Is Lenin Still Relevant?

View­point was invit­ed to debate Lenin’s State and Rev­o­lu­tion in a pan­el at the Left Forum. Check it out if you’re near New York City this week­end. Details below.

State and Rev­o­lu­tion: Is Lenin Still Rel­e­vant?
Host­ed by the Inter­na­tion­al Social­ist Review
Ses­sion 5
Sun­day, March 18, 10:00am - 11:50am
Pace Uni­ver­si­ty, Room W511
New York City

Rev­o­lu­tions of the “Arab Spring” top­pled gov­ern­ments but remain far from tak­ing state pow­er. Mean­while, many activists in the Occu­py move­ments are not cer­tain that ought to be our goal to begin with. Lenin wrote State and Rev­o­lu­tion towards the begin­ning of the great­est social cri­sis cap­i­tal­ism had yet wit­nessed, the “thir­ty years’ cri­sis” of 1914-1945, which resumed Marx and Engels’ con­cep­tions of the state as part of a larg­er argu­ment about how rev­o­lu­tions must deal with state pow­er as part of a broad­er inter­na­tion­al strat­e­gy to end war, colo­nial­ism and cap­i­tal­ist exploita­tion and oppres­sion. In this pan­el we revis­it it to revive the clas­sic three-sid­ed debate between anar­chist, marx­ist and social demo­c­ra­t­ic visions of social rev­o­lu­tion and state pow­er and draw some strate­gic and tac­ti­cal lessons for the emerg­ing world order of the 21st cen­tu­ry.


Salar Mohan­desi is a grad­u­ate stu­dent at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Penn­syl­va­nia and an edi­tor of View­point Mag­a­zine.

Todd Chre­tien is the edi­tor of a forth­com­ing edi­tion of Lenin’s State and Rev­o­lu­tion and the author of a new intro­duc­tion review­ing the back­ground to Lenin’s book. He is a fre­quent con­trib­u­tor to and the Inter­na­tion­al Social­ist Review. He is a long-time Oak­land, CA-based activist and is cur­rent­ly a grad­u­ate stu­dent in US His­to­ry at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Cal­i­for­nia San­ta Cruz.

Rad­hika Desai is Pro­fes­sor at the Depart­ment of Polit­i­cal Stud­ies, Uni­ver­si­ty of Man­i­to­ba. She is the author of Slouch­ing Towards Ayo­d­hya: From Con­gress to Hin­dut­va in Indi­an Pol­i­tics (2nd rev ed, 2004) and Intel­lec­tu­als and Social­ism: ‘Social Democ­rats’ and the Labour Par­ty (1994). Her forth­com­ing books are Geopo­lit­i­cal Econ­o­my: After US Hege­mony, Glob­al­iza­tion and Empire (2012) and The Mak­ing of the Indi­an Cap­i­tal­ist Class (2013).

Samuel Far­ber was born and raised in Cuba and has writ­ten numer­ous books and arti­cles, includ­ing Rev­o­lu­tion and Reac­tion in Cuba, 1933-1960 and The Ori­gins of the Cuban Rev­o­lu­tion Recon­sid­ered. His most recent book is Cuba Since the Rev­o­lu­tion of 1959, A Crit­i­cal Assess­ment (Hay­mar­ket Books, 2011). He is Emer­i­tus Pro­fes­sor of Polit­i­cal Sci­ence at Brook­lyn Col­lege of the City Uni­ver­si­ty of New York (CUNY).


Sher­ry Wolf is the author of Sex­u­al­i­ty and Social­ism (Hay­mar­ket Books) and runs the Sher­ry Talks Back blog from New York City.

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3 Responses

  1. Ross Wolfe
    Ross Wolfe at |

    A few months ago, Chris Cutrone gave a talk on this sub­ject. If you’re inter­est­ed, you can access the audio and video of this lec­ture by click­ing here.

    Is there any audio or video from the event you host­ed at the Left forum?

  2. Andy Cox
    Andy Cox at |

    Is Lenin still rel­e­vant? Only inso­far as his life and work should serve to demon­strate the futil­i­ty and down­right ris­i­bil­i­ty of so much left wing think­ing. The man who informed the world in 1918 that ”Real­i­ty tells us that state cap­i­tal­ism would be a step for­ward. If in a small space of time we could achieve state cap­i­tal­ism, that would be a vic­to­ry” sure­ly bears much of the respon­si­bil­i­ty for the trag­ic con­fu­sion that has gripped polit­i­cal debate between state cap­i­tal­ism (or even sim­ple nation­al­i­sa­tion), and socialism/communism, which was his­tor­i­cal­ly - and ought to be under­stood as - a demo­c­ra­t­i­cal­ly-run world wide soci­ety in which there would be free access to all goods and ser­vices, com­mon own­er­ship of the means of pro­duc­tion, and sig­nif­i­cant­ly, an absence of mon­ey (or any oth­er means of exchange), wages, prof­it, and, of course, the state. The urgen­cy for estab­lish­ing gen­uine socialism/communism sim­ply can­not be over­stat­ed (see ). Those on the left who per­sist in agi­tat­ing for pif­fling reformist mea­sures such as ‘A fairs days pay for a fair days work’ or who bizarrely feel it incum­bent upon them to sup­port the bour­geois pre­ten­sions of var­i­ous ‘nation­al lib­er­a­tion strug­gles’, are no less blame­wor­thy for obfus­cat­ing mat­ters, and set­ting back the day when the world final­ly rids itself of this odi­ous waste­ful destruc­tive sys­tem of com­mod­i­ty pro­duc­tion known as cap­i­tal­ism. This is some­thing that needs to hap­pen NOW, not fifty years down the line.

  3. The Actuality of the Revolution: Reflections on Lenin’s State and Revolution « Viewpoint Magazine

    […] a slight­ly edit­ed ver­sion of a talk deliv­ered at the Left Forum on March 18, for a pan­el called “State and Rev­o­lu­tion: Is Lenin Still Rel­e­vant?” (You can lis­ten to the audio of the pan­el here.) In the com­ing weeks, we will be post­ing a few […]

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