by Gaither Stewart with Patrice Greanville
15 March 2009
A little bit of Leninism for breakfast gives you the strength of a hundred camels in the courtyard. (My adaptation of a Paul Bowles’ Arab adage)
And then this, straight out of the horse’s mouth:
“It is more pleasant and useful to go through the experience of the revolution than to write about it.” (Vladimir Lenin)
(Rome) Leftists like to cite Lenin. To quote Marx is to delve into the theory of Socialism/Communism. But Lenin is another cup of tea. You get into Lenin and you’re already in revolution. When you read Lenin’s The State and Revolution, which contains the core of Leninist thought, you are no longer in the world of socio-economic theory. This powerful text offers insights into Leninist policies and elaborated Lenin’s interpretation of Marxism, above all the class conflict, but also the crushing of the bourgeois state and the establishment and role of the dictatorship of the proletariat.
Thus, reading Lenin today is to enter the realm of the overthrow of Capitalism and the transition from Capitalism to Communism. Fantasy? Not many years ago such words would have seemed like maniacal ravings. But that was before the shit hit the fan in the bourgeois capitalist world, au début right smack in its heart on Wall Street. The images of capitalism hanging itself or digging its own grave seemed to many the theoretical wishful thinking of a handful of radical eccentrics. But today? Lenin’s writings now read like contemporary political thought. The younger Trotsky noted in his autobiography, My Life, that “Lenin, although he was firmly entrenched in the present, was always trying to pierce the veil of the future.” That quality, I find, underlines the difference between Lenin and many of his contemporaries and marks him as the true revolutionary.
His second outstanding and complementary quality was his tenacity about his main idea: his companion and wife Nadezhda Krupskaya said he was a “bulldog”—his was the death-grip, which pleased Lenin very much. For he like other revolutionaries-protagonists of his generation were men of a single idea, to which they dedicated their lives. Revolution was an idea. But an idea, in the words of Mussolini, “which possesses bayonets.” Bertram Wolfe in his monumental Three Who Made A Revolution, notes that Lenin added to that the word organization. And that was his genius. The ironclad organization of specialists in revolution.
Lenin was not the great and inventive writer as was Trotsky. His genius flexibility and vocabulary. Vocabulary is a fundamental aspect of Leninist writing, highly visible in some of the excerpts I have included here. Proletariat and bourgeoisie, capitalism and Socialism, greedy capitalist exploiters and oppressed toiling masses, class struggle, revolution and capitalist reaction, flunkies and lackeys of capitalist exploiters, imperialist war and socialist war. These are constants of the vocabulary of the bulldog revolutionary and social-political visionary activist and interpreter of Marxist theory, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov-Lenin, or Ilyich as he was called intimately. Without doubt Lenin was the motor of the seizure of power in Russia in November, 1917. Though disappointing to some purists, according to Bertram Wolfe pragmatic Lenin said on the eve of the Revolution: The point of the uprising is the seizure of power; afterwards we will see what we can do with it.” The second phrase exemplifies his Russianness and his recognition of the role of destiny and chance in the history of men. Uncertainty and destiny were ever present in Leninist thought; yet when the historical climax arrived, it deceptively seemed to have been inevitable. That too was the Leninist method.
The contemporary crisis of capitalism underlines the extraordinary vision of Marx of 150 years ago and of Lenin a century ago. In this sense Marxism-Leninism is NOT outdated and anachronistic.
The contemporary crisis of capitalism underlines the extraordinary vision of Marx of 150 years ago and of Lenin a century ago. In this sense Marxism-Leninism is NOT outdated and anachronistic. To ears that can still hear, their words are right on target, current, modern, contemporary, far from quaint social philosophies of the distant past. A return to Lenin, an adventure if you want, is a worthwhile exercise for us all.
As described by Lenin, Socialism/Communism is natural and just. In essence it is a dramatic redistribution of wealth and control over who does the distributing. That simplicity cannot be disturbing except to the rich who exploit (no hyperbole, folks) the poor. In his last articles in 1922 Lenin defined “Socialism” (I use here Socialism and Communism interchangeably, as was originally proper!) in these broad terms: “An order of civilized co-operators in which the means of production are socially owned.” His use of the word Socialism thus cuts a wide swath through the world of the Left.
BASIC TENETS OF LENINISM
Here at the outset I want to sketch out some of the principles of Lenin the revolutionary, originally taken from his own writings. For this I have referred to several books: Three Who Made A Revolution by Bertram Wolfe, Lenin’s articles in Essential Works of Socialism edited by Irving Howe, My Life by Leon Trotsky, Marxism On Government by Vladimir Lenin, Lenin, A Biography, by David Shub, a member of Lenin’s Social Democratic Party who participated in the Russian Revolution of 1905-6 and frequented Lenin and other revolutionary leaders.
Lenin in his study, c. 1918.
Shub’s background is useful to our purposes here. Though he met and worked with the revolutionary exiles Plekhanov, Axelrod, Trotsky, Zasulich, Martov, and Lenin, and, after escaping from Siberian exile, reached the USA, he stayed in contact with Russian revolutionary leaders afterwards. However, he published his book during the Cold War by which time he had become anti-Communist. Though his purpose was to unmask the soi dissant perfidy of Soviet Communism, much of his book, read with a critical eye during the crisis of capitalism, rings positive to us today and in many cases, unintentionally, depicts the true, extremely far-sighted and visionary Lenin.
STRATEGY FOR GAINING POWER
I repeat, these lines about “reading Lenin” are not about ancient history. For purposes of this article one should keep in mind the explosive obvious: the causes of today’s crisis in the bourgeois world of finance derives not only from exploitation of the rapidly growing proletariat (now inclusive of a great part of the impoverished middle class), but also from the elitist aloofness and egoism of the crème de la crème of the international, globalized bourgeoisie.
Therefore, far-sighted as ever, Lenin: “The proletariat (see my article Definitions: The Proletariat) must first overthrow the bourgeoisie (see my article Definitions: The Bourgeoisie) and conquer the power of the state, and use the power of the state, i.e. the dictatorship (1) of the proletariat, as an instrument of the working class in order to gain the sympathy and support of the majority of the toilers, many of whom, subjectively, may continue to pledge allegiance to the old ruling class which had no qualms in exploiting them in myriad ways. Thus, the proletariat, (2) having assembled sufficiently powerful political and military ‘striking forces’, must overthrow the bourgeoisie and deprive it of the power of the state, so as to wield this instrument for its own class purposes….” (Lenin, Collected works, Vol. XVI p.148. It is not essential to read the original Russian since Lenin’s straightforward hard-hitting style translates well!)
This, Lenin said in his own dramatic language, is to be achieved by “smashing to atoms” the old state and creating a new apparatus adapted to the struggle of the proletariat. Though universal suffrage and the ballot reveal the conditions of the various classes and how they view matters, the solution of the social problems is to be achieved by the class struggle in all forms, even in civil war, but above all not by the vote. (How obvious today when elections are sold and bought like merchandise!) The revolutionary participates in parliamentary activity in order to educate the masses but the parliamentary struggle is by no means decisive. Ever practical, Lenin believed that participation in bourgeois parliaments makes it easier to show to the backward masses the reasons why such parliaments must be eliminated. Yet to subordinate the class struggle to the parliamentary struggle would mean to hand power over to the bourgeoisie since, as especially Americans have seen in recent decades, parliament and law itself are hardly the arena of struggle for reforms for the working class. The heart of Leninist thought on ideology and government was that the working class must instead use and exploit the institutions of the bourgeois state against it, for its destruction.
In the same light: “A Communist must be prepared to make every sacrifice and, if necessary, even resort to all sorts of schemes and stratagems, employ illegitimate methods, conceal the truth, in order to get into the trade unions, stay there, and conduct the revolutionary work within.” (Collected works, Vol. XVII, pp.142-5. That is not to say that the labour movement was primary. Without the guidance of the self-named socialist vanguard the labour movement would “become petty and inevitably bourgeois.” (He more than accurately foresaw the future of the US working class and the great part of the labour movement in Europe today.) The vanguard would consist of persons who devote the whole of their lives to the revolution, that is, the professional revolutionaries, who would teach, indoctrinate and guide. Simple trade unionism, Lenin writes in What Is To Be Done means the ideological subordination of the workers to the bourgeoisie.… Working class consciousness cannot be genuinely political consciousness unless the workers are trained to respond to all cases of tyranny, oppression, violence and abuse … To bring political knowledge to the workers, the Social Democrats must go among all classes of the population….”
Lenin however quickly dismisses charges that Communists have no ethics of their own. This, he says, is just “throwing dust in the eyes of workers.” However he rejects the ethics of the bourgeois who liken their ethics to God’s commandments. The bourgeoisie uses the name of God in order to continue exploiting the workers of the world, today as yesterday. Hand on the Bible, crosses in the classroom, God bless America and all the rest! Lenin repudiates all ethics that lie outside human class concepts, ethics that are fraud and deception to clog the minds of workers in the interests of capitalists. Socialist morality instead derives directly from the interests of the class struggle of the proletariat. It is that which serves to destroy the exploiting society, to destroy injustice in all its pervasive and institutionalized forms, and to unite the working class.
“Capitalism cannot be defeated … without the ruthless suppression of the resistance of the exploiters … who will try to overthrow the hateful (for them!) rule of the poor. A great revolution, and a socialist revolution in particular, is inconceivable without civil war, which … implies a state of extreme indefiniteness…. (Lenin, Selected Works, Russian Edition, Vol. 2, pp.277-8)
Lenin was convinced that only the proletariat, that is, the working class lead by the socialist vanguard, could liberate mankind from the sham, lies and hypocrisy of capitalism, which is (and has always been) a democracy for the rich, a “democracy for the few” as Michael Parenti has aptly called it. Only the proletariat can make the benefits of democracy available to the workers, benefits which today in 2009 are ever more inequitably distributed, the rich richer, the poor, poorer, a concentrated wealth of grotesque salaries, bonuses and stock options for the rich, the poverty of unemployment and hard bread for the poor. In the thought of Lenin and of every Bolshevik of his times, the October Revolution was a proletarian revolution and the Soviet form of government that emerged from it was the dictatorship of the proletariat envisaged by Marx as a transitional stage to the eventual classless and stateless society.
Lenin’s “proletarian democracy”, that is, what today is called popular or socialist democracy, aimed in the opposite direction. Only the hangers-on, like Lenin’s “flunkies” of the bourgeoisie, or academics blinded to real life by bourgeois propaganda and benefits, fail to see the difference. Capitalists speak hypocritically of democracy while constantly creating obstacles to its realization and reinforcing their own dominant position by twisting and distorting the very legality of their state. Therefore the urgent necessity of preparing the masses, in 1920 Russia, as well as the USA and Europe in the year 2009. The exploiters today must be turned into pariahs, as Lenin preached. “We shall not give you any bread, for in our proletarian republic the exploiters will have no rights….” (Ibid. Vol. XXII, p. 375)
“If we are not anarchists, we must admit that the state, i.e. coercion, is necessary for the transition from capitalism to socialism. The form of coercion is determined by the degree of the development of the given revolutionary class….” (Selected Works, Russian Edition, Vol. 2, p. 280)
The USA and Europe have forgotten their revolutionary heritage: the very birth of the United States of America and in Europe the great English and French revolutions. Since it is difficult to even imagine a revolutionary class in the USA, the work of the individual revolutionary today must be one of education and indoctrination. Yet, meanwhile, as Lenin and Marx prophesied, capitalism is digging its own grave as seen everyday in the chaos of its monetary system so aptly described on these pages by Mike Whitney and others. As Henry Ford said, “It is well that the people of this nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be revolution before tomorrow morning.” Capitalism today as anyone with eyes to see knows is in its death throes. The multiple crises, which proponents of the capital faith have engineered themselves, were foreseen quite clearly by Socialist thinkers beginning with Marx and Lenin.
Samuel Gompers, founder of the AFL, was an early proponent of class collaboration with business and a fierce anti-communist. Throughout his life he was to fight to keep unions confined to “economic demands” such as better wages, better working conditions, and so on, without ever questioning the right of businessmen and assorted oligarchs to do as they please with the firms under their control. Gompers attitudes of “business unionism” prevail to this day, and reached their peak under the leadership of George Meany who, in terms of domestic and foreign policies, and especially chauvinism, was even more to the right than the capitalist elites themselves.
Meany’s tenure as American labor’s chief extended from the critical late 1930s to the 1970s (chauvinist to the core, he was an unflagging supporter of the Vietnam War and other imperial interventions). His leadership set the stage for the disintegration of labor as a major progressive player in US politics to this day.
Peter Chamberlain writes in his fine essay, Sermon From The Corporate Church, “Faith in the infallibility of capitalism and the belief that it is the answer to mankind’s problems permeate American culture” to the extent that the suggestion to a true believer that capitalism is a doomed religion or intrinsically harmful to mankind is unnerving. The hard truth is that trying to save capitalism from its own contradictions is an impossible task that wastes all the money spent trying, while the world reels from the multiple crises spun-off by the dying impostor “god.”
Chamberlain goes on to say in a Marxist-Leninist manner that the masters of deception have interwoven faith in capital with patriotic belief, while depicting doubters as “Communist.” Those who resist the plan for a global empire built on the graves of billions of “useless eaters” are considered enemies of mankind, communists, terrorists, or common criminals. Even though resistance to a plan of mass genocide is obviously an act of self-defense, those who dare to do so are marked as extremists and terrorists, targeted for death or incarceration in the war on terror. Real patriots should instead seethe with anger since America itself is the final target marked for destruction in the envisioned New [Imperial] Order.
Stalinism and the limits on civil liberties seen in Soviet Russia during periods of enormous social stress, much of it induced from abroad, such as the Nazi invasion in WW2, have been the chief factors in capitalism’s condemnation of and attacks on Communism in general, while, as seen today, capitalism has resorted to the same tactics it has criticized in the name of salvation of a rotten and declining system.
Lenin instead made no excuses for the emergency in the Russia he ripped from the hands of the Tsarist state. “We are not going to let ourselves be deceived by such high-sounding slogans like freedom, equality, and the will of the majority, and those who call themselves democrats, the partisans of pure democracy, consistent democracy, directly or indirectly opposing it to the dictatorship of the proletariat…. We declare that we are fighting capitalism as such, the free, republican, democratic capitalism included, and we realize, of course, that in this light the banner of freedom will be waved defiantly at us. But our answer is … every freedom is a fraud if it contradicts the interests of the emancipation of labour from the oppression of capital.” (Collected Works, 1923 Edition, Vol. XIV, pp. 80-1, 203-4)
For Lenin and his Bolsheviks capitalist society was based on the exploitation of labour. A small minority owns everything (more so today than in Lenin’s time); the working masses own nothing. The capitalists command. The workers obey. The capitalists exploit. The workers are exploited. The essence of capitalist society, its irreversible dynamic, is found in the ever-increasing exploitation of everything in sight—from human beings to beast and, of course, nature itself. Capitalist production is the instrument for the extraction of the surplus value created by labour. The only way to rectify matters is to rip power from capitalist hands.
For Lenin, dictatorship was equivalent to a state of war. Though in his late period around 1923 the military invasions to topple the new socialist regime in Russia had ended (in defeat), the new Soviet Russia was isolated, he noted, however not entirely because the international bourgeoisie was not in a position to wage open war on the revolutionary state. Even then capitalism had to reckon with the opposition on the part of the working classes. So the war between Socialism and capitalism continued in his time and continues down to our day.
“Ideological talk and phrase-mongering about political liberties should be dispensed with; all that is just mere chatter and phrase-mongering. We should get away from those phrases.
“… The ‘freer’, or more ‘democratic’ a bourgeois country is, the more fiercely does the capitalist gang rage against workers’ revolution; this is exemplified by the democratic republic of the United States of America.” (ibid, 1923 Edition, Vol. XVIII, pp. 100, 375)
PARTY UNIFICATION AND UNITY
Lenin’s small book What Is To Be Done, intended as a work of orthodox Marxism though adapted to Russia’s backwardness and still developing workers movement, contained Lenin’s ideas on party organization, to become known as “Leninist.” It attracted hardliners and repentant doubters alike who combined to form Bolshevik leadership. What differentiated Lenin from other Social Democratic leaders was his meaning of unification. He meant the uniting of all Marxist circles into a centrally controlled and homogeneous All-Russian Bolshevik Party, with a Marxist program as interpreted by himself. The center would safeguard the purity of doctrine and action of the party to what he called “proletarian discipline.” In fact, much of this work is an attack on the intelligentsia, which was, in his words, “careless and sluggish.” I still remember when the Italian Communist Party (PCI), one-third of the Italian electorate and the biggest in the West, discussed for years the retention or abolition of the rule of “democratic centralism”, according to which once a decision was made, obedience to it was obligatory. That one rule was the glue that held divergent elements together. The rule was abolished and soon after the PCI began its decline. For Lenin, everything had already been settled. It was time to act.
LENIN, STREET FIGHTER
Lenin once wrote in instructions sent from exile in Geneva back to Russia: “An oppressed class which does not strive to use arms, to obtain arms, deserves to be treated as slaves.” From the 1905 revolution on, Lenin urged the necessity of arming the people. “Those who do not prepare for armed uprising must be ruthlessly cast out of the ranks of the supporters of the revolution and sent back to the ranks of its enemies, traitors or cowards….” (A letter of 16 October, 1905 cited by Bertram Wolfe)
Lenin wrote in the language of terrorists, of ‘rifles, revolvers, bombs, knives, brass knuckles, clubs, rags soaked in oil, shovels for building barricades, dynamite, mobility, use of women and children, unarmed combatants.’ No other Bolshevik leaders used such language. To understand Lenin as a revolutionist one must keep also his readiness for violence in mind. Such words alienated some intellectuals but they attracted fighting types ready to mount the barricades. He organized a secret military conference of representatives of such fighting companies, in fact guerrilla bands springing up spontaneously in Russia, not only in the borderlands of Poland and in the Urals and Caucasus but also in Moscow and St. Petersburg, some were ordinary bandits and the Lumpenproletariat who joined in with types like Stalin in the robbery and pillage to support the revolution. Though Lenin eventually condemned the armed bands he secretly directed them in their proletarian “expropriations”, a widespread and popular activity in Italy of the 1970s and 80s and always a harbinger of revolt, rebellion and revolution. If predictions of waves of riots and sackings in the USA occur this upcoming autumn, the Washington government is going to need its troops at home to maintain order. Once that happens, no one can predict what will happen next.
In 1925, in the book, Against The Stream, co-written with fellow Bolshevik, Zinoviev, Lenin underlined the “absolute law of capitalism” according to which economic and political development is uneven around the world. That reality made possible the victory of Socialism in only a few or even in only one country. The proletariat of that country would then rise and lead the struggle against the capitalist world, attracting to itself the oppressed classes of other countries. Incite revolts among them against capitalists and come out with armed forces against the exploiting classes and their states.
That fundamental idea of a chain reaction of anti-capitalist revolution stood behind leftwing terrorists in Europe of the 1970s and 80, The Red Brigades in Italy and Rote Armée Fraktion in Germany. Lenin firmly believed workers in the developed countries would eventually disrupt capitalist war policies. To some extent we saw a reflection of his prediction during the Vietnam War, although it was chiefly youth and not workers who helped end that capitalist war. Unfortunately however his predictions have not yet materialized; brainwashed workers have remained attached to their tiny piece of the capitalist pie … or they did until this crisis. Now, as four million more workers stand to lose their jobs in the USA alone, the working class is stirring, riots and revolts threaten, perhaps in the beginning in a war among the poor, whites against the rest, natives against immigrants, homeless against landlords, a war which must inevitably turn against the bourgeois masters of all.
Therefore, Lenin wrote confidently “as long as capitalism and Socialism remain, we cannot live in peace. In the end one or the other will triumph—a funeral requiem will be sung either over the Soviet Republic or over world capitalism. Either Socialism would triumph throughout the world or the most reactionary imperialism would win, the most savage imperialism which is out to throttle the small and feeble nationalities … all over the world.” That imperialist triumph came to be called globalization. The Soviet Union collapsed but capitalism’s victory soon soured in the hubris and arrogance of power, and today in the withering away of even the myth of capitalist power.
ON WAR, NATIONAL DEFENSE AND PEACE
Wars will always be imperialist if fought by capitalist-run nations. War ceases to be imperialist when capitalism is overthrown and the revolutionary proletariat stands at the helm of state. According to Lenin, to defend one’s own nation (a capitalist nation) is a betrayal of Socialism and internationalism. The German or Frenchman or American who defends his own capitalist nation puts his own bourgeoisie above the interests of his class and thus participates in imperialist war. To recognize defense of one’s fatherland means to recognize the legitimacy and justice of war. In Leninist thought even the most democratic bourgeois republic is never more than an instrument for the suppression of the workers by capitalists. Imperialist wars are by their nature reactionary, against the peoples’ interest. War waged by the exploiting class in order to strengthen its rule, as in Iraq and Afghanistan today, is by its very nature a criminal war. On the other hand, war for the extending of Socialism is legitimate. Lenin writes that the birth of Socialism in one country gives rise not only to friction but also to an outright endeavour by the bourgeois of other countries to crush the victorious proletariat of the socialist state. Lenin gives another and unfamiliar twist to the nature of war: “The character of the war (whether reactionary or revolutionary)… is determined by the class that is waging the war and the politics of which this war is the continuation.” In that sense, wars between imperialist powers of his time, “are to our advantage”, for example, the antagonism between Japan and America which Lenin underlined. Or between America and the rest of the capitalist world today. Anti-Americanism in Europe today confirms Lenin’s evaluation of the 1920s, nearly a century ago: “America is strong, everybody is in debt to her (or was until not long ago!) … she is more and more hated, she is robbing everybody …. America cannot come to terms with Europe—that is a fact proved by history.”
A study of America’s wars since World War II shows clearly their nature. Thus every American worker, myself and most readers, who has gone to one of America’s wars has contributed to imperialist wars. He does not realize that he is only a plaything in the hands of the imperialist bourgeoisie. (Lenin’s words) By the same token the Russian Revolution showed how it is possible to emerge from an imperialist war: by revolutionary methods.
REVOLUTIONARIES AND THE NECESSITY OF GOOD HEALTH
Lenin’s good health was no less legendary than his playfulness, penchant for practical jokes and love for children. Trotsky writes in My Life that “his health seemed to be one of the indestructible pillars of the revolution. He always active, alert, even-tempered and joyous.” He was always concerned about the health of his fellow revolutionaries and liked to quote the prediction of an anti-Communist émigré that of the revolutionaries “the old men will die and young ones will surrender.” Therefore his strokes and declining health was an overwhelming blow to revolutionary Russia and world Socialism. “It seemed as if the revolution itself were holding its breath,” Trotsky writes. “Classes are led by parties, and parties are led by individuals who are called leaders …” Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder (April 1920), to be found in the first Russian edition of Lenin’s Collected Works of 1923, edited by Kamenev. Vol.17, p.133. We need such leaders, and in good health.
SIGNIFICANCE OF LENINIST VISION FOR US TODAY
Noting that the US Army 3rd Infantry’s 1st Brigade Combat Team returned from Iraq some months ago and “may be called upon to help with civil unrest and crowd control”, Professor Michel Chossudovsky puts forward the hypothesis that “Civil unrest resulting from the financial meltdown (of capitalism: my note) is a distinct possibility, given the broad impacts of financial collapse on lifelong savings, pension funds, homeownership, etc”.
Shortly afterwards, the Centre for Research on Globalization website posted an article written by Wayne Madsen who refers to a highly confidential official report circulating among senior members of the US Congress and their top advisors. The report, allegedly nicknamed as the “C and R document”, standing for “conflict” and “revolution.” Such scenarios are plausible consequences triggered by a financial meltdown. The document reveals that severe financial chaos could spark a major war if Washington refuses to honor its foreign debt and/or massive riots in US cities if the American population does not accept a considerable tax increase. Senior American statesmen are taking into consideration that financial volatility could fuel a wave of discontent, which could reach troubling proportions. America itself is not immune from “regime-threatening instability” as the Pentagon and the American intelligence community terms it. It is likely that American government officials have been preparing for the worst-case scenario.
(1) “Dictatorship” is both a technical and rhetorical term. In Marxian use, it refers to the unrestrained or predominant use of state power by one class, the ruling class, to contain, repress, and exploit another. In the current phase of history, where the masses, “the proletariat,” struggle with the global superrich (the bourgeoisie) and their standing armies and retainers, and water carriers, “Dictatorship” applies to the “dictatorship of the bourgeoisie.” The following serves to clarify this central concept a bit further:
What is the Dictatorship of the Proletariat? The fundamental difference between reformists and centrists of all varieties on the one hand, and revolutionary Marxists, i.e., Bolshevik-Leninists, on the other regarding the conquest of state power, the need for a socialist revolution, the nature of the proletarian state, and the meaning of the dictatorship of the proletariat does not lie in defense of a multiparty system by the former and a one-party system by the latter. Nor does it lie in defense of unrestricted democratic freedoms by the former and defense of severe restriction, or even suppression, of democratic freedoms by the latter. Any attempt to identify the difference between reformists and revolutionists primarily in this way distorts the basic lessons of three~quarters of a century of historical experiences with revolutions and counterrevolutions and objectively represents a grave concession to reformism itself. ??The fundamental differences between reformists and revolutionary Marxists on the key issue of state power consist of:??a. The clear recognition by revolutionary Marxists of the class nature of all states and of the state apparatus as an instrument for maintaining class rule.??b. The illusion upheld by the reformists that “democracy” or “democratic state institutions” stand above classes and the class struggle.??c. The clear recognition by revolutionary Marxists that the state apparatus and state institutions of even the most democratic bourgeois state serve to uphold the power and rule of the capitalist class and cannot be instruments with which to overthrow that rule and transfer power from the capitalist class to the working class.??d. The clear recognition by revolutionary Marxists, flowing from these considerations, that the conquest of power by the working class requires the destruction of the bourgeois state apparatus, in the first place of the repressive apparatus of the bourgeoisie.??e. The necessary conclusion drawn by revolutionary Marxists as a consequence: that the working class can exercise state power only within the framework of state institutions of a type different from those of the bourgeois state, state institutions arising out of’ sovereign and democratically elected and centralized workers councils (soviets), with the fundamental characteristics outlined by Lenin in State and Revolution – the election of all functionaries, judges, leaders of the workers or workers and peasants militias, and all delegates representing the toilers in state institutions; regular rotation of elected officials; restriction of their income to that of skilled workers; the right to recall them at any time; parallel exercise of legislative and executive power by soviet-type institutions; radical reduction of the number of permanent functionaries and greater and greater transfer of administrative functions to bodies run by the toilers. ??In other words, a qualitative growth of direct democracy as contrasted to indirect, representative democracy. As Lenin said, the workers state is the first state in human history that upholds the rule of the majority of the population against exploitative and oppressed minorities. “Instead of the special institutions of a privileged minority (privileged officialdom, the chiefs of the standing army), the majority itself can directly fulfill all these functions, and the more the functions of a state power are performed by the people as a whole, the less need there is for the existence of this power.”
(2) The “proletariat” is another Marxian technical term which many Americans, due to lack of education and longterm political indoctrination by the system (media, churches, etc.) find exotic or alien to their way of thinking. Its modern meaning is simply “those who need a job, must work for a living,” must sell the only thing they have, their labor—physical or mental—to maintain a decent livelihood, or any livelihood at all. Thus, what Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, or David Rockefeller, or Hank Paulson, or even Oprah Winfrey do everyday as they head for their offices “to work” does not fall into this category because, being multimillionaires or billionaires already, the loss of such occupations would not throw them into certain destitution. They can retire tomorrow and live opulently for the rest of their lives on the basis of their accumulated assets, which, in most cases, would continue to provide income. Thus, a more precise term for what such personages like Gates, Rockefeller, Buffet, etc, do at “work” would be “administrating and expanding their fortunes”. This fact does not change no matter how many hours they put in each day pursuing such activities, nor, for that matter, whether the fortune in question was inherited or the product of personal exertion. Self-made billionaires such as McDonald’s chief Ray Kroc exemplify the latter category.
Gaither Stewart, Senior Editor and European Correspondent for Cyrano’s Journal Online, is a novelist and journalist based in Italy. His stories, essays and dispatches are read widely throughout the Internet on many leading venues. His recent novel, Asheville, is published by Wastelandrunes, (www.wastelandrunes.com).
Patrice Greanville is Cyrano’s Journal’s founder and editor in chief.
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