Monday, December 24, 2012

The theory of the Revolutionary Party

The theory of the Revolutionary Party

This is an old article, possibly incomplete, I have been asked to repost by Korean comrades.

The most important of the many contributions to Marxist theory after Marx is, in my opinion, the theory of the revolutionary party developed by Lenin. What makes this theory so important is, first, that history has shown that without such a party the socialist revolution cannot be victorious and, second, that this theory affects and transforms every aspect of socialist activity in the here and now.

Before setting out the positive features of the Leninist theory of the party, it is perhaps necessary to say what the theory is not. It is not simply the idea that to struggle effectively the working class needs to be organized into a political party. This was well understood by Marx and by most Marxists and socialists long before Lenin and has continued to be an article of faith of most reformists and non – Leninist socialists subsequent to Lenin.

Nor is it some special organizational formula, such as ‘democratic centralism’. The principle that a socialist party should be internally democratic in discussing and forming policy but united in action in implementing that policy was indeed adopted by the Bolshevik Party and other Leninist organizations but it was not invented by Lenin, not a fixed organizational  structure or regime, and certainly not the key distinguishing or defining characteristic of the Leninist party.

What was distinctively Leninist was a new conception of the relationship between the party and the class. This conception was not arrived at by Lenin in a single moment of theoretical inspiration, nor is it systematically set out in any single Lenin text. Rather it was developed in practice, by Lenin and the Bolsheviks, before it was expounded theoretically. With hindsight we can say that this conception rested on the combination of two key principles:

1.       The independent organization of a party consisting  wholly of revolutionary                      

2.       The establishment and maintenance of the closest possible links between the                                                         independent revolutionary and the mass of the working class.

Prior to Karl Marx there existed two models of socialist activity. The first, drawn from the French Revolution and based on the Jacobins, was of a secret club or conspiracy which would seize power in a coup d’etat on behalf of the masses. The second, as with the ‘Utopian Socialists’, was of  passive propaganda  which would preach the virtues of socialism to the general public and, especially, to the ruling class. Marx transcended both these models with the understanding that the emancipation of the working class is the act of the working class itself, and the idea of a workers’ party combining active engagement in workers’ day to day struggles with socialist political propaganda.

Following Marx the predominant form of socialist organization was the large national workers party, including in its ranks all or most of the strands of socialism in a given country. A typical example was the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) which had an openly reformist right wing led by Eduard Bernstein, a revolutionary left led by Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, and a majority ‘centre’ led by Bebel and Kautsky, which talked revolution while practicing reformism. Similar parties, with similar trends existed in most European countries before the First World War, and together they made up the Second, or Socialist International.

What Leninism brought to this was the idea that the revolutionary left should separate from the reformist right and the vacillating center, and organize independently. What was really at stake here was the role of the reformist leaders. Marx and Engels and the young Luxemburg and young Trotsky were all revolutionaries, not reformists, but they tended to assume that once revolution broke out the reformist and centrist leaders would either be swept along with the movement or swept aside by it.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Second World War Revisited

The Second World War Revisited

An extended review of Donny Gluckstein, A People’s History of the Second World War, Pluto Press, London 2012, £15.00.

First published in Irish Marxist Review 4

Donny Gluckstein has produced a fascinating and important Marxist analysis of the Second World War. As one might expect the starting point of the book is a critique of the dominant, ie ruling class, narrative of the War as an almost uniquely ‘good’ war waged by the Allies for freedom and democracy against the unspeakably evil Nazi regime and its allies. This view, which permeates and underpins not only mainstream history but also innumerable popular novels, newspaper articles, films, TV documentaries and so on, is systematically demolished by Gluckstein.

In a way it is easy for him to do this because, despite its ubiquity, it is a myth that will  not withstand contact with numerous well established facts: the fact that none of the western ‘democracies’ were willing to aid the anti-fascist struggle in Spain; the fact that Churchill openly declared his admiration for Mussolini and that he was fighting to defend the British Empire; the fact that America did not enter the war till it was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbour (ie until its vital interests were threatened); the fact that America and Britain fire-bombed Dresden and Tokyo and nuked Hiroshima and Nagasaki but never attempted to bomb the railway lines to Auschwitz or to take any action to prevent the holocaust, although they were well aware of what was happening.

Nevertheless, in the course of making his case, Gluckstein provides numerous illuminating summaries of revealing (and shocking) episodes from the War which, if not unknown are certainly not widely known.  For example in relation to India he records:

On 3 September 1939 Indians woke to discover they were at war. London did not bother to ask for approval, unlike Dominions such as Canada or Australia. When Churchill told the Commons that ‘India has a great part to play in the world’s struggle for freedom’ that did not include independence for India’s 400 million, a population that exceeded the maximum number conquered by the Third Reich.

One consequence of the ‘struggle for freedom’ was the Bengal famine of 1943…It consumed between 1.5 and 3.5 million lives despite civil servants describing the previous harvest as ‘a good one’…This continued an appalling record – 12 major famines since colonisation began. In the 1860s an Indian economist had discovered the basic cause: a sum greater than the sub-continents land value was drained off annually to support British occupation and profits….

The 1943 famine was directly connected to India’s involvement in the Second World War, because after it began eleven times the usual number of soldiers were maintained at the country’s expense.,

Field Marshall Wavell [Viceroy of India] …pointed out ‘the very different attitude towards feeding a starving population when there is starvation in Europe’.
Churchill was unabashed…sending food amounted to ‘appeasement’ of the Congress Party. The official record notes that the Canadian PM had 100,000 tons of grain loaded on a ship bound for India but was ‘dissuaded by a strong personal appeal from Winston’ from sending it. [Gluckstein pp163-5.]

Similarly in Vietnam in 1945, then ruled by De Gaulle’s Free French government in Paris via Governor-General Jean Decoux, a racist Petainist whose services were retained by De Gaulle when Vichy fell.

So the Free French government must take responsibility for Tonkin’s famine of 1945…the French army shipped ten or more boatloads of rice out of the affected area every day. Estimates of the death toll reach up to two millions. [pp.195]

In relation to Yugoslavia Gluckstein records how the Allies persistently supported Colonel Mikhailovich’s  monarchist Chetniks against the real (Communist led) partisans, despite the fact that the Chetniks spent more time fighting the partisans than they did resisting the Nazis. And in relation to Greece he tells how when the Nazi occupation collapsed and most of the country was in the hands of the Communist led EAM/ELAS resistance Churchill immediately sent British troops to intervene. Again here are some extracts from Gluckstein’s account.

George Papandreu, the Greek Prime Minister, wished to participate in this enterprise. He wrote to Churchill …’Only the immediate appearance of impressive British forces in Greece…will suffice to alter the situation’. The telegram was sent just three weeks after the formation of the ‘Government of National Unity’ with EAM members included as ministers!.

However, such was their contempt for all Greeks that the British decided to carry off the coup alone. Churchill’s view was that ‘it was most desirable to strike out of the blue…the Greek government know nothing of this plan and on no account should be told anything.’

This was not a simple policing operation as claimed, but classic imperialism. The British wanted to dominate a foreign land …Churchill told General Scobie: ‘Do not hesitate to fire at any armed male in Athens who assails the British authority… Act as if you were in a conquered city where a local rebellion is in progress…

By the time the ‘December events’ were over …there were 50,000 Greek dead and 2000 British casualties.[pp50-52].

Gluckstein also shows how the Indonesian people, in order to win their national independence after centuries of colonisation, had to overcome successive assaults by Japanese, British and Dutch armed forces [pp.187-92] and, very tellingly, how when Germany capitulated the Allied forces preferred cooperating with Nazis to handing power to the Antifas (anti-fascist organisations) that had sprung to life as the Nazi regime crumbled. He quotes an American GI there at the time.

‘The crime of it all is that we would take a little town, arrest the mayor and the other big shots and put the anti-fascist in charge of the town. We’d double back to that town three days later, the Americans had freed all the officials and put’em back in power. And they threw this other guy aside. Invariably it happened.’ [quoted p.134].

By an accumulation of such evidence Gluckstein builds an overwhelmingly convincing case that the British and US ruling classes (and the French as represented by De Gaulle) fought not out of anti-fascist principle, nor for ‘democracy’ or ‘freedom’, but for their own capitalist and imperialist interests, and this determined not only the fact that they went to war but also shaped the manner in which they waged it.

Nor does Gluckstein exempt the Soviet Union from this critique. Rather he argues that the Stalinist regime was just as imperialist as in its approach to the war and to smaller countries as Churchill and Roosevelt.  A particularly clear example of this is provided by the Hitler-Stalin Pact. Again I will quote directly.

The Hitler-Stalin Pact of August 1939 [was] a deal whose secret protocols divided Poland between Germany and Russia.
… The Nazis had murdered many thousands of German communists. All this was brushed aside, the Soviet Union providing Hitler with vital raw materials in return for weapons…
When the re-conquest of Poland commenced, the Russians left the Wermacht to carry on the fighting, thus minimising their own risks and masking their avarice. The Nazis wetre asked to indicate ‘as nearly as possible when they could count on the capture of Warsaw’ as this would be the signal for Russia to grab its share…Once the fighting was over, Stalin held 52 per cent of Polish territory, and Hitler 48 per cent. Both agreed they would tolerate ‘no Polish agitation which affects the territories of the other party’.[pp56-7].

As Gluckstein points out the Russian occupation of Eastern Poland did not match the utter savagery of the Nazis (that would have been a very hard task) but it was still brutal, including the massacre of several thousand Polish officers at Katyn and the deportation of 9 per cent of the population as forced labour.

This imperialist behaviour was also practiced in the Baltic states (Gluckstein devotes a section to Latvia) and in relation to whole of Eastern Europe at the end of the War. Gluckstein naturally records the infamous cynical carving up of Europe by Churchill and Stalin at their meeting in October 1944 [pp.4-5].

The People’s War

However, this demonstration of the imperialist character of the struggle between the Allies and the Axis powers is only the one aspect of Gluckstein’s book. It is his central argument that this imperialist was accompanied by a ‘People’s War’ which ran parallel to it. ‘The … events of the 1939 to 1945 period did not constitute a single combat against the Axis powers, but amounted to two distinct wars’ [p.5]

This People’s War develops from below and is a popular mobilisation against fascism, imperialism and oppression which generates demands for radical social change. It includes, in Gluckstein’s account, the anti- Nazi resistance movements in Occupied Europe, the popular anti-fascist mood among working people in Britain, the development of a fight against racism in the US army and wider society, the struggles against imperialism (British, Japanese, French, Dutch) in India, Vietnam, Indonesia and China.

Indeed the structure of the book is determined by its focus on those places where the ‘parallel wars’ are both manifest or come into conflict and one of its most attractive and useful features is the accounts it provides (brief, but as detailed as his limited space permitted) of  the various resistance movements and their exceptionally difficult and heroic struggles.  It is particularly interesting to learn, without having to consult specialist academic monographs, the guts of what occurred in seldom written about places such as Indonesia and Vietnam (during the World War, that is).

While there is no doubt at all about the reality and importance of the phenomena noted by Gluckstein – namely the existence of popular anti-fascist mobilisations with fundamentally different motivations from the war aims of Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin – there are, I think, significant problems in his conceptualisation of them as a ‘People’s War’ to which I will return. First I want to consider why he felt need to develop the concept.

The reason, in my opinion, is that simply designating the Second World War as an imperialist war, the same as or similar to the First World War, leads to a huge problem. In 1914 Lenin and all the socialists who remained true to internationalism (Luxemburg, Liebknecht, Trotsky, McLean, Connolly etc) denounced the War and opposed their own governments. But how can applying the same analysis and position be reconciled with the need for resistance to fascism in general and the Nazis in particular, which I am sure every socialist feels in their bones. It is to deal with this difficulty that Gluckstein advances the notion of a People’s War and I completely sympathise with his motivation for so doing. Unfortunately it doesn’t really work.

First, Gluckstein doesn’t succeed in giving a clear definition of what he means by People’s War. He himself acknowledges it is ‘problematic as an idea and might appear insufficiently rigorous’ [p.12] and he is not able to distinguish it satisfactorily from national war or class war – all wars have a class content and are, in some sense, manifestations of class struggle, and most national wars have a social dimension to them (certainly wars of national liberation do).

Second, his concept of ‘two distinct wars’ or ‘two parallel wars’ involves the notion of a single People’s War but it is not really plausible to describe the resistance struggles in Europe and the anti-imperialist struggles in Asia as part of a single war or the same war except in so far as they are aspects of the Second World War as a whole. Nor is it convincing to speak of distinct People’s War in Britain or the USA where no separate armed forces or fighting takes place, except in the very broadest sense of the people’s war that is waged throughout the history of class society. In other words he tries to stretch the term too far and ends up shoe-horning struggles into it which don’t fit.

Third, Gluckstein refers on a number of occasions to the existence of ‘parallel wars’ but his own analysis shows that far from running in parallel these different struggles both intersect and, at times, sharply conflict with one another.

Donny writes, on the same page:

There was such a thing as the Second World War, so its underlying character can and should be investigated. And the discovery of parallel wars within it shows, to use the language of dialectics, that the Second World War represented a ‘unity of opposites’.


What was unique about the Second World War was that these tensions amounted to parallel wars rather than tensions within the same war. [p.208]

There is inconsistency here: a dialectical ‘unity of opposites’ exists within a single whole and is not the same as two distinct (parallel) wars.

Finally if I am right in surmising that Gluckstein developed the People’s War argument to deal with the difficulties involved in simply denouncing the whole Second World War as an imperialist war then this raises the question of what was (and is) the correct political line for socialists to take in relation to the war. Perhaps surprisingly Gluckstein does not deal directly with this question but I shall address it now.

The Socialist Attitude

At the time there were four main positions on the war taken by tendencies within the international working class movement: the position of the social democrats and reformists, the two positions taken by the Stalinist Communist Parties and the position of Trotsky and the Trotskyists.

The social democrats gave more or less uncritical support to the Allied side in the War. In the case of the British Labour Party they formed a coalition government with Churchill’s Tories and accepted the notion of a political truce during the war, including of course opposing strikes etc. However, since 1914, social democrats have pretty much always supported imperialist wars (Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq etc) so this need not detain us here.

At the outbreak of the War in 1939, the Communist Parties took the position that it was an inter-imperialist war to which they were completely opposed. Then, after Hitler invaded Russia in June 1941, the CPs performed a complete about turn and became enthusiastic supporters of the Allied cause. In both cases their position was determined not by the interests of the working class or by independent Marxist analysis but by orders from Moscow on the basis of the interests of the Russian state. From 1939  to 1941, when Russia was allied to Germany in the Hitler-Stalin Pact, Anglo-French imperialism was treated as the main enemy and criticism of Nazi Germany was muted, but when Russia was at war with Germany, Germany and its allies became the enemy and criticism of British and French imperialism was abandoned.

Two further comments need to made in relation to these positions. The initial anti-war position of 1939-41 was itself an about turn from the anti-fascist Popular Front strategy of 1934-39 and cut very much against the grain of rank-and-file Communists. It was only imposed from above with great difficulty. In contrast the post 1941 anti-fascist line was much more in accord with the instincts of Communist workers and in occupied Europe those Communists formed the core of the resistance movements in which they fought with great heroism. (It was this that laid the basis for the mass CPs in Italy, France etc in the post war period).

At the same time the fact that the turn was orchestrated and controlled by Moscow meant that in Britain the CP supported the Churchill Government, opposed all strikes, and denounced all left wing opposition and worker militancy as ‘Trotskyite fascism’. In occupied Europe it meant that the revolutionary potential in the resistance movements, the very real possibility of developing the struggle against fascist occupation into a struggle for socialism, was squandered and crushed - again on orders from Moscow.

The fourth, Trotskyist, position treated the Second World War as essentially a continuation of the First World War and opposed on the same grounds as a struggle for imperialist division and redivision of the world.

The present war, the second imperialist war, is not an accident; it does not result from the will of this or that dictator. It was predicted long ago. It derived its origin inexorably from the contradictions of international capitalist interests… The immediate cause of the present war is the rivalry between the old wealthy colonial empires, Great Britain and France, and the belated imperialist plunderers, Germany and Italy.

Against the reactionary slogan of “national defense” it is necessary to advance the slogan of the revolutionary destruction of the national state. To the madhouse of capitalist Europe it is necessary to counterpose the program of the Socialist United States of Europe as a stage on the road to the Socialist United States of the World.
No less a lie is the slogan of a war for democracy against fascism. As if the workers have forgotten that the British government helped Hitler and his hangman’s crew gain power!
The imperialist democracies are in reality the greatest aristocracies in history. England, France, Holland, Belgium rest on the enslavement of colonial peoples. The democracy of the United States rests upon the seizure of the vast wealth of an entire continent.
[Manifesto of the Fourth International on Imperialist War and the Proletarian World Revolution]
To this must be added that the Trotskyists were not neutral between Nazi Germany and the USSR. Because they considered that the USSR was still a workers’ state despite its Stalinist degeneration they gave it unconditional support in War. However, they argued that the successful defense of the USSR required the overthrow of the Stalin regime. Moreover, most Trotskyists supported and participated in the anti-fascist resistance movements (which mainly developed after Trotsky’s death).
For both Donny Gluckstein and the author of this review the Trotskyist tradition is our tradition and therefore out of the four positions outlined here it this one that forms our mutual initial point of reference. However it is precisely this ‘orthodox’ Trotskyist position that I think needs to be amended and revised.
The change I propose is that despite the fact, amply documented by Gluckstein, that the Churchill, Roosevelt and Stalin governments and the ruling classes they represented (I do not accept the notion that Russia was still a workers’ state), fought the war for their own imperialist interests and not for democracy or anti-fascist principle, it was nevertheless in the interests of the working class internationally that Nazi Germany and its fascist allies were militarily defeated. To put the matter sharply and clearly I think that revolutionary socialists should not have been neutral on D-Day or at Stalingrad.
In support of this it should be noted that the position of neutrality or a ‘plague on both houses’ appears to have had no serious resonance with any of the working classes in any of the belligerent countries. Whereas in the First World War initial war fever steadily waned as the war developed and turned eventually into outright revolutionary opposition (in Russia and Germany), no such process occurred anywhere in the Second World War. On the contrary the large scale radicalization that took place did so as part of pursuing the war against the Axis.
Moreover working class instincts and inclinations were objectively correct in this. Neither they at the time, nor we with hindsight, can be indifferent to the consequences of Nazi/fascist victory. It would have been an utter catastrophe for all the workers of Europe and very possibly the world. Fascism destroyed all independent working class organization in Italy, Germany and Spain. Had Hitler and co. won they would done the same everywhere else. The Nazis murdered 6 million Jews, 20 million or so Russians, up to 500,000 Roma, millions of Poles and so on. If they had won how many more would they have exterminated? It true, as we have seen, that Roosevelt, Churchill and co were not fighting an anti-fascist war in the sense that they were motivated by opposition to fascism but objectively, whatever their motives, they were fighting fascist regimes and it is a simple fact that the victory of the Allies resulted in the demolition of the fascist regimes and the restoration, at least in Western Europe, of bourgeois democracy.
A further point relates to socialist participation in the resistance movements. Surely the correctness of this cannot be doubted. Certainly this is the implication of everything in Gluckstein’s book and Ernest Mandel is correct when he writes:
It is true that if the leadership of that mass resistance remained in the hands of bourgeois nationalists, of Stalinists or social democrats, it could eventually be sold out to the Western imperialists. It was the duty of the revolutionaries to prevent this from happening by trying to oust these fakers from the leadership of the movement. But it was impossible to prevent such a betrayal by abstaining from participating in that movement.
What lay behind [the resistance -JM]…It was the inhuman conditions which existed in the occupied countries. How can anyone doubt that?.... People did not fight because they were chauvinists. People were fighting because they were hungry, because they were over-exploited, because there were mass deportations of slave labour to Germany, because there was mass slaughter, because there were concentration camps, because there was no right to strike, because unions were banned, because communists, socialists and trade unionists were being put in prison.
... And you have to answer the question: was it a just struggle, or was it wrong to rise against this over-exploitation and oppression? Who can seriously argue that the working class of Western or Eastern Europe should have abstained or remained passive towards the horrors of Nazi oppression and Nazi occupation? That position is indefensible. [My emphasis –JM]
Ernest Mandel, ‘Trotskyists and the Resistance in World War Two’.
But in no case – not in France, not in Italy, not in Norway, nor in Poland or Greece or Yugoslavia – were the resistance movements neutral between the Allies and the fascists. In every case they favoured Allied victory and for obvious reasons. If one takes the ‘pure’ anti-imperialist war position to its logical conclusion would it not have been necessary to argue inside the French Resistance (and in Britain) that the D-Day landings should be opposed on the grounds that they were an imperialist invasion and the American and British armies were just as much enemies of the French people as the Nazi occupiers?
To fill out my argument and to guard against possible misunderstanding or misrepresentation I want to stress that my position does not involve or imply any political support for the Roosevelt, Churchill or Stalin governments or any mitigation or limitation of the class struggle against them. On the contrary precisely the class and imperialist nature of these governments would have meant that socialists should have placed no confidence in their ability to wage a consistent anti-fascist war and that it was necessary for the working class to overthrow these governments and ruling classes in the interest of the class itself and the anti-fascist struggle. A revolutionary workers government in Britain, America or Russia would have been able to summon the whole working class internationally (including the German working class) to a revolutionary uprising and war against fascism.
This position would also have provided the foundation for every day concrete agitation and propaganda on a host of issues about the way the war was being fought – from war profiteering and the privileges of the rich, to bomb shelters for the workers, to decent pay and conditions in the factories, to attacks on the officer class, to equality for women and their role in the war, to anti-racism in the armed forces and elsewhere, to real support for the resistance movements (the Yugoslav partisans not the Chetniks, the French fighters on the ground not De Gaulle, the Warsaw Uprising and so on), to solidarity with the anti-colonial struggle in India and elsewhere, to raising the whole argument about what sort of society the war was being fought for – no return to the thirties etc. Indeed in so far as Trotskyist revolutionaries were able to engage actively with workers during the war it was largely through agitation of this sort but this agitation would have flowed more coherently from the position I have outlined than from an abstract equal condemnation of both sides.
In the colonial countries it would have been necessary to argue, in opposition to the Communist Parties, against any idea of deferring the struggle for independence. Clearly a risen and free India, and even more so a workers’ India, would have been a huge assistance to the struggle against Fascism and an infinitely harder country for Japan or Germany  to subdue than an India still subjugated by Britain.
None of this involves accepting the idea of the Second World War as a ‘good war’. The war was a catastrophe for humanity, costing 50 – 60 million lives, involving innumerable atrocities on all sides and giving birth to nuclear weapons and the Cold War which put in question the whole survival of the human race. It would obviously have been enormously preferable if fascism had been prevented from coming to power or overthrown by means of the class struggle and revolution, without resort to international war (and the likes of Churchill, Roosevelt and especially Stalin, bore a huge responsibility for preventing that from happening). We would not therefore have agitated in favour of war in advance.* Only once the war had broken out did it become necessary to say that the working class was not indifferent to the outcome.

 * In this context it is worth saying that I do not think that in neutral countries such as Ireland or in South America, socialists should have called for joining in the War.

A Note on Precedents
The main reason why the Trotskyist movement took the position it did was, in my opinion, because it saw the Second World War through the prism of the First. The social democratic betrayal of August 1914 was so etched into the consciousness of Trotsky and his followers that it seemed that their first duty in 1939 was to avoid any repetition of that collapse into social patriotism by repeating the formulae of Lenin and Liebknecht. However there are other historical precedents that are also useful to take into account.
The Spanish Civil War is one. In particular it shows how it was possible for revolutionaries to place themselves on one side (that of the Republic) militarily without giving the Republican government political support and while arguing for its overthrow in order to win the war against the fascists. Obviously the Second World War was not ‘the same’ as the Spanish Civil War but in this respect a similar approach could have been taken.
Another is precedent is the American Civil War. As is well known Marx gave clear support to the North and such is the authority of Marx that this has subsequently gone unchallenged. But could not all the kind of arguments deployed against giving military support to the Allies have also been used to justify neutrality or equal condemnation of the Republic and the Confederacy. Lincoln and the Republican government were themselves deeply racist and opposed to black equality (true). Lincoln did not go to war to free the slaves but to preserve the Union in the interests of US capitalism (true).  The whole of the US, not just the South, was built on slavery and complicit in it (true). The whole of the US, north and south, was built on the expropriation and extermination of the Native Americans and so on. Yet despite all these considerations Marx rightly took the view that essence of the conflict was over the continuation and possible extension of slavery and that therefore it was in the interests of the class that the south should be defeated.
Also of interest is the case of the Paris Commune. The Commune – the first experiment in workers’ power – grew out of the Franco-Prussian War on 1870-71. The war was initiated by the French Emperor, Louis Napoleon III, who fell into a trap laid for him by the Prussian Chancellor Bismarck and launched an attack on Prussia. All genuine socialists denounced this reactionary imperialist adventure. But when Napoleon III was defeated the Prussian army went on to occupy large parts of France and lay siege to Paris inflicting extreme hardship on the people. This was opposed by socialists in Germany. Then the event that sparked the rising was the attempt by the French government, at the behest of the German occupiers, to disarm the Parisian people by removing the guns of the National Guard from Montmartre. In this way an imperialist war turned through intermediate stages into its opposite – a workers’ revolution.
Finally – a recommendation
How much of this argument Donny Gluckstein would agree with I don’t know. On the basis of his book my guess is that he agrees with some of it, if not my doubts about his concept of two ‘parallel wars’. However, I tend to think that if Gluckstein had clearly formulated the need to take sides in the war, he would not have needed the ‘parallel people’s war’ idea and could instead have treated the Second World War as a single whole with many intersecting and conflicting wars and class struggles.
Be that as it may, Glucksteins book is both interesting and highly thought provoking – a must read for socialists and Marxists engaged with the momentous history of the twentieth century. I strongly recommend it.

John Molyneux


Thursday, September 27, 2012

In Defence of Leninism

In Defence of Leninism

This article was written for Irish Marxist Review 3 (available online at

The contemporary defence of Leninism involves two tasks: first, the defence of the political record of the historical Lenin; second the demonstration of the continuing relevance and applicability of Lenin’s key political ideas today. This article will mainly focus on the second task but I will begin with a few remarks about the first.

1. The historical Lenin

As I have written elsewhere:

Lenin matters. I don’t mean he mattered in Russian history or in the history of the twentieth century – that’s obvious. I mean he still matters, matters to the bourgeoisie and matters for socialist practice today.

The single most serious challenge to the world capitalist order in its whole history was that posed by the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the international revolutionary wave that followed in its wake For a few short years the survival of the system literally hung by a thread and if we were to identify a single moment on which the fate of humanity hinged and when history turned, it would be the failure of the German Revolution in 1923. Obviously there can be no certainty in such matters, but if the German Revolution had succeeded there is an excellent chance that there would have been no Stalin, no Hitler and a fair chance that today we would be living in a socialist society.

Lenin symbolizes the Russian Revolution and that historical moment. More than that, it was Lenin’s politics and organization that led the Russian Revolution to victory. [1]

For this reason it has always been especially important to the bourgeoisie and its academic apologists to discredit Lenin. This has involved a fair amount of personal character assassination[2] but the main charge has been that Leninism led, more or less inevitably, to Stalinism and that the principal factor in this continuity was the Leninist Party. Crafted by many hands over the years, ranging from former Mensheviks to American and British cold war ‘scholars’, this argument has achieved a remarkable consensus right across the political spectrum from right wing conservatives through liberals and social democrats to anarchists. In their own way even Stalinist communists agreed. Trotskyists were practically the only dissenters. But majorities, even large ones, are frequently wrong and there are powerful factual and theoretical arguments against what I shall call the Lenin/Stalin continuity thesis.

First the facts:

  1. In terms of their political ideas and policies there was a vast gulf between Lenin and Stalin. Lenin was a strict internationalist and discounted the possibility of socialism in one country; Stalin adopted socialism in one country and encouraged Russian nationalism. Lenin was an egalitarian opposed to privileges for bureaucrats and party leaders; Stalin systematically encouraged such inequalities. Lenin detested racism and anti-semitism; Stalin made subtle and not-so-subtle use of it. Lenin passionately defended the rights of oppressed nations to self determination (including directly against Stalin); Stalin crushed these rights. Lenin was absolutely in favour of women’s emancipation; Stalin made a point of restoring the traditional family. Lenin was opposed to forcing the collectivization of agriculture on the peasantry; Stalin imposed it at the cost of millions of lives. This list could be continued almost indefinitely.
  2. There was very little continuity in terms of personnel between the Bolshevik leadership in Lenin’s day and the party leadership under Stalin. In October 1917, just before the insurrection, the party central committee elected a Political Bureau of seven – Bubnov, Zinoviev, Kamenev, Lenin, Sokolnikov, Stalin, Trotsky. Only one survived – Stalin, who murdered the rest with the exception of Lenin. Bukharin, Rykov, Tomsky, Smilga, Preobrazhensky, Shlyapnikov, Pyatakov, Radek, Krestinsky were all leading members of the CC in Lenin’s day and all played important roles in the party, the revolution and the Civil War; all were killed by Stalin in the purges. As were many thousands of other prominent Old Bolsheviks and Communists. When Trotsky said Stalinism was divided from Bolshevism by ‘a river of blood’ it was literally true.
  3. Nearing the end of his life, in late 1922, Lenin turned against Stalin, broke off relations with him and was looking to remove him from his position as party General Secretary, as part of an overall struggle against growing bureaucracy in the party and the state.
  4. The Bolshevik Party functioned highly democratically, from its foundation to well after the revolution – at least until 1921, when factions were banned, and in many respects until in 1923. At no point was it in any way the personal dictatorship of Lenin, who was quite often outvoted – for example on participating in Duma elections in 1907, on unity with the Mensheviks in 1910, on boycotting the Democratic Conference in September 1917, and on postponing elections to the Constituent Assembly in December 1917. On a number of crucial occasions when Lenin did get his way, it was only after vigorous debate in which he succeeded in winning a majority to his point of view; for example over breaking with the Provisional Government and orienting on workers’ power in April 1917, on launching the Insurrection in October 1917 and on signing the Brest-Litovsk Peace in January 1918. And in each of these cases Lenin’s victory was not just a matter of his personal authority or the power of his arguments but the fact that over a period of time they were seen to correspond to the objective logic of events.

The theory:

The academic myth that Leninism was elitist and authoritarian from the start as demonstrated by his 1901 statement in What is to Be Done? that ‘socialism has to be brought to the working class from the outside’ is been answered many times.[3] The formulation, taken directly from Karl Kautsky, was indeed ‘biased …therefore erroneous’ as Trotsky put it.[4]  but it was revised by Lenin in 1905 and not at all typical of his thought – indeed it was never repeated in his later work and he specifically cautioned that What is to Be Done? was a polemic against ‘economism’(a trend in Russia which argued that socialists should confine themselves to supporting workers’ economic demands) in which he ‘bent-the-stick’. Moreover Lars Lih, in a work of monumental scholarship, Lenin Rediscovered – ‘What is to Be Done?’ in Context, comprehensively refuted the notion that Lenin had a negative attitude to the working class. On the contrary, Lih shows, with an abundance of evidence, that Lenin was consistently the most enthusiastic of all the Russian Marxists about the political capacities and potential of the Russian working class.

It should also be noted that as well as being historically false, the proposition that a whole social order of the dimensions and duration of Stalinist Russia (and remember similar regimes were established across Eastern Europe, China, North Korea etc) could be ‘based on’ or ‘caused by’ a ‘theory’ developed thirty years earlier is, in fact, crude and rampant idealism. It holds no more water than the notion that capitalism was based on or caused by the doctrines of John Calvin or Adam Smith, or that we that we can explain the nature of Nazi society mainly by means of Mein Kampf .

What is required is rather a historical materialist analysis which takes as its point of departure the development of the forces and relations of production in Russia and internationally and then examines the class forces at work in Russia after the revolution and the struggle between them. What such an analysis shows is that in 1917 the material basis for socialism, in terms of the level of economic development  and the strength of the working class, existed internationally and especially in Western Europe and North America, but it did not exist in Russia taken by itself. This was common ground among all the Russian Marxists including both Lenin and Trotsky; as Lenin put it with characteristic bluntness, ‘It is the absolute truth that without a German revolution we are doomed,’[5]

Moreover, if the material prerequisites for socialism were lacking in Russia in1917, the situation rapidly got much, much worse due to the Civil War inflicted on Russia by the alliance of Western imperialism and the White Guard generals. This produced the utter collapse of the economy and the virtual destruction of the already small Russian working class. In these horrendous circumstances an alliance between the workers and peasants, under the leadership of the Bolsheviks, was able to defeat the White counterrevolution, but in the process the exhausted and decimated working class lost the ability to exert democratic control over the state apparatus which passed increasingly into the hands of a combination of remnants of the old (pre-October) officials and newly emerging Bolshevik bureaucrats. Thus was born the embryo of a new ruling class who progressively separated themselves from the working class during the 1920s and, under the leadership of Stalin, took total power in 1927-28, launching Russia, via the Five Year Plan, on a process of forced industrialization and capital accumulation in competition with the capitalist west. That, in class terms, is the essence of what happened. Without the spread of the revolution internationally (which WAS a real possibility and came within an inch of success, especially in Germany) it highly unlikely there could have been any alternative outcome other than the conquest of Russia by foreign intervention.

Of course, on this basis the actions of the Bolshevik Party and the deeds and ideas of Lenin are both factors that play a role in the whole process and, provided they are not taken as the starting point of the account, need to be assessed. Lenin’s strategic orientation, as made clear during the debate over whether to sign the extremely onerous peace terms imposed at Brest Litovsk in late 1917, was to take such measures as were necessary for the revolution to survive until such as time as the international revolution came to their aid while simultaneously doing everything possible to facilitate that revolution by means of the Communist International and so on. Lenin pursued this strategy until his terminal illness took him out of politics in early 1923. In the process he, and the Bolsheviks, doubtless made many mistakes – some on the authoritarian side, some on the adventurist side  -  eg the attempt to march on Warsaw in 1920, and perhaps, delaying the introduction of the New Economic Policy till 1921. Perhaps the suppression of Kronstadt was a mistake, though personally I think it was necessary. In the enormously difficult circumstances mistakes (and excesses, even crimes) were inevitable; but the overall strategy was surely correct.[6]

What were the alternatives? Two widely touted options were a) the establishment of a ‘liberal’ parliamentary democracy and b) immediate transition to a vibrant ‘ideal’ workers’ democracy or even a stateless anarchist commune. In my opinion neither of these options were remotely possible in the conditions prevailing in Russia during or following the Civil War. Attempting either would have led directly to the victory of the Whites, wholesale slaughter of the workers and the revolutionaries, and the setting up of a fascist regime of utter brutality.  Victor Serge, the former anarchist and libertarian socialist, in explaining why he reluctantly supported the Bolsheviks at the time of Kronstadt wrote, ‘If the Bolshevik dictatorship were to fall, we felt, the result would be chaos: peasant putsches, the massacre of the Communists, the return of the émigrés, and, finally, another dictatorship, of necessity anti-proletarian.’[7]
Finally it should be stressed that the alternative pursued by Stalin from 1923-24 onwards, while it certainly built on many of the authoritarian practices developed under Lenin, was a qualitatively different strategy. Whereas Lenin’s strategy was an attempt to hold out until the international revolution and in the meantime to try to counter growing bureaucratization[8], Stalin’s was to entrench the bureaucratic apparatus, basing himself on it, and, crucially, with his articulation of the doctrine of ‘socialism in one country’, to abandon the pursuit of international revolution. Without international revolution, Russia, thrown back on to its own inadequate resources, could survive only by forced industrial development funded by the exploitation of its workers and peasants. This in turn necessitated the bureaucracy establishing itself, with Stalin at its head, as a new exploiting class. Far from being a continuation of Leninism Stalin’s policy was its counter revolutionary negation.

2. Leninism today

Clearly it is possible to respect and even revere Lenin as a historical figure while maintaining that due to changed circumstances Leninism, as a political doctrine or strategy, is no longer relevant or appropriate today. This was the ‘mainstream’ international Communist attitude to Lenin from, at least, the 1950s onwards when the European CPs adopted ‘the parliamentary road to socialism’. An example of this attitude is provided by one of that movement’s outstanding intellectuals, Georg Lukacs. In 1924 Lukacs produced a short book, Lenin: A Study on the Unity of his Thought, which was a superb summary and vindication of the essence of Leninism, but when in 1967 it was republished, he wrote a Postscript arguing ‘the renaissance of Marxism requires a purely historical treatment of the twenties as a past period of the revolutionary working-class movement which is now entirely closed’[9] and confined himself to a eulogy of Lenin’s personality without reference to any of his specific political positions. This is not my position. I intend to argue that the core of Lenin’s politics (not every detail of course) not remain relevant but are an essential foundation for contemporary revolutionary socialist theory and practice.

I will make this argument by focusing on three aspects of Lenin’s thought which in my opinion constitute the main defining characteristics of Leninism: his theories of imperialism and war; of the state and his theory and practice of the party. In doing so I take for granted something that was undoubtedly even more fundamental to Lenin, namely the revolutionary role of the working class, but I would regard this as the defining characteristic of Marxism has a whole.[10]

Imperialism and War

Lenin’s theory of imperialism was most fully expressed in his famous book, Imperialism- the Highest Stage of Capitalism . This was written in 1916 with the aim of demonstrating the imperialist roots and character of the First World War, but it was also part of a collective endeavour by Marxists at that time to analyse the development of capitalism at the beginning of the twentieth century: other important contributions included Rudolf Hilferding’s Finance Capital (1910), Rosa Luxemburg’s The Accumulation of Capital (1913), and Nikolai Bukharin’s Imperialism and World Economy (1916).  The work of summarizing Lenin’s analysis of imperialism has been done for us bt Lenin himself. He writes:

If it were necessary to give the briefest possible definition of imperialism we should have to say that imperialism is the monopoly stage of capitalism…
But very brief definitions, although convenient, for they sum up the main points, are nevertheless inadequate, since we have to deduce from them some especially important features of the phenomenon that has to be defined. And so, without forgetting the conditional and relative value of all definitions in general, which can never embrace all the concatenations of a phenomenon in its full development, we must give a definition of imperialism that will include the following five of its basic features:
(1) the concentration of production and capital has developed to such a high stage that it has created monopolies which play a decisive role in economic life; (2) the merging of bank capital with industrial capital, and the creation, on the basis of this “finance capital”, of a financial oligarchy; (3) the export of capital as distinguished from the export of commodities acquires exceptional importance; (4) the formation of international monopolist capitalist associations which share the world among themselves, and (5) the territorial division of the whole world among the biggest capitalist powers is completed. Imperialism is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed. [11]

The capitalists divide the world, not out of any particular malice, but because the degree of concentration which has been reached forces them to adopt this method in order to obtain profits. And they divide it “in proportion to capital”, “in proportion to strength”, because there cannot be any other method of division under commodity production and capitalism.[12]

As the relative strength of the main imperialist powers changes (eg the rise of Germany) so a struggle sets in for the redivision of the world; hence the drive to imperialist war.

It would, of course, be contrary to the Marxist dialectical method and Marx’s analysis of capitalism (‘Constant revolutionising of production, uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation distinguish the bourgeois epoch from all earlier ones,.’ The Communist Manifesto) to imagine that over almost a century there would not have been numerous and important changes in the economic and political structure of imperialism. Chris Harman in ‘Analysing imperialism’[13] and Alex Callinicos in Imperialism and Global Political Economy[14] offer extensive and masterly surveys of these changes which include: the decline in the importance of export capital; the shift of investment away from ‘the third world’ and the retreat from formal colonialism; the decline of Europe in the Second World War and the emergence of Cold War imperialist rivalry; the emergence of NICs (newly industrializing countries such as South Korea and Singapore, then China, Brazil, etc) and of oil as the imperialist commodity par excellence; the collapse of ‘communism’ in the eastern block and the era of so-called ‘globalization’.

However, the fact is that despite all these developments certain basic continuities remain. The process of concentration and centralization of capital identified by Marx has continued and the world economy, more than ever, is dominated by giant multi-national corporations. The vast majority of these corporations, however, retain a national home base with close ties of mutual dependence to their respective state apparatuses, with state power (economic, diplomatic, political and military) being regularly deployed to bolster and defend those economic interests. As a result the world is still divided into oppressor and oppressed nations, so-called ‘great powers’ and ‘regional powers’ and much lesser fry. Imperialism is still with us and so is the fact and threat of imperialist war.

In the 1980s and 1990s, when the hype about globalization was at its height, various attempts were made to deny this. On the right outright supporters of capitalist globalization claimed that it was about to solve all problems of underdevelopment  and poverty and produce a ‘flat’ world in which there would be little room for national conflicts. This went, hand in hand, with large quantities of (bourgeois) wishful thinking about a ‘New World Order’ and, even, ‘the end of history’ (by which Francis Fukayama meant the end of serious ideological/political conflict ie of any challenge to capitalist liberal democracy). On the left, Nigel Harris argued that globalization was librating capital from its ties to the state and Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, in the influential Empire, argued that traditional imperialism, with its rival powers, had been replaced a de- territorialised global system of ‘Empire’.

Personally, I always found the notion of capital freed from its dependence on, and links to, state power completely implausible. Unless they had their own police or army, not a single supermarket could operate for a day without the back up of the state. The poor, all those with hungry children to feed, would simply walk in a help them themselves and if they got away with it, many others would follow suit. Be that as it may, history did not prove kind to these claims. As Joseph Choonara pointed out, ‘The ink had barely dried [on Empire] before the events of 11 September 2001 and the beginning of a new cycle of imperialist wars.’[15]

In this context, and regardless of the precise economic structure of contemporary imperialism, the fundamental political and operational conclusions that Lenin drew regarding the socialist response to imperialism remain indispensable for revolutionary practice today.

First and foremost among these is uncompromising opposition to imperialism as a whole and imperialist war in particular. It was on this principle that Lenin broke from the Second International, of which he had previously been an ardent supporter, when the majority of its sections, above all its leading organization, the German Social Democratic Party, collapsed into patriotic support for their own governments at the outbreak of World War 1. That it continues to be relevant and, indeed, crucial should be obvious. On the one hand the 21st century has already seen a series of vast international mobilizations against imperialist war (with the great demonstrations of 15 February 2003 being probably the largest national and international demonstrations in history). On the other hand we can see the lamentable trajectory of those former leftists, socialists and Marxists who abandoned opposition to imperialism in the name of the supposed threat posed by Islamic fundamentalism and terrorism: a trajectory epitomized by Christopher Hitchens ( who actually ended up endorsing George Bush) but also manifested to greater or lesser extent by the likes of Fred Halliday, Nick Cohen and Norman Geras.

Then there is the ongoing vital question of Palestine. All those, including those on the left, who fail to grasp that the struggle in Palestine is fundamentally an anti-imperialist struggle tend to lose their way on this issue. Either they view the conflict as a local or regional dispute between different religions/races/nations who should learn to ‘tolerate’ each other.Alternatively they explain the US’s seemingly unconditional support for Israel in terms of ‘the power of the Jewish lobby’ as though Jewish interests controlled America, if not the world – an idea that leads straight to anti-semitic fantasies and conspiracy theories.

A grasp of, and opposition to, imperialism as an overall system is also of particular importance in relation to the current notion of ‘humanitarian intervention’, as practiced in relation to Libya and (so far by-proxy)Syria. For example, the claim that NATO was intervening in Libya to ‘save Benghazi’, or ‘prevent a massacre’ was a hypocritical lie, but it was much easier not to fall for this lie on the basis of an understanding of imperialism as a totality, rather than looking at the situation in Libya as an individual case.

Another aspect of Lenin’s anti-imperialist politics is his support for the right of national self-determination.[16]. Lenin first addressed this issue in relation to the problem of national minorities within the Tsarist empire (the ‘prison of the peoples’) and then in relation to the Austro-Hungarian Empire before the World War but it came to be an integral part of his opposition to imperialism in general. Lenin had to fight for his position against other socialists and Marxists, particularly Otto Bauer of the Austrian Socialist Party, Rosa Luxemburg and his fellow Bolshevik, Bukharin.

Bauer wanted to resolve the problem of oppressed nationalities ‘harmoniously’ within the framework of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and so opposed the right of political secession but advocated national-cultural autonomy (separate schools etc). Lenin took the opposite view. He defended the right of oppressed nations to political separation but opposed cultural nationalism or separatism in the name of proletarian internationalism and international culture. Luxemburg and Bukharin opposed advocacy of the right of national self-determination on the grounds that it was utopian, in that it couldn’t be realized under capitalism, and opportunist in that it sowed illusions in nationalism.  In opposition to this Lenin insisted that self-determination, including the right to form a separate state, was a basic democratic right which had to be supported.

The bourgeois nationalism of any oppressed nation has a general democratic content that is directed against oppression, and it is this content that we unconditionally support.[17]

He argued that to reject the right to self-determination was, in practice, to side with imperialism and oppression and that support for the right to secession was in the interests of the working class of the oppressor nation.

 Can a nation be free if it oppresses other nations? It cannot. The interests of the freedom of the Great Russian population require a struggle against such oppression…

In the internationalist education of the workers of the oppressor countries, emphasis must necessarily be laid on their advocating freedom for the oppressed countries to secede and their fighting for it. Without this there can be no internationalism.[18]

In the context of defending the Easter Rising of 1916 Lenin wrote:

 The dialectics of history are such that small nations, powerless as an independent factor in the struggle against imperialism, play a part as one of the ferments, one of the bacilli, which help the real anti-imperialist force, the socialist proletariat, to make its appearance on the scene.[19]

At the same Lenin argued strongly for the unity of socialists of different nationalities or ethnicities in a common organization (and ultimately a common international) and against

 …attempts to give a communist colouring to bourgeois-democratic liberation trends in the backward countries ... The Communist International must enter into a temporary alliance with bourgeois democracy in the colonial and backward countries, but should not merge with it, and should under all circumstances uphold the independence of the proletarian movement even if it is in its most embryonic form.[20]

I would argue that all of this has great relevance today. Not only does it apply to the attitude socialists should take to anti-imperialist movements and struggles in the so-called Third World or Global South, where it is necessary to reassert that support for the right to self-determination is in no way dependent on approval of the leadership or government of the country concerned, it is also useful when it is a question of national rights within advanced capitalist and imperialist countries. For example, socialists have to defend the right of Quebec to secede from Canada or Scotland to secede from the UK if the Quebecois or Scottish people want it (without us arguing that they should want it).

The argument against giving nationalist movements a ‘communist colouration’ has become even more important than when Lenin first made it in view of the Stalinist practice, now long established, of doing just that and also the tendency, equally long established, of essentially nationalist movements to themselves adopt ‘Communist’ or ‘Marxist’ labels and language, as with such varied formations as the Castro regime in Cuba, the Ethiopian Derg  (described in Wikipedia as a Soviet-backed Marxist-Leninist military junta),and Mugabe’s ZANU-PF in Zimbabwe, because of the attractiveness (to them) of the Stalinist model of industrialization and development.

Finally the relevance of Leninist anti-imperialism to the struggle in Ireland before and after the ‘peace process’ should be clear. Those socialists and would-be Marxists, in Britain and in Ireland, who lost sight of the anti-imperialist, and therefore progressive, content, of the Republican struggle, for example equating the Provisional IRA and Loyalist paramilitaries, were ineluctably drawn into reactionary positions, siding with the British state by commission or omission. Whereas those who took the Republicans at their (more radical) word and invested in them their hopes for a workers’ republic, were doomed to disappointment.

The Theory of the State

Lenin’s theory of the state was set out in what is probably his most famous work, The State and Revolution, written in August 1917 in the heat of the Russian Revolution. Lenin believed hat Marx had been profoundly distorted by Kautsky, Plekhanov and other leaders of the Second International and his aim was to ‘re-establish what Marx what Marx really taught on the subject of the state’ on the basis of an examination of ‘all the most essential passages in Marx and Engels on the subject’.[21]. Because The State and Revolution is well known I will simply summarise its principal propositions without resort to extensive quotation.

      1.  The state is not an eternal institution but the product of the division of society into    
           classes and the irreconcilability of class antagonisms.
  1. The state is an organ of class rule, an organ for the oppression of one class by another.
  2. The essence of the state is a public power standing over society and consisting of special bodies of armed men, police, prisons and other instruments of coercion.
  3. The modern state is a capitalist state, serving the interests of the capitalist class – essentially it is the dictatorship of the bourgeoisie
  4. This state cannot be taken over and used by the working class to build socialism, as had been the strategy of the parties of the Second International. Rather it has to be broken up/dismantled/smashed by the proletarian revolution.
  5. The smashed capitalist state must be replaced by a new workers’ state based on the election and recallability of all officials and the reduction of their salaries to ordinary workers’ wages.
  6. This workers’ state is essential to deal with the counter revolutionary resistance of the bourgeoisie and secure the transition to socialism. 
  7. With the achievement of a fully classless society the state will wither away altogether and be replaced by a self governing community of associated producers.

As Lenin demonstrates all of these ideas were already present in Marx and Engels and his only real addition, on the basis of the experience of the Russian Revolutions of 1905 and 1917, was that the central institutions of the workers’ state would be workers’ councils or soviets (the Russian word for ‘council’) based on deputies from workplaces, and this is not elaborated in The State and Revolution.  Nevertheless Lenin’s systematization of the Marxist theory of the state was enormously important. It drew the clearest possible line of demarcation between reformism (including left reformism) and revolutionary socialism, the ‘Marxism’ of Social Democracy and that of Communism and the Third International. At the same time it clarified the differences between Marxism and anarchism.

The decisive point, taken from Marx writing on the Paris Commune and repeatedly emphasized by Lenin, is the need to destroy rather than take over the existing state machine. It has enormous implications not only for what will happen in a revolution but also for day-to-day political practice in the here and now. Right wing social democrats, the likes of Tony Blair and Eamon Gilmore, who have abandoned any perspective of challenging capitalism straightforwardly accept and endorse the state, spreading the myth of its neutrality between the classes and supporting ‘our’ armed forces and police as representatives of the people as a whole. Left reformists, such as Tony Benn, Jean Luc Melenchon of Front Gauche and Alex Tsipras of Syriza, frequently recognize the class bias of the police and the law, as well as often opposing war, but they generally stop short of calling for the smashing of the state preferring to hope that it could be placed under the control of a socialist government and reformed, or gradually brought under democratic precisely ‘taken over and wielded by the working class’ – the opposite of what Marx and Lenin urged. This is not only unrealistic because of the thousands of ties that exist between the state apparatus (the generals, police chiefs, judges, top civil servants and so on), but also gives rise to the possibility, indeed likelihood of slippage, from the left to the mainstream reformist position of wholesale acceptance and support for the capitalist state, especially in the event of assuming office. It is this context that Syriza’s failure to address this issue in its otherwise radical programme of social and economic policies, along with Tsipras’s public handshake with the Chief of Police in Athens, is a warning sign.

There have, over the last ninety odd years, been many implicit or explicit critiques of the Leninist theory of the state. A detailed discussion of all these is beyond the scope of this article but the most important are as follows: 1) the mainstream pluralist critique; 2) the Nietzsche/ Foucault  ‘will to power’ critique; 3) the so-called ‘Gramscian’ critique; 4) the autonomist/ anarchist critique. Here I will offer a brief explanation and rebuttal of each.

The pluralist critique: this view which drew on the work of the German sociologist Max Weber, and the Italian elite theorists Gaetano Mosca and Vilfredo Pareto, became the dominant position in academic social science in the fifties and sixties (in the work of political scientists such as Ronald Dahl, Arnold Rose and Raymond Aron) and remains the perspective underlying much media coverage of politics and current affairs. This perspective accepts that each area of political and social life eg. industry, finance, media, law, medicine, trade unions, the arts, sport etc., is dominated by an elite but maintains that these elites do not form a unified ruling class, rather they are in competition with each other. The competition takes the form of influence exerted by numerous interest and pressure groups with the rivalry between them preventing any one group exercising total or grossly disproportionate power. Within this scenario the role of government and the state was to act as a mediator or broker between the different groups. Such pluralism was counterposed to the ‘totalitarianism’ of the Communist east in the Cold War and the way in which it dovetailed with a view of politics as seen from the vantage point of the US Congress, the Westminster Parliament, the Irish Dail and the newsrooms of the BBC, RTE and other state broadcasters, should not be hard to see.

The pluralist analysis was effectively demolished as far back as 1969  by Ralph Miliband in his famous The State in Capitalist Society which demonstrated, with much empirical evidence, that the various elites, including the elite of the state apparatus, were overwhelmingly drawn from the same social class, went to the same top schools and universities  and shared  the same basic (pro-capitalist) ideology, so that the ‘competition’ between them was illusory or superficial and that they did indeed form a ruling class which did indeed control the state.

The pluralist view also fails to take account of the way in which all the elites are governed by the same economic logic of capitalist competition (competitive capital accumulation) which also governs the behaviour of the government and the state, even when the government members and the state managers do not happen to be drawn from the capitalist class.

The Nietzsche/Foucault critique: the hugely influential French post-structuralist, Michel Foucault, argued that power was not concentrated solely in the hands of a social class or the state, as suggested (according to Foucault) by the Marxist and Leninist theory of the state, but is rather a relation present every where in society and operating in a multiplicity of institutions and social relations: prisons, schools, hospitals, families, offices and so on. Moreover, ‘where there is power, there is resistance’[22] and therefore, instead of a strategy focused on the conquest of power, it was necessary to pursue a multitude of localized, dispersed, battles against overweaning power wherever it appeared.

The first objection to this argument is that, as so often, it rejects Marx and Lenin on the basis of an oversimplification. Neither Marx nor Lenin claimed all power was held by the ruling class or its state or that it was not necessary to challenge power at a local or workplace or familial level; merely that decisive power in society was concentrated there. Of course it is true that the teacher exercises a certain power in the classroom, the doctor in the hospital, the manager in the office, the father in the family, but to equate their respective power to that of the capitalist state is like equate the gravitational pull of an apple with that of the earth on the grounds that ‘gravity is everywhere’. Even a guerilla struggle a la Mao or Castro has to culminate in taking the capital city (ie the state).

The second objection is that Marxism offers an analysis of why oppressive power relations exist in schools, hospitals and personal relations: it explains them in terms of the alienation and exploitation embedded in capitalism, and other class divided modes of production. Foucault rejected this analysis preferring to basis himself on Nietzsche’s concept of an innate and universal ‘will to power’. But while this concept can possibly be used to underwrite a sort of left wing anti-authoritarian resistance, it offers no possibility of eventual liberation or victory. If the will to power is universal, success for relatively powerless person A over relatively powerful person B in office C will simply replace B with A while the oppression will continue. Moreover Foucault may have generally chosen to side with the oppressed, but such a choice is arbitrary. If everyone is pursuing their own ‘will to power’, as Nietzsche maintains, there is no particular reason for not siding with the oppressor, as Nietzsche himself did.

The so-called Gramscian critique: this is the most ‘Marxist’ sounding of the critiques of the Leninist theory of the state. Its origins have nothing to do with Gramsci but lie far back in the Stalinist Communist Parties’ turn to reformism with the Popular Front strategy in the 1930s. This was developed further after the Second World War with the western CPs’ adoption, at Moscow’s behest, of national and peaceful parliamentary roads to socialism. The CPGB programme, The British Road to Socialism, adopted with the approval of Stalin in 1951, stated:
The enemies of Communism accuse the Communist Party of aiming to introduce Soviet Power in Britain and abolish Parliament. This is a slanderous misrepresentation of our policy. Experience has shown that in present conditions the advance to Socialism can be made just as well by a different road. For example, through People’s Democracy, without establishing Soviet Power, as in the People’s Democracies of Eastern Europe.
Britain will reach Socialism by her own road. Just as the Russian people realised political power by the Soviet road which was dictated by their historical conditions and background of Tsarist rule, and the working people in the People’s Democracies and China won political power in their own way in their historical conditions, so the British Communists declare that the people of Britain can transform capitalist democracy into a real People’s Democracy, transforming Parliament, the product of Britain’s historic struggle for democracy, into the democratic instrument of the will of the vast majority of her people.
The path forward for the British people will be to establish a People’s Government on the basis of a Parliament truly representative of the people.[23]
 In the 1970s, when Antonio Gramsci’s writings became widely known, theorists associated with Eurocommunism (the trend in European Communism dissociating itself from Moscow) seized on some of his ideas to justify this parliamentary road and shift it even further towards social democracy. Gramsci, reflecting in a fascist prison on the causes of the defeat of the Italian and European Revolution in the period 1918-23, argued that due to Russia’s economic and social backwardness there was a substantially different relationship between the state and civil society from that which was characteristic of western Europe.
In Russia the State was everything, civil society was primordial and gelatinous; in the West, there was a proper relation between State and civil society, and when the State trembled a sturdy structure of civil society was at once revealed. The State was only an outer ditch, behind which stood a powerful system of fortresses and earthworks.[24]
In the case of the most advanced states...’civil society’ has become a very complex structure and one which is resistant to the catastrophic ‘incursions’ of the immediate economic element (crises, depressions, etc)[25].. (A.Gramsci, as above, p.235)

This led to Gramsci’s emphasis on ‘hegemony’, ie. the element of cultural, moral and intellectual leadership that accompanies the element of force in the ruling of society by an economically dominant class, and that enables that class to rule by consent as well as repressive power. ‘The supremacy of a social group manifests itself in two ways, as “domination”, and as “intellectual and moral leadership”…A social group can, and indeed must, already exercise “leadership” before winning governmental power.’[26]
.Gramsci argued for what he called a ‘dual perspective’ combining ‘the levels of force and consent, authority and hegemony… agitation and propaganda .. tactics and strategy etc.’[27] and involving the construction of alliances, which in Italy meant in particular an alliance between the proletariat in the northern cities and the southern peasantry.
The Eurocommunists used Gramsci’s ideas to argue that the days of ‘insurrection’, ie revolution, were over and that the Leninist notion of ‘smashing the state’ should be abandoned in favour of gradual and protracted ideological struggle to establish cultural hegemony, combined with broad democratic alliances (with the middle classes) to achieve a left government. This interpretation of Gramsci and this strategy (at least the ‘ideological/theoretical’ element of it) proved to have a wide appeal in leftish academic circles and, for a period, it became almost the new academic orthodoxy that Gramsci had had displaced and replaced Lenin.
This was a complete travesty of Gramsci’s thought. He fully accepted the Leninist theory of the state including the need for its revolutionary overthrow and replacement by workers’ councils and considered Lenin to be ‘the greatest modern theoretician of the philosophy of practice’ and was seeking to build on Leninism not displace it. His concept of hegemony stressed the combination of ‘domination’ and ‘intellectual and moral leadership’ not the replacement of the former by the latter, likewise his ‘dual perspective’ involved both ‘force and consent’. His advocacy of alliances was a critique of ultra-leftism (represented in Italy by Amedeo Bordiga, leader of the Italian CP before Gramsci) in line with Lenin’s Left-Wing Communism:an Infantile Disorder and a development of the Bolshevik strategy of an alliance between the working class and the peasantry, not a precursor of the moderate parliamentarism of the Eurocommunists.[28]
Gramscian or not, however, this critique of Leninism is palpably false. The fact that the ruling class rules through intellectual hegemony as well as physical force does not at all mean that if its hegemony breaks down it will not resort to force. Numerous historical examples, from Mussolini in Italy itself to Franco in Spain and Pinochet in Chile, prove this. The matter has only to be posed concretely to become very clear. Would the Greek military (who ran the dictatorship from 1967-73) or the Greek police (50% of whom voted for Golden Dawn) sit back and let Syriza introduce socialism? Would the admirals, generals and marshals of the British armed forces with centuries of rule and empire and traditions going back to Marlborough, Wellington, Nelson and the Black and Tans, allow a government headed by Jeremy Corbyn or some such to ‘democratise’ them and gradually dismantle capitalism or would they ‘stand up for Queen and Country’ (and their class)? Would the senior officers of the Garda Siochana you know happily collaborate with Richard Boyd Barrett and Joe Higgins in ‘reclaiming Irish  natural resources’ in Mayo, or locking up Ireland’s leading bankers? Alternatively is it plausible that the US working class could take over and wield for its own purposes the Pentagon, the CIA, the FBI and the NYPD?
To ask these questions is, I think, to answer them. Many things have changed since Lenin wrote The State and Revolution but the class nature of the state is not one of them.
 The anarchist/autonomist critique: having written at length on this elsewhere[29] I shall be brief here. Revolutionary anarchists, as opposed to ‘life-style anarchists’, share the aim of destroying the capitalist state but they reject the idea that the working class, on the morrow of the revolution will need a state of its own, instead proposing an immediate abolition of the state as such and instant establishment of a self governing community with no institutions of authority and force, not even democratic ones.
This position is both naïve and utopian at the same time. Is it naïve to imagine that the core elements of the capitalist state, even after the state apparatus has been broken by revolution, will not join with the core elements of the ruling class (the top bankers, industrialists etc) in attempting counter revolution to restore capitalism, and therefore not need to be resisted by ‘bodies of armed men and women’ ie by a state. It is utopian to imagine that after the taking of power by the working class, when class divisions still exist (especially internationally) that the mass of the population will be so uniformly conscious and enlightened, so immediately and universally free of the legacy and habits of millennia of class society that it will be possible to build up a socialist economy without any element of subordination, of any compulsion of the minority to accept the will of the majority. Rejection ‘on principle’ of any use of state power is simply a recipe for defeat.
Many autonomists, like John Holloway, have agued that an obsessive focus on capturing the state - an inherently oppressive structure - has been an abiding error and source of corruption for the workers’ movement. (Insofar as the state in question is the bourgeois state they have a point but, as we have seen. this is not the Leninist position.) Instead he/they propose eschewing engagement with the state and establishing ‘autonomous’ spaces under democratic people’s control on the model of the Zapatistas in Mexico. But while this may appear an attractive tactical operation in the short term it is plainly not a viable strategy for changing society. The Zapatistas made inspiring propaganda but changed neither the world nor Mexico. As I have said before:
Moreover what was possible in the jungles of Chiapas is not replicable in Sao Paulo or Buenos Aires or Cairo or anywhere in advanced capitalist world, where there simply is nowhere that is beyond or outside the reach of the state, and no place which can be maintained indefinitely as an autonomous space if it is also a threat to capitalist power. We may try to ignore the state, but that does not mean the state will ignore us[30].
For all these reasons the Leninist theory of the state remains an essential part of socialist practice today.
The Leninist Party
Of the core elements of Leninism identified here there is little doubt that his theory of the revolutionary party is the least popular in the current political atmosphere. This was manifestly the case in the Spanish Indignados movement and in many of the various Occupy camps. But it is a mood which extends beyond worked out anarchists and autonomists to broader sections of the left and merges with a widespread inchoate suspicion of all political parties among many of the general public.
So before addressing the specific Leninist theory of the party, I want to consider two antecedent questions: first whether it is possible to be a Leninist without the idea of a revolutionary party; second whether there is something wrong (or anti- democratic) inherent in parties as such.
Certainly there are activists and theorists who would broadly accept a version of Lenin’s concept of imperialism and much of his analysis of the state and who would pay homage to Lenin in other ways as well, but who reject the theory of the party and, especially, reject it in practice. This would be true of a many, perhaps most, of the contributors to the Lenin Reloaded conference and book of 2007[31] (not Alex Callinicos, of course, but probably Zizek, Eagleton, Jameson, Anderson, Lazarus, Negri and others). To the best of my knowledge the theoretical pioneers of this position were C L R James and Raya Dunaveskaya who were a faction within US Trotskyism in the 1940s and who, on breaking away, remained adherents of Lenin and the Russian Revolution but opposed any idea of a vanguard party. Kevin B. Anderson, a contributor to Lenin Reloaded, is probably the leading contemporary representative of this tendency.
Unfortunately for those who hanker for Lenin without the party the actual Lenin devoted his entire political life up to 1917 to the building of such a party, ferociously defending it against any tendency to liquidate it, even in the most desperate times of the 1907- 12 reaction. Then, after 1917, he proceeded to the construction of similar revolutionary parties world wide and their unification in the Communist International. Lenin sans party is frankly a non-starter and those who renounce the idea of a revolutionary party are in reality abandoning Leninism.
As for the idea that there is something wrong with political parties as such we have, of course, to recognize how understandable such a reaction is in the face of the manifest behaviour of virtually all the parties most people have experience of, and we also need to understand there really is something wrong with the existence of political parties in that they are symptoms and expressions of a class divided society and thus exhibit many of the horrible characteristics of class society[32]. However given the actual existence of class society and the fact that the working class cannot walk away from this society and establish utopia elsewhere but has to fight for its liberation from within, and on the ground of, this society it has to be said that the existence of political parties is a gain and a necessary condition of even limited democracy.
First it should be noted that, historically, political parties developed hand in hand with the development of (bourgeois) democracy and the extension of the franchise to working people in the nineteenth century. Prior to that there existed not parties but only loose associations among ‘notables’ ie aristocrats and leading bourgeois. It was only the winning of the right to vote by the masses that obliged the upper and middle classes and the workers themselves to form parties to fight for those votes. Second, the only modern societies where multiple parties do not exist are those where they are forcibly suppressed by military, fascist or Stalinist dictatorships, ie where there is no democracy at all.
Moreover, imagine it were possible (of course, it is not), in a capitalist society, to secure without repression the voluntary dissolution of all political parties so that all deputies, TDs, MPs, councilors etc were unaffiliated individuals. Would this benefit the working class and the majority of people?  No, it would not. On the contrary in such circumstances it would the rich, the bourgeoisie, who would benefit enormously because they would be able to use their personal wealth and all their other advantages (connections, cultural capital etc) to dominate politics even more than they do at present. Only through collective organization – be it in unions or in parties – are working people able to resist the power of capital and the domination of the bourgeois.
To return specifically to the issue of the Leninist Party, I will pose three questions: 1) what are the main characteristics of the party as conceived by Lenin? 2) is it the case, as is so often claimed, that there is.something distinctively elitist or anti- democratic about such a party? 3) why is it necessary, today, to undertake the difficult task of attempting to build such a party, here in Ireland and in every country?
Unlike on imperialism and on the state there is no single key text outlining Lenin’s view of the party – as noted earlier in this article attempts to use What is to be Done? as such a text are seriously flawed – therefore the account I offer here is a very brief summary based on a consideration of Lenin’s practice as a whole.
The Leninist party is first and foremost the party of a definite class: the working class. This is where its activity and membership is concentrated and this is the class whose interests it, primarily, strives to represent. The party’s doctrine is based on, and its activity is guided by Marxist theory. The party is an explicitly revolutionary party not only in the sense that its declared goal is revolution but also in that its membership is, by and large, confined to revolutionaries: the Leninist party is not a ‘broad church’ and does include a reformist wing. It is a party of struggle which aims to engage with, and where possible lead, the mass of the working class as a whole in all its day to day battles with the bosses and the government. In order to reach the mass of workers the party works in the trade unions and participates in elections.[33] The party aims to raise the political consciousness and culture of its members to equip them to fight for leadership in the class struggle. The party operates according to the principle of democratic centralism – democratic debate and decision making followed by unity in action.
Do these distinctive features make the Leninist party more undemocratic than other forms of political organization? On the contrary all these characteristics make the Leninist party the most democratic form of organization available to socialists operating in a capitalist society.[34]
The working class, on which the party bases itself, is the most democratic class in capitalist society. The democracy of ruling class and middle class parties is continually subverted by the wealth and material privileges their ‘natural’ leaders and the careerism and aspiration to privilege of their cadres. Working class parties are not totally immune to these pressures but necessarily suffer from them far less. Revolutionary parties which aim to smash the state are also less subject to these pressures than reformist parties which aim to take over the existing state and thus offer the prospect of success within capitalist society (ministerial posts etc) to their leaders. The democracy of reformist parties (and trade unions) is also undermined not just by the privileges of their leading strata but also by the fact that the leaders develop a fundamentally different political perspective from their rank-and-file members: managing capitalism on behalf of workers (or in the case of unions, negotiating with it) as opposed to defending workers interests within it. Of course the qualification for being a reformist politician or trade union leader is the ability skillfully to conceal this difference but it remains real and results in a continual effort to resist and divert democratic pressure from below. The Leninist party, restricted to revolutionaries, greatly inhibits the emergence of such a split between the aims of leaders and members.
The commitment to Marxism ie to the self emancipation of the working class, and to the political education of members, also enhances the democracy of the party. It produces or works to produce a membership able to debate issues and hold leaders to account. Inevitably the political level will remain uneven but the situation is far better than in most non-Leninist organizations where there is little systematic attempt at political education. Reformist parties and trade unions, for example, are typically happy to leave their members largely uneducated so long as they pay dues, canvass and turn out to vote. Engagement in the day to day struggles of the class is another major democratic factor. It means that debates inside the party reflect issues facing the class and that party policies are subject to the test of practice.
Finally there is the question of democratic centralism, often a bugbear with many on the left because it appears to restrict ‘individual freedom’ in that it involves an obligation to implement decisions, including those one disagrees with. In reality this is always a voluntary or freely accepted obligation in that every individual can leave the party. Democratic centralism is also a highly democratic form of organization, as well as an effective one, because it ensures that the decisions of the majority are actually carried out. Again the contrast is with non-democratic centralist organizations, especially reformist parties where, under the guise of ‘freedom’, majority decisions are commonly ignored by leaders.
Building a Leninist revolutionary party of any size with serious roots in the working class, is a difficult and onerous task. Why undertake it? Is it not out of date and unnecessary in these days of social media and horizontal networking? [35] Why not wait for more favourable circumstances, when the revolution breaks out for example? The answer to all these questions is simply that it is necessary for victory. This conclusion is based on both theory and experience.
The theoretical arguments are straightforward. The working class faces a centralized enemy –the ruling class and its state – and needs it own centralized organization to combat it. The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class. ‘The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are subject to it.’[36] Therefore there needs to be a struggle waged against the influence of those ideas on and within the working class. Working class consciousness and struggle develop unevenly. It is therefore necessary to organize the more conscious and advanced workers separately, in a revolutionary party, to combat both the direct influence of bourgeois ideology on the working class  and its indirect influence via the reformists and the trade union bureaucrats. All of these conditions, operating in Lenin’s day, continue to operate today.
The historical experience is overwhelming. The working class has risen against the system on countless occasions from Paris in 1848 through to Egypt in 2011. On several occasions it has taken power locally or briefly (eg the Paris Commune of 1871) and on several other occasions it has come close to it (Germany 1923, Spain 1936 etc) but only one question has it conquered national power and held it for a period of years: the Russian Revolution of 1917, until it succumbed to the Stalinist counterrevolution. What distinguished October 1917 from all the defeats was the presence and leadership of a mass revolutionary party, the Bolshevik Party of Lenin, and its role was decisive.
Waiting for the favourable circumstances of the revolutionary situation will not do. The difference between victory in Russia in 1917 and defeat in Germany in 1919-23, was that the Bolshevik Party had been built over many years and had won the confidence of the key sections of the working class, whereas Rosa Luxemburg, Karl Liebknecht and the German revolutionary socialists waited too long to split from the Social Democrats and did not have time, in the heat of the revolution, to build a strong party. It is necessary to be as well prepared as possible – that means building the party in advance of the revolution: now.
The three aspects of Lenin’s politics discussed here by no means exhaust his legacy – there is a vast amount to be learned from the totality of his theory and practice- but taken together they form a central core of what constitutes Leninism. Revolutionary socialist theory and politics today cannot rest content with these achievements – the world changes, capitalism develops and Marxism must develop too, on all fronts and on the basis of concrete analyses of contemporary reality. However it is my contention this will be best achieved on the basis of Leninism and not by abandoning it.

John Molyneux
23 08.2012.

[2] The idea that Lenin was, from the start, bent on personal power has always struck me as silly. If as a young man in Tsarist Russia in 1893 your aim was maximum personal power you would join the Tsarist bureaucracy, not as Lenin did,, the Emancipation of  Labour Group, with about 30 members and no prospect of getting anywhere except Siberia.
[3] See for example, John Molyneux, Marxism and the Party, London 1978, Chs 2and 3, and Tony.Cliff, Lenin:Building the Party, London 1975, especially Ch.4.
[4] L. Trotsky, Stalin, London 1968, p58.
[5] Cited in Tony Cliff, Lenin:Revolution Besieged, London 1987, p.54
[6] For a very detailed assessment of all Lenin’s political work during this period , which operates within this theoretical framework but is both critical and brutally realistic, see Tony Cliff, Lenin: Revolution Besieged, as above.
[7] Victor Serge, Memoirs of a Revolutionary,

[8] For a thorough account of Lenin’s final struggle against bureaucracy see Tony Cliff, as above, pp..394-442.
[9] G.Lukacs, Lenin: A Study in the Unity of his Thought, London, 1970, p.89.
[10] See John Molyneux, What is the Real Marxist Tradition?, London 1985.
[13] International Socialism 99, (2003).
[14] Alex Callinicos, Imperialism and Global Political Economy, London 2009.
[15] Joseph Choonara, ‘Empire built on shifting sand’, International Socialism 109,(2006).p.143.
[16] For a very full account of Lenin’s attitude to the national question see Tony Cliff, Lenin, Vol 2, All Power to the Soviets, London 1985, pp44-57.
[17] V.I.Lenin, The right of nations to self determination’, cited in Cliff, as above, p53.
[18] Cited in Cliff, as above, p.54
[19] Cited in Cliff, as above, p.55)
[20] V.I.Lenin, "Theses on the National and Colonial Question", in Theses, Resolutions and Manifestos of the First Four Congresses of the Third International (London 1980) p.77.

[21] V.I. Lenin, The State and Revolution, Moscow 1977, pp 9-10
[22] M.Foucault, The Will to Know, cited in Alex Callinicos, Is There a Future for Marxism?, London 1982, p.108.
[24] A.Gramsci, Selections from the Prison Notebooks, London 1982, p. 238
[25] As above, p.235
[26] as above, p.57
[27] As above p.169-70
[28] For a much fuller account and refutation of the distortion of Gramsci see Chris Harman, Gramsci versus Reformism, London 1983.
[29] See John Molyneux, Anarchism: A Marxist Criticism, London 2011.
[30] As above, p.64.
[31] S. Budgen, S.Kouvelakis, S. Zizek, ed., Lenin Reloaded:Toward a Politics of Truth, Durham and London 2007
[32] See the discussion of some of these problems in John Molyneux, ‘On Party Democracy,’ International Socialism 124, (2009).
[33] See the extensive discussion of these points in V.I.Lenin, Left-Wing Communism-an Infantile Disorder.
[34] This is a relative not an absolute statement. In practice Leninist parties suffer from all sorts of problems of elitism, hierarchy, infringements of democracy, as does every other organization in a hierarchical class society. It is just that it is better able than other forms of organization to resist these pressures. For fuller discussion of this see John Molyneux, ‘On Party Democracy’, as above.
[35] For the uses and limitations of social media, see Jonny Jones, ‘Social media and social movements’ International Socialism 130 (2011) and John Molyneux, Will the Revolution be Televised?, London 2011, pp.93-97.
[36] Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, The German Ideology.