The REDSTAR2000 Papers

Listen to the worm of doubt, for it speaks truth. - Leftist Discussion

A New Wing at the Lenin Wax Museum? July 18, 2003 by RedStar2000

Not unexpectedly, perhaps, I was called back to this matter by the emergence of a new Leninist-oriented message board, the International Socialist Front Forums. I looked at three or four threads in those forums and "cherry-picked" the statements that I thought most revealing of their ideas. They were not exactly "thrilled" with my choices...but it made for some interesting exchanges.


It is becoming rarer for people at Che-Lives to confront Leninism "face-to-face", so to speak. Many of the Leninists who used to post here have "moved upwards" (as they claim) to the International Socialist Front Forums. Even the ones that remain exhibit a marked timidity...they post in threads where their Leninism is not in question or, if they do attempt to defend their politics, they do so only briefly and then return to the ISP forums and complain bitterly about the poor reception for their views here.

As a public service, therefore, I have taken it upon myself to reproduce some of the more "sparkling" examples of the sort of cadaverous politics that goes on over there. Keep in mind that this thread is not about's about the attempt to make the dead rise and talk again, as if it were still 1920 or 1930 or 1940.

Think of it as costume drama, the re-enactment of a once glorious but ultimately catastrophic era in working class history.

The Shape of Post-Capitalist Society


You do not need to instill fear to ensure homogeneity. Homogeneity arises through people having equal socialisation and material conditions. It is not an exact science; I am not talking about every individual wanting to have breakfast at the same time, but that everyone will work for the good of the whole of society, will adhere to social and moral guidelines and conventions, and have a feeling of duty and patriotic pride towards their society. -- Posted July 3, 2003, Death Match forum, "Marxism-Leninism" thread, page 1.


I have drastically changed my political opinion this year. I guess I'm at the point of my life where I start changing politically (I seem to be getting more and more authoritarian all the time, not that that's a bad thing). -- Posted July 6, 2003, etc.


Leninism has not been practised in a developed country, I do not know how to work it precisely either. But his ideas protect working class power and therefore to a large extent are essential. As I said I don't think there will be any chance of revolution without massive social change or some kind of coup, although that is hard to imagine that simply a coup would work. -- Posted July 6, 2003, etc.


A citizen with a bourgeois mind will never understand the beauty of communism. If they canot be re-educated then they simply will never understand. Unfortunately they must be executed. It is for the good of humanity. If this line is not taken, then all of our work will be in vain. You also must remember that this stage is only temporary. Once the bourgeois mentality is finally eliminated, there will be no need for executions. It may be primative, but it is correct and necessary. -- Posted July 10, 2003, etc.


I believe the Chairman and I see eye to eye on this one. What you must now understand is that no one expects everyone to be able to execute a subversionist. You obviously cannot and that is not a bad trait at all. As a matter of fact it is a very admirable, however you must be silent about it. Not agreeing with executions is hardly a counter-revolutionary ideal as long as you understand they are necessary and are willing to support the party by being quiet. -- Posted July 10, 2003, etc.

Compulsory Military Service


Any member of a particular nation should be willing to defend their country if under attack. -- Posted April 28, 2003, Death Match forum, "Conscription and Mandatory Military Service Terms" thread, page 1.


I believe that military service has positive effects on the social education of one as Enver Hoxha pointed out and thus 1 year military service as a basis for everyone capable. -- Posted April 28, 2003, etc.


I also believe in a mandatory military service, whether on the front or behind the lines, for all male citizens (1-2 years). -- Posted May 1, 2003, etc.


True marxism places too much responsibility into the hands of the people. -- Posted June 18, 2003, etc., page 2.

Leninism = Marxism


The authoritarian government is as much a part of Marxism as communism is the end of it. -- Posted April 18, 2003 in the Politics & Economics Forum, "To all the Authoritarian Marxists" thread, page 1.


I am against the death penalty because I believe that forcing these people to work for the rest of their lives is far more productive than wasting resources killing them. -- Posted April 20, 2003, etc.


If I recall correctly; rivers in the Soviet Union were created simply by the prison working force alone. Then again, there are pleanty of people that I think deserve a bullet to the brain. -- Posted April 20, 2003, etc.


I have actually grown to respect Authoritarians. When I first visited this board I was a little more closed minded, but I've learned to comprehend and understand the other side (or the same side with different views). -- Posted May 6, 2003, etc.


They did a lot of unusual methods of re-learning. For one person they hung ping-pong balls from them and slapped their cheeks with the little red book until their cheeks bled. -- Posted May 11, 2003, etc., page 2.


We can only hope that once the PRC becomes economically stable and powerful that it will turn aside from revisionism. The PLA remains loyal. -- Posted May 15, 2003, etc.


We respect and praise only the proletarian leader and execute only the reactionaries who stand in the way of the progression of humanity. -- Posted May 20, 2003, etc.


The existence of the notion of "libertarian marxist" force[s] true Marxists to call themselves "authoritarian" in order to distinguish themselves from such revisionists. But when "libertarian marxism" suffers a great defeat in the ideological battle with TRUE MARXISM, the term "authoritarian" will never be in use. -- Posted May 23, 2003, etc., page 3.


...if you destructively criticize Marxism - Leninism, then be sure you will be OPPRESSED BY THE REVOLUTIONARY PROLETARIAT. -- Posted May 23, 2003, etc.


Lenin developed Marx's theory by making it conform to the reality of IMPERIALISM (as you know Marx didn't live during IMPERIALISM), also Lenin developed the theory of SOCIALISTIC REVOLUTION. Proceeding from IMPERIALISTIC REALITY of his time Lenin made the conclusion that SOCIALISM can take a decisive victory in one country, and this country not necessarily needs to be DEVELOPED, but it has to be the 'weak link' in the imperialistic chain. From the said above each intelligent person can conclude that Lenin creatively developed Marxism, and that is why we should call such a developed theory MARXISM- LENINISM. -- Posted May 23, 2003, etc.


You don’t recognize Lenin’s contribution to the Marxist theory and that is why there is a possibility of you becoming revisionist. You wouldn’t intentionally revise revolutionary theory, but you would probably make some serious mistakes in the result of your disrespect which you show regarding Leninist theoretical addition to Marxism. Such disrespect is potential revisionism. -- Posted on May 22, 2003, etc.


Constructive criticism is based on Marxism - Leninism, in other words it doesn’t contradict to the communist ideology. In contrary, destructive criticism always deform or revise Marxism - Leninism under the veil of development of the revolutionary theory. As long as you criticize the party’s policy constructively your name will not be placed on the blacklist. -- Posted on May 22, 2003, etc.

quote: should be pretty clear that Lenin developed Marx’s theory, and therefore Leninism = Marxism. Soviet theoreticians defined Leninism as Marxism of the period of imperialism and proletarian revolutions. Thus, by denying Leninism you deny Marxism. -- Posted on May 22, 2003, etc.

quote: is not created by communists. That site is the shame of Marxism; too much bullshit is over there. Obviously it doesn’t deserve to possess such an address. -- Posted on May 22, 2003, etc.


Lenin was Marxist and it is very silly to call his theory different to Marx’s one. It is also very harmful to make such distinction. Modern Marxism is Marxism - Leninism. -- Posted on May 22, 2003, etc.


...there can’t be 2 or 3 Marxist parties in one country, as there is usually 1 genuine communist party and the rest are the parties formed of traitors. -- Posted May 24, 2003, etc., page 4.


You leave the channels open for a long debate and you're allowing the sabotage of the moment and a procces that will lead to nowhere and ultimately will give the power back to the rulling class. -- Posted May 30, 2003, etc.


Giving one party such power can be bad, choose your leader carefully. -- Posted June 21, 2003, etc., page 5.


I doubt that any socialist leader would suddenly become corrupted as socialist leaders have a tendency to be intellectually evolved to a higher level than the masses. -- Posted June 21, 2003, etc.

Of course, this is very far from a complete sample, but you get the idea. I suspect Lenin himself would be a little embarrassed by this vulgarity; he was a communist, after all, if not a very good one.

The combination of ruthless (and random) brutality, the mindless repetition of formulas without understanding, the "ideal" of communism degraded to the level of an ants' nest...this is all that's left of the Leninist paradigm.

But such is often the fate of dead revolutionaries; it's not just their statues that get shit upon by pigeons.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 13, 2003

I think it's important to distinguish Lenin the living revolutionary in the first quarter of the 20th century from his contemporary followers...who seem to be the mirror image of a right-wing newspaper hack.

That is, to the arch-conservatives, Lenin was a "devil" in human form, "evil" in word and deed, etc.

To a modern Leninist, Lenin was an "archangel", a "demi-god" who made the first "successful" proletarian revolution and whose every word is "golden with truth", shining through the dark night of capitalism, blah, blah, blah.

Serious people understand that hagiography/demonology has no place in revolutionary theory. All of it is bullshit, pure and simple. The people who actively spread it have motives that are, at "best", religious and, at worst, careerist and opportunist.

There is no obligation that I'm aware of that requires us to take seriously the assertions that Lenin was a "devil" or an "angel". To the extent that it's useful, we should understand Lenin's ideas enough to see why they turned out to be wrong and be able to intelligently discuss that with people who want to be leftists but who might yet be "converted" by the "angelic Lenin" clergymen who still pose as "revolutionaries".
First posted at Che-Lives on July 13, 2003

quote: unless by "his dictatorship" you mean the dictatorship of the proletariat then I don't know what you are talking about.

Yes you do. How is it possible to have a "dictatorship of the proletariat" when the proletariat has no power?

Yeah, they had quite a bit around November 1917 and perhaps into the spring of 1918; then the Bolsheviks, under Lenin, started chipping and scraping away at that March of 1921, it was pretty well gone.

Make whatever excuses you wish; that's what happened.


...the same revolution had to be protected from the enemies of the people that attacked the same, notice that the political prisioners of the Cheka were not simple innocents as you are trying to portray...

Who knows? It ain't as if they had trials or any of that crap. No doubt plenty of them were bastards who deserved to be shot...but how hard did the Cheka really try to free the innocent as well as shoot the guilty? Not very hard, that's my impression.

As to the "character reference" from Karl Kautsky...I can't speak for Lenin, but I would as soon have one from Tony Blair as from Karl Kautsky. Kautsky was a counter-revolutionary turd himself, and if the Cheka had shot him, you'd get no complaints from me.

You are quite right, however, that there was no "worship" of Lenin while he was alive; it began when they stuffed his carcass into that stupid jewelry case and made his tomb into a vulgar those for some stinking Orthodox "saint".

The first of many humiliations to come.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 13, 2003


That doesn't give us the right to be boss. But unsurprisingly we think our ideas are right and at the same time can effectively argue them as you can yours.

In other words, you think you should be boss because "your ideas are right". That, at least, is a clear answer.

But are your ideas "right"? Most Leninist parties have never made a revolution. The ones that were successful have all reverted to capitalism except for North Korea, a "forbidden kingdom" if there ever was one. (Vietnam is in the process of building up its private sector and Cuba's revolution did not involve a Leninist party at all.)

In the advanced capitalist countries, the Leninist parties have pretty much unanimously embraced vulgar reformism...much like the Social Democrats after World War I. They spend their energies in playing at bourgeois electoral schemes of one sort or another, or trying to take over the "leadership" of some reformist group, etc., etc. I concede there may be occasional exceptions to this...but, in general, Leninist parties in the west are of even less political significance (in a revolutionary sense) than anarchists.

Thus, "bad ideas". Thus, continuous decline in political significance. Thus, no right to be boss.

And it never even occurs to you--which really doesirritate me--that bosses are not necessary. You cannot grasp the fact that if you were successful, all that you would accomplish would be to cut your own throats as communists. You would inevitably destroy what you sought to make your revolution accomplish.

Putting you in the "best possible light", you aspire to the position of "benevolent despot"...ruling the working class "for its own good" and looking out "for its best interests". And you have the monumental gall to call this arrangement a "dictatorship of the proletariat"...when on its own face and by your own words it is nothing of the sort.

You can only make yourself into a new ruling class...whether it takes one generation or two or three, that's what happens. Your "good intentions" mean nothing in any contest with material reality; if you control and manage the means of production, the Marxist prediction is that you will inevitably acquire the habits, the ideas, and the practices of a ruling our era, of course, that means a new capitalist class.

And that's exactly what happened, isn't it?
First posted at Che-Lives on July 14, 2003


I'm not sure about the Leninist issue. What do you think of the argument that some make, that they all went back to capitalism because the revolutions all occured in feudalistic societies?

I think the argument is correct; I've made it many times myself. In the final analysis, Leninism in pre-capitalist societies is just a way to make a bourgeois revolution without calling it that.

But keep in mind that the Leninists have always upheld those revolutions (and still do) as "proof" that Lenin was "right". And they blame the restoration of capitalism on "traitors"...people who rose up through the ranks of the vanguard party and, when they reached the "top", suddenly and without apparent cause became "counter-revolutionaries"...perhaps as a consequence of "original sin", who knows?

Thus, as I've said elsewhere, I don't think Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky or Mao were "devils" or simply motivated by an "blood-thirsty lust for power"...they all thought they were doing the "right thing", laying the foundations for communist society. They were wrong and their main error was the un-Marxist (idealist) view that social orders can be changed by willpower without regard for material conditions.

This doesn't say all that much about modern Leninists in the advanced capitalist countries--who have very different problems. But they continually bring that old stuff up to "justify" their views...and it does no such thing.

But that doesn't stop them from trying.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 15, 2003


I view your ideas as wrong because I see them as tainted by the ideals of the bourgeoisie.

In what way? Where is the bourgeois "influence"? If you think that someone's ideas are a reflection of a bourgeois ideological influence, that's fair enough...but you have to show why you think that's true.

For example, Leninism asserts that the working class "needs" a vanguard party to "lead" it to victory over the bourgeoisie. Is this not a reflection of the prejudices of all ruling classes in history? Ordinary people are "incapable" of "great deeds"...only the "inspired leadership" of "great men" can "lift" ordinary people from their normal depths of mediocrity.

And when the old ruling class is overthrown, "great men" are still required to construct a new social order...left to themselves, ordinary people would just fuck up or fuck off.

True, Leninists claim that after a hundred years or a thousand, all will be raised to the ranks of the "great" and classless society will finally emerge...but meanwhile, what has changed? An old elite (or ruling class) has been replaced by a new one. And all the blood and suffering that went into making the revolution??? Meaningless.


Anyway, I view them as having been defeated by Imperialism. Not that they destroyed themselves, but they fought the class struggle but ultimately lost.

Well, there's no disgrace in defeat, if you go down fighting. But that didn't happen. The USSR and China and eastern Europe didn't succumb to an overwhelming military defeat at the hands of the imperialists. They surrendered without a shot being fired. Further, the same people, more or less, remained in power after the counter-revolutions...they just removed their "communist" suits and put on their hand-tailored capitalist suits. To say they were "defeated" suggests that a struggle took place...but there wasn't one. The Leninist vanguard leadership evolved into a new capitalist ruling class. The reason it was called a "velvet revolution" is because there was no real revolution (in the Marxist sense of the word) at all!


I most profoundly and absolutely agree bosses are not necessary.

Then you contradict the core assumption of your chosen ideology. Leninism says flatly that bosses are necessary for the transition from capitalism to communism (though it doesn't use that odious word, of course).

If you now choose to dispute that, then other Leninists are really going to start giving you a hard time.


This hierarchical power structure exists inside a system that is known as the dictatorship of the proletariat by the fact that it is the dictatorship of proletarian ideas...

What kind of "Marxism" is this? A dictatorship of ideas? That sounds like the kind of nutball idea that Hegel would have come up with...on a bad day.

Hierarchical power is exercised by living human beings situated in a specific historical moment; regardless of what ideas they may consciously seek to implement, their behavior is shaped by the material conditions in which they live. If you own and manage the means of production and hire wage labor, you will sooner or later "think like a capitalist". You can't help it.


...the system of society removes the economic conditions that created the subjugation and expropriation of our labour that created the class system. The class system is not based on the fact that a political elite holds power, but that an economic elite holds political power.

It does not remove those conditions; it simply alters them, re-arranges them. Instead of working for a private employer, you work for a state-own enterprise. But you still go to work, you still carry out instructions, you still get a paycheck which is still worth less than the value of your labor, you still have no significant input into the political processes of society, etc., etc., etc.

In the early years of Leninist revolutions, there was some mass participation, input, and even limited decision-making powers. Within a decade, for the most part, all that stuff was history.

We know that in real life people disagree with each other all the time; but were you to look at back issues of newspapers and magazines from any Leninist country--hell, any Leninist party--what would you find?

The sad fact of the matter is that there was more public controversy in the 13th century Catholic Church than in the 20th century Leninist movement...and the public played a bigger role.


we wish to create a society where all correct social behaviour is so internalised that we no longer have any need for bosses.

"All correct social behavior"? Should I laugh or weep?

A world "without sin" is called "Heaven" and doesn't exist. Who defines "correct social behavior"? And where does Marx ever suggest the "social insects" as a model for communist society?


That although a new class will be created, that is the state. It is not a class defined by its economic disposition, but defined by its political disposition.

That is what it claims...but Marxists know better. You may claim all the purely "political" motives you wish; the Marxist always looks behind the scenery to see who is getting paid to say what. The "political class" that runs the economic show is going to very quickly understand what is really to be gained...and will act accordingly.


It [the new class] is necessary though to create the conditions in society for a new revolution that will lead to a communist society where there are no bosses.

This appears unclear to me and may get you in further trouble with your orthodox associates. You appear to be suggesting that there are two proletarian revolutions required; the first to set up a "revolutionary dictatorship", and the second to overthrow it and finally establish communist society.

Can we just skip the first one?
First posted at Che-Lives on July 15, 2003


What would you have suggested to Lenin? That he let the people suffer under the Tsar?

The proletariat wanted to overthrow the Tsar, Lenin didn't force them to.

We have no way of knowing "what we would have done" had we lived through past events...which is probably a good thing. What we can do is learn from past events. We don't have to and shouldn't repeat Lenin's errors simply because "he was Lenin".

Lenin did what he thought was the right thing to do at the time. What is deplorable is that there are still people who "want to do it again" even though they know or ought to know that it won't work. That is, a centralized, disciplined vanguard party will not result in a communist revolution.

You cannot inspire rebellion by cultivating obedience.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 16, 2003


I think your ideas are bourgeois for these reasons. The bourgeoisie has this great idea of social freedom and civil liberties etc. They deny any existence of a class struggle.

Yes, that's true. But you certainly can't quote me as suggesting in any way that class struggle does not exist, nor can you quote me as ever suggesting that the "ideal" of "civil liberties" is, in fact, practiced by the bourgeoisie...except under extraordinary pressure from a rebellious working class. "Civil liberties" may be on the cover of capitalism's law books; savage repression of the working class is the content.


You, in one of your comments suggested that in a post capitalist society people would 'gravitate towards work' and that decisions by political bodies would only be advisory and not compulsory. I believe you think these things beneficial because you have the same ideas as the bourgeoisie over individuals being free from all constraints a structured society places on them.

Yes, among themselves, the bourgeoisie do believe in maximum liberty for themselves. Is that belief "not good enough" for the working class? If we have overthrown the old ruling class, is it somehow "wrong" for us to immediately claim for ourselves those liberties that have hither-to been the privilige of old ruling class?


But I believe that in reality there are constraints that will limit the freedom of certain bourgeois ideas and practices so that we can destroy them.

Fair enough, depending on what you really mean by bourgeois "ideas and practices". If you wish to prohibit the hiring of wage labor and the extraction of surplus value, do you imagine that I am going to "defend" that most-precious-of-all "bourgeois liberty"? Do you think any class-conscious worker would "defend" that?

So obviously, you have other things in mind. Be specific; what do you want to stop people from doing that they do now? And what is your justification for calling those things "bourgeois"?


I know you desire a classless society, but how do you suggest we achieve it. How do you suggest we fight the class struggle. My view is that in this respect also you are willing to compromise the liberties the bourgeoisie currently enjoy so that we can create a classless society. This is because you value the same things that the bourgeoisie does.

This is incoherent...but if I roughly understand it, you're saying that it would "hurt" the class struggle in some fashion and "delay" the achievement of communism if workers had real "civil liberties"--those that the bourgeoisie praise in words and deny in practice.

If I've understood you correctly, then, yes, you've nailed me. A revolutionary movement and a revolutionary society must be hyper-democratic and rich in all kinds of "civil liberties" and "social freedoms" for the working class and not for the old ruling class.

Otherwise, we'd just be trading the bosses we have now for you guys...and what's the point in that?

Thus, I concede you have a point; I am taking the most progressive ideas that the bourgeoisie had about freedom (say from 1789 to 1865 or thereabouts) but which were never extended in substance to the working class and saying yes, let us help ourselves to a generous portion of what has always been denied us.

Tell me what's wrong with that?


This political leadership is required to create an organised class that can fight the class struggle.

That's just repeating Lenin while using different words. The question remains: does the working class need a special political leadership (bosses) in order to fight the class struggle?

Marx said no; Lenin said yes. Who was right?


How do you suggest we should shape human nature...?

The "quick" answer is that it can't be done by an elite...except over many centuries. "Human nature" is a product of historical circumstances; if the working class spends several decades organizing itself to make communist revolution, then it will have already trasnformed itself into a class that is "ready" for self-rule.

On the other hand, if a Leninist party were to actually succeed in organizing the working class to "follow its leadership" in overthrowing capitalism, you'd still have a passive and servile working class with heads full of capitalist ideas...just one that had changed bosses. And long before you'd have the chance to "shape human nature", you yourselves would have degenerated into a new ruling class.


How do you propose that the class system should be destroyed and we create a communist society? How can you do this without years to do it? And, without any kind of organised force to dictate the formation of a society that will cultivate the material conditions for a classless society, and to advance humanity to the stage where it will be able to live in a communist society.

That last phrase is important: "to advance humanity to the stage where, etc., etc." What I assert is that a working class that is capable of genuine communist revolution and proceeds to do it is, by definition, already "advanced" enough to institute communism.

You can't do it for them.


My criticism of your views of what makes my view of socialism unworkable is that you have an animal view of human nature. You seem to view human nature as so underdeveloped that humans will automatically want to revert to a capitalist society and behave in the same archaic way capitalists do; valuing only the self.

This is also incoherent; what do you mean "animal"? And why do you assume that people, being free, will only value themselves? They may, if they wish, of course...but since no one will permit themselves to be exploited by another, what difference would it make?

If people freely co-operate with one another because they see that it's in their own best interest to do so (valuing self) or because they believe that co-operation is "nobler" or "more moral" than competition...the practical outcome is co-operation in either event.

I do think, over decades and centuries of classless society, that real "old-fashioned selfishness" would come to be seen as barbaric, a sign of backwardness, etc. But in the early decades, I think workers will appeal to one another for co-operation on the basis of clearly perceived mutual self-interest...and I don't have a problem with that.

Leninists, on the other hand, would command people to co-operate...thus


The role of a socialist society is to create a highly organised and disciplined state...

A state of new bosses.


You seem to think that we must first prescribe almost communist-like conditions before human nature will begin to change slightly. Yet, you suggest a society, an almost direct leap into communism that would require very highly developed humans in terms of their ability to self-govern themselves and to see and thus reject the ills of capitalist society.

That's pretty good and very close to what I actually think. A real communist movement of the working class would, internally, strongly resemble the communist society to come...non-hierarchial, egalitarian, disputacious, etc. When it grew to overwhelming proportions, and actually overthrew the capitalist class, it would "transfer" the habits and practices that it had already developed into the new social order.

The working class would already know what to do; it would not need a special "political leadership" to "command" it to do the "right thing".


And you know Marx did talk of a second, but peaceful, proletarian revolution.

No, in all honesty, I've never heard of such a thing. The revolution that overthrows capitalism and establishes the dictatorship of the proletariat is the same revolution that begins at once to establish a classless society, the withering away of the state, etc. The idea of some kind of "intermediate" stage between capitalism and communism is not Marxist; it's social democratic and/or Leninist.

And the idea that this "intermediate stage" is peacefully overthrown by a "second proletarian revolution" is yours.

You may want to reconsider it.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 17, 2003

I confess ignorance of Michael Albert or the book you mentioned; but I did follow your link and read the 1970 essay by Duncan Hallas.

It is an interesting historical document and, in fact, had I read it in 1970, I would have found it especially appealing as I was moving away from the "Stalinist" camp in that period.

The fallacy, as I see it, is that Hallas at the time was still convinced that the modern working class needed some entity (a centralized revolutionary party) to "give it direction", to "channel its energies" in the "best direction", etc.

The assumption is that a relatively small number of people can accurately determine "the best direction" ahead of assumption unsupported by experience and theoretically dubious, to put it mildly. Hallas even uses the word "generals" to describe this small if the working class was an "army" that needed only correct leadership to win.

I see nothing wrong and much to be gained by communists organizing themselves into long as it's clearly understood that these are not groups of present or future "leaders". We do not and should not seek "power"--we should seek enlightenment of our class that it should become "a class for itself".

It might not even be a bad idea that should a member of such a communist group accept a leadership position in some other working class organization, s/he has to resign her/his membership in the communist group. That would drive the point home that our goal is not power for ourselves but power for our class.

I am not against organization per se. But I do think it should arise from the needs of the class itself and not be imposed by people operating according to a "revolutionary model" that was questionable in its own time and has been utterly discredited over the last 80 years.

I don't see that there is much to be gained through speculation about "what would have happened if" in regard to the Russian revolution; e.g., if conditions had been more favorable, if the imperialists hadn't invaded, if Trotsky had become the "great leader" instead of Stalin, etc. Early communist parties in Europe and the United States were not under any direct pressure from Stalin and "fell into line" anyway...any of them could have stood up during the 1920s and said no! and none of them did. I don't see how one could mimimize the concept of "democratic centralism" in explaining this outcome...those folks believed in "top-down" rule even when it ran directly against their own interests.

Hallas clearly wanted to see the emergence of a genuinely democratic Leninist party; and I suppose it's always possible that such a thing might indeed happen. But, to me, it has the character of a groundhog growing wings...a very unlikely bird indeed.
First posted at Che-Lives on July 17, 2003

Now that you mention it, yes, I have read some ParaCon material...but as it seemed yet another variant of market-oriented reformism, I didn't read too much of it and sort of lost interest. If the market-oriented theorists are right, then the kind of social order that I want to see would be impossible. So I proceed on the assumption that they are wrong and go from there,


I feel the working class is not prepared on its own to make a choice like this. I've always thought the centralized party was to be made up of the most militant workers, how it was originally intended. Not as a floor for "intellectuals" as some say.

Well, things haven't worked out that way at all, either in Lenin's time or since. Some of that, perhaps even a lot of that, is due to the class-bias that exists in all bourgeois educational systems...there is a subtle (sometimes not so subtle) message to all working-class kids that serious ideas are "not for the likes of you"...thus when it comes time to organize a Leninist party, the pool of potential recruits is dominated by "middle-class intellectuals" and a small handful of exceptionally bright workers, who ignored the message and educated themselves anyway.

On the other hand, working people derive an "education" from their own life experiences...they often have a pretty keen insight into what is hurting them and what might possibly help them.

The distinction that I try to draw is between transfering the knowledge that we have gained in one way or another to the rest of our class--that they might see things more clearly and make better decisions or actually stepping forward to make decisions for them without necessarily taking their opinions or even their direct interests into consideration.

Even under circumstances where the leadership of the Leninist party has originated directly from within the working class, that by no means guarantees that the party's decisions will be the same as the ones the class as a whole would make. Joseph Stalin's father was a shoe-maker and all of his grandparents were serfs.

When you are part of the leadership of a vanguard party, the position brings with it "perks" and "privileges". If the party is very small and weak, those perks and privileges are very small (a tiny rent-free apartment perhaps; a small weekly cash allowance sufficient to allow the leader to live--in austere circumstances--without having to have a regular job; perhaps a used car, etc.). As the party grows (if it does), those perks and privileges become more generous...I have no doubt that the leaders of "mass" Leninist parties like the "Communist" Party of France or the old "Communist" Party of Italy lived far above the standards of ordinary workers and even minor officials in such parties received a generous slice of the pie.

It's pretty obvious how such an environment would generate material corruption...but the political effect would be--and has been--to abandon any revolutionary intentions whatsoever, lest the inevitable capitalist repression disturb the desired cash flow.

Can the working class as a whole make "correct" decisions? Obviously, there are many obstacles to this. Bourgeois ideology is "in the air we breathe"...there's no escaping it. Workers are divided into hundreds of thousands or millions of workplaces, each generating a slightly (sometimes greatly) different version of "class consciousness". Not to mention that some workers are actually more intelliegent than others and understand things more clearly...or are old enough to bring lessons of personal experience in class struggle to bear on any controversy.

So, it will be difficult and chancy...yet I am convinced that the outcome of these millions of small struggles over policy, strategy, tactics, etc. will, in the end, have the highest probability of being "right" about the broad direction of the revolutionary movement; much higher, in fact, than the chance association of a small number of like-minded intellectuals, even with a militant worker or two thrown into the mix.

As I've had occasion to note in many threads, history offers no guarantees. But that doesn't mean we can't bet "the best odds" that we can find.


I see it as the workers who are most militant and class concious being able to push the others into their militant way, meaning most of the working class is not militant the way they should be, and it would help if someone more militant helped them.

It seems to me that this happens all the time anyway. Every workplace (that I've ever been in) has those who struggle against the boss, those who kiss the boss's arse, and the majority in the middle, swayed one way or another by argument, personality, circumstances, etc.

In a climate of approaching revolution and sharp workplace struggles, why would a Leninist party help matters any? There's certainly no guarantee that the party members would be the "most militant"...there are plenty of past occasions when the Leninist party has been to the right of the massive majority of the working class.


I feel that, contrary to criticisms against centralization or party elections, the reason for the rise of Stalin was not Leninism, but the Imperialist nations (14) which invaded. Mass starvation, cannibalism, civil war, etc etc etc. The Bolsheviks took control when the working class was no longer to participate. Meaning the militants took control in a time of great need. What would have happened without the party existing? The country would have been overrun by imperialists.

I don't think you can "salvage" Leninism in the murky waters of speculation. We have no way of knowing what the outcome of events would have been had conditions been dramatically different.

But you can't attribute the servile behavior of the Communist Party USA in the late 1920s towards Stalin to a civil war thousands of miles away that had been over for more than five years. The link of "cause-and-effect" won't stretch that far. I don't see how you can avoid going directly to Lenin's idea of a centralized and disciplined "revolutionary" organization creating the kind of political climate that elevated obedience to the leader above all other concerns, even material ones.

The parties that were members of the Comintern could have stood up to Stalin and defied him to his face (without worrying about being shot or imprisoned, etc.)...and none of them did that...ever.

How is that to be explained without regard to the habits of obedience that are always characteristic of centralized, disciplined organizations?


Just because s/he has power in the organization or party does not necessarily mean s/he is corrupt or power hungry.

True enough...but what are the odds?
First posted at Che-Lives on July 18, 2003
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