sites seem hard to access – from Ipswich Library computers in particular. These include Bob from Brockley, Facebook (which has loads of problems), Dave’s Blog, and plenty of others.

    I wonder if this is a general phenomenon.

    Andrew Coates

    May 28, 2011 at 3:22 pm

  3. a book I should read


    May 31, 2011 at 11:04 am

  4. […] vague, populist, blurry, or class collaborationist, the 99% is in fact synonymous with Lenin’s vision of a revolution accomplished by the narod, which Lih rightly notes has an emotional punch in Russian that the English version (the people) […]

  5. […] the 99% is in fact synonymous with Lenin’s vision of a revolution accomplished by the narod, which Lih rightly notes has an emotional punch in Russian that the English version (the people) […]

  6. […] the 99% is in fact synonymous with Lenin’s vision of a revolution accomplished by the narod, which Lih rightly notes has an emotional punch in Russian that the English version (the people) […]

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