[Marxism] Burying Lenin

Ken Hiebert knhiebert at shaw.ca
Mon Feb 4 23:05:25 MST 2013

From a longer article by Dario Cankovic, forwarded by LP February 4/13.

In short, not only is the Leninist model not suited to building a mass socialist movement, the material conditions for building one in the advanced industrial countries wasn’t right. It wasn’t just that they had the wrong kind of organization—to say that would be to make the same mistakes that the Leninists make—but that the working class wasn’t ready for struggle. Capitalism was working for the working class—in large part thanks to the efforts of the socialist movement and to the fear of revolution by the ruling class—now that it no longer is we have a window of opportunity to rebuild the socialist movement. Leninism. a product of the 20th-century, a degeneration of Marxism which emerged in agrarian authoritarian conditions, isn’t fit as a model for building a 21st-century socialist movement. 

I think we should go back and re-examine the Second International, they still represent the largest and most successful mass socialist parties outside the Leninist tradition. The experience of social-democracy in the 20th-century has taught us the dangers of reformism, I think we can learn those lessons without completely jettisoning the entire heritage of the Second International, as the Leninists tried to do. Not to mention, capital can no longer afford concessions. The second half of the 20th-century was a remarkably stable period for capitalism, I think we have finally returned to another unstable period, another revolutionary period. After the 20th-century’s long detour through Leninism, it’s time to go back to plain old Marxism and see where that takes us. 

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Ken Hiebert responds:

If  DC is right, socialists in the West were mistaken when they sought to model themselves on the Bolshevik Party.  I would add that, in this view, the leaders of the Russian Revolution themselves were very much mistaken when they encouraged socialists in the West to follow their example.  They were encouraging people to build revolutionary parties in countries where a revolution was not possible.
It seems that the Bolsheviks were not alone in this misapprehension.  Even the ruling class thought a revolution was possible and for that reason made concessions to the working class.  Perhaps DC would concede that even though a revolution was not possible, the presence of revolutionaries in the working class at least allowed the workers to make some gains.

DC encourages us to go back and re-examine the Second InternationaL  By all means, we should do that.
For me the biggest failing of the Second International was not that they failed to overthrow capitalism anywhere.  It was their collapse during World War I.  DC is right when he calls them "...the largest and most successful mass socialist parties outside the Leninist tradition."  They had mass support in the many  of the countries that went to war, certainly in Germany, France, and Britain.  The mutiny of French soldiers, the fraternization among German and British soldiers in the trenches showed a potential for a mass revolt against the war.
What was lacking?  A leadership willing to mobilize such a movement..  In their great majority, the parties of the Second International simply could not build such a movement, or even visualize it.

I think if we examine the Second International we will have the same reaction that many socialist had at the time of WWI, disgust and a desire to build something entirely different than the Second International.

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