Occupy the Russian Revolution

This is the last of a series of arti­cles debat­ing Salar Mohandesi’s “The Actu­al­i­ty of Rev­o­lu­tion: Reflec­tions on Lenin’s State and Rev­o­lu­tion.” Also see the ear­lier respons­es by Todd Chre­tien and Mal­colm Har­ris, as well as Mohandesi’s final respon­se.

Mohan­desi’s pic­ture of a vac­il­lat­ing, con­ser­v­a­tive, con­fused Lenin strain­ing to hold togeth­er a divid­ed Bol­she­vik lead­er­ship caught off guard by the mature rev­o­lu­tion­ary upsurge by St. Petersburg’s work­ers and sol­diers dur­ing what came to be known as “the July Days” in 1917 is incon­sis­tent with the his­tor­i­cal record. Based on his sketch, Mohan­desi con­cludes that Lenin had to catch up the­o­ret­i­cal­ly with where the mass­es were mov­ing prac­ti­cal­ly by “artic­u­lat­ing” the “actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion,” that is, mak­ing explic­it what was implic­it in the angry mass protests that near­ly top­pled the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment. Both he and Chre­tien lead us to believe that Lenin’s book, State and Rev­o­lu­tion, and the Bol­she­vik-led insur­rec­tion that over­threw the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment were the results of Lenin’s recon­sid­er­a­tion of the Marx­ist the­o­ry of the state.

Mohan­desi argues that the endur­ing rel­e­vance of Lenin for activists today is not his words or deeds but the method under­ly­ing them, his the­o­riz­ing and artic­u­lat­ing of the actu­al­i­ties cre­at­ed by the rebel­lious mass­es. This echoes neat­ly View­point Magazine’s “About Us” mis­sion state­ment.

There are three com­po­nents of this debate: (1) the his­to­ry of the July Days; (2) the imme­di­ate con­text in which State and Rev­o­lu­tion was pro­duced (Lenin was hid­ing under­ground after the July Days when he wrote it); and (3) whether Lenin’s role was pri­mar­i­ly that of an artic­u­la­tor or the­o­rist. Har­ris’s piece is a wel­come real­i­ty check that avoids the main pit­fall of his­tor­i­cal debates: pedantry.

A detailed, line-for-line dis­sec­tion of Mohandesi’s his­tor­i­cal account would require a lengthy essay and a nec­es­sar­i­ly nar­row focus that would not be use­ful for dis­cussing (2) and (3). Instead, I will con­fine myself to this obser­va­tion: if Mohandesi’s account is accu­rate, it would con­tra­dict first-hand accounts writ­ten by July Days par­tic­i­pants such as Fyo­dor Raskol­nikov (Kro­n­stadt and Pet­ro­grad) and Niko­lai Sukhanov (The Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion, 1917), Alexan­der Rabinowitch’s detailed study The Bol­she­viks Come to Pow­er, and Lenin’s writ­ings and speech­es in which he shifts on the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er at least three times through­out 1917. Those who are inter­est­ed in fig­ur­ing out the rights and wrongs of (1) should read the afore­men­tioned books.

Lenin’s shifts – open to a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er before the July Days, for an insur­rec­tion after the July Days, back to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a peace­ful pow­er trans­fer in the after­math of the Kornilov coup’s defeat, and final­ly to a Bol­she­vik-led insur­rec­tion as the Bol­she­viks gained majori­ties in work­ers’ and sol­diers’ coun­cils (sovi­ets) through­out Rus­sia in fall of 1917 – did not reflect vac­il­la­tion or lack of the­o­ret­i­cal clar­i­ty on Lenin’s part and cer­tain­ly had noth­ing to do with the writ­ing of State and Rev­o­lu­tion. As Lenin wrote short­ly after com­plet­ing the intro­duc­tion to State of Rev­o­lu­tion,

Now, and only now, per­haps dur­ing only a few days or a week or two, such a gov­ern­ment could be set up and con­sol­i­dat­ed in a per­fect­ly peace­ful way. In all prob­a­bil­i­ty it could secure the peace­ful advance of the whole Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion, and provide excep­tion­al­ly good chances for great strides in the world move­ment towards peace and the vic­to­ry of social­ism.1

Here, I have to dis­agree with Har­ris that “we should be care­ful not to be too care­ful.” Whether lead­ing a demon­stra­tion or look­ing for lessons in the past, a rev­o­lu­tion­ary should be care­ful but not pedan­tic.

Lenin did not believe the class nature of the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment changed after the Kornilov coup’s defeat when he dis­cussed the prospect of a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er to the sovi­ets with their Men­she­vik and Social­ist Rev­o­lu­tion­ary (SR) majori­ties. Lenin’s seem­ing flip-flops on insur­rec­tion were tac­ti­cal shifts in a strat­e­gy aimed at mak­ing the sovi­ets the sole gov­ern­ment pow­er that came in respon­se to a rapid­ly chang­ing sit­u­a­tion which pro­duced orig­i­nal and tran­sient polit­i­cal and class align­ments. Lenin’s shifts on the ques­tion of insur­rec­tion also prove that he did not believe that the Men­she­viks and SRs were doomed in advance to play a coun­ter-rev­o­lu­tion­ary role.

In oth­er words, Lenin was care­ful but not pedan­tic.

No one who reads State and Rev­o­lu­tion would guess based on the text that the author might coun­te­nance the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er to the sovi­ets. The notion that the book reflects the “sum­ming up” of the expe­ri­ences of the 1917 Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion fails to account for the fact that Lenin nev­er com­plet­ed the chap­ters deal­ing with the Rus­sian expe­ri­ence. State and Rev­o­lu­tion is best under­stood as a gen­er­al guide to the Marx­ist approach to the state rather than a guide use­ful for prac­ti­cal on-the-ground pol­i­cy (try to smash the cap­i­tal­ist state machine with your fist at a demon­stra­tion and you’ll under­stand what I mean).

Lenin felt that State and Rev­o­lu­tion was nec­es­sary to set the record straight on Marx­ism and the state (the orig­i­nal title of the man­u­script) since the dis­tor­tions per­pet­u­at­ed by the Sec­ond Inter­na­tion­al became com­mon­ly accept­ed as Marx’s and Engels’ actu­al posi­tions by social­ists and anar­chists alike. Lenin him­self accept­ed the­se dis­tor­tions and only through his 1916 debate with Niko­lai Bukhar­in did he uncov­er and reject them.

The odd thing is that Mohan­desi tells us that “we must try to read Lenin the way Lenin read Marx” and yet, a few pages pri­or, claims that Lenin “distort[ed] Marx and Engels almost as much as Bern­stein or Kaut­sky.” Should we dis­tort Marx, Engels, or Lenin? Is there any val­ue in dis­tort­ing any­one, even if their name is Eduard Bern­stein or Karl Kaut­sky? My answer is defin­i­tive: no. Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies can­not straw­man, mis­rep­re­sent, or dis­tort our way to a post-cap­i­tal­ist order. If we could, we would have done it by now because the­se tac­tics have become com­mon­place in the social­ist movement’s debates.

The notion that Lenin artic­u­lat­ed at the lev­el of the­o­ry the “actu­al­i­ty of rev­o­lu­tion” and made explic­it what was implic­it in the strug­gles of the day smacks of the divi­sion between men­tal and man­u­al labor, between phi­los­o­phy and action, between the­o­ry and prac­tice, between intel­lec­tu­als and work­ers, between think­ing and doing. The mass­es fight, Lenin thinks and devis­es the pro­gram they must get with (as in, “get with the pro­gram”). This is prob­a­bly not what Mohan­desi meant, but it is the log­i­cal impli­ca­tion of his heavy empha­sis on Lenin the theorist/articulator in the con­clu­sion of his essay.

Harris’s respon­se to the ques­tion “is Lenin still rel­e­vant?” and the July Days debate is refresh­ing­ly hon­est – he does not know much or care to know about Lenin or Rus­sian his­to­ry, given the vast­ly dif­fer­ent era we are liv­ing in. He con­trasts Occupy’s hor­i­zon­tal, self-orga­nized nature (“spon­tane­ity, ambi­tion, self-orga­ni­za­tion, quick always-on com­mu­ni­ca­tion, work­ing in teams”) to that of the Russia’s rev­o­lu­tion­ary work­ers and says, “Of course the rev­o­lu­tion­ary work­ers went to look for Lenin at the cru­cial moment – but would we?”

This false dichoto­my prob­a­bly stems from a com­bi­na­tion of under­stand­able igno­rance2 about the Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion in 1917 (the sovi­ets were pro­found­ly hor­i­zon­tal and far more demo­c­ra­t­ic and inclu­sive than our Gen­er­al Assem­blies), and a mis­un­der­stand­ing of what a van­guard par­ty is.

As I argued in “Lenin and Occu­py,” Occu­py func­tioned in prac­tice like the “Lenin­ist” vision of a van­guard par­ty in two respects: (1) it brought mass num­bers of peo­ple onto the field of bat­tle, into the process of self-orga­ni­za­tion, and (2) it fought all forms of oppres­sion and exploita­tion.3

The third ele­ment that Occu­py and a van­guard par­ty have in com­mon that I neglect­ed to dis­cuss in “Lenin and Occu­py” is the role of cadres: sea­soned, expe­ri­enced, bat­tle-test­ed polit­i­cal orga­niz­ers were cen­tral both to the suc­cess of the Bol­she­viks (peo­ple like Raskol­nikov) and Occu­py Wall Street (peo­ple like Har­ris). Of course I am not putting an equal sign between Raskol­nikov and Har­ris; Raskolnikov’s writ­ing is far eas­ier to fol­low than Harris’s, and lead­ing tens of thou­sands of heav­i­ly armed sailors to smash a state is not the same as set­ting up an encamp­ment that ini­ti­ates an upris­ing of sorts. How­ev­er, there is an unde­ni­able under­ly­ing sim­i­lar­i­ty if we under­stand the term cadre broad­ly rather than nar­row­ly. Every orga­ni­za­tion and strug­gle has cadres, whether we are refer­ring to the Indus­tri­al Work­ers of the World, the CNT in Spain, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty for Self-Defense, the Nation of Islam, or the Syr­i­an rev­o­lu­tion.

Occupy’s claim to be lead­er­less is both true and false; it is true in the sense that there is no cen­tral com­mit­tee con­trol­ling it and false in the sense that every­one in Occu­py is a lead­er. Far from being lead­er­less, Occu­py is lead­er-full – full of new ideas, ini­tia­tives, forms of orga­ni­za­tion, and col­lab­o­ra­tive projects,4 some dar­ing, oth­ers pro­saic, all ini­ti­at­ed by occu­piers them­selves with­out direc­tion from above or anyone’s per­mis­sion (mean­ing autonomous­ly).

Since the begin­ning of Occu­py Wall Street, the Marx­ist left has con­tin­u­al­ly bemoaned the preva­lence of anar­chist ideas and meth­ods with­in Occu­py while com­plete­ly fail­ing to provide a bet­ter, more cred­i­ble, and pop­u­lar alter­na­tive, as Har­ris cor­rect­ly points out. Instead of seiz­ing on the pro­gres­sive ele­ments in Occupy’s small-A anar­chism and the tremen­dous free­dom of action5 that came with it to help Occu­py organ­i­cal­ly out­grow the restric­tive and Byzan­ti­ne mod­i­fied con­sen­sus process, pre­cious resources have been wast­ed writ­ing polemics for a tiny audi­ence con­flat­ing6 utopi­an com­munes, pre­fig­u­ra­tionism, and the (sound) strate­gic argu­ments again­st cre­at­ing a list of demands, false­ly7 accus­ing fel­low rad­i­cals of being anti-union, and attack­ing8 Occupy’s un-Marx­ist vision of a gen­er­al strike in a way rem­i­nis­cent of the old Marx­ist dic­tum: “gen­er­al strike is gen­er­al non­sense.“9

Given this, is it any won­der the Har­ris­es of Occu­py look askance at us as we con­tin­u­al­ly debate the excel­lent ideas of ancient Rus­sian white men and tout the achieve­ments of rev­o­lu­tions our grand­par­ents are too young to remem­ber, while rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies today are being killed in the streets Homs and being bru­tal­ized by police in the streets of New York?

Rather than ask­ing “is Lenin still rel­e­vant?” we ought to focus on mak­ing him rel­e­vant by show­ing every­one in prac­tice that the peo­ple inspired by his ideas are bet­ter, more cre­ative, more effec­tive occu­piers. Once we earn some cred­i­bil­i­ty on that front peo­ple might begin to lis­ten to what we have to say on the big ques­tions – reform, rev­o­lu­tion, what to do with (or rather to) the Demo­c­ra­t­ic Par­ty, run­ning in elec­tions – but not before. 1917 is rich with lessons, the main one being how a mass social­ist par­ty can smash a state that pro­tects cap­i­tal, but we have yet to learn how to become a mass force, a force to be reck­oned with on the local, state, and nation­al lev­els, a force more pop­u­lar than the Oba­mas and the Rom­neys we are up again­st.

Occu­py should be a learn­ing expe­ri­ence for us all con­cern­ing the­se tasks, but as Lenin wrote in State and Rev­o­lu­tion, “there are none so deaf as those who will not hear.“10

Pham Binh has pub­lished arti­cles in the Occu­pied Wall Street Jour­nal and thenorthstar.info, the first nation­al col­lab­o­ra­tive blog by and for occu­piers.

1.V.I. Lenin, “On Com­pro­mis­es,” Col­lect­ed Works.

2. I am refer­ring to the fact that no one out­side a tiny seg­ment of the left stud­ies the 1917 Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion in any great detail, so igno­rance of the July Days and the rev­o­lu­tion gen­er­al­ly is under­stand­able.

3. Pham Binh, “Lenin and Occu­py,” Social­ist Bul­let, April 13, 2012. 

4. Occu­py Wall Street Project List, Issue 2.

5. Arun Gup­ta, “The Won­der­ful, Unpre­dictable Life of the Occu­py Move­ment,” Truthout, April 11, 2012.

6. Doug Singsen, “Autonomous Zone on Wall Street?,” The Indypen­dent, Octo­ber 15, 2011.

7. A doc­u­ment­ed overview of the charges and debate can be found at the Black Orchid Col­lec­tive.

8. Dan Tro­col­li, “A strike call that won’t call a strike,” Social­ist Work­er, Feb­ru­ary 29, 2011.

9. Gen­er­al­streik ist gen­er­alun­sinn was a com­mon say­ing among social­ists in debates with anar­chists over the gen­er­al strike in the late 1800s and ear­ly 1900s.

10. V.I. Lenin, State and Rev­o­lu­tion.

Author of the article

Pham Binh has published articles in the Occupied Wall Street Journal and The North Star.

38 Responses

  1. How Does Theory Guide Practice? A Response to Salar Mohandesi on State and Revolution « Viewpoint Magazine

    […] Occu­py the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion « View­point Mag­a­zine - April 27, […]

  2. Papers and Tigers: Was Lenin Really an Anarchist? « Viewpoint Magazine

    […] This post is part of our ongo­ing debate on the rel­e­vance of Lenin, which start­ed with Salar Mohan­desi and Todd Chre­tien. See the respon­se by Pham Binh. […]

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

    […] Occu­py the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion « View­point Mag­a­zine - April 27, […]

  4. Novotny
    Novotny at |

    Not sure if “pedan­tic” is the word for it, but this whole debate seems focused on all the wrong details. The ques­tion of Marx­ism vs. anar­chism has to do with the state and what, if any­thing, will “replace” it. All the Lenin­ists in this debate are danc­ing around this issue and doing every­thing they can to avoid com­ing out and say­ing what their posi­tion actu­al­ly is on this cen­tral issue.

    Isn’t it inter­est­ing that Lenin and the marx­ists “dis­cov­ered” all the virtues of the Paris Com­mune, the sovi­ets, and anti-sta­tism when the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion was actu­al­ly pro­ceed­ing in a more or less anar­chis­tic way, and then returned to all their old notions about “dic­ta­tor­ship” and a “pro­le­tar­i­an state” (ruled by one hier­ar­chi­cal Par­ty, of course) as soon as they got into pow­er, mur­der­ing, exil­ing, jail­ing and sup­press­ing the anar­chists who had helped them over­throw the Pro­vi­sion­al Gov­ern­ment? Is it just a fun­ny coin­ci­dence that for decades Marx­ists preached sta­tism and the rule of a caste of intel­lec­tu­als (the van­guard Par­ty), and then actu­al­ly pro­ceed­ed to do just that, crush­ing the Kro­n­stadt rebel­lion, cre­at­ing a total­i­tar­i­an dic­ta­tor­ship etc.?

    It’s obvi­ous why Lenin made all the tac­ti­cal changes he did over the July days etc. He was maneu­ver­ing to seize pow­er for him­self and his Par­ty, noth­ing else. If that meant talk­ing like an anar­chist for a min­ute, before chan­nel­ing and curbing the rev­o­lu­tion into his Marx­ist dog­ma, he was will­ing to do that.

    1. El Pachooko
      El Pachooko at |

      It seems obvi­ous to me that just as the­se writ­ers have been “danc­ing around” the cen­tral issue of the state (the excep­tion was Mohan­desi), you’re miss­ing the point of what con­sti­tutes the state. You’re danc­ing around the issue of class. The state is the grand weapon of a rul­ing eco­nom­ic for­ma­tion that is set on main­tain­ing its priv­i­leges and will use all the pow­ers accu­mu­lat­ed in it again­st those who oppose their inter­ests. The state will not go away until all class­es cease to exist. The work­ing class needs the state as much as the cap­i­tal­ists. But it needs the state only long enough to smash the rule of the cap­i­tal­ist class and its rem­nants. And since the work­ing class has no need to exploit/oppress any­one there is no need for a state.

      One big dif­fer­ence between Anar­chists and Marx­ists is that the Marx­ists have a well thought-out plan of strug­gle to get to a class­less soci­ety. The Anar­chists want their utopia today and want noth­ing to do with the new and per­haps very long process, after the defeat of the cap­i­tal­ists, of a worker’s democ­ra­cy (Marx and Engels called it the dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tari­at) that will exclude all oth­er class­es from hold­ing pow­er; mean­ing that the pet­ti-bour­geois and lumpen ele­ments in the soci­ety, alien to work­ers’ cul­ture, will be restrict­ed and their polit­i­cal activ­i­ties cur­tailed. That’s what hap­pened in the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion and all the oth­ers that fol­lowed. The “anar­chism” you men­tion before the Bol­she­viks took over the Rev­o­lu­tion, Mohan­desi explained it suc­cinct­ly in his arti­cle: the mass­es were lead­er­less and need­ed Lenin to guide them in destroy­ing the pow­er of their oppres­sors.

      1. Pham Binh
        Pham Binh at |

        And yet the anar­chists are run­ning cir­cles around the Marx­ists in Occu­py…

        1. El Pachooko
          El Pachooko at |

          This is true. But it’s just a mat­ter of time before the mass­es, who are being inspired and moti­vat­ed by the anar­chist major­i­ty in Occu­py, begin to look for a solid vision of what a social­ize future can be. As Marx­ists con­tin­u­al­ly point out, the new soci­ety that is brought forth after the rev­o­lu­tion comes direct­ly from the old oppres­sive soci­ety that has influ­enced not just the behav­ior of the work­ing class but also their thought pat­terns. In oth­er words, the major­i­ty of work­ing peo­ple think as they have been taught to think by the rul­ing elite that exploits them. There will have to be a process of edu­ca­tion so that the mass­es begin to build enough con­scious­ness to turn them­selves into the sub­jects of his­to­ry. At this point only a smart-ass will deny the need for a strong van­guard that will guide the work­ing peo­ple in cre­at­ing the new orga­ni­za­tions, the new insti­tu­tions, etc., that will serve as tools and weapons again­st the for­mer oppres­sors who will sure­ly fight back hard after they begin to see their priv­i­leges dis­ap­pear­ing faster than they can count their prof­its. Today, though, Marx­ists and anar­chists must work togeth­er build­ing alliances not just with each oth­er but with all rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and pro­gres­sives and let the mass­es decide as they have decid­ed in cru­cial moments in his­to­ry from where exact­ly is the wind blow­ing.

    2. Pham Binh
      Pham Binh at |

      “It’s obvi­ous why Lenin made all the tac­ti­cal changes he did over the July days etc. He was maneu­ver­ing to seize pow­er for him­self and his Par­ty, noth­ing else. If that meant talk­ing like an anar­chist for a min­ute, before chan­nel­ing and curbing the rev­o­lu­tion into his Marx­ist dog­ma, he was will­ing to do that.”

      Please explain how Lenin’s talk of a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er to a Men­she­vik-SR sovi­et gov­ern­ment fits into this. Did any anar­chists call for that in 1917?

      1. Novotny
        Novotny at |

        I can’t claim to be an expert on the details of the Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion and I’m not aware of the “peace­ful trans­fer” idea. But it seems to me the impor­tant ques­tion was not “peace­ful trans­fer” or “vio­lent insur­rec­tion.” The ques­tion was whether to have a sovi­et repub­lic or a “bour­geois” par­lia­men­tary gov­ern­ment. Whether it was achieved peace­ful­ly or vio­lent­ly, between April and Octo­ber Lenin advo­cat­ed for a repub­lic of sovi­ets, and the abo­li­tion of the army and police in favor of pop­u­lar mili­ti­as. The­se were and are anar­chist ideas. It’s my belief Lenin took such an extreme stance in the April The­ses and State and Rev­o­lu­tion, shock­ing his Marx­ist com­rades who thought the thing to do was go through a cap­i­tal­ist phase before even con­tem­plat­ing social­ist rev­o­lu­tion, because the Rev­o­lu­tion at that point was actu­al­ly cours­ing in that direc­tion any­way and Lenin saw he had to go with the flow in order to achieve pow­er at a lat­er date. He cor­rect­ly saw that if he talked a big game and sound­ed rad­i­cal he could get peo­ple behind him, peo­ple he could con­trol, dis­em­pow­er and dis­pose of lat­er when the authen­tic Marx­ist plan of a cen­tral­ized, sta­tized soci­ety could be put into effect.

        1. Pham Binh
          Pham Binh at |

          Igno­rance is a very big hand­i­cap when par­tic­i­pat­ing in his­tor­i­cal debates. Lenin’s ideas on the state changed rad­i­cal­ly in 1916 through an exchange with Bukhar­in, before the rev­o­lu­tion, which is why the “Lenin oppor­tunis­ti­cal­ly adopt­ed anarchist/libertarian ideas in 1917 to win mass sup­port” does not hold up when you look at the his­tor­i­cal evi­dence (which I encour­age every­one to do).

          How and why the Sovi­et state became a tyran­ni­cal dic­ta­tor­ship and the crush­ing of Kro­n­stadt in 1921 are sep­a­rate issues from what Lenin wrote in State and Rev­o­lu­tion, although let’s be clear that the ear­ly Sovi­et gov­ern­ment was not a one-par­ty state (the Left SRs were an impor­tant part of the Cheka and sup­port­ed the sup­pres­sion of the Right SRs and the Men­she­viks). It turned out that way in the long run but it was not by Lenin’s design (although he and oth­er Bol­she­vik lead­ers cer­tain­ly lat­er made a virtue of what at the time seemed to be an emer­gen­cy neces­si­ty by argu­ing that the rule of one par­ty was the only form a work­ers’ state could take.) I sug­gest Alexan­der Rabinowitch’s “Bol­she­viks in Pow­er” if you or oth­ers want to under­stand how and why the rev­o­lu­tion degen­er­at­ed so rapid­ly. My per­son­al view is that Sovi­et democ­ra­cy was dead by sum­mer of 1918.

          The “evil, decep­tive, pow­er-hun­gry Marx­ist Bol­she­viks hell-bent in dra­co­ni­an cen­tral­iza­tion and one-par­ty rule nar­ra­tive” is sim­plis­tic and not sub­stan­ti­at­ed by a care­ful and detailed look at what hap­pened and why in 1917-1921. I don’t think the Bol­she­viks and Lenin are saints, nor am I going to defend every­thing they did as some kind of point of hon­or, but ditch­ing the com­plex and messy busi­ness of untan­gling what hap­pened in favor of sim­plis­tic nar­ra­tives to “prove” either anar­chism or Marx­ism a fatal­ly flawed doc­trine is a real dis­ser­vice to the thou­sands of work­ers and peas­ants on both sides who paid with their lives fight­ing for what they thought would be their lib­er­a­tion. We should hon­or their sac­ri­fices with care­ful and thor­ough study and be wary about pass­ing judg­ment when none of us have ever had to make the life-or-death choic­es they did.

  5. Frank
    Frank at |

    I have read sev­er­al of Lenins books, my two favorites being State and Rev­o­lu­tion, and the Pro­le­tar­i­an Rev­o­lu­tion and The Rene­gade Kaut­sky. No offense to any­one, but I find Lenin, much clear­er in his books than any­one attempt­ing to dis­cred­it him or what he wrote. What I have learned about the STATE, I learned from Lenin. What I have learned about democ­ra­cy also. I chal­lenge any­one to quote either books, and explain what it is that Lenin wrote that is no longer valid, that does not teach you about the State and about Democ­ra­cy.. I would rec­om­mend more time analysing para­graph by para­graph what he wrote., than spec­u­la­tion going off in anoth­er tan­gent. When Lenin defend­ed his views from Kaustky he quot­ed him fre­quent­ly. So please, some­one what did Lenin write in State and Rev­o­lu­tion you find so use­less and irrel­e­vant, or con­tra­dic­to­ry. I hope that is not ask­ing too much.

    1. Ben Seattle
      Ben Seattle at |

      Hi Frank,

      I have writ­ten about some of Lenin’s for­mu­la­tions in
      “State and Rev­o­lu­tion” which have not stood the test
      of time and are mis­lead­ing today as they are read and
      under­stood by most activists:

      Lenin’s “State and Rev­o­lu­tion” is inad­e­quate
      and mis­lead­ing and bad­ly needs an update

      We have been over this count­less times, but here it
      is again:

      The basic prob­lem is that, today, most activists believe
      that the “dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tari­at” must take the
      form of the rule by a sin­gle par­ty with the abil­i­ty to
      cen­sor the voice of its crit­ics.

      Lenin wrote for the speci­fic cir­cum­stances he faced
      in 1917, and some of his state­ments are mis­lead­ing
      today, in a peri­od where we have social media and
      have wit­nessed the degen­er­a­tion of the Rus­sian and
      Chi­ne­se rev­o­lu­tions into cor­rupt police states.
      Lenin did not live long enough to cor­rect all of his

      We need to take seri­ous­ly the ques­tion of demo­c­ra­t­ic rights
      when the work­ing class runs soci­ety. If we fail to do this,
      we will miss an excel­lent oppor­tu­ni­ty to help many activists
      under­stand that we need a new kind of state dur­ing the
      lengthy tran­si­tion to an econ­o­my that is not based on
      com­mod­i­ty pro­duc­tion.

      -- Ben

      1. Frank
        Frank at |

        Sor­ry Ben if my anger shows at what I see as a rebirth of Men­she­vism in your com­ments. I doubt that there is any­one of the stature of Lenin that could “update” him, today. I don’t want to assume you believe we have any oth­er than a cap­i­tal­ist democ­ra­cy, with no real democ­ra­cy for work­ers, only a carac­i­ture of democ­ra­cy for ALL. I am not sure if you would extend your democ­ra­cy to the Klan, Nazis, Fox news fantat­ics, Glenn Becks, and Rush Lim­baughs. There are going to be peo­ple that even under a dic­ta­tor­ship of the wor­lk­ing class, may die or live for gen­er­a­tions before becom­ing class con­scious work­ers. Ben, may you would want to give equal time to the Klan, or their broth­ers the Nazis, but I sure would not. And they fr sure would not want to give equal time to you.

        Lenin was only alive for what about 5 years, under adverse cir­cum­n­stances. Fail­ure of his ideas, have more to do with the liq­ui­dat­ing of most of the mem­bers of his cen­tral com­mit­tee. It had more to do with Stal­in. It seems like you might believev Stal­ins View was iden­ti­cal to Lenins view. We should ask what did Lenin do RIGHT to over­throw cen­turies of Tsarism, what no oth­er par­ty or ten­den­cy could do.

        I think his­to­ry will vin­di­cate Lenin, and his strug­gle again­st Men­she­vism con­tin­ues through the books he wrote. When a new Bol­she­vik van guard par­ty comes to pow­er, it will sup­press the Klan, and oth­er reac­tionary forces. But at the same time grad­u­al­ly win over the mass­es with full employ­ment, imme­di­ate seizure of the banks. and wealth and redis­trib­ute that wealth to the work­ing class. Mod­ern Men­she­viks must decid­ed whether to sup­port a new Van guard par­ty, or attack­ing it rub­bling elbows with the reac­tionary forces to sab­o­tage it. And I think, his­to­ry will repeat itself and Men­she­viks will feel oblig­at­ed to work with it, or be total­ly dis­cred­it­ed by the class con­scious mem­bers of the work­ing class.

        I sup­pose Cas­tro and his small band of rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies should have wait­ed for con­sent from the major­i­ty. We should still have Ful­gen­cio Batis­ta in pow­er. Cuba should still look like Haiti. If you are con­sis­tent why not agree with that?

        I under­stand short­ly after Cas­tro came to pow­er he asked the mass­es how many would like a home to live in? Or some­thing to that effect. And the mass­es replied, jubi­lant­ly, WE DO., with rounds of applause.

        I don’t hold Cas­tro on a pedestal as an idea work­ers state. I only use him as an exam­ple, wait­ing for major­i­ty rule, as the Mens­she­viks want­ed in the past or may want today, is what s incor­rect.

        I think any “update” ie REVISION of state and rev­o­lu­tion is a dis­ser­vice to the work­ing class. I think State and Rev­o­lu­tion should be one of the hand­books, which every class con­scious worker/leader should have in his pos­ses­sion, to be able to sort out the lead­ers from the mis­lead­ers. And I do not mean that as a per­son­al attack on any­one. I owe much to Lenin, in pre­vent­ing me from being trapped into any group or par­ty. It is by a cor­rect under­stand­ing of Marx, Engels, and Lenin, that we will be able to over­throw cap­i­tal­ism, even if the cap­i­tal­is class objects and does not vote for it. I thank Lenin for work­ing tire­less­ly to com­bat incor­rect views, He is the best, teacher of the class strug­gle, I have under my belt. Long live Lenin, and down with Men­she­vism, past, present or future.

        1. Novotny
          Novotny at |

          If you’re inter­est­ed in over­throw­ing cap­i­tal­ism to achieve greater free­dom, end inequal­i­ty and dom­i­na­tion etc., I fail to see how treat­ing a hun­dred-year old politi­cian and his dog­mas as some kind of guru and absolute knowl­edge could help achieve that. Espe­cial­ly when the sum of Lenin’s “knowl­edge” is absolute dis­ci­pline, faith in par­ty lead­ers, pow­er for power’s sake, indus­tri­al­ize at all costs, treat the work­ers as an object to be “led,” etc.

          Any­way, what no one is address­ing here, despite my ear­lier com­ments, is why Lenin moved from his very unusu­al, rad­i­cal, lib­er­tar­i­an, decen­tral­ized, and non-Marx­ist posi­tion of “All pow­er to the sovi­ets,” to his lat­er author­i­tar­i­an poli­cies when he had con­sol­i­dat­ed pow­er. If Lenin was cor­rect in the April The­se and State and Rev­o­lu­tion, and if he hon­est­ly believed what he said, why did he do the ABSOLUTE OPPOSITE?

          1. Frank
            Frank at |

            Attacks again­st Lenin are attacks again­st Marx and Engels. He backs all or most of his ideas by quot­ing Marx and Engels fre­quent­ly. Any revi­sion of State and Rev­o­lu­tion is a revi­sion of Marx and Engels. One can dis­cov­er that; if one reads but one of Lenins books. If Lenin want­ed to “treat the work­ers as object to be led, etc”, he would not waste his time writ­ing, State and Rev­o­lu­tion, The Pro­le­tar­i­an Rev­o­lu­tion and The Rene­gade Kaustky. The best book on phi­los­o­phy I have found, has been Empirio-Crit­i­cism.

            I do how­ev­er find, on the left and Bob Avakian and the Rcp is but one exam­ple of treat­ing “work­ers as object to be led”. But I have not found any org on the left that does not suf­fer from the same prob­lem. What does Proud­hon, or Kropotk­in teach you, that is more pow­er­ful more clear than Lenin? Was­nt Proud­hon anti vio­loent rev­o­lu­tion yet would any­one so much as con­sid­er that as a rea­son to dis­cred­it him?

            Great thinkers don’t appear every day, IMO it may be every 100 or 200 hun­dred years. And when they do, every pun­dit of the rul­ing class begins attack­ing them. I respect great thinkers, Marx.. Engels and Lenin are on top of my list. Oth­er great thinker, is Mal­colm X. And I am sure he has plen­ty of ene­mies that would love to down­play, his ideas. Lenin, NOT any par­ty on the left is my proffes­sor, not any­one else on the left. My opin­ion from work­ing with left par­ties is that they are all traps orga­nized by the cap­i­tal­ist class, with their lead­ers in the top posi­tions. I trust ‚the cia and FBI„ must have Marx­ist Lein­ist train­ing schools, and per­haps they may not do a very good job. But that is pure spec­u­la­tion. I quit RSL when they were sug­gest­ing mem­bers write to their con­gress per­son. That is all I need to quit. RCP, I vis­it­ed, march with, for a cou­ple of weeks, and when I saw the cult wor­ship of Bob Avakian, I stopped that too.

            hope you learn you are up again­st some­one that has actu­al­ly stud­ied Lenin„ not just read par­ty lit­er­a­ture. If Lenin and Marx­ism in gen­er­al has pre­pared me well, the proof of the pud­ding will be in the eat­ing.

            So what thinkers would you pro­mote more than Lenin? What thinkers would like to lead the work­ing class to?

    2. Pham Binh
      Pham Binh at |

      How do you rec­on­cile Lenin’s talk of a peace­ful trans­fer of pow­er in 1917 with what is writ­ten in State and Rev­o­lu­tion?

      1. Frank
        Frank at |

        Lenin was not vol­un­teer­ing to make com­pro­mis­es with the rul­ing class, he was doing it with the SR’s and the Men­she­viks, and only tem­po­rar­l­i­ty. As I under­tand, it at that time the Bol­she­viks were in the minor­i­ty. And as it turned out, Keren­sky pre­vent­ed that com­pro­mise from ever tak­ing place. Quot­ed also from On Com­pro­mis­es.

        “The Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion is expe­ri­enc­ing so abrupt and orig­i­nal a turn that we, as a par­ty, may offer a vol­un­tary compromise—true, not to our direct and main class ene­my, the bour­geoisie, but to our near­est adver­saries, the “rul­ing” pet­ty-bour­geois-demo­c­ra­t­ic par­ties, the Social­ist-Rev­o­lu­tion­ar­ies and Men­she­viks.”

        Is “NOT to our direct and main class ene­my, the bour­geoisie”, clear enough to prove he has not mak­ing any change of mak­ing peace with the boureoisie?

        And if that is not clear enough he had explaine ear­lier in same, On Com­pro­mis­es.

        “To agree, for instance, to par­tic­i­pate in the Third and Fourth Dumas was a com­pro­mise, a tem­po­rary renun­ci­a­tion of rev­o­lu­tion­ary demands. But this was a com­pro­mise absolute­ly forced upon us, for the bal­ance of forces made it impos­si­ble for us for the time being to con­duct a mass rev­o­lu­tion­ary strug­gle, and in order to pre­pare this strug­gle over a long peri­od we had to be able to work even from inside such a “pigsty”. His­to­ry has proved that this approach to the ques­tion by the Bol­she­viks as a par­ty was per­fect­ly cor­rect.”

        How can one inter­pret that as renun­ci­at­ing vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion again­st the rul­ing class?

        IM0, the fol­low­ing quote of Lenin by Occu­py the Bol­she­vik rev­o­lu­tion, has to be read in this con­text of what I have also quot­ed.

        Now, and only now, per­haps dur­ing only a few days or a week or two, such a gov­ern­ment could be set up and con­sol­i­dat­ed in a per­fect­ly peace­ful way. In all prob­a­bil­i­ty it could secure the peace­ful advance of the whole Rus­sian rev­o­lu­tion, and provide excep­tion­al­ly good chances for great strides in the world move­ment towards peace and the vic­to­ry of social­ism.

        So no way in the world, was Lenin talk­ing about a peace­ful tran­fer of pow­er, based on what I read in On Com­pro­mis­es.

        1. Pham Binh
          Pham Binh at |

          In oth­er words you deny that a con­tra­dic­tion exists between what Lenin said in State and Rev­o­lu­tion and his position(s) in 1917 that a trans­fer of pow­er could be achieved at cer­tain tran­si­to­ry junc­tures.

          1. Frank
            Frank at |

            Pham Binh, could you please direct me to the source where Lenin spoke of “that trans­fer of pow­er”, what source, what book by Lenin or let­ter?

          2. Pham Binh
            Pham Binh at |

            “The slo­gan ‘All Pow­er to the Sovi­ets!’ was a slo­gan for peace­ful devel­op­ment of the rev­o­lu­tion which was pos­si­ble in April, May, June, and up to July 5-9…” -- Lenin,

  6. Weekend Reading « Backslash Scott Thoughts

    […] Occu­py the Rus­sian Rev­o­lu­tion. […]

  7. Novotny
    Novotny at |

    I fail to see why what Lenin and the Bol­she­viks did in pow­er is a “sep­a­rate issue” from what they wrote, advo­cat­ed and did a few months before.

    Per­haps Lenin did arrive at anti-state views through a debate with Bukhar­in in 1916, I think it is a bit pedan­tic to dis­miss my over­all point because I don’t know the obscure details of this. I said I’m not an expert but the state vs. anti-state ques­tion is actu­al­ly a very sim­ple one that doesn’t require vast ency­clo­pe­dic knowl­edge. My point is that Lenin was obvi­ous­ly not anti-author­i­tar­i­an either before State and Rev­o­lu­tion (whether this was writ­ten in 1916 or 1917. The his­to­ries I’ve read say it was draft­ed in August-Sep­tem­ber 1917 so it would be quite a bomb­shell if it turned out you were right that Lenin was in was favor of abol­ish­ing the state imme­di­ate­ly in favor of sovi­et pow­er and pop­u­lar mili­ti­as in 1916), or after Octo­ber.

    This is per­fect­ly log­i­cal and unsur­pris­ing. Bol­she­vik the­o­ry was open­ly sta­tist and elit­ist. The main idea, open­ly and hon­est­ly stat­ed in repeat­ed fash­ion, was that a van­guard Par­ty would lead and indoc­tri­nate the indus­tri­al pro­le­tari­at, which could only reach “trade union con­scious­ness” with­out Par­ty intel­lec­tu­als show­ing them the way. Lenin was open­ly Jacobin and con­stant­ly preached the seizure of State Pow­er and cen­tral­iza­tion in a “dic­ta­tor­ship”.

    What was weird and sur­pris­ing to every­one around Lenin, includ­ing the oth­er Bol­she­viks, was the April The­ses and State and Rev­o­lu­tion, where he even had some kind words for Proud­hon and Bakun­in. OK, may­be it was a debate with Bukhar­in that sud­den­ly changed his mind. (It is inter­est­ing though that, for exam­ple, Lenin advo­cat­ed “work­ers’ con­trol” in his labor pol­i­cy when he need­ed the fac­to­ry work­ers to get to pow­er, and then changed his mind on this fun­da­men­tal point once he had pow­er. Also, right after the Octo­ber insur­rec­tion the Bol­she­viks cre­at­ed a Coun­cil of People’s Commissar’s, where pow­er end­ed up being con­cen­trat­ed, com­posed entire­ly of Bol­she­viks.) The impor­tant thing is that he changed it back again when his par­ty ruled, and he had a lot of anar­chists shot and impris­oned. Anar­chism was out­lawed and the sovi­ets were deprived of any real pow­er. This was more in line with orig­i­nal Bol­she­vik and Marx­ist prac­tice and the­o­ry.

    1. Pham Binh
      Pham Binh at |

      You fail to see why they are sep­a­rate issues because you have not stud­ied the his­tor­i­cal con­text involved.

      State and Rev­o­lu­tion says noth­ing about a one-par­ty state, and Lenin’s pro­pos­als for a non-Bol­she­vik sovi­et gov­ern­ment made up of SRs and Men­she­viks exclu­sive­ly seri­ous­ly under­mine the notion that he was gun­ning for a one-par­ty state. The Coun­cil of People’s Com­mis­ars was all Bol­she­viks because the Right SRs and Men­she­viks refused to par­tic­i­pate. Is that Lenin’s fault? Hard­ly. The Left SRs actu­al­ly out­num­bered the Bol­she­viks in the Soviet’s Cen­tral Exec­u­tive Com­mit­tee which the Coun­cil was sub­or­di­nate to, but they chose not to alter the com­po­si­tion of the Coun­cil. Will you blame the Bol­she­viks for the Left SRs’ deci­sion there too?

      It’s false that Lenin and the Bol­she­viks changed their stands on work­ers’ con­trol of pro­duc­tion as soon as they got into pow­er. 1917 is when they passed decrees empow­er­ing work­er com­mit­tees to con­trol pro­duc­tion, dis­tri­b­u­tion, and man­age­ment. If you have the text of a decree revok­ing work­ers’ con­trol in 1917, please post it here.

      As for this busi­ness about Lenin’s alleged elit­ism, trade union-ism, and relat­ed issues, Lars Lih has already deci­sive­ly refut­ed the­se charges in his mas­ter­ful book Lenin Redis­cov­ered. If there are any anar­chist refu­ta­tions of Lih’s work, I’d be glad to read them, but to my knowl­edge no one who defends text­book inter­pre­ta­tion of Lenin’s book What Is to Be Done? has been able to mount a solid, evi­dence-based rebut­tal.

      1. Novotny
        Novotny at |

        Kind­ly stop con­de­scend­ing to me, I am not a pro­fes­sion­al his­to­ri­an but I have done enough research on the­se issues to have a lit­tle inter­net debate with you, and I’m sim­ply point­ing out that Lenin’s gov­ern­ment was author­i­tar­i­an and not in the least anti-state, which is frankly obvi­ous on the face of it and almost uni­ver­sal­ly agreed to. Even at the time (1917 and even before!), anti-author­i­tar­i­ans piled up com­plaints again­st the cen­tral­iz­ing, bureau­cra­tiz­ing, sta­tist prac­tices of the bol­she­viks. Were they imag­in­ing things?

        I agree that State and Rev­o­lu­tion is a very anar­chis­tic text, that’s my whole point: Lenin didn’t stick to it, and as you have said your­self it devi­ates enor­mous­ly from Lenin’s pre­vi­ous think­ing. It’s an excep­tion­al text, except for the mock­ing of the idea of rev­o­lu­tion­iz­ing things “overnight” and the empha­sis on “tran­si­tion” and “dic­ta­tor­ship”, it’s not very typ­i­cal of Marx­ist or Boshe­vik think­ing at all.

        As for worker’s con­trol, on Decem­ber 1 1917, Lenin cre­at­ed the Supre­me Eco­nom­ic Coun­cil to reg­u­late the nation­al econ­o­my, mov­ing from worker’s con­trol to state con­trol. All the offi­cial Bol­she­vik organs called for “iron dis­ci­pline” in the fac­to­ries. Trade unions sub­sumed the fac­to­ry com­mit­tees. At the First All-Rus­sian Con­gress of Trade Unions, 7 to 14 of Jan­u­ary 1918, the Bol­she­viks insured that the fac­to­ry com­mit­tees were turned into union organs. The com­mit­tees were turned into “state insti­tu­tions,” accord­ing to Lenin, as he want­ed. The Bol­she­viks fur­ther main­tained that the trade unions could not be inde­pen­dent of the gov­ern­ment. It was fur­ther empha­sized that all this had to with “cen­tral­iza­tion” and an over-all state plan.

        All of this can be found in Paul Avrich’s The Rus­sian Anar­chists, p. 166-169, he pro­vides ref­er­ences to the pri­ma­ry sources in Rus­sian.

        But again, I find this whole debate remark­ably sim­ple and with­out any need for com­plex aca­d­e­mic appa­ra­tus or patron­iz­ing atti­tudes. The Bol­she­viks were very obvi­ous­ly an author­i­tar­i­an, sta­tist group and it is incred­i­bly patent that Lenin did not gov­ern accord­ing to the idea of “all pow­er to the sovi­ets.” If you deny that, I hard­ly know what to say, you’re eyes are com­plete­ly closed.

        1. Novotny
          Novotny at |

          I should add that “all pow­er to the sovi­ets” was not a pure­ly anar­chist idea and anar­chists were uncom­fort­able with it, because they right­ly saw that the sovi­ets could become tools of state polit­i­cal pow­er, but that’s anoth­er debate. For now I just want to get you to admit the sim­ple and obvi­ous idea that Lenin, like all marx­ists, was a sta­tist and ruled as such, despite his more fiery rhetoric in State and Rev­o­lu­tion.

          1. Frank
            Frank at |

            “For now I just want to get you to admit the sim­ple and obvi­ous idea that Lenin, like all marx­ists, was a sta­tist and ruled as such, ” See I agree with you. But I think Anar­chist that do not want to be author­i­tar­i­an should fol­low Gand­hi and the Dali Lama and not talk about rev­o­lu­tion. and nev­er be athor­i­tar­i­an.

        2. Frank
          Frank at |

          Novot­ny I am not apolo­get­ic for being autho­ri­atar­i­an when the work­ing class is being author­i­tar­i­an over the cap­i­tal­ist class. Rev­o­lu­tion is a vio­lent author­i­tar­i­an act. I don’t know you well at all, per­haps you are again­st a vio­lent rev­o­lu­tion. Throw­ing eggs bot­tles and shout­ing down Nazis, are very unde­mo­c­ra­t­ic and author­i­tar­i­an acts should we preach again­st that? Is it based on incor­rect the­o­ry?

          If you want to be again­st Lenin for being Author­i­tar­i­an and not gav­ing cap­i­tal­ists and their sup­port­ers democ­ra­cy, blame Marx also, because, Lenin only applied Marx­ist the­o­ry to the for­mer Sovi­et Union.

        3. Pham Binh
          Pham Binh at |

          Ask­ing peo­ple to dig into the issues, research, and think for them­selves is hard­ly con­de­scen­sion. You don’t need to be a his­to­ri­an to do a lit­tle more than scratch the sur­face of the­se issues.

    2. Frank
      Frank at |

      Novot­ny, can I get you to admit that Anar­chists will not under any cir­cum­c­tance will athor­i­tar­i­an and anti demo­c­ra­t­ic?

      1. Novotny
        Novotny at |

        See, I like Lenin­ists like you Frank who are more hon­est about being author­i­tar­i­an, although I would dis­agree that the Bol­she­viks were only author­i­tar­i­an again­st cap­i­tal­ists. A lot of ordi­nary work­ing peo­ple, peas­ants and polit­i­cal dis­senters like anar­chists end­ed up in Bol­she­vik labor camps, pris­ons, exiled or shot etc.

        What I don’t like are the peo­ple today who try to re-invent Lenin and say he was some kind of lib­er­tar­i­an with a lot to say to hor­i­zon­tal­ist move­ments like Occu­py, based on a read­ing of State and Rev­o­lu­tion, which was a text not at all reflec­tive of his actu­al prac­tice in pow­er and most of what he argued else­where.

        1. Frank
          Frank at |

          Novot­ny I am con­fused by your state­ment:

          “read­ing of State and Rev­o­lu­tion, which was a text not at all reflec­tive of his actu­al prac­tice in pow­er and most of what he argued else­where” Does that mean you like what Lenin wrote in state and rev­o­lu­tion, not his prac­tice ?

          1. Novotny
            Novotny at |

            Yes exact­ly, State and Rev­o­lu­tion advo­cates a gov­ern­ment of sovi­ets of Sol­diers’ and Peas­ants’ Deputies, the abo­li­tion of the army in favor of armed mili­ti­as, elim­i­na­tion of bureau­cra­cy, the widest par­tic­i­pa­tion pos­si­ble in polit­i­cal life, etc., and has a very anti-state tone over­all, that’s what I agree with. Even there though, Lenin advo­cates pow­er and sub­or­di­na­tion, and keep­ing the state around in a tran­si­tion­al phase. He just leaves vague who will be sub­or­di­nat­ed to whom. He states explic­it­ly that fac­to­ries and oth­er work­places will nec­es­sar­i­ly have some indi­vid­u­als sub­or­di­nat­ing oth­ers, and claims soci­ety will be sub­or­di­nat­ed to the pro­le­tari­at. Appar­ent­ly it was a small step for him to go from the idea of a dic­ta­tor­ship of the pro­le­tari­at to a dic­ta­tor­ship of the Bol­she­vik par­ty.

          2. Frank
            Frank at |

            Novot­ny I think we have a fail­ure to com­mu­ni­cate. IMO Lenin quite cleary explains the Marx­ist and or his posi­tion on the state. And from you oth­er post, you had no prob­lem with killings or exe­cu­tions as long as was not done in the name of the state. That sounds, like change the name, and I am ok with it. Let try to explain how I under­tand it. Lenin says: The state is an instru­ment of class rule. It is used to sub­do one class over anoth­er. It has been used for about 200o years very effec­tive­ly for that pur­pose. And con­tin­ues to be used again­st the work­ing class.

            My con­clu­sion of the anti state or anti author­i­tar­i­ans is they want to deny this effec­tive weapon of class rule to the EXPLOITED, in effect hand­i­cap it, dis­arm it, and give more oppor­tu­ni­ty to the EXPLOITERS. It almost seems like they are on the side of the EXPLOITED. The Gan­dist and Dali Lama fol­low­er want­ed to go a step fur­ther and keep the work­ing class dis­armed. Both ideas, If I was from the EXPLOITER class I would thank you both a thou­sand times. May­be even pay you. It seems so unfair that you impose dou­ble stan­dards to the EXPLOITED. Why do you peo­ple feel you have to do that? It seems to me that idea like many, could only orig­i­nate with the rul­ing cap­i­tal­ist class. And some of you have adopt­ed it, uncrit­i­cal­ly. It seems so absurd not to use the State to imme­di­ate­ly gain con­trol of the means of pro­duc­tion and com­mu­ni­ca­tion.

            And I find myself agree­ing with Pham about Mah­kno. If some­one is out exe­cut­ing Bol­she­viks and sab­o­tag­ing the rev­o­lu­tion, or being a coun­ter rev­o­lu­tion­ary., one must expect the con­se­quences that go with that.

            Any­way, this debate is forc­ing me to look at Bol­she­vism from a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive. Not that I expect any rad­i­cal changes in my views, but hope­ful­ly to bet­ter under­sand the ques­tions oth­ers have and to have bet­ter answers.

        2. Pham Binh
          Pham Binh at |

          You should look up the atroc­i­ties com­mit­ted by Makhno in the Ukraine if you want to read about author­i­tar­i­an­ism.

          1. Novotny
            Novotny at |

            I think both you and Frank are con­fus­ing author­i­tar­i­an­ism and vio­lence. My prob­lem isn’t just that the Bol­she­viks killed peo­ple, which obvi­ous­ly hap­pens dur­ing rev­o­lu­tions and civil war. It’s that they did it in the name of the state, pow­er, hier­ar­chy, cen­tral­iza­tion etc.

          2. Pham Binh
            Pham Binh at |

            Makhano set up a secret police and tor­tured peo­ple in the name of anti-sta­tism. If the Bol­she­viks had done the same you would sup­port that?

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