[Marxism] What is to be done

Andrew Pollack acpollack2 at gmail.com
Fri Feb 12 08:37:10 MST 2016

Good job Louis.
Ironically the quote cited by Brinton - and taken totally out of context -
comes from a pamphlet which shows Lenin precisely at his best, both in
terms of making realistic compromises, and in his insistence on
rank-and-file control of production, accounting and management wherever
realistically possible, an insistence overlapping with his repeated tribute
to co-ops.

On Fri, Feb 12, 2016 at 8:12 AM, Louis Proyect via Marxism <
marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:

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> Dr. Welton,
> In your long diatribe against Lenin on CounterPunch today, you turn "What
> is to be Done" into some kind of original sin:
> "In his educational treatise What is to be Done? (1903), Lenin formulates
> the pedagogical relationship between educator (socialist intellectual) and
> those to be educated (peasants and proletariat) in bluntly instrumental and
> directive terms.
> "This famous (or infamous) text can be situated in the years between 1872
> and 1905 that were marked by the absence of revolution. The existing
> revolutionary parties held gradualist and economistic beliefs, and Lenin
> could not see any way forward without 'vanguard' subordination of the
> working class to the Leninist educator."
> You don't seem to understand that Lenin's ideas on the revolutionary party
> were a direct application of the model of the German Social Democracy.
> Lenin wrote:
> "Why is there not a single political event in Germany that does not add to
> the authority and prestige of the Social-Democracy? Because
> Social-Democracy is always found to be in advance of all the others in
> furnishing the most revolutionary appraisal of every given event and in
> championing every protest against tyranny...It intervenes in every sphere
> and in every question of social and political life; in the matter of
> Wilhelm's refusal to endorse a bourgeois progressive as city mayor (our
> Economists have not managed to educate the Germans to the understanding
> that such an act is, in fact, a compromise with liberalism!); in the matter
> of the law against 'obscene' publications and pictures; in the matter of
> governmental influence on the election of professors, etc., etc."
> Lenin's main point is that the Social Democrat should not aspire to be a
> trade union secretary, but instead the "tribune of the people." This
> tribune will "react to every manifestation of tyranny and oppression, no
> matter where it appears, no matter what stratum of people it affects; who
> is able to generalize all these manifestations and produce a single picture
> of police violence and capitalist exploitation; who is able to take
> advantage of every event, however small, in order to set forth before all
> his socialist convictions and his democratic demands, in order to clarify
> for all and everyone the world-historic significance of the struggle for
> the emancipation of the proletariat."
> Lenin's example of one such tribune is the German Social Democratic leader
> Wilhelm Liebnecht. The German Social Democracy was Lenin's *model* for what
> was needed in Russia. This type of party did not exist in Russia and it was
> his goal to build one.
> You cite a number of enemies of Lenin in your diatribe including Maurice
> Brinton whose citation of Lenin's 1918 article "The Immediate Tasks of the
> Soviet Government" supposedly sealed the fate of the Russian Revolution and
> prepared the way for Stalin:
> “Revolution demands, in the interests of socialism, that the masses
> unquestioningly obey the single will of the leaders of the labour process.”
> I am not sure what it is that you teach but history does not seem to be
> your forte. Lenin's article was written during the civil war when the USSR
> was invaded by 8 imperialist armies, including the USA. This was resulted
> in the death of 7 to 12 million people, mostly civilians, according to the
> Wikipedia article on the Russian civil war.
> Once the civil war was over, the Soviets dropped war communism like a hot
> potato and moved toward the NEP which hardly maps to Maurice Brinton's
> nightmare. Of course the NEP led to a series of other problems that
> arguably strengthened Stalin's hand. In any case, the best way to
> understand what happened in the USSR is not by quoting libertarian
> communists like Maurice Brinton that sound great one paper. Rather it
> requires an engagement with the social and economic forces that acted
> mercilessly on Lenin and all attempts in the 20th and 21st century to build
> an alternative to capitalism. The lesson that can be drawn is that
> socialism requires a global framework if it is to succeed. Lenin's writings
> and even the fitful attempts of the Comintern to provide such a framework
> are still useful for those of us who remain inspired by the 1917 revolution.
> Although I am happy to see CounterPunch, a website that unfortunately
> gives far too much space for people who obviously admire Stalin and Stalin
> Jr. (Vladimir Putin), publish your article, it is a disservice to
> socialism. My recommendation to you is to read Neil Harding's "Lenin's
> Political Thought" to get a handle on what Lenin believed as opposed to the
> funhouse mirror of Maurice Brinton et al.
> Have a nice day.
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