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Leninism vs. Anarchism July 6, 2003 by RedStar2000


Every Leninist party has, tucked securely away in its verbal arsenal, a pamphlet called "Marxism vs. Anarchism" or words to that effect. Whether copied from someone else or an original effort of their own, it will always be laid out in pretty much the same fashion: a smattering of quotes from Marx but usually Engels, a "class analysis" of anarchism that has no basis in reality (attributed to Lenin or just asserted as "fact"...), and a "cartoon summary" of anarchist thought that makes anarchists look like well-meaning buffoons at best and conscious "counter-revolutionaries" at worst.

The purpose of such literary efforts rarely has much to do with anarchism as such; it is an effort to find "Marxist justifications" for the exercise of arbitrary power by a self-appointed elite over the working class as a whole.

The message of servile obedience as a "virtue" is rather awkward for so-called "revolutionaries" to deliver...especially in the advanced capitalist countries where disobedience, if not yet rebellion, is commonplace within the working class.

But the Leninists try, and use anarchism as their pretended target, because it is imperative that the working class become adjusted to the idea of obeying their Leninist party leaders. Without that, the whole Leninist project comes crashing to the ground.

Without state power directly in the hands of the "revolutionary vanguard party" and especially its leaders...what's left of Leninism at all? If their so-called "expert guidance" is unneeded and even rejected outright, what ever are they to do with themselves?

These are recent posts on this situation, stemming perhaps from the fact that anarchism has had something of an unexpected rebirth and has become a significant political current (or currents) once more...much to Leninist dismay. They are rolling out their old authoritarian rhetoric once more; but I expect they are going to find it tough going. I hope I've helped make it that way.


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quote:

The fundamental difference between Bakunin and Marx was the State. Marx declared it a necessary tool for the revolution; Bakunin saw it as a contradiction to the whole idea of the revolution and called for its absoulte abolishment.


I really don't know. To some extent, those two guys were arguing a theoretical problem: is the state an organ of class rule or does it have an "existence" independent of the class structure of a given society?

Bakunin and other classical anarchists have argued, at least as I understand them, that the state, even in the absence of classes, would proceed at once to create them. Marx, of course, thought that with the victory of proletarian revolution, that the new state apparatus created by the working class would begin to wither away at once...because in the absence of classes, no state as an organ of class rule is required.

It seems as if this actually happened in the brief existence of the Paris Commune; most of the initiatives came from neighborhood and workplace groups and the weak "central authority" of the Commune actually did very little.

In the present era, I see no chance that modern anarchists would have anything to do with Leninists of any variety; the idea of a small vanguard ruling over the working class "in the name of the working class" is flatly unacceptable.

On the other hand, I think there are some modern anarchists that are "open" to what I call "Marxism without the crap"...non-Leninist Marxism, in other words. Marxists who make the effort to understand what the anarchists are getting at (instead of just repeating ancient insults) may find that they have more in common with some strands of anarchist theory than they thought they had.

For example, a "classical" Marxist who advocates the beginning of the transition to communism on "day one" after the revolution (no intermediate "strong state" socialism) might discover that in practice the only difference would be one of terminology...rather trivial under the circumstances.

But I don't mean to make it sound like a smooth road to unity; there's been a lot of bad feeling between Marxists and anarchists (most of them) for more than a century and that's not something that's easily forgotten. And that's not to mention some of the (pardon the expression) elderly figures in both camps that have something of a vested interest in maintaining the antagonisms.

Perhaps it will be the young Marxists who shake off all the old Leninist crap and the young anarchists who are not over-burdened with respect for their elders that will meet one another, over time, in the common struggle to establish the rule of the working class as a class.

But it will take a while.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 28, 2003
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All Leninists will repeat as a holy mantra that "Marxism" "requires" a transitional "strong-state"--called "socialism"--before the state can be abolished.

You have just been given an example along with a couple of pathetic arguments--the stateless society can't function "effectively" without development and, by implication, stateless societies can't develop economically; a "strong state" is "needed" to make that happen.

All Soviet-era nonsense, of course, which has nothing in common with Marx.

Frankly, I think what really motivates the Leninists is that without a "transition stage" of "strong-state socialism", there's nothing for them to do. Specifically, their dreams of being the next Lenin, Stalin, Trotsky, Mao, etc. are reduced to the level, at best, of figuring out the best way to use the space in a warehouse or devising an efficient bus schedule--the "administration of things rather than people"--and where's the fun in that? No cheering crowds, no pictures of yourself on every public surface, no life of luxury when the proles aren't looking, no crowd of flatterers telling you how sweet your farts smell, etc.

One thing he is right about, of course. It is important to read as much good theory as you can find...and finding it is not always easy. But there are sites on the web that have a lot of good texts (see the Websites forum). I would advise concentrating on Marx and Engels and on the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain. But Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin and Mao, I would not recommend...their entire paradigm no longer has any relevance for workers in advanced capitalist countries.

Of course, should you develop a passion for the history of 20th century proto-communism, those are essential sources.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 28, 2003
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quote:

Ever hear of Ho Chi Minh? One of the most simple men to ever walk this earth. He was a Marxist-Leninist. What about Fidel Castro? He is a Marxist-Leninist, and I don't really see all of the crap you listed in Cuba. What about CHE? He was a dogmatic Marxist-Maoist-Leninist; probably a lot more dogmatic than Castro.


You left out Lenin himself, who also lived very simply.

But if you think for a second the either Lenin, or Ho, or Che was not surrounded by a gaggle of flatterers, then you don't understand the dynamics of power at all.

quote:

They denounced Bebel, Proudhon, and about every other Anarchist around their timespan.


I think you mean Bakunin in that sentence, but I take your point and so what? Proudhon's mutual-aid ideas were not really revolutionary at all and Marx said so. Bakunin had some very strange ideas about how revolutionary organizations should function and Marx criticized them. Engels wrote a rather silly polemic against the anarchism of that era based, in my view, on word-play more than anything else--e.g., "revolution is an authoritarian act and therefore anarchists can't be really revolutionary and still be consistent".

quote:

So how in the name of logic do you put Marx and Engels in the same category of the Anarcho-syndacalists?


Because the anarcho-syndicalists in Spain acted in practice "as if" they were Marxists...supporting a rising of the working class, not a self-appointed "elite" or "vanguard".

quote:

I mean, I admire the Anarchists' bravery, but you do know that Communists fought RIGHT along side them, do you not? In fact, it was the "evil" Marxist-Leninists in the Soviet Union (even though I don't agree with Stalin's purges, he did do some good things) that gave support to the Republicans in the Spanish Civil war.


First of all, it's not a matter of "bravery"...physical courage is a common human characteristic and even fascists can be "brave".

It is a question of theoretical clarity and understanding...who had the "best idea" for Spain? The Spanish Communist Party and their Soviet "handlers" united with the "progressive bourgeoisie" in support of the bourgeois Spanish Republic and actively suppressed the most rebellious elements of the working class; the anarcho-syndicalists and one Leninist party--Trotskyist as it happened--supported a full-fledged working class revolution...and as well the immediate transition to communism.

You actually phrased it correctly: the USSR supported the Spanish Republic and not the Spanish working class. There's a difference.

quote:

So please, do not generalize; how would you like it if I called you a liberal hippy scumbag Anarchist that wants to smoke pot all day?


When people call me things that really have no relevance to my actual existence or convictions at all, it really doesn't bother me. But I will concede that when I was speaking of "Leninists" generally, I should have made it abundantly clear that I was speaking of the upper-strata of these formations, not the ordinary members.

You see, in Leninist political formations, the "leadership" are the only people that matter.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 29, 2003
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I put this response off as long as I could because, frankly, your "Marxism" is religious in character. To be a "Marxist" in your view is to study and memorize "the holy words of the scriptures" without a moment's thought as to what these guys were really saying, much less why.

You constantly repeat: "read Lenin and Stalin" with the same fervor as the Christians in the religion thread keep saying "read the bible".

It is tedious to argue with "true believers", no matter what their faith.

But here's a couple of examples...

quote:

Workers can't organize revolution by themselves.


If that were true, why should you or I or anyone do it for them? What's the point?

Are we just "super-humanitarians" interested in pulling off the biggest act of global "mega-charity" in recorded history?

Or, perhaps some of us, taking note that we were not born into the existing ruling class, have decided to rectify that historical oversight by planting our own butts in some nice plush seats of power?

The problem with Leninism-Stalinism-Trotskyism-Maoism is that, at best, it teaches workers how to change masters...when what communists need to do is teach workers how to liberate themselves from all masters.

quote:

You all have to understand that revolution will never take place in the modern developed states, but in the most backward (so called "third world" countries).


In other words, historical materialism is a bunch of "crap" and people can "by command" create any social order that they "will", regardless of material conditions.

Like all religious people, you have a special interpretation of the "Marxist bible" that neatly converts anything into its opposite whenever useful or convenient.

If Marx said A and Lenin said B and you want to uphold B, then you think you can assert that Marx also said B and no one will notice.

Ahem...people notice.
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First posted at Che-Lives on June 29, 2003
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quote:

At the moment I am on the bubble of Anarchism and Marxism.


Not necessarily the worst place to be, when you consider the alternatives.

The identification of the Leninist state with Marxism is wide-spread and...unfortunate, to say the least.

It occurs to me that this whole "defending the revolution" dispute could very well be based on a false premise...that the new revolutionary country is seriously vulnerable to attack from one or more major imperialist countries.

We make this assumption without thinking because all the revolutions of the 20th century took place in "backward" countries that were vulnerable to imperialist intervention.

But if Marx was right, the real communist revolutions have yet to appear...and when they do appear, they will happen in places like France and Germany, not Nepal or Colombia. For the United States to attempt military intervention against revolutionary France is...rather different from invading Iraq.

As to domestic counter-revolutionaries, it seems to me that popular militias are more than adequate for that purpose; had it not been for assistance from Italy and Germany, I think historians agree that Franco would have been defeated.

It is sometimes argued by more "libertarian" Leninists that Lenin "sacrificed the revolution to save the revolution"--that the measures the Bolsheviks took to defend the revolution ultimately paved the way for Stalin, Khrushchev, and the restoration of capitalism.

But what difference does it make how you lose if you still lose? I don't dispute Lenin's "good intentions" or, for that matter, Stalin's or Khrushchev's. The results were negative.

Finally, I agree that the anarchist conception of the "seizure of power" is too "fuzzy" at this point. If we are not to have a Leninist state, then we should be much clearer about what kinds of public authorities must be established when the bourgeoisie are driven from power. There may be no "state", no centralized entity vested with the power of command--but there most certainly will be public bodies of some sort that will be responsible for maintaining the functioning of a complex social order. It is not satisfactory to say simply that "it will happen"--there need to be conscious and thought-out practical measures to be taken on "day one" after the revolution, be they councilist, syndicalist, or some combination of both.

Otherwise, some gang of bureaucratic bastards will be back in power again before you can say "oh, shit!"
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 2, 2003
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quote:

Actually, you, redstar, don't even know who I am, you know nothing about me and you don't have any right to talk shit about me.


I am uninterested in your personal characteristics and I am not "talking shit" about you.

I have been on this board for nine months now, and I have read a great many of your posts. Your style of argument is: Thus and such is so because Lenin (or Stalin) said it was so. That's not Marxism...it's religion---specifically, Soviet-era Leninist-Stalinist orthodoxy.

The idea of using the tools of Marxism to analyze a situation is as alien to you as a Russian Orthodox priest trying to "analyze" the resurrection. To you, things are either "articles of faith" or heresy (revisionism).

I don't know, maybe it's a "Russian" thing. An argument could be made that Stalin was as much a "patriarch" as he was a communist. But I've noticed here and on other boards that people from Russia seem to have a "religious" interpretation of Marxism that simply does not allow for the possibility of doubt or questioning.

That's my impression, anyway.

quote:

...but [the] socialistic state can't oppress workers living in it, as it is characterized by the public property of the means of production.


This is a perfect example of what I'm talking about. A Stalinist verbal formula is substituted for evidence and asserted as true...when the evidence is clearly in the other direction (1953 Berlin, 1956 Budapest, etc.). What did the Soviet working class have to show for 74 years of "socialism"? So little that when the USSR collapsed in ignomy, not one worker in a hundred thousand raised his/her voice in protest.

quote:

Now will you, redstar, explain [to] all 'comrades' when the developed countries will step into the socialistic future?


No, I will not tell you "when"--I am not a prophet. What I will tell you is what Marx and Engels would have told you: pre-capitalist societies cannot become socialist/communist without first passing through capitalism. All your "victorious socialist revolutions" in pre-capitalist countries have, in fact, become capitalist or are in the process of doing so.

Contrary to your assertion, Marx was right and Lenin & Co. were wrong.

Keep in mind, I'm not saying that the Leninists were "evil" or "stupid"...I'm saying that the evidence demonstrates that they were wrong.

What is stupid and may be "evil" is the refusal of today's religious "Marxists" to accept the clear and overwhelming evidence and move on.

What you (and some others) need to do, if you can, is go back and read Marx and Engels not as "scripture" but as a way of looking at history and the contemporary world and making sense of it all. Their ideas are tools, not "holy writ".

And perhaps you've heard the saying: a good workman respects his tools.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 3, 2003
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It's a bit embarrassing to have to admit, but I'm afraid that the burden of trust is--and will be for a considerable time to come--on the non-Leninist communists to prove that they are not just another bunch of power-hungry hustlers willing to use anarchists and discard them afterwards.

As for Leninists, I see, as I've said before, zero chance of any cooperation with them by anarchists. As one anarchist wrote "Why should we help you arrange matters such that it will be as easy as possible for you to shoot us at your convenience?".

The theoretical task for real communists in the present era is to clear out all the Leninist shit. When anarchists see that we are really serious about that--in practice as well as theory--then will be time enough to talk about real cooperation...as equals.

Give it time.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 4, 2003
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quote:

Ever read some of the stuff said between Marx and Prohound?


I think that's Proudhon you're speaking of there, but I take your point.

My point is that the controversies between Marx and 19th century anarchist figures are not terribly relevant to the 21st century.

As it happens, I think Marx's criticisms of 19th century anarchist figures were mostly justified...but that says very little about contemporary anarchists, some of whom quite possibly might have been "acceptable" to Marx.

"Anarchism" is a very loose term (hardly surprising); some of them are serious revolutionaries, some are flakes. Cannot the same be said about many "communists"?

The "modern" version of "Proudhon-ism" is, as I understand it, the "shadow economy" anarchists...and we are not required to endorse that idea ideologically in order to get a good price on smuggled tax-free cigarettes.

The "modern" version of "Bakuninism" or perhaps even "Blanqi-ism" would, I suppose, be the "Black Bloc" formations that have shown up during recent anti-globalization and anti-U.S. imperialism demonstrations, engaging in some rather mild violence against the public order. Again, an ideological endorsement from us is not required in order to applaud their efforts to "raise the stakes" in such events.

What I am most interested in is the possibility of the revival of anarcho-syndicalism...I see that current of anarchist thought--with its emphasis on genuine working class autonomy--as a natural ally of real communists.

And what I am least interested in is the "criticism" of anarchist thought by Lenin-Stalin-Trotsky-Mao wannabes. The motive of self-interest is as obvious as shit on the tablecloth...how can you be the "Great Leader" with all these goddam anarchists around?

How, indeed!
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 4, 2003
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quote:

And he was able to get everyone else to go along with this....why? Could it be because the experience of the Civil War convinced everyone, including those who initially favored a decentralized force, that a centralized Red Army was necessary?


Convinced everyone? I rather doubt that. Convinced some folks in the politburo and the central committee, perhaps...and intimidated everyone else, most likely.

No way to tell, in retrospect, of course.

It strikes me that there are two "levels" of discussion here. The first regards the civil wars and foreign invasions in Russia and Spain; the second is a question of military theory.

Within the first, it is suggested that an "anarchist military response" to the Whites and the foreign troops in Russia "would" have resulted in the victory of the counter-revolution; while the anarchists "were defeated" by Franco and his foreign allies in Spain.

Within the more theoretical discussion, it is suggested that since anarchists are "opposed to authority in principle", they will "invariably" succumb to a centrally commanded military force organized by counter-revolutionaries and their foreign supporters.

If I have summarized these objections fairly, then I think some questions are in order.

1. If (some) communists can learn from and correct the errors of Leninism, why is it not possible for serious anarchists to learn from the errors of Russia and Spain, presuming they can be clearly identified?

2. Are professional, disciplined soldiers inevitably successful against suitably armed but otherwise untrained civilians...even when the armed civilians vastly outnumber the soldiers?

3. How adequate is "traditional military doctrine"--designed for combat between professional armies--in a revolutionary situation or a civil war involving large numbers of civilian combatants?

4. Is a "decentralized military command structure" (officers elected by soldiers; higher officers elected by lower officers; no formal "general staff" with the power of command; etc.) necessarily unsuitable or inferior in a situation of revolutionary warfare?

I don't propose "decisive" answers for these questions; but, as I always do, I suggest suspicion of "received wisdom" from our rulers.

It is clearly in their class interests to make popular resistance look as "unrealistic" as possible...to paint themselves and their mercenaries as "invincible".

It may well turn out that some limited degree of centralization may be inevitable if and when we find ourselves in the real situation.

But it's nothing to boast about...or celebrate---much less criticize those who are against it. They might be right.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 5, 2003
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quote:

I like Mao and Lenin, like every Marxist serious about revolution does.


Oh, what is it exactly that you "like" about them? That they were "winners", perhaps?

Except they weren't. Russia is openly capitalist now and has been for more than a decade; China awaits only the admission of capitalists into its "communist" party to draft the formal declaration.

Serious? Yeah, if you want to lose.

quote:

Anarchists like Bebel and Proudhon do not compare to Marx or Lenin. No one takes them seriously.


You are not going to score real high on the "serious" index yourself, calling August Bebel, one of the founders of the German Social-Democratic Party, an "anarchist".

quote:

Marxism is based on centralization, Mao and Lenin were centralists.


But the question is: were Mao and Lenin Marxists? And even if they were (sort of), what about the modern versions of Leninism?

What you have to prove is that "Marxism" demands a dictatorship not of the proletariat but of an elite which "acts in the name of the proletariat". That's the "link" between Marx and Lenin...and it doesn't fucking exist!

quote:

Anarchists are "anti-authoritarians"; Marxists are authoritarians.


No, Leninists are authoritarians. All that Marx says is that the working class must smash the old capitalist state machinery and set up a "transitional" state only for the purpose of crushing the resistance of the old ruling class.

Marx and Engels did not speculate much on the nature of post-capitalist society...but I think even the most ardent Leninist would have difficulty finding even a scrap or two of Marx or Engels to even remotely justify the USSR, China, etc.

quote:

Sure, Lenin and Mao could've granted more liberties, but they did what they could with the ignorant, hungry, and illiterate peasants in the countries they inherited.


I agree, they did "what they could"...made bourgeois revolutions wrapped in red flags. Not because they were "evil" or "stupid"...but because, as Marx pointed out, you can't get from feudalism to communism without passing through capitalism. Material conditions prevail.

But this, of course, misses the contemporary point altogether. Our modern Leninists--walking fossils--want to see fresh versions of the USSR or People's China in the advanced capitalist countries. This is not only not Marxism of any kind, it's brazen idiocy. And most of them propose to achieve this dubious state of bliss (for them) through the old discredited methods of social democratic parliamentary cretinism...idiocy piled upon idiocy!

quote:

Simply because others in the past have distorted the ideas of Marxism-Leninism doesn't mean everyone is an "evil man that wants to grasp power, put their portrait everywhere, and kill children bla bla".


I simply can't imagine who you're talking about in such careful diplomatic language, but it actually doesn't matter. Although Lenin and Mao were fairly careful about that sort of thing, contemporary Leninist-Maoists regard the entire history of 20th century communism as one of betrayals, distortions, fuckups...and all around general "causes" due to the characteristics of individual personalities. So far have they drifted from any reasonable interpretation of Marx that they now effectively embrace "the great man theory of history"...a theory held in disrepute by even mediocre bourgois historians now.

If only so-and-so had done this, they say, or if only thus-and-so had not done that...then everything in Russia or China would have turned out differently.

You call that "serious Marxism"? Who is telling jokes here?

quote:

...in order to break down the resistence of the bourgeoisie, they give the state a revolutionary and transitional form, instead of laying down arms and abolishing the state.


A quote from Marx himself...very good. Now since Marx was involved in both a political and an organizational struggle with the anarchists of his time--mainly Bakunin--is it surprising that Marx would deliberately use the word "state" in a way that would clearly set his views apart from the "anti-state" Bakunin?

Do Marx's words clearly link his views with those of Lenin or Mao...neither of whom ever suggested the "transitional" nature of their state except as something that would happen far, far in the future...in a galaxy far, far away, no doubt.

Is there anything in Marx's words that suggest a "stage" called "socialism" that lasts for decades or centuries prior to the abolition of the state and the establishment of communism?

Is there anything in Marx's words that suggest that this "stage" of "socialism" is characterized by the dictatorship of a self-selected elite over the working class?

You know damn well there ain't.

quote:

I respect Anarchists as our anti-capitalists brothers, but if they start to bite the hand that feeds them, they will not be tolerated.


Anarchists lining up at Leninist soup-kitchens? That would be a sight to see.

I understand and accept the fact that to a Leninist, I must appear as either a "pot-smoking hippy" or a thinly-disguised "anarchist" attempting to steal some of your "Marxist scripture" for blasphemous purposes...namely undermining the principle of "papal succession". (You know, Marx annointed Lenin who annointed Stalin who annointed Mao who annointed...whatever Comrade Bigturd you prefer.)

Therefore, feel free to call me as many names as you like...but don't call me for the coronation of your latest designated heir to Leninist "wisdom"...I'm not religious.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 5, 2003
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quote:

What I liked about Lenin and Mao is that they expanded Marxist theory. You see, Mao and Lenin applied Marxism to the positions they were in, post feudalist society, so they were not dogmatic. They had to develop their own theories in order to make it work in a post-feudal society. I don't believe Leninism would necessarily be needed in a post-capitalist society, but in a feudal one it is.


Ok, let's say, simply for the sake of discussion, that what you say here is true. So what?

Whether you use Adam Smith or Karl Marx as your "guide", what happens when you seek to promote the transition out of a semi-feudal society into a modern society? The answer is capitalism. Wave as many red flags as you like...material conditions prevail.

Lenin and Mao certainly had some interesting insights into the possibilities of revolution in their respective countries...but, at the core, and presuming their sincereity about socialism, they were idealist--they both thought (or acted as if they thought) that socialism could be established by the determined will of a small minority.

You can make something that "looks" like socialism in that fashion...but it crumbles away in a generation or two.

quote:

Also, Lenin and Mao are not to blame for the mass reforms in Russia and China. The ones to blame are Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and especially Gorbachev who in their own ways all led to the collapse of the Soviet Union. The one who instated "market socialism" in China was Deng Xiaoping.


Let's try this again: Marxists do not assign "blame". Stalin, etc., etc. did not do what they did because they were "evil"...they acted in accord with the material conditions that existed in those countries, particularly their own class interests as an emerging capitalist class.

In contrast to Marxism, what you Leninists offer is the "great fuckup" theory of the fall of the USSR and China...Lenin and Mao (or Lenin and Stalin or Lenin and Trotsky, etc.) all "did the right thing" and it was the fuckups (or traitors) afterwards who are to "blame".

That's pathetic...and historically untrue. A good historian of the Lenin era could probably find plenty of fuckups by Lenin; and we know that Mao fucked up on several dramatic occasions.

quote:

His [Mao's] theories can be seen practiced in anywhere from Cuba to East Timor.


I know nothing of the tiny "nation" of East Timor, but I think it would come as quite a shock to the Cubans to discover that they are carrying out Mao's "theories"...perhaps they're doing it "unconsciously".

quote:

So how in the world are we going to have the proletariat run [things] themselves if they are illiterate, ignorant, and superstitious?


A good question. The Marxist answer is that it can't be done. The anarchist answer is that you should go ahead and try anyway...maybe they'll learn fast.

The Leninist answer is that the working class needs a self-appointed and self-perpetuating elite to run things "for their own good"---a "benevolent despotism" to "prepare" the working class for self-government.

What is really being prepared is a new and vigorous capitalist class...and this in spite of the sincereity or lack of same on the part of the Leninists.

quote:

You paint out Lenin and Mao as two autocratic Hitler wannabes.


No, actually I don't. What I am saying is that it does not matter in the long run "what you want to be"...given the material conditions and the political ideas of Lenin and Mao, the outcome would have been the same even if Lenin and Mao had died two weeks after assuming power.

If your "Marxism" depends on a "despot of good will"...then despotism is inevitable and how "good" it is will be problematic, to put it as kindly as I can.

quote:

That is authoritarianism! Authoritarianism is one party, a centralized economy and centralized government. Marx and Engels were authoritarians if they were centralists. All "authoritarian" communists are centralists.


And that is confused babble. There's nothing in Marx and Engels that I know of about "one party", "a centralized economy" and "centralized government".

And even if a few scraps could be found where Marx and Engels might have briefly entertained the ideas, there is absolutely no suggestion that such a hypothetical post-revolutionary society should be run by a self-appointed despotism. The overwhelming "bias" of Marx and Engels is in favor of the proposition that the working class, by overthrowing capitalism, ends the entire epoch of class society...there is no way you can twist this to mean that the working class becomes a new ruling class, with its elected (initially) and self-perpetuating (ultimately) "great leaders".

quote:

The only way to crush all class antagonisms is through a strong central government that can easily break through these antagonisms.


Yeah, we've been hearing that one for 80 years now...but those "strong central governments" didn't get the job done. Capitalism came back anyway; the counter-revolutionaries won.

Perhaps if Stalin or Mao had shot a few more people...???

quote:

Regardless of what you say, Leninist Russia and Maoist China were both socialist. To say they were "bourgeois governments wrapped in a red flag" is simply ridiculous and baseless.


No, actually I said they were bourgeois revolutions wrapped in red flags. It took time for the Leninist party elites in those countries to "transform" themselves from conscious "communists" into a new bourgeoisie. Material conditions do not do their work "instantly".

But it's interesting that you should raise this, because it's an area where I think Marxist and anarchist theory converge. Classical anarchist theory has it that as soon as you create "a state", society more or less quickly becomes divided into an elite of "order-givers" and a mass of "order-takers" and formal class divisions are quick to follow. A Marxist would say that whenever the state owns and manages the means of production and the state itself is in the hands of a political elite...that elite will inevitably become the nucleus of a new ruling class...and those not part of that elite will be an exploited and oppressed class (or classes).

That's pretty damn close to saying the same thing in slightly different words...and the historical accuracy is incontestable.

quote:

If you think about it, modern capitalist society is aristocratic and feudalistic. Instead of king and queen, we have Prime ministers and mistresses, instead of lords and noblemen we have corporate CEO's.


And that, folks, is what's known as the set-up. Because, if true, then the benevolent guidance of a Leninist party "is still needed"...since we workers are "still" too dumb to run things ourselves.

quote:

So you see, Leninism is still needed in order to bring Marxism to a third world ridden by imperialism.


So you see, what you will bring to the third world is not Marxism...you will, at best, replace a semi-feudal aristocracy and colonial bourgeoisie with a more progressive and vigorous native bourgeoisie.

Up to you, I suppose, but my "simple" understanding of Marxism is that we should leave it to the bourgeoisie to make bourgeois revolutions. After all, they will take care of those things in their own time.

quote:

Marxism-Leninism is essential for these [backward] parts of the world to fully develop a workers state.


A "workers state" that becomes, in due time, a capitalist state and cannot do anything else.

quote:

I think the majority of people [who] would believe Marx and Engels would've agreed with Lenin a lot more than any Anarchist.


"Believe" is the operative word here...because there's no way to actually know. The Leninists yelled the loudest in the 20th century and most people "believed" them. The outcomes have been catastrophic.

You used the word "experiment" to describe the USSR, China, etc. Ok, let's consider the implications of that approach. In science, when experiments are spectacular failures, that generally prompts a fundamental re-examination of the theoretical assumptions that prompted the experiment in the first place.

To continue to replicate "experiments" that you already know don't really work is religious, not scientific. The leaden despotisms of Leninist parties cannot be transformed into golden Marxist communisms; that is political alchemy and doesn't work.

quote:

In what sense is it "self-selected"? If the proletariat helped Lenin and Mao to victory, then that means they acknowledged them as leaders.


How about if they just stood aside while Lenin and his party seized power? How about if, in the spring of 1918, they wanted to replace the Bolsheviks, only to be frustrated in their attempts?

I guess if you don't immediately assassinate any despot, you have therefore "acknowledged" their "leadership".

I guess leader-types will reach a long way to find some scrap, any scrap, of "justification" for their ambitions.

quote:

I still have to read more on Marx, my knowledge is limited to the communist manifesto, but I am sure that if he condoned a centralized government, then yes, he did agree with one group of people working WITH the proletariat. Again, how in the world are workers that have no education supposed to democratically run their own collectivized land without assistance from the state?


Working with the proletariat? "Assistance" from the state? Now you're starting to sound like a guy whose Leninist shoes are pinching his democratic toes.

I encourage you to read as much Marx and Engels as you can. Whenever you find something that you think supports Leninism, bring it up here and we'll talk about it at as much length as you like.

And please keep in mind that nothing I have said or will say is intended to "demonize" you personally or even Leninists as a group. It is those ideas that I think are wrong and must be rejected by serious communists.
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First posted at Che-Lives on July 6, 2003
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Lenin's perspective departs sharply from Marx's conception of how the class struggle would be resolved. To Marx, it was the masses that made history. Communists, at best, could be but midwives, "easing the birth pangs" of the new society...not having the baby! In other words, communism was not something to be imposed on history but rather something that came about as a natural consequence of history.  
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