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Had Lenin lived longer, he would have rectified inherent defects of Soviets, invited dissent

By Harsh Thakor* 
A century has passed, since his death, on January 21st, but Lenin or Vladmir Illyich Ulyanov still holds the mantle of the proletariat and the oppressed peoples of the world. Today, a century since the biological death of the legendary Bolshevik revolutionary, Lenin's legacy still shimmers like an inextinguishable lamp. 
No character as much influenced the course of the 20th Century as Lenin, who defined a new epoch and constructed the first ever workers state.
It was the sheer genius of Lenin to crystallise the theory of Marx in a concrete form to give birth or shape to the first workers state.
Lenin, manifesting Marxist genius, carved the "three fundamental ideological currents" of Marxism to the conditions of the epoch in which he lived. Lenin developed the revolutionary teachings of Marx and Engels elevating on these three foundations in the furnace of the socialist revolution in the historical conditions of the age of imperialism and elevated Marxism to the stage of Leninism.
Lenin gave birth to the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions and concretised Marx’s concept of the dictatorship of the Proletariat. Leninism is the Marxism of the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. 
Lenin devoted his whole life to the Russian proletariat and the oppressed people of various nations and nationalities, to the proletarian world revolution, to the international proletariat and the oppressed world rights, with no drop of personal interest; who worked tirelessly for this purpose, who suffered imprisonments and exiles, who led the October revolution of 1917.
Even bourgeois historians glorified Lenin’s role and described him as a highly humane figure.
The name of Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov  is glorified with two dialectically connected issues. One is his being the architect of 20th century's greatest turning point the 1917 Great October Socialist Revolution.  
The other is his development of the revolutionary theory of Marx and Engels to formulate the theory of imperialism.  Led by Lenin, the Bolshevik Party carved the class struggle of the Russian proletariat and the other oppressed popular strata, especially the poor peasants. The revolutionary activity of the Bolsheviks crystallised triumph of the proletariat with the Great October Socialist Revolution and planted the seeds for the building of Socialism for the first time in history. The leadership of Vladimir I. Lenin defined the leading role of the Communist Party for the seizure of power and the roots for socialist construction.
The scientific work of Lenin is an ornament for the international communist movement as, his work manifested all the components of Marxism- in philosophy, political economy and scientific communism. His theoretical derivations and calculations for Imperialism -- as the highest stage of Capitalism, are as relevant as ever in this day and age. 
Lenin left no stone unturned in giving a blow to every revisionist or reformist bending of the revolutionary theory. He evaluated the fight against opportunism as an imperative task for the victory of the socialist revolution and, on the same time, refuted the so-called pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric and adventurism.
The counter-revolutionary toppling of regimes in the Soviet Union and the socialist countries in eastern Europe in 1989-1991 paved the way for various imperialists and apologists of the bourgeoisie to launch a tirade against Lenin and to degrade Socialism-Communism. They even projected the ideological demise of Marxism-Leninism, proclaiming the so-called “end of history”. The devastation of capitalism, which breeds extreme poverty, social inequalities, unemployment and bloody wars, proves that Marxism-Leninism not only is vibrant, but the only remedy to extinguish capitalist barbarity.
Political Life of Lenin 
Lenin received his revolutionary baptism in a Marxist circle in University of Kazan. In  the same year as his brother was executed. After joining a workers study circle he was soon arrested and expelled from the University. After being released he moved to Samara where he established his own Marxist study circle and by 1985 in St Petersburg, he knitted  all the Marxist circles into a single league of struggle for the emancipation of the working class.
Within those forums Lenin waged a struggle against Narodniks. They idealised the peasantry, negated need for development of capitalism and visualised village communes as basis for socialism. Lenin also ideologically confronted Marxists who championed legalism In 1894 Lenin wrote, “Who are the friends of the People and how do they fight for social democracy inspite of anti-capitalist conceptions.” Here he illustrated the course of economic development, the role of the working class in shaping the Revolution, and the imperative steps to build a social democratic party.
In 1894, through economic content of Narodnik theory and its criticism in Mr Struve’s book, he launched an attack on legal Marxism. Lenin and group of revolutionary Marxists, organised groups of workers from St Petersburg factories, launching combined agitations and organisation of the workers on the basis of their immediate conditions and imparting elementary forms of struggle to school workers in political understanding, in the principles of Marxism, and in the consciousness of their political role as the future leader in the Revolution. It synthesised revolutionary political struggle with the daily class struggle. In 1895  Lenin and his group formed the Union for the Struggle and emancipation of the working class, which escalated a strike movement in Petrograd, Lenin was arrested, when working for a newspaper ‘The Workers Cause’, being exiled to three years in prison, in Siberia.
Lenin waged a relentless and uncompromising battle against opportunist tendencies, which was reflected in ‘What to Do’, published in 1902.It manifested the leading political role of Social Democracy and that spontaneous class struggle of the workers against the capitalists, does not produce socialist consciousness ,but mere trade Union consciousness.
The division of Bolshevism and Menshevism traces from the second Congress of the Russian Social Democratic Party, in 1903.However they were already on opposing pole s with regards to relationship with the liberal bourgeoise, conception of the revolution, and conception of the party. Bolsheviks opposed the line of the liberal bourgeoisie, asserted that revolution could only succeed with the alliance of the working class and the peasantry, and insisted that the party must be confined of advanced political elements in a tightly knit body, all in abject contrast to the Mensheviks.
From 1914, Lenin was in the forefront in the struggle for International Socialism, Through a set of speeches, articles, resolution and brochures and direct contact with representatives from other countries Lenin proclaimed that the First World War was an imperialist War, a war of the great Imperialist powers, of finance capitalist groups, patronising world profits and world plunder and territorial annexations. Second that they had to take on the mission of converting imperialist wars of their countries, into a civil war, to dislodge the capitalist class. Finally, the collapse of the second International was an inevitable outcome of the opportunist degeneration of the old Socialist parties.
The features of the victory of the Revolution in Russia, were eight months of burning unfolding of class struggle, of successively clearer illustration of the role of each class and it’s representatives, and of the massive political development and awakening of the masses to the boiling point, with fusion of workers and peasants creating people’s governments .The Bolshevik party propelled this development.
The conflicting tactics of Bolshevism and Menshevism were illustrated in the 1905 revolution. The Mensheviks visualised the task of workers struggles to propel the bourgeoisie in the leadership of the revolution. The Bolsheviks, waged a struggle for the leading role of the proletariat ,and thus built the political character of the strike movement, carved out a new agrarian programme to integrate peasant’s struggle for land into general struggle and elevated mass struggle to the highest point, in the December armed rising in Moscow.
Bolsheviks turned from a minority, rapidly turned into majority. On April 16th, Lenin arrived in Petrograd, which was turning point for Bolshevik ascendancy. He wrote his April thesis which chartered the programme of establishment of power of Soviets of Workers Deputies. It advocated no concession to prospects of capital, recognition of stage of conquest of power of workers and peasantry, support to provisional government, creation of republic of Soviet workers and Peasant deputies, nationalisation of land and management by peasant’s soviets and independent organisation of peasants and agricultural labourers, nationalisation of banks into one central bank, creation of new, revolutionary International.
The Bolsheviks heroically combated an attack by Kornilov, in July, sponsored by Kerensky. After Lenin arrived in Petrograd the complexion completely changed Eight months spanning from March to November, portrayed Lenin’s mastery in leadership. On October 23rd, the Central Committee adopted the final decision of the insurrection by a vote of all against two. On the night of November 6th and 7th the capture of power took place with perfect precision, with the provisional government with their backs totally to the wall, completely isolated. In complete contrast to the March revolution, the Bolshevik revolution was bloodless, in fact the most bloodless sin history. It was the most democratic revolution in history, with the second Soviet Congress, illustrating the clearest majority of the Bolsheviks before seizure of power, and later, when in the civil war, the counter revolutionary generals could only stage resistance with foreign arms, subsidise and troops.
The contribution of Lenin in preserving or sharpening the world revolution is an epic in itself. It encompasses his combat against the chain of world enemies; to construct the new order in Russia-Lenin unflinchingly consolidated the Soviet government and the Communist International. during period of 1917-1923, championing the world revolutionary wave. The period uncovered field of world politics, civil war, relations with imperialist powers, constructing the new Soviet Democracy, advancing the new economic order towards Socialism, relations with the peasantry, new Communist International etc. In Lenin’s last phase, his most innovative decisions were in the Brest –Litovsk treaty, showing tactical mastery :introducing New Economic policy, where in spite of allowing for private plots he retained a workers state: and the completion of the Communist International in 1920. His major achievement was giving a humiliation or mortal blow to conspiracies of imperialism  by invigorating the mass resistance of  not only the Red Army and the Industrial Workers, but also of the peasantry in regions the white guards overran.
Teachings of Lenin 
Lenin’s teachings encompass developing dialectical materialism in opposition to mechanical materialism, discovering epoch of imperialism, contriving the World Revolution, reviving dictatorship of the proletariat, analysing national and Colonial Liberation, and tactics and organisation of Revolution.
While Marxism is the theory of the period of relatively peaceful development of capitalism, Leninism is the theory of the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. It sprouted amidst in war and tested in practice. In a nutshell, Leninism represents the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general and the theory and tactics of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular.
Lenin made qualitative contributions to Marxism by saying that "revolutionary theory is not a birth" and "it emerges only in close connection with the practice of a truly revolutionary movement", that revolutionary theory must serve the practice, that "there can be no revolutionary movement without revolutionary theory."
Lenin formulated the basic foundations on which Marxism was founded during the period of imperialism. With the contributions of Comrade Lenin, the science of Marxism at the stage of Leninism; The proletarian party, revolutionary violence, the state, the dictatorship of the proletariat, imperialism, the peasant question, the women's question, the national question, the imperialist war of division and the understanding of the tactics of the proletarian class struggle, etc. has been elevated to a much more advanced stage.
The theory of materialism developed by Lenin and his definition of matter sharpened the foundations of Marxist philosophical materialism. Lenin's analysis of imperialism as the highest stage of capitalism is a landmark contribution to Marxism. He scientifically explained the transformation of capitalism from the pre-monopoly capitalist stage to the monopoly stage and how this highest stage of capitalism leads to wars and revolutions. Imperialist war is the continuation of imperialist policy, the highest and last stage of capitalism, and thus the precursor of the proletarian revolution.
Another great contribution of Lenin was to project the necessity for the proletariat to overthrow the bourgeois state mechanism and to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat in its place.
In his 'State and Revolution' published in 1918 Lenin in most comprehensively defined the bourgeois state and how any multiple party bourgeois democratic system was morally  a dictatorship of the bourgeoisie. Lenin refuted the Bukharinist view of the state immediately withering away after the revolution, dismissing it as an idealist view insisting  on an alternative state machinery It was the most comprehensive work on how proletarian power would be established in the new state.
Lenin's direct and simple definition of the State is that "the State is a special organisation of force: it is an organisation of violence for the suppression of some class." To decide once every few years which member of the ruling class is to repress and crush the people through parliament - this is the real essence of bourgeois parliamentarism, not only in parliamentary-constitutional monarchies, but also in the most democratic republics" 
Citing Friedrich Engels and Karl Marx, Lenin scrutinies theoretical questions about the existence of the State after the proletarian revolution.
Since capitalism develops unevenly in various countries, socialism is first established in one or a few countries, in a weak link of the imperialist chain. Capitalist countries will help the imperialists to mobilize against the newly developing socialist states. Thus the socialist states must be preserved and the world socialist revolution must be achieved. 
As regards the organization of the Party, he said, “The party must have a very wide network of members and a core of professional revolutionaries. Such a political party must necessarily fuse with the people and attach great importance to the creative initiative of the people in the construction of history.” He also contributed to the working style of the party and developed the Leninist understanding of the party.
The Leninist understanding of the national question was an innovation. Lenin explained that all nationalities have the right to full equality, the right to self-determination, including secession, and ultimately the right to form a federation of all nationalities. He explained how the national and colonial question is an integral part of the general question of the world proletarian revolution. According to Lenin's national and colonial thesis, proletarian revolutionary movements and the colonies of the capitalist countries advocated allying themselves with national liberation movements. 
Lenin founded the Third International immediately after the end of the imperialist war of division, converting it into a powerful sword of the international proletariat in the struggle against imperialism He inspired the international proletariat and the oppressed peoples of the world realized that liberation was possible.
 Lenin and Leninism as the leader gave birth to the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions, is the Marxism of the epoch of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. 
What distinguishes Lenin from other Marxists of his era is the fact that he did not confine himself within the generalized critique of capitalism.
Lenin utilized the fundamental tendencies of capitalism, which had already been described by Marx and Engels, in order to analyze and characterise the major features of capitalism in the historical period of the First World War. The Leninist theory not only to the last inch summed up the characteristics of monopoly capitalism but, furthermore, became the theoretical guide which shaped the victorious revolutionary strategy of the 1917 October Revolution.
Lenin's remarkable work “Imperialism: the highest stage of capitalism” discovered  that in order to successfully utilise or capitalise on  the inter-imperialist contradictions it was necessary to establish the independence of the revolutionary vanguard of the working class (Communist Party) from the goals  of any imperialist alliance, and secondly, the consistent road  of the Communist Parties towards the revolutionary overthrow of the domestic bourgeois class, both in period of imperialist war or imperialist peace time.  The above illustrates today’s inter-imperialist contradictions and rivalries between major capitalist centers (USA, EU, Russia, China, etc) in Ukraine and the Middle East. The activity of the Bolsheviks which led to the victory of the 1917 October Revolution was a shining illustration that the working class movement in every country must not turn subservient to the objectives of the local bourgeois class, nor it should trail the goals of any of the competing imperialist centers.
Conclusion
Today even in digital age, with advent of globalisation or neo-colonialism, Leninism is as applicable as 100 years ago. The world is experiencing an economic crisis and penetration of imperialism, at magnitude unscaled. 
Leninism is still the principle Marxism of today or principal link   between Marx and Mao, being the era of ‘imperialism and proletarian Revolution’ as defined by Lenin. Even if Mao Tse Tung elevated Leninism to a new height through the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution or discovering military line for the proletariat, his formulations in every sphere were an integral part of Leninism. 
Leninism should be defended tooth and nail to quell the tide of counter revolutionary trends be it the New Left, Trotskyite, revisionist or post-Maoist. It must be exposed that historically Leon Trotsky was an enemy of Leninism and never chosen as his successor.
Still I would not completely adhere with the Leninist model of the vanguard party or one party state. Possibly had Lenin lived longer, he may have rectified inherent defects within the Soviets and the party, to create the egalitarian society visualised by Marx, inviting greater dissent. We must remember that even in Lenin’s era bureaucratisation was a predominant feature of the Soviets, with vanguardist tendencies of the Bolshevik party replacing the Soviets. In my opinion Karl Marx would not have found USSR of 1917-1923, the utopian state he foresaw.
---
*Freelance journalist

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