The following is an unofficial translation of the article “Um grande político e líder mundial de verdade” from revolutionary Brazilian newspaper A Nova Democracia
By Fausto Arruda
This April marks the 150th anniversary of the birth of the great Russian Marxist revolutionary, Lenin.
The October 1917 Revolution in Russia shook the world, opening a New Age in the history of mankind. Among the great aftershocks, he evoked to the world the figure of a simple man, of short stature, sharp aim and energetic voice, the head of the Communist Party of Russia (Bolshevik) and of the revolution, Vladimir Ilitch Ulianov, better known by the nickname Lenin. The fierce tsarist political police, the Okrana, were not anything new, since for many years he had been the most wanted revolutionary. Neither were the heads of opportunism (Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries) who, with the democratic revolution of February 1917, invested themselves with new representatives of the bourgeoisie and imperialism at the head of the Provisional Government, and after the strikes and armed workers’ demonstrations of July of that year they launched their agents in a frantic pursuit of the Bolshevik leader.
But if his exploits that culminated in the Great October were not enough, the days that followed the tremendous event revealed to the entire world the size of a leader of the most revolutionary class in history, the proletariat, when he took power and began to build their state. The dramatic and short 6 years and two months that Lenin was at the head of the first socialist proletarian state (October 1917 to January 1924), were exceptional and sufficient to establish his stature as a politician with a capital ‘P,’ the great international head of working class and giant among giants of thought and action.
Faced with the unparalleled deepening of the crisis of the entire capitalist system – which for its spell demands new plans and new masks to sustain its political domination – the imperialists are frantically handling the most powerful propaganda machines (marketing) that history has ever known in coordination to promote big statesmen and world leaders like Obama, Luiz Inácio, etc.
In the shadow of Lenin’s cyclopean figure, in the swamp of mediocrity, in its insignificance and minuscule dimension, lacking in anything, the figures of the new puppets of imperialism only thrive.
What a brutal difference! Colossus and dwarfs!
THE TRAJECTORY AND WORK OF THE GREAT COMMUNIST
Vladimir Ilitch Ulianov was born on April 22 (9), 1870. He who would come to be known as Lenin by the proletariat and revolutionary peoples of the world spent his childhood and early youth in his hometown, Simbirsk (present-day Ulianovsk). The son of a school inspector, Volodia (his childhood nickname) was a diligent student and compulsive reader. He lost his father in 1886, and the following year his older brother, Aleksandr, was executed for leading an attack on Tsar Alexander III. All five of Lenin’s brothers would dedicate themselves to the fight against Russian tsarism.
In 1887, Lenin was expelled from Kazan College for participating in revolutionary political activities. In 1892 he would be readmitted as an external student (without permission to attend classes), and in a few months he would be accredited, in 1st place, with four years worth of course exams.
THE FORGE OF A REVOLUTIONARY
He moved to St. Petersburg the following year, when he took up Marxism, started writing his first pamphlets and making revolutionary propaganda for the proletariat. He approaches the Labor Liberation group, led by Plekhanov, who introduced Marxism to Russia. Already involved in an intense ideological struggle against false revolutionaries, Lenin founded in 1895 the League of Struggle for the Liberation of the Working Class, together with Martov. That same year he was arrested for fomenting political unrest among the workers. His penalty: three years in Siberia. Lenin was intensely dedicated in this period to write his first great work, The Development of Capitalism in Russia (published in 1899) and other texts. In exile, the union with his companion Nadezhda Konstantinova Krupskaya is made official,
Influenced by the great workers’ strikes of the mid-1890s, Lenin posed the problem of the revolutionary process and the question of the party started to gain prominence in his theoretical work. The main struggle outlined was against economism and spontaneism – forms of opportunism in the Russian workers’ movement – and main obstacles to the organization of the proletarian vanguard. From Siberia, Lenin would attend the founding congress of the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party* , in 1898.
After serving his sentence, Lenin goes to Switzerland, where he founds and runs the Iskra newspaper, which is the spokesman for the Russian social-democrats (Marxists) and which was periodically sent to the workers and peasants of his homeland. After the polarization in two fractions in the party: Bolshevik (majority) and Menshevik (minority), the leadership of Iskra would be usurped by Trotsky, Plekhanov, and Mensheviks, in 1903. In 1902 he published What is to be Done?, on which he bases his conception of the need for a new type of party capable of leading the political struggle of the proletariat until the revolutionary seizure of power. It was a strong criticism of the economism of those who advocated the main role of the proletarian economic struggle and disregarded the role of the class party, revolutionary theory and political struggle.
In 1903, at the II RSDLP Congress, Lenin leads the Bolshevik red faction in the fight against the Mensheviks’ opportunism.
Lenin speaks on May 5, 1920
1904: Tsarist Russia goes to war against Japan. The precarious situation of the Russian working class and peasants, coupled with the humiliating defeat for Japan, accelerates the rise of mass consciousness. The autocracy encourages, through its secret police, the Okhrana, (in particular its agent Zubatov), the formation of unions linked to the State and the Orthodox Church, to appease the revolt momentum. Social democrats start to work in the emerging mass organizations.
On January 9, 1905, in St. Petersburg, a peaceful demonstration by thousands of workers, led by Father Gapon, intended to deliver a document with the workers’ claims to the Tsar. The “father” of the poor then orders the troops to open fire on the people, murdering hundreds and wounding thousands of workers. Thanks to the consequent action of the Social Democrats, the masses broke with illusions with the State and its institutions and what followed was a great popular insurrection against the Tsar. In October, the biggest strike in Russian history stopped the country. In December, the people again rose up, this time in Moscow, already with the purpose of overthrowing the autocracy. In this period the Soviets began to appear, organs created by the workers themselves and in which the Bolsheviks were instructed by Lenin to act, transforming them into the embryo of a popular power. The repression was brutal and thousands of revolutionaries were slaughtered by tsarist troops in almost two years of fighting.
In the heat of the 1905 revolutionary journeys in April, the Bolsheviks met at the 3rd RSDLP Congress, defining the leading role of the proletariat in the democratic revolution and having the peasantry as their main ally. The Mensheviks held a separate conference and deepened the chasm that separated them from the Bolsheviks, defining the liberal bourgeoisie as the leader of the revolution. These and other important contradictions were exposed by Lenin in his work Two Tactics of Social-Democracy in the Democratic Revolution .
The RSDLP 1906 and 1907 congresses show a crisis in social democracy. A new unification between Bolsheviks and Mensheviks does not last long and the Bolsheviks themselves know the fractionation. Some, like Bogdanov and Lunatcharski, intend to merge dialectical materialism with fashion philosophies at the time, in practice denying Marxism. Materialism and Empirio-criticism then appeared in 1908, combating revolutionary dejection, as well as the reinforcement of idealism and mysticism, in the wake of tsarist police terror.
RECONSTITUTING THE PARTY
In this period, sectors to the right of the RSDLP, notably the Mensheviks, defend the liquidation of the party and capitulation to the forces of autocracy. Led by Lenin, the Bolsheviks persist in building the underground revolutionary party and establish a flexible tactic, combining legal and illegal work. Later, in 1912, at the time of the new revolutionary rise, the Bolsheviks managed to hold the Party Conference in Prague, Czechoslovakia. Considering that the struggle with opportunistic, Menshevik and other fractions, within the framework of the same organization, had run out, Lenin, starting from the understanding that in the development of the revolutionary party of the proletariat, fractions arise that express divergent lines and that, when time, the fraction that sustains the proletarian red line has to assume the reconstitution of the party, concludes that the Bolsheviks must establish themselves as the revolutionary party of the proletariat, separating itself organically from the opportunist fractions. The Pravda newspaper was created.
In those years, the transition of capitalism from its phase of free competition to the superior of the monopolies had already been completed and with this the contradictions within these monopolies and among the powers gained a new dimension and meaning, that of war as a means of resolving them. The events pointed to a conflict of proportions not yet known, the world war for the sharing of the world between the major powers. The central policy of the governments of the imperialist powers passes to that of preparation for war.
In the Second International, with Bernstein and Kautsky at the head, the betrayal of the working class gains strength in the form of social-chauvinism, as the line of approval in the parliament of war credits, etc. Bernstein argued that movement is everything, the end goal is nothing. Another of his revisionist ideas, also defended by Kautsky, is the theory of productive forces, according to which socialism will naturally occur if capitalism develops fully first and that the productive forces have developed enormously. After the triumph of the revolution in Russia and China, to combat the Marxist-Leninist conception that there are classes and class struggle in socialism, the “theory of productive forces” would be adopted by revisionists such as Trotsky, Bukharin, Kruschov, Liu Chao -shi and Teng Siao-ping.
Lenin would write, in 1915, The Collapse of the Second International, The Proletarian Revolution and the Renegade Kautsky and other works of hard struggle against opportunism, intensifying the struggle between Marxism and revisionism to the extreme.
Lenin’s activities are taking Marxism to a new level of development. Still in 1915, Lenin would publish the text On the Slogan for a United States of Europe, in which he analyzes the situation of revolutionary movements in the conditions of capitalism in its imperialist phase and comes to the very important conclusion that the victory of socialism is possible in a small group of countries or even just one. It follows the publication, in 1916, of Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, in which it synthesizes the characteristics of imperialism as monopolistic, parasitic and decaying and agonizing capitalism, because this was the stage of its maximum and ultimate development, the conditions and the inevitability of its fall and the need for its replacement by the superior form of society’s organization, communism, representing a leap in quality in the Marxist understanding of capitalism.
In all these battles, Lenin never gave up defending the essence of Marxism. Facing the class struggle as the engine of history, he never tired of saying that apart from power, everything is an illusion, and with that aim, the working class should prepare and use revolutionary violence to overthrow the bourgeoisie, its old state , replace the bourgeois dictatorship with the dictatorship of the proletariat and build socialism in the direction of Communism.
The Great Imperialist War (World War I) continued from 1914, imposing great sacrifices on the Russian people, who served the autocracy as cannon fodder in the trenches. This breeding ground for revolutionary ideas would be sown daily by Lenin and his comrades. In February 1917 the workers again took to the streets. A workers’ ‘demonstration demanded economic improvements and the soldiers’ return home, when it was severely repressed. In moments, hundreds of thousands of workers were already on strike. The people took up arms and overthrew the autocracy.
The provisional government that followed, composed of the liberal bourgeoisie and several opportunist parties, including the Mensheviks and Socialist-Revolutionaries, betrays all the people’s aspirations, keeping the country at war. Lenin, then in exile, decides to return to Russia, where he launches the slogan of “All Power to the Soviets” and with the April Theses he calls the party to prepare the socialist revolution, since the democratic revolution had been mostly conquered. Their positions would triumph at the party’s VII Congress in June 1917.
In the heat of the revolutionary crisis and in the midst of the turbulent storms of the enraged masses, at the doors of the seizure of power Lenin sees it as fundamental to defend the Marxist conception of the State in order to clear the ground of the bourgeois deceits, petty-bourgeois illusions and revisionist counterfeits of pseudo-Marxists. He then formulated his demolishing State and Revolution, a work that, even unfinished, was consecrated as one of the classics of Marxism.
On October 10, a meeting of the Bolshevik Central Committee decides to prepare for the insurrection and appoints the party’s Military Commission. The following day, leaders Kamenev and Zinoviev, who voted against Lenin’s proposal, reveal the decision to the press (and, consequently, to the police), denouncing the Bolshevik plans. Lenin demands the immediate expulsion for high treason of the two members of the Central Committee.
THE SOCIALIST HOMELAND IS BORN
On October 25 (November 7 in the Western calendar), guided by the Military Commission, the armed contingents of Petrograd workers and soldiers seized power on behalf of the soviets of workers, peasants and soldiers. On this day Lenin would declare in the hall of the Smolny Institute: “the task of building a new power that the Bolsheviks spoke of was accomplished”, and “now, let us move on to the construction of socialism”, being fervently acclaimed by the masses of delegates gathered at the 2nd Congress of the Soviets.
There was an urgent need to leave the war, but with dignity. With precise instructions from Lenin, Trotsky is sent to negotiate peace with the Germans, but he opposed his own disastrous slogan, the nonsense of “Neither Peace nor War.” Once the damage was done by imposing an agreement, the nascent homeland of the proletariat now faces foreign intervention in a civil war that would last until 1921. Lenin survives an assassination attempt in August 1918.
An uncompromising internationalist, Lenin would not give up an international organization to guide the world revolution. And in 1919, still in the midst of the civil war sponsored by the imperialist powers to prevent the first steps of Soviet power, he directed the creation of the Third International, the Communist International. With this new center, the world revolution will advance at a great pace, and dozens of communist parties are founded in countries on all continents under his guidance. On the eve of its 2nd Congress, concerned with the failure of armed uprisings in Europe derived mainly from sectarian, narrow and leftist lines, Lenin would write “Left-Wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder.
The tireless Lenin is now preparing plans for the construction of socialism. He elaborates the New Economic Policy, essential for the reconstruction of the country destroyed by long years of imperialist and civil war and to prevent the rupture of the worker-peasant alliance, it establishes the main lines of the economy, electrification, industry, agriculture. The lands of the former nobles and landowners are distributed to peasants, a new society is born.
In May 1922 he suffered his first stroke, being partially paralyzed. He would never fully recover, but until he stopped breathing, on January 21, 1924, Lenin never stopped working and worrying about the Soviet Power, the health of his comrades, the life of the masses and believing in the future of humanity, communism.
* Marxists at the time were called Social-democrats. Lenin on the eve of the October 1917 Socialist Revolution, arguing about the need for the party to have the scientific denomination corresponding to its proletarian class ideology, proposes the new denomination of Communist Party of Russia (Bolshevik).
MARXISM IN THE ERA OF IMPERIALISM AND THE PROLETARIAN REVOLUTION
Lenin in prison photo – 1895
Thus Stalin defined it in defending Lenin’s contributions from the attacks that the quibblers and enemies of Marxism who sought to reduce their great work to a “Russian peculiarity” or a “variant of Marxism for backward countries”: “Leninism is the Marxism of the time of imperialism and the proletarian revolution. More precisely: Leninism is the theory and tactics of the proletarian revolution in general and the theory and practice of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular.” (Stalin – Fundamentals of Leninism, 1924).
Lenin bequeathed us Leninism. Its contributions do not constitute fragmented contributions to either aspect of Marxism, but rather, it is an integral contribution to this science. What does this integral contribution to Marxism consist of? Why is it and how is it explained? Leninism consists of a second and new stage in the development of Marxism.
As Lenin himself stated in his brilliant exposition of Marxism in The Three Sources and Three Component Parts of Marxism, “The Marxist doctrine is omnipotent because it is true. It is comprehensive and harmonious, and provides men with an integral world outlook irreconcilable with any form of superstition, reaction, or defense of bourgeois oppression. It is the legitimate successor to the best that man produced in the nineteenth century, as represented by German philosophy, English political economy, and French socialism.” Marxism, so to speak, conformed from these three sources, being, in turn, like a qualitative leap and in unity in its constituent parts, which are Marxist political economy, Marxist philosophy and scientific socialism.
Leninism, in turn, constituted itself as a second stage or second qualitative leap in this development, because its contributions took place in the three constituent parts of Marxism as a qualitative leap of these as a unit.
In Marxist philosophy, Lenin developed dialectical materialism by presenting the theory of reflection, supporting the theory of knowledge. He advanced in materialist dialectics by synthesizing it as the law of “unity and struggle of opposites”, focusing on it “unity is transitory and relative; and the struggle is permanent and absolute.” Lenin’s effort to defend historical dialectical materialism did not stop at a rigorous and systematic study of the works of Marx and Engels, it went to the very sources of investigation of the founders of Marxism, mainly in the sphere of philosophy, subjecting Hegel’s main works to a thorough examination.
Following the defeat of the 1905 revolution, during the Stolypinian reaction, there were many in the ranks of RSDLP who lost their faith in the revolution. Especially among the intellectuals, those who wanted to get rid of Marxism soon appeared, relying on novelties of the time. It was one of the most ferocious attacks against Marxism, particularly its philosophy, allegedly refuting dialectical materialism based on new discoveries in the field of other sciences, especially physics, with the ideas of Mach and his follower in Russia, Bogdanov. Lenin unmasks the alleged new trend as a new reaction of idealism. In his work Materialism and Empirio-criticism, Lenin made a complete defense of dialectical materialism.
In political economy, he analyzed the transition of capitalism from its phase of free competition to that of monopolies as its superior and last stage, imperialism, which expresses the continuation in essence of capital, but as a particular phase, in which it is monopoly capital, parasitic and decaying and agonizing. In his analysis of imperialism, he synthesized that imperialism was nothing more than the preparation of the productive forces for a superior mode of production and organization of society, communism, and demonstrated the need for their destruction by the world proletarian revolution.
Lenin directed the first periods of the construction of socialism laying the foundations for the development and state planning of the economy, industry and the socialist cooperation of agriculture. Faced with the scenario of destruction and disorganization of production, of shortages, caused by the war years (World War I and the war against the white Russian armies and the imperialist powers), it launched the New Economic Policy, a mixed, state-private economy plan , but under the tight control of Soviet power, as a period prior to the launch of the great plans of socialist construction.
Lenin rejected attempts to mix political economy in the construction of socialism with the influence of bourgeois theories, such as the revisionist “theory of productive forces.” In this sense, replying to Bukharin, he stated that “politics is the concentrated expression of the economy” to demarcate the ground that politics is the vital line in economic work, as Mao Tsetung later synthesized.
In scientific socialism, Lenin developed the Marxist theory about the party, an organization of class combat, of the need for its construction to be based on the unity between theory and practice, for the construction of a highly disciplined party, of unbreakable firmness sustained by scientific principles of communism and the management of the scientific theory of knowledge, forged in the fire of class struggle, capable of taking the initiative, the vanguard detachment, a party of a new kind as the political and military leader of the proletariat. Lenin further formulated the concept of democratic centralism with a set of principles on which to found the organization of the revolutionary party of the proletariat.
About his discipline summarized: “The first questions to arise are: how is the discipline of the proletariat’s revolutionary party maintained? How is it tested? How is it reinforced? First, by the class-consciousness of the proletarian vanguard and by its devotion to the revolution, by its tenacity, self-sacrifice and heroism. Second, by its ability to link up, maintain the closest contact, and – if you wish – merge, in certain measure, with the broadest masses of the working people – primarily with the proletariat, but also with the non–proletarian masses of working people. Third, by the correctness of the political leadership exercised by this vanguard, by the correctness of its political strategy and tactics, provided the broad masses have seen, from their own experience, that they are correct. Without these conditions, discipline in a revolutionary party really capable of being the party of the advanced class, whose mission it is to overthrow the bourgeoisie and transform the whole of society, cannot be achieved. Without these conditions, all attempts to establish discipline inevitably fall flat and end up in phrase-mongering and clowning. On the other hand, these conditions cannot emerge at once. They are created only by prolonged effort and hard-won experience. Their creation is facilitated by a correct revolutionary theory, which, in its turn, is not a dogma, but assumes final shape only in close connection with the practical activity of a truly mass and truly revolutionary movement.” (“Left-wing” Communism: an Infantile Disorder).
It demonstrated that imperialism is the forerunner of the proletarian revolution, formulated and established its strategy and tactics and led the Russian proletariat in the democratic revolution of February, in the seizure of power in the October 1917 socialist revolution and in the defense of the first socialist state against the imperialist invasion in the civil war and signaled the need for the Dictatorship of the Proletariat throughout the process of socialism. He also understood and defined that the revolution in the countries oppressed by imperialism would necessarily have to develop in stages – the democratic and the socialist revolution – two distinct stages, but in an uninterrupted course.
Lenin fought tenaciously to develop Marxism under the conditions of the time and to maintain its foundations against the revisionists of the Second International, the Trotskyists and the legal Marxists. He founded the Third International in 1919, which aimed to develop the world revolution and the Dictatorship of the Proletariat.
Lenin grasped with vigor and mastery what condenses the problem of any revolution for Marxism, Power, and raised the foundations of the Marxist conception of the State. He formulated masterfully about what Marx only indicated, demonstrating that in socialist society the classes and the class struggle continue to exist as a long period that runs through the transition from capitalism to communism. In this question of the State in general and of the dictatorship of the proletariat in particular lies the essential distinguishing question between the Marxist and revisionist conceptions.
Josef Stalin, Lenin’s greatest disciple, was in charge of synthesizing his work and fighting for its application in the most consistent way until his death in 1953. Subsequently, under the treacherous fire of Khrushchev’s new revisionism, the Communist Party of China, under the Mao Tsetung’s undisputed leadership, stands up in defense of Marxism-Leninism, elevating it to its new, third and superior stage, Maoism. In the same way and magnitude that Lenin’s contributions made Marxism jump to its second stage, the immortal contributions of the great Chinese Communist Mao Tsetung would lead Marxism-Leninism to become Marxism-Leninism-Maoism.
Lenin’s masterful work goes back to 52 thick volumes originally organized by the Institute of Marxism-Leninism, an organ created and linked to the Central Committee of the CPSU on the initiative of Stalin. Work that qualifies him as one of the greatest theorists of humanity, but also the man of revolutionary practice. From his leadership, Russian and Soviet communism was born, the party of a new type of the working class, the first dictatorship of the world proletariat and the first years of the construction of socialism that transformed the Soviet Union into a world power.
But it is enough to confront Lenin’s colossal stature, his monumental theoretical and practical work, the successes achieved by the Soviet people under his revolutionary leadership, to see the gap between the great leader of the international proletariat and the opportunistic dwarves opposing Bolshevism such as Trotsky, Zinoviev and others.
How far from Lenin are the revisionists of Kruschov, Gorbachov and others in the former USSR, Liu Shaoqi, Deng Xiaoping, and so on in China. And what of the caricatures of communist parties in our country and their revisionist chorus!
THE MOUNTAIN EAGLE
(fragment of the speech The Eagle of the Mountains , given by J. Stalin at the Kremlin Military School, a few days after Lenin’s death)
“I first became acquainted with Lenin in 1903. True, it was not a personal acquaintance, but was by correspondence. But it made an indelible impression upon me, one which has never left me throughout all my work in the Party. I was in exile in Siberia at the time. My knowledge of Lenin’s revolutionary activities since the end of the nineties, and especially after 1901, after the appearance of Iskra, had convinced me that in Lenin we had a man of extraordinary calibre. At that time I did not regard him merely as a leader of the Party, but as its actual founder, for he alone understood the inner essence and urgent needs of our Party. When I compared him with the other leaders of our Party, it always seemed to me that he was head and shoulders above his colleagues—Plekhanov, Martov, Axelrod and the others; that, compared with them, Lenin was not just one of the leaders, but a leader of the highest rank, a mountain eagle, who knew no fear in the struggle, and who boldly led the Party forward along the unexplored paths of the Russian revolutionary movement. This impression took such a deep hold of me that I felt impelled to write about it to a close friend of mine who was living as a political exile abroad, requesting him to give me his opinion. Some time later, when I was already in exile in Siberia—this was at the end of 1903—I received an enthusiastic reply from my friend and a simple, but profoundly expressive letter from Lenin, to whom, it turned out, my friend had shown my letter. Lenin’s note was comparatively short, but it contained a bold and fearless criticism of the practical work of our Party, and a remarkably clear and concise account of the entire plan of work of the Party in the immediate future. Only Lenin could write of the most intricate things so simply and clearly, so concisely and boldly, that every sentence did not so much speak as ring out like a rifle shot. This simple and bold letter still further strengthened me in my opinion that Lenin was the mountain eagle of our Party. I cannot forgive myself for having, from the habit of an old underground worker, consigned this letter of Lenin’s, like many other letters, to the flames.
My acquaintance with Lenin dates from that time.”