Lenin, Stalin and th, and the Emir of Afghanistan

Chris Burford cburford at gn.apc.org
Tue Oct 8 00:57:31 MDT 1996

The conflicts on these lists take many forms.
One of them is about the line
of descent of the Bolshevik tradition.

Hugh has accepted that Foundations of Leninism
was a widely published work, which can be a useful test
of his and Robert's charge that there is no
continuity between Lenin's theoretical position and
that of Stalin. This is a step forward in
how we clarify the historical record of the Bolshevik
tradition of marxism.

However Hugh and Robert want to shift the emphasis of
their criticism of Stalin's political line to
the historical record of the handling of relations
with other nations and countries, which they
assert is flagrantly anti-Leninist.

Let us take a passage from the section in
Foundations of Leninism on the national question, that
happens to relate to Afghanistan.

I would ask Hugh

whether this passage is a distortion of
Lenin's position. Perhaps it is. Please could we make
progress in demonstrating this therefore?

[My own view is that it is difficult to demonstrate any
theoretical misrepresentation of Lenin in FOL,
except that there is bound to be a one-sidedness in
exegesis in condensing into 125 pages the vast range
of Lenin's contribution. A viable criticism is probably more
likely to be in the area of "what is left out?" But
that too would have to be argued.]

>From Foundations of Leninism Section 6, the National
Question, (p76 in Peking 1976 edition)

" 'The various demands of democracy'. writes Lenin,
'including self-determination, are not an absolute,
but a *small part* of the general democratic
(now: general socialist) *world* movement. In
individual concrete cases, the part may contradict the
whole; if so it must be rejected.'
[The Discussion on Self-Determination Summed Up, July 1916]

"This is the position in regard to the question of particular
national movements, of the possible reactionary character
of these movements - if, of course, they are appraised not
>from the formal point of view, not from the point of view
of abstract rights, but concretely, from the point of view
of the interests of the revolutionary movement.

The same must be said of the revolutionary character of
national movements in general. The unquestionably
revolutionary character of the vast majority of national
movements is as relative and peculiar as is the possible
reactionary character of certain particular national
movements. The revolutionary character of a national movement
under the conditions of imperialist oppression does not
necessarily presuppose the existence of proletarian
elements in the movement, the existence of a revolutionary
or a republican programme of the movement, the existence
of a democratic basis of the movement. The struggle that
the Emir of Afghanistan is waging for the independence of
Afghanistan is objectively a *revolutionary* struggle,
despite the monarchist views of the Emir and his
associates, for it weakens, disintegrates and undermines

"For the same reasons, the struggle that the Egyptian merchants
and bourgeois intellectuals are waging for the independence
of Egypt is objectively a *revolutionary* struggle, despite
the bourgeois origin and bourgeois title of the leaders
of the Egyptian national movement, depite the fact that they
are opposed to socialism....

"There is not need to mention the national movement in
other, larger, colonial and dependent countries, such as
India and China, every step of which along the road to
liberation, even if it runs counter to the demands of
formal democracy, is a steam-hammer blow at imperialism,
i.e. is undoubtedly a *revolutionary* step.

"Lenin was right in saying that the national movement
of the oppressed countries should be appraised not from
the point of view of formal democracy, but from the point
of view of the actual results, as shown by the general
balance sheet of the struggle against imperialism,
that is to say, 'not in isolation, but on a world scale,'
[Lenin, ibid]  "

So, Hugh, could you

as a matter of historical analysis demonstrate that this
is a fundamental distortion of Lenin?

You may also want to say how you disagree with it
poltically (or perhaps agree with it, but then wish to
redefine the lines of demarcation).


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