Foundations of Leninism

Hugh Rodwell m-14970 at
Mon Sep 30 18:20:43 MDT 1996

Chris writes:

>Hugh states that there were several versions of
>Foundations of Leninism, and further that the changes
>were due to censorship. I don't see that political
>allegation necessarily follows, but first Hugh could you please
>state your sources for this, and for the quote which you gave
>as *February* 1924, although footnotes to the editions
>I have access to, descibe the lectures as having
>been published in Pravda in April and May?

The source I used for the quote is "Lenin and Trotsky -- What They Really
Stood For: Reply to Monty Johnstone (Moscow)" by Alan Woods and Ted Grant,
Colombo 1972. The February date they give for the writing doesn't seem
implausible, since the texts were originally lectures, and had to be
written, given and edited for publication before being published. Some-one
else will have to give us the detail. I've dug up a copy of Foundations of
Leninism I had tucked away somewhere, it's the same edition as Chris's.

Let's look at some of the changes.

A) >The overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie and the establishment
>of a proletarian government  in one country does not yet guarantee the
>complete victory of  socialism.

B) >But the overthrow of the power of the bourgeoisie
>and establishment of the power of the proletariat in one
>country does not yet mean that the complete victory of
>socialism has been ensured.

There is a change from "proletarian government" to "proletarian power" that
might indicate a wish to emphasize an identity between the regime and the
class foundation of the state.

"does not guarantee complete victory" becomes "does not mean complete
victory has been ensured".

A) >The main task of socialism -- the
>organization of socialist production -- remains ahead.

B) >After consolidating its power
>and leading the peasantry in its wake the proletariat of
>the victorious country can and must build a socialist

There's a complete change of emphasis here. In A, "The main task of
socialism" -- one of many tasks -- lies in the future as a task. In B, the
proletariat not only "must build a socialist society", but also "can", the
only condition being that its power is consolidated.

A) >Can this task be
>accomplished, can the final victory of socialism in one country be
>attained, without the joint efforts of the proletariat of several advanced
>countries? No, this is impossible.

This is short and sweet. And its followed by a distinction between
overthrowing the bourgeoisie on the one hand:

>To overthrow the bourgeoisie, the
>efforts of one country are sufficient -- the history of our revolution
>bears this out.

and a reflection on the final victory of Socialism, the organization of
socialist production:

>For the final victory of Socialism, for the organization of
>socialist production, the efforts of one country, particularly of such a
>peasant country as Russia, are insufficient. For this the efforts of the
>proletarians of several advanced countries are necessary.

This is Stalin, in early 1924, not later than April or May. The efforts of

And then the confident claim that this insufficiency is pure Lenin:

>        Such on the whole, are the characteristic features of the Leninist
>theory of the proletarian revolution.

B) Takes a different course altogether here:

>But does this mean that it will thereby achieve
>the complete and final victory of socialism, i.e. does
>it mean that with the forces of only one country it can
>finally consolidate socialism and fully guarantee
>that country against intervention and, consequently,
>also against restoration?

Note the widening of the definition of socialism to "complete and final",
and particularly the new bit about "fully guarantee that country against
intervention and restoration".

>No, it does not.

The "no" has become ambiguous. Given the dangers of imperialist attack, the
"no" becomes more likely to be focused on the guarantee against
intervention than the consolidation of socialism.

>For this the
>victory of the revolution in at least several countries
>is needed.

The focus here, the "for this", is uncertain, too, as a result of the above.

>Therefore, the development and support of
>the revolution in other countries is an essential task
>of the victorious revolution.

Here again, the "therefore" is unfocused. Is the development of the
revolution in other countries a necessity for the *survival* of the
workers' state, or is it needed to reduce the foreign threat?

>Therefore, the revolution
>which has been victorious in one country must regard itself
>not as a self-sufficient entity, but as an aid, as a means
>for hastening the victory of the proletariat in other

This would seem to be straightforward enough. Except that the reason for
not regarding itself as self-sufficient is not very clear.

>Lenin expressed this thought succinctly when he said that
>the task of the victorious revolution is to do 'the utmost
>possible in one country *for* the development, support
>and awakening of the revolution *in all countries*.
>(See Vol. XXIII p385. [Peking edn footnote: "The Proletarian
>Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky", Oct-Nov 1918])

Again, renewed emphasis on the national aspect, and a fading away of the
earlier statement on the need for victories in other countries to
statements underlining the distance and difficulty of revolution in other

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.

>These, in general, are the characteristic features of
>Lenin's theory of proletarian revolution."

The active class struggle emphasis of "efforts of the proletarians of
several advanced countries" has been altered to the more abstract "victory
of the revolution in at least several countries" -- revolution becoming
more of a force of nature than a conscious goal to be worked for, and the
whole aspect of "advanced" countries being needed disappears.

So, quite substantial differences. But if I was a Stalinist I would not be
happy about the support either of these quotes provided for the Socialism
in One Country theory. I'd prefer the second one, because it would give me
much more scope for creative interpretation.



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