DONATE NOW TO HELP UPGRADE LIBCOM.ORG

Why Leninism and Bolshevism Are Not the Same by Marcel van der Linden

10 posts / 0 new
Last post
Craftwork's picture
Craftwork
Offline
Joined: 26-12-15
May 26 2019 14:09
Why Leninism and Bolshevism Are Not the Same by Marcel van der Linden

Interesting article:

https://pure.knaw.nl/portal/files/5751612/Russian_Revolution_EPW_4_11_17...

Red Marriott's picture
Red Marriott
Offline
Joined: 7-05-06
May 26 2019 18:45
article wrote:
A typical feature of the pre-war period of party work was its lack of intellectuals. The exodus of intellectuals that had begun in 1906 and 1907 meant that party workers, full-time staff and so on were workers. There was so little of the intelligentsia left that it barely suffi ced to meet the needs of the Duma faction and the daily paper. [The place of the intelligentsia was taken by] the intellectual proletarian with his calloused hands and highly developed head who had not lost contact with the masses.Instead of the student youth and intellectuals of 1903–5, only workers were in evidence in the war years. Likewise, the secret meeting-places in flats and lodging-houses were all in working-class districts and in workers’ fl ats. Intellectuals were a rare exception. Of the old party in-telligentsia there remained very few who had maintained their ties with the workers.[From 1916 this changed again:] The turning-point in the mood of the people and the growth of opposition among even the bourgeoisie drove into our ranks no small number of student activists.

If the above statement by Shliapnikov is true it seems all the more surprising that by 1917 the Party members of upper class origin should quickly again come to dominate; according to this questionnaire - https://libcom.org/history/social-origin-educational-level-chief-bolshev... - out of 29 leading Party members only four or five were workers or peasants, the rest being from upper classes.

Elysard
Offline
Joined: 22-02-18
May 5 2020 12:45

The intellectuals of the party, were in fact only half-intellectuals or quarter-intellectuals, by which I mean that they were rather failed intellectuals. Most of them had fled repression after the 1905 revolution and had left the workers on their own.

After the beginning of the revolution they had flocked back to resume their function as self-proclaimed leaders of the working class. Lenin came back in April 1917.

On the level of these party intellectuals, it is enough to remember that Bukharin, described by all as "the greatest party intellectual," "understood nothing of dialectics," according to Lenin.

Krupskaia, Lenin's wife, complained that there were practically no workers at the head of the Party.
Schliapnikov, one of the leaders on the Workers' Opposition, was one of the rare authentic workers: he was a metalworker, but he was accused by Lenin of "anarcho-syndicalist déviation".
Kollontai, the other well known leader of the Workers' Opposition, was a noble.

Dyjbas
Offline
Joined: 15-05-15
May 5 2020 16:26
Elysard wrote:
Most of them had fled repression after the 1905 revolution and had left the workers on their own. After the beginning of the revolution they had flocked back to resume their function as self-proclaimed leaders of the working class. Lenin came back in April 1917.

Ah yes, they left workers on their own, unlike the real anarchist revolutionaries Kropotkin, Karelin, Grossman-Roshchin, Rayevsky, Cherkezishvili-Cherkezov, Schapiro, Shatov, Machajski, and Volin who... all also returned to Russia only after the February Revolution.

Get some perspective.

Elysard wrote:
The intellectuals of the party, were in fact only half-intellectuals or quarter-intellectuals, by which I mean that they were rather failed intellectuals. [...] Krupskaia, Lenin's wife, complained that there were practically no workers at the head of the Party. Schliapnikov, one of the leaders on the Workers' Opposition, was one of the rare authentic workers: he was a metalworker, but he was accused by Lenin of "anarcho-syndicalist déviation". Kollontai, the other well known leader of the Workers' Opposition, was a noble.

As opposed to "conscience-stricken noblemen like Bakunin, Kropotkin, Cherkezov, and Bidbei; apostate seminarians like Kolosov of the Beznachalie group or the Anarcho-Syndicalist leader, Maksimov [...] and declasse intellectuals like Volin and Lev Chemyi"?

Elysard
Offline
Joined: 22-02-18
May 6 2020 09:54

Shliapnikov was talking about the Bolsheviks, which is why I limited my remark to Bolshevik intellectuals.

Elysard
Offline
Joined: 22-02-18
May 8 2020 15:50

The examination of the Leninist point of view on the acquisition of revolutionary consciousness by the proletariat is interesting for two reasons :
1. Lenin is disqualified as a Marxist author ;
2. The class content of Leninism is revealed.

Lenin’s theory is nothing but a quasi-integral restatement of Kautsky’s positions. The class content of Leninism is limpid : it is the political doctrine of the layers of declassed bourgeois intellectuals posing as the self-proclaimed leadership of the working class and seeking in it a social basis for their ascent to political power. The reference to Marxism only serves to camouflage the political project of these social strata : Marxism serves them as an ideological alibi. I think it is a profound error to say that “Lenin is contained in Marx”. It is an oversimplification that handicaps any attempt to understand both Marxism and Leninism.

It must be made clear that in Marx there is nothing equivalent to the idea that the proletariat only gains revolutionary consciousness through bourgeois intellectuals... When he writes in the Manifesto that the communists “have over the rest of the proletariat [I emphasize] the advantage of a clear understanding of the conditions of the march and the general ends of the proletarian movement” and that among them there are bourgeois intellectuals who “by their labour have risen to the theoretical intelligence of the whole historical movement”, Marx shows that Leninism is totally outside the Marxist system of thought. In fact, on this question, Marx and Bakunin are absolutely on the same position : For the Russian revolutionary, intellectuals only put into words the aspirations of the people, they are only the “midwives of the thought” of the working class, as he writes.

There is a break, ontological, one would say, between socialism and class struggle, which “do not engender each other” because they “arise from different premises”, says Kautsky, the inspirer of Lenin : “Today’s socialist consciousness can arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge” and “the bearer of science is not the proletariat but the bourgeois intellectuals” [Kautsky’s emphasis] : “It is indeed in the brains of certain individuals of this category that contemporary socialism was born, and it is through them that it was communicated to the most intellectually advanced proletarians.” Socialist consciousness is an externally imported element in the struggle of the proletariat. Lenin reproduces in What is to be done ? Kautsky’s “profoundly right and very significant words”.

For Lenin, the gap is unbridgeable : “There can be no question of an independent ideology, elaborated by the working masses themselves in the course of their movement” ; therefore, there is no middle ground : bourgeois ideology or socialist ideology”. “Any diminution of the role of the ‘conscious element’, of the role of social democracy, means by this very fact (...) a reinforcement of bourgeois ideology on the workers.” (Lenin, What is to be done ?)

See full text:[b] http://monde-nouveau.net/ecrire/?exec=article&id_article=784[/b]

Dyjbas
Offline
Joined: 15-05-15
May 8 2020 19:01

I'll just refer you to this article by Draper, because arguing for the nth time with the ahistorical narrative according to which WITBD is some kind of original sin, or as if it's the only thing Lenin ever wrote, gets boring:

"Let us start with the myth which claims that, according to Lenin’s views in 1902 and forever, the workers cannot come to socialist ideas of themselves, that only bourgeois intellectuals are the carriers of socialist ideas. [...] It is a curious fact that no one has ever found this alleged theory anywhere else in Lenin’s voluminous writings, not before and not after WITBD. It never appeared in Lenin again. [...] The fact is that Lenin had just read this theory in the most prestigious theoretical organ of Marxism of the whole international socialist movement, the Neue Zeit. It had been put forward in an important article by the leading Marxist authority of the International, Karl Kautsky. [...] Why did Kautsky emphasize this view of socialist history at this time? The reason is perfectly clear: the new reformist wing of the movement, the Bernsteinian Revisionists, were arguing that all one needed was the ongoing movement of the workers, not theory; that the spontaneous class activity of the trade-union movement and other class movements was enough. “The movement is everything, the goal is nothing” was Bernstein’s dictum, thereby seeking to shelve theoretical considerations in favor of shortsighted concentration on the day-to-day problems. Reform was the concern of today (the movement); revolution had to do with tomorrow (theory). Kautsky’s generalization about the role of the “bourgeois intelligentsia” in importing socialist ideas into the raw class movement was one way, in his eyes, of undercutting the Revisionist approach."

Elysard
Offline
Joined: 22-02-18
May 10 2020 09:10

About Hal Draper

Referring to Hal Draper is probably the worst thing one can do if one wants to engage in a serious, honest and more or less objective debate. I had thought years ago to make an examination of all the nonsense he writes about anarchism, where he surpasses himself in bad faith, anachronisms and manipulations of texts. A friend in London had dissuaded me from wasting my time because no one reads him anymore, he said. Apparently, this is not the case.

In any case, to assert that the theses of What Is To Be Done? are an accident in Lenin's work is totally false, this thesis runs through the totality of his work and to assert the opposite is another manipulation by Hal Draper who plays on the ignorance of the readers, as I will show.

I don't think What Is To Be Done? is “some kind of original sin”; I only mentioned the book because I was commenting on an article written in 2017, that is to say recently, mentioning Lenin and Bolshevism. Therefore, talking about Lenin, Bolshevism and What is to be done? does not seem irrelevant or even “ahistorical” to me.
I agree with you, though, and with Draper, that this book should be put into context, but obviously we don't come to the same conclusion.

It is true that the beginning of the 20th century saw the debate on Bernstein's revisionism, it is a rather complex matter which I do not want to dwell on, but beyond the philosophical aspects, we must nevertheless remember that what triggered Bernstein's revisionism was the desire to put an end to the contradiction which existed within German social democracy between revolutionary discourse and reformist practice. In other words, he wanted to put an end to the hypocrisy that reigned in a party that claimed to be revolutionary but was not (and had never been) revolutionary. This required a certain amount of courage.

What seems to me ahistorical, or rather anachronistic, is that one can give the slightest credence to theses such as those developed in What Is To Be Done?
And I don't quite see how Kautsky's development of his theses on bourgeois intellectuals as bearers of socialism could be “one way, in his eyes, of undercutting [Bernstein's] Revisionist approach,” as Draper puts it.

That Kautsky found it necessary to emphasize the role of the revolutionary minority, the holders of “knowledge”, in “the most prestigious theoretical organ of Marxism of the whole international socialist movement, the Neue Zeit”, as Hal Draper writes, is not innocent. It is not something that can be described as merely factual. Kautsky was an extremely well known personality, an unavoidable figure in the socialist movement, and an article by him carried a lot of weight.

The fact that Lenin was inspired by this prestigious publication is not innocent either. But what in Kautsky's case was only a revolutionary discourse with no reality on the ground was taken to the letter by Lenin because it corresponded to his idea of the function of the party, of the function of what he called the “vanguard of the working class” represented by his party.

There is no mystery in Lenin's interest in Kautsky's theses: Lenin was in the midst of a battle with the Mensheviks on how to conceive the role and organization of the party. Against the Mensheviks, who saw the party as a relatively flexible organization, Lenin saw it as a rigid organization of disciplined professional revolutionaries. As a good Marxist, he had to justify his point of view with quotes from leading authors. Finding nothing that suited him in Marx, he turned to Kautsky.

The Bolsheviks’ obsessive discourse on the “vanguard” party is just another way of referring to bourgeois intellectuals as holders of “socialist” science, since the overwhelming majority of the leadership of the Party were bourgeois intelectuels. In reality, Lenin never gave up the idea that the working class can only reach by itself a reformist consciousness. I will limit myself to mentioning only one text that confirms my point of view, Lenin's speech at the 2nd Congress of the Communist International in June 1920, eighteen years after What is to be done? I won’t quote the whole text, which is quite long, it can be found here:

Quote:
https://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1920/jul/04.htm
(Theses on Fundamental Tasks of The Second Congress Of The Communist International”, 30 June, 1920. Lenin, Collected Works, 4th English Edition, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1965, Volume 31, pages 189-190 French Edition.)

Lenin says that the idea that workers can “achieve complete clarity of socialist consciousness” (...) is “idealisation of capitalism and of bourgeois democracy, as well as deception of the workers”.
Then he lists the conditions that will have to be fulfilled before the workers can attain socialist consciousness:

♦ The "vanguard of the proletariat" must first have overthrown capitalism;
♦ The masses will have to be “educated, trained and organised” beforehand;
♦ Only the Communist Party “ is capable of leading the proletariat”
♦ The workers will reach socialist conscienceness “only after they have been really emancipated from the yoke of the bourgeoisie and of the bourgeois machinery of state”:
♦ And when the Soviets have become the only state apparatus.

If I sum up, the workers will only be able to attain socialist consciousness after socialism is achieved! So I ask: what is the use of the working class if it cannot achieve socialism itself, and who achieves socialism in its place?

All this just doesn't make sense to me.

Hal Draper's assertions that Lenin's 1902 theses are a "myth" are completely false. It is also false to say that the idea that "the workers cannot come to socialist ideas of themselves" "never appeared in Lenin again" after 1902. To claim that Lenin had "abandoned" this idea is a lie. [Hal Draper, The Myth of Lenin's "Concept of The Party".]

However, this debate raises an important issue. The observation that we can make of the situation of the proletariat today, if we understand by this concept the definition given by the CGT-SR in the 1930s, obviously leads us to conclude that nowhere does it develop a revolutionary consciousness of its own. From this, can we deduce that the thesis of What Is To Be Done is right? If it had been right, the innumerable communist vanguards who have been claiming the leadership of the world proletariat since the Russian Revolution would have long since succeeded in instilling a revolutionary consciousness in it.

A dialectical approach of the question, which neither Kautsky nor Bernstein, and even less Lenin, had, would lead us to the conclusion that the revolutionary conscience comes to the masses only when the conditions make it necessary; that a long work of education, organization, experience of the struggles before the revolution is necessary; that no self-proclaimed “vanguard” can instil the revolutionary conscience if the conditions do not allow it. And if an organized revolutionary minority is necessary, it is not as a paternalistic tutor of the working class. In no way can it be said that "socialist consciousness" will come to the workers only after the "vanguard" has achieved socialism.

As for the rest, I stick to what I said about Bakunin.

Dyjbas
Offline
Joined: 15-05-15
May 10 2020 17:34

I linked to that particular Draper piece as it's good on revealing how WITBD had been distorted by Stalinists (a distortion which many anarchists nowadays buy into). What Draper says elsewhere about anarchism, or any other topic, is neither here nor there.

The last time that Lenin refers to WITBD is in 1907, just to say that "The basic mistake made by those who now criticise What Is To Be Done? is to treat the pamphlet apart from its connection with the concrete historical situation of a definite, and now long past, period in the development of our Party." In USSR, the obsession with WITBD was only revived in the late 1920s, under Stalin.

I don't understand your praise for Bernstein. He was courageous for being a reformist?

Elysard wrote:
A dialectical approach of the question, which neither Kautsky nor Bernstein, and even less Lenin, had, would lead us to the conclusion that the revolutionary conscience comes to the masses only when the conditions make it necessary; that a long work of education, organization, experience of the struggles before the revolution is necessary; that no self-proclaimed “vanguard” can instil the revolutionary conscience if the conditions do not allow it. And if an organized revolutionary minority is necessary, it is not as a paternalistic tutor of the working class. In no way can it be said that "socialist consciousness" will come to the workers only after the "vanguard" has achieved socialism.

And I can't tell if this is serious. Are you really saying that Kautsky, Bernstein and Lenin, unlike you, all failed to consider if the conditions are right? grin

Anyway, this discussion was already covered in this thread. Where I pointed out that Lenin's conception was far from black and white, and that Marx in fact agreed that "The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas [...] Both for the production on a mass scale of communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men [sic] on a mass scale is, necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution." In other words, both Marx and Lenin thought that it's the working class which makes the revolution (even if the organised minority, the class party, plays a crucial role in it), and that mass socialist consciousness can only arise during the course of a revolutionary process.

Elysard
Offline
Joined: 22-02-18
May 11 2020 09:40

♦ I was just saying that Hal Draper wasn't telling the truth when he writes that the thesis of What Is To Be Done? was only occasional. Nothing more.

♦ I never said I knew “if the conditions are right”, I rather suggested that given the present-day conditions, they are not, since I write that “nowhere does [the proletariat] develop a revolutionary consciousness of its own”.

♦ About the quote from the German Ideology:

Quote:
“Both for the production on a mass scale of this communist consciousness, and for the success of the cause itself, the alteration of men [sic] on a mass scale is necessary, an alteration which can only take place in a practical movement, a revolution”

the German text does not speak of "alteration", which makes no sense, but of "Veränderung", i.e. "modification", "transformation".