Bolshevism vs Menshevism?

Louis N Proyect lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Jun 6 06:01:27 MDT 1996


On 5 Jun 1996, Jon Flanders wrote:

>
>   Doesn't this attitude of Lenin's reflect the different concepts of a party
> that the two sides held? Lenin wanted to get away from the "circle mentality"
> which among other things, could be said to foster sentimental attachment to
> old heroes, ignoring their present role.
>

Louis: It was a concept of a Socialist Party that was attuned to the needs
of Russian society within the context of party-building methodology of the
2nd International. In 1903 Lenin advocated building a party on this model
in Russia where none existed. He always pointed to the German Social
Democracy as an example of what was required. The only thing "innovative"
about what Lenin was doing at this point was that he had no tolerance for
people who stood in the way of this process, either Economists or orthodox
Marxists who were conciliatory toward them. He meant business. However, to
try to make a tie between the seriousness of his purpose, which
characterized his entire political career, and the party-building
methodology of James P. Cannon or William Z. Foster is a big mistake.

The party-building methodology of the Comintern was problematic to begin
with. When it became fused with the foreign policy needs of the Kremlin it
became that much more of an impediment to the construction of genuine
revolutionary parties which have to be *rooted* in the societies they
emerge from.

Trotsky never understood this. In his polemic against Stalin and Bukharin
he objected to the instructions that Comintern official Borodin, who
was "assigned" to China, gave to the CCP. (The instructions were to work
within the Kuomingtang.) What Trotsky never seemed alarmed about was the
propriety of Russians giving instructions to Chinese revolutionaries.

In his own dealings with his followers in the 4th International, these
mistakes deepened. Trotsky set up his own little Kremlin and issued orders
to his followers world-wide. Of course, they were merely "recommendations"
but it became almost impossible to depart from them.

Nothing like this was happening when Lenin was building the Bolshevik
Party in Russia. If there had been some kind of "center" issuing
instructions back then, I doubt whether there would have been a successful
revolution in 1917.



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