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Tue Feb 14, 2012, 11:26 PM

Did Lenin break with Marx?

I thought this might be an interesting discussion of history and theory for us, comrades. Please, try and keep this civil, we can disagree without being disagreeable. I still have a lot of respect for Lenin and Trotsky's accomplishments, if nothing else the fact that they overthrew one of the most backwards regimes in Europe deserves respect, but I'm starting to wonder if they made a major mistake.

For a long time, I've considered myself a Trotskyist, but lately I've started questioning, not only Trotskyism, but Leninism itself, because I'm starting to wonder if the reason the USSR failed was because Lenin broke with Marxist thought. Marx and Engels both thought socialism would occur in the most advanced of capitalist nations, whereas Russia, at the time of the Bolshevik Revolution, was a semi-feudal state. So, my question is, did Leninism fail because Russia wasn't ready for Socialism and Lenin tried to force socialism on a society that hadn't developed the material conditions necessary? I'm not sure if I'm right or wrong in this theory, and I'm not ready pick a side, but I thought it might be interesting to discuss, again please keep it civil, comrades.

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Arrow 25 replies Author Time Post
Reply Did Lenin break with Marx? (Original post)
white_wolf Feb 2012 OP
Confusious Feb 2012 #1
white_wolf Feb 2012 #2
tralala Apr 2012 #17
Starry Messenger Feb 2012 #3
white_wolf Feb 2012 #4
Starry Messenger Feb 2012 #6
white_wolf Feb 2012 #8
TBF Feb 2012 #13
socialist_n_TN Feb 2012 #14
joshcryer Feb 2012 #7
RZM Feb 2012 #5
mistertrickster Feb 2012 #9
socialist_n_TN Feb 2012 #10
mistertrickster Feb 2012 #11
socialist_n_TN Feb 2012 #12
tralala Apr 2012 #18
socialist_n_TN Apr 2012 #19
bayareamike Mar 2012 #15
tralala Apr 2012 #16
socialist_n_TN Apr 2012 #20
joshcryer Apr 2012 #21
TBF Apr 2012 #22
joshcryer Apr 2012 #23
joshcryer Apr 2012 #24
MrYikes Apr 2012 #25

Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 01:54 AM

1. Communism failed in Russia


Not for any of the reasons you stated, but for the simple fact:

Any system that ignores basic human behavior is doomed to failure.

To expand:

If people were perfect, communism and libertarianism would work. But people aren't, so they don't.

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Response to Confusious (Reply #1)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 09:49 AM

2. I'll give you the benefit of the doubt but...

please read our SOP. Posters here are expected to be generally supportive of socialism. http://www.democraticunderground.com/1024881

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Response to Confusious (Reply #1)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 06:26 PM

17. One of the most widespread popular maxims is, "human nature cannot be changed."

No one can say whether this is true or not without first defining "human nature." But as used it is certainly false. When Mr. A utters the maxim, with an air of portentous and conclusive wisdom, what he means is that all men everywhere will always continue to behave as they do in his own home town.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 10:27 AM

3. Let's turn the question around then. :)

Why *didn't* socialism occur in the most advanced capitalist nations? If Marx and Engels were correct on this point, then places where they thought socialism was going to break out, like Germany, should have seen socialist development.


(I'm obviously biased towards thinking Leninism didn't fail, but believe there are other reasons to consider in examining the return of capitalist relations to Russia. Here's an interesting interview with the authors of Socialism Betrayed that you might wish to check out: http://marxistleninist.wordpress.com/2008/11/04/socialism-betrayed-behind-the-collapse-of-the-soviet-union/ I'm not sure which part of the question you want to look at first though, what happened to Russia? or was Marx right about where socialism would occur?)

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #3)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 10:42 AM

4. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out. Let's focus on was Marx right on where socialism would occur

Since if he was, the question of Russia becomes mote simply because the conditions weren't ready.
As I said I'm not convinced Leninism failed, it's just something I've been thinking about lately, and I thought it might make an interesting point of discussion.

If Marx and Engels were correct why didn't socialism break out in Germany and other capitalist nations? The only answer I can think of is that socialism didn't emerge because capitalism hadn't reached its limits in Marx's time. There were still plenty of new markets to exploit, but now it seems like capitalism really has reached its limits. It's a truly global system now and there aren't really any new markets to expand to, it is at its limits now and is running up against it's own limitations. I think this is why we haven't seen a genuine reformist emerge, because the system can no longer afford reforms without cutting into profits too much. Keep in mind this is just a theory and I could very well be mistaken, as I said I'm not convinced myself, I just have a habit of over-thinking things.

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Response to white_wolf (Reply #4)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 05:02 PM

6. I'm back. I got distracted reading more of the Parenti book.

I just read a passage where he noted that Marx had some doubts about his theory towards the end of his life. I've never seen that before, I'll have to try to find what he's referring to. Unfortunately he didn't cite the passage he's paraphrasing. D'oh!

I think what you are saying is true, that capitalism hadn't reached its limits in Marx's time. What he did predict did come perfectly true, that capital would tend toward monopoly and would swallow the smaller business' etc. which was the reverse of what was predicted by other economists at the time. Perhaps he felt that once a critical mass of monopoly was reached, that things would destabilize and revolution would occur with the highly developed proletariat under monopolies. (Lenin of course, shows that capitalism had another phase in its arsenal, Imperialism, which extended Capitalism beyond the monopoly phase).

It will be interesting to see where things head now. The last crisis was so destabilizing, and countries are reacting in different ways. The former PIIGS which were hailed as the triumph of capitalism in the last decade are the scene of extended social unrest. Imperialist economies took a beating too, and are having milder forms of social unrest. Egypt and other African countries are having revolutions, the Arab Spring, etc. I have a feeling we will find that societal transformation will come from countries where the least developed capitalism was present to begin with. It's hard to say if it will *succeed*, since the Cold War era and even before Imperialist countries have been colluding to bring down any country that even vaguely begins a socialist footing. They can be more open about it now, since they don't have to worry about fighting a proxy war with another superpower like the USSR in its time. But things can't keep going on the way they are going.

I feel like I rambled and didn't really answer. I think about these things a lot too and haven't had a chance to really examine it in writing it out.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #6)

Sat Feb 18, 2012, 01:55 AM

8. I've done some quick research on this topic and found a quote from Lenin that might be useful.

"But we have not finished building even the foundations of socialist economy and the hostile power of moribund capitalism can still deprive us of that. We must clearly appreciate this and frankly admit it; for there is nothing more dangerous than illusions (and vertigo, particularly at high altitudes). And there is absolutely nothing terrible, nothing that should give legitimate grounds for the slightest despondency, in admitting this bitter truth; we have always urged and reiterated the elementary truth of Marxism - that the joint efforts of the workers of several advanced countries are needed for the victory of socialism."

So perhaps the reason it failed was because it didn't spread. Lenin wanted it to spread to Germany, that was the original goal, and when that didn't happen, they were forced to change their methods.

Here is the link to the page I quoted from: http://www.marxists.org/archive/lenin/works/1922/feb/x01.htm

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Response to white_wolf (Reply #8)

Mon Feb 20, 2012, 06:59 PM

13. I think you're on the right track here -

It can happen in one state - evidence Cuba. Even with the blockades they kept going ... but it becomes a more rigid control when you're defending against capitalists from the outside. In the end they are losing the battle and privatizing.

That is why I was excited when the Occupy signs started showing up in Europe etc... but I believe it goes back to what SocialistnTN has said about union action. Occupy is too bourgeois at this point - once it becomes radicalized enough, and spreads enough, then we might have a chance. Conditions will dictate how long that takes.

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Response to TBF (Reply #13)

Wed Feb 22, 2012, 07:56 PM

14. Just a little clarification about my views on union actions and the Occupy ..........

movement. I'm actually more in favor of Occupy joining forces with the working class as a whole than with the unions. I recognize that right now the unions are the only representatives of the working class that we have, but ultimately MOST unions are ALSO part of the bourgeoisie and won't be much good if push comes to shove RE: an overthrow of the whole rotten fucking system.

Of course I also recognize that we have to take things in steps as far as class consciousness goes, so don't take the above paragraph as a harsh critique of the nascent Occupy/union cooperation. It is what it is and it's the best we have at this time, but ultimately we'll have to do better. And yes I'm probably picking nits.

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Response to Starry Messenger (Reply #3)

Thu Feb 16, 2012, 06:58 AM

7. IMO, because state socialism and capitalism are two sides of the same coin.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Wed Feb 15, 2012, 10:59 AM

5. Just a couple quick points

 

Lenin and Trotsky most definitely did not overthrow the Tsarist state. Neither was even in the country during the February Revolution, which resulted in the Tsar's abdication and the collapse of the Romanov dynasty (Lenin was in Switzerland and Trotsky was in NYC). There were actually very few Bolsheviks in the capital at all, probably only a few hundred at most. Those who were there participated in the popular revolution, but they did not occupy anything like a leadership role. It was a genuine popular revolution and the Bolsheviks were just a small collection of faces in the crowd like everybody else.

Second, Lenin was of course well-versed in Marxist thought and fully aware that Russia was way behind the times. But he also believed that Russia presented an opportunity for Marxist revolution because it was, in his words, 'the weak link' in the chain of capitalism. It may have been underdeveloped, but Lenin saw an opportunity here. Because the Tsarist system was unstable, teetering, and repressive (it had come close to collapsing in 1905), it was far riper for a governmental collapse than more developed countries like the US or Britain. The idea was that if the Tsarist system collapsed and you installed a Marxist government in Russia (which is what happened), Russia would serve as the inspiration for similar revolutions across the developed world. Furthermore, WWI presented additional opportunities, since European governments had armed the proletariat and sent them to the trenches. Lenin dubbed the war 'a capitalist civil war' and urged the soldiers to stop fighting each other and turn their guns on their officers instead. After all, it was the demands of total war that ended up pushing the Tsarist government over the cliff in the first place.

After October 1917, the Bolsheivks fully expected their revolution to spread to the rest of Europe. That was key to the 'weak link' argument. The idea was that once you broke the chain of capitalist domination, capitalism in other developed nations would collapse in turn. That's why Russia was so important. It didn't matter as much where you broke the chain, it just mattered that you broke it. Since Russia presented the best opportunity to do that, it justified Marxist governance there even if Russia wasn't perfectly suited to it. Of course, the revolution did not spread, which came as a disappointing surprise to the Bolsheivks. All they really got was a short-lived Communist government in Hungary, an even shorter-lived Bavarian Commune, and scattered strikes here and there.

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Response to RZM (Reply #5)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 01:31 AM

9. That is a very good point.

 

Like a lot of other movements -- civil rights here for instance -- the leaders were often passed by by direct action.

Why did communism fail in the CCCP? For that matter, why did it fail in China?

I don't know. But if I had to guess, it would be that one, the model they used was flawed: a five year plan in which all weath is controlled by the gov't is only one possible form communism could take. Expropriating all weath at the point of a gun is not what Marx had in mind.

Two, in both the CCCP and China, communism quickly became antidemocratic and its leaders demanded and got cult worshipping status. Stalin and Mao eventually became far more concerned about killing potential rivals than implementing communism . . . So the movement was destroyed by fascists who simply used it for personal power.

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Response to mistertrickster (Reply #9)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 11:15 AM

10. As to Russia, the rise of the bureaucracy led to the...........

"Cult of Personality". It almost couldn't do anything else. Bureaucracies are, by their very nature, conservative, caring more for the rules than results. They are also conservative in that they are heirarchical. A "top down" model if you will. Bureaucracies concentrate power, just like capitalism does and the end result, if not checked, is ONE person at the top speaking for the entire bureaucracy. When the bureaucracy becomes the government and one person heads the bureaucracy, then a single person dictatorship results.

But, to be fair, they are also more efficient than the bottom up model, so that in times of stress (war, starvation, etc), they can do more, quicker. In these cases oftentimes bureaucracies are a necessary evil. The trick is to LIMIT the power of the bureaucracy AT THE TIMES THE BUREAUCRACY IS NEEDED.

In the case of China (and other bureaucraticized worker states), my opinion is that they merely followed the model of what the USSR DEVOLVED into. They had no other model, so the bureaucratic organizational model was the model they followed. I also think that this top down, heirarchical, bureaucratic model attracted a certain type of authoritarian personality, some of whom were charismatic enough to become leaders.

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Response to socialist_n_TN (Reply #10)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 09:43 PM

11. Interesting analysis. I agree with that. nt

 

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Response to mistertrickster (Reply #11)

Sun Feb 19, 2012, 10:34 PM

12. The part about the bureaucracy in the USSR came from Trotsky........

He spent his life fighting the bureaucracy that had come to rule the USSR. The second part about the states that came after the USSR are my own thoughts in the matter. But I do think that they are a logical result.

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Response to socialist_n_TN (Reply #10)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 06:34 PM

18. i thought it was the opposite that happened

where the end of the cult of personality is what led to the rise of the bureaucracy. the soviet bureaucracy was living on the edge of a knife under stalin. after his death they grew a spine, had stalin's close associates expelled from positions of power or executed (e.g. beria), denounced stalin to the world and blossomed into the nomenklatura.

i could be mistaken though.

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Response to tralala (Reply #18)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 11:01 PM

19. Well it might be a "chicken or egg" thing............

Was Stalin the CAUSE of the rise of the bureaucracy? Or was he the RESULT of the rise of the bureaucracy? And the answer, as usual in things like this, is that it was probably a little of both.

I believe that Stalin was born to be a bureaucrat. He was good at it and good at the political infighting that is inherent in a bureaucracy. After the revolution and while the civil war was going on he built the bureaucracy in his own image. It was in pretty much in place already after the civil war and Lenin's incapacity and eventual death, when the internal battles with the Left Opposition began. I think that the point is that the bureaucracy was in place LONG before the rise of the Stalinist "Cult of Personality", BUT the bureaucracy that Stalin headed facilitated the "cult of personality" around Stalin as the Great Leader and First Comrade.

So it was in place LONG before his death. All the bureaucracy did after Stalin died was bring it back down to a bureaucracy WITHOUT a "cult of personality" heading it.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Wed Mar 21, 2012, 12:09 AM

15. Bolshevism in general broke with Marx in many ways.

I believe the betrayal began with the usurpation of the SRs at the Constituent Assembly.

Another example, arguably, is NEP which was essentially was a tightly regulated market economy.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 06:15 PM

16. why haven't there been any internally-generated revolutions in the "advanced" countries, then?

and what exactly would you have had the bolsheviks do in place of seizing power?

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Response to tralala (Reply #16)

Wed Apr 11, 2012, 11:19 PM

20. That's two questions there..........

And to answer the second one, that's the whole point of Permanent Revolution. The Bolsheviks HAD to seize power on behalf of the working class or they would have seen the entire February Revolution come down around their (and all the other groupings that made the February Revolution) ears. And PROBABLY a restoration of the Tsarist rule. Without Nicholas of course, but with Alexander and a regent until he reached majority. It was either the working class taking power through the Bolsheviks or they would have lost everything.

To answer your first question is going to involve speculation, but it's an interesting question. Why haven't there been any internally generated revolutions in the "advanced" capitalist countries? It's probably also part of the Theory of Permanent Revolution, the uneven developement part. My speculation would be that since capitalism in some countries has developed furtherest into the realm of capitalist realism (IOW, the thinking that there's nothing else, but capitalism. No other choice), then it's harder to make the revolution in these advanced countries than it is in the less developed countries. Ergo, in these advanced capitalist countries, it will follow along more classic lines of capitalism collapsing under the weight of it's contradictions in a natural progression like Marx originally envisioned. We haven't come close to the collapse in the past in the advanced countries. However, we are coming close now.

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Response to tralala (Reply #16)

Thu Apr 19, 2012, 02:41 AM

21. There have. It's called the internet.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #21)

Thu Apr 19, 2012, 07:54 AM

22. Hmmm... I'm not sure those were internally generated. nt

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Response to TBF (Reply #22)

Thu Apr 19, 2012, 06:58 PM

23. The entire open source movement which is largely the basis for the net...

...was certainly internally generated.

Yes corporations and governments exploited it, but without a free TCP stack, without a freely and openly done RFC process I argue, maybe not convincingly, that the internet would not be where it is today. There was a concerted effort to open the network and free it up.

It's effectively the beginning of open source hardware and free tech distribution which will be the socialist basis for the "advanced" countries.

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Response to TBF (Reply #22)

Thu Apr 19, 2012, 07:01 PM

24. Here, check out this video (Revolution OS):



And yes I do kind of realize I'm contradicting myself, but the first time I responded to Starry Messenger I was speaking generally, state-wide. Responding to tralala I am speaking on a smaller level, since they asked about "revolutions." There hasn't been Revolution, obviously, but there have been revolutions.

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Response to white_wolf (Original post)

Sun Apr 22, 2012, 01:56 PM

25. Thank you for this conversation

and please keep it going.

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