Bolshevism vs Menshevism?
adam at pmel.com
Thu Jun 6 02:47:50 MDT 1996
Louis is presenting an interesting argument on this subject.
He is right in forcing us to examine the actual history of
the development of Lenin and the Bolshevik Party.
The Stalinist tradition made Lenin into a sort of revolutionary
super hero, with amazing powers of seeing into the future. So
in this distorted tradition, the day after Lenin's Narodnik
brother was executed, Lenin realised that there was no peasant
road to socialism, terrorism was a dead end, and a Marxist Party
needed to be organised in Russia.
Well, actually, it took him seven years to mull things over before
he reentered political activity in a serious manner. And even then,
he started off by writing what became "The development of
capitalism in Russia" , and debating with visiting Narodnik speakers.
[ Can you imagine it : you're a veteran revolutionary visiting some
pokey little town in the outback for a nice little chat, and this
young know all starts giving you a detailed statitistical analysis
of the class structure in the countryside ! ]
The more superficial understanding of the split in 1903 is that
Lenin realised that the Mensheviks were capitalist liquidantionaist
reformist scum, and set about organising a proper revolutionary party
which could provide the basis for a new international. This view
gives Lenin super hero status, able to see into the future, and is
The relationship between the Bolsheviks + Mensheviks went through many
twists and turns. In some remote towns in Russia, they still had not
organisationally split until well after February 1917 ! Someone has
already pointed out that in 1910 there was a bit of a coming together,
although by this time it was really a unity of parties ( Rosa Luxembourg's
party in Poland, the jewish bund, and Trotsky etc were all in it ).
Lenin in 1903 was not at all sure he was doing the right thing, splitting
on such a small point. [ Apparently it kept him up at night worrying ! ]
Nevertheless, through the splits and reunifications, the twists and turns,
of an extended period of time, a process of differentiation on the basis of
principles, was occuring. I cannot see how anyone can possibly deny this,
given the way things turned out - the Mensheviks ended up on the side of
Everyone ( except Luxembourg, Trotsky, Parvus ) agreed that the coming revolution
was a bourgeois one. The PRINCIPLED split that developed was over the respective
roles of the working class and bourgeoisie during the coming revolution, and
the organisation consequences FOLLOWED from this POLITICAL difference.
The Mensheviks believed that the bourgoisie would lead its own revolution, with
the working class acting at best as a radical pressure group on the bourgeoisie.
The Bolsheviks' underlying class analysis was actually closer to that of Luxembourg,
Trotsky, Parvus etc, arguing that the bourgeoisie was too tied in with Czarism, and
that there was no large class of small to medium capitalists who were prepared to
launch any revolution. The large capitalists, tied into to Czarism, were already more
afraid of the working class than they were of the aristocracy and state, even more
so than the German bourgeoisie had been in 1848.
This meant that Lenin and the Bolsheviks were dogmatically insistent on the working
class as the leader of the coming revolution.
>From this difference of perspective flowed the different methods of organising.
It may not have been absolutely clear at the time, [ obviously, it wasn't to
Trotsky, who saw both parties as slow to react to the outbreak of revolution
in 1905, and when they did react, they BOTH took part in the workers uprising,
despite BOTH parties thinking that the revolution was a bourgeois one ]
but the two tendencies developed in different directions because one saw the
working class as the primary agent of change, and the other didn't.
PS and a similar analysis should be made of the DEVELOPMENT of Trotsky's
resistance to Stalin. Lenin didn't come out of his mother's womb a fully
formed revolutionary, and nor did Trotsky.
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