Lenin, whose 150th birth anniversary was on April 22, teaches lessons crucial in this capitalism-ravaged world that witnesses murder at a mass scale with the cloak of a pandemic.
And this pandemic is one of the direct consequences of capitalism, the system that slashed public healthcare for decades in countries, sold out public healthcare to private capital, enslaved science to super-accumulation of capital, and sacrificed human in millions in way not even beasts are hunted in forest. Lenin’s fight was always against such inhuman system. And he always struggled for a humane world. The great October Revolution, its preparatory work over decades, measures taken following the revolution and exemplary sacrifices the working people in Russia made to organise the revolution under the leadership of Lenin stand as a witness to this position.
Lenin not only challenged capitalism-imperialism in the area of theory but also materialised radical ideas into action — overthrowing an exploitation-based system and creating a system that eliminates exploitation and all forms of sectarianism. The Declaration of Rights of the Working and Exploited People, drafted by Lenin, says:
Abolish all exploitation.
Eliminate the division of society into classes.
Guarantee the power of the working people over the exploiters.
Emancipate the working people from the yoke of capital.
Abolish the parasitic sections of society.
Disarm the propertied classes.
Wrest humanity from the clutches of finance capital and imperialism.
Power vested wholly and entirely in the working people and their representatives. (Collected Works, Vol 26, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1972, quotes here are not direct.)
No other document on rights formulated by other classes makes such a declaration.
Today, this world shows there is no alternative than the path Lenin charted: Radical change of the entire illogical system devouring the planetary life. The existing system has failed in all spheres, beginning from human life to ideas, culture and philosophy. The existing system’s failure is stark in every corner of this planet. The system is decadent. The present pandemic has announced the system’s failure so loud that none can deny this fact of failure. So, self-serving, so indifferent to life, so inefficient in carrying out tasks to save life the system is! This pandemic has shown the real face of the exploiters’ system of rule: Murder at mass scale in the name of ‘failure to understand extent of the pandemic’, ‘non-preparedness’, ‘slower in taking measures’, ‘absence of medical research and appropriate medicine and equipment’, etc. It is, in a sense, an enlarged picture of World War I, the imperialist war Lenin opposed. In that war, blood flowed over lands as money-lords made peoples cannon fodder in countries in the lords’ quest for re-division of the world to reap more profit. In today’s reality, thousands of dead bodies make a silent, lone journey to crematoriums and mass graves while pharmaceutical lords race for profit from a promising market of cure to the coronavirus.
Today, the world governing system’s failure in all spheres of life in countries confirms Lenin’s claim: Other than a radical change of the exploitative system and smashing down shackles of the system there is no middle course — amend, appease, reform — to the path of emancipation from this savage system. One of the major theoretical fights Lenin waged was against such middle-road riders — reformists.
Lenin was for political struggle by the working classes. He never underestimated importance of economic struggle but never put his entire politics in the bag of economic struggle and handed over the job of organising and waging political fight of the exploited to some other classes as without political struggle the exploited classes can never emancipate from exploitation and build up a humane world. Today, this lesson from Lenin is of utmost importance as the exploiting classes are adapting to situations cropping out of their crises, and illusions regarding certain sections of the exploiting classes prevail.
In this approach, there is no scope to forget Lenin’s emphasis on the organisation of working people. Haphazard utterances, sloppy statements, chattering on social media, anarchic ideas and moves, reliance on reformists that include a section of non-governmental organisations, handing over initiatives to the so-called civil society and negligence in building up working people’s organisations are opposite to Lenin’s approach and practice.
Lenin, from the very beginning of his political fight, stood for the organisation of working people. To Lenin, working people without their organisation is nothing but an amalgamation destined to defeat. ‘In its struggle for power’, writes Lenin, ‘the proletariat has no other weapon but organization.’ (One Step Forward, Two Steps Back, Collected Works, Vol 7, Progress Publishers, 1974) He reiterates: ‘The strength of the working class lies in organization. Unless the masses are organized, the proletariat is nothing. Organized — it is everything.’ (‘Party discipline and the fight against the pro-Cadet Social-Democrats’, Collected Works, Vol. 11, Progress Publishers, 1972) It was only with organisation — the Bolshevik party, the Soviet and the Red Guards — Lenin could initiate and carry on the revolution unprecedented in world history. And, Iskra, Spark, the newspaper Lenin planned and produced, was a catalyst to building up the organisation he visualised.
And organisation without discipline is nothing but anarchy, an ally of exploiters. The exploiters cherish this condition — anguished individuals without organisation, and organisation without discipline — among the working people. In human history, no dominating class is without organization in societies. The type and level of those organizations depend on the level of economic activities and the political tasks of those classes. The scholars standing against disciplined organisation do not look at organisations of today’s dominating classes and the discipline of those organisations. Those scholars stand on a false analysis and propagate false claims. Lenin never dreamt of waging a class war against the exploiting classes without a disciplined organisation as carrying on that task is not an imaginary ‘work’.
Lenin constantly put theory into practice, practically implemented philosophical analysis into socio-political reality, innovated tactics appropriate to concrete conditions in the areas of economy and politics. A group of ‘theoreticians’ full with a mechanical brain that fails grasping reality misinterprets Lenin’s tactical innovations in the area of politics.
They, thus, find a lot of ‘opportunism’ in Lenin. But the revolutionary theoretician-politician formulated concrete action plan based on concrete analysis of concrete condition instead of shouting slogans that float on air around and wither away within minutes. To him, fiery slogan with superficial idea is nothing but an impatient infantile disorder.
Lenin’s dedication to the cause of the exploited people is the central position of his politics. That position — interest of the exploited — is the cornerstone of the ideology he upheld throughout his life.
A proletarian worldview, which he never confused, made him enemy of the exploiting classes. On this position, he was uncompromising.
‘Like the needle of a compass, his thought was always pointing to the class interests of the working people.’ (Maxim Gorky, VI Lenin, Collected Works, Vol 9, Progress Publishers, 1982) This makes the difference between reformism and Lenin’s revolutionary politics.
The dissection he made of bourgeois democracy and politics is spectacular. Today, with many exposures and leaks, that democracy and politics are exposed. Its class character, the way these operate and ensure democracy, dictatorship in essence, of the exploiting classes are evident to any close observer of the matured bourgeois democracies. These are evident in debates/quarrels in the legislative chambers of these political systems, in the deliberations of its judiciaries, in the working of its executive parts, in the mass media complex it owns.
Exactly the same is on the question of state. Lenin ascertained the character of state machine. Everyday media reports on the advanced bourgeois democratic states, mainstream study findings, laws in those states that have evolved up to now, and budgetary, fiscal, taxation, trade, education, cultural, administrative, etc policies and practices stand as witness to Lenin’s analysis of state machine. Recent leaks by whistleblowers, on the one hand, and increasing global crises of the dominating classes, on the other, help understand the character of state machine that Lenin exposed through formulation of his theories related to the revolution he stood for. These exposures are so stark that someone can confuse with the timeline of Lenin’s formulation of theory on state — ‘which went earlier, Lenin’s theory or the exposures?’ or, ‘has Lenin formulated his theory based on these exposures?’
Imperialism is one of the areas Lenin focused on. Lenin writes: ‘[T]he deepest economic foundation of imperialism is monopoly. [….] Nevertheless, like all monopoly, it inevitably engenders a tendency of stagnation and decay.’ (Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism, Collected Works, Vol 22, Progress Publishers, 1964) Today, imperialism fails to escape stagnation and decay. Its stagnation is hardening and decay is speeding. Paul M Sweezy and his Marxist colleagues have proved this over the past few decades. The present pandemic and its follow-ups — increasing unemployment, hardship and hunger of billions in countries including the US, the economy considered most advanced by the mainstream, is the evidence of inefficiency of this dominating economy — a monopoly world order. The World Food Programme chief has recently told the UN Security Council: A pandemic of hunger is waiting.
Lenin’s contribution to this area — imperialism — is fundamental, which helps understand the present world dominated by imperialism. ‘“World domination” is’, Lenin writes, ‘to put it briefly, the substance of imperialist policy, of which imperialist war is the continuation.’ (A Caricature of Marxism and Imperialist Economism, Collected Works, Vol 23, Progress Publishers, 1977) Today’s world is not free from this domination and imperialist war. And, Lenin states: ‘All wars are inseparable from the political systems that engender them. The policy which a given state, a given class within that state, pursued for a long time before the war is inevitably continued by that same class during the war, the form of action alone being changed.’ (‘War and Revolution’, Collected Works, Vol 24, Progress Publishers, 1977) Today’s world experiences nothing other than this.
Imperialism is one of the main obstacles peoples of the world face in their journey towards peace and prosperity. Even in building up the democracy of people, imperialism stands as an obstacle. It sabotages/unceasingly conspires to sabotage those initiatives. Cuba and Venezuela, political systems trying to move forward with participatory democracy, are the latest examples. Today, no democratic struggle can be organised without opposing imperialism as imperialism’s major task is to foil all initiatives for building up the democracy of people. In this act of foiling people’s journey towards democracy, imperialism has extended its operations among the students and youth, among cultural workers and citizens considered prominent in respective societies, in unions. Activities including political, cultural, scientific movements by sections of societies in countries are infiltrated and manipulated by imperialism. Lenin, thence, is essential to fight out imperialism.
Maxim Gorky once asked Dmitry Pavlov, a worker, what, in Pavlov’s opinion, was Lenin’s outstanding feature. Pavlov, Gorky writes, ‘answered without hesitation, as though stating a long-established fact, “Simplicity! He’s as simple as the truth.”’ (Gorky, op cit)
Of Lenin, Gorky writes:
He saw far ahead [….]
I cannot think of another man who towered so high over everyone else, but was able to resist the temptations of ambition and retain a vital interest in the ‘common people’. [….]
If the clouds of hatred for him, the clouds of lies and slander woven round him were even denser it would not matter, for there is no such force as could dim the torch he has raised in the stifling darkness of the world gone mad.
Never has there been a man who deserves more to be remembered forever by the whole world. (ibid)
The more the working people will awaken from illusions about the exploiting classes and its ideas, the more the working people will join in barricades to fight the imperialist world order, the more Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov, will be resorted to arm theoretically and for practical actions. The more people will rise up against the existing murderous world system, the more Lenin will come into action. Therefore, for practical reasons, Lenin will live in working people’s, in peoples’ struggle for peace, prosperity and progress, in their struggle for a humane, dignified, democratic life.