Death of the Great Revolutionary V.I. Lenin
January 21, 1924
The Name and Work of V.I. Lenin Will Always Have a Place of Honour
V.I. Lenin was a revolutionary and the greatest Marxist theoretician of the 20th century. On January 21, 1924, he died as a result of an opportunist assassin’s bullet, lodged in his neck six years earlier.
The Great Lenin was only 53 years old when he died, during the very early stages of socialist revolution and socialist construction in Soviet Russia. Having defined what constitutes Soviet Power, Lenin lived to see the creation of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) on December 30, 1922. Amongst his greatest feats were to create the revolutionary party of the proletariat as distinct from the parliamentary parties adhered to by the Second International; establish the proletarian state of the workers and peasants in Russia, as well as lay down the analysis and the ideological and organizational lines for the development of the revolution and socialism in the conditions of imperialism.
From the beginning, Lenin set his work along the theoretical conclusions of Marxism. In this respect, he had a complete outlook of socialism, based on the firm belief that the only road to open the path for the progress of society is the road of the emancipation of the working class through the proletarian revolution. This belief of Lenin, far from being invalidated by the developments in the last decade of the 20th century and since then, has been fully validated.
His first ideological consideration was the defence of the Marxist trend – that is, the trend based on the conclusions of Marxism. He presupposed that the unity of the movement hinged on the defence of this trend, which means on the development of Marxist thought and its elaboration from the conditions of his time. Besides other things, he defended the need for the elaboration of a plan for the building of the movement and condemned the spontaneist idea of “tactics as a process.” The conclusions he drew from his work at the beginning of the 20th century have profound validity to the present day.
One of the ideas which has profound significance for the present is his conclusion that the task of emancipating the working class belongs to the workers themselves.
Another idea which has great validity and profound significance is his conclusion that without revolutionary theory there can be no revolutionary movement. This very idea of developing Marxist thought and elaborating it, in close connection with the revolutionary movement, has remained the line of demarcation between all schools of opportunism and revolutionary Marxists. For opportunists, revolutionary politics means detaching politics from their revolutionary essence, emasculating and transforming revolutionary theory into a series of dogmas while transforming politics into an adjunct of the bourgeois rule. On the other hand, for revolutionary Marxists, revolutionary theory develops in the course of revolutionary practice. It is an integral part of carrying out both economic and political forms of class struggle. The defence of this very idea of Lenin’s is a form of class struggle which they wage.
Recognizing the objective condition where capitalism had developed to its parasitic and moribund stage, Lenin drew the conclusion that there is no other stage of capitalism and that it is ripe for its revolutionary overthrow and for the building of socialism. Such an idea based on the conclusion of Lenin has great significance. There is ongoing pressure to abandon this idea and replace it with the idea that capitalism has many stages ahead of it and that it is capable of overcoming its own contradictions. The collapse of the Soviet Union and the regimes in eastern Europe with all their capitalist reforms showed that capitalism has no other stage of development. Countries which embarked on the construction of capitalism under the pretext of a “free market economy securing prosperity” are mired in anarchy and economic chaos and their reflection in politics just like the advanced capitalist countries that did not form part of the socialist world.
Lenin’s conclusion that imperialism is the eve of the proletarian revolution is another point of ideological struggle, and its elaboration is necessary. It is one thing to describe the progression of imperialist decay; it is another to develop the proletarian front and provide an alternative so that the New can overcome the resistance of the Old and prevail.
Having an acute sense that his period was one of imperialism and proletarian revolution, Lenin drew the conclusion that a new kind of Party was needed in order to address the new problem of proletarian revolution. His organizational principle of democratic centralism has profound relevance today in how decision making takes place. One of the causes for the collapse of the USSR was the emasculation of this idea, under the heavy weight of the bureaucracy established around the Political Bureau of the Communist Party and the perfunctory role of the membership in the life of the Party coupled with the refusal to do theoretical work.The mass of Communist Party members had become apolitical, unable to exercise decision-making power over matters that affected them, nor over the decisions of the state. This necessarily takes place when the relation between the citizens and the polity is destroyed in favour of executive rule. Then democratic centralism is reduced to an idea devoid of the democratic principle and to a series of organizational hierarchies. The defence of the principle of democratic centralism is one of the most important tasks in laying the foundation for the mass communist party.
Today, the world is witnessing a new clash between the Old and the New of world proportions. This requires a profound elaboration of Marxist-Leninist theory, as was done by Marx and Engels in their time and by Lenin and Stalin in theirs.
Lenin, early in his revolutionary work in 1908, devoted time to defending dialectical and historical materialism, the world view, method and outlook for the study of the relations between persons and persons, and persons and nature, the fundamental problem which theory and philosophy present for solution. Through his work, Lenin revealed how various opportunists posed as Marxists to attack the theory of dialectical and historical materialism.
Lenin’s work has profound value in carrying out similar work at the present time, in order to defend the theory of dialectical and historical materialism which is under attack from many quarters. The attack on this theory is blurring the high road of civilization, its definition and its content, and there is pressure to divert it into a dead-end.
Lenin’s conclusions about the state and revolution, the role of the working class and its organizations, the role of the peasantry and other social strata, the role of the Bolshevik Party to lead in a step-wise manner, the stages in the revolution and their completion and the building of the unity of all toiling masses around the working class, the waging of the class struggle, with the international proletariat playing its role as the strategic reserve of revolution, and the study of the objective conditions and strategy and tactics, taken together constitute a whole; a body of ideas which must be developed from the present conditions with a unique and fresh quality, which means that they must be based on modern definitions. These ideas have a profound meaning as they were brought into being in this epoch, the character of which is still the same. For this reason, these ideas have great relevance so long as they are not reduced to dogma.
Just as Lenin defended the Marxist trend, today defending the Marxist-Leninist trend is indispensable for the building of the revolutionary movement, and this defence has to be carried out in close connection with the movement. This defence of the Marxist-Leninist trend creates Contemporary Marxist-Leninist Thought, the revolutionary theory guiding the revolutionary movement. This work cannot be reduced to repeating quotes from the works of Lenin or anyone else. The content of the defence of the Marxist-Leninist trend must be consistent with the demand of the times. One of the most important elements is to make sure the mass communist party is built to make sure the working class constitutes the nation and leads the people to vest sovereignty in themselves.
In fact, Lenin’s work began with taking up the tasks required to build the Party. This work cannot be reproduced in the same form and with the same content, as some tried to do in the past, but its essence has to be understood and applied. The essence is that without a revolutionary party there can be no revolution and the building of such a party has to be consistent with the conditions. There are not a few who accused Lenin of abandoning Marxism because he built the Party according to the conditions of his time. In the same fashion, if someone were to abandon the great task of building the mass communist party today for fear of being accused of abandoning Leninism, it would show a lack of conviction.
The life and work of V.I. Lenin are a great asset to the movement for emancipation. It is crucial to make use of this asset in the best possible way and to the greatest advantage of the working class and people of the world. A lot of changes have taken place since the time of Lenin. These changes are of a calibre that if their profound significance is not appreciated in detail and in time, the asset of Lenin will be frittered away, as happened in eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union.
Just as in his day Lenin found in the national liberation movement a great reserve of the proletarian revolution, so too today, all movements of the peoples for improvements in their conditions, especially for the democratization of life, must be vigorously supported.
Furthermore, how to put this asset at the disposal of the revolutionary cause necessarily involves an appreciation of its essence, that it is by grasping the crucial link in the chain of how things stand that it is possible to get hold of the entire chain and bring about a revolution. In the sphere of settling scores with the old conscience of society, capturing the need to provide modern definitions is that link which is directly connected with the revolutionary work under the condition of the retreat of revolution. It is that link which enables the working class to carry out a contest to win the people to its side. The working class cannot prepare itself for final victory if it either does not carry out this contest or does not win key battles with the bourgeoisie during this period.
The cause of V.I. Lenin for the victory of revolution and socialism is as urgent today as it was at the beginning of the 20th century. As long as the struggle to create a new society exists, the name and work of V.I. Lenin will have a place of honour.
(Hardial Bains Resource Centre)