There is an enticement to minimize the caliber of one who has been sanctified by almost two generations of propagandists. The truth remains that Lenin is one of the most poignant figures in modern history despite the fact that his agenda denied historical free will to individual men. The Communist rule that he established in Russia was maintained predominantly through Lenin’s personal qualities as opposed to his implementation of the dialectic. His triumph lies in the foundation of a political party imbibed with his own spirit of discipline and malevolence. He is credited with achieving a party-dominated totalitarian state, an inventive creation of the twentieth century. Lenin’s theories were not just mirror images of Bolshevism as he was instrumental in securing his place as the theoretical and practical father of totalitarianism. The Communist party today possesses the essence of Lenin’s political party. It has remained faithful to at least one of Lenin’s principles established at the opening of the century. They continue to maintain that those who reject the current party line are, ipso facto, class enemies (McNeal, 71).
Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, later called Lenin, was born in April, 1870 in Simbirsk, located on the eastern borderlands of European Russia. He was the son of a school teacher and administrator named Ilya Nilolaevich Ulyanov. Lenin entered the University of Kazan to study law but was rejected that same year for taking part in school demonstrations. He moved to St. Petersburg in 1893 and formed a close connection with the revolutionary workers in the area. By 1902, he had published a pamphlet entitled, What Is To Be Done in which he designated the theoretical principles and organization of a Marxist party as he believed it should be commissioned. He participated in the second Congress of the Russian Social - Democratic Workers’ Party in which he disclosed his views. Two groups of dissidents formed at the Congress: the Bolshevik with Lenin as the leader, and the Mensheviks with Julius Martov as the leader. Lenin prided himself upon the establishment of a restricted party of militants and the dictatorship of the proletariat while Martov desired a wide-open proletarian party and a democratic constitution for Russia.
After the downfall of the 1905 Russian Revolution, Lenin outwardly attacked the Kantian philosophic views attached to German and Russian Marxism in his book entitled Materialism and Empirio-criticism. There was a split in the Social Democratic Party because both factions believed that further revolution was necessary. The Bolsheviks insisted upon a highly centralized, disciplined, professional party (“Bolshevik” Encyclopedia Britannica Online). They boycotted the elections to the First State Duma in 1906. Lenin supported the notion that the revolutionaries could combine the forces of the borgeois and proletariats by organizing the peasantry as close supporters of the workers. Lenin was moving closer to theories of Leon Trotsky, that the inevitable Russian revolution was connected to imperialism and would spark a world revolution. In 1912 the Bolsheviks split with the Mensheviks when they called their own Congress in Prague that year.
By 1917, the bond between the Tsar and most of the Russian people had been tarnished. Corruption and incompetence characterized the government. Revolution seemed inevitable because the Russians realized they were no longer a military match for other nations in Europe, and they were plagued by a severely defunct economy. In Petrograd, riots broke out over the scarcity of food. After the February Revolution in 1917, The Bolsheviks became noticeably popular with the urban workers and soldiers, especially after April when Lenin propagandized immediate peace and that the workers’ councils assume power. The February Revolution was unpremeditated and fueled by a deep resentment over the economic and social conditions that had predominated under Tsar Nicholas. Russia found it to be exerting to fight a modern war with an archaic political and economic system to be intolerable. The Soviets accepted the idea that it would be beneficial to attain power in two stages, the bourgeois and the socialist. With its large aggregate of peasants ad workers, this group formed the constituency of the socialists. Politicians believed that the people were dissatisfied with the inadequacy in the conduct of the war. The Bolshevik slogan, “All Power to the Soviets”, greatly appealed to the Russian citizens.
By the fall, the Bolshevik program of “peace, land, and bread” was gained the popular support of the urban workers and soldiers. Although a previous attempt at overthrowing the government had failed, the time seemed opportune. On October 24-25 the Bolsheviks and the Left Socialist Revolutionaries contrived a peaceful coup in which they occupied many government buildings. Majority power in St. Petersburg and Moscow Soviets was attained in October by the Bolsheviks when they successfully overthrew the Provisional government, and the Congress of Soviets seized control. Following the October Revolution, the Bolsheviks had maintained almost complete authority and refused to share power with any other revolutionary groups except the Left Socialist Revolutionaries which soon ended when they subdued all antagonist groups. They replaced their existing name with the Russian Communist Party of Bolsheviks in March of 1918.
At the Second All-Russian Congress of Soviets in October 1917, Lenin auspiciously secured and led a purely Bolshevik government called the Sovnarkom. They embodied true power in the Central Committee of the Communist party. In March 1919, he established the Third International, making a cutting off all ties with the Second International. Lenin now commanded the Russian Communist party which would serve as the model for Communist parties in all countries. He successfully combined forces of the peasants to the side of the proletariat, an essential component of his party platform. By 1921, Lenin’s government had annihilated all opposition that failed to support the Soviet cause in the Civil War. Lenin implemented the harshest measure including the death penalty as part of his repression plans. Not only one year later, Lenin was aware that the collapse of the Soviet system was the partly the cause of Socialism in Russia. The Soviets of Workers’ and Peasants’ had been deemed impotent.
“The mythological Lenin is all things to all men”. To his supporters, he is the founder of Bolshevism. To the soldiers he is the father of the army. To the intellectual he is a member of the Intelligentsia. To the worker he is an advocate for labor reform. To the peasants he is a combatant against the landlord (McNeal, pg. 72). Lenin embedded in his platform, the idea that you must please everyone and find some common link between all your supporters. To some, Lenin was a political genius who founded a political party that lasted through treacherous times. He embodies spirit, intelligence, and authority. For Communist supporters he was the Savior.
One of the most significant representations of national identity coming out of the former Soviet Union this century, The State and Revolution by V.I. Lenin is a must-read for anyone desiring to understand the motivations and justifications for the October Revolution. While the factors influencing Lenin were diversefrom personal experiences to his own political consciousnessThe Communist Manifesto by Marx and Engels was his primary basis. Lenins work is his interpretation of The Communist Manifesto, and he expends a great deal of effort considering opposing interpretations and proclaiming that his is superior (i.e., truer to the intentions of Marx and Engels). Perhaps intentionally, The State and Revolution is left unfinished much like the Soviet Union never achieved that final and most sought after phase of socialism.
The inspiration for Lenins work is The Communist Manifesto, written by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels and published in 1848. In the preface to The Communist Manifesto, Engels lays out the three key principles. To paraphrase, he claims that 1) the economic system determines society, 2) this inherently leads to class conflict, and 3) the struggles result in a series of evolutions (Marx and Engels 5). Later in the Manifesto there is more detail regarding what Marx and Engels would like to accomplish. In a simple 10-point plan, they call for such measures as the abolition of private property, a progressive tax structure, and centralization of important functions in the hands of the state (Marx and Engels 31). Marx and Engels, at the end of their Manifesto, exclaim "Workingmen of the world, unite!" (Marx and Engels 46). There is a reason the Manifesto is only 46 pages long and its argument is rather clearly stated: it is to incite the proletariat to revolution. To this end, they might have hoped for someone to come along and champion their ideas. In Russia and what became the Soviet Union, Lenin brought some of these ideas to the forefront.
Lenin presents his interpretation of the Manifesto in The State and Revolution. He quotes extensively from the Manifesto and spends a large portion of the book reviewing past revolutions and experiments in communal living. Lenin writes:
Critics will find fault with Lenin on two counts. First, Lenin presupposes that the masters, Marx and Engels, are correct. If one does not buy the argument contained in the Manifesto, would he or she really dwell on the differing interpretations of the opportunists, anarchists, and Lenin? Second, Lenin writes with the typical vanguard of the proletariat, elitist tone. In the preceding quote, Lenin asserts that only one in 10,000 people who have read the Manifesto will truly understand it, and he is one of those people of course.
The State and Revolution is ultimately, as Professor Alan Wolfe puts it, a "state-building guide"(Wolfe 10/5/98). Lenin points to the eventual goal of a "higher phase of communism" (86), yet he maintains that he is "justified in speaking only of the inevitable withering away of the state, emphasizing the lengthiness of this process" (Lenin 86). Rather than a rapid dissolution of the state, Lenin calls for a strengthening of the state in the short run. Eventually, he argues, there will be no need for a state. "The more complete the democracy, the nearer the moment approaches when it becomes unnecessary, the more democratic the state which consists of the armed workers and which is no longer a state in the proper sense of the word, the more rapidly does every aspect of state begin to wither away" (Lenin 91). The problem is with the timing: how long is this process? In the meantime, Lenin calls for "the expropriation of the capitalists, the conversion of all citizens into workers and employees of a single huge syndicatethe entire stateand the complete subordination of the entire work of this syndicate to a genuinely democratic state, to a state of the Soviets of Workers' and Soldiers' Deputies" (Lenin 87). According to Lenins logic, the state must become all-powerful before it can progress to being unnecessary.
Crucial to understanding The State and Revolution is a grasp of the sequence of events advocated and predicted by Lenin. The first or lower phase of communism is equivalent to socialism. Later the second or higher phase of communism may be achieved. The process starts with a violent revolution of the proletariat and the transformation from a capitalist state to an even more democratic state. It is not a coincidence that neither Lenin's book nor his state was ever finished. Lenin paid lip service to Marx's theories of the stages of communism and the withering away of the state, but he never intended to achieve those ends. In the postscript to the first edition, Lenin declares that his work "will probably have to be delayed for a long time; it is more pleasant and useful to undertake the 'experience of revolution' than to write about it" (Lenin 111). Similarly, the advanced stage of communism had to be delayed indefinitely while Lenin hoarded political power. It is unfortunate that for nearly a century, the nation languished in the period in which the state dominated the lives of it citizens, or workers. The vanguard "elite" of which Lenin was a member ruled until the people could no longer wait for what might not come.
The text of State and Revolution consists of six sections, of which the first five are devoted to quotations from Marx and Engels with commentary by Lenin, while the sixth deals with errors in the presentation of Marxist views on the state by the "opportunists." In my essay I will try to analyze the details of Lenin's remarks of the structure and operation of the institutions of the socialist society.
In "State and Revolution" Lenin distinguished between the structure of the state and the organization of production. According to Lenin, the state arises out of class struggle and performs the function of oppressing one class on behalf of another. State power "consists of special bodies of armed men having prisons, etc., at their command." The state in the proper sense, or the apparatus of coercion, would be destroyed by the proletarian revolution and superseded by the dictatorship of the armed workers. The economic organizations created by capitalism would not be destroyed by the workers but would be taken over intact. "We, the workers, shall organize large-scale production on the basis of what capitalism has already created." The employees of the capitalist enterprises would not be replaced. "We can 'lay hold of' and 'set in motion' this 'state apparatus' at one stroke, by a single decree, because the actual work of bookkeeping, control, registering, accounting and counting is performed by employees, the majority of whom themselves lead a proletarian or semi-proletarian existence." The growth of state capitalism, the consolidation of production by large trusts and syndicates, and the increasing bureaucratization of economic organizations were positive steps in preparing the way for socialism.
The workers' state would further concentrate control over production and distribution. In "State and Revolution" Lenin agrees with a statement that the postal service furnishes the example for a socialist economic system. "To organize the whole economy of the lines of the postal service ... this is our immediate aim." Lenin prescribes" the conversion of all citizens into workers and other employees of one huge 'syndicate', a single integrated economic machine on the scale of the entire nation." Workers' control over production will be realized, not through the fragmentation of capitalist monopolies into small, autonomous units, but through the combination of all enterprises into a single syndicate under the control of the elected soviets. The organization of production will be centralized and hierarchical.
The organization of economic activity in socialism will be bureaucratic in the sense of including hierarchy and specialization but will not rise to a privileged stratum of officials, because it will be responsible to the workers through the soviets. Lenin argues that the necessity of bureaucratic organization is derived from the technical imperative of coordinating people in the use of complex interrelated machines. For the working class to operate the productive machinery accumulated by capitalism, the hierarchical command of people "engaged" production must survive the socialist revolution and be taken advantage of by the proletariat.
Lenin acceptances the bourgeois models of bureaucratic and economic organization. He observes that the first phase of communism will preserve "bourgeois right" in the distribution of products, as the reward according to labor that Marx described as the principle governing distribution in the period of transition "inaugurated by the proletarian revolution."
Lenin specifies that under socialism the wages of the highest state officials will not exceed those of an ordinary worker. The regular rotation of all members of the laboring classes in and out of administrative positions will contribute to "the withering away of the state by acquainting all with the principles enforced in supervisory roles" and eventually making it possible for citizens to manage society without being subjected to coercion. "Under socialism all will govern in turn and soon will become accustomed to no one governing." Participatory bureaucracy will provide training for social self-administration.
We can see from "State and Revolution," that in Lenin's view bureaucracy would still exist in socialism, though it would be transformed to serve the interests of the workers rather than those of the capitalists. He admits that "abolishing the bureaucracy at once, everywhere and completely is out of the question" and exposes the replacement of the old bureaucracy with a new one. The pattern of hierarchical organization will persist within socialism. "We are not utopians. We do not 'dream' of dispensing at once with all administration, with all subordination."
In "State and Revolution" Lenin presents the economy of the future socialist society: the units of organization inherited from capitalism will be further enlarged and control of them will be further centralized, as all enterprises will be combined into one enormous, nationwide syndicate subordinated to the highest organs of state power. Revolutionary mass participation will be guided by hierarchical institutions, which will be coordinated by a party whose members share a special vision of the future. It would not be long before events in Soviet bloke would prove that assumption of Lenin's thought did not come to real life. Centralized Soviet economy and dependents of enterprises and associations did not work.
"Marxism-Leninism was a ... myth .... Many ingredients recommended this myth to the condition of Russia.... The preservation of the myth was the central condition for Communist survival" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995). Karl Marx created his theory in an effort to promote an evolutionary political philosophy. His evolutionary form of Socialism relied on the existence of an undeniable spirit within the proletariat . The implementation of Marx's thinking into the Soviet system entailed a mass effort to unite the people to accept this political logic and the unknown economic consequences. "The communist regime needed to convince the people to work hard to make tremendous personal sacrifices. The idea of building a utopian society for their children and their children's was a powerful incentive" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995). Mass propaganda was fed to the people in an effort to convince them of the potential utopian state if they devoted their faith to this radically new system. Marx never intended for propaganda. The search for utopia was to be spawned by the vast size of the proletariat over the smaller, ruling bourgeoisie .
The success of Lenin's system relied on instituting a rigorous work ethic into the hearts of the proletariat. "Who does not work does not eat" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995) was common rule in this developing Communist nation. There was a burning desire to destroy the differences between the bourgeoisie and the proletariat to create one united class. In addition to the assiduous work ethic, a plethora of honorable traits were enforced. Lenin believed the people must feel the need to move towards "increasing their social property" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995). The relationships between countrymen must be "comrades and brothers" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995), not proletariat and bourgeoisie. The different classes that are a part of every capitalist system must be abolished in this search for a utopian society. Intolerance toward "nationalistic and racial hostility" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995) was demanded and many social injustices were irreconcilable. These attributes were used more as a standard for people to measure themselves in accordance with what Lenin wanted them to be, not how they wanted to be. It was Soviet propaganda to secure an unanimous feeling of acceptance over the Bolshevik Revolution that was fought to eliminate the separation between the elite and the working class. Everybody was supposed to feel important so that they could believe that their individual contributions would have an important affect on the development of the Soviet Union. Lenin tried to disguise his promotion of a productivity-maximizing, homogenous nation, as a society filled with individuals working towards a common goal-which is what Marx intended (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995).
The myths that Lenin promoted were not aimed only at the working people, but were projected onto the future generations. "Soviet citizens were called the 'builders of communism,' and one of the goals of child-rearing was to create better builders of communism" (Barner-Barry & Hody, 1995). Lenin's terminology for the people as "builders" provided them with the direct responsibility of assuring a strong and continuous progression of economic development. Marxism claims that the equality of the classes would be ample to create the desire for everyone to work equally hard (Marx, 1988). Lenin tried to teach what Marx demanded be an unlearned phenomenon.
While all of this propaganda led to the existence of the Soviet Union, Lenin's promotion of Communism strays from Marx's original intentions. Marx never wrote about a leader providing the incentives for the proletariat to revolt against the bourgeoisie. The Revolution was supposed to be spurred from within the working class. The entirety of the Communist Manifesto proposes limited to no government intervention. Marxism is not an economic textbook for a new market system; rather it is a political and philosophical statement about what power the people have within them. It is never written that a Marxist nation should have a leader or a dictator, like Lenin who told the people what to do. The entire doctrine is based upon the movement of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie, without any intervention from an economist-oriented leader.
Marxism-Leninism is a contradiction. The theoretical writings of Marx are not displayed through the practices and developments of Lenin. Marx devised his philosophy because of his idea that people must lead themselves towards utopia . The continuing struggle of the proletariat under the superior and wealthy bourgeoisie was supposed to ignite all of the emotion necessary to put the wheels of Marxism and Communism in motion. It is evident that Lenin identified with Marx's research, but his interpretation of Communism missed the heart of Marxism. Lenin tried too hard to inspire the people with propaganda, while Marx contended that the emotion was already within the workers. They only needed time to realize their potential (Marx, 1988). It is evident that Lenin's impatience led to the significant difference between Marxism and the resulting Soviet Union.
Barner-Barry, and Hody. The Politics of Change: The Transformation of the Former Soviet Union. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1995.
Marx, Karl. The Communist Manifesto. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1988.