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Reclaim Lenin from "Leninists" and "Leninism", Part 1

by Bob Gould Thursday, Mar. 18, 2004 at 10:36 PM

A Critique of Doug Lorimer's article, in Links (No. 24, pp. 96-112), on "Leninism" and a few suggestions as to what an organisation drawing the useful lessons of Lenin's activity, experience and writings, might look like in modern conditions. How we might possibly get there from the present situation of a proliferation of Marxist sects.

"It is true that prior to the October Revolution Lenin had agitated

for [a] strictly disciplined party of professional revolutionaries as

the condition sine qua non for the conquest and maintenance of power.

Nevertheless, throughout his career, including the five years of his

active life after the victory of October, Lenin never managed to

organize such a "monolithic" party. Nor was it ever more than a pious

wish with him which he constantly violated. Bolshevism, born of

polemics and factionalism, flourished throughout the twenty years of

its Leninist period on arguments and dissensions. It was only after

Lenin's death, after Stalin's ruthless police measures had strangled

the Bolshevik party, after the red colour of pulsing life had been

drained from its veins, that it assumed the rigidity of a mummified

corpse."

L. Trotsky, Trotsky's Notebooks, 1933-35, Writings on Lenin,

Dialectics and Evolutionism, Philip Pomper and Yuri Felshtinsky, pp.

27-28. This book, by Pomper and Felshtinsky, is a very important

piece of original scholarly research. The two editors have done a

very systematic job of collating Trotsky's notes from 1933-35, which

are in the Trotsky papers at Harvard University. These notes

particularly relate to matters of philosophy and natural science, and

to Trotsky's attitude to Lenin during the period when he was

preparing to write a major biography of Lenin, which unfortunately

never happened. The notes from Trotsky's papers give considerable

insight into Trotsky's thinking about events in which he had been an

important participant.

"The day before the conference, we arranged a meeting of the active

workers of the Helsingfors Committee, at which we decided on the

general plan for conducting the conference and also on the agenda. It

was decided to propose S.A. Garin as chairman of the conference, as

he was the most prominent and best known figure in Helsingfors. But

as Garin could not be present at the conference all the time, it was

decided to put the general guidance of the conference in my hands by

electing me as deputy chairman.

"In the Committee, there were two points of view on the question of

the political situation, one more moderate, approaching the point of

view of Comrade Kamenev at that time, and the other more

revolutionary, based on the famous thesis published by Lenin

immediately on his arrival from abroad. The representative of the

first point of view was Kirill Orlov, and of the second, Antipov. In

order to deal with all sides of this most important point of the

agenda, it was decided to have both points of view submitted, and let

these two speakers deal with the question.

"The conference opened the next day in the hall of the house of the

Governor-General. A large number of delegates was present. There were

representatives from almost every ship stationed in Helsingfors.

There were also many guests among whom was the figure now well known

to me -- the notorious Khilyani [Khilyani was a Menshevik]. However,

this time he discreetly kept in the background."

A. Ilyin-Genevsky, From February to October, pp. 41-42. (Published in

English in the Soviet Union, c.1926)

The above observation by Trotsky in the mid-1930s, in which he draws

harsh lessons from the development of Stalinism, is in sharp conflict

with the lessons drawn by Doug Lorimer in Links, 24. Ilyin-Genevsky's

account of the relatively public Helsingfors conference of the

military supporters of the Bolshevik Party adds further weight to

Trotsky's case. That was the party that led the revolution in all its

turbulent, contradictory development.

The discussion of Marxist organisation is not exactly new territory.

Nevertheless, on a world scale we are now in a position to illuminate

general theories of "Leninism" from the common practices and

experiences of dozens of "Leninist" groups, organisations and

parties. This historical record stretches from the time of the first

codification of "Leninist" doctrine, essentially by Zinoviev in the

early to mid-1920s, through its counter-revolutionary Stalinist

perversion, to the experience of various modern "Leninist" sects, up

to the present. It's a singular tribute to the revolutionary memory

of Lenin and Trotsky, and lesser, but still important,

revolutionaries such as James P. Cannon and Zinoviev, that across the

planet, militants of organisations large and small, and numerous

individuals, should be discussing their organisational ideas and

political perspectives with intense enthusiasm.

Also attached is a bibliography of important books on Lenin and Leninism.

This article also contains a discussion of a recent upheaval in the

DSP youth group, Resistance, and a current dispute in the Australian

Socialist Alliance. In two parts, Part II to follow soon.

Full: http://members.optushome.com.au/spainter/Ozleft.html

Report this post as:

LATEST COMMENTS ABOUT THIS ARTICLE
Listed below are the 10 latest comments of 13 posted about this article.
These comments are anonymously submitted by the website visitors.
TITLE AUTHOR DATE
I don't know why anyone would be interested in Lenin Barney Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 5:00 PM
again with the history interpretation. Particle Observer Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 5:18 PM
Particle Observer Barney Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 6:50 PM
Hard to believe anyone still touts Lenin GD Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 7:36 PM
Lenin invented the terror state Particle Observer Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 7:46 PM
lenin sucks Walker, Texas Plumber Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 7:57 PM
ahh our OTHER village moron speaks faintly amused by morons Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 8:08 PM
IMAGINE NO LIBERALS Thurbad Marshall Friday, Mar. 19, 2004 at 9:04 PM
learning something B&B Saturday, Mar. 20, 2004 at 5:25 AM
all hail marx and lennon more rational Saturday, Mar. 20, 2004 at 8:06 AM
fresca simply not true Saturday, Mar. 20, 2004 at 8:46 AM
humour in touch g.beck Saturday, Mar. 20, 2004 at 4:05 PM
Partivle Observer Barney Saturday, Mar. 20, 2004 at 9:51 PM

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