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Leninism Under Lenin

It is impossible for an advanced, liberal, democratic capitalism to develop in Russia. Either there will be a revolutionary victory of the proletariat leading to a development in the direction of socialism, with the help of the international revolution, or there will be a victory of the counter-revolution, resulting in continued under-development and backwardness, with denial of agrarian revolution, and an industrial veneer the thickness of which will depend on the correlation of national and international forces.

Leninism Under Lenin

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I am firmly convinced that Lenin had already modified his views by the end of 1921, and certainly saw things differently in 1922: that he had already understood that the bureaucracy had become the Enemy Number One that had to be forced back at any cost, that a fight for Soviet democracy was urgently needed. And if the great majority of the Party leaders did not follow him in this, it was not because of the mistakes of 1920-1921 but because of the social and political factors mentioned earlier.

Exploitative working conditions existed with no work breaks or time off. Children born to parents from the working class were not allowed to attend schools. They began working at an early age, and before 1921, child exploitation and abuse in Russian factories and industrial areas was common. Many women also suffered miscarriages due to insufficient health facilities. Under the new rule factories were placed under the control of elected committees of workers.

Civil war broke out immediately after Lenin took over government. The White Army and the Red Guards, which was renamed the Red Army under the commandership or leadership of Leon Trotsky, clashed.

Agricultural production increased, and to mirror this growth in industry workplace incentives and bonuses were introduced. Heavy industries were still under the government's control, but foreign trade and investment were encouraged. A state bank, which was established in 1921, lent money to emerging developers and merchants and, in the same year Lenin established the state planning commission, the Gosplan in order to direct the financial activities of the country.

Second, the class struggle had to be understood in an international perspective. Exploitation on a world scale transcends national boundaries. The collapse of the world system of capitalism would snap first at its weakest link. Russia was the paradigmatic case. The revolution in Russia would be the spark which would lead to the proletarian revolution in the West. These three factors provided the material foundation for a socialist revolution in Russia.

Where Lenin was incomplete was in his failure fully to understand the autocratic effects of bureaucratic control which became apparent in the period after the seizure of power in Russia. While organisational forms, similar to democratic centralism, had also been adopted by other social-democratic parties (such as the SPD in Germany), after 1917, in Russia, it became a process of centralised economic development and modernisation. The political forms of Tsarist Russia were reconstituted as a socialist political bureaucracy. Applying democratic centralism as a form of organisation to all associations in society led to forms of political domination incompatible with socialism.

Another issue which Lenin never understood was that in the colonial countries questions of race meant that [white] workers there did not see themselves as oppressed but as privileged and unwilling to redistribute wealth to illegitimate [nonwhite] recipients.

[One] will at once notice how, under the influence of events, [they] have in actual fact begun to side with their opponents, i.e., to act not according to their own resolutions, but according to those of the Third Congress 32The Third Congress of the RSDLP took place in April 1905 and brought together only the Bolshevik wing. The Mensheviks met the same year and called their meeting a conference. jQuery('#footnote_plugin_tooltip_32766_1_32').tooltip( tip: '#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_32766_1_32', tipClass: 'footnote_tooltip', effect: 'fade', predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: 'top right', relative: true, offset: [10, 10], ); There is no better critic of an erroneous doctrine than the course of revolutionary events.

if Leninism and the Leninist organization became for a substantial section of the working-class movement a guide, an ideal, and a model, this was due, it is clear, to the fact of their triumph in 1917. It was the triumph of Bolshevism that caused it to become a focus of attention everywhere, whether in a spirit of hatred or one of enthusiasm, of repulsion, or of devotion.49Liebman, Leninism under Lenin, 147. jQuery('#footnote_plugin_tooltip_32766_1_49').tooltip( tip: '#footnote_plugin_tooltip_text_32766_1_49', tipClass: 'footnote_tooltip', effect: 'fade', predelay: 0, fadeInSpeed: 200, delay: 400, fadeOutSpeed: 200, position: 'top right', relative: true, offset: [10, 10], );

Lenin could not believe it when he first heard the news, thinking it was a slander aimed at sowing discord within the revolutionary movement. When it became clear that the working-class organizations and especially their leaderships had betrayed the interests of the socialist revolution and class solidarity, Lenin made understanding this situation his top priority. It was urgent and imperative to grasp the historical significance of this betrayal and to draw the conclusions from a practical and, in particular, an organizational point of view. He wrote,

I use the term Leninism rather than socialism or Communism because it can be understood in theoretical, organizational, and socioeconomic terms. Leninism, as a theory and a worldview, is based on Marxism, with historical materialism as its ideological foundation. As an organizational principle, Leninism emphasizes the role of the vanguard party as the instrument of the dictatorship of the proletariat in the transitional period to Communism, with democratic centralism as its central doctrine. As a strategy of socioeconomic transformation, Leninism offers a particular program of statist development designed to allow economically backward countries to catch up and accelerate the transition to Communism without going through fully developed capitalism. Based on the premise of the dictatorship of the proletariat, Leninism stresses the role of the state in leading economic development and distributing social wealth. Domestically, it implies a command economy and egalitarianism; internationally, it implies economic isolation from the capitalist world. In this sense, Leninism marks a break from classical Marxism by giving the state a central role in the transition to Communism.

Hungary provides a case where the fusion of Leninism and national identity was most incomplete, in part because the foreign origin of its Communist dictatorship maintained a greater degree of separation, indeed often direct opposition, between Hungarian nationalism and the features of Leninism that nurtured illiberal tendencies. During most of the Leninist era, especially after 1956, the developmental and cultural policies adopted by the Hungarian regime were much less orthodox compared to the Romanian case, as exemplified by the significant degree of political tolerance and the surprisingly innovative New Economic Mechanism initiated under Janos Kadar. In contrast to Romania, the Hungarian regime remained obedient to the Soviet Union internationally in exchange for considerable domestic flexibility. Ideology and politics were largely pushed to the background in favor of apolitical consumerism during the Kadar era, which stretched over more than three decades. Consequently, there was only relatively superficial layering of Leninism on preexisting nationalist ideals in the case of Hungary.

During recent years, the comparative historical approach has been making a powerful comeback within the social sciences. In the particular context of post-Communist studies, this has led to new and fresh perspectives exploring alternative pathways of post-Communist transformation linked to variations in Leninist legacies. Following this intellectual orientation, this book is a small-n comparative historical study consisting of four cases for the purpose of developing and illustrating an original hypothesis. The four cases (Russia, China, Romania, and Hungary) are selected from each of the four types of Leninist states discussed above in order to represent the entire universe of cases. These cases are selected with the understanding that not all context-specific variations among Leninist and post-Leninist states can be exhaustively captured by such typology, and that there are many contextual and proximate factors, some of them highly significant, that cannot be fully controlled. For example, although China, Romania, and Hungary all have significant numbers of geographically concentrated ethnic minorities or ethnic diaspora in neighboring states, this problem is particularly serious in the case of Russia, which is a federal instead of unitary system. Nevertheless, for the purposes of theory-building, it is important to separate those general mechanisms that are driving illiberal nationalism along different trajectories from those context-bound mechanisms that are only operating in specific contexts. This study therefore focuses on the most decisive variables that can be compared across the cases in the interest of generating a structural argument. Significant contextual factors, such as ethnic composition and international environment, will be examined and incorporated into the analysis in each empirical chapter, and their roles in affecting the post-Leninist outcome will be assessed through careful process-tracing in the case studies and summarized in the concluding chapter. For example, the case study on China will show that, despite the considerable presence of geographically concentrated minorities, majority-minority tensions actually play a relatively minor role in contributing to contemporary illiberal nationalism. 041b061a72


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