Is Lenin’s Vanguardism Overblown? - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

Wandering the information superhighway, he came upon the last refuge of civilization, PoFo, the only forum on the internet ...

Workers of the world, unite! Then argue about Trotsky and Stalin for all eternity...
Forum rules: No one line posts please.
#15207056
I read Hal Draper’s summary of Lenins views on the role of the party and professional revolutionaries seeking to lead change.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1990/myth/myth.htm

In it he seems to emphasize an initial engagement with Kautsky’s views on the matter although with reservation and emphasizes it as not a universal strategy but one he proposed within Russian conditions of severe political repression that didn’t allow easy association and propagandizing.
He then asserts that once conditions eased up, Marx emphasized the working class’ role in the party.

Overall it comes out that the isea that Lenin posed that the workers needed a vanguard party composed of the professional revolutionaries to lead them is blown out of proportion and frames Lenin in an elitist fashion. A framing based heavily and vaguely upon his What is to be done? Work and still comes out to disparage Lenin as authoritarian.

So what’s your take on vanguardism in relation to Lenin? Was it meant tk be universalized, or was it simply a tactic to the conditions of Russia at the time? Is the characterization of this leading cadre elitist or is it an extreme leftism?
#15207061
Wellsy wrote:

So what’s your take on vanguardism in relation to Lenin?




Wet dream.

Russian history, and culture, keeps pushing Russia in the direction of kings, dictators and autocrats...
#15207062
As Engels pointed out, a revolution is “the most authoritarian thing there is”, almost by definition - one class seeks to impose its will on all other classes in society, by force if necessary. The vanguardism thing is therefore almost a moot point, since the working class itself is a vanguard.
#15207079
Potemkin wrote:
As Engels pointed out, a revolution is “the most authoritarian thing there is”, almost by definition - one class seeks to impose its will on all other classes in society, by force if necessary. The vanguardism thing is therefore almost a moot point, since the working class itself is a vanguard.



The vanguard is *internal* to the working class -- is how I would phrase it.
#15207081
ckaihatsu wrote:The vanguard is *internal* to the working class -- is how I would phrase it.

Indeed. But if the working class lack the education or even the spare time to organise revolutionary activity, then this creates a problem. Hence the need for a basic "division of labour" within the working class - some members of the working class must become "professional revolutionaries", devoting their time and their energies not to factory work but to organisational activity. And ideally, these professional revolutionaries should themselves be from the working class, but this is not always possible in practice.
#15207082
Potemkin wrote:
Indeed. But if the working class lack the education or even the spare time to organise revolutionary activity, then this creates a problem. Hence the need for a basic "division of labour" within the working class - some members of the working class must become "professional revolutionaries", devoting their time and their energies not to factory work but to organisational activity. And ideally, these professional revolutionaries should themselves be from the working class, but this is not always possible in practice.



True. No contention.
#15207152
Potemkin wrote:...Hence the need for a basic "division of labour" within the working class - some members of the working class must become "professional revolutionaries", devoting their time and their energies not to factory work but to organisational activity...


I have no problem with centralized power, as such - or even a vanguard to administer it. But we ought to acknowledge that a vanguard that becomes formalized within a Party structure effectively deprecates the role of the working class. The ideal of workers owning and administering their workplaces is (permanently?) delayed. In its stead is created an in loco parentis trust that administers a nominal workers' state on their behalf.

It becomes a labor of Hercules to change this arrangement to facilitate workers assuming command. Perhaps the idea of the state withering away is not achievable?
#15207154
quetzalcoatl wrote:
I have no problem with centralized power, as such - or even a vanguard to administer it. But we ought to acknowledge that a vanguard that becomes formalized within a Party structure effectively deprecates the role of the working class. The ideal of workers owning and administering their workplaces is (permanently?) delayed. In its stead is created an in loco parentis trust that administers a nominal workers' state on their behalf.

It becomes a labor of Hercules to change this arrangement to facilitate workers assuming command. Perhaps the idea of the state withering away is not achievable?



My understanding is that the administration would just be a *formality* -- because of how *nominal* it would be as distinct from the mass proletarian will itself:



Soviet democracy, or council democracy, is a political system in which the rule of the population by directly elected soviets (Russian for "council") is exercised. The councils are directly responsible to their electors and bound by their instructions using a delegate model of representation. Such an imperative mandate is in contrast to a free mandate, in which the elected delegates are only responsible to their conscience. Delegates may accordingly be dismissed from their post at any time or be voted out (recall).

In a Soviet democracy, voters are organized in basic units, for example the workers of a company, the inhabitants of a district, or the soldiers of a barracks. They directly send the delegates as public functionaries, which act as legislators, government and courts in one. In contrast to earlier democracy models according to John Locke and Montesquieu, there is no separation of powers. The councils are elected on several levels: At the residential and business level, delegates are sent to the local councils in plenary assemblies. In turn, these can delegate members to the next level. The system of delegation continues to the Congress of Soviets at the state level.[1] The electoral processes thus take place from the bottom upwards. The levels are usually tied to administrative levels.[2]



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_democracy
#15207156
The October Revolution was an anti working class revolution by a middle and upper class dominated party that took all power away from a ordinary working people. It was even to some extent even a revolution by Lenin and Trotsky against the Bolshevik party / faction membership, the majority of which would probably have favoured an all socialist coalition under Kamanev's leadership.

Within hours of seizing power Lenin set about annihilating every atom of working class power starting with the rail unions. He went on to undermine the power of the factory committees, dissolved the old army with its huge network of democratic committees, so a new army could be rebuilt under the total control of the Bolshevik central committee. He allowed the Constituent assembly to be disbursed. In the Spring and Summer of 1918, the Bolsheviks were voted out of every major city Soviet, the Bolsheviks with their utter contempt for working class people's opinions just appointed new executive committees.

Have you heard the song Imagine by John Lennon. What a beautiful song. that song inspired me to retrospectively support the Vietnam war and Pinochet's coup. It inspired me to support arming the Mujahedin, deploying Cruise and the invasion of Grenada. Oh yes that's a song worth fighting for. Our Bolshevik lords wouldn't allow us to listen to it in the Soviet Union.
#15207157
quetzalcoatl wrote:I have no problem with centralized power, as such - or even a vanguard to administer it. But we ought to acknowledge that a vanguard that becomes formalized within a Party structure effectively deprecates the role of the working class. The ideal of workers owning and administering their workplaces is (permanently?) delayed. In its stead is created an in loco parentis trust that administers a nominal workers' state on their behalf.

It becomes a labor of Hercules to change this arrangement to facilitate workers assuming command. Perhaps the idea of the state withering away is not achievable?

I think this is agreeable and this is where Draper seems to emphasize that the supposed elitism of Lenin was but a practical point until a significant change in which masses of workers could be more directly adopted within the party.

https://www.marxists.org/archive/draper/1990/myth/myth.htm#section5
All comrades, he enjoined, must “devise new forms of organization” to take in an influx of workers, new forms that were “definitely much broader” than the old, “less rigid. more ‘free,’ more ‘loose.’” “With complete freedom of association and civil liberties for the people, we should, of course, have to found Social-Democratic unions ...” [21] “Each union, organization or group will immediately elect its bureau, or board, or directing committee ...” [22] Furthermore, he recommended, it was now possible to bring about party unity, Bolsheviks with Mensheviks, on the basis of a broad democratic vote of the rank and file, since this could not be organized under the new conditions. [23]

All of this sea-change had to be explained to Russian workers who had never faced such conditions before. We must not be afraid, Lenin argued, of “a sudden influx of large numbers of non-Social-Democrats into the Party.” [24]

Note this remark made almost in passing: “The working class is instinctively, spontaneously Social-Democratic, and more than ten years of work put in by Social-Democracy has done a great deal to transform this spontaneity into consciousness.” [25] It looks as if Lenin had forgotten even the existence of the Kautsky theory he had copied out and quoted in 1902!

The initiative of the workers themselves will now display itself on a scale that we, the underground and circle workers of yesterday, did not even dare dream of. [26]

He seized on the new conditions especially to advocate that mass recruitment of workers (possible for the first time) should swamp over the influence of intellectuals in the party work:

At the Third Congress of the Party I suggested that there be about eight workers to every two intellectuals in the Party committees. How obsolete that suggestion seems now! Now we must wish for the new Party organizations to have one Social-Democratic intellectual to several hundred Social-Democratic workers. [27]

The article concluded this way, with a typical Lenin reaction:

“We have ‘theorized’ for so long (sometimes – why not admit it? – to no use) in the unhealthy atmosphere of political exile, that it will really not be amiss if we now ‘bend the bow’ slightly, a little, just a little, ‘the other way’ and put practice a little more in the forefront.” [28]

So now the bow bent the other way – “slightly.”

The situation would now be quite clear even if Lenin never mentioned WITBD again. But in fact we can now turn to remarks by Lenin in which he reconsidered WITBD specifically, in the light of the new conditions and of these new concepts of party organization (new for Russia).

In November 1907 Lenin published a collection of old articles, called Twelve Years. Its aim was to review the thought and action of the movement over that period of time, a historical purpose. His preface to this collection was plainly addressed to the new audience generated by the revolutionary upheaval going on since 1905, an audience to whom the old disputes were now past history. Here he explained why WITBD had been included in the collection. Note in the first place that it required an explanation.

WITBD had been included (explains Lenin) because it “is frequently mentioned by the Mensheviks” and bourgeois-liberal writers; therefore he wanted to “draw the attention of the modern reader” to what was its “essential content.” His explanation began with a statement that might just as well be addressed to contemporary Leninologists:

The basic mistake made by those who now criticize WITBD is to treat the pamphlet apart from its connection with the concrete historical situation of a definite, and now long past, period in the development of our Party.

This applied, he said, to those “who, many years after the pamphlet appeared, wrote about its incorrect or exaggerated ideas on the subject of an organization of professional revolution-aries.” Such criticisms were wrong “to dismiss gains which, in their time, had to be fought for, but which have long ago been consolidated and have served their purpose.” [29]

It is obvious that the reference to “exaggerated ideas” is an admission of a degree of incorrectness, even if the confession simultaneously maintains that the incorrectness was pardonable. But that had already been the sense of the “bending the bow” remarks; it was not really even new.

WITBD had done its 1902 job, and should not be treated any more as if it were a current proposal; it had been by-passed. Lenin did not apologize for it or repudiate it; this was something different. He was pigeonholing it as of historical interest only. Socialists would not repudiate the First International either, but no one would dream of bringing it back to life.

It was a far cry from a permanent “concept of the party.”


The characterization of Lenin as a kind of elitist reminds me of how some smear the original class position of Karl Marx even though he was reluctant in ways of taking over and wanted to give great reign to workers.
https://www.marxists.org/subject/marxmyths/francis-wheen/article.htm
A few years later, when a doctor called Sexton was proposed for membership, there were the usual mutterings about ‘whether it was desirable to add professional men to the Council’; according to the minutes, however, ‘Citizen Marx did not think there was anything to fear from the admission of professional men while the great majority of the Council was composed of workers.’ In 1872, when there were problems with various crackpot American sects infiltrating the International, it was Marx himself who proposed – successfully – that no new section should be allowed to affiliate unless at least two-thirds of its members were wage labourers.

In short, while accepting that most office-holders and members must be working class, Marx was unembarrassed by his own lack of proletarian credentials: men such as himself still had much to offer the association as long as they didn’t pull rank or hog the limelight. Engels followed this example, though as an affluent capitalist he was understandably more reluctant to impose himself. After selling his stake in the family firm and moving down to London in 1870, he accepted a seat on the General Council almost at once but declined the office of treasurer. ‘Citizen Engels objected that none but working men ought to be appointed to have anything to do [with] the finances,’ the minutes record. ‘Citizen Marx did not consider the objection tenable: an ex-commercial man was the best for the office.’ Engels persisted with his refusal – and was probably right to do so. As the Marxian scholar Hal Draper has pointed out, handling money was the touchiest job in a workers’ association, for charges of financial irregularity were routine ploys whenever political conflict started; and a Johnny-come-lately businessman from Manchester would have been an obvious target for any ‘French monsieurs’ who wanted to stir up trouble.


I think what the above represents however is that while the class character of an organization must be firmly based in people being working class, many can hold ideas and enact actions which have the content of the working class' interest.
https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/On%20Political%20Representation.pdf

I see in America black Americans have some kind of saying that not all skinfolk are kinfolk which to me clearly summarizes how one's background doesn't automatically make one a political ally, which seems implicit in some of the liberal diversity spiels.
https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/pdfs/On%20Political%20Representation.pdf
But representation is an active process: forming and giving expression to a collective view, selecting representatives, instructing the representatives, and then acting for the group whether in deliberation or action as such, reporting back, educating the group and over again ... A focus group or a committee that simply resembles the group it represents in some way is not thereby representing them at all. This is not to deny that a deliberative body which reflects the diversity of the principal in the diversity of its participants is not a good idea. It is, but it is not the essential question.

The problem of representation does not arise from the diversity of people; it arises even when I represent myself. (See Hegel, 1821, §115) I have innumerable different needs and desires, but at every given moment I nonetheless form an intention and act according to that intention. My intention furthers a purpose which resolves the contradictions between my various desires and the constraints imposed by those of others. I cannot act at all other than through momentarily resolving the contradictions between my various desires, and formulating a purpose, even while I take myself to be an single, independent human being – I cannot do two things at once, nevertheless, I must act. So in representing myself I face the same contradiction that confronts the representative who acts on behalf of a group. In selecting a representative and instructing the representative, the group implicitly resolves these contradictions and thereby forms itself into a subject, a personality.

It is by acting in the world that an individual makes themself into a personality and in just the same way, by choosing and mandating representatives, a group transforms themself from a collection of individuals into a subject, an actor on the stage of history. There is no implication in this that internal differences are dissolved, overridden or ignored, but they are transcended.


I guess the balance comes in that professing the objective interest of the working class isn't inherently bad to the extent that it doesn't become a paternalistic kind that infantalizes the working class rather than showing solidarity.
https://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/id/eprint/555/7/Blackledge%20on%20MacIntyre%20for%20ACPQ%20Submitted%20Version.pdf
By contrast with MacIntyre’s conception of socialist leadership, it is a great strength of Lukács’s position that he recognised that ‘the class consciousness of the proletariat does not develop uniformly throughout the whole proletariat’. Consequently, a communist party could ‘only be created through struggle’ and in particular through the ‘interaction of spontaneity and conscious control’.69 So while Lukács distanced his ideas from those sectarians who deified the party as ‘the representative of the ‘unconscious’ masses’, he did so without flipping over into the opposite error of embracing a simplistic deification of spontaneity.70 Thus his use of the most contentious term in History and Class Consciousness: ‘imputed consciousness’.71 While often presented as the means through which he did deify the party, this term is best understood as the corollary of Marx’s essentialist model of social class.72 Far from allowing Lukács to slip back towards a form of dualism, it opened a space within which he was able to conceptualise socialist political intervention within the class struggle in a non-emotivist but yet activist way by means of the generalisations about class interests that could be made on the basis of the history of workers’ struggles. For instance, to say that workers have an objective interest in challenging racism even in the absence of an anti-racist movement does not imply imposing the idea of anti-racism onto the working class. Rather, it functions as a generalisation about objective interests made on the basis of previous moments of struggle. This way of thinking about politics opens the door to an interventionist conception of political leadership that escapes the emotivist substitutionism of self-appointed vanguards without liquidating the left into a (retreating) movement.73


So maybe this is kind of a dead thread idea in that no one subscribes to an extreme notion of totally relying on an intellectual cadre nor spontaneity of the masses.
#15207160
Lenin was elitist. Here's tiny excerpt of a debate between Lenin and a Swiss social democrat:

The majority is stupid, Lenin replied, you can't wait for them.
The minority must act, and then it will become the majority.


QED.
#15207161
Rich wrote:


Rugoz wrote:



---



The provisional government remained widely unpopular, especially because it was continuing to fight in World War I, and had ruled with an iron fist throughout the summer (including killing hundreds of protesters in the July Days).



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Revolution




Plekhanov and Lenin's major dispute arose addressing the topic of nationalizing land or leaving it for private use. Lenin wanted to nationalize to aid in collectivization, whereas Plekhanov thought worker motivation would remain higher if individuals were able to maintain their own property.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bolshevik ... y_Congress
#15207163
Rugoz wrote:Lenin was elitist. Here's tiny excerpt of a debate between Lenin and a Swiss social democrat:



QED.

Yes! Here is the contentious opinion to spark more thought.
Where is this excerpt from? Is it in another language?

And from this piece, can this be tied to his actions and other writings, even if a secret concession, one might expect to see it reflected elsewhere. Because I do not accept that the concept of the vanguard is inherently elitist just as I don't consider there being a hierarchy of experience in which some scientists have greater pull in their opinion than the rookie as being elitist.
https://www.ethicalpolitics.org/ablunden/works/habermas-review.htm
It seems to me that the counterfactual element of everyone’s word having equal sway and the force of argument only carrying weight needs to be given some consideration. In real life, the word of people who have greater experience or a proven record in some domain counts for more. Is this inherently elitist? I don’t think so. For example, I have a right to make claims about activities with which I am intimately concerned over the word of others who have no such involvement.


This point can be a kind of resistance to the total emphasis on the identity of working class identity because one cannot assume merely that one's class position necessarily equates to certain political outlooks, only trends, with exceptions. Otherwise it can turn into tokenism or even cases where many appear to support the opposite of their interests as something actively harms them because they lack clarity on a subject and trust problemstic sources, cue hegemony.
http://d-scholarship.pitt.edu/10867/1/VWills_ETD_2011.pdf
As a rule, a capitalist will tend to maximize his profit irrespective of the social repercussions. A bourgeois intellectual will tend to develop theoretical justifications for the continuation of capitalism, often in spite of the glaring social contradictions.

Within what Marx would call a bourgeois standpoint, that is to say, even while continuing to support the bourgeoisie as the class most suited to lead humanity economically, politically, and otherwise, it is possible for certain members of this class to develop a keen understanding of the social contradictions produced by class society and in some cases, even a real commitment to human development or to the eradication of such ills as global poverty or unfolding ecological destruction. Marx recognizes this phenomenon. For instance, in Capital, Marx notes that the capitalist “Robert Owen, soon after 1810, not only maintained the necessity of a limitation of the working-day in theory, but actually introduced the 10 hours’ day into his factory at New Lanark,” even though “this was laughed at as a communistic Utopia” (Capital, MECW 35:304 Note 222).
#15207217
Rugoz wrote:Pretty sure they would all agree with Lenin on that one.

Probably, taking the quote at face value, the kind of stupidty he might have in mind I think would be the sort in which workers are reduced because of production making them experience life so narrowly that it requires intervention into the conditions of say to day to day life. This not a view which sees such stupidity inherent but not overcome with real opportunities to learn and reflect.


https://radicalimagination.institute/wp-content/uploads/2018/07/sit_2018_artinian-final-1.pdf
It is one of Krausz’s strongest virtues, that his book clarifies the overarching focus of Lenin's politics: the need to change the patterns of everyday life, combined with the ability to project political force on all levels of the class struggle, but especially on the level most directly shaping ideological space (what I am calling a general descriptor of the patterns of everyday life shaped by the effects of hegemony).

To think of the patterns of daily life means to think politics in terms of the flows of time and space, and their connection to political force
(power). In terms of the everyday, Henri Lefebvre very incisively wrote that, to not have power means to live "inside a narrow time scale, with no understanding of what time is, not because they (the proletariat) are stupid, but because they are unaware. They do not understand time (because they are immersed in it)” 13

Political oppression extends over social space and time, and thus actualized across class lines, casting profound effects on the temporal dimension of our lives.
This narrowing of time can be experienced in different ways, but the common thread is the general limiting of the temporal horizon of the imaginary: less time and emphasis in abstract concept formation, less formed knowledge on daily events in their political totality (due to lack of ability and practice for/in abstract thought), less thinking about the future, a narrowing of historical sense to that which is now immediately in front of me. The reduction of life, in other words, to its bare, most immediate functions necessary for physical reproduction. The reduction of thinking from the rich complexities inherent in our abilities as humans, to simplistic, mechanical mutterings, internalized from the oppressor and its technologies of subject-formation. To think requires time, as many have written since Aristotle, and this specific use of time is what is most restricted for the proletariat. 14

Here, Krausz excels in his clarification of Lenin’s often-discussed and criticized
emphasis on the practical need to expand the political horizon of the proletariat "from without”. Contrary to worn-out critiques, “from without”
does not mean the importing of revolutionary politics “from outside the proletariat”, as an expression of snobbish political elitism by a self-chosen “few”, but an intervention aiming to disrupt the closed loop of narrow time
as the temporal experience of everyday life on the level of thought. Lenin's
emphasis on “from without” means from outside the narrow time and space
of internalized bourgeois ideology, optimized (i.e. simplified and dumbed down) for the proletariat, and consigning it to living with less knowledge of 15 time is what is most restricted for the proletariat.
the present (to follow Lefebvre again), and less thinking about the future


People who are so pressed that they live in a kind of immediacy of needs that they aren’t in a great position to take time to think through some things or not have learned ways of how to think through it.

This characterization of how the working class has to struggle against hegemony isn’t an impactical one although one will readily find workers who having lives through some scenarios have extensive knowledge that they aren’t strictly subject to hegemony in all ways.
#15207259

• All private property was nationalized by the government.

• All Russian banks were nationalized.

• Private bank accounts were expropriated.

• The properties of the Russian Orthodox Church (including bank accounts) were expropriated.

• All foreign debts were repudiated.

• Control of the factories was given to the soviets.

• Wages were fixed at higher rates than during the war, and a shorter, eight-hour working day was introduced.



https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/October_Revolution
#15207387
Wellsy wrote:Probably, taking the quote at face value, the kind of stupidty he might have in mind I think would be the sort in which workers are reduced because of production making them experience life so narrowly that it requires intervention into the conditions of say to day to day life. This not a view which sees such stupidity inherent but not overcome with real opportunities to learn and reflect.


:eh:

Here's the context:

The conversation continued, and Lenin asked how many of the thirty thousand organized trade unionists in Zurich were soldiers in the Swiss army. I replied that there might be seven or eight thousand, but to these Swiss referendum citizens and social democrats the idea that a minority, ideologically only perhaps one-fifth or even less of the total population (I had to assume the strength of the trade-union and political workers' organization at the time) to make itself master of the majority by force is completely foreign. Such an adventure would end badly. If we Social Democrats were in the majority and governed with the means of a democratic constitution, we would not allow ourselves to be taken by surprise by a minority. Incidentally, in Switzerland such a minority, from the left or the right, would not govern for long. This conviction is deeply rooted in our population. It is a matter of using the means of democracy to win majorities for the social postulates, and that requires hard and persistent work.

The majority is stupid, Lenin replied, you can't wait for them. The minority must act, and then it will become the majority.
#15207410
Rugoz wrote::eh:

Here's the context:

Thank you for sharing!

What is your take on Lenin’s comment within the context of the conversation?

Do you think he was suggesting the importing of revolution through the minority of the trade unionists within the Swiss army?

Because he would seem somewhat of a dullard if he lacked any sense over a “war of position”. As there is truth in the point that a minority may not be sustainable. But then again, Lenin would argue that a minority class rules through ‘bourgeoisie democracy’.

And Why woudl anyone actually believe this Dross.[…]

Russia-Ukraine War 2022

@JohnRawls How is Putin a comrade? He is a kn[…]

Whataboutism. No. You are the one claiming the[…]

Okay, I will reform the list. ... I would propo[…]