Foundations of Leninism

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Wed Oct 2 05:14:13 MDT 1996

Chris writes:

>The early date of February seems to me to be puzzling if the lectures
>were given in April and May at the Sverdlov University.
>Perhaps there was another talk elsewhere. Presumably
>Woods and Grant just give the reference as "Foundations of Leninism"
>so it is not possible to identify where the whole text is.

Where do you get your position that the talks were given in April and May?
According to the notes, they were published in April and May. There is no
information about when they were given.

We need someone who has access to all the relevant editions and a bit more
background to clarify this further.

>I had not in fact realised that Foundations of Leninism had gone
>through many additions until you mentioned it. My 1945 English
>language edition of Problems of Leninism says it is the eleventh
>edition of that collection, which includes Foundations of Leninism.

You bet it went through a lot of editions, with every zig, a new zag.

>To produce a summary of Lenin that is concise and comprehensive is
>an enormous task. Essentially it is a collective task, and
>probably cannot entirely be done by one person. I do not see anything
>sinister in assuming that Stalin may have received comments both
>informally and from official sources - some sort of archivist? in
>polishing the text. I understand from a remark by Monty Johnstone
>at a talk last year, that at least a third (?) of Lenin is still

Guess why it's unpublished!

>The challenge I suggest that Foundations of Leninism presents to
>Trotskyist critics, is that its main features were presented
>within a few months of Lenin's death at the time of a
>fierce struggle in the Bolshevik party and subsequently was used for
>several decades as a summary of Lenin's main positions.
>It is not easy for Trotskyist critics to demonstrate that this text
>is at variance with Lenin's published works.

The Foundations of Leninism poses no challenge at all to Trotskyist
critics. The challenge of Stalinism was material and empirical from start
to finish. The challenge to Trotsky and Trotskyism was to characterize and
oppose the various stages of movement away from Marxism in the policies of
the bureaucracy, ie Stalin and the shifting coalitions in which he found
the majorities he needed for administrative solutions to political

This is why Chris's following remarks are so inverted. Chris, by focusing
on Foundations of Leninism, avoids discussing the realities of Party
history around the time of the death of Lenin. For instance the swamping of
the party with new, unschooled and frequently anti-October cadre in the
Lenin Levy (to which cadre the Foundations of Leninism is dedicated).

>I find Hugh's approach fundamentally tending to idealism. I doubt
>he will change his view but the way he argues shows IMO
>a failure to engage in concrete reality. He summarises:
>"So, in the first piece we have clear focus on the impossibility of
>achieving socialism in one country, whereas in the second we have a
>confusion of diplomatic needs with the needs of building socialism."
>Now both texts, even if you accept the authenticity of the version
>Hugh gave, and for which Woods and Grant presumably have only
>a sparse footnote, refer to the impossibility of guaranteeing
>etc the *final* victory of socialism. Nothing is gained
>by summarising this as "the impossibility of socialism in one

What is gained is the necessary international perspective on the question
of achieving socialism. There is all the difference in the world between
saying that a single workers' state can do all it can to build on
state-owned, worker-controlled, non-capitalist foundations as part of the
struggle to attain the necessary socialist hegemony in the world market,
and in saying that it is indeed possible to actually build socialism in one
country. The first position is Lenin's, the second position is Stalin's.

>Secondly, reference to "confusion of diplomatic needs" by
>Hugh fails to accept in concrete reality that a major part of
>campaigning against intervention would have to focus on
>diplomatic questions, if by that is meant state policy: eg would
>the "democracies" of France and England give assistance to
>the democracy of Republican Spain. Would England and France enter
>into a trustworthy alliance against nazi aggression, or were they
>hoping that Germany would attack and defeat Russia rather than

So Chris thinks that imperialist states can enter into a "trustworthy
alliance" with a workers' state!

The fact that a "major part of campaigning against intervention would
have to focus on diplomatic questions" is merely the result of the
degeneration of the Stalinist regime. Look at the negotiations in
Brest-Litovsk for an example of this kind of thing that had an
anti-diplomatic focus.

>Hugh will be not be surprised that I consider he has failed
>to demonstrate that in 1924 (ten years before the murder of Kirov)
>the delegates of the Bolshevik party failed to support Trotsky
>as a result of machiavellian censorship of Lenin or Stalin's
>true position.

Lenin's works were already being suppressed in 1923-24. Stalin was pushing
new positions (like Socialism in One Country) and developing new
distortions of party history (such as "Trotskyism") at the time.

Stalin's majorities against Trotsky were achieved partly by coalitions with
old Bolshevik leaders (initially with Zinoviev and Kamenev, who were later
humiliated and executed for their pains) and partly by manoeuvering to gain
the support of machine-men in the apparatus (of which the Lenin Levy was
the crassest example). These voting manoeuvres were accompanied, as I said,
by lies and distortions in relation to the ideas of Lenin and Trotsky.

>But Foundations of Leninism has 9 sections. There are plenty of
>subjects on which Trotskyist critics of Stalin could try to
>demonstrate that the work departs from Lenin's views.
>I increasingly doubt that that can easily be demonstrated.

This is idealism. The historical record on China, Germany, Spain, WWII,
Greece and Yugoslavia, China again, and so on, indicates more than any book
where Stalin departed from Marx and Lenin.

However, I'll bear Chris's predilection for the Foundations in mind, and
might bring it into discussions if I see any need.

Perhaps Chris could tell us what status the Foundations enjoys in the CPSA
-- if it's used as gospel there, it might need a bit more emphasis here.



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