The Legacy of Lenin?

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at
Wed Nov 29 07:47:57 MST 1995

On Wed, 29 Nov 1995, Scott Marshall wrote:
> I think this is an often misinterpreted idea of Lenin. When Lenin talked
> about from the 'outside' he clearly was not referring to a particular role
> for a particular social strata or group in the party or of the party in
> general. He was speaking in much broader philosophical terms. He, like Marx,
> believed that class consciousness and socialist consciousness did not arise
> spontaneously from the working class *on its own.*

Louis: What follows is from the article I posted a while back called
"Lenin in Context":
Lenin had a totally different concept of a vanguard, but his
idea was nothing new. It merely represented mainstream
thinking in Russian and European Social Democracy.
George Plekhanov, eighteen years before the publication of
"What is to be Done?" stated that "the socialist
intelligentsia...must become the leader of the working class
in the impending emancipation movement, explain to it its
political and economic interests and also the
interdependence of those interests and must prepare them to
play an independent role in the social life of Russia." In
1898, Pavel Axelrod wrote that "the proletariat, according
to the consciousness of the Social Democrats, does not
possess a ready-made, historically elaborated social ideal,"
and "it goes without saying that these conditions, without
the energetic participation of the Social Democrats, may
cause our proletariat to remain in its condition as a listless
and somnolent force in respect of its political development."
The Austrian Hainfeld program of the Social Democrats
said that "Socialist consciousness is something that is
brought into the proletarian class struggle from the outside,
not something that organically develops out of the class
struggle." Kautsky, the world's leading Marxist during this
period, stated that "socialism and the class struggle arise
side by side and not one out of the other; each arises under
different conditions. Modern socialist consciousness can
arise only on the basis of profound scientific knowledge."

I think that Tom Condit and Scott Marshall's absolutely brilliant replies to
Professor Rosser (he is a professor, it turns out) raise the question of
whether a cyberseminar on the "Legacy of Lenin" is in order. After all,
the conference the Brecht Forum held recently was a great success. These
are the topics that could be discussed:

1) The organizational question: Did Lenin innovate anything at all?

2) Imperialism: Chris Bailey once asserted on the list that Lenin's ideas
on imperialism have misoriented the left in the 20th century by putting
forth the notion that capitalism was in a state of advanced decay. This
leads to triumphalism. What is the reality?

3) Dictatorship of the proletariat: Are the ideas Marx's or Lenin's? Do
they lead to Stalinist oppression or do they open up the possibility
of democracy in the sense articulated by Aristotle: rule by the poor.

4) Nationalism: What were Lenin's exact views? Do they lend support or
mitigate against black nationalism in the United States, the IRA, etc.

5) Soviet socialism: Lenin died shortly after the Soviet state was born.
What economic policies would he have supported had he lived: Bukharin's
pro-peasant NEP, Trotsky's industrialization model, Stalin's forced march?

What do you think?

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