Monday, December 15, 2014

Vladimir Lenin: Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution

This work describes gives an account of the disputes over methods of accomplishing the communist takeover of Russia that were being proposed in the year 1905.  It is also a very sarcastic work, so I am having a little difficulty at times knowing if Lenin is advocating a position or citing a position for the purpose of mocking it.

The way I understand it is that Lenin is in favor of an armed overthrow of the government only, whereas others wanted a progressive set of changes towards socialism.  In this discussion a distinction that I wasn't aware of before shows up in the vocabulary.  The proletariat are the working poor of the cities, whereas the peasantry are the working poor of the country.  Lenin believes that these two large groups can be aligned in their revolutionary dreams, which is contrary to the belief of the other communists.

The problem as Lenin sees it is that Bourgeois democracy (i.e. capitalism) will both ally with the Tsar and co-opt the socialists, thus, precluding a revolution.  Thus, his insistence on armed revolution as being the only way to achieve communism.  What I found surprising in this was the degree to which Lenin was worried about capitalism:

"Since the rule of the bourgeoisie over the working class is inevitable under capitalism, it is quite correct to say that a bourgeois revolution expresses the interests not so much of the proletariat as of the Bourgeoisie.  But it is entirely absurd to think that a bourgeois revolution does not express the interest of the proletariat at all.  ...

In countries like Russia, the working class suffers not so much from capitalism as from the insufficient development of capitalism. ... The working class is therefore decidedly interested in the broadest, freest and most rapid development of capitalism."

Then it launches off into some confused speculation about how this should lead to Socialism. The only reasoning that would make sense to me is that having tasted the good life of Capitalism, and craving more, the masses should proceed to vote to get more, which leads to the transition to Socialism.  Throw in a few mendacious politicians who quietly change the laws to undermine capitalism, then blame the chaos they caused on capitalism, from which they are then given a populist mandate to implement socialist policies while enriching themselves, and there seems to be a logic to Lenin's thesis:

"The more complete and determined, the more consistent the bourgeois revolution, the more assured will be the proletarian struggle against the bourgeoisie for Socialism.  Only those who are ignorant of the rudiments of scientific Socialism can regard this conclusion as new or strange, paradoxical."

I am about half way through this work.


Ron Leighton said...

Lenin was not worried about capitalism in the passage you cited. He was merely reflecting the Marxist belief that a revolution could not occur in a place like Russia until capitalism, and subsequently the power and consciousness of the working class, had fully grown.

Looney said...

Thanks. I certainly agree that this passage was not one in which he viewed capitalism as a threat to the march towards communism. From your remark, I presume you have spent some time studying this?