Correspondance - Reply to a reader's questions

Dear comrade,

Sorry for the delay in this response to your letter. I will try my best to answer the questions that you’ve posed therein:

  1. Lenin: I suppose the best way to describe our relation towards Lenin is that we consider him to be a major contributor to the communist movement. However we don’t buy into the mythology of Lenin or any other personality in the tradition of scientific socialism. Unlike the Stalinists or Trotskyists, who’ve elevated Lenin to the status of godhood, we recognize that he’d made contributions that are both positive and cautionary to the communist movement. For example, Lenin saw the party as a part of the working class, while many of his so-called followers saw the party as somewhat detached from and above the class, a ‘general staff of the world revolution’ or the embodiment of the class itself.. In April 1917, he reversed his earlier positions from 1905 by arguing that the soviets were an important model for working class self organization and that proletarian revolution was on the agenda in Russia. Lenin also made important theoretical contributions to the communist movement’s understanding of capitalism in its imperialist stage. Lastly, he helped to establish a terrain for the proletariat during WW1, that was independent of all bourgeois camps in that bloodbath. In that, he reaffirmed a basic principal of Marxism that the working class has no nation. While we see his positive contributions we don’t, as many others do, attempt to absolve him from all responsibility for the mistakes and the crimes against the class committed by the Bolshevik regime after the revolution. In his last years he tended to identify the fortunes of the international working class with the maintenance of state power in Russia. To conclude this section, Lenin was human with all positive and negative aspects that it entails. He was operating in a situation that was essentially new ground, with no pre-existing road map. Overall we see that he was a committed proletarian internationalist to the end of his life and that a critical evaluation of his contributions to Marxism has much to teach us.
  2. The role of the communist party in the socialist state: Since we are not utopians, we don’t have a well detailed plan worked out in advance as to what the precise role the party will be. However the experiences of the last century have taught us much. We see the dictatorship of the proletariat as the exercise of state power by the working class through their own organizations (workers’ councils, factory councils, etc...), not the benevolent rule of a party in the name of the working class. The Russian experience revealed the danger of the integration of the state and the party. The dictatorship of the proletariat was replaced by the dictatorship over the proletariat by the state/party bureaucracy. This in turn laid the basis for this bureaucracy to become a new state capitalist ruling class in Russia and was repeated in the various other countries based on the USSR model. On the other hand we also reject the notion put forward by the council communists that following the successful revolution the party should liquidate itself into the workers’ councils. The insurrection is not an end, but the beginning of a process leading to the liberation of humanity. In this process there will still be a role for the party as part of the class and as a voice putting forth the best ways forward to implementation of the communist programme and humanity's self-liberation from class society.
  3. The right of nations to self determination: In capitalism’s imperialist phase, national self-determination is a myth. Fundamental aspects affecting day-to-day life in every nation on Earth, including the major powers like the USA, are out of the hands of the individual national bourgeoisie or their state. The so-called national liberation movements of the 20th century, in order to continue to exist and seize state power, had to seek the patronage of one major power or another. Upon coming to power, these movements would primarily serve the imperial ambitions of their masters. During the Cold War period a change of regime would usually accompany a change in imperial bloc between the Western and Russian camps. Today, with the discipline of the Cold War alliances gone, erstwhile allies have started to seek their own imperialist agendas. To us defending the ‘right to self-determination’ is akin to recognizing that men can’t carry babies, but recognizing their right to do so anyway. Not only is it futile, but dangerous. It leads the working classes down a dead end that sacrifices working class independence and often many lives to inter-bourgeois conflicts.

I hope this gives you an idea of where we stand. If you’ve more questions or want some clarifications, please write us back.

Comradely regards.

James (for the Internationalist Workers Group)